Thursday, 29 December 2011

52 Books in 52 Weeks WRAP UP.

What an amazing experience it has been to do the '52 Books in 52 Weeks' Challenge.

I came up with the idea after stumbling upon a random blog that still exist somewhere in the great expanse of the internet-verse. Some random bloke was reading 52 books and it struck my interest immediately. Then I found Robin's blog here at Blogger and the rest is history.

It has been an amazing experience and hopefully I have learned as lot as a struggling ( maniac) writer.

Robin has posted these questions on her website.

Did you reach the goal of 52 books or did you manage to beat your own personal best?

I reached 60 and it is my personal record.

What book are you ending the year with?

Feisty Fido by Patricia B McConnel and Karen B London.

Did you discover a new author or genre? Did you love them or hate them?

I discovered Young Adult Fiction and surprisingly I like it. I also discovered lots of authors !

Did you challenge yourself to read more non fiction if prefer fiction or more fiction if you prefer non fiction?

Yes I read mainly fiction but I included a few non fiction books and I hope to do the same next year. Maybe more.

Did you read from a list or wing it?

I just kind of winged it and built up a collection of books as I went along.

How many classics did you read? What did you think of the writing style or author?

I read eight books that I suppose are looked upon as classics. Some were easier to read than other !

Name one book that you thought you'd never read and was pleasantly surprised you like it.

That's got to be 'The gatecrasher' by Sophie Kinsella ! I never thought i'd read chic lit but it was surprisingly ok ! Full of terrible spelling mistakes though !

What are your top ten favorite books?

My ten favourites of the year, all great books.

1 December - Elizabeth H Winthrop

2 Jamrach's Menagerie - Carol Birch

3 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

4 The Long Walk - Richard Bachman ( Stephen King)

5 One Foot wrong - Sophie Laguna

6 The Birth of Love - Joanna Kavenna

7 Sam's letters to Jennifer - James Patterson

8 The Girl on the Landing - Paul Torday

9 Stephen King - On writing ( A Memoir)

10 Stop Me - Richard Jay Parker

What are your ten least favorite books?

Roughly with my least favourite at the top !

1 MacBeth - William Shakespear

2 The All-Inclusive christ - Witness Lee

3 Complete Poems - Elizabeth Bishop

4 The Runes workbook - Leon Wild

5 Bloody River Blues - Jeffery Deaver

6 The Delinquents - Criena Rohan

7 Salmon Fishing in the Yemen - Paul Torday

8 Northern Lights - Philip Pullman

9 Haematology at a Glance - Mehta and Hoftbrand

10 Rage - Richard Bachman ( Stephen King)

Did you start any books that you just simply couldn't finish?

I felt like it a few times but I hung on.

What did you think of the mini challenges and did you join in or complete any?

I thought they were a fantastic idea and I think I took part in a few of them but not at the right time !

Did your family join in on the fun?

Nope. But my wife has started to read a lot more , so perhaps I have been a good influence. Maybe I will add some of her books onto my TBR pile when she's not looking. But seriously, Vampire Diaries !! lol

How many books have you added to your wishlist since the beginning of the year?

I have accumulated quite a TBR pile. Enough to keep me going. A mixture of real books, audio books, kindle books and library books.

What was your favorite thing about the challenge?

I just loved the whole thing and it's one of the best things I have done. I loved discovering different authors and different genres. I loved reading other people's reviews and meeting a few new friends along the way.

Hopefully it has also helped me as a writer to give me a better understanding of what makes a good book.


I also discovered Twitter along the way and have found some great new authors there, something I wasn't expecting when I started. I have also received some great feedback from a few authors following my reviews and have even been sent an autographed book by the lovely Joanna Kavenna ( Thankyou ) as well as a few nice emails.

I have learned that thrillers aren't really my cup of tea ( but maybe next year I will change my mind) and I've also learned that I find Librivox audios extremely annoying ! I have also found that literary fiction ( can you call them non Genre books ?) have been my favourite this year.

Next year I hope to start all over again. I hope to discover some new genres (Graphic Novels, Autobiographies ?) and read more romance perhaps, humour and maybe another chic lit !

Mainly though I hope to continue writing and breathing, in that order.

My complete book list in order from the first to the last.

1 The Keys to Hell - Jack Higgins
2 The Time Travellers Wife - Audrey Niffenegger.
3 Portrait of the artist as a young dog - Dylan Thomas
4 The Runes workbook - Leon D Wild
5 Emma - Jane Austen
6 Northern Lights - Philip Pullman
7 The Ghosts of Sleath - James Herbert
8 The Whisperers - John Connolly
9 Stephen king - On Writing ( A Memoir)
10 Inconceivable - Ben Elton

11 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
12 Macbeth - William Shakespear
13 Sam's Letters to Jennifer - James Patterson
14 Lord of the Flies - William Goulding
15 The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
16 Doors open - Ian Rankin
17 The Spire - Richard North Patterson
18 The Owl Tree - Jenny Nimmo
19 The Time Machine - H G Wells
20 Rage - Richard Bachman

21 Haematology at a Glance - Mehta and Hoftbrand
22 The Long Walk - Richard Bachman
23 The Delinquents - Criena Rohan
24 The All-Inclusive Christ - Witness Lee
25 Dead Like You - Peter James
26 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
27 Blood Stained Kings - Tim Willocks
28 The Girl on the Landing - Paul Torday
29 Walking the Tree - Kaaron Warren
30 The Phone Goes Dead - Anthony Horowitz

31 The Birth of Love - Joanna Kavenna
32 Stop Me - Richard Jay Parker
33 The Secret Garden ( Audio Book) - Frances Hodgson
34 Paranormality - Professor Richard Wiseman
35 Equal Rights - Terry Pratchett
36 One Foot wrong - Sofie Laguna
37 Bloody River Blues - Jeffery Deaver
38 Roadwork - Richard Bachman
39 Complete Poems - Elizabeth Bishop
40 Sex With Dead People - David Allan Barker ( E Book)

41 The Gatecrasher - Sophie Kinsella
42 Sweet Savage Charity ( E Book) - Margaret Lake
43 Angels and demons - Dan Brown
44 Forbidden Mind ( E Book)- Kimberley Kinrade
45 Jamrach's Menagerie - Carol Birch
46 An Inspector Calls - J B Priestley
47 Meditation for Beginners - Jack Kornfield
48 Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King
49 The Small Hand - Susan Hill
50 Salmon Fishing in the Yemen - Paul Torday

51 The Hobbit - J R R Tolkien
52 December - Elizabeth H Winthrop
53 A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
54 The Running Man - Richard Bachman
55 The Green Odyssey ( Audio Book) - Philip Jose Farmer
56 The Dead - David Gatward
57 Dark Rivers of the Heart - Dean Koontz
58 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
59 Photography - Peter Cattrel

60 Feisty Fido - Patricia McConnell and Karen B London

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

60 - Feisty Fido ( Help for the Leash Reactive Dog) by Patricia B McConnell and Karen B London

This the 60th and my last book of the year is probably my most helpful !

I will set the scene by saying that we (not very long ago) took ownership of a little dog, a cross between a pug and a border terrier, and he is a little terror at times. Money doesn't exactly grow on trees and the local rates for dog training is way over our heads at the moment. This is the first book I have read on my new Kindle and it is very helpful. I am trying to train Bailey myself and this little book was perfect and I am hoping that it works. The dog training techniques are simple but sound pretty impressive.

I started the new training programme today and Bailey did very well, although I am under no illusions that it could take around 7 months or over to change him into a new dog ! I think if I can train Bailey, I can train any dog so maybe there will be a new hobby there for me. I have already purchased another training book from my local library.

Just let me take this opportunity to wish everyone who has read any of my blog posts a very Merry Christmas and fabulous new year. It has been such an amazing experience to do this challenge and I have way outdone my expectations.
I am hoping to post a wrap up post in the next few days and I look forward to another year of '52 books in a year'. I am hoping to post some of my own short stories too to make it a little bit more interesting or not as the case may be !

