Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Sea of Tranquility - Katja Millay

It's an American book so I'll use an American term.
This book totally achieved slam dunk.
It took me on a journey through a relationship, the highs, the lows, the tears and the laughter.
In this case I do mean cry and laughing was genuinely out loud. Not an easy achievement.
Nastya is a girl with a background which has caused her to leave her family home and recreate herself as a Goth. Not the greatest look to choose to blend into a new school with. Add to the look elective mutism and she's sure to draw attention.
She's a hard faced girl with a very damaged centre and no real home support living with an aunt working shifts.
Crossing the playground she becomes aware of another loner. Josh has a tough background as well and the other teenagers tend to steer clear, not because he's particularly dangerous, simply because they know his story and are uncomfortable with it and unsure of how to treat him.
One incident in the playground sees him defend Nastya and gradually she comes to accept him, turning up at his garage to watch him work but still not speaking.
As the relationship evolves we're treated to the angst of a young male, the trials of being an unusual but attractive girl, wanted by the boys and ignored or tormented by the girls.
It's a love story, a growing up story, a hard story and a magnificent story.
Very worth reading at any age. Knocks One Day and PS I Love You out of the water.
Credit also to the cover designers, optical illusion is going to be the new vogue in jackets.

Publisher - Atria

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Wool - Hugh Howey

A dystopian view of the future published in a fantastically tactile hardback.
An entire community exists in a silo over 100 stories deep with a class system in place.
There are engineers, IT specialistsand a mayor so present day is still in existence. But there's no email available or internet. If anyone steps out of line they are sent to be a 'cleaner' - a description of the role they will take cleaning the outbound cameras when they are sent into the poisonous atmosphere.
A simple expressed criticism of the system earns a person this punishment.
But is all as it seems?
Following the death of the Sheriff a replacement is needed and both the mayor and the IT supervisor have someone in mind. The trouble begins when each wants a different person.
After the new person is appointed she has access to previously undreamed of information. Putting information together reveals a hidden world of sabotage. Asking questions is risky as is trusting anyone else.
Garnering support from a long term friend she voices her doubts and is promptly sent to 'clean'. But armed with the new knowledge does she die?
This has echoes of the Schwarzenegger film where he's sent into the future and I can easily picture it as a film. It's very well written and whips you along. Saga rather than novel it has a follow up novel 'Shift' and then a final book to complete the series.

Publisher - Simon and Schuster

The Prophet - Michael Koryta

Reviews such as 'this should establish Koryta as an international bestseller once and for all' miss a core detail of the UK market. We don't do baseball or American football or whatever it is that little league relates to. So with heavy emphasis on the game the book becomes a bit of a struggle.
That said the premise of the crime thriller is good.
Two brothers in town had a sister when they were teenagers. After her death they each reacted differently, one turned to God, the other became a bailbondsman.
Years later another teenage girl is killed in the same town.
This time there's a link between her and the bailbondsman brother and he decides to track the killer down.
In the meantime his estranged brother is put at risk.
With great family dynamics and a good story well hidden in some kind of sport I can see that the author could become appreciated over here.
If he learned about football or rugby....

Publisher - Hodder & Stoughton

Crusher - Niall Leonard

Very basic crime thriller - almost a trial for the real thing.
Which isn't much comfort if you've paid over good cash.
A non achieving son comes home to find his non achieving father dead at the kitchen table.
Very quickly the non achieving son becomes an adequate detective even managing to get himself employment with the gangland boss he believes killed his father.
Add in an unlikely sexual relationship and you have a crime,sex, thriller that still somehow fails to hit the mark.

Publisher - Doubleday

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Close to the bone - Stuart MacBride

Popular crime fiction from a Scottish master.
Logan McRae is back to cause us to think, who would the actor be? My money's on Philip Glaister as he was in Life on Mars, not as he is in real life. That's the face I picture when I read - who do you picture?
He's out in the sticks with a caravan for a home and decidedly apathetic about his own life.
By day he's interacting with local crime lords and colleagues, by night he almost deflates. Brilliantly written to let the reader know the character as well as crafting a fantastic crime story this is MacBride at his best.
This time there's a new character, an eager to succeed, step on everybody on the way up type of Detective Sergeant who has very little to like about her. So ambitious she's just funny.
There are teenage lovers, drugs barons, immigrants and the usual police characters to contend with.
And some bones.
Worth reading MacBride in order, but this is a good one.
A book that illustrates the value of writing as entertainment. Have a think,
1 magazine £1-£5 maybe an hours reading if you read really slowly
1 DVD £10 ish 2-3 hours in front of the telly
A cinema ticket £6? another couple of hours
At even hardback price of £16.99 this is value for money. And you get to share it when you've finished!

Publisher - Harper Collins

The London Scene - Virginia Woolf

I admit to loving London. I was lucky enough to live close by when growing up and am still within an
extortionate Greater Anglia railfare even now.
So this one had to appeal.
6 essays from the 1930's ranging from the docks to the Commons to Oxford Street the essays give a glimpse into the views of the time.
Concerns about the fragility of the new buildings set against the new retail environment and the desires of the populace to have new things. Interesting to hear of concerns back then that mirror our own nowadays with cardboard houses popping up around our towns.
The descriptions sit neatly against the buildings that are, in some cases, still in existence.
With a Portrait of a Londoner showing us the inside of London Society and a soiree of intellectuals and Great Men's Houses describing the way of life of the times this is a mini treasure.

