Thursday, 31 March 2011

Booking Through Thursday

If you’re like me, you grew up reading everything under the sun, like the cereal boxes while you ate your breakfast, the newspapers held by strangers on the subway, the tabloid headlines at the grocery store. What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever read? (You know, something NOT a book, magazine, short story, poem or article.)

I am not one of these people who will read anything just to be reading something. Yes, I read headlines whilst in the queue of the supermarket but I think that's just shear nosiness (on my part). I do have to always have a book on the go. I need to know I have started a book even if I don't have it on me. I get antsy if I don't. There has been times when I remember I finished a book the night before and in my rush to leave the house I hadn't started another one or brought on with me with the intentions of starting it. So I have went out of my way of buying another book and read a couple of pages. My sister laughs at me for that.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Room - Emma Donoghue

5 year old Jack and his Ma live in Room. To Jack this is the whole world and everything else outside isn't real. He doesn't know that Old Nick who visits at night and brings them Sundaytreat is really his captor. Then one day his Ma tells him the truth about outside and that they need to get free.

This was recommended at my book group a while back and I was intrigued (although it was suggested as a Halloween title and I still have no idea why). The whole book is from the point of view of 5 year old Jack. A little off putting at front but in the end a fantastic idea. You see how Jack views Room as a home. He then has to get used to outside having no idea what to make of everything. There were times though when I felt just as exhausted as his Ma and Grandma must have felt.

I found the subject to be fairly disturbing as you would expect. A young women held prisoner and raped repeatedly for 7 years. There were times that I wondered why I was continuing with it. I have read many a book with difficult plots so I don't know why this one bothered me more. Maybe because I kept thinking of all those news stories where women were found after being held captive for years. Seemed too real maybe. Still, I couldn't put it down and as I had to know what was going to happen.

So whilst it was a good book and it will stick with me for a long long time I am not sure I enjoyed it. I do recommend it though so long as you don't mind the narrator being a 5 year old.

Edit: Having thought about it I didn't dislike the book. It just made me feel uncomfortable. The theme was disturbing and whilst that normally wouldn't get to me it did in this case. Also very uncomfortable by the fact that Jack was still being breast fed at the age of 5. A little hard to ignore since it's mentioned quite a lot through out the book.

Do Prizes Matter?

I just saw that the Man Booker International shortlist has been announced. Quite a few names on there that I recognise and I have even read and enjoyed one of them.

Interestingly I saw in the guardian that John Le Carre has asked to be removed from the list (his request was turned down). He said that he doesn't write to compete for literary prizes and therefore did not want to be considered for it. Are there any writers out there who do write to compete do you think? Perhaps there are some who's goal is to one day win such a prestigious award. I don't actually see what's wrong with that. What's wrong with a little ambition? I have my doubts though that when a writer sits down to work on his or her book they do so with only that prize in mind. Or am I being naive?

I wonder if there are other authors out there who feel the same way he does. I imagine though that most would see it as an honour. I think I would if I was a writer. I personally like these prizes. I don't always go out of my way to read the winners as they might not always appeal to me. I have though found new authors to enjoy through them. Last year I read Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" and it is now one of my favourite books. I can speak from experience that prize winners sell. There are a number of authors out there who deservedly became more widely read thanks to things like this. For that reason alone I do think prizes matter.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

RIP Diana Wynne Jones

Yesterday I sadly found out that Children's author, Diana Wynne Jones, lost her battle with cancer and passed away on Saturday. I actually didn't know she was sick so it came as a bit of a surprise that she had passed away. In my head she was still writing away. She is one of those children's authors I discovered too late to enjoy as a child. In fact it was only a few years ago I read my first one, "Merlin Conspiracy". Despite the YA field being inundated with magic and fantasy at the time I read this it still stood out amongst the rest. I've since went on to read what is probably her most well known book "Howls Moving Castle". I loved it and I have always meant to read others but as always wanting to try new authors and new books took precedence. Why did they stand out? Well, her writing style, her characters as well as her plots all seemed unique despite the popular genre. Whilst her books were intended for children it didn't actually feel like she was trying to write for children. She assumed children are intelligent and in no way patronises them. I found myself wishing I was enjoying her books as a child. To me that's a sign of a fantastic Children's author.

She will be sadly missed. If you haven't read her books go out and buy one this week. I plan on it.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Top Ten Tuesday

This week's topic: Top Ten Authors That Deserve More RecognitionClick here to see the future Top Ten Tuesday schedule. Next week Capillya from That Cover Girl is tackling top ten book covers you wish you could redesign (doesn't even have to be because you don't like it...just maybe if you have a cool idea for it!)

