Birthday Girl by Haruki Murakami #harukimurakami @Penguinrandom @HarvillSecker #BirthdayGirl #Review #birthdaygift

Birthday Girl

By Haruki Murakami

Rating: *****

About the Author

Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto, Japan, in 1949. He grew up in Kobe and then moved to Tokyo, where he attended Waseda University. After college, Murakami opened a small jazz bar, which he and his wife ran for seven years.

Murakami is also the author of many novels and 3 short story collections, as well as an illustrated novella and several works of non-fiction. Birthday Girl was published to coincide with his 70th birthday. 

Blurb

Birthday Girl bookShe waited on tables as usual that day, her twentieth birthday. She always worked Fridays, but if things had gone according to plan on that particular Friday, she would have taken the night off.

One rainy Tokyo night, a waitress’s uneventful twentieth birthday takes a strange and fateful turn when she’s asked to deliver dinner to the restaurant’s reclusive owner. Birthday Girl was published to celebrate Murakami’s 70th birthday.

Review

This is a beautiful, intriging read and at only 42 pages, there’s great content and plot through it. It’s short and sweet as well as thought provoking and wonderfully observed. It is worth reading. It’s also lovely for a present. I actually received this from a good friend of mine for my birthday, which was very apt.

The highly reputable restaurant where the waitress works is as it should be and she’s called in at short notice due to another member being unwell, so nothing unusual until you read a little further and there’s a sinister feel about the owner. The owner who nearly everyone has not seen. This provides a source of curiosity and the pure need to know who the owner is. There is a day the newly turned 20 year old waitress has to deliver dinner to the owner. Perhaps because there are no names and the secretiveness of the owner, there’s a bit of an underlying sinister quality about the piece of writing and keeps you wondering just who is this mysterious character and how will he react to the waitress delivering his meal instead of the usual manager.

Everyone is allowed to make a wish on their birthday right??? The waitress in this tale is granted a wish by the owner. Strictly only one!

There’s an excellent observation made that at 20, although fully an adult, people suddenly realise that they still have a lot to learn and are still working out life and what life as a grown-up really entails as well as self discovery. I like the way it is put in the book and is such a true statement that is made by the waitress. Have a read to find out what the statement actually is, but it alludes to the above.

It’s such a fabulous book. It captures the attention from start to end, it toys with your senses and captivates and mystifies all the way through to what is an exquisite ending. It’s a book that will withstand more than one reading. For a book that is only 42 pages long, the quality and the content that is within it is mesmerising and is atmospheric with the added rain that falls. There’s an intensity within the book, which builds as the curiosity increases, well, mine did anyway.

This book is great for someone’s birthday or just to read, even if it isn’t.

 

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Death at the Plague Museum by Lesley Kelly @lkauthor @sandstonepress #NewBook #Review #Crime #Scotland #Edinburgh

Death at the Plague Museum
A Health of Strangers Thriller
By Lesley Kelly
Rated: ****

About the Author

Lesley Kelly has worked in the public and voluntary sectors for the past 20 years, dabbling in poetry and stand-up comedy along the way. She has won several writing competitions, including the Scotsman’s Short Story Award in 2008. Her debut novel: A Fine House in Trinity, was long listed for the William McIlvanney award in 2016. She can be followed on Twitter @lkauthor where she tweets about writing, Edinburgh and whatever else takes her fancy.

Blurb

Lesley Kelly book“If word gets out they’re going crazy, there’s going to be bloodshed”
The pandemic is spreading.
On Friday three civil servants leading Virus policy hold a secret meeting at the Museum of Plagues and Pandemics. By Monday, two are dead and one is missing. It’s up to Mona and Bernard of the Health Enforcement Team to find the missing official before panic hits the streets.

 

 

 

I would, before I begin my review, to thank Lesley Kelly for the packet of sweets to go along with this book.

Review

The book is split into 5 parts for the days of the week, plus titles.
From the outset there’s a death being investigated in the Edinburgh Museum of Plagues and Pandemics. Think work might just about be okay to go to on a Monday? Think again… There’s an air of something mysterious going on and Nathan McVie is dead..

The book, even though there’s a death early on at the Plague Museum, has some humour within it. I happen to like books with a bit of humour, even if the subject matter may be dark. The humour is well-placed and is sensible enough.

