Category: Book Review (Page 31 of 36)

Review: Nicholas Sparks – The Lucky One

the-lucky-one-nicholas-sparks-e1336408994993I’m sure you totally didn’t expect me to say this, but I loved this book. When you start a Nicholas Sparks book you know totally what to expect, but it still pulls you in and you find yourself enthralled to the very last page!

The book centres around a marine called Logan Thibault, who finds a picture of a woman in the middle of the desert in Iraq. After no-one claims it from the notice-board, he decides to keep it and it becomes a good luck charm.

*Spoiler alert – if you’re going to read this book or watch the film, don’t read any further!*

When he gets back from Iraq, he walks from Colorado to Hampton (North Carolina) to try and find this woman who has kept him safe. Surprisingly enough, he thinks it would be a bit creepy to tell her the truth, so instead he gets a job working for her Nana and gradually strikes up a romance with her.

Throughout the book, we are introduced to her ex husband Clayton, a rather overbearing man who likes to be in control, and is not pleased with the way his son has turned out (not sporty enough for his liking). He’s constantly controlling the situation and tries to get Logan to leave town. It doesn’t look to be working, until he finds out about the photo and goes running to tell Elizabeth the truth.

As you would expect, she goes mad when she finds out and tells Logan she wants him to leave. But, this being a Nicholas Sparks book, a chat with her Nana and a heart to heart with her son Ben brings her to her senses and everything is right back on track.

But not without one last hitch to spice up the end of the story. Clayton goes storming round to Beth’s house to confront her, and when Ben walks in on them, he runs out into a thunderstorm to his treehouse over the (now raging) creek. By the time Beth and Clayton catch up with him, he’s dangling in the water and hanging on to the rope ladder, but it soon becomes clear he can’t hold on much longer. Clayton dives in the water after him, but he’s not strong enough to help, and ends up in trouble too.

Just in time, Logan and his loyal dog Zeus come running up to the river bank and dive into the water. Zeus helps to drag Ben out, but it looks like Logan is struggling with Clayton and he ends up being pushed under the water. The last we know, his lungs are on fire and it looks like it might be the end…

The story then skips to two months later and all we know is that someone has died, but there is no indication as to who. There’s a horrible couple of pages where it looks like the book is going to end in completely the wrong way, but in typical Sparks style, we end up with a happy-ever-after ending.

I really needed this book after the last few I’ve read and not really enjoyed as much as normal. Really looking forward to seeing the film now (if I can persuade Cameron to go with me)!

5-5

Review: Charlaine Harris – The Julius House (Aurora Teagarden #4)

charlaine-harris-aurora-teagarden-e1335464844842Usually in a series the books get better and better, but unfortunately with this one the opposite seems to be true. Up until more than half way through this book, I was actually finding it very boring.

For a start (and this may sound rather harsh), no-one died. For a murder mystery, you usually expect a bit of excitement at the start. Instead, we listen to half a book of plans for the wedding and having the new house renovated, most of which was not really book-worthy. There was the mysterious appearance of two of her fiancé’s friends, but that’s not too exciting (at least at the start).

Then when we get half way through the book we finally get to the wedding, and it seems like Harris just decided she couldn’t be bothered to write about it, as the entire wedding and honeymoon was detailed in less than two pages. For a book that has spent 100+ pages in the build up to the wedding, I found this very disappointing.

The book wasn’t all bad though, and after the non-wedding, the excitement starts building up as Aurora starts looking for the family that mysteriously went missing 7 years ago from the house she just bought. There’s drama at the end as Aurora once again makes the stupid mistake of entering the house of a murderer alone and you can guess what happens then!

I was definitely hoping for a better book than this, and it did leave me feeling a bit like I’d not read anything worthwhile. That’s the end of the omnibus for now, until I decide to buy the second part. Rather than being impatient to carry on reading the series, I’m actually glad to be having a bit of a break from it, which is not my usual impression of Charlaine Harris.

2-5

Review: Charlaine Harris – Three Bedrooms, One Corpse (Aurora Teagarden #3)

charlaine-harris-aurora-teagarden-e1335464844842

This book was the my least favourite of the series so far, I was a little disappointed by it to be honest. There was still an essence of Charlaine Harris, but you could really tell that it was one of her earlier books, the plot was just not very strong compared to other books of hers that I have read.

