Friday, 31 December 2010
I was wrong. Premise very similar. Plane arrives at US airport everyone dead inside, vampire virus gets loose. Whilst I absolutely support the move towards claiming vampires back to horror from romance, this was horror without substance. I notice that one of the authors is a film director and that may explain it, this read as though it was a film script. There was no descriptive text, no characterisation beyond the barest minimum - what did the characters look like, the buildings, New York? It also was very American, full of acronyms, CDC, FAA, SUV, et al, very irritating.
I notice it is part of a trilogy but I have to say vampire lover that I am I will not be reading on. I might watch the film though.........
Thursday, 23 December 2010
This book has reading group notes and I think it would make a good reading group choice.
Wednesday, 22 December 2010
This is fantasy, it is big, 785 pages, it is the beginning of a trilogy, but it is amazing.
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
If anyone has any ideas do let me know!
Friday, 10 December 2010
Tuesday, 7 December 2010
Another great book from Louise. Wonderful scenes in Quebec in winter, if you think we have had it bad with the snow recently read this!
It is a subdued Gamache recovering from his injuries and inveigled into solving a murder in a library.
At the same time Beauvoir, also on leave and recovering, opens an old case that takes him back to Three Pines and all our familiar characters.
A moving, clever multilayered plot, it will have you reading late into the night to ease the suspense of what happened as it moves to the dramatic conclusion.
Friday, 3 December 2010
This is the most amazing book. It would make the most fantastic reading group book. It is set in modern day Moscow. Society is breaking down. One day a young boys mother disappears. Her lover comes and strips the flat and abandons him. He is forced to leave the flat from hunger, he follows a dog who accepts him and introduces him to her pack, bringing him up as a puppy. This is not a book for the faint hearted the life of a dog is cruel and hard, the life of survivors on the streets of Moscow even harder. I cannot say much without giving too much away, but this is a powerful 'must read' boko that will stay with you for a very long time.
Thursday, 2 December 2010
Thursday, 18 November 2010
Friday, 22 October 2010
Monday, 11 October 2010
This book has some very funny moments, some sad ones and a great deal of reflection. For instance if you are Jewish but support Palestine does that make you anti-semetic? The scene in the Groucho club between the ASHamed Jews and the music industry followers of Kabbalah was hysterical.
I enjoyed it but I am not sure that it sadly will have a wide appeal. Of course it will probably win now!
Friday, 1 October 2010
This book is set after the French Revolution. Olivier is a sickly French Aristocrat and his servant is Parrot an English oddball. To escape a potential further round of Aristocratic culling in France Olivier's mother gets him commissioned to write a report on American prisons. It becomes clear that nothing has equipped Olivier for democracy or America and it is left for Parrot to pick up the pieces.
A very funny book and very perceptive. It is Olivier that predicts in his aristocratic way the future of America as he leaves to return in despair to the disappearing Ancien Regime. Whereas Parrot is the success in settling and making a life in America. This is a book that relates to us on many different levels and again will make an excellent book group read.
This a wonderful lyrical book despite the seriousness of the content. A truly uplifting and empowering journey. It is set in Jamaica in the Nineteenth Century. July is a slave girl on a sugar plantation. This is a time of the last turbulent years as slavery is coming to the end, and 'freedom' begins. In this book we follow her life as she writes it down for her publisher son.
This sounds serious stuff but it is a very funny book, because Andrea brings to life her characters with such vibrancy and spirit that we laugh along as they mimic and comment on their so called masters. We marvel at how strong physically and mentally a woman such as July could be despite such disadvantages.
It is, of course, also sad, as the life of the slave is portrayed in all it's brutality, and we watch as freedom is hard won and still inequitable. I liked the link with the UK and the thought that, can we really know our own DNA and who we are descended from? Can any white English person be free from the legacy of slavery?
I found this book especially interesting to read so soon after The Help and feel they would be valuable to read on consecutive reading group meetings, there would be so much to talk about....
