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Showing posts from October, 2012

The Feathered Man by Jeremy de Quidt

I must advise you right at the start to beware this book. It's a scary little devil that must be approached with extreme caution. Now I have forewarned you, it's only fair to say you have to read it. This is tip-top horror for older children upwards.

In Germany, in days gone by, Klaus ekes a miserable living as a tooth-puller's boy. It's an unenviable job, but marginally better than living on the streets. His main task is to stand outside the tooth shop banging loudly on a drum whilst his master pulls rotten teeth from the mouths of his clients. He also gets to wash away the blood from the floor. As I said, marginally better than begging on the street. His master is the brutal Kusselmann, a repulsive man without any discernible positive qualities. He makes, as well as pulls, teeth - crafting new sets for those that can afford them. He takes teeth from the dead and the living. There's money in teeth.

One particular corpse presents more financial  reward than usual. …

Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand

This is a gloriously crazy mix of religion, anthropology, and archaeology bundled up in a supernatural thriller. It's mad but I loved it. Sweeney is out of her depth at the University of the Archangels and St. John the Divine. It's an old campus with gothic architecture and an arcane atmosphere. As she tries to settle in, Sweeney catches a glimpse of something almost supernatural about the place.The other students seem destined to be here, born to some greater purpose than an university degree. Sweeney feels too normal to fit in at first,  but quickly bonds with two fellow students, Oliver and Angelica. Oliver is a fey, dissolute young man, teetering on the brink of sanity. Him and Sweeney spend their first term stoned and drunk, dancing and talking. They are connected, but not together. Oliver is in demand from Angelica, a beautiful force of nature. The three of them make a compelling but disjointed trio. 
The quirks of their relationship are nothing compared to the strange go…

Katya's World by Jonathan L. Howard

Katya'sWorld is published by Strange Chemistry, the teen imprint of Angry Robots - which is shaping up as the must-read list for young adult fantasy/scifi/supernatural. They have already released Gwenda Bond's spooky supernatural Blackwood, Kim Curran's time-bending Shift, the teen-witch Poltergeeks by Sean Cummings and the perilous pirate adventure TheAssasin'sCurse by Cassandra Rose Clarke. All of them are blinders; exciting, edge of your seat, care about the characters stories. And now, with Katya'sWorld, we have another brilliant novel that both teenagers and those slightly older (ahem) can enjoy. Oh, Strange Chemistry, you are spoiling us!

Katya'sWorld is set on the distant planet of Russalka, named by its new inhabitants from Earth. The colony hail from Russia and are inspired by the sea-covered planet to name it after a faintly remembered mermaid creature from their mythology. Only time will tell whether invoking the name of a creature that lured men to t…

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone

TimeBetweenUs is described by the blurb as TheTimeTraveller'sWife for teens. Anna and Bennett are separated by sixteen years, never destined to meet, but something draws them together. Bennett is an interloper in Anna's world. He belongs in San Francisco, living his teenage years in the twenty-first century. He shouldn't be enrolled at the same Chicago school as Anna in 1995.

Their first meeting happens whilst Anna is out running before school. One moment he is there, the next he's gone. When he turns up at school he seems to know who she is, but denies ever being at the track that morning. So begins a somewhat frustrating relationship between the pair; Bennett blows hot and cold with Anna. Despite her suspicions about him, Anna can't help falling for him. They obviously have chemistry together, but Bennett tries to hold back to protect his secrets. A life-threatening incident for Anna forces him to make a decision; to protect her means telling her everything.

The f…

The Missing Ink by Philip Hensher

Oh I had such fun reading this, Philip Hensher made me giggle on more than one occasion with his no nonsense dismissal of stupidity. It was also genuinely educational. I'd never really given the history of handwriting much thought before, despite wading through some pretty difficult early modern hands for my thesis. I am much better informed now.

There's a little bit of a lot of different things here. Its partly a lament for the decline of handwriting in the face of modern social media. It is also a personal memoir and series of informal  interviews about learning to write. Handwriting history is in here, as is graphology, and the rituals surrounding and technology of pen and ink. It also includes things that drive Hensher's crazy, such as people who dot their "i" with a little heart - seems reasonable that one!

