Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Review: Paper Swans by Jessica Thompson

Paper Swans by Jessica Thompson
Published by Coronet (Hodder & Stoughton) 2014
Received for review via bookbridgr.com

Ben Lawrence seems to have it all - the hot job, the flashy car, and the luxurious apartment.  But there is tragedy hidden in his past.

The events of that day have stopped him truly getting close to anyone.  He made a promise that love was the price he would pay for his mistakes.

When Effy Jones - a bright, ambitious charity founder - walks into Tower 100 one autumn day, little do they know that their lives are about to be turned upside down.

Paper Swans tells of how true love conquers all, and when everything is broken one person can help mend the pieces.  

_____________________________________________

First of all, can we just appreciate the beauty of this book cover?!  It's shallow, I know.  The picture truly does not do this book justice - it is gorgeous!

Ok, so that's out of the way ... I read this book after The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, and I was in the mood for something light and fluffy.  And that is exactly what I got.  I wouldn't say that 'chick lit' is one of my favourite genres, but every now and then a light fun read is what is needed.  This books fills that spot nicely, although I did have some issues with it.

The main characters in this story both have flaws.  One is suffering from mental illness as a result of a tragic 'mystery' from his past (which really isn't that much of a mystery, to be honest) and the other is a workaholic, dedicating her life to a charitable cause.  But everything just seems a bit too perfect, in spite of their difficulties - Ben is hugely successful in his career, rolling in money, gorgeous looking, adored by women everywhere and Effy is beautiful, successful in her charitable endeavours, loved by everyone who meets her.  It all just felt a little bit too easy and perfect, and this was not helped by a several ridiculous coincidences within the story.

This book was well written, though sometimes a little formulaic, and at times it felt the author was trying a little too hard to be funny and on trend.  Due to the mental illness aspect of the plot, I couldn't help but compare this to The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer which I read recently, and unfortunately Paper Swans pales in comparison to Filer's book. But I think I am wrong to compare the two - Paper Swans is primarily a love story rather than a novel about mental illness.

Having said all this, I did not dislike this book.  It is a nice, light read, a sweet story in which love conquers all.  It is ultimately uplifting and positive and I think it will appeal to fans of Katie Fforde and Jill Mansell.  A perfectly acceptable 3 stars from me.


Monday, 1 September 2014

August Wrap-Up

Well, August was a pretty good reading month for me!  Having the whole month off work certainly helped me to reach a reading total of 10 books, which I think means I am out of my reading slump :).


Here's some quick thoughts ...

Already reviewed:


The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton - beautiful writing, but too long-winded and slow paced for me - 2 stars.  Read my review here.

The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark - a compelling, tragic tale, wonderfully written - 4 stars.  Read my review here.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - loved this, but the ending let me down - 4 stars.  Read my review here.

Reviews of these coming soon:


Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri - loved this collection of short stories, my first experience of Jhumpa Lahiri - 4 stars

Dead Wrong by Cath Staincliffe - tight, fast paced, quick read - 4 stars

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry - a sad an tragic look at mental illness in the 1950s-1960s - 4 stars

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer - another fascinating story about mental illness, following a man suffering with schizophrenia after the death of his brother - 5 stars!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman - my second attempt at Neil Gaiman, and I really enjoyed this one (I had to give up on his American Gods).  A great story with a fairytale feel - 5 stars

0.4 by Mike Lancaster - a young adult novel, a sci-fi futuristic story about what could become of the human race.  An interesting and quick read - 3 stars

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson - epic high fantasy.  A solid start to the Mistborn Trilogy, and I'm looking forward to reading the next instalment - 4 stars

Phew!  Some good reads this month, but the star of August for me was The Shock of the Fall.  My review of this will be up on the blog tomorrow.

We also watched a few films in August, with a little less success unfortunately!

First up, Dave and I went to the cinema to see The Inbetweeners 2


I don't know about you, but I really have to be in the mood to watch this kind of infantile, juvenile humour.  Luckily I was in that mood and I did enjoy this - though not as much as my immature husband! I thought his head was going to explode in the cinema at one point, he was trying to contain his laughter so much.  I gave this 7/10 and it got an 8/10 from Dave.

One rainy afternoon, the boys went to watch Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, and me and my girlie watched Pretty In Pink.


I loved this film when it first came out in '80s, and I really wanted my 15 year old daughter to like it too.  I hadn't seen it for many years and was hoping it wouldn't be too dated!  I wasn't disappointed - I loved it just as much as always, and fell in love with Andrew McCarthy all over again!  This got 9/10 from me and a perfectly acceptable 8/10 from my daughter!

Dave and I watched Under the Skin on Sky On Demand.


This was one weird film.  It was on some list of the best films of the year so far that I found somewhere (can't find it now so maybe I just made it up :)).   I've since found out that it is based on a book, and that the book is much better than the film so I might give that a go at some point.  The film is just weird.  I just didn't get it.  3/10 from me, 4/10 from Dave (an extra point for Scarlett Jahansson *eyeroll*)

We then watched Paranormal Activity 4.


I don't know why I do this to myself.  I enjoy horror films, but the Paranormal Activity films scare the pants off me, and this was no exception.  They just feel so realistic and plausible and I'm on the edge of my seat throughout the film, waiting for something to happen.  This one wasn't quite as good as the previous films, some things were left unexplained which I found very unsatisfactory! But overall, it was good - 7/10 from both Dave and I.

