Monday 30 July 2012

Big Low Tide by Candy Neubert

review by Maryom

On the small Channel island of Port Victoria everyone knows their neighbours' secrets. it's barely possible to walk down the street or argue behind closed doors without someone noticing.

In this atmosphere live Peter, his estranged wife Brenda and their two children. Unable and unwilling to cope with the demands of motherhood, Brenda has abandoned the old family farmhouse and now lives in a flat in town, working as a barmaid. She's also found herself a new boyfriend - even if he doesn't seem to share her feelings.

My review copy of Big Low Tide arrived with a press release quoting the synopsis which appears on Amazon - "In Candy Neubert's novel 'Big Low Tide' set on a small island in the Channel, Brenda, a feisty barmaid at the local pub suddenly finds herself raising her two young boys alone as her estranged husband, Peter, realizing he cant take the children with him leaves for Ireland in search of better prospects and a trip at sea. Worn down by the constant struggle and pregnant with a third child whose father is nowhere to be seen, Brenda's spark begins to dwindle and her children become more and more unruly. No longer able to cope she moves in with her sister in law, Elsa, who without warning walks out one day leaving the run of the house to Brenda. Seeing Brenda's slow decline, a friend persuades Peter to return and soon after on a wild and windy night, her youngest son disappears. As they search for the boy little do they know how close they are to finding something dark and terrible."

Having read this, I had expectations of what the plot would be, how it would evolve and, even to a certain extent, conclude. Therefore, I was considerably wrong-footed as half the book passes before these events unfold. I think this spoiled  my appreciation of the story as a whole - it is much more one of father/son bonding, of a woman's renunciation of her children and obsession with a new boyfriend and unbreakable ties to the island.

I loved Neubert's descriptions of the island, zooming over it with a bird's eye view and her image of it as an amoeba-like entity, drawing its sustenance in through the port and washing away its waste with the tide.
Big Low Tide is a book I want to come back to at some future point as I think it will improve with further acquaintance. 

Maryom's review - 3.5 stars
Publisher - Seren Books
Genre - adult fiction
Buy Big Low Tide from Amazon

Thursday 26 July 2012

Kate Maryon - Guest Post

Today we welcome a post by Kate on some of her books and their inspirations.

I was stunned and excited to received an email late the other night telling me that the Cornish Adoption Service have made my latest book, A Sea of Stars, required reading for all prospective adoptive families in Cornwall. I’d been sitting for a few weeks, biting my nails, waiting for feedback and reviews to roll in but this news far exceeded my expectations.

Veronica Yates, manager of the team said: “I read your book last night and once started I could not put it down. FANTASTIC! It will now be on our required reading list for prospective adoptive parents. I cannot believe how accurate you have got not only Cat’s feelings but also Maya’s and her parents.  I am going to tell all the other adoption agencies about it.

I decided to write, A Sea of Stars, after reading an article on adoption in a Sunday paper. I kept looking at all the little faces shining out; longing for a family, so badly needing to be loved and something just pinged in my heart. I knew this was a story that needed to be told.

Whilst researching my book I spoke to many social workers, adoption agencies and to families who had adopted children. And wherever I went the message was the same. Adoption can be a challenging process for all concerned, not just for the adopted child. So that got me thinking about families in general and how being a sibling, blood related or not, can be a challenging process too. I wanted my story to be a truthful portrayal, not a happy ever after tale, and so on Veronica’s advice I decided to tell it from the point of view of Maya, the daughter of the parents adopting, rather than Cat, the girl being adopted. I wanted to weave a story of sisterhood that showed how to navigate these challenges by relating with them. I wanted to present the possibility of love and hate holding hands and existing side by side, because in most sibling groups, both are true. I wanted to show that family life is never perfect but when the chips are down love is much thicker than blood.

You can see the launch of A Sea of Stars on Frome TV and hear me talking about it by following this link:
I’m now in the process of approaching the prison service as I feel my first book, Shine, could work well in supporting children with a parent in prison.

