You don’t have to go away to have a great time….

It was my birthday on Saturday and I have been celebrating by having a mini holiday from home. It is amazing how many things I managed to do without having to go away.

I started out by going to Chessington, a theme park close to my house. I’m not a fan of the scary roller-coasters, but had great fun taking my little boys on the gentler rides.

We went to a ‘pick your own’ farm and got our first strawberries of the season. (That is my little boy on the right and my nephew on the left)

In the evening I went to see Leona Lewis sing at the O2. She has the most amazing voice! Fans of fantasy will love her performance too – the costumes and stage props all looked as though they’d stepped out of a fairy tale. 

To finish off my weekend we paid a little trip to a doughnut factory.

We also managed to squeeze in an amazing Japanese meal and a few bottles of wine! I’m afraid that I haven’t done much reading for the last few days, but my parents bought me a few books that were lurking at the top of my wish list.

I am now the proud owner of:

In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
The Housekeeper and the Professor – Yoko Ogawa
The Affirmation – Christopher Priest

I hope you all had a fantastic weekend too!

2010 Thriller

Bequest – A.K. Shevchenko

I was a massive fan of Child 44 so when someone on twitter suggested that Bequest was similar I jumped at the chance to read it. Unfortunately Bequest was much simpler than Child 44 and I think the two books will appeal to a different group of readers.

Bequest is a thriller that centres on the Ukrainian legend of the lost Cossack gold, a large quantity of gold that was rumored to have been deposited in the Bank of England in the 18th Century. The gold would now be worth enough to bankrupt the Bank of England and change the balance of power within Europe. Many Ukrainians dream of finding a connection to this inheritance; finding a secret document that links them to this fortune. It is this that happens in Bequest, leading to a race to secure the fortune before it lands in the wrong hands.

Bequest is fast paced and easy to read, but the book lacked any real tension. There was the occasional heart stopping moment, but it was all over too quickly for me.

The story switched between several time periods, including the 18th century, but the whole book read in the same way. This meant that apart from the odd reference to their situation there was no period atmosphere.

‘Can you read to me, Alexy?’ she said gently. ‘I have trouble making out the letters today. I still have a headache from all that dancing.’
Razumovsky knew perfectly well, as did the whole Court, that Yelizaveta not only abhorred reading, but she considered it dangerous – and was convinced that too much reading was the cause of her beloved sister Anna’s death.

The majority of the book was set in dusty libraries/archives. I enjoyed learning a bit about Ukrainian history, but prefer to become immersed in someone’s life and emotions rather than to chase a large amount of money through long lost documents.

This book will appeal to anyone who enjoys fast paced investigative thrillers,  especially those who’d like to learn a bit more about Ukrainian history.

Other bloggers loved it:

 Bequest glistens with as much gleam as a 24 carat nugget Rob Around Books

an intriguing and enjoyable novelEuro Crime

1920s Classics

The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner

The Sound and the Fury was first published in 1929 and is considered to be one of the most important novels of the 20th century. The book follows the Comptons, an Aristocratic southern American family, struggling to deal with their poor reputation and the breakdown of their family.

The Sound and the FuryThe Tale of Genji or Ulysses, if I ever manage to finish them!!).

The first section is narrated by a mentally disabled man called Benjy. I finished these 72 pages without having much idea of what had happened. The disorienting world of someone who doesn’t fully understand what is happening was made even more confusing by a stream of consciousness writing style.

I wasn’t crying, but I couldn’t stop. I wasn’t crying, but the ground wasn’t still, and then I was crying. The ground kept sloping up and the cows ran up the hill T.P. tried to get up. He fell down again and the cows ran up the hill. Quentin held my arm and we went toward the barn. Then the barn wasn’t there and we had to wait for it to come back.

I sought out a summary of the chapter on wikipedia and this helped a lot – especially learning that anything written in italics is a flashback. I re-read the chapter, trying to seek out all the points mentioned on wikipedia, but I have to admit that I probably wouldn’t have noticed some of the plot points without a guide to help.

The second section, narrated by Benjy’s older brother, was easier to understand, but not much!! Again I had to rely on wikipedia and re-reading to pick up many of the plot points. I continued the rest of the book having read the wikipedia summaries in advance. It was hard work! I also discovered Spark Notes, which gave me an even greater insight into the book.

The problem that I find with books like this is that the effort it takes to simply understand what is happening removes any chance to form an emotional connection to the characters. The plot wasn’t that exciting and so I didn’t feel as though the effort I put in was rewarded.

I’m sure that you can derive a lot of pleasure from studying this book, but I’m afraid that I prefer to read books rather than tease out the meanings from individual paragraphs.

Highly recommended to people who enjoy studying literature.

Have you read The Sound and the Fury?


A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words?