The book is at a good pace and would draw any reader in. It’s also modern and very “up to the minute” with the way people using social media, especially Twitter seem to find and comment on things instantly, and the way details of events are up there quicker than one could possibly imagine. Other issues are also highlighted, such as the constant threat of library closures and how people need to use them. I like that Mona has to use the library to do some research and I like that there’s not some romaticised idea that they will be around forever, regardless of whether they are used or not. I speak from experience of a council giving up on a few libraries as I have been heavily involved in creating a community library and now also running it, using every librarian skill I have gained by working in several of them over many years. It is thanks to authors such as Lesley Kelly who have supplied us with new books too, that we have a great book stock.
Back to the rest of the book…

The story goes on, turning up the tension about what really happened to Mr McVie and wondering where Sopel as she is missing and also missed a health check all staff get. The modern real possibilities of Twitter mobs are warned of well, within this book. It reflects our modern times and perhaps in ways that may make people think about how they use online sharing platforms such as social media in all its current forms.

There’s a mysterious death, or was it murder? There’s also a bomb threat. Enter the Plague Museum at your own risk and enjoy!!!

*I thank Lesley Kelly for sending me a copy in advance of the publishing date of 18th April to review. I also thank her for sending me books of this series for a community library I have set up.
The review is my own views and by no way was I influenced by what I wrote by the author or any other person by my review.

Dark Blossom by Neel Mullick – A Review @Neelmullick @Rup_Books #DarkBlossom @CameronPMtweets #RandomThingsTours #BlogTour #Review #Psychological #Relationships #Suspense

Dark Blossom
By Neel Mullick
Rating: ****

Today I am pleased to be on the Random Things Blog Tour for the book Dark Blossom to write a review. I thank them for sending me a book to review.

Dark Blossom Blog Tour Poster
About the Author

Neel Mullick Author PictureWith degrees in Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon, USA, and Business Administration from INSEAD, France, Neel is the Head of Product and Information Security at a Belgian family-office technology company.

​He mentors women entrepreneurs through the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, is involved in raising a generation of digital and socially-aware leaders with the Steering for Greatness Foundation (Nigeria), supports improvement in the quality of life of domestic workers at Emprendedoras del Hogar (Peru), and is helping IIMPACT (India) break the cycle of illiteracy plaguing young girls from socially and economically impoverished communities.

​He lives on three continents, spending his time between New York, Brussels, and New Delhi, has survived ten days (and nights!) at an airport, and a free fall five-hundred metres from the sky.

Concerned with the inverse correlation that seems to exist between society’s progress and the empathy with which it interacts with the universe around it, he firmly believes the solution to a rapidly fracturing world lies in peeling enough layers to discover the similarities, rather than judging on mere superficialities.

 

Blurb

Dark Blossom Front CoverSam returns home from a business trip a day before his son’s thirteenth birthday and is looking forward to being with his family, when his world is cruelly shattered in one fell swoop. Initially he thinks he can cope with the loss, but finally seeks the help of Cynthia, an experienced therapist, to regain his equipoise. What he does not know is that Cynthia herself is trying to cope with a debilitating divorce and the sinister shadow of her ex-husband over her daughter…
What happens when doctor and patient find themselves in the same sinking boat? Moreover, when they are rowing in opposite directions–one clinging to the past, and the other unable to get rid of it! In the midst of it all is Lily, Cynthia’s daughter, who harbours a secret that has the power to explode the lives around her.
Taut with tension and intensity, Dark Blossom is a glimpse of what lies under the surface of apparently ‘normal’ people.

Dark Blossom Back Cover

Review

 

Dark Blossom follows Sam who goes to therapy because he loses his family in an accident and Cynthia helps him to cope with his huge loss. She is not just a therapist, so is also the mother of punk-inspired teenager.

This is an emotional book of romance and suspense as life is just not that simple and even when trying to deal with everything that is going on in involved lives, life still doesn’t go in a straight line. I feel it is a good read that will keep readers captivated. It is quite a dark read, as the title almost suggests it would be, but, surprisingly, well paced. The chapters are short and don’t linger too long, which is some ways, makes it a bit easier to read for such an emotional, intense, psychological story as we follow the character’s lives and the shape the therapy sessions take between Sam and his therapist Cynthia. She has also had her own issues to deal with.

Lives become intertwined, hearts become full of hurt and life itself is not easy to live.

The Sweet Williams that are on the front cover are striking and also relevant to the story and like the flowers that have just come into bloom, there is hope and some positivity within the story.

So, delve into the human minds of the characters and their relationships and discover their lives in what is a well-written book. It may take a little while for the suspense to build, but it is worth giving a chance because it does happen.

Welcome to the Heady Heights by David F. Ross #davidfross @OrendaBooks #Scotland #review #blogtour #newbook

Welcome to the Heady Heights
by David F. Ross
Rating: ****

About the Author

David F Ross PicDavid F. Ross was born in Glasgow in 1964 and has lived in Kilmarnock for
over thirty years. He is a graduate of the Mackintosh School of Architecture
at Glasgow School of Art, an architect by day, and a hilarious social media
commentator, author and enabler by night. His most prized possession is a
signed Joe Strummer LP. Since the publication of his debut novel The Last
Days of Disco, he’s become something of a media celebrity in Scotland, with a
signed copy of his book going for £500 at auction, and the German edition has
not left the bestseller list since it was published.

