Author Archive > collingwood21

That Dark Remembered Day

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That Dark Remembered Day , Tom Vowler, book reviewAround six months ago, I read Tom Vowler’s debut novel What Lies Within and was underwhelmed to say the least. While it showed great promise in the writing, the story itself failed to deliver what was promised and it fizzled out before reaching the satisfying conclusion that the quality of the prose deserved. It was therefore with a sense of disappointment that I saw I had been sent a review copy of Vowler’s second book, That Dark Remembered Day – what if this was another damp squib sent to frustrate me? Fortunately, in the intervening months Vowler seems to have developed quite remarkably as a writer, and this novel is in an altogether higher league that his first offering.

Stephen is a middle-aged son returning to the small town he grew up in to visit his ailing mother, Mary.


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The Shattered Crown

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The Shattered Crown by Richard Ford, book reviewIt is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a publisher in possession of free review copies will be in want of a book reviewer to read them. This, for the reviewer, means lots of lovely free books, many of which being ones that they would otherwise likely never have read. Unfortunately, in amongst this pile will occasionally creep the odd book that is part of an ongoing series or (worse) the mid-point in a trilogy. I have had several such books in the past and have generally struggled to understand what is going on, given that much of the story, scene-setting and character development has taken place before the book in my hands has even started. The second book in a trilogy in particularly difficult, as it is often the weak link, a mere bridging stage between an intriguing introduction and an explosive finale.


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The Dead Ground

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The Dead Ground by Claire McGowan, book reviewOne of the most memorable review books that I was sent last year was Claire McGowan’s novel The Lost, a book that stood out amongst other crime fiction I read both for its distinctive setting (post-Troubles Northern Ireland) and unusual perspective (missing persons). Having enjoyed it, I finished my review by saying that I looked forward to the inevitable second outing of the story’s protagonist, psychologist Paula Maguire. This return has come pleasingly soon, with The Dead Ground scheduled for general release in April – the lovely people at Headline, however, have sent me an advanced copy that I demolished this weekend with relish.

We return to Paula’s life shortly before Christmas, with snow thick on the ground and the repercussions of her previous case hanging heavily over her head.


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The Crane Wife

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The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness, book reviewSome of you may be familiar with the old Japanese folk tale of the crane wife. It tells of a sail maker who one day finds a wounded crane and nurses it back to health; the day after it flies away, a beautiful woman arrives at the sail maker’s house and he falls in love with her. They marry, and are happy but poor. One day, the wife offers to use her skills to make new sails, but she will only do this as long at the husband promises never to watch her work. The sails that she weaves are stunning and the couple begin to make good money, but over time the husband becomes greedy. He demands that his wife makes more and more sails for him to sell, until eventually he must see how she manages to make her creations.


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A Sixpenny Song

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A Sixpenny Song, Jennifer Johnston, book reviewA man dies of a massive heart attack in his Dublin house. A villain for our modern times, Mr Ross is a rich man employed in the world of finance, who remained distant from his daughter Annie and blind to her passions throughout her childhood. After Annie’s mother died, he sent her away to boarding school in England. Upon her return, he tells her that she is not going to take up her place to study literature at Trinity College, but is instead joining him in the family firm to learn how to make money from money and realise the satisfaction of growing her own assets. After all, he just wants the best for her. Annie responds by fleeing to London, finding a flat in Notting Hill and a job in a bookshop.


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The Three

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The Three,  Sarah Lotz, book reviewI get a lot of advance proof copies of books in my role as Curious Book Fans reviewer. Most are quite plainly presented; simpler, often smaller, versions of the book they will become when finally unleashed upon the market. When I therefore received a custom black jiffy bag from Hodder containing a glossily produced black book and a press release folded into an origami aeroplane, I suspected I might just have been sent something due for a very big release. Something that Hodder is wasting no expense on promoting, as they expect it to make a significant impact on the bestseller lists. Having just finished said book – Sarah Lotz’s The Three – I think that they might just be right; if this book isn’t huge by the end of the year, then I will be quietly amazed.


