Archive for September 2012

The Tommyknockers – Stephen King

This huge novel by Stephen King was actually written decades ago, but I have only recently read it as I have only recently decided to find out for myself what all the fuss was about!  Loved it! An epic!

Before The Tommy Knockers, I read ‘Under the Dome’ by the same author and massively enjoyed the reading experience. This was the reason I sought out The Tommy Knockers – I needed another story of epic proportions, a vast range of excellent characters and a mystery at the heart of it all. The Tommy Knockers is more a science fiction story than horror, the genre that many people associate with Stephen King – personally, as I go along, I find I am preferring his sci fi books!

The Tommyknockers - Stephen King

The book begins with the central character Bobbi Anderson taking her dog for a walk as she would any other day. On this particular day, she trips over something poking out of the ground and takes a closer look. As she strips back some of the earth she finds an object that has been buried for hundreds of years maybe more. Gradually, Bobbi becomes obsessed with stripping down all the earth and debris that has collected over the object until some changes start taking place in her. The obsession becomes possession as the object in the ground is revealed to be a spaceship with hypnotic powers over anyone that comes close. Even the friendly little dog becomes possessed and breeds fear in all other animals he comes into contact with.

What happens next is that gradually, pretty much, the whole town of Haven in Maine (Stephen King fans will recognise this location from his other books) becomes involved in the uncovering and protecting of the alien spaceship. The local characters that we know to be nice genuine people begin spitting out teeth, losing hair and gradually become homicidal. Next all who live in Maine are either killing or being killed. A whole town is transformed into galactic servants intent on digging out the spaceship so that it can continue with its plan ie destroy the earth? As the net spreads and people outside of Haven attempt to venture into the town, severe nausea, tooth loss and headaches force them to turn around and leave.

Not all are susceptible to the commands and domination of the spaceship, amongst them is friend of the central character Bobbi, Gard, who’s metal plate embedded in his skull prevents the transmissions from going through. Gard is a character (a similar type to the one in ‘Under the Dome’) who’s thoroughly lived his life and who offers us hope that we could be saved from impending destruction. But I don’t want to spoil it for you. Read this book, there’s more where this came from!

When you’ve read this, why not have a go at ‘Under the Dome’?

The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce – Paul Torday

You arrive at an upmarket restaurant in a taxi, barely in control of your faculties because you are in a drunken stupor. You have little interest in food at this stage of your alcoholism but have decided to spend the evening here because they serve a £3000 bottle of red wine called Chateau Petrus 1982 and exceptionally good wines are what you live for. This is the story of a likeable character called Wilberforce who I liked very much.

This is a book that takes you on a journey of alcoholism where you get to experience your own transformation into an alcoholic through the main character of the book Wilberforce.

The beginning of the book is set in the present day and eventually you travel back in time as you really get to know this man and discover what it was that made him become an alcoholic. Everybody has a trigger that propels them into addiction and I found myself desperate to get to the bottom of this intriguing character that would only drink the expensive stuff.

The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce - Paul Torday

This is a powerful story of a young man who wasn’t at all interested in wine or even booze in general, became interested in fine wines through a charismatic man called Francis Black. At Caerlyon Hall the younger Wilberforce finds friendship, love and passion for fine wines.  For once life is looking interesting until all goes tragically wrong and life takes a turn for the worst.

Interestingly the love for fine wines continues deep into Wilberforce’s alcoholism almost as though not drinking any old thing that is alcoholic were justification for drinking all the time. By drinking good wines and decent whisky over meths on a park bench it could be said that some element of choice was involved.

The beauty of the book is within the character and the occurrences that take place within his life to determine the direction that his life maintained. I won’t spoil another reader’s experience by spilling the beans about the plotline. I will say however, you must go and get yourself a copy of this book. You will probably enjoy it so much that you won’t be able to resist anything else written by Paul Torday. He’s a brilliant writer! I’m not a critic who’s an expert in literature but I do love to read! I recommend other books by the author such as ‘The Girl on the Landing’ about a man in middle age who is bi-polar and becomes psychotic. Again, you read the book through the first person experience and before you know it, you become hooked! This book is written this way through the two main characters, one being the man, the other being his wife. It’s a roller coaster ride!

The Forgotten Garden – Kate Morton

If you’re in the mood for a lovely story to escape into with a few weeps thrown in, The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton is most definitely the story for you! I loved it and didn’t want it to end. When it did, I sat with an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction, staring into space clutching the book as though my life depended on it! I wholeheartedly recommend this book to you as though you were my best friend.

Here is a mystery, like all great mysteries, that you only really get to the bottom of, right at the end. This story begins with the abandonment of a little girl aboard a ship destined for Australia. Why is she on her own? Who’s just left her there? Then the story throws you into the future with a new character who’s finding out about her ancestors and has come into an inheritance. Next we meet the grown up granddaughter of this character who’s come into an inheritance too. We discover she has been left a cottage on the coast of Cornwall within what was once the Blackthorne Estate.