I found this topic quite difficult despite having book industry experience. Most of my friend are readers and we do share books. So whilst the authors may not be more popular publicly they do seem so to us because we all read them or have heard of them. So I have decided to base mine on authors that whilst they may have a cult following probably haven't made it into a book chart. I've also tried to make sure there is a mix of different types of authors.

1. Edward Rutherford. He takes the family saga beyond most authors. They are a cross between the saga and historical fiction. Unlike some historical fiction authors he does his research and ensures that the history is accurate. The only liberties he takes with history is that on occasion his own characters interact with real historical figures. He does it in a way that doesn't interfere with the actual historical timeline and ensures that they aren't doing anything that they might not have done. Whilst he sets his books in one city (his most recent being New York) his characters are from lots of different walks of life. His books are large which I know can put some people off but I relished every page of New York. At the time I only picked it up because of a recent holiday to New York. I was in two minds as the cover looked a little trashy which doesn't always bode well for the content. I am glad I did as I have discovered a new author that I grew to love in that one book. I have plans on reading Russia at some point.

2. Marshall Karp. It would probably surprise my friends that I have listed a crime author. Crime is such a popular genre that until recently I avoided it. It's especially popular here in Glasgow and most book charts are littered with them. A friend got me to read Marshall Karp's "The Rabbit Factory". She raved about it so much and having read the premise at the back of the book I was more than tempted. I loved it and have since passed it on to many others. To me his plot is unique and there is a lot of humour. Not enough humour to turn it into a spoof though. His characters are engaging and I found myself liking every single one of them. I was also surprised by how sad the book was too. I have been told that if you like Carl Hiaasen then you will love Karp. It's certainly put Hiaasen on my list of authors I want to try.

3. Tom Reynolds. He is actually a blogger but the best of his blog entries have been published in two books and they are actually working on a tv series. He was a paramedic in London (he recently went back to nursing) and his blog and books were about his day to day experiences. His books are very much 'laugh out loud' funny although you do find yourself disgusted with the general public at times. What I really like about him is his writing style. He's one of those gifted writers who can writes short and snappy pieces and still manages to get across a clear picture of his life. Long winded seems to be the norm now and whilst I do enjoy long the short and snappy was refreshing. I think that everyone should read his books whether you are the general public or work within medicine.

4. Will Ferguson. He is a travel writer and journalist but has recently moved into fiction. I have read some of his fiction and although I liked them I do prefer his travel writing. Travel writing was something that escaped me until I read his book, Hokkaido Highway Blues. He is a funny and intelligent writer who doesn't mind laughing at himself. If you want to try reading travel writing then I think that Ferguson is a good way to start. It certainly got me interested. His fiction is good too but I always expect it to be as funny as his non fiction. I am usually disappointed with this but I think had I not known to make this comparison I would have enjoyed it more.

5. Tamora Pierce. Okay, I know she is popular in the US and most YA and fantasy fans will have heard of her if not read her. Here in the UK though she no longer has a publisher and when she did everyone was more interested in Harry Potter or Eragorn. Amongst my friends I could count only one or two who have read her. I love her for her strong female characters. Yes, they have that romantic connection that is popular in YA these days (although should be noted that she was writing long before that). However, the female characters don't spend their time pining after the love of their life. Pierce proves that girls can be heroes too and for that I think she is inspiring. I wish I had read her when I was a young teen.

6. Hans Fallada. His book, Alone In Berlin, was a huge hit last year and it did make the book charts. I add him though because I don't think people realise that he actually has several books to his name and many of them were translated into English long before Alone In Berlin. I don't mind admitting that I have only read that one too but thanks to that the rest of his books are on my future reads list. His writing style is truly wonderful. It takes talent for a writer to be able to make you detest a character one minute and then actually feel a little sorry for him the next. To dislike one at the start and then to love him so much that the ending of the book is completely heart wrenching.

7. Joe Haldeman. His books are actually classed as classic science fiction. Despite this I don't know many people who have read him. I think Philip K. Dick and Robert Heinlein probably spring to mind when you talk about classic sci fi. His book, Forever War, was one I read during my sci fi phase. I am always surprised when I enjoy a book where the subject matter is war. In this one he takes a theme that could be placed in any century. A young man goes off to fight for his people. He comes home and discovers everything has changed and there is no place for him anymore. Of course in this case it's taken to the extreme since the war is in space but you get the picture. I loved the narrator and my heart went out to him as he went back to war and each time he came home it wasn't home anymore. Actually, I loved the book so much I am reluctant to read the sequels. I have heard that they aren't of the same quality and I don't want to be disappointed.

