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Monthly Archives: March 2011

31st March: Currently on my Wishlist

Book Review: Limitless – Alan Glynn

Limitless by Alan Glynn on Amazon

Limitless is a superb thriller by Alan Glynn. The concept itself is fantastic – when Eddie Spinola discovers a drug which taps into the brain and accesses subconscious skills and resources, he becomes a modern-day super hero. He has the ability to learn anything he wants and uses his new found abilities to create a perfect life for himself. Only when he starts blacking-out and noticing terrible consequences, does he question the drug and soon discovers that other users are either dying or dead.

The story itself is thrilling. It’s full of twists and turns, and the ups and downs of Eddie’s drug use. Eddie quickly becomes consumed by the drug and the pace of the book matches his new found energy, sometimes almost exhausting the reader as we try to keep up with his `high’. While the pace of the novel is tiring, the intensity of Eddie’s new interests are also quite draining. Eddie reads and absorbs newspapers and books so quickly that becomes an expert on politics and the stock exchange. He is able to talk so freely and so enthusiastically about these subjects, even despite the fact he doesn’t quite understand the things he finds himself talking about, which makes it a hard book to follow in places. As it dawns on him what’s happening, the pace slows down slightly and the reader is less bombarded by Eddie’s newfound knowledge, which is something of a relief. Having said that, however, I found myself so invested in the character of Eddie and wanting to know how his story ends, I was still on the edge of my seat.

This novel is so thought-provoking, as well as having the fantastic story. Told in first person by Eddie, you really feel that you are on this journey with him, feeling his highs and lows. It’s a very powerful novel – full of emotions, mystery, and conspiracy – a `thriller’ in every sense of the word. While I personally found the first half of the novel to be so information-heavy and struggled to keep focused, I’m glad I persisted and I found the rest of the book to be a thrilling read. It’s obvious after reading Limitless that all Eddie’s earlier opinions on politics, language, art, investment banking, etc. were all necessary for the story to allow the reader to understand more of what was going on in Eddie’s brain and experience the information-overload that he was feeling.

An exceptional concept and well worth the effort!

5 Stars *****

Limitless by Alan Glynn on Amazon

Book Review: Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen on Amazon

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is an absolutely spectacular read. There has been so much hype surrounding this novel (an International Bestseller), even more so now with the movie soon to be released, but I couldn’t anticipate just how much this book lived up to and excelled expectation.

Set in Depression era America, Jacob Jankowski’s life falls apart days before completing a six-year-long veterinary course. Feeling the need to escape, he walks out of his final exams and keeps walking until he discovers a Travelling Circus train on their way to their next show. The story follows Jacob as he becomes the vet for the Circus menagerie, falls in love with the married Marlena, and befriends many colourful characters on the way.

It’s obvious how much research has gone into writing this book, with superb descriptions of the circus life and accurate inclusions of circus terminology. This is even more apparent when reading the author’s notes at the end of the book, where she admits to referencing stories from news articles in the novel and bringing in inspiration in the form of real circus shows and animals that she’d discovered while researching. Not only has the 1930’s Travelling Circus aspect been thoroughly researched, but also that of the Great Depression. Gruen has created an incredible picture of life in America in the years after the crash and the prohibition era, such as the references to homeless people with their shoes tied to their legs to avoid them being stolen while they slept, and the Jamaica Ginger paralysis caused by excessive drinking of ‘Jake’. Water For Elephants is not only a wonderfully written story, but also an historic account of the life of the Travelling Circus and Depression-era America.

It’s an exciting, fast-paced novel, with lovable characters and an amazing cast of interesting circus performers. The characters are brilliantly written and there’s an effortless emotional attachment to them. In particular, I loved the characters of Camel and Walter (and Queenie, his dog), who are an integral part of Jacob’s story and all have an excellent comradeship, despite the fact they belong to different parts of the circus hierarchy.

The writing style is so descriptive of the sights, smells and sounds within the circus and while Gruen manages to create an evocative circus atmosphere, it flows easily and is easy to read. While I read Water for Elephants, my mind kept thinking of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men – equally as descriptive, with superb characters and also written about that particular time in American history. It’s so easy to draw comparisons between the books and as I personally regard Of Mice and Men as one of the most brilliant books I’ve ever read, it seems no surprise that I should think Water for Elephants anything less than phenomenal either.

