After a devastating breakup, loser Marty Melon doggedly reassembles his shattered self. Confidence-boosting Ted Talks, muscle-crushing kettlebell swings, and key episodes of "The Golden Girls" transform him from zero to b-list hero. This suicidal reject, turned pickup artist, turned sensitive new age guy, finally has it all: a house, the quirky woman of his dreams, and abs.
F#%k you, world, he thinks with alpha confidence.
“Challenge accepted,” the world replies, and everything goes to zombie crap.
Will Marty make it? He’s no longer an average frustrated chump. He’s in the best mental and physical shape of his life. "Ninja" bro-crush and gay-best-friend Gary is at his side. But to triumph in the end-of-days, Marty must defeat his most dangerous foe of all—the woman who broke him in the first place.
Steven Bereznai is an author, Travel Writer, Wellness practitioner, recreational water polo player and a big fan of science fiction. I've previously read (and loved) his "I Want Superpowers" - a dark dystopian YA tale that blended all the best elements of the X-Men with The Hunger Games into a compellingly plotted story with a fantastically strong lead character.
As a result, I was particularly excited when my copy of "How A Loser Like Me Survived The Zombie Apocalypse" - I read the opening chapters a few months ago, and was rather delighted to see that my comments had made it to the back cover of the book!
It's the mark of a good author that they're able to write in a variety of genres - many successful authors have stumbled trying to enter new markets or take on challenges too big for them. However, Steven Bereznai does so with aplomb - moving from the dark, intense world of "I Want Superpowers" to the slightly lighter world of "How A Loser Like Me Survived The Zombie Apocalypse". Zombie novels are ten a penny these days, but Bereznai makes sure his is at the top of the pile by ensuring that his tale is told with prose that’s immensely readable, leading to a page turning plot filled with compelling characters. Those characters are where Bereznai really gets to shine – following an everyman throughout a Zombie Apocalypse, Bereznai avoids falling into cliché, and instead creates a real heart for his story – you’ll laugh and cry with these characters, and that’s quite an achievement. There’s also a wonderful thread of dark humour running through the book too - it’s knowing and witty –even when things seem bleak for the characters and allows for the reader to be enjoying themselves in spite of the circumstances, carried through on a wave of warmth and goodwill for characters like Marty, Heidi and Gary. They're built up well throughout the book - and whilst there's bleak humour to be found everywhere, Bereznai also explores exactly how people would react in a situation like the Zombie Apocalypse, with remarkable depth - there's a real empathy and humanity at the core of this book. Bereznai is also skilled at throwing in many a pop culture reference, and they’re well targeted – landing accurately and cleverly on target – no misfires here. If you’re a fan of the Zombie genre – then “How A Loser Like Me Survived the Zombie Apocalypse” should go straight to the top of your pile. If you’re not, but enjoy compelling and exciting tales told with intelligent prose and no end of interesting characters – then you should give it a go too. Anyone with a brain, half a brain, or a penchant for eating brains will have a bloody good time with this book - I certainly did, and I'm not undead (yet).
When Anita Naakka jumps in front of an oncoming train, her daughter, Norma, is left alone with the secret they have spent their lives hiding: Norma has supernatural hair, sensitive to the slightest changes in her mood–and the moods of those around her–moving of its own accord, corkscrewing when danger is near. And so it is her hair that alerts her, while she talks with a strange man at her mother’s funeral, that her mother may not have taken her own life. Setting out to reconstruct Anita’s final months–sifting through puzzling cell phone records, bank statements, video files–Norma begins to realize that her mother knew more about her hair’s powers than she let on: a sinister truth beyond Norma’s imagining.
Sofi Oksanen is a Finnish writer and playwright, and has published over five novels - "Purge" and "When the Doves Disappeared" the best known in the English speaking world
Kate Thompson - glamorous housewife-turned-MP - surprises everyone with her meteoric rise at Westminster. When Kate is sent as a trade minister to India, she hopes it will be her moment to shine. But, embroiled in a personal scandal, she gets drawn into a dangerous world of corruption and political intrigue...
