Rory Gilmore ~ The First Thirty

rory gilmoreWhile browsing the internet with my coffee this morning I happened to come across a website bookreviews.me.uk, and was intrigued by a reading challenge the writer of the site was undertaking, The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge, which encompasses some 339 books.  After doing some more searching, I also found out that this is rather a popular challenge so I thought I would put it out there and see how many books on the following list people have read.

I have to admit that I have never seen an episode of The Gilmore Girls; I have no clue who Rory Gilmore is, but I can say it’s a pleasure to hear of such a bookish person being featured in, what I can only assume, is a popular programme.  Going through the list I have marked those books I have read, whether or not they are reviewed on this site, and am going to try and get through some more of them as there appears to be some very interesting books on the list.  Because there are so many books, I’m only going feature the first thirty in this post, and will add the remainder over the coming weeks.  The list is composed of some of the best traditional and modern classics out there in my opinion, so hopefully everyone can find a few they would enjoy reading to fill the upcoming winter months.

Books-to-the-Ceiling-illustration-Arnold-Lobel-Whiskers-Rhymes

1984 ~ George Orwell (read)
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ~ Mark Twain (read)
Alice in Wonderland ~ Lewis Carroll (read)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay ~ Michael Chabon
An American Tragedy ~ Theodore Dreiser
Angela’s Ashes ~ Frank McCourt (read)
Anna Karenina ~ Leo Tolstoy
The Diary of a Young Girl ~ Anne Frank (read)
The Archidamian War ~ Donald Kagan
The Art of Fiction ~ Henry James
The Art of War ~ Sun Tzu (read)
As I Lay Dying ~ William Faulkner
Atonement ~ Ian McEwan (read)
Autobiography of a Face ~ Lucy Grealy
The Awakening ~ Kate Chopin
Babe ~ Dick King-Smith
Backlash: The Undeclared War against American Women ~ Susan Faludi
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress ~ Dai Sijie
Bel Canto ~ Ann Patchett
The Bell Jar ~ Sylvia Plath (read)
Beloved ~ Toni Morrison
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation ~ Seamus Heaney (read)
The Bhagava Gita
The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews ~ Peter Duffy
Bitch in Praise of Difficult Women ~ Elizabeth Wurtzel
A Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays ~ Mary McCarthy
Brave New World ~ Aldous Huxley (read)
Brick Lane ~ Monica Ali
Bridgadoon ~ Alan Jay Lerner
Candide ~ Voltaire

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Review: Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) ~ Brandon Sanderson

mistbornISBN ~ 978-0765311788
Publisher ~ Tor Books
No. Of Pages ~ 537 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Macmillan

In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with color once more?
In Brandon Sanderson’s intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage – Allomancy, a magic of the metals.

4 Thumbs-UpIf you have a need to be anti-social for a while, and don’t we all at some time or another, this is the book for you and despite its title it is the first in the Mistborn series.  After featuring it in an article of what people might like to read while game of Thrones was off the air, I decided I would give this a try to see if it really was a worthy substitute.

I was immediately pulled into this book from the first line, and soon felt comfortable with characters that I came to regard as the mains in this epic.  There is a strong female who, despite all odds, manages to survive and then actually thrive in this bizarre environment the Author places her in.  Add to this a loveable rogue who teaches her everything she needs to know about using her newly found powers, and this all adds to up characters that readers can connect to and want to follow on their travels. However, not all the characterizations in this book are as well done as these two I have mentioned, some of them were lacking in descriptiveness and I found myself at some points hard pushed to remember their role in the plot.

It is often hard for an Author in this genre to come up with something new and different, but it appears in this book.  The ‘magic’ used in its pages was unique and used items that I had not come across before in other books.  From the way the magic is described and explained it is obvious that a lot of thought went into this system as the Author wrote this book, and it works well as it plays a major part in the action of which there is definitely plenty.  When writing about the battles waged using this magic, the Author was very careful to stick to the rules he had created and applied to it, and there was not a point where I found myself having a ‘hang on, didn’t you say….’ moment.  World building was not skimped on either in this novel, it is not just a strange environment that happens to be there, but has a history behind how it came to being, and this is just as interesting as the plotline itself.

The downside for me whilst reading this was the dialogue, it had a tendency to take the safe road, and use dialogue that can be found in most books of this genre which made some of the conversations a little unbelievable and also, in some cases, as if the book itself were intended for a much younger audience.  However, this was just a minor peeve and didn’t pull away from my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for an epic fantasy read that will keep them engrossed with every turn of the page.  I will definitely be reading more in this series.