As for Feisty Fido, my first Kindle book, a whopping 10/10.

Thanks to Mrs Henry for buying me the Kindle and it has now become my second wife !

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

59 Photography - Peter Cattrell

I don't own a film camera ( not a working one anyway)and my own digital camera isn't anything flashy but I bought this over a year ago when I became interested in photography for a short time. It is a pretty good introduction to photography with good illustrations and it more or less kept my interest. Some of the chapters were quite painstakingly ( frustratingly) difficult to read, especially the technical stuff about how to develop your own negatives. I have never been in a dark room and it all went over my head. Other parts of the book are interesting and I do feel like I have learned a hell of a lot about photograpy in general.

It hasn't made me want to buy an old fashioned camera or build my own darkroom in my kitchen but maybe I would (one day) like to learn a little bit more about digital photography. It certainly would help my writing career if I could work with digital imagery. It was a quick read. Not the most riveting thing I have read but maybe my brain is a little bigger !


Heavenly Thoughts

Ok this is my first attempt at putting one of my short (tiny) stories onto my blog. Hope it turns out ok and hopefully I will put more stuff up in the coming year.

Heavenly Thoughts

The heavens have just opened, scratching my ass I curse the day I ever

decided to play this stupid game. You probably wouldn’t like it but there’s sod

all to do here at the entrance to the Pearly Gates. All day long I see those

poor buggers, appearing out of nowhere like they do, all pale faced and lost

looking and then there’s always the infernal knocking and knocking. Sometimes they

can be there for hours. I pity their sob stories and confessions, but at the end

of the day if he aint gonna let you in he aint gonna let you in. This isn’t a bed

and breakfast in Blackpool, you can scream and shout as much as you want but

sometimes there’s only one place for you to go.

Oh I’ve seen them all in my line of business, idiots that have jumped from

balconies or others that have walked into the sea thinking they’ve got flippers

for arms.

I hate the rain, it’s a bloody nuisance when I’m playing this damn stupid game .

Oh here comes another young one with his pants down his ankles and one of those

bolts in his ear like they’re all wearing these days. I wonder what the hell he

did to end up here at this ungodly hour. I know I shouldn’t talk like that , what

with him indoors sitting on his throne or doing his Sudoku or whatever the hell he

likes to do at this time of the morning. Maybe he’s toasting some muffins.

This guy he’s got no chance I can tell you now. Thing is there’s no halo you see,

you don’t stand a chance in hell without a halo, if you excuse the pun.

They come in all shapes and sizes your halo’s, ranging from small to extra-large.

Fancy looking things, all sparkly and shiny. I like the luminous ones best, all

lit up like fairy lights on a Christmas tree. Comes in handy when I’m on nights,

wouldn’t mind though I don’t get any extra money, just my basic; tight bugger that

HE is. I should be careful really, he’s supposed to be omnipresent and all that,

he probably knows what I’m thinking before I actually think about thinking. Mind

you he hasn’t said anything to me yet and I’m always thinking bad stuff and a few

naughty things too. Especially when those dolly birds come along, wearing nothing

much and leaving even less to the imagination. I can’t help my thoughts sometimes,

I don’t get out much. It’s lonely work being the only security Guard in Heaven.

Not that I ever get any trouble, they take one look at me and run a mile, I’m an

ugly bugger, what with my seven chins and my two heads and pony tail. I’ve also

got this sting in my tail that I use when I get annoyed, but I don’t like to use

it, gives me a migraine and you can’t get any decent pain killers around here. Not

much call for them. It’s also no fun getting a migraine when you have two heads.

I’m pretty much redundant, just like a sodding scarecrow really, that’s all I am.

Except there’s no birds shitting on my head, just clouds that are forever bumping

into each other and causing it to rain all the time.

I hate being wet and there’s never any shelter, him indoors (who must be

worshipped at all times) has ignored my housing application and he doesn’t believe

in umbrellas.

To be honest there’s nothing to see around here either, it’s all kind of white,

like you’d probably expect and sod all as far as the eye can see. I thought he

could have at least given me a garden with some begonias or maybe a small mountain

with a couple of goats. An allotment would do. Give me something to do. That’s why

I always end up playing this stupid game, it passes away the time. It’s nothing

spectacular but I like it, keeps my mind off those dolly birds, all tits and legs.

Keeps his highness off my back at any rate but I tell you what, it’s bloody

monotonous playing ‘Keepy Uppy’ with a broken halo.

Friday, 23 December 2011

58 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Ebenezer Scrooge hates Christmas and hates people until one night time seems to stand still and he is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas yet to Come.

I remember watching the original movie many years ago ( I am getting on a bit) and subsequent films, cartoons and parodies, but I have never read the book until now. It is a really good book and just what I needed at this time. I don't mind Christmas but being a bloke I hate shopping at the best of times and Christmas shopping is a bloody nightmare !

But this classic tale is just the thing to get you into the Christmas spirit. Although Charles Dickens wrote this in 1843 it is just as easy to read and to appreciate in 2011. You just can't fault it and it is no surprise that it remains an all time classic.

My only wish is that I had read the actual book instead of listening to the Libribox audio recording. I have read three Libribox audio recordings this year and to be quite honest I found them all pretty annoying. There's something just not quite right when you are listening to a book set in Victorian London and find a couple of characters speaking with an eastern european accent ! Don't get me wrong I think it's great that this voluntary organisation is making audio recordings of old classics but it is a little off putting. Maybe it would have been better if one narrator had actually read the whole thing instead of having different actors for each part.

I wouldn't mind reading all the novels of Dickens in 2012, maybe it is something I can do as part of my next 52 books in 52 weeks challenge.

My rating for ' A Christmas Carol' 8/10
My rating for the audio recording 2/10 !

I do want to read more audio books next year but I think personally I will stay clear from free Librivox audio downloads unless there are some that are not as annoying.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

57 - Dark Rivers of the Heart by Dean Koontz

Headline Book publishing

One man walks into a bar with a red door, looking for the woman who could save his life. The same man is walking around with a scar and the weight of the world on his shoulders. Spencer Grant is trying desperately to forget his past but also to remember the one thing that is stopping him from moving on. The day he walks through the red door is the same day he finds himself being hunted by men in helicopters and on a perilous journey for his life through Las Vegas and the over stretched arms of the desert.

One man, a dog and a mysterious woman are escaping, they just don't know where to or where it will all end. But somebody wants them dead.

This is the first Dean Koontz book that I have read and it is one of those books that I started a couple of years ago ( I think) and never quite finished. At 728 pages it is a hell of a book-end and becomes the longest book of the year for me.
I'm not really into thrillers but for this challenge I want to read a few of them as well as other genres. As far as thrillers go this is a pretty descent read and although it is a long book, it did ( more or less) keep my interest all the way. The main two characters as well as the peripheral characters are absorbingly real and the characters and plot are revealed bit by bit and not all at once. In fact the whole plot is clever and suspenseful. At times it is as gruesome as Stephen King and it also contained parts that would make those of a more prudish nature blush !
Although I generally enjoyed this book I did think the ending was a little bit unrealistic in parts and also a tad disjointed but there was probably no other way to conclude the story.

It is quite well known that Dean Koontz writes each page excessively slowly and only moves on once he is happy with it and such attention to detail shows in this book. Although I'm still not sold on thrillers I would like to read more from this author who has escaped my radar for so long.


Wednesday, 7 December 2011

56 - The Dead by David Gatward.

Hodder Children's Books

Lazarus Stone is a normal 15 year old who gets up one night and discovers a skinless figure drenched in blood in his living room. His father has disappeared and (it turns out) is not quite who he thought he was. The bloody figure in his house has one simple message.

'The Dead are Coming.'

The dead are indeed trying to escape from the world beyond and it seems Lazarus is in the right place at the right time. We also encounter an alcoholic winged woman who drives a four wheeled drive like a maniac !

