Sunday, 30 August 2009


Genre: Crime Thriller
Publisher: Three Rivers Press (May 2009)
Pages: 293 (Paperback)


First Line:

Jack Palms walks into a diner just south of Japantown, the one where he's supposed to meet Ralph.
Jack Palms is a washed-up movie star with one big hit to his name three years ago, he's also managed to kick his drug habit and hasn't had a drink in 2 years. His healthy lifestyle can get pretty boring though and when his old friend Ralph calls on him to help some Czechs to have a good time "where that mug of yours can still get us past a few red ropes" (and get paid for it) and be the go-between for drug dealer and buyer, he's more than ready, especially when the banks are on his back about his missed mortgage payments.

But when Ralph turns up dead, Jack gets himself beaten up, there's a crazy mix of Colombians, Russians, ex-KGB agents and a beautiful and sexy barmaid to tempt Jack that things really get interesting! He has to keep reminding himself that this is real life and not the sequel to his last movie, as he tries to find out who murdered his friend as well as still helping the Czechs.

The author, Seth Harwood described this story as 'an action movie between two covers' and I think that describes it perfectly. This was fast and furious, with the action never slowing for long, just long enough to take a breather till the next shooting or drug deal, and I just wanted to keep turning the pages as Jack lurched from one wild scene to the next, always hoping that the good guys would win in the end.

I guess this kind of novel would appeal mainly to young men, but, even though I'm neither young nor male, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed all of it, yes, there is bad language and, yes, there are some gory scenes but nothing too graphic, and I would certainly recommend it if you want to read a story that doesn't take itself too seriously.


Saturday, 22 August 2009


Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd. (Aug 2009)
Pages: 408 (Paperback)

The moment that Lady Elizabeth Woodville (27 year old widow of 2 young sons) meets the handsome King Edward IV "who has beautiful women flinging themselves at him every night of the week," their lives are irrevocably changed forever as the young Yorkist King is smitten by the beauty and grace of the daughter of one of his Lancastrian enemies.

The Wars of the Roses is the backdrop to this compelling love story where, after secretly marrying, the King and Queen of England's many children include the 'princes in the tower', a mystery which has baffled historians through the centuries.

Elizabeth is the main character throughout and is not without her flaws, she can be a very loving wife and mother, but also very strong-willed. She also enjoys the power that the Throne provides, indeed her own brother says to her that "you distribute favours and wealth to your favourites, not to the deserving".

I was completely absorbed in this story, I thought it had everything: bloody battles, treachery, treason, romance, witchcraft, family feuds, murder, and at the heart of it the mystery of the two young and innocent little boys who are caught in the middle of a tussle for the Kingdom.

This is the first in Philippa Gregory's new Historical Fiction series - I can't wait for her next!


Friday, 21 August 2009

BOOK NEWS: Dan Brown tops Oxfam's chart of most-donated books

Oxfam bookshop

Where to send your old Dan Brown books ... an Oxfam bookshop. Photograph: David Sillitoe

Dan Brown might be one of the world's bestselling authors but it turns out that readers aren't too keen on keeping his special blend of religious conspiracy and scholarly derring-do on their shelves once they've bought it.

Brown, who has sold more than 81m copies of The Da Vinci Code worldwide, has been revealed as the most donated author to Oxfam's 700 high street shops. With just four books to his name – although his long-awaited fifth The Lost Symbol is published next month – Brown did well to see off competition from John Grisham, author of more than 20 and the second-most likely writer to be ditched in a charity shop by readers.

But as secondhand bookshop shelves flood with battered editions of Angels and Demons and Digital Fortress, Brown can comfort himself with the fact that he's also Oxfam's 2nd most bought author: there are, apparently, still readers out there who have yet to follow the adventures of the dapper symbologist Robert Langdon. There's no such consolation for Grisham, whose legal thrillers fail to make Oxfam's bestseller charts at all.

"There's no question that when you go into the back room of Oxfam shops there are many Dan Brown books," said Oxfam's director of trading David McCullough. "But he's also very high on the bestseller list so there is a useful recycling exercise going on – it's not just people saying 'I've read The Da Vinci Code and now I must get rid of it'."

