Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tuesday Teaser

Today I'm reading The Outsiders by S E Hinton for the Flashback Challenge.

From Page 36...

"I know, Two Bit said with a good-natured grin, the chips are always down when it's our turn, but thats the way things are. Like it or lump it."

Monday, February 1, 2010

Review time....

Title: Magpie Hall
Author: Rachael King
Published:Vintage New Zealand, 2009
Opening Sentence: "There were two rumours surrounding my great-great-grandfather Henry Summers: one, that his cabinet of curiosities drove him mad; and, two, that he murdered his first wife."

Rosemary Summers is an amateur taxidermist and a passionate collector of tattoos. To her, both activities honour the deceased and keep their memory alive. After the death of her beloved grandfather, and while struggling to finish her thesis on gothic Victorian novels, she returns alone to Magpie Hall to claim her inheritance: Grandpa's own taxidermy collection, started more than 100 years ago by their ancestor Henry Summers. As she sorts through Henry's legacy, the ghosts of her family's past begin to make their presence known.

I raced through this book. The author delivers her story in a no frills manner keeping the prose light and to the point...yet somehow this does not compromise the compelling and gutsy plot at all.

I enjoyed the curious subjects of taxidermy, tattoo and collection immensely, this combined with the melancholic atmosphere as we switch from both past and present influenced by characters who each harbour unfulfilled desires and obsessions and keep unconventional secrets, held me captivated to the enthralling conclusion.

Title: Tell Tale
Author: Sam Hayes
Published: Headline Publishing Group, 2009
Opening Sentence: "The tide is high - a dizzying swell several hundred feet below."
A woman stands on a bridge, the water rushing below. In a few seconds she will jump, plunging more than two hundred feet to her death. Who is she? And what has driven her to take her own life? Nina Kennedy, a wife and mother, is afraid. A man is following her, threatening her family, toying with her sanity. What does he want? And how long will it be before he strikes? Eight-year-old Ava is waiting for her daddy. But, just like the others in the children’s home, her father never comes. The home is a place of whispers and shadows. But no one dare tell the truth. Until now...

In this novel Sam Hayes tackles the gritty subject of whether to tell or not and what will the consequences be if you do.

The reader is lead through the story via three different female points of view, several times I found myself sitting back and searching for the connections or the direction in which the characters were taking us, asking more questions than were being answered and then forging ahead in search of them.

I struggled a little in the beginning with (what seemed to me) a complete lack of scene setting with very little descriptive prose, but of course ones imagination soon kicks in of its own accord and fills the gap.

Sam Hayes is described as writing 'emotional thrillers' and I would have to agree, I found some of the content quite disturbing and sometimes wished it was a movie so I could close my eyes through the horrible bits!

So there I was gearing up to an on the edge of my seat, nailbiting conclusion when all of a sudden the author seemed to lose courage with her edgy story and opts for the ridiculous Hollywood soap opera ending (yes another one!! I couldn't believe it!!) Aaagggghhhh......how frustrating!!! Only it being 2am I had to whisper aaaaaaggghhhh very quietly in case I woke my sleeping husband lol!! If the author thought she was writing a clever twist, well I am sorry it just didn't work for me...total suspension of belief here people...sorry.

Saying that...I would give Sam Hayes another chance and try one of her other previous titles as I really got into the story before it ended so disappointingly.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Some books stick with you...

