Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday # 14

Here we go again...  This weeks TTT is all about Beginnings and Endings.  Mostly I have featured endings, as those are the things that stay with me, good or bad.  A book may have a great beginning but if the middle and end don't live up to it you can forget that it had a good start, but you rarely forget how a book made you feel at it's conclusion.

So here's my list of Top Ten Beginnings and Endings...


The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.  Excellent start, little bit of a damp squib for an ending but really fun story to read.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."  As a single woman without a fortune I can wholeheartedly agree.  Nice ending too, if you're a romantic like me.


Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  Probably also would sit the Beginnings section as well.  I love this story, and it's a must in our house when we feel the need to get into the Christmas spirit...

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.  This builds up and up and up the whole way through, the clues were there, but it was such a huge surprise.  Brilliant!

My Sisters Keeper by Jodi Picoult.  I read a lot of her books around the same time as this, and I thought I had the ending all figured out.  I was only part right.  I imagine this will make a few people's lists.

Catching Fire Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.  I'm expecting this to be a popular appearance on lists.  This was the third in the Hunger Games triolgy and as such was the culmination of a brilliant series, and such a let down.  EDIT: Goshdarnit I got my books mixed up.

Animal Farm by George Orwell.  And in the end the pigs are indistinguishable from the humans they'd deposed.

Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe.  Technically a play, not a novel, but worthy of inclusion.  Great opener, brilliant story but it's his inevitable demise which makes this incredible.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.  It was good all the way through, but the ending is truly wonderful.  Have a full box of tissues at the ready.  The great and wonderful Helen at Fennell Books got to meet Rachel Joyce at an Author event (I'm emerald with envy) and was able to tell us that Ms Joyce wrote this book while her father was dying of cancer.  The significance of Harold's journey across Britain is particularly poignant when you know that the author was afraid her father would pass away on her journey's to and from his bedside.  If you haven't read this book yet DO IT NOW!! Probably the best book of 2012, and right there at the top of my all time favourites!

The small print:  The Top Ten Tuesday meme originates at The Broke and The Bookish, check out their site for more information.

Absences and Excuses

I just looked back on the last few weeks and realised how lax I've been at keeping this blog up to date.  Lately I've been ill, and also had some bad news in my personal life which has seriously impacted my reading...  I don't seem to have been able to read much, or concentrate on a book for long, so I haven't had much to blog about.

I half read Dissolution by CJ Sansom for the book club.  I gave up half way through as I didn't care about the victims, the investigator, the suspects or anything else.  Others thought it was OK, but it just wasn't for me.

I did read The Greenwitch (book 3 in the Dark is Rising sequence), and do plan to post a review for it soon.  Also the great and wise and far-better-read-than-I Helen from Fennell Books and are still discussing our joint blog post about Harold Fry (featured in todays TTT) and I hope to have that for you sometime soon.

On the plus side I have one of my favourite books of all time as this month's book club read... The book that got me interested in Science Fiction, Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverbergs collaboration on Asimov's short story 'Nightfall'.  I'm hoping this book is as great as I remember and inspires me to read again.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday # 13

Well here we are, another Tuesday, another list.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is the Top Ten Words/Topics that will put you off a book.  I managed 9.

1.  Crime
2.  Serial Killer
3.  True Story
4.  Autobiography, or Biography for that matter
5.  War
6.  Assigned Text  (if I HAVE to read it, I automatically don't want to).
7.  Poetry
8.  If it's been hyped to death
9.  Vampire

My absolute nightmare book would have a blurb that read something like this:

"The critically acclaimed must-read book of the decade! An Autobiographical True Story of a Serial Killer's war-zone crime rampage, and the Vampire poetry that inspired him".  If it were made into a required reading for a course or something I think I'd have to kill myself.

The small print:  The Top Ten Tuesday meme originates at The Broke and The Bookish, check out their site for more information.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday # 12

This week's Top Ten List is Authors who deserve more recognition.

As it turns out a fairly topical list, given the recent news regarding JK Rowling.  I was going to put Robert Galbraith on the list as well.

OK, I confess, I wasn't going to talk about Robert Galbraith at all.  In fact I'd never heard of him or his book until all these shenanigans with JK Rowling and her pseudonyms.

I suppose this highlights the need to share with fellow book lovers when we find an author whose books we enjoy.  The book in question was apparently very well received, but was priced rather high, and lacked publicity, leading to only 1500 sales in several months.  Not bad for a truly new author, but a highly disappointing return for a publishing house who've paid out a fortune in advances.  Quick convenient leak to the press and suddenly the book rockets to the top of the charts.  Ms Rowling certainly doesn't need more exposure, so I'll move on.

