Thursday, 31 January 2008

Quirky


This week’s question is suggested by (blogless) JMutford:

Sometimes I find eccentric characters quirky and fun, other times I find them too unbelievable and annoying. What are some of the more outrageous characters you’ve read, and how do you feel about them?



The first characters that spring to mind are everyone in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. I just found these books and have been whizzing through them. All the characters are iquirky in there own way but also hugely entertaining and loveable. I especially love Grandma Mazur and Sally Sweet - priceless.

Then of course there is Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series. I actually found her irritating in the book but the actress who played her did a terrific job and I really liked her in the film.

Finally last week I mention The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford. The quirky characters in this are made even more interesting because Mitford claims they are based on her own family. I especially love Uncle Matthew. A man of violent passions; given to cracking whips on the lawns in the morning and hunting his children like foxes through the English country side and of course unable to stand anyone who says notepaper or puts the milk in first!

Monday, 28 January 2008

Anagrams of our antecedents



The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox - Maggie O'Farrell


Rating 5/5

Read for the Winter Reading Challenge


I nearly didn't buy this book being put off by the title which evoked memories of the film The Prestige. The only magic here though is beautiful writing and unforgettable characters.

The story revolves around 3 women. Esme who has been shut away in a psychiatric unit for nearly 60 years. Her sister Kitty who is in a nursing home slowly losing the fight with Alzheimers and Iris, Kitty's granddaughter.

The three women have very distinct voices and completely caught me up in their stories, their feelings and their ideas. Kitty's stream of consciousness, mixing past and present is particularly effective.

At the heart of the story is a great betrayal that left me shocked and heartbroken. It is also the exploration of how the past effects the present and how our heritage effects the choices we make.

"We are all, Esme decided, just vessels through which identities pass: we are lent features, gestures, habits, then we hand them on. Nothing is our own. We begin in the world as anagrams of our antecedents."

The idea that nothing really changes was an interesting one. Esme is shut away by her family because she is unconventional. Years later Iris seems to be free to live her life as unconventionally as she wishes but she is equally trapped. Denying the love she feels through fear of what others will think.

The writing was beautiful and I forced myself to read slowly and savour it. The characters are wonderful and engaging and they stayed with me long after I had finished the book. I wanted to know what happened to them and what choices they made after the disturbing final act.

It is definitely a book I will read again and again.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Huh?



What’s your favorite book that nobody else has heard of? You know, not Little Women or Huckleberry Finn, not the latest best-seller . . . whether they’ve read them or not, everybody “knows” those books. I’m talking about the best book that, when you tell people that you love it, they go, “Huh? Never heard of it?”

And, folks–Becca was nice enough to nominate Booking Through Thursday for a Blogger’s Choice Award–while you’re here, why don’t you head over and vote for us, too. Because, a vote for BTT is a vote for all of us who play each week!


A very very late booking through Thursday as I have beenn away but the question was to good to miss out.

I have three books on my favourites list that no one seems to have heard of but me.

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

My Dad introduced me to Nancy Mitford, she was the eldest of the 6 Mitford Girls who became notorious in 1930's Britain. I can re-read this novel again and again, it makes me laugh but it's also bitter sweet. The characters especially Uncle Matthew are brilliant.

Hideous Kinky by Ester Freud

I'm not sure why more people haven't read this as it was made into a film starring Kate Winslet. It is charming and evocative book that I can read again and again and it made me long to visit Marrakech.

China Blues by Pamela Longfellow

I picked this book up in a charity shop and I just love the story and the setting and the characters and I loved that it wasn't a happy ending which is ood as I do like happy endings.







Thursday, 17 January 2008

Let's Review . . .


How much do reviews (good and bad) affect your choice of reading? If you see a bad review of a book you wanted to read, do you still read it? If you see a good review of a book you’re sure you won’t like, do you change your mind and give the book a try?

I am more effected by good reviews than bad. Since discovering book blogs on the internet my TBR pile is growing at an alarming rate. If someone recommends a book I usually want to read it. If I read a bad review of a new book by an author I know I'll buy it anyway and make up my own mind. If I'm interested in a book and read a bad review I usually read the first page or two and decide form that.

