Monday, 30 March 2015

The Burning Man

The Burning Man by Christopher Fowler
Published by Doubleday
26th March 2015
Hardback Edition
London is under siege. A banking scandal has filled the city with violent protests, and as the anger in the streets detonates, a young homeless man burns to death after being caught in the crossfire between rioters and the police.

But all is not as it seems; an opportunistic killer is using the chaos to exact revenge, but his intended victims are so mysteriously chosen that the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to find a way of stopping him.

Using their network of eccentric contacts, elderly detectives Arthur Bryant and John May hunt down a murderer who adopts incendiary methods of execution. But they soon find their investigation taking an apocalyptic turn as the case comes to involve the history of mob rule, corruption, rebellion, punishment and the legend of Guy Fawkes.

At the same time, several members of the PCU team reach dramatic turning points in their lives - but the most personal tragedy is yet to come, for as the race to bring down a cunning killer reaches its climax, Arthur Bryant faces his own devastating day of reckoning.

‘I always said we’d go out with a hell of a bang,’ warns Bryant.

This is the twelfth Bryan and May novel by Christopher Fowler, but it is the first one I've actually read.  I have no idea why this crime series hasn't been brought to my attention before, but I'm glad that I've now finally found it. 
Bryant and May are two old-school detectives, trying to work in the modern day.  Arthur Bryant can only be considered eccentric by those who work around him, but his unusual methods bring with them their own successes, and whilst there are many who would like the team to work in a much more orthodox way, there is no arguing that Bryant and May get results.

London is under seige from protestors.  The banking world has been filled with scandals that are considered unacceptable by the masses, and riots are filling the streets.  With Guy Fawkes night approaching, the rioters are lighting bonfires, wearing masks and creating as much mischief as is legally possible.  This means that for those who want to pave their own path of destruction, things just got a little bit easier.

When a homeless man is found burnt to death in a disused building, the team are called in to investigate.  Then a second death occurs and links between the two, however flimsy they may seem, are made.  Arthur Bryant fears a serial killer may be at work, but can they stop him, or her, before their pyromaniac fantasies spiral out of control?

In between solving the case, Bryant is facing his own demons too.  For a man whose mind is legendary on the force, at the times when he needs it most, it is starting to fail him.  Can he remain sharp enough, and on the team, to continue with finding the killer before it is too late?

I really enjoyed Christopher Fowler's style of writing, and I adored the characters of Bryant and May.  His incorporation of the history of London was both fascinating and interesting, and added another element to the reading of The Burning Man.  I only hope that this isn't the last in the series, but I'm planning on catching up with those I've missed out on just as soon as I can!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Friday, 20 March 2015

Night School: Legacy

Night School: Legacy (book two) by C. J. Daugherty
Published by Atom Books
3rd January 2013
Paperback Edition

In the last year, Allie's survived three arrests, two breakups and one family breakdown. The only bright point has been her new life at Cimmeria Academy. It's the one place she's felt she belongs. And the fact that it's brought the dreamy Carter West into her life hasn't hurt. .

But far from being a safe haven, the cloistered walls of Cimmeria are proving more dangerous than Allie could've imagined. The students, and faculty, are under threat and Allie's family - from her mysterious grandma to her runaway brother - are at the centre of the storm.

Allie is going to have to choose between protecting her family and trusting her friends. But secrets have a way of ripping even the strongest relationships apart . . .

Allie is back for her second year at Cimmeria Academy, and after witnessing one murder, and a fire that nearly destroyed both her and the school, things have certainly been dramatic.  Thankfully Carter has been the rock she can rely on, but that was until Sylvian saved her life at the end of book one.  Have her feelings now changed towards her ex-boyfriend, and how will Carter react to this?

Cimmeria Academy is back in full swing, with all the same students as at the end of book one.  Jo is still a touch flighty, and Allie has to tread carefully to ensure that she doesn't go off the rails again, and Katie is still, quite frankly, a mean girl, determined to get Allie into as much trouble as possible.

The threat of Nathaniel, coming on top of Gabe's betrayal are still high on the agenda, but then Allie discovers the school legacy that she didn't know existed - in the form of her grandmother, a woman she has never even met.  Is this why Nathaniel and his crew are so keen to get her out of the way?

