Monthly Archives: August 2016
PRIZE DRAW TO WIN A SET OF FOUR BOOKS FROM URBANE PUBLICATIONS
On Bank Holiday Monday I showcased the writers and their books published through Urbane Publications. Thanks to the incredible generosity of Matthew the founder and owner of Urbane Books here is your chance to win not one but four great titles from their catalogue.
Since its founding in 2012 Urbane Publications have published some exciting and outstanding books covering both Fiction and non-fiction. To find out more about Urbane Publications click on the link: Here
Included in the book prize draw are the following titles.
1, Love and a Dozen Roast Potatoes by Simon Wan
2, Threat by Hugh Fraser
3, Glass Houses by Jackie Buxton
4, Infinite Rooms by David John Griffin
All four books have been getting 5 star reviews on Amazon. To enter the prize draw all you have to do to stand a chance of winning all four books is head over to my Twitter feed @thelastword1962 and follow and re-tweet the Pinned message. Off course I would much appreciate it if you could also head over to @urbanebooks and follow a friendly publisher who publishes rather good books.
Now the not so exciting bit….
The Terms and Conditions are as follows:
*The draw is open to UK only and runs from Tuesday 30 August to 7pm Thursday 1 September any entrants entering after this time will not be entered. Only one entry will be allowed. Multiple entries will not be entered. The four book prize is offered by Urbane Books. The winner will be selected at random and will be notified via a DM on Twitter. The winning books will be sent out by Urbane Books direct to the winner.
The Summer That Melted Everything – Tiffany McDaniel
The Last Word Review
There are times as a book reviewer when a book lands on your desk and you are holding the book and you have no real idea what the book is about then you read the enclosed press release and suddenly your mind and imagination are captured written by Tiffany McDaniel The Summer That Melted Everything is yet another outstanding debut novel as if 2016 has not already provided its fair share of memorable debuts. This is one book that I will remember for many a day.
It is 1984 and the setting is Breathed, Ohio the heatwave has scorched the landscape and the devil has come to Breathed but not in the shape or form that you imagine. For Fielding Bliss and his family this will be year that they will never forget.
The devil does not take the shape of the devil you imagine him to be, but he takes the form of a young African American boy by the name of Sal who arrives looking battered and bruised and wants ice cream. Now you may think that there is nothing sinister here accept there is something else, Sal claims he is the devil and that he has answered an invitation from the local paper. For Fielding Bliss he too is a Thirteen-year-old boy and thinks there is nothing so strange with Sal. The Bliss family take him in and from here on life that year will never be the same again. This is the summer that REALLY melted everything and very soon it becomes apparent that the townsfolk start to blame Sal for everything that goes wrong. A young black African American boy arrives into town proclaims he is the devil and now everyone starts to believe everything that he is. So this is 1984 there some connotations within the story that make us think of another time and another book of that year.
The writing of Tiffany McDaniel is one of an author who has written many books she creates a vision with her words and this creates in the reader’s mind’s eye a picture of what life is really like and then you start to ask the question about Hell and if it is really here living among us now. It is a startling novel at times I felt totally claustrophobic with the story of the town called Breathed and its inhabitants and their thoughts and beliefs. The Summer That Melted Everything is a story everyone should read for what lies between the covers is a story of our fears racism and homophobia in society.
This is a story that will rip your heart to shreds and will leave you questioning so much about the world we live in today. McDaniel’s prose is unlike anything I have read this year and I have said that so many times from debut writers during 2016 this is up there with the very best. I implore you to get a copy and see for yourself why I make this one of my books of 2016. Totally unforgettable. Sometimes in life there is no happy endings and reading this you will see why. Life can be really cruel at times this book captures the very essence of who we are. For some readers this may be difficult to read as you will want to scream at times. But it is a book that is crying out to be read. And it must.
Thank you to Scribe UK for the advanced review copy.
The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel is published by Scribe UK and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.
