Tuesday, 29 May 2012

House Rules - Jodi Picoult

Jacob Hunt is 18, very intelligent, with a family who loves him and has Aspergers Syndrome. His entire life revolves around routine and his family trying to ensure that they stick too it. All to prevent him from having a breakdown and so that he can lead a normal life. His intelligence is great almost to the point of genius and he focuses that on various subjects. His current obsession though is forensics and his mother does what she can to encourage him. However, when a family friend turns up dead Jacob's behaviour is thought to be that of guilt to those who are on the outside looking in. His family must do what they can to prove them innocence as they become social pariahs and even they have their doubts as to Jacob's innocence.

I haven't read a Picoult in years and in all honesty I didn't expect to be reading another after hating the first one. A friend though, suggested this when I mentioned I was going to be spending a couple of weeks looking at mental health. Otherwise I wouldn't have given the author another chance.

There were a few aspects of the book that I liked. Mainly the fact that it covered so many voices. If I remember correctly the one book I had read by Picoult was the same. However, in this one it gave rise to interesting perspectives. The reader got to see how families cope when a child has Aspergers and how siblings see it as their parents attention mainly revolves round the child with the syndrome. It also showed how those with no previous understanding of it might see it. It showed the impatience those who don't understand might feel and how odd the behaviour of those with Aspergers might seen. More importantly the book gave Jacob a voice. We saw how the world looked to him and how he viewed his own disorder (which he didn't view as a disability or disorder).

For that reason I did enjoy it for the most part. It was easy to read and the characters were easy to like. Although to be honest Jacob is the only one in there who I would say is memorable. The mystery aspect of the book was a little predictable although I probably could have lived with that. The book itself badly needed editing. It was so repetitive that I was tempted to give up about half way. There was no need for half of the examples or asides in there. It felt like it was trying to push home an idea that it had succeeded in doing about 100 pages before. It definitely could have used some tightening and tidying making it a better read in half the pages.

It hasn't changed my mind about reading more of the authors books. There would have to be a reason similar to me picking up this one to try another.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Not Missing, Honest!

I promise that I will be posting regularly again soon. As I am on placement I am extremely tired (but happy) plus my uni has placed all the course work into a short period of time. So my days off are spent in the books or in uni itself.

It should lighten off soon though and I will hopefully get the chance to read non-nursey books. More importantly it will give me a chance to go round your blogs and see what booky goodness I have missed.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Mrs Dalloway - Virginia Woolf

Clarissa Dalloway is throwing a party in her home. First though she has a day of errands to prepare. As she goes about her day she bumps into friends from her past and even old flames. This causes her to reflect on her past and wonder what would have been or whether she made the right decisions in life.

That wee blurb really doesn't do this fantastic book justice but that is essentially what happens. Except as she goes about her day the book also enters the minds of others that she comes across. It's done so fluidly that it can surprise you that you are reading someone else's thoughts and experiences. It's the 1920s and everyone is supposed to be celebrating the end of the war. It is the roaring 20's after all. The atmosphere at the start of the book does reflect that somewhat but as we delve further and further in we see that not everyone has a reason to celebrate.

Perhaps the most obvious is the thread of Septimus Smith who is traumatised after returning from the war. However, he isn't the only one. Dalloway's old flame, Peter Smith, has hit hard times himself and must rely on friends to find him work. Then there is her daughter's tutor who is angry that life hasn't given her the freedom she expected. Instead she lives in poverty and has to make do tutoring.

There is more of course which shows that the book really isn't about a lady of class holding a party to help her husband socialise with those who can help him in his career. Each of these characters had their dreams and none of them realised them in a way. Or if they did it turned out not what they expected. Dalloway's daughter is the only one who still dreams of her future and this makes her the perfect contrast.

Such a short book and yet it managed all this and managed to give everyone of these characters great depth.  I felt that I came away knowing every single one of these characters. What I loved the most was how easily the book flowed from one character to the next without having to break. Look forward to reading more books by Woolf in the future.

I read this as part of the classics month challenge hosted by Katherine of November's Autumn. I haven't done the prompt yet which is about the period of the book. I think it would be fairly interesting to discuss but not sure if I will manage it this month. See what my schedule is like when I get it tomorrow. Otherwise, I highly recommend this classic. Don't be fooled by the frivolous sound of the blurb. Oh, and yes, this is another Vintage classics cover.

Monday, 7 May 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This is a book meme hosted by Sheila of Book Journey. A great way for everyone to share what they've been reading.

This was my full week off from assessments before I go back (tomorrow) for my summer semester (oh, how I envy all you non-nursing students right now). I had plans to do a lot of tidying and crafts and instead I did a lot of reading. Glad I did though as I have enjoyed my week. Especially my trip out to the library and a visit to friends. Anyway, I have had a good reading week as a result.

Oh, forgot to mention that I gave up on Possession by A.S Byatt. I just couldn't continue with it. Nothing was happening and instead I felt the author was just trying to be clever or show off which didn't work for me. Instead it was very dull. Maybe I will go back to it but at this moment in time I doubt it.

This week I read;

The Sense of Ending by Julian Barnes. This was one of my library books. I probably wouldn't have read it otherwise which would have been a shame. I would have missed out on a good read. Surprised by how quick it was to read.

Martin Misunderstood by Karin Slaughter. Another library book although one my mum borrowed. Supposed to be just a bit of fun rather than something to take seriously. Didn't particularly enjoy it much.

Preacher: Gone to Texas by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. Read this for the graphic novel category of the mixing it up challenge. This category is a little out my comfort zone this time although I did read some last year. This one made me feel a little uncomfortable and then I surprised myself by actually getting into the story near the end.

Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter. The first book by Slaughter and the first in the Grant County series. Decided to finally read the first one after accidentally reading the last back in December. One of the characters I still don't like but other than that I enjoyed it. Better quality writing than most of your basic crime writers.

Just now I am reading;

The Granta Book of the American Short Story edited by Richard Ford. Haven't read much of it this week. Think I read only one story. Been too busy concentrating on other books. Still enjoying them though and I am coming up to one by Richard Yates which I am looking forward to.

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I am reading this for the classics challenge. I picked it because I had never read any by this author before. I am loving it. I actually wanted to finish it last night but I was just too tired to stay awake.

Next I plan to read;

House Rules by Jodi Picoult. Another library book. I definitely wouldn't have bought this. I read one Picoult book before and I wasn't impressed. I just didn't get all the hype surrounding her. A friend of mine recommended this one though because one of my placements this summer will be within mental health.

Did anyone else have plans for other things but spent it reading instead? Got any books that you just can't put down?

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Blindsighted - Karin Slaughter

Sara Linton is the towns pediatrician and coroner. Needless to say she leads a busy life and most of that is spent avoiding ex husband, Jeffrey Tolliver, who happens to be the towns chief of police. She is late for lunch with her sister and after placating her she heads to the bathroom. There she finds Sibyl Adams, a local college professor, on the toilet bleeding to death from deep knife wounds. Poor Sibyl doesn't survive and when a few days later another girl disappears Sara and Jeffrey believe they may have a serial killer on their hands.

So before Christmas I read the last book in the Grant County series (mistakenly). I enjoyed it and was glad that I had read the last one because of the ending. So this is me now starting at the beginning. I have to say that after the first few pages I had to double check that this was actually the first. Thanks to reading the last book first I got the impression that the divorce of Sara and Jeffrey occurred during the series. Actually they were divorced two years at the start. That's what I get for being smart I guess.

I said in the last review that I didn't particularly like Sara. I still don't. Despite the fact that she tries not to be condescending she still is and that's not exactly a likeable trait in a character. Although possibly a trait Doctors are well known for (I'm lucky that I have yet to come across that myself). She also is still very cold. There are reasons for it which we learn about during the book. However, in the last book she was cold too so I don't think she changes much through out the series. I have my doubts as to whether she will grow on me. I don't completely dislike her though and I do like her ex, Jeffrey so there are enough good main characters in there to keep me going. Besides, life would be boring if I did like all the characters.

It was well written too. Probably one of the better written crime books I have read. Despite all the background information we are given we are also kept going by the investigation which we discover is somehow linked to Sara's past. Enough is going on with that to make it an exciting read. Especially with events that occur about half way through the book. Most authors, I think, would leave this particular incident to somewhere near the end for the main character to come along and save the day not long after. It was refreshing that it wasn't done this way. There was also no way I would have guessed who the culprit was before I was supposed to. I don't think there were any real hints other than one which wasn't really enough for me to guess. It's always nice to be surprised so I see that as a good thing.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Preacher: Gone to Texas by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

A demon and an angel fall in love and together they create genesis, a creature so great it could be greater than God. Kept under lock and key by the non-warrior angels it one day manages to escape and heads straight from Earth. There it finds Reverend Jesse Custer, a minister who has lost his faith and has taken it out on his flock. It becomes a part of him and together they head out on a search. They come across Tulip, the Reverends ex-girlfriend, and Cassidy, an Irish Vampire, who join him in his search. God is hiding out somewhere on Earth and has been since Genesis was born. The Reverend is looking for him and determined to get some answers. Thanks to Genesis he might just be able to force them out of him.

I didn't really know what this was about when I bought it. I am sure I have told this story but lucky you I am going to tell it again. A good few years ago a friend was shocked that I had never read a graphic novel. I am well known for my geekiness and to him it seemed only natural that I should have at least tried them. To be honest reading a graphic novel felt a little like cheating but I got a list of recommendations and bought quite a few and then didn't read them. Last year I had a graphic novel month to get through them and found that I enjoyed them for the most part. This one was left over.

In all honesty I am not a religious person although as a child I did go to church and Sunday school. So I know a little about the real story of Genesis. Reading this felt a little blasphemous, even to me. Felt odd that I should feel that way considering I have read many books that would probably be considered so and never batted an eye. This one though had me feeling a little uncomfortable. Also it has a lot of violence. Again, I don't mind violence in books usually. In this one though it almost seemed to have violence for the sake of it and the images were quite graphic. Lastly, why is it always the female that is depicted as the demon? I know this is a reflection on Adam and Eve but it would be nice if just for once it was the other way round. Although all of the Angels in this book seemed to be male. I wonder if that meant all the demons were female. Either way I couldn't help but be a little offended by that.

In short reading this book made me feel like a disapproving old wifey. I don't like that feeling. Especially since it's really not me, or so I thought. Having said that I eventually got over it and about 3/4 of the way through I was actually enjoying the story. Later on one of the side stories is about two cops on the hunt for a serial killer and this was where my interest caught. By the end of the book I actually surprised myself by sort of liking it.

I won't be reading the others in the series though. Liking the last quarter of the book isn't enough for me to read the rest. Plus, to be honest, I think the story line of chasing God across America could become a little boring. The images were well done, must be if it added to my discomfort. I have begun a to notice that in most graphic novels which are a compilation of comic books that the cover of the first one is done in perfect detail. I couldn't help but admire them in this one.

I read this as part of the Mixing It Up Challenge hosted by Ellie of Musings of a Bookshop Girl. This was for the Graphic novel category. This time a category that really is out of my comfort zone as they are still relatively new to me. Although I didn't really enjoy it I haven't been put off and I still intend to read more. If you want to see how I am getting on with the challenge you can see my first post here.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Martin Misunderstood - Karin Slaughter

Martin Reed is one of life's loosers. He was a nerd at school and picked on as a result. He is now 36 and still lives with his mum. He thought that things would change since he is now an accountant but alas no. The popular people are still there ignoring him or picking on him. His office is next to the toilets and his assistant bosses him around. Still, he has his crime books and he loves them. One day he goes into work to discover that one of his bullies has been mowed down in the street and all the fingers are pointing at Martin. Martin didn't do it but he can't actually tell anyone where he was that night.

Another library book I read in a couple of hours. This one was actually picked out by my mum but I ended up reading it first. It's supposed to be a funny read but to be honest I was a little bored by it and didn't find it funny at all. The only good thing about it was the constant references to other crime books and shows generally made by Martin.

Despite that I did actually feel sorry for Martin. For a looser he is actually quite eloquent in his speech but then that's probably further fodder for the bullies. Most of the time though I found the other characters rather annoying. Such as the detective on the case, Martin's mother and his assistant. Then of course Martin doesn't really help himself in the end all because he finally is someone.

I have read one other book by the author before and I liked it. In fact I am reading another just now. This one I think she must have wrote just for a bit of fun. We aren't meant to take it seriously. I just didn't enjoy it all that much.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Sense of Ending - Julian Barnes

Tom Webster is retired and spends his days running a hospital library and having lunch with his ex wife. Out of the blue he receives a letter from a lawyer. It has been sent on behalf of someone he had half forgotten about and never expected to hear from again. This letter has him thinking back to his past starting with his school days when his friends and himself befriended new boy Adrian Finn. This letter makes him think that how he saw those times might have been different from the way others saw it.

This is the book I got out the library on Wednesday and read it in two hours. Somehow it seems funny that a 150 page book could win the Booker prize, especially when you compare it to Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. Not that you can since they are both completely different. I don't think I read any of the other books in the short list so I can't say whether I think it deserves the prize or not. I did however, quite like it. It was a simple read and kept me entertained for a couple of hours.

