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The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech (Orenda Books)

Reading a Louise Beech novel is like eating a beautifully crafted cupcake: you know before you taste it that it is going to be amazing, you enjoy every delicious mouthful and you feel sad after eating the last bite because this wonderful morsel has given you such immense pleasure that you can’t bear the thought that it is finished. i was very excited about the release of The Lion Tamer Who Lost and it sounded very intriguing. Here’s the blurb:

Be careful what you wish for…
Long ago, Andrew made a childhood wish, and kept it in a silver box. When it finally comes true, he
wishes it hadn’t…
Long ago, Ben made a promise and he had a dream: to travel to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve.
When he finally makes it, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined…
Ben and Andrew keep meeting in unexpected places, and the intense relationship that develops seems
to be guided by fate. Or is it?
What if the very thing that draws them together is tainted by past secrets that threaten everything?

One thing that always strikes me about Beech’s novels is that they are never one genre or another. You can’t fit her novels into a category, which is testament to the brilliant imagination that she has to generate a novel that is completely individual and incomparable to any other. The Lion Tamer Who Lost is no different. The characters go on a journey that Beech crafts beautifully, taking the reader back and forth in time to explain Ben and Andrew’s stories.

There’s an incredible honesty about The Lion Tamer Who Lost that enables the reader to sympathise with every character, even when they are doing something that is not necessarily the right thing to do. Each character has their flaws but the way Beech portrays them gives the reader a rounded view of them so they can forgive the character’s bad decisions. Every character has a tale to tell that shapes their attitudes and behaviour, and they are not always as the reader would expect.

The structure that Beech uses in this novel is perfect for building up the stories of these characters without giving everything away. The novel starts mid-way through Ben and Andrew’s stories then you are taken back and forth between the past and present day to illuminate why Ben seems despondent and somewhat haunted in the initial chapters. The quotes from Andrew’s books at the beginning of each chapter also carry their own messages and it is a perfectly balanced novel to create an optimum amount of mystery and desire to find out the full picture.

Love is, without a doubt, the main theme of this novel and Beech depicts the intensity of familial love, passionate/sexual love and friendship love with incredible skill. In Beech’s dedication at the front of the novel, she quotes her friend who says “love is love, no matter who it’s between”, and this is ultimately the message that you get from this novel, and what a beautiful sentiment to be left with! This has always been my own belief too, so to read a novel which reinforces that has been an absolute pleasure.

Yet again, Louise Beech has created a perfect novel. I have yet to read anything by Beech that I have felt has been missing something, which is why I always look forward to reading her stories. I enjoyed this novel from start to finish and I laughed, and cried, which is always a good sign. This is an incredibly moving novel, as Beech’s novels always are, and it was immensely enjoyable to read, taking me no time at all, as I couldn’t put it down. Louise Beech is undoubtedly the jewel in the Orenda Books crown and I look forward to reviewing her next masterpiece.

thumbnail_Lion Tamer front cover final

 

The Backstreets of Purgatory by Helen Taylor

I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for The Backstreets of Purgatory by Helen Taylor.

The Backstreets of Purgatory is a novel that brings together a variety of characters in Partick whose stories, though separate, intertwine throughout. Finn Garvie, the main character, is a spoilt man-child who strives for perfection in his art. He aspires to be the Caravaggio, his inspiration, of his time, but is struggling to assimilate his ideas onto the canvas. His girlfriend, who loves him, doesn’t know what to do with him; his best friend just irritates him and he is beguiled by the beautiful Kassia, convinced that she is his muse. When Caravaggio himself shows up in Finn’s life, stuck in purgatory until he assists Finn in finding his art mojo, Finn’s life takes an unexpected and sinister route.

This is an unusually constructed novel that deals with mental health issues, societal expectations and the individual character’s perceptions of success or failure. Taylor tells each character’s story, their thoughts on how their life has got to where it is and where they think it is going, and mirrors this with the other character’s who are inextricably linked across the board.

