No one would call David Rose - or ‘Rosie’ as he’s known to one and all - a star, but he’s good at his job and proud of his work as a sportswriter for a national newspaper. He’s used to seeing flashier talents come and go - both on the field, and in the competitive world of the press. Football comes first in the way he spends his working life, but he’s happy to pitch in whatever the sport - from Formula 1 to Test cricket in the West Indies, the Olympics to a heavyweight championship bout in Japan.
He’s used to the ups and downs of a journalist’s life and has learned to keep his own head safely down - until an especially venal boss pins his own misdemeanours on the entirely innocent Rose. Rosie’s revenge is slow but sweet, as he manoeuvres through a world where egos clash, money talks and you’re only as safe as your latest by-line
Author Simon Barnes was the chief Sports Writer for The Times until 2014, with a number of journalistic awards encompassing a career spent writing about both sports and nature. Writing his first book in 1986, Barnes has written over 20 since, with "The Game's Gone" an Audible exclusive, brilliantly narrated by actor Colin Mace, who, judging by his Twitter feed, is an apt choice due to his passion for sport.
I'll be honest and admit to a little apprehension when I began listening to this, as I'm not the biggest sports fan - I enjoy Rugby, love the Tour de France and get briefly into Wimbledon every year, but I'm certainly not a commited sports fan, and my only real knowledge of sports commentary and journalism comes from watching Grandstand or Match of the Day with my father on the Saturdays of my childhood.
In truth though, "The Game's Gone" isn't necessarily a book about sport. Yes, sport plays a big part, but what's clever is how sport is weaved through the plot - not only the games, but the emotions and passions that lie at the heart of every game out there.
Rosie is a compelling character for the listener, and narrator Colin Mace conveys him well, making this a relaxing read that's told with a friendly intimacy by a character whose side it's impossible not to be on, and whilst his story is certainly not plain sailing, the warm humour Simon Barnes infuses his story with ensures that the reader isn't on edge for too long.
Barnes cleverly uses his experience to create characters who are layered and interesting - he's not interested in using characters that are stereotypes or who are instantly likeable, but instead he builds them to feel real and relatable - and it takes a while to warm to some of them - including the narrator! This worked well for me, and combined with what felt like very real reflection on sporting events, made for a listen that truly bought the world of sports journalism to life for me. In essence, it reminded me of the humanity and warmth at the core of sports that Nick Hornby wrote about in Fever Pitch, combined with a gripping plot about the cutthroat world of journalism - a Count of Monte Cristo but with balls and pens instead of swords and pistols.
A vastly enjoyable listen that took me on an immersive and exciting dive into the world of sports journalism, "The Game's Gone" is available exclusively from Audible.
Many thanks to Amber at Midas PR for the review copy and the opportunity to take part in the blog tour for "The Game's Gone" - I received the review copy in exchange for an honest review.
A body is found bricked into the walls of a house - from the state of the hands, it's clear he was buried alive, that he had tried to claw his way out before he died. The victim is quickly linked to a missing person's case and DS Adam Tyler is called.
As the sole representative of the Cold Case Review Unit, Tyler understands he's been placed there to keep him out of the way following an 'incident'. So when the case falls in his lap, he grabs the opportunity to fix his stagnating career.
But then he discovers he has a connection to the case that hopelessly compromises him, and he makes the snap decision not to tell his superiors. With such a brutal and sadistic murder to unpick, Tyler must move carefully to find out the truth without destroying the case or himself.
Meanwhile, someone in the city knows exactly what happened to the body. Someone who is watching Adam closely. Someone with an unhealthy obsession with fire...
Author Russ Thomas was born in Essex, raised in Berkshire and now lives in Sheffield. After various 'proper' jobs (including pot-washer, optician's receptionist and storage salesman) he discovered the joy of bookselling, where he could talk to people about books all day. Firewatching is his first novel.
I'm in the fortunate position to be able to read a few books a week - and my pile to be read is so large, and so teetering, that I feel guilty about truly indulging in a book. Firewatching is one in which I found myself rationing the book out - desperate to reach the conclusion but also eager to eke out every last drop of enjoyment and mystery.
I've struggled with crime books in the past - I've been a huge fan of Ian Rankin since I was a teenager, but it's quite an oversaturated market and it can be hard to know where to start when wanting to find a new Detective or Investigator to latch onto. But in Firewatching I think Russ Thomas has created the most compelling lead since Will Dean's Tuva Moodyson appeared a few years ago, and Firewatching is one of the most compelling stories I've read in some time.
