Friday 31 October 2014

Krabat by Otfried Preussler

Review by The Mole

Krabat is a young beggar boy who, when he is 14, hears a voice inside his head calling him to a mill in the middle of a fen. He leaves his friends and sets off to find the mill. When asking directions he is warned about it's mysteries but heedless of the warnings he goes to the mill and is apprenticed to the miller. But this is no ordinary mill or miller for this mill is a "Black School" and the miller is its teacher of the black art of necromancy. Krabat lives and eats with the 11 journeyman living there.

And then, at new year, Tonda - one of the journeymen who has become Krabat's friend and advisor - dies mysteriously and the remaining journeymen advise and instruct Krabat to forget about Tonda, something he cannot do. The very next day, released from his apprenticeship, Krabat and the journeyman find a new apprentice on Tonda's bed.

Exactly one year later the cycle starts again and this time it's Michal that is killed. Once again the advice is to forget Michal but instead Krabat swears to avenge their deaths. As the year goes round Krabat starts to wonder if he is next and what, if anything, he can do about it.

Originally written in 1972 this is a book that will, I'm sure, remain a timeless classic. Its start introduces us to a young innocent beggar who carol sings to earn money - not beg or steal or even scavenge and the reader immediately warms to this young lad. The events of the story unfold continuously and the reader really is compelled to just keep on reading - perhaps Preussler has studied some black art himself to achieve this?

The book is dark and tense throughout but has no really terrifying parts at all. Although Krabat ages at a faster than normal rate (something caused by the mill) I was never in any doubt that this was a children's book - even when the end came or deaths occurred I was still in do doubt.

A book for Halloween? Definitely - although not JUST for Halloween but for any time, especially those long, dark, cold winter evenings... Don't let it spoil your dreams though. Did I say dreams?...

Publisher - The Friday Project
Genre - Children's horror, 12+

Thursday 30 October 2014

Bears Don't Read! by Emma Chichester Clark

review by Maryom

George is an unusual bear. He isn't happy to spend his time catching fish in the river or sitting chatting with the other bears. He thinks there must be something more to life than this. Then one day he finds a book - this could be just what he's looking for, if only he could read it! The other bears laugh at him, because bears don't read, but George perseveres and heads off into town where surely he'll find someone who can teach him to read...... He's in for a surprise though as the townsfolk are frightened of him and he's soon surrounded by armed police. Luckily, one little girl, Clementine, isn't scared of him and is even willing to teach him how to read.

Bears Don't Read! is a lovely picture book about an inquisitive bear who wants to know more about the world, and the little girl who helps him. In a fun, engaging way, it gets across the message that reading is fun; even if your friends don't want to read, and even if it takes practice, it will open a whole new world for you.
With bright, fascinating illustrations, it's an excellent book for early readers to explore on their own or to be read to younger children, and hopefully will be the first step to a lifetime of happy reading.

Publisher - HarperCollins
Genre - children's picture book

Wednesday 29 October 2014

If I Knew You Were Going to Be This Beautiful I Never Would Have Let You Go by Judy Chicurel

review by Maryom

Katie has had a long-term crush on Luke McCallister, ever since 10th grade. Now she's 18, just finishing school; he, three years older, is back from Vietnam. With the long summer ahead, it's time for Katie to make her move. Meanwhile, for one last summer before 'real life' begins, she hangs out with her friends in their beach-side home-town ....

If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful is an evocation of one early 70s summer in the fictional, run-down Long Island resort of Elephant Beach - a place where, for Katie and her friends at least, life revolves around the beach and the main street - from Eddy's candy store at one end to The Starlight hotel at the other.
Set in the gap between high school and college, there's a lot of similarities with other coming of age novels - the drugs and drink, sex and teen pregnancies, the assumption that this group of friends is special and won't make the mistakes their parents did, the belief that they are on the brink of something exciting while realising that this moment in time won't come again, and in the background the horrors of the Vietnam war. What makes it stand out is the beautiful way it is written, nostalgic for a time that probably was never quite as good as the memory of it, that moment just before naive youth tips over into worldly adulthood.

I received my proof copy of this months ago, couldn't wait, and so read it far too early to actually write the review. Last week, as I was writing up my notes, I picked it up again to remind me of its feel and mood, and was completely hooked again, so much so that I had to tear myself away to get this finished!

