Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Top Ten Beach Reads

This week's Top Ten (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is featuring our best beach reads.

The main problem for me this week is that I read everything down the beach. I live literally two minutes walk away and in winter, I can just about see the sea from one of my living room windows. In true British style, I'm down the beach in any weather, although rain would put me off reading there!

I Have Never Eaten Gherkins Here

Yes, that's me on the beach in winter. I'm guessing, for most people, a beach read is something easy-going or light-hearted and not something you'd be embarrassed about being caught in public with! However, on my list this week, are books that all feature the sea in some way.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The sea seems to play a big role in a lot of du Maurier's novels, especially those set in her beloved Cornwall, where there's a lot of coast and people rely on the sea for a living. Rebecca's sea is sinister and deadly.

The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
Forget Jaws, will go you into the water after reading about the Ludovician?

Jingo by Terry Pratchett
The island of Leshp is based on the real life volcanic island of Ferdinandea which rose from the sea only to sink again. It's the 21st Discworld novel but one I feel works as a standalone read too (but, seriously, you're missing out).

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
This is set down the coast from where I live, based on the lives of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot who were the women behind some of the greatest fossil discoveries. In a male orientated world, they had to fight to be recognised and respected. The novel is quite historically accurate with only the interpersonal relationships made up. I'll be giving a copy away of this book during the Small Blogs, Big Giveaways event next week.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
I recently read this for my book group and it's a real life account of Louis Zamperini's experiences in World War II. After being shot down, he survives an amazingly long time at sea in an ill-prepared lifeboat.

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver
An unsettling tale of surviving an Antartic winter amid superstitions and fears.

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
Afterlife is an island where we age backwards. I read this imagining it was the Isle of Wight!

Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X Pham
A travelogue and memoir rolled into one. I read this ages ago but one of the parts that stuck with me were Andrew's childhood memories, when he left Vietnam as one of the "boat people".

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
I can't believe I forgot about this when I was writing my film adaptation blog hop post. It's one of my favourite films of all time. I have to admit my memories of the book are a little fuzzy, I think they have been overtaken by Carroll Ballard's wonderful direction. Both the terror of the shipwreck and the time spent on the island stick with me much more than the racing aspect.

Nation by Terry Pratchett
Not a book everyone loved but I think that's because it's so different to his normal fare. I actually liked the tale of Mau's ritual passage into manhood turning into isolation and the piss take of the British Empire.

Vamos a la Playa

Both photos are by me, click through to go look at my Flickr photostream.

Monday, 30 May 2011

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

IMWAYR is hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey and is a little round-up of the week for bloggers that read.

Books I've read:
When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman 5/5
Mortal Remains by Kathy Reichs 2/5
The Radleys by Matt Haig 4/5
The Slaughteryard by Esteban Echeverria 4/5
The Unremarkable Heart by Karin Slaughter 3/5
The Final Evolution by Jeff Somers 2/5

Currently reading:
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Upcoming reads:
Undead and Unwelcome by MaryJanice Davidson
Baba Yaga Laid an Egg by Dubravka Ugrešić

100 Follower Giveaway
My Pre-Loved Giveaway will be back on Friday!

I also blogged about:
Books I Should Have Read By Now | Those Little White Lies | Back in the Swapping Saddle | Book Blogger Hop | The List | Introducing the CKTB Forum

The Final Evolution

The Final Evolution is the fifth book in the Avery Cates sci-fi series by Jeff Somers. I will disclose the fact that I haven't read the first four books and therefore my review is not from the point of view of someone following the series. I don't think it really works very well as a standalone read as the areas I wanted to know more about are almost certainly covered earlier on.

“Belling had always seemed to be dressed in expensive suits, killing people via suggestion and disdain. I was always covered in blood and bile, pinned under fats guys who never bathed. It was enough to make me question my approach.”

Avery Cates is your average hard-ass tough guy. There are lots of guns, augmented brains, avatars with downloaded artificial intelligence, psychics that can control your actions and did I mention guns? It's certainly action packed and has some good themes going on but I think I have missed out by starting this far in. It takes a while for any sort of plot to form and I think if you don't like action based fiction, you won't enjoy this. Whilst I would much rather have the back story of the plague (I still have no idea what it was) and Avery's history with Orel. I'm sure these won't be a problem for the seasoned fan.

There were moments that shined amongst the gunfire. After the civil war, many cities are left radioactive and Avery and co enter such a place. The way that humans are used is frightening and it's one of the few moments that we see a chink in Avery's armour. The appendix actually made me want to read more and I would have liked that style to have been more prevalent throughout. Avery also hears voices of dead men and women in his head after he had been connected up to other consciences (I'm guessing this was in a previous book) and they guide the way to some degree.

