Friday, 16 February 2018

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

review by Maryom

Sylvie and Dan seem to be a perfect couple - they've been together ten years, have a happy marriage, twin daughters, and a lovely home. They've grown so close, they can tell what the other is thinking, can finish their sentences, predict their every move. They're looking forward to a long life together  ... till someone mentions that could be sixty-eight years! Sixty-eight years! How can any relationship survive that long, especially when they know each other so well? Suddenly the future is stretching out before - filled with boredom! What they should do, they decide, is surprise each other more often - with unexpected gifts, sexy lingerie, brunch dates, even a new pet - but soon Sylvie begins to think Dan is not so much trying to surprise her, as keep secrets from her.
Sylvie's professional life is also under scrutiny, as the niche museum she works for finds itself being roughly dragged into the twenty-first century.

Surprise Me is the latest stand-alone novel from Shopaholic series author Sophie Kinsella - and a little bit different to her other books. It starts out pretty much as you would expect from a romcom  - light-hearted, with misunderstandings and pratfalls, as the couple try to outdo each other in their attempts to liven up their marriage, but the last third of the book moves into murkier territory as the secrets Dan's been keeping are gradually brought to light. Even so, I really enjoyed it. It's perhaps on the whole, not as laugh out loud funny as other of Sophie Kinsella's work, but that's balanced by a deeper insight into long-term relationships, and the secrets families hide beneath a happy exterior.

Maryom's review - 4 stars 
Publisher - 
Bantam Press
Genre - 
adult, romcom

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Curious Arts Festival 2018 - literary events

The line up for the literary side is headlined by Kate Mosse who, over the last few years has become a best selling author and household name. Clearly, she will be a hard act to follow but Curious Arts is a festival that is up for the challenge. As of today the full author line up is still to be finalised but looking at who has been announced so far I can genuinely admit to getting excited about it.

Adam Kay trained as a doctor but left to start an alternative career in musical comedy, stand-up and script writing. That is some career jump and one that many people would like to emulate. As you can imagine his book, "This Is Going To Hurt" brings his medical experiences into the into the comedy part of his career. He will be talking about this book and I'm sure laughs will be plenty.

Little Grape Jelly have their performance described as "Little Grape Jelly is a poetry collective formed of Lily Ashley, Grace Pilkington and James Massiah. In their project Hell-p Me, three distinct voices come together to explore the benefits and limitations of communicating online. This is their interaction via email and social media, in free verse and other poetry forms. Each performance offers something new as the conversation continues between shows, detailing the ups and downs of life and love in the digital age. Immediate, honest and fleeting, here is what happens when three different worlds collide on one page."
We've all written emails or texts that have had their meaning misconstrued so we can guess how this can progress and I'm sure it will be entertaining. Well worth following this one across the weekend.

Dolly Alderton and her memoir "Everything I know About Love". On Amazon you can do a little "look inside". I did and frankly I believe this is one I must get along to. Humorous yet naive and hugely entertaining. Well worth going along to this event.

Lou Hamilton is an award winning artist and her latest book "Fear Less" is about great innovators - a fascinating topic about people who have shaped our world. Technology rarely evolves along a logical course but moves in leaps out bounds by people who can dream and are prepared to think in different ways - what's not to love about innovators who help to show us a new way to look at ourselves?

Miriam Darlington is a nature writer who will be talking about "Owl Sense", her latest book. I caught some of this on Radio 4 and was, frankly, very intrigued. Owls catch our imaginations in ways other raptors don't - silent night time hunters. But are they really? And owls that burrow in the ground? What's that about? Come along and find out.

Sam McKechnie will talk about "Miss Violet’s Doll House", a gorgeous craft book on the pleasures and methods of dollhouse making. Many years ago I made a doll's house for our youngest. Anyone who has done this will know how it becomes obsessive and you want to do a little bit more and more. This is going to be facinating.

...and these few are a selection only of who have been announced so far with more being announced regularly - both fiction and non-fiction. There will, inevitably, be clashes of timetable with so many things going off at the same time around the site but I hope that my choices won't be part of those clashes.