8. Nick Harkaway. Okay so he has only published one novel so far but what a novel. Apocalyptic themes are fairly popular these days but his stands out from them all. The story is set after the apocalypse and the narrator and his troops are just trying to hold back the end of life on the earth. It's well written and it's another huge book that I loved every page of. It's an exciting read and the ending was such a surprise to me. I hope he writes more.

9. Charles Huston. His books actually cover a range of genres but I would place them as pulp crime with a touch of horror. The main character of the book is a vampire and not of the sparkly variety. The vampire aspect is really not the be all of his books. They could easily be written and enjoyed without the supernatural theme. However, what I loved about Huston is that he took two themes that flood the book world and put them together and thus came up with something unique. I would recommend his books more to those of you who like horror and crime rather than supernatural.

10.Walter Moers. I know very few people who have read his books. He's a german author and his books are both beautifully illustrated and well written. His books are actually hard to place. They aren't really fantasy but not straight fiction either. When one of your main characters is a blue bear how do you classify them? I love a quirky book and he certainly has a nack for them. Definitely read his books if you want something very different. I suggest starting with 13 1/2 lives of Captain Bluebear. Leave reality behind you and you will fall in love with it.

That was difficult and I am sure that there are a few who aren't really classed as unheard of. My only disappointment is that all but one of these authors is female. Looking back, most of the female authors I have read are quite popular (I am sure that says more about me as a reader). My favourite female authors include Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith, Isabel Allende, Donna Tartt (to name a few) but they have all had best selling books. I am pleased that I was able to list two non-English speaking authors on there. What's your top ten?

Halting State - Charles Stross

Police are called in to investigate a bank robbery and a potential missing persons. Problem is the bank itself is based in a virtual world. Insurance company send two gamers to investigate potential loss of money. Turns out though there is more to this than meets the eye. Games company is possibly a front to another game Spooks, a role playing game. Spooks turns out not to be a game but the real thing only using your average Joe who thinks it's not real.

I picked this book up because the quirkiness appealed to me. Crimes within games which turn out to be real life spy games. I must admit that I did very much like this aspect of it. I would have enjoyed it more though if it wasn't filled with techno gobbledygook. I have not head for technological terms. I love my technology but only for what it can do. Don't ask me about specs or memory or anything else. Unfortunately this book is filled with technobabble and it was extremely off putting. It's written in a way that you can still understand it and get the story but it's boring. Now I do like my sci fi and have read many a book filled with technology but this book wasn't futuristic enough for me to be okay with not understanding it. Plus it was too much in such a short book.

My only other gripe is that it's written in second person. Admittedly you get used to it eventually so it's only a minor irritation. With this and the technobabble complaint it didn't make for a very enjoyable read. At least not for me. What disappoints me the most that I would have thoroughly enjoyed it if not for these things.

I did like the main characters though. Sue, is a cop that is being thrown into an investigation she has no experience for. Elaine is a RPG player who has a thing for swords and is out of her comfort zone in Edinburgh. Jack is a programmer and gamer who is down on his luck and doesn't quite get why he's been singled out to help an insurance company. All different but likable characters.

So if you like a quirky story and don't mind technology or second person narrative then I do recommend the book. Has put me off trying his other books. I also believe there is a sequel which I won't be reading it.

Saturday, 26 March 2011


Today I came across mention of a Read-a-Thon which of course got my attention. It's for 24hours and takes place twice a year. The next one is a week on Sat. I have a HUGE pile of books to get through and this might be my opportunity to make a dent in some of them. I'm not expecting huge miracles mind since I am not a fast reader.

Anyways, I realise it's probably US time rather than UK but I'm going to take part anyways. Am very much looking forward to seeing blog updates by other participating (yep, you blog as you go although you don't actually have to).

If you are interested the link is here. I am offsky to pick out my books for the event.

Friday, 25 March 2011

The Haunting of James Hastings

James tragically loses his wife in a hit and run just behind their home. He then quits his job as a stand in for rapper Ghost and hides himself away in his large house. He spends his time in a drunken stupor spying on his neighbours. His only interaction is the occasional drink with neighbour Lucy. A year later he begins to notice strange phone calls at the same time every morning. Sometimes he doesn't feel quite along in his own home. Then a new neighbour moves next door and he begins to wonder if his dead wife is reaching out to him.

