“Blue Moon” by Alyson Noël

I’m not sure what I expected from this second book in Alyson Noël’s series, The Immortals, as I’d been a bit underwhelmed but the first one which I felt was predictable and derivative, although reasonably enjoyable. I have to admit though, I was pleasantly surprised. The plot took a slightly different direction from the first book with Ever taking more control of her destiny as she is faced with more peril watching Damen weaken and distance himself from her. This meant Ever’s character developed into a more independent and strong individual. There were some unexpected developments in some of the other characters and some who I’d expected to have a larger role in the story were sidelined, allowing the focus on the heroine to remain the centre of the story.

There is still a problem in that the book is still firmly standing in the shadow of Twilight, but for an easy Sunday read, it was entertaining enough, and it looks as though I’ll be coming back for the next instalment of the story.

Advertisements

“The Reckoning” by Kelley Armstrong

Another fantastic page turning thriller from Kelley Armstrong, in this, the final book of the Darkest Powers trilogy. Despite the short period of time covered in the three books, the characters are very well developed, and the suspense is palpable as they grow even closer while trying to figure out just who is on their side and how they will escape the clutches of the Edison Group.

Fans of Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series will recognise the various types of supernaturals in the world she’s created for her books, and I imagine it’s a great way for her to capture the imagination of teenagers who will undoubtedly want to read move of her work as they grow up.

I’m glad to see this was written as a trilogy, and whilst it doesn’t neatly tie up all the loose ends, it does provide a fitting end and closure on this particular episode of the lives of Chloe, Derek, Steve, Tori and Liz, but is an open enough ending to return to some or all of them at a later stage, or even bringing them into the wider Armstrong world in her other books.

“Ghost Hunter” by Michelle Paver

The last book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness books, Ghost Hunter is a fitting, thrilling, heartbreaking finale to a fantastic series of books. I have loved reading the six books that make up the series, beautifully written with a wonderful use of language, but full of action and, although firmly based in the real world, the fantasy elements seem otherworldly yet still completely realistic and believable.

Torak is now fifteen, and although his life is far removed from the modern world we know, he still has to struggle with all the emotions and choices any teenage boy would need to make, but added to that, he knows he is special and must face his destiny and defeat Eostra to save the Clans.

The beauty and the importance of nature and the elements in a prehistoric world have been one of the many joys of reading these books. So much research has gone into hunting methods and the landscape of the world, but with seemingly effortless ease, it blends into an thrilling, action-packed tale of good against evil. The plot it kept tight, and there is no meandering off onto tangents, or introducing characters or plot lines which are merely padding. Every word seems to be necessary and this makes the books incredibly readable and genuine page turners.

I loved every book in the series, and this last one did not disappoint.

“No Way To Say Goodbye” by Anna McPartlin

This is the second Anna McPartlin book I’ve read, and follows the lives of five (the blurb will tell you five, but it’s mostly four) people in the small town of Kenmare in Ireland. Despite the pastel cover with added glitter obviously aimed at the chick-lit market, this book is a whole flight of steps up from the romantic comedy of a chick-lit story. McPartlin creates real people with real lives, and weaves their stories together effortlessly but without any sense of predictability or inevitability.

Within a couple of chapters you feel as if you know all the characters as friends, and want to be involved in their stories. I love that their histories are as much a part of the novel as their present day story line is, and all are brought together gradually throughout the book. But it’s not only the main characters who play their part in this book, the town of Kenmare and all the smaller characters who make up the community give a real sense of place to the story.

There is laughter, sorrow, pain, anguish and warmth expressed throughout the book – I even had to hold back the tears at one point. McPartlin has a refreshing way of writing real dialogue, so you get the fun, the sarcasm, the irony and the anguish in the words her characters say, and when that’s backed up with the description of the emotions of them, it gives you very real people who you come to care about.

My only grumble would be that Adam really doesn’t get enough page time to be included in the blurb as one of five main characters, and is actually underdeveloped as a character. I wanted to know more about him, and why he made the choices he did that had a such a far reaching consequences.

Definitely recommended to chick-lit fans, but don’t be fooled by the cover, this is a book that would appeal to others too, as it’s about hope and acceptance, and moving on with your life. And funny, don’t forget it’s funny.

“Our Farm” by Rosie Boycott

Journalist and newspaper editor, Rosie Boycott, and her second husband, Charlie, a top London barrister, take an opportunity to invest in a smallholding in Somerset, where they will grow vegetables, flowers and herbs and raise pigs, chickens, turkeys and geese. What they hadn’t anticipated was how drawn into the local community of Ilminster they would become, with Rosie taking part in the surge of protest against plans for a new supermarket and the potential effect on this small town.

