Uprooted – Naomi Novik

One of the quotes on the back of this book is by Gregory MacGuire “like a lost tale of Grimm newly come to light….bewitching”. It’s true, it is a new fairytale. Something you’ve been looking for for a long time, and then one of those books that just hits all the comforting, warming spots that you really sometimes just need in your life.

UprootedIn a nutshell, the story is set in a valley with an enchanted forest (see what I mean about the fairytale?!). Every 10 years the Wizard comes down from his tower and chooses a young woman to take back to the castle and serve him. Everyone expects the pretty, graceful woman to be taken, but of course, it’s not, it’s her friend. I don’t apologise for the spoiler here as it’s so obvious who will be taken even from the synopsis on the back cover…

I took this book on holiday with me and it was an absolutely perfect read. Some of the plot you can see coming from a mile off, but that’s not always a bad thing. It’s really nicely written, and is a great new fairytale.  Often I send books straight to charity after I’ve read them, but this one is staying on my bookshelf, whenever I’m feeling a bit low it’s where i’m going to head to pick me up again. I also love the cover, it sets out exactly what you imagine…

Wonderful…..

Picture from Amazon.co.uk

 

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The Cauliflower – Nicola Barker

Although I didn’t realise it at the time, this is the second book I have read by Nicola Barker. The first one was Wide Open, which I read whilst a member of a book club. I have to admit I didn’t really like that book, and it’s always stayed in my mind as I book I just didn’t get.

However, I was very young when I read that, and so I started reading this book with an open mind…

I’m really sorry to say though that I really struggled with this book. It’s not a story, well it is, sort of, it has a theme running through if of ‘Uncle’, and his carer (whose name I don’t think I really found out until the end), but it flits of in different directions, into long garbled explanations of random, incomprehensible babble about “salt” and other random things, which then pop up again later on, and still not making any sense. I did think at one point I had worked it out when I realised that someone was making a film, and I actually enjoyed reading the book for a bit, thinking that I’d finally found the thread, but then it just went off again somewhere else and I never heard mention of this film again.

I found myself increasingly exasperated and indeed very irritated at one point, when, after a person was mentioned it was followed by a sound “ting”, “clown horn”, etc, etc, which just really really annoyed me! It just made no sense.

I hate to write a bad review, and considering the author has been shortlisted and longlisted for Man Booker prize (books I often lean towards, and just realising I haven’t reviewed on here the last two….considering I loved them…), then I have to conclude that it is just me, for the second time, just not understanding this author. I just did not get it, and it just irritated me! Sorry….

My thanks, as ever to Netgalley and Penguin Randon House UK for this copy of the book.

The Medusa Chronicles – Stephen Baxter & Alastair Reynolds

The Medusa ChroniclesI’ve always been a fan of sci-fi, and I’ve read a number of Stephen Baxter and Alaistair Reynolds books over the years. When I spotted this one on Netgalley I really had to request it, and I’m so pleased I did.

This story was inspired by a short story written by Arthur C Clark (incidentally, the author who made me fall in love with sci-fi, though I’ve never read this short story…yet).

The plot centres around Commander Howard Falcon, a man who should have lost his life in an accident, but with groundbreaking technology was transformed into half man half machine. Despised, and thought of as an abomination by some, but also admired and thought of as a hero by others. In a story taking place over centuries, Commander Falcon is entrusted to prevent wars, and as a general peacekeeperbetween man and machine.

This truly is an epic novel, and one I struggled to put down. As you’d expect, it’s very well written and you are draw into the situations that Commander Falcon is put into. It’s easy to empathise with the choices he makes and the relationships he forges, and I certainly did feel like I got to know the characters very well.

A great blockbuster!

Thanks to Orion Publishing Group and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Wishing Cross Station – February Grace

This is a pretty short book, at about 170 pages, so it’s a good size to get through in a couple of days (for me anyway).

