Archive for June, 2013

Showcase Sunday #49

Inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren, the aim of Showcase Sunday is to highlight our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders each week. For more information about how this feature works and how to join in, click here.

Hello everyone, nice to see you again! Sorry I haven’t been able to post more often in the past few weeks: right after passing my final exam I was hit by a reading and reviewing slump, which I’ve been struggling with ever since… I’m also on a crazy job hunting spree at the moment which is a lot more stressful than I anticipated. *sigh* Plus, my graduation ceremony is today – in fact, it’s happening right now as you’re reading this – and it also required some preparation. I was planning on starting some new features on the blog this summer but so far, it’s all been an epic fail. Fingers crossed things calm down a bit in July!

Incoming

Showcase Sunday #49

The Runaway Princess by Hester Browne { for review }
Brooklyn Girls by Gemma Burgess { for review }
Wonder Women by Rosie Fiore { for review }
Wicked Autumn by G.M. Malliet { for review }
Love Story, With Murders by Harry Bingham { for review }
The Dead & the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer { purchased }
Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham { for review }
The Mermaid of Brooklyn by Amy Shearn { for review }

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Audiobook Review: Sleeping Murder – Agatha Christie

Sleeping Murder Audiobook by Agatha Christie

Title: Sleeping Murder
Author: Agatha Christie
Narrator: BBC Radio 4 Full-Cast Dramatisation
Publication date: 9 January 2006
Publisher: AudioGO
ISBN: 9781408482001
Length: 1 hour 30 minutes
Genre: Mystery
Age group: Adult
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: AudioGO

Synopsis

A BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation starring June Whitfield as Miss Marple, the sharp-witted spinster sleuth.

Gwenda Reed arrives from New Zealand, travelling ahead of her husband with the task of finding the perfect place to make their base. In the quiet village of Dilmouth, she finds a house with immediate appeal. A few renovations will convert it into her ideal home.

Then things get very strange indeed. Wanting porch stairs, Gwenda hires a builder to put them in – only to find some old steps, covered up by bushes. She decides on a connecting doorway between the drawing-room and the dining-room, but discovers one already there, now plastered over. When she opens the painted-over doors of an old cupboard to find wallpaper exactly the same as she had imagined, she begins to wonder if she is going mad.

It takes Miss Marple to realise that an unsolved murder is behind Gwenda’s apparent intuition – but even she does not suspect the murderer will strike again…

My thoughts

Agatha Christie’s Sleeping Murder was the very first radio drama I’ve ever listened to but it definitely won’t be the last. I’m still quite new to audiobooks and even though I see why they’re so practical and why so many people love them, I’m still not entirely sure I could ever get used to them or listen to them on a daily basis. Radio dramas, however, are right up my street.

If you’ve ever tried audiobooks or at least listened to an audiobook sample before then you’ll understand my problem. Namely that regular, unabridged audiobooks can be… well, they can be a bit dull, can’t they? A good narrator makes them a lot enjoyable but still, one person reading the lines of a dozen different characters gets a little monotone after a while. Well, this was not the case here.

A few minutes after starting the tape I realized something. Do you know what radio dramas remind me of? Going to the theatre or the cinema without all the fuss of actually getting there or having to worry about not being late or finding your seat. It lets you listen to a complete performance with at least half a dozen different characters from the comfort of your own home. And if that wasn’t good enough, I love the fact that it’s not just a bunch of actors reading out their lines either. There’s music and all sorts of sound effects which make it easier for you to imagine what the setting’s like or what the characters are doing at that particular time. It’s almost like watching a film without actually seeing it, if that makes any sense. For example, when Gwenda and Miss Marple bump into each other in town during a heavy rainstorm, you can actually hear the rain pouring down and how they must have been in a hurry to find a shelter from the rain. When Gwenda and her fiancé arrive at someone’s house and are about to get out of the car, you can hear the brakes and the car keys turning. When someone’s walking down the stairs, you can literally hear their steps and the stairs creaking. It’s just brilliant. And it’s very, very far from being dull.

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Bookish Ramblings: Book Recommendations – Who Influences You the Most?

