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  • Book reviews competition

    Thu, 24 Dec 2009 01:15

    What was your favourite book of 2009? Was it a novel, a book of poetry, or a textbook on chemical engineering!? Wolf Hall maybe? Superfreakonomics? Or, perhaps, The Mammoth Book of Tattoos!?

    Well, whatever it was, why not review the book on our site and then email me (editor AT to let me know what you've said about it.

    Then, at the end of January, I'll pick my ten favourite customer reviews and feature them in our next newsletter. I'll also send the writers of those reviews a box of forthcoming titles so that they can have the first say on some of the new books that will be coming out in 2010!

    Do please make sure that your book review is also posted on the book's own detail page, not just posted into the comments below! Thanks so much!


    1. Larissa's avatar Larissa

      One of my favourite books, for there were a few, of 2009 was: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater The first time Grace saw those yellow eyes they belonged to a wolf, a wolf who saved her. The first time Grace was bitten she had thought she would die. Later when Grace saw those yellow eyes they belonged to a boy, a boy who she saved. Later when she was bitten she thought the wolf would die. For years Grace watched the wolves that lived in the woods surrounding her home, for years the wolves watched her. She thought about them all the time, they were her wolves. Every winter the wolves would be there, a constant companion to the snow. In the summer they were gone. She never thought more about that. For a while Grace and Sam were living like they had all the time in the world, like a future was possible for them, like the end wasn't coming. For a while they were the happiest they had ever been, but their time together was shadowed, by men and wolves and the constant threat of the cold. It had taken six years for them to finally reach each other, and now they were only a snow fall away from losing each other for ever. Shiver is a love story told with simple elegance that is heartbreaking, tender and terrifying. The relationship between Grace and Sam is honest and thoughtful, pitched against the dangers of their separate worlds that are about to collide. A story of werewolves as you have never read before, with no full moons and no silver bullets; just the bite of a wolf and the call of winter. A highly recommended read for teens, fantasy readers and romantics; and anyone who loves a good story.

      Posted Tue, 26 Jan 2010 19:59
    2. Caroline Chadwick's avatar Caroline Chadwick

      CRY WOLF: AN ALPHA AND OMEGA NOVEL BY PATRICIA BRIGGS This was one of the best books I read last year. Actually, it was more like a re-read but anyway, it was one of the best I read last year. If you enjoy supernatural stories, like TWILIGHT, this must be another one you read. Except it deals with werewolves as opposed to vampires. The first thing that got my attention was the cover, then the blurb intrigued me and then the text itself just blew me away! It deals with characters that Briggs introduced in the omnibus ON THE PROWL but, the beauty is, at least for me, is this book can stand alone, without having read ON THE PROWL as background. Briggs conveys emotion beautifully and the book just flows. Its a good combination of drama, romance, action and intrigue with a little bit of humour thrown in from time to time for good measure. Anna (the female protagonist) is a good counterfoil to Charles (the male protagonist) and Charles' dad, Bran, has a hint of mystery, which really draws you in and makes you want to see if Briggs gives anymore hints to what he is like and you also want to find out how the relationship between Anna and Charles will pan out. A fantastic read; will definitely have to re-read AGAIN before I make my way onto HUNTING GROUND, the sequel to CRY WOLF.

      Posted Mon, 18 Jan 2010 10:11
    3. Paul Batty's avatar Paul Batty

      The White Queen by Philippa Gregory is a story about the royal houses of Lancaster and York. In particular it is a tale of Elizabeth Woodville an ordinary woman with extra-ordinary ambitions, who becomes queen of England in 1465. Married in secret, she captures the King`s heart and forms a new royal family. This is a historical novel that contains more fiction and less fact than previous books by the author, due to a scarcity of historical records. But don`t let that deter you from reading this gripping tale. You will find yourself falling in love with Elizabeth and her Yorkist family who must fight against bitter rivals in order to hold the kingdom together. Philippa Gregory tells the story with ease and grace - fit for a queen.

      Posted Sun, 17 Jan 2010 16:59
    4. Teresa's avatar Teresa

      I reviewed The Book of Negroes as my favourite book of 2009. Please read the review here: I've emailed, as requested, to enter the contest.

