After getting a kindle, a whole new world of books opened up, and I didn't know where to start! Here will be the rambles about the books I have read. There isn't much of a theme to what I read, and I love to receive book recommendations (if you want to hear me ramble about a book you've enjoyed!)

Thursday, 5 April 2012

What Katy Did series

These are a set of classic books, freely available in their digital format (I got mine via Amazon, but they are also available through Project Gutenberg). There are five books, and they follow the lives of the Carr family, primarily the eldest child Katy, but also her siblings Clover, Elsie, Phil, Dorry and John. Set in America, they follow the family for a generation, from their time as playing children, through to parents worrying about their own children playing!
The first three books in the series focus on Katy - What Katy Did, What Katy Did Next and What Katy Did in School. The books are twee, but they aren't too sugary sweet, which is something I like about many older children's books - sometimes nowadays it can feel as though every children's story has to be sugar coated. Having said that, it does all end rather nicely. It's also an interesting insight into what it might have been like to be a child in America back then. The second two books, Clover and In The Valley High focus more on the second eldest, Clover, but all of the family is involved.
Being aimed at children, the books are simple and easy to read, so perfect for a bit of dip in dip out light reading that won't take you long to finish each book. If you like a bit of a romantic happy ending, then these books are for you too. For a quick, free read, that doesn't require much in the way of brainpower, they're great!

Catching up (and reviewing my Kindle!)

...Life really got in the way, and so I stopped blogging about the books. Then the longer I left it, the less inclined I felt to carry on. But here, I'm going to go back to it, and try and blog about some of the books I've read since December! (Thanks to my Kindle its easier to remember what I've read recently!)

Also, a week tomorrow it will be a year since i got my Kindle. Getting it was something that took me a long time to think about - when eBook readers were in their infancy, my old housemate (who I always regarded as having more money than sense!) bought one. I remember strongly arguing how I couldn't see myself buying one, loving the feel and smell of books too much (something that the overflowing bookshelves proved!)

But then screen technology improved, Amazon started offering lots of free books, and in moving to the other end of the country, I was nowhere near my previous suppliers of stupidly cheap second hand books, yet steadily working through all the unread books on the shelves. Holiday was my first real 'excuse' for seriously contemplating buying one though. On family holidays, i used to have a tendency to take five or six books, read those, then read the three or four books my mum would take, then the two my dad would take, and then be hopeful that the hotel had a stash of books that other holidaymakers had left behind. The amount i was going through just wasn't practical for fitting within a weight restriction! So for that, a Kindle made good sense. And then I read on the bus for work, and well, my work bag is heavy enough...

So, the Kindle was bought.I loved it, and I still do, even though I'm onto my second one now (Amazon's replacement system was brilliant I must say!). I've just counted through to see how many books I've read whilst having my Kindle, and I was actually quite shocked to discover that I'm currently on my 99th book. So by next Friday, I am more than likely to have finished 100!

Maybe I read too much. Some people might say that. I can't see that changing, but I shall try to blog more!

Monday, 12 December 2011

C is for corpse - Sue Grafton

Yes, this is the third in the alphabet series starring private detective Kinsey. And, after my complaining about 'A is for Alibi' this is a series that has really grown on me.

The story starts with Kinsey recovering from the results of the previous novel, B is for burglar. Whilst in the fun, trying to return to full fitness she meets a young man that most people would probably stare it laugh at. Disfigured from a road accident, he too is on a long path to recovery, although for him, unlike Kinsey, he is never likely to return to full fitness. He hears that Kinsey is a PI, and approaches her one session, desperate that she will believe that the accident was not his fault. Luckily, she does, and so the hunt begins in looking for his murderer, made all the more difficult due to the amnesia given to him by the accident - so he has no idea who would want to kill him and why!

The plot is intricate, and not always as expected, and it also works well to tie up other loose ends in the story with the plot. For fans of a good detective story, this series is well written and easy to read. Personally, I love the character development through the series, yet think it is great that each book is very self contained, so I can dip into the series as and when I please and quickly get up to speed. Sometimes, I still forget the age if the books which is noticed in the lack of technology Kinsey uses, which can make the books seem old fashioned, but I am looking forward to this hopefully changing as the series continues.

