Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Kate Mosse - The Winter Ghosts

You can tell I was busy reading over Christmas can't you, and what is more fitting than an excellent ghost story. Kate once again returns to France, this time set after the First World War and up to 1933.

This is beautifully written and leads us slowly and surely to the dramatic conclusion. The descriptions of the countryside around the Haute Vallee in the Pyrenees, really take you there and you can well imagine the Cathars whispering on the wind. I think it would make an excellent reading group book, due to the themes of war, family loss, and religious fanaticism to name a few. It is also a shorter read and more manageable for a group that perhaps meets monthly. The idea of putting in drawings to illustrate it, is really inspired and adds to the whole period style of the book. A very classy package.

Louise Penny - The Brutal Telling

This is the latest in the Inspector Gamache series, and the fifth title. They just get better. Please do read them from the beginning as we gradually get to know the characters as the books progress. They really are a sort of Donna Leon, Midsommer Murders and absolutley delightful, aside from the brutal murders of course!! However even these are handled well, and these books should appeal to all fans of classic crime or who dunnits........

Friday, 11 December 2009

Andrew Davidson - The Gargoyle

This is a peculiar and extraordinary book. Well written, absorbing, disturbing and just plain odd. I loved it.
This is the story of a male porn star who receives horrendous burns over 90% of his body. This is the story of his redemption. The descriptions of the burn recovery ward and what he has to go though are harrowing, and so well written I became very squeamish.
Into this comes a mentally disturbed , beautiful female sculptress, who states that they have meet though many previous lives, and her role now is to make him remember. Initially he humours her as it relieves the boredom of his days, but gradually he, as well as we, get sucked into the descriptions of these other lives, and of his return to some sort of normality and the final dramatic resolution.
This was a Richard and Judy title and as with many of their choices will make a superb reading group discussion book and a very provoking and satisfying read.

Seth Grahame- Smith and Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

I have to confess that I read this book in September and had forgotten to upload my review until I had another excellent one from one of my colleagues. This book is hilarious, forget about being a purist Jane Austen fan and revel in the delightfully Gothic zombie fest. This is the classic book but added to, in a very clever, silly and entertaining way.
This is an England where the zombie plague has been creeping through the countryside. Where the army are devoted to killing the marauding menace. Young well brought up young ladies are trained in do-jos whist still maintaining every decorum and certainly not losing the desire to acquire a suitable husband. In this book the girls kick arse, head , and anything else - quite literally in the sense of the zombies - total and utter malicious mayhem. I have bought a set of these for our reading groups as I can guarantee it will be a lively meeting!!
If you enjoyed Thursday Next's adventures in classic books,( see Jasper FForde) who can forget her foray into Jane Eyre, you will enjoy this.
Also try the DVD series " Lost in Austen" wonderful!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Jasper FForde - Something Rotten

This is the fourth book in the excellent Tuesday Next Series. In this the Goliath Corporation has decided to become a religion. The Prime Minister is a fictional character on the run, and announces, in a chilling parody of the Weimarcht, that the Danes are public enemies. Danish books are burned, absurd claims are made...and all just as Hamlet comes to stay with Tuesday! Ophelia is making a bid to take over the play - of course she is mad.....Very, very funny. I also loved the World Croquet League and of course the wonderful president of GB - George Formby and the, could she be Danish, romantic novelist, Daphne Farquitt.

Rose Melikan - The Blackstone key

This is a great historical read in the tradition of Daphne du Maurier.

Set in 1795, it cracks along at a lively pace and is an easy and compelling read. Our rather charming and somewhat naive heroine embarks on a journey to meet her wealthy uncle who she has never met. Various exciting episodes unfold on the journey and at the end. It is very hard to review it without giving too much away. It involves spies, and smuggling at a time when Britain was at war with France.It kept me beautifully entertained on a long train journey and back.

It was well plotted and although I thought I knew who the real "baddy" was I was on tenderhooks to see if I was completely wrong!

