Monday, December 26, 2016

The Last Days of Leda Grey by Essie Fox

Leda Grey is novel about an actress who has lived in a crumbling cliff top house for more than half a century, until she confides her story to the journalist, Ed Peters ... who rapidly finds himself immersed inside her dark and eerie world.

She has also written three Victorian novels, the first of which - The Somnambulist - was shortlisted for the UK National Book Awards, featured on Channel 4's TV Book Club, and has been optioned for TV/film.

Elijah's Mermaid, features the hypocrisy in Victorian art and literature. It has brothels, asylums, and freak shows...not forgetting the mermaids!

The Goddess and the Thief is an 'oriental gothic', with Indian Maharajahs, Hindu gods and sacred diamonds ... including candlelit seances which are held in English drawing rooms.

Her website is:

She blogs as The Virtual Victorian, The Eclectic Edwardian, and The Fiction Fox.

You can find her on Twitter as @essiefox, and on Facebook as Essie Fox Books.
A bewitching novel about an enigmatic silent film actress, and the volatile love affair that left her a recluse for over half a century - for fans of Sarah Waters and Tracy Chevalier.
During the oppressive heat wave of 1976 a young journalist, Ed Peters, finds an Edwardian photograph in a junk shop in the Brighton Lanes. It shows an alluring, dark-haired girl, an actress whose name was Leda Grey.
Enchanted by the image, Ed learns Leda Grey is still living - now a recluse in a decaying cliff-top house she once shared with a man named Charles Beauvois, a director of early silent film. As Beauvois's muse and lover, Leda often starred in scenes where stage magic and trick photography were used to astonishing effect.
But, while playing a cursed Egyptian queen, the fantasies captured on celluloid were echoed in reality when Beauvois suspected a love affair between Leda and her leading man. A horrific accident left Leda abandoned and alone for more than half a century - until Ed Peters finds her and hears the secrets of her past, resulting in a climax more haunting than any to be found in the silent films of Charles Beauvois.
I was captivated by the description of this novel... I simply had to have it, had endure it, had sink deep into the world of the story. I am a devoted fanatic to the era, therefore my first fear was whether Fox will be able to approach it correctly, but just after a few paragraphs I was sure: this will not be a problem. Fox created a magical world from the silver screen a world of never ending summer, filled with ladybirds that swarmed everywhere.
This is a very atmospheric read. I enjoyed being immersed in this world of dissolving glamour; where you just sense that everything is slowly and surely, waning away. This is a novel of secrets, jealousy, love and obsession. A very good read and an interesting historical novel. It fitted right into my Christmas nostalgic mood.
I love her speech. I love Fox's use of language and her beautiful, lyrical prose.

Each chapter begins with a quote from Shakespeare and very cleverly create an ominous sense that something deeply unpleasant lurks in the shadows of the house and of Leda's past. The quotes were very effective in creating suspense and tension to the unraveling story.

Fox then switches to italics and we are privy to Leda's story. Her voice is strong and provides a good contrast to that of Ed's. Again, Leda's passages are exquisitely written. They are engaging and intriguing as well as full of metaphors, connotations and analogies.
It is a great book and it is impossible not to want to gallop to the end and reveal all of Leda's secrets. Just read it. You'll love it.5FOXGIVEN

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Everybody's Fool (Sully #2) by Richard Russo


RICHARD RUSSO is the author of seven previous novels; two collections of stories; and Elsewhere, a memoir. In 2002 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Empire Falls, which like Nobody’s Fool was adapted to film, in a multiple-award-winning HBO miniseries
Richard Russo, at the very top of his game, now returns to North Bath, in upstate New York, and the characters he created in Nobody’s Fool.

The irresistible Sully, who in the intervening years has come by some unexpected good fortune, is staring down a VA cardiologist’s estimate that he has only a year or two left, and it’s hard work trying to keep this news from the most important people in his life: Ruth, the married woman he carried on with for years . . . the ultra-hapless Rub Squeers, who worries that he and Sully aren’t still best friends . . . Sully’s son and grandson, for whom he was mostly an absentee figure (and now a regretful one). We also enjoy the company of Doug Raymer, the chief of police who’s obsessing primarily over the identity of the man his wife might’ve been about to run off with, before dying in a freak accident . . . Bath’s mayor, the former academic Gus Moynihan, whose wife problems are, if anything, even more pressing . . . and then there’s Carl Roebuck, whose lifelong run of failing upward might now come to ruin. And finally, there’s Charice Bond—a light at the end of the tunnel that is Chief Raymer’s office—as well as her brother, Jerome, who might well be the train barrelling into the station.

