Review: Jessica Thompson – This is a Love Story

jessica-thompson-this-is-a-love-story-e1329424003476It’s been a busy past few days for me (more about that in a blog post tomorrow), so I’ve only just finished reading this book. I have a few days off work now though, and I’m expecting a parcel from Amazon tomorrow with the baseball books that I ordered last week.

It was really good though, especially for a debut novel. At first, I was a bit dubious as one of the main characters (Sienna) seemed a bit thin, but after a while her character was fleshed out a bit and I started to really get along with both her and Nick.

Like a lot of books in this genre, the book was written from two viewpoints, but unusually you saw most parts of the story through the eyes of both characters. It was a refreshing change, and definitely made the story more engaging.

The main storyline was obviously Sienna and Nick, and the almost love story between them. As I had guessed, it wasn’t quite a perfect love story, it’s definitely unusual when the two main characters don’t actually get together until the last 3 pages of the book!

The book also brought attention to a condition called Narcolepsy which most people find quite trivial (if they’ve heard about it at all), but you find out from the book that it’s actually quite serious and the effect that it has on the person and their family and friends too. Sienna’s Dad has this condition which makes him fall asleep (and fall over) whenever he feels any kind of strong emotion, and she spends a lot of time looking after him. In the end, it’s him that plays a big role in bringing Sienna and Nick together. He was also the reason that I almost cried in the last few chapters, I’ll not tell you what happened but it was very emotional!

I definitely enjoyed this book, very easy going and a nice (mostly) light hearted story. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for Jessica Thompson in the future.

5-5

Review: Alastair Reynolds – Century Rain

alistair-reynolds-century-rain1When Mike lent me this book, he thought that I might not like it, but it actually turned out to be my favourite of the four books. I have definitely found a whole new genre of books that I will be trying more of this year – I couldn’t put it down!

The first few chapters introduce you to the two main characters, Verity Auger and Wendell Floyd, and the respective worlds that they live in. It didn’t make much sense to me to start with, but I’m glad I stuck with it because after a few chapters you start to see the links between the ‘Paris’ in both worlds.

The Paris in Auger’s world is way in the future after Earth has already been destroyed by a build up of weather control machines designed to reverse global warming, but end up destroying the earth in an event called the Nanocaust. Auger is an archaeologist exploring the ruins of Paris for any remaining artefacts, and when a girl she is working with dies in her care, she is offered the chance to get out of the tribunal and inevitable punishment and carry out a mission. She is initially given no real information about this mission, but doesn’t really have much choice but to accept, knowing the alternative.

The mission is to Floyd’s version of Paris, which is 300 years back in 1959, and turns out to be a copy of Earth made before the Nanocaust wiped out all traces of life on Earth. E2 (as it is known) was frozen in time until 23 years prior, when suddenly it came back to life again.

After Auger has completed the mission she is sent to E2 to complete (with many hiccups and a LOT of help from Floyd), she and Floyd end up on a mission to save E2 from complete destruction by the Slashers. The Slashers believe that they should embrace all new technology, whereas the Threshers (to which Auger belongs) believe that they should never embrace any technology which could lead to a repetition of the Nanocaust. These two sides are now at war with each other in a battle to keep control of the Earth.

There are many nail biting moments along their journey, including many times when I absolutely couldn’t stop reading because I had to know what happened next. I won’t say too much in case you want to read the book, but I will say that I didn’t expect the book to end up quite how it did, although the way that it ended was brilliant.

It’s hard to pick my favourite part of the book, but I do have a favourite quote which jumped out at me as soon as I read it. Auger (a Thresher) is reflecting on the help that she has had from Cassandra (a Slasher), and the feelings that she had towards her from the start of the story.

The simple fact was that she no longer hated them as a matter of principle. It was also a source of shameful amazement that she could ever have wasted so much energy on groundless prejudice, when acceptance and tolerance would have been the easier, even the lazier, course.