Not the worst ghost story I have ever read but not exactly the best either. It didn't exactly give me chills or leave me feeling terrified (the sign of a good ghost story). I didn't mind persevering with it either so it couldn't have been too bad. In all honesty I am not sure what to think about it. I don't think the idea is exactly original. The ghost of a loved one trying to come back through possession. At least it didn't feel like a new idea. I did like the fact that he began to question himself. Was he really Ghost and James was also dead? I think I would have liked it better if there had been more of this through out the book.

On the other hand I hated the character of Ghost. It was quite obvious he was an imitation of Eminem. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind Eminem but the character in the book was irritating as was James when he imitated him. It felt too much like trying to be down with the kids. Had Ghost not been such and obvious Eminem character maybe I wouldn't have minded it quite as much.

The haunting of the house itself seemed quite feeble too. One mention of his clothes being put away as his wife used to do it and then no more references to that. An incident with paintings and then a couple more in the ballroom. That was it. If you want to scare the hell out of me (which is generally quite easy) I need more than that. More atmosphere. Oh, and a ballroom? The house is in an area that was not long ago quite a bad one. Going by his descriptions of the other houses and the fact that someone dumps a sofa in the alley I doubt any of those homes would have a ballroom. Bit hard to believe.

Over all the writing was okay. It did keep my interest long enough to finish. I also like coming away wondering if he had been haunted by his wife or if it was the work of a couple of crazies. I picked this up after a friend had raved and raved about the authors first one. I wish now I had read "Birthing House" first as I doubt very much I will read another of his books.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Top Ten Tuesday

Once again I found a book meme that I want to take part in. This one is called top ten Tuesday. The explanation is really in the name. Much like last weeks booking through Thursday I was going to wait until the next one before I take part. I wrote my answers for this in my journal and now I am itching to post it. I realise it's Thursday but here are my answers anyway.

Bookish Pet Peeves.

I do have them but I also seem to contradict myself in some of them. The contradiction is in red.

1. Book Covers. I don't mind to admitting that I am a magpie when it comes to book covers. I am attracted to the pretty or unusual. It doesn't determine my book purchases but I am more likely to look at a book if it attracts me in some way. There are times though I have to wonder what publishers are thinking. I understand that the point of the book is about the content but surely you want to attract new readers to it? Off hand I can only think of one example and it's not a strong one. Last year I read "New York" by Edward Rutherford. I loved it and it became one of my favourites. I will eventually read others by this author. I picked it up because of the title. I had not long been on holiday in New York and so I was curious about the book. Had it not been for that I would have dismissed it as potential mass market trash because that's what it looks like (I do like a trashy mass market book now and then but I stick to specific ones). Maybe that's a problem with me being so judgemental but I wonder how many others have dismissed a fantastic book because of the cover?
Here is where I contradict myself. I do actually also like a trashy cover. You know those naff covers from the 70s? I like them. I find them amusing and I would pick a second hand book based on that.

2. Shiny book covers. I'm talking about the ones that have a film of plastic over it to make it shiny. That film of plastic peals so easily. A book store sticker will destroy it. Sometimes just carrying it in your bag will leave you with a book half matt and half shiny. This isn't restricted to mass market books.
No contradictions here. I really do hate this.

3. Changing book covers. Yep another book cover peeve. Don't worry I am not completely shallow. There will be others coming up. I hate it when half way through a series the publisher decides to release them all with new cover designs. It seriously irritates me. I can understand why they do it. Usually it's because the author has moved up in popularity and they want to make the most of it. Annoying for those who have enjoyed the books since they were first published. I am one of those anal types who likes their books to match. I especially hate it when the new designs are nicer than the old ones.
Not really a contradiction I don't think. My ex ended up with a series of my favourite books. Me being week I chose to lose the books than having to see him again. A few years later the books were released again with lovely new designs. I took that as an opportunity to replace all the earlier ones and I actually do prefer this new design.

4. Airport editions. This is a new pet peeve. They didn't bother me before. The airport stores would get a hardback sized edition of a new book with a soft cover. This is all to do with weight and they were limited to the airports. The bookstores got the hardback ones. Now though some publishers are releasing them to bookstores too. Not instead of the hardback but as an edition between the hardback and the paperback. The publishers don't advertise it as that though. They advertise it as paperback. If I had wanted a book that size I would have bought the durable hardback.

