Tag Archives: postaweek2011

Review of the Year 2011- Best fiction


This year I read quite a few books which scored 5/5 so could be my best fiction book of the year. I have left out the Harry Potter books as they were re-reads but that still leaves a good few books:

War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts- Louis de Berneries

When God was a Rabbit- Sarah Winman

Shades of Grey- Jasper Fforde

Everything is Illuminated- Jonathon Safron Foer

The Help- Kathryn Stockett

Oh how much I loved all these books. It’s very difficult to choose just one. They are all quite different. But when it comes down to it I just have to go with my heart. And my heart says…

War Of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts

A lot of my decision is really down to personal reasons rather than reasons why people generally would like the book. Yes it’s fabtastic. Funny. Moving. Fantastically written. When it comes down to it though it’s a book which meets up to my expectations of Louis de Berneieres which were set by Captain Correlli’s Mandolin. it might, might, even be…better. *Shock! Horror!* For so long I have been reading Louis de Berniere’s books to try and find something which at least partially meets up to how much I love Captain Corelli’s and so far had been disappointed.

I can’t wait to read the next in the series.

For my whole review click the link at the top. To buy The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts from Amazon click the link at the top of this section.

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Review of the Year 2011- Challenges


The Rory List (ongoing challenege)

This year I have read just 3 books from the Rory List

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Everything is Illuminated

Grimm’s Fairytales

Am hoping to get a few more of these in 2012.

Take a Chance Challenge 2011

I have read 8 books for this challenge. I missed out the What Should I Read Next? choice (number 7) and failed to finish the staff picks book.
I am Number Four- Pittacus Lore
The Siege- Helen Dunmore
The Hare with Amber Eyes- Edmund de Waal
About a Boy- Nick Hornby
The Terrible Privacy Of Maxwell Sim- Jonathan Coe
The Earth Hums in B-Flat- Mari Strachan
The Graveyard Book- Neil Gaiman

Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge

I read 2 books for this challenge. which gives me Hijami level of participation:

Sputnik Sweetheart

A Wild Sheep Chase

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Review of the Year 2011- Overview


This year I have read 60 books:

  • 3 have been non-fiction, 57 have been fiction
  • 6 have been re-reads, 54 have been new reads
  • 11 have been read as part of reading challenges, and 6 have been read as part of a read-a-long

My wishlist currently contains 103 books and my To be Read Pile totals up to 29 books (which is not great seeing as I have been saying all year that I cannot buy more books until I am in single figures…whoops.)

11 books have scored 5/5

24 books have scored 4/5

18 books have scored 3/5

4 books have scored 2/5

0 books have scored 1/5

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The Girl Who Played with Fire- Stieg Larsson


Image from Amazon

This is the second book in the Millennium series. You can read my review of the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, here.

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Lisbeth Salander is a wanted woman. Two Millennium journalists about to expose the truth about sex trafficking in Sweden are murdered, and Salander’s prints are on the weapon. Her history of unpredictable and vengeful behaviour makes her an official danger to society – but no-one can find her. Mikael Blomkvist, editor-in-chief of Millennium, does not believe the police. Using all his magazine staff and resources to prove Salander’s innocence, Blomkvist also uncovers her terrible past, spent in criminally corrupt institutions. Yet Salander is more avenging angel than helpless victim. She may be an expert at staying out of sight – but she has ways of tracking down her most elusive enemies.

Review.

It’s taken me over a year to finally get around to reading this book. I wasn’t especially impressed by the first one in the series but interested enough to want to read the second, I just wasn’t in any hurry to do so. Consequentally I have forgotten a lot of what happened in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and they made some of the reference in this book a bit difficult- but did not stop me understanding the story as a whole. I think maybe I would have enjoyed this one more if I had read them close together but I still enjoyed it a fair bit.
For my memory this one is better than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I was more interested to see what would happen next. I’m still unsure though if it was actually better or if I just has less expectations of it which made it easier to enjoy, I wasn’t waiting for it to impress me the whole time.

3.5/5

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Film of the Book: The Lovely Bones


The trailer tells more of the story than is really ideal, however I wouldn’t go as far as to say it contains real spoilers.

I read the book The Lovely Bones quite a few years ago now and really do not remember it clearly. All I remember is that I didn’t think it was worth the hype and that I really did not like the ending. I couldn’t remember why I didn’t like the ending- but it was the one thing that the film reminded me of, oh I wish they had changed it!

Other than that though I really liked the film. I might even go as far as to say that I preferred it to the book. Saoirse Ronan who played the lead character, Susie really was fantastic, especially as she was only 13 at the time of filming. I’ve seen her in Hanna before and she really carried the show in that so I think she is definitely one to watch.

Ultimately it was very sad, but it was also much more action based than I had anticipated. Several times both me and my boyfriend were shouting at the screen because we could see what was going to happen (in some ways it was built that you knew what would ultimately happen but it didn’t stop me from wanting to change it!), or what might happen.

I wouldn’t say it’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen but certainly worth a look.

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The Hare the Amber Eyes- Edmund de Waal


Image from Amazon

This book was read as part of the Take a Chance Challenge

Synopsis(from Amazon)

The history of a family through 264 objects – set against a turbulent century – from an acclaimed writer and potter

Note: This is the short description from Amazon. The long description gives away just a little to much, so I decided to leave it more mysterious.

Review

This book, which was the winner of the Costa Biography Prize last year, got a lot of buzz towards the end of last year and during this year (although I don’t believe I’ve seen any bloggers reviewing it, if you have please link me so I can look). It made it a pretty easy choice as my book recommended by a professional reviewer for the Take a Chance Challenge, but it’s taken me all year to actually get around to reading it.

One thing I can say that really stood out in this book was the descriptions, especially the descriptions of places and objects. I could really imagine what the netsuke looked and felt like, and I came out of the book wanting to visit Vienna. The last time a book has made me want to visit a place was when I read The Historian back before I started this blog.

I did have a bit of an odd relationship with this book though. When I was actually reading it I found I was quite interested, but when I had put it down I was never really that bothered about picking it up again. At one point I was even on the brink of giving up on it, but with a little persuasion from my Mum, and he knowledge that I did find it interesting part of the time, kept me going. I am glad I did. While I didn’t find the first part of the story that interesting I really raced though the last hundred or so pages because I was generally enjoying that section. I think just the period of time it was set in was interesting (during the second world war) or maybe it was just because I knew that period of history so I could put events into a more clear setting. I did like however the thread going through the book setting a sort of atmosphere for what was to come. I suppose that is history, but certainly it was a good idea to make that path clear.

One thing I would have really liked in this book though is more pictures of the Netsuke, however there is an illustrated edition which may work better.

3/5

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Bookish Gifts- Paraphanalia


Here we go again! Probably the last in my series of bookish gifts, this time I’m looking at little odds and sods.

CB Perfume make a number of scents based on real life smells. One of which is In the Library. It is designed to smell like old leather bound books and wood polish. It’s not something I can ever imagine wearing myself but is certainly an interesting idea.

Penguin makes a number of book related items, mainly based on their classic cover design. I wanted to include something simple in this post, like a mug or a bag (both of which are available) but when I looked at the Penguin site I came across The Great Penguin Bookchase, and just had to include it. What could appeal to a collector of books more than a game you win by collecting the most books?

 

I think I should wear this badge made by beanforest on Etsy everytime I enter a bookshop. That was I may actually succeed in cutting down my To Be Read pile!

How about some Scrabble Fridge Magnets? You might not get the board but surely have less space restrictions makes Scrabble easier?


Not such a fan of Scrabble? How about some fridge poetry
instead?

 

 

 

 

 

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Bookish Gifts- Book Accesories.


It’s my second gift post. You can also have a look at my bookish clothing list.

You know what I could quite happily buy half the stuff in Paperchase given the money! I really like magnetic bookmarks simply because I am awful for loosing bookmarks and magnetic ones are so much harder to loose. I have a set of Russian Doll ones from Paperchase (which you can see if you explore the site) but this set based on The Owl and the Pussy Cat poem are a bit more bookish I think.

I think these bookends by MijMoj @ Folksy are a fantastic idea. Each book end holds a little vase for a single flower. Beautiful, and you can change the flower so it never gets old! Be warned though American buyers, shipping is on the expensive side.

 

 

M-Edge is completely focused on covers for e-readers. A lot of them (as the one displayed) are based on books (and many are designed by Out of Print, who I mentioned in my last gift post), and there are also lots based on New Yorker covers. None of them take your fancy? Well they also have a section where you can design your own.

 

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5 Reasons to Leave a Lover- Carolyn Moncel


Image from Amazon

I was given a copy of 5 Reasons to Leave a Lover free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from Amazon)

In 5 Reasons to Leave a Lover, author Carolyn Moncel offers up a fresh batch of stories based on love and loss. As singer/songwriter, Paul Simon so eloquently suggested in a famous song from the 1970s, there are many ways to leave a lover. However, Moncel’s characters demonstrate that the reasons for leaving in the first place are quite finite. Encounters in Paris` Ellery and Julien Roulet return, picking up their lives where the short story, “Pandora`s Box Revisited,” ends. This time the Roulets are involved in a love triangle, and along with two other couples, must explore how love relationships are affected and splinter due to abuse, ambivalence, deception, cheating and death. This bittersweet collection of tales proves that some breakups are necessary; while others are voluntary; and still others are simply destined and beyond anyone’s control.

Review

I am not usually a reader of short stories, I think I have only ever reviewed one other here before. I thought this one sounded interesting though. I’m not sure interesting is still the word I would use but it is entertaining. I wouldn’t exactly call it chick-lit but it is pretty close. It’s an easy read (took me less that a day) and about romance which are features stereotypically found in chick-lit, but it is less happy than chick-lit normally is. I did have the same problem I have with most short stories, it felt like it ended to soon…or at least I found that I wanted to be able to keep reading it, when it came to the first story anyway. I must say the main story was well enough written that I felt for the characters, and I could see different sides of the story. I did feel the other two stories were unnecessary though, they just seemed like padding and weren’t long enough for me to get any real feeling about them.

I would be interested in reading a longer novel by Moncel though.

3/5

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Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince- J.K. Rowling


Image from Amazon

This book was read as part of the Harry Potter read-a-long.

Synopsis (from Amazon)

‘In a brief statement on Friday night, Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge confirmed that He Who Must Not Be Named has returned to this country and is once more active. “It is with great regret that I must confirm that the wizard styling himself Lord – well, you know who I mean – is alive and among us again,” said Fudge.’ These dramatic words appeared in the final pages of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. In the midst of this battle of good and evil, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince takes up the story of Harry Potter’s sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, with Voldemort’s power and followers increasing day by day …

 

Review

Oh dear I am a bit late with this one aren’t I? November’s read for the Harry Potter read-a-long. I almost finished it in time, I finished on the 1st December so only a day over but it’s taken me up till now to actually write this post.