Ian Rankin, whose dour, boozy detective John Rebus is no Robert Langdon, tops Oxfam's bestseller list, which the charity says is the first ever high-street secondhand bestseller chart. "It's always good for an author to know that their books are popular," said the Scottish author, who will unveil a new policeman hero, the teetotal Malcolm Fox, next month. "With Oxfam, it's also heartening to realise that each book donated and bought is helping such a worthwhile organisation."

Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series and instigator of myriad teenage crushes courtesy of her sparkly vampire hero Edward Cullen, is also sitting high in Oxfam's charts, nestling between Bernard Cornwell and Terry Pratchett.

Margaret Atwood, meanwhile, winner of the Booker prize and author of a host of critically acclaimed works of fiction, scrapes into the list in 8th place, keeping unlikely company with thriller powerhouse James Patterson – currently producing at least 8 books a year thanks to a horde of co-writers – and Jodi Picoult, never afraid to jerk a tear or pile on the plot twists.

"We just need to dispel the idea that we are sitting there in Oxfam with only first editions of literary gems – actually we've got shelves of really good fiction," said McCullough. "Waterstone's might be more upset than secondhand booksellers," he added, referring to the recent slew of complaints from secondhand booksellers that the charity is stealing their business.

Oxfam, Europe's biggest high-street retailer of secondhand books and the third-biggest bookseller in the UK, launched a drive for book donations in May ahead of its first national book festival, Bookfest, in July. Authors including Joanna Trollope, Philip Pullman and Jonathan Coe all lent a hand in shops across the country as part of the festival, and the drive saw book donations rise 40%, with sales up by more than 10%.

Rare books and first editions have also been pouring into shops since May. Ten of the most sought-after editions have raised more than £4,500 for the charity between them. A first edition of Lord of the Rings sold for £800, a first edition of Watership Down brought in £500, Sylvia Plath's Ariel sold for £350, Ian Fleming's From Russia With Love for £300 and a second printing of Martin Chuzzlewit for £200.

Oxfam, which has more than 130 specialist bookshops and stocks books in almost all of its 700 stores, sells £1.6m-worth of books a month – equivalent, it says, to 50,000 emergency shelters, 64,000 goats or safe water for 2.1 million people.

The most donated authors to Oxfam shops so far this year:

1. Dan Brown

2. John Grisham

3. Ian Rankin

4. Danielle Steel

5. Helen Fielding

6. Stephen King

7. JK Rowling

8. Catherine Cookson

9. Patricia Cornwell

10. Mills & Boon

The Oxfam shop bestseller list:

1. Ian Rankin

2. Dan Brown

3. Bernard Cornwell

4. Stephanie Meyer

5. Terry Pratchett

6. Khaled Hosseini

7. Helen Fielding

8. Margaret Atwood

9. James Patterson

10. Jodi Picoult

The top 10 most valuable donated books since May:

1. JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings – first edition, sold for £800

2. Don Giovanni sheet music – first edition, sold for £750

3. Sowerby's Catalogue of Shells – sold for £600

4. Richard Adams, Watership Down – first edition, sold for £500

5. Handbook of Indian Dances - first edition with hand-blocked prints, sold for £500

6. Richmal Crompton, Just William - first edition, sold for £440

7. Sylvia Plath, Ariel – first edition, sold for £350

8. Ian Fleming, From Russia With Love – first edition, sold for £300

9. Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit – second print, sold for £200

10. WE Johns, Biggles in Australia – first edition, sold for £150

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

BOOK NEWS: Titan to publish The Simpsons Annual

Titan to publish Simpsons annual

Titan is to publish what it described as the first ever annual based on the dysfunctional animated family The Simpsons.

The Simpsons Annual 2010 will be published on 28th August priced at £7.99. The seasonally-themed 72pp hardback volume has 6 new stories and strips, which have never before been printed in the UK or Ireland. The title will also feature vignettes from Springfield’s residents themselves, written in-character especially for the annual. There will also be spoof advertisements and joke pages.

