Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas reading and absence

I have a buddy read going on for over Christmas - we shall be reading 'Emma' by Jane Austen. My eReader has been prepped and the mains charger has been delivered and checked to work.Why do I need a mains charger, I hear you ask? Because, dear friends, I'm not taking my laptop up to Scotland with me. I know, it sounds crazy, but I'm going to be in middle of nowhere in Scotland with no mobile phone signal, internet or other modern life necessities so a laptop is rather unncessary.

This means that I'll be away from you all from this afternoon (21st Dec) up until January 3rd (I'll be travelling back down on the 2nd). Hopefully that'll have given me enough time to read through Emma so I can join my buddies to chat about it (notes shall be made on Mimi throughout the read!) on Goodreads.

On top of this I recently entered a Waterstones competition to read (and then review on their site) a pre-released copy of a new book by a new author. Due to be released in April I found, in my mail on Saturday, 'Flesh and Blood' by Mark Peterson. The blurb on the back of the book sounds encouraging and I can't wait to get around to reading it (after Emma). The review shall be posted up on the Waterstone's site first (as is only polite) and then I shall wait a few days before putting it up here.

I hope you all have a lovely holidays (whatever you celebrate) and a fun New Year. I shall see you all in 2012 folks with my NY resolutions made and a good excuse for fresh starts :D

Monday, 19 December 2011

My Slight Infatuation

Yes, I know, this is not a book review but please bear with me whilst I ramble.

As some of you may or may not know, lately I have been reading the Scarlet Pimpernel series. What I thought was just one book turned out to be a whole collection of them and wow was I chuffed! There is a part of me that absolutely loves the simple, swashbuckling, good triumphing over evil storylines that are so prevalent in these books and I just can't get enough.

This series, along with others like it (Sharpe, for instance) follows the very basic plotline that has survived for so long: problem is mentioned, good guy vows to fix it, bad guy finds out about it, good vs evil, goodie wins (sometimes in smart way) and baddie looks incompetent to his superiors - makes me smile everytime!

However, despite this predictability, there is always a point in the book where the badguy has the upper hand and I put my book down for fear of him winning (yes, I know there are more in the series, but I conveniently forget every time). This is what does it for me - a book that can make you really get into it and invest your own emotions into it to the point that you cut yourself off from the practical side of your mind and start hoping that he'll be okay - despite what experience has taught you.

The Scarlet Pimpernel & Sharpe are especially guilty of this - every single time I read one of the books I stop halfway through thinking 'Oh my gosh, what if they kill him!' - yes, even during the second book in the Sharpe series :S - and so have to put it down and make my way back to reality.

I guess my point is that these books, especially Sharpe, are often scoffed at as 'easy reads' whilst having this fact overlooked or labelled as predictable. Yes, from an outside view point or if you read them all in one go, they are predictable - but take them slowly, read them separately and you may see what I mean.

Baroness Orczy did it with Sir Percy Blakeney vs Chauvelin & Robespierre and Cornwell with Sharpe vs Hakeswill - the classic good vs bad is not such a terrible, simple storyline :D

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

I feel I should state, straight away, that the reason for my picking up of this book lies solely on the shoulders of Dara O’Briain, Rory McGrath and Griff Rhys Jones. I had, actually, never heard of that book before their first show but I was intrigued by the idea of it so decided to put it on my vague TBR list (not as concrete as my TBR list but is more an ‘in the ether’ list).
The book follows the adventures of the narrator ‘J’(Jerome himself) and his two close friends George and Harris, along with J’s dog Montmorency (turns out he was fictional, the other two characters were real) as they hire a small sail boat and make their way from Kingston-Upon-Thames to Oxford  with the intention of spending the nights in the boat under a poorly rigged canvas structure.

J's account is a convoluted weaving together of travelling down the Thames interspersed with his imaginings of times gone past and reminiscing of other hapless adventures that he'd been on. I found it quite funny at times but at other points I felt like just skipping ahead as he rambled off on yet another tangent that was probably more related to his time than mine.

I believe I read somewhere that the book itself was started with the intention of it being a serious boating guide about travelling up the Thames, however the comedic nature of Jerome’s writing took over to the point where the comedy outweighed the serious passages. This is not, in fact, a bad thing as if it had been kept as a guide then I don't think it would have made it as a classic - instead I can imagine it being confined to that section of the bookstore only to peter out after a year and with the decline of boat travel popularity it would've disappeared for good.

This is a good read for the sort of person who enjoys reading books where they can recognise some landmarks (almost all of the places mentioned are still around, of course, and this includes some of the pubs!) but if you're not too good with British wit, travelling books or random, unconnected paragraphs of wittering then you may wish to not go for this book.

Overall, I enjoyed it and am rather glad I chose to read it. Now I can say I've read it, I'llenjoy thinking back on it whenever I visit these places and one of the pubs mentioned still looks absolutely gorgeous and may be visited ;D

Monday, 5 December 2011

Dissolution by C.J. Sansom **possible spoilers ahead**

Set a year after the execution of Anne Boleyn this book follows Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer and advisor to the Vicar General, Lord Thomas Cromwell. This is during the time of Henry VIII's creation of the Church of England and the country is in turmoil as Cromwell's trusted reformers are sent out to force the closure of the powerful monasteries by collecting evidence against the inhabitants to use as leverage/blackmail.

Following the gruesome murder of one of these men, Robert Singleton, down at Scarnsea Monastery, Cromwell sends Matthew Shardlake down to investigate his murder and continue where Singleton left off.

Heading off in the middle of winter ensures that Matthew and his assistant, Mark, endure the obligatory 'trapped in a dangerous place by snow' theme that seems rather prevalent in historical crime books - possibly due to the convenience of this automatically building up the tension by having them trapped with a murderer. As useful as this plot line is I've read it in the past three or four books of this genre and would like to find something new.

However, this being said, Sansom does still write a good book with a few red herrings and a firm grasp on his knowledge of the time. With the murderer killing again it now becomes more urgent to find out who did it and the list of suspects grows with little solid evidence to assist.

Sansom's first novel is very well written; it flows smoothly from start to finish and is filled with fleshed out characters, even the 'bit' parts. Whereas it does it's best to stray from the 'norm' - even going with the protagonist being an unattractive, hunchback with flawed personality (okay, that last bit is becoming rather norm) - there are still occasions where you may think you've read it before, fear not though as these are few and far between and, irregardless, just blend in to the flow of it all.

All in all, despite thinking this was set in different time after just seeing the name 'Cromwell', this was a good read and I can understand why there was a fair bit of hype about it. However, this wasn't stand out of the ordinary for me. Whilst I enjoyed it, it didn't do anything that'd make me remember it more than any other historical fiction I've read.

If you enjoy this sort of genre then pick this book up for the sake that it is well written with a good plot line and more to come in the series. This may also be a good book if you're interested to get into reading more of this type. I wouldn't say you'll get blown away but this does exactly what you want this sort of book to do - keep you guessing and keep you interested.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini **possible spoilers ahead**

First published in 1922 I am shocked I somehow missed this great book up until now. I've always been a big lover of the swashbuckling pirate tales and this book is definitely swashbuckling!

Set in 1600s we are first introduced to Peter Blood as a doctor tending his geraniums whilst he watches the rest of the town head off to support the rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth. Whilst not wanting to get involved in the rebellion he finds he has no choice after being caught tending a wounded rebel and sent as a slave to Barbados.

Now this is where it all starts to kick off - with a horrid man buying him, a lovely lady keeping him interested and a deep anger and hatred burning for the injustice of it all - Blood is shown to be opportunistic and falls back on his previous careers as a soldier & sailor when presented with the chance to escape slavery and take up the life of piracy.

