Sunday, 30 October 2016

Book Review: Trouble with Swords by Richard Hardie

Trouble with Swords By Richard Hardie

This second book in the Temporal Detective Agency series builds on the very solid foundation of the first book. Tertia and her Agency cohorts have settled into their roles beautifully, there are romantic rumblings aplenty in Tertia’s heart as new boy David starts proving his worth and we get more time with Arthur and Merlin in this instalment plus some revelations and returns from some of the favourite Knight of the Round Table. Again it is really the women who push the story along with the boys adding a little bit of beef when brute force is needed!

The gift of humour that Richard Hardie utilises with a subtle hand on these stories, elevate them above the norm. I suspect that the rather nifty Cameo from Mr T Pratchett and family in the restaurant and the author bio are testament to a hulking great inspiration from the disc-world author and the obvious interest and joy  in that clever comedic turn of phrase is clear.

 The story cleverly weaves in some great Historical figures into the plot. Whilst history is bent a little, I am sure  that these little titbits will be catalysts for some of  the more  questing young minds to do some research of their own.

A perfect read for youngsters nine and over I would say, although I got immense pleasure from returning to the TDA cave myself.

It is awfully good fun and the perfect length for  a quick read on a winter night with a cup of Earl Grey and some Bickies. It is a huge shame though that  Merl Grey is so hard to pick up in Sainsbury's these days!

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Book Review: Leap Of Faith -Books one in the Temporal Detective Series by Richard Hardie

A Leap  of Faith by Hardie

I very gratefully accepted a free copy of this book from the Author through my book club.

What a treat!

This is just a brilliant, exuberant and joyful book, I know it is aimed at Young Adults and the rather skilful lack of swearing is testament to the humour of Mr Hardie in the way that cursing is alluded to, but never actually expressed and that means that the book is suitable to any reader  and as a grown woman I enjoyed It immensely!

As a firm fan of the BBC Saturday teatime adaptation of Merlin which had the same flavour of fun,  the idea of time travelling detectives set in this world  is just so delicious!  Taking the age old legendary figures of The tales of Camelot, turning them on their head in a very wry tongue in cheek and feminist way is inspired and the youthful rather irresponsible nature of our main heroine Tertia is  wonderfully realised.

This is quite simply a really enjoyable romp with so many comedic touches as to keep you chuckling from start to finish.

Strongly recommended.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Book Review: The Queen of Blogging by Therese Lorskar

The Queen of Blogging 

This is a light and frothy book, written in a diarist style about a young mum in Sweden whose health and vitality blog seems to have taken over her life to the extent that she is trawling the Internet for pictures of uber healthy meals to present as her own whilst juggling husband and three young children and the demands of her “commenting” readership.

She takes photographs of dinners she never eats and in faux activity poses whilst pretending to exercise. The crunch comes when a reader tempts her enough into a calamitous meeting for lunch and to pretend an association with a US fitness guru beyond all possibility  of achievement in real life.
There is a mild shallowness and selfishness to Kajsa as she borderline neglects her children and oblivious to the actions of her neglected husband, but she is clever, quick of mind and even occasionally on her feet.

A good fun read about the perils of social media and the quest for constant approval and recognition that becomes  a vacuum into which we might fall if we allow ourselves. Some laugh out loud moments but more a wry shaking of the head as we see more of ourselves than we would like to admit.

There is a darkness o Swedish humour as I am discovering but one that I find I enjoy.

A quick quirky read.

Book Review: Sugar for Sugar by Seb Kirby

Sugar for Sugar by Seb Kirby.

This is the first book I have read by Mr Kirby  (who I had the pleasure of meeting this weekend) and I have to say it was a pleasant introduction. This was a ARC and so the final polish was still to be given to the edited draft.

I am loathe to give much away  because this really is an onion of a book that must be peeled by the reader, but suffice to say that the crux of the story lies in the slow return of the memories and   timeline of events for a woman whose recent traumatic experience and the slow remembrance of tragic past losses  are inextricably linked to a crime in the present.

A  sudden death, presumed to be  heart attack has  much more sinister origins…

We thus have the death of an odious man, the dogged determination of a slightly jaded pair of Police Detectives who are obviously old hands, old friends and work as a very nicely oiled machine . They are hunting down a  mysterious woman who is a conundrum even to herself as she recovers from an amnesia, who was she prey or predator?

Seb Kirby has a very spare style, which means that the story clips along at a fair old pace. There is nothing loose or superfluous here, and whilst his is not the most lyrical style with emotion , sentiment secondary to plot, it means that there is a real clarity to the story and the characters are very clearly defined. We need not see why the act, we just see them just do it!

For such a short book there is of substance packed into this story, devices like encrypted email and the underhanded techniques involved in hostile take overs are both obviously very well researched. The manifestation of the mental black spots of Temporary Global Amnesia feels factual. There is a authenticity to all the procedural elements  of the investigation and the gradual unfurling of the truth of the murder is handled with a deft hand.

