Saturday, 28 June 2014

LAST GREAT READS FOR JUNE, 2014

Once we Were Brothers, by Ronald H. Balson

Elliot Rosenzweig is an immensely rich Chicago philanthropist.  He has given away millions to deserving causes of every religious denomination, refusing to limit his charity exclusively to Jewish organisations, despite the fact that he is a Jew and a survivor of Auschwitz. (And he has the tattoo to prove it.)  No, there are needy, deserving souls of every stripe and colour in the world and he will help as many as he can and such is his generosity that Chicago’s mayor dubs him ‘Chicago’s Treasure’.  Life, after such horrific wartime experiences, is good indeed.
Until an elderly stranger attacks him at the Opera, screaming that Elliot is Otto Piatek, an infamous Nazi known as the ‘Butcher of Zamosc’.
Elliot is shocked to the core by the accusations, and is determined to get to the bottom of them, for he feels that a man’s worth is measured by his reputation – and despite his denials and the display of his tattoo to try to placate his accuser, Elliot knows that some mud - even a little - will always stick.
So begins Mr Balson’s story, after one of the clunkiest starts ever;  in fact I thought the first chapter was so poorly written I nearly didn’t continue, thinking the obvious:  ‘Mr Balsom, for a writer you’d make a pretty good lawyer’.  Which is one of his occupations.
However!  Fairness prevailed – mainly because a previous reader had written in the remarks sheet on the book’s flyleaf:  ‘amazing story’.  Okay.  I’d go a little further.  And I am glad I did:  Mr Balson eventually hooked me in when Elliot’s elderly nemesis Ben Solomon begins to recount his story to a very reluctant listener, attorney Catherine Lockhart who is railroaded into meeting him by a very dear friend.  Ben isn’t just accusing Elliot of being a Nazi Butcher:  he wants to sue him for all the money and jewellery that Otto Piatek collected from his Jewish friends, under the guise of safely hiding it until they 'really needed' it.  Ben believes that stolen Jewish wealth was the basis of the huge fortune that Elliot has amassed: he must be brought to justice, and, captivated by his story and eventually convinced of the righteousness of his charges, Catherine agrees to represent Ben Solomon.
Ben’s wartime memories are gripping, starting in Zamosc, Poland in 1933.  Ben’s father was a factory owner and community leader with a reputation for assisting anyone in need – and that included a penniless Christian woodcutter who asked if he could leave his 12 year old son Otto with them for a while ‘until he got on his feet’.  Ben’s family take Otto into their home and treat him as their own and they could not have a friend more staunch and loyal than that abandoned child:  ‘yes, once we were brothers’.  Deceit and betrayal seemed unthinkable – until poor advice albeit well-meaning, starts the gradual metamorphosis of an honourable, loving boy into a heartless Nazi puppet.
Mr Balson is never going to set the literary world on fire, but he has (after that lamentable beginning) constructed most efficiently another story of the Holocaust that is unforgettable, reminding us yet again of the terrible, rebounding effects of those unspeakable acts that will influence generations of families yet to come – and the strength of his characters, particularly Ben, remind us again of the stubbornness and invincibility of goodness – as well as evil - within man.  There should be more Bens in the world!

