Monday, August 29, 2016

Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas

Claire Douglas always wanted to write novels and, after many years of trying to get published, her dream came true when she won the Marie Claire Debut Novel Award in 2013 with THE SISTERS.

Her second novel, LOCAL GIRL MISSING (Penguin), is a Sunday Times bestseller.
The old Victorian pier was once a thing of beauty. It's also where twenty-one-year-old Sophie Collier vanished eighteen years ago.

Francesca has spent the last twenty years haunted by the disappearance of her best friend. But when she receives a phone call from Sophie's brother saying that a body has been found, she knows she can't keep hiding from what happened. With her own secrets to keep, Francesca doesn't relish the idea of digging up the past or returning to Oldcliffe. But it is time to go back to where she grew up, and it looks like she isn't the only one there hiding truths.
I admit The Sisters went under my radar but from what I read about it it promises to be one of my favourite books of last year. After all the appraisal it got I admit I couldn't wait to see what Claire Douglas would follow it with and if it would be just as good.I needn't have worried Local Girl Missing is absolutely brilliant,very gripping,worth far more than five stars and I am very disappointed that I have finished reading it.
The story is told in alternating chapters between present day Frankie and the past where Sophie is telling what happened in the months leading up to her disappearance.I liked and felt a lot of sympathy for Sophie and her brother Daniel .There is a mixed bag of other characters that Frankie and Sophie interacted with throughout the book,one who is so nasty and sleazy I hated every moment he appeared in the story. All the people in Oldcliffe have their secrets and you never know who is telling the truth and who Frankie and Daniel can trust.
There is a lot to keep you hooked throughout the whole book, I dreaded the fact that I had to share my attention between Local Girl Missing and the other titles I was reading simultaneously. It absolutely deserves your full attention, the thing is I multitask, or rather multiread a lot, and I failed to give it the proper time of the day. Nevertheless, it is one of the best reads this year!
I've always wanted to live in a seaside town and the way Douglas described it in the book only made me want to change my residence even more! Come on: a small seaside holiday town, out of season and full of interesting characters with secrets to keep, really turns this into a first rate dark and atmospheric psychological suspense. 
And for the first time in a very long time I was surprised by the book. Not only was I immediately suspicious of one character, but then as the story progressed I realised that there were indeed MANY potential suspects. All characters seem shifty and to be hiding something. By the end I was totally and completely taken by surprise by the turn of events. I was NEVER expecting that finale...ever and I think it's very clever and original! I highly recommend it!!!!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Nobody's Angel (Hard Case Crime, #65) by Jack Clark

Before there was cabdriver-writer Dmitry Samarov, there was cabdriver-writer Jack Clark.
Clark started writing for the Reader in 1975 and "served a brief stint on the staff, during which he developed an aversion to deadlines,"Deanna Isaacs wrote in "A Cabbie's Tale" in the Reader in July 2010.
From the driver’s seat of his cab, Eddie negotiates a city splintered by race and class and rapidly losing its economic underpinnings. ​Nobody’s Angel has the wry humour and engaging characters typical of the best of the hard-boiled genre, but Clark’s portrait of Chicago in the 1990s, with its vanishing factories and jobs, its lethal public housing projects, its teenage hookers climbing into vans on North Avenue, is what gives it legs. Sure there are a couple murderers on the loose, but the larger violence is coming from systemic forces wreaking havoc in a place that, maybe, used to be better.
I have read only a couple of the Hard Case Crime novels now and "Nobody's Angel" exemplifies why. To be upfront and honest - this book is not the most intricately plotted or action packed, where it wins is in the details.It is definitely not a fast paced thriller, either. Clark's writing style and attention to detail bring the city at night alive with danger. The same strengths bring every character and situation in the book to life with realistic portrayals, sharp dialog and steady pacing. This story is about more than a few murders, it's about all of the dirty, evil things that take place after the sun sets. It's noir at it's finest.
It was written in the 1990s by a Chicago cab driver, Jack Clark, who, instead of finding a publisher for it, had 500 copies of the little book printed himself and sold them to his passengers for $5 apiece. As a kid of the 90s, I can fully appreciate the importance of this book. As it draws one of the most vivid pictures of life in Chicago and in every other city during the 90s as matter of fact.Good crime fiction can hold a mirror up to society, and that’s what Clark is doing here. This is not so much an amateur sleuth novel as it is a chronicle of a modern American city. Imagine how many stories cab drivers can say about our decade?!
If you liked Ryan Gosling's turn in Drive, you will likely also enjoy Nobody's Angel, which features approximately as much time spent lovingly detailing the circuits the protagonist makes around a major metropolitan area at night (Chicago here, rather than L.A.), just as little plot as that film, and a similar sudden splash of violence like a handful of spice tossed into a bowl of oatmeal. Angel does edge out Drive in terms of number of words spoken by the protagonist, but I'm pretty sure that's only because as a cabby you have to speak to your fares at least enough to tell them what they owe.
Highly recommended!!!!5FOXGIVEN

Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1) by Jay Kristoff

Jay Kristoff is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of THE LOTUS WAR, THE ILLUMINAE FILES and THE NEVERNIGHT CHRONICLE. He is the winner of two Aurealis Awards, an ABIA, nominee for the David Gemmell Morningstar and Legend awards, named multiple times in the Kirkus and Amazon Best Teen Books list and published in over twenty-five countries, most of which he has never visited. He is as surprised about all of this as you are. He is 6’7 and has approximately 13030 days to live. He abides in Melbourne with his secret agent kung-fu assassin wife, and the world’s laziest Jack Russell.
He does not believe in happy endings.
The first in a new fantasy series from the New York Times bestselling author.