Billionaire Deepak Parrikar - head of an Indian arms technology company - is magnetically drawn to the beautiful British minister. But while their relationship deepens, India's hostilities with Pakistan reach boiling point, causing more than just business and politics to collide. In the race to prevent disaster, can their conflicting loyalties survive being tested to the limit?
Vince Cable (yes, that Vince Cable!) was born in York in 1943. Having worked as a lecturer and an economist, he entered the House of Commons in 1997, and has been a well liked and respected figure in politics ever since - his return as leader of the Liberal Democrats a well awaited one. And now... he's written his first novel. I've never been a huge fan of novels written by politicians - my hometown is the place in Lincolnshire that first elected Jeffrey Archer to power so I've always felt a misplaced sense of guilt for unleashing his constant stream of books on to the world.
Cable has experience as a writer though - both his memoir and his account of the financial crisis are well reviewed. Losing his seat in Parliament in 2015, Cable focused on writing "Open Arms" - and it's clear that this a novel from a man who felt his career in politics was perhaps open - as it's honest, adult, and at times rather scathing of the political system that Cable spent many years in. What's reassuring though, is that dealing with all of the major political parties to an extent (his own, the Liberal Democrats are, much like in current politics, rather sidelined), Cable never veers into caricature - allowing the actions of his characters to speak for themselves, and even making me like a Tory minister - not something I ever thought all that likely!
In terms of plot, it's very much a political thriller, but one with pace, action and intriguing themes at the centre of it - and stakes that only escalate as the plot goes on. The prose isn't particularly elegant, but it certainly isn't clunky either - it does the job and drives the plot along well - a plot that Cable juggles with considerable skill.
A great debut from a legend of politics, "Open Arms" sets the readers pulse racing with a terrific plot drawn straight from the corridors of power. Perfect holiday reading - many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
1792: the blood begins to drip from the guillotine. The French Revolution is entering its most violent phase, and threatens all Europe with chaos. In the age of the mob, no individual is safe.
The spies of England, France and Prussia are fighting their own war for survival and supremacy. Somewhere in Paris is a hidden trove of secrets that will reveal the treacheries of a whole continent.
At the height of the madness a stranger arrives in Paris, to meet a man who has disappeared. Unknown and untrusted, he finds himself the centre of all conspiracy. When the world is changing forever, what must one man become to survive?
Robert Wilton works as an author and, rather surprisingly, an international diplomat. Over the years he's worked in both Kosovo and Albania, and it's clear that his experience in international relations and the internal workings of countries allows him to create books full of fascinating, complex characters and well developed worlds for those characters to live in.
His latest, "Treason's Spring" is a prequel to "Treason's Tide" - a book set during the Napoleonic Wars. Here Wilton takes things back to the French Revolution - a turbulent period evoked remarkably well by the author. Into this world, Wilton throws in mysteries, murders, and characters so vital they draw the reader swiftly into the plot, forming a tight grip on them as they move through the fast paced and often thrilling events that occur. Page turners like this can often be high in plot but rather low in quality - but there's no cause for concern here. Wilton's writing has a rich, slightly old fashioned feel to it, which when combined with his eye for historical accuracy leads to a read that's as informative as it is thrilling and transportive. Set to be the first part of a trilogy, I'm looking forward to book two - many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
While on an impromptu night out with friends, David meets Liv, a beautiful woman nearly twenty years younger. Falling harder than he thought he could a year after the death of his wife, he slowly opens up to the possibility of another relationship, love and eventually even marriage.
Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You is a novel set in modern day Washington, D.C. and offers a contemporary view of new relationships: their requirements, expectations and repercussions…where the promise of something new can often become a cautionary lesson in living.
Jarrod Campbell is an author based in Virginia, in the suburbs of Washington DC - the author of two short story collections and a novella, he can be found on Instagram@1ozpublishing.
"Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You" follows David, a 43 year old widower as he meets the beautiful Liv - and begins to move on following the death of his wife. It's great premise, and one Campbell makes full use of, exploring the doubts, fears, misunderstandings and insecurities that form the start of a relationship. He has a knack for dialogue, allowing him to create developed and interesting characters - particularly impressive considering this is a first novel. The writing is clear and straightforward - with time given to descriptions and characterisation, but keeping things clean enough to keep the plot going at a rapid pace.
Where that plot ends up is also particularly impressive - I won't spoil things, but it certainly didn't end up where I expected it to, with a few last minute twists that are wholly surprising and hugely entertaining. The main thrust of the plot is both mature and realistic, and Campbell has crafted events well - allowing for a balanced and well paced plot - even if I'd have liked to have seen the resolution to the final, shocking plot twist!
A great quick read - "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You" is an impressive debut that's well worth your time
It all starts with the death of Martijn van Vliet's wife. His grief-stricken young daughter, Lea, cuts herself off from the world, lost in the darkness of grief. Then she hears the unfamiliar sound of a violin playing in the hall of a train station, and she is brought back to life. Transfixed by a busker playing Bach, Lea emerges from her mourning, vowing to learn the instrument. And her father, witnessing this delicate spark, promises to do everything and anything in his power to keep her happy.
Lea grows into an extraordinary musical talent--her all-consuming passion leads her to become one of the finest players in the country--but as her fame blossoms, her relationship with her father withers. Unable to keep her close, he inadvertently pushes Lea deeper and deeper into this newfound independence and, desperate to hold on to his daughter, Martin is driven to commit an act that threatens to destroy them both.
This is a short book, but nevertheless one that took me a while to get into - the plot is immediately filled with two strong voices - and as a reader it took me a good few pages to adjust to the tone and timbre overall. However, once in, this is a book that grips the reader tightly - racing them swiftly through the plot like a fever dream. We've all heard and read about the tragic and passionate lives of artists gripped by their music - of the infamous "27" club that so many musicians end up joining, as well as the painful, tragic life of someone like Jacqueline Du Pre.
Mercier captures that angst and drive - turning his story into an almost psychological thriller - the reader has a vague idea as to the story of these characters (Lea) especially, will end - but he takes them on a fascinating journey to get to that point.
Telling the story from the point of view of two men - Lea's father Martijn Van Vliet and Adrian Herzog, a man he travels with, allows Mercier to cleverly relax on the intensity at times - allowing the tales of these two men to thread into the main plot in an extremely complimentary manner. It's the skilled balance of light and shade that prevents this book from coming too dark and gloomy, and it's testament to the author that the strands are just as compelling as each other.
For the main plot , watching the desperation grow as Lea becomes more and more obsessed by her music is worryingly irresistible, Mercier's prose almost magnetic in how deeply it pulls the reader in, helped ably by an excellent translation by Shaun Whiteside
A rapid ride of a book that gets deep under the reader's skin -Lea is a read that's both heart-racing and haunting. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
Valiant Gentlemen reimagines the lives and intimate friendships of humanitarian and Irish patriot Roger Casement; his closest friend, Herbert Ward; and Ward's extraordinary wife, the Argentinian-American heiress Sarita Sanford.
Valiant Gentlemen takes the reader on an intimate journey, from Ward and Casement's misadventurous youth in the Congo - where, among other things, they bore witness to an Irish whiskey heir's taste for cannibalism - to Ward's marriage to Sarita and their flourishing family life in France, to Casement's covert homosexuality and enduring nomadic lifestyle floating between his work across the African continent and involvement in Irish politics.
When World War I breaks out, Casement and Ward's longstanding political differences finally come to a head and when Ward and his teenage sons leave to fight on the frontlines for England, Casement begins to work alongside the Germans to help free Ireland from British rule
Sabina Murray is a Filipina American screenwriter and novelist - the recipient of various awards and fellowships, and a Professor at the University of Massachusetts. Murray has written historical fiction before, but never anything quite as impressive in size and scope as "Valiant Gentleman" - it's been described as her Magnum Opus, and I can certainly see why.
Roger David Casement was an Irish civil servant, activist, nationalist and poet - and, until shortly before his execution for treason, the holder of a knighthood.
