Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Book Review: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Color PurpleThe Color Purple by Alice Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My Mum bought me this book when I was younger and probably too immature to read it, but I've finally got around to it and I wish I hadn't waited so long. Alice Walker was 'W' in my A-Z of authors which means I'm finally on the home stretch.
The Color Purple is a series of letters from Celie to God, or her sister Nettie and from Nettie to Celie as they grow up and live their lives. It's one of the most addictive books I've ever read, due to the style of the narrative each 'chapter' is a relatively short letter, and I would keep telling myself 'just one more'. Each writer has a distinctive style as well, making it easy to differentiate between Celie and her sister.
The wealth of characters Celie meets are interesting and individual. My favourite character is Sofia, Celie's step-daughter-in-law and Shug Avery, who everyone seems to be obsessed with and I understand why. All of the characters have their flaws as well as points that make them brilliant, and that's why this book works so well.
Overall, this is a fantastic, engrossing read. I only have two negative points. Celie is not as well educated as her sister, Nettie and therefore she frequently spells words as they sound which sometimes disrupts the flow of storytelling. Also, by the end of the story I was losing track of the children and who their parents were. Maybe I was just tired but I couldn't remember all of their names!

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Thursday, 20 December 2012

Book review: River of Shadows by Valerio Varesi

River of ShadowsRiver of Shadows by Valerio Varesi
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I had great problems connecting with this book. It took me forever to read and normally I whip through murder mysteries with no problem but it wasn't the case for this one.
The pace was ridiculously slow, maybe it's the relaxed Italian culture, but it dragged along. The book couldn't hold my attention either, I would find my mind drifting off and thinking about other things only to find I hadn't taken in any of the story.
The main character, I think his name was Soneri, was generally likeable. He seemed like a nice man, although his relationship with his girlfriend got on my nerves. They seemed to spend most of their time together trying to find risqué places to sleep together, including someone's flat and the barge belonging to the missing Tonna. I know it's not real but it comes across as really unprofessional and I like my policemen to do things properly.
One thing that also got on my wick (sorry for ranting, I'm in one of those moods!) was how much they went on and on about food. I know Italians are passionate about what they eat but every time someone sat down at a dinner table I would get a detailed recipe.
Overall, this was a bit of a disappointment. At the end it was just a relief to finish and I'm not sure I completely understood who was the murderer or why. I think I'll stick to my Scandinavian reads. I always seem to enjoy them more.

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Friday, 7 December 2012

Book review: Fragile by Lisa Unger

FragileFragile by Lisa Unger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me ages to find an author beginning with U for my A-Z of authors, but eventually I settled on Lisa Unger, the author of Fragile.
I have found similar themes and characters in a lot of American books, particularly those by Harlan Coben. The main characters are always childhood sweethearts and still know everyone they went to school with, which I find a bit unrealistic. I'm twenty and already I've lost contact with a lot of my school friends.
The story of the missing in both present day and in the past is interesting. As the reader I was never entirely sure what had happened, although I could guess who was involved. I found the case from the past much more interesting and didn't really care for Charlene, who seemed to be destined to find herself in that situation.
The characters we meet are interesting and flawed, which is a massive tick for Unger. They all have histories and insecurities, but it's hard to find a character that is happy with their life. Everybody seems to be depressed and wishing they were somewhere else, which makes me wonder why everyone comes back to The Hollows?
Overall, the mystery side kept me going, and the characters were interesting, but this was quite an unhappy book. There were also some characters that were a bit unnecessary, i.e. Charlie and Wanda.

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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Book review: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The HobbitThe Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my second attempt at reading The Hobbit and I must admit, I enjoyed it much more this time around. It is a lovely, charming story, I love the character of Bilbo and how different he is to your normal action/adventure hero. His narrative makes the story flow well. All the characters are brilliant. They are all unique and different and it's surprisingly easy to keep track of the various dwarves. I also love how Tolkien writes songs into the story, it's a nice edition and brings scenes to life. I'm sure Peter Jackson will use them to great effect in the new film.
My only criticism is that my mind wandered on occasion and I had to re-read passages. Maybe this is more of a reflection of my state of mind that the book, but I like a book to grip me from beginning to end.
Overall, a charming, classic story which I look forward to reading to my children one day.

Previous review:
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

First of all, I'm going to apologise, because I know for a lot of people, The Hobbit is a beloved book. But there was something about it that I just couldn't connect to. To be honest I don't remember a lot of it, all I do remember is struggling, so I should give it another go before I review it for definate.

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Friday, 16 November 2012

Book review: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Treasure IslandTreasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've been wanting to read Treasure Island for ages, ever since another class read it at school. Then I watched the most recent adaptation on Sky in January and absolutely loved it. Unfortunately, I think watching the TV show lessened the book for me slightly.
First of all, it was very easy to read, a lot easier than I expected. Books written in this time period can often be complicated with an unfamiliar vocabulary and out of date speech. But this wasn't the case for Treasure Island.
The story itself is brilliant, a good old-fashioned pirate story, with brilliant characters, especially the eccentric Long John Silver. Some of the other crew members got a bit muddled in my brain but the main characters were very memorable and easily distinguishable. For me, Eddie Izzard was the only person I saw as Silver.
Overall, it was a good book, but I wish I hadn't known the ending. I spent ages waiting for the next event, waiting for the introduction of another character, and that took the joy out of it a bit.

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Thursday, 8 November 2012

Book review: The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

The LifeboatThe Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Charlotte Rogan's The Lifeboat was the R in my A-Z of authors. My Mum had read the book and I was intrigued and excited to have a go. I'd never read a book like this, but it was the kind of film that I would go and see.
We meet Grace Winter, recently married and being charged for murder. She is the character that leads us through the story, from meeting her husband Henry, to being on the lifeboat and the consequences of what happened.
I personally did not find her a very likeable character. She is strong, which is a nice change, especially for the time period, but she seems to think little of anyone else. Her choice at the end of the book is really disappointing to me, but I'll get onto that later.
The book goes back and forth from the events on the lifeboat to the trial. The lifeboat sections are really exciting. I was hooked on every word, every action, every thought. The trial and meetings with her lawyers weren't so gripping. I found myself wanting to be back on the boat.
Rogan creates a menagerie of characters, all of which are interesting and unique. At the beginning it's a bit hard to keep track of them all but, as you can probably guess, that gets easier over time.
This is one of the quickest books I've ever read. I was travelling back and forth to my home town at the time and I do read more on the train, but not this quickly!
The reason why I only gave this three was honestly because of the ending. The book kind of fizzles out, there's no twist or sudden surprise, it just ends and I was left with that feeling of injustice. I wanted there to be something more, and there wasn't.

