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Madeleine's 2011 reads

Keep track of your reading for 2011 here! One thread per member, please.
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Madeleine
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Currently reading: "Longstone" by L J Ross
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Post by Madeleine » Mon July 11th, 2011, 4:47 pm

July

Just Take My Heart by Mary Higgins Clark - modern crime in which a prosecutor tries, and initially convicts, a theatrical agent for the murder of his estranged wife. Then new evidence comes to light, and the prosecutor finds herself in danger. An OK read, easy but nothing special. 6/10

At Home with the Templetons by Monica McInerney - DNF - got just over halfway through and got fed up with it's boringness; very repetitive too. I skimmed the rest of it and found that she goes over the same events again and again, just to get a slightly different viewpoint which could have easily been handled with 2 or 3 paras of dialogue.

The Messenger from Athens by Anne Zouroudi - modern crime set on a Greek island, first in a series. An interesting read with a likeable hero - the enigmatic fat man who is himself something of a mystery. It was well-written but shows the less exciting side of life on a small island, away from the holiday season; when the weather is bad and the locals struggle to make a living, and also goes into the entrenched attitudes of the locals towards each other and especially their women. 7/10

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson - Rebecca-style drama about a couple who, after a whirlwind romance, buy a dilapidated house in Provence, and once they get there the woman, Eve, begins to feel as if she's not alone, and is bothered by her lover's constant refusal to talk about his family or his past; she knows that he's divorced and his first wife was called Rachel, but that's about all - then young girls start to go missing in the area, and he keeps going away overnight and not telling her anything. It was well-written and very atmospheric, and the author also tells the story of the house's past occupants, in particular one family whom Rachel, a journalist, had been researching. It's not a bad book and overall I quite enjoyed it, however I found Eve a bit irritating (too passive and whiny!) and the author's occasional lapse into cod-psychology (what is memory? etc) also got on my nerves after a while. But she's a promising author, and it's not a bad summer read. 7/10

The Radleys by Matt Haig - a tale of an ordinary family with a big secret - they're vampires. They've managed to live a relatively normal life until their daughter attacks and kills a local youth who tries to assault her, and her parents have to call in Uncle Will, who hasn't been living a quiet existence, to help them clear up the mess. However Will and the mother have a history, and old secrets which could do far more damage than the fact that they're vampires threaten to come out. There are also other everyday problems, such as bullying and early teenage love, to deal with. It's a fast read, and an enjoyable one, and would appeal to fans of the Sookie Stackhouse type novels. It has a couple of nice touches of it's own, such as Neckbook - the vamps' social networking site - which I liked. 7/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Sat August 13th, 2011, 8:01 pm, edited 6 times in total.
Currently reading: "Longstone" by L J Ross

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Madeleine
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Currently reading: "Longstone" by L J Ross
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Post by Madeleine » Sat August 13th, 2011, 8:01 pm

August

Incubus by Carol Goodman - I started this book thinking, from the blurb on the back, that it would be a bit like Anne Rice's "The Witching Hour" and indeed at the beginning it was similar. Then it started to go a bit True Blood - again, fine, nothing wrong with that and in a way it's almost a homage to these books and the Twilight series. But then fairies, demons and strange creatures started to emerge, and it all went a bit Harry Potter (with quite a bit of sex!), with it's college setting and nearly all the staff being revealed as some sort of supernatural creature or other. So in the end I just treated it as a supernatural romp, and it works fine, although I must admit I think it did overdo the fey/fairy stuff a bit (it also reminded me a bit of Practical Magic). But it was well-written and atmospheric, and I'll probably get the next book in the series. Best described as a hybrid of True Blood and a grown-up Harry Potter, except it makes the residents of Bon Temps look almost normal by comparison. 7/10

Worth Dying For by Lee Child - DNF - ditched about halfway through, started off OK, then got more and more boring.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen - thoroughly enjoyed this, well-written, funny and moving with a great ending (which I sort of guessed but still liked) - the story is simple: veterinary student Jacob is about to take his final exams when he learns his parents have been killed in a car accident, and have left him with no money, so he walks out of his final exams and jumps on the first train he sees....which turns out, conveniently, to be a circus train. He's taken on as a bit of hired help, setting up the tents, cleaning out the animals etc, but once he reveals his vet skills he becomes the circus's unofficial vet. We learn about the circus characters, the hierarchy and way of life, and of course along the way he falls in love with the ringmaster's wife and an elephant. Lovely story, very nostalgic and a bit whimsical. 8/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Mon August 29th, 2011, 11:41 am, edited 3 times in total.
Currently reading: "Longstone" by L J Ross

