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The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. - Jane Austen

Review: Charlaine Harris – A Secret Rage

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Charlaine Harris - A Secret RageWell this was rather different to what I expected. I’ve read a lot of Charlaine Harris books, I think Goodreads said 32 at last count(!), but this was different from the other murder-mystery novels of hers that I’d read.

For a start, the main character Nickie is beautiful, a supermodel from New York in fact. But when her agent tells her that she’s past it, she decides that she will move back to her home-town,. move in with her old childhood friend and finish college before deciding what to do next.

So it’s a bit surprising that although Nickie has never experienced any violence or anything in New York, she hears that a student was raped on the college campus shortly before she arrived. And when a lecturer at the college is raped too, it looks like it wasn’t a one-off occurrence.

[SPOILER ALERT]

This is where things started to deviate from what I was used to from Harris. Usually, the main character decides to investigate the crimes herself because she has a personal connection to the victims, but Nickie isn’t too overly concerned with the crimes until she is raped too, when someone breaks into her bedroom at night. She’s understandably left traumatised, but together with Barbara, the lecturer who was also a victim, they decide to try and narrow down the list of possible culprits, convinced that the culprit knew them personal, they use a process of elimination to get the list down from a few hundred people, eventually dwindling down to just six.

But when Nickie becomes convinced that the culprit is her housemate’s father, not to mention the father of her new love, how can she possibly be sure before anyone else gets hurt?

But as with all Harris books, the ending was given a little twist, and things were not quite as straightforward as you thought they were. The only thing that niggled me was the reason that the culprit gave for committing the crimes, it just seemed very petty to me and not really in line with everything that had happened.

Regardless, I found myself turning page after page until I was finished, unable to put the book down until I found the identity of the guilty man. I think the fact that the main character was affected by the crimes made more of a connection with the book, you could feel her pain and anguish coming through the pages at you, leaving you as determined as she was to figure out what was going on, and desperate to figure it out before anyone else could feel the pain that she had.

Unfortunately, I think I’ve now read all of Harris’ books. I’ll be waiting eagerly for her next novel to be released!

4/5

Review: Charlaine Harris – Sweet and Deadly

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Charlaine Harris - A Secret RageIf you’ve been following my blog for a while, it probably won’t be much of a surprise to learn than I absolutely adore Charlaine Harris. I thought I’d read all her books until I was at Waterstones and spotted this double bill, which I think was her debut! The first book (Sweet and Deadly) was released in 1981!

I have to say, this really comes across in the book. Not that it makes it any less enjoyable to read, but there are certain parts where you think ‘Why doesn’t she just do xxx’, then you realise that xxx doesn’t exist yet! For a start, Catherine works for the local newspaper, but still uses a typewriter. Then there are the references to ‘the black part of town’, and the way that Harris refers to non-white people in her book may have been how it was back in the southern states of america in the 80s, but it all feels a little bit off in 2014.

As you can probably imagine if you’ve read any of Harris’ other books, the main character is a young girl without parents, short, plain looking and unlucky in love. But as usual, she comes into her own throughout the course of the book, deciding to give herself a makeover and finding a guy who seemingly loves her for who she is.

If only she hadn’t just found the reads body of her father’s old nurse. And if only she didn’t think that the death of the nurse and the deaths of her parents were somehow related. And if only she didn’t think she could do a better job of investigating that the police.

I did really like the book though, I love the style of Harris’ writing and the laid back style of crime fiction, not quite as hard hitting or fast paced as some more modern crime fiction. The book did seem quite short, although I read it on Kindle since it was much cheaper, so I don’t know how many pages it actually was. To me, the ending felt slightly rushed , all of a sudden, Catherine knows exactly who the killer is, and we have to wait while she runs to confront the killer until all is revealed.

But as this was Harris’ debut novel, I think we can understand why it may not be quite as fluid as her later novels, but it was still very much an exciting read.

Review: Charlaine Harris – Dead Ever After

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Charlaine Harris - Dead Ever AfterWell it’s finally here, the last book in the Sookie Stackhouse series. After the last book was left on such a cliff-hanger, I had no idea what was coming in this one, but I had a pretty good idea how I wanted it to finish. But in true Charlaine Harris style, nothing is ever quite how I wanted.

Things aren’t going well for Sookie in this book, Eric is freezing her out and she doesn’t know why. Her ex-friend Arlene shows up after being released from prison and wants a job at the bar where Sookie is now part owner, and then a murder rocks the town, and Sookie is arrested. There is no evidence, but the police chief is pretty adamant that she should be in prison. Never-the-less, she is released on bail, and promptly starts her own investigation into what happened.