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Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Book review: Run For Home by Sheila Quigley

Run for HomeRun for Home by Sheila Quigley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sheila Quigley's Run for Home was the Q in my A-Z of authors. I'd never heard of the author, but the plot sounded intriguing so I thought I'd check it out.
To start with, we meet Kerry Lumsdon a sixteen year old girl, who is training to be a professional athlete, she lives on a council estate with her alcoholic mother and a variety of brothers and sisters from different fathers.
Kerry is not a very sympathetic character. The first time we meet her she is stealing milk from the doorstep of a blind old lady, before chucking the empty bottle over into her garden to smash. She has a go at anyone and everyone for no particular reason. It seemed a bit unrealistic to me and I couldn't care less what happened to her.
The other characters seemed to be a bit soapish. With six children, and all their friends it's hard to keep track of everyone. The police searching for Kerry's missing sister Claire and mainly detached from this, but we constantly hear their thoughts about how much they fancy each other. I just wish they'd stick to their job, if I'm honest. Lorraine, the central police figure is a likeable character. Again, she has unnecessary family introduced just to add to the confusion, but you feel on her side. She has a lot on her plate. As well as searching for Kerry's sister, she also has headless bodies turning up left, right and centre. Despite being a strong police woman, she seems a bit feeble in her personal life. I wanted to give the character a shake of the shoulders and tell her to pull herself together.
One thing I did love about this book was the way Sheila Quigley wrote dialogue. It's set in Sunderland, and she writes her characters with an accent. I could hear their speech very clearly in my head, which I love. It does bring the characters to life more, even if there were too many of them.
Overall, an okay book, but I probably wouldn't read another of hers. There were good points and bad points, but it was a bit too melodramatic for me.

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Saturday, 27 October 2012

Book review: The Damned United by David Peace

The Damned UtdThe Damned Utd by David Peace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a lover of David Peace, but I've not read many (if any!) football novels.
I'd heard of the film, The Damned United, and I knew Michael Sheen played Brian Clough, but I knew nothing about the actual man himself. I wasn't born until 1992, so most of the references to footballers went straight over my head, apart from Kevin Keegan, George Best and Peter Shilton.
The story follows Brian Clough during two periods of time, simultaneously. The first part covers his managing of Hartlepools, then Derby, then Brighton, before meeting up with Leeds. While the second part covers just Leeds.
David Peace is an extraordinary writer, when you start reading it feels like you're taking a deep breath and going underwater. You're submerged in his world, and it's amazing. The pace just zips along.
With this book it's quite hard to explain why I gave it four stars. To be honest, my expectations were high, so I started with five. I think if I'd been around at the time of Brian Clough, been aware of what he was like as a man and a manager, and his teams I would have given this five. For me, I got a bit confused as to what section we were in sometimes, and there are so many football players' names to remember.
As I was reading the book I spoke to my parents about Brian Clough. They're old enough to remember him and from the book I gather he was hardly off the TV in his heyday. They didn't particularly like the man, but from reading this, I kind of did.
I know it's not written by Brian Clough, but despite his arrogance and his penchant for speaking his mind, no matter who it hurts, the character came across as a man trying to do his best.

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Thursday, 18 October 2012

Book review: The Istanbul Puzzle by Laurence O'Bryan

The Istanbul PuzzleThe Istanbul Puzzle by Laurence O'Bryan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For ages I've been searching for an Indiana Jones style book, with plenty of puzzles, action, likeable characters and a quick pace. Unfortunately this is not the book.
The Istanbul Puzzle may be called so, but there is no puzzle involved. The characters spend a great deal of time looking for a mosaic, but it's not dwelt on much.
Action there is plenty of! Bullets flying, people dying left, right and centre, explosions! My particular favourite bit is when Sean and Isabel get stuck in a drain below the city. The tension is excellent, I was literally on the edge of my bed. O'Bryan does a great job of setting the scene and creating great atmosphere.
Generally, the characters are on the likeable, realistic side, but they are quite clichéd. The main character is called Sean Ryan (because all action heroes have to have a short first and last name!) and he works for a company in London. His wife has died fairly recently, which takes up half of his thoughts in the book. He's generally a nice guy, but can be quite predictable and as always it's just a coincidence that our heroes have all the skills required to get themselves out of dangerous situations. His counterpart, Isabel, is quite similar, her partner let her down etc. etc.
The pace is quick, I raced through this book as the characters raced around Istanbul, and I got a short history, geography and religious studies lesson at the same time. It's clear that the author adores Istanbul and he makes the city sound gorgeous. I would love to go there.
Overall, it's a solid book, that could be improved on. I wouldn't say no to another book by O'Bryan, but I'm still going to keep on hunting for that perfect Indiana Jones mystery!

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Friday, 12 October 2012

Book review: The Redbreast (Harry Hole 3) by Jo Nesbo

The Redbreast (Harry Hole book 3)The Redbreast by Jo Nesbø
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jo Nesbo has been recommended to me several times, mostly by my local independent book store and I'd picked up The Redbreast in a supermarket. So for N, in my A-Z of authors, I chose to read it, jumping in with no preconceptions.
I must say, I would not have known that this was originally in a foreign language as it's translated flawlessly. Unlike other Nordic reads, I had no problems with the names of the main characters, Harry Hole is easy to remember.
The storyline is exciting and intriguing, skipping from the front lines in WWII to Norway at the turn of the century. We're introduced to various suspects and victims and one by one, everything slots into place, with Hole eventually piecing it together. There's a surprise twist halfway through the novel that I definitely didn't see coming and if I'd read books 1 and 2 I would have been more shocked and saddened.
It was interesting to read a book centred around the war in a different country. Everything I'd read or seen was about the British or American points of view, so reading it from the Norwegian point of view was enlightening.
I suppose my only down side was near the end, all of the names did become quite overwhelming and not everything was wrapped up neatly as I like it to be. However, I suppose that's what makes people want to read the next one in the series, I know I will.

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Saturday, 29 September 2012

Book review: Cold Granite by Stuart MacBride

Cold Granite (Logan McRae, #1)Cold Granite by Stuart MacBride
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Somehow, I always manage to read these books out of order. Not that it really matters with the Logan McRae series, but it's nice to finally read the first book, the one that started it all.
Cold Granite was the M in the A-Z of authors and I'd been looking forward to it when I started all that time ago. MacBride's books are a brilliant conglomeration of gore, humour, outlandish characters and witty dialogue. Cold Granite was no exception.
The discovery of a boy's mutilated body starts off events and soon, children's bodies are piling up left, right and centre, with mob minion Georgie Stephenson chucked in for good measure. At the beginning it's hard to see how all of these crimes would link together but they eventually do, all unravelling and explaining themselves, fitting neatly in the giant Aberdeen puzzle.
MacBride describes crime scenes with relish and gore. This book is certainly not for the squeamish. There are several outbuildings full of dead animals and despite it being written word, it's as if the smell is with you in the room. So is the cold, bitter wind and mountains of snow.
But to balance the gore, is the humour, definitely one of the reasons I keep coming back to this author. There's a wealth of eccentric characters, pantomime villain and sweetie fiend DI Insch, chain smoking lesbian womaniser DI Steel (my personal favourite), 'ball breaker' WPC Jackie Watson and Bastard PC Simon Rennie, to name just a few. As I've read other books in this series it was nice to see familiar characters before I knew them. For example, PC Rennie isn't mentioned too much in this book, but he becomes more of a feature in the later ones. In contrast, Logan McRae himself is quite normal.
I don't normally give murder mysteries five stars, but in the past I have given MacBride's books full marks. However, this one didn't quite get there. The only reason for that is because rather than following evidence and linking crime scenes together that way, Logan would almost have an epiphany. For example, it appears one child has been beaten, but after seeing a road safety advert he realises the child must have been hit by a car. There are a few moments like this and although it doesn't take anything away from MacBride's genius, gory but hilarious world, it can seem a bit stilted and a bit unrealistic.

