A colourful and fascinating history of our favourite spirit told through the life and times of our
Thank you to Bookbridgr for providing a copy for review. And to Olivia Williams who responded to some of my random Tweets while I read her book.
I found Gin Glorious Gin to be informative, educational, entertaining and often disturbing, Also, the cover should carry a warning about reading the book in public.
Gin Glorious Gin follows the development of the spirit from its early days in London through to the current resurgence in its popularity. Olivia Williams brings us a fascinating commentary of life in London as seen by many generations of Londoners (through the bottom of their gin glass).
From the backstreets of the poorest slums to Buckingham Palace we learn how Gin has played an important part in London’s history. It has risen in popularity only to fall from grace and rise again. We discover how the skill in preparing fine gin is a much sought after commodity. There are stories about how the London hotels treasure the best cocktail makers and how their skill can allow them to become famous around the word.
We learn that there are dozens of ways gin can be flavoured and the book explores many of these providing recipes, tips on concocting new cocktails as well as things to avoid!
The writing is informed and the style conversational at times so, despite the volume of anecdotes and information that is conveyed, you keep coming back for more.
What I did find as I read through Gin Glorious Gin was that I made new friends (cover warning time). The book is eye-catching and the subject matter seems dear to the hearts of many. Random strangers would spark up conversations with me on my train journeys as I read – they would share their stories of gin (mothers ruin always gets a mention) and I would smile and nod and resist telling them that I read the very story they were sharing in the book that I was holding. It seems to have an appeal that draws strangers together.
I can see this book being a much loved Christmas gift for the family gin lover. But, as a non gin drinker, I can assure you that it has an appeal to all readers.
From Los Angeles based performer and presenter Ross King and bestselling author Shari Low, comes this dark tale of secrets, lies, and ruthless ambition, Taking Hollywood.
THE GLAMOUR OF JACKIE COLLINS MEETS THE GRIT OF MARTINA COLE IN THE DARK HEART OF A SUN-BLEACHED LOS ANGELES.
1993 In front of a galaxy of stars, three young film makers accept their Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Davie Johnston, Zander Leith and Mirren McLean, childhood friends from a rough housing estate in Glasgow, have taken Hollywoodby storm. Only they know what they did to get there. . .
2013 Twenty years later Davie Johnston is the top host and reality show producer in town. Mirren McLean is a respected writer and movie director and Zander Leith is box office gold. But they haven’t spoken to each other in twenty years, their relationships devastated by one horrific secret. Thousands of miles away, in a town where nothing is as it seems, a young ambitious journalist discovers a tantalizing story from the past. Tinsel Town beckons. She is determined to expose the kind of scandalous drama that usually only happens in the movies.
Thank you to Emma at Busy Bee PR for providing a copy for review. She thought I would enjoy this book and she was right!
Let me position this review. I have never read a Jackie Collins novel, I don’t follow celebrities or keep up with the Kardashians and the cover stars of the magazines I read are more likely to be Daleks or Lara Croft. But what I do like are stories that are about people, their lives, their hopes/fears and how they tackle problems. Taking Hollywood delivers this in abundance (likely by private jet with champagne on tap).
We meet Davie, Mirren and Zander at a time in their life when everything they hold dear is crumbling around them. Each face their personal demons, a failed marriage, drink and substance abuse or public rejection – all under the intense spotlight of the showbiz media in Hollywood.
The story swings between present day and twenty years back to 1993 when the three were children living a miserable existence in a Glasgow suburb. We know they make good and become international stars but we also know that they share a dark secret, one that drives them apart just as they have the world at their feet. As we follow the story we learn more about Zander, Davie and Mirren and their shared history.
The slow reveal of the childhood secrets is pushed on by the presence of a Scottish journalist who follows a story of a missing Glasgow Gangster to Hollywood and a hidden connection with the three stars. The journalist (Sarah) grounded the story for me and reeled in some of the excess and opulence – through her eyes we see the layperson’s view of just how far removed from reality the celebrity lifestyle seems to be.
The Hollywood portrayed is one of lavish decadence, excess and greed. Everyone is for sale, everyone is available and anything goes. Yet despite their public face showing success Taking Hollywood reveals the sham behind the glam and depicts a miserable life for our three heroes. I moved from disliking the Mirren, Davie and Zander to feeling sorry for them as their problems mounted. Anytime I find that I empathise with a character I know the author has drawn me in.