This would make a superb reading group read.
In preparation I had a look at the longlist and made a few educated guesses. As a result the only one I read from the long list that was not in the short list is the following. I have found it a very strong list this year and will add further reviews from the longlist when I have time!
Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Here we have an newly widowed woman, booked on a cruise to New York. In New York she is to meet a former friend who she has had no contact with since she was married. Her children are grown up, her home empty.She is full of regrets about situations in her life, people she let go of, people she feels she has failed, potential opportunities missed. She gained a first at Cambridge and was a published poet before she married and had two children.
As the journey unfolds, so does she, and as she interacts with a variety of characters on board, she heals, to the point that she begins to write again. We learn about her past, her reason for the estrangement from Edwin who she is destined to meet in New York, we feel her guilt and confusion and come away with a strongly drawn character that we can empathise and identify with, and above all like. All the characters that she interacts with on board are deftly drawn, not quite caricatures, but instantly recognisable.They all have a story to tell, a contribution to make and in turn are affected by their interaction with Vi. I have a feeling that Salley must have done a cruise as a writer as Kimberley Crane, writer in residence is fab!
I wonder if this book can do for cruises what Miss Garnet did for Venice? The descriptions of the ever changing Atlantic Ocean were stunning. All in all a very reflective novel, what struck me is how important every human interaction is, even with strangers, perhaps even especially with strangers. This would make an excellent reading group choice.
Monday, 27 September 2010
Once again we were extremely lucky to get copies of this from the publishers for use by our reading groups. This book led to a lively discussion and it is no surprise that this is a bestseller both here and in the US.
We all had to keep reminding ourselves that this book is set in the 1960s and as such it is really shocking. Set in Mississippi USA this is the story of a black maid and the treatment of these 'servants' by the white majority of the town of Jackson. It is truly disturbing. More so I think as it makes South Africa at the time look almost reasonable, at least they openly declared apartheid. According to this book, in a nation that prides itself on being the 'land of the free' there was a strong underclass that clearly were not. It certainly to us Europeans gives us some insight into Martin Luther King and what happened to him.
I have to admit that at first I was rather uncomfortable with the fact that this was written by a white woman with a 'black' voice and was grateful that she had written something about this at the back. It might have been more useful perhaps at the beginning.
I do wonder though, where are the black authors of the US, why are they not writing about this, as does say Andrea Levy in the UK? Do they have a voice or are they just not exported and published in Europe or are they but do not become bestsellers?
A powerful book, one that is excellent for reading groups, the discussion will go on and on.........
Thursday, 2 September 2010
Wednesday, 1 September 2010
Monday, 2 August 2010
Saturday, 31 July 2010
This book is fantastic. We were lucky to get some proof copies for our reading groups, and they loved it too! Do not be put off by the title or the first chapter this is not a romance, it is a brilliant dual time mystery. In the near present we have a serial killer bumping off partisans from WW2, they are found murdered execution style with a mouthful of salt. Our detective finds an old diary at one of the victims houses and back we go to the second world war in Florence, Italy. I love Italy ( you will have realised that by the number of books I read set there!) and yet had no idea of the hardships and turmoil that occurred during the war. Invaded by their former allies the Nazis, setting Mussolini back up and bringing back the hated(?!) Fascists, the partisans, many of them deserters from the Italian forces fighting both of them and attempting to work with the British Allies who were bombarding and invading from the south. Wow, fascinating, moving and a great puzzle,as we get to solve the present day murders and expose the past, a brilliant book for a book group.
I love intelligent thrillers and this certainly is one! I also like to really learn something new and again this does not disappoint. In this book our flawed and realistic hero Adam joins forces with the now retired French policeman Calque ( a brilliant portrait of a gritty, mature detective) in a chase across the American continent to retrieve the Mayan Codex as predicted in the "lost" prophecies of Nostradamus. They are being chased as usual by members of the treacherous De Bale family, all intent on revenge for the death of their brother, and in this book we learn more about their history and intentions.
