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I Readalot (UK)

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Price: 3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent, funny and thought provoking, 20 July 2014
This review is from: Meatspace (Kindle Edition)
I must admit that I have never come across the word 'Meatspace' before, not surprising really as I don't read cyberpunk novels or spend time on the kind of online forums where the term is likely to be used. However, being fully aware of the term cyberspace I just thought 'perhaps it just means the opposite, the real world' and read on from that assumption.

I found it quite hard to get into and this may be the case for anyone who spends their lives in meatspace with only the odd foray into the cyber world, but once I had adjusted to the language I found the novel quite addictive and very funny. There are 2 narrative threads, first Kitab, he is an author struggling to write his second novel and seems to spend most of his time online, his life changes when Kitab2 arrives on his doorstep from India. This guy with the same name has been trying to friend him on Facebook but Kitab constantly ignores him. The second thread is a blog 'Azizwillkillyou', Aziz is his brother who travels across the pond to New York to find his doppelganger, that is someone he found online with a bowtie tattoo. His blog recounts his adventures. The 2 narrative threads complement each other perfectly.

It is a book about our modern age and the obsession with facebook, twitter, blogs and the rest and emphasises the fact that authors are almost obliged to have an online presence to publicise themselves and their work. Initially I did wonder if I would be able to finish 'Meatspace' but I am so glad that I persevered past the first few chapters, particularly when I reached the point when the entire tone of the novel changes which made me think back to everything I had read up to that point.

I read 'Meatspace' courtesy of Netgalley and Harper Collins but I will be purchasing this novel so that I can read it again as a finished copy. Recommended for geeks and non-geeks alike, for authors struggling with combining writing with promotion and anyone looking for an intelligent and thought provoking book to make them laugh and cry.

The Three
The Three
by Sarah Lotz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Creepy and atmospheric thriller, 13 July 2014
This review is from: The Three (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The `novel within a novel' has become a popular format over the past few years and I have read a fair few of them. They tell a story but also the story of the writing of the inner book, giving insight into the process. Within `The Three' lies a fictional non-fiction book entitled `Black Thursday: From Crash to Conspiracy' by Elspeth Martins which is told mainly through interviews but also includes excerpts from newspaper and magazine reports.

The starting point for `Black Thursday' is the crashing of 4 planes on different continents on the same day. Four people survive the crashes, 3 are children, the only adult only survives long enough to send a voice message and it is the content of this message that leads to all the conspiracy theories that follow. She is the member of a small evangelical church who interpret her message in a particular way. Surely it can't be a coincidence, 4 crashing planes, 3 with a child surviving, it must mean something.

We have all heard about accidents that have a sole survivor, it is put down to luck, we wonder how they will cope and how it will change their lives, but once the initial reports have faded they are generally left alone. Would we be so prepared to put it down to luck if the situation in this book occurred? Journalists would no doubt hound the survivors and various groups would come up with theories of how and why it happened and this is precisely what happens in `The Three'.

It is a very creepy and atmospheric thriller that becomes darker as the behaviour of the children becomes increasingly irrational, strange and even frightening. The realism of the narrative makes it all appear completely believable and Lotz does an amazing job in bringing such a large cast of characters to life. Highly recommended, although perhaps not the best story for a holiday involving a long haul flight! Maybe better to read it in the safely of your own back garden.

The Third Wife
The Third Wife
Price: 1.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, intelligent and quite dark, 9 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Third Wife (Kindle Edition)
Not being a fan of chick lit I didn't actually discover Lisa Jewell until the publication of her 10th novel `Before I Met You' and that was because she came to the bookshop I work in for a signing. Since then I have read and enjoyed several of her earlier novels and always look forward to new ones being published. The chick lit tag may have fit once but not anymore, I would class her more recent output as intelligent women's fiction complete with well-drawn characters and contemporary social themes.

