boo – neil smith

Boo – Neil Smith

“The sky used to be bluer in my day,” says the old man. “But it is your day,” I reply. “You aren’t dead yet.”

I received a review copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Thirteen year old Oliver “Boo” Dalrymple got his nickname at school due to the ghostly colour of his pale skin, and his white-blond sticky-up hair. He is now having an opportunity to live up to his name as he is quite suddenly dead.

“I died in front of my locker at Keller Junior High on September 7, 1979,” he tells us.

Boo wakes up in Town. Town isn’t much of a heaven. Only thirteen year olds that have died in America inhabit his particular Town, but some of the thirteen year old inhabitants have been thirteen for decades – apparently you rebirth after 50 years.

Boo has always been a little ‘different’. He never made friends easily, his social skills were never the greatest, he has a habit of voicing the inappropriate, but his IQ is superior for his age. Town is both a disappointment (it’s much like America but with less stuff) and a wonder (people and buildings can ‘fix’ themselves when they are broken).  So, Boo spends time getting to know his fellow Townies, conducting his own experiments, and trying to work out how he died, which he believes is due to his heart defect.

However, when he discovers a fellow student from his school, Johnny,  who tells him that they were actually both murdered – and that their murderer, the mysterious Gunboy who he only sees in his nightmares, killed himself too, so is probably in Town somewhere.

Boo and Johnny decide to track down Gunboy and demand answers – but are either of them ready for the truth and its own consequences?

I loved the idea behind this book, although some of the details were a bit odd. A Town full of just thirteen year olds? All I kept thinking was that they were actually growing old and well into middle-age and probably falling in love – and then, well, wouldn’t they be wanting to have sex? And that would just be totally weird!

Surprisingly, even though the book starts off with a dead kid, it took me ages to get into it. Boo isn’t exactly the easiest character to like, and Town just seemed so…normal.  There was a lot of description about how things were, but there was so little that was fantastical (and perhaps that was just the point) that I kind of switched off through a lot of the text.

But after a slow start, the middle to end was far more interesting and it became quite a page turner for a while.  I loved the ideas more than the actual book, but it was an easy, unusual story that I’m glad that I read.

dead gone – luca veste

Dead Gone

I received this book as a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

The body of a City of Liverpool University student has been found in a local park.  Another murder for DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi? Well, not quite. This is the first murder that Murphy has had to face since he went through a horrific personal experience around a year before, leaving his nerves and confidence knocked.

On top of that, there is a note left with the body that seems to suggest that this may not be a ‘straightforward’ murder. Not wanting to read too much into it, Murphy believes it to be a crank – but when another body turns up with another letter, the victim also linked to the University, Murphy realises that he may well be dealing with the sick, twisted mind of a serial killer.

As hunty-thriller-catchy-killer books go, this was a good one. There’s an intro that after a while you realise isn’t quite what you originally thought. DI Murphy is a great character, rather broken, as you expect with fictional detectives, but he doesn’t always get it right – he feels more real. He’s not a super-detective. His flaws are many, but his humanity is all. I’m pleased to see that this book is described as (DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi #1) on Goodreads, which hints at it being the first of a series featuring them.

A lot of it seemed to play out very cinematically in my head – and I’m not sure whether that was because the author drew on ‘known’ detective-style scenes, or because the descriptions cast a very strong visual in my mind. Either way, it meant that I could see this transferring to the small screen very easily.

I also liked the way that you strongly know quite a way into the book, exactly who the killer is, but then other events occur and you’re left guessing whether you’d misread it.  It all ties up well in the end.

I’ll look forward to the next one!

the returned – jason mott

The Returned

You may have guessed that i picked this book up due to it sharing the same name and premise as the fantastic French series currently showing on Channel 4.  However, I will start by warning all those that get all excited by that thought – this is NOTHING like the series.

The dead are returning.

In Arcadia, a small town in the US, elderly God-fearing church-goer Lucille tells her husband Harold “They’re not people – they’re devils!”

That is before Agent Martin Bellamy from the Federal Bureau Of The Returned turns up on their doorstep with Jacob.  Jacob, their only son who died 55 years before – drowned on his 8th birthday.

