Book Reviews





Wonderful books with their equally wonderful covers

Here's a list of books that you should definitely judge by the cover. As a photographer and designer myself, I'm very interested in book cover design, and I find it equally interesting watching the way book designs trend. Lately we've seen monochrome, vintage paper/faded photos and typographic text-only front covers adorning bookshelves... but do you remember when patterns, illustrations and metallics were popular? This list is a very subjective (to me) list of my favourite book covers.

I look forward to seeing how the "front" of a book changes with e-publishing. Will a book even require a cover? Do e-books even have a front?! Or will it simply change its purpose, as it will no longer need to "catch your eye" in a plethora of identically shaped spines. Perhaps a front cover of an ebook will evolve into a social platform of rotating images submitted by fans of the title? (If anyone steals that, I'm claiming!) Let's wait and see...

The Mistborn

There are lots of editions of these books by Brian Sanderson, and all the covers are spectacular. However, the illustration on the second of these images is so amazingly detailed, and the way a small piece of typography on the first one makes such a difference is great:

The Book Thief

The first book I saw that took the "burnt, vintage paper" look, and I still think it's the best. The simplicity is beautiful.

His Dark Materials (adult editions)

Just for one second look at these illustrations. If you have read the books, you must agree they match perfectly. Not to mention it's one of the editions clinging resolutely to "Northern Lights". I'm annoyed this set isn't the one I own.

The Hobbit

This cover is a favourite from childhood. I loved it because to me, Tolkien was synonymous with maps. Hand-drawn, inky maps. This cover epitomised it.


I haven't even read this book but the cover makes me want to! (and the title... meh)

So, what covers would make your list? I don't claim to have seen every beautiful cover invented, so please share!

*images from

Literary guilty pleasures

It's not right that some people feel judged by what they read, but whether or not it's right doesn't stop it from happening. I personally try not to judge anyone on what they choose to read, I'm just happy enough someone has chosen the written word over Friends re-runs. But if we didn't judge just a little bit, we wouldn't have guilty pleasures in things - and I actually quite like having them. They're like a little secret to share, letting someone into your circle. They're something to giggle about and, when you find you share a guilty pleasure with someone, it's great! Suddenly a whole world of conversation opens up to you and yes, it's geeky, but hey - who cares?!

I thought I would share with you my own guilty pleasures when it comes to books. They are a mixture of comfort reading, familiarity, fun and memories. Some of them are things I read when I first started reading, and I still re-read today. Books stay with you and they relate to you. In a weird way, you dont choose the book, "it chooses you" *oooaaaahhhhhh < scary tension wail*. Going into a library is a bit like walking into Ollivander's Wand Shop (oh dear, I've started already!) So, if you feel brave enough, leave your own literary guilty pleasures in the comments section. You never know, you may find you're not alone!

So here it is: My list of book-formed guilty pleasures.

Goosebumps: Choose your own scare

Actually, I like all Goosebumps books and very many "choose your own ending" type things when I'm thinking of ways to spend an hour and the weather's miserable (ie. all the flippin' time!) I read Goosebumps religiously at school, and my mum would take me to the local second hand/warehouse book sale every weekend to scour the boxes for my own copies. My favourites were probably the Night of the Living Dummy series and Say Cheese and Die! (which has haunted my photography forays ever since... :D) I read them so often the pages have long since fallen out. And I still have them.

The Choose your own Scare spin-off series was great for car journeys. "How can I read the same book 5 times over and have it different every time?" THIS WAY!
R L Stine... bloomin' genious.

Lady Daisy, The Sheep-Pig. The Queen's Nose... ok, Dick King Smith in general!

Dick King Smith not only had the world's most amusing name when I was a kid, but his stories were like my imagination realised by someone who could actually make it coherant. Lady Daisy was my all-time favourite book between the ages of 6 and 11. I loaned it out from my school's library so often they actually gave it to me in the end. Curiously, it's another book about a living doll...
I honestly think DKS could rival Roald Dahl in a hypothetical face-off. *Thinks about it...*

Buffy the Vampire Slayer novels

The best thing about these books was that the characters spoke in the exact same way as they did on the TV show. It never ceased to amaze me: Pauses, "likes", long-winded sarcasms no-one would ever have time for in an unscripted coversation... everything!
It also helped that I was the geekiest Buffy fan I could be. I literally loved the show, so of course, I had to have all the books. I still read them for nostalgia, but I can't finish one these days. The conversations are just too annoying! However, they do have decent vampires (discounting Angel) and Spike never got a dumb chip.

The Bridges of Madison County

Why's it a guilty pleasure? Because it's romance. I don't really "do" romance novels, but this one is amazing. It's the first book to ever have made me cry (also adding to it's guilty-ness) and the guy's a photographer, come on! Another way it attributes itself to the guilty list is the way in which the film adaptation featured the hip'n'happening Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep in the leading roles. And it was just as brilliant. And tear-jerking. Oh god, I'm gushing. Damn romance... 

