28 March 2010

Review: The Twenty Thousand Thieves | Eric Lambert

This book formed part of the compulsory reading list for my 'War Literature' course at University more than 14 years ago. I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't finish reading it back then, in fact, I didn't even get half way through.

I've always wanted to pick this book up again and read it to the end, and it's been on my shelf ever since, reminding me of this fact and taunting me. Well, I've finally been in the right mind set and the right mood to pick it up again, and now can't think what all the fuss was about.

This is an excellent Australian War Classic, with a forward from Weary Dunlop, and provides a look at the lives of several Australian soldiers in the Second World War. I enjoyed joining them in this era, and making sense of their lingo and turns of phrase. I recognised their love of women and beer and was touched by their individual reflections on war and the situations they found themselves in.

I understood many of their observations from my own time in Defence and this book certainly rings true in so many ways. However by the end of the book, I would be surprised if any reader came to the conclusion that war is a good thing. In fact, I wonder how I would have felt if I'd finished reading this at ADFA and how I would have reconciled the anti-war nature of this book with the fact that I was training to be an Officer in the Defence Force.

Interesting stuff.

My rating = ***1/2

Carpe Librum!

Review: The Forgotten Garden | Kate Morton

I absolutely loved this book and was hooked from the very beginning. In 1913 a four year old girl is told to hide on the deck of a ship bound from London to Australia. When she arrives in Australia she finds herself all alone, forming the beginning of a book rich in Victorian mystery and intrigue. The book switches back and forth in time to pick up each of the family threads leading to this point and to the present day with the granddaughter of the little girl seeking her own answers to her ancestry.

I thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns through the family history and the secrets revealed along the way. The suspense was maintained throughout the book and each time a new secret or piece of the puzzle came to life, I just wanted more! I loved the authoress and her fairytales, the mansion, the maze, the brooch and of course the 'secret garden'.

This book came highly recommended, and I'm so proud in the knowledge Kate Morton is an Australian author. This is a terrific piece of writing.

Highly recommended.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

16 March 2010

Bookmark Day

Being an avid collector of bookmarks, of course I was interested to learn about Bookmark Day, but forgot to share with you in time, sorry!

Created by the author of 'The Bibliophilic Book Blog', you can join in the fun here:
You can also find her Facebook page by the same name, and I hope we can enjoy this next year too!!!

That's my four bucks!

07 March 2010

Review: I Can See You | Karen Rose

I've read so much crime fiction over the years that they can start to become formulaic, but I was pleased to lay my hands on my first Karen Rose book as it appeared to have a slightly new angle. The killer in this novel stalks avatars in an online game, gets to know them and their fears and then kills them in the real world, staging their murders as a suicide.

Eve is a survivor of attempted murder by a serial killer many years ago and is working on a thesis around victims using online worlds as a form of therapy and confidence building with the aim of eventually re-joining the outside world.

Detective Webster is investigating the murders and Eve approaches him after realising there may be a connection to the deaths and the subjects in her study. The action and suspense keep the book moving along, however the romance and sex scenes detract a little from the exciting stuff.

I must admit that I picked the serial killer before the big reveal, which was satisfying to me in a way. So many reviewers claim to know who the killer is half way through a book and I never do, so this was a small victory.

I found the use of the online gaming world to be quite interesting, especially when the killer re-writes the code for his avatar victims in the game, staging their house exactly like the crime scene, and placing a black wreath on the front door. Creepy!!

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

06 March 2010

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society | Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

I usually don't read books with what I classify as a 'stupid title'. When I see a book with a stupid title I'm instantly turned off. I see it as an attention seeking device, so I respond by ignoring it completely. I know this is stubborn, but there are so many books out there that you have to have some sort of screening processes in place.

Needless to say, this was one of the books I ignored up until now due to it's ridiculously long title and the attention grabbing 'potato peel' mention, which is supposed to make the reader ask "wow, what could that be about, I'd love to find out so I'd better buy/borrow this book". To me it's just annoying. Other annoying titles (while we're on the subject), include The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Porcupines and China Dolls.

