Saturday, October 20, 2012

Books, books, and more books!

If you are anything like me, you probably have a ton of books and have them in all sorts of places around the house. Recently I reorganised the bookcase in my living room. There are books on it, ornaments and some photos, but the books are the key pieces and I spent an entire afternoon rearranging them into some kind of order that looked pretty.
Sometimes I'll want them to be alphabetical. Organised by size. Grouped by colour. That's the beauty of books, there is so much you can do with them! That's why this article caught my eye, courtesy of a great blog - I Heart Organizing - written by a guest writer, it discusses the different ways to arrange books in your home. Loved it!
Hope you enjoy the article too, you can find it here!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Night Circus

I bypassed Tony Parsons to read this as it was my holiday read and it certainly didn't disappoint!
To be honest, I can barely describe this book, it's a total feast for the imagination and for me to try and describe it is something of a disservice really as it is jampacked with beautiful pictures that I could never describe without reading direct from the book!
I remember reading about it when it was first published but I'd never gotten round to it as I was presumably caught up in something else. I'm very glad however, that I did indeed get round to it.
The book tells the tale of a mysterious circus that comes to town. Always unexpectedly and always met with delight and curiosity. There are several narratives woven throughout the book. From characters within the circus, characters who attend the circus and characters who helped devise the circus; but the main story is centered around two people who are bound together in a mysterious game where the rules slowly unfold as the game is played. They must perform their magic until a winner is declared, but when and how is the mystery behind it. As the book continues, we learn more about the individuals it discusses, the rules of the game and how they are all inextricably linked together without realising it; building to a great climatic end where the future of all hangs in the balance.
The best way to find out the mysteries of the book is of course, to read it! I really enjoyed it and definitely recommend it. I can't wait for the follow up novel from this author as the debut is definitely going to be tough to follow!

Rating: 4 out of 5
Why? I loved that this book had such a smorgasbord of imaginative ideas but overall I found the pace a little slower than I would have liked. That's my only complaint though as I loved everything else. It is a real book of escapism, into a world that is so different from everyday life and it can't fail to make the reader smile and just feel happy in general. A nice little pick me up book for sure.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Altar of Bones

Another book for the 2012 Alphabet Author Challenge. This book is written by a pseudonym author, no one has yet to confirm who the actual author is, but for now, they are known as Philip Carter.
Having read the backcover of this book, I had high hopes. It's been a long time since I've read a good mystery book (Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy is hard to live up to!). This book focuses on two main characters. Zoe who is the keeper of the Altar of Bones and Ry who is trying to find and ultimately protect the Altar. The story is woven thoughout history right up to modern day and is easy to follow. The mystery of what the Altar of Bones is exactly is kept well hidden by the author and helps keep up the suspense. Unfortunately the characters rather let the book down. Zoe is just a regular girl, a lawyer who suddenly finds out that she is the new "keeper" following the murder of her grandmother. Despite this, Zoe is rather adept at fighting her way out of tricky situations and where most folk would break a few bones, she is able to pick herself up and carry on. Ry is a similar character. Ex-government, he is the gun toting all action hero. A little too USA for my liking. Not that I don't like a good action, but sometimes a little too much gloss becomes unbelieveable. 
There are a good mixture of stories in the book, with lots of pieces to fit together, from Marilyn Monroe to the mysterious Nikolai Popov. I was disappointed that some secrets were discovered too easily and at times the suspense of the book dropped and you were left with a slight anti climax.
If you are however looking for an easy read without having to think too much and just enjoy the swashbuckling antics, then I would definitely recommend it as it was enjoyable despite its faults. The author wraps everything up nicely so there aren't any odd loose ends and you aren't left in the dark with any of the secrets which is great as a reader.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Why? While there are a lot of twists and turns in the book, I felt that the solving of the problems was just a little too easy. The characters lacked realism, especially Zoe as she was technically supposed to be the only "normal" person in the book and that for me took the edge of the whole book. She could've gotten banged up a little more!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Harry Potter it ain't!

Now, let's be honest. If you saw this sitting on a bookshelf with a screaming "New Release!" banner overhead, would you actually bother to even pick it up? I actually don't know if I would...except for the author's name glaringly obvious at the top of the page. Perhaps this is deliberate, as to the natural eye, that's usually where we start - top to bottom.
Rather bland, gaudy colours, no picture...again perhaps these are all to demonstrate the differences between this book and the Harry Potter series, a stark contrast in JK Rowling's literary shift from childrens to adult fiction. A massive turnaroud from magic to politics (albeit in a sleepy village, somethings don't change).
I will of course be buying a copy. As a devoted HP fan, how could I not? But here's hoping it lives up to expectations, while perhaps unfairly heaped upon JK's shoulders, as her avid followers, do we really deserve anything less that awesome?

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Amulet of Samarkand

Like The House of Night books, this one came to me via my friend in the US. It now has the pleasure of being the 2nd letter taken as part of the 2012 Alphabet Author Challenge!
The first in a trilogy, this book introduces us to Nathaniel, a boy magician in training. Fret not! This book is nothing like the Harry Potter series, it is filled with a whole different sort of magician and magic!
Nathaniel is sold by his parents, aged five, to the government, who in turn hand him over to the Underwood's where he begins his apprenticeship as a magician. Mr. Underwood and Mrs. Underwood are two very different characters. Mr. Underwood has no affection or even apparent like for the boy, merely seeing him as somone to be trained, after which he can wash his hands off him. Mrs. Underwood on the otherhand, is rather fond of the boy and treats him as her own, something which probably keeps the boy from going mad and enables him to survive in his new life.
Humiliated by a fully fledged magician one day, Nathaniel vows revenge, and uses his apprenticeship to soak up as much knowledge as possible in order to pay the cad Lovelace back for his actions. As part of his plan he summons Bartimaeus and forces him to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from Lovelace, thus catapulting them into a series of adventures which will ultimately mean a fight for survival in the face of apparent failure.
I found Nathaniel to be a most disagreeable character. Haughty, proud and I suppose a typical self absorbed boy, he is difficult to like, despite his unfortunate background. Bartimaeus is the true hero of this story. He is funny, charming, sarcastic and clever; interwoving his side of the story with tales of his adventures among the magical world and his general distaste for man.
Despite his role of master over Bartimaeus, Nathaniel learns many lessons on his journey, including what trust is and the lacking of his own abilities; ultimately having to stand beside Bartimaeus rather than just commanding him in the fight they eventually face together for survival.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Why? This wasn't as good as I'd hoped it would be. It seemed super intelligent initially and I thought I was going to be stretched, but ultimately it was easy enough reading. Having said that, I did enjoy it. There were a couple of occasions where I was able to guess what was coming next but generally speaking there will still plenty of surprises throughout to keep me entertained. An enjoyable enough read but not the showstopper it could've been, I'm still undecided if I want to continue with the trilogy.