Lead DS Adam Tyler is compelling, troubled, but utterly believable, and whilst it's sad to say that this is still surprising, it's nice to see a gay character appear in a crime novel who isn't a sterotype, but a layered, three-dimensional human being. Yes, he's incredibly hot, and yes, he hooks up with men, but he's utterly believable, and easy to relate to. As a lead he's compelling - and I found myself increasingly worried for his welfare as the book continued. And, as a gay man, it was really bloody nice to read a crime novel with a gay officer as the lead, whose sexuality is part of his life, but isn't necessarily the sole characteristic that defines him, as I find can often be the case in fiction.
man who In fact my only issue with Tyler is that at one point another described him as "a prettier Jake Gyllenhall", which I (through extensive research) have deemed an utterly impossible statement - if Jake Gyllenhaal could be any prettier we might as well all give up and start wearing paper bags over our heads, as the pinnacle of beauty in mankind would have been reached...
That insignificant grumble aside, Firewatching is tightly plotted, and threads a number of fascinating plots together to the extent that each twist is genuinely surprising, and leads up to a conclusion that left me rather breathless. Characters are likeable and well-rounded, with Thomas avoiding stereotypes whether positive or negative in drawing his characters - cuddly old ladies are shaped into something far more complex, gruff senior policemen turn out to have slightly more to them, and Tyler's a thoroughly fascinating man who I can't wait to read more about. Do check Firewatching out - it comes highly recommended.
Despite everything being pretty terrifying outside, we're in a pretty golden age when it comes to conversations about sexuality and gender. Growing up in the 90's and early noughties, finding books I could relate to as a gay kid was really bloody hard. Prior to online shopping being much of a thing, I didn't dare ask in bookshops for books that had gay themes - so I was left with occasional glances at a copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover (which, heterosexual sex scenes aside, is really quite dull) to fulfill initial curiosity - and it was only through chance that I discovered Patrick Gale, who was the first author whose works I truly fell in love with, and who allowed me to discover a positive life for those of alternative sexualities, outside of the small town in which I grew up.
Thankfully, with the rise in popularity of Young Adult fiction today, there is a huge amount of material out there which allows young people to explore and discover different sexualities and gender identities - and I can't think of a better example than Heartstopper by Alice Oseman.
Back in 2016 (4 years ago, when we could do things like see friends and go to the pub. Ah...), Alice Oseman began writing Heartstopper as a web comic. Skip forward to 2018, and Heartstopper began becoming available in Graphic Novel form - with volume 3 released earlier this year.
Heartstopper is the tale of Charlie and Nick - two boys at the same school. They've never met, until the two are forced to sit together in class - and, from there, romance grows... Over the three volumes that are out so far, you watch the boys grow together, meet their friends, families and teachers, and genuinely feel part of their lives. It's rare that I become quite so invested in fictional characters, but there's something very real about Charlie and Nick that sucks you in, and I can't deny that I feel a real sense of connection with this tale of gay love at school - I was in the closet for most of my time at school but certainly felt the pangs of adolescent love.
Whilst some of you may roll your eyes at the fact that this is another love story about two cisgendered white guys - the accompanying cast are varied, diverse, and fully fleshed out, with a whole range of subplots that are massively entertaining, but also completely relevant to what young people are, I believe, going through today - although I should point out that it's going on for 15 years since I was in school!
These books are gorgeous - beautifully drawn and it's clear that creator Alice Oseman has a huge amount of love for these characters - they first appeared in her novel Solitaire. which I've not read but is very much top of my pile! I'm excited and cautious about Charlie and Nick's future - I know wherever they go, they'll be dealt with huge amounts of care, but also huge amounts of truth - so I have a distinct feeling it's not going to be plain sailing for them...
Check out Heartstopper on Alice Oseman's website to see where you can read it, and where you can grab a copy, and enjoy. I certainly did.
Poland, 1980. Anxious, disillusioned Ludwik Glowacki, soon to graduate university, has been sent along with the rest of his class to an agricultural camp. Here he meets Janusz, and together they spend a dreamlike summer swimming in secluded lakes, reading forbidden books - and falling in love.
But with summer over, the two are sent back to Warsaw, and to the harsh realities of life under the Party. Exiled from paradise, Ludwik and Janusz must decide how they will survive, but their different choices risk tearing them apart.