Herbert Ward was a sculptor, writer, illustrator and explorer, and a close friend of Roger Casement. Before reading "Valiant Gentleman" I had a vague awareness of Roger Casement and his infamous "Black Diaries", but had no knowledge of Herbert Ward at all. The friendship that the two had spanned countries and decades - making it one worthy of the attention that Murray has lavished on it in this epic of a novel.
A friendship grown in the Belgian Congo, Murray writes the two men at the heart of this relationship with considerable skill, bringing them to vivid life and writing these fascinating, brilliant men with the care that their respective histories have earnt them. Whilst the friendship is at the heart of the book, Murray takes care not to let this read become fully male dominated, with Ward's wife Sarita entering the narrative and providing POV chapters that are wholly illuminating - shedding light on the two men as well as creating a fascinating character in Sarita herself.
Over the course of their lives and adventures, both men make decisions that surprise and baffle the reader - and the path that Casement ends up on is one that is often difficult to understand. Murray does an admirable job of conveying the motivations and passions behind the choices, but stops short of placing any judgements - instead imbuing the characters with so much life, and the novel with so much detail, that the reader is well placed to consider the moments that drove these men to their very different paths in life. Some of the situations may be uncomfortable for readers - but topics such as colonisation, betrayal and treason are never handled anything but fairly.
It is a huge book - there's no denying that. But it's one that's hugely readable - with a compelling plot drawn from life, fascinating characters who the reader will no doubt be keen to read more about, and resulting in a novel that serves as an admirable tribute to a friendship that crossed oceans. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
Lucina, a young Chilean writer, has moved to New York to pursue an academic career. While at a party one night, something that her doctors had long warned might happen finally occurs: her eyes haemorrhage. Within minutes, blood floods her vision, reducing her sight to sketched outlines and tones of grey, rendering her all but blind. As she begins to adjust to a very different life, those who love her begin to adjust to a very different woman - one who is angry, raw, funny, sinister, sexual and dizzyingly alive.
Author Lina Meruane is a prominent writer in her native Chile -she's published three novels, had short stories appear in various anthologies and won several prestigious prizes. She gained a PhD in Latin American Literature from New York University, and currently serves there as professor of World and Latin American Literature and Creative Writing.
The autobiographical novel is a rare beast - they're not seen all that often, and some I've read in the past have not been brilliant - the line between reality and fiction too blurred. Author Lina Meruane initially intended to write a memoir about having gone blind temporarily but, according to an interview with TheNation, found the genre too constricting - so moved over to the world of fiction. It's a choice that works remarkably well, as the truth behind the fiction here allows real passion and emotion to burn through the pages straight to the reader - a raw and bloody urgency and passion grabbing you by the throat.
The main theme of blindness allows Lina (and through her character Lucina) to explore a myrida of fascinating themes throughout - from the terms put open her in order to keep her eyes safe, through to the exploration of a relationship layered with dependency and fear, through to a woman discovering herself and learning how to live again. Location and time plays a huge part too - with the book taking place between Chile and New York and touching upon historical and cultural milestones as the character and the reader naturally come across them.
The characters here are real - raw and often unlikeable, but combined with her rather dazzling prose - gristly, elegant and bloody, it makes for a dizzying, vital read that lingers long in the mind. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy
Jubilee Jenkins is no ordinary librarian. With a rare allergy to human touch, any skin-to-skin contact could literally kill her. But after retreating into solitude for nearly ten years, Jubilee's decided to brave the world again, despite the risks. Armed with a pair of gloves, long sleeves, and her trusty bicycle, she finally ventures out the front door--and into her future.
Eric Keegan has troubles of his own. With his daughter from a failed marriage no longer speaking to him, and his brilliant, if psychologically troubled, adopted son attempting telekinesis, Eric's struggling to figure out how his life got so off course, and how to be the dad--and man--he wants so desperately to be. So when an encounter over the check-out desk at the local library entangles his life with that of a beautiful--albeit eccentric--woman, he finds himself wanting nothing more than to be near her.