Taylor gives us a well-written, highly descriptive novel that is reminiscent of classic novels, with multi-sensual descriptions, and detailed, multi-faceted characters that are fraught with worries and show a distinct lack of confidence in themselves, that encourages them to skew their view of their surroundings and of those people around them.

This book also provides the reader with a lesson in Caravaggio himself. I knew nothing about Caravaggio beforehand, and Taylor gives enough biographical information and that of his paintings to give the reader enough information to follow the story but it also gives the reader an education too.

I found this novel a little unusual in places but it is funny, emotional, violent at times, and often poignant, ticking a lot of boxes in my “good novel” checklist. I look forward to reading Taylor’s next novel.

Absolution by Paul Hardisty

The Claymore Straker series by Paul Hardisty is without a doubt a very valuable jewel in the Orenda Books crown. Every novel is a journey, figuratively and literally as Straker travels far and wide to fight his cause. I was honoured to be asked back on to the blog tour for this latest instalment.

In Absolution, Straker almost shares the limelight with his old flame, Rania, as she gives an account of her story in journal form alongside the third person narration of Clay’s story. Having kept his head down since giving evidence about his military service in South Africa to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, his cover is blown and those who surround him are put in grave danger as he is hunted down. Parallel to this, Rania’s husband and young son have gone missing, and she is being framed for their murder. As both parties try to solve their problems using their skills honed from previous adventures, Clay and Rania try to help each other whilst fighting their feelings for each other for the greater good.

As with the other books in this series, Hardisty writes with great intelligence and weaves his narrative with scientific, political and religious analysis to educate the reader and provide truthful background to the settings in which he places Clay and Rania. Together with the stunning imagery to describe the most barren of landscapes, and his brilliant character structuring, a Hardisty novel does not disappoint.

The dual narrative with Rania’s diary and Clay’s perspective through a third person works really well. Both characters are flawed and are haunted by their past actions, yet both characters are driven by love to make difficult choices. Sometimes there is no good decision for the character’s to make and Hardisty’s bravery for putting these decisions into their hands is to be admired.

This novel moves fast and it did not take me long to read it, mainly because I could not put it down. Straker is such an intriguing character and no matter what he does, the reader wants him to have a happy ending, ideally with Rania given their attraction to each other. From the title of the book, and the direction the narrative takes, Hardisty could well leave this series as it is and it will be beautifully rounded off. However, there is undoubtedly potential for more and I would be sorry if this would be the last Straker novel.

The Meal of Fortune by Philip Brady

I was delighted to be asked to read and review The Meal of Fortune by Philip Brady. From the premise of the novel, it seemed like it would be a funny story.

Here’s the blurb:

THE BLURB:  The world of arms dealing, espionage and TV cookery collide in this fast moving comedy caper.

Failing celebrity agent Dermot Jack thinks his luck might have turned when a mysterious Russian oligarch hires him to represent his pop star daughter.

Disaffected MI5 officer Anna Preston is just as happy to be handed the chance to resurrect her own career. Little do they know that their paths are about to cross again after seventeen years as they’re thrown together in a desperate attempt to lure a notorious arms dealer into a highly unusual trap.

Hard enough without having to deal with the lecherous celebrity chef trying to save his daytime TV career or the diminutive mafia enforcer who definitely has his own agenda. Then there’s the very impatient loan shark who ‘just wants his money back’.

And Anna’s bosses are hardly playing it straight either. But one thing’s for sure. There’ll be winners and losers when the Meal of Fortune finally stops spinning. Oh, and another thing, Anna and Dermot are absolutely not about to fall in love again. That’s never going to happen, OK?

There is a lot going on in this novel but Brady keeps the plot moving with wonderful fluidity. Each character brings its own comedy to the story and all the characters are hilariously flawed in some way.

Alongside the hilariously funny characters, the plot is exciting and keeps the reader gripped throughout. Brady has multiple storylines going on yet manages to seamlessly link them all to a fantastic conclusion.

