This fantasy/thriller book could be mistaken for a children's book, if it was opened randomly, as some passages seem to be the retelling of fairy tales, but that is superficial. The stories are twisted from their "traditional" story lines.
It starts off fairly normally. David, a 12 year old boy is going through routines he has set himself that he thinks will help keep his Mum alive. His routines don't help, and she dies, as is expected. [After all, how many successful storylines are based around normal families with no problems?]
His father remarries, and David dislikes his new Mum and baby brother. He sees them as interlopers, and it is their fault that his family is not like it used to be, with usual childish logic.
He has also been having what sound like epileptic episodes, (although they are never named, neither is the cause of his Mum's death, other than it slowly ate her away.)
One day he is particularly nagry with his stepmother, and is told to stop in his room until the following morning. During the night, he goes out into the garden, and passes into another world.
It is in this world he meets the corupted fairy tale characters. As he travels to meet the king, in order, to consult "The Book of Lost Things", which he is told will help in get home.
He meets people who help him, and people who he has to overcome. As he meets each challenge, he starts to change from an impulsive child, to a more thoughful adolescent, well on the way to being adult.
It is a fascinating read, and has an ending similar, in my opinion to "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel
To find out a little more, here's a link to John Connolly's website, (to the page about this book.)
I really fail to see what all the hubub is about, but then again, I'm not an overly religious individual, so all I see is a terrific fantasy. I won't say much more about this book as it's about to be released as a major motion picture.
What I will say, though, is if you're basing your decisions to not read the book or see the film on what others have said, read it yourself. Form your own conclusions.
Labels: YA fantasy
This was an unexepcted surprise. Blue sent me this book, and told me it was good. (I could have gone to the bookshop and bought it myself, but guess Blue thought I wouldn't!)
The title is slightly off putting, as I tend to connect history with dull stuffy facts that don't seem to link together. Perhaps that is how it came across at school to me. The time period we covered whilst I did O level history seemed totally disconnected with anything else I was doing, and was delivered in a very boring manner. It wasn't until later on the connections were made, and I made them myself.
Anyway, to the book.
Theer are several voices used throughout the book, by way of letters, postcards, historical accounts, but the story moves forward, and all the threads make sense, as they are woven together to make a clear picture of the history the un-named narrator is researching. The research she is doing is also part of her own family history.
With her Dad, she travels around Europe, and while he is in meetings, she visits libraries trying to find more out about the strange book she found in her Dad's study/library. Her research is unknown to her Dad.
The book is much more enthralling than my description, that's cos I'm trying not to "spoil" the story for anyone.
The strange book I refered to is a blank book, apart from a two page spread with a dragon. The dragon is linked with Vlad the Impaler, and the search is for what happened to his body, and also, the history of the narrator's family.
I couldn't put this book down and sat up a couple of hours after I would normally go to bed, to read to a point where I felt comfortable putting it down for the night.
For the easily scared, the latter chapters might be better read in daylight hours. But being an Anne Rice fan, the scarey nature of the latter chapters didn't bother me.
I'm not putting the bumph here, cos it is so long. But this is a really well constructed story, with good pace, and ease of reading.
I suppose there is one thing I should put here, "Thanks, Blue, for sending me this book. "
Labels: historical fiction
This is a collection of short stories from Michel Faber.
So far I have only read the introduction and the first story, but they are all I expect from Michel Faber.
For anyone who has read "The Crimson Petal and the White", these are short stories about Sugar, etc from "The Crimson Petal and the White".
The one I have read places Sugar at 17 year old, and wanting to give Christmas to Christopher in Mrs Castaway's house, where he is currently employed.
It is a lovely "snapshot" of an underprivileged Christmas.
I hope the other stories are just as poignant.
15th November. Have now finished the short story collection, and yes, they were all as good as the first one, but then I would say that as Michel Faber is a favourite author of mine.
Labels: short stories
This is another book about the manic way some parents react when trying to obtain a place for their child at the high school of their choice, and is a very well written book, unlike the one that cheesed me off with it's inaccuracies.
O'Farrell has written this book from the viewpoint of the mother, and has done it very well. Whereas the other told the story in typical "chic lit" style, this one is told straight, but is full of "life humour", you know the things parents do for their children, etc.
For those of you who know John O'Farrell as a comedian, and like his style, this book is in that style. [He's regularly on the "Grumpy Old Men" series, making funny, but true observations of life.]
The story has a lovely twist at the end of it, that is much more satisfying than the "chic lit" book I read on the same theme.
Now the bumph,
Alice never imagined that she would end up like this. Is she the only mother who feels so permanently panic-stricken at the terrors of the modern world - or is it normal to sit up in bed all night popping bubble wrap? She worries that too much gluten and dairy may be hindering her children's mental arithmetic. She frets that there are too many cars on the road to let them out of the 4 x 4. Finally she resolves to take control and tackle her biggest worry of all: her daughter is definitely not going to fail that crucial secondary school entrance exam. Because Alice has decided to take the test in her place....
With his trademark comic eye for detail, John O'Farrell has produced a funny and provocative book that will make you laugh, cry and vow never to become that sort of parent. And then you can pass it on to your seven-year-old, because she really ought to be reading grown-up novels by now....
I'm taking a short break from reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell because I took it with me last weekend to my cousin's house and forgot it there. I am returning to her house for Thanksgiving so I will get it then.