      Posted Thu, 14 Jan 2010 21:14
    5. Mansoora Mir's avatar Mansoora Mir

      The Shack, by William P Young is my favourite book of 2009. It was the first book of its kind which really question, and try to understand spirituality and my own faith. It is very poignantly written, and focuses on a man grieving the loss of his daughter who was snatched away. The feelings that he experienced, and his relationship with God is explored. A thrilling novel that I would recommend to anyone who has ever questioned their place here on Earth, and their purpose for being here.

      Posted Wed, 13 Jan 2010 11:52
    6. Sarah Keery's avatar Sarah Keery

      The Crucifix Killer by Chris Carter This is going to be a very hard book for me to review. Why? It's so darn good I'm not sure I can write anything that will do it justice. I'll give it my best try though. LA Homocide Detective Robert Hunter finds himself facing the work of a killer from his past. Not so amazing, until you realise that the killer was caught and executed years ago. A copycat killer then? Or is the unthinkable actually true? Did he catch the wrong person? Did someone die unnecessarily? The mark, a double-cross carved into the back of each victim's neck is the psycopathic signature of the Crucifix Killer. Hunter is a man in turmoil and I felt every ounce of his guilt, rage, frustration and lust with every twist and turn brought to the case. From the first short chapter where we are thrown right into the action, I was hooked. Chapter three threw me back 5 weeks to before THAT phone call. Very quickly I felt for Hunter, even though a couple of times I felt like slapping him for listening to his heart and not his head. Each chapter left me on tenterhooks wanting to know more (and with seventy chapters to get through the book is very quickly paced. It left me breathless with anticipation!) I didn't guess the killer until just before being revealed but, with hindsight, the seeds had been cleverly and discreetly planted along the way. The cover is fantastic enough as it is, until you realise exactly what it is, then you may well cringe and/or heave. This book is so well written you can picture it in all too clear an image. Sometimes a bit too clear for my stomach. It deserves to be snapped up quickly by a production company and made into a film or, at the very least, a TV series. As this is the first Robert Hunter book I'm left wanting more. Not because there wasn't enough, I'm just plain greedy. Chris Carter is definitely one to watch for the future.

      Posted Wed, 13 Jan 2010 06:40
    7. Lelia O.Reilly's avatar Lelia O.Reilly

      It is a long time since I read a book which touched me in the way Markus Zusak.s book 'The Book Thief' did. A young war orphan in Germany during World War 11 has to learn to adapt to new surroundings and a new family while the world is spinning towards and through the holocaust. Narrated by Death Zusak still manages to create a narrative that offers hope to both the characters and the reader. Her growing love for her adoptive Father, her passion for books and her empathy for the young Jewish fugitive who lives them all combine to create a character who stays with you long after the book is finished. What would we have done faced with the reality of a group of Jewish prisoners being marched to their death? How do ordinary people become extraordinary? Zusak allows his protagonist to face tragedy over and over again and yet she is not diminished by it. A wonderful, wonderful story that I would over and over again.

      Posted Tue, 12 Jan 2010 18:33
    8. Marcus Moore's avatar Marcus Moore

      How often can one say that a large novel, and Wolf Hall is 650 pages, is "un-put-downable". This novel draws you into the period, and into the story, as Avatar's 3D imagery draws the view into the film. Starting with a brutal beating that made the reader cry "stop it", the novel takes one through the Byzantine politics of the Tudor court, with a multitude of historical characters thoughtfully explained in a thematic glossary at the front. The characters were all very real, and none charicatures, even though many were larger than life in the history books: indeed Hilary Mantel seems to take pleasure in ignoring the preconceptions of simplified history to give us an alternative viewpoint of many of them, including Mary Boleyn, Sir Thomas More, Cardinal Wolsey and the hero of the novel, Thomas Cromwell himself. Lest any reader thinks this is dry textbook history, think again! It's often said that life is stranger than fiction, and this this is a story that would be incredible, if the historical background had not been so thoroughly researched and detailed. The story of the rise of a man, literally from the gutter, to such prominence was mirrored by the rise of Steerpike in Mervyn Peak's "Gormenghast" trilogy. The best Booker winner for several years, Wolf Hall is the first Hilary Mantel novel I have read, but it won't be my last, and I was delighted to read she's now working on the sequel, to complete the life of Thomas Cromwell. Through this book, I am now a fan of Hilary Mantel, and Thomas Cromwell.