Reading 'The Dead' is another journey for me into the realm of YA fiction. David Gatward tells a fun and twisty story and seems to have a talent for this genre. It's fun, it's light, it keeps your interest and it has all the required ingredients.

This isn't going to win the Man Booker Prize, it isn't the most beautifully written book I have read this year but that's not what it is about. It's a fun read, I think i would have loved it if I had read it when I was 15 like Lazarus Stone. If you like YA fiction then you may like this. The Dark is the first in a trilogy and maybe I will read the other two. I haven't decided yet.


Wednesday, 30 November 2011

55 - The Green Odyssey by Philip Jose Farmer

This sci-fi/ fantasy adventure is set in a distant future where humans have colonised the solar system. Green's space ship crash lands on a primitive and barbaric Earth like planet where he is forced to live as a slave. He works his way up and becomes a gigolo for the local Duchess who is beautiful but extremely smelly. One day he hears that another space ship has landed and that two Earth men have been captured and he decides that this could lead to his return home. He decides that he must act now if he is to escape this planet.

This is only my second audio book of the year and it actually made a pleasant change and perhaps gave my eyes a rest ! On a positive note this book (written in the fifties) was quite imaginative and I really liked the strange world that Green found himself on. It has lots of quirky inhabitants and creatures and an amazing sea of grass with islands that move like lawn mowers. However I found the action scenes to be a little lacklustre and at times I did find myself struggling to stay awake. And to be honest I did find that the narrator got on my nerves after a while with his over the top bad acting. You see that's the thing about reading your own book. The characters are all in your own head and so are their words, it just isn't the same with an audio like this, especially when the narrator is a little bit annoying.

Overall this book was imaginative, quite clever and funny in parts but I rate it as an average romp. Maybe more suited to those that like the typical adventure story. Maybe I would have enjoyed it better if I had read the actual book instead of listening to it on audio.


Friday, 25 November 2011

54 - The Running Man by Richard Bachman/Stephen King

This is set in a gloomy future where the streets are full of garbage and vermin and where the government is power crazy and polluting the air with dangerous toxins. Women and children are dying of lung cancer and other terrible diseases. In this terrible vision of the future half the population are living like rats while the other half are brainwashed by their TV Sets.
Richard's baby daughter is dying of a lung condition and the only way he can afford to buy her antibiotics is to appear on one of the governments flagship Game Shows while his wife seems to resort to prostitution. One Gameshow forces kidney and heart patients to run on a treadmill until they are taken away in body bags whereas Richard's gameshow is the worst one of all. He becomes 'The Running Man'.
He has to survive 30 days on the run while government hunters and everyday people try to kill him.He is safe nowhere and cannot trust anybody. It's pretty much him against the world and nobody has ever won this game.

Such a storyline could only come from the twisted mind of Stephen King ! This is the last book in my series of Richard Bachman books that I've read this year. (In the late seventies and early eighties King wrote these books under the fictitious name of Richard Bachman). So what did I think ?

The Running Man was highly original, imaginative and unique, but I found the storyline to be a little bit unrealistic in parts and generally not as well constructed as King's other books. I also didn't feel emotionally connected to the main character or the story in any way. It was kind of like reading from an arm's distance instead of being in the thick of the action, if that makes sense ? I liked the fact that it was twisty and different but I never quite got into this book.

By far the best Richard Bachman book I have read this year was the magnificent 'The Long Walk', closely followed by Roadwork. I'd rate this as 7.5.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

53 - A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.

Alex is 15 and likes nothing better than a bit of ultra-violence mixed up with some horrorshow classical music and a little bit of moloko with something added to get him in the mood. The world is his oyster and he spends each night leading his pack of Malchicks like he owns the world. But then the world catches up with him and he ends up facing up to his crimes in a way that he could never have imagined.

I read this book (which is part of Penguins Modern Classics) with an open mind. I have never seen the movie and didn't have a clue what it was about, although I had, of course, heard of the book. This won't be everybody's cup of tea. Yes it is violent and those of a certain disposition or mindset wouldn't like it but I liked everything about it. I liked the fact that it is very unique and imaginative. I also didn't mind the violence, for me it made the book even more compelling. A Clockwork Orange is part horror/part sci-fi/part something else and in parts it is very funny ( although there is nothing funny about the acts of violence that make up large chunks of the book.)
But the great thing is that it makes you think about issues like crime and punishment and it asks the biq question; what do we do about violent individuals? Does rehabilitation work ? Can we ( should we) try to change people and what happens when that goes to far ? Are people born with a predisposition to violence where other people are born to be violently sick at the idea of violence ? Or does society work on a sliding scale basis ?
I have never read a book like this in my life and one of the things I loved about it is that the main character and his droogs have their own unique slang vocabulary. When I read the first page I didn't understand it at all and wondered what the heck I had let myself in for ! But as you progress through this short book the language does start to make sense, especially if you go along to the online Urban Dictionary like I did ! The Nadsat slang actually makes 'A clockwork Orange' a much stronger and more enjoyable read.
I would also recommend anyone who hasn't read the book to save the lengthy introducion by Blake Morrison until you have read the last page( like I thankfully did), I suspected it would contain spoilers and it does. Reading this introduction adds to the interest of the novel as you learn a bit more about the author and the subsequent film by Stanley Kubrick and all the other stuff that makes 'A Clockwork Orange' a much talked about work of modern art.

This was, overall, an amazing and very perculiar read, it didn't engage me emotionally like some books but it does I think deserve a 10/10.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

52 - December by Elizabeth H. Winthrop

Ruth and Wilson Carter usually look forwards to Christmas, a special time of snow angels, coal fires and family fun. But this year it's different. Isabelle, their 11 year old daughter has stopped talking. There's that old saying 'you don't know what you've got until it's gone', but normally a child's voice is something you don't expect to disappear. Her parents have tried everything and they are worried that Isabelle's life is ruined and that they could have done something to stop it from happening in the first place. Christmas seems to be ruined and their marriage is beginning to come apart.

I recently got a pile of books from my local library and this was the last on the pile. How glad I was to leave this to the end. It is an exceptionally good read, written beautifully, an emotional journey into the mind of an adolescent. It's almost as if you become a part of this family and begin to feel their frustration and despair. I cannot begin to describe how well Elizabeth H. Winthrop writes with amazing attention to small details and how each page is heavy with emotion and not to mention her ability to weave wit into the story when you least expect it.
The story is quite simple. It really does go to prove that a good book doesn't always have to have bombs waiting to go off or murderers on the loose, this book simply is what it is. It is very good.

One of the best books I have read and a fitting way to achieve my '52 books in 52 weeks challenge'. Now I will see how many books I can read until 2012 when my challenge, hopefully, will begin all over again!


Saturday, 5 November 2011

51 The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien

Harper Collins Children's Books

Bilbo Baggins is minding his own business in his hole and the next minute he is being eaten out of house and home by a Wizard and a collection of dwarfs. He is a Hobbit and is used to doing his own thing but ends up being taken on a quest to fight an evil dragon and to rescue a hoard of priceless treasure.
On the way he encounters trolls, elves, giant spiders, goblins and other incredible creatures. The road is long and treacherous and he soon wishes he had stayed at home to his cosy fire and his kettle.

I have some faint and very distant memory of being read this in middle school but at the time I had this habit of drifting off whilst staring into thin air, into my own world of daydreams. I don't actually remember listening to the teacher or anything he said so it is ironic now that I find myself reading this as a book lover and aspiring ( desperate) writer. I found 'The Hobbit' to be imaginative and full of adventure, my only problem was the fact that I am 40 years old. If I was 9 or maybe even 13 I would probably have loved it and may have eventually named it in my top 5 books or something. However as a free thinking, neurotic father of two teenagers, although I can appreciate how good this children's book is, I didn't really enjoy it like I would have done if I had listened properly at school the first time around. Maybe I am just a bit too old and long in the tooth as they say.
This is probably a brilliant book for any child to read, because as well as being fun and full of adventure, it also introduces the moral themes of greed and selfishness and how by working together we can achieve more than being at odds with others.