The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton

Little by little all the pieces of a rich and intriguing jigsaw are spoon fed to you as you travel back and forth in time till you reach the ending.

The characters that dominate the story are the affluent Mountrachet family, in particular Georgiana who is sickly and spoilt. She becomes friends with Eliza the central character in the past. You’ll love Eliza Makepeace. She writes enchanting children’s stories that are featured within their own chapters. Georgiana is beautiful and advantaged in many ways but ultimately cannot have what she craves in life.

The angles to this book are numerous, you could never complain the format is dull I’m glad to say! Each chapter in the book revolves around one of the main characters. At times this can seem unsettling however it is never too long before you feel as though you are back on terra firma and actually discovering more about the circumstances behind the seeming abandonment of the little girl on the ship at the beginning of the story.

This was one story I really wasn’t ready to finish. I loved the main character Eliza and would have happily devoured a whole book focused on this one character. Maybe Kate Morton would consider writing a sequel one day?

Other books by Kate Morton have been brilliant too but Forgotten Garden is my personal favourite. The House at Riverton was another chunky story concerning a life looked back on. In this story the main character, an elderly woman looks back on her experiences whilst serving as domestic help at the stately home named in the title. You won’t be able to put this one down either! Kate Morton is a superb storyteller and one I will always recommend!

The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

With the exception of Fifty Shades of Grey, I don’t think any other work of fiction has caused such a stir! Reading this work of fiction might very well change your life. If it hadn’t been for Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code I may never have found myself visiting the breathtaking Roslyn Chapel in Scotland – it was a very enjoyable experience and one that I would recommend. More importantly, if it hadn’t been for this book, this beautiful church would have been left to become a ruin, like so much of our British heritage.

The DaVinci Code begins at the Louvre Museum in Paris. A museum curator is running from a malevolent monk who plans to interrogate him before murdering him.

The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

The next thing we hear is that the curator has left a series of clues with his naked body at the centre arranged to resemble Da Vinci’s The Vitruvian Man with a pentacle drawn across his body with his own blood. Only one man can solve this arrangement of cryptic puzzles and that’s our protagonist Professor Robert Langdon, world-renowned symbologist! What follows is a cat and mouse chase between Robert Langdon, the estranged grand daughter of the museum curator and the French police who are working for people within Opus Dei – a Catholic church based secret society.

The Da Vinci Code travels through time from the early times of the Bible throughout history as you discover the work and purpose of the Templar Knights. One moment you’re in France, then you find you’re in the Temple Church, London, then across to Roslyn Chapel in Scotland where the story reaches its conclusion.

What an amazing exciting journey involving what could be the biggest cover up of all the time, the existence of the Holy Grail. Did it really exist?

What is especially intriguing about this book is that a good number of conspiracy theories are addressed such as the existence of Priory of Zion of which Leonardo Da Vinci was once a grand master, the protection of the Holy Grail by the Knights Templar, the existence of the Opus Dei for destruction of anything that threatens the catholic church. This is gritty stuff. Read also The Lost Symbol and Angels and Demons by Dan Brown for similar conspiracy question marks. Whether these books are complete works of fiction, Dan Brown should be patted on the back for opening our eyes to the bigger picture out there in the big wide world! Above all, I would recommend that you purchase the illustrated version of The Da Vinci Code – it’s a treat!

No Angel – Penny Vincenzi

This is the first book of the Spoils of Time trilogy. This is a bumper story of epic proportions packed with a grand cast of characters all of which  have been embellished by the hand of one of my favourite authors Penny Vincenzi!

No Angel begins during the fun pre war years of the Belle Epoque when the trilogy’s central character Celia is found walking down the aisle pregnant with her husband to be’s first child. From the very first page of the book, you realise Celia is a lady who often gets what she wants out of life. Celia’s life, one of privilege belonging to the upper class, brushes with a number of the real life historical events such as the women’s suffragette movement, the sinking of the Titanic, the First World War, the Blitz whilst learning a trade in the publishing industry. Her new husband Oliver runs (along with his sister, LM) this pioneering printing house, which will eventually over the span of the trilogy to become a supreme publishing empire.

No Angel - Penny Vincenzi

As the novel progresses, it isn’t long before you realise that privileged Celia is not someone who will turn the other cheek as long as she is okay. In the beginning of the book we witness her befriending a poor working class woman whom, a victim of her circumstances, tries to cope with the demands that a large family have on her. We witness her dance with danger in a way you would never expect in her collusion with Mrs Miller to help reduce the pressures of family life. In addition to her own growing family, Celia adopted Barty Miller too, a decision that she may come close to regretting one day.

The first book of the Spoils of Time Trilogy by Penny Vincenzi is about the beginnings of the publishing industry  and encompasses life before, during and after the first world war. Celia and Oliver are rearing a young family and would be no more if it were not for the news of a sickly child having booked passages upon the Titanic. Wherever would the story have gone if the nurse had succeeded in keeping quiet about their adopted daughter being ill?