I enjoyed Night School: Legacy as much as the first book in the series.  The characters are still as fully formed as in book one, and you really warm to them, or not, in the case of Katie!  The menage a trois between Carter, Sylvian and Allie continues; who will she choose, and is she doing the right thing by following her heart or her head?  And most importantly of all, now Gabe is out of the Academy, just who is working on the inside for Nathaniel, and will we find out before it is too late?!  I'm ready to start book three....

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Wolf Winter

Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
12th February 2015
Hardback Edition

There are six homesteads on Blackåsen Mountain.

A day's journey away lies the empty town. It comes to life just once, in winter, when the Church summons her people through the snows. Then, even the oldest enemies will gather.

But now it is summer, and new settlers are come.

It is their two young daughters who find the dead man, not half an hour's walk from their cottage.

The father is away. And whether stubborn, or stupid, or scared for her girls, the mother will not let it rest.

To the wife who is not concerned when her husband does not come home for three days; to the man who laughs when he hears his brother is dead; to the priest who doesn't care; she asks and asks her questions, digging at the secrets of the mountain.

They say a wolf made those wounds. But what wild animal cuts a body so clean?

I've finally finished reading Wolf Winter.  I say, finally, because I've actually been reading it since February which for me is a rather long time to still be on one book.  However, it isn't because Wolf Winter isn't a good read, for it is.  It's partly because I don't have as much reading time as usual, but also because this is a book to read slowly and savour.  Set in 1717, Cecilia Ekback takes us to Sweden, to the Blackåsen Mountain region, where just six homesteads are inhabited.  New arrivals Paavo and Maija, and their daughters Frederika and Dorotea have just arrived, having been left the homestead by a relative.  They are looking forward to their new life, until shortly after their arrival, Frederika discovers the corpse of a man.  Was he killed by a wolf, as others ascertain, or as Maija suspects, by another man?

This is a murder mystery in part, but it is also a novel of survival, and of learning who you can and cannot trust, particularly in a community where belief in God is sceptical for some, and belief in another power, namely that of the mountain, is rife.  We spend most of our time with Maija and Frederika as they go about their daily tasks, but also with Olaus Arosander the priest, sent to bring the Church to these settlers.  To begin with I felt no empathy for the priest; his uncaring attitude made me not warm to him at all, but towards the end of the book, I actually began to like him as a character.  Alone, with her children to raise and protect, Maija does all she can to survive without Paavo, who is absent for most of the story.  I liked her grit and determination, particularly during the incredibly harsh winter scenes that Cecilia Ekback creates.  You can feel the wilderness whilst reading Wolf Winter, it is a novel for which location is key, particularly when in the shadow of Blackåsen Mountain.

In such a small community, who you can trust plays a large part, and here, no one really knows who to trust, and even the dead themselves aren't revealing anything either.  I'm certainly looking forward to more from this author.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Monday, 16 March 2015

The Insect Farm

The Insect Farm by Stuart Prebble
Published by Alma books
15th March 2015
Paperback Edition

Brothers Jonathan and Roger Maguire each have an obsession.  For Jonathan, it is his beautiful and talented girlfriend Harriet.  For Roger, it is the elaborate universe he has constructed in a shed in their parents' garden, populated by millions of tiny insects.

But Roger lives in an impenetrable world of his own and, after the mysterious death of their parents, his brother Jonathan is forced to give up his studies to take care of him.  This obligation forces Jonathan to live apart from Harriet - further fuelling his already jealous nature.

Their lives are abruptly shattered by a sudden and violent death, and Jonathan is drawn into a cat-and-mouse game with the police.  Does Roger know more than he is letting on?

Jonathan and Roger are brothers, physically very similar as children to look at, but mentally very different.  Beginning in the 1960s, The Insect Farm tells of how the lives of these two brothers are both joined and yet separate, as they grow up and apart.  Roger stays locked in his own world, while Jonathan conquers exams, A-levels and eventually university, with Roger remaining fixed on the insect farm he has created in the garden shed.  Jonathan, now in a relationship with the beautiful bohemian Harriet, is planning a life for them together up in Newcastle, but he is more than a little possessive of his girlfriend, and particularly of their friend Brendan, who is not shy about his own feelings for Harriet.