This book is full of everything one would expect from a pirate tale: pieces of eight, sword fights, archetypal villains, damsels in distress and, of course, good triumphing over evil! Where Sabatini really excels, however, are the sea battles. You are dragged in to a point where you can almost hear the ship timbers creaking as Blood creates some spectacular ship maneuvers and has you giggling in glee (in a packed hospital waiting room) as his ship appears out of the cannon smoke to take down the bad guy! With more than one enemy out to get him Blood still remains a cool character, with his own sense of honour that he fights to uphold in his position as pirate captain.

This has a few twists in the tale as Blood tries to escape piracy when given the opportunity but is thrown into a 'civilised' society still filled with injustice and underhanded dealings that even a pirate wouldn't agree with. Leading him back to life as a pirate and all the more tainted for his experiences, you do feel sympathy for Blood as he was, essentially, forced into being a pirate.

Due to the time this was written there are some racist views and words used that made me grit my teeth, however this is quite tame for other books at the time - and you must keep reminding yourself that this is not a modern book and those views/words did, sadly, exist in mainstream.

Other than that, this is a gripping pirate tale that I wish I'd found sooner. It will now stay on my eReader as  my 'fall back book'. If you enjoyed Treasure Island when you were younger and wish for a more grown up book based around adult characters then I recommend this book for you. It is for all adventurers, romanticists and people who love pirates with honour!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo **possible spoilers ahead**

Nesbo's third Harry Hole book, first of them to be translated into English, starts off with an American President's visit to Norway and Hole's blunder that needs to be covered up by those higher up.

This faux pas cover up involves Hole being transferred to another section in the police force and being given a 'promotion' by name alone - to begin with - where he ends up monitoring the activities of neo-Nazi groups. It is here where he starts to piece together not-so-random pieces of a case that takes the reader back to WWII and one of the groups of pro-Nazi, Norwegian soldiers that were fighting on the eastern front.

This case does the traditional 'Nordic Noir' thing that I'm quite sure every policeman in Scandinavia dreads the idea of and reveals twist after twist until it's no longer a skin-head surveillance case but one that is complicated, decade spanning and needs the detective to rely more on gut instinct than anything. On top of that it branches out into a different case that's only slightly related to it - those poor policemen!

To begin with this book does skip between present day and the 1940s, which I usually find hard to keep up with, but after about halfway through the book this does stop. The history and the light it paints the young soldiers at the time in (not all were necessarily fascist sympathisers, some were hungry, non-political country boys) is rather interesting and thought provoking and not something I recall reading before. Even so, I was still rather happy when the flashbacks ended.

The turning point for the book and the reader is about halfway in when you realise that there's something rather more malevolent than normal hiding between the lines, this was the moment I found myself eager to pick the book up and try to figure it out for myself - unfortunately (or fortunately) Nesbo is far better than I am and there's a reason he's a celebrated crime-writer and I'm not - I just didn't figure it all out until the last few pages, as intended.

The character of Harry Hole himself seems to stick to the cliche of an embittered, loner detective that fights his flaws throughout the book - but I actually rather enjoyed him. As damaged as he is, and becomes, you still feel like giving the occasional cheer for him and his dark humour does add to the whole atmosphere.

This is a rather enjoyable read and I'm glad that I bought the next few in the series, but the intensity means I may take breaks between each book. Now if only the first two Harry Hole books had been translated - there are still some unanswered questions!

Friday, 11 November 2011

A Thanks To The English Teacher

I am currently reading Jo Nesbo’s first translated book of the Harry Hole series, “The Redbreast”, in a decent enough time for me to then go on and review it on here for you lovely followers :D

However I feel that I must warn you all that it may be a longer wait than would be normal or acceptable for the very simple fact that I am also reading Don Quixote on my eReader. Yes folks, I’m afraid that 25 year old me is slowly being dragged into the classics that teen me turned my nose up at for ‘not being exciting enough’. I originally thought the same thing about Don Quixote (having never actually started reading it, mind) and am totally sucked in now. 

Having found a beautiful site known as Project Gutenberg I have added the likes of Persuasion, Emma, Don Juan, Lorna Doone & more to my eReader, Mimi, and my teenage self is slouched in a corner consoling herself with the fact that at least I still have ‘interesting’ books on my bookshelf. Even worse for her is that I admit, and I never thought I’d say this, my teachers were right. There are some great classics out there that I should’ve opened myself up to before and resent that I’m only now getting round to them. Although I still hold Kate Chopin & Ian McEwan as big black marks against you lot so don’t start looking too smug any English teachers reading this! 

Another hand in this is my mum who didn’t stop me from reading Dracula when I was very young and who then thrust ‘A Brave New World’ at me when I was looking for something to read (was that floating round the house already or did you buy that with me in mind?) We have books all over the house and, despite our different tastes in books, growing up around them opened my mind slightly more than it would’ve been.

I really do think that, unfortunately, the style of writing can be enough to put a person, teenage or otherwise, off reading some of the classics. I’m not saying by any means that they should all be updated with modern language though, as that would cause many of the books to lose some of their magic that helped them to become ‘classics’, what I hope is that the English teachers just continue to do the best they can with whatever the syllabus gives them in school (and lord I hope there’s at least some Shakespeare in there!) so that the student isn’t as daunted when they finally get round to opening one of these books. If it weren't for Hamlet (still my favourite) and other works like it I may have felt a bit more scared about tackling some of the 'biggies'.

In all I would just like to say ‘Thank you’ to all my English teachers and to every teacher out there trying to keep that spark in a student alive until they are capable of carrying it themselves.Forget the syllabus and teach them the good stuff *cough* The Duchess of Malfi *cough*.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Bob Moore: Desperate Times by Tom Andry **possible spoilers ahead**

The second of Tom Andry's Bob Moore series definitely starts off with a bang.

We find ourselves in a world that relies upon 'Supers' to keep the peace and fight crime suddenly facing the prospect of a life without Supers.  The first chapter kicks off with a catastrophic event that introduces us to the Big Bad that it seems no one can stop (no kiddies, not even our own Superman - scary, huh?) and has every Super dying or running scared, which in turn will have the 'Tippys' (that's us non-superpowered folk) even more scared as it seems there is no one to save them.

This book starts off with a tragic event  that has everyone on high alert and rioting in the street and our favourite PI trying not to be thrust into the middle of it all, despite his ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We are introduced to new characters (along with some old) that will either annoy you or have you hoping for something that could happen. It isn't until about halfway through that things become more personal and Bob takes more of an interest in stopping the Big Bad whilst finding out answers of his own.

Ever since the first book - Bob Moore: No Hero - I enjoyed the idea of his world where Supers first started appearing in the 70s, changing the way their world and, more subtly, the technology available to tippys works. It's close enough to us to be believable but at the same time is a giant enough step away to draw you in to a fantastical world.

Andry has created a 'real' PI with all his flaws, his dislike for stereotypes and his damaged past that encourages the reader to empathise with him. This second book focused even more on Bob's friendship and his broken marriage and lost child. I found myself really hoping that everything would have a 'Hollywood ending' and turn out for the better in this case, but with so many twists and turns on the way (and such an amazing revelation!) I feel that this was definitely the better way to end this book.

With a non-stop, action packed storyline I found it rather difficult to put this book down to go to work - once it picked up speed it didn't stop until the end. In Bob Moore Andry has created a character who could go on for a long time yet, and in this world he has created it almost seems to the reader that the possibilities really are endless. The characters, even the supers, are fleshed out and made real with their certain flaws (a love for drink, a superiority complex) and this makes for great reading when you have a PI who knows all the different angles to use on them. Now if only I could get the job as his next assistant!

I will say one thing - Tom Andry is a meanie... and he knows why ;D (you will to once you read this book!)

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett **possible spoilers ahead**

I was given this book by my sister with orders to read it before seeing the film (I know, she does seem to chuck a fair amount of books at me)!