In `The Third Wife' Adrian Wolfe has traded in his wife for a younger model - twice. You would think that would lead to a lot of problems, especially as he has children from both of his previous marriages, but his new wife Maya, appears to have just become part of a wonderful extended family who even go on holiday together, the other wives and their children love her. Of course all is not as it seems and dark secrets begin to emerge when one night a drunken Maya steps or lurches in front of a bus, which is where the novel begins.

It is quite a dark story which verges on the psychological crime novel, after all the police have to investigate after her death. I tend to read more crime than women's fiction and can say that she handled that aspect of the novel well, at least I didn't find myself thinking `that wouldn't happen'. There are a lot of characters of varying ages, not an easy task to get them all right but I did find them believable, having said that I did think `I don't believe this man' about Adrian, and wondered how many more wives he would have had if tragedy hadn't struck however I did (do) believe that he could (does) exist somewhere. My opinion of Maya varied as I discovered more about her, both through flashbacks and the comments of the extended family.

Overall a compelling read with a cleverly constructed plot and I consider it to be her best so far, highly recommended.

The Murder of Harriet Krohn
The Murder of Harriet Krohn
Price: 5.03

4.0 out of 5 stars Psychological crime at its best, 26 Jun 2014
Every time I read one of Karin Fossum's books I ask myself the same question 'Why isn't she more widely known in the UK? When it comes to psychological crime she is hard to beat. 'The Murder of Harriet Krohn' is written from the viewpoint of the murderer, the reader follows Charlo as he commits the crime, we lean his intentions and why he carrying out the act in the first place. For most of the novel Inspector Sejer is firmly in the background quietly working to solve the crime. His early appearances are, for example, when Charlo's daughter reads a newspaper article that makes it clear that Sejer always gets his man, or woman or when he appears on TV. I expect that many fans of her books will be upset that Sejer only plays what is effectively a bit part but she always does use much of her books to get beneath the skin of the murderer, in effect saying to the reader that just about anyone is capable of murder given a certain set of circumstances.

Unlike many crime series it is not essential to read them in order - the stories stand alone - but of course you do learn more about Sejer and his family if you do. I can't recommend her books highly enough to fans of psychological crime, particularly to anyone who likes their crime without constant graphic descriptions of violence and without detectives who spend most of their time running around and almost getting themselves killed in every book.

The Rise and Fall of Great Powers
The Rise and Fall of Great Powers
by Tom Rachman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intricate plot, memorable characters & a bookshop, 22 May 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
`The Rise and Fall of Great Powers' is quite simply a wonderful novel. It opens in 2011 in a bookshop in a remote part of Wales, an independent bookshop, living on borrowed time. The owner, Tooly Zylberberg (what a wonderful name) is American and my first thought was `how did she end up in such a remote place?' She loves books and spends most of her time reading, the only people she has contact with are the dwindling number of customers - many of whom use the establishment as a sort of shop window before buying online - and her assistant Fogg. She doesn't like talking about her past, she doesn't understand it herself. Out of the blue she hears startling news from an old boyfriend and she embarks on a journey around the world to search for answers.

The story moves between 2011, 1988 and 1999 as it moves into 2000. The structure could make for a confusing read but I never lost track of what was happening in each period. Clues to Tooly's past are dropped but it isn't until close to the end that everything falls into place. I was compelled to read on to find out what happened to her IT expert of a father, why she ended up living with Humphrey, who is Sarah and why did she keep appearing and disappearing in Tooly and Humphrey's life and of course there is Venn, a very mysterious and shadowy figure.

It is also a book about the history of the world since 1988. We move through time and also place, we travel with Tooly from Bangkok to Brooklyn to Wales as we gradually learn about her incredibly unorthodox past. I also found myself wondering about the bookshop itself, what was the ultimate fate of this going to be? It sounds such a wonderful place I wish that it really existed, it would be worth a trip to Wales just to visit it!

Literary yet highly readable and great fun, try it you won't be disappointed.