Blackout (Dark Iceland 3)– Ragnar Jónasson
The Last Word Review
The Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson is back with Blackout the third book in the Dark Iceland series. Anyone who has read Snowblind and Nightblind will know of his leading character the detective Ari Thor. Well fans can rejoice as he is back. One thing to note here that Blackout is actually the second of the three books. But this in no way detracts from the plots.
I have to admit that I am a huge fan of Icelandic writing and with Jónasson he creates a setting that only the best nordic crime writer can. The setting the bleakness and cold of the Icelandic winters makes for a dramatic plot. But in Blackout the setting is the Icelandic summer, albeit a short summer. Set against the backdrop of the volcanic eruptions that are darkening the summer skyline. Now setting into life based in the remote town of Siglufjörður. Life can be lonely for Ari Thor his girlfriend reluctant to relocate so at times he comes across as moody and dark.
As the Volcanic action darkens the skies and the mood this creates in turn quite a dark chilling atmosphere even in the summer months and also for the plot. Ari Thor has now been drafted in to investigate a brutal murder after a body was discovered by an American tourist. The great thing about Blackout is the style of writing and the rich variety of characters the reader gets introduced to. Somewhere in here could lie the key suspect? There are many twists and turns in this story that is so rich that it manages to hook the reader from the start and remember this is actually the second book of the three and that is quite an accomplishment. There is something so unique as a thriller based within a small community Ireland like Iceland that can deliver a classic crime novel.
Lookout for an interesting female reporter who gives quite a performance in Blackout and somewhat different in her approach than Ari. I thought this gave quite a balance to the investigation as a whole.
If you are new to Ragnar Jónasson’s writing my advice is go out and treat yourself to all three in the series and get to know a writer that has quite a following and is also award winning. You will be gripped by all three books and many will be booking trips to visit Iceland and the places made famous in Snowblind, Nightblind and now Blackout.
Thank you to Karen at Orenda Books for the review copy.
Blackout by Ragnar Jónasson is published by Orenda Books and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.
Dust – Mark Thompson
The Last Word Review
There is nothing better for a book reviewer than to come across a new writer and his debut novel and Mark Thompson’s debut Dust is another fine example of the quality of new writers that have emerged during 2016.
With the backdrop of New Jersey in the later part of the 1960’s we follow the two friends J.J Walsh and Tony ‘El Greco’ Papadakis over the three-year period as the two boys share the experiences and life changing events. This is the era of the Vietnam War, the racial divide through America and a time that man stopped looking in wonder at the moon and actually walked on its surface as the world watched.
We see everyday life through the eyes of two 10-year-old boys who share a very special friendship a bond in fact as they face the everyday challenges that the late 1960’s could throw at them. The ongoing Vietnam War overshadows the lives and is heartbreaking at times. But the two boys have to overcome many things and J.J can see the ‘El Greco’ is having a traumatic time with his personal life. Racial prejudices are never far away in this story. The two boys are different than most 10-year-old’s with their cynical view of modern life. Two young boys and their young lives and having to deal with everyday things that many 10-year-old’s should not have to cope with.
Dust is a story that moves along at a steady pace and the focus of this story is very much on the two boys and is very much written in a style that many will recognise from other similar books of this time. It is beautifully written and one that many who discover Mark Thompson’s writing will come to love. One of those rare timeless books that people will discover in years to come and wonder why they never read it first time around.
A story that quietly captures the reader’s attention and imagination and never wavers from its undramatic stance. Quite simply this is an extraordinary novel and one where you feel the empathy for two young boys and the loss of some much not just the innocence of their years.
I am not just recommending Dust to you the reader I am hoping that you go and buy a copy on publication day and discover the story of JJ and ‘El Greco’ growing up quickly in suburban New Jersey. One story I will not forget in a hurry.
Thank you to Authoright and Red Door Publishing for the advanced review copy.
Dust by Mark Thompson is published by Red Door Publishing on 8 September available through Amazon.
