Posts Tagged ‘april 09’

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.

The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber

I’m actually not sure where I got this recommendation from, I suspect it was LibraryThing because they usually are. I’ve had it from the library for a while now and hadn’t quite been in the mood for it, but picked it up last night when I needed something light and fluffy.

This book is the first in a series and is about the lives of four women who meet when one of them opens a yarn shop on Blossom Street and decides to run a beginners knitting class. The four women are very different, and the book explores the development of their friendship and their lives away from the knitting group.

I really enjoyed this, I was really drawn in and liked all the characters to the extent that it nearly made me cry on the train. The writing wasn’t always perfect, and there were a couple of bits that just wouldn’t happen in real life but I read for escapism so that didn’t bother me – I’ve given it 5/5 because I enjoyed it so much. I have the next one in the series on hold at the library, and have come away with the urge to learn to knit.

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 eitherĀ  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.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Another LibraryThing recommendation and one that worked very well for me, perfect for cosy snuggled up with a blanket reading.

The Waverleys have lived in Bascom for generations and there’s always been something a little bit magical about them and, especially, their garden. Sidney left as soon as she could while older sister Claire stayed and now runs a successful catering business, popular because of the special ingredients she uses from her garden. When Sidney is forced to return everything is stirred up – Claire has to learn to open up and accept a bit of chaos in her usually ordered life, and Sidney has to accept who she is.

It’s very similar to Practical magic in a lot of ways but no less enjoyable for that. You find yourself drawn to this family and their magic which isn’t overdone, it’s very subtle and fits well with the book which is really about the Waverleys and their lives rather than the magic. It was a quick read but I loved it. Recommended.

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 Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss

This is a book I’ve had my eye on, on and off, for a while now. The title and cover grabbed me initially, and it sounded like the kind of twisted humour I quite like, but for some reason I’d never got round to it. Recently it became part of the Library Backlog (which has become large enough to warrant being a proper noun I feel).

It took me a while to get into this book, possibly because I’m having concentration issues at the moment. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would but it certainly wasn’t a bad start to a series, and by the end I was convinced to look for the others.

This is the start of a series about Lucifer Box, a British spy at the end of the last century. He’s certainly and interesting character – vain, arrogant, a bit of a cad but fairly heroic despite himself. In this adventure (and it’s definitely an adventure) he finds himself investigating the murders of a number of professors of vulcanology.

You do need a particular type of sense of humour to appreciate the book I think, but luckily mine is a bit warped. It doesn’t just rely on the humour though – you do end up quite liking Lucifer, and the actual mystery is well written and, if not quite believable, coherent enough to draw you in and work well in the context of this particular character. It’s a fun read, and I’m looking forward to Lucifer’s further adventures.

Tithe by Holly Black

Tithe is another young adult book and again is about a teenage girl who can see faeries. I suspect the recommendations for this and Wicked Lovely probably came from the same place.

Sixteen year-old Kaye has spent her life moving from town to town with her mother’s band. When her mother is attached by her boyfriend they return to Kaye’s childhood home to live with her grandmother, a place were Kaye used to see faeries. She finds herself drawn back into their world and, as with Wicked Lovely, we see that the faerie world isn’t all (or even mostly) sweetness and light.

Though there are obvious similarities with Wicked Lovely the tone is quite different, and Kaye’s story is very different from Aislinn’s. Many elements of Kaye’s real life are as seedy as the faerie world, it’s quite gritty in comparison to Aislinn’s and I’m clearly become very shockable in my old age as I was surprised to read of a sixteen year-old smoking (quite why I don’t know, apparently you really do forget what being a teenager is actually like. This is probably a good thing). She is drawn to the faerie world rather than resisting, being a more willing participant in her adventures, although she does get more than she bargained for.

For reasons I can’t quite put my finger on I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as Wicked Lovely – I warmed to the characters in the latter a lot more and felt like I knew them better by the end of it. However it’s still a very good book – I enjoyed it a lot and will be seeking out the sequel.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Again this was one of those “if you liked x, you may also like” type recommendations, I can’t remember where it came from but was probably based on some of the urban fantasy stuff I’ve been reading.

This is another book I really enjoyed. I was immediately drawn in by the blurb (well, that’s what it’s for, but this particularly grabbed me) describing the three rules Aislinn, our heroine, has been taught to live by:

Rule 3: Never stare at invisible faeries.

Rule 2: Never speak to invisible faeries.

Rule 1: Don’t ever attract their attention.

Aislinn has always been able to see faeries but has carefully built up the ability to pretend she can’t, because she knows how dangerous they are. Unfortunately she does unwittingly attract the attention of Keenan, the Summer King, and once she does there’s no going back really.

The faeries in this world aren’t the happy fluffy tree dwelling type at all and that’s one thing I really liked about the book. Aislinn is great, her relationship with Seth is really well described and you do end up rooting for them. The faerie world is great, creepy but in a way that makes you want to learn more about it.

The book is young adult fiction and there are a couple of places – but only very minor points, where that shows. Towards the beginning the exact track that Aislinn chooses is mentioned which jarred a bit, it’s a really minor thing and I’m not sure why it stood out so much but it did. Aislinn’s concerns about her virginity stuck out too, although again I’m not sure why, probably because I’m much older! But they’re realistic concerns for a girl of her age. However I wouldn’t let the fact that it’s a YA book put you off – it’s really well written, a good story and gets pretty dark in places. I was initially surprised at the age recommendation on the back (13+) but I ended up thinking even 13 might be a little bit young (it’s a long time since I was 13 though).

I’ll probably be picking the sequel up over the weekend, and am now following the author on Twitter, so definitely hooked!

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

I can’t remember where I got the recommendation for this from, but it popped up on the basis of me liking the Sookie Stackhouse books.

Elena is a journalist living in Toronto with her boyfriend Philip, living a reasonably normal life. At least, as normal as you can when you’re the only female werewolf and somehow have to balance that with city life, a job, a relationship etc. Elena left The Pack, rebelling against the whole werewolf thing, but they need her help and summon her back.

I really enjoyed this book, possibly even more than Sookie Stackhouse. It’s a bit darker than that series and Dead Witch Walking, and somehow I warmed to this more than Dead Witch Walking although I can’t really put my finger on why. Elena was great, similar personality traits to Sookie and Rachel Morgan (the aforementioned witch) but equally she has her flaws, so you don’t always approve of what she’s doing. Her relationship with Clay does a great job of holding your interest without getting too sappy, and the central plot is definitely gripping. I did get slightly frustrated waiting for Elena to come to the fairly obvious conclusion about what she’s really looking for out of life, but that had to wait until the end of the book really and, intelligent though she is, she’s also really stubborn, so that delay isn’t particularly unbelievable.

I recommend giving this a go.