Half-Blood Prince is my favourite Harry Potter book along with Chamber of Secrets. I especially like learning about Voldemort’s background, and I would probably quite happily read a book just about his rise to power, as a sort of prequel. There is quite a romantic level to this book too, I think we know by now where things are going in this sense. Initially one of the pairings I wasn’t too happy about, mainly because it just seemed too predictable and…perfect, but it grew on me.

And of course we know know what everything has been leading up to.

5/5

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The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts- Louis de Bernieres


Image from Amazon

Synopsis (from Amazon)

When the spoilt and haughty Dona Constanza tries to divert a river to fill her swimming pool, she starts a running battle with the locals. The skirmishes are so severe that the Government dispatches a squadron of soldiers led by the fat, brutal and stupid Figueras to deal with them.

Despite visiting plagues of laughing fits and giant cats upon the troops, the villagers know that to escape the cruel and unusual tortures planned for them, they must run. Thus they plan to head for the mountains and start a new and convivial civilisation.

Note: I do not feel that this synopsis adequately describes the book. However I am at a loss of how I can describe it any better while still allowing some of the…plot to be hinted at so I am using this for lack of anything better.

Review

Oh why had a never heard of this book before? I can’t even remember seeing it in bookstores (despite the fact that it is the first in a series and still in print). For so long I have been looking for a Louis de Bernieres novel which meets up to my experience of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin which is one of my favourite books. I had seen Senor Vivo & The Coca Lord a number of times and considered buying it but was never convinced (it is probably a good thing seeing as it is further along in the same series). Well I can certainly say I want to read it now!

I suppose you can guess that I really enjoyed this book. I think it sis one of the most unique books I have ever read. It’s full of all kinds of strange happenings. Those who watch my twitter feed may have noticed me commenting that I had never read a book where a woman gave birth to a cat before, and that gives you just an idea of some of the strange things that happen in this book!

It did take me a little time to get into, but once I was into it you couldn’t get me away from it, and I generally find that I end up loving books more when they have been hard work. There was a point where the main strangeness was that I couldn’t work out how it would all come together. It seemed for a long time that there were just lots of individual storylines which weren’t connected, or at least barely connected, and I kept getting the characters mixed up. However after a while I began to work things out a bit more, and even became disappointed when a chapter end because I knew it would be a while before I found out what would happen to that character, and the stories began to join together a bit more.

I can’t say there was a character I didn’t enjoy reading about by the end but I did especially like reading about the President. I also enjoyed how different sides of the same story were shown so that even though there were some horrible acts they never really seemed to be done by horrible men because you not only saw their consequences but also how they came about.

I cannot wait to read the rest of the series

5/5

 

If anyone knows where I read the review of this book which prompted me to read it can you let me know so I can credit them please?

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Crazy- Benjamin Lebert


From Amazon


Synopsis (from Amazon)

Benjamin Lebert introduces himself on the first day at his new school: “Hi, I’m Benjamin Lebert, I’m 16 and a cripple. Just so you know…” He is paralysed down his left side, but nevertheless lives his life to the full as a rebellious schoolboy, smoking, drinking, running away, meeting girls and having sex – and all the while pondering the meaning of life.

Review

When I reviewed The Perks of Being a Wallflower (which I loved) Zee of Zee’s Wordly Obsessions recommended Crazy to me, suggesting that it may be something similar. Well I’m sorry Zee but I really didn’t really find Crazy comparable to The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I’m not saying it was bad, I just couldn’t find myself relating to it in the way that I related to The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The one thing I found a could relate to was Benjamin’s annoyance at his body not doing what he wanted but it was only briefly mentioned. I can say I preferred it to Catcher in the Rye though, I never really liked Holden but I didn’t mind Benjamin. In some ways I thought Lebert was trying to make Crazy more like Catcher in the Rye as he often included passages where the boys would philosophise. Mainly though this philosophising seemed pointless, and even annoyed me a little. There was nothing profound about it, but I did kind of like how the boys thought they were being profound, it seems realistic for how teenagers would view their own thoughts- as being really original and earth breaking.

One thing I didn’t understand is that the book is categorised as a novel (it even says a novel on the back cover), but the main protagonist has the same name as the writer, which suggests it’s actually and autobiography. Does anyone know what it actually is?

A quick and easy read, it took me less than 2 days to read.

3/5

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The President’s Last Love- Andrey Kurkov


From Amazon

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Moscow, 2013. Bunin, the Ukrainian President, has joined other heads of state in an open air swimming pool to drink vodka and celebrate with Putin. During his rise to power Bunin has juggled with formidable and eccentric political and personal challenges. His troubles with his family and his women combine with his difficulties with corrupt businessmen and demanding international allies, but it is his recent heart transplant that worries him most. Since the operation he has started to develop freckles, and his heart donor’s mysterious widow seems to have moved in with him…

Spanning forty years, The President’s Last Love is a hilarious satire on love, lies and life before and after the Iron Curtain.

Review

Andrey Kurkov is one of those writers I keep forgetting about and then re-discovering. I first encountered him work with Death And The Penguin
several years ago but since reading that and its sequel (Penguin Lost) I forgot about him until I read about him in The Complete Polysylabbic Spree, which led me to reading A Matter of Death and Life. After reading that I vowed not to forget him, but it wasn’t until I saw some of his books on display in Waterstones that I remembered my vow. I immediately bought this book and added a few more to my wishlist.
I really do not know why I keep forgetting Kurkov, I always enjoy his books. They tend to be easy to read but there is a certain strangeness to them that makes you feel like you have something to puzzle out.

I would say I prefer the Penguin books over this one, just because of the character of the penguin himself, and the main character’s relationship with him (which is probably reflected in the fact that I remember the penguin’s name, but not that of his owner). I did find I had a little confusion when switching between chapters (each of which were focused on one of 3 periods in the president’s (Bunin’s) life) and working out where I was in relation to other chapters, especially as each individual story got more complex. I also had a little trouble distinguishing the women in his life from one another, especially when they overlapped into each others time frames.
You could probably make three novellas from this book as it was like three stories in one but I kind of liked reading them alongside each other and it was clever how sometimes something from one time frame would explain something in another. However I did want some of the stories to carry on as I was interested to see how Bunin got to where he was in the last timeline.

Certainly a good read, and fairly easy, but if you have never encountered Kurkov before I would recommend Death and the Penguin as a better starting point.

4.5/5

On an aside I love the old style cover art for these books, all my over Kurkov books are the old style but now they seem to have all changed to the new style. Ah well what will be will be, cover art doesn’t make the book after all.

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Film of the Book: The Help


This review contains (minor) spoilers for the film and book The Help

I read the book The Help at the beggining of this year after reading lots of very positive reviews and having it recommended to me by my sister. It was one of those books that was on my wishlist for a while before I actually read it and really wished I’d read it earlier. In short I loved it.

I really wanted to see the film but as I have a tendency to overjudge films based on books I loved I was a little anxious.

Oh but honestly I loved the film too. Maybe not as much as the book but it had pretty much everything I loved about the book. I especially loved Minny, just as I had when I read the book, although I do think she was a bit more one-dimensional than she had been in the book. The Leroy storyline was there but it was so cut down that it seemed almost pointless, more like it had been added to make her less of a comic character that to give her life outside that as a maid.

The main negative thing I can say about the film was that I found it was rather long and dragged a little in the middle. However I can forgive it as there is very little else I would have cut out. I may have cut Skeeter’s relationship with Stuart completely. Simply because it was already cut down so much that it had little of the significance which it had in the book. The only real purpose it served was to show the negative impact of the book on Skeeter, and that was shown in other ways too which frankly were stronger.

Still I recommend those who have read the book to go and watch the film too.

Related Posts:

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Alison Wonderland- Helen Smith


I was sent a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Synopsis (from Amazon)

After her husband leaves her for another woman, twentysomething Londoner Alison Temple impulsively applies for a job at the very P.I. firm she hired to trap her philandering ex. She hopes it will be the change of scene she so desperately needs to move on with her shattered life. At the all-female Fitzgerald’s Bureau of Investigation, she spends her days tracking lost objects and her nights shadowing unfaithful husbands. But no matter what the case, none of her clients can compare to the fascinating characters in her personal life. There’s her boss, the estimable and tidy Mrs. Fitzgerald; Taron, Alison’s eccentric best friend, who claims her mother is a witch; Jeff, her love-struck, poetry-writing neighbor; and—last but not least—her psychic postman. Her relationships with them all become entangled when she joins Taron for a road trip to the seaside and stumbles into a misadventure of epic proportions! Clever, quirky, and infused with just a hint of magic, this humorous literary novel introduces a memorable heroine struggling with the everyday complexities of modern life.
Review.
The first thing that springs to mind with this book is how different it it, but at the same time how mundane it can be. I still can’t really decide if I liked it or not. I think I just didn’t ‘get’ it. It wasn’t that it wasn’t entertaining, it’s just, well, nothing that much really happened. I can’t go as far as to say there was no storyline but somehow the storyline (or more storylines really) didn’t really seem to matter, it just seemed to be a way to join strange occurances together.
3/5

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The Piano Teacher- Janice Y.K. Lee


Image from Amazon

 Synopsis (from Amazon)

In 1942, Will Truesdale, an Englishman newly arrived in Hong Kong, falls headlong into a passionate relationship with  Trudy Liang, a beautiful Eurasian socialite. But their love affair is soon threatened by the invasion of the Japanese, with terrible consequences for both of them, and for members of their fragile community who will betray each other in the darkest days of the war. Ten years later, Claire Pendleton lands in Hong Kong and is hired by the wealthy Chen family as their daughter’s piano teacher. A provincial English newlywed, Claire is seduced by the colony’s heady social life. She soon begins an affair!only to discover that her lover’s enigmatic demeanour hides a devastating past. As the threads of this compelling and engrossing novel intertwine and converge, a landscape of impossible choices emerges — between love and safety, courage and survival, the present and above all, the past.

Review

I did quite like this book but I was only ever interested in one side of the story at a time. Initially I quite liked Claire’s story and seeing how she approached the culture in Hong-Kong as a British woman. From the way some of the other British living in Hong-Kong were described I thought that bit could have gone quite wrong, with Claire just being a bit of a socialite and not seeing the ‘real’ Hong-Kong. In some ways I did feel like there was a very British feel to the novel, it was almost as if the bits of Hong-Kong culture were added in order to remind the reader that The Piano Teacher wasn’t actually set in the U.K. However in other cases it was interesting to read about how Hong-Kong nationals had actually joined their own culture with the British culture.

In the early points I didn’t like Trudy and Will’s story at all. I wasn’t interested in the life of a socialite at all, and to be honest I really didn’t like Trudy, mainly she annoyed me. As the story progressed I started preferring this story to Claire’s however. I am a frequent reader of stories set in war time, and as war approached I found the book much more interesting, especially as I had known next to nothing about Hong-Kong during the second world war. I still didn’t like Trudy though.

To be honest I think I just would have preferred this book if it was a book about Hong-Kong during war time, and I think there was enough material to make that possible.