On this one I was sticking to my guns, however I didn't fail to notice it's increasing popularity and it's movement up the Best Sellers list. I finally bowed to the pressure when it was reviewed by a staff member from my favourite bookshop Reader's Feast in Melbourne as 'her favourite book of 2009' and a friend highly recommended it to me via Visual Bookshelf on Facebook.

Of course I was pleasantly surprised, as the book had no direction to go other than upwards from my first impressions. The format surprised me and instantly reminded me of the classic Dracula in it's compilation of letters. I enjoyed the subject matter and also fell in love with the characters from Guernsey and their plight during the German occupation. I felt it was a light, easy and swiftly moving book, and due to the short sections I often read for longer than I would a regular book with standard chapter lengths.

I'm glad it lived up to the hype and I've now decided it's definitely worthy of the rave book reviews. Usually I steer clear of 'hyped up books' or the book of the moment, however I'm glad I dived in on this one.

My rating = *****

That's my four bucks!

Review: The Angel's Game | Carlos Ruiz Zafon

This novel is the sequel to The Shadow of the Wind and although I'd heard several poor reviews, I had high hopes for this book. It didn't quite reach the lofty heights of the first for me, but it was still a very gripping read.

The Cemetary of Forgotten Books made another appearance and the writing and plot style were extremely similar to the first. The plot featured a dilapidated old mansion, broken hearts, broken dreams, mysterious characters, hardship and books.

There was a strong religious theme throughout the novel, and I don't believe the author really quite explained the purpose of the story line within this area of the book to the full satisfaction of the reader. Was the mysterious publisher Andreas Corelli a vampire or the devil or just your weird run of the mill immortal being? I never handle ambiguity well, so this was frustrating.

A very enjoyable read, however my hopes were so high after reading The Shadow of the Wind that I almost held my breath hoping this would come close to the same absorbing quality. I was impressed and felt blessed to be able to gain access again to the gothic setting and of course the Cemetary of Forgotten Books.

My rating = ****

That's my four bucks!

Review: Under The Dome | Stephen King

I've been procrastinating for several weeks now about writing the review for this book. So much so, that I'm now 4 book reviews behind, argh! So what's the problem then? Well, I just don't know how to capture this book in words. It was so unlike any book I've read in the last few years, I hardly know how to explain the impact it had on me as I was reading, but here goes.

I truly believe Stephen King has invented a new genre with his latest offering of Under The Dome. King started writing this book decades ago, but abandoned it, only to resume writing and finally publish at the end of last year. It's a hefty tome at close to 900 pages, and I can appreciate the undertaking and effort it must have taken to develop.

It's no secret the book is about a small town in USA, and what happens when a dome mysteriously comes down onto the town. What happens to the inhabitants within the dome and how they behave in their newfound environment is the essence of the novel. Although this seems like a simple premise, Stephen King takes it to an entirely different and almost unimaginable level.

I've never had so many 'groan out loud' moments when reading a book. So many times when I was reading in bed I stamped my feet in my doona in frustration at the way King moved the plot away from what I was hoping would happen. Just when you're hoping for a certain outcome, he rips it out from underneath you and replaces it with an undesirable outcome.

Some of the sub plots were enough to sustain an entire novel within themselves, but here they received just a few pages. The book is full of characters and King weaves his tale effortlessly, never allowing the reader to relax. In fact I felt as though my senses were assaulted and I was slapped silly, never being allowed to enjoy the direction the plot was headed. Constant cries of "noooooo" filled the bedroom into the early hours.

I must admit that I didn't really care about the reason for the dome, and didn't really believe the explanation was going to be all that impressive, so I checked my expectations in at the door on that one. However my husband was disappointed at the 'big reveal' regarding the dome, so I can understand his point, but that's not really what I believe was the main focus of the book. The dome is just a ruse to provide the environment for the characters to play out the complex and disturbing events King has spent decades planning.

The behaviours of some of the characters in the novel were quite disturbing because they demonstrated both the 'good and evil' in human beings. This book is is so 'big' that I believe it should be categorised in a whole new genre of 'amplified fiction' as it is without a doubt fiction aggrandized.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!