I really enjoyed reading this novel. Any novel that offers up funny and exciting, like The Meal of Fortune does, is well worth a read and I would recommend it for anyone who likes a book that makes them laugh out loud.

The Man Who Loved Islands by David F. Ross (Orenda Books)

The Last Days of Disco and The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespa’s have been two of my favourite books of the last two years. I have been looking forward to reading the final book in the Disco Days trilogy, The Man Who Loved Islands, whilst feeling a bit sad that this is the last one. However, I knew that it would be a fitting end to what has been a brilliant series.

Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller, once best friends, now barely acquaintances, have slowly come to realise that while they have followed their passions, now middle-aged, life has left them behind and they are depressed at the thought that their best years are behind them with nothing to look forward to but loneliness and eventual death. Having both reached an impasse in their respective lives, with health problems looming over them and career satisfaction a thing of the past, they are forced to re-assess where it all went wrong and to try to make things right. They need to find a common purpose, and using contacts from their past lives, including the mad, but hilariously funny, Max Mojo, former manager of the Miraculous Vespas, Bobby and Joey embark on a challenge of a lifetime, to try and right some wrongs and to secure a future for them both.

The Man Who Loved Islands, like the first two books, is a political and social commentary using the predominantly working class characters to highlight what it is like to make your own destiny in the face of social adversity. Ross discusses crippling mental illness, overwhelming loneliness, ambition and the ties of family in good times and bad, with a remarkable honesty. What Ross does so beautifully is that he creates a narrative with the perfect balance of poignancy and hilarity that keeps the reader invested in his characters and they will laugh and cry with each emotionally charged chapter.

The soundtrack to each novel is integral to the action on the page and in The Man Who Loved Islands, this is no different. Ross threads classic songs throughout the narrative to add another layer to the story. Much like a film creates an emotional connection by its soundtrack, so too does the song choices in Ross’s novels. Of course, Bobby is a DJ, and Max Mojo is a band manager, so music is an important aspect of the plot anyway, but the choice of songs is key, provoking a memory in the reader or placing the action at a particular time or location, and as much as the reader is mentally reading the novel in a Scottish accent (that might just be me), they are also mentally listening to the soundtrack as they read, which undoubtedly enhances the reading experience.

Ross also takes advantage of the locations in which his novels are set. Most notably in The Man Who Loved Islands, is the use of the Ailsa Craig as the location of Bobby and Joey’s challenge. Ailsa Craig reflects a monument that stands the test of time despite being battered by the elements and the wildlife, perhaps in the same way that the friendships within the trilogy survive despite taking a severe beating over the years. Bobby and Joey have had a turbulent relationship since they parted ways in their late teens but they remain fiercely loyal to each other, often despite themselves. Even Max Mojo, who looks after himself first, also seems to look after those who have helped him over the years, even if it is not always intentional.

The Man Who Loved Islands is a story about what happens when you have fought for your dreams against all odds, but have squandered friendships along the way, finding yourself lonely, regretful and unhappy. All the characters are perched on a knife-edge and their fortunes could go either way with every decision that they make, but ultimately, they have reached middle age and something is missing. Ross has finished off this trilogy in tremendous fashion. As we have come to expect from Ross, the plot lines have been intricately woven, and have been tied up beautifully in this last novel in the trilogy. Among the humour and the sadness, Ross injects hope into his novels and even when there seems to be no way back, the spirit of the characters in adversity as they rally each other in their own inimitable way, encourages the reader to see that everyone has the opportunity to change their trajectory.

Looking at the trilogy as a whole, this is a fantastic politically, socially and musically influenced set of novels about growing up and out of Ayrshire in the 80’s and revisiting the characters in the present day to see how they did. I love a book that can make me laugh out loud in one chapter and make me an emotional wreck in the next and every single book in this trilogy has had this effect on me. I have enjoyed every single page of these novels, from the nostalgia filled first book to the reality check third novel and I’m sorry that it is all over. I’m very much looking forward to reading future David F Ross novels, but I will be undoubtedly be revisiting this trilogy in the future as these novels have become firm favourites.