A very satisfying read for this time of year, curled up warm or to take on holiday, or a long journey. It is the first part of a trilogy, and I have already ordered the second in the series. However this book does stand alone, all the loose ends are tied up.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Hilary Mantel - Wolf Hall

I can confirm that I am rather shallow. Once again I am unable to enjoy a Booker winner.
I was so excited when this won as I love the Tudor period, and Cromwell is such a complex and interesting figure at that time.
I found this though, very hard going, yes Hilary writes well, but it is very dense, the minutiae became tedious, and too objective. I found her dialogue very confusing as she always used "he said" and I would read a page and then realise I had no idea which 'he' and then had to re-read it again.
I also had hoped to gain some insight into Cromwell's character, this is fiction after all, but we the readers were so distanced from him, we gained nothing, in fact he came over as rather boring, why did he behave the way he did? Who was he? I do not want to guess, I like to be led by the author, to engage in the characters. With a total lack of investment in these characters, I am afraid I gave up about two thirds through, read the end and left.
At least with The Tudors on TV you have something to discuss, debate, despair and ultimately engage with no matter what you think, this book left me cold.

Ben Richards - The Mermaid and the Drunks

I read this for a Reading Group. It was a Richard and Judy title and quite old now. Having just read Dan, I have to say what struck me with this novel was the quality of the writing. I think there will be much here to engage a Book Group.

This is essentially a history of Chile with the emphasis on modern Chile and what maybe has changed. I am sure this will cause a great deal of debate, as to how, why and what can be done.

The ending was somewhat unsatisaftory as in effect it just fizzled out, but then isn't that true to life, people come into our lives and some of them just fade away and are gone before we often realise it.........

Dan Brown - The Lost Symbol

This book really is just what it says a Dan Brown novel. It is not some esoteric clue to enlightenment or a huge conspiracy expose.It has a mystery, there are arcane clues that need decoding, our hero is improbable ,( does anyone else think that Tom Hanks is hopelessly miscast????) and he attacks a powerful organisation. This time he has taken on the Masons and the USA!!

When he is on the subject of clue solving and history the book cracks along, and I did want to find out the solution. The philosophy and neotics were great. Not sure how accurate the history was though....... and as for the destruction of the Library of Congress - shame! However, his dialogue is not good, and in one place I fell about laughing (and it was not meant to be funny) as it read like a spoof melodrama. I also had a wry chuckle over his aggrandisement of Washington DC - exerting an almost mystical power; the Masons Headquarters - replica of a pre-Christian temple; The Jefferson Memorial - America's Pantheon; The Lincoln Memorial - America's Parthenon; the centrepiece - America's Egyptian Obelisk and all built and ordered by Masons! - and America apparently is still run by them............

I suspect that Dan Brown may have a problem with his next book, but as a best selling author perhaps he will not be fazed, any book after his last effort was going to be a disappointment, can he continue the roll, does he care?

Friday, 16 October 2009

Kate Summerscale - The Suspicions of Mr Whicher

This is a book of non-fiction. I am going to be pedantic here.It is not a murder mystery story, it is about a true murder mystery, that launched the genre of classic crime writing. Many of the negative reviews I had read did not seem to grasp this fact.

It is a fascinating book, a little slow in places, but then it is Kate's attention to detail that really show how a classic crime story can be built up. This case influenced the writing of Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle and as we delve into this true case ( in the South Wset of England) we can see the parallels. ( It really makes the book more interesting if you have read some of these authors before, so that you can see the construct of these novels and how they were influenced by the case)

What I found amazing is that the murderer having served their time and on being released was able to live a normal-ish life. Do we think that could happen today? Also did any one else feel that the murderer might not have acted alone and was covering for someone else?

This would make a very interesting Reading Group Read perhaps with a Sherlock Holmes short story or The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, as this book draws such close parallels with the real detective and the fictional Sergeant Cuff.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Sergei Lukyanenko - The Night Watch

Ok, now I feel silly. Did I get enough blood lust? Obviously not as I was introduced to this series and they are fantastic! The author is Russian and these are set in modern Russia. That makes them fascinating from the start as we get an insight into Russia today. (Lots of empty, half built luxury apartment blocks + lots of Vodka.) The idea behind these books is great too. Imagine a world where there is a hidden layer, a layer of vampires, wizards, demons, witches, werewolves etc. Now put them into a sort of cold war context. We have the Light watch that works by night, keeping an eye on what the Dark Watch is up to. This is reversed during the day. There is a balance, any good deed performed by the Light Watch has to be balanced by a dark reprisal. The two watches are set up as sort of politburo's with members of all different grades working at different levels. They have their own buildings, their own leaders, it is very, very clever. The members of these watches are called "Others", they appear the same as humans but are born with supernatural powers. Time, upbringing and life events will determine if an Other turns to the light or the dark side.
Into this mix we have a continuing story of the progress of Anton, our hero of the light as he moves up the organisation.
Add to this in each story a murder style mystery and you have some very classy books. I really hope this develops into a long running series.
The last book so far is set in Edinburgh and features Merlin! I love the way that the Night Watch, as they have no morals, can always travel First Class!!!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Charlaine Harris - Dead Until Dark

In my bid to leave no vampire story unturned I decided to try Charlaine harris and the first of her Sookie Stackhouse mysteries.