It starts off with the narrator reflecting back to his school boy days and meeting Adrian. I found this section to be quite funny. These young boys are clearly intelligent but so full of their self importance. It would be hard to take if the narrator wasn't poking fun at himself and his friends as the tried to be different from their parents. Despite how short the book is you do get a sense of who the narrator is, or at least who he thinks he is. I quite liked him. He knew his own faults although perhaps not all of his faults but then we don't always like to review faults within ourselves. In the end he just wanted a quiet life and that was what he got.

I even liked him in his university days although I think this is where a lot of reviewers dislike him and this is where the main events really take place. He meets girlfriend Veronica who sounds like an absolute delight. However, all the things he talks about I put down to youth, including a rather cutting letter which Tom wrote in a moment of heat and upset. It all leads to Tom's present day mystery but sadly Veronica isn't telling. Which I found so completely frustrating. It's that old line "If you don't know then I'm not going to tell you". People aren't mind readers so I think it's understandable that Tom doesn't get it and so begins investigating his past.

I liked the reflection over the years. It was very easy to read as was present Tom's attempt to unravel the mystery. I don't think the ending quite answered everything though. At least not to my liking. We know what happened but we don't know how it happened. There is a very small hint but I am nosy and I wanted all the details.

As I said I quite liked it. Nothing to get excited about but it was a good read despite the fact that Veronica irritated me no end. I can see myself reading more by the author at some point which I think is a good sign.

Oh, one last thing on the small book subject. I'm not saying that a shorter book can't win prizes. It's just unusual these days for modern fiction writers to write a book in under 200 pages. It makes a nice change and I think that it takes talent to be able to do that too.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

In Which I Have Fallen In Love With My Library Again!

I always plan these non-review, non-meme posts but somehow never manage it. I think the last one was way in the early beginnings of my blog and it was a debate over e-readers (still undecided on that one by the way). Since I have the time and the inspiration I'm going to do one now.

I am sure I have mentioned already that I have recently begun visiting my local library again. I think most people who have been big readers from childhood would say that the library was a big part of their lives growing up. It certainly was for me. Again I am positive this isn't something I haven't said here before. I loved my library. I can't even remember getting my first library ticket I was so young. I remember visits with just my mum and sister. I remember visits with the whole family. My sister and I would be at the children's side looking through books. If we saw one we liked the first thing we would do is run across to the adults books to hunt out our parents and show them. It always seemed like a long hunt because of course then the library was ginormous. I remember going home as a family and sitting reading with no TV on until it was bed time (although my sister who could barely stand the quiet would wonder off before then).

Whilst I don't remember getting my first library card I do remember getting my grown up card. I was so excited about that because it meant more books. Of course my mum was already loaning out my excess books for me but I now didn't have to rely on her being there. Plus I liked the fact that my card was no longer pink. I think it was from then on that I had many visits to the library myself or with my best friend. I even started taking trips to other libraries. I probably wouldn't have read most of Stephen Kings backlist by now if it hadn't been for those libraries.

I didn't actually intend to stop going but I got my first job and the first thing I started buying was my own books. We all know how addictive book buying is. Especially when previously getting a book of your own was a treat. Of course I bought more books than I can read (and still do). After my degree I began working full time in a book shop and of course that also meant discount and my book buying increased. I was an advocate for our libraries. More than once I expressed my outrage at the threat of closures. Yet somehow not finding the time to go back (yep, my BF has admonished me over and over for this).

I am a student again and on a budget and even though I somehow have less time I have made my way back to my library. Except it's not my library anymore. My old library has moved into an architecture winning building. It's all modern, concrete and metal. You no longer have to be quiet. There is a cafe in there. Also the local swimming pool, college and arts center are all under the same roof. I expected to be horrified by this but whilst I still feel nostalgia for the old building (I can only find images of the outside which is an ugly building) I like this modern new look.

I was there a few weeks ago with my sister and I was impressed by the selection of new fiction books. I was back there again today with my mum this time. My mum has gotten out of the habit of visits too thanks to my staff discount over the years. She has been encouraged by my successful visit to go back. There are no hushed tones and the tables are filled with college students. Gone are the old men in the corner who are there every week, every year, sleeping. The coffee shop even sells alcohol. Why that should surprise me I don't know but it did. We stuck to the coffee though which was quite nice. I like the idea of having online access to my library account and being able to request books that way too. I've already borrowed a few books that I probably wouldn't have bought myself. I can see many visits in the future, especially now there is coffee on the offer.

Oh, and funnily enough these images aren't mine. They actually came from architecture websites.