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As a huge fan of Robin Hobb I was waiting with a great deal of anticipation for this book to finally be released. After her last three books, which were something totally new to me in fantasy and perhaps not as good, this was a welcome return to a world which was already familier to me.
Briefly, the story picks up where the Liveship Trader books left off as we witness the beginnings of a new generation of dragons as young hatchlings begin to emerge on the banks of the Rain Wild river. When the dragon Tintaglia seemigly abandons them a strange group of outcasts is given the duty of caring for them.
With her usual easy style Hobb drew me effortlessly into the story and the characters seemed to grow from the pages. I've always loved how real the characters of her book become and this was no exception; though the book was perhaps a little short to really allow them room to grow and change - not really a valid criticism perhaps as I believe this is the first of two. The story was a great idea and needed to be told - I'm sure I'm not the only reader who has longed for this very book to be written!
This being the case, this might not be the best place for a new reader to jump in to the story. With the exception of the 'Forest Mage' trilogy all Hobb's book link together in such a way that they are best enjoyed in order. However, I can imagine that this would not really detract from this story alone as much of the necessary history is outlined throughout the book (too much, I thought, it was a niggling distraction!)
And that's where this book disappointed me slightly. Not just the over-explaining of previous history (I accept that this might be necessary!) but the plot which, while it moved along nicely enough contained no surprises at all for me. Events that might have been written as interesting twists for the reader were, I thought, far too obvious and overplayed, so much so that I found myself getting impatient on occasion to just get the big 'revelation' over with and move along with the story.
Still this book has nagged at my mind since I put it down and I'm looking forward to the next one already so it can't be all bad! Robin Hobb at her worst is better than many writers at their best, and I would hate to think I put anyone off. Start with Assassin's Apprentice, follow with the wonderful Liveship books and, if you end up loving her as much as I do you'll end up here. Just don't pick up Dragon Keeper with too high expectations!
Judging by a couple of new teen reads which have recently fallen into my hands the trend for the undead seems to be changing focus from vampires to zombies and, for those with a taste for the gory, this new book is a pretty good place to start.
It begins in a small village in the middle of a forest where Mary lives with her mother and brother. Their life is lived with the constant fear of the 'Unconsecrated', those who have crossed the boundries of the village and been change. Among these is Mary's father and another gruesome and tragic loss early on in the book changes her life forever.
Protecting the villagers from those beyond are the Guardians and the Sisterhood but, as Mary soon begins to learn, all is not what it seems and she begins to discover that there are secrets being kept by those she used to trust.
This was a pretty good read and I certainly would recommend it but there were a couple of niggles for me. The story flows along quite smoothly and moves the characters forward but I sometimes felt that it all went a bit fast - there was a lot that was obviously introduced to be resolved in a later book but I sometimes felt that not enough was made of the mysteries and unanswered questions in the story, they just sort of flitted by, almost as a distraction, and didn't really leave me wondering of wanting more. The characters were ok and I did like the pace of the story but, again, found the ending a bit of a let down and don't really see myself returning to the next one when it comes out.
Overall, then, a pretty good read for teens who like this sort of thing but not the best. If you have a tast for zombie stories it might be better to wait for the new Charlie Higson (The Enemy - excellent stuff, review to follow!) and perhaps give this one a miss.
First published in 1975, Forever has become one of the most well known books by teen author Judy Blume, due to the ongoing controversy surrounding it. Well known as an author who tackles teen 'issues' in her books, Blume here approaches the issues surrounding teen sex with frank openness and honesty. Even now, when sex has become a common theme of teen books, Forever stands out as being explicit and often bears warnings regarding its suitability for younger readers.
The story is simple - seventeen year old Katherine meets Michael at a party and loses her virginity to him, sure that their love will last forever. As they begin to prepare for college and inevitable separation looms they find themselves with some life changing decisions to be made if they want to stay together but is their first love really going to last forever?
I must admit I was less than impressed by this book as a story - the characters are boring and hardly noticeable and the plot predictable and over simplistic. Katherine is nice to the point of being goody-goody and her openness with her parents comes across as a little false at times.
It did however, do what it said on the tin. Contraception, unwanted pregnancy, impotence, alcohol, jealousy - it's all here. The attitude to sex is somewhat dated - for example Katherine (in her ultra sensible way) goes to a family planning meeting and begins taking the pill - as an alternative to condoms. At the time it was written pregnancy was the main fear of teenagers rather than STDs and the character attitudes reflect this. Michael even admits to having had VD from a previous girlfriend, its just not seen as a big deal.
