Sunday, 29 November 2015

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

“They walked to the east, all four of them, away from the sunset and the lands they knew, into the night”

Neil Gaiman is a masterly spinner of tales of infinite variety. In The Sleeper and the Spindle he reworks a classic fairy tale, well actually kind of two, into a hauntingly beautiful and original work. Accompanied by the rich illustrations of Chris Riddell, this is a delight.
I think I just got a little too effusive in my praise, I just knocked coffee all over my top. Fear not it was already cold.
Back to the slim sixty something pages of gorgeousness. I am entirely grateful to the fabulous Nicki for lending me this attractive volume. Any chance to walk in the wondrous world of Gaiman is one I would gladly take. Did I mention there is a kick ass queen?

 5 out of 5 fairy tales can be beautiful and non Disney-like.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

“Again she had lied about what had brought her to Rome.”

A collection of short stories that is a delight to discover. I must be one of the few people who haven't read The Namesake, and I confess I shall have to seek it out now.
Lahiri crafts such human tales full of feeling and emotions that seem so real and uncensored. My reason for seeking this particular work out was its inclusion on a top ten love stories list   - i've only got 1 left to read out of the ten.

While the protagonists share a Bengali heritage, their stories are universal. Who can't relate to revisiting the big love from their teens and perhaps not disclosing their feelings at the time to their current partner? These short stories are exquisitely realised and I certainly devoured them with relish.

5 out of 5 good things come in little packages.

The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham

"At 9:00am they stood between the dingy shelves in their Dior skirts, huge and domed in yards and yards of taffeta, their hems brushing the tops of Nugget boot polish tins and show white bottles and rattling the hanging shoe horns."

Yet another occasion where I've read the book after seeing the movie. I absolutely loved the movie with the ever luminous Kate Winslet and the oh my god could he be more gorgeous, Liam Hemsworth.In fact, it was hard to think about the contents of the book without drifting off with thoughts of a half naked Hemsworth.

The book is brim full of the dark humour so fantastically captured in the novel, it being the source material, that is hardly surprising. Tilly Dunnage returns to the home of her birth to a mad mother and a town that is hardly likely to roll out the welcome wagon. As someone who grow up in a place where they felt like a complete outsider, it is tempting to revel in Tilly's revenge ridden return.

The novel throws in conspiracy, couture, tragedy and deep secrets to great effect and it is well worth the read.

5 out of 5 women swoon at a half dressed Hemsworth.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

NOPI: The Cookbook by Yolam Ottolenghi

"Don't be put off by having to prepare the octopus here"

Can I really review a cookbook or I am just trying to up my goodreads book challenge numbers ? You decide. it may be obvious. 
After tasting some of the amazing recipes included herein at my friend's house, I was tempted to buy a copy for myself. What I should have read is the fine print.
It is stated within the book that the recipes are neither easy or quick. What was I thinking?

 3 out of 5 times I've cursed the fact I have insufficient time to  cook up a storm.

Soundless by Richelle Mead

"You can hear?"

I have been quite the fan of Ms Mead's work for some time now. So when I didn't give this particular piece of work the top score, it had more to do with judging the work in the context of her other fantastic stories. Richelle Mead is fantastic at delivering a fully realised series as the Vampire Academy and (my personal favourite) the Georgia Kincaid series.

Now back to this standalone offering. It is reminiscent of my love for Snakes Alive - the confectionary variety. That is to say that I enjoyed it but fell a little guilty afterwards. It is easy to swallow but not as fantastic as some of Mead's other stories. 

So much time was spent in exposition that I felt the pay off was a little short changed. If perhaps this became a series, then the story could develop more comprehensively. There were certainly some moments that drew me in and they made this an enjoyable experience.

4 out of 5 silent whispers.

London Fields by Martin Amis

Love can make a woman pick up a bus, or it can crush a man under the weight of a feather. Or it just lets every­thing go on as it was yes­ter­day and will be to­mor­row. That's the kind of force love is."

Being one of those people that has to read a novel before it gets a cinematic outing, and given that this novel was due for a big screen rendition, I was destined to check it out. I felt like I needed a shower after I finished it. There's something grubby about Amis, and quite possibly a little misogynistic. Keith Talent really grossed me out. Paying for sex with a minor is just one of his disgusting outlets. Nicola Six just didn't seem real. She appears almost like the construct of a man who feels that women are both attractive and yet repulsive. Portions of the writing are well rendered and that is all that I have that is positive to say.