 First time through, I'd been a little wrong-footed as I'd expected a love story solely about Katie and Luke, but Katie is as much an observer and recorder of the lives of others as she is of her own. The whole capturing of one last carefree summer is broken down into a series of vignettes focussing on the individuals within the group - each getting their little bit of fame before dropping back to the chorus.
On paper it didn't ought to be a cheery book - so many of the kids in it are messing up their lives, while thinking they're being 'adult', and the Vietnam veterans among them are scarred by their experiences in ways that no one understands - but there was something in it that spoke to me, and which I loved; maybe just for capturing that feeling of invincibility and entitlement that we have as teens, when all the world lies before us - and all of it will be good.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - 
Tinder Press
Genre -
Adult/YA crossover, fiction, literary, coming of age, 

Tuesday 28 October 2014

One World Together with Catherine and Laurence Anholt

Review by The Mole

I want a friend but who to choose... We travel from one country to another, meeting a child from each and getting a brief glance at their life before finally coming to the conclusion that they would all make excellent friends.

A book advocating peace and harmony with people from across the globe - and we can't have too many such books!

There is also a "big fold-out surprise" for the young reader at the back of the book.

Beautifully illustrated, this book does try to show how different life is for children in different parts of the globe but also how there life can be fun despite those differences.

A lovely and informative book that while it shows a small sample of one child per country and only a small number of countries it underlines that children from all over the world can find common ground and be friends.

Publisher - Frances Lincoln
Genre -children's picture book

Monday 27 October 2014

Pharaoh by David Gibbins

Review by The Mole

Jack Howard is diving off the coast of Spain in search of a ship that went missing in the 19th century carrying Egyptian treasures from the times of the Pharaohs, while another team from the IMU are conducting a dig in Sudan. Meanwhile a Sudanese official is waiting until they show their hand to move in and reap the benefits of their efforts. But many of these discoveries are not new but go back to the 19th Century and have been relost somewhere along the way. Can Jack and the team keep these artefacts away from drug lords and deliver them safely to the proper authorities. And what is the true and complete extent of what is to be discovered?

The opening prologue has us in the desert with the Pharaoh Akhenaten undergoing a ceremony, grudgingly on the edge Egypt. His intentions are also not very appropriate to his rank and he turns things on their heads a bit. But the full implication of his behaviour is not explained to the reader and we must wait to find out.

The rest of the story is told through two separate time lines that we keep switching between. The first is the present day with Jack Howard revisiting many of scenes from the second time line and trying to interpret what happened in the 19th century as well as trying to piece together the happenings in ancient Egypt, while also chasing around the world and trying to evade drug lords.

The second time line follows Major Mayne who is attached to the British army's river column as it winds it's way slowly up the Nile trying to get to Khartoum to relieve General Gordon. But Mayne is not all he appears and nobody seems to understand anyone else's agenda in the campaign.

When I first picked this up and started with the prologue I began to wonder what I had let myself in for. I found the prologue difficult to read and it nearly turned me off. However I carried on and soon it became apparent we were either going to be in the 19th century or the modern day for the rest of the book and it became a great deal easier to read for me. Much of the book focuses on Mayne and the Khartoum relief effort - and very compelling I found it. Gibbins takes us through a battle with the Mahdi as Mayne tries to dodge would be assassins and the description, although extremely gory, is extremely informative and I came away with what I believe is a far greater idea of what warfare was like at the time.

While this book is a "Jack Howard" novel I felt,  after reading it, that it was about Mayne and Gordon of the 19th century, although we do visit Jack Howard and progress his journey through this history and leave him... on a cliff hanger (well almost).

At 480 pages this is not a coffee time read but one that once you get into it, will keep you reading and wanting more. Well I have taken a while to pick this up but the sequel is out on 6th November 2014, so you won't be waiting long.

For Dan Brown lovers (although I'm not one) and anyone enjoying Indiana Jones or Jack T Colton. A couple of really compelling adventures for the price of one.

Publisher -Headline
Genre - Adult fiction, action adventure

Friday 24 October 2014

Max the Champion by Sean Stockdale and Alexandra Strick

Illustrator Ros Asquith
Review by The Mole

Max is a sports mad dreamer. From the moment he wakes to his dreams at night he imagines that everything he does involves sport and that he is winning at it. When they have a fun sports day at school then Max dreams he is winning the world cup.

Very much a picture book for a child to read because the pictures are "inclusive", that is to say his dreams as well as his day to day life include disabled children. While Max is the only winner (well, they are his dreams!) the disabled children are included throughout the book and they often come second to the champion - they are not just spectators but fully integrated as friends.

The only person referred to in the story is Max, not even his toy rabbit and turtle who turn up almost as often as Max in the pictures get a mention.

