Friday, 27 November 2009

The Dog Who Came in from the Cold by Alexander McCall Smith, Chapter 41-57


It has all been happening at Corduroy Mansions, the online novel from Alexander McCall Smith over on the Telegraph's website. I have really enjoyed the recent chapters and will try and fill you in on the latest developments:

  • Berthea is very worried about her eccentric brother, Terence, who is planning on signing his house over to the rather dodgy Roger and Claire who want to open a Centre for Cosmological Studies.
  • Freddie de la Hay (my favourite character) has been left in the care of Tilly Curtain of MI6 and he is very upset and worried about the fact that Williams appears to have abandoned him. He is even more concerned when Tilly hands him over to Mr Podgornin, their Russian suspect.
  • When Mr Podgornin's colleagues find Freddie's transmitting collar, we are left wondering what his fate will be as Mr Podgornin says he has lethal plans for him.
  • Rupert and Gloria have been meddling again and they get caught snooping round Berthea's flat by Errol Greatorex who is staying there whilst helping the yeti to finish his memoirs.
  • Gloria wants to know more about Ratty Mason- a school friend of Rupert's who they see at dinner and who Rupert is very reluctant to talk about.
  • Meanwhile Barbara is on a little trip with the perfect Hugh to meet his parents Sorley and Stephanie. They seem perfect like their perfect son and perfect home but Barbara is starting to wonder if it is all just a little bit fake?
  • Finally Dee receives a letter from Richard Eadston, the venture capitalist, he has agreed to invest for a 25% share of her Sudoku Remedy business. Dee needs some money to set it up so she jumps at her assistant Martin's offer to become a business partner in exchange for his investment of £5,000.
They may be small chapters but a lot is happening at Corduroy Mansions, I have so many questions at the moment:
  • Will William manage to save Freddie?
  • Will Barbara be able to stop Terence from signing over their childhood home?
  • Who is this Ratty Mason figure from Rupert's past?
  • Are Hugh and his family as perfect as they seem?
  • Is the yeti real or is Errol Greatorex simply mad?
Obviously I am most concerned about the fate of Freddie de la Hay, I hope that William and Tilly are able to save the day.
What do you think so far? Any favourite characters? To read along every day or to find out more about The Dog Who Came in from the Cold by Alexander McCall Smith then just click here.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Book Review: The Other Hand by Chris Cleave


This book has been popping up on loads of blogs and I was intrigued but only managed to get hold of a copy a few weeks ago. I am going to do as I am told and not give the story away so here's the blurb:

We don't want to tell you what happens in this book. It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it.

Nevertheless you need to know enough to buy it so we will just say this:

This is the story of two women.

Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice.

Two years later, they meet again
-the story starts here...

Once you have read it, you'll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens either.
The magic is in how it unfolds.

Some people have been extremely irritated by this blurb and the letter from the editor at the start of the book which announces how amazing it is. I, however, was not irritated as this book is amazing. If The Other Hand had come with a standard blurb then I know that I would not have picked it up and then I would have missed out on what I think is one of the best books that I have read this year.
The book is totally character driven by Little Bee and Sarah, two women of different ages and devastatingly different circumstances. I fell in love with both of these characters, Chris Cleave gives us such an insight into their lives that it does not take long to feel like you know them inside out.
There are so many harrowing scenes in this book and on more than one occasion I was reading with tears streaming down my cheeks. But there is so much wit and humour too, it really does carry the story and gives a profound sense of hope.
It is such a fantastic and I think, important book. I could not put it down and it only took me a couple of days to read it. Since then I have not stopped thinking about The Other Hand and I know it's annoying not to know more but I urge you to give it a go.
I wonder if any of you who have already read it are like me in that you would not have picked it up had you known the subject matter? It's quite a risky marketing strategy isn't it?

Friday, 20 November 2009

Book Review: The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes



As any regular visitors to my blog will know, I was just a little bit excited about reading the new Marian Keyes book. I have taken my time with The Brightest Star in the Sky and really enjoyed it. There's a fair few characters so I'll give you a little overview of the inhabitants of 66 Star Street, the address in Dublin where this tale takes place:

In the top floor flat lives music exec Katie. She spends her days fighting off has-been rock stars and wondering how much cheesecake you'd need to eat yourself to death.
Below her, a pair of muscular Poles share with a streetwise cabbie named Lydia, who has a sharp tongue, an even sharper brain but some unexpected soft spots.
On the first floor is Fionn- a gardener who prefers the company of parsnips to people. But he looks like a fairy-tale prince and when he's offered his own television show, he's suddenly thrust into the limelight.
And at the bottom of the house live Maeve and Matt, who are Very Much In Love and who stave off despair by doing random acts of kindness.
But a mysterious visitor has just landed at 66 Star Street and big changes are on the way. Old secrets are working their way to the surface, bringing love, tragedy and unexpected optimism. And life will be different for everyone...

