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      12.02.2011 12:00
      Very helpful



      Take a look at my top ten books.......

      ~*~*~I Love Books~*~*~

      I think I've read about 300 books over the past few years and got knows how many in my life. I haven't reviewed any yet, well apart from Michael McIntyres autobiography, but that's because I'd just finished reading it and couldn't stop laughing. I do plan do write some book reviews in the future, but I consider them to be one of the more difficult things to review, so I'm leaving it until my writing skills have improved a bit!

      For now however, I thought I'd do a 'top ten' books as there are so many which I love and I would prefer to just write a small amount on each of them for the time being.

      I've really struggled to choose just ten and have probably forgotten quite a few that I love just as much as the ones I am about to talk about....

      ~*~*~Number 10~*~*~

      'PS, I Love You' is a novel by Cecelia Ahern set in Ireland, it's about Holly, who is married to Gerry, the love of her life. Gerry passes away and the story follows Holly as she grieves over her late husband, and uncovers a series of notes that he left her before he died. Each note is what keeps her going until the next one turns up, and they help her carry on without Gerry. After the tenth and final note has been found, she feels much more ready to go on with her life without Gerry than she did before and she knows he will always be there for her.

      Some of the notes tell her to do certain tasks to help her carry on with life, which Gerry knows she won't do unless prompted by him, and every note is signed 'P.S, I Love You.'

      It is a funny and emotional book, which makes me cry every time, it has also been made into a film which is quite good too but I do think the book is better.

      ~*~*~Number 9~*~*~

      Sophie Kinsella is one of my favourite authors, and it was hard to choose which of her books I like best. I would probably go for 'Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic' as it the first book of hers that I've read and I keep going back to it for another read every now and then. The book is about Becky Bloomwood, who is addicted to shopping and falling heavily into debt. Ironically she is a financial journalist and makes a living writing for a magazine that tells people how to save money!

      The book is all about Becky's misadventures as she attempts to control her shopping habits, and can be quite a humorous read at times. It is the first in what has become a series of around six books, and it's also been made into a film. It's one of the books I automatically go to if I want a nice relaxing afternoon with a familiar and easy to read book.

      ~*~*~Number 8~*~*~

      The most recent in this list that has become a fave book of mine is 'Girl Friday' by Jane Green.

      The book is about Kit, a woman who is starting to build her life again after divorcing her husband. As the book goes on she gets herself a job, a home for her and her children, and even starts becoming friends with her ex husband.

      When her friend Tracey introduces her to Steve, he seems too good to be true-he his handsome and kind and dotes on Kit. Of course not everything is as it seems, Tracy has a big secret she is hiding, and Steve turns out not to be who we think he is.

      I loved this book, as it kept me guessing throughout, even when I thought I'd worked it out I was wrong and there were more surprises in store!

      ~*~*~Number 7~*~*~

      'Honeycote' by Veronica Henry is next on the list. Honeycote is mainly centered around the Liddiard family, as well as other main characters, and has several storylines running through it. I love this book as it's full of twists and has so many things going on within it that it never gets boring.

      The title 'Honeycote' refers to the village where the book is set, a quiet and ordinary village where everything seems perfect and in order. It becomes clear that there is much more going on than meets the eye, as the book reveals what is going on beneath the surface including affairs, lies, and scandal.

      ~*~*~Number 6~*~*~

      At number six is 'Angels and Demons' by Dan Brown, the prequel to the even better known 'The Da Vinci Code.'

      It is a real page turner as it The Da Vinci Code, but I do feel that Angels and Demons has the edge slightly over its sequel.

      The book follows a professor called Robert Langdon, who is also a symbologist, as he uncovers mystery and clues in order to stop the Illuminati from destroying Vatican City. The story is full of mystery, as well as twists and turns as some of the characters turn out to be not as they first seemed.

      I really do recommend this book if you've not already read it, it's not normally the kind of thing I read but I enjoy this book immensely and have read it a few times, it's a difficult one to put down. It has also been made into a film, but after being pretty appalled at the film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, I don't think I'll bother with watching the film of Angels and Demons.

      ~*~*~Number 5~*~*~

      James Frey's 'A Million Little Pieces' is at number five. At the time of release the author claimed that this book was a true account of his life as a drug addict and his time in a rehabilitation clinic. However it surfaced later that a large amount of the book was in fact fabricated, leading to a lot of controversy surrounding the book and the author.

      As far as I'm aware James Frey has admitted making up parts of it, but also claims that due to his slightly messed up mind he simply remembers some things differently to how they happened.

      When I found out about this book not being as true as it's supposed to be, I was slightly annoyed (as were nearly 2000 readers in America who were given refunds on the book) but I had still enjoyed the book a lot, there was no denying that. This is still one of my favourite books although it has been ruined slightly for me. The book basically follows the story of the author to some extent at least, as he (according to the book) has been an alcoholic for ten years and addicted to crack for three years, bare in mind he is only 23 at this time. The book takes us through his time in rehab where he eventually recovers, never to relapse again. The book is quite shocking and graphic in parts, although as I said I know don't know how much of this is true.

      ~*~*~Number 4~*~*~

      'Getting Rid of Matthew' by Jane Fallon is number four on my list. I've read this book lot's of times and never tire of it. It's about a woman who is having an affair with an older married man (called Matthew) and after years of begging him to leave his wife for her, she finally gives up and wants rid of him. The trouble is that whilst she decides this, he has other ideas, and finally decides to leave his wife and children and move in with her.

      The book is basically about her trying to get rid of him, firstly by stopping making an effort with him and not taking care of herself, looks wise, which doesn't seem to work, and forces her into more drastic tactics! She ends up pretty much stalking his ex wife and befriending her which inevitability leads to more problems as she becomes genuine friends with her. I have found it a really easy book to get stuck into and could easily polish it off in one sitting.

      You may know the author as she has worked on Eastenders and Teachers as well as other things, and has been Ricky Gervais' partner for about 25 years,

      ~*~*~Number 3~*~*~

      At number three is a book called 'A Year in the Merde' by Stephen Clarke. This is the first book in what is currently a series of four. The books are all based on the author's experiences as he moves to Paris and sets up a traditional English tearoom. The book is funny and honest and explores the cultural differences between France and England that the author encounters. It also shows the authors struggle as he settles into the country, and gets used to the people, the strikes, the food, and the women.

      I like this book as it is a good story but also contains quite a lot of useful information too. There are a few mistakes the author makes in when he first moves over to France that he shares with us. As someone who is currently living in France I have learnt from some of his mistakes and therefore not made them myself!

      The other books in this series are Merde Actually, Merde Happens, and Dial M for Merde. I have read Merde Actually which is also fantastic, and have bought the other two which I must read soon!

      ~*~*~Number 2~*~*~

      My second favourite book is 'The Virgin Suicides' written in 1993 by Jeffrey Eugenides. It's a book centred on five sisters, the Lisbon sisters, and it's narrated anonymously by one of the boys in their neighbourhood. The narrator is a member of a group of boys who are infatuated with the sisters, and devote a lot of their time to trying to find out more about them, trying to get into the house, and generally keeping an eye on them from a distance.

      The five sisters are:

      Cecila - 13 years old
      Lux - 14 years old
      Bonnie - 15 years old
      Mary - 16 years old
      Therese - 17 years old.

      The book follows the strange lives of these girls, pieced together by the narrator and his friends. The book sees each girl commit suicide one by one, as the family become recluses and the house slowly deteriorate more and more as each tragedy happens.

      It's not a particularly happy book, but I love it, I think it's such an original storyline, told in a unique way and in my opinion the author deserves a lot of praise for this shocking and compelling story.

      ~*~*~And the Winner is....~*~*~

      As much as I've deliberated over this list, I knew from the start which book was going to make it to number one for me! It's been my favourite book since I first read it about six years ago and I've probably had the pleasure of reading it about twelve times now resulting in a very battered and dog-eared copy of it! The book in question is 'Valley of the Dolls' by Jacqueline Susann, an American book that was first published in 1966.

      The book is actually set in 1945-before the time it was written- in New York. It follows the lives of three very different young girls whose paths cross as they all rise to fame, and ultimately self-destruction.

      The 'Dolls' mentioned in the title of the book refers to the slang word sometimes used for pills. These 'dolls' or pills are a recurring theme throughout most of the book, and something that all three girls-Anne, Neely and Jennifer-all use to get them through stressful times. I love the three main characters in the book as they're all so different, and although I don't want to reveal the storyline, here is a brief outline of the three main girls:

      Anne- Anne moves from Massachusetts to New York as she is sick of the boring and dreary town she comes from. She soon finds herself an apartment and a job as a secretary as well a man to begin dating. Her natural beauty and class is at once recognised by everyone, and turns out to be the key to her success.

      Jennifer-She is a beautiful show girl who although has no real talent, is successful due to her looks and the fact that she is very popular with rich businessmen. You soon learn there is more to her than just looks and she becomes an interesting and likeable character. In fact I think she is my favourite character in the book.

      Neely-Neely starts the book as a naïve yet talented kid who can sing, dance and act, although doesn't realise quite how good a singer she is. As the book goes on she turns into a very famous and successful star, but also becomes difficult to handle, arrogant, and back stabbing.

      As far as I'm aware most of the book is written based on the authors personal observations when she was in Hollywood struggling to become famous herself. Apparently certain characters are based on people she knew at the time. For example the character of Neely-who is highly talented yet dependent on alcohol and prescription drugs-is said to be based on Judy Garland.

      The book was also made into a film a year after its release, but I can't watch this as I would hate it to ruin the book for me! I can't recommend this book enough, and I think the fact that it has sold in excess of 30 million copies over the years speaks for itself.


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        13.01.2011 14:01
        Very helpful



        All worth a read

        Tricky topic! There are so many fantastic books! I'm probably not the most well read person in the world but I have read a fairly varied selection. It would be difficult for me to list my top 10 in order of preference but they are as follows:

        1. Jamaica Inn - Daphne du Maurier
        Daphne du Maurier wrote books that were written and inspired about Cornwall, which is the County where I live. This was one of my main reasons for choosing to read this book. I have read some of her other books but this was my favourite. A young girl has to go and live with her auntie and uncle after her mother dies. This story is about smugglers, love, murder and so much more. Maybe not to everyone's tastes but it's not a long book so I believe it is worth a read.

        2. The Hobbit - J. R. R. Tolkien
        I read this book recently and couldn't believe it had taken me so long to get around to reading it. It is a fantasy/adventure book, which I believe is aimed at children. However this book is suitable for everyone and I believe everyone would enjoy this. The author has a fantastic writing technique and it is so easy to get absorbed by this book. I have written a review about this book.

        3. On the Beach - Nevil Shute
        This book was recommended to be by my parents who read it years ago. The book follows the story of just a handful of characters in Australia after a nuclear war in the Northern Hemisphere. It is basically following their lives, as they are waiting to die from the radiation that is creeping south. It doesn't sound very cheery but it is a good book to read.

        4. Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham
        Another book recommended to me by my parents. Genetically modified, dangerous and clever plants that are able to move around and have to be kept on chains. Controlled by man on farms for the oil they produce. Everything goes wrong when there is a meteor shower that the whole world is watching - everyone becomes blind - obviously there is an exception for the odd few. The world begins to breakdown and the plants escape. I loved this book, it completely gripped me and think everyone should read it even if they have seen the films or TV series'.

