Sunday, May 29, 2011


Pages: 48
Date: 29/05/2011
Grade: 4
Details: Graphic retelling of the story.
            Illustrated by: Penko Gelev
            Retold by: Sophie Furse

What can I possibly say about Moby Dick that hasn't been said before? Especially since I didn't read the full novel but only a graphic retelling of the tale.
A while ago I was send "The Passages of Herman Melville" by Jay Parini for review purposes, and it seemed like a good idea to have some idea about Melville's most famous book beyond that it is a story about a whale, before I start reading The Passages.
And so I found myself reading this story about obsession, madness and whaling. And, it is a fascinating story. One I think I should read the full and original version of before I actually try to say anything sensible about it.
For now I will limit myself to saying that this was an entertaining way of getting acquainted with the story of Moby Dick, Captain Ahab and Ismael. Which is exactly what I set out to do.


Pages: 394
Date: 29/05/2011
Grade: 4.5
Details: Book Club read

My second book by Bill Bryson this month. I read them because my book club will be discussing various titles by Bryson this Tuesday and I thought it would be nice if I had read more than one of them since I'll be leading the discussion. But I have to say it was no hardship reading these two books.
Bill Bryson has an original and funny way of looking at his surroundings and the people in it. A quality that is more apparent in this book then it was in "A Walk in the Woods". It is also clear that Bryson has a weak spot for Australia. His love for this country/continent that we in the rest of the world know so very little about jumps of the pages, although that love doesn't stop him from putting his finger on any Australian quirks and short-comings.
I never quite realised and had never really given any thought to how much of Australia is more or less empty and inhospitable. It is amazing to think that there are huge sections of the country that have never been properly researched and that it is very likely that Australia contains huge amounts of life-forms and minerals that we just don't know anything about yet.
I'm not quite sure what else to say about this book except to recommend it to anyone who has even a remote interest in Australia, its history and people. Bill Bryson has a way of describing what- and who-ever he encounters in a way that is both funny and thought-provoking, opening the readers eyes to things they had probably never thought about before. It is a revelation to see how much you can learn while having tremendous fun and quite a few laugh out loud moments.
I wouldn't be at all surprised if I read another Bryson book in the not too distant future.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Pages: 275
Date: 25/05/2011
Grade: 4
Details: an Daniel McEvoy story

  This was my first book by Eoin Colfer. My daughter has read and loved all the Artemis Fowl books though, I've met the author at a book signing and liked him and his sense of humour and I am a fan of the crime genre, so this book seemed a save bet. And I wasn't wrong.
This is a action packed book, but not to be taken too seriously with a story that has so much happening in it that I'm not quite sure how to summarize it.
Daniel McEvoy is an ex Irish army sergeant working as a doorman in a low-grade New Jersey casino. His biggest worry is growing bold and he has recently had a hair transplant in the firm believe that all will be fine in his life if only he can get a full head of hair. During the week or so in which this story takes place, his hair will be the least of his worries, although it's never far from his thoughts.
It all starts when his friend and doctor Zeb Kronski disappears and McEvoy ends up killing a known gangster in the man's waiting room. From there things go downhill when a waitress in the casino where he works gets herself killed and McEvoy finds himself being framed for the murder. Soon McEvoy finds himself trying to clear his name for that murder, and trying to find Kronski, with a cop-killing cop as his only ally and gangsters desperate to kill him. And while you might think that this would be enough to bring any man down, it turns out that his army training hasn't been wasted on McEvoy and that the Irish gift-of-the-gab can come in handy in New Jersey.
There is quite a bit of violence in this story which should have made it very dark, but Colfer throws in enough light relief to make this a fun read. Yes there are deaths and blood and fights but there is also the voice of Zeb Kronski talking in McEvoy's head, the obsession with hair loss and a mad neighbour to keep the reader entertained. And McEvoy is a hard man with a heart of gold, who can't help wanting to do the right thing even if it is against his better judgment, which makes him an easy character to like. Think of this book as Jack Reacher meets Stephanie Plum and you won't be far off.
I wonder if this is a stand-alone title or the first book in a series. If it is a series I think Mr. Colfer will need to be careful and not allow the stories to turn into a farce. However, if he manages to keep on getting the balance between violence and humour right, I'd love to read more books staring Daniel McEvoy.