Wolf, by Mo Hayder

This is Mo Hayder’s seventh novel featuring Detective Inspector Jack Caffrey, and as Ms Hayder’s countless fans of the Gruesome know, Caffrey is a burnt-out cynic for very different reasons than the usual awful rigours of the job:  when Jack was eight, his nine year old brother Ewan disappeared, kidnapped by a paedophile who was never prosecuted for the crime;  he managed to stay one step ahead of the law until his death, and throughout Ms Hayder’s seven stories with Caffrey as protagonist the reader is reluctantly inched forward with Jack as he keeps searching for answers regarding his brother, always within the parameters of the latest plot – which, true to form, is another blood-and-gutser.  
And I don’t say that as a criticism:  Ms Hayder is too good a writer to consign her to the ranks of formulaic hacks, but don’t ever start one of her novels and hope for hearts and flowers.  You read her books through your fingers, mouth a perfect ‘O’ of horror, and ‘Wolf’ is no exception.
Oliver Anchor-Ferrers, his wife Matilda and daughter Lucia have come to their Somerset holiday home ‘The Turrets’ for a little R & R.  Oliver has just undergone a major heart operation and they have decided to let London and his very successful business look after itself until he has regained his health and strength.
Oliver and Matilda both worry about Lucia. Fifteen years ago, a terrible crime was committed in the neighbourhood, a double murder of two teenagers, one the ex boyfriend of Lucia:  their intestines were gouged from their bellies and arranged in a heart shape above their hacked and beaten bodies and since that awful time Lucia has not ‘gotten on’ with her life;  every career path she has tried has failed through her lack of ability or loss of interest, and as time has passed she has become increasingly embittered with her circumstances – and her parents.  They fervently hope that this visit with them to the country house will ease her sore heart – why, she might even start to love them again!
Ah, in a perfect world …… the trouble being that in this world a nightmare is beginning:  on the very first day of their arrival Matilda goes out to work in her beloved garden – and discovers reeking intestines shaped like a heart.  They are too remote for cellphone coverage, having to drive to the main road for reception, and they discover that the landline is not working.  Neither are the alarms that would normally alert their monitoring service.  Their car keys seem to have been misplaced.  Surely, surely the police would have notified everyone in the area if the monster jailed for the murders fifteen years ago had been released – or (unthinkable) made an escape?
Ms Hayder’s plot thickens expertly and inexorably, until the last hope for the beleaguered family is the escape of their little dog, a note affixed to her collar giving their address and cry for assistance – tragically, by the time she is rescued all that is left of the note is two words:  ‘help us’. 
A series of fortuitous events introduces Jack Caffrey to the dog, especially the fact that the dog eventually excretes (with much labour) an engraved wedding ring and a gold neck chain.  Jack’s detecting skills are on high alert as he endeavours to discover the dog’s owners, and the cryptic symbols etched on the inside of the ring – it is not until much later that he starts to tie in gleaned information to the dreadful events of the past.
Ms Hayder ramps up the suspense to an almost unbearable degree.  The reader is taken on a mad trip over the rapids of a twisting and turning plot, with no respite until the last page.  And then, even when cast ashore in the shallows at the end of that wild ride, said reader (me) is faced with the worst kind of dilemma:  ‘What am I going to read now?  What could possibly top that?? ’
 Highly recommended.
  
       


