Monday, 17 December 2012

Justin Cronin - The Twelve

This was worth the two year wait! Once again we are totally immersed in this post viral dystopian world. It does not disappoint and leaves us wanting more. The only fault I could find is that due to the long wait I had forgotten some of the characters and it would have been helpful to re-read The Passage but as it is such a big book I was a little put off, but a quick skim sufficed. This is an author that has really thought about his world and environment in depth and it shows. We also see the story arc of the characters growing and deepening. I am really looking forward to the next one!
There is an excellent interview with Justin Cronin on Amazon here

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Christopher Fowler - Bryant and May and The Invisible Code

This series just gets better and better, if you haven't read them yet I thoroughly recommend that you do. They are best read in order as they have a fabulous story arc but the joy especially for Reading Groups is that they can effectively stand alone.
These books are well written, clever and intelligent. They also have some genuinely laugh our loud moments among the death and mayhem. The characters of Bryant and May are a delight.
In this latest book the ancient duo ( I am fast approaching them though!) take a case from their arch enemy. Will he be their nemesis or is it something far more dangerous and archane? This case involves witchcraft and not the nice white sort, Bryant is forced to make a pact that will have serious repurcussions for the whole unit and himself potentially in the future. I await with trepidation and enthusiam for the next offering.
There are some marvellous scenes, Christopher is spot on with the the braying Civil Service wives, Meera on her moterbike, Janice Longbright in a power suit, oh and I learnt something, I downloaded flashlight to my phone, brilliant I must be aging, as I discovered everyone else has it!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Jill Paton Walsh - The Attenbury Emeralds

I really rather enjoyed this. I was not sure if I was going to, I have rarely liked anything sequelled or prequelled  by a classic author but this worked well for me.
In this novel it is 1951 and Lord Peter is of course much older and he and Harriet are more concerned with their family than mysteries but this cleverly links to an old case from 1921.
I have ordered her other books but also the originals by Dorothy L Sayers from the library and will let you know how I get on with them!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Rhys Bowen - Her Royal Spyness

This is a classic cosy crime mystery. Set in the 1930s we have a minor Royal, a suitably fluffy aristo called Georgie.
Much fun and shenanigans take place and if you are looking for something amusing, light and rather decadent then this is for you.
|loved it and have set about reading the series, so far there are 6 in the series with more promised.
It makes a pleasant break from the Bookers, back to The Yips!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Sock puppetry and Fake reviews

Hi all, absolutely fascinating article in the Guardian today about authors faking reviews and websites offering favourable reviews for cash!

As a librarian and book reviewer this is a very sad state of affairs. I love reading and giving reviews. It is very rare that I give a really bad review and I always acknowledge that it is the fact that I am at fault, as the reason I do not like the book. No one likes their hard work disparaged  but sometimes one just has to be honest and leave other readers to make up their minds.

To try and influence things for gain, and manipulate genuine readers,  is just not on and makes a mockery of sites like mine. Hopefully publishers and agents will nip this in the bud and perhaps Amazon could be a little more proactive in its monitoring of "reader" comments!

There is a fine line between cynical self promotion and naive over enthusiam. I suspect that Waterstones as we are, are deluged by self published authors wishing us to promote their wares. Unlike Waterstones we are limited and not bound by sales and are always intersted in promoting books of local interest.

As for published authors we are alwqays willing to host them to talk as we have avid readers who fill our coffee mornings and we are always looking for speakers, albeit with very limited funds to pay!

So for authors wishing to promote their books and who are willing to do so free of speaking fees, libraries make excellent venues to engage with readers and they are always assured of a warm welcome.

Here is the link to the article

It reads like a crime novel all on its own! Well done to Stuart Neville and Jeremy Duns for exposing this.