Man Who Loves Islands

My Girl – Jack Jordan

Today is my day on the blog tour for Jack Jordan’s latest novel, My Girl. I hadn’t read any of Jordan’s work before this novel so I didn’t really know what to expect. Sometimes I think that it is good to read a book without any expectations and that is certainly the case with My Girl. I rarely get chance to read a book from cover to cover but I was compelled from the first page until the last and finished this book in no time at all.

My Girl tells the story of Paige, a woman whose alcoholism is spiralling out of control following the murder of her daughter and the suicide of her husband. She pushes away those who love and care for her and as descends to new lows, strange things start to happen that has Paige questioning her sanity as she realises that she is fast losing grip on reality.

I’ve tried to be as vague as possible in this overview so I don’t ruin the novel for future readers as this is a book that will absolutely floor you by its twists and turns. This beautifully written book puts you in Paige’s shoes as the reader learns the depths of this poor woman’s despair. My Girl is filled with pathos and it is a highly emotional read. I was regularly moved to tears and Jordan treats extremely emotive topics with such sensitivity and tact that he is able to elicit a truly sympathetic response to Paige, even when she isn’t helping herself.

My Girl is difficult to review without revealing too much, but like a few books I’ve read recently, it is one of those magical books that you wish you can un-read and read again, just so you can relive the shocks and rollercoaster of emotions that Jordan provides in this book. Jordan has struck a beautiful balance between character and plot to give the reader a perfect reading experience. My Girl deals with topics that are not particularly pleasant but the novel as a whole is just brilliant. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but if you like a gritty, gripping novel, you’ll love My Girl.

Raking the Dust by John Biscello

I am often approached by authors asking me to review their novel and whilst I always agree to do them, my reading time is greatly diminished these days, so I make sure to advise that I will review their book but unfortunately there may be a bit of a wait. John Biscello is one of these authors who has waited for quite some time for a review, so here it is. Apologies for the delay!

Raking The Dust tells the story of Alex Fillameno, divorced dad of Samantha, an, as yet, unrecognised literary genius and friend to all. When he meets DJ, Dahlia Jane, he is captivated by this woman and the way she makes him feel. Yet he seems perpetually in a state of ennui and no matter what is good about his life, he is haunted by his past and does not seem to be able to get a proper grasp on where his future lies. As DJ introduces him to a lifestyle he would never have imagined, he becomes obsessed with the practices she introduces him to.

If I am honest, I really struggled to get through this book. Whilst Biscello is a beautiful writer in terms of his poetic flair and his wonderful use of figurative language, I wasn’t quite sure what he was trying to tell the reader most of the time. With a mix of reality and fantasy just a bit too far and wide to marry up, I found it difficult to follow. I’m sure there is some kind of abstract meaning but unfortunately I struggled to grasp it.

There are sections of lucidity, such as when Alex is with his ex-wife and daughter, and when he is talking about Jeannie, his former girlfriend. This holds promise of discovering more about why Alex is so lost within himself. Then there are sections of confusing narrative where it is difficult to know what is real and what isn’t. Biscello’s decision not to use speech marks is often misleading and leads the reader (or at least, me) to read certain passages a number of times to grasp who is speaking within the conversation. In a series of fairly feasible events, there was a certain aspect, of which I won’t mention here for those that may wish to find out for themselves, that raised the narrative to a level of fantasy that didn’t really work for me. The sexual act that takes place between DJ and Alex is so unrealistic that it just seemed to overshadow the whole novel with a big question mark.

I think perhaps I was missing some point that may be obvious to others who have read it but I couldn’t for the life of me see it, which was such a shame because I did like Biscello’s writing style. He writes with such a lovely poetic style that the plot of this story seems a bit wasted on such beautiful phrasing. Also the references to various writers and poets was fascinating to read and Biscello is obviously very well read. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate it by any means but I did not enjoy it as much as some other books I have read recently.

