Q&A with Jane Thynne, author of ‘Black Roses’

Back in March, I reviewed a fabulous romantic thriller set in pre-WWII Germany. Black Roses by Jane Thynne is the story of Clara Vine, a young actress who goes to Berlin to pursue a film career and ends up as a British spy and confidante of Magda Goebbels, the infamous First Lady of the Third Reich. Read More

Introducing Bernie Rhodenbarr

It’s some years since I read one of Lawrence Block’s crime novels, and then I’ve only read the first twelve of his seventeen Matt Scudder books. In this series alcoholic ex-cop turned private investigator Scudder plies his trade around the shady joints of NYC. Scudder is a very likeable PI, but the books are quite Read More

“Echoed voices in the night she’s a restless spirit on an endless flight”

Babayagaby Toby Barlow Toby Barlow’s debut, Sharp Teeth, which I capsule-reviewed back in the early days of this blog should have really appeared in my Top novels I’ve read by men post from a couple of days ago. His Sopranos-style story of gang warfare amongst the werewolves in LA, written in the form of a prose Read More

Hollywood Noir down Mexico Way

Bitter Drink by FG Haghenbeck, translated from the Spanish by Tanya Huntingdon. Whenever I read some noir, I know I should read lots more, for I love it, but I get distracted onto other things – I think it’s a dead cert that’ll happen this time too.  Meanwhile, although this slim novel is no masterpiece, Read More

A Tale of Two Women in 1930s Berlin

Black Roses by Jane Thynne Remembering Jane Thynne’s columns and reviews in the Daily Telegraph, and having read that she is married to thriller writer Philip Kerr, I had high hopes of her new novel, set in Berlin during the years preceding WWII. I wasn’t disappointed, for Black Roses is a brilliant historical thriller based Read More

A master class in the art of stand-up

Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin In the 1970s, Steve Martin was one of the US’s top comedians, playing sell-out tours to huge audiences, and regularly appearing on Saturday Night Live and the Johnny Carson Show. After eighteen years, worn out by it, and noticing the first empty seats in an audiences Read More

Getting to know Beryl better…

Beryl Bainbridge: Artist, Writer, Friend by Psiche Hughes I will happily go on record to say that Beryl Bainbridge is my favourite author. Earlier this year, I hosted a reading week celebrating her work; you can see my record of that week and a bibliography of Beryl books and reviews on my Reading Beryl page. Read More

A brilliantly entertaining “Not a Sherlock Holmes” novel…

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R King Novels which adopt other authors’ characters can be a bit hit or miss – I think I was the only person who thoroughly enjoyed PD James’s Pride & Prejudice sequel. With the benefit of hindsight, I totally saw it as a continuation of the TV series though, rather than Read More

Bottling Things Up, or Bottling Out?

The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge A couple of weeks ago, Simon at Savidge Reads chose three books he was going to read before his imminent thirtieth birthday, (and he asked for more recommendations for forty books to read before he is forty.) One of the three was based on a suggestion of mine Read More

Man, lost, needs space.

Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion? by Johan Harstad, translated by Deborah Dawkin Written in 2005 in Norwegian and newly available in translation, this novel had an irresistible title for me being a bit of fan of all things space related.  However, it’s not really about the Apollo space program, it Read More

The name’s Bond, James Bond.

The Young Bond novels by Charlie Higson Today, there’s a mega author event at Abingdon School’s Amey Theatre for over 600 local children – Charlie Higson, the author, actor and comedian (cough) is coming to talk to them, coinciding with the third installment of his zombie horror series, but more of that in another post… Read More

Of baby factories, orgy-porgy & Shakespeare – Yes, it’s that dystopia!

This post was republished into my blog’s original timeline from my lost posts archive. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley This week, having re-visited one dystopian novel I previously read as a teenager (click here), I was able to fit in another of the biggies of the genre in time for our book group discussion Read More

Two Psycho-thrillers: SJ Watson & Sophie Hannah

This post is combined from two in my lost posts archive, republished into their original place in my blog’s timeline. Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson There is a lot of love out there for this novel. Despite the hype though, given the type of psychological thriller that it is, it was Read More

One of the other bests of Beryl …

The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge. Now I’ve read three novels by the late great Dame Beryl Bainbridge, I can truly say that she has become one of my favourite authors, and I can’t wait to read more. She was a master of succinctly getting to the heart of the matter. Her novels aren’t long in Read More

The Yeomen of the Guard off duty …

Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo by Julia Stuart (republished into its original place in the time-line from my lost post archive) I’d picked this book up in a bookshop, and put it down again, thinking it might be a bit twee. Then I was offered a copy by the publisher and after Read More

