Friday, 28 June 2013

Friday Finds


Friday Finds is run by Should Be Reading and is a chance for you to share the books you've heard about this week and have added to your TBR/Wish list.

This week mine are both American southern fiction books:

The Lost Saints of Tennessee
The Lost Saints Of Tenessee by Amy Franklin-Willis

The Prince Of Tides
The Prince Of Tides by Pat Conroy

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Joyland - Stephen King

Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever. "I love crime, I love mysteries, and I love ghosts. That combo made Hard Case Crime the perfect venue for this book, which is one of my favorites. I also loved the paperbacks I grew up with as a kid, and for that reason, we're going to hold off on e-publishing this one for the time being. Joyland will be coming out in paperback, and folks who want to read it will have to buy the actual book." Stephen King

Twenty-one year old Devin is heartbroken after his girlfriend finishes with him and is spending the summer working at Joyland amusement park. He learns of a ride that is supposed to be haunted by the ghost of a young woman who was murdered there and tries to find out what happened, but there is so much more to the story than that. It's part mystery and part coming of age but is slightly eerie rather than a horror novel. The story is told from Devin's point of view years later when he's looking back at that time in his life
"That fall was the most beautiful of my life. Even forty years later I can say that. And I was never so unhappy, I can say that, too."

I've always thought that Stephen King is a very good storyteller, one of the best in fact and with Joyland he doesn't disappoint. Now roll on September and Doctor Sleep.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Waiting On Wednesday - Doctor Sleep

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we can't wait to be published.

This week mine is Doctor Sleep by Stephen King 

Doctor Sleep (The Shining, #2) Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and the very special twelve-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

Release date: 24th September 2013

Why I Can't Wait

I LOVE Stephen King, He's probably my favourite author and a great storyteller, the fact that he's written a follow up to one of his best novels, The Shining, is almost too exciting for words. I already seem to have been waiting a long time since Doctor Sleep was announced but the release date is slowly getting closer. 

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Struggling To Finish A Book

I'm currently reading The Herbalist by Niamh Boyce but for some reason I'm struggling with it. It's very well written but I just can't get into it, possibly I'm just not in the right mood for this type of novel. I collected Joyland by Stephen King from the library this morning so think I'll read that now instead and then try & finish The Herbalist. I really don't like giving up on books but if you're not enjoying them why continue?

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten I've Read So Far In 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and each week there's a different topic. This weeks is the top ten books I've read so far in 2013 and here's my list, it was difficult for me to narrow down as I've read some very good books in the first six months of this year, they are in no particular order:

Instructions for a Heatwave
Instructions For A Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell
Couldn't put this one down, have enjoyed other ones by this author but think this is her best.

Heading Out to Wonderful
Heading Out To Wonderful by Robert Goolrick
Robert Goolrick is a great storyteller and created some wonderful characters in this book, I was completely caught up in the lives of Charlie, Sylvan & Sam.

Life After Life
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Loved the idea that someone could keep having another chance at their life, what changes would you make if given the opportunity? This one gave me plenty to think about.

Looking for Me
Looking For Me by Beth Hoffman
A well written southern story that flows beautifully, I was sorry when it finished.

The Night Rainbow
The Night Rainbow by Claire King
This one is not my usual type of book but got it cheap on the Kindle so thought I'd give it a go, completely took me by surprise. Perhaps my reading tastes are changing.

The Spinning Heart
The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan
Each of the 21 chapters are from the perspective of a different person & I was impressed by how much I learned about each of them and the town it's set in as it's a short book.

Seldom Seen
Seldom Seen by Sarah Ridgard
An impressive debut set in my home County of Suffolk, will look out for her future novels.

A Land More Kind Than Home
A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
A well told southern fiction story.

Perfect by Rachel Joyce
Her follow up to the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and in my opinion the better novel.

The Burgess Boys
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
I found this one a slow starter but once I got into it I couldn't put it down.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Top Ten - Post Apocalyptic

Here's a list of my top 10 post apocalyptic books:

The Road - Cormac McCarthy

The Stand - Stephen King

On the Beach - Nevil Shute

Swan Song - Robert R McCammon

Alas, Babylon - Pat Frank

The Passage - Justin Cronin

I Am Legend - Richard Matheson

The Death of Grass - John Christopher

Earth Abides - George R Stewart

Down to a Sunless Sea - David Graham

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Dream With Little Angels by Michael Hiebert

Twelve years ago in the fictional town of Alvin the dead body of missing girl Ruby Mae Vickers was found underneath a willow tree and now fourteen year old Mary Ann Daily has seemingly vanished into thin air after getting off the school bus. Just days later Tiffany Michelle Yates has also disappeared.