There is a small introductory page in the newer edition of the book which explains how things have changed and impressing very strongly on the reader that your health and safety are your responsibility and to be careful, etc... As an 'educational' book with a decent message this is ok but it sometimes feels that that's all it is - the strong 'messages' take precedence over the story and this spoils it. There are better books out there, both for readers wanting a good story and parents wanting to give their teen children something to think about. I can see why Forever is controversial, I understand that I has something important to say but, overall, I wouldn't really recommend it.
Booked through Thomas Cook as part of a last minute package deal Tamaino Tropical seemed like pretty good value for money and looked ok in the brochure. I am not usually a fan of 'touristy' resorts but time/money constraints left us little choice this time and the resort area of Los Gigantes (just a 10 minute walk from Puerto de Santiego) had the reputation of being fairly quiet and an exeptionally beautiful part of Tenerife.
The lobby area of the hotel was spacious and not too tacky looking and looked pretty promising. The first surprise came with the room - despite the brochure giving the impression that all the rooms came with a balcony we were shown to one of about 5 or 6 at the top of the building that had no balcony (though I must admit that there were views of the enormous cliffs that the area is famous for). On returning to reception to query this we were told that the rooms were all full and that the soonest we could move would be Friday (this was Tuesday). Throughout our 2 week stay we realised that this was common practive - a few of each new set of arrivals would be given these top rooms and, when they complained, moved a few days later to make room for the next lot! Not a huge problem for us as we had two weeks but someone with a shorter stay might find this a bigger issue...
The actual rooms were fairly nice, just what I expected really. Two twin beds were pushed together to make a 'double' (the first room had a significant gap between them but the second ones fitted together snugly. The first room only had a shower but the second we moved to had a small bath too. They were cleaned/serviced daily, except Sundays, and there was a request for us to re-use towels - just putting the ones you needed changed in the bathtub to save energy/water - I thought this was a nice touch as changes everyday really annoy me - so wasteful! The second room had a balcony overlooking the pool area (after I specially requested it - others we were shown had balconies facing out over the road and shops which was not so good on the lower levels though higher up would have given a nice sea view.) Being in a room near reception meant that there was some nighttime/early morning noise, especially suitcases being dragged along the hall at all kinds of strange times! There was also a slight 'drain' problem in the bathroom - nothing nasty but it did have a tendancy to get a little smally by the end of the day. But these are just 'room specific' details and not really a huge problem.
There were 3 pools - one large and one smaller heated one with a bar area and another one in a seperate, quieter area (felt colder too!). Sun beds were plentiful as was the practice of reserving them with towels (supposedly forbidden). It made me giggle to see a group putting beds out and reserving them just after the pool area had been cleaned at night. Silly but, apprently common practice. We never had a problem finding some empty ones anyway.
There were also tennis courts, table tennis tables, mini golf (not a great course - very wobbly) and various pool activities including the chance to try scuba gear and some slightly embarrassed staff dancing by the pool in the afternoon, accompanied by cheesy music (I loved this!).
I can't comment on the restaurant or bar I felt that they were over-priced and we were self-catering and therefore used the very convenient and reasonably priced supermarket just over the road. There was some evening entertainment and very little going on outside the resort, but most of it felt more family orientated. Still, for us, this was just a place to stay and provided a perfect and fairly convenient base for explorong the beautiful island.
A couple of other things maybe worth mentioning. There are safes in the rooms but they cost (I can't remember exactly but I think it would have worked out almost £50 for the 2 weeks we stayed). They also charge (3.5%) to cash traveller's cheques at reception (I've no idea how usual this is but it seemed a bit steep to me!) There is a bank and cashpoint within easy walking distance for anyone who has more sensible money arrangements!
To be honest, I wouldn't stay here again - for various reasons I'd prefer to travel independantly in future and find the atmosphere a little tacky - though watching the 'all-in.' crowd get steadily drunker and redder from around 10am was quite entertaining and there really wasn't any problem with noise, etc. The easy access pool area and various entertainments would make this a perfect place for a family looking for an easy holiday as there's plenty to keep kids happy without even leaving the hotel! Not a bad place to stay at all! Not great either. Just ok.