        5. Don't Ever Tell - Kathy O'Beirne
        This book was recommended to me by a work colleague. It is basically a misery novel about a young girls life growing up in Magdalene laundries and various other different catholic homes in Ireland. She was neglected and abused throughout her childhood and as she wrote the book she was fighting for justice. I have written a review about this book.

        6. Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
        I'm sure everyone has heard of this book but if you haven't read it - read it! It is funnier than the film. It is basically about a single woman obsessed with finding the perfect man, getting married, how much she weighs, how much she drinks. It basically applies to almost every woman in her late 20's/early 30's who is single. You don't have to be single to enjoy this book though. I have written a review about this book.

        7. Johnny got his Gun - Dalton Trumbo
        This book was recommended to me by my husband. It is a little depressing but it really gets you thinking. It is basically a someone waking up after being injured in the 1st World War. As the days/weeks go on he is discovering things that he has lost. For example, legs, arms, eyes, ears etc...It does sound somewhat unbelievable but it is written so well and in the 1st person that it really gets you involved!

        8. Amityville Horror
        Sorry I'm not sure who the author is as I no longer have the book and I believe there may be more than one author who wrote about this. It is a true story of a haunted house and the things the family that move in have to go through after the violent murder that happened there before them. I couldn't read this book after dark but it fascinated me, as did the TV documentaries. Very well written.

        9. Round Ireland with a Fridge - Tony Hawks
        This is just a fun read! He tries to hitch hike around Ireland with a fridge to win a bet. He becomes extremely famous on his travels and meets a real selection of characters. Another great enjoyable read.

        10. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Ages 13 ¾ - Sue Townsend
        This is really a book for younger people. Absolutely hilarious! A young boy growing up, discovering girls and struggling with his useless parents. It is written in diary form so its easy to read and just another enjoyable read.

        I hope you enjoyed my list of books and just to add a few more that you may enjoy:
         The Chronicles of Narnia
         The Bafut Beagles
         Watership Down

        I have just finished reading the Millennium Trilogy. They were the most captivating, enjoyable and intriguing books I have ever read. Really worth reading! I will try to review them soon when I have thought out how to without giving anything away!


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          07.04.2010 20:55
          Very helpful



          My favourite reads

          I'm rather enjoying these retrospective top 10 lists that allow me to celebrate my favourite pieces of entertainment, or even vent against those who dont particularly entertain me. I've always enjoyed reading, although most of my reading matter consists of modern day fiction from some of the best writers of horror and thrillers. I've listed the books here that most epitomise my reading enjoyment. I hope you have also managed to catch some of these books, if this is your genre of choice.

          Minette Walters The Scolds Bridle

          When an elderly woman is found dead in her bathtub, complete with a mythical contraption called a scold's bridle, it is assumed that she committed suicide. However, as her caring doctor comes face to face with her loathsome family, she discovers family secret's that may explain the woman's death. This is an eerie thriller by one of today's best fiction writers that allows us to get an insight into a lonely old woman who has wallowed in her own self loathing and bitterness for decades. An extremely well executed read that is gripping, yet touching, to the final surprising act. The novel was turned into a fairly decent BBC two parter that captures the essence of the characters and brings to life a typical tale of murder in the countryside.

          Tell No One by Harlan Coben

          This is a superbly written book that transferred into a brilliantly paced French feature film in 2006. Coben is known for his Myron Bolitaire series, but this was one of his well received stand-alone thrillers. David Beck has had to come to terms with the death of his wife, as he lay unconscious 8 years before. Now, somebody is sending his messages, as if they were from his wife. Beck has to uncover a conspiracy, before the FBI are able to pin the death of his wife on him. He soon discovers that nobody can be trusted, and that all is not as he believed it to be. Complications arise when another two bodies are discovered in the woods near where his wife died. Brilliantly paced, and a revelation to read, this is Coben's finest book.

          Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years by Sue Townsend

          The latest Mole book was published late last year and is Townsend's finest comic contribution to the series yet. Adrian is now living in a converted piggery with his dissatisfied wife and his overly-dramatic daughter. Much of his life mirrors his own upbringing, which is made worse by his parents living next door. His mother is writing a misery memoir, much of which is a complete fiction, and always wants to out a family secret live on Jeremy Kyle. As Adrian faces up to an unexpected illness, its the humour that author Townsend applies to the situation that keeps this a page turner. Even when endless days are left blank, Townsend still manages to keep us amused by dim Adrian and a myriad of mad characters for him to vent on.

          The Killing Hour by Lisa Gardner

          I was first introduced to this author when my sister bought my this book. It was the fifth book by the little known American author who doesn't get enough recognition. The characters of Kimberley and her FBI father are recurring in her books, and this picks up when Kimberley is on the hunt for a seriel killer who strikes in tremendous temperature heats and seems to pair his victims off to leave clues for the FBI. Gardner creates a creepy setting for her victims, and it was more than once that I found my skin crawling as I read this relentlessly gruesome thriller. In fact, so creepy was it, that I had to stop reading in bed.

          Along Came A Spider by James Patterson

          Most of you will be familiar with this through the Morgan Freeman film version, if not through the book. The film, I'm afraid, took various liberties with the narrative, and if you want the full story, you'd be best off reading it from the horses mouth. Alex Cross is investigating the kidnapping of two rich kids, one of whom is found dead a few days later. The killer taunts Cross as he quotes the most infamous of crimes, leading Cross to believe that his crimes are all in aid of fame and notoriety. Patterson creates a steaming thriller that brings back his most famous character, without forcing the reader to delve into his back catalogue, for he is such a good writer that his books double as stand alone's and part of a series where we are catching up with character's we already know.

          The Good Guy by Dean Koontz

          An amazing non-stop ride from the master of suspense that pairs a smart talking builder with a vulnerable author after somebody mistakes him for a hitman. Determined to do the right thing, and spurred on by his parents, Timothy Carrier has to outwit a maniac who has been hired to set up the killing of a woman who might have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Passions thrive as temper's flare in this extremely suspenseful book that is as much about doing the right thing as it is about saving the life of a young woman. Koontz sometimes misses the boat with his novels (I recently read one about a talking alarm system), but on this one, he is dead on the money from the opening page to the final relentless twist.

          Wes Craven's New Nightmare by David Bergantino

          I know novel's based on a film aren't traditionally good, but this is a good swift read that is actually better paced than the film that it is based on. Wes Craven has decided to make a new Nightmare On Elm Street film, and is trying to entice his star Heather Langenkamp back to the series. She cant see any feasible way to do it, and is not keen anyway, due to her son's bizzare behaviour and the fact that she has a stalker pretending to be her film nemisis Freddy Krueger. Unbeknown to her, the stalker is actually an ancient evil that has embodied Krueger during the films, and is now trying to break free to wreak havoc on the real world. David Bergantino cleverly intercepts each chapter with his own horrific diary entries and newspaper clippings that suggest that he is also being targeted by the monster. Brilliantly written, and a decent adaption of the film script.

          Lifeless by Mark Billingham

          This is another in the series from Billingham that allows us to catch up with his character Tom Thorne. After the death of his father, who suffered from dementia, Thorne is given light duties at the station. However, he is soon back on the job when some of the homeless people in his jurisdiction are brutally murdered. This time, though, he infiltrates the homeless scene and soon finds his new friends willing to let down their guard to protect each other. This is Billingham's best book by a mile, and really shows a softer side to his most popular creation. Every character is compelling, and every scene serves a purpose to the narrative. I couldn't put it down.

          The Pilots Wife by Anita Shreve

          I dont usually go in for the girlie reads, but this one was suggested to me by a work colleague, and I was not disappointed. Kathryn has just discovered that her pilot husband has been killed in a plane crash. Devastated and unable to face up to the death, her world is further thrown into turmoil by a discovery about the true nature of her husband's business and personal affairs. Whilst it is slightly predictable, Shreve handles the characters delicately and offers dialogue that isn't just there to manipulate emotions from the reader. A well written weepie that sidesteps the conventions of that particular genre of writing. I probably wouldn't read any more of her material, but this one is definately on my list of read-again's.

          The Bewitching of Alison Albright by Alan Davidson

          I decided to include a favourite from my childhood that I now treat as the occasional quick read. Whilst this is firstly a teenage fiction book, it transfers incredibly well into adulthood through the mature style of the writing and an extremely sympathetic lead character. Alison hates her life, she is taunted at school, and loathes her homelife. One day, a rich woman spots Alison, and decides to shower her with gifts and riches beyond her wildest dreams. Unbeknown to Alison, she actually resembles the woman's daughter, who is apparently in Switzerland at boarding school. Soon, though, the woman's obsessive nature and the truth of her relationship with her daughter comes to light and Alison finds herself in terrible danger. A riveting read that I still relate to and wish that it was still in print so that others could enjoy it.

          There, that's my list. Probably not everybody's cup of tea, and certainly not intellectually profound. However, I have had many hours of entertainment from the above read's, and would hope that many of you do too.


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            21.02.2010 03:34
            1 Comment



            Fantasic books,

            Ah, one of my favourite pastimes. Who doesn't love a good book... Or 10!?
            If anyone seen the amount of books me and the hubby have collected and crammed into our little flat you would be amazed!
            I am sitting here staring at all my books at them moment wondering how I am going to be able to pick my top 10!
            Ok, well here goes, in no particular order...

            1. Julie Myerson - Out of Breath.

            2. Jodie Picoult - My Sisters Keeper.

            3. Sophie Kinsella - Can You Keep a Secret.

            4. Emily Maguire - Taming the Beast.

            5. Josie Lloyd & Emlyn Rees - The Boy Next Door

            6. Cecelia Ahern - P.S I Love You

            7. Stephanie Meyer - Twilight

            8. Martha O'Connor - The Bitch Goddess Notebook

            9. Charlie Daniels - Priceless

            10. Deborah Wright - Under My Spell

            I think if I ever had the time, I would read all of these books again.
            Amazing authors.


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              30.11.2009 19:45
              Very helpful



              Genuinely nothing like curling up with your favourite books!

              I have been an avid reader since childhood, starting with the Babysitters Club at the age of 6 and not looking back since. My favourite books are somewhat eclectic, and I don't know if any other person would count all 10 in their own top 10 (or even amongst their top 20), but they're all mine!

              In no particular order...

              1. 'Lolita' (Vladimir Nabokov) - I first read 'Lolita' when I was 13, which was entirely inappropriate and led me to a series of unrequited crushes on several male teachers until I graduated from high school. I have read it pretty much every year since then, and found my attitude to it changing as I matured. What I initially read as an erotic celebration of young girls (thereby empowering me - like I said, it was entirely inappropriate!), I came to understand as a darkly, darkly comic book rife with unparalleled word play and metaphor. I've read Nabovkov's other books, short stories, and other prose pieces, and have particularly loved his essays on writing. - but Lo is still my favourite.

              2. 'Harriet the Spy' (Louise Fitzhugh) - I first read 'Harriet the Spy' only a few years before I first read 'Lolita', and whilst other girls might reach for 'Little Women' or 'Wuthering Heights' for comfort reading, I always, always reach for this tome about a tomboyish aspiring writer dealing with the bitterest betrayal in her own homeroom. Both characters show their marks in my development from girl to woman, though I hope I'm more like Harriet than the former. Like 'Lolita', I have read 'Harriet the Spy' pretty much every other year, and even in my 20s, I am surprised at the sophisticated themes and writing. This novel reminds me of a Wes Anderson movie - or rather, Wes Anderson's characters remind me of Harriet M Welch. She might be the original hipster.