For me, this book was make or break as to me continuing with the series, and having thoroughly enjoyed this one, I shall certainly be visiting Kinsey's office again!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Les Miserable - Victor Hugo

The reason I haven't blogged in a while is mainly because of reading this epic book. I say epic as in epically ling like Lord of the Rings, rather than because it is completely amazing (though it isn't a bad book!) Anyway, let me ramble about the book...

This is one of the many free classic books you can download - I can't remember if I got my copy from Amazon or Project Gutenberg, but it is available from both. It is the same story as the musical, though I have to admit that having never seen the musical, this knowledge is gained through discssions as I was reading it with my other half (who did occaisionally tell me what was going to happen next!)

The story itself follows the lives of many different characters, and their lives, in France, during the period of the French revolution. These include the convict Jean Valjean, police inspector Javert, the good for nothing Thernadier and family, and Cosette and Marius. The story spans a large period, generally from Jean Valjean's release from prison, until his death as an old man, although some if the background of the story takes place in earlier times.

As I have mentioned before, the book is very long. Not having a paper copy I have no idea of how many pages it would be, but I know I felt a level if frustration when reading it on my kindle and seeing the percentage read bar creep along so slowly. This was especially the case when reading sections of the book which contained barely anything of the story - such as two days of me reading all about this Bishop to then discover that apart from the fact that he is a good man, the information was all rather superfluous. Generally, I am a quick reader, and so I found the length of the book plus its difficult to read prose (because of the era in which it was written) found me often avoiding a quick ten minute reading session, because it felt as though I would get nowhere with it. Of course, this in turn made it a vicious circle, taking me even longer to finish the book.

Having said all that, I don't dislike the book. The story is cleverly written, and I love how all the different characters lives get tangled in with one anothers. Like I mentioned previously, I haven't seen the musical (though having read the book I would now like to!) but I imagine the story would be easier to read if you already knew the story and could enjoy all the details, rather than having to treat the book as a puzzle and regularly have to try and guess which parts of the text were important to the plot, and which bits didn't require detailed reading and remembering.

I did enjoy the book on the whole - its a free book for ebook users, so it can be worth giving a go, although it is hard to get into and keep going with, so if you prefer a quick and easy read, this isn't really for you. As for me, I am going to enjoy a break from the world of classics for a while and enjoy some easier reading!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Kindle Death (& Rebirth!)

So, I've not posted for a little while, which might mean that some of you think that I'm not blogging any more. This is not the case; rather there have been hinderances to me completing books in my usual fast pace! One of these is that I've been busy reading Les Miserable, which is taking me forever to get through (but the end is now in sight!), and secondly, I suffered from a bit of hardware failure.

As you know, the start of this blog coincided with me getting my Kindle, and generally focusses on what I have read on it (although not exclusively). Well, on Tuesday, I suffered every avid Kindle user's worst nightmare. As I switched the power button, the screen saver remained on the screen, frozen, with horizontal and vertical white lines appearing all over the screen. No method of resetting or charging could fix it. Doing a 13 hour shift, I nipped to the library (as I didn't want to have nothing to read!), and resigned myself to battle with Amazon's customer services on Wednesday morning.

I needn't have worried. You put your phone number and reason for calling into a simple form on Amazon.co.uk, and instantly you get phoned back from the relevant department. A couple of quick questions, and I was quickly put through to the department who can authorise replacements. They said they would send me a replacement straightaway, and arranged a courier to collect the faulty one. The new one arrived the next morning.

