Wednesday 31 July 2013

Little Evie in the Wild Wood by Jackie Morris and Catherine Hyde

review by Maryom

Come with Little Evie  for a walk through the Wild Woods, as she carries her basket laden with jam tarts. The tension builds as Little Evie wanders further into the wood, till the sunlight is just a glimmer in the distance. What is waiting for her, hiding in the shadows beneath the trees..

   "Great eyes, the better to see her with
     Great ears, the better to hear her call ...."

Drawing inspiration from Little Red Riding Hood, here is a tale that shows that wild places are not necessarily full of danger.  
This is the first joint project from two of my favourite artists. Catherine Hyde's dark, brooding style of painting perfectly complements Jackie Morris' poetic prose, both evoking the shadowy world of the Wild Wood, pierced by shafts of sunlight, filled with the rustlings of birds and small creatures.

This is a book to share in many ways; an ideal 'happy ending' bedtime story to read to a small child, or for an older one to read to themselves or search out the woodland creatures hiding in the forest's depths, or maybe - and this what I'd like to do - take it out to your nearest wood and share the things that Little Evie sees and hears; listen to

    "the birdsong
       and the sound of the greenwood,
         leaves growing, twigs cracking,
           the rustle of beetles
             and the buzzing of bees"

A gorgeous book that I'm sure many children will treasure for years and years.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Frances Lincoln
Genre -
picture book, folk tale,  

You can of course buy Little Evie in the Wild Wood from Amazon but the authors are running a special competition through a selection of independent retailers - details of which can be found here along with more pictures of Little Evie.

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Brighton Belle by Sara Sheridan

review by Maryom

1951. Brighton. With the war over and the Nazis brought to justice at Nuremberg, Mirabelle Bevan (Secret Service, retired) thinks her skills are no longer required. After her lover's death she retires to the seaside to put the past behind her and takes a job at a debt collection agency run by the charismatic Big Ben McGuigan. But when the case of Romana Laszlo - a pregnant Hungarian refugee - comes in, Mirabelle soon discovers that her specialist knowledge is vital. With enthusiastic assistance from insurance clerk Vesta Churchill, they follow a mysterious trail of gold sovereigns and corpses that only they can unravel.

Mirabelle won't quite admit it but she's finding post-war life a little dull, so a little mystery to solve comes as quite a diversion. She's an independent, sophisticated young woman in the habit of thinking and acting for herself but she soon discovers that there's a huge difference between sitting in an office, writing the manual on covert ops, and putting them into practice. Vesta is more cautious and baulks at some of things Mirabelle asks her to do but never chickens out. Together they make an interesting and unusual team.

Brighton Belle is what I like to consider a good old-fashioned 'cosy' crime book - there are no psycho serial killers loosing their grudges on the world just good old bad guys prepared to murder their way to a profit - and Mirabelle herself is a 'traditional' amateur sleuth - think Agatha Christie's Tommy and Tuppence series or a Brighton based Mma Ramotswe. Brighton itself is a murky sort of place with underworld gangs operating almost in the open and a corrupt police force that turns a blind eye. It hadn't really occurred to me till I started to add the 'tags' to this post but I suppose fiction written now and set in the 1950s counts as 'historical'

This is my first Mirabelle Bevan mystery - a lucky find at the library which, after reading Sheridan's Secret of the Sands, I'd expected to enjoy - and most definitely did! I'm now hoping they stock more!

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Polygon
Genre - crime, adult, historical
Buy Brighton Belle (A Mirabelle Bevan Mystery) from Amazon

Monday 29 July 2013

Undone by Cat Clarke

review by Maryom

Since childhood Jem Halliday has been in love with the boy next door - Kai. The only snag is, Kai is gay. Jem makes the best of it and they still continue as best friends, spending every spare minute together but then the unthinkable happens - Kai is 'outed' online is such a way that he takes his life. Jem's world falls apart. She almost follows him but is stopped by receiving the first of a series of letters written to her by Kai in his last hours and deciding that revenge on those she believes responsible would be a better plan....