This book is set in Jackson, Mississippi (yes, I did the 'Matilda' rhyme trying to remember that spelling) and focuses on two black domestic servants: Aibileen and Minny and, seemingly, the only white woman in the entire town who thinks there may be something wrong with the segregation laws: Miss Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan. This book follows the story from all three points of view as they, with the help of other household maids, decide to find their own way to fight against what they know is wrong in this 1960's suburbia - the treatment of the household help (as it seems the underlying problem is kept at a safe, family-friendly distance).

Opening this book I was rather shocked at how Stockett seemed to slip in to the stereotyping of writing the black woman's dialect but didn't even consider giving the white, southern women an ounce of an accent which I'm sure they must have had. I'm sure this may be just her way of making sure we, the readers can differentiate between who's talking when - but it did seem just a bit off to me.

On saying that, this book has a warm tenderness to it that makes you feel gooey inside from the inner sweetness that the main characters exhibit, even when faced with adversity that comes in the form of Miss Hilly Holbrook (think Wicked Witch minus the red slippers... at least they weren't mentioned in the book). The relationships that show up in this book, from Aibileen and little Mae Mobley to the outspoken Minny and Miss Celia Foote, have you thinking that there's going to be a good outcome for all of this hard work and, in some cases, there may be but as we're reading with some relative historical knowledge we know that it's only a small drop in the pond.

I personally found this book to be very family friendly, focusing less on the risks and the events happening in the outside world and instead talking more about their lives. It didn't push any boundaries that haven't already been pushed, steamrollered and tarmaced over but you can instead curl up and read through what these people have to put up with, the secrets that they become privy to and the outcasts that they may become if it all goes awry.

This is definitely a feel-good book. It doesn't want you to have your mind blown but more tries to hold your hand and guide you through the everyday lives of these women as they try to chip away a town's barrier. If you read this book PLEASE read the author's section at the back as it helps to explain where she's coming from. I'm now going to see what book Jess next throws at me :D

Monday, 24 October 2011

The American Dream Reversed by Bianca Philipp

I am not being paid for this review and will be unbiased in my finidings.

This is Bianca's first book and was originally her entry into the NaNoWriMo last year.

The story follows Keith Scott from a man who thinks he has it all into his downward spiral of drugs, alcoholism and ultimately ending up at rock bottom with no visible way of getting out. Losing his friends, family and everything he holds dear the reader is made to follow him down and then watch him try to make his way back up with the help of a friend - and a few bumps along the way.

This book doesn't pull it's punches, you're dragged in to feeling an empathy towards the main character that really doesn't help you feel good during his low moments, and believe me they get low, but you will be happy for him when it does happen (or just feel like slapping some sense into the man)! This is Bianca's first book and a very good promise for things to come. Well written and uncompromising in her style she has a straightforward bluntness that is rather refreshing for it's honest outlook.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the finished version of this book after my attempt at assisting with the beta-reading. Having read her online work, mainly covering fanfiction, this is a well deserved big break for this woman to showcase her talent. I wish her well and hope she gets a chance to publish her next novel, whenever that may be.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman **possible spoilers ahead**

This book follows the story of Harrison Opoku, an 11 year old boy Ghanaian immigrant who now lives in a London City estate with his mother and big sister, Lydia.

The book opens with the murder of a young boy on the estate who Harri vaguely remembers as being good at basketball. Now he and his friend Dean, who watches a lot of CSI, have decided to try and solve the boy's murder themselves with a lot of TV knowledge and a set of carnival won, toy binoculars whilst the police are being met by locals with a wall of silence.

Around this we have Harri's life in the melting pot that is London with his love of Poppy and her yellow hair, to the local gang the Dell Farm Crew and whether or not he'll pass their tests and, on top of all that, trying to act the man of the house until his dad, little sister and grandma make it over to join them - and it all seems so much for a young boy, but he accepts it with his happy, straightforward manner (making sure he has a plan of action ready in case someone comes into the flat).

I found the way that Kelman wrote in this young boy's 'pigeon english' style to be rather endearing and at times added humour to the situation. He had a wide-eyed innocence about him, even when describing the most non-innocent things, that made you want to wrap him in cotton wool and hope he never loses his love of the simple things. It made things like the in-your-face violence, sexual activity and general callousness that much worse because of how it's being seen through the eyes of a boy.

This book really had me hooked from the get go and the characters and situations were definitely believeable. The added, occasional voice of the pigeon that Harri befriends - whilst not much liked by some other readers - does have it's purpose, which begins to become clearer towards the end. This more educated prose from the other watcher had me starting to guess at what was coming next which made me not want to reach the end but at the same time, I needed to know.

Due to it's setting and the narrator's way of speaking, some non-English readers may find some of the dialogue a bit hard to get your head around - have an English friend close at hand, just in case. Even I had the occasional hiccup with trying to understand what wa sbeing said, but Harri does like to explain things to us, just in case.

Although not stated anywhere, except a nod in the acknowledgements, anyone who followed the story of Damilola Taylor will be able to relate the two stories. This is a beautiful book in a terrible setting that will have you laughing, scared and crying (yes, I'll admit it, I cried). A must read and, I believe, well worth the shortlist nomination and my favourite of all six books. I find it hard to believe that the manuscript was languishing in a pile for a long time before it started a bidding war.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan **possible spoilers ahead**

Half Blood Blues opens in Paris, 1940, not long after the beginning of the Nazi occupation. It follows the tale of the Hot-Time Swingers band, who's members consist of a diverse collection of African-American, Jewish and Afro-German Jazz lovers and players, who find themselves being followed by the German invading forces as they try to escape it's reach.

The story itself revolves around Heiro Falks, the trumpet player, who is of Afro-German descent who was raised in the Rhineland. Amazingly gifted, he has the ability to go on and accomplish a lot - if it weren't for the fact that he was forced into hiding in Berlin and then Paris before being captured and sent to Sachsenhausen aged 19. However, it is not Heiro we hear the tale from but Sid Griffiths, the band's bassist and a Baltimore native, who's jealousy and inner betrayal leads to the kid's capture and disappearance.

 The story switches back and forth between their time as a band in the late 30's, early 40s on to 1992 where Sid and Chip, the band's drummer, are to attend the premiere of a documentary about Heiro - now a jazz legend - and what happens after that.

I picked up this book with the thought that it would be filled with constant references to the Aryan ideology, Nazi Rallies, mass imprisonments and the persecution of Jews but this story focuses more on the relationship changes in the band that just so happened to occur at the time of, and only occasionally because of, the Third Reich. This is more a look at what can happen to a strong bond if put under the right pressure and what a person can do in a moment of madness, jealousy or just plain malevolence.

I thought this book would be another one that I would read and not feel too much about either way, I was wrong. I found it rather intriguing to the point where I kept putting it down to do something only to pick it straight back up again. It didn't hold me so that I couldn't put it down, more I didn't realise how into it I was until I stopped reading it.

I found the character of Sid to be selfish and hard to care about, I just couldn't connect to him. The style of writing was in his vernacular slang that can be annoying at times to get through but adds to the overall feel of the book.

More disappointing was the fact that we never got to truly hear about Heiro's story except what a rathe biased, clouded Sid shows us. I wish I could've known more about his background, his views and feelings on being made stateless by his home country and what happened to him after his arrest.

I enjoyed this book, granted there were a few bits that annoyed me but overall Edugyan's style of writing had me gripped without realising it. A different view on a time that's already much written about.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Snowdrops by A.D. Miller **possible spoilers ahead**

This book has been praised as a 'psychological drama' and, to be totally honest, I was hoping for some big crime thriller almost in the style of the Nordic crime writers. If you're expecting the same thing, prepare to be disappointed.

That's not to say, however, that isn't a good read - it is. This is written in the style of a confessional, charting a man's downward spiral of his morals and conscience. The crime is more of an afterthought at the end and yet it still managed to make me a bit upset about it. 

