Friday, 4 May 2012

The Haunting by Alan Titchmarsh

I've quite enjoyed the few Alan Titchmarsh novels I've acquired (usually from my mum!) and thought his last, Folly was really rather good!  In hopes of something similar I tracked down a cheapish, second hand copy of this one and settled for a more subdued read, after the explicit contents of the Fifty Shades series!

Harry is a sadly disillusioned History teacher in his early forties, although he seems much older in his manner and lifestyle!  Still getting over his brief but disastrous marriage he's resigned from his job and decides to buy a quaint but neglected cottage by the river.  He is quickly enamoured by Alex, his new neighbour who lives alone with her daughter, Anne.  New love distracts him from his search for his ancestors but through his new home and an unexpected find from his best friend Rick, history finds him.  Running alongside and eventually coinciding with the modern story is the tale of Anne Flint, a fifteen year old housemaid with aspirations who finds excitement isn't all it's cracked up to be when her adventure quickly leads to tragedy.
It was pretty much as I expected - a gentle paced, easy read.  I enjoyed it, but felt there was a much "bigger" story to be made of the idea.  The whole "haunting" element was a bit of a red herring and the decline of his old headteacher is quickly forgotten; it all felt a bit rushed and skimmed over as if a more extended and in depth book had been hacked about.  Due to this, none of the characters were really memorable and I thought the modern day Anne had so much potential.  Shame really as I liked what was there but just wanted more.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Fifty Shades Trilogy

*** for the whole trilogy
So I gave into all the hype and was pressurised by Elaine at work and bought this series.  I've decided to do the whole trilogy in one post...mainly as I don't feel I have awful lot to say about them, so here goes!  Apologies to all who love the series, but this is only my opinion.

Fifty Shades of Grey
Firstly, I feel that I ought to make it clear that I am pretty unshockable, there is nothing in here that I hadn't already heard of, but it's just not my usual reading fare.  However, my work colleague (Elaine, you know who you are!!) had pushed it as a "love story with interesting add-ons".  She has talked endlessly about the series as it has now filled the gap left by Twilight (which she found very, very late!) and had her eyes opened very wide by having to visit the Ann Summer's website to find out what the items in Christian's playroom were for!  I decided to give it a go, partly to stop her nagging me and so I could contribute to her monologue of how wonderful Christian is!
To be blunt, this book irritated me, it was sooooooo repetitive and as it's a pretty chunky book, that's an awful lot of repetition to have to wade through!  It's written in an over simplistic way from Ana's overly naive view.  (How has that girl managed to survive life to this point?)  Constant biting lips, rolling eyes, descriptions of long, expert fingers and the whole inner goddess thing?!! Argh!  Ana is a woefully weak character, Christian (and yes, I get that he's damaged) has no redeeming features apart from being "gorgeous" and having his own helicopter.  As a minor aside, I also felt that Christian was too young considering the huge wealth he's amassed and the power imbalance in all his relationships, to me his whole demeanour (and not just his playroom antics) would have worked better with someone in their mid to late thirties. When I reflect, not a lot actually happens in this book and although I can't say I didn't find some of it enjoyable, I finished it finding the whole thing slightly distasteful.
As an example of how my view differed with Elaine:
Elaine said, "Ooh, when he did that with the tie and then wore it, I knew just how she must have felt!"
I said, "There's no way that tie would be fit to wear to a graduation ceremony after that, even with dry cleaning!"

Fifty Shades Darker
Elaine was horrified that I didn't love the first book and tried to convince me that the second was better and the third was "lovely".  As it was two books for £7, I threw them into the shopping trolley and gave up a large part of my weekend. Surprisingly, I am still talking to Elaine, but not for book recommendations!
I actually thought this one was a bit better, I even liked some bits of it (the masked ball), there was a more romantic feel and even some humour.  We finally get to find out the true extent of Christian's tortured past and how it's made him what he is and tries to explain his neediness and control, but what's Ana's excuse then?  What I don't like is the acceptance that his stalkerish and beyond obsessive behaviour is an aspect of his deep love for, it's just scary and wrong, imo!  But what bothered me even more is the huge Ana fan club, why is every male in these books instantly attracted to her when she is so sappy and self-obsessed?

