Wednesday, 31 March 2010

In memory of the forest

This doesn’t appear to be a well known book, a quick glance at the various book blogs I read and I can’t find any mention of it and there are only two Shelfari reviews (well now three)
I ordered this book from Amazon after someone mentioned it briefly on a book forum a good few months ago. I picked it up the other day to read without really knowing anything about it.

Set in a small village called Jadowia in eastern Poland a young man is found dead in the surrounding forest with his skull smashed in, after the woefully inadequate village policeman finds no leads his friend Leszek (a small farmer) decides to make his own enquires.
This book is set around the time after the fall of the iron curtain, the Russians now have no influence and the country is struggling to leave the old communist system behind. The village life here is bleak, there appears to be a serious drinking problem within the men in the village and the younger generation are continuously moving away leaving an aging population with corrupt officials in charge. So this appears to be a standard crime thriller involving dodgy Russians amidst village life right?

Well no, because within this village are some dark secrets which make the murder of the young man pale into significance.
Things start to happen in the village, stones in people’s house foundations start to go missing as well as damage to their front doors, someone has stolen a few headstones from the old Jewish cemetery and why does Leszek’s grandpa keep secretly building a fence for which they have no need?

We then find out that 80% of the village population used to be Jewish and during the war they were firstly kept captive in the village by the Germans before being forced on a train journey. We have a village which went from being a dominantly Jewish town to one without a single Jew. What’s also chilling is that the younger generation have no idea this has happen to their village as there is no evidence at all there was ever a big population of Jews living here. The Synagogue has long been burnt down and the local priest only manages to find the old Jewish cemetery after looking at some old pre-war maps, these people have been forgotten completely.

What did I think?

This is not an easy book to get into, you have a huge array of characters all of whom are given some kind of back story and the chapters alternate between being told in 3rd person to being told in the 1st by Leszek, plus add the fact that all of the characters have hard to pronounce Polish names and you can forgive me for thinking this was going to be a hard read.

But it isn’t at all. The above synopsis I have given is incredibly small and does not do justice to the amount of character stories and different threads this book contains. This is a rich book with many layers with seemingly disconnected paths which makes a good read until you come to the last 50 pages when suddenly the book gives you an emotional wallop making this a GREAT read.

This book is about many many things, the fall of communism in Poland, the mundane day to day life in an eastern polish village and memories. The holocaust in this book is not told from the Jewish or German perceptive but from the very people who were forced to watch as this happened in their very village leaving an immense and irretrievable absence. It is about their guilt that they should have done more or in some cases may have contributed to it and how ultimately the horrors of this time are why the Jews of Jadowia have been forgotten. But despite this the book leaves you with a great feeling of hope, hopeful towards the future.

Unfortunately the author died soon after writing this book and as this was his first there are no other books written by this author. Sometimes people say that ‘everyone has a book in them’ and WOW what a book.

Verdict 5/5
Posted by Jess

Monday, 29 March 2010

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

This is another 'Read the book, see the Movie' challenge, this time around its the turn of 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The most obvious thing you notice when you first open the book is how incredibly short it is. It is only 27 pages long, considering how long the movie was I was gob smacked. The beginning of the book put a very humorous slant on Benjamin's predicament. He is born a fully grown elderly man complete with white hair, a long beard and the sass to go with it. It had me laughing quite a lot and really is funny. Then the book suddenly takes on a more serious note as Benjamin's bewildered father does his best in the situation to bring Benjamin up. The book moves at a lightning pace (as you would imagine) Benjamin has all sorts of adventures, gets married, has a child, joins the army and lives life to the full. Ironically it is youth that causes the most problems for Benjamin. As he ages his appearance gets younger. He suddenly finds that despite being in his sixties no-one will take him seriously as he appears to be just a boy. Tragedy begins to creep into the story and becomes sad. His wife leaves him, his child is embarrassed and unsympathetic. His nearest and dearest decide it is his own fault that he is getting younger and they shun him.