Pretty meaningful, it definitely stuck in my head, and I think it’s something that we could all take to heart at times.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in sci-fi novels, but also to anyone who likes a good nail-biter with plenty of action and a bit of romance thrown in. It’s definitely changed my mind about reading sci-fi novels in the future.

5-5

Review: Michael Morpurgo – War Horse

photoAfter seeing War Horse at the cinema a couple of weeks ago, I was expecting this book to be brilliant and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a kids book, so it was very easy reading and didn’t take too long, but it was entertaining and very well written. I think it would definitely be aimed at older children, some parts were quite upsetting.

As I expected, I couldn’t help but compare the book to the film, and I did find myself waiting for certain things to happen. The film was definitely more dramatic than the book, but I suppose that’s what happens on the big screen. With a book you can fill in the story with your own imagination, but with a film they tend to spell it all out for you.

The book was slightly different from the film in that it was written completely from the perspective of Joey (the horse). It’s quite unusual for books that I read to be narrated by a non-human character, but I felt it really made this book more effective. You can feel how completely helpless he is caught up in the war, and when he’s stuck in the middle of no-man’s land, you can sense the confusion and nervousness more than you could in the film when seeing the horse through the soldiers in the trenches.

I was glad to find that one of my favourite lines in the film was actually from the book. When Joey is in no-man’s land, a soldier goes out to get him from each of the English and German trenches. It’s quite a tense moment in the book as the German soldier gets to Joey first, and you immediately think that Joey and Albert will never be reunited. However, they flip a coin to decide who gets to take Joey, and this quote from the German when he loses made me smile:

“That’s the face of my Kaiser looking up at me from the mud, and he does not look pleased with me. So I am afraid you have won.”

As it’s a kids book, you can probably tell how it ends, but not without a few hiccups along the way, including Joey being struck down with tetanus and almost being sold away from the Army in an auction at the end of the war.

All in all, I’m very glad that I read this book, although as usual I wish I had read it before I saw the film – when will I learn?! I do think after reading the book that the film was a very good book-film adaptation, one of the best I’ve seen in a while.

5-5

 

Review: Gabriel García Márquez – One Hundred Years of Solitude

20120129-113323Well, this is probably going to be a shorter review than usual. It’s not often that a book takes me this long to read, and it’s been quite a while since I found it so hard to get involved in a book. It took me a long time to just get through the first few chapters, I was enjoying it, but I just couldn’t  find any motivation to actually read it. Even though I liked the book, it just didn’t grab me enough to want to read it non-stop like my favourite books usually do.

The last time I had a book like this, it was an F. Scott Fitzgerald book and I ended up leaving it to come back to later. I persevered through this book when maybe I shouldn’t have done. I think because I wasn’t 100% involved in it, I didn’t get as much out of it as I could have done, so I would like to read it again in the future.

I found the actual book quite strange, and wayyyy outside my comfort zone. All the reviews of the book and the comments that I had read said that this was a great book, so I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t get into it as much as I would have liked. I’ll definitely be reading this again, hopefully I’ll be in a different mindset when I do and I’ll enjoy it more.

I think my next couple of books will be easier going. I’ve not decided which one will be next yet, but I think it will either be War Horse, or a ‘quick read’ that I picked up at Morrisons by one of my favourite authors; Tony Parsons. I’ll decide which one tomorrow…

2-5

Review: John Fowles – The Collector

20120124-191933I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book after I read the description, but I was pleasantly surprised. Even though it was kind of creepy, and definitely not a book I would have bought for myself in a bookshop, I found it very enjoyable.

A couple of people have said how this sounds like the kind of book they would want to read, so I’ll try not going to spoil the storyline too much.