Nick Platt is a lawyer in London who has taken it upon himself to write his fiancee a rather long, very detailed confession of what he got up to in Moscow. 

Most of this 'letter' is spent describing how dirty and seedy post communism Russia is and how he felt that he started to join it. This view of Russia is nothing new for any reader who has ever listened to news or read the papers when they've talked about the country and I don't really consider my eyes opened by any shocking revelations to begin with.

The characters that are introduced seem to reflect the different  moods of Russian society: from the cold, rather distant lover Masha who constantly seems on guard and constantly on the lookout for an ulterior motive to 'The Cossack' who seems like he's been plucked straight out of a Bond movie with his thinly veiled threats and the forced jovial manner he uses to brush off any trifling matters. It's not made a secret in this bookt hat we aren't meant to like him, but we are shown glimpses of Masha that make us think this is becoming more of a Russian love story than anything else.
The old lady, Tatiana Vladimirovna, is seen as lonely and desperate for company whilst at the same time unable to shake the feeling of unease around strangers after surviving Stalin's regime. This is the one character I felt most drawn to, more so even than Nick, as she had depth and history to her; sharing with us her hopes and dreams for her retirement.
In all honesty I found that, apart from the final chapter of this book, it was more of a cultural view of Russia, with all it's seediness and corruption exposed, than a crime thriller. It shows a country of people trying to find their new places in the world whilst, at the same time, the older ones are still holding on to the ways that they grew up with such as the apartment swapping, not owning your own place. The younger generation are full of ideas of the West and what they see on TV but at the same time seem to be born tainted with the idea that you can buy anything and anyone for money and death is just around the corner "Life is dangerous... No one survived it yet". 
This is an interesting read, not addictive or gripping but definitely interesting. Even though it lacked the action I first expected I found that it didn't matter so much as the actual plot was intriguing enough to keep me reading. Overall I would say that this is definitely worth picking up but be sure to not skip anything, it all has some importance or another!

(On a side note, if I ever have a fiance write me a confession this long - I'm asking for the abridged notes ;P)

Saturday, 1 October 2011

First Blog Award!

My first blog award and I haven't even been reviewing books that long! Thank you to Lindsay from The LittleReader Library for thinking of me and my little blog space on t'internet!

I love writing this blog and reviewing all the books that I read as it encourages me to focus on the books I'm reading even more and allows me to put my thoughts across too (not that I need any halep on that matter.

The Rules Are:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave the awrad to you.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Send it along to 15 other bloggers & let them know you have awarded them.

7 Things About Me: 

1. I have two gerbils called Chaos and Mayhem.
2. I love singing but not in front of other people.
3. I'm aiming to teach myself to speak German.
4. I live on my own and am very independent.
5. I have now lived in 3 of the 4 countries that make up the United Kingdom.
6. I'm a qualified beauty therapist.
7. For some reason I always fall for the bad guy (with morals/conscience) in films - they shouldn't make them  so sexy!!

Now on to the best part - passing the award on to those who deserve it!

  1. Book Him Danno!
  2. From The Shadows I Review
  3. Chocolate Chunky Munkie
  4. Rea's Reading and Reviews
  5. Basically Books
  6. Book BagLady
  7. Intoxicated By Books
  8. Kimba The Caffeinated Book Reviewer
  9. Mercurial Musings
  10. What's Beyond Forks?
  11. Raspberry Books
  12. Pen To Paper
  13. Pages of Gold
  15. BookSpark
Apologies if you operate an award-free blog - please just accept this, without having to repost, as a token of my love for your blog.

One last thing - THANK YOU to everyone who follows my blog and takes the time to read and comment , I love you all for it because it means so much to me :)


Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt **possible spoilers ahead**

The Sisters Brothers follows the tale of two brothers, Eli and Charlie Sisters, who are hired killers on the American west coast in the 1850s. This was during the time of the gold rush in the Sierra Nevada mountains and they are hired by their 'boss' to hunt down and kill a man called Herman Kermit Warm, relying on an informant named Morris to point him out to them.

We open by being introduced to our narrator, Eli, as he contemplates his current situation - his last horse died in a fire with "his kicking, burning legs, his hot-popping eyeballs" (if you don't like vivid descriptions, this may not be the book for you) and he has been lumbered with some slow replacement appropriately called 'Tub'. This is a despised but necessary horse that Eli eventually feels a connection to, even passing up a better steed out of sympathy for his companion.

Eli is obviously not meant to be a killer, as opposed to his brother, but instead wishes for a quieter life and a woman to share it with. At the same time he does not wish to leave his brother, for he feels a closeness to him that is unreciprocated. Charlie, however, appears more self-centred and has his sights set on becoming the next Commodore and making his fortune. Though they are brothers it is made blatantly obvious from the outset that these two are not alike - “our blood is the same, we just use it differently”.

DeWitt has decided to take us on a journey of at least two paths: One follows Eli, in his head, as he has to make the decision as to whether to keep on with his life as it is or if he should follow his wish for an easier, more stable life. The onset of his moral compass can be said to have a hand in how he starts dealing with people and carrying out his actions and job. The second looks at the bond between the two brothers as they travel across a landscape filled with weird, wonderful and unsavoury characters and having to both face the fact that what they believe in is going to be questioned as well as Eli's own questions of what they are really doing.

This is all set against the rather hostile background of the wild west with fortunes constantly raising at one point only to be savagely and unexpectedly taken away from them at another; but it all culminates in a lesson in morality with a rather hoped for content ending that has the pair returning to their home as all good long-suffering travellers should.

Just as with the original Odyssey, every chapter is a tale within itself, written with a rather poetic feel to it without losing focus.

I would happily describe this book as a western style odyssey with all the strange elements and characters that come with it. If you enjoy a western with a twist of dark humour and slight revelations then I would recommend this book to you.

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes **possible spoilers ahead**

When I saw this book I thought 'Oh look, it's not as long as I imagined it would be, should be nice, quick reading though.' It wasn't nice or quick.

I thought that, as this is one of the shortlisted books, it would open my eyes to the best of a different style that I'd enjoy. Unfortunately this is to be my first 'not good' review.

The first part of this book deals with the main character, Tony Webster, narrating to us his memories of childhood, friends and university life (with loves included). It was listed in a way reminiscent of when I had to plan out coursework essays - I'd start with bullet points and then pad them out with as much information and filler as possible - only Julian Barnes didn't seem to want to pad it out, he may well have been happy leaving the bullet points in!

Granted this may all have had some part to play in the general dragging out of the truth in Part Two but it grated on me to the point where it took two days for me to pick 'this damn book' (as I took to calling it) up again.

The second part of the book is set in Webster's present time where we see him suddenly presented with a whole different view on his memories of growing up and his relationships with certain friends and girlfriend. This is, in general, a very good idea for a book and it did have me hoping that the story would pick up speed and drag me in after the previous disappointment. Barnes wanted to show how a person's memories of events and people can be altered to stray far from the truth or to be blotted out completely.

Unfortunately it seems this book couldn't quite claw it's way out of the ditch of monotony for me - it stayed at a slow pace and occasionally threw in a few twists and turns that, granted I didn't see coming, were presented in such a way you just end up going 'oh, okay then.' It teased me with what it could be but didn't feel like being. The ending was made difficult to work out and my brain wasn't up to the task at the first time of reading because I hadn't been made to really care about Tony and his plight and how much what he believed was his younger self had been wrong and built up out of badly formed memories. 

I get that Barnes may have been trying to say 'Well, life isn't like some never-ending book/movie of excitement and adventure' but isn't that why we read? I know I read for fun and escape, not lectures on how boring life is always going to be for me in the future. If this is an example of Julian Barnes in a nutshell then I'm not a fan. I'm not going to go out and pick up his other works and I really cannot see how this beat some of the other books to becoming short-listed. I'm sorry, I can't recommend this, no matter how much I wish I could.

