Sunday, 4 December 2011

Author Interview With Maria Hardy

Well, we have a little something for you today that is a bit different – we have our very first Lunchtime Book Review author interview!

So I want you to put your hands together as I introduce you to Maria Hardy who is the talented author of the charming children’s story ‘Tina the Snowflake’.

As some of you may know, I have written a few articles on a site called HubPages and one of the other hubbers that I follow and greatly admire is known as Hello, hello.  As you may have guessed Hello, hello is none other than Maria Hardy, who has graciously agreed to answer my questions today.

So Maria, what led you to start writing?

I worked in offices all my life and loved writing - in those days by hand and typewriter. I am also a bookworm. When I retired I started writing. To begin with it the results were not great but the more that I wrote and read, paying attention to phrasing and the lay-out of stories and novels, the more I improved. I know that I have got so many stories in my head and would love to get them all down.

What was your inspiration for Tina the Snowflake?

I love snow and it somehow started to materialize. I also love writing children’s stories because I am still a great dreamer. I first saw that snowflake sitting up there and then I had to give it some personality. From there I thought about the stars above. So I made Tina dream of getting up there. To me getting a story together is like a jigsaw puzzle. I have one thing and I have to think of either what to do with it or how to follow on.

How long did it take to write Tina the Snowflake and were there any obstacles that you had to overcome along the way?

I had the story in my head for a long time and sort off jiggled about with it. With my children’s story of Tina, published under the author name Eva Brooks, I realized that I had to write short and plain sentences. I found it a bit hard because when you start writing you get carried away. To write it took me about a few days because it isn't very long but I had it sitting on my computer for almost two years and sometimes went back to re-write some parts of it.

Did you find it difficult to decide where to publish?

Regarding publishing, I would have gone with any good publisher but I had so many rejections that I gave up. What annoyed me the most and put a final stop to approaching a publisher again was that I found out they have agencies that do nothing but send out rejection letters. I am sure that these agencies don't even look at the stories, let alone read them. Publishers only take you on when you have a famous name or if your self-published book was a great success. It is disgusting the way they treat writers.

How difficult was it to put an ebook together?

It was not at all difficult with Lulu. Everybody talks about Smashwords and I thought that while Tina sits there going nowhere that I would give it a try since it was free. I am not a great computer guru and even after reading the instructions I couldn't manage to format the document to their requirements. It was rejected three times because of my 'false programming'. You have to programme it with Microsoft Word and then supposedly upload it for them to convert into various computer languages. I got annoyed because I didn’t have enough formatting experience to get it done. I uploaded the same document on Lulu and they accepted it the first time. Lulu seems to work check the document all the time because the other day they sent me an email stating I have to put the heading as well on top of the story in such and such way. As I said before, I am not a computer guru and when I asked them something, they came back straightaway with an easily understandable answer. I can only give their service and programme the highest praise.
Lulu also publish books free of charge and when somebody downloads it or buys a book they take a percentage. When they publish a book there is also no limit on how many can be printed.

Where else do you write and what are your writing plans for the future?

I write articles on Triond, Bukisa and Flixya. I also write some news reports for TEK Journalism UK. I have a number of children’s stories and three novels in various stages. The children’s stories I will upload to Lulu sooner rather than later. At the moment I have already another story uploaded called 'Peter Pine' which is the story of his life growing up in the forest, going to the forest school and then growing into a beautiful pine tree. He, his brothers and sisters are chosen to be Christmas trees but with their roots planted in the ground.

So for all you budding authors out there, Maria is giving us all a lot of inspiration to keep on writing and that we can still get our work out there if we are rejected by the traditional publishers.

I would like to thank Maria for joining us today and as it is a celebration of her launching her ebook publishing career I think that a glass of bubbly would be in order!  Cheers Maria and I hope that you enjoy great success with ‘Tina and the Snowflake.

Find Tina the Snowflake  published under the author name of Eva Brooks on Lulu for a great Christmas read!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Firefly Rain - Richard Dansky

Jacob Logan left his home in the town of Maryfield in rural Carolina many years ago to build a new life in the big city, hardening his heart to his parent's pleas to come back and make his life in the old place.  It was only now that his parent's were dead that he found himself drawn back there after his business collapsed.  The old house looked very much the same, but was it welcoming him back or trying to drive him away?

