Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Book Review: Tears of Min Brock by J.E Lowder

As I've gradually been opening my eyes to the fantasy genre this book looked like it wouldn't be too far from my comfort zone and well worth a look. This book is the first in the War of Whispers series.

Tears of Min BrockThe description online is probably a far better precis than I could write  - " When Elabea, a girl of fourteen summers, hears a whisper calling her name, she asks, “Is this proof that the land of Claire wasn’t destroyed in the Dark War?” But her question ignites fear in her village. “The Oracles of the Cauldron forbid you to speak…the name! Death will come! We will be cursed!” Furthermore, when her best friend, Galadin, rallies beside her, the villagers divulge a dark secret: their fathers were the only survivors of the massacre at Min Brock. Forged as outcasts of their own homes and village, they fear the worst when the Cauldron sends warriors to destroy them. Desperate, they flee to Claire where Elabea is promised to become an all-powerful storyteller and Galadin a great warrior. But does Claire exist? And if it does, will it be an ally or a greater foe? Battling whispers, warriors and mysterious creatures, Elabea and Galadin must also contend with the darker questions about their fathers’ past and the… Tears of Min Brock."

The two young main protagonists have a touching relationship that develops gradually as they journey to Claire. The childhood friends are bound by common experiences, not least watching their fathers battle their demons, but become closer when driven away from all they know. I found them both likeable, and particularly enjoyed Galadin's awakening. There are various sub-plots, including their fathers' efforts to raise an army and a storyteller who is keen to keep his identity under wraps. However I had no problem in keeping the threads clear in my mind, as moving between them was well signposted.

This book has an epic feel, and it full of new lands, races and creatures. The history of the piece is clearly important and enough is revealed to support the developing plot, although I'm sure there are more revelation for future books. While I wouldn't go as far as to make a direct comparison with the Lord of the Rings it has that sort of feel about it. At times I found the volume of new places and characters a little overwhelming, and at others would have liked more description of characters like Elabea's rusk (a creature helping the pair through the trials they face) as I felt unable to visualise them properly. This would be my main critcism.

I've read a few books this year that form part of a series where I have been frustrated by the ending. However this book ends with a massive revelation that is both an end and a beginning. As such I was satisfied yet enticed by the prospect of the next book. I'd also like to continue reading the series to find out how the paths of various characters cross and whether good or evil will triumph (and indeed whether good really is good)

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

Book Review: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is one of those books I feel like I ought to have read by now. I haven't seen the film either. So when I saw it as a Quick Pick at the library (my final book for the Borrowed Book Challenge) the familiar title jumped out at me.

Stevens is a butler who has devoted himself to a life in service, following in the footsteps of his father. He seeks to be an example of a great butler and his view of the world is so narrow he appears to have missed what to the reader is obvious. He undertakes a trip partly to resolve a staff shortage (by luring the former housekeeper back.) During the trip he not only shares the present but also recounts tales of his service over the years. 
The Remains of the Day

This is told in the first person, and I particularly enjoyed it here as I began to read between the lines. I found myself reading between the lines and much of the story lies in what goes unsaid. You have to wonder exactly how far awry the  butler is in his assessment of Miss Kenton the housekeeper and his Lordship. Along with the minutiae of domestic life is historical detail, and I found the passing information on the tensions within Europe in the interwar period interesting as it's one I haven't read much about previously. There is some humour to be found along in the tale that balances with a feeling of sadness at missed opportunities.

I really enjoyed this modern classic, it is beautifully understated, and I have no doubt I'll look up more works by the author in future.

Format: Paperback, borrowed from the the library
My Rating: 4*

Friday, 23 December 2011

Review of the week (or rather fortnight)

So here we are, Christmas Eve Eve, and I think apart from a couple more presents to wrap we're ready for the big event. Turkey is bought, as are the sprouts (yeuck), plans are afoot for the Family Crib service at the Parish church followed by the pub tomorrow, and come Sunday it'll be time to watch the kids' eyes light up. The slight fly in the ointment is that my Grandad is in hospital and unlikely to be home for Christmas as he needs an op. He should be fine once it's done though, so we'll make a happy day of it. I hope everyone else is looking forward to a lovely Christmas. 