I would advise you not to follow my lead and instead read the series in order:

#1 The Electric Church
#2 The Digital Plague
#3 The Eternal Prison
#4 The Terminal State
#5 The Final Evolution

I think Avery would translate well onto the screen; I'm much more inclined to watch men running around with guns than reading about them. A bit long and probably not my cup of tea, but one for the action sci-fi fan.

The Final Evolution is available from 2nd June 2011 in the UK and 28th June in the US. Thanks go to Orbit for providing me with a copy to review.

If you'd like to discuss this book with me, pop on over to the new forum. If you start a thread with spoilers, please include (spolier) in the title.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Introducing the CKTB Forum

Curiosity Killed The Bookworm now has its very own forum! Not all the exciting at the moment but it's an experimental idea to make the blog a bit more interactive.

More Info
Take me to the forum now!

In other news, I now own www.curiositykilledthebookworm.com and www.curiositykilledthebookworm.co.uk! Both domains will point here, although I am still hosting through Blogger.

The List

My list is a bit of a hodge-podge and by no means full of classics or literary greats, though there are some included. My participation in the challenge is a vain attempt to get through some of those books I feel I've had for far too long.

#1 Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake:
Just after I'd added it to my longlist Jackie @ Farm Lane Books suggested a readalong. It was a sign!

#2 Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen:
I've only ever read Pride and Prejudice and loved it so I don't know why I haven't picked up any other Austens.

#3 Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin:
Diana Norman (Ariana was a pen name) died earlier this year. It's sad to think I never read this during her lifetime.

#4 To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee:
No, I wasn't made to read this at school and I generally avoid anything cited as the great American novel but I think it's time I gave it a go.

#5 In Cold Blood by Truman Capote:
I really enjoyed the film, Capote, which is based on his time researching and writing this book.

#6 Do Androids Dream In Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick:
The book behind Bladerunner, I really wanted to read this so no idea why I haven't yet!

#7 Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte:
Do I hear gasps of shock? Nope, never read it and I have an ancient copy that hasn't endeared me to picking it up. I think I'll have to download it onto my Kindle.

#8 Out by Natsuo Kirino:
I think this is the unread book I've had the longest. About time I read it.

#9 The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger:
Sometimes I feel I'm the only person on the planet that hasn't read it.

#10 Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally:
Schindler's List is an amazing film but I'll have to brace myself for the book. I don't think I've ever really been in the mood for it because I am expecting it to be depressing.

#11 The Strain by Guillermo del Toro:
I bought this in hardback years ago. I don't why it's got forgotten as I have loved his films and was excited about his writing.

#12 Life of Pi by Yann Martel:
People keep referring to it, I have a copy, I will read.

#13 The Green Mile by Stephen King:
I need to read more King in general, this is a good place to start I think.

#14 Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson:
I've never read any of his travel books, can you believe that?

#15 The Conjuror's Bird by Martin Davies:
One of my early swaps from ReadItSwapIt.

#16 The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid:
I feel the need to read this whilst it's still topical.

#17 The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson:
The hype has put me off a bit, but people keep recommending it to me and I do have this and the second book stashed away somewhere.

#18 Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks:
Another one I really want to read that has got forgotten about.

#19 Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood:
One of those authors I've hoarded and then stopped reading.

#20 I'm Not Scared by Niccolò Ammaniti:
I've had it so long I've forgotten what it's about.

#21 Breakfast At Tiffany's by Truman Capote:
I didn't really want to duplicate authors but it's one of my favourite films plus it's a nice short novella for when things get tough.

Disclaimer: I reserve the right to change my mind about the contents of The List at any time!

This challenge is behing hosted by Gabe @ Gabriel Reads and starts on the 1st June 2011.

The Unremarkable Heart

One of the positives of electronic publishing is that it's easier to get short stories out into the world without having to produce an anthology. Karin Slaughter's The Unremarkable Heart is quite a clever bit of marketing for her full length novels, Broken (out in paperback in June) and her newest book, Fallen. You get a new short story for a few pennies and the first chapters of both books to whet your appetite.

Firstly, The Unremarkable Heart is a short story based around the last days of June's life who is dying from lung cancer. The story is a reflection on her life and upcoming death and is grizzly in true Karin Slaughter style. Like many of her characters, June isn't instantly likeable and you may not even sympathise with her by the end but you can understand how her life has unravelled. Certainly worth reading for 49p.

If you haven't read any of Karin's other books, don't read the extracts but go back and start from the beginning with Blindsighted. Though her writing is not for the weak stomached! I am up-to-date so thought I'd read the opening chapter of Fallen (how many books have that title now?). The first page is not the first page of the novel but a synopsis that completely ruins any suspense of what follows. Don't read it! Having then read the first chapter, I might hold off buying in hardback and either wait for the library to get it or the paperback to come out. Why? Not because it looks like a bad read, but more that it seems focused around Faith, who after the previous two Will Trent books, I have come to dislike.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

The Slaughteryard

I have learned something this morning. That's good going for 10:30 on a Saturday morning and it's all thanks to The Slaughteryard by Esteban Echeverria, or more accurately, The Friday Project's book that includes this Argentinian classic.

El Matadero is reputed to be one of the most studied texts in Spanish speaking South America. It's a fairly short story, only 32 pages once translated and details the events of a day at a Matadero, one the public slaughterhouses common in 19th century Argentina. The story paints a vivid picture of the culture at the time and the manic pace within the Matadero as well as having a political aspect.

The real gem of this book is the accompanying appendixes and glossary which really hit home the reality of that political message. I haven't really had much exposure to Argentinian history and didn't know much more about the country than gauchos and a passion for football and polo. Like many countries, they have travelled a rocky path to get to where they are now, including a civil war between Unitarians and Federalists and a dictator running the country; Juan Manuel de Rosa. This book can describe the history much more eloquently than me, but the story of The Slaughteryard favours the Unitarians, something that would have got Echeverria into deep water if it had been discovered.

The Accounts by Other Travellers includes passages from various travellers within the country between 1818 and 1863, including Charles Darwin. These accounts all describe the Mataderos from an outsider's point of view.

I would really recommend it to anyone studying Spanish as a second language as it also contains the original text as well as a selection of poems. How often do you get both in one edition?

A really interesting little book. A big thanks to The Friday Project for sending me a copy to review.

At the time of writing, the Kindle edition is only 99p and it's more than worth that for the historical aspect alone.

Friday, 27 May 2011

The Radleys

“We're middle-class and we're British. Repression is in our veins.”

The Radleys live in a village in Yorkshire. They are your typical middle class family, Peter is a doctor, Helen paints inoffensive watercolours, they have a son and a daughter, Rowan and Clara. Rowan feels like a freak at school and is subjected to daily bullying. Clara is quiet and has moved from vegetarian phase to full blown vegan. They have an uncle no one talks about and the kids don't even know he exists. To the outside world, they just seem a little odd but underneath they are harbouring a dark secret.

If you don't want to know what their secret is, stop reading now. You may also want to avoid other reviews and marketing bumpf as the synopsis provided by Canongate is pretty clear. I know some people might like working it out for themselves so I'm giving you fair warning...

They keep their curtains closed on summer days, the children are painfully pale and apply sunscreen before school each day and they are pro red meat. One thing that the Radleys don't do is drink blood, because whilst you may have guessed that they are vampires they abstain.

Before you click away thinking “Oh no, not another vampire book”, The Radleys is not some heady romance or action-packed fantasy yarn. No, these vampires live a fairly ordinary life. Matt Haig's prose is witty and entertaining. It's a tale about what happens when you try to be something you're not.

“Inevitably, if you have abstained all your life, you don't truly know what you are missing. But the thirst is still there, deep down, underlying everything.

The Abstainer's Handbook (second edition), p.120”

I haven't read any other books by Matt Haig but The Radleys has encouraged me to look out for them in future. I like his humour and style.

About the author:

Matt Haig was born in 1975. His debut novel, The Last Family in England, was a UK bestseller. The Dead Fathers Club, an update of Hamlet featuring an eleven year old boy, and The Possession of Mr Cave, a horror story about an overprotective father, are being made into films and have been translated into numerous languages. He is also the author of the award-winning children's novel Shadow Forest, and its sequel, The Runaway Troll. Matt has lived in London and Spain, and now lives in New York with the writer Andrea Semple and their two children.

The Radleys is currently available in trade paperback and Kindle editions. Whilst Walker Canongate have released it aimed at the young adult market, there will also be a less gothic looking cover on the adult market paperback published by Canongate in July 2011.

Kudos to Canongate for the new cover design and not following the current trend. Though you know me, I like the fence!

Book Blogger Hop

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read!

Book Blogger Hop

"What book-to-movie adaption have you most liked? Which have you disliked?"

There are so many films out there based on books, sometimes we don't even realise it! I've noticed recently that publishers are much more likely to release a film tie-in edition which can only be good for the authors.

I'll start with the one I dislike the most. I'm generally quite accepting that films and books are completley different media and need to be tackled differently. I never expect a film to be like the book... However, I hated the Keira Knightley Pride & Prejudice! Whoever thought she'd be a good Lizzie?! Mr Darcy was useless and to top it all off the script was a hack job. Bleurgh. I will add that I love, love, love the BBC adaptation. I think TV adaptations are better for books on a whole.

One of my favourite films is based on a novella that I have yet to read and I know perfectly well they are very different. That would be Breakfast at Tiffanys.

Onto the book/film combo I liked best. I think I'll have to go with Stardust. The book itself is a short children's story so the film actually manages to flesh out the original rather that strip aspects away.

I thought I'd blog before work today...though now I'm going to be singing Rule The World to myself all day! I'll be back later to do the hopping.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Back in the Swapping Saddle

So... my book buying ban hasn't gone so well. At first I managed to avoid spending money on books but made up for it by getting review copies, going to the library and mooching. I also allowed myself any pre-ordered books and generally the book spend has gone down, despite the fall off the wagon last week!

All this time I've had my swaps list "on holiday" over at ReadItSwapIt. This has been great for reducing books in but I didn't factor in books out. Yup, books have been slowly multiplying in my one bedroom flat. I have sent a few out via giveaways but this hasn't made up for the old one out, one in system (OK it was more like one out, three in, but still, there were some going out).

And I've been missing out on the forums! Even if you're not interested in swapping, the community is a great place to chat about books and share reviews. If it's been read by a member, there'll be a thread about it! I've still been hanging around but it has sort of dropped off my internet rounds as I've not had to go on to check out swap requests.

So yesterday I reactivated my list. Yey! Had quite a few requests in too but have been restrained and accepted one, which plugs the gap in a series I plan on reading fairly soon.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Mortal Remains

Mortal Remains is the UK title for Spider Bones and is the thirteenth book in Kathy Reichs' Temperance Brennan series. The book covers an area which is the staple work of most forensic anthropologists, identifying vitcims of conflicts. In this case, Tempe is called in to solve the case of some misidentified remains from Vietnam and travels to Hawaii to sort it all out.

Whilst it's refreshing that the subject matter is convincing, it doesn't make for a particularly gripping novel. I could have easily have put the book down and forgotten about it. No one was in imminent danger, at least not until near the end where the threads of plot connect and become somewhat convoluted.

I really didn't see much point in the whole Lily and Katy relationship. It was annoying and didn't have much relevance to the plot. I think Kathy wanted to get Ryan in the story somehow and this was her solution. I'm not sure why he couldn't just have appeared by himself on holiday, that would have made more sense.

At one point Ryan asks "Do tiger sharks really deserve the nasty Hollywood image?" and the expert replies "Ooooh, yeah". Anyone that has a passing interest in natural history documentaries will be able to correct her. Yes, there are shark attacks, but a man-eating shark is very rare. Mostly they mistake humans for tasty, blubbery seals and after one bite, they don't come back for more. I quite like sharks and don't like it when people make out that they're evil, killing machines. They are at the height of evolution for a predator, yet they are not outright cruel like orcas and dolphins can be. I know this isn't the point of the book and it's a small part but it made me go grrr!

I fear Tempe and I have come to an end. The previous two books didn't impress me much and Mortal Remains hasn't improved matters.

The UK paperback release is 7th July 2011 and I think they may be using the original title, just to confuse people even more.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

When God Was a Rabbit

I don't think I can put into words how wonderful this book is. It's charming, touching and beautifully written and a sure contender for my favourite book this year.

It is a book about love but not a romance. The love between a brother and a sister, between friends, between lovers, secret love and the love of a rabbit named god. Despite the title, the book is not about religion although young Elly does get into trouble with her curious questions about God and Jesus.

The story is divided into two parts; childhood and adulthood. Whilst both are tinged with tragedy, violence and hurt, I found I laughed my way through childhood and cried more during adulthood. Elly's childhood is full of stories that feel familiar in many ways. Whilst there are a lot of books around with a child as the narrator, here it feels as if Elly is an adult writing about her memories.

There's a lovely author's note at the back of this Headline edition which explains any doubt you may have about the plausibility of the story. I feel it would be a spoiler to share but it's worth reading if you get to the end without falling completely in love.

Those Little White Lies

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is one I have not been able to participate in. I may have lied about finishing chapter x for homework at school but I have come up a blank as to when I have lied about a book in my adult life.

I don't think there's anyone that would be impressed by me having read a certain book so there's no point in making it up. Some people I mix with watch the worst TV ever so I should have no shame in my bookish guilty pleasures... and I don't!

Sometimes I might play down how much I hated a book if in the presence of people who love it and look like they might hit me if I'm mean. I won't pretend I liked it though, just say it wasn't for me and move on. We all like different things so you can't judge a person by the cover of the book they're reading!