Having also watched True Blood on TV which is a series based on this book, I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Don't let all the graphic sex of the series put you off, there is more to the books than this.

If you like the Laurell Hamilton novels you will also like this. Yes there is sex but there is also romance. But more than that these are really murder mystery adventures with vampires, and shape shifters. Oh and a heroine who can read your thoughts if you are human!

What is it that makes this growing genre so successful? Is it that a vampire can be cast as though from another century, a gentleman with old fashioned manners, a more robust vision of masculinity and an old world charm. Maybe we all want to be bitten?

These particular novels are also like Hamilton's set in a post vampiric world where vampires are "out" and have rights. In these novels they slate their blood lust ( or not) by drinking manufactured 'True Blood'. Will I read another? Not in the near future, had my vampiric fix for a while!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Jasper Kent - Twelve

I really like unusual novels, especially ones that cross and challenge genres.

This is Russia, 1812, Napoleon is invading, an undercover, mercenary strike force is recruited from Wallachia to fight for the Russians. They only fight at night, they have amazing strength, they are superb killing machines. The only problem is, will they stop at the French and can they be stopped?
Reminded of his grandmothers terrifying stories of the voordalak, our hero Aleksei sets out to discover the secret behind these men and whether once set in motion they can be stopped!
This is a fascinating novel part horror, part romance and all historical thriller. The descriptions of Moscow disintegrating after the occupation by Napoleon are compelling, and the scenes of his rushing to retreat over the inhospitable snow covered country, pursued by the Russians and more ,are full of on your seat suspense.
This is a debut novel and I understand that this is the beginning of a series.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Stieg Larsson - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Despite being 533 pages I read this over the weekend. I really resented when I had to put it down. What a talent we have lost with the death of Stieg. This book has everything. an education on financial fraud, an old murder mystery, corruption, blackmail, stunning location - Sweden. We have Blomkvist, a disgraced financial journalist employed by the head of the bizarre Vangar clan , (Nazi skeletons in the closet - among others) to research the fate of his missing niece. Along the way he is joined by a research assistant, Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo who has a disturbing, disturbed and mysterious past. She is 24, rides a motorbike, and is an expert hacker. Between them they begin to unravel the mystery and their lives become increasingly in danger. It is clear that a sadistic and insane serial killer has been on the loose for 45 years. Then there is just the small matter of revenge on the corrupt industrialist who had successfully sued Blomkvist for libel, ruining his reputation, resulting in a prison sentence and him taking up the offer from Henrik Vangar.

I have already ordered the second book in the trilogy and cannot wait!

Friday, 24 July 2009

Louise Penny - The Cruellest Month

Ok this is the third book in the series, and in this book the subplot involving the Arnot case is resolved . I think it is fairly important that you read them in order as this book contains spoilers for the earlier ones.
Once again I was totally hooked, and have already started the fourth. then horror or horrors I will have to wait for the next installment of this delightful " Midsummer" of Canada.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Louise Penny - Dead Cold

This is the second book in the Inspector Armand Gamache crime series set in Canada. If you are intending to read them I recommend that you read them in order, see below, as subsequent books do carry spoilers for the previous novels.
They are fabulous. They are modern day Agatha Christie. Small village murder stories, so far set in the picturesque and isolated village of Three Pines. There is a wonderful mixture of characters that make up the village, and we are left with a classic 'whodunnit'. There are wonderful twists and turns and some excellent red herrings, that keep you guessing all the way through.
I also like the subplot that carries through the novels. Inspector Gamache of the Montreal Surete, refused to compromise on a previous case of police corruption, and so has enemies within the force that are determined to bring him down, and he has a traitor within his team!
An extra plus is the wonderful poetry written by one of the characters Ruth. Perhaps Louise could be persuaded to bring out her own book of poetry as well?
A very satisfying read that I could not put down, what is housework after all? I have immediately picked up the next book, as I want to know who the traitor is , but I am sure I am going to have to wait!