Publisher - Snow Books

There's bus stations ......

No architect? in Colchester

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Chosen - Lesley Glaister

Every so often someone comes up with a new for the moment premise. This time it's Lesley Glaister with a
book taking in the slow, steady effect of a religious cult on a family.
With a large enough family being affected to hold the interest and also allow for various members to be affected in different ways this gives an insight on how such cults could potentially manipulate vulnerable people.
Even those who don't think they are particularly vulnerable.
Criss crossing the UK and venturing over to the US the rise of influence of the cult is insidious.
Through their teenage years Stella and her sister step around the edges of the cult with the occasional foray into the centre, drawing attention from the cult leader. Or, as he is then, the local hobo.
As well as the influence on people around the cult the book shows how one person can convince themselves that they are the leader.
A disturbing novel reaching across the generations this is a little bit of knowledge that will hopefully have a large amount of reach.
Well worth a read from a publisher that hadn't before now made an impression on my consciousness.

Publisher - Tindal Street Press

The Streets - Anthony Quinn

Put a Norfolk naive in an East London environment and step back to see the results.
David Wildeblood arrives for his new job as a novice journalist after his father calls in a favour to obtain the post for him. He's prepared to give it a proper chance as well, taking his investigative duties seriously.
His boss is gradually building a social map of the area, similar to General Booth's, and asks him to interview as many people as he can in the area.
Easier said than done when his accent marks him out immediately and he can also read and write. He's seen as a toff and mistrusted immediately.
Striking up a friendship with a local barrow boy makes access to the tenements easier and he learns about life from the tenants.
As he delves deeper into local life it becomes clear that there are a group of slumlords overseeing the properties who refuse to be called to account.
In an illustration of social uprising we get to see how the riots may have come about and also learn of a very radical solution proposed to help with the regeneration of the area.
There's a little bit of romance, a lot of gallantry, raw east end life and some sad stories as the book goes on.
It's a statement on the era with a fair amount of research behind it which makes for entertaining reading if you're a fan of Dr Barnardo, General Booth, Father Jo and the sisters that make up Call the midwife.

Publisher - Jonathan Cape

The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared - Jonas Jonasson

A Scandinavian book that's not a dark gloomy crime thriller.
Although it has crime and it has thrills.
A genuinely entertaining book about what happens when a 100 year old man decides not to attend his own birthday party.
As he travels anew at a grand old age picking up travelling partners along the way (and a bit of cash) the reader is treated to his life history- and a bit of world history.
This has to be the man who coined the term 'right place, right time'.
There is hardly a political leader he hasn't met or a favour not owed to him.
It all adds up to fun.
Excellent change from darkness

Publisher - Hesperus

Stay Close - Harlan Coben

Coben at his best- fast paced crime thriller. false identities abound, histories are not what they seem and an elderly lady has flashes of lucidity.
When a man is murdered two people who each think the other may be responsible run off and try and build new lives. One almost succeeds, the other returns to the crime scene every year.
Meanwhile one police officer refuses to let go of a seventeen year old case of disappearance.
All tied together fluently resulting in a days worth of reading and a surprise ending.
Excellent read.

Publisher - Orion

Selected at six - Joan Goldman

The wonders of ebay meant that a book I'd been looking for for years eventually surfaced at a bargain price. And when it arrived it had bonus stamps from Birmingham Reference Library - 'Discarded'
Serendipity indeed.
This is an autobiographical account of a teacher of 'backward' children in the 60's.
It's of particular interest to me as my mother was one of these teachers and many of my half term holidays were spent in 'the hut' where she taught.
Similarly in this school the remaining space was handed over for the children least likely to succeed. The only instruction from the headteacher 'I want them reading by the end of the year'
How this is achieved and the stories along the way make interesting reading of a 'discarded' book.
Shortly to be passed to a group of 6 such teachers who will love it.
Think 'Call the midwife' for education

Publisher - Hodder & Stoughton

Good Bait - John Harvey

Crime thriller of the take it on a flight popular fiction variety.
Taking it's title from a piece of music there are frequent references to different versions of the same riff throughout the book.
DCI Karen Shields is called to a scene of crime in London to view an east European boy frozen in a lake with only his face showing and no identity papers on him.
Meanwhile in Cornwall a local bobby gets a visit from a woman he knew forever ago whose daughter has gone missing. With a history between the three he decides to take time out from seagull watching to try and find out what has happened to her. The trail leads initially to London and almost immediately to news that the mother has fallen in front of a tube train. A little more help from his PI friend and it's established that the daughter has connections to a group of eastern Europeans.
Gradually the two threads intertwine with a touch of violence thrown into the mix.
For me this one was a little too heavy on the filler descriptions eg Marks and Spencer meals for one and a little too light on the mystery.
Since this is a popular writer it may just be that I have picked one that has been produced as the annual book released by John Harvey. I won't let it put me off trying another but I will make sure it's an earlier book.

Publisher - Arrow Books