Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Watchers by Jon Steele

Title: The Watchers
Author: Jon Steele
Pages: 592
Price: £8.99
Pages: 592

Release Date: 7th June 2012
Publisher: Random House UK, Transworld Publishers
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Contemporary Fiction
Source: The Publishers
ISBN: 9780552164030

Rating: 4 out of 5

" Lausanne, Switzerland.

In the cathedral tower lives a strange boy with a limp who talks to the bells.
In a luxury penthouse lives a high-class prostitute who's in mortal danger.
And in a low-rent hotel lives a private investigator who has no idea how he got there.

Jay Harper finds himself in Switzerland on the trail of a missing Olympic athlete. A hard drinker, he can barely remember how he got home last night, let alone why he accepted this job. When he meets the stunning but aloof Katherine in a hotel bar, he quickly realises that he's not the only one in town who's for hire. She's a high-class hooker who can't believe her luck. Which is about to change. For the worse.

In the meantime, Marc Rochat spends his time in the belfry talking to the statues, his cat and the occasional ghost. His job is to watch over Lausanne at night and to wait for the angel his mother told him he'd one day have to save. When he sees Katherine, he thinks his moment has come. Which indeed it has. But not in a good way...

***'   ***
Narration is in the third person via Marc Rochat, Katherine Taylor and Jay Harper. The first book in a trilogy but could be stand alone.  The sequels are Angel City and The Way of Sorrows. 

The Watchers immediately grabbed my interest with the opening prologue which is set during the First World War.  It is so beautifully written creating an haunting, ethereal atmosphere to the start of the novel. I wondered, once into the main story, where this fitted in and connected with the main characters. It was not until I finished the book that I understood and re-read the prologue which then had another meaning and was just as magical. 

The Watchers main story shifts to present day Switzerland.  The first 200-300 pages were spent introducing the main characters, Mark with an intended Quasimodo similarity; Katherine, an intensely dislikable character to begin with, a tart with a heart; and Jay the 'detectiveman' who has no memory of how he arrived in Switzerland, only that he remembers waking up and accepting a job, he cannot refuse, working for the IOC.

Unfortunately I very nearly gave up reading at this point. I really couldn't see where it was going and was becoming irritated at nothing happening.  Then ***BAMM*** did it start ! I was on a roller coaster ride from there on in. I really could not put the book down. This is not to say that I believe there should be editing here, as once into the meaty part of the story I realised that I'd gained a depth and wealth of knowledge about the character's personalities and psyches, enough to make me care too much to give up on them.

I grew to love the main characters and one, Katherine in particular annoyed me immensely to begin with but as her character developed I became accustomed to her personality and came to like her a great deal. 

Mark, a charming child like 21 year old with a limp, is the guardian of Lausanne Cathedral. He lives in an imaginary world watching over the city, waiting for the Angel that his mother said would come to him for help.  Mark believes that Katherine is that Angel.

Jay, my favourite, was an intreaging character. A loner,  or man with a mission, a man who likes a drink, with a dry sense of humour and acerbic quip.  Who is he ? Where did he come from? Where is he going ?  I looked forward to finding the answers.  

Mystery, crime/detective noir, sci fi elements, magical fantasy ... I really couldn't categorise this one with any one label as it delves into many genres. Once the supernatural element finally reveals itself however, all the mystery and intrigue was over and I felt a little flat. The surprise was over and I wondered if I would lose interest. It just didn't feel that I was reading the same novel and that it had drifted off into a totally different field.  Think Matrix, Dan Brown and Jason Bourne with the battle against good and evil.  A little over the top from what had come before. Again though,  I kept 'with it' because I had faith in the author by now, and it righted  itself. I guess there's more explanation and character development to come in the sequels. 

Even with the slight disappointment, Jon Steele is an amazing writer creating an intreaging, atmospheric and magical world  with characters I cared, and enjoyed, reading about.

I look forward to reading 'Angel City' very soon.

Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to review 'The Watchers'.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Andrews McMeel Publishing Link:

The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home
by Nick Zukin, Michael Zusman

Publish Date: 3rd Sept 2013

Hard copy $27.99
272 pages

Rating: A glorious 5 out of 5

This book brings the world of Jewish deli to the masses with a plethora of Information within each chapter about Jewish history and culture.

'The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home' offers  over 100 Jewish deli classics, with updated versions of these dishes making them more suited to todays tastes, and lifestyle requirements for quicker and easier food to prepare and cook.

The chapters comprise:
Starters and Sides;
Soups and Salads;
Eggs, Fish, and Dairy;
Bagels, Bialys, and Breads;
and Pastries, Desserts, and Drinks.

Never thought of attempting Jewish cuisine but with 100 Sumptuous recipes to try, these easy to follow instructions, beautifully photographed dishes, and stylish page layout, I'm enthusiastic about giving them ago.

Some of my favourites are, and the list is sure to grow with tasting, Summer Chicken Salad,  Chocolate Babka French Toast, Cheese Blintzes, Buckwheat Blintzes, Mammy's Savory Noodle Keegal, Matzo Ball Soup, and well there are just too many to mention.