A truly great book should be read in youth,again in maturity and once more in old age,as a fine building should be seen by morning light,at noon and by moonlight. ~ Robertson Davies ~
I was pleased to come across this challenge because just recently with my new surge in reading I've been thinking I would like to re-read some of those books that 'stick with you'.
I have been enjoying many past favourites with the boys already...The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Enid Blyton's The Magic Faraway Tree series and The Secret Seven, Spike Milligan's Bad Jelly the Witch, The Wind in the Willows and of course all the wonderful stories of Mr Roald Dahl
So I guess that means I am in the 'Maturity' phase of the above quote lol!! I have started a list to choose from and as we have a copy of The Outsider in the house I will start with that.
Rebecca - Daphne Du Murier
A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
The Scarlett Pimpernel - Emmuska Orczy
Greenstone - Sylvia Ashton Warner
The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster
Peril at End House - Agatha Christie
Far from the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
Dune - Frank Herbert
The Outsiders - SE Hinton
The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling
Pounamu Pounamu - Witi Ihimaera
Little Woman - Louisa May Alcott
The Power of One - Bryce Courtenay

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

library loot

So....what?......I am just going to have to stay up all night reading at this rate!!

I must say I started off very restrained and feeling rather pleased with myself after finding Life of Pi on the shelf, I thought I'll just keep browsing around while the boys are busy choosing their books...and somehow 10 minutes later I had an armful....which all came home...oh dear...mwah ha ha!!!
Library Loot is hosted by Marg at Reading adventures and Eva at A Striped Armchair.

I chose Life of Pi because it is on my Plan to Read list, The Sound of Butterflies and The Night Watch because I have previously enjoyed books by these authors and Marley and Me because having a puppy in the house at the moment I will enjoy relating to Marley's adventures and thought my hubby might like it too.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday Teaser

I have just this minute read the final word of Magpie Hall by Rachael King....still enjoying the moment for myself...but will leave you with this teaser from...lets see now...flicking the pages...and stop....page 165...

"The bird appeared to hover above her shoulder blades, all curves and dipping wings, waiting to take flight. She was completely silent, and the sound of my breath filled the room."

You can read more about Magpie Hall and the authors first novel The Sound of Butterflies at her rather lovely website here.

Join in Tuesday Teasers here

Next on my pile of books is one I picked off the new books shelf at the library. It is called Tell Tale by Sam Hayes

"Three desperate strangers bound by one shocking secret. Who will live to tell the chilling tale?"

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saturday share....

Its the weekend and I was able to relax and read the Saturday paper after lunch, catching up on the weeks news and checking out the weekend book reviews...these two caught my eye and I thought I'd share them here. Both were reviewed favourably and I shall be asking for them at my library...

Lovesong by Alex Miller

"Alex Miller writes with intelligence, finesse and is strong on character. His latest novel Lovesong, is essentially a love story. One that is filtered through the imagination of the ageing writer we meet in the opening pages. Ken claims he has retired from writing and is going to do what retired people do...travel and enjoy themselves and sleep-in in the mornings. Then he meets someone who has a story too good to ignore. That love story is the main course of Miller's novel, but we get to meet Ken and his adult daughter at various points and, in these brief encounters, find little gems on the business of writing stories. 'Writing' he tells us, 'is a conversation'."

Paula Green, NZ Herald Canvas magazine.

Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott

Absorbed in her own failings, Clara Purdy crashes her life into a sharp left turn, taking the young family in the other car along with her. When bruises on the mother, Lorraine, prove to be late-stage cancer, Clara - against all habit and comfort - moves the three children and their terrible grandmother into her own house. Clara then has to cope with the consequences: exhaustion, fury, hilarity, and unexpected love. But she must question her own motives. Is she acting out of true goodness, or out of guilt? Most shamefully, has she taken over simply because she wants the baby for her own? This compassionate, funny, and fiercely intelligent novel looks at life and death through decidedly suburban reading glasses: being good, being at fault, and finding some balance on the precipice. fishpond.co.nz

"The novel is so satisfyingly contoured on a number of levels, through dark and light, joy and pain, wit and seriousness."
Paula Green, NZ Herald Canvas Magazine

Also, a nice suprise in the mailbox this morning. I had completely forgotten when I signed up to the Thriller and Suspense challenge hosted by Book Chick City that all the participants would receive a free ARC of either Random by Craig Robertson or Venom by Joan Brady courtesy of publisher SIMON & SCHUSTER UK. Thank you very much to the publishers for sending all the way down here to NZ and of course to our lovely hostess over at Book Chick City for organising a lovely giveaway.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Quickie reviews...