Fifty Shade Freed
I'm so glad they've changed this cover from a set of handcuffs to a key - I just couldn't take that cover seriously.
I just thought this was boring.  There are only some many ways a girl can be restrained and I'd had enough, I yawned or flicked through the sex scenes which became increasingly repetitive and dull...even Ana was desperate for a bit more variety by this time!  My main problem is that Ana is no more endearing and the whole "don't be angry/ mad at me" was disconcerting in what is supposed to have developed into a loving marriage.
Elaine got her happy ending and the epilogue was sweet, but the Fifty Shades pov section didn't add anything new.

So, to sum up - and I'm rolling my eyes at this point...I can't see how it's going to change your life (except my house is considerably less clean as I read all weekend rather than doing the housework) - although I believe it's worked for a lot of American mommies and made their husbands very happy!
Anyone who has followed my reviews, I am known for loving my "flawed" heroes!  I'm a complete Phantom of the Opera fan, so I get the whole idea of damaged personalities.  For heaven's sake I adore (as does my inner goddess) my brooding, obsessive heroes, but Fifty Shades just doesn't do it for me!  I'm no book snob and appreciate that there's lots of people out there lovin' it.
Well done to the author for tapping into the moment and making the most of the shrewd marketing, it's obviously doing something for a lot of women, but my inner goddess is looking elsewhere.

Friday, 27 April 2012

In My Mailbox #9

Here's my latest buys!
I've admitted defeat and given in to the hard sell and constant nagging from someone at work with the Fifty Shades!  I read the first one last weekend, and although I haven't managed to do a review (yet) I found it all a bit distasteful and I wasn't convinced by either main character.  I've been assured it all gets better, but I'm not convinced...I just can't bear to NOT know what the hype is about.
I'm enjoying the Sebastian St Cyr series and am glad to be right about Hero Jarvis becoming a more central character.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

In My Mailbox #8

Here's my latest buys!
I'm sorry that I'm still having to apologise for the lack of recent reviews (I am trying!) which is a bit of a shame as I've read a couple of fantastic books over the Easter hols.

Why these books?  Well, I've finally given in to the hype about Fifty Shades, I do try not to get pulled in, but I somehow just can't help myself and it leapt into my supermarket trolley this is obviously another Marmite book.  Someone at work is raving about it but some of the reviews are enthusiastically trashing it! So I need to make up my own mind.
Katie Fforde? I read all her books and although some are better than others, its solid, well written happy chic-lit.  Victoria Connelly is another reliable favourite and I've enjoyed all her Austen books, so pre-ordered this a while ago for my kindle.  I'm presuming The Greatest Love Story of All Time is in a similar vein, although choosing a title like that takes some guts!
Where Serpents Sleep is the fourth in the Sebastian St Cyr series which I thoroughly enjoying and the last one was the best so far.
Happy Reading!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

In My Mailbox - Easter Treats!

Happy Easter to all! Hope you're managing the surplus of chocolate as well as I am!
Yet again, apologies for sloping off and neglecting my blog!  On holiday (yay!) and having a fabulous time with theatre trips and shopping.  Still reading, but not keeping up with reviews and stuff (bad girl! Hope to do a catch up soonish)...also managed to find time to dip into Amazon and buy new reads too.

So here are my latest lot... they're old ones that I've picked up through recommendations and from reviews at goodreads.



The Tea Rose was a recommendation through goodreads due to all the historical fiction I'm wallowing in at the moment.  I'm enjoying the Sebastian St Cyr series and as this one isn't available on kindle I have given in and bought a bashed-up paperback version from amazon just so I can read on!  The Fidelis Morgan was an impulse buy after reading an interview with the actress Celia Imrie, where she raved about the series and I think there's plans for a series/ film at some point; again it's more historical fiction, but sounds good fun.  Laurie Graham as it's had good reviews and it was a good kindle price.  I pre-ordered The Jane Austen Marriage Manual ages ago and am about half way through it at the moment, thought it'd be perfect for me, sadly it appears not.  The Haunting as I have a guilty secret of quite enjoying his other books and was a cheap used buy that my mum will enjoy too!
So, as usual it's a mixed bag (you ought to see my iTunes collection too, that's even more random!)
Happy reading!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

In my mailbox - end of February buys!

