one day – david nicholls

One Day - David Nicholls

I’ve only just finished this book, and feel rather emotionally drained at the moment.

I don’t want to say too much, because I don’t want to give anything away, but I think the way that David Nicholls has put this story together makes you feel really involved with characters Emma & Dexter and their lives over the course of 20 years.

Even though the chapters are designed so that you see a ‘snapshot’ of their lives on one particular day of their lives over the 20 year span (15th July), the chapters are written in a way that makes you feel like you haven’t missed a thing.

And it works – you really buy in to the characters, care about them, want to help them, want to say “You idiot! Don’t do that!!” etc etc.  And you’re rooting for them all the way through the book (even when they ARE doing the stupid things) because you know their history, and know how they’ve got to where they are.

it’s not the best written book that I have read, it certainly isn’t the most imaginative, but it is completely touching, surprising and very emotional.

blacklands – belinda bauer

Blacklands - Belinda Bauer

I was actually quite disappointed with Blacklands.  I thought that it was a good story, but was very short, and this could have been the reason that it didn’t involve me as much as I felt that it should have – there was just way too much missing.

In the blurb, Belinda Bauer says that she wrote the book as she was moved by the story of a mother whose child had been murdered many years before, and she was curious about how that kind of event would affect a family long-term…however, that is exactly what I believe was missing.  I felt that the mother and grandmother were really weak characters that I had no empathy for at all, even though I felt some amount of guilt as I knew that I SHOULD feel it.  They just didn’t seem real to me at all – they were very one-dimensional.  The only reason they even seemed to have one dimension was because of their relationship with Steven.

Steven felt like a real 12 year old boy, and I did care about him.  Uncle Jude’s character was also appealing, but that was probably just because of the change in Steven when he was around.

Strangely, I also didn’t feel much hatred towards Avery – he felt a bit of a cartoon villain to me, rather than a paedophile, serial child-killer.

Also, although the story is set in recent years, the idea of the family being oh so very poor makes it feel like it’s been set in the 70s, and for some reason, just doesn’t ring true.

However, it was an entertaining enough, easy-to-read ‘filler’ book.  I can actually see it as making a fantastic film.  In the UK we can make brilliant gritty dramas, making characters very very real with a host of fantastic actors that can make bleak tales SO amazing (anything with Paddy Considine for example!) and we ‘re great for gritty, film noir child actors.  I’d certainly watch it, and I think an adaptation would really bring the story to life and make it more believable – no matter how uncomfortable the subject matter may be.

dracula – bram stoker (the cheat’s version)

Dracula - Bram Stoker (pretty, isn't he?)

We decided on this as a read in my little book club that I have with some of my friends and I have to admit it – I am ashamed to say that I couldn’t actually read this book. I know the story (and have never liked any of the films btw), and I have always thought it to be a good story, and about 18 years ago, I listened to the audio book and really enjoyed it.
I have cheated again. I bought a cheap paperback, and was determined to read it, but in over a week, I managed to get no further than page 7, no matter how hard I tried.

Unfortunately just the first sentence bored me to tears, and then it went downhill from there – I found myself thinking about it half the time “Oh god no,I’ve still got to read Dracula!”

For anyone who hasn’t read it, the book is written in the form of journals, letters and memos written by the various characters from the book.  I think one of the problems for me was that the first entry is written so that it feels like you’ve entered part way through the story.

Just for reference, the first line is:  “3 May. Bistritz—Left Munich at 8.35 P.M. on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6.46, but train was an hour late.” The first night that I picked it up, I read that, thought “Jesus!” and put it down, turned out the light and went to sleep, LOL

In the end I picked up my old audio book, and listened to it again – and thoroughly enjoyed it. obviously the CDs only go on for 2.5 hours, so it is a heavily abridged version, but it was brilliant – I love the story.  My audio book is read by Anthony Valentine (whoever he is) and I think he reads it really well (apart from the dodgy French-sounding accent he gives Van Helsing the Dutch man!  The whole climax of the story, with the mad horse, gypsy, wolf, carriage, coffin chase was fantastic, and he did a brilliant job of conveying the excitement.
I am still unable to explain why I can’t read the book – it’s not the old-fashioned writing, as I like many books of the same era and older. Maybe someone else can give me a reason if they have ever felt the same way!

the girl with the dragon tattoo – steig larsson

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Steig Larsson

I finally finished this last night.  As I haven’t been at work the past week, I haven’t been reading very much, as I only ever seem to read when I’m on the Tube.

I was given this book and the next in the trilogy as a birthday present – although I’ve seen lots about them, and seen loads of people reading them, I hadn’t been moved to buy them for myself or even add them to my ‘must read’ list!

I’m glad they were given to me!  I really enjoyed reading this book.  there were so many storylines going on within the overall story that there was a lot to keep up with, and I never felt that the author was struggling around for ‘filler’.