As Lucille seems to whole-heartedly embrace the boy as their son, Harold is suddenly the one with the doubts. How can this be possible? The dead are dead – they can’t come back.  he looks for signs that the child is something other than exactly what he seems. His son.

When Agent Bellamy asks “Do you want to keep him?” Harold has to search his heart for an honest answer.

As more and more of the Returned appear across the world, emotions run high.  Different cultures react to them differently. Soon they will outnumber the living – and then what?

And Arcadia has its own protesters against the Returned.

There were parts of this book that I loved, and parts that just didn’t work as well for me.

I believe that the author had the idea for the story after his parents had died, and he had a dream that he came home and found his mother sitting at the dinner table just waiting for him.

These are the parts of the story that worked for me.  The emotional, difficult question – how would we react to our beloved dead if they suddenly came back and started iving amongst us again.  How would their return affect us?  How would the changes in the world appear to them?

I think that this is being explored far better in the French series – it’s far more about people and coming to terms with what’s happened and is now happening.

The Returned

I think the book lost a little momentum in the middle. Overall it was a good story, and the main characters were believable and likeable. The ending was simple, but effective, although I wasn”t as keen on the last chapters leading up to it.

I am thinking that perhaps the very reason I picked the book up in the first place was the reason I ended up not being quite as taken with it.  If you haven’t watched the French series, you’ll probably really like the book!

And just for those who have been watching the series – did you know that it’s a remake of a 2004 French film called “They Came Back“?  I didn’t!

The Returned by Jason Mott will be published on 27th August 2013.

14 – peter clines


I originally got this as an advance review copy for the other half, as I thought it sounded right up his street.  But he’s been having a bit of a slack reading period lately – he keeps re-reading old favourites and not picking up anything new.

So, after having it for a couple of months (it was released on 5th June), I thought I’d give it a bash myself.

Nate Tucker has a low-paid job and needs to find somewhere low-rent to match it.  When a vague acquaintance tips him off about a cheap apartment hes heard of, he decides to check it out.

He can’t believe his luck and moves in straight away, further cheered when he runs into his gorgeous blue-haired neighbour sunbathing naked on the roof.

However, he soon starts to notice that there seems to be some strange quirks in his new abode.  The cockroaches are green for a start, and one light fitting only glows with black light – no matter what bulb he puts in it.  and then there are they two apartment doors that look like they have been paonted closed for tens of years – including the mysterious, heavily padlocked apartment 14.

When his geeky neighbour Veek points out that there are no power lines going into their building, they decide to rally the other tennants and investigate – much to the horror of Oskar, their secretive caretaker.  What could he possibly be concerned about them uncovering?

I had absolutely no idea where this story was headed.

It started off like a slightly quirky mystery.  Nate is young, likeable, intelligent but not so much that it’s annoying, a bit of a slacker at work, funny – he’s just ‘normal’.  You can imagine all of the characters living in the same building.  All they have in common is their love (or need) of the cheap rent.

So, it starts as a mildly intriguing, entertaining grown-uop Scooby Doo romp.  And that is actually how Clines pushes it, getting the characters to decide whether they are Shaggy, Fred, Scooby, Daphne or Velma.

And then suddenly it gets rather weird, and I was thinking “WTF??”.  But this was in a good way! The investigations start to get more serious, and they start to uncover more historical oddities about the building.

But towards the end, it becomes completely and utterly surreal – which I hadn’t been expecting at all! It moves from being some kind of mystery into something more sci-fi – completely genre-hopping.  I can understand that this could turn some peopel off, but to be honest, I loved it!

I’d grown to love the characters, and the way that they adapted to the different aspects of each situation felt realistic.

The narrative was actually very easy to read, but the story had so many layers that I couldn’t work out where it was going, and it’s nice to be surprised like that sometimes.

I’m not sure who I would recommend it to, but I’d love to discuss it with some friends who had read it.   If I’d known what it wa slike, I would have suggested it as our Book Club read one month!

mums like us – laura kemp

Mums Like Us

I received this as an advance review copy, but didn’t manage to read it until a couple of weeks after it had been published. Oops!

