Sunday, 30 October 2011

Steampunk! - Book Review

This is an 'Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories' from fourteen masters of Speculative Fiction.

Imagine an alternate universe where romance and technology reign. A world of automatons, ornate clockworks and time travel, where scientists and dreamers, intrepid orphans and schoolgirls solve dastardly crimes, escape from monstrous predicaments and hover over volcanos in steam powered airships.

Steampunk to me is very “Heath Robinson” a mish mash of old and new, young and old mixed together with bits of the future and obscure concepts too. It requires imagination, thought and a little bit of romance.

This is a great introduction to the concept of steampunk as there is a mix of short stories and graphic novels in the book. A huge advantage for the reader with short stories is that it's so easy to dip in and out of the book, and I enjoyed the interspersal of the two graphic novels between the twelve short stories

I particularly enjoyed the graphic novel: Seven Days Beset by Demons by Shaun Cheng about a characters unrequited love. The drawing is so intricate and full of little extras that I found myself reading the story & glancing at the drawing, then returning to the beginning to look more closely at each frame of the story to see what I had missed. A simple story illustrated brilliantly by the author, which deserves several re-reads.

A stand out short story for me was Some Fortunate Future Day by Cassandra Clare. Rose's father has gone off to war and she lives in the country awaiting his return. She has had no human contact for six months , and spends her days in the company of her servant robots. When she encounters a soldier injured near to her house, she nurses him back to health and dreams of a life together with him in the Capital. She'll do whatever it takes to make him want her in his life.

The anthology features authors from America, New Zealand, Australia and the UK, & also acknowledges influences from the great Japanese anime director Hayao Miyazaki. The diverse mix of nationalities adds to this great compendium which has certainly aroused my interest in cross-genre fiction and graphic novels.

This book was sent to me for review by

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Death Sentence - Mikkel Birkegaard - Book Review

Frank Fons is a very successful crime writer. His books are famed for their shock factor and now someone has recreated a murder scene straight from one of his novels. Frank needs to become detective and try to work out who is committing the crime before it's too late.

This is a really well written novel which is not for the faint hearted, It's a fast paced story which is full of details of each of Frank's novels through his career. Frank's personal life is also explored in the book and the flashbacks of his family life is interspersed with details of his book publications. This is a very graphic and brutal story with some of the violent scenes proving a little bit too much for me. I have to admit that although the ending itself was well written, I could only skim read it through my fingers as it really was gruesome.

Was the gore necessary? Yes it probably was (if you can cope with it!!), as it was the climax to a nailbiting book which kept the reader guessing to the end - and beyond.

I loved the book, even through the skim reading and therefore give it 4.5 out of five.

I look forward to reading more of this author in the future.

I'm a member of the Transworld Book Group and was sent this book to review by Transworld

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Water Room - Christopher Fowler - Book Review

This is the second book in the series. I have not read the first, but it did not seem to matter. There were references to the first which got me up to speed with the back-story of the two main characters.

London's two longest serving detectives Bryant and May are like chalk and cheese, both completely different characters who work tremendously well as a team. The Peculiar Crime Unit is an offshoot of the Met, set up to deal with those crimes which don't quite fit the 'normal' remit.  They find themselves investigating an unusual death of an old lady in her basement which leads to them going deep into the underground rivers beneath London.

This is a wonderful crime novel with wonderful colourful characterisations of both Bryant & May but the mix of individuals they meet along the way.  Both detectives are eccentric, the reader learns so much about them with the intricate details given about their lives.  The eccentricities add to the drama & by the end of the book I felt as though I almost knew what made them tick.

This is quirky intelligent crime drama.  It is very well written with lots of weird and wonderful facts about London.  I loved the pace of the book which kept me wanting to keep reading to wonder what on earth was next on their agenda. Very much recommended.

