Please note that you will not find any unfavourable reviews here. I only write reviews on books that I enjoyed reading.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Roast Books

Ok, I know it's been ages since I last posted a review but I succumbed to swine flu and wasn't capable of much more than sleeping. If you want to join my pity party then you need to go here. Dress code is PJs, slippers and comfort blanket.

Before I got ill I had the time to indulge myself in a few books published by Roast Books. I've been following Roast Books since it was little more than a twinkling concept in Faye's mind as a new university graduate.

I am a devoted fan of Roast Books because they do something very few publishers do; they publish novellas. I think novellas are way too underrated and am so pleased to have discovered a publisher who wants to get them out to fill a very big gap in the market.

The first book I read was 'Little Roasts - a collection of short stories'. This will come as no surprise to people who read my blogs regularly and know what a short story addict I am.

The first story in this collection is
Brian, McMurphy & Sally Too by Rowena Macdonald, an incredibly emotive story of friendship and love. It managed to thrill and shock me. At the end I longed to read more.

A Sop of All this Solid Globe by Keith Scales is very 'small town' North America. I know that may not mean much if you didn't grow up on that continent but you'll understand after you've read it. And, read it you should.

Circling by Mark Kotting is very suspenseful, very cleverly written. It left me thinking about it for a long time after I'd finished reading.

Rudimentary Mathematician by Nikhil Pandhi is short but very cinematic. Almost disturbingly so.

Selling Light by Effie Gray is wonderfully quirky. The book came alive from the first page and each character called out to me for attention in equal measures. At times I realised that I was holding my breath as I read. My reading time is usually just before I go to sleep but in this case I did something I rarely do and took Selling Light into the bath with me to increase my reading time. The ending pleased me greatly and I have to say that I think this novella is a real treat. Buy it for someone you love.

Lizard by L.Schick reads with an almost dreamlike quality. I'm talking about dreams where nothing makes sense if you think about it too hard but somehow you just know it is right and unfolding the way it has to? It entertained me hugely and I wanted to know what happened next each time I reached the bottom of the page. It is the most unique story I have ever had the pleasure of reading and I look forward to whatever this author dreams up next.

I've got several more Roast Books on my to be read pile and I am looking forward to continuing the experience. Roast Book's blog is here, the full catalogue is here, and you can follow Faye on Twitter.

I think the world needs to know about Roast Books so please plug it on your blogs and websites.

Finally, I feel that I should point out that novellas make great Christmas stocking stuffers and while you're at it why not
treat yourself to a 'great little read' too?

Saturday, 10 October 2009

The Season of the Beast by Andrea H. Japp

The Season of the Beast is brought to you courtesy of those clever people at Gallic Books who provide you with the opportunity to enjoy French to English translations of some very good reads.

I've spent the past six weeks reading this novel by Andrea Japp (translated by Lorenza Garcia), partly because it has been a hectic and exhausting six weeks and partly because I was doing my utmost to take my time and savour this mystery.

Set in medieval France it tells the absorbing tale of Agnes de Souarcy, an admirable and believable character whom I found myself fascinated with. The struggles everyone faced in daily life back in 1304 is portrayed in the most vivid way. Some of the most mundane scenes are absolutely shocking because of this writing skill. An added bonus is the Historical References and Glossary which added layers to the detail within the story.

The suspense in this novel is exquisitely delivered in rich detail page by page. I found myself either cheering Agnes on or greatly concerned for her well being throughout the novel. The fact that I found myself so engaged with Agnes and the troubles she faces is, to me anyway, the prefect example of the quality of content you'll find between the covers of The Season of the Beast.

A word of warning for those of you who will buy The Season of the Beast after reading this post: there is a second and third installment in the Agnes de Souarcy chronicles called The Breath of the Rose and The Divine Blood. Buy them all at the same time because when you finish reading The Season of the Beast you will be desperate to know what happens next.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Sadomasochism for Accountants by Rosy Barnes

Sadomasochism for Accountants is about love, laughter and lunacy, though you may doubt me after reading the title. I don’t believe you can experience one of the former two without the latter lurking sensed but unseen in the shadow of those emotions. In her debut novel Rosy Barnes blends the three in a variety of ways that should seem familiar in varying degrees to most adults.