3/5

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Children’s Book Week (Picture books Pt2)


When I wrote my post on picture books earlier this week I said that I was going to write another one this week for books which I had discovered later on, mainly while working in childcare (I work with pre-school and toddler children). I’ve picked books that the children like but that I also enjoy.


Good Baby, Bad Baby- Nanette Newman

This is a lovely book. I love the pictures. Good Baby, Bad Baby is two stories in one. One about Good Baby (“…She plays very nicely with her best friend Paul, she doesn’t like rough games or pushing at all…”) and one about Bad Baby (“…she shouts for more biscuits when she’s given cake. She combs Nanny’s hair with the old garden rake…”). The kids at work generally choose to read Bad Baby over Good Baby, and I must admit I find it more entertaining too. Both stories are written in poem for and end with the same word (I’m sure that this baby isn’t like/this baby just has to be you!). Of course if you have a Bad Baby you may want to change the endings!

I’m Not Cute!- Johnathon Allen

This is a cute book. Secretly baby owl reminds me a little of some of the kids at work- but I’m not sure they would enjoy it so much if I said so! They’re always excited to see this book and shout “Baby Owl! Baby Owl”. It’s a pretty simple story. Baby owl goes for a walk in the woods hoping to find some peace and quiet, but instead he finds fox, squirrel, and rabbit all proclaiming how cute he is. Baby owl is not happy.

Where’s Boo? series- Rebecca Elgar

These lovely lift-the-flap books are really popular with the kids with their bright pictures and interactivity. The only problem is in a nursery setting the kids argue over who gets to lift the flap. The books are set in different locations. For each page there is something to count, then a flap to lift as the children search for Boo, along the way they find his friends. The kids tend to like Growling Tiger (“run away, run away!”) and Sleeping Bear (“tip-toe, tip toe”). As with Good Baby, Bad Baby this book is all written in rhyme. Unfortunately they no longer seem to be in print, I tried to find one for my niece last year, but you should be able to get one second hand.

Walking Through the Jungle- Stella Blackstone

This book is based on the song Walking Through the Jungle, it starts as the song does, by looking in the jungle but moves onto other habitats. With beautiful bold pictures. Our kids already knew the song but could now ‘read’ the book themselves.

That’s Not My… Series- Fiona Watt

The That’s not my series are a beautiful collection on touchy feely books. They’re most appropriate for babies as they can explore all the different textures, but they can help older children to learn how to describe texture too. Each book is basically the same. A series of something (the link is for a dinosaur, so I shall use that example) all of which are not my dinosaur because of something e.g. their spots are too fluffy until right at the end you find your dinosaur.

Owl Babies- Martin Waddell

I did already know this book before I started at the nursery but it was more my sister’s generation than mine, and the kids love it so much I can’t not mention it! One day three baby owls wake up and their Mummy is gone. They increasingly become more anxious. The children especially like Bill and love to join in with “I want my Mummy”.

Special mentions go to: Peace At Last
, Five Minutes’ Peace (Large Family)
,A Hug for Humphrey
You Choose!
Hungry Hen
The Commotion in the Ocean (Orchard Picturebooks)

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Children’s Book Week. (Picture Books)


Did you know that this week is Children’s Book Week?

Well I may not be a reviewer of Children’s books but how can I let a celebration of books pass by without some note?

I wanted to talk about my favourite books as a child but then I realised that I had too many favourite books as a child to have just one post. So today I’m only going to look at picture books. As a nursery worker I also want to highlight books I’ve discovered as an adult, so at some point this week there will be a (probably smaller) post on those picture books too.

Image from Amazon

Tom and Pippo- Helen Oxenbury

This series of books were probably my favourite picture books as a child. They may even be responsible for my collection of toy monkeys. I used to borrow these from the library when I was younger. My memories of the library are so strongly connected with these books. I can still see the red book box in my mind and the colourful letters which make up the Pippo logo. Pippo is a pretty simple story. It’s a story of a boy (Tom) and his toy monkey (Pippo). Pippo does everything Tom does. Sometimes Tom talks through Pippo (e.g. Pippo wanted some cheese. But I ate it). The stories are all told through Tom’s voice. Unfortunately these books are now out of print, but it’s not too difficult to find a copy on Amazon marketplace (or similar), and I bought a collection of Pippo stories for my niece this way.

Image from The Book Depository

Titch- Pat Hutchins

I think me and both my sisters read this one when we were young. The story is pretty basic. Titch is little. His brother and sister are big. His brother and sister always get the best things well Titch gets the little things. It is a bit of a thing in our family (or maybe just for Dad) to say “Titch held the nails” when someone has a little job to do! I’ve read this one to the kids at work too (I work in the toddler room of a nursery) and they still seem to like it. Apparently there is also a Titch TV show (or was), I do not like this idea one bit!

Image from Goodreads

The Very Hungry Caterpillar- Eric Carle

I still think what I like most about this book is the pictures, especially the beautiful butterfly at the end. I also love the idea of the caterpillar just eating anything and everything. I’m a little unsure about how commercialised The Very Hungry Caterpillar has become but it wouldn’t stop me reading the book when I have kids of my own.

Image from The Book Depository

Two Monsters- David McKee

David McKee is probably better known for Elmer but as a child (and now actually) I always preferred Two Monsters. Two Monsters live on either side of a mountain and talk to each other through a hole, one night they have a big argument and start throwing boulders at each other over the mountain, and shouting very funny insults. I love the pictures in all David McKee books and maybe that’s why I remember them all so vividly. I also loved Not Now Bernard where Bernard gets eaten by a monster and nobody realises. As an adult the details in the pictures in I Hate my Teddy Bear make it to most interesting to look at though.

Image from Amazon

The Tiger Who came for Tea- Judith Kerr

I loved some of the little ideas in this book. The idea of the Tiger drinking all the water in the tap, and Sophie and her mother going out to buy tiger food. It’s probably a little outdated now, with Daddy being at work, and then coming to save the day when the tiger has eaten all the food in the cupboard, but it is still a beautiful story.

Image from Amazon

Alfie and Annie-Rose- Shirley Hughes.

I still remember a lot of these stories now. Alfie gets in first where Alfie manages to lock himself in the house. The party where Alfie has to take his blanket. I remember lots of little details too like Alfie having L written on his left welly, and R on his right welly. Alfie feeding all the bears on his bowl breakfast.

Special mentions go to I Want my Potty, Each Peach Pear Plum, Where the Wild Things are, Peace at Last and Dear Zoo.

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Filed under Musings, News

American Wife- Curtis Sittenfeld


Image from The Book Depository

Synopsis (from Amazon)

In the year 2000, in the closest election in American history, Alice Blackwell’s husband becomes president of the United States. Their time in the White House proves to be heady, tumultuous, and controversial. But it is Alice’s own story – that of a kind, bookish, only child born in the 1940s Midwest who comes to inhabit a life of dizzying wealth and power – that is itself remarkable. Alice candidly describes her small-town upbringing, and the tragedy that shaped her identity; she recalls her early adulthood as a librarian, and her surprising courtship with the man who swept her off her feet; she tells of the crisis that almost ended their marriage; and she confides the privileges and difficulties of being first lady, a role that is uniquely cloistered and public, secretive and exposed.

Review.

I read a fair few positive reviews of this book around about a year ago and added it to my wishlist. It’s not the sort of book I would have bought, although I may have been a little interested if I picked it up in-store, but the reviews convinced me somewhat. (I can’t remember where I read the reviews now, but if it was on your blog, thank you). In the end I got it off Bookmooch (which is a great site by the way, I get lots of books that way).

When I logged the book on Goodreads I had a quick flick through the reviews and a few readers were saying that knowing that Alice was loosely based on Laura Bush made them view the book differently and less like fiction. Luckily I know next to nothing about Laura Bush so it didn’t really affect my reading of it. The only way it did affect my reading was that I wondered if some things were true. I wouldn’t recommenned researching Laura Bush before reading American Wife, however, if you know little about her as I do. In some ways I don’t think it was a good idea for Sittenfeld to pronounce the similarity between Laura Bush and Alice, at least at the beggining of the novel. I think if you already knew a lot about Laura Bush you would probably work it out, and knowing before reading the book could impact your reading of it. I considered not mentioning it here but as it is stated at the start of the book I don’t think it really matters where the knowledge comes from.

I did really enjoy this book. I got more engrossed in it than I expected too, and it sort of had more plot that I expected. I suppose I thought that a lot of it would be about being a President’s Wife, or at least a political wife, but for the most part Alice could have been almost any person from a middle-class background who married into money. It is more a book about class, about marriage, and just about life in general than it is about being a President’s Wife. That still does not make it sound so intriguing but I did find it a rather more emotional book than I had expected. Oh and there was more sex than I was expecting! I tried not to picture George Bush *shudder*. I don’t think I can really say more without giving away important plot points.

I do wonder if Laura Bush knows the contents of this book? I can imagine some things she may not be happy about.

4.5/5

Laura Bush on Wikipedia

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Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Historical

The Distant Hours- Kate Morton


Image from Goodreads

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Edie Burchill and her mother have never been close, but when a long lost letter arrives with the return address of Milderhurst Castle, Kent, printed on its envelope, Edie begins to suspect that her mother’s emotional distance masks an old secret.

Evacuated from London as a thirteen year old girl, Edie’s mother is chosen by the mysterious Juniper Blythe, and taken to live at Millderhurst Castle with the Blythe family.

Fifty years later, Edie too is drawn to Milderhurst and the eccentric Sisters Blythe. Old ladies now, the three still live together, the twins nursing Juniper, whose abandonment by her fiancé in 1941 plunged her into madness.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst Castle, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in the distant hours has been waiting a long time for someone to find it . . .

Review

Well I must say this kept me on the edge of my seat right to the very end. At one point when I thought we would never find out all the secrets I was actually shouting at the book “But what happened?!” It may have been better if one of the secrets wasn’t revealed (highlight for spoiler) If one wasn’t I would have chosen Juniper’s secret about the blood on her clothes simply because what I thought it would be it wasn’t and it was the one that had me shouting at the book. It would have added a bit of a puzzle for the reader to try to work out if not all the secrets were revealed, but seeing as I was getting frustrated when I just thought a secret wouldn’t be revealed maybe it is a good thing there was nothing left to wonder about.

I found the way Kate Morton wove the different secrets into the story was really clever. A number of times I was convinced I had worked out a secret only to find that everything I thought had been evidence really wasn’t. It was clever the way Morton walked the reader down  one path only to suddenly veer off in another direction, which I at least never expected.

I found the characters quite engaging. Only real problem was that there seemed to be to many similarities between Saffy, young Meredith and Edie. I could understand with Edie and Meredith, I imagine that some of Meredith would have rubbed off on Edie, even though Meredith had changed by then.

I can’t say I really liked Percy, although there was something about her strength and her loyalty that I admired, and I certainly found her an interesting character to read. In some ways Percy was the hardest character to figure out. Immediately she seemed quite straight forward but as more secrets were revealed the reader is made to challenge their perceptions. . She seemed very controlling, but her intentions, at least, were good.

