Thursday, 31 January 2013

Burning Air - Erin Kelly

As a family including a private school teacher, a magistrate and the perfect children the MacBrides should have a comfortable life.
And on the surface they nearly do. But every family has its secrets and this one is no exception. The secret however has affected another family and one member of that family has no intention of forgetting. Revenge is much more likely.
Having made, or helped to make, a decision which was to affect the rest of Darcy Kellaways life Mr Macbride is unaware of the actual impact of his decision.
Written in several voices starting with Lydia, the mother, the reader is led backwards and forwards through the history, learning from various angles the effect or lack of knowledge each character has been subjected to as a result of one decision.
While the MacBrides wait for the arrival of a new baby at the same time as it's grandmother is dying Darcy is scheming his revenge.
As a psychological thriller this is an excellent read with surprises throughout the book and a twist right at the end.
It seems an illustration of a damaged mind more so than a genetically warped one and the despair and frustration suffered by Darcy come across well. The small triumphs as his plan comes together are exactly that, very small, but in his mind they play a major part towards his ultimate revenge.
Just how far would a family member go to protect a family member, to try to please a member or even just to try and be what a parent wanted?
One of those books you pick up and put down only when it's finished.

Publisher – Hodder & Stoughton

Friday, 25 January 2013

The Silence - Alison Bruce

A second outing with Alison Bruce following The Siren.
Again it's a DC Gary Goodhew crime thriller. This time there are a series of deaths with accident and suicide amongst them going back a period of years.
For me Alison Bruce stands out because of her cutting wit. I get the feel reading some of the lines that she would make a pretty good stand up comedienne as well as being an excellent author.
Llewellyn-Bowes at his best would not be able to describe settings as accurately as Bruce and with him we usually have the advantage of being able to see the setting.
Add to that a complete awareness of characters and the whole thriller comes together near perfectly. Portrayal of an early victim gives a very clear picture of desperation.
The only group of characters without comparable substance for me were the potential victims. They just didn't come across as vividly as other players.
Subtle dynamics between the junior PC Gully, Goodhew's boss DI Marks, colleague Kincaide and Goodhew give added dimension to the book with very different relationships between each two people.
Kincaide is a character desperate to succeed and aware of his own failings. He covers this with blustering arrogance. It would be great to see his character a bit more in one of the next books.
At £18.99 for the hardback this was an expensive read but I got my pennies worth.
Would I buy another? Yes

Publisher - Constable

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Book Barn Bristol

In an effort to avoid motorway stops I'm trying to find stops just away from the main drag. Obviously there's an added benefit if there are a few books for sale. Even more of a benefit if there are a million or so. At £1 each. With cakes. And good coffee. Book Barn  fulfills all of this and is a veritable warren of bookshelves.
It means that bookbuying is done in stages with frequent coffee stops.

Definitely adds a little time to the journey but even with multiple purchases it cost less than the motorway and no rush, bustle, no dried up food.    


The boy who fell to earth - Kathy Lette

A drift away from crime thrillers to read the latest offering featuring autism/aspergers hot on the heels of Jodi Picoult. This one's more adept from a personal experience point of view as the author has a child with the condition.
For me the downside has to be the author's trademark one liners. In a book this thick they get incredibly wearing and take away from the enjoyment.
Overall the book's a reasonably ok read- what does happen to family dynamics when a child is diagnosed? Does a marriage make it? How do relationships work?
A chick lit with a bit of a twist.
Would I read another? No

Publisher - Transworld 

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

H K Cafe - Aberdeen

In the glory that is the Aberdeen Indoor Market hidden behind a narrow door off Union Street is the HK Cafe. When I went the few tables were mainly occupied by Chinese people, something I usually hope means the food is good.
Helpfully the menu is in both written and picture form with the pictures being the more accurate of the two :)
My trip to Aberdeen was at Hogmanay so it wasn't too long before one of the customers came over clutching her (Japanese) mobile and asking for the correct spelling. And then she came back. Apparently I couldn't spell Hogmanay as her phone did not recognise the word. With it written on my serviette she took herself, the phone and the serviette back and decided to trust me on the spelling. Maybe one day Nokia will do Scottish phones?
Over to food and it's a good as expected served with a bucket of coffee, at minimal cost and piles of it. Don't make the mistake of thinking you need a side order- you don't.
Nestled in amongst a great butcher, a second hand furniture store, a jeweller and a piercing/tattoo parlour amongst others this is well worth. a visit

