Sunday, 31 January 2010

Illusion by Edmond Cheng

IllusionSynopsis from back cover: A haunting, a vision, a nasty headache, and a murder… What’s next? Illusion will distort and re-shape your view.
My thoughts: The first chapter begins with us seeing an unknown couple dumping an unconscious man into the sea.

In the second chapter we meet Thomas, and his wife Karen. Everything seems quite normal at this stage in the story. As yet, it is unclear how the first chapter will relate to the rest of the story. But after Thomas is paid a visit by his old friend’s mother, Wai Ha, things start to get weird for Thomas. When he gets home he finds out that Wai Ha has been dead for weeks, and there is no way that it was her that visited him.

Thomas begins to try and solve the mystery of Wai Ha’s visit. Did he imagine it? Is someone playing tricks on him? He doesn’t know. He starts having more visions, and the story takes lots of twists and turns. Thomas finds himself in the frame for murder and his wife is kidnapped. He gets some unexpected help from a mystery man, but is he an illusion too?

I really enjoyed this story. I couldn’t stop reading it! The twists and turns in the plot kept me guessing to the end. Every time I thought I knew what was going to happen, something unexpected would happen instead. Even on the last page there was still one last mystery.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Gorilla Adventure by Willard Price

Gorilla AdventureSynopsis from back cover: When those two famous teenage trappers Hal and Roger Hunt receive a cablegram from their father asking them if they will capture a giant gorilla for him, they say yes immediately, even though it means a dangerous expedition into the Congo jungle. It turns out to be one of their most thrilling and challenging assignments ever.

An erupting volcano, a fifteen-foot mamba, a killer gorilla and a gorilla killer are only a few of the terrors the boys have to face. Roger is nearly blinded by a spitting cobra, Hal has to wrestle with an angry black leopard, and they both find themselves with some very strange bedfellows. But, by the end of the adventure, the boys have collected a fine menagerie of rare and valuable animals, including a white python, a two-inch-long elephant shrew - the smallest of all the mammals - and a two-headed boomslang. As they find out on their journey home, they have landed themselves with a whole cargo of trouble!

With its wealth of fascinating facts about the creatures of Africa, and its exciting story; Gorilla Adventure will be greatly enjoyed both by followers of Hal and Roger’s exploits and by newcomers to this colourful series of adventure books.
My thoughts: I absolutely LOVED this book! I was a bit unsure when I first picked it up, because I didn’t like the idea of ‘animal collectors’, I thought they might be poachers or hunters. But I was pleasantly surprised.

Hal and Roger are the nicest boys. They both really love animals, and don’t believe in killing them, as their job is to catch them alive for zoos and circuses. In fact, they are so fond of animals that they end up sharing their bedroom with a python, an adult gorilla, two baby gorillas, and elephant shrew, a chimp, a colobus monkey and a bush-baby!

The boys are in the Congo jungle, and their mission is to catch a mountain gorilla. Unfortunately, a poaching gang gets to the gorillas first and kills most of them. One large adult male gorilla, Gog, mistakenly thinks that Roger and Hal are responsible for killing his family. So Gog begins to take revenge on the boys.

There are lots of funny moments in the book where I laughed out load. Some of the funniest moments involved Tieg, the Dutch guide, who is really a bit of an idiot. He is horrible to the animals, and they get their own back on him throughout the book.

I also loved that there were lots of animal facts scattered through the story. I learned a lot of new things from reading this book. I will definitely be looking out for more books in this series.

Swapping and Waiting

The other day I joined You can view my swap profile here. It's a UK site for swapping books. The idea is that you list all the books that you have available for swap and then if anyone wants to swap with you, you can look at their available books and do a straight swap with them. It's great fun. I've swapped 6 books already and am hoping for more. Of course it's not very good for my TBR pile which just keeps getting bigger every day! But at least this way I'm also getting rid of some books that I'm unlikely to read again.