              3. 'Nine Stories' (JD Salinger) - Like many a disillusioned 14 year old, my first introduction to Salinger was the seminal 'Catcher in the Rye'. Whilst I will always love that novel and remember it fondly for capturing exactly my frustration and disappointment with the world after reaching puberty, my favourite Salinger pieces are actually his short stories. 'Nine Stories' includes 'A Pefect Day for Bananafish', 'For Esme - With Love and Squalor', and 'Teddy'. I drew a parallel between Lolita and Harriet above, but I suppose Harriet has more in common with the Glass family - gifted New York children in charge of their own lives, though prone to personality weaknesses. Salinger writes a sentence and conveys paragraphs, and for this, I will always love his work.

              4. 'Tender is the Night' (F Scott Fitzgerald) - This is my favourite of Fitzgerald's novels, though the ubiquitous 'Great Gatsby' is a close second. A thinly disguised portrait of the author and his mentally ill wife, Zelda, the novel sports such painfully beautiful lines as, 'You're the first girl I've seen in a while that actually looks like something blooming'. I might not re-read this book in its entirety as I do the above tomes, but there are certain paragraphs that I go to over and over again, lines that I find myself musing on in the most random of moments.

              5. 'Norwegian Wood' (Haruki Murakami) - What I love about Murakami is the resigned disassociation of his characters - they float through modern Japan, their feet barely on the ground, accepting all things at their face value. Immigrating to the UK for university, I felt akin to these characters - especially Toru Watanabe, the narrator of 'Norwegian Wood'. The disconnect he feels from everyone except for a select group of people were familiar and reassuring, as I knew that I wasn't alone in feeling so, well, alone.

              6. 'The Odyssey' (Homer, as translated by Robert Fitzgerald) - I first read this translation at school, and became obsessed with the idea of Telemakhos, the erstwhile orphan, and Penelope, the ever-faithful wife. Like 'Tender is the Night', I don't re-read this in its entirety often (in fact, I think I've only done it once) - but there are the stories that I constantly come back to. The themes are timeless, and the influence it has had on literature ever since its first telling is unparalleled.

              7. 'Jude the Obscure' (Thomas Hardy) - I read this in anticipation of coming up to Oxford for the first time. Its fatalistic view of the world is, indeed, depressing, but it's a story that still takes my breath away. The final scene with Father Time, in particular, stayed with me for days after my initial read.

              8. 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) - 'One Hundred Years...' is one of those books that took me ages initially to get stuck into; I can't count the number of times I got through the first hundred pages or so, put it down, and then didn't pick it up again until I'd well and truly forgotten what was going on and had to start it all over again. One summer, though, I magically had the stamina to power through the first half, and found myself racing to the end. A Nobel Prize-winner, it's an epic book, with striking images and characters that will stay with you long after you've closed it (the funeral scene, with rose petals raining from the sky, is a favourite of mine).

              9. 'Hollywood Wives' (Jackie Collins) - This is silly but genuinely one of my favourites. I was always incredibly serious (all of my top ten, I read before turning 18), but 'Hollywood Wives' was the first time I realised lighter books don't necessitate mind-numbingly dumb prose. Witty, shocking, and above all, well-written, Collins' stable of paperback trash opened my eyes to works beyond my school reading list.

              10. 'The Sound and the Fury' (William Faulkner) - Of all the books on this list, this is probably the one I re-read the least, as I usually read it alongside a chronology that tells me where each shift in time has taken the narrative. It is still one of my favourites, however, despite this added layer of difficulty - it's a heartbreaking story of a family in ruin, and, despite the unconventional storytelling, it's difficult to put down.


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              02.11.2009 15:14
              Very helpful



              My reading history

              I am a complete bookaholic and have far too many favourite authors and books to be able to reduce them to a top ten. So I've decided to simply list my favourite book within each of the genres or sub-genres that I read. All these titles are on my 'keeper' shelf and although my general reading philosophy is 'So many books. so little time', I often find the time to re-read these ones.

              If you haven't read these books already, I hope I can persuade you to give them a try.

              1. Children's Fiction: Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne

              Like many parents, mine read to me every night and one of my abiding early memories is of my Dad reading Winnie the Pooh (and The House at Pooh Corner), transporting me into this wonderful, magical Hundred Acre Wood. Of course, I hadn't a clue when I first heard these stories what an acre was and, in all honesty, I was really quite old before I realised that Piglet was, well, a piglet, as the E. H. Shepherd drawing of said Piglet didn't look much like one. But the adventures of Christopher Robin, Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit and all his friends and relations, enchanted me.

              The beauty of these books is their capacity to be enjoyed on so many levels. The basic stories are full of fun and enough action to hold even the smallest child's attention and there are whole paragraphs in which Milne's subtle humour would be beyond very young children and so can be omitted without losing the sense of the story, but which will delight the adult who is reading to that child. Pooh's songs and poems too are a pleasure. My Dad used to make up his own tunes for the songs in the book and even now fifty-odd years later, I can still sing Cottlestone Pie word for word!

              I think the measure of a good author is one who stands the test of time and A.A. Milne has certainly done that. These books were first written in the 1920s for his own son, Christopher Robin Milne, and nearly one hundred years later, his words are still delighting children all over the world.

              2. Young Adult Fiction: Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

              I'm sure most girls would say after reading this book that they identified with one or other of the four March girls, whether it be Meg, Jo, Beth or Amy. For me, Jo was everything I wanted to be. She was independent, feisty, and determined to have a career at a time when a woman's idea of a career was marriage and motherhood. The four girls collectively represent womankind. Meg, the nurturer, Jo, the career-girl, Beth, the sweet and gentle one and Amy, rather selfish but not wholly without good qualities and the one who gets the boy!

              The lives of these four girls, together with their mother, are set during the hardship years of the American Civil War and this book not only gives you a historical insight into this time but also introduces the young reader into life's realities as experienced by these young women: death, disease, poverty, loss and disappointment.

              To my mind, Louisa M Alcott still got it wrong. I so wanted Jo to marry Laurie, the boy next door, but there, too, I learned a lesson. You don't always get what you want!

              3. Classics: Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

              There is no doubt that I love Pride and Prejudice and the very subtle humour of Jane Austen but let's face it, nothing much happens in that book, so I'm choosing instead Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray. Its alternative title is Novel Without a Hero and that may well be Thackeray's opinion but to my mind, Becky Sharp is definitely a heroine.

              This book was written in the mid-nineteenth century, and charts the rise and fall and partial rise again of Miss Becky Sharp during the Regency period or the Napoleonic Wars to be more specific. Becky may be a devious, manipulative, social climbing, adventuress but she is doing the only thing she can as a woman alone in her time: she is surviving as best she can.

              From the moment Becky leaves school behind at the very beginning of the book, when she throws the teacher's gift of a dictionary out of the carriage window, telling her what she can do with it (albeit in polite Victorian language), I knew I was going to like Becky Sharp and she didn't disappoint.

              She cuts a swathe through Regency society as she claws her way from poverty to gentility, not caring who she hurts on the way. She gets her comeuppance more than once and deservedly so, but compared to her friend, Amelia, who is just so sweet you want to slap her, Becky is a breath of fresh air.

              I know many people shy away from Victorian novelists but if you're expecting a rambling, overly descriptive book like a Dickens novel, think again. Thackeray is a rollicking good storyteller who creates characters that are instantly recognisable even today and he recounts his tale without too much verbosity. And I have to add that in his creation of Rawdon Crawley, Mr Thackeray gave me a lifelong love of bad boys!

              4. Modern Classics/General Fiction: Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys

              One of the books I was forced to read at school and, quite frankly hated, was Jane Eyre. I could not identify with Jane at all. She was a Victorian wimp and she certainly didn't deserve Mr Rochester. Which brings me to my next choice in the genre I'm calling general fiction, and that is Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

              This is not a huge book but Jean Rhys packs so much emotion into those one hundred and sixty pages that you would think it was as long as my previous choice.

              Although the lead male character is never named as such, the inference is that he is Mr Rochester in the time before his return to England from the West Indies, which I guess makes this a sort of prequel to Jane Eyre.

              The story is told from the viewpoint of Antoinette (Bertha), the first Mrs Rochester, and catalogues her early life as a Creole growing up in the steamy atmosphere of the West Indies, and her descent into madness, aided and abetted by her husband.

              I guarantee that by the end of this book, you will have revised your opinion of Mr Rochester!

              5. Romance: Frederica - Georgette Heyer

              I admit it, I love a good romance novel and Georgette Heyer is the queen of Regency romance. Her stories are peopled by wealthy, rakish Regency heroes and her heroines are cut from the same cloth as Austen's Miss Elizabeth Bennett. I love all Georgette Heyer's novels but my favourite has to be Frederica.

              The eponymous heroine, is the oldest in a family who have fallen on hard times and she seeks the patronage of her, very distant, cousin Lord Alverstoke. Alverstoke is a rake and a bored one at that.
              But much to his surprise, Frederica and her siblings do not bore him.

              Georgette Heyer tells the story with skill and the pages of this light, frothy romance bring to life a Regency England that may well never have existed but is absolutely believable. She also manages to convey sexual tension between the hero and heroine without recourse to pages of gratuitous rumpy pumpy.

              This is just the perfect romance.

              6. Science Fiction: Dark Universe - Daniel F Galouye

              Now SciFi is no longer a genre that I read very often but this particular book is one I read many years ago and even now I remember.

              Following a nuclear holocaust, the people of earth retreated underground until the threat of contamination had passed but a group of people remained underground not realising that it was safe to return to the surface. In the dark world they inhabited, these people developed a kind of sonar by using what they referred to as click stones to help them "see". Into this world come monsters who silently scream and people start to disappear.

              To tell anymore of this story would involve massive spoilers but suffice to say, this is the best ever science fiction book I've read.

              As with Huxley's Brave New World there are elements of this story which are quite prophetic, given the recent news story about the young blind boy who locates items by clicking his tongue to "see", in much the same way as the people in this book use their click stones.

              Dark Universe was published in the early 60s and is probably out of print but you may be lucky enough to find a copy in your local library.

              7. Historical Fiction: Harold the King - Helen Hollick

              At the beginning of this book the reader is reminded that history is always written by the victors, implying that our ideas about the Saxons as an uneducated people are those handed down to us from the Norman chroniclers. This book redresses the balance.

              Helen Hollick doesn't glamourise Harold in any way. He is depicted as a man of his time and this makes some of his actions seem alien to modern eyes but over the course of this book, the reader grows to know and respect Harold the man.

              Even though I knew how the story would end, I finished the last pages in floods of tears and mourned for days the passing of the last true King of England.

              8. Crime: Faithless - Karin Slaughter

              I have read and enjoyed all the books in the Grant County series, set in Georgia and featuring paediatrician Sara Linton and her ex-husband, Jeffrey Tolliver who is chief of police. The crimes are often gruesome and described in lurid detail and the stories are always gripping.

              In Faithless, which is the fifth book in the series, Sara and Jeffrey have resolved their marital differences and remarried. Whilst out walking in the woods they come across the body of a young woman who has literally been scared to death and their investigation leads them to the next county and seems to hark back to Sara's mother's past.