Yes, it has been a bit of a pain having to re-make the folders, but that isn't customer services fault. They did a fantastic job, and I am very pleased to be back with Kindle ready to finish of Les Mis!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Boleyn Inheritance - Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory is known for writing some fantastic historical novels, and this is another. This time, the story covers King Henry VIII's fourth and fifth wives, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard. These two Queen's are the ones that are often little talked about, with much of the historical focus being on the King's first three wives. 
The book shows that it has been well researched, but where Gregory shows real skill is in adding the personal feeling to the characters. Obviously, we shall never know just how accurate her portrayal is, but she does manage to make it feel so realistic that it is as if you are actually a bystander at court with them. The story is written from the perspectives of the three main women in the story; Anne, Katherine and Jane Boleyn. Jane serves as a Lady in the court of both the Queen's, as a friend and confidante, although she herself is at the mercy of her Uncle. Anne and Katherine are polar opposites, Anne being modest and full of values, and Katherine being pretty but airheaded, yet neither were able to successfully satisfy the King. Reading the story from the conflicting perspectives gives a fuller picture to how life really was at court. And whilst at first I found that it made me jealous of the wonderful lavishness of court life, towards the end of the book it made me thankful that nowadays I live in a less patriarchal society, where the will of powerful men doesn't override all the women's freedoms. 
If you are a fan of historical novels, then this is definitely one to read. The pace is fairly slow, but it is filled with wonderful description, of which the book just wouldn't be the same without. And it is great to learn some more about our rich Tudor history. 

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Freaks - Tess Gerritsen

This is another Amazon freebie (and currently still free!) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Freaks-Rizzoli-Isles-Short-ebook/dp/B005JXBJFI/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1318785659&sr=1-1-catcorr . It is a short story, featuring homicide cop Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles, characters in other novels by Gerritsen, and now I think a US TV series.

Moving back to this story, it is a brilliant story to read in fifteen minutes, when you want to have a quick moment of escapism without being drawn into a long novel. In this short story, the investigative duo are called in to examine the emaciated body of a teenager, found in an abandoned church besides an open coffin. The body features some interesting bruising, and a possible killer is seen fleeing the scene, but claiming he is innocent, but just happens to have a taste for blood.

However, I feel the need to define that this book is a crime/thriller, and isn't deeply supernatural. It is really cleverly written, with unexpected twists and turns. Many short stories fail by trying to pack too much narrative, or not enough, but this one is just right, with enough depth to feel the emotions of characters, but whilst keeping it very fast paced and easy to fall into. Definitely worth a download!

North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell

North and South might not be as famous as many other classic romantic love stories, such as Pride and Prejudice, but this is not due to a poorer level of storytelling; for me Gaskell is fabulous, a Victorian Jane Austen, and I look forward to exploring more of her works in the near future.

This book, North and South, was originally published in serial form, and features a tale of the stark contrasts between life at the time in the harsh industrious north and the softer, wealthier south. In the story, the primary character, Margaret Hale is forced to move from the south to the fictional industrial town of Milton, after her father leaves the clergy and moves to the north to take up a position of teaching. One of his students is the handsome cotton mill owner, Mr Thornton, who immediately becomes at odds with Margaret, who aligns herself with some of the poor of the town, who work under his strict rule. The book progresses through their relationship, as they find reasons to both love and hate one another.

Being a classic, it is not always the easiest of books to read, but it really is worth the perseverance - and for me, I would much rather read a classic romance, than a modern day story, maybe just because there is something so warm and fuzzy about the old conventions of romance and dating, compared to the rough modern world.

I have to confess, I hadn't heard of this book until recently, when I bought my mum the TV adaptation of it on DVD for Mother's day (she loves a period drama!). Afterwards, she lent it to me, and I was keen to watch, if only because Mr Thornton is played by the delightful Richard Armitage, who I certainly wouldn't kick out of bed! That being said, I really enjoyed the story for what it is, which is what pursuaded me to download the book afterwards. I certainly recommend getting hold of the book (which is available for free via Project Gutenberg) and then if you enjoy it, think about looking up the TV series (currently available on Amazon at a bargain price http://www.amazon.co.uk/North-South-Complete-BBC-DVD/dp/B0007N1BBC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318784983&sr=8-1)

Shopaholic Series - Sophie Kinsella

The Shopaholic series are just about as girly as you can get. So you might think they are a little off what I normally read, and you'd be right. However, I do like to read a variety, and also these were perfect for a bit of gentle reading whilst soaking up the sun around the swimming pool. I was also reading these at the same time as the True Blood novels, so I needed something totally different, and these provided this!

So for anyone who has missed these books, they follow the character, Rebecca Bloomwood, a journalist and a shopaholic, through her job, romance, marriage and having children. I know many people can sympathise with the character and her shopping impulses - for me, its something that I find myself getting angry at her about it, mainly because I don't understand why someone would get into debt over designer labels. But that's me, and I have always been sensible with money. 