I became aware of this book when I saw an event with Babara Haddrill advertised locally and decided to take a look. It tells the story of Babara's decision to travel overland instead of flying to Austrailia when invited to a friend's wedding. An interesting enough idea for a travel book, but what really got me interested was the reason for Babara's choice - she decided to make the long trip not because of any sense of adventure or love of travelling but simply because taking a long haul, carbon heavy flight just didn't fit in with her lifestyle choices. A self-confessed 'reluctant traveller' she was content living in a caravan in Wales; a low income and her enjoyment of voluntary work at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) and her friends being enough for her to live happily; with little harmful environmental impact. The invitation to be a bridesmaid in Australia came as a bit of a shock and a struggle with her conscience ended in the decision to take the trip, but as harmlessly as she possibly could.
Now, you, I and Babs all know that it's not that simple - everything we do has some environmental impact and nearly all travel is bad. Sometimes flying might actually be one of the 'better' options available and for those who wish to quibble the point there is an exact breakdown at the end of each chapter where the amout of environmental damage each leg Bab's particular journey might have done is broken down (this includes food, overnight stays, etc.). For those more interested in the story you can just skip these parts and get a general idea.
So, the book had me hooked and the first few chapters made really interesting reading. Despite her concerns and in depth research Babs never comes across as preachy or judgemental, more concerned. I like people who try to look further than the obvious and question everything. But, by the later part of the book I will admit that her inner though processes were starting to get a little repetative - I started to get a little frustrated with having the same issues repeated over and over again (especially when I had understood and agreed with them the first time!). The journey she took covered the Trans-Siberian Railway, bus, train and boat trips through much of Asia and a last stretch by boat to Australia but is was all about the journey. Not a bad thing, and I suppose that was the point, but it does seem a shame that she passed through all these amazing places so quickly. Though, when she did have a chance to stop Babs proved herself an interesting and interested tourist, always making an effort to get out and see something or meet someone local. Spare time in Australia was spent in volunteer work and looking for a way to start getting home. The last leg of the journey, cycling from Paris back to Wales also made for lovely reading and sounded wonderful!
Despit my small niggles this was a really interesting read and I'm very much looking forward to the book signing as Barbara seems like a very interesting person.
Pulished by CAT, £10.99.
I've just re-read this book, in preparation starting a PGCE course this Sept. so have fished out an old review I wrote for Waterstones.com last year and updated it to share here...
First things first, would be teachers should think carefully before reading this book - it is NOT encouraging to anyone planning to enter the profession. I'm still, naively and stubbornly, refusing to believe that it really is all that bad and that the holidays aren't a fantastic bonus but if anything could put me off now I think it would be the truth. And that is exactly what Frank Chalk (nice name for a teacher, unfortunately not his real one!) claims to be laying out in this book. It's terrifying!
As a regular supply teacher to a rough, inner-city school, Frank Chalk seems uniquely qualified to comment on the day to day life of teaching pupils who seem to lack even the most basic grasp of the simplest concepts, and have no desire to learn anything more. As a non-permanent member of staff he is able to stay aloof from the internal politics of the school and bring a unique perspective to the issues that schools face in an educational system that seems rapidly to be spiralling into chaos. Highly cynical and obviously frustrated, there is nevertheless a ring of truth to his stories and the picture he paints is not a pretty one. From abusive parents to uncaring and uncared for students, his anecdotes cover the whole colourful spectrum of a classroom career.
His view that the current education system is letting down our children in a huge way - the lack of discipline is schools due partly to the fact that many children have never had any boundaries set at home but also partly because of the fact that any teacher wishing to instil discipline in the classroom will have to face the reality that, if disobeyed, their options are limited. The students know this, the teachers know they know it and rather than support from those above they are given excuse after excuse, backed up with 'action plans' and reams of paperwork. Some of the stories illustrate this apathy and it is frustrating just to read it - I can't blame the author for finding in immensely frustrating to live with this reality. At times his cynicism seems wholly justified.
