Monday, 23 February 2015

The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead

“It was shocking to me, so I could only imagine how Sydney must feel.”

I have a guilty confession, I can’t resist the YA outings of Richelle Mead. I loved Vampire Academy, let’s face it I wanted to be Rose! The only draw back was choosing between Dimitri and Adrian and then that caring author that she is, she created the Bloodlines offshoot with extra Adrian Ivashkov. All guilty pleasures must come to an end, and in that vein (get it – vein), this enjoyable treat delivers its final instalment.

When last we left Sydney and Adrian, they had gotten married. It has been about a year hasn't it since I read the last volume. I devour them in a night, a bit like a packet of peanut M&Ms, although without the calorie count. The path of true love between supernatural hunters and vampires never did run smooth and there are some final shocks in store.

Dream walking, the dangers of spirit over use, magical spells, missing people and road trips to Canada, no wait, it just seems like Canada, it is all here.

For those Bloodlines tragic, I'm doing this spoiler free. Was the ending neat? Yes. Did I want more, naturally. Did it make me feel older.... you betcha Even the YA kids are growing up - don't do it kids - grow old disgracefully, YA fiction in hand.

 5 out of 5 magic spells keep your heart young

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

"He had a demon on both  shoulders, urging one another on"

I have to say I'm usually quite a fan of Mr Pratchett's work but this one left me cold. Certainly i read it in fits and starts and perhaps that is the reason why I struggle to recount exactly what happened.
Apparently a bit of time travel, the odd titter of an amusing bon mot and heck maybe I just need to read this one again but I have little to no interest.
Also, not enough appearances from my favourite character, Death, but when he did appear in his capitalised gloriousness it did make me one happy reader.

3 out of 5 sometimes I should pay more attention.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

England Made Me by Graham Greene

"He disapproved, he didn't believe in girls drinking, he was full of the conventions of a generation older than himself. Of course one drank one-self, one fornicated, but one didn't lie with a friend's sister, and 'decent' girls were never squiffy."

This one is a strange one, but as with most Graham Greene novels I’ve read to date, I loved it. 
It has a very contemporary feel despite being first published in 1935; with shady deals by International business men at its core.

In an interview, Greene noted that he had  “a particularly soft spot for England Made Me [1]”.

It revolves around a strange relationship verging on incest between twins Kate and Anthony Farrant. Anthony is the loveable loser, always giving up on career prospects and trying to pull the wools over some one with his fake old school ties. His sister has found a new life in Stockholm with the powerful businessman, Krogh.

Kate’s relationships with the men in her life are strained and counter to what is expected. Her dalliance with her employer is a business transaction, whereas her heart lies with her brother.

Her brother is a complete opposite. Needing his sister as a life raft financially to get back afloat while abandoning himself to his affair with Loo. It seems love is the victim of commerce at the centre of the novel.

Krogh is the eponymous head of Krogh's; whose considerable wealth sets him apart from everyday life and whose aim to stay on top trumps any other moral considerations.
Clearly things will not end well, but you will have to read it for yourself and find out.

5 out of 5 fake school ties are a noose.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Platform by Michel Houellebecq

“Sen­ti­men­tal adu­la­tion and sex­ual ob­ses­sion have the same roots, both pro­ceed from some de­gree of self­less­ness; it's not a do­main in which you can find ful­fil­ment with­out los­ing your­self.”

Well I am completely shocked that I liked this one! Seriously, I've read a few of Houellebecq's novels before, generally mortified that someone might read over my shoulder and be offended by the graphic content,and relatively not on board, yet this one seemed to say so much more. Juxtaposing sex tourism, terrorism and the loss of joy in life and all it holds, this is very much a tale of our time.

Unlike some of his other works, where I felt, he just hated women. This one seems to give them, well Valerie specifically, more of an equal footing. Not just the source of pleasure, but a partner in exploration. So, **spoilers**, the ending was a bitter pill to swallow.

The black humour about sex tourism and the planned resorts was equally amusing and repellent, but I persevered to the conclusion. There are moments of real insight apart from the more carnally focused adventures and these are splayed against horrific violence and poverty to drive the point home about the rape and pillage of the third world.
In the age of the 'selfie', and self-obsession, the following quote seems particularly apt:

 "Not only are they ashamed of their own bod­ies, which aren't up to porn stan­dards, but for the same rea­sons they no longer feel truly at­tracted to the body of the other."

That is not to get on board with the notion that sex tourism is the answer, but it certainly hints at some of the messed up situations of today's crazy world. The hero's drunken notions come to fruition with disastrous results and there is a palpable sense of loss at losing something real, intimate and equal. Or, if you are of a more base inclination, this book has a lot more sex than that stupid Mr Grey book.

5 out of 5 expansive notions and expanding zippers.

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

“But there was some­thing about the way Frank fed my mother that made the whole thing al­most beau­ti­ful, like he was a jew­eler or a sci­en­tist, or one of those old Japan­ese men who work all day on a sin­gle bon­sai.”

This is a concise work of beauty and I am so glad that I've delayed seeing the film version until reading the original work. It expertly elicits the emotional torments of love, lost, denial and adolescence in an enticingly concentrated form.

Henry so desperately seeks a solid masculine figure in his life, as does his mother post the rejection of her husband and the torments of too many miscarriages. Tragedy has forced Henry's mother to spurn society and live in a strange cocoon-like half life with her young son. Henry feels rejected by his father and at odds with the society around him, cut adrift without any guidance.

Enter Frank. The hulking spectre of pure masculinity that enshrouds a sensitive heart. A man on the run from the law, a dangerous man; and yet one who will indelibly imprint on the sheltered divorcee and her son.

The writing is emotive and draws you in. You feel every inch of teenage confusion through Henry's eyes, but also sense the sheer magnetic draw of Frank and Adele. Stirring stuff.

5 out of 5 ways to avoid speed dating, take in a fugitive.

Monday, 9 February 2015

The Mythology of Sylphs by John Martin

“If I don’t leave the shadows now and stand with her in the light, I consign myself to them forever”

This is a new one for me. Usually, my thoughts on a book are untouched by any direct access to its creator.  A recent email correspondence with the author of this book convinced me to seek it out and now I feel a little daunted by posting a review.

That being said, here goes... There are elements of this tale that seem completely foreign and others that really drew me in. I could identify with the hopeless romantic longings of J for his classmate Ariel. They reminded me of my own kindergarten courtly love  style obsession with my classmate ending in rejection and embarrassment.

Here J is the picture of perserverance overcoming a violent family life, poverty and bullying with a fixed view to winning over dancing Ariel. Her story is equally complex. It is not a perfect story but so embued with emotions that I was moved to give it the score below.

5 out of 5 smart, complicated women can also play the romantic lead.