Moving on, the stories are easy to read, and contain the mix of romance, humour and storytelling making them perfectly readable. Nevertheless, I am struggling with what to say beyond that, just because nothing really stands out for me. If you enjoy reading chick-lit, then I am sure you will love them, but other than that, for me they are just something that is readable when I don't want to think about anything, but fails to bowl me over.


Mr Planemaker's Flying Machine - Shelagh Watkins

And so I continue in catching up with the blogging! This is another one of the books I downloaded from the kindle store whilst it was free, and in going back to hunt out the link for you guys, its still free! http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Planemakers-Flying-Machine-ebook/dp/B0046REN9M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318782580&sr=8-1 which is fairly surprising, since normally by the time I get around to reading a free book, its no longer free.

Now, to those of you who think this sounds like a children's book by the title, then well, you are right. But, I enjoy reading children's books in between sometimes, if only for some light relief. This book certainly provided some of that, although the storyline was more complex than I was expecting, and there were brief moments when I lost track with the plot.

So, about this plot. The story follows a brother and sister, Dell and Emmelisa Planemaker, and the adventures they have with their computer. It features a mix of difficult to deal with situations, such as bullying, bereavement, and spitefulness, as well as the more adventurous fantasy elements as the pair step inside the computer into the fantasy world of Hardwareland, as they undertake their extraordinary journey on the trail of light mission, to learn about what they are truly capable of.

Having only read it myself, I can't say what a child would make of the story. For sure, I think the fact that it tackles sibling rivalry, bullying and the loss of a parent could help to make some children feel less alone, when they might struggle to talk to others about it. It also has the far more light-hearted fantasy elements. Plus, to top it off, most of the characters feature rather corny names, such as Mayja Troublemaker and Verry Boringman, which even I had to stifle the giggles at.

Despite it being a little absurd at times, I did enjoy reading this book, and considering the fact that at the moment it is free for fellow kindlers, it really is worth a quick download. 

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Charlaine Harris - True Blood Series

For anyone who is a reader of fantasy, the True Blood series can't have been missed. The books quickly recieved a cult following after HBO began the production of the True Blood TV series, which has propelled vampires, and vampire fiction into popularity. As for this series, the reviews have been mixed. The TV series generally produces responses similar to marmite; either a love it or hate it approach.

After hearing all the hype before series one aired over here in the UK, I gave the TV show a go, and loved it. So did my mum and my nan (which can be a bit embarrassing during the sex scenes!), but after series two and beyond moved to cable channels I didn't have, I gave up on the series, that is until I was bought the first book in the series.

The first book, Dead until Dark, followed the first series of True Blood, and I noticed that the TV series followed the book pretty religiously. Reading this got me back into the story, and so I read the next nine books in the series, within about a week! So from that, as you can gather the books are easy to get into, well paced and always leave you wanting to know what can happen next.

The books are written in the first person, from the perspective of Sookie Stackhouse, a barmaid working in a bar named Merlotte's, in Bon Temps, Louisiana. She also happens to be a telepath. After spending a lifetime trying to block out the inner thoughts of everyone around her, she can't believe it when she hears nothing from a stranger who walks into the bar. That stranger just happens to be a vampire named Bill, and her 'talent' or 'disability' of hearing peoples thoughts saves his life that very night when she rescues him from a group of drainers; people after vampire blood to sell on the black market as a stimulant.

The story begins with a growing romance between these two, but also the far darker vampire world; that of 'fangbangers' - people desperate to sleep with vampires, of vampire politics, and of a world full of other supernatural beings that make vampires just the tip of the iceberg. All of this is a dark world Sookie is sucked into, and we follow her triumphs and losses, and a lifestyle that at first seems exciting, but afterwards just a bit scary.

If you haven't given the series a go, but like fantasy, then give it a go. Only be prepared for there being some graphic sex scenes. These are certainly not on the same level as a lot of teen fiction, such as the twilight novels. I was reading one of these books on the bus, when one of the adults with learning disabilities that I work with came and sat next to me. He was reading over my shoulder (out loud) , and I suddenly had to turn my kindle off when I realised he was reading out the sex scenes!

