gimmethatbook

Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Month: May 2016

Dear Clementina: Letters From One Border Terrier Pup To Another by Colin Burke

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“I was starting to doubt that I’d ever enjoy canine company again, and you being a twelve-week old Border Terrier pup like me made our meeting especially good.”

A chance meeting between two twelve-week-old puppies in a Manchester park leads to a series of letters from young Stanley to his new friend Clementina. Based on true events viewed through canine eyes, this work is a collection of that correspondence, and reflects upon the quirky world of humans, dogs and the interaction between the two.
With a comic perception that is perhaps only afforded to innocent observers, each letter stands alone as a testimony to Stanley’s efforts to comprehend the mysteries of life that confront young pups in their carefree progress throughout their first year. From human vanity to intrusive vets to pesky cats, from basic bodily functions to the high-blown appreciation of modern art, Stanley keeps Clementina in the picture as he steers his way relentlessly, if not always smoothly, through the challenges that life throws at him, culminating in his first birthday party.
In this deliciously humorous work, wittily illustrated by W.H. Mather, readers will delight not only in recognising their own pets, but also themselves and their fellow dog walkers. But you don’t have to be a dog-owner to appreciate Stanley’s letters as their comedy will appeal to everybody. And anybody contemplating getting a puppy should take advantage of Stanley’s wit and insight to help them in taking that fateful step of joining the ranks of the dog-owning fraternity. Pick up Stanley’s narrative and immerse yourself in the humorous, blossoming friendship of two adorable Border Terrier puppies!

Many thanks to Publishing Push for this review copy!

As a terrier lover I was quite eager to read this, and I wasn’t disappointed. Stanley is a curious and down to earth puppy, showing why Border Terriers are so lovable!

Stanley writes on a regular basis to his friend Clementina, describing household events and other adventures. It’s quite funny to read about things from a dog’s eye view (sock chewing, a trip to the vet for neutering, barking, butt sniffing) and it’s amusing to consider the stories as an accurate representation of a canine thought process.

Burke makes the little dog come alive with his stories – Stanley is a roll-with-the-punches, always cheerful puppy with a giant personality. It was so easy to picture him talking in the park with his other canine pals about chasing rabbits and squirrels.

Each chapter is another “letter”, detailing what has happened since Clementina and Stanley last got together. The reader never hears from Clementina, a tactic that places Stanley firmly in the reader’s mind as the sole voice. To me, this was a great way to write the book; having two dogs write back and forth may have increased the cutesy factor too high and made it into a caricature. The humans in the book have their actions and foibles magnified in a smile inducing way:  beer consumption, anger at chewed up socks, and long walks are all confounding things when seen through Stanley’s eyes. Human customs that are familiar to us all will seem new and foreign, accomplishing exactly what the author intended: just because we understand what we want our dogs to do, it may not be easy for them to grasp it.

Anyone who is thinking about getting a puppy should read this, so they will be educated and amused at the same time. Many Border Terrier owners will shriek with knowing laughter as they share Stanley’s adventures.  Stanley loves to jump up – maybe a bit too much; when his owners suggest a nice long walk he notes:

In fact I jumped a little too high, to tell the truth, and knocked Colin’s mug of tea out of his hand, but it only took him one minute to stop cursing and another two to change his soggy trousers, so no real harm done.

The novella can be read in a single sitting, or enjoyed bit by bit. The writing style truly reads like a series of friendly missives, and I could sense the fondness Stanley had for his best friend Clementina. The love Burke has for his real life dogs is evidenced on each page as well.

DEAR CLEMENTINA is a sweet, funny, and smooth read. Dog lovers will see bits of their own pup in Stanley, and love them a little more after finishing this book!

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

Game of Fear by Gledé Browne Kabongo

game of fear

A desperate act, an explosive secret, and a diabolical enemy—all part of a treacherous game, with no limits.

Overachieving good girl Abbie Cooper has her future all planned out. As senior year at her elite private school kicks off, she has one simple goal: get into the Ivy League. But at St. Matthews Academy, nothing is ever simple. The pressure is overwhelming, the secrets are dirty, and the games are wicked. Abbie has a dirty secret—one that could destroy her chances of getting admitted into Princeton, and the lives of those closest to her.
One morning, she discovers a note in her locker with the warning, “I know what you did”. Then a photo arrives in the mail. It captures her most shameful deed—the shocking blunder she can never erase, in glorious detail. Someone is out to ruin her, but who and why? The answer lies with the sender of the photo, a mysterious girl known only as The Avenger. For a price, she assures Abbie her secret will remain safe. There’s only one problem: The Avenger may not exist at all. If Abbie doesn’t uncover her true identity before acceptance decisions are made, it’s game over…

 

Thanks to the author for gifting me this book in exchange for a review. I reviewed her previous work SWAN DECEPTION and thought it was wonderful. In GAME OF FEAR we see Abbie Cooper (the daughter from SWAN) growing up and wishing secrets from her past would remain hidden.

