Friday 29 March 2013

The Feral Child by Che Golden

review by Maryom

"Maddy is fed-up. Since her parents died, she's been stuck with her grandparents in the tiny village of Blarney. She's sick of Ireland, sick of her stupid cousins, and, most of all, she's sick of her granddad's ridiculous stories about the faerie people who live in Tír na nÓg. But as Halloween approaches, strange things start to happen in the village. And when the little boy next door disappears, Maddy begins to think her granddad's stories aren't so silly after all... And so, Maddy and her cousins Roisin and Danny set off on an incredible journey to a land ruled by an ancient and powerful evil; a land of breathtaking beauty and deadly dangers; a land no adult dares to venture, even to rescue a child. To face evil as old as earth takes courage as bold as youth. "

The Feral Child is an exciting fantasy adventure for the 9+ age range set partly in the real world of Blarney but mainly in the faery land of Tir na nÓg. Here, faeries and the weird and wonderful creatures of Celtic mythology come to life; some are helpful; most are terrifying.

Maddy is a very rebellious sort of heroine - she doesn't fit in with her grandparents - and doesn't want to! So if granddad says 'Don't go near the castle at night', then Maddy is drawn there and if granddad says 'Don't have anything to do with the faery folk', then Maddy's bound to take them on! This kind of spirit that's needed though to enter the faery mound and attempt to rescue an abducted child. Her irritating cousins tag along out of nosiness but prove they're more helpful and dependable than Maddy realised.

An adventure filled with peril and excitement with some scary passages.  The creatures of Tir na nÓg are not to be confused with kind picture book faeries. Younger more sensitive readers may find some of the violence disturbing.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher -
Genre - Children's 9+ Fantasy

Buy The Feral Child from Amazon

Thursday 28 March 2013

Fractured by Teri Terry

review by Maryom

Kyla has been 'slated' - a punishment inflicted on the under-16s removing all their memories and supposedly giving them a fresh start. Kyla's problem though is that her memories haven't been quite erased; somehow they keep finding ways to leak through the block. When she recognises someone from her past she thinks he may be able to clear up some of the mysteries - but if anything he compounds them. Kyla finds herself pulled in different directions - should she go along with the suppressive Lorder regime to keep her family safe or commit herself fully to the freedom fighters who want to overthrow the regime? There aren't any easy answers.

Fractured is the continuation of Teri Terry's excellent teenage dystopian trilogy begun with Slated set in an oppressive not-too-distant future which I'd been waiting impatiently for since I finished the first book. As expected it is an engrossing unputdownable read - I picked it up one breakfast time and finished it the next! Whereas Slated was about discovering this unpleasant future England, Fractured is an uncovering of Kyla's past; following her attempts to recall who she was before slating and find out what makes her so special among the Slated in that she alone has memories from before. The reader sees things from Kyla's point of view and is caught up in her dilemma of how to act for the best; with a memory that's only reliable for the past couple of months, she doesn't know who to trust - or distrust - and I shared these doubts as I read.

Fractured is a compelling read whether taken at the surface level of non-stop thriller or the deeper, thought-provoking one, raising questions about punishment and opposing oppression with violence. The only downside is that it is necessary to have read Slated beforehand - and that, although brought to a nice rounding-off point, the story obviously hasn't reached its conclusion. I can't wait for Book 3!!

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Orchard Books

Genre - Teenage Dystopian Thriller

 The story continues with book three - Shattered

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Payback Time by Geraint Anderson

Review by Maryom

"When City high-flyer Bridget, recently fired from her bank, is found dead outside her high rise apartment, her colleagues assume she's committed suicide. Cityboy Steve Jones is outraged and he and his City workmates decide to take revenge. They hatch an ingenious plan to sabotage her firm and succeed in bringing it to its knees. After wildly celebrating their success, Bridget's boyfriend Fergus insists they take down a much more prominent bank. But soon the gang are being targeted by the police and financial regulators. There must be a rat in their midst but, if so, who? Steve investigates and digging deeper realises he could be on the trail of a murderer. Suddenly there's a distinct possibility that an even bigger revenge is being planned and this time the pay back is heading in his direction..."