I loved Samantha. She was my favourite character. Biscello describes her childlike innocence and occasional adult-like responses perfectly and Alex’s exchanges with her are really lovely. He is a good Dad to her for the most part and knowing how much he nurtures Samantha and how much she loves her Daddy makes it all the more frustrating when Alex seemingly forgets his responsibilities in favour of being a drunk, drugged up bum. I like a book where I can cheer on the main protagonist and I didn’t feel that connection with Alex.

Whilst I wasn’t a fan of Raking The Dust, I would love to read more of Biscello’s writing but this novel wasn’t to my taste. That’s not to say it was a bad book, but it wasn’t for me. All reading enjoyment is essentially down to personal taste and for me, this didn’t tick my boxes. However, if you do read it, and you can see where I’ve missed a significant point, please let me know. If you like something that is a bit different and you don’t mind a heavily realistic novel with a dash of bizarre, perhaps this may be the book for you.

Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus (Orenda Books)

I’m having a wonderful time reading the new offerings by Orenda Books as they come to me at the moment. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Orenda Books are on fire! I’ve yet to read a book by this publisher that I haven’t enjoyed from cover to cover. I’ve not only enjoyed, but been blown away by the uniquely complex plots and beautifully written narratives that are unlike any others that I’ve read. My latest Orenda read was Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus.

Epiphany Jones is a dark tale whose main protagonist, Jerry, has had a traumatic life to date, which has left him psychologically damaged. He hallucinates on a regular basis and his sex life is based on fantasy connections with women from his past. As he just about manages to hold his job down at an art gallery as a colour correction operative, he finds himself accused of stealing a famous Van Gogh painting and being followed by the strange Epiphany Jones.

As a completely unreliable narrator, the reader is left as bewildered as Jerry, as he openly admits he has problems and his judgement can’t be trusted. Grothaus takes the reader in different directions so you are not really sure what is going on from one chapter to the next, much like Jerry. He is fully aware of his hallucinations but isn’t always sure what is real and what isn’t which provides the reader with an extra sense of suspense throughout. Grothaus has struck a great balance between his main protagonist as equally funny and pitiful as he is thrust into a bizarre turn of events that he has no control of. Epiphany calls the shots, yet for some unknown reason, needs Jerry for her own end game.

Grothaus tackles mental health issues with a no-nonsense approach and illuminates how these issues can be used to take advantage of vulnerable people. He also shows the use of religion as a mask for unsavoury individuals and in Epiphany, he shows the depth of her belief in God, so much so that she thinks God talks to her and tells her what to do.

Epiphany Jones doesn’t stop there. Grothaus also highlights the horrific effects of sex-trafficking across the globe and shows the seediness behind the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and gives the reader an alternative view of the film industry. The reader is shown a striking juxtaposition of the two big money industries which further adds a sense of hopelessness to Epiphany and Jerry’s plight.

From start to finish, Epiphany Jones is a moving, gripping, fast paced novel. There are amusing moments in parts but this is also such a poignant read at times, as Grothaus tackles these difficult subjects. This novel is full of conflicting emotions and disturbing parallels which gives the reader plenty to think about long after the novel has been finished. It is also a thoroughly enjoyable read, with a good balance of humour, suspense and poignancy that encompasses what Orenda Books is so brilliant at recognising in its choice of publications: that sense that this has been a reading experience that you will never forget, and that this book will remain with the reader as one to talk about for years to come. That’s certainly my experience with every Orenda book that I’ve read so far, and when someone asks me what book I’d recommend, you can guarantee that an Orenda book will be my first suggestion. Epiphany Jones, anyone?

The Assassin by PJ Fox

One of my reading resolutions to myself this year is to read any PJ Fox book that I haven’t read yet. As you may recall, the first book I read of Fox’s, The Demon of Darkling Reach, became Segnalibro’s first ever Book of the Year in 2015. I was floored by its brilliance, and The Black Prince tetralogy (of which The Demon of Darkling Reach is the first book in the series), is definitely on my list of the best series of books I’ve ever read. My next PJ Fox book was The Assassin.

