Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

You Review a Local Author: The Price of Peace – Ron Muyzert

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Reviewed by Sheila Schenkel

It’s Wednesday morning and Dutch diplomat Rob Ginsberg is on his way to the West Bank. He’s on a mission to find out what’s happening with a large sum of money collected on Dutch streets, now that it’s being transferred to a political movement called New Palestine. It’s the beginning of a full-on spooks story.

Khalil Abu Hassan, leader of New Palestine, wants peace. As soon as possible. Peace for the Palestinians, peace with the Israelis, peace for future generations. And yet he’s under suspicion of using the € 75,000 donation for terrorist acts.

Visiting Abu Hassan at Birzeit University, Ginsberg ends up in the middle of the planning of an attack on Israel. As always, the questions are: who’s behind the attack, and when and where is it going to take place? When Ginsberg offers a ride to Abu Hassan’s assistant Lidia Shamas, he sets off on the infamous Path of No Turning Back.

Whilst unfolding the story of the donation, author Ron Muyzert lifts the veil of history, sharing his factual knowledge of Israel and the way its politicians ensure a state of their own. While diplomat Ginsberg’s story is fictional, he learns stories from the past that are real. Muyzert manages to keep that balance. Unfortunately, the characters as well as their dialogues remain a bit wooden.

The Price of Peace could have done with a few side stories. Perhaps the love story of Ginsberg and his Dutch girlfriend could have been given some more depth, or perhaps we could have gotten some more insight into the relationships of his boss Paul Kramer?

That being said, this book makes a very interesting read — especially if you’re at all fascinated by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

You Review a Local Author: Books with an orange connection, reviewed by ABC customers.

The Price of Peace was first published in Dutch, as De prijs van vrede, by Uitgeverij Van Gennep (2012).  Ron Muyzert is a senior diplomat in the Dutch foreign service. He served as Ambassador in Bolivia and Cuba. From 2000 to 2003 he was Head of the Dutch Representative Office in Ramallah.  He launched the English translation of his book at ABC The Hague in March 2014.

The Price of Peace is self-published on ABC’s Espresso Book Machine.

You Review: Fourth of July Creek – Smith Henderson

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Reviewed by Didi Groenhoff

Even though he often feels powerless and is certainly not always welcome, social worker Pete gives his all to help deprived children and their parents in a small town in Montana. This is the real America, where for many people life is a struggle. Pete sees it all, and tries to reach out. But he’s not entirely the hero he seems to be. In his personal life he meets the same struggles as the people he works with. Despite being a lonesome man that spends many of his evenings seeking company in bars, Pete tries to break with his family which he finds stifling. And then there’s his daughter Rachel, who he hardly ever sees because she is living with her mother. Leaving his personal problems untouched Pete acts only to help people he hardly knows and is not personally attached to. And what interesting people they are…

The story is brilliantly told. Using only a few words Smith Henderson sets each scene in such a way that you virtually see it happen in front of your very eyes. Reading this book will be a source of jealousy for everyone that once tried to write himself.

But the best thing about Fourth of July Creek is not the catching story or the amazing style. The most fascinating accomplishment is that Smith Henderson succeeds in tying this narrative of ordinary people living in the rough Montana mountain lands to big American themes like Freedom and Religion. In between the lines he discusses the complicated relationship between the Citizens and their State, and the question of who bears what responsibilities and rights. Henderson forces us to think about the foundations of the USA, where they led to success and where they resulted in failure. Placing the story in the late 70’s and early 80’s shows us that what we consider to be problems of our time might not be quite that. Touching on all these big subjects does not do any harm to the narrative, flooding my brain with thoughts and considerations and leaving me truly astounded after finishing.

This book is not a critique on the American way of life, nor does it celebrate it. It sets you thinking. Just like a good book should.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

Ebook available of Fourth of July Creek.

You Review: The Oversight – Charlie Fletcher

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Reviewed by Natalie Gerritsen

The natural and supernatural world have lived on the same Earth for millennia, but the supernatural side has always kept its distance from the ‘normal’ side and indeed, the natural world doesn’t even know the supernatural world exists. The balance is kept by The Oversight, a society of men and women with the blood of both sides in them, who guard and protect both sides and punish those who bring harm to the peace.

The Oversight used to have hundreds in its ranks, but due to a mysterious disaster, the society only has five members left, who try their best to protect London in the 1850’s. Every member has the ability to use magic and most have their own special talents.

One day a young girl with her own powers and holes in her memory is delivered to The Oversight. Could she be an asset or is she planted there, and if so, by whom? Soon it becomes clear an enemy is coming for The Oversight and the weakened group may not be strong enough to win. But, as the book cover says, if The Oversight falls, so do we all…

I love urban fantasy and it’s nice to see it translates well to the 19th century. Charlie Fletcher did a nice job of making every member of The Oversight a very unique person, without making their talents feel like superhero tricks. They are members of The Oversight after all and not the X-Men.

Fletcher uses very small chapters, which I usually like, because it invites you to keep reading ‘one more’. This time, however, the story shifted too quickly between different storylines, which made it a bit harder to get invested in the characters. I really loved the story, the setting and the people in it, but it took a little bit too long to get sucked into it. I still liked it enough to buy the promised sequels once they’re published, though.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

Ebook available for The Oversight, as well as of his other books: Stoneheart, Ironhand, Silvertongue, Dragonshield and Far Rockaway.