It is clear, though, that the school at which 'Frank Chalk' is unfortunate enough to teach is particularly awful but I can only imagine that many of the classroom incidents described would resonate with many teachers. Frank seems like a caring person who really wants to make a difference and is saddened when he sees potential wasted. He ends by describing his career choice as little more than 'crowd control' and sees finally that the lessons he conducts are a complete waste of time, achieving nothing useful, for anyone. Trying to teach French to students who have very little grasp of English, or Economics to those who cannot perform a simple sum is simply not possible. Inclusion, he argues, does not work and makes several excellent and very convincing arguments for a return to older (now considered outdated) teaching practices. It makes for fascinating reading and I find myself persuaded to agree with many of his points. I have long thought that our education system is all wrong (despite the fact that it worked well for me personally) and I really, really hope I am proved wrong next year. Judging by this book, I won't be holding my breath!
Wryly funny at times, this should be compulsive reading for anyone considering a career in that 'noblest of professions', though it might be wise to follow with a much lighter memoir, something by Jack Sheffield or Gervase Phinn perhaps, as this book alone is likely to put even the most optimistic off teaching forever! I'm not sure what that makes me...
I'm sure that many fans of Pan's Labyrinth will, like me, be intrigued to find out that the director of this amazing film, Guillermo del Toro, has teamed up with crime writer Chuck Hogan and produced this, the first in a new trilogy of vampire novels. In the wake of 'Twilight' and del Toro's success as a director I'm sure that this new horror will be a popular release and there will be many eager readers ready to discover something new. I know that I was expecting a lot from it (and I'm don't usually read horror) and opened it up with eager anticipation of something new and different.
Different it was, and very promising at the beginning. It starts with a very strange scenario - an airplane lands as usual except that it appears totally 'dead'. No light, no movement, nothing. Until it is opened and the entire crew and passengers are found inexplicably dead. Not your usual vampire story then! The actual spread of the 'vampires' in this book is treated as a virus and the man called in to deal with it is main character Ephrain, an expert in disease control (I know, hardly an original idea!). However, the spread and effects of the disease are certainly different and in the description of the victims some of the 'horror' of the book seems to be revealed (though I'm a total baby and I didn't find it all that scary!).
The characters are ok, though I didn't find them all that interesting to be honest and found Eph's relationship with his ex-wife and son a quite irritating distraction. There are some more elements of what I think of as a 'classic' vampire story in an ancient mythology and an old man whose childhood memories have led him to a life of studying the 'Master' who he believes is the root of all the problems. There seem to be a couple of interesting 'threads' of story which will presumably be drawn together later in the series and some very well written and fairly gripping scenes. But, for me at least, it didn't really pull together enough to hold my interest - it took me quite a long time to get through this one and I'm not sure I'll bother with the next, by the time it's released I may have forgotten all about it!
I'm always a little nervous about starting a horror book and usually end up disappointed - maybe it just isn't my genre... I'll be looking forward to seeing other opinions on this one.
It will be released in June 2009, in hardback at £12.99 (no doubt discounted at various retailers).My copy has just over 400 pages.
There's nothing quite like browsing in a nice bookshop is there? When I was young we lived in a town without a bookshop so any outing that involved a Waterstone's or W.H.Smith was a real treat - I could spend hours just bowsing and come out with a just one or two special treats!
On the other hand, I always shopped in charity shops for books too, emerging regularly after a good rummage around with 5 or 6 Famous Five books for just £1. Of course, those days are long gone, with charity shops getting a little more competetive and pricing to compete with secondhand bookshops - using their advantages of voluntary staff and (I believe, correct me if I'm wrong) reduced rates to push many secondhand bookshops out of business. I rarely use them any more.
And now we have the internet where, despite the fact that I work for a large chain bookshop, I must confess many of my book purchases are made. Even before I started my current job (with the lovely staff discount and access to freebies!) I struggle to remember that last time I paid full price (if at all) for a book. Websites like Amazon, with it's fantastic review and recommends system, ebay and Greenmetropolis (my personal favourite as you can sell books which build up credit on the site to spend on others - you never have to register bank or credit card details if you don't want to).
I am, of course aware that the more we shop online the more likely we are to lose our high street stores, particularly smaller independents which sometimes seem to be disappearing at an alarming rate. The huge advantage to be had when entering an actual shop is the personalised service you can get and the (sometimes fantastic, sometimes laughably poor) staff expertise. The real passion of a good bookseller for their product can sway the balance for some people and I personally love recommending something I've enjoyed and watching the customer take it home, especially when they return to tell me they liked it! But, of course, I would say that!
