Tuesday 30 April 2013

The Secrets of Stonehenge by Mick Manning and Brita Granström

Review by The Mole

Stonehenge has captured the imagination as long as man can remember - long after he can remember what it was built for. This book contains no new answers about it but does look at what is known, what has been deduced and what the stories surrounding it's history are. From calendar to worship, from legend to alien landing site - there seems to be little that hasn't been considered about it's origins and all are mentioned here.

The stones originate from outside the area and the book talks about where they came from and how they could have been transported. It talks about the construction techniques that may have been used and the people who may have built it.

Throughout it talks in a positive, non-contradictory way but also without dogma and this subject is so controversial to so many that avoiding dogma is a big plus in this book's favour. It also goes back in history to before the henge we see today and shows what excavations have revealed about the site before.

Couple this history with cartoon like drawings and historical asides this book is a great asset for children to learn from.

Maryom described it as "Fun, colourful introduction to one of Britain's most enigmatic monuments" - yes, it's that too.

Publisher - Frances Lincoln
Genre - Children's, non-fiction, history

Buy The Secrets of Stonehenge (English Heritage) from Amazon

Monday 29 April 2013

Stop at Nothing by JT Brannan

Review by The Mole

Mark Cole is a deniable operative for the US government, a patriot who is always willing to give his life for his country. Living in the Caymans with his wife and two children, he is no longer fully active, but due to his unique abilities he is called upon to perform a difficult assassination. The target is the Director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service; but after the mission, Cole becomes a target himself. And as the forces against him mount up relentlessly, he realises that greed and hunger for power at the highest levels means that he can trust nobody. Cole discovers that not only are thousands of lives at risk, but his own wife and children are threatened. Pushed into deciding whether to protect global security or to save his family, Cole vows that he will stop at nothing to do both – whatever the cost.

Fast paced from first to last this book will interrupt your life until you have finished it. It reads as though you are watching a film but who is playing the role of Cole? Arnie, Sly, Segal, Butler? Well none of them are tough enough for this role. Park "disbelief" somewhere quiet before picking this book up and just concentrate on the fun and sheer enjoyment of this book.

This book was Brannan's first book but it was never published and after Origin (reviewed by Maryom) was published by Headline, his agent suggested he put Stop At Nothing out as a kindle independently without further refinement. It lacks a little editing in places that have led to a few 'continuity errors' but don't get hung up by it, read it for what it is meant to be: entertainment not edification. Origin has now climbed much higher on The Mole's TBR pile.

Sadly Stop At Nothing is only available in Kindle format but this will test your PC's scroll  bar to the maximum as you try to scroll fast enough to keep up with action.

Genre - Adult action thriller

Buy Stop At Nothing from Amazon

Friday 26 April 2013

Undertaking Love by Kat French

review by Maryom

When Marla Jacobs, owner of the Little White Wedding Chapel, realises she's going to have a funeral parlour for a neighbour she isn't best pleased. After all which happy couple would want to have their big day disrupted by the sight of a hearse? Then she meets the drop-dead gorgeous owner ..... will it be love or war?

As I expected, Undertaking Love is a lightweight, predictable read. I enjoy the occasional rom-com - no one wants to spend all their time reading high brow literature or gory thrillers - but I found this tended more towards romantic fiction which isn't quite my 'thing'. It didn't have the laugh out loud or ridiculous cringe-worthy moments I love when reading, say, Bridget Jones or The Shopaholic series. I thought the subplot in which the marriage of Marla's assistant Emily is going through a rough patch, increased by the pressure of trying to conceive, was more interesting and less predictable than the main 'will it end happy ever after' one.

A good book for the romantically inclined but sadly not one for me.

Maryom's Review - 3 stars
Publisher - Authonomy
Genre - chick lit,  romantic fiction

Buy Undertaking Love from Amazon

Thursday 25 April 2013

Sword and Scimitar by Simon Scarrow

 review by Maryom

1565 and the Turkish Empire is descending on Malta. If they can capture it, then the whole of Christian Europe could fall easily to them. The Knights of the Order of St John, who have defended the island against the Turks in the past, are pushed to extremes and need every man they can call on - including disgraced English knight Sir Thomas Barrett. When he receives their summons, he feels compelled to return to Malta and offer whatever help he can even though it means facing his past and those who threw him out many years before. His planned journey does not go unnoticed however and Queen Elizabeth's adviser, Sir Robert Cecil, gives him an extra mission - to help retrieve a missing scroll written by her father, Henry VIII, which could threaten her reign.

