Friday, 28 November 2014

Crossing the Line by Kerry Wilkinson

review by Maryom

Manchester is suffering from a spate of seemingly unprovoked, unrelated attacks - some serious, others less so. Newly promoted DI Jessica Daniel and her team have seemingly no clues to go on, so how can they ever find the perpetrator?
Meanwhile the anniversary of a police success is coming up - it's 25 years since The Stretford Slasher's reign of terror came to an end with his arrest and imprisonment. The police who helped put him behind bars should all be mighty pleased - shouldn't they?

Although I read the first of the author's teen dystopian series
Reckoning earlier this year, I've jumped into this series at book number 8, which is why this book languished for so long on the 'to review' pile. It didn't prove to be a problem though; if anything piecing together Jessica's backstory was another 'detection' in itself.
The story starts slowly with Jessica and her team rather floundering around with no leads to follow and no connection between the various attacks, but this gave me time to become acquainted with the characters before the action really kicked off. Jessica herself was a character I quickly warmed to - strongly-focussed, using dark humour to get her through bad days, able to hold her own in a male-dominated world.

An enjoyable read with several unexpected twists. The strong female lead, the Manchester setting plus the overall mix of dogged police work and unsettled private life make it rather reminiscent of one of my favourite TV cop shows, Scott and Bailey - so if you're a fan of that, it's time to discover Jessica Daniel.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Pan Macmillan

Genre - Adult, crime

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Let's Play edited by Debjani Chatterjee and Brian D'Arcy

Poems about Sports and Games from around the world
Illustrated by Shirin Adl

Review by The Mole

This bright book with it's many lovely illustrations is more about poetry than pictures. And, as the title suggests, they have one thing in common - games. Today we are encouraged to do active sports, but that's not for everyone and this collection covers baseball and football but also running and swimming, chess and scrabble, surfing and skateboarding - even computer games get a mention.

Many poems are describing the aspirations of the game or competition but some are just for fun. The poets selected come from around the world with some older poems from the likes of John Masefield and many ones such as Wes Magee and the editors of the anthology. The poems types vary tremendously from simple rhyme to blank verse, a Haiku and a shape poem. In some cases they are just short sections lifted from longer poems.

There really is poetry for everyone in this collection that is packaged for children but fun for everyone.

In the back is a list of all the sports mentioned and a brief resumé of them.   

A really lovely book that will delight.

Publisher - Frances Lincoln
Genre -children's poetry book

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Flying Man by Roopa Farooki

review by Maryom

In a cheap hotel in Biarritz, an old man sets about writing a letter - one that won't be discovered till after he is dead; one that he feels will explain and excuse him to his friends and family. For even Maqil himself, compulsive gambler, inveterate liar, and charming con-man, is beginning to see that his life-style needs defending. Born in Lahore in the Punjab, he's travelled all over the world, lived in the US, England, Egypt, France, Hong Kong, adopting a new name and identity for each, blending in for a while then moving on again. Along the way, he's made and lost fortunes, married three times, fathered two children and is now a grandfather, but now is old, alone and penniless, facing the ultimate gamble - death and whatever lies beyond.

I discovered Roopa Farooki's writing earlier this year with The Good Children, a 600 page family-epic style novel, and have been searching my local library for more by her.  The Flying Man is almost as sweeping a novel, charting the life and 'careers' of Maqil Karam, as for most of his eighty years, trading on his good looks and charm, he flits and flies round the globe, moving on when the going gets too hard or when he might be called to account, financially or emotionally.
 Maqil is an entertaining, loveable rogue, who sees himself as moving on from one adventure to another, but beware anyone who gets too close, for at heart he's a commitment-phobe. Maqil believes, of course, that HE is the one who's had all the fun but while he's constantly on the move, escaping the responsibility of wives, children, and taxes, others are putting down roots, raising family, and  forming those lasting ties that bind us together. At the end, his life, supposedly full of glamour and intrigue, doesn't feel like it really adds up to much - he's just a lonely old man in an out-of-season holiday resort, waiting for the end - his one redeeming feature being his love for his second wife Samira.
This is the sort of story I love - a fully fleshed out world to lose myself in completely, with believable characters I can relate to; a story that pulled me in, moving from humorous to touching, that through one man's fictitious life made me think about the things that I believe to be important.

Longlisted for the Orange prize and the Impac Dublin Literary Award

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Headline Review
Genre - adult fiction, literary,

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Cute Emergency by Tony Heally

review by Maryom

Don't we all occasionally feel the need for something to brighten a dull or stressful day? Well, here's the answer - a delightful little book filled from cover to cover with adorable cuteness that's sure to lighten your mood. 
Compiled by the creator of well-known 'cutesy' Twitter accounts, @CuteEmergency, @EmrgencyKittens, @OhMyCorgi and @HereBeHuskies from thousands of pet pictures sent in by fans, it's a hundred or so pages of animals behaving cutely.
We've all got a soft spot for animals, and from kittens and puppies, rabbits and hamsters to elephants, bears and gorillas, there has to be something here to appeal to each and everyone of us, whatever our age. It's hard to pick a favourite but this huge St Bernard taking care of tiny kittens is mine.

For just a few minutes, leave the cares and worries behind and indulge in this cute-fest, I dare anyone to flick through it and resist smiling!