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?
I really don't understand how there are people who didn't like it even one bit. You are alll crazy if you don't love this fantasy. I agree it is way out of the comfort zone of the average fantasy reader, but come on it has a classic smell all over it! And word building... If you love word play, metaphors and the English language at all, you should be head over hills what Kristoff has done! It is slow, heavy, grand, epic, emotional and thrilling read. In one word exquisite! 
It all begin with a chapter told from two seemingly different perspectives, it chronicles two very different firsts, but uses almost the exact same words. If you get over that the further you go, the closer the two scenarios spun toward completion, and then it is over, you are completely smitten with Nevernight! the whole book is so epic and graphic that there is no way won't visualise every single sentence! Kristoff has out of this world writing skills - an absolute magician!
This fantasy keeps you on your toes all the time, especially once you are all-in in the story line. I was constantly finding myself anticipating eagerly the next blood bath or plot twist, absolutely gripping!5FOXGIVEN
I'd hate to compare it, because it is such an outstanding masterpiece, but if I absolutely had to it will be right there with Abercrombie, Lachlan, Tolkien, Martin, Le Guin and all the other great fantasy authors. If I could give it more than 5 I would give it 500000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 it is that good!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? (Shadow Police #3) by Paul Cornell

Paul Cornell is a British writer of science fiction and fantasy prose, comics and television. He's been Hugo Award-nominated for all three media, and has won the BSFA Award for his short fiction, and the Eagle Award for his comics. He's the writer of Saucer Country for Vertigo, Demon Knights for DC, and has written for the Doctor Who TV series. His new urban fantasy novel is London Falling, out from Tor on December 6th.
Someone has murdered the ghost of Sherlock Holmes. As a fictional character remembered by the people of London, Holmes’ ghost walked the city, and now someone has put a ceremonial dagger through his chest. What could be the motive? The small team of Metropolitan Police detectives who have The Sight find themselves pursuing a criminal genius who soon lures them into a Sherlockian maze of too many clues and too much evidence. Ross finds herself drawn to an actor who may or may not be a deity, and goes on a quest to win back her happiness. Lofhouse seeks the answers, finally, about why she brought the team together. Quill battles for his sanity. Costain battles for his soul. And Sefton just wants to bring his team back together, even if that takes him to the edge of death.
Paul Cornell, thank you doesn't begin to cover it! It was an amazing thrill and an unbelievable adventure reading book three of the series! I never say no to a Sherlock story, my Mom brought me up with them and I have been hooked ever since. Your take on Sherlock Holmes got me smitten from the very first paragraph. You put my perspective to the test with every  new addition and I am absolutely sure you are going to keep up your game in future.

To everyone who hasn't read the Shadow Police series have in mind this is dark fantasy for adults. You are up for mind-bending twists and dark sense of humour. On reading the book you'd notice how intensely you can taste London: each book is deeply intertwined with the history and legends of the city to an extent you are absolutely lost in what I call the London Essence - you breathe, live and experience London to the fullest.

Cornell's characters are always diverse and oddly charming, and they are fighting their personal demons so masterfully every psychiatrist out there would be impressed by the work that has been done in creating them. This is also probably the only urban fantasy to contain a smutty Cockfosters joke, for which I will always hold the series close to my heart. In fact, this series gets steadily better as it moves away from Sweeney territory and pays more attention to the characters and the interpersonal dynamics. 

If you are up to a good criminal story, if you are about solving the crime, if you are ready to give your heart to an urban fantasy, I promise you'll become fascinated by the strangeness and the supernatural discoveries that Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? has to offer you!


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Highway Thirteen to Manhattan (The Six Train to Wisconsin Series #2) by Kourtney Heintz

His secrets almost killed her. Her secrets may destroy them both.

Kai is recovering from a near-death experience when she realizes something isn’t right. Her body is healing, but her mind no longer feels quite like her own. Her telepathic powers are changing, too. She can’t trust herself. The darkness growing inside of her pushes her to use her telepathy as a weapon.

Oliver clings to the hope that he can save their marriage, even though he was the one who put her life in jeopardy. As his wife slips further and further away from him, he becomes increasingly obsessed with bringing the man who ruined his life to justice.

The sequel to The Six Train to Wisconsin is a genre-defying tale of love and consequences. Once again, award-winning author Kourtney Heintz seamlessly weaves suspense and paranormal intrigue into a real-world setting, creating characters rich in emotional and psychological complexity.