The story blends the fictional characters into real events and there are name checks for many famous stars (that even I recognised). It is a wonderfully bitchy story where everyone is trying to out-do everyone else and some of the stunts are great fun to read.
Taking Hollywood is pure escapism and as we got closer and closer to the finale I just could not put it down. The payoff of the revealed secret made it all worthwhile, thought I had it nailed – nope! Good job guys.
Thank you to Frances Gough (and Doggo) for providing a review copy
I really enjoyed this charming wee tale (tail)?
Dan has been dumped and he has been lumbered with the new addition to his (now broken) household: a small and seemingly unattractive canine named Doggo. Doggo and Dan have not bonded thus far but now must forge a relationship for the sake of Doggo’s gentleman parts…the Dog Home will not take him back ‘intact’.And so we begin our entertaining journey into Dan and Doggo’s strange relationship.
Dan had a successful career in Advertising until his wingman had a breakdown. Now he has a chance at a new start with an upcoming advertising agency and through Waiting For Doggo we find how Dan rebuilds his life and his career while battling rejection, navigating office politics and dealing with unexpected family revelations.
The author, Mark Mills, writes with an easy flowing style. He creates fun characters and I found it easy to get caught up in the office squabbles and be frustrated by the missed opportunities for our hero, Dan, to find his one true love.
Waiting for Doggo is not my normal type of read. No murders, no suspenseful cliff-hangers and I cannot recall any times when Dan faced mortal peril. However, I found I enjoyed Doggo a lot more than I may have expected. A fun story – if a film were made it would be considered a Rom-Com (with emphasis on the ‘Com’ as I read it with a grin on my face).
Doggo will likely be one of the shorter novels I read this year and it came to an end quicker than I expected. I was slightly surprised to find that I was disappointed by this as I would have read more. Hurrah for Dan and Doggo – good luck to you both.
Very different from my normal choice of read but lots of fun!
I have to thank Bookbridgr and Netgalley for giving me the chance to read this book. I am happy to provide an honest review and will happily tell everyone that this book is brilliant!
I have not read a fantasy novel for several years and I forgot my golden rule…never start a fantasy saga until all the books have been written. Red Rising is the first in a trilogy and I need parts two and three NOW!!!!!
Neither are available yet, Pierce Brown has promised that book two will be out in January 2015 – it already seems a long wait!
I tried to explain to a friend what Red Rising was like…Lord of the Flies with some 1984, a bit of Running Man but set on Mars. That does not do it justice, it is all of those yet more.
Just to clarify, I loved Red Rising!
Red Rising follows the story of Darrow. He is a Red, a miner on Mars. Generations of Reds (the lowest class of society) have been mining deep below the surface of Mars to help the Golds (the Society Elite) to terraform the planet and bring them a new world to live in. Unknown to Darrow and the Reds, the terraforming completed several generations ago and the surface of the planet houses a civilisation that live a decadent lifestyle while the Reds continue to work themselves to death below ground so the elite can party.
Darrow gets a glimpse of life above the surface of the planet and his life is turned upside down, his life is a lie. Everything he believed and worked for was a sham. He gets offered the chance to change things – can he become one of the elite? Can he become a Gold and then crush those that perpetuate the lie? Can he bring down the elite Golds and the life that they have built for themselves?
We read about Darrow as his life is rebuilt. His appearance is changed (bones smashed and flesh carved). He learns new skills, adopts a new identity and has to undergo the trials that will deem if he (and hundreds of others) can be worthy to rise to the top of the pile.
The trial process most made me draw comparisons with Lord of the Flies – teams are formed amongst the students seeking to become the best ‘Golds’. They are thrown into an artificially constructed landscape where different factions are pitted against each other to see which faction can make best use of their resources and prevail. Each faction has a will to win and it soon becomes dog-eat-dog/kill or be killed. This is gripping story telling from Pierce Brown and the depths to which some of the trialists will stoop is terrifying. As a Doctor Who fan, my mental image of this part of the story was a battle playing out in the Death Zone on Gallifrey.
Darrow is a likeable hero. He has to become something that he hates, act in a way that is alien to his natural instinct and he does not always make the right choices. This is a hugely satisfying read but be warned – it is just the beginning of the story!