I love reading reviews but I must admit I prefer reading them after I have read the book. I like to find out what other people thought, what they did or didn't like about it and how it left them feeling.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Wolf Brother

Wolf Brother (Chronicles of Ancient Darkness) - Michele Paver

Read as part of the The Young Adult Challenge

Rating 4/5

This is one of those books that creates a world you long to be able to visit. The opening is gripping and fast paced

Torak woke with a jolt from a sleep he'd never meant to have.

The fire had burned low. he crouched in the fragile shell of light and peered into the looming blackness of the Forest. He couldn't see anything. Couldn't hear anything. Had it come back? Was it out there now. watching him with it's hot, murderous eyes?

Torak a 12 year old boy who lived 6000 years ago. He thinks he is ordinary but when his Father dies he discovers he is the Listener and embarks on a quest to save the forest in which he lives.

I loved that Michele Paver created a whole new world for me to enjoy. She weaves the traditions and beliefs of that world into the action of the novel so the flow of the narrative is never distributed by . The back of the book has a question and answer section with her and interestingly this wasn't a complete work of imagination she did a lot of research into stone age life.

The ending of the book was a predictable. As soon as the prophecy was mentioned I knew what was going to happen. However, the book is so exciting and interesting it didn't spoil my enjoyment.

This is the first in a series and I can't wait to read the next instalment of Torak's adventures.

Winter In Madrid - C. J. Sansom

Read for 888 and 2007 Winter Reading Challenge

Rating 3/5

Harry, Bernie and Sandy were all at school together at Rockwood. For different reasons they are all in Madrid in 1940 at the end of the Spanish Civil War. Their lives become intertwinned again along with Sandy's girlfriend Barbara, who used to be Bernie's lover.

Sansom brings war torn Madrid alive with beautifully descriptive writing and details

"They rounded a little hill and suddenly they were facing a waste land of broken ground, dotted here and there with burnt-out tanks and broken rusty artillery pieces. nearby a brick wall, pitted with bullets, was all that was left of a building. Springy grass had grown back over most of the ground but shell craters filled with water dotted the landscape and long lines of trenches cut through the earth like open wounds."

I enjoyed the story very much, the different threads are woven together well to end in an exciting climax, which featured an unexpected twist. The sense of a country spilt in half is also well portrayed and I enjoyed seeing the workings of diplomacy, a mixture of threats and promises and lies.

The characters in the novel our interesting and all have their own problems and moral dilemmas. They are all shaped by their childhood experiences and are now all searching for something: love, acceptance, approval. While the characters interested me I never really felt a connection with any of them, if I had I think this book would have been even more enjoyable.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

May I Introduce




  1. How did you come across your favorite author(s)? Recommended by a friend? Stumbled across at a bookstore? A book given to you as a gift?
  2. Was it love at first sight? Or did the love affair evolve over a long acquaintance?

I've found my favourite authors in a variety of ways:

through media hype - JK Rowling, Philip Pullman, Alexander McCall Smith, PD James

through book store browsing - Diana Gabaldon, Esther Freud, David Mitchell

through recommendations - Susan Cooper, Garth Nix, Kate Atkinson, Ian Rankin, Ian McEwan, Philipa Gregory, Janet Evanovich, Nancy Mitford.

Mostly I discover new authors through my husband, he has great taste and seems to know exactly what I'll like. I have loved everything he has ever recommended .

I also love wandering round book shops. I have been doing that a lot since we moved to Washington, we used to live in Mexico so no book shops and browsing through Amazon is just not the same!

Reading blogs is my new favourite way of finding great books. I love knowing what people thought and reading all your reviews, this does mean my TBR pile is getting enormous - so many books so little time!

It's usual Love at first sight for me, if I don't like the first 100 pages I normally don't like the whole book. I think I have rarely revised my opinion half way through a book. You'd think I would learn from this and stop reading if I'm not enjoying it but I just can't leave a book half read even f I hate it.

To see how other people find their books go here

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Joy's YA Challenge 2008

Link

Well never say never. I have joined another book challenge,

Joy's Young Adult Challenge 2008.

