28 Feb 2015

PILGRIM: THE GREATEST CRUSADE.


PILGRIM: THE GREATEST CRUSADE by JAMES JACKSON.

SOURCE: Ex-library stock.

INNER FRONT COVER BLURB: 1212. The forces of Christendom are on the march again. There is much to avenge. Twenty-five years ago, the Christian army lay shattered on the desolate plain of the Horns of Hattin, slaughtered by Mighty Saladin, ruler of the Moslem world. The Holy Land seemed lost.

But now the Pope has called for crusade. Many take the cross for pilgrimage and battle. Among them is Otto, a young noble in search of his vanished Hospitaller Knight father, and Brother Luke, a mysterious Franciscan on a mission of his own.And then there are the children - tens of thousands of them, pledged to recapture Jerusalem and find the True Cross, the holiest of relics lost to the forces of Islam. But nothing can prepare them for what they will face.

From the island-fortress of the Templar's to the mountain redoubts of the murderous Assassins, from the secret lair of leper knights to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the pilgrim's journey is beset by treachery and horror, violence and dread. There are allies at hand - the beautiful Lady Matilda of Acre; the wayward Sergeant Hugh, a former bodyguard to Lionheart himself - but they may not be enough. For dangers press in and the way ahead is perilous. Some will not survive.

What they seek is Truth. What they find is Hell.

FIRST SENTENCE {Beginning: 4 July 1187. The Holy Land}: They should have known it would end this way, might have guessed when the old Arab crone had cursed them as they departed camp and the fire they set beneath her failed to catch.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 39}: Children populated the fruit trees like feeding insects, revelling in the abundance, shaking free the cherries and plums to waiting hands below. It was a day of rest and forage, of rejoicing in sudden bounty. Feet could be bound or cooled in streams, limbs stretched beneath laden bowers, ravenous hunger sated for a while. They had changed much in the three hundred miles since Cologne. Weakness had gripped every step; hollow-eyed gauntness had set in. Yet they endured.

MY THOUGHTS: Expecting more about a children's crusade, what I wasn't expecting was how graphically violent and sexual this book would be.

OK, so arguably more violent times, I get that, but why the need for such gratuitous, gory violence on such a large scale? And why such explicit sex scenes? Sometimes less really is more and I think the author could have credited his readers with a bit of imagination rather than laying out certain acts in such detail.

With the potential to be a really good read Pilgrim was let down by just about every facet you care to mention. Dubious historical details, poorly drawn characters, appalling dialogue and yet it wasn't this that bothered me the most. Unforgivable lazy and stereotypical writing at best, downright offensive at worst. Given the culture at the time I could understand one of the characters describing a Jewish banker/money lender as such but for the author to write '.... the old Jew would not anticipate anything beyond the scope of his hook nose and basic greed'? As I said lazy and stereotypical characterisation if nothing else.


26 Feb 2015

ME BEFORE YOU.


ME BEFORE YOU by JOJO MOYES.

SOURCE: Ex-library stock.

BACK COVER BLURB: Lou Clark knows lots of things.

She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now, and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.

FIRST SENTENCE {Prologue: 2007}: When he emerges from the bedroom she is awake, propped up against the pillows and flicking through the travel brochures that were beside his bed. 

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 171}: I frowned at the list. "So ... I'll go back and tell the Traynors that I'm going to get their suicidal quadriplegic son drunk, spend their money on strippers and lap-dancers and then trundle him off to the Disability Olympics - "

MY THOUGHTS: Without giving too much away (I hope), the fictional story of what happens when one young man's life is changed in the blink of an eye. Me Before You opens wide the assisted dying/quality versus quantity of life debate.

Packing a powerful emotion packed punch the likes of which I haven't come across before. You could be forgiven that this is totally depressing read and yet whilst its true I did need a tissue (or five) it's not without its humorous moments .... but then such tales of tragedy rarely are.

Painting a wonderfully candid picture of the ins and outs, the highs and lows, of Will's life, of his physical/psychological needs, of his relationships (not least of which is the one with Louisa, his paid companion). Whilst there is no sexual content as such it has to be said that in parts the book contains some of the most moving, intimate and, yes, sensual moments that I've ever come across in print.