In this book, Aurora has started to shadow her mother at her real estate business, and it is while she is showing a house to the new man in town and his sister that they discover a woman dead in one of the bedrooms. Although this is supposedly a massive trauma, Aurora still can’t help falling for the man that she’s showing the house to, even though she’s already in a relationship with the local minister. Lucky for her though, the minister finds out that he can’t have children, which gives Aurora a quick get out so that she can start dating the new man – how convenient!

I didn’t particularly like this part of the storyline, I can see why she might want to break up with the minister, but there was no scene, they just said goodbye and that was it. I also don’t get why she would drop everything for this completely strange man that she’s just discovered a corpse with!

Obviously, this being a murder mystery book, Aurora has to get nosy and try to figure out who the murderer was, and when she finally figures it out, she goes out to his house alone to try and steal the evidence. This seemed odd to me; I know Harris wanted to create a big dramatic scene, but why would you try to steal the evidence from the murderers house? And not tell anyone you were going there? Cue the big scene, where Aurora is saved just in time by her new beau, but unfortunately not before she is beaten so badly she lands herself in hospital.

And wouldn’t you just know it, she wakes up in hospital with an engagement ring on her finger…

There’s another 5 books in this series, so I can’t see everything working out quite to plan! Especially not with Harris as the author. The next book is called The Julius House, hopefully it’s better than this one was!

3-5

Review: Charlaine Harris – A Bone to Pick (Aurora Teagarden #2)

charlaine-harris-aurora-teagarden-e1335464844842It’s been a very miserable day here today, so instead of going out for a walk with my camera this morning like I was planning on doing, I tucked myself up with my book and some good music. The books within this omnibus series are not actually that long (less than 200 pages), so I finished this one in a few hours this morning. I think Charlaine Harris’ style of writing helps too, the story is so fast paced that it keeps you turning pages and you lose track of time!

This book starts off a few months down the line from the end of the first one, and the first couple of chapters catch you up with everything that’s happened. Aurora has very luckily (or unluckily) been left a house and over $500,000 by one of the volunteers she works with at the library. It comes as quite a shock to her as they were not very good friends, but she soon settles with the idea.

That is, until she finds a skull hidden in the window seat of the house. She’s desperate to find out who it belongs to and conflicted about whether dear old Jane could actually have killed somebody, but then there is the harsh reality that someone else is looking for the skull too.

Somewhere in between her dates with the Vicar and working at the library, she starts digging around Jane’s things and getting to know her neighbours a bit better. There’s a dramatic scene at the end as we find out who the murderer was, while Aurora’s ex-boyfriend’s Wife is simultaneously having a baby and pointing a gun at the culprit to stop them from killing Aurora.

All’s well that ends well though, as Aurora decides to put Jane’s house up for sale and buy herself her own place with her small fortune, and she also receives a call from her old friend Robin Crusoe (yes, really), who she met under unfortunate circumstances in the first book – finding a dead body the first time you meet someone is not exactly the best introduction!

I think another 4/5 for this book, it would have been better if it was a little longer, and if there was more attention on the main plot than on the day to day activities like cleaning the house and doing the shopping. The next book is called Three Bedrooms, One Corpse. It’s another short book, which makes me very glad that this series is actually 8 books long, especially now I’m getting to know the characters a bit more.

4-5

Review: Charlaine Harris – Real Murders (Aurora Teagarden #1)

charlaine-harris-aurora-teagarden-e1335464844842Apart from the fact that this book was so heavy (which made it very awkward to read), it was actually very good. Even if I’d not known it was written by Charlaine Harris, I think I would have been able to tell; she has a very specific style of writing.

You could really tell that this was one of her earlier books though (written in 1990), as the writing was less descriptive and the story slightly less developed than her other books that I’ve read. Saying that though, it was still a very well written book, and I couldn’t put it down once I’d started.

The story is about a small-town woman called (you guessed it) Aurora Teagarden. She’s a member of a group called ‘Real Murders’, a rather odd group of people who meet once a month to talk about historical murders and discuss the case and the culprit. That is, until one of the group is murdered before the start of one of the meetings and other people within the group start dropping like flies.

It’s a race against time to find the murderer before other people are killed. What makes the murders more strange is that they are all based on murders that have been discussed in the group, so it’s almost a certainty that it is one of the group that is responsible.

The story builds up and up until a dramatic couple of chapters at the end where we find out who the murderer is, and it’s not who you are led to suspect for the whole of the book, it really shocked me!

I think I’ll give this book 4 out of 5, if only because I’m comparing the book to other Charlaine Harris books that I’ve read and it wasn’t quite as good. If you’ve read this, would you agree?