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Review: Search The Dark (Inspector Ian Rutledge #3) ~ Charles Todd

Search the darkA mind-damaged veteran comes home from the Great War to be told his wife and two children were killed in the bombing of London. Refusing to believe the news, or unable to, the man thinks he spots them on the platform of the station of a small town in Dorset. Then a woman’s body is found there, and Rutledge is sent by his jealous rival at the Yard to locate the children.

 

4 Thumbs-UpI came across this book by accident, hiding on my shelf and opened it to scan the first page; later that day I closed the cover and sat back feeling I have used my time wisely.

The main protagonist in this book and all the other in this series is a Scotland Yard policeman.  Newly returned from the Great War, he has his own personal demons to deal with as well as helping those who are also dealing with their demons from fighting in this war.  Add to that the stress of trying to find the criminals, and it could make for a very unstable and highly strung character but the Author manages to avoid this wonderfully.  Instead he uses this character as a vehicle to bring the reader’s attention to the unseen horrors that many carried with them when they returned home.  This character is vulnerable, unsure whilst at the same time being very capable of doing his job and bringing the wrongdoer to justice.  I felt for this character as I don’t usually do in a cozy mystery, and wished there was some way I could help him find peace in his life.  In this one character the Author managed not only to show the inner turmoil of those who returned from the fighting, but he also shows in the other people he encounters in his enquiries the change in society that had taken place while he was away.  These range from total indifference to the way these returnees were feeling and going through, to those who wanted to cosset them and keep them wrapped up from the hurts that may come their way in everyday and finally to the group of people who refused to believe that, mentally, their loved ones would never return to normal.  This book is not loaded down with a bunch of secondary characters which helps the book move along at a steady clip and keeps the reader on track to the end.

What an end it was.  This is the kind of book I love.  I thought I had spotted the bad guy, then no it took a twist, and another, then another until the end I had no idea who the real criminal was, and when the reveal came I was blown away as I never thought it was this person.  Add to this the feeling of flying down country roads in a little old car when horses and carriages were still in good use, and it all combines to the kind of book that I just couldn’t put down.

I highly recommend this book to lovers of cozy mysteries, and those who enjoy a great read that will keep you guessing until the end.  I will definitely be reading more in this series.

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Review: Corvette Nightfire ~ Daniel Wetta with Robert Selfe

corvetteCan Just One Dance Change Destiny? As Corvette Nightfire approaches the casino in Las Vegas, the doors burst open to the sound of gunfire. A beautiful woman rushes to him and thrusts a heavy bag into his arms. Instructing him in Spanish, which he doesn’t understand, she runs past him to a waiting car. A professional poker player in town to play in the Final Nine in the World Series of Poker, Corvette soon discovers that he is inexorably connected to Valentina, this exotic woman who has just put his life into a tailspin. He disappears into an international vortex of intrigues, a complex world or ordinary heroes and heinous cartel thugs, in a desperate race to find and save her. They cannot speak each other’s languages, but on the romantic evening on which they meet, Valentina tells her story through dance images. She becomes an animal spirit, an amber-eyed black jaguar that Corvette must ride to find the woman he inexplicably loves. His heart reveals that the millions of dollars in prize money in the tournament mean nothing compared to Valentina’s life. Not understanding what is guiding him through the vortex, Corvette comes to an unexpected destiny, one of reconciliation to generations of family sins. A suspense-thriller, Corvette Nightfire takes up where The Z Redemption leaves off and straps the reader into another bumpy, exhilarating ride!

3 Thumbs-UpI’m going to get this out there before I do my review, the reason I gave this book only 3 thumbs was the font used in the paperback copy I have.  I know this sounds petty but, for me, the font really interfered with my whole enjoyment of this novel; I’m not sure how the font came into being but it was certainly not a good fit for the book, sorry.

Now onto the book itself; this is the second instalment in ‘The Z Redemption’ trilogy, the first of which I reviewed some time ago, which was also a debut novel for this Author.  Unlike the first instalment this time around the Author has chosen to write in conjunction with someone else and, to be honest, they produced a very worthy sequel.

The book centres on the character of the title, not a car as I first thought when I saw this, and what a character he is.  The guy is a man’s man; he plays fast, loves fast and lives fast.  This could quite easily have made him a character that women readers would dislike, but the Authors gave him a soft and vulnerable side too that women could relate to and, in doing this made his a character for all genders.  As the storyline progress we see the struggles that this character has to go through to reconcile the two sides of his personality, and join him on a journey to discover himself.  The book is full of characters that are equally well written, some old from the previous book, and some new, but all of them play a part in the plot.  There are no characters that appear and leave the reader wondering what their purpose was, if you find one you may want to check that you’ve not skipped a few pages.