              The crime in this book, as always, is believable and well written, and the story has so many twists and turns that it is hard to fathom who dun it. But it is the ending of this book which provides the real shocker and which left me totally bereft, even today! To get the full effect of this ending, you really need to read the entire series from book one. You won't be disappointed.

              9. Fantasy: Warprize - Elizabeth Vaughan

              Elizabeth Vaughan is a relatively new author and Warprize is the first book in a trilogy. Xylara is a princess and a healer who not only nurses her own people but also the wounded of the Firelanders, the enemy. Whilst healing these Firelanders, Lara is given to Keir, the mysterious Firelander warlord and held as the "Warprize". Initially, Lara doesn't know what being the Warprize entails and she is fearful but Lara is in for a surprise when she eventually discovers just what being the Warprize means.

              This is a wonderful fantasy trilogy with great world building, and peopled by believable and well defined characters.

              I admit to not being a huge fan of fantasy novels and read this book on the recommendation of a friend. After reading it, I couldn't wait for books two and three to come out to discover what happened next.

              10. Urban Fantasy: Moon Called - Patricia Briggs

              This genre, for the uninitiated, feature vampires, fae, witches, werewolves and all other many and varied fantasy folk and the stories are set in a modern urban setting. Of the titles and series I've read so far, the best has to be Moon Called by Patricia Briggs which is book one in an ongoing series.

              Mercy Thompson is a car mechanic and sometime "Walker". A walker is a person who can shapeshift; in Mercy's case this is into the form of a coyote. She is an independent shifter, although she was raised by werewolves and is closely allied to the local werewolf pack led by Adam, their alpha. Mercy has friends amongst other groups of beings too. There is Stefan, a vampire, whose VW she is currently working on and the garage she owns once belonged to her friend and mentor, Zee, a member of the fae community.

              In this first book of the series, Mercy employs a young man, even though she senses he is a werewolf and not from the local pack. Soon Mercy is involved in a fight with werewolves seeking the boy and she calls on Adam for help in protecting him. Many twists and turns in the plot occur before all is resolved.

              This is an excellent series and Patricia Briggs has created a fabulous and believable world. If you enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse books or the True Blood series on TV, you'll love this book.


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                28.10.2009 04:40
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                Check them out you won't be disappointed

                I wouldn't say I'm a bookworm but once I find a book that interests me I can't put it down. So here are ten books I found extremely hard to put down (in no particular order).

                1. P.S I Love You by Cecelia Ahern - I'm not really into love stories but had heard good things about this book so decided to give it a try anyway. After reading the first few pages I was hooked and couldn't put the thing down. It follows the story of a woman who is about to lose her childhood sweetheart to a brain tumour. After his death the only thing that holds her together is a series of notes he has left her with instructions on them helping her to get on with her life. P.S. The book is better than the film.

                2. Skellig by David Almond - As usual with books I again found the book to be a lot better than the film, I couldn't wait to watch the film on TV after reading this years earlier for an English class at school but much to my disappointment it missed out certain aspects of the book that gave it the structure and interesting storyline. The story is about a boy who does a good deed for an angel and is in return rewarded for his kindness. The angel is not the pretty, cheerful kind of angel you'd normally expect to hear about but is in fact a vermin ridden creature that is found in the corner of a dialect garage.

                3. The Secret by Ruth Thomas -This is another book I read during English at school, I enjoyed it so much that I recently bought it to re-read again. The book follows the story of a girl and a boy who are left at home by their mother. With the expectation that their mother will be home soon they try to carry on like their mother is still at home. But how long will it be before someone realises the truth? And what will the consequences of two children being at home without an adult be?

                4. One Child by Torey Hayden - One Child is a touching non-fiction book based on a child that Torey Hayden had previously worked with while working as an educational psychologist. The story is based on a six year old child that struggles to cope with a dark secret, Torey Hayden is able to eventually gain her trust and discover the problem she is hiding. Torey Hayden is a huge inspiration to me and excellent writer.

                5. Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss - This book is probably more of a kid's book as it is quite short but as it is a classic I'm not ashamed to admit that it is one of my favourites. It is about a family that are shipwrecked and begin to build a new life on a deserted island.

                6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - Yet another book I was made to read at school that I actually really enjoyed. At first it didn't seem the type of book I would enjoy but it was extremely well written and managed to keep my attention all the way though. Unlike most films based on books, I actually enjoyed the film too I thought the actors portrayed the characters really well. The story is based on two childhood friends that go travelling in search of work. Unfortunately for gentle giant Lenny not realising his own strength he gets himself into trouble during his time working on a farm. But will best friend George be able to help him out of the situation this time?

                7. A Child Called It by David Pelzer- A true story of child abuse told by the victim himself. Beaten, starved and referred to as 'It' David was lucky to survive to tell the truth about his haunting past. It is such an inspiration that this man could stay strong enough to tell everyone his story and let the truth be heard.

                8. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett - Another classic I really enjoyed reading and must read again sometime. It follows the story of a girl unwanted by her rich parents and orphaned. Due to an illness the girl is made to live with her only other known relative her father's brother-in law. Unfortunately the man she goes to live with is uninterested in her as he is still mourning his wife who had died 10 years previously. Constantly travelling abroad, the girl's uncle leaves her in the care of the housekeeper. The girl soon discovers two exciting secrets. The first one being discovering a cousin, a boy that is made to stay in bed on the belief that he is ill and a secret garden which will eventually change several lives.

                9. Matilda by Roald Dahl - Matilda is a 5 year old girl with an extraordinary gift. She is extremely intelligent for her age although her money greedy seedy parents do not seem to realise this. Not understood by her parents, she uses books as an escape and regularly visits the library. Eventually Matilda is enrolled into school but unfortunately for her the hateful headmaster also doesn't recognise or appreciate her talents. The only person that has faith in Matilda is her teacher Miss Honey but how can she help Matilda if she is given no support off the headmaster nor her parents?

                10. Just Another Kid by Torey Hayden - Yet another true story by my favourite author Torey Hayden. Torey is given a class of six children who are each in need of Torey's help in some way. If it's not bad enough dealing with six children all with different problems, Torey also encounters Ladbrooke, the alcoholic parent of a child in Torey's class. How would Torey deal with Ladbrooke as well as her class? Ladbrooke seems to want to be 'Just another kid'.


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                  28.09.2009 16:25
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                  I wanna read them all again now.

                  I adore to read, I love most books that I've tried, and very rarely don't finish a book once I've started it. So when I saw this review category I thought I'd have to have a go.

                  So my top 10 books to read, these are in no particular order.

                  1) "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott - this is such an adorable story about family and love. Set in America during the 1800's and is also believed to be an autobiographical account of Alcott's childhood. I love this story and am happy to read it over and over again. I think it will be something that I'll love to share with my children, when I have them.

                  2) "The Mephisto Club" by Tess Gerritsen. This is a bit of a cheat really, this is one of a series of books about a detective called Jane Rizzoli and the pathologist Dr Maura Isles. I had to pick one of the books, so this is probably my favourite of all of the series. The characters that Gerritsen has created are such strong women, and the stories so well crafted. Real thrillers.

                  3) "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" by J K Rowling. Again, this is one of a whole series that I adore, but this is probably my favourite, it is the first of the Harry Potter books that really shows the characters as growing up. It was also the one that made me interested in the first place.

                  4) "Anne of Green Gables" by L M Montgomery. This is another one of my favourite childhood stories that I still carry with me in my heart! Anne is an orphan who due to a mix up gets sent to live with a brother and sister who wanted a boy to help on the farm they own. This story is beautiful and I think I might have to find my copy to read again.

                  5) "The Scolds Bridle" by Minette Walters. Another one that is part of a whole group of books that I adore and picking just one was a bit difficult! Walters winds some amazing psycological stories and this is one of the best.

                  6) "Sense and Sensibility" by Jane Austen. This is, above and beyond, my favourite Austen novel. I love all the characters and could happily read this book over and over again.

                  7) "Twilight" by Stephanie Meyer. This is a really great book, with some wonderful characterisation. This book has led to a surge in vampire stories too, and that can't be a bad thing!

                  8) "Angels" by Marian Keyes. I used to read a lot of chick lit, and Marian Keyes was one of my favourite authors. Angels tells the story of a girl who finds herself in LA after her husband dumps her.

                  9) Another series this time, and I can't really choose a favourite.. The Scarpetta series of books by Patricia Cornwall. Kay Scarpetta is the Chief Medical Examiner and protagonist in these stories and I love them all.

                  This has actually been more difficult than I thought it would be!

                  10) So my final one is "Feast" by Nigella Lawson. Now, I know this is not a novel, but I love to pick it up and flick through it, either for inspiration or just to look at the lovely pictures.


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                    26.03.2009 14:19
                    Very helpful



                    Whats your top 10?

                    These are in no particular order, well, except number one which is the best thing I have ever read!!

                    1. The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I am not normally a fan of King but my husband read these and said I just HAD to read them. He said they were more like fantasy than horror, so I thought I'd give them a go. They are fantastic - there aren't words to describe how good they are. They are a series of seven books which follow Roland of Gilead on his quest for the Dark Tower. Its similar to Lord of The Rings, so if you like that, you'll love this. The characters are amazing and the story keeps you gripped right to the end. I haven't read anything that was as good as this since I finished it.

                    2. The Lord Of The Rings by JRR Tolkien. If you've never read the books but seen the films, you must read the books. They are so much more in depth than the films, you really get in to the characters. And there was loads that they left out of the films! Trust me - the books are always better than the films and, although the films were amazing, the book gives you so much more.

                    3. The Harry Potter books by JK Rowling. Ok - so all the books I've listed so far are actually series, but I had to include this one. Again the books are better than the films (no dodgy acting in the books!), and everyone should read them. Ok so they are not fantastic literary genius, but they are good yarn!

                    4. Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding. Ok not a classic but its oh so funny. I loved the film and I love the book. Enough Said.

                    5. The Road Home by Rose Tremain. This is about an eastern European who loses his wife, and decides to come to London to earn money to send home for his small daughter. It is a very moving tale, and it tells of life in London through the eyes of a struggling foreigner who arrives with nothing but the clothes on his back and a little money.

                    6. Under A Blood Red Sky - Kate Furnivall. This is the tale of two girls in their twenties who are in a Siberian labour camp. One is seriously ill and dying, and all she talks of is a young man she used to know before she was sent to the camp. The other girl, her best friend, plots an escape from the labour camp to go and find this man of her friend's dreams and help her escape out of the camp so that she can get better. It really is a moving tale that will keep you gripped from start to finish.

                    7. We Need To Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver. This is quite a brutal story, I will warn you! It is for all those women out there who feel they should become a mother because that's what society deems to be appropriate, but doesn't really want to. Kevin's mum doesn't really want him, and after he is born he gets in to all sorts of trouble. We have the common scenario of his mother seeing him for what he is, but in his father's eyes he can do no wrong. He turns seriously nasty by the end of the book, but the writing is stunning and its so gripping.

                    8. One for my Baby - Tony Parsons. This was the first Parsons book I had read, and I was totally blown away by it. Its about a middle-aged man who's parents get divorced, and basically his life falls away from underneath him. Its about his journey through life and trying to make something of it. Its funny, sad, and it keeps you turning the pages to find out what happens next. Check out his other books as well.