I'm a member of the Transworld Book Group and was sent this book to review by Transworld

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Black Swan Rising - Book Review

Garet James lives in New York, with an elderly father, money worries and a struggling business.  She discovers an antique shop one day whilst out walking and that's when her problems intensify.
The old man in the shop asks her to use her skills as a jeweller to open an old silver box which has been sealed shut. She takes it home, opens the box, and a whole new parallel world.
Her destiny and history is revealed to her by a number of characters which make themselves known to her, and it becomes a race against time to close the box and capture the demons of Despair and Discord before the world is changed forever.

The story is filled with twists and turns, with plenty of new characters revealing themselves to Garet along the way. There is a hint of romance with a vampire, which felt like a token gesture relying on the current public favour for vamps, and this does distract from the underlying fantasy/mystery theme. However the scenes set by the author are at times breathtaking, and I found myself on tenterhooks to see whether Garet managed to battle the demons threatening the world. There are great references to mythology and literature, but as the authors are American there is an over-emphasis on the explanations of Shakespeare and his characters.

Good concept, slow start, but the story certainly developed after a few chapters. The 'author' is a husband and wife team  - Carol Goodman and Lee Slonimsky which may be why the writing at times felt a little patched together 

Overall a good enjoyable read particularly recommended to lovers of urban fantasy.  

'I'm part of the Transworld book group!' and was sent this book to review by Transworld. 

Monday, 1 August 2011

I'm part of the Transworld Book Group!!

The wonderful people at Transworld publishing have launched the Transworld Book Group Reading Challenge If you're within the EU and enjoy reading, posting reviews on Amazon or are an avid blogger then you can join the challenge too.
There are fifteen books to choose from. Choose four to review. Review the book on your blog or on Amazon and send them the link , then the next book will be sent.

These are the four books I've selected:
Lee Carroll - Black Swan Rising
Death Sentence- Mikkel Birkegaard

The Secrets Between Us - Louise Douglas

The Water Room - Christopher Fowler

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Book Review - Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor

Meet Karou. For seventeen years she has successfully managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she is an art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to an inhuman creature who deals in wishes and is the closest thing she has to family. Her friends just think she’s kooky, but they don’t know the half of it... The beads of her necklace are no mere beads; her blue hair grows out of her head that colour; the monsters from her sketchbook are all real; and yes, those ARE bullet scars on her belly. The mysteries that surround Karou’s existence and have long tormented her are about to be laid bare... And the truth is more terrifying than she could have possibly imagined.

The 'fantasy' genre is not one I've read much of in the past, although I have long been a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Vampire Diaries on tv so I am very much in tune with the imaginative side of my heart.

From the very first page I was engrossed in Karou's two lives. Her normal life in Prague with her student friends, and her secret life in Elsewhere with Brimstone the Wishmaker.  Laini Taylor paints a vivid picture of both worlds,with from gothic Prague to exotic Marrakesh.  Karou's life in Elsewhere is full of amazing characters where scuppies are used for wishes and teeth are collected for Brimstone to work with. Karou is a great heroine and there are some really poignant moments that made my heart melt.  

This shouldn't be dismissed as yet more young adult fiction though, as the book is so eloquent and has such a multi stranded storyline it should be enjoyed by anyone wanting an intelligent read. 
It's full of forbidden love, demons, angels, friendship, and a little bit of kookiness. I loved this book and found it hard to put down. As the first in a trilogy the book does draw to a conclusion, but has left me desperate to read the next novel to find out what challenges Karou will face next. 

I was sent this preview copy to review for the Best Book Club.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Trinny and Susannah All in One Body Smoother - Review

Like most ladies I appreciate help in looking my best. When I was invited to try some shapewear by Tights Please, I was more than happy to have a go.

The product I was sent was one of a range by Trinny and Susannah who are well known for hoiking and squeezing better than any exercise regime can do! In my opinion a celebrity endorsement does not always mean a wonderful product, but Trinny and Susannah certainly seem to have brought their expertise to this range.

