Sunday, 2 April 2017

Black Sheep by Susan Hill









'Brother and sister, Ted and Rose Howker, grew up in Mount Of zeal. a mining village blackened by coal. They knew nothing of the outside world. though both of them yearn for escape.'




Things I liked about this book -


I really liked the historical detail. It's like I was actually there. In a coal town in our distant past. I could almost smell the coal dust on my clothes. I also like the characters and how drew me in and helped to make me feel like we I was there.


Things I didn't like -


There was just too much going on for a short novella like this. It's almost as if Susan Hill decided to throw everything, including the kitchen sink, into the story line. What with a missing person, a mining disaster, a murder and a failed marriage, not too mention the ending, it was too much and became a little bit comical and unrealistic. I was almost waiting for a landslide or a plague of locusts to appear.


It started off well and I loved the historical details but as a story I felt like it was trying to cram too much into too few pages.



6/10

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Ostrich by Matt Greene









'Alex has a story to tell. He just doesn't know what kind of story it is yet. He's got a lot of the concerns every 12-year-old has but lately, ever since his brain surgery, everyone in his life is behaving more than a little mysteriously. He's certain there's something rotten at the heart of his parents' marriage, and when his beloved hamster Jaws 2 starts acting up as well he decides it's time to investigate.'





With it's unusual name and striking front cover I didn't know what to expect with this one. I was prepared for every eventuality.



What I got was a great read. It is witty and sad and cleverly written. We are taken into the mind of a 12 year old boy who has been diagnosed with a brain tumour. He wakes from surgery to find that things are a little bit different but he doesn't know why.


You will have a laugh with this one and maybe shed a tear. It's ending is as original and clever as every single page. It will make you think and it may take you a while to work it out. But when you do you will realize what a great book this is.




10/10





Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly ~ Sun Mi-Hwang







Meet sprout. A hen who only has one dream and that is to lay an egg. But she also wants her freedom.



I got this in a pile of books from my local library but I saved it until last because I didn't really fancy it. In fact I thought it was just going to be another run of the mill children's book. But how wrong was I. It is brilliant! Written by Korean Author Sun Mi-Hwang and translated by Chi-Young kim and with lovely illustrations by Nomoco, this really is a special little book from beginning to end.

At its simplest it's a lovely little story with wonderful characters but it is also full of deeper meanings and it will make you think and feel a mixture of emotions from joy to sadness in equal measure. This is a book that can be enjoyed by all ages. It's only a short book but it will stay with you.

Recently my son has more or less flown the nest and has gone living away from home and so I could connect with this book.



10/10

Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Sunshine Years - Afsaneh Knight













Do You Ever Wonder Where Your Life Is Going?

You are not alone.





This book should not work. In fact it should be incredibly boring.


It is genre less and plot less and it is basically the literary equivalent of a fly in the wall documentary about a group of life long thirty something friends. There is not really a story at all even though ironically the main character is a guy named Story.




But it isn't boring and the pages turn easily for one very important reason. The writing is incredible. The prose is fresh, clever, crisp, witty and compelling. The writing itself is worth eight out of ten stars by itself. I'm sure if Afsaneh Knight had given us a decent plot to cling on to this would have been a clear ten out of ten. But I enjoyed it. Even though I'm sure a lot of people will hate it. I didn't because I appreciate good writing. It didn't really need a better plot. The writing is wonderful.




8/10



Saturday, 11 March 2017

A Head Full Of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay









The lives of the Barretts, a suburban New England family, are torn apart when their fourteen- year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.




On the cover there is a quote by Stephen King that says this book scared the living hell out of him.


I'm not sure what book he was reading but apart from one semi creepy scene half way through it didn't scare me at all. Maybe he was reading it alone in a scary old building at night.

As for the book it's okay. It's an average run around of a novel. Not the most exciting thing I've ever read but certainly not boring in any way, It kept me turning the pages and had a good twist at the end. Worth a read but it didn't blow me away.




7/10

Friday, 3 March 2017

The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson








I picked this book up as part of a bundle from my local library because the cover and the blurb jumped out at me. Sadly the only lasting impression that I got was a stinging headache and a lot of frustration.



There isn't really a plot, just a collection of bizarre and confusing stories that are linked together tediously and tenuously in equal numbers. I always make a point of finishing whatever I start but I have never wanted to throw a book out of a window more than this. It is just a confused mess of a book.

The first chapter ( if you can call it a chapter) was actually clever and imaginative and maybe the book should have stopped there. Then the book just dissolves into a chaotic and nausea inducing stream of nonsensical stories that don't actually go anywhere. I am sure some people will applaud this book for being clever and thought provoking and artistic. They can think what they like. This book belongs on a bonfire.






2/10 for the cover artwork and the first chapter.







Sunday, 26 February 2017

He Wants - Alison Moore











'The front door is mostly glass, a pane as wide and tall as a man.'




From the first line you realize that you are about to read something completely different. The writing is crisp and fresh in this story about a man looking back and reflecting on his life. This book is pretty much like a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces are put together as you read each page. Or maybe a better analogy would be to say it's like painting by numbers.