                    9. Anything by Jeremy Clarkson - Ok so I know this isn't one book in particular, but this man is hilarious. I've never laughed out loud at book, but do so without shame when reading his books. I love his newspaper column and for me this is just one big column (and therefore one big laughing session)!! The most recent funny quote I read was Jeremy commenting on the air conditioning system in a car: "It has the power of an asthmatic blowing through a straw". Ok so it may not be everyone's humour but I love it!!

                    10. The Rice Mother by Rani Manicka. This is a bit of an obscure one, its set in Malaysia and follows the story of a young girl who is sold by her mother to a man who wants to marry her. It then follows her through her marriage and the birth of her children. The story then shifts to the viewpoints of the children, and then finally on to their children. It's a fantastic tale told from many viewpoints, and shows that the human spirit can overcome any obstacles if it wants to. There are a lot of characters and this can sometimes make in confusing (as some of the names are similar) but its well worth a read. I wont tell you anything more about the plot because it will ruin it for you!!


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                      19.02.2009 13:29
                      Very helpful



                      My top 10

                      I love reading and these are my favourites that I have enjoyed over the years:

                      1. Angus Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging -Louise Rennison

                      This is a hilarious book that I have been rereading since about the age of 13. Its a laugh out loud, I love the story and all the sequels that have come out afterwards. Its a great book for teenage girls as they will be able to relate to all the issues that the girls are going through.

                      2. Starter for 10 - David Nichols

                      This book is about a young man going to university who doesnt quite fit in, doesnt have much money and is obsessed with women and University Challenge. Its a great story that follows his ups and downs, its funny and well written.

                      3. The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory

                      Part of a series about the tudor family of henry the 8th. They are all full of scandal and look at the royal family from the darker side. This one is the first one in the series that I read and it is very historically correct as the author enjoys researching the family.

                      4. Noughts and Crosses - Malorie Blackman

                      This is a great story about racism in a different world where black people are the more powerful and white people struggle in society and are not accepted. Again part of a series and keeps you gripped throughout. One for older teenagers as topics such as hanging are included.

                      5. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey

                      I only read this after I saw the film, but it is a great book with the main character trying to inspire the inhabitants of a mental hospital to become their own person and think for themselves. It has a really sad ending which leaves you feeling a bit spooked but I knew what was going to happen because of seeing the film.

                      6. All the Harry Potter books!

                      They are part of my childhood and I will always remember how much pleasure I got from reading them, in the early days the films were great but now Im much more interested in the books. They are classics in my eyes and great for kids and adults.

                      7. Mr Thrifty's How to save money on everything - Jane Furnival

                      This is my bible in paper to moneysaving. There are loads of tips that I hadnt thought of, and its a great read. It was bought for me as a present, they know me so well!

                      8. Nineteen Minutes - Jodi Picoult

                      This story is set in America, around a school shooting, and how it affects people in particular the shooter and his family. Its a story that keeps you guessing right to the end and is quite emotional. A very well written book.

                      9. Change of Heart - Jodi Picoult

                      This story is quite creepy in that it involves a murderer, a religous theme and heart transplant. Its much more spiritually based than her other books but it was different and a great story line. It had me hooked the whole way through, though some bits were a bit creepy and reminded me of the film The Green Mile.

                      10. Body Surfing - Anita Shreve

                      This story is quite simple but based around a family staying on a beach house and employing someone to help their daughter learn. There are themes of love, sex, marrige, betrayal and lots of different stories interweave. Its really well written, and you can imagine everything thats being described.

                      Thats my top 10! I love reading and there are loads more but this review would take me a very long time if I wrote all my favourites!


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                        19.02.2009 12:01
                        Very helpful



                        An insight into what I like to read

                        Its not going to be easy to narrow this down to 10 as I love reading so much
                        and I may realise later i've left some important book out! Please bear with me if I keep changing my mind, for this reason the books are in no particular order. I'm sure i've probably reviewed most of these so check out my reviews for more details!

                        1. Most recently read; Twilight.
                        A lot of you will have by now seen the film, I saw the film before reading the book and since then have become hooked on the whole saga (see my reviews!)
                        A vampire/high school romance, written by Stephanie Meyer who has now made her way into my top 10 authors list too.
                        Recommended if you were into the Buffy and Angel love story in Buffy the vampire slayer or are a fan of vampire stories full stop.

                        2. The Island.
                        My favourite summer holiday book, perfect for the plane journey or on the beach. Its not the usual light-hearted beach novel but the setting of the Greek islands are described beautifully.
                        Written by Victoria Hislop, the story is set both in the modern day and around the 1950s. 'The Island' actually refers to Spinalonga, a leper colony where people with leprosy were holed up. Its a romantic book and Hislop manages to even romantisise the horrible circumstances which brought people to the island.

                        3. Sheer Abandon.
                        Written by Penny Vincenzi, it tells the story of 3 friends who met travelling. One of them has a terrible secret which nobody knows, we are told the secret but not who it belongs to. This book keeps you guessing throughout and I found it riveting.
                        You end up loving each charactor and don't believe any could have done what one of them has.

                        4. What If?
                        One of the first chick-lit books I ever bought, I loved it then and it has remained a firm favourite ever since.
                        Carly Cooper doesn't have the best luck with men, she finds them, they fall in love and then she always wonders if maybe the grass is greener on the other side.....
                        Aged 31, she decides to track down all her ex-boyfriends just in-case, after all he was The One!!
                        Written by Shari Low.

                        5. Angels.
                        The first ever chick-lit book I bought, I must have been about 13 and loved how grown up I suddenly felt.
                        Written by best-seller Marian Keyes, all her other books are worth checking out too.
                        To the outside world Maggie seems to have the perfect life, sensible job, devoted husband etc. But is that enough for her? A heartbreaking confession sends her to the other side of the world to get her thoughts together. Maggie starts doing things she has never done before and has more than one experience of a lifetime.....

                        6. Olivia.
                        Written by Virginia Andrews, Olivia was always the sensible sister, Belinda the younger, carefree one.
                        Olivia knew her sister would one day get into trouble, she just didn't know how seriously!
                        Then the night came that changed the Logan family life forever, blackened their name....Its fantastic to read not knowing what disaster is about to strike though you expect one as much as Olivia does.

                        7. Pharos.
                        Written by Alice Thompson, it is described as a ghost story on the cover but you dont understand this until near the end though the author makes you have your suspicions that all is not as it seems.
                        It is set on Jacobs rock, a tiny island housing nothing but a lighthouse and of course the keepers. Being a lighthouse keeper is a lonely job until a young woman is washed up on the shore.....
                        Set in the early nineteenth century, this book is a haunting read.

                        8. Memoirs of a geisha.
                        I read the book after the film came out and was even more taken in by the words than I had been by the film on the big screen.
                        Written beautifully to tell the story of the lives of Geishas, thought to be so glamorous but in reality their lives were daily struggles to survive. I loved this book and it started a fascination with geisha girls for me.
                        Written by Arthur Golden.

                        9. The Rats.
                        Written by James Herbert I'm sure most people will have heard of the rats trilogy; This one, Lair and Domain.
                        Following a new breed of mutant rats which seem to be thirsty for human blood (and every other human part to be honest) The story is gory and very graphic in its descriptions of the killings.
                        However queasy this makes you feel you still want to read on and find out if the creatures will ever be defeated.
                        A classic.

                        10. Fen.
                        The first book by Freya North that I read, I remember it was free with More magazine so I was probably around 14 when I first read it. I have read it many times since and it loses none of its appeal.
                        This is part of a mini-series about the 3 McCabe sister, Fen being one of them. Each book follows the strange love-lives of the 3, Fen is in love with a 19th century artist...shame he's been dead over a century. She finally meets a REAL man, or two and goes on to have her own adventures with the two very different suitors.


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                          16.11.2008 12:36
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                          Some light relief.......

                          Okay, so here's my five scariest books. I have to admit that I have taken a bit of a liberty here, as you may have wanted to read about Stephen King, James Herbert, Thomas Harris et al. Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you reader, but this opinion takes an alternative view of 'horror' and has some serious moments, some firmly tongue in cheek, and hopefully something to make you think, disagree, discuss - hopefully without my causing offence to too many people!

                          Anything by Jeffrey Archer (No, that's not the title, I mean ANYTHING!)

                          No, this isn't because he is a convicted criminal, although I think that both he and his literary agent(s) deserve to be prosecuted for forcing the vast range of this authors books upon an innocent public. From a green perspective too, how many acres of forest has been destroyed to do this? I have given several of them a try, and cannot think of one in which the characters and plot are a) credible b) likeable or c) interesting. Returning to his current address and occupation, I do however find it distasteful in the extreme that his 'experiences' on the 'inside' have been snapped up for publication (regardless of where any proceeds go). This author has for years and years produced formulaic novels that for some reason totally unrelated to literary merit continue to get into the best-seller league. If you are a fan of these books, then I am sure you will disagree with their inclusion in this list, but please allow me my views too. Very, very scary books.

                          James Joyce - Ulysses

                          Hmmm. Stream of consciousness book - unadulterated drivel, incomprehensible, sort of a 'look how far I can get my head up my own bottom' book. I have read this whilst at school, many years ago now but it has left a lasting impression! Hopefully, kids of today don't get subjected to this scary book. I wonder how many people can blame serious emotional problems from reading this. Besides, how is it actually possible to sit there, your mind wandering and writing down everything you think? Wouldn't you be sitting there writing ' I'm going to write this down, I'm going to write this down' constantly until you eventually begin drooling and need serious medical help? I suspect it may have written whilst under the influence of mind altering drugs but I believe you have to read in the same state. (I hasten to add I tried to do so without any medicinal support). Avoid at all costs! Scary merely because its incomprehensible and yet is regarded in some quarters as a 'classic'.

                          Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

                          A strange old man luring children into a strange sweet factory staffed purely by an imported tribe of small people, promising the children sight of things they have never seen before! Now excuse me just a moment, but does this sound like a nice book? A nice story? For how many years have we warned our children not to accept sweets from strangers? Do we say 'but it's okay if he's a eccentric recluse with an unhealthy interest in small people'. No, we do not and quite rightly so. And then we come to the 'accidents' - a child disobeys a request, eats a sweet that she shouldn't then swells like a berry and has to be 'pressed'. But what of our hero - he and his grandad (another strange old man who habitually shares a bed with 3 other adults) taste a drink and end up floating towards some huge fans that will shred them into bite size pieces. They only escape by burping constantly to get rid of the excess air - charming isn't it. And what about the Oompa-Loompas? 3 feet tall, orange skinned, with white tufts of hair and of indeterminate sex running around and bursting into sinister song at the drop of a hat. Now what is this story all about? The moral seems to be tell the truth and you'll get a sweetie factory. Personally, I have grave suspicions of Mr Willy Wonka.

                          The Bible

                          Not wishing to offend any Christians reading, I would suggest you stop reading from this point.
                          I choose the Bible simply because it has been the cause of so much bloodshed and carnage. I could easily have chosen other religious works as the same principle applies. In itself, a terrific collection of stories and parables, some conflicting with others - 'Turn the other cheek' and 'An eye for an eye' - but it is the power of this (and other) book(s) to influence - when combined with the baser human characteristics that is truly scary. It has led some to believe that they have the right to sit on judgement of others sure in the belief that they are right and they are wrong, and has caused all sorts of atrocities to be committed in Gods name - whatever God or faith you follow.