Pages: 350
Date: 24/05/2011
Grade: 4-
Details: Book Club read

In the past I have listened to one or two Bill Bryson books on audio, and I really enjoyed them. I do most of my listening in the car, and it must have been strange for people in oncoming cars to see this woman driving along on her own, laughing out loud.
This time I went for the paper version of one of his books, and once again Bryson had my smiling and laughing at different times during the story.
In this book Bryson tells about the time he decided to take one summer to walk the Appalachian Trail with a friend he had not seen in years.
The Appalachian Trail runs through 14 states on the east coast of the USA and is over 2100 miles long. For most of this distance the trail is uncultivated wilderness, with all the dangers that implies.
To say that Bryson and his friend, Stephen Katz, were ill prepared for the ordeal that lay ahead of them in an understatement. A fact that makes it all the more remarkable they made it as far as they did without either of them getting seriously injured or worse.
Overall I enjoyed this book. Bill Bryson is very good at humorous writing and gives great descriptions of people and their quirks. It has to be said though that at times his comments border on being cruel to the person in question.
I mostly liked the descriptions of the trail, it's environment and history although there were times where it went on too long for my liking and I found myself wishing Bryson would get back to the hiking already.
I'm glad I didn't let those moments of impatience put me off finishing the book though, since the last part of the book was by far the best for me. In the last 43 pages the reader will find most of the action, and those were also the pages were I found myself laughing and smiling the most.
The overall verdict on this book for me is therefore that this was an enjoyable read that could possibly have been a bit shorter. I enjoyed it enough though to want to try and squeeze in another book by Bryson before the book club meeting 6 days from today.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Pages: 344
Date: 22/05/2011
Grade: 4+

Copy received from and reviewed for Bookhugger and its Realreaders programme.

"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."

So starts Jaffy Brown's story. Born into poverty to a single mother in the 19th century he can't help himself when, aged eight, he sees a tiger lose in the street. He feels compelled to go to the tiger and stroke it, only to find himself in the tiger's mouth. It's an encounter he miraculously survives, and one that lands him a job in the Menagerie of the tiger's temporary owner, Mr. Jamrach.
Here he meets and befriends Tim Linver and falls in love with Tim's twin sister Ishbel.
Some years later a client of Mr. Jamrach wants to own a fabled but never seen or captured dragon, and Jaffy and Tim join a crew on a whaling boat part of a quest to bring home one such creature.
The journey before the dragon is captured goes well; the whaling is succesful, a lot of the world is seen and friendships are made. The post dragon return journey is one long nightmare though, reaching its climax when the ship sinks and the crew finds themselves in two live boats in the middle of the ocean with little food and water. From then on survival is the only concern of those remaining, leading to dreadful choices and a lifetime of nightmares for those who might be "lucky" enough to survive.

"One way or another I suppose you could say that voyage was the making of me. I'd have been a yardboy. Is that what it was all for? To make of me the man I am now? Is God mad? Is that it? Stuck between a mad God and merciless nature? What a game."

This is a fascinating yet horrific story. The book is very well written, and Jaffy is a well rounded, likeable yet entirely human main character. However, there were times, after the ship had sunk in the story, when I had to put the book down and walk away from it for a little while because the story got to gruesome for me. I did find myself having to return to the book though, to see how the story would end. To find out if anything positive could ever come out of all the horror the characters were put through.
It says a lot about the qualitity of the writing that I managed to finish this book. In the hands of a lesser author, the more horrific parts of the story would have lead to me putting the book aside without finishing it. As it is, I'm glad I did finish the story. Yes, it is gruesome in parts, but ultimately it is a story of humanity and what it takes for us to let go of some of our humanity, and the price we pay for that afterwards.