I can't really give this book a rating but it is probably the best children's book I have read in this 52 book challenge. I haven't watched any of the 'Lord of the Rings' films but I am thinking of reading the books next year if I can stop daydreaming long enough.

Monday, 31 October 2011

50 Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday

How do you you fly ten thousand salmon over to the Yemen and how on earth are you supposed to get them to live and breed in the desert ?

Dr Alfred Jones is a fisheries scientist whose biggest achievement in life was publishing his esteemed paper 'Effects of Increased Water Acidity on the Caddis Fly Larva'. Out of the blue he is contacted by Fitzharris and Price ( Land Agents & Consultants) who are acting on behalf of a client ( A Yemeni Sheikh) who has come up with the absurd proposal to introduce Salmon fishing in his country. At first Dr Jones is adamant that the whole idea is ridiculous and that he wants nothing more to do with it but then the Prime Minister's office gets involved. With his marriage falling apart at the seams he decides to change the course of his life.

I decided to read this after (earlier this year) reading Paul Torday's excellent book 'The Girl On the Landing.' Like that book 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen' is highly original, unique and very brave for a first novel. And I liked the fact that underlying the story is a good moral story about the importance of faith and about how (in the west) faith has been replaced by love of money and power. In parts it is also quite amusing ( QUITE not incredibly amusing).

However, even though this book is original and very different from anything I have ever read I just found it lacked an interesting story plot. Maybe people who are into fishing would appreciate it more but I am not a fan of fishing. To me I found the story as exciting as salmon fishing to be honest. The whole story is made up of a series of emails, letters and diary excerpts and this also slowed it down . I guess what I have learned ( from an aspiring writers perspective) is that it sometimes isn't enough to have an original and unique story, you also need an interesting and exciting plot. The plot in this book left me asking the age old question, SO What ? After the fantastic ' The Girl on the Landing' I will probably read more from Paul Torday, this just wasn't my favourite book.


Friday, 21 October 2011

49 The Small Hand - Susan Hill

Profile Books, 2010.

Adam Snow is driving home when he gets lost and discovers an old Edwardian house in the middle of nowhere, the house seems derelict and the garden badly overgrown.His instincts tell him to go home but something inside him tells him to take a closer look. There is something about the house that seems to be pulling him in and that's when he feels a child's hand curl around his own. And then the nightmares begin.

This book jumped out at me on a visit to my local library. If you want to read something quick and light, then I would recommend 'The Small Hand'. It took me a while to get into the book but it's a nice little ghost story. It builds and builds and keeps you guessing until the end. A ghost story as light as a summer breeze, try it if you like that kind of thing. I did and will have to keep an eye out for more books by Susan Hill.


Sunday, 16 October 2011

48 Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

In this collection of stories a Nebraska farmer takes the law into his own hands when his wife threatens to sell off the family home, with grisly consequences, a mystery writer is attacked on a deserted road, a cancer sufferer gets a one in the million chance to be healed and a woman finds out that her long time husband is not half the man she thought he was.

I am a self confessed Stephen King fan and he has probably been one of my biggest influences as an aspiring writer over the years, since I was a mixed up 14 year old. But to be honest, this didn't really rock my world. Maybe my tastes are changing now that I am reading so much on this challenge or maybe it just isn't one of his best. The stories are accessible and worth a read but none of them really gets going. Probably my favourite stories were the last two ( Fair Extension and A Good Marriage) but even the latter had an ending that I found quite unrealistic.
The paperback edition which I read included an extra short story entitled Under The Weather but unfortunately it left me feeling under the weather myself. The twist at the end ( if in fact it was intended as a twist) could probably be seen from the moon.

There's nothing terrible about Full Dark, No Stars but each story left me feeling empty, almost like the great man had written them while visiting the small boys room. Not my favourite King book but not a bad book either.


Friday, 7 October 2011

47 Meditation For Beginners - Jack Kornfield

Bantam books

I have always been interested in things of a spiritual nature and this is a good beginners guide to Meditation. It comes complete with a CD of guided meditations to go along with the book. However I only listened to meditation 'one' and found it easier to just read the book itself. It is easy to follow and is focussed on 'Insight' or 'Vipassana' meditation and I have enjoyed following this programme and am hoping to continue to use it on a daily basis. I like the idea and think it could have lots of health and stress busting benefits but I guess time will tell. It is well written and convincing, without any new world bullshit.
It's well worth a read if you are into this kind of thing as much as I am.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

46 An Inspector Calls - J.B.Priestley

I stole this from my son who is studying it as part of his high school curriculum. Having a teenage son can be highly challenging, sometimes entertaining, but occasionally it has its advantages!

Arthur Billing and his family have just finished a special meal to celebrate the engagement of their daughter, Sheila, to Gerald Croft, the son of a business rival.
Everything seems to be going hunky-dory and Sheila has literally just put the ring on her finger when there is a knock at the door. In walks a police inspector with some life shattering and astonishing news that somewhat spoils the mood of the evening.

I haven't read many plays and this is only the second since I started my 52 book challenge. Although I guess you could argue that 'Of Mice and Men' was a kind of a play.
I really liked it and it kept my interest all the way. It was quite cool to read an old play like this and the ending was intriguing to say the least ! I didn't really read it as if it was taking place on some old time stage like the Old Vic, I read it like I read all books. I asked my son Adam what he thought and he said it was boring ! And he said he didn't understand the ending. I didn't either but I don't think J.B.Priestly meant us to. Parts of the story made me think, parts of the book made me giggle ( not sure what Priestley would think about that) but overall I thought it was a great little read.

10/10 Must read more plays.

Friday, 30 September 2011

45 Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch

'I was born twice. First in a wooden room that jutted out over the black water of the Thames, and then again eight years later in the Highway, when the tiger took me in his mouth and everything truly began.'

Saved from the mouth of an angry tiger, Jaffy Brown's life changes when he is introduced into the world of Mr Jamrach and his menagerie of strange and exotic creatures. He is given the job of looking after the animals and then finds himself on board a ship bound for the Indian Ocean on a rather peculiar commission to find a creature that might not even exist.

But things are not easy on board the Lysander and he has to battle dragons and demons that walk on the surface of the water.

This book is quite literally astonishing, the story is quite simple, no doubt there have been hundreds of books written over the years about a young boy taking to the sea and travelling across the world. But what grabs you about 'Jamrach's Menagerie' is the stunning way it is written. It is beautifully written and to be honest it was a shame when I came to the end, I just wanted it to go on and on and never stop ! It is an emotionally powerful story loosely based on two real life events during the 19th Century. This may have become my favourite book of the year and of my 52 book challenge. Read it.


Wednesday, 21 September 2011

44 Forbidden Mind by Kimberly Kinrade

Sam is nearly 18 and has the ability to read people's minds. For as long as she can remember she has lived with other children with amazing powers and has been looked after by Rent- A-Kid. Some can walk through walls, others can tell if people are lying. All her needs have been met and throughout her life they have sent her on various assignments where she uses her gifts to help others.
But one day a boy arrives through the doors who can also read minds and she discovers that all is not as it seems. Rent-A-Kid has promised that she can leave when she turns 18 but Drake informs her that they have other, more sinister plans. The world that she has known starts to crumble at her feet and she has to escape before it's too late.

This is a wonderful little page turner, well written and full of imagination and originality. I loved the main character and could really feel her fear and her world being ripped apart at the seams. 'Forbidden Mind' is a YA book but this 40 year old bloke enjoyed it and maybe will have to read more from this genre.
I would recommend anyone of any age to try this book and I'll have to read more from Kimberley Kinrade It's nice to read something different and twisty, something that makes my imagination go into hyperdrive.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

43 Angels and Demons - Dan Brown

An explosive device is hidden somewhere in the Vatican and four cardinals have gone missing on the day that a new pope is to be elected. Robert Langton is awaken in the middle of the night by a phone call, on the other end of the line is somebody who thinks he may be able to help.

