Monday, 27 August 2012

Book Review: Atonement

AtonementAtonement by Ian McEwan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started reading Atonement around the time of the film release and just didn’t get it. Last year I decided to give it another go and managed to get hold of a copy on Read It Swap It. I have been looking at it ever since until I picked it up to read last week.

The book is split into a number of parts, each set in a different time or place and told from the point of view of different characters. The first part is set in 1935 at the home of the Tallis family in Surrey, and it is here that we get introduced to the main characters, Briony, Cecilia and Robbie.

Briony is a precocious 13 year old girl who gets into a rage when things don’t go her way and lives in world that is half fantasy. She has great visions of grandeur about herself and seems to get the things in her imagination confused with the real world. Cecilia is her big sister and a university graduate. She seems glamorous and very comfortable with herself, particularly in the scene by the fountain with Robbie. Robbie is the son of the family cleaner and lives in a cottage on their land. He has become something of a project to the girls’ father who has paid for his education and has dreams of going to medical college.

I found the first part of the book a little slow, but wonderfully written. Once I had the time to concentrate on it I couldn’t put it down.

My favourite parts of the book were the parts set in the wartime era. We followed Robbie as he was evacuated from France via Dunkirk in the D-Day landings. This section of the book was heartbreaking and really made you think of the horrors faced by the young men fighting in both of the World Wars. The next part of the book was set in wartime London and gives the reader a different view of the home front and the jobs that women undertook.

Overall, I really loved this book and once I had got into it, couldn’t put it down. It is beautifully written and really pulls you into the world of the characters. I think the story will stay with me for some time and I am extremely glad that I gave it a second chance. A fantastic book.


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Friday, 24 August 2012

Book review: The Radleys

The RadleysThe Radleys by Matt Haig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up The Radleys as I always like to read about family life and how other families are dysfunctional as mine!

I had a very pleasant surprise when I started reading this book! I really enjoyed how from the outside, the Radleys looked like your average 2.4 children type family, but were actually hiding a dark secret, even from their own children. They are a family of abstaining vampires! This isn’t a spoiler as it says it on the back of the book, but I hadn’t read the blurb so had quite a shock when I realised what their secret was! I think this says more about me than the book!

The book is very much focussed around the revelation to the two teenage Radleys of the reason why they are so different to their peers and are so lethargic and have an aversion to garlic. An event in the story means that their parents can no longer keep it a secret from them that they are vampires and we follow them as they come to terms with their true background and meet with their uncle who is an outcast from the family.

I really liked that this book was so grounded in reality and as a reader I didn’t have to learn about a whole new world as vampirism just seemed normal. The story was well paced and a different take on the traditional dysfunctional family story. I also liked that this didn’t feel like a clichĂ©d vampire story, but was very fresh and modern. I would describe it as reality with a hint of vampire. I also liked that there wasn’t too much emphasis on the supernatural and just allowed the reader to enjoy a very humorous view on family life.


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Saturday, 11 August 2012

Book review: A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was quite excited about reading this book as I had heard good things about it. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed.

I really enjoyed the first half of the book and thought it was extremely well written and had the feel of a slow burning literary novel. I was excited to keep picking it up and loved the old fashioned romance that was blossoming between the two main characters.

However, it didn’t carry on. After a poorly executed and gratuitous sex scene just after the half way mark it went downhill. I really didn’t like it after this point as it felt forced and as if it was trying too hard. I also thought that some of the choices that were made by the author were a little senseless. Some authors can carry off a quickly moving plot with lots of location changes, but I really thought it didn’t fit here. It seemed that the author was putting as many threads to the story as possible for the sake of trying to get everything in, but I didn’t feel that they were as well developed or thought through as I would have liked.

This book was 2.5 stars for me as I really liked the first half and I think it could have been extremely well done if edited appropriately and kept the feel of the first half of the book. As a fan of more subtle fantasy, this may have been a tad too much for me, but I won’t be reading any more from this trilogy.


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Monday, 6 August 2012

What I've been reading

So, I've just realised how long it has been since I wrote a bookish post or a review! I have updated my 2012 list, and will give you a quick run down of my favourite books over the last couple of months.

Fantasy

Rivers of London (Peter Grant, #1)I have discovered that I actually really like some fantasy books! I seem to like what I believe are called urban fantasy that have quite a grounding in reality. Or as I like to call them "here with a hint of fantasy".