The fact that the story is based on a true event, the sinking of the whaleship Essex only makes this book more fascinating. I'm glad I didn't know about the background of the story until I finished reading the book though. If I had read the acknowledgments first, as I sometimes do, I might not have read the book at all.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Pages: 404
Date: 20/05/2011
Grade: 4.5

Dr. Sam Gaddis is an academic, specialising in Russia. He lectures at a London College and writes unpopular books. He is also facing some grave financial demands he can’t meet. What he needs is an idea for a book that will be a bestseller, a proposal for which he will get a huge advance.
When a friend comes to him with an idea for a book which will unveil a well kept and still very potent cold war secret, it seems like the answer to his prayers. When his friend suddenly and unexpectedly dies, it is put down to her bad habits and Gaddis decides to go on with the research on his own. It is only when someone else connected to the story also dies that he becomes suspicious.
But, by then he is in too far, and still needs the money desperately.
He appears to be on the tail of an unknown sixth member of the infamous Cambridge spy ring. A man whose identity and existence has been kept secret his whole life, a man whose existence various people want to keep secret indefinitely.
Gaddis is determined to get to the bottom of this sixth man, but soon finds others who are or have been involved with this mystery dying around him and that he can't be sure who can and who can’t be trusted. It seems to be only a matter of time before he too will be hunted down and killed, but by the time Gaddis comes to that realization he already knows so much that stopping his search would probably not save his life.

It has been a while since I last read a spy story and I had forgotten how much I enjoy the genre. And this was a good one. It reminded me of the John Le Carre “Smiley” novels.
In this story the reader knows more than the main character, and is lured into thinking that they know exactly what is going on and why, only to find out that secrets are being kept from them as well, leaving room for several revelations in the last few pages of the book.
The only reason this book didn’t get a grade 5 from me is because I found Sam Gaddis exasperating at times and thought the story depended a bit too much on luck on his part. Other than that the book, the idea behind the story and the way in which it was executed fascinated me.


Pages: 384
Date: 16/05/2011
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 12 Alexandra Cooper

Alexandra Cooper and NYPD cop Mike Chapman are amongst the first officials on the scene when the body of a young woman is discovered on the steps of a Baptist church. The body is naked, burnt and headless.
Their investigation has only started when a second body is discovered. Again it is a young woman, but this time her throat was slashed and her tongue cut out, and the church is a Catholic one.
When a link is made between the two women, it becomes clear that they are more than likely dealing with a religious fanatic determined to punish and silence those who threaten his faith. It takes a while longer though to figure out who the fanatic is. And by the time they do, another young woman is in danger and Mike and Alexandra have to put their own lives on the line in an attempt to save her life.
As always this was a well plotted and equally well written mystery. The story was also filled with lots of interesting historical facts about New York, and this time, its religious institutions. I admire and like the way in which Fairstein manages to introduce those facts into the story, without losing the pace of the thriller. It could so easily be the case that the factual information gets in the way of the story itself. I’ve seen that happen in enough books, and it always interferes with my reading enjoyment. Fairstein though manages to avoid that trap and keeps the story going while informing her reader.
For me, this series can’t go on for long enough.


Pages: 336
Date: 14/05/2011
Grade: 5

This book reminds of a quilt. A quilt is made up of several patches which each individually are lovingly made and beautiful in and off themselves. Put together though they create a much bigger and more intricate picture.
The same is the case with this book.
The chapters in this book each provide a snapshot, a moment in time as narrated by a different person each time. As a whole though the book gives the story of Benny Salazar, an aging music mogul and Sasha, his young PA.
The chapters provide insights into episodes in their lives, loves, loses and careers spanning from the 1970’s to the near future (202?) as told by themselves and by people who were involved with their lives at the time in question.
Since the chapters are not arranged in chronological order and it is not always immediately clear how the person narrating a chapter is linked to either Benny or Sasha, the reader is at times second guessing the author and kept on her toes.
The characters in this book are varied, from all walks of life and placed in a variety of settings while the book deals with a host of emotions and personal circumstances. From success to failure, from happiness to despair and from troubled to serene, Benny, Sasha and those who touch on their lives are spared none of the events and feelings that will occur in a lifetime.
This was a fascinating book. It could easily have turned into a concept novel, with the set-up of the story, including the chapter printed as a PowerPoint presentation, coming at the cost of the actual story. The fact that the story didn’t suffer at all, but was more than filled out enough to cope with the way in which the novel is constructed shows how talented an author Egan is.
This week I read an interview with Jennifer Egan on Shelf Awareness and I would like the share what she said about the PowerPoint chapter here:

“ Once I finally had the hang of it, I finally understand why I had wanted to work in PowerPoint so much – it is a short of microcosm of the way Good Squad works, which is these vivid moments with big gaps in between, each one different from all the others. The book is so much about pauses, and somehow writing this chapter let me figure out those pauses.”


“If it were written as conventional fiction it would be the schmaltziest bore anyone has ever looked at. It only works because of the cold container. So it ends up being this very emotionally honest chapter, but structurally, it feels like the heart of the book to me, and I think the book almost didn’t have a heart.”

This was a fascinating and completely original book and story and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a new and surprising reading experience.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


Pages: 303
Date: 12/05/2011
Grade: 4.5
Details: no.1 Ruth Galloway

Ruth Galloway is an archaeologist living in a remote, wild place called Saltmarsh where she's perfectly happy with just the company of her two cats.
Her peace and quiet is disturbed when she's asked by DCI Harry Nelson to investigate bones which have been found on the marsh. The bones turn out to belong to a child, but much to Nelson's disappointment they are also hundreds of years old. Nelson had hoped the bones would belong to a girl who disappeared 10 years ago, a case he never managed to close and which is still haunting him.
Ruth gets involved in the case of the missing girl and when another young girl disappears, a new urgency is added to the investigations.
10 years ago, at the time of the first disappearance, Ruth had been involved in an archaeological dig on the Marsh and as others who were there at the time come back for a follow up dig, Ruth has to reassess not only her memories of the past but also her feelings towards and her trust in the people she considered her friends. Because as the case develops, Ruth finds herself threatened and in danger. But by and from whom exactly?
I always seem to enjoy archaeological mysteries and am delighted to have found another series. Ruth is a good main character since she's so recognizably human. She's overweight and filled with doubts, but knows or thinks she knows where she stands in life. She is no hero and she doesn't do stupid things a real person would never even think about, which makes the story realistic and all the more scary.
The same is true for the other characters in the story. None of them are just good or bad. All of them are recognizable though with strong points and weaknesses, people you might know.
The setting of Saltmarsh with its treacherous tides and all the dangers they bring with them add a dark touch to the story which increases the tension for the reader and kept me turning the pages.
I'm glad I've already got the next two books in the series here waiting for my attention. It won't be long before I pick up the next one.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Pages: 374
Date: 06/05/2011
Grade: 4

If I'm honest, I wasn't entirely sure whether I was going to like this book very much when I bought it. The blurb on the cover sounded interesting, but deep inside I was afraid I would find myself reading a all to predictable girl meets boy, girl looses boy, girl finds boy after all sort of story. Thankfully, this book turned out to be anything but predictable.
Yes, at the start of the story, Andie is in Las Vegas where she meets and bonds with Leon during a long evening and night only to be separated from him during a fire drill in the hotel. The girl has indeed lost her boy, and despite a frantic search and a few desperate publicity stunts, Andie fails to find Leon before she has to fly back to Dublin.
Back at her job, journalist Andie writes columns about meeting Leon, and her search for him and soon her stories capture the public's imagination. A broadcasting company takes up her story and sends her back to Vegas with a camera man to continue her search for the elusive Leon. When her story is also picked up in America, Andie finds herself with a ruthless publicist stearing her in all sorts of unlikely directions in the search for the man of her dreams. A search that will have consequences that Andie couldn't have predicted or anticipated in a million years.