My next book, Under a Bright, Bright Moon, about a girl called Gabriella Midwinter, due out spring 2013, tackles the issue of under 16’s living on the streets. I was inspired to write this after reading shocking statistics telling that something in the region of 100,000 children runaway each year and find themselves living on the streets.
Many thanks and we look forward to the next book due out next year. Kate's previous 4 books have been reviewed (and enjoyed) by us

A Million Angels
A Sea of Stars

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

review by Maryom

Jackson Brodie, ex- police inspector turned private detective, has three old Case Histories on his hands: - in 1970, after spending the night sleeping out in their garden in a tent with her older sister, 3 year old Olivia goes missing.Despite a police search there are no clues as to what occurred until many years later when amongst their recently deceased father's belongings her sisters Amelia and Julia discover Olivia's favourite toy, Blue Mouse, believed to have disappeared with her ; - in 1979, Michelle, a young mother kills her husband. While in jail she cuts off all contact with her family but now her sister Shirley is trying to trace her and her now grown-up baby ; - and in1994 teenager Laura Wyre was helping out in her father's office and murdered seemingly at random by a knife-wielding man who was never caught. Her father Theo has tried for 10 years to track down the culprit but with no success and has now decided to enlist the help of Jackson Brodie.
Jackson also has several missing cats to trace and an airhostess, believed by her husband to be having an affair, to follow. And if he can find time, there's his relationship with his ex-wife to sort out ... and someone intent on causing him grievous bodily harm, perhaps even trying to kill him!

That's a tremendous number of storylines to juggle and keep all up in the air but Kate Atkinson pulls it off with seeming ease. Actually the movements of a folk dance might be a better comparison - the plots move along together, then separate and circle round before coming together again. At the centre of them all is Jackson Brodie, sometimes seeming bemused by all the things happening around him, sometimes feeling like he's the one calling out the moves.

It's taken me a long while to get round to reading this, the first of the Jackson Brodie novels. I didn't read Case Histories when it first came out but jumped into the series at book 2, One Good Turn, and then bought the third, When Will There Be Good News? Having seen the TV adaptation, I determined to go back and read the whole series in order but at the time the library was overwhelmed by demand for Case Histories. I was reminded of my plan when I read about Subtle Melodrama's Scottish Summer reading challenge and, although I'm not absolutely sure that it qualifies, decided to revive it. So I'll soon be reading the two books I own and hopefully have time to borrow the fourth, Started Early, Took My Dog, before the challenge ends.

As with so many TV/film adaptations various things had been changed and moved around - I was very surprised to discover that Case Histories is NOT set in Edinburgh  - but much further south in Cambridge. It also seemed far darker than its TV counterpart being more of an exploration of loss and guilt that a simple whodunnit. A compelling read whether you've seen the TV version or not. I'm off now to read the rest of Jackson's story...

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Genre - crime, adult fiction, TV tie-in

Buy Case Histories: (Jackson Brodie) from Amazon

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Camilla Lackberg on Sweden (Sponsored Video)

Meet Camilla Lackberg
Report by The Mole

Camilla Lackberg's latest book to appear in the UK is "The Drowning" and it was read, reviewed and enjoyed by Maryom. "The 'real' detective is Erica. In a friendly, gossipy way reminiscent of Miss Marple, she chats to people and teases out the secrets they wouldn't reveal to her policeman husband, Patrik. An interesting new 'find' in Scandi-crime reading and an author I'll be reading more from."

Camilla Lackberg has actually written 12 books of which "The Drowning" is the 6th to appear in English. The seventh to appear in English will be The Lost Boy and it will appear here in 2013. But since her first book "The Ice Princess" appeared in Sweden in 2003 she has sold 10 million books into dozens of countries!

Camilla Lackberg's books come at a time when a lot of Scandinavian crime writers are enjoying success in translation into languages around the world. It does beg the question "What is so special about Scandinavian crime fiction all of a sudden?".

It's also important to remember that Lackberg's books have not been televised here in the UK, yet they are still hugely popular. Clearly they stand on their own merit as stories and have developed a fan following of Detective Patrick Hedström and writer Erica Falck, in fact some readers read as much for the relationship of Hedström and Falck as for the crimes themselves - now that clearly indicates a fan following of characters that people can truly identify with.