Everybody’s Fool is filled with humour, heart, hard times and people you can’t help but love, possibly because their various faults make them so stridently human. This is classic Russo—and a crowning achievement from one of the greatest storytellers of our time.
“We don’t forgive people because they deserve it,” she said. “We forgive them because we deserve it.”
This Christmas I needed a lot of wisdom, in fact, the deeper I am sinking into my late twenties the more reflective I have become. But it is the very demanding nature of reflection that takes its toll on me. Therefore, I really enjoyed reading Everybody's Fool. It is full of life, humour and advise that all of us need.
This sequel to Nobody's Fool returns us to the blue collar town of Bath in upstate New York. A change in his circumstances from the previous book has made Donald Sullivan relatively prosperous with no need to work the kind of back breaking jobs he’d done for most of his life, but at 70 he’s just received some very bad news about his health. Sully’s old nemesis, Douglas Raymer, is now the police chief, but no one respects him including Raymer himself. His wife died just as she was about to leave him for another man, and Raymer is obsessed with learning the identity of this guy by using the only clue he has, a remote control for a garage door opener.
Despite plenty of buffoonery and mishaps nursed for humour, Russo paints these characters with a warm heart, and most are lovable at some level. They evolve through a series of crises that appear to be a part of a larger jinx that affects the whole town. A lot of the shame in being a fool has to do with perception of the judgement of others. For the town, its downhill economy is made more painful by the contrast with neighbouring Schuyler, whose newspaper largely features stories of the misfortunes that befall Bath. (After a wall collapses in a rehab project, Gus asks: “How come shit like this never happens in Schuyler?”, and a policeman from there answers: “There’s an ordinance against it”). The overall dynamic of the tale has to do with how to live with the limitations, foibles, and secret passions at the individual and community level and not succumb to madness and total despair from their consequences.
Time will tell if this will become a classic. It sits pretty well for me as a less moralistic, blue collar alternative to Bellow’s “The Adventures of Augie March” and Updike’s “Rabbit Run.” It is a sequel to “Nobody’s Fool”, but I, like most people, have only dim memories of reading that novel 20-plus years ago (i.e. I feel it unnecessary to read that one first).
It already won my heart!5FOXGIVEN

Final Girls by Riley Sager

A native of Pennsylvania, Riley Sager is a writer, editor and graphic designer. Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

In addition to writing, Riley enjoys reading, movies and baking.

Riley's first novel, FINAL GIRLS, will be published in 2017 in the United States, the United Kingdom and more than a dozen territories around the world.
Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

“The Final Girls need you. . . . The Final Girls are tough, everything survivors should be. But the new threat is clever, ominous, even closer than you suspect. You are about to gasp. You might drop the book. You may have to look over your shoulder. But you must keep reading. This is the best book of 2017.” —Lisa Gardner, New York Times bestselling author of Find Her
I often flatter myself by being able to be two steps ahead of all plot stories... Always! So when I am caught by surprise by a twist of the novel I applaud very loudly the author - You're good! I was guessing madly as each snippet of information revealed by the author twisted the narrative in a new direction, or tantalisingly offered a seemingly innocent action or comment that was, in fact, a massively huge, big fat red herring. But, alas I could not find myself out of the novel before it ended. 
Although it is a debut novel, I already know that Sager has way more to bring to the table. I have become a fan! From the initial moments, this novel proves to be a suspenseful, engaging read. The plot was intricate and smart. Marvellous thriller. I dare not predict its future, but it will definitely be a stepping stone in 2017. A key read for all thriller lovers.
It is gripping, easy to read and beyond enjoyable! 4FOXGIVENBrilliant from start to finish. A fast paced easy to read book that I had to read in one go to find out what happened. Lisa, Qunicy and Samantha are all sole survivors of separate massacres and that is why they are called the final girls. When Lisa is found dead, Quincy starts to try to remember her own story. Quincy has no memory of what happened at pine cottage. The book is written from her perspective. The who plot is brilliantly put together with many twists and turns which make it a memorable book.

Fever at Dawn by Péter Gárdos, Elizabeth Szász

Péter Gárdos was born in Budapest in 1948. He is a multiple-award-winning film and theatre director.

As a director he has received more than twenty international awards at major film festivals, among them the Jury’s Special Award at the Montreal Film Festival and the Golden Hugo at the Chicago Film Festival.

Based on the true story of his parents, Fever at Dawn is his first novel.
Twenty-five-year-old Holocaust survivor Miklós is being shipped from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp to Gotland, Sweden, to receive treatment at the Larbro Hospital. Here he is sentenced to death again: he is diagnosed with tuberculosis and his doctors inform him that he has six months to live. But Miklós decides to wage war on his own fate: he writes 117 letters to 117 Hungarian girls, all of whom are being treated in the Swedish camps, with the aim of eventually choosing a wife from among them.

Two hundred kilometres away, in another Swedish rehabilitation camp, nineteen-year-old Lili receives Miklós’s letter. Since she is bedridden for three weeks due to a serious kidney problem, out of boredom — and curiosity — she decides to write back.

The slightly formal exchange of letters becomes increasingly intimate. When the two finally manage to meet, they fall in love and are determined to marry, despite the odds that are against them.

Based on the original letters written by Miklós and Lili (ninety-six altogether), Fever at Dawn is a tale of passion, striving, and betrayal; true and false friendships; doubt and faith; and the redeeming power of love.
Okay, okay... I have no I idea why and how this one popped into my TBR tower, but it did. And I regret nothing! Although it was mostly a very hard read, and a lot of tears were shed, I am pretty sure I had my reasons to chose it at the first place. Sometime books find you... Right!? 
Don't get me wrong... it is a fictionalized account about the love story of author Peter Gardos's parents, Miklos and Lili, who are both Holocaust survivors. Good story, moving story, an emotional one. Their real-life story deserves 5+++ stars, the book doesn't quite measure up. I am not sure whether it was the writing , or something else, but it was a hit-and-miss.
To conclude, the book is not long, and its form is episodic, told in an often-tongue-in-cheek manner, but it has stayed with me in the several weeks since my reading. I particularly recommend it to readers who enjoyed The Hare with Amber Eyes. This book had promise but overall it fell flat for me. While Fever at Dawn lacks emotion and tension it is a quiet memoir and a nice way for the author to preserve and honour a part of his parents' history.3FOXGIVEN

Holding by Graham Norton

Graham William Walker is an Irish actor, comedian, television presenter and columnist, known by his stage name Graham Norton. He is the host of the comedy chat show The Graham Norton Show and the BBC commentator of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Graham Norton's masterful debut is an intelligently crafted story of love, secrets and loss.

