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23 September 2014

Hollow Shotguns
Khalid Patel
Severest Inks
Publication Date
Dec 2013
Horror, YA, Apocalypse


"To stop a demon, sometimes you must become a demon."

The apocalypse hits. A fierce disease twists civilians into fire-obsessed, flesh-consuming ferals. The threads of society fray, burn...
A band of boys traverse an increasingly darkening world to reach their lone hope of safety.
As the battle for survival escalates, the bounds of the human psyche are bleakly tested.

Hollow Shotguns is the subversive debut of British writer Khalid Patel. Inspired prose, mesmeric dialogue, harrowing gut-wrenches and throat-burning humour sculpt a rebellious narrative that point-blank refuses to conform to convention. This is a bold, breathless dark ride.

Hollow Shotguns is innovative and artful apocalyptic fiction, a socio-political examination of modern society, cerebral horror, and a blood-pulsing trip that challenges as much as it entertains. The offbeat, slang-loaded style of dialogue Khalid Patel employs for Hollow Shotguns is as hypnotic as his beautifully brain-tickling prose.

Hollow Shotguns is subversive literature at its most brutal...

The unsanitized violence.

The scalding social commentary.

The raw challenge.

Be warned, this is not a fucking beach read.

My review:  
A story of growing up as much as a story about zombies and an apocalypse. 

4 teenagers - Mills, Cade, Slash and Zeth form 'The Set' who live in a not-so-desirable part of town. Each have their own problems with parents and siblings. But they stick together, mostly against their arch enemy Thumb, the estate's bully. But after a short intro chapter about each character, things quickly happen here. A virus attacks people and quickly turns them into flesh-eating zombies. The four boys are thrown together and than happen to come across their old enemy pick Thumb - who now, that there is no-one left, becomes their buddy in a fight against the zombies. Old enemies aside, there is now a new battle ground  Well, is not that simple. The five of them try to find their way to the supposed 'safe zone' into the unknown with many adventures on the way. Thumb was probably my favourite character. The bully everyone hates. 

For me, this was not only a flesh-ripping zombie story, but very much a story of growing up, friendship, boys becoming young man. Which is quite ironic actually, because the vaccine they have had against turning into zombies only works as soon as they are not adults. 

I suppose you would need to like the zombie genre to fully enjoy this book. Admittedly, it is probably not for everyone, and definitely not for someone looking for a cosy read. There are nasty things at work, and bloods and guts splatter about. You would also need to get used to the teen language Patel is using - a language these children use in their own communication - no need to use proper language when you have known each other for such a long time and are that good friends. But this took me all but one chapter and than I could easy understand their teenage speak (being a woman of 40+ years :) 

Here an example/ extract

"Unseen, hombre."
"Head-dick better not have dets again, else..."


I enjoy the writing of this author and his prose enormously.
Here is one example: 

The shotgun screams. 

See what I mean. I shotgun does not simple shoot, but screams. I can hear it scream, I can hear the people scream. 

At the same time, if you do enjoy the genre and are a bit fed up of 'same, same' stories, than I would recommend trying this story. Also anyone who likes apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories. With under 300 pages, this is also not a huge time investment and could even go as a quick weekend-read. Give it a try. 

About the author:  

Khalid Patel is the British writer of cult, underground literature. His works are known for their subversive, unconventional qualities. Challenging narratives, unusual dialogue& beautifully offbeat prose are a staple of his writings. His words, also frequently laced with scalding social commentary & sneaky dark humour, wrenches readers out of their comfort zone for an unforgettable, jolting experience.

An English Literature graduate & culture junkie, Khalid breathes movies (particularly South Korean cinema), comic-books & videogames…passions which frequently seep into his works. He also copiously digs New York, pasta and wearing black shirts.

Khalid Patel advocates activism & the questioning of the status quo. He has supported greater rights for Burma (the birth country of his mother) long before the mass media began highlighting the brutalities & human right atrocities perpetrated by its military junta government. He is also a fierce critic of far-right, fascist outfits such as the English Defence League (EDL); he has attended anti-racism & anti-hate protests where he has engaged in running street battles with Neo-Nazis.

Khalid's stories are often laced with searing socio-political asides, quietly making his readers mull deeper issues whilst they're being entertained. With his writings, Khalid also seeks to disintegrate media-reinforced stereotypes of Muslims & people of brown colour. He is keen to raise the literacy rates of British South Asians, especially males, & hopes his stories more shall catch an interest in literature.