And finally, we watched Cabin Fever: Patient Zero


This was such a disappointment!  The storyline sounded interesting (and topical) - flesh eating virus wipes out the population of an entire island - but it just did not deliver.  Gratuitous gore and hideousness and weak acting resulted in 1/10 from me and 3/10 from Dave!

So that was August!  What were your August highlights? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Review: The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark

The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark

Publisher: Penguin Classics (2006)

First Published: 1970

From Goodreads:
Described as 'a metaphysical shocker' at the time of its release, Muriel Sparks' The Driver's Seat is a taut psychological thriller, published with an introduction by John Lanchester in Penguin Modern Classics.

Lise has been driven to distraction by working in the same accountants' office for sixteen years. So she leaves everything behind her, transforms herself into a laughing, garishly-dressed temptress and flies abroad on the holiday of a lifetime. But her search for adventure, sex and new experiences takes on a far darker significance as she heads on a journey of self-destruction. Infinity and eternity attend Lise's last terrible day in an unnamed southern city, as she meets her fate. 

One of six novels to be nominated for a 'Lost Man Booker Prize', The Driver's Seat was adapted into a 1974 film, Identikit, starring Elizabeth Taylor.


It is quite hard to review this novella without giving anything away, but I will try!  At just over 100 pages, I flew through this in a couple of hours.  It is a cleverly woven tale of a woman bored to death by her mundane life, and is a dark and compelling tale.  The reader knows from the first couple of pages what the outcome will be for Lise, and the journey to the conclusion is at times as funny as it is tense.  And then you feel awful for laughing at this poor woman who clearly has issues.  A very clever tale, told so succinctly and tightly with not a single wasted word!

This was my first read of Muriel Spark's work and I will definitely be seeking out something else by her.  This was was shortlisted for the 'Lost Man Booker Prize' in 2010 and anyone who likes a tense psychological thriller would love it.



Friday, 29 August 2014

#FridayReads

It's Friday!  Time to share what I'll be reading over the weekend.


I am currently reading The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson.  I was really grabbed right from the beginning, but it has tailed off a little ... hopefully it picks up again soon as I ordered the next two in the trilogy before I'd reached 100 pages!

I'm also currently reading Bleak House by Charles Dickens (read about my 'read the classics' challenge here!), so I will be continuing with that for the foreseeable future!

Hopefully I will finish The Final Empire either today or tomorrow and then I will be picking up Paper Swans by Jessica Thompson, which I received for review from Hodder & Stoughton (thank you!).

(#Friday Reads was created by @TheBookMaven)

What are you reading this weekend? Leave a comment and let me know if I need to add more books to my wish list!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Bout of Books: Wrap Up

Oops! I forgot to post my wrap up for the Bout of Books readathon!



I started and finished 3 books: Dead Wrong by Cath Staincliffe, The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry and 0.4 by Mike Lancaster.

I finished 1 book I'd already started: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

I started and did not finish 1 other book: How To Be Good by Nick Hornby

I reached my goal of completing 3 books, so that is good!  I don't really think the readathon made me read more than I usually do, but it was fun to interact with other participants on twitter and find some new blogs to stalk!  Thank you to the organisers of this readathon, I will no doubt join in again!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Bout of Books Update: Day 6

Saturday was quite a busy day, so not a huge amount of reading done.  I managed to finish 0.4 by Mike Lancaster, which was a quick, easy read (quite eery and tense, but didn't really live up to the freakiness of the cover!) and then read another short story from The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri.  I've been reading this book all month, in between other books, and have been really enjoying being able to dip in and out of this!

Pages Read Today: 85 pages of 0.4 (finished!) and 22 pages of The Interpreter of Maladies = 107 pages
Total Pages Read: 623
Total Books Read: 3

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Publisher: Arrow Books (2012)

First Published:  2011

From Goodreads:

It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. 

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune — and remarkable power — to whoever can unlock them. 

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved — that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig. 

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. 

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt — among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life — and love — in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape. 

A world at stake. 
A quest for the ultimate prize. 
Are you ready?


Two things:  I am a child of the '80s - I was actually born in 1972, the same year as Halliday, the creator of the Oasis in Ready Player One.  Second thing: I am not a "gamer".  I probably would be if I was any good at computer games, but I am completely useless.  I am amazed by the creativity and imagination that goes into these games though - my son has a Playstation 4 and the graphics are truly amazing!   So what I'm trying to say is, yes, I identified with the whole 80's aspect of this book but not so much with the gaming aspect, and it truly didn't matter!

Ready Player One is a a great novel, whether you were lived through the 80s, are an avid gamer or have never picked up a joystick in your life.  I think it probably did help that I understood and identified with all the 80s references, which brought back a lot of fun memories, but the characters and storyline are so engaging that I don't think it matters when you were born.

I really loved the characters in this book and could totally understand why anyone would want to escape to the Oasis in the world described.  I particularly loved how the female characters were portrayed - girls have a reputation for being pretty useless at games and I'm sure this must irk the girl gamers out there! But in Ready Player One the girls are kick-ass strong characters who can certainly show the boys a thing or two!  All the characters have been through some pretty tough times in an austere world-gone-wrong, in an all too believable future!

This was a definite 5 star read for me right the way through .... until the end where I felt let down hugely by Mr Cline!  No spoilers, but I really wanted things to turn out a little differently from what I thought was the predictable ending, but that is my only tiny quibble.  

I would recommend this book to pretty much anyone!  If you like adventure stories and stories about people overcoming adversity, give this one a go!