Perhaps I am not the best person to review this book as thrillers aren't really my cup of tea, unless the story is especially imaginative, original or evocative in some way. What I did like about this book was the fact that Dan Brown takes you to places you wouldn't dream about going to. We are taken to America, Switzerland, Rome and finally to the Vatican ( where we are taken on a rather unorthodox tour.We even exhume a pope, visit the pope's bathroom and discover the tomb of St Peter.)I also like how I always end up learning stuff by reading his books although the accuracy of his historical facts are a hot topic of discussion !
I actually enjoyed 'The Da Vinci Code' but I wasn't as impressed with this. In fact in some ways the two books are almost carbon copies of each other and maybe that is what bugged me more than anything. Also I found this book was just too much like any other thriller and didn't keep my interest and didn't give me anything new.
Surely there are only so many times you can read a book or watch a movie where somebody is trying to stop a killer or where somebody is trying to stop a bomb from going off?

Angels and Demons isn't terrible but it didn't make me go 'WoW.' But it didn't rock my world either.


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

42 Sweet Savage Charity by Margaret Lake

I have just had the pleasure of reading this novelette by Margaret Lake. By doing so I have killed two birds with one stone by reading a historical and a romance and an wonderful little tale it is too.

This story is set in the New World in 1621, where Charity Williams moves with her Puritan husband to start a new life in Plymouth Colony. Shortly afterwards her husband dies leaving her isolated in a world where she feels she doesn't belong.

It's a while since I've read any historical fiction and this little nugget has reminded me of what I am missing. I am interested in history but admittedly no expert but I love the opportunity that stories like this give for me to go back in time. And it also makes me wonder whether I should one day attempt writing historical fiction myself.

I also enjoyed the romantic side to this story and I really must read more from Margaret Lake in the future, she creates a good story.The past has so many great tales to tell us and so much more to teach us and even though this novelette is short, it has opened my eyes to another world.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Book 41 The GateCrasher by Sophie Kinsella

A book by Sophie Kinsella writing as Madeleine Wickham.

Well I said from the beginning of this challenge that I wanted to read a wide variety of genres and I have just read what some would call my first Chick Lit ! Now this book probably (obviously) wasn't written for a 40 year old bloke with a bald head who likes football and Newcastle Brown Ale drunk straight from the bottle. And so it was interesting to take a look at this particular kind of book from an aspiring (neurotic) writers point of view.

Fleur Daxeny is an attractive and charismatic woman who gatecrashes funerals with the sole intention of befriending very rich widows . As it says on the front cover, she is ' a shoulder to cry on and a hand on your wallet.' This time she meets Richard and is soon drawn into his close family circle and all appears to be going well until her daughter arrives on the scene and Fleur also realises that she is not the only one after Richard's money.
On the surface I shouldn't have liked this book. I am not by any means of the imagination ' intended reader' and there is nothing new or original in ' The Gatecrasher'. It is littered with cliches and an incredible amount of spelling mistakes ( I have never read a book with so many, especially in the first half).
The characters are very much one dimensional and the plot was simple and paper thin.
However this book had a good hook which carried it along nicely and it was a light and easy read, not to mention the fact that I fell in love with Sophie's photograph on the inside cover! At the end of the day, despite its faults, this is not a bad read. However I will say that quickly and move on before my wife or somebody elses decides that I am turning in my old age.

Oh go on 7/10 !

Monday, 29 August 2011

Book 40 Sex with Dead People by David Allen Barker

This is a collection of 28 bizarre and twisty short stories by up and coming author David Allen Barker. It starts off with the wonderfully silly 'The Green Capsule' which is probably my pick of the lot which gets the book off to a hilariously imaginative start and the rest of the stories go from the ridiculous to the sublime, in a good way. What I liked best about this Ebook is the witty conversational voice of the author, he really knows how to tell a story.

All of the stories are worth a read but amongst my other highlights are
'Alien Rednecks','Burning in Stockholm' and 'Urine Love.'

I'm really looking forwards to reading more from this author and he has another ebook available at Smashwords called 'The Land' which I hope to get hold of soon.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Book 39 Complete Poems - Elizabeth Bishop

I must say that I have a love hate relationship with poetry, I like some poetry but I hate a lot of it ! For me it is the snobbery that surrounds the world of poetry that I don't like. Personally I love to be able to read a poem without having to have a degree in the history and workings of poetry, if a poem doesn't make sense then I don't like it. And I don't want to know about iambics or any of that stuff to be able to appreciate a piece of writing. I have written poetry in the past and maybe I will again in the future but I'm not interested in writing anything that you need a diploma or a degree in poetry or English Lit to understand. I like to write poetry and to read poetry that makes me feel something, whether it is joy or sadness or surprise or shock. I love Billy Collins and even Sylvia Plath, even though Sylvia's poetry isn't the easiest to understand, I just love her imagination.

To be honest the Complete Poems of Elizabeth Bishop didn't rock my world, in fact it was a bit of a nightmare to read. Of the many MANY poems in the book I could probably count on two hands ( maybe one) the ones that I liked. I much prefer her later poems than her earlier ones. The final part of the book featured Elizabeth's translations of poetry by other poets and to be honest these were probably more fun to read !

The highlights of Elizabeth's poems for me were poems such as ; Manners, Filling Station, Visit's to Elizabeths, In the Waiting Room ( probably my favourite), Crusoe in England. And translations of note are 'The Death and Life of Severino' by Joao Cabral de Melo Neto, 'The Table' by Carlos Drummond de Andrade and 'January First' by Octavio Paz.

Even though this wasn't my favourite read of the year I do think any writer could do worse than to read poetry, I think a writer can learn a lot from poetry in general. Where better a place to learn about imagery and metaphor and imagination ?
I would like to read more poetry.


Thursday, 18 August 2011

Book 38 Roadwork by Richard Bachman

King is Bachman and Bachman is King.

This is my latest read of Richard Bachman otherwise known as Stephen King. This book is in many ways very different from most King books but the writing is unmistakable.

Written inbetween Salem's Lot and the Shining, Roadwork is a non-horror that focuses on one man's determination to stop a new major road from being built in an unnamed city in the mid west of America. It doesn't sound too exciting does it ?
Well maybe the story isn't the most exciting thing since bottled cider and there's nothing original or hugely imaginative here but it doesn't really matter because this book is written in Stephen King's own unique way, I couldn't help but love it !
He has a way of writing that could make anything work, I'm sure he could write a book about a plate of sausages and make it interesting. Maybe 'The Girl that Loved Tom Gordon' is an example. That's what I like about him. This non-horror shouldn't really work but it does. He, throughout, has this way ( like in all of his novels) of waffling off at tangents and that is what sets him apart from alot of authors in my opinion. I love his waffling tangents.

Even though the basic plot doesn't sound to exciting there are actually many layers to this book. You end up feeling sorry for the main character as well as thinking he is a total loon.



Thursday, 11 August 2011

Book 37 Bloody River Blues by Jeffery Deaver

John Pellam is a location scout working on the set of a " Bonnie and Clyde " style movie in Maddocks, Missouri. When a random guy opens his car door and sends his beer crashing to the ground he becomes a wanted man in the connection with a murder and the shooting of a cop.

He becomes Missouri's most wanted man and everybody seems to want to track him down and to make sure that his mouth is kept firmly shut.

First of all I must say from the outset that thrillers are not normally my bag unless it happens to be somewhat special, so maybe a thriller addict would enjoy this a lot more than I did. I have only ever read one other Jeffery Deaver book and I enjoyed that one more. Apparently this is one of his earlier books and he does get much better. There is nothing terrible about ' Bloody River Blues' , it's just not great. It's just that everything about it is average. There is nothing original or fresh about this story and it is probably a storyline that has been regurgitated over and over ( in various forms) in books and films over the years.