While I didn’t expect that Water for Elephants would live up to my expectation, I’m so pleasantly surprised that it did. It completely surpassed my high-expectations and is a book that I know I shall read over and over. It’s story and characters will linger with me for a long time. It’s a dazzling account of the spectacular life of the circus, with all it’s cruelty, violence and hardship that hides beneath the showy façade that the outside world sees.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen on Amazon

Book Review: Dead Until Dark – Charlaine Harris

Dead Until Dark: A True Blood Novel by Charlaine Harris

 

As a huge fan of HBO’s True Blood TV show, the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris have been at the top of my reading wishlist for some time.

The series follows the story of Sookie, living in the small Louisiana town of Bon Temps. She has the gift of mind-reading, although she would never refer to it as a gift but more of a curse, as her head is constantly filled with noise. When she meets Vampire Bill Compton, she hears nothing and enjoys the peace. However, there is a serial killer in Bon Temps, one that goes after women who associate with Vampires. With both her brother Jason and her new Vampire boyfriend Bill both suspects, this first novel follows Sookie’s investigation into the murders while trying to stay alive herself.

What strikes me most about Dead Until Dark, is how closely the TV show has followed the novels. The creators of the True Blood TV show on HBO have done a marvellous job of keeping the show as close to the novels as possible. It’s always a shame when stories and characters are altered too much to suit a TV audience and ends up ruining a great series. However, reading Charlaine Harris’ novels, it’s obvious to see that nothing from the novels has been compromised to bring it to TV.

Having said that, reading the novels after watching the show on TV does have some downsides. While it’s easy to picture the characters in the novels, the element of surprise is lost. While the story itself is still gripping and I found it difficult to put down, I already knew who the serial killer was from the TV show. I can imagine it’s a spectacular read if you are unaware of the conclusion of the Bon Temps Serial Killer storyline.

It’s a very entertaining and easy to read book. There’s so much going on and very well paced. What HBO has fit into the entire Series 1 on TV, Charlaine Harris has fit it’s entirity into this first novel. What I especially enjoyed is her creation of the Bon Temps townspeople. With Sookie working at Merlotte’s Bar, Harris has enabled the reader to become familiar with everyone in the town. Sookie’s telepathy only adds to this – the readers here the thoughts of Merlotte’s patrons, meaning we get much more insight into the lives and thoughts of the less-important characters. She clearly paints a picture of the gossiping people of the small town, which really envelops you in the story. The main characters themselves are superbly well written and you feel so emotionally attached to them all.

Dead Until Dark has everything you’d want in a book – mystery, murder, romance, fantastic characters and a really enjoyable story. The only disappointment was that I knew how it would end. However, I fully intend on continuing reading the Sookie Stackhouse novels and I’m sure once I surpass the point in the storyline that is currently on TV, the story will grip me even more. Dead Until Dark is a brilliant book, but I did miss the element of ‘what will happen next?’.

4 Stars **** (Would have been 5 stars, had I read this before watching the TV show!)

Dead Until Dark: A True Blood Novel by Charlaine Harris on Amazon

Book Review: Once Bitten – Stephen Leather

Once Bitten by Stephen Leather

Reading the synopsis of Once Bittenby Stephen Leather, I anticipated this to be a crime fiction novel. Jamie Beaverbrook is an English psychologist helping the Police Department in LA. His knowledge and experience has enabled him to create a software program that can help decide if a murderer is sane or insane. The story follows a case where a girl is discovered standing over a body with it’s throat ripped out and blood all over her.

While the crime scene and it’s prime suspect seem to obviously hint that she’s not human, I expected this to be a serious crime book, where Jamie Beaverbrook has to disprove a Vampire theory. While the story was well paced, well written and intense in parts, I was disappointed to discover very early on that it was more of a fantasy book and it seemed a bit of a let down when Terry, the murder suspect, was in fact not-human and there was no twist.