This story is narrated by eleven year old boy Abe Teal, he lives with his teenage sister Carry and his Mum Leah who is the small town cop. Leah is still haunted by her first case, the unsolved murder of Ruby Mae. Abe and his best friend Dewey were the last people to see Tiffany before she went missing and he is determined to find out what has happened.
As much as it is a mystery/crime novel it is also a coming of age story and covers the families problems, Abe's Dad died when he was very young, in fact he can't even remember him and secretly gets hold of a photo of him that he takes around with him and his sister is getting older and has changed since becoming interested in boys. It also touches on the racial issues of the time and Abe trying to learn the difference between what is acceptable to say and what is racist.

I hadn't heard of the author Michael Hiebert before but as I have recently been enjoying a lot of southern fiction I thought I'd request it from Netgalley and was lucky enough to be approved for a copy. Dream With Little Angels does draw some parallels with To Kill A Mockingbird but this didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book. It's an easy read with enough humour throughout to stop it becoming too dark, I loved the pie contest at the harvest festival.
If you enjoy southern fiction then it's worth a read.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Iain Banks' final novel The Quarry has been published 11 days after his death:

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Shakespeare & Co bookshop

Now listening to a programme about the Shakespeare & Company bookshop in Paris on radio 4, I've never been but if I ever go to Paris will have to pay it a visit

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Things We Never Said by Susan Elliot Wright

The Past shapes us all. But what happens when it hides a secret that changes everything? The chapters in the book swap between Maggie's life in the past and Jonathan's in the present day (2008) before both arriving at 2009. In 1964 Maggie wakes up in a mental asylum with no real recollection of who she is or how she came to be there. After the chapters on her life in the institution they then move further back in time and gradually explain what has happened to her and the reasons she was committed. Teacher Jonathan lives with his pregnant wife Fiona, he's grieving the death of his father but he was a cold and difficult man to get on with and they were never close. A detective looking into unsolved crimes from long ago arrives at Jonathan's house asking him questions and this leads to family secrets from his past being revealed. I enjoyed this book and the short, alternating chapters made it easy to keep reading and kept my interest all the way through and even though I had an idea early on of what one of the secrets was I didn't work out others. I loved Maggie and the story of her descent into mental illness was heartbreaking and believable, how different people with it were treated and thought of in the 1960s, she has to have electroshock treatment! I did find Jonathan and Fiona a little annoying and unlikeable though, for most of the book I thought he was self centered. There's a quote on the cover that says 'If you love Maggie O'Farrell, you will love this' and I agree that it will appeal to fans of her novels. Rating: 4 out of 5

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Perfect by Rachel Joyce

Due for release on 4th July 2013:

Perfect is Rachel Joyce's follow up to her very successful debut novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, I was interested to see what her second book would be like so was pleased when I was able to get a review copy from Netgalley.

The book starts in 1972, a boy named Byron finds out that 2 seconds are being added to time and when an accident happens while his Mum is driving him and his sister to school he believes the extra time is to blame and becomes obsessed. He talks to his friend James about this and together they come up with operation Perfect to try and get to the truth.
The chapters alternate between then and now where Jim, in his fifties, lives in a van and works in a supermarket cafe cleaning tables. He has suffered with mental health issues and has OCD, he has a strict routine he needs to carry out inside his van, sealing it up with duct tape and saying hello to inanimate objects.
The book is wonderfully written, the characters all believable and parts of it are heartbreaking. I loved the relationship between Byron and his Mum and also Jim and his work colleagues who help him. There are also some funny moments such as when Jim's boss has been on a training course and comes back saying they need to hug and tell each other how they feel about their work mates.
Overall a great read and in my opinion even better than The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, I eagerly await her third novel.

The Second Life of Amy Archer by R.S. Pateman

Thanks to Orion Books for a review copy of this novel, it is due for release on 18th July 2013: 

The Second Life Of Amy Archer starts ten years on from Amy's unsolved disappearance. Her Mum Beth hasn't been able to move on at all and has no closure as her daughters body has never been found. She regularly sees pyschics to try and find out the truth of what happened and is now divorced from Amy's Dad Brian, he's remarried with two step daughters.

Beth answers her front door to find Libby and her daughter Esme, she is the double of Amy and they both say that she's her reincarnation. Esme knows things that only Amy would remember, could it be what they claim is true?

I found the story of Beth meeting and trying to find out the truth about Libby and Esme gripping, reading the first 200 pages in one day. However, although the last third of this novel was good I didn't find it as interesting which was a shame. Also I found the ending a little confusuing and not completely clear (but then perhaps that's just me).

Overall though The Second Life of Amy Archer is a good pyschological thriller and another novel by a new author whose books I shall look out for in the future.

Beside The Sea by Veronique Olmi

I read this book in October 2012, here's a copy of my review from then:

This book is narrated by a single mother, her two boys are Stan who's 9 and 5 year old Kevin. She takes them to the seaside as they've never seen the sea before but they go during the week when they should be at school, arriving late at night when it's dark to stay in a hotel. She takes all her money on the trip (loose change in a tin) and none of the visits to the beach, cafe or funfair go well, as you read the book and it becomes darker you know it won't have a happy ever after ending.