Sword and Scimitar is a great read for lovers of historical 'action' novels - there are naval battles, hand to hand combat, the terror of living through bombardment during the siege, political intrigue, old rivalries and, of course, romance. For my personal taste I'd have liked more intrigue and less blow by blow fight scenes; they weren't overly bloody and gory but I just found them too long. It's also a little too easy to guess some of Thomas's personal story and maybe the ends all tie off too well. Thomas himself is an intriguing character - hanging on to his Catholic faith despite protestantism sweeping the country, while at the same time no longer believing that wars should be fought over religion - the very state of affairs that calls him back to Malta.  All in all, it's an enjoyable historical romp highlighting a piece of little known history when the future of Europe hung in the balance - and I'm sure there are plenty of readers who will love the combat scenes.

Maryom's review -  3.5 stars
Publisher - Headline 
Genre - Historical fiction
Buy Sword and Scimitar from Amazon

Just What Kind of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly

 review by Maryom

A mother's worst nightmare must be for something horrific to happen to her child but what if you were responsible for something happening to your best friend's child?
Lisa Kallisto lives in a whirl, chasing this way and that after work and family commitments, so it's easy to forget that her ill teenage daughter should have been having best-friend, Lucinda, round for a sleepover. Until, that is, the next morning when Lucinda fails to show up at school. She's the second girl to go missing in the area in a couple of weeks - and the last one was found half-clothed and dazed wandering the town centre. How can Lisa forgive herself for what's happened? Lisa has always felt herself a little inferior to Lucinda's mum, Kate, with her so-perfect life and family. Now, blamed by everyone, Lisa's only hope is to find Lucinda before her worst imaginings become real. As the police investigation takes one route, Lisa follows another - uncovering a web of secrets behind the picture-postcard prettiness of her Lakeland town.

In this stunning debut thriller, Paula Daly takes your second-worse nightmare and makes it real. Lisa is a typical harassed mother and there's a nasty feeling that it could happen to anyone. Most of us only have to worry about a child's mislaid lunch or PE kit, but everyone's heard the tales of a baby left on a car roof or a child forgotten at the pub; how easy is it for something truly dreadful to occur? This isn't merely a story of modern-day parenthood though. Alongside Lisa's mainly accidental discoveries runs the police line of enquiries, giving the reader a glimpse of things Lisa is unaware of. In retrospect, there are clues hidden all along the way but I never recognised the villain.

Just What Kind of Mother Are You? is an excellent gripping read with a great, original twist at the end. About 50 pages from the end, I tried to persuade myself to stop reading and go to bed - but I was so engrossed I stayed up till half past one to finish. That's got to be the sign of a good book!

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher -
Bantam Press
Genre -
adult, thriller, crime
Buy Just What Kind of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly from Amazon

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Black Roses by Jane Thynne

review by Maryom

Berlin, 1933. Warning bells ring across Europe as Hitler comes to power. Clara Vine, an attractive young Anglo-German actress, arrives in Berlin to find work at the famous Ufa studios. Through a chance meeting, she is unwillingly drawn into a circle of Nazi wives, among them Magda Goebbels, Anneliese von Ribbentrop and Goering's girlfriend Emmy Sonnemann. As part of his plan to create a new pure German race, Hitler wants to make sweeping changes to the lives of women, starting with the formation of a Reich Fashion Bureau, instructing women on what to wear and how to behave. Clara is invited to model the dowdy, unflattering clothes. Then she meets Leo Quinn who is working for British intelligence and who sees in Clara the perfect recruit to spy on her new elite friends, using her acting skills to win their confidence. But when Magda Goebbels reveals to Clara a dramatic secret and entrusts her with an extraordinary mission, Clara feels threatened, compromised, desperately caught between her duty towards - and growing affection for - Leo, and the impossibly dangerous task Magda has forced upon her.