Thursday, 19 June 2014

MORE GREAT READS FOR JUNE, 2014

Midnight Crossroad, by Charlaine Harris

Charlaine Harris needs no introduction.  Author of the famed ‘True Blood’ series, she also has produced a number of minor heroines, i.e. Lily Bard, Aurora Teagarden and Harper Connelly, to name a few:  now, she is introducing us to a whole raft of new characters in Midnight Crossroad, and whilst most readers are regretting the end of Sookie Stackhouse’s adventures – especially as (in my opinion!) she ended up with the wrong man – I am not sure if the denizens of Midnight, Texas will prove as endearing and as deliciously creepy as those of Bon Temps, Louisiana.
Ms Harris initially makes a good fist of it:  we have Manfred Bernardo, internet Psychic, arriving in Midnight to rent a house from Bobo Wishart ( a handsome character from a previous series) who owns a Pawnshop.  Manfred could be a conman, but he does have ‘the vision’ inherited from his grandmother.  He is fascinated by the locals that he meets:  Fiji (I’m named that because my parents liked to travel) Kavanaugh, his neighbour across the street who is a genuine witch - she even has a talking cat as a familiar;  a gay couple, Joe and Chuy, who have an antique shop and nail salon  (why?  There are so few permanent residents in Midnight that Manfred is at a loss to understand why they are there);  Lemuel, the resident vampire – well, you couldn’t have a new set of stories without one – and various other characters that excite his curiosity.
All well and good, but Ms Harris seems to tire of her characters before she has even established them properly in the reader’s imagination – which is a shame:  at her best she is the mistress of the ‘Bonk and Bite’ genre;  therefore a lot more is expected of her (at least by me!) than is shown in this first story.
We have a lot of minor characters that will probably feature more in the coming books:  a rabid group of White Supremacists led by someone who should have been dispatched with in Book One;  a mysterious Reverend who preaches the word of the Lord – but only now and then:  in between times, he maintains and runs a pet cemetery.  (But what else is buried there?)
Yes, all the characters are here to whet our appetites for the books to come, but the attendant excitement is missing.  There is a murder to be solved by all, (including a flinty-eyed Sheriff who will probably have a romantic involvement with someone in the future) but when the villain is eventually unveiled, my response was ‘Oh yeah – So?’ 
I’m perfectly prepared to accept some blame – reader overload, etc – but I have to say that I did expect better from Ms Harris.  The reader should not have to take a slow stroll through her story.  That’s not what we are used to!
The inhabitants of Midnight, Texas will have to lift their game – and reveal more secrets – to get me through Book Two.

Hangman, by Stephan Talty

Detective Absalom Kearney returns to do battle with yet another serial killer in this disappointing sequel to ‘Black Irish’, (see 2013 review below)Mr Talty’s first introduction to Ms Kearney and the mean streets of Buffalo, New York.  This time the action centres at the opposite end of town, the monied suburbs, those leafy, manicured boulevards with the big stone mansions, supposedly inviolate from the nasty crimes inflicted upon lesser, poorer beings:  well, not any more.
A man who killed four teenage girls from the affluent Northern end of the city five years ago is on the loose again:  Marcus Flynn, imprisoned for his heinous crimes, has escaped from jail and has the whole state in a panic – will he strike again, and what action is the police force taking to protect its citizens?
The doughty Ms Kearney is designated the lead detective, and she is predictably clever, teasing out clues from the initial investigation with ease, not to mention dealing with that tired old chestnut, sexism in the PD:  oh, really?  But just in time, Mr Talty decides to show her human frailty. 
In her zeal to get the killer off the streets, Absalom is willing to do a deal with the devil, in this case a shadowy ‘network’ of corrupt ex-cops, happy to make things happen for which she would normally have to get warrants and subpoenas – but all that help comes at a price, presumably to be paid for in Book Three.
And there’s the rub:  I have not the remotest interest in reading any more Absalom adventures. 
Once again, sloppy writing takes over:  the serial killer’s long-suffering wife has more than one name (what, again??) and  hair-raising grammatical errors reign supreme -  much like Book One, but that story, for all its faults, had pace and atmosphere:  This opus has none.  The plot is pedestrian, with countless dead ends before Ms Kearney says ‘Bingo!’ and the characters are leaden and unconvincing, even when the supposedly action-packed denouement and shoot-out takes place:  it’s a crying shame, but I have to say that Mr Talty’s mojo, along with his grammar and style, has disappeared out the window. 
It may return in Book Three, but I won’t hold my breath.  I am sad that I cannot endorse either of these June reads, but I cannot tell a lie:  I didn’t enjoy these books.   