      Posted Tue, 12 Jan 2010 11:22
    9. Simone's avatar Simone

      Voodoo Doll - Leah Giarratano. This psychological thriller draws you in from the very first page and doesn

      Posted Tue, 12 Jan 2010 05:29
    10. Stephen Clifford's avatar Stephen Clifford

      My Favourite book for 09 was actually originally written in the 1940s and is called 'Stormy Petrel'. It is the history of HMAS Sydney which was sunk in November 1941 with all hands by the German Raider HSK Kormoran. This is a personal story as we had 2 members of our Family on board when she went down. These were F/O RB Barker RAAAF who was the RAAF Detachment Commander and Seaplane Pilot on board ship - he was posted to join the ship in 1941. The other relation was D.Ross who was RAN and had been at sea since he enlisted in 1925. He also saw service in France during 1918 with the Australian Army - joining the navy due to the depression. He served on several different ships before he Joined HMAS Sydney in 1939. As a quick aside from the 6 That enlisted in the war from our extended family (cousins brothers etc etc) 5 were killed by 1945. Anyway back to the book - Stormy Petrel or as its now known 'Lucky Ross'. Lucky Ross covers the period from 1934 to 1951 and details the author's varied and unusual experiences as an officer in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) during that time W.H. Ross describes life in the Australian Squadron during the pre-War years, the four month voyage of the cruiser HMAS Australia to Britain late in 1934 with HRH the Duke of Gloucester aboard, the author's story of the cruiser HMAS Sydney(previously published as Stormy Petrel now revised and updated), the sinking of the HMAS Canberra during the Solomons' Campaign in 1942 and post war experiences in Darwin and Manus Island. It included's detailed Appendix's that cover areas including HMAS Sydney HSK Kormoran action (1943 style) and the author's view of some aspects of that tragic event, the complete HMAS Sydney and HMAS Canberra casualty lists and a glossary of some naval slang of the period. It is a first hand account of some of the R.A.N.'s most interesting history, written with accuracy and a good eye for detail by one who had the good luck to be in the right place at the right time. 2009 Soft Cover 288 Pages illustrated THE AUTHOR In 1934, at the age of 18 years 'John' Ross was one of two lads selected for entry into the Royal Australian Navy as a Cadet Midshipman in the Supply and Secretariat Department. He served until 1951 when he resigned his commission. During 1934-1935 he served on HMAS Australia in local waters, in Britain and in the Mediterranean. He was one of HMAS Sydney's commissioning crew in September 1935, remaining with her for more than six years before being transferred to HMAS Canberra just 19 days before HMAS Sydney was lost with all hands. He was with HMAS Canberra when she was sunk nine months later. In 1943, while serving ashore he wrote Stormy Petrel, the HMAS Sydney life story. With some justification he considers himself the luckiest man to have survived World War II, have escaped certain death twice by timely strokes of good fortune. This book perfectly complements David Mearns Book on the Search for HMAS Sydney in that one will cover its life and the other covers the mystery that for so long caused so much heartbreak - both here and in England and Malta - where members onboard originally came from (RN seamen were on board along with Maltese Volunteers that ran the ships canteen). As an example of the books relevance even today ALL the HMAS Sydney Enquiries held in Australia after she was sunk and then the Royal Commission into her loss completed only recently all made extensive use of this Title.