Title: The Little Stranger
Author: Sarah Water

Opening sentence: "I first saw Hundreds' Hall when I was ten years old.

Oh I do like a good ghost story! Have you ever watched one of those horror movies and found yourself yelling ‘Run, get out of the house’ at the actors onscreen….chapter by chapter I was practically willing the characters to simply pack up and get the heck out of there!

Many a time I could have throttled the narrator Dr Faradays' neck as again and again he pooh-poohs the Ayres family increasingly horror filled suspicions that something bad is ‘infecting’ their house and perhaps even themselves. With irritatingly rational explanations that they are tired and stressed by worry or simply implying that they might be going a bit potty in the head the good doctor seems to be helping his new found gentry friends or is he? Has his fascination with the great Hall that awed him as a child blinkered his judgement of the creepy events that occur one after the other in order to be a part of the house and the lives of those living there. Right to the very end there is an implication that all is not as it seems...

A newcomer to Sarah Waters writing I was delighted to find that this novel was not simply a period piece on post war English life (as one could be fooled into thinking by skimming the blurb on the back of the book) but also held decent helpings of murder, mystery and madness.

From start to finish the words just seemed to roll from the page and I loved the authors way of setting the scene, giving us the smallest of details or moments in descriptive, short sentences that in another writers hand could have been long, drawn out paragraphs. These marvelous tidbits lend the reader a real insight so that you actually feel you must give a small cough as dust is disturbed in the musty, crumbling rooms of Hundreds Hall or take a deep breath to inhale the sweet grassy smell of the overgrown tangled garden wafting through the french doors as Dr Faraday sits having tea with the Ayres family one summer afternoon.

Rather than ramble on in my clueless way (heh, heh) I will direct you to a review and discussion of the novel I liked at this book blog Shelf Life . Enjoy!

....and to the book I finished today....

Title: Isabella Moon
Author: Laura Benedict

Opening Sentence: "Kate was suprised when the stern-looking young woman at the duty desk told her to take a seat instead of just asking her name and sending her on her way when she announced, in a voice she could barely keep from shaking, that she knew where they could find the body of Isabella Moon."

The book begins in small town Kentucky, the towns people still scarred by the mysterious disappearence two years ago of a little girl called Isabella Moon. Faced with an almost complete lack of evidence - lack, even of a body - the case of the missing girl is still open and the frustrated Sheriff Bill Delaney is no nearer a resolution.

Until Kate Russell shows up that is. Kate holds long buried dark secrets of her own and has found refuge in sleepy Carystown until her quiet idyllic life is turned upside down and a reluctant Kate finds herself at the centre of the case of the missing Isabella. As unsettling truths emerge, the charming facade of the town begin to crumble and a community is undone by murder, secrets and lies.....

The story starts off promisingly enough once you get to grips with the many characters and you are just settling in for a good thriller. You begin to discover the dark secrets of Kate's past through a series of flashbacks and also the secrets that several of the other characters are keeping.....and then just after the halfway mark you realise its all becoming a bit like a bad soap opera (silly me...are there any good soap opera's! and yes Joan Collins would make a fabulous Janet ha ha!) but of course by then its too late and you are hooked, hanging in there until the ridiculous conclusion.

I was often irritated by having to re-read sentences because I felt they were worded oddly and I had to work to make sense of them. I feel the author started off with a good idea but then it snowballed into way too many subplots and the characters became superficial. Their reactions to situations became more and more unbelievable and far-fetched as the book progressed until you found yourself berating their stupidity under your breath. Also I was disappointed that the ghost was used more as a convenient tool to tell the characters who-dunnit rather than anything more meaningful or mysterious.

Entertaining to a point.

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