Friday, 31 July 2015

The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon

“D'ye ken that the only time I am without pain is in your bed, Sassenach? When I take ye, when I lie in your arms-my wounds are healed, then, my scars forgotten.”

As we open on the 5th gigantically sized tome that is The Fiery Cross,  we find that hunk with a kilt Jamie, his handy wife Claire, their Daughter Brianna, her soon to be hubby, Roger and baby, Jemmy are firmly ensconced in Fraser’s Ridge, North Carolina.
I flew through this one, namely due to the absence of my favourite Jamie Fraser look alike. The literary one kept me company through the long, hard, cold, lonely winter nights. Thank goodness for that kilted wonder and for short term absences. But I digress, what’s new I hear you say?

This is an expansive tale that incorporates a number of plot trails that meander at a relaxed pace which makes for a comfortable read. As the ending drew near, I confess to skimming a little, mainly because my friend Nicki was reading it at the same time and my competitive urge kicked in.

The family tree is getting more and more convoluted and I confess to often wondering who some of the minor characters are. This is possibly hampered by the lengthy break I’ve taken between novels. Random House have a helpful family tree online – thank you Wikipedia and Random House.

So now it appears I have only 3 more books in the series left to read. I dare say I might space them out- it is difficult to get around with an absolute brick in your handbag. Mind you, I’m dying to see what happens next and there is a distinct satisfaction in completing something so hefty. I’m feeling some definite bad Salem vibes on the horizon, time travel and witch craft might not be just the thing for these times.

5 out of 5 draughty kilts.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The Martian by Andy Weir

“Things weren’t 100 percent successful”

Perched on a park bench, delighting in the warm winter sun beating at my back, I devoured this fantastic work of Science Fiction. When you're left behind on Mars with little hope of rescue, there are two very likely outcomes, death or miraculous rescue.
The constant threats that might end Mark Watney, his ingenious problem solving and tenacity, make for an amazing read that you will find very difficult to put down.
His "screw you, I'm going to survive this" attitude makes him strangely accessible, I could totally relate to some of his rock notes back to base.
The action is constantly on the edge, making for a white knuckle ride better than any roller-coaster.
My reason for seeking out this particular novel was its upcoming movie adaptation. As you might already be aware, I'm a stickler for reading the book first. I find it hard to think of Matt Damon as the novel's hero, and for that I'm grateful. Sometimes ones perceptions can be a little tainted by the big screen. Despite those reservations, I am still exceedingly keen to see the film, particularly if it is half the wild ride the book is.

5 out of 5, this is what sci-fi is all about - science, thrills and frenetic page turning.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Angel Time by Anne Rice

"His success as a killer derived in no small part from the fact that tall and graceful as he was, blessed with beauty as he was, he didn't look like anyone in particular."

I know you’re asking yourself why? Why is a confirmed atheist reading a book about Angels? Well I love a good story and I do love a good fantasy story. Having been, in the past, a massive fan of Anne Rice’s vampire works, I thought I’d give this series a try.

Apparently, given that this novel was first published in 2009,  I'm a little late to the party. The initial parts of the book were far more interesting to me, the present day action introducing the assassin, Toby O'Dare.

The central premise of the series occurs upon Toby's meeting with Malchiah an angel, who proposes to utilise the assassin's skills throughout history to help with his angelic efforts.
That's about where my interest started to derail. Nonetheless,  I persevered. It will be interesting to see where the next novel in the series takes this.

3 out of 5 seraphim are just too goody two shoes.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Joy in the Morning by P G Wodehouse

"Unchain the eggs and bacon. I will be with you in a moment."

Wodehouse is the perfect antidote to foggy, cold,winter weather. A tonic for the hardened soul. I've been ducking into this little bundle of joy, not just in the morning. Jeeves and Wooster are one again embroiled in adventures to avoid unwanted matrimonies and difficult aunts and uncles.
Wooster has to avoid the violent leanings of Stilton Cheesewright who wants to thrash him for apparently stealing the heart of his intended. He is also tasked with arranging a clandestine meeting on behalf of his Uncle Percy, queue mistaken burglaries, unintended promises and one heck of a crazy kid called Edwin who really sets things alight.