Vicki Goldie
Bournemouth Libraries

Late entry here is what Crime wroter Christopher Fowler has to say

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Barbara Cleverly - Bright Hair about the Bone

This is a great cozy crime featuring the intrepid Laetitia Talbot. Dear Laetitia always seems to get it wrong and we the reader are usually one step a head of her thus making for amusing reading.Light, amusing  an excellent read for a holiday or cold, winter's night. I look forward to the story arc of Laetitia'a progess in archaeology and of crime! This one is set in Burgundy, France in 1926.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Jeet Thayil - Narcopolis

The Man Booker Prize 2012

I could not finish this book. It started well but then began to ramble and I lost interest. I am clearly missing something but I lost the will to live.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Michael Frayn - Skios

The Man Booker Prize 2012
After Harold Fry this initially felt rather light. It masquerades as a farce and indeed is very funny, I found myself, laughing out loud, giggling and talking to the pages.
An amoral charmer called Oliver Fox on a sexual whim passes himself off as a famous scientific manager about to make a prestigious speech at an international conference. This is without a thought of the poor scientist who ends up alone and confused elsewhere on the beautiful Greek Island of Skios. (note to self always pack mobile phone charger AND adaptor in hand luggage!)
As the various mismatched individuals approach the inevitable denouement, we await with anticipation for the downfall, the unmasking. Yes it happens, but what we realise is that this book is also a masquerade. This is a case of the Emperor's New Clothes, a comedaic exploration of modern manners, morality, and infantilism. We despair for just one show of common sense and where does it come from? A shady Russian businessman's wife Mrs Skorbatova, who definitely is not up for any phoks!

This would make a great reading group read.It is seldom that in reading groups there is enough light relief and this will fill a well needed gap, but will the book belie it's cover...

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Rachel Joyce - The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Man Booker Longlist
This is a stunning book. One of those that you want to put down and think about. One you want to never end.
This is the story of an ordinary hero, an unlikely hero, a 65 year old vaguely unhappy man, who one day does an extraordinary thing. He decides on a whim to deliver his letter to a dying colleague by hand. However he decides to walk there from KIngsbridge, Devon to Berwick in Scotland.
It is an extraordinary journey, beautifully written and observed as Harold interacts with his environment,  his body, and the assortment of people he meets.
Left at home his wife Maureen has also a learning process to go through.
This book is beautifully written, funny, wry, sad and uplifting, it would make a superb reading group book, it explores the whole gamut of the human psyche and I think it just could be a winner|!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Kathy Reichs is true to form with this forensic thriller. It is very gruesome and sad but having said that some of the issues within this book I think would make it a very good reading group read.
It is very difficult to review this book without giving spoilers. What I can say is what begins as an investigation into the deaths of a number of newborn babies then morphs into something else entirely.
I found her travels to the far north of Canda fascinating, quite a different perspective to that we may have here in the UK.
I also was pemused once more by some Canadianisms of Americanisms and had to resort to the internet! Occassionally she does things that I feel are pushing the bounds of possibility. If she respects the police why not use them rather than going gung ho and putting her own life constantly in danger but then that's just me.
However, I could not put it down and finished it over a weekend. For a fast paced thriller I thoroughtly recommend it

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Hilary Mantel - Bring up the Bodies

Having confirmed my shallowness with my review of WOLF HALL see below, but wanting to review as many of the Man Booker 2012 longlist as I can, I decided to begin with this once again large tome.
Well, I absolutely loved it! Am I now less shallow? This book deals with the downfall of Anne Boleyn, so perhaps I found the subject matter was more enlivening as I certainly could not put the book down.
I got used to the 'he said's and to be fair where it was ambiguous it was emphasised that it was Cromwell speaking.
I also 'got' the subtlety of us, the reader, extracting what might or might not be motivating Cromwell. Revenge on the whole, I thought. It was also interesting to contemplate the descriptions that were left out and times when he was absent from the drama.
A great novel, but can she win two years in a row?

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Donna Leon - Beastly Things

I had been bemoaning that Donna's books had been getting thinner and I am a big fan. Then along comes this absolute corker.
It is fantastic, we continue to have the story arc of Brunetti's family, and recipes and prosecco but here again she investigates the dark underbelly of Italy and Venice in paticular. This time it is the meat trade and I have to say that reading this is enough to make you a vegetarian!
Also it is as though her writing has gone up a gear it is a delight to read. Who said crime could not be literary?
It would make a good reading group book due to the subject matter of meat and the potitical/institutional aspects of Italy that are bound to spark debate. Could it, does it happen in the UK?
It will be a long time before I have a burger.....

