Category Archives: Book Reviews

Deep Down dead

 

Deep Down Dead

by Steph Broadribb

Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong. The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past.

 

Lori Anderson is a bounty hunter and is desperate for work to pay for her sick daughter’s medical bills. When she is offered a job for great money, she has to take it even though it involves bringing in her old mentor, J.T. – a man she has a lot of history with.

J.T. is the ‘outlaw’ that Lori has to bring to justice. He has his reasons for doing what he has done and those reasons become apparent as the story unfolds, and we follow the characters on a chase across America, ending up in a theme park in Florida, where all their lives are in danger and they have to work together to survive.

This is one action-packed thriller with characters that you really want to spend time with. Lori is such an original heroine; female bounty hunter and single mum. She is both feisty and warm, she is a character that you are rooting for from the start.

J.T. is a fabulous character, just the right mix of strong and determined and compassionate and caring. The relationship between himself and Lori hums along.

Steph Broadribb has written a compelling book that is a full-on page turner and unlike some action thrillers, it is not at the expense of character development. You need to make sure that you have plenty of time when you start reading this book because you really won’t want to put it down.

Published by Orenda Books

 

Prankenstein On Tour

 

 

Prankenstein On Tour

by Andy Seed

The third instalment of this fantastic series is finally here! Soapy Thompson’s dad wins a world cruise for a family of five and Soapy convinces his parents that best friends, Arvo and Loogi should come along to stop him going mad with boredom.As they cruise past the East coast of Africa there is a great commotion in the dead of night and Soapy discovers that pirates have boarded the ship and taken two hostages – his parents – and are demanding GBP1m in cash. Soapy knows that his only hope is to unleash Prankenstein – his prank-crazed alter-ego and the adventure out at sea really begins.

 

This is the third book in the Prankenstein series, about Soapy Thompson, a young boy with an alter ego. I haven’t read the first two in the series, but as I am doing an event with author Andy Seed, I thought it only right that I should acquaint myself with the latest book, and I am very glad that I did.

Soapy, his mum and dad and his two friends go on a cruise, where things start to go wrong almost immediately, and Soapy has to call on Prankenstein to sort out the mess. Unfortunately, once Prankenstein has been released he is a very difficult character to get rid of. And his antics leave you roaring with laughter.

When Soapy goes missing,it is up to his two friends Arvo and Loogi, and the two girls they meet on the cruise, Minty and Ursule, to try to save the day.

This is a fabulous read for all children aged between 7 and 11. But I strongly suspect that if you have a reluctant boy reader then this could be the series to get them interested.

There is humour on every page. I personally loved the characters of Arvo and Loogi, from Estonia, and the dialogue between them and Soapy is hilarious.

As well as the humour,the story of the boys’s adventures is extremely readable. Which is a big help if you are a parent helping your child with his/her reading.

I would highly recommend this series, and although this book can be read as a standalone, I think children would love to start at the beginning with Prankenstein and follow his adventures through the series.

 

 

Andy Seed is an author and poet, living in North Yorkshire. He writes memoirs, funny poems and humorous non-fiction books as well as all sorts of things for teachers. Andy’s most popular book for adults is All Teachers Great and Small and his most popular book for children is a non-fiction book, The Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff, which won the 2015 Blue Peter Best Book with Facts Award.

The Last Photograph

 

 

The Last Photograph

by Emma Chapman

He walks into the living room and June is dead. He centres her, checking the light. Focusing, he clicks the shutter. He’ll ask himself later, if he knew. It’s easy to say that he had acted without thinking, out of instinct. Rook Henderson is an award-winning photographer, still carrying the hidden scars of war. Now, suddenly, he is also a widower. Leaving his son Ralph to pick up the pieces, Rook flies to Vietnam for the first time in fifty years, escaping to the landscape of a place he once knew so well. But when Ralph follows him out there, seeking answers from the father he barely knows, Rook is forced to unwind his past: his childhood in Yorkshire, his life in London in the 1960s and his marriage to the unforgettable June – and to ask himself what price he has paid for a life behind the lens …Gripping, evocative and unforgettable, The Last Photograph is a story of a life shaped by trauma and love – and the secrets that make us who we are.

 

When Rook’s wife, June, dies suddenly, he flees the country to go back to Vietnam where he was a photographer during the war, leaving his son Ralph with nothing more than an email informing him that his mother has died.

Ralph chases after his dad wanting answers, but Rook is looking for his own answers. Revisiting his old haunts and old friends, he tries to come to terms with what happened to him there so many years ago.

The book moves backward and forward in time, starting when Rook met June in their hometown in the north of England. June, desperate to be an actress, pushes Rook into a move to London when she sends some of his photographs to the editor of the Times. Once they get to London they find that things are not as easy as first thought. So when Rook is given a job as photographer in the Vietnam war, they feel he must take it.

The book is as much about the relationship between Rook and June as it is about the war. June feeling incredibly alone without him and having given up on the acting work, makes some friends that Rook just can’t identify with and a chasm appears in their relationship.

When Rook comes home for good after a traumatic experience the couple move to the countryside to try to ground themselves. They have their son Ralph, but nothing seems to bring them closer.

