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Review of

Responsibilities (Greg Mason mysteries) by Ann Macarthur

4star.jpg Crime

It's the 1990s and Greg Mason's twenty-eight years old. He used to have a high-flying job in the city but it wasn't satisfying so he's now set himself up as a private investigator. 'Shades of Cameron Strike', you might be thinking. Nice bloke, but where's the life experience that backs up this profession? On the other hand, he has been asked to look into something. Joyce and Helen are half-sisters, or rather, they were until Helen was killed in what's been written off as a tragic accident at an unmanned level crossing. Joyce - and her parents, Oliver and Pam Hetherington - can't understand what she was doing there - or how she could come to fall in front of a train. Greg's been asked to investigate. Full Review


Review of

A True Account by Katherine Howe

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Hannah Masury is living in Boston, having been sent to live with a family who run an inn, and being made to work there from a young age. When she hears there is to be a hanging of some pirates in the town, she decides to go and watch. Enthralled and horrified in equal measure, Hannah finds herself embroiled in a young boy's death at the hands of two vicious pirates. She hides away, so that they don't find and kill her too, and then to escape them completely she runs away to sea, dressing as a boy and joining the notorious Ned Low's pirate ship as a cabin boy. She soon finds herself in the thick of things when there is a mutiny on board, and from there we are caught up in her rip roaring tale of life on the ocean waves. Full Review


Review of

The Reformatory by Tananarive Due

5star.jpg Historical Fiction

Gracetown, Florida. June 1950. After a scuffle with a white boy, twelve year-old Robbie Stephens Jr is sentenced to six months at the Gracetown School for Boys, otherwise known as the Reformatory. It's a place with a brutal and dark reputation. But the segregated reformatory is a chamber of horrors, haunted by the boys that have died there. In order to survive the school governor and his Funhouse, Robert must enlist the help of the school's ghosts – only they have their own motivations... Full Review


Review of

Maybe Tomorrow by Penny Parkes

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Jamie Matson works in an upper-class grocery store, for a man who's a control freak with all the subtlety of a half brick. Jamie's son, Bo, 'has his problems'. He's asthmatic and the more you read, the more you'll suspect that he's on the autistic spectrum. Sometimes Jamie needs to take time off at short notice - she's a frequent flier in the local A&E and sometimes Bo's not fit enough to go to school. Missed shifts or the need to be away on time to pick Bo up from school are occasions when Jamie can be controlled and put in the wrong. It was going to come to a head. Full Review


Review of

Children of the Sun by Harry Allen

5star.jpg Teens

Ra Eun Seo lives in a North Korean town and she is a talented singer. Life is hard and food is difficult to come by, so Seo and her friends Nari and Min go foraging every evening, looking for tree bark and edible grasses to supplement the meagre rations of rice and kimchi at home. Full Review


Review of

Worm: A Cuban American Odyssey by Edel Rodriguez

4star.jpg Graphic Novels

We're in childhood, and we're in Cuba. The revolution has happened, and Castro, first thought of as a saviour of the country, has proven himself a Communist, and not done nearly enough to create a level playing field for all. Well, those hours-long speeches of his were kind of taking his time away. Our narrator's family weren't in the happiest of places here, an uncle refusing to be the good soldier the country demanded (especially as he would probably be shipped off to some minor pro-Communism skirmish, such as Angola) and the father being watched and watched, and not liked for his successful photography business, success being frowned upon. The mother gets the couple jobs with the party to ease some of the heat, but in this sultry island country, it remains the kind of heat forcing you out of the kitchen… Full Review


Review of

The Vital Link (A Spark in the Ashes) by K P O'Donnell

3.5star.jpg Science Fiction

VL-15, a prototype robot, is desperate to understand who she is. Unfortunately, before she could find any answers, the world ended, consumed in an apocalyptic war between the nations of Drexel and Renada. Over half-a-century later, civilisation is starting to rebuild. Dr Amelia Wong is determined to continue her father's legacy, building a world where machines and humans can live together in harmony, but internal frictions and external enemies might bring it all crashing down again. Craig Anderson, leader of a group of salvagers called the Exhumers, has his entire life turned upside down when he unearths a prototype combat robot: none other than VL-15 herself. Even after being buried for 65 years, her determination hasn't diminished in the slightest, and no errant machine, no savage human tribe and not even Drexel's ravaged ecosystem will stop her on her quest for answers… Full Review