Stonemouth - Iain Banks

Having just got back from a place very, very similar to Stonemouth called Stonehaven close to Aberdeen this was tempting. And then someone gave it to me.
It was my first Iain Banks novel. Not my last.
It is an unusual tale of a lovestruck exile from Scotland who returns for a local gangsters funeral. The love of his life is the precious daughter of the gangster family and they're not best pleased to see him.
The reader meets the schoolfriends, the family, the gangsters and the local policeman. Throughout the book there is a feel of the slapstick and definitely some 'snerk' moments best kept for when you're not on the bus!
Parallel to today's storyline runs the history behind it, the schoolfriends growing up years and escapades and what went wrong in the love story.
Excellent fun book. Surprising with the number of references to Apple, Iphone that they're not the publishers – and now they get even more publicity.
Recommended for a change from the norm.

Publisher - Abacus

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Belmont Cinema - Aberdeen

New Year's Day, grey, Aberdeen and Life of Pi is showing in this independent cinema. It's one I already knew of because it also boasts a bookcrossing zone in it's cafe bar in the basement.
Nevertheless it's not often you ask for tickets and an enquiry is made of you as to whether or not you have to pay. Free cinema? Apparently if you buy membership at £32 for an individual you get 3 free tickets. A closer listen to a south coast accent persuaded the ticket office that it was unlikely we were members. Full price then but not until 2 pensioner ladies next to us had got free tickets and discounts on their drinks and sweets.
Consolation prize for us? "Help yourself to a film poster" We did.
Onwards into the very empty cinema (this was after all the day after Hogmanay) and we are faced with armchair sized comfortable seating, all very swish.
Several film trailers later and Life of Pi started in 2d. Brilliant representation of the book and an excellent friendly experience all round in Aberdeen.
Note to PictureHouses - In Colchester we have this...
it needs buying and it would be great if you fancied a little shift south...:)

Grey Souls - Philippe Claudel

Following reading Monsieur Linh and his child it was an immediate trip out to buy another Claudel.
This one is written in the same spare way and is an especially thin paperback.
Similarly again it packs a punch at the end.
Based in France during the first world war it is set in a village close to the front. Within hearing distance of the fighting but with a population mainly exempt from call up through their occupations the village is privileged. It's also the first port of call for injured soldiers on their way back to hospitals.
After a young girl is killed the police, prosecutors and village people are keen to find the culprit quickly. Possibly the wrong culprit? The interrogation is brutal but there is no gratuitous violence in the book. Several story lines thread through including that of the prosecutor and the policeman adding their own harsh reality.

Another beautifully written book from Claudel leaving me looking forward to the next.

Publisher – Phoenix

Monday, 21 January 2013

Books and Beans - Aberdeen

In an effort to live local this year I am trying to avoid chain coffee shops, chain motorway stops and chain bookstores. Occasionally a cinema will sneak in.  Any blog labelled independent living will feature finds in the UK of any of these, or if I'm lucky, a combination.First up is Books and Beans in Aberdeen, a great place in the centre of Aberdeen for a large selection of second hand books at reasonable prices, some great home cooking and internet access. And an art gallery.They also hold a poetry evening and have published a couple of recipe books featuring their brilliant soups.A very welcoming and relaxing place with no pressure to give up your table.Although the soups are brilliant I already knew that so a massive amount of pancakes were ordered. I wasn't greedy, that's the portion size!