                          Nineteen Eighty Four

                          George Orwell's classic tale of the Big Brother state of 1984. Thought police constantly on the periphery of your life, state propaganda being forced fed to the masses through TVs that you dare not switch off, a constant state of war with a vicious enemy, the rewriting of history to reflect the glories and munificence of Big Brother, state sponsored hate sessions etc. Our hero Winston Smith is employed to rewrite history, but meet a young party activist with whom he starts an affair that must be kept a secret - easier said than done. Eventually, his anti-social behaviour and questions bring him to the attention of the thought police and he is taken to the infamous Room 101 - the description of his torture (sorry, rehabilitation) when faced by the source of his deepest, darkest terror is as powerful a piece of writing as you will come across. A truly terrifying vision of the future, but not so visionary as to be beyond belief. It's the novels strength that it is all too easy to imagine events taking a turn down this dark road.

                          Thanks for reading!
                          This previously published on Ciao under my name there, MarkKerr


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                            28.10.2008 14:46
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                            My Top Ten Reads

                            As my username suggests, I am a bookworm. It's a name I've had (amongst many!!) since school as I forever had my nose stuck in a book. I haven't changed much since then, although I don't read as much as I used to. I do love the power of words and the escapism that it provides and I'm forever asking people/reading reviews and generally seeking out the next book which will take me away from my little life for five minutes or so. So stumbling across this discussion, Its only right that I contribute my thoughts and hope that some of you may agree with my choices or find my choices interesting enough to add to your own book lists to read.
                            In no particular order :

                            1.The Handmaids Tale - Margaret Atwood (1985)

                            I have to start with my favourite author of all time, this is a classic that some of you may have read during you English classes at school/college/University. I was introduced to it by my lecturer at University who has written articles and critiques on Atwood's work and was also a big fan. At the time I was stumped for a dissertation choice and she suggested I read a few Atwood and see if I liked - I loved! This one has to be my favourite.

                            This is a story of life in America when a group of Religious extremists take over the government. Its narrated by a woman called Offred who, like all the women who are able to still have children, is assigned to one of the powerful couples in the new society whose purpose it is to provide that couple with a child. It's a chilling story of how Offred and the other women in society cope and its fascinating and extremely enjoyable reading. Atwood writes with such detail in this book, you can read it over and over again and find something interesting or a new hidden meaning that you missed the first time around. At the time of my dissertation I loved all the theories and threads surrounding the story, and I still get just as much enjoyment out of reading it now. I won't go on about this one as I had already written a review of this on here - so if it takes your fancy, have a read!

                            2. Savages - Shirley Conran (1988)

                            I first read this when I was 17 - I had gone to Crete with my family on holiday and my dad had nicked my book from my sun lounger (Bridget Jones' Diary, haha!) My parents friends had also joined us, and as I cannot be without a book to read, my mum's friend gave me this which she had just finished. I was dubious at first - it certainly didn't look like the type of book I would read.
                            Savages is about a group of rich women who go on a business trip with their husbands to a tropical island. Things take a sinister turn for the group when, after the women return from a trip, they are just in time to see their husbands shot by terrorists. The women, with the aid of the boat owner, flee into the jungle and have to learn how to survive on their own....
                            I've always remembered the story, and its stuck with me for almost 11 years now - so I searched the internet to find a copy. I re-read it about 3 months ago and it still had me on the edge of my seat - I thoroughly enjoyed it for the second time in a row! It was originally written in 1988, but the story is so good and so current, it could easily have been written today. It's not just a book that is aimed at women, it's a great story that can be read by both men and women - I'm pretty sure that you would both enjoy it!

                            3.The Book Thief - Markus Zusak (2005)

                            Another recent-ish read. I read this at the beginning of the year, my dad gave it to me and said he thoroughly enjoyed it. That is high praise indeed coming from my dad, he's the fussiest man ever! I have to say that I could not agree with him more - it's an excellent read and so beautifully written. Narrated by death, it tells the story of a young German girl whose family harbours a Jew in the basement during the second world war. Far from depressing, this is just SO beautifully written its untrue. Again, I've written a review about this, so I won't harp on about it!

                            4.To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee (1960)

                            Fantastic book and I'm sure there are lots of people who are reading this who have read it and also loved it. For anyone who hasn't, it's an account from the perspective of Scout, of her childhood. Sure, it doesn't sound very interesting, but it's a totally engaging book about growing up with her father as a single parent who decides that he will defend a black man of raping a white girl. It is quite clear from the beginning that the man in question is not guilty, but we see the prejudices in their society and how Scout and her family cope with it. AN excellent read.

                            5.We Need To Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver (2003)

                            Another book that I have reviewed on Dooyoo already! Kevin is a boy that goes in to school one day and starts shooting his fellow classmates. This book is written in letter form from his mother to his father, and is a chilling account of why she has always believed that he was just born evil. An excellent book with great twists.

                            6. A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Husseini (2007)

                            Once again I have reviewed this! Written about two women in Afghanistan, it's a harrowing story of how their lives become entwined as they both marry a man who brutally beats them, forbids them any kind of freedom and makes them live in fear of their lives. Coupled with the rise of the Taliban, this is a very interesting read indeed, and it will make you feel some strong emotions!

                            7. Wise Children - Angela Carter (1991)

                            Very comical (short) book about a elderly twins, Dora & Nora who are former dancers and illegitimate children of a famous British actor. We meet them on their 75th birthday and are told the story of their lives - it's extremely entertaining and witty, the characters of the twins are colourful to say the least, and its written with very dry humour, so perfect if you like that sort of thing!

                            8.White Teeth - Zadie Smith (2000)

                            I originally read this as part of me English degree, but really loved it and I've read it again since. This was Zadie Smiths debut, and one that won her several book awards including Guardian First Book Award and the 2000 Whitbread Book Award. It's the story of a Bangladeshi man, Samad, and an English man Archie, their lives and families in London. It's a great story of clashing of religions, family life, immigrants and second generation immigrants, mixes of cultures and community relationships. Its told with great humour that has you laughing out loud and I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a great story with a bit of humour. They did a TV make of this, but it was nowhere near as good (obviously!)

                            8.The Magic Faraway Tree - Enid Blyton (1943)

                            Not counting Roald Dahl's books, this was by far my favourite book as a child! It just felt so magical, my nan used to read it to me and I loved the characters in it so much! A couple of years ago, my nan gave me a copy for my birthday which I've still got. I've read a couple of chapters and it still holds its magic for me!
                            The magic Far away tree is the story of three children who have the most amazing adventures with their friends Moonface, Saucepan Man & Silky. Even saying the names makes me smile! They discover the magic faraway tree and lots of weird and wonderful characters and lands along the way. A classic!

                            10. The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood (2000)

                            As Margaret Atwood is my favourite author, she has to feature on here twice! The Blind Assassin won the Booker Prize in 2000 as well as the Orange Prize for Fiction. Its two stories combined in to one - the first being the story of Iris Chase who, as an elderly woman, recalls the events of her sisters suicide just after WWII, and Iris' life from childhood to unhappy marriage. The other story is in fact an entire novel! Written by Laura and published by her sister Iris after her death. The story goes through the mystery surrounding Laura's death whilst also interweaving - very cleverly - the novel by Laura herself. Another excellent and intriguing read!

                            Ones that were close - but no cigar!

                            What I Loved - Suri Hustvedt (2003)
                            The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon (2001)
                            Memoirs of A Geisha - Arthur Golden (1997)

                            Thanks for reading, I am really interested if anyone else has read any of these and if they agree....awaiting the tide of comments that I'm right/wrong....!!


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                              25.07.2008 15:44
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                              Read More, Dream More!

                              Fantasy fiction is possibly the fastest growing literary genre in the past 30 years. Mention fantasy fiction and most folks will think immediately of the works of Tolkien, and rightly so! Tolkien's epic adventure has touched the hearts and minds of millions, and perhaps done more for this genre of fiction than any other work.

                              Yet fantasy fiction has expanded now beyond Middle Earth and can, in fact, contain stories in which elves do not even make a guest appearance. (Try not to gasp in shock.) Magic of some sort usually does seem to shape this genre, but I believe fantasy is becoming a more widely written, more popularly read field of literature simply because it has no boundaries. In the end, fantasy fiction is defined only by the dreams of those who read it, and those possibilities, light or dark, are boundless.

                              In case you haven't guessed by now, I will openly state that Fantasy is my bread and butter. From fairy tales, myths, legends and lore all the way through to the humorous, more sci-fi flavoured works like Hitchhiker's Guide, fantasy fiction is an ever-changing, endlessly fascinating area of literature that has long held my attention, admiration, and affection. One of my greatest joys is to share a well loved book, and chances are it will be a work of fantasy. Asking me to name ten best in this genre is both a delight and yet almost cruel! Authors and titles flit through my mind in a maelstrom, and I've had to wait for the first eager winds to subside before I could hope to make any sense at all.

                              I've decided to keep Tolkien out of this list altogether, as he is the most obvious of choices and certainly doesn't need My humble recommendation. Likewise, the works of the late Douglas Adams need no mention from me. If you have never read their works, then I can't imagine where you have been hiding yourself! These authors transcend any list, and it is almost a moral imperative for you to devour their works before beginning on any of the other authors I might suggest!

                              Some of the titles or authors I've selected will probably come as no surprise to any who have read reviews I have posted prior to this, but I do hope that I have managed to share at least one new work or author with you, the reader. I'll try to be brief, but I suggest you make yourself comfortable before reading any further! All that being said, without further ado and in no particular order, here are ten of the greatest fantasy books currently nestled on my shelves...

                              10. The Wizard of Earthsea trilogy by Ursula K. LeGuin

                              No library should be without this charming and thought provoking trilogy. The first is my personal favourite. I found myself completely drawn into Ged's marvelous world. Ged discovers his penchant for magic at an early age, and it isn't long before he is sent off to the infamous wizards college on the Isle of Roke. His quiet, steadfast master sent him more, perhaps, to save Ged from his own youthful pride and brash nature than to further Ged's already considerable talents. However in the manner of all foolhardy youths out to prove themselves, Ged manages to only get himself into deeper trouble than he could have imagined by summoning up a shadow creature with no name to bind it, a being intent on claiming Ged's body and soul, and there is no where in all this oft times dangerous and mysterious world that Ged can hide.

                              As with most of LeGuin's work, the characters and world enfold the reader effortlessly, sweeping us off in a heady cloud of possibilities. Her collection of short stories,

                              Others in series: The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, and The Wind's 12 Quarters is a wonderful collection of short stories

                              9. The Warlock in Spite of Himself from The Warlock series by Christopher Stasheff

                              In a distant future, an agent for democracy takes the name of Rod Gallowglass when first he lands on the planet of Gramarye. His mission is simple, encourage the current government of this Lost Colony onto the road of Democracy. Thus begins perhaps the greatest, most bizarre political battle in all of history.

                              Time traveling counter agents pushing for either Anarchy or Totalitarian governing systems, an epileptic robot companion disguised as a horse, projective telepaths of all sorts labeled 'witches' and 'warlocks', entire faerie courts sprung ages ago from the minds of witches and a curious local growth called 'witchmoss', power-hungry nobles, an uncertain and arrogant Queen, the Queen's lover in exile, semi-medieval peasantry, and the Gramayre chapter of the Order of St. Vidicon all play their part in labeling our reluctant hero a Wizard of the greatest power...much to his chagrin. Rod's only trying to do his job, but it seems that the fate of this one planet will determine the future for mankind throughout the galaxies.