I was so busy last Friday (office Christmas do) that I didn't manage my review of the week so today I've got two weeks worth! Since my last Friday recap I have read and reviewed:

Red Right Return by John H. Cunningham
While I'm Still Myself by Jeremy Mark Lane
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Creepers by Bryan Dunn, and
The Animals of Grandfather Mountain by L.L Mitchell

Another library visit today saw me pick up Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. It's one of those books I feel like I am missing out on, so that will be my 12th book towards the Borrowed Book Challenge (13th if you count the novella I had too) completing that challenge.

Happily Monkey loves visiting the library and she has 4 new books to make us read over and over. I'm beginning to think I should start a children's book blog!

I will take this opportunity to say Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays if you prefer) and a very Happy, healthy, peaceful 2012 to everyone.

Book Review: The Animals of Grandfather Mountain: An Animal Caretaker's Tales by L.L Mitchell

This is a short, non-fiction book written by a former keeper about the various characters and goings on at Grandfather Mountain. The animals include deers, bears, otters and eagles, each of whom have their own personalities.
This is a book that will particularly appeal to animal lovers and younger readers.  I'm a wildlife fan and found myself learning some new things reading this book. I particularly loved the descriptions of the otters playing in the snow. The individual stories are quite brief which makes it easy to pick up and put down, and there are some photos to illustrate. Most of the pictures have transferred quite well to the kindle, although it would be lovely to see them in colour too. The behind the scenes peek at the work of the staff caring for the animals was fun to behold, and I'm kind of envious of the jobs they have (at times)

Cover for 'The Animals of Grandfather Mountain: An Animal Caretaker's Tales'I found the description of the animal cast and how they came to be at Grandfather Mountain and got their names interesting, but as someone who had never heard of the place before would have liked more of an explanation about Grandfather Mountain somewhere in the Foreword or Preface. Being slightly picky I thought that it would have been preferable to put the information about the staff at the end as I was starting to get impatient to get to the actual stories.

I found this a quick, enjoyable read that made me smile. If you like this sort of thing it's a bargain at 99c/86p.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 3*

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Book Review: Creepers by Bryan Dunn

The short but sweet product description and its reviews made this book stand out to me, so on my TBR pile it went. The description goes a bit like this -

Creepers"A zany group of characters struggle to save their home after a genetically altered creeper vine invades a small desert town.

Doc Fletcher, an eccentric biologist in the remote Mojave Desert, has finally created the ultimate drought-tolerant plant: a genetically engineered creeper vine. It's destined to change the world, but not according to Doc's plans. Instead, this vine has a mind of its own. Mayhem ensues as the residents of Furnace Valley (pop. 16), along with campers at the nearby hot springs, run for their lives - led by wannabe date rancher Sam Rainsford and the nerdy yet gorgeous botanist Laura Beecham, who has come to the desert for a reunion with the father she has never known..."

This book was a quick read that reeled me in quickly and kept me reading. It started with an introduction to the main characters, including Doc who thinks he can make inhospitable parts of the world fertile and prevent soil erosion, and Sam who has moved to Furnace Valley to try and forget a family tragedy. Sam is a dreamer but also capable (fortunately for the rest of the town's inhabitants) It's also lucky for Furnace Valley that Doc's botanist daughter chose the right time to visit, helping them understand the monster water seeking creature that begins to take over and claim lives. I ploughed on looking to find out if, or how, the gang would defeat it.

While I was reading this I kept thinking of the Kevin Bacon film Tremors. If you've seen that movie this book is in the same vein. I don't read a lot of sci-fi but this is a type I like. It doesn't take itself too seriously and while it got me thinking a bit about man messing with nature it was a fun read that moved at a pace that meant I couldn't stop to contemplate for too long.

There's not much I can say that's negative. I thought it was well-formatted and don't remember spotting any typos. It was a little predictable but that's almost to be expected with this sort of story, so not much of an issue. I found it a really enjoyable read.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My rating: 4*

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Book Review: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Having not read any classics, or modern classics, for a while when I noticed this book on the shelf at the library I decided to take a look. I vaguely remember seeing part of the film once and though controversial I thought it might be interesting. Boy was I wrong!
This book was first published in the 1950s and is set in the 30s and 40s and tackles a subject that is still pretty taboo. Humbert Humbert is a paedophile, who lusts after what he terms "nymphets" When he finds himself unexpectedly staying with a widow he is delighted to discover her 12 year old daughter is just his type. This is putting it fairly bluntly, whereas Nabokov - or rather Humbert as the narrator - likes to dance around the subject matter using all manner of pretty language to try and make his proclivity appear acceptable. Over time he grooms Dolores, or Lolita as he calls her, and when an accident leaves her an orphan he sees the opportunity to spend the rest of his life with the love of his life. 