Now I just have to be patient until the postman brings my books. I'm waiting for:
Five Fall into Adventure
White Empress
Straight into Darkness
A Necessary Evil
Diary of a Hapless Househusband

Also I'm still waiting for Wickedoz, Tales of a Witch's Cat which I bought off ebay the other day. It was one of my favourite books as a child, and now I want to read it again.

Do you ever wish that mail arrived quicker? I think that's why I enjoy downloading ebooks. I like the instant-ness of them. But you can't beat the feeling of excitement when ripping open a new book parcel can you?

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Birthday Girl by Diane J. Wright

Birthday Girl: a NovelSynopsis from back cover: Sixteen-year-old Tracey Burns has been confined to a single room for two years. One night, amid chaotic spring winds, she slips to freedom and inadvertently sets herself on a journey that takes her further away from the one thing she wants most: to find the mother who left her behind.

Determined but starkly naïve, Tracey plunges into a harsh and confusing world where she is no more than a headline, a case file, another ragged face on the side of the California highway asking for change. It's only when she stumbles upon an enclave of irrepressible epicureans tucked in the flatlands of the Mojave that she begins to uncover the truth of her world, of herself, and of her missing mother.
My thoughts: When we first meet sixteen-year-old Tracey she is running away from her father’s house, where she has been held captive for two years. She doesn’t really understand why she is running or where she’s going.

As the story goes on we learn more about how Tracey was held captive. Her mother, Adele, had left her at Roy’s house and told her to be good until she came back to pick her up. But Adele never came back. Even though Adele abandoned her, Tracey doesn’t want to believe that her mother has forgotten her. She believes that one day Adele will go back to Roy’s house looking for her, because of this belief, Tracey spends the rest of the story trying to find a way back to Roy’s house where she can wait for her mother.

Tracey is taken in by child services and is sent to a foster home. She seems to be fitting in nicely, but then one night there is a fire and the house gets destroyed. When Tracey is in hospital she meets her new case worker, Liam. Gradually Tracey starts to trust Liam, and believes that he is going to help her find her mother. Liam sends Tracey to another foster home, and tells her not to blow it because it’s her last chance before being sent to Camp Carillo, a lockdown for girls, in the middle of nowhere.

Tracey seems to start enjoying her life at Mrs Finn’s house; she even makes a friend, Frankie, who later sets of a chain of events that lead Tracey into even more trouble.

I really loved this story, from the very beginning I was sucked in. It’s one of those books that I couldn’t put down until I’d finished it. Tracey is a very loveable character, she starts of naïve and a bit simple, but she grows up and learns a lot as the story goes on. All the characters in the book are well-written and all have personalities that are very real. I also think the ending of the book was done very well.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

The World's Greatest Unsolved Crimes by Roger Boar and Nigel Blundell

The Worlds Greatest Unsolved CrimesSynopsis from back cover: From theft and fraud to murder, The World's Greatest Unsolved Crimes examines the facts behind the most intriguing crimes of all - those that remain unsolved. Such cases are the stuff of whodunnits. But this book is based on real life and not fiction. It reveals the astonishing, known facts about real acts of villainy... and it probes the fascinating, missing facts that confound the law and are kept in a file marked 'Unsolved'.
My thoughts: Very interesting book, although perhaps a little dated now, as it was written in the early 1980s. It contains case details of lots of unsolved crimes, including infamous crimes such as Jack the Ripper, the Black Dahlia murder, Nazi war crimes, and the Hindenberg disaster. It also contains details of lesser known crimes that I hadn't heard of before. Also has a few black and white photos scattered throughout the book which were interesting to see.
I enjoyed reading this book as I am very interested in crime-solving techniques. I was quite shocked to read about some unsolved crimes that should have been solved, but weren't because obvious evidence was overlooked, or because police went for the easy route of investigation even though it led them to the wrong suspect.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - The Detective Branch

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The book I can't wait to read is The Detective Branch by Andrew Pepper. Due for release on February 11th 2010. I have read all of the other books in the Pyke series, and I have really enjoyed them, so I'm really looking forward to finding out what happens next.

