Sunday, 28 August 2011

New Books Published in September 2011

This is a monthly feature where I've found just a few of the many fabulous new books coming out in September.  
If I see a review of any of them I will put a link to it.



Murder in the Afternoon (3rd book in the Kate Shackleton series) by Frances Brody
Published:  1 Sept 2011 - UK & USA

When two children take some food to their stone mason father who is working in a quarry, they find him dead, but when they return with their mother, they find the place deserted with no sign of a body . . .Another unusual disappearing act requiring the expertise of Kate Shackleton, who must unravel the mysteries of this strange case and discover the truth.

I loved the 1st book in this new cozy mystery series -- Dying in the Wool -- and this one will be added to my wish list.

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The Price to Pay by Lynda Page
Published:  1 Sept 2011 - UK & USA
Genre:  Romance

A riveting, heart-rending tale of betrayal and revenge.

Erica and Simon Dunmore have been happily married for fifteen years. The only thing that casts a shadow over Rica's happiness is her failure to have a baby and Simon realises he would do anything to provide her with the child she so desperately craves. Then unexpectedly he brings home a beautiful baby boy whose mother has given him up for adoption and Rica cannot believe her luck - they can be a proper family at last. Little does she realise the horror that lies ahead when her husband and son go missing... 

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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Published:  5 Sept 2011 - UK & USA
Genre:  Historical

Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.

Achilles, 'best of all the Greeks', is everything Patroclus is not - strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess - and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles's mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart. 

Check out these reviews of this Historical novel on Goodreads. 

Jackie at Farm Lane Books has also read it - see her review here

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The Lady of the Rivers (3rd in the Cousins’ War series) by Philippa Gregory
Published:  15 Sept 2011 - UK ........ 18 Oct 2011 - USA

Jacquetta, daughter of the Count of Luxembourg and kinswoman to half the royalty of Europe, was married to the great Englishman John, Duke of Bedford, uncle to Henry VI. Widowed at the age of nineteen she took the extraordinary risk of marrying a gentleman of her house-hold for love, and then carved out a life for herself as Queen Margaret of Anjou's close friend and a Lancaster supporter - until the day that her daughter Elizabeth Woodville fell in love and married the rival king Edward IV.

Of all the little-known but important women of the period, her dramatic story is the most neglected. With her links to Melusina, and to the founder of the house of Luxembourg, together with her reputation for making magic, she is the most haunting of heroines.

Having read and enjoyed the 1st two in this series -- The White Queen and The Red Queen -- this is definitely on my wish list!

Update! I'm very excited to have recently received this book from Simon & Schuster ................... look out for my review!

In the meantime please check out Jera's Jamboree and find out what Sharon thought of this story!
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 Land of Hope and Glory by Geoffrey Wilson
Published:  15 Sept 2011 - UK & USA
Genre:  Fantasy

It is 1852. The Indian empire of Rajthana has ruled Europe for more than a hundred years. With their vast armies, steam-and-sorcery technology and mastery of the mysterious power of sattva, the Rajthanans appear invincible. But a bloody rebellion has broken out in a remote corner of the empire, in a poor and backward region known as England.

At first Jack Casey, retired soldier, wants nothing to do with the uprising, but then he learns his daughter, Elizabeth, is due to be hanged for helping the rebels. The Rajthanans offer to spare her, but only if Jack hunts down and captures his best friend and former army comrade, who is now a rebel leader. Jack is torn between saving his daughter and protecting his friend. And he struggles just to stay alive as the rebellion pushes England into all-out war.

Geoffrey Wilson was born in South Africa.  He grew up in New Zealand and then backpacked around the world before eventually settling in the United Kingdom.
Geoffrey worked as a bookseller, technical author and project manager until finally finding the time to get down to what he had always meant to do – write stories.  He lives in London with his wife and stepson.

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Letter from a Stranger by Barbara Taylor Bradford
Published:  15 Sept 2011 - UK & USA

Captivating and evocative, Letter from a Stranger will take you on an unforgettable journey from idyllic Connecticut to exotic Istanbul to war-torn Berlin then back to the present day.
When award-winning film maker Justine Nolan returns to her beautiful childhood home, she is intrigued by an envelope she finds in her absent mother’s post. But the letter inside contains a shocking revelation. If genuine it will change everything she believes about her family’s recent history, her mother and her adored grandmother, Gabriele.
With the support of her beloved twin brother, Richard, Justine resolves to uncover the truth. To do so she must travel to Istanbul – the teeming, beguiling city on the cusp of East and West. It is a place which holds its own secrets, leading her to a fascinating man who appears to know more than he is prepared to disclose.
Yet even when her quest succeeds, Justine is faced with a further mystery: Gabriele’s background is not what it seems. Justine is given a book of memories in which the real story unfolds, taking her back to the darkest days of European history, with its suffering and astonishing acts of bravery. At the heart of it lie the final facts of Gabriele’s identity – and her own.
The letter from a stranger has brought her not only to the truth about her family but also a chance to heal the wounds of past betrayals, to embrace a new love and new life.