The first half of the book is written from the point of view of the kidnapper ‘Ferdinand’. The way he speaks is so matter of fact, it’s like he believes that everything he is doing is perfectly normal, of course we can all see that it’s not, and he comes across as very unbalanced. He’s constantly making excuses for himself, like this one after he uses Chloroform to knock her out (and not for the first time):

“I am not really that sort and I was only like it that night because of all that happened and the strain I was under. Also the champagne had a bad effect on me. And everything she said. It was what they call a culmination of circumstances.”

The end of the first half is left on a cliffhanger, and then we are being narrated by Miranda, the girl he has kidnapped. The book goes back in time, and we relive pretty much the whole thing again, but from the opposite viewpoint. I liked that the book did this, the books that I’ve read in the past that have multiple narrators have switched back and forth throughout the book, but this flowed a lot better. We also find out a lot about Miranda and her life, the people she knows and her passion for art.

Like I said, I’m not going to spoil the ending, but all I can say is that after 270ish pages, it didn’t really surprise me, although the last few pages were possibly the creepiest part of the entire book.

I definitely enjoyed this book, I don’t think it will be one of my favourites from this year’s reading challenge, but I’m glad I read it.

4-5

Review: Sam Savage – Firmin (Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife)

photo-21-e1327183641300I didn’t really know what to expect from this book, all I knew was that it was about a rat that lives in a bookshop. My only experience of rats in books/films was Ratatouille, but I could take a guess that it would be nothing like that Disney/Pixar vision of happiness.

From the first chapter I was completely hooked, I would have read this in a day if I hadn’t had other things to worry about this weekend. I initially wondered how I would feel with a rat narrating the book; I usually like to have a strong connection to the main character, and I didn’t see how I would get this from a character that wasn’t human, let alone from a rat!

I needn’t have worried though, right from the start you are sucked right into the mind of Firmin, immediately made to feel for him as the ‘runt’ of the litter, and then as the only one left behind in this bookshop, alone and lonely, soaking up as much literature as he can without being spotted.

He’s such a clever rat and Savage has written the narrative so well that at times you could completely forget that he was even a rat. I felt every emotion right along with Firmin, from the shock at being spotted by Norman, to the anguish at the park incident, and the joy at being rescued by Jerry and finding a companion that would look after him. Soon followed by the grief at the loss of his friend, and the recognition of the coming of the end.

The backdrop of the book was the demolition of an area of Boston called Scollay Square, which was actually a true story (although with a few fabrications). It did make me smile to read that the ‘take as many books as you can in five minutes’ story was actually true. Made me smile, but then sad with the loss of livelihood and the way that even though Norman had no shop left, he still wanted the books to be enjoyed.

I really enjoyed this book, and I’m so glad that I was lent it, as it’s not the kind of book I would ever think to buy. I guess that goes to show I need to broaden my horizons a bit!

5-5

Review: Charlaine Harris – Shakespeare’s Counselor

photo-201So this book review is a little late, my Grandma has been in hospital the last few days, so this wasn’t a priority. She’s home now though and looking much better!

I really really liked this book, although it was a bit weirder than the other 4. In this one, Lily finally decides to go for counselling to overcome the problems from her past. Then, a woman turns up dead in her counselor’s office, and it turns out that her counselor is being stalked. Having now given up most of her cleaning clients to train to become a private detective (under the tuition of Jack), Lily decides that she needs to find out who the stalker is. We spend a good portion of the book unable to decide if it is the counselor pretending to be stalked, or if it is the mysterious police woman who has just arrived in town.

Running alongside that storyline is the relationship of Lily and Jack. She got married to Jack, and now they are living together (apart from when Jack has to to back to Little Rock for business). She finds out that she is pregnant in this book, but unfortunately she only finds that out when she’s having a miscarriage.

The only thing that disappointed me in the book was the ending, as I had feared it might do. It just kind of tailed off at the end, with no definitive finish. It made me wonder if Harris had originally planned to write another book in the series and then decided not to. All in all, it was a good book though, and a brilliant series. Exactly what I would have expected from Charlaine Harris, although not quite as good as the Sookie Stackhouse series.