Praise for other books:
‘Warm, funny and evocative’ Chris Brookmyre
‘Dark, hilarious and heartbreaking’ Muriel Gray

Blurb

Heady HeightsIt was the year punk rock was born, Concorde entering commercial service and a tiny Romanian gymnast changed the sport forever.

Archie Blunt is a man with big ideas. He just needs a break for them to be realised. In a bizarre brush with the light-entertainment business, Archie unwittingly saves the life of the UK’s top showbiz star, Hank ‘Heady’ Hedricks and now dreams of hitting the big time as a popular music impresario. Seizing the initiative, he creates a new singing group of five unruly working-class kids from Glasgow’s East End. Together, they make the finals of a televised Saturday-night talent show, and before they know it, fame and fortune beckon for Archie and the High Five. But there’s a complication; a trail of irate Glaswegian bookies, corrupt politicians and a determined Scottish WPC known as The Tank are all on his tail…

Review

A perfectly placed book with humour, nostalgia for some and curiosity for others of 1970’s Glasgow life in the East End and the desire to escape and for a celebrity, to become more famous than he already is. Whether you lived through the 1970’s or not, it’s a great read and is accurately written and it all feels like Glasgow of that time. Okay, I didn’t live through these times, I confess, but I’ve certainly seen many documentaries on it and plenty of folk over the years have told me about this decade.

The setting is the East End of Glasgow and the book is set mainly in 1976 and begins in July 1976. The hottest summer on record since records began and still is. The year, even if, like me, weren’t even born then, that is so well documented and televised with pavements and roads cracking in the sheer heat that lasted a very long time, as I am sure those of you who were born then, will remember. It’s a good place I think for this book to start and it proves Scotland can get hot and even in the present day it can too, perhaps not quite like in 1976, but hot all the same at certain times of the year.

Archie dreams of a different and better life for himself than only living in the East End of Glasgow, which is described well for the times of the gangs, the toil of heavy work and shortned life expectancy. There’s a real sense of poverty that is captured within these pages. It’s a part of the area’s history, captured well in what is a fictional novel, but also is thought provoking, as is the political parts, that some things never quite change, hence politcal circles being a phrase…. This isn’t however a political story. It’s a book that really captures the 70’s within Glasgow. Even the 3 titles of the 3 parts are recognisably 70s and would bring a certain nostalgia to people and a curiosity perhaps to others. They’re cleverly thought out.

All the places mentioned are real and recognisable and even today Tulliallan is where the people are trained for the police. There’s a political and social element that really stands out when it is mentioned how single female officers like Barbara don’t really get considered for leave. I don’t know if that is the case within the force now, but certainly there’s still a thing within society about single females being treated differently. She is a strong woman who stands on her own two feet and was a successful activist in getting a law to protect women.

There’s a feeling of wanting hope for Archie, hope that the strives of life change for him. He’s got hope and optimism within his character that fits in rather well into the story. It isn’t overdone by any means.

This is a book with plenty of  humour weaving through it as Glaswegian life goes on in both the East End and the more celebrity world.

The author has great strands of a story in this book as we learn of character’s stories, that are then cleverly pulled together.

All in all, this is a very original book with humour, but there is also a rawness of reality through its narritive. It’s worth picking up a copy and giving it a read.

I was pleased to be part of this blog tour for Orenda Books.

Heady Heights tour pic

Review of The Blue Salt Road by Joanne M. Harris @Joannechocolat @BHHillustration @gollancz @orionbooks @TheWrite_Reads #JoanneHarris #YA #Fiction #Review

The Blue Salt Road
By Joanne M. Harris
Rating: *****


About the Author

Joanne Harris MBE, writes under both this name and Joanne M. Harris and lives in Yorkshire. Her books have been published in over 50 countries and have won a number of British and international awards. This year she celebrates  20 years since Chocolat was first published in the UK. As well as writing books, she also writes stories that she performs to music with her band – Storytime. She plays a bass guitar and studies Old Norse. She also campaigns for libraries and author’s rights.

The Blue Salt Road Joanne Harris

Blurb

Passion drew him into a new world and trickery has kept him there.

But as he finds his path in a dangerous life, he will learn his notions of home, and of his people, might not be quite as he believed.

Illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, this is an original modern fairytale of love, loss and revenge, against a powerful backdrop of adventure on the high seas and drama on the land.

Review

I was fortunate enough to recieve this book as a Christmas present this year. The person who bought it for me knew I was interested in this book and that I have long enjoyed books by Joanne Harris. This book is rather different from my usual reads, but then that’s the beauty of books, they are easily accessible to try something new and to further expand the repertoire and discover something new. Even if a bit of fantasy is not your usual type of book, this book is relatable to and is worth exploring and in my review, you will see why and also you can see what else Joanne Harris writes, as she has written about every genre there is, which is impressive! Over the years I have come to admire her for many different reasons.

