Friday 31 August 2012

James Mayhew at The National Gallery of Scotland

James as "Van Gogh"

post by The Mole

In parallel to the Edinburgh Fringe and the Edinburgh International Book Festival there are other events running and each year in Edinburgh and the National Gallery generally put on an event. This year, once again, they invited James Mayhew to come along and tell stories while painting a picture from the story.

This year he was sat beside a painting that included Cupid and this was the theme for his first story - a story that was totally new to me. The story was of Venus' (Cupid's mother) jealousy of Psyche who was judged to be more beautiful than her. The gallery was busy and despite the relatively quiet voice that James has the gallery became almost silent as people listened, totally captured by his telling of and and fascinated as the blank page came to life.

He then told the story of the Firebird... one that I was more familiar with but not with this rendition. Once again the room was captivated and silent except for James' storytelling. Afterwards James explained to us the origins of the story and how the number of variations came about. Not only is James an extremely accomplished artist and story teller but extremely well versed on myths and legends too.

His latest book in the 'Katie' series is Katie and the Starry Night. I cannot sum the Katie books up better than in the synopsis for his latest book "James Mayhew created Katie as a way to make art accessible to all children. He has been bringing art to life for over twenty years and is a much-loved author/illustrator".

If James is in an event near you at anytime then take the opportunity to go along and be dazzled. Even if you have no children - but if there are children you can take then they will be sure to enjoy it.

Read more on James Mayhew, his books and events over at his blog

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Matt Cartney - a cup of coffee with the author

By The Mole

While at Edinburgh International Book Festival I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Red, White and Black by Matt Cartney and I took the opportunity to put aside the book I was about to start to read this instead. I was halfway through and really enjoying it when I received a text from Matt, who had got my number via the publisher, asking if I would like to meet up and chat over a coffee.

I quickly jumped at the chance and met him at The Scotch Malt Whisky Society - a members only club where we could be sure of getting a seat at Fringe time. Matt, who works in Edinburgh, sees the Fringe every year and I asked him how he viewed it. He told me that locals sometimes see it as an opportunity for the city and at other times as an invasion.

I had heard that he had been going to Russia doing 'research' and had run intoa problem which he told me was due to a mechanical issue with his Landrover. But on the subject of research he told me how the things that Danny has done, Matt actually did first! In the current book Danny goes to a high Norwegian plateau to search for a plane and has to spend several nights camping in order to get there. Apart from not finding a plane, Matt made that trip taking photographs along the way. He also climbed Schneibstein (a mountain in Bavaria) that Danny climbs etc gathering photos along the way.

I was left wondering if this is what gives the Danny Lansing stories a special 'edge'.. a genuine 'Boys Own' feel that makes you want to get up and do it.

Matt explained that when doing school visits he takes a laptop and projector and uses some of the gathered research photos to illustrate his talks - it must be a rather special treat for the children!

The first book "Sons of Rissouli" was set in the deserts of Morocco; this, the second book "Red, White and Black" is set in the snows of Norway amongst other locations; the third book is (apparently and if I remember correctly) set in the jungles of Belize. The fourth was to be in Russia but... And now Matt is in Iceland so we will see and wait with bated breath.

Danny Lansing is a normal boy, albeit with an an investigative journalist uncle who is a little eccentric in how he looks after Danny after the death of Danny's parents - and perhaps he is every boys dream of how a guardian should behave?

I was very grateful to Matt for making time to see me and I sincerely hope that Danny goes on a great deal longer with his adventures.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson - re-read

post by Maryom

As I was taking my copy of Before I Go To Sleep up to Edinburgh Book Festival, hoping to have it signed by S J Watson, it seemed only sensible to read it again. I was a little curious about how well the story would work second time round as I now know all the plot twists and I also wanted to take into account some of the criticisms I've read from non-fans.

Second time through I found the story just as compelling as the first. I thought there were hints and clues to be picked up along the way that I'd missed first time and in some ways knowing how everything would end increased the tension. I don't want to run the risk of spoilers but I felt at times like shouting "he's behind you" or some such warning to Christine.

