Archive for the ‘fiction’ Category

Review: Farsighted by Emlyn Chand

Title: Farsighted
Author: Emlyn Chand
Publication date: November 24th 2011
Publisher: Blue Crown Press
ISBN: 978-0-983-93080-8
Pages: 212 (ebook version)
Genre: Paranormal, Young Adult

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was over the moon when author Emlyn Chand contacted me and asked me whether I would like to take part in the Farsighted blog tour and be one of the lucky few who got to read her book before the release date. YA fiction is very close to my heart and even though I haven’t read much paranormal fiction before, I was more than ready to give it a shot. Thank goodness for that, because this book is simply unputdownable.

lex Kosmitoras seems like your average 16 year-old high school student who is bullied by the “cool guys”, who sits by himself in the school cafeteria and is hopeless when it comes to making friends or interacting with girls. Alex, however, is different. He has been blind ever since he can remember. And if it wasn’t enough, it turns out that he’s gifted – that is, he can see the future. As much as he would like to ignore this, he can’t. Especially when Simmi, a new girl from India moves into town and becomes Alex’s best (and only) friend – but the boy’s visions begin to suggest that Simmi is about to die. What can he do in order to save her? Can he put an end to these visions, change the future and save Simmi’s life?

f you are looking for a well-researched, entertaining and highly captivating read, then Farsighted was definitely made for you. Alex may be blind but it only makes the story more interesting. The way Chand works with adjectives is wonderful – you would think it is going to be hard to narrate a story from a blind person’s point of view but the author made it seem like the easiest thing in the world. I was really touched by how Alex described everything in so much detail – how her mother smelled like flowers and how Simmi reminded him of an Almond Joy bar. You’re thrown into the world of someone who doesn’t know what colours look like, how his friends or his home look like which makes the story really fascinating. For me the most moving part of the book was when Alex says that even though he doesn’t know how it looks like, the colour green is his favourite because so many of the best-smelling things are of that colour.

f I wanted to make comparisons, I would say that Farsighted is like The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole and Harry Potter rolled into one – and do take it as a huge compliment because I love both series. Both Adrian and Alex grew up in a family that struggles to make ends meet and to earn enough money to get by. Chand gives a bittersweet touch to the story by describing how poor Alex’s family is. His backpack is starting to tear and his only pair of boots are scuffed, still, his parents would give anything to be able to buy him new clothes and new books. They both have a sarcastic sense of humour which is right up my street and which, in my opinion, makes the book even better. Alex’s mum reminded me a little bit of Mrs Weasley (who I absolute adore, by the way) – an overprotective mother who calls his son her “brave little oak tree” and her “little sapling” even though that little sapling isn’t that “little” anymore.

he main reason why I loved this story is because it’s so complex. It includes everyday characters, people we meet every day, people who are just like us – but there’s a magical side to the story as well. I love the fact that multiculturalism plays quite an important role in this book – as Chand puts it, “I don’t see why my characters all need to belong to the same culture or ethnicity. What fun is that?” And I agree. Why should all the characters be the same? It makes the story stand out and believe me, it works. In addition, the story is written in the first person – that is, Alex is the narrator. This was quite new for me because most books I’ve read used a third person narrator, but similarly to multiculturalism, it works perfectly.

t’s a very well written representative of the YA fiction genre – witty, fresh, entertaining and exciting. It keeps you on the edge of your seat all along and makes you want to find out what happens at the end. It’s a perfect read for a quiet night-in so make sure to get a copy and read it, you won’t be disappointed.

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Review: A Week in December – Sebastian Faulks

Title: A Week in December
Author:
Sebastian Faulks
Publication date:
2010
Publisher:
Vintage Books
ISBN:
978-0-099-45828-9
Pages:
392
Genre: Literary fiction
Format: Paperback

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London, the winter of 2007, a week before Christmas. Seven days for us to step into the lives of seven Londoners: John Veals, the hedge fund manager, a complete workaholic who never smiles and became completely alienated from his family; his son, Finbar, an average teenager who is obsessed with reality TV and drugs; Ralph Tranter, an obnoxious book reviewer who previously failed as a writer; Spike Borowski, a Polish footballer who recently joined a popular British team; Gabriel Northwood, a young lawyer who lacks any kind of motivation in life and has no interest in his job whatsoever; Hassan al-Rashid, a student who gets mixed up in a serious religious conflict and last but not least Jenni Fortune, a tube driver whose Circle Line train join these people’s lives on a daily basis. “The novel pieces together the complex patterns and crossings of modern urban life, and the group is forced, one by one, to confront the true nature of the world they inhabit.” (from the back cover)

This has been the first book I’ve read by Sebastian Faulks and I had such high hopes for this. The cover is drop-dead gorgeous (being in love with London I’m a little bit partial anyway), the blurb sounded promising and I was eager to start reading it – only to discover that it’s not nearly as good as I thought it would be. In short, it’s a huge disappointment.

