Sunday 29 April 2012

Book Review - Wings of Freedom by Ratan Kaul

Wings of Freedom is at heart a historical romance. That is slightly outside the genres I usually read but the blurb promised an Indian setting with a backdrop of British Colonialism, a revolution and World War I which made it very appealing. 
Wings of Freedom1911, Delhi. George V is due to visit for a Coronation celebration. When there is a suspected arson attack on the Royal camp prior to his arrival British police clamp down, afraid of sabotage or even worse an assassination attempt by revolutionaries. Having been working in the area Raju is concerned that he may be unfairly implicated. He is a college student at something of a crossroads in his life. His friends are firmly behind the revolutionary cause and want to plan action of their own to strike against the British. His father however runs a business relying on imports from Britain and has different view of the political situation in India. 

Raju's thoughts are further clouded when he meets Catharine, a British Doctor who has moved to India to try and improve health care and in particular maternity care in the area, and British officer's daughter Eileen. She has been born and raised in India, and contrary to her father's wishes is keen to experience as much of India as possible. Raju and Eileen both feel an almost instant attraction, but with racial and social divisions conspiring against them they are both concerned about whether a future together is possible. 

I wasn't entirely sure whether the balance between romance and historical fiction would be to my liking but I discovered a book I really enjoyed. The story touches on a range of issues facing people at the time and I found reading about India's fight for freedom interesting and really appreciated a new perspective on WWI. It was quite an educational read but set within a plot that flowed nicely to make it an easy read. I did spot a few typos but they were minor and didn't distract me from the story. The story opens with the end of the story, an urgent telegram to Raju from Eileen, then starts from the beginning. This had me on tenterhooks throughout, wondering what had happened to get to that point. The story really stepped up a gear towards the end and moved to a dramatic climax.

Raju and Eileen were quite likeable characters, both trying to follow their hearts while being respectful of their parents and finding their way in a time fraught with difficulties. Raju grows from a boy to a man during the book and Eileen isn't the spoilt, flighty rich girl I had been half expecting. 

I really liked this book and appreciated the notes at the end, with a glossary of the Indian terms used as well as some notes on the historical facts as they relate to the events in the book. Those notes could have been slightly better presented on the kindle but that is a very minor criticism.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*  

Friday 27 April 2012

World Book Night 2012

Had it not been for my appalling internet problems this week I would have provided a more timely piece on Monday's World Book Night event here in my small Devonshire town. For weeks the library had been advertising a book swap event, handily taking part in my local pub. As it's on my doorstep it would have been rude not to have turned up. I didn't apply to give away books though because I couldn't decide which one of the books on the list I would want to give away!

I headed off armed with a book to swap. Coincidentally it was The Player of Games by Iain M Banks, which was on the list. I walked into a pub that made me feel like a kid in a sweet shop. There were loads of books, some withdrawn from the library (I used to pick up loads of cheap books that way back when I was younger) and others that had come from the pub's small lending library and other swappers. I was told they had done a brisk trade earlier in the evening and had been particularly inundated by children early in the evening. I was so pleased to hear the event was being well attended and those running it have suggested as it was so successful they would like to run them on a regular basis.

What the Ladybird HeardThe Resurrectionist So what did I come away with? The Resurrectionist by James Bradley. I was prepared to pretend I hadn't seen the sticker on the front touting it as a Richard & Judy's Summer Read pick; I have about as much luck with those as I do with Booker Prize Winners, but now looking at some of the reviews on Goodreads I'm wondering if I should have picked something else. The saving grace might be the gift copy of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens I was handed when I arrived. I haven't read much Pratchett but always hear great things and I'm looking forward to reading it.

I think World Book Night (and World Book Day last month) are a great idea. Sharing a love of reading is a great thing. My daughter enjoys What the Ladybird Heard, which I got her as a free gift and I've hopefully got at least one good read out of the night.