I found Juniper’s character very interesting too, although I found her more likeable than Percy. I’m still not entirely sure I have her figured out.

Only real problem I had with The Distant Hours is that it took a while to get going. Despite the fact that I had been really looking forward to reading it I had started planning a disappointed review by the end of the first chapter. I’m glad everything changed.

4.5/5

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire- J.K. Rowling


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Image via Wikipedia

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was a re-read as part of the Harry Potter Read-a-Long.

This review may contain spoilers for the Harry Potter series of books and films.

Synopsis (from Amazon)

The summer holidays are dragging on and Harry Potter can’t wait for the start of the school year. It is his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and there are spells to be learnt and (unluckily) Potions and Divination lessons to be attended. But Harry needs to be on his guard at all times – his worst enemy is preparing a terrible fate for him.

Review

Oh I had forgotten how much I loved this one. I mean I knew I love it but I had forgotten how much. I suppose the fact that the spine has fallen off my original edition shows how much it has been read, and that must show some love. I decided to buy a new copy because I neither wanted to destroy my original nor lug a great big hardback around with me (not that that ever stops me but it’s a bonus to buying a new copy). So I bought one of the new signature editions, which I think are really quite pretty but don’t hold the same wonder for the that the original children’s editions do, maybe simply because they are not the Harry Potter books I know. Anyway I am waffling.

Right from the onset Goblet of Fire promises an excitement which isn’t promised at the start of the previous three books. The Riddle House is somewhat of a mystery in the way it links to the whole story (I remember when I first read it someone asking me about The Riddle House). Savy readers will see the link between Voldemort’s real name (Tom Riddle) and the house, I don’t quite understand how I didn’t get it the first time, maybe just eagerness to get on with the story.

Then of course the excitement continues at the Quidditch World Cup, then there’s the Triwizard Tournament. It’s just excitement after excitement from start to finish. Considering how long this book is that’s no mean feat.

A lot of my feelings to do with this book are to do with my own personal Harry Potter history. It was the release of this book that made me realise that there were other people who loved Harry’s world as much as I did when I saw its release on newsround. I remember reserving the book at my local bookshop (which is the strangest bookshop come newsagent come grocers) and actually getting it a day early because that was when it was delivered. Oh the excitement that I could read this eagerly awaited book before most people had even got their hands on it! It was also this book which started getting me into fandom, so indirectly it’s to thank (or blame!) for this blog.

Ooh Order of the Phoenix next…that means I get to meet Luna!

5/5

 

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Million Dollar Mates- Cathy Hopkins


Million Dollar Mates is the first in a series

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Jess Hall’s dad is the new general manager at Porchester Park, and is moving Jess, her brother and pet cat into a staff apartment there. Jess is dreading the move, until she learns the apartments are strictly A-list only and soon to be populated by actors, musicians, models and millionaires…But fraternising with the stars isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and soon Jess is wishing for a return to real-life – but can she admit to her friends that the gilded cage isn’t quite as golden as she’d anticipated?
Review
No you haven’t fallen into the wrong book blog. No I haven’t suddenly decided to start reading books I would have read as a teenager. But yes I don’t normally read young adult fiction, especially of the chick-litty type. I was given this book by somebody at work and when I found myself at work without a book I decided I’d dig this one out of my locker rather than attempting to read on my i-pod over lunch.
When I was about 13/14 I went through a bit of a stage when I liked these types of books. At the time I actually read one of Cathy Hopkins’ other series, “Mates, Dates and…” (or what was released of it at the time). At the time I did enjoy those books, although they weren’t my favourite of the type (they would probably be the Louise Rennison books, which I still remember fondly) and there is little about them not that sticks in my mind. As with the Mates, Dates series this book had a certain level of emotion in it (In this one the main character’s mother had died, in the mates dates it was more everyday teenage matters), although that wasn’t the overwhelming theme. Generally in fact I found it pretty shallow. Maybe I would have found the characters meaningful as a teenage but not now.
Even then I did prefer books hat had somewhat of an issue, gave you something to think about, and this one really didn’t.
2/5 

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A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius- Dave Eggers


Image from Goodreads

This book was read as part of the Rory Gilmore Challenge

Synopsis

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is the memoir (or autobiography if you prefer of Dave Eggers). It tells the story of his life after the death of his parents as he raises his younger brother Toph.

Review

So lets see, I am rather behind on reviews so it has actually been about a week since I finished this one. To start off I found Dave Eggers style quite funny, the chapter with his mother dying was actually strangelly amusing (and yes I know that sounds strange) it was just the particular little aspects of the situation that he decided to highlight, they seemed so trivial and somehow to be thinking about those kind of things when your mother is dying was rather amusing.

After a while though I found less and less to amuse or entertain me. At first I thought it was quite self-centred (I guess, that’s not really the right word). I know that writing about yourself is quite a self-centred act in a way but it felt kind of arrogant, like he thought he was always right. At first I found that aspect kind of funny in itself, I thought it was, I don’t know, sarcastc or something, but after a while it just became annoying, I wanted him to think he wasn’t doing something the best possible way just once. I must admit by the end of tje book I just didn’t like him, although there were still the occasional scenes which made me chuckle a little.

3/5

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It’s Book Blogger Appreciation Week!


This year is the first time I’ve participated in Book Blogger Appreciation Week (or BBAW) and I’m very excited! Last year I can’t say I was very connected with the blogging community (which is the focus of this year’s BBAW).

Today we are talking about Blogger’s who have inspired us and encouraged us.

Well in a way my blog was inspired not by bloggers as such but by a community. The Book Club Forum was where my blog started, as form of a member book review thread (which does still exist). The forum does have its own blog which is contributed to by a number of members and lots of members have their own blogs.

As for blogger’s themselves? Well I can’t get away without talking about Jennifer at Crazy for Books because it was really her Book Blogger Hop which introduced me to the book blogging community. For similar reasons I want to highlight Sherry at Semicolon who runs the review of reviews, which is a great way to find new books and new bloggers.

I also want to mention Judith at Leeswames’ Blog who seems to have very similar taste in books to me, and who introduced me to the (surprisingly addictive) world of giveaways through her Literary Blog Hop Giveaway (do visit her blog, today she announced another giveaway hop for next month).

I also want to mention Jackie at Farm Lane Books, simply because she’s the blogger who seems to have the closest taste in books to my own taste. I really trust her recommendations.

Finally to all my readers, commenters, and subscribers. Thank you for all your support.

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That Day in September- Artie Van Why


Cover of "That Day In September"

Cover of That Day In September

This book was sent to me free in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from Amazon)

We all have our stories to tell of where we were the morning of September 11, 2001. This is one of them. In “That Day In September” Artie Van Why gives an eyewitness account of that fateful morning. From the moment he heard “a loud boom” in his office across from the World Trade Center, to stepping out onto the street, Artie vividly transports the reader back to the day that changed our lives and our country forever. “That Day In September” takes you beyond the events of that morning. By sharing his thoughts, fears and hopes, Artie expresses what it was like to be in New York City in the weeks and months following. The reader comes away from “That Day In September” with not only a more intimate understanding of the events of that day but also with a personal glimpse of how one person’s life was dramatically changed forever.

Review

I feel that words cannot really describe my thoughts on this book, it completely blew me away. I will try my best to put my thoughts into words, just don’t expect too much!

At first I was a little unsure about reading a book based on September the 11th, not because I had no interest in the subject but because there was a part of my that thought it didn’t seem right to make money out of a tragedy such as that day, but once I started ‘getting to know’ Artie I didn’t feel that way any more. It felt more like he was helping people to understand while relieving his own pain. I can imagine that writing about what happened that day must have been difficult for him.

In terms of read-a-bility for such a difficult matter That Day in September was surprisingly easy to read. The book was short (less than 100 pages) and the language was simple, so I managed to read the whole thing in less than an hour while waiting for the boyfriend in a coffee shop. However the simplicity didn’t take anything away from the subject matter (at least in terms of  emotional impact), if anything it let events speak for themselves. I liked that Van Why left things unsaid, sometimes words cannot match an emotion or an image, who can really describe what we all saw (whether in person or through the television) that day?

I did find myself wanting to e-mail Van Why as soon as I had read the book. Wanting to write about what I had read and urge you all to read it. What a shame I was nowhere near a computer!

5/5

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Filed under Biography, History, non-fiction review

Looking Back: Best books of 2009


So my first year of blogging, my first review of the year. Looking back it was a bit of a sloppy couple of posts but still did what I intended, as in talking about my favourite books of the year. I picked two that year, so looking back do I still remember them fondly.

Winner 1: Handle with Care- Jodi Picoult

I don’t think my memory will ever stop loving this book. It’s not just that I love Jod Picoult’s books, although that is part of it, it’s how it connected to me personally. This personal connection means I will never forget this book, and probably never stop loving it.

Winner 2: For One More Day- Mitch Alborn

Err I do not remember this book at all. Only that I enjoyed it! I wasn’t even sure of the title when I needed to write it for this post, despite having read it a few minutes before. Maybe it wasn’t so great after all!

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Sharing the Love


During my time in the blogging world I have found lots of other fantastic blogs. You can see everyone I follow (more or less, it needs updating) on my sidebar but sometimes I have found the need to give a special mention to blogs I love. I thought that as it is a happy time for my blog it would be nice to look back and share the love. Do have a look at the blogs in my sidebar too, they are all fantabulous.

Reading in the Bath: when I first wrote about this blog it was very new, with only 2 posts but I highlighted it because I thlought it showed potential. Now it’s a bit older my hopes are confirmed. I still love the chatty style of writing and the eclectic mix of books.

A Thousand Books with Quotes still remains a favourite of mine. Rather than a standard review format this blog picks out favourite quotes from great books. When I first posted about this blog I said that it could be good to find new books with a tone you like but I find I generally prefer it for remembering books I have loved. (Also check out the picture up top, enough to make any biblophile jealous!)

An Old Flame: Oh the sadness when a loved blog goes. For a while An Old Flame lay redundant, but still there. Now it is gone. I used to love Trina’s discussion posts but as she started blogging more about the books her boys were reading, and eventually decided it didn’t fit with her old blog format she started moving more over to her new blog which focuses on children’s books. It is still a great blog but not of the type I read.

Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing is another one which drew me in through discussion (do you sense a theme here?). The reviews are very detailed. A good blog for YA.

A Novel Review: again the discussion got me interested, I like the layout of the reviews too.

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Looking back: Musings


Again as part of my blogiversary week I wanted to look back at something from my blog. Today I’m going to look at a past musing.

One of my most commented on posts is a post about how the popularity of a book may effect a reader’s perceptions of it.

Well I have a little personal slant to add to it. I don’t want to re-hash old ground seeing as my thoughts are still pretty much the same as they were when I wrote the original post, so you may as well just go back and look at that particular post.

I wanted however to talk about a particular series of books because it is a time when I have been on the outside, or so it would seem. You may have heard of these books The Hunger Games trilogy. They are certainly well known. Lots of bloggers have read them, lots of bloggers have loved them. It’s got to the point where I am cheering to see bloggers saying that they haven’t read them because it means that it is not just me!