Dead(ish) - Naomi Kramer

This was a book I downloaded free from Amazon's kindle store. In going back now to find the link, I discover that yet again, it is no longer free. Instead it is going for the royal price of 86p. (http://www.amazon.co.uk/DEAD-ish-ebook/dp/B003XVYJ2S/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1318669357&sr=8-4) But is it worth this price tag? To be honest, I'm not quite sure...

The concept of the book is interesting. The title character Linda wakes up, after being killed by her boyfriend, desperate to find out where her body is, so that she can move on. The story follows her bizarre methods of torturing him, and even hiring a private detective, to try and find out the answer to Linda's burning question.

Kramer writes well, and the book does flow, but there is something not quite right about it. The story moves almost too fast, and so rather than feeling like you are reading a polished novella, it is like reading an author's framework before they get down to the nitty gritty of the writing.

That said, it did provide half an hour of distraction, and made me laugh during parts of it. Whether it is worth purchasing though probably depends on how much you are prepared to spend on books. For me, I'll download the free books quite happily, but it takes a lot for me to buy a book, because otherwise I will end up spending an absolute fortune. Also, as I read so quickly, short novellas like this just don't last any time with me, and so aren't much of an investment. It is also not really the sort of book that I would read again. So would I buy it? The answer is no. But that is not to say it is an awful book, just that it isn't really for me.


The Mortal Instruments - Cassandra Clare

It has been ages since I blogged. I apologise, holidays and such having affected my ability to blog. However, I have had plenty of time to read, so now I have plenty to catch up on blogging about!

First up, is the mortal instruments series, consisting of; City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Broken Glass, City of Fallen Angels. I was recommended these by a friend who generally shares a similar taste in books to me, so I sought them out quickly, despite having never heard of them before. I am pleased that I did, for it is a lovely, easy to pick up, hard to put down fantasy series.

Set in New York, it begins with a fifteen year old called Clary witnessing a murder whilst going to the club Pandemonium with her friend. Unusual enough you'd think, but this isn't any old murder. Instead, the murderers are three teenagers just like her, except they are covered in the strangest mixture of tattoo's, and wield weapons she has never seen before. Even more bizarrely, the body vanishes into thin air, and no-one seems to be able to see the murderers apart from Clary.

And so Clary falls into their world, the world of Shadowhunters, a secret warrior tribe who dedicate their lives to ridding Earth of demons, and within a day, Clary's mother disappears, and Clary narrowly escapes death at the hand of a demon. Behold lots of questions about who Clary and her mother really are...

The book is also packed full of other fantasy characters, including the ever popular vampires, but it doesn't feel like it has tried to jump on the vampire popularity bandwagon like so many books are trying to do at the moment. Instead, the author makes the world of shadowhunters feel so believable, and you want to fall inside it. The stories cover more than just the action scenes between Shadowhunters and demons; taking you on a rollercoaster of emotions including love and loss. Cassandra Clare hasn't gone easy with the storyline, in particular the issue of Clary falling in love with her own brother, and the turmoil the two of them both face, which adds to the overall cleverness of the story.

In reading, I wondered why they hadn't made a film out of these books yet, but a bit of googling suggests that a film is due for release in 2012. I don't want to pass judgement without seeing the film, but I really hope they are able to do the books justice. It is possible for a film to live up to a book (The Lord of The Rings being a prime example), but sometimes they are just a complete disappointment (The Golden Compass). In the mean time, if you enjoy a quick scape into the world of fantasy, this is a series I can't help but recommend!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Percy Jackson Series - Rick Riordan

I've got a bit of a delay in writing about these books, mainly because I've become instantly gripped by another series of books (watch out for the next review!), but these were also highly enjoyable.

I would say the series is a childrens, or young adult series, but I have never let the target market of a book get me (perhaps that was why I was so determined to try and read Lord of the Rings aged 10!). The series contains 5 books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series; The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titans Curse, and the Last Olympian. I also read the first (and currently only) book of the second series, The Heroes of Olympus, called The Lost Hero, which I shall come to in time.