In this short sponsored video, Lackberg talks a little on what she believes the foreign view of Sweden is like and how she see Sweden.
Sponsored Post

Monday 23 July 2012

Wolfie by Emma Barnes

The Ultimate Pet
Review by The Mole

Lucie loves her Uncle Joe because he always brings presents and one day he brings her a dog. Only Lucie can see it's a wolf not a dog, despite everyone insisting it is a dog. Then one day people start to notice that Wolfie might be a wolf, despite Lucie insisting he's a dog - and there is great danger for Wolfie because of it.

Emma Barnes has created some great characters in this story and I especially like the parents who come over as out of touch and unbothered - but are in fact, very typical modern busy parents seen through the eyes of a child. There is Marcus, a neighbour, bully and sneak who must always be the centre of attention. Alexis is the big brother type - protective and kind. Then of course, there's Wolfie. Wolfie is magical in that she can talk, but she is also a great friend and protector of Lucie - the perfect friend let alone the ultimate pet.

I simply loved Lucie and Wolfie and their magical relationship which sort of just happens from the moment they meet (I have a dog like that!) and I'm sure that children will love them too.

At 132 pages in length, the story is the perfect length to attract the 7+ reader and printed in an inviting format that makes an easily read book for younger readers. Although the main characters are female, because the story is about a 'dog', well a pet I suppose, it will appeal to boys and girls alike. Throughout the story there are delightful black and white illustrations by Emma Chichester Clark which add appeal for the younger reader.

Throughout the reading I found myself imagining this as a screenplay of some sort - everything just sort of fitted. A book I really enjoyed, and one that would be great as a bedtime read - although there are cliff hangers that may keep them awake!

All in all a delightful story of love, loyalty and trust and told with magic and fantasy that will captivate children of all ages.

Publisher - Strident Publishing
Genre -
Childrens' fantasy

Buy Wolfie from Amazon

Friday 20 July 2012

The Enchantress by Michael Scott

The Fall Before The Rise
Review by The Mole

In this, the 6th and final episode in the The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, Scott sets about the many threads started in the previous 5 books together and brings the story to the conclusion we have been waiting for. With the characters spread over two worlds and separated by more than 10,000 years there are a lot of story lines to finish.

Moving at the break neck speed of the previous 5 books in the series, the story continues as we conclude only 6 days elapsed in the life of Josh and Sophie. As for the other characters.... well to name some of them gives spoilers to readers who haven't yet read the previous 5 books, but let just say, as with any book where characters jump across time, some characters we enjoy more than 1 version of, with some of them denying knowledge of their friends from other times and others hiding their identity from characters that would otherwise recognise them - especially themselves.

This series of books has not all been brilliant. I have reviewed them all for Nayu's Reading Corner (and I summarise books 1-5 in The Warlock) and found book 3 to be a big disappointment. The reason was that the plot was very similar to book 2 and the feeling was that while the plot was moving fast then each book was going to build repetitively to the final conclusion. But then book 4 came along and the plot was nothing like books 2 & 3 and started to become as enthralling as book 1. And in the last 2 books the story became as exciting and engaging as book 1 and actually moved on. The reader of book 1 will have their own ideas of where the plot will go, as I did, and how the twins will save the world from Dr Dee, but the conclusion is far from the initial expectation - more complex and more challenging. With allies found where totally unexpected and enemies hidden in plain view. The Enchantress is a truly awesome read. If like me you started to turn cold around book 3 then start again and enjoy the conclusion - it's everything you could want.

This book is labelled as 10+ but is actually totally readable by fantasy lovers of all ages from 10+.

Genre - 10+ /Teen fantasy
Publisher - Kids At Random House

Buy The Enchantress: Book 6 (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel) from Amazon

Thursday 19 July 2012

The Calling by Neil Cross

review by Maryom

An extraordinarily brutal double murder leads John Luther on a hunt for a very perverse baby snatcher. At the same time an injured colleague asks him to unofficially help an old man being bullied into leaving his home. In desperation he resorts to increasingly 'unconventional' methods and as his professional life descends into turmoil, his private life follows. 