An extremely lovely book with a message - a subtle message - and a rarity in that the pictures actually have greater importance in the story than the words themselves.

Publisher - Frances Lincoln
Genre -children's picture book

Thursday 23 October 2014

WTF Knits by Gabrielle Grillo and Lucy Sweet

review by Maryom

Think you know knitting? Well, think again. These days it's not just about lacy baby clothes or heavy Sara Lund style Nordic sweaters, it all more arty and...well, frankly....weird.

Since 2010 Gabrielle Grillo had been collecting photos of strange, mind-boggling knitting on Tumblr and here it is collected together in book form.
There's the fairly common knitted food - hamburgers, fruit, veg, a whole butcher's display - and cigarettes if you really need them, odd but kinda-cute headgear for your favourite pet - dress your dog as a unicorn or reindeer, or disguise your tortoise's shell as a bat or tor(toise)illa. There are murder scenes and knitted celebrities, internal organs and rather a lot of knitted poo (fortunately there's a knitted toilet roll to accompany it)

Some of it might be considered art, some of it's just macabre but, however you feel, it certainly stretches the imagination about what can be achieved with yarn and some needles.
This isn't a knitting 'pattern' book, just a collection show-casing what others have made. I was a little disappointed that some didn't have patterns - I'd love a Princess Leia hair-style hat, and some seemed ideal for unusual Halloween costumes - but for the most part they're perhaps best just left on the page.

It ISN'T a book for granny or an elderly aunt, unless you're confident of their open-mindedness - but for any knitter who delights in the bizarre and wacky it could prove an ideal Christmas present.

Publisher - Bantam Press
Genre - knitting, art, craft

Wednesday 22 October 2014

The Swan Daughter by Carol McGrath

review by Maryom

Following her father King Harold's death at the Battle of Hastings, Gunnhild has remained at Wilton Abbey and looks likely to spend her life there in quiet devotion. The nuns would love her to stay, if only for the sake of her inheritance, but as the time for committing herself approaches, Gunnhild feels increasingly repelled by the idea; she longs for a life in the larger, outside world, for the fine gowns and stately halls she remembers from her childhood, and, above all, for love. Her chance of escape comes in the shape of Alan of Richmond, one of the new Norman lords now holding English lands. Although he's older than she is, and once offered for her widowed mother's hand, Gunnhild is willing to risk everything and run away with him. Will her life prove to be the romance she hopes for, or is she only wanted for the lands and titles she brings?

This, The Swan Daughter, continues Carol McGrath's The Daughter's of Hastings trilogy, which started with the story of  Elditha Swan-neck,  The Hand-fasted Wife
of King Harold, picking up the story in 1075 with a country now largely settled under Norman rule. The former royal family are still viewed with suspicion though, and  kept separate - the women confined to convents; the men, unless lucky enough to have escaped overseas, either killed or held hostage in Norman courts. Although very little is known of the 'real' Gunnhild, the author weaves a compelling and believable tale around the few facts of marriage, births and deaths. In many ways, it must have been a life common to most Saxon noble-woman under the new regime; caught up by the tide of events but having virtually no influence. No longer able to hold lands themselves, their choices are reduced to entering a convent or finding a husband - and the wave of conquerors are looking for Saxon-heiresses to give them more legitimacy in the people's eyes. Against this backdrop, the author spins a tale that brings the period and its characters to life.

As might be expected from a girl brought up in a convent, Gunnhild comes over as rather naive and not at all worldly-wise; she expects her romantic ideas to be echoed by her husband, leaving it too late to wonder if his real interest might be her inheritance; she's often impulsive, acting without giving real thought for the consequences, whether falling in love or selling off her jewels. But, despite these faults, I still had sympathy for her,and hoped she would find the happiness she sought.

Something I love about this series is the author's ability to bring the eleventh century world to life on the page and immerse the reader in it; to discuss the wider political picture - the disputes between William the Conqueror and his lords, or the creation of the Domesday Book -  or fill in the backdrop of everyday life - the convent tasks, the running of a household, the chores of the maids - in a way that informs the reader without the feel of reading a history lesson.

Altogether, The Swan Daughter is an enjoyable and informative read, shedding a light on a little known period of history and bringing it vividly to life.

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

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Race to Death by Leigh Russell

Review by The Mole

DI Peterson has yet to prove himself in his new job in Yorkshire when a man falls 5 stories to his death at the York races. Murder or suicide? Because the death occurred in such a public place and at a high profile event there is great pressure to get the case sorted out quickly. But there are no suspects and the body count starts to grow and Peterson can find nothing that they have in common.