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn't always been this overweight; mother of­ two Brid Riordan hasn't always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn't always felt that her life was a total waste.

So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke - a former­ love of both Brid and Evelyn - the village's dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community's worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.

Darkly comic, touching and at times profoundly sad. Graham Norton employs his acerbic wit to breathe life into a host of loveable characters, and explore - with searing honesty - the complexities and contradictions that make us human.
First things first, this definitely was  what I call a soft read. Witty, enjoyable, but a bit too nice for the crime/thriller genre. I love Graham Norton's style. He does a very well by  building his story by developing the police investigation along the lines of a romantic comedy. A very common choice, I admit, but still a successful recipe for hitting the mark.
There is pain, loss, and sorrow expressed powerfully in the novel. We encounter the harsh judgementalism that epitomises attitudes of the past in society that have resulted in emotionally broken souls. The character development of PJ Collins was excellent. The more I read of the book the more involved I got in the story. An excellent book of which the author can be proud.
Mr Norton I find you delightful not only on screen, but also in writing: You have weaved a lovely tale that I devoured in one sitting. Whether it is the best read of my life, I am not sure, but it is certainly closer than most. In my opinion the novel is less about whodunit but more about the characters and the emotions that run through the novel. It is a very rich read, very good read. I loved it.4FOXGIVEN

Friday, December 23, 2016

Real Tigers (Slough House #3) by Mick Herron

Mick Herron was born in Newcastle and has a degree in English from Balliol College, Oxford. He is the author of three books in the Slough House series as well as a mystery series set in Oxford featuring Sarah Tucker and/or P.I. Zoë Boehm. He now lives in Oxford and works in London.
London’s Slough House is where disgraced MI5 operatives are reassigned to spend the rest of their spy careers pushing paper. But when one of these “slow horses” is kidnapped by a former soldier bent on revenge, the agents must breach the defenses of Regent’s Park to steal valuable intel in exchange for their comrade’s safety. The kidnapping is only the tip of the iceberg, however, as the agents uncover a larger web of intrigue that involves not only a group of private mercenaries but also the highest authorities in the Security Service. After years spent as the lowest on the totem pole, the slow horses suddenly find themselves caught in the midst of a conspiracy that threatens not only the future of Slough House, but of MI5 itself.
I was really looking forward to encountering the failed 'slow horses' spooks of Slough House. I  love this smart and compelling series so much. I am beyond in love with the whole bunch: Marcus is a gambling addict, Shirley has her cocaine habit, River likes going into action, and Roddy Ho, whilst an internet marvel, lacks social skills, has bizarre fantasies and is a loser in the romance stakes. The iconic head of Slough House is the repulsive, grotesque and brilliant Jackson Lamb who despite his abrasive exterior is going to support and protect his spies.Who can resist the slow horses, the failed MI-5 agents, these anti-Bonds?
If you’re tired of professional spies wearing slick clothes and drinking sophisticated cocktails, give the Slough House bunch a try. I think you’ll be totally entertained. I definitely was!
Real Tigers brings you layered plotting, topicality, lyrical descriptive prose, efficient action sequences, and above all fantastic characterisation... all with a Shot of with black humour. Marvellous read! This action-filled Machiavellian spy versus spy novel won my heart from the first few pages.
Anyway, to sum up: intelligent, spiky entertainment.4FOXGIVEN

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari


Professor Harari was born in Haifa, Israel, to Lebanese parents in 1976. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Oxford in 2002, and is now a lecturer at the Department of History, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

He specialized in World History, medieval history and military history. His current research focuses on macro-historical questions: What is the relation between history and biology? What is the essential difference between Homo sapiens and other animals? Is there justice in history? Does history have a direction? Did people become happier as history unfolded?

Prof. Harari also teaches a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) titled A Brief History of Humankind.

Prof. Harari twice won the Polonsky Prize for Creativity and Originality, in 2009 and 2012. In 2011 he won the Society for Military History’s Moncado Award for outstanding articles in military history.
Yuval Noah Harari, author of the critically-acclaimed New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon Sapiens, returns with an equally original, compelling, and provocative book, turning his focus toward humanity’s future, and our quest to upgrade humans into gods.
Over the past century humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style—thorough, yet riveting—famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda.
What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century—from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus.
With the same insight and clarity that made Sapiens an international hit and a New York Times bestseller, Harari maps out our future.
Homo Deus was an easy choice. I am a modern human being and am extremely worried when it comes to the Earth that we are likely to leave to our children, therefore this read was a curious and extremely accurate prediction as to  what is to come next. 
In very few words I can sum up my overall opinion of this book and it is:
Shocking. Entertaining. Incredibly thoughtful. Freaking fantastic!
I absolutely loved every single bit of it. It is intelligent, insightful and pleasing to the last bit.It poses some excellent questions that make you question your existence. Why do we think of ourselves as superior to all other life forms. Why do we have such strong faith in imaginary things such as money, gods, human rights, companies...And what will become of us if dataism succeeds. All in all, it's clear that we can't keep living like this. It is quite the philosophical jewel and causes a lot of reflection. This is why my review came so late after I finished the book. I had to sit back and reflect on the 2o+ pages of comments I had laying around.
It is for those of us enthusiasts who follow technological and scientific trends in the 21st century, and ponder on the practical and philosophical implications of such rapid intellectual growth. It looks at history, science and the views of social philosophers. Its arguments provide sufficient background to enable the reader to consider what has been, what is now, and what may happen next.
From that, seemingly benign start, of wanting to expand our powers of control over our lives and our environment; we might be drawn into a post-humanism "religion" whereby we ourselves as humans are not the centre of the universe and where, in an ironic gesture of fate, we become a component or a spare part of the post-humanism machine. People created the liberal humanist tradition and announced the death of God in the nineteenth century and it might be now the time to announce the new religion and announce humanity to have done its role.