Review of

The Misper by Kate London

4star.jpg Crime

Ryan Kennedy killed a police officer: there's no doubt about that. He was the fifteen-year-old holding the gun and pointing it at DI Kieran Shaw. He pulled the trigger but due to the vagaries of the jury system he was found not guilty of both the murder and the manslaughter of the officer. And so lives must go on. For DI Sarah Collins that means leaving the capital and hoping for a quieter life in the countryside but when a missing teenager is found on her territory she's drawn into a wider investigation - and back into the orbit of Ryan Kennedy. Full Review


Review of

Went to London, Took the Dog by Nina Stibbe

4star.jpg Autobiography

Nina Stibbe is returning to London for a sabbatical after being away for twenty years. She's been at Victoria's smallholding in Leicestershire which isn't all that conducive to writing, as there's always something smallholding happening - as you might expect. The other side of the decision was sealed when a room became available (courtesy of Deborah Moggach) at a very reasonable rent. Full Review


Review of

Radio Free Olympia by Jeffrey Dunn

4star.jpg General Fiction

Petr is an orphan. Rescued by the strange, reclusive Bear, he is brought up far from bustling cities and busy human society, in the forests of Washington's Olympic Peninsula. After Bear dies and a brief sojourn in human company, and armed with only a pirate radio transmitter, Petr goes on a journey through the forest, broadcasting the strange, wild and rarely heard voices he encounters. Full Review


Review of

The Knitting Pattern Writing Handbook by Kristina McGrath and Sarah Walworth

4.5star.jpg Crafts

I quickly discovered that putting words and numbers on a page wasn't enough. Creating a pattern that was correct, clear, concise, and consistent required a great deal of trial and error, patience, and perseverance. (Introduction byFrancoise Danoy)

A friend recently showed me a knitting pattern for which she'd paid good money. The first line of the instructions began: Cast off 100 stitches... It was clear that no good could come of this - the instructions didn't get any better - and (finally) PayPal obliged with a refund when the seller refused as she couldn't afford the repayment. The pattern looked pretty, but the creator didn't have the basic knowledge and skills to enable her to connect with her knitters. She should have read The Knitting Pattern Writing Handbook. Full Review


Review of

Oscar's Lion by Adam Baron and Benji Davies

3star.jpg Confident Readers

We start incredibly bluntly, with Oscar hoping to have his mother – or father, but mother is more likely – read him his very favourite book a couple of times before he has to be ready for school. But when he enters his parents' bedroom, all he sees is a mahoosive male lion on their bed, looking sheepish, and admitting that he won't be hungry for another two days. But there are benefits to having a lion around – it can be shown as an unspoken threat to the bully that ruined a birthday party for Oscar the other month. And it can shapeshift, so he can take it to school and it can get him out of a problem. And it's wonderful to have around the house – not limiting his biscuit intake, being much more lax about the rules, and so on. OK, it can't work a dimmer switch but it can give Oscar a wonderful time. Full Review


Review of

Good Girls Die by Ayura Ayira

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

This story is not for everyone.

Lavender Daniels was three weeks short of her fifteenth birthday when The Incident happened. She was a very bright student, a bit too nerdy if truth be told, and suffered from vitiligo - people were afraid to hug her in case it's contagious. It's not easy being a black girl whose skin is 84% white. She had a crush on seventeen-year-old Reggie Anderson but never thought he would notice her. Then he did: Lavender was very good at math and Reggie asked if she would tutor him. She readily agreed: tutoring was something she gladly did at church: this was just an extension. She went to his house and he raped her. In shock, she even allowed him to give her a lift home. Full Review


Review of

The Haunting of Alejandra by V Castro

3.5star.jpg Horror

This was a part of her past that had to stop with her. She would be the one to confront this.

At some point during her life, Alejandra lost herself. She feels as if she is playing parts for others in her life – her husband and her children – without ever giving any thought to her own desires, her own future, her own identity. Day by day she goes through quotient motions without anyone seeing that there is something fundamentally wrong. For invisible to all but Alejandra, there is a darkness threatening to consume her. More and more she is visited by a ghost, a weeping woman in a fraying white gown dripping with water, who leaves distress in her wake. Full Review


Review of

The Pale House Devil by Richard Kadrey

4star.jpg Horror

Ford and Neuland are a couple of, well, guys for hire I guess, though really the way I thought of them through the book was as a couple of strange detectives! One of them is living, you see, and the other is undead, and so one of them kills the living, and the other kills the undead. (Only not each other, obviously). They're on a job in New York that goes badly, and so they head out to the West coast to try to lay low for a while and find some other work to keep them going. But when a young woman called Tilda hires them to kill the 'something' that appears to be haunting a wealthy gentleman's house they find themselves uncovering a whole lot of family history, and a terrifyingly powerful creature that they've never come across before! Full Review