I stumbled across this book after reading Magda, Meike Ziervogel's penetrating look at the wife of Joseph Goebbels. While that book dwells on the end of Magda's career, Black Roses captures her at the point when the Nazi leaders are newly come to power.
Although basically a spy thriller with a certain amount of romance thrown in, Thynne takes the reader behind the scenes of Nazi Germany in an unusual way - from a woman's angle. As an outsider, Clara makes friends in both the Nazi hierarchy and among those those they oppress. The book begins with the dramatic death of Clara's closest German friend, Helga, a fellow actress with Jewish friends who was too outspoken for the new regime. Her determination to avenge Helga's death is what drags Clara into using her privileged access to spy on Magda Goebbels, despite the danger involved. this insider's view gives the reader a look behind the scenes at the world of the wives and mistresses of the Nazi leadership; at their jealousies, snubs and constant jostling for power. And here's one of those contradictions with which Nazi Germany seemed riddled - these women dress in designer clothes imported from France or Italy, have perfectly made-up faces and beautifully coiffed hair; a far cry from Hitler's ideal of dirndl skirted, wholesome peasant women. Although I knew from school history lessons that Hitler had a belief that women belonged in the home, I had no idea how far he took his ideas - restricting university access and the kind of jobs open to women, forcing married women to abandon their careers and become housewives, even trying to govern the clothes they wore!

Don't think though that Black Roses is a dull fact-filled book. It gives a remarkable insight into Germany in the early 1930s but as a setting for a thrilling page-turning read. Living her double life Clara is constantly on edge, aware that the slightest wrong move could spell disaster for her and Leo - after all this is 1930s Germany and the overnight disappearance of friends or family is becoming commonplace. No one quite knows what the next day may bring...

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Simon & Schuster
Genre - thriller, historical fiction

Tuesday 23 April 2013

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton by Caroline Smailes

review by Maryom

Strange things are happening in the old public baths now renamed The Oracle. Tapping into the power from a sacred spring beneath the pools three water-healers have been curing people of physical and emotional ills but when 14 yr old Laurel goes to work there part-time, she finds one of the healers taking a much more personal interest in her.
Arthur Braxton has been set up by the most attractive girl at school and finds himself being made a laughing stock all over Facebook. Trying to run away from his life, he finds himself attracted to the dilapidated Baths by the strange singing coming from inside. Venturing past the rubble and builders' skips he finds another world - at the heart of the splendid old building lies a pool and in it is a naked girl swimming and twirling as if the water is her natural element. In this dream-like place Arthur finds peace and quiet away from his unravelling life - and, as in all fairy tales, a maiden to love.This idyll is threatened though - by the bullies who make Arthur's days a misery and by the money-crunching suits who want to demolish the old building and replace it by a modern spa.

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is a difficult story to pin down and label. Caroline Smailes takes the figures of Greek myths, mixes them a little with The Water Babies and transposes them into a derelict swimming pool - is it fantasy or a modern fairy tale? maybe an urban legend? However you label it, it's an intriguing, enjoyable read.

The Oracle is a haven in the midst of crowded run-down streets. The Pool itself, despite the changing cubicles and other everyday swimming pool paraphernalia,  is a magical, enchanted place, a water portal from one world to another. Outside the rain falls in torrents; inside is calm. Stepping through its doors, people can be transformed - the awkward, crude, victimised Arthur changes under the influence of the Oracle into a more caring, sympathetic, responsible person. When the two worlds clash though, there's bound to be trouble.

The telling of the story jumps from one viewpoint to another, from first person narrative to play-script, but the strands all weave together to make one wonderful whole.

I've intended reading Caroline Smailes' earlier novels for some time - I have one in hard copy and another downloaded to Kindle waiting for me - this has given me that extra push to actually get round to it!
A must read for anyone who loves the quirky and unusual - and one to read a second or third time as I suspect more nuances will emerge.