Synopsis: London, 1843. Pyke has been part of the Metropolitan Police's newly formed 'Detective Bureau' for six-months. Unsurprisingly Pyke is confronted by faceless opponents within the Bureau and the New Police who don't like his unconventional methods, his criminal past and his dubious law enforcement record. When the body of a policeman is found, it initially appears that the man has been killed while on duty in the course of a robbery that has gone wrong. But Pyke's investigations reveal that the policeman might have been murdered and the robbery offered as a ruse to cover-up what really happened. Then a tavern landlord - and as Pyke discovers a former policeman - is killed and a connection to the dead policeman is unearthed: both joined the New Police at the same time and served under the same inspector in the East End. Digging into both men's past, Pyke's investigative team unearth evidence of corrupt practices and connections to slum-lords and high-ranking City of London officials - as well as a policeman who has subsequently climbed to the top of the New Police.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Lily by Adele Geras

Lily - QUICK READ (Quick Reads)Synopsis from back cover: "My name is Marie Cotter and I want you to believe me. Every word of this story is true..." Seventeen-year-old Marie has had a lot to cope with in her young life. Now she is recovering, and gets a job working for the widower, Dr Slade, looking after his four-year-old daughter, Amy. At first, her new job seems perfect. Marie loves Amy, and Amy seems to like Marie, too. But, not long after arriving at Bowdon House, things start to change. It seems that not everyone is happy with the new situation... There appears to be someone else in the house - someone who is determined to come between Amy and Marie...
My thoughts: This story is told from Marie's point of view. Marie is a teenage girl who is haunted by two ghosts in this story. The first ghost is Zoe, the baby that Marie miscarried. Understandably, her psychiatrist doesn't believe her when she says she's seen Zoe, and the doctor basically tells her that it's all in her head.
Later on, Marie is offered a job as a nanny to look after her psychiatrist's daughter, Amy. This is where things start to get quite spooky. Amy is convinced that her dead mum speaks to her through an old mobile phone.

I enjoyed this story, I just wish it had been longer. It was a very quick read, and although you do get sucked in to the story, the ending seemed to lack something.

My first blog award!

I received the One Lovely Blog award from Ash at English Major's Junk Food

The rules are: Accept the award, and post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his/her blog link. Pass the award to 5 other blogs that you've newly discovered.
Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know that they have been chosen for this award.

So the five blogs I'm passing the award on to are:
The Genteel Arsenal
A Little Bookish
Book Bookie
Rebecca's Book Blog

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper and Other StoriesSynopsis from back cover: Best known for the 1892 title story of this collection, a harrowing tale of a woman's descent into madness, Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote more than 200 other short stories. Seven of her finest are reprinted here.

Written from a feminist perspective, often focusing on the inferior status accorded to women by society, the tales include "Turned," an ironic story with a startling twist, in which a husband seduces and impregnates a naive servant; "Cottagette," concerning the romance of a young artist and a man who's apparently too good to be true; "Mr. Peeble's Heart," a liberating tale of a fiftyish shopkeeper whose sister-in-law, a doctor, persuades him to take a solo trip to Europe, with revivifying results; "The Yellow Wallpaper;" and three other outstanding stories.

These charming tales are not only highly readable and full of humor and invention, but also offer ample food for thought about the social, economic, and personal relationships of men and women - and how they might be improved.
My thoughts: I really enjoyed this collection of short stories. Here's what I thought about each individual tale:

The Yellow Wallpaper is about a woman who is thought to have a nervous condition. She is told to get plenty of rest. She is staying in a room with horrible yellow wallpaper and she spends so long staying in the room, staring at the walls, that she starts to see things that aren't really there.

The story is written as journal entries, and it's quite disturbing to see how the woman becomes more and more obsessed with the wallpaper and the things it contains.