Be warned: If this book wins I will lose my faith in book readers everywhere :(

Monday, 19 September 2011

Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch **spoilers ahead**

Jaffy Brown was the boy who was born twice: the second time was when he was carried away by a tiger down Ratcliffe Highway, to be saved by Mr Jamrach.

This book is split into three parts. The first introduces us to Jaffy the boy, who was so childlike that he mistook an escaped tiger for a cat and went to stroke it on it's nose. He is then introduced to the owner who saved his life, Mr Jamrach (an actual person from the victorian era who did have a menagerie and who did rescue a boy from the jaws of an escaped tiger) who proceeds to offer him a job at the menagerie - the lowly task of cleaning the cages. Here Jaffy finds his best friend and at times worst enemy in Tim, who will encourage, push and dare Jaff the way only two boys can. By befriending Tim Jaff also meets Ishbel, his first love and Tim's twin sister.

This leads us nicely on to Part Two where the child Jaff has gone and is replaced with the more mature Jaffy that he perceives himself to be but we, the readers, can tell otherwise. Still friends with Tim and Ishbel Jaff finds himself wanting to prove his worth and showing that he's equal to Tim, who has just been told he's to join the hardened sea-dog Dan Rymer for an expedition to find a dragon. Whilst Jaffy himself doesn't believe there's a real dragon, they are all sceptical to begin with, he does feel riled enough to sign up as crew on the same whaling ship so that he can join Tim.

This is where it all truly begins, though you wouldn't know it at first. A mixture of hardened sailors and green hands on board, Carol Birch takes influences from the wreck of the Whaling Ship Essex (minus the angry whale) to cover the rest of the journey. With vivid descriptions of a whale hunt, capture and processing we are taken to a time of waiting; waiting to see if the dragon is real and what will happen to it if it's found. Then, with bad luck striking the ship, the crew find themselves facing the worst possible situation; split between two small whaling boats and food running low, they must find a way to survive knowing and having to accept that not all of them will.

Carol Birch uses a much older Jaffy to narrate the story, with occasional asides reminding us how brilliant hindsight is. She seems to excel at the descriptions of blood, guts, gore and chaos - making everything sound that much more interesting or engrossing - from the room of the silent birds to the stripping of a whale carcass and worse, it's all described to give the best effect. However, at times this did seem to work to her disadvantage, too much description and long, drawn out prose made me want to skip ahead a few pages, I didn't for fear of missing something vital, but the temptation was there.

This is a lovely, harsh, unrepentant look at a dying (some would say evolving) trade and the dangers that can unfold through the eyes of a boy who just wants to prove himself a man. I found it exciting to read, the descriptions of old London were beautiful in their stark reality. At times the emotions came out and I found myself tearing up not wanting it to be true. The ending was predictable in a way that you want it to be. I can see why this made the Man Booker Prize shortlist and have quite a few people in mind who I shall recommend this book to.

100 Books To Read Before You Die

This BBC top 100 book list seemed to have made the rounds on Facebook and also other bloggers blogs, so I thought I would see how many I had actually read. I've had a look at this before but couldn't recall my findings and my sister's going through this list (or one very similar) as a challenge to herself.

The instructions are to hightlight in bold all books you have read and italicise the ones you’ve started but haven’t finished.

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery

42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald

44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton (Yes Jess, you've read this too!)
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
I've counted 43 books of 100 that I've read. Not bad but less than half so it's just as well I don't take this as anything other than a suggestion for possible future reads. I'm not going to go out and try to read all of them but just any that appeal to me.

How many books have you read from this list? Make a list on your blog and come back and link me up, I would love to see it!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Bob Moore: No Hero by Tom Andry **possible spoilers ahead**

I initially downloaded this little gem at a time when I was going on 'free ebook spree'. It was free, the cover looked brilliant and it's about a PI working in a time when super powered beings have become an everyday sight.

Bob Moore is our cynical PI with a specific clientele, 'supers', people born with super powers who are now a rather normal occurence. As a 'tippy' (normal, non powered) it's just that little bit more dangerous for Bob to go on surveillance against supers as is evidenced right at the beginning when one decides to set fire to the tree he's in and then proceed to chase him whilst throwing fireballs in his general vicinity - and at times a lot closer!

The main premise of the story, however, isn't to point out why superheroes really shouldn't wear (pink) spandex but instead follows Bob as he takes on a case for a super from his past. With believable characters, even in this setting, we follow him as he battles against his own feelings towards the super and tries to figure out what is happening on a case that not even the police or other supers believe in.

Andry has ensured that the world he's created is deep and, more importantly, believable - even if we are talking about superheroes here! The characters are well thought out and put across and even, or especially, the supers are given their flaws. The back story behind Bob and his hatred towards Doc Art wasn't rubbed in your face or just thrown at you to then move on, it was built up and occasionally hinted at until that one crucial moment when it all becomes clear and you suddenly dislike the Doc too. Bob is not made out to be some PI with his moral high ground and even had me wondering how I felt about him at the end as he made his decision. It may not be one the reader will agree with but he is unapologetic about his actions and so he should be.

This first book by Tom Andry was short but so sweet with a narrative that is both cynical and darkly humourous in its telling. I found this to be one of the books I wished to be longer so that I didn't have to put it down and face the end. It's a PI mystery, comedy and sci-fi with a well padded central character that I would love to see end up with his own series on Sy-Fy. With the second book coming out soon (I have it on good authority, honest) I can only suggest you download this book first before going on to get the next one.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Perfume by Patrick Suskind **possible spoilers ahead**

"In eighteenth century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille and if his name has been forgotten today, it is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, misanthropy, immorality, or, more succintly, wickedness, but because his gifts and his sole ambition were restricted to a domain that leaves no traces in history: to the fleeting realm of scent..."

Now I'm not one who normally likes to start my review of a book with a quote of some kind, even if it is the breakdown of the opening paragraph, but this really does give the reader the idea of the direction this entire book is going to go and the style of writing the author uses throughout.

Where most writers will rely heavily on the sense of sight in order to describe a scene or set the mood Suskind has relied on scent, a sense that many of us take for granted but would be at a small loss without. With an unbreakable grip on his dictionary of large, descriptive words the author launches us into a stench ridden Paris that seems so lifelike in it's description you find yourself wrinkling your nose at a smell that's only in your mind.

We are introduced to the protagonist in this story in the most disgusting of settings with it's putrefying vapours and vile smelling fish masking the odour of corpses. His mother has given birth to him at her fish stall and left him under the table with the guts, fish heads and offal thinking he is dead. The mother is swiftly brushed under the carpet and dispatched with so that we can move on to the more important Jean-Baptiste (from here on referred to as Jean or J-B). The first insight we are given into something being not quite right with him is when he is described as not smelling like a baby should and from then on it's all about the scent as we quickly follow Jean grow up differently from other children and with no real moral compass except the one that he bases upon the discovery of scents.

This search follows him from solitary child to tanner's labourer onto perfumer's apprentice through to a journeyman wishing to escape all the scented taints of human 'effluvium' (now my favourite word) and, as such, his years of solitary in a cave. Thankfully these are briefly described and given a well-rounded chapter or so before the catalyst is introduced. Grenouille then moves on to a new mission of finding a scent for himself. This eventually leads him to Grasse and a chance meeting of a new yet familiar scent means that dear J-B coldly goes about honing his scent-catching methods then embarking on a spate of murders. The eventual, inevitable ending seems to have him purposefully end up not too far away or up the social ladder from where he began.

Grenouille, although the main character in this book, did not make me feel any sympathy towards him. He is described and likened to on many occasions as a 'tick': stubborn and clinging on for life but you don't see any good in him. He doesn't come across as completely human, even with his hauntingly sad conclusion on how it must all end, yet this cold and cynical approch didn't amke me want to stop reading.