Mums Like Us is a weekly group for ‘normal’ mums. Those who don’t manage to hold down a high-flying job, look immaculate every moment of the day, exercise before the rest of the household is up, have perfect children and throw extravagant parties for their successful husbands.

Mums Like Us is for the average mums. The ones who can barely prise their eyes open in the morning, often do the school run in their PJs, whose houses are a permanent sticky mess and who plonk their kids in front of the TV to eat their dinner while they open a bottle of wine.

Stella Smith is the Chairwoman of the group and the story is written in the form of direct addresses or emails from her to the club members, or news stories.  Interspersed are emails from her husband to his brother or members of his mediochre football team of fellow dads.

There are elements of the book that I absolutely loved – the idea of ‘Mother Superiors’ – those that look down their nose at other mums who just don’t seem to cope as well as them and have as amazing a life.  Those who think that your average mum just isn’t trying hard enough – and we’ve all encountered them, haven’t we?  Especially at that Mother Superior hallowed ground that Stella coins the ‘Nasty Childbirth Trust’.

My experience of the NCT in Stoke Newington was one of the key elements to put me off the area completely – so hearing it coined so vehemently in this book was a wondrous feeling for me! 🙂

The idea of mums being ‘good enough’ – the Mums Like Us slogan really is something I could buy into.  Just this week, I have been feeling that eternal guilt of parenthood.  And The Girl is 13 years old – no little toddler.  I have always had that feeling that I haven’t done the right thing for her, and I don’t think that’s any different from most mums.

So – lots of great things in the book, which were tugging at all the right strings – as well as being very funny.

However, the format just didn’t quite work for me.  The form it took as a form of address just grated occasionally – it felt very unnatural.  It was the same with Matt’s emails.  They both revealed so much intimacy that I felt they wouldn’t really have done in ‘real’ life.  It felt that what they were saying was really what they would have been thinking in their head, which was perfectly natural, but you wouldn’t share that with a roomful of people!

I also wasn’t sure of the way that Stella addresses the group as ‘lardies’ rather than ladies.  many of the ‘good enough’ mums I know are stick then because they’re trying to do too much at once, so it felt a little derogatory to insinuate that mums that don’t try to hard will all be a bit porky.

Unfortunately, being within the first line of the book, it took me aback somewhat, and I’m not sure I ever really warmed to Stella completely after that.

So, unique, witty, vociferous and with a good strong message…but it just didn’t quite hit every spot for me due to the format.

I would recommend that all those ‘good enough’ mums read it though. Preferfably with a glass of wine…or two!

danger in cat world – nina post

Danger In Cat World

I received this as a review copy.  I have to admit, until I saw it, I had never even heard of Nina Post – let alone read any of her books (of which there appear to be four!) – but i will be very happy to read others at some stage! Perhaps when my massive ‘To Read’ pile has dwindled somewhat!

The ‘Danger’ in cat world actually refers to Detective Shawn Danger – a homicide detective brought in to investigate the murder of a rich paper heiress who has been found with her head bludgeoned in.

In an attempt to solve the case, Shawn also has to investigate the apparent murder of the heiress’ 50+ year old tortoise (who had once attended boarding school), work out why she had been obsessive about the weights of her collection of anvils and get to the bottom of why she hired such a bunch of misfits to work in her mansion on such odd tasks as ‘investigating coincidences’.

Not only this, but Shawn’s is trying hard to avoid his own family (who wouldn’t want to avoid sisters that used to make him play ‘North Korean Dictator’?), has found a potential love interest and is having to placate his cat Comet who is a little put out when a number of ideantical cats seem to be appearing at Shawn’s house every hour.

I love a little bit of surreal, and this certainly does contain a bit of surreal.

Shawn is a fantastic character.  he’s a bit of a loner, at loggerheads with his family, only has Comet for company and really throws himself into his work – which results in him being a very good detective.  However, he is extremely likeable, and a bit cocky.  The ‘dates’ he goes on are very amusing – I would have enjoyed those kinds of dates 🙂

“Can’t you get in trouble for taking me on a wretched, terrible date?” “The department doesn’t have rules in place for date quality. We’re free to go on whatever quality of date we like.”

