Author Archive > collingwood21

The Dead Pass

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 The Dead Pass, Colin Bateman , book reviewWhen Belfast private detective Dan Starkey is approached by Moira Doherty about her missing son Billy, he is none too pleased. Sure, he needs the money that a new case will bring in, but this one means hiking all the way out to Derry. He drops the kindly old woman back at the bus station with every intention of turning the case down, but when the concerned mother turns out to have been a political firebrand and professional anarchist from back in the day, the case gets more interesting for him. Against his better judgement, he heads out to Derry. Moira, however, is nowhere to be found and the city is in upheaval after a body has been found on the city’s Peace Bridge. Starkey quickly finds himself in a seedy underworld of drugs, porn and a host of unpleasant characters intent on creating a new generation of mayhem in Northern Ireland.


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The Golem of Hollywood

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The Golem of Hollywood, Jonathan and Jesse KellermanLAPD detective Jacob Lev sounds – and probably feels – like a bit of a cliché. Single, overworked and a borderline alcoholic, he habitually lets down his blind father Sam, promising to visit then letting work get in the way. Not that his work is interesting any more. Depressed and exhausted, his bosses have reacted to his failing productivity by demoting him to a dull job in the traffic division, crunching numbers that seem to have no effect on anything. Then, one morning, he awakes to find a beautiful brunette in his shabby apartment, who he has apparently spent the night with yet cannot remember meeting. As she leaves, an even greater mystery is about to enter his life – the news that some unspecified aspect of his skill set has seen him transferred from traffic into Special Projects, a unit that apparently no one else has heard of either.


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Crossing the Line

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Crossing the Line, Kerry Wilkinson, book reviewReleased earlier this month, Crossing the Line is the eighth novel in Kerry Wilkinson’s Jessica Daniel series. I haven’t read any of the previous novels, but this one is intriguingly pitched as the start of “season 2”, a place where the plot arc allows new readers to more easily jump on board without feeling lost. For me this worked well; characters were introduced smoothly and gradually, while past events were referred to where necessary without ever feeling you were in the middle of an info-dump aimed at new readers. I had no problems picking this up as a newcomer, and indeed liked it enough to make me want to investigate some of the previous seven books featuring Jessica. It does make me wish that some other long-running novel series would think in terms of “seasons” to help bring new readers into their books without first trawling through an intimidating amount of back story, though.


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If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home

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If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home by Lucy Worsley, book reviewIf you are the sort of person who wonders when women started wearing knickers, what people did before the flushing toilet became standard, or why people in much of the past seemed to have feared eating fruit, then If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home is probably the book for you. Written by Lucy Worsley (Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces), it was prepared to accompany a BBC4 documentary of the same name that was first shown about three years ago (and which I unfortunately missed). Having seen several of Worsley’s other documentaries, though, I hoped that her engaging, chatty style would be as evident in her writing as it was in her presenting.

Divided into four sections, If Walls Could Talk gives us an informative and often surprising history of the bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen from the earliest sources available to the present day.


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Conquest

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Conquest by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard, book reviewThe Illyri had been waiting and watching for many years – using the very technology that Earth had created – before they came. They arrived through wormholes that allowed them to travel across vast reaches of space in the blink of an eye, invading and conquering Earth in a matter of mere days. Some of the advanced technology that they brought was to the benefit of humanity, bringing with it more reliable food and energy sources. But they also set themselves up in governance of the planet, taking resources and harvesting young people to fight the Illyri’s wars on other planets they had conquered. Seventeen years after their conquest and humanity is still fighting back against their new rulers, with resistance movements springing up in almost every country across the globe. Some parts of the world prove too hostile for even the Illyri to effectively govern, though: Afghanistan and the Scottish highlands being notable amongst them.

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How To Eat Out

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How to Eat Out, Giles Coren, book reviewWhy would anyone read a book entitled How To Eat Out? I know how to eat out. You pick somewhere and book a table. You turn up at the agreed time and sit at the aforementioned table, pick what you want off the menu, then eat it and go home having spent quite a bit of money and often feeling a bit disappointed/anticlimactic/heartburny, wondering why on earth you bothered leaving the comforts of your own home in the first place. Oh yes, you fancied not having to wash up that evening. Well, that was worth the difficulty parking, the taut discussion on whose turn it was to be the designated driver, and the soggy-bottomed starter that will be reappearing sooner than you would have liked. My book on How To Eat Out would probably run to two words – don’t bother. But this is not my book, this is a book by The Times’ restaurant critic and sometime TV presenter, Giles Coren.