The Assassin follows the fortunes of Ceres, an assassin who has visited the strange, slum strewn land of Dharavi to kill a rogue “brother” from his organisation. Ceres is good at his job but does not bargain for tenacious, child-like but beautiful Udit, who introduced herself to Ceres at an inopertune moment , leaving him astonished and bewildered at the interruption of his job.

Despite being a fairly short book, the narrative had a bit of a slow build up to give readers a real sense of Ceres’ surroundings and of Ceres himself. Beautifully written by Fox, as I knew it would be, she builds up a picture of Dharkun and of Ceres, strangely conjuring up a vague image in my mind of Clint Eastwood strutting into town to slay the bad guy! (Pretty sure this is my vivid imagination playing tricks on me, though!)

Ceres is your consummate quiet, brooding, cold-blooded killer. He does his research and savours the kill. Udit deliciously throws him off balance with her strength of character juxtaposed against her tiny build. Ceres never loses control but Udit definitely wavers his composure as she throws into question his philosophy of life and love.

Fox seems to be giving somewhat of a social critique too. Trust is a rare commodity in Dharkun, and it is a dangerous place to be. This slum town is dirty and dank, it has tyrants at every turn, yet there is a loyalty there of each other, to a large extent. Strangers are noticed and there are dangers lurking around every corner, but the people who live there know where to avoid, for the most part. There seems to be an acceptance that the bad people will do bad things and nothing can be done about it. Fox also challenges the dynamic of how certain stereotypes are perceived by mirroring Ceres level of honour and responsibility to his brotherhood and to Udit against that of Udit’s father, a cleric who tries to appear righteous but in reality, has his own agenda.

The Assassin is essentially a love story. There are some not so pretty scenes but there are some really tender scenes too. However, the one constant is Fox’s beautifully sculptured narrative. I could wax lyrical about PJ Fox’s writing skills all day. She is definitely one of my favourite writers and while this was not my favourite of Fox’s books, I enjoyed it nonetheless. Her ability to create a scene so perfectly to envelope her multi-faceted characters into is nothing short of remarkable. I am currently reading her latest Wattpad novel Prince of Darkness,the follow-up to her first Wattpad novel Book of Shadows and again, they are beautifully constructed literary works of art. If you haven’t read these yet, you really should. As for The Assassin, it truly is a fantastic novel and I would definitely recommend it.

The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas by David F.Ross

Way back in April 2015, my Book of the Month was the hilariously, yet poignantly brilliant The Last Days of Disco by David F.Ross. Since then, I’ve eagerly awaited Ross’s follow up novel, The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas. When it arrived in the post with a vinyl record of the Miraculous Vespas one-hit wonder and containing an interview with Max Mojo (voiced by Colin McCredie), band manager and one of the main protagonists of the book, I was beside myself with excitement. (I’m actively searching for someone who would be willing to offer their record player so I can actually listen to this wonderful blast from the past!)

The Rise of the Miraculous Vespas picks up where The Last Days of Disco leaves off, although a lot of the main characters from the first book are only bit parts in this next instalment, as the focus shifts to the criminal Kilmarnock underworld, with it’s rich, often-eccentric characters and tells the tale of how Max Mojo and his big ambitions for the Miraculous Vespas come to be part of a larger plan to protect the fragile Kilmarnock criminal status quo against the threat of the McLarty gang, who have previously been ousted from Kilmarnock but are planning a big comeback.

Like it’s predecessor, this book is incredibly funny and had me giggling to myself at regular intervals. Ross has a real flare for comedy and I knew this would be a really enjoyable read, purely based on his hilarious one-liners and amusing build up of farcical situations. There are two many brilliant one-liners to mention but a particular favourite of mine was:  “He now resembled a fine bottle of red, where before he had been a shook-up bottle of Vimto.”