The Calling is a prequel to the BBC Luther series, filling in the 'story so far' which was hinted at on TV but never expanded. Cross has also worked in a clever link to an incident in his novel, Captured (which I feel very clever to have spotted while wondering if there were links to other novels which I missed) An unusual aspect of the creation of Luther is that the character started out in a screenplay and  was 'fleshed out' by Idris Elba's portrayal, something that Neil Cross refers to in the Acknowledgements. With a few brief descriptive comments here and there, Neil Cross now brings the composite character back to life in print. It doesn't matter though if you've never seen Luther as The Calling works perfectly as a stand alone novel and an introduction to this harrowed, angry detective.

Don't be misled into imagining The Calling is a cosy whodunnit crime novel as you might expect from a Lewis or Midsommer Murders spin off.  It's a VERY violent and brutal story - not at all for the squeamish or easily upset. Not only is there a psychopath out there but he seems to have a network of contacts all as deeply weird as he is. Luther himself is a tormented, emotionally tortured man in whom the violence of the crimes brings out a correspondingly violent response.
A book that left me feeling stunned and emotionally battered. For one thing, I felt Neil Cross managed to portray the victims as real people about whom I cared, rather than mere dead bodies. It is though, without doubt, a gripping, mesmerising book.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Simon & Schuster
Genre - crime, adult fiction, TV tie-in

Buy The Calling from Amazon

Wednesday 18 July 2012

The Incomers by Moira McPartlin

The Pairty Line
Review by The Mole

Ellie has travelled from Africa to join her husband, bringing their young son, to a Scottish estate, where he is the factor. Ellie is a black African and has left her homeland to start life amongst white people in a culture that is almost entirely foreign to her. Set in 1966 when the coloured population of the UK was still very small and interracial marriages were extremely rare this story deals with Ellie's attempts to settle amongst strangers in a strange land. She encounters kindness and cruelty in places that take the reader by surprise.

"Set in 1960’s Fife yet dealing with the hot-button issues of racism and immigration, The Incomers has been described by The Herald on Saturday as ‘an accomplished début novel…’ and ‘…an emotive work of fiction’." was how it was described when we were asked if we would like to review it. And, frankly, that makes it sound a bit 'heavy'. But Maryom was going to embark on a Scottish Reading Challenge and so it sounded convenient. As it was, I got to it first and Maryom was having no problems with her challenge anyway.

I don't think the synopsis on the book does it justice although the synopsis above (much better) from the publisher's website is rather longer and accurate - and perhaps a little too long for my taste. I would say that The Herald on Saturday's "accomplished début novel' and 'emotive work of fiction' coupled with Alan Bissett's 'fascinate' really says it all.

McPartlin has employed a 'fly on the wall' device of "The Pairty Line". Remember 'party' lines? when switchboards couldn't cope with demand then you shared a line with another party and could hear what they were saying just by picking up your phone. By using this device we get to hear the prejudices of the locals and the kind of thing being said about Ellie and Nat, well... and others in the village, and through this we start to see that the prejudice against Ellie may not be what it seems.

It's an extremely good book and fascinating to read with plenty happening to involve the reader and take them back to the days when villages were communities that kept any new residents at arm's length.

Publisher - Fledgling Press
Genre - Literary Fiction

Buy The Incomers from Amazon

Monday 16 July 2012

A Sea of Stars by Kate Maryom

review by Maryom

Maya's parents always wanted to have a large family but after her baby brother Alfie died they decided not to and to just treasure the daughter they had. A near-accident with a bus makes them even more protective of  Maya, hardly bearing to let her out of their sight. Now at the age of 12, Maya is starting to find this lack of freedom frustrating - she wants to be able to go down to the beach with her friends, to be able to swim and surf without having to have her parents watching all the time.  But her life is about to change completely. Her parents have decided to adopt another daughter. Maya thinks that having a sister will be fun - she'll have someone to play games and go surfing with. Things, of course, don't run that smoothly. Used to individual attention from her parents, Maya now has to share them. Cat is used to far more independence than Maya has - after all for years she's looked after herself and her younger brother because their mother couldn't.
Maya feels that Cat is allowed to get away with doing things and behaving in ways that she would not be allowed.What would happen if she began to behave the way Cat does?

