Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas reading and absence

I have a buddy read going on for over Christmas - we shall be reading 'Emma' by Jane Austen. My eReader has been prepped and the mains charger has been delivered and checked to work.Why do I need a mains charger, I hear you ask? Because, dear friends, I'm not taking my laptop up to Scotland with me. I know, it sounds crazy, but I'm going to be in middle of nowhere in Scotland with no mobile phone signal, internet or other modern life necessities so a laptop is rather unncessary.

This means that I'll be away from you all from this afternoon (21st Dec) up until January 3rd (I'll be travelling back down on the 2nd). Hopefully that'll have given me enough time to read through Emma so I can join my buddies to chat about it (notes shall be made on Mimi throughout the read!) on Goodreads.

On top of this I recently entered a Waterstones competition to read (and then review on their site) a pre-released copy of a new book by a new author. Due to be released in April I found, in my mail on Saturday, 'Flesh and Blood' by Mark Peterson. The blurb on the back of the book sounds encouraging and I can't wait to get around to reading it (after Emma). The review shall be posted up on the Waterstone's site first (as is only polite) and then I shall wait a few days before putting it up here.

I hope you all have a lovely holidays (whatever you celebrate) and a fun New Year. I shall see you all in 2012 folks with my NY resolutions made and a good excuse for fresh starts :D

Monday, 19 December 2011

My Slight Infatuation

Yes, I know, this is not a book review but please bear with me whilst I ramble.

As some of you may or may not know, lately I have been reading the Scarlet Pimpernel series. What I thought was just one book turned out to be a whole collection of them and wow was I chuffed! There is a part of me that absolutely loves the simple, swashbuckling, good triumphing over evil storylines that are so prevalent in these books and I just can't get enough.

This series, along with others like it (Sharpe, for instance) follows the very basic plotline that has survived for so long: problem is mentioned, good guy vows to fix it, bad guy finds out about it, good vs evil, goodie wins (sometimes in smart way) and baddie looks incompetent to his superiors - makes me smile everytime!

However, despite this predictability, there is always a point in the book where the badguy has the upper hand and I put my book down for fear of him winning (yes, I know there are more in the series, but I conveniently forget every time). This is what does it for me - a book that can make you really get into it and invest your own emotions into it to the point that you cut yourself off from the practical side of your mind and start hoping that he'll be okay - despite what experience has taught you.

The Scarlet Pimpernel & Sharpe are especially guilty of this - every single time I read one of the books I stop halfway through thinking 'Oh my gosh, what if they kill him!' - yes, even during the second book in the Sharpe series :S - and so have to put it down and make my way back to reality.

I guess my point is that these books, especially Sharpe, are often scoffed at as 'easy reads' whilst having this fact overlooked or labelled as predictable. Yes, from an outside view point or if you read them all in one go, they are predictable - but take them slowly, read them separately and you may see what I mean.

Baroness Orczy did it with Sir Percy Blakeney vs Chauvelin & Robespierre and Cornwell with Sharpe vs Hakeswill - the classic good vs bad is not such a terrible, simple storyline :D

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

I feel I should state, straight away, that the reason for my picking up of this book lies solely on the shoulders of Dara O’Briain, Rory McGrath and Griff Rhys Jones. I had, actually, never heard of that book before their first show but I was intrigued by the idea of it so decided to put it on my vague TBR list (not as concrete as my TBR list but is more an ‘in the ether’ list).
The book follows the adventures of the narrator ‘J’(Jerome himself) and his two close friends George and Harris, along with J’s dog Montmorency (turns out he was fictional, the other two characters were real) as they hire a small sail boat and make their way from Kingston-Upon-Thames to Oxford  with the intention of spending the nights in the boat under a poorly rigged canvas structure.

J's account is a convoluted weaving together of travelling down the Thames interspersed with his imaginings of times gone past and reminiscing of other hapless adventures that he'd been on. I found it quite funny at times but at other points I felt like just skipping ahead as he rambled off on yet another tangent that was probably more related to his time than mine.

I believe I read somewhere that the book itself was started with the intention of it being a serious boating guide about travelling up the Thames, however the comedic nature of Jerome’s writing took over to the point where the comedy outweighed the serious passages. This is not, in fact, a bad thing as if it had been kept as a guide then I don't think it would have made it as a classic - instead I can imagine it being confined to that section of the bookstore only to peter out after a year and with the decline of boat travel popularity it would've disappeared for good.

This is a good read for the sort of person who enjoys reading books where they can recognise some landmarks (almost all of the places mentioned are still around, of course, and this includes some of the pubs!) but if you're not too good with British wit, travelling books or random, unconnected paragraphs of wittering then you may wish to not go for this book.

Overall, I enjoyed it and am rather glad I chose to read it. Now I can say I've read it, I'llenjoy thinking back on it whenever I visit these places and one of the pubs mentioned still looks absolutely gorgeous and may be visited ;D

Monday, 5 December 2011

Dissolution by C.J. Sansom **possible spoilers ahead**

Set a year after the execution of Anne Boleyn this book follows Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer and advisor to the Vicar General, Lord Thomas Cromwell. This is during the time of Henry VIII's creation of the Church of England and the country is in turmoil as Cromwell's trusted reformers are sent out to force the closure of the powerful monasteries by collecting evidence against the inhabitants to use as leverage/blackmail.

Following the gruesome murder of one of these men, Robert Singleton, down at Scarnsea Monastery, Cromwell sends Matthew Shardlake down to investigate his murder and continue where Singleton left off.

Heading off in the middle of winter ensures that Matthew and his assistant, Mark, endure the obligatory 'trapped in a dangerous place by snow' theme that seems rather prevalent in historical crime books - possibly due to the convenience of this automatically building up the tension by having them trapped with a murderer. As useful as this plot line is I've read it in the past three or four books of this genre and would like to find something new.

However, this being said, Sansom does still write a good book with a few red herrings and a firm grasp on his knowledge of the time. With the murderer killing again it now becomes more urgent to find out who did it and the list of suspects grows with little solid evidence to assist.

Sansom's first novel is very well written; it flows smoothly from start to finish and is filled with fleshed out characters, even the 'bit' parts. Whereas it does it's best to stray from the 'norm' - even going with the protagonist being an unattractive, hunchback with flawed personality (okay, that last bit is becoming rather norm) - there are still occasions where you may think you've read it before, fear not though as these are few and far between and, irregardless, just blend in to the flow of it all.

All in all, despite thinking this was set in different time after just seeing the name 'Cromwell', this was a good read and I can understand why there was a fair bit of hype about it. However, this wasn't stand out of the ordinary for me. Whilst I enjoyed it, it didn't do anything that'd make me remember it more than any other historical fiction I've read.

If you enjoy this sort of genre then pick this book up for the sake that it is well written with a good plot line and more to come in the series. This may also be a good book if you're interested to get into reading more of this type. I wouldn't say you'll get blown away but this does exactly what you want this sort of book to do - keep you guessing and keep you interested.