I don't want to give too many plot details, because if I do, then its going to ruin your enjoyment of the books, if I in any way manage to persuade you to read them, and also because I am sure Wikipedia can give you a much more concise run-down than I can. Anyway, the Percy Jackson series, focuses on the title character, who is a troublesome boy diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, and a track record of being expelled from school. It turns out that actually, there is another reason to explain Percy's behaviour - he is a demigod! With a mortal mother, and his father being the Greek God Poseidon, Percy Jackson goes where all demigods go - camp half-blood! This is a mad sort of summer camp, where fighting monsters is a regular activity, along with chariot racing, and climbing a lava encrusted climbing wall, run by the Greek God of wine, Dionysus.

Along with his best friend, a half human, half goat Satyr called Grover, Percy embarks on a number of increasingly perilous quests throughout the series of books. The drama includes multiple trips into Hades lair, the underworld, discovering a cyclopes half-brother, Tyson, and a fight to try and prestect the God's land of Olympus. Each story is fantastically written with tons of Greek mythology interwoven into the story in a magical way. The way Riordan has also moved all the traditional places in Greek mythology into places in the centre of the western world, America, manages to make the stories seem almost believable. The fast pace, and mix of comedy, action, adventure and even romance makes it a brilliant narrative, that will have you desperate to keep on reading the next book, and then the next....

Which I suppose is where the Lost hero comes in. Percy is missing, and Annabeth is looking for him. In her search, she comes across a trio of demigods, Jason, Leo and Piper. Jason just happens to have lost all his memories. As the threesome begin on a quest of their own to help save the Gods once again from the Titans, Jason begins to regain memories. Here he discovers some information about his past, and to where the missing Percy might be. This book is written in the first person, alternating between the three new main characters. The writing style makes the book stand out from the previous series, and truly feel the emotions of all three of them. The second book in the series, the Son of Neptune, is due for release in October, and is one I have to say I am looking forward to it...

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Last Little Blue Envelope - Maureen Johnson

So, I had planned there to be a gap between reading the previous book and this one. I have been reading a series of books, but then halfway through, I felt compelled to pause and read this book. I get drawn into the stories of the characters, and after having read the first chapter of this book at the end of the last one, I just really wanted to know what happened to the last envelope and the primary character, Ginny.
Now, before i discuss the plot - if you haven't read the first one, but intend to, then maybe you shouldn't read the rest of this review, as I don't want to spoil the plot of the first book. Decision made to stay? Right, here I go.
Ginny goes back to London to spend time with her newly discovered uncle, Richard, to get back the letter found by a guy called Oliver, and to spring a surprise on Keith, her 'sort of something'. Sounds like a nice, simple vacation. Though things don't do quite to plan.
As Ginny goes to surprise Keith and give him a well thought out Christmas present (an old copy of Romeo and Juliet), she gets a surprise of her own - Ellis, Keith's new girlfriend. Naturally, Ginny is distraught, and doesn't know what to do.
So, on to the next task on her trip to London. Get the letters back. She meets Oliver in a cafe, as planned. He tells her how he purchased the rucksack off some boys in the street after his had broken, and subsequently found the letters. He hands her the first twelve letters, but as for the thirteenth...well, Oliver has read it. It contains details about tracking down a final piece of artwork, and he wants in. Ginny feels the only thing she can do is go along with this, so agrees to split the profits of the sale of the final painting, in return for getting the thirteenth letter back in the end.
Keith is disgusted by these plans, so makes a plan of his own to try and steal the letter back off the smarmy Oliver. However, that doesn't go quite to plan either, and results in a foursome road trip, as Ginny, Oliver, Ellis and Keith travel through Paris, Amsterdam and Ireland in order to get the pieces together for the final piece of Aunt Peg's artwork.
Emotions run high through the journey, taking a rollercoaster of twists and turns. But through the hatred and romance that emerges, Oliver maybe isn't quite as he first seems, and Ginny discovers that perhaps London is more like home than America.

I am so glad this book was written, because it provides a proper ending to the escapades in the first novel. It also shows just how the central character, Ginny has developed, and what she has learnt from the adventures she has been on. And whilst it is unlikely that any of us are going to go on a mad adventure to track down artwork made by a talented mad aunt, I think it does show that we all need a little adventure in our lives, and that by taking opportunities, we can gain so much from them. Now, can I go on a European adventure please?

