Thursday, 30 August 2012

Book review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold FryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was recommended to me by my Mum, and our local book shop Booka.
It's not normally the kind of thing I read but I was looking forward to it, everyone I'd spoken to about it absolutely loved it.
It's a fairly simple story. Harold Fry is a retired man, living unhappily with his wife in Kingsbridge. He receives a letter from a woman named Queenie who he used to work with and decides to write a letter back to her. Only, he doesn't post it, he continues walking to Berwick Upon Tweed. We follow Harold on his journey, his ups and downs and the people he meets along the way.
At first, I thought each chapter followed a basic pattern, which disappointed me a bit. Harold met someone, walked a bit and reminisced about an old memory, normally involving his wife or son. The memory often turned out to be depressing. But as the story continued and Harold's pilgrimage evolved into something much bigger than he had anticipated it became better. The people he met brought the story to life and the problems he faced were realistic. In most books, the hero would walk all the way in yachting shoes and have no problems at all, but it detailed Harold's injuries and obstacles. The whole time I willed Harold just to buy a pair of walking boots, but Harold wasn't that kind of person.
Overall, this book is a lovely, simple story, filled with happy, sad and surprising moments. It makes you think about how you live your life, what's important to you and what you'd do for those you love.

View all my reviews

Monday, 27 August 2012

Book review: Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason

Jar CityJar City by Arnaldur Indridason
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had to hunt a bit to find an I book for my A-Z of authors, but eventually I came across Arnaldur Indridason.
I'd read a few translated books before and always found some of the text a bit stilted, but this wasn't the case at all with Jar City. The story flowed well, dialogue was plausible and realistic and no word seemed out of place.
The actual story itself was brilliant, full of twists, turns and unexpected surprises. The story stretches back to the 60's and the past of the murder victim and the people he has affected throughout his life.
It's not always pleasant, but it's not 'gritty' which for me is a nice change. Murder mystery books can often be depressing and miserable, but this one did have a sense of humour, which again translated well into English.
I found this quite a quick read and once the story got going it was hard to put down. Each clue led to another, with the odd fiery confrontation and interesting characters.
The only problem I had was with the character names. I struggled to separate all of them at the beginning and lots of them have names starting with E. I suppose this wouldn't be a problem if it was a British or American book and I names that I recognised were used. However, once I got into it was easy to separate each of the characters, although I'm not sure I can spell or pronounce any of them!
Overall, an interesting murder mystery that's unputdownable and certainly the promise for more. I can't wait to read another!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Book review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-timeThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time was my H, in my A-Z of authors. I'd bought the book a while ago, it's just taken me ages to get around to reading it.
The premise is simple, it's told from the point of view of Christopher Boone, a fifteen year old who has Asperger's syndrome. Initially, it's about him trying to solve the mystery of a murdered dog, but that get's resolved pretty quickly.
The book as a whole it addictive, I read it in a few days and once you start reading it's hard to put down. Being inside Christopher's mind in interesting if a little odd. I have no knowledge of this condition so it was very educational for me as well, learning about what was important to him.
There were a few things that I found a bit niggly. For a start, I find it a bit far fetched that the father of a child would tell him his mother was dead. I also found it odd that the mother would not go and visit the child when she didn't get any response to letters she sent over two or so years.
The way people reacted to Christopher also shocked me. For part of the book he was sitting in a London Underground station for a prolonged period of time. At no point did anyone from the underground staff come to check he was okay. Christopher doesn't like anyone touching him and when they do he screams. When this happened with several different strangers, they just left. No one and I mean no one stopped to think that the kid might have a problem. Maybe I think too much of the people in this world, but I like to think that some people would have stopped to help him.
My only other negative, and I know it seems like there are a lot, is that it ends quite suddenly with more than a few stories left open.
Overall, this is a hard going book morally, but an easy read and a real eye opener into the life of an unusual main character.

View all my reviews

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Book review: Good Omens: The Nice And Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, WitchGood Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My aunt is a great fan of Terry Pratchett and all the blurbs and snippets of his books that I've read made me laugh out loud. Unfortunately, P was taken up in my A-Z of authors, so I used a bit of a loophole and went for Neil Gaiman instead.
My only source of apocolypse knowledge is TV, mainly Supernatural with a bit of Charmed and Buffy thrown in. So some of the characters were familiar, others were completely new to me. This was good and bad. As fellow Supernatural fans will know, the talented Mark Sheppard fills the shoes for Crowley in the series. So unfortunately for me, I pictured him throughout the book despite the authors' descriptions.
Generally, this is a brilliant book, full of fun, laughter, violence, angels and demons while managing to tell an exciting story along the way. I enjoyed the footnotes in general and their casual, humourous approach. I particularly liked Crowley claiming he was responsible for Manchester.
Overall, four stars because it was a great story, but sometimes it got bogged down trying to be funny. They often went off on a bit of a tangent and I wanted to skip some bits to get back to the story. On the other hand, I loved their take on the traditional apocolypse, the four horsemen arriving on motorbikes was a bit of a gem. I'm looking forward to reading more Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Book review: Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

BirdsongBirdsong by Sebastian Faulks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is like nothing I've ever come across. Birdsong had been recommended to me countless times by book club members and then I saw a trailer for the TV adaptation on the BBC.
I've never read a book about war before. But then, this book isn't really about war, it's about Stephen Wraysford's life. It encompasses everything from his love affair with Isabelle, to his time during the first world war and his rise within the ranks.
There are several things I love about this book. For a start I love Faulks' descriptions of just about everything. He makes the trenches and tunnels a place no one would like to go to and the love scenes with Isabelle something a certain Mr Grey would be proud of. It has been an absolute joy and journey to read.
The characters that Faulks creates are exceptional, especially Wraysford's comrades and colleagues. The way that their relationships are portrayed is heartfelt, incredible and is the reason why I spent the second half of this book in tears or close to. My personal favourite was Weir. Knowing that these characters could die at any moment in this tragic war makes the book unpredictable and surprising.
I also enjoy the fact that you don't always follow Wraysford's story. Some time we spend with tunneler, Jack Firebrace, as well as some time with Wraysford's granddaughter Elizabeth in the 1970's and Weir as he returns home.
I don't know much about the first world war, but I was surprised about the use of the tunnels. I wasn't aware of the part they played in the war and I found it interesting. It wasn't just your usual trenches and shelling, although they way in which Faulks describes those parts make it sound horrific.
Another reviewer wrote that it's almost like Faulks is writing from memory and personal experience and I second that. It feels like this character is real and you're following his life story. It's an exceptional book and I recommend it to everyone. You won't come across anything else like this.

View all my reviews