We never really get much of a feeling as to how Benjamin feels or copes with this situation, he goes through life trying his best but when things do go wrong for him aside from the occasional tears there is no introspective thought on his part. You never feel you know Benjamin as a character, you are just along for the ride.

All in all it was enjoyable but lacked emotional impact. If the book had been longer it could have been a masterpiece.

Verdict 3/5

The movie is very different from the book but in a good way. It does a wonderful job of expanding upon the original story and develops the characters so skilfully you feel you know them as people which makes the end of his journey all the more poignant and emotional. The actors in the film do a first class job, it is the first film in a while that has made me cry.

The movie adds new characters, surroundings, circumstances and adventures. It also gives Benjamin a strong likeable personality. None of the additions damage the original story in any way, they are all significant improvements upon it. This movie is what the book should have been.

A stereo typical response on my part would be to say the old cliché still spouted by reviewers the world over “It wasn't as good as the book” this cannot be further than the truth. The book pales in comparison.

Of course it would would not be fair to take away all the credit from Fitzgerald. He created the characters and the basis for the story. For that I am thankful however although it can be said that Fitzgerald created the story I believe it can be said that the movie perfected it.

My verdict for the movie is 5/5

By Chris

Fly me to the Moon

My father was born in London in 1946 and read science fiction from a young age. When television became available he used to watch the original Flash Gordon programs in black and white with the model ships hanging from wires you could clearly see much like Thunderbirds firing dangerous looking sparks out of the engines.

Recently my father recommended a book from his childhood to me. It was written in 1951 by Ray Bradbury and I found it absolutely fascinating; not just because it was a good book, but because the stories were so different to modern science fiction works. It seems in the 1950s science fiction writers believed anything was possible in the future. They often wrote that it was foreseeable that humanity would have space stations, rockets, colonies on other planets and advanced robots by the 1980s! I wondered is this any different from modern science fiction stories only set 40 years in the future where we have advanced androids or fleets of spaceships capable of faster than light travel.

I gave my father a brief interview yesterday and asked him some of the questions I couldn't get out of my head. My father is a fine, obliging chap so listened patiently and answered my questions;

It seems in all the science fiction books from the 1950s the authors believed by the 80s or 90s we'd all be living in space stations or on Mars. Did people believe this at the time?

No, we hadn't even got a satellite in space at that time. The Americans grabbed old Von Braun in 1945 and the Russians were the first to put a satellite in space in 1957 so lets face it, the thought of a man on the moon was a long way off. Science Fiction is what it is; fiction!

What did the general population think of these ideas at the time?

They didn't really, Science Fiction was sort of nerdy back then.

Who was the biggest Science Fiction writer back then?

Arthur C. Clarke of 2001 fame was regarded as the most prophetic science-fiction writer at the time. He predicted geostationary satellites around the world and global communication donkeys years ago.

Who was your favourite science fiction writer?

Probably Arthur C. Clarke although I did like Ray Bradbury too

Perhaps the main difference between science-fiction in the 50s and today is that in the 50s space was a mysterious, unknown place people hardly knew anything about (no human set foot on the moon until 1969) but today, although we only understand the tiniest fraction about the universe, we know a lot more than we did only 60 years ago which means our science fiction writers are more informed of the realities of space travel. Having said that impossibilities still crop up in modern works, such as faster than light travel which we now know to be impossible.

Maybe I'm missing the point, as my father said; fiction is fiction. Should it be realistic? Why shouldn't it be allowed as much poetic licence as it wants? Modern audiences demand more realism all the time (the 2007 science fiction film 'Sunshine' was heavily criticised for its lack of realism) and yet films like Avatar are hugely popular.

On speaking to my father-in-law, who lived in the United States during the 60s and 70s, he said many sci-fi writers wrote stories about alien invaders as thinly veiled warnings about communism and acting on peoples fear of nuclear attack or invasion during the Cold War period which makes a lot of sense. In England during that period there was less hysteria regarding the fragile political climate so my father wasn't exposed to it to the same degree.

