Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Timeless Innocents by Janis Susan May ★ ★ ★ ½

 A Guilt Free eBook Pleasure

Carina Press is a digital-first imprint from Harlequin.  This means they can bring authors and a broader range of stories to readers with more speed and versatility than their parent publisher by publishing first to e-book.
For my first sample of this e-book publisher I chose ‘Timeless Innocents’ by Janis Susan May.  It’s a novella tale of around 26,000 words with a cover that resembles the ugly Chucky doll of the suite of films. 
It’s a creepy little tale of lawyer Brianna Forte who, as executor of the Clerkwells’ (her Aunty and Uncle) estate, must catalogue and liquidate their assets.  Their possessions include hundreds of strangely life-like figurines called ‘Timeless Innocents’.  Immediately, she is drawn into the mystery of the Clerkwells’ life as she discovers, despite the Clerkwells’ modest lifestyle, the dolls they avidly collected are worth a fortune. Add to this, a constant stream of pushy people attempting to purchase them from her and we are in Twilight Zone territory. 
Her investigations are further complicated by an ex-boyfriend who is unable to accept their breakup and whose anger is rapidly escalating, and we are drawn into an intense, claustrophobic evening within the Clerkwells’ house as Brianna begins to realise something is very wrong with the dolls.
I love short stories and novellas and horror lends itself particularly well to this form.  Well written shorts and novellas should be well-paced and an exciting read from the first page to the last with a manageable stage and cast of characters. Authors just don’t have the time to be self-indulgent.
Author Janis Susan May certainly knows the rules and I spent an enjoyable two nights with Brianna Forte and the ‘Timeless Innocents’ and I look forward to reading more from this author. 
Did I mention that I love my e-reader? And no, I don’t miss the smell and feel of heavy books.  So, I commend Carina Press for embracing the digital age and offering well priced gems like ‘Timeless Innocents’.  This book will set you back the price of a cup of coffee at $3.59.  And that is a timeless bargain. 

Visit  www.carinapress.com for purchasing details.

Formerly an actress and singer, a talent agent and Supervisor of Accessioning for a bio-genetic DNA testing lab, Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups as well as many other things, including an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist.

Janis married for the first time when most of her contemporaries were becoming grandmothers. Her husband, also an Egyptophile, even proposed in a moonlit garden near the Pyramids of Giza. Janis and her husband live in Texas with an assortment of rescued furbabies.

Learn more about Janis Susan May… http://www.janissusanmay.com


The Uninvited by Liz Jensen ★ ★ ★★


A good story always has a protagonist riddled with faults, self-doubts and obstacles.  It makes for realistic reading and gives the character room for growth.  But it’s a crazy brave author who imbues their lead character with Asperger's Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder causing sufferers to struggle with correct social interaction, repetitive behavior and obsessive interests.
In ‘The Uninvited’, author Liz Jensen’s Asperger’s sufferer Hesketh Lock is a world authority on anthropology, employed by large organizations to analyze worker’s group behaviour.  His syndrome, which makes him unable to form true relationships with other human beings, gives him the unique ability to unemotionally analyse patterns in behaviour.
When seemingly loyal workers in organizations around the world suddenly wreak havoc through sabotage, followed quickly by suicide, Hesketh is sent to Taiwan to investigate the first occurrence.  He then finds himself travelling across the world as more and more workers damage their companies in various ways, from computer espionage to setting explosions, before dying.
Simultaneously, children around the world are suddenly and violently turning on their parents and grandparents, killing and maiming them.  It begins with a seven-year-old girl who puts a nail-gun to her grandmother's neck and fires.   As the story progresses Hesketh begins to wonder if his step-son, Freddy, the only person for which he feels any type of love, is also becoming part of the global epidemic of insanity.
This book is fascinating and a challenging read for the same reason.   Hesketh’s Asperger’s makes it a very confusing book in the first third due to his propensity to jump from one seemingly unrelated thought to the next.  However, when your mind becomes accustomed to his disjointed voice, you begin to appreciate his compelling view of human nature and the world. 
Jensen has written a character rarely encountered in fiction. Her eco-apocalyptic vision is also refreshingly new and a departure from the usual mutated virus, zombie or nuclear winter apocalypse.
Enter the world of ‘The Uninvited’ knowing it’s going to be a disjointed and slightly sluggish beginning.  However, once all the scattered threads are drawn together, you will find the pace will barely allow you to catch your breath until the shocking revelations at the end. It is quite an experience that may have you exiting your children’s bedrooms for just a few days without turning your back.
          My review copy of "The Uninvited" thanks to the loveable people at Bloomsbury Publishing Australia