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Friday, 21 September 2012

Book review: Deadly Intent by Lynda La Plante

Deadly Intent (Anna Travis Mystery, #4)Deadly Intent by Lynda La Plante
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At the beginning of Lynda La Plante's Deadly Intent this book was a four. As the case continued, it stuck to a four, but by the end I was so fed up with the case and frustrated with the characters that I went down a star.
The case starts with ex-policeman Frank Brandon being shot in a squat. The whole case spirals, with several dead bodies, all linked in some way to Alexander Fitzpatrick a drug baron who disappeared over ten years ago.
Alongside the complicated case, is DI Travis' personal relationships which seem to get more ridiculous by the second. But more about that later.
The actual case is good, exciting, lots of evidence and strings that all seem to knit nicely together as the book steams along. I'll admit, this book certainly has the 'pull', as one chapter ends you just want to start another. I read most of this book when I was travelling and it was a welcome friend on the long train journeys.
The book gets three stars for the case and La Plante's writing, which is quite tense in places. I can't really put my finger on it, but there is something that keeps you reading.
What really fell down for me was DI Travis, all the characters really. I found Anna whiny, she complained about everything, even when it was well deserved. She made bad choices and had no appreciation for her colleagues. To be honest, apart from Gordon, I felt no affection towards any of the characters. This was my first Lynda La Plante novel, so I didn't know anything about Travis' relationship with Langton, but when we meet him, I can't see the attraction. He's an arse to her. Her relationship with Pete, the Lab Tech is just as bad. He introduces her to drugs and despite asking him to stop taking drugs, he still does and she doesn't show any reaction to this.
The last quarter of the book is mainly interviews, and by this point I was ready to give up. The last chapter really got my goat. As their search for Alexander Fitzpatrick is drawing to a close, she makes a decision. Personally I think she made the right decision, although her bosses do not. After getting told off, and possibly demoted by Langton she goes home and manages to talk herself into believing she'd made the right one. Despite her telling off and everything else, she risks it all and agrees to go on a date with someone who was at one point a suspect in the case! And at that point I was considering going down to two stars!
Anyway, after my long rant, it's up to you. I personally am in no hurry to read another Lynda La Plante, especially an Anna Travis novel, but if you like your lead a fluffy female officer with a string of bad relationships, then pick this book up.

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Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Book review: Watchers by Dean Koontz

WatchersWatchers by Dean Koontz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dean Koontz's Watchers was book K in my A-Z of authors. My Mum has always raved about Dean Koontz, despite it not being her normal read. I had attempted to read Strangers but got a bit stuck and had read another thriller-like book.
So I went into this book fairly optimistically. First of all, Koontz is a brilliant writer, he brings characters to life, makes situations seem realistic despite the story involving a genius dog and the dialogue is good. There are tonnes of comparisons between Koontz and Stephen King and I don't think this is a bad thing. I love Stephen King and Koontz displays all the things that I love about his writing. The main character, the dog Einstein is brilliant. There are times I laughed out loud and times I cried reading this book and it's all because of this wonderful dog. I own two dogs myself and if they were as clever as Einstein it would make life a lot easier.
Overall, this book is heart warming, though provoking and at some times horrifying. Einstein makes it all! Some other reviewers have said that it was too long and I agree with this. There were some parts that could have been scrapped and a whole section involving a hitman that I wouldn't have missed at all.
Reading Watchers has given me and Koontz hope and I'm prepared to give Strangers another crack.

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Thursday, 30 August 2012

Book review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold FryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was recommended to me by my Mum, and our local book shop Booka.
It's not normally the kind of thing I read but I was looking forward to it, everyone I'd spoken to about it absolutely loved it.
It's a fairly simple story. Harold Fry is a retired man, living unhappily with his wife in Kingsbridge. He receives a letter from a woman named Queenie who he used to work with and decides to write a letter back to her. Only, he doesn't post it, he continues walking to Berwick Upon Tweed. We follow Harold on his journey, his ups and downs and the people he meets along the way.
At first, I thought each chapter followed a basic pattern, which disappointed me a bit. Harold met someone, walked a bit and reminisced about an old memory, normally involving his wife or son. The memory often turned out to be depressing. But as the story continued and Harold's pilgrimage evolved into something much bigger than he had anticipated it became better. The people he met brought the story to life and the problems he faced were realistic. In most books, the hero would walk all the way in yachting shoes and have no problems at all, but it detailed Harold's injuries and obstacles. The whole time I willed Harold just to buy a pair of walking boots, but Harold wasn't that kind of person.
Overall, this book is a lovely, simple story, filled with happy, sad and surprising moments. It makes you think about how you live your life, what's important to you and what you'd do for those you love.

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Monday, 27 August 2012

Book review: Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason

Jar CityJar City by Arnaldur Indridason
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had to hunt a bit to find an I book for my A-Z of authors, but eventually I came across Arnaldur Indridason.
I'd read a few translated books before and always found some of the text a bit stilted, but this wasn't the case at all with Jar City. The story flowed well, dialogue was plausible and realistic and no word seemed out of place.
The actual story itself was brilliant, full of twists, turns and unexpected surprises. The story stretches back to the 60's and the past of the murder victim and the people he has affected throughout his life.
It's not always pleasant, but it's not 'gritty' which for me is a nice change. Murder mystery books can often be depressing and miserable, but this one did have a sense of humour, which again translated well into English.
I found this quite a quick read and once the story got going it was hard to put down. Each clue led to another, with the odd fiery confrontation and interesting characters.
The only problem I had was with the character names. I struggled to separate all of them at the beginning and lots of them have names starting with E. I suppose this wouldn't be a problem if it was a British or American book and I names that I recognised were used. However, once I got into it was easy to separate each of the characters, although I'm not sure I can spell or pronounce any of them!
Overall, an interesting murder mystery that's unputdownable and certainly the promise for more. I can't wait to read another!

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Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Book review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-timeThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time was my H, in my A-Z of authors. I'd bought the book a while ago, it's just taken me ages to get around to reading it.
The premise is simple, it's told from the point of view of Christopher Boone, a fifteen year old who has Asperger's syndrome. Initially, it's about him trying to solve the mystery of a murdered dog, but that get's resolved pretty quickly.
The book as a whole it addictive, I read it in a few days and once you start reading it's hard to put down. Being inside Christopher's mind in interesting if a little odd. I have no knowledge of this condition so it was very educational for me as well, learning about what was important to him.
There were a few things that I found a bit niggly. For a start, I find it a bit far fetched that the father of a child would tell him his mother was dead. I also found it odd that the mother would not go and visit the child when she didn't get any response to letters she sent over two or so years.
The way people reacted to Christopher also shocked me. For part of the book he was sitting in a London Underground station for a prolonged period of time. At no point did anyone from the underground staff come to check he was okay. Christopher doesn't like anyone touching him and when they do he screams. When this happened with several different strangers, they just left. No one and I mean no one stopped to think that the kid might have a problem. Maybe I think too much of the people in this world, but I like to think that some people would have stopped to help him.
My only other negative, and I know it seems like there are a lot, is that it ends quite suddenly with more than a few stories left open.
Overall, this is a hard going book morally, but an easy read and a real eye opener into the life of an unusual main character.

