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One of our Books of the Year 2016. The publisher’s blurb for this quirky novel certainly drew me to it especially since I am an enormous fan of his first, A Man Called Ove. I’m afraid I didn’t read his second (shame on me!). Here we have a woman who is definitely on ‘the spectrum’, who has at last left a cheating, domineering husband (when he had a heart attack in the arms of another woman) and must now earn a living. She will not accept that the Job Centre has nothing for her and is eventually given a dead-end, short-term job as caretaker in a closing sports centre in a dying town. She ends up coaching the local kids’ football team in a delightful, warm-hearted tale of great charm. How she wins everyone round and makes a life for herself is poignantly realised. A lovely read.
December 2016 eBook of the Month. Absolutely thrilling… this is a fast-paced, firecracker of a read, set in Europe as the Second World War is brewing. Why is Luke Hamilton, intelligence officer at the British Embassy in Paris the target of an assassination attempt? As Luke tries to outrun his pursuers he begins to uncover the secret of his past. The words set the action so clearly in my mind, it didn't feel as though I was looking back in time, it actually felt as though I was there. Mark Mills allows you more knowledge than the characters, consequently, the tension skyrockets as the story constantly accelerates forward. An artful balance is maintained, at no point does this feel out of control as there are moments of stillness, of contemplation and anticipation. I reached the end and felt very satisfied indeed, ‘Where Dead Men Meet’ just begs to be continued as a series, please say it will be, please! ~ Liz Robinson
In a Nutshell: Epic illustrated short stories | A colossal collection of illustrated short stories about the star of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. Previously released separately in eBook format, this lavish volume of short stories makes a great gift for all Cassandra Clare aficionados. Co-written by Cassandra Clare and other acclaimed authors (Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson and Robin Wasserman), the ten tales explore the escapades of Simon Lewis through his Shadowhunter training. The writing is sharp, the characters sassy and the world-building is incredibly evocative, while the pull-out poster and cool comic-style illustrations make this a mega-must-have collector’s item that will deepens fans’ immersion in Clare’s epic world. ~ Joanne Owen
A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. The prolific science fiction and fantasy British author James Lovegrove switches literary roads and begins a new, promising series, The Cthulhu Casebooks in which the worlds of Conan Doyle and H.P. Lovecraft mingle to interesting effect, and Holmes and Watson will confront the weird and horrors from the depths. This is thoroughly enjoyable pulp in the grand old tradition as Watson, back from his harrowing combat experiences in Afghanistan, becomes Holmes' sidekick to investigate a series of curious deaths in London's East End, which appear linked to a sinister Oriental drug lord but soon uncover a web of worrisome connections to the supernatural and forces beyond human ken. Atmospheric, wading through London's proverbial fog, our hardy sleuths are soon confronted by abominable powers from the other side and their adventures are both momentous and joyous. Perfect entertainment in a handsome small hardcover format. ~ Maxim Jakubowski Simon Spanton's view... Now this is a lot of fun. I don’t know of many authors better equipped to weave together the inventions of Arthur Conan Doyle and H.P. Lovecraft than New York Times bestseller James Lovegrove. A long-time and talented genre author he is also utterly steeped in everything Holmesian. He has a knack for recreating 19th prose and a dry wit. He really is the perfect author for this book, which will be the first of three. In an amusing prologue Lovegrove recounts how he has been left these manuscripts by a relative of H.P. Lovecraft. The similarity between their names is not entirely coincidental, it seems. So, with questions asked and no answers given the game’s afoot and we’re in to Doctor Watson’s story. And this story, of a nineteenth century world haunted by the Old Ones, and the vile deity Cthulhu in particular, and of Watson and Holmes’ encounters with their worshippers, is the REAL story. According to Watson, the Holmes stories we know were tales he concocted to cover the eldritch truth. And with emaciated and dried out corpses and moving shadows in Shadwell we are off on the first adventure and Lovegrove lets the doctor spin a tight and action packed tale. Lovegrove’s Holmes and Watson are perfect. If you loved the original Holmes stories, if you loved Anthony Horowitz’s recent Holmes books, if you love the cosmic horrors of Lovecraft you’ll love this. An absolute hoot. ~ Simon Spanton