Undoubtedly, one of the biggest pros of running a book blog and being part of the book blogging community is being among those select few who hear about upcoming titles a long time before the actual release date. By having access to NetGalley, visiting other people’s blogs, reading about their highly anticipated books and interacting with them on social media on a daily basis, one is guaranteed to come across at least one or two new titles each week. Not to mention the amount of book reviews one may read in one week. However, for whatever reasons, not all these titles make it onto our never ending wishlists or to-be-read piles. Which made me think.

When it comes to book recommendations,who do you usually turn to and how do you tend to find your next read? Who influences you the most? Do you regularly browse publishers’ catalogues and websites and see if there’s anything that might interest you? Do you listen to your “real life” friends’ advice, do you judge a book based on the reviews you read online or do you simply read each and every hyped book simply because that’s what everyone else is reading?

After pondering about this for a while I realized only two of these apply to me. I don’t know which one is more frequent so I’d say I depend on these two sources equally. And these two sources are publishers’ catalogues and book reviews.

If you’ve been following the blog for a while you may have noticed that I have quite an eclectic taste in books and I don’t tend to review the most hyped up books out there. I haven’t read the Hunger Games or The Mortal Instruments series, for example, or anything by John Green or Julie Kagawa, or any of today’s popular YA books. I will read a few of them at some point but I’m not in a hurry to do so. So I think it’s safe to say that popularity doesn’t usually convince or affect me. And neither do my real life friends’ recommendations. Mostly because they read half as much as I do and from genres I’m not really keen on myself and it’s usually me who recommends books to them, not the other way round. That leaves me with publishers’ catalogues and reviews.

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Review: Life As We Knew It – Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Title: Life As We Knew It
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Publication date: 1 May 2008
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-15-206154-8
Length: 337 pages
Genre: Post-apocalyptic fiction
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | AwesomeBooks | The Book Depository

Synopsis

High school sophomore Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when an asteroid knocks the moon closer to Earth, the way “one marble hits another.” The result is catastrophic. How can her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis are wiping out the coasts, earthquakes are rocking the continents, and volcanic ash is blocking out the sun? As August turns dark and wintry in north-eastern Pennsylvania, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.

Told in a year’s worth of journal entries, this heart-pounding story chronicles Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all—hope—in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

My thoughts

Have you ever read a book which was so annoying at times that you knew you were not supposed to like it, but for some weird reason you still did? That pretty much sums up how I felt about Life As We Knew It. While the first half of the book really vexed me, I ended up falling in love with the second half and not being able to put the book down.

What put me off and annoyed me the most in the first half was characterization. My God, it’s bad. The main character, a girl called Miranda, is supposed to be sixteen years old. She has two siblings: a younger brother called Jonny, aged 13, and an older brother called Matt, who is 18 (19 by the time the story ends). It’s been quite a while since I was sixteen years old myself but I’m pretty sure neither me, nor any of my classmates behaved or talked the way Miranda does throughout the story. To say that she’s immature and childish would be the understatement of the year. So much so that I found Jonny (just a reminder: he’s only thirteen) a lot more mature than her and that’s never a good sign. And if that wasn’t frustrating enough, their older brother was, unlike Mirandaa, too mature for his age. There was even a scene where, after listening to their mother’s suggestion, he  actually says something like “that’s not what we’re going to do”. And that’s where I got beyond irritated. You’re only eighteen, for the love of God! You’re not supposed to be the one to your mother what to do, not even in a situation like this. I don’t know if the author has any children or not but real teenagers aren’t like this, that’s for sure.

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Showcase Sunday #48

Inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren, the aim of Showcase Sunday is to highlight our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders each week. For more information about how this feature works and how to join in, click here.

Hello everyone! How was your week? Mine was quite nice but very exhausting as well. I finally managed to meet a lovely friend of mine whom I haven’t seen for a few months AND I started looking for a job as well. Writing my CV and three covering letters was enough for this week, though, so I’m taking a few days off and planning on getting some reading done.

Incoming

Showcase Sunday #48

Junk by Melvin Burgess { book swap }
The Woman Who Went to Bed For a Year by Sue Townsend { purchased }
The Lies You Told Me by Jessica Ruston { for review }
My Life in Black and White by Kim Izzo { won }

Minutes after I posted my book haul last week I realized I missed two books from the list so I’m posting them now. My Life in Black and White was a giveaway win from the Wish List (I didn’t even win but they were lovely enough to send me a copy anyway) and The Lies You Told Me is an unsolicited review copy from Headline. I’ve read great reviews of both so I’m looking forward to reading them myself.