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Sunday, 19 August 2012

Book review: Good Omens: The Nice And Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, WitchGood Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My aunt is a great fan of Terry Pratchett and all the blurbs and snippets of his books that I've read made me laugh out loud. Unfortunately, P was taken up in my A-Z of authors, so I used a bit of a loophole and went for Neil Gaiman instead.
My only source of apocolypse knowledge is TV, mainly Supernatural with a bit of Charmed and Buffy thrown in. So some of the characters were familiar, others were completely new to me. This was good and bad. As fellow Supernatural fans will know, the talented Mark Sheppard fills the shoes for Crowley in the series. So unfortunately for me, I pictured him throughout the book despite the authors' descriptions.
Generally, this is a brilliant book, full of fun, laughter, violence, angels and demons while managing to tell an exciting story along the way. I enjoyed the footnotes in general and their casual, humourous approach. I particularly liked Crowley claiming he was responsible for Manchester.
Overall, four stars because it was a great story, but sometimes it got bogged down trying to be funny. They often went off on a bit of a tangent and I wanted to skip some bits to get back to the story. On the other hand, I loved their take on the traditional apocolypse, the four horsemen arriving on motorbikes was a bit of a gem. I'm looking forward to reading more Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman!

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Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Book review: Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

BirdsongBirdsong by Sebastian Faulks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is like nothing I've ever come across. Birdsong had been recommended to me countless times by book club members and then I saw a trailer for the TV adaptation on the BBC.
I've never read a book about war before. But then, this book isn't really about war, it's about Stephen Wraysford's life. It encompasses everything from his love affair with Isabelle, to his time during the first world war and his rise within the ranks.
There are several things I love about this book. For a start I love Faulks' descriptions of just about everything. He makes the trenches and tunnels a place no one would like to go to and the love scenes with Isabelle something a certain Mr Grey would be proud of. It has been an absolute joy and journey to read.
The characters that Faulks creates are exceptional, especially Wraysford's comrades and colleagues. The way that their relationships are portrayed is heartfelt, incredible and is the reason why I spent the second half of this book in tears or close to. My personal favourite was Weir. Knowing that these characters could die at any moment in this tragic war makes the book unpredictable and surprising.
I also enjoy the fact that you don't always follow Wraysford's story. Some time we spend with tunneler, Jack Firebrace, as well as some time with Wraysford's granddaughter Elizabeth in the 1970's and Weir as he returns home.
I don't know much about the first world war, but I was surprised about the use of the tunnels. I wasn't aware of the part they played in the war and I found it interesting. It wasn't just your usual trenches and shelling, although they way in which Faulks describes those parts make it sound horrific.
Another reviewer wrote that it's almost like Faulks is writing from memory and personal experience and I second that. It feels like this character is real and you're following his life story. It's an exceptional book and I recommend it to everyone. You won't come across anything else like this.

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Saturday, 28 July 2012

Book review: The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

Black DahliaBlack Dahlia by James Ellroy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn't know much about the story of the The Black Dahlia apart from the fact it was a true story in America in the forties. Elizabeth Short became immortalised for her disfigured and disembowelled body.
First of all, I love James Ellroy's style of writing. I felt like I was in a film noir, and could picture all of the detectives, the clothes, the cars. He hit the nail right on the head in terms of language used and speech. Sometimes I find that authors can get so bogged down in making sure the speech is correct for the time period that it becomes hard to understand but this didn't happen with Ellroy.
The actual story is brilliant, although I felt like it had several endings. I won't write down much detail here, but at at least two times during the book I felt it was coming to a close despite the other hundred pages. However this isn't necessarily a bad thing, when you felt everything had been wrapped up there was another strand left to unravel and pick at.
The wide array of characters were brilliant and some were distinctive, but a lot of policemen could be quite similar and I would have to reread parts or go back to the beginning to remember who they were. My only other criticism is that we could be introduced to a character at the beginning, they wouldn't appear for a hundred pages, then they'd come back and we would just be expected to remember everything about them. With a lot of characters, that was quite difficult.
Overall a brilliant, tense, noir thriller and I must say I was happy with who Bleichart discovered the murderer to be. It sounds quite a strange thing to say, but I was expecting Ellroy to just pluck some random person to be the killer, but he built a sound case with someone that we'd known for the majority of the story. It also made me want to research Elizabeth Short more and find out about her life.

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Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Book review: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

The Three MusketeersThe Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a very long time to read this book. Normally, it takes me about a week, shorter if it's a quick thriller, longer if it's a Stephen King epic, but this one took me almost a month and I'm not entirely sure why.
The story was well written, and clearly written considering when it was written. It's got a great pace, interesting characters, action, adventure, love and romance, war, murder... You name it, The Three Musketeers has it. The story of the three musketeers, who eventually become four is lovely and touching. Their friendship is clear throughout the book and you feel the pain that the characters do.
Overall, it's a great classic, only marked down because how long it took me to read. I definitely recommend it as a book everyone should read once.

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Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Book review: The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

The Andromeda StrainThe Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book C in my A-Z of authors was The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton. I am a massive fan of his. I own every season of ER and have read quite a few of his books. It always amazes me how each one is so different.
I'd seen the film of the book first, and I know that's normally a bad idea but in this case I think it helped.
I enjoyed the story. Crichton doesn't dumb it down for his readers. In fact, sometimes it's quite hard work to follow all the science but he explains well the process for each machine. However, sometimes this was boring. There were charts and results printed alongside the text which more often that not meant nothing to me. I would've preferred a character to just tell me the results.
I also wish more detail had gone into the description of the dead bodies in Piedmont. This was one of the initial attractions after seeing the film. We're also not told very much about the characters in the book. The only ones we really follow are Stone and Hall but by half way I'd forgotten what their specialities were.
Generally it was a good book. Crichton's brain is absolutely brilliant, but sometimes he gets so caught up in the science, he forgets he has to tell a story too.

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Thursday, 14 June 2012

Book review: Long Way Round by Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor

Long Way RoundLong Way Round by Ewan McGregor
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Author B in my A-Z was Charley Boorman although it says that Long Way Round was just written by Ewan McGregor.
I'm a fan of both actors but I've never seen the TV show so I went into this with a fresh mind not really knowing what to expect. And can I say it was the biggest disappointment.
Both authors moaned, whined and cried their way around the globe. I know it must be hard to miss those you live with constantly, but they were crying when they left and cried during a lot of the journey. When they weren't crying they were moaning about the conditions of the road, which they should have expected and each other.
On top of that it was hard to tell which of them were narrating. Their writing styles were very similar and when events happened they were brushed under the carpet. Nothing was explained in much detail. In fact more time was spent complaining about the state of the roads.
In Ewan McGregor's sections he would constantly 'film drop' mentioning what he'd been in as well as any encounter when someone recognised him from a film. Although I like him as an actor, I didn't really care about that in this context and when he started worrying about his career I skipped large chunks of text.
There were a few bits I enjoyed when there was a lot of tension, or funny moments, which it should have been for the majority of the book in my opinion, which is why I'm giving it two instead of one. But overall it was a complete and utter let down. I don't think I'll be reading one of their books again.

