Category Archives: Review

The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star

I just love Ganesha, the baby elephant detective in Vaseem Khan’s Inspector Chopra novels! And I rather admire Poppy, aka Mrs Chopra. (I may have mentioned this before. Like every time I review Vaseem’s books.) I reckon Poppy is finding herself, going from loving wife of a police inspector to someone who… Well, maybe better not give it away, but there were one or two scenes in this, the third outing for Chopra and his elephant, that made me laugh out loud. Poppy knows her mind, but she still can’t prevent her personality from getting the better of her.

This crime adventure is set within the Bollywood business, but it is also pure Bollywood in itself. It is colourful and crazy, while also showing the reader the serious side to life in India; how some people have very few rights and lead dreadful lives.

Vaseem Khan, The Strange Didappearance of a Bollywood Star

Chopra’s sidekick Rangwalla has his own mystery to solve and he definitely discovers a few things about himself that he’s not proud over. But people can change.

So on the one side we have a kidnapped Bollywood hero and on the other we meet the Mumbai eunuchs. Chopra’s decent behaviour gets him into trouble, and were it not for those around him who love him; Ganesha, his adoptive boy Irfan, Poppy, his staff and his friends, things wouldn’t have ended so well.

Forgive me if I keep going on about how much I love these books. There is a charm and a decency, coupled with humour and a good crime plot and a fantastic setting. It leaves me wanting to learn more, but first I want some of chef Lucknowwallah’s food. And I’d like an elephant best friend.

Dads and Ducks

David Melling, Just Like My Daddy

I might be in love with David Melling.

Just in time for Father’s Day we have the re-issued Just Like My Daddy. We meet a young lion cub who rather admires his fierce and clever lion daddy. The adult reader can tell daddy is not perfect, and maybe the little lion can too. I don’t know.

But he definitely loves his dad. And so does all his friends.

This picture book shows you a new side to the powerful lion image. But a dad’s a dad, anyway.

David Melling, Colour with Splosh!

And if you want more, I give you ducks. They are also by David Melling, and Colour with Splosh! is a lovely and fun take on colours and rhymes, with the most adorable ducks.

And one rabbit.

There is just something about David’s style…

Rook

In Rook we’re back with Nicky and Kenny from Anthony McGowan’s Brock and Pike, and it is as enjoyable and fun and excellent and heartrending as the first two books were.

Anthony McGowan, Rook

Both boys are growing and Nicky, who’s the younger of the two, is surprised to realise that Kenny is a person in his own right; and not just a special needs boy who must be helped at all times.

This time they find an injured rook and Kenny simply has to take it home to nurse it back to health. Nicky helps, but he’s finding life extra taxing because he’s being bullied at school. And he’s in love.

It’s hard, and it goes bad, but things can be sorted out eventually, except perhaps for the library closing hours, robbing Nicky of a safe place to escape to. These books are so inspiring and give the reader so much! And if your brother claims to be friends with Doctor Who, well, maybe he really is.

After the First Death

Almost forty years on I’m guessing Robert Cormier couldn’t have imagined that his early YA novel After the First Death would feel so current. Or maybe he would. Perhaps his journalist’s instinct knew that the world wasn’t about to become a better place.

Robert Cormier, After the First Death

He certainly knew how to paint a dark picture of terror back in the 1970s. This was my first book by Robert, whose name I’ve heard mentioned by authors who have strived to write as well as him. And, you know, if someone you admire, admires someone, you need to have a look for yourself.

Reading After the First Death post-Manchester and during the next London terror attack, I couldn’t help but feel it’s always the same. My own mental image of terrorists forty years ago was not that which is in this story, which feels totally up-to-date as far as what we are witnessing today is concerned.

A bunch of unidentified terrorists have seized a bus carrying 16 five-year-old children, holding them and the teenage girl driving the bus hostage. One of the terrorists is also a teenager, as is the boy who ends up as a go-between. The naïve reader imagines a bond forming, somehow.

You learn much about how adults groom younger people to help do their dirty work. We discover that the bus driver is a normal human being from her helpless reactions to the situation; none of this fictional hero stuff. The go-between fares not much better. And the children…

The title suggests this won’t be easily solved. You know there has to be at least one death. You just can’t tell how bad it might get.

This excellent but chilling book is one of the recently re-issued classics from Penguin.

October is the Coldest Month

This Nordic Noir crime novel could almost be for your ordinary adult crime fan, were it not so short. But it is actually a YA noir, written by Swede Christoffer Carlsson. This is his first YA book, but he’s an award winning author of several adult crime novels. I was attracted to his lovely surname, and the fact that he hails from a place I know well.

I don’t think the story is set there, though, but it’s still easy enough to visualise those dark and intimidating woods. I don’t like woods.

Christoffer Carlsson, October is the Coldest Month

To my mind this is quite a daring story for translation into English. I’m sure the Swedish teenager reading it won’t turn a hair over the sex, but I can see that UK gatekeepers might have something to say about it. Hopefully October is the Coldest Month will make it into the hands of new readers without interference.

Set in Småland, and I imagine far from the nearest IKEA, we meet 16-year-old Vega who lives in a small community in the woods with her mother and older brother. And now her brother has disappeared and the police are looking for him.

Vega knows more than she will admit, and she sets out to find Jakob, and also to discover what’s behind his reason for hiding, and how it will affect her, and for that matter, the lives of everyone else out there.

Translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles, it feels throroughly Swedish and depressingly noir.

Black Moon

Well!

What a book Black Moon is! The end of the trilogy Lee Weatherly set in her new dystopic 1940s, two thousand years in the future, after us Ancients caused the world to be destroyed by doing so many things wrong.

Mistakes are there to be repeated. Now that Kay Pierce has taken over the country and is busy killing anyone not to her liking, plus quite a few more while she’s at it, things look grimmer than ever. And the more you read you realise that this is WWII all over again. Just in a different place and with new people taking the place of those in our war. But the mistakes are the same and the consequences also.

And I believe this is what makes it so interesting, giving the reader a chance to look at what is the same but different. And to see how people still make the same mistakes despite knowing the fate of the Ancients all those years ago.

I’d been concerned about the love interest not taking a wrong turning, but there is of course always the problem with loving in a war to contend with. Who will survive?

Amity is a marvellous heroine and she is surrounded by great friends and lovers, and say what you want about President Pierce but she makes for a formidable enemy. Reading this third book made me marvel even more over the fact that Lee wrote it before the recent Presidential election, and still got it spot on.

I can’t recommend this trilogy enough. It’s the kind of read that makes you glad to be a reader and grateful that some good books are still published. I don’t – now – want more of this, but I do crave more wow-factor books. 650 pages can go so fast when you are having a fantastic time.

The Dragonsitter Detective

Reading the latest Dragonsitter book I was engulfed in a warm glow. Not because Josh Lacey’s dragons breathed fire on me, I hasten to add. I just love these books. Short – and funny – enough to entice any young reader to enjoy themselves, and the right length for me to drink a cup of tea and eat two potato scones.

Josh Lacey and Garry Parsons, The Dragonsitter Detective

And don’t you just love a wedding? Eddie’s mum is finally marrying Gordon, and they’ve all travelled up to Uncle Morton’s island for the great day. Morton is away, as usual. This time he’s hunting the Kraken from a submarine. But he has to give his sister away! And make a speech!

Unfortunately both his dragons are stolen, and it is down to Eddie to find them again. He is a good boy, so he does. And the wedding is only slightly delayed.

And Morton? Well…

I never did find out if Eddie had to wear a kilt.

(Fiery illustrations by Garry Parsons)