Publisher - Bantam Press
Genre - picture book, all ages

Monday, 24 November 2014

Endless Empress by Kirkland Ciccone

A Mass Murder's Guide to Dictatorship in the Fictional World of Enkadar 

Review by The Mole

Portia was attacked by a serial killer as a child but managed to escape with her life after being tortured. Now she is suffering from the effects of Post Traumatic Stress and has created an imaginary world - Enkadar. Slowly she has drawn her friends into her imaginary world.

Being "different" at school is always troublesome and Portia, the now self-styled Endless Empress, is bullied and ridiculed along with her friends. Revenge is on the cards and did I tell you that this group of friends contains the academically astute in the school? Revenge will be planned, revenge will be sweet, revenge will be awesome and deadly.

With over one thousand dead in the school will the real world let it stop at that or are Enkadar and The Real World of Milordahl at war? And where will it stop? Will it stop?

Many moons ago I was walking in Glen Nevis with the family when I stepped between some tall rocks and there before me was a hidden valley - it was a shock and a truly awesome moment and Kirkland's first book Conjuring The Infinite contains such a moment when the book suddenly, within a paragraph, swings around. It did go on to win a Catalyst Award. This being Kirkland's second book I was intrigued as to what I would find - more of the same? Travelling to that hidden valley a second time was nothing like as impacting.

What I got was something totally different but still as mind-jangling. Mind-jangling and frightening at the same time. Frightening? We have all known Portia at some point in our lives... that kid who is "different" to the point they are best avoided for our own comfort - although they are often made fun of and bullied. What if they decided to take revenge?

Molly, a self styled journalist, acts as a focus to gather the history of the Endless Empress together and to try to find her because while some say the Empress is dead, many say she is not. It's difficult to understand at first why Molly is so persistent but let's not discount the X39 bus either.

The story has many threads winding through it and as a reader I found it confusing to follow each thread into the next knot for Molly to untie but when she does all becomes clear except that there is another knot looming. Lots of action and explosions and sandwiches - there really is something for everyone in here.

A second book every bit as good as the first but every bit as different too. I absolutely loved it and expect it to do as well as his first. Brilliantly conceived and executed.

Publisher - Strident Publishing
Genre - YA/teen horror, Fantasy

Friday, 21 November 2014

Bob and Rob by Sue Pickford

Review by The Mole

Rob is a burglar and Bob is his dog. Rob is bad, badly behaved and a bad burglar too. Bob is good but a good dog is loyal to his master and helps Rob to avoid being caught. Bob is not happy though, he doesn't like being bad.

One Christmas when Rob steals a whole pile of children's presents Bob feels he has gone too far so he sets off to return them - that's when their fortunes change totally.

Beautifully illustrated with lots of details to talk about, this book is a lovely story of the triumph of good over bad and is sure to entertain the very young reader. With varied font sizes and shapes, and text placed around the page to follow the story perhaps this is a book best shared for the very young, at least for a time or two.

A really nice book, a really nice message and I'm sure, with it's Christmas theme, sure to delight in stockings this year.

Publisher - Frances Lincoln
Genre -children's picture book

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Sugar Hall by Tiffany Murray

review by Maryom

 Following the death of his father, young Dieter Sugar is now the heir of the rambling family home, Sugar Hall, on the English/Welsh border within sight of the river Severn. Left penniless, his mother Lilia decides the best thing to do is move from London to Sugar Hall, to see if it's possible to live there with her two children, selling off family heirlooms and valuables as necessary. More things have been inherited though than bricks and mortar or works of art....
 Exploring the grounds and outbuildings of his new home, Dieter meets a silent boy wearing nothing but a silver collar. At first he's terrified but still something drags him back, and he decides he and the boy will be friends; Dieter finds him clothes and food, and the boy grows in size and substance, begins to speak and lead Dieter off on dangerous games....

Now, I don't usually get on well with ghost stories written for adults - they either fall flat for me and aren't scary at all, or go too far the other direction ending up so over the top they're comic. So, since reading Chris Priestley's The Dead of Winter , a 'teen' book, and Michelle Paver's Dark Matter, I've being searching for another ghost story that truly sent the shivers up and down my spine - and I'm happy to say I've found it at last.
There's no doubt that right from the start we're dealing with ghosts at Sugar Hall - Dieter's terror on the first page convinces the reader of that, even if his family don't realise. The hook here is what horror will this ghostly boy unleash on the family?

The house itself is the perfect setting for a horror story; it's meant to be lived in by a large family with an even larger staff, so, with only three people there, it's spooky enough on its own. There are too many rooms, filled with disused furniture, stuffed animals and collections of pinned-down butterflies and moths; furniture and ornaments seem to move about of their own volition; odd noises are heard at night; the giant moths on the wallpaper seem to flutter in the lamplight; - there's no wonder that Lilia decides everyone is best sleeping in one bedroom!
Part of what I loved was that it's not just a 'simple' ghost story. There are hints at how the money behind Sugar Hall was made, with glimpses of the desperate lives of its slaves,while in it's 'current' timeline, there's the buzz surrounding the trial and death of Ruth Ellis. Lilia, having already built a new life in England as part of the Kindertransport, is trying to build another after the death of her husband, while daughter Saskia is full of teenage dreams and wants to escape back to London. Interspersing their stories with Dieter's ghostly encounters, increases the growing feeling of dread, a sense that something evil has been unleashed - and not for the first time. It all adds up to a spine-shivering, unputdownable read.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher -
Seren Books
Genre -
adult horror ghost story