Friday, 17 July 2009

Santa Montefiore - The Italian Matchmaker

This is the second book of Santas that I have reviewed. I do not think this one is in quite the same league but it is still a great escapist, if undemanding, read.
It is a simple but effective book. Great if you like a gentle romance, a memorable location and a bit of a mystery thrown in.
Luca, wealthy, ex-banker, half- Italian is going through a messy divorce. He goes to stay with his parents who have renovated a Palazzo on the Amalfi coast. The Palazzo is steeped in an unsavoury history involving murder. Whilst there Luca sees the spirit of a young boy and becomes drawn to the heart broken mother, who just happens to be the granddaughter of the murdered woman at the Palazzo..........
This book is filled with a pot -pourri of eccentric characters and will keep anyone amused and relaxed this summer.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Mario Reading - The Notradamus Prophecies

This book comes out next month in August. Do look out for it. It really is an exciting thriller. An up market version of the Dan Brown genre.

1566, Nostradamus has hidden some of his prophecies that will only be revealed at the right time. It fortells the second coming and the identity of the third anti-Christ. The knowledge of where to start the quest has been held by French gypsies for safe keeping ever since.

There is a secret French sect who are also after the prophecies and their henchman, Achor Bale, will stop at nothing to get them.

Into this mix comes our hero, a flagging writer called Adam Sabir, who is an expert on Nostradamus, he takes off with the gypsies in a race through France to get there first.

Suspend belief, go with the flow and enjoy. This would be an excellent book to take on holiday with you, provided you will have plenty of time to read , as I assure you you will not want to put it down. I found delving into the gypsy way of life fascinating. The psychological insights into Achor's behaviour spot on, making a really well rounded character, rather than a plasterboard baddy. We also have a memorable world weary, and wise French cop , Captain Calque, priceless.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Richelle Mead - Succubus Heat

A big thank you to Transworld and their Facebook page " What shall I read this month?" for a copy of this book. This is supernatural chicklit par excellence, oh and very erotic, but what can one expect when our heroine is a succubus and drains energy from men during sex! Here we have an underground world, set in Seattle, of angels and demons. This is a world where the demons run themselves like corporate America, no irony there then, plus they need a day job to pay their way.(Georgina, our succubus manages a bookshop!) Mixed up in all this is a thriller, romance, and a hostile takeover bid........ and I forgot to say it is very funny. So if you fancy something different and a bit of fun, especially if you like Black lace books and others of that genre, do give it a try! I've ordered her back list from the library!

Gilbert Adair - And then there was no one

Taken in context this is an extraordinary book the third in an Agatha Christie pastiche series, it defies categorisation. It is the book that shoots the golden goose but perhaps that is Gilbert's intention. The first 2 books , Act of Roger Murgatroyd, and A Mysterious Affair of Style: A Sequel are all part of a supposed Evadne Mount Trilogy. The first two books in the series were hilarious pastiches of Agatha Christie. (I listened to them on CD in the car and was nearly crying with laughter in places!) In them we had a completely over the top sleuth in Evadne Mount.
This book is nothing like the others. It rambles, it makes 'clever' diversions into art and literature and plagerism. It educates us on Sherlock Holmes, authors and literary festivals and the US post 9/11. There is a murder but it is inconsequential.
For the first three chapters I defy anyone to work out what is going on. To be honest I could not decide whether this book was clever or was just selling itself as such. All I do know is that I felt vaguely unsatisfied at the end, and very nearly gave up half way through, but then perhaps I am too simplistic! I have seen reviewers calling it Postmodernist, whatever that is, I am still confused!

David Roberts - Hollow Crown

1936. I have come rather late to this series but am really enjoying it. These are whodunnits but very superior ones. We have an English Lord partnered as sleuth with young Verity Browne, Communist. These adds some spice to the proceedings but also a clever device to provide social commentary. It is for this reason that any of these wopuld be very good for reading groups. This book covers the Jarrow march, the Cable Street Riots, Fascism, oh and Wallace Simpson!