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Madeleine
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Post by Madeleine » Tue September 13th, 2011, 2:00 pm

September

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton - at times I thought I would never finish this book, it was so slow. It started off promisingly, with Edie, the narrator, visiting her parents when her mother receives a letter which causes her to go into shock. Intrigued, Edie starts to investigate her mother's past, particularly the period in WW2 when she was evacuated to Milderhurst Castle in Kent and, when Edie finds herself in the castle's vicinity during a work trip, well of course she has to visit the castle. Much to her amazement, the 3 sisters who took her mother in during the war are still alive and living there, and gradually - very gradually - their story is revealed. There were several times I almost ditched this one as it was so slow, but it's generally well-written and somewhere in there is a good story. It's reminiscent of Jane Eyre and The Thirteenth Tale, with mysterious disappearances, a spooky old house and madness, and there were a few surprises when all was eventually revealed. Some of the "reveals" were a little far-fetched, and the ending probably won't come as much of a surprise to anyone familiar with this type of genre - women's gothic? - but it was a relief to finish it. A shame as I think she is a good writer, and I enjoyed her first book "The House at Riverton". But seriously long-winded and drawn out. 6/10

Though the Heavens may Fall by E V Thompson - this is the first in a historical crime series featuring policeman Amos Hawke, who is sent from London to Cornwall to investigate the killing of a teacher and also of two Excise officers; as a native Cornishman, his superior officer decides to put him "undercover" to try to find out from the locals what was behind the killings, especially that of the teacher, who had led a blameless life and was greatly respected. Amos finds himself lodging with the teacher's widow and daughter, and although he and the young woman get off to a shaky start, what eventually happens between them comes as no surprise. He finds himself investigating a smuggling ring; again, no surprises given Cornwall's notorious history of this "trade", but this is smuggling on a huge scale, and he discovers even more deaths and mysterious disappearances of potential witnesses - all of which lead back to the notorious Davey brothers. It's not a bad book, but I found out slightly repetitive and a little bit twee; even though the characters were likeable, I found it difficult to really get into the book, and found it a bit plodding, but it would be fine for those who like their crime a little more gentle! 6/10

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris - re-read- I re-read this as I'd wanted to see how the TV series tied in with the book; it follows the Dallas plot-line but does deviate quite a bit; however it's worth reading just for the scene towards the end when Eric is helping Sookie get ready to go to a "party" - some of the dialogue and images it conjures up are priceless, they must must must film this scene at some point, although some of the dialogue would have to go as events have moved on! But I think this is my favourite funny scene so far. 9/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Fri September 30th, 2011, 10:14 am, edited 3 times in total.
Currently reading: "Longstone" by L J Ross

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Madeleine
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Currently reading: "Longstone" by L J Ross
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Location: Essex/London

Post by Madeleine » Sat October 8th, 2011, 8:28 pm

October

Club Dead by Charlaine Harris - book 3 in the Stackhouse series and another re-read, and I'm glad I did read it again as I missed a lot the first time round. It is a bit rushed and slightly convoluted; however new characters - werewolves this time and some new vamps - are introduced, and Sookie finds herself turning to both Eric and Alcide, a werewolf sent by Eric to guard her, for help as she goes to Mississippi to try to find the missing Bill, who it turns out has been up to no good. Things hot up between her and Eric (I'd forgotten that bit!) and, although it seems to end very suddenly, it's still an enjoyable read. 8/10

Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris - book 4 in the Stackhouse series and another re-read; this is the one where Eric gets amnesia and is taken in by Sookie, who ends up keeping him hidden at her house whilst she and his vampire cohorts try to find out how to get his memory back. Initially she's not too happy about having him stay (and her problem is?) but the new Eric is much gentler and kinder than the old, ruthless, dangerous vampire, and it's not long before things start to get interesting between them. Then Sookie discovers that her wayward brother Jason has gone missing, and after finding a bloodstain and a strange footprint in his garden, she calls in the police. Next thing, shifters and werewolves are involved, and the scene is set for a battle between vamps and a group of vengeful witches, who it turns out are responsible for Eric's amnesia. And if Sookie's life wasn't in enough danger, she also has the werewolf Alcide's vindictive ex-girlfriend to contend with, and she will stop at nothing to get her revenge on Sookie. It's another enjoyable read, even if Sookie's predicaments are beginning to be a bit like the perils of Pauline, and it's fast-paced and entertaining, and generally quite well-written. Can't wait for the TV version! 8/10

Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris - 5th in the Sookie series, and in this one the shape-shifters take centre stage, after several of their community are shot by an unknown sniper. Sookie's brother Jason has now joined the shifter population, following events in book 4, and when it becomes apparent that some of his fellow shifters suspect him of being the sniper, Sookie feels obliged to investigate, especially when her boss, Sam, is also shot and injured. There's also a new vampire in town, who is taking a worrying interest in Sookie's best friend Tara, and also a new bartender at Sam's restaurant/bar, who is also a vampire and has an air of mystery about him. And Sookie finds herself becoming unwillingly involved in the werewolves' "election" of a new pack-leader. I found this book not quite as involving as the previous four - the shapeshifters just aren't quite as interesting or appealing in the weird way that the vampires and werewolves are - but it was still an entertaining ,easy read, although there are a couple of continuity errors; I thought I'd skipped a book at one point, but it's not really a major point. 7/10

The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths - 3rd in the Ruth Galloway/Harry Nelson series and just as good as the other two. The historical aspect of this one is fairly recent - WW2 in fact, when the bodies of 6 German soldiers are revealed buried on a beach, following a landslide. The investigation into their deaths, along with the more recent deaths of 2 elderly men, points towards an unsavoury incident during the war, and things become even more sinister when a young German journalist who has been looking into the war-time deaths is himself murdered. Ruth finds herself closer to the investigation then is good for her, at the same time as she is learning to become a mother, and coping with her return to work and the work/life/baby balance. It's perhaps not quite as involving as the earlier books, but nicely written and with a nice, wry humour to it. 7/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Mon October 31st, 2011, 4:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Currently reading: "Longstone" by L J Ross

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Madeleine
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Post by Madeleine » Fri November 4th, 2011, 8:25 pm

November 2011

Definitely Dead by Charlain Harris - number 6 in the Southern Vampire series and yet another boyfriend for Sookie, this time a weretiger called Quinn. The main vampires take a back seat for most of this book, although we finally get to meet the Vampire Queen of Louisiana. However the first half of the book meanders somewhat, with two storylines that seem to fizzle out after a while, including one which shows the reader yet again how Sookie uses her telepathy - well it's the 6th book we should know it by now and this storyline is quickly resolved and doesn't really seem to have much to do with the rest of the book. The main storyline when it eventually comes involves Sookie going to New Orleans for two reasons: she's been summoned by the Queen, and she's also going there to clear out the apartment and sort out the affairs of her recently deceased cousin Hadley, who was a close friend of the Queen. Here there are some huge gaps in continuity; first Sookie says she saw her cousin's killing, and has also previously met the Queen (which isn't mentioned in any of the earlier books), and then a few chapters later, she says she only learned of her cousin's death several weeks after it happened! Eh! I have since discovered, after reading reviews of this book, that a lot of the gaps are filled in in the short story collection, A Touch of Dead. Anyway Sookie lands up in New Orleans, predictably gets attacked a few times and finds an undead body in the closet, and the whole thing culminates in a vampire ball, which only lasts for about 4 pages and is resolved very quickly, and then she's off back to Bon Temps and home. On the whole, whilst still a fairly entertaining read, this book,and number 5 before it, lack the pacing and gusto of the earlier books. The series is also getting much darker - nothing wrong with that and in a way it does move things along a bit - but the writing seems to be rather sloppy and rushed; I hope the remaining books aren't the same. This book felt more like an early novel from the author, where her potential could be seen but there were still a few flaws, which is forgivable at the early stage of an author's career, but become tiresome and annoying halfway through a well-established series, I would have thought an editor would certainly have pointed out the (literal) holes in the plot, especially as several other readers also mention them in some of the reviews I've read on some booksites. Oh well. 6/10