I suppose fiction is there because people want escapism therefore realism isn't always popular and perhaps in 30 years my own son will ask me the same questions

“Wow dad, did people from 2010 really believe we'd all have our own personal robots in our homes by 2040? That's so funny”

By Chris

Sunday, 28 March 2010

The Illustrated Man

The story begins with a chance meeting between the narrator and the Illustrated man, an extensively tattooed vagrant, who explains to the narrator that he cannot hold down a job for very long because of his tattoos (or 'Illustrations' as he quite beautifully calls them) when the sun goes down his tattoos come to life each telling a different story.

The book is basically a collection of short science fiction stories varying in length but typically about 15-25 pages long. Although the stories are different there are common themes with each one with many including space travel and visits to other planets. Death is a very common theme and most of the stories I would describe as sci-fi horror. There is a good deal of violence in the stories and some of them genuinely chilled me.

There are some excellent ideas in this book and most of the 16 stories I enjoyed reading although one in particular fell on its face for me (the story was quite ridiculous)

My only major criticism of the book are that some of the stories come across as outdated, it is not difficult to see they were written in the 60's but apart from this fairly minor point I found the book very enjoyable. If you are a science fiction fan I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Verdict 4/5

By Chris

Saturday, 27 March 2010

The romance of certain old clothes

This is a short story written by Henry James and was in fact in my copy of the turning of the screw.

Its a ghost story which takes sibling rivalry to the extremes. The story is set in Massachusetts and is about two sisters Perdita and Rosalind who want the same suitor. After the man in question picks Perdita, Rosalind is extremely jealous but has to accept the situation. Rosalind does however get to marry this man when her sister dies in childbirth, but unknown to Rosalind her sister on her death bed made her husband promise to not let anyone ever wear any of her clothes which are now stored in the attic. Of course eventually Rosalind does manage to get to the clothes in question and meets a grisly end.

I didn't at any point feel particularly sorry for Rosalind, after all she had her sight set on her sisters husband and moved in quite quickly when she died. Both sisters got their revenge in their own way in the end but I don't think there's any moral in it.

I have a little sister and when I lived at home I lost count of the number of times she stole my clothes and we used to have big fights about it, so perhaps I was always going to be on Perdita's side in this one.

This qualifies for the Short Stories challenge.

Posted by Jess

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Giving up the ghost

I feel no small amount of shame and embarrassment as I write this for the blog. It was my wonderful wife's idea, thank you darling(!) The subject of this article is one of my biggest literary habit of putting down books before I finish them.

I have picked up approximately 110 books of which 25 I never finished. Almost 25% of all the books I have ever bought or borrowed lay unfinished either in my dusty bookcase upstairs, on the shelves of numerous charity shops or (in the worst cases) rotting on a rubbish tip somewhere in England.

Now you can see why I am so ashamed!!

Its not my fault you understand, I can't help it. It's just that once I decide a book is rubbish I can't bear to turn the pages any more. I feel like I'm wasting my life by forcing myself to read on. Is this wrong? I can't decide.

I suppose at first glance this might appear like extreme cynicism, to give up on a book just because I dislike one part of it. Am I giving the book a fair chance? I suppose in some ways I'm not, in some ways it is cynical to give up so readily on something someone somewhere put a lot of effort into. However the other side of the coin shows there is a large amount of optimism in my attitude towards these unloved books. I say optimism because half the problem I have is my choosing inappropriate books. I have lost count of the number of occasions my long suffering wife has had a conversation with me in a bookshop that goes something like this;

“What book is that you've got there?”

“Oh it looks really interesting, I just found it by chance, its about how the Universe came into existence”

“But you have no interest in that sort of thing, you hate science”

“Yes but it will be different this time! I'm so keen to learn all about the Universe”

“Yes, dear” *sigh*

Of course, three days later I'm reading something else “What happened to the book about the Universe?” says my wife, having already guessed the answer.

