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One move to America, one surprise pregnancy and a lot of fun later.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Creeper by Tania Carver

The Creeper (Marina Esposito, #2)


Suzanne Perry is having a vivid nightmare. Someone is in her bedroom, touching her, and she can t move a muscle. She wakes, relieved to put the nightmare behind her, but when she opens the curtains, she sees a polaroid stuck to the window. A photo of her, sleeping, taken during the night. And underneath, the words: I m watching over you.
Her nightmare isn't over. In fact, it s just beginning. Detective Inspector Phil Brennan of the Major Incident Squad has a killer to hunt. A killer who stalks young women, insinuates himself into their lives, and ultimately tortures and murders them in the most shocking way possible.
But the more Phil investigates, the more he delves into the twisted psychology of his quarry, Phil realizes that it isn't just a serial killer he s hunting but something or someone infinitely more calculating and horrific. And much closer to home than he realized . .

 Another book that has appeared on my bookshelves from an unknown location, although I suspect it was from my Mother in law as she is a fan of crime thrillers.

If you like Mark Billingham then you will like this because it is just so like his books or hate it because it is just too like his books!  The style of writing, plot layout, even the characters are almost identical to the Tom Thorne series by Mark Billingham.  I am not sure who wrote them first but it was quite unnerving how alike they are.

It was a good crime thriller story with the right amount of characters and the right amount of plot twists to keep you reading through quite smoothly.  Some plot twists were very obvious (but perhaps that is because I have read all of Billinghams books so knew what to expect!) and others were a bit of a surprise.  What let the story down were a couple of happenings that were just not believable.  I can't be more specific or it will be a major spoiler, but I could not believe that certain things would happen in any police force in the UK, no matter how inept you think they are at times.

This book was actually the 2nd in the Marina Esposito series and having not read the first book (I didn't know it was the 2nd until I updated my status on Goodreads) I wondered whether I would be able to follow the characters.  I could,  because they were simply not that complicated and Marina actually played a very minor role in this book.  If I had the first book I would have read it first and I may even try and get it and read it now, despite any criticisms in this review.

The story on it's own would get a 3 star rating from me but I have had to downgrade to 2 stars because of the large number of typos in the book.  So many, that I double checked whether I had a proof copy but, sadly, no.  There is no excuse, in my opinion, for any typos never mind this number.  The author needs to have a serious discussion with her editor, proof readers and whoever else it takes to resolve this.  Perhaps I am being picky as it did not change my enjoyment of the story but it is just something that really annoys me.

If you want a simple, British based crime thriller that reads very quickly then get this book.  It is not going to change your life but it will give you some enjoyment for a couple of days or lying on a beach.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Witches of Chiswick by Robert Rankin

The Witches of Chiswick

We have all been lied to—a great and sinister conspiracy exists to keep us from uncovering the truth about our past. Have you ever wondered how Victorians like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells dreamed up all that fantastic futuristic fiction? Did it ever occur to you that it might have been based upon fact? That War of The Worlds was a true account of real events? That Captain Nemo’s Nautilus even now lies rusting at the bottom of the North Sea? And what about the other stuff? Did you know, for instance, that Jack the Ripper was a terminator robot sent from the future? In this book, learn how a cabal of Victorian Witches from the Chiswick Townswomen’s Guild, working with advanced Babbage super computers, rewrote 19th-century history, and how a 21st-century boy called Billy Starling uncovered the truth about everything.


Well, what to say about this rather strange novel.  It has the most ludicrous, unbelievable and strange story of anything I have ever read but, bizarrely, it was a rather enjoyable and compelling read.  It should have been very hard to follow, what with everyone time travelling all over the place and meeting other versions of themselves from different futures and pasts but it actually flowed very well and even my simple mind managed to keep all the characters (and multiples thereof) in some 'semblence of order. 

One of my sayings is "that history is written by the victors" and this book, in some ways, adds fuel to my fire of conspiracy theories that do we really know the truth from history or just one persons account of it! 

The jokes peppered throughout this book were groaningly corny at all times but did make me chuckle out loud on several occasions.  The author managed to fit a lot of literary quotes, historical events, historical characters and the corny jokes quite well into the story.  Not a book for everyone but I am finding it difficult to suggest who would like it or not.  One to read if you already have it but I wouldn't suggest that you rush out to acquire it especially.  A good book to read between heavier tomes if you want something that gives you some thought but is very tongue in cheek.