The Ashes of London – Andrew Taylor
The Last Word Review
Andrew Taylor is a British crime and historical writer, best known for the international bestseller The American Boy and The Fallen Angel Trilogy. But in his latest novel Andrew Taylor turns his attention to a part of London’s history. In The Ashes of London this could well be one his best yet. A murder mystery like no other that I can remember. It is September 1666 The Great Fire of London has been burning for a number of days nothing can stop the flames it consumes everything it its way even St Pauls Cathedral which has been London’s landmark is burning. The immense heat from the flames, the chocking smoke and the crackling of the fire as it consumes the wooden structures. Just a year after the Black Death now London is being destroyed and nothing can be done to stop it. Treasures are going up in smoke. And the people can only stand and stare as their homes are destroyed.
The Great Fire is key to the latest work from Andrew Taylor. As crowds gather to watch St Pauls burning to the ground a young boy breaks through the crowd and wants to run into the burning cathedral as if he is being pulled into the flames but a young man manages to grab the boy at the last moment his name is James Marwood. The boy however is not a boy but a young girl. But before he can find out more she flees from Marwoods grasp and disappears into the crowd of people.
Marwood is now the centre of the story, his elderly father was a supporter of Cromwell and the civil war that saw the execution of Charles I. Marwood has a role albeit a rather junior role within Whitehall but here Marwood seems to spend a lot of time hiding information from his peers. But now a body has been found in the ruins of the cathedral and Marwood has been called in to look at the body but the man did not die in the fire. This was murder. Was the body left there so the fire would conceal the truth?
The character Marwood now goes on to tell his story and the investigation in his own words, which I found I was so well told being at a time when both politics and religion seem to drive the passions throughout the land. The Monarchy is back but the divisions are still present in society and as Marwood finds out there is much at stake.
We meet another character Cat, she has dreams and passions for the future but she is a young lady with intelligence and desire. But now she is in dire trouble and her life is in peril. She has no choice but to run.
The Ashes of London turns out to be a first rate read from start to finish. There is so much detail on every page at times it seems hard to keep up but that is down to the research by Andrew Taylor it is part history and part crime novel of sheer brilliance. The stories of the leading characters and other players involved tell a tale of truths and lies and the detail of London at this time from the buildings to the social times of the seventeenth century. One of my favourite periods in English history so reading this was something I thoroughly enjoyed from beginning to end. This is one book I am delighted to recommend if you are a lover of historical fiction.
One question is will Andrew Taylor be writing more historical fiction from this time in history?
The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor is published by Harper Collins and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.
Work Like Any Other – Virginia Reeves
The Last Word Review
I am under no doubts that 2016 will go down as one those literary classic years that we will look back with many fond memories of books read and new authors discovered. I have read so many outstanding books through this year and I am struggling to select my book of the year. No comes along another, a stunningly beautifully written debut novel by Virginia Reeves with Work Like Any Other.
The novel is set in the rural heartland of Alabama during the 1920’s and Roscoe Martin has had to surrender his work as his wife whom he loves dearly has now taken over her father’s farm, to Roscoe this is bad news as he does not like the idea of a life in farming and this causes some friction and resentment with his wife Marie. It becomes clear that Roscoe would rather leave the tending of the fields to the land manager Wilson.
Times are changing and electricity is coming and to Roscoe this thing of power could be the saviour of not just the farm but his now failing marriage, he has the idea of bringing some of the ‘wasted’ electricity to the farm but this is stealing and is not something you can return at a later date. What could be so wrong as taking a little power and diverting to the farm, nothing could go wrong.
Well it does it go for Roscoe and Wilson and there is a severe price to pay for both in differing ways. For Roscoe he now loses everything including his beloved family. Now incarcerated in Kilby Prison and doing hard time life will be harsh and for Wilson he too was sent to Kilby Prison as he was seen as an accomplice to Roscoe but there is a difference between them both Wilson is black and his hard time will be more severe he will be forced into what was in those days as ‘forced slave labour.’
This is historical fiction at its finest it is raw and told in a way that makes you taste the dust of the farmland and the crackle of the electricity and it runs through the power lines it is both haunting and brutal in its description of life in prison. The characters are superb in the way they have been designed from Marie on her resentment of to her husband to Roscoe and how he adapts to his incarceration but something about Roscoe wanted me to shake him he comes across as passive and accepts to easily the punishment there is little fight in the man when it becomes clear that it is not only his freedom that he has lost.