Things are wrapped up quite nicely in the end. When I first read it, I didn’t think it ended how I wanted it to end, but looking back now, I think it was right. The main question was always going to be which man Sookie ended up with, and we should really have known it right from the start, 13 books ago.

As I expected, I really loved this book. It was fast paced, and full of the usual mix of action and romance that I have come to expect from these books. Harris definitely did not disappoint, the only disappointing part is that this is the last one. But now I’ve got all 13, I will probably read them all in series at one point, it would be nice to go all the way through without waiting a year between books.
5/5

100 Book Challenge? – It Definitely Was!

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Well I set my self a lofty total of 100 books in 2012, which turned out to be a little too high. I made it to 67, but I’m still quite happy with that. I started off the year with the best intentions and I managed to keep up until about June. And then Cameron moved back from Huddersfield and I was round at his house or going out more often, and the books kind of stopped flowing (I only read one book in July). I managed to pick it up again a bit later in the year but it wasn’t enough.

I’ve really enjoyed it though, I’ve tried a lot of books this year that I would never have thought to read thanks to recommendations from awesome people, sci-fi and fantasy are two genres that I’ve never really read before but will definitely be trying again.

I saw this ‘Best of Books 2012’ survey on one of the book blogs I read, so I’ve pinched it for my challenge review.

Best Book You Read In 2012? (You can break it down by genre if you want)
I think this comes down to two. For pure magicallity and captivation, I’d pick The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. It was completely different to anything I’d ever read, but the story of little Faina was both mesmerizing and heartbreaking at the same time. In terms of hard-hitting plots and something that stuck in my head for long after I finished reading, I’d pick When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. The plot wasn’t easy to read, but extremely well written and brilliantly thought provoking.

Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen would definitely qualify for this. It was the first book I read this year and didn’t really set the tone right for the other 99 books I planned to read. Since I’ve read it I’ve heard a lot about Franzen and how good he is supposed to be, but I found this book way too long and I just couldn’t get any connection to the characters. I’d had high hopes for the book but it left me feeling very disappointed.

Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012?
This would definitely be Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds. I was leant this book with the assurance that it was really good, but I’d never read any sci-fi before and I had no idea what to expect. But it was amazing, fast paced and full of nail biting moments that kept me gripped until the end. I’ll definitely be reading more Reynolds this year.

Book you recommended to people most in 2012?
This would probably be The Hunger Games (I, II and III). I loved it when I read it and a few people I know have also read it and enjoyed it too, including my dad who usually reads sci-fi and crime books, but loved how easy to read the trilogy was.

Best series you discovered in 2012?
This would probably be The Hunger Games too. I loved it when I read it, and the only other series I have read this year were by Charlaine Harris (Lily Bard and Aurora Teagarden), which were less enthralling that I expected.

Favorite new authors you discovered in 2012?
I’ve discovered so many new authors this year that it’s hard to pick just a few, but I would probably say Kristin Cashore, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, S.J. Watson and Hillary Jordan.

Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
There’s two books that I would pick for this. Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds and Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Both new genres, but both completely amazing and left me definitely wanting to read more sci-fi and fantasy.

Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2012?
This was definitely When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. The plot was so shocking and so different from what I’ve read before, but also so heart-wrenching that I just couldn’t put it down once I’d started reading.

Book You Read In 2012 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year
Considering the length of my ‘to-be-read’ list, I don’t think I’ll be re-reading any books next year. Not because I don’t want to, but because I’ve got so many more books waiting for me!

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2012?
If we’re talking about favourite appearance of a book, I’d say either The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, with it’s lovely black-edged pages and beautiful artwork, or When She Woke by Hillary Jordan with it’s striking picture of a girl staring at you, combined with the bright red-edged pages.

Most memorable character in 2012?
This would have to be Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit, although this is probably combined with the fact that the film has just come out too. But I loved that I got to know the character before I saw the film, whereas I’ve already got a fairly good picture of The Lord of the Rings, so when I read it earlier it won’t be my own creation.

Most beautifully written book read in 2012?
Definitely The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, absolutely enchanting.

Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012?
This is a hard one. I’d say it was probably The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. It made me think a lot about the impact you can have on other people with even the smallest actions.

Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2012 to finally read?
Definitely A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I’ve really got no idea why I’ve never read this before but it was great to finally read it.

Favourite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2012?
This would definitely be from The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom: “Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.

Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2012?
The Longest books was Century Rain by Alistair Reynolds at 640 pages. The shortest was A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens at 104 pages.

Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It?
Not much really springs to mind for this question, but I did have to talk to my friend straight away at the end of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, because it didn’t end how I expected it to!