Maryom's review -  5 stars
Publisher - originally published by The Friday Project but now re-launched by 
 Fourth Estate
Genre - Adult fiction, fantasy, myths

Monday 22 April 2013

The Studio Game by Peter Burnett

Review by The Mole

Liska is a young artist with her future mapped out. She will produce 58 paintings that will constitute 1 single work and they will be seen as a single work and viewed in a specific configuration. The trouble is that she believes that selling art is wrong and it will destroy the art. She also believes that people looking at art is wrong and destroys any  pieces that people see. So what after she has finished the last piece, what then? Then she will die, by her own hand. This is her future. Guy, her lover, doesn't disagree and together they leave their collected works, with very specific instructions on it's future, and catch a ferry where they intend to leap into the sea and thus end their lives. Unfortunately Guy can't go through with it and when he returns to Aberdeen he finds that Liska's instructions have been totally ignored, her work split up and sold for very large sums of money. Haunted by guilt for his lover alone in the watery depths and anger at the way Liska's work has been treated means he has to do something - but is he really capable of doing anything?

While I found I couldn't put this book down I also found it relatively slow to read because it was very thought provoking. Many of the arguments the author put forward I had already thought about and he gave much more reason to think on those and other aspects of the art world.

The idea of suicide is always one that will be controversial but here it is an accepted 'is' - I didn't understand the feelings behind it so couldn't argue against it and it just becomes an accepted part of the story. But one of the biggest underlying themes has to be Guy's guilt at not joining Liska and the only reason he has that guilt is because he is so in love with her and therefore this is a love story and about how it is tearing Guy up.

An extremely well told story that is difficult to classify as any one thing except as literary. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it left a big impression on me.

Publisher - Fledgling Press
Genre - Literary Fiction 

Buy The Studio Game from Amazon

Friday 19 April 2013

Bree McCready and The Realm of the Lost by Hazel Allan

review by Maryom

Bree McCready thinks she's had enough of fantastical adventures - after all, along with best friends Honey and Sandy, she's saved the world twice already! But then as Halloween approaches strange things begin to happen .... Halloween will coincide with a lunar eclipse and the veil between worlds disappear. It's time for Bree to get out the Half-heart Locket and the magical book, and travel with her friends to the other realm where hopefully they can put an end to the evil Thalofedril and his plans forever.

Bree McCready and the Realm of the Lost is another exciting fantasy adventure from Hazel Allan. The action is almost non-stop as Bree, Honey and Sandy battle their way to Thalofedril's stronghold Castle Zarcalat encountering new horrific monsters along the way but also finding helpful allies. Definitely a book that once the young reader's picked it up, they won't want to put down.

This is a must-read for anyone who's read the earlier two Bree Mccready stories but although the plot is self-contained it references the earlier books so much that I'd recommend reading those first.

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Strident Publishing
Genre - Children's Fantasy and Adventure 9+

Buy Bree McCready & the Realm of the Lost from Amazon

Thursday 18 April 2013

Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted by Andrew Wilson

review by Maryom

Normally when I'm writing a review I start with either the blurb from the book or my own synopsis. In this case that's a bit redundant as the title really says it all; Life Before Ted - the story of Sylvia Plath's childhood, adolescence and college years up to her fateful meeting with Ted Hughes.
Now The Mole suggested that at this point I add a short bio of Plath , saying " the wife of Ted Hughes the poet laureate - and a writer herself" which made me wonder if this is how she's generally seen; firstly as the wife of someone famous with an afterthought about her own work and a sly inference that she only wrote because her husband did. If so, then a lot of people will find this book an eye-opener as it concentrates not only on her early life but on the hundreds of poems that she wrote before meeting Hughes. I must admit that although I 'discovered' Plath as a poet before Hughes, I still only had the most basic outline idea of her life - and a lot of that was based on her largely autobiographical novel The Bell Jar.

This account starts rather slowly with family history and the lives of Sylvia's parents Otto and Aurelia. Although her childhood circumstances undoubtedly influenced Plath, the narration at this point just seems like a stringing together of facts. It isn't till she leaves home for Smith College, that Plath really seems to take shape as a person - and what a contradictory person she was; a fun-loving high achiever, obsessed with her work but constantly out dating a string of boyfriends; mixing with wealthy friends but having to rely on scholarships and her own writing to fund her way through college. All these aspects fuelled and shaped her.