One felt more for Wilson being black and his punishment to severe yet he is man of stature and Wisdom. I wished more for Wilson. Work Like Any Other is mighty fine debut novel a real ‘slow burner’ but delivers on a purely historical perspective looking at 1920’s Alabama and the injustices of the time as well as prison life. This is a story that is compelling and well-structured at times complex but overall this is an exceptional novel and Virginia Reeves is a new writer to keep an eye on for the future.
Work Like Any Other has recently been Longlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize. The announcement of the Shortlist will be made on 13 September with the book being announced on 25 October.
Thank you to Scribner UK for a review copy.
Work Like Any Other written by Virginia Reeves and published by Scribner UK and is available through all Waterstones branches and all good bookshops.
Nevernight – Jay Kristoff
The Last Word Review
From the bestselling author of The Lotus War and The Illuminae Files comes an epic new series fantasy series starting with the staggering Nevernight this is a monumental read of 643 pages. I am not normally one for reviewing fantasy novels but earlier this year I was approached and a few days later an advanced review copy landed on my desk. Believe me this is mind blowing.
Nevernight is aimed at the ‘young adult’ market but what I would say here firstly is that there is a lot violence and some very strong language so it may not be ideal for the younger audience. But that is not taking away from a truly epic first novel in the series. It is dark possible even very dark in places and brutal in places. If you are a fan of fantasy novels, then Nevernight is one book that I would suggest you head out this weekend to your nearest bookshop and seek out a copy.
I am not going to give any spoilers away here just a brief synopsis of the story. This is just the beginning as there are hints of more books to come in the series and if the rest are anything close to Nevernight then the series will be a series worth reading. I am not sure there has been a book ahead of release that I have been approached about to see if I was going to review even as far as the United States.
Mia Corvere is the leading character in this first book, her father was hanged as a traitor and so the story begins. There is blood, lots of it and tales of revenge and lots of flashbacks which can easily be lost if you do not keep track of what is a complex story and with Mia determined to become an assassin and seek revenge for those that killed her father, but becoming an assassin is not easy and this is Mia’s story she is one of 30 chasing four assassin spots this is a brilliantly crafted book that many will consume in one sitting and if you are a fan of The Game of Thrones then this is must read for you the way the story flows it will capture the imagination of viewers of the epic small screen series.
When you add in that this is about a young female seeking revenge and will not stop until she has sought out those and dealt her own revenge then this is going to be one hell of a ride for anyone who picks up this dark and perilous fantasy adventure.
Nevernight – The book proof
Jay Kristoff is a fantasy writer that is one to watch for the future with the start of this series and will gain many new fans from both sides of the Atlantic.
Yes, I highly recommend Nevernight and I am already looking forward to book two.
Thank you to Harper Voyager for the advanced review copy.
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff is published by Harper Voyager today and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.
Threat – Hugh Fraser
The Last Word Review
Fans of the Agatha Christie’s Poirot TV series will remember Hugh Fraser as Captain Hastings but did you know Hugh Fraser the author with his latest novel Threat this is his second novel and believe me this is pretty exceptional.
I have not yet read Hugh Fraser’s first novel Harm but his latest offering Threat is a sequel to this but don’t worry if you like me have not read his first novel as this reads like a standalone book.
The story set in London in 1961 and Rina Walker is a 20 – year-old hired assassin with a mission for hire. The story opens with quite an explosive start which really gets your attention. Rina is a young woman with attitude, a feisty fighter of a woman that you would not want to cross in any situation. Rina is hired by Tony Farina who is Soho’s vice king to track down missing girls that have been ‘working’ at some of his clubs. The one aspect of Fraser’s writing is how he describes London during this time, accurate and detailed from the sleazy back street clubs to the pubs were the furniture is nailed to the floor as could be some of their undesirable clients that frequent them.
