Friday, 30 October 2009

AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: THE ACCIDENTAL BY ALI SMITH

THE ACCIDENTAL BY ALI SMITH

Synopsis:

The Smart family's lacklustre holiday in Norwich is turned upside down when a beguiling stranger called Amber appears, bringing with her love, joy, pain and upheaval. The Smarts try to make sense of their bewildering emotions as Amber tramples over family boundaries and forces them to think about their world and themselves in an entirely new way. The Accidental is at once a mysterious web of secret identities and a ruthlessly honest look at the silent cracks that can develop unnoticed in relationships over time.

I thought I'd do this review in a question and answer format.

Did You Enjoy This Audiobook? Not really

Why Not? I thought the overall story was quite boring, all the characters had a turn in the 1st person to talk about themselves and sometimes I couldn't understand which era they were talking about, whether it was past or present.

What Did You Think About The Characters? I didn't like or empathise with any of them, probably the only one I did like a little bit was the young girl Astrid.

What Did You Think The Author Was Trying To Say? I have no idea! I wondered if the story was too intelligent for me and I was too thick to understand it or whether the whole novel was just not very good.

How Did You Feel At The End? Apart from feeling glad that I'd finished it, I felt utterly confused.

Would You Recommend It? No. For me, too much was left unexplained, for example, who was Amber and where did she come from?

My Rating? 3/10

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Book Review: DESPERATE HIGHWAY BY JESSE STRETCH


Genre: Non-Fiction Memoir

Published by: Booksurge (April 2009)

Pages: 290 (Paperback)

ISBN-10:
1439223947
ISBN-13:
978-1439223949

My Rating: 9.5/10





DESPERATE HIGHWAY: THE TRUE STORY OF A CRIMINAL BY JESSE STRETCH

Jack Alexander changed his name so many names as he ran away from one con to another that I'm surprised that he could remember who he was most of the time!

He dropped out of College in the late 1960's and married one of his fellow students who was extremely wealthy, they lived in a large house, Jack had a good job so why did he go down the criminal route? This book tells the whole amazing story of his criminal life.

From San Quentin prison -- where he was diagnosed as a 'criminal genius' -- to living the high life with beautiful women, fancy houses, drugs, alcohol -- mixing with drug dealers -- at one time holding down a job where he travelled the world -- and all the while not caring about who he scammed and hurt in the process.

I'm Jack Alexander, the notorious stolen jewelry salesman, airplane thief, trickster ... a professional con artist. ........ It's the same guy who three years ago blew 50 grand a month on whatever he wanted, usually **** he used only once.

As Jack relied more and more on drink and drugs to get him through the day, his life slowly descends to hell and he realises that "I could always get more money; it was the years that a guy could never buy back".

I don't want to spoil the ending but I thought this was such an inspirational book while Jesse Stretch brought this whole fascinating account of one man's rise and fall to life. I was absolutely engrossed from start to finish.




Special Thanks to Jeff Andrews and Bostick Communications.

Monday, 19 October 2009

BOOK NEWS: New Film 'Where the Wild Things Are' sends parents into a 'rumpus'

The screen adaptation of Maurice Sendak's 1963 morality tale has sparked a debate about the merits of frightening our children

Scene from Where the Wild Things Are

Max (Max Records) encounters the monster Carol (James Gandolfini) in Where The Wild Things Are.

When Jess Hyde picked a copy of Where the Wild Things Are from the bedroom shelf last week, her seven-year-old son, Arthur, pointed to it and said: "That gives me nightmares."

"He had never mentioned it before," says the mother of three from Frome, Somerset. "But it is a tricky one because the monsters are quite scary. They are not friendly pictures. It is something about the colour – they are brown and grey and not very endearing." Arthur's mother, who was given the book by friends, asked her son if he wanted her to read it. "He still said yes," she laughs.

The spooky palm tree fronds and twisting vines that invade the bedroom of naughty Max in this nursery classic will soon be invading the imaginations of young children anew, as a film version of Maurice Sendak's book heads for the cinema. A modern morality tale, Sendak's story sees little Max reject his parental home for a world where he can become "king of all wild things". It has been brought to the screen this autumn by director Spike Jonze and writer Dave Eggers, who adapted the screenplay. Their film has won plaudits from many critics, but some parents have been troubled by the ferocity of the story, and by the power of Jonze's new interpretation. As a result, they are advising other families to stay away.