While we're online and talking about recommends I should probably mention Bookcrossing; another favourite hobby of mine and I have found many new authors/books through the lovely community there; books regularly changing hands for no other reward than a quick 'thank you' and a promise to 'pay it forward', passing on books once they are finished. Just like a giant sharing library!
And talking of libraries, aren't they wonderful? As an alternative to actually buying books they will have pretty much anything you want to read, if you are prepared to wait for it... Not my first port of call, I must admit, despite my money-saving tendancies I do like to spend when it comes to books, and I love having a copy of something I've loved reading to pass on to someone else when I've finished.
Overall, I'm not too picky about where my books come from. The feeling of opening a nice new book for the first time is lovely (as is their smell - does anyone else notice this?) but so is the feeling of reading and loving a book that many others have read before, it's quite fun to wonder who else has read what your reading and what they thought of it! My main feeling is that books are for sharing and if I recommend a book that I've recently loved I often accompany the recommend with an offer to pass on my own copy - I rarely re-read any more and there are always more books out there!
This caught my eye on the bookshelf and I couldn't reisist taking a closer look at it. Reading the blurb I learned that the basic idea was that the author had decided that, with all the recent focus on 'ethical shopping' he would go out himself and personally discover where his own household products had come from, how they were made, and the real stories beind them. I was fascinated to learn more...
The book is divided into chapters, each focusing on a particular product (clothing, jewelry, food, etc.) and its origins. For cotton clothing, for example, he first traces the cotton to it's source, revealing just how much energy it takes to produce; then to the factories in the east where the cheap garments are made up to be sold to suppliers for western retailers. He explores the real fairness of Fair Trade, questions the rights and wrongs of plane/train/car travel and even descends to the depths of the world's biggest gold mine to find out where his wedding ring originated.
The most fascinating thing about this book for me was the fact that the focus was mainly on the people behind the products we take for granted; the workers all over the world who spend their lives in gruelling, underpaid jobs. He questions everything, all our preconceptions (good and bad) are challenged and the rather frustrating conclusion that there really are no easy answers. It left me thinking about my previous ideas about subjects as far ranging as short-flights, child labour, exploitative eastern factories, western decadance and many others. The real shock for me was that, sometimes, it doesn't actually seem as bad as I thought it was...
Controversial and fascinating, there's definately food for thought here. I'd recommend it as a starting point for anyone wanting to learn a little more about the lives behind our everyday products.
I must admit that I usually turn my nose up at 'chick lit' but will occasionally take a certain guilty pleasure with a light and fluffy read if something catches my eye. This was one I spotted on holiday - having read the other books I'd brought and needing something for the return journey. I'd read one other Emily Barr book and enjoyed it so at just 1 euro this seemed like a safe bet!
We meet Maggie, lonely and depressed, working as a lap dancer after the end of a boring relationship and trying desperately to convince herself and everyone around her that her life is great. When she accidentaly discovers she can hear her neighbours through their baby monitor she becomes odsessed with following their lives and sees their decision to move to Cuba as a way to make a new start for herself too. The neighbours (Libby and David) are having their own problems and their sudden plan for a complete change of lifestyle seems to be the thing that is going to make or break their marriage.
So far I was enjoying the book, not great literature by any means but an interesting idea and the thought of moving away or travelling to find a new start is one that has held some appeal to me at times, I was fascinated to see how the characters lives would continue. But, of course, moving across the world doen't solve anything and there begin to be hints at something from Maggie's past that will have an effect on everyone.
A further complication comes from an old schoolfriend of Maggie's whose entry into the story causes tension and provided a constant link and reminder to Maggie of a life she obviously wants to forget. The reasons for this are slowly revealed throughout the story and as we learn about the past we begin to understand Maggie a little more. A slightly sinister twist brings the story to a climax and all the ends are wrapped up neatly, as might be expected from this type of novel. It's light reading but with some darker undertones, the characters are developed enough to be interesting but not really memorable and much of the story is predictable. There are a couple of surprises. Overall, it was nothing more or less than I expected it to be - a light holiday read.
Just looking at the cover of this book makes me long for summer! Ever since I can remember I've thought that swimming in the fresh, clean water of a mountain stream was almost magical - certainly much nicer that the sterile environment of a boring old swimming pool! So, it didn't take much for me to pick up this book and take a look through...