It could have been so much better though! The main idea is great and very intriguing, but the characters and the writer’s style is not too enjoyable. None of the characters are particularly likeable, but that in itself wouldn’t be a problem. The worst thing about it is the complete lack of action throughout the novel – I was waiting for something to happen but nothing really did until the last 130 pages. The pace of the story was painfully slow and the fact that Faulks explained every single thing about the banking system, funds, the stock exchange, debt and so on made it even worse. There were many times when I couldn’t bear it any longer and started to skip these long paragraphs, then whole pages. Which I almost never do.

On the positive side, there was something about it that made me want to keep on reading. Partly it was due to the fact that I started to like Jenni and Gabriel and I wanted to know what happens to Hassan. So I did keep on reading and managed to finish it – the last 100 or 130 pages were more fast paced and less descriptive, finally. The ending was great and I really liked how everything turned out.

On the whole, did Faulks manage to convey his message and give a clear picture of contemporary London and British society? I would say yes. The characters a bit too far-fetched but he does have a point. All in all, it’s an OK read – do not start reading it if you’re not patient enough or if you don’t have much time. It’s not an easy read and it will be challenging at times (well…many times), but you might end up enjoying it if you prefer something less fast paced.

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Review: And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie

- Dedicated to Bex, Celine and Nat -

Title: And Then There Were None
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication date: 2007
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN: 978-0-00-713683-4
Pages: 317
Genre: Mystery

Eight strangers are invited to an isolated mansion on Soldier Island off the Devon coast by the mysterious Mr and Mrs Owen. As it turns out, everyone is talking about Soldier Island and its owners but no one knows who it actually belongs to. Despite the fact that they don’t know the hosts, they all accept the invitation. They don’t know each other and all they have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal – and a secret that will seal their fate. Upon arriving, the guests get to know the butler, Mr Rogers, and his wife. They are told that the hosts are currently away but will be back in a few days and until that it’s only the ten of them on Soldier Island. Over dinner, a gramophone record begins to play, and the voice of an unseen host accuses each of them in turn of having a guilty secret, and by the end of the night, one of the guests is dead. Having carried out a thorough search of the island, the 9 remaining people come to a conclusion: there is no one else on the island except for the 9 of them, one of whom is a murderer, who is ready to strike again. And again. Which of them is the killer and will any of them survive? 

This book left me in a complete awe. It’s the best book I’ve read so far, and I’m not exaggerating here. Even if you’re not keen on mysteries, it’s a definite must.  

It was one of the first Agatha Christie books I’ve read and I picked it up several times ever since. What made me want to read it in the first place – apart from the fact that my mum is a huge Agatha Christie fan and she told me how brilliant it was – is the fact that the characters are stuck on an island. I like mysteries (and films) where you know that the characters have absolutely no chance to escape. Where they are locked up – or in this case, stuck – in the same house and you know that there’s no way out or in, that is, the murderer must be amongst them. And one by one, they begin to die.  


I wouldn’t like to give too much away but apart from this, I really liked how the whole story was built upon an old nursery rhyme. Each guest has a nursery rhyme on their bedroom walls, which runs like this:

Ten little Soldier boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.

Nine little Soldier boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.

Eight little Soldier boys traveling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.

Seven little Soldier boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.

Six little Soldier boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.

Five little Soldier boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were four.

Four little Soldier boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.

Three little Soldier boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.

Two Little Soldier boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.

One little Soldier boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.

 The murderer tries to stick to this rhyme as closely as possible – but to make it even more interesting, there are 10 little soldier figures on the dining table. As soon as the first victim dies, however, there are only 9 soliders left on the table. And as one by one they start to die, the china figures start to disappear too. I loved the fact that even though the rhyme gives us readers (and the characters) a clue about how the next person is going to die, they are still completely helpless and can’t fight their fate.

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve read any of her books before, Agatha Christie’s masterpiece will keep you on the edge of your seat all the way. Perfectly constructed and built completely on suspense, And Then There Were None is an outstanding work by the Queen of Crime – the best in this genre, without a doubt.

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Review: Parker Pyne Investigates – Agatha Christie

Title:  Parker Pyne Investigates
Author:
Agatha Christie
Copyright:
2003
Publisher:
HarperCollins
ISBN:
978-0-00-715482-1
Pages:
320
Genre:
Mystery

A collection of short stories featuring the ‘heart specialist’, Parker Pyne. Mrs Packington felt alone, helpless and utterly forlorn. But her life changed when she stumbled upon an advertisement in The Times which read: ‘ARE YOU UNHAPPY? IF NOT, CONSULT MR PARKER PYNE’. Equally adept at putting together the pieces of a marriage or the fragments of a murder mystery, Mr Parker Pyne was possibly the world’s most unconventional private eye — and certainly its most charming.