You get everything in this book! Romance, intrigue, history, mystery and a cast filled to bursting with lots of lovely personality and character detail. You can never have too much detail and that’s what you get in abundance with any Penny Vincenzi novel. If you haven’t read anything by this novel, I would highly recommend that you start with No Angel. You wont want to put it down till the end of the third book!

The Water’s Lovely – Ruth Rendell

Born in London in 1930, Ruth Rendell is a prolific author of mystery novels.

Published in 2007, The Water’s Lovely, is centred around a London family torn apart by a long-buried murder. Told mostly in flashbacks, the story portrays Guy Rolland, stepfather to sisters Heather and Ismay.

Twelve years ago, at age fifteen, Ismay accepted Guy’s flirtations, but thirteen-year-old Heather did not. Heather ultimately kills her perverted stepfather by drowning him in the bathtub. The death is officially ruled as an accident, and the family boards up the bathroom where Guy drowned, continuing to live in the house as if nothing ever happened.

The Water's Lovely - Ruth Rendell

Now that Heather and Ismay are both adults with their own love interests, the long-ago murder begins to haunt them. As Heather prepares to wed her fiancé, Edmund Litton, Ismay feels compelled to tell her future brother-in-law of the murder. Ismay’s relationship with her boyfriend, a lawyer named Andrew Campbell-Sedge, also begins to suffer. Meanwhile, a retired detective keeps an eye on the sisters, suspicious of Guy’s “accidental” death.

Critics applauded the book, especially the story’s highly suspenseful plot.Connie Fletcher, again writing in Booklist, noted: “Combining potent imagery and exquisite plotting, Rendell twists the knife of suspense in a wonderfully excruciating way.” Echoing this opinion, a Kirkus Reviews critic observed that “the sense of impending calamity is palpable.” The critic added that The Water’s Lovely is “one of the most deeply pleasurable thrillers from the genre’s leading practitioner.”

Yet another laudatory review came from Jennifer Resse, writing in Entertainment Weekly. Reese noted that “while she never explicitly judges her characters, Rendell has crafted for each a cruelly perfect fate, one that reflects, sometimes humorously and sometimes tragically, the kinds of lives they have lived.”

The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America’s Finest Hour – Andrei Cherny

During his final year at Harvard Andrei Cherny was commissioned to write speeches for President Clinton thus becoming the youngest White House speech writer ever. Within a week of graduating he was appointed a senior speech writer for Vice President Al Gore.

Whilst still involved in policy making and speech writing, in 2008, he published his second book, The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America’s Finest Hour.

The Candy Bombers - Andrei Cherny

The book explores the Berlin Airlift from 1948 to 1949. During the crisis, Britain and the United states successfully stopped the Soviet Union from its attempts to seize Berlin. Aside from discussing the history behind the crisis, Cherney also looks at how the Airlift affected U.S. politics.He credits President Harry Truman’s role in the victory as the key reason for his reelection in 1948.

Critics found The Candy Bombers to be well researched and well written, as well as an interesting look at a key event in the Cold War. For instance, a Kirkus Reviews contributor stated that Cherney writes “with the flair of a novelist” and called the book “lively, densely detailed and unabashedly enthusiastic.” Booklist writer Gilbert Taylor was also impressed, finding that “Cherny readably synthesizes this milestone cold-war confrontation.” Furthermore, a Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked that interested readers will “find much to savor in this exhaustive, often absorbing and lucid account of America’s successful standoff against the Soviets.”

Hayburner – Laura Crum

Laura was born on the family ranch in Santa Cruz, California. Involved with the training of horses from an early age, she uses her knowledge and love of horses as a base for her mysteries. Her heroine is a horse veterinarian in northern California named Gail McCarthy.

Published in 2003, Hayburner is another book featuring Gail McCarthy. In the book, Santa Cruz County detective Jeri Ward is investigating a rash of stable fires being set by an unknown arsonist. McCarthy helps the investigation by arriving at the crime scenes to examine the surviving horses.

Hayburner – Laura Crum

Bishop Ranch Stable is the first to be hit, and Ward suspects the stable’s own manager committed the crime to collect insurance money. But soon, two more stables fall victim to arson, and suspicions shift to a cast of characters, including veterinarian Hans Schmidt and petty criminal Marty Martin. McCarty happens to surprise the arsonist starting the fourth fire, but suffers a concussion and cannot remember the criminal’s face.

Hayburner was another hit for Crum, with critics regarding it as a worthwhile addition to the author’s growing mystery series. The book contains an “abundance of horse- and ranch-related detailing,” wrote Rex Klett in a review for the Library Journal. Others admired Crum’s sensitive portrayal of these devastating crimes. Hayburner has many “heart-rending scenes,” noted one Kirkus Reviews contributor.