Monday, 1 August 2011

B is for Burglar - Sue Grafton

This is the second of the series, the first of which I reviewed a while back and quite harshly criticised. However, I didn't want to write the whole series off after just one read, especially when it is generally quite acclaimed, so I gave the second one in the series a go.
I am glad I did, for I found this a far more enjoyable read. Perhaps it was because I hadn't just read it after a truly great book, or because I was more prepared that the book was written before the era of laptop computers, mobile phones and modern technology. Also, some of the characters had already been introduced, so there was less waffle trying to distinguish the character of Kinsey, the personal investigator. It is still American, which isn't as preferable as a British scenario, and does take a little bit of thinking about, just in terms of money, geography and the fat they have more combustible houses than we do!
The story however, seemed good, and far better than the previous novel. It begins with the enquiry of a missing person, required to sign a form for some estate funds to be released. Sounds like a simple case for Kinsey. However, it is more complicated than first thought, implicating the missing woman's sister, husband, a seemingly unconnected murder in the local area, and visits to a second home in Florida, culminating in Kinsey being in a hospital bed.
The story is fast paced, and there are plenty of twists in the plot which can keep the wannabe detective reader guessing. It isn't the best crime story I have ever read, but it certainly encourages me to read the next in the series. And if they keep on improving as I go, then there should be some very good reads up ahead....

13 Little Blue Envelopes - Maureen Johnson

This was another one of those books that I had heard of other people reading (and enjoying), but I didn't have a clue what it was about, so I thought it was about time I gave it a go. From the title, I was worried it would be all to similar to PS I Love You, and I have a bit of a dislike for books that seem too similar to one another. However, I was pleasantly surprised.
The title character Ginny (Virginia) recieves a package containing thirteen numbered envelopes, created by her dead aunt, who had disappeared off to Europe without telling her a couple of years previously. The envelopes contain instructions, and money, in order for Ginny to go on an adventure of her own, over to Europe, and to retrace some of the parts of the journey her Aunt made in her final years.
The book is easy to read, but the story draws you in. There is comedy, and romance, but also a sad side to the story. Nevertheless, it is an uplifting story, and i think it shows to everyone that it is good for everyone to have a little bit of adventure within their lives.
The book finishes without Ginny being able to read envelope 13, which although somewhat disappointing, seems to fit in the story well. However, Johnson has since written a sequel to this book called 'The Last Little Blue Envelope', the first chapter of which was included in my copy of the book, so getting hold of a copy of the sequel is now on my to get list!
To conclude, this book is girly and easy to read. It isn't gripping, but definately enjoyable. If you like easy reads, or just like a bit of variety in what you read, then this is a nice little quick read.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Green Mile - Stephen King

Having not read a Stephen King for a long while, and having an abundance of them on my kindle, I felt as though it was time to give one a read. Not really knowing much about this one (no, I haven't watched the film, though I have heard of it), I figured I would give it a go.
This story was originally written in a serial format, much like Charles Dickens did with Great Expectations. In reading it all in one go it does somewhat lose part of its style - there are no long waits for the next instalment, and the recaps seem a little bit repetitive (though would be absolutely necessary if read in serial format!) Nevertheless, seeing a book written in this way highlights the level of talent that Mr King has for writing truly gripping fiction. The foreword and notes on the story also provide the insight into why he decided to embark on this project, his thoughts through it, and whether he would do it again, which sadly seems to be a no.
Anyway, moving on to the story. The story is told by the lead character, Paul Edgecombe, from his nursing home in Louisiana, but is set in Cold Mountain Penitentiary, where Paul was the boss of block E, where prisoners awaiting execution lived out their remaining days. The story focusses on one group of staff and inmates, and the remarkable events that happen while they are there, including the sadistic guard Percy Wetmore, who ends up with more than he expected from prison service, and some interesting inmates. The most fascinating character at all though is Steamboat Willy, or later as he is better known, Mr Jingles. He is a mouse who becomes such a character on the block, with a penchant for peppermint sweets, and playing with a brightly coloured cotton spool. the story crosses over into the world of the supernatural more than once, but it is told in such a way that you don't even seem to notice it is happening until it already has, and even then it is highly believable. Just goes to show that a talented author can make you believe in anything.
Do I recommend this story? Yes, I do. Having never watched the film, I cannot comment on it's trueness to the story, but such good storytelling should always be enjoyed in its original format. If you have some self control, try reading it serially, as it was intended. I wish I had been able to do that, although sadly my lack of self control leads me to devour books rather than savour them as much as i possibly should.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Malory Towers - Enid Blyton