Well lets put it blankly. I first heard of these books (may even have been book at that point) before I noticed any big popularity thing going on around them. I can’t honestly say I was interested. Maybe there was something there but the idea just reminded me of Battle Royale, which just makes it a little unoriginal, especially as Battle Royale has such a cult following, it’s not as if it’s a bit of inspiration taken from a generally unknown story. I haven’t read Battle Royale, in case you were wondering. I’ve seen the film (and yes I know as well as anybody that there is rarely any real comparison there), which is pretty horrific in a kind of you don’t want to see but can’t look away sense.

Anyway back to the point. I wasn’t very interested in this book but gradually I was seeing more and more rave reviews of the books, and people who could not wait for the release of Mockingjay.It made me begin to think that possibly I was missing out on something. Maybe it was more that just a calmed version of a gruesome cult classic for a younger generation? So far I have stuck to my guns, but who knows how long. I’m been tempted a few times but not jumped. What if it ends up like Twilight? With a need to keep reading but a hatred of what I was reading?

So there you go, popularity can be seductive. But sometimes it makes you want to resist.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban- J.K. Rowling


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Image via Wikipedia

This book was a re-read as part of The Harry Potter Read-A-Long.

This review contains spoiler for the Harry Potter series

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Harry Potter is a wizard. He is in his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It’s always a relief after summer with the Dursleys, however, Harry doesn’t realise that this year will be just as eventful as the last two! The atmosphere at Hogwarts is tense. There’s an escaped mass murderer on the loose, even the Muggles have been warned. The sinister prison guards of Azkaban have been called in to guard the school and Harry, Ron and Hermione rapidly discover why all witches and wizards live in fear of being sent to Azkaban. Lessons, however, must go on and there are lots of new subjects in third year – Care of Magical Creatures and Divination among others. Plus the delights of Hogsmeade, the only village in the UK entirely populated by the magical community.

Review

I know this book is a favourite among many of Harry’s fans but of the books I’m read so far it’s been the one I’ve looked forward to the least. It’s not my least favourite but it is far from my favourite and my excitement about the read-a-long has abated a little. I was trying to stop myself reading The Prisoner of Azkaban at the beginning of the month but suddenly the end of the month was here and I was worried I wouldn’t finish it in time! Luckily I finished it today just within the time!

Having said this is not my favourite there still are a lot of things I like about it. Not least of all. I love the introduction of Lupin in this book, I think he remains my favourite teacher, or at least my favourite Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. In fact Lupin remains a favourite character of mine all the way through, despite his behaviour in Deathly Hallows. I also quite like hearing a little bit about James’ time at Hogwarts and his friends, and finding out a little about what happened the day Harry’s parents died. Those who know my love of Harry will confirm I’ve always been very interested in back story. However Marauder back story, although interesting is not something I feel the need to explore, I would much rather read about Voldemort’s school days. I think that’s one of the reasons I don’t like Prisoner of Azkaban so much, it’s very light on Voldemort. Despite that I do think it’s important in Voldemort’s gradual rise to power

5/5

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction review, YA

In the Kitchen- Monica Ali


Image from The Telegraph

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Gabriel Lightfoot, executive chef at the once-splendid Imperial Hotel, aims to run a tight kitchen. Though under constant challenge from the competing demands of an exuberantly multinational staff, a gimlet-eyed hotel management, and business partners with whom he is secretly planning a move to a restaurant of his own, all Gabe’s hard work looks set to pay off. Until, that is, a worker turns up dead in the kitchen basement… Enter Lena, an eerily attractive young woman with mysterious ties to the dead man. Under her spell, Gabe makes a decision, with consequences that strip him naked, and change the course of the life he knows – and the future he thought he wanted.

Review

Okay, time to be honest, I pretty much bought In the Kitchen because I remembered really liking Brick Lane.  I was waiting for it to come out in paperback for so long I eventually gave in and brought it in hardback when Borders was closing down, but it’s still one of the books which has been on my To Be Read list for the longest amount of time. I did start it shortly after buying it but decided I wasn’t in the right mood for reading it, so it has sat on my TBR pile staring at me ever since. Everytime my TBR pile gets low it seems to be saying “Pick me! Pick me! You wanted me so much!” but I was never in the right mood.

Well when I eventually did get around to starting it (almost a week ago now) I couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel right about it first time. There is something about the opening which showed so much promise. A bit of intrigue, a promise of something unknown to be revealed. Unfortunately things went downhill from there. Things were just so slow. That first chapter made insinuations that lots was going to happen. I didn’t really expect a fast paced, exciting, detective style novel. It’s still Monica Ali after all and if Brick Lane is anything to go by she’s not the writer of fast paced novels, preferring the gradual reveal. However while I remember Brick Lane having so fantastic descriptions and a great insight to life as an Asian migrant in Britain I didn’t find any such interest in In The Kitchen. While there was the element of a revealing of life as an Eastern European migrant it wasn’t as deep as the insight had been in Brick Lane and didn’t hold so much interest for me.

Really it wasn’t a story about Eastern Europeans, or about a kitchen. It wasn’t a story about a death. It wasn’t a story about a woman. No it was really a story about Gabriel, and, to be perfectly honest I didn’t like Gabriel. I have no particular reason to not like Gabriel, I just didn’t, and really I didn’t care about what happened to him. I think if I had cared about Gabriel I would have liked the story, so it’s really a shame I didn’t. In the Kitchen was slow going but it was all about the gradual reveal, the journey to a climatic end. By then I was a little interested, and if I liked Gabriel I might have ended up liking the whole book, such a shame.

Maybe this review is a bit biased. I can see how good Monica Ali’s writing is. I can see how clever she is with her little clues of what will happen to Gabriel, how she uses the journey to a climax with great success. I really wish I could have loved this book, but in the end the journey was just too long for me.

3/5

Other reviews:

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The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim- Jonathon Coe


This book was read as part of the Take a Chance Challenge

from bookdepository

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Maxwell Sim seems to have hit rock bottom: separated from his wife and daughter, estranged from his father, and with no one to confide in even though he has 74 friends on Facebook. He’s not even sure whether he’s got a job until suddenly a strange business proposition comes his way which involves a long journey to the Shetland Isles – and a voyage into his family’s past which throws up some surprising revelations.

Jonathan Coe’s new book is a story for our times: Maxwell finds himself at sea in the modern world, surrounded by social networks but unable to relate properly to anyone. Yet as he delves into his family history he manages to find the resources to survive.

Review

I really want to talk about the end of this book but I think maybe the end is not the best place to start!

Overall The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim made me think of Mark Haddon’s ‘A Spot of Bother‘. The character of Max was very similar to George, or at least their situation was. However while I found A Spot of Bother a little disturbing, and found it difficult to see through to the jokes, I found that a lot of The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim was funny, even what could have been depressing bits were delivered well, they didn’t seem too gloomy. [highlight for A Spot of Bother spoiler]In fact my overriding memory of A Spot of Bother is of George trying to cut off his excema with a pair of scissors. The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim has no such disturbing scenes (although apparently the scene in A Spot of Bother is meant to be funny.)

There were a fair few twists and turns as well that were good. One though seemed really unneccessary and I don’t really get why it was included. I’m not going to spell it out which bit because I think if you’ve read it you’ll know, and spoilers are tempting to read!

The only really problem I’m say with this book is that it can be quite mundane at times. You just feel like you’re reading the life of any old person really, but maybe that is the point. Max is meant to be someone who could easily be you.

So the end. That was one twist and half. I’m still trying to get my head around it two days later. In some ways I kind of get why it was there, something to do with Jonathon Coe talking about himself, or maybe just writers in general. It just seems a bit out of place.

Certainly not the best Coe I’ve ever read, but still worth the read.

3.5/5

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Sputnik Sweetheart- Haruki Murakami


Image from Fantastic Fiction

This book was read as part of the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge.

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Twenty two year old, Sumire is in love for the first time with a woman seventeen years her senior. But, whereas Miu is a glamorous and successful older woman with a taste for classical music and fine wine, Sumire is an aspiring writer who dresses in an oversized second hand coat and heavy boots like a character in a Jack Kerouac novel. Surprised that she might, after all, be a lesbian, Sumire spends hours on the phone talking to her best friend, K about the big questions in life: what is sexual desire and should she ever tell Miu how she feels about her? K, a primary school teacher, is used to answering questions, but what he most wants to say to Sumire is “I love you.” He consoles himself by having an affair with the mother of one of his pupils. But, when a desperate Miu calls him out of the blue from a sunny Greek island and asks for his help, he soon discovers that all is not as it seems and something very strange has happened to Sumire.
Review
Wow 3 reviews in 3 days, must be some sort of record for me! I must say I loved Sputnik Sweetheart. It seemed to bridge that gap between the more ‘normal’ books by Murakami, like ‘Norwegian Wood’, and the more surreal of his novels, like ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle‘.
Initially the situation in Sputnik Sweetheart seemed pretty normal, a sort of twisted romance story. Boy (K) loves girl (Sumire), girl loves other girl (Miu), other girl is married but has never been in love. Not sure if you would call that a love triangle or what! After a while things began to get a little strange (just like the Murakami I know and love). Sumire and Miu go to Greece and after a few days K gets a phone call from Miu, a woman he has never met, saying that something has happened to Sumire. From then on things just get stranger and stranger. I really liked the surrealism in this book but it wasn’t overwhelming as it is in some of Murakami’s other books. This aspect did make it an easier and less confusing read but also meant it didn’t stick with me in the same way Kafka on the Shore did (for example). [highlight for spoiler]I do wonder what happened to Sumire, she does seem to have just disappeared without a trace, and did K ever recieve a phonecall from her or was it just the way his mind was working or a strange dream? If she did go to a dream world (hey anything is possible when it comes to Murakami) did she meet the other side of Miu there? And whatever happened to her cat!Oh and what happened to Carrot, what was that bit even about!
The language was still beautiful but maybe a bit more simple. That’s part of the reason I think this one would make a good introduction to Murakami, along with it’s less in your face surrealism. It still has an aspect of surrealism which would give a hint but not so much it makes it a challenge to read.
Also really appreciated the book references in this one.
Not my favourite but still loved it.
4.5/5

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The In-Between Woman- Rabindranath Tagore


Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel prize for li...

Image via Wikipedia

The In-Between Woman is a short story taken from The Essential Tagore, it has been reproduced legally and free of charge at the Guernica magazine website.

Synopsis (written by me)

The In-Between Woman is the story of the two wives of one man. When wife number one becomes ill she insists that her husband takes a second wife. She raises the 8 year old girl but as the second wife grows up things begin to become strained.

Review

I read a review of The In-Between Woman on The Reading Life and although I usually don’t even consider reading short stories this one sounded interesting enough to give a go, plus it was free! I suppose one good thing about short stories is that they are very quick to read, I managed to read the whole of this one on my i-pod while drinking coffee in Starbucks. There’s something quite satisfying about being able to read a whole story in one sitting like that.

