Category Archives: Ebook

The Girl Who Had No Fear

You don’t really want to be friends with Dr George McKenzie. Such a friendship is likely to involve danger in general, and eyeballs in particular, and not in terribly nice ways.

On the other hand, George is good to have on your side, as long as you manage to stay alive. In the fourth outing for Marnie Riches’s more than feisty heroine, things are darker than ever, and as you read you can’t help but wonder if anyone at all will be alive at the end. Apart from the bad guy, who appears to have at least nine lives.

Well, I clearly can’t comment on that. You must read and find out for yourself, and I can highly recommend starting the new year with Dr McKenzie. She’s imagining danger everywhere, and can defend herself with an Old German dictionary if need be.

Mothers are everywhere in The Girl Who Had No Fear. There is George’s own, who has disappeared. Elvis is busy juggling police work with looking after his mother, who seems to be on her very last legs. Marie is another mother, as is a fearsome girl George encounters when she goes off on her own to… Detective van den Bergen’s daughter is a new mother, too, and this changes how George’s lover looks on taking risks.

This time the crime hinges on bad drugs, and van den Bergen and George search all over the world for answers as to why so many men end up dead in one of Amsterdam’s canals. And it’s not just about a mother who’s nowhere to be found, but George’s long lost father pops up on the horizon. If it is him. If he’s not dead.

And will Marnie have to start afresh with a whole new set of characters in the next book?

In the Land of Broken Time

Maria and Max Evan, In the Land of Broken Time: The Incredible Journey

This was actually a rather sweet and fun little story. In the Land of Broken Time: The Incredible Journey, by Maria and Max Evan and translated from Russian by Helen Hagon, is a picture book. I think. I have read it on the Kindle as that is the only format so far, and generally I find ebooks and picture books don’t work so well.

Hence a certain reluctance on my part to read them. Except in this case I felt there was something there, so I gave it a go, and I’m glad I did, as I really enjoyed the book.

The story is about Christopher who is ten, and who sneaks out to see the circus even though he is unwell. Doing so he comes across another sneaky child, the lovely Sophie, and they end up having an adventure, in the company of a speaking dog. As you do.

There is an air balloon involved and somehow it travels in time, and the children land somewhere different, where there is a time mystery for them to solve.

Maria and Max Evan, In the Land of Broken Time: The Incredible Journey

It’s old-fashioned and modern all at once. It’s like a typical fairy tale, but one where the children have mobile phones and access to Skype. And a talking dog.

A Target for Tommy

A lot of Tommy Donbavand’s friends – who by funny coincidence – are all authors, have got together to write their own Doctor Who-related short stories for the anthology A Target for Tommy.

Currently Tommy is out of hospital, and we are hoping for his speedy recovery. Meanwhile, he and his family still need to pay the bills, and that’s where this anthology comes in.

Please consider buying a copy, or two, of the book. Details can be found here. You can buy either an electronic copy, or a proper printed book; it’s up to you.

I’ve ordered mine, and will get back to you when I’ve had a chance to read it.

A Target for Tommy

The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows

It’s grisly. That’s what it is. And good. Here is Marnie Riches’s third George McKenzie novel, and it is as bloody as the first two. It deals with child trafficking in Europe, so is not easy to read about. Nor are the murders, where the reader as always is sitting in the front row of the stalls, seeing everything.

At one point I paused to think, wondering whether it’s good for me to read about this much blood and gore, accompanied by generous dollops of swearing and sex. I decided it probably was, and that the difference lies in the fact that the books have been written by a woman.

Marnie Riches, The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows

We meet first hand, parents whose children go missing, live through their agony, seeing how their lives fall apart. We are cold, too. Both London and Amsterdam are freezing, caught in exceptionally low temperatures and masses of snow.

Criminologist George is busy visiting jails as well as being annoyed with her lover van den Bergen, until he calls her in to help with his murder hunt and the missing children.

Should I have seen the end coming? I don’t think so. You just know that something not terribly good is about to happen, while hoping there will also be some positive news for a few characters. (If there are more books, I’d like some solutions for Elvis and Marie, please.)

Marnie has put more of herself in this book, giving it more of a raw edge. If you can cope with the grisliness, this is great stuff.

(Order your ebook here.)

The Greystones Press

It’s not every day that a new publishing company is born. The Greystones Press is a brand new publisher’s of quality books, started by Mary Hoffman and her husband Stephen Barber.