Barbara Taylor Bradford’s UK website is here  -  The US website is here
Her debut novel, A Woman of Substance, published in 1979 has sold over 32 million copies worldwide and, according to Reuters, it ranks as one of the top ten bestselling novels of all time.
Letter from a Stranger is her 27th novel.

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The Mechanical Messiah: and other Marvels of the Modern Age by Robert Rankin
Published:  15 Sept 2011 - UK …..... 1 Dec 2011 - USA

The newest opus from the Master of Far Fetched Fiction features magic, mayhem, mechanical marvels, messianic madness, and the music hall.

This sounds a little …....... mad.

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The Affair (Book 16 in the Jack Reacher series) by Lee Child
Published:  29 Sept 2011 - UK

Everything starts somewhere. . . .

For elite military cop Jack Reacher, that somewhere was Carter Crossing, Mississippi, way back in 1997. A lonely railroad track. A crime scene. A coverup.

A young woman is dead, and solid evidence points to a soldier at a nearby military base. But that soldier has powerful friends in Washington.

Reacher is ordered undercover - to find out everything he can, to control the local police, and then to vanish. Reacher is a good soldier. But when he gets to Carter Crossing, he finds layers no one saw coming, and the investigation spins out of control.

The phenomenally successful Lee Child is back with another Jack Reacher novel ….......... apparently I read somewhere that Tom Cruise is to play Reacher in a new film.

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The Memory of Blood (9th book in the Bryant and May Series) by Christopher Fowler
Published:  29 Sept 2011 - UK …........... 27 Mar 2012 - USA

Christopher Fowler’s acclaimed Peculiar Crimes Unit novels crackle with sly wit, lively suspense, and twists as chilling as London’s fog. Now the indomitable duo of Arthur Bryant and John May, along with the rest of their quirky team, return to solve a confounding case with dark ties to the British theater and a killer who may mean curtains for all involved.

For the crew of the New Strand Theatre, the play The Two Murderers seems less performance than prophecy when a cast party ends in the shocking death of the theater owner’s son. The crime scene is most unusual, even for Bryant and May. In a locked bedroom without any trace of fingerprints or blood, the only sign of disturbance is a gruesome life-size puppet of Mr. Punch laying on the floor. Everyone at the party is a suspect, including the corrupt producer, the rakish male lead, the dour set designer, and the assistant stage manager, who is the wild daughter of a prominent government official.

It’s this last fact that threatens the Peculiar Crimes Unit’s investigation, as the government’s Home Office, wary of the team’s eccentric methods, seeks to throw them off the case. But the nimble minds of Bryant and May are not so easily deterred. Delving into the history of the London theater and the disturbing origins of Punch and Judy, the detectives race to find the maniacal killer before he reaches his even deadlier final act.  

The 1st book in this series was a treat - here are my thoughts on Full Dark House

I’m also taking part in The Transworld Book Group Reading Challenge and the 2nd book, The Water Room, is on my reading list.

Christopher Fowler’s blog can be found here. 
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Sunday, 21 August 2011

Book Review: THE SANDALWOOD TREE BY ELLE NEWMARK

Genre:  Historical Fiction
Published:  Apr 2011
Pages:  489  (Paperback)
Source:  Transworld Book Group Reading Challenge
My Rating:  9/10

About the Book:

It is 1947, and Evie and Martin Mitchell have just arrived in the Indian village of Masoorla with their five-year-old son. But cracks soon appear in their marriage as Evie struggles to adapt to her new life, and Martin fails to bury unbearable wartime memories.
When Evie finds a collection of letters, concealed deep in the brickwork of their rented bungalow, so begins an investigation that consumes her, allowing her to escape to another world, a hundred years earlier, and to the extraordinary friendship of two very different young women.
And as Evie’s fascination with her Victorian discoveries deepens, she unearths powerful secrets. But at what cost to her present, already fragile existence?

First Line:

Our train hurtled past a gold-spangled woman in a mango sari, regal even as she sat in the dirt, patting cow dung into disks for cooking fuel.  A sweep of black hair obscured her face and she did not look up as the passing train shook the ground under her bare feet.


We first meet Evie and Martin as they are travelling to their new home in India where an old Sandalwood Tree with long oval leaves and pregnant red pods presided over the front of their new house.

Martin had come back from the war with combat fatigue, he wanted everything neat and tidy - it was about control, Evie knew, but she didn’t know how to deal with it.  By coming to India she hoped that their cracked marriage would be mended with exotic glue, and they would rediscover the charmed world they had shared in the beginning of their marriage.