Whether you are inclined to believe him or not, to think that he is a modern day prophet or an incurable pessimist, reading this book is bound to make you ask questions and that is a good thing. At least as long as we can ask our own questions and search inside us for their answers.

Friday, December 2, 2016

A Country Road, A Tree by Jo Baker


Jo Baker is the author of six novels, most recently Longbourn and A Country Road, A Tree. She has also written for BBC Radio 4, and her short stories have been included in a number of anthologies. She lives in Lancaster, England, with her husband, the playwright and screenwriter Daragh Carville, and their two children.
From the best-selling author of  Longbourn,  a stunning new novel that follows an unnamed writer--Samuel Beckett--whose life and extraordinary literary gift are permanently shaped in the forge of war.

When war breaks out in Europe in 1939, a young, unknown writer journeys from his home in neutral Ireland to conflict-ridden Paris and is drawn into the maelstrom. With him we experience the hardships yet stubborn vibrancy at the heart of Europe during the Nazis' rise to power; his friendships with James Joyce and other luminaries; his quietly passionate devotion to the Frenchwoman who will become his lifelong companion; his secret work for the French Resistance and narrow escapes from the Gestapo; his flight from occupied Paris to the countryside; and the rubble of his life after liberation. And through it all we are witness to workings of a uniquely brilliant mind struggling to create a language that will express his experience of this shattered world. Here is a remarkable story of survival and determination, and a portrait of the extremes of human experience alchemized into timeless art.
Having enjoyed Jo Baker’s previous work, I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review her latest novel – “A Country Road, A Tree.” In fact, I barely managed to stay away from it until I finish the rest on the TBR pile. 
This novel tells the story of the Irish writer, Samuel Beckett, trapped in France during World War II. As the novel opens in 1939, James Joyce is still alive and living in Paris. Joyce obstinately refuses to acknowledge the war and acts as blind to it as he is in real life. Beckett worked for Joyce for a time as secretary and translator. Imagine trying to translate Ulysses or Finegan's Wake.
My inner English Literature Major was in Heaven: A gorgeous book, splendid prose, and one I didn't want to put down. An interest in Beckett is in no ways essential, but reading this novel helped me appreciate his writing even more. Baker believes that Beckett's war time experiences transformed his writing into the sparse style we associate with Beckett. The scenes in the book when Beckett is waiting to make contact with other Resistance fighters are very redolent of scenes in Waiting for Godot. I am in awe!!!!
The writing is spectacularly engrossing, thought provoking, and there's a naked quality to it. No doubt that everyone who opens it will fall in love with it straight away!
This a different breed of book... You see it doesn't say a lot, but it conveys sooo much that I felt as if I was slapped by a complete stranger. Jo Baker writes beautiful euridite prose so it goes without saying this book is no exception.5FOXGIVEN

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling


Although she writes under the pen name J.K. Rowling, pronounced like rolling, her name when her first Harry Potter book was published was simply Joanne Rowling. Anticipating that the target audience of young boys might not want to read a book written by a woman, her publishers demanded that she use two initials, rather than her full name. As she had no middle name, she chose K as the second initial of her pen name, from her paternal grandmother Kathleen Ada Bulgen Rowling. She calls herself Jo and has said, "No one ever called me 'Joanne' when I was young, unless they were angry." Following her marriage, she has sometimes used the name Joanne Murraywhen conducting personal business. During the Leveson Inquiry she gave evidence under the name of Joanne Kathleen Rowling. In a 2012 interview, Rowling noted that she no longer cared that people pronounced her name incorrectly.
Rowling was born to Peter James Rowling, a Rolls-Royce aircraft engineer, and Anne Rowling (née Volant), on 31 July 1965 in Yate, Gloucestershire, England, 10 miles (16 km) northeast of Bristol. Her mother Anne was half-French and half-Scottish. Her parents first met on a train departing from King's Cross Station bound for Arbroath in 1964. They married on 14 March 1965. Her mother's maternal grandfather, Dugald Campbell, was born in Lamlash on the Isle of Arran. Her mother's paternal grandfather, Louis Volant, was awarded the Croix de Guerre for exceptional bravery in defending the village of Courcelles-le-Comte during the First World War.
Rowling's sister Dianne was born at their home when Rowling was 23 months old. The family moved to the nearby village Winterbourne when Rowling was four. She attended St Michael's Primary School, a school founded by abolitionist William Wilberforce and education reformer Hannah More. Her headmaster at St Michael's, Alfred Dunn, has been suggested as the inspiration for the Harry Potter headmaster Albus Dumbledore.
As a child, Rowling often wrote fantasy stories, which she would usually then read to her sister. She recalls that: "I can still remember me telling her a story in which she fell down a rabbit hole and was fed strawberries by the rabbit family inside it. Certainly the first story I ever wrote down (when I was five or six) was about a rabbit called Rabbit. He got the measles and was visited by his friends, including a giant bee called Miss Bee." At the age of nine, Rowling moved to Church Cottage in the Gloucestershire village of Tutshill, close to Chepstow, Wales. When she was a young teenager, her great aunt, who Rowling said "taught classics and approved of a thirst for knowledge, even of a questionable kind," gave her a very old copy of Jessica Mitford's autobiography, Hons and Rebels. Mitford became Rowling's heroine, and Rowling subsequently read all of her books.
Rowling has said of her teenage years, in an interview with The New Yorker, "I wasn’t particularly happy. I think it’s a dreadful time of life." She had a difficult homelife; her mother was ill and she had a difficult relationship with her father (she is no longer on speaking terms with him). She attended secondary school at Wyedean School and College, where her mother had worked as a technician in the science department. Rowling said of her adolescence, "Hermione [a bookish, know-it-all Harry Potter character] is loosely based on me. She's a caricature of me when I was eleven, which I'm not particularly proud of." Steve Eddy, who taught Rowling English when she first arrived, remembers her as "not exceptional" but "one of a group of girls who were bright, and quite good at English." Sean Harris, her best friend in the Upper Sixth owned a turquoise Ford Anglia, which she says inspired the one in her books.
When Magizoologist Newt Scamander arrives in New York, he intends his stay to be just a brief stopover. However, when his magical case is misplaced and some of Newt's fantastic beasts escape, it spells trouble for everyone…
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them marks the screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling, author of the beloved and internationally bestselling Harry Potter books. Featuring a cast of remarkable characters, this is epic, adventure-packed storytelling at its very best.
Whether an existing fan or new to the wizarding world, this is a perfect addition to any reader's bookshelf.
I adore this script book so much. Unlike the Cursed Child, this screenplay has more details like the Harry Potter book(not really), which each of the scenes has their narration by the writer(the amazing J.K. Rowling) to help us use our imagination to play the scenes inside our head. Isn't that Amazing?
I probably will reread this book the book a million times before I even think of watching the film. It's superb guys!
Absolutely fantastic! I recommend reading it while listening to the full playlist of the movie. It felt as though I was reliving the movie, which, of course, I looooved so much. Tears were shed, imaginations were sparked, and too much feels filled me. If you, like me, feel that watching Harry Potter movies million times is not enough to satisfy your Potterhead soul, I recommend reading this script book (over and over again, if needed!)
It started a bit slow, a bit of a mess really, but it gained speed and made me fall in love with it. I am convinced that they could have done  way better with the inside design, because the cover is amazing, but anyway it is a definite read for all Potter fans.I can't wait for the story to continue.
I am still trying to convince boyfriend we should adopt a Niffler, but alas he does not believe they exist... Tell that to the magpies that still my earrings and pebbles5FOXGIVEN....