Indescribably powerful stuff in which even the most non-contemplative of readers must surely give pause for thought. JoJo Moyes does a tremendous job in laying out all of the arguments in this very humane tale at the heart of which is a beautifully tender and yet non-traditional romance.


24 Feb 2015

SUZY P: AND THE TROUBLE WITH THREE/FOREVER ME.

Having read and reviewed an ARC of Me, Suzy P by Karen Saunders for NewBooks magazine way back in October 2012 I was delighted to be approached by the marketing manager at Hot Key Books who very kindly sent me copies of books two and three in the trilogy to review.

SUZY P AND THE TROUBLE WITH THREE.

BACK COVER BLURB: Suzy's off camping with her family and best mate Millie. Yep, you heard right .... camping.

As if being stuck in a caravan in rainy Wales for two whole weeks weren't bad enough, to make matters worse , Mum's best friend's daughter, super glam (and super snotty) Isabella is coming too. When Millie starts spending all her time with Isabella, Suzy is devastated. Can her friendship with Millie survive when three is most definitely a crowd.

FIRST SENTENCE {Chapter One}: Oh thank you, thank you, thank you.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 67}: I give another violent shake, but it's too hard and the bundle of clothes falls out of my grasp. The moth flies away, the clothes fall through the air, and my bra lands on Isabella's dark head.
She seems seriously unimpressed as my B-cups flap round her cheeks in the breeze.

MY THOUGHTS: Topical (the recession and 'the wedding' of Suzy's sister sees the Puttock family having to economise). Full of the highs and lows, petty jealousies and embarrassing adults that is teenage life but above all fun, Suzy P And the Trouble With Three is bound to appeal to tweenagers upwards.

A wonderful follow-on from Me, Suzy P. This reads well as a standalone novel though I would highly recommend the reading of the first book as it really is such a fun read, one of my favourites of 2012.


SUZY P FOREVER ME. 

BACK COVER BLURB: Suzy P made a promise that she can't keep. Kind of a big promise. To her entire school.

Why, oh why, did she say The Drifting would be performing at the Collinsbrooke fundraiser? As if trying to sort out that mess wasn't enough, she also needs to make sure Dad's birthday bash isn't a total disaster - especially as he's already showing signs of a mid-life crisis.

Suzy has her best mates helping out, but will she be able to pull off TWO parties of a lifetime?

FIRST SENTENCE {Chapter One}: Well, this sucks.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 194}: I follow Harry into my sister's room. It's completely empty - the wardrobe's bare, the bedding stripped, toiletries gone - all except for one thing.

MY THOUGHTS: The third and final (and sadly for me my least favourite) book in the Suzy P trilogy.

Though not without moments when I actually found myself laughing at loud I'm afraid that as an adult reading this there were moments when I actually found myself practically cringing at the antics of Suzy's inept sister and brother-in-law. 

Still, I'm sure bound to be a winner amongst its targeted audience. In Suzy P and her friends we have a memorable set of characters in a well observed trilogy that, Suzy P Forever Me in particular, is perfectly pitched at its One Direction (insert other boy band as desired) loving readers.


23 Feb 2015

MONDAY MEDIA: SHORT 'N' SWEET.

WARNING: Whilst I endeavour to keep Media Monday family friendly I feel it only right to point out that some of the newspapers featured do have links to articles of a more adult theme. TT

Perhaps a bit more adult than my usual Monday offering but it made me laugh ....


With entrance to the London event charged by the inch the UK is to host the world's first phallic festival for men with small penises. 


And in this weeks underpants related story ....

Blaming the purchase of cheap underpants that were too tight a Canadian MP hurriedly ran out of the House Of Commons during a vote. 

And finally, the news from yesteryear ....

Think permanently scaring your child with an stupid name is a modern phenomenon? Try telling that to One Too Many Gouldstone (1870), Mineral Waters (Essex, 1892) or any of the others on this list from the 1800's.