Peterson's first case in York and he is working all hours to get it solved as quickly as possible while his wife is bored, friendless and missing her family and friends and so adding to the pressures. But when she gets a job it could help to take some of the pressure off except she isn't as happy with the job as she was in Kent.

As the cases drag on, his private life gets more and more in way of the case. Is this one case too many for Peterson? Can he continue in the police force after all that happens?

In the first DI Peterson book Cold Sacrifice, set after Geraldine Steel moves to London to take up her new post, I found I didn't really warm to Peterson but that all changed in this book. Peterson felt a more rounded character, perfectly capable of leading an investigation and getting results and a great deal more human. It's a long time since I read a whodunnit that surprised me with the result - but this one most certainly did and I loved it for it.

If you like crime books then you will adore both Geraldine Steel and DI Peterson but the early books are not whodunnits - the reader knows who did it and is wishing Steel to solve it. I loved those early books although I also love them now they have shifted towards the whodunnit genre.

Everyone of them is a fantastic read and Leigh Russell is probably the only author that I can say I have read ALL their books and enjoyed everyone of them. I have reviewed some on our blog and some on Nayu's Reading Corner.

Publisher - No Exit Press
Genre - Adult Crime Thriller

Monday 20 October 2014

A Place for Us (part 3) by Harriet Evans

review by Maryom

If you've been following my reviews of this so far you'll know that A Place For Us is the story of Winterfold and the Winter family who, for 45 years, have made it their idyllic home; a story that is being published serial-style in four parts. Well, here we are at Part 3. The whole, rather-scattered, family has come together to celebrate Grandmother Martha's 80th birthday ...but she was preparing to reveal a secret that she'd kept for years and which promised to tear the family apart.....

It's getting harder to review these books without giving away the plot, but, suffice it to say, that at the end of part 2 the family were left in shock, thrown into disarray by Martha's revelations and events which followed. Now they have to try to pick up the pieces and rebuild their family unity but the dynamics have all changed; Martha, shaken and confused, is no longer providing the hub around which everyone else revolves, and without her, the other family members seem adrift. This gives a rather different feel to this section of the novel - previously there's been a lot of build up to the birthday celebrations, an expectation of troubles to come; now maybe all that is behind and it's time to heal wounds.
The story also moves backwards into the secrets of David's early years. It's been hinted before that he didn't have a happy childhood, that it was a part of his life he was only too happy to leave behind - at last we learn why.

Somehow due to reading only a small portion of the book at once, I've felt throughout more conscious of the design of the story, of the gradual reveals, of how it's shaped and paced - moving forwards, then backwards, working up to each big reveal and ending each section on a 'cliffhanger'. I'm not sure I'd have noticed these things if I'd had the whole book available at one sitting - I'd probably just have dashed straight through to find out how things end. 

I'm still inclined to believe there are more secrets to come pouring out of the woodwork before the Winter clan can look forward to a happy ending, but fortunately there isn't long to wait for the fourth and final part - out on 23rd October.

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Headline Review
Genre - adult fiction, family saga

Friday 17 October 2014

Postcards from the Past by Marcia Willett

review by Maryom

Brother and sister Ed and Billa have 'retired' back to Mellinpons, their childhood home in Cornwall - with their half-brother Dom, living just down the road, they form a tight-knit family unit. But their peaceful, settled life is about to be disturbed by the return of another family member, stepbrother Tris. No one has heard from him for the past 50 years - in fact since he and his father did what might be best described as a 'runner' -  but now he's sending postcards announcing his intention to pay a visit. This isn't likely to be for a happy family reconciliation and his choice of cards seems deliberately chosen to stir up bad memories and open old wounds - so why on earth is he coming back?

This is one of those books that turn up for review out of the blue and don't immediately grab me. Despite 20 novels to her name I'd never heard of the author (oops)  and the cover didn't seem too inviting, promising something in the romantic fiction line, I thought, which isn't really my kind of thing - but anyway I picked it up just to check it out and two/three pages in I was hooked. It opens with the arrival of a postcard to Billa from her step-brother Tris from whom she hasn't heard in many many years - Billa is immediately on her guard - there's obviously bad blood between them and I wanted to know what, why and mostly what his current (evil) plan was.

This is admittedly a gentler sort of read to my normal choices but it teased me on with hints and gradual reveals of past events - and the forewarning that Tris would not be coming back for a good reason, and that his arrival will cause upset and unpleasantness for people it's easy to come to like. Tris isn't a gun-toting villain back for a spree of violence, but he's still a thoroughly unpleasant, manipulative type, out to benefit from Billa and Ed's good nature and willingness to believe the best of others.
With the large country house, interestingly converted from an old butter factory, situated not far from the Cornish coast, filled with a caring family and lovable dogs, the author conjures up the sort of home we probably all would like - therefore it's shocking that someone would wish to disturb such an idyll. Maybe though, at times, everyone just seemed a little too nice to be real.
The ending was perhaps a little predictable, but I still found it all really enjoyable. 

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Corgi/Transworld
Genre - fiction

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Rapunzel by Wendy Meddour and Rebecca Ashdown

review by Maryom

Rapunzel sits in her high rise tower block waiting to be rescued - but not necessarily by a prince.
In her 16th floor flat, surrounded by cats, she sits, lets her hair grow longer and longer ....and waits. Friends try to encourage her to leave but she won't stir .....until one day the postman brings her something very special - a job offer from the library. Discovering books on anything and everything, Rapunzel no longer needs to be rescued by someone; whatever she wants to do, she's found the key to doing it.

 I'm a bit wary of children's books with a message - it's too easy to lose all the fun - but not in this one. The story is told in rhyme - with frequently repeated lines for children to join in with - and illustrated throughout with bright and busy pictures to enthral the younger 'learner' reader.

So girls, and boys, read this book and take its advice - don't just sit there waiting for someone to come to the rescue - go out and make a life for yourself!

Publisher - Frances Lincoln
Genre -children's picture book

Tuesday 14 October 2014

The G File by Hakan Nesser

review by Maryom

At first there doesn't seem to be anything odd about the latest job for ex-policeman turned private eye Maarten Verlangen; there's nothing at all unusual about a woman wanting her husband's movements tracked. But the husband in question, Jaan G Hennan, turns out to be someone that, back in his police force days, Verlangen helped put in jail..... and then the wife, Barbara, is found dead at the bottom of an empty swimming pool. The obvious suspect is her husband - but Verlangen can give him a water-tight alibi.
Chief Inspector Van Veeteren has encountered 'G' Hennan before and believes he must be behind the death, but despite his best efforts, Van Veeteren can't find any evidence that will hold up in court.
Fifteen years later and Van Veeteren is now retired - well, theoretically - and the G File, as Barbara Hennan's murder has become known, is the only case he's never solved. The case has continued to bug Verlangen too, but then he disappears, leaving behind a message saying he's at last found proof of G's guilt....and Van Veeteren finds himself pulled back out of retirement...

I'm come to this series the absolute wrong way round - starting with the last book. Needless to say there was a lot about the characters that I didn't understand, but the author managed to fill in enough back story to not leave me totally in the dark, without, hopefully, taking away all enjoyment from previous books.
To me, this seemed to be a story as much about the character development of Van Veeteren as about murder-mystery solving - and as such a good, though lengthy read. The 'detection' though sadly let it down. Van Veeteren and Verlangen ignored something really obvious that occurred to me, and which held the clue to how the murder had been pulled off.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher -
Mantle (Panmacmillan)

Genre - adult,
murder mystery

Monday 13 October 2014

The Secrets We Left Behind by Susan Elliot Wright

Review by The Mole

Eve hides to watch her daughter and granddaughter from afar. But it wasn't always like this. She once had a good family - a happy family - a loving family, but she kept a secret that had to come out. A big secret - one that had to change everything and things could never be the same again.

Scott has returned from New Zealand and is dying from cancer. Jo, Eve and Scott lived in a squat in Hastings in 1976. Today Eve and Darren are married and Eve's daughter, Hannah, calls Darren "daddy". Scott is Hannah's real father and now he wants the truth about their time in Hastings to be told... a secret they had agreed to keep buried forever.

The story started well and captured my imagination but then sort of stalled as I found, about 100 pages in, that I had stopped caring because it was taking so long. With nearly 300 pages left to go I was finding the idea of continuing a bit daunting. We had been told that Scott wanted their secret to be told but we had no idea of the true enormity of that secret - in fact I expected nothing like what was to come. There is a slight inference of what was to come but it had totally failed to arouse my curiosity. However I cheated by "dipping" into a later part of the book to try to understand where the story was going if I did continue, and armed with that knowledge I found I wanted to read on and finish it and I enjoyed the getting there. It was a journey worth making and the early "dipping" didn't spoil it. Perhaps a bit more or something different could have been revealed earlier?

A bit of an on/off read but on the whole one I enjoyed.