Wilson has encouraged never previously interviewed  friends and lovers from these early years to speak out about the Sylvia they knew but I sometimes felt there were questions, possibly less discrete ones, that I'd have loved to have asked. He also draws on unpublished letters and poems (the title comes from one of them) to shed light on Plath's emotional and artistic development and it's rather a shame that at least some of them couldn't have been quoted. Despite these quibbles, Mad Girl's Love Song is a most fascinating book whether you just want to know more about Plath's life or are looking for influences in the development of her work.
I'm generally inclined to think that the writing matters more than the personal details of an author's life but as I read this book it became apparent that for Plath the two were intricately and inextricably mixed.

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

Buy Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted from Amazon

Wednesday 17 April 2013

My Humongous Hamster by Lorna Freytag

Review by The Mole

'My' hamster eats his food up quickly and seems to always want more. In this book the author contemplates what would happen if through all her hamster's eating, he grew and grew until he was a 'humongous' size.

With lots of clever photoshop work and careful use of fonts this book is a fun read for early readers and, while not challenging perhaps, still fun for older readers who find it on the bookshelf.

As a child I hated "The Yellow Book" with a vengeance but this kind of book would have got me reading a lot faster. But don't discount the opportunities this book has for sharing - there are plenty of things to talk about in the pictures and it wouldn't take a great deal of imagination to suggest actions that could be related to the pictures as well.

A really fun book to encourage children into reading as well as for early readers.

Genre - Children's Picture Book, Early Reader
Publisher - Piccadilly Press

Buy My Humongous Hamster from Amazon

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Any Dream Will Do by Maria Duffy

review by Maryom

30 yr old singleton Jenny Breslin has become addicted to twitter - chatting to her online friends as often as she can, at all hours day and night. Then in a rash moment she invites her three best on-line friends to visit for the weekend. When they accept, Jenny hits major panic mode. How can her real life live up to the one she's painted on Twitter?  But on the other hand, how many secrets have her friends hidden? Zahra's job isn't quite what she claims, Fianna's life isn't the cosy domestic bliss she'd said and Kerry? Well, Kerry's certainly NOT what Jenny had been expecting

When I've had enough of blood, gore and emotional trauma, I always find myself back at chick-lit for light relief - and this is the sort of light-hearted story that hits the right buttons for those moments. A heroine to laugh or cringe with, highs and lows along the way and the promise of a happy ending - what more could you want? This is the first Maria Duffy novel I've read (appropriately after 'meeting' her on Twitter) and I'll be looking out for more.

Something really puzzled me though - the cover! It's not often I bother to comment on them but this one just seems so inaccurate. You'd imagine the young woman featured there would be Jenny, after all she is the heroine. But she's described as having hair dyed red, make up so thick her 'face was barely recognisable', several ear-piercings and an eyebrow stud and a style of dress she describes as 'sort of punkish, but without the hob-nailed boot'. Hmm, not very like that cover!

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Hachette Books Ireland
Genre - romcom/chick lit

 Buy Any Dream Will Do from Amazon

Monday 15 April 2013

Black Sheep by Na'ima B Robert

Review by The Mole

Dwayne is 16 and a member of a London gang when he meets Misha at a party. Misha stands for everything Dwayne doesn't. Misha is working hard to get good GCSE results and go to college to get 'A' levels and then university to study science. Her life is all planned out, with the help of her mum, and she is 'going for it'. Dwayne has no need for school, he is making plenty of money selling drugs and thinks life is going well for him and his mum has written him off. Well that was all true before Misha appeared, now everything is changing but can it change? Will the gang let him out? Will the school give him a chance to turn himself around? And will Misha's mum let Dwayne into Misha's life?

If you have read this far then you probably know how it's going to end. Well, you DON'T. I was extremely surprised by the ending that more reflects life than fairy stories. I picked this up expecting a love story - not that I choose love stories for preference - but it was on the TBR pile and needed to be taken off. But it's not a love story nor is it a story of gang violence although both are in the book. It's a story of how people fall in with theirs peers because that's what's expected of them and how they need to sometimes plough their own furrow. Some readers may not be comfortable with the fact that Islam plays a part in the story but don't be - please! It's used as a device for change but also carries an important message about 99.9% of Muslims.  It's an interesting story, told well and I really enjoyed it although I would have liked a different ending - but that happens so often and mainly with the best books.