Three Thanksgivings is about a woman who cannot afford to keep her house, but does not want to move. She has only two years to find the money to pay the mortgage off in full, or she will be forced to marry the man who has loaned her the money. One day she has an idea and goes on to set up her home as a clubhouse and starts making her own money.
A sweet little story, I thought it was hilarious how Mr Butts, the money lender, didn't believe that she could have made the money herself.

The Cottagette is about a female artist who falls in love with a man and is convinced that she has to be a good cook and housekeeper in order to get him to marry her. I liked this story, it was cute and funny.

Turned was probably the story I liked least out of this book. Mrs. Marroner has a girl servant who she has brought up as if she were her own daughter and has prepared her to go to college. It turns out that the servant is pregnant and the father is Mr. Marroner. I found this story to be quite cliched and the ending was a bit strange.

Making A Change is a story of Julia, who used to be a musician before she got married. Julia is a new mother and is struggling to look after her baby. Julia is obviously depressed and she reluctantly lets her mother-in-law start caring for the baby, and then tries to end her own life. Luckily Julia's mother-in-law finds her in time to save her, and together they come up with a way to solve their problems. Once I got past Julia's attempted suicide, this was a really happy story.

If I Were A Man is a really funny story. Mollie wishes she were a man, and all of a sudden she finds herself in her husband, Gerald's head. I thought the author did a wonderful job of writing from a man's perspective. I especially loved the man's thoughts on women's hats.

Mr. Peeble's Heart is about Mr Peeble who has always wanted to go travelling, but never got around to it. The story is mostly concentrated on Mr Peeble's sister-in-law who is a doctor. She is the one trying to convince Mr Peeble to take a trip to Europe alone. It was a cheerful story and brought a feel-good ending to the whole book.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Uncanny Stories by May Sinclair

Uncanny Stories (Mystery & Supernatural S.) (Mystery & Supernatural) Synopis from back cover: May Sinclair was an innovator of modern fiction, a late Victorian who was also a precursor to Virginia Woolf. In her Uncanny Stories (1923), Sinclair combines the traditional ghost story with the discoveries of Freud and Einstein. The stories shock, enthral, delight and unsettle.

Two lovers are doomed to repeat their empty affair for the rest of eternity... A female telepath is forced to face the consequences of her actions... The victim of a violent murder has the last laugh on his assailant... An amateur philosopher discovers that there is more to Heaven than meets the eye.

Specially included in this volume is 'The Intercessor' (1911), Sinclair's powerful story of childhood and abandoned love, a tale whose intensity compares with that of the Brontës.
My Thoughts: This book contains eight short stories and an introduction by Paul March-Russell.
The introduction is mostly an analysis of the stories in the book, and would have probably made more sense to me if I'd read it after I'd finished the book.

“Where their Fire is not Quenched” is about two lovers who are having an empty affair and end up having to spend eternity repeating it. I found this story a bit confusing as it jumps through the years quite quickly. It was a bit dull really, just like their affair.

“The Token” is about a man who can’t express his love for his wife, so when she dies she comes back to find out if he really loved her. I enjoyed this story.

“The Flaw in the Crystal” is about a telepathic healer who finds it hard when the person she is healing finds out that she is the one keeping him healthy. This story was ok, but it was dragged out too long in my opinion.

“The Nature of the Evidence” is about a man who takes a new wife after his first wife dies. When he tries to go to his new wife’s bedroom he is visited by the ghost of his old wife.

“If the Dead Knew” is about a man who wishes his mother would hurry up and die, and she does.

“The Victim” is a murder story. A chauffeur murders his master and is then haunted by what he has done. I really liked this story.

“The Finding of the Absolute” is the story of an amateur philosopher who goes to heaven. Some of the ideas of heaven are interesting, but there were too many scientific explanations in this story and I found it confusing.