I did like the character of John Pellam ( he is to be found in other 'Location Scout' books) but I prefered the character of the cop, Buffet. The parts of the book that centre around cop, Donnie Buffet are probably the better written and more interesting parts. And I did like the way Jeffery Deaver tricks us a few times in the telling of the story, that's something I wouldn't mind incorporating into my own work.

Average 7/10

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Book 36 One Foot Wrong by Sofie Laguna

Hester lives in the house and isn't allowed outside. She lives with Sack and Boot and often eats her food under the table with Cat and goes to the hanging room if she is bad. God the bird watches over her and Jesus is drumming the beat inside her head. Then one day she has to go to school and learns that everybody is different from her and that a secret has no sound and lives in your darkest corner where it sits and waits.

I cannot praise this book enough, it is simply incredible. If you are looking for a happy slappy relaxing book to take with you on your holidays then perhaps this isn't for you. It is probably the most dark and disturbing thing I have ever read but it is written with such skill and imagination, it is hypnotic.

Sofie Laguna takes us into the world of Hester, a young girl who is locked in her own private world.. The imagination of this writer is brilliant and makes a sad story un-putdownable ! It is a remarkable and shocking read. Brilliantly written.


Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Book 35 Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

Wizard ,Drum Billet, has 6 minutes to live and he has finally found the eighth son of an eighth son to pass on his magical powers. Unfortunately the eight son happens to be a girl.Eskarina sees herself as more of a witch but finds herself on a journey to become a wizard, but in the Discworld, girls aren't allowed to be wizards. With the help of Granny Weathermax she decides to follow her new calling but then discovers that magic is more powerful and dangerous that she thought. And she also learns that wizards are pretty stupid.

This is a fun book and I enjoyed reading it as I have enjoyed reading other Terry Pratchett books. It is the third book in the Discworld series and perhaps it isn't as hilarious and polished as some of the others and perhaps it is ( in parts) more for a younger audience than his later books. But it did have some brilliantly funny and imaginative moments and Terry Pratchett never fails to entertain me. Fun.


Friday, 22 July 2011

Book 34 Paranormality - Professor Richard Wiseman

I thought I knew a lot about the paranormal but this book made me realise how little I actually did know. It is a fascinating look at the paranormal from a sceptical scientific point of view and looks at the psychology of the paranormal. From table tipping to cold reading, from ghosts to prophetic dreams, it is an eye opener and it is very accessible and nothing like reading a textbook.

Professsor Wiseman's book is fascinating and entertaining, filled with interesting facts and humorous tales. I especially loved reading about Gef ' the Talking Mongoose' . I liked the interactive stuff as well, there are links to online videos and interactive psychological tests that you can take part in.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the paranormal , be they a skeptic or a believer, but this book shows how ( when it comes to the supernatural) there is more to it than meets the eye. A real eye opener, a truly interesting and thought provoking read.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Book 33 The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

I cannot even begin to review a book like 'The Secret Garden' because in all honesty I am not 'intended reader', this book could probably only really be reviewed by a child of a certain age or by a parent reading for a child of a certain age. I am a forty year old bloke with a big nose and a bald head ! However it is very important for me to read as many different kinds of books as possible during this challenge and that includes books like this.

I am sure I couldn't dream of appreciating this book as much as a young child, if in fact children are interested in books like this anymore. But there is much to be learned by reading this from an aspiring writers point of view and even though I am forty, it was fun to read. In fact I actually listened to this in an audio book format and it was a pleasant change, although it was at first a bit of a leap of faith to listen to an American woman attempting an English Yorkshire accent. But I soon got over that and in the end it didn't bother me !

What I liked about this book was the lovely way in which the author set the scene, I found myself seeing the big house and the big gardens in my minds eye without any difficulty, something that is not always true in other books. It is a skill I would like to master. The characters were good and endearing and I liked the way in which the three important characters all changed and grew , again something I think is important in any work of fiction.

But one of the best things in 'The Secret Garden' was its simple but well told tale with a strong moral story at its heart.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Book 32 Stop Me by Richard Jay Parker

"Forward this email to ten friends if it ends up in my inbox within a week I won't slit the bitches throat....."

Leo Sharpe's life is turned upside down when his wife Laura disappears. Women are being gruesomely killed in America, Germany and the UK and Laura could be one of them but unlike the others, her jawbone hasn't turned up in a parcel ! A character called Bookwalter turns up claiming to be the killer but is he who he says he is and what is his purpose ?

This is a very good psychological thriller and it is for books like this that the term 'a real page turner' was invented. It is easy to read and the pages just seemed to turn themselves, the plot is intriguing and there are enough twists and turns to keep you wondering what will happen next. One of the things that helped was an original idea that started a chain of events leading from England to the United States.

I don't know if Richard Jay Parker intends to write many more books but from the evidence of "Stop Me" he can only get better and that is a real treat to look forward to.

If you want to read a decent thriller with some great twists, you can't do much better than this. I'm not sure if the title or the back cover actually do this great book enough justice but it is one of the best thrillers I've read for a good while.
Now I'll never be the same whenever I receive a dodgy email and I still can't get that Smiths song ( Stop me if you think you've heard this one before) out of my head !

Why not watch the trailer ?


Saturday, 2 July 2011

Book 31 The Birth of Love by Joanna Kavenna

This book takes the reader into the lives of four main characters in different places and at different times. In Vienna in 1865 a doctor is locked up in a mental asylum after discovering that women are dying in childbirth due to inadequate handwashing techniques. In the present day Michael has written the story of this same Doctor, Ignaz Semmelweis, and it has become his first published book. But he is struggling to come to terms with how this has affected his life and he is forced to re-examine where his life has taken him. Brigit Hayes is going into labour with her second child and is determined to have a homebirth this time and in a future world women are locked in tall towers and normal childbirth has been outlawed. But something has gone wrong.

This book is a fantastic read and all four stories are told intelligently and with an unusual freshness. At one point in the book one of the characters states that a book about childbirth wasn't really the kind of book that a man would read, thankfully this is not true and I absolutely loved it! I loved the fact that at one moment I was in Vienna in 1865 with horses trotting down a cobbled square and the next I was in a sterile interrogation room in 2153.

But most of all I loved Joanna Kavenna's style of writing that was both interesting and fresh. Yesterday was actually a major day of celebration in Hungary where the life of Ignaz Semmelweis is honoured, I actually work with a Hungarian Consultant in my local hospital and he was amazed that I knew about it thanks to this book ! Some books rely heavily on a good ending but some books just take you on a fantasic journey, regardless of the ending, this is one of those books.

I will definitely have to read more from this talented Author.


Sunday, 26 June 2011

Book 30 The Phone Goes Dead by Anthony Horowitz

I always said that as part of this '52 books in 52 weeks' challenge I wanted to read a good variety of genres and thought it was about time I read another Horowitz book. This is the usual twisty scary story that I would expect and I wasn't surprised or shocked by these two neat little stories. This book, obviously, isn't aimed at a 40 year old bloke like me and is aimed more at the children and young teenage readers. But it was fun and quirky, if not totally original. I would probably recommend Anthony Horowitz to any young person who likes to read something a bit different.

The first story is about a boy who has a mobile phone that receives messages from the dead and the second tale is about a creepy old bath that you wouldn't want in your own bathroom.

I can't critique this because I am an old git but it is good fun. And it makes me think again that I wouldn't mind trying my hand at writing this genre.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Book 29 Walking the Tree by Kaaron Warren

Lillah lives on the island of Botanica and the island is the tree and life revolves around the tree. Now she has come of age and it is her turn to walk around the tree. She sets off on a journey to explore and to learn all that the island has to teach her but at the last minute is talked into taking a small boy with her. But if anybody even suspects that he is carrying a deadly disease then both of their lives could be in danger. Being ill on Botanica is a punishable offence.Punishable by death.

Imagine if somebody wrote a new version of Enid Blyton's Magic Faraway Tree for Adults
and you probably will come up with something like this. It is a highly imaginative and often erotic affair, it's like a wonderful new world in a book. It takes you for an amazing adventure around the island, meeting lots of strange and scary people.