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Thursday, 7 June 2012

Book review: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

I, RobotI, Robot by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first book in my A-Z of authors was I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. It wasn't what I expected, in that it was several short stories, somewhat connected rather than one continuous story.
Some of the stories I loved, especially Robbie and the one about the politician who everyone thought was a robot. But some were clogged down in science and I struggled to understand them, or really care.
I loved the ideas that Asimov had, about the world being divided into four parts rather than continents and countries and how robots would be used in the future.
Considering this book was written in the fifties Asimov was definitely ahead of his time and makes you really think the impact robots could have on human life.

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Saturday, 2 June 2012

Book review: 11.22.63 by Stephen King

11.22.6311.22.63 by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have always been a massive fan of Stephen King. There are two kinds of his novels that I like, the apocalypse ones like The Stand, Cell and Under The Dome and the simple stories like The Body, Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Despite its size, this in essence is a simple story about a man called Jake Epping/George Amberson and his love for Sadie Dunhill. But Stephen King can't help but throw in a little apocalypse at the end.
I wasn't alive when JFK was assassinated so my only impression of the man is from films, stories and TV. From what I've gathered he was a man that believed in the right things and tried to do his best for a country at one of its most difficult times. But really, this book isn't about JFK at all, it's about love and doing what you think is right and what really is. Time travel is a very small part of it.
First of all I need to mention King's ability to create a wealth of likeable and believable characters. There must be at least a hundred characters and yet it's easy to keep track of them, remember their relation to the story. Jake/George is a lovely character, someone I wish I had as a teacher who struggles with what he has to do despite the bigger picture. The character has flaws, but that makes him all the more brilliant and for every word of every page I was with him.
The second character is Sadie and she is just as fleshed out and loveable as Jake/George. King describes their relationship perfectly and at several times throughout the book I was shouting 'just tell her!' when she wanted to know what he was doing in Dallas.
King is also brilliant at setting the scene, particularly the era in this case. Despite being born in Britain in 1992, I now know what America in the 50's and 60's feels like and wish I could go there. This particular time appears often in King's novels and it's obvious he feels passionate about it.
My last point about this incredible novel is actually the ease of reading it. It's no effort, it's not a challenge or difficult anyway and you just can't stop yourself being pulled in to King's world. I love the way he injects songs into the prose and there were probably lots of references to It and Dreamcatcher in there too, but I haven't read It so I'm sure most of it went straight over my head. My favourite parts of the story were when George was directing Of Mice and Men and when he chaperoned the school dance with Sadie. If King wanted to he could write chicklits and women would be hooked on his every word.
My only, very tiny, negative point is that I found the parts where he was watching the Oswald family quite boring. I knew the very basics of JFK and his death and found these parts to drag but then maybe I just wanted him to get back to Sadie.
Now, I imagine a lot of people have talked about the ending, although really it ends twice, once in 1963 and again in the present day. In the first ending it is very sad but a little bit predictable and it's obvious what Jake/George will do but the second ending is so sweet and so lovely it just makes your heart melt, like all Stephen King books do.

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Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Book review: The Malice Box by Martin Langfield

The Malice BoxThe Malice Box by Martin Langfield
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I went into this book with high hopes, ready for adventure, full of history, mystery and intrigue. The Malice Box had quite a few of these elements, but there was one other massive element, the supernatural.
Maybe I've been a bit harsh on this book simply because it's not was I was expecting but in the end it didn't keep me very interested. I didn't like the characters of Adam Hale, or Katherine and I was pretty much indifferent to the main character Robert Reckliss (which is such an utterly stupid name). I loved Terri and Horace and would have been quite happy if it was just the two of them running around New York.
Here's the point where I will give credit where credit's due. The author describes New York like a person, the buildings, parks, monuments. It made we want to go and see it, taking the book as a guide.
However, for the main part of the books, I was disappointed. I wanted Robert to follow clues to historical places and have to push letters in a certain order for a drawer to pop out and give him a piece of the puzzle. Really I wanted The Crystal Maze in a book. Instead, to pass one trial he had to sleep with someone and by the end I really didn't care if he saved the world or not.

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Thursday, 17 May 2012

Book review: Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander #1)

Cross StitchCross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My Mum (and various other female members of my family) have been banging on about these series of books for ages. Time travel, Scotland and romance, what more could a girl want?
Well, it was brilliant, but I'll get to those points in a minute, because there were some things that niggled at me a bit.
For a start, once Claire is back in the 18th Century that's it, there's no other time travel of any description, so forget the time travel part of this book, because really there isn't any. In my eyes that was a bit of shame. I would have liked to see her go back and forth a bit, I wanted to know how time progressed back in the 1940s and if Frank was worried about her at all. We also meet one character to appears to be from another time, and I wish we'd learnt more about them as well. The biggest mistake to make is going into this, thinking it's a time travel story, because it's not, it's a historical romance. Once I'd got over that, I could enjoy myself.
The second niggling thing is that Jamie came to save the day, every time. I know he loves her and all that, but it was getting to the stage where it was becoming ridiculous. He would be miles away, unreachable, and he would still come and save her.
Right, rant out of the way, let's get back to the good stuff. The characters are absolutely exceptional. Claire is ahead of her time even in the 1940s and is a strong female character, a rarity. I've never loved a character as much as I've loved Jamie. He is a wonderful person, and someone you follow, despite his flaws. The supporting characters are all brilliant, unique and well thought out. Diana Gabaldon is brilliant at writing characters, and stories. I held my breath several times throughout the book, waiting to see what would happen next, even if sometimes, the amount of things that happened to them was a bit unrealistic for the short space of time.
Overall a fantastic sprawling read, that you can get your teeth sunk into and is unputdownable. I look forward to the next in the series.

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Saturday, 5 May 2012

The Osmonds: Up Close and Personal

For my Dad's most recent birthday I took him to see The Osmonds at the Brighton Centre. Seeing as it was his first birthday where I was getting regularly paid I splashed out on meet and greet tickets. The concert was the first time my Dad had been out without a member of staff since his stroke in November.
I must admit, I was expecting pushing his wheelchair to be easy seeing as I do it fairly regularly at work but pushing it along the roads of Brighton sea front was a different challenge all together.
Once we arrived, we were taken to meet Merill, Jay and Jimmy, alongside the other people who had paid for the meet and greet experience. All three were absolutely lovely, making my Dad and me feel so comfortable, like we'd known them for years. It didn't strike me until afterwards that the first American I've ever met was Jimmy Osmond.
After they'd met and spoken to everyone they treated us to a Q&A session and some Acapella singing.I know that everyone remembers the Osmonds for Crazy Horses and Love Me For A Reason but their singing and harmonising is beautiful. Maybe it takes blood relations to get that kind of chemistry and perfection that only people like the BeeGees, the Osmonds and the Jacksons can get.
The actual concert was also superb. They opened with Crazy Horses and a guitar that fired sparks from the end, moving into a combination of old and new tracks. I'm not overly familiar with their songs, this concert being more for Dad than me, but sung along to Love Me For A Reason, Let Me In and Crazy Horses. It was lovely to see the home pictures of the large Osmond family and they shared some memories with us in between their performances. On top of that they performed some songs from their new album Can't Get There Without You. The songs were catchy and more often than not poignant. One particular track Remember Me which had special guest vocals from Alan, Wayne and Donny Osmond was beautiful. Film of them singing their parts was projected on to the screen behind them. The crowd went absolutely wild.
Even though I didn't know all the songs, The Osmonds definitely know how to throw a party. People were crammed in front of the stage dancing and everyone was enjoying themselves. It was a wonderful, emotional experience and something I will remember forever.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Book review: Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde (Thursday Next #2)

Lost in a Good Book (Thursday Next, #2)Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the second Thursday Next book I've read, and the second in the series. Somehow I've managed to read them in order.
I love Jasper Fforde's style of writing, especially the Nursery Crime books, and although I am a massive literary fan, I don't love the Thursday Next series as much. Fforde is a genius author. He creates whole worlds for his book, and reading the little sections at the beginning of each chapter are brilliant and fascinating. Reading how he imagines certain characters to be, such as Miss Haversham, when their not in their own books is very clever and I enjoy his wild imagination.
However, there are certain things that disappointed me. For a start, I like the story to be resolved in one book. If the author is planning a series, there should at least be a story per book, because I left this book wishing there was more to read. That there was some sense of closure. Secondly, I wish there was a new adversary for Thursday. It seems like I'm rereading old stuff, and I want something new, something fresh, even if it leading up eventually to the bigger picture.
I'll keep reading these books, as they're always a joy, and always make me smile, but I want more!