Stress is a common theme among high school students; after all, the stakes are high when you are trying to get into the college of your dreams. When you are faced with the possibility that a stupid thing you did years ago may ruin your entire future, it’s time to enact some serious damage control.

Control is a good word to describe Abbie Cooper – she takes no crap from the Mean Girls of her school, and stays true to herself throughout the book. She is fiercely loyal to her friends and is known to shoot from the lip when it comes to expressing her opinion. Abbie is the girl I wish I was in my younger days: confident, brash, intelligent, yet she has her feet firmly on the ground, and doesn’t let her position in an elite high school go to her head.   Her emotions are so tightly under wraps that she doesn’t realize animosity is really attraction:  Christian, a well known Bad Boy has been flirting shamelessly with her since junior year and all Abbie can do is deliver cutting barbs and sneer.

The requisite mean girl clique is truly bitchy, ready to spread rumors and gossip at the slightest provocation. When Abbie starts receiving threatening notes in her locker she is sure that her arch enemy, Sidney, is at the bottom of it. Some of the dialogue and interactions between these two are the best part of the book. In this scene, Abbie and Christian are having a snack after school when the mean girls show up.

“Well, well, if it isn’t sad, pitiful Abbie. Enjoy it while it lasts. You know Christian is just slumming, right?”

Sidney just showed up with her minions stuck to her side like dried cement, wearing identical smirks. Why, oh why can’t she just disappear into a black hole, and never return?  “Welcome to slumming it, Christian,” I say, looking directly at him. “You’re in for an unforgettable ride.” 

Sidney’s jaw drops. Jessica and Brooke just stand there looking like the insipid creatures they are. I look Sidney up and down with contempt, wave my hand at her in a dismissive gesture, and return to eating my pizza. 

See what I mean about Abbie having control? She tries her best to stay cool even when the going gets tough; and it gets really tough when her secret looms large over her budding relationship with Christian. So many lies have been told already; what path will Abbie choose?

Glede Brown Kabongo’s writing is completely on point – she captures teenage angst, jealousy and the world of the privileged in rich, glorious detail. The suspense keeps on building and the tension escalates with each new demand from the Avenger. The character development makes it easy to become emotionally invested in Abbie’s life, and her internal monologue will resonate with the reader. The story is a winner because of the first person narration; it’s a seamless transition for the reader to go from looking in at  St Matthews Academy to becoming part of the student body. I felt as if I were walking the hallways with Abbie and Christian, experiencing the same confusion and worry as if it were my locker holding those notes.

I loved, loved, LOVED this book – the plot was taut and kept me up all night reading it. GAME OF FEAR is the type of read you shouldn’t plan on putting down before it’s finished, because you will spend your entire day thinking about the characters and counting the minutes until you can be with them again.

I’ll be reviewing the sequel in a future post – but in the meanwhile you can pick up your own copy of GAME OF FEAR here.

Berth: Voices of the Titanic by Natalie Scott

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Natalie Scott’s debut collection of poetry, BERTH, brings together myriad diverse voices, tapping into the psyche of those affected by the sinking of the Titanic. Ambitious in its scope, Berth seems to unravel the myths that have emerged over the century since the tragedy. From the pathos of poems in the voices of the passengers who died, to the amusing reflections of the iceberg, dog and anchor, this collection commemorates those who were lost and celebrates those who survived that fateful night of 14 April 1912.

 

Thanks to Publishing Push and the author for gifting me this review copy!

BERTH is a delightful little book of poems that are eerie and thought provoking to read. Each one is “written” by various people who are connected with the ill fated ship in some way; a builder, a passenger, a Marconi wireless operator. There are also poems authored by the ship’s cat, an anchor, and the iceberg itself. After the name of the person the reader will find out if the person was lost or saved.

Here is a sample:

James Dobbins (shipyard worker for Harland and Wolff, Belfast. During construction of ship – LOST)

I was with her through the build                                                                                                                                             from the laying of keel plates                                                                                                                                                         to the last bristles of paint.

I considered myself lucky                                                                                                                                                                   to be called for launch-day;                                                                                                                                                         many poor surplus souls                                                                                                                                                               went missing a day’s pay.