At 370 pages it may seem like a long read but (a) it's more value per page and (b) it pulls you along so fast you won't notice the page fly by.

Publisher - Frances Lincoln
Genre - teenage,

Buy Black Sheep from Amazon

Friday 12 April 2013

Somewhere Deep Inside by Janusz Jarzecki

Review by The Mole

This book is a collection of prose, poems and pictures. Before I say any more let me stress that I am neither a poetry nor an art expert. I know what I like and enjoy and it is frequently at odds with 'experts'.


This collection is sorted into 8 parts. These divide the works into prose, pictures and the poems into certain themes and this feels a little clinical in what should be a work of 'art'. The prose section evoked many memories of my childhood and did it very graphically. Unfortunately it also seemed to be tainted with regrets throughout. The poems were very much a mixed bunch. I liked many of them and they 'worked' for me; some I didn't understand at all; some lacked context within them to make them mean anything to me. Unfortunately they tended, once again to be tainted with sadness or regret. The pictures... they are the kind that, for me, please the eye now but I wouldn't want them adorning my home - I think the Mona Lisa is a nice picture but not in my home, thank you - does that make sense to you?

On balance I feel I liked this collection but I would have liked more of a balance of emotion as well as an eclectic mix-up.

Buy Somewhere Deep Inside from Amazon

Thursday 11 April 2013

Ghostman by Roger Hobbs

review by Maryom

"I make things disappear. It's what I do. This time I'm tidying up the loose ends after a casino heist gone bad. The loose ends being a million cash.
But I only have 48 hours, and there's a guy out there who wants my head in a bag.
He'll have to find me first.
They don't call me the Ghostman for nothing..."

When a casino robbery in Atlantic City goes wrong and ends up with blood and body parts splattered across the car park and one of robbers disappearing off the map with the money, the Ghostman is brought in to sort out the mess. The Ghostman, Jack's as good a name as any he uses, owes a favour to Marcus, the big-shot guy behind the heist, so can't refuse to help but he wasn't quite expecting the mess he finds - nor the interest shown in it by another drug baron and the FBI.

The novel is told in first person from the point of view of 'Jack' and alternates the current story-line with that of an earlier heist - the one where things went wrong due to Jack's mistake and for which he still owes Marcus. The snag to this is that Jack seems so very full of himself, so confident in his abilities and yet he leaves such a trail of destruction behind him as he 'tidies up' that he seems to be just boasting. This didn't exactly endear him to me and hampered my appreciation.

The plot is a fairly common one of guy goes in to sort out mess, finds himself on the receiving end of attention from more interested parties than he'd expected and has to attempt some clever trickery to avoid a sticky unpleasant end. Having said that, it's a well enough written story and the author is only 24 so I suspect his novels will improve in subtlety and complexity.

Maryom's review - 3 stars
Publisher - Doubleday
Genre - adult fiction, crime, thriller

Buy Ghostman from Amazon

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Shadows in the Night by Jane Finnis

 review by Maryom

Aurelia Marcella is the innkeeper at the Oak Tree Mansio on the main Roman road, 15 miles outside Eburacum. It's 50 years since the Romans invaded Britannia and things are normally peaceful and quiet - until a series of murders changes all that. All the victims were travelling on the Roman roads and a message left with the bodies saying ALL ROMANS WILL BE KILLED GET OUT OR DIE. It seems that a rebellion may be growing, led by the mysterious masked figure - the Shadow of Death.

The story is told in the first person as a supposedly official report from Aurelia to the Governor of Britannia. It must be the strangest report he's ever read -it's gossipy and chatty and full of asides! Perhaps because of this I found it really hard to get into this story and by the time I had, I'd guessed the bad guy and was just waiting for events to be wound up.

It gives an insight into Roman settlers in Britain, trying to make a living on the outer edge of the Empire, and the Britons acquiring Roman ways and manners, but in this first book of a series many are only 2 dimensional characters - I expect they'll re-appear and be more 'fleshed out' in later stories.