Fear Street/Point Horror: The Bad Girl

R L Stine again - he probably deserves his own post. The Point Horror and Fear Street ranges were fab. A step up from Goosebumps which was, and still is, "fun", Point Horror and Fear Street got that little bit darker. And a little bit messed up/ The Bad Girl steps into zombie/genetic modification/second life territory and is probably the one I've read most, and still continue to read.


Top books to enjoy and avoid

I thought about it last night, what my "top ten" books would be were I asked to give them. I actually tried really hard to be inventive, and a little bit left field. I wanted to stick a few books in there that not many people would have heard of... But I realised that at the end of the day, the famous books are famous because they're probably a lot of people's favourite book. Sure, there were a couple I thought of that were a little bit renegade; my little anarchistic choices to put paid to the establishment of championed authors... But then I thought of a well known book... and how much more I did actually enjoy it when compared...

So here's my final list (as of the end of 2011). Course, it will change and alter as I read more, but ultimately, the good ones will stick, more people will recommend them, more people will read them and more often than not Hollywood will murder them. I say that only so that you do not judge me harshly on my number 1 book if you've only ever seen it's predecessor's film version... *shudder*

My Top Ten Books
  1. The Subtle Knife (of His Dark Materials Trilogy) - Phillip Pullman
  2. Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix - JK Rowling
  3. Hannibal - Thomas Harris
  4. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  5. Dreamcatcher - Stephen King
  6. Good Omens - Terry Pratchett/Neil Gaimon
  7. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
  8. The Road - Cormac McCarthy
  9. The Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follet
  10. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
So there you have it. I would like to also give special mention to Interview with the Vampire, that fell just outside my top ten but I'd feel bad not to give it page space in this context of "favourites".

By the way, there have been SO MANY books I have been disappointed by due to hype. Don't think that because it's famous, it's good. In fact... here's my list of "famous" books I would recommend you avoid (if your own top ten looks anything like mine, you may find you agree) And yes, I have read them all.
  1. Angels and Demons and actually, The Da Vinci Code too if you like actual good writing, though I'll give it reprieve because it was minutely original at the time.
  2. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo et al - The whole series is boring and long and, just why?
  3. Hannibal Rising (and man, wasn't this one a stake through the heart considering number 3 of my top ten list...)
  4. The Twilight Saga just no.
  5. Sabriel - I really didn't get this entire series. So many people love it. Guess the author just isn't my style.
  6. The Lovely Bones - zzzzzz. It had (kind of) ghosts in it and I didnt finish it. That's all you need to know.
Im thinking of doing a "guilty pleasures" list but might save that for another post. They're going to need explainations ;)  Leave your top tens in the comments if you fancy, would love to take a peek,

The Radleys - Guest Post

Hi all - Today's post has been written by Yasmine (aka Ms Zangalicious) a blogger, photographer and all-round wonderful lady currently living in Abu Dhabi. If you would like to be featured on Mab is Mab please drop me an email and I'll get back to you!

I can’t say that I understand what has lead to this flourish in literature of domesticated vampires coupled with an obsession with the mundane. I feel that I should try to blame Buffy in some way – but then, if I was feeling true to myself – I may have to admit that a century of vampire literature all seemed to be leading to this literary moment...

‘What moment?’ you may ask me. And I’d reply with...
‘Y’know... day-walking vampires who openly admit that the blood does not move in their veins but they’re impregnating each other and fawning all over themselves dribbling enough teenage angst to frighten the likes of Ahmadinijad. Y’know... those ones!’ I’d then point over at the massive cardboard cut outs of ‘Edward’ from the Twilight Saga that seem to be plastered everywhere.

So, I read ‘The Radleys’. I felt compelled to after Audible and Amazon were trying to push it on me. It’s strange how they calculate their recommendations really. You see, Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot’ (which I had read previously) does not have anything in common with ‘The Radleys’ except that it features vampires... which, really, Amazon needs to sort out – because there are those who like blood-thirsty, animalistic, heathenish, lusting vampires... and then there are those who just like sparkling stalkers with a fetish for blood.

Matt Haig’s vampires pretty much go against everything a vampire is ‘supposed’ to be. A trend that I feel really picked up pace after Anne Rice’s Louis from Interview with the Vampire (some of you may then perk up and say ‘oh, oh, well, what about Dracula? Huh? He was all charming blah blah. No. Just don’t go there).

Haig’s vampires go out during the day, they fly, they do not drink blood (in fact, Clara, the younger of the siblings starts out a vegan), oh yeah, and I forgot to mention that the teens do not know they are vampires at the beginning. Yes, you read correctly... they do not know that they are vampires! *le gasp!*

Tweens on Amazon are RAVING about this book, and I can see why. It is a book that gives insight in to the lives of a family of vampires (by family I really do mean the ABYSMAL trend of sexually active vampires who ‘forget’ to wear protection – argh). The family are ‘abstainers’ - a movement within the vampire community of those who choose to forsake their ‘blood addictions’ for normal lives.