The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix
The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix
Price: 7.02

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing novel with dark humour and the longest suicide note ever, 22 May 2014
The title and the blurb were enough to tell me that 'The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix' was definitely my kind of book and I wasn't disappointed. Strange, quirky, even surreal at times and infused with dark humour as well as an element of magical realism. Rafael Ignatius Phoenix is a wonderful character with an equally wonderful name. He was born in the early hours of New Year's Day in 1900 and has decided to end his life on his 100th birthday, with only 10 days to go he begins what becomes the longest suicide note in history, written not on paper but on walls and written in reverse, starting with his most recent murder.

The backwards autobiography that makes for his suicide note is the only way the story could be told without giving away too much. I did question, like most people probably will, whether or not the murders actually were murders, more manslaughter really, but Raphael saw them as murders and it is his story after all. He certainly had an interesting life while always carrying around the pill and the photograph, and then there is the mysterious Emily who keeps popping up from time to time. It made me laugh and also brought me close to tears on occasions. I think his fans are going to be very surprised with this one.

I know that readers can be wary of posthumous publications of `newly discovered' manuscripts however `The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix' is a novel that should really have been published years ago, although maybe publishers would have struggled to market it at the time. As to what kind of book it is, what genre, I have no answer, it doesn't really fit anywhere exactly, except for with the increasing number of books that also don't exactly fit anywhere - my favourite kind in fact.

Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for the proof copy.

by Nick Harkaway
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.89

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comic book style action adventure - wonderful, 22 May 2014
This review is from: Tigerman (Hardcover)
I discovered Nick Harkaway back in 2008 when he published his debut `The Gone-Away World' which left me wanting to read more by this author and wondering what he would come up with next. I had to wait 4 years until `Angelmaker' appeared, completely different but just as compelling and even more entertaining. Imagine my excitement when I received a proof copy of `Tigerman', although I must admit I did feel an element of trepidation when I started to read, would it live up to my expectations - which by that time were high. The simple answer is yes, completely different to the other 2 novels but once again a good story well told and with the geekiness and humour that I have come to expect from his Harkaway.

`Tigerman' is set on the imaginary island of Mancreu, once a paradise it is now dying due to a specific kind of toxic pollution. It had been a British Colony but 3 years before the story begins was handed over to NATO & Allied Protection Force on Mancreu (NatProMan). The pollution is deemed an international threat and it has been decided to blow it up. Lester Ferris is a Sergeant in the British Army and has also been the senior (only) member of consular staff since everyone else left. Lester is concerned about the future of the boy who calls himself Robin, `the boy' is obsessed with comic books and superheroes, his spoken English learnt mainly from TV shows, movies and online gaming where the players come from all over the world. Apart from those two there is a cast of wonderful and memorable supporting players, without whom this novel would not have succeeded.

As the end draws nearer the Island becomes an increasingly dangerous place and `the boy' needs Lester (to borrow the words from `The Arrow' TV show) `to become someone else, to become something else' and Tigerman is born.

It is a completely crazy novel, a comic book action adventure that builds to a race against time. Like all comic books the hero has to have his nemesis, in `Tigerman' we have Bad Jack, who is he, does he really exist and if he does will we ever meet him? A memorable and hilarious scene occurs near the start of the novel and involves, of all things, tomato plants, Harkaway truly has a bizarre imagination and when reading the scene I was amazed, bemused and smiling. It is a funny book that makes serious points and there are a few sad moments. It also has a beautiful cover!

If you haven't read Harkaway before this could be a good place to start, for one thing it is a bit shorter than his previous two novels! In a time when so many authors write series and trilogies it is refreshing to find an author who who comes up with something new each time and I hope that I won't have to wait too many years for his next novel, by which time I believe that he will have become a household name. Okay as a big fan I would say that but if I had been disappointed with `Tigerman' I would have said so! I also like the fact that even in his the self-penned bio Harkaway makes no reference to his illustrious literary Dad, if you want to know who it is, it is easy enough to find out though.