So here's my latest book buys...

Bit of a mixed bag again!
Bunheads was ordered during my Christmas holiday ballet addiction, so I'm looking forward to that one.
Timeless is the last of the Parasol Protectorate series, which I've stuck with and am interested to see how it all ends.  I loved the first in this series, but think it's been a bit patchy since then.
The Vicky Bliss is because I read on wickipedia that there is a vague tie in at the end of this series with Amelia Peabody and I want to find out more.
Tears of Pearl is again the next in a series I started last year and although not blown away by Lady Emily, I'm willing to give it another try.
The last two are fun, light reads and I liked the previous two Talyton Vets books so I bought them for my kindle.
Happy reading everyone!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

India Black by Carol K Carr

When an important figure in the Disraeli government dies in a compromising position at the Lotus House, Victorian Madam, India Black has to act quickly to avoid any disruption to her business and reputation. Calling on the dubious talents of the odoriferous street urchin Vincent, she has a plan to remove the body discreetly, but is interrupted by government spy French. Blackmailed with the threat of losing the Lotus House she is drawn into his world of espionage to serve the British government.

It seems her “punter” was carrying important documents that put the government in a tricky situation with the Russians and they’ve gone missing! India and French end up in the most unlikely situations to save the day!

I bought this book hoping it would fill the huge hole left by my favourite Victorian female characters. I worship Amelia Peabody, love Lady Julia Grey, wait for the new Parasol Protectorate books with excitement and even read Emily Ashton (although they’re not my favourites!). I enjoy my strong, clever, sarcastic characters that thrive on disaster, near death and criminal activities. The other important factor in all these is also the strong, devastatingly cool and handsome male interest (who can blame me?!). So India Black, slightly different background to the others and I wasn’t at first convinced that it’d work, but despite my reservations (and I still think it referred to her professional activities a little too much and unnecessarily, which is why I docked half a star!) I really enjoyed it!

India has a high regard for herself and her talents, but the overall tone is light and humorous. French (we don’t find out his first name!) is suitably intelligent, devious and handsome, (yay!) but remains fairly mysterious. Not quite a Brisbane, but he definitely has potential! Although India acknowledges his looks and there is a spark between them, this first in the series doesn’t go down the romance route, which is probably better for future books if it develops into a long running series. Vincent, although thinly sketched, I’m sure will develop into a far more interesting character and some of India’s more colourful work colleagues and acquaintances will just have to reappear in later books.

To sum up…it’s a fun, fast paced read with strong lead characters. The cover is also really pretty, but a bit too “romance” for the style of the writing.  I’ve already bought the second book and although it hasn't completely stopped me wishing for many more (and immediate) Amelia and Julia books, I found it a really enjoyable read. Give it a go!

Monday, 13 February 2012

In my mailbox...half term treats!

So here's my latest buys this week and as it's half term holidays and I've been a bit like a child in the sweetie shop, I'm already read one and am well into the second! Reviews will come soon, I promise.
The Christina Jones choice is one of her "magical" novels that I somehow missed.  I realised when I was about to start the one I bought last week - Never can Say Goodbye - and so bought this one quickly to catch up!
The India Black books came after looking for ages for something in the same vein as the Lady Julia Grey and Amelia Peabody books, as they have left a huge hole and sadly the authors just can't produce them quickly enough!  A Victorian madam is an unusual premise, but I'm willing to give it a go!  Just finished the first one...and loved it!

So happy reading, and happy hols to all the teachers out there - it was sooo nice not to get the Sunday night glums yesterday!!

Monday, 6 February 2012

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Diana Bishop is an American academic based at Oxford University, she is also a witch.  Through her specialism in the History of Science she encounters a mysterious alchemical manuscript, known as Ashmole 782, which displays strong magical powers.  As Diana has a severe aversion to using her witchy skills, she sends the manuscript back to the stacks, much to the chagrin of all the other witches, vampires and daemons in the vicinity, who don't believe that things are that simple or that she's so ignorant.
Matthew Clairmont, a charismatic scientist who also happens to be a 1500 year old vampire is the first creature on the scene and although Diana has been warned she can't help herself from being drawn in.  

I'm not going into any further detail as I dislike giving spoilers, but also it's such a huge book (almost 700 pages) I couldn't possibly do it justice and okay, I'm going to 'fess up and declare that this is my new guilty pleasure!  I LOVED it!!  I know I probably shouldn't and that there's many more worthy books out there and although it isn't perfect, I've given this 5 stars because I loved the whole indulgent experience! It's pure entertainment and I know I'll have to by the sequel in hardback as I won't be able to wait beyond the summer.

I see this novel as a wish-fulfilment for all the more mature readers of the twilight series, who felt a smidgen bad for being way too old to lust after Edward (go, on...I know you did, we've talked about this at work!) and have struggled to hide their guilty secret!  Deborah Harkness has given us a gorgeous, but definitely more age appropriate vampire with even more back story and hidden depths - yay!  As anyone who has read my previous reviews I do like my flawed, tragic but devastingly handsome heroes (who cares if it's a cliche?!) and Matthew ticks all the boxes, he's even a wine fanatic which allowed me to forgive him being a yoga bunny!

Diana is mildly irritating (which at least allows the female reader to feel superior as they'd be far cooler in the same situation) but she did grow on me as I became more involved in the story.  She does need rescuing too often, (although who can blame her with Matthew around?) and the whole denial of her witchiness was a bit grating and seemed a bit teenagey-angst for a woman in her mid thirties.  However, she does become more interesting as her abilities develop.

I know I'm gushing, and I accept it's not going to be for everyone, but it's an atmospheric, indulgent fantasy read that made me very happy and I can't wait for the next one!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

In my mailbox...more buys!

I really ought to change the name of this type of posting to "Oops, I did it again!"  No point in protesting, I just can't stop buying more books.  Here's this weeks latest offerings...

I've loved Christina Jones previous books and so I'm really looking forward to this one.  the Jojo Moyes has had such fabulous reviews that I couldn't ignore it any longer, but I had her last one as an audiobook and was a bit "meh" about it, so I've bought the paper version this time.  The Jane Harris was a random whim at the supermarket, so it might be a surprise.
Managed to stay away from kindle buys this time and I have a few reviews pending that I must get finished and posted.  I'm currently reading "A Discovery of Witches" which feels like a guilty pleasure, but I'm really loving it so far!
Let me know what you think and what you're reading x

Sunday, 22 January 2012

In my mailbox...

This is my third IMM so far and despite my good intentions, (oops, I did it again) I've bought more books!  I'm currently buying far faster than I'm reading, which is a bit of an issue!

I've finally given in and decided I need to see what all the fuss is about A Discovery of Witches.  Reading some reviews on Amazon and goodreads it looks as if it's a marmite book and I always feel I need to make my own decision!  I was tempted to go for the audio version as I have a couple of credits available, but wasn't convinced I could stand several hours of the narrator if the sample was anything to go by...shame really, but liking a narrator is such a personal thing!  Hope to read it fairly soon, as I'm definitely behind the queue with this one!
Becoming Jane Eyre has been a constant feature on my Amazon recommendations for a while and I finally decided to go for it.  Bronte fans should look away now... I don't love Jane Eyre but I do love the melodramatic madness of Wuthering Heights, so I have good hopes for this one.  Sadly being made to force-read Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea for A level sort of killed it for me and the TV adaptations have never convinced me otherwise.
The other two are ready and waiting for my kindle (The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen and Season of Storms) - Susanna Kearsley is a bit of a no-brainer as I've enjoyed her other stuff and other one fulfils my austenesque urges (again!)
Catch you soon - happy reading!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Dancing on Thorns by Rebecca Horsfall

Jean-Baptiste St Michel, known simply as Michel (thank goodness) was tempted away from England and his mother by his famous choreographer father to learn ballet in Paris.  Abandoned by his absent father and disillusioned in his dancing abilities,  Michel is plucked from obscurity by ballerina Nadia Petrovna to become an apprentice in the small but striving Islington Ballet.  Director Charles Crown is less impressed, but Michel's determination and persistence pay off as he becomes a formidable talent.
Jonni is an aspiring actress new to London who becomes entangled in the exciting and close knit group that revolve around Michel's flat.  Despite their immediate attraction, Michel's only true commitment is to dance and their relationship falters as Jonni wants more than Michel is able to give.