Tales from the Mall - Ewan Morrison

Is this my definitive non fiction book for 2013?
Ewan Morrison leads us through the ideaology and intentions of the shopping mall.
With angles from location, people, layout, materials and planning policy this is an in depth book that reads easily for the subject matter.
Lots of researched anecdotal stories make it entertaining and mean that as much as we all had some idea of the tricks employed to keep us shopping you're bound to learn something you didn't already know.
Why are malls so shiny? Why are the restaurants where they are? Why do they serve the food they do? And why are employees shifts organised as they are?
We get an idea of the damage done by malls and the statistics of the numbers closing.
My favourite story relates to an old lady revisiting and trying to have her sandwich and flask of tea. Are you allowed to drink from your own flask in a mall?
The book covers mainly the UK and US so there's a good chance you'll be able to relate it directly to a place you know.
Highly recommended to make you think twice while shopping....especially when queuing to pay...
Would I buy another? Yes

Publisher - Cargo

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Clay - Melissa Harrison

Is this this year's Night Circus? Or Snow Child?
It has the delicacy of Snow Child and the mystical essence of Night Circus.
Unlike Night Circus the landscape is very real and around us all at all times. Written by acclaimed nature writer Melissa Harrison the book takes 3 very different characters in an urban landscape and a relatively short time period.
Jozef is an immigrant of several years standing working to maintain a mean existence. TC is a child of a broken home who is a reader and adventurer/explorer in an age of xbox. Lastly, Sophia, a pensioner widow, living in her marital home long after it's show home glory has been eroded.
Gradually the three lives interconnect in an innocent manner reminiscent of times long past. Society, however, has moved on and sideways glances are inferred throughout the story.
What makes this book stand out is the setting of the tale. The urban landscape is painted over with the description of nature which abounds including the changes in the seasons – the new arrival of life, plants surviving, trees coppiced and sprouting. There's an element of nature to be admired in every layer of brick, crack in the pavement and derelict property.
That doesn't mean the reader is spared the harsher realities of urban warfare. There are tattoos, pit bulls, broken families, sadness and hunger present in the narrative.
This is a beautifully written book, not an off note in it at all, by a writer with an enviable vocabulary.
This one is my pick to soar high in 2013.
Would I buy another? Yes

Publisher - Bloomsbury

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The Siren - Alison Bruce

I like DC Gary Goodhew. At last a police character that's not a divorced drunk with estranged children. But he does have quirks- a love of vintage films, a tendency to meditate and a bit of a feminine side. Add to that a large dose of sensitivity and you have a person most mums would love. And most daughters too once they'd got past the bad boy stage.
In this crime thriller we are first introduced to a couple, their friend and her son and very shortly after to the friend's ex-boyfriend who has locked in syndrome.
The cast of the book is extensive and characters re-appear chapters after they've first been introduced in a very passing way. You do need to keep track of the bit players.
Following a fire at the couple's house while they are babysitting the young son the child is nowhere to be found. Neither is the husband. But that would be too simple. So it's time for DC Goodhew to step in with his new permanently blushing female sidekick PC Gully and his colleague Kincaid.
There's a mystery to be solved
Part of the entertainment with this novel is the diversity of the characters-from miserable failure police officers to successful social workers (I'm sure I once knew the DC who hunches over the steering wheel only that one huffed as well). Great tongue in cheek humour.
There's an element of normal people, criminal underclass, police and press all with believable storylines. Steadily paced for the first three quarters and then romps home in an unexpected way.
Would I buy another? Yes- I missed my bus stop with this one!

Publisher – Constable and Robinson

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The Story of Beautiful Girl - Rachel Simon

One review says “this is the best book I've ever read” which to me either shows how different we all are or maybe a lack of reading experience. Either way it's not the best I've ever read.
It appears that there are a whole collection of books around at the moment where there is either a child left in someone else's care or on the doorstep. Maybe the book would have been better for me if I hadn't already read some of the others and been affected by a touch of deja vu.
Negatives out of the way this one added in the story of a home for those deemed incapable. Incapable in this instance being a much looser definition than that with which we are currently familiar, this time the occupants are more likely to be inconvenient or a bit of an embarassment to their families.
The personalities in the home, their treatment, their methods of dealing (or not) with their treatment make the book. With a range of patients and their nurses and supervisors the added level is a refreshing change.
Throughout the book there's a feel of delicacy and then harshness.
Well written and an enjoyable read.
Would I buy another? Probably
Publisher – Cornerstone Publishing