I have to say upfront that I didn't like the writing style of this novel - it's mainly written from the point of view of stockbroker Steve and presumably aimed at capturing how he would express himself, with a lot of 'robust' language and sexual references - and I found it difficult to care for Steve and his friends with their drug and drink fuelled life style. Having said that, I soon found myself pulled in by the plot, trying to guess the upcoming twists and turns and figure out who the mysterious man following everyone was. A lot of the story-line depends on understanding how stocks are traded but technicalities such as selling short, trading in futures and bear raids are explained as they occur - I might even have got to grips with them myself at last!
It's not as dark and sinister as Nordic Noir but more of a lightweight sort of holiday-read thriller.

Maryom's review -  3 stars
Publisher - Headline  
Genre - Adult Crime

Buy Payback Time from Amazon

Tuesday 26 March 2013

The Poisoned Island by Lloyd Shepherd

review by Maryom

Harriott and Horton, heroes of Lloyd Shepherd's first novel, The English Monster, are back with a new mystery to unravel.
The Solander has just returned from a voyage to Tahiti - every spare inch of space above and below deck filled with specimens of exotic plants destined for the hothouses at Kew. Amongst them all is one special plant for the individual attention of Sir Joseph Banks, president of the Royal Society and financial backer of the voyage. The Solander's homecoming is not totally happy though. Within hours one of the crew is found dead - his throat cut, his room ransacked though no money taken and strangest of all a blissful smile fixed forever on his face. Magistrate John Harriott recognises this as an incident that calls for the unusual detecting talent of his constable Charles Horton and when he accidentally stumbles on more murders, Horton realises someone is stalking the Solander's crew and that the answers must lie in the ship's botanical cargo.

The Poisoned Island is a historical crime novel set during the reign of 'Mad King George', against the backdrop of Britain's exploration of the Pacific and plant-hunting expeditions when European botanists were extending their knowledge and trying to categorise the weird and wonderful plants to be found around the globe; there were high hopes of more finds such as the breadfruit tree discovered on Tahiti which became a major food source for West Indian plantations - and perhaps even of some miraculous cure-all plant. The Poisoned Island is full of amazing detail that brings the sights and sounds of early 19th century London - and Tahiti - to life on the page; events move from the hot tropical island, to the hustle and bustle of the docks of Wapping and Rotherhithe and to the more rarefied and genteel atmosphere of Kew with its massive greenhouses for the scientific study of the botanical marvels being brought back from around the world.
Having said that, the historical detail doesn't get in the way of a riveting thriller. While based around real historical people - for example,Joseph Banks was responsible for discovering and bringing back to England many botanical wonders -  the events of the Poisoned Island are totally fictitious. It's better in this regard than The English Monster which incorporated real murders and had me anticipating the unfolding of events; here they are all unexpected.
Charles Horton is back, of course, with his strange methods of observing and detecting rather than pouncing on the nearest suspect but I liked that this time his wife Abigail gets a slightly larger role - not only as a supportive wifely figure but as a woman interested in the scientific discoveries of the day and someone with a steady head, not given to the expected hysterics at the sight of blood. I half suspect she may be contributing more to her husband's investigations in future if some of his prejudices can be overcome.
An excellent read which should appeal to fans of both historical fiction and crime thrillers.

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

Buy The Poisoned Island from Amazon

Monday 25 March 2013

Sweet Home by Carys Bray

Review by The Mole

A collection of 17 short stories of suburbia. But these are tales of the darker side of suburbia. Starting with a mother who is trying to be the best possible mother by reading anything published on the subject to the story of a father who desperately wants to rescue a son from a life of drugs with many tales in between. A retelling of the story of Hansel and Gretel in a modern setting will get you thinking and warrants that the police re-examine the evidence. There is a story of a sculptor and his wife who so desperately want a child that he carves one from a ball of ice - again a story based around folk tales.

With longest of these short stories being just 15 pages long they are a genuine coffee time read. That is if you can resist starting the next. And the next. They are not, by any stretch of the imagination, all similar tales but vary tremendously from story to story, some darker than others and some amusing but all of them thought provoking.