Lolita is something of a spoilt child, and I quite liked some of her lines but I also pitied her, especially later in the book. It's a shame the vast majority of the book is all about Humbert.

The quotes on the cover included "wildly funny" and "laugh aloud black humour" Now I'm not a delicate flower and the subject matter didn't automatically put my back up but I certainly didn't find much humour in it. While there is a little  comedy in the way Humbert sees and portrays himself the only line that actually made me laugh was " ...since I had disregarded all laws of humanity, I might as well disregard the rules of traffic." Some of the prose is beautiful but largely Humbert is overblown and frankly I wish I had read this on my kindle, to make looking up the obscure language he adopted easier. My schoolgirl French was up to some of the smatterings of French that he throws in, but mostly it left me lost. In fact a lot of the book is made up of insinuations and I'm still not entirely sure exactly what happened at some points. Perhaps I'm simply not intelligent enough to appreciate this book.

I found this a real slog and I was so happy to finish it. 

Format: Paperback, from the library
My Rating: 1*

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Coming Soon Book Review: While I'm Still Myself by Jeremy Mark Lane

While I'm Still MyselfFrom "A passionate December love affair.
The meeting of an unexpected traveler.
The consequences of protecting a young new acquaintance.
A journey into an unknown past.

In the stories of While I’m Still Myself, Jeremy Lane eloquently describes the life changing impact of the brief encounter, showing that life and love are not shaped by an entire lifetime, but by the fleeting moments with unexpected people in unexpected places."

This anthology of short stories is set in a range of places and times, and provides plenty of thoughtful material. There's the Dad who meets his dying mother's old flame, who moves him to work harder on his failed relationship with his son's mother, and the young runaway who meets an old hand as she starts her new life. There are also darker topics with segregation, domestic violence and a hint of incest rearing their ugly heads. This provides a mix of hope and happiness with sorrow and darkness,

Most of the stories leave the ending hanging somewhat, allowing the reader to make assumptions or decide for themselves where the story will go next, which I quite enjoyed. The stories are largely plot driven, so I didn't find myself particularly connected to any of the main characters, but in stories of this length with such interesting content that wasn't a big issue. I liked the author's style and found this anthology a good, quick read.

Format: Kindle, review copy, anticipated release date 1st March 2012
My Rating: 3*

Friday, 9 December 2011

Book Review: Red Right Return by John H. Cunningham

Buck Reilly is laying low, living out of a hotel in Key West. In a past life he was in charge of a successful antiquities company. However  when it all came crashing down around him investors lost  a lot of money and he found himself accused of fraud and murder. Now he runs Last Resort Charter and Salvage, hoping to find a treasure wreck that will help end his money worries. One particular charter trip lands him in the middle of escalating tensions between the USA and Cuba, possibly hexed by Santero devotees and under the scrutiny of a seriously unhappy FBI agent. Despite everything that is going on he still finds time for a little romance.
Red Right Return The characters in this book are a lot of fun. Buck seems pretty laid back, enjoying following his dreams having managed to fly under the radar and avoid a prison spell. It seems like he's not such a bad guy, rather he got caught up in a venture that ended badly and then tried to take care of his former business partner. Potential squeeze Karen comes over as attractive but quirky. There are plenty of bad guys, some of whom turn out to have a bark worse than their bite. My slight problem with the book was the number of characters introduced in quick succession, some with names that were too similar to make them distinct. As the action got under way I found it a bit of an effort to remember who was who, and had done what, which made keeping up with the plot difficult. However by the end I had all the threads straightened out.

I loved the locations in the book, which mostly spoke of fun and sunshine, and having visited Key West recognised some of the places mentioned. The main plot had some good elements and, as someone who in the past has read about other less mainstream religions and beliefs, I found the parts about Santeria interesting. I'm a bit of an aviation fan so loved Buck's pride and joy, amphibious plane Betty.