Will I ever stop buying inappropriate books? I hope so but somehow I doubt it. Now that is cynicism.

By Chris

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The turning of the screw

The turning of the Screw is an old classic ghost story which has always appealed to me so when I saw it by chance in the library last week I took it out.

Its a very short book of around 130 pages and is about a governess who is given charge of two small children whose parents have died.

Given authority of these children and servants in a big old country house, the young governess becomes aware of malevolent presences within and around the house. She sees the ghosts of both a previous valet and governess both of whom are now dead. Convinced the two ghosts are after the two young children, she tries to keep the children safe and solve the mystery of the relationship between the previous inhabitants and the children.

There is certainly a good eerie atmosphere when reading this book which builds up throughout and I thought the moments when the governess saw the spectres genuinely creepy. I did not expect the ending at all and I'm not sure yet what I think of it.

Unfortunately – and this is personal taste, I found the writing style very flowery and heavy. I did get used to this as the book went on but this means that for me it was not an easy read.

Verdict 3/5

Posted by Jess

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Literary Tattoos

Tattoos are an interest of mine. I enjoy looking at all the beautiful artwork as well as talking to people about the stories behind their tattoos. Of course not all tattoos are beautiful, some are ugly, tasteless or poorly done (some are a mixture of all three!)

When I began taking a serious interest in reading it wasn't long before I discovered a trend which has appeared in popular tattoo culture relatively recently called literary tattoos. Literary tattoos are quite simply tattoos of a persons favourite book passage or sometimes an image from that book. The picture I've posted features a literary tattoo from the book 'Peter Pan' by J.M Barrie.

I love the idea of literary tattoos, in a world where many people seem to get the same boring thing over and over I think something as unique as words from a favourite book is really special and inventive.

Literary tattoos can also be from favourite song lyrics, poetry, plays, movies, essays or even an article and sometimes aren't of words at all but an image from that story.

I don't have any literary tattoos myself but thats only because I haven't found any yet that grab me sufficiently but when I do I'll definately be getting one.

Here is a link to a great literary tattoo site which is updated regularly

By Chris


This book is 172 pages of whimsical nonsense, I really wish I had not wasted money and effort getting hold of this book.

The author, known only as 'Konstantinos' (most likely real name; Nigel) attempts to convince the reader that Vampires really exist. He claims to be a ' Dark Neopagen', whatever one of those is, as well as a 'practising occultist' for 15 years. Presumably he feels this qualifies him to write about Vampires with authority. In my humble opinion just because a man claims to worship satan, has long black hair, a photo of him on the back of the book looking moody and a made-up name he gave himself does not automatically mean he can be trusted to give you all the straight-laced, unbiased, scientific facts about the reality of Vampirism. He is far more likely to fill a book full of assumptions, half-cocked theories and stuff he just made up.

The book is full of confident statements about Vampires yet Konstantinos never feels the need to go into enough detail to explain where he got these 'facts' from and why its true. He just writes it and expects you to believe it using logic which has no logic to it. There are examples on almost every page. Konstantinos writes about the Sumarians, an ancient civilisation he claims believed in vampires; “because they were less technologically advanced than us they (Sumarians) were more 'open minded'” personally I prefer the terms 'ignorant' and 'superstitious' myself. He then goes on to say that the creatures the Sumerians believed in were “vampire-like creatures” so they didn't necessarily believe in vampires? What a shock!
He attempts to go even further adding; “Now that we've established, to some degree, that the Sumerians believed in Vampires” This was never established at any point. He just wrote it and we are expected to say “Oooh I never knew that”

He attempts to go even further with his own special brand of logic adding “If the Sumerians were able to create correct mathematical theorems using a different system of thought, then they might also have been right about other things, like their beliefs in Vampires” This is definately the flimsiest basis on which to argue the existence of blood-sucking, immortal creatures I have ever heard. He is essentially saying that just because the Sumerians could work out 2 plus 2 then they could be right about the existence of a mythical creature...oh deary me.