2 out of 5 times I felt tainted

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

"Instead, she makes herself stare at the mess and recognise that she is no longer a slave"

This amazing science fiction novel, that took out both the Hugo and Nebula awards, is somewhat like the genetically modified uber baby of Phillip K Dick and, well, all the amazing science fiction authors you could contemplate.

Perhaps that sounds a little too much like literary idolatry, forgive me, I'm a little prone to superlatives.

Humanising a non human construct is central to the plot and the title. Bacigalupi demonstrates, through the treatment of the windup girl, some of the truly horrific aspects of human behaviour. Created to exhibit automatic sexual response and continually demeaned and degraded, the windup girl's treatment is reminiscent of the recent gender equality results the government published - sickening.

The best science fiction turns a skewed mirror on what it means to be human. This is exactly what is on offer here.

5 out of 5 fake humans point out our flaws

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Manners and Mutiny by Gail Carriger

"That'll teach you to question a lady's wicker chicken"

Oh Ms Carriger, say it isn't so!  Have you really delivered the final instalment of the Finishing School series? I so enjoyed my time with the girls hell bent on finishing in line with the requirements of espionage and intrigue. While certainly a junior version of the parasol protectorate series, it was just as enjoyable - occasionally more so.
Sophronia fans will absolutely revel in the joy that is Manners and Mutiny, just as I did. There will be vampires, werewolves and dirigibles, not to mention picklemen. Yes, Finishing school fans, this one really delivers.

I will miss my time among your pages,

5 out of 5 cups of tea

Big Fish by Daniel Wallace

"She got into his brain and drove him crazy"

So many people have a complicated relationship with their father. I think that's why the movie version of this novel elicits tears, or so it did with me. My Dad left home every day at 5am and returned late, working hard to give his children a more privileged existence. While i appreciate all he did for us, I often think of the disconnect that distance created and that was the feeling I got from the film.

Unfortunately I had less of an emotional response to the novel. The book sets out, as the movie adaptation does, to repair the disconnect between a child's perception of his father's tall tales and reality.
 4 out of 5 unusual times where I prefer the movie.

Madame de by Louise de Vilmorin

"There are some memories which burn and consume, there are others which freeze and kill"

This little gem, pun intended, tells the tale of a pair of earrings, secrecy, deception and the perils of re-gifting. Famously adapted by Max Ophüls as The Earrings of Madame De in the 1953 film, this short novella is a quick and easy read.
In 69, well there's that number, pages this tale spins a web of frivolity and deceit that is as tantalising as french champagne, and just as easy to swallow.

4 out of 5 baubles that happen to be diamonds can turn a girl's head.

Monday, 23 November 2015

James Bond Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz

“Everything about her body language spelled trouble, the way she had casually turned away from him, the way she was walking now, the uncaring sway of her hips”

Cards on the table, I am a massive James Bond fan and am really enjoying these re-imaginings made possible by Ian Fleming's estate. Anthony Horowitz has a particular skill for re-inventing the classics, as his work on House of Silk attests, If you read my reviews you will know I wasn't as keen on the sequel.

This retro Bond adventure, complete with Pussy Galore (the momentarily reformed Lesbian) and some high speed car chases is a blast and about 1000 times more enjoyable than its latest cinematic cousin, Spectre. I can't even begin to describe my displeasure about that one. What a waste of the sublime Monica Bellucci! 

Back to the novel and this one is the perfect stocking filler / holiday read just in time for Christmas.

5 out of 5 kiss kiss bang bang.

Friday, 6 November 2015


“He turned again, in the opposite direction, deflected the blade flying toward his temple, made a swift feint and attacked.”

I can understand why this series morphed into a computer game. Reading it was just like playing a great fantasy RPG with plenty of skirmishes to keep things fresh. The short stories are a constant source of action and feature all manner of scary beasties from vampires to djinns, to anything and everything in between.

Geralt of Rivia is a witcher, prepared to take on any monstrous foe. Killing is not his only comfort, sometimes he even gets the girl. If you want some escapism that is easy to digest, grab yourself a copy of The Last Wish.

There will be blood, there will be violence, there will be magic – you have been warned. Things escalate at an alarming pace in Geralt’s world, where whole towns can come crashing down as a result of a strange fishing incident. You might even encounter an elf.

5 out of 5 fantastical foes fight fair.