Posts Tagged ‘3+ Stars’
Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
Harlequin’s Costume Synopsis
The year is 1871. Prince von Ahrensburg, Austria’s military attaché to St. Petersburg, has been killed in his own bed. The murder threatens diplomatic consequences for Russia so dire that they could alter the course of history. Leading the investigation into the high-ranking diplomat’s death is Chief Inspector Ivan Putilin, but the Tsar has also called in the notorious Third Department – the much-feared secret police – on the suspicion that the murder is politically motivated. As the clues accumulate, the list of suspects grows longer; there are even rumors of a werewolf at large in the capital. Suspicion falls on the diplomat’s lover and her cuckolded husband, as well as Russian, Polish and Italian revolutionaries, not to mention Turkish spies. True to his maxim that “coincidence and passion are the real conspirators,” Putilin seeks answers inside the diplomatic circus as well, which leads him to struggles with criminals and with the secret police itself. When the mystery is solved, the only person who saw it coming was Putilin.
Harlequin’s Costume is the first volume in a series whose main character is based on the real-life Ivan Putilin, the Tsar’s Chief of Police in St. Petersburg from 1866 to 1892. The entire trilogy, Chief Inspector Putilin, appeared as a mini-series on Russian television in 2007.
Brilliantly translated by Marian Schwartz, Harlequin’s Costume is now for the first time being published in English.
BOOK REVIEW by Tony Ziemek
Successful detective fiction creates a landscape (often an unfamiliar one) into which the reader is drawn and allowed to wander a little. The landscape is often strewn with incidental (or are they?), atmospheric details inviting our gaze, as we hunt for clues alongside the central character. Harlequin’s Costume exquisitely recreates 19th Century St Petersburg and is rich in such details.
Thursday, October 18th, 2012
Elza’s Kitchen Synopsis
For years, Elza has managed to get by. She has her own little restaurant in the Hungarian city of Delibab cooking quality versions of her country’s classics and serving them with a smile. But lately her smile has become tired. She is weary of serving the same customers the same dishes, and the loveless affair with her sous-chef is now an irritation.
With her country in a state of transition from communism to capitalism, Elza embarks upon her own change. She decides to woo The Critic, one of the harshest, most powerful restaurant columnists in Europe, in the hope of landing a glowing review that will push her above the competition. But as relationships in the kitchen sour, the food threatens to turn with them, and not even Elza’s strained composure can prevent the chaos that seems fated to engulf her.
Filled with charm and humour, Elza’s Kitchen is a wonderful celebration of culture and cuisine, serving up all the heat, sensual delights and rich atmosphere of the restaurant itself. Resisting the comfortable pattern of her old life, Elza finds that true joy – and love – can be hidden in the most surprising of places. (Bloomsbury)
Thursday, September 13th, 2012
SNAP New Talent Synopsis
In the second book of the SNAP Kandesky vampire series, Maxie Gwenoch, media-savvy editor of the multinational celeb gossip magazine SNAP, is pummeled in Paris and kidnapped in Kiev as the Huszars ramp up the race to oust their centuries-old rivals, the Kandeskys.
SNAP’s owners, the Kandesky family of vampires, built the world’s most popular celeb coverage empire but this isn’t just a business take-over. These powerful vampire families lived with an uneasy peace for four centuries until Maxie came in to boost SNAP’s coverage and started making inroads into the Huszar’s traditional hunting territories.
Although Jean-Louis, Maxie’s lover, vampire and second-in-command of the Kandeskys, tries to keep her safe, Maxie is determined to do things her way, a way that may lose her her job, her love and her life. (Amazon)
Saturday, September 8th, 2012
Life! Death! Prizes! Synopsis
Billy’s Mum is dead. He knows – because he reads about it in magazines – that people die every day in ways that are more random and tragic and stupid than hers, but for nineteen-year-old Billy and his little brother, Oscar, their mother’s death in a bungled street robbery is the most random and tragic and stupid thing that could possibly have happened to them.
Now Billy must be both mother and father to Oscar, and despite what his well-meaning aunt, the PTA mothers, the social services and Oscar’s own prodigal father all think, he knows he is more than up to the job, thank you very much.
The boys’ new world, where bedtimes are arbitrary, tidiness is optional and healthy home-cooked meals pile up uneaten in the freezer, is built out of chaos and fierce love, but it’s also a world that teeters perilously on its axis. And as Billy’s obsession with his mother’s missing killer grows, he risks losing sight of the one thing that really matters…
Saturday, July 14th, 2012
Mockingjay (Hunger Games Book 3) Synopsis
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year. (Amazon)
In the final instalment to the dystopian Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, our heroine Katniss Everdeen is forced to grow up. The dangers she and her compatriots face are less contrived, the baddies act with greater malice and the relationship problems are more mature. (more…)
Sunday, June 10th, 2012
The Furnace Synopsis
In the tradition of THE THING and INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.
As a Homicide Investigator working the solar system’s most remote outposts, Lieutenant Kyle Tanner has been involved in more criminal investigations and captures than any other in Security Division. He hunts his prey stealthily, tracking them through the trail of victims cast behind, and makes difficult captures when no one else can. He has seen the twisted remains, things that used to be human but are now barely meat. And he’s executed those who have done such horrible deeds.