Although I enjoyed Stephen Leather’s writing style and found it to be an entertaining read once I’d accepted that it was a fantasy Vampire story rather than the crime fiction I hoped for, the story and characters were a little unbelievable. Jamie was described as being a little worn and exhausted by his divorce and death of his newborn baby, looking significantly older and worse for wear than he really was. Terry, however, was described as young and beautiful, as well as being immortal, wealthy and with special abilities. While we’re supposed to wonder if Terry’s feelings are genuine or if she has ulterior motives, the whole relationship seems a little far-fetched. Terry seems too willing to spill the details of her lifestyle and her Vampire community to someone employed by the LA Police Department.

The story itself was easy to read and, despite my criticisms, I read continuously from start to finish. The major downside for me, and many others judging by reviews, was the ending. It was so anticlimactic and although it leaves you wondering what might have happened, it seemed a bit of a cop-out by the author. It was an average read – while it had excellent potential, it just didn’t seem well executed.

3 Stars ***

Once Bitten by Stephen Leather on Amazon

Gadget Accessory Review: iTALKonline Purple Wallet Case for Kindle

iTALKonline PURPLE Executive Wallet Case for Kindle

 

Most of my reading is done at home, but since getting my Kindle, I noticed opportunities where I could really benefit from taking my Kindle out and about. Not wanting to let my new Kindle get scratched in my bag with my keys, I went on a search for a case similar to Amazon’s £50 cases but at a fraction of the price – my Kindle doesn’t get used enough outside the house to warrent spending that kind of money on a case, however much I’d like to!

The case itself is a beautiful colour – slightly darker purple, less pink in colour than the photo (more plum than magenta), but a gorgeous colour nonetheless. The quality, for the price, is amazing. Strong and sturdy, and to my surprise, it also came with a screen protector and cleaning cloth. While I have no intention to use the screen protector (the case itself will protect my Kindle sufficiently), it was an unexpected bonus and I’m sure one that would be appreciated by other Kindle users.

The one downside I found with this case is the weight. While I wanted something that I could just throw in my bag for times when I might need it, I find it really adds weight to my lightweight Kindle. While the Kindle is light and portable, this heavy case cancels that out. But then again, I did want something of good quality and something much lighter and flimsy might not protect my Kindle as much.

Overall, it’s a great case for keeping my Kindle protected from scratches and scuffs while in my bag, but when I’m reading, my Kindle won’t be in it’s case – it’s just too heavy for me to feel comfortable while reading. The one thing I really love about my Kindle is that it’s so much more comfortable to hold compared to a real book and this case takes away that benefit. It is a stunning case, high quality and perfect if you’re looking for a leather-look wallet-style case

4 Stars ****

iTALKonline PURPLE Executive Wallet Case for Kindle on Amazon

Book Review: The Case Of The Missing Boyfriend by Nick Alexander

The Case of the Missing Boyfriend by Nick Alexander

I picked this book up for Kindle last week when it was priced at £0.00 – a free Kindle book! It quickly made it to the #1 spot on the Free Books chart, and even when the price was put back up to £1.49 a few days ago, it’s still at #2 on the Kindle ‘paid’ list. It’s no surprise either – it’s a fantastic book and a real bargain, even when not on the free list.

The Case of the Missing Boyfriend follows CC, who like the title suggests, is boyfriendless. While it’s a contemporary romance novel, it’s only subtly so. CC is approaching 40 with a fantastic job in advertising and wonderful friends, but feels pressured to find a boyfriend and settle down. She dreams of a life away from London, living the ‘Good Life’ in a little cottage somewhere in the countryside, but is blocked by the endless search for love.

Nick Alexander has done a wonderful job of creating characters that your really feel an emotional bond with throughout the book – CC herself, her group of comedic gay friends, her hilarious mother due to marry her 20-year-old toyboy to keep him in the country.

There’s laugh out loud moments throughout, along with emotional ups and downs. Plenty of red-herring potential romances keep you unaware of who CC will ultimately end up with. It’s a well-written, intelligent and heartwarming read – completely opposite to the stereotypical ‘chic-lit’ novels. Alexander writes CC’s point of view so perfectly, it’s quite surprising when you remember that it’s written by a man.

This book is a fantastic story of personal encounters, relationships and CC’s desire to escape the city and settle down. The end is so perfect and unpredictable. This is a great example of the gems you can find in the Kindle ‘Free Book’ list – it’s something I’d not necessarily go for usually, but I’m likely to look for more from this author.

4 Stars ****

The Case of the Missing Boyfriend by Nick Alexander on Amazon