This is one action packed book. There is never a lull in the story. This is also a funny book with lots of laugh out loud moments as well as a sad and at times deep book. In fact, I don't think there is a human emotion that isn't covered in this book. And while that is definitely one of the strengths of this book, it was at times also a bit too much for me. I think I could have done with one or two moments to come up for breath and reflextion. At times the shifts between fun and serious were a little bit to abrupt for me.
Having said that, as first books go, this was a good read which I enjoyed very much. I had a huge smile on my face when I read the last words on the last page, and that is a very good way to finish reading a book. I will be keeping an eye on Shirley Benton in the future. I've got a feeling things can only get better, if this story is anything to go by.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Pages: 421
Date: 06/05/2011
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 4 Mickey Haller

Years ago I studied law. After the first year though I had to admit that I could never be a defense lawyer, prosecutor or judge, and switched to International law.
The way I saw and see it everybody is entitled to a defence when accused of a crime, but I wouldn't be able to defend someone unless I was sure they were innocent. That is and was true regarding the prosecution too. Of course people who have committed crimes should be prosecuted, but I can't accuse anybody unless I'm completely sure of guilt. And when can anybody ever be that sure. As for judging people, that feels too much like playing God for my liking. No, practising law wasn't and isn't for me, and the story in The Fifth Witness re-enforced all those sentiments for me.
Mickey Haller has had to make a few changes. With the economic recession in full swing, even criminals have had to cut back on the use of defense lawyers. The same recession has provided him with an opportunity though. Mickey now spends most of his time helping people hang on to their houses. With foreclosures hitting record levels, and not always being carried out in the most ethical or even legal manner, he's kept busy.
However, when one of his foreclosure clients, Lisa Trammel, is accused of having murdered the banker in charge of her foreclosure, Mickey's two careers collide and he finds himself back on familiar ground.
This will turn out to be a pivotal case for Mickey though, during which he will find himself questioning his long-held believes with regard to guilt and innocence. By the time the case is over Mickey will be ready for a major change in his life.
As always this was a very well plotted and intriguing story. The whole recession and repossession storyline makes the story feel very current and cut close to the bone. There are enough red herrings to keep both Mickey and the reader guessing. And although the ending as such didn't come as a huge surprise to me, the way in which it was revealed was nothing short of genius. 

I still prefer the Harry Bosch stories over this series, but it's good to know that Connelly always delivers a good story, no matter who the main character is.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Pages: 489
Date: 02/05/2011
Grade: 4
Details: no. 1 The Fallen Kings Cycle

 Copy received from and reviewed for Bookgeeks.

The Winter Kingdoms are a troubled place. A plague and famine scourge the lands, old problems and rivalries are either still around or resurfacing and an invasion is threatening from across the Northern Sea.
Several people in different parts of the kingdoms can feel the danger and are trying to investigate what exactly they are up against, and what they discover is deeply disturbing. Not only does the invasion appear to be headed by a traitor as well as a dark spirit mage wielding blood magic, forces are also trying to bring forth the Dread and the dark force they hold, deep underneath the earth.
The Dread are a force to be reckoned with, and also an unpredictable factor. The Dread are allied to no one but might choose to join either the invaders or those defending the Winter Kingdoms. As the Sworn, a tribe dedicated to keeping the Dread confined in their borrows, knows it might be best for all if the Dread would stay out of the conflict all together.
This is a fantasy novel and as such there are a lot of characters to get acquainted with, a lot of friendships, feuds and enemies to keep separate and all sorts of creatures and powers not known in real life. We find magic, ghosts, vampires (called vayash moru) and werewolves (vyrkin) in these pages.
It has been years since I last read a fantasy novel, and I wasn't sure how much I would end up enjoying this book. But I was pleasantly surprised.
I found myself caught up in the story and the characters almost from the first page and kept on turning the pages until I had read the last word. And although the next book in this series won't be published until next year, I think I will probably read it when it comes out. I find myself liking the characters and wanting to know who their story will unfold.
I would give one (small) warning to those deciding to read this book. Although this title is the first in a new series, it does follow on from an earlier series of four books, The Chronicles of the Necromancer. The author herself says that this book was written in such a way that it could be read, without problems, by those who had not read the previous series. And that is true. However, I do think that I might have gotten even more out of this book if I had been familiar with the back-story.
As it is, I had a very enjoyable time reading The Sworn and am grateful for the opportunity to re-acquaint myself with the fantasy genre