Lament for the Fallen by Gavin Chait


The author of Lament for the Fallen, a science fiction novel set in Nigeria. Gavin has spent more than a decade researching and presenting ideas in data-driven economic development, and in creating and leading technical projects ranging from economic development to open data. His work and travels have taken him across Africa, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. He is fascinated by the frontiers of human progress: innovation vs ignorance; wealth vs poverty.
Born in Cape Town in 1974, Gavin Chait emigrated to the UK eight years ago. He has degrees in Microbiology & Biochemistry, and Electrical Engineering. He is an economic development strategist and data scientist, and has travelled extensively in Africa, Latin America, Europe and Asia and is now based in Oxford. Lament for the Fallen - his first novel - has its origins in a story he attempted to write when he was a science fiction-obsessed twelve year old.
'Father, tell me a story?' asks Isaiah, moments before a strange craft falls from the sky and smashes into the jungle near his isolated West African community. Inside the ruined vessel the villagers find the shattered body of a man. His name is Samara and he is a man unlike any the villagers have seen before - a man who is perhaps something more than human.
With his city home of Achenia hiding in the rubble left by a devastating war, Samara has fallen 35,000 km to earth in order to escape the automated hell of an orbiting prison called Tartarus. As he struggles to heal himself, he helps transform the lives of those who rescued him but in so doing attracts the attention of the brutal warlord who rules over this benighted, ravaged post-21st century land. He is not a man to be crossed, and now he threatens the very existence of the villagers themselves and the one, slim chance Samara has of finding his way home and to the woman - and the world - he loves.
And all the while - in the darkness above - waits the simmering fury that lies at the heart of Tartarus . . .
I got fascinated and attracted to Africa a while ago when a flatmate of mine showed me how kind and similar people from that part of the world are to my people. I was drawn to this book by the synopsis which promised a new take on a “first contact” story and the beautiful cover art. It started strong, the first 50 pages were spectacular. Besides I was hungry to read about how people imagine life to change.
The good stuff: the cultural importance of stories, especially in an isolated community like Ewuru. That is how information is shared and passed down, generation after generation. But it's the future! Isn't their any internet? Is all data not just a few clicks away? Well, yes. But in the case of this village, they are completely cut off, on purpose. The world is pretty much fucked, so they want nothing to do with it. Can't say I blame them. If I had to choose I would probably make the exact same choices, lately I feel fed up with people, social media and the over all dumbing down that takes place around me.
The book does a great job of painting the intriguing future envisioned by the author, and the story is certainly interesting. You can tell, particularly in the segments of the story dealing with the symbiotic relationship between certain humans and AI, that the author has a strong, hard-science background. Unfortunately, I was left with the conviction that the author is overly fond of certain tired plot devices and never saw a tangent he was afraid to explore, although most of this is a brief diversion. Also, since this is African Sci-Fi, there is lots of storytelling here used as parables, with not everything seeming necessary, but definitely creating an appropriate mood. 
Me overall opinion is that it is a good read, and interesting point of view on the matter, but I would dare to say it was like a bird with a hurt wing: it could have blown me away if only it was left to fly and reach its full potential. It is an outstanding piece of literature, and managed to keep me engaged up until the very end. Exquisite book.4FOXGIVEN

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

All That Man Is by David Szalay


David Szalay (born 1974 in Montreal, Quebec) is an English writer.

He was born in Canada, moved to the UK the following year and has lived there ever since. He studied at Oxford University and has written a number of radio dramas for the BBC.