"Family secrets, paranormal suspense, and romance collide in Heintz's fascinatingly original tale. A compelling read that will keep you guessing and haunt you long after the last page is turned."
-Gretchen Archer, USA Today Bestselling author of the Davis Way Crime Capers
I had to see how the story continues. The moment I saw this one on NetGalley I requested it without second thoughts. I am pretty content with the way the story develops. The sequel is a tad darker and that gives is the spiciness I lacked in the first book from the series.
How can you not fall for a redhead turned bad, come on, I have to be heartless, or not a ginger myself to resist it. Kai's struggles become twice as real this time and I loved her more for it! More than wanted to. This time I want to call the novel phenomenal! I didn't dare do so with the first book, because of fear of disappointment, but now that I know how the story continues, this series promises nothing but excellence! Kourtney Heintz you now have a very special place in my heart and your stories will be re-read often.

The Six Train to Wisconsin (The Six Train to Wisconsin Series #1) by Kourtney Heintz

There is one person that ties Oliver Richter to this world: his wife Kai. For Kai, Oliver is the keeper of her secrets.

When her telepathy spirals out of control and inundates her mind with the thoughts and emotions of everyone within a half-mile radius, the life they built together in Manhattan is threatened.

To save her, Oliver brings her to the hometown he abandoned—Butternut, Wisconsin—where the secrets of his past remain buried. But the past has a way of refusing to stay dead. Can Kai save Oliver before his secrets claim their future?

An emotionally powerful debut, The Six Train to Wisconsin pushes the bounds of love as it explores devotion, forgiveness and acceptance.
It is going to be a while before I come to terms with what I think about this one. I was instantly attracted to it, because who doesn't love a story about special people with telepathic abilities and I was in the mood for a true love story. I can't help it once in a while I want my cheesy fairy tale.
The novels started out really strong, you are literary sucked into both Oliver's and Kai's heads and experience the world of the book through their eyes and subjective as it is it is a gripping trick. With that in mind I want to complement the author on doing a very good job when building the characters - they are very real, very humane, very full of vitality and have all faults that regular people will have. I admit Kai was a bit too much of a woman for my taste, but hey you cannot blame her for me being a tomboy all my life. Her relationship with her brother Caleb is a bit disturbing. Believe me, Oliver was not the perfect man either he is a type of guy that will be your knight, but his lack of self-esteem will make his armour a rusty as an old truck. But that's what made them so human.
I love the way marriage was portrayed with all its colours, showing that not everything is black/ white, but you mostly stay in the grey matter. 
I am not sure whether I should classify it as a fast or a slow read... I did read it in a matter of hours, but at times the plot meandered and took too long to get to the actually important parts. All in all it is an easy, enjoyable read with a lot that can be found between the lines. It is a very good start for series, and can honestly say that Heintz is a really good storyteller, which is a rare thing these days.
It definitely wasn't my typical read, so I will refrain from commenting any further.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen

When we first meet Kit, she's a fox.

Nineteen-year-old Kit works for the research department of Shen Corporation as a phenomenaut. She's been “jumping”--projecting her consciousness, through a neurological interface--into the bodies of lab-grown animals made for the purpose of research for seven years, which is longer than anyone else at ShenCorp, and longer than any of the scientists thought possible. She experiences a multitude of other lives--fighting and fleeing as predator and prey, as mammal, bird, and reptile--in the hope that her work will help humans better understand the other species living alongside them.

Her closest friend is Buckley, her Neuro--the computer engineer who guides a phenomenaut through consciousness projection. His is the voice, therefore, that's always in Kit's head and is the thread of continuity that connects her to the human world when she's an animal. But when ShenCorp's mission takes a more commercial--and ominous--turn, Kit is no longer sure of her safety. Propelling the reader into the bodies of the other creatures that share our world, The Many Selves of Katherine North takes place in the near future but shows us a dazzling world far, far from the realm of our experience
Anyone who claims to know me is certain about one thing: Yana= Foxes... I am going crazy over them, so when I was offered the opportunity read this novel I was elbowing may way to get it. And I am so very glad I did. If you have read The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, there is no way you wouldn't love this one...
The desire to unite with animals and see life through there eyes is both the fundamental lure of the novel, and of the undoing of its purity within the story. It is a debut novel, and it is so original... not only concept wise but also voice wise... if I ever read a book by Emma Green , without her name being stated per say I would definitely recognise her, no doubt. She did such a good job in portraying what it feels like to be inside the animal, it was absolutely fascinating to experience scents an sensations through sense so much more attuned to nature that our urban human ones.
The Many Selves of Katherine North is such a rare gift because it is the first fantasy/science fiction novel that I've picked up in a while that discusses the morality and paradigm shifting world view of shamanistic practices. And puts you on the spot, right in the centre of the whole issue. And by doing so it asks so many important questions like: What is consciousness? How does our physical body change how we perceive the world? What is reality anyway? And I love nothing more than a book that makes you sit back and reflect on what you have just read.
I REALLY enjoyed this novel. It continued to surprise me in its applications of phenomenautics and the effects of projecting. Honestly, it didn't even need to take the story beyond animal projections. I was enthralled by Katherine's experiences in various bodies and would happily read a novel that explored that alone. Adding in some political and social concern? Even better! It wasn't a perfect novel, but it was a stunning first attempt! I am looking forward to reading more from Emma Green. 

