If you are like us (and probably one of the many thousands of book lovers across the globe) and have had the misfortune of spending your hard-earned cash on an apparent "best-seller"; you will probably also have experienced the dull thud as you bang your head against the wall, thinking "Why did I listen to the reviews on the back?!" The truth is: reviews found on books are usually self-promoting, PR stunt-type hype and not necessarily a true reflection of the books' quality at all.

It is our aim to tell the truth about books, but don't for one second assume that that is synonymous with us creating a blog to 'diss' authors' work - to the contrary - our intention is to provide an honest appraisal of each and every book we read. If the book is any good - it'll get a good review. If it's awful and a tragedy to the literary world - then it won't. It's that simple.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

A Dose of Dr. Dog by Babette Cole (ISBN 978-0-224-07057-7)

The instant I saw this book, I wanted to read it, which is shameful to admit given my age... The title is quirky and clever, but mostly, I just pray that the author's real name is actually Babette - how fabulous!
The idea of having a dog that studies herbal medicine is an individual take on the current trend towards 'alternative therapies'; having a dog that is also a Dr. is just plain hilarious! And I love the simplicity of Professor Dash Hund, with his herbal garden...
The illustrations are riotously funny and allows the comical character of this book to shine through each and every single page; it benefits from the same wonderfully generous and cheeky humour as The Gooey, Chewy, Rumble, Plop by Steve Alton and Nick Sharratt, and offers helpful little asides like "sap from an aloe vera plant will work wonders [on sunburn]" - which you can guarantee will come in useful on holiday abroad!
A Dose of Dr Dog is a highly original, highly entertaining read. Please someone tell me that this is not a one-hit-wonder - Dr. Dog is a stunningly simple idea and worth every penny!! We need MORE!

Faster, Faster, Little Red Train by Benedict Blathwayt (ISBN 978-1-862-30469-7)

This is not the first of the 'Adventures of the Little Red Train' book series, it probably won't be the last, but the fact that someone felt the need to include a free CD read by Richard Briers to pull the punters in, should sound alarm bells... In my lowly opinion, if the story is good the book is worth buying on its own merits - not because of some freebie you get with it.
The illustrations were original and colourful, but perhaps a little too 'busy' for the age group it appears to be catering for. The story is simple and fun, if not a little light on content.
Overall, a book that I would expect to see on the shelves of nurseries around the country. Not offensive, or badly written - just ordinary, which to some is worse than saying it stinks.

The Loved Dog (The Gentle Way to Teach Your Dog Good Manners) by Tamar Geller with Andrea Cagan (ISBN 978-0-09-192225-2)

I must confess that I allowed myself to be swayed by the PR-hype-type stuff on the book cover and succumbed to the allure of it being 'The New York Times Bestseller' - but for just once I wanted to live like Oprah Winfrey - OK, benefit from some of the training she clearly had from the author for her dogs...
Firstly, can I just say that I adore the title, which sums it up perfectly: If you own a dog, look after dogs, work with dogs or just plain love dogs - this is an absolute MUST READ.
If you want or need to dominate (don't confuse domination with respect or authority) another animal; this book isn't for you. However, if you, like me, want that ever-so-slightly cheesy relationship with your canine (paralleled only by the relationship between Lassie and owner), then you simply have to read this book.
This is not a one off read - you will go back to this time and time again to pick up more tips, figure out where you've gone wrong as well as to satisfy yourself that it's thanks to this book that your beloved friend now actually acts like one (friend, I mean... not just a dog!). It's utterly woof-tastic! Apologies for the pun.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

The Fall of Lucifer (The Chronicles of Brothers - Book 1) by Wendy Alec (ISBN 0-9552377-0-X)