Black Irish, by Stephan Talty

It is hard to know where to start with this book:  should I list its virtues first (many), or its faults (enough to make me shout ‘AAAAARGH!)?
I’m a fine one to talk about correct grammar – but even so:  wouldn’t the most casual and uncritical of readers balk at the fact that one of the murder victims (for this is s novel about a serial killer) starts off being called Gerald, then Gregory, then George before he reverts to being good old Gerald again.  WHAAAT???   Are proof readers now extinct in Stephan Talty’s publishing house? 
As if that weren’t bad enough, a descriptive sentence was repeated verbatim IN THE SAME PARAGRAPH;  what a shameful lack of attention to the most ordinary detail  - I mean, this is why authors supposedly submit drafts before the finished product is finally unveiled.  In my opinion (and you know how perfect that is!) it lessened the impact and pace of Mr. Talty’s story:  having said that, he still winds up the tension of his plot in a very satisfying manner, and his characters – even though they have so many aliases – are credible and well-drawn, particularly the main protagonist, Detective Absalom Kearney.
She is the adopted daughter of a retired police detective, and has followed him into the Buffalo NY police force after a glittering Harvard education.  Her stern father is now suffering from the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease, and his condition is also a metaphor for the city of Buffalo – it has entered a decline, especially in its once-great steel industry, and people are leaving in their droves.  Typically, those who stay are those who cannot afford to move away, and more than once Abby asks herself why she has returned.  Looking after her father is a thankless task, for he has never been an affectionate man and his condition only exacerbates his aloofness.
Fortunately, Abby’s job with the Buffalo PD is very challenging and gives her many chances to show her brilliance – until a series of murders attributed to a particularly clever serial killer show enough evidence to incriminate her, the main investigator. 

Mr Talty ramps up the action very competently in all the right places and his depiction of  the societal foundering of a big city and its insular and tribal communities is evocative and well written;  what a shame his publishers didn’t attend to the groundwork.  It would have transformed this good suspense novel into a great one.           

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

FIRST GREAT READS FOR JUNE, 2014

The Son, by Jo Nesbo


It has taken some considerable time, but I have finally, FINALLY read a book by one of the most popular thriller writers (Nordic or otherwise) on the planet.  My only excuse is ‘too many books, too little time’, and I didn’t want to start his Detective Harry Hole series in the middle:  there are now too many of them to go way back to the beginning.  So.
Better late than never.  Mr Nesbo is an effortless storyteller;  he constructs his plot efficiently and in this stand-alone novel provides the reader with the satisfying knowledge that they don’t have a clue Who Done What until the very last chapter – which is indeed the  least we should expect from such a master craftsman.
Mr Nesbo’s characters are examples of human frailty,  i.e. Chief Inspector Simon Kefa, a superb Oslo detective until his gambling addiction ruined his life –but he is reborn through the love of his wife, who is gradually losing her sight.  There is no money for corrective surgery:  Simon has gambled it all away.  Will he be tempted to turn a blind eye to massive police corruption in return for cash for his wife’s operation?  What an irony, but at the start of the story he is staunch in his principles, being more interested in the prison breakout of Sonny Lofthus, the son of his late best friend, Ab Lofthus – Ab, who, about to be exposed for being on the take, committed suicide, and condemned his wife and son to ruin.
Sonny is a hopeless drug addict and has been in prison for twelve years, confessing to crimes he never committed in order to have a steady and plentiful supply of heroin – until the revelation of a shocking secret by a departing inmate.  He is driven to get clean and make his escape from the supposedly impregnable fortress that is Staten prison, causing huge embarrassment and humiliation to prison staff from the governor down.
Then the murders start:  each victim turns out to have a connection with Sonny’s father’s disgrace:  it is obvious that Ab’s suicide was faked.  He was murdered and Sonny is taking revenge.
Mr Nesbo marshals his large cast of characters with all the aplomb of a top tilm director.  They play their parts beautifully, and even the most peripheral extra is essential to the flow of the story.  His writing of addiction, be it gambling, women or drugs has an uncomfortable authenticity:  the reader is suitably horrified, thrilled not to inhabit such a savage world.  We are grateful to sit in our comfy chairs and read about it instead.  And it is a surprise to learn that we come to feel an affinity for the bad guy of this story:  Sonny Lofthus must surely be one of the most appealing anti-heroes in contemporary fiction .
Mr Nesbo deserves his mighty reputation and his huge fan base, and I am thrilled that I have finally sampled his great talent as a storyteller.  Highly recommended.