Kate Ellis - A Perfect Death

This is a Wesley Peterson novel, the thirteenth, and it really is up to standard. Set in beautiful Devon, again with a clever time slip element, involving archaeology. I love them! Once again, when is this going to be made into a series for TV!!!!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Cassandra Clare - City of Bones

This is not quite Stephanie Meyer standard but a close second. Although vampires and werewolves do feature in this novel, the main focus is on a group of Shadowhunter warriors that are trained to kill demons that inhabit our world and that normal "mundanes" cannot see. The protagonists are 15 - 17 so there is some teen angst, but on the whole the plot carries on at a pace through these parts and we are carried along with it. The book is edgy, and interesting in that it is based in a very urban setting, that of New York. It also is very funny in places, I love the Holy Water in the petrol tank of the vampire motorbikes, very clever! I think this shows great promise as a series, and I look forward to reading the rest.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Marion McGilvary - A Lost Wife's Tale

This is a book about a woman who has run away, as the book unfolds we discover more possible reasoning as to why she might have. Edith looks like she has at last found happiness, what is it that could happen to spoil this, she has constructed her life so well...........
This is a disturbing book, and one that will be with you for some time, it will make a superb reading group selection as I think the moral dilemmas will have the group discussing for hours. Should we tell the truth? If we tell a white lie should we pay for it? Can you be too nice? Can we escape out past?
There is little more that I can say without spoilers, it is well written, just when you think you have a handle on the plot then along comes a surprise that forces a re-think all over again. this is an excellent first novel and I am sure we will hear more from this author, I do hope so.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Jasper Fforde - The Well of Lost PLots

What can I say read these and laugh. Classic offerings in this book, are the Wuthering Heights rage counseling session, Falstaff, Miss Havisham competing with Toad for the land speed record, oh and the Queen of Hearts as a judge!! I am onto the next!!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Jasper FForde - Lost in a good book

Another great book in the series, this is the second, this time Thursday Next enters Great Expectations, saves the world, and fights to prevent the eradication from time of her husband Landen........ and there are some total belly laugh moments throughout! Nothing like taking on the classics!!

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Stuart Neville - The Twelve

I really rated this book which is due to be published this July. It is not the sort of book I would normally pick up. I had thought it was more a supernatural sort of book, (rather than a thriller). It was however, simply unputdownable ! I read it over twelve hours, finally finishing it at 2 in the morning. There are very few books that I have read that have this effect on me! What I found fascinating is that although the lead character, Gerry, is not at all conventionally likeable, -how can one love an IRA killer-, we still became invested in him and wanted to find out how this book would resolve itself, and at the end, despite what he had done, uncomfortably, you felt justice had been done. This will make it a very good reading group book, (some reading notes would be useful), the themes of revenge, justice, Ireland, redemption are just a few of the things we could talk about!

Monday, 1 June 2009

Roma Tearne - Mosquito

My goodness what a novel. Why has this been missed for a prize? It is stunning, made all the more poignant in the wake of what is still happening in Sri Lanka now. Theo, a successful writer, returns to his native Sri Lanka, after the death of his Italian wife. This is a civilised man, a man who believes in hope, the future and a rational solution to all things, but as the Civil war re-emerges he is swept up into the centre of the conflict, where there is no rationale, just mindless retaliatory violence, hate, torture and death.

This is a disturbing novel, brilliantly written that stays with you long after you have read it. Her descriptions of the beauty of the landscape of Sri Lanka and the contrasting ugliness of inter racial hatred are superb.

I cannot wait to read her next books, watch this BLOG.

This will make an excellent reading group book. I am ordering copies now so they will be available soon in Bournemouth Libraries.

Santa Montefiore - Sea of Lost Love

At first I thought this was just going to be so-so. There was a sense of deja view about it. 1958, a large house in Cornwall by the sea. An extended family congegrate there every Summer, a mystery occurs........ ( see Judith Lennox book below). However what a suprise I really wanted to finish this, it is a wonderful snapshot of the time, and beautifully written. This book reduced me to tears. I liked the idea of redemption, the way the characters grew in reaction to the tragedy.

This is an excellent book to read by the pool or on the beach this summer, or even in your back garden!

It will also make an very good reading group read, with the themes of religion, suicide, responsibility, the rites of passage, the passing of a post war world etc.

Guillermo Martinez - The Oxford Murders

This is a great little book especially if you like puzzles and maths! I spent several hours before I solved the puzzle on page 28! I also learnt alot about mathematical theory! This is a Murder Mystery about a serial killer or is it? Do the crimes matter? It is the delicious attempt by a South American to unpick the social morees of middle England and at the same time attempt to solve a crime using theoretical mathematics as his guide!