There is only one down side, the not so available ingredients.  The "Sources and Resources" section at the end of the book does detail suppliers of not so easy to find ingredients so it shouldn't be difficult to obtain your requirements.

I just love this book and cannot praise it enough.  A definite 'must have' to compliment your cuisine book shelf.

I Received an e-book version for review purposes but love it so much I'm going to purchase the hard copy when it is released in Sept 2013.   Can't wait !

Thank you Andrews McMeel Publishing and NetGalley for the chance to review this glorious cookbook.

Thursday, 20 June 2013


Mysterious Skin
Scott Heim
304 pages
Published 1995 & 2005

Borrowed from the Compound Library
Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 4 out of 5

GoodReads Synopsis:

"At the age of eight Brian Lackey is found bleeding under the crawl space of his house, having endured something so traumatic that he cannot remember an entire five–hour period of time.

During the following years he slowly recalls details from that night, but these fragments are not enough to explain what happened to him, and he begins to believe that he may have been the victim of an alien encounter. Neil McCormick is fully aware of the events from that summer of 1981. Wise beyond his years, curious about his developing sexuality, Neil found what he perceived to be love and guidance from his baseball coach. Now, ten years later, he is a teenage hustler, a terrorist of sorts, unaware of the dangerous path his life is taking. His recklessness is governed by idealized memories of his coach, memories that unexpectedly change when Brian comes to Neil for help and, ultimately, the truth."
*** ***

Enthralling read. Initially I was going to throw it down in disgust as I wasn't quite sure what I was reading. However, I'm glad I gave it more reading time as it didn't go where I thought it was going ie, down the titillating, child porn, abuse route. It didn't and it was much much more.

This was an uncomfortable, and sometimes darn-right sickening view into the characters lives and how the 2 abused characters came to terms with their individual experiences of abuse.   I genuinely felt for the damaged personalities, even the so called 'bad boy'.  

I can't help believe that the author must be writing from experience or he has done some rather in depth research as it is all too realistic IMHO.   OK, so what's UFO's got to do with it ... well all I'll say is I had 'a friend', no honestly, who had a 'loosely' similar experience so I really do 'get' this. You'll just have to read it to see if you do too. My friend? She's fine as far as I know but we lost touch a few years ago but I know it wasn't until, very like the story, 15 years before she realised the truth. 

It will most definitely not be a book for everyone as it has child sexual abuse, homosexuality with explicit sex content.

Monday, 17 June 2013

What Happened in Granite Creek by Robyn Bradley

What Happened in Granite Creek
Robyn Bradley
364 pages

Kindle version available from Amazon for only £1.49

Rating: A whopping 5 out of 5

GoodReads Synopsis:

"When Koty Fowler's husband volunteers her to visit Jamie, a quadruple amputee who lost his limbs in Iraq, neither Koty nor Jamie is happy. Jamie resents being "babysat" every day. Koty resents her lot in life: almost 30, mother of three, and trapped in an unhappy marriage in Granite Creek, a small New Hampshire town. But when Koty and Jamie come together in a sexually-charged situation, everything changes.

While Koty continues to explore her relationship with Jamie, her life at home spirals out of control: her sometimes-abusive husband drinks too much, and her middle daughter is on a destructive path, skipping school and getting into fights, while Koty's other two girls are left to watch.

What happens next, however, leaves everyone reeling, and the Fowler family must learn how to move forward, even as they struggle to understand what happened in their own backyard.

Told in multiple viewpoints and spanning across nearly two decades, "What Happened in Granite Creek" brings readers on a journey of intrigue and unexpected twists while reminding us that nothing is ever what it seems."

*** ***
Amazingly well written and edited. I absolutely loved this story about a neglected and abused wife who forms a brief relationship, under orders from her husband, with a quadriplegic amputee recently returned from the gulf war. 

The first part of the book is centred around these two characters and there are some extremely sensuous moments.  We are also given glimpses into Kody's relationship with her husband before things turned sour. 

The characters are so well developed that I believed what they thought and did. I genuinely felt sadness, compassion and frustration for them.  The complexities of each characters' personality and life experiences,  thoughts, actions and behaviour were so well drawn out, I did not dislike any of them even if I did not agree and want something different for them. I wanted everything to turn out well for them and couldn't wait to find out how life was panning out for them all. 

The first part ended quite abruptly and I was stunned. 

The second half concentrated on the personal accounts of each individual and what they were thinking and doing and why they had behaved in a particular way. 

During the course of reading the first half I remembered an old film (1946) 'The Time Of Our Lives'  about the return of three WW2 veterans one of which was a double amputee returning to his fiancé.  I remember having similar feelings when I watched this film in my teens. The impact was all the more profound as the actor was a double amputee himself.  I think 'What Happened In Granite Creek' is a worthy current equivalent in its raising of current issues that service men suffer during the Gulf War and how they may or may not come to terms with such loss. 

I won't go into more as I don't want to spoil anything in this absolute gem. All I will say is that this was definitely a thought provoking story for me and that I can definitely recommend that you give it a go.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

The Boy Who Could See Demons
by Carolyn Jess-Cooke
Random House Publishing Group
Publish Date: 13th August 2013

Rating: 4 out of 5

GoodReads Synopsis:

 "I first met my demon the morning that Mum said Dad had gone." 