The furniture van than was transporting his stuff was in a bad accident, destroying all his possessions and then his car was stolen from the drive and vanished without trace.  Left all alone on the property, Jacob was had no means of leaving and had to rely on food parcels brought by the old caretaker of the property, the uncommunicative, surly Carl.  Strange things start to happen around his new home, with doors opening of their own accord and a box of toy soldiers appearing mysteriously appearing on the porch.  But the thing that really made Jacob's skin crawl was that the fireflies seemed to be totally avoiding his land, and the beautiful, incandescent light of these little beetles stopped abruptly at his boundaries.

Jacob eventually makes it in to town after he is picked up by a good Samaritan called Sam and his dog Asa on a pick-up truck , where he finds himself going head to head with Hanratty, the officer investigating the theft of his car.  He also makes contact with other people from his past such as Mr Hilliard the pharmacist who sold the vanilla cokes he still dreamed of from his childhood, and Reverend Trotter the local preacher.

But as Jacob keeps spotting his car being driven through his property and almost dies after chasing it in the rain, he starts to wonder if Carl or someone is messing with his mind, or is there something supernatural going on.  Determined to find out more about Officer Hanratty, Jacob visits the local library to look through the newspaper archives, only to have a terrifying experience down in the basement.

Is it his parents?  Do they want him to promise to stay in the old house and lead his life as they had?  Was pretty librarian Adrienne a lure and a reward to keep him there?  And why was a sinister dog attacking the house every night, frantically trying to get in and attack him?

As the town crowds in on him, and Jacob starts to feel overwhelmed by their suspicion and disapproval, the only ray of light for him is his no-nonsense friend from the city Jenna, who comes to stay because she is so worried about him.  But after his apparently driver-less car is driven into the side of Adrienne's apartment forcing her to seek refuge with Jacob at the farmhouse, events spiral out of control and Jacob is confronted with the truth about his destiny.  Will he be able to save himself and the two women he is trying to protect in his house, and will somebody or something have to die to set him free?

Firefly Rain by Richard Dansky is a good horror story that keeps you turning the pages to find out how it will unfold.  It makes you want to know if Jacob is going out of his mind, if he is being used by human forces for their own sinister purposes or if the ghosts of his parents are controlling him and compelling him to stay.

Have a big bacon and egg fried sandwich with this one, and a coke float like the ones Jacob used to enjoy as a kid, as you try and work out why the fireflies avoid Jacob's land and what it is that they want him to do.

Under The Dome - Stephen King

I have just crawled out from under the dome! One of the great qualities of Stephen King's epic novels is that you really find yourself living in the world that he has created, and in the case of 'Under The Dome' it is a claustrophobic world that gets smaller and smaller as the book progresses.  Another great talent of King's is his ability to describe in minute detail a perfectly ordinary day, with people going around their business, and to then bring that day crashing down with the sure knowledge that nothing will ever be the same again.

'Under the Dome' is set in Stephen King's familiar stamping ground of Maine, and Chester's Mill is a small town that is not too far from Castle Rock and TR-90.  One beautiful autumn morning of blue skies and sunshine, Dale Barbara is fleeing this small American town following a slight difference of opinion with some local youths in car park.  He is just about to hitch a lift when his world changes forever.  Something has dropped down, seemingly from nowhere, and cuts Chester's Mill off from the rest of the world.  There are some immediate bad consequences such as a flying lesson that is abruptly terminated in the worst possible way, a severed arm and scores of dead birds.  But as the locals explore this new barrier that now stands between them and the rest of the world, they are still mercifully unaware of what tragedy it will bring.

Such challenging circumstances can either bring out the best or the worst in people, but unfortunately for Chester's Mill their second selectman, Jim Rennie is already a bad 'un, who has been running a drug factory at the back of the local church for years and laundering the profits. He has also been quietly appropriating the town's money and resources, such as propane gas, leaving the population even more vulnerable than they believed.  Jim Rennie is also perhaps the only person in town who sees the Dome as an opportunity - an opportunity to take full control and run Chester's Mill like his own private fiefdom. He uses his influence to start expanding the local police force, filling it with untrained youngsters who are only too happy to tout guns and bully the locals.