This is an emotive book, dealing with the trauma affecting people during wartime, not only the people in Vietnam but those left behind as well. The two main characters, Rook and June are extremely well-rounded. Rook, the naive young man heading out to Vietnam, and June the headstrong young lady who knows exactly what she wants. We watch them develop and turn into different people as life takes its toll. Rook is deeply affected by events that happened during the war and also in his childhood. Whilst June comes to realise that life isn’t as easy as she thought, but her character comes through in her fight for her relationship.

Having had the pleasure of Emma Chapman visiting Urmston Bookshop, I have seen the amount of research that was done and how much she loves Vietnam and its people. This shines through on every page of her book.

This is a very well written book that deserves to be widely read.

The Constant Soldier

 

 

The Constant Soldier

by William Ryan

 

1944. Paul Brandt, a soldier in the German army, returns wounded and ashamed from the bloody chaos of the Eastern front to find his village home much changed and existing in the dark shadow of an SS rest hut – a luxurious retreat for those who manage the concentration camps, run with the help of a small group of female prisoners who – against all odds – have so far survived the war.

When, by chance, Brandt glimpses one of these prisoners, he realises that he must find a way to access the hut. For inside is the woman to whom his fate has been tied since their arrest five years before, and now he must do all he can to protect her.

But as the Russian offensive moves ever closer, the days of this rest hut and its SS inhabitants are numbered. And while hope – for Brandt and the female prisoners – grows tantalisingly close, the danger too is now greater than ever.

And, in a forest to the east, a young female Soviet tank driver awaits her orders to advance . . .

 

The Second World War is reaching its climax, and the Russians are bearing down on Germany.

Paul Brandt, a German soldier, arrives back home from the Eastern Front, battered, broken and racked with guilt. No longer any use as a soldier, he is given a job guarding women prisoners in luxurious huts in his home village. The huts are a refuge for SS officers who manage the concentration camps. Brandt happily takes on the job because he has seen and recognised one of the prisoners. And so begins his journey to find atonement.

This is a beautifully crafted piece of work which is pitch perfect throughout. When you have to lift your head from the book to remove yourself from the scene, you know you are in the hands of a master.

Characters who live and breathe; Brandt himself, never a Nazi, just a young man with conviction, who got himself arrested and drafted into the army. His burgeoning horror and guilt at what he has seen and done and the relationships with people around him now, especially his father, is wonderfully realised.

Neumann, perhaps the most complex character in the book. He threw himself into being a Nazi, with all that that entails, but now is haunted by his deeds and has to live with himself. He is a character that you feel you should despise and yet a whole range of emotions swirl around and things are not so easily defined.

The women prisoners, even though we don’t get to know them as well as the men, stand as a beacon, shining a light into the darkest corner of Nazism and its bullying inhumanity.

The book is thriller-like as the plot moves to its climax. The feeling of the war playing out just around the corner and the fear the Germans feel as the Russians move in and the retribution that they know is coming is palpable.

There is not a wasted word, there is no over-the-top drama, just a beautifully paced story that will have you raging and sobbing at the same time.

An absolute must read for anybody who is interested in the human condition and what it is capable of. But also how the human spirit can soar and survive despite all the odds.

Highly recommended.

Ultra Marathon Man

Ultra Marathon Man

by Dean Karnazes

 

Ultrarunning legend, Dean Karnazes, has run 262 miles – the equivalent of ten marathons – without rest. He has run over mountains, across death valley, to the South Pole, and is probably the first person to eat an entire pizza while running. With an insught, candour and humour rarely seen in sports memoirs, Ultramarathon Man has motivated hundreds of thousands of people – runners and non-runners alike – to push themselves beyond their comfort zones and simply get out there and run.

 

I picked up this book out of interest, having done the odd 10k run myself.  I started reading the first chapter and I was hooked, I barely let the book out of my hands until I was finished.

From the first chapter when Dean is craving food while running in the early hours and ordering himself a pizza literally on the run, we follow his treks over The Western States Trail, through Death Valley and down to the South Pole.  These are incredible journeys that leave you gasping at what the human body is capable of enduring.

Dean’s first attempt at the 100 miles Great Western Trail is described in great detail and it is a totally engrossing read: the high points – not so many; and the low points – that get harder and harder to bear, as body parts start failing and some even fall off! Still he keeps going. The only complaint I have here is that no mention was made of the after effects and I really wanted to know how much damage he had done and how long the recovery was.

For his next challenge, Dean attempts to run through Death Valley in the height of summer with temperatures reaching 130 degrees fahrenheit, the asphalt underfoot exceeding 200 degrees; the run a mere 135 miles long.

After this, needing some cooling down the obvious place to go is the South Pole where Dean and a  select band of runners try to become the first runners ever to run a marathon to the south Pole.

I loved this book. I was totally immersed in Dean Karnazes’ adventures, metaphorically running alongside him in frank amazement but also huge admiration. The writing style makes it a very easy read and Dean comes across as a charismatic character. You don’t need to be an expert runner, or a sports person of any kind really, to read this, apart from some diet and training tips at the end, it’s not technical at all.

This is such an inspirational book, Dean karnazes’ attitude is so positive, his motto is:

      Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.

whether you want to run an ultra marathon or your goals are a little more modest and maybe just getting out of bed in the morning is an achievement, this can be applied to anything at all in life.

Highly recommended

 

Ultra Marathon Man can be purchased at Urmston bookshop

Tel: 0161 747 7442

books@urmston-bookshop.co.uk