Review of

The Taming of the Cat by Helen Cooper

3.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Once again, mice are pitched against cat. In this case, principally, we have Brie the mouse, up against Gorgonzola the cat – and in case you're seeing a connection, they live in a cheese shop and therefore all the names used here seem to be the names of cheeses. Anyway, Brie is shunned, scorned and, if you must, mous-tracised, for the way his habits don't match the other mice he lives with. They nibble up paper wrapping from the cheese for bedding – he displays it as art and makes stories based on the visuals on it. And that story-telling will come in handy one night, when he feels all alone and cast out. It's almost as if there were another character from fable who had had to tell stories to keep themselves alive. This makes Brie the top dog in the mouse community, though, as all the others had the chance to half-inch some cheese while the cat was distracted. But will the story have the successful sequel it needs when that cheese runs out? Full Review


Review of

Super Short Stories: Flash Fiction by Mark C Wallfisch

4.5star.jpg Short Stories

Got a minute to be amused, entertained, or challenged? These 100 stories are super short. None is more than 300 words. You can read one in a flash. Some are funny. Some are poignant. All are short.

Question: how do you review flash fiction? How do you give a flavour of a fully rounded little story if that story is told in fewer than three hundred words? Or do you try to draw out themes from all the flash fictions in a book of them? I don't know! Perhaps we could start by explaining that there really isn't a fixed definition of flash fiction but that for this collection, author Mark C Wallfisch has gone for a three hundred word limit. That's about a single page in your average paperback. Full Review


Review of

The Adventures of Birpus and Bulbus: Book One: The Sour Milk Dragon by Wynn Everett-Albanese, Michael Albanese and Indre Ta (Illustrator)

4star.jpg For Sharing

When we first meet Birpus and Bulbus they're running for their lives in the Forest of Fine Repute. Their greatest fear has come about: the Sour Milk Dragon is chasing them. He's right behind them, spewing hot, sour milk from his nostrils. (Please don't try this at home: it won't end well.) Fortunately, they were nearly at Nobby Lob-lolly - and when a ladder of moss and vines was lowered for them, they escaped. They climbed up to the Tree Wee homes high up in the tangled woods where they lived with their Grand Wees, Nester Nook and Granny Cranny. Full Review


Review of

The Figurine by Victoria Hislop

5star.jpg General Fiction

It was in 1968 that Helena McCloud made her first trip to Greece. She was alone: her mother, Greek by birth, had left the family home and refused to return, but Mary and Hamish (Helena's parents) felt that it would be a pity if Helena grew up without knowing her grandparents or understanding her Greek heritage. Her trip to the family apartment in up-market Kolonaki would be the first of several annual visits. She grew to love her grandmother and the family's maid, Dina, but was wary - and frightened - of her grandfather, retired general Stamatis Papagiannis. He was proud of his close connections to the Junta and expected his family to uphold his values but saw no reason to accommodate them. His prejudices included Helena's red hair and green eyes - inherited from her father's Scottish ancestors. Full Review


Review of

Vertical by Cody Goodfellow

3.5star.jpg Thrillers

There's something about tall buildings that just captures my imagination. Who doesn't love a good view from up high, after all? Even the drabbest office building is somewhere I'm intrigued to get inside if it's 40 stories tall. So when I picked up this book – about people who scale tall buildings for fun – I was instantly intrigued. Full Review


Review of

Finding Bear by Hannah Gold and Levi Pinfold

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Last time, April had been on Bear Island, a lot further north than many people would venture, and finding a ridiculously unexpected but delightful friendship with a polar bear – that she called Bear. Back home, things on the domestic and family front are a bit advanced, but not perfect for her, and so can easily be ignored when word comes through from the islands Bear was last left on. For a bear doing very Bear-y things has been shot and wounded. Desperate to make sure he's OK, she and her father return to the Arctic and hope that in a world of very white and very dangerous things, she can find one specific white and dangerous thing – and that the friendship can continue. Full Review


Review of

No Reserve by Felix Francis

4star.jpg Thrillers

Thirty-four-year-old Theo Jennings shouldn't have been on the rostrum when the colt - as yet unnamed - came up for auction, but Peter Radway, the chairman, hadn't arrived, so he continued his session. To say that he was shocked when the bidding reached three million pounds would be an understatement. A lovely animal - but three million pounds? Two men had been bidding against each other. Brian Kitman and Elliot 'Mitch' Mitchell were well-known and respected in the racing industry. Jennings was in one of the cubicles in the toilets when the two men came in and their conversation revealed that the horse had been deliberately bid up to that figure. Both were happy that they had insurance in place. The following morning, the horse was dead in its stall. Full Review