I was hooked in trying to see where it ended as there were so many loose ends to tie up and I was keen to see how the author handled it.  I was slightly disappointed in the ending but it seems, by his own words, that the author may be writing more books linking on from this story and I suppose they will tie up the loose ends.  This left me rather frustrated and I really was not wanting to read another story like this one in the near future but feel I should seek it out now to finish the story - clever marketing ploy!!!

Anyway, 3 out of 5, although nearly a 4.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

Moloka'i

Set in Hawai'i more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place---and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.

Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka'i. Here her life is supposed to end---but instead she discovers it is only just beginning


I must admit that I picked up this book to read for my book group with a very negative attitude.  The story just sounded much too much like The Island by Victoria Hislop - the tale of an island leper colony - sound familiar!  So it was a pleasant surprise when I found that I was enjoying it after just a few chapters.

I thought the author writes very well and flows rather smoothly when linking together a large number of facts and events.  He describes the settings beautifully and made me feel like I had actually visited Hawai'i (and I certainly want to even more now).  The characters were well developed and all added something to the story (except one mentioned below).  I really felt like I was experiencing what the main character was going through despite it being so far from my own personal life that it should be unbelievable.   While I really had sympathy for Rachel, the main character, I felt that she was very strong and would somehow overcome everything.

A bit of a spoiler here but not too much - I was dreading the chance of a happy ending where she was cured and lived happily ever after and was glad when it didn't work out quite like that although, even I, who normally hate a happy ending and love it when everyone dies in terrible pain, was routing for Rachel to get some good luck in her life for a change.  So much happened to this poor lady that, when she got on a ship to go on a journey, I was half expecting it to be called The Titanic!   I felt the author got the ending right and gave me what I wanted without being too sickly sweet.

So why the four stars instead of five?!

The book was just a bit overwritten.  It was too long and felt like the author had done so much research and gathered so many facts about that place and time, that he felt that he had to include every single last one of them into the story.  He could quite easily have cut upwards of 100 pages without losing the feel and flow of the story - in fact the story would have flowed even better had it been "edited" down somewhat.  

Another annoyance, for me, was the character of Leilani.  Now I won't put a spoiler about this character but I felt that it was squeezed in to get across one possible side effect of Leprosy which really was not needed for the enjoyment of the book.  I also felt that the character was put in for sensational effect (and you will know why once you read the book), which did not really work for me.

A new author to me and one I will look out for in the future.

Worth a read, especially if you like descriptive, historical books.

H Xx

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Camping up a storm

Ok I am beginning to get a major complex when it comes to us going away on holiday.  Let's just say I am not going anywhere for a very long time!

So we organised a lovely camping trip in the state park in Assateague Island.  Look back to my blog from July 2010 and we went to the National park on Assateague Island just before we had Hannah.  Lovely campsites right on the beach and the state park had more facilities like a toilet/shower block.

After more than 10 years of camping around Scotland with our little 2 man Vango Storm tent we knew that we needed a larger family tent.  As the weather here does not have the same unpredictability that we have in Scotland we thought that a "fair" weather family tent would suffice.  So we found a two room reasonable size pop up tent from Coleman
Coleman Instant 14- by 10- Foot 8- Person Two Room Tenthttp://www.amazon.com/Coleman-Instant-Foot-Person-Room/dp/B003QUT9OE/ref=cm_cr-mr-title

We knew it was a fair weather tent but it had everything else that we wanted for our trip. particularly the two separate rooms as Hannah just sleeps a lot better when we are not in her room disturbing her!

So a lovely Friday came and myself, Hannah and Vicki set off on the road to set up camp and start our trip.  The drive across the Bay bridge was lovely and with a stop for lunch at Harris Crab House it was a pleasant journey.  We knew that there was a bad weather warning for later in the day so we wanted to get there and get set up before the rain started.  How bad could the weather get anyway!!!  So we got all set up with our old Vango tent for Vicki and  the new pop up tent for us - and it did pop up and was very easy to do on my own.  All set up we drove over to Ocean City for an ice cream and a walk along the boardwalk.  Again look at my previous blogs and you will know that Ocean city is like the trailer trash version of Blackpool (for those in the UK) but very entertaining for people watching.  Suddenly the wind got up and we decided to head back to camp only to find that I had lost the carpark ticket.  Now we had been there less than an hour which would have cost a couple of bucks but a lost ticket could cost nearer $60.  Great start to our weekend but luckily, we encountered a nice man on the booth and he only charged us $5 after we plead our case to him.

We arrived back to the campsite and shortly after Jarlath arrived after driving in later straight from work.