I learnt so much about the Mayans, and the wonderful set pieces would make this a fabulous film. I loved the scene in the bar in the US between the Hells Angels and the De Bales and the ending is as good a cliff hangar as I have read in a long time. I cannot say much as this would create spoilers.
Suffice to say it is a fast paced rip roaring ride and I cannot wait for the next installment!
Friday, 30 July 2010
Monday, 5 July 2010
Saturday, 19 June 2010
To be honest I feel that this book is a shadow of "Shadow" , it is also set in Barcelona and very cleverly brings in and thus fills us in on some of the characters from the previous book. It is in effect a prequel.
It is beautifully written, very gothic, even surreal but for me just does not hit the right note. The first half of the novel was just fabulous but when he moved the story on and attempted to explain what was happening I did not feel it worked. I can get that I am perhaps not supposed to "get" the premise of the book, if the Boss an angel , the devil, etc but the ending where things were resolved, sort of , just left me flat............ and I had no idea what the message of the book was, if indeed there was one.
Wednesday, 16 June 2010
I have just heard this has won the Melissa Nathan prize and it well deserves it. I read it a couple of weeks ago but have not had time to review it.
It is great a real feel good read and really compelling, I read it solidly over a few days and could not put it down. It would make a great holiday read. Another book I read late into the night and at the end had a tear...
It is the clever and humorous story of the highly intelligent Daria from Odessa, (and what a wonderful sales pitch for the place this book is! ) who becomes involved in the mail order bride business as she will not sleep with her boss. Disillusioned she becomes a bride herself and achieves her ambition to leave Odessa and go to the promised land of the USA, but all is not what it seems. The clever insights on both societies are fabulous and very funny.
This would make a superb book group read, there is so much in it to get talking about, the first being men!!
It is always a sign of a good book when you are left wanting more. I hope there is a sequel as I would like to know what Dara does next......
Friday, 11 June 2010
The G8 summit is descending on Rome at the same time an official with the security plans is ritually murdered. This method of killing recalls a previous old case, has the killer begun to kill again after such a time, is it a copycat or someone manipulating Rome during the summit?
David writes so well and compellingly that you just have to keep on reading perched metaphorically on the edge of your seat (or even literally) for the next exciting revelation.
I loved the conspiracy theories. The anarchic temperament of the Romans. The elderly lady taking on the "spooks" was fantastic! Once again I am surprised, delighted , challenged and above all entertained.
Can't wait for the next one, how many more deaths in the team?????????
Thursday, 10 June 2010
Anyway in Bournemouth Libraries we have bought extra copies for reading groups of this and her previous Poisonwood Bible as it is bound to spark interest! We also have copies on order in Spoken word format and large print when available........
Monday, 7 June 2010
For those of you following the Orange Prize , here is another of the shortlist, see my reviews for Wolfhall and The Lacuna below.
This was fantastic It concerns an eight year old evacuee called Anna, who is sent to a large Yorkshire stately home. The owners have turned it into a temporary school.
The elegant Ashton's have problems of their own, Thomas is convined to a wheelchair as a result of adult polio, his wife is desperate to have a child. Imagine then the arrival into their lives of large numbers of children....
This is well written and Rosie really gets us inside the head of her characters. It is an amazing study of how disability impacts on a marriage, and then adding the lack of children and it is pretty intense stuff. Anna is nicely drawn, we see much of the world through her eyes, we watch her grow mature and become irresistable drawn into the events unfolding on the estate.
I also liked the subplot of her mother, suddenly finding freedom in war torn London and finding satisfation through working for the BBC.
So far this is my favourite book on the list......... it would make an excellent book for a reading group.
Friday, 7 May 2010
This is the fourth book in Ann's Shetland Quartet. I am really hoping that she will be persuaded to write more as I really want to know how things work out for Detective Jimmy Perez.