The first thing I noticed was that the picture on the front was just a small sample of the stunning photographs seen all through this book - every one perfectly capturing the feeling of freedom you get from swimming outdoors. A brief introductory section outlines some evolutionary theories that seek to explain the sheer joy we derive from swimming and a very brief history of the place of water in our lives. Some sensible safety advice and a couple of tips follow that we get straight in to the swims. Organised by region (6 regions covering all of mainland Britain) and 'theme' (paddling, picnics, skinni-dipping, etc, the swims are therefore very easy to locate. This, the actual locations of recommended swimming places, makes up the majority of the book and is followed by a few pages at the end with some extra ideas to enhance the experience such as camping, spotting animals, 'wild' food and a couple of others.
At £14.95 for just over 250 pages I would say that this book is pretty good value for anyone who would like to plan a few summer days out around a swim or someone who gets out and around the country a lot. I can't imagine a better family day out than a swim and a picnic and this book makes it look so easy, with exact directions and a write up of each recommended place. Perfect for planning a slightly different day out, or a weekend camping, and a gorgeous coffe table book too!
I have to admit that I haven't actually used this book to find a 'swim' yet as I have a couply of nice rivers, a secluded lake, and the sea all within easy reach and real hot summer days are limited! I can imagine that it would be a lot more use to someone looking for a day out with young children as advance planning, safety and convenience become more important. But its so nice to look at that just flicking through it, especially in the winter, is a real pleasure. And I'm looking forward to some free time this summer to finally seek out one of these gorgeous places and take a dip!
A last minute summer holiday in beautiful Pembrokeshire two years ago had me frantically searching for a pair of comfortable walking shoes. My old boots were rubbing my heels and, not being a huge fan of clunky walking boots anyway I decided that some light shoes would be enough. Of the very little choice in my small town I finally plumped for these in Millets. I think they were about £65 which seemed pricey but they seemed comfortable, Merrell was a name I knew and I have only ever heard good things about them so I decided to risk it. Two years later I think that they were worth every penny!
Faced, a week later, with an eight mile coast walk in the hot sun in new shoes, worn only a couple of times - I feared blisters by the end of the day! From that very first walk I was very impressed, the shoes were comfortable from the start and only rubbed (a very little) in the last hour or so of the day. From then till now I have worn them on summer walks in many, many times and have never had any problems at all. Supremely comfortable, light and airy, they are perfect for avoiding nasty sweaty feet and blisters!
They are made from breathable fabric with suede (I usually avoid leather wherever possible but will occasionally buy it for good quality walking shoes that I know will last, not great for a vegetarian I know but there are limited alternatives and several pairs of cheap synthetic shoes will only wear out and go on to clutter up the planet! I have a tendancy to overthink these things!) which means that they are not at all waterproof and therefore totally unsuitable for winter/rain walking but they do dry out very quiclkly and on the few occasions where I have got my feet wet they are not really uncomfortable to wear. I would also avoid the beach where possible because of the suede but mud and wet seems to do them no harm at all. I am notoriously bad at remembering (or bothering) to clean shoes - another reason that I am prepared to pay more for quality and sturdiness! - and as I type they sit beside me caked with mud!
Perfect for summer walks, for holidays (I packed just these and a pair of flip flops for a recent break in Tenerife and they were perfect for the plane and the walking we did there) and they look better with jeans than trainers! I would highly recommend them as an alternative to heavy walking boots for general use and will certainly buy Merrell shoes again. They have some very nice sandals and summer is coming again...
As a fan of the 'Twilight' series I was eagerly awaiting this new installment form Stephanie Meyer. I knew that it was written earlier than the Twilight books and pulbished on the back of their success so I was not expecting too much; on the other hand it was marketed as adult Sci-Fi, a genre I love when it's done well, so I was anticipating it with some pleasure and got started as soon as the book landed in my hands...
The basic plot is that an alien species comes to Earth and attempts to settle by infiltrating the minds and bodies of human 'hosts'. Wanderer is one of the invasion of aliens and finds herself with unexpected problems when her host retains her own mind and fights to regain control of the body. The bulk of the book is about the struggles of the two (very different) personalities inhabiting the same body as they each pursue their own goals. So far, it sounds ok but a little cheesy...