I am looking forward to borrowing the film from the library and see what they made of it!

Jeanne Kalogridis - The Borgia bride

'Corset busting escapism' says the Sunday Times, but in many ways I think this does this novel a disservice. It is very well written and compelling. I read it long into the night as I really wanted to find out what happened to our heroine Sancha. Once again I would say that this is an excellent book to take on holiday or to occupy a long train jouney as it will have you captivated. The historical detail is wonderful, and I felt I learnt alot about the history of Rome in this time. Sometimes I was so immersed in the 1400s that when I looked up I was disorientated for a few moments as I came to reality. This to me is the sign of a true reading for pleasure experience.

Marina Fiorato - The Madonna of the Almonds

This is the second novel for Marina, after her very successful Glassblower of Murano ( see review below). This time the book is a straight historical novel. I really enjoyed it and would really recommend this as a holiday read this summer. It is a fictionalised account of how Amaretto may have been invented!

In the story a young widow in 1525, coming to terms with her loss and the realisation that she has an estate but no funds. Into her life comes a talented painter Bernadino, and a love story begins.

This would also make an interesting book group book, not least as it would be an excuse to sample Amaretto? Also it touches on themes of war, love, anti-semetism, and art.

Alex Bell - The Ninth Circle

I am not sure quite what went wrong for me with this book. It looks just my type of thing. A man comes round covered in blood in Budapest with no memory of himself. It looks like it might be about supernatural things or angels and demons......... Frankly I got bored. I did not finish it, it was very slow, I think, no literary tension to keep me reading. I was not invested in the character and frankly I did not care what happened to him. A great shame. Does anyone else have any views?

Friday, 22 May 2009

John Ajvide Lindqvist - Let the Right One In

This is a book for grown ups who enjoyed the Stephanie Meyer books . This is the story of an unhappy, bullied 12 year old who disovers that he lives next door to a vampire. She looks 12 but is in fact 200 years old. These two characters both suffering from social isolation of a very different kind come together and form a friendship and a bond that resolves both their needs. It is a haunting tale of social deprivation, and loneliness in modern Sweden. The fact it is set in Sweden is largely irrelevant it could be an modern suburban area. This is a novel that stays with you long after you have finished reading, his grip and ability to impart the sadness of the human condition today and the dis-association of many members of our society is telling.

Linda Holeman - In a Far Country

This book is set in the 1880s India and revolves around the life of Pree Fincastle a missionaries daughter. This is a huge sweeping saga. Totally engrossing and full of drama and hardship. I loved it, absolute escapism. I thing the hardships thrown upon her were a little extreme but not perhaps unlikely, at times I did feel what more can happen to her!

I thnk this would be an excellent reading group book as it deals with several contentious issues. The caste system, the role of missionaries. The effect India has on visitors, the way both English and Indian societies deal with women, and of course, what happens when secrets come out of the box! There are beautiful descriptions of the Indian continent and way of life you can almost smell it........

Maxim Chattam - The Cairo Diary

This is a dual time novel, where a French pathologist, is in hiding in Mont Saint-Michel. This part of the story is largely irrelevant and very light, as such it just provides a framework for the story in the past. In that sense the story does not really work as we have little interest in the present day, however, I did find myself skim reading it to get onto the action so I suppose it did provide suspense!

The story in the past is set in Cairo in 1928 and concerns some horrific events there that involve children. I have to warn that the descriptions are rather gruesome! It is however really exciting and it is very thought provoking as the ending is by no means cut and dried, we as the reader are left to make up our own minds and I think it is this device that might make this an interesting Reading Group read......... also do ghouls exist and who are they!!

Jasper Fforde - The Eyre Afffair

I cannot imagine why it has taken me so long to discover these books. The adventures of Thursday Next. This is brilliant comic fantasy, if you love books and reading these will have you in stitches and re-reading to pick up all the references to other books within the story!! Please , please in another life can I be a Literatec! The thought of being inside the covers of Jane Eyre and being recued by Edward Rochester.......... oh dear I shall have to lie down!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Deanna Raybourn - Silent in the Grave

We were lucky at Bournemouth Libraries in being chosen as part of a MIRA promotion for this book. I have to say that I really enjoyed it. It is an amusing Victorian Murder Mystery reminiscent I felt of the Elizabeth Peters Amelia Peabody series. The protagonists stay delightfully in character, although our heroine fortunately has had a rather 'modern' education. Lady Julia Grey discovers that her husbands sudden death is not after all natural causes, and with the saturnine Nicholas Brisbane sets out to find who has killed him. There is a lot in this book for reading groups to discuss, attitudes to gypsies, the whole servant- master issue, the class structure, homosexuality, brothels and I could go on. Quite a few of our reading groups have read this now and the discussions have always been lively!!