I found this action novel a breath of fresh air, it felt much less dark than many I have read but without descending into farce, but did think that with some tinkering it could have been easier to follow. I warmed to Buck and would love to know more about his past and keep up with his future adventures.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 3*

TGIF (3)

Yeay, my fave day of the week (as I work on a Weds & Thurs)! I'm enjoying GReads' TGIF blog hop so here we go again. 

This week the question is: Book to Movie: Which book turn movie do you feel did the best adaptation? What about the worst?

I don't tend to watch films of books I've enjoyed, although I have seen all the LOTR ones and most of the Harry Potter ones. With both I drove my husband mad telling him I was sure they'd missed bits out or added bits in. I like reading because to an extent you use your imagination to picture the characters and places, and a film can present them in a completely different way to what you had visualised. I did quite like the film of Captain Corelli's Mandolin though, probably because the location was just gorgeous. 

In the past week I have read and reviewed:

Catching the Eagle by Karen Charlton, historical fiction
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, my first foray into his books

I've almost finished another book, so the review for that will probably be up later. I've also been thinking about the challenges I set for myself this year and which I'm going to do next. Plus there's Christmas shopping to be done, not long now! I hope everyone is looking forward to the festive season. Have a great weekend, 

TC x

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Book Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho's is a name I haven't missed, but somehow up until now I have never put my mitts on one of his books. I think it might have been an omen that in the day before I went to the library I saw two pieces about him and his work, walked into the library, randomly picked a shelf to browse and there his books were. If you haven't already read this book it might become clear why this omen tickled me having finished it.
The AlchemistA young Spanish shepherd has chosen a life that has allowed him to travel, rather than be cloistered within the walls of a seminary. He has a recurrent dream that he will find treasure in the Egyptian pyramids, one that he would not have acted on but for a meeting with a man who somehow knows a lot about the shepherd. He convinces him that he should follow his dreams, and that if he looks out for the omens he will be guided to success. The shepherd goes ahead and sells his flock and heads to Africa. While travelling to Egypt he meets various messengers including the alchemist who can turn lead into gold. The alchemist becomes his mentor and he learns about the Soul of the World. By the end of the book the shepherd has learnt valuable lessons, and has found his treasure in an unlikely place.

I have to say I was pretty underwhelmed by this book, possibly I was expecting too much thanks to the author's reputation. I didn't really connect with the shepherd, who is referred to as Boy throughout, or any of the other characters who cross his path. I did enjoy watching him working through all the things he learned and applying them to his life though. The tale is written in simple language and short sentences and was an easy read, although all the discussions on the Soul of the World and how everything is one thing, and the references to religion gave the book some substance. However overall my feeling was that this book was probably well suited to a much younger reader than me, with a gentle spiritual and philosophical bent.

It definitely gave me something to muse on while I was reading, and it was a quick and enjoyable read, but I wouldn't highly recommend it.

Format: Paperback, borrowed from the library
My Rating: 3*

Monday, 5 December 2011

Challenging Myself

With December slowly slipping away I thought it was time to review my progress on the challenges I'd set myself for the year, and think about which I'm going to do in 2012. The ones I picked last year were nice and straightforward, probably because I'd only just started blogging (in fact it was my one year bloggiversary yesterday!)
2011 Reading Challenge
The first one was the Goodreads Reading Challenge. At the start of the year I set myself a target of 110 books in total (based on 2 a week and rounded to a nicer number) I hit this quite some time ago so I increased it to 150, which I hit a few days ago. As the list includes a couple of short stories and a few novellas I think by the end of the year I will have read the equivalent of more than 150 novels easily.

The second challenge I signed up for is still a work in progress. This is the Borrowed Book Challenge, hosted by ShellyRae at Bookd Out. I'm aiming for the entry level, Borrower Be, trying to borrow, read and return 12 books from our local library. I started well as I was visiting the library on a weekly basis with Monkey for a toddlers group, but that went awry during the school holidays and we've been otherwise engaged since. On Friday though I went and picked up The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, and Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I'll be reviewing The Alchemist tomorrow, having just finished it, then I just have two more to go. I consider that on target!

