Friday, 30 April 2010

Book Review: BLOOD HARVEST BY S.J. BOLTON



Genre: Mystery

Publisher: Bantam Press (April 2010) UK
Minotaur Books (June 2010) USA

Pages: 425 (Paperback)

My Rating: 9.5/10









BLOOD HARVEST BY S.J. BOLTON

When the Fletcher family move into their newly built house which is on the crest of a Lancashire moor and surrounded on three sides by a graveyard; the new vicar, Harry, takes over at the old church; and Evi the psychiatrist takes on a new patient; little do they know that the unforgettable incidents in the village of Heptonclough will change their lives.

The story begins one windy, rainy November night when the old wall of the graveyard collapses. Not only does it disturb a grave where a little girl is buried but, when the police and Harry arrive, it is discovered that there are another two small bodies there which shouldn't be.......and Harry recognises the clothes on one of them. So, who are they and how did they get there?

We are then taken 9 weeks back in time and so begins a chilling and atmospheric build up to the events leading to the macabre discovery and the events in the village afterwards.

The three narrators are 10 year old Tom Fletcher who is convinced that a strange little girl is watching the family from the graveyard, Harry, who thinks he hears voices in the church and strange things start to happen around him, and the psychiatrist Evi who is treating Gillian, a very disturbed mother whose young daughter died in a house fire and is convinced she is still alive and wanders round the moor looking for her. The Fletcher family become so concerned about young Tom they send him to talk to Evi as well.

The old village and the quirky villagers are like a throwback to another time with annual old rituals like the 'Blood Harvest' where animals are slaughtered, the traditional 'Cutting of the Neck' and where 'bone men' are made with real bones and thrown onto the bonfire.

This story was so creepy and compelling that I wanted to keep reading just one more chapter, and S.J. Bolton is so good at drawing you in and leaving you wanting more. I think she could make a walk in the park seem scary.

Recommended for anyone who enjoys a creepy thriller. This was a well-written story with great characters like Harry the vicar who had a wonderful dry sense of humour.

I wish more books would feature a map and I referred to this one at the front many times throughout the story as it helped me to get my bearings around the village.

S.J. Bolton is appearing at Blackburn Central Library in Lancashire on the 12th May and details of how to obtain free tickets for her talk which is 'not for the squeamish' are here. I am looking forward to it!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Book Review: The AVIARY GATE BY KATIE HICKMAN

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (2009)
Pages: 430 (Paperback)
My Rating: 8/10

THE AVIARY GATE BY KATIE HICKMAN



The story begins in the present time when student Elizabeth Staveley discovers a parchment in the Bodleian library that she's been looking for and which could hold the key to a mystery that's been hidden for 400 years.

In Constantinople in 1599 the Sultan's mother (the most powerful woman in the land) discovers the bodies of two people who have been poisoned in the Sultan's Palace. One is the chief of the eunuchs and the other is a young slave girl.

This is the start of an epic tale of love, murder, treachery and secrets in the 16th century Ottoman Empire. The book centres on the discovery of a young English girl -- Celia Lamprey -- who was a slave in the Sultan's Palace. By chance, she is seen one day in the Palace grounds by an acquaintance of Paul Pindar, the secretary to the English Ambassador, who was betrothed to her and who he thought had been lost in a shipwreck two years ago.

The chapters alternate between the two time frames and the Sultan's mother is one of the central characters who uses her wits and intelligence to maintain her powerful position, while the English are trying to trade with the Ottomans and must tread carefully.

Elizabeth goes to Istanbul to try and find out more about Celia Lamprey's story and my favourite chapter is when she visits the old Topkapi Palace and while wandering round the rooms where Celia and the other concubines lived in the harem, she thinks she can sense their presence......can she hear them?

The plot was interesting and fascinating, but I was a little disappointed with some of the characters, like Celia, who I didn't really connect with, she was central to the story but I felt she wasn't very well developed.

The author Katie Hickman's website can be found here.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

BOOK NEWS: 'Stephenie Meyer summer' with Breaking Dawn paperback

'Stephenie Meyer summer' with Breaking Dawn paperback

Atom is to publish the long-awaited paperback edition of Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn this summer, two years after it was originally published in hardback.


The title will be available from 3rd August priced £7.99, with the publication date coinciding with the American paperback release.

Samantha Smith, Atom editorial director, said: "With everything Stephenie Meyer we try to do everything at the same time, so one set of fans doesn't get the book before the other set of fans. She is one of those true brand authors. Her fans are her fans and they will buy her books no matter what time of the year they come out."

The paperback edition has been a long time coming, with the hardback first published in the UK on 4th August, 2008.

"It has been quite a long time, but the demand hasn't dropped," said Smith. "These are books people love and people want to collect."

According to Nielsen Bookscan, Meyer's Twilight novels have sold 6,565,632 copies, taking more
than £38 million through UK book retailer tills. Breaking Dawn has sold 1,271,861 copies, amounting to £11.7m.