The Enchanted, by Rene Denfeld

I was horrified by this story, and found it almost impossible to finish – but I managed to stay the distance because Ms Denfeld has produced as her debut novel a story searing and brutal, yet with an entirely credible nobility of spirit in the very worst of her characters that leaves the reader, despite the horror, feeling uplifted and deeply moved by the enormity of her talent.
In a nameless American state that still has the death penalty, Death Row prisoners are kept in poor condition in the bowels of an old prison.  A river runs by its walls, and when the river floods their cells flood too, but fortunately for them this seldom occurs – most of the time the cells just weep moisture.  And what else should they expect?  They are there because they have committed heinous crimes for which they have received the ultimate penalty:  should they stay in a five star hotel until their appeals are exhausted and they are executed?  The conditions they endure are the result of their own evil actions. 
The story is narrated by one of the Death Row inmates.  He calls few (except the guards) by name, including himself, but he misses nothing – he sees clearly the burgeoning feelings between the lady and the fallen priest (outside the prison walls a death penalty investigator, currently working for one of the inmates, and a former catholic priest, trying to atone for a terrible sin he committed);  he sees the endless bribery and corruption between guards and prisoners in other parts of the prison;  and the detachment of the warden, who has his own problems.
The inmate regards the prison as an enchanted place:  bad magic abounds within its walls.  He was sent there when he was eighteen for doing a very bad thing.  A mute, he was very frightened initially of everything – until he found the library:  this was a place of good magic.  With a great deal of effort he taught himself to read, and was transported with every book over those prison walls and far away to wherever his imagination led him.  Until someone decided it was time to have some fun with him.  And they did.
So he was forced to do the very bad thing again, and this time he was sent to Death Row.
He has been there a long time now, and he watches from the shelter of his blanket as the lady visits York, a young man who has committed unspeakable crimes against women:  York has renounced all his appeals and says he welcomes his forthcoming death, but if the lady finds enough mitigating evidence to prove that he was of ‘unsound mind’ when he committed his crimes she can get his sentence commuted to life.  York doesn’t care:  he sneers at her efforts.  His mind is made up.  He wants to die.
But it is the lady’s job to keep trying, and her investigations eventually reveal the terrible truth, the ghastly history that turned a tender child into a killing machine.  Still, York doesn’t care:  it is time to go.
I have never been able to read with any objectivity stories of cruelty to animals and children, and Ms Denfeld lays it all on the line here:  she writes with stunning imagery of men’s myriad brutalities against those most vulnerable, and the reader knows that her fictitious characters are based on her true-life clients, for Ms Denfeld is herself a death penalty investigator.  She is writing about what she knows.
This is a wonderful book that deals with terrible themes.  It is not for the faint-hearted (like me!) but Ms Denfeld has crafted her real-life experiences into something very special indeed.  She is a great new voice in contemporary American fiction.  Highly recommended.
  



    