Saturday 21 April 2012

Book Review - Thief of Hope by Cindy Young-Turner

Thief of HopeSydney knows a thing or two about life on the streets. After her guardian Edgar is killed for his work with the resistance she flees her former home, living on the streets and relying on her own wits and people like her dubious on/off lover Zared to survive. When she is captured and sentenced to death she is saved by a wizard who opens her eyes to a world of magic she thought no longer existed in Thanumor. She also becomes aware of her own connection with faery folk the Tuatha and the bastard Prince Willem. He seeks to claim the throne of his deceased father and bring the reign of the oppressive Guild to an end. She struggles to see her value among a group of wizards, warriors and monks but her association with Edgar means more than she ever thought.

The book starts by setting up Sydney's past, then moves to the present and her perspective. She's a young woman who has had to do things she's not proud of to survive. Last Hope is a tough place that is only kind to the privileged few. As the story progresses she is judged by others who haven't lived a life like hers, and connects strongly with those who have. She also finds that a lot of what she had believed about her past was not true and has to reassess her own image of herself. I found her likeable and was also drawn to other major characters in the group supporting the would-be king. I thought even the villain of the piece was well developed, and avoided becoming a caricature with just a hint of what might have shaped him.

The tale moves at a good pace, with lulls in the actions as the group stop briefly to plan and regather their thoughts. This contrasts with the moments of peril, and the battles and killings raging around them. The tone is dark but with definite moments of hope. They face Schrammig, a fearsome individual who has caused untold misery but Syd finds herself having to decide whether she lowers herself to his level to avenge the deaths of so many.

This is a novel that has heaps of potential for a sequel or sequels. However unlike some fantasy sagas there is a very definite end to this book and it feels like a complete story, rather than in need of a second volume. I would love to see the development of certain relationships, see more of a focus on some of the characters in this book and find out more about Sydney's heritage and abilities. Thanumor is a world that isn't all that different to our own, although with a historical feel to it. While magic and the supernatural have an important role to play in the story it isn't too fantastical and a lot of tale depends on very human relationships and struggles. Perhaps that is why I enjoyed this fantasy novel so much. 

Format: Kindle, review copy
Publisher: Crescent Moon Press
My Rating: 4*

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Book Review - The Redemption of Mr Sturlubok by Rudolf Kerkhoven and Daniel Pitts

Coming across this book was a bit of a blast from the past, I haven't read a Choose Your Own Ending book since I was in my tweens. Not adverse to a bit of nostalgia I thought I'd give it a go.

The Redemption of Mr. Sturlubok: A Choose Your Own...Leroy Sturlubok is the (acting) Vice Principal at a public elementary school. He has very lofty opinions of himself, not necessarily shared by other members of staff or his acquaintances. The blurb says the book offers 100 different choices and 46 possible endings to his story. I went through the book about 5 times and found him working on a reality TV show with Tony Danza (another blast from the past), teaming up with a telepathic elderly Japanese man to foil a crime, and destroying the life of a beautiful young woman, among other plots and subplots. The choices allowed me to basically make him a real pain in the proverbial or make him slightly less so, he really isn't much of a sympathetic character.

The navigation was easy and I have to say the best way to describe it was fun. I stumbled across hints of other plots more than once and can see myself going back to it in future to see where different choices take me.

The downside to this book was that the narrative in between each choice was pretty short, and it felt a bit too fast paced with little opportunity to set the scenes. Even completing 4 or 5 stories didn't take me very long, the work of an evening. I appreciate that to fully develop each plot with so many going on would result in an enormous tome but a little more in the way of description would have been nice.

I don't think I'll make choose your own ending books a regular event but I did have fun with this book.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 3*

Puzzlebook; 100 Puzzle Quizzes by the Grabarchuk Family

And now for something a bit different! I used to love logic problem books so when I saw this I was looking forward to exercising the old grey matter and seeing how something like this would work on the kindle.
The book includes 100 puzzles ranging from 1* to 5* difficulty level, starting off easy and getting harder. The puzzles test different areas including visual, spatial and counting skills. After the puzzle is a number of different answers. You use the controller (or touchscreen) to select the answer but only the correct one will take you to the solution page. That page then has a link back to that puzzle or the next one. 