The resolution of the story has a realism that lifts this book away from others in the genre.

One minor quibble as I am slightly worried that the title and cover imagery are  a little incongrous with the story within, but I enjoyed the book very much and will definitely be looking for more in Seb’s catalogue of work.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

A Christmas present for all readers - Festive treats collection

"Festive Treats "is a compendium of tales about the Yuletide.

As with any selection box there are those that do not appeal so much, but like the last coffee cream in the tin, ultimately you find that  it is in actual fact quite tasty when you get down to it!

I had read the Jeremy Clovenhoof stories by Heide Goody and Iain Grant previously in their collection “Mythfits”. Here  they bookend this collection rather wonderfully. Fun and darkly funny, they are cheeky and cheerful!

Some of the stories are moving and heartwarming. The story of Mary’s lone Christmas, standing above the rest in the bunch, I feared another outcome, which is testament to the cleverness of how made the story unfurl, the resolution made me joyously happy! Margaret Egrot has written a truly beautiful story.

There is actually quite a fair amount of social commentary at work here too as we consider the darker side of the festive season,  when  family fractures, loneliness and hopelessness intensify.  We try to create and live a “perfect Christmas card” holiday, coerced into enforced socialisations we  would not  ordinarily choose to engage in, or exacerbating our isolation when making comparisons with others.

Some authors  cleverly play with familiar traditions or figures of the festive season.
Warning: Some very twisted minds are at work here, the Christian in me comically  aghast at Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn for suggesting such a thing

All the stories  are infinitely readable and all without fail  are excellent advertisements for the further work of the contributors.

I suggest this to  anyone who is jaded by  the saccharin annual dose of Dickens or  as an antidote to stale traditional Christmas stories of miracles and butter cookies, these stories have bite but are still delicious.

PS. I actually Adore Dickens and read  A Christmas Carol every year…. Sickly sweet can be desirable in a Christmas ghost story!!

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale

Children's Book.

You know there  are those books you fly through because you are enjoying them so much and then you  suddenly realise that you wish with all your heart that you had read them slower because they were just so wonderful?  This book is one to add to that number. It was an utter delight!

I guess it is because there is a seam of slavic blood running through my veins as thick as your arm, that made  a tale of old world charm set in Russia about a feisty young heroine who places family above all so attractive to me. This is chock full of just the sort of lore and myths that make my little heart sing. Creatures who live in the stables and look after the horses, women of the river and even a little man who lives in the oven just enrich this tale of a girl born into a  power she does not understand and  into a village wracked by hunger in the deep of  winter. This is a place where the rule of the Christian Orthodoxy battles with the ancient traditions that see folk offering food and sometimes even blood to assuage the appetites of the household spirits who provide protection in the harshest times.

Two Mythic Brothers of massive power  are battling for the hearts and minds of Vanya and her Village. She, the green eyed daughter  of the Local Lord, whose  equally beautiful mother died in childbirth to bring her into the world. She protects her entire family and her village with a wildness that does not need societal niceties, despite being branded a witch and consorts with Demons.

She sees what the other villagers only vaguely believe in through tradition or habit. She sees the creatures of other worlds hidden behind the veil of pragmatism and practicality Her step mother Anna  is equally as sensitive  to the spirits but she is affected by horrors and guilts where Vanya is innocently accepting. Anna cleaves to the word of a charismatic and ambitious priest, sent to the village to prevent a rapturous adoring congregation elevating him above his station by the jealous Prince. His machinations and desires could mean more than parishioner  souls are lost from the fold.

A tale of Princes and Kings, seasons and spells, of tales and betrayals, and Faith versus Religion. For a relatively short tale it is rich with magic and family loyalties with much scope for more from this world with an ending that can be interpreted in a number of ways and enough threads left unravelled enough to enable another but woven enough to stand alone as an excellent and engaging tale!

I have not enjoyed a book  so very much for a very long time. Yes this is a children's book, but we are all children in the dead of night when the wind is whistling and the house is creaking. We all see things in the shadows and who is to say that movement is not a little creature who lives in our central heating boiler?

Katherine Arden has written a sure footed and accomplished  first novel with a deft hand with the myth and legend whilst still making her human characters fallible and engaging. Her story- telling is bright  and fresh and the tale remains with me even now and I hope that more is forthcoming!

Monday, 17 October 2016

TBC 20/20 Blogger Event Book Sixteen - Who will Love Polly Oddlum

Who will love Polly Oddlum? By Anne Marie Forrest

Polly loves Davy, who loves Michaela, who loves Colin, but who will love Polly?

Polly is the first in her family to go to university. She stays in a hostel during the week and commutes home each weekend. She watches Davy and admires him from afar. To stop the questions about her “boyfriend” she tells her family about Davy, though he is just a friend (eventually). If only  she knew the truth.

Davy is an ex-convict who is only homeless but not actually in university. He has figured out that it is an easy place to blend in. He loves to sit in classes and learn and  the cafeteria is a very low cost place to eat.