Yet Ross hasn’t just written a book to make his readers laugh. As with The Last Days of Disco, there are a number of poignant moments throughout the book that seem to creep up on the reader when they least expect it. The narrative is so well balanced in terms of generating an array of emotions in the reader that even when Ross evokes an image of sadness, the reader knows that there will be a moment of hilarity just around the next page.

However, it is the characters that make this novel so brilliant. Max Mojo is a young man with a dream and serious mental health issues following a head trauma. He has moments of complete lucidity and other moments where he is battling with his inner voice telling him to lose control in any given situation. The other Miraculous Vespas band members are also intriguing for a variety of reasons; a complete bunch of misfits equally as individual as each other. In comparison to the Old Firm of criminals such as Washer Wishart (Max Mojo’s dad) and Fat Franny Duncan, it seems that confidence and individuality breeds success, which gives the reader a sense of hope that despite Max Mojo’s and his Vespas issues, they could just succeed. Ross’s characters complement each other so well and the picture he creates of 1980’s Kilmarnock life containing the nostalgic reminders of the news of the day, with musical markers along the way, makes for a really interesting and enjoyable read.

Like The Last Days of Disco, Ross takes the reader on a journey, but with the added perspective of a nostalgic Max Mojo, as he gives an interview alongside the narrative, giving his own perspective in his own, vulgar way. The interview sections are indicated by an italic font, making clear where the interview starts and stops. The interview, in full dialect, is a really funny vehicle to show that over the years, Max Mojo hasn’t really changed much. I am massive advocate for dialect in novels, particularly those that are trying to capture the essence of a locality, as the Disco Days novels do, and whilst it can take a little longer to read while the reader deciphers the meaning, it is generally not all that difficult to get the gist. Quite frankly, it adds an extra facet to the characters that gives the novel that extra spark of brilliance. Max Mojo’s interview links the chapters together nicely, giving a retrospective view of the events that make this story.

The overlap between The Last Days of Disco and The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas is to such a degree that you would not necessarily have to read one to understand the other. There are the odd character overlaps and general story-line links but The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas is a fine story in its own right. Ross gives us an update at the beginning of the novel to describe how one book links to the other, which is a great tactic for making sure the reader is up to speed.

The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas is a perfectly constructed sequel to The Last Days of Disco. The reader is not left with a big cliffhanger to wonder about, yet there is enough scope for further tales to be told. As there is apparently one more Disco Days book to come, there is more to look forward to, which I’m very glad about. Ross’s skill for balancing comedy with action and poignant moments is fantastic and I can’t imagine that he could write anything that I wouldn’t enjoy. There’s enough action to keep the story moving and with the multi-faceted characters and nostalgic reminders of times past, this is a truly brilliant narrative. I’ve genuinely been looking forward to this book for a long time and it didn’t disappoint one iota. I felt I had one more advantage in being able to picture Max Mojo in my mind. My four-year-old daughter is one of the biggest Woolly and Tig fans and has Woolly and Tig on constant replay on BBC iPlayer, so Colin McCredie, who is Tig’s dad (and the voice of Max Mojo on the record that I received with the book), is an image that I can recall with considerable ease. To imagine Tig’s dad in the interview, all belligerent and cocky as Max Mojo, is an image to behold! I can highly recommend watching an episode of Woolly and Tig before reading, so you too can have this added extra image in your head when you read this amazing book! If you don’t fancy watching five minutes of toddler’s drama, it certainly won’t lessen your experience of this wonderfully funny novel. Ross has done a mighty fine job of following up the brilliant The Last Days of Disco and I’m very much looking forward to reading the third and final Disco Days novel. I would recommend this book as strongly as I recommended reading The Last Days of Disco.

 

If you’d like an opportunity to win a copy of The Last Days of Disco and The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas, as well as read a fantastic short story, Waterloo Sunset, written by David F. Ross, drop by my Facebook Blogaversary Party on Friday 4th March. Segnalibro Blogaversary Facebook Event