I tend to read well established authors generally speaking, usually discovered many years ago by people with their fingers firmly on the pulse (unlike me).  I'm afraid I only came up with five, but will try to be more prepared next week.

1.  Arto Paasilinna.  Author of many books, and quite successful I believe, but not many of his stories have so far been translated into English (he's Finnish).  He wrote a wonderful book called The Howling Miller, which was one of the first I reviewed on my blog.  I would love to find more of his books translated into English.  Sorry, but it's unlikely that I would be able to master Finnish.

2.  Susan Cooper, of the Dark is Rising fame.  Everyone I know had heard of her, but even though most of the books were published during my early reading years and I was a voracious reader I only heard of her when the film was published a few years ago.  Now I look back on my Enid Blyton days and think of missed opportunities.  I'm definitely getting a set of the books for my niece to enjoy.  It would be nice to see more people talking about these, but maybe it's just too late.

3.  Scott Lynch.  A writer I was introduced to at a Book Spa event, I loved loved LOVED The Lies of Locke Lamora.  The follow up was pretty good too.  Both have been reviewed on my blog.  Sadly Mr Lynch suffers from depression, and the follow up promised books have no planned release dates that I'm aware of.  Like the dedicated fan I am I will wait as long as I have to.

4.  Jasper Fforde.  yeah, you knew this was coming right?  I see many reviews for The Eyre Affair.  As book lovers my fellow book bloggers could hardly turn away from a book about Jane Eyre and living inside the stories we love, just as I couldn't.  Though there are many good reviews, I rarely see reviews for the rest of the series, or his other Nursery Crime series.  The Thursday Next books get better and better after The Eyre Affair (with a bit of a blip in book 6), and the Nursery Crime series is just brilliant, though I do wish there were more than two of them.

5.  Bee Ridgway.  I saw an ARC review of The River of No Return a little while ago, and decided to get a copy when it was released and wasn't disappointed.  It was her debut novel and I would definitely recommend it.  I thought it was going to be a pure sci-fi book with maybe a little light romance thrown in for good measure.  There was more romance than I was expecting/hoping for, but it was still a very enjoyable read and I will be buying the sequel.

I can't wait to see other bloggers' lists and get some new suggestions.

The small print: The Top Ten Tuesday meme originates at The Broke and The Bookish, check out their site for more information.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A belated Top Ten Tuesday (# 11)

Oops, I did it again.  I missed a week... and now here we are with two TTT's in one week.

It's been a crazy couple of weeks in our house.  I haven't even had a chance to read either... :-(

Anyway... here's last weeks list:  Top Ten Best/Worst Movie Adaptations.

I have decided to split this in two, though not the way that was suggested.  My first 5 are my favourite current book to movie adaptations, many many many forgotten that would be worthy, but there you are, the vagaries and inconsistencies of my mind.  The second 5 are the books I'd like to read having watched the films.

My 5 favourite Book to Movie Adaptations

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, I know it gets some criticism but I liked it.  I loved seeing Panem come to life, and I'm looking foward to Catching Fire and especially to finding out if the film-makers can improve on the disappointing end to the final book Mockingjay.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, Surprisingly a fairly faithful adaptation. I'm sure there are more highbrow adaptations I could include on my list, but I just read this, so it's right at the forefront of my mind.  I also just read The Sea of Monsters in advance of the upcoming film, here's hoping they do another good job.

The Green Mile by Stephen King.  Technically the story was serialised in six books, but later combined into a single edition.  This is one of those times where the film was so spot on utterly brilliant that it is at least as good as the book.

The 1962 version of To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.  Nuff said.

Technically I think the movie came first, though I could be wrong.  The Princess Bride by William Goldman.  Mum worked for a video rental store on the day it was released on video (yep good old VHS). I had the day off school sick.  I watched it three times in a row that day and it's been a favourite film ever since.  I remember the film claimed that it was based on an original book by S Morgenstern.  This book doesn't actually exist (it never did), though Goldman as the screenwriter has produced the story as an apparently abridged version of the non-existent Morgenstern's book.  Going by the fury expressed towards Goldman on Goodreads reviews this little deception enraged readers everywhere. I love that the book refers to passages that have been excluded, such as the multitude of pages describing Buttercup's trousseau (if I remember it correctly it was something like 28 pages of hats or some such nonsense).  Inconceivably Brilliant.