I did find the story very interesting, the idea of a woman raising another woman to be her husband’s new wife seemed so alien to me. I liked the way the relationship between the two women progressed from a sort of mother-daughter relationship to a more competitive relationship. I didn’t find the change that authentic, but that was partly because it felt like a very abrupt change. I think in a longer story it could have been stretched out more so the reader could see how things gradually changed. I didn’t feel that much for the characters either for the same reason, I did quite like the first wife (who was the narrator) but didn’t feel like I really knew her, I mainly just felt pity, especially after she had opened her home to this woman.

I found the language was quite beautiful, and very descriptive. I can imagine a full length story by Tagore being the type I would describe as beautiful but I did feel description was needed in other sections, even if it didn’t give the reader such a vivid picture.

Still worth a read if you have a little time to spare.

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A Week in December- Sebastian Faulkes


Image from Goodreads

Synopsis (from Amazon)

London, the week before Christmas, 2007. Over seven days we follow the lives of seven major characters: a hedge-fund manager trying to bring off the biggest trade of his career; a professional footballer recently arrived from Poland; a young lawyer with little work and too much time to speculate; a student who has been led astray by Islamist theory; a hack book-reviewer; a schoolboy hooked on skunk and reality TV; and a Tube train driver whose Circle Line train joins these and countless other lives together in a daily loop.

With daring skill, the novel pieces together the complex patterns and crossings of modern urban life. Greed, the dehumanising effects of the electronic age and the fragmentation of society are some of the themes dealt with in this savagely humorous book. The writing on the wall appears in letters ten feet high, but the characters refuse to see it – and party on as though tomorrow is a dream.

Sebastian Faulks probes not only the self-deceptions of this intensely realised group of people, but their hopes and loves as well. As the novel moves to its gripping climax, they are forced, one by one, to confront the true nature of the world they inhabit.

Review

I was surprisingly sad to finish A Week in December in that for most of the book I didn’t actually enjoy it that much. It was a real disappointment as I usually really enjoy Sebastian Fawkes work. I have found that some of his novels have been slow to start before but this one was really slow to start, I didn’t start to get properly into it until there were less than 100 pages left. I possibly would have even given up by my 100 page cut off mark if it wasn’t for the fact that it being a Fawkes novel gave me hop that it would get good.

It took me a long time to get all the characters sorted out in my head, and even at the end I was getting Veals and errr what’s his name the lawyer politician mixed up, err Lance that’s it. And I’m still not sure who Roger is. It doesn’t help that within the first few pages there was a great big long list of characters who would be invited to a dinner party, most of whom barely featured in the rest of the book.

In fact there were only two characters who were distinct right from the onset, the tube driver Jenni, and the Islamic student, Hassan. As far as Jenni went it still took me some time to get into her story but she felt like the most genuine of the characters, and once she met Gabriel I started enjoying her story more. Hassan’s storyline was the most interesting, and I expected much more of it [highlight for spoiler]because of that it was somewhat of an anti-climax. I expected the climax of the story to be him blowing up the hospital, where a number of the characters would be. I kind of liked him so in a way I am glad he didn’t but it did make the end less exciting.

Most of the other storylines held little interest for me. I found Veals to be a horrible little man but his story only held interest for me in relation to his wife and son. I really could have done without his who financial storyline, I found it generally went over my head and was pretty boring. Plus it took up far too much of the book. I didn’t like RT either, he was such a grumpy, self-satisfied, snob, I didn’t really care what happened to him and cared even less what he thought. I almost thought RT was included just so Fawkes could have a dig at his critics. I did like Gabriel as a character but his story was not very distinct, he didn’t really mean anything except in relation to Jenni.

In some ways A Week in December felt more like a social commentary than a novel. Fawkes talked about finance, and bankers. ‘Reality’ television. Books. The internet. The culture of blame. The rich/poor divide. Teenagers. Parents. Religion. Race. And immigration. Maybe he could have written a good non-fiction book on Britain or London today but I really don’t think it made a good novel.

2/5

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Film of the Book: The Time Traveller’s Wife


This review contains spoilers for the book and film The Time Traveller’s Wife.

The Time Traveller’s Wife is one of my favourite books and I’ve been meaning to see the film ever since it came out, I’ve just never got round to it. I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t like it because I tend to be a bit judgemental of films of books. I’m better than I once was, trying to take them as films in themselves rather than comparing them to the book, but it becomes more difficult the more I love the books.

I was actually pretty impressed with how close to the book this film was. There were a few changes but they were pretty minor and I don’t think they cut anything that was especially important. I was a bit sad that they cut the bit where Henry sees Claire when she is old in favour for a slightly cheesy ‘Daddy is always with us’ scene. I thought the scene with Henry seeing an old Claire was actually more hopeful because it showed she would be okay. It was the only change I didn’t really like though which is quite impressive, and I think maybe it’s more self explanatory than the scene in the book.

I thought the emotional scenes in the book were done really well. They were very moving and brought me too tears.

The film also reminded me how much I had loved Henry when reading the book (but less so how much I’d liked Claire), and I really want to re-read the book now.

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The Weight of Silence- Heather Gudenkauf


Cover of "The Weight of Silence"

Cover of The Weight of Silence

Synopsis (from Amazon)

When two seven-year-old girls go missing, all are under suspicion. Calli Clark is a dreamer. A sweet, gentle girl, Callie suffers from selective mutism, brought on by a tragedy she experienced as a toddler. Her mother Antonia tries her best to help, but is confined by marriage to a violent husband. Petra Gregory is Calli’s best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli have been heard from since their disappearance was discovered. Now Calli and Petra’s families are bound by the question of what has happened to their children. As support turns to suspicion, it seems the answers lie trapped in the silence of unspoken secrets.

Review

The Weight of Silence is described in more than one place as a book Jodi Picoult fans will love. Well I’m a Jodi Picoult fan, but to be honest that’s not something that would make me want to read a book, what’s the point of reading a book that’s like a book you have already read, I don’t know. I can certainly see the comparison between Gundenkauf and Picoult, they have very similar writing styles and both seem to like using multiple narrators. However that’s where the comparison really ends. While Pioult’s books tend to have some central moral issue which gets the reader thinking there was no such issue in Weight of Silence. I suppose it is similar in the way we see different emotions and views of an event, but there is no internal debate.

I did enjoy it all the same. It was actually a little bit of a mystery as we tried to work out what had happened to Petra (we are basically told what happened to Calli, or at least to a certain point). I admit that I did expect Calli’s mutism to be more of a central theme but really, while it was an interesting aspect, it didn’t seem necessary [highlight for spoiler]and where it could have mattered it didn’t that much. Nobody thought that Calli’s brother had actually hurt Petra, even though that was all she said. Calli’s big moment could have been done so much better and given a twist in the plot, or even just taken the reader in another direction. I did also guess what I think was meant to be a twist in the story [highlight for spoiler] and quite early on suspected Lucky. I really wasn’t surprised when we found out for sure it was him.

The story was quite moving though, but not to the level where I felt uncomfortable reading it (I’m not sure if that is a good thing or not). It was very readable, in that it was written in an easy way to read and in that I wanted to find out what happened next. I also really liked how Calli’s chapters were written in the third person rather than her own voice (as the other chapters were) which suggested she couldn’t tell her story.

4/5

 

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The Economics of Ego Surplus- Paul McDonnold


I was sent a copy of this book free in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Part action novel, part literary novel, part guidebook to economics, The Economics of Ego Surplus is the story of college instructor Kyle Linwood. Anticipating a relaxing summer with his girlfriend and his PhD dissertation, he gets recruited by the FBI to help with an obscure case of terrorist internet “chatter,” which explodes into a shocking, mysterious assault on U.S. financial markets. As the economy melts down and a nation panics, Kyle follows a trail of clues from Dallas to New York City to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. In his quest to discover the truth, he will be forced to confront the assumptions underlying his education as well as his life. But will it be enough to save America from the most brilliant terrorist plot ever conceived?

Review

I must admit I was sceptical about this book. I liked the idea of trying to teach something about economics through a book, but I guess my ideas of economics and of crime novels just didn’t fit together. I was intrigued to see how McDonnold would teach while still making the book entertaining.
I must say I was impressed. It took a little time for the book to get going but once I got into it I really couldn’t put it down! It was pretty exciting and I was waiting to see what the main character and the ‘terrorists’ would do next. I’m not sure if their sabotage of the economy is really plausible but it made for a good read.
I do think I actually learnt a bit too, I think I understand a bit more about how the market works now, and it gives some grounding behind some of the ideas the government have been flying around in the last few years, things such as to keep spending to help the economy recover, something which seemed a little strange to me before. As I was reading it to review I was trying to see if it would teach me anything but I don’t think it would be obviously doing so if you weren’t looking for it.
Actually the main problem I would say is the name, I kind of get how it fits in with the story as a whole but from just looking at the cover I wouldn’t see it as a crime novel, I may not even see it as a novel at all, at least not until I had read the subtitle.

4/5

You can read an extract of The Economics of Ego Surplus at Starving Analyst Press

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Me and Harry


I can’t believe it’s the end of Harry Potter Week already! This was fun. Today is a bit more personal. I want to talk about my relationship with Harry Potter, it really feels like the end of an era, Harry Potter has been more that just a book series for me, it’s been a part of life. Yes maybe it’s time to let go but sometimes things aren’t that easy.

I first read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when I was about 12. I had never heard about it but my Dad had read about it in The Guardian. I’m always happy to say I read it before all the hype, I even have the version of Philosopher’s Stone with the random wizard on the back (as opposed to Dumbledore who now adorns the back of the first book, due to much fan puzzlement about who the guy on the back of Philosopher’s Stone actually was). I’ve said before here that I almost gave up on Philosopher’s Stone first time around. I found it a little difficult to get in to. if it hadn’t been Christmas I may never have finished it.  But I carried on, and by the time Hagrid had turned up I was hooked. Until very recently I skipped the first few chapters when re-reading Philosopher’s Stone however with the consequence that I actually know the first bit of the first book less well than the rest of the series (despite innumerable re-reads).

Oh I remember looking for another book by Rowling (hoping it would be about Harry) for what felt like months and months. I think Chamber of Secrets may have actually been out by then seeing as I am far from having a first edition, but maybe my local Waterstones (or was it Dillons back then?) didn’t have it in stock? It wasn’t the most well known book then (although J.K. was already a double Smarties Award winner) but I for one wanted it. I am sure the anticipation for Chamber of Secrets has actually contributed somewhat to it being one of my favourite Potter books.

Lets skip forward a few years. I happily read Prisoner of Azkaban, managing to get hold of that one fairly early on. Then the hype started Goblet of Fire was released on the 8th July 2000 (wow was it really that long ago?!)  and the preceding months it was mentioned on TV (I remember first realising that my favourite books were actually really popular after seeing a report on Newsround), and advertised for pre-order everywhere! I ordered it from a local bookshop, it was a shop I passed everyday so why not? That was a really good idea, they didn’t seem to get the idea of a release date but phoned me as soon as the book came through, a day before it was released. Of course I had to start it straight away, and I was a good 100 pages in before most other people even had the book- it’s one of my favourite stories! I remember coming in to school the next day and people asking me questions about what they had read, thinking I would have the answers seeing as I had read so much more.

