Wednesday, 30 March 2011


Genre:  Historical Fiction
Published by:  Bantam Books  (May 2008)
Pages:  525  (Paperback)

My Rating:  9/10

About the Book:

Adelia Aguilar is a rare thing in medieval Europe – a woman who has trained as a doctor. Her speciality is the study of corpses, a skill that must be concealed if she is to avoid accusations of witchcraft.
But in Cambridge a child has been murdered, others are disappearing, and King Henry has called upon a renowned Italian investigator to find the killer – fast.
What the king gets is Adelia, his very own Mistress of the Art of Death.
The investigation takes Adelia deep into Cambridge; its castle and convents, and streets teeming with life. And it is here that she attracts the attention of a murderer who is prepared to kill again…

In the first of a series of novels featuring Adelia, we are introduced to this woman from Solerno, Italy who has come to England to help find the killer of several children without disclosing the fact that she’s a real doctor.  It wasn’t easy for her but she understood peoples superstitions and was careful not to be regarded as a witch.

Adelia Aguilar is now one of my favourite historical characters, she’s a woman in a man’s world, way ahead of her time, intelligent, witty, independent  and obsessed with the dead and what their bodies tell her.....and she’s not afraid of speaking her mind!

I thought the storyline was compelling …. there was a little romance … some gruesome details describing the childrens deaths and their injuries …... some wonderful warm and quirky characters, especially Gyltha the cook and housekeeper who is a big softy despite her rough exterior …... a few nasty characters …... a good steady build up to the killers identity, which I didn’t guess...... all simply told.

I would recommend this one for all medieval murder mystery fans.  

Sadly, the author Ariana Franklin passed away earlier this year but she leaves us with three more in this series --

The Serpent’s Tale (aka The Death Maze)
Relics of the Dead (aka Grave Goods)
A Murderous Procession (aka The Assassin’s Prayer)

This is my 3rd and final read in The Great Transworld Crime Caper Challenge

For more on Ariana Franklin please click here

Monday, 28 March 2011


Genre:  True Stories
Published by:  Gallic Books
Pages:  174
My Rating:  7/10

About the Book:
Anna Sam spent 8 years as a checkout girl in France.  This book is a witty look at what it’s really like to work in a supermarket: the relentless grind and less-than-perfect working conditions, along with people-watching and encounters with every kind of customer from the bizarre to the downright rude.

If you’ve ever wondered what life is like on the other side of the checkout as you buy your weekly shopping, then wonder no more as Anna Sam talks to you as if you were applying for the job yourself.

I learnt that supermarkets in France don’t supply their customers with free bags anymore, unlike the UK where they’re given out every day in their thousands and then thrown carelessly away, cluttering up the rubbish dumps.

I also discovered what the three most common questions the till operators are asked, and which European country uses the most toilet rolls!  Oh yes, this book is full of gems like this.

I quite enjoyed her easy style of writing and short paragraphs with titles such as ‘Embarrassing Items’ and ‘My Till, My Love’.  
But I started to get a little bored about ¾ of the way through and I was glad it was just a short book (only 174 pages).  It is a unique and very quirky read and there were some funny parts.

Even though Anna worked in France, I’m sure it is equally relevant wherever it is set, as I’m sure retail workers can identify with the many amusing, awkward and downright rude customers!

I must thank Gallic Books for sending me this book to review - you can read a sampler chapter on their website here

Friday, 25 March 2011

BOOK NEWS: HMV considers selling Waterstone's

waterstone's islington green
HMV's board is 'exploring strategic options in respect of Waterstone's', according to the company. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian
HMV confirmed this morning that it is looking at selling off theWaterstone's chain of booksellers, but insisted that it is not in talks about a takeover for the whole group.
Shares in the troubled retailer jumped 7.5% to 18p, a rise of 1.25p, after it updated the City on its plans, which could also include finding a buyer for its Canadian operation.
Speculation has swirled that its shareholder, the Russian oligarch Alexander Mamut, could break up the business ever since HMV posted a shock profit warning following poor trading over Christmas.
Mamut has now assembled a 6.1% stake in HMV. There has been speculation that Tim Waterstone, the entrepreneur turned novelist who founded the bookshop in 1982, is plotting a bid for Waterstone's with Mamut. He previously teamed up with Mamut to invest in Bookberry, a now bankrupt Russian bookstore chain.
"In response to press speculation, the board confirms it is exploring strategic options in respect of Waterstone's and HMV Canada," HMV said. "The board also confirms that no discussions are taking place with respect to an offer for the group."
Amid worries that it could breach loan covenant tests, the company stressed that its lenders "continue to be supportive, our banking facilities remain fully available and the group is continuing to maintain a regular and constructive dialogue with its lenders".
HMV issued its second profit warning of the year at the beginning of the month, saying trading conditions had remained difficult since the start of the year. It also admitted that it expected to fail some parts of a critical loan covenant test next month and was busy renegotiating borrowing conditions with its bankers.
The company is already planning to close up to 20 Waterstone's outlets and about 40 HMV stores as part of a cost-cutting drive