Dale Barbara, known as 'Barbie' to his friends, is forced to return to the town he was so desperately trying to leave, where he teams up with local newspaper woman Julia Shumway to try and find out what the Dome is, who created it and how they could destroy it.  But Barbie is also a man of secrets, a veteran of the conflict in Iraq, and one of the youths who attacked him is the only son of Jim Rennie, a disturbed teenager who is unknowingly suffering from a brain tumour that is sending his behaviour out of control.  Their destinies will collide when the White House appoints Dale Barbara as their man to take control of Chester's Mill and Jim Rennie and Junior start a campaign to destroy Barbie's reputation so that they can hold onto power and the town.

So can Dale Barbara stay out of prison or even alive long enough to save the good people of Chester's Mill?  With time running out, a small band of people come together in secret to try and find a way to save themselves and their town.  But can a physician's assistant, a department store owner and three determined teenagers find out the truth?  Are the terrifying dreams of exploding pumpkins and pink stars experienced by the town's children portending some dreadful future or just the product of frightened young minds?  How many of the town's residents will allow the horror of their situation let them become puppets of Jim Rennie and his crew, and how many will be able to dig deep within themselves to stand up for what is right and maintain their courage and humanity? And what exactly is the Chef cooking up at the back of the church, and what are his plans for the town?

This is not so much a lunchtime book as a ten course banquet book, and you will need plenty of supplies to keep you going.  Red wine, lots of chocolate and popcorn to help you through the book's terrifying and tragic climax, as you learn whether or not Dale Barbara can save Chester's Mill and the lives of those he cares about and what it will take to destroy the Dome.  The building sense of disaster and impending doom make this one of Stephen King's best long reads, especially the truly horrifying ending. But although it has been compared to 'The Stand', for me 'The Stand' will always be King's best book.  Hand me another glass of red someone!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Awakening - S J Bolton

This is not a book to read if you have a snake phobia!  In Awakening by S J Bolton, Clara Benning is a young woman who has always sought to hide herself away from people after a tragic childhood accident left one side of her face badly scarred.  She moved to a remote cottage in an isolated, rural English village to be on her own as much as possible, working as a vet at the local animal rescue hospital.

Not much happens in this sleepy village, aside from a group of rowdy teenagers making noise late at night and indulging in some petty vandalism.  So the village is shocked when one of the elderly residents is taken into hospital after being bitten by an adder, and Clara is then taken by surprise when she is called out one night to assist in removing snakes that have suddenly appeared in one of the local houses. She initially thought that finding an adder in the cradle of a newborn baby was the worst horror she would have to sort out, but the discovery of a deadly taipan, one of the most venomous snakes in the world dramatically changes the stakes.

Clara takes the deadly snake to renowned young herpetologist Sean North for positive identification, and on finding out that the elderly gentleman who had been bitten had far too high a concentration of snake venom in his bloodstream for a single adder to have been responsible, they have to start considering whether this was actually a murder.

So what part does the creepy old Witcher house have to play?  It is supposedly empty, but dark, shadowy figures have been seen at the windows, and Clara starts to believe that her old acquaintance, Albert Witcher, is not really dead after all.  Then there is the mystery of the church that was burned out in 1958, killing several of the villagers.  Why were the emergency services not called  for several hours after the blaze started and why will no one talk about it?

As more elderly village folk get killed and there are more terrifying incidents with snakes, Clara is trapped in a desperate game to find information on what is really going on in the village before more people get killed.  Most of the villagers are not talking, and several of the shadowy Witcher family have supposedly moved away and dropped out of view. The village is built in an area where there are many natural watercourses, old mine workings and secret tunnels, which our intrepid heroine Clara runs around in the dark of the night, trying to find the evidence she needs.  But all the clues seem to point back to the creepy old Witcher house, and Clara will have to brave the dark and the decay of the old building to find out what is really going on

As the finger of suspicion is pointed firmly at Clara as the murder suspect, she finds support in Matt, a local detective, and from Sean North, the charismatic TV reptile specialist.  But as Clara finds out more about what really happened in the Church, and the torture of an innocent man, the noose begins to tighten and her very life is in danger.  Can she clear her name and save the life of Matt, the first man that she has ever been attracted to?

Very creepy and detailed horror story and you will learn more about snakes, strange Roman execution customs and American charismatic religious leaders, than you perhaps want to know! After reading this you might want to change your locks before you find a taipan in your bed!  Definitely a book to be read under the bedclothes with a torch and a large supply chocolate!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

House of Echoes - Barbara Erskine

If you love books that are a bit scary, have a historical twist and throw in a bit of romance too, then Barbara Erskine is the writer for you. House of Echoes introduces us to Joss Grant, her husband Luke and their toddler son Tom.  Their lives have just been nearly destroyed by the dirty dealings of Luke's business partner, when fate throws them a curve ball as Joss discovers she has inherited a large, dilapidated house called Belheddon Hall from a mother that she had never met.  Joss had always known that she had been adopted, but knew nothing about her family history, or why her mother had given her away as an infant.