However, once I started reading I found myself really enjoying the story. The real strength of it was in the characterisation; Wanderer was a fantastic character and her first experience of human emotions made for some interesting reading. The host personality, Melanie, was also excellently drawn - her strength of character was one of her distinguishing features as one of the few humans who had resisted the alien invasion to some extent. Both believe the other to be the 'bad guy'. The clash of personalities as Wanderer learns a little about human passions and Melanie learns about the alien motives begins to resolve itself as the two are forced to learn to exist together and a complicated love triangle develops to which there seems to be no happy solution.
The plot, though not a new idea, moved along nicely and I was gripped from beginning to end. Meyer certainly does know how to tell a story! Still, I feel as if the book lacked a certain 'something'. I didn't - quite - cry (one of my requirements for a book to make my absolute favourites!) and I'm not sure it's one that will stand out in my memory in a few months time. Slightly disappointing but, overall, a fast paced, entertaining and enjoyable read. Give it a try if you like Meyer's style but don't expect more 'Twilight' - this one has a very different feel to it.
This little known gem seems to have slipped through the net when it appeared on TV - I had certainly never heard of it until I picked up a cheap copy of the dvd in a sale and bought it on a whim. Its such a shame because every episode is absolute comedy genius and I'd like to recommend that everyone who appreciates good comedy give this one a shot.
The story revolves around cynical Vince and his flatmate Errol, locked away together in a small flat in a London tower block. Written by Sean Lock (who also plays Vince), the episodes usually revolve around a slightly ridiculous storyline in which it is the wonderful character interaction which creates the humour. Vince is usually grumpy and his main activities seem to be his job as a swimming pool and yelling at cyclists from his balcony. Errol is new to London and none too bright. They're a wonderfully mismatched pairing of characters that results in some amazing humour - from escapedes involving an afternoon in the stocks to catergorising fish to an incident with some very,very strong energy drinks.
Episodes from Vince and Errol's lives are interspersed with flashes to often funny, sometimes slightly surreal, activities of their neighbours - just tiny snatches of everyday lives which become hilariously funny, the more so the more you more you watch them.
It's really difficult to describe this series - all Ican really say is watch it if you get a chance. I've yet to show someone an episode that they didn't love. Bleak, raw and amazingly clever, this is one not to miss.
With its wonderful performance at the Oscars I'm sure Slumdog Millionaire is known to most readers by now. I haven't yet seen it as I wanted to read the book, recommended to me by a friend some time ago. The copy I have has the film tie-in cover but the picture above is of the original cover and title (much more fitting, I think - but mine was half price!).
When Ram Mohammed Thomas wins one billion rupees on a TV quiz show he is arrested and thrown into jail. A poor man from the slums of India cannot possible have had the education to know the answers to all the questions he was asked. A new TV show with an advertised prize of one billion cannot possibly afford to pay their first winner. So he is accused of cheating and the book opens with his account of his arrest and torture as he denies any guilt and determines to prove his innocence and claim his prize. Here follows an account of a live of poverty, deprivation and violence as he recounts his background and explains, question by question, how he came to know all that he did and managed to win the top prize.
The quiz show is structured like the British 'Who wants to be a Millionaire?', with each question rising in difficulty and value. Answering them all correctly wins the top prize so it is knowledge and luck that make a winner, not intelligence or education. The book is structured in a similar way - each chapter addresses one of the questions and explains how Ram had the knowledge to answer it with a glimpse into his past. Because of this we start to piece his life story together from imperfectly fitting snippets, learning the reason for his unusual name, his early childhood and the series of events which eventually led to the quiz show.
His story is fascinating at times and the way it is told - in a series of small 'chunks' - makes for fairly easy reading, though I must admit to putting the book down a few times after losing interest for a while between sections. I always had to pick it back up though! There's a bit of everything in here and I found myself following Ram from slums to the homes of film stars, from the very worst of India to the very best, and rooting for him every step of the way. There are a few surprises to be had here, a couple of unexpected twists, and some wonderfully told tales which fit neatly together into 360 pages of clever, eye-opening story. There's adventure, heartbreak, glamour, poverty, betrayal, friendship, hardship love, life and death, all crammed into one great little book - what more could you need from an author?
The end of this edition of the book also contains an interview with the author and some of the facts behind the story (including the real; questions answered by the real life winner of the quiz), some reading group discussion ideas and suggestions for further reading and an extract from the author's next book - all in all a nice little selection of 'extras'.
Overall I thought it was a great read and would certainly recommend it and I though the idea was wonderfully original. I'm a little worried about seeing the film now, to be honest, as I'm not sure it will compare well!