Kate Skipper, Waterstone's children's buyer, said: "What with the Bree Tanner novel, the new movie and, at long last, the paperback of Breaking Dawn, this is going to be a Stephenie Meyer summer. We are constantly being asked when Breaking Dawn will be out in paperback so it is wonderful to finally have an answer for these passionate fans."

To read the full article see thebookseller.com



Wednesday, 21 April 2010

From the Library This Week!


Here are the books I've recently borrowed from my local library.



The Secrets of the Notebook by Eve Haas

"The incredible true story revealed by a family notebook, telling of four daughters across two centuries of turbulent history, of a passionate and ill-fated royal love affair, ending in a tragic and cruel death. 'The beautiful owner of this book is dearer to me than my life. August, your protector.' Eve Haas was irresistibly drawn to the family 'notebook', which had been passed down the generations. Her father had shown her the inscription inside when she was young, with warnings of dire happenings if the secret behind the diary was pursued. Years later, Eve decided to follow the trail of the notebook, it would take her to the old kingdom of Prussia, to a forbidden royal marriage that was wiped from all official records, and a royal princess given away to ensure her protection. Forty years earlier in 1942, Eve's grandmother, Anna, had died on her way to Auschwitz after being seized by the SS. They believed she was just an old Jewish woman. The secret of her royal heritage lay in that notebook, but it couldn't save her. "

I love this kind of book, a true story mixed with mysteries and secrets. I was drawn to the cover first of the little girl who looks abandoned and the woman looking down on her, very intriguing.



TAMBURLAINE MUST DIE BY LOUISE WELSH

I've only just discovered Louise Welsh - I recently
read The Bullet Trick and really enjoyed it so, when I saw this book I grabbed it and hope it's as good.



"It is 1593 and London is a city on edge. Under threat from plague and war, strangers are unwelcome and severed heads grin from spikes on Tower Bridge. Playwright, poet and spy, Christopher Marlowe has three days to live. Three days in which to find the murderous Tamburlaine, a killer who has ascaped from between the pages of his most violent play...Tamburlaine Must Die is a swashbuckling adventure story of a man who dares to defy both God and state - and discovers that there are worse fates than damnation."




Have you read any of them? What did you think?
Do you have any others that you could recommend to me?

Sunday, 18 April 2010

BOOK NEWS: Leading academics in bitter row over anonymous 'poison' book reviews

Some of Britain’s leading authors and academics are embroiled in a row over anonymous reviews on Amazon that prompted furious emails, legal threats and an astonishing confession.

Leading academics in bitter row over anonymous 'poison' book  reviews
(Lt-Rt) Orlando Figes, Rachel Polonsky, Kate Summerscale and Stephanie Palmer

Orlando Figes, professor of history at Birkbeck College, London, and author of a book on Stalin, has named his wife as the author of comments criticising books written by other renowned scholars as being "dark and pretentious" and "critically dull".

Mr Figes had initially denied any knowledge of the reviewer who used the pseudonym "Historian" and wrote glowing comments about his own books.

But following an angry exchange of emails and lawyers' letters with fellow historians, professor Robert Service, a fellow of St Anthony's College, Oxford, and Dr Rachel Polonsky, he yesterday issued a statement saying his wife, Dr Stephanie Palmer, a leading law lecturer at Cambridge University, had admitted responsibility.

The row has sent shock waves through the normally genteel world of academia as claim and counter-claim have been circulated by email to other top writers.

Prof Service, a biographer of Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky; Kate Summerscale, author of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher; and Dr Polonsky were the three writers targeted by Dr Palmer's distinctly unfavourable 'customer reviews'.

Questions were first raised by Dr Polonsky after she read comments on her latest work, Molotov's Magic Lantern, on Amazon's UK site.

Although other users had given her hardback an average of four and a half stars out of five, 'Historian' tore into it as "dense and pretentious" writing and awarded only the minimum one star. The comment began: "This is the sort of book that makes you wonder why it was ever published."

Dr Polonsky's suspicions were raised when she noticed the critic also had a secondary nickname 'Orlando-Birkbeck'.

To read the full article see telegraph.co.uk


Friday, 16 April 2010

Book Review: SUGAR TIME BY JANE ADAMS



Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Booksurge Llc (July 2009)

Pages: 208 (Paperback)

My Rating: 8/10









SUGAR TIME BY JANE ADAMS

First Line:

"I was watching a Seinfeld re-run and picking at some leftover kung pao chicken when an octopus curled its tentacles around my midsection and squeezed."

This is how Charlotte 'Sugar' Kane, a wordly-wise (and wise-cracking) New York writer who hasn't had a hit TV show for 20 years, describes the pain of her first angina attack. She is told by her doctor to take it easy and avoid stress, around the same time as her agent tells her that her new story has got the go-ahead for a pilot show. Sugar as 'a woman of a certain age' feels that time is slipping away from her and she really needs this job to pay the bills.