Set in our not-so-distant future, award-winning Tricia Sullivan’s new novel is, at one level, an engaging and exciting man-hunt that takes us on a pell-mell race across the world in pursuit of a killer carrying something crucial and frightening in an attache case. There is mystery, there are chases, there are fights (including a heartstopping one in and out of a plane), there is danger. There’s also Sullivan’s startling and often beautiful prose and her ready wit. But this is much more than an SF caper novel. Our protagonist, Pearl, has extra-dimensional wings that come into being when she’s threatened. She doesn’t have many memories. She may be an angel but she’s not sure. She needs to know not just who she is, but what she is. And her quarry? He’s a killer wearing another man’s body and the case he’s carrying is a door to another universe. There are ideas and concepts here to astound anyone and in the hands of a less expert author it would be all too easy for them to spin the novel out of control but Sullivan keeps the reader locked in to her roller-coaster plot. Key to this is Pearl who, wings notwithstanding, is utterly ordinary and believable; a beautifully developed, intelligent, sometimes scared, usually resourceful and fiercely spirited heroine. Sullivan can bring fans of Lauren Beukes and Richard Morgan alike along for these thrills and surreal ideas. ~ Simon Spanton Maxim Jakubowski's view... Pearl is an angel and works for the Resistance. But, in truth, she doesn’t really know who she is and what she is working towards. The organisation is an occult group attempting to change the world in small, invisible ways and Pearl begins to question their motivation and methods. As if her confusion and troubled dreams of flight and fall and apocalypse weren’t enough, she is on a mission to seek out a killer who is wearing another man’s body, and constantly switches between personas, who carries and protects a mysterious suitcase which might actually be a key to the secrets of the universe as well as being a lethal weapon or a means of salvation. No wonder Pearl is mixed-up. Conspiracies galore, questions about the nature of identity, brilliant evocative writing never detract from the unceasing pace of Sullivan’s, a past Arthur C. Clarke Ward winner, futuristic fantasy thriller. Heralds a major new series. ~ Maxim Jakubowski
In a Nutshell: Raw revenge | Exploitative institution | Brightening bonds | An unforgettable novel about revenge, abuses of authority and the redemptive power of friendship. After witnessing his parents’ murder, Trey is sent to bleak Camp Kernow, a correctional institution for young offenders. Here, under the command of religious obsessives who are directed by the all-powerful Preacher, the inmates are set to work farming and slaughtering cattle in the name of salvation. But Trey has his own agenda. He’s there to avenge his parents’ killer, driven by an internal demon that “poked at him with talons and threatened to bust from the inside out”. Amidst an environment of ruthless bullying, and shocking revelations about what’s really going on around the camp, Trey forms friendships with shrewd Kay and ‘crazy’ Lamby. And when chaos is unleashed, these unexpected alliances become crucial to any chance of survival. This gripping novel explores challenging themes with ferocious flair and fearless originality. It will surely inspire much thought and discussion about, for example, what purpose revenge serves, trust, abuses of power, and whether anyone is simply “bad for the kick of things”, or whether people grow bad “like bacteria on foul meat”. Highly recommended for fans of Meg Rosoff and Patrick Ness. ~ Joanne Owen
There are ghosts here and jovial spirits. Chances at love and tricks with time. There is frost and icicles, mistletoe and sledges. There's a cat and a dog and a solid silver frog. There's a Christmas cracker with a surprising gift inside. There's a haunted house and a SnowMama. There are Yuletides and holly wreaths. Three Kings. And a merry little Christmas time. And for the icing on the Christmas cake, there are twelve festive recipes from Yuletides past and present. Red cabbage, gravlax, turkey biryani, sherry trifle, Mrs Winterson's mince pies and more.