The All in One Body Smoother comes in two colours: skin and black. I chose the black, as it is a slimming colour.  The shapewear has plenty of lycra in it which allows for it to be easily worn. I found it initially a little difficult to get into, due to the close fitting, but once I'd wiggled into it, it fit like a glove.  I found it 100% easier to step into it and pull it up (like a pair of tights), rather than put it over my head (like a jumper)

I wondered whether I would feel constricted when wearing the shapewear, but it was so comfortable it seemed to fit like a glove. I felt more confident wearing fitted clothes as I was sculpted in all the right places, and my lumps and bumps had been smoothed out. As the Body Smoother is all in one, there were no awful VPL marks, which often happens when wearing fitted clothes.  These really are Magic knickers, so comfortable, I forgot I was wearing them!

Recommended?  Yes 100%.

Samples were received for the purposes of this review. No other reward, financial or otherwise, was received in exchange for this post. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Book Review: Sacrifice - S J Bolton

This is the third and final book I have read as part of The Great Transworld Crime Caper which I have really enjoyed taking part in. Three books, eight weeks = one happy reader.

The blurb:
Moving to remote Shetland has been unsettling enough for consultant surgeon Tora Hamilton, even before the gruesome discovery she makes one rain-drenched afternoon...

The corpse I could cope with. It was the context that threw me.

Deep in the peat soil of her field, she uncovers the body of a young woman. The heart has been removed, and marks etched into the skin bear an eerie resemblance to carvings Tora has seen in her own cellar.

And there I'd been, thinking the day couldn't possibly get any worse

But as Tora begins to ask questions, terrifying threats start rolling in like the cold island mists...

My thoughts:

This book covers a deeply chilling subject, and one which some may not wish to read about.  The author tackles it well, and it makes for an exciting and chilling read.
The negatives: The main character Tora seems a little unbelieveable, one minute she has a high powered job as a Consultant Surgeon, then next she is running around the countryside like daft teenager. I found the overly descriptive parts of the book off putting at times. I would rather have had the information about the location of the islands by way of a map at the front of the book

The positives:  The author writes in a compelling way which makes it hard for the reader to put the book down, and I was fascinated by the descriptions of the ancient runes and their meanings. The setting is in contemporary Britain, but often felt like another world, as the different landscapes and folklore just adds to the chills.

I would have liked to have read more about the "folklore" and less about the relationship between Tora and her boss, however this is a book which kept me interested right up to the final page, and made me want to learn more about  Shetland folklore

This is the debut novel by SJ Bolton and I am lucky enough to have her next novel waiting on my "to be read" pile. I look forward to it.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Book review - Telling Tales - Ann Cleeves

I came across this author quite by accident and I'm so glad I did. 
I bought Red Bones, which is part of The Shetland Series as part of a three for two offer. It was an excellent and chilling read, and although I read it completely out of sequence it encouraged me to seek out more.

I then read Hidden Depths which is the third book in the Vera Stanhope series. This is being dramatised by ITV this summer with Brenda Blethyn as Vera and I look forward to seeing her on screen.

Telling Tales is the second book in the series yet does not suffer from being read out of sequence.  
It is ten years after Jeanie Long was charged with the murder of fifteen year old Abigail Mantel.  Residents of the East Yorkshire village of Elvet are disturbed by the new evidence which has emerged proving Jeanie's innocence. Abigail's killer is still at large.

For her friend Emma Bennett, the revelation brings back haunting memories of her vibrant best friend and the winter's day when she discovered her body lying cold in a ditch.

Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope is such a well written character, and whilst she's not perfect you'd rather have her on your side than not. There's an overwhelming sense of sadness in this book, which as the story unfolds, seems to hang over every character. There's no real happy ending in this, but a great solid conclusion. 

I'm looking forward to reading more of Ann Cleeves, and hope that the ITV series serves her character well!

Book Review - The Chemistry of Death - Simon Beckett

This is the second book I have chosen to read for the Great Transworld Crime Caper. Published by Bantam Press, an imprint of Transworld, it was shortlisted for the CWA Duncan Lawrie Dagger for Best Crime Novel of the Year.

Forensics expert David Hunter retreats to the remote Norfolk village of Manham to escape from a family tragedy. By taking up a job as the local Doctor he believes his old life can be left behind. However when a local woman is murdered, the police are desperate for his help. When it happens again, and the tight knit community worry that a serial killer is on the loose his assistance is invaluable. The villagers become suspicious of each other and no one is exempt from investigation.