This book sees him returning home to Fair Isle with his fiancee only to have a murder take place at the local bird observatory. This occuring during a storm when the island is cut off. Mix in some fairly bizarre twitchers and visitors and you have the classic whodunnit. This book nicely links a biographical detail of Ann, as I see she was bird observatory cook. I am glad she survived because this book is great and a fitting ( possible?) end to the series.
I can see a series coming!
This book defies classification. Is it a crime novel, gothic horror, historical, political, or just totally unique?!
In the book we follow the growing up of Daniel Sempere, his father owns a book shop and we watch him struggle with post Civil war Spain, with love, with life and a unique mystery. To say too much would just ruin the story, read it and enjoy.
Reading it again you pick up multilayers and clever asides that you had forgottten or missed the last time. Each one is a gem. This is a book to read slowly and savour. It is a modern classic and a must for all Reading Groups!
On a personal note on the basis of reading this book the first time, I went to Barcelona and that doesn't disappoint either.......
Tuesday, 13 April 2010
This is the second in the series featuring Rahotep, detective in ancient Egypt. The first book concerned Nefertiti, see below, we now move on to the reign of Tutankhamun.
This novel was fast paced, and despite us knowing the story had some interesting 'takes' on the plot surrounding the death of Tut. It was also nicely interwoven with the solving of the crimes perpetrated by a serial killer, which gave the book some suspense.
This is shaping up to be a great series and a must for anyone interested in the time. I look forward to the next. A great holiday read....
Monday, 12 April 2010
I don't know what it is but I just do not like books that are nominated for awards any more. This book seems to have been nominated for loads of things so I had high hopes. I have also read Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith and loved them.
Sarah writes beautifully, and her characters are well crafted, however it is the subject matter that failed to live up to my expectations. The trouble is this is a haunted house story and all the way through I had this sense of deja vu. ( I have read a very similar book, The Thirteenth Tale and really enjoyed it see below). The focus on the dying of a way of life, as reflected in the metaphor of the neglected and falling apart house was also well done. This is post WW2 Britain and it is this inability of the aristocratic family to change that causes the problems. I can only assume it is from this angle that the book has been nominated.
Although as I said the characters were well drawn, none of them were very likeable and therefor I was not invested in any of them. The haunting frankly was not very scary and I just wanted to slap most of the characters.
However, for this reason I think it would make a good Reading Group book as if I had this reaction I am sure there are equally many people who think it is excellent, so it should make for a great debate.
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
Tuesday, 23 February 2010
I just couldn't resist this. A little late for Chinese New Year I know...... please don't send any dragons after me, unless they are from Pern and I can ride one.
Browsed for too long and no joy on a decent book? Then remember we have the back stock to end all back stock. I challenge you to not find a good book in your local library. If you still do not like it remember you can bring it back for free and swap it - and come and join a Book Group while you are at it!
Monday, 22 February 2010
Now this was just fabulous. I cannot recommend it more highly and it would make a fantastic book group read. This was a Richard and Judy title and it only goes to show how strong that brand was and what a hole is left in the book world when that show finished.
This book follows the life of the young woman of the title from being an orphan to becoming a silent screen star. What makes this interesting is that we begin in 1899 and go through two World Wars and this is Germany.
Here like The Book Thief, we have the attempt to reintegrate Germany and it's people of this period into the consciousness of the rest of the world without the necessary stigma of Nazism. We see the weeping defeated Kaiser leaving on his train. Yes, Hitler features, as do the death camps but the novel is filled with real suffering people and we are asked - what would you have done? To save your husband would you have returned from Hollywood to star in a film for Goebbels? And to save her would you have been prepared to pay the ultimate price also?
Throughout this book we have a real insight into one person's love for Berlin and follow the bitter suffering that this love results in. It is about the resilience of the human psyche, how the past always returns, catching up with us, and how love can transcend poverty and deprivation. This is truly a novel on the grand scale, and will remain with you long after you have read it.