      Posted Tue, 12 Jan 2010 04:16
    11. Jaclyn Fitzgerald's avatar Jaclyn Fitzgerald

      Michael Crichton is known as one of the best and most loved authors in the world for a reason and I, for one, was extremely saddened to learn of his passing. Mainly because I was convinced there wouldn't be any more books from him! However, Pirate Latitudes is his first posthumous release, and it's hands down one of the best stories I've read this year, if not ever. Not just one of the best pirate stories, but one of the best stories overall. Captain Hunter, with the unspoken support of Jamaican governor, Sir James Almont, sets out to take the almost impregnable Spanish stronghold, Matanceros. He and his crew don't just have to worry about soldiers attacking though - there's also raging storms, cannibals, and even a legendary Kraken. Does Hunter succeed and will he be welcomed back to Jamaica? That, I can't tell you. I can however, promise a gripping read, and a comfortable one at that as the details never become overwhelming and never leave you lost. The one thing I was disappointed about is that the story can feel a little rushed towards the end, but considering that I never thought I'd see another Crichton story again, it's definitely something I can live with. I'd still give it three thumbs up if I could! by Jaclyn

      Posted Mon, 11 Jan 2010 09:53
    12. Monika's avatar Monika

      This is unquestionably my favourite book of 2009; it sneaked in as I started reading it in the afternoon of 31/12 and finished a mere three hours later! I literally could not put this book down. This is gripping and intense reading at its absolute finest. Having never previously read any McCarthy, I had been warned of depravity, horror and an exploration into the human soul's potential for darkness. I was slightly frightened by that prospect, but pleasantly surprised by The Road. It is a tale of darkness and destruction, but is ultimately an insight into the nature of human tenacity and the potential for hope offered by children as travellers into the future. The Road richly evokes a post-apocalyptic landscape: a prevailing grey tone suggesting death suddenly contrasts with flashes of colour in hopeful symbols of life. Characters are skilfully developed despite their anonymity. The two main characters are simply the man and the boy, yet their relationship is complex. It was this relationship that sparked my interest in The Road: another review suggested that the books provides a seminal exploration of father/son relationships. Insights into the man's mind are engaging and thought-provoking. The Road has been described as a reflection on potential outcomes of a post-materialist society. It dares to explore the sense of global fear associated with climate change and international conflicts. If something really bad happened, what would the world look like? Who would survive? How far are we average people removed from destruction? The Road is being released as a movie in 2010. I am eagerly awaiting it!

      Posted Sun, 10 Jan 2010 18:55
    13. Tricia West's avatar Tricia West

      My prize 'find' for 2009 is the 'Crowner John' series of books by Bernard Knight. Having picked one up without any knowledge of either the author or the content, I was instantly addicted! I had previously read the four books in the historical mystery series by C.J.Sansom and feel that these are equally as good, if not better. I now have purchased almost all the series and am trying to read them in order. That's not essential as each one is a complete 'Medeival Mystery' but read in order you can follow the main characters as their relationships develop. I was thrilled on a recent visit to Exeter, to see one of the Churches included in his stories is still standing in part. Please try one of these books - you'll be as hooked as I was.

      Posted Mon, 11 Jan 2010 09:16
    14. Susana de Puggioli's avatar Susana de Puggioli

      Naked to the hangman, by Andrew Taylor was the best book I read in 2009. This is the last book published in the Lydmouth series, and I completely forgot to buy it until the author newsletter reminded me. In these books we see the growth of the people in the town, how their lives take different paths, how their relationships make complicated figures as in a minuet. Two time frames grab our interest here: the time of the end of the British Mandate in Palestine, and the

      Posted Sun, 10 Jan 2010 16:20
    15. Rahima Mussa's avatar Rahima Mussa

      Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier Marillier's latest novel takes us to Whistling Tor, a settlement haunted by an invisible though much feared evil. It is in this unlikely place that Caitrin, an orphan abused by those who were supposed to take care of her, finds safety and protection. Being a skillful scribe, she's hired by Anluan, the cursed and crippled chieftain, to sort out some family documents. Going through the mess in the library, Caitrin starts unravelling the dark secrets of that eerie place and the strange beings that are part of it. She brings change and hope, despite the forces working against her. Slowly, she gains their trust, finding friendship and loyalty even among those who are percieved as the most wild and terrible creatures. Working against the clock, the heroine threatens her own life to save her new family and free them all from the curse that has been cast upon them three centuries ago. If she doesn't succeed she will lose those who she holds most dear, Anluan included. Readers will recognize the backbone of Beauty and the Beast, but this is not a retelling of the classic tale. This story is about finding the strenght to overcome your fears; it is about love, hope and acceptance, all wrapped up in a mysterious, supernatural and exciting setting. Marillier's experienced writing carries us at a pleasent pace, making this story and it's uncanny characters increadibly humane and relatable. The beauty of this novel can be compared to that of Daughter of the Forest, and all you Marillier's fans out there know that means a lot. New readers: Heart's Blood is a great novel that will make you fall in love with this author's writing, leaving you thirsty for more.