I groaned and I rolled my eyes, I sighed and tutted but I persisted. It was ridiculous – BUT the problem is this. How do you tell anybody that a mythical creature is not supposed to be the way they’re depicted in fiction these days? Not only do you sound a little snobbish but just downright crazy! I mean, who holds the documentation that says all vampires must be blood-crazed lunatics out to get everybody? And I guess it was these thoughts that made me persevere with this loony book.


There is something that I loved about this book which many other vampire novels ignore, and that is the legal implications of vampirism. There are many books where vampires are swooping all over the place, killing at will and leaving the bodies behind. The book implicates the police when it comes to the murders committed by vampires, as Haig quickly reveals that there exists an understanding between a secret branch of the police and the vampire community as to who can and cannot be victims.

Of course throughout the course of this novel there are love stories a plenty, lust, blood and teenage angst. It’s a tweens dream... but also, anybody who is a fan of YA fiction. I would... *gulp* recommend it to those who like to see vampires in a British settings, those who like vampires in love, and those who have a thing for reading about family relationships and dynamics.

Although once it was completed I felt dissatisfied and that my thirst had not been quenched (pun intentional) I still feel the book was worth my time, even if it was just to see where this genre is heading. I think I know where it is going, and I even think I may one day come to terms with how it has come to this.

So yeah, mixed feelings. Grab a copy and let Emma and I know if you felt the same way!

Thanks Yasmine! I actually have The Radley's on my "to read" pile after being given it as a gift this Christmas, so I may write my own review/supporting arguement(?!) soon!

The Turtle Boy - Review

What a creepy little short and snappy tale this is! The Turtle Boy by Kealan Patrick Burke is a wonderfully dark and sinister ghost story wrapped up in a 3-hour read. And best of all - it's FREE to download from the Kindle Store!

When Timmy Quinn and his best friend Pete encounter a new kid, Darryl, at the local pond/pit in Ohio, events both disturbing and unexplanable unfold in a thrilling mix of the supernatural and crime genres. Darryl is a boy who feeds himself to turtles. He is a boy who has secrets, and a boy who harbours a deadly longing for revenge. He also leaves Timmy with a gift he'll never be free of.

I found The Turtle Boy both brilliant and strange all at once. The basic storyline is nothing new: dead boy seeks revenge against his killer - but it is the quirkily written subtexts that made it something different. A lot of them are very dark for something classed as a children's/YA read. There are overshadowings of abusive parenting, poverty, homophobia and adult violence - however, they are nothing more than shadows and maybe only an adult would pick up on them(?) I wouldn't say I "enjoyed" these themes per say, but they did add a well constructed depth to what is undeniably a very short book, which I did like. It made something cliched uncliched...

Being a very short story, there was (probably inevitably) some very sharp scene cutting and a sense of "episodic" chapters rather than continuation, but overall I felt the book was well written and absorbing. The ending did feel a little rushed, but I have half an inkling that I was just so impatient/excited for the final events that I refused to slow myself down! Unfortunately, the end of the book doesn't have the sense of an ending (a pet hate of mine!) It's as if the book just stops mid-flow, but this is part of a series, and it has certainly worked well enough to make me want to read the second installment. (I have already downloaded the sample!)

I would recommend The Turtle Boy to anyone looking for an atmospheric and quick ghost story for a rainy night. I read it on a car journey and it made the time fly by - and that's definately a commendable feat for any book!


Happy New Year everyone! I've spent the past week or so enjoying a rare moment of doing absolutely nothing I have to - bliss! But now I'm at the "beginning" again. January has arrived and I find myself facing resolutions and promises of a "bigger" and "better" year. London hosts the Olympics in 2012 (don't know if you've heard? *sigh*) so my firm resolution is this: to never, NEVER mention it again. As much for my own sanity as for yours. I don't know about you, but I'll be kind of glad when its over, and British Gas can stop pretending they're environmentally friendly while lighting an athletics track with the tears of polar bears.

However, there are a good amount of things I am looking forward to in 2012. I thought I would post a little list here as most are book related:

1. The Hunger Games Movie
2. The Woman in Black Movie
3. Kindle Fire
4. The Watcher in the Shadows (new Carlos Ruiz Zafon translation)
5. Michael Fassbender on screen a lot more
6. Audiobooks
7. Reviewing more books
8. Discovering as many reading "apps" as possible that are genuinely useful

Also, I am setting myself a reading target of 50 books for 2012. I tried this on last year but didnt realise the site doesn't automatically take a "finished it" date when you rate a title (come on guys!) so, of course, I lost count. Diddums.
This blog's a better place to keep track anyways!

All the best for the coming year! x