Monday, 12 February 2018

The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths

review by Maryom



Life hasn't been going well for Ruth Galloway - her mother died not long ago, and, while  everyone around her seems to be embarking on a life of 'happily ever after', her on/off lover Harry Nelson has gone back to his wife. So when Angelo Morrelli, an old acquaintance, asks her to check out some curious finds at his archaeological dig in Italy, and make it a bit of a holiday, she's all too willing to go. In the hilltop village of Castello degli Angeli she finds remains dating back to Roman times but a mystery surrounding events of Italy's more recent past.
Meanwhile, back in Norfolk, DCI Nelson is facing a more pressing danger - the possibility that a newly released offender is out to take revenge.

The Dark Angel is the tenth book featuring forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway, and this time Ruth is taken away from her beloved Norfolk salt marshes to the heat of Italy. I've always loved the descriptions of Norfolk with its seemingly limitless vistas stretching away to the horizon but that's an area I know fairly well and wondered how much I was adding in my own memories of the area. This time, the setting is totally unknown to me but the heat, the narrow streets, village square with cafes and church, and distant views of vineyards were totally brought to life. It isn't all picturesque scenery and holiday fun for Ruth, though. There are threatening messages left at the house she's staying in, Morrelli claims to have received death threats, and the land itself seems unwelcoming, shaking the village with an earthquake!
Ruth's sometimes lover, and father of her daughter Kate, DCI Harry Nelson again plays a large part in the story. He's finding himself torn between his desire to be with Ruth, and the obligations he feels towards his pregnant wife, even if there's sneaking suspicion at the back of his mind that he might not be the child's father.

I haven't read all ten books, and those I've read haven't been in chronological order (!), but I love this series - particularly its blend of personal story and crime. This book is no exception, though there might be a slight more emphasis on the personal side of Ruth's life this time, as she and Nelson try to resolve their feelings for each other. The characters as always are well drawn and believable, even the minor supporting ones, and when the villain is unveiled, there's a satisfying feeling that, if we'd read the hints properly, the reader should have guessed who it was.
And, of course, though each story is complete, the crime solved, and the villain brought to justice, the ongoing Ruth/Nelson relationship continues drawing you into the nest book, and the next...

Maryom's review - 5 stars 
Publisher -
 Quercus 
Genre - adult crime 

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Deception by Teri Terry

An epidemic is sweeping the country.
You are among the infected. There is no cure, and you cannot be permitted to infect others. You are now under quarantine. 
The 5% of the infected who survive are dangerous and will be taken into the custody of the army.
As the epidemic spreads, survivors are being hunted like witches, for the authorities fear their strange new powers.
Kai is desperate to trace Shay, who tricked him and disappeared. Meanwhile, Shay is searching for the truth behind the origins of the epidemic ... but danger finds them wherever they go. Can they outrun the fire?

review by Maryom

It's always difficult to know where and how to start with a review for a second (or third) book of a series, so my first simple step is to just quote the synopsis above which appears on the book itself, adding that Kai and Shay have been on the trail of his missing sister, and uncovered far more than they'd expected, especially that her disappearance was somehow connected to the 'flu' epidemic sweeping the country.
The end of the first book of the series, Contagion, left them at a logical sort of place but with so many questions unanswered that I've been longing to read more. Deception is definitely the name of the game this time. Kai and Shay are trying to find answers - how did the epidemic begin?  is their ever likely to be a cure? what happened to family and/or friends? - but it's not easy to find any when so many people, at both a personal and official level, are covering up the truth. It seems at times that one layer of deceit is removed, only to find another hidden below. When I'm reading adult crime fiction, I always pride myself on guessing the villain and having an inkling of how the plot will pan out - here, I'm stumped. Although I feel I'm better than Kai and Shay at picking who to trust, or not (yes, I was mentally shouting 'Don't believe X. They're up to no good'), I still can't guess how the plot will develop or who, if anybody, could be the 'good guys' in this scenario.
Add in some fast paced action, secret hideouts and military bases, the possibility of some secret research lab experimenting without any official control, and a hint or perhaps more of a love triangle, and it's easy to see any reader would be hooked.
How would I describe it? Well, definitely a thriller, with a slightly sci-fi/conspriracy theory feel as it involves secret scientific research. Whatever you call it, Deception is an excellent, tense, thrill a minute, unputdownable read. The danger is real and ever-present, any moments of calm are short lived, and before long Kai and Shay are plunged back into action and life-threatening situations. With that in mind, I'd suggest that it might possibly be a little scary for readers at the younger end of its age range, especially if they're inclined to identify too much with characters; I can easily imagine them becoming so engrossed that it becomes 'real'.


Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Orchard Books
Genre - 
teen, sci fi/ conspiracy theory thriller

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Force of Nature Blog Tour


We're delighted to be taking part today in the blog tour for Jane Harper's second Australian mystery
Force of Nature


Jane Harper's first crime thriller, The Dry, transported the reader to the hot, dusty, drought-ridden spaces of rural Australia. This time, we're again far from the safety of the cities, but in the misty, rain-soaked bush country of the Giralang Ranges. In this remote spot, Executive Adventures run corporate team-building retreats, encouraging stressed office workers to get outdoors and bond while trekking through the bush. The latest group of ten co-workers from finance company BaileyTennant is expected back any minute. The five men show up, a little early, but of the women's group there's no sign. Search parties are sent out, with no success. As darkness is dropping, the women's group eventually stumbles back to base ... but one of them, Alice Russell, is missing ...

I'm not sure from their reputation that any of these team-building, bonding exercises work, even in real life, but in fiction they lead to the opposite - irritation and fractious bickering leading gradually to the group falling out and heading for disaster in one shape or another - and this story is no exception. Immediately you latch onto the fact that the five woman may work together but are not friends at all; they're all outside their comfort zone; Jill is isolated by her position as one of the company's owners; twins Bree and Beth would sooner be anywhere rather than together, especially out in the Bush, Alice and Lauren may have been at school together but now they now seem locked in a battle of one-up-man-ship over jobs, houses and the achievements of their children; add in the fact that Alice has been providing the police with inside information about possible illegal deals taking place, and you've got a recipe for trouble. Oh, and the Giralang area was once the base of a serial killer...

Federal agent Aaron Falk, from The Dry, is back as Alice's police contact, and he and his partner, Carmen Cooper, are immediately alarmed by news of her disappearance, suspecting it could be related to their investigation, and so are dragged in to the search for her. While more experienced men take on the physical task of scouring the bush, Falk and Cooper talk to her colleagues and family, and try to build a picture of Alice's circumstances and state of mind. At the same time, a different thread of story goes back a couple of days, and follows the BaileyTennant staff as they head off into the bush.

The Dry was a wonderful example of a claustrophobic small town whodunnit and, in this totally different setting, Harper has created a thriller, possibly a murder mystery, that will grab you immediately, and keep you hooked till the end. The countryside and weather are again used to great effect to create atmosphere and highlight mood, with rain and mist adding to the growing menace, and clouding the investigation as much as they do the landscape. I raced through the book, eager to know what happened to Alice, and whether she'd be found alive or not. Although Force of Nature again features Aaron Falk it is a complete standalone story, so there's no need to have read The Dry beforehand. 


To find out more follow #ForceofNature blog tour, author @JaneHarperautho and publisher @LittleBrownUK on Twitter

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Exile by James Swallow

Review by The Mole

After Nomad Marc Dane is persona non-grata in everyone's organisation but someone has to take him and he's given a dead-end, almost clerical role, in the International Atomic Energy Agency where his boss hopes he'll put the hours in, keep his head down and keep out of everyone's hair. Readers of Nomad will know that's not very likely to happen.

Picking up a lead that he is told is a dead end and a waste of time he starts to track what he believes is a suitcase nuclear bomb. But while the lead seems hot to him no-one else is prepared to take him seriously apart from his only friend in the agency who he ends up putting in the hospital and finding himself totally alone in pursuit of his case - and he can't do it alone.

While mostly fast paced I did find with Exile (unlike Nomad) that there were times when words seemed to be included that increased the page count but did not enhance the story. That is to say, at times the plot slowed for seemingly no real good reason. That said, the publishers liken Dane to Jason Bourne and that's not a bad comparison except I don't recollect Bourne having a right hand man like Lucy Keyes. Keyes is not insignificant in the plot and the book would be a lot poorer without her. Like Jason Bourne, you know where the plot is going to go and where it's going to end up and the only surprises come in getting from A to B. But it's fun on the journey and escapism rules the book.

As far as action thriller writers go, Swallow is up there with the best of them so keep an eye out because the last chapter tells us there will be more to come.

Publisher: Zaffre
Genre: Adult Action Thriller