Monday, February 2, 2015

The Harder They Come: A Novel by T.C. Boyle

  • The Harder They Come: A Novel by T.C. Boyle
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco Press
  • Published: 31 March 2015
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780062349378
THE HARDER THEY COME, by T.C. Boyle is a realistic character driven plot centred around three main characters; Sten, Adam and Sara.  This is a compelling tale about the relationship between these flawed damaged people, and touches on some complex often contradictory moral issues from various perspectives.

Seventy year old ex-marine, Vietnam veteran Sten is reluctantly hailed a hero when, on vacation to Central America with his wife, he disarms and kills a mugger, one of a gang that has been menacing elderly tourists during group tour stops made in Costa Rica.
Sten is uncomfortable at first with the praise and hero status he receives from his fellow holiday makers and from people when he returns home to Northern California. 
Inevitably Sten accepts the complimentary drinks and praises, but then faces the polemic emotional extreme when his own son Adam kills two people.

Sara, a 40 something divorcee, is a believer in the anti authoritarian movement and manages to get herself into trouble with the law on a pretty minor issue, refusing to wear a seat belt. In the process her much loved dog is impounded and she is taken into cells. Upon release she picks up a young hitchhiker, Adam, and rants about the law and how she's going to get her dog back.
Adam, a loner and self trained survivalist in his 20's has serious mental health issues.  He calls himself Colter and has adopted the lifestyle of his role model.

Sara's paranoia and Adam's schizophrenia is a volatile mix and as Adam becomes increasingly more unstable and loses his grip on reality.  It's only a matter of time before events spiral to an explosive and violent tragedy.

Highly recommended. 'The Harder They Come' left me thinking about things long after turning the final page. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and learned a little about John Colter the original mountain man in the 19th Century. This is my first T.C. Boyle novel but most certainly not my last.

I look forward to recommending 'The Harder They Come' to customers visiting the bookstore.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy from the Publisher via NetGalley for an honest, unbiased review.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Girl on the Train, By Paula Hawkins

Paula Hawkins
Published: 15/1/15 (Hardback)
ISBN: 9780857522313

Rachel travels everyday on the same commuter train. The train always waits at a particular signal stop overlooking the back gardens of a row of houses where she once lived. Rachel invents a perfect life for the perfect couple she  compulsively watches during these stops.  There is, however, one garden she cannot bear to look at. It reminds her that her life is not perfect like 'Jess' & Jason's'.  Until one day everything changes.

What did Rachel see ?

Hitchcock's 'Rear Window' meets SJ Watson's 'Gone Girl' !
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN is narrated in the first person by its three main, 'strong', characters; Rachel, Megan (Jess) & Anna.  Fabulously flawed, and pretty unlikeable, but utterly compelling they each give us their personal account of the events as they unfold.

I thoroughly enjoyed this gripping and compulsive debut psychological thriller from Paula Hawkins. It had several twists and surprises which kept me reading well into the early hours.

I highly recommend 'The Girl on the Train'.  A gripping, psychological thriller that will hold you captive until the end.

I have had great pleasure in recommending this title to customers visiting the bookstore and look forward to doing the same when released in paperback later in the year.

Disclosure: Thank you to the publisher via NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy for an unbiased, honest review.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Eight Minutes by Lori Reisenbichler

February 17, 2015
On the night that Shelly Buckner finally became a mother, she very nearly became a widow. Her husband, Eric, seriously injured in a car accident on the way to the hospital, was dead for a full eight minutes before being revived—all while Shelly was in labor. Those eight minutes changed everything Shelly thought was possible.

Three years later, their son, Toby, brings home an imaginary friend. But he’s no ordinary playmate—John Robberson is a fighter pilot and Vietnam vet. As Toby provides unlikely details about John’s life—and Toby’s tantrums increase—Shelly becomes convinced that John was real and now wants something from Toby. But her husband has his doubts, and as Shelly becomes involved, even obsessed, with finding out the truth, their marriage begins to disintegrate. Torn between protecting her child and keeping the peace with her husband, Shelly desperately searches for a way to finally put John Robberson out of their lives.

My Thoughts:
A decent enough easy read about souls and reincarnation and the effects one lost soul has on the family involved.

The pace was steady and unhurried and kept me interested throughout. However, the last few of chapters, I felt, just fizzled out.