A Sea Of Stars is another excellent 'tweens' novel from Kate Maryon this time set in Cornwall and full of sun, sea and surf.  The story looks at adoption and all its problems from an unusual point of view while still being an engaging and enjoyable read. Stories tend to focus on the child in care looking for a new family or, in adult novels, on the couple wishing to adopt a child. A Sea Of Stars is told from the perspective of the child gaining, or having thrust upon her, a sibling. Maya quickly gains the reader's sympathy as she struggles to cope with the disruption to her life and the seeming unfairness of her parents' attitude towards Cat.

With it's seaside setting this will make a wonderful summer read. Jacqueline Wilson and Cathy Cassidy fans will also love Kate Maryon.

Maryom's review -  4.5 stars
Publisher - HarperCollins
Genre - 9+, fiction

Buy A Sea of Stars from Amazon

Friday 13 July 2012

Eoin Colfer - Author event

Following the launch of Artemis Fowl And The Last Guardian on 10th July Eoin Colfer was at Broadway Cinema in Nottingham last night (12th July) giving a talk about the origins of the characters in the final book in the Artemis Fowl series.

The series was started in 2001 with "Artemis Fowl" and this is the eighth and final story.

When my youngest daughter was little, bedtime reading included Artemis Fowl and it was a time of day we both looked forward to - but while we read Artemis's adventures, Maryom sat off to one side - unmoved by it, clearly not a fan.

Shane Maxwell-Atkin introduced Eoin with some amazing facts about the series - it has been published in 44 countries and he challenged us to name 44 countries because he felt he would struggle.

Eoin's presentation, chat, performance - call it what you will - was funny and entertaining from the start and he set about explaining the inspirations for each character. Now this is where the non-fans could be left bored and kicking their heels but this was not the case as the stories related about each character were plot independent and each character was explained to the benefit of non-readers. Why would non-readers go though? Well, some of these events can feel like you are at a convention where every character really exists for the fans, but Artemis? Well the fans are children and the audience reflected this (I'm a big kid at heart anyway!) and kids seem to keep their feet on the ground more firmly than many adults. And the non-readers? They seemed to be the parents! They are missing out because Artemis is totally readable by all ages and bags of fun.

The end of the evening was a question and answer session and I was surprised and impressed by how many children asked questions - and questions about inspirations for characters and the order of creation (characters or worlds first). Eoin admitted to being surprised as well as he was used to children asking questions like 'What's your favourite colour?'.

I was delighted when I got the opportunity to review Artemis Fowl And The Last Guardian and while I have read and greatly enjoyed it, my daughter has now 'moved on' and shows no inclination to read it. But maybe in a few years time.

Another fantastic event organised by Waterstones so apart from book festivals around the country keep an eye out and you can get access to most every author at some time to ask questions of and/or get your copies of books signed.

Thursday 12 July 2012

Jasper Fforde - Author event

We saw that Jasper Fforde was to be at Waterstones in Nottingham, in the Silitoe Room giving a prelaunch introduction to his latest book "The Woman Who Died A Lot", the next in the Thursday Next stories. Having been to Edinburgh Book Festival last year, Maryom and our daughter had seen Jasper Fforde double acting with Philip Ardagh during a book signing and found him very funny. Since then she's read a couple of his books, "The Eyre Affair" and "First Among Sequels" both of which feature Thursday Next and was looking forward to catching him again 'live'. The challenge was whether he was as funny on his own.

The event was very well attended and sometimes you are left wondering about the make up of the audience. This was something we would later be left in no doubt about.