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The Book of Life

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The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness , book review“It began with absence and desire. It began with blood and fear. It began with a discovery of witches.”

Quite literally, actually. Deborah Harkness’ bestselling All Souls Trilogy started with A Discovery of Witches in 2011, before moving onto Shadow of Night the year after and finally coming to a satisfying conclusion with The Book of Life, finally released this month to an impatient readership. I was fortunate enough to be part of the London pre-launch event for the book, which served as a very timely reminder as to why I had enjoyed the first two books in this series so much and why I was so lucky to get an advance review copy (signed by Deborah to boot). For those of you new to this superior supernatural fantasy, let me bring you up to speed.


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The Vanishing Witch

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The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland, book reviewSeptember 1380, Lincoln.

Set in a once prosperous city now in decline, with work becoming scarce and taxes rising to fund wars abroad, Karen Maitland’s novel The Vanishing Witch could be seen as something of a metaphor for our own times. Lincoln was once a mighty centre for the mightier English wool trade, but with the industry moving elsewhere, only a few merchants remain and numerous rivermen try to eke out a living transporting what shipments remain around the local waterways. England is in turmoil from the King’s ceaseless wars in France and Scotland, and he wants ever more from his subjects to pay for his armies and campaigns. As 1380 moves into 1381, tensions increase, tempers fray and the prospect of a long, hot summer brings about turmoil and the breakdown of social order.


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Curious Book Fan attends launch of Deborah Harkness’ The Book of Life

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Curious Book Fan attends launch of Deborah Harkness’ The Book of LifeLast Friday evening, 4th July, I was lucky enough to be on the guest list for Headline’s launch event for Deborah Harkness’ latest release, The Book of Life. Having read, reviewed and enjoyed the previous two instalments in the Book of Souls trilogy (A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night), I was keen to expand on the interview I did with Deborah back in 2011 just as her first novel was about to be released. While I have seen many writers I admire at literature festivals, it is not often that I get chance to properly meet them and this evening was a fantastic chance to do just that.


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Ajax Penumbra 1969

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Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan, book review“I should start at the beginning.”
“You should start with the basics.” The clerk settles back on his stool, crosses his arms. “What’s your name, friend?”
“Oh. Yes, of course. My name is Ajax Penumbra.”

For those of you who read Robin Sloan’s endearing debut novel Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, you will have read a wonderful story but also a story that left you with several burning questions. How did a narrow bookstore with such impossibly high shelves come about? How did Mr Penumbra come to run such an establishment? And indeed, how do you get a name like Ajax Penumbra? These questions must have been put to Sloan on a great many occasions, because now he has seen fit to release a short prequel: Ajax Penumbra 1969.


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The Crimson Ribbon

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The Crimson Ribbon by Katherine Clements, book reviewThe opening chapter of Katherine Clements’ debut novel, The Crimson Ribbon, packs a powerful punch. Opening in the Fenland town of Ely on May Day 1646, we meet two women desperately battling to help a third in childbirth. The child is born severely malformed, and the mother’s instinctive reaction is to accuse the two midwives – Annie Flowers and her teenage daughter Ruth – of witchcraft and devilry. She runs to get her husband from the inn; Annie and Ruth follow to try and stem the accusations. Another woman overhears what has happened and takes her opportunity to support the claim of witchcraft against Annie, as Annie’s remedies and charms failed to revive her seriously ill husband the year before. An angry mob is soon formed, fuelled by the drinking the holiday has encouraged.


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Kindred

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Kindred, Octavia E. Butler, book reviewDana’s 26th birthday turns out to be the most memorable one of her life. As she and her husband Kevin move into their new apartment, she starts to feel dizzy. Initially thinking it is just due to moving heavy boxes in the heat of a Los Angeles summer, she is soon proved wrong when she falls to her knees…and vanishes in front of Kevin’s eyes. Dana reappears a few seconds later on the other side of the room with a very strange explanation of what happened. She tells of finding herself on a riverbank, with a screaming woman and a young red haired boy drowning in the water in front of her. She pulled the boy out and gave him CPR, but as he started to breathe again, a man with an old-fashioned rifle pointed at her appeared and she found herself back home – with the wet clothes and muddy shoes that seemed to back up her story.


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