Is it possible to like a book if you don't like the main character? I often say it isn't but in this case maybe it is. I started this book a while ago - and put it down because I didn't like Jem and her attitude - she's far too self-centred. Then, I decided to give it another go and got hooked reading it; although she was still annoying. The story centres on Jem's plan for revenge on the people she feels were responsible for Kai taking his own life - the so called Team Popular, the girls and guys at school that she feels everyone wants to be. As she infiltrates their clique, she grows to see that the people she'd disliked from a distance aren't all bad, that a lot of what she'd thought about them was just her perception and that once she's got to know them they are likeable. As the story progressed, I definitely felt more sympathy for Team Popular than I did for Jem.
It's a no-holds barred story about growing up and finding oneself - and as a parent I didn't like the casual assumption that all 16 year olds drink and have sex; maybe some, let's hope not all, do, but it's too easy for teens to fall into the assumption that that only weirdos and the terminally un-cool don't and this book seemed to re-inforce that outlook.

Overall, I found Undone a rather sad read that left me with a huge sense of loss that so many lives could be ruined by one stupid act.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher -
Genre - YA  

 Buy Undone from Amazon

Friday 26 July 2013

We Have Lift Off by Sean Taylor

Illustrated by Hannah Shaw

Review by The Mole

Farmer Tanner doesn't care about the pollution he makes and the impact it has on others. A clever pig decides to build an intergalactic space rocket so the animals can escape to a clean start in space somewhere. A few test flights don't go according to plan until an impromptu flight seems to solve all their problems... but what for for everyone else?

This most delightful book has colour in abundance on every page and lots of words to read. It's a sort of crossover from the early reader to the more confident reader and contains a couple of very important environmental messages - anti pollution and recycling.

An excellent book both from the illustrations, which fill every page with colour and humour, and the story, which is simple and silly but so very poignant in it's message.

To read to youngsters, for youngsters to read aloud or for youngsters to read to themselves. Although it could be used as just a picture book it is so much more than that.

Publisher - Frances Lincoln
Genre - Children's, picture book, Early Reader
Buy We Have Lift-Off! (Time to Read) from Amazon

Thursday 25 July 2013

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell

review by Maryom

Lexie has been sent down from University and idling her time away at home in Cornwall when a chance meeting with sophisticated Londoner Innes Kent opens a whole new world for her. Following him, she moves to London and a journalistic career in the 1950s Soho art scene.
In the present day, Elina is physically and emotionally wrecked, trying to come to terms with the world after the birth of her first child. Her boyfriend Ted finds fatherhood brings back a flood of memories that don't seem to tie in with what he knows of his childhood. His search leads him to unexpected places and events which link Lexie and Elina.

My first thought was Wow Why haven't I read this sooner? Since winning the Costa prize back in 2010 and all the great things I'd heard about it, it had sort of been on my radar as something I should read sometime but was just one of books I'd never got round to. Reading O'Farrell's latest novel, Instructions for a Heatwave, gave me the little push I needed to visit the library and borrow this at last. Now I'm annoyed that I hadn't read it before.
O'Farrell's appeal lies in the way she seemingly effortlessly gets into her characters, finds out what makes them tick, how they live, sleep and breathe. The way she captures the upheaval caused by the birth of a child is astounding - that feeling that the world now revolves around the baby and everything else falls by the wayside. That isn't to say that the other plot line is slight by comparison - both carry the same weight and impact. They move round each other and compelled me to read, read, read to find out how and when they would meet - and when they did, the realisation of what had happened hit me like a bomb shell!
An excellent book and if like me you've just not got round to reading it, do it now!

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher -
Genre - adult fiction

Buy The Hand That First Held Mine from Amazon

Wednesday 24 July 2013

The Qualities of Wood by Mary Vensel White

Review by The Mole

Betty Gardiner dies and Nowell Gardiner, her grandson, returns to prepare the house for sale. Later Vivian, his wife, joins him as do his brother and his future wife. A girl is found dead in the woods and there are mysterious neighbours roaming the woods as well. The death is ruled an accident but Vivian can't so easily put it to one side and as she cleans and organises the house other secrets start to bubble to the surface.