Yesterday I read "I will never disappoint my children" and for the first time in many years I went out and built a snowman - with my wife - while our daughter stayed inside. The story must have been written about my wife I think.

An excellent collection that I'm sure readers will enjoy.

Publisher - Salt Publishing
Genre - Adult short stories

Buy Sweet Home from Amazon

Friday 22 March 2013

Jimmy Threepwood and The Veil of Darkness by Rich Pitman

Review by The Mole

Many centuries ago the Elders designed the world we live in, but they knew that through time and the advances in medicine and technology, the world would slowly start to die and man would ultimately destroy the planet. The Elders created a prophecy that every two millennia, four children would receive a mystical mark. The children would grow and (one day) be powerful enough to release the mighty beast, Tyranacus. Together they would purge the world of man, allowing it to heal before the life cycle would start again.

As Jimmy Threepwood approached his eleventh birthday he noticed strange and unusual things happening. Firstly, a mysterious crow started to follow him around school; this ultimately led to a Bunsen burner accident and an unusual scar forming on Jimmy's arm in the shape of a number nine. This was followed by Jimmy protecting his friend against the school bully, but one touch changed both Jimmy's and the bully's lives forever...

I know I always go on about this and I will get it out the way now... This book is sadly lacking in editing and so 'grated' on me all too often but once again I felt it was worth continuing to read (and OK, moaning to anyone present about the editing). And was it worth it! Pitman has come up with an extremely good story and on the whole it is very well written. As an adult I kept pulling up with certain parts and thinking "Who's this written for? Kids?" and then realising that yes, it is written for kids and Pitman keeps his target audience in mind and doesn't drift off to gore and themes that are too mature for his audience.

The story stops at a logical point and you know there will be more to follow as his quest is far from over but you are not left on a cliffhanger which can often be a real irritation.

Despite the editing I would recommend this to children of the 8+ age group and if you are looking for a book to read to children slightly younger even. I really did enjoy this book immensely and really hope that book two will be better edited.

Publisher - Ghostly Publishing
Genre - Children's Fantasy, 8+

Buy Jimmy Threepwood and the Veil of Darkness from Amazon

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Windscape by Sam Wilding

Review by Maryom

Financial difficulties are forcing Jenny MacLeod's father to agree to having wind-turbines built on their Harris farm but Jenny doesn't want them to spoil the view across the beautiful Hushwish Bay. When a confrontation with protesters leads to her father being taken away to hospital in Glasgow, Jenny is taken in by Mr Murdoch, the neighbouring farmer behind the wind turbine project.There she discovers letters that should have been sent to her father and that may make all the difference to his acceptance of the wind farm plans. Determined to show them to him, she sets off for Glasgow with her faithful collie, Lord, and their new friend Pavel, pursued by the Murdochs. There are plenty of others along the way trying to stop Jenny, so will she be able to reach her father in time to save the beauty of their farm?

Windscape is an exciting children's thriller set against the backdrop of the debate about windfarms. Almost everyone has an opinion on whether wind turbines are beneficial or an eyesore; they may be an environmentally friendly way of producing electricity but should they be allowed to clutter up the countryside and spoil the view? Sam Wilding manages to discuss the arguments both for and against them while keeping up the pace of the action. Jenny is a very determined young heroine, not easily distracted from her goals, helped along by the more street-wise Pavel - making this a book that should appeal to both boys and girls.
An excellent adventure story for the 10 plus range with the added bonus of introducing environmental issues in an accessible, easy to understand way.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Strident
Genre - children's, thriller, 10+,

Buy Windscape from Amazon

Tuesday 19 March 2013

The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman

review  by Maryom

One day a man walks into a bank and holds up the staff and customers at gun point. He isn't interested in taking their money or jewellery but demands that they each hand over an item of sentimental value - "the most significant, memory-laden, gushingly sentimental object in your possession." The items offered are various - an old watch, an envelope, photographs...the narrator's wife Stacey hands over a calculator that she's used to make all the important decisions in her life.  With them he claims to be taking 51% of the victims souls - and if they don't grow them back, they will die.
Following the robbery strange things begin to happen to the victims -all related in some way to the items they handed over: a tattoo comes to life; a man is buried when his family home collapses; and the narrator's wife Stacey begins to shrink - at first it's hardly noticeable

I'm coming to Andrew Kaufman's work in reverse order - having started by reading his latest novel Born Weird. I'd read reviews and discussions about The Tiny Wife on the web with some readers adoring it while others found it too strange, and had it on my 'track down and read list' so was delighted to be offered a review copy. I'm definitely in the 'adored it' camp as it appealed to my love of the short, quirky and thought-provoking.