I love books about the countryside, farming, rural and village life, or those concentrating on people getting out of the rat race and going back to basics, so I was delighted when this was picked as one of my book group choices this month. It’s obvious fairly early on, that this is not as I was anticipating, the story of someone who takes on a smallholding, but of a couple of city folk, who decide that they will invest some of their money and weekends in someone else running a smallholding on their behalf.

Despite the authors altruistic reasons for this decision, reducing food miles, the production of local food in order to reduce reliance on national supermarket chains and the impact of global food systems on climate, I never felt that there was any real peril in the ongoing saga of the business, as it always felt just like that, a business, not a lifestyle or vocation, and it’s demonstrated that it’s not always the quality of your produce but the quality of your contacts that will probably get you out of a sticky situation, when a top London chef (who happens to be a friend) takes some stock off your hands and helps gets you out of the red financially.

From the point of view of the writing, my goodness, can this woman go off on a tangent! The story of her smallholding seems to drift off to encompass her two marriages, her involvement with the protests of the introduction of a new supermarket into the local town, her life as a hippy in the 60s, climate change, economics … the list goes on. I don’t mind these excursions away from the smallholding, but at times although they may have been factually interesting, they didn’t add to the main story of the book which was supposed to be about a year in the life of their smallholding. In fact, the actual smallholding seems to almost take a back seat to the authors views on the politics of farming, climate, local economies and many other subjects.

I think the overall problem I had with it was that I never felt connected to David, the man they employ for the day to day running of the smallholding. The only emotional attachment I got from the book was her affection for the pigs, who I have to admit, sound completely wonderful. I wanted to feel the ups and downs of the first year of a fledgling smallholding trying to make a profit while going back to the basics of food production, but because the author is a weekend investor, this just doesn’t come across in the writing. I suspect David is the heart and soul of the business, despite Boycott’s attempts to portray a connection with nature and her little patch of land, I couldn’t find a sense of place and home in the business she writes about.

“A Spot of Bother” by Mark Haddon

George has recently retired and is settling into a leisurely life, building a studio in the back garden and ready to rekindle a childhood interest in art, when he is suddenly bought face to face with his own mortality as a friends dies suddenly, and George finds a lesion on his own hip which he’s convinced will be the death of him. The book follows George’s unravelling mental well-being, alongside the everyday life of his wife and two grown up children and the impact of the discovery and its affect effects on the family.

This was one of my reading group books last month, and I have to admit, I was apprehensive before I started it, as I’ve never managed to get past page 22 of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Easy going writing, and a great characterisation of the male lead, I found this a comfortable book to sit and read. The short chapters, in turns focusing on different characters, were a god send for someone with limited reading time and the small number of characters (the main focus is on the four members of the family, George in particular) meant it was easy to dip in and out when time allowed.

I thought the characterisation of the men was very good, but the females seemed to be slightly more sketchy, although their stories were all there if you looked carefully enough, and picked up the details from a small, often throwaway line in their own chapters.

I was unfortunate enough to be reading while having lunch one day, when I read the graphic scene where George decides to take action, which certainly made me squirm, but was actually one of the best chapters in the book for me, as it really seemed to show the depth of what George was going through mentally, and yet how he managed to make it seem to himself like a perfectly sensible thing to do.

Overall, I thought it was a good read, although I’m still not sure I’d read any more by this author unless I was prompted to by a book group or reading circle.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J. K. Rowling, read by Stephen Fry

Not having time for proper reading, and having run out of podcasts, I decided it was about time I listened to the mellifluous Mr Fry reading the final instalment of the Harry Potter series. I hadn’t actually read the book since the day it was released, so while I could remember the plot, it was nice to go back and remind myself how the series that I know so well (as I’ve read and listened to all the other books many, many times).

I remember how I felt when I read the book (the camping section was far too long, self indulgent at times, and liked the epilogue but it was a bit twee), but I have to say, I actually enjoyed it much more having it read to me. I no longer felt it dragged while under canvas, and it actually rocked along at quite a pace. I suspect this has more to do with hearing the dulcet tones of my favourite narrator sweeping me into a fantasy world of wizards and witches than the actual quality of the writing, which actually proves that there is definitely a benefit to audiobooks!

My favourite of the series is Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban, which I think was the strongest in terms of story, plotting and writing, and all the subsequent books were too long and, for my money, needed some serious editing, but I suspect the publishers may have become slightly sycophantic towards their leading moneymaker, and allowed her to do whatever she wanted. Deathly Hallows is by no means the worst of the series (that falls by a long margin to Order of the Phoenix), but still suffers from an over indulgence of a popular author.

I own the entire Harry Potter series on audiobook, but I think it’s only the fact that they’re read by Stephen Fry making them irresistible listening that warranted the (when I think of it) large investment in them.