The protest, or "wild rumpus" to borrow a phrase from the book, that has greeted the release of the film echoes disquiet about the bleak message embedded in Disney/Pixar's latest animated release. Entitled Up, it has been viewed by many parents as anything but.

A handful of American educationalists, including Professor Holly Willett, of Rowan University in New Jersey, have rushed to defend Sendak's 1963 book, but the new film stands accused of presenting unsettling images that, although popular, are likely to breed nightmares. A public debate about whether or not a child's appetite for being frightened should be indulged is now in full swing.

"This is a classic hero's story in which the protagonist undertakes a journey and returns a wiser person," Willett, an expert on children's literature, has argued in the American press. And Sendak's original tale has certainly stood the test of time: it is a reliable classic on the shelves of middle-class toddlers on both sides of the Atlantic and in 1983 composer Oliver Knussen turned it into a one-act opera that has joined the modern repertoire.

"I remember reading the Sendak book to my children and it frightened the pyjamas off them," Roger McGough, the poet, said this weekend. "But they went back to it. It is a scariness that you can control and that ends happily."

To read the full article in The Guardian click here


Thursday, 15 October 2009

Book Review: IT HAPPENED IN ITALY BY ELIZABETH BETTINA


Genre: Non-Fiction

Published by: Thomas Nelson (April 2009)

Pages: 380 (Hardback)

ISBN-10:
1595551026
ISBN-13:
978-1595551023

My Rating: 8/10



IT HAPPENED IN ITALY: UNTOLD STORIES OF HOW THE PEOPLE OF ITALY DEFIED THE HORRORS OF THE HOLOCAUST BY ELIZABETH BETTINA

1st Paragraph:

"I always told Fred that he had a picnic in Italy. I said to him, 'You complained that sometimes you had too much soup, while I was lucky to get a few spoons of some dirty water,' " recalled Edith Moskovitch Birns. Edith is a survivor of Auschwitz, while the man who would become her husband, Alfred (Fred) Birns, survived the Holocaust in Italy.


For me, these opening lines sum up the theme of this amazing and almost unheard of story. Compared to the millions of Jews who perished in the Concentration Camps in Germany and Poland, many more thousands would live a life of luxury (almost) in Italy in Internment Camps.

Elizabeth Bettina's life was changed when she was give a book by a relative when she visited Italy a few years ago. In it was a picture of a rabbi standing next to various people, including a bishop, on the steps of the Catholic Church in the small Italian village called Campagna where her grandparents were married. The year was 1940. Elizabeth, who had no idea that any Jews were in her village during the War, resolved to find out what happened and this book is what she discovered.

It is made up of peoples stories of their lives in the Camps, how they got there, how they lived, some even got married there! The book contains so many fascinating pictures - they do say that pictures speak a thousand words! It tells the story of how they were helped by Italian people who risked their lives to keep them from the hands of the Nazis.

Somehow she even arranged for some of the survivors to re-visit the small towns where they were interred all those years ago, which was lovely to read.

Though it was incredibly interesting reading about something that was so little known, I just wish the author didn't keep repeating how wonderful the Italian people were, I'm afraid it got quite annoying reading it for the umpteenth time.

Having said that I think this is definitely recommended reading for anyone interested in the Holocaust and the role of Italians in WWII.



Special Thanks to Thoma Nelson Publishers for sending me this book to review

Friday, 9 October 2009

Book Review: SASSY BY GLORIA MALLETTE


Genre: Crime Thriller

Published by: Gemini Press (May 2009)

Pages: 314 (Paperback)

ISBN-10:
0967878934
ISBN-13:
978-0967878935





SASSY BY GLORIA MALLETTE

1st Lines:

LOUD! The music was loud! The bass thunderous! The singing exhilarating! The catchy, finger-popping, toe-tapping music was heart pounding; but there was no party.

The Prologue is spoken by Myra Barrett, who is lying on the floor of her apartment, and in terrible pain due to the many stab wounds inflicted by her boss, Norris Yoshito, who she has been dating in secrecy. As she is lying there wondering why he's tried to murder her and hoping that someone will help her, her room-mate is lying dead near her.

So, from the beginning of the story we know who did it ............. or do we?

In the next chapter and from then on the story is told in the 3rd person and we meet Sassy, a popular romantic novelist, who is busy signing copies of her new book. She looks up and meets the eyes of Norris Yoshito and Sassy believes she has met the man of her dreams. After meeting for a drink, they start dating and gradually fall in love. Can this wonderful, charming, polite man really be the same person who stabbed Myra?