It's rather difficult to discuss the Tiny Wife without giving away too much. I think the best way to describe it is as a modern fable or even fairy tale. In fairy tales, it's a wicked witch or goblin that steals away souls and the victims must travel to the ends of the earth to regain them; here souls are stolen in a very modern way - a bank robbery - and the victims find the answers to their plight within themselves. It isn't a cosy, comforting story but rather dark in the way some older fairy tales can be; the sort that makes the reader question what they would do in such a situation; what's your most treasured possession? and what does that say about you? There are probably as many interpretations of this book as there are readers!

It's a short book - 88 pages - so quick to read but providing food for thought long after it's finished. As with the Tiny Wife herself, size isn't everything!

Maryom's review -  5 stars
Publisher - The Friday Project
Genre - Adult fiction, Folk tales

Buy The Tiny Wife from Amazon

Monday 18 March 2013

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Review by The Mole

Harold receives a letter from Queenie, a work colleague of many years ago, to say that she is dying in a hospice over 500 miles away and to say thank you for his kindness twenty years ago. Harold feels unable to express adequately in a letter the reply he wants to give but sets out to post a letter in reply. He keeps giving himself excuses not to post it yet but to go to the next post box. After a conversation with an assistant in a garage he decides to carry on his walk and go to Berwick-on-Tweed to speak to Queenie directly. After phoning the hospice and his wife he continues walking with only what he is wearing and carrying.

This book is one of those books that no two people read the same story in. I know that the version Maryom told me was not what I read and having heard Rachel Joyce read from it twice, once at Lowdham and once in Waterstones, it is not the book she read to me. At Waterstones people talked about their experience with the story and yet again it was not the story I read.

From the off I didn't like Harold Fry. He was a mouse of a man with no opinion of his own. I tend to refer to such people as 'acquiescent man' - he is what others expect him to be. Maureen was very different, a rather unpleasant character from the off with a foreboding of evil about her. What we learned of Queenie at the outset was not very endearing either. Having said all that I found I just had to keep reading - I was enjoying it despite the characters. Perhaps it was the hope that he would leave the old Harold Fry somewhere by the roadside and return home reformed and be able to make something of his marriage to Maureen.

As he meets new characters along the way I started to find characters I actually liked, the oncologist and Martina, characters who seemed properly connected with the world and who showed true compassion. And let's not forget Dog please!

The end started to feel like a French farce at times as secrets between Harold, Maureen and Queenie tumbled across the page - even the garage girl shared secrets. As for the ending? It was not the ending I hoped for but perhaps it's the most we could expect for as readers.

I did enjoy this book but if you are not looking for a book that will try to tug at your emotions - even if it's not always successful - and a book that will get you thinking about people then this isn't the book for you.

Publisher - Black Swan
Genre - Adult Fiction

Buy The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry from Amazon

Friday 15 March 2013

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

review by Maryom

"1791: When seven-year-old Irish orphan Lavinia is transported to Virginia to work in the kitchen of a wealthy plantation owner, she is absorbed into the life of the kitchen house and becomes part of the family of black slaves whose fates are tied to the plantation. 
 But Lavinia's skin will always set her apart, whether she wishes it or not. And as she grows older, she will be torn between the life that awaits her as a white woman and the people she knows as kin."

The Kitchen House is an interesting, informative tale set in late 18th/early 19th century Virginia that brings the people and social conditions of the time to life.This isn't the sort of story that I would normally pick up but having started to read, and got past an initial problem with the style of story-telling, I found it really engrossing. Lavinia herself is a rather naive girl - even when she grows up and marries - but this plot device helps explain plantation conditions to the reader without hampering the story. Having been brought up in Ireland, Lavinia isn't used to the distinctions between whites and blacks, free and slaves that she encounters in her new life - the fundamental fact of slave life, that people are mere goods to be used and disposed of at the whim of another person, is something she never really seems to grasp.  As she grows she finds herself torn between the white world, to which she belongs by colour of skin, and the family that she's become part of among the slaves.