Readers of 'Her Fearful Symetry' by Audrey Niffenegger should enjoy this fun read.

I look forward to recommending 'Eight Minutes' to customers visiting our bookstore.

Disclosure: I received a digital review copy for my, honest, opinion.

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from real stores where you can
talk with real booksellers. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Station Eleven by Emily Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily Mandel

Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Dystopic, Apocalyptic

Publisher: Pan Macmillan / Picador
Hardcover: 352 pages

ISBN-13: 9780385353304

My Rating: 4 out of 5

DAY ONE : The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb. News reports put the mortality rate at over 99%.
WEEK TWO : Civilization has crumbled.
YEAR TWENTY : A band of actors and musicians called the Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe. But now a new danger looms, and he threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild.

STATION ELEVEN Moving backwards and forwards in time, from the glittering years just before the collapse to the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after, Station Eleven charts the unexpected twists of fate that connect six people: famous actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan - warned about the flu just in time; Arthur's first wife Miranda; Arthur's oldest friend Clark; Kirsten, a young actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed 'prophet'.
Thrilling, unique and deeply moving, this is a beautiful novel that asks questions about art and fame and about the relationships that sustain us through anything - even the end of the world.

My Thoughts:
At the centre of Station Eleven is the famous actor Arthur Leander who dies on stage during a production of King Lear. Within hours of his unexplained death Georgia Flu hits with devastating effect, mercilessly killing 99% of the world's population.

Leap forward 20 years and life has come to resemble something like the tales of Chaucer, with a traveling troupe of musicians and actors performing Shakespearian plays to the townspeople they meet along the way. In this new age life is in stark contrast to the pre apocalyptic world. Distrust, and the threat of violence from those they encounter is an every day occurrence. If they are to survive, keeping their wits about them is imperative.

Station Eleven leaps back and forth in time and gives an in-depth recounting of the characters lives, and how they or historical artefacts are all interconnected from each timeframe.

Each character was fully fleshed out and believable. I don't think I had a favourite but I was drawn to Miranda, and in particular her relationship with Arthur.

I absolutely loved the way the story unfolded. It is a beautifully written novel and I was pretty disappointed when it came to its end.

Station Eleven is a first rate apocalyptic, dystopic, sci-fi tale. A delightful read which I highly recommend.

Thank you to the publisher via NetGalley for the opportunity to review this title. I am looking forward to recommending Station Eleven to our Waterstones customers.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Suffer the Children Craig DiLouie

Suffer the Children
Craig DiLouie

Publisher: Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books
Permuted Press
Publish Date: May 20 2014

ISBN: 9781476739632
Price: £8.99

Rating: 4 out of 5

"But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 19:14"

From an acclaimed horror writer, a chilling tale of blood-hungry children who rise from the dead in this innovative spin on apocalyptic vampire fiction.

Suffer the Children presents a terrifying tale of apocalyptic fiction, as readers are introduced to Herod’s Syndrome, a devastating illness that suddenly and swiftly kills all young children across the globe. Soon, they return from the grave…and ask for blood. And with blood, they stop being dead. They continue to remain the children they once were…but only for a short time, as they need more blood to live. The average human body holds ten pints of blood, so the inevitable question for parents everywhere becomes: How far would you go to bring your child back?

My Thoughts:
I have read other titles by Craig DiLouie and am a fan of his particular writing style which is mature, intelligent and character based rather than 'all out' action driven. Suffer the children is a very different, creative retelling of the vampire tale which although not all gore, blood and guts is definitely creepy and had me feeling queasy from many of the scenes depicted.

Herod's Syndrome has killed every pre-pubescent child worldwide and nothing can be done to save them. However, they are able to reanimate with sacrifices made by their loved ones.
Suffer the Children follows several families and is told from their perspective.  There is a gradual build up of tension as the characters personalities, and values change with the ongoing desperation to obtain the 'medicine' needed to keep their children alive, and ultimately how far they will go in order to achieve their aim.

Very dark and bleak, plausible and realistic, DiLouie's world descends into chaos as the governing forces lose control, and society rapidly spirals into a lawless apocalyptic nightmare.

I highly recommend Suffer the Children to all horror fans and anyone interested in a thought provoking read about human nature and how far we, as a race, are willing to compromise our humanity for the sake of our loved ones, and to what cost.