As you may have heard, I participated in the Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon last weekend, and that’s when I managed to pick up and read this book. When I read the back cover and saw that it’s a collection of short stories, I wasn’t entirely sure I would like it, but I was wrong, it worked.

Parker Pyne is an ordinary Englishman – he was working in a government office, compiling statistics for thirty five years before he retired and started his own business. After retirement, he wanted to put his experience to good use that’s why he started giving advice. His advertisement appears in the papers everyday, saying
“Are you happy? If not, consult Mr. Parker Pyne”. Whether people are looking for someone to fix their marriage or someone to solve a murder mystery, Parker Pyne is always there to help them. He’s a very likeable character which makes the book even better.

The book consists of 14 short stories and an author’s foreword part, where Christie tells the readers what inspired her to write them and which two of these stories are her favourite. The first couple of stories deal with personal affairs – a woman whose marriage is in pieces, a retired soldier and an office clerk’s case, both looking for some excitement in their lives, a distressed lady who stole a diamond ring from one of her friends and a rich woman who doesn’t know how or where to spend her money. The second half of the book includes mysteries – stolen jewellery, murder, and poisoning. Maybe this is why I preferred the second part. :-)

All in all, it’s a great, witty and very well written book – once again, Christie proves how amazing her stories are because even though I don’t like short stories, I really enjoyed this book. If you have a copy but haven’t read it yet or if you want to read it in the future, look out for The Case of the Discontented Soldier and Death on the Nile – these two were my absolute favourites. :-)

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Review: Everything We Ever Wanted – Sara Shepard

Author: Sara Shepard
Publication date: 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN: 978-0007304493
Pages: 336 (paperback)
Genre: Adult Fiction

Have you ever felt like things are slipping through your fingers and you cannot do anything but  let them? Have you ever wished you could take back things you said before or that you could forget the past and start your life all over again? This is exactly what the Bates-McAllisters are going through in Sara Shepard’s latest novel, Everything We Ever Wanted.

It all starts with a telephone call. Sylvie Bates-McAllister, a recently-widowed mother of two gets a late-night phone call from the headmaster of the prestigious private school founded by her grandfather where her adopted son Scott teaches. He tells her that Scott may be involved a hazing scandal and thus may be responsible for a student’s sudden death. And with this, the family is thrown into chaos – we embark on a journey to the past, exploring well-hidden secrets and events that have never been told before and enter a world where everyone is being judged, where everyone has prejudices – a world not too far from reality.

I was very excited when I got my ARC of Everything We Ever Wanted. Although this is the first book I have read by Sara Shepard, the blogging world is crazy about the Pretty Little Liars series so I was really looking forward to reading it. As far as the story is concerned, I was expecting something more complicated. About two chapters in, I realized that it was entirely different, but not in a bad way. Shepard’s main focus is on people’s feelings and emotional growth rather than action itself. Everything We Ever Wanted took me a while to get into because I am used to reading fast paced stories and because I could not relate to any of the characters at first. It takes some time for the readers to get to know them but once you are familiar with their characteristics and you know what their childhood have been like, you do not want to put the book down. You realize that they are just like us: they have their flaws, they make mistakes, they say things they wish they did not say and they have prejudices … but they are perfectly normal.

It is complex but rewarding and highly emotional story which describes our society perfectly. For me the most meaningful and expressive part of the story was Sylvie’s remark towards the end of the book
“I don’t have many friends,” Sylvie said, her head down. “I…I know a lot of people. But there aren’t many people I can really talk to. I find it hard to connect. I’ve always envied people who find it easy.” 

Everything We Ever Wanted portrays a world where people swallow up their frustration and pretend that everything is fine,a world that is built up on appearances. It is a novel that will definitely make you think about your own life, that assures us that we all make mistakes but we need to come to terms with them, accept them and learn from them. As cliché as it might sound, it points out that everything that is worth having is worth fighting for and it warns us against being judgemental because nothing is ever what it seems.

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Review: The Brightest Star in the Sky – Marian Keyes

The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes

Title: The Brightest Star in the Sky
Author: Marian Keyes
Publication date 21 December 2010
Publisher: Penguin
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780141399973
Length: 613
Genre: Chick-lit / Women’s fiction
Age group: Adult
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

When people ask me who my favourite authors are and I start gushing over Marian Keyes’ amazingness, they tend to think: right, she’s a chick-lit girl. She’s living in her fairytale world, likes pink, wears high heels 24/7, is addicted to chocolate and most importantly, doesn’t like classic literature.Those people who tend to label us for reading chick-lit should be prepared because they are in for a surprise. The Brightest Star in the Sky is so much more than just a nice story.