He won the Betty Trask Award for his first novel, London and the South-East, along with the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. Since then he has written two other novels: Innocent (2009) and Spring (2011).

He has also recently been named one of The Telegraph's Top 20 British Writers Under 40 and has also made it onto Granta magazine's 2013 list of the Best of Young British Novelists.

A fourth novel All That Man Is was longlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2016.
A magnificent and ambitiously conceived portrait of contemporary life, by a genius of realism.

Nine men. Each of them at a different stage in life, each of them away from home, and each of them striving--in the suburbs of Prague, in an overdeveloped Alpine village, beside a Belgian motorway, in a dingy Cyprus hotel--to understand what it means to be alive, here and now. Tracing a dramatic arc from the spring of youth to the winter of old age, the ostensibly separate narratives of All That Man Is aggregate into a picture of a single shared existence, a picture that interrogates the state of modern manhood while bringing to life, unforgettably, the physical and emotional terrain of an increasingly globalized Europe. And so these nine lives form an ingenious and new kind of novel, in which David Szalay expertly plots a dark predicament for the twenty-first-century man.

Dark and disturbing, but also often wickedly and uproariously comic, All That Man Is is notable for the acute psychological penetration Szalay brings to bear on his characters, from the working-class ex-grunt to the pompous college student, the middle-aged loser to the Russian oligarch. Steadily and mercilessly, as this brilliantly conceived book progresses, the protagonist at the center of each chapter is older than the last one, it gets colder out, and All That Man Is gathers exquisite power. Szalay is a writer of supreme gifts--a master of a new kind of realism that vibrates with detail, intelligence, relevance, and devastating pathos.
Now this is what I call a good read, a strong read and read with character. It is basically a collection of short stories targeted at men readers, but I found it not only amusing but also enlightening and I feel that more women should pay attention here. On that note, don't hurry tp judge the book on the first half, because then you'd be left with the opinion of men being an annoying, despicable breed not to be around. Being a certain amount of a tom-boy all my life, I have always taken the man's side in enlargements and such, for me it was an important eye-opening read. I am not saying I was completely sold to it, but it definitely got my attention.
The book consists of nine stories which present a glimpse in the everyday life of 9 men, of different ages, starting from 17 to 70, coming from different social backgrounds. The characters live in various European cities and each story involves travelling to different places. The author is trying to create a portrait of the universal European Man, to convey the message that, in the end, man is all the same. There are some common themes that link the stories, among them is the way the characters regard time. At the beginning, when they are young the characters regard time with indifference, obsessing about sex, money, fame, career. Later in life they start to regret the missed opportunities, the mistakes they made with their choices, they stress there is no more time to change. In the end, there is the fear of death.
I had a very deep conversation on the matter with my dad, and he confirmed that mostly if the average man had to be described and a certain stereotype created then these would be the generic man this book speaks of... Sadly, I find it a bit too dehumanising, the men in the stories left me disinterested, even bored at times... I have never been so disappointed in a man my whole life, but then again, maybe I have the luck to always be surrounded by special humans.
While I am still on the list of dislikes about the book:
Although, I give credit to the author for the talent, technique and pure language play, there was a serious inconsistency of quality in the stories. I felt that the quality of the stories progressed, the first stories were quite boring and the last two were the best. I wonder if this was the intention of the author. As one grows he becomes sager and life has more meaning, etc. Finally, I did not like how the women were represented. The women in these stories have no personality, they are mainly an accessory for men. Is this what men are looking for? I understand this is a novel about self-absorbed men but it still felt uncomfortable.
Overall, I didn’t find this to be the philosophical and elegiac experience I might have expected. The prose is great, though; I’d certainly read a more straightforward novel by Szalay. This one, though, was a mediocre one for me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Under A Pole Star by Stef Penney


Stef Penney grew up in the Scottish capital and turned to film-making after a degree in Philosophy and Theology from Bristol University. She made three short films before studying Film and TV at Bournemouth College of Art, and on graduation was selected for the Carlton Television New Writers Scheme. She has also written and directed two short films; a BBC 10 x 10 starring Anna Friel and a Film Council Digital Short in 2002 starring Lucy Russell.

She won the 2006 Costa Book Awards with her debut novel The Tenderness of Wolves which is set in Canada in the 1860s. . As Stef Penney suffered from agoraphobia at the time of writing this novel, she did all the research in the libraries of London and never visited Canada.
Flora Mackie was twelve when she first crossed the Arctic Circle on her father's whaling ship. Now she is returning to the frozen seas as the head of her own exploration expedition. Jakob de Beyn was raised in Manhattan, but his yearning for new horizons leads him to the Arctic as part of a rival expedition. When he and Flora meet, all thoughts of science and exploration give way before a sudden, all-consuming love.

The affair survives the growing tensions between the two groups, but then, after one more glorious summer on the Greenland coast, Jakob joins his leader on an extended trip into the interior, with devastating results.