A tale of biblical proportions... no really, this is a reincarnation of the bible, with some artistic addendums of course.
For those who have never read any version of the bible, or by some chance never heard tell of the Christian belief that God created Man and that Lucifer (or you might know him as Satan) went on an all out war against God's latest creation (that being Mankind - i.e. US) - then a) I have no idea what planet you have been on your entire life and b) you'll find this book quite unique... unlike the rest of us who have heard it all before.
Basing the story around the three Archangels, or brothers, is clever and does help draw the reader in... and despite my cynicism, I have to admit that I HAD to read this book from cover to cover. That said, I found it irritating in parts, a little preachy in others and I personally got tired of the over use of bejeweled everything - Heaven is loaded - we get it.
The prologue introduces us to Nick, a twenty-six year old archaeologist who is extraordinarily frail and seems perpetually close to death (I suspended all disbelief whilst reading this book) who finds some treasure - then it launches into a kind of diary of Archangel Gabriel - and it is not until the last couple of pages that Nick reappears... which was disappointing. I think rather than reiterate biblical stories of old testament time (Noah and the great flood feature at one point); I would have preferred the author to concentrate on the year 2017, when Nick finds the treasure and the secret of the origins of sin. Now THAT would be a novel tale. At least we can tell that there is more to come - 'chronicles', 'book 1' kind of give that away...
Whether you see this as fiction or non-fiction depends on your personal beliefs, but I will still hazard a guess that this book will (if it has not done so already) sell in its millions. Something about a scary God and demons fighting over your soul makes compelling reading - no matter how many times the story is regurgitated.

The Alchemyst (The secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel) by Michael Scott (ISBN 978-0-385-61293-7)

I may be a little late to join the bandwagon of supporters for this new series - maybe not. Either way, I can understand the odd disquieted comment and murmuring about similarities with a rather more internationally renowned series of books which involve magic, but... and there's a HUGE but for me - you would be immeasurably misinformed if you were to dismiss this as anything other than uniquely brilliant!
Michael Scott manages with apparent effortless ease to bring together myth, legend, fact and history - OK, with a dash of magic involved - but it is so much more than simple magic - it is the story of Alchemy, of Nicholas Flamel, of the scientific wonders mankind can yet discover (or already has). Magic becomes obtainable to us, mere mortals. It opens up worlds of mystery and sorcery to us all (which is especially good for those of us who felt pangs of envy and suffered with 'why-couldn't-I-have-those-powers-itis' at the abilities of the select few in other fictional books).
Mark my words - someone, somewhere will recognise this series' potential - a film will be made - this has all the hallmarks of a colossal success... and I for one, cannot wait for the next book!!

Saturday, 22 September 2007

God's Game by Erik Ryman (ISBN 1-904781-22-5)

This is the first book published by Bluechrome that I have come across and it has to be said that if they publish oddball, kooky and ultra-modern works of art such as this on a regular basis, I would not be at all surprised to hear more and more about them!
I wasn't sure about the necessity of the overtly sexual enactments or the disturbingly detailed accounts of grisly violence until I reached the end of this book. As difficult as those moments were, they are vital ingredients of a tale so exceptionally strange that had they been edited out, it would not be as powerful and memorable as it is. This is a truly challenging read - intellectually, emotionally, and philosophically - it touches on all those emotive issues such as sexuality, religion, mental health, conspiracy theories, even the meaning of life...
Perhaps one of the most representative views of our social climate in recent years.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

The Trouble with Wenlocks (A Stanley Wells Mystery) by Joel Stewart (ISBN 978-0-385-61007-0)

I got very excited about this book. It felt thick, solid and screamed 'quality' at me from it's beautifully illustrated cover. Unfortunately, I was due what I term "thud-ache" (an ache which transpires after several blows to the head via a stone wall). I was expecting a children's book - having flicked through the pages and seen the size of the text - I was guessing for between 5 - 8 years of age. I could not have been more wrong. I am not at all sure who the target audience is, nor do I fully understand, what precisely, is the "mystery" of this book. It was quite simple for me: a self-indulgent load of waffle about nothing and everything, written in as an inaccessible way as humanly possible! The characters were all rather vague and 2D. And I challenge any child to read this first time through and immediately grasp its full and intended meaning.
I had so hoped that this was going to cruise along the book highway - but alas, it falls onto the hard shoulder having never managed to drag its sorry cover beyond 20 miles per hour.