So did I mention that I'm on a ballet obsession at the moment? (oh, sorry, I must have!) and it's still going strong, much to Amazon's delight and pain to my credit card!!
There's actually far more to this book than I can give in a brief synopsis; there's 730 pages and never a dull moment!  It's a theatrical, passionate saga with a huge range of varied characters and sub-plots and I don't want to give anything away.  I loved Michel, despite him being a self-obsessed egotist for much of the book, he's perfect! (and yes, I do love my flawed heroes, I know!) Primo is fabulous, Jonni is mildly irritating and wet and I adored the behind the scenes details and the creation of new ballets.
Just in case I'm not enthusing enough, even though it's not completely perfect, I lurved this book!  It's totally indulgent, Jilly Cooper-esque in both size and sweeping breadth, but who cares?!  It did what these huge chunksters are supposed to do, whisked me off to another life and I couldn't put it down! Unlucky for me that I chose to start it during the first week back at work after Christmas hols, as it meant I stayed up extra late as I was desperate to see how it all ended!  Brilliant!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

Ageing ballerina Nina Revskaya, formerly of the Bolshoi, now lives in Boston and has decided to sell her extensive collection of jewellery to help support the Ballet Company she has worked for in her later years.  However, renewed interest in the history of the treasures alongside her increasing frailty and illness makes Nina reluctantly dwell on her past.
The book combines a modern day story with Nina's earlier experiences before she defected to the West; working through the ranks to become a star dancer, known as the "butterfly" to the exclusion of almost everything else, including the dangers and motives of the people around her.

Drew is managing the details of the auction and is fascinated by Nina's reticence to discuss the jewels and her own past.  A set of amber earrings and bracelet are particularly interesting and the intrigue increases when university professor, Grigori Solodin, donates a matching necklace to auction alongside the Revskaya collection.  Drew searches for specific details of the owner, whilst Grigori has his own reasons for the personal interest in the history of Nina and her husband the poet, Victor Elsin.

I think it's pretty clear that I read this partly due to my current ballet fixation (sorry - it's still ongoing!) and my love of historical fiction.  Although I know quite a lot about about the ballet, I'm pretty ignorant about Russia, particularly the era covered in this book, so it was an interesting read.  The descriptions of life in the Bolshoi were realistic and contrasted the beauty created on stage with the hard work, physical tolls and seediness of backstage life.  The historical aspect was well done and obviously well researched without coming across as inserting big chunks of a text book into the plot.  A claustrophobic atmosphere was created where the characters had to cope with the bleakness, lack of privacy and poverty of everyday life, where there was real danger in being seen not to conform.  I thought it was brave that many of the main characters in this section weren't particularly likable, although by the end of the book most have redeemed themselves.  It showed people in frightening circumstances managing the best way they can.

As I became absorbed in the Russian back story, I actually found the modern day sections with Grigori and Drew a bit of an irritation.  They are both thoroughly decent characters and are needed to shed light on Nina's earlier decisions and the eventual reveal, but I wasn't really bothered.  It was also difficult at first to see how the young Nina became the old (not very nice) Nina, but that became more apparent as the story developed.

I really enjoyed this book and its unravelling mystery.  Just to be really picky there was a couple of things could have put me off!  Firstly I didn't get the gorgeous cover that I'd seen on goodreads (go and look!) and got the rather boring cover, shown here...I've said before that I know I should judge by the cover, but let's be honest, we all do to some extent!  Secondly, the four and a half pages of quotes to tell me how wisely I'd chosen seemed a bit of overkill on behalf of the publishers, I can go for a couple of admiring quotes on the back cover, but honestly!  However, that's not the author's fault and I would recommend this as a tale of dance, history, love and betrayal...a good read!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

In my mailbox this week...