Rosy's style reminds me of Carl Hiaasen. Loads of characters make this story a comedic romp with each playing a significant part in the plot. You might expect so many major characters to make the story a confusing muddle but each has an unexpected depth which makes them vital to the reader's enjoyment of the story as a whole.

As Rosy says on her website - 'Buy the book - Ah go on. Go on, go on, go on'

Find out more about Rosy follow this link to her website and to find out more about Marion Boyars follow this link to their website

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Cloths of Heaven by Sue Eckstein

Sue Eckstein's debut novel, The Cloths of Heaven, is a treasure.

The scented evenings, heavily weighted with West African heat, seemed to rise from the pages as I read. I felt as if I was curled up on a cushion, watching but unseen, as the plot unfolded like many layers of delicate, luxurious fabric. At times I found myself holding my breath as I read.

The characters are unexpectedly real. Everyone has met personalities like these in their own lives and I found that this familiarity drew me deep into the novel. At times I felt an inkling of what it must feel like to be a stalker; that urge to vicariously experience more of another's life, the reluctance to be parted from them. I felt a slight sense of grief as the novel ended simply because it finished so perfectly and, I wanted to spend more time in their world.

I particularly liked the fact that Sue wrote short chapters and these allowed me to move along the book at a steady pace, picking up different characters viewpoints as the story progresses and blending what I knew from previous pages with what the next character believed to be the truth.

The Cloths of Heaven mimics real life effortlessly, recounting it with maximum impact packed full of vivid imagery, scents and palpable emotions.

For a more traditional review you can follow this link to Caroline Smaile's blog or this one to Bookersatz.

The Cloths of Heaven is published by Myriad Editions.

You can read the first chapter here.

You can buy a copy here and here or any good bookstore. On the
9th of August I will be interviewing Sue on my Chez Aspie blog and giving away a signed copy of The Cloths of Heaven courtesy of Myriad Editions.

You can find out more about Sue at Myriad Editions or by following her on Twitter.

Monday, 29 June 2009

The Dolce Vita Diaries

I just loved everything about this book, the cover art, the photos, the recipes and the story that wraps round it all.

Jason, Cathy and their daughter Rosie move to Italy to nurture their olive grove. Sounds idyllic doesn't it? Well according to Cathy and Jason the answer is yes and no. After reading their book I am inclined to agree but I was left with more of the 'yes' resounding in my head and less of the 'no'.

This is a blunt, vivid account of their struggles to live their dream. They did it but I'll leave it to you to decide if they think it was worth it.

I am willing to bet you can't read the book without wanting to adopt an olive tree.

Go. Read. Discover Nudo.

The Dolce Vita Diaries is published by The Friday Project

Thursday, 4 June 2009

The Letters by Fiona Robyn

I was lucky enough to meet Fiona Robyn when she came to town to read some of her poetry on a Tongues and Grooves evening.

Fiona's poetry is exquisite; the words are almost palpable, ripe, warm and juicy like blackberries eaten as fast as they can be picked off the sun warmed brambles.

Much to my delight her fiction has the same which, to my mind, is reminiscent of Gregorian Monks chanting their prayers.

The Letters flings the reader up onto an edge of adrenaline fuelled frisson before dropping you into fur lined ruts where you could happily luxuriate forever.

There is a decadent syncopation to The Letters.

The Letters, published by the wonderful world of Snowbooks, is a treat from start to finish. You can buy a copy here, here or here as well as any good book store and you can find out more about Fiona here.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Probability Angels by Joseph Devon

This is an incredibly complex novel which is made all the more compelling by the way the robust and endearing main characters fit together in a most satisfying fashion.

The Probability Angels are responsible for pushing their living charges into making life changing decisions. I think this concept is one which would be readily familiar and acceptable within many cultures and faiths and for this reason I am confident that this book will eventually be translated into many languages.

The vivid imagery which flows from every page made me think that this could be made into a blockbuster film but as always, the written word provides a richness and depth that no movie will be able to offer. I suggest you read Probability Angles first and, when the movie is made, enjoy it for for the added dimension it will provide.

You get a lot of book for your money folks. Trust me, you'll thank me for it later.