When a fire engulfs the Maguire home, killing the boys' parents, Jonathan has to return home to care for Roger.  The police cannot fathom what started the fire, and Roger, who was in the shed when it happened, is unable to tell them.  Harriet remains in Newcastle, and Jonathan takes a job in the local library, their relationship separated by many miles.  Brendan is still on the scene, but surely Harriet is trustworthy, even though she is so far away?

Then another tragedy befalls the Maguire boys and suddenly Jonathan starts to doubt himself and his brother.  Now the police are back on the scene again, and questions are being asked that neither Roger or Jonathan are willing to answer truthfully. 

This is the second book from the Curtis Brown reading group list, and whilst I might not have chosen it from a shelf of books to read, I did enjoy it.  It's an easy-flowing novel that kept me interested from start to finish.  I liked the fact that it was set in an age where mobile phones weren't invented, so that communication between Jonathan and Harriet is harder to maintain.  I liked Harriet to begin with, then she makes a revelation that made me turn against her towards the end of the book.  It's interesting how a book can have the power to do that, as if they are indeed, real people.  The revelation at the end wasn't quite the 'shock ending' that the book claims to have, for me, but it was good!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Monday, 9 March 2015


Nightbird by Alice Hoffman
Published by Simon & Schuster
5th March 2015
Paperback Edition

Twig lives in a remote area of town with her mysterious brother and her mother, baker of irresistible apple pies. A new girl in town might just be Twig's first true friend, and ally in vanquishing an ancient family curse.
A spellbinding tale of modern folklore set in the Berkshires, where rumours of a winged beast draw in as much tourism as the town's famed apple orchards.

In Alice's own words she said "I'm writing Nightbird for kids and people who used to be kids" and as one of those in the target audience, can I say how much I enjoyed reading it.  Twig lives in a ramshakle house with her mother, and a brother that no ones knows about.  The reason no one knows he is there, is that, he has wings, due to a family curse.  He lives upstairs in secret by day, but at night, when everyone is asleep, he stretches his wings and flies

Alas, all is not safe in the Berkshires, and a mysterious winged creature has been reported across the town of Sidwell.  Strange messages keep appearing, and Twig is worried that her brother's secret might have been discovered.  Alongside that is the arrival of their new neighbours, sisters Julie and Agate, one of whom becomes Twig's best friend, and the other who fate has decreed must give her heart to James.

This is a wonderfully written book, spellbinding and magical, full of secrets, witchcraft and curses as you follow the daily lives of Twig and her family.  It is aimed at the 9-12 age reading bracket but actually, I'd maybe say that  9 is too young and older teens would love this book equally as much.


Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Sunday, 1 March 2015

UKYA Extravaganza

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the first ever UKYA Extravaganza in Birmingham.  Held at Waterstones, it was the brain child of authors Emma Pass and Kerry Drewery.  A total of 35 different YA authors all attended, along with fans and bloggers.  Can you spot yourself?!

The afternoon was heaps of fun, I met lots of authors and bloggers, including Kerry, C. J. Daugherty, Robin Stevens and the lovely Maia, from Maia Moore Reads.  One lady there, with her two daughters, had driven all the way up from Cornwall that morning! That's dedication for you.

Robin Steven opening the show!
Amongst the chatting, drinking and cake eating, there was the opportunity for photo shots, book buying and signing.  I managed to get the next three in the Night School series of which C. J. signed all three copies.

C. J. takes to the mic
I wanted a copy of Crow Moon by Anna McKerrow too but it sold out before I got there.  There were lots of other books to be tempted by, and I was pretty good to restrain myself to just those three.

Emma and Kerry taking a well earned rest!
Hopefully this is the first of such events as I think it was a fabulously great day out, and we all seemed to be having a great time!

All the authors together

Thanks again to Emma and Kerry for having the idea, getting it organised and inviting me along.  I'm definitely going again next year!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x