Publisher - Simon & Schuster
Genre - adult fiction

Friday 10 October 2014

Dea Brovig - author interview

 Today we're delighted to welcome Dea Brovig, author of The Last Boat Home, to the blog. For those you haven't read it, the novel tells the story of single mother Else, and is set in a small Norwegian coastal town, in the present day with flashbacks to the 1970s. 'Else' is not a lot older than I am, so I was growing up at a similar sort of time but in a very different world; I was so intrigued, I wanted to know more.....

Else's hometown is deeply religious, with a slightly puritanical lifestyle in which something as innocuous as a cinema trip is considered frivolous. Is it typical for the time and place?
Norway has a history of strict pietism, especially on the western and southern coasts. It’s a side to the country that I find fascinating, not least because of its reputation for liberalism. My mother-in-law tells a story from when she was growing up of being pelted with stones by the neighbour children because they’d seen her mother wearing lipstick – something that no “good Christian” would do. My father remembers the fire-and-brimstone sermons he sat through as a boy, and stumbling upon a prayer meeting in which the participants were talking in tongues.

Over time that brand of Lutheranism has tempered itself, but in the mid-1970s, when we first meet Else in The Last Boat Home, there were still people in religious milieus who didn’t go to the cinema, who abstained from alcohol and listening to rock ‘n’ roll, who considered it sinful to play cards or football on a Sunday. Nowadays, the Norwegian State Church preaches benevolence, but there remain pockets of the population whose Christian beliefs demand a more ascetic lifestyle.

Being a teenage mother isn't an easy thing even today, but Else's community seemed more likely to ostracise her for sinning, than rally round and help....
This is close-knit community where everyone knows each other’s business, and the rumours surrounding Else’s pregnancy are scandalising. Her situation isn’t helped by the pastor’s warnings about God’s judgment, which only serve to legitimise his parishioners’ treatment of her. But Else does have friends who stand by her and who help her to make a life for herself. More than that, she has the support of her mother, who defends her to the last.

From the pictures I found on your publishers website, the area looks very beautiful - but all those photos were taken in summer. I assume it's very different in winter...
It is! The winter landscapes can be beautiful, too, especially if you’re lucky enough to be out in nature, but the weather has its challenges, like having to start each morning by scraping the ice from your windscreen, or having to peel off layer upon layer (snowsuit, trousers, long johns) when your child suddenly announces they need the loo. Sometimes it’s bitterly cold, but the darkness is worse. In the south of the country, you can expect a few hours of dim sunlight every day and a season that drags on from November until April or even May. On the other hand, the conditions are ideal for fireside reading, and if you like cross-country skiing, there’s nowhere better to be.

By the end of the 'flashbacks' to the 1970s, there's a feeling of change coming with the discovery of North Sea Oil. I assume it must have altered life in the coastal towns considerably, with an influx of jobs, money and incomers?
The first of Norway’s oil fields was discovered in the North Sea in 1969, but it took a few years before the country began to feel the benefits. Then, in a relatively short period of time, Norway was transformed from one of Europe’s poorest countries to one of its wealthiest. The two storylines in The Last Boat Home bracket this time of change. Else lives in the same, small town as a 16 year old in 1974 as she does in 2009, but it is almost unrecognisable. In 1974, its inhabitants are suspicious of a troupe of foreign circus performers; in 2009, the town is multicultural. Where before most people eked out a living on land and sea, now the coast is cluttered with second homes and the fjords are busy with leisure boat traffic.

And finally the question every author is asked, do you have plans for your next novel? You've moved around a lot, living in nine countries, will you be drawing on any of them for future inspiration?
I imagine I will, at some point, but for now I’ll continue to look to Norway. It’s a place that’s very special to me, and even though I’ve been abroad for much of my adult life, in many ways it still feels like home. Belonging to somewhere but being separate from it gives you an unusual perspective. There’s also something about the landscape that lends itself to storytelling, I think. The country’s size and ruggedness mean there are clusters of people who live intimately, but far from everyone else. There’s an interesting mix of claustrophobia and isolation, which is a great starting point for a novel.

I’m currently researching a book set in the north of the country – but it’s still early days, so I don’t want to say more than that!

Thank you for dropping by, Dea, and best of luck with your future novels.

Thursday 9 October 2014

Borderline by Liza Marklund

review by Maryom

When a mother is found dead in a Stockholm suburb, Annika Bengtzon, with her journalist's instinct, immediately associates it with other similar murders from the past few months - and is off on the track of a serial killer. She hasn't got far with the story before a much bigger one breaks - her husband Thomas, along with other EU representatives on a fact-finding mission in Kenya, has been kidnapped.

