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Tuesday 25 October 2011

Women Aloud

By various authors – for short story week

A charity anthology audiobook for National Short Story Week 2011 NOW AVAILABLE ON CD!

'Women Aloud' is an audio anthology of short stories written by eleven of the UK's best loved women's fiction writers.

There's something for everyone in this unique audiobook - love, laughter, thrills and chills. It will make a great gift for a friend, mum, sister, grandmother, aunt, girlfriend, wife, partner or...yourself!

Listen to stories by Trisha Ashley, Judy Astley, Elizabeth Chadwick, Rowan Coleman, Katie Fforde, Milly Johnson, Catherine King, Sophie King, Carole Matthews, Sue Moorcroft and Allie Spencer.

I’m really excited to be able to review a short story collection for Bookersatz. This one is particularly unusual since it is an audiobook, and I think it’s the first time I’ve listened to a selection of short stories rather than reading them.

There is a great balance of stories in this anthology, plenty of emotion, but plenty of humour as well. ‘A Woman Of Good Taste’ by Milly Johnson and ‘At Your Convenience’ by Sophie King were both highly amusing – the humour delivered perfectly by the chosen narrators.

The collection is also full of compassion, and I found many of the stories very moving. Sue Moorcroft’s ‘Crossing To The Other Line’ is thoughtful and touching, and Rowan Coleman’s ‘In Real Life’ is full of yearning and indecision.

From the life-affirming ‘Fox Sleeping’ by Judy Astley to the romance of ‘The One’ by Katie Fforde there is something for everyone in this collection. And if you like your stories a bit spooky and sinister, then ‘The Garden’ by Catherine King fits that bill very nicely.

Everything about this double CD, from the selection of the stories to the performances of the narrators, is fantastic. I’m now sold on the idea of audiobooks – listen while you drive, while you potter in the kitchen or just sit with your feet up! The short story form works really well in this format and I recommend this collection as a delightful listening experience.

Reviewed by Helen M Hunt

You can find out more about National Short Story Week here, and you can read an interview with Rowan Coleman about the project on my main blog Fiction Is Stranger Than Fact.

Proceeds from the CD go to the Helena Kennedy Foundation

Sunday 16 October 2011

Home For Christmas

By Cally Taylor

Beth Prince has always loved fairytales and now, aged twenty-four, she feels like she's finally on the verge of her own happily ever after. She lives by the seaside, works in the Picturebox - a charming but rundown independent cinema - and has a boyfriend who's so debonair and charming she can't believe her luck!

But Beth has a problem – in fact she has a couple of problems. None of her boyfriends has ever said they love her and it doesn't look like Aiden's going to say it either. So she takes things into her own hands, only to discover that Aiden has something very different in mind.

Things aren’t going that well at work either. Beth loves the Picturebox and has some fabulous ideas for increasing trade. But her elderly boss has never taken her up on any of them and now she wants to sell out to a chain.

Beth is a really empathetic character who specialises in getting herself into embarrassing situations, and things don’t get off to a great start when she shows herself up in front of Matt Jones, the regional director of the multiplex cinema group. The reader will really feel for her as it turns out that there’s more than one reason why she might want to impress him.

As well as a disintegrating love life and a fight to save the Picturebox, Beth also has a pushy mother and a mishap-prone best friend to contend with. The plot is well thought out and takes Beth into some situations that it’s very hard to see how she’ll get out of.

This is a delightful romantic excursion with a bit of ambition and heartbreak thrown in. There are some laugh-out-loud moments, some cringe quietly moments and some try not to sniffle moments as well. In fact, a perfect mix for a romantic comedy.

Highly recommended as a Christmas present for your own loved one, or for yourself! I absolutely loved it, and once I’d started it I couldn’t put it down.

Reviewed by Helen M Hunt

'Home For Christmas' is published by Orion on 10 November but it can be pre-ordered now.

You can find out more about Cally Taylor on her website here.

Saturday 8 October 2011

The Hanging Shed

by Gordon Ferris

What is it that makes us pick up a book? A good review we’ve seen perhaps? A beautiful cover that promises so much? A blurb that pulls us straight in? Perhaps it’s a combination of those things.

I read a lot but that doesn’t mean I’m not picky. I saw great reviews for The Hanging Shed but it didn’t appeal to me. The setting, post WWII Glasgow, didn’t grab me and I thought the story of a man summoned to his home town to get his friend off a murder charge would be somewhat clich├ęd and predictable. I continued to see rave reviews, however, and when I saw that the Kindle release was topping the rankings, outselling Steig Larson, I finally had to see what all the fuss was about. I’m so glad I bought this book.

The Hanging Shed opens with Douglas Brodie, ex-policeman, ex-soldier and now a reporter, reluctantly travelling home to Glasgow to visit his old childhood friend, a man who has been disfigured during the war and who waits to be sentenced to death for the murder and rape of his girlfriend’s son.

This book is anything but predictable. The compelling narrative, with its brooding undercurrents, keeps you turning the pages. The sense of place is so strong that it’s almost possible to smell the Glasgow pubs and the fish suppers.

There were several times when I thought I’d guessed what had happened or was about to happen, but then I’d turn the page and discover I was way off the mark. The story kept me intrigued right up to the very last page. It had me thinking about the characters for a long time after that.

As I said, I’m picky about the books I read. I’m so glad I didn’t miss this gem from Gordon Ferris.

Reviewed by Shirley Wells

You can find out more about Shirley on her blog here and her website here, and you can read my review of her book fabulous current book 'Dead Silent' here.

You can buy 'Dead Silent' here.

Saturday 1 October 2011

Spider's Revenge

by Jennifer Estep

I cannot rave enough about this series. I don't have a favorite anything, not favorite colors, numbers, authors, or even musicians. But, I can definitely step out and say that the 'Elemental Assassin' series is one of the best I have read and a favorite of mine. I thoroughly enjoy every book from cover-to-cover, even when something I may not particularly want to happen occurs. By the way, the covers are very well done.

'Spider's Revenge' seems like the culmination of the story, and it definitely is a crescendo that is very poetic and seriously climactic. I feel like I'm overdosing with the metaphors here, but, you get my drift. This is the story where the two most dangerous of the elementals come to blows and this installment in the Gin Blanco story does not disappoint. The action is excellent. Jennifer Estep knows how to write a fight scene. I love the phenomenal display of elemental powers that are displayed in all of the books. Of course, with the strongest known fire elemental going head-to-head with the strongest unknown stone/ice elemental in Ashland, NC, there are bound to be serious cataclysmic effects.

Owen, Finn, Bria, Sophia, and Jo-Jo are marvelous support characters. Owen is a stunning man. He makes a reader so happy that Donovan Caine is out of the picture. Everyone plays their part and though I wished there was time for an extra butt whooping in this book, 'Spider’s Revenge' does a very nice job of answering some questions and making the reader want more. I really cannot wait to read 'By A Thread' early next year.

Reviewed by Lady Techie