The book tells the story of a young man called Keigan who works in a library and is sent to pick up some donated books. One of the books was set aside from the others, along with an old toy train, and intrigued, instead of handing it into the library for categorisation, he keeps hold of it.

The story that follows is a magical, time travelling, love story, with a truly sad ending.

I did enjoy the book, but I felt that it could have been taken a little further. Questions were left unanswered, for example, without giving spoilers, Keigan left a task to his loved one – did she complete it? We just don’t know. Maybe the author left us wondering intentionally – I don’t know. I just felt a bit left wanting.

As I said, it’s a good easy read if you don’t want something too heavy, and it is well written. I certainly didn’t get bored reading it, and I looked forward to picking it up in my lunch hour.

My thanks to Booktrope Publishers, and Netgalley for this copy

The Great Zoo of China – Matthew Reilly

It’s been a while since I last posted! I have been reading – or more studying for my holiday this year. I chose China….this book came up on NetGalley just as all my other books arrived and I ‘thought’ that I would squeeze it in amongst the others.

I thought wrong….

As soon as I got back I picked it up, and I’m really pleased that I did. Because I’d learnt so much about Chinese culture, and then visited it and experienced it myself I was able to appreciate this book more than I would maybe have done.

This book doesn’t hang around with plot so i’ll keep it short as I don’t want to give away spoilers. China, in it’s obsession to become a bigger superpower than America is opening a Zoo. Not any old zoo of course, but the biggest zoo on earth, with a pretty spectacular animal.

As you’d expect with a good thriller – and this certainly is a good thriller – things don’t quite go as smoothly as the Chinese Government would like them to, and the main characters CJ Cameron, her brother Hamish, and the rest of the characters are swept along in a rollercoaster of events which never seem to end!

It’s pretty gory, and comparisons with a certain film are inevitable, but you do have to look past that and appreciate the book for what it is – which is a good thriller. The author has quite clearly done his research on China and it’s culture, and has portrayed it very well. I don’t know if this book would work so well in another country as it fits China very well.

My thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the advance copy.

No One Gets Out Alive – Adam Nevill

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I started reading this on Halloween, and just before I had a blood test (which always makes me queazy anyway!)….maybe not the best idea!

It’s been a while since I read a horror, and this one really is. In short, the story follows Stephanie, a young woman who moves out of home (after an relationship breakdown with her stepmother), and moves into a cheap rented room in a Victorian house. Her first night doesn’t go well, with her being woken by noises and voices, which she puts down to her neighbours. However, when she tries to leave, things get worse – much worse.

This book frightened the life out of me, it really did. I had to put it down quite a few times and go and do something else for a bit, and there were bits that I just struggled to read. This book really got to me, it’s not a classic ghost story. This is truly awful – the landlords frightened me more than the ghosts somewhat, they’re not unbelievable characters, and you can actually see how some women would easily get themselves into the situation that Stephanie did.

It did have undertones of Fred and Rose West, which I noted were mentioned by the author at the end of the book. I think this is why it creeped me out so much.

I enjoyed this book very much, but I think it’s going to stay with me for a while…. A truly frightening story.

 

Thank you to Pan Books for providing this copy via NetGalley

2040 – Graham Tottle

2040I was really looking forward to reading this book, the cover looked fantastic, and it was sold to me as:

Imagine a world where there are no birds singing. There are no warm-blooded creatures at all and few people – the human population has been decimated. The First World Error has seen to that. That world is Downside, a dystopian parallel universe which split from Upside in 1990.

It sounded great. I’m sorry to say it isn’t. I’m halfway through it and I’ve just stopped. I’m bored. I struggled with his writing style, and i’m not a fan of footnotes (which there are many). I stuck with it even though I didn’t have much of a clue what was going on – I thought I’d pick it up eventually – maybe it was flipping back and forward in time? The upside/downside thing was fine, I got that bit – and I really like the concept of the POPS (machinery that keeps tabs on people).