Meantime, I've just finished this dandy little piece of non-fiction about a cemetery in Great Britain's most haunted city. If you're still scratching your head at which one I might be referring to, it's Greyfriar's Cemetery in Edinburgh, Scotland.
This book is very well written. It focuses on one specific small tour company which offers nightly tours which wind up in Greyfriar's Covenanter's Prison. From what I gathered in the course of reading, this small tour company (I say small because there are only 4 guides) is the only one the City Council allowed to have a set of keys. Due to the paranormal activity, Covenanter's Prison was locked up in the 90s.
While the author focuses mainly on the beginnings of this tour company, there are eye witness accounts offered. People who actually experienced the poltergeist known as Mackenzie. Jan, the author, also manages to slip in the history of Greyfriar's and Covenanter's Prison so you're not left wondering what it is, exactly, you're reading about.
This book has Adult content, do not read if easily offended
That's the warning over with.
This was serialised in the UK some years back, and I caught most of the programme. (It was obviously aired after the 9pm watershed, due to it's content.) However the television adaptation had obviously dumbed the story down quite a bit.
The story is about Will, grandson of a peer of the realm, who is comfortably off, and gay. It follows his activities over a period of around 6 months, I think. As the story is not placed in time until the very end I was trying to work out when it was set, references place it in the 80s sometime, but obviously not too late on, as Will's encounters are prolific at times, and there is no mention of caution due to AIDS. In the last chapter the Falklands conflict is mentioned as a recent occurrence, so the book is set in 1982 or 1983. In reading this book, you could be forgiven for thinking that there are no straight people in London, but I guess that is just reflecting the world in which Will lives. Some of the passages were a little too graphic for me, but I knew that there would be very descriptive passages before I started reading. (I have just found in one of the press quotes that the book is set in 1983.)
Now the bumph from the back cover.
"The first major novel in Britain to put gay life in its modern place and context....A historic novel and a historic debut." Guardian
Alan Hollinghurst's first novel is a tour de force: a darkly erotic work that centres on the friendship of William Beckwith, a young gay aristocrat who leads a life of priveldge and promiscuity, and the elderly Lord Natwich, who is searching for someone to write his biography.
The novel is one of the Vintage Blue series, books that all have a little risque-ness about them.
It is a more "literary" novel, and takes some time to "get into".
Yes, the bloke who wrote "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time".
Being honest I think this one is more entertaining than the first. (Have also got his poetry book, they are "different", I like them, but I like poetry in it's various forms.)
This story revolves around an "ideal" family of the 70s/80s two kids, nice house, etc. The story is narrated by an omniscient narrator telling each character's view in separate chapters. The father has recently retired and has a minor medical crisis, which he blows out of all proportion in his head, as he's not someone who can discuss what is going on in his life. The mother is having what she thinks is a discrete affair, the daughter is getting married, for a second time, to a man her parents aren't too sure of, and the son is a homosexual, who is trying to keep up heterosexual appearances whilst at home, for his parents sake. The characters are so well developed, and there isn't one you take a dislike to, despite their antics. The chapters are short and to the point, the action and storyline move along nicely, even when the narrator goes over a situation from another character's viewpoint, as he fills in all the gaps that you might find yourself asking, but why did X do Y? A brilliant book.
George Hall doesn't understand the modern obsession with talking about everything. "The secret of contentment, George felt, lay in ignoring many things completely." Some things in life, however, cannot be ignored.
At fifty-seven, George is settling down to a comfortable retirement, building a shed in his garden, reading historical novels, listening to a bit of light jazz. Then Katie, his tempestuous daughter, announces that she is getting remarried, to Ray. Her family is not pleased - as her brother Jamie observes, Ray has "strangler hands". Katie can't decide if she loves Ray, or loves the wonderful way he has with her son Jacob, and her mother Jean is a bit put out by all the planning and arguing the wedding has occasioned, which gets in the way of her quite fulfilling late-life affair with one of her husband's former colleagues. And the tidy and pleasant life Jamie has created crumbles when he fails to invite his lover, Tony, to the dreaded nuptials.
Unnoticed in the uproar, George discovers a sinister lesion on his hip, and quietly begins to lose his mind.
The way these damaged people fall apart - and come together - as a family is the true subject of Mark Haddon's disturbing yet very funny portrait of a dignified man trying to go insane politely.
I do read rubbish books sometimes, but haven't done for a while, the last one that I read that was rubbish gave birth to the post about author's getting it wrong.
No, it isn't all about tractors.
It's a very funny book. I don't often think this, but I really hope someone makes this into a film, it has the potential to be hilarious.
What's it about? Well, there's an elderly gentleman, who falls for a 30 something blond, well endowed Ukrainian. The humour is apparent in some places, in other's,it is very subtle.
The daughters are against this match, and that's when the comedy starts for real. There are some lovely passages where the author uses pathos to contrast with the humorous incidents.
When I first saw the book, I did wonder whether to bother buying it, I'm really glad I did.
Now for the bumph from the jacket back, if I tell you any more I'll be spoiling the novel.
"Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukrainian divorcee. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface a sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside."
Sisters Vera and Nadezhda must put aside a lifetime of feuding to save their emigre engineer father from the voluptuous gold-digger Valentina. With her proclivity for green satin underwear and boil-in-the-bag cuisine, she will stop at nothing in her pursuit of Western wealth.
But the sisters' campaign to oust Valentina unearths family secrets, uncovers fifty years of Europe's darkest history and sends them back to roots they'd much rather forget....
I will definitely make a point of reading her next book, "Two Caravans"