In general I found this book to be rather engrossing and the style of writing was just fabulous. It was self-indulgent flattery but not enough to make me feel ill, almost like Suskind had a competition with himself as to how many different words could be used to describe general smells. His knowledge when it came to describing the olfactory senses to us poor, unenlightened masses is fascinating. I even found myself sniffing the crook of my armpit (read the book and you'll do the same at one point!). This book is put-downable but only because you need breaks from it in order to take it all in and get it all right in your head before carrying on, as well as the fact that you may want to come up for a breath of fresh air (boom boom tsh).

So, to conclude: I was fascinated with the book but I couldn't say for sure I loved it. I will read it again but I will feel just as disturbed at parts as I did amazed at others. It is a bizarre tale of a strange little man in a decadence ridden time that will have you remembering it for a long time to come.

I would also like to add that I now feel it my mission to use more of these words in my everyday life, you have been thoroughly warned ;P

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Upcoming Books

To let you guys know what's coming up in the way of book reviews on here I thought I'd make a list of the books I have and, apart from the top 6, the order they'll be read and reviewed in.

  1. The Sisters Brothers - Patrick deWitt
  2. The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes
  3. Jamrach's Menagerie - Carol Birch
  4. Snowdrops - A.D Miller
  5. Half-blood Blues - Esi Edugyan
  6. Pigeon English - Stephen Kelman
  7. The American Dream Reversed - Bianca Philipp (
  8. The Redbreast - Jo Nesbo
  9. Nemesis - Jo Nesbo
  10. The Devil's Star - Jo Nesbo
  11. The Redeemer - Jo Nesbo
  12. The Snowman - Jo Nesbo
All 12 are either on my bookcase or in the process of being delivered so I reckon this should keep me out of mischief for the next few months, don't you ;D After that I'll see what I have hanging around and take suggestions too.

As a special note - Bianca Philipp is a good friend of mine who's just had her first book published, once I receive my copy (not signed *sob*) I'll get onto reading and reviewing it... as I beta'ed it to this should be an interesting read - please feel free to buy it using the link provided. (I am not being paid for that plug, but my normal fee is choc chip cookies!)

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Rebellion by James McGee **possible spoilers ahead**

"Conspiracy. Revolution. War. Hawkwood heads to France to bring down Napoleon."

Fourth in the Matthew Hawkwood series this book sees our main character being sent to Paris to go undercover and assist in a rebellion against Bonaparte.

For those of you new to the series I can understand if you have sudden visions of McGee doing a Tarantinoesque change of historical events *cough* Inglorious Basterds *cough* to ensure we're all given a thoroughly heart-warming, hollywood ending. Those of us who have read the first three will now pipe up and tell you off for thinking such terrible things about McGee's ability to do his research and ensure we aren't left too dumbfounded/insulted.

Newbies - back to the beginning: Hawkwood is given a mysterious, dark background involving the military and a scar I haven't yet figured the meaning behind. He now works as a London Bow Street Runner during the time of the Napoleonic War.  This doesn't mean Runners just went after criminals though, oh no! According to research carried out they went undercover, were employed in cases of treason and sedition and even went after French prisoners of war! Now that's worthy of a book series, trust me, I've read the first three too and it's all  in there!

Rebellion sees Hawkwood moving away from his current Runner career and back towards his old military ways as he's sent to Paris whilst Napoleon and his army are away fighting in Russia. He's tasked with meeting up and getting in with an old general who has been charged with treason against the empire once before and who seems to believe in the old adage 'If at first you don't succeed...'. From the moment Hawkwood appears on the scene and gives the general a good swift kick up the proverbial to get him going (or so he thinks) it doesn't stop. From the foundering ship in the storm to the whispers and plots in a care home/prison up to and beyond the moment when they're walking through corridors basking in their certain victory, the writing has you hooked. The feelings of utter despondency to joy and elation and more seeps out of the page and into you, the reader, making you cheer them on (in your head if in public places) and worry about their safety.

Along the way you are introduced to different, colourful characters with their own, potentially dangerous reasons for getting involved. Be warned, however, do not get too attached, this is not a world where everyone will miraculously survive. I sadly found myself becoming too attached to the people that were created in this world. The brave don't always live to fight another day and not all the bad guys get their comeuppance. Trust no one, take nothing for granted and, above all, don't think you know what's going to happen next.

Whilst this series has, at times, been likened to Cornwell's Sharpe that can only go skin deep for McGee brings a whole new layer of intrigue, political plots and subterfuge that leaves you wanting the fifth book to be out already (hint McGee, big hint!). If you're looking for some action with substance get this series or, as I ahve been reliably informed, buy this book as it works quite well as a standalone too - though I do suggest the entire series!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Apologies and Decision time

Just realised something - though I did say I'd make an effort reviewing the books I read from now on - the book I'm currently reading, Rebellion by James McGee, is the 4th in the series and the first 3 have already been donated to charity during some flat move or another (they were all hardback editions so rather heavy). Seeing as I read the first one when it came out in 2006 this may strain my mind to try and recall every detail for a review so I will just have to try to generalise those 3 and feel guilty about it later, I am sorry folks.
On another point though - I need some advice on which book to start next - Ariana Franklin's The Death Maze (historical crime) or Jo Nesbo's Redbreast (Norwegian crime). There's such a thing as too much choice.
Sorry for the shortness of this post, just thought you'd want a heads up if the next review seems a bit 'hmmm'.

EDIT: Have decided that isntead of reading one of the two books mentioned above I am going to try and see if I can read the 6 books shortlisted for this year's Man Booker Prize before the winner is picked (or just read them in my own time). I shall also try to review them inbetween.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Darn Inconvenience

Well, as some of you may or may not know, I have broken a bone in my left hand/wrist area. It's my scaphoid bone that is shaped slightly like a banana (x-ray doc's words, not mine).

This all came to pass almost 2 weeks ago when I was cycling home from work and a woman decided to walk out right in front of me (she was facing me mind, full on, just saw through me!) and I didn't have a chance to break, just swerved and ended up going into some metal railings. Now, I would like to state here & now that I did NOT fall off my bike! I merely put up my left hand to stop my whole body smashing into it and felt my thumb get pushed back a tad too far. I continued to hobble home, still cycling though in some pain, and convinced myself that the pain was down to the fact that it was swollen, bruised & probably a bit sprained or something. I had just gone into a fence after all. The evening was spent doing as little as possible involving that hand.

It wasn't until the next day when a work colleague convinced me to go to the pharmacist after work to ask about appropriate support that I thought something may be wrong. She took one look at it, refused to let me buy any support and told me to go straight to A & E to get it X-Rayed... tad worrying that!

2 1/2 hours later, 2 trips to x-ray and countless times wishing I had a book or covertly staring at the injuries people had I was informed that I did in fact have a fractured bone and require a plaster cast. The nurse then proceeded to tell me that most scaphoid fractures aren't seen until weeks later due to people going down the same route I initially did and fobbing it off as a sprain, thus opening the person up to a number of complications in the healing process. On top of this it turns out that sometimes these sort of breaks can be notoriously hard to spot first time round (hence the second trip to x-ray that day). So really, all in all I had a relatively good hospital experience compared to some of the horror stories you hear about the NHS. My injury was spotted and treated reasonably quickly so thanks to the NHS staff who treated me :)
What this means however is that I'm now pottering about my flat unable to wash up quickly (one hand being unable to get wet), carry heavy objects such as a kettle, open bottles quickly or have a quick shower and wash my hair as normal. This also means that typing has slowed down to one-handed speed and reading is impractically difficult as my hand is positioned and cast in such a way that it won't support & hold open a book very easily :( This will last for at least 6 more weeks, joys :P
The bike, by the way, is perfectly fine!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Adult supervison required.

So I have somehow allowed myself to increase the number of books I need to read.
It was a lovely, sunny Saturday morning and I had just found out that I had money in my account and a Waterstones not 20 minutes walk away from me that was, conveniently, holding a 3 for 2 offer on all fiction books - now, if you know me well, you know where this is going.