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The Troop

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The Troop by Nick Cutter, book reviewImagine finding yourself plunged into an episode of The X-Files. Forget the convoluted alien/government conspiracy that nobody really understood; I’m talking about one of the early episodes, where something that shouldn’t exist and yet is frighteningly plausible seems to slip into the real world. Yet in this scenario, you are just fourteen years of age and Mulder and Scully aren’t coming to save the day. That is almost exactly the atmosphere generated by Nick Cutter’s new novel, The Troop.

The Troop in question is a small group of Scouts from Prince Edward Island, Canada. Led by Scoutmaster Tim (otherwise known as Doctor Riggs, their small town’s only GP), five fourteen year old boys set out for a long weekend of camping on Falstaff Island, a tiny uninhabited dot of land a short boat trip away from their homes.


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The Copper Promise

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The Copper Promise by Jen Williams, book reviewI’m rather glad now that I didn’t know a week or so ago that Jen William’s The Copper Promise had been previously published as four e-book only novellas. Call me a literary snob, but it would likely have put me off trying the new release of the four parts drawn together into one thumping great paperback. Weighing in at a hefty 500-plus pages, it is Tolkienesque in size if not so much in content. (And that is not a criticism – after being force fed Farmer Giles of Hamm in school, it soured any enjoyment that may have been left to find in reading Tolkien’s other books). While not a great reader of the fantasy genre, I can confirm that this book has the expected swords, sorcery and quests, but it also has rather a lot more.


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Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband

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Season To Taste or How To Eat Your Husband by Natalie Young, book reviewLizzie Prain is a fifty-something housewife in rural Surrey. She has been married to her dull husband Jacob for thirty years, and enjoys cooking, gardening and walking their dog Rita in the local woods. When the neighbours at the farm up the road mention they haven’t seen Jacob for a while, Lizzie tells them that he has left her for another woman and won’t be coming back. In fact, last Monday morning she spontaneously caved Jacob’s head in with a spade as he was planting a tree in their garden. Ever the practical sort, Lizzie’s thoughts turned immediately to how she will dispose of the body. Worried that burying Jacob in the woods will lead to his discovery – and be unpleasant for whoever did the finding – and burying him at the house would prevent her from ever moving away, she comes to a firm decision. The only way to dispose of Jacob is to eat him. After all, it would be morally wrong to waste all that meat.


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Snowblind

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Snowblind, Christopher Golden, book reviewChristopher Golden’s new novel Snowblind reads like Stephen King light. Here is the New England setting, complete with a town past its prime following the departure of the main local industry some years previously. Here is the ensemble cast of all-American characters. Here is the strange event that is about to impinge upon the lives of said characters without warning or explanation. It is perhaps, therefore, not surprising that that King himself gives the book its cover quote, endorsing the contents within as “the real deal”.

In Snowblind, we visit the town of Coventry as the worst winter storm in living memory is sweeping through, depositing huge amounts of snow and blowing it into thick drifts that block roads and bring down power lines.


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Someone Else’s Skin

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Someone Else's Skin, Sarah Hilary, book reviewI read a lot of crime fiction. As much as I enjoy it, there is a set formula that most books follow:
Murder.
Flawed hero with loyal sidekick investigate murder.
Plot twists, usually comprising more murders, a few red herrings and (increasingly often) some X-rated sex and/or violence to spice things up.
Flawed hero solves murder(s), quite often with threat to life or property of loyal sidekick.

Sarah Hilary’s Someone Else’s Skin offers the jaded crime fiction fan something a little different. While we still have the flawed hero (DCI Marnie Rome, a detective still suffering from the murder of her parents several years previously) and loyal sidekick (DS Noah Jake), there is actually no murder.


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Colossus

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Colossus, Alexander Cole, book reviewBabylon, 323BC. The great general Alexander of Macedon has conquered much of the known world, and finds himself with a huge army and a court of followers from across his new empire. Some of the men would follow Alexander to the ends of the Earth, while many others complain of not having seen their homes in years and worry that their leader is becoming soft and perfumed like the people they have conquered. The general ignores the griping of his army, seeking instead his next challenge; what of the rich city of Carthage, which stands ripe for the taking?

As he plots his next move, a war elephant – a new and powerful weapon that makes a grand spectacle on the battlefield – sets out on a rampage around the army’s camp.


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