Archive > September 2012

The Silver Eagle

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The Silver Eagle: The Forgotten Legion Chronicles No. 2, Ben Kane, book reviewOver the summer I read and rather enjoyed the debut novel of Ben Kane, The Forgotten Legion. Although I found it to have a few flaws, the story was good enough to make me want to come back for more – in this case for the second part of the trilogy, The Silver Eagle. The middle parts of trilogies can often be tricky things, having to bridge the beginning of a story with the conclusion, and make sure all characters are suitably manoeuvred into place for the finale while being a good self-contained read. I have read plenty of trilogies where the middle book was the weakest, where the story seems to slump between good starts and endings. The Silver Eagle, fortunately, doesn’t fall into that trap and I thought it was a stronger and more accomplished book than The Forgotten Legion was. But first, a summary of what The Silver Eagle is all about.


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The Mahabharata Code

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 The Krishna Key by  Ashwin Sanghi, book reviewIt begins with a murder, a straight plunge into gruesomeness. What is odd is that the murderer thinks that he is an avatar of the god Vishnu, the 10th Kalki avatar and there are a number of mystic seals at stake which the murderer has been ordered to find. That is a dive certainly into Da Vinci Code territory, four clues to be pieced together by a history professor Dr Ravi Mohan Saini who finds himself on the run from the inexorable Radhika Singh of the police force. Known as the Sniffer Dog she is determinedly on the trail of her suspect, even though her hunt doesn’t say much for her detective capabilities since she is determined to accept circumstantial evidence as proof of guilt!

Sanghi does a smoke and mirrors with the mysterious Mataji who is the power behind the killings and who, like Radhika Singh has the habit of telling her rosary.


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The Guilty One

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The Guilty One, Lisa Ballantyne, book reviewAn eight year old boy has been found dead in a play park and his eleven year old friend stands accused of his murder That is the stark reality at the start of The Guilty One. Is Sebastian Croll the guilty one though, as suggested by the title of Lisa Ballantyne’s first gripping novel or is he as innocent as he proclaims? Whether he is guilty or not, it is his lawyer, Daniel Hunter’s job to defend him. However, as Daniel learns more about Sebastian’s life, he cannot help thinking back to his own boyhood in foster care and how he could have quite easily ended up in the same position as Sebastian.

The Guilty One is really two stories in one. Firstly, there is the story surrounding the murder of young Ben Stokes and the subsequent police investigation that leads to a riveting murder trial.


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The Incredible Book Eating Boy

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The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers, book reviewHenry is a little boy who loves books. He doesn’t read them, however; he eats them. He eats all kinds of books, but red ones are his favourite. The more books he eats, the cleverer he becomes. He wants to become the cleverest person in the world, so he eats three or four books at a time. Eventually, of course, Henry starts to feel ill. What’s more, he has been eating books so quickly that the things he has been learning get mixed up.

All sorts of experts tell Henry that he must give up eating books.


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Rumour Has It

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Rumour Has It by Jill Mansell, book reviewRumour Has It by Jill Mansell is a chick-lit novel about Tilly, who, after her boyfriend moved out without warning, moves to a small village in the English countryside to become a “Girl Friday” to Max and his daughter Lou. There she meets Jack, who has a reputation as a womanizer – but can Tilly resist his charms?

Jill Mansell is an author I’ve heard of, but Rumour Has It is the first of her novels that I have read. Chick-lit is a real hit and miss genre – its good authors write wonderful stories, but there is a huge amount of rubbish as well. So given that I was trying an author new to me, I went into Rumour Has It knowing it could be terrible – but as it was a purchase from the Kindle sale, I wasn’t losing too much.


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Jack Maggs

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Jack Maggs, Peter Carey, book reviewJack Maggs is a criminal – a convict shipped away from England to Australia for his crimes, who returns to his native 19th century London to contact one Henry Phipps. Henry was an orphaned boy who showed Maggs a small kindness just before his exile, and whom Maggs has been secretly financially supporting from afar. Maggs returns to England, despite personal danger, so he can finally reveal and explain himself to his “son”, Phipps.