The rules are

SWEET AND SIMPLE:

~ Choose 12 Young Adult novels
(you may switch novels at any time)

~ Link your YAC list from your blog onto Mister Linky
(and subsequent monthly reviews)

~ Read them during 2008

This is my list

Chronicles of Ancient Darkness - Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver

The Owl Service - Alan Garner

Star Girl by Jerry Spinelli

The Boyfriend List - E Lockhart

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E Lockhart

Once upon a time in the North by Philip Pullman

Rune Marks by Joanne Harris

What was I? by Meg Rosoff

Life on the fridge door by Alice Kulpers

Shades Children by Garth Nix

Girl Missing by Sophie Mckensie

Looking for Alaska by John Green

All Hallows' Eve - 13 Stories by Vivian Vande Velde

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

New Moon by Stephanie Meyer

Eclipse - Stephanie Meyer

Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

Monday, 7 January 2008

The Glass Castle

Read as part of the 888 Challenge.

The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls

I had such a strong reaction to this book. It made me so furious that sometimes I wanted to reach into the book and shake Jeannette's Mum and Dad. It also made me unbelievable sad and grateful for my own childhood. The end is ultimately uplifting in that Jeannette and all her siblings go on to make good lives for themselves but it could so easily have gone the other way.

Jeannette's parents were completely dysfunctional and left their children to bring themselves up. They often went hungry, were dirty and didn't get proper medical treatment. One of the saddest moments, for me, is when the oldest daughter finally gets glasses and is amazed at what the world really looks like.

There were moments when they did nice things. I loved when the Dad took them out into the desert and had them pick a Star for Christmas when they were too poor to buy presents. They also seemed to install a sense of adventure, self reliance and optimism in their children. None of whom seem to resent them for their upbringing.

It's an extremely interesting read and makes for a great book club discussion.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Exit Music

Read as part of The Winter Challenge.

Exit Music - Ian Rankin

Sadly this is the last in Ian Rankin's series of novels featuring DI John Rebus but it is a great exit for one of my favourite cops.

The book is set in the final days of Rebus's police career. As he heads towards retirement. Each chapter begins a different day in the week leading up to his retirement.

Rebus and DS Siobban Clarke begin an investigation into the death of a Russian poet. It seems like a mugging gone wrong. However, something feels wrong to Rebus and as usual he can't let it go. He keeps digging and manages to raise the hackles of everyone around him including his superiors. Of course he is right and many shady dealings come to light before everything is resolved. There are lots of twists and turns in the novel before the truth is revealed .

This was a really satisfying conclusion to the Rebus series. Although there was a hint that we might see more of Rebus working cold cases. I do hope so.

One for the Money, Two for the Dough

One for the Money and Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich.

I read One for the Money as part of the 888 challenge. I had heard many good things about the Stephanie Plum novels but they never really appealed - a female bounty hunter? That did not sound like my kind of book.

I was completely wrong. I loved this book. As soon as I had finished I went straight out and bought Two for the dough and have ordered books 3-9 from Amazon.

Janet Evanovich had me wrapped up in the world of the Burg form the first line and kept me there with her fast paced, witty writing.

I love Stephanie. I love her family ( especially Grandma Mazur). I love Ranger, in his head to toe black and gold earrings. I love the impossible situations Stephanie gets into. Most of all I love Joe Morelli and the banter between him and Stephanie.

If you haven't read these books do. They are laugh out loud funny and a wonderful bit of light relief while the dark days of January are with us.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Booking Through Thursday


Last week we talked about the books you liked best from 2007. So this week, what with it being a new year, and all, we’re looking forward….

What new books are you looking forward to most in 2008? Something new being published this year? Something you got as a gift for the holidays? Anything in particular that you’re planning to read in 2008 that you’re looking forward to? A classic, or maybe a best-seller from 2007 that you’re waiting to appear in paperback?

I am looking forward to so many book this year. Having joined the 888 challenge I have a fantastic list of books waiting to be read but I think the ones I am most looking forward to are

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak I have heard many many good things about this book so I am excited about reading it.

Star Dust - Neil Gaiman - again I have heard alot of good things about this book and about this author.

The Rest of the Stephanie Plum series - Janet Evanovich I just read the first book in the series and I can't wait to read more.

Petite Anglaise - Catherine Sanderson - I love her blog it was the first one I ever read. I'm really looking forward to the book.

Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade - Diana Gabaldon - I'm waiting for the paper back edition. It's just to big to buy in hardback!

If you want to see what everyone else is excited about reading go here.



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