The Grants are forced to sell their London home, so inheriting Belheddon Hall is a lifeline for them, allowing Luke to start a car restoration business in the old stables and giving Joss the chance to start renovating the old building and start writing a novel.  But while all old buildings have their shadows and legends attached to them, Belheddon Hall seems to have more than its share of mysteries.  Almost as soon as they move in, Joss can sense someone watching her and sees shadowy forms out of the corner of her eye.  She also hears children laughing and calling to each other in the house and gardens, which at first she writes off as village children having a lark, but becomes more spooked when she discovers that the names being called are those of her two dead brothers that before she had never known existed.

The stress starts telling on Joss when baby Tom starts having nightmares and talks about being scared of the 'tin man' and then her fear builds when strange things start happening to Tom's cot in the night, and they start to find bruises on his body.  Joss also discovers that she is once pregnant once more and that she is carrying a baby boy.  But as she starts to research her family history with the help of a friend from London, she is dismayed to find that all the male children in her family seemed to die prematurely and the house has always been passed down through the female line.

As Joss's fears for her two young sons and husband mount, can she convince her sceptical family who are starting to think that she herself is causing the accidents to Tom and the new baby Ned, that there is really danger lurking in Belheddon Hall? And how does the Yorkist King Edward IV fit in to the legend?  Does Edward still haunt the Hall looking for his lost love the Lady Katherine; harming all male children out of revenge towards the boy baby that took his lover's life away when she gave birth? Or is there something infinitely more sinister at work, that threatens to drag them all down into the darkness?

This is a fascinating book, with lots of twists and turn, and quite a few scares.  As it is set in the very English countryside, have a nice hotpot or shepherd's pie for your lunch while reading and wash it down with a half of real ale. This is a good page-turning read, which will have you wondering if tragedy will finally overtake Joss's loved ones, or whether she can find a way to stem the tide of evil before it is too late.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Lost Souls - Lisa Jackson

Kristi Bentz is the daughter of a homicide cop in New Orleans and is a rather unfortunate young woman, as she has already survived vicious encounters with two serial killers.  You would think that this would have bred a bit of caution into the girl but no, after her convalescence from her last adventure she heads off to to study at All Saints College in Baton Rouge, a campus where four young girls has disappeared in mysterious circumstances in the past year.

Kristi wants to solve the case and write a book about it so, instead of being totally freaked out and heading for the hills like most of us, she happily settles into an apartment that was previously lived in by one of the missing girls.  Although she changes all the locks, she bizarrely leaves a window open day and night to allow a stray cat to come in and out, even though she feels 'watched' all the time.  She settles into life at College, determined to discover the fate of the missing students, and soon hears rumours of a mysterious cult on campus centred on vampires and blood letting.  All of the missing girls were signed up to the same English major courses, including one on 'Vampyrism' led by the mysterious Dr Grotto, so Kristi duly signs up for the same courses and tries to make friends with the other students.  She is soon confronted with mysteries to solve such as why do some of the girls wear vials of blood around their necks, what goes on in the creepy old Wagner House and why does she feel as though she is constantly being watched and followed.

One of the legacies of her traumatic experiences at the hands of psychopaths is that Kristi now sees colour leeching out of people as she is watching them, that she believes is predicting injury or death for them in the near future.  She tragically experienced this while saying goodbye to her father, and also while interacting with some of the other students on the All Saints campus, convincing her that they will be the next to disappear.

Another complication for Kristi is that her ex-boyfriend, Jay McKnight, is now one of her professors on a forensics course.  Will Kristi be able to face him again in class, or will she be plunged back once more into the maelstrom of her feelings for him?  Also what is the significance of the Morality plays staged at the College, how does the mysterious Dr Grotto fit in, and what are the other nervous students hiding?

As events start moving towards a climax, Kristi has to keep her wits about her or she too will become a victim, and suffer the same terrifying fate as the other missing girls.  Set in the atmospheric misty winter of historic Baton Rouge this should be a tense, fast moving thriller, but instead it is a ponderous, even tedious read, that I had trouble wading through to the end.