Thanks to Random House for providing the proof copy, however I have ordered the HB, partly because I really love the cover.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 18, 2014 7:27 PM BST

A Man Called Ove
A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Ove is very grumpy but loveable with it!, 8 May 2014
This review is from: A Man Called Ove (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Ove is 59, grumpy and completely unable to relate to the modern world, everything seems to annoy him. The opening scene has him going into a shop and demanding 'So this is one of those O-Pads, is it?' The ensuing exchange between Ove and the shop assistant is hilarious and will no doubt ring a bell with anyone who has ever worked in retail, including passing on the awkward customer to a colleague! Yes, Ove is grumpy but he is also strangely loveable, at least I grew to love him as his story progressed. 'A Man Called Ove' is both funny and sad, it is peopled with wonderful characters that I really cared about and it has a near perfect ending. A perfect summer read.

The Forbidden Library
The Forbidden Library
Price: 4.28

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling and magical story for all ages, 10 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Like many bibliophiles I can't resist books about books, libraries and bookshops whether they are aimed at adults, young adults or as in this case, children. Wexler may have started this project as `a bit of a lark' (his words) but `The Forbidden Library' is one of the best children's fantasy novels I have read in a long time. Alice is the central character who gets drawn into this rather curious world, she is tough, prone to ignoring rules and on a mission. There is Vespidian, a very unpleasant fairy, talking cats, a specific type of wizard knows as a Reader and best of all a dragon, let's face it what fantasy is complete without one? Then of course the Forbidden Library itself which is at the heart of the fun, imaginative and completely enthralling story. Many of the creatures are different from other fantasy I have read with the Swarm - sort of rubber balls with legs and sharp beaks - being incredibly inventive. Yes, the idea of people entering books has been done before but not quite like this.

This is only the first novel of what could end up as a must read series for adults as well as children and perfect to read with children/grandchildren/nieces/nephews or any other child you can find who loves a great story well told. I hope that the author had as much fun writing it as I did reading it. The ending is a bit of a cliff hanger and I look forward to finding out what happens next.

Unfortunately I can't comment on the illustrations as they are not available in the proof copy, I will just have to buy the hardback I suppose!

Go on, be one of the first to discover a future classic!

The Son
The Son
by Jo Nesbo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.00

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of corruption and revenge, 10 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Son (Hardcover)
After reaching the end of `Police' I, like most fans of Nesbo, wondered what he would come up with next. A stand alone? Start a new series? Well, having read `The Son' I am not telling, you will have to read it and make up your own mind about that, as I read it my mind flipped between the two options and that was part of the enjoyment of this book.

Sonny Lofthus is serving time for murder, he is a drug addict and other prisoners go to him to confess their sins and be absolved. His father Ab, is known as a corrupt police officer who committed suicide. During a confession Sonny learns something about his father and he escapes. Simon Kefas is a police officer, close to retirement, and Sonny's father was his colleague and friend. Sonny is out for revenge and Simon has to catch him. Kari Adel has just transferred from the drug squad to work with Simon, she is young, ambitious and studying for a law degree.

As with all of Nesbo's books `The Son' is compelling and hard to put down, I read it in a couple of days. There are plenty of twists and changes of direction, more than enough to keep crime fans puzzling about what is really going on. Sonny, in spite of his actions, is such a likeable character, complex and at times rather strange but still likeable. There is a bit of romance going on but also tragedy that had me close to tears a couple of times, very little in the way of humour though. From the outset it is apparent that corruption is a major theme both in the prison service and police force. As you would expect blood and gore make an appearance but it is not too graphic, at least when compared to Nesbo's earlier books. For me it was the characters that drove this story, the heroes and the villains, complex and interesting and I definitely wanted to know what happened to them, hoping that some would prevail and others would come to a very sticky end.

No hesitation in recommending this one, just don't expect another Harry Hole, Nesbo has moved on from him and us readers have to do the same.

Thank to NetGalley and Random House for providing the review copy. Didn't stop me from buying a finished copy though as I want to read it again.

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