I’d been freeing a support                                                                                                                                                           from the shores just below                                                                                                                                                            her hull, as she strained                                                                                                                                                                    on the workings like a feral                                                                                                                                                     animal tied to its post.

When the support was freed                                                                                                                                                       the shore pinned down my leg                                                                                                                                                    and I must’ve fallen unconscious                                                                                                                                                 as I’ve been in darkness ever since.

Please tell me, because I’m dying                                                                                                                                                 to know –  did she make a good,                                                                                                                                                 safe passage to New York?


That’s the first poem in the book. As soon as I finished it I read it again and tried to imagine this poor soul in my mind. It was easy to see Titanic straining like a  “feral animal” at the dock, a behemoth seeking her freedom.

Scott’s imagery is ethereal and true; the passenger’s voices reflect their station in life accurately, clearly demonstrated in the two poems Mrs Alma Palsson and Mrs Hudson JC Allison. These poems are shown side by side, a gentle hint to the reader that the emotions of the women were the same deep down inside, despite their money (or lack of it).

The connection between the poems is the emotion of the writer – some are arrogant, some are in denial, others painfully aware that their hours are numbered. The inclusion of the ship’s cat and a Newfoundland dog (both SAVED) add a touch of whimsy, despite the somber underlying tones.  Scott even creates a poem in the voice of the iceberg;  as much a part of history as Titanic.

Despite the death imagery on most pages, BERTH is a work that will move you by making the passengers more personal in a unique way. We have all read the first person accounts of the survivors and elevated them up to myth-like, god-like status. However, these poems recreate their voices in a way that seems more personal, as they share their deepest thoughts, hopes and fears with you. Even the Unsinkable Molly Brown has new things to say.

At a slim 76 pages this book seems to fly by quickly, making it easy to go back and read certain poems again while enjoying the wordplay and visceral feelings the poems evoke. Without a doubt this will be one of my favorite books this year.

Natalie Scott has created a shining jewel of a book that will be a welcome addition to the shelves of any Titanic aficionado. She has honored the memory of so many with her touching and beautiful words, words and images that will stay with you long after the book is closed.

Pick up your own copy here. You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

The Wrong Treatment by Chris Malone

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A fast paced medical thriller with a serial killer on the loose. Adam Hooker was delighted to be working with advanced technologies such as MRI to help doctors perform surgery and treat patients, but his world is overturned when his brilliant mentor Gary dies in a horrific accident. But it seems Gary may have had dark secrets and everything points to his involvement in a series of recent murders and attacks on women. Adam is determined to find the truth and clear Gary’s name, and is finally able to connect the dots between Gary’s death and the real killer. All this is set against a background of hi-tech medicine and political intrigue within a top-ranked research institution.

Thanks to Word Slinger for gifting me this book for review!

Once you get past the first 30 pages, and get used to the formatting of dialogue and occasionally awkward phrasing, this story grabs you and keeps you interested. The plot has a few tendrils: the horrific (majorly gory details) murder of a scientist via overactive radiotherapy machine; other members of the scientific community with secrets they wish to keep hidden; a grasping and pompous hospital Vice President with a licentious mind; and a man with a brain tumor.

THE WRONG TREATMENT takes place in the United States, but the writing is quite British, which may seem confusing to some readers. I did find it endearing that so many American things were being written about with a British slant, and I will say that the author is very familiar with his subjects. Neurosurgery is a complicated science but there was nothing in here that was overwhelming. The author takes pains to describe computer programs and certain treatments in plain language.

Each chapter takes place in a day, with the entire book encompassing 14 days of action. A scientist is murdered and his best friend and co worker tries to figure out who did it and why. As always, I loved that the criminal was not obvious in the beginning. I pegged different characters over the course of the book a few times but was always wrong, as the murderer is not made clear til the final pages.

A research lab must be written about in such a way that the details are correct and not too dull. Malone fulfills this beautifully! The science makes sense, the details are grasped easily, and nothing is too over the top. I can imagine Michael Crichton nodding his head at the finished product. I especially liked the boardroom intrigue and back stabbing as well – the machinations of science and politics are done quite well.

The main character, Adam Hooker, grows as a person over the course of the two weeks, becoming more confident in himself and his decision making ability. Dr Cummings, Chief of Neurosurgery, is a very sympathetic character with a brain damaged son and conflicting inner thoughts regarding that son.

Overall, the writing style is not as polished as I’ve seen, but the plot and character development is solid, the suspense builds properly, and things are brought to a close in a believable manner. I have a second book of Chris Malone‘s to review and I’m looking forward to it!

Want y our own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

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