This is around about the time I started getting into fandom a little. I wasn’t the most popular of girls at school, a little geeky and awkward, incredibly shy, I never really felt I fit in. Yes I had friends but I still spent lots of time in the library and in the I.T rooms. Reading and Harry Potter was a real escapism for me, it was almost like another friend, and the internet gave that distance and anamosity which meant I didn’t have to be shy, if I embarrassed myself who cares? I could just disappear and nobody would know who I was. Maybe it was a bad way to deal with things but I think it’s part of what makes me who I am today. Yeah I’m still pretty shy but I’m much more comfortable with myself, and I do think the internet helped with that. There is something with the internet community that is very accepting, everyone is there and it’s so easy to find a group where you feel like you.

I started off on the (now closed) Bloomsbury Harry Potter forums, which were the most basic of forums ever, no log in, just write your name in a little box under your comment, no comment threads, just endless comments on random topics. Completely crazy forum, partly for that reason, when it got boring we used to pretend to be other people. After a while it got closed down just because it was a moderating nightmare. For a while I drifted around the internet then I hit upon Mugglenet, complete Mecca of Harry Potter fandom, at that time Mugglenet still had a link to their once official forums the Chamber of Secrets Forum and that’s where I ended up, sometime after the release of Order of the Phoenix. After the Bloomsbury forums the Chamber of Secrets Forum was like a maze, every possible theory, what felt like hundreds of people all talking about Harry Potter. I must admit the actual Harry Potter threads were somewhat daunting and I actually spent almost a whole year barely visiting them but just chatting in the chat threads, I’m still in semi-contact with people from that time even though most of us no longer visit the forums. Gradually I  started participating in more and more Harry Potter discussions till it came to a point that for the release of Deathly Hallows I actually went to London to meet with people I had met on Chamber of Secrets Forum.

I still visit the forum occasionally, but now the series has ended it doesn’t hold the same draw for me. But in some way it has led me to this blog. I needed something to replace Chamber of Secrets, it had been a part of my life for so long I couldn’t just let go of the online world all together. I have a Livejournal which is pretty much only followed by Chamber of Secrets friends so I kept updating that, then I joined the Bookclub Forum. My book blog started as a thread on there and after a while I decided to bring it to a larger audience.

I don’t think I will ever completely let go of Harry, he still holds a part in my heart, but he is less of my life now, and I think that’s how it should be. I’ve grown up with Harry, he’s important to me.

Must admit though I am still fairly excited to see Pottermore– although I am doubtful it will offer much new.

 

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Mini Review: Tales of Beedle the Bard


This review is more from memory than from a recent read, but I wanted to mention it

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a book of Wizard’s Fairy Tales. It features strongly in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and the story of the Hallows is taken from it. It’s a charming little book, the fairy tales follow a structure which will be familiar to anyone who has ever been told a fairly tale, but they are completely new tales. Of course the Tale of the Three Brothers is the one which is interesting in terms of the series itself, as it is the tale of the hallows, but in terms of The Tales of Beedle the Bard we already know the story from Deathly Hallows. My favourite is The Fountain of Fair Fortune, I’m not really sure, maybe just because it’s the closest to a ‘muggle’ fairytale. The book also includes notes and a forward written by Dumbledore, which is funny and well worth the read.

Don’t forget to enter my Harry Potter Giveaway, entries close tomorrow.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Image via Wikipedia

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Harry Potter Merchandise


Today I’m looking at some of my favourite Harry Potter objects on sales, I’m trying to do for less official merchandise and I hope you like it.

PrettyLittleCharmsUK over on etsy sells a lot of these beautiful charms, some just show words (as the one displayed, which is unfortunately sold) while others have other little charms added, such as the Patronus charm

There are lots of beautiful Golden Snitch necklaces around but I particularly like the below one from oldjunkyardboutique (also on etsy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Folksy CutiePies makes a whole series of potion bottle pendants, I especially like the Felix Felicis

 

 

 

 

I own an awesome Snape lego keyring which glows in the dark but lego doesn’t seem to make it anymore. This is the closest I could find on Amazon

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Deathly Hallows Comic


So I completely and utterly failed to get a post up yesterday but (in my defence) I was ill with a migraine and could barely see let alone type!

Tomorrows review list will have to be massive because I should really me getting to bed but I still wanted to give you something for today.

These amazing comics are made by the fantabulous Lucy Knisley (the link is to her livejournal but if you google her name she also has a website, do check both out)

She has done a comic for each book in the Harry Potter series, as well as a giant picture summarising the whole series. Seeing as Harry Potter week is to commend the release of Deathly Hallows though I thought that would be the best to show you. Click to look closer.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Hope you like them 🙂

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets- J.K. Rowling


Cover of "Harry Potter And The Chamber Of...

Cover via Amazon


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second book in the Harry Potter series and was read as part of the Harry Potter read-a-long

Synopsis (from Amazon, adapted by me)

Harry Potter is a wizard. He is in his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Little does he know that this year will be just as eventful as the last …even getting there is an adventure in itself! The three firm friends, Harry, Ron and Hermione, are soon immersed in the daily round of Potions, Herbology, Charms, Defence Against the Dark Arts, and Quidditch. But then horrible and mysterious things begin to happen. Harry keeps hearing strange voices, and sinister and dark messages appear on the wall.

Review

How much I love his book, for the longest time it was my favourite Harry Potter book, and now it shares that position with Half-Blood Prince (if you have read both you can probably guess what I liked about these two). I must admit part of what I loved about this book is that I felt I was looking for it for forever after having loved Philosopher’s Stone- I must have missed it immediately though because I don’t have a first, or even second edition. My joy when I found it, finally, though was so strong.

I must admit this is the one book where I really like Ginny, and it’s a book where we first really see her (apart from a small couple of glimpses in Philosopher’s Stone) [highlight for spoiler]as well as a book where Ginny is a very important character. I guess I like the funny little moments when she is in front of Harry she seems so young and innocent [highlight for spoiler] and yes I think that picture of her is important, you would never in a million years suspect Ginny, or at least not until she was going to tell Harry and Ron.

Something I do find about the book though is that it really is very, very dark. I know they say that the books get darker, and maybe in ways they do, certainly there is more of a threat a little later on, but at least that threat is known. I mean nobody knows what is happening in the school, nobody knows who is controlling what is happening, and Harry is hearing voices in the wall. Sometimes an unknown horror is worse than one that you at least know something about, at least with the later books they knew the threat was Voldemort and they knew, at least up to a point what they would get from him. Even when you know what this horror is it still seems so unknown and impossible to control [highlight for spoiler]I mean even Voldemort can’t kill you by simply looking at you! (As they say in Potterwatch (Deathly Hallows:

“So, people, let’s try and calm down a bit. Things are bad enough without inventing stuff as well. For instance, this new idea that You-Know-Who can kill with a single glance from his eyes. That’s a basilisk, listeners. One simple test: Check whether the thing that’s glaring at you has got legs. If it has, it’s safe to look into its eyes, although if it really is You-Know-Who, that’s still likely to be the last thing you ever do.”

And that’s not even mentioning giant spiders, or an angry Snape!

What I really like about this book though is the information we get about Tom Riddle. It’s really interesting to see where he came from, and a bit of what he was like in school. I find it interesting that even early on I liked this aspect, even when I did not know how important it would turn out to be later on

5/5

Don’t forget to grab your chance at winning the whole Harry Potter Series in my giveaway

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Film of the Book: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part 2)


WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS for the Harry Potter books and films including Deathly Hallows

You can read my reviews of part 1 of the Deathly Hallows film and the book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Well I must say I was disappointed. I never really like the Harry Potter films much, I’m such a massive fan of the books that I hate every little change. Since the second film I’ve tried to be more relaxed and see the films as films themselves rather than films of books. I can’t stop myself comparing a little (the flying dementors for example really get to me for some reason) but I am able to enjoy the films as themselves, I even bought a copy of Order of the Phoenix after being impressed with Luna but regretted it. However I was impressed with the first part of Deathly Hallows, and I must admit I have been hopeful and excited for this film, partly because of that and partly because of a sort of end of an era feeling about the film. It kind of meant that it was the end of new Harry Potter stuff, and that’s sad.

So on to the film. I feel like my thoughts are a bit all over the place, so rather than my usual review style I’m going to make a list of things I liked, and things I didn’t, and try and explain why.

Liked:

  • The fight between Voldemort and Harry, more epic than in the book, I think that sort of thing lends itself to film.
  • Neville’s awesome-ness, he was awesome in the books, but in a different way. I was disappointed how they changed the most awesome Neville moment in the book though, there didn’t even seem to be any point to do it that way…and they had all the ingredients there to actually do it.
  • Luna’s awesomeness when it came to finding the diadem. Another pointless change but Luna is my favourite character, and there wasn’t enough of her in Deathly Hallows.
  • The scene where Harry returned to Hogwarts, it did bring a little tear to me eye knowing what was to come after all the happiness.
  • Ginny’s reaction to Harry’s death, made me cry a little even though I knew he was alive
  • The deaths generally, but especially Fred’s killed me in the book, almost killed me in the film
  • 19 years later, I’m sure it wasn’t meant to be funny but it was hilariously cheesy!
  • McGonnagal’s awesomeness, again different to the book but still awesome.
  • The bridge scene, pretty cool and clever.

What I didn’t like:

  • Those damn flying dementors, DEMENTORS DON’T FLY!
  • Snape’s memories, how can he remember things he didn’t see (i.e. Lily’s death)? And what was with the memories coming from his tears? So cheesy and rubbish.
  • The sword of Gryffindor just appearing, what was that about? The burning sorting hat is an epic scene and could have been so good on screen.
  • Not my daughter you bitch! So uneventful, it’s one of the best parts of the book but it was just so undramatic.
  • The lack of Ravenclaw back story, I like the Helena/Bloody Baron story. And her knowing where the diadem is…she didn’t know that in the book right?
  • Ron and Hermione’s kiss. Meant to be totally happy moment in the middle of crazy battle and also a bit funny for inappropriate timing, just wasn’t.
  • Ron copying Harry’s parseltongue, not the best part of the book but it sounded like he could speak parseltongue rather than he was copying.
  • Neville and Luna pairing, Why? Just why? JK has said they are friends, nothing more, I don’t want them to be anything more, it’s to perfect in a sort of everyone has to be in a couple way, why is that?
  • No Kreacher. No fighting for Master Regulas
  • Ron not wanting to save the house elves, that’s why Hermione kissed him, not because of some stupid flood moment the same as every other scary slightly death like moment.
  • Harry not remembering that he had actually already seen the diadem when he hid the Half-blood Prince’s potion book, but randomly searching for it in this giant room
  • No explanation of the tunnel and new room of requirement
  • Whoops Harry forgot to fix his wand before he broke the elder wand
  • Putting the Slytherins in the dungeon, they were meant to be able to leave or stay and fight, as were the rest of the school

Ok so it technically took me till Sunday to write this…

 

 

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It’s Harry Potter Week on Lucybird’s Book Blog


 

Yes that’s right, in commemoration of the release of the final Harry Potter film and the end of an era this week is going to be Harry Potter Week here  at Lucybird’s Book Blog.