To buy or learn more visit The Uninvited
EBook available here from Bloomsbury The Uninvited EBook $24.99
Release Dates: Australia and New Zealand: 1st August, 2012U.K.:  5th July 2012USA Release:  8th January 2013
          Liz Jensen was born in Oxfordshire, the daughter of a Danish father and an Anglo-Moroccan mother. She spent two years as a journalist in the Far East before joining the BBC, first as a journalist, then as a TV and radio producer. She then moved to France where she worked as a sculptor and began her first novel, Egg Dancing, which was published in 1995. Back in London she wrote Ark Baby (1998) which was shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Award, The Paper Eater (2000), and War Crimes for the Home (2002) which was longlisted for the Orange Prize and is currently being adapted for the stage. Her latest novel, The Ninth Life of Louis Drax, is published by Bloomsbury in June 2004, and will feature on Radio 4's Book at Bedtime. Next year it will be brought to the screen by Miramax, in a movie written and directed by Anthony Minghella.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dead Time by Anne Cassidy ★ ★ ★ ½



“Dead Time” is the first of the “Murder Notebook Series” by Anne Cassidy.  Cassidy has penned over thirty books during her career and her latest series follows two teenagers, Rose Smith and Joshua Johnson.
Twelve-year-old Rose’s mother and fourteen-year-old Joshua’s father live together happily until one night their parents go out to dinner and never come back.  Nothing is heard of them again and the two are sent to live with different relatives.  
Five years later Rose and Joshua are due to meet up, having not seen each other since that fateful night.  As rose waits on a train station heading to their rendezvous she is harassed by a boy from her college who has constantly made her life a misery.  He finally walks away only to be stabbed and killed on the railway bridge in full view of Rose.  She sees the attack but it occurs too far away for her to identify the assailant. After being befriended by the murdered boy’s girlfriend, things become even more frightening when the girlfriend is also found dead in a nearby cemetery.
As Rose is dragged into the mystery of the murder investigation, she and Joshua also begin to believe they may have found clues to the disappearance of their parents.  Rose is as feisty and stubborn as Joshua is thoughtful and melancholy which makes for good conflict. 
As in all good YA books, Cassidy fills her story with teenage awkwardness and simmering emotions.  Even though some may be disappointed with the lack of answers on the overall mystery of the parent’s disappearance, the solving of the murder was satisfying.  Certainly there will be many waiting for the next book of the series as the two continue their hunt to solve the mystery of their parent’s disappearance.  Any young adult fan reading this will certainly not feel they have spent any dead time with this author.

"Dead Time" is available now for Australia $15.99; New Zealand $19.98

My review copy of "Dead Time" thanks to the gorgeous people at  Bloomsbury Publishing Australia


Anne Cassidy was born in London in 1952, and worked for some years as a teacher, before becoming a full-time writer. She specializes in crime stories and thrillers for teenagers, and has written a series of East End Murder books.
Consequently, she has often been described as 'Ruth Rendell for teenagers', and includes Rendell among her own favourite authors. Since the early 1990s, Cassidy has produced a prolific output of both young adult novels and books for younger children, and had a steady and moderate stream of success until the award-winning Looking for JJ (2004) dramatically increased her public profile and credence in the literary world.  Learn more about Anne Cassidy at her website http://www.annecassidy.com/

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Dirtiest Race in History by Richard Moore ★ ★ ★★

Gripping Dirt


What I thought

          First up, I will reveal that sport is not my thing.  During the Olympics I was up watching the swimming, yes.  However, anything else is of cursory interest.  So, when I received this rather large book on a single race run in less than ten seconds, twenty-four years ago, I wasn’t doing the happy dance.  How can you write a considerably large book about that?
          But the book isn’t just about the race.  It’s about the doping and the rivalry that led up to the race.  And that is a fascinating subject.  The race wasn’t just about winning. It was also about two men, Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson who were personally and morally opposed and what this race meant to them financially and emotionally. And then there's the handlers and coaches and finincial under-the-table deals that will boggle you.  It’s gripping and suspenseful and as the race nears, towards the end of the book, almost impossible to stop reading.  When I’d finished I felt like I’d run the race.
          Having read this and The Secret Olympian back to back, I’m becoming quite the knowledgeable sports person, which if you knew me is very funny.  The power of books to educate as well as entertain should never be discounted.
          Sports fans this is an entertaining book you simply must read.