Book Review: Pretty Deadly, vol 1: The Shrike – Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Reviewed by Michael Minneboo

Pretty Deadly is a western, but different from what you’ve read before. Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Emma Rios team up to bring a sort-of fairytale about Death’s daughter Ginny, a vengeful beauty with a face that bears the skull marks of her father, riding on a horse made of smoke.

Plenty of female heroes and villains in this one, so it is safe to say Pretty Deadly isn’t your typical Western with male gunslingers having a shoot-out at the climax of the story. Apart from guns being drawn, the protagonists are very capable with swords as well, bringing some samurai action within the setting of the old West.

Besides being a metaphysical Western, Pretty Deadly is also a story about storytelling. The tale is narrated to us by a butterfly and a dead rabbit, or rather a rabbit’s skeleton. Also, the comic begins with Sissy, a young girl dressed in a vulture cloak, and her blind companion Fox. They are beggars performing cantares de cego (“songs of the blind”) in the middle of town: a beggar song about Deathface Ginny – born from a woman who is kept prisoner by her husband, a Mason, because he is consumed with the idea that other men admire her. Feeling desperate, the woman prays for her death and when Death enters her prison, he falls in love with her. After he grants her her wish, Death is left with their daughter. He raises her in the world between the living and the dead, to be a spirit of vengeance, to punish those who would do wrong by the innocent.

Interestingly, Sissy and Fox tell the story aided by a banner filled with sequential images, like a comic, each panel introducing the main characters of their little tale. The banner is of course another storytelling device within the story.

After the performance they collect their money from the crowd and one viewer, by the name of Johnny Coyote, pulls Sissy towards him. He gives her some money and allows her to steal a very important piece of paper. This gets Alice on their trail: a female gunslinger/samurai who is anxious to get the binder back in her possession.

Later on we’ll discover there is a lot more to Sissy and Fox than meets the eye.

In the action sequences, artist Rios combines long shots with inserts of close ups, as if she takes her cues from fast-paced action sequences in films. In an interview with Paste Magazine she said she took a lot of inspiration from motion pictures and manga comics:

‘Yup, I watched and re-watched a western movie once per day for months. I also watched samurai films. My particular muses here were (Sergio) Leone and (Masaki) Kobayashi, because both of them work with very particular aesthetics and tempo, close to the oneiric. Also, books: classic European stuff like The Bouncer or Blueberry, recents like Gus & His Gang by Blain, or poetic manga like Matsumoto’s Takemitsu Zamurai or Igarashi’s Witches.’ (Source: Paste Magazine)

An original and interesting comic, with Rios’s great-looking artwork and DeConnick’s prose with its poetic quality, makes Pretty Deadly vol.1: The Shrike an even more enjoyable read.

Michael Minneboo is a journalist specialised in comic books and visual culture. Read more of his work on his website,

Store Bits: Staff Choices

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

A new round of Staff Choices of both new and old books. Happy reading!

The Girl With All The Gifts – M. R. Carey
Recommended by JeroenW

“Zombies have been done to death (pun intended), and this might easily slip under your radar as Just-Another-Zombie-Book, and to be fair, to a certain extent it is. But this just happens to be a really well-written one, with well-fleshed-out characters, some nice twists and a great ending. Highly recommended for anyone looking for an exciting and satisfying read.”

Foreign Fruit – Jojo Moyes
Recommended by Simone

“Daisy and Celia are raised as sisters, in a very protective environment, when they are suddenly confronted with the new owners of the luxurious villa in their small town. Artistic people are “not to mix with”, however, Daisy and Celia cannot stay away.
When Celia brings home her new beau, the son of a rich man who imports exotic fruits, Daisy falls head over heels in love with him, and the complications begin.
Halfway through the book the story jumps forward in time, and page by page, the two storylines become one.
A wonderful and intriguing read.”

The Thousand Names – Django Wexler
Recommended by Tiemen

“There is a distinct possibility after reading this book you will yell ‘Form square!’ at random people in public.
This is a fun and exciting read. Instead of the same old, same old medieval fantasy setting this is so called Musket fantasy; a story deeply inspired by the age of the Napoleonic Wars.
And even though this is fantasy, Wexler has grounded it in a firm foundation of military history and knowledge. Wexler knows his musket from his bayonet and the way he portrays how an army in the Napoleonic age would function is done in a marvelous and interesting way.
Add in a few heartpounding battles – FORM SQUARE! – a Holmes & Watsonesque relationship between the commander and his second-in-command, a mystery about a magical artifact and you get one very entertaining and thrilling read.”

Every Day is for the Thief – Teju Cole
Recommended by Renate

“Previously only published in Nigeria (2007), but now
available for everyone. Yes!

This is a sad and funny book about going home
and trying to make sense of the journey and yourself and
the world along the way.

Cole’s prose is sensual and vivid and clear”

Nostalgia: The Russian Empire of Czar Nicholas II – Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii
Recommended by Marten

“Behind the somewhat offensive title lies a truly a incredible body of work. These color photographs have been taken between 99 and a 110 years ago. The encounter with people and the world of more then a century ago has never seem more vivid! The silence of a world without automobiles more condemning!”