The Woman Who Went to Bed For a Year has been on my TBR list for ages and since I still had one of my book vouchers I got for Christmas (I know, I know…) I managed to grab a copy the other day. I absolutely love Townsend’s work so I’m sure it’s going to be another hilarious story!

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Audiobook Review: Portrait of a Killer – Patricia Cornwell

Portrait of a Killer by Patricia Cornwell

Title: Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper – Case Closed
Author: Patricia Cornwell
Narrator: Lorelei King
Publication date: 1 May 2012
Publisher: AudioGO
ISBN: 9781445848297
Length: 12 hours 44 minutes
Genre: True Crime / Non-fiction
Age group: Adult
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: AudioGO

Synopsis

Between August and November 1888 at least seven women were murdered in Whitechapel. The gruesome nature of their deaths caused panic and fear for months in the east end, and gave rise to the sobriquet which was to become shorthand for a serial killer – Jack the Ripper.

For over a hundred years the identity of the murders have remained among one of the world’s greatest unsolved crimes, and a wealth of theories have been posited which have pointed the finger at royalty, a barber, a doctor, a woman and an artist. Using her formidable range of forensic and technical skills, Patricia Cornwell has applied the rigorous discipline of twenty-first-century police investigation to the extant material, and here presents the hard evidence that the perpetrator of the Whitechapel murders was the world-famous artist, Walter Sickert.

By using techniques unknown in the late Victorian era, Patricia Cornwell has exposed Sickert as the author of the infamous Ripper letters to the Metropolitan Police. Her detailed analysis of his paintings shows how his art continually depicted his horrific mutilation of his victims, and her examination of this man’s birth defects, the consequent genital surgical interventions and their effects on his upbringing present a casebook example of how a psychopathic killer is created.

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Review: One, Two, Buckle My Shoe – Agatha Christie

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe - Agatha Christie

Title: One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication date: 14 October 2010
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780007120895
Length: 294 pages
Genre: Mystery
Age group: Adult
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | AwesomeBooks | The Book Depository

Synopsis

Even the great detective Hercule Poirot harboured a deep and abiding fear of the dentist, so it was with some trepidation that he arrived at the celebrated Mr Morley’s surgery for a dental examination. But what neither of them knew was that, only hours later, Poirot would be back to examine the dentist – found dead in his own surgery.

Turning to the other patients for answers, all Poirot finds are darker questions…

My thoughts

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe is another gripping story from the Queen of Crime and one I really enjoyed. I have to admit, it wasn’t one of my all time favourite Christie books (although I still think that it would be near impossible to write anything better than And Then There Were None), but the ending – or rather the way the murder has been planned and carried out -  was genius and it still blew me away.

The set-up might be familiar to avid readers of Christie’s books: we’re in a dentist’s office, in a completely average house in central London. A house from which there is only one exit. There are no other entrances or hidden passages. None. And since no one could have entered the house without a key or being let in by the doorman (who was a hilarious character, by the way), we have a limited number of possible suspects. We’re sure right from the beginning that the murder must have been committed by either Mr Morley himself, or someone who had an appointment for that day. Including, of course, Hercule Poirot. The police seem to think it was suicide but Poirot can’t help wondering: why would a successful and relatively happy man like Mr Morley kill himself? Not only that but why would he do it during working hours? Why not wait until all her patients are gone? But if it was murder… who would want to kill him?

The reason why I’m a tiny bit disappointed by the killer’s identity is that I think we’ve had something like this in another story of Christie’s. I won’t say which one in case someone figures it out but yes, I’m pretty sure there was something similar in another book. When Poirot and Japp started talking to the suspects and visited this particular person, I was almost entirely sure they were looking at the murderer. Purely because it would have been so typical of Christie to give her murderer such characteristics and because, as I said, we’ve had something similar before. However, it wouldn’t be a regular Agatha Christie book if she didn’t make each and every character behave in a rather suspicious way, thus making us suspect each and every one of them in turn, so thank God it’s not that predictable. I also think that the mystery of how and particularly why s/he committed the murder would be  quite difficult to solve so even if you manage to guess who the killer would be, the ending will still take you by surprise. All in all, I think it was definitely worth a read and the surprising ending made up for the murderer’s predictability.

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