"This kid breaks some rules & he breaks them across people's faces… Khalid Patel represents a new age in fiction. He examines traditional fiction and turns it on its head with technology & innovation." Eryk Pruitt, author of Dirtbag

11 September 2014

The autumn selection for the Richard and Judy Book Club is out! I'm going to get my order in with WH Smith's. I they give you all 8 books for £29.99. I'm not affiliated to them in any way, but I think this might be the cheapest if you want to get all 8. But check each individual on Kindle - might be even better value. Now just one question remains... when I can find the time to read just for myself and not for review / academic purpose arrrghhhh

What I do like about the R&J book club is that they are promoting quite a few new authors - in fact I don't think I read any of those introduces this autumn before. Apologies, I'm not sure whether all of them are first time authors (I don't think so). And there is something for everyone, from crime to historical to Sci Fi to Autobiography. 

Here are the books:

1. Daughter by Jane Shemilt

When a teenage girl goes missing her mother discovers she doesn't know her daughter as well as she thought in Jane Shemilt's haunting debut novel, Daughter. 

The Night Of The Disappearance - She used to tell me everything. They have a picture. It'll help. But it doesn't show the way her hair shines so brightly it looks like sheets of gold. She has a tiny mole, just beneath her left eyebrow. She smells very faintly of lemons. She bites her nails. She never cries. She loves autumn, I wanted to tell them. She collects leaves, like a child does. She is just a child. Find her. 

One year later - Naomi is still missing. Jenny is a mother on the brink of obsession. The Malcolm family is in pieces. Is finding the truth about Naomi the only way to put them back together? Or is the truth the thing that will finally tear them apart?

2. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Harry August is on his deathbed. Again. No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes. Until now. As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. 'I nearly missed you, Doctor August,' she says. 'I need to send a message.' This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.

3.  The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

In 1875, Sisi, the Empress of Austria is the woman that every man desires and every woman envies. Beautiful, athletic and intelligent, Sisi has everything - except happiness. Bored with the stultifying etiquette of the Hapsburg Court and her dutiful but unexciting husband, Franz Joseph, Sisi comes to England to hunt. She comes looking for excitement and she finds it in the dashing form of Captain Bay Middleton, the only man in Europe who can outride her. Ten years younger than her and engaged to the rich and devoted Charlotte, Bay has everything to lose by falling for a woman who can never be his. But Bay and the Empress are as reckless as each other, and their mutual attraction is a force that cannot be denied.

4. The Martian by Andy Weir

I'm stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Earth. I'm in a Habitat designed to last 31 days. If the Oxygenator breaks down, I'll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I'll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I'll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I'll eventually run out of food and starve to death. So yeah. I'm screwed.

5. Someone Else's Skin by Sarah Hilary

Called to a woman's refuge to take a routine witness statement, DI Marnie Rome instead walks in on an attempted murder. Trying to uncover the truth from layers of secrets, Marnie finds herself confronting her own demons. Because she, of all people, knows that it can be those closest to us we should fear the most...

6. The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman

When time is running out every moment is precious...When Claire starts to write her Memory Book, she already knows that this scrapbook of mementoes will soon be all her daughters and husband have of her. But how can she hold onto the past when her future is slipping through her fingers...?

7. The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson

London, 1727 - and Tom Hawkins is about to fall from his heaven of card games, brothels and coffee-houses into the hell of a debtors' prison. The Marshalsea is a savage world of its own, with simple rules: those with family or friends who can lend them a little money may survive in relative comfort. Those with none will starve in squalor and disease. And those who try to escape will suffer a gruesome fate at the hands of the gaol's rutheless governor and his cronies. The trouble is, Tom Hawkins has never been good at following rules - even simple ones. And the recent grisly murder of a debtor, Captain Roberts, has brought further terror to the gaol. While the Captain's beautiful widow cries for justice, the finger of suspicion points only one way: to the sly, enigmatic figure of Samuel Fleet. Some call Fleet a devil, a man to avoid at all costs. But Tom Hawkins is sharing his cell. Soon, Tom's choice is clear: get to the truth of the murder - or be the next to die.

8. Under a Mackerel Sky by Rick Stein

'All men should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.' Rick Stein's childhood in 1950s rural Oxfordshire and North Cornwall was idyllic. His parents were charming and gregarious, their five children much-loved and given freedom typical of the time. As he grew older, the holidays were filled with loud and lively parties in his parents' Cornish barn. But ever-present was the unpredicatible mood of his bipolar father, with Rick frequently the focus of his anger and sadness. When Rick was 18 his father killed himself. Emotionally adrift, Rick left for Australia, carrying a suitcase stamped with his father's initials. Manual labour in the outback followed by adventures in America and Mexico toughened up the naive public schoolboy, but at heart he was still lost and unsure what to do with his life. Eventually, Cornwall called him home. From the entrepreneurial days of his mobile disco, the Purple Tiger, to his first, unlikely unlikely nightclub where much of the time was spent breaking up drink-fuelled fights, Rick charts his personal journey in a way that is both wry and perceptive; engaging and witty.

10 September 2014

Bengali Five Spice Chronicle
Rnku Bhattacharya
Hippocrene Books Inc U.S.
Publication Date
Jan 2013

Bengal, located in eastern India, is famous for its cuisine, which features a unique five-spice blend called panchphoron. Bengali cooking balances fresh, local ingredients with delicate spices to produce an array of mostly vegetarian, fish, and shellfish delights.

With over 180 easy-to-follow recipes, Rinku Bhattacharya brings you the best of the Bengali table, including temping dishes like Steamed Mustard Fish Wrapped in Banana Leaves, Eggs Cooked in Caramelised Onion Sauce, Crisp Lentil Cakes in Curried Gravy, and Golden Cauliflower in Orange Mustard Sauce. A through introduction to Bengali culture and cooking; sections on spices, ingredients, and equipment; and lively family anecdotes, history, and cultural information round out this unique cookbook. 

My review:  

Having a husband who was brought up in the Indian Subcontinent, spicy Indian cuisine has always played a big part in our home cooking. We do, of course, cook most of the recipes which I do know from my Pakistani mother-in-law. But I am new to Bengali cooking, so I was really excited when I received this book for review. 

The cover appealed to me straight away. I liked the fact that it did not show a cooked dish, but cute little pots with the spice mixes, underlining the fact that the spices will play a main part in the book. And it made it stand out for me from the crowd of the other cooking books on the book shop shelves. If you are into cooking with spices, you know straight away that you are right here.

Many cook books have a 'pre-story' where the author tells us a little bit about the background. Here, this is quite extensive and makes very interesting reading about the personal story of the author, and than a brief culinary journey into Bengal. And, of course, the Panch Phoron, the Five Spice Mix upon which the book is based, is explained. 

Chapter One gives us: Ingredients, Techniques and Tools. First - don't be frightened off by the unusual spices if you are not used to the ingredients. They are (at least in the UK) actually quite easy to find. The chapter also provides a useful reference point if you ever have to look back. Chapter Two introduces us to the Bengali meal - eating the Bengali way and Practical Every Day Menus. Again, this is something I have not often seen in cooking books. I certainly had the impression that the family meal is a very important part of Bengali life. 

The recipes are than arranged around the five spices of the Panch Phoron spice mix: Mustard Seeds, Nigella Seeds, Fenugreek, Fennel Seeds and Cumin Seeds. Many of the recipes have a personal background story which I loved. And now one of the most important parts - is it actually easy to cook the recipes? I tried page 69 My Uncle's Yellow Bengali Gram Lentils Mesho's Cholar Dal. 

1. Ingredients:
Where they easy to find?
Yes, certainly. Here in the UK, you can find Bengali Gram Lentils and the spices used (turmeric, cayenne pepper powder, fresh ginger paste, garlic, cumin, red chilli and also ghee (clarified butter) in every small 'Indian' grocery store. Some of the bigger supermarkets also stock them. 

2. Was it easy to cook?
Couldn't have been easier. As a busy mum, all it took was maybe 5 mins of preparing, and than 30 mins cooking. 

3. and the main question:
was it tasty?
Yes, it was! It can be served as a main dish and as a side dish. It didn't take a lot of effort - admittedly, it was on of the easier recipes in the book and nothing fancy, but it did the job and provided a quick meal. 

One amendment I made was to use oil rather than ghee for purpose of calorie savings. I guess used with ghee it would be a richer taste, but it was still fine with ordinary oil.