When you take the slight oddities out of the book, and the ‘other world’ and ‘another Danger’  that Shawn often sees on an old TV (he can’t stand the other smug Danger), this is just a plain and simple detective story.  But it is one with very strong characters, a likeable not-too-damaged hero and quite a few ‘grin’ moments, if not laugh out loud.

I really enjoyed it.

laws of contrition – valerie thompson

Laws Of Contrition

I was contacted by the lovely author to ask whether I would like to reviw her book – I’m a sucker for London-based stories, and as I said, she was lovely, so I was happy to!

City trader Tanya Pryce likes to play with the big boys.  She is a devoted mother but not quite as devoted a wife.  She works hard and plays hard, easily keeping up with the men on her floor, and determined to get to the top.

When she is forced to take Nathan Walthak onto her team and has to put up with the repercussions when he makes a bad trade, she starts wondering whether it was all as much of a mistake as he tries to make out.

I really don’t know anything about city trading – apart from that it’s very big money, big decisions, big losses, big gains all made on a whim, a sniff, a tip-off or occasionally a LOT of experience and gut-feeling.  Valerie Thompson however, obviously knows it intimately – I am guessing that the book has been loosely based on her own experiences as a trader.

From the first page, I knew I was going to get a whistle-stop tour of trading.  At first I was concerned that I wouldn’t understand, but instead I found it really interesting – a basic run-down of how things work and nothing more than I really ever needed to know.  The right amount of background explanation made this a ballsy, engaging, believable story.

I ended up loving Tanya, and wanted to know eveything about her dysfunctional family, her awful in-laws, ‘sorry for herself’ mother and wonderful elderly neighbour.

Although there is plenty of sex, a strong female character and some powerful men this is in no way what I would classify as ‘chick-lit’.  It’s energetic, unapologetic and has so many threads running through it that there isn’t a chance for any down-time.

Loved it.

27 (twenty-seven) – r j heald


I was contacted b the very lovely author of this book, asking whether I would like to review it.  She piqued my interest with the blurb – it’s based in London (which I am a sucker for) and is based on 27 being an important life-defining age.  Not only is it the age that the likes of Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse die, but it was also the age I had The Girl – and the age I automatically THINK I am when people ask me.

I’m not.  Obviously.

The story follows a group of six friends who met at University over the period of a year.  Their lives have gone in very different directions since those heady, young, carefree days and we open with Renee flicking through their photos on Facebook and despairing that the rest of the group seem to have made so much more of their lives and are obviously so much happier than she is.  We’ve all done that, haven’t we?

As we meet each of the circle, and gain a better insight into their thoughts and lives, we see that none  of them seem quite as happy and successful as the image they try to portray.

I loved the whole premise of the book.  I think 27/28 really is a turning point in life.  In your teens, you’re expected to be little more than a kid really, there’s no expectations, your life is meant to be fun.  Early to mid 20s, you’re generally leaving Uni, working out what direction you want to take, cementing the friendships that are mor elikely to last, having more serious relationships.

By the time you’re coming out of that and hitting your LATE 20s, it menas that 30 is just around the corner – another decade, and when you’re young 30 seems to be the age that you believe you should have your life all worked out by…so it’s no surprise when people hit 27 and start panicking that they’re nowhere near working it out!

This book totally captures that sense of panic. indecision and the totally unsubstantiated feeling that you’re the only one that hasn’t worked it all out — everyone else you know is doing it so much better than you!

Each of the characters has their strengths and flaws, drives and fears and they are so well written that they honestly feel like your own friends.  Although I took hardly any time to speed through the book, I was hanging off towards the end as I knew that I would feel a real loss once they had gone forever.

Don’t mistake this book for run-of-the-mill chick-lit, it is far from it.  It’s contemporary, it’s very ‘now’ and it isn’t afraid to tackle difficult subjects – and tackle them very well.

Don’t try to search for the book by typing in ’27’ – it can be a nightmare to find! Find it here on Goodreads and here on Amazon. There is currently a giveaway on Goodreads which I would strongly suggest entering!

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: