Monday, 26 November 2012

1Q84: Bk 3 - Haruki Murakami

The last book in Murakami's trilogy. Both Aomame and Tengo are ins seclusion and both have someone after them. Both are continuously thinking of each other despite not having seen each other since they were children. Tengo is staying with his father who remains comatose in a hospital in an isolated town. He stays there longer than he originally planned just in the hopes of seeing another vision of Aomame. Even if that means he might become stranded there. Aomame is herself in hiding from the religious group she attacked. On her first night there she spotted Tengo in a park staring at the moon. She is now determined to stay there in the hopes that he will appear again. Even if that means her life is in danger.

I know, I know, I finally read the last book. I read the first two back in November last year. That's almost a year between reading (you can see my review for the first two here). I didn't lose my excitement or my enthusiasm for these books. I just really hate reading from hardbacks no matter how much I was looking forward to it. Anyway, I got there in the end.

You would think that because of the huge gap I would have forgotten everything. That's the way my mind normally works. I would usually have to read the first two again. This time I didn't have to. The book sort of gives a brief synopsis of what happened without you realising it's doing it. It's threaded into the story without being dull or annoying (some of those 'last time' chapters irritate me). Murakami was clearly thinking of people like me who hate those update starts but at the same time need them (am sure he wasn't really thinking of me but it makes me feel good to believe he was).

I have read in the last year that this third book doesn't quite live up to the others. I have to say I agree. Once again it was a slow start in true Murakami style. This time though it seemed even slower and I didn't think it was ever going to pick up. Maybe it was the introduction of a third characters point of view that slowed it down. I'm not totally convinced on that though as he was the only one that seemed to be creating any tension or excitement. Tengo and Aomame were just waiting for the majority of the book.

It did pick up eventually though and once again I was glued to the pages of the book. I do think this third character (who is only mentioned in the first two parts) had a big part in that. There comes a point where both Aomame and Tengo are under such close observation you can't put the book down for fear that something will happen without you.

You can call these books surreal, fantasy-like, alternate world and a number of other things. What I think it really comes down to is a love story. Aomame and Tengo made a connection as children. Now that their lives have crossed paths they are constantly in each others thoughts and all they want to do is to come together again.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Return of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle

In the last set of stories by Conan Doyle Sherlock had met his bitter end at the hands of his genius nemesis, Moriarty. Or so we thought. The first of these short stories brings the return of Sherlock Holmes as he tells Watson how he managed to escape his enemy whilst solving the seemingly unsolvable. As a result we are treated to more tales of the wonderful Sherlock by the pen of his trusted friend, Watson.

Yay! Sherlock is back. Although I wasn't quite sure how that was going to happen. The first of these three short stories is set three years after the events of the last one in the previous collection. We hear all about Holmes and his adventures. What we don't hear is what happened to Watson in all that time. The reason I am curious is that the tales that follow Watson seems to be again living with his friend. There is no mention of his wife or of his practice. Did he leave both for Holmes? Not that I could blame him but I would like to know.

The next 12 stories follows the same style as the rest. Not that I am complaining as I could never be bored of them. There is no puzzle too small or too large so long as Holmes finds it interesting. He saves the country from war, saves a man from hanging, discovers who stole and exam paper and saves a lady from being forced into a marriage.

Holmes himself seems a bit more human in these tales. His three years away seem to have mellowed him somewhat. He no longer takes drugs to save him from boredom (although that threat is always there) and he is more tolerant of people. He even seems to like Lestrade although is amused by his deductions.

I read this as part of the classics challenge hosted by Katherine of November's Autumn. This months prompt is to look back over the last year. I am supposed to pick my favourite from among the classics I have read but I am finding that difficult. I enjoyed most of them. Virginia Woolf is probably the author I am most likely to go back and visit again as I loved Mrs Dalloway. I would also read more by Elizabeth Gaskell. I loved Villette too and I was reminded of how much I enjoy the Bronte sisters. Muriel Spark is another author I am determined to go back to. I am glad I chose The Bell as my first Iris Murdoch as I loved it but didn't so much love The Sea, The Sea which I read later. A Connecticut Yankee In New York by Mark Twain is the only one that I struggled with. That's more because of my mood at the time rather than the book itself.

Best character would have to be Sherlock Holmes. I have said it many times already but I am going to say it again. I'm a little bit in love with him. I am going to be sad when I finished all those books. Mind you, I plan on the films and tv show next. I am afraid I have been poor at visiting other participants. I haven't really got a plan from others posts as to what I am going to read next year. I did visit at the start of the year but things got on top of me.

Friday, 16 November 2012

11.22.63 - Stephen King

Jake Epping is an English teacher in Maine. He is one of the good ones. A teacher who genuinely cares for his students and loves his job. Other than that there is nothing really special about him. Apart from one thing. The owner of his local diner has asked him to do a special favour. He wants him to go back in time and prevent the Kennedy assassination believing it will correct everything that is wrong with the world. Epping is disbelieving of his friend until he steps through the portal at the back of the diner and finds himself in the 1950's. Jake accepts the task but what he doesn't expect to find is love, friendship and a town that he would love to call home.

I picked this book as my one and only Halloween read this year. I would loved to have picked out more but with the readathon and other things I left it too late. I was a tiny bit dubious about this one having been very disappointed with Under The Dome. Despite so many people raving about this one (including my non-horror loving friend) I still had a wee niggle of doubt.

Thankfully I had no reason to worry. True, the book didn't quite match up to all the raving but I still enjoyed it. It wasn't just a simple time travel story. It was a story of friendship, a story of morals and a story of love. Like all King books there are some lovely characters in there and some not so lovely ones. All of them had one thing in common though and that was depth. It's one of the things that keeps me going back to King is his ability to characterise.

I wouldn't exactly call it a horror story. It had some horrible characters, as I mentioned, but it didn't quite follow the supernatural element that King is famous for. There was references to some of his other books mind you. When he does that it always leaves me with a chill. There is a certain town mentioned in this one that all veteran King fans will recognise (I am saying no more).

The only down side is that it dragged a little. I liked the sections of Epping making a life fore himself in a small town. When he would go back to stalking Oswald I felt I was reluctantly dragged with him as I wanted Epping to stay in the town and be happy. Of course that wouldn't make for much of a story. It does pick up again and eventually both lives lead by Epping collide.

If you are like me and haven't been quite so enamored by some of King's newer books then set those doubts aside and read on. It won't be like his classics but it's still a good read.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Books To Die For - John Connolly

This book is an anthology of essays collected and edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke. They have brought together a collection from some of the most current and famous crime writers. The subject of these essays is their favourite crime story. Basically this is a collection about crime writing by crime authors.

This was the book that I wanted to have it's own review. What attracted me to it in the first place was the cover. This image really doesn't do it justice. It's a beautiful clothe bound edition and it stood out from all the other new books around it in the library. I couldn't leave without it. The second thing that attracted me was that John Connolly was one of the editors and, once I read the blurb, the subject intrigued me.

I have been reading crime a couple of years now. Probably just slightly longer than this blog has been running. So I can't really call myself a newbie to the genre anymore. However, reading this book made me realise just how little I have read in regards to crime. There were authors I had heard of but never read and then a good number of authors and stories I had never heard of. Then there were books described that I probably wouldn't have considered trying if it weren't for this book. What it comes down to is that this book is a great guide for people who enjoy the genre and maybe want to read a bit more or try new authors.

As I said, each of the essays is written by a different author and the are relatively short. They all have their own style too. For the most part I enjoyed them all. It was interesting reading another crime writers insight into the genre. A few mentioned that their favourite book was their first foray into crime and probably wouldn't have been inspired to write it if they hadn't read it. Most of them has me wanting to read the books that they describe. I confess that I got a little excited when I came across a book that I had read myself. It was interesting to read what someone else thought of it.

Each essay begins with a small piece about the author of the book that's about to be describe. And each ends with a short piece about the author who wrote the essay. This just added to my interest and meant that I got to learn a lot more about the writers than I thought I would have to begin with. I read this from cover to cover but I don't think you have to read it that way. It's the type of book that you can dip in and out of. Particularly if you are looking for inspiration.

I was a little sad when I returned it to the library and I think I will have to eventually buy a copy of it so I can refer back to it.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Greatest Show On Earth - Richard Dawkins

This book was written as proof to non-believers that evolution did happen. It doesn't just talk about human evolution but uses evidence from all forms of life. It goes back to other natural scientists and expands on what they said as well as continuing with it.

In truth I found this book to be hard going. I may not read a lot of popular science but I do like science. The science parts in my own studies are hands down the most interesting (next to psychology and sociology of health). However, I just couldn't get into this book. It was like one very long and hard slog.

Don't get me wrong. There were parts of it that I found very interesting. Such as the evolution of flowers. Not the human splicing of the flowers but how they evolved in order to attract insects. When shown from different spectrum's seemingly plain flowers have a pattern to them in order to attract insects. Some even have a sort of runway that leads the insect to the pollen. I found all that fascinating and of course there were other areas of interest. He would then put in long quotes and sometimes philosophies and I would drift off again. Granted I was probably still in light read mode but I was still a little disappointed with it.

I think I was also put off by the start of the book. Now I am in no way shape or form a creationist. My religious dad had a way of explaining creationism and still believed in science, the big bang, evolution and the dinosaurs. The religion part didn't rub off on me but the science did. I can understand Dawkins frustrations over the growth of creationism and the removal of evolution being taught in the classroom (which, according to Dawkins, is becoming an issue here in the UK). However, I felt that the first chapter on this bordered on the patronising. It was almost like he was saying you are all stupid and I am going to make you read this book to prove it. Not the best way to try to convince someone they are wrong. That may have been just my impression of that introduction to the book but it was enough to irritate me and want to toss the book aside. Imagine how a non-believer would feel.

Without that I think it could have been a fantastic book but just not one for me. I guess I like my science to be a little lighter when I am reading for pleasure. Or maybe I just like the pathophysiology of science.

I read this as part of the Mixing It Up challenge. This was the last book for that challenge and it was for the science category. I am actually a little sad that I finished it. However, also glad as it has freed me up to choose random books from my tbr pile depending on my mood. If you want to see what else I read for this challenge you can see my original post with links to reviews here. I will be posting a round up of the challenge as soon as I have more time (I've still to do the round up for the league challenge too).

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

No One Left To Tell - Karen Rose

Paige is training to be a PI. Not long after her training begins she is asked by a woman to look into the imprisonment of her son. Along with her daughter in law, she believes that he was set up to take the blame for the murder of a young girl five years before. Paige has her doubts but agrees to take the case. When the son's wife is murdered trying to bring back information Paige loses her doubts and decides to do her best to clear his name. This puts her in danger as someone doesn't want anyone revealing the real murderer or the sordid reasons behind it.

First of all I had intended on more mini reviews but I have one or two books in that list that I need to review independently because they are part of a challenge or because they deserve their own reviews. So I will have to catch up without cheating.

This is one of the latest (if not the latest) book by Karen Rose. I had started to read them in order but this was one of those books I picked up on a whim. To be honest it's not the best of her books but it was perfect for what I needed at the time.

I was able to guess early on who was behind the real murder and some of the reasons behind it. Although I didn't guess the full extent of the crime. Guessing that early on didn't matter though. It's how Paige and Grayson got there that mattered. As they uncovered the mystery they also broke down their barriers and fell in love. Atypical of Rose's formula for her books with an obvious set up for a future book on another tortured couple.

Again that didn't bother me because, as I said, it was what I needed at the time. I needed something light (take out some of the violent content and you get light). I needed something that I didn't need to think about. Most importantly I needed something with characters I could engage in that would allow me to escape from exams and starting a new placement. That is exactly what I got and as a result I enjoyed it. I looked forward to heading home and picking this up.

If you like a wee bit of crime with a bit of romance  thrown in then this is ideal. If you haven't read Karen Rose before though start with her earlier books. I'll be going back to where I left off with those next time.

Monday, 12 November 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This is a book meme hosted by Sheila of Book Journey. Great way for everyone to share their reading week.

Once again it has been a while since I have taken part. Mainly because the last few weeks I have had a shift on a Monday. I'm also a wee bit behind on my blogging. Thanks to four mini reviews today though I am slowly catching up. I'm only going to post about the one week as it would take too long to add them all up since the last time I took part.

Last week I read;

Books to Die For by John Connolly. I had been reading this on and off for the past month or so. It's a hefty paperback so I only read it at home. Worth taking my time over though and now that I have finished I want my own copy (borrowed this from the library).

11.22.63 by Stephen King. I started this as a Halloween read and just finished it last week. Very much enjoyed it. I don't think it quite stands up to all the raving there has been about it but still one of the better recent King books.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. I read this as this months classic choice. I decided to go with something I knew I would love. I wasn't disappointed. I love Sherlock.

Just now I am reading;

1Q84 book 3 by Haruki Murakami. It's been about a year since I read book 1 and 2. Thankfully the story has come back to me. Bit of a slow start but once again it picks up as it goes on. Almost finished it now.

Next I plan to read;

Ringworld by Larry Niven. This is my choice for the sci fi challenge. I went to the library to pick it out not really knowing what I wanted. I decided on this as it's one of those classic sci fi that people seem to rave about. Looking forward to it.

If I get finished with those I will probably move on to the last two Sherlock Holmes books. Will be sad to finish the series but I bet I will re-read them at some point.

Mini Reviews

Almost two weeks into November and I have still to do any posts (other than October's overview). Even more shocking is the lack of opportunity I've had to visit some of my favourite book blogs. I managed to do that a little this afternoon and as a result came across a fab post by Ellie of Curiosity Killed the Bookworm. If you like book covers as much as I do then check out this post about book covers matching her blogs colour scheme. Ooh and ahh over the pretty!

Onwards to some mini-reviews, finally! Most of these were from the readathon which was over a month ago now. Serve me right for deciding not to post them on the night this time. We live and learn.

 A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler

Barnaby is the loser of the family. Having been sent to military school after being caught stealing from the neighbours he takes on the black sheep role and does it well. His parents no longer have expectations of him and instead nag him to do something better with his life. Barnaby however, insists on embarrassing the family by living in a basement, having almost no relationship with his daughter and working as a manual laborer.

I quite liked Barnaby from the first page. He might revel a little in being the black sheep but really he is a nice guy. His job involves helping elderly neighbours and we learn through out the book he goes above and beyond the call of duty. His family might not think much of him but he later learns that his friends, colleagues and clients do. A nice read and a reminder of why I should read more of Anne Tyler. It's not too taxing but the characters have depth and colour.

 Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs

Temperance has been called out to investigate some bones found in the basement of a pizza parlour. Hoping that it's just the bones of some animals she instead discovers the remains of three young girls. Local police see it as a cold case and show no interest. Temperance however, is convinced that the bones are more recent and that the girls deserve to be identified. Tempe decides to investigate on her own and discovers that the girls may have been kept captive and tortured for a long time before death. As she continues to investigate her own life and the life of her friend is put in danger.

Another good read from Kathy Reichs. I have to be honest though. I am more than a little bored of the 'will they, won't they' story line between Tempe and Andrew Ryan. Also in the last few books Tempe has mentioned her worries about her daughter. You expect her (or at least I did) to go into a bit more detail but she never does. That aside the investigation and the main plot line is interesting enough to keep me going. Still not bored of this series.

 Skulduggery Pleasant: Kingdom of the Wicked by Derek Landy

Mortals are all of a sudden developing magical abilities. Abilities that they shouldn't have and have no idea how to control it. People are being hurt as a result. To make matters worse the Irish sanctuary is now under scrutiny from sanctuaries across the world. They have little faith in their ability to control the situation due to recent events. Skulduggery and Valkyrie must find out who is behind this, stop it and prevent mortals from discovering their existence.

Although this is part of one series the series can actually be split up into trilogies. This one is the first part of the final trilogy which means there is only two books in the series left. I have to say that this wasn't my favourite book. I found that it dragged on a bit and was maybe a little longer than it needed to be. It's still worth reading though for the action and the banter between Valkyrie and Skulduggery. The ending though was fantastic and has meant that I am now excited about the next one which I can't wait for. I can't tell you about it without spoiling it but it's a story line that's been on the cards for a number of books now and one I have been waiting for.

Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler

Delia is fed up. For years her family have taken her for granted. She hadn't noticed it before but recently she discovers that she isn't really heard. Her feelings build up until one day on holiday she gets up and walks away thinking no one will notice. She finds a small town and is surprised by how easy it is to start a new life with a new identity. With out meaning to she develops new friendships and discovers something about herself.