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Wombling in Colchester January 2013

What's to be found? January 2013
2 hats
2 necklaces
1 car park ticket
1 fake rose
1 ring
£25 top man voucher
1 pen
1 glass
1 pair gloves
1 mobile phone charm
1 Greggs loyalty card
1 bracelet
1 pair socks

Choked - Tania Carver

Tania Carver aka Martyn Waites shifts the focus away from Colchester in the latest Esposito crime thriller allowing readers a new view of the Essex coast and just touching into Ipswich. As a local this both detracts and adds to the enjoyment- I don't know as many of the places so I can concentrate more on the storyline. And the storyline has upped it's game as well. Much more twisty turny than the previous novels in the series. Esposito's child is taken and the race is on. It has an unusual concept with a released criminal being manipulated to try and clear his name. The criminal casts a sad character with a very sorry background which almost endears him to the reader. Overall this is a romping good read.
Would I buy another? Yes
Publisher Little Brown

Monday, 7 January 2013

Wombling in Colchester January 2013

What's to be found? 7th January 2013
1 hat
1 necklace
1 car park ticket
36 pence
1 fake rose
£25 top man voucher

The Sins of the Father - Jeffrey Archer

Is Jeffrey Archer a guilty secret? He is definitely a great story teller although his books do take very little time to read. The Sins of the Father is the second in the Clifton Chronicles of what looks to be 5 lined up. At the end of the last book our main character had stolen an identity only to find it was that of a murderer. In this book he ends up in prison....where he writes a diary....which is published...sounding familiar? Fortunately this part of the storyline doesn't overpower the rest of the story as we're led through 1939 in the UK, Tobruk and the US. Tongue in cheek humour is to be had as well providing added entertainment. Again the book ends on a cliff hanger ready for part three which I understand is to be published in early 2013.
Jeffrey Archer writes the sort of books that take only lightly longer to read than a decent sized magazine so on my value for money scale they're quite low. I will be reading the next one but again when it makes it to paperback.
Would I buy another? When I next take a train journey
Publisher – Pan MacMillan

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Wombling in Colchester December 2012

What's to be found? 18th December 2012
1 hat
1 necklace
1 car park ticket
9 pence

Without Warning - John Birmingham

In a bookshop that was nearly empty of people on new year's eve I took advantage and looked around slowly. Without Warning was filed in amongst the crime fiction and as it was an author I hadn't heard of I settled in for a read of the first chapter. Cheeky maybe but not as cheeky as photographing it to buy from amazon/ebay/abe later.
The first little bit that I read dealt with a woman awaking from an accident and realising she had been using an alias to infiltrate a group and to compound the deception she had been pretending to to understand French. An impression she quickly dispels, accidentally. As a taster it is well written enough to warrant handing over the cash.
It's a 'what if' book and in this case America has been nearly wiped out by a mysterious 'wall'. It deals with the impact on the near community and also overseas repercussions including Cuba and France. From food shortages to riots to who is going to be the government now that New York is gone there's a wide variety in the book with a cast of very distinctive diverse characters.
Despite the dire situation that people are in the book still has a sense of humour running through it lifting the tone to an enjoyable entertaining 600 pages plus read. For those of us not immediately aware of who the prime minister of Venezuela it is adept enough at leading us through the different politicians involved in the various scenarios although it's slightly disconcerting reading about Tony Blair (not something I usually volunteer for).
The ending leaves us on a hook ready for the next in the series, due out in February 2013. It looks like a re-issue and it's a book that will appeal to Ken Follett fans, although it is likened to Tom Clancy. It could have done with less acronyms or maybe just more explanation of what they were but overall a great adventure sci-fi to read.
Would I buy another? Yes, in February 2013
Publisher Titan Books