We Eat Our Own by Kea Wilson

An ambitious debut novel by an original young writer, We Eat Our Own blurs the lines between life and art with the story of a film director’s unthinkable experiment in the Amazon.

When a nameless, struggling actor in 1970s New York gets the call that an enigmatic director wants him for an art film set in the Amazon, he doesn’t hesitate: he flies to South America, no questions asked. He quickly realizes he’s made a mistake. He’s replacing another actor who quit after seeing the script—a script the director now claims doesn’t exist. The movie is over budget. The production team seems headed for a breakdown. The air is so wet that the celluloid film disintegrates.

But what the actor doesn’t realize is that the greatest threat might be the town itself, and the mysterious shadow economy that powers this remote jungle outpost. Entrepreneurial Americans, international drug traffickers, and M-19 guerillas are all fighting for South America’s future—yand the groups aren’t as distinct as you might think. The actor thought this would be a role that would change his life. Now he’s worried if he’ll survive it.

Inspired by a true story from the annals of 1970s Italian horror film, and told in dazzlingly precise prose, We Eat Our Own is a resounding literary debut, a thrilling journey behind the scenes of a shocking film and a thoughtful commentary on violence and its repercussions.
I wouldn't lie if I say I was really looking to get scared by this novel and my wish was granted. It came to be not only enlightening and beautifully written as many of the readers agree, but it was also a decent amount of creepy... just about a spoonful of scare and I was good to go. Hannibal Lecter meets The Lord of the Flies or Heart of Darkness: this definitely isn't a read for the faint hearted. A lot of people suggested the story follows closely the script of Cannibal Holocaust, which I haven't watched, but I guess you can trust them.
For a debut novel it raised the bar so high, I was dumbstruck for a couple of days after I finished it. It has a gritty and realistic setting, characters so flawed they could be any one of us, and prose so fresh it reads as if you're discovering a new language. If you have ever watched a Fellini or a Woody Allen, then you'll get what I mean. It is a book so alive and filled with taste that you are doomed to love every single word in it.
Mind my advice though, you should be in the right gory mood to read that and you should be ok with huge, disgusting snakes, otherwise you might be put off from the very beginning. I will not mark it as a girls read, but definitely a read for people who are interested in the murky, gory side of life.

A Feminist in the White House: Midge Costanza, the Carter Years, and America's Culture Wars by Doreen Mattingly

A feminist, an outspoken activist, a woman without a college education, Midge Costanza was one of the unlikeliest of White House insiders. Yet in 1977 she became the first female Assistant to the President for Public Liaison under Jimmy Carter, emerging as a prominent focal point of the American culture wars. Tasked with bringing the views of special interest groups to the president, Costanza championed progressive causes even as Americans grew increasingly divided on the very issues for which she fought.
In A Feminist in the White House, Doreen Mattingly draws on Costanza's personal papers to shed light on the life of this fascinating and controversial woman. Mattingly chronicles Costanza's dramatic rise and fall as a public figure, from her initial popularity to her ultimate clashes with Carter and his aides. While Costanza challenged Carter to support abortion rights, gay and lesbian rights, and feminist policies, Carter faced increased pressure to appease the interests of emerging Religious Right, which directly opposed Costanza's ideals. Ultimately, marginalised both within the White House and by her fellow feminists, Costanza was pressured to resign in 1978.
Through the lens of Constanza's story, readers catch a unique perspective of the rise of debates which have defined the feminist movement and sexual politics to this very day. Mattingly also reveals a wider, but heretofore neglected, narrative of the complex era of gender politics in the late 1970's Washington - a history which continues to resonate in politics today. A Feminist in the White House is a must-read for anyone with an interest in sexual politics, female politicians, and presidential history.
Doreen Mattingly championed various topics in her work varying from equal rights for women and gay and lesbian rights, to abortion rights. She chose to portray not only a feminist, but also a friend and did successfully so. Mattingly showed sides of Constanza that led me to both admire her for her ethics and efforts while at the same time I was angered by a political system, embodied in this case by Carter's administration, that puts what is right or wrong on a back burner behind political expediency. 
I often found myself flooded with bits and pieces of information most of which is still up-to-date and was left at the back-burner for decades now. I have to admit I found myself smitten with this remarkable woman, who struggled to do her job and fought fearlessly the remarkable men of her remarkable time.
I wouldn't be lying if I call this a powerful and influential read, especially if you are a strongly convinced feminist at heart. Late 1970s were painted by the shades of a complex shades of gender politics, sexual politics and of course the feminist movement. The events that occurred then still resonate today, therefore I find it a must to read this profound book about being a woman. 5FOXGIVEN

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Whistler by John Grisham

We expect our judges to be honest and wise. Their integrity and impartiality are the bedrock of the entire judicial system. We trust them to ensure fair trials, to protect the rights of all litigants, to punish those who do wrong, and to oversee the orderly and efficient flow of justice.