Next up is the second book in the series, A Bone to Pick. I look forward to getting to know Aurora a little more, and as it’s set in a small town I’m anxious to see who will die next…

4-5

Review: Alexandra Potter – Who’s That Girl

alexandra-potter-whos-that-girl-e1335208148559This book was about a girl from Yorkshire who moved to London when she was younger to pursue her dream of becoming a published author. Her dream hasn’t gone quite to plan, but she’s not done too bad, moving through a succession of rubbish jobs until she ends up starting her own PR company. By the time we meet her, the PR company is very successful, and she’s just courting a big new client from America to get the contract to handle his UK launch.

I could tell from the book that we’re supposed to feel sorry for Charlotte with the stress that she’s under, and the trouble in her life (like her crappy boyfriend and her supposed allergies to pretty much everything), but I just didn’t feel that. To me, the book felt like one complaint after another from a stuck up, spoilt girl who’s completely lost touch with reality. I spent most of the book wishing she’d shut up whining and just get on with what you know was going to happen in the end anyway (i.e. fall in love with the ‘nice guy’ and live happily ever after).

The storyline of the book is supposed to be that she somehow meets her 21 year old self, and realises that she can change the course of her life by influencing her actions of 10 years before. The book does manage to keep a tenuous grasp on reality in that everything she tries to change manages to fail and ends up happening just as it was going to anyway. But this storyline felt like it wasn’t even necessary to the book and wasn’t very well developed. Most of the drama (and complaining) came from when she was her 31 year old self, so the whole “I’ve met my 21 year old self” part of the book was just like a distraction.

As you can tell, I didn’t really enjoy this book, although I read it through to the end because I don’t really like to leave a book half finished. A definite 1/5 rating for this book, which is a shame because I really liked the last book I read by Alexandra Potter.

1-5

Review: Elizabeth Noble – Things I Want My Daughters To Know

elizabeth-noble-things-i-want-my-daughters-to-know-e1334500395323I have to be honest, I do love a bit of chick-lit, and I was hoping for good things from this book. The story is about a woman who dies of cancer, but before she dies she writes a letter to each of her four daughters, along with a journal that she passes on to them with stories about her life and how they grew up. Of course, each story is perfectly timed to help each daughter with the crisis that she’s going through, turning everything into a typically happy ending.

My main problem with the book is that although I’m used to reading books with multiple narratives, it’s usually only one or two. This one had four, which was confusing to start with when you can’t quickly identify each character. Once you get to know everyone it’s better though, even if it did take a while to get used to it.

I don’t know if it was intentional on the part of Noble, but I found myself really liking Hannah and Amanda, and disliking Jennifer and Lisa. Their perspective on the problems that they were having just made it so that I didn’t find myself rooting for them like I did the other two.

The main ‘weird’ thing about the book is that the person that the book revolves around (Barbara, the mum), is dead before the book even starts, so you’re never actually introduced to her directly. Elizabeth Noble does such a good job of integrating her into the story through her letters and her journal that you feel like you know her better than you do her daughters.

I can’t say that this was my favourite book, the ending was extremely predictable (even for a chick-lit book) and I would rather have a book that doesn’t take so long to get involved with, but it was pleasant enough and I did enjoy reading it so I’m going to say 3/5.

3-5

Review: Erin Morgenstern – The Night Circus

the-night-circus-erin-morgenstern-3-e1334085689877After Hannah gave this book a 5 star review on Good Reads, I expected a good book, but this one totally went over and above anything that I could have expected.

The book is set in Le Cirque des Rêves, a strange traveling circus that only performs between sunset and sunrise. The circus appears overnight in random places around the world with no warning, and it disappears just as suddenly.

The two main characters are Celia and Marco, two young people bound into a bet between their mentors, a challenge that will supposedly only end when one or the other dies. The bet is very mysterious to start with (both to Celia and Marco and to the reader), but we learn more as the book goes on. It’s intriguing to learn how much this challenge is intertwined with the Circus, which leads up to a dramatic closing few chapters to the book.

You can tell fairly early on that Celia and Marco will fall in love, but the progression of that storyline is beautifully written, and full of will they-won’t they moments when you’re not sure whether what you’re reading is true or just an orchestrated part of the bet.