This week will see the publication of the new Jack Reacher novel from Lee Child. It is safe to say that I am excited by this – Lee Child is now the only author I will buy on week of release (sorry Mr Pratchett, 10 months later and Raising Steam is still only half read).
I count myself fortunate that I found the first Lee Child novel (Killing Floor) around a month after it was first published. Hooked since day one I have enjoyed seeing the author’s popularity soar and the Reacher novels become bestsellers around the world. Lee Child writes books that I want to read.
His latest novel is entitled Personal and is the 19th Jack Reacher story. A review for that book will follow (just as soon as I can get my paws on it). In the meantime I thought I would put together a list of my five favourite Reacher stories:
In no particular order I recommend:
This is where it all began! Book One. Meet Jack Reacher, former military cop – our hero.
Jack Reacher jumps off a bus and walks fourteen miles down a country road into Margrave, Georgia. An arbitrary decision he’s about to regret.
Reacher is the only stranger in town on the day they have had their first homicide in thirty years. The cops arrest Reacher and the police chief turns eyewitness to place him at the scene. As nasty secrets leak out, and the body count mounts, one thing is for sure.
They picked the wrong guy to take the fall.
This is an explosive start to the series, a small sleepy town is hiding dark secrets. Reacher is there by chance but finds himself caught up in events . To clear his name he must track down a murderer but it is kill or be killed and Reacher is not a man to back down from a challenge.
The Secret Service are looking for Reacher as they have a job for him – to assassinate the Vice President.
Book 6 in the series. If you are looking to avoid spoilers then this one should really be read after Killing Floor. I re-read the Reacher novels on a regular basis and Without Fail is one of the books I return to more than most. A clever plot which is both tragic and funny, it gives a great display of Reacher’s investigative prowess too. A highlight was the first introduction to Frances Neagley – she crops up again in
Bad Luck And Trouble
When Reacher was in the army he headed up a unit of Special Investigators within the Military Police. This close knit team were his hand-picked elite and they watched each other’s backs. Years later the Special Investigators have all lost touch and gone their separate ways but someone has killed one of the team and now Neagley wants Reacher to reassemble the Special Investigators.
I cannot speak highly enough of Bad Luck and Trouble. This was Book 11 in the series and we get to see Reacher working as part of a team rather than acting on his own. Lee Child has set some of his novels during Reacher’s time in the army (The Affair and The Enemy) I would love another story featuring the Special Investigators.
This book (number 14) kicked off a story arc which did not end until Never Go Back (book 18). While each story could be read as a stand-alone novel it does make more sense to read them in order.
I found 61 hours particularly atmospheric. The story plays out in a very snow filled town in South Dakota; Child nails his depiction of a desolate, cold and isolated town shut off from the outside world by snow storms. The local police are guarding a key witness who is going to help them prosecute a drug dealer but resources are stretched can they trust Reacher (a stranger) to guard their witness? To Reacher everyone is a stranger – can he protect the witness?
Finally I have selected one of the books set out of the normal chronology.
The Enemy is a story from the days that Reacher was still in the army. This was the 7th book released but our first look at how behaved when he was constrained by the rules and regulations of army life. Politics and distrust of the Military Police are rife and Reacher has to find a murderer on an army base when all the evidence suggests that Reacher himself is the killer.
The Jack Reacher novels can (generally) be read out of sequence as most are great stand-alone stories. It does help to read 61 Hours, Worth Dying For, A Wanted Man and Never Go Back in that order. Also Killing Floor has a major plot thread which is best read before Without Fail.
When Lee Child was touring to promote One Shot I was able to hear him discuss his work and read from his new novel (he has a great reading voice). During the Q&A’s Child confirmed that Reacher does grow older and the books do see him aging. This was around 10 years ago and later books do address Reacher getting older. However, one statement worried and saddened me…
When discussing the future of the character Child confirmed that Reacher would not go on forever. He suggested that one day there may be a book in which Jack Reacher would be killed off – provisional title on that evening in Glasgow was Die Lonely.
Ten years down the line and Reacher is still going strong – I hope it does so for many years to come.
Category: Uncategorized | Comments Off on It’s Jack Reacher Time!