The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor - disappointing, especially after The American Boy which I adored - it's a slow start, and although it's well-written, it doesn't get much quicker and could best be described as a gentle thriller, if that isn't a contradiction in terms. Recently bereaved John Holdsworth is summoned to Cambridge to catalogue the library of a recently-deceased bishop, and whilst there he finds himself investigating two mysterious deaths, one a suspected suicide, the other a young girl, both of which happened during the same night. And anyone expecting a good, chilling, ghost story would do better to look elsewhere, there are hardly any ghosts at all and I more or less guessed the ending. A big disappointment. 6/10

All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris - book 7 in the Stackhouse series and a big improvement on the previous two; in this one, Sookie reluctantly attends a vampire conference near Chicago. Naturally she's reluctant to go but her new boyfriend, the weretiger Quinn, will also be there as an event organiser, which helps. She's there on the Vampire Queen of Louisiana's orders so can't really refuse, and the Queen has asked her to listen in on any conversations she can, to check people's motives are sound. Inevitably it soon becomes apparent that there is some sort of plot going on, especially when Sookie finds a bomb outside the Queen's suite. There is also a vampire trial, a vampire ball and in a lighter scene, a vampire wedding, presided over by none other than the lovely Eric, who's been co-erced into becoming a priest! But then there's an assassination attempt and things become much darker and more dangerous, even for the almost indestructible vampires, and the ending is genuinely exciting and quite tense. Not exactly a return to form for the series, but a much better book. 7/10

Black Swan Rising by Lee Carroll - first in a trilogy by renowned author Carol Goodman and her husband, who is the Lee part. Better than the way OTT (for me anyway) Incubus, this is another foray into the land of the fey - or the Summer Country as it's called here - which starts when jewellery maker/sculptor Garet is given an old silver box by an old man in an antiques shop which she discovers by chance whilst sheltering from a rainstorm. He asks her to open the box for him, which she does only to unleash several weird lights and shapes, and a piece of paper with the name Will Hughes on it. That night, her home is burgled and the box is taken; she turns to Will for help and he explains that he is a vampire who wants the box so that he can become mortal again. Garet thus discovers that she is the latest in a long line of women who are Watchtowers between our world and the world of the fae/fey; her mother was also a Watchtower and Will was originally in love with the first of these women, and this love story has carried on throughout the last 400 years. Cue also Oberon, John Dee - who is the baddie here - Melusine and various other fae folk. If you like urban fantasy you'll probably like this; it's well-written and easy to read, and things are set up nicely for the sequel, The Watchtower. 7/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Sun November 27th, 2011, 3:50 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Currently reading: "Longstone" by L J Ross

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Post by rebecca » Sat November 5th, 2011, 3:18 am

At Home with the Templetons by Monica McInerney That was my first go at reading a McInerney novel and I didn't finish it either. I found it plain boring. Are her other works better?

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
Another one I didn't finish but I do intend giving this author another go and will probably buy THaR.

When it comes to GRR Martin and his Song of Ice and Fire my only hint to readers would be do NOT pick out favourites-He tends to kill them off! Grrrr @ the author!

Bec :)

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Madeleine
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Currently reading: "Longstone" by L J Ross
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Post by Madeleine » Sun November 6th, 2011, 8:26 pm

[quote=""rebecca""]At Home with the Templetons by Monica McInerney That was my first go at reading a McInerney novel and I didn't finish it either. I found it plain boring. Are her other works better?

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
Another one I didn't finish but I do intend giving this author another go and will probably buy THaR.

When it comes to GRR Martin and his Song of Ice and Fire my only hint to readers would be do NOT pick out favourites-He tends to kill them off! Grrrr @ the author!