Editorial director Katy Wild said: "We have been wanting to publish a Simpsons Annual for many years, as it was such an obvious gap in the market waiting to be filled - the Simpsons has consistently been voted the top TV show of all time, and its popularity is strong and enduring. The huge success of Titan's Simpsons Comic, as well as our bestselling range of graphic novels, convinced us that a Simpsons Annual had to be a Top 5 Annual this Christmas." She added that the annual would "appeal to readers of all ages, from 9 to 99".

The American TV show is in its 20th year and Fox has recently secured a further 2 seasons of the show. A film based on the animated yellow family was also released in 2007.

Taken from

Sunday, 16 August 2009


Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (Jan 2009)
Pages: 390 (Hardcover)

The year is 1903 and 19 year old widow Mary Boulton is fleeing across the wilds of Canada from her 2 brothers-in-law who want revenge for the murder of her husband.

As Mary's wanderings take her deeper and deeper into the Canadian wilderness she encounters various people along the way who have their own reasons for being where they are. I couldn't help thinking of how unlucky she was before she became a widow and how lucky she was after, as more than once she was so near to starvation and exhaustion when she was found and helped on the road to recovery.

Gil Adamson's wonderfully vivid descriptions of the wild and frozen landscape were a joy to read - this is a typical example -

The widow followed her keeper .................. placing her boots where his had been, feeling the spongy give of forest floor. He pressed it far down, and she pressed less deeply. And when they had passed, their trail faded away again as moss and needles and leaves slowly uncompressed and tiny filaments stood upright.

This was an engrossing story of hope and faith in human nature. Gil Adamson's debut novel was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and I don't think it will be long before she wins an award if she continues to write with such remarkable assuredness.


Monday, 10 August 2009


Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Outskirts Press (2009)
Pages: 58 (Paperback)

As Rosa sits alone in her room, her eyes wander to a picture of her beloved daddy, and she is instantly taken way back to a time full of happiness when she lived at home with her parents and siblings in Philadelphia.

She recalls Christmases past full of laughter, storytelling and reminiscing, when her daddy would tell the same funny stories again and again, and no-one tired of hearing them. All the children knew that Santa would decorate their Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve but one Christmas morning .........

Rosa woke too early. Rushing down the stairs to find the lights on and daddy decorating the tree. Rosa froze right there on the stairs. Daddy froze too........even now that made her smile as daddy had that deer in the headlights look. It took a quick minute, but daddy replied, "Santa is running late and he called and asked me to start decorating the tree." Rosa was relieved to hear that and knew that daddy was glad to help Santa ...... he helped everyone. Happily Rosa went to her room and before long was sound asleep once more.

I loved that story, I think it summed up the whole book for me as it was filled with little happy tales like that that make you smile, in fact it reminded me very much of watching The Waltons when I was a little girl. One big happy family who all looked out for one another and nothing too bad happened.

Around halfway through the book I started thinking that it was too sweet, that everything was too perfect, but then as I read on, Rosa got older and her life didn't always go according to plan when she got married and had a family.

Her love for her mother and especially her Daddy comes through very strongly throughout the book and, to Rosa, he was her hero.

When looking back over the years I think we do mostly remember the good times only and we do tend to see life through rose-coloured glasses just as Rosa did.

I really loved reading these heart-warming anecdotes and would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed watching The Waltons!


Sunday, 9 August 2009

BOOK NEWS: Philippa Gregory to Tweet next novel

Philippa Gregory will serialise her latest novel on Twitter in the week preceding The White Queen's publication later this month.

Gregory has written the tweets of Elizabeth Woodville, the main protagonist of the novel. The tweets can be viewed at with the first being posted at 5pm on 11th August. Between then and 17th August, "Woodville" will be tweeting between 5pm and 8pm. Simon & Schuster will publish the novel on 18th August.

Gregory said: "Turning a 150,000 word novel into tweets was never going to be easy. Tweets are a discipline, rather like a haiku, and the shortness of the sentence gives each one a rhythm which is really interesting for prose.