As for criticisms I've heard. Someone actually found Christine's wearing of tights under trousers to be a major credibility-fail. It isn't for me as I know women who do this. More worthy of consideration is that some readers didn't believe in the feasibility of Christine's diary - of how she could maintain it. In part, even first time round, I was prepared to accept this with a little suspension of dis-belief. After all, it's mainly a plot device to tell the story through Christine's eyes - if a different character had told it, all the plot twists would have been given away on the first page! And the up-coming film with Nicole Kidman? I think it should work well. As I re-read I tried to envisage Kidman as Christine and found myself thinking of her role in The Others - a very creepy ghost story with a twist at the end that completely alters all that went before, much like Before I Go To Sleep in that respect.

As you can see from the photo above, my copy of Before I Go To Sleep is a rather special one with padlock and key sent out by the publicist to reviewers. It's now extra special as it's been signed by S J Watson himself. It was great to meet him at last, even if only briefly as he had quite a long line waiting to have books signed. I'd chatted to him before via Twitter and was curious to know if he'd at last seen 50 First Dates. He had - and said he thought his novel was more like that would be as Drew Barrymore's character aged, than my theory which is that Before I Go To Sleep is what would happen if Adam Sandler were evil!

Original review  25th May 2011
Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Transworld
Genre -
adult, crime/thriller

Monday 27 August 2012

Peter Robinson - Author event

While the buzz to be found at literary festivals such as Hay or Edinburgh is something special, don't forget that authors are always working away promoting their books and often coming to a town near you. Last Friday, Peter Robinson was at Waterstones in Nottingham to talk about his latest Inspector Banks novel, Watching The Dark.

Now, I must admit that although I'd seen them around in shops and the library, before the TV adaptation I hadn't paid much attention to this series, so I've been doing a little catching up. I'm not sure that reading the originals to the TV episodes was a good idea. Bits were changed round and cut for TV- if only British TV would give over 20 hours to a crime story the way they did with The Killing, as Peter himself said.

Peter read a couple of sections from his new novel - enough to whet our appetite without giving away the story-line - and then went on to answer questions from the audience. Prompted by these he talked about his route to publication (easier than expected), disagreements with his editor, his relationship with and input to the TV series (preferring to view it as a separate entity rather than an adaptation). People were concerned about the emotional and physical well-being of some of their favourite characters as left at the end of the last book and even wondered if he'd considered killing Inspector Banks off!

You can read more about Inspector Banks and Peter Robinson's work in general on the official site.

Sunday 26 August 2012

And For Your Information by Denise Deegan

A Slice of Teenage Life
review by Maryom

Sarah feels that her life is out of control - her parents have separated, her mum is angry all the time, boyfriend Simon pays her no attention, her best friends Alex and Rachel keep secrets from her and have loads more spending money... So when she accidentally discovers the power that shoplifting appears to give her, it feels like a good thing. Can that be right? or is it the way to spin even more out of control? Getting caught may be better for Sarah than she realises. It certainly proves to be life-changing!

To be honest, I'd expected And For Your Information to be just another fairly light-weight teen chick lit/school story - exam stress, bullies and boyfriends, - but realised quite early on that this story was something more than that.
Denise Deegan deals with important issues in an accessible, readable, yet thought-provoking, way. I haven't read the previous novel in the series, but found it easy to slip into the lives and problems of Sarah, Alex and Rachel - and between them they seem to have all the teenage problems in the world. It's not all doom and gloom for them though - there are plenty of laughs and a lot of romance. As the parent of a teenager, I particularly liked the way in which grown-ups were shown to have thoughts and feelings of their own - too often ignored by their teenagers!
An excellent slice-of-teenage-life novel - just be warned, the ending won't leave a dry eye in the house!

I think the cover didn't do the story justice - and could have been responsible for my expectations of it. The Mole actually suggested it looked like a fitness book!