Enid Blyton was for me one of the best people in the world when I was growing up. I loved stories from a young age, and had plenty of her books lining my bookshelves as a child. Once series I hadn't read however, was the Malory Towers series, something which I had been told I should rectify immediately.

The series contains six books; First Term at Malory Towers, Second Form at Malory Towers, Third Year at Malory Towers, Upper Forth at Malory Towers, In The Fifth at Malory Towers and Last Term at Malory Towers. All of the books follow the principal character, Darrell Rivers, through her six years in the North Tower of the fictitious boarding school.

On beginning the first book, I was instantly thrown back into that old writing style. The phrasing of Enid Blyton takes a while to get into, to fit back into the days before technology was everywhere, and Universities were less about cheap student drinking sessions. However, once I fell into the book, I really began to enjoy the series. Hidden within the story you can see all the messages Enid Blyton longs for the readers to get out of the books - about working hard, helping other people, and respecting those around you. It is such a shame that the current generation don't act inthe ways Blyton makes her heroines do - perhaps it would be good for children to be made to read books like this, as I would rather a child aspire to be the next Darrell Rivers, head girl, but still with flaws (and accepting of them!) that desire to be the next X factor wannabe.

Anyway, back to the books. The stories follow a delightful journey through the girls six years in Malory towers, their triumphs, their weaknesses, and their personal development. They make you dream of going back to childhood, and wishing that you had been able to be part of that school - perhaps in a similar way to which Harry Potter does now i suppose.

In reviewing these books, the story is perhaps not the most important aspect - these books being as they are somewhat predictable in plot line, again linked to the era in which Ms Blyton sat and penned these works. Nevertheless, they are a thoroughly refreshing break from reading the crime and death riddled or romance laden norm of adult books, back into a beautiful wonder down the memory lane of childhood. A truly charming read, with lessons for us all. For me, Enid Blyton's moralistic lectures interweaved in with her stories should inspire everyone to believe that they can truly be better, and worthwhile people.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

The Millennium Trilogy - Stieg Larsson

A few people had mentioned they had started reading 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo', so, despite not knowing much about it, I thought I would give it a go. So pleased am I that I did, for the whole series has been a fantastic unputdownable escapade that I was desperate to delve in to, but saddened to finish.

Put simply, the book is a detective story, with two companies playing central roles. These are the magazine, Millennium, and its staff, primarily Michael Blomkvist, and Milton Security, and a part time researcher by the name of Lisbeth Salander. It is in Blomkvist and Salander that the author succeeds so highly. Yes, the storytelling is fabulous, but it is the characters that make the novels so impressive. Never have I known a character before Salander to have such a rich background, with every step of it being so convincing. Plus, it is also thoroughly refreshing to have a heroine character who is not perfect!

The first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo features journalist Blomkvist somewhat disgraced, hiding away in a remote village to investigate a mysterious matter while he recovers from his libel conviction. It is during this investigation that he hires the researcher, Salander, and a relationship develops between them. Books two and three, The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornets Nest focus more on Salander's life history, which leads to a chain of dramatic events that Blomkvist finds himself implicated within. I shall refrain from analysing the plot, as I don't want to provide any spoilers, but the writing is phenomenal; it is fast paced, yet still manages to provide an array of detail, and all the threads of the story seem to tie up perfectly without leaving any questions unanswered.

For anyone who likes a gripping story, or a detective story, or just good quality storytelling, this is not a book to be missed. It is such a same that the Author died shortly before the publication of his masterpieces, and was not with us for long enough to provide us with any more fantastic stories.