Author Archives: kehs

Nellie Darling and the Legend of Nasty by L G Wilkinson

I am always picking up pieces of Hertfordshire puddingstone and therefore was delighted to come across a book that uses this piece of geology as one of its central themes. That, coupled with the fact that I collect books within books, made this a must read for me. I am so pleased that I purchased a copy as it’s a fabulous read and one that I am sure will enchant readers of all ages. The story starts with a group of teenagers chanting round a large boulder of Hertfordshire Puddingstone. Suddenly they find themselves back in time and it gradually dawns on them that they are now in 1857. They discover that Nellie is the Keeper of a powerful book that must remain safely out of the hands of the evil Boabahn Sith. As their adventure unfolds they encounter all manner of magical events and beings – amongst them vampires, witches, shape shifters and telepathy. The teenagers need to protect the book – and each other – as well as figuring out a way to get back to their own time.  To find out if they manage this you are going to have to read the book.  Believe me, you won’t be sorry. Wilkinson’s writing style flows smoothly along and the excitement slowly builds until the reader is unable to put the book down until the last page. (I have a feeling that this isn’t the last we hear of Nellie and her friends. )

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The Rose Labyrinth by Titania Hardie

Amazon Product Description
An enthralling novel of mystery, adventure and romance

Before his death in 1609, the brilliant Elizabethan spy, astrologer and mathematician John Dee hid many of his papers, believing that the world was not prepared for the ideas they held. In spring 2003, Dees many times great granddaughter and final holder of the secret was forced to pass the enigmatic legacy to one of her two sons. Diana chose her passionate, tempestuous younger boy, leaving a tiny silver key with a note: For Will, when he is something, or someone, that he is not now.

Summer 2003: While seriously ill Lucy King awaits heart surgery in London, Will travels Europe seeking to decipher the clues in the ancient document, and find a lock to fit the key. It is a search that will leave him and Lucy inextricably linked. But Will is not the only one trying to reach the truth at the heart of the Rose Labyrinth.

 

My Thoughts

 

This is crammed with literary, mythology and fairytale references. These, mixed with religion, romance and a quest to unravel a riddle, all combine to make a compelling read. However, at times I found myself getting bogged down with too much information and instead of finding this a page turner I found myself needing to take breaks from it. It was an intriguing tale though, and kept me interested as to the outcome all the way through. I was disappointed to have guessed all the ‘twists’ way before the ending though. I’d say this is worth a read but not if you have anything else on your TBR pile.

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What’s the Best You Can Do? – Derek Rowlinson

Amazon Synopsis

If you happen to harbour a vague romantic notion of some day opening your own second-hand bookshop where the artistic intelligentsia would congregate to discuss highbrow matters and engage in witty badinage, then perhaps you would do well to read “What’s the best you can do?” first. It may not necessarily put you off the idea altogether, but it will certainly provide you with a sharp reality check. The book is an autobiographical account of a second-hand bookshop owner in Northern Ireland during the 1980s and 90s and is a combination of straight prose mixed with numerous anecdotes of a mainly humorous, but sometimes rather poignantly sad nature. Although set against the backdrop of ‘The Troubles’, it shows how life generally went on pretty much as normal in those times, and that the experience of the second-hand bookseller is essentially universal, irrespective of circumstances or location. These recollections provide an insight into the world of used bookselling whilst simultaneously entertaining with descriptions of the often inexplicable behaviour of various characters who came through the door. The rude, the mean, and the downright stupid all make an appearance, and the eccentric is never too far away either. Bizarre situations, silly questions, and the author’s reaction to them, seriously threaten to have you chuckle out loud at times. A ‘must’ for lovers of the world of used books.

MY THOUGHTS

This is an autobiographical collection of anecdotes about the life of a bookseller that provides the reader with many unexpected insights into the book-dealing world. Some of the author’s reminiscences will have you laughing out loud and some will bring a lump to your throat and tears to your eyes. Some of his descriptions of his customers are so entertaining, the rude, the thoughtless, the eccentrics and the tightwads all get a mention, as do the kind and considerate.  His bookshop was in Northern Ireland, during the Troubles, and it was a bomb that bought to an end Rowlinson’s bookstore enterprise. He explains how this event led to him becoming an online dealer and his thoughts on this manner of selling books. This little book is a must for lovers of ‘books about books’ and for those interested in the world of second-hand book selling. It will always have a home on my bookshelves.

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Turtle Moves – Lawrence Watt-Evans

This book is extremely entertaining and gives a clever overview of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. I was worried that I may have heard it all before but no, to my pleasant surprise I learnt many interesting snippets about Pratchett’s books from this informative book and found it fascinating reading. I particularly loved the chapter about Luggage because it is one of my favourite characters. The author has written in a witty style that fans of Pratchett will appreciate and more importantly, he doesn’t give out any spoilers relating to the Discworld books. For anyone who hasn’t yet been captivated by Discworld, this book will lure you in and entice you into a world that you won’t want to escape from.