                              I have yet to read any other work that combines so many fascinating topics and diverse characters into such a cohesive and entertaining whole. I really couldn't say which aspect of Stasheff's works I enjoy most. I'm excessively fond of the Medieval era, and I love a good political intrigue. My current favourite from this series is book three, The Warlock Unlocked. As if all else that poor Rod has to deal with isn't enough, now he's got the most potent of Gramarye's witches and warlocks to deal with...his kids! Best to start at the beginning though, as things on Gramarye are Never boring.

                              Others in series: Escape Velocity, King Kobold Revived, The Warlock Unlocked, The Warlock Enraged, The Warlock Heretical, The Warlock is Missing

                              8. The Sleeping Dragon from the Guardians of the Flame series by Joel Rosenberg

                              A group of university students meet regularly to play a popular sword and sorcery role-playing game. At first they don't cope well when they are suddenly thrust into the world they have been 'playing' in, and find all those swords and magic all too real. It doesn't help matters much to find that their Gamemaster is actually a legendary wizard from this universe who has his own reasons for sending them into the bodies and world of their characters. When the first of their party comes to a rather messy end, it doesn't take much longer for them to decide that they just want to go home. Unfortunately, the only way back lies just past the nose of the oldest largest dragon ever to breathe flame, and legend has it that he's rather a light sleeper.

                              This simple beginning cannot illustrate to a potential reader the beauty and complexity of Rosenberg's characters nor the world he creates around them. Each character is brilliantly displayed in all their individual splendor and human fallibility, making them utterly fascinating, infinitely dear as the reader delves further into their lives. When playing a fantasy role-playing game, it is quite easy to say "I'll run that slaver through with my blade!" or "Ignoring the burns covering me, I cast a Lightning bolt at the dragon." How many of us would find it so easy if our dabbling in such a game suddenly became reality? How many of us could truly adapt to having our very bodies changed to those of our invented characters?

                              All very interesting questions, and watching each of them come to recognize and deal with their unique internal struggles makes their reality gritty, and vivid. I have laughed and wept over the lives and losses of these characters, and found myself feeling lonely when I finish one of these novels. Can there be a greater tribute to a writer than this?

                              Others in series: The Sword and The Chain, The Silver Crown, The Heir Apparent, The Warrior Lives, The Road to Ehvenhor (my personal favourite)

                              7. Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey

                              Menolly lives in an isolated fishing hold on a world where ravenous alien beings fall periodically from the sky to devour every living thing they touch. Only the Dragon riders can keep the land safe from Thread. Menolly soon finds that she would rather live without the protection of the hold's thick walls, far from the protective wings of dragons than give up the music her parents say isn't suitable as she is 'just a girl'. Everyone knows that Harpers are always boys, but no one knows that the tiny, near mythic fire lizards have a cave not far from Half Circle hold. Menolly flees her stern, unfeeling parents to live in joy with these tiny cousins of the great dragons of Pern, where she can give free reign to the great love of music that lives within her. Can she survive alone?

                              McCaffery's Pern series has been read and loved by numerous people the world over. I thought about excluding her from this list for the same reasons I kept Tolkien and Adams separate, but took a gamble that there may be enough readers out there who Haven't entered the marvelous world of Pern to make leaving her out dangerous to your growth as a fantasy reader. Dragons have enthralled mankind for centuries, yet they are usually portrayed as dangerous, treacherous, powerful beasts. How could any dragon lover resist a world where dragons are loyal companions who become almost an extension of the person they bond with?

                              I would say that the only drawback to these works is that they have such an abundance of characters, main and minor, that you might have a difficult time keeping everyone straight. Most readers find it easiest to start with the first trilogy, which is a bit lighter and easier to follow than the second set.

                              Others in series: Dragonsinger, Dragondrums, Dragonflight, Dragonquest, The White Dragon, The Renegades of Pern, and All the Weyrs of Pern (my personal favourite), and for those who have read Pern, try the Rowan series!

                              6. The Riddlemaster of Hed: first in a trilogy by Patricia A. McKillip

                              In this world, ancient knowledge was discovered by wizards...who vanished and left all they had learned hidden in riddles. Did they uncover too much? Morgon is the Prince of Hed, the smallest, least sophisticated of all the lands. Those of Hed are far more concerned with the practicalities of life than any mysteries lurking in the shadows. Like all the Land Rulers, Morgon is tied by unique magical bonds to his land and answerable only to The High One. Unlike any other ruler of Hed though, he was born with a curious nature and marked by Fate with three blue stars across his brow. When the High One's harpist, Deth, comes to ask him a riddle it seems Morgon's destiny has begun to unravel. Who was the Starbearer, and what shall he bring?

                              Marvelous characters and a well sustained air of mystery keep your attention riveted in this work. The very thought that ones destiny may have been conceived and set in motion years before you were born is a daunting one, but curiosity is much like fire. It can be a tool that helps one achieve amazing things, or it can be the death of you in less than a moment. I suppose, for my part, it was sheer inquisitiveness that kept me going, peeling away layer after layer as I followed Morgon and Deth on their travels. I felt myself growing hungrier for truth with the turning of each page, much like Morgon, although I thankfully had far less at stake than our hero. McKillip's descriptive powers are enthralling, and the bones of her world are made of a magic older than any we know now.

                              Others in set: Harpist in the Wind, Heir of Sea and Fire

                              5. So, You Want To Be a Wizard: 1st in the Young Wizard series by Diane Duane

                              Nita is just your typical brainy girl. She doesn't fit in or wear the right clothes. She blows the grading average and she reads too much. Nita spends much of her time avoiding the local bully and her gang, not very successfully. Things are about to change for our heroine though. Hiding out in the children's section of the library, her hand is snagged by a book as she idly roams the isles.

                              The title, 'So, You Want to be a ...Wizard', takes her breath away. It couldn't be real, right? If only it could be though, all her troubles would be over! Ahh, everything seems so easy at first, doesn't it? Nita, Kit (her new partner in wizardry), and their new friend, Fred (a lost star with important news), soon find themselves going toe to toe with the Lone Power himself! She can't help wondering how they ended up hip-deep in trouble when they only set out to look for her lost pen!

                              This series is one of the most moving, inspirational, and uplifting works I have ever had the pleasure to read. Too many people, readers and authors alike, think that if it's for kids there must not be too much substance to it. Diane Duane is one of those few who know better! While often amusing (Fred's embarrassing hiccups that produce everything from 30 back issues of T.V. guides to a 1957 Buick!), there are real issues dealt with here. What brings meaning to our lives? Are we willing, or able to continue on in the face of impossible and depressing odds? Can death be a gift? Can anything, even death, ever truly separate us from those we come to love? Can we recover from our worst errors and choices? Can anyone ever be as alone and bereft as we oft times feel amidst this teeming sea of life?

                              Love whispers to us between each line as we read, and our hearts swell with possibilities. With each new book in the series, Duane allows her characters to recreate themselves, to make mistakes and learn from them, to see the world around them in a new light, essentially...to live. These works aren't just for 'young adults', they are for everyone who ever had a love affair with the written word.

                              Others in series: Deep Wizardry, High Wizardry, A Wizard Abroad, The Wizard's Dilemma, and A Wizard Alone

                              4. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

                              A unicorn lives happily in her forest until she discovers that she may be the very last of her kind. Where have her people gone? Are they waiting somewhere for her? Do they need her? Is she alone in the world? She cannot have a moment's peace until she finds them, so she sets out on the road. In her travels she discovers true friends, cunning tricksters, folly, wisdom, mortal and immortal enemies, humanity, loyalty, love and that which no other unicorn has ever known...regret. "No sorrow shall live in me as long as They roam the world, save one...and I thank you for that too, Magician."

                              I believe this to be the pinnacle of Beagle's work to date, and have worn out five copies of this novel over the span of 16 years. Filled with whimsical lines and achingly real characters like:

                              Shmendrick, last of the Red Hot Swamis: "I'll set your toenails growing inward if you mess with me! I'll turn you into green grass and all you love into sheep!"

                              "He tried to look stern, but could feel his nose being bewildered."

                              "I'd be more honest with you if I could, but no cat anywhere ever gave anyone a straight answer."

                              Dream-like, poetic, humorous, full of the joys and despairs of every human heart The Last Unicorn is a stunning work that will capture you heart, mind and soul. Even after all these years, I can't help but be awestruck by its beauty and perfection.

                              Other Works: A Fine and Private Place, Lady Death

                              3. The Darkangel: 1st in a trilogy by Meredith Ann Pierce

                              Aeriel is just a simple servant girl in a dark and dangerous world. She often feels clumsy, pale, stupid and ugly beside her young mistress, Eoduin. Yet it is for love of her mistress and sometimes friend that she climbs once more the mountain where the Darkangel stole Eoduin away. Determined to kill the vampire, she waits... only to be captured and put into a far more horrific servitude. Alone in a abandoned castle at the edge of a desert, Aeriel must brave the tauntings of the Darkangel as she waits upon his 'brides'.

                              So alike are the wraithlike, hideous beings that she cannot even tell which of them was once Eoduin. Soon the vampyre will take his final bride, kneel before the White Witch and then he and his icari brothers will wage war upon the world! Once the Lons, fierce and powerful guardians of the Lands would have stood between the Icari and victory...but they have nearly become legend. Is Aeriel brave enough to unravel the ancient prophesies and bring Hope back to the people? Is her love, kindness, and patience enough to save all the world?

                              This was one of those lucky finds in a dusty old bookshop hidden in a tangled maze of backstreets. The artwork caught my eye and the teaser on the back of the jacket sold me...or sold the book depending on how you look at it! This is one of the most unique worlds I have ever stumbled into, and its people, creatures, and history unfolded before my eager gaze like a vivid tapestry.

                              Little hints are dropped throughout the tale that make the reader wonder at the True origins of Aeriel's world. Pierce teases us with unanswered questions until they begin to pile in our minds like hoarded treasure. Where are the Guardians? Who is the White Witch and why is she making Darkangels? Who was Prince Irrylath and why does the name trouble Aeriel's new, dark-winged master? Why are the waters of all the lands disappearing and where have they gone? Most importantly, will Aeriel find the courage to do whatever she must to save them all?

                              This work has an almost gothic feel to it with its moments of terror, intensity and suspense, yet there are also subtle undertones of science fiction. Undeniably a unique fantasy novel, The Darkangel weaves us an enthralling, beautiful, sometimes tragic tale that builds with each book. Meredith Ann Pierce is truly a wizard with words.

                              Other works: A Gathering of Gargoyles, and The Pearl of The Soul of The World, and the stand alone novel The Woman Who Loved Reindeer

                              2. The Adept: 1st in a series by Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris

                              Sir Adam Sinclair wears many guises. He is a scholar, a nobleman, a physician, a Huntsman, and an Adept in the service of Light. Aside from all his mundane responsibilities, it is Adam's duty to use his unique gifts to heal even those wounds of the soul, and to bring down those who break the Laws of both Man and Adept. When a sensitive, deeply troubled and exceptionally talented artist, Peregrine Lovat, comes into his life, Adam begins to feel the first hints of dreadful storm brewing. When mysterious assailants first steal the sword of Michael Scot, an ancient and powerful Adept, and then work the darkest of magics by using that sword to summon Scot's soul ...Adam's worst suspicions are confirmed.

