Saturday, 30 November 2013

Book Review: The P45 Diaries by Ben Hatch





Having loved Ben Hatch's accounts of his marathon journeys with his family around Britain and France in Are We Nearly There Yet? and Road to Rouen respectively I was really looking forward to this book but unlike the previous two books this is fictional so would I enjoy it as much?
Happily the answer is a resounding yes. The diary writer, a young man called Jay Golden reminded me of Holden Caulfield. He is on the brink of adulthood but the idea of  what he perceives to be a mundane 9 to 5 existence horrifies him. He loses one job after another and is constantly at odds with his father. At first Jay isn't always the easiest person to like, however, as the book progresses I warmed to this young man trying to find his place in the world whilst experiencing the highs and lows of first love and as we gradually learn, struggling to cope with the death of his mum. Having lost my own mum to cancer when I wasn't much older than Jay meant it was at times a painful read but crying because you've been moved by what you're reading is a sign of a good book in my eyes. Knowing from Ben's works of non-fiction that The P45 Diaries is semi-autobiographical made it all the more poignant.
This is a book that will have you sighing with exasperation, snorting with laughter and wiping away the tears. It's honest, funny and very very moving. I'm sure Ben Hatch fans and those new to his books will thoroughly enjoy The P45 Diaries, I certainly did.

The P45 is available for download on the Kindle

Friday, 29 November 2013

Book Review: Second Chance by David Perry

Another Netgalley November Review, today I'm reviewing Second Chance by David Perry.




Alex Benedict is a hospital pharmacist whose wife has terminal cancer. He has a challenging job, a harsh boss and is battling exhaustion as he tends for his wife. If that isn't enough he then discovers patients are mysteriously dying and after the suicide of a colleague is thrust into an investigation that will threaten his life and test his beliefs.
This thriller reminded me a bit of Dan Brown's books, a man uncovers a conspiracy and is forced to follow clues that will lead him to an incredible and previously unbelievable discovery whilst his life is in danger as others also race to discover the mysterious formula. It's not really my sort of book, whilst I could suspend my belief for the premise of the story I still think the book often felt too unbelievable. Benedict's friends, who agree to help him with very little persuasion despite the threat to their lives, all turn out to be able to help him decipher what appear to be obsure and puzzling clues amazingly quickly. Benedict himself is badly injured yet within a few pages and it seems only a few days later has recovered enough to become embroiled in a dangerous fight.
That said it's an easy to read book with plenty of chapter ending cliffhangers and so although it's not a book I would choose to read again I think plenty of people will enjoy it.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publishers through Netgalley in return for my honest review.

Second Chance is published by Pettigrew Enterprises LLC.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Book Review: 1920: America's Great War by Robert Conroy

A second Netgalley November review for you today, this time I'm reviewing 1920: America's Great War by Robert Conroy.



Some of the best books I've read have been set during the First and Second World Wars, Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy and The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat immediately come to mind. Therefore I was looking forward to this alternative history which imagines Germany won a swift and decisive war in Europe in 1914 then shipped a huge army to Mexico to support a puppet government before staging a bold invasion of America in 1920, with the intention of making Texas and California the permanent property of Imperial Germany.
An interesting premise then, but unfortunately it wasn't a book that really engaged me.
I think the main issues for me were the scale and by necessity the number of people in the book. I like to be drawn in by a character, to empathise with them, care for them and in the case of books set in war time to fear for them and I didn't have that with this book. I felt the action swapped from one scene to another too quickly meaning as a reader I never really felt involved. I would have preferred the book to have concentrated on the characters of Luke, Josh, Kirsten and Elise as I found them the more interesting and engaging protagonists. The book also featured several real life people and whilst I think some made sense I did feel it was rather overdone. Ultimately I expect a book set in wartime to set my pulse racing, to really make me feel for the characters, to mourn those lost and to experience a sense of relief for the survivors. Sadly I didn't get that with this book, I never really doubted the outcome and it personally left me cold.
After finishing it I realised I was reminded of a big budget Hollywood action movie with lots of special effects and drama but less in the way of characterisation. I know there are plenty of people who love films like that and likewise I believe there are many readers who will thoroughly enjoy this book, it just wasn't for me.
Disclosure: I received this book free from the publishers through Netgalley in return for my honest review.