“The Intercessor” is a haunting story of a house haunted by a little girl who is looking for the love of her mother. This was my favourite story in the whole book, it was quite spooky.

Overall I enjoyed about half of the stories in the book, the other half I found a bit dull.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

New blog layout

I've given my blog a makeover. I hope you like it, I do! Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Morgan's Woman by Iris Gower

Morgan's WomanSynopsis from back cover: The story of Catherine Preece, trying to run a harsh hill farm and support a husband crippled and embittered by the war. Catherine Preece - young, courageous, lonely, and desperate for love.
My thoughts: This story was quite good, although it is desperately sad in places. It’s mainly about Catherine Preece, who is running a farm in Wales. Her husband, David, was badly injured in the war and is paralysed from the waist down. Catherine is struggling to manage all the work on her own, so when David’s old army friend Morgan turns up, David offers him a job on the farm.
As the story goes on, David starts to feel more and more sorry for himself as he sees Morgan doing jobs that David used to do. Also Catherine gradually realises that she is falling in love with Morgan.

The book also shows us people in the town of Sweyn’s Eye. There is Mary who is trying to get back her husband, Brandon. There’s Gina and Billy, who won’t admit their love for each other. There’s Rhian, whose husband has moved to Yorkshire while she stays behind to nurse her sick friend Carrie. There’s Katie and Mark who move to France to find work. As well as many more characters. At first when the story jumps to different characters it is confusing, but as the story goes on the characters all become intertwined with each other, and we learn that they are all connected to each other somehow.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Cold Cases by Charlotte Greig

Cold Cases - Criminals Finally Brought To JusticeSynopsis from the back cover: There's nothing more chilling than an unsolved crime, particularly one involving direct harm to human life; be it murder or rape, these are the crimes whose effects extend furthest and cause most pain to humanity: how much worse when they go unsolved and, as such, unpunished?

Such crimes, so-called 'cold cases', are all too common, especially in big cities where hundreds, if not thousands of such incidents remain on file. But there is hope. With the development of science, and the continuing improvements in detection techniques, the re-examination of old, unsolved cases is yielding positive results, often decades after the case originally went 'cold'. This book documents the most fascinating of these cases, and includes:
The murdered heiress, Helen Brach
Albert Fish, child killer
The Green River Killer, Gary Leon Ridgway
Gerald Parker, the 'Bedroom Basher'
The woman in a box
The bone breaker, Joe Clark
Frank Bender, forensic sculptor
Dennis Rader, the 'Bind, Torture, Kill' killer
My thoughts: This book was interesting and informative. In contains information about many different ‘Cold Cases’ (crimes that have been re-investigated years after the crime occurred).

The book is split into five chapters:
In Cold Blood - Murders that were especially shocking.
Cold Comfort - Crimes which made the front page of the newspapers and raised controversial issues.
Cold-steel Killers - Serial killers.
Cool Heads - Crimes solved with a variety of detection methods.
Cold Sweat - Crimes solved with DNA technology.

Each chapter contains details of several cases. For each case we learn about the crime, the detection, how it was solved, and how the criminal was finally brought to justice. There are also several black and white pictures for each case.

This book was very easy to read and understand, as all of the technical terms are clearly described. A good introductory book for anyone interested in crime solving methods.

Monday, 4 January 2010

2010 TBR Challenge

In 2010 try to read 12 books that have been on your to-be-read shelf for at least one year.

Start Date: Jan 1st 2010.
Finish Date: 31st Dec 2010.

12 books in one year sounds quite easy, it's only one a month. But these books have been on my TBR pile for over a year, and there's usually a reason for that. These are the books that I have either never really bothered to read or they are books that I am intimidated by.