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Friday, 27 April 2012

Book review: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (Dirk Gently, #1)Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Douglas Adams is a superb writer. That much is evident from whatever you read of his. I'd read Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy and absolutely adored it. Adams makes you laugh out loud and makes complicated ideas or stories simple and believable when they shouldn't be!
This was the problem I had with this book. I was on board for the ghost, the electric monk and his horse, even for the time travel, but the space ship for me was a step too far. I know that's a completely absurd thing to say, but I just think Adams took it too far to a stage where I was actually bored a didn't care. In fact I skipped quite a bit towards the end.
It took far to long for the reader to meet Dirk Gently as well. In fact, the book was really about Richard and his various problems. Richard was a brilliant loveable character who struggled with several things including wrapping his head around the whole concept. Dirk on the other hand was a bit of an arse. He spent the majority of the last third of the book sulking because someone beat him to an idea.
In the end I'm quite glad that I watched the series first because I loved it. Stephen Mangan is a fantastic Dirk Gently that can be an arse and loveable and Darren Boyd is a brilliant Richard MacDuff who bumbles through the case, trying to clear up Dirk's mistakes. I don't think I'll be reading another unfortunately.
Just a quick note. Adams is brilliant with dialogue and he has a wonderful sense of imagination.

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Wednesday, 25 April 2012

It's time to begin, now count it in... 5, 6, 7, 8!

When I was a kid, Steps were one of the biggest groups in the UK. I knew all the dance moves, had all the music and the lyrics were burnt into my brain. When I heard they were touring again, I practically squealed like a little girl. Tickets were purchased, a hotel was booked and train tickets ordered and soon me and my friend Sophie were on our way to Birmingham.
After an uneventful train journey, an eventful journey around Birmingham trying to find the hotel, a quick dash to get changed and a speedy taxi ride to the LG Arena we discovered not only were we on time, we were early and had to sit through Kamaliya, who sounded like a dodgy entry on the Eurovision song contest. Before Steps came on stage, they played music videos by their favourite artists. It was a nice touch and I wish they'd had that instead of any support artists, rather than as well as. 
Then finally, they arrived. Steps used their background screen to full advantage and started off with a vault door, the numbers counting down until it exploded open, and five pod like tubes appeared on stage, inside each of them a member of Steps. The crowd went absolutely wild, seriously, screams of absolute joy and excitement. I'll admit, I was one of them. 
Just after You'll Be Sorry
After the first few songs with a distinctly science fiction theme, we moved on to the biggest dance game ever. Each part of steps took a part of the audience, which had a certain dance move to do. Then they performed some of their biggest dance hits, wrapping it up with 5, 6, 7, 8. Deeper Shade of Blue was amongst this lot, and I was proud to say that I remembered all of the moves (ish!) and had the best time of my life doing them. I was there with a load of Steps fans, doing the dance moves and for once, I was not cheesy! Seeing the whole crowd do the same moves all at the same time was brilliant. But Steps did cop out a bit, leaving us to watch YouTube like videos while they went to get ready for the next part. 
Following that was Better The Devil You Know, outfits were changed to red and sultry and frames were placed on the stage. The song was mashed up with Lady Gaga's Judas, which was a genius move. They're obviously a big fan of the woman in question and both songs worked brilliantly together. All this was rounded off with a bit of fire throwing, as you do before they moved on to the next stage of the so far exciting, but quite tiring night.
Claire's solo performance of I Surrender
Up next was the solo section. Each member took to the stage by themselves to give us something 'specially for you' as they said. It started off with Lee doing a mash up of Moves Like Jagger and S&M. He isn't the strongest vocalist, but every single woman in the crowd screamed like teenage girls when he appeared on stage, red shirt wide open. The mash up worked brilliantly as well. Following him was Faye, with Dreamgirls number, One Night Only. The backdrop was filled with beautiful images of her and she sang brilliantly, accompanied by some lovely looking lads in pink hot pants. Then there was H, he sang Don't Stop Believin', which I was a little worried about to start with, but the crowd adored it, singing along to every word. His performance very cleverly used the background, to make it appear that he was catching rain drops and being fired across it. Lisa followed him, and she did some dance tracks that I didn't recognise. I didn't enjoy it as much as the others, simply because that's not my kind of music, but at one point she wore some fantastic wings, that looked incredible. And as always, they really saved the best for last. Claire is by far the best singer, and her performance of I Surrender was simply stunning. It was just her, in a beautiful gown and sparks showering down. That was all she needed. 
One For Sorrow
Following the solo section, they sang a selection of slower songs, such as The Way You Make Me Feel and Heartbeat, rounding it up with One For Sorrow. To be honest, it was a welcome relief to sit down for a few minutes and just listen to them. Their harmonies were lovely and the slower songs are some of my favourites. 
The final part of the concert was basically Disco hits. There was a costume change into neon colours and sequins and they performed Chain Reaction, Dancing Queen, and finally for their epic encore, Tragedy. It really was epic. To see a whole crowd doing the whole dance routine. As the others, the moves came back in a flash and it was an absolute thrill to be in sync with the rest of the audience, singing out hearts out.
Steps were never well known for their touching song lyrics, or originality, but there is one thing they are the Kings and Queens of, and that is fun. Even if you're not a fan, you can't leave the arena without having had a fantastic time. They definitely know how to put on a show, and a smile on your face.
Chain Reaction

Friday, 20 April 2012

Book review: One Day by David Nicholls

One DayOne Day by David Nicholls
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As usual, I'd seen the film before I'd read the book. One Day isn't the book I'd normally go for. I don't read romance novels but seeing the film, with the humour and characters and a recommendation from my friend Helen, I finally picked it up from my shelf.
I love the concept. The idea that the story is told through one day over several years is brilliant and is certainly unconventional. You go straight to the interesting parts without the waffle.
However, there were some downsides. Any of the early chapters where Emma and Dexter were together was annoying. All they did was argue. I know that it was supposed to be playful etc. but really it just got on my wick. It put me off both characters.
Even separately, they were a bit annoying. Emma was hypercritical, disapproving of Dexter's numerous girlfriends but banging the headmaster and Dexter blamed the majority of his problems on his mother's premature death. I just wanted to bang their heads together.
However, as they grew older, they became less annoying and finally the inevitable happened and the last chapters are lovely. I came to like Dexter more and more as he tried his best to be a good husband, father and manager. Emma meanwhile was still a bit childish. She still started arguments for the sake of it.
At the end, the characters got to me and by the final chapters I was bawling my eyes out. It is exceptionally well written, made me laugh out loud and is full of eccentric and eclectic characters.