Tuesday, 22 March 2011


Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Published by:  Headline Review  (March 2011)
Pages:  336  (Paperback)
My Rating:  7/10

About the Book:

Spanning four decades, from 1968 onwards, this is the story of a flawed family and the slew of ordinary and extraordinary incidents that shape their everyday lives.  It is a story about childhood and growing up, loss of innocence, eccentricity, familial ties and friendships, love and life.  Stripped down to its bare bones, it’s about the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.

1st Line:

I decided to enter this world just as my mother got off the bus after an unproductive shopping trip to Ilford.

Eleanor Maud, born in 1968, is the narrator of this story, she’s the sister of Joe who is 5 years older and he was different to other boys his age; "an exotic creature who secretly wore his mother’s lipstick at night, it was his outlet against a conservative world, the quiet rebellion of a rank outsider."

The book is rich with eccentric characters, including her best friend, Jenny Penny, who would pull a coin out of her arm and Arthur, (came to stay and never left) who knew his exact date of death and how he would die.  

It is told in two parts, the first is Elly’s childhood and the second is her adulthood.  And this is where my feelings about the book changed.  I loved the first part, it was funny …... I was in stitches reading about the Nativity Play and the rugby match …...... it was touching when her brother gave her a rabbit for Christmas and called it god …....... and the ups and downs of her parents relationship and her friendship with her best friend.  All wonderfully written and a joy to read and I just wanted it to carry on in that era but then the story moves on 19 years and it just wasn’t the same for me.  

The writing was still of a high quality but I found myself not caring as much for the characters and I can’t really put my finger on why I felt like that.  Maybe I just liked them as children but not as adults.

Overall, this was a book of two halves!  That’s why I gave it a 7/10 instead of a 9/10.

Thursday, 17 March 2011


Genre:  Crime & Mystery
Published by:  Bantam  (Sept 2004)
Pages:  412  (Paperback)
My Rating:  9.5 / 10

Blurb from the back of the book:

Arthur Bryant and John May of the Met’s little-known Peculiar Crimes Unit are London’s longest-serving detectives.  When a bomb claims Bryant’s life, it ends a partnership that has lasted for over half a century.
Desperately searching for clues to the killer’s identity, May becomes convinced that the answer is to be found in their very first assignment together.  It was in London, during the Blitz, and it all began when a beautiful dancer was found without her feet …....

This is the 1st book in the Bryant & May detective series and it introduces us to the two men who first met over 60 years ago.  Arthur Bryant, the ‘bright-eyed and restless’ young man who was ‘filled to exhaustion with ideas’ , ‘distracted and a little awkward’ and who ‘said what he meant’ ….... and John May, the ‘reserved, serious one’ who ‘meant what he said’.

The story starts in the present on the night that a bomb has obliterated the PCU’s office where Bryant (who was an insomniac) was working.  May is devastated and vows to solve the murder but, on investigating, he realises that the answer lies in the past.

The plot weaves nicely between the present and the past as we are introduced to a whole host of quirky characters in the dark, secret world of Theatre life in 1940.  Bryant and May bicker and argue like an old married couple, trying to solve not one but several murders in the Theatre, and a strange phantom is sighted by several of the cast of the play.  Could this be the murderer or is he just a figment of their nervous imagination?

This is a very enjoyable and dark comedy of a story, the character’s backgrounds are described in detail, the original and intelligent plot is full of twists, and Christopher Fowler’s use of language is very clever.
Bryant and May are two very endearing grumpy old men who complemented each other very well and I did love their humorous conversations!

The narrative driven plot enhanced the story forwards very nicely to its unexpected and surprising conclusion.