Davy has seen Michaela walking to work each morning and is not only drawn to her wonderful hair but ends up returning her wallet to her when she dropped it.

Michaela is married and very much in love with Colin. Michaela is working in a local law office and has a lot of free time to let her mind wander. Though she doesn't figure out that Colin loves a lot more than her and is continually cheating on her.

The three become friends as their lives collide, resulting in a refreshing new take on the love triangle

My Review:

This is a well crafted chick lit, the characters are more than just stereotypes and the story goes in directions you might not imagine.  Polly in particular is a character I grew to like very much. I think many women  would see a lot of their own young selves in her insecurities.

This book stayed with me long after I finished it and unlike others in this genre which can on occasion become a little identicate, the plot was a genuine surprise and all the better for it.

Why is this in my Top 20?

The pure originality of the resolution raised this above the other mediocre fare that can often be par for the course in  this genre. I loved Polly Oddlum and I am very sure you will too.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Book Review: Celebrations and Confetti at CedarWood Lodge by Rebecca Raisin

Cosy Women's fiction by Rebecca Raisin.

I was gifted this Captivating first story in a  brand new three part series through the TBC book club on the NetGalley platform. Rebecca Raisin is the queen of this kind of  romance story based around a community focal point, with great characterisation and very satisfying romance. Here it is a on old lodge that events Planner Clio wants to restore to it's former glory, return it's old world charm in a time of modernity in hotel stays.

This is a welcoming place for any reader wishing to spend a short  time in a gently romantic and engaging tale, a delicious slurp of something sweet to lighten your day.

I love Clio and her family and friends, I like that there is a thread running through the story that will open up the plots into the other books in the series, most notably the mystery of the Lodge, her Mother and the Maze.

The romantic entanglements are delicious , the menfolk are  handsome, wholesome and well just all round Good Eggs!

I am eagerly looking forward to the next instalment!

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Book Review :The Masterminds by Olivia Wildenstein

The Masterminds by Olivia Wilderstein.

In the interests of duality and balance, this book was inevitable, this is the story of the menfolk first introduced in book one The Masterpiecers. Josh and Brook are seemingly adversaries as the truth of Brook's involvement in events that have left Aster in a coma and Ivy looking over her shoulder indefinitely for the mobsters who seek to kill both sisters over the loss of some valuable diamonds and their knowledge that will leave all of the guilty incarcerated .

Josh as desperate loyal man, a true childhood friend and confidante to both girls and his friendship is a constant and the driving force for the story.

Meanwhile, Brook is the man brought low by his associations and his own brotherly jealousy. His  pseudo fraternal bond with some dubious characters leave him in despair as his love for Ivy is sullied and he is wracked with guilt whilst still savouring every moment he has in her presence despite the pain and discomfort of that guilt.

Again the story here is taut and well plotted and again we delve deeply into what galvanises and catalyses us despite the darkness it might stem from. Jealousies, trust issues and love itself. Again this book does not come to what one might call the "expected " conclusion but despite it's unpredictable nature it is satisfying and brings the stories of Aster Brook, Ivy and Josh to a close with excitement, sadness and a bit of a pang that our association has come to an end.

I highly recommend this book, but suggest both as a unit for a really enjoyable pairing. I will have no difficulty seeking out more books by the Author if this is the quality of her work.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Book Review: The Master Piecers By Olivia Wildenstein

The Masterpiecers - By Olivia Wildenstein

In the spirit of full disclosure this book was gifted by the author to whet the appetite for the second book in this two part series.

This was a refreshing change from the usual YA/NA novels I have read recently. A story about twin sisters that was never formulaic or trite. Sisters that love each other deeply but somehow never really gelled. Both are wracked with a fear that their opposite Sibling has been involved in a mob ring and yet not once do they attempt to betray or bring harm to to the other.

Aster is incarcerated in prison for the possible murder of a well known mobster and the other,Ivy imprisoned in her own way on the intrusive reality show that is rather like a glamourous Big Brother for artistic types who want to join a salubrious Art school. Pitted against a raft of rather  obnoxious types, spiky Ivy is sequestered away from her life and the events that are conspiring against both sisters.

The two POV structure works exceptionally well and we as the readers are able to discern the truth of the story as the sisters are sent on a bit of a merry dance just the weeniest  bit in advance and sometimes that reader knowledge make the machinations of those in the shadows all the more chilling.

This was a fast paced story considering the fact that the story is  basically set in two confined environments .The relative youth of the main protagonists by no means narrows the audience reach here, this is easily a book that anyone interested in a different kind of thrilling character led story might enjoy. The characterisation is spot on. I liked both sisters despite them both being flawed and faceted, neither is entirely sympathetic and yet both are utterly relatable. I found myself wishing I knew more about their formative years, but think perhaps his might come in the second book that focuses on their childhood friend and his reaction to their predicament as an outsider.

I am glad that my own sister and I have a slightly more healthy relationship but it was very interesting to get a slightly more caustic outlook on sibling affection.

I am excited to read the next book in the series.