Jasper took the lectern after an introduction by Shane Maxwell-Atkin, Waterstones Regional Events Manager for Greater Manchester & East Midlands. He started by introducing us to his new book and how it's title changed at the last moment when he realised that the original title no longer fitted the book. And, yes, from the outset it became clear that he was still extremely funny without a partner on stage. At these events you expect a book reading - nay, look forward to it. Although he talked a lot about his whole publication history we didn't get a reading but we didn't feel the poorer for it. He also told us a little of his own book (that came FIRST by the way) called Shades Of Grey and the interesting notion that what we see doesn't really exist - it sounded so plausible when he said it!

He then fielded questions and we found that a significant number of people had read ALL his books and it felt we were attending a convention! Some of the questions reinforced this feeling as the questions at times focussed on the minutiae of the plots - clearly Jasper Fforde is a VERY popular author with many people.

He also told us a little of his next 3 books, a top secret project which will be a standalone of which he told us nothing, a prequel to Shades Of Grey and another book (his words, not mine!).

The book queue was LONG... as it tends to be at these events at Waterstones and a cup of coffee while queueing and chatting would be grand... but Costa is generally closed.

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Meg the Egg by Rita Antoinette Borg

Finding courage under pressure
Review by The Mole

Mother Hen has 3 eggs and two hatch out. She worries that the third will go on the rubbish tip if it doesn't hatch quickly. Meg doesn't want to hatch because the world sounds a frightening place and she is scared by it.

When a fox comes calling though, courage is called for but can she do it?

This is a delightful picture book that shows courage and ingenuity in beautiful, clear drawings and simple language - a language that brings the sounds of a farmyard to life -  that suits both early readers and reading aloud with the children joining in with the farmyard noises.

This book is a bound to delight young readers, but as it is self published then it's availability is really only on the web which means you would have to go to Amazon and such places to buy it - bit of a nuisance but that's life! We also reviewed this (because it's a picture book) as a PDF so haven't actually handled it.

Publisher - Self Published
Genre - Picture Book, Early Reader

Look inside and buy Meg the Egg from Amazon

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Talk to the Tail by Tom Cox

Review by Maryom

Tom Cox returns with another series of anecdotes about his cats - and other animals. He tries to understand the delights of horse-riding, discovers the pleasure of borrowing a dog for walkies and gets side-tracked from rallying to go chase ostriches!
There's more of the author's own life this time - from teen years with his country life obsessed father to the breakup of his long term relationship with fellow cat 'owner' Dee. The cats are still the stars - whether the Cox household moggies or those of friends and neighbours.

What makes this book stand out among all the many other compilations of pets anecdotes?  Well - it's funny and, above all, honest. Tom Cox is not remotely sentimental about his cats - he doesn't see them as cute cuddly darlings. He's well aware of the darker - if not plain evil - side of their nature. He knows they're a pain, or 6, and isn't afraid to say so - while finding the funny side of most of their antics, without which I suspect he'd be tearing his hair out.

These cats are not one big happy family but more like a gaggle of teens with feuds and friendships, squabbles and BFFs. Their antics and misdemeanours provide endless hours of bemused entertainment for their 'owner'.

The not quite domesticated aspect of cats is something that fascinates Cox, realising that the image cats present to him isn't all. They have a secret life out beyond house or garden that no mere human can fully appreciate. Rather like bad flatmates or teens, cats share your house, expect you to clean and cook for them but never tell you where they've been out to or who with.'Talk to the Tail' sums up their attitude admirably!

A book I thoroughly enjoyed, even when it brought a tear to my eye. One I'd whole-heartedly recommend to anyone, not just cat-lovers.

Maryom's review -  4.5 stars
Publisher - Simon & Schuster
Genre - non-fiction,

Buy Talk to the Tail: Adventures in Cat Ownership and Beyond from Amazon

Monday 9 July 2012

Deity by Steven Dunne

A Bit Too Close To Home
review by Maryom

When a body is discovered in the River Derwent not far from Derby, the police at first assume it was a suicide - until they discover the body has had its lungs removed! As DI Damen Brook opens, what is in all but name, a murder investigation among the down and outs of Derby, other strange events are happening in the city. Kyle a student at the local college is  reported missing and the police are at first inclined to treat his disappearance as nothing to be very concerned about until they realise several of his friends are missing too and they all had links to a mysterious organisation, Deity - which promises a way to live forever, offering these youngsters not merely their 15 minutes of fame but immortality.  'Young. Beautiful. Immortal.'