There are another 7 books in this wonderfully quirky series and I look forward to reading them all! They are --

For more on Christopher Fowler please click here

Have you read any or all of these books?
Which one do you think is the best?
Leave a comment and I will put a link to your review

Sunday, 13 March 2011


Genre:  Short Stories
Published in eBook format:  December 2011 by Ocean Blue Press

My Rating:  7/10

This is a collection of 14 very short stories/flash fiction.
Some of the stories are funny, some are interesting, some are silly, and some of them I just didn’t understand!

One of my favourites was Gwen’s Dilemma …... about a woman who is opening a new flower shop, and how she becomes trapped inside while waiting for the locksmith to come and mend the door.  Very funny!
I also enjoyed The Spill ….. featuring Stephen, unemployed, stressed, who’s had a run of bad luck in the last few years, he’s moved house, been divorced and lost his job. And now his neighbour is giving him a headache with the noise he’s making, so he goes next door to investigate. With surprising results.
Mystery at Highward’s Lodge is a fascinating little story about a reporter looking for a well-known bank robber and gambler who was shot dead at the Lodge. Nice twist!

Some of the stories had twists and turns that I didn’t see coming.
I thought the writing was very good throughout with interesting characters.
Overall, I enjoyed some of them but some just ended too abruptly and to me they didn’t make any sense.

If you enjoyed reading very short stories here is a nice collection to download to your Kindle or eReader.

It is available to download from for only 71p
It is available to download from for only $3.44
Prices correct as at 13 March 2011

For more info on ML Poncelet and Ocean Blue Press please click here

Thanks to Michelle for sending me this download to review.

Friday, 11 March 2011


My son, David, has read and reviewed this book

Genre:  Fiction
Published by:   William Heinemann  (1962)

Rating:  9 / 10

As I grow older my taste in books and films changes and I am finding myself drawn more towards the so called “classics”.  So when my girlfriend conveniently left her copy of “A Clockwork Orange” in my room one day I jumped at the chance to read Anthony Burgess’s famous tale of a young boy in a dystopian society doing as he pleases and eventually getting his comeuppance.

I’m sure everyone has heard of the book, thanks to Stanly Kubrick’s motion picture adaptation, of which i wasn’t too keen.  Although they have quite a few differences the theme is still true, our protagonist or “your humble narrator”, as he likes to call himself is Alex, a 15 year old boy who during the day goes to school and listens to his classical music collection (most notably Ludwig Van) whilst during the night he is joined by his gang and partake in a bit of violence and rape.  Although the subject matter is quite harsh at times, Burgess manages to fill every page with humorous dialogue and comical situations.  The language Alex and his “droogs” or friends use is one of the biggest talking points of the novel, it took me personally about half the book to get used to it and figure or unlock it in my brain, but once I did I was loving it and laughing along as our narrator gets himself deeper and deeper in trouble.  I’ve heard that some newer versions of the book have a glossary even for all the new words Burgess invents for his characters.  A kind of cross between English and Russian slang.  Women become Malchicks, seeing becomes viddy and laughing to yourself is referred to as “having a good smeck”.

Anthony Burgess has said on numerous occasions that he is displeased with how popular this book has become as it wasn’t one of his favourites and doesn’t like it taking away attention from his other works.  If that is true then i must check out another of his novels as “A Clockwork Orange” has  quickly become one of MY favourites and one that I most certainly will be revisiting.

It isn’t very long and there’s a small chunk in the middle that can drag quite a bit but despite its shortcomings it is a very pleasant, funny and, once you get through the initial slang talk they use, it is a very easy read.

Thursday, 10 March 2011


A selection of new books published in April 2011
I've just picked out a few of the hundreds of new books coming out

The Fifth Witness (Mickey Haller, Book 4) by Michael Connelly
Published:  5 April - USA, Canada, Australia & New Zealand
14 April - UK & Ireland
 It will also be released as an eBook, Audiobook and large print format.

Mickey Haller has fallen on hard times. He expands his business into foreclosure defense, only to see one of his clients accused of killing the banker she blames for trying to take away her home.
Mickey puts his team into high gear to exonerate Lisa Trammel, even though the evidence and his own suspicions tell him his client is guilty. Soon after he learns that the victim had black market dealings of his own, Haller is assaulted, too - and he's certain he's on the right trail.