But what happens when a judge bends the law or takes a bribe? It’s rare, but it happens.

Lacy Stoltz is an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct. She is a lawyer, not a cop, and it is her job to respond to complaints dealing with judicial misconduct. After nine years with the Board, she knows that most problems are caused by incompetence, not corruption.

But a corruption case eventually crosses her desk. A previously disbarred lawyer is back in business with a new identity. He now goes by the name Greg Myers, and he claims to know of a Florida judge who has stolen more money than all other crooked judges combined. And not just crooked judges in Florida. All judges, from all states, and throughout U.S. history.

What’s the source of the ill-gotten gains? It seems the judge was secretly involved with the construction of a large casino on Native American land. The Coast Mafia financed the casino and is now helping itself to a sizable skim of each month’s cash. The judge is getting a cut and looking the other way. It’s a sweet deal: Everyone is making money.

But now Greg wants to put a stop to it. His only client is a person who knows the truth and wants to blow the whistle and collect millions under Florida law. Greg files a complaint with the Board on Judicial Conduct, and the case is assigned to Lacy Stoltz, who immediately suspects that this one could be dangerous.

Dangerous is one thing. Deadly is something else.
I have been following John Grisham's career for as long as I can remember, so you wouldn't be surprised that I was extremely flattered when I was offered to read an extract of his new upcoming thriller! Needless to say my hands were shaking as I was downloading it to my kindle! 
What I think about it?  You should know first that The Whistler is due to be published in the UK by Hodder, and in North America by Doubleday this October. And as far as I am concerned I would be pre-ordering the book anyway, just because I am curious how it will develop.
Ken Follett called Grisham 'the greatest thriller writer alive,' and while many will easily find a way to argue their way out of that statement I am rather fond to support it. I have always had a soft spot for judicial stories and after Suits came out and Madam Secretary I have been waiting for a dirty judge to come way so I can rip him/her apart... The Whistler is exactly that kind of story. It starts off with a legal duo on their way to meet a mysterious informer, who is supposed to give them the trail of their lives. You don't need me to know that from the very first paragraph you are hooked to see what comes next. 
John Grisham takes his irresistible blend of legal savvy and page-turning storytelling to a whole new level. Personally, I would have sided with Lucy Stolz and point her as my girl in the story if only her voice wasn't so girly... But I still have Hugo and Mr Myers to get me through and get me through with the whole story. I can't wait to get my hands on this suspense-packed new adventure and read the whole of it.
I hate that I only got a sneak peak! As one other reader said it:
“It’s almost like opening the door just a smidgen and letting you peer round the corner at the unfolding story, only to be yanked back and have the door shut in your face rather abruptly.”

Friday, August 12, 2016

Sharp Ends (First Law World #7) by Joe Abercrombie

The Union army may be full of bastards, but there's only one who thinks he can save the day single-handed when the Gurkish come calling: the incomparable Colonel Sand dan Glokta.
Curnden Craw and his dozen are out to recover a mysterious item from beyond the Crinna. Only one small problem: no one seems to know what the item is.
Shevedieh, the self-styled best thief in Styria, lurches from disaster to catastrophe alongside her best friend and greatest enemy, Javre, Lioness of Hoskopp.
And after years of bloodshed, the idealistic chieftain Bethod is desperate to bring peace to the North. There's only one obstacle left - his own lunatic champion, the most feared man in the North: the Bloody-Nine . . .
Sharp Ends combines previously published, award-winning tales with exclusive new short stories. Violence explodes, treachery abounds, and the words are as deadly as the weapons in this rogue's gallery of side-shows, back-stories, and sharp endings from the world of the First Law.
'Joe Abercrombie is doing some terrific work' George R. R. Martin
'Delightfully twisted and evil' Guardian
'Joe Abercrombie has written the finest epic fantasy in recent memory.' Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize Winner, on Red Country
'Joe Abercrombie is probably the brightest star among the new generation of British fantasy writers ...'The Times
If there is anything Abercrombie is famous for that is bloodshed and violence! His world building is so epic it stands just outside my top three which are Tolkien, Martin and Lachlan. If Lovecraft had a darker brother, he would definitely bare the name Joe Abercrombie. His works have always captivated me with their grand scale and political conspiracy.
Sharp Ends is set mostly in the First Law universe and is a collection of short stories. Abercrombie goes even deeper in the lives of his characters, but also brings new ones to the table. We once again meet the horrible Logen Ninefingers, Curnden Claw and Sand den Glotka.
What makes the collection a definite gemstone are the stories of Javre and Shevedich! The best thing about it is that you can still enjoy it even if you haven't read Abercrombie before. It was pure excitement  to see how he managed to contain himself within the restriction of 20 to 30 pages per story and still be able to shine with his talent for the grand and epic fantasy.
Bloody and fast-paced, it is one of the best collections of short stories out there. Not all stories a perfect, but on the whole I can count it as more of a success, rather than a failure.
Definitely read it, but have in mind that it is not a novel... Don't judge it based on that and you are up for an adventure!