Lost Souls doesn't seem to know whether it is a thriller, a horror or a cheesy romance, and so tries to be all three, which doesn't really work. It is interesting that Lisa Jackson refers to herself as a romance writer on her website and that Lost Souls is under a category of 'romantic suspense' which might explain it. Kristi is one of those heroines who is supposedly ultra sexy, athletic, brave and very smart and yet does some incredibly stupid things to move the plot along.  I found it really hard to have any empathy for her and at the book's climax was not really bothered whether she survived the horrors inflicted on her or not. I like books with a supernatural theme and vampires, but this one just just came off as improbable and far fetched, especially when a couple of the characters have started calling themselves 'Vlad' and 'Elizabeth Bathory'.  There is also no building of tension or suspense in the writing, and it just plods on and on for way too many pages, so there is none of the sense of having to turn the next page or reading far into the night to see what happens that you get with the best books that you read.

If you do choose to read this book, I hope that you enjoy it, but you may need a very large bag of chocolate buttons to keep up your dopamine levels and a stiff gin or two to keep you going!

Monday, 15 August 2011

The Return of Captain John Emmett - Elizabeth Speller

That Captain John Emmett had been one of the few young men lucky enough to return from the carnage of the Great War only made it even more incomprehensible to his family and friends that he had apparently taken his own life. Although her brother had returned from the fighting of World War I mentally fragile and suffering from shell shock and was placed in a nursing home to recover, he had seemed to be  slowly improving in the weeks before his lifeless body was shockingly discovered lying in a lonely wood.

His sister Mary could not reconcile herself to the idea that her beloved brother could have committed suicide, so enlists the help of one of Captain Emmett's former school friends to investigate her his sudden death.  But Laurence Bartram has ghosts of his own to contend with, as he too had fought in this 'War to end all Wars' and while he was in France he had lost his young wife and baby in childbirth.

 But as Bartram starts his investigations, he discovers that there have been other mysterious deaths besides that of Captain Emmett's, and that they are all in some way linked to a tragic battlefield execution.  Can Bartram uncover the truth before there are any more deaths? And what really happened to Captain Emmett in his nursing home? And what is the significance of a shadowy group of young war poets?

Elizabeth Speller's novel evocatively conjures up the febrile atmosphere of the years immediately after the Great War, where people were trying to return to some semblance of a normal life even though most had lost sons, husbands and brothers on the battlefields. This is a novel about the secrets people hold and that every man or woman who returned from the war was irrevocably changed and had dark places in their hearts and minds where even their closest companions could not reach.

The story also charts the tenderness and growing relationship between Bartram and Mary, who is a young lady with her own secrets to hide.

These days we find it hard to comprehend that a whole generation of young men could lose their lives in a hail of machine gun fire and artillery shells in a wet, muddy field, or that soldiers who were little more than boys could be shot in the foggy early light of dawn for their perceived cowardice, but this books explores how people were trying to come to terms with this new reality and the problems and tests of faith that it threw up at them.

This book will take you straight back to those traumatic post-war years, so go and find yourself an old fashioned pub in London, and order yourself some hearty pie and mash with a pint of real ale for lunch while you read!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Vacation Packing List: Save Your Back, Time and Money - Elisabeth Sowerbutts

Are you busy packing for your summer holidays and carefully choosing your holiday books so that you can do all that reading that you have been meaning to catch up on while lazing by the pool or tanning on the beach? Well, then maybe you would do well to go back a step and actually get a book on how to plan your holiday packing properly?

It might seem a bit strange to buy a book about vacation packing, but as all the airlines are getting tighter and tighter on their luggage allowances and are charging more and more for excess baggage (yes Ryanair I am talking about you!), then maybe we do need all the help that we can get!  Personally I have never got farther than roll your clothes don't fold them, and have never managed to not take far too many clothes that I don't get to wear.

Happily for us hopeless packers, one of my fellow writers on HubPages, Lissie, has written a book for us, telling us everything we need to know about how to do our holiday packing - Vacation Packing List.

Vacation Packing List will show you a whole new perspective on planning your holiday packing, including some innovative uses for satin pyjamas and how best to incorporate your photographic and reading requirements into your packing.

This invaluable little book is also very competitively priced, so you won't be using any of your precious holiday spending money to learn all of these invaluable holiday packing tips.  Learn to pack right, and you can then just float through your holiday, free as a bird, and concentrating on enjoying yourself!