Simon from Stuck in a Book is challenging people to sum up their reading tastes in a single photo. Initially I resisted taking up the challenge, as I didn’t see how I could possibly summarise my eclectic taste in a single image. I was impressed by the way Lizzie and Annabel got around this problem by posting pictures of Liquorice Allsorts and ‘Everything but the Kitchen Sink’, but although I enjoy books from numerous genres I have a much more specific taste than that.

I need an emotional connection to the characters. I wanted a picture that showed a mixture of emotions, so I started off by searching for images using the phrase ‘crying with happiness’. Unfortunately I failed to find anything suitable. I almost posted this picture of a little boy crying, but although I do enjoy harrowing books that didn’t sum up my entire range.

I finally settled on this image:

Photo by DaBok, Flickr

I think it captures the emotional connection that I want from the books I read. I want to feel as though I know them; to form a bond with the people I read about and feel their joy and their pain.

Do you think this photo is a good reflection of my reading taste?

Which picture would you choose?

1990s Fantasy

The Prestige – Christopher Priest

I am really pleased that I asked for literary science fiction recommendations as I don’t think I’d ever have found this book otherwise. I’m not convinced that The Prestige is literary or science fiction, but it is a fantastic read!

The Prestige follows two Victorian magicians who are battling to out-perform each other. The pair get locked in an increasingly bitter rivalry that leads them to commit acts so dark and secretive that their actions go on to affect several generations of their families.

Audiences know well that a magician will practice his illusions for years, and will rehearse each performance carefully, but few realise the extent of the prestigitator’s wish to deceive, the way in which the apparent defiance of normal laws becomes an obsession which governs every moment of his life.

I loved learning about the world of a stage magician – everything from how the magic tricks worked to their back stage life fascinated me.

It has been a long time since I last read a book so gripping that I walked around the house reading it; taking it to the kitchen as I couldn’t even bear to part with the story for the few minutes it takes to make a cup of coffee. Many of you will groan if I say this book reminded me of the Fingersmith, but I’m afraid it is the only book that I can compare it to. The Prestige is packed with Victorian atmosphere and has twists and turns equal to those in the masterpiece that is the Fingersmith.

The Prestige is written from the perspective of the two magicians and their grandchildren. It flips backwards and forwards in time, slowly revealing the truth about what went on. I loved the way all the characters drew slightly different conclusions from the same situation. Their subsequent thoughts and actions made so much sense once you’d seen things from their perspective. It was all just so cleverly done that I am still in awe of it.

The Prestige could fit into the science fiction/fantasy genre, but please don’t be put off by this. It would spoil the book if I let you know what happened, but the plot is written so convincingly that you feel as though it could have occurred. It isn’t much stranger than Gothic tales like The Seance or Her Fearful Symmetry.

I’m giving this book 5 stars, not because it is the best written book in the world (it isn’t), but because it is one of the most entertaining. The Prestige has become one of my top 20 books of all time. I’m sure you’ll soon be bored of me recommending it at every opportunity, so you might as well give in and get a copy now. :lol:   

I am really excited to learn that Christopher Priest has written a lot of books and a few of them look as though they could be just as good.

This interview with Christopher Priest has made them sound even more appealing!

Have you read anything written by Christopher Priest?


I also watched the DVD as part of C.B. James’ Read The Book, See the Movie Challenge

Prestige DVD

The Prestige DVD is also very good, but the story is much simpler. Many of the twists and turns had been edited out, meaning that the book was far better than the film.

I admit that the film confused me a lot at first, although this was probably because the actors looked nothing like the images of the characters I’d built up in my head (and I am notoriously bad at recognising faces!).

The plot was also a bit different, so it was satisfying to watch straight after reading the book. I was never quite sure which bits would stay true to the book and which would take a whole new direction.

It was interesting to see the magic tricks performed on stage, but I have to admit that they were a bit disappointing. The book had conjured up fantastic images of amazing tricks, but the footage revealed the cheesy old magic that I’ve seen many times before.

I’d also warn all bird lovers to take care when watching this film – I was a bit distressed to learn the truth behind some of the bird tricks.

I’d recommend the film, but the book is far better, so I encourage you to read that first.

Have you watched The Prestige?

Blogging Other

It’s Time for a Bloggiesta!!

This weekend Natasha from Maw Books is hosting another BLOGGIESTA!!!

The bloggiesta is a time when people come together to celebrate and improve their blogs. I love taking part as there is such a positive energy in the air.


If you have a blog then I highly recommend that you join in.

It is the perfect time to make big changes on your blog – so many people will be doing similar things and everyone helps each other, giving help and advice all the time. I was amazed at how many hints and tips I picked up during previous bloggiestas. 

For more information and to sign up head over to the Bloggiesta Starting Line

Follow events on Twitter @bloggiesta and #bloggiesta

I’m not going to be setting any specific goals, but I will be doing some tinkering behind the scenes. Hopefully I’ll have a few improvements to show for my efforts by Monday!!