This is the first book that I have read by Joseph Devon but I have since found out that he has written a couple of others, including a book of short stories (my fave), so I've got some catching up to do!
While I am off expanding my library so I can add in yet more books, you can find out more about Joseph Devon by following this link and you can find some traditional style reviews by following this link.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Flying Saucer Rock & Roll by Richard Blandford

Flying Saucer Rock & Roll is a story about teenage angst. About falling in and out of love, lust and friendship. About the starting and stopping of 'being in a band'.

Not only does Richard tackle these subjects with consummate skill, he goes one step further and adds in a teenager named Neil who is most definitely on the Asperger's Syndrome end of the Autistic Spectrum.

Reading about Neil's behaviour was like relieving my teenage years. Intermittently throughout the novel I would realise that I was thinking 'Oh urk, I did that, I behaved just like that!'

I was looking forward to reading Richard Blandford's second novel because I had enjoyed his debut novel Hound Dog so much.

The first surprise came about because I had assumed, perhaps naively, that this new novel would be written in the same style as the first. How wrong I was.

The second revelation was how very (very, very , very) well written Flying Saucer Rock & Roll is. I used to admire Richard's authorial skills but at the moment I am finding it difficult to see past the waves of jealousy...

Seriously though this book is a treat. Buy it and find out for yourself. Oh and if you would like to read a more traditional review of Flying Saucer Rock & Roll then go on over to
Scott Pack's blog.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

One Under by Graham Hurley

Oh I just love Graham Hurley's novels! Not only is he a very skilled author but his books are all set in Portsmouth.

There is something particularly absorbing about a book in which I am able to picture exactly most of the locations being described, the labile beauty of the seafront, the smell of the harbour, the sheer volume of the birdsong from the conservation areas which hug Portsea Island, the scene of the crime, the multitude of surrounding villages and the atmosphere of the pubs.

One Under is a particular favourite because it features a few cameo appearances from the author Sally Spedding. I reviewed her collection of short stories Strangers Waiting

Monday, 2 March 2009

The Oven House by Lynne Rees

The Oven House by Lynne Rees was in turns exquisitely delightful and decadently painful to read... much in the same way as an ice cold treat on a hot summer day will give you sweet pleasure, swiftly followed by brain freeze.

Is it obvious that I am really struggling to describe the effect it had on me? Please don't let my review put you off as that is not my intent. I am actually still a little overwhelmed by how very well written this story was. It isn't an easy topic to base a short story on let alone a whole novella.

The Oven House is filled with the ripe pleasure of sexual indulgence, of the particular agonies that are irrevocably linked to both falling in and out of love and the uniquely lush joy that comes from falling in love with someone all over again.

The Oven House is vividly written. The words moved off the page and into my very core. They are rich and inviting, emotive, magical in their strength and self assurance. You won't just read this book, you'll feel, taste, see, smell and be moved by it.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

An Ungodly Child - by Rachel Green

I've never read a novel quite like this one. Rachel Green describes it as 'urban fantasy'.

I thought that I knew what to expect as I had first stumbled upon Rachel's writing when I found her blog
'Laverstone Tales' which is full of delightful characters who regularly embark on a wide variety of adventures.

What I wasn't prepared for was the rich vein of humour that underscores each chapter, the ability to poke fun at the absurdity of human nature and all else beyond it. The characters in 'An Ungodly Child' go through exquisitely choreographed journeys of self awareness .

This book in many ways reminded me of Stephen Shieber's collection of short stories 'Being Normal'. Forget that one of the main characters of this book is a demon called Jasfoup and you'll see that this novel is actually all about being and accepting others for being normal, whatever they may chose to define that as.

This is a book full of beauty, life, laughter and the enduring strength and acceptance that comes with true love. It enriched me and I am grateful that I was able to experience it. I know that I will read it again and again. I am sure many other readers will too.

You can see Rachel Green's photography, art and poetry on
this blog here

Rachel Green has told me that she has several finished novels and is looking for a publisher. How I wish I was an inde publisher...

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

The Blood of Strangers by Frank Huyler

I've read several books since my last review and they were all ok but none of them moved me enough to want to write a review about them. However, the Blood of Strangers by Frank Huyler was an absolute delight and not just because it is comprised of my favorite read which many of you will know by now is short stories.