Sunday, 1 June 2014

LAST GREAT READS FOR MAY, 2014

The Blind Man’s Garden, by Nadeem Aslam

October, 2001.  In New York the Twin Towers have fallen and a grieving and outraged America has declared War on Terror.  It is believed that Afghanistan is the hiding place of the mastermind behind this ultimate atrocity, Osama bin Laden and  El Qaeda: therefore it must be invaded and America’s enemies destroyed.
Nearby Pakistan is the West’s reluctant ally;  it is their duty to give assistance and safe passage to American troops, a fact not easily accepted by its population – many Pakistanis regard America’s invasion of Afghanistan as a deadly affront to that country’s sovereignty and, filled with patriotic zeal hundreds of young men flock across the border to fight with their Afghani brothers against the Western invader.
One such idealist is Jeo, a young medical student, a peace loving soul who doesn’t want to fight but to use his skills to heal.  He is the son of Rohan, a pious Muslim schoolteacher, a man crippled by grief and remorse since the death of his wife after the birth of Jeo.  Jeo keeps secret from his father his forthcoming journey to the fighting;  he has not told Naheed his wife of twelve months, either – but he does confide in his foster brother Mikal, and Mikal is so uneasy for his friend that he decides to go too.  Jeo needs a protector.
Sadly, Jeo needs not only a protector, but a miracle:  his naïveté costs him his life as he and Mikal are betrayed by the Taliban and Mikal is sold by a warlord to the Americans as a spy and subjected to terrible interrogations in their efforts to milk him of Al Qaeda secrets he does not possess.
Against terrible odds, Mikal returns home to Rohan and Naheed to find the family on the brink of more tragedy:  Rohan’s sight is disappearing, exacerbated by an act of great cruelty that he endured as atonement for a perceived sin he committed many years ago;  and Naheed, Jeo’s wife whom Mikal has loved from afar for years, is to be married off again by her mother now that she is a widow.
Stated so baldly, Mr Aslam’s superb narrative sounds like a journey through the Vale of Tears but his talent is such that the reader is wooed on every page by beautiful imagery;  honeyed and gorgeous prose to tell a brutal story of misunderstanding, bigotry and treachery – and on another level, the human kindness and piety imbued by a great religion onto its most humble adherents.
The horrors of war, too, are summed up thus:  ‘The opposite of war is not peace but civilisation, and civilisation is purchased with violence and cold-blooded murder.  With war.’
But Mr Aslam always returns the reader to the blind man’s garden;  that oasis of beauty and calm that Rohan started so many years ago when his marriage was new and future happiness seemed assured:  the garden lives on, a metaphor for hope, giving freely of its beautiful fruits and perfumes and offering succour to all those with aching and wounded hearts.
This is a beautiful book.  Highly recommended.


GREAT TEEN FICTION IN YOUR LIBRARY.

Cress, by Marissa Meyer

Book Three of the Lunar Chronicles is here, and this is the first time I have felt that Ms Meyer’s excellent futuristic version of our old fairy tales has missed the mark – not by much;  it’s just that in this book the current protagonist, Cress, is a bit of a wimp compared to Cinder and Scarlet (see earlier reviews below).  That is hardly surprising when one considers that Cress has been marooned on a satellite orbiting earth for eleven years, at the mercy of a wicked Lunar thaumaturge (evil witch) called Sybil who visits her periodically to collect intelligence info that Cress gathers (she is an excellent hacker) – and blood samples, also from Cress. (And what might they be for, we wonder.) 
Cress’s hair has grown into great ropes;  she has no contact with anyone other than horrid Sybil and amuses herself by hacking into all the drama shows and singing along to Grand Opera - as anyone would to alleviate the boredom:  it is clear that we have Rapunzel trapped in her satellite instead of a tower.  Who will come to rescue her?
Cinder, Scarlet, Wolf and Thorne, that’s who, after she gives them vital information to prevent the capture of their spaceship in exchange for her rescue, but the mission goes wrong:  Scarlet is captured and sent to Luna by nasty Sybil;  Wolf is badly wounded trying to save Scarlet;  Cinder escapes with Wolf, but Thorne and Cress are trapped aboard the satellite as it crashes towards earth, programmed to burn up as soon as it enters our atmosphere.
All this should have been heart-in-the-mouth action, but the air went out of the plot’s sails as gently as the release of the satellite parachute, enabling everything (including the plot) to slow down sufficiently so that Cress and Thorne could make landfall – in the Sahara Desert. 
It takes several chapters for a head of steam to develop again, each character having a turn under the spotlight before a daring kidnap takes place:  the abduction of Commonwealth Emperor Kaito by Cinder on the eve of his wedding to wicked Lunar Queen Levana.  Cinder has recently discovered her own true identity, and the fact that she wasn’t always a lowly Cyborg has filled her with new purpose:  instead of waiting for Levana to mount her offensive to destroy the earth, Cinder will take the fight to Levana. 
It is time to start the revolution, and Cinder will be its kick ass leader, so put that in your pot and glamour it, Levana!
Now if Ms Meyer can only keep up the momentum (no mean feat) ‘Winter,’ book four and the last of The Lunar Chronicles, will be a fitting finale to 
a great series.  Highly recommended.