Then the rain started before we could arrange dinner.  How bad could it get, I ask again! So we took shelter in the tent and managed to get Hannah to eat some dinner (albeit mainly nibbles rather than anything substantial), drink her bottle of milk and go to sleep.  So there we were, the three of us sitting in the tent having a drink and waiting for the rain to stop.

Then the wind got up.  So to cut a long story short we were pretty much stuck in the tent all night.   With a tornado warning in effect around us.  The rain was pelting down and the wind was lashing at the tent.  For a fair weather tent it did a pretty good job of trying to hold up as it was about 6 hours of torrential rain before it gave in and started to leak.  So what to do, well we decided to ignore it and go to bed.  Vicki went off to her storm proof tent (now nicknamed Noahs Ark as it was the only one on the whole campsite that stayed firm and dry) and Jarlath and I settled down for the night - or so we thought.

At this point I must make a comment about the power of the mind (helped along by several glasses of wine I am sure).  I decided that I was going to ignore the weather and try and get some sleep.  It was only several hours later that I woke up with Jarlath lifting the tent off me as it had collapsed in my corner.  I even managed to consciously ignore the fact that I was lying in a puddle of water soaked to the skin through my sleeping bag.  I managed to ignore the fact that Jarlath was up with Hannah for a couple of hours as the storm had woken her up.  I didn't quite manage to ignore Jarlath storming in and out the tent in his soaked through boxer shorts as he tried to redo the guys lines.  The funny thing was  (and lucky) that Hannah's side of the tent was completely in tact without any leaks, it was only my side that collapsed.   I remember thinking that if I switch my mind off it will all be ok in the morning rather than be miserable at the time!  It kinda worked.

So morning came with a rather grumpy Jarlath - his first words were I am going home - and a rather sodden tent.  We emerged to a campground that was practically devastated.  Various people had abandoned during the night to go to hotels and lots of tents were completely flooded and in various stages of collapse.  So I guess we fared not to bad.

We went on to have a lovely Saturday on the beach and campfire on Saturday night followed by an uneventful drive home on Sunday.

We were on Loop D site 21
 http://www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/images/assateague_camp_map.jpg


Some photos:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.4137323993133.175216.1284607751&type=1

I lied when I said never again as we are going camping again in a couple of weeks with my friend Alla and her family.  Someone better tell her what she is getting herself into going away with the Keatings!

Keep smiling.  Xx

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

 The Reluctant Fundamentalist




 At a cafĂ© table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful meeting . . .

Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by the elite "valuation" firm of Underwood Samson. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his infatuation with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore.

But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his budding relationship with Erica eclipsed by the reawakened ghosts of her past. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love
.





What a clever and powerful book.

Beautifully written in First Person Narrative by only one character throughout the book. In my opinion, it would not have been quite such a powerful book written any other way.

The voice of Changez seemed very real and showed his Pakistani/English accent very well.

I am not normally a fan of books that leave the ending open to your own interpretation but this is the one exception. I would have been disappointed if the ending had been more resolved. The book group discussion of the ending showed me even more how clever the writer is as each person in the group had a slightly different view of how the story went.

Despite being a short book, by using certain widely held stereotypes, the author managed to make the characters very easy to visualise and even to understand (whether you agree with them or not you can understand where they are coming from on both sides of the story). It certainly gave me some food for thought and some understanding of the world situation at that time.

Read it for the second time for Book Group and it just gets better as I notice even more detail that I did not pick up on during my first read many years ago.

Definitely one that has made my "everyone should read this book" list.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs



.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine #1) 

A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A unique book.  I thought it was beautifully written and the story flowed very well.  It stretched the realms of reality without being too far fetched.  Everything "Peculiar" in it felt like it could actually be true in this world.  Ok some of it had been done before but what made the book unique were the photographs.  

At first I thought they were photographs that had been created for the book as they fitted in so well with the story.  Then, at the end, the author explained that they were actually real old photos.  This just blew my mind away as it made the book so very clever as the story and photos were so perfectly aligned.  


I would love to know if he had written the story and then hunted for the photos to go along with it or if he already had the photos and changed the story to make use of certain images! 



Even after finishing the book I sat for a while looking back at the photos and just appreciating the art of this book.  Knowing the photos were posed by real people made me wonder what on earth they were doing posing in such strange sets, costumes and poses.  It would be interesting if anyone knew of the real people in the photos - grandmothers etc - and what the real story behind them was.

A book I would recommend to anyone who likes a good story but also appreciates something a bit different in their reading.