Showing posts from January, 2014

Review: Falling for Gatsby by Claire Dyer

As a lover of all things F. Scott Fitzgerald, the title of this novella had me hooked.

"What would it be like to love like Gatsby loved, to be in thrall to an ideal and to be so faithful to that ideal?' ponders Lucas as he sits in the cinema watching The Great Gatsby. A chance encounter as the film credits roll answers this question for him, and changes his life for good.

It is not entirely necessary to have seen/read The Great Gatsby before reading this, but it would help in order to appreciate the multitude of references to it.
Lucas isn't strictly Gatsby - he seems to me to be more of a Gatsby/Nick hybrid. Recently out of a failed long term relationship he is searching for something real in his life, someone to save, and that person is Martha. Following a ridiculously short courtship she married Adam oblivious to his controlling and abusive personality, and aside from her confidante Diane she has no escape - until she meets Lucas. The Great Gatsby is the cause of their me…

Review: The Champion by Elizabeth Chadwick

Elizabeth Chadwick has long been one of my favourite authors. Lords of the White Castle is the first book of hers that I read many years ago, and I have been hooked on her work ever since!

From the moment that I read the blurb for The Champion I was hooked:

"Fleeing a scandalous chapter of clerical corruption at an English monastery, young Alexander de Montroi arrives in Normandy in the spring of 1103, desperate to become one of the great knights who live by their jousting swords. For those who show exceptional talent, there are fortunes and hearts to be won, and Alexander proves himself adept at both."

If a novel was written specifically for me, this would be it; knights, jousting and courtly love combine to make a plot that is perfectly suited to my tastes. I think my love for A Knight's Tale and Robin Hood has made me more than a little biased towards this era of history.

First things first I have to say that I adore the cover! I bought a few of Chadwick's books at th…

January Library Haul #2

Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge - Lindy Woodhead

In 1909, the first and largest department store built from scratch in London's West End opened in a burst of glorious publicity. The mastermind behind the facade was American retail genius Harry Gordon Selfridge: maverick businessman, risk-taker, dandy and one of the greatest showmen the retail world has ever known.
His talent was to create the seduction of shopping, and as his success and fame grew, so did his glittering lifestyle: mansions, yachts, gambling, racehorses - and mistresses. From the glamour of Edwardian England, through the turmoil of the Great War and the heady excesses of the 1920's and beyond, Selfridges Department Store was 'a theatre with the curtain going up at 9 o'clock each morning'. Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge reveals the captivating story of the rise and fall of the man who revoloutionised the way we shop.

House of the Hanged - Mark Mills

France, 1935: At the poor man's end of t…

Tesco Book Haul

Attention all UK book bloggers: Tesco have a mega book sale on at the moment, with books starting from 25p! Surprisingly enough, there are actually some decent titles to be had, I picked up these two for £1 altogether.

Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

"Charles Ryder, a lonely student at Oxford, is captivated by the outrageous and decadent Sebastian Flyte. Invited to Brideshead, Sebastian's magnificent family home, Charles welcomes the attentions of its eccentric, artistic inhabitants the Marchmains, becoming infatuated with them and the life of privilege they inhabit- in particular, with Sebastian's remote sister, Julia. 

But, as duty and desire, faith and happiness come into conflict, and the Marchmains struggle to find their place in a changing world, Charles eventually comes to recognise his spiritual and social distance from them."

The King's Mistress - Gillian Bagwell

"As a nobleman's daughter, Jane Lane longs for a life outside the privileged walls o…

Film Review: Saving Mr Banks

I don't normally write film reviews, but I adored this film so much that I felt the need to write about it, and to tell you all to go and see it!

Mary Poppins will forever be one of my favourite films; my sister's and my party trick is an impressive recital of Jolly Holiday, animal voices and all! I'm ashamed to admit that I have never had chance to read the original stories, although rest assured that I intend to rectify that very soon. As Tom Hanks' Walt Disney is keen to emphasise Mary Poppins is a character that belongs to everyone, and to tamper with her is a brave decision, one that definitely paid off!
The two strands of the plot of Saving Mr Banks -the battle of wills between Travers and Disney and Travers' childhood in Australia - complement each other perfectly, and the parallels between Travers' upbringing and the plot of Mary Poppins are difficult to ignore; it is no wonder that she was so protective of her work.
As for Emma Thompson, I could go on for…

Review: My Animals and Other Family by Clare Balding

I absolutely loved this book, and anyone who loves animals will immediately identify with Clare and her childhood adventures. 

Structuring the novel in such an innovative way- with each chapter devoted to a beloved horse or dog and her life at the time of their existence- makes a refreshing change from the traditional celebrity autobiography. Clare herself is a very talented writer; I loved little Clare as much as my favourite fictional characters, in fact she would make the perfect stubborn and hay-strewn heroine in a children's novel! Be warned that the book is an emotional rollercoaster, I was literally laughing one minute and crying the next, and it is clear from Clare's adorable descriptions of her animals just how much she loved them. 

I have been lucky enough to have been surrounded by many wonderful animals in my life thus far, and this book made me reflect and remember them. It is a book worth taking your time over; I often find it difficult to get throug…

Review: Solo: A James Bond Novel by William Boyd

It is no secret that I am a huge Bond-geek, so it was a given that I pounced on this book the moment that I saw it on the library shelf. Admittedly, despite my love for all things Bond, it has been a while since I've read any Ian Fleming to compare Boyd's style to (the last Bond book I read was Sebastian Faulk's Devil May Care and I can't remember much about that either).

Blurb: "A seasoned veteran of the service, 007 is sent to single-handedly stop a civil war in the small West African nation of Zanzarim. Aided by a beautiful accomplice and hindered by the local militia, he undergoes a scarring experience which compels him to ignore M's orders in pursuit of his own brand of justice." 

The storyline is about as far from the glamourous world of casino's and villains that we have come to associate with the British icon as you can get, and war stories really aren't my kind of thing. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a go, for Bond's sake. In his A…

January Library Haul

Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

 "In Depression-era America, everyone's running away from something. Some people join the circus to escape. Jacob Jankowski hitches a ride on a freight train and in that instant his life changes. By morning, he's landed a job with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. By nightfall he's in love."

 Park Lane - Frances Osborne

"London, 1914. War looms, suffragettes are on the march and two young women at 35 Park Lane dream of breaking free. Below stairs, housemaid Grace Campbell is struggling. Her family believe she is a secretary, and when asked to send home more money than she earns, Grace gets into trouble.
Meanwhile Miss Beatrice, daughter of the house, is fatigued with the social season. The call of Miss Pankhurst's captivating world of militant suffragettes means Bea is soon playing a dangerous game that will throw her in the path of a man her mother wouldn't let through the front door.
Then war comes and…

Review: The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

Anthony Horowitz has been a favourite author of mine from the Alex Rider days of my childhood, so when I found out that he had written a Sherlock Holmes novel I knew that I had to read it. 

I therefore came to the novel with high expectations, but I was not disappointed! Horowitz captures the essence of Conan Doyle and remains true to the Sherlock Holmes canon, yet still manages to put his own personal twist on it. The dual stranded plot is very cleverly thought out, and whilst you soon get an idea of where the story is going, it would take a mind as great as Holmes' to figure it out before the big reveal. 

The Guide to Writing Sherlock Holmes essay included at the end of the novel is a nice touch and makes for very interesting reading. A must-read for any fans of the great detective.

5/5 stars: I couldn't put this book down! I just hope that Horowitz can be persuaded to write more Sherlock Holmes books in the future!

Review: One Day by David Nicholls

After years of listening to all the hype about this novel, when I came across a copy in my local library I was excited to see what all the fuss was about.
The basis of this novel is an intriguing one; what happens if you revisit two characters on the same day every year, beginning on the eve of their graduation. This plot device is a clever concept as it shows how much, or indeed how little, life can change in the space of a year. Twenty years are covered in the narrative, and the characters' lives are condensed into what are essentially a series of snapshots leaving readers to fill in the gaps as to what else has happened that year.  The narrative voice shifts between the first person perspective of both Emma and Dexter. This encourages the reader to become involved in their lives, to will Dexter to stop being an idiot and for Emma to get her act together.  You should be warned by the unconventional structure that this is in no way a typical romance, and the ending took …

Review: War and Piste by Alex Thomas

Bridget Jones' Diary meets Chalet Girl is the easiest way to describe War and Piste, but that synopsis really doesn't do the story justice!

Blurb: 'When Poppy Connors swaps a life of suits and cappuccinos for a job as a ski rep, she soon finds that resort life on the side of an Austrian alp is more than she bargained for. Adapting to her new diet of Jagermeister, adrenaline and europop, Poppy throws herself into this strange new world - a world in which 200 foot cliffs, midnight shootings and the intrigues of the megalomaniac resort manager soon start to feel normal.'

The idyllic backdrop of the Austrian Alps instantly draws you into the novel, and, despite the fact that it does not shy away from the less glamorous side of chalet hosting, it manages to make the lifestyle seem incredibly appealing. Alex Thomas knows her stuff about skiing and it shows; her descriptions are a little technical at times but it only serves to demonstrate her expertise and make t…

Review: What She Didn't Know by I. Ronik

I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for a review.

The blurb gives the impression that this is your standard adult romance- which is by no means a bad thing- but in reality this story is as far from 'standard' as it gets. In short, Cassie's sister meets a guy, Cassie insists on meeting him and gets introduced to his cousin, who just happens to be Seth: her gorgeous boss. All pretty normal so far, but then events take a paranormal twist that I didn't see coming. The word 'parody' is the key to this short story, and it's a word that I missed when I skimmed through the blurb before requesting a copy!

To be perfectly honest, as soon as things started to get weird I was immediately put off; supernatural stories just aren't my thing. However, given that the story is so short I thought that I might as well see it through to the end.

The constant change in narrative voice grated on me; one minute it's first-person from Cassie&…