I went in with the sole purpose of looking for some Jo Nesbo books when, lo and behold, there were pink stickers on EVERYTHING and all Jo Nesbo books on a table right as you entered the door! Now, Jess had informed me that I HAD TO READ 'The Snowman', but there are 4 books that he wrote before that and, whether I need to read them in order or not, I felt I had to. So, that was 5 books I needed and just 1 more to round it up to 6 and get 6 for the price of 4 (I Know, it doesn't sound so good now, but at the time!). Unfortunately Waterstones must have been plotting against me because I happened to see the next two Ariana Franklin books and just couldn't say no to myself.

Let's sum up so far - that's 5 Jo Nesbo, 2 Ariana Franklin and I need to now add 2 more books to get to 9. Practically speaking I could've said 'But no, why not put the 3rd Franklin book  down and come back for it at a later date.' I could've said that... I didn't :S

So, back to the bookshelves for 2 more books to round up to 9. There, on a cardboard display shelf, hidden at the bottom with that lovely, promising, happy pink sticker on it's cover was... 'Rebellion' by James McGee! Oh joyous day, I've been wanting that book since I saw it in hardback form (this was paperback, but it's the contents that really matter). Now, I have a choice - keep the Nesbo books and McGee and put down Ms. Franklin's books or... get one more and struggle under the weight of all 9 when walking back home up a large hill on a hot day.

The books I finally walked home with - gasping for a cuppa the entire way - were:
Jo Nesbo - The Redbreast, Nemesis, The Devil's Star, The Redeemer, The Snowman.
James McGee - Rebellion.
Ariana Franklin - The Death Maze, Relics of the Dead.
Mark Billingham - Scaredy Cat (had watched the Sleeping Beauty show on TV, but wanted to read the book and round up ;P)

Now I just need to find the time to read them all. I think I've figured out why friends and family drag me AWAY from bookshops - I always give in to the happy stickers!

If you don't hear from me for a while - I'm holed up indoors with copious amounts of tea trying to get through the books!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

The Millenium Trilogy **possible spoilers ahead**

I did say in my previous post that I'd write a review on Stieg Larsson's 'The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest' however, in order to do that properly I'd have had to have already written about the first two. As a compromise I have decided to make this post about my thoughts on the Millenium Trilogy all together.

Now, allow me to start by making a confession: if it weren't for my sister pushing the first book onto me I would never have picked it up, media hype be damned. The way it was being covered and raved about didn't appeal to me and I was feeling quite comfortable in my fantasy genre armchair. As it is Jess made it appeal to me, she described Lisbeth Salander and I definitely decided to give it a fair chance.

The author himself, Stieg Larsson, sadly passed away before he could publish the Millenium Trilogy and see what a global success it would become. Now the notes/potentially almost finished copies of the fourth and fifth books are locked away never to see light whilst his family and his lover fight over money and everything else in court.

I don't usually look to deeply into the background of the author but was intrigued at some of the parallels that could be drawn between real life and characters. Mr Larsson was a journalist and political activist who spent the last 15 years of his life under constant threat from right wing violence due to him doing political research and consequently publishing a book exposing some extreme right and racist organisations in Sweden. On top of this it has also been reported that, aged 15, Larsson witnessed a gang rape - starting in him an absolute hatred of violence and abuse against women. The name of this girl was said to be Lisbeth.

On to the books themselves:

As with most good books we are instantly drawn in to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo with a little bit of intrigue in the prologue before then being introduced to our two main characters Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. Slight problem: when I read I do like to know how to pronounce the names of the characters but Blomkvist totally alludes me and my head has most probably totally bastardised the correct pronounciation, but it's the only way I could carry on reading without getting hung up on it. Now, Mr Blomkvist, part owner of Millenium magazine, has just had a court case blow up in his face (not literally) and we are shown what sort of character he is - stubborn and not going to budge on his feelings. this is evidenced, to great effect throught the entire trilogy. Lisbeth Salander is introduced to us as working for Milton Security company and as being an antisocial, chain smoking, computer hacking genius.  Despite all this I find myself liking her, a lot.

The first book deals with Mikael dealing with a jail sentence and then being hired to unwrap a decades old murder mystery and living on an island for a year where the possible murderer could also be staying. Lisbeth comes into this by having been hired by the same people to look into Mikael's background. This all ends up with the two getting caught up in a whole sordid mess of murders, disappearances, physical & other violence and just a few (note sarcasm) scenes of a sexual nature - which doesn't come across as put in just for the hell of it but all seems rathe relevant to the book, very well done in my opinion. What did get me was how the relationship between Mikael and Lisbeth seemed to work. It was built up rather quickly and, Mikael especially, a trust and slight loyalty started to form to the extent of one saving the other's life (in hindsight I say: 'quid pro quo Clarice').

Now, as it's a trilogy you'd be forgiven for picking up the second book and expecting to read all about how Mikael and Lisbeth are working on many different cases together and reminiscing on how they first met, you'd be so wrong! Played With Fire has barely any same room interaction between the two, rather new for me seeing as I'm used to books with main characters actually have them spend time together. Lisbeth is off jetsetting/hiding out around the world with newly acquired money. Whilst back in Sweden we are introduced to an up and coming journalist/writer Dag Svensson and his girlfriend who have been investigating the sex traffic trade in Sweden. The girlfriend had written a thesis on it and he went further with her findings to eventually turn it into a news story at Millenium. It seems, after the Wennerstrom affair, Millenium is the mag to go to for honest but damning exposes on anyone and everyone. Unfortunately Dag and his girlfriend are murdered and it seems our dear Lisbeth is looking rather guilty in the police's (and possibly the readers) eyes.

This leaves Mikael to carry on the research as well as do some extra in an attempt to prove Lisbeth's innocence and find out who really did it. From this point on we are introduced to complicated stories of a defecting soviet spy and the subsequent cover up by Swedish Secret Services, a branch of the swedish Police that even the Swedish Police don't know about and we learn a little bit more about Lisbeth's early life. I could try to disassemble all of this but my post is getting long enough and my brain will hurt!

Lisbeth, in a bid to expose the truth gets herself, and her friends, into a lot of trouble and she almost gets herself killed which is where this book ends (on a cliffhanger!) and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest picks up. Not 1 or 2 months down the line though, but that night! It picks up so well that, if it weren't for the size of the books, I'd almost say it could've just been the next chapter. This book goes from crime-thriller to more of a crime-legal vein with Lisbeth stuck up in a hospital bed for most of it and, yet again, barely an face-to-face contact with Mikael that does work so well here. This final installment serves to clear up any confusion us readers had from the previous book: Who was involved in the sex trade and why it was covered up (still remember that bit of the story, it becomes slightly overshadowed); the people behind the secret operation in the police force as well as the reasons for Lisbeth being framed. These are just a few of the main areas covered, there's so much more that goes on including the unravelling of Lisbeth's life and why she is who she is and acts how she does: averse to making any real human contact or getting too close to people, so cold and impersonal and seemingly uncaring.

This book, and the trilogy as a whole, ends with a brilliant court case that had me gripped (and letting out occasional 'woohoo's of pride) and Lisbeth having to deal with her change of status and no longer needing to hide.

Crime fiction didn't used to be my first choice but these books have definitely gone into my top ten list. Larsson changed pace and tactics quite a few times throughout which definitely kept me wondering and coming back for more. It also helps that this is a man who did his research and knew what he was writing about, you as a reader aren't going to feel talked down to or mollycoddled in any way, it's all out there: unapologetic and all the better for it. This is so unlike what we're used to with most media and films - the 'nasty' parts briefly mentioned in passing then hidden under a throw so as not to make us squirm.