Here's my list, in no particular order:
1. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
2. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
3. The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
4. Morgan's Woman - Iris Gower - review
5. The Darling Buds of May: Book of the Seasons - H.E. Bates
6. The Penguin Book of Victorian Villainies - Hugh Greene
7. The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales - Brothers Grimm
8. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
9. Hamlet - William Shakespeare - review
10. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson
11. Tales of Mystery and Imagination - Edgar Allan Poe
12. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
And two substitutes in case two above go seriously wrong.
13. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
14. The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
I will be crossing them off the list as and when I read them.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

The Other Boleyn GirlSynopsis from the back cover: Mary Boleyn catches the eye of Henry VIII when she comes to court as a girl of fourteen.
Dazzled by the golden prince, Mary's joy is cut short when she discovers that she is a pawn in the dynastic plots of her family. When the capricious king's interest wanes, Mary is ordered to pass on her knowledge of how to please him to her friend and rival: her sister, Anne.
Anne soon becomes irresistible to Henry, and Mary can do nothing but watch her sister's rise. Anne stops at nothing to achieve her own ambition. From now on, Mary will be no more than the other Boleyn girl. But beyond the court is a man who dares to challenge the power of her family to offer Mary a life of freedom and passion. If only she has the courage to break away - before the Boleyn enemies turn on the Boleyn girls...
My thoughts: The author does a fantastic job of describing everything that's going on and I felt like I was right there sitting in the Tudor court. But I do think the book was a bit long, there were parts of the book that really didn’t seem to add anything to the story.

The story is told from Mary Boleyn's point of view. Mary did get on my nerves a bit because she was so innocent and naïve all the time. She was a bit of a doormat. Whenever anyone tells her to do something she goes and does it. It was a bit boring after a while. But she does stand up for herself more towards the end.

My favourite character was George, Mary and Anne's brother. He was funny, and he obviously loved his sisters (although the story suggests he loved them too much…). I would have liked to see more of him in the story, as he was one of the most interesting characters.

Anne is portrayed as being extremely selfish. Everything is all about her and what makes it worse is that all of the other characters worship her too, even before she gets entangled with the king. I did enjoy the rivalry between Anne and her sister Mary, the way they snapped at each other was quite funny. Their love/hate relationship could have been made so much more interesting though.

Overall I did enjoy the story, although a few bits were quite gruesome, mainly the childbirth/miscarriage scenes. Also I felt that the ending was a bit rushed. If you paid attention in history class then you’ll know what happened to Anne Boleyn in the end, but the author didn’t give enough information about the other characters towards the end. There is only a page or so saying what happens to the rest of the family after Anne is dead, and even that didn‘t explain much. I was left feeling a bit annoyed.

Friday, 1 January 2010

A-Z Author Challenge

Find 26 authors whose surnames each start with a different letter of the alphabet and read a book by each of them. You can read them in any order.

Start Date: Flexible, I started it on Dec 19th 2009.
Finish Date: Whenever you complete the challenge.

My list so far:
A - Alder, Harry - Tracking Down Your Ancestors
B - Barker, Clive - The Hellbound Heart
C - Cheng, Edmond - Illusion
D -
E -
F - Fitzgerald, F. Scott - Mr. Icky & Porcelain and Pink
G - Gregory, Philippa - The Other Boleyn Girl
H - Holden, Sam - Diary of a Hapless Househusband
I - Islip, Bryan - Going With Gabriel
J - Jacobs, W.W. - The Monkey's Paw
K - Kramer, Naomi - DEAD(ish)
L - Lawrence, D.H. - Lady Chatterley's Lover
M - McNeil, Gil - Divas Don't Knit
N - Norman, Diana - A Catch of Consequence
O - O'Neill, Gilda - East End Tales
P - Perkins Gilman, Charlotte - The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories
Q -
R - Rainsford, James - Education, Edukation, Edukashun
S - Stevenson, Robert Louis - The Suicide Club
T - Trigilio, Tony- Make a Joke and I Will Sigh and You Will Laugh and I Will Cry
U - Updale, Eleanor - Montmorency
V -
W - Wright, Diane J. - Birthday Girl
X -
Y - Young, Elizabeth - Fair Game
Z -