Puzzlebook: 100 Puzzle Quizzes (color and interactive!)On the topic of the puzzles I thought it included a good range, and it soon became clear which areas I definitely don't excel in! Some of the puzzles I found simple even at the higher difficulty, while others had me baffled even at what should have been simple levels. From this perspective I would have also appreciated an additional "I don't have a clue" link to also take the reader to the solution. Most of the solution pages showed clearly how the answer was achieved, but there were a couple that could have done with some more explanation.

With regard to the way the book works I thought the navigation was easier than I had expected and as a concept it worked much better than I had anticipated. I haven't looked at it on anything other than the kindle but it is apparently in full colour for Kindle Fire folk and those who use the various apps. I didn't find working in shades of grey any hindrance though.

This is the sort of book it would be great to have on the kindle for short trips or times when you can't quite get into a novel, and if you're the sort of person who looks out the puzzles that appear in newspapers with the crosswords you might want to consider this and the other books in the series. 

Format: Kindle, review copy
Publisher: Grabarchuk Puzzles
My Rating: 3*

Friday 13 April 2012

Friday fun time

So another week has been clocked up, and what a week it's been. It was my husband's birthday on Wednesday so we had a rare child free day out together. Yesterday I had my Grandad's funeral. It was a nice service and good to reminisce with the family. Today a routine hospital appointment with the monkey. All told it's been a busy week and my poor kindle is feeling all neglected. However since last week I did review:

Enthralled by K Drollinger, a supernatural fantasy, and

Sleep by Infinite Ideas, a short book on sleep problems and possible solutions

I'm hoping to up the pace a bit but with the good weather and a firm resolution to get fit and lose weight I'm making no promises.

This week I joining in Ginger's TGIF hop. The question over at GReads is:

If you could read a book about any song, which song would you love to see written down in story form?

This is a great question that had me scratching my head. For some reason my mind focused on some quite dark songs rather than anything lighter. I think the song that came to me that has the strongest story behind it is the Savage Garden song Two Beds and a Coffee Machine. Here are the lyrics. It's a beautiful song, and very moving.

And she takes another step
slowly she opens the door
check that he is sleeping
pick up all the broken glass
and furniture on the floor
been up half the night screaming
now it's time to get away
pack up the kids in the car
another bruise to try and hide
another alibi to write
another ditch in the road
you keep moving
another stop sign
you keep moving on
and the years go by so fast
wonder how I ever made it through

and there are children to think of
babies asleep in the back seat
wonder how they'll ever make it
through this living nightmare
but the mind is an amazing thing
full of candy dreams and new toys

and another cheap hotel
two beds and a coffee machine
but there are groceries to buy
and she knows she'll have to go home

another ditch in the road
you keep moving 
another stop sign
you keep moving on
and the years go by so fast
wonder how I ever made it through

another bruise to try and hide 
another alibi to write
another lonely highway in the black of night
there's hope in the darkness
I know you're gonna make it

another ditch in the road
keep moving
another stop sign
you keep moving on
and the years go by so fast
silent fortress built to last
wonder how I ever made it


I'm looking forward to seeing other people's answers! Have a lovely weekend all. TC xx

Monday 9 April 2012

Book Review - Sleep by Infinite Ideas

I picked this up as a freebie as my shift-worker husband has real problems getting to sleep, and I thought it might offer some ideas to help him. It's only the equivalent to about 39 print pages so I read it in no time at all. 
SleepThe book contains short chapters which end with a suggestion to try, a quote that defines that chapter and then a brief Q&A. It gave me some interesting insight into the different stages of sleep, busted a couple of myths and did have one or two useful suggestions I'll be trying to persuade hubby to try. I also found the part on different causes and possible solutions for snoring an interesting addition. The tips continue in Sleep 2 to 5 so I'm hoping one of those might contain some ideas on how to deal with continual changes to routine!

This is a short read that is nicely formatted and in plain and simple language. A good little freebie though probably of more value to an insomniac looking for some help than me with a stubborn man who probably won't listen to the ideas it presents!