Although mainly told from Lavinia's point of view, the shorter section seeing life from the point of view of Belle, half-cast daughter of the plantation owner. Once the adored granddaughter of the house, now hidden away from the owner's wife in the kitchen house, her fortunes change with the lives of her owners. Belle is more aware of the harsh realities of life and through her the reader sees things that are kept hidden form Lavinia.

Perhaps because Lavinia spends more time among them, the black slaves are the better drawn, more individual characters - the wealthy whites fall more into stereotypes of good or bad owners and overseers.

A really enjoyable read that doesn't set out to preach but still exposes the evils of slavery.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Doubleday
Genre - adult fiction, historical fiction
Buy The Kitchen House from Amazon

Thursday 14 March 2013

Touch & Go by Lisa Gardner

review by Maryom

"Justin and Libby Denbe have it all: a beautiful daughter; a gorgeous house; a great marriage, admired by all. Arriving at the crime scene of their home, investigator Tessa Leoni finds no witnesses, no ransom demands or motive - just a perfect little family, gone. But Tessa knows that flawless fronts can hide the darkest secrets. Now, she must race against the clock to uncover the truth. Who would want to kidnap such a family? And how far would they be willing to go?"

When Justin and Libby Denbe and their 15 year old daughter are kidnapped from their expensive Boston townhouse, there are no clues as to who has taken them or why.  Justin Denbe is the head of a major construction firm - and so perhaps a likely target for kidnap and ransom - but why would anybody take his wife and 15 yr old daughter as well? Without a ransom demand neither the company's private investigator, Tessa Leoni, the local sheriff nor the FBI have any idea of where and how to start tracking the kidnappers down. Meanwhile time is running out for the Denbe family.....

With a family kidnapped and held by hired thugs, you'd think this would be a gripping read but for some unfathomable reason this story didn't grab me at all.

The story-telling is shared between a first  person account from Libby's point of view and a third person overview of the investigators' activities. So from Libby we learn all the insider secrets that the family had been trying to hide from the world - and more importantly each other; while the investigators start with the happy façade the family presented to the world and have to work their way inside and round the deceits. The snag was that Libby's account led me to guess who was behind the kidnapping - and I was right! It left me frustrated that none of the investigators would follow up the leads I thought they should - instead they confused the issue by getting side-tracked or going off up dead-ends. If I hadn't guessed, it may have appeared to be a well-crafted plot with intricate twists and turns; as it was it fell a bit flat for me.

Maryom's review -  3 stars
Publisher - Headline  
Genre - Adult Crime

Buy Touch & Go from Amazon

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Siege by Sarah Mussi

Review by The Mole

It's 2020 and Leah goes to YOU OP 78 Academy. It's a state run secondary school for the poorer kids and offers a minimal education. It's a Friday and Leah's brother, Connor, has messed up her life by not taking his sister, Sally, to primary school so Leah has had to do it and ended up in a pre-school detention. When she hears 'popping' noises and screaming she starts to worry and then the door bursts open and some younger, year 9, kids rush in brandishing guns. Connor is in year 9! Amidst the shooting and confusion Leah runs with Anton, a classmate, and they hide. Lockdown has kicked in, a system to stop anyone being able to get out of school - it was installed after previous riots.

Concern over injured friends leads Leah to take a more active role in the siege than just hiding and waiting for help - the normal behaviour of the kids of the time. But will help come? And does anyone want to help them?

Tense from the very off until the last page I found myself needing to put it down to de-stress a bit but not able to leave it long either. It moves with a pace and leaves you sharing some of the horrors that Leah endures - and some of the tender moments too.

But this book is not about a siege in a school - well not for me anyway. It's about Leah finding herself, testing herself and growing in maturity and it's about conspiracy. Can these kids have really organised this siege themselves? And are they really in control of it?

A really good read if you've got the time and the energy.