Alex Broccoli is ten years old, likes onions on toast, and can balance on the back legs of his chair for fourteen minutes. His best friend is a 9000-year-old demon called Ruen. When his depressive mother attempts suicide yet again, Alex meets child psychiatrist Anya. Still bearing the scars of her own daughter's battle with schizophrenia, Anya fears for Alex's mental health and attempts to convince him that Ruen doesn't exist. But as she runs out of medical proof for many of Alex's claims, she is faced with a question: does Alex suffer from schizophrenia, or can he really see demons?"
***   ***
The story is told by the two main characters, 10 year old Alex Brocolli who sees demons, and Anya a child psychologist who, herself coming to terms with the death of her schizophrenic daughter Poppy, desperately wants to help Alex.

The chapters are perfectly balanced to give rounded in-depth believable character development which in order to appreciate and understand them and their personal struggles with their demons, imagined or real, is vital. 

I genuinely loved Alex's character, his innocence, charm and naivety  all be it with an older than his years persona come about from taking care of Cindy his severely  depressed mother who'd attempted suicide several times since the mysterious death of Alex's father. 

At the beginning of each of his diary entries Alex writes a joke, sometimes with juvenile humour and sometimes with a darker trace. I actually laughed as I could imagine Alex writing them and looked forward to what he would come up with for his next entry. 

Alex sees demons from the time of his fathers death. The, 9000 years old demon, Ruen manifests in 3 forms, a ghost boy, a horned demon and an ugly old man. During the course of the story it becomes apparent what these forms represent but the question is always, is Alex really seeing demons or suffering from schizophrenia. The portrayal of schizophrenia is very well portrayed to draw you into the mind of the sufferer and the confusion between what is real and what is imagined. 

Carolyn Jess-Cooke has written an achingly beautiful piece of fiction with obvious tracks of personal experiences as with the IRA elements running throughout the story. This is a profound novel about mental illness, devastating loss, and the guilt, remorse and struggle for atonement. It will certainly draw awareness to the aftermath of emotional trauma felt by the current generation of those who lived through 'The Troubles'. 

I must admit I wasn't expecting the ending as it was.  I felt a little cheated and genuinely felt that, from what I had read thus far,  Carolyn was far better than that. It felt contrived and that it was trying to imitate another ending.  I cannot say anymore without giving too much away. 

That said, I really loved 'The Boy Who Could See Demons'  and will certainly look out for more from Carolyn.

I would have given this 5 out of 5 but for the ending.

Thank you to  Random House Publishing Group - Bantam Dell and for the opportunity to review this novel.

Introduction to my blog


My life has been overtaken by Quilts and Books since my move to Saudi Arabia back in 2009, to accompany my husband on his last posting.

Whilst there I became an avid reader using the compound library for my next read fix as it was at that time very expensive to have books delivered. I am grateful to the library donators and members of the GoodReads website as I found myself reading so many different genres that I'd never have read if left to my own devices.

Then received my Kindle one Christmas and ordering was no longer an issue for most of my demands but I found my tastes had diversified and I just couldn't get enough books to read.

My reviews are in no way going to be of a literary standard. They are purely my point of view and how I felt about it at that particular time of reading. It is not my intention to upset anyone but no book is going to be everyone's cup of tea. So remember if I really don't like a book there's someone out there that really loves it.

2013 - Present
I am a Bookseller at Waterstones bookstore.

Reviews are for books purchased, borrowed or given by publisher for an honest and unbiased review.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Riso: Undiscovered Rice Dishes of Northern Italy by Gioietta Vitale

Undiscovered Rice Dishes of Northern Italy
Gioetta Vitale

Rating: 3 out of 5

"One hundred quick and simple rice recipes capturing the flavor and excitement of traditional Italian cooking.  From soups and salads to risottos and desserts, Gioietta Vitale presents the best of northern Italy’s rice-based specialties. Illustrated with line drawings and filled with tips on ingredients, techniques, and even the perfect wine to go with each dish, Riso is a comprehensive guide to rice by a master of Italian cuisine."

Fantastic inspiration to cook. I was so excited about Riso: Undiscovered Rice Dishes of Northern Italy. 'Riso' contains a hundred fast and easy recipes to try from appetisers to desserts. With easily accessible ingredients and an uncomplicated method of cooking, this book would be a great addition to, or begin, any collection.

I loved the recipes and looked forward to trying some out. The only downside, which to me was a big disappointment, was that there are no colour photographs which really would make this a beautiful book to flick through for inspiration for that special dish or just a quick and easy meal. Unfortunately because of the lack of any photographs, and the price of $14.99 which I feel is a little pricey, I have only given 3 stars, rather than a 5 star rating indicating a spectacular book of cuisine.

I would however, definitely recommend this book and even encourage anyone unsure or unconfident in making rice/risotto dishes as the instructions are easy to follow, and what's more, they work. The rice filled peaches were just divine.

Move away from plain boiled rice and give these recipes ago.

Thank you Open Road Media and for giving me the opportunity to review this book.