This sets the premise for the rest of the novel. The suspense was maintained throughout as we discover that other people who knew Norris are murdered, and when the police started closing in the last quarter of the book was incredibly gripping.

But I felt that it did slow down a little in the middle due to a long conversation in the bedroom of Sassy's cousin, Bernard who was dying of AIDS; it just dragged on and on and on, which drove me mad.

However, I do think this is a decent crime thriller. The character of Sassy was very likeable and the other people in her life seemed real enough for me to care about what happened to them.

For more on Gloria Mallette her website can be found here.






Special Thanks to Gloria Mallette and Bostick Communications for sending me this book.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

BOOK NEWS: Hilary Mantel named Booker Prize Winner for Wolf Hall


Author Hilary Mantel has been named 2009 Man Booker Prize winner for her historical novel Wolf Hall.

Mantel, 57, beat five other shortlisted authors, including Sarah Waters and JM Coetzee, with her book based on Henry VIII's adviser Thomas Cromwell.

Judges praised the "extraordinary story-telling" of Mantel.

The author, who received the £50,000 prize at a ceremony at London's Guildhall, said it had taken her about 20 years to decide to write the book.

"I couldn't begin until I felt secure enough to say to my publisher - just what a publisher always wants to hear - 'this will take me several years you know'. But they took it on the chin," she said.

Mantel, who is now working on a sequel, also beat AS Byatt with the novel The Children's Book, Adam Foulds for The Quickening Maze and Simon Mawer for The Glass Room.

Waters was shortlisted for her book, The Little Stranger, and Coetzee had been in the running for his fictionalised memoir, Summertime.

"When I began the book I knew I had to do something very difficult, I had to interest the historians, I had to amuse the jaded palate of the critical establishment and most of all I had to capture the imagination of the general reader," Mantel said.


Chairman of judges James Naughtie said: "Our decision was based on the sheer bigness of the book. The boldness of its narrative, its scene setting."

"The extraordinary way that Hilary Mantel has created what one of the judges has said was a contemporary novel, a modern novel, which happens to be set in the 16th Century.

"We thought it was an extraordinary piece of story-telling."

Despite that, he revealed it had not been an "unanimous decision, but it was a decision with which we were all content".

For full article see bbc.co.uk


Monday, 5 October 2009

Book Review: THE WINTER GHOSTS BY KATE MOSSE

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published by: Orion (October 2009)

Pages: 272 (Hardback)

ISBN-10:
1409112276
ISBN-13:
978-1409112273





Do you believe in ghosts? Yes, that age old question is asked once more in Kate Mosse's re-working of her recent Quick Reads release, The Cave, and if you've read that then I wouldn't recommend you read this as it is so similar.

The year is 1928 when Frederick Watson crashes his car in a snowstorm in the foothills of the Pyrenees. He thinks he hears a woman's voice: 'The Winter Ghosts'. He abandons his car and walks down the hillside path to the small village of Nulle, which seems to have a sadness hanging over it, and where he finds a friendly hostelry to spend the night.

He is invited to a yearly feast in the local Ostal where he meets the beautiful Fabrissa and tells her of his unhappiness at losing his brother in WWII. She too has a terrible tale to tell...........

This was an okay book, but it wasn't gripping enough for me, the characters were sympathetic without me caring too much about them, the storyline was a little predictable, it left me thinking "Is that it?" On the positive side, Kate Mosse's usual wonderful descriptions, especially of the snowy mountainside and deserted villages were a joy to read.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Book Review; THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO BY STIEG LARSSON


Genre: Crime, Thriller, Mystery

Published by: Quercus (2008)

Pages: 542 (Paperback)

ISBN-10:
1847245455
ISBN-13:
978-1847245458





THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO BY STIEG LARSSON

This intelligent mystery centres around the disappearance of 14 year old Harriet Langer nearly 40 years ago. Her elderly uncle wants to discover once and for all exactly what really happened to her and he employs disgraced journalist Mikael Blomqvist, together with his unusual sidekick Lisbeth Salander to try and find out.

The story started incredibly slowly building up the characters back stories and the events leading up to Harriet's disappearance. But once these were established and Blomqvist delved deeper and deeper into the family's dirty secrets the story was gripping, and the complex character of the under-estimated Salander was the main reason this story has such a clever ending.

I will definitely be reading the other books in the trilogy.

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