Thursday, August 14, 2014

Station Eleven by Emily Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily Mandel

Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Dystopic, Apocalyptic

Publisher: Pan Macmillan / Picador
Hardcover: 352 pages

ISBN-13: 9780385353304

My Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis:
DAY ONE : The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb. News reports put the mortality rate at over 99%.
WEEK TWO : Civilization has crumbled.
YEAR TWENTY : A band of actors and musicians called the Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe. But now a new danger looms, and he threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild.

STATION ELEVEN Moving backwards and forwards in time, from the glittering years just before the collapse to the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after, Station Eleven charts the unexpected twists of fate that connect six people: famous actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan - warned about the flu just in time; Arthur's first wife Miranda; Arthur's oldest friend Clark; Kirsten, a young actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed 'prophet'.
Thrilling, unique and deeply moving, this is a beautiful novel that asks questions about art and fame and about the relationships that sustain us through anything - even the end of the world.

My Thoughts:
At the centre of Station Eleven is the famous actor Arthur Leander who dies on stage during a production of King Lear. Within hours of his unexplained death Georgia Flu hits with devastating effect, mercilessly killing 99% of the world's population.

Leap forward 20 years and life has come to resemble something like the tales of Chaucer, with a traveling troupe of musicians and actors performing Shakespearian plays to the townspeople they meet along the way. In this new age life is in stark contrast to the pre apocalyptic world. Distrust, and the threat of violence from those they encounter is an every day occurrence. If they are to survive, keeping their wits about them is imperative.

Station Eleven leaps back and forth in time and gives an in-depth recounting of the characters lives, and how they or historical artefacts are all interconnected from each timeframe.

Each character was fully fleshed out and believable. I don't think I had a favourite but I was drawn to Miranda, and in particular her relationship with Arthur.

I absolutely loved the way the story unfolded. It is a beautifully written novel and I was pretty disappointed when it came to its end.

Station Eleven is a first rate apocalyptic, dystopic, sci-fi tale. A delightful read which I highly recommend.

Thank you to the publisher via NetGalley for the opportunity to review this title. I am looking forward to recommending Station Eleven to our Waterstones customers.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Suffer the Children Craig DiLouie

Suffer the Children
Craig DiLouie

Publisher: Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books
Permuted Press
Publish Date: May 20 2014

ISBN: 9781476739632
Price: £8.99

Rating: 4 out of 5

"But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 19:14"

Synopsis:
From an acclaimed horror writer, a chilling tale of blood-hungry children who rise from the dead in this innovative spin on apocalyptic vampire fiction.

Suffer the Children presents a terrifying tale of apocalyptic fiction, as readers are introduced to Herod’s Syndrome, a devastating illness that suddenly and swiftly kills all young children across the globe. Soon, they return from the grave…and ask for blood. And with blood, they stop being dead. They continue to remain the children they once were…but only for a short time, as they need more blood to live. The average human body holds ten pints of blood, so the inevitable question for parents everywhere becomes: How far would you go to bring your child back?

My Thoughts:
I have read other titles by Craig DiLouie and am a fan of his particular writing style which is mature, intelligent and character based rather than 'all out' action driven. Suffer the children is a very different, creative retelling of the vampire tale which although not all gore, blood and guts is definitely creepy and had me feeling queasy from many of the scenes depicted.

Herod's Syndrome has killed every pre-pubescent child worldwide and nothing can be done to save them. However, they are able to reanimate with sacrifices made by their loved ones.
Suffer the Children follows several families and is told from their perspective.  There is a gradual build up of tension as the characters personalities, and values change with the ongoing desperation to obtain the 'medicine' needed to keep their children alive, and ultimately how far they will go in order to achieve their aim.

Very dark and bleak, plausible and realistic, DiLouie's world descends into chaos as the governing forces lose control, and society rapidly spirals into a lawless apocalyptic nightmare.

I highly recommend Suffer the Children to all horror fans and anyone interested in a thought provoking read about human nature and how far we, as a race, are willing to compromise our humanity for the sake of our loved ones, and to what cost.

Thank you Permutted Press via NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to review this title.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Taste of Beirut : 175+ Delicious Lebanese Recipes from Classics to Contemporary to Mezzes and More by Joumana Accad


Taste of Beirut : 175+ Delicious Lebanese Recipes from Classics to Contemporary to Mezzes and More by Joumana Accad

Published by HCI Books

US Publish Date: September 2, 2014
UK Publish Date: October 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0757317705
Paperback : 320 Pages
£16.99

Rating: 5 out of 5

"A culinary masterpiece of authentic dishes from the Mediterranean and Middle East."

Firstly, a big thank you to the Publisher via NetGalley for allowing me access to a digital review copy of 'A Taste of Beirut' by Joumana Accad.  Although this absolutely has got to be bought in hard copy to appreciate fully, the digital copy was a welcome tease taster.