His sources of information are highly dubious, to give two examples of titles from the bibliography where Konstantinos got his facts from; “The Terror that Comes in the Night” and (this is my personal favourite) “Dracula was a woman: In Search of the Blood Countess of Transylvania” these sound more like trashy fiction than serious scientific material that prove the existence of vampires.

The only highpoint of the book for me was when Konstantinos included a letter written to him by a crazy person claiming to actually be a vampire...Priceless stuff!

Perhaps I'm being too harsh, perhaps there are actually people out there who genuinely believe vampires exist. To these people I say; maybe you will like this book. But to the rest of humanity that know vampires belong on the pages of Twilight Novels and not in any book wishing to be taken seriously I say: Stay well away from this book.

Verdict 1/5

By Chris

Monday, 22 March 2010

Cutting for Stone

This is certainly an epic book in terms of the characters and settings. Here we follow Marion who is one of a twin as he grows up in Ethiopia and eventually leaves to go to America. We get back stories of other characters and through this we also get taken to Scotland and India. This book certainly trys to pull you in straight away as it starts with the birth of the twins to their nun mother whom no one had a clue she was even pregnant.

The first part of the book contains alot of back stories for quite a few characters while the twins are being born and I did wonder why the author was doing this for what seemed like minor characters. However during the second part of the book this all made complete sense as suddenly what seemed like small information in the first part of the book suddenly became a big piece of information in the second. I guess this is evidence of how well the author has really thought out this story and made everything connect.

There are alot of surgerical procedures in the book but I personally didn’t find the descriptions too in-depth that I couldn’t understand them and they are only used in the book when the plot requires them. Marion describes to us how a hospital like ‘Missing’ (where he was born and grew up) can operate in a country like Ethiopia. Then in America he describes how a hospital relying on Medicare in a poor area in New York works in contrast to a rich hospital in Boston. Knowing very little about healthcare in America this was fascinating to me.

I loved the characters and how they were presented, no one in this book is perfect they all have their flaws but you don’t blame the characters for them. A few of the characters do bad things which as a reader you could hate them for but you don’t. This isn’t a book filled with 'good guys' and 'bad guys' just realistic human people.

Verdict 4/5

Posted by Jess

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Books and craft collide

My other hobby is sewing. In fact I was torn between doing a craft blog or a book blog and went with the books. Its not often you can bring the two together so I was quite excited to see this pillow idea which has been sewn with the persons favourite books embroidered onto the books.

Source -

Heres another example

Source -

I love this idea and will be making one within the new few weeks for our home, hopefully if I get the time. I just need to think of what books will feature.

Posted by Jess

Saturday, 20 March 2010

My first library card

I take my son to the library about once a week, its a great way to kill an hour on a rainy afternoon when your stuck indoors with an active toddler. I normally get him out about 4 books each time using my card. Yesterday when I got his books out they told me that they were changing the rules in a few months so that you could only get childrens books out using a childrens library card so would I like to get one for my son now?

So at the tender age of 1 my son has his own card with his name printed on the back. I have to say that (as you can see above) its the cutest thing ever and I'll get far more enjoyment out of using it than he will :)

Marley & Me

Read the book, see the movie challenge is over here if your interested I think its a great idea and I have enjoyed reading other peoples thoughts on this. Last night Marley & Me was on Sky Movies so I am able to participate at last in this challenge.

This is about a family who have gone through a fairly typical life but have happened to do this with a mad dog in tow. Yes Marley does get up to very naughty and often hilarious antics but Marley is part of a family. This family goes through their own house moves, job changes, raising a family and their own tragic and happy elements in their lives. The same kind of life we all will probably end up having in fact. I was expecting a book about a dog and instead got an insight into a modern American family. As most people with pets know life does not revolve around your pets but they are there through all your ups and downs and when they die there is suddenly something missing in all of that.