So as you can see there are quite a few characters to follow but Marian Keyes manages to link them perfectly. I don't usually like books with lots of characters to keep track of but I didn't feel confused at any point as they all feature consistently throughout. I have always enjoyed the characters that Keyes creates and this lot did not disappoint. By having 66 Star Street as a central point, Keyes is able to bring a varied bunch of people together in a very believable manner. I think that my favourite character was the feisty Lydia, hard as nails but with a heart of gold.
Many people felt that Marian Keyes' last book, This Charming Man, was a little serious compared to her other writing. I think it did have a darker side but that it was dealt with in a very Marian Keyes manner. The Brightest Star in the Sky also explores some pretty heavy issues and there are many poignant moments within the book. However, Keyes' wit and humour is still present throughout and personally I think that it is this humour which allows her to explore darker subjects in such a sensitive way.
The mysterious visitor to Star Street is not revealed until the very last page and I was guessing right up until the very end. I loved the use of the mysterious visitor though as it allowed the reader to get to the very core of the characters whilst adding an air of mystery that kept me turning the pages.
I may be a little biased in this review as I am such a fan of Marian Keyes but I do think that this is one of her best. As with all her books, you get a brilliant story with some fantastic characters but there is real depth to the book too. The Brightest Star in the Sky left me with a profound feeling of hope, hope that if we surround ourselves with the people who love and care for us then we can face anything that life throws at us,

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Book Review: The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse


The lovely people at Waterstones sent me a review copy of Kate Mosse's new book The Winter Ghosts, it arrived on Saturday morning and I read it over the weekend. They have the hardback for £10.99 and the cover is beautiful, it would definitely make a lovely Christmas present for someone.
Kate Mosse has written five previous books including the huge bestsellers, Labyrinth and Sepulchre. I have only read Labyrinth but I really enjoyed it so I was very much looking forward to receiving and reading The Winter Ghosts.
People should be aware that this book is a lengthened version of The Quick Read that Kate Mosse has already published entitled The Cave. I have to say that the length was one of the only problems I had with this book. Whilst it was lovely to be able to fit this in over the weekend, I would also have liked it to have been a little longer as some parts of the book felt rushed. I enjoyed Kate Mosse's detailed descriptions in Labyrinth and I felt that The Winter Ghosts was lacking these in places.
We meet the main character Freddie Watson in 1928. He experiences a snow storm in the foot-hills of the Pyrenees and crashes his car. He has to seek refuge in an isolated village where he meets Fabrissa and over the course of one night they share stories of extreme loss and grief.
Freddie lost his older and only brother George in the First World War and he is still searching for answers. In Fabrissa he finally meets someone who can understand and share in the feelings that he has. However, the next day Freddie wakes from a dangerously high fever and nobody has heard of Fabrissa or the others that she had spoken of. Freddie sets out to find her as he promised the previous night and in doing so uncovers secrets that have been hidden for over six hundred years.
As the title suggest, this is a very Wintry read but don't expect a traditional ghost story, the books is extremely atmospheric and the reader has to make their own mind up about certain aspects. The Winter Ghosts explores grief and loss; I loved how Kate Mosse showed how these feelings are often the same, even when under different circumstances and six centuries apart. Mosse highlights the way in which war affects families and the fact that the consequences of war endure long after peace has resumed.
This book leaves you with an incredible feeling of hope and peace making it a very suitable book to read around Christmas time. If you haven't read anything by Kate Mosse then give it a go but don't miss out on her other books as they are excellent.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Too Short?


“Life is too short to read bad books.” I’d always heard that, but I still read books through until the end no matter how bad they were because I had this sense of obligation.

That is, until this week when I tried (really tried) to read a book that is utterly boring and unrealistic. I had to stop reading.

Do you read everything all the way through or do you feel life really is too short to read bad books?