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Charles Todd - Ian Rutledge Series

I have been rather quiet lately as I have been working my way through this excellent series of books. Thank you to the ladies of Charminster Library for tipping me off to the series!  So I have worked my way through these. They have an interesting premise, imagine a detective coming back from the First World War, shell shocked and hearing the voice of the Scottish Sergeant he executed for disobeying a direct order, in his head. This literary device allows Inspector Rutledge to have conversations about the plot without introducing a wealth of new characters. It works very well, and the writers, a mother and son team, have an excellent sense of place considering that they are from the US. If you enjoy good old fashioned Christie-esque crime then this is a great find.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter - The Long Earth

This book has an amazing premise. What if simultaneous earths suddenly opened up. Worlds which you could step into and colonise. The only thing you could not take with you is metal.
I adore the Discworld but this is quite a different sort of book. Yes it is Science Fiction ,  certainly more that than Fantasy. There are a few flashes of wry humour, I loved the Meatloaf loving nun, but on the whole it is a serious book.
I found it quite hard going until about half way and I assume that it was because when establishing a new series ( I do hope so) you have to lay the foundations and introduce not only lots of worlds but aslo characters.
It is beautifully written and extremely thought provoking, with huge potential for the future, as we begin to see alternative worlds with strange creatures. However, central to it all is the human condition. How will the human race react to this opportunity or challenge?  The introduction of the AI unit Lobsang emphasises this. Will humans ruin these other Earths or will it be sweetness and light, I can't wait for the next installment.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Claire Tomalin - Charles Dickens A Life

Gosh, I waded through this tome and it is a really large book, think of a doorstep and you have just about got it right! Well, it was worth it. I did learn more about Dickens than perhaps I needed to know, the minutia of his life, but as it so informed his work particularly in the early years I think in balance it was justifiable.

What I found so interesting was that I had to keep reminding myself that he was a man of his time. Many of his observations seem so current today. On the other hand in his later years he was vile to his wife and children ( well most of them) and this is extraordinary when you consider the depth, feeling and social conscience that he portrayed in his writing.

If you really want to look behind the veneer of his writing and contect his life to his body of work then this is the book for you. I was absolutely fascinated!

It is a huge book, and thus I think, it would have to be a very dedicated reading group that read it, but it would be interesting should there be any groups who are choosing to read a selection of his writing in this two hundredth year of his birth.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Rosamund Lupton - Sister

This is a great book. It had me on the edge of my seat for the whole day that it took me to read it. I just could not put it down.
It would make an excellent reading group book, given the subject matter.

There are two sisters one lives in the US and is materially successful, the other goes to art school in London. Given the distance they are very close. Then the unthinkable happens Beatrice's younger sister Tess goes missing in London. The police give up, her fiance is desperate for her to return to the states, their mother gives up, but Beatrice does not give up, This is a story about how far would you go to find out what had happened to your sister. As Beatrice slowly unpicks her sister's life, she comes to know her better and this affacts all the relationashps in her life. It is very difficult to say more without spoilers.
I recently attended a book club where we discussed this book and a really lively discussion took place, so I really recommend it!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Andrew Miller - Pure

This is an extraordinary book. Detailed, well researched, beautifully written and I can see why it won the Costa Award.
I think it would make a very good reading group book. Mainly because it is very difficult to categorise why this novel works. Much happens, the period detail is exquisite and you really feel like you are IN pre-revolutionary Paris. The tension building is almost palpable. The subject matter, the demolishing of Les Innocents cemetery and the removal of the bodies is bizarre and gruesome in a fascinating sort of way.
However the characters are not very likable and it is difficult to
become emotionally invested in them, as a reader we are very much an observer - and yet it works. I could not put the book down. It is almost as if Andrew Miller makes us as readers voyeurs to this drama. I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Emma Donoghue - The Sealed Letter

I was absolutely bowled over by The Room, which was stratospherically a best seller and nominated for innumerable awards, and well deserved it was. I therefore approached this book with a sense of trepidation and anticipation.

What a surprise this is a totally different kind of book. It is set in Victorian London and concerns an infamous divorce case that occurred in real life. This is Emma's fictional take on it.

It is absolutely brilliant. Of course, I love historical fiction but it is the relationships of the central characters that like Room dominate the book and carry it forward.

I found I just could not put it down, it was utterly fascinating and I was desperate to find out the conclusion of the trial.

There is masses here to interest a reading group, women's rights, marriage, divorce, female relationships, Victorian London, hypocrisy, and the list goes on. I can predict that this book will become the stalwart of reading group lists for many years to come.