Although the book is about the experiences of an emergency ward doctor and therefore not the most lighthearted of content, the reading of these stories is almost effortless. In fact, I felt as if I was looking at art or watching a movie instead of actively reading.

Frank Huyler is a poet and this comes across clearly in these stories. He is able to paint a vibrant, exquisitely alive scene with very few words.

I was disappointed when the book ended for it was far too soon for my liking. I will be keeping a look out for more by Frank Huyler. You can treat yourself to a copy by clicking below.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Disabilty in Pregnancy and Childbirth

As a basic textbook about the needs of disabled women during pregnancy and childbirth ‘Disability in Pregnancy and Childbirth’ is suitable read for everyone. The advice ranges from basic care of the woman and her family, to assessing ward suitability and scoping the necessary improvements. I felt that much of the advice given in this text book should be standard practice with all clients; those who are disabled and those who are not. However, as the mechanisms of pregnancy and childbirth are in many ways the same for both, this should be regarded as a bonus of this volume rather than a detriment. The information is applicable and suitable for ward managers, the woman and her family and everyone in between.

I particularly liked how the authors made reference to the fact that a woman with a recognised disability, for example Achondroplasia, may not consider herself to be disabled in any way while someone with a chronic illness such as Diabetes may be significantly disabled by their condition. This is a concept which all health professionals should keep foremost in their mind when caring for someone who is ‘differently abled’.

This book touches on most aspects of motherhood from screening to postnatal care. The screening advice offered is slightly out of date, for example the triple test is discussed but not nuchal fold measurements. As with other non screening specific textbooks, it is best to refer to the more specialised publications to benefit from the most up to date information on these subjects.

The following chapters contained information of particular distinction:

The appendix to chapter 3 has an interesting set of questions with which a woman could use to evaluate the care she received. The information obtained in this way would be a useful resource for health care professionals to use as a platform from which to reflect upon their practice and develop their skills in caring for this group of women.

In chapter 8, ‘The interaction between specific conditions and the childbirth continuum’, the author has taken the brave step of referring to specific disabilities. This chapter included many that are not usually mentioned in volumes such as this like Dyspraxia and Fibroymalgia but neglected to include the more ‘hidden disabilities’ such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorders and High Functioning Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome. Although this chapter at first glance appears to be quite comprehensive, the dyscogniton that occurs with Fibromyalgia, also known as ‘fibrofog’ and its importance in relation to making informed choices is not highlighted. This leads me to surmise that important factors with the other listed disabilities may be also be missing.

Chapter 9 lists resources suitable for disabled women and the health care professionals who participate in facilitating their experience of pregnancy and childbirth. There are links to many UK organisations but also included are several links to international organisations. Two very useful links are missing but I will include them here:

The National Autistic Society
Aim to champion the rights and interests of all people with autism and aim to provide individuals with autism and their families with help, support and services that they can access, trust and rely upon and which can make a positive difference to their lives.
Contact details:
0845 070 4004

The UK Fibromyalgia Association

Raising awareness of Fibromyalgia in the United Kingdom. This website is endorsed by the Arthritis Research Campaign (ARC) leaflet on Fibromyalgia
Contact details:
Helpline: 0845 345 2322

Both of these sites will be able to provide local support group contact information. Additionally Mencap (listed on page 194), offers ‘Parent Partnership’, a system which provides support in many forms not the least of which is attending meetings and appointments with disabled and differently abled people.

‘Disability in Pregnancy and Childbirth’ has evenly, appropriately weighted chapters with some interesting and useful resources. The handouts at the end of the book are intended as a resource to back up the information given by health care professionals and aimed specifically at disabled women and their partners. The average Crystal Mark reading age for information leaflets in England is 9 years and these handouts are pitched at a higher level than this. Therefore they would need a bit of tweaking before being widely circulated. Overall this book aids and encourages the establishment of evidence based practice in relation to caring for disabled and differently abled women.

I strongly recommend ‘Disability in Pregnancy and Childbirth’ as required reading for all those involved in the training of student midwives, nurses and doctors. This book should also be read and then kept as a reference book for any post registration healthcare professionals with a remit in providing care for disabled and differently abled women of childbearing age.

Click here to buy your copy