5. Ridiculous story lines. I can suspend reality when reading. I love the original and I love the minute detail authors can go into when creating an unlikely world. I enjoy reading horror and science fiction and I am aware that to some these realities are ridiculous (in that mostly they are never going to become a reality). I am okay with that. I am expecting it and I like it. There are times though when authors take it too far. The prime example of this is Audrey Niffenegger's "Her Fearful Symmetry". Most of you will know that her previous book was hardly based on reality. I am fairly certain that people don't jump through time. Still, I liked it. Her next one involved a ghost. It was the most ridiculous book I have read in my life and I seriously wanted to damage it. I never damage books. I hate breaking the spines but I was close to tearing it in two or, at the very least, tossing it across the room. Apologies Twilight fans but Breaking Dawn is another example. I can only suspend reality so much.
Contradiction is my recent love of Kathy Reichs. The coincidences in these books would fall into the ridiculous category. The main character goes on holiday and she just happens to come across bodies that are linked to a case she had been working on in another country. It amuses me and it's one of the reasons I keep reading.

6. Perfect endings. I am generally quite open minded when it comes to endings. I don't mind happy ones or open ones or even sometimes slightly confusing ones. I do confess to liking the unhappy endings. I hate perfect endings. I think some people confuse happy endings with perfect ones. You can have happy without the perfect but the perfect must always have the happy. Things conveniently tie up and sometimes those ties make no sense or it's far too easy. I am usually waiting for the catch.

7. Series Mojo. If you have read my booking through Thursday response you will know I enjoy a series. I do think that it's inevitable that a series will eventually lose it's mojo. The novels formula becomes far too predictable and the characters are just repeating the same thing over and over again. I really do wish that they would end the series on a high and with a fantastic ending that slowly killing it with boredom. The Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich are a perfect example. I don't think there has been anything new for the last four or five.
Yet I will still buy these books although I am no longer as soon as they are released. I will read them purely for Grandma Mazur who is still entertaining (and Ranger). I do think Grandma Mazur should get her own series.

8. Characters that go out of character. There was a book I read not that long ago that did this. For the life of me I can't remember what it was and it's itching at the back of my head. No doubt it will hit me six months from now. Anyways, I do understand that the author has artistic license with their characters. It's their creation and up to them how they think they will react to any given situation. To have a character change all of a sudden though is irritating when it makes no sense and it's only for that one brief moment.

9. Product placement. A problem that is usually linked to films or television. I have seen it in books though. I don't mind products being there for a reason. Description is a very important part of a book. Product placement seems to be a bigger part of YA these days. They are more likely to mention ipods or converse, etc. Generally speaking it doesn't bother me too much especially if it is important. There are some books though that mention the same product over and over again and it's really unnecessary. The House of Night series springs to mind. I lost count of the number of times Starbucks was mentioned in them. Yet instead of mentioning cola it describes brown pop. In later books the product has changed (I can't remember what) but the placement is still there. Is it to keep up with the trends of youth? I don't know but I hate it.

10. Dialect. I have seen this mentioned on a few blogs. I am not a fan of reading in dialect. It slows down the pace of the book and after a while it becomes annoying. Many authors are able to describe a characters accent or origins without using this. I have a specific dialect I hate though. If you aren't Scottish I beg you not to try and write in a Scottish dialect. It's mortifying. I dare these authors to read some Scottish fiction written in true dialect and see if they can understand it. If they struggle then they shouldn't try writing it themselves. It's not only irritating I am generally going to be offended by the stereotyping. House of Night series again does that. I am all for Scottish characters. Just not bad imitations. I am assuming that everyone feels the same about their own regional accents?

No contradictions for the last two. I did use the same series of books though as an example. So why read them? I get a kick out of everything that is bad about them (and there is a lot). I love nothing more than to rant about it. Predictably, as the series has continued these rants have grown and it's not fun anymore so I have stopped reading them. Bet you are pleased there will be no ranting reviews of them here.

Booking Through Thursday

Series? Or Stand-alone books?

My all time favourite books are stand alone and my favourite authors write only stand alone. In these cases I think that turning the books into a series would dilute the goodness of the book. One example is my favourite from last year "The Lacuna" by Barbara Kingsolver. It had so much packed into it and I loved every second of reading it. In my mind the ending is clear (although if you have read it you can see why some people might not think so). I think to pick it up again and continue with it would spoil it somehow. There is no way a second book would be as good as the first. The same is true of another book I recently read by this author "The Poisonwood Bible". Again a lot packed into it and you can tell a lot of love went into these books. The ending is clear and I wouldn't want to read a second book even if it wasn't. I know that the second book wouldn't be as good as the first. Favourite authors who only write stand along include Haruki Murakami, Douglas Coupland, Margaret Atwood (for the most part), John Irving, David Mitchell and Ian McEwan. I would rather see what their imagination next brings rather than another installment of one of their previous books. Maybe because I have read so many of their other books that I know the next one will be as different as the others.