To say I found Deity gripping doesn't quite cover it - I was absolutely hooked from the chilling opening scene. I've always read a lot of thrillers but rarely have I found anything this disturbing. In part this may be down to the location - Derby is where I live and Dunne describes locations accurately enough that I could plot the moves of murderer or police. There's a nice mention for Waterstones in case you need to find a bookshop in town but I was rather concerned that the murders may have been taking place at a friend's house! I wonder if the residents of Oxford and Edinburgh have felt this way over the Morse or Rebus novels.

But the aspect to bring chills to anyone, anywhere, is that of a psychopathic predator on the loose playing with people's minds and twisting their needs and desires to his own ends. In both plot-lines the weak and vulnerable are played and preyed on in this way by an evil manipulator disguised as someone offering help; the down and outs exploited through their basic need for a clean, comfortable bed; the teens through their obsession with fame.

All in all, a very cleverly plotted novel. The reader is allowed to see 'behind the scenes' somewhat - to know what the missing students have been doing and planning - to know something behind the disposal of the corpse in the river - but the ultimate denouement still comes as a surprise.

Steven Dunne is a brilliant new find in crime thriller fiction and I'm hoping to read much more from him. My teenager thinks his next book should be set in our part of Derby. I'm not so sure myself - I'd probably never dare to go out again!

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher -
Genre - Adult Crime Thriller

Buy Deity from Amazon

Other reviews: Pamreader

Thursday 5 July 2012

Dubliners by James Joyce

Not Stuffy At All
Review by The Mole

I have to admit to being caught out by Joyce. Well, it's a 'classic' isn't it? I am like many readers who are wary of the classics. Don't they belong in the classroom and are stuffy and boring?

I am being challenged by Maryom to try more of the 'classics' so this was an ideal opportunity. And I was extremely surprised. The stories are not huge 'twists in the tail' but nor are they dull and boring. They are stories that contain a 'slice of life' but when I knew how a story was to end Joyce managed to shake it about and the ending is not what I expected. Short enough to read 1 or 2 at a coffee break they are remarkably true to life and enjoyable.

Although written about Ireland over a hundred years ago, the language is still totally readable although there are some interesting turns of phrase in it - amusing ones quite often.

The Sisters - a story of a young boy very moved by the death of an old priest - someone he has has been told to keep away from.

An Encounter - two boys play truant from school and meet someone.

Araby - a young boys infatuation with a girl he tries to please.

Eveline - My particular favourite is of a young girl, oppressed by her family duties and runs away to meet her boyfriend who will take her to Buenos Ayres away from it all.

Stories of ambitions and family life and love. These stories are as real today as they were then, and although controversial at the time, today they are just fun reads.

Penguin seem to have renamed their 'modern classics' to 'English library' and hopefully that will attract more readers to these books and people can get back to enjoying these stories that the classroom has managed to give a 'stuffy' reputation to.

I am assured that Joyce gets 'weirder' in his later writings and his last book 'Finnegan's Wake' ends with the the word 'The'. Now Maryom hasn't read that one so there's a challenge!

Publisher - Penguin Books
Genre - Adult Fiction, Short Stories

Buy Dubliners (Penguin English Library) from Amazon

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

review by Maryom

One of things we all take for granted is that every day, at a predictable time, the sun will rise in the morning and set in the evening. Imagine that one day - for some inexplicable reason - the sun was late getting up, even later going to bed and kept this up indefinitely. This is the terrifying scenario that 11  year old Julia finds herself - and the rest of mankind - facing in The Age of Miracles.

I'd hoped that The Age of Miracles would be one of those great doomsday novels such as When Worlds Collide or The Day of The Triffids but was rather disappointed. Although the writing had me hooked and reading as quickly as I could, in an overall analysis something was lacking. A bit of pseudo-scientific explanation for events might have helped but a lot of the time I found the book raised concepts and questions that it didn't answer - my reading was disrupted time and again by a little voice in my head nit-picking.