A completely updated trawl through tongue scorching invective from the ancient world to yesterday (almost). As well as being breathtakingly rude so many of the comments are outrageously funny although anyone on the receiving end of such rudeness can only comfort themselves at some of the spectacular errors of judgement in history. How about this journalist’s comment “…a slang-whanging stump-speaker of which all parties are ashamed….” This was about Abraham Lincoln one of an endless parade of public figures to be misjudged. Mathew Parris has done a fine job in rounding up this parade of invective choosing the best of the skewering and the blackest of barbs. ~ Sue Baker Like for Like Reading The Biteback Dictionary of Humorous Political Quotations, Fred Metcalf (Editor) Shakespeare’s Insults Desk Diary 2017 Hardback 96 pages Flame Tree Publishing 23rd August 2016 9781783618767
December 2016 Book of the Month. St Andrews in the 16th century is once again brought to captivating vibrant life. With allegations of ghosts, witches, the Spanish Armada and high jinks, the year 1588 is full of life… and death. If you adore the ‘Hew Cullan Mystery’ series then you are in for an absolute treat, as in this ‘Calendar of Crime’ are five different books. They may be short, but each packs a punch as Hew uses his investigative skills in an attempt to solve 5 different mysteries. Shirley McKay sets you so completely in that time that awareness settles over you like a cloak as you read. The very different tales take place in various parts of town, and while the same core characters travel with you through the year, you also greet new ones along the way. The historical notes section and glossary at the end is an interesting read in itself. You can dip in and out of ‘1588: A Calendar of Crime’ and read it as five fascinating stories, or completely immerse yourself in it as I did, and read it one satisfying sitting.
An understated yet profound and incredibly hard hitting and evocative novel that just simmers with tension. 70 year old Vietnam veteran Robert Quinlan and his younger brother Jimmy have been estranged since Jimmy left their parents house 47 years before. A homeless man fleetingly touches the story and feelings that have been lurking, lying deeply buried, slyly resurface and begin to run amok. Robert Olen Butler writes with beautiful subtlety, the story stays planted firmly in the here and now, yet thoughts travel back in time, connecting threads, opening up and provoking feelings. There is an exquisite understanding of human wants and needs at play here, this is an incredibly personal novel, yet it opens up a world of heartache. A quietly challenging read, the history, the war are so essential to the storyline, yet it’s the impact of now, of the moment, that is so significant. ‘Pefume River’ is simple yet provocative, and is a beautifully touching, truly worthwhile read. ~ Liz Robinson
A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. Setting a detective series in Amsterdam is necessarily having to compete with striking memories of books by Nicolas Freeling and Janwillem van de Wetering who made this particular, rich in possibilities patch their own years back, but Pembrey pulls it off with aplomb. Henk van der Pol is a local cop now nearing retirement following a thirty year career which has left him harbouring much doubts about his usefulness and principles. When a woman's body is found in the harbour, it falls to him to delve into the case and he is soon confronted by possible corruption in his own ranks. The trail takes him to both Belgium and Norway as he doggedly pursues his prey and hunts for the truth. A vivid sense of place - but then Amsterdam has always been a gift to writers - and a flawed and believable central character make for a likeable police procedural which could herald a great series and career from this new British author. ~ Maxim Jakubowski
In the morning, they gave Reacher a medal. And in the afternoon, they sent him back to school. It's just a voice plucked from the air: 'The American wants a hundred million dollars'. For what? Who from? It's 1996, and the Soviets are long gone. But now there's a new enemy. In an apartment in Hamburg, a group of smartly-dressed young Saudis are planning something big. Jack Reacher is fresh off a secret mission and a big win. The Army pats him on the back and gives him a medal. And then they send him back to school. It's a school with only three students: Reacher, an FBI agent, and a CIA analyst. Their assignment? To find that American. And what he's selling. And to whom. There is serious shit going on, signs of a world gone mad. Night School takes Reacher back to his army days, but this time he's not in uniform. With trusted sergeant Frances Neagley at his side, he must carry the fate of the world on his shoulders, in a wired, fiendishly clever new adventure that will make the cold sweat trickle down your spine.
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