Author Tomasz Jedrowski was born in West Germany to Polish parents, and studied law at Cambridge and the Universite de Paris. He currently lives in France. Swimming in the Dark is his first novel, and my god - what a novel it is!
James Baldwin's sublime Giovanni's Room is a key touchstone of this novel, and the two share a lot - not only themes of queer love and escape, but both are exquisetely beautiful reads full of desire, discovery, and the bittersweet pain of first love.
Whilst the Gay love story is what drew me to pick this book up, the setting is just as fascinating - taking place in Poland in 1980, and allowing the reader a glimpse into the beginnings of the turmoil that, 9 years later, saw the Polish Worker's Party fall and Poland move into a full market economy.
I like to think my historical knowledge is pretty good, but I'm woefully under informed when it comes to Poland, so it was fascinating to have such an in-depth glimpse into the country's past. In terms of tone and setting I was reminded a little of An Honest Man by Ben Fergusson - one of my favourite books of 2019, and one that also deals with a gay love story under an opressive regime. However my knowledge of german history is decent, so that book was perhaps slightly less enlightening for me on that front - whereas Swimming in the Dark genuinely opened my eyes and has made me interested in the Poland of the mid to late twentieth century, helped hugely, I imagine, by the fact that the author was born to Polish parents who I imagine would have had first hand knowledge of some of the events and situations described in the book.
Jedrowski's prose truly envelops you in the story - I felt the warm summer haze of the initial chapters turn into the cold grey later in the book, and as a Gay man myself, I felt the emotional heart of this story incredibly deeply. I grew up under a far more accepting government in nineties england, but the themes that are explored here were easily related to stuff I went through as a teenager and a young adult, and, I imagine are fairly universal. I think I fell in love with Tomasz almost as much as Ludwik did - and that's a mark of how emotionally honest the author is in his writing.
My only real gripe with this book was that it wasn't longer - but that's a gripe that comes from pure selfishness - in truth it's a well balanced tale that's told with great care. I won't forget it in a hurry, and I'm eager to see what the author does next - he's certainly one to watch for me, and Swimming in the Dark is one of my favourite reads of 2020.
Does Magic Exist?
Charlie Watson thinks it does and he wants to tell you all about it. Before he was famous, Charlie Watson decided to write a book to share with the world everything he knew about Magic. This is that book. You will discover why Charlie always wears a Top Hat, why his house is full of Rabbits, how Magic Wands are made, how the Universe began, and much, much more. Plus, for the first time, Charlie tells of the strange events that led him from England to the Arctic, to perform the Extraordinary Feat that made him famouse, and he finally reveals whether that Extraordinary Feat was Magic or whether it was just a trick.
Author Mike Russell was born in 1973. As a child he enjoyed daydreaming, art, and writing strange stories, and as an adult he enjoys daydreaming, art, and writing strange stories...
His books have been described as Strange Fiction, Weird Fiction, Weird Lit, Surrealism, Magic Realism, Fantasy Fiction...but he just likes to call them Strange Books.
Mike is a full time author, and grows his own potatoes
Magic tells the story of Charlie Watson - a famous magician who has finally decided to tell all about his relationship and history with Magic. Famous for an incident in the Arctic, he regales the reader with tales of the first magician, an upside down top-hat, and a glimpse behind the scenes in a wand factory.
Charlie encounters magic, love and mystery throughout, and he speaks to the readers with an open, friendly voice that kept me engaged throughout. There are various twists and turns throughout, and Charlie is a handy guide through them for the reader - he's a hugely engaging character, and his distinct voice rings clear throughout.
In keeping with Mike Russell's previous work, and with the ethos of his publishing line, this truly is a Strange Book - but that strangeness is combined with heart and humour - quirky characterisation and an intriguing plot ensure that "Magic" is certainly strange - but also hugely readable and extremely enjoyable.
Strange Books are a beacon of individuality in the publishing world - long may that continue!
Following the shocking events of The Silver Wolf, James Ryker is back. James Ryker receives a coded message through a secret drop point, a means of communication known only to him and one other person. The problem is, that person is his ex-boss, Mackie... and he’s already dead.But the cry for help is real, and it’s a request Ryker can’t refuse.Travelling to New York alone and without official sanction, Ryker has a single goal in mind, yet even he couldn’t have bargained for the violent world he’s soon embroiled in. Caught in the middle of a spiraling chaos, with the FBI on one side and warring underworld bosses on the other, Ryker must put all of his skills to the test in order to come out on top and keep his word. In a world full of lies and deceit, loyalty is everything, and it’s time for James Ryker to pay his dues.