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Hachette Books Ireland
Genre -
teenage fiction

Buy And for Your Information: a Novel (Butterfly) from Amazon

The Pile Of Stuff At The Bottom Of The Stairs by Christina Hopkinson

Too Close To Home?
review by Maryom

Mary is fed up with husband Joel's attitude to cleaning and tidying. She feels every spare minute she has is spent clearing up after him and their 2 children, while he gets to do the fun stuff in life - his idea of childcare is a trip to the zoo, not getting them fed, bathed and into bed, all such mundane tasks are left to his wife. Adapting the star-chart system used so successfully with children, Mary sets up a spreadsheet listing all Joel's faults, tracking every time he commits them and occasionally allowing him a gold star for a good deed. If he doesn't start to improve, she'll...well, what will she do?
Even though Joel doesn't show signs of improvement,when Mary starts to compare her life to that of rich friend Mitzi or gay couple -Cara and Becky - she discovers that happiness does not necessarily lie in a tidy house.

The Pile of Stuff at the bottom of the Stairs is a wry look at the problems besetting the modern marriage, though a little too true-to-life to be hilarious. If your children are still young, you might find it too close to home to be funny; anyone with teenagers might think 'just wait!' I really felt Mary's frustration with the endless daily chores but unfortunately it made my endless list of 'things to do' seem larger than ever!

Maryom's review - 3 stars
Publisher - Hodder & Stoughton
Genre - adult fiction

Buy The Pile of Stuff at the Bottom of the Stairs from Amazon

Friday 24 August 2012

Red, White and Black by Matt Cartney

The Adventures Continue
Review by The Mole

Danny and his Uncle Angus learn of a war time briefcase lying buried on a Norwegian mountainside and tempted by the adventure of finding secrets that must no longer have value except as a story for the newspapers they set out to find it. Before long they are pursuing "Adler Kommando",  a group of terrorists that are about to threaten the lives of thousands of people.

For those who haven't read Sons of Rissouli you won't have met Danny Lansing - a young boy who has been orphaned and now lives with his Uncle Angus. Angus is an investigative reporter who travels the world pursuing stories and takes Danny with him - regardless of the school calendar!

Readers of Danny's first adventure will find his second adventure even better and this time we go from the the hot deserts of the the first story to the cold snowy wastes from Norway to the Alps and to Poland (occasionally returning to Angus's home in Dunkeld, Scotland). I found myself wanting to be there because so much of Danny's adventures are accessible - if you're fit and adventurous then you could be out there doing them, apart from coming up against terrorist organisations... please keep well clear of them!!

Absolutely fabulous adventure once again from the "Boy's Own" era that will have readers hankering to learn to ski and climb and get out there and do it.

Highly recommended to ALL readers of adventure stories. And apparently girls love Danny too!

Publisher - Strident Publishing
Genre -
Boy's Adventure

Buy Red, White & Black (Danny Lansing Adventures) from Amazon

Thursday 23 August 2012

Torn by Cat Clarke

Review by The Mole

Tara is mean one too many times on a school activity holiday, when she humiliates Polly by making sure the whole school trip hears of an incident while pot-holing. Cass is fuming and is determined to dish out some humiliation to Tara. Recruiting Polly, Rae and Alice she devises a plan that will surely do it. Unfortunately things don't go to plan and Alice finds herself between a rock and a hard place.

I shall put my hand up (as I did to Cat Clarke at the Edinburgh International Book Festival) and say that I had no plan to read this while we were away - simply because I had others I planned to read that were removed from the packing at the last minute. [Any suggestions on ereaders and I will happily send an address for you to post one to! ;-)] But - most importantly - I LOVED it. Yes, I may not be the target audience but so what?

I quickly found myself wanting to shake some of the people in the story. Not 'characters' because they were just so real and believable. It's difficult to say more without giving spoilers except to say that it certainly will get you thinking and probably have you taking sides in it all.