Verdict 3/5

Marley & Me the film

oh dear oh dear. I don't think they quite knew how to market this film, do they make a comedy about a dog or a small film about a family with the dog there for comic relief. Whatever they were trying to do it didn't work. This was a film where all the main parts of the book was there but the heart was missing. There was no chemistry between Aniston and Wilson, I had a hard time believing these people were meant to be married and in love. Aniston to her credit was good as 'Jen' she was the only one that showed real emotion at the burial scene. Whereas I cried at the end of the book, by the end of this film I was thoroughly bored (by the looks of it so was Owen Wilson)

Verdict 1/5

Posted by Jess

Friday, 19 March 2010

The Warhammer 40k universe has always captured my imagination. I find it facinating and terrifying at the same time. Set in the dim and distant future mankind has spread across the galaxy inhabiting countless worlds. This empire is known as the 'Imperium of Man'. The Imperium is constantly at war with aliens, mutants and heretics. The only thing preventing mankind from being destroyed are armies of genetically enhanced super-humans known as Space Marines; fanatically loyal and almost indestructable these fearless warriors smash the enemies of man with brutal efficiency.

The story is very simple; Rynns World is a planet controlled by the Imperium, defended by a Space Marine Chapter known as the Crimson Fists. When the planet is attacked by a massive alien army it is up to the Crimson Fists to repel this attack and save the lives of millions of people.

The book is entertaining and enjoyable if a little repetative, the universe is created in a good amount of detail and explains alot of the history of the Space Marines. There are some very good battles featured although I did find there were a few too many. There is alot of violence in the book and so many battles you start to skim read certain parts.

The book is far from perfect and certainly has its flaws. I'm not sure why but it seems books of this nature are often full of spelling and gramatical errors. I am no expert but by page 200 I had noticed at least five seperate gramatical or spelling errors, and not subtle ones either. This really isn't acceptable and makes the writer, editor and publisher out to be amateurs. Two maps are included inside the book to help the reader visualise the layout of the planet but they aren't great maps and I didn't spend much time looking at them.

Overall the book was a fun bit of sci-fi fluff but the spelling errors and the endless battles meant it will only get a verdict of 3/5 which is a shame.

By Chris

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Pet Peeves in Books

Are there any pet peeves which put you off a book while reading it? This issue has come up recently because you might notice that Chris is reading Rynn’s World. He is actually quite enjoying it and thinks the story line is a good one, but the one thing which annoys him EVERY time it happens are the spelling and grammatical errors which are in abundance in this book. It bothers him so much he is planning on marking the book down because of it.

I can’t say I’ve ever read a book with countless spelling and grammatical errors but there are things in books which do annoy me.

1. When a character does something completely out of character just to keep the story moving. This just makes me feel manipulated as a reader.

2. When the ending to the book doesn’t ‘fit’. I don’t care if a book has a happy/sad/open ending as long as it’s the RIGHT ending (in my opinion this applies to Blacklands)

3. A description of what a character is wearing EVERYTIME they appear in the book - I’m talking about you Sookie Stackhouse.

4. Inaccuracy when writing about historical facts. I know a lot of people love Slaughterhouse 5 but some of the facts and figures given about Dresden were so inaccurate it spoilt the book for me.

5. Waffle in non-fiction books. The best example I can think of is ‘The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: or the Murder at Road Hill House’ by Kate Summerscale. A story which could have easily been told in under 100 pages made to stretch out to 400.

I’m surprised I can’t think of any more and thankfully these are things which I rarely come across. Do you agree with any of these or would like to add your own?

Posted by Jess

This is one of my favourite books and one I shall read over and over again. Unlike many books about a particular subject in history it is very readable and not padded out with endless pages of waffle, guess-work and bluster. The book is made all the more interesting because it is a true story

Duelling is a very interesting subject in general and not one I knew much about before picking this book up. My guilty confession was that I bought this book in Waterstones because I liked the front cover. I am so glad I did!