My top 5 books to read based on the movie adaptations

Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King, one of my (and many peoples's) fave films of all time, I didn't realise at first that this had been a book.  It's now on my must-read list.  Especially since it's a Stephen King book and considering the greatness of The Green Mile.

Schindlers Ark by Thomas Keneally.  Again, I didn't realise Schindlers List was based on a book (I only saw it for the first time a year or two ago), but although it's a true story and I normally hate true stories, this one I think will be particularly special.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey.  I actually find the film hard to watch, and I'm hoping the book will be the same.  Something makes me feel like this is not meant to be an easy read, but would be worth the effort.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.  I saw the film on it's cinematic release, and have been meaning to read it ever since.  I was given it as a World Book Night book last year, but haven't got around to it yet.  Soon.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy, I'd heard so much about this, it was on TV recently, and now it's on my must read list.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Book Review: The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper.

Publisher:  The Folio Society
ISBN: not available for this edition
Format:  Quarter-bound in buckram with Modigliani paper sides, illustrated by Laura Carlin.

Well, after Over Sea, Under Stone there was nothing else to do with myself but grab the second book with both hands.  I wasn't disappointed, man that woman can write!!  You may have seen the film and thought it was OK, as I did, or that it wasn't OK and you won't bother with the book.  You'd be wrong on both counts.  When compared to the book the film is pretty dire and there are some pretty major differences in the story.

Will Stanton is the seventh son of a seventh son, and is the last of the Old Ones, a special group of people destined to fight for the side of the Light in the eternal battle between the forces of light (good) and dark (evil).  On the eve of his Eleventh birthday Will starts to experience strange phenomenon that others don't see or experience.  Guided by various characters like Merriman Lyon (Uncle Gumery from Over Sea, Under Stone), Will's task is to gather the six Things of Power and strengthen the power of the light against The Rider and other characters who've come to the fight.

Though there were eight years between the first and second books Cooper doesn't fail to deliver and her panache at storytelling is ever present. This is a brilliant book, though I think having seen the film I was spending a fair amount of time trying to recall the film and how it compares to the book.  Had I not seen the film first I think I would have had a similar reaction to Over Sea, Under Stone.  When you see a film first and then read the book the film version can help your mind process the familiar images, but when the book and the film deviate from each other so much it becomes a distraction rather than an aid.

At the time of writing this review I am reading the third book in the series, though will probably have finished it by the time this review gets published.  What I've read so far just goes to show Cooper has staying power when it comes to these books.

What I liked most:  Excellent sense of threat, the swarming rooks were quite disturbing.  There were also terribly sad moments with Hawkin and Merriman Lyon.

What I liked least:  The film was a constant source of comparison in the back of my mind, and not in a good way.  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday # 10

Welcome to my Top Ten Tuesday list! The Top Ten Tuesday meme originates at The Broke and The Bookish, check out their site for more information, but not before you've read the post below.

This week's theme is my Top Ten most Intimidating Books.

With one notable exception this list is of books I know I should read, but for whatever reason I haven't been able to bring myself to read them.  I have been told by various people, ready numerous reviews and am aware that all of these are brilliant stories.

  1. Animal Farm by George Orwell.  This is the one I have read, and was not the difficult or overly intellectual read I thought it would be.  Well worth it!
  2. 1984 by George Orwell.  I haven't read this for the same reason that I put off Animal Farm.  When I said I had enjoyed Animal Farm and intended to read 1984 soon, everyone said it's a very different book, much more intense.  I was immediately put off again.
  3. Russian Dystopian novels like We by Yevgeny Zamyatin.  The first few pages seem engaging and interesting, and I can't tell you why I haven't read more.
  4. War and Peace, Crime and Punishment etc... more incredibly long Russian books whose characters names you can't keep track of.
  5. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson.  Recommended by a friend, looks right up my street, but it's 900 pages long!
  6. The Count of Monte Cristo - I tried with this one, but the typeface was tiny, paper so thin you can see through it, and still it's hundreds of pages long.
  7. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami.  Sensing a theme yet?
  8. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.  Started this years ago, but dystopian novels don't really appeal, so I've never finished it.
  9. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks.  There's just something about war stories that puts me off.
  10. Misery by Stephen King.  I can't watch the film for long, I can't bear it when James Caan is being tortured.  I was given this for World Book Night 2012, and I tried, but didn't get far before I chickened out.  One day I'll be gutsy enough to try again, but not just yet.