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The Prophecy of the Kings – David Burrows

Amazon Product Description

All three books in one. Long ago the Eldric mysteriously disappeared from the land, shortly after the Krell Wars when Drachar’s shade was finally banished from the world. Perhaps they believed the threat was gone, but in leaving they took with them their sorcery, the only effective means of defeating demons. Then came the Prophecy. Only one thing is certain in the cryptic lines, Drachar’s shade will one day return. Against this backdrop three men seek what became of the Eldric. One man, Vastra, recklessly ambitious and driven by greed for power, harbours a secret for which he will kill to protect. His companions, Kaplyn and Lars have their own reasons for helping, but who will succeed? Vastra seeks an Eldric talisman and his journey is fraught with peril, already there are clear signs that demons once again seek souls. None of the men realise the train of events they are about to set in motion will affect three worlds, nearly destroying theirs in the process..

My Thoughts

This is a mystical tale filled with fantastic action scenes. It’s set in a land inhabited by  dragons, 3 princes, wizards, astral travelling, demons and tree spiders! The 3 princes have many adventures and get caught in several battles which involve a lot of marvellous sword wielding action. Burrows has written an amazing epic fantasy that will have you glued to the pages. The author is a fan of LOTR and his trilogy is in a similar vein, yet is filled with original ideas that are unique to Burrows. This amazing trilogy is a must read for all fans of fantasy lands and epic battle scenes.

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Hearts and Minds – Rosy Thornton

Amazon Product Description


With insight, humour and a great deal of affection, Rosy Thornton reveals the idiosyncrasies of life in a Cambridge college and the pitfalls of being a man in a woman’s world.

St Radegund’s College, Cambridge, which admits only women students, breaks with one hundred and sixty years of tradition by appointing a man, former BBC executive James Rycarte, as its new Head of House. As Rycarte fights to win over the Fellowship in the face of opposition from a group of feminist dons, the Senior Tutor, Dr Martha Pearce, faces her own battles: an academic career in stagnation, a depressed teenage daughter and a marriage which may be foundering. Meanwhile, the college library is susbiding into the fen mud and the students are holding a competition to see who can ‘get a snog off the Dean’. The question on everyone’s lips is how long will Rycarte survive at St Radegunds without someone’s help?

 

My Thoughts

This is a behind the scenes tale of life and politics at St Radegund’s College at Cambridge University. For 60 years it’s for been women only but this tale starts with a man getting appointed as Head of House. Judging by the cover and the blurb I thought I was in for a light read with a sprinkling of romance but was pleased to discover it was far more than that. There are several underlying plots that could have stood alone as stories themselves. For instance, we meet Martha, who’s married to an unemployed poet, and her depressed 17-year-old daughter. Their family life fascinated me and I would have loved to hear more about them. Then there’s the ethical question that gets raised about admissions to the college. This starts when a rich father offers the college a million pounds in return for his daughter getting offered a place there. I found it fascinating to read about how the dilemma got solved. My only criticism is not a fault of the author’s but the cover art really is all wrong. It makes the book look like chick lit which may just put some readers off from even taking it off the shelves, which would be a real shame as they would be missing out on a great read.

 

 Many thanks to Rosy Thornton for sending me a copy to read. I will definitely be looking out for more of your books, Rosy.

 

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Henry Potty and the Deathly Paper Shortage – Valerie Estelle Frankel

Amazon Synopsis

Unapproved, unendorsed, unofficial, and unstoppable The devious Lord Revolting has split his soul into seven Plot Devices, from the One Ring to Coloring Book of Doom. Destroying the Ministry of Muckups, he launches himself on a campaign of terror and ruthlessness, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the last Wizneyland Princess Beach Week. Can Henry Potty, lousy student and heroic Chosen One, destroy the Plot Devices in time? Or will a paper shortage kill him, as the loudmouthed ghost of Bumbling Bore foresees? Join Henry as he duels unexploded mimes, flying monkeys, telemarketers, and the dreaded Tooth Fairy. It’s a race against National Treasures, Legions of Dimness, and Miniclorians, from the Funhouse of Terror to Chickenfeet Academy. But if Henry wants to recoup his fans from Professor Sniffly Snort, he must try. As the epic battle nears, only one thing is certain: Henry Potty’s series is numbered.

 

My Thoughts

Frankel has recreated a Harry Potter story but in a tongue-in-cheek style that is hilarious. Her chapter headings are wickedly funny with titles such as A Series of Unfortunate Camping Trips and The Dimness is Rising. This is an unofficial version to a story that is loved by hundreds. I think Frankel will pick up her own army of fans with this original take on the Potter books. It’s not just HP that gets the Frankel treatment either, there are several other well known and loved stories included in this tale. The Wicked Witch of the West and Dracula even make an appearance along with several other fantasy characters.   Although this is the sequel to Henry Potty and the Pet Rock it can be read as a stand-alone quite easily. I laughed out loud at several passages and highly recommend this book to fans of humorous fantasy novels and parodies. Suitable for all ages this is one that can be shared by the whole family.

