Archive > September 2013

Elysian Fields

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Elysian Fields by Suzanne Johnson, book reviewNew Orleans is hardly the most original place in which to set your supernatural urban fantasy series, but I would be prepared to forgive that if the quality of the story lifted it beyond the ordinary. In Elysian Fields, Suzanne Johnson imagines a world where the force of Hurricane Katrina has ripped a hole in the veil between the human city and the frontier “beyond” settlement of Old Orleans; this was a good start, giving us an intriguing explanation for non-humans to be entering the city in the form of the undead and the more inevitable werewolves, vampires and the like. Unfortunately, after this imaginative opening idea, things went a little downhill for me.


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The Name of the Wind

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The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle), Patrick Rothfuss, book reviewThe Name of the Wind is the first in Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. I heard of the author when wishing George R.R. Martin would hurry up and finish the next book in A Song Of Ice And Fire – I googled “authors like GRRM” and found an interview with him asking who fans should read while waiting for him to get his bum in gear – Patrick Rothfuss was one of his answers.

The Name of the Wind opens in a village tavern, where the regulars are doing their usual drinking and storytelling. When one of the villagers appears with a strange bundle and an even stranger story, this sets in motion events which bring to light (for the readers) the fact that the innkeeper, known as Kote, is in fact Kvothe Kingkiller.


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Running in the Family

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Running in the Family, Michael Ondaatje, book reviewMichael Ondaatje, author of “The English Patient,” was born in Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon). In 1954, at the age of 11, he left for England and in 1962 he moved to Canada. Only as an adult did Ondaatje go back to visit the island of his birth, which he called the “pendant off the ear of India.” While there, he investigated his family history through the places and people still there. This is his account of these visits.

Sounds boring, doesn’t it?

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

In fact, if the stories that Michael Ondaatje tells in Running in the Family weren’t true, this would have been an amazingly beautiful book of fiction.


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Lost & Found

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Lost and Found, Tom Winter, book reviewAs I write this, Royal Mail is very much in the news. One of the key reasons being given for its proposed privatisation is that nobody writes letters anymore, and thus the number of items that the postman has to deliver has been gradually dwindling for years. This has got me thinking – when was the last time that I wrote a letter? Certainly I used to quite a lot. As a child I had a couple of pen pals, and when my best friend from school and I both moved away to start university, we went through a phase of writing proper letters to each other (before the inevitable slide into email correspondence as we got busier later on in our respective courses). So my last actual letter must have been written in the late 90s; since then, the post has been for cheques to pay bills (decreasingly so), for the movement of LoveFilm discs, for Christmas cards and to send the odd package.


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One Pink Line

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One Pink Line, Dina Silver, book reviewOne Pink Line by Dina Silver opens in the early 1990s, when Sydney is about to take her final exams at college and discovers she is pregnant. The novel then goes backwards to when she finished high school, the start of her long term relationship with Ethan, her years at college, and then moves into her pregnancy and beyond. In addition to Sydney’s story, the novel skips ahead to her daughter Grace, from the age of ten onwards.

One Pink Line is not an action packed novel. The shocks and upsets, the highs and lows of Sydney’s life are the action, and there is something very real about it all.


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Young Elizabeth

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Young Elizabeth by Kate Williams, book reviewYoung Elizabeth by Kate Williams is a part biography of Queen Elizabeth II, covering her childhood, the war years, marriage and the beginning of her reign. I’ve read a lot about the Queen, but am always open to a well written biography, so when the BBC History magazine reviewed and recommended this, I decided it would be worth my while.

Born Princess Elizabeth in 1926, she was the first daughter of the then Duke and Duchess of York, and her early years were spent in a cozy and happy family home. That changed when Edward VIII abdicated, and the Duke of York became King George VI.


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Ostrich

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Ostrich, Matt Greene, book reviewAlex is the only one in his primary school who is allowed to wear non-religious headgear. That’s because he’s been bald since he had his brain surgery. But that doesn’t matter much to Alex, even though it could make him feel – as he calls it – “ostrichsized (which is a better word for excluded (because ostriches can’t fly so they often feel left out.))” No, Alex is concentrating on getting a scholarship to a good middle school. He’s also trying to figure out what’s behind all the strange things that have been happening since he had his tumor removed. This is the novel Ostrich by Matt Greene.

This is a story that slides. What I mean by this is that what it seems to be at the beginning, turns into something else at the end.


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By My Side

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By My Side, Alice Peterson, book reviewI think that to have to draw up a list of my top ten favourite books would be a virtually impossible task. However, if pushed to do so, after having read Alice Peterson’s latest book, By My Side, it would definitely find a place on that list. I can’t remember the last time that I was so moved by a book and unashamedly sobbed all the way through. By My Side has almost certainly elevated Alice Peterson to the position of favourite Author.

By My Side tells the story of Cass Brooks and what happens when she is tragically hit by a car and wakes up with a spinal cord injury. Unable to walk, she thinks her life is over; she loses her boyfriend, her job and her life as she knows it.


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What Lies Within

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What Lies Within by Tom Vowler, book reviewWe all lie. I like your new haircut; your bum doesn’t look big in those trousers; the cheque is in the post. We also lie by omission, by not telling the whole truth or not mentioning something important at all to those who should know about it. Anna is particularly familiar with this second sort of lie.

In Tom Vowler’s debut novel What Lies Within, we meet Anna living in a remote cottage on Dartmoor with husband Robert and teenage children Paul and Megan. She appears to have a good life with a kind husband and a fulfilling job as a ceramic artist working out of a studio at home, and things are taking an exciting turn with her first exhibition at a local gallery just days away.


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Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

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Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore , Robin Sloan, book review“What do you seek in these shelves?”

When I first received a copy of Robin Sloan’s Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, I thought there had been a mistake. The title reminded me of the sort of book that I read when in primary school, albeit with an American slant to it. I sat down to read it with the return letter for the publisher already forming in my mind…and was soon hooked.

In the middle of recession-hit San Francisco, we meet Clay Jannon, a young and newly minted addition to the city’s unemployment figures. With only a few months’ work as a web designer on his CV and companies closing left, right and centre, he is struggling to find a new job and rapidly running out of money.


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The State We’re in

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The State We're in, Adele Parks, book reviewI have read many books from Adele Parks and have always enjoyed them so I was eagerly anticipating her latest offering, The State We’re In. It’s various tributes describe it as a ‘must read romantic, moving story’ and ‘utterly engrossing and beautifully written’. However, my own experience was that it was slow moving and very hard to get in to. There were moments that grabbed me but for much of the book I was bored and more than a little disappointed.

The State We’re In tells the story of Jo and Dean who are two very different types of people. She is a hopeless romantic who is always expecting to find love around the next corner and he is a cynic who has no belief in happy endings due to his troubled and unhappy past.


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No Such Thing as Immortality

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No Such Thing as Immortality, Sarah Tranter, book reviewNo Such Thing as Immortality is the debut novel by Sarah Tranter. Her publisher, Choc Lit, chose to actively promote it as their Twilight; given the inevitable comparisons between it and any vampire romance novel, perhaps it makes sense for them to embrace the similarities instead of trying to deny them.

No Such Thing is told from the point of view of the vampire. Nathanial Gray, Nate, is around two hundred years old, almost indestructible, with perfect senses and coordination. Until the night when he crashes his car into Rowan Locke’s car. Suddenly he finds himself experiencing emotion for the first time in two centuries, and can’t stop thinking about Rowan.


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