Maryom's review - 3 stars
Publisher - Head Of Zeus
Genre - historical fiction

Buy Shadows in the Night: 1 (Life and Death in Roman Britain) from Amazon

Tuesday 9 April 2013

At the Dying of the Year by Chris Nickson

Review by The Mole

"Leeds, 1733. Three children are found dead in a disused bell pit, their bodies battered and bruised, each of them stabbed through the heart. Fear, suspicion and violence tear at the city as Richard Nottingham, John Sedgwick and Rob Lister hunt a ruthless child-killer. The Constable is certain he knows who's behind the murders, but his efforts to bring the killer to justice brings a blow that strikes right at his own heart."

Nottingham has only just returned to work after serious injury and is still very frail but he must also face the added frustration of class and wealth causing credibility issues with witnesses as he struggles to get the proof necessary to try the people he believes to be the culprits.

Although there are four previous Richard Nottingham stories, this is the first I have read. I found it to be extremely entertaining and I felt Nottingham's frustrations as Nickson portrays them so graphically. And when the end of the book comes all too quickly around, I have to admit that I did not like the ending. It certainly wasn't what I expected but Nickson carries it off very well and I found myself frustratedly accepting the ending he wrote.

It is not a 'whodunnit' but a crime thriller and one that really does thrill. I shall certainly be looking out for more from Nottingham and his crew - hopefully with a new mayor as I didn't like him one bit **nasty man**.

Genre: Adult Historical Crime Thriller
Publisher: Creme de la Crime

Buy At the Dying of the Year (Richard Nottingham Mysteries) from Amazon

Monday 8 April 2013

I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits

review by Maryom

" I Am Forbidden is a powerful portrayal of family, faith and history which sweeps the reader across continents and generations, from pre-war Transylvania to present-day New York, via Paris and England. Immersive, beautiful, moving, it explores in devastating detail what happens when unwavering love, unyielding law and centuries of tradition collide."

Josef and Mila are both orphaned when their families are killed by Romanian Iron Guard during WW2. They find shelter and an adoptive family with the Sterns, members of an ultra-orthodox sect of Hasidic Jews saved from the Holocaust by an accident of geography and bureaucracy. The system of rules and restrictions that the Sterns live by form the backdrop to the story of these orphans and their own daughter Atara, as they grow to adulthood. Mila and Atara are the same age and the two become very close, but as they grow older their attitude towards the strict rules by which they live differs. Mila takes comfort from the rules and regulations governing her life; Atara fights them, always wanting to know and do things that are forbidden to women.

I'm not sure this is a book I'd have picked up at random from a bookstore or library shelf - but discovering something outside the norm is one of the wonderful things about reviewing books. It was a little difficult to get into the book at first but as the story unfolded I was drawn into it.
I Am Forbidden gives a fascinating glimpse into a culture so very far removed from my own that I can't believe I'd tolerate it for a minute - or that its adherents would tolerate me! It portrays a society in which women have an extraordinarily passive role and are expected merely to keep house and raise children - to never enquire too much about either the strictures and meaning of their own religion or of the happenings and ideas from the outside world. It isn't only women's actions that are controlled in this manner - there are rules surrounding everything from behaviour on the Sabbath to when sex is permitted.
At the heart of the novel is the clash between very intense religious beliefs and personal desires - and the devastating fallout it brings. I liked that attitudes didn't fall easily into for and against groups but were as numerous and individual as the characters concerned. Markovits manages to bring sympathy and understanding to both sides of the question.
A good read if you're looking for something different and thought-provoking.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Vintage
Genre - Adult Literary Fiction

Buy I Am Forbidden from Amazon

Friday 5 April 2013

Nananette and The Wreckers by Tania Bramley

Review by The Mole

Having rescued Nananette from the Doldrums (Nananette and the Doldrums) Nicky and Nick are still waiting to meet Nananette for the first time but now they see danger for her from wreckers and must rescue her from them too if they are ever to finally meet Nananette.

The story continues told in the same voice teaching its readers (and Nicky and Nick) about wrecking and the people involved. It did leave me wondering if they would ever actually meet Nananette as we finally left 2 very disappointed children.

Another very enjoyable 8+ reading book with with frequent bright fun pictures and easy language. Once again ideal for reading and sharing alike.