This novel started really well, but I found it hard to get into until the pace picked up towards the middle of the book. There is a “love interest" which I often dislike, however I felt tied in well with the story and helped make David a little less one dimensional. I didn’t feel as though I knew any of the characters very well, as the novel wasn’t particularly descriptive.

I was concerned this would be a gory novel, which is not something I enjoy reading, however the level of gore was contained and not over the top. It was much more Midsomer Murders than Silent Witness!

The level of intrigue intensified half way through the book, and I was glad of this as the red herrings and story developments made me want to keep reading, and the ending was very well written.

A good start to the “David Hunter” series of novels. This is an enjoyable easy read, which sets the stage well for his subsequent investigations.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Book Review: Echoes from the Dead - Johan Theorin

This is the first novel I've been sent as part of the Transworld Crime Caper.  I'm a big fan of Nordic crime, so this was a good choice for me.
The island of Oland off the south eastern coast of Sweden is the setting for this mystery. Twenty years ago a child goes missing, his body is never found. His mother now lives on the mainland, but his grandfather a retired sea captain still lives on the island. When the little boys shoe is posted to the old man, questions and answers seem destined to be asked

This novel won the CWA Best First Crime Novel of 2009 and is well deserved. The little boy goes missing in the fog, and it is this bleakness that permeates through the book. The plot twists and turns allow the story to move at a good pace, with several shock developments.  The characters were well rounded and showed that all of them had secrets, some more important to keep to themselves than others.

I thoroughly recommend this novel. It's well written, has a good storyline and kept me guessing right to the end. I will certainly be looking for the authors next book.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

I'm an accessory in The Great Transworld Crime Caper

Imagine my delight when I came across the following post on Transworld books blog:

One thing we really know how to do in Transworld Towers is crime, be it spooky Scandinavian, grizzly moorland or armchair killers we publish crime that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let you go!
Thanks to the success of all who took part in the Summer Reading Challenge we have decided to repeat our crimes and launch The Great Transworld Crime Caper, an opportunity to go back to the beginning and revisit the scene of the original crimes that launched our most experienced villains.
We want you to be the judge, jury and executioner of the titles listed below.
We will have a two week registration period ending the 14th February, Valentine’s Day which will make us repent our sins and feel the love! Pick three books from the list below to read and review on a venue of your choice (Amazon, blog, etc) The challenge will finish on the 31st March whereby we will dust for fingerprints, weigh up our case and post up some of the best (or worst) reviews that we’ve had in.
For more information see here:

Chose three titles from the books below:
1. Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler
2. Sacrifice by S. J. Bolton
3. Blacklands by Belinda Bauer
4. Birdman by Mo Hayder
5. The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett
6. Past Caring by Robert Goddard
7. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
8. Echoes from the Dead by Johan Theorin
9. The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
10. If I Never See You Again by Niamh O’Connor
11. The Accident Man by Tom Cain
12. The Business of Dying Simon Kernick
Enjoy your stretch in the clink!

I decided to choose the following three to review:
Echoes from the Dead by Johan Theorin
The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett
Sacrifice by S. J. Bolton

I have nearly finished reading Echoes from the Dead by Johan Theorin, and am thoroughly enjoying it. A review will of course be here soon.  Narrowing it down to a choice of three involved several glances at Amazon to decide which to pick, and I know that I'll be keeping an eye out at the library for others from the list which I fancy.

Monday, 14 February 2011


So, this is my first ever blog post.  I'm not usually one to follow the crowd, preferring more to make my own decisions whether to "do" something or not. However blogging seems to be the in thing at the moment, and I currently have a lot of ideas going round in my mind. Therefore being of the opinion that ideas are best written down, mostly as I tend to forget them otherwise, I have decided to record them here.
I know a lot about a little, or a little about a lot, so my posts will be rambling, and random.

We shall have to see how it goes.