It's a quirky book just like her breakthrough novel 'The Lighthouse'. This is as good as that one but totally different. It may not have all the thrills and spills of some modern day novels but there is something uniquely beautiful about this that will keep you turning the pages.



Not the most exciting read but thoroughly captivating.




Enjoyed.




8/10








Tuesday, 21 February 2017

The Railway Children - E Nesbit













When their father disappears, three children move to the countryside and discover a railway track.






There are lots of children's books which can be read in adulthood and enjoyed but this isn't one of them. At least I didn't think so anyway. I was glad when it was over to be honest.


The story was littered with too many coincidences and it was  

quite preachy in parts as well. There was nothing to hook me as a reader and it was really predictable.


To be fair I am getting on a bit so maybe I would have enjoyed reading this when I was a kid. So maybe I am being unfair.





6/10








Thursday, 16 February 2017

Holding Up The Universe ~ Jennifer Niven








We are all weird in different ways. Sometimes that weirdness is on the outside and sometimes it's on the inside, where nobody can see it.




Two things. I very rarely read young adult fiction and I tend to avoid audio books like the plague. So I started the audio version of this one with low expectations to say the least.


I was more than pleasantly surprised. This is really good. The writing is fresh and the story was cleverly woven with a good mixture of humour, drama and just good simple story telling. My only wish is that I'd read the actual paper version because I think the experience would have been even better. 




A good read.





10/10





Monday, 6 February 2017

The Children's Brer Rabbit by E H Pritchyard








I stumbled upon the book in a big pile of books that I recently inherited from a family friend. First published in 1933, this so old I couldn't even find a trace of it in a google search.



I've always heard of Brer Rabbit and I think I read the Enid Blyton version as a kid but it's too long ago to remember. It's a fun read and I'm sure even children these days would enjoy it. It's a collection of stories that originates from African/American Indian/African American folk tales. So nobody knows the original author. This book was a retelling by F H Pritchyard based on the books of Joel Chandler Harris. With great illustrations by Honor C Appleton.


A few things in the book would never see the light of day if it was published today including the main character smoking a cigar and a bizarre use of a word which is not acceptable today but was very commonplace back then.




This book is obviously not aimed at me but it was fun and I enjoyed reading about the history of the stories and characters when I wasn't reading it.






8/10

Friday, 3 February 2017

Book 4 - Cell By Stephen King











.Don't answer the phone, Don't even pick it up. If you do you'll go nuts. That's what's happened to the rest of the world. There are only a few survivors and they are running for their lives.




Cell is very much old school Stephen King, although it was only published just over ten years ago. It's like a cross between The Stand, The Long Walk and Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road'.


It doesn't start off very well at all and for the first time in my life I was considering ditching it. Without any warning we are thrust into a scenario which would have been better with a slower build up. But then it settles down and it's actually a decent book.


It's a pity that it was let down by the ending. I don't mind open endings, King usually does them well, but this ending was too unrealistic in a needle in a haystack kind of way. But that's all I will say.




A decent book that needed a better beginning and a better ending.




7.5/10




Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins









My third read of the year was picked from a huge pile of old books I have recently inherited. The book is so old it was practically falling to pieces and I had to do a DIY repair job half way through. It also is so old that it was making me ill. I coughed and spluttered my way through it because it is full of dust and probably some kind of mold.



As for the book itself it is apparently the first ever modern detective novel ever written. First published in 1868 it is surprisingly easy to read, I have read newer books that have given me a headache, I enjoyed it and kept my interest to the very last page. It had just enough twists and turns and red herrings to keep me guessing and even though I had a feeling I wasn't going to be any wiser. by the time I read the last page, it all made sense and it was nicely tied up.



I wouldn't say it was the most exciting thing I've ever read but it certainly wasn't dull and boring.




I'll give it a 7.5 out of 10. Well worth the coughing and spluttering.











Monday, 16 January 2017

Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire












My second read of 2017 is the fourth in the Harry Potter series. I am slowly working my way through them.



This one, just like the others, is pure fun escapism. It is imaginative and contains lots of clever twists and turns. I especially like the way that all the loose ends are tied up at the end, even the ones you've forgotten about. It's nice to go back to Hogwarts to catch up with all of the characters again. It's like visiting old friends, even if they are old imaginary friends.



I would probably enjoy the book even more if I was a child or a young teenager but I still enjoyed the read.




8/10





Thursday, 5 January 2017

The Grumpy Old Gits Guide To Life - Geoff Tibballs










My first book of 2016 was a Christmas gift because my wife thought it would be funny because she thinks I am turning into a grumpy old git.




It is funny and a great read to kickstart hopefully at least 52 books this year. The book has a funny cover and is a good laugh throughout.  I also love all of the funny quotes that it contains. It's well worth a read and although I don't normally read this kind of a 'novelty' book, I enjoyed it.



And yes I am turning into an old git. It's the world you see. It gets you that way.





7.5/10