Favourite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2012 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).
This would definitely be the relationship between Victoria and Grant in The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

Favourite Book You Read in 2012 From An Author You Read Previously
Definitely Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris – one of my favourite authors and the latest book in the Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) series did not disappoint.

Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else?
Two books: Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds and The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom.

So that’s my 2012 reading challenge over, not quite as successfully as I hoped but I’ve discovered some amazing new authors and tried books that I never would have dreamed of trying. Next year, I’m not going to aim for a specific number, but I do have in mind a lot of books that I want to read. Some longer ones that I couldn’t read this year (like LOTR and Anna Karenina), and some classics that I want to try, like Little Women etc. I’ve got a list of the top 200 books as voted by BBC readers. The list was voted in 2003, but it contains a lot of books that I do want to try, so my aim is to fill up this list a bit. I’ve read 49 from the list so far, so lets see how far I can get!

If you had a reading challenge last year, or you’ve set yourself one this year, let me know in the comments below!

Review: Charlaine Harris – Deadlocked

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charlaine-harris-deadlockedI’d somehow managed to convince myself that I’d already read this book, so every time I’ve seen it in Waterstones I’ve just ignored it. But last week I realised that I’d not actually read it yet, so I had to buy it and read it straight away – the Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) series is my favourite set of books.

Once again, Harris has written a book that keeps you enthralled from beginning to end, I just couldn’t put it down. Like all books by Charlaine Harris, there’s a bit of repetition at the start of the book as she re-introduces the main characters and gets you up to speed on what has already happened in the past 12 books(!). It would be good if you’d picked up this book without reading any of the others, but it does get a tad annoying when you just want to dive straight in to the story.

Speaking of stories, this one packed a punch! There’s trouble all around for Sookie, with her vampire husband Eric supposedly now betrothed to another (very powerful) vampire as the last wish of his now-deceased maker, with no apparent way of getting out of it. Then Sookie is summoned to Eric’s house to meet the vampire King Felipe of Nevada and his entourage, expecting punishment for killing Victor, regent of Louisiana. But Sookie is (without her knowledge) told to arrive late to the party, and turns up just in time to see Eric feeding off another two-natured woman, who has apparently used fairy blood to make herself irresistible. And when this woman turns up dead on Eric’s lawn a short while later, there are no shortage of suspects.

Add into this the fact that Sookie is now part owner of Merlotte’s grill, dealing with her fairy relatives living in her house, and also trying to conceal the presence of the magical Cluviel d’Or that she was left by her grandmother and she’s not having an easy time. And it all takes a big twist when she realises that her fairy cousin Claude may not be quite as loving as he may seem.

As with all of Harris’ books, the drama starts about 3 pages into the book and builds up and up and up until it finally explodes with a bang in a dramatic finale. The Cluviel d’Or (a magical object that grants the owner one wish) is used in the most unexpected way, which saves one of Sookie’s loved ones but also creates a new worry for another, who was maybe expecting that Sookie would use it for him. So the book (as usual) ends up on a bit of a cliffhanger, which is quite frustrating as the next one doesn’t come out for another 6 months!

If you like True Blood or any kind of supernatural/fantasy, then I’d really recommend this series of books – but if you’re expecting sparkly vampires like Twilight, you’ll be disappointed (or enlightened).

5-5

Review: Charlaine Harris – Poppy Done to Death

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dead-over-heels-charlaine-harrisFinally the last book in this 8 book series. I’ve got mixed feelings over it ending, because although I’ve really enjoyed the series and I quite like the main character, I can tell that it’s not Harris’ best writing, and I’d much rather read the Sookie Stackhouse books (again).

This book starts off with Roe’s step-sister-in-law being murdered in her own house. Roe and her other step sister are going over to confront her for not turning up to a meeting of the ‘Uppity Women’ (don’t ask). When they get to her house, they find her on the floor, brutally stabbed. Over the course of the book, we learn that Poppy (and likewise her husband) were not exactly committed in their relationship, carrying on other relationships with many people in the town. Which of course gives us plenty of suspects for her murder, jealous women, and men who think the cat might be let out of the bag.

The plot was brilliant, a very well written murder mystery. Every time I convinced myself that someone was guilty, I turned out to be completely wrong. In the end, the guilty woman (or man) was not someone that I had ever suspected, but completely obvious now that I know.

There were a few things that I didn’t like about this book, mainly the fact that Roe discovers that she is pregnant. Harris made a big point through the last 3 books to bring up the fact that Roe can’t have children every few chapters, so the fact that Roe is pregnant seems to be an attempt to end the series on a ‘happy ever after’ note. Although it was pretty nice, it just seemed quite odd, a little like it was tacked on as an afterthought.

