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Tag Archives: Contemporary Fiction

Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

With all the hype surrounding this book (and soon-to-be movie!) I half expected this book to not live up to expectations. However, I am very pleased to be wrong! It’s a clever, thrilling sci-fi story, with twists and turns that make it impossible to put down. The story itself is like a cross between Stephen King’s Running Man and Battle Royale, with each of 24 children having to kill their opponents until only one is left, watched on TV by the rest of Panem (a post-apocolyptic USA).

Despite being aimed at the ‘Young Adult’ Genre, the writing is so clever and engaging that it’ll clearly appeal to young and old alike. The chacters are well developed, the plot well-paced and constantly interesting and it’s so well written that you believe you could very well be in the forests of the Hunger Games arena. Although the ‘love triangle’ aspect has been done to death in these teen fiction books, it’s done in a more subtler way and the romantic theme is less of a focus than other books of a similar genre.

Onto ‘Catching Fire now’…

5 Stars *****

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins on Amazon

Book Review: We All Ran into the Sunlight – Natalie Young

We All Ran into the Sunlight

This book was another of the ‘Spring Sale’ Books I picked up as bargain reading over the Easter Bank Holiday. Having read the reviews, I was looking forward to a mysterious but relaxing ‘holiday read’ – with an average ‘star rating’ on Amazon of almost 5/5 stars at the time of purchase (April2011), I was expecting this to blow me away.

Unfortunately, it didn’t blow me away. It was an enjoyable read and Natalie Young’s writing style has captured beautifully this slow and laid-back village in the South of France, but the story felt like it was lacking something. The novel is based around a chateau in a rural French village. We learn that something terrible happened here on a Summer’s night years ago and as the story unravels we are introduced to the people who used to live in the house. They are all held together in this story by the secrets that they all share about the events up to that night.

Each section of the book is a new point of view, following a different character as they are pulled back towards the chateau. I loved this style of story-telling as the reader is introduced to each character individually and we learn how they were affected by the old chateau. While the novel was beautifully written and pulls the reader into this sleepy village, the story itself was a little flat. We know from the beginning that there are secrets surrounding the family who used to live in the house and I was excited to follow the story to find out what exactly had happened all those years ago. But, as the secrets were revealed to us and we learn more about what still haunts the people of the village, I felt there were still unanswered questions and no real closure for the characters.

I feel I am disatisfied with how the characters seemed to ‘move on’ without really dealing with their past and the hold that the chateau had over them, seemed just to tail off towards the end.  However, It’s a beautiful and haunting novel, jumping from characters and periods of time. Young has created a sinister, eerie house, set in a seemingly perfect part of the world. With gossiping villagers and secrets locked up inside the house, it’s easy to become drawn in and want to learn what really happened on that summer’s night years before.

3 Stars ***

We All Ran into the Sunlight on Amazon

Dead To The World: A True Blood Novel

I love this novel – if only because it’s so Eric-focused! In this fourth book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, Eric has amnesia and the witches of Shreveport are after him. Jason discovers that the witches are offering a reward for Eric and disappears soon afterwards, leaving Sookie to look after Eric alone. With Bill travelling in South America at the Queen’s orders, she tries to find her missing brother and to find out more about the evil V-drinking Were-witches, without being killed herself.

This book is thrilling – a truely exciting read. With Eric’s personality completely reversed, it’s so interesting to see how his and Sookie’s relationship develops, as well as seeing Pam take charge without her maker. While the Supernaturals of Shreveport and Bon Temps declare war on the covern of Witches, there’s also the disappearance of Jason which leaves you wondering if that’s related to the Witches and their spells. Without giving away any spoilers, how Jason’s kidnapping develops is very interesting!

Dead To The World is a very exciting novel and the first I’ve been able to read before seeing it done on TV. Judging by this fourth book in the series, the fourth season of True Blood on TV will be very exciting and I cannot wait to see the show’s take on this novel. With Eric and Pam being my favourite characters, I think I shall be in for a very good season when it airs on TV. I’m very much ‘Team Eric’ rather than Bill, so Bill’s absense and Eric becoming the focus is very appealing – especially with the comedy that Eric’s amnesia will bring and Pam’s desperation over it!

5 Stars *****

Dead To The World: A True Blood Novel on Amazon

Book Review: Club Dead: A True Blood Novel

Club Dead: A True Blood Novel


This is the third novel in the Sookie Stackhouse series and roughly follows Season 3 of the TV show, with the King of Mississippi and all the werewolves being introduced in Club Dead. While reading book one of the series (Dead Until Dark), I found the TV show followed it so closely that it wasn’t a terribly thrilling read as I’d seen how it ended on TV. However, as the novel series progresses, I’ve found that the TV show follows it much more loosely and books 2 and 3 are much more entertaining than the first, as it tells a similar story but in a much different way.

Club Dead, book thee, is no exception. Having watched series 3 on TV, I was interested to see how different this third book would be. While it roughly includes the story following the King of Mississippi and introduces Alcide the werewolf to protect Sookie, it was quite a lot different to the season on TV – making it entertaining and surprising even after seeing the HBO show. However enjoyable it was, I found this book lacked a little in excitement, especially compared to the corresponding season on TV. In season 3 of True Blood on TV, the King of Mississippi has a much larger role with his attempt at overthrowing the Vampire Magister and taking power himself, not to mention Eric’s desire for revenge against the King, the torture of Pam, blackmail of the Louisiana Queen and the King’s interest in Sookie. With all these things introduced for TV, the novel story seems a little flat in comparison. However, it is still a very enjoyable read and I do love the character of Bubba which was obviously dropped for the TV show.

It is an excellent book and I love whole series of Sookie Stackhouse novels. The TV show follows it loosely enough so if you see the show first like I have, it’s still almost a new story when reading the novels. However, the TV show has magnified the excitment and brought a lot of new twists and conspiracies to it’s season three, which makes this particular novel feel a little inadequate in comparison.

4 Stars ****

Club Dead: A True Blood Novel on Amazon

Book Review: Living Dead in Dallas: A True Blood Novel

Living Dead In Dallas: A True Blood Novel

Having seen the show first and now reading the books, I knew it wouldn’t exactly be a surprise what happens in the books. I read book one of the Sookie Stackhouse series (Dead Until Dark) and the TV show had followed it so closely that although it was a great book, I knew exactly what would happen.

Luckily for me, reading Living Dead in Dallas, it was much better. The TV show writers had followed this book very loosely and although it very roughly had the same storyline, everything seemed to develop differently. The Maenad had a much smaller part, unlike the show where she was the big villain at the end of season2, and Sookie’s infiltration of the Fellowship of the Sun was much different. While the TV show complimented this book perfectly, it was different enough to feel like I was reading something new!

And as for Eric, he’s just as swoon-worthy in the book as he is in the show and I love how comedic the character of Eric is in the novels. It’s a shame that Layfaette’s character was written out so early in the novels – it makes me very glad that the TV show decided to keep him as a regular character! Onwards to book 3 for me now!

5 Stars *****

Living Dead In Dallas: A True Blood Novel on Amazon

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