Despite having a huge TBR list and far too many books stacking up around the house and on my kindle, I've gone and bought even more this week!  I really must rein myself in at some point very soon, but as I look at all the brilliant blogs out there, see reccommendations on Amazon, audible and goodreads, I just can't help myself!
There's a couple I've acquired as audiobooks (My Dear I Wanted to Tell You and Miracle on Regent Street) and The Silver Locket is on the kindle.  I'm really looking forward to all of them, especially as one allows me to indulge in my Phantom obsession and another is a promising Austeneque treat.
Reviews will follow as I get through them...but the bookshelves are towering!! 


Tuesday, 10 January 2012

new books for this week...

Just to clarify, apart from the Transworld Challenge that I did this summer, I don't get any freebies! Not that I wouldn't like any, but I'm very, very small scale and I don't get any books offered!!  If you'd like to help change this situation, please contact me!  Although I try to blog reasonably regularly and I keep my goodreads updated, I am very slow at putting reviews on Amazon and other sites, so I aim to try harder this year.
So what treats have I lined up this week? Well, I'm waiting for another couple to arrive from Amazon, (yes, I've been seduced by the recommendations for me, again, so I'll tell you about them next time I blog about my mailbox and let you know what other goodies I have to look forward too...but waiting on the shelf right now are:

Has anyone read these already? What did you think?


Well, things look a little different around here, don't they?!
I decided I needed a bit of a change and so started to play around...some of this is intentional, but then I accidentally deleted the HTML that gave me my "wallpapery" background and I can't get it back...oops!  I was getting a little bored, but hadn't intended to be so drastic, but needs must and all that.

So, please bear with me whilst I play around over the next couple of days and decide on a final, finished look.  I'm not happy with the colours and contrast between background and text so far, but will get it right in the near future!  But I have a book waiting for some attention and I can't let me writing time slip!
Let me know what you think!

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Fat Chance Guide to Dieting by Claudia Pattison

Three women are battling the bulge at the local "Fat Chance" slimming club.  Holly lives with Rob but has to deal with the far too frequent visits from his overbearing mother.  Naomi is a wedding photographer who finds unusual perks to the job and recently widowed Kate has been seeking solace in the fridge.  The three become firm friends and support each other through the strict diet regime, a boot camp and their own personal dilemmas.

So two things made me buy this book; firstly, I just loved the cover and even though I know you shouldn't judge by that alone, I probably am a marketer's dream and yes, I do fall for the trap! Secondly, I'm back on the diet wagon, and although I've not submitted to the slimming clubs this time, I've been there (several times), bought the t-shirt, calorie point book, those horrid diet biscuits that taste of nothing and I have been the cynical element that sits at the back that the leader finds difficult to motivate!  So I was in for a light hearted dig at the world of losing weight...and although the book does provide that, I was disappointed...a bit like how Options 40 calorie hot chocolate just doesn't deliver against a full fat Starbucks version!

I didn't realise (should have checked the blurb on the back) until I'd bought the book that Claudia Pattison also writes as Leonie Fox.  I read one of those a couple of years back and wasn't overly enthusiastic, so I'd have probably not bothered if I'd been more thorough before slinging it in my supermarket trolley.
As a parody of the horrors of slimming clubs, there was a couple of points where I smiled, but Amanda the club leader is beyond horrific (and at times makes Marjorie Dawes look empathetic!) so it might be funny, at first, but is completely unbelievable that anyone, particularly a professor of psychology, would pay for the privilege of being harangued by such an unoriginal stereotype.  And that's my main problem with this book, it seemed almost over the top, cartoonish at times with such bizarre situations that I just couldn't enjoy it.  The characterisation seemed thin and I really didn't like or care for anyone throughout the story, even Holly, who was the most believable person but was just so wet!  Without giving spoilers,  Naomi was the most unreliable character as I not only disliked her life choices but there was no indication as to why, and as Naomi apparently weighs in at 11 stone is she really likely to be attractive to Toby's "interesting" predilections?
On the plus side, it does rattle along and I still love the cover! However, although it's definitely not to my taste, it will appeal to many.