To say this is a fast-paced thriller would be an understatement, it’s a book that grabs you from the very first paragraph buckles you into the passenger seat and doesn’t let you out until the ride is over.  Not only is this a great story it is full of interesting details surrounding the Mexican culture, which the Authors manage to integrate into the plot seamlessly.  Tightly written and right on track every step of the way, this is a book that will leave you breathless to the very end.  Something I did really like about this book was the way in which all the details came together, there wasn’t a rush of tying off the loose ends at the end, as can been seen in other books of this genre but rather they came together like the ingredients in a delicate soufflé, which gave the story a great deal of depth and flavour.

Despite my total dislike of the font, and my apologies here to the Authors, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a fast paced thriller and I will definitely be reading the final instalment of this trilogy.

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Review: The Sunne in Splendour ~ Sharon Kay Penman

SunneA glorious novel of the controversial Richard III—a monarch betrayed in life by his allies and betrayed in death by history

In this beautifully rendered modern classic, Sharon Kay Penman redeems Richard III—vilified as the bitter, twisted, scheming hunchback who murdered his nephews, the princes in the Tower—from his maligned place in history with a dazzling combination of research and storytelling.

Born into the treacherous courts of fifteenth-century England, in the midst of what history has called The War of the Roses, Richard was raised in the shadow of his charismatic brother, King Edward IV. Loyal to his friends and passionately in love with the one woman who was denied him, Richard emerges as a gifted man far more sinned against than sinning.

This magnificent retelling of his life is filled with all of the sights and sounds of battle, the customs and lore of the fifteenth century, the rigors of court politics, and the passions and prejudices of royalty.

5 Thumbs-UpI’ve either mentioned this book or the Author several times during the life of my reviews so I have decided it was about time I actually wrote a review on the book itself.  This was the debut novel for this Author.

I was first introduced to both the book and the Author by my History Professor whilst taking my Masters in History many years ago.  She recommended it to me on the basis of it being the most accurate account of the times she had read in fiction form.  Being a Yorkshire woman by birth and therefore, a staunch Yorkist, I was slightly apprehensive when I picked this up as most accounts of Richard III and the House of York are based on Tudor propaganda from the times, and are slewed very much in their favour.  I found none of this when I read this long 936 page book.

The book itself could be broken down into thirds; the first brings into the light that confusing history of the Wars of the Roses, and for readers who are not up to speed with the ins and outs of this time it is a great way not only to get to know the key players, but where they fit together in the whole sorry mess.  Yes it does sound a little like a history lesson, but it is given in such a manner that it skilfully and neatly pulls the reader so far into the novel that they have no choice but to read to the end. Just by reading the first part of the novel it can be clearly seen that this Author has done extensive research into the period, and this comes through in way in which locations are described and characters react to their environment.  The remaining two-thirds catalogue the reign of Edward IV and also the life of Richard.

Character development is stunningly done within the pages of this book.  The reader is not thrown huge chunks of back-story and motivational traits, but slowly includes them as the plot progresses.  Their fears are revealed, sometimes surprising the reader, and the political machinations that ruled their everyday lives are uncovered slowly, rather like peeling the layers from an onion.  Obviously the main focus of the book is Richard, and it follows him from a very young age when he is very much in the shadow of his brothers through to his death on the battlefield.  The Author does not portray him the same light as Shakespeare, but rather gives him a more human face than the one constantly given to him of that of monster.  A compelling and believable case is presented regarding his nephews in the Tower of London, which rather makes the reader consider that this could be a case of the wrong people mishearing words said at the wrong time and in frustration, as in the case of Thomas Becket when King Henry II uttered ‘who will rid me of this meddlesome priest’; we will never know.

I could write for hours on this book, but to do so would have me revealing spoilers and getting into the whole White Rose versus red rose debate (yes the capitalization error was deliberate *smile), so I’m going to leave this review short, and I hope tantalising enough to make someone want to actually pick this up and read it.

I would highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a good read.  I have read it several times and yes, my History Professor was right it is the most accurate account of the times in fiction form.

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Review: The Lonely Tree ~ Yael Politis

The lonely treeTonia Shulman does not share her father’s dream – forging a Jewish State out of the chaos of British Mandate Palestine. She hates the hardships of life in Kfar Etzion – an isolated kibbutz south of Jerusalem – clearing rocky hillsides, bathing in rationed cups of trucked-in water, and being confined behind barbed wire. Her own dreams have nothing to do with national self-realization; she longs for steaming bubble baths and down comforters, but most of all for a place on earth where she can feel safe. She is in love with Amos, but refuses to acknowledge these feelings. She knows he will never leave his homeland and Tonia plans to emigrate to America. But can she really begin a new life there?