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The Darker Side – Cody McFadyen

Amazon Synopsis
When FBI Agent Smoky Barrett and her team of investigators are called in by the Director himself to handle a case of murder committed on a flight from Texas to Virginia, the case begins with a shock, and the twists keep coming. It soon becomes apparent that Smoky is dealing with a serial killer who appears to have committed a truly horrific number of murders already, someone who can find people with secrets not just the secrets we all admit to ourselves, but the deepest, innermost secrets of all and is using them to target and destroy his victims. The case is on the edge of going public, and when that happens, with all the accelerated power of the Internet behind it, public hysteria is not far behind. Just at the time when she is working so hard to bring up her adopted daughter Bonnie, Smoky is now under the most intense pressure of her career to get results. Yet the team has never been faced with such an apparently insoluble problem. Who will the next victim be? Everyone in the world has secrets. Even Smoky.

 

My Thoughts

This is the first book by McFadyen for me and I was gripped from the very beginning. I loved the characters that he has created and felt I got to know them and understood what was going on in their heads. Smoky, the main character has a traumatic background with some harrowing history but is dealing with her demons the best she can. Murders are being committed in their hundreds and the only link is that all the victims had a dark secret that they had shared with someone. How the killer accesses this information is a mystery that Smoky needs to unravel. Yet she has a secret that she’s never told to anyone before, will this hinder or aid her search for the murderer? When the killer’s methods are described it makes for cringing reading. I felt the pain and fear of the victims, and their sense of helplessness. There is also a strong religious theme running through this storyline that is sure to spark many discussions. This is a tale of love, loss, pain and grief, with a strong sense of endurance and hope. 

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The Hour I First Believed – Wally Lamb

Amazon Synopsis
From the author of the international number one bestseller I Know This Much is True comes a magnificent novel which explores the consequence of violent events, and the chaos that ensues, for human lives blown irrevocably of course Caelum Quirk and his wife Maureen move to Colorado and find jobs at Columbine High School. One day in April 1999, when Caelum is called away by a family emergency, Maureen cowers in a cupboard in the school library, hiding from two students on a murderous rampage. Though miraculously she survives, Maureen cannot recover from the trauma. Seeking solace, the couple returns to Connecticut to an illusion of safety on the Quirk family farm. As Maureen fights to regain her sanity, Caelum discovers a cache of forgotten memorabilia spanning five generations of his family. As he painstakingly reconstructs the lives of his ancestors, he must confront their secrets and fashion a future from the ashes of his own tragedy. His personal quest for meaning becomes a mythic journey that is both contemporary and quintessentially American.

My Thoughts

This is the first book of Lamb’s that I’ve read and I was gripped from the very beginning. I’ll definitely be looking out for more by him. I loved the way he mixed fiction with non-fiction, without trivialising the awful events that took place during the high school massacre. He explores so many topics; war, slavery, spiritualism and family history, yet it all melds together into a compelling journey of one family and their struggle to make sense of this world and their lives. The massacre does form the main basis of this novel, but it’s so much more too. We hear about the effects it has on everyone involved, even those who seem to have been on the sidelines of the tragedy. I found this book to be heartbreaking; it made me laugh, cry and cringe in horror, yet Lamb still managed to maintain a sense of hope for our futures.  The message is that we must work together to prevent tragedies like this happening again. In fact, at the back of Lamb’s book are links to several charities that are working towards these very aims.

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The Magic Lands – Mark Hockley

Amazon Synopsis
When two teenage boys, Tom Lewis and Jack Barton, climb the gigantic oak at the bottom of Tom’s garden they embark on a journey that takes them toward adulthood, a change embracing both enlightenment and loss. Finding themselves in a dangerous, alien realm, where dreams and reality seem to interweave and deception is at the heart of everything, they come under the malevolent influence of a creature known as the White Wolf. What had began as a childish adventure is in fact something far darker and deeper, for the Wolf is playing a momentous game, an arcane puzzle that must be resolved. The boys walk a dark road of treachery and pain, love and lust, sacrifice and redemption. Friendship and loyalty are put to the test and corruption comes in many guises. Finally, truth can only be revealed through pain and forfeit. It is a journey into the heart of darkness where nothing and no-one are what they seem and the rules are the logic of a dream.

My Thoughts

What a magnificent read this was. I was drawn into the story with the opening pages. Don’t be lulled into thinking that this is a YA book though as there are some very graphic scenes that verge on horror writing. To me it seemed like Hockley has written a modern version of Narnia, but one that is far darker,  full of fantastic twists and completely his own. I had to read some of the last quarter of the book over again as I couldn’t believe what had just happened, that’s how unexpected the turns of events are. Hockley’s writing style is captivating and he manages to make dreams, illusions and reality all blur seamlessly together. The overlying message in this tale is of good over evil, that nothing in life comes without a price but hope is always with us. It’s difficult to categorize this novel but if I had to I would class it as fantasy/horror. I loved the mystical and pagan elements too.

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