Posts Tagged ‘4/5’

A Good Yarn by Debbie Macomber

Having been charmed by The Shop on Blossom Street, and needing some light entertainment for a train journey, I picked up the sequel.

I think because I read them so close together I was slightly less forgiving of the flaws, for example sometimes the characters’ conversations seemed a bit stilted to get a particular moral viewpoint across. Having said that I still thoroughly enjoyed the book. It followed the same basic format as the first but introduced four new characters – just as engaging but very different. You get odd glimpses of the first four which is a nice touch.

It would be nice to visit them all again, I’m not sure whether the follow up books introduce new characters each time but it would be nice to see what happens when we leave them.

The next book is looking a bit tricky to get hold of but I’ll be trying.

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Coraline by Neil Gaiman

I only really discovered Neil Gaiman’s books last year but I’ve been catching up since. I probably would have overlooked Coraline except that the film is coming out soon (it’s already out in the UK) and I like to read the book first.

Coraline has just moved into a new flat with her parents. An only child, she gets lonely when she feels her parents are ignoring her and finds little entertainment with the eccentric actresses from downstairs, or the man with the mouse circus from upstairs. One day she finds a door that appears not to go anywhere, but in fact leads to a much larger-than-life replica of her home, and her Other Mother really wants her to stay…

I got the impression at the beginning of the book that it took a while to get into the swing of it; it was quite abrupt initially. It didn’t take long to start flowing much more smoothly though. It’s not violent or gory but it is creepy and, just when it seems to have wrapped up nicely, it gets even creepier. I’d have been terrified as a child (though I was a particularly wussy child), and was slightly freaked out as an adult to be honest (so nothing much changed really).

This is a great book for older children, you’d probably have to be either¬† big Neil Gaiman fan or a fan of children’s books to get on with it as an adult, unlike The Graveyard Book which I think is aimed at slightly older children and is less of a change of style for adults. As a fan of both Gaiman and well written children’s books, however, I recommend it. Unless you’re on your own in an otherwise dark house, in which case I’d wait until morning.

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

This is the first book in the Bartimaeus Trilogy, a series about Nathaniel,a young magician’s apprentice, and the djinni (Bartimaeus) he summons, initially for a spot of personal vengeance and then, in the way of these things, to try to sort things out when he ends up way out of his depth.

This book will definitely appeal to Harry Potter fans but has a very different tone; darker and with more humour. The point of view switches between Nathaniel and Bartimaeus, and the djinni’s chapters definitely stand out. He’s self-serving, sarcastic and the footnotes cracked me up. His chapters reminded me a lot of the Discworld books. Nathaniel’s chapters aren’t narrated by him but do move the story along and are often where the action is. There’s magic, demons, really bad guys and a huge adventure.

Recommended, especially if you need a giggle.

The Pirate’s Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson

This is a book I’ve had my eye on for a while, mostly because the cover looked interesting and because it had pirate in the title… As it turned out it wasn’t about an actual pirate, but I knew that before I got round to reading it.

The book is about two women – Ida, who meets the actor Errol Flynn as a young girl in Jamaica, and May, the daughter she had with Flynn. It switches main characters about halfway through and one of the things that impressed me most about the book is the way the switch is made – you don’t really notice it happening, and then suddenly realise the story is about a different person. I thought that made it a very skillful piece of writing.

The book is reasonably long at almost 500 pages but never gets heavy or bogged down. Both women’s lives, though very different in many ways, are fascinating and the landscape of Jamaica is captured really well (at least I think it is, I’ve never actually been there). It’s set against a backdrop of huge upheaval but that never intrudes on the story. This means that when the family are faced with the reality of the situation it’s still quite shocking, even though you knew what was going on in the background.

I really liked both Ida and May, and would like to read more about Ida as she is in the latter part of the book. I guess that’s one downside to the novel switching points of view but I actually think that worked well to keep the story fresh.¬† There are a huge number of supporting characters that you warm to immediately, particularly Ida’s father Eli and May’s friend Derek. It doesn’t shy away from any of the difficult subject matter but neither is it allowed to overtake the story.

Overall I really enjoyed this, worth getting your teeth into.

Black Powder War by Naomi Novik

This is the third book in the Temeraire series, and probably my least favourite so far. It’s still very good, though, and I still recommend the series.

No sooner has their adventure in China finished when Laurence and Temeraire receive orders to go to Istanbul and carry three dragon eggs, one of which is fairly close to hatching, back to England. Needless to say this doesn’t go entirely smoothly, and they spend a lot of time caught up in the Prussian conflict against Napoleon which, again, isn’t all that successful.

This book is a bit more disjointed than the others, and there’s a point where I really dislike Laurence. I’d more or less forgiven him by the end though. I still love Temeraire, and there’s one intriguing new character I think might crop up again and one delightful one. It gives a new perspective on the war in comparison to the first book, one that gives a growing sense of frustration and hopelessness, which is interesting.