Very sensibly they are sticking to what they care about most, which is literature, art, music, history, mythology and fairy tales. This will sound silly, but I feel quite excited at the thought of this, in a world too full of publishing companies who concentrate on, well, other things. And it’s because they do, that people like Mary and Stephen are needed. They want to publish the kind of books that won’t necessarily appeal to everyone, or sell in vast numbers. (Although it’d obviously be nice if they did.)

We’ve got used to self-publishing by now. Authors who either can’t get commercially published, or who want to have some level of control over what happens to their books, publish either ebooks and/or print copies. But most of them don’t go all the way and start something that will publish other people’s books as well.

This is quite a brave thing to do, but then where would we be if no one tried something new occasionally? Mary clearly has a lot of experience after her years of writing over a hundred books. One of them, the one about David, is going to be part of their first list, and it’s a book that personifies what The Greystones Press stands for. They also have plans for translated novels later on, which I look forward to.

Among the other first books will be Seven Miles of Steel Thistles by Katherine Langrish, whose knowledge of fairy tales I have long been in awe of, and here she will expand on what she’s been writing about for several years on her blog with the same name.

Mary also has a YA/adult crossover book for The Greystones Press, called Shakespeare’s Ghost, which rather suitably will be published on April 23rd. Jules Cashford and Kate Snow complete the first list of books this spring.

The Exclusion Wars

The Exclusion Wars by Sheila Agnew is a dystopia set in New York in about ten years’ time, and one which is looking increasingly likely. Many such stories feel as if they would require considerably longer before they might happen, but this one features a Trump-like President with a hatred for one group of the population; the Latinos.

Sheila Agnew, The Exclusion Wars

The novel is self-published because all the publishers Sheila approached a couple of years ago felt that the scenario was far too unlikely…

The main character is teenager Mateo Rivera, aka Matthew Rivers, who is alone after his mother escaped to Alaska, the only safe place for Latinos to go. He is looked after by the Underground, whose goal is to restore Latinos in the community, while helping people to disappear safely, or to live in disguise.

There are government agents everywhere, equipped with ‘fake’ dogs, and there are inspections in schools to find children who are pretending not to be Latino. One way to trick people to give themselves away is seeing if they speak Spanish, when caught unawares.

Matthew himself joins the Underground as a minor agent, and along with his best friend he runs messages between the adults. We don’t see so much of President Trent, but the schools inspector is a pretty terrifying man, who is quite hands-on with the searching.

This plot could be true almost anywhere, with almost any group of people as the unwanted ones. If you stop and think for a few seconds, you can probably come up with some. Maybe not as totalitarian as this set-up, but we’re not far from it in places.

It’s a shame the book couldn’t find a mainstream publisher. As you know, I often wonder what they are thinking a lot of the time. Sheila did the kind of thing I could see myself doing; she sent her book to Eoin Colfer, who liked it.

Not here you don’t

‘Would you like a different ending with that?’ Or how about a new first chapter?

Book publishing is hardly the same as ordering chips with your meal, instead of the boiled new potatoes. And still, publishers will insist on things being done their way. Sometimes that’s probably wise, because they have the experience. On the other hand, the author has the book in his or her head.

I remember Fletcher Moss being bemused by Chicken House telling him that his competition winning – first – novel had to be turned round quite drastically, to be publishable.

And now Cornelia Funke has been told the Americans need a different beginning to her new book, already published in Germany. Americans are a bit more cautious about what’s acceptable or not. But the book is already out there, and it’s not as if they were forced to buy Cornelia’s book.

So she’s self-publishing, which feels the last thing you’d expect someone like Cornelia having to do. But she’s lucky, because it seems she was handed back the rights to the entire series (the ‘problem’ is with the third book), thus enabling her to do this. Many authors struggle for years getting the rights back to their books, even when the publisher wants nothing more to do with it. Perhaps because she’s Cornelia Funke and not some minor, unknown writer?

Cornelia Funke

I think I have heard of novels where there are differences in other languages. But I trust only minor ones. I’m thinking of the discussion I had with my First Best Friend in our teens. Strangely enough we both liked the same band, and the same track too. Except we argued about what album the track was on. We were both right, of course. I’d bought my LP in London, and she hers in Sweden. The LPs were different. But I’d rather not have the same argument over how a novel ends; did they live happily ever after? Or not?