A modern fairytale that is nicely split into 7 parts, each beginning with appropriate verse from the Child Ballads. I had not heard of the Child Ballads before, but that’s the thing with even fiction books, there’s always something to take away with you or there’s some new nugget that readers have learnt about. This is a tale for young adults and adults alike, after all, fairytales were originally meant for adults. It is beautifully illustrated in black and white by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, who also illustrated A Pocket Full of Crows. The detailing is exquisite to say the least with each drawing matching the text very well. Be sure to look just inside the cover too.

The prologue is definitely very interesting and informative as it’s where it is learnt where the story comes from and are invited to take what we need from it and pass the story on. The way it is written is the beginning of being of  the enchantment of this book. It is about a Selkie. For those who don’t know a Selkie is a mythical creature that resembles a seal in the water but assumes human form on land.

Right from the first chapter the tale sweeps you along in its imagery of the islands as we meet the Grey Seal Clan, more precisely a young man of the clan who likes to hear tales of the Folk, who they live alongside, but there are warnings within those tales he is told to heed about the Folk. Despite warnings to take caution, he likes to observe the Folk. The Folk represent humans and are seen as only being concerned about their boats and harpoons. It is so thought-provoking and with such emotion and with such powerful beauty of the setting, there’s much to take in, but it is far from arduous. It’s a book that fits so well for today’s reading audience and is so relevant and it strikes a chord.

Mostly there are no named characters, except for Flora McCraiceann – one of the Folk, a determined young woman who wants to find a man of her own, and not necessarily one from the island. Down by the sea, there lies a bit of a love story. What love, but what pain can accompany it for both a Folk and a Selkie and what choices they must make, that impacts on their lives and the heart and the dreams don’t always match up and there are lost memories of a past life. It’s all beautifully and tenderly written with vast emotion and even though it is a fairytale, there is a grounding of realism within the book, which is relatable to.

We see the contrast between the Selkies and the Folk. The folk and all their weaponry, shows a darker side of this book, a more predatory, realism way that they had, compared to the magical power the Selkie has for readers and far different from the romanticism of them. The dark turn brings a sadness to this book as there’s a realisation of betrayal. It is all such a rivetting read and I found myself almost mesmerised and being pulled along like the waves of the sea. It’s so incredibly well written, it’s such a joy to read.

Throughout the book there is a Kraken, which is so well depicted to tell this story and is great for the imagination, but is written in a way that will be familiar to readers.

This fairytale, twists and turns as it begins to plunge into a tale of revenge later in the book. There is much that will keep readers wanting to turn the pages to see how it all concludes.

This book, although, not my usual genre, is a mythical masterpiece and really took me by surprise. So, I highly recommend this book, even to those who don’t normally read this genre.

Joanne Harris has been enjoying success and working hard on her writing for decades now. There are so many series and all of which I recommend. I have been reading her books for all those years and intend on continuing to do so.

I would like to thank Joanne for all the times I have met her, mostly at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and once at Aye Write in Glasgow and the other in Harrogate at the Raworth’s Literature Festival there. Each time has been a joy. Joanne Harris was the first author I met, when I came to know that authors could be met and signed books. No longer was it a bucket list dream, it became a lovely reality.

Gothic Novels: Sleep Pale Sister, The Evil Seed

Chocolat Series: Chocolat (adapted into an Oscar nominated film),
The Lollipop Shoes, Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure  The Strawberry Thief will be released 4th April 2019.

 Novels Set in France: Blackberry Wine, Coastliners,
Five Quarters of the Orange, Holy Fools

Malbry Novels: Gentlemen and Players, BlueEyedBoy, Different Class

Short Stories: Jigs and Reels, A Cat, A Hat and A Piece of String

Cookery: The French Kitchen, The French Market, The Little Book of Chocolate

Books written as Joanne M. Harris:
Norse Books: Runemarks, Runelight, The Gospel of Loki, The Testament of Loki
Folklore- inspired novellas: A Pocket Full of Crows, The Blue Salt Road

She has featured in many books such as Doctor Who, Dead Letters,
Fearie Tales, Paris to name but a few.

 

Joanne Harris pile of books

*Please note: This is an impartial review.

______________________________________
Title: The Blue Salt Road
Author: Joanne M. Harris
Illustrator: Bonnie Helen Hawkins
Publisher: Gollancz – an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group LTD
ISBN: Hardback: 978 1 473 22221 2    E-Book: 978 1 473 22223 6
Main Points of Purchase: Available widely in bookshops, libraries and Amazon.