Publisher - Quercus
Genre -
teenage, YA, Fiction

Buy Torn from Amazon 

Wednesday 22 August 2012

EdBookFest in pictures

Edinburgh International Book Festival is held every year in the city's Charlotte Square. At any other time of the year it is one of the many green areas around the city where tourists, residents and local workers on a lunch break can be seen sitting, chatting, eating, exercising dogs or anything else that we all use such areas for. But for two weeks a year it becomes home to the festival.

Entry to the festival is free and so anyone can still wander in and take in some of the sights and sounds. Perhaps you may want to fill your water bottle, jump onto the free wifi, get a book signed in one of the free book signings or simply relax in one of their fabulous deck chairs.

Chances are though that for a reasonable charge you may be tempted into one of many many events that run throughout the day and the evening (or even one of the free events!). There are events for adults, teens and even small children - something for EVERYONE.

But be warned - it's addictive! But it's one of those rare addictions that is actually good for you as it broadens your horizons. If in the area give it a go - you won't regret it!

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Another Life by Keren David

The Truth From Archie
Review by The Mole

Archie manages to get himself expelled from boarding school and Ty is sentenced to a spell in a young offenders institution while going under the name Luke Smith.

Archie is worried about Ty and decides to help and find out what really happened. Archie starts to learn of love, family truths and the hard knocks of life. The truths Archie starts to learn are not the ones he expected and he starts to doubt Ty but needs to hear what really happened from Ty in order to believe it.

One of the great things about book festivals is that publishers do an early limited release of books at them and although not published until 6th September 2012 Another Life was available and Keren David was signing books in the bookshop after  reading and talking about it - double whammie! There may still be books on the shelf at the book festival this week if you are quick!

Written with two voices I was amazed at how easily and distinctly the reader knows whose voice is being used at the start of each chapter. I have found this with authors that write in accents but David hasn't done that - even when Archie is being 'chav' she still doesn't resort to accent and I was seriously impressed!

As with When I Was Joe and Almost True I found putting this book down difficult and found my loyalties between Ty and Archie changing regularly. David says that while she wrote him in Almost True as an unlikeable chap, she enjoyed writing Archie in Another Life and grew to like him.

A really enjoyable sequel to the series of books and every bit as good as the first. A must for readers of contemporary teen fiction.

Publisher - Frances Lincoln
Genre - Teen/YA Contemporary Fiction

Buy Another Life from Amazon

Monday 20 August 2012

Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012

This year we timed our annual holiday so as to spend a week in Edinburgh to take in events at the festival as well as meet people and step outside a bit and enjoy fringe events too.

The first week was to be our week and we set aside just 3 days to attend the festival but what we didn't realise is that the festival is actually addictive and that we quickly changed that to 6 days, so if you plan on attending the festival at all then be warned!

We met and made a lot of friends and attended events and book signings and here are but a few.

i) Alan Bissett - Maryom chatted about Pack Men and how it is not just for male football fans. We also saw Alan at the Festival Cafe (a BBC Scotland radio show) where he talked about and performed a brief excerpt from his one man fringe show for arachnophobes - extremely funny, catch him if you can.

ii) Barry Hutchinson - We talked with Barry and other Scottish authors about the difficulties caused by branding books as 'Scottish' and how buyers in England avoid such books for some reason perhaps in the belief that they are "all haggis and tartan".

iii) Linda Strachan - We chatted about many things and had a sneak preview of the cover for Don't Judge Me, her next teen novel to be published by Strident in Autumn.

iv) Keren David and Cat Clarke talked about motivations for writing, methods of writing and other things and read from their latest books and The Mole discussed with Cat Clarke the character with which she identifies and although we disagreed on choice her father was in agreement with The Mole.

v) Keith Charters  - We chatted at length on many subjects surrounding publishing and many NOT publishing related.

vi) Matt Cartney - We chatted about several things... but more on this meeting in a later post.

vii) Edward Wilson talked of his route to writing spy thrillers and read from his  book.

viii) James Mayhew - We saw him story telling and painting in a way that he does so well.

ix) S J Watson signed Maryom's copy of Before I Go To Sleep and chatted about it and the publicity campaign surrounding it.