Hanging Hill by Mo Hayder
Published:  14 April 2011 by Bantam Press

Imagine finding yourself divorced and penniless. No skills and a teenage daughter to support. How would you survive? What would you be prepared to do? These are questions Sally Benedict has never really thought about, until her marriage to a successful business man fails. Her sister, Zoe, couldn't be more different from dreamy Sally. A detective inspector in the city of Bath, she loves her job, and oozes self-confidence in spite of a secret she struggles to keep secret. The two women haven't seen each other for almost twenty years. But the horrific murder of a teenage girl in the city is about to change all that. The sisters are dragged together by a sequence of events neither of them could have predicted - forcing them into a criminal world of extreme pornography and illegal drugs. Increasingly they find themselves confronting situations they'd never expected to face. And coming up with solutions they'd never dreamed possible. Until one of the sisters does something so horrific and desperate that there's no way back.......

For more info on Mo Hayder see here


Moving On by Anna Jacobs
Published:  28 April 2011 - UK
1 Aug 2011 - USA & Canada

Molly Peel has been downtrodden for years, but everyone has their sticking point. At her daughter’s wedding she’s sidelined in favour of her ex-husband’s new wife. When an accident puts her in hospital no one visits her. Her son, who lives with her, isn’t paying his share of expenses. It’s time to move on and make a better life for herself, painful as that may be.
Molly leaves London, looking for a job, and finds far more than she’d bargained for, including a new chance of love - if she can pluck up the courage to seize the moment. But her ex intends to buy her old family home at a knock-down price and is an expert at dirty tricks to prevent her selling it. Will she find the strength to resist him this time and keep moving on? Or will his emotional blackmail pay off?
For more info on Anna Jacobs see here

The Redeemed (3rd in the Jenny Cooper series)
Published: 1 April 2011 - UK
3 May 2011 - USA

A man's body is discovered in a church yard, the sign of the cross carved into his abdomen. Later he is found to be Alan Jacobs, a troubled psychiatric nurse. It seems to Jenny Cooper, Severn Vale District Coroner, this is likely to be an open and shut suicide case, but something tells her to probe a little deeper ...Then an enigmatic young priest, Father Lucas Starr, entreats Jenny to hold an inquest into the death of reformed porn actress, Eva Donaldson. Jenny's investigations will lead her to a powerful new religious group The Mission Church of God; and when it later emerges that Jacobs was also a member of the church, Jenny realises that more could link the deaths of these victims than she could have realised. Meanwhile Jenny must finally confront the demons of her past; and as her private life threatens to shatter, faces intense pressure from all angles to cease her investigations. But to Jenny Cooper, whose whole life has been governed by deception, the truth is everything...


Goddess of Vengeance (8th in the Lucky Santangelo series)
Published: 14 April 2011 - UK
13 September - USA

Lucky Santangelo rules with her high profile casino and hotel complex – The Keys in Vegas.  Lennie, her ex-movie star husband is still writing and directing successful independent movies, while Max, her wild and gorgeous teenage daughter, is about to celebrate her 18th birthday, and her son, Bobby, owns a string of hot clubs.
Lucky has everything.  Family.  Love.  Life.
And everything is exactly what billionaire businessman Armand Jordan is determined to take from her, one way or the other.
Born a Prince in the small but affluent Middle Eastern country of Akramshar, Armand comes to America with his American mother at an early age, and rises to become a real estate business titan.  Armand regards women as nothing more than breeding mares or sexual playthings, so when his people inform him that the one property he covets more than anything, The Keys, is not for sale, he is shocked.  That a mere woman would turn down his offer to buy The Keys is unthinkable, and Armand vows to force Lucky’s hand whatever it takes.
And so the battle for power begins…


Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson
Published:  28 April 2011 - UK
14 June 2011 - USA

''As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I'm still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me ...'

Memories define us.

So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?

Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love - all forgotten overnight.

And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

For more info on SJ Watson see here


Abandon (The 1st book in the Abandon trilogy series) by Meg Cabot (YA)
Published:  26 April 2011 - UK & USA

A dark, fantastical story about this world . . . and the underworld.

When Pierce first sees him, she thinks he is a murderer. She's right about one thing -- he does take lives. But not in the way she ever imagined. Pierce is drawn to the dark stranger even as she tries to uncover the mystery surrounding the tragic death of someone close to her. As she gets closer to the truth -- and the stranger -- unexpected secrets are revealed, even in her own heart.

For more info on Meg Cabot see here



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