The book goes into plenty of detail on the subject of duelling in general including the weapons used, the strict rules in place and the reasons why two rational young men would choose to shoot at each other to settle a dispute. The author also tells the story of his own great-grandfather who actually fought in a duel himself and survived to tell the tale.

Although there is a deeply tragic element in the death of so many promising young men in the prime of life there is also a good amount of humour. The book effectively highlights the point that young men of that period would kill and be killed for the most ridiculous of reasons. An example would be the duel that was fought after one man at dinner requested another man at the table sit somewhere else because he smelt!

A triumph of a book and one that will always be on my bookshelf.

A note worth mentioning is that the title of this book was changed for the US market. The initial release in the UK was titled 'Duel' but the US release has been changed to 'The Last Duel'

Verdict 5/5

By Chris

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Wedlock by Wendy Moore

I don't often read non-fiction, in fact thinking about it the last three non-fiction books I have read have been as part of a book group. I enjoy non-fiction books but I don't find them as gripping or as page turning as fiction books, Wedlock was an exception.

One of the richest women in England, Mary was duped into her second marriage to Andrew Stoney and thus began 8 years of brutality. In those days it was impossible to obtain a divorce unless you went through an act of parliament so Mary was virtually trapped in this situation. One of the more surprising aspects of this book (or perhaps not so surprising) was that the abuse suffered by Mary from her husband was more or less like the abuse stories you hear from women today. Its scary how in this respect little has changed.

Aside from beating her, limiting her food and not giving her any money to buy even the smallest essentials (she would often wear cast offs from her maids and sometimes even her maids would lend her money out of their own wages) he also kept her prisoner. She was not allowed to leave the house without permission and only with an escort, she was not allowed to speak in public without his permission and her letters were all dictated to her. She was also cut off from her friends and mother. The servants worked as Stoneys spies and if they did show kindness to Mary they were sacked (one maid was sacked after smuggling some meat to her)

What’s more remarkable was not what she endured during those 8 years with Stoney but her eventual escape. In a time where women did not own anything including their own children it seems remarkable that this women managed to get away at all.

There is not too much useless information which sometimes plagues historical books and there are insights into how marriages worked in Georgian England as well as the role of women. I also honestly cant think of a character (fiction or non-fiction) as hateful as Stoney, I really wanted him to receive his just deserts. A fascinating story which I found a thrilling read.

Verdict 5/5

Posted by Jess

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

This is the second Shirley Jackson novel I have read (the first being The House on Haunted Hill) and thus far she has not disappointed me. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is one of those rare gems that seems to transport you to another world effortlessly. I have seldom been so absorbed by a book. Especially one which does not appear to be popular although the reason for this escapes me entirely.

At the beginning of the book we meet Mary Katherine Blackwood (known by her family as Merricat) a strange, dark, daydreaming, 18 year old girl who lives with the remaining members of her family in an old house on the outskirts of town. From the outset of the book it is obvious the townsfolk hate the Blackwood family and apart from Merricat no-one else from the family ever ventures outside. Six years before the beginning of the book most of Merricat's family were murdered and the culprit was never brought to justice. The murders happened in the same house they live in now which only adds to the intriguing and unsettling nature of the story.

The four central characters are wonderfully written out although not always likeable. The character of Charles, the unwelcome cousin, is delightfully repulsive and devious. Constance herself is a troubled character; forced by circumstance to become the head of the family at the young age of 22. Uncle Julian is a survivor of the murder attempt but it has left him wheelchair bound and suffering from what appears to be the onset of dementia. He is often confused but also has remarkably lucid moments. There is a surprising amount of humour in the book most of which comes from Julian. He is brilliantly irreverent and always speaks his mind.