About The Dirtiest Race in History

          The 1988 Seoul Olympics played host to what has been described by some as the dirtiest race of all time, by others as the greatest. The final of the men's 100 metres at those Olympics is certainly the most infamous in the history of athletics, and more indelibly etched into the consciousness of the sport, the Olympics, and a global audience of millions, than any other athletics event before or since.
          Ben Johnson's world-record time of 9.79 seconds - as thrilling as it was - was the beginning rather than the end of the story. Following the race, Johnson tested positive, news that generated as many - if not more - shockwaves as his fastest ever run. He was stripped of the title, with Lewis awarded the gold medal, Linford Christie the silver and Calvin Smith the bronze.
          More than two decades on, the story still hadn't ended. In 1999 Lewis was named Sportsman of the Century by the IOC, and Olympian of the Century by Sports Illustrated. Yet his reputation was damaged by revelations that he too used performance-enhancing drugs, and tested positive prior to the Seoul Olympics. Christie also tested positive in Seoul but his explanation, that the banned substance had been in ginseng tea, was accepted. Smith, now a lecturer in English literature at a Florida university, was the only athlete in the top five whose reputation remains unblemished - the others all tested positive at some stage in their careers.
          Containing remarkable new revelations, this book uses witness interviews - with Johnson, Lewis and Smith among others - to reconstruct the build-up to the race, the race itself, and the fallout when news of Johnson's positive test broke and he was forced into hiding. It also examines the rivalry of the two favourites going into it, and puts the race in a historical context, examining its continuing relevance on the sport today, where every new record elicits scepticism.

To buy or learn more visit The Dirtiest Race in History
My review copy of "The Dirtiest Race in History" thanks to the definitely very clean people at Bloomsbury Publishing Australia  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Secret Olympian by Anon ★ ★ ★

A Bronze Read

 What I thought

          I read this book just after the Olympics finished and found it to be quite a fascinating insight.  It’s not everything you would hope for when the author is Anonymous.  However, its certainly improved my knowledge of the obstacles faced by elite athletes, along with the disappointments of not winning and the impact of arriving home to either retire or work for another four years.
           At $19.99 it is certainly an easy choice for the sport’s nut or would make a great gift for your lovable sport’s fan.

About The Secret Olympian

          The Secret Olympian exposes the truth of what goes on at the Olympic Games. Shocking, funny and slightly tongue in cheek, a former Olympian reveals the world of the Olympic athlete—and, behind the scenes, what a bizarre world it is...
          The vast majority of us can only dream of being an Olympic-level athlete­­­ but we have no real idea of what that means. Here, for the first time, in all its shocking, funny and downright bizarre glory, is the truth of the Olympic experience.
          It is an unimaginable world: 

·                  the kitting-out ceremony with its 35kg of team clothing per athlete the pre-Olympic holding camp with its practical jokes, resentment and fighting, and freaky physiological regimes
·                  the politicians' visits with their flirty spouses
·                  the vast range of athletes with their odd body shapes and freakish genetics
·                  the release post-competition in the Olympic village with all the excessive drinking, eating, partying and sex
·                  the hysteria of homecoming celebrations and the comedown that follows - how do you adjust to life after the Games?

          The Secret Olympian talks to scores of Olympic athletes - past and present, from Munich 1960 right through to London 2012, including British, American, Australian, Dutch, French, Croatian, German, Canadian and Italian competitors. They all have a tale to tell - and most of those tales would make your eyes pop more than an Olympic weightlifter's.

         To buy or learn more visit The Secret Olympian

My review copy of "The Secret Olympian" thanks to the good people at Bloomsbury Publishing Australia