Publisher - Hodder Children's
Genre - YA/Adult Thriller

Buy Siege from Amazon

Tuesday 12 March 2013

The Killables by Gemma Malley

 review by Maryom

Evie lives in The City an authoritarian place ruled by the Great Leader where people are categorised according to how 'good' they are. She works in the re-grading section of the government so knows how easily a person can slip from an 'A' grade down to 'D' and below to a 'K'. No one quite knows what happens to the Ks - they go away for reconditioning and disappear without trace. Engaged to A grader Lucas, Evie's future looks secure within the System. But looks aren't everything - she's secretly in love with Lucas' brother Raffy who's known to be trouble and when he is threatened with a K rating, they realise they have to escape - and in doing so stumble upon secrets that some will kill to keep.

The Killables was a story that started off really well. A lot of thought has gone into the world-building, creating a believable though strange set-up; a City isolated after devastating wars and creating its own paternalistic but repressive government. But, sadly, the more I read, the less it grabbed me.The more Evie uncovered about the City, the less credible it became; how the Great Leader had ever got away with his policies was a complete mystery. The three-cornered relationship between Evie, Lucas and Raffy didn't seem believable or consistent. Evie was far too passive for my liking and very naive and trusting for her age - though in her defence, the whole of her society was. Lucas, as the more unknown factor in Evie's life, with his secrets, seemed to be the more rounded of the three.
The major failing though for someone who has read a lot of dystopian fiction, and seen even more movies that fit the genre, is The Killables' similarity to so many. It's a good-enough read but there's nothing to make it stand out from so many others.

Maryom's review - 3.5 stars
Publisher - Hodder
Genre - Teens, Dystopian fiction

Buy The Killables (Killables Trilogy 1) from Amazon

Monday 11 March 2013

Nananette and the Doldrums by Tania Bramley

Review by The Mole

Nick receives a postcard from Nananette. The problem is two fold the first is that he is five and can't read yet and the second is that he doesn't know anyone called Nananette. Along with Nicky, his sister (yes, parents with no imagination?) they set out to get the trade winds needed to free their new found nanan from the doldrums and so she can get home and they can meet her.

The tale is written in Nicky's voice which at times feels like an adult narrator, although it never patronises the reader but instead adds a little knowledge in a non-lecturing voice. Great fun throughout with colour pictures at the end of each chapter make this suitable for the 8+ reader although the story may be a little young for them. Something I like about this book is that the children don't go off and do non-kid things, in fact they do VERY kid things, things that any child can do (although I would not be encouraging any child to start removing wallpaper from their bedroom no matter how long it's been up!)

With a voice suitable for read aloud, short chapters and enough pictures for sharing this is suitable for bedtime reading.

Publisher - Austin and Macauley
Genre - Children's fiction

Buy Nananette And The Doldrums from Amazon

Friday 8 March 2013

Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer

 review by Maryom

Samuel Galen is in a coma following a car accident and although unable to communicate with anyone can still hear and understand what is happening around him. Slowly he regains the use of some senses but what he sees may make him wish he hadn't...
Meanwhile, in the dissection lab, anatomy students are cutting open cadavers....
Patrick has Asperger's syndrome and, following his father's untimely death, a desire to understand what happens after people die. Following a childhood spent in dissecting every dead mouse or bird he could find, he signs up for a university anatomy course in the hope of finding answers there. As his group work their way through the remains of their subject, cadaver No 19, Patrick begins to find that it's not what happens AFTER death that's so interesting as the circumstances that led to it. How can he hope to solve a possible murder that no one else believes has happened?

I've read Belinda Bauer's first two crime thrillers set on Dartmoor but Rubbernecker is even better. With a main character suffering from Aspergers, there are obvious parallels to be drawn with Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time but the multiple points of view and interlocking stories of the 'supporting cast' also reminded me of Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie series. A couple of pages in, I was hooked and didn't want to stop reading!

The two focus points of the novel are Patrick and Samuel and for most part the reader is inside the head of one or the other of these two very contrasting characters. Patrick's tightly focussed view of the world means he doesn't understand people's motivations and interactions; the subtleties of facial expressions and body language are lost on him. Samuel understands all these things only too well but cannot act upon what he sees.
The minor characters are well fleshed out too - from Patrick's fellow students to the nurses working on the coma ward - and all of them have their part to play in the scheme of things.