And one of the great things is that at the festival you can meet so many people by chance..while in the yurt, apparently Neil Gaiman walked past and we missed him, we brushed passed and chatted with Nicola Morgan in the bookshop and we met and chatted with Victoria Campbell as well as brushing past an Archbishop.

The problem is that you cannot do everything you want to do and we missed many people. There were also so many authors and friends we would like to have met in the second week, but sadly due to the GCSE results day in England then it had to be the first week only.

Sunday 19 August 2012

Parcels and intriguing packaging

Post by Maryom!!!

 We're just back from a fortnight's holiday in Scotland which included calling in at the Edinburgh Book Festival.
Waiting for our return, in amongst the junk mail, were interesting looking parcels - books!
We don't normally get lots delivered at one time so there's no debate about which to open first
 when most come in slightly dull jiffy bags or cardboard folders
 the interesting ones jump the queue....

 In a shiny metallic green bag was a copy of Shadows by Ilsa J Bick - the much awaited follow-up to Ashes.

 But most intriguing of all was the silver shiny parcel with a book wrapped in tissue paper...

 .....with sparkly 'gems'...
 What was inside?

The Wolf Princess by Cathryn Constable

 ...and if you want to know what it's about....

here's the cover blurb. Certainly one I'm looking forward to reading.

Friday 17 August 2012

Aesop's Fables retold by Margaret McAllister

Illustrated by Amanda Hall

Review by The Mole

Aesop's Fables have been with us for generations and are retold at each generation by contemporary writers. But what can you say about the tales that hasn't been said so many times before. The fables retain their relevance, in some form, for each generation and all we can do is look for a version that will engage the current generation of children and Lion have done that with this collection.

In this retelling all the popular stories are present as well as some of the lesser known ones and are retold in modern accessible language for the benefit of young readers and parents to share. The numerous illustrations are bright and, through their cartoon quality, bring amusement to the stories as well.

A very nice telling presented in an exciting way that is sure to entertain and impart the meanings of the fabes to the present generation.

Publisher - Lion Children's
Genre - Children's 5+

Buy The Lion Classic Aesop's Fables from Amazon

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Wintercraft by Jenna Burtenshaw

review by Maryom

Kate Winters' parents died when she was young and her uncle Artemis has brought her up in the northern town of Morvane, far away from the troubled capital city. Helping out in his bookshop, Kate believed herself to be safe. Then the Wardens arrive to conscript soldiers for the country's on-going war and Kate's world is turned up-side down. Accompanying the Wardens is a far more dangerous man, Silas Dane, hunting down the Skilled, people who are able to see through the veil dividing life and death. Nothing will stop him in his quest - and he believes Kate is one of these rare people.

Wintercraft is one of those books, already reviewed by the Mole, that I've been wanting to pick up and read for myself. Having recently won a giveaway of the third Wintercraft book, I decided it was time to stop thinking about it and get on with it!

 I'm always a little worried when approaching a book that I've been wanting to read for a long while - will it live up to my expectations or fall flat? I needn't have worried - Wintercraft is a brilliant read from the very first page! Yes, Kate is one of those heroines (or heroes) so often found in fantasy novels, with a special talent that someone evil wants to benefit from, but the world she inhabits is totally original and the storyline evolves in unexpected but believable ways. It's a rather dark fantasy and maybe not one for the easily spooked.

I just felt that occasionally Kate let herself be swept along and influenced by others a bit too much - hopefully as the series progresses, she'll become a more confident self-determining heroine.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Headline
Genre - fantasy, teen

Buy Wintercraft: Legacy from Amazon

Monday 13 August 2012

I wish I could ROAR by Tiziana Bendall-Brunello and John Bendall-Brunello

Review by The Mole

Little Lion can't roar like his parents or his brothers and sisters but with the help of a new friend can he master this trick?

Dealing with a lack of self-confidence is always a tricky business and this story provides a mechanism to assist with this task.