The other main storyline is a boy called Bailey, and it takes until almost the very end of the book before we realise what his purpose is for being in the book. It’s almost an afterthought to the book, but it finishes off the story very well. My main problem with this book was the way it jumped around between times. Usually I don’t mind this, but the differences between time were so small (sometimes just one year), that it became hard to know where we were – I often found myself having to turn back a few pages to see where we were and where we’ve been.

The world that Erin Morgenstern has created is spectacular, part fantasy, part fairytale and part dream. Every tent of the circus is described to us in detail, so you can almost feel like you’re walking round the circus, you definitely become completely immersed in this book – I found it very hard to put down once I’d started reading.

I would have loved to give this book a 5/5, but the way it jumped around a lot spoilt my enjoyment of it a little bit, so I’m only giving it 4/5. It’s a shame as it’s such a lovely looking book, and it was a joy to read.

4/5

Review: Vanessa Diffenbaugh – The Language of Flowers

vanessa-diffenbaugh-the-language-of-flowers-e1333792231461Okay, I know I say this after pretty much every book that I read, but this was seriously the best book I’ve read in a long time, and definitely the best book of my 100 book reading challenge so far.

The book centres around Victoria, a young girl in San Francisco who is forced to leave her group foster home at the age of 18 and starts living rough in a park. She finds a job at a florist, and we find out that she has a natural talent for flowers and a talent for knowing the meaning of each flower, enabling her to create perfect arrangements for her customers. It’s with the help of the owner Renata that she finds a home and starts to come out of her shell.

The book goes back and forth between 18 year old Victoria and 9 year old Victoria. When you are first introduced to her at 9 years old, she is taken to live with a woman called Elizabeth. The home seems perfect, Elizabeth seems perfect, and Victoria seems to be thriving in her new home. However this is where the book gets really intriguing, as you know that Victoria was in a group home and therefore did not stay with Elizabeth, so you spend all the time waiting for something to happen which will tear Victoria away from her perfect mother. Each time you think something is going to happen, it’s not what you expect and it leaves you on edge until almost the very end of the book.

Meanwhile, 18 year old Victoria meets a man she recognises at the flower market, and you find out that it’s the son of Elizabeth’s sister. At first Victoria pushes him away, but he shares her love for flowers and their special language, and gradually they become closer and closer. That is, up until Victoria finds out she is pregnant and she runs away again, returning only after the baby is born to leave the baby in his house and disappear from their lives. Eventually, Victoria comes clean to Grant about the truth of what happened to separate her and Elizabeth, and is reunited with Elizabeth again after over 8 years apart.

The ending of the book was great, I won’t spoil the entire book here by giving away the ending, but it was simultaneously not what I expected and perfect for the story. The book was so beautifully written that you become involved in Victoria’s life and feel every emotion that she is feeling. This is made even stronger by the gradual unravelling of her young life and the struggles that she has gone through.

A final surprise when I’d finished the book was a dictionary of flower meanings at the back of the book – the author really did her research. For example, my favourite flowers are Tulips (A declaration of love), Daffodils (New beginnings), Buttercups (Ingratitude) and Pink Carnations (I will never forget you).

Review: Chad Harbach – The Art of Fielding

chad-harbach-the-art-of-fielding-e1333182174963This book ended up being nothing like I thought it would, but it had me hooked from the first page. I had expected a book that was heavily baseball oriented, but baseball was (in the main) just an undercurrent throughout the book to support the other issues. The book is centred around a few characters whose lives become completely intertwined. The main character is Henry, a naturally talented shortstop who is spotted by Schwartz and persuaded to attend Westish College. As he’s a late addition to the school, he ends up sharing a room with Owen. Owen starts an affair with the school’s president Guert Affenlight, whose daughter Pella turns up at the school having run away from her husband. Pella ends up in a relationship with Schwartz, and you can see how everyone’s lives wind up hopelessly tangled.

The book is a fantastic book about growing up and dealing with the transition from college to the real world. After being trained by Schwartz, Henry is so gifted that baseball scouts start turning up to his games, and there is talk of him being drafted in the early rounds. All this until an errant throw from Henry accidentally hits Owen in the head and puts him in hospital. Henry suddenly quits playing baseball and begins a downward spiral into depression and anorexia, shutting out his friends and almost throwing away every opportunity that had been given to him.

The book deals with some hard issues very gracefully, and the conclusion of each character’s storyline at the end was brilliant. I actually don’t have anything bad to say about the book, apart from the fact that I was glad to finish it so that I don’t have to carry it in my bag any more, the hardback weighs a ton!

This was a great debut novel from Harbach, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

5-5

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