If you like your stories to be imaginative and a form of escape then you would probably love this book. Kaaron Warren creates an impressive and believeable new world full of secrets. In Botanica women have the power ! They are free to travel around the island to their hearts content and can more or less sleep with as many men as they like while the men are stuck in one place doing all the work ! The book also is a tale about different cultures actually living separate but mostly peaceful lives without the threat of war.

I loved the whole idea and this is my kind of book. Perhaps the plot was a bit thin ( some may say non existant) but I enjoyed travelling around this strange and quirky land. A land that is alien but yet strangely familiar.


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Book 28 The Girl on the Landing by Paul Torday

Elizabeth is married to Michael and their marriage is as dull as dishwater but convenient. There is an old saying that ' Strangers are just friends you haven't met yet.' But in Elizabeth's case her boring husband one day becomes a stranger after he sees a picture of a strange girl on a landing. He starts to act like a new man and life with him becomes much more fulfilling and fun.Unfortunately she also learns that he is not only a new man but a complete and utter stranger with a terrible secret.

A terrible secret that could put her entire life in jeopardy.

This is a really good book that kept my interest all the way if you want to read something a little bit different and a little bit quirky. Paul Torday crafts an interesting story that both intrigues and gives an insight into the horrors of living with a mental ilness. And it doesn't disappoint. It is actually one of those rare books that actually has a good beginning, middle and ending. It is never boring even though there are no car chases or big bangs. Just when you think you know what is going on you realise that you are just guessing. Enjoyed. I must read his other books.


Thursday, 9 June 2011

Book 27 - Bloodstained Kings by Tim Willocks

Bloodstained Kings by Tim Willocks is one of those books that I started years ago but never finished for some reason and so I thought it was high time I finished it ! Right from the beginning you are aware that there is something different about it. It's a little bit more arty than other books.There's a little bit more meat on the bones.

It's quite a convoluted plot that I couldn't possibly sum up in a paragraph and one of the greatest things about it is that the story is revealed slowly and the characters are revealed slowly too. You start off wondering what on earth is going on and most things, eventually, are revealed.

Basically Cicero Grimes wakes in the middle of his dirty and squalid front room ( he is in the middle of some kind of a breakdown or psychotic episode)when a man knocks on his door to deliver a letter. This letter informs him that his nemesis Clarence Jefferson has died and left him two suitcases in his will. Suitcases that contain information that could ( it seems) incriminate half of the population of
America. Lenna Parrilaud is a multimillionairess who has inprisoned her husband ( presumed dead) in a self built stone house. Their paths cross as they race against time to find the suitcases, but then her husband escapes his prison, add to this a daughter that was stolen from her at birth and who was also was presumed dead.

This book is arty and at times poetic and I love Tim Willock's style of writing. He has a way of getting inside the character's heads and he tells a good story. ( Probably because he is a Doctor who specialises in addiction !)There are plenty of twists and layers and it also has its fair share of violence.

My only problem with Bloodstained Kings is the ending. For such a different and strong book I found the ending was a little bit convoluted and well it just felt like everything was wrapped up too quickly and conveniently. I loved this book but towards the end it kind of just ( lost the plot ?) and became another action movie book and with a better ending I would have rated it higher.


Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Book 26 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck.

I borrowed this book from my son who is using it as part of his High School English.

This is pretty much different from anything I have read before and I don't know what to make of it to be honest. It is a well known classic and I can see why it us used so often in schools because it is a short novel and there are plenty of pickings for literary study. There aren't too many characters and the story isn't too confusing and it introduces metaphors and foreshadowing and you could probably study and discuss the moral repercussions of the book for the next half a century.

However I have to say that although I found the book sentimental and charming and although it wasn't boring, it didn't exactly rock my world either ! It wasn't the worst book I have ever read and it wasn't one of the best.

It focuses on two migrant workers during the great 30's depression who travel side by side to find work in the USA. One of them is a small, intelligent man and the other is a huge beast of a man with a heart of gold but the mental capacity of a child. Lenny, the big man often gets his friend in trouble because he doesn't know his own strength.

Maybe this is the kind of book which gets better after a few reads and it is a small inoffensive novel but it isn't the most exciting thing I have ever read. I think part of the reason is because it was written like a play and also because it was mostly written in the third person.I like books where you really feel like you are ' in the book' but with this I felt like I was watching it on a stage somewhere. If that makes any sense.


Sunday, 29 May 2011

Book 25 Dead Like You Peter James

This book took me to Brighton and Hove on the South East coast of England. In the book there are a number of vicious sexual attacks on women and it is Detective Superintendent Roy Grace's job to stop them before any more can be committed.

12 years ago similar attacks and one suspected murder were carried about by a man dubbed 'The Shoe Man.' A man who attacks his victims and steals their very expensive shoes. Roy Grace soons discovers that there is a link between these two series of attacks and investigates the terrible possibility that 'The Shoe Man' has returned.

But has he returned to continue his devastating crimes or is this the work of a Copycat ? And can he stop him before there is another murder ?

This is a very good book, packed full of twists and is well worth the read. I am not normally into Police Crime thrillers but this one was dark and intriguing and kept my interest all the way through. I liked the fact that it was made up of tiny little chapters and although it is a big book at 549 pages, it is so easy to read, the pages just seemed to fly by !

This is one book in a series featuring Superintendent Roy Grace and as usual I haven't read any of the previous books ! Although unlike other books, in this case it doesn't seem to matter. It was a stand alone book that didn't require any knowledge of the previous ones in the series.

My hat goes off the Peter James, a decent book and I look forward to reading more from him.


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Book 24 The All-Inclusive Christ - Witness Lee

This is one of several books sent to me kindly by RHEMA Literature Distribution. The All Inclusive Christ is based on messages given by Witness Lee in the latter part of the sixties. This isn't a 'Happy Clappy' book and was pretty indepth, more so than I expected. At times it was interesting and at times it was hard going. It focuses on Christ and how we as Christians can have a deeper, closer relationship with him. It does focus a lot on the symbology of the bible, particularly of the old testament and even for a person like myself who has an interest in the symbology of the bible it was quite hard going at times.

However it has been very helpful and I now feel as if I have a more fundamental knowledge of Jesus than I had before. It focuses very much on Jesus as 'the land' and how Jesus is exceptionally bigger than we can imagine and how we can have a stronger relationship with HIM by dwelling in his land. A land that is Christ.

I don't think its the easiest Christian book I have ever read and it wasn't always encouraging, the fact that it felt like I was reading a text book at times didn't help. But overall I found it helpful and I feel I have gained a fuller understanding of God. I was a little bit doubtful of some of the stuff that was said by Witness Lee but the majority of it was good. Probably not the best book for new Christians.


Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Book 23 The Delinquents - Criena Rohan

I remember watching this film when it came out, simply because Kylie Minogue was in it and I was 15 ! I don't remember anything about the film but I don't think it left much of an impression on me, apart from maybe Kylie in some sexy outfit or other. It was good to read the actual book without remembering the film.

Criena Rohan was in reality Deirdre Cash, who worked as a nightclub singer and ballroom dancing instructor. She only got two books published and sadly died at the age of 38 in 1963 of cancer.

This wasn't really my cup of tea and was a pretty average read. It tells the story of two teenage tearaways, teen life in the fifties in Australia and how they escape from troubled homes and attempt to experience life on their own two feet. In parts it is funny, in parts it is sad and it did make me think about the fact that too many people ( including myself) take life too seriously. Maybe we all have a delinquent inside us that we should bring out once in a while.

The Delinquents is an easy book to read but it felt kind of lightweight, like something you'd perhaps read in a magazine. But maybe I'm being harsh. It did make me think that I take life too seriously but maybe its just not my kind of book. Others may read it and enjoy it a little more. It wasn't bad, just didn't float my boat.