The book colourful action pictures that are their own entertainment. At the back there are parents' and teachers' notes to help get the message over as can be found in the books published by QED, but sometimes it's important to remember that children need downtime from constant education and need a pretty picture book with a fun story, particularly one they can share and enjoy with their parents and join in with the sounds and actions - and this book is just such a book.

Publisher - QED Publishing
Genre - Children's, Picture Book 

Buy I Wish I Could...Roar! from Amazon

Friday 10 August 2012

The War of the Wives by Tamar Cohen

review by Maryom

When Simon Busfield dies in strange circumstances his wife Selina not only has grief and shock to cope with but the sudden appearance of another wife, Lottie, and a daughter! She soon discovers that for 17 years, while she thought he was away on business, Simon was living with his other family. While the two women struggle to come to terms with the startling turn of events, the police begin to query why Simon was in London when both wives believed him abroad and where he's siphoned off huge amounts of money to.

Told alternately from the point of view of Selina and Lottie, the writing captures their differing characters and reactions to his death and the revelations about his life that seem to just keep coming. They are very different women - Selina's a well-preserved 51 year old housewife, living in a huge house, frequenting an expensive gym, one of those ladies who 'lunch'; Lottie is completely different - younger, artistic, a much freer spirit. Sometimes I felt one deserved my sympathy, sometimes the other.
It's cleverly plotted with five sections  - Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance - relating to the emotions experienced on hearing of the death of someone close (I'm not sure if the author intended this to be a reference to a Simpsons' episode in which Homer learns of his imminent death and reacts in these ways - perhaps I'm making connections that aren't intended to be there)

I was pleased that the story didn't descend into soap-style bickering and fights  - two wives at a funeral has a lot of potential for screaming and cat-calling - but at the same time I'd expected a somehow more dramatic ending.

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

Buy The War of the Wives from Amazon

Wednesday 8 August 2012

The Wishing Stone by Steve Smallman and Rebecca Elliot

Review by The Mole

Armadillo has no friends but wants to make some so when he hears people wishing he decides to help them out.

Another colourful picture book from QED with lots of action and an important message about making friends and one that, when shared with a parent, may have the child joining in in a pantomime like fashion. Fun and laughter while learning - the best way.

Once again with notes for parents and teachers on the subject of making friends at the back of the book to suggest how the book can be used to maximum effect.

Publisher - QED Publishing
Genre - Children's, Picture Book 

Buy The Wishing Stone (Storytime) from Amazon

Monday 6 August 2012

The Enchanted Riddle by Charlotte Kandel

Review by The Mole

Thirteen year old Daphne is an orphan living in St. Jude's orphanage and has a love of dancing. In fact it's more an all-consuming passion to be a ballerina. However a convent orphanage is not a place to be taught ballet and although Sister Mary Euphoria encourages and supports Daphne, that is as far as her dancing goes. Then one day a parcel arrives for Daphne containing a book called How To Teach Yourself Ballet and some stockings. Hand written inside the book is a riddle that Daphne feels she must get to understand. But who could have sent the parcel? And why to her?

I have to admit that I was taken aback by this book but knowing the publisher to be Strident, I shouldn't have been. The formula says the magical stockings make everything OK and she goes on to become the world's best ballerina, but not so. Throughout most of the book I wondered what the point of the stockings actually was!

This is a story of ambition, hard work, set backs and small successes. Despite the stockings she is told she is not good enough yet she continues to pursue her dream and works long hard hours, on her own, making her feet bleed, to improve with the help of the book only to be turned down yet again.

In these reviews I always try, but don't always succeed, to avoid reusing words but this book is magic, magic, magic! It shows a child who pursues her self belief, her ambitions, her dreams and how this all consuming goal can wreck friendships, families and trusts - or it can strengthen these bonds.

A wonderful story that will delight children, I'm sure, whether they have dreams yet or not.