When Evie discovers a loose brick behind the cooker which hides a packet of folded papers tied with a faded blue ribbon which ‘reeked of long-lost secrets’ she becomes obsessed with the two English ladies who lived a hundred years ago and whose letters she is now engrossed in reading.

We are then taken back to the mid 19th century as the young Felicity and Adela first meet and they become firm friends.  We follow them as they grow up and, by a remarkable coincidence they both end up living in India.

There are more coincidences when Evie unearths more of Adela’s journals in various locations which I did find hard to believe.

I loved how the two parallel stories also coincided with the Indian uprisings in each century, the author didn’t take sides with either the British or the Indians, she just gave us the facts and left it to the reader to decide the morals.

I enjoyed the overall story, it was slow at first but the pace quickened about halfway through, some of the characters I connected with more than others and the descriptions of India were vivid and real.

This was my first book in the Transworld Book Group Reading Challenge.  Click here for more information and to participate and click here to see which 4 books I've chosen.


Thursday, 11 August 2011

Book Review: THE SILENT LAND BY GRAHAM JOYCE

Genre:  Psychological Fiction
Published by:  Doubleday
Pages:  262  (Hardback)
Source:  Publishers
My Rating:  8.5/10

About the book:

In the French Pyrenees, a young married couple is buried under a flash avalanche while skiing. Miraculously, Jake and Zoe dig their way out from under the snow—only to discover the world they knew has been overtaken by an eerie and absolute silence.
Their hotel is devoid of another living soul. Cell phones and land lines are cut off. An evacuation as sudden and thorough as this leaves Jake and Zoe to face a terrifying situation alone. They are trapped by the storm, completely isolated, with another catastrophic avalanche threatening to bury them alive . . . again. And as the couple begin to witness unset­tling events neither one can ignore, they are forced to con­front a frightening truth about the silent land they now inhabit.



The one word that describes this book is ‘eerie’.  The atmosphere, the situation the two people find themselves in, the deserted town and the visions that seemingly only Zoe can see are haunting and mysterious.

They try to drive out of town but the car breaks down, they try to walk away but end up on the same road that brings them back to the town, they ski over the mountain but, again, they find themselves back to the same familiar buildings.

“It’s almost like something is keeping us here in this village.” Zoe said, looking around her.  “Like something doesn’t want to let us go.”

Zoe and Jake are a happily married couple who have been together for 10 years and their love for each other is apparent in the tender way they watch out for each other, constantly reassuring each other that everything will be okay, while keeping their thoughts to themselves that it may not be.

They can walk into any of the shops and take whatever they want, including designer shoes and clothes but there seems little point when there’s no-one to show off to.


Candles don’t burn down, food stays fresh, Zoe has the same recurring vision of the hotel lobby full of people but when she looks again they’re gone, they felt as though they’d been living there for weeks but it was only a couple of days …... what and where is this place?

I was totally immersed in the story of this young couple who are desperate to know what’s happening but are powerless to do anything, and I felt such sympathy and desperation for them I really wanted there to be a happy ending.  


There are just a handful of books I’ve read that have stayed with me long after I’ve moved on and I think that this will be one of them.

Special Thanks to the publishers for sending me this book to review.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Body Care Product Review: COMVITA ANTI-AGEING RADIANCE PLUS LOTION

About the Product:

Liquorice root extract, a natural skin brightener, gently evens out skin tone while Keratin protein promotes skin firmness and smoothes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
The addition of Macadamia oil gently boosts skins hydration. Purifying extracts of Hyssop, Saw palmetto fruit, Sesame seed and Argan kernel help to visibly control and remove excess sebum, especially in the oil-prone T-zone area of the face. Extract from the New Zealand Manuka plant visibly soothes and calms as your skin is left feeling smooth, re-energised and radiant.



This is my second review of mypure’s new Comvita Anti-Ageing range and I have to say that they are both fabulous products to use and complement each other.

My review of the wonderful Hand and Nail Cream is here.

The pump action bottle is really easy to use and I’m pleased that it doesn’t all come out at once like some products do, you just obtain what you need.  The lotion is pale brown in colour, has a light consistency and spreads very easily over my face and absorbs very quickly as well.

The smell is not too strong which is good as I wasn’t too keen on it, but it does disappear when used.

It also absorbs the excess grease on my face and I can really tell a difference in the morning, my skin is not oily at all.  This is the first face lotion that I’ve used that really lessens the grease on my skin.

I use it every night and I’ve been very happy with the results so far.  Definitely one to recommend for mature skins that tend to get greasy, though it is suitable for normal to oily skin types.
 
Everything sold by mypure is sulfate free (sodium lauryl sulfate SLS, sodium laureth sulfate SLES, ammonium laureth sulfates ALES), paraben free & phthalate free.