5/5

Review: Charlaine Harris – Shakespeare’s Trollop

Charlaine Harris - Shakespeare's TrollopWoohoo! Finally caught up on my reading challenge, so I’m back on track now! This was book 5 out of 100, it’s been hard so far, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep it up all year!

In my last post, I speculated that I thought this book would be about Becca Whitley or Deedra Dean. Turns out I was kind of right on both counts.

Deedra was found dead by Lily right at the start of the book. All the way through the book, we were lead to believe that it was the sheriff’s brother that was guilty of the murder, but in a shocking twist at the end, we found out that Becca Whitley was not actually Becca Whitley, just someone pretending to be her in order to claim inheritance from a rich family member. Deedra had figured her out, so ‘Becca’ killed her to keep her quiet.

I also wondered about what would happen with Lily’s relationship with Jack. I was pleased to find out that they have agreed to move in together, and that they will be staying in the town of Shakespeare rather than moving to Little Rock. I guess a move would kind of throw off the book title for the last in the series!

I really enjoyed the book, although I do wish it was a bit longer. There seems to be a lot of build up throughout the book, and then murder seems to be solved very quickly and the book is over before you know it. Still another great book from Charlaine Harris though!

5/5

Review: Charlaine Harris – Shakespeare’s Christmas

photo-18Thankfully (and as I had hoped), this book was not actually about Christmas, just set at Christmas, which meant I enjoyed it more than I thought.

This book saw Lily go back to her hometown for her sister’s wedding, which meant she had to confront all the people from her past, who she had not seen since she left town when everyone stopped being able to look her in the eye.

Two people were killed early on in the book, but the main storyline was not about the murders, but about a little girl that had been abducted 8 years before. Lily’s private detective boyfriend (Jack) just happened to be in the same town to investigate after he had been mailed a picture in connection with the abduction. There were three possible girls that it could have been, including the daughter of her sister’s fiancé, so it was a race against time to find out the culprit before her sister possibly married an abductor.

When the mother of one of the 3 children turns up dead outside Lily’s sister’s house, things get a bit stranger, especially when her last words are ‘The Children’. At this point, Lily decides that she will help Jack to investigate, so that they can find out the truth before her sister’s wedding.

In the end, it turns out that the culprit is a man who likes little girls a bit too much, and abducted the baby on an impulse after his baby boy was born and died. Lily finds this out in a dramatic chapter while she is baby-sitting the three girls and their siblings. It was definitely a very tense part of the book, but also quite emotional too, especially when one of the girls hides her little brother so her dad can’t hurt them.

Only two books left in the series now and already I don’t want it to end, really looking forward to the next one.

5/5

Review: Charlaine Harris – Shakespeare’s Champion

photo-17Finally finished this book, it took me longer than I thought it would so unfortunately I’m still behind on my reading challenge.

I enjoyed this book even more than the first in the series. After having being introduced to the characters in the last book, you can feel more involved in the story.

This major storyline of this book was to do with racial tensions and a gang of white supremacists out to cause trouble. I know this book was written a while ago, so is set in the 90’s, but I didn’t expect the book to go quite so far.

This book was a lot more violent than the first one, and I found myself quite shocked a couple of times. First of all was when a bomb went off after a meeting at a church, and I read this:

“I saw the head of the woman beside me separate from her body as a collection plate clove through her neck.”

Next was towards the end when the main character (Lily) and her friend Mookie were confronting the gang of men. The books that I read usually have happy endings, so I was shocked to read this:

“I glimpsed Mookie fixed to the wall by an arrow through her chest. Her head sagged to one side and her eyes were open”.

Apart from being a little freaked out by a couple of parts, I really enjoyed this book. The worst part of a book for me is usually the end, knowing that it’s going to be over soon, so the best part about reading a set of 5 is that you know that there’s more coming!

5-5