141:365 Shhh, It's A Secret!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Books I Should Have Read By Now

This challenge is behing hosted by Gabe @ Gabriel Reads and starts on the 1st June 2011.

Those who know me know I am a bit of a book hoarder and have so many books I really should have read by now so this is the perfect challenge for me. I have signed up as a voracious reader which means I pledge to read 3 books a month towards this challenge. With 7 months left in the year, I am compiling a list of 21 books (with a change my mind disclaimer included).

Some of these will be classics and some will be much hyped books where I feel I'm the only person left in the world not having read them (but no Dan Brown). As well are the books I've had longer than I can remember and those I rushed out to buy new and then have never read. It's tough narrowing it down to 21!

I had already added Gormenghast to my list when Jackie @ Farm Lane Books announced a readalong so I'll be reading the trilogy over a few months. I know, I know, I'm doing an awful job with The Iliad readalong but I do really want to read this.

My final list will be posted at the end of the month!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

IMWAYR is hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey and is a little round-up of the week for bloggers that read.

Books I've read:
Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism by David Nickle 4/5
I Left My Tent in San Francisco by Emma Kennedy 3/5
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 5/5
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins 4/5
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins 3/5
Frost Moon by Anthony Francis 1/5

Currently reading:
When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman

Upcoming reads:
Mortal Remains by Kathy Reichs
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness*

*I have learned my lesson after The Hunger Games and lined up the rest of the trilogy in case I get caught up in the story...plus the freebie prequel on the Kindle. Good thing it's another long weekend!

100 Follower Giveaway

I also blogged about:
Top Ten Minor Characters | The Art of Alice: Madness Returns | Fence Friday: Blog Edition | Incoming!

My A-Z of Mythology will be returning shortly, I just have to read another Canongate Myth before I post B!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Frost Moon

It's not often I don't finish a book but this is one example. Which I feel a bit bad about as I received it for review. There are many people that did enjoy this book though and you can read more reviews on Goodreads.

I got about half-way before I decided I couldn't read any more. At first I thought I'd really like the book, there was a hint of the early Anita Blake books about it. Tough chick helps police solve supernatural crimes style.

In reality I didn't like any of the characters. I often find men writing a female first person narrator unconvincing and this is no exception. Dakota reads like a man at times, she irritates me by saying every man she meets is hot but giving no real reasoning behind that opinion. Maybe a cursory description but no gut emotion behind it. Then it turns out she's got an ex-girlfriend. Hrm, I'm not convinced at all.

Then there's the attempt to fit in some S&M so it kind of feels like it's being written to a familiar template. Sorry, this one wasn't for me.

The Hunger Games Trilogy

The Hunger Games gets mentioned so much on other blogs, I felt I had to see what all the fuss was about. The first book literally had me running out the door to get the rest of the trilogy (for some reason they're not available on the Kindle).

The first book, The Hunger Games, had me gripped. It might be marketed as young adult, but its content is certainly not just for teens. The world is violent and uncertain, where teenagers from each district must kill each other or be killed on live television. If you don't want to get invested in the whole trilogy, I think this works as a standalone novel and is definitely the high point.

Catching Fire seems to take a long time to get going. There's plenty of time to plant the seeds of rebellion in the readers' minds but then it all seems a bit rushed near the end when the real action takes place. However, the end is a cliff-hanger so make sure you have the final book ready to read back-to-back!

It would have been easy to make Mockingjay a repeat of either of the first two books but it does change direction. It feels much more like a war story however the plot seems to go on and on, like she can't quite work out what she wanted to include so she put everything in. I enjoyed the world and was attached to the characters enough to keep going but I felt it could have done with a good prune at the editing stage.

Still, I shed a few tears at the end and I did read all three books within 24 hours so those have to be signs of an enjoyable trilogy overall!

My edition of The Hunger Games had an author interview at the back. When asked what gave her the idea for the trilogy I was expecting a mention of The Running Man or other such sci-fi classics. Suzanne Collins does make it sound like it was an entirely original idea and that irks me. She's old enough to know about other works that are similar, it's great to be inspired but really you should mention your influences.

Many of you have been discussing the forthcoming film adaptation. Whilst I think the content does lend itself to the big screen, I feel like the studios are going to want to aim it at a younger audience and some of the horror is likely to be glossed over or completely removed. There are a lot of scenes that would give it an 18 rating if they stayed put. Also there's a lot going on inside Katniss's head that would be difficult to get across in a film, unless there's going to be a lot of use of a voice-over.

The Hunger Game 5/5
Catching Fire 4/5
Mockingjay 3/5