Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Three of My Favourite Graphic Novels (non 'SuperHero')

A few years ago I really didn't think I would ever read a graphic novel as I just wasn't interested in Superman or Batman or X-Men etc. But there are a growing variety of 'non-superhero' graphic novels out there from fantasy themes to normal everyday life. There are also many graphic novels from books such as the Twilight series, or that have generated TV shows such as The Walking Dead. Below I list a few of my favourite Graphic novels.

Fables by Bill Willingham

Fables is a graphic novel series about those characters we remember from traditional fairy tales, such as Snow White, Jack (and the beanstalk), Rose Red and even The Big Bad Wolf. Something called The Adversary has invaded their homes and driven all the fairy tale pose out of their homelands. They now have to try and blend in with the human community living in a high rise called Fabletown in New York. Each volume has ongoing and new storylines, from murder to love, lies and deceit, it all happens in Fabletown. I really like Fables as it can provide humour as well as thrills and spills and I enjoy the clever spin on the traditional fairy tale characters. The illustrations are also beautiful and stunning to look at all on their own. There are also a few spin off series including 'Fairest' which delves into the pasts of many female fairy tale characters such as Cinderella, Snow White and such as well as 'Jack of Fables' which follows the adventures of Jack from 'Jack and the Beanstalk'. Fables is really worth a read, they are definitely fairy tales for grown ups.

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead graphic novels were one of the very first I started reading. I do like zombie stories and this is a very interesting, scary, dark and thrilling zombie series which as you will know is now a huge TV series. The graphic novels are so enthralling and so scary and I really got behind the core group of characters and utterly terrified when they were under attack. The graphic novels can get extremely dark indeed, no topic is off limits and I have to admit that at times I could hardly read certain parts they were so shocking to me. But then I do get scared easily! I did watch the first series of the Tv show, but personally I much preferred the graphic novels.

Adrian Tomine Graphic Novels

Adrian Tomine's graphic novels centre around the everyday lives of mainly young people going about their everyday lives. He focuses on a range of subject matter such as romance, love, jobs, and the bigger life questions in a range of ways. His novels are both witty and dark and really focus on the human heart and the many issues people have, especially those that feel they are on the outskirts of society and a recurring theme is loneliness. To me they really are modern stories, modern characters in graphic novel form. The illustrations range in each book but are generally very  minimalistic, sometimes white and grey and always reflect the story at hand. There is no fantasy here, and that's part of the reason I like them.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Young Adult Fiction-Review of Phobic by Cortney Pearson (Forbidden Doors 1)

I am a huge fan of YA fiction after working in that department as a bookseller for a number of years. I am also a sucker for a coming of age novel. young love and the many issues facing teenagers. I started Phobic on a Saturday afternoon and finished it the following evening, I just couldn't put it down. I would class this as a Thriller/Horror but it also has strong themes of bullying, romance and dealing with life as a teenager.

Teenage angst and a haunted house

The story is about a 15 year old Piper who lives in a haunted house which has been part of her family for years. She also has to deal with the fact that her mother is in prison for murdering a man and keeping his body under the kitchen floor. Her father died recently and now she lives in the house with her older brother Joel. She also has to deal with the students at her school bullying her for her acne, her strange house and any other reason they can think of to bully her and make her feel bad. Her one friend since the age of nine, Todd, has started to hang out more with the bullies and she is feeling more and more alone. Her house also has a mind of it's own, rumbling and creaking when it's unhappy, opening and locking doors at will and when one morning it locks her in the house, she hears her dead father's voice on the TV...

So many layers

This book covers so many things, from young love, bullying, ghosts, murder and is gripping from start to finish. The house has many secrets which Piper starts to unravel throughout the book providing readers with so many twists and turns, including ghostly apparitions, torture, monstrous men, black magic, the occult and much more.
Although there are so many out of this world happenings, because Piper is so relatable it makes it more scary and creepy. As Piper fights to learn the truth of the house and her family secrets she starts to find Todd, her best friend more and more attractive, but is the house happy to have Todd involved in Piper's life?