Publisher - Austin and Macauley
Genre - Children's fiction

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Thursday 4 April 2013

The Hit by Melvin Burgess

review by Maryom

There's a new drug out on the streets -called Death it offers a week of the most amazing highs, fulfilling your wildest fantasies, followed by - you guessed it - death! There at the concert where rock star Jimmy Earle literally dies on stage, Adam is tempted to follow the same route. His life is going down the pan; he's not good enough to fulfil his dreams of playing football professionally;  his brother has died; his girlfriend has dumped him. Why not have one incredible week and end things there?
Turns out though that he might have been a little to quick to write his life off - only now there's nothing he can do about it. There's no known antidote so once you've taken Death, you're going to die.

This sounded like an extremely interesting premise for a novel but the story didn't pan out in the way I'd expected. It was a fun, engaging read and nothing like as serious as I'd anticipated. Adam comes up with a list of all the things he wants to achieve in his last week - but they mainly come down to having a lot of sex and driving fast cars. Other people who've taken the drug decide that with, only a week to live, anything goes - rioting, fighting, even killing. All of this is presented within the framework of a thriller. Adam and his girlfriend get dragged into the world of the gangsters supplying the drug and it's a race against time to see if the heavies or the drug will kill them first. The bad guys are so over the top that for me they fell over into comedy, but I couldn't decide if this was deliberate or not.

Overall I'd say it was a fast-paced action story not really something to get you thinking about the issues raised.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Chicken House
Genre - teen/YA, thriller

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Wednesday 3 April 2013

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E Smith

review by Maryom

Ellie and Graham met in the virtual world after she received an e-mail he'd intended for one of his friends. Despite living on opposite sides of the US their relationship has blossomed - they've talked about anything and everything, shared all the trivia of their lives but ignored the big things that matter - like why Ellie and her mom left the city behind and moved to 'middle of nowhere' Maine and like the fact that Graham is a famous teen film star. Then Graham manages to get the location of his latest film moved to Ellie's seaside town and they actually get to meet! Can real life live up to their expectations and how can a mega-star be seen out with an 'ordinary' girl?

This Is What Happy Looks Like is a delightful feel-good romcom-style novel. With a growing romance between a famous actor and a 'normal' girl it's like a role-reversal, teen version of Notting Hill. Ellie has almost fallen in love with the guy she's met on the internet - but she certainly hadn't imagined that he was a major teen heart-throb. Ellie's caught between her feelings for Graham and her mother's desire for privacy - not an easy thing to maintain with the press watching Graham's every move. The author captures how difficult it must be to try to lead a normal life under these circumstances and shows that a film star's life is not all fun.

Set in a seaside resort, there's a definite summery holiday feel to everything, whether it's swimming in deserted bays or the whole town gathering for Fourth of July clam-bakes and fireworks. The characters are well drawn, both genuine and charming; the plot, while it's every girl (or woman's) dream come true, is believable; is a happy end inevitable? Read it and find out.

Maryom's review -  5 stars
Publisher - Headline  
Genre - rom com, teen/YA 

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Tuesday 2 April 2013

Welcome to the Multiverse * Sorry for the inconvenience By Ira Nayman

Review by The Mole

Noomi Rapier has joined the Transdimensional Authority and joins Crash Chumley on what is Noomi's first case. A man is found dead beside his Home Universe Generator but while his death doesn't appear suspicious the case is based around what he was doing to the insides of the Home Universe Generator - tampering with their workings is an offence. Noomi ends up chasing across multiple dimensions and meeting herself where ever she goes. Is she being played for a fool?

It's difficult to sum this book up. Think Douglas Adams. Think Tom Holt. Think Robert Rankin. Stir it all up with a little Spike Milligan and you start to get close. It didn't have me laughing out loud but it kept me smiling, amused, intrigued and reading. A great read that is highly entertaining and while it is funny throughout it isn't the kind of story that relies on one-liners and punchlines.

The story is sort of sci-fi but then again it also feels like fantasy as the sci-fi is SO different and extreme. It feels like a whodunnit but you won't be presented with enough suspects to even start guessing. There's a LITTLE sex in there but no real romance - it's all done in the best possible taste.

One thing I am confident of is that if you want something to not take seriously and lighten your mood then this will suit you.

Genre - Adult Humour, Sci-Fi
Publisher - Elsewhen Press

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