Rina not only has her safety to look after but Georgie who is living with her and when she confronts a leading killer this puts Georgie in real danger. In Threat the tension is palpable and the body count rises with each chapter. This is a no holding back thriller gripping and taught from start to finish some the detail may be shocking but remember this is London in the early 1960’s and there is no hiding from what really went on then.
Rina really has a rather special skill set that sets her apart from most other young women who were enjoying the swinging 60’s at the time. She hides money in some rather interesting places for those moments when ready cash is needed. But now she is on collision course and there is more at stake then she realises. From here Rina has to deal with some the lowest form humanity that involves a member of the establishment throw in corruption, MI6 and the KGB as well as a Nazi war criminal and you have a recipe for an all action thriller that will leave you breathless. The leading characters will leave a mark on you and you will judge each one as they play their role.
This is my first Hugh Fraser novel and will not be the last. This is an exceptional and a well-crafted book. I highly recommend this for those who like their thrillers holding nothing back.
Thank you to Urbane Books for a review copy.
Threat by Hugh Fraser published by Urbane Books on 23 June and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.
The Curious Fox – Ross McDonagh
The Last Word Review
Normally I do not review children’s books but there is some rather special about The Curious Fox by Ross McDonagh. It is beautifully illustrated by Conor M. O’Brien and will really appeal to children of all ages.
The story is of a fox cub who wakes one morning and something “Puzzling on his mind” and so begins for our fox cub a journey of discovery. Told in rhymed verse the young fox meets various wild creatures in the Irish countryside as he tries to understand what makes him different to everyone else. On his journey he meets a Giraffe, a Peacock, a Pig and Crocodile to name but a few.
This is a delightful and charming little book consisting of 32 pages with a message that all children will at some point be thinking and asking. Our delightful little fox learns a lesson that he will carry with him forever as well as meeting some wonderful new friends.
The Curious Fox will delight parents as they read it to their children and it is a book that one day their children would pass on the message. The message contained within may be a lesson than some grown up’s need to learn in these troubled times.
It is beautifully illustrated by Conor M. Obrien who worked on the IFTA-award winning Geist and CBBC Go Jetters and Emmy nominated Octonauts.
Thank you to Pamela McLoughlin for a review copy of The Curious Fox.
The Curious Fox written by Ross McDonagh and published by Veritas and is available through Amazon.
The Tsar of Love and Techno – Anthony Marra
The Last Word Review
Every now and again a writer comes along with a book that is just so outstanding yet you know it will never become a bestseller as Anthony Marra is one of those writers that despite his writing he will go un-noticed. With his latest book The Tsar of Love and Techno Marra gives us a selection of short stories yet each one is linked. I promise you this really is a brilliant book.
With the first story and in my view the best of them all is set in Leningrad in the year 1937. Stalin is setting out his stall and people are paying a very high price. A heart-breaking story and Roman Markin is narrator. Markin is an artist and is working underground. No ordinary artist as his employer is the state itself. He role as the artist is to ‘doctor’ pictures airbrushing individuals out and painting others in and making Stalin look picture perfect. It is during this time that something happens and is a story that will emotionally wash over you. The standard of writing here is something so incredible, it is powerful and moving.
The sheer beauty of this book is that to really appreciate them you must read all nine stories from start to finish in order only this way you will come to appreciate the flow of each unique story and how they all link together. A literary puzzle that is perfect it will be hard to find a finer collection of stories put together in one book.
The picture that is being painted of Russia here by Marra is one of sheer extreme and harshness yet the characters he brings to the reader is more akin to a major Russian author. There is something unique with every story as much as each is linked they shift from third to first person this can be difficult with a collection of stories together but credit to Marra he makes this work as much as his knowledge of Russia he did spend time in St Petersburg as a student.
As much as the stories may seem dark as a Russian winters night there is within warm humour that is welcome and needed. The Tsar of Love and Techno is an ambitious project that Marra has pulled off with the skill of a long standing bestselling writer. Writing is an art and Anthony Marra is a very skilled artist. This is a brilliant book and one of my books of 2016. I now desperately need to read his first book A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
Thank you to Naomi Mantin for a review copy.
The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra published by Hogarth Books on 4 August and is available through Waterstones.