It is available from mypure in a 50ml bottle for £30.00.
 

Saturday, 6 August 2011

BOOK NEWS: Libraries will rely on volunteers to survive, says report

More and more books will be distributed from shops, churches and village halls, predict local government and library bodies
    Library books
    Options for ensuring libraries' survival in the 21st century include running them in partnership with the private sector, charities and other councils.
    Libraries will increasingly rely on volunteers and community groups, with more books distributed from shops and village halls, according to a report released on Friday from the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).
    The report monitors the progress of 10 pilot projects established by the year-old Future Libraries Programme, including Bradford's book borrowing points in shops across the city; Hertfordshire's plans to expand in co-operation with adult social care and children's centres; and the money-saving combined libraries service proposed by several London councils. Suffolk plans to recruit members of the public on to boards of governors running its libraries, and Northumberland and Durham are trialling ebooks for older people and children.
    Options for ensuring libraries' survival in the 21st century include running them in partnership with the private sector, charities and other councils; integrating with community facilities including churches, shops and village halls; or providing services including health centres and police surgeries in existing libraries. Culture minister Ed Vaizey said the report shone a spotlight on innovation and creative partnerships. "It will be a hugely useful resource, inspiring local authorities to emulate the best ideas to provide a first rate library service."
    Chris White, chairman of the LGA culture, tourism and sport board, said libraries were among the most valued services provided by councils. "We know that people of all ages and from all backgrounds are quite rightly very protective over their local library."
    The report is bullish about the future of libraries, suggesting that innovations can "increase numbers using libraries while delivering millions of pounds of savings". But council cuts threaten hundreds of libraries across the country.
    Authors including Zadie Smith, Philip Pullman and children's laureate Julia Donaldson have joined the campaign to save local libraries. To read more of this article please click guardian.co.uk

Monday, 1 August 2011

Book Review: THE UNSEEN BY KATHERINE WEBB

Genre:  Fiction
Published by:  Orion (Mar 2011)
Pages:  373  (Paperback - Uncorrected proof)
Source:  Waterstones Facebook
My Rating:  9.5/10

About the Book:

England, 1911. The Reverend Albert Canning, a vicar with a passion for spiritualism, leads a happy existence with his naive wife Hester in a sleepy Berkshire village. As summer dawns, their quiet lives are changed for ever by two new arrivals.
First comes Cat, the new maid: a free-spirited and disaffected young woman sent down from London after entanglements with the law. Cat quickly finds a place for herself in the secret underbelly of local society as she plots her escape.
Then comes Robin Durrant, a leading expert in the occult, enticed by tales of elemental beings in the water meadows nearby. A young man of magnetic charm and beauty, Robin soon becomes an object of fascination and desire.
During a long spell of oppressive summer heat, the rectory at Cold Ash Holt becomes charged with ambition, love and jealousy; a mixture of emotions so powerful that it leads, ultimately, to murder.

The story starts in 1911 with Hester writing a letter to her sister saying that she’s looking forward to the new maid, Cat, coming and how she will be her ‘project’.

We are then fast forwarded to the present when Leah, a freelance journalist, has been asked to come to Belgium from England to try and discover the identity of a young WWI soldier who has been found buried in a garden.  He had two letters on him from a H. Canning which pique her interest.

This is the intriguing beginning to a compelling drama played out during the long hot summer of 1911 when everyone’s lives would never be the same again after the two additions to the Canning household, who comprised:-

Cat Morley, feisty, unafraid to speak her mind, even to her employer, and had been in prison for her suffragette activities.  I really liked her, and, like many servants at that time she was starting to question her status and rights.

Robin Durrant, a theosophist who believed in ethereal beings and was on a quest for wisdom and spiritual enlightenment.  Both Cat and Hester didn’t trust him.  He was manipulative, smooth, unreadable and a very unlikeable but compelling character.

Hester Canning, naive and nervous wife of the vicar, she is desperate for a child.  I felt a lot of sympathy for her, she was a good person who tried to do the right thing but she was too soft.

Albert Canning, the local vicar who invites Durrant to stay, believes everything he says and hangs on his every word, his face alights with excitement welcoming Robin to his house.  

In the present, while Leah is trying to identify the soldier, the sender of the letters and the secrets contained therein, we discover the truth about the lies and deception during that ill-fated 1911 summer.

I really liked the dual narrative between past and present.  

I loved everything about this book, the time period, the writing, the original plot, the characters who all seemed real and believable to me.

If you’re interested in this time period I would definitely recommend a non-fiction novel called The Perfect Summer: Dancing into Shadow in 1911 by Juliet Nicholson.  The backdrop is the long hot summer of 1911 and here are my thoughts on the book.

 
 

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