Now, I should start this by saying that I'm no expert when it comes to Romantic Fictions novels - they're something I rarely pick up, and there are very few that I've enjoyed. However, if you add to a romantic plot with strange medical conditions, a character with an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of books and repeated references to my favourite superhero team, then you've got a book that I just might enjoy.
This isn't a soppy romance with idealised characters either - both Jubilee and Eric are flawed, warm characters who the reader instantly connects with, even if some of their actions and backgrounds are a little heightened in order to provide some real shocks and surprises along the way.
The unique thing about Jubilee is that she can't touch anyone, giving an instantly gripping twist to the standard romantic plot - a condition that, whilst in this case fictional, is nevertheless handled with respect and care by the author. That respect and care extends to all of the characters here - many of whom who have suffered problems and tragedies in their lives, making them well layered and hugely believable, Oakley careful never to allow her cast to slip into caricature.
A tale with elements that could seem over familiar, Oakley introduces original elements in order to build a world that feels both magical and real - and crafts a love story that will touch the coldest of hearts - even cynical old me!
Many thanks to the publishers for the copy
Seduced by politics, poetry and an enduring dream of building a better world together, the unnamed narrator falls in love with a university professor. Moving with him to a rain-washed coastal town, she swiftly learns that what for her is a bond of love is for him a contract of ownership. As he sets about reducing her to his idealised version of an obedient wife, bullying her and devouring her ambition of being a writer in the process, she attempts to push back - a resistance he resolves to break with violence and rape.
Meena Kandasamy is a poet, fiction writer, translator and activist who lives in Chennai and London. She's published two volumes of poetry, as well as another novel - "The Gypsy Goddess". An outspoken campaigner and a gifted poet, she's channeled her own experiences into a novel that burns, rages and grips the reader deep in their very soul.
Domestic Violence is rife in India. Reported figures vary, but it's no secret - and the consequences are horrific, with things like "Dowry Death" a very real possibility for millions of women. Here, the author uses her own experiences to tell a chilling tale of control, oppression and survival.
A tale like this is not an easy one to tell - in a lesser authors hands, it's entirely possible that a tale this dark could be almost unreadable in its bleakness. However, Meena Kandasamy is a skilled poet, and she uses her mastery of language to pull the reader by the hand and drag them through these horrific moments in a blaze of rage and fire. Every moment intended to break the narrator down seems, in a sense, to increase her strength, and this turns what could be incredibly dark segments of abuse into ones that, whilst still hard to read, aren't without an incredible sense of catharsis.
This isn't just a novel about the writer - it sheds a light on a side of Indian culture that, whilst discussed occasionally in the media over here, isn't often explored in works such as this -and as such is both enlightening and horrifying in turn. Moments containing the narrator's parents chilled me to the core - both due to their attitudes towards domestic abuse, but also due to the fact that these attitudes only exist due to long standing societal norms in the culture in which they live - leaving no-one blameless, but allowing the reader a certain amount of understanding into the situation that the parents are in, and also making the feel of hopelessness that the narrator finds herself in surge darkly around the reader.
Trapped inside both her house and her self, the narrator explores her life through letters to past lovers - allowing glimpses of warmth, humour and modernity to slip through the stormy clouds that make up the majority of this book. The contrast between the past life of the narrator and that with her husband is staggering - and these stark moments of contrast encourage the reader to root for the fiery, fun, modern, headstrong woman who is there, subdued by violence and fear but raging and ready to burn through the lies and pain that make up her marriage.
Kandasamy quotes Frida Kahlo at the start of a chapter, and it's Frida who I was most strongly reminded me of when reading this. Kandasamy, like Kahlo, has turned her rage, pain and fury into the most beautiful works of art, and as such "When I Hit You..." is a must read, and I think the best thing I've read in 2017 so far. Simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting, it's a work of considerable power from an author whose mastery of prose is able to guide the reader through a dark, dark world and bring them out unscathed, but not unchanged.
Many thanks to the publishers for the copy