Currently I'm reading: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

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Peggy Farooqi
Mum of 3 (1994, 1995, 1998)- born in East Germany --lived in UK/