Does this sound at all familiar to you? Anyone read any Dickens, perhaps? Maybe you read Great Expectations? Maybe you recall a minor character that plays a major but secret role in the life of young Pip? Do you recall the convict called Magwitch? Think that there are some parallels here?


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The Yips

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The Yips, Nicola Barker, book reviewI approached The Yips by Nicola Barker with a certain amount of caution. It is a large book (almost 550 pages) from an author with a reputation for experimental writing and from its title seemed to be set around the game of Golf, or to be more precise on a Golfer. When I finished it, I felt significantly more positive – it was an entertaining read which seemed shorter than its page length, always a good sign. It has now been long listed for this year’s Booker prize and seems to be one of the favourites to progress onto the shortlist. Hopefully, this will help to draw it to the attention of a wider readership.

The Yips refers to the disabling twitch which some golfers develop when attempting short putts, usually a sign of anxiety or psychological stress.


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Tangled Lives

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Tangled Lives, Hilary Boyd, book reviewTangled Lives is Hilary Boyd’s second novel and it is the first book I have read from her. It’s always exciting to come across a new author as you never know what to expect, but in this case, I was really pleased. Tangled Lives is a thoughtful and, at times heart-rending story that explores the theme of adoption and the lasting impact it has on everyone involved.

Tangled Lives tells the story of Annie Delancey and her family. Many years ago, when Annie was an unmarried teenager, she gave up her baby son for adoption for what felt like very good reasons.


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The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales

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The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith, book reviewIt is probably obvious from the title that The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales is a collection of alternative versions of traditional fairy tales. Author Jon Scieszka offers “Cinderumpelstiltskin”, “The Tortoise and the Hair”, “The Princess and the Bowling Ball” and “Jack’s Bean Problem” to name but a few. “The Stinky Cheese Man” of the title is an alternative to “The Gingerbread Man”, but the cheese man smells so dreadful that nobody wants to chase him.

The title page has the words “Title Page” set in huge letters, and on the next page the dedication is printed upside-down. The reader is clearly in for an off-beat ride.

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Dark Lies the Island

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Dark Lies the Island, Kevin Barry, book reviewShort stories have a strong place in Irish writing, and many Irish authors of literary fiction have turned their hand to the genre. Kevin Barry is a very fine addition to the list. Dark Lies the Island is his second volume in this format and maintains a superb standard throughout, ranging from the touching, romantic and poignant through the humourous to the threatening. There are hints of an older more traditional Ireland, but the overall tone is very much one of an Ireland overtaken by new values, promulgated by a range of dystopian subcultures. And even where rural Ireland is portrayed, it is a sinister, off-kilter rural Ireland rather than the bucolic ideal of the past.


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The Immortal Rules

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The Immortal Rules,  Julie Kagawa, book reviewThe Immortal Rules is the first novel in a new series by Julie Kagawa. Her Iron Fey series seems to be quite popular, however I wasn’t that blown away by the first novel and have never got round to continuing with the series. The Immortal Rules was available in the recent Kindle sale, and I decided that I may as well give it a go.

Set in the not-too-distant future, the world is now ruled by vampires. Following a plague which wiped out a lot of the human population, the vampires took control in order to safeguard their food supply from extinction. Outside their heavily guarded cities are rabids, zombie-like creatures who feed on humans.


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The Speech of Angels

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The Speech of Angels,  Sharon Maas, book reviewWhen Monika Keller and her husband Jack went to Bombay they were looking for a charity to support but found more than they’d expected. Laid back Irish-American Jack and ultra-organised German Monika were an unlikely couple – she controlled and logical, he a more instinctive and emotional person – and Bombay hit them both in very different ways. When they found a group of young children from the slums playing by the side of the road, both fell in love with the ring-leader, little Jyothi, and decided they should try to adopt her and take her back to Germany and fill the gap in their childless lives. Such things should be difficult – after all you can’t just buy children even if their parents are poor even in India. But such things are no barrier in Sharon Maas’ novel The Speech of Angels as she conveniently deals with getting rid of the parents and clearing the way for the Kellers to whisk Jyothi off to Germany where they work to develop her natural talent for music and turn her into a star violinist.


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