As far as 2012 goes, I have signed up for the 2012 e-book challenge hosted by Workaday Reads. I'm aiming for server level, 100 books. I have gone lower than this year because as Monkey gets older and less inclined to nap I'm getting less time to read, so I'm getting through as many a week as I was earlier in the year. I'm hoping it'll be achievable though. As I mostly read e-books I'll probably set the same target on Goodreads.

I've also seen a couple of other challenges I'm quite interested in, one a round the world affair, picking books set in different countries, another based on reading Australian female authors. I'm having to have a good think about how attainable they are though before committing to do them.

How are others doing with their 2011 challenges?

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Coming Soon Book Review: Catching the Eagle (Regency Reivers Series) by Karen Charlton

This book is the first in a new series. Set in Northumberland in the early 1800s this is a fictionalised account of the a crime that rocked the community and the author's ancestors.
Catching the Eagle (Regency Reivers Series)When £1157 in rent money is stolen from Kirkley Hall the owner calls in officers from Bow Street magistrates court in London to investigate. While many think the owner's steward Michael Aynsley is to blame, suspicion focuses on poor farm labourer James Charlton. His behaviour after the theft only serves to further implicate him and the Charlton family, including brother William, begin a battle to save Jamie from the gallows and to keep his young family from the poor house. In his own way Will is also fighting for his freedom, trying to get away from the family farm and a past that has for too long affected his present. The magnificent golden eagle that has been seen over the area is a "lucky" bird, but there are parallels between the fate of the bird and Jamie.
This book is set in rural Northumberland, and although the reader is treated to some description of the life and homes of the upper classes much of the tale is set on the farms, in workers cottages and in the gaol. It is a bleak existence, especially in winter, and the author makes it easy to appreciate how difficult life must have been for the families in the novel. While the greater issues of the time touch on the story it really deals with telling the story of a family. The charming William is considered a bit of a ladies man but the reader sees more to him. He is devoted to his family but needs to cut the apron strings. I loved him, and the way he changed during the book. I also felt for Jamie's wife Cilla who, in common with many of her peers, was a hard toiling mother and worker.
I appreciated the writing style, which was descriptive without being too wordy, and which included enough local dialect to help me hear the characters without using using anything too obscure and confusing. Once I had chance to sit down and get into this book I didn't want to put it down again. The narrative is nice and linear, and easy to follow, seeing the family going through highs and lows. I thought that the recurring presence of the eagle made for a touching sub-plot interwoven with the main story.  
I really enjoyed this book, a historical fiction that values the smaller details. I put it down wondering what would happen next to Cilla and Will in particular, and would love to read the next in the series. 
Format: E-book, ARC, anticipated release date 8th Dec 2011
My Rating: 4*

Friday, 2 December 2011

Author Q&A with J.T Lawrence

Earlier in the week I posted my review of The Memory of Water by J T Lawrence. The book has just been released and author Janita was somehow able to find some time to do a Q&A. 

The Memory of Water
First of all her bio: 
JT Lawrence is a long-legged redhead with a penchant for words and pretty things, who believes happiness can be measured in passport stamps, laughter decibels and the bulge of one’s bookshelf. Janita, an awarded art director with an advertising background, writes novels, plays and short stories in between running her online bookstore, completing her degree in literature and psychology, planting things, practising yoga and drinking beer.

And now for the questions.. When did you first think of becoming a writer and who or what got you interested in writing?
I have been a writer all my life. It began with my open-mouthed adoration of Roald Dahl in my crib, evolved into my first written poem at six years old (‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Dragon’) and matured into my first hand-written book at ten. A year later, and with my mother’s reluctant encouragement, I embraced technology and toiled my eleven-year-old nights away on our home PC to produce my next work, ‘Weirdale Primary’, presented dot matrix style, on canary-coloured bond paper.

How would you describe your books and style?
I try to write page-turners with pretty prose. I love stories that keep you up at night because you can’t bear to not read the next chapter, and appreciate equally a really well-constructed sentence, especially one that’s beautifully turned and pricks you in the heart (or the head). I strive to get both right, and imagine I need a lot more practice.
A recurring theme in my writing is betrayal; I’m not sure where that comes from, or why it keeps coming up, but my writerly self seems to be fascinated by it.