The Blade Artist (Mark Renton #4) by Irvine Welsh

Jim Francis has finally found the perfect life – and is now unrecognisable, even to himself. A successful painter and sculptor, he lives quietly with his wife, Melanie, and their two young daughters, in an affluent beach town in California. Some say he’s a fake and a con man, while others see him as a genuine visionary.

But Francis has a very dark past, with another identity and a very different set of values. When he crosses the Atlantic to his native Scotland, for the funeral of a murdered son he barely knew, his old Edinburgh community expects him to take bloody revenge. But as he confronts his previous life, all those friends and enemies – and, most alarmingly, his former self – Francis seems to have other ideas.

When Melanie discovers something gruesome in California, which indicates that her husband’s violent past might also be his psychotic present, things start to go very bad, very quickly.

The Blade Artist is an elegant, electrifying novel – ultra violent but curiously redemptive – and it marks the return of one of modern fiction’s most infamous, terrifying characters, the incendiary Francis Begbie from Trainspotting.
OK! Let's do this! Trainspotting was one of the most gripping books for me during my university years. It was tricky, and twisted and everything you wished for. And it was a complete stand alone novel, with pretty clear ending and future for all characters. BUT (why is there always a but) that certainty didn’t stop Welsh from returning to his characters, first in Trainspotting sequel Porno, then in prequel Skagboys. And now there’s The Blade Artist: the return of Begbie, who is not in the boozer or even called Begbie any more.
Where there is no doubt that this is a very welcomed return of Francis Begbie, I am not sure how do I cope with this reborn Jim Francis - a middle-aged, successful artist living the dream in California with his beautiful wife and daughters. The change is so big, that one almost stops to think and gasps in awe. But once your son gets in trouble you are back to your old ways, I guess you can't really teach an old dog new tricks :). 
Irvine Welsh is a delicious read, always has been and always will be! The Blade Artist is nothing short of genius and brilliantly executed as expected! This is probably my least favourite Welsh book. Maybe because everything comes in dense opuses, not in short thrillers. Jim Francis is just as destructive as ever, albeit now more methodical, but there has to be something counteracting the unjustified pain he inflicts to make his character whole. He doesn't have a problem with who he is, and in the end I'm not sure Welsh expects me to have any qualms either.
I am in two minds about this read. I definitely recommend it for reading, because you have to judge for yourself... But I am sure I'll need a second read to grasp all aspects of it. 

The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan

Nineteen twenty-two. Grace has been sent to the stately and crumbling Fenix House to follow in her grandmother's footsteps as a governess. But when she meets the house's inhabitants, people who she had only previously heard of in stories, the cracks in her grandmother's tale begin to show. Secrets appear to live in the house's very walls and everybody is resolutely protecting their own.

Why has she been sent here? Why did her grandmother leave after just one summer? And as the past collides with the present, can Grace unravel these secrets and discover who her grandmother, and who she, really is?
This novel has been sitting on my TBR pile for a lot of months now. For some reason every time I felt the urge to pick it up an read it, something else came up and made me leave it where it was. I remember the moment I decided to order it. It was the slightly Gothic feel to it, the family secrets, that unsettling feeling of a story that will change you. At least I hoped so... 
This is a good story and well written, but it does get a bit slow at times, to the point that about 100 pages of the book could have been cut and the story wouldn’t have been changed much. Lately, I notice that this is the problem of most books - I don't know if it's me that has become impatient, or authors have become to fond of words that they refuse to get to the point fast enough.
Telling the story in two time-frames was indeed a very intriguing  choice of plot device, but it came across a bit gimmicky at times. Believe me when I say this is rich and atmospheric novel, which draws its readers in from its very prologue, 'Not all stories should be regarded as beginnings, middles and ends... Some like this one, are formed like a circle, with something terrible and secret at the core, and everything else radiating out, ripples from a raindrop on water.' Riordan lulls her readers under a spell with her Gothic descriptions and intrigue; and more than once was I reminded of classics such as Jane Eyre, which even actually features in the book, as if Riordan was paying a tribute almost. Whilst it is clear that she has certainly drawn inspiration from other works of literature, Riordan nevertheless commands a sense of ownership of her material, stamping it very much as her own.
And although it was a very predictable read, I believe that it still was enjoyable. It was told in a very stylish manner, which nowadays is a rare experience and one should give Riordan credit for that! It wasn't as dark as I expected, but it is a well developed novel, so definitely read it and see for yourself; especially if you are a Riordan fan! 

