Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games

Sixteen year old Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12, an area of the country that was previously North America but is now known as Panem. Every year the Capitol run the Hunger Games. A brutal reality TV show where the participants aged between 12 and 18 are picked by lottery from the surrounding districts to compete to the death. The last person alive is declared the winner. When Katniss’ sister is picked to take part Katniss volunteers to take her place and begins the battle for her life in the arena.

I had heard a lot about The Hunger Games so when I saw the books on special offer I bought them and jumped them to the top of my to read list. I read a little bit of YA but not a huge amount. Most of the time when reading YA I personally feel it suffers for it and would be better had it been written as an adult book. With The Hunger Games I would say the opposite is true, it works perfectly as it is and it would have suffered had it been written for adults.

Katniss is an interesting character, flawed but likeable, tough but not without weakness. The other supporting characters are also good, I did find Peeta a little annoying though! The story is fast paced, I pretty much sat and read it in one sitting. I liked the imagery of the future world and the difference in living conditions between the Capitol and the districts.

It's straight on to book two for me, looking forward to finding out what happens!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Niki Valentine – The Haunted

Sue and Martin visit Scotland for a holiday for a holiday ten years after visiting the same area on their honeymoon. They decide to trek to a remote boothy to spend a night in the wilderness but get cut off and stranded there by bad weather. There seems to be some kind of presence at the boothy and the couple soon start bickering. The disagreements become more nasty as time wears on and they couple start to think that they may not make it out alive.

I was drawn into this book quite quickly, however, I did find it a little slow and repetitive at times. Martin and Sue would probably have been better off getting a divorce rather than a second honeymoon as their relationship seems a little rocky before they even set off into the wilderness. Neither character is particularly likeable but they were still readable despite that fact that I wasn’t too bothered if they made it out alive or not.

I did enjoy the story and read it quickly but ultimately it was pretty forgettable. There was nothing particularly scary or memorable about it. I may read some more Niki Valentine in future but she is not an author I will actively make an effort to read, although if I see a book by her and like the sound of it I will most likely give it a go.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Adam Nevill – The Ritual

Four old friends decide to go on a reunion holiday walking in the Swedish wilderness but they realise that they have little left in common and two of them are not as fit as they should be for a trip like this. They decide to take a shortcut through some woods but find a gutted animal hanging from a tree then they end up lost, wet and scared in a strange old building which has ancient religious artefacts in it.

Having read Adam Nevill’s short story “On All London Underground Lines” in the collection The End of the Line I was keen to read a full length novel and The Ritual sounded interesting so I picked myself up a copy.

We are plunged straight into the story and the pacing remains pretty quick throughout. The characters were interesting with Hutch and Luke being the most likeable. My favourite characters were Loki and Fenris though and I had to keep googleing the bands mentioned as I like metal (although mostly they were too shouty / screamy for my taste, I prefer the more melodic, softer stuff).

I really enjoyed the story and found Nevill to be good at building tension and creating atmosphere. I will definitely be reading more of his books in the future and will be getting a copy of Apartment 16 to add to my to read pile!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Will Carver – Girl 4

Detective January David is hunting for a killer who has so far murdered three girls in London. When he is called to a fourth crime scene he is shocked to find that he knows the victim. She is still alive but in a critical condition. He has to find the killer before he strikes again.

I choose this book as part of the Criminal Plots Reading Challenge. This one is for the category “2011 Debut author”. I found it quite difficult to get a book that fitted the requirements for this category as I kept finding authors that I hadn’t heard of before and then discovering they had written several books already, then when I did find a new author I’d realise that their book was actually published in 2010 so I was really pleased when I discovered Will Carver and Girl 4.

This is an interesting take on a crime story. The narration of the book switches between the viewpoints of the detective January David, the killer and all of the victims which gives a really good mix of perspectives. It does mean that we don’t get any major character development though as we do not get as much time with each character as we would do if the whole book was from one perspective or less perspectives. I didn’t feel that was a major issue though as we still get a good feel for the characters involved.

I really enjoyed the story and quite liked the outcome. It seems that it is going to continue a little bit in a future book so that could be interesting. I liked Carver’s writing style so I am looking forward to reading more of his work in the future.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Tom Fletcher – The Leaping

Jack is fed up of his job in a Manchester call centre so when he meets Jennifer and has the opportunity to move away with her to Fell House in a remote part of the Lake District he jumps at the chance. He misses his friend though and feels that perhaps there is something not quite right about the house. When his friends arrange a huge birthday / housewarming party it seems like a great idea. However, as the night progresses and some uninvited guests turn up it seems that there may be something lurking in the fells that Jack and his friends really don’t want to meet.

After reading The Thing on the Shore earlier in the year I was keen to read Tom Fletcher’s first novel, The Leaping. The two books are apparently supposed to be a series but there are only minor links between the two so reading out of sequence didn’t matter.

Tom Fletcher has a very unique and distinctive writing style that I personally really like. I liked the characters and felt that the characterisation was one of the strongest elements of the book. I love the fact that they are just normal people like you or I that are put into a scary situation.

The story itself was good, slowly building throughout. The narration switches between Jack and Frances and it’s interesting to get the two different viewpoints. I should have read this book when I was on holiday in the Lake District in November, that would have been quite creepy.

I’m very much looking forward to the next book Ravenglass Eye. I’m not sure when it’s released but when it it it will be jumping up my to read pile!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Stephen King – 11.22.63

Jake Epping is a normal thirty-five year old teacher going about his business until the day a dying friend lets him into a secret and asks him a huge favour. Al discovered a time portal back to 1958 in the store room of his diner and had been using it to buy cheap meat for the diner and to try and change history by stopping the assignation of JFK. However, Al develops cancer and is not fit enough to continue with the task so he passes the information on to Jake and asks him to carry out his final wish. Jake is not entirely convinced but decides to take up the challenge and begins a journey to change the course of history.

I’ll be completely honest here, when I heard that Stephen King’s new book was about someone going back in time to stop the JFK assassination I was disappointed. Being English I have little knowledge or interest in American history (we studied the Native Americans / the gold rush in history at school, which was actually quite interesting, but that’s about it) and I have no interest or knowledge whatsoever about American politics (I have very little interest in UK politics so anywhere outside the UK stands no chance!) But it’s Stephen King, he’s my favourite author and he knows how to tell a good story so I was still keen to get my hands on a copy. The second problem I had with the book is the title. It has taken me AGES to actually remember it. At first I was referring to it as “umm, it’s the date that JFK was shot.” Eventually I did actually manage to remember the date but in the UK format so I am still having to make a conscious effort not to call it 22.11.63 and to be honest, in a year’s time I’ll probably have forgotten the date again and reverted back to “umm, it’s the date that JFK was shot.”

But anyway, despite all of that I bought my copy and jumped it straight to the top of my (huge) to read pile. I was immediately drawn into the story and the characters (characterisation being one of King’s strongest talents). Most of the story is not about the assassination at all but about Jake’s journey through the past, the problems he encounters and the people he meets along the way.

One of the things I loved about this book was the references to King’s other works. He often does include little references but there seemed to be a lot this time. As part of the story takes place in Derry I suppose that helps as there is a big IT reference which is great. There are also several smaller references to other works dotted throughout the book.

I really enjoyed the book for the most part. There was a section towards the middle that I was less keen on as it was mostly Jake carrying out surveillance of Lee Harvey Oswald which was not very interesting and could probably have done with being a little shorter. Apart from that the book was brilliant with lots of things going on.

I’m now considering doing some King re-reads again (although I always feel guilty re-reading books when I have at least 150 books that I haven’t read yet sitting on my shelf awaiting my attention).