The Great Harlequin Grim by Gareth Thompson (ISBN 978-0-009-48765-4)

Here is an eloquent story of prejudice, misunderstanding and a stark account of today's youth culture, even in the supposed 'quiet backwater villages' of rural Britain. In all, a sobering, brittle and gut-wrenching tale interspersed with the melancholy and unspeakable thrills of young life in our modern-day society of instability and perpetual change.
Glenn (the main character) is drawn from a deep understanding of the daily struggles and complex emotions of teenage life - easily identifiable to most young adults. Harlequin himself, is rough and difficult to comprehend, as such we are easily led to believe the worst, then the best, until finally we are offered the plain truth: sometimes we become what we are because of who we are.
I found The Great Harlequin Grim to be a strangely compelling and occasionally uncomfortable read - an incredible debut from Gareth Thompson.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

The Amazing, Astonishing, Incredible and True Adventures of Me - Charlie Small - Gorilla City (ISBN 978-0-385-61122-0)

The first in a series of books about the adventures of one 'Charlie Small'; a unique eight-year-old who finds himself in the middle of a much anticipated, if somewhat surreal adventure. Each book documents his experiences as he comes face to face with the unusual, unthinkable and wildly imaginative... this one being his unintentional discovery of a Gorilla City.
I love the style of this book - although it does suffer with a few superfluous pages of exceptional, but random illustration (mostly in the latter stages) - thankfully, this doesn't manage to overshadow the overriding content: the irresistible plot line, the extraordinarily imaginative flair of the author and a memorable introduction to the enchanting character that is Charlie Small.
Sure to be a hit with children and pre-teens - parents will also appreciate the fact that it suits most budgets.

Monday, 17 September 2007

You F' Coffee, Sir?!!! by Liz & Julie (ISBN 978-190569255-2)

Writing your first book is a daunting and scary process (having dabbled myself), but these two newcomers known only as 'Liz and Julie' seem to have taken it in their stride. Their conversational style suits the often mischievous slant to their mile-high stories and offers a versatile format for either the Air Hostess wannabe, or the avid fan of aviation (although to be sure, the palette being catered for is somewhat rogue-ish)! It is with this insightful dual purpose (which effectively gives you two books in one) and the infectious naughtiness of the rather saucy and deliciously wicked authors that make this a pretty decent first outing. I think even they would agree that this book should come with some sort of parental warning (if books were rated, this would be at least at 15!!). Bear that in mind... and have some controversial hilarity on Liz and Jules while you're at it.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

The Gooey, Chewy, Rumble, Plop Book by Steve Alton & Nick Sharratt (ISBN 978-0-370-32914-7)

Never in all my years have I taken to a book as I did this one. Mighty praise indeed from someone who is quite particular about the books allowed to grace my home! The rather revolting title and unnecessarily life-like tongue on the front cover set the scene for a rip-roaring read for all ages and perhaps more surprisingly (at least for me); this book offers factual, if not valuable information about the human digestive system (children and adults alike will be particularly drawn to the fact files on poo). This is a prime example of books at their best - exploratory, reactionary, informative and fun!! So instead of the kids running around screaming about poo and bottoms - ok, so they'll still be shouting 'poo' but hopefully 'rectum' will have replaced bottom! Younger children will love the interaction and exploratory nature of this book, whilst older kids will learn and understand terms such as 'enzymes' and 'nutrients' seemingly by osmosis. Quite simply the best children's book I've seen for years - lets hope the authors do something similar with the respiratory system, blood circulation, organ functions, anatomy...

George, the Dragon and the Princess by Chris Wormell (ISBN 978-0-224-07072-0)

Dare I speak ill of a book that has received such accolades as having "a classy enduring feel"? Well, yes, if the shoe fits. Frankly, when my four-year-old failed to grasp the thrust or direction of this short story (and I use that term loosely), I decided to have a proper look myself and promptly drew a blank. Scant content with an indecipherable and jarring plotline makes this one to miss - especially when you factor in the exorbitant price tag. However, those parents who simply MUST have a full and complete library for their offspring can find some solace in the fact that the illustrations go some way to make up for a dire lack of substance. Totally uninspiring.