Review of

This One Wild and Precious Life: the path back to connection in a fractured world by Sarah Wilson

3.5star.jpg Lifestyle

My favourite Mary Oliver line is the one in which she asks What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? I get to love that line so much because my answer is This! Precisely this. I'm lucky enough to be living my one wild and precious life the way I want to. Sarah Wilson is equally lucky. In her book that takes Oliver's words as her title (though I can't see that she acknowledges the source) she pushes us to think about whether we really are living the life we want – the best life that we could be living. Her answer is an unequivocal no, we are not. Don't care what you're doing, she thinks you (we, I) could be doing more…And she's effing furious about the fact that we are not. Full Review


Review of

A World of Dogs by Carlie Sorosiak and Luisa Uribe

5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

In the interests of full disclosure, I must tell you that I'm a sucker for dogs. In nearly eight decades, I've never met one I didn't trust and I've loved most of them. I wish I felt the same about human beings. So, any book about dogs, I'm going to sit down and devour. Then I'm going to go back and read it properly. And so it was with A World of Dogs, with ninety-six pages devoted entirely to my four-legged friends. Author Carlie Sorosiak found herself the accidental owner of an American Dingo - she's learned quite a lot about dogs since then. Full Review


Review of

The Safe House by Cameron Ward

4star.jpg Thrillers

Jess Walker accepted an offer (OK, actually she was gently nudged into it by her friend, Rupert) to caretake a luxury property in the Australian outback for a couple of months. After the problems she'd had at work, it seemed like just the break she needed. She was no longer a data analyst for the Metropolitan police in London: she was Jess who was returning to the country of her birth and in need of the space to get over the traumatic end of her relationship with Charles. A few weeks in the Otway Ranges in Victoria sounded like just the ticket. Full Review


Review of

Bad Dolls by Rachel Harrison

4star.jpg Short Stories

It's been some time since I've read any horror. I had a couple of misspent teen years reading Stephen King, borrowing the books from a boy I fancied at school and scaring myself half silly with them to the point that I couldn't shut my bedroom curtains at night for fear of the vampires outside! Don't worry - this short story collection isn't like that! It doesn't have those jump scares, and I didn't have to read it during daylight hours only! But it is creepy, and I found most of that feeling came from the fact that these are stories about women, living normal lives, and that at least in part, the horrors arises from very normal situations such as a breakup, trying a new dieting app, going to a hen party and a coping with grief. Full Review


Review of

Recycling for Dummies by Sarah Winkler

5star.jpg Lifestyle

Recycling one ton of plastic can save up to 16.3 barrels of oil.

Recycling one ton of paper can save 17 trees from being cut down.

If you send an apple core to landfill, it will take between 6 months and 2 years to decompose. A glass bottle will take up to 1 million years.

As a just-post-WWII baby, I faced a dilemma: reducing, reusing and recycling is part of my DNA. NEVER throw away anything that might possibly come in handy now or in the future. NEVER buy anything if you can cobble together something that would serve the purpose. Almost everything can be used one more time and any purchase must pass the test of 'Is this absolutely essential?' On the other hand, I suspected I was guilty of wishcycling: assuming that something must be recyclable (toothpaste tubes - I'm looking at you) and dropping it in the kerbside bin. Yes, I could go searching on the internet - and get conflicting advice - but what I needed was a recycling bible.s Full Review


Review of

Finding Wonder by Lauren St John

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Roo's life has become almost impossibly difficult. Her mum died when she was young, and now she finds herself awoken in the middle of the night by the police banging on her door to tell her that her dad has dropped dead on his way to the corner shop to buy a lottery ticket. When asked what other family she has, she can only name her aunt, Joni, who she knows her dad didn't think very highly of. But she has no one else, and so off she goes to live with her unreliable aunt. Things continue to get worse for Roo, as when she and Joni leave London in Joni's old campervan, it breaks down in the middle of nowhere and then bursts into flames! Poor Roo! Full Review


Review of

The Devil Stone (DCI Christine Caplan) by Caro Ramsay

4star.jpg Crime

In the village of Cronchie on the West coast of Scotland, five members of a wealthy family are found murdered. The only item missing from the home is the Devil Stone: myth says that if the stone is removed from Otterburn House, death will follow. The only suspects are known Satanists but in many ways, that's an easy conclusion given that two of them 'discovered' the body. The Senior Investigating Office is DCI Bob Oswald but when he disappears, DCI Christine Caplan is pulled in to 'shadow' him. Full Review