Unlike the first Anne Tyler book among these reviews this one was a little slow at starting. We know from the piece on the back that Delia walks away from her family but it takes time before that happens. To the point that I was thinking *just hurry up and do it already*. As soon as she does though I began to enjoy the slow pace of the book. Reading it from Delia's point of view it doesn't seem selfish of her to abandon her family and children. In fact it seems that her children don't need her anymore which is one of her reasons for leaving. She needs to feel needed and in this new town she has that. In the end I probably enjoyed this one a little more. Will definitely not be leaving it years before I pick up another Anne Tyler.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

October Overview/ Month Ahead!

These last few months have flow in so quickly, or is it just me? This month feels particularly fast but I think that has something to do with that I am now back on placement and will be there until Christmas. I am still managing to get some reading done. The place I am at works on 13 hour shifts so by the time I get home I head straight to bed with my book. I am quite enjoying that though. The only down side is that I am far behind in my reviews. So far behind I am thinking of compiling some of them into mini reviews just so I can catch up. I will probably do this with the readathon books although it seems a shame to do that since I did enjoy those books.

Thanks to the readathon I managed a total of 9 books which is the most I have read in a month since May. Speaking of readathon I raised £176 for SAMH. Big thank you to those who donated and cheered me on. I also finished another challenge (again, still to review that last book). So that will be two challenge overviews I will have to do. Last year in October I asked everyone for Halloween read suggestions and basically read not much else for that month. I would have liked to have done the same this year but October crept up on me unawares. Plus I very much want to get through the rest of my tbr pile by the end of this year. So at the end of the month I picked up a Stephen King from that pile which I should finish over the next few days.

Enough blabbering here is what I read this month;

1. The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner
2. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court - Mark Twain
3. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
4. A Patchwork World - Anne Tyler
5. Monday Mourning - Kathy Reichs
6. Skulduggery Pleasant: Kingdom of the Wicked - Derek Landy
7. Ladder of Years - Anne Tyler
8. No One Left To Tell - Karen Rose
9. The Greatest Show On Earth - Richard Dawkins

At one point I was reading 3 books at once this month (two of which I still have on the go). That's because I was reading The Greatest Show On Earth and at home I needed something light since I was too tired for anything else hence the Karen Rose and now Stephen King. The other book I am reading is a book of essays about crime writers. It's a huge hardback so not the easiest book to carry around.

My favourite book this month is a tie between Ender's Game and A Patchwork World. A Patchwork World has a slight edge over the sci fi just because it was nice to come back to an author I had read once before and rediscover how good she is. Least favourite was The Greatest Show On Earth. I found it a little dull and in the beginning a little patronising too.

Challenge Overview

 For October I chose A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain. It hasn't been my favourite book of this challenge so far. I think though that was entirely down to the mood I was in. I was wanting something that was entirely humour filled and instead I got tongue in cheek with a serious undertone. At another time I would have loved it. This month I am going to go with The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. I've loved all the other ones and I see no reason why I won't love this one.
 For the sci fi challenge I read Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card which was one of my favourite reads for October. When I signed up for this challenge this was one book that was a definite must. Glad I managed to get a hold of a copy. With any luck I will be able to get my hands on the rest of the series. I haven't picked a title for the challenge this month. No more sci fi books in my tbr pile. I may join in the group choice or see what the library has on offer (due a wee visit).
This is the challenge I finished this month. I finished it with The Greatest Show On Earth by Richard Dawkins for the science category. Not my favourite book ever. I usually enjoy the science side of things but in this case I found it a little dull. Maybe because I was too busy to concentrate properly but I also didn't like Dawkins tone at the beginning of the book. It feels strange not to have another category to chose from. However, I have enjoyed this challenge quite a bit and look forward to sharing an overview of it.

So that has been my month. Fairly busy and hectic but it was still a good one. Other than my classic title I'm not sure what I will read this month. I keep changing my mind. There are a few on my tbr pile that I am looking forward to reading. I am thinking that it is more than time that I read the third installment of 1Q84. I'll probably read that alongside the Sherlock Holmes since it's another hardback. I also have a few chunky books to read. Has everyone else had a good October?