However, i’m 40% through the book now, and despite having read this book without a break (I’m pretty immobile at the moment), i’ve kind of lost the plot. I don’t really know who’s doing what and why. It’s not helped that it is full of conversations that ramble on about irrelevant things. It reminds me of old 1970’s tv programmes, with two old people just sitting on a bench or walking down a street having a ramble on whilst on their way somewhere, as a filler….it’s not needed in a book – chatting on about a princess who became a model, and slavery and the British Indea Steam Navigation Co has absolutely no relevance to the story at all. Is the author just trying to show off his general knowledge?

When I started skipping whole paragraphs in order to try to get back to the story then I realised he had just lost me, and there was no point continuing. If nothing has happened in the first 40% of the book, then what’s going to happen in the rest – i’m almost halfway through. I don’t even know why the upsiders want to go to the downside!

Sorry – this wasn’t for me…

Thank you to Book Guild Publishing for sending me this book to review (honestly) via Netgalley. Image from Amazon.

 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

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The Ocean at the end of the laneWow. This is the first book that I have read of this author, although I have been meaning to buy one for quite some time, as I loved the film Stardust, and I knew he would be right up my street so to speak.

It didn’t disappoint. This is one of those books that you read as a child and it stays with you for the rest of your life. For example, for me, it’s Joan Aiken (The Stolen Lake being my favourite), and Alan Garner (The Weirdstone of Brisingamen – oh Alderley Edge!). I’ve never encountered a book like this in my adult life  life – it transported me back to my childhood and it was just absolutely magical.

I’m never going to forget this book, and I can see myself rereading it over and over again. It’s pretty short so you can do it in a weekend easily. Perfect.

I’m planning on buying the rest of his books, I hope they are all as special as this one – I’m confident they will be…

Titus Awakes – The Lost Book of Gormenghast

Titus Awakes

 

For those of you who have never read Gormenghast, you really should. It’s an absolutely amazing book, even if you don’t enjoy the plot (don’t worry, you will), it is written with what can only be described as artistry. It’s beautiful, descriptive, it’s a book which really does take you into it’s loving arms – you escape to a world that I never personally wanted to come out of.

I adore Gormenghast….

I didn’t even know about this book, I just chanced upon it when I was in a bookshop one day looking for something else (The latest Dwarves book by Markus Heitz if you’re wondering – my boyfriends birthday). Naturally, I snapped it up, finished food shopping, and legged it home full of excitement – well legged it home as quick as you can do with a full bag of vegetables in one hand and a bag of fish and meat in the other – which isn’t very fast truth told. Anyway, I digress.

You know where i’m going with this don’t you?…

Although it was not written by Mervyn, it was pulled together by Maeve Gilmore based on fragments that he had written before he passed away. It takes us on the next journey of Titus after he leaves Gormenghast behind, and his trying to find his way in the world. I’m not giving the story away – I don’t do that (sorry) – I found that I couldn’t put this book down, I really felt for Titus and once again I was drawn into the story and it wouldn’t let me go. It’s pretty short so I read it in a couple of days. It’s a really sad book, typically ‘Titus’, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. There is no happy ending – that would be wrong, it just ‘is’, and that is perfect for the end of the story of Gormenghast. I’m itching to reread the first three again to be honest….

Fractured Dream (The Dreamer Saga)- K M Randall

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Fractured dreams

I have to admit, this is the sort of book that I absolutely love, full of fairytales, magic and mystery, with a good ‘got to work out how to take down the baddie’ plot.

The main character is Story Sparks, a young woman who has no idea how special she is. Story is plagued by firstly the lack of dreams, and then horrific nightmares – ones which she remembers having many years ago when she was a child.

We are swept away into Story’s tale, along with her and her two friends when they take a trip to Lake Sandeen on a sunny day for a picnic.

What follows is a magical world of fairytales, and the discovery of who Story really is…there are wolves, red riding hood, fairies, and of course the baddie.

I really enjoyed this book, it’s easy reading and you do get sucked into it. I await the next one….