If you want a thrilling read with a dramatic setting then definitely pick up these books (make sure you have all three to hand). Do not expect them to be quick little 'holiday reads', you will want to take time off work for this.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Favourite genre...?

I'm being asked a fair bit what I think about certain books, what sort of books do I go for etc, etc and these questions used to be easy to answer as a teenager - horror and fantasy with maybe a bit of thriller added into the mix. But then I added more to my repertoire and suddenly it's a case of me just telling people 'I don't care about the genre as long as the description appeals to me and makes me want to read it.' Which comes across a bit of a fence-sitting response, even to my ears & even though I know it's true. Granted I will still head for the same section in the bookshop but that's more out of comfort from an old friend that I seem to be drifting further away from after a much shorter period.

Then I'm asked what I thought of certain books and I'm afraid of giving a different reaction to what the person asking expects. If it was a recommendation from them and they thoroughly enjoyed it I have to think of replies that a politician would be proud of if I didn't like it. I know everyone has different tastes but some of these 'classics' just aren't appealing and I won't read them for the sake of being able to say 'Oh I've read such and such, of course.' It's basically book snobbery - and I don't discriminate against which books I choose to dislike ;D

The hardest thing, though, out of all of this is being asked to describe a book. If someone wants to know what a book is about, even if I've just that second put it down, I end up having to try to remember what's on the back or putting basic notes into bullet points in my mind... and that doesn't really help sell what I may describe as a great book!

So, as a challenge to me, from this point on I'm going to start writing a review about every book I read that will start the day I finish The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson (really good book!) As with every book reviewer this will be from my own p.o.v so if you disagree or feel differently, feel free to tell me.

P.S - Having just ordered my friend's first published book that is due to be delivered mid-September, look out for a review for "The American Dream Reversed" by Bianca Philipp, once I've finished rereading it (I helped check it over before it was sent off). To be able to read it before then - here's the link:

So, until my first ever book review, ciao all!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Comfy now :)

So I've settled into my new place rather quickly. I think I just have that sort of way with me - once everything's how I like it (took me all of Saturday evening & Sunday Morning) and I know how I'm getting to work etc I'm suddenly as settled there as if I''ve always been there.

My route to work is pretty good to - 5 miles cycling to get there.... the first bit goes past an army barracks so I get to watch the poor people doing their exercises whilst I pedal past (not that I'll complain about the view mind ;D) It's quite nice but I'm still such a country bumpkin that I get nervous cycling on busy roads so do the bad thing and stick to the paths as much as poss - I'd rather annoy pedestrians than tangle with a car :S

Another important part of moving somewhere new is getting to know the place and doing something to make you socialise so you're not alone in the big wide world. Luckily I grew up in this area so have got back into contact with some old friends who lived in the same village as me or went to primary school with me - but on top of that I've decided to take up Martial Arts lessons at a place just 20 mins walk away. As much as I like to laze around on the odd occasion I'd start to feel too lazy so being able to go out and do something (on top of the cycling) is a good thing for me & I'm not just talking physically... I want to avoid the lazy mindset to!

As I mentioned before, I grew up in this area and I can definitely feel that I'm more relaxed here than I was previously. If we add on to this the fact that I'm back near the coast where I always love to be and I think this is the start of a good bit of my life for me. I can sit in the office at work and all of a sudden the breeze will bring me a waft of salty sea air (not the nicest smell, granted) and I'm smiling. I have a few family members nearby who can pop up (or I can pop down) for the day and I know my way around already and don't have to google map everything.

All in all people I'm just happy with my lot in life at the moment - I'm out of the rut and moving forward and can't wait to see what comes along :D


Saturday, 16 July 2011

Where did you come from??

It's amazing, in such a small flat I managed to collect a LOT of rubbish! I'm blaming my mum for some of it though.... the minute I moved she came down with a load of stuff that she 'thought was mine' and dumped it on me... half of it belongs to one of the other sisters but mum just saw the opportunity to get rid of stuff outta her house so I have to now deal with the repercussions!
I still have the not-yet-packed kitchen staring at me, if I didn't need to do it asap I'd admit defeat and leave it be :P Add this on to the organising of the furniture so that the larger stuff can go first and I'm in trouble - no wonder I woke up early, my body knew what needed doing!
I hate moving... really hate it!! I love that it means I'm going somewhere new but the process sucks! I think my ability to procrastinate to the nth degree doesn't help, I always put things off until the last minute (I mean, hello, meant to be moving today and I'm writing a blog!) I try to fight it, not even kidding, I KNOW I shouldn't be on this and typing away, but I seem to have a block that just stops me. Well, I'm gonna try again.

To my friends - I won't be back on until Wednesday afternoon/evening as that's the day the phone line/internet engineer will arrive.


Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Moving on...

I know I should post more to be considered a regular blogger or any of that stuff.... but what's the point of posting if there's nothing worth writing about... quality over quantity, right ;D

Anyway - my big news - I have a new job and flat in a totally different area to where I am at the moment! It's brilliant, I spent all that time searching for jobs with nothing coming to fruition but then my grandad came through and has offered me a job and apprenticeship with his company! So I shall be working and learning and becoming more qualified at the same time :D I'll be studying NVQ level 3 in Business Administration (so rock and roll I know). This means that I'll be moving and I have already found and started moving in to my new flat - two dbl beds and twice the size of my current place for not much more than I'm paying now.

The best thing is that this is all happening back around where I first grew up! I've managed to come full circle in where I've lived - England, Scotland, N./ Ireland, England and I'm hoping that it's a bit fo a sign for good things to come :D

I'm upbeat, hopeful and looking forward to the future and all that I'll be able to achieve now I've managed to find a way out of this rut - everything happens for a reason, if I hadn't tried to make it on my own so much grandad would have never thought I was worth taking a chance on and offered me this opportunity. So keep your head up and keep trying and you never know what could happen!


Friday, 15 April 2011

What to do...

So we have 2 looong weekends coming up in a row and I'm trying to think of the many things I could do to fill my time as there's only so much cleaning/domestic goddess chores I can do before my flat starts begging for mercy.

The fair is coming to the Rye from the 22nd to the 2nd so that could pass a sunny day or two and with an unlimited cinecard I could drag some people to see some films if it's not so sunny but I realised something else...
 .... as I don't have the relevant office works on my laptop I'm unable to beta my friends work at home which means I won't feel too guilty for abandoning it and getting my own writing back into gear - it was put on hold for a while due to lack of time and other commitments but with a pen, pad of paper and enough time to myself it's already started to make some seriously decent progress! I will take a whiel before I'm happy to post the rest of it up on it's site because I'm just too darn picky but trust me, there's lots of it to be typed onto computer and uploaded (hence why I'm kinda putting that part off!)

So that's at least 11 books I need to read, plus my writing, plus free entry (or just an extra £1.50 for 3D) to films AND finding out that the pub near me stocks Desperadoes which means my summer is planned out pretty well - a happy social life and being a hermit rolled into one summer!

Any more ideas anyone has to add to the list ;P

Monday, 14 March 2011

There goes the steam train...

I've been on 3 dates with a guy. He lives in town, works near me and is all round a lovely guy... but the excitement I had about the fact that a guy wanted to get to know me, hasn't gone off me after the first date etc etc has just gone.... there is something in my head that just switches off the good and decides it's going to focus on the negative instead - that or just gets bored :( When I'm with him it's fine, we just hang out and chill but it seems the instant I get home and sit down to chill out I just don't want to know and I don't know how to turn that off - Yesterday he texted me maybe once or twice in the evening and even that annoyed me because they just happened to coincide with my relaxing, watching Jurassic Park II (not even that good a film) and generally just cutting myself off from civilisation - then the texts coming in just seemed to aggravate me >:(

I need to break out of this love of solitude, it's not beneficial in the long run - I just don't know how :( I shall just have to start watching how I start thinking and actually want to do something sociable :O

Watch this space... there will be progress (I hope!)