1920: America's Great War is published by Baen Books.


Book Review: The Ice Cream Army by Jessica Gregson

Another review for Netgalley November, after a slow start I've read a few so expect more reviews soon!



Set in Australia in 1915, The Ice Cream Army tells the story of Halim, a young Turkish immigrant who arrives in Sydney looking for work and ends up moving to Cottier's Creek, an outback mining town. Here he befriends another Turkish immigrant, Süleyman, the town's ice cream seller and sets up as a Halal butcher for the Muslim enclave known as Ghan Town. However, war in Gallipoli starts to affect Cottier's Creek and the townspeople's attitudes towards the residents of Ghan Town and particularly Halim and Süleyman start to become strained. As the war progresses residents watch anti-Turkish propaganda and men from the town are injured in the conflict, meaning instead of the previous acceptance they received from the Australians the Turks face racial prejudice and violence. Eventually they feel they have no other option and are moved to take devastating action.
The Ice Cream  Army is a fictionalised account of "the battle of Broken Hill", when in 1915 two two Turkish men declared war on Australia and attacked a train, killing two of the passengers. It's a raw, touching and frightening account of racism and prejudice and how people can be driven to commit terrible atrocities. Whilst bleak, this is a beautifully written book, empathic towards the Turks and yet still understanding of why the Australians behaved as they did. It reminds us again of the horrors war can drive people to. It's not a book to read if you want a happy ending but it's a story that had me thinking for days after I read it, a superb book.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley and the publishers in return for my honest review.

The Ice Cream Army is published by Legend Press.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Book Review: Dead Set by Will Carver

My second Netgalley November title completed, poorly children have scuppered my reading schedule somewhat!

I was perhaps a bit daft when I chose this book because I didn't realise until I'd started reading it that it is the third in a series about Detective January David. Therefore I knew nothing of the story thus far or anything about any of the characters who appear in all three books. Perhaps once I realised I should have stopped and read the other books first, in  chronological order. The thing is though, I couldn't stop. Within a few pages I was hooked. It's been a while since I read a psychological thriller and longer still since I read one as different and as enthralling as Dead Set.
The author uses multiple characters to tell the story, often but not always in the first person. These characters include the voices of the victims, describing their own deaths. As I read the book these voices became like a jigsaw as I attempted to piece everything together. It may not be a style that every reader will like but I was completely engrossed by not only the story itself, which is chilling, absorbing and superbly paced, but by the unique way the book is written. It's not a book for the faint hearted, whilst not excessively gory it doesn't pull any punches and the paranormal slant adds an extra layer of thrills without taking over the story.
In conclusion, whilst I think it does make more sense to read these books in order, if like me you find yourself reading Dead Set first and if you enjoy well written thrillers that are intelligent and unpredictable then also like me you will love this book.
Of course I am going to have to read the first books, Girl 4 and The Two very soon!
Disclosure: I received a free copy of Dead Set from Netgalley in return for my honest review.

Dead Set will be published by Arrow on November 21st.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Book Review: Kicking The Sky by Anthony De Sa



So here is my first review for Netgalley November, as described in this post.