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Sunday, 15 April 2012

Book review: Dark Fire by C.J. Sansom

Dark FireDark Fire by C.J. Sansom
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was one hefty book. That was all I thought as I travelled halfway across the country reading it!
I loved Dissolution, the first in the Matthew Shardlake series, and although I didn't always agree with the main characters point of view, I was swept up with the medieval murder mystery and all it's characters. It was a bit like Agatha Christie, in that it was a limited number of suspects, yet a bit like a modern day thriller, where people died dramatically and there was tonnes of tension.
This was a different kind of story. We had two mysteries, one was a young boy's death and his supposed cousin who killed him. The other was Greek Fire, whether it existed and how to make it.
I'll be honest, I don't care about politics, or religion all that much, not when reading a murder mystery anyway, so the whole stuff about Greek Fire and whether Henry VIII was pleased or not with his wife was of no interest to me whatsoever. There were some exciting moments related to this, but I was generally on Guy's side throughout this book. I'll let you read it to find out what his opinions are!
The other murder mystery was good, but rather predictable. There's a young girl who has been imprisoned for murdering her spoilt brat of a cousin and who won't say a word about it. Reading about the different characters within the family are interesting, even if none of them are likeable. I must also add that the wrap up of their storyline is completely ridiculous. It seems like Sansom thought he'd just add that in there along with the fire, the rooftop chase and everything else that happens in the twelve days that Shardlake is investigating both cases.
This brings me nicely to his new assistant Jack Barak. A brilliant name to start with! He's appointed by Cromwell to help Shardlake with his investigations and to keep an eye on him. At first, I was a bit unsure whether I liked him or not. I liked Mark very much from the first book and was hoping he'd come back, but by the end I was smitten.
Sansom does write characters and events very well. There is a physical tension when reading the book and I found myself holding my breath several times as I read. But I was let down by the plot. It won't stop me reading this series though, and I look forward to the next in the series.
Just one added note. C.J. Sansom is obsessed with straight white teeth and mentions that pretty much every character has them. It's annoying and I'd imagine a bit unrealistic for the time period!

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Saturday, 7 April 2012

Book review: Miles Behind Us (The Walking Dead Vol. 2) by Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead Vol. 2: Miles Behind UsThe Walking Dead Vol. 2: Miles Behind Us by Robert Kirkman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a massive fan of the TV series, and have read the first of The Walking Dead graphic novels, so I'm going in with a lot of preconceptions.
For a start, I love the characters, the idea (although not original, has been made fresh) and the story. However, I imagine a lot of that has come from the TV show. I imagine Rick in my head as Andrew Lincoln as I look at the pictures on the pages.
Miles Behind Us covers the second series of The Walking Dead, introduces us to Hershel, Maggie and Otis, and ends where they do. I won't say where in case you're catching up on the series. But for me, it's too quick a read. In the end, it always fall back on the same argument, that this would be brilliant if it was a normal book. It would also let my imagination run wild. There's no time scale in the graphic novel either, unless a character mentions that a couple of weeks have passed since a certain event.
Despite all my negativity, there are some good points. A section which revolves around a housing estate is particularly exciting, but I won't give it away. There are also relationships and characters that I wish were explored on the TV show.
This is still a brilliant, gripping book, that I read in less than an hour. You hold your breath all the time and feel for the characters and what they're going, wishing that you had this idea before Robert Kirkman. But my final note and possibly the most important as this is a graphic novel, is the illustrations. The drawings for Vol. 1 were clear, crisp and beautiful. Vol. 2 is a bit of a disappointment in comparison. Characters appear completely different and the drawings are slightly muddier and dirtier. Maybe I've been generous giving this four stars, but I can't wait to sink my teeth (in a zombie like manner) into Vol. 3.

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Friday, 6 April 2012

Book review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie Collection)And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my first foray into the legend that it Agatha Christie. I had heard a lot about this book before I started it and by chance I picked it up on a stall.
I knew the concept before I started, ten people on an island together and each of them gets picked off one by one. When I started, it was quite a lot to take on board. You're introduced to all the characters within the first chapter. It wasn't until they were all at the island that I started settling down with the characters. I had to turn back a few times to check I was reading about the right person. However, once the first few people start to die off, it makes it easier to keep track of everyone.
Not only is this an excellent murder mystery, with a well thought out plot, Agatha Christie is a brilliant writer. I must admit, having characters say 'by jove!' and one girl getting slapped to stop her being hysterical was something I loved as well. It was everything you expect from a murder mystery of the time period, and more.

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Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Book review: Nineteen Seventy Seven by David Peace

Nineteen Seventy Seven (Red Riding Quartet)Nineteen Seventy Seven by David Peace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was the second in the riding quartet and after an exciting start in 1974, I couldn't wait for this.
Eddie Dunford is no longer on the scene, instead the reader follows Jack Whitehead, a burnt out reporter and Bob Fraser, a young policeman.
Anyone who's read 1974 will recognise these characters, but they're not overly familiar. However, having two narrators isn't necessarily a good things. Whitehead and Fraser sound similar and it can be confusing. Frequently I had to turn back to check and see who I was reading about.
I wasn't born at the time of the Yorkshire Ripper so I was going in more or less blind. David Peace doesn't shy away from violence, or bad language, which makes the book come alive, the characters and scenes leaping from the page.
It's a brilliant book and I can't wait to read the next installment. From the start to finish, I feel like I'm holding my breath, waiting to see what the next page will bring.

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Friday, 30 March 2012

Book review: Play Dead by Richard Montanari

Play DeadPlay Dead by Richard Montanari
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my second Richard Montanari novel, but the fourth in the series. The Rosary Girls I enjoyed, but I didn't particularly warm to Kevin Byrne, but after this one I have changed my opinion of him.
The story is an interesting one, about Ludo and his magician's tricks and the lives of seven teenage runaways.
It's a clever idea, one of the more original ones I've come across, but I still feel like they didn't use it to maximum effect. Montanari describes this fantastic house with rooms that move and secret hatches. It's a brilliant opportunity for the characters to get lost inside with the victim and the murderer but nothing like that happened, instead the house got burnt down!
At the start of the novel, I found it annoying that the author constantly mentioned how hot it was and what it was like in Philly, which although was interesting, got irritating pretty quickly.
Montanari never fails to provide a quick, exciting read, but doesn't retain in the memory very long.

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Thursday, 29 March 2012

London Baby!

Mum in the hotel room.