Having sold over half a million copies, best-selling author Rob Sinclair is back with another installment in the James Ryker series. Having graduated from Nottingham University in 2002, Sinclair spent 13 years working for a global accounting firm, before a promise to his wife to write a 'can't put down' thriller, led to a full time career as a writer.
Sinclair has built a fascinating character in James Ryker/Carl Logan -assured, level-headed and calm in the face of danger, but also flawed, human, and hugely likeable. Building over the character of a number of books has allowed Sinclair to create a character that feels extremely real - and having read the character for some time now, he's always one I look forward to revisiting.
In The Green Viper, the reader is plunged straight into the action - and Sinclair doesn't let up on the pace. It makes for a fast, easy read full of twists - but Sinclair's skill as a writer ensures that he backs all of the style with a serious amount of substance.
Taking the reader on a transatlantic journey, Sinclair described both London and New York with an easy sense of familiarity -the descriptions never labored, but ensuring that one is swiftly transported. From there, a fascinating plot unfolds that involves the FBI, a complex cast of characters, a healthy dose of betrayal, and a breathtaking climax that is spread out over several action packed-chapters. Many action thrillers tend to be quite shallow, but that certainly isn't the case with The Green Viper. Sinclair is clear to show that the decisions of his characters have consequences, and as such moments in The Green Viper pack some serious emotional heft -with the reader rooting for Ryker throughout. The climax is satisfying, but the door is very clearly left open for another book in the series, and I'll be very keen to see exactly what kind of trouble James Ryker will be getting into next time...
What happens when a closeted jock, a scrawny nerd, and a pair of bratty cheerleaders develop superpowers in a small-town high school? can they stop a pair of super-powered classmates hellbent on reshaping the student body in a darker image? Or will teen angst, jealousy, and ill-timed romance doom them all?
Steven Bereznai is a former magazine editor, recreational water polo player, fan of science fiction, avid TV viewer, and author of a wide range of books - several of which have been reviewed here at ThePageisPrinted.
I'd wanted to read "Queeroes" for some time - having loved both "I Want Superpowers" and "How a Loser like me survived the Zombie Apocalypse", I was really keen to read the author's earlier work - especially as I'm such a big fan of the superhero genre in general. Luckily, Steven was kind enough to send me copies of both "Queeroes" and the sequel "Queeroes 2", and I spent a happy weekend transported to yet another clever, funny and moving world that Steven Bereznai has created.
This is a man who knows his pop culture - and Queeroes is set in a high school, meaning that Bereznai is free to explore the various tropes, cliques and groups that come with such a setting. He does so with great care - peppering his pages with knowing references and nods to existing works, but always keeping things fresh - he's not an author who relies on tropes but instead utilises them when needed to great effect. His character voices are spot on too - reminding me of my teenage years, but also bringing to mind witty, quippy high school environments such as those in which beloved pieces of pop culture like Buffy and Clueless were set. All in all, "Queeroes" blend the everyday with the fantastical in a way that's both original and hugely readable. Bereznai is a skilled author who constantly produces work that combines heart, wit and plot to make for brilliant reads. His love for pop culture blended with sheer skill for writing mean he's an author who I always enjoy - and the Queeroes series will take you head first into a brilliantly realised world full of high school drama, earthshaking battles, and high school drama.
Pages of a weathered original sonata manuscript - the gift of a Czech immigrant living in Queens - come into the hands of Meta Taverner, a young musicologist whose concert piano career was cut short by an injury. The gift comes with the request that Meta find the manuscript's true owner -a Prague friend the old woman has not heard from since the Second World War forced them apart - and make the three-part Sonata whole again. Leaving New York behind for the land of Dvorak and Kafka, Meta sets out on an unforgettable search to locate the remaining movements of the sonata and uncover a story that has influenced the course of many lives, even as it becomes clear that she isn't the only one seeking the music's secrets.
Bradford Morrow is a novelist, short story writer, essayist, and editor of literary journal Conjunctions. He teaches at Bard College - a private college based in the state of New York. In "The Prague Sonata" he's written an epic, continent spanning book that's as evocative as it is moving - a book that's been years in the making but is absolutely worth your time.