That's not to say I don't like a series. I actually enjoy a series as much as I like a stand alone. It's comfortable. You pick up a book in a series you love and you already know most of the characters. You might not know what's in store for them but everything else is familiar. It's relaxing and I suppose could be described as comfort reading. How many of us love a good boxset? It's the same thing. You don't need to think too much and when you have had a stressfule day there is nothing better. The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich is a good example of that for me. I know all the characters. I can probably predict what is going to happen. Yet I still love them. Some series have more to them than that. The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde is another favourite. Not quite as predictable and has lots of little detail that keeps interest going each time. I do feel though that when a series has lost it's mojo maybe it is time for it to end. I believe that it should end on a high with the readers still wanting more rather than once the readers are bored with it. Oh, and end it with a bang too. The Stephanie Plum series can be used here again. It has lost something. The last few books have been a little more than predictable. The only reason I read them now is for the exploits of Grandma Mazur (and the delightful Ranger). I thought the Thursday Next series was going down that way too but if you have read my review of the last book you will know I have since changed my mind.

So to finally answer the question, stand alone or series, it's all about mood. They both have their good points and whilst series does have more bad points it has it's place. In need of comfort then pick up a series. In need of something with more kick then pick up a stand alone.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Confessions Of A GP - Dr Benjamin Daniels

A year in the life of Dr. Benjamin Daniels as a GP. He openly lists his reasons for going into medicine and then fills the pages with some very humorous stories. Mixed within those stories is the odd rant at the NHS or people's perceptions of it.

I picked this book up because I loved those similar by Max Pemberton and then the Paramedic tales by Tom Reynolds. Unlike the others this one is slightly confusing. It's supposed to be a year in the life of a GP and yet mixed with those stories are tales from medical school and his time in hospitals. There is no linear structure. I would be okay with this if there was any other structure to it but there isn't. The stories themselves appear to be in no order. If they were from a blog such as the Reynolds book that would maybe make sense but they aren't. Just randomised thoughts and that bothers me a little. Mind you, that maybe says more about me than the book.

For the most part the stories are very funny and it is worth a read. It's also a bit of an eyeopener as to how people see their family GP. For me it's a chore. I need to be almost dying to go and I honestly can't remember when I last went. I have had more hospital visits than doctor visits (and those are rare too). Lucky me you might think but people seem to visit their doctor for a chat. It came across that GPs are more like a community councilor than a doctor. I am sure this may irritate some and feel that it is a waste of their time but this is certainly not the impression I got from this author.

There were of course a couple of rants mixed in there. I dare anyone to be able to write about your place of work and not have a single rant. The rants though are rare and for the most part they aren't really aimed at the NHS itself. I did find a few of them dull and I confess I skimmed some of those.

Overall I did like the book. It made me chuckle and it was a light read. Not as good as Max Pemberton or Tom Reynolds as with those I did learn something. Now all we need is a nurse to bring out a book with their tales. I am sure that would be just as (if not more so) interesting.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Broken Window - Jeffery Deaver

Lincoln has been called in to help his cousin Arthur who has been arrested for murder. He didn't do it. The person who did knew his routine, what he drove and what he bought in order to be able to plant evidence. Looking into it further Rhyme realises that 'the person who knows everything' has done this before and is likely to do it again. Rhyme must uncover the murderer before he starts picking out his team. How can you beat someone who has all information at their fingertips?

I have been on a bit of a crime spurt the last few weeks and this is the fifth crime book I have read in a row. Deaver is the first author that drew me back into the genre and made me think that I had misjudged it. I don't particularly like his stand alone books but I love the Lincoln Rhyme and now the Kathryn Dance series. I love the fact that I can guess most of the book but there is still a big surprise in there somewhere. I think if that bag surprise disappears then I will probably stop reading the books. The social side of the book irritates me at times mainly because I would rather it moved on. Thankfully, I am not alone in that as I discovered recently that it annoys a friend too. I can put up with it though for the rest.

Like most of the later books in the series I start the book feeling vaguely disappointed. I think that this book isn't going to be quite as good as the rest and maybe the series has lost it's edge. Usually something makes me change my mind. In this case the killer was made known to the reader straight away. We had insight into what he was from page one. In past books this is done to confuse the reader and there is usually a twist in there. Not in this case. The killer is exactly as he is portrayed just his identity might come as a surprise although I did guess correctly in the end. The identity theft plot I found a little dull although scary that companies have such detailed information on everyone. I wasn't even half way through the book when I found my mind turning to what I planned on reading next.That soon changed though. It actually got quite exciting when the killer picked up and began targeting Rhyme and his team. It didn't seem like they would be able to beat him.