But apart from the few niggles that I had with the book, it was a very good end to a series that for me was a bit up and down. Not the best series I’ve ever read but one that kept me wanting to read until I’d finished.

3-5

Review: Charlaine Harris – Last Scene Alive

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dead-over-heels-charlaine-harrisThis book starts off a few months after the end of the last one, with Aurora still grieving the massive loss at the end of the last book. She decides that she has had enough of living her life under a cloud of misery and that she needs to start getting back to normality. How convenient, then, that her old flame Robin gets in contact with her and wants to meet up.

At first, she thinks it’s because his new movie (which incidentally is based on the murders that she uncovered in the earlier books) is filming in her town, but it turns out that he really did just want to see her. I guess you can probably tell what happens over the course of the book, with Aurora falling for Robin all over again, and getting over Martin by getting under someone else…

Unusually, it’s not actually Aurora that discovers the dead body in this book, but she still ends up front and center. Seriously, if I was involved in this many murders, I’d consider moving to a remote island to live by myself. The victim this time is the lead actor in the movie, who happens to be playing the character of Aurora and was recently dating Aurora’s old flame Robin. Aurora also has to cope with a weird new employee at the library , discovering a terrible secret at the end of the book and leading to yet another murder.

But of course, even though she’s not the police, or even a private detective, she still manages to be the one who identifies the murderer, like a normal member of the public would be able to consistently solve crimes faster than the police. But I suppose you have to accept some far-fetchedness when you’re reading a murder mystery series, kind of like Midsomer Murders.

3-5

Review: Charlaine Harris – A Fool and His Honey

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dead-over-heels-charlaine-harrisI had two very conflicting reactions to this book. The story was fast paced and thrilling and wouldn’t let me stop reading until I had finished. It’s the quickest I’ve read a book in a long time. But then there was the writing, and you could definitely tell that this is one of Harris’ earlier books. There is a lot of repetition, and detail in places where it is not needed (like too much focus on her hair or her glasses). It kind of distracted from the energy of the story, but not enough so that I didn’t enjoy it.

Aurora is at home when the man delivering her wood goes mad and starts dancing naked around her garden. Now this wasn’t actually an important part of the story and we only find out why right at the end. Although the explanation felt like an afterthought, so I think it would have been better without it. After this man has been taken away by the police, a relative of Aurora’s husband Martin turns up on the doorstep with a new baby. Only no-one knows that Regina was ever pregnant. Martin and Aurora go out for dinner, but when they return, Regina is missing, there is a dead man on the steps of the house with a hatchet in his head, the baby is hidden under the bed and there is a strange man hidden in Aurora’s house.

Martin and Aurora decide that they need to find Regina or a relative of hers so that they don’t have to look after the baby, so they return to Martin’s hometown in Ohio, to his old family home on a farm in the middle of nowhere. The drama escalates from here, building to a thrilling (and heart-wrenching) conclusion.

I’m really looking forward to reading the next book in the series now, which surprised me, because I didn’t really enjoy the last book. Only 3/5 though due to the almost amateur-style writing.

3-5

Review: Charlaine Harris – Dead Over Heels

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dead-over-heels-charlaine-harrisWell this is the first book I’ve ever read in digital instead of as an actual physical book, and it’s totally put me off buying a kindle. The actual book was going to cost £30, but the kindle version was only £9.99, so I bought it on kindle and read it on my phone/iPad. Yes, it was quite convenient because I always had my book with me, and yes, my bag was a lot lighter without carrying a book around all the time, and yes, it gave me something to do all the times I was sat waiting in my car. BUT, the experience of reading a book just isn’t the same when you don’t have an actual book. I love the feel and smell of a book, and I love being able to easily tell how far through the book I am. Location 3097 of 13807 means absolutely nothing to me, thank you kindle.

Anyway, enough of my book-obsessed ramblings and on to the book. Unfortunately, for the second book in a row by one of my favourite authors, I was disappointed again. Harris seems to have a tendency to repeat what’s happened in the previous books over and over again in subsequent books, especially near the start. The first couple of chapters always seem to be a reintroduction to Aurora and her family. Now I don’t know about anyone else, but when I’m reading a series of books, I tend to know what I’ve just read, so this gets a bit tedious.

This book (the 5th in the series), starts off with a body falling from a plane and landing in Aurora’s garden. Now most people might be extremely freaked out about this, but Aurora seems to take it in her stride, and after other odd attacks start happening (including on her friends), she obviously ends up starting her own little investigation. The middle part of the book did get quite interesting, but it wasn’t as good as the first omnibus that I read earlier this year. Not good enough to make me want to read the next one straight away, I’ve got something more exciting lined up.

2-5

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

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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