Thursday, 26 March 2015

Book Review: The Burning Man by Christopher Fowler + Interview!!

Title: The Burning Man
Author: Christopher Fowler
Publisher: Transworld
Release Date: 26th March 2015
Synopsis: 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.

Review: The Burning Man is quite an apt title because this book is on FIREEEE (I can’t promise that is the only bad joke in this review...but I’ll try keep them to a minimum).

One of the good things about coming to a series late is that there is already a history and a development to the characters and it also means I have a wealth of new books to go back and read. It sort of reminds me of how the Doctor and River Song were on two different time paths and they kept meeting at different points in their history, so as I trail back things will make sense and other pieces will fall into place, and the characters will be built even more.  Though you can as I have read this as a standalone and then go back and start at the beginning (or indeed any point)

This is one of those times where I’d seen this book floating about with its almost old school poster vibes cover, thought maybe...but then read it and am so glad I did. There was a real depth to the writing, I want to describe it as full, but I don’t know if that makes sense. It wasn't a book that i finished quickly even though I was flying through it, and I liked that because i felt like I was going along with the story, and it wasn't suddenly over. This was mixed in with a good amount of natural comedy “” and supported with really strong characters. I’ll wait to I've read at least another B+M adventure but I think Bryant and May could easily become one of my favorite detective pairs. Bryant was beautifully broken, a strange mix of eclecticness mixed in with charisma, but yet both you and May (his balancer almost) know something up and you almost spiral down with him, and it was sad to read, but it was the character so it made sense.  

I do love a book set in London and this London was current and felt real (I know not all the book are like this so it will be interesting to see how this changes) and using the elements of rioting gave this London a different edge, a sort of look at an extreme alternative, that when you think about it isn't that alternate.   I also love peculiar so this suited me just fine! There were elements of history and  occult thrown in, but they weren't a central focal point of overhang the book, they slotted in nicely and picked my interest on more than one occasion.

This was my first crime with the PCU, for me a great new crime voice to have encountered, and I’m sure it won’t be my last. 

Interview with Christopher Fowler:

1.What is your writing process like?

have a habit of jumping over and between genres, and it confuses readers. I used to think like a traditional genre writer, coming up with what I felt was a killer plot and a good theme. I revised my thinking over time to aim for the creation of a good central character. The comedy writers Galton & Simpson taught me that you have nothing without character and tragedy. I do four drafts; the first is the ‘blocking’ draft – just getting from the beginning to the end. The second is the main writing draft, where all the character details go in (this is the most prone to change). The third is the ‘Fix the Bits which are Broken’ draft and the fourth tidies up

2. How much research goes into each novel?
Sometimes I only include about a fifth of what I’ve researched. I’m often still researching well into the second draft, and it keeps altering the book.

3. What are some of the strangest facts you've found about London? 

Where do I begin? That there was once an underground river powering the scenery at the Palace Theatre? That nobody knew who owned much of London’s land until the 1980s, when the government stole lots of it? That the streetwalkers of Southwark wore silver flying penises around their necks and that they still turn up on the river’s foreshore

4. How much of actual events do you try to draw into you works, if any?
(You haven’t read many of my books, have you? LOL) Nearly every one is based on a real event!

(whoops! This was my first, but not my last!) 

5. Do you base your characters on actual people?

Arthur Bryant is based on my best friend. There’s even a photograph of him in one of the books. Nearly all of the main characters are real, especially Maggie Armitage. Weirdly, I’m not the only person to use her as a fictional character. The author Tom Wakefield did too.

6. Who is your favourite character to write?
Bryant, hands down – I can have so much fun with him because he says the most unthinkable things out loud, and because he’s elderly everyone lets him get away with it. Although lately I’ve been having fun with a new character; a tramp called Esmeralda.

7. Have you ever found that the characters have taken on a life of their own over the novels, and gone to places you hadn’t initially planned for them to?

I do take suggestions from readers about where to send them. Once you’ve established a character very thoroughly, you can let them go anywhere they wasn’t. In a sense, you no longer fully control them. They have become quite real to me now. After I did a graphic novel with them in, readers wrote to say whether of not the physical drawn versions matched their ideas of the characters.

8. Throughout the novels you've looked at a number of different time periods, which has been your favourite to write about?
Actually there’s only one book set in a different time, although the first one has long flashbacks to when the detectives first met. I prefer the present, because there’s a lot happening that people have strong opinions about, and I try to reflect that.

9. If you could write a crime ‘mash-up’ a ‘’Bryant & May and ??’’ with another Author, who would it be and why?

It would have to be Sarah Lund from ‘The Killing’ or Saga Noren from ‘The Bridge’, someone who was as damaged an odd as Bryant & May!

10. What do you like about writing Crime as a genre?
The fact that you can sneak all kinds of social comment into an entertaining read.

11. What can we expect next from Bryant & May?

In November, there’ll be a Christmas Bryant & May book out called ‘Bryant & May: London’s Glory’, which explores some of the cases mentioned in the novels.