I very quickly found myself drawn into the story and the characters, most of whom contained contradictions but those contradictions were entirely within character. I was drawn into reading but also found myself trying to second guess the plot - something that spoiled the book for me a little but I am sure that that was just me.

One thing I couldn't reconcile though was the ending. It felt rushed - contrived - a little like a French Farce with doors opening on all sides of the stage and characters coming on to share their secrets. Once again, I am sure that was me and on the whole the story was addictive and haunting and had a happy ending. Or was it sad? You decide.

The copy I have says that it is available in paperback on 25th July 2013 although I am struggling to see it on sale anywhere except in eBook format.

Publisher - The Friday Project
Genre - Adult literary fiction

Monday 22 July 2013

Some Day I'll Find You by Richard Madeley

  review by Maryom

" James Blackwell is sexy and handsome and a fighter pilot - every girl's dream partner. At least that is what Diana Arnold thinks when her brother first introduces them. Before long they are in love and marry hastily just as war is declared. Then fate delivers what is the first of its cruel twists: James, the day of their wedding, is shot down over Northern France and killed. Diana is left not only a widow but pregnant with their child. Ten years later, contentedly remarried, Diana finds herself in the south of France, sitting one morning in a sunny village square. A taxi draws up and she hears the voice of a man speaking English - the unmistakable voice of someone who will set out to torment her and blackmail her and from whom there can be only one means of escape..."

I must admit I was intrigued when I saw that Richard Madeley had written a novel - after all as co-host of the long-running Richard + Judy Book Club he must have developed some idea of what he likes and what makes a good book. So what would his offering be like?
Well, curiously it feels like the sort of story that gets labelled 'women's fiction' - a tale of love and deceit  moving from the English countryside at the start of WW2 to the glamorous setting of the French Riviera in the 50s. It's a great plot outline but unfortunately the style of writing didn't really 'grab' me. I found the characters a bit flat and the plot too predictable, especially after reading the publishers' synopsis quoted above.
I'm sure there are lots of readers who will love it - my mum for one -
but I'm not one of them.

Maryom's review - 3 stars
Publisher - Simon & Schuster

Genre - romantic fiction

Buy Some Day I'll Find You from Amazon

The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel

review by Maryom

When the names of America's first seven astronauts were announced, their wives were overwhelmed by the amount of press and public interest they too encountered. From being the unremarkable wives of servicemen they became sought-after celebrities, appearing on the cover of Life magazine and followed everywhere by the press.
As long-time servicemen's wives, much of their lives continued as usual -  while the husband was out flying dangerous missions, the wife would stay home, keep house and raise the kids - but now they were forced to be on constant show for the media. A clean-cut, all-American image was expected of both astronauts and their wives - anything that didn't support this was quickly hidden away. While their husbands whizzed round in space, the wives had  to maintain a calm cool exterior and never express any doubts or fears - to their husbands or the press.
To combat their isolation they formed a mutual support group - at first a loosely organised affair but growing, as the numbers of astronauts' wives did, into a more formalised thing. This book takes the reader into their world; one of fixed smiles for the press, hiding the terror they felt; the marital secrets that didn't live up to the expected image; and the constant attention from the press. The emphasis is rather on the earliest group, the wives of the seven Mercury astronauts - Betty Grissom, Annie Glenn, Jo Schirra, Rene Carpenter, Trudy Cooper, Marge Slayton and Louise Shepard - who faced the first barrage of publicity and were least prepared for it. When more wives joined the club with the Gemini, Apollo and later programs, they at least had someone who'd been there before and knew the ropes.
For anyone, like me, who finds the facts and figures behind the Space Program daunting, this book brings the people behind it to life.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher -
Genre -non-fiction, biography,

Buy The Astronaut Wives Club from Amazon

Friday 19 July 2013

The Book of Dreams by Shirin Adl

Review by The Mole

The pages tell of the many different types of dreams that people have from the very simple dreams to the the more story-like, the plain silly, the aspirational and tries to put them all, even the scary ones, in the context of JUST dreams.