As you might expect from a story set largely in a dissection lab, there's a lot of gore and grissly bits but it was Sam's situation, regaining consciousness but still trapped in an unresponsive body in the coma ward, that I found more terrifying. There's also a lot of dark humour and I was surprised to find myself laughing out loud occasionally.

All in all a wonderful unputdownable crime thriller with twists and turns till the very end.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher -
Bantam Press
Genre -
adult, thriller, crime

Buy Rubbernecker from Amazon

Thursday 7 March 2013

The Blue Files by E M Higgins

Review by The Mole

When crop circles start appearing in local fields the new girl on the block, Margaret, is sent by the local newspaper to do a report. Taking the circles very seriously she starts a chain of events that will lead to Elliot Dayton's murder many years later - a death he expects and almost welcomes. But how many others will die and what is the meaning of the crop circles? The story leads us to secret airbases in the desert and military leaders with no seeming accountability and people with their own agendas working against each other.

Higgins' first book "Remote Control" was a story based on American military experiments from the cold war. This story starts back in the 1930's and it sort of covers the Roswell Incident - but only very loosely. The story feels very original and I would classify it as a sci-fi thriller because while there are aliens and stuff mentioned the emphasis is more on the thriller.

It very quickly grabbed me and kept pulling me along but it was a bumpy journey because the proof reading, sadly, lets it down all too often. Distracting as this was it couldn't keep me away from the story. There were also a couple of times when the writing could have been a little stronger and this took what could have been a truly great thriller down to the ranks of a very good one.

And the ending? A really nice twist - which could lead to a sequel but I'm not sure that's Higgins' style.

A very good book and thoroughly enjoyed!

Genre - Sci-Fi thriller

Buy The Blue Files from Amazon

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Where The Devil Can't Go by Anya Lipska

review by Maryom

When the body of a naked girl is found in the Thames, the only identification is a tattooed heart encircling the names Pawel and Ela. Although her colleagues are prepared to dismiss it as suicide, DC Natalie Kershaw is convinced she has a murder on her hands. Then a second young woman is found dead in a hotel room. Kershaw's investigations lead her to the Polish community of East London where her path crosses that of Janusz Kiszka. Janusz is a man used to sorting out trouble so the natural person for his priest to turn to when a young Polish waitress goes missing, but while Janusz is pursuing his enquiries,  Kershaw is pursuing him, thinking he knows more than he'll admit to about the murders. 

Where the Devil Can't Go is an intriguing, well-plotted thriller with two very different heroes - Natalie Kershaw, a young detective constable struggling to gain respect in the male-dominated world of policing, and Janusz Kiszka, unofficial 'fixer' for his community, with a wife and teenage son in Poland and an on/off stripper girlfriend in London. As Kershaw and Kiszka circle each other warily, so do the two separate plot threads. There are a lot of leads and characters to keep up in the air - and at times I found myself unsure about who should have known which information - but Lipska pulls it off in the end and ties all ends off neatly.
What sets this crime novel apart is the setting of London's Polish community - a mix of long-term residents and younger migrant workers, all with ties of one sort or another back to Poland, where the trail eventually leads.

Maryom's review -  4 stars
Publisher - The Friday Project
Genre - Adult fiction, crime

Buy Where the Devil Can't Go from Amazon

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Magda by Meike Ziervogel

 review by Maryom

"In this daring portrayal of Magda Goebbels – wife of Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels – Meike Ziervogel unveils an historical tale of abusive mother and daughter relationships that reaches a terrifying conclusion in the last days of Nazi Germany.

Magda is born at the beginning of the 20th century, the illegitimate child of a maidservant who feels burdened with a daughter she does not want. The girl grows up to become an ambitious woman, desperate for love and recognition. When Magda meets Joseph Goebbels, he appears to answer all her needs, and together they have six children. Towards the end of the Second World War, Magda has become physically and emotionally sick. As she takes her children into the Führer’s bunker, her eldest daughter Helga experiences an overwhelming sense of foreboding."