The recipes are divided into sections including, breads, breakfast, sandwiches, soups, mezzo delights, main dishes, pastries and drinks. All the recipes have easy to follow instructions making them attractive to a beginner to Middle Eastern cuisine as well as the novice.

Joumana has created a stunning debut cookbook with over 150 fabulous recipes inspired by her grandmother, 'Teta' on how to recreate authentic, mouth watering Lebanese dishes. The photographs took me right back to when I lived in the Middle East and experienced the fantastic Lebanese pastries and Lebanese bread.

This is a definite 'must have', hard copy cookery book to add to my collection and I highly recommend it. I can't wait to get making my own fresh bread and make more use the fragrant sumac my friend gave me as a leaving present !

Joumana Accad is the creator of the blog 'TasteOfBeirut.com' which features Lebanese recipes for home cooking.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Sweetness: A Novel Sande Boritz Berger

The Sweetness: A Novel
Sande Boritz Berger

AuthorBuzz
She Writes Press
Pub Date   Sep 23 2014

ISBN:978-1631529078

Rating: 2.75 out of 5

Amazon Synopsis:
Early in The Sweetness, an inquisitive young girl asks her grandmother why she is carrying nothing but a jug of sliced lemons and water when they are forced by the Germans to evacuate their ghetto. "Something sour to remind me of the sweetness," she tells her, setting the theme for what they must remember to survive.

Set during World War II, the novel is the parallel tale of two Jewish girls, cousins, living on separate continents, whose strikingly different lives ultimately converge. Brooklyn-born Mira Kane is the eighteen-year-old daughter of a well-to-do manufacturer of women’s knitwear in New York. Her cousin, eight-year-old Rosha Kaninsky, is the lone survivor of a family in Vilna exterminated by the invading Nazis. But unbeknownst to her American relatives, Rosha did not perish. Desperate to save his only child during a round-up of their ghetto, her father thrusts her into the arms of a Polish Catholic candle maker, who then hides her in a root cellar─putting her own family at risk.

The headstrong and talented Mira, who dreams of escaping Brooklyn for a career as a fashion designer, finds her ambitions abruptly thwarted when, traumatized at the fate of his European relatives, her father becomes intent on safeguarding his loved ones from threats of a brutal world, and all the family must challenge his unuttered but injurious survivor guilt. Though the American Kanes endure the experience of the Jews who got out, they reveal how even in the safety of our lives, we are profoundly affected by the dire circumstances of others.

Survivor guilt is a force that endures—whether within the context of the tragic wars of yesterday and today, or the ongoing trauma within a family. Set during WWII, and inspired by true events, The Sweetness is the story of two Jewish girls, cousins, living on separate continents—one a child in hiding, one a teen who dreams of escaping to Hollywood—whose strikingly different lives promise to converge.

My Thoughts:
Upto approx 50% I'd have given 4 stars. Now it's degenerated into a cross between Mills & Boon with a touch of 50 Shades... However I can't be too sure as I've not read 50 Shades.

I was so enchanted by the first half of this novel which centres around the privileged lifestyles of Mira, her aunt Jeanette, and family in Brooklyn.  A bittersweet tale with its stark contrasts between Mira's world and her 8 year old cousin Rosha's traumatic world of loss, despair and death in Vilna, but also of kindness and hope with the people who shelter her.

The blossoming love affair of Mira and her beau was endearing but at around 52% the story just didn't progress in the way I had imagined it would.

Whilst 'The Sweetness' by Sande Boritz Berger wasn't for me I can see it being popular for mainstream fiction readers who like a light, easy read about love, family life and loss set around a privileged Jewish family during the war.

I would like to thank the publisher via NetGalley for allowing me to review this title.

Monday, April 28, 2014

I'm A Winner - Lesley Jorgenson's debut novel Cat & Fiddle

Thank you to Newbooks Magazine and SCRIBE Publications Australia for my winning prize of Lesley Jorgenson's debut novel Cat & Fiddle.


I just love the stunning cover and look forward to reading it. I'll leave a review once I've read it and enter Cat & Fiddle as a future Giveaway prize.

Product Description:
Cat & Fiddle centres on two families whose lives become entwined at the country estate of Bourne Abbey. While Dr Choudhury is busy advising Henry Bourne on the restoration of the abbey to its former glory, his wife’s main concern is marrying off their three children, whose chances of good matches are dwindling by the day. Thankfully, the royal family always seems to have a solution to her problems: how to find a wife for a reluctant son; how to manage a difficult father-in-law; and, of course, how not to deal with an inter-faith relationship.

Then there’s the Bourne family. Henry’s wife, Thea, is feeling lost, now that she’s got the lifestyle she’s always longed for. His elder brother, Richard, a successful London barrister, finds himself increasingly drawn to the family home — the inheritance that he’s given up. Meanwhile, Henry just wants to keep the peace, but that’s proving to be tricky …

And, finally, there’s Bourne Abbey itself: the repository of an ancient mystery that links the histories and cultures of the Bournes and the Choudhurys in a way that no one could have anticipated.