Each page is an explosion of colour with the words clear and fun. Many of the pictures originated as mixed media before becoming book pages and so will also give children ideas on how to make pictures for themselves. Also, as in dreams, many of the characters are not at all realistic but show that art doesn't have to be lifelike to be fun and entertaining.

An extremely nice book for children that can be used for bedtime reading, or perhaps opened to get them back to sleep again after a 'bad' dream or simply to be used to give ideas about how to make their own art.

Publisher - Frances Lincoln
Genre - Children's, picture book, 

Buy The Book of Dreams from Amazon

Thursday 18 July 2013

Walk Me Home by Catherine Ryan Hyde

review by Maryom

When their mother dies, 16 yr old Carly and 12 yr old Jen are left all alone in the world. Fearing that the authorities will take them into care and split them up, Carly decides that their best hope is to return to their step-father, Teddy. She feels that he is dependable and trustworthy. Jen has different ideas, but Carly is older, considers herself to be in charge and won't listen. So they set off, walking and hitch-hiking, from New Mexico through Arizona towards Cailfornia.

Walk Me Home is, in essence, a coming of age novel. Carly is a typical teenager who believes that she is always right- and anyone who disagrees with her must be, at best, mistaken. In the course of her journeying, she comes to see that this can't always be the case and that sometimes admitting that you don't know the answer to everything is the beginning of knowledge.

It's very readable and although there's a feeling that Carly WILL reach her destination, there's a lot of  doubt about what she'll find there, so I just had to keep turning the pages till I found out. Having said that, I didn't feel it had the depth of characterisation that I like in a novel and the ending was just a little too predictable - a good holiday read though. Although ostensibly an adults' novel, I feel this may appeal to older teens as well.

Maryom's review -  4 stars
Genre - adult fiction, road trip

Buy Walk Me Home from Amazon

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Green Monkey Dreams by Isobelle Carmody

review by Maryom

"This is the unforgettable world of Isobelle Carmody, presented in fourteen stories written over a period of thirteen years.
Within it you will find roads of paradox on which an angel might be a torturer, or a princess reject a prince to save a rooster. These are paths travelled by seekers of the difficult deepest truths never found on straight roads; here a boy searches for his true name, a group of pilgrims is led by a song on an ancient journey, and a beast discovers hope.
Enter this world and you will never again be sure where reality ends and imagination begins, for sometimes the greatest truths can only be told through imagination …"

 I discovered Isobelle Carmody through another short story collection which she co-edited - The Wilful Eye - and loved her writing style. Happily this selection of her own stories didn't disappoint. The stories fall into 3 groups - those set in the here and now, some in what feels like a post-apocalyptic or dystopian future and some in the pure fantasy world of fairy tales. These aren't fantasy stories about elves or ogres but the sort of stories that shed light on our hopes or fears, on what has value or a lack of it, on the thin line between what is real and what imagined, in much the way that traditional folk tales do. Some are poignant, some disturbing, often with ambiguous endings but all leave images that remain long after the story is read.
Although in the YA section of the publisher's catalogue, I loved it - and I'm sure it would appeal to many other adult fantasy readers

Maryom's review -  5 stars
Publisher - Allen and Unwin
Genre - YA fantasy, fairy tales

Buy Green Monkey Dreams from Amazon

Tuesday 16 July 2013

The Handfasted Wife by Carol McGrath

review by Maryom

We all know the story of William the Conqueror who invaded England in 1066 and Harold Godwinson, king of England who fought him at the Battle of Hastings and died with an arrow in his eye. But history tends to gloss over the lives of women. The Handfasted Wife brings the events of 1066 - the Norman invasion and its aftermath - vividly to life through the experiences of one woman, Elditha.
Elditha is Harold's 'handfasted' wife, mother of his 6 children. As cousins, the church wouldn't approve their marriage, so they were joined in the old  Norse way of handfasting. This gives Harold an excuse to unceremoniously 'dump' Elditha when he becomes king and make a more politically advantageous marriage. Elditha finds herself virtually banished to her remote country estate, but this doesn't stop her caring for Harold and hoping to be reunited with him or save her from the turmoil of the Norman invasion.