Another very good read, although I’m holding off on book 4 because a) I have a huge pile of library books to get through, and b) I don’t want to run out of Temeraire books too soon.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

This one was another Library Thing recommendation, and one that I really enjoyed. Flavia de Luce is nearly 11 years-old and a frighteningly clever child with a passionate interest in Chemistry, which she indulges in an old laboratory in the family home. Poison is a particular interest of hers. She lives with her distant father, two older sisters (with whom she is in a bit of an ongoing battle) and the family’s employees. When a body is discovered Flavia’s father is arrested, and she is left to solve the case.

This book is the first in a series and I’m really looking forward to the others. The mystery is well told, although I did guess whodunnit a while before the end it still kept me interested, and even once you know whodunnit it takes a while to piece together why. I loved Flavia’s character – she’s not an entirely believable 11 year-old but that really doesn’t matter. She’s intelligent and matter-of-fact with a wicked streak that I found strangely appealing. In some ways it’s a bit like A Series of Unfortunate Events for grown ups (this is an adult book), with an atmosphere a bit like Jonathan Creek.

I definitely recommend this and look forward to meeting Flavia again.

The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George

This was a recommendation on Library Thing. I knew a reasonably amount of Henry VIII’s reign from my History A-level but that was a frighteningly long time ago now, and I thought it would be interesting to read things from his (fictional) point of view.

This was a very long book for me at just over 900 pages but wasn’t heavy going at all, it rattled along. Usually with longer books I read something alonside it but I didn’t want to for some reason. It didn’t grip me as much as This Thing of Darkness but was well written. There’s no bibliography but it does seem to be well researched.

The book is written in the form of Henry’s journal, with occasional notes from his fool. This works well to give the background of things, or to explain times when Henry wouldn’t have been able to write about what was going on. It’s cleverly done and convincing. I don’t think it’s changed what I think about him particularly but I did feel quite sorry for him at the end.

I’ll be reading some of her other books I think, and am especially interested in the one about Mary because my knowledge of British history is fairly slim after the year 1539, and this (along with some reference material to look things up) is a great way to learn more. I’m also interested in reading more about Henry VIII’s wives, though I don’t know whether Margaret George has written anything from their point of view.

Inkspell by Cornelia Funke

Inkheart had been on my wish list for years and I finally got round to reading it just before the film came out, on the grounds that I can’t see a film based on a book before I’ve read the book. The film was pretty good and I completely loved the book.

I loved Inkspell too. I’m not sure about the ending – it was more like reading the end of a chapter than the end of a book, but it does pretty much guarantee that I’ll read Inkdeath (which isn’t out in paperback until June, dammit!). While the first book was set in our world Inkspell begins with Dustfinger returtning to the Inkworld, and naturally Mo, Meggie, Resa and Farid end up there too. Despite the difference in settings it feels very familiar, probably because of the time spent in Capricorn’s village in Ikheart, and I really enjoyed returning the the characters (particularly Dustfinger, who remains one of my favourite characters ever) and the story. Inkworld is well described and you can understand why, despite the harsh life and the villains, the characters fall in love with it.

I really enjoyed getting list in this.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I picked this up because I was going away with work and the book I was reading was not at all practical for packing, being quite a chunky hardback. This was to hand so it came with me.

I imagine everyone’s familiar with the story. Jane Eyre is an orphan living with her aunt and cousins, who basically abuse her, then gets packed off to a fairly unpleasant sounding school, then becomes a governess and finally marries the one for her via a short stint running a school, finding some cousins (one of whom is a bit of an arse), coming into some money and a madwoman in the attice. I’d read it at school but remembered very little about it, I don’t remember enjoying it much (though reading it in small chunks and having to take it in turns to read it aloud won’t have helped) but I wasn’t in a desperate hurry to read it again.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed it this time round. I really like Jane as a character, for all she’s a bit prickly, and I was a lot more sympathetic to Mr Rochester this time around. Really didn’t like St John Rivers though, he was a bit of an idiot. The whole finding-her-long-lost-family was a bit contrived but I loved it all the same.

Anyway I’ll be keeping hold of this one and will probably read it again.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

This was another book club read, and one I knew nothing about before I read it. The blurb gives absolutely nothing away so I’m going to try not to either because a lot of the power of the book comes from the fact that you have no idea what’s coming when it hits you.

As a vague synopsis the book is told from the point of view of Daisy, a fifteen year-old New Yorker who is sent to stay with her aunt and cousins in England. And it goes from there…

The writing style grated on me at first but works well given the voice of the narrator – there’s very little punctuation, it’s a stream of consciousness narrative. She also has a tendency to capitalise seemingly random words but that works well for emphasising the bits that are important to Daisy. Once you’ve settled into this it becomes less of an issue.

It sounds odd to say it but overall I didn’t like this book, but do think it’s very good. I’m not sure what it is I don’t like about it – Daisy’s relationship with her cousin doesn’t bother me particularly, I like the characters and you find yourself quite drawn into it. I think possibly it suffered from being read immediately after This Thing of Darkenss which is one of the best books I’ve ever read, maybe I was making unfair comparisons. Maybe it’s just that it was an uncomfortable story. That said it’s a powerful story, there’s a lot in there and it really does make you think. I’d recommend it.

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