On a bright summer day, sometime in June, a mysterious visitor arrives at 66 Star Street. He’s patiently waiting while we get to know the tenants of this Dublin house – Katie, who works in the music industry and spends her time looking after once fabulous rock starts and appears to be celebrating her fortieth birthday. In the flat below hers, a female taxi driver called Lydia – a tough cookie, I would say, and definitely one of the most interesting characters in the novel. She lives with her two flatmates, Jan and Andrei – two good-looking Poles. The first floor flat is occupied by Jemima, an 88-year-old psychic who is currently looking after her foster son, Fionn. Fionn – originally a gardener from a little town called Pokey- is a good looking guy and is auditioning for his own TV show in Dublin. On the ground floor we find Matt and Maeve, a married couple with odd habits and dark secrets. As the days are passing by and our visitor is still waiting, Keyes invites us on a journey and we enter a magical world full of laughter, tears, love and hate, memories and well-kept secrets.

The Brightest Star in the Sky is a charming tale about life and the problems of our generation, where teenagers grow up in the belief that self-harm is fun and getting pregnant to get attention is nothing out of the ordinary. It shows how thin the line is between love and hate, it proves that nothing is what it seems like therefore we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. It shows that there’s no such thing as a perfect family, a perfect relationship. We all tend to believe what we are allowed to see but Keyes lets us take a sneak peek behind closed doors and proves us wrong. It’s a gripping story with an unusual narrative which encourages us to pluck up the courage to make decisions, to stand up for ourselves and most importantly, tells us not to worry about things too much because “one day we’ll all be dead and none of this will matter”. Keyes’ work is almost like a movie – you keep wanting more, you simply don’t want it to end. Expect the unexpected because Keyes will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

Marian Keyes is the international bestselling author of Watermelon, Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married, Rachel’s Holiday , Last Chance Saloon, Sushi for Beginners, Angels, The Other Side of the Story,and Anybody Out There. She is published in twenty-nine different languages. Two collections of her journalism, Under the Duvet and Further Under the Duvet, are also published by Penguin. Marian lives in Dublin with her husband. The Brightest Star in the Sky is Keyes’ 10th novel.

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A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie – Book Review

Author: Agatha Christie
Copyright: 1953
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN: 978-0-00-712097
Pages: 317
Genre: Mystery

     Summary: At the beginning of the story, a certain Rex Fortescue (a supposedly rich businessman, leader of his own firm) is sipping his tea in his office when he suffers a sudden and very tragic death. After the police examines the body more closely, they found a handful of rye in one of his pockets… and no one knows what it is supposed to mean. After our -witty and reckless- murderer strikes again, Miss Marple comes to the conclusion that – similarly to what we have read in And Then There Were None – they are dealing with a crime by rhyme.

“Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing;
Wasn’t that a dainty dish,
To set before the king?

The king was in his counting house,
Counting out his money;
The queen was in the parlour,
Eating bread and honey.

The maid was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes;
When down came a blackbird
And pecked off her nose.”

The police think Miss Marple’s suggestion that the criminal is following the lines of this rhyme as closely as possible is crazy. But they soon realize that once again, the elderly lady is right.

     A Pocket Full of Rye was the third title on my To Be Read list – I finished it relatively quickly despite the fact that I didn’t have too much time to spare.

As I mentioned in my previous review, I’ve been an avid Christie fan for at least 3 years now and I’ve read about 15 of her books, if not more. This book was probably not as good as my three absolute favourites, but I would still recommend it to everyone who is looking for a good read.

One of the things I really liked about this book is that it is not a long-drawn-out story. Unlike the Mystery of the Blue Train, for example, where the introductory chapters took up at least one third of the entire book, this one is pretty straightforward in this respect. What I mean is, you don’t have to wait literally ages until someone dies and this is already a good point. For me, introductory chapters tend to be rather boring so this one was great in this respect. Investigation is already in full swing right after the second chapter or so, keeping us all in suspense and making us guess who might have done it, as Christie’s works tend to make us feel all the time.

However, if you are a Miss Marple fan, I have to disappoint you. Although it is a Marple mystery, most of the investigation process is done by the police. As always, she holds the key to the whole business but she doesn’t get involved until the very end. The ending for me was a great surprise – a very witty and cleverly done business and I suspected someone else all along, I have to admit. (who wasn’t completely innocent either, that’s true)

To sum up, it is a well written work and is hard to put down once the first victim dies. You cannot help being involved in the story and keep investigating with Inspector Neele all along. I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed.

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