The House

Growing up there have always been rules Pipers father has made her follow, such as- never open the door in the library, never EVER go into the basement and so on. But as the house becomes increasingly volatile, Piper decides she has to get to the bottom of what really is going on with the house and it's many secrets. She discovers some awful truths about the past and in the end has to battle to save her life.

Just when I thought I understood what was happening in the novel, there were huge twists and turns, and new levels to the story. Not only is it about a teenage girl dealing with teenage life, love and bullying, she is also dealing with demons of the past which are threatening her future. She also has no parental guidance with her mother in prison and her father dead, so she has a lot to deal with without the haunted, possessed house.

The first in a series...

Unlike many books these days Cortney ends the novel well, with a full conclusion to the story which is both gripping and satisfying. There will be more books in the series called Forbidden Doors which will include Piper which I am very excited about. I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who likes a gripping read or just anyone that likes reading! A well written story, with lots of depth,  that is genuinely scary and creepy. ( I has some very strange dreams last night!)

It is published on September 8th 2014.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Japanese Fiction Favourites-The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

I am a huge fan of Japanese fiction for  a number of reasons. Many Japanese novels have supernatural elements whilst being thoroughly set in the modern world. Generally, they are also very straight to the point, with minimal descriptive prose, which I really enjoy.I have read quite a few Japanese novels and will be reviewing them regularly and telling you about the ones I would recommend. The first book I wanted to talk about is The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino which I have a large paperback version of.

So, what is it about?

The novel is a crime thriller of sorts set in Tokyo, where a single mother Yasuko looks after her daughter and works in a Bento shop. Her life is going well until her abusive ex-husband turns up out of the blue. He tries to attack her and her daughter, sat in her bedroom, comes out and together they fight him off and strangle him.Their next door neighbour mathematician Tetsuya Ishigami hears the commotion next door and pieces together what has happened. He has a soft spot for the mother and daughter and decides to help them. They put their absolute trust in him to come up with an untouchable alibi when the police become involved. The story then introduces different characters such as detective Kusanagi and genius physician Manabu Yukawa who are trying to work out who murdered Yasuko's bully of an ex-husband. Tetsuya has come up with such a brilliant mathematically thought out alibi that throughout the novel as a reader we are picking up all the little details given to see if the detective or the physician can solve the murder mystery. We also learn just how Tetsuya managed to provide such an amazing alibi that was virtually perfect.

A twist on the whodunnit

From the first pages we know exactly who committed the murder, but the rest of the novel is like a chess game between the strange yet highly intelligent neighbour Tetsuya and his equally genius physician friend Manabu. Manabu has been brought in to help solve the crime by the detective on the case because it is such a baffling case. The alibis for the mother and daughter are checked and seem perfect, there is no evidence that the ex-husband had ever been at the apartment. Tetsuya keeps in contact with the mother and reassures her that he is taking care of everything.As the physician starts to get nearer to the truth, Tetsuya must act fast to make sure he keeps his promise to Yasuko, who he has a huge crush on.

A clever plot

The problem some readers may have with this novel is that we already know who killed who and throughout the book we are waiting to see if someone will work it out. It is also incredibly interesting finding out just how Tetsuya could create such an iron clad, clever and fool proof alibi.I personally was gripped from start to finish, and the ending is a shocker too. As with many Japanese novels, they are not filled with happiness, joy, and positivity. They can be quite melancholy, grey and mundane in nature. I personally enjoy this as it makes the actions within the novel seem even more stark and hard hitting. This was the first novel by Keigo Higashino to be translated into English after it sold a staggering 2 million copies in Japan. I would certainly recommend reading this is you like a good thriller, or a murder mystery ( a bit like Columbo!) The book is so cleverly written, the characters are very believable, sometimes it's hard to know who's side I was on, although looking back it was always Tetsuya. Overall, I really enjoyed this Japanese novel, very unique, full of tiny clues the reader can pick up on and a brilliant twist at the end.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Review of The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh

A gripping beach read

The story centres around Jen and her husband Greg who are on their annual holiday to Deia in Mallorca at Villa Anna.They are awaiting their daughter (Jen's stepdaughter) to arrive with her new boyfriend for the second week of their holiday. Before their arrival we get the feeling there is unease between Jen and her stepdaughter Emma as she feels a sense of foreboding and partly wishes they weren't coming at all. We also get the impression that Jen is feeling fed up and seems to find her husband Greg dull and boring.