Read the book over a Ploughman's and half a lager at the pub and then get back there and get on with that holiday packing!

Monday, 27 June 2011

2012 A Conspiracy Tale - Bryan Collier

Are you a David Icke fan? Then you will probably love 2012 A Conspiracy Tale by Bryan Collier, as this book has all the elements of reptilian aliens, secret government agendas and treating the general population like cattle. It kicks off with Mitchell Webb, CEO of technology company IDSys, landing a huge government contract to produce Radio Frequency Identification Devices.

However, Mitchell doesn't realise what a Pandora's box he has opened by accepting the contract and soon comes to fear that the huge amount of money that the company will be making are not worth the loss of autonomy and government scrutiny he is now under.

Although influential doors are opened to him for the first time, he finds himself inhabiting a world of smoke and mirrors where nothing is what it seems. A huge terrorist attack on the Channel Tunnel enables the government to pass laws that demand that all UK citizens have to have one of the devices implanted under their skin in the interests of national security and ensure that citizens are able to be tracked at all times.

As the implant programme starts to unfold, Mitchell and his friends and colleagues at IDSys uneasy when people who refuse the implants have all their access to their bank accounts and social services removed, several people around them have nasty accidents and they get more information on secret, influential groups who seem to have even more power and influence than the government itself.

As they have to go on the run when suspicion falls on them, will Mitchell and his small band of followers be able to unravel the truth in time to avert a major catastrophe for the Earth and also manage to stay alive?

Mitchell struggles to believe the whole story when it is revealed, but have they been in time to change the course of events and save mankind?

An interesting story, very detailed, with lots of threads of popular conspiracy theories embedded in it.  However, overall it all felt a bit clinical and I found some of the characterisation fairly shallow, which sometimes made it difficult for me to care too much about what happened to them. However, if you like your fiction without too much emotion thrown in, you will enjoy this book.

If I said read this book while eating a Mars bar, it might give too much away, but you may as well wash all that chocolate down with some full fat coke!

Zombie Apocalypse - Stephen Jones

Vampires stand aside, as it seems to be the year of the Zombie both in literature and on the small screen.  After hiding behind my hands during much of 'The Walking Dead' (I don't do gore very well - that poor horse!), I was surprised at how many Zombie books now inhabited the horror shelves at the book shop. So I made my choice, paid my money and took home Zombie Apocalypse by Stephen Jones.

Well, actually it is not by Stephen Jones, but was written by a collaboration of different writers and in the unusual format of being a series of letters, emails, reports, memos and even tweets describing the unfolding horror show and tragedy.

Zombie Apocalypse is set ever so slightly in the future and kicks off in London, where the economy is even crumblier than it is now and personal freedoms have been curtailed to a great degree. To throw the citizenry some 'beer and circuses' and raise the mood of the nation, the governments decides to splurge a lot of money on a New Festival of Britain.

The idea of the Festival goes down like a lead balloon with most people, but the authorities plough on creating new venues and transport links.  For some reason, they decide to do some construction on the site of an old plague burial ground in South London, that has had a sinister reputation for centuries.

As the bodies of the plague victims start to be removed, corners are cut, regulations are not followed, and strange things start to happen. A scientist who was investigating the possible public health risks disappears, and strange figures start to be reported wandering around in the vicinity of the old church.

One dark night it all starts to go to hell in a handcart and several police officers are attacked by strange, shambling figures who seem to have a preternatural strength. Anyone who is bitten, chewed, or even scratched by one of these creatures rapidly shows massive signs of infection in the wounds, develops a high temperature, and eventually appears to die. Except......they don't!

They rise again as the living dead - zombies who have an insatiable hunger for human flesh.  The rapid collapse of society, the pitiful response of the government, and the blind panic and incomprehension of ordinary people are all played out via such mediums as a teenage girl's diary, desperate texts, police reports and blog posts (strangely there always seems to be mobile phone reception and access to the internet - usually the first things to go down in my experience - but hey they needed a book!)

As Britain fails when trying out a final solution to halt the Zombie plague in its tracks, the contagion inevitably finds its way over into the rest of the world, with the US, Mexico and Australia all being infected.

Enough gore to satisfy the horror fans and enough of a story for the rest of us, it makes an intriguing, if disturbing, read.  Is the state of our economy and sense of hopelessness that many people feel behind this explosion of zombie literature? Do people really feel that we are somehow in the 'end days'?

My only criticism of the book is in its ending, which I found a little absurd. Yes I know that on one level the whole idea of zombies is absurd, but I didn't like the ending which I don't want to give away.  Suffice to say that it brings a whole new meaning to 'you are what you eat'!

One to read trembling under the duvet with a double vodka and coke and an extra large bag of Maltesers!

Monday, 9 May 2011

The Sugar Queen - Sarah Addison Allen

If you are in the mood to snuggle up on the old, comfy sofa and read a book in one gulp, then choose 'The Sugar Queen' by Sarah Addison Allen. 'The Sugar Queen' is one of those books that you will just want to keep on reading and not put down until you have finished it, so brew a large pot of tea, put together a plate of doughnuts and chocolate cupcakes and dive right in!

'The Sugar Queen' is certainly a romance, but it is a romance with a difference, where the supernatural weaves gently with the mundane to form a satisfying whole. The story kicks off when lonely Josey Cirrini, who still lives with her mother at the age of 27 and secretly stores chocolate, cookies and fizzy pop in the back of her closet for lonely binges, comes home to find a strange women hiding in her closet. Much to Josey's consternation the woman, Della Lee Baker, seems to be in no hurry to leave and Josey cannot think of a way to get rid of her without her mother finding out about their uninvited guest.

With the arrival of Della Lee, Josey's previously well-ordered life starts to unravel, as she finds that she has to defy her mother and start building a life for herself outside her home. She makes her very first friend when she goes to buy a sandwich for Della Lee at Chloe Finley's coffee shop, and tries to help Chloe with the problems she is experiencing in her love life. For Chloe's handsome lawyer boyfriend Jake has admitted to cheating on her, and Chloe's life has fallen apart.

Josey also has a love secret, as she fell in love with their mailman, Adam, the first time that she laid eyes on him, but has never dared to tell him how she feels as all her life she has been told she is unattractive and believes that no man would ever be interested in her.

So can Josey find the strength to carve a new life for herself away from the confines of her home and her mother; to escape the shadow that her long-dead, but powerful and charismatic father still casts over the small town that he developed into a successful ski resort? Who is the enigmatic Julian and why is he so keen on telling Chloe the identity of the woman Jake cheated with on that one, fateful night? And who is the young woman who is found murdered in the river?

This is a book about long-buried secrets, and people who have to find out who they really are before they can move on to become the people that they were meant to be. A book where exactly the book that you need can magically appear on the counter, new homes can be found and old family wounds exposed to the air to heal. 'The Sugar Queen' will reaffirm your faith in love and that there is meaning and purpose in every life.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Summer Psychic - Jessica Adams

What would you do if you were interviewing a shaggy, Australian psychic who predicted the future by gazing into a bucket of seawater and one of the first things that he said was that the two of you would get married by the following summer? Local Brighton reporter Katie Pickard is sent to interview Jim Gabriel in his cubbyhole at the back of a crystal and psychic shop, when she is given this piece of news about her future, along with a whole raft of global predictions for the years to come.

Unfortunately for Katie, Jim Gabriel has never given these types of messages about future world events before, so how accurate are they?  Also, she soon discovers that the newspaper that she works for is in imminent danger of closing down, and so loses interest in the psychic story and Katie is put under pressure to come up with stories that will sell papers fast. Katie's woes are compounded when she discovers that Courtney Creely, the slightly sinister witch who works in the shop where Jim gazes into his bucket has a book of spells that includes one that promises an instant and unpleasant end for any woman who comes between her and Jim Gabriel.

But as Katie has just discovered that her old heart throb, the slightly disreputable but still glamorous rock musician Pete Oram, has just split up from his wife and she starts a relationship with him, she couldn't possibly be in any danger from Courtney's spells could she?  But as the scramble to save the newspaper goes on, Jim Gabriel starts confiding more and more in Katie, and Pete proves that the road to true love can indeed be rocky and not quite what she thought it would be, will Katie be able to keep her job, her sanity and ultimately find the true love that she deserves?

So as this is a seaside yarn, why not get some fish and chips still in the newspaper and a can of coke and sit back and find out how Katie deals with Courtney, when she manages to wangle a job with Katie's boss bringing her coven with her, supports Jim as his predictions make it into the media and eventually force him into retreat in Hastings, and navigates her troubled romance with the rock star on the rebound, Pete Oram. So will Jim Gabriel's predictions come true?