When you write do you have a particular routine you follow, and what do you find the most difficult part of writing a book?
The most difficult part of writing a book? Starting. After that, the self discipline to keep going. Also, the ability to shush your inner critic who sits on your shoulder like a particularly bad-tempered black parrot, sowing doubt when you are at your most vulnerable.
I don’t have a particular routine. I prefer to write in restaurants and coffee shops where nice people bring you nice things to eat and drink, and all you have to do is keep your bum in the chair and get as many words down as you can. I also write at home, but it takes more willpower as there is inevitably something that requires your immediate and urgent attention, such as the rosebushes that need pruning, or an apple and rhubarb crumble that needs baking.

Do you start a book knowing what the beginning, middle and end will be or does it take on a life of it's own as you write?
I always start with a rough plan, but am still experimenting with how much planning is good for my writing. Too much, and the characters don’t have room to do come out and play, too little, and the plot spirals out of control.

In The Memory of Water Slade seems to believe in experiencing life as fully as possible to get inspiration and to inform his writing. Have you ever done anything extreme or silly in pursuit of your craft?
I have done some ‘extreme’ things I guess, not to be listed here (Hi Mom!), but I wouldn’t say I did them in order to further my craft. On the flipside though, when Important Things happen to me, good or bad, I automatically think: take notes! I can write about this.

Do you think the growth of e-books and self-publishing has made it easier for authors to achieve success, or made it more difficult?
I think it’s wonderful that writers like Amanda Hocking have done so well self-publishing, and I think it’s great that any author can now get their book out there, instead of letting it collect dust in a lonely drawer. That said, as long as there is no quality control in the self-publishing industry, it carries a certain taint. Unless you are Amanda Hocking. Then it just carries millions and millions of dollars, and a mansion.

What do you like to read and do you have any other passions?
I am lucky enough to own a bookstore and read widely. My favourite writers are William Boyd, Margaret Atwood, Sebastian Faulks, Kate Atkinson, Emma Donoghue, Kathryn Stockett, Julian Barnes, Peter Temple, JM Coetzee … and the list goes on.
When I read Boyd’s ‘Any Human Heart’ I couldn’t write for a year. I thought, if I can’t write as well as him, then what is the point?
Apart from reading and writing, I like the usual stuff: travelling to new places (next stop: India), drinking beer/wine/hell-anything with friends, laughing out loud, gardening, yoga.

Finally, what are you working on at the moment that you can tell us about?
I am nearing the end of the first draft of my new manuscript, which is giving me a real kick. It’s about a young woman, a synaesthete, who finds out that the people she knew as her parents were really her abductors. Soon it becomes clear that someone will do anything to stop her from finding out the truth, which runs a lot deeper than she could imagine.
It’s set in the near future, in a kind of parallel-universe Johannesburg. I have been doing some research on what the world will be like in 2026, and am finding it quite mind-boggling, and end up boring my husband to near death with stories about rabbits spliced with jellyfish genes to be made to glow in the dark and suchlike.

PS. I have a nagging feeling you would like to read ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Dragon’, so I have attached it here:

Twinkle Twinkle Little Dragon
How I wonder about your wagon
Going sixty miles an hour
Eating people sweet and sour.

Thanks to Janita for taking time out to join me and for sharing her early work! If you want to get in touch with her or find out more she is on:

Twitter @JanitaTLawrence


This is my second outing with GReads' TGIF meme. This week the question getting us talking is:

Writing Reviews 101: What's your process for writing book reviews? 
Any tips or suggestions you would recommend to other bloggers?

It'll be really interesting to see what others have to say. I always write my reviews within a day or so of completing the book, otherwise I start on another book and my memory is gone! I don't tend to pitch straight into it though as I like time to reflect on my thoughts before committing them to screen. I rarely make notes while I read because I find it interrupts the flow, although sometimes if there's something I feel I must remember I'll make a quick kindle note or stick a piece of paper in the book. 

I type straight into Blogger, not messing about with drafts in Word first. As far as a structure goes I like to provide a brief synopsis in my own words, although sometimes I'll use the description on Amazon or Goodreads if it's very straightforward or very complicated. Then, not necessarily in this order I try and comment on the characters, the plot and the writing style, plus any particular issues or absence of issues with editing & proofreading. When I first started blogging I didn't provide a star rating but felt an at a glance summary of what I thought had to be a good thing.