The arrival

When Emma and her boyfriend arrive at the villa there becomes a strange oppressive air to the story, as Jen has fallen asleep in the garden topless. Emma tells her off for embarrassing her, but it creates a sexual undertone to the story. When Jen finally meets Nathan, her daughters 17 year old boyfriend, she suddenly finds him highly attractive, thinking he looks more like a man than a boy. 

Intense, gripping, very VERY illicit

When Nathan and Jen find themselves alone at Villa Anna, after Emma has an accident, they begin an intense, obsessive affair, even having sex whilst Greg and Emma are at the Villa. The sex scenes are very graphic, perhaps shocking at times, this is very much a sexual affair rather than a love affair.As they continue their affair, risking more and more, Jen's obsessive lust for Nathan starts to come crumbling down on her.

In Conclusion

I would recommend this book as a Summer/Beach read, the descriptions of Mallorca, the beach, the restaurants is perfect, and made me feel like I was there once again. It also made me feel like I was on holiday with them and I could visualise the beach, the winding roads in the mountains and the salty sea air.The storyline is one of middle-aged boredom and dealing with loss of youth. It's about a mother/daughter relationship, regret, the seduction of youth, children growing older and taking risks. I didn't find myself liking any of the characters, therefore I didn't really care what happened to any of them either. Sometimes I really found it hard to believe that Nathan and Jen would have an affair, especially as to me, Nathan seems like such an idiot. I did have to keep reading to find out what happened next and the story grew more and more dark and intense with an overriding sense of foreboding.Overall, I would definitely recommend it as a beach read with beautiful descriptions of the island and a very sexy, gripping storyline.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Three by Sarah Lotz

Hailed as a cross between Justin Cronin's The passage and Stephen King, I just had to start reading this ASAP. I was a huge fan of The Passage when it came out, but in my opinion, The Three isn't anything like the Passage in any way.Saying that, it is a great read for a number of different reasons.

Black Thursday

The premise of the book is that on the same day, four separate planes crash within hours of each other across four areas of the world. That is interesting in itself isn't it. but then the crashes are so horrific no one survives, except three young children with minor to no injuries whatsoever.Hmm..more interesting.

The novel is made up of interviews with different people involved in 'Black Thursday' to try to piece together what happened that day and why the children survived. This involves many theories about the crashes and the children that survived including alien theories, religious theories and end of the world rapture. Sounds familiar doesn't it! The book also makes use of Skype conversations, interviews and reports and does a good job of showing how media obsession and intrusion can have dire consequences.

Not quite a horror

Whilst the book is hailed as a modern horror, I have to say that whilst I did find certain parts of the book creepy, especially those involving the children, overall I wouldn't say it is a horror rather a thriller with a few scary bits thrown in.It is a really interesting read and I was constantly trying to work out what had happened, which theory to believe and by the end of the book I was still unsure. There is talk of a sequel to this which I will hopefully explain more about what happened, why the planes crashed and if the children really were aliens/monsters.ghosts etc

Overall I would definitely recommend this book as it is an intriguing story, although if you are scared of flying, be warned, it might put your off flying in the near future. The creepy parts may haunt you in your sleep, but overall it isn't a full on horror story. I wasn't happy with the ending as it still left so many questions, but hopefully the sequel should answer some of those. This does annoy me though, even if a book is part of a  trilogy I still expect a good ending which answers at least a few of the questions raised in the novel. Still, a very interesting, well written, creepy thriller/horror that will leave you thinking over and over what really did happen to those four planes on `Black Thursday?

Have you read The Three? What are your thoughts?

Friday, 4 July 2014

Review of The Girl With All The Gifts by M R Carey

I read this after seeing a recommendation on Facebook by a friend still working with books and they had written "Let's see if this lives up to the hype'. That was all I needed! The title of the book is another name for the Pandora Greek myth which plays quite a large part throughout the story. It comes under the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre and has similarities to books such as The passage by Justin Cronin in my opinion!