As previously disclosed I have been a Doctor Who fan for around 35 of my 40 years. During this time I have soaked up all the facts, stories and trivia I could get my hands on and I fully understand that this is not a pastime that everyone embraces. My wife has *mainly* tolerated my Gallifreyan distractions but does tend to voice disapproval when collections (VHS tapes, DVDs , books etc) start to take up too much room.
Since the TV show has come back she will sometimes sit and watch new episodes with me and has even expressed an opinion or asked questions on some occasions. After 20 years I seem to be wearing down her resistance.
Converting a non-Who fan to enjoying the show is tricky, especially when we recognise that the first 26 years of source material is not as slick as the post reboot shows. Hats off to Neil Perryman who managed to persuade his wife Sue to sit through every episode broadcast between 1963 and 1989.
As they watched the shows together Neil, as a lifelong fan, watched Sue’s reactions and recorded them on his blog. He now presents the whole experience in his highly entertaining book Adventures With The Wife In Space. Adventures is possibly the most fun reading experience I have had for many a month and being a fan of the show is not a pre-requisite to enjoying the book.
For a fan of the show it is a fascinating insight into what a non-fan picks out from an episode when they are not hung up on continuity or plot threads. One such example is Sue’s outrage when The Doctor steals Jo’s cup of tea…how very dare he?
Neil’s narrative around persuading Sue to watch all the shows is hilarious. Highlights were exaggerating the length of time it may take to watch Jon Pertwee’s run, horror at Sue’s lack of respect for a fan-favourite ‘Classic’ episode and the internet response to Neil and Sue’s family members joining in the experience.
It is a book about two people watching television and it is wonderful. Not convinced? Think Gogglebox in a paperback*
While the focus is around watching the classic Doctor Who shows we also get to spend time with Neil and Sue as they contend with day to day life and how they juggle this around watching Doctor Who. This book is as much about the writers as it is about the TV show.
A family tale about a family, heart-warming and fun to read.
*Disclaimer – I have never (nor will I ever) watch Gogglebox. I am told that it is a show that records people watching television. The comparison seemed apt.
The Drop follows lonely bartender Bob Saginowski through a cover scheme of
funnelling cash to local gangsters — ‘money drops’ — in the underworld of Boston bars. Under the heavy hand of his employer and cousin Marv, Bob finds himself at the centre of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighbourhood’s past where friends, families and foes all work together to make a living — no matter the cost.
Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for review.
Several years ago I discovered Dennis Lehane’s excellent Kenzie-Gennaro novels and at the time I thought they were one of the best collections that I owned. I persuaded friends and colleagues to read them and bought multiple copies of some of the titles as my books were not returned if I lent them out. The fifth book Prayers for Rain came out in 1999 and then…
…Lehane moved on to new projects and didn’t return to Kenzie and Genarro until 2010 with Moonlight Mile (which I missed as I didn’t know about it until yesterday). During the intervening 11 year period he penned several other works which included Mystic River and Shutter Island both of which were adapted to film and became box office successes.
Getting the chance to read The Drop was something of a treat – by reading it I indirectly discover some of my favourite characters have retuned while I was not paying attention AND I get to enjoy a story by an author I have not read since 1999. Yup didn’t read any of the stand-alone novels – planning to go back though.
The reason I know I will go back to Lehane’s work is that The Drop was fabulous. It is a story about people. Nice people, bad people, mis-understood people, missing people and scary people but it is the author’s skill at making their lives intertwine that make this story so strong. Oh, there is a dog too!
The principle focus of The Drop is barkeeper Bob Saginowski. Through Bob we learn about the Chechen gangsters that have taken over the organised crime in his corner of Boston. They use the bar where Bob works as a ‘drop’ to pass money gained from gambling and prostitution. During the story someone robs the bar on the night a drop is to happen. This leads to some unhappy gangsters and places Bob in a predicament as he has to find a way to replace the lost money. He also has to find a way to stop his new dog fouling in his house. Both these issues seem to have equal concern for Bob such is his approach to life.
While Bob is a laid-back and uncomplicated fellow he crosses paths with an ex-convict who is borderline psychotic – their clashes are peppered through the tale and I found myself rooting for barkeep Bob to repel the bully. When a writer engages my sense of injustice I find myself more drawn to the story – naturally I want the bully to get a taste of their own medicine.
The beauty of The Drop is how the characters are developed as the story unfolds – to even allude to some of the best twists would be criminal – this is a tale you need to enjoy for yourself with little pre-conception as to what may be about to happen.
The strength of this story is the characterisation and the interchange between characters – this is not a book that ends every chapter on a dramatic cliff-hanger or rolls from set play to set play in a frenzy of adrenaline. To be clear though, this is not a boring story either – far from it. You engage with the characters and want to hear more about them, pages fly past and you get drawn into their small Bostonian corner. I loved it and was sorry to reach the last chapter all too soon.
The #1 kids videogame and hottest-selling toy, Skylanders, is coming to your bookshelf in all-new comic book adventures! Join fan-favorite characters Spyro, Stealth Elf, Trigger Happy, and more in these original, never-before-seen stories that tie directly into the videogames.
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy of this forthcoming comic book adventure. And for making my kids ‘squee’ with excitement.
If you have not encountered Skylanders before then you have managed to avoid a videogame phenomenon. First encountered in the 2011 game Skylanders: Spyros Adventures the player guides a playable character through a series of colourful and challenging adventures seeking to beat the evil Kaos and thwart his plans to turn the lands of Skylands to darkness.
The twist in the Skylanders games is that the player has an actual toy (a physical object) which can be placed onto a ‘Portal’ that is connected to the videogame console – said toy is then transported into the game and the player controls a digital version of their character within the game. Fancy changing the hero? No problem…there were 32 inter-changeable characters in the first game and with the third sequel due this October there will be over 100 different playable characters available by Christmas.
Skylanders are a big deal in our household and the thrill of reading new adventures was evident when mini bookworm 1 and 2 (my bambino’s) crowded round my laptop to enjoy their first digital comic book experience.
Needless to say they were not disappointed. Skylanders: The Kaos Trap ticks every box you would expect. Fun, colourful artwork, familiar characters, slapstick humour and lots of Skylanders kicking butt.
My copy contained what seemed to be the first part of an ongoing comic book adventure and had the added pull of featuring the new characters for 2014 – the Trap Masters. Lots of cameo appearances from established Skylanders including Spyro, Stealth Elf and Pop Fizz made this a great introduction to the comic.
Kaos has a new plan to conquer Skylands yet his latest plot appears to have been thwarted by the timely intervention of a Trap Master – or has it? Colourful and crisp artwork made this a very pleasing book for me to use to introduce my younger child (4) to comic book stories. The story is not too complicated for youngsters to follow, yet still pitches a good balance to cater for all ages: both my boys enjoyed it despite the 4 year age gap between them.
Once the teaser tale for the ongoing stories was complete there was a stand-alone story featuring fan favourite Flynn, new characters Chopper and Food Fight plus the Skylander Mini’s (such as Weeruptor, Gill Runt and Thumpling). Once again many cameo appearances to please the fans and a fun story for the target audience (and this older reader too). I believe that the Skylanders comic could, and should, become a regular addition to many children’s monthly reading pile. With a vast array of characters at their disposal and the weight of the Activision videogame propelling the toys into more and more shops the target audience is primed for this one.
Skylanders: The Kaos Trap is due out early October and the latest game Skylanders: Trap Team is due in stores 10 October 2014 on all major consoles (and now tablets too).
Warning – Skylanders is addictive and expensive fun!
Between 1989 and 2005 I read a lot of Doctor Who novels. For those not familiar with those dates they represent the years that The Doctor was largely absent from our televisions. But he lived on in print and I lapped up those stories. Thanks to the excellent Target Books range I could read the stories of the adventures that had been broadcast on TV between 1963 and 1989. Then along came Virgin Publishing who released a range of books (one per month at their peak) featuring the continuing adventures of the 7th Doctor. These were joined after a couple of years by Past Doctor stories – tales designed to slip in between the stories which had been broadcast on television and featured Doctors 1-6 and their respective travelling companions.
Then in 1996 we got the 8th Doctor TV Movie. Things changed (including the Doctor). BBC Books took back ownership of the Doctor Who stories and began a lengthy run of original novels featuring the 8th Doctor and they also published their own Past Doctor stories too. I would usually buy two Doctor Who books per month – for around 14 years. I have read A LOT of Doctor Who novels.
When the show re-launched on BBC in 2005 the books continued but the addition of 1 small child to our household curtailed the book buying for me.
However, my devotion to the print adventures of our favourite Time Lord puts me in a pretty strong position to assess the latest offering: Engines of War by George Mann.
I am happy to report that it is without doubt one of the best Doctor Who novels I have read. There are lots of things contributing to this and I cannot share them all because <Spoilers>. However, the chance to join The War Doctor is a great start. Throw in a feisty new companion, trips to Gallifrey, Daleks, Timelord political machinations and the unexpected return of some forgotten personalities and there were treats galore for the fans.
The author does a great job of creating the personality of the War Doctor, you can feel the spirit of the character we are so familiar with battling the necessity of the destruction he brings in this unfamiliar guise. Clearly the War Doctor is tormented by the path that he has forced to take and this comes through in Mann’s fast paced story.
To reveal too much of the plot would rob the reader of the chance to enjoy the story unfolding. Suffice to say that I would love to read more of this battle-weary Doctor’s exploits. The new companion (Cinder) was also a great addition to the mix, she and the Doctor enjoy snappy and entertaining dialogue and it is through her eyes we see how the Doctor almost seems to relish his confrontations with those who stand in his path.
Despite this being a War Doctor story we still see a figure determined to do the right thing, protect the innocent and try to bring solutions to lost causes. With little source material available to form a clear image of how the War Doctor could be expected to behave I believe that George Mann has done an admirable job of crafting a hero we can believe in.
The sheer volume of original Doctor Who novels that are available invariably means that some will slip into obscurity. Within both the Virgin and the BBC range of books are tales that lacked any real spark. There were stories which could have featured any characters and the plots were so generic that, aside from calling the main character Doctor, you had no inkling that you were reading about our favourite Gallifreyan. That is why Engines of War stands out – you are never in any doubt of the subject matter and the importance that the story takes in the mythos of Doctor Who adventures. Excellent reading to be had – go grab a copy.
In the vein of Hotel Babylon and Confessions of a GP, The Secret Player will fascinate footballs fans with its wealth of insider knowledge and willingness to talk, albeit anonymously, about the inner workings of the game. Based on the hugely popular ‘The Player’ columns in FourFourTwo magazine, the book gives a warts-and-all insight into the daily life of professional footballers. Month by month, it chronicles the oscillating rhythms of the season, from the trudge of pre-season to the ‘squeaky-bum time’ of promotion and relegation. The player himself has played at all levels of English football – from Premier League to a season of non-League – and represented England.
Keeping the football theme going to celebrate the start of the new season….
Thanks to Bookbridgr and Headline for my review copy of The Secret Player.
If you have read any of the Babylon books then you will probably have a pretty good idea as to what to expect from The Secret Player. We get to hear first hand what it is like to grace the football pitches around the country with the Premiership elite. The fear of FA Cup 3rd round when you face the minnows out to perform a ‘giant killing’ and the tension that creeps in as relegation looms.
While no names are ever mentioned we learn about the dressing room ego battles, the rivalry on and off the pitch, the excesses of wealth and how players cope with it (or not). There are pranks, girls, drinking sessions, girls, fights, girls, indiscretions and even some girls. It seems that the scandals that leak into the papers are just the tip of the iceberg.
This book is a must read for the football fans. The Secret Player clearly has seen more than his share of eye opening situations and shares them all with the reader with an element of ‘posted without comment’. He makes no pretence that he is angelic and confesses to his share of covering injury, pranking team mates, drinking on tour – all part of the culture.
As noted in the introduction the original Secret Player articles appeared in the monthly football magazine FourFourTwo. Perfect target audience and I feel that the monthly spacing out of the articles would enhance the telling. I read The Secret Player over two sittings in a 48 hour period and found it was a little repetitive (in so far as there are only so many ways to outline opulence, excess, drunken hijinks and conflicts in a team without getting a sense of déjà vu).
The best way to enjoy this book is to pace yourself and take time to work your way through the story. The book is divided into months (as the season unfolds) and putting the book down at the end of a month may help slow down your reading so that you ultimately enjoy it longer.
For football fans and for those that like the gossip this is a cracker. For those that enjoy the Beautiful Game and don’t believe that modern footballers set a good example – best leave this one alone, it will only confirm your suspicions.