Overall I still think that it's one of the weaker books in the series but Deaver should be applauded for trying to make it slightly different from the rest. It certainly hasn't put me off reading more.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Booking Through Thursday.

It's been sometime since I have taken part in this. In fact it's been a few years and another blog ago. I miss it and I came across a reference that made me think of it again. Having a book blog gives me the excuse I need to take part again. I was actually in two minds whether or not to start this week. It's a serious subject and I wasn't sure I wanted that for my first foray back into the meme. However, it did get me to thinking and I wrote a reply in my journal. Having thought it over I decided to post it after all.

The news has been horrifying and addictive this week, with catastrophe piled on catastrophe, to a degree that–if I had read this in a book or seen it in a movie–I’d be protesting that it was just too unlikely, too farfetched.
But, topics for novels get ripped from the headlines all the time. Or real-life events remind you of fiction (whether “believable” or not) that you’ve read but never expected to see. Or real life comes up with an event so unbelievable that it stretches you sense of reality.
Hmm … I can’t quite come up with an outright question to ask, but thinking about the theory of fiction and how it can affect and be affected by real world events can act as a buffer between the horrific events on the news and having to actually face that horror. So … what happens when the line between fiction and reality becomes all-too slim? Discuss!
Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

This all of course depends on what you read. I can safely say that the bulk of what I have read in the last couple of years wouldn't become a reality. I don't see many werewolves or vampires making the news.

However, I do love dystopia novels as I have mentioned a couple of posts ago. I think in most of these cases (ignoring a few YA dystopia novels) it's a warning. Authors are looking around them and they don't like what they see. So they write "this is what could happen if we aren't careful". Of course they write about the worst case scenario and they are meant to scare and waken us all up.

In most cases such as Asimov, Orwell and Atwood people no longer think for themselves. They live under threat if they do no comply. I am pretty sure we see instances of this every day in our own lives or on the news. In each of these instances it's the fault of mankind. We allowed it to happen. In reality many readers will come away worrying about it. How often have you heard 'big brother is watching' and not in terms of the reality show?

This question of course relates to the events over the last few weeks which is all the more scarier since mother nature is to blame. How can we combat that? Who do we rise up against? Did we cause this? Of course that last question could lead on to even more discussions. Really though there is no one to fight. How can you fight an earthquake? So we all feel a sense of helplessness and send aid.

There have been so many of these large catastrophes lately that it does seem almost like fiction is becoming reality. The only books that I can think of that come close though is a series by Kim Stanley Robinson. Very much like "Day After Tomorrow". We have damaged our planet and ignored all the signs and it then fights back. Sadly I don't know how it turned out as I only read the first book. I have a feeling it didn't turn out well.

Moving away from that other than the dystopia books I can't think of any I have read where life imitates art. I was a huge science fiction fan years ago (I still enjoy it now and then) and I am sure that there are many things from those that have come to be a reality. I am sure I remember reading Arthur C. Clarke had predicted a few things correctly. My reading of these books though was so long ago that I couldn't give specifics but I am sure they related mainly to technology rather than current events.

Now my favourite books tend to be based on past events. Authors take the history of a place and integrate it into their novel. "New York" by Edward Rutherford is a prime example and was one of my favourite books last year. I learn a lot from these types of books and whilst they might not be quite as scary they do occasionally shock.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Deja Dead - Kathy Reichs

Dr Temperance Brennan is an anthropologist working in Quebec and trying to escape her failed marriage and drinking problem. She is called out to identify the bones found at an old site. What she finds is the remains of a young murder victim. Going against Detective Claudel she looks further into it and discovers that the young girl may have been the victim of a serial killer. Meanwhile, best friend Gabby is being stalked by one of her research projects. Can the two be linked or has Tempe's investigation put herself, friends and family in danger?

Remember a while back I picked up Bloodlines after watching Bones. I was in the mood for gritty American crime novel Which wasn't what I got. Well I finally picked up book one in the series of books written by the same author who wrote Bones. Probably what I should have done in the first place. Now, I should point out that I was very much aware that the Temperance Brennan of the books is completely different to that of the tv show. I knew she was older, had a potential drinking problem, a failed marriage and a teenage daughter. I just wasn't quite prepared for how different the characters actually were. Book Tempe is far less clinical and very much works with her emotions. It's also set in Quebec which I also wasn't exepecting. Not that the setting bothers me that much. If anything I quite enjoyed it although it did remind of other books set in New Orleans (possibly because of the heatwave in the first book).