So what is it about?

Without giving away the story it is about a little girl called Melanie who is ten years old. The story is told both from her view point and the other main characters in the book. Melanie lives alone in a cell where she has nothing to do except go over her school lessons, look at pictures on the cell wall and hope that her favourite teacher Miss Justineau will be teaching the next day. Every morning her cell door is opened and she has to be strapped into a wheelchair, and wheeled into class, where all the other children are sat in their very own wheelchairs. As she straps herself into the chair an a soldier hold a gun to her head until her legs, arms and neck are safely strapped to the chair.

During class the students learn about lots of Greek myths. mainly from Melanie's favourite teacher Miss Justineau, they learn about the outside world, write stories and do quiz's. Melanie very much resonates with the story of Pandora and there are many parallels with the myth as the story unfolds. Some of the teachers are not as nice as some of the others, one teacher actually drinks heavily throughout the lessons. Melanie is incredibly bright and eager to learn and is even polite to the soldiers who wheel her in and out. This is Melanie's whole world, she never goes outside, she has no windows in her cell, she has never felt fresh air on her face. That is until one day when everything changes. 

I will say no more about the story as to say more may ruin it, but it has many plot lines which raise issues with many events in our own lives, how we deal with certain things, the importance of education, science and relationships. The different characters are well written, each having a very strong personality and differing moral views on certain matters. It is easy to understand each of their view points, but the Mother/Daughter/student/teacher relationship of Miss Justineau and Melanie is the most touching and moving.

A brilliant read from the British writer of some highly successful fiction and comics..of course M R Carey is not his real name....

Review of We Were Liars by E Lockhart

I decided to read this book after watching a YouTube review of it by the wonderful BooksandQuills. I am always looking for recommendations because now I don't work with books, I often don't know what to read next. saying that, I have piles and piles of books already waiting to be read.Oops.

The Beautiful Sinclairs

The story focuses on the Sinclair family, a rich beautiful family with Harris Sinclair the head of the family. The narrator of the book is Candice Sinclair Eastman, the first granddaughter of Harris's three daughters. Every summer the whole of the Sinclair clan go to Beechwood Island off Massachusetts, their very own private island, where they spend the hot summer months as a family, eating drinking and bonding. The Sinclair's are powerful, rich, tall and blonde and are famous among the rich, glamorous social circles of Martha's Vineyard, New York and such. Each daughter has their very own house on the island where they can take their children, their friends and their partners. They have serving staff, cooks etc waiting on them hand and foot.

Not so perfect after all

Candice is 17 years old and at the beginning of the story she tells leads us to believe there are secrets among the family, that it is not so perfect after all. She also tells us she had dyed her once beautiful Sinclair blonde hair, black. She is also sick after a mysterious accident on the island which she has very little memory of during 'Summer 15'.She is also fed up of having to maintain an emotionless state when her father leaves them. One must maintain a smile at all times and NEVER speak of emotions or feelings.

The Liars

Candice and her cousins Johnny and Mirren and their friend Gat are called 'The Liars' because they cause trouble on the island as children do although the name 'The Liars' takes on more of a meaning as the book progresses.Candice has a crush on Gat since he started coming to the island when they were both eight. To her he seems different and unlike the stoic emotionless Sinclair family. He is also of Indian descent which causes many undertones of racist feelings amongst the elder members of the family.

The Twist

During the book we start to learn about the summers spent at the island and the different relationships, issues and arguments behind closed doors. We also follow Candice on her journey to remember what exactly happened to her during Summer 15, where she is found half drowned after running into the water alone one night. I actually didn't guess the twist at all, which I am glad about as it made the twist all the more shocking. The twist also makes you want to read the book all over again.

The book is easy to read, mysterious, intriguing, sad and atmospheric.You learn new information as Candice does and feel you are  trying to piece together what happened that night with her and why she is sick now. I really enjoyed reading the book and I do enjoy a good twist, and this really was. It does flit to different years, which can be a little confusing but overall I would thoroughly recommend it.