Saying that, the ‘climax’ of the murders-mystery was rather disappointing to me – although I can see that it would work really well in a film.  I felt that the people dealing with the fallout from that came across as quite unemotional, for something that would surely have led to a lot of conflicting ideas on actions, and would have left a family in turmoil.  I did feel like Larsson had decided “right, that’s that bit of the story tied up nicely, I’ll get onto the next bit now” – in fact (perhaps because he was a journalist) it seemed that more emotional involvement was put into the magazine and the corruption scandal than was put into the murders and the family saga.

As I said, I really enjoyed it, but I wasn’t completely blown away by it (it wasn’t THAT new and different) – and part of me wonders whether the trilogy would have received such acclaim if Larsson hadn’t died. I’d recommend giving it a read though 😉

the little stranger – sarah waters

The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters

I must admit, I was quite disappointed with The Little Stranger – I think I was expecting better things from it.  I don’t really want to give too much away as people may be wanting to read it – and I hate knowing endings etc, so I warn you there MAY be a couple of little spoilers in here.

It was written well , and the characters seemed real enough, but real as they were, they annoyed the hell out of me. And nothing really seemed to happen, which frustrated me beyond belief! I kept thinking “Oooo, it’s going to get good now!” and then it didn’t, it went back to ‘blah’.

The story centres around a society family in a Warwickshire town shortly after the war who have had to live with various traumas and upsets and are slowly being brought down in their crumbling mansion that they are unable to maintain – it was a gothic style but not particularly spooky (although I was so determined to finish it one night that I read it in bed til 2am, and then cos I’m short-sighted, started imagining all sorts in the shadows of my room – but that was more my overactive imagination than the actual visualisations of the book!)

The story is written from the point of view of their doctor, and one of the most annoying things was that nothing ever happened when he was around – it was always told as him hearing the tale from someone else…which made me wonder whether it was actually him that was ‘haunting’ the house a lot of the time, although I hope that would have been hinted at towards the end at some point.

I sped through the book, and finished in 2 or 3 days (which is very quick for me!) but a lot of that was through sheer frustration, wishing for an ‘event’ in the story.

I found it a bit like the Lost of the literary world. Well made, great back story, real characters and hints of ‘goings-on’ but eventually just disappointing and a completely missed opportunity to be something fabulous!

city of the beasts – isabel allende

A beautifully crafted tropical tale steeped in magic and adventure

Last week I finished my book the day after I had ordered a large delivery from Amazon, so I thought I’d make the most of working in Camden by popping along to the many charity shops, to pick up a ‘filler’ book to tide me over til my delivery arrived.

I am SO glad that I did, as City Of The Beasts is not a book I reckon I would ever have picked out online (although the cover is very pretty!).

£1.99 in the YMCA shop introduced me to Alexander Cold, a 15 year old American lad whose mother is dying from cancer, so he is shipped off to his grandmother’s while she is having chemo.  His grandmother is an explorer/writer and is off to the Amazon with a party put together by International Geographic Magazine trying to find evidence of a legendary ‘Beast’ (much like a yeti) that lives amongst the natives in an area hitherto unexplored by the developed world.  Alex discovers much to his horror that he is to go with her.

The story starts out as a tale of a young lad whose family are being torn apart and his relationship with his outspoken, uncompromising, well-traveled grandmother who just makes him fit into her life and plans.  He is the complete opposite of her, and initially finds the trip to the Amazon the stuff of nightmares.

For the first part of the book, I was loving the pace, loving the wonderful sights and sounds of the Amazon, and getting to know all the characters involved – it was a beautifully crafted jungle adventure…and then there is ‘an event’ (I don’t want to ruin it for anyone) and suddenly the book takes a turn and becomes this mystical tale, full of wonder and magic.

I can’t say how much I loved this book – it was a perfect ‘filler’, and I zoomed through it quicker than I do with most books.  Turning each page was a joy, and I never knew where it was going to take me.  It was also the perfect size – there wasn’t TOO much ‘depth’ – there were no flowery words just for the sake of padding it out and trying to be clever and arty – the story was very much ‘as it was’ – and I never felt that I had been cheated.

I usually race through paragraphs when I’m enjoying books, skim-reading just to get to the next good bit (I’m a bugger for that), but I actually believe I read near enough every word because it was relevant!

This is definitely my favourite book that I have read in recent months.

the secrets of the lazarus club – tony pollard

A proper Victorian London romp!

I can’t imagine this book winning any awards – although obviously well-researched, it felt somehow lacking depth.

It was a decent enough romp through Victorian London at a time of great change, when great Britain was great and really leading the way with engineering etc, which was the basic premise for the novel.

Although unbelievable, it was quite fun to have characters in it whose names were recognisable – Florence Nightingale, Brunel, Darwin, Stephenson to name just a few. I can see how it would make a good film, with the dramatic climax at the end!

A very easy-to-read story that I think anyone should be able to pick up and feel entertained.

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