The two plot lines of doomsday scenario and coming-of-age tale didn't mesh well together. Both had the possibility of being really good stories - just not together. I think the doomsday aspect would have been better with a different narrator - or maybe several. Other books and films have used scientists and/or reporters as focus points to bring in reports and statistics from all over the world whereas the point of view of  one 11 yr old girl in California was too limiting. I would have liked to see more of what happened elsewhere in the world as events would have panned out quite differently in different latitudes (one of the niggles from the voice in my head).

Although there is a lot of unexplored potential it is a good compelling read, just perhaps more suited to a teen readership than an adult one.

Maryom's review - 3 stars
Publisher - Simon & Schuster
Genre - Science Fiction

Buy The Age of Miracles from Amazon

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer

Series Climax??
Review by The Mole

Opal Koboi has devised a plan to wipe man from the face of the universe and have the fairy world declare her empress - or better. The only thing between her and success is.... you guessed it - Artemis Fowl and Holly Short. But have they met their match this time as Butler's sister and Artemis's younger brothers are recruited by Opal as tools for her plan? Is it the end of everything? Will it all end happily anyway?

Billed as the final climatic episode for the series this adventure starts fast and only gains pace in a story that is as compelling as the rest of the series. By now all the characters know each other well and have respect for each other's strengths and weaknesses they bounce ideas and insults between them with no formality. This way the humour is as funny as ever, if not funnier. The old characters are also in there such as Butler and Foaly as well as dwarves and gnomes etc. Fans of Artemis will not be disappointed but new readers would be as well to start at the beginning because no time is wasted on introductions or explaining the back story - without which the reader will not understand the fuss of what makes this series of books so fantastic.

The Artemis Fowl stories are aimed at younger readers and are greatly enjoyed by them - but don't let that label put you off, they are also tremendous fun for older readers too.

As for the end of the series.... At least Eoin Colfer has started a new series of stories, due to be launched in 2013, so we won't be devoid of his humour and imagination.

Publisher - Penguin Books
Genre - Children's Fantasy

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Monday 2 July 2012

Stonemouth by Iain Banks

review by Maryom

Stonemouth is a seaside town in the North-east of Scotland with a long sandy beach stretching into the distance, a suspension bridge from which a high number of people fall - or are pushed - and two rather kindly paternalistic mafia-style families in charge.

5 years ago, Stewart Gilmour made a mistake and managed to so offend the Murston family that he had to leave town - in a very speedy, very undignified manner. Now he's been allowed back to attend the funeral of  Joe Murston, but with younger angrier family members around still looking for revenge, Stewart doesn't feel too sure about his own long-term health. Could returning be an even bigger mistake?

Stonemouth is one of Iain Banks' more straightforward stories, told solely from Stewart's point of view with flashbacks to his childhood and teen years - there's none of the alternative personalities or multiple narrators of some of his more complex novels. After years of running away, Stewart needs to face the scene of his crime and the people he offended. The reader is teased along with gradual revelations of the relationship between Stewart and Ellie, the girl he's always loved - with a big build up to why he had to leave in such a hurry. On a first read this should come as a big surprise BUT Iain Banks himself gave it away - well almost. A while ago he came to our almost-local Waterstones as part of the promotion tour for Stonemouth, which is where and when I bought my book, a signed copy!! Anyway, as part of the evening he read an extract from the book and immediately upon getting home I tracked  it down in the book and re-read it.... and a page or two extra - this was the big scene that everything was building up to!! Ok there are more twists and turns to the plot after that but I really shouldn't have read this section first.

It's not as great or as complex as The Crow Road or The Bridge, which are my personal Banks' favourites, and not as convoluted as the last I read, Transition, but it's an entertaining fast-paced read of love, betrayal and revenge. An excellent introduction to Iain Banks if for some mysterious reason you haven't discovered him yet.

Another read to include in Subtle Melodrama's Scottish Summer Reading Challenge.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher -
Little, Brown
Genre - adult fiction

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