Bec :) [/quote]

I haven't read any of her other books Bec! I think they've only started to publish, or re-publish, her books in the UK, but going by this one I wouldn't be tempted to read any others :(

I did enjoy House at Riverton, although it did have a few slowish bits and I know some people found it too slow. Could have probably done with some editing but nothing like as sluggish as TDR.
Currently reading: "Longstone" by L J Ross

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Madeleine
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Currently reading: "Longstone" by L J Ross
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Location: Essex/London

Post by Madeleine » Sat December 3rd, 2011, 12:50 pm

December

"Mud, Muck and Dead Things" by Ann Granger - new murder mystery series set in the Cotswolds, a sort of spin-off from her Mitchell and Markby series featuring one of the other detectives: Inspector Jess Campbell, who investigates the suspicious death of a young girl whose body is found on a nearly derelict farm. I enjoyed this, it was an easy, well-written read and I look forward to the next one in the series. 7/10

"The Magicians' Guild" by Trudi Canavan - first in a trilogy (although a prequel is also available) of sci-fi/fantasy novels in which a young slum-dwelling girl suddenly discovers she has magical powers and finds herself hunted by the eponymous Guild. The first half of the book involves much running through underground passages and hiding in underground rooms and I found it pretty repetitive, however in the second half the girl, Sonea, is cornered by the magicians and taken away to their headquarters to see if she can be persuaded to join them, and it is this which forms the basis of the second half of the book. There is also a vengeful magician who wants to train Sonea himself, and a mysterious assassin, whose identity is, of course, known pretty much only to Sonea, although she does confide in a couple of other magicians too. The second half of the book was much better than the first, and although the series looks promising I thought there was too much repetition. However, things have been set up well for the sequel, and I just hope that there is more flow to the story in the subsequent books. 7/10

"Agatha Raisin and the Busy Body" by M C Beaton - the latest instalment in the light-hearted detective series featuring former PR guru turned private investigator Agatha, who has moved from London to the Cotswolds. When an over-zealous health and safety inspector is murdered, the list of suspects is pretty substantial, as he had upset pretty much an entire village over his reaction to their Christmas decorations - too dangerous to climb up onto a roof to put up lights, or a Xmas tree, etc. But then one of the main suspects is also murdered, and the woman's son asks Agatha to investigate. As usual, Agatha clashes with the local police, the suspects and the other residents of the village, and although there are more deaths, including a particularly nasty one which is very close to home for Agatha and her team, the book is very amusing and a quick easy read. Unusually for this series, the story takes place over a whole year, and subsequently feels rather rushed and breathless, but all is resolved, and there's even the hint of romance for Agatha. An undemading, and at times, funny read. 7/10

Shakespeare's Christmas by Charlaine Harris - 3rd in the "Shakespeare" series, although Shakespeare is a small town in Arkansas in this case, and the home of Lily Bard. In this story, Lily goes back to her home town of Bartley for her sister's wedding, which is taking place during the Christmas season. She hasn't been back for a long time, not since she moved away to try to put the past behind her after being viciously attacked, and tensions run high with her family and old friends. Things look up a bit when her new boyfriend, Jack Leeds, a private investigator, comes to Bartley too, but he's not there just to keep her company and give her moral support - he's also working on the cold case of a baby girl who disappeared several years ago; new evidence has recently appeared, and one of the suspects in the possible abduction of the baby is Lily's prospective brother-in-law. I enjoyed this, it's written in CH's usual fast-paced style and, whilst it doesn't have the humour of the Sookie books, it's easy to read and the characters are all quite believable -and no supernaturals at all! 7.5/10

A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris - just managed to squeeze in one more book at the end of the year. This one - although Amazon erroneously call it the 11th book in the series - is a sort of companion piece to the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire series, consisting of 5 short stories. Two of them, "Fairy Dust" and "One Word Answer", fill in the gaps in books 5 and 6, "Lucky" is pure whimsy, and my favourites were "Dracula Night" in which vampire bar Fangtasia prepares to celebrate Dracula's birthday, with head area vamp Eric beside himself with excitement at the possibility of a visit from the Count himself, and "Gift Wrap", another slightly whimsical story set during Christmas Eve, as Sookie prepares to celebrate Christmas alone, until she goes to investigate a strange noise in the woods that border her house and, this being a Sookie story, inevitably finds yet another hunky guy in distress; quite a nice story though. An easy-to-read little book, but you need to have read at least the first 5 books to get the most from the stories. 7.5/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Sat December 31st, 2011, 11:59 am, edited 5 times in total.
Currently reading: "Longstone" by L J Ross

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