Here is my dish:

I wished there would have been more pictures. There is a section in the middle with a few pictures which makes your mouth water. It is always nice to be able to have pictures with every recipe in a cooking book, but the large number of recipes in this book would make this very difficult indeed I guess. 

One slight moan from me: I do not like it when the measurement of 'cup' is used (i.e. use 1 1/2 cups of ....) - I prefer to have my measurement in grams / pounds etc. I am a bit picky in the sense that I want exact measurements. 

In summary, this books is most likely one of the most extensive introductions to Bengali cooking on the market. If you like spicy cooking and would like to try something else, this is a wonderful book to get you started. Also, if you like vegetarian cooking and wanting a change from you usual recipes - this book has the most extensive selection of lentil recipes I've seen. 

About the author:  

Rinku Bhattacharya was born in Kolkata, India and currently resides in Westchester, New York. She teaches cooking classes, maintains a popular food blog, Cooking in Westchester, and writes a weekly column, "Spices and Season", for the Journal News website. 

9 September 2014

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intro is hosted by Diane at Bibliophile By The Sea.

This is how it works: Write down either the first paragraph of a book your are currently reading / intending to read or read in the past and share with us. I do like a good opening!

My current read is Hollow Shotguns by Khalid Patel. A review book I received. I have reviewed for this author before, and I do like his very unusual style and incredible way with words. This is a story of 5 teenagers caught up in a zombie apocalypse. Not for everyone, admittedly, but a bit of an usual take on the subject. So if you are a fan of the genre and are a bit fed up of 'same old, same old', might want to give this one a try. 

WARNING- swearing / descriptions of violence and blood throughout.

Opening paragraph: 

"Man, this is fucking in-SANE!" He sways the bat back, unleashes the tool of hurt. The wood defiles the frail flesh, brittle bone.
 A crimson warmth mists their countenances.
Scarlet ink seeps from the splintered skull,now scattered about the room.
An exultant Slash kneels from the force of his swing, throat trobbing mirth. Never has wild execution felt so satisfying.
Body tissues hang soaked in adrenaline. Smiles, blood sully visages.

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should be reading. 
These are the rules  :
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

From Hollow Shotguns by Khalid Patel:

Few of the school's prisoner's were expected to succeed. the males, if not incarcerated, would work the city factories, continuing the labour of their fathers. The girls would become destitute mothers, compliant housewives, or, if fortunate, underpaid beauticians. The prettier ones would perhaps befriend the pole.

2 September 2014

Cats, Scarves and Liars
Kathryn White
Publication Date
April 2014
Novella, Paranormal


Meet Peppa Grove. Peppa is just your average Australian young woman, really. 23 years old, widowed and owner of a cat who can speak perfect English. (But no one will believe her about the cat.) Why is she being stalked by one of the customers from her job at the City South Post Office? What secrets does the mysterious Ivory Black know about Peppa and her past? What does he know about the strange murders that are happening all over Adelaide? And was it really necessary of him to steal her boyfriend's scarf? 

Cats, Scarves and Liars is a quirky, unlikely tale from a unique Australian writer. You'll laugh, you'll cry you'll discover the meaning of life. (Actually, we lied about that last part.)

My review:  

After the first paragraph, I knew I would love Peppa Grove, and had to read on. A bargain kettle from a market stall. Yep, that would be me, and who doesn't love a bargain. Peppa felt like a friend to me straight away. She chats to us in the first chapters, telling us about her young husband who died in a car accident, her job at the local post office (I loved that section and anyone who ever worked in customer service will have a good giggle), her best friend Julian. And she chats to her cat.

But do not let the cat in the title fool you - this is no cosy cat and her owner story, this has a lot more bite to it. Her cat is clearly talking to her. And, of course, whenever others are around he doesn't say a word. And things go missing. And she also finds other things in her house which she definitely didn't purchase. Good that she has her best friend Julian who helps her after the sudden death of her young husband. Than there is the mysterious Ivory Black who somehow always seems to happen to turn up wherever Peppa is and treats her rather strangely and is quite mean to her without any reason.

There is a paranormal element to this story which for me came quite unexpectedly here. But it's not one of those completely unbelievable plots and I think it fitted the story rather nicely. 

I do have a bit of problems with the character of Ivory Black. Without giving too much away... as often with characters who are not very pleasant, he is presented in way he sees himself. This did made a me a bit uncomfortable at times. 

This book is not very long, only 188 pages,  a quick read which will keep you interested.