I think this exchange between the doctor and Sugar is one of the funniest in the book.

Doctor speaks first

"Eat lots of fatty foods? Besides the kung pao chicken, that is."
"Hardly ever." Not if you didn't count pizza, pasta alfredo, and Krispy Cremes. "You know, the French, who eat a lot of fat, have fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans." I told him.
"You don't say. Do you drink?"
"Just red wine occasionally, with dinner. Italians, who drink excessive amounts of red wine, also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans."
"Your point being?"
"You might as well eat and drink what you like. It's speaking English that kills you."

Well, it made me chuckle anyway! A lot of Sugar's dialogue was made up of fast and funny quips like that.

While Sugar tries to ignore her heart condition, she doesn't tell even her closest friends, she moves across the country to the studios in Los Angeles, and gets an even bigger shock when she discovers that her younger assistant is trying to take over her role for herself. She feels that she has to work even harder and longer to justify her position.

She then meets and falls for Alex, a wealthy man who owns a prosperous company ............ and he is also keeping a secret.

This is a book I enjoyed reading, it kept my interest throughout and I could believe in all the characters, especially Sugar, she was likeable and frantic as she knew this was her last chance to make a name for herself in TV and didn't want anyone to take that away from her.

If you like reading about women over 50 then another book I would recommend would be Beachcombing by Maggie Dana.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Book Review: STONE'S FALL BY IAIN PEARS


Genre: Historical Mystery

Publisher: Jonathan Cape (2009)

Pages: 596 (Hardback)

My rating: 9/10










STONE'S FALL BY IAIN PEARS

About the Book:

Iain Pears tells the story of John Stone, financier and armaments manufacturer, a man so wealthy that in the years before World War I he was able to manipulate markets, industries and indeed whole countries and continents.
A panoramic novel with a riveting mystery at its heart, Stone’s Fall is a quest to discover how and why John Stone dies, falling out of a window at his London home in 1909.

My Thoughts:

The novel is recounted by three different narrators and begins in 1953 in Paris, when Matthew Braddock, a retired journalist, attends the funeral of an elderly lady that he knew several years ago in London. When her solicitor approaches Braddock and informs him that there is a package for him in London only to be opened on her death the story becomes even more intriguing.

Whilst travelling back home his mind goes back in time to London in 1909 when the widow of John Stone employs him to discover more about the contents of his will and thus he becomes the first narrator.

Another narrator takes up the story in Paris in 1890 and finally John Stone himself narrates the last part in Venice in 1867.

This is so much more than the mystery of why John Stone, a happily married man who was frightened of heights, would fall out of his window at the height of his power. We learn of the bribery and wheeling and dealing done by bankers and businessmen, of the banking crisis of 1890, espionage and the early days of shipbuilding and torpedoes, some of which I found fascinating and some of which I found heavy going. There is also a very touching love story at the heart of it all.

It didn't feel like a 600 page book, the words flowed easily and I thought the characters and situations were all very believable, with some twists in the tale!


Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Book News: Hornets' Nest soars into first place as Larsson takes 4% of market


The final instalment in the late Stieg Larsson's Millennium crime trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, sold a phenomenal 98,167 copies in just three days last week. The book, which went on sale on 1st April, comfortably tops this week's Official UK Top 50.

It is one of the strongest sales from a paperback fiction title since records began, and the biggest in a single Sunday-to-Saturday week since John Grisham's The Broker (Arrow) sold 99,146 copies in the week leading up to Christmas Day in 2005.

The first book in the trilogy, The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, sold 39,989 copies last week with sales split between the original mass-market edition (21,724) and the new film tie-in edition (18,265), while The Girl Who Played with Fire sold 29,271 copies. In total, just over £800,000 was spent on the three titles, with volume sales accounting for 4% of all book sales last week.

While The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest d├ębuts at the summit of the overall chart, James Patterson and Maxine Paetro's San Francisco-set Women's Murder Club thriller, 9th Judgement (Century), debuts at the top of the Original Fiction list thanks to a three-day sale of 13,159 copies.

Lee Child's 61 Hours (Bantam Press) falls one place to second position in that list while Philip Pullman's controversial re-telling of the story of Jesus, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (Canongate), joins the Original Fiction list in third place.

After weeks of stagnant sales in non-fiction there are finally signs of life — in paperback in particular. Eight new entries are welcomed into the Paperback Non-fiction Top 20, and there's a new number one. Sean Smith's biography of Cheryl Cole, Cheryl (S&S), is the new chart-topper with a seven-day sale of 6,617 copies - just three more than that clocked up by Simon & Schuster stablemate Patrick Swayze's memoir, The Time of My Life, in its three days on sale. Jo Brand's memoir, Look Back in Hunger (Headline), joins the Paperback Non-fiction Top 20 in third position while there are also new entries for Piers Morgan and the latest Playfair Cricket Annual (Headline).

For the full article see thebookseller.com

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