 When I was first offered a review copy of Magda, I was more intrigued by the fact that it was written by the founder of Peirene Press than by its story-line. After all Peirene has become noted for its short, perceptive fiction, so I wondered what and how Meike Ziervogel would write herself, whereas a fictionalised biography of Frau Goebbels didn't seem overly appealing. So did it measure up? Yes!

As I half expected, Magda is a short book - under 120 pages - but one that packs a punch. It's a powerful, emotionally draining novel that takes the reader behind the public façade and gets into the mindset of someone who commits the cruellest of acts in the belief that they are doing a kindness. The author doesn't try to find excuses for Magda's behaviour but to uncover her possible thoughts and motivations, starting with her rather lonely, institutionalised childhood, through finding purpose as a supporter of the rising Nazi party, to the peak of her career as wife of Joseph Goebbels. I didn't know anything of Magda Goebbels before reading this and would probably have dismissed her as a fairly brainless 'trophy' wife. By the time I reached the moving end, I felt that I understood her, even if I didn't approve.
Magda isn't the only character of course. I particularly liked the portrayal of her mother - being questioned by a Russian commissar and trying desperately to distance herself from any involvement in her daughter's acts. Magda's own daughter, Helga, seemed a little too trusting for her years - a combination of innocent yet brain-washed due to her upbringing within Hitler's inner circle.

A disturbing book but one I'd recommend to anyone with interests from psychological profiling to Hitler's Germany.

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Salt Publishing

Genre - Adult fiction, historical fiction

If this has intrigued you, find out more in our Q+A with Meike Ziervogel

Monday 4 March 2013

Unload Email Overload by Bob O'Hare

Review by The Mole

With the post office carrying less and less mail, the almost disappearance of 'fax' communications and the universal unpopularity of voicemail systems we are all experiencing an increase, almost daily, in the amount of email we receive. And there is a tendency to react to it immediately you find it whether it be business related or private. As an ex-IT manager I know this can lead to nightmares for the administration of such email systems as well as the poor user receiving it who ends up being pulled from pillar to post by it.

This book was written to support workshops that Bob O'Hare runs but equally tries to stand on it's own. The courses are tailored for their individual audience and the book has to try to be more universal to cover the general subject.

I worked in a culture that used email instead of answerphones so you could return to your desk to an email saying 'Please phone your boss as soon as you get back'. It was also a very customer-centric organisation so if you got an email from a customer you immediately assessed what action to take and ensured the ball was in motion. In view of this I started reading in a very negative attitude as it starts talking about only checking your mail a few times a day, but I read on regardless and kept as open a mind as I could. As I read on, the nature of the book became apparent and it started to explain how some of the rules should be 'flexed' by different roles in email usage. It then started to suggest actions I found very controversial, like keeping your inbox empty! Reading on once again and keeping an open mind I started to realise that there was a great deal of sense to what was being said.

I came to the conclusion that there were things that anyone can learn from this book if they have email issues and are prepared to keep an open mind while reading it!

Genre - Non-fiction, Computing

Buy Unload Email Overload: How to Master Email Communications from Amazon

Friday 1 March 2013

Dinosaurs In Disguise by Jeanne Willis

Review by The Mole

The second Downtown Dinosaurs adventure starts when Uncle Darwin, a stegosaurus,  has lost his hat and on his hunt for it he sees there is a new carnivorous dinosaur in town. A big one! Bigger than any that he has seen before. Dippy has gone missing and Beastwood is hunting him down. This is not a good time for Darwin to get lost in the primeval forest, but he does and his family go to look for him - disguised as trees!

Zany, engaging and very funny is the quick summary of this book. It won't teach children about dinosaurs (although there is a guide to pronunciation in the back), the pictures (of which there are many and are cartoon like in black and white) don't look like real dinosaurs and dinosaurs didn't really talk English and live in houses. What it will do is entertain young readers and encourage them in their reading and make sure that they enjoy it too. But parents should always be sure about what their children read so why not read it first? I'm sure you will enjoy it too. I did!

Publisher - Piccadilly Press
Genre - Children's 8+, Fiction

Buy Downtown Dinosaurs: Dinosaurs in Disguise from Amazon