When I was on holiday in July, I read Shade's Children by Garth Nix (review here). I was so impressed by this book that it was a matter of time before
When I was on holiday in July, I read Shade's Children by Garth Nix (review here). I was so impressed by this book that it was a matter of time before I sought out other books by Garth Nix. The one problem I had was that I have never been all that good at reading fantasy. On the other hand, it is possible that I am just one of the many people who will never be able to get into Lord of the Rings, no matter how hard they try.
And so it was with some sense of trepidation that I picked up this complex-sounding book to read. I did struggle in the beginning but after one or two chapters I found myself entirely submerged in Nix's wonderful style of writing and his imaginative and fantastical world, The Old Kingdom. I think Nix is a master, I really do; and everything that he tries to do, he does well. He describes the sardonic feline companion with absolute skill, he accesses the humanity and fallibility of the female lead and he weaves a unique and compelling tale.
Garth Nix has repeatedly declined to let them makes a film based on the Old Kingdom series, saying "I would rather have no film than a bad film" and you have to respect that. Then again, there is something in the stories I have read recently (Anthony Horowitz's books, Twilight and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series*) that had me desperate to see the films brought to life on the big screen. However, there is something about Garth Nix's writing that makes it sufficient just to read his books. He is that good and they are that descriptive. I really love this author and I am glad I discovered him.
Raven’s Gate is mostly set in the fictional town of Lesser Malling in England. I remember this because my husband tried to get me to move to a town caRaven’s Gate is mostly set in the fictional town of Lesser Malling in England. I remember this because my husband tried to get me to move to a town called Malling in Kent and after reading this book there was no way I was moving there! You’re introduced to the hero of the series, Matt, as he finds himself in trouble with the law and he is sent to live with a strange foster parent in Lesser Malling. Matt comes to realise that a great evil is under way in the town and that it is up to him to stop it.
The book is extremely fast-paced with non-stop action as Matt overcomes hurdle after hurdle in his quest to stay alive and fight against the weird town folk of Lesser Malling. There were times when my heart was literally jumping out of my chest and you have to marvel at Horowitz’s ability to make your adrenaline flow - this is a book after all, not a film! ...more
Josie Clark has stayed in Tokyo for longer than she intended. What began as an impulsive stint teaching English for two years turned into much more asJosie Clark has stayed in Tokyo for longer than she intended. What began as an impulsive stint teaching English for two years turned into much more as Josie became entranced by Japanese food, customs and the bright lights of the Takarazuka Revue. Life takes an unexpected turn however when Josie discovers a body beneath a cherry blossom tree. Dissatisfied with the lack of progress in the police investigation, Josie begins to dig deeper and unearths a web of dark secrets, betrayal and revenge. Who is the tall stranger the victim was last seen talking to; what secret is the star of the Takarazuka Revue hiding and who is the mysterious Ms. Kato?
The Cherry Blossom Murder is the debut novel by Londoner Fran Pickering and is the first in the Josie Clark in Japan mystery series. It is a classic amateur detective tale where Josie unravels the truth through a series of clever questions, keen observations and a healthy dose of good luck. The story is cleverly executed, and you’d have to be paying very close attention to divide the real clues from the numerous red herrings. Personally, I was very surprised by the ending and more than a little disappointed in myself for not paying closer attention!
What impressed me most about The Cherry Blossom Murder was how it brought to life the sights, sounds and aromas of life in Japan. I had a passing interest in Japan previously, but this book had me salivating for Japanese food and yearning to pack my bags and jet right off to Tokyo. We get to see Japanese culture through the eyes of an outsider, but far from harping on about differences and culture shock, Josie embraces Japanese custom, and the author takes us deep into the world of suburban life, Japanese subcultures and Japanese office propriety. All of this is done seamlessly as Josie uses her network of colleagues, friends and acquaintances to solve the murder.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Cherry Blossom Murder and on finishing the novel, immediately took to the Internet to discover when the next book in the series would be released. Alas, the sequel The Haiku Murder is only due to come out in 2015. I give The Cherry Blossom Murder five out of five stars and would recommend to both crime and mystery lovers and also to shinnichi (or Japanphiles as they are known in English). ...more
I've read several disparaging remarks about Fergal Keane, the author, and his works as a journalist and presenter. People have called him arrogant andI've read several disparaging remarks about Fergal Keane, the author, and his works as a journalist and presenter. People have called him arrogant and narcissistic but I beg to differ. Keane's account of travelling through a country undergoing genocide and war; his visits to a UN refugee camp in Tanzania and their journey through Burundi to get to government-held areas in the South of Rwanda is written with honesty, sensitivity and insight. Far from "narcissistic", Keane asks questions of everyone around him and gives a fair amount of insight into the lives of the RPF soldier, Frank Ndore, who escorts them for much of their journey and the Ugandan drivers who risk everything to take them on their journeys. He also asks a fair amount of questions of Interahamwe and government soldiers, giving us a glimpse of their reasoning and the ways in which the evil was perpetuated.