I have really enjoyed books by Ben Aaronovitch, Paul Magrs and Jasper Fforde.

I have read all three of the books in the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch and have absolutely loved them. In order, they are Rivers of London, Moon Over Soho, Whispers Underground.They follow Peter Grant, a young Police Officer in the Met as he discovers a new magical world right on his doorstep in London and ends up joining the wizarding division of the Met. He meets a whole host of creatures whilst investigating a series of imaginative crimes and mopping up the mess they leave.

It sounds a bit like what would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the Police force, but is much more witty and clever than that. All three books are truly works of genius full of brilliant characters and give a real sense of place as they describe the detail of central London. They are really fun, very tongue in cheek and definitely not children's books! I would highly recommend the series.

The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next, #1)I have also read the first in the series of the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair.

I had been meaning to read this for ages and was recommended it by a friend when I couldn't decide what to read from my ever growing TBR pile!

The plot is based in an alternative world to where we live now where fantasy is reality and the dodo are being kept as pets. I really enjoyed the alternative reality element of the book as it mentioned a variety of historical events which ended up with very different endings including an independent, but very scary Wales!

Thursday Next works for what is in effect, the book police. Her job is to investigate literature based crimes and she ends up working on a case where the bad guy gets a chance to travel into classic works of literature and change the story, or threaten worse!

I thought the story was fast paced, with a lot going on, but was written in such a way that it was easy to keep up with the characters and events. I found it quite similar to the Rivers of London books, but also very different. I am looking forward to reading more from the series, and more from Jasper Fforde!

New writers

The Land of DecorationI discovered this book purely by chance as I saw it in a shop and was drawn to the cover. I know this is a very shallow way to choose books, but it tends to work for me (most of the time!).

The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen is a book about a young girl who lives in what seems to be the South Wales Valleys in the 1980s with her widowed father.

Judith is a ten year old girl who is seen as being different by her school mates, due to her "strange" ways and the fact that her and her father are immersed in an unnamed non-denomination religion. Judith is confronted with strikes at the local factory, bullying, vandalism and other major events which she believes are being caused by the model town she has made from old rubbish in her bedroom. I really connected with Judith as she reminded me of myself as a child.

I loved the way that this book was written and was actually very surprised that it wasn't longlisted for the Man Booker this year. I am looking forward to seeing more from this new writer and would highly recommend this book.

I have read more than this, but these are my top picks! I have also enjoyed some chick lit from Talli Roland and Jane Costello, and some humour in the form of the "Queen"'s diaries, Gin O'Clock.

I have listed all of the books I have read this year on the 2012 page, and will do my best to review at least some of my books for the rest of the year! I also rate and review over on goodreads. If you are on the site, please feel free to look at my shelves!



Come fly with me

So it's been a long time since I have blogged as I have had a little break, but I'm back and I expect there to be an up in my blogging action as I am going to review some books and get back into the blogging swing!

July was a big month for me as I went on my first ever holiday abroad, and it was amazing!!

We went to Playa Taurito in Gran Canaria, which is a small resort between the towns of Puerto Mogan and Puerto Rico. This is the gorgeous view from our balcony:


We stayed in an all inclusive couples hotel which was great as we had as much food and drink as we wanted and there were no screaming kids to contend with. It was lovely and relaxing being able to sit by the pool with a pina colada and a book!

The water park you can see was next to our hotel and a little bit noisy, but nothing you couldn't get over. Every afternoon a "DJ" came on and played the same three songs and shouted over them which was quite funny. Particularly as when we got home and put the ipod on, the first song that came on was one of the three the waterpark dude played!




On the Friday we visited the pretty market town of Puerto Mogan. There was a full on tourist market with some "lookey lookey men" trying to flog us the same crap they sell in our local market, but it all said Gran Canaria on for the tourists!

We didn't think much of the market, but the town itself was very pretty with a harbour full of a mixture of yachts and fishing boats and canals running through the town.






It was a lovely change to walk around the town and strange to see the canals when the rivers we passed on the way down had dried up.

It was really hot because it was a built up area so we were relieved when we got back to the pool!






The hotel had entertainment was a bit hit and miss, but there were a few crackers. My favourite acts were a drag act (I have posted a pic of him being Tina Turner) and the flamenco dancers.



We had an amazing holiday, although, after being back for three weeks, it now feels like we have never been away! On to booking the next one then...



P.S. This is my 100th post! Woohoo!