Scarlet, by Marissa Meyer.

It has been a while since I reviewed any teen or children’s fiction available in our library, but the librarians have recently given me some great titles that ably demonstrate the wealth of writing talent catering to young readers, ensuring by their excellent stories that the wonderful pastime of reading will continue into adult life.
Such a story is ‘Scarlet’, Ms Meyer’s sequel to ‘Cinder’, her fabulous futuristic version of ‘Cinderella’.  (Reviewed May, 2012, see below).  ‘Cinder’ was so good that this reader found it a real chore to have to wait for Book two – and I’m grinding my teeth to think that Book three won’t be released until next year:  couldn’t Ms Meyer speed things up a bit?
Anyway:
Cinder is in prison, after her capture at the Prince’s ball – instead of leaving a slipper behind, she leaves her Cyborg foot!  How’s that for a variation on the old tale?  A?  A?  Sadly, the loss of her foot means that she was an easy catch and is now disabled in her cell – until a secret visit from professor Erland, a research scientist:  he provides her with a new state-of-the-art hand and a top-of-the-range foot, enabling her to engineer (she’s a mechanic, remember) a daring escape from jail.  And guess who he is?  Yep, Ms Meyer’s version of Cinderella’s fairy Godmother. 
She also takes with her another prisoner, Thorne, because he has a stolen spaceship hidden in a warehouse, and on their travels they link up with Scarlet Benoit, who has been looking for her beloved grandmother, kidnapped by a gang of wolves.  Scarlet wears a red hoody, has a nasty temper and a reluctant attraction to a street fighter called – Wolf.  Now.  Who do you think she could be?  And guess what happens to poor old Grandma imprisoned by the wolf gang in the bowels of the Paris Opera House, derelict and in ruins since the Fourth World War? (the Opera House, not Grandma)  Nothing good, that’s for sure.
As before, Ms Meyer has her readers in an iron grip and doesn’t relinquish them until the very last page:  once again, the reader is screaming ‘but what happens NEXT!  And once again, we’ll just have to wait and see.  I’m sure all this suspense is hell on the digestion, but I’ll just have to tough it out.  This is a great series.
   
Cinder, by Marissa Meyer (Young adult reading)

Our Children’s librarian recommended this book to me and as she’s seldom wrong in her reading choices, I’m happy to give this the ravingest (ravingest??) endorsement possible:  WHAT A STORY! 
The tale of Cinderella – yep, Cinderella, her nasty stepmum and the two stepsisters – is transferred hundreds of years into the future.  Cinderella is now Cinder, living in New Beijing with a family who are, to say the least, most reluctant guardians.  She is a mechanic (truly!) and a Cyborg, to her shame, having been fitted out with a steel hand, leg and inbuilt computer screen after a terrible childhood accident.  Cyborgs are the future’s Untouchables, considered fit only to perform the most menial and degrading of tasks, but Cinder is such a good mechanic that a Royal prince visits her to have his tutor android repaired, and after that visit she and the reader are lost:  she to alien romantic impulses (she is not programmed for this!) and a reluctant involvement in a life and death experiment -  and the reader to being nailed to one spot until they have reached the last page.

To add insult to injury, the hapless reader finds that after a thrilling journey at a breakneck pace through more clever plot twists than a pretzel, there are three more books to come – and they haven’t been written yet!  To say I feel cheated is an understatement and the withdrawal symptoms are dire, but I also say with complete confidence that ‘Cinder’ will be the next big Blockbuster book/movie series:  you read it here first.