I guess it's true that handwriting is a less frequently practised skill than it once was; Hensher was prompted to write this book by the realisation …

The Dinner by Herman Koch

Now this is a novel to get your teeth stuck into. Paul and his brother Serge have an uneasy relationship. Serge is a big-time politician, and in Paul’s opinion lays it all on a bit thick. The novel opens with Paul dwelling on their dinner date that evening. Serge has made the reservation, too easily, at a flash restaurant, flaunting his name and position and perceived good nature. It irks Paul, having a brother who’s a somebody, yet still able to communicate with the ordinary people. It irks him greatly. He takes great pleasure in going to a cafĂ© before dinner, without Serge, to spend some with his wife chatting and enjoying her company. He seems OK, Paul, a regular bloke with an over-achieving slightly annoying brother. Until his wife mentions their son.

It quickly becomes apparent that Michel, their son, has done something very bad. That’s why the dinner has been called, to do something about the situation. Serge’s son too is involved. The two sets of parents gather uneasily in the …

Just in case...

Just in case you have not seen the previous Carol Ann Duffy Christmas poems, here they are.

Wenceslas by Carol Ann Duffy

Tom-All-Alone's by Lynn Shepherd

Come close, lean in, I’m going to tell you a secret. It’s a little scandalous.
I’m not very keen on Dickens.
There, I’ve said it. The Christmas Books aside, he just leaves me cold. I realise the fault is mine, I’ve just never managed to read one all the way through. A good friend of mine has read them all, more than once probably. I only mention this because I may be about to change my mind and once more approach the big D. If I do it will be down to Lynn Shepherd and her wonderful novel Tom-All-Alone’s. Set in 1850 in the murky and squalid places Victorian London did so well, it takes Bleak House as its inspiration.
The prologue sets the scene vividly. It is a dark November day in London, so miserable ‘you might be forgiven for thinking you’ve been transported, on a sudden, to a circle of hell even the devil has given up for lost.’ Streets that ‘know no tones but grim and grey’ make up the city ‘as riddled with life as a corpse with maggots.’ This is no sweet tale. The atmosphere bec…

Book Love

So, yesterday I broke my strict book buying rules and came home from work with two books. I just had to have them, simple as that. They are beauties.

First up I'd set my heart on reading the new book by Philip Hensher, The Missing Ink. It's getting a fair amount of attention at the moment, all positive that I've seen. It's a personal look at handwriting, and its role in the modern keyboard/touch screen society. I am still much more comfortable with pen and paper than with typing. I take all my notes longhand, and have folders and notebooks full of handwritten stuff. But, I also tweet, blog, text, and of course all my essays end up ultimately as clean Word documents. I read a little from the book last night, and enjoyed Hensher's direct style; he makes no bones about his contempt for idiotic school policies regarding handwriting as a skill to be learnt. I'm not so pessimistic about it. I have a small gang of nieces and nephews who are all school age, and for all…

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Book One of The Dresden Files

Last Monday, at work, I found myself on the fiction floor for the first time in ages. This is always a dangerous situation, as I pile books up with pleasurable abandon shouting 'must have must have'. But this Monday was different. I am under a self-imposed very strict book buying policy, partly because I have the most ridiculously huge piles of books everywhere still to read, partly because I do have to spend time working on my thesis as well as lying on the sofa reading novels, and partly because I'm saving up for Christmas pressies. So, I was determined to resist temptation as much as humanly possible; I am only human so of course buying no books at all was out of the question. My solution was  simple and elegant I thought - I could buy ONE book, any ONE book, as long as it was something I just fancied the look of and would start reading that very night. And so it was, after much debating and laying out of books side by side along the till, …

Hooray for Tinder Press!

I am so excited about the new imprint from Headline Publishing Group. Tinder Press launch early next year with a new Maggie O'Farrell, Instructions for a Heatwave. I loved The Hand That First Held Mine so I'm looking forward to the new one a great deal. They have a great line-up, including a novel called Amity and Sorrow that looks amazing. It's by Peggy Riley, and the buzz about the book is already huge. It's not out until March, but I don't think I can wait that long to read it. It looks too good to resist, so I am very grateful to the publishers for sending me an advance copy!

Tinder Press have also very kindly just sent me their catalogue, which is actually these beautiful little cards. So gorgeous!

They are on twitter, I've been following them for a while now, @TinderPress, give them a whirl.

A Mysterious Arrival...