I’ll be posting a Harry Potter related post everyday this week, starting off with a review of the film later today. Plus keep tuned tomorrow for my Harry Potter Giveaway.

Plus everyday I’m going to be posting links to Harry Potter reviews on other blogs, so if you would like your blog to be featured please link me to your post.

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Flesh and Grass- Libby Cone


I was sent a free copy of this book in return for an honest review

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Seventeenth-century Holland was a major power with a large, wealthy middle class built on spices and slavery. Dutch schemes to colonize the New World brought few interested parties, but Pieter Cornelissoon Boom, an early Mennonite with a dream of communal living, brings a few families to Delaware Bay in 1663. Their “Little Common-wealth” is just getting started when the bloody economic rivalry between Holland and England unleashes violence on the coast of Delaware. The Nieuw Netherland colonies swing between Dutch and English ownership in a series of Anglo-Dutch wars. Cornelis, Boom’s blind son, tells the story of the community (based loosely on the ill-fated Delaware settlement of Pieter Plockhoy) in its various forms of existence, relying on his exquisite memory of scent.Seventeenth-century Holland was a major power with a large, wealthy middle class built on spices and slavery. Dutch schemes to colonize the New World brought few interested parties, but Pieter Cornelissoon Boom, an early Mennonite with a dream of communal living, brings a few families to Delaware Bay in 1663. Their “Little Common-wealth” is just getting started when the bloody economic rivalry between Holland and England unleashes violence on the coast of Delaware. The Nieuw Netherland colonies swing between Dutch and English ownership in a series of Anglo-Dutch wars. Cornelis, Boom’s blind son, tells the story of the community (based loosely on the ill-fated Delaware settlement of Pieter Plockhoy) in its various forms of existence, relying on his exquisite memory of scent.

Review

I quite enjoyed Libby Cone’s first book War on the Margins, and when she e-mailed me about reviewing her new book Flesh and Grass I was immediately interested. Generally when I read historical fiction I read fiction based around the two world wars but I thought why not get out of my comfort zone a little.

Unfortunately I didn’t find Flesh and Grass as good as War on the Margins. I found it a little slower, and I didn’t really feel like I ever got into it. There were elements I liked, I thought the emotions were done really well, and you could really understand how smells were attached to emotions for Cornelis. Historically it was interesting too, but I didn’t really get much from it about what it was like to be in completely new place. While events which would bring strong emotions were well described the general day-to-day feelings brought on by moving to a new place were barely touched upon.

I must admit that Libby Cone does have the tendency to write like a historian rather than an author. The topics are interesting but turning them into a story adds little, and it seemed to add less here than in War on the Margins.

3/5

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Filed under Fiction review, Historical

Syren- Angie Sage


The cover art for Syren from the Septimus Heap...

Image via Wikipedia

Syren is Book 5 in the Septimus Heap series

Synopsis (from Amazon)

In the fifth book of this Magykal series, Septimus and his friends find themselves on an island whose secrets are as dark and dangerous as its inhabitants. Septimus Heap returns to the House of Foryx with Spit Fyre to pick up Jenna, Nicko, Snorri, and Beetle. But the journey home does not go well and when Septimus and his friends are caught in a storm, Spit Fyre crashes into the Rokk Lighthouse. They are rescued by the lighthouse keeper who is disturbingly sinister, and who has an equally sinister cat …And all the while, Septimus is trying to fight the strange pull he’s feeling to the island and its mysterious secrets.

Review

There is something about the Septimus Heap series in that it takes a while to really get going, you get hints that it will get exciting but it’s only towards the end that it actually becomes exciting with a gradual build. his was still true of Syren, although I do think it got going a little quicker than the previous books. I think I am enjoying the stories more as we go through the series as well, and whereas before I read the other books without and real anticipation I am actually really looking forward to Darke, I just wish it was out already!

Really my main problem with this series is that it isn’t much of a series in the way the books link together. In some ways this one was linked to the other books, and I can definitely see how it may link to the next book, but it also seems in some ways unneccessary to the series as a whole, and as if Sage was just trying to stretch out the books.

3.5/5

 

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction review, YA

The Piano Tuner- Daniel Mason


Cover of "The Piano Tuner: A Novel"

Cover of The Piano Tuner: A Novel

Synopsis (from Amazon)

On a misty London afternoon in 1886, piano tuner Edgar Drake receives a strange request from the War Office: he must leave his wife, and his quiet life in London, to travel to the jungles of Burma to tune a rare Erhard grand piano. The piano belongs to Surgeon-Major Anthony Carroll, an enigmatic British officer, whose success at making peace in the war-torn Shan States is legendary, but whose unorthodox methods have begun to attract suspicion.

 

So begins the journey of the soft-spoken Edgar across Europe, the Red Sea, India, Burma, and at last into the remote highlands of the Shan States. En route he is entranced by the Doctor’s letters and by the shifting cast of tale-spinners, soldiers and thieves who cross his path.

 

As his captivation grows, however, so do his questions: about the Doctor’s true motives, about an enchanting and elusive woman who travels with him into the jungle, about why he came. And, ultimately, whether he will ever be able to return home unchanged to the woman who awaits him there . . .

 

Sensuous and lyrical, rich with passion and adventure, THE PIANO TUNER is an unforgettable and haunting novel.

Review

I wrote about the trouble I was having with this book in my very waffley post earlier this week. It’s not that it was a bad book by any means, it was well written, and enough happened for me not to give up but the going was very slow, I was almost halfway through the book before Edgar even reached Burma and really for a book that supposedly is about him visiting Burma that really is something which takes a long time to arrive. I must admit that I found that the pace did quicken as I got further into the novel, and that meant I found the last few chapters actually went comparatively quickly, but two weeks for a book is a long time for me (especially as I had already read six others the same month) and that spoiled my enjoyment a little.

There were lots of sections which got me intrigued and wanting to know more, but often nothing more was said about them which made me a little annoyed as they were part of what kept me reading. In fact the most interesting portion for me was the man with one story, and I think I would have actually prefered a book about him to the book that was actually written! (I checked, it doesn’t seem Amazon has a book by Mason about the man with one story, although his second novel, A Distant Country sounds interesting) By the end I did want to know what was going to happen next but the end was a bit of a let down for me, there were lots of unanswered questions which I don’t even really have any theories about. I actually got the impression Mason didn’t know the answers either.

I had high hopes for this book as it was recommended by the same person who introduced me to Marukami but I didn’t get on with it half as well as Norwegian Wood

3/5

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Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Historical

eeek excitement POTTERMORE!


 

Wow this is much much excitement! See I can’t even use words properly!

From the video I am most excited about the extra snippets J.K talks about, anything new always drives me crazy and I still want to know MORE!

It sounds kind of like an online community too, I love forums so am happy in that respect but wonder how much it will actually give us that a ‘normal’ forum doesn’t? And how awesome would it be to be one of the people to be let in early?

There is more information on The Leaky Cauldron

  • You will be like another character, getting sorted and even getting a wand from one of 33,000 combinations!
  • There will be lots of information on McGonnagal’s backstory (which could well be interesting)
  • You will get exclusive information about your house (unless you are sorted into Gryffindor)
  • Will not included the encyclopaedia, this will be a paper book, if it ever happens (WHAT it might not happen…I was hoping for it for so long though!)

Can’t wait for 31st July to try and get in early!

 

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Filed under Musings, News

Pottermore


So I did find out about Pottermore not long after it had been released that Pottermore is the answer to the clues but I thought here I am self confessed Potter addict and I haven’t even mentioned Pottermore on my blog!

Of course there is little really to say, I mean it’s just “Coming Soon” currently which really shows very little about what it will actually be. J.k. has said it’s not a new book but I am still hoping for the encyclopedia (or The Scottish Book).

Still something new that actually comes from J.K. Rowling…very very very exciting! And it means my final Harry Potter straw will not have to be the last Harry Potter film, this make me very happy as I don’t even really like the films.

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Filed under Musings, News

Darkly Dreaming Dexter- Jeff Lindsay


Image from Goodreads

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Dexter Morgan isn’t exactly the kind of man you’d bring home to your mum. At heart, he’s the perfect gentleman: he has a shy girlfriend, and seems to lead a quiet, normal life bordering on the mundane. Despite the fact that he can’t stand the sight of blood, he works as a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami police. But Dexter also has a secret hobby: he is an accomplished serial killer. So far, he’s killed 36 people and has never been caught because he knows exactly how to hide the evidence. And while that may lead some people to assume he’s not such a nice guy, he tempers his insatiable hunger for brutality by only killing the bad guys. However, Dexter’s well-organised life is suddenly disrupted when a second, much more visible serial killer appears in Miami. Intrigued that the other killer favours a style similar to his own, Dexter soon realises that the mysterious new arrival is not simply invading his turf but offering him a direct invitation to ‘come out and play’…
Review
I’m sure I’ve said before that crime novels are not usually to my taste. I find them not exactly predictable but somewhat formulaic and it kind of puts me off. I can really enjoy a good crime novel though and I’d heard lots of good things about this one so I thought I would give it a go. The Dexter books sounded pretty original to me too so I wasn’t expecting anything very formulaic
Well I can certainly say I raced through it. I can read about 100 pages a day without too much of a struggle but it doesn’t happen very often. Still I managed to finish Darkly Dreaming Dexter in just under two days which is pretty fast for me, especially when one of the days is a work day. I found the story very compelling and I really wanted to keep reading.
I found I had a somewhat of a love hate relationship with Dexter himself. Which I think was really that I enjoyed reading him as a character but felt I shouldn’t like him because, well, he was still a murderer, even if he was one with a ‘good heart’. In some ways I think the love hate thing gave me more of an understanding of Dexter too as that seemed to be his attitude towards himself.
I liked how the story was actually told by Dexter. It felt like you could really see how murderers tick (whether or not Lindsay had researched criminology I can’t say but it felt genuine). I think it was the psychologist in me that liked that, even though I haven’t studied criminal psychology since I was doing the a-level. In ways the book made me interested to look a bit more at criminal psychology (and I may well do that).
The actual storyline was exciting, I could never figure out things before Dexter did- but I suppose that is because I cannot think like a murderer (thinking about that it makes the idea of meeting Lindsay a little scary!). It’s an aspect that kept me going with the story and even at the end I was still scratching my head trying to work out what happened between the last chapter and the epilogue. The major twist at the end I never expected although parts of what made it work I had considered.
Adding the next to my wishlist right now!
4/5

CymLowell

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Filed under Crime, Fiction review