The Handfasted Wife is an engrossing story, covering a well-known period from the perspective not of the men fighting battles but from the women left at home. The author really succeeds at creating the atmosphere of both the women's peaceful world of running their households - spinning and embroidery - working on tapestries like the famous one of Bayeux - tending the sick and helping the poor - and the chaos when this world is attacked by invading Normans; in both scenarios, the reader feels there alongside Elditha. The violence isn't graphic but still manages to capture the horror felt by Elditha.
With the men mainly absent, the strongest characters in the novel are women; Elditha, herself; Edith, widow of King Edward, who believes the best way forward is to accept the invaders as their new rulers; and   Harold's mother Gytha who arms her household determined to resist the Normans as long as possible. These are not shy, shrinking violets but independent women, capable of running their households and estates, used to having a say in affairs and not happy to be treated as 'trophies' or bargaining chips by the conquering Normans.
There are lots of little details to breathe life into the everyday world of Elditha and enough historical background to set the scene without cluttering the story with dry facts. The Handfasted Wife appeals on many levels - it's an interesting peep into a period of history of which most of us probably only know the bare outlines, and a look at the lives of women of that era but it's primarily a story about people, their loves and losses, and trying to build their world anew, not dates and battles.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher -
Accent Press
 Genre - adult historical fiction

 Buy The Handfasted Wife from Amazon

Monday 15 July 2013

Emerald City by Chris Nickson

Review by The Mole

"Seattle, 1988. When musician Craig Adler dies of a heroin overdose, music journalist Laura Benton wonders if there’s a story behind the death. After all, his band, Snakeblood, was set to be the first of the new Seattle bands to sign a major record deal. And everyone said he’d been clean for months. As Laura digs, the threats start. She’s onto something, but she doesn’t know quite what it is, or the danger it will bring her into…"

Chris Nickson is the author of the Richard of Nottingham Mysteries - I have reviewed and enjoyed At the Dying of the Year. But be warned this is different. VERY different. Laura has a passion and that passion is music. There are many references in the story to bands and artists - some real and some fictitious - and I don't share that passion - so many of the references meant little or nothing to me - but that's not the point because if you just roll with it, it just reinforces the passion of the characters - and left me wishing I had been more in the music scene in my youth.

You develop expectations of how the plot will go but you are wasting your efforts - just let it proceed, don't try to anticipate it and you will enjoy the story as much as I did. And the characters... each one of them comes alive in their own way - I was rather surprised by Laura whose point of view the story is told from.  I have read many books, written by both male and female authors, where there is a female lead and in so many of the books I have to keep reminding myself that the lead character is a woman/girl but Nickson has done something with Laura that meant I never did have to remind myself. From Anna, the lesbian petrol head, to Steve, Laura's boyfriend and wannabe rock star, each one is a rounded character that I understood and either liked or didn't (in the case of the drug dealer).

Did I enjoy it? Yes, immensely and the ending was so right... even if it was a little disappointing. Would someone pass Laura a hankie please?

Publisher - Creative Content Limited
Genre - Murder Mystery

Buy Emerald City: 1 (Laura Benton mystery) from Amazon

Friday 12 July 2013

Rachel Joyce - author event

By Maryom

We're only just back from holiday but couldn't miss the chance to see Rachel Joyce at Nottingham Waterstones last night - even booking our holiday to get back in time. This is the THIRD time we've seen her. First at Lowdham Festival, rather by accident when we went to see ML Stedman, and a previous event at Waterstones.
The previous events were both promoting her first book -  The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry which has proved to be immensely popular with readers. Last night she was back to talk about her new book - Perfect. which was launched last week. This story deals with the impact that a small incident in a very small time frame can have on the lives of all concerned.