4 Thumbs-UpI was initially going to review a later work by this Author (Olivia, Mourning), but decided against that in favour of a review of their debut novel; a review of Olivia will now appear later in the year.  Given the current climate between Israel and Palestine, this is a book that anyone who is not familiar with Israel and its turbulent history should read.

Through the lives and words of the two main protagonists, this Author brings to life the history of Israel/British Palestine dating from the 1930’s up to the Six Day War in 1967.  With great care the Author uses their characters to describe the impact historical events had on both fictional and actual people.  The female protagonist was portrayed as being unhappy with her lot in life and wanting out, going to any means to achieve her dream.  While I did not agree with a lot of the decisions this character made, it did not make me like her any less as it brought into the light the hardships and uncertainty that she and those around her were feeling in this time of change.  This character is nothing if not determined but, as the novel progresses she develops a better understanding of the pitfalls this determination can bring, and also the power it can instil in a person.  The male protagonist is a complete opposite to the female lead; he comes from a totally different background and has a belief structure that is at total odds to hers.  However, despite this and the carnage of war that is exploding around them they develop a relationship.  To say more about this would spoil their part in the story, and to find out how this progresses this book has to be read.

The Author’s writing style throughout this novel is excellent, they are eloquent without being boorish and this leads to a story that flows well and pulls the reader in from the very first page.  Pulling on their links with Israel the Author adds an authenticity to their book that would otherwise have been missing if it had been based on purely research.  If you have never been to Israel, this book will take you there and, if you have been as I have back in the late 1970’s, reading it will bring to mind all the places seen right down to the rusted military vehicles at the side of the road.  As I read this book I was made to think of works by Leon Uris several times, as this Author captures the region with just as much clarity.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good well-paced and well written book, who also enjoys a historical novel based on fact and experience that shows through on every page.  Surprisingly for me, as I’m not a lover of the romance genre, I did enjoy this part of the book too and was not the reason I rated this as 4 thumbs; that was because I did not want it to end.

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Review: The Moonstone ~ Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone‘When you looked down into the stone, you looked into a yellow deep that drew your eyes into it so that they saw nothing else’

The Moonstone, a yellow diamond looted from an Indian temple and believed to bring bad luck to its owner, is bequeathed to Rachel Verinder on her eighteenth birthday. That very night the priceless stone is stolen again and when Sergeant Cuff is brought in to investigate the crime, he soon realizes that no one in Rachel’s household is above suspicion. Hailed by T. S. Eliot as ‘the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels’, The Moonstone is a marvellously taut and intricate tale of mystery, in which facts and memory can prove treacherous and not everyone is as they first appear.

4 Thumbs-UpAs those who have read my ‘About Me’ section will know I’m a Military Spouse and, with that said we are in the throes of moving season for the Military.  Even though our move is a way off yet I decided to get ahead of the game by sorting through my books, and came across this in a box.  Needless to say, once I opened the cover everything else was forgotten.

Wilkie Collins, for those who may not be aware, was a friend of Charles Dickens and a reader may think that because of this their writing styles would be somewhat similar; this is not the case they have drastically different writing styles and because of this I thoroughly enjoy Wilkie Collins novels as much as I despise anything penned by his friend who is just too long-winded and maudlin for my taste.

The storyline in this book is narrated from the perspective of each member of the unique cast of characters that the Author brings to life on his pages.  They are entertaining, smart and funny, bringing out a lot of the social norms of the period in their narratives, whilst at the same time showing that things were changing much to the annoyance of one particular chauvinistic male.  Because the Author is able to convince the reader that the plot is being revealed to them on a personal level, rather than them being a spectator in the unfolding mystery, the characters become ones you can love or hate as you would people you meet in real life.  The characters in this novel are societies ‘Gods of the Universe’; they are privileged, pampered but definitely human, a trait that is often lacking in more modern novels in this genre.  There was not one character I preferred over another, as each brings their unique perspective of the world around them into the tale, and through this the reader is able to experience more of what is happening behind the main storyline.

As in most novels written in this time period, the location description are vast, sweeping and very detailed; it is verbose to the extreme and a reader that is new to its pages may wonder how anything ever was accomplished in Victorian times when they used 20 words to convey something we use 4 words for today.  Despite this it is still an excellent read, no matter how many times I open this book, or listen to it on audio book.  It is not fast-paced by any means, and those readers that enjoy this in a mystery book may find that aspect off-putting, but regardless of whether you solve the mystery before the reveal or a thrown off the scent by the varying twists and turns, there is still plenty in the novel to keep you turning the pages to the very end.

I would highly recommend this as a good engrossing read for anyone who likes mystery novels, those books set in the Victorian era or who is curious about the book purported to be ‘the first mystery novel’.  I’ve read Wilkie Collins novel the Woman in White, and will no doubt continue to revisit both of his works in the years to come.

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