Borderline is a tense two, or even three, storyline thriller following Thomas' suffering with his abductors, Annika's desperate attempts to raise the ransom money to free him, and the background thread as Annika's fellow journalists pursue the serial killer story.
Having read several of this series, I've come to know Annika and Thomas like friends, following their marital ups and downs, their falling-outs and making-ups, over several years. During that time, Annika's had more than her fair share of being kidnapped or held captive. Now it's Thomas' turn, and it's all together more frightening than anything Annika has faced - mainly, I think, because the reader expects the lead character of a series to survive, and Thomas doesn't share that guarantee. Following Annika and Thomas alternately, the author captures Thomas' despair and terror in the hands of his kidnappers, the humiliations and brutality the hostages have to cope with, and Annika's disbelief and helplessness.
A book that truly kept me on the edge of my seat, reading through the night and desperately hoping for a happy ending. Does all end well? For that,you'll need to read it!

translated by Neil Smith

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Corgi/Transworld
Genre - adult
crime thriller

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Snowblind by Christopher Golden

 review by Maryom

Coventry, Massachusetts is in the grip of an exceptionally bad winter. Snow is lying all around and another storm is about to hit.....But with this storm comes more than mere snow. Within it lurk shadowy, icy forms that lure people from the safety of their homes...
Twelve years later, and the inhabitants of Coventry are still mourning those who went missing that dreadful night....and another huge snow storm is on the way. What will it bring this time?

Snowblind is a chilling, spine-tingling read - all the things you expect from a supernatural thriller. A lot of ghost stories leave me un-moved, but this managed to get under my skin, in a creepy, keep checking over my shoulder, way.

It starts rather slowly - there's a lot of setting the scene, introducing quite a large cast of main characters and letting the reader into their lives - but once it gets going and really on to the freaky storm sections, the pace and the chills pick up. It's definitely a book to read by the fire, with the lights on and the curtains drawn. Setting the events at the time of a massive snowstorm ups the chill factor  - I read this during the last week of sunny weather and was surprised at times to look up and not see snow falling!

There's a lot in there to appeal to lovers of French TV programme The Returned - something to read while they're waiting for next series maybe? 

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

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Leigh Russell - Becoming a full time author - Author contribution

Today we welcome Leigh Russell to our blog, continuing her Blog Tour for the launch of her next book in the DI Paterson series, Race to Death

All budding authors have a dream, to write full time and give up their day job. But it's a daunting life change and one that most writers seek advice from other writers on. Leigh Russell has made that move and reflects on the impact it has made on her life.

Sales of my first series, with detective Geraldine Steel, had exceeded my wildest hopes. My publisher had commissioned a spin off series. With two manuscripts to deliver each year, I was working round the clock. Something had to go. Obviously it was the day job. So far so good. After six years as a published author, I found myself in the enviable position of earning a very decent living from writing fiction.
    Was it coincidence that I also found that I wasn't sleeping so soundly at night? For several decades I had worked as a school teacher. Say what you will about the stress teachers face, they don't have to worry about the next pay cheque. Every month, on the dot, the money goes into the bank account like clockwork. Until that point writing had been my escape from my working life. All at once, it became my working life. Impressive book sales were no longer a matter for congratulation. They were my income.
    At this point I began to realise that 'full-time writer' is something of a misnomer. The days when an author could do nothing but write are long gone, for most of us at least. You might expect that I would have a lot more time to devote to my writing, now that I'm writing full-time. That was certainly my expectation when I gave up the day job. The reality is somewhat different. I hesitate to admit that I'm actually doing less writing now than when I was working.  'Writers' block,' you mutter knowingly. You couldn't be more wrong.
    What keeps me from writing is that I'm just too busy. In October I'm going to York, ostensibly to research the area for the next Ian Peterson book. In the eleven days I'm there, I have sixteen author visits arranged, including radio interviews, talks at local libraries and colleges, and signing in bookshops. I'm going to struggle to fit in all my research. Writing won't get a look in. My summer was even busier, with trips to Greece and France along with all my commitments in the UK.
    Here I am, living the dream. It's great fun, but I do sometimes look back at the days when all I did was work full-time in a normal job, and write books. Life was so much simpler then, and certainly not so exhausting.
    So would I turn the clock back? No way!