Will Bertie survive the unthinkable circumstances of a fancy dress ball without the correct attire? Will he unwittingly end up married or will Jeeves save the day? I think you can guess what happens, and that will in no way detract from your enjoyment.

Published in 1946, this one still delivers the giggles.

5 out of 5 butlers can source the most unlikely costumes.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

The Young Visitors by Daisy Ashford

"Mr Salteena was an elderly man of 42 and was fond of asking people to stay with him."

How does one review a story written by a nine year old? Indeed, how is it possible that a story written by a nine year old  and published in 1919 continues to be read today. Well, for a child, it is strangely insightful and hints at much while saying little.

Social climbing by those born on the wrong side of the blanket seems an unlikely storyline for such a young child and yet that is one of the two main paths of the plot. The other being a love story. There are a number of little jaunty episodes and quite a few weddings and children to round out the ending.

So, my score below, is a testament to the fact that I really didn't love this one.

2 out of 5 wannabees hang out with royalty.

The Book of Joan by Melissa Rivers

"She always said that chivalry wasn't dead, it was just hiding in Argentina like the old nazis and it was her job to ferret it out."

Reading this while at the hairdressers, I have to confess to laughing out loud on numerous occasions, resulting in some strange looks from the other customers. Joan would have been proud of the way I began my evening all coiffed and made up - let's not talk about what I looked like after dinner and a marathon bar crawl - that's another story.

Little anecdotes are recounted in an engaging and familiar tone. As a reader, it feels like Melissa's tales are told with a good dose of side eye and winking. In any case, this entertaining raconteur could give her recently deceased comedienne mother a run for her money in the laughs stakes.

5 out of 5 hilarious anecdotes end in laughter.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd

"I am in the Pitte, but I have gone so deep that I can see the brightness of the Starres at Noon"

If you have read my blog, then you will know my obsession with ticking off must read books and this one appears on a number of lists. From the 1001 lists to David Bowie's Top 10, it has also taken out the  1985 Whitbread and Guardian Fiction Prize. I have had a pretty crazy work week and have been reading this in fits and starts in the wee hours before bed.
it oozes a dark tone, a dark nightmarish tone that lingers.

Perhaps my experience of this novel, seriously distracted by other events, detracted somewhat from fully appreciating its merits.

On reflection, I bumped up my score, due to the strange ickiness that seemed to remain with me after the last page. Not surprising given the human sacrifices, murders, creepy church locations and temporal disconnect. Should you feel like a voyage from ye olde english architectural dramas through to more modern detective fiction, then this may just fulfil your needs.

4 out of 5 dark places lie in the shadows.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Here We Go Again by Betty White

"It wasn't really a Greek tragedy. I only thought it was."

I don't think anyone could NOT  love Betty White - she is adorable. Betty's most recent book is a chatty view of her life in television. I admit to being acquainted with this grand dame only since her work on The Golden Girls, who knew what a stunner she has always been.
The photos demonstrate that mega watt smile has been beaming since 1939 on and off the tv screen.
From numerous iterations of The Betty White Show  to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls  and beyond, Betty has enjoyed a lengthy career with some delightfully memorable occurrences. That being said, I think this book failed to ignite the same kind of delight that the actress spills on screen.

This is pleasant, forgettable fare, a good airport read.

3 out of 5 twinkling eyes aplenty.

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler

“It was the purest fact of her life: she did not understand him, and she never would.”

There are some books that are so delicately realised that their impact isn’t felt straight away. This one certainly falls within that category. Reading it feels less like you have immersed yourself in a novel and more like you’ve lived through the turbulent times of a family whose expectations of life are never fully met.

The book opens with the departure of Pearl's husband which is handled in such a gut wrenching fashion that was both difficult to read and at the same time, unforgettable. The impact of his running off has ramifications for the rest of her life and that of her children - Jenny, Ezra and Cody. I could go on about the storyline, but I think this is a tale best experienced untainted.

I was almost going to give the book a lower score, but it stayed with me, in a weird combination of familiar and troubling. Every family has their problems, but this one has quite a few, and its intriguing to explore them together.

5 out of 5 family dinners can be difficult.