This is the second in a new series with Detective Joe Plantagenet, set in a medieval market town. As such the most is made of the atmosphere of the town. Her we have a serial killer at work repeating unsolved crimes of the 1950's, surely it cannot be the same killer? A copycat? Once again there is the hint of the supernatural and a sense of place and history. They really are well written and I cannot recommend them enough.
I would have thought there was enough in this one to make it an excellent recommendation for a crime book group.
Friday, 19 February 2010
I seem to be on a cross over bent at the moment. Another book aimed at the Twilight fans, this time we have Angels. Good ones and fallen ones. Once again due to mysterious circustances our heroine finds herself in a form of reform school, but as usual all is not what it seems.
The problem with this book is that it is very American, and written in I presume teenage US speak, and at a low literacy level. It seems to have been written perhaps in a hurry and poorly edited. Perhaps it really is not intended for grown ups.......I can only stand hearing about teenagers "snickering" so many times with out thinking of something brown and log shaped and it wasn't chocolate!
Effective cover though, that is why Ipicked it up!
This is the first of The House of Night series, and is a classic cross over novel aimed at the Twilight market. I have to say I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who likes that genre and is an appropriate age. I found it a little bit too teen for me, but it was intelligent and clever. Good idea though. Teens become marked with a magical tattoo that signals that they may become vampyres, or they may die. As such they have to go to a special school, and so we have all the usual new girl on the block angst etc. It was well wriiten and I did want to finish it. It is part of a so far 7 part series so should keep one occupied for quite a while, I am passing at the moment but might be tempted later..........
I have to confess that I have not read The Poisonwood Bible despite it being a reading group classic. I certainly shall now. This is a beautifully written novel. It is richly textured and multi-layered. I was immersed in the characters, and learnt so much about Mexico, America after WW1, during the Mccarthy era and quite a bit about art, communism, and cooking!
This book follows the life of Harrison Shepherd, born in the US but up rooted to mexico as a boy by his irresponsible(?) fly by night mother, who you just can't help liking. Whilst in Mexico he meets Diegi Rivera and hhis wife Frida Kahlo, becoming their cook, then they offer a haven for Lev trotsky and life becomes dangerous and interesting. He returns to America after the assassination and becomes a famous writer, but is then caught up in the McCarthy witch hunts.
The plot is so complex this does not do it justice. It jumps from scene to scene like a rich tapestry interspersed with the eponymous lacunae of the title. A brilliant novel, should win a prize or several and an excellent reading group choice!
Tuesday, 2 February 2010
This book is set in a fantasy world of the early middle ages type, our hero a 14/15 year old boy escapes from the brutal regime of the Redeemers and explodes on the world as a naive, witty, violent and ignorant young man. I have to say that he is really rather cool ( Am I showing my age here? is anyone cool these days?), a bit of an Edward Cullen for the fantasy world.
I should warn that it is part of a trilogy and like all good fantasy it finishes on a cliff hanger....
Friday, 8 January 2010
In Silent in the Sanctuary we are introduced to the family home of the March's, they are snowed in, particularly relevant with our current weather. What then ensues are ghosts, murder by strangulation, attempted murder through poison , oh, and an jewel robbery. There is of course a limited number of guests from which to choose to solve the crimes and it is great fun. they are advertised as witty and they are. A very amusing romp!
This is the final book in the trilogy. Her we have our intrepid heroine pursuing her love up to Yorkshire to try and resolve their relationship once and for all. There are some very witty nods to Wuthering heights here and I really loved it.
Once again of course, we have attempted murder by poison, murder by drowning, death, madness and romance. A heady blend and thoroughly entertaining!
I also enjoyed the gypsy thread that ran through these books, and very much the highlighting of the plight of women from all classes in society of the time.
Incidentally her next book is about vampires, can't wait!