Leigh's latest book, Race to Death, is now out and we will be reviewing it later this month. The Mole has enjoyed reviewing  all of Leigh's books either here on our blog or on Nayu's Reading Corner

Leigh Russell writes the Geraldine Steel and Ian Peterson crime series. Links to her books, blog, facebook and twitter accounts, and her programme of events, can be found on her website

Monday 6 October 2014

Atlas of Adventures - illustrated by Lucy Letherland

Review by The Mole

The world is a much smaller place than the world of 50 years ago, a time when I remember books of this type adorning my "bookshelf". The articles in this book are things that many readers will actually have chance to travel the world to see in their lifetime - and these adventures are accessible to travellers the world over.

Beautifully illustrated with plenty of colour, the pages are packed with short sharp facts that make each page easily readable by the young and less intimidating than the books of my generation.

See London from the London Eye, or the Northern Lights from a glass igloo in Finland, or Monarch butterflies by their million in Mexico. Visit a festival in Hong Kong, or a horse parade in Spain, or just put your feet up and watch penguins in the Antarctic. Sights, sounds and experiences the world over are here to tempt you.

If, like me, international travel is not your thing then you can use search engines and websites to "visit" many of these places from the comfort of home.

A truly delightful book that children will love but you may just find yourself looking at your annual holidays differently.

Publisher - Wide Eyed Editions
Genre - Non-fiction, travel, children's 7+

Friday 3 October 2014

A Most Wanted Man by John le Carré

review by Maryom

When he turns up in Hamburgh, illegal immigrant Issa Karpov  is ragged, ill and shows signs of recent torture. Finding refuge with a Turkish family, he approaches a human rights lawyer, Annabel Richter, to help him gain access to money deposited by his now-deceased Russian gangster father in a less-than-above-board account with private bank Brue Freres. Not that he actually wants the money for himself - he claims all he wants is to qualify as a doctor and go home to help less fortunate folk back in Chechnya. The current head of the bank, Tommy Brue, is swayed by Annabel, and finds himself drawn in to her schemes, but Issa has come to the attention of the intelligence services who have their own plans for him...

Since the good old Cold War days of Leamas and Smiley I've read some le Carré novels that haven't quite lived up to my expectations  - this time he's back on form inside the double/triple dealing world of espionage. Set against a backdrop of international terrorism and 'extraordinary rendition', A Most Wanted Man captures a shadowy half-world where there may be terrorists at large or the intelligence services may be jumping at shadows and making their own fears real. 

Issa is the fly caught up in a spider's web of intrigue and he's such an enigmatic figure that it's hard to decide which view of him is correct - the dangerous terrorist or innocent caught up in events beyond his control. The same ambiguity applies to many of the other characters too so the reader isn't certain whose opinion to trust and whose to dismiss as biased and paranoid. It's a world where individuals count for very little - are just there to be manipulated as means to an end - and whose muddy waters are too quick to spread - Annabel Richter and Tommy Brue start out as 'normal' fairly ethical, honourable types but even they find themselves corrupted by the forces they come into contact with.

As with the Smiley novels, it's a rather sedentary plot - it moves forward through the close analysis of files, the following of paper trails and the dredging up of half-forgotten memories - a device that works well in book-form but I wonder how well it's transcribed itself to film. From the trailer, I suspect a lot of cloak and dagger action has been added, and maybe a chase scene or two.....  I'm going to need to go to a cinema and check, purely for research.....

Maryom's review -  5 stars
Publisher -  Sceptre
Genre - spy thriller

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Something About a Bear by Jackie Morris

review by Maryom

 Come with the Brown Bear as he introduces eight different bears of the world - Polar bear, Moon bear, Sun bear, Brown bear, Spectacled bear, American Black bear, Sloth bear and Giant Panda - lovingly captured in their habitats by Jackie Morris's paintings. They fish in freezing rivers, doze through the heat of the day in treetops or swim in the ocean..... but which is the best bear of all?

To call this an illustrated children's book doesn't do it justice; Something About A Bear is an absolutely gorgeous book bound to delight children and adult bear-lovers alike.  Each double-paged spread captures the essence of a bear with a combination of words and pictures. Although non-fiction  it reads like an enchanting story book. The lavish paintings bring these beautiful wild animals so vividly to life that I almost felt I could reach out and touch their fur, and each is accompanied by words which describe the bear, its habitat, its food, its life in general.

 There are more 'plain' facts at the end of the book for those who want them, and links to conservation websites. The author is also running an on-line auction of the book's proofs with all money going to the charity Hauser Bears

It makes an excellent companion book to I Am Cat, which introduced the wide variety of wild cats from lions to lynx to Scottish wild cat in a similar way - a great idea if you're looking for complementary but not identical books for two children.

Publisher - Frances Lincoln
Genre - picture book, non-fiction, bears,