The stark beauty of the Arctic ocean, where pack ice can crush a ship like an eggshell, and the empty sweep of the tundra, alternately a snow-muffled wasteland and an unexpectedly gentle meadow, are vividly evoked. Against this backdrop Penney weaves an irresistible love story, a compelling look at the dark side of the golden age of exploration, and a mystery that Flora, returning one last time to the North Pole as an old woman, will finally lay to rest.
On choosing to read this novel you should prepare yourself for a very long read.The book is over 600 pages, definitely not an easy read, and definitely full of many different themes that would appeal to some, but put others away. I paid a lot of attention when reading it, that is why it took me so long to review it. Still, I am not entirely sure whether my annotation would be adequate enough to show the true grandness of this novel.
The writing is of a very high standard. If I have any issues with this book it would be about the pace. The descriptive writing is great however, at times, it seemed to slow the book down for me. The inside story of those early expeditions is fascinating as the tale is gradually told. I would imagine this book would be a "must" for many Steff Penney fans.
Personally, I was a bit taken aback with the huge amount of information that the book bombards you with. But, I am almost entirely sure that was my fault, not the novel's. I was a bit overworked and definitely not focused enough to fully appreciate the story. The characters are all lovely, strong, determined, life-like, not without a fault, of course, but it is extremely easy to love them and follow their journey.
This is a book to read by a fire, imagining the beauty of snow and ice while immersing yourself in this epic story of adventure and love. It was an enjoyable read, but I felt stretched out of my comfort zone.3FOXGIVEN

Thin Air by Michelle Paver

Born in Malawi to a Belgian mother and a father who ran the tiny 'Nyasaland Times', Michelle moved to the UK when she was three. She was brought up in Wimbledon and, following a Biochemistry Degree from Oxford University, she became a partner in a big City law firm. She gave up the City to follow her long-held dream of becoming a writer.

Successfully published as an adult author, the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness ("Wolf Brother") were her first books for younger readers, followed by her brilliant 5-part series set in the bronze age, Gods and Warriors.

On the adult side, her first ghost story, DARK MATTER, was a UK bestseller and won massive praise from reviewers and readers.

After gaining a degree in Biochemistry from Oxford University, she became a partner in a City law firm, but eventually gave that up to write full-time.

The hugely successful Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series arose from Michelle's lifelong passion for animals, anthropology and the distant past - as as well as an encounter with a large bear in a remote valley in southern California. To research the books, Michelle has traveled to Finland, Greenland, Sweden, Norway, Arctic Canada and the Carpathian Mountains. She has slept on reindeer skins, swum with wild orca (killer whales), and got nose-to-nose with polar bears - and, of course, wolves.
In 1935, young medic Stephen Pearce travels to India to join an expedition with his brother, Kits. The elite team of five will climb Kangchenjunga, the world's third highest mountain and one of mountaineering's biggest killers. No one has scaled it before, and they are, quite literally, following in the footsteps of one of the most famous mountain disasters of all time - the 1907 Lyell Expedition.

Five men lost their lives back then, overcome by the atrocious weather, misfortune and 'mountain sickness' at such high altitudes. Lyell became a classic British hero when he published his memoir, Bloody, But Unbowed, which regaled his heroism in the face of extreme odds. It is this book that will guide this new group to get to the very top.

As the team prepare for the epic climb, Pearce's unease about the expedition deepens. The only other survivor of the 1907 expedition, Charles Tennant, warns him off. He hints of dark things ahead and tells Pearce that, while five men lost their lives on the mountain, only four were laid to rest.

But Pearce is determined to go ahead and complete something that he has dreamed of his entire life. As they get higher and higher, and the oxygen levels drop, he starts to see dark things out of the corners of his eyes. As macabre mementoes of the earlier climbers turn up on the trail, Stephen starts to suspect that Charles Lyell's account of the tragedy was perhaps not the full story...
I admit I read this superb ghost story in one sitting - it's short enough to do so comfortably. The tension ratchets up notch by notch until it's almost unbearable by the novel's climax.
This story has everything. It's 1935 and a mismatched band of mountain climbers are planning to climb the third highest peak in the Himalaya, Kangchenjunga via the treacherous route that has previously claimed many lives. No-one has yet reached the summit of this mountain, called 'Big Stone' by the superstitious Sherpas. Our narrator is Stephen, a doctor and alpinist who is a late replacement, joining his bold brother Kits and the rest of the team including Cedric the dog. It's clear from the start that there will be sibling rivalry between them, particularly on Kits' part. Add in the mountain's legends and climb history and we're set for a tense adventure even before they make base camp and experience the effects of oxygen deprivation. Could everything that happens afterwards be the effects of altitude sickness and the thin air? Or are there really ghosts?
From the jungle trek from Darjeeling to Camp Four at 22000 feet, Paver shows great story-telling skill as we travel with our narrator Stephen as the tension never lets up for one minute. Masterful and breath-taking!
Thin Air is so full of atmosphere, so absorbing, that it develops its own character very quickly.I do love a good ghost story. And this? This was a VERY good one. Horror can be a pretty tricky genre to balance, especially when involving the paranormal. As a reader, I can't stand too much of a build-up with very little climax, but I also don't want supernatural shenanigans flung in my face left, right and centre. Atmosphere and happenings need to be well-timed and intertwined successfully in order to really give me the creeps, and Paver really pulled it off. 
I am really sorry I will never be able to read it for the first time again. It was a precious experience. I definitely recommend it to everyone who gets their hands on it! This is not gore-fest horror – it's all done with things half-glimpsed and subject to interpretation. As we learn more about the history of the previous expedition, the story turns dark and cold indeed, and Paver feeds us the information bit by bit, creating a rising feeling of dread that tingles the spine nicely. By this stage the expedition has reached about 22,000 feet and each of the men is feeling the effects of altitude, so that even the narrator is not sure if what he is experiencing might be a result of hallucination. Paver is excellent at using the extreme weather and physical danger to add to the psychological terror and paranoia that has taken hold of Stephen's mind.4FOXGIVEN

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

Alastair Reynolds, former scientist and now full-time writer. Most of what he writes is science fiction, with a strong concern for scientific verisimilitude (although he is prepared to break the rules for the sake of a good story). He has lived in England, Scotland and the Netherlands where he worked as an astrophysicist for the European Space Agency until 2004, but now makes his home back in his native Wales.
A superb science fiction adventure set in the rubble of a ruined universe, this is a deep space heist story of kidnap, betrayal, alien artefacts and revenge.