                              The game is afoot, but the enemy remains hidden! Who are these dark, ruthless and cunning practitioners of the Black Arts? What is their goal? Can Adam help Peregrine understand his own gift of True Sight, and can this fledgling Adept come into his own soon enough to help bring these Dark Adepts to justice?

                              This brilliant novel combines some very unique flavours. Elements of Sherlock Holmes blended with very informative metaphysical and philosophical concepts in a modern day setting make for an utterly *ahem* spellbinding tale. Past lives, The Hall of Akashic Records, Freemasons, Scotland Yard, the Faerie Court, the Templar Knights and necromantic arts all find a place in this well paced, flawless, absorbing tale. I find it utterly beguiling each time I read it, and can still sit on the edge of my seat in anticipation after several reads. Personally, I find writing to be both rewarding and endlessly challenging. I can't imagine how Two people managed to collaborate and give us such seamless, flowing work! Truly an awe inspiring and inspirational thought.

                              Others in series: The Lodge of the Lynx, The Templar Treasure, Death of an Adept and Dagger Magic

                              1. Svaha by Charles DeLint

                              Somewhere in the future, man has managed to poison our planet almost beyond recognition. You either live in the 'Plex (huge cities), make do living in the slums just outside the 'Plex, or take your chances in the Badlands between 'Plexes...which are slim to none! Unless, of course, you believe all that talk about the Enclaves. Legend has it that through good fortune and hard work the Nations (collective Native American People) were able to forward their technological know-how and stave off the ravages with which mankind had brutalized Mother Earth.

                              Discouraged by the rest of society's blindness and uncaring, they sealed themselves off with that technology on their lands in the Enclaves. There they don't have to deal with acid rain and other symptoms of pollution. Nor do they have to deal with the crimelords that rule the 'Plex, or the crazies in the Badlands. Who knows if they are real? Who cares if they are, because they aren't sharing and life is tough all over!

                              In this tale, we follow Gahzee, a dog-scout of the Anishnabeg/Huron Enclave as he leaves his home forever to find truth. Another Enclave has stopped transmitting and they need to know why. Above all, the People and their technological wonders must be kept safe until the time comes for them to emerge and heal the sorrows of our world inflicted by those thoughtless 'others'. But sometimes, no matter how wise or well intentioned one is, the truth isn't what you wanted to hear or thought you knew. Gahzee finds truth in the most unlikely of places...Svaha, the moment between thunder and lighting...a moment filled with Hope and Potential.

                              Charles DeLint is, in my opinion, second only to Tolkien in the fantasy genre, and some days I honestly question whether or not I'm underrating him! Each of his works is astounding in its insight, depth, creativity, heart, and sheer entertainment. Here, he blends Native American beliefs with a variety of Asian cultures and modern problems. I'd say this particular work is a bit heavier on the sci-fi end than most of his works that I have read, yet it still remains as a shining example of an innovative fantasy novel.

                              A true Bard in every sense, DeLint never fails to delight, astonish, and enlighten me. He excels in showing us the best and worst of our nature, making the reader think while he entertains us. He is always the first author I turn to when someone asks me what else there is in the fantasy genre besides Tolkien. I can't find greater words to recommend him to anyone who finds sastisfaction in opening a book.

                              Other works: The Little Country, Dreams Underfoot, The Ivory and The Horn, Jack of Kinrowan, Memory and Dream, The Onion Girl, Moonlight and Vines, Wolf Moon, and Spiritwalk

                              Well, I hope I've given you some new worlds to explore and if you've made it this far without skimming...My Hearty Congratulations! I won't ramble on any further as this is quite long enough, but I will close by simply saying...Thank you for your time and Dream True!


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                                22.06.2008 18:59
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                                A short trip through my *ahem* library

                                I realise that making a list like this is a pointless endeavour - no set of preferences is ever definitive nor ever will be - but it's a fun thing to do nevertheless so what the hell. Over the last thirty years or so I've read and collected a great many books and as most seem to fall into just a few categories I'll list the appropriate categories and add a main choice and a couple of secondary choices under each (a little bit of a cheat to squeeze in more titles but hopefully acceptable).

                                All my choices are picked from my own books, by the way, so there may well be better examples of a genre out there. That's fine. My list doesn't claim to represent the greatest books ever written; they're just my own personal favourites and I hope you will find some of them interesting.

                                1) ** Crime **

                                The Strange History of Bonnie and Clyde by John Treherne - This is a wonderfully gritty account of the brief-but-notorious career of the two Texas lovers who brought terror to the American Southwest in the early 1930s. The book deals with the violent reality of their story rather than with the romantic myth (perpetuated by Arthur Penn's 60s movie). Bonnie and Clyde were, in fact, hopelessly incompetent robbers and Clyde Barrow was just a simple-minded psychopath. All the same, petite waitress Bonnie Parker was clearly obsessed with him and stuck with him to the bloody end. The book is a fascinating glimpse into the anarchic world of rural Depression-hit America. It's an interesting fact that John Dillinger (see below), Public Enemy No.1 and hoodlum extraordinaire, complained at the time that Bonnie and Clyde were giving professional bank robbers a bad name!!

                                Other choices: The Dillinger Days by John Toland / The Victorian Underworld by Donald Thomas

                                2) ** Biography **

                                Edgar A Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance by Kenneth Silverman - I've read many bios in my time but this one has to be tops for the two simple reasons that it's about one of my very favourite dead men and it is the best book I've ever read about him. Silverman presents a painstaking account of both the strange life (and death) of Poe and all his works and their development. The book is both scholarly and readable and the author takes great care to present Poe as a real person and not a cliché. If you want to read about the real Edgar Allan Poe then this is the book to read.

                                Other choices: McQueen by Christopher Sandford / Jesse James by T J Stiles

                                3) ** War **

                                Berlin: The Downfall 1945 by Anthony Beevor - This is quite simply a magnificent book. It describes the last six months of WWII on the Eastern Front, that gargantuan struggle between a disintegrating German Army and the vast juggernaut that was the Soviet War Machine. The grand finale was, of course, the ferocious battle for Berlin itself. What is awe-inspiring about this book is the scale of the struggle it describes: millions of Soviet troops being whipped recklessly on by their Marshals, who were, in turn, being whipped on by Stalin (Capture Berlin, or else!); a chaotic-but-determined German defence, including boys and old men; millions of fleeing refugees; the growing insanity of life in Hitler's Berlin bunker; and the growing tensions between the Western and Eastern 'Allies' as the European war reached its climax. A wonderful book in breadth and scope.

                                Other choices: The Boer War by Thomas Pakenham / The Eye of War (A History of War Photography) by Phillip Knightley and Sir John Keegan

                                4) ** Travel **

                                Burton: Snow Upon the Desert by Frank McLynn - Not so much a travel book, more a biography of a man, but what a man! Sir Richard Francis Burton, world traveller, soldier, adventurer, diplomat, Islamist, Orientalist, linguist par-excellence, sociologist, swordsman, poet, artist, explorer, writer, pornographer, all-round handsome-devil and sporter of a huge moustache. Burton was the archetypical 19th century Renaissance man. We just don't see his like anymore. A fascinating man to read about. Roll-on the Hollywood movie.

                                Other choices: In Siberia by Colin Thubron / Alistair Cooke's American Journey: Life on the Home Front in the Second World War by Alistair Cooke

                                5) ** Popular Music **

                                Mick Jagger by Anthony Scaduto - I bought this book when I was sixteen (late 1978), around the time I bought the Stones' 'Some Girls' album, their only nod to 'new wave'. It's now out of print (though still widely available) and is a fascinating account of the life and times of Jagger, the Stones and 60s / early 70s rock culture. The book is especially interesting in its detail about the awkward and ultimately tragic relationship between Brian Jones and the others, especially Jagger and Keith Richards. Rock journalism at its best.

                                Other choices: No-one Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman / A Multitude of Sins by Hugh Cornwell

                                6) ** Sci Fi **

                                The Helliconia Trilogy (Spring, Summer and Winter) by Brian Aldiss - A vast, sprawling epic concerning Helliconia, an Earthlike planet, and the inhabitants thereof. The planet orbits a sun, and that pair in turn orbit a larger sun. This means that Helliconia experiences a small year and a great year. The three books deal with the centuries-long seasons - Spring, Summer and Winter - of that great year and how the inhabitants evolve, socially and materially. Moreover, the planet is being observed by a space station that is relaying daily events back to Earth where the Helliconia story unfolds like an epic soap opera. There is also the story of the Helliconian humans' greatest rival species, the Phagors. It sounds complex but it is in truth a hugely enjoyable read. Recommended.

                                Other choices: The Island of Doctor Moreau by H G Wells / Ringworld by Larry Niven

                                7) ** Humour **

                                The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce - Okay, this is not all about humour but it does contain Bierce's 'Devil's Dictionary', a masterpiece of acerbic wit, so it's included here. Ambrose Bierce was an American journalist based for many years in San Francisco in the late 19th / early 20th centuries and was known not only for his dry writing but also for his realistic Civil War stories (he had fought in the war) and for his supernatural tales. Ever dramatic, he crossed the border into Mexico in 1913 and was never heard of again. His work is highly recommended.

                                Other choices: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson / How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World by Francis Wheen

                                8) ** Assorted Americana **

                                Hells Angels by Hunter S Thompson - This has to be one of my favourite books. 'Gonzo' journalist and all-round head case, Hunter S Thompson, spent a year or so hanging out with various members of the notorious Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in and around 'Frisco', CA, in the mid 1960s, tentatively getting to know the main characters and absorbing a little of the 'outlaw' lifestyle. The book is actually an interesting study of the 1960s motorcycle-gang culture, its origins and its effects on the nervous 'mainstream' America of the time. A great read.

                                Other choices: The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe / Lonesome Traveller by Jack Kerouac

                                9) ** Occultism / Magick **

                                Mysteries by Colin Wilson - I have always been fascinated by occultism and occultists, a fascination due more to a love of the offbeat than any faith in the practical merits of the Black Arts. I have many books on the subject, some wildly obscure and some quite rare, but Colin Wilson's trio of books, 'The Occult', 'Mysteries' and 'Beyond the Occult' are particular favourites, due mainly to their readability and their intelligent speculations. 'Mysteries' is the best, I think. It discusses all manner of fields - dowsing, psychology, the nature of time, different dimensions, just the whole nature of how this big bad world of existence might be strung together - and it does so in a sober, detached, matter-of-fact way. An enjoyable book to dip in and out of.

                                Other choices: The Confessions of Aleister Crowley / The Black Arts by Richard Cavendish

                                10) ** Horror **

                                The Collected Stories of H P Lovecraft - H P Lovecraft was a strange, reclusive American writer who died in 1937 and was best known for his macabre tales. Most of his later tales are generally linked by a single theme, a theme called the Cthulhu Mythos. The Mythos tales generally share specific traits: various 'Old Ones', amoral deities lurking on the fringes of human consciousness, malignantly influence human affairs; the stories are generally centered on the fictional New England university town of Arkham (home of Miskatonic University); and old books - including the Necronomicon, authored by the mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred - give clues as to the return of these malevolent deities. Did you follow that?? It doesn't matter. The stories are great to read, atmospheric and largely self-explanatory.

                                Other choices: The Complete Ghost Stories of M R James / The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales edited by Chris Baldick

                                Thanks for reading.


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