Sunday, 8 May 2011

Book 22 The Long Walk - Richard Bachman

This is the second instalment in my Bachman fest! Stephen King wrote 'The Long Walk' in the fall of 1966 and the spring of 1967 and apparently it was one of those books that wasn't accepted for publication at the time and was then put in a box until its publication in 1979.

I'll cut to the chase, I loved this book! For so many reasons it shouldn't have worked but it did on so many levels. It is set in a near future America and 100 teenage boys are chosen to take part in the long walk of 450 miles through the streets of America. They have to keep on walking and get a warning if they slow down to below 4 miles an hour. They only get 3 warnings,if they slow down or stop walking after that they are shot!

This is a pretty gruesome book and it pulls no punches, I don't think it could ever be turned into a film! For me the main reason it worked so well is because of the originality and imagination of the situation but really Stephen King's (Richard Bachman's) characterization is what steals it for me. It is written in the third person but we get inside each of the boys heads and I really did love all the characters and feel a connection with them. I almost felt exhausted for them and could feel their pain.

This is by far the best of the Bachman books I have read so far and to be honest it is probably one of my favourite Stephen King books ever. Loved it.


Monday, 2 May 2011

Book 21 Haematology at a Glance - Mehta and Hoffbrand

I had to read this one because I am currently on a one month haematology rotation( working alongside the haematology specialist nurses) at the hospital. I always find haematology fascinating and this book was useful and I feel like I understand haematology a bit better and it will help my rotation. It was pretty much aimed at medical students more than nurses, especially the opening chapter ! However this book has helped. Not the most exciting read of the year but useful.

Now can I get back to fiction ?

Friday, 22 April 2011

Book 20 Rage- Richard Bachman

King is Bachman but Bachman is King. I have decided to go on a Bachman fest. I am a life long fan of Stephen King and he wrote a few novels as Richard Bachman in the late seventies and early eighties. The only other book that I've read from Richard Bachman was "Thinner" and that was absolutely years ago when I still had a good head of hair and could fit in size 29 jeans.

This was written when King was still young himself and was written even before Carrie.

It is obviously King and it has all the hallmarks of a King novel but you can tell that he had yet to master the complete art of story telling and Rage does have flaws, although it is a good read.

It revolves around a highschool kid named Charlie Decker who goes crazy and kills two teachers and holds a whole class hostage. This is probably the most creepy and unsettling book I have ever read. As a short novel it did keep my interest even though it creeped the hell out of me !

Its biggest flaw is probably the same thing that I found most unsettling. It isn't just the fact that some crazy kid has gone beserk in a high school ,it's the fact that all the kids ( apart from one) in the class end up being the most horrible and unrealistic kids ever known to fiction ! And that's putting it mildly! Maybe I'm the only one in the world that couldn't feel any sympathy for Charlie Decker but I'm probably not.I hope not. I also found the ending pretty unrealistic and even thought of a better ending myself !

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the Bachman books but this book is just unsettling !


Sunday, 17 April 2011

Book 19 The Time Machine ( H G Wells)

This book has been sitting on my bookcase for a good while, barely noticed until I saw it while looking for inspiration for my next read. I think part of the reason why I hadn't read it is because I have already seen the film ( the old version) lots of times. In fact it is one of my favourite films ever and never fails to fascinate me.

I started to read this, not knowing if or how much it would differ from the film. Of course the book was written by H G Wells a long time before the motion picture. What first surprised me was how small this book is ! It is tiny at 102 pages and the next thing that surprised me was how different it is from the film ! It is pretty different but in a good way. I know that movies based on books are normally a bit of a let down but this book is almost like a totally different story. ALMOST.

All I can say is that now one of my favourite films is one of my favourite books. Compared to the original film, the original book is scarier, darker and better.
A must read for anyone who likes the film or anyone that loves great sci-fi or fantasy.

I haven't seen the newer version of the movie and don't know if it is any closer to the book.


Friday, 15 April 2011

Book 18 The Owl Tree - Jenny Nimmo

It was my original intention to read all kinds of books in this 52 books in 52 weeks challenge and so I thought it was about time I read another childrens book. I wouldn't mind actually focusing on childrens books for my own writing and reading this was a gentle reminder that maybe I should go down that route.

The Owl Tree is aimed at primary school ( elementary ?) school children and is a pretty good for that age group. The story is simple but it works. The thing I liked about this book is that there weren't any flying dragons or goblins or wizards but all the fantasy was in the imagination of the main character. Apparently it has won a Smartie Prize and its easy to see why.


Thursday, 14 April 2011

Book 17 The Spire - Richard North Patterson

Richard North Patterson is another new Author for me and I wasn't disappointed.

Set in Ohio it is the story of a brilliant young Lawyer who goes back to his old college to help them through a tricky situation involving embezzlement but finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation that goes back to his own college days. His old friend was convicted of the murder of a young college student but Mark Darrow is convinced that he is an innocent man. While being given the task of saving his old college from financial troubles he takes it upon himself to help prove his old friends innocence. Along the way he finds himself facing demons from his past and a new love interest with her own demons.

Everything works for me in 'The Spire', from the beautiful front cover to the brilliant suspense and mystery that follows. To me at times it felt like a modern day Agatha Christie Novel with a whole list of suspects that could easily have committed the murder. It is a good book and one that keeps you eager to turn over each page.

If I had to find a niggle or two, I think it could have done with a little bit more action for my own personal taste. There was a lot of sitting around restaraunt tables drinking wine and sitting behind desks talking and making telephone calls.
Also the ending was ok but it kind of resolved a little too quickly and conveniently after such a brillantly crafted ' suspenseful' build up. But that was probably my fault because I worked out 'whodunnit' about 3/4 way through the book and the ending was no surprise!

But I would definitley recommend 'The Spire' and will be looking to read more from Richard North Patterson.


Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Perkins Gilman ( Short Story)

This morning while doing a random book search on line I stumbled upon this short story, the title seemed familiar, I had seen it somewhere or heard of it from somewhere. First published January 1892 in the New England Magazine
it is a remarkable short story.

I must admit that it was the intriguing title that first grabbed my attention and I now think it is one of the best shorts that I have ever read. It tells the story, in diary form, of a woman who has been "rested" by her husband following the birth of her child. Trapped in a creepy old house and monitored and controlled by her husband she slowly loses grip on reality and develops a bizarre obsession with her bedroom wallpaper !

There are many ways to read this story depending on your viewpoint. Many see it as a striking analogy about feminism and that's a viewpoint which I can't deny but there are so many different layers to this story, just like the wallpaper itself.

Did Charlotte write this book as an attack against feminism or against her own ex husband or as an attack on her own medical diagnosis ?
I am not really sure, but I think that's why this short is so captivating.

Amazing really. Short stories don't come better than this in my opinion.

If you haven't already read it, you can here,

The Yellow Wallpaper

Monday, 4 April 2011

Book 16 Doors Open - Ian Rankin

Finished 4th April 2011

This is the first time that I have read anything by Ian Rankin and I have mixed feelings about it. In the UK we had a TV show called Taggart which ran for many years. It was a detective series set in and around Glasgow in Scotland. It wasn't something that I watched religiously, in fact I have only watched one or two episodes. The reason why I mention this programme is because "Open Doors" is just like reading Taggart the book. ( Or probably any other popular detective TV Series that you might know).
There is nothing original here and the characters are quite one dimensional and cliched ( bad guys with muscles and shaven hair, art critic with extravagant tastes etc) and the story took a good while to get going. It started off slow and then I kept telling myself that it would get better.
To be honest it did improve and it did have an OK ending, an ending that was just like an episode of Taggart ! Overall it wasn't the best thing I've read but it wasn't terrible, just like curling up on the couch ( with a cup of coffee) and watching your equivalent version of Taggart, whatever that may be.
Set in Edinburgh it revolves around a heist to steal some rather expensive paintings without anyone noticing that they are missing, add in a local gangster, a local detective inspector and one or two gullible souls and that's about it in a nutshell.