The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilisations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives.

And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them.

Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It's their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded by layers of protection--and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.

Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore's crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune: the fabled and feared Bosa Sennen in particular.

Revenger is a science fiction adventure story set in the rubble of our solar system in the dark, distant future--a tale of space pirates, buried treasure, and phantom weapons, of unspeakable hazards and single-minded heroism and of vengeance...
Boy, what a thrill that one was! I have never been much of a sci-fi enthusiast, that's my boyfriend more likely, I am more or a fantasy gal, but that did not rob me of the joy of reading this novel. 
This is my first Alastair Reynolds but apparently fast-paced adventure is his speciality! It is a hell of ride this one, no doubt about it. Mr Reynolds you are a very skilled writer, master of the pen: I was completely lost in the story from the first page and I was always on the look for more stories to pop form around the corner. A magician!
The setting of Revenger is fascinating, and rather than telling us all about it up front, Reynolds does a good job of revealing small details that can ultimately be assembled into a compelling jigsaw. Over the course of the novel he also teases the reader with some tantalising clues as to where the story of future books might be headed.
Comparisons to Mieville's Railsea, and the Shipbreaker series by Paolo Bacigalupi are totally inevitable and fair. Like them, Revenger is an adventure story packed into a science fiction world. I loved every page as this really is my genre of choice.
Revenger is an action-packed, swashbucking adventure with dashes, perhaps, of steam or even cyber-punk which at the same time, tells a solid space opera story - literally: everything that happens, happens in space: even the 'worlds' are not planets but engineered habitations no more than a few leagues in length or breadth. These worlds, numbering in the millions (there are whole books that catalogue them) surround the Old Sun, forming the 'Constellation'. If there were planets they have been reworked, mined away, over millions of years, during which time umpteen civilisations have flourished and decayed. It's a bold and exciting setting, giving a convincing depth of history (there are allusions to wars, alien incursions, the return of generation ships from the deep) and also scope for the sort of ship-borne antics you might otherwise get in Stevenson or Ballantyne - but IN SPACE!5FOXGIVEN

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Fight That Started the Movies: The World Heavyweight Championship, the Birth of Cinema and the First Feature Film by Samuel Hawley

Samuel Hawley has BA and MA degrees in history from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and worked in East Asia as a teacher for two decades before becoming a full-time writer. His nonfiction books include The Imjin War, about Japan's 16th-century invasion of Korea and attempted conquest of China, first published in 2005 and reissued in 2014 (Chinese translation forthcoming); Speed Duel: The Inside Story of the Land Speed Record in the Sixties, now being developed by Company Pictures into a TV miniseries; and I Just Ran: Percy Williams, World's Fastest Human, named one of the five "Best Sports Books of 2011" by the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Hawley has also written fiction, starting with the novel Bad Elephant Far Stream and continuing with the thriller Homeowner With a Gun, now in development as a feature film. In his latest book, The Fight That Started the Movies. Hawley returns to nonfiction to tell the epic story of how the world's first feature film came to be made.
On March 17, 1897, in an open-air arena in Carson City, Jim Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons fought for the heavyweight championship of the world. The contest was recorded by film pioneer Enoch Rector from inside an immense, human-powered camera called the “Veriscope,” the forgotten Neanderthal at the dawn of cinema history. Rector’s movie of the contest premiered two months later. Known today as "The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight," it was the world’s first feature-length film.

The Fight That Started the Movies is the untold story of Corbett’s and Fitzsimmons’ journey to that ring in Nevada and how the landmark film of their battle came to be made. It reveals how boxing played a key role in the birth of the movies, spurring the development of motion picture technology and pushing the concept of “film” from a twenty-second peephole show to a full-length attraction, “a complete evening’s entertainment,” projected on a screen.

The cast of characters in the tale is rich and varied. There are inventors Eadweard Muybridge, Thomas Edison, William Dickson and Eugene Lauste, figuring out how to photographically capture and reproduce motion. There are the playboy brothers Otway and Gray Latham, who first saw the commercial potential of fight films, and their friend and partner Enoch Rector, who pushed that potential to fruition. There are fighters Jim Corbett with his “scientific” methods of boxing; Bob Fitzsimmons with his thin legs and turnip-on-a-chain punch; hard-drinking John L. Sullivan and the original Jack Dempsey and the gifted but ultimately doomed Young Griffo. There are loud-mouthed fight managers and big-talking promoters, and Wild West legends like Bat Masterson and Judge Roy Bean when the story heads to the Rio Grande river. And finally, there is the audience, our collective ancestors, discovering that movies were more than just a curiosity to gape at, but a new and enduring form of entertainment to rival the theatre.
As much as I am known for my literary fanaticism among very few of my friends I am also favoured for my movie knowledge extraordinaire. Just kidding, I know bits and pieces of the movie history, but not even close to the understanding I wish I had. Now, having read this wonderful, full of facts book, I can safely say it is an ideal match for students of Movie History, as well as for movie lovers from the common public.
This is what I'd love to call the ideal read - well written, easy to read, interesting and informative. It doesn't go hard on you with numerous facts, but rather makes you hunger for more with every page. It is an absolutely captivating read!
Even if you are not a history geek, or even a cinema lover you'll definitely be grabbed by this wonderful, well-researched, and splendidly written read. It throws light on little known( at least to me) historical tidbits and boxers and early movie people. Absolutely, wonderful!5FOXGIVEN