Friday, August 5, 2016

French Country Cooking by Elizabeth David

French Country Cooking - first published in 1951 - is filled with Elizabeth David's authentic recipes drawn from across the regions of France.
'Her books are stunningly well written ... full of history and anecdote' Observer
Showing how each area has a particular and unique flavour for its foods, derived as they are from local ingredients, Elizabeth David explores the astonishing diversity of French cuisine.
Her recipes range from the primitive pheasant soup of the Basque country to the refined Burgundian dish of hare with cream sauce and chestnut puree. French Country Cooking is Elizabeth David's rich and enticing cookbook that will delight and inspire cooks everywhere.
Elizabeth David (1913-1992) is the woman who changed the face of British cooking. Having travelled widely during the Second World War, she introduced post-war Britain to the sun-drenched delights of the Mediterranean and her recipes brought new flavours and aromas into kitchens across Britain. After her classic first book Mediterranean Food followed more bestsellers, including French Country Cooking, Summer Cooking, French Provincial Cooking, Italian Food, Elizabeth David's Christmas and At Elizabeth David's Table.
I wish I had this book when I was starting my cooking self-education - it would have made it so much easier. David has this way with explaining peculiarities that allows you to sit back and absorb all the knowledge you need. No wonder she's referred to as the Britain's First Lady of Food!
The recipes are easy to follow and there is a wide range of them which allows the novice to choose according to their level of experience. And the anecdotes in between make it so much more enjoyable! 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter #8) by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
Amidst reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I realised that writing a review about it will not be an easy thing to do. Having finished it in just a couple of hours I was left with some serious thoughts and a great deal of soul-wrenching feelings. 
I am all too tempted to note how this read has been the most awaited book for a while but I will be steering into a whole new territory here, however the message is clear: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child cannot and should not be read as part of the original series. You'd ask me why? The answer is as simple as that: unlike "the magnificent seven" it was never meant to be a book, it was only created to be experienced in the safe premises of a theatre. The publishers had two options to choose from: they could have novelised the play or leave it as a script. Honestly said, I think they opted for the best decision there.  As a series the original seven books are a complete cycle, they do not need pre- or post-stories to be added. I say that from the point of view of a person who grew up with the stories and who awaited in anticipation every single one of them to be published; from the point of view of some who grew up with the characters, who cried and laughed with them and was completely smitten by the magic world they lived in. Therefore, I am exceptionally glad that JK Rowling complete realised that The Cursed Child should be treated as a separate matter.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a play about having grown up, being responsible for your own kids an struggling to do so. There are a couple of things I could not come to terms with, though: for example Ron - although he was the only character who managed to preserve his goofiness and childlike amusement he was portrayed as the least successful. Come on! Everyone else flew through life and have these all important jobs and he owns a jokes shop - don't get me wrong, nothing shameful in that, but it left me feeling robbed of the great potential Ron had.
The adults have grown, they've changed. Some have changed so much that I hardly recognise them, Draco, for instance. I like that he's, well, nicer now, but he doesn't feel like Draco, you know? I've been so used to Harry and Draco being enemies that it almost surprised me... Although the way book seven ended the door was sort of left open for various outcomes for that blond head.
All in all #8 was essentially, a play with polar characters who need to put their differences aside in order to catch the baddie and restore the status quo, donning their best suits and jokes along the way. There are some quibbles – but in all key respects, it grips, it stirs and above all - it delights.
At heart, The Cursed Child concerns itself precisely with the anxiety of having an illustrious forebear and the dangers of trying to go back over old ground; it persuasively argues the value of doing so, too. There’s a universal, relate-able emotional core to the play. How do we grow up? How do we talk to our closest family members? How do we heal deep-rooted psychological damage? All matters that concern the people who actually grew up with the characters themselves - like me!
I am content with it, not overly excited, not overly disappointed, but convinced that it is a perfectly executed continuation of the story. One, that will only be understood by the people who lived with the books an breathed their air as if it was the only thing in the world.5FOXGIVEN