Me at the V& A

It's finally here, the long awaited weekend (I know it's Wednesday) to London. After a long trek from Euston Station to our Travelodge, it turns out there are more Travelodges than red buses in London, we managed to settle ourselves in and get ready to see the epic Rock of Ages, a show about classic rock and strippers. As we walk in we find out we've been upgraded to the Royal Circle, a level below our original tickets. Then we're given fake lighters to wave along with the slow songs, of which there are plenty, full of funny (Lonny and Dennis singing 'I Can't Fight This Feeling') and touching (the whole cast singing 'Every Rose Has Its Thorn') moments. Rock of Ages is a very audience involved show, they encourage you to stand up, sing and the cast are fully aware they're in a musical, which as you can imagine has amusing consequences. But there was also a down side to that, as the theatre was half empty. Good for us, as we were upgraded but I'm sure the cast aren't particularly thrilled when they're looking at a hundred or so spare seats.
On day number two we went to the V&A. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but I mostly thought it would be fashion and design, my brain didn't connect that to sculptures. It's an incredible museum with some of the most amazing pieces, but it doesn't really fall under one category. We saw amazing archways (check me out in the pic on the right!), beautifully jeweled boxes, books from the 12th century and jewelery from across the ages. There was a whole section dedicated to theatre and performance and that held some fantastic costumes. My particular favourite was the outfit Adam, of Adam and the Ants wore for the Prince Charming video.
After we left the V&A we headed to the number one shopping place in London, Harrods. To start with, I was amazed by the carpet. I know that's a weird think to say, but my shoes must have sunk an inch into it, it was so thick! And the place is huge! There is a whole room just for handbags, the same goes for make up and food! I was in heaven! The only way to describe it is a museum of modern, lovely things. Even the rooms have themes as well. Parts of the building had Egyptian decoration. Needless to say me and Mum came out there with one or two bags, thirty pounds down.
In the evening of the second day, me and Mum went to the O2 arena to see the Temptations, the Four Tops, the Tavares and the Crystals. Mum's been to see the Four Tops and the Temptations before but this was my first time. It was my first time to see an indoor concert full stop so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. The arena itself is pretty magnificent and me and Mum had awesome seats on the floor. The Crystals were the first up and they were good, definitely getting the party started. There was a bloke that kept getting up to dance in the aisles. The second group to perform were the Tavares and they were the best. They boogied and blasted their way through their hit songs, like 'More Than A Woman' and 'Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel'. What's more, four of the five original members were there. Both of the Four Tops and the Temptations were good, but they wanted to sing new music, or covers, which although there good, the atmosphere kind of depleted at that time. The Temptations were also on for too long, like they were milking their moment. Overall, they were excellent, but I wish I had the chance to edit the order of the night, and the songs they chose.
London is always an incredible place to be, but those three days were exhausting and next time, we need to pick a hotel closer to a tube station!
Me and Mum

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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Book review: Dissolution by C.J. Sansom

Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake, #1)Dissolution by C.J. Sansom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My Mum has been a massive fan of CJ Sansom for a while now, but this was my first foray into medieval murder mystery.
Admittedly, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I don't normally read historic fiction, although Pillars of the Earth is one of my favourite books. However, I do absolutely love murder mysteries, so it should go well. Luckily, it did!
I generally like the character of Matthew Shardlake, although he's a very negative person, this isn't always against him and quite appropriate for the time considering his condition.
What I love most about Dissolution is the fact that it's set in the medieval era. You don't get bogged down in forensics or modern technology. It really is an old (very old) fashioned murder mystery.
All the characters are interesting and you can't help but emotionally involved in their lives and the story, getting a history lesson along the way.

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Monday, 12 March 2012

Book review: Looking Good Dead by Peter James

Looking Good Dead (Roy Grace, #2)Looking Good Dead by Peter James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm always a fan of Peter James and the Roy Grace novels which are set in my home county, Sussex.
That's my first point for why I love this book. Knowing exactly where the police, the victims and the suspects are is brilliant, although a little unnerving.
This story starts with a man finding a CD on a train and in his attempts to return it to the owner, gets caught up with a dubious snuff film production company.
For Tom Bryce and his family, things get steadily worse, while Roy Grace has to figure out what is happening, and who's behind it.
There's only a few issues with this book. The first is the psychic element. Peter James has assured me himself that real police officers would go down this route, but I find it hard to believe.
I can always rely on Peter James for a quick read, with an exciting storyline and interesting, believable characters.

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Friday, 2 March 2012

Book review: The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid

The Mermaids Singing (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, #1)The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've seen a few episodes of Wire In The Blood, featuring Robson Green and therefore went into this book with preconceived notions. In this case, I actually think they helped.
The Mermaids Singing is about a serial killer in the fictional town of Bradfield. Bradfield police force enlists profiler Dr Tony Hill to help them catch him.
The initial idea is quite a good one and the police's speculations are interesting as bit by bit they get closer to the killer. It's also quite a fast paced book, with chapters from the police's point of view and the killers.
However, I had some issues with the book. First of all, I really don't need to know so much about Tony Hill's sexual inadequacies. Too much information! And the dialogue that Carol used I found to be unrealistic in some places.
Overall, I would read more Val McDermid, but I'd probably stick to the stand alone novels, which I find much better.

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Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Book review: Blind Eye by Stuart MacBride

Blind Eye (Logan Mcrae, #5)Blind Eye by Stuart MacBride
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'd forgotten how much I love Stuart MacBride and how much of a complete and utter genius he is.
MacBride's characters come to life. Mcrae and Steel are brilliant. The banter between them is laugh out loud funny and all of the characters have their own unique points and flaws.
The storyline is exciting, the plot only thickening with each chapter and tonnes of twists and turns to keep you guessing.
The writer's description of the events that happen make your skin crawl. I've never squirmed at the written word, and then laughed my head off minutes later as Mcrae played 'I spy' with a paedophile locked in the boot of his car.
Overall a fantastic novel, I can't wait to read more of MacBride's world.

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Friday, 17 February 2012

Book Review: Nineteen Seventy Four by David Peace

Nineteen Seventy Four Nineteen Seventy Four by David Peace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had seen the first of the Red Riding Trilogy before I read this book. As usual, I didn't know there was a book that came first but wanted to delve into this violent world, full of deception, back handers and bent cops.
As soon as you start reading you're sucked in. The pace in this book is insatiable and before you realise it you're flying through the chapters. The main character in 1974 is Eddie Dunford, a young journalist, doing his best to become the latest crime correspondent. As a reader, you sympathise with Dunford, but like every character in this book, he's flawed. You can hear yourself telling him not to do the stupid things he sometimes does. Dunford uncovers a conspiracy that everyone seems to be involved in and from then on, only bad things can happen.
The story itself is intriguing, brilliantly written and takes your breath away. Peace doesn't shy away from violence which makes this book seem all more real and creates a wealth of believable characters. The only reason this book is four stars is because at some points it can be quite confusing. A lot of characters have similar sounding names and at a few stages in the story I had to turn back and check names and events. Despite this, I'm looking forward to reading the next books!

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Thursday, 9 February 2012

Book review: From The Dead by Mark Billingham

From The Dead (Tom Thorne, #9)From The Dead by Mark Billingham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Mark Billingham. I've read several Tom Thorne books now and return to his world, like slipping into my favourite pair of jeans.
Thorne and his colleagues are funny, interesting and each of them have their own unique points and individualities. Being allowed inside Thorne's head I feel is a privilege and a very exciting and amusing place to be. His thoughts make the story come alive.
The story itself is certainly an interesting one after an infamous London gangster, thought to be dead is discovered to be alive. When Alan Langford starts bumping off informers, it's up to Thorne to track down the gangster and work out the identity of the charred remains they have found.
As always, you're kept guessing, right to the end, and with a short excursion to Spain, it's one of the best Thorne novels to date.

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