My reviews have definitely developed since I started blogging and I'm sure will continue to do so. In fact right now I'm debating with myself about whether to include more info on available formats, publisher and so on...

In the last week I've been quite active on the blog. I read and reviewed the following:

Antigone's Fall by R.K MacPherson, an action thriller
The Memory of Water by J.T Lawrence, a literary crime novel, and
The Luminist by David Rocklin, set in 1830s Ceylon

I also had a chat with Jenn of the Goodreads Creative Reviews group about their Christmas anthology, Christmas Lites, which is raising money for charity. 

Finally I shared a bit about why I was joins thousands of others in taking strike action on Wednesday. Our Prime Minister may have described the action as a damp squib but not from where I was standing/marching.

Coming up soon I have a Q&A with author of The Memory of Water, J.T Lawrence, and a Coming Soon book review for historical fiction Catching the Eagle Have a great weekend everyone. TC x

Book Review: The Luminist by David Rocklin

The Luminist: A Novel"IN COLONIAL INDIA, at a time of growing friction between the ruling British and the restless Indian populace, a Victorian woman and her young Tamil Indian servant defy convention, class, and heartbreak to investigate what is gained - and lost - by holding life still. Suggested by the life and work of photographic pioneer Julia Margaret Cameron, The Luminist filters 19th century Ceylon through the lens of an English woman, Catherine Colebrook and a 15 year old Tamil boy, Eligius Shourie. Left fatherless by soldiers, Eligius is brought as a servant to the Colebrooks' neglected estate. In the shadow of Catherine's obsession to arrest beauty - to select a moment from the thousands comprising her life in Ceylon and hold it apart from mere memory - Eligius transforms into her apprentice in the creation of the first haunting photographs in history." From 
This is the first paperback I have read in a while and as I tweeted when I first picked it up and started reading it the other night it is the sort of book that could just make me feel I was missing something reading so many ebooks. The cover is striking, inside some of the pages are printed with a faint old map as a layer and I loved the formatting. I begrudged having to put it in my handbag in case I damaged it! I never usually mention this sort of thing when I do read a physical book so it obviously made an impact on me.
Catherine is married to a man twenty years her senior, with an older daughter and a young son, who survived his twin. The wish to capture her dead son's image so she might remember the light in his eyes forever drives her to try and perfect a new and as then un-named science, photography. Her family is the source of much gossip for other high-ranking Britishers in Ceylon, which leaves Catherine unbothered but seems to be a greater source of concern for daughter Julia. Much of the story is narrated in the third person from the point of view of Eligius. His father had managed to learn much whilst serving the British, but was killed in front of Eligius after trying to encourage the powers that be to improve their treatment of the locals. Eligius finds himself torn between taking up the cause and serving the Colebrook family. I wanted to like Catherine for going her own way rather than doing just what was expected of her, but I also felt sympathy as she came across as somewhat obsessive. The relationship between Catherine, struggling to fulfil the role expected of a woman of her status, and Eligius, who becomes an outcast and seems to become a surrogate son to Catherine is one of two lost individuals who share a common passion.
As far as the story goes this is an oddly beautiful book. The style is quite literary, which in places made for some lovely prose, while elsewhere I found myself drifting a little and having to pay attention to avoid missing some of the inferences that impacted on the story. This is a book that took a little while to get into and needed concentration to make the most of it. I also had a slight problem with the timescale, or more so a lack of one. It was difficult to figure out how long had passed between the various events, which isn't a major issue but I would have liked it a better sense of that. However on a positive note The Luminist tackles a number of interesting themes. It ranges from the impact of British Colonialism on Ceylon, and the role of women in the 1830s to broader topics like relationships and the need to explore and discover. I found it a fascinating read on a number of levels. For example as someone with a passing interest in photography it was good to sit and think about how far this art has come since pioneers like Julia Cameron tackled capturing images. I had never thought of how those exposed to photography in its infancy might have thought of it as ungodly. 
I found this a very enjoyable read, although I am aware some people would be put off by the author's style. The historical fiction fan in me certainly liked the snapshot of life in a part of the Empire I haven't really read about before.

Format: Paperback, review copy
My Rating: 4*