A Promising Pair

Introducing Peirene Press Peirene Press, named after a Greek nymph who turned into a water spring which was drunk by poets for inspiration, is a new publishing house specialising in contemporary European literature of novella length in translation. I was lucky enough to win a copy of their first novel from Librarything, and was offered Read More

A bit of an ‘ish’ book – funny-ish, enjoyable-ish, satirical-ish

Bestseller by Alessando Gallenzi This black comedy, about the travails of publishing as seen by a serially-unpublished young wannabe bestselling author and a respected old publisher of translated works beleaguered by the financial world he is now forced to work in, could have been really hilarious – if say David Lodge or Tom Sharpe had written Read More

Tales of beasts, wolves and crafty maidens

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter I tried reading one of AC’s novels many years ago, but it was the wrong book for me at that time. When Claire at Paperback Reader who is a huge fan decided to host an Angela Carter month, it was time to try again. I’m glad Read More

Whatever Happened to Snail Mail?

Burley Cross Postbox Theft by Nicola Barker I was really keen to read Nicola Barker’s new book. I’ve read three others of hers, (although not her Booker shortlisted chunkster Darkmans yet). In those books I found she has a rare feel for ordinary people’s lives in and around London, capturing lifestyles and dialogue perfectly with great wit. Clear: A Read More

An evening with Roma Tearne

Brixton Beach Book Group I went to an author event with a difference last night. Roma Tearne, author of  Brixton Beach which I reviewed here agreed to join in a book group discussion at Mostly Books and I was able to join in with the regular book group.  We all met and discussed the book for Read More

Lizard Kings, Pirates & the Mechanical Turk

The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar Steampunk is a difficult category to get to grips with sometimes with its spec fiction take on Victorian England with added fantasy elements. Tidhar’s The Bookman has a great premise – a terrorist is setting off bombs in London hidden in books and unfortunately one of them blows up Lucy, the Read More

A Gripping Novel of Sri Lanka and London

Brixton Beach by Roma Tearne Roma Tearne’s new novel is one of the books chosen for the C4 TV Book Club, it’ll be featured at the end of February. Although I thought it looked interesting, I hadn’t been in a hurry to read it, but then the publisher offered me a copy as the Oxford-based author Read More

Complicated emotions are explored in this big novel

The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale This was the last novel I finished reading in 2009, and it was solid yet gripping, a satisfying read that explores big and complicated emotions – yet I’ve struggled in my thoughts about how to do it justice in a review. Where to start? Examining the cover gives a clue Read More

Three middle-class brothers – three family mid-life crises

The Bradshaw Variations by Rachel Cusk A year in the life of the Bradshaws – three brothers, their ageing parents and their families. Firstly, there’s middle brother Thomas who has taken a year’s sabbatical to learn the piano, his wife Tonie who has been promoted and back at work full-time, and daughter Alexa. Older brother Read More

Two short novels – Two complex stories

This week I passed the 100 books read this year landmark, and numbers 99 and 101 were both cracking short novels… The Beacon by Susan Hill is a claustrophobic and suspenseful family drama which leaves you wondering what you believed in the tale. It tells of four siblings, Colin, May, Frank and Berenice who were Read More

Short Takes

Catching up on some shorter reviews … Amulet by Roberto Bolano To paraphrase the Cranberries album title, Everybody else is reading it, so why can’t I? – I’ve finally read some Roberto Bolano. He is definitely the flavour of the moment; his posthumously published epic 2666 is generating acres of discussion and review. However I Read More

A true story of the Russian Revolution

Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick There has been renewed interest in the beloved children’s author Arthur Ransome lately due to the publication of a new biography: The Last Englishman by Roland Chambers. What many people don’t know is that years before he wrote the children’s classics, including Swallows and Amazons, for which he Read More

Art for art’s sake?

The Bellini Madonna by Elizabeth Lowry There have been many novels about the search for missing art masterpieces, but few so convoluted as this. It’s written totally in the first person as a confession by Thomas Lynch, a randy old professor of art history who is an expert on the renaissance masters, Bellini in particular. Read More

Quality debunking of poor scientific thinking

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre This is an important book with two main themes. The first is what really goes on behind medical trials – the placebo effect; how many trials are poorly designed; how their data is reported and manipulated; and then how the media takes it, twists it and sensationalises it. The second Read More

Boring Postcards by Martin Parr is anything but!

Boring Postcards by Martin Parr This was a book I rescued from a local charity shop for just £1 and fell in love with instantly. Presented in their original size, beautifully printed onto heavyweight paper with plenty of white space surrounding them, these postcards make a brilliant topic for an art book from Phaidon, masters Read More