12. What is the best book you’ve read recently?

Tough question; I loved Hans Fallada’s ‘Alone In Berlin’ – although it broke my heart. And I just reread the Gormenghast trilogy, all time favourites!
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Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Book Review: Half Wild by Sally Green

Title: Half Wild
Author: Sally Green
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: 26th March 2015
Synopsis: After finally meeting his elusive father, Marcus, and receiving the three gifts that confirm him as a full adult witch, Nathan is still on the run. He needs to find his friend Gabriel and rescue Annalise, now a prisoner of the powerful Black witch Mercury. Most of all he needs to learn how to control his Gift – a strange, wild new power that threatens to overwhelm him.
Meanwhile, Soul O'Brien has seized control of the Council of White Witches and is expanding his war against Black witches into Europe. In response, an unprecedented alliance has formed between Black and White witches determined to resist him. Drawn into the rebellion by the enigmatic Black witch Van Dal, Nathan finds himself fighting alongside both old friends and old enemies. But can all the rebels be trusted, or is Nathan walking into a trap? 

Review:  So here we are, back for round two, this time there's more action, more magic and more of an intention. It feels like it is building up to something (#HalfLost anyone?), and leaves you hanging for what's to come from the finale of the trilogy.  

First of all I just want to say I LOVE this cover. I think they've all been great in their styling and the flow and the whispneynesssss....and I think this one is my favorite so far, packing quite the visual punch.

I do like how the title plays very well in to the theme of each book, and here we have the the concept of a wild nature and how not just Nathan but other characters such as Marcus and Mercury play into this.  This makes Nathan that troubled character that seems to be pulling himself in all different directions, and looks at elements of human nature, how we see ourselves and others see us too. This helps to build a lot of the characters and the situations and was nice, but it felt like a lot of repetition. However I think the issue I think I have with this series is that I don't seem to relate with many of the characters except maybe Gabriel. I don't have anything against brooding ( I know I do enough of it myself) but I don't  emote towards Nathan, and I think that's important when reading a book, especially when they're the main protagonist. So in a lot of ways that made me less involved, and the elements of quick pace, that at times really suits the book, helped me fly through the book, but it wasn't one that I was gripped to.    

That's not to say I don't think the book isn't good; there are some funny moments, I do like a lot of the characters ( like Marcus and Mercury... I actually would love to know more about their activities) and I think a lot of people have enjoyed this series and will enjoy this book. It steps things up.  I couldn't help when reading to think about The Subtle Knife every time a cut was mentioned. and that’s probably an apt book to reference because the magic within the series feels subtle and I liked that. Its not bang out there in your face, but more added in as a part, or a character trait that just fits. That's why I think the idea of Gifts are great, and how they're tied to each characters personality. Nathan came into his Gift here and it will be good to see what he makes of that, and...well I can't tell you the and until you read the books, but I am interested to see what becomes of...that. 

I said it with Half Bad, and I'm going to have to say it again, because for my this was HALF wild...just enough to keep me reading, but not enough for me to love it in the way I've loved other things I've recently read.  I will be reading the last book (and most likely any eShorts that are released) because I do want to know what happens' and I do hope that things are stepped up even more in Half Lost  

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Sunday, 22 March 2015

Rivers of London Read-A-Long Announcement + GIVEAWAY!!!

Helloooooo to you all. I've been having so much fun on our current His Dark Materials Read-a-long on twitter it's inspired me to do another one! This time round I'll be reading 'Rivers of London' by Ben Aaronovitch in honour of  Cityreads London 2015, and I hope you'll all join me, and if you live in London pop around to one of your nearest libraries at one of Ben's events! Plus we have an exciting GIVEAWAY below...

Cityread London promotes the key ideas of reading for pleasure, engaging new library users, enhancing the experience of existing readers, and encouraging people to explore and celebrate London’s culture, landscape and history. Cityread London represents culture for all, with all London library services developing a programme of reading, activities and events using a variety of formats including ebooks, audiobooks, large print, and in translation where possible, aimed at encouraging readers at all levels. This is a great project, as libraries have been so important to me, and I'm sure an import part of all your lives too! And they've picked on of my favourite books this year and have got some exciting events in aid of it (see below)!

Rivers of London follows detective PC Grant, who finds out, whilst trying to take a statement off a man, who later turns out to be a ghost one night, that his skills are more...extraordinary. Now he's the first trainee Wizard in fifty years and the spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it's falling to me to bring order out of chaos - or die trying.

You can check out an extract of the book here:

I'll be doing my Read-A-Long from April 13th -19th over on @DarkRReviews so grab a copy and join in the discussion, whether you've read it before or you're reading it for the first time. I'll be using the #RiversReadalong

There are also some great events happening all throughout April: 

Cityreads Launch: Friday 3 April 2pm-4pm, Covent Garden Piazza

PC Peter Grant has borrowed his boss’ Mk II Jaguar and is bringing it down to Covent Garden to help us launch Cityread. Be one of 1000 to get a special copy of the book and meet author Ben Aaronovitch as well as some real life Met recruits. (HOW good does this sound!)

Rivers of London – a hidden chapter an interactive experience.

Westminster Reference Library

Ever wondered how London Met fends off supernatural criminals in the capital? Or if ghosts were real? If rivers could talk what would they say? Know the difference between a cold breeze and when all the heat has been sucked from a room by a vampire?

Come to the official training centre for new recruits to see if you have what it takes.

Interactive theatre company Look Left Look Right are adapting Ben Aaranovitch's Rivers of London into an immersive participatory experience. 

AND WE HAVE A PAIR OF TICKETS TO GIVEAWAY! (I'm sooooo excited for this, I can't wait to go myself) Enter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ben Aaronovitch London Library Tour

Ben will be visiting a library in each London borough and you can find full details of each library and over HERE

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