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years by Old Hendrik Groen

'There are many laughs in this book but it's so much more than just a comedy. It's a story about how friendship, selflessness and dignity lie at the heart of the human experience. When I'm an old man, I want to be Hendrik Groen' John Boyne, author of international bestseller The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
'Another year and I still don't like old people. Me? I am 83 years old.'
Hendrik Groen may be old, but he is far from dead and isn't planning to be buried any time soon. Granted, his daily strolls are getting shorter because his legs are no longer willing and he had to visit his doctor more than he'd like. Technically speaking he is ... elderly. But surely there is more to life at his age than weak tea and potted geraniums?
Hendrik sets out to write an exposé: a year in the life of his care home in Amsterdam, revealing all its ups and downs - not least his new endeavour the anarchic Old-But-Not Dead Club. And when Eefje moves in - the woman Hendrik has always longed for - he polishes his shoes (and his teeth), grooms what's left of his hair and attempts to make something of the life he has left, with hilarious, tender and devastating consequences.
The indomitable Hendrik Groen - Holland's unlikeliest hero - has become a cultural phenomenon in his native Netherlands and now he and his famously anonymous creator are conquering the globe. A major Dutch bestseller, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen will not only delight older readers with its wit and relevance, but will charm and inspire those who have years to go before their own expiry date.
Praise for The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old
'Hendrik Groen's account of daily life in a care home for the elderly pulled me in with its self-deprecating humour, finely drawn characters and frank accounting of the trials of old age. Behind Hendrik's light touch and grumpy-old-man persona is a story with a great deal of heart, and some important themes. Hendrik effortlessly incorporates the politics of aged care, from funding to euthanasia, into his personal story and offers his own acerbic insights. Anyone who has a friend or relative in a nursing home or retirement village, or who hopes to grow old with dignity themselves, will find much to reflect on' Graeme Simsion, international bestselling author of The Rosie Project
'Funny, tragic and sometimes heart rending' Het Parool
'Hendrik Groen is a heart-warming hero' Trouw
'With pungent phrasing Groen takes down life in a retirement home. Both charming and hilarious'****Leeuwarder Courant
'Hendrik Groen is king. My mother (78) suffers from dementia. Doesn't read a newspaper or magazine anymore, only old photo albums can grab her attention for longer than 5 minutes. Hendrik Groen made her laugh out loud' Ray Kluun, author of Love Life
'The tears came streaming down my face. From laughing so hard. I couldn't stop grinning for three days'Ouderenjournaal
'Never a dull moment with my new BFF Hendrik Groen' Read Shop, Hedel
'It reminded me of a combination between The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Wonderful! Shame it's finished already'Arjen Broers, Bookshop Bruna
'Heart-warming, funny and poignant. It's about all aspects of life.
You wouldn't believe how good that book is. It has been quite a while since I have laughed so hard that my tummy hurts. It's wicked, and twisted... and full of my sense of humour, which a very hard one to keep up with. I have to share something with you, I am a child of older parents... My dad turned 70 in April this year... and believe me when I tell you Hendrick Groen is only half of what my dad can bring to the table! Now that I am living away from my parents and get to see them only 2-3 times a year I could fully appreciate the merits of being raised by parents who have a sense of humour! Nothing teaches you better about life than that. And Hendrick Groen is the embodiment of that: he is grumpy, cynical, politically incorrect, full of life, funny and a rebel with a cause - everything I hope I would be at his age! 
You know what One day I fully intend to be a little old person in a nursing home that leads the rebellion and puts Vodka in the Iv bags, because that shows home much you love life and home much more you got from it than all the calm, settled old people of that!
The story is laced with wisdom and its themes have a universality that crosses borders of the specifics of a Dutch Care Home to be issues of global concern for all of us. It is sharply observed and made me think about how much the older generation are all too easily dismissed and ignored in our society.
This book very much reminded me of "The Hundred Year old man who jumped out of a window and disappeared,' as it has a similar balance of humour and political and social comment. But also there was something that calls for a parallel with the "The Lady In The Van" by Alan Bennett. 
Highly recommended for everyone. No wonder it's a runaway hit in the Netherlands. I'm very thankful that it's been translated into English for us.5FOXGIVEN

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

Please join us in celebrating this classic feminist dystopian novel - reissued on its 40th Anniversary with a new introduction by the author.
Hailed as a classic of speculative science fiction, Marge Piercy’s landmark novel is a transformative vision of two futures. Harrowing and prescient,Woman on the Edge of Time will speak to a new generation on whom these choices weigh more heavily than ever before.
Connie Ramos is a Mexican American woman living in New York. Once ambitious and proud, she has lost her child, her husband, her dignity - and now they want to take her sanity. After being unjustly committed to a mental institution, Connie is contacted by an envoy from the year 2137, who shows her a time of sexual and racial equality, environmental purity, and unprecedented self-actualisation. But Connie also bears witness to another potential outcome: a society of grotesque exploitation in which the barrier between person and commodity has finally been eroded. One will become our world. And Connie herself may strike the decisive blow...
I'm neither pro-, nor against feminism. As a female I have never struggled to prove myself in a man's world, rather I had to struggle to shine in a world of exceptional people both intellectually and creatively. Therefore, it is only recently that I had began to develop an interest in feminism literature, I consider it a rather curious post-degree development. I am still not sure were it will take me, but that is an adventure I am eager to take.
Now for Woman at the Edge of Time: this work is a walking talking paradox. It paints the most pessimistic and destructive view of life, only to give birth to the phoenix of hope for the future. It expresses the personal in the political by exploring the body as a site of resistance. Piercy gives space in her work to women’s experiences and relationships, often, as in this novel, to queer women and women of colour - all outcasts, taboos and restrictions are explored in depth. What the author definitely deserves credit for is the masterfully used indirect language to establish moral strongholds. Not even once during the process of reading I felt preached at, instead I was left to guess and choose the path to follow by myself.
Piercy masterfully explores aspects of the egalitarian society, communal living, sexism and class and racism, in order to create a utopia which elaborates on contemporary political and scientific experiments in horizontal living/organising and computer technology. She even dealt with the issue of language development: I loved the language imagined 150 or so years into the future, how English evolved, done in a way that makes use of the vernacular of the 1960s and the 1970s; it’s adapted from that time. It doesn’t work that well in 2010 but it was splendidly constructed, and I enjoyed revisiting the time of three and a half decades ago.
In short, there is a lot more that deserves to be said about Woman on the Edge of Time, but I fear if I attempt to cover it all, I will have to present you with a massive volume of analysis, that wouldn't serve its purpose of a short review, but will indeed please the literature puff in me :) Without a doubt I will recommend this book to all my friends.5FOXGIVEN