I used to be really stubborn and would finish a book even if I hated it, this was right up until I started my blog! Then I realised just how many wonderful books there are out there and I felt like I was missing out by spending my time reading something that I wasn't enjoying. I do still try to give a book a fair few chapters before I give up and it is rare that I will start something that I don't enjoy. Some people have a 3 chapter rule but I think you have to take into consideration what type of book it is and if others have said it has a slow start etc. I did used to feel really guilty if I didn't finish a book but now I just reach for the next one!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Wedding Pictures


I know that this isn't very book related but a few people have asked to see pictures from my wedding. Mr S and I got married on August 7th this year and we had such a beautiful day that I will never forget! The day wasn't without books though, we named each table after our favourite authors which I think was far better than Mr S' suggestion of naming them after body parts in relation to his training as a doctor!

Friday, 6 November 2009

The Dog Who Came In From The Cold- Online novel- Chapters 31-40


It's all been happening at Corduroy Mansions, Alexander McCall-Smith's latest online novel with the Telegraph, The Dog Who Came In From The Cold is in its 40th chapter now, that sounds a lot but they're only short so there is still plenty of time to catch up if you've only just found out about it.
It's all very mysterious at the moment, we have Dee meeting with Richard Eadston, the venture capitalist about her herbal Sudoku remedy. She seems to just sail through life, blissfully unaware of what is happening around her or any problems she has caused.
James and Caroline are speaking again after the Dee incident but James confesses that he doesn't really like women... or men. He just wants to be friends! Caroline agrees to this but is she really completely happy to settle for friendship?
Rupert and Gloria see Ratty Mason in a restaurant, he is somebody that Rupert went to school with but very much does not want to talk about out. Gloria's suspicions are raised and she is determined to get some answers in the future. These two are then caught snooping round Barbara's apartment by the Yeti memoir author who is staying there while she is away. He doesn't realise who they are but will Barbara find out? What will her reaction be? Does anyone else think that Rupert might secretly like Barbara or is that just me?
Freddie de la Hay is back but only briefly! William has handed him over to MI6 in the form of Tilly Curtain who is looking after him. Poor Freddie, he thinks that he has been got rid of by William and wonders what on earth he did wrong. It sounds like Freddie's adventure is only just beginning though as Sebastian Duck pops in to fit him with a new aerial collar so that Freddie will be able to go under cover. I do hope that there is more from Freddie de la Hay in the next chapters, he is still my firm favourite!

Monday, 2 November 2009

Book Review: The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell


As dawn breaks over London, the body of a young man is discovered in a windswept Notting Hill church yard. The killer has left Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster and his team a grisly cryptic clue...However, it's not until the clue is handed to Nigel Barnes, a specialist in compiling family trees, that the full message becomes spine-chillingly clear. For, it leads Barnes back more than one hundred years- to the victim of a demented Victorian serial killer... when a second body is discovered Foster needs Barnes' skills more than ever. Because the murder clues appear to run along side the tangled blood-lines that lie between 1879 and now. And if Barnes is right about his blood-history, the killing spree has only just begun.

I was really in the mood for a good, page-turning crime-thriller and this book fitted the bill perfectly. Dan Waddell draws you in immediately with a murder taking place in the first few pages. There are two key characters in the book, Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster, he definitely has some skeletons in his closet but he is in no way cliched as fictional detectives can be. Nigel Barnes is the other key character in unlocking the mysteries surrounding the case. He too has things in his past that he would prefer to stay there, the author gives the reader little snippets of information about Barnes and it takes the whole book to get a good idea of his true character.
I loved the genealogy aspect of the book, it added a whole different element and Dan Waddell's research shines through in his writing. A lot of the book takes place in the Family Records Archive and The National Archives at Kew. I once spent a lot of time at The National Archives helping my husband to research his history dissertation and I have to say that Dan Waddell describes the type of places they are and the characters who frequent them perfectly.
The plot in The Blood Detective is excellent, I don't want to give anything away but I loved the twists and turns that the story took. The ending was a complete surprise to me and it was lovely to read a mystery that really did keep me guessing right to the very end. I read on the internet that Dan Waddell is said to be writing a series of books surrounding the character of Nigel Barnes, I hope this is true as I would definitely read the next one.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

It's NaNoWriMo- Wish me luck!!!


It's day one of National Novel Writing Month! Scarily, I have decided to take part this year so I have between now and midnight on November 30th to write 50,000 words. I am a little daunted by it but also extremely excited, I'm hoping that it will give me the push I need to get on with my book idea. I have finished The Blood Detective and it was fantastic so I shall post my review soon and I am about to begin the new Marian Keye's book which is bound to be brilliant!!

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