Julian Fellowes - Past Imperfect

The first Richard and Judy Summer Read and how exciting guess who's bookclub got on the show! Yes one from Bournemouth but filmed in Poole!
This is a great book and contains masses that will interst a reading group of all ages. Julian writes like a dream, his social commentary , witty and sometimes barbed asides has you laughing. The fate of the women in the story frustrates you. You rather like the anonymous storyteller but you will fall for Damian, the scene in Portugal is a classic!!!!!

Monday, 20 April 2009

Steven Carroll - Twilight in Venice

This is an interesting little book. It really is the story of a summer romance and set in beautiful Venice. However when the protagonists are a 23 year old girl and a 61 year old man things become thought provoking, who is exploiting who?

It is easy to read and not very challenging. It would make an excellent novel to take on holiday.

However, it would also make an excellent book for a reading group because there are various themes that could be discussed. The joy is that this edition has reading group notes in it and author interview making it so easy to use for this purpose.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Judith Martin - No Vulgar Hotel

If you are thinking of going to Venice or perhaps are just a Venetophile then this is the book for you. It is great fun from an American author who clearly loves the place, oh and has money. If you want to know what it is like to hire a palazzo for your holidays then here is the insight. It is also however full of other titbits not least a whole chapter on literary Venice!

Louise Penny - Still Life

If you like a classical murder mystery, in the style of Agatha Christie then this is for you. It is set in present day Canada in a small unique village of Three Pines. An accident or could it be murder occurs and Chief Inspector Armand Gamach arrives from Montreal with his team to solve the mystery. I was so consumed by this story that I read until 2pm to finish it, I just could not put it down. To me that is a true sign of a successful classic crime. Oh and I did not work out who had done it!

This book was runner-up in the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger Award in 2004.

I already have reserved the next book in the series!

Barry Unsworth - Land of Marvels

This would make an excellent reading group selection. It is another novel set in an archaeological dig. This time it is 1914 and we are in Mesopotamia. This is a superbly written novel, lyrical and astute. The unfolding of the characters and their actions are key. I particularly like the way that chapters were blended in from various viewpoints so that whilst the characters may not have understood each other and their motivations, we the readers did! I imagine a reading group will have much to say about all their actions! The period too is interesting, as all the powers race to grab what they can before war starts. The question of morals I think would feature highly in discussions! I cannot say too much without revealing too much, just recommend that you read it.

Ann Cleeves - Red Bones

This is the third book in what is to be a quartet. They are set in the Shetland Isles and are British crime writing at its best. Ann is particularly good at atmospheres, that feeling of whilst living in a wild open space, there is the claustrophobia of knowing that everyone is aware of your business. However secrets do lurk! In Red Bones we have an archaeological dig revealing buried bones and some are more recent than expected! Skeletons rattling from the Second World War.

I particularly like the way we have come to know her detective so intimately over the novels and look forward to seeing how the life of Jimmy Perez continues.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Jenny White - The Abyssinian Proof

Once again an excellent crime caper from Jenny White. I found myself snatching time to read this and read it in a couple of days. Once again we follow the hero, local magistrate Kamil Pasha as he attempts to solve the crimes of murder and smuggling. Set in Istanbul in 1887, this is a quality historical crime novel and extremely enjoyable escapism. This has enough in it to make it a reading group selection but it would raise the thorny issue of religion! Oh and once again there is the sniff of romance!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Sebastian Barry - The Secret Scripture

This book was shorlisted for the Booker Prize and won the Costa Coffee Book of the Year. It is also shorlisted for the Galaxy British Book Awards, Author of the Year 2009.

This would usually mean that I will not like it! I am really not sure if I do. It is beautifully and almost lyrically written but it is so melancholy. Read this book if you want to be sad, you want to be angry at injustice, if you like a dark, Irish novel full of misery and regret. I found it really hard going. If you liked The Gathering by Anne Enright then this is for you!

It will make an excellent reading group choice because of its many themes.

I really need to read something light and jolly next before I slit my wrists...........