Friday, February 24, 2012

The Stonewylde Series
Reviewed by Lisa Doyle-Redmond

The Stonewylde Series by Kit Berry were a self-publishing phenomenon which became so popular; selling online direct from the author that in 2010 Kit was able to secure a publishing deal with Orion who agreed to publish all five books in the series. The first three books are available in paperback and the fourth currently available in hardback will be published in paperback in July with the final book appearing in October 2012.  (All the books are or will be also available in e-book format). Although the books appear under the Gollancz imprint who specialise in fantasy and science fiction, they are also marketed to teens and are generally considered to be crossover novels. Essentially the books don’t fit comfortably into any one genre. There are elements of fantasy and magic in the story but there is also romance, drama and page turning thrills. Some of the main characters are young adults but there are also mothers, fathers, older people and the various dynamics of relationships within families and the community.
The story focuses on a small community hidden away in the Dorset countryside. A young girl; Sylvie who is gravely ill, her body contaminated by the poison and toxins of city life such as over-processed food and unhealthy air is invited along with her mother Miranda to come and live at Stonewylde. The community works together; growing and making what they need and following the traditional cycles of the earth. At the heart of the community is a circle of standing stones and here the eight Pagan festivals are celebrated. The leader of the community is the charismatic and charming Magus. Gradually as the story unfolds we meet other characters the downtrodden young man Yul, the strange shaman Clip and many others.
However the darker side of this seemingly idyllic place is slowly revealed. As Sylvie and Yul become friends it becomes clear that Stonewylde is not an equal place with the fair haired hall folk having all the privileges of life while the village folk do all the work. The writing quality is superb and the characterisations are incredibly believable. Kit Berry is an undeniable talent. Whether you are a teenager seeking a series as thrilling as Harry Potter or a little older and you want a book that grips from beginning to end then give this series a try. You can also learn more about the series at

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Good People
By Ewart Hutton

A strong new voice in crime fiction Ewart Hutton has written numerous plays and has created in D.S. Glyn Capaldi an unforgettable detective that readers are sure to warm to. Good People is set in the quiet heart of rural Wales in a community which distrusts outsiders and protects its own. The writing is witty and the tale is a dark and disturbing one. This book will appeal to those who have been wolfing down the current crop of dark Nordic thrillers and anyone who appreciates a smart sharp mystery with a sting in the tail. Capaldi has been sent to the countryside after a stupid mistake has almost cost him his job, now he has his second chance but as a half-Italian city cop he will always be an outsider to the community where he works. When a group of rugby fans steal a mini- bus and head off into the woods the local cops are quick to dismiss it as youthful hi-jinks but Capladi is suspicious and as he peels away the layers it seems that even a village of good people can have a dark and deadly underside. (Harper Collins)

The Snow Child
By Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child is a powerful and poignant debut from an extraordinary new talent. The story is based on a Russian fairytale of a child formed from snow by an old couple who cannot have any children. Eowyn Ivey transplants the tale to the Alaskan frontier of the 1920s. The book tells the tale of a lonely couple attempting to survive and farm in harsh and cold conditions. The setting of the novel is as real and alive as the characters; a pulsating presence which takes form in the snow child which Jack and Mabel create together. The book is filled with magic and yet it never shies from dramatising the harsh cruelty of frontier life. As I read it I shivered with cold and felt the snow on my skin as the Alaskan wilderness came alive before my eyes. Eowyn Ivey is an astonishingly powerful writer who deserves to win prizes. (Headline Review €16.50)

Taboo by Casey Hill

Taboo is a thrilling crime novel written as a collaboration between bestselling author Melissa Hill and her husband Kevin. This is the first outing for Reilly Steel a forensic investigator trained in Quantico but now relocated to Dublin to lend her expertise to the Irish crime lab and to watch over her father who has returned to his homeland but is slowing killing himself with drink. Reilly is a fantastic creation an intriguing personality; focused and calculating when she needs to be but without appearing cold. Reilly is plagued by memories of a family tragedy and she finds redemption in her duty and attention to detail. Also on hand to help Reilly with investigating a brutal killer is Dublin detective Chris Delaney a workaholic with personal troubles of his own. The plot is tightly woven and there is not a word out of place as the authors take readers on a thrill ride through the streets of Dublin and the mind of a serial killer. I look forward to many more cases for Reilly Steel and I imagine fans of Kathy Reichs will be just as eager as I am to read more. (Simon & Schuster €8.99)

Yesterday’s Sun
By Amanda Brooke

Holly and her husband Tom move to the countryside to begin a new life. Holly explores the house and garden and settles to her work as a sculptor but left alone while journalist Tom is sent to work abroad she discovers the moondial in the garden which gives her a glimpse into the future; a future which doesn’t include her. As Tom travels more often Holly’s secret visits to the moondial become more frequent and more heart-breaking as she discovers the child she will have but knowing that her daughter will grow up without her Holly is left with a desperate choice to have a baby and sacrifice herself or save her own life and give up the baby she has already come to love. This is a heart wrenching and gorgeous debut novel. The characters will stay with you long after you finish this book and you won’t want it to end. (Harper Collins €9.99)

The Art of the Hobbit
By Wayne G Hammond &Christina Scull

This fantastic and informative book has been published to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien and of course the release of the film later this year. Tolkien created The Hobbit as a story for his own young children beginning around 1930. Over the next few years he put the manuscript together and added maps and his own numerous illustrations.  Tolkien was an accomplished amateur artist and his own illustrations were included in the book when it first appeared in 1937. In this beautiful slip case gift edition the authors have collected together all known artworks which were created by Tolkien for The Hobbit some of which are now appearing in print for the first time. This book is a must for fans of Tolkien and anyone with an interest in Art or Children’s Books and would make a lovely gift (Harper Collins €29.99)

The Big Break Detectives Casebook
By Alan Nolan

Alan Nolan has now written a number of graphic novels for children including the mysteries Death by Chocolate and Six Million Ways to Die and this latest is ideal for kids aged 7 and upwards. Alan has a great comic book drawing style and the story is told through the eyes of Little Tom who loves disguises and sweets. The detectives in question are Tom, his big sister Kate and their friend Danny. They solve mysteries in their lunch break which means they have only half an hour to catch the bad guys which they always do and get back to school in time for class. They have a secret hide out in the form of a disused storeroom in the school basement and they receive help from  Per-Cee the robot who is usually in a bad mood. This book is perfect for reluctant readers but would also appeal to fans of The Wimpy Kid books as it is great fun. (O’Brien Press €7.99)