The event started with Ms Joyce reading the prologue to Perfect - a good way to whet our appetites without giving away spoilers. Then she chatted with her publisher which she concluded with extracts from her very own diary from 1972 - when one of the threads of the story is set. She then answered questions from the audience. As Perfect is only one week old most of the questions focussed on Harold Fry but, rather surprisingly, many of the questions also reflected on Perfect.

Having read and immensely enjoyed Perfect, I was struck by the new ways I found myself interpreting it after hearing the author herself talking about it and placing emphasis on different aspects.

As is traditional at these events, the final part of the evening was the book signing, photographs and one on one chats with the author that make a book even more special. I even got my photo taken with her - but I look far too silly in it to share.

Thursday 11 July 2013

The Good House by Ann Leary


review by Maryom

 Hildy Good is a successful business woman, the top independent realtor in the area and she just likes a drink or two in the evening to relax. That's her version - and she's sticking to it! She's NOT an alcoholic - whatever is said by her interfering daughters, or the people at Hazleden re-hab centre, or the fellow townsfolk she meets at AA meetings. It's only when the glass or two turns into a bottle and more, when in a hungover state Hildy can't remember what happened the night before and when her reckless behaviour threatens her friends, that she begins to accept the truth...

Based on Ann Leary's personal experience, The Good House is a perceptive portrait of an alcoholic in denial. Although told in the first person from Hildy's point of view, the reader can see through her almost straight away. The irony is that Hildy claims to be able to 'read' others so well - partly through tricks taught her by a fortune-telling aunt, partly through instincts honed in years of nosing round the houses she sells. The only person she can't 'read' seems to be herself. Hildy is an interesting character - sixty years old, independent, on the brink of re-kindling an old romance - but her whole life-style is jeopardised by her alcoholism.
 Although there's a background story in which Hildy's actions compromise the happiness and safety of others, this isn't really about plot as such, but Hildy's slow journey to self-discovery.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher -
Atlantic Books
Genre -
adult fiction

Buy  The Good House from Amazon - currently only available as an e-book; to be released as a paperback in October 2013

Wednesday 10 July 2013

The Scattering by Jaki McCarrick

review by Maryom

The Scattering is the debut collection of short stories from Jaki McCarrick. There are 19 in all, set mainly in the border area of Eire and Northern Ireland though the location can move to London or the US, and backwards and forwards in time.
Borders of one sort or another run through a lot of the stories - between North and South, life and death, the 'real' world and the supernatural. Not firmly fixed or sharply defined borders either but shifting, ambiguous ones.

Many of the stories deal with the darker side of life - with pain and loss - which gives the collection a rather melancholy feel though with touches of dark humour.
The Past is ever present, too - sometimes in the guise of a 'golden time' from which people don't want to move on; more often in the legacy of the Troubles which still casts a shadow over people's lives.
Did I enjoy the book? I'm not sure 'enjoy' is the right word but certainly I was moved by many of the stories.
My favourite was The Tribe - in which a man travels back in time to try to prevent the destruction of Earth by Mankind. Does he succeed or is he stuck in the one of those loops that plague everyone trying to change history? It's for the reader to decide.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher -
Seren Books
Genre -
adult literary fiction, short stories

Buy  The Scattering from Amazon

Tuesday 9 July 2013

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

review by Maryom

"Set in a dark vision of the near future, a terrifying reality TV show is taking place. Twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live event called The Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed. When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her younger sister's place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature"

I've come to The Hunger Games really late - and only then after seeing the film - and had rather dismissed it as another Twilight-y teen fad so I was somewhat surprised on two fronts - how closely the film followed the book and how good the book is!