I felt sorry for the three of them, it becomes apparent from the start that the unnamed mother is unwell and suffering from mental health issues. Social workers are mentioned and she tells us how Stan often gets himself and his brother to school in the mornings, and how when they need picking up she does sometimes get there, it's just not at the same time as the other parents.
I don't want to say too much for fear of giving the ending away but although this book is heartbreaking it's a must read. Even now months on from when I read Beside The Sea it has stayed with me and probably more so than any other book I've read.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Right that will do for today, I've posted some reviews of books I've read recently and I'll be back to post some more tomorrow.

The Night Rainbow by Claire King

The Night Rainbow by Claire King isn't my usual type of book but I'm so glad I gave it a try:

This story is told from the point of view of five year old Pea (short for Peony). She lives in Southern France with her pregnant mother who is depressed following the death of Pea's father and spends the summer with her little sister Margot playing in the countryside, they make friends with Claude, a man who lives nearby, and his dog.
I wasn't sure if I would like this book as child narrators can be a difficult thing to get right and although Pea does come across as slightly older than five I absolutely loved it. I wasn't sure at first and it did take me a little while to get into but once I did I couldn't put it down. It's beautifully written and I could easily picture the meadows and trees in the sunshine despite reading it during a very cold, snowy few days in March.
It made me laugh and cry, I was sorry when I had finished it and this impressive debut is a book I will read again.

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan

I was given a copy of this by Netgalley to review.

This is a wonderful novel and I absolutely loved it. It's set in a small town in Ireland at the start of the recession, a local builder has gone out of business and this story tells us how it affects the community.
Each of the 21 chapters are from the perspective of a different person and their stories are all linked to Bobby Mahon in some way. I was very impressed by how much we learned about every one of these believable characters and the town, which considering the book is quite short is no mean feat. We didn't only find out about what was happening to them now but also their pasts, some of which were heartbreaking.
This is a book that will stay with me and I will read again. It is so beautifully written that it's difficult to believe that The Spinning Heart is Donal Ryan's debut novel, I eagerly await his second.

Still Missing by Beth Gutcheon

Still Missing by Beth Gutcheon is one of my favourite books:

Alex Selky, going on seven, kisses his mother goodbye and sets off for his school that's only two blocks away. He never gets there. His mother is desperate to find him and begins a vigil that lasts for days, then weeks, then months and never gives up hope that he'll be found alive.

This book originally came out in the early 80's but had been out of print in Britain for some time before Persephone books published it again. I wasn't sure how I would get on with reading it as my daughters are a similar age to the missing boy but I'm so glad that I did. As the story progresses and the weeks turn to months with still no sign of Alex, his mother Susan is the only person who believes he's still alive somewhere and her family and friends feel that she should start to try and move on. This is a very well written book (which you would expect if Persephone have published it), I couldn't put it down and I was desperate to find out what had happened to Alex. I originally read this just after it came out and ended up taking a longer lunch break at work so I could finish it.

One of the best books I've read and certainly one I'll revisit.

Whistling Past The Graveyard by Susan Crandall

I received a copy of  Whistling Past The Graveyard by Susan Crandall in May 2013 from Netgalley to review:

Nine year old Starla's Dad works away on an oil rig and her Mother left her when she was young to try and become a famous singer in Nashville so she lives with her paternal grandmother in Mississippi. One day after she has one of her 'red rages' she fears she'll be sent to reform school and decides to run away to live with her Mother. She soon meets and accepts a lift from Eula, a black woman who has a young white baby with her and so begins a journey for them across America. However, as Starla is white and this is set during the summer of 1963 when racial segregation was still normal this isn't as straight forward as it could be.
The story is told through the eyes of feisty Starla and I found her voice and thoughts believable. I also loved Eula and Miss Cyrena and was rooting for them all the way through the book. It's a well written story, is easy to read and gave me a good insight into what it must have been like to be black and living during those times.

Instructions For A Heatwave

I read Instructions For A Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell  in April 2013:

The story starts in London during the heatwave of 1976 when Robert leaves the house to go to the shops but doesn't return. His wife Gretta and their three grown up children Michael Francis, Monica and Aoife are brought back together to try and find out why he chose to disappear and where he's gone to.

Michael has got marital problems, Monica is married and living in Gloucestershire struggling with her relationship with her step daughters and Aoife, living in America, hasn't seen her family for a few years and only sent her Mum a postcard at Christmas. Along with Gretta and Robert they all have secrets which are revealed as the story progresses.

I absolutely loved this book and the quality of the writing reminded me of Anne Tyler (whose books I enjoy a lot). I'd heard a lot of good things about this one before I read it and it certainly didn't disappoint me.

WARNING: If you read this novel do expect other things to get pushed to the side, I didn't watch much TV or listen to the radio, housework got left and I had to force myself to put the book down so I could go and pick my children up from school