"It was more like writing poetry than prose. And some of the tweets seem to me to be more arresting than the prose of the book. I especially like the first one: 'If my mother were not a witch, and the descendant of the goddess Melusina, I think none of this could ever have happened to me. But it did'.

"I like this so much, I have re-used it when describing the novel, it doesn't appear in the novel but only in the Twitter version, but it encapsulates for me the mood of the novel, its dreamlike quality, the character of the heroine and invites you to read more. I am certainly going to write creative tweets again."

The White Queen is the first in a series of novels set amid The Wars of the Roses. The book is a tale of one woman's ambitious ascent to royalty and the unsolved mystery around her son's imprisonment.

Digital marketing agency Blonde also worked on the Twitter serial. Managing director Phil Adams said: "We've been working with several clients to explore the commercial opportunities afforded by Twitter, but this project is the most exciting. Philippa is to be applauded not just for the effort required to reinterpret the book, but also for the pioneering spirit to experiment with new forms of verbal expression."

Thursday, 6 August 2009


Genre: Horror
Publisher: Booksurge (Feb 2009)
Pages: 249 (Paperback)


On the surface, Careview may seem like a nice place to live. What with its small town feel and family owned diners, many visitors have used such words as quaint and charming while passing through. Though for those that stay long enough, such words as sinister and evil have later been used. There is a darkness in Careview. One that connects the fates of four of its citizens. A serial killer with a collection, a psychic with an agenda, a woman with a family secret, and a returning son with a traumatic past, together must brave the storm. One that has been brewing beneath the surface for nearly thirty-one years. And all that time, I’ve been watching............

From the mind of Zack Daggy comes the first installment of The Dark Worlds Trilogy. An original horror series that’s sure to remind you why you should fear the dark.

First Line:

October 31st, 1946, 11:31 p.m.

"What the bloody hell are you doing here, Alister?"

These are the words of Alister Smith, a man who is about to sell his soul, a decision which has far reaching and horrific results for the inhabitants of Careview.

This is the sort of book that you don't want to read when you're all alone in the dark evenings! There were many gory moments, people having strange recurring nightmares and various oddballs.

Zack Daggy's easy writing style was a page turner as the story weaved back and forth in time and we were introduced to various characters who later turned out to be inextricably linked to each other: some good, some evil.

One of my favourite characters was Lilly who discovered that she had special powers passed down through her family, such as reducing a couple, who were trying to sacrifice her, into ashes, including the furniture and all her clothes! She had some of the funniest lines in the book - yes there was humour as well as the scary bits.

There was also Casey, a man who could see the past, present and future of every person he met, due to a horrific experiment in 1977 with tragic consequences.

This is a well-written and pacy horror story with bewitching characters; and is the 1st in a trilogy; at the end of the book is a tantalising snippet of the next book, carrying on with more of the same bloodshed!


Saturday, 1 August 2009


Genre: Psychological Thriller
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (2006)
Pages: 358 (Hardback)

Alice Fancourt returns home from her first trip out on her own after the birth of her 2 week old baby to discover her front door ajar, her husband just waking up from sleep and that her daughter, who she lovingly placed in her cot several hours before, has been unbelievably replaced by another baby. This sets the scene for an incredibly compelling and intelligent psychological thriller.

Why would anyone want to swap one baby for another? Could it be in any way connected to the murder of Laura, Alice's husband David's ex-wife a few years ago? And what about the domineering Vivienne, David's mother, is she as innocent as she seems? These are just some of the many questions to be answered by Simon and Charlie, the two detectives who's own fascinating insecurities and back stories could make a novel of their own!

Then Alice and the baby inexplicably disappear................

Sophie Hannah's skilful writing had me hooked from the first page to the last as she gradually built up the suspense - all the characters seemed to be hiding secrets which were slowly revealed along with the subtle clues that I'd missed throughout the book!

I very rarely give books 5/5 but I feel that this book justifiably deserves it for the superb writing style, the peculiarity of the detectives, the very clever plotting and the excellent characterisations.



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