Canadian author Anthony De Sa's previous book, Barnacle Love is a collection of linked short stories about a Portuguese immigrant family. One of the stories, 'Shoeshine Boy' has been expanded in Kicking The Sky, his first full length novel.
Set in Toronto in 1977 the real life disappearance of shoeshine boy, Emanuel Jacques is the catalyst for the events in this book. Four days after his disappearance his body was discovered, he'd been viciously raped before being murdered. This then is the brutal backdrop for a gritty coming of age story about twelve year old Canadian-Portuguese boy Antonio Rebelo.  We see the city through the eyes of the adolescent, the narrow alleys are their hiding places, full of danger and excitement. Antonio and his friends jump across rooftops searching for adventure -  their initial reaction following the shoeshine boy's disappearance is to make a plan to find him, believing they will have more luck than the police. Then Emanuel's body is discovered and Antonio, already on the brink of manhood is thrust him into a world where innocence is shattered, parents are terrified, people, particularly the Portuguese immigrants from the Azores want revenge and the homosexual community is a target. The violence and darker side of life in this book is uncompromising, wives are beaten by husbands, there are predatory mothers and boys give blow jobs through a fence for money.
Antonio himself is a likeable yet complex character, he is often terrified or sickened by events yet is unable to resist the draw of the adult world of secrets, lies and fear. He is confused too about his own sexuality, at first drawn to a girl in the neighbourhood but later becomes aware of his attraction to the mysterious James, at a time when homophobia had become rife this only adds to the boy's turmoil. Amongst this though there is humour and love; the bond between friends, the parents that desperately want to protect their children, not ready to accept they are growing up and see and hear what adults think they have concealed.
In many ways this isn't an easy book to read, it is raw and shocking. Yet by evoking so accurately the fear, confusion and anger both of a young boy and of the wider community De Sa has written a book that is powerful and honest. I thoroughly recommend it.
Disclosure: I received my copy of Kicking The Sky free from Netgalley in return for my honest review.


Kicking The Sky will be published in the UK on 25th March 2014 by Algonquin.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Netgalley November: My Goals




Firstly thank you to the lovely Daphne at Winged Reviews for drawing my attention to this brilliant event. Netgalley November is being hosted by Faye from A Daydreamer’s Thoughts, Kayleigh from K-Books and Laura from Bookish Treasures. I'm fairly new to Netgalley but already have a few books lined up to read so what better incentive to get cracking with them?! Also as a newish book blogger it would be lovely to get to know some more of my fellow book lovers. Please come and say hi!

I intend to read mostly Netgalley books this month although I do have a copy of Marbles, Mania, Depression, Michelangelo & Me by Ellen Forney tempting me, plus a couple of others I may find impossible to resist..

Anyway on my list are;

Kicking the Sky by Anthony De Sa
Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman
1920: America's Great War by Robert Conroy
Second Chance by David Perry
The n-Body Problem by Tony Burgess

I'm also awaiting a few approvals so may add them if selected depending on how well I do.

If you haven't already signed up, you can do so here.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Book Review: A Body Displaced (Lansin Island #2) by Andrew Butcher


A Body Displaced is the sequel to A Death Displaced, a paranormal suspense/contemporary fantasy novel I read a little while ago featuring Nick, a man whose dreams of an accident turned out to be prophetic and Juliet, the woman he saves who as a result discovers a remarkable ability of her own. I enjoyed this debut novel, there was much to like about it with its likeable main characters and fascinating premise. I did however, feel the story took a little while to really bite and the ending felt a bit loose, I was waiting for something big to happen and it didn't. That said it was a good read and so I was keen to read this next book in the series.
 I was pleased to see the plot develop more quickly this time although I did feel the events of the first book were covered in more detail than I like, personally I prefer it when sequels assume the reader knows what has gone on before. However, I did enjoy this book being much darker with a deeper and more intriguing insight into the Otherworld we first learned a little of in the first book. Nick and Juliet again take centre stage although for much of the book their stories unfold separately, and we learn more about their abilities, both what they're capable of and the emotional and psychological impact on their lives. New characters who are introduced or developed further from the first book are well written and complex but I must admit I wasn't keen on the in depth physical description of almost every person in the book, particularly when it often mattered little to the plot, I'd rather use my imaginatiion. This is a fairly small gripe though and overall I was impressed with A Body Displaced, the ending too is more satisfying and did a good job of whetting my appetite for the next book in the series, A Spirit Displaced.
Disclosure; I received a free copy of A Body Displaced from Netgalley in return for my honest review.

Andrew Butcher's website with links to buy his books can be found here.