His most recent case takes him to SOLEX One, a power-generating station that orbits precariously near the Sun. Among the fifteen inhabitants is a killer, a disturbed crewman who for some reason has mutilated his victim. But when Tanner arrives and begins the investigation, he’s shocked to learn that this is no ordinary murder. There appears to be no motive for the crime, and no reason for the mutilation after death. But what Tanner doesn’t realize is that something terrifying is amplifying among the station’s personnel … and if he doesn’t solve the mystery, the result could be the extinction of the human race.
THE FURNACE is a locked-room murder mystery, part techno-thriller, part horror, part detective story. (Amazon)
Johnston had me hooked with the opening lines of The Furnace:
Certain death approached. It had stalked me for days, always a step behind, but I had thwarted its every attempt.
The 2401 AD future depicted by Johnston was enough of a stretch from current day to be intriguing while retaining sufficient plausibility for me to find it compelling. The references to ‘historical’ scientific achievement were also a great touch. Homicide Investigator Lieutenant Kyle Tanner is a well developed hero with an endearing never say die attitude with all the odds stacked against him.
In The Furnace Timothy S Johnston has developed a compelling plot merging science and sleuthing that is accessible to non traditional sci-fi readers.
Although I was thoroughly entertained by this novel, I was at times frustrated by Johnston being too helpful to his audience and over-explaining things via his character dialogue. An instance which springs to mind was a particularly laboured explanation of the concept of exponential growth. Now don’t get me wrong, the concept was important to the story and it was explained well… its just that in this case less would have definitely been more. A tougher edit of this novel overall would have let what is a very intelligent storyline shine much brighter.
Timothy S Johnston describes The Furnace as “a work of passion for him, for the stories that have inspired it are thematically, psychologically, and visually epic’. That passion and ambition for storytelling is readily apparent.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 2.5 / 5
BOOK DETAILS: The Furnace (Amazon); The Furnace (B&N)
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Crime-Detective, Thriller, Science Fiction
Author Information: Checkout Timothy S Johnston’s official website.
- Read another great teaser from The Furnace.
Other reviews of The Furnace: DeFlip Side Book Reviews, Dreamworld Book Reviews, Kaye Trout’s Book Reviews
* My receiving this book for free from the author did not impact my ability to express my honest opinions having read the novel.
Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012
Zen Queen Synopsis
Jess Harper’s personal life is a mess. She hasn’t had a haircut since 2006 and she doesn’t have time to find better friends than the self-centred associates she’s had since University.
And instead of searching for love, she’s settled for ‘friends with benefits’ status with one of her buddies. Yet none of that matters, because professionally she’s living the dream, and has just scored a highly coveted assignment in Japan with the promise of a promotion on her return. But when she arrives in Japan, instead of the smooth integration she anticipated, Jess finds herself wrongfully fired, abandoned and broke in a country where she doesn’t speak the language.
Now she must rebuild her life and clear her name. But the friendly locals and allure of the ex-pat lifestyle soon have her reconsidering her priorities and challenging her views on climbing the corporate ladder. With a new job as an English teacher and the temptation of her cute (but already attached) roommate, Jess discovers that although life doesn’t always turn out as planned, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. (Amazon)
I’ll admit, it was the super cute cover art that sold this local author’s review request for me. Although Kirsty McManus’ debut novel is titled Zen Queen, do not for one minute expect her leading lady to have things under control… Oh no, she is a hapless single who stretches your average run of bad luck to extraordinary levels to comic effect.
In Zen Queen Kirsty McManus delivers an escapistic romantic comedy without pretense.
While I did not wholeheartedly identify with protagonist Jess Harper, she’s quite unlike me actually, there were enough character traits in both her and the ensemble cast that resonated sufficiently to hold my interest. In particular I think it was the leading lady’s unbridled sarcasm, and at times, an almost slapstick comedic element that I found oddly compelling. After somewhat of a slow start, the story builds well to a satisfying conclusion. There are characters to love, characters to hate, wild goose chases and karma aplenty.
Just like its leading lady Jess Harper, Zen Queen does not take itself too seriously – it is chick lit pure and simple. If what you are lucky for is some light-hearted entertainment on the back of some good natured culture clash humour, Zen Queen could be the novel for you.
BOOK RATING: The Story 3.5 / 5 ; The Writing 3 / 5
BOOK DETAILS: Zen Queen (Amazon); Zen Queen (B&N)
Genre: Chick Lit, Drama, Romance, Humour
Author Information: Kirsty McManus was born in Sydney, Australia and moved to Queensland when she was 14. When she was 25, she lived in Japan for a year with her partner Kesh and worked as an English teacher. This was the inspiration behind her novel Zen Queen. She also spent a year in Canada and then settled back down on the Sunshine Coast in 2008. She now writes part time while designing websites and looking after her young son.
- See Kirsty McManus personal blog and the website dedicated to the novel Zen Queen
* My receiving this ebook for free from the author did not impact my ability to express my honest opinions having read the novel.