About the Author:
Lesley Jrgensen trained as a registered nurse while also completing simultaneous arts and law degrees, and has worked as a medical-negligence lawyer in Australia and England. While in England, she married into a Muslim Anglo & Bangladeshi family. She now lives in Adelaide with her two children. Cat & Fiddle is her first novel.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

GIVEAWAY 5: The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sŏn-mi Hwang


This Giveaway is for a paper back copy of the book and
only open for Residents in the UK


Giveaway of the charming, beautifully told tale of Sprout
The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly
By Sun-Mi Hwang

Waterstones Synopsis:
This is the story of a hen named Sprout. No longer content to lay eggs on command only to have them carted off to the market, she glimpses her future every morning through the barn doors, where the other animals roam free, and comes up with a plan to escape into the wild - and to hatch an egg of her own. An anthem for individuality and motherhood, The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly has captivated millions of readers in Korea. Now the novel is making its way around the world, where it has the potential to inspire generations of readers the way Jonathan Livingston Seagull or The Alchemist have. And with Nomoco's evocative illustrations throughout, this first English-language edition beautifully captures the journey of an unforgettable character in world literature

Waterstones Book Club: 10th-16th April 2014

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly is a charming tale about Sprout, a tired, worn down industrial hen who yearns and dares to dream about a better life for herself. Sprout desperately wants to be free from the coop and to hatch her very own chick.

I adored Sprout and Straggler in this touching, often sad, yet uplifting novella which touched on so many themes including friendship, loyalty, love, self sacrifice and loss. So beautifully told with accompanying simple black and white artwork.

A timeless tale that I will definitely re-read again.
I was so pleased to see this title come into the store and I immediately brought it to the attention of the manager. It is also the Waterstones March Book of the Month selection. I will be delighted to
recommend it to customers visiting our store.

I would like to thank the publisher via NetGalley for the opportunity to review this title.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

BIBLICAL By Christopher Galt



Title: Biblical
Author: Christopher Galt
ISBN: 9781780874807
Pages: 400 (Hardback)

Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Publisher: Quercus Publishing Plc
Publish Date: 1/5/2014

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis:
An apocalyptic thriller that pits cutting-edge science against God and asks the question – who will win?

Something is happening around the world. People are having visions, seeing ghosts, witnessing events that could not have taken place.
At first, the incidents are scattered and infrequent, the visions unremarkable. But as time goes on, the visions become more sustained, more vivid. More frightening. Psychiatrist Dr John Macbeth is in a desperate race to find what is causing the phenomenon. And when someone close to him is murdered in a bomb blast, his quest for the truth becomes much more personal.

An apocalyptic thriller on an epic scale that will make you question your own reality.

All around the world, people start to see things that aren't there, that cannot be. Visions, ghosts, events from the past playing out in the present.
To start with, the visions are unremarkable: things misplaced in time and caught out of the corner of the eye; glimpses of long-dead family or friends. But, as time goes on, the visions become more sustained, more vivid, more widespread. More terrifying.

As the visions become truly apocalyptic, some turn to religion, others to science.
Only one man, driven by personal as well as professional reasons, is capable of finding the real truth. But the truth that psychiatrist John Macbeth uncovers is much, much bigger than either religion or science.
A truth so big it could cost him his sanity. And his life.

My Thoughts:
The opening scene had me hooked immediately with the depiction of a French teenager finding herself in amongst a crowd of people witnessing the execution of Joan d'Arc.  She manages to take a picture of the horrific scene on her phone.

Around the world people are experiencing hallucinations, having feelings of déjà vu, and accidents and mass suicides are occurring on an alarming scale.

It is a time where science is destroying religion as it answers the mysteries and miracles of old.

Macbeth, a psychiatrist involved in a neuroscience project, finds himself hurled into a race against time to uncover the mystery of the phenomena. Is it caused by a virus, or are these visions sent from God as believed by religious leaders and fanatics worldwide? Is the world readying itself for 'The Rapture'?

Christopher Galt's 'Biblical' is a fantastic piece of fiction blending elements of scientific fact and human genetic anomalies. Galt's characters come to life with his empathetic writing style, and the numerous memorable characters are totally plausible and mesmerising. I felt as though I were watching a film, they were so well drawn out. I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen to each of them as their fate unfolded. Mary Vermont's heart felt tale of her frustration and anguish of suffering from Alzheimer's and the happiness albeit brief of the visions she has was particularly poignant.  It was easy to imagine what it must be like to have this awful disease looking through Mary's eyes. Each and every one of Galt's characters has an equally compelling tale to tell and I loved finding out about them all.

Biblical kept me guessing all the way to its mind blowing climax.  It is an intelligent, imaginative, addictive, apocalyptic thriller that kept me reading well into the early hours.

Definitely my favourite this year.


I would like to thank the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to review this title.