Format: Kindle, freebie
Publisher: Infinite Ideas
My Rating: 3*

Friday 6 April 2012

Book Review - Enthralled by K Drollinger

"Annette has had nightmares for as long as she can remember. However, it was not until a strange encounter that Annette realizes her dreams have a deeper meaning than she could have imagined. In her search for answers, Annette is drawn into a world of dangerous creatures that human kind forgot exists. Once drawn in, Annette can never return to the life she knew." from

Annette has a chance encounter with a woman in a supermarket and their paths cross again shortly afterwards. This woman has powers Annette is firstly dubious about, but she changes her mind when she discovers a link with her strange dreams. The pair travel to a haunted manor to try and find out about its mysterious past. There they meet a real group of characters, and there is more to them than meets the eye.

I quite liked the way the story was set up and thought it had good potential. I was expecting things along the lines of Scott Nicholson's Creative Spirit which I really enjoyed. However as the tale unfolded it moved further away from my comfort zone and became a bit predictable. I've never been shy about admitting I'm quite picky about fantasy, or that I'm not keen on books with certain types of fantasy creatures. As such it's probably a bit unfortunate that I didn't realise from the product description that this book would give me all my least favourite fantasy elements. I also found it hard to connect with any of the characters. Most of them were too under-developed and main character Annette felt like a mass of contradictions.

As far as the writing, while it flowed nicely in places and I enjoyed the early part, there were too many grammar, punctuation and spelling errors, and in places it just didn't read well. I also thought that it lacked the necessary tension. I think the reader is meant to read the part set at the manor envisioning it in the grip of a storm almost throughout. In other books I have seen this setup create a hostile and oppressive environment but in this book it was more of a footnote.

This is a book that has potential, especially if this sort of fantasy is your bag, and there were hints of a good read but has too many negatives for me to rate it higher than 2*

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 2*

FF Fun

It's been a while since I've joined in with Parajunkee's Follow Friday feature but so thought it was time to drop on by and join in again! It's been a couple of weeks since I joined in a meme, but from my recent posts I'm sure people can see why I've been a bit quiet. 

The FF question for this week is "Have you ever bought a book BECAUSE of a bad review?"

I can say unequivocally no, although there have been a couple of instances where I have almost been tempted just to see if a book is a bad as it has been painted. I have bought books despite bad reviews though.

In the last couple of weeks I have posted reviews on 

Distracted by P T Duck, a thriller and,

The Riddler's Gift by Greg Hamerton, an epic fantasy.

I also completed a supernatural novel last night, the review will follow soon. 

I hope everyone who gets a break over Easter is having a good time, and that other people (i.e people who aren't like me and on a diet) are enjoying lots of chocolate.

Have a great weekend, 
TC x

Sunday 1 April 2012

Book Review - Distracted: A Thriller by Phillip Thomas Duck

I picked this up as a freebie, on the basis of the suggestion it was similar to Lee Child's books. Shell is a hitman whose network has been uncovered. To prevent his Five women dying he must kill one man. That man, Roger Coke, is no easy mark, surrounded by hard cases and a beautiful woman who diverts Shell's attention from the job at hand.    
This is a novella that dives straight into the action and has a gritty feel about it. While it is well written and oozes dark and dangerous I felt that the characters were a bit flat. Coke's girlfriend could have been a character I sympathised with, but there wasn't enough of her history to illustrate exactly how bad her life was that she found herself in a relationship with him. The other hitmen felt a bit one dimensional too.

Distracted: A ThrillerI also thought that some of the keys to the progression of the plot were a little unclear. Shell makes more than one visit to an individual related to his target for information but either I was paying attention or there was nothing to indicate how Shell knew of him.

I liked the author's style and the feel of the book but this novella didn't really do the story justice. I was originally going to give this 3 stars but coming back to do the review a day after finishing I only feel lukewarm about it, hence the 2* rating.

Format: Kindle, freebie
Publisher: Two Daughters
My Rating: 2*