I have to say the book was a little slow in starting. I don't normally have a problem with first person narrative but in this case it did irritate me. It felt like she was explaining herself too much or going into more detail about her day to day life than I really needed to know. It also felt like the author feels her readers aren't that bright (I am sure this isn't true). I didn't need to be reminded again and again that French is the dominant language of Quebec. I got it the first time. I don't mind the fact that French was dotted through the book. It adds atmosphere. I just don't need to be told it's Quebecan French over and over again. Only one other thing irritated me and that was the constant mention of Tempe's struggle with drink. I realise it's a part of who she is and it is important during some parts of the novel. I felt though it was brought up just a few times too many and sometimes in irrelevant places.

Other than that I quite enjoyed it. I liked that this Tempe is very different. I liked the plot itself too. I did actually think I had it all worked out but turns out I was wrong. A sign of a good book is when the ending is surprising. I think I have to remember that this was a first novel and all the things that irritated me in this one is probably down to that. I can definitely say there was one thing I did love about Tempe, she grades handshakes. I do that too which is probably why I find it so amusing. I will definitely be reading others (because I enjoyed it not because of the handshakes).

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Delirium - Lauren Oliver

Scientists long ago discovered that love is actually a disease and they have found a cure. At the age of 18 everyone must go through surgery to receive the cure. They are then partnered off depending on their interests, grades and how well they did during evaluations. They are also told if they are able to go to college first or start their family straight away as well as how many children they will have. Everyone is happy. Lena believes this and is looking forward to having the cure which is just 95 days away. She knows more than anyone what the disease can do to people. Her only anxiety is doing well during the evaluations. Her best friend Hana on the other hand has doubts and voices them only to Lena. This just makes Lean nervous. The last thing she wants is the disease. She just wants to erase her family history by making her remaining family proud. That is until she meets Alex who shows her that love might not be a disease after all. Now straight laced Lena is the one breaking the rules and in the process learning some truths about the world.

Dystopian novels seem to have replaced the paranormal ones in the teen genre. Or at least that's what it feels like since I have read so many of them recently. I normally love that type of novel but not this time. It felt too familiar. It actually reminded me of Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. Both involve teen girls living in a society where they believe that an operation is going to make them happy. Both have best friends who have their doubts although Hana seemed to ignore hers in the end. Both have a summer until their procedure and are counting down. Both meet someone who makes them see that these procedures are a form of control. Both have a resistance group although the resistance group in Uglies is more pronounced and part of the story than it is in Delirium. The focus in Delirium is definitely the love story and trying to keep it. The focus in Uglies is the love story but also the secrets behind the society and those trying to bring it down.

It was a good read but I was too aware of the similarities with the other book. Maybe if I hadn't read Uglies not so long ago I would have enjoyed it more. If you look at the list you can see you can't help but make comparisons and I have to say Uglies was the better book. There was more meat to it. I enjoyed the resistance part of the story more than the love story as it brought more excitement to it. Unfortunately Delirium only used the resistance when it helped the love story.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Emotionally Weird - Kate Atkinson

Effie is on an remote Scottish island recovering from an illness with only her mother, Nora, for company. After discovering her surname isn't actually what she thought it was she tries to get Nora to tell her about her beginnings. Nora is reluctant and instead Effie finds herself telling tales of her life in Dundee as a student. Broken up with Nora's critique of her story and occasional information on Nora's family. It's also broken with pieces of course work fiction from Effie and sometimes her class mates.

This was recommended to me by a friend and it took a little convincing to get me to read it. I always thought of it as chick lit for the middle aged (going by the majority of customers who would by books by Kate Atkinson). I couldn't have been more wrong. At least, there was nothing remotely chick lit about this particular book. Effie is a witty narrator telling tales of her fellow students and her constant ability to avoid essay deadlines. Each of the students are a little and her professors are a little off the wall. It's what makes the tale so interesting. That and my personal favourite, professor Cousins. I would happily have read more scenes with him.

Nora's critique of Effie's story is also quite funny and at times I certainly did agree with her. She pointed out that nothing seemed to be happening and it certainly seemed like it at times. I felt frustrated reading it during these moments and if it wasn't for Nora and Effie's course work I would have given up on it.

It did eventually all tie up and I am glad that I did finish it after all. The parts that I found a little dull were worth it over all. Not one of my favourite books I have to say but certainly different and I would definitely try another book by the author.