Sunday 30 October 2011

Weekend round up

Oops, more than a week since I last posted on the blog. I've been even busier than usual this week! I have been on an intensive course to try and achieve my Level 1 British Sign Language certification. Intensive it certainly was and after 6 full days of learning I've now got mush for a brain.

I find languages fascinating. At school I learnt French and Spanish, and have picked up a smattering of German and Italian while working abroad. BSL is a language with it's own grammar and structure, and as well as using hand shapes and movements also uses lip patterns and facial expressions and body language. What I really love about it is the logic that is clear behind a lot of the signs, and how animated many of its users are. I think the assessments went ok, but have to wait about 8 weeks for the results - wish me luck!

Obviously I haven't had a lot of time to read this week so have only managed the one review since last time, Lust Demeted by Michael Subrizi. Hopefully now things should be back to normal and regular service will be resumed.

Have a great week everyone!

Book Review - Lust Demented by Michael Subrizi

Lust Demented (Book #1 of the Race Against Death series)I do like a bit of noir so this, Book 1 of the Race Against Death series, was very much of interest. The blurb (borrowed from Amazon) goes like this:

"No writer in NYC is safe. Gothic scribes with cult followings are bleeding under stained glass. Golden child authors are swan diving from the top of New York Public Library defiling their legacy. Scumbag cops, Detective Anderson and Sgt. Bethany Powers are slaps away from exposing the shady deal Farrow cut with Featherton. The world Farrow enters just keeps moving faster and seems only his own death can slow it down, until he discovers that something greater than his words were stolen...something more beautiful than he's ever run into before...something that inspires him to dig deeper into his own soul...something alive... "

It certainly caught my attention. Farrow's world is one of eccentric and varied characters who make for a colourful cast as he tries to unravel what has happened to publishing magnate Percy Featherton. The body count mounts as the police, apparently unconcerned by procedure, continue to be convinced Farrow is their perp. However he becomes more interested in uncovering truths about his own life, and he discovers friends haven't been entirely truthful with him.

This is very much a noir crime tale, and the picture painted by the author is of a dark and brooding New York. In places the language is a bit strong, and there is some sexual content. The tone is very distinctive, so evocative and screams noir. There were parts where I felt I had got a little lost and like I had missed something, but by the end I thought the plot had been neatly tied up and I wasn't left wondering.

I liked this short novel with all the twists and turns the author throws at the reader. I'll be interested to hear about Book 2.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 3*

Friday 21 October 2011

Back to the blog hop

Friday has rolled around again, and with Halloween almost on us that means it's nearly November - eek! The nights are drawing in fast here, and at night temperatures are really dropping so winter is well on its way.

Book Blogger HopFor the first time in a while I'm hopping with Jennifer at Crazy For Books. This week the question is short but sweet, What is your favorite type of candy?

I'm a sucker for chocolate and sweets, and love Bountys (chocolate covered coconut stuff) We've got two old fashioned sweet shops in town, that sell sweets out of jars and I always get things like lemon bonbons and flavoured toffees. Bottom line is I'm not fussy!

In the past week on the blog I have read and reviewed

The Desperate Dad's Guide to Getting Some by Jackie Papandrew, a comic look at relationships
To Faithfully Execute by Gordon Ryan, a political thriller, and
Fear in Appleton by J. Stephen Howard, a good ghostly story for the season

as well as reading an ARC of a short story anthology released next year.

Thanks for taking time to drop by, please leave a comment even if it's just to say Hi. Have a great weekend everyone.

TC x

Thursday 20 October 2011

Book Review: Fear in Appleton by J.Stephen Howard

Fear in AppletonI used to read Dean Koontz, Stephen King, James Herbert and similar when I was in my teens, then for no good reason just stopped. No idea why. However lately I've been getting back into horror as a genre. This book sounded creepy and worth a read.

Professor Terrance Crawford is overwhelmed by his fears. Towards the end of his life he starts a largely unrequited affair with a student, Angela Lacey, and when he dies this propels him to start making others face their fears, with terrible consequences.

The first part of the book is written from his point of view, allowing the reader to understand what drives him. A number of people in the town of Appleton find themselves driven mad by their deepest fears, and the chapters are almost a series of short stories with a connecting thread. The second part of the book comes from Angela's viewpoint, detailing events as she tries to stop the events as they come to a head.

I really liked the first part and found the stories behind the characters selected by Prof. Crawford varied and that had me hooked. The whole feeling was eerie and disconcerting, and Crawford's descent into madness was well charted. The second part was good but without the input from the perpetrator I found myself wondering at points what exactly was supposed to have happened. I also wasn't sure how I felt about Angela as a character. In places she felt cocky rather than confident, trying to analyse those around her, although as her family life was revealed and the story progressed she became more likable. There was a slightly gothic feel to the way the story was presented which I appreciated.

I thought this book was well-written and overall found it an enjoyable read that didn't take me long to get through as I read on to find out how the tale would end.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 3*

Monday 17 October 2011

Book Review: To Faithfully Execute - A Pug Connor Novel, Book 3 by Gordon Ryan

To Faithfully Execute (A Pug Connor Novel #3)Having previously read book 1, State of Rebellion, and book 2, Uncivil Liberties, and with the fourth book apparently due Autumn 2011 I thought it was time for me to read the third book in the series.

In the United States moves are afoot for a number of states to secede and create a new country. Many are loathe to see the USA torn apart while others are determined to break away from the burdensome central government. How far will the President go to keep the USA intact? 

Pug Connor's Trojan team is under threat as changes are made, and he is offered a new role with a clandestine multi-national organisation. They intend to combat terrorism in a way that will make him search his soul. As he finds himself moved from one new role to another he has a lot of choices to make, although he feels there is someone pulling strings behind the scenes.

Once again we meet many of the characters who feature in books 1 & 2 and find out what has happened to them since we last met. I like the continuity but also found that with references back to the earlier books this would probably work fine as on its own if you had picked it up before reading the others. The story of the secession movement that started in California really moves on and the author develops both old and new plots deftly, building to a climax that sets up the next book nicely.

I do enjoy this authors style and will be awaiting the arrival of Blood & Treasure after this deft mix of action and political manoeuvring. Largely this is a polished offering that stands up against other well known authors of similar that I have read. However there were a sprinkling of minor typos that took a little of the sparkle off. With those dealt with I think this might have been a 5* review.

Format: Kindle, bought by me
My Rating: 4*

Friday 14 October 2011

Book Review: The Desperate Dad's Guide to Getting Some by Jackie Papandrew

The Desperate Dad's Guide to Getting SomeIn The Desperate Dad's Guide to Getting Some & Other Tales from a Slightly Soiled Marriage the author, humour columnist and contributor to several books including Chicken Soup for the Soul, has provided a short book that women will laugh at and men might finding a revelation.

With chapters including High-Maintenance Woman & Did I Shave My Legs For This? the reader is treated to a comic look at the difference between men and women. Her husband Greg provides plenty of material, but some of the scenarios are so familiar she could have been a fly on the wall at my place. The cutlery rattling Silverware Slam and the argument ending Fine rung particular bells. There is one chapter that might benefit from a little change of phrase for the UK market - fanny doesn't mean bottom to most Brits!

This was a quick fun read full of silly anecdotes that had me smiling along.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 3*

Friday round up

I've been a bit remiss about joining in my usual blog hops lately and I'm afraid today will join the casualty list, crazy day and my brain isn't up to thinking! However I thought I should at least do a recap of what's been going on on the blog since last time!

In the last couple of weeks I have reviewed:

Solider I by Pete Winner & Michael Kennedy - a military memoir
Cancelled by Elizabeth Ann West - a modern romance
Fey Girl by Kevin Newman - first in the Fey World fantasy series
The Defector by Mark Chisnell - a psychological thriller

I've also been talking about micro-volunteering. The label is new to me but I've realised the concept isn't. I'm no stranger to the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mantra and this week have bought green cleaning products, which you can get refilled locally rather than buying a new bottle (reduce, reuse), put a load of baby items on a buy/sell/swap site on FB  & donated a box full of stuff to a charity shop (reuse/recycle)

Another easy thing you can do to benefit your community is never turn down those vouchers the major supermarkets offer. Active Kids, Computers for Schools, whatever, even if you don't have school age children I bet you know someone who does. I know they say there's no such thing a free meal but I set up a scheme at work to get everyone taking them, and we passed them on to a couple of local schools, and the Governors tell me that they've been able to get all sorts of bits of kit the budget wouldn't normally stretch to. Easy peasy! Anyone got any great ideas for new exciting ways to do good without much effort?

Thursday 13 October 2011

Book Review: The Defector by Mark Chisnell

The DefectorWhat should come first, the individual or the greater good of society? In the past Martin has looked out for number 1. However after the city trader loses his girlfriend and his job and causes a major accident he disappears off travelling. After getting caught up in a bar fight he is saved by tough guy Janac. Friend quickly turns to foe though, Janac gets his kicks through testing people to their limit. His particular interest is the Prisoner's Dilemma. Martin soon finds himself caught up in Janac's deadly game, threatening him and those around him. He flees for his life, and it's not just Janac on his trail.

The Prisoner's Dilemma revolves around whether two prisoners working separately can both co-operate and keep quiet to minimise the sentence they receive, whether both will defect, giving the other up, and end up with a longer sentence, or whether one will co-operate and one defect, resulting in one going free and the other serving a longer sentence again. The book explains it far better than this, but the dilemma revolves around whether you can trust the other person to act for the good of both, or whether self-interest will win every time. This is the basis of the psychological games Janac plays with his unfortunate pawn, Martin and it makes for some very interesting and though-provoking material.

Martin isn't an entirely sympathetic character, and some of the choices he makes early on in the book aren't the smartest, but I was certainly rooting for him to escape Janac's clutches. I also felt sorry for him as the collateral damage grew and threatened people who had no part in what was going on. Janac on the other hand is out and out evil, but in a smart Hannibal Lecter kind of way (although physically tougher) His background is quite mysterious and I'd be interested to find out more about his past, which I hope might be part of the next book The Wrecking Crew.

The action moves from Thailand to Australia then to sea. Moving the action to a yacht forces the characters into close quarters and creates a new dynamic that I thought made for a good spin on this sort of plot. However while the author obviously knows his stuff my sailing knowledge is pretty limited, and while most of the narrative was within my grasp there were some description of nautical things and technical names thrown in that didn't mean a lot to me. It wasn't often enough to greatly affect my appreciation of what was happening but I did feel like I might be missing out on something.

I really enjoyed this book, it's a tense action thriller with a great psychological edge & the teaser for the next book appearing at the end has piqued my interest.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

Wednesday 12 October 2011

And now for something completely different...

I don't often blog about non-book related things, but the idea of micro-volunteering has been rattling around in my brain for a few days now so I thought I'd share. It's a concept I only came across at the weekend, courtesy of charity The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds on their blog. They are trying to encourage supporters who don't have the time to give up whole days, or the cash to make donations, to do small things that don't take much effort but when multiplied can make a real difference. The post that has inspired me is right here. Great idea, right?

So, looking at their list I'm off to a flying start. For years we collected stamps which got passed on to a friend who passed them on somewhere else, where they eventually made money for a charity. This ingrained the habit of ripping stamps off of envelopes so I have a small stack in a drawer, and now I know what to do with them! I'm already pretty good at the climate change things, and do as much recycling as I practically can. However, how many of us have a stash of old mobile phones, showcasing the development from house brick to teeny tiny smartphone with it's all singing all dancing features? I'm guilty as charged, and have been meaning to finally have a clear out. Now I'm feeling motivated and know I can support one of my fave charities at the same time it may actually happen.

Looking a bit further into it online there are masses of ideas for pajama participation, on sites like this; things like using certain search engines that donate to charity, or clicking on site that will give to charity using money raised from advertising, to different ways of helping save the planet. I'm definitely going to look into more things that can be done easily from home, and hope one or two others might look into the idea and decide to join.

And my next good deed? At the moment I'm selling raffle tickets for the National Deaf Children's Society. They're not a well known charity like some I could mention but they do wonderful work, experienced by my family firsthand. So far friends and family are being remarkably generous, so hopefully we'll help contribute a decent amount to the total.

I'd love to hear from anyone else who is already in the know, especially if you can give me some great ideas!

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Book Review: Fey Girl (Fey World) by Kevin Newman

Fey Girl (Fey World)I was intrigued by this book's description - "Jude Pender has troubles managing his emotions. Case in point: Cecile. He thinks he can bury his thoughts and that the rest of his neurons will naturally grow around them, leaving an obelisk that he can visit as if in a dream. And since he doesn't know when to give up, the result will be an explosive release after a series of betrayals." The cover also suggested something a bit different to me.

Jude first meets Cecile while he is dating Terry, but notices she has an aura that draws people to her. After he splits with Terry he becomes close to Cecile and they start a complicated relationship. He tries to pretend he isn't attracted to her in order to stay friends but gradually becomes less happy with how they function together. The other complication in his life starts with some strange dreams. When he meets a new colleague who has been tasked with finding him, he ends up in the Fey World during the dreaming. It turns out he is an orcling and he has a part to play in saving that world, with Cecile involved in a round about way.

I found the book a bit slow to get started, and got about a third of the way in wondering when things were going to start happening. Up to that point was primarily introducing Jude and his circle of friends. I liked Jude, especially as he became more assertive later in the book, and I felt I could associate with his crowd of mates. I didn't have to wait much longer though and soon found the story picking up pace and moving into Fey World and introducing a range of mythological characters. This was definitely the part that interested me, although the relationship between to two friends became more intense later in the book and the way things were left between them made for a good ending to that part of the story. The point at which the Fey story was left has me hanging and looking forward to more of the mythology in future books.

This is the first book in a series of four (a tetralogy - love that word, you learn something new all the time) with a set of short stories due that provide more of the back story and mythology. In places the pacing felt a bit slow, and some of the philosophical debate between characters was a bit heavy for me but the world of the Fey and the promise of more in future installments will most likely draw me back.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 3*

Friday 7 October 2011

Book Review: Cancelled by Elizabeth Ann West

CancelledThis book falls pretty squarely outside my comfort zone, being a romance novel of sorts. However this sounded like a thoroughly modern romance and one told through the eyes of a man, so I decided to give it a try.

Johnathan and Alexis work together as partners within their robotics company. He's an engineer/businessman and she's a lawyer. While he's been enamoured with her for years the time has never been right. Finally things start to fall into place for them, and things are looking good for the couple when a girl he had a one night stand with before they got together reappears. Kellie's pregnant and says the baby is his.

Johnathan finds himself trying to juggle the demands of the two women, and figure out the best time to tell Alex he's going to be a dad. His life is further complicated by issues with the third partner in the business and his family. While his step-mother is supportive, his relationship with his mother sees him supporting her and his half-siblings, rather than vice versa.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I found Johnathan a very likable guy, despite wanting to give him a good shake at times. Watching the rollercoaster relationship between him and Alex moved me from smiling to frowning, and I found myself caring about what would happen to him. Towards the end Kellie developed far more as a character which I was pleased to see.

It's hard to say too much without turning the review into a massive spoiler, so suffice it to say I enjoyed this quick, easy read that is a good reflection of how complicated modern life can be.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 3*

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Book Review: Soldier I by Pete Winner & Michael Kennedy

Soldier 'I': the Story of an SAS Hero: From Mirbat to the Iranian Embassy Siege and Beyond (General Military)"No publicity, no media. We move in silently, do our job, and melt away into the background. If you have the stamina, the willpower and the guts, we ll welcome you with open arms and make you one of us. And if you haven't, then it's been very nice knowing you."

The SAS has a reputation as a discrete, elite fighting force which, despite a few books over the years from those who have served among it's number, has retained much of it's mystique and cachet. I've read a few military memoirs in the past so when I stumbled upon Pete Winner at an airshow selling this book, with a donation to a military charity with each sale I was never going to walk on past. This book details Pete's amazing 18 years in the SAS plus the new demands placed on him as he adjusted to life on civvy street and his later work.

For me the best known part of Pete's career was his role in the team that stormed the Iranian Embassy in London during the infamous siege. I was young when it happened but I remember seeing dramatic photos of the assault and was keen to read more about what actually happened. The title of the book comes from Pete's pseudonym when he was called to testify about the event in court. The book includes a number of photos and an illustration of the embassy to help explains how events unfolded which I found a great addition. Other missions recounted in the book include the battle of Mirbat and his time in the Falklands. Once he left the army he moved on to various close protection roles which gave him a taste of a champagne lifestyle but also took him to conflict-hit Bosnia.

I found that it took me a while to get into the book, which may have been partly my fault for having to read the beginning in short snatches, but once I did I was drawn in by the pace, the writing with some great imagery as well as some brutal detail and the more emotional side of his story. There were some very moving parts when Pete reflected on the loss of so many colleagues, and also while he was dealing with the massive impact of leaving the regiment and considering the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The little anecdotes about minor details served to add real colour to the stories recounted, and the reading about what it takes to join the regiment only served to further increase my admiration for Pete and his colleagues.

This book recounts a roller-coaster career with adrenaline filled highs matched only by lows that could have changed the entire course of Pete's life. His career has seen him present at pivotal moments in history, some of which I had been virtually ignorant of until now. This was a fascinating read, and despite the largely serious subject matter it was a really enjoyable read.

Format: Paperback, bought by me
My Rating: 4*

Sunday 2 October 2011

End of month review and giveaway result

Yes, ok, I know I'm a couple of days late but it has been one of those weeks. Still, it's almost over now! Here in the UK we are enjoying record breaking weather, with the mercury going higher here than in a lot of sunshine holiday destinations. It's a nice change after a rotten summer.

September has been busy here at Booked Up, what with author interviews, guest posts and 4 giveaways courtesy of Scott Nicholson. His month of promotion, Be Nicholson's Agent, is now over and I'm sure he'll be glad for a rest. The winner of the final giveaway is...

Nicki G. Your book will be on it's way to you soon! Congratulations.

I read some great books in September, and for me the highlights were:

- contemporary fiction The Water Men by Adelaide MacKenzie Fuss (which I left as part of the Guardian's Book Swap - hope it found a good new home)

- An Epitaph for Coyote by Bryan R Dennis

- Horror short The Tunnelers by Geoff Gander

- Man Booker shortlisted book Snowdrops by A D Miller

September was also an interesting month with the launch of Amazon's new range of Kindles, include the Kindle Fire tablet. None of the offerings have got me so excited I've dived in and pre-ordered one, I think instead I'll wait to hear what others have got to say about them.

I'd best wrap this up, I received a replacement kindle on Friday and I've very very slowly been putting all my books onto the new one and sorting out my collections but there's still more work to do. Wish me luck!