It was the title that first caught my eye. Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt sounded both exoticThis review was first posted by me on Blogcritics.org.
It was the title that first caught my eye. Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt sounded both exotic and mysterious; it spoke to me of a bygone era of whimsical journeys to unknown lands, of music playing late into the night and the magic of discovering new cultures. Yet I hesitated before picking up this collection of tales from expats and visitors to the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan. It is one thing to be an expat, to live and work in a foreign city, but would I relate to other people’s stories?
I needn’t have worried. Within moments of beginning to read Jacyntha England’s “First Snow”, I was lost in a land of -40°c winters and 40°c summers, a place where the kindness of strangers is superseded only by the welcoming warmth of friends and neighbours and where children can play together in courtyards until late in the balmy summer nights.
Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt Expat Stories from Kazakhstan book coverAs I moved through the collection, I began to take note of the stories I enjoyed until it became clear that there were going to be none that I didn’t enjoy. The book is divided into six sections including topics such as the arrival of Kazakhstan, Kazakh history and traditions, and cross-cultural exchanges and each was equally fascinating.
I found “Mourning on the Steppe: Kazakhstan’s Soviet-era Labor Camps”, Stanley Currier’s account of a visit to a former Soviet-era labour camp turned museum, to be especially moving and poignant. “Table of Unity” by Gualtiero Bestetti was a lovely story about introducing Kazakh friends to Western food and traditions whereas Raquel Taravilla Pujado discussed her first introduction to a full Kazakh meal in “Birthdays and Beshbarmak”.
My favourite story was editor Monica Neboli’s own contribution, the eponymous “Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt”, an authentic glimpse into life in the Kazakh village of Damba.
It was the stories in the final section entitled “The Silent Steppe” that impressed me the most and rather embarrassingly reduced me to the overuse of superlatives. “Dirt Roads, a Donkey and a Life Transformed” by Victoria Charbonneau was absolutely inspirational. Abraham Lincoln once said that “No man is so tall as when he stoops to help a child” and Charbonneau’s story is of what can be achieved through mentorship and support of a young person.
Rowena Haigh and Yolanda Cook contributed to the final story “The Long Horse Ride: Journey Across the Steppe” about the Kazakh leg of the endurance horse ride that started in Beijing after the 2008 Olympics and ended in London just before the 2012 Olympics. This collaboration was simply incredible and a wonderful conclusion to this collection.
While the authors in Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt come from all walks of life and all four corners of the globe, I was struck by the sameness of the expat experience. One by one the authors learn that the only way to overcome the grinding loneliness and sense of otherness as an expat is to get out there and interact with the local culture. This collection inspired me in ways that I had not expected and I would certainly recommend it to expats, lovers of travel and adventurers alike.
Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt is published by Summertime Publishing.
The Bone Woman is an incredibly well-written and poignant book written by the forensic anthropologist Clea Koff. The author talks about her work on ma
The Bone Woman is an incredibly well-written and poignant book written by the forensic anthropologist Clea Koff. The author talks about her work on mass graves in Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo as part of UN International Criminal Tribunal investigations.
It is hard to describe this book - I feel like I have undertaken a very long and exhausting journey. Ms Koff described her surroundings so well I feel as if I actually visited hot, leafy forests in Rwanda and cold, grey landscapes in the Balkans. There were times when I had to put this book down and simply process the information that I was reading.
There is something about the human condition whereby we find it hard to imagine mass murder; we find it hard to comprehend the mechanics of taking the life of hundreds of people in one event; we find it hard to imagine that these were once people, to put a human face to the atrocity. In her book, Clea Koff does this for us - she paints a picture whereby the reader is finally able to comprehend and understand.