Most people probably already know about the great world-building in this dystopian novel - there are a few cracks in it that made me wonder Why should that happen? but take it as a given ( as you might the world from Mad Max) and it's brilliant. The characters are well developed too - no cardboard cut-outs except for some of the minor ones. It's almost impossible to have avoided people discussing Katniss and her role as a kick-ass heroine but she most definitely is - perhaps even more so in the book than the film version. She's not your average heroine but a girl who's had to hunt and kill to put food on the table. The harshness of her life has definitely shaped her and her outlook on life. Fellow games contestant Peta is different altogether - he's had a comparatively cushy life as a baker's son and he's far more emotionally vulnerable than Katniss.

Really all I can say is that all the good things you've heard about this are true. I now need to catch up with the rest of the series.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Scholastic
Genre - teen, dystopian

Buy The Hunger Games from Amazon

Monday 8 July 2013

Stop Dead by Leigh Russell

Review by The Mole

Geraldine Steel is once again in the middle of a murder investigation. Once again the body count rises and as it does the link between the victims - once strong and seemingly a lead - becomes less and less. All the original suspects are eliminated as the story unfolds because motives and opportunities lose their relevance. When they no longer have any suspects, things start to falter and Geraldine feels the stress like she's never felt it before. Can she find the killer before even more crimes are committed?

And on top of this Geraldine is having difficulty adjusting to the London scene. Her sergeant is friendly and supportive but has personal issues with Nick, the inspector  that Geraldine shares an office with. And then Geraldine starts with similar issues. And while she is loving her work she is also somewhat depressed and missing the camaraderie and friendships she has left behind.

Quite a different story compared to the previous stories where we knew who the killer was and were willing Geraldine on towards a solution, this one is much more of a whodunnit. In this we witness most of the crimes but as each crime occurs we are further away from the scene and far less understanding of the killers 'drive'. Except in one case where the victim survives.. so surely that will lead us to the killer? Wouldn't it be easy to make that the solution? Russell doesn't do 'easy'!

Another fantastic read that will have you guessing for much of the book and trying to 'get inside' the mind of the killer while the personal life of Steel continues to intertwine with story as the mystery unfolds. There is no need to have read the previous books but you will understand Geraldine better if you do. 

Publisher - No Exit Press
Genre - Adult Crime Thriller

Buy Stop Dead (Geraldine Steel 5) (DI Geraldine Steel) from Amazon

Friday 5 July 2013

Don't Look Back by S B Hayes

review by Maryom

When they were young, Sinead and her older brother Patrick would play a game they called 'Following Patrick's Footsteps' - wherever he went, she had to follow, doing exactly as he did. Now grown up into a domineering, manipulative drug addict, used to having all his whims gratified, particularly by his mother, Patrick has disappeared. Behind him he's left a series of clues for Sinead to follow, just like in their old childhood game. Can she follow in his footsteps one last time and save him? and, if she does, will she finally be free of the hold he has over her?
The trail leads to a mysterious country house and to a young man who's returned to his family home in search of answers of his own...

Don't Look Back is a YA thriller with heavy supernatural overtones. You have to suspend disbelief as you read - not for any supernatural element (that goes without saying) but to accept that anyone could be as domineering, manipulative and self-centred as Patrick - and that he's been allowed, even encouraged, to continue that way. The attitude of his mother doesn't make any sense nor does Sinead's compulsion to join in his 'game'. Accept all this though and it's a good story. One clue leads Sinead to the next - and inevitably into danger.

I didn't like the ending though. Things didn't feel resolved - but maybe that's because the outcome wasn't the one I'd have chosen.

 Maryom's review - 3.5 stars
Publisher -
Genre - YA supernatural thriller

Buy Don't Look Back from Amazon

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Lollipop and Grandpa's Dinosaur Hunt by Penelope Harper

Illustrated by Cate James
Review by The Mole

Dinosaurs are always fun and Grandpa and Lollipop go on a hunt and find more than you would expect - and in places you wouldn't expect.

This is a definite 'read aloud' book as the hunt relies on wordplay and is excellently done - more than can be said for Lollipop's photography!

The illustrations are also cleverly done to help the young reader see what Lollipop sees. Full colour throughout with the emphasis on fun and entertainment.

A MUST to read aloud and share as Lollipop goes all out to show she can be just as whacky as Grandpa!

There is a section in the back that explains the dinosaurs they find - so there is some education in it too.

Publisher - Phoenix Yard Books
Genre - Children's picture book

Buy Lollipop and Grandpa's Dinosaur Hunt from Amazon

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Perfect by Rachel Joyce

review by Maryom

In 1972 to make 'artificial' clock time agree with 'real' time measured by the Earth's movement, two seconds were added to the year. Hardly any time at all. Blink and you'd miss them. And after all, what could possibly happen in those two extra seconds? Well, as it turns out for 11 year old Byron Hemmings and his family, enough to change his whole world. A small accident kicks off events in the way that a small trickle of water seeping through a dam can eventually bring everything crashing down.

The story is told from two angles; that of Byron, back in 1972, struggling to understand what is happening as his once ordered and mapped out life is derailed and sent spinning out of control; and in the present, that of 50-something Jim who's spent his life in and out of psychiatric care, struggling to find order in a chaotic world, but taking the first tentative, stumbling steps towards a relationship. It's only as the story draws to a close that the reader realises the relationship between the two story-lines.

Perfect is an amazing second novel from Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - and, in my opinion, a far more complex and compelling story. It's rather dark but has the emotional pull that keeps me reading. I so wanted to discover what would happen to the characters, how the two halves would connect and would there be a happy, or at least hopeful, ending.
Joyce has been more ambitious this time with a wider range of characters, drawn with sympathy and understanding. Byron struggling to understand the changes taking place in his world; his mother, Diana, with her carefully built oh-so-perfect, but essentially hollow, life; and Jim with his daily 'rituals' that must be observed to keep the randomness of the universe at bay. There is of course a villain - the devious, manipulating Beverley who turns events to her advantage and infiltrates Byron's perfect world with devastating consequences. Byron may not understand her and her motives but the reader does, all too well!

Perfect is a novel exploring the fragility of our lives, particularly if like Diana's they're a sham - the events set in motion in those fateful two seconds bring the whole fa├žade crashing down. There's more than a touch of chaos theory about things - like the butterfly flapping its wings and creating a hurricane, one simple act sparks a chain reaction; some are engulfed by it; others turn it to their advantage.

Harold Fry brought Rachel Joyce a whole flood of fans, this will bring even more!

Maryom's Review - 5 stars
Publisher: Transworld Books
Genre: Adult, literary

Buy Perfect from Amazon

Monday 1 July 2013

The Naming of Tishkin Silk by Glenda Millard

Illustrated by Caroline Magerl

Review by The Mole

Griffin's father calls him an 'uncommon' boy - and yes he is. He also comes over as burdened with a secret - one that leaves him with a sombre air. He is just starting school and the qualities that make him 'uncommon' are also the ones that lead to him being bullied. When Layla, a classmate, approaches him their friendship is sealed in moments. Layla knows that there is something wrong in Griffin's life and knows she cannot ask about it... until one day when the time is absolutely right.

I found that this story, although aimed at the younger reader, was totally engaging and I found myself unable to put this book down. Fortunately at 95 pages and aimed at younger readers it didn't take long to read. Although the family and its customs were something that I could not relate to, they were so different to the 'norm' that it didn't retract from the story at all. After reading I found it was set in Australia which accounted for some of the words which I had accepted as idiomatic.

Although this series of books has won many awards in Australia, I did find myself wondering what age group it was targeting. The message it carries, with so great an effect, is as relevant to parents as it is to children, and I found as a parent that the story was highly readable. The black and white drawings that are dotted around the book do, however, give the feel that it is targeted at the younger reader.
An excellent book - now to move on to "Layla Queen of Hearts" the second book in the six book series.

Publisher - Phoenix Yard Books
Genre - Children's fiction

Buy The Naming of Tishkin Silk (Kingdom of Silk) from Amazon