Publisher - Strident Publishing
Genre -
Childrens' fiction (9+)

Buy The Enchanted Riddle from Amazon

Saturday 4 August 2012

Grandma Bendy - Blog Tour

The Mole read, and loved, Izy Penguin's tale of Grandma Bendy and we are pleased to be included in the blog tour. Here we learn about Grandma Bendy and Izy.

Grandma Bendy is Izy Penguin's first picture book and certainly wasn't inspired by her own Gran, who far from sliding down the banisters, used to walk down the stairs backwards, but from a real life yoga teaching (young) grandma. 

Izy was born in Hexham, a small town in Northumberland and started making up tales from an early age, even convincing her neighbour that there was a witch living in the shed of next doors garden.

Izy studied an advertising & graphic design degree at Manchester Metropolitan University before moving to London, where she currently works as an advertising creative. This means she gets to think up ideas for adverts and keep her writing and illustrating skills up to scratch everyday. 

Before Grandma Bendy, Izy illustrated and wrote books (and the odd silly rhyme) for her friend’s children, before finding a publisher 5 years later! 

Also now available on The NOOK in the US and Canada, Grandma Bendy is looking to become truly global.  

And our thanks to Izy and Maverick Books for this opportunity.

Friday 3 August 2012

Olympic Flames by Emma Lee Potter

review by Maryom

At only 22, Mimi Carter is the youngest member of the British Olympic Show-jumping team - and the only woman. She's worked her way up to this position the hard way, through mucking out stables just to be around horses and now she can hardly believe her luck to have been chosen for the Olympic team. The one fly in the ointment is the sudden reappearance of ex-boyfriend US show-jumper Jack Stone who walked out on Mimi 4 years ago without a word of explanation. She's determined that he's not going distract her from her Olympic dream but how long can she resist him? All is going well and Mimi's dreams look like coming true till her horse is spooked by a protester and Mimi ends up in hospital. Is this the end of her Olympic dreams?

Olympic Flames is a story of love and horses that should appeal to anyone, adult or teen, passionate about horses. There's enough explanation of horsey-jargon to not leave 'outsiders' flummoxed but not so much as to get in the way. At 60 pages there isn't time or space for in depth character and plot development but it's an enjoyable light 'chick lit' read to fill in the gaps between Olympic events.


Since I read and reviewed this novella, it's had a change or two - a new cover and a new name.

Publisher - Endeavour Press
Genre - teen/ adult fiction,  chick lit/rom com

Buy Love's Hurdles from Amazon on Kindle only

Thursday 2 August 2012

A Private Venus by Giorgio Scerbanenco

review by Maryom

Duca Lamberti used to be a doctor, until he was jailed for the mercy killing of a patient. Now, on his release from prison, his previous career is closed to him so he takes a position offered by a wealthy businessman to help cure his son Davide's alcoholism. In trying to find the cause of Davide's excessive drinking, Duca uncovers a sordid tale of prostitution and murder, and takes it upon himself to track down the mastermind behind it and bring him to justice. Along the way he enlists the help of Livia Ussaro, a young woman with a very strange outlook on life  - seeing everything as an experiment.

First published in Italy in 1966 but only now available in an English translation, A Private Venus is the first of a crime series 'starring' Duca Lamberti. In some ways I thought its age was showing - not in the storyline and denouement but in its attitudes towards women and homosexuals. I suspect though that this is more a reflection of attitudes generally at the time rather than of the author's personal viewpoint. It's also a little less violent than maybe today's crime-reader is used to - the worst happening 'off-screen'.

In the introduction Scerbanenco is likened to Georges Simenon but I felt many of the plot elements to have more in common with Raymond Chandler, particularly the aspect of a city hiding crime beneath a veneer of respectability and wealth. The story moves along at a brisk pace as Lamberti peels back the surface layers to uncover the seedier world beneath, building to a nail-biting climax. An excellent discovery of 'classic crime' that I'm rather surprised hasn't been available here before.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Hersilia Press
Genre - crime, adult fiction,  

Buy A Private Venus from Amazon