One of the most interesting parts for me is to see a story from the outcasts point of view rather than the frightened townsfolk. It put me in mind a little of stories like 'To Kill A Mockingbird' and the film 'The Burbs' both of which contain social outcasts as main characters with the main difference that these stories focus on the point of view of the outsiders looking in as opposed to the hermits looking out.

The story ends in an unusual way which I wasn't quite expecting. Once I had thought about it for a while I decided I liked the ending. Haven't we all been in a situation where we would love to shut out the outside world even for a short while? I know I have and this book speaks to that part of me.

Verdict 5/5

Posted by Chris


Ok I admit the only reason I’m putting Blacklands as my first review on here is because I won my copy. I never win anything so I was quite chuffed. It was a competition through ‘The TV Book Club’ website to win a signed copy of Blacklands. I have been watching the TV Book Club which has gotten better as the series has progressed. They are making a few more changes to the format in time for the summer series so hopefully any problems they have had should be ironed out by then.
I will get round to reading most of the books featured in the series but blacklands wasn’t originally going to be one of them, it has a child serial killer in it so I knew it would make for some disturbing reading. But a few nights ago I found myself in the mood for something darker so I picked it up.

“I found the whole concept of this book a fascinating one. If a child was presumed to have been murdered by someone who is now in prison but the body was never found, how would this impact on this family on future generations?

Stephen is a boy of 12 who has a very unhappy home life. He lives with his mother, brother and grandmother. Stephens Uncle Billy was murdered many years ago before Stephen was born but the impact of this can still be felt on the family. In Stephens’s child logic, if only he could find Billy’s body then perhaps the family could at last find some kind of closure.

There are a lot of good things about this book, at times it’s a real page turner and it’s a very quick, easy read. I found the children’s friendships realistic and I could go along with Stephens’s logic. Stephen as a character I loved. I really felt for him and his situation and I just wanted to wrap him up in a blanket and feed him chicken soup.

But unfortunately this book ended up going for the 'Big Hollywood' ending which it almost made it laughable. The story and the characters were good enough that the author really didn’t need to do this; she should have just stuck with the family side of this which was an intriguing idea instead of turning the book into a cheap thriller by the end.

I would recommend this book to anyone as up until the end I really enjoyed it.
Verdict 3/5

Posted By Jess

Where do we buy our books?

Where people buy their books depends on many things like access to libraries, money or where they live.
I thought Id start off with a post about where we buy ours. Well we both tend to buy most of our books from, I know we should be supporting our local bookshop but you can’t beat Amazon's next day delivery service or their prices. Given the chance Chris will also spend loads of money in Waterstones. In fact a trip to Waterstones with Chris is a bad idea. I tend to know what books I’m looking out for in a shop. I have a long wish list and buy books off this list (simple eh?) Chris just wanders around the shop for AGES umming and ahhing so I get very very bored.

With regards to our local bookshop...well, we live in a very small town (we have to drive 10 miles to get to Waterstones) There is one bookshop in our town which, unfortunately, caters more for children and young adults than people of our age. The few adult books they do stock are very limited in range and tend to be the bestsellers at the time. The most success I have had is the small Oxfam second hand bookstore just down the road. I’ve found quite a few books in there which have been on my wish list and the most I’ve paid in there for a book is £2.50. Chris has never found anything he wants in this shop though. We are also good book donators and they are happy to let us offload any unwanted books.

I have joined the library recently, there isn’t one in the town I live in but I don’t have to drive far so hopefully I will use this more.

Posted by Jess

Monday, 15 March 2010


Welcome to our book blog, we really hope you enjoy it and get alot out of our reviews.

My wife and I live in England with our 14 month old son. We both adore reading and decided it would be fun to create a blog containing our book reviews and perhaps some other bits and bobs if the mood takes us.

We both have different tastes in literature so the blog will have a good range of different book types being reviewed so hopefully there will be something for everyone.

As i'm certain you've guessed this blog is a work in progress! We hope to have it 100% up and running very soon so please check back regularly for updates


Chris & Jess