Thank you Permutted Press via NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to review this title.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Taste of Beirut : 175+ Delicious Lebanese Recipes from Classics to Contemporary to Mezzes and More by Joumana Accad

Taste of Beirut : 175+ Delicious Lebanese Recipes from Classics to Contemporary to Mezzes and More by Joumana Accad

Published by HCI Books

US Publish Date: September 2, 2014
UK Publish Date: October 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0757317705
Paperback : 320 Pages

Rating: 5 out of 5

"A culinary masterpiece of authentic dishes from the Mediterranean and Middle East."

Firstly, a big thank you to the Publisher via NetGalley for allowing me access to a digital review copy of 'A Taste of Beirut' by Joumana Accad.  Although this absolutely has got to be bought in hard copy to appreciate fully, the digital copy was a welcome tease taster.

The recipes are divided into sections including, breads, breakfast, sandwiches, soups, mezzo delights, main dishes, pastries and drinks. All the recipes have easy to follow instructions making them attractive to a beginner to Middle Eastern cuisine as well as the novice.

Joumana has created a stunning debut cookbook with over 150 fabulous recipes inspired by her grandmother, 'Teta' on how to recreate authentic, mouth watering Lebanese dishes. The photographs took me right back to when I lived in the Middle East and experienced the fantastic Lebanese pastries and Lebanese bread.

This is a definite 'must have', hard copy cookery book to add to my collection and I highly recommend it. I can't wait to get making my own fresh bread and make more use the fragrant sumac my friend gave me as a leaving present !

Joumana Accad is the creator of the blog '' which features Lebanese recipes for home cooking.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Sweetness: A Novel Sande Boritz Berger

The Sweetness: A Novel
Sande Boritz Berger

She Writes Press
Pub Date   Sep 23 2014


Rating: 2.75 out of 5

Amazon Synopsis:
Early in The Sweetness, an inquisitive young girl asks her grandmother why she is carrying nothing but a jug of sliced lemons and water when they are forced by the Germans to evacuate their ghetto. "Something sour to remind me of the sweetness," she tells her, setting the theme for what they must remember to survive.

Set during World War II, the novel is the parallel tale of two Jewish girls, cousins, living on separate continents, whose strikingly different lives ultimately converge. Brooklyn-born Mira Kane is the eighteen-year-old daughter of a well-to-do manufacturer of women’s knitwear in New York. Her cousin, eight-year-old Rosha Kaninsky, is the lone survivor of a family in Vilna exterminated by the invading Nazis. But unbeknownst to her American relatives, Rosha did not perish. Desperate to save his only child during a round-up of their ghetto, her father thrusts her into the arms of a Polish Catholic candle maker, who then hides her in a root cellar─putting her own family at risk.

The headstrong and talented Mira, who dreams of escaping Brooklyn for a career as a fashion designer, finds her ambitions abruptly thwarted when, traumatized at the fate of his European relatives, her father becomes intent on safeguarding his loved ones from threats of a brutal world, and all the family must challenge his unuttered but injurious survivor guilt. Though the American Kanes endure the experience of the Jews who got out, they reveal how even in the safety of our lives, we are profoundly affected by the dire circumstances of others.

Survivor guilt is a force that endures—whether within the context of the tragic wars of yesterday and today, or the ongoing trauma within a family. Set during WWII, and inspired by true events, The Sweetness is the story of two Jewish girls, cousins, living on separate continents—one a child in hiding, one a teen who dreams of escaping to Hollywood—whose strikingly different lives promise to converge.

My Thoughts:
Upto approx 50% I'd have given 4 stars. Now it's degenerated into a cross between Mills & Boon with a touch of 50 Shades... However I can't be too sure as I've not read 50 Shades.

I was so enchanted by the first half of this novel which centres around the privileged lifestyles of Mira, her aunt Jeanette, and family in Brooklyn.  A bittersweet tale with its stark contrasts between Mira's world and her 8 year old cousin Rosha's traumatic world of loss, despair and death in Vilna, but also of kindness and hope with the people who shelter her.

The blossoming love affair of Mira and her beau was endearing but at around 52% the story just didn't progress in the way I had imagined it would.

Whilst 'The Sweetness' by Sande Boritz Berger wasn't for me I can see it being popular for mainstream fiction readers who like a light, easy read about love, family life and loss set around a privileged Jewish family during the war.

I would like to thank the publisher via NetGalley for allowing me to review this title.