My lack of knowledge regarding the history of the Czech Republic is shamefully limited, and it's not a country I'd ever visited - so had little idea of the events that would form the backdrop of "The Prague Sonata". Morrow not only informs the reader, but brings Prague to life in such vivid fashion that it becomes an important character in the book - as living and breathing as the two women who take most of the plot. As someone with a background that featured music heavily, I loved quite how integral music is to the plot too - and it helps to make this book a sensory experience in terms of time, place and sound. The characters are excellent, and the plot gripping - although slightly meandering at times. My only slight grumble is that it can be hard to initially grasp what time period a chapter is set in, leading to some initial confusion - but once the reader gets to know the characters better it becomes far easier to sense in whose company your spending a chapter. Apparently it took the author over ten years to research and write this - and it really shows, with words carefully chosen and technical terms with what is clearly a high level of expertise. At its heart though, "The Prague Sonata" is a tale about humanity - both the good and the bad, and takes the readers on a journey that's as well written as it is memorable. Here's hoping we don't have to wait a decade for Morrow's next book!
Pippa is a writer who longs for success. Celeste tries to convince herself that her feelings for her married lover are reciprocated. Ash makes strategic use of his childhood in Sri Lanka but blots out the memory of a tragedy from that time. The Life to Come reveals how the shadows cast by both the past and the future can transform, distort and undo the present, and takes in a wide range of locales - travelling from Sydney to Paris and Sri Lanka, with the reader being introduced to an intriguing cast of characters along the way
Michelle de Kretser is an Australian novelist, born in Sri Lanka but having lived in Australia since the age of 14. Her first novel was published in 1999, and she's grown in success since then - her second novel winning the Tasmania Pacific Prize, and her third and fourth novels nominated and winning several hugely impressive literary awards. A former editor for travel guide company Lonely Planet, de Kretser clearly loves to learn about different countries and cultures - as "The Life to Come" sends the reader between Australia, France and Sri Lanka, and described them with a startling effectiveness - making it a read that's transportive and immediate.
Pippa is the lead character here, and the one who links the themes and characters of the story together. She's interesting enough, but it's in the smaller characters where de Kretser's writing really shines - glimpses of fascinating people met in wonderfully described places. The book almost reads like a collection of novellas with an overarching theme - and that worked well for me, making it an easy read and enabling Kretser to introduce as many themes and concepts as she likes without them becoming too overbearing, as they perhaps could in one straightforward narrative. In fact, several historical moments touched upon were completely new to me, which added a new layer of interest - but at times I did feel that I perhaps missed moments of humour or satire due to my not being Australian - this is a book that deals with Australian culture and society head on, and as someone whose experience of Australia essentially extends to watching Neighbours as a child, I feel that there were aspects I didn't appreciate as much as I should have done.
However, this is a highly enjoyable read written by a skilled author - compelling, clever, and constantly encouraging the reader to question the decisions of the characters and the society they find themselves in - many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
Of course I want to be like them. They're beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.
And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.
One terrible morning, Jude and her sisters see their parents murdered in front of them. The terrifying assassin abducts all three girls to the world of Faerie, where Jude is installed in the royal court but mocked and tormented by the Faerie royalty for being mortal.
As Jude grows older, she realises that she will need to take part in the dangerous deceptions of the fey to ever truly belong.
But the stairway to power is fraught with shadows and betrayal. And looming over all is the infuriating, arrogant and charismatic Prince Cardan . . .
Holly Black is an American author, probably best known for "The Spiderwick Chronicles" which she writes with author Tony DiTerlizzi. Here she begins a new Young Adult Fantasy trilogy - set to continue with a second book in 2019 and a third in 2020. However, worlds full of faerie's, intrigue and strong female characters are ten a penny at the moment, so does "The Cruel Prince" have the staying power to hook audiences in for the long run?
In short - it's a yes. Holly Black isn't messing around here - she pulls the audience into her story with a brutal attack, before delving into a complicated and cleverly built fantasy world that the reader can't help but be pulled into.
This isn't for young audiences - the plot is violent, adult and impressively complex - leading the reader into directions that are utterly unexpected - not least the fantastic ending that leads things wonderfully open-ended for the sequel.
It's in character that Black excels here - every single one encountered in "The Cruel Prince" is layered and complex - no stereotypes here but three-dimensional characters who breathe life into the pages of this novel. Jude especially is deliciously complex - not always likeable and not always understandable, but always hugely readable and a strong, compelling and driven lead who I'm sure readers everywhere will be loving.
With brave world building, complex characters and an intriguing plot all piled into one novel, this is a huge success - "The Cruel Prince" is sure to fly off the shelves upon its release, and I for one cannot wait for the sequel. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.