      Posted Sun, 10 Jan 2010 08:50
    16. Kathleen Kelly's avatar Kathleen Kelly

      My favorite book for 2009 is The Boleyn Wife by Brandy Purdy. my review is here on The Book Depository

      Posted Sat, 09 Jan 2010 22:34
    17. Arthur Russell's avatar Arthur Russell

      Harry Bosch is more vunerable nowadays-perhaps reflecting his creators passing years, but 'Nine Dragons', by Michael Connelly, despite the Poundland title, was a return to form for the detective with too much integrity. Absorbing, it is easy to feel anger at the cards Bosch is dealt with by life and his bosses.Despite winning through, he usually has a price to pay, in this story the shocking loss of his still loved ex-wife, and still no promotion.... There are faint echoes of Warwick Deeping's 'Sorrel and Son' as Bosch finds himself soley responsible for his young teenage daughter, amidst the carnage and convolutions of Chinese Triad gangs. Harry Bosch remains amongst the very best of detectives, and although worn and overlooked , he gives me the feeling that he is the man you would want around in a crisis. Michael Connelly offers us a number of great leading characters in his newer books, but Heironymous Bosch will be his swansong.

      Posted Sat, 09 Jan 2010 13:22
    18. rachel robinson's avatar rachel robinson

      My favourite book of 2009 was Stieg Larsson's "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest". Even though beginning this book was tinged with sadness that there would be no further books from this great author, I was quickly consumed by the excitement of the culmination of the story of the unilkely antihero Lisbath Salander. Larsson's final work is thrilling, exciting, and makes you yearn for more. To even begin to describe the plot coudl not scrape the surface of the thrilling delights that will unfold as you read this story and enter the world Larsson has created of political intriuge, systems abuse, hacking, and journalistic integrity. Hugely recomended

      Posted Sat, 09 Jan 2010 07:55
    19. Pasquale Granato's avatar Pasquale Granato

      Well, probably JavaFX: Developing Rich Internet Applications by Jim Clarke, Jim Connors and Eric J. Bruno is not the best book I read in 2009 but surely is the one I wrote a long review for. In short, is a great book for experienced Java programmers who want to start learning JavaFX. For all the details, please refer to my review of this book on its Book Depository page.

      Posted Sat, 09 Jan 2010 04:08
    20. Becka's avatar Becka

      I don't know what to say... I really don't. I would like to congratulate Jay Asher, and also thank him. This book has changed my life completely, even though I only finished it five minutes ago. No book I have read has ever managed to draw me in as much as this one. The novel has to be one of the most creative I have read in a while, due to the fact that Asher managed to pull off the two sequences of the tapes, and Clay's reactions. The way Asher manages to show a clear distinction between the two, whilst not interrupting the story was truly amazing. The flow of this two collections was fantastic, and you can not doubt Asher's descriptions. His clear reasoning for each character's part in Hannah's story as the novel went on, made me feel like I was reading farther into the life of a friend; as if I already knew Hannah. Clay's character was a bit more interesting for me. I felt suspicious of him at first, with the way he denied doing anything in Hannah's life to have ended in him being on the tapes, but as the story grew, and I began to piece things together, I truly began to soften to his character. Once I'd reached Cassette 4, I had thought I had figured Clay's part in the story, until he appeared earlier than I expected. This novel manages to explain emotions I have felt, but never managed to put into words. It has elaborated on thoughts, and feelings I have had, and now I can truly understand some of the emotions I felt, thanks to Jay Asher. He should be extremely proud of himself for this novel, and once again, Thank You. This novel is exquisite, and if you haven't read it, I suggest you stop what you are doing and go buy it. Now. It will change your life...Forever.

      Posted Fri, 08 Jan 2010 15:36
    21. Alan Ansell's avatar Alan Ansell

      I was fortunate to read Upside Down by Georgina Carr when it was first published and, rather than write a new review of it here, I shall simply add what I was inspired to say at the time about this brave and inspiring travel account: "This plaintive yet wistful account of one woman's travels makes essential reading. It will make you laugh, it may make you cry, but above all it speaks of the joy and wonder of our shared humanity. These are direct, unvarnished tales of deserted beaches, exotic creatures, bumpy bus rides, jungle pools and cockroaches, people by a cast of some of the most warm, wonderful and sometimes unlikely characters you are likely to meet. Georgina's warmth and overriding courage should serve as an inspiration to us all."

      Posted Fri, 08 Jan 2010 07:36
    22. Melanie Keen's avatar Melanie Keen

      The Sorceress - Michael Scott Fantastic - for lovers of mythology, history and Sci-fi, this book is a must. The third installment of the Nicholas Flamel masterpiece. Follow his adventures and the twins - "the two that are one and the one that is all". Michael Scott cleverly encompasses modern day with history and ancient mythology, unexpected twists and turns with creatures from the past. The whole 6 installments are over the course of a month, Nicholas and Pernelle (his wife) age each day without the elixir of life which they brew but unfortunately they no longer have the recipe, the evil John Dee has the book but Flamel has the last 2 pages. Is this the end for humani, we have to wait until 2012 for the final installment but No4 will be out this year - I can't wait. Not just for kids but it is quite an easy read.

      Posted Fri, 08 Jan 2010 02:52
    23. maria dhillon's avatar maria dhillon

      My favorite book of 2009 would have to be Rachel and the Hired Gun by Elaine Levine! This is one that kept me up all night reading! Segar was one awesome hero in that book! It was written so well and made the reader feel intuned with the characters. Of course, the story was about a really bad boy by the name of Sager. He wore his guns so low on his hips that made my mouth water. He was a misunderstood hired gun who would use anybody to get what he wants. Then he meets Rachel Douglas and his mind in on seduction, even though love was not in his plans. Thank you Ms. Levine for the wonderful debut romance. I just love cowboys!

      Posted Fri, 08 Jan 2010 00:19
    24. Lisa H's avatar Lisa H

      Being a mystery fan, my choice is from the mystery genre - The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas. This series and especially this book is a gem. I've heard of Fred Vargas for a long while but kept resisting trying her novels (perhaps it was the dreary black and white cover art?). My only complaint is that I waited so long. I started with The Three Evangelists, a stand-alone novel, then picked up the Chalk Circle Man, the first in her series. The main character, Paris Commissaire Adamsberg, is an endearing oddball of sorts. In both his personal and professional lives, people have a difficult time figuing him out which naturally sets him apart from the crowd and often makes life lonely. I was impressed with the characters, plotting, writing style (including the excellent translation) and the realistic depiction of French people and culture. For fans of international crime fiction, or Simenon/Maigret, do yourself a favor and read The Chalk Circle Man.

      Posted Thu, 07 Jan 2010 14:46
    25. J Whileman's avatar J Whileman

      By far the best book I read this year was 'The time Travellers Wife' which was a gift from one of my closest friends. I chose to read the book on holiday and tried to avoid listening to any reviews of the film, which came out this year as I wanted to read the book first before seeing the film, which I never did! The book captivated me from the first paragraph and from that point onwards I just couldn't put it down. At the beginning of the book I was intrigued to see if they would finally share the same time zone and how their love could be maintained with the constant timetravelling. In the middle of the book, I ached for the time travelling to stop so that they could share some time together and so that Claire's heartache with the miscarraiges would stop and then at the end of the book I cried when finally the family were reunited again. The book is a story of true love that is maintained through adversity and sorrow and continues after death. A definite contender for re-reading.

      Posted Thu, 07 Jan 2010 05:45

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