Death of an Empire

by M.K Hume (Headline) ISBN: 978 0 7553 71471

 

Most of us have heard of the legend of Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot and Merlin. It has been told many times before and yet we seem to never get enough of it. It is no different when it comes to M.K. Hume who has made her mark in presenting a different and perhaps a more exciting version of these legends.

 

In her first series she dealt with Arthur but Death of an Empire forms part of a series that looks at the life of Merlin and a part that little is known of. This alone made it an exciting read.

 

The second book in the series is set in historical Rome and explores the early years of Merlin’s life. It does not take much to realise that the author has done her research which in turn lends to the authenticity of the story. She successfully mixes the legend of Merlin with an accurate historically based novel.

 

The book can stand on its own without reference to the first in the series.

 

Michele van Eck

4/5

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Demi–Monde: Spring

by Rod Rees (Jo Fletcher Books) ISBN: 978 1 84916 503 7

 

Science Fiction is not for everyone, but Rod Rees manages to introduce a fresh angle to this genre.

 

The novel is based on the concept of the Demi-Monde which is a virtual reality in which a person can be fully immersed. This artificial reality was designed to train military personnel. It has various political parties factored into the programming which resemble traditional history figures and countries.

 

It is a complex book with strange concepts and difficult terminology that is often tough to grasp. It may be that the first book of the series, Demi–Monde: Winter explains many of the concepts and history of the story.

 

However, without this back-story it made the book difficult to read. Despite this, the author has a strong writing ability that still caught my attention.

 

Michele van Eck

3/5

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The hand that trembles

by Kjell Eriksson (Allison & Busby) ISBN: 978 0 7490 4019 2

 

Inspector Ann Lindell is the creation of Kjell Eriksson, winner of the Swedish Crime Academy Award for Best Crime Novel. She’s appeared in ten novels. The Hand that Trembles is one of the first to be translated in English.

 

Sven-Arne Persson lives an anonymous life in India after disappearing from his public life 12 years previously. When he hears that his uncle, a Communist and Spanish Civil War veteran, plans to publish his memoirs he returns to Sweden.

 

Are these memoirs connected to the unsolved murder of a Nazi criminal that Ann’s boss is researching?  Ann doesn’t get too involved since she’s investigating the find of a dismembered Asian female foot in an isolated area. Interviewing the inhabitants, including three single men and a confused artist, brings up musings about life and loneliness for Anna.

 

The novel starts so slowly I considered putting the book aside. Curiosity at how the stories connect kept me at it. Although the pace does pick up, it remains an unbalanced read. I don’t understand why the storylines of Sven-Arne and Ann’s investigation were brought together in one book. 

 

Eriksson’s socio-political commentary seems to be a main thread, but by spreading it over the stories the punch is less impactful then intended.

 

Josine Overdevest 

2.5/5

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The Weird Sisters

by Eleanor Brown (HarperCollins) ISBN: 9780007393725

 

What a delight this book was. It was easy to read, and easy to identify with if you’ve ever had a sister.

 

The weirdest part about the sisters is that they quote Shakespeare to each other in the middle of a fight.  Which is normal in their house as their Dad is a Professor of English, and their house is littered with books.

 

Each girl decides to travel to find a new life but they eventually come home to their sleepy village because their mother has cancer. Rose has a PHD and is engaged to Jonathan. Bianca cannot share the horrific reasons for returning home with her family. Cordy has a huge secret that she reveals in the beginning to an old flame but the family is unaware of the looming disaster. Cordy has led a hippie existence, trying to escape from the real world. 

 

The relationship between the absent minded Professor and his darling wife is exceptionally well described. The sisters have a difficult time communicating with each other. What can the shy responsible eldest sister, the fast living middle child and the bohemian youngest sibling have in common? Eventually they find they are more similar than they thought. 

 

A very well written story. I couldn’t put the book down.

 

Dee Andrew

4/5

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A Common Loss

by Kirsten Tranter (Quercus) ISBN 978-0-85738-275-7

Five friends, Dylan, Elliot, Brian, Tallis and Cameron, meet in college. After graduation they continue to have their annual reunion in Las Vegas. This year is different though, as one of the five, Dylan, has been killed in a motorcar accident. This "common loss" reveals secrets about the remaining friends that change their friendship forever.

 

Dylan was adopted and has a younger brother, Colin, who lives in Las Vegas. Colin now wants his late brother's friends to help his brother keep his promises of helping him to elevate his social status.

 

The story analyses the feelings of Elliot who grapples with his loss and what his friendships and relationships mean to him - those lost, those on-going and potential new ones.

 

If you want to know what Las Vegas is like, this book describes it well - from the kitsch replicas of famous sights around the world to the gambling, sex, drinking and drug-taking.

 

An interesting concept, but written in a style that is not easy to read, with too many descriptions about unimportant scenery and flashbacks that are too detailed.

 

Amanda Blankfield

2/5

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For the Mercy of Water

by Karen Jayes (Penguin) ISBN 978-0-14-353021-3

 

This is no ordinary story and most of the time the meaning eludes me. A lot is left to the imagination of the author. I did glean from the novel that there was a shortage of water and there are guards who are ruthless and in control of the water supply.

 

An unexpected rain leads a group of water security guards to an abandoned town. They find an old woman, identified only as Mother, and a group of girls in a classroom. A journalist, two aid workers and a doctor arrive and what they discover soon afterwards shortly afterwards defies ordinary explanation.

 

When strange dislocated fragments of Mother’s story appear in the media, a young writer is intrigued enough to set off on a journey to find out about Mother, a journey that takes her deep into the heart of broken country in search of a truth that no one wants uncovered.

 

It is not possible to enjoy this novel. It is totally without meaning and I read it to the end hoping to find some logic in the story. This is one of the most unreadable stories I have ever come across.

 

Dee Andrew

1/5

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The Wrath of Angels

by John Connolly (Hodder & Stoughton) R180, ISBN: 978-1-444756456

 

 

Harlan Vetter is dying and he has a secret to tell.

 

His home is on the edge of the Great North Woods. In the depth of these woods lies the wreckage of an aeroplane. The wreckage contains something more important than the bag of money taken by Harlan. He found a list with names; names of people who had sold their soul for power, money and prestige. The wreckage still lies undiscovered, its secrets obscured by the forest. The pilot has escaped. How? Where is he? There are people who want the list to remain hidden.

 

Private detective, Charlie Parker’s name is on that list and he wants to know why. Parker wants to find the secret behind the list but finds his investigation hampered by murders. The murders seem to be connected to a beautiful yet scarred woman and a silent child. A serial killer known as The Collector creates further complications for Parker’s investigation.

 

This is not a quick read. The reader gets an insight to the cursed and the ambitious. Connolly reveals the vulnerabilities of the greed of man and the forces of evil who feed on these vulnerabilities.

 

A thrilling book with an interesting cast. The suspense will keep the reader guessing until the end.

 

Ulrike Hill

3/5

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The Sea on Fire

by Howard Cunnell (Picador) ISBN: 978447202400

 

Kim feels most at home in the sea. He lives in London, but when his friend Garland asks him to join him as a dive instructor on a boat in the Red Sea, he doesn’t think twice.

 

He leaves his wife and three daughters behind to become a waterman- ‘a free voyager in inner space’- again. ‘The sea illuminated with the golden light I wanted to live in for ever. Under the brilliant surface of the water I could hide from a world I couldn’t believe in.’

 

Kim can’t resist the temptations: a beautiful girl, drugs and booze. Then the trip turns into a nightmare. Teddy King, the owner of the yacht, is a mirror of the demons of his past that haunt him. An accident happens, and Kim is forced to act.

 

This second novel by Cunnell is suspenseful, unpredictable and you won't be able to put it down. I found out more about the history of diving than I ever knew. The descriptions of the magical underwater world are accurate and captivating. The characters are well rounded and you can relate to Kim and Garland, despite their flaws.

 

This is the perfect holiday book: intelligent and entertaining. Highly recommended.

 

Pauline Vijverberg

4/5

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The Governor’s Wife

by Mark Gimenez (Sphere) ISBN  9 781847 443816

 

Bode Bonner is the governor of Texas. He has everything he could want in life but he longs for some new excitement. 

 

Lindsay Borner is Bode’s wife and she’s bored too. Bored with the endless cocktail parties, and Bode’s womanising. She decides to break free of her bland wealthy Texan lifestyle. And that moment comes when she saves a poor Hispanic boy’s life. She uses her skills as a trauma nurse and her life is changed forever in ways that she could never have predicted.

 

Predictably, Lindsay falls for Jesse the dedicated doctor who helps the poor. He is a highly skilled doctor. But when push comes to shove and Lindsay finds herself in an untenable situation, she knows that the governor will come to her aid.

 

Filled with dramatic and ingenious twists and turns, plus a lot of uninteresting padding, this is still a good read.

 

Dee Andrew

3/5

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The Boy in the Snow

by M.J. McGrath (Mantle) ISBN 9780230748194

 

The story begins with an intriguing prologue, immediately sparking the reader's curiosity. Sammy Inukpuk is on an endurance sled race. His sled is drawn by dogs in the Alaskan forest. Edie Kiglatuk, his ex-wife is there with friends to support him. Her belief in 'spirit bears' leads her to a discovery of a dead boy in the forest.

 

She feels compelled to pursue the story behind her find and becomes obsessed in solving the mystery. She is tested to the limit of her endurance. This is one feisty lady. Her tenacity knows no bounds. She is determined to expose people involved in politics, greed and corruption, however dangerous it becomes. She feels she is the only person willing to go all the way to solve the mystery.

 

The story unfolds gradually and the builds momentum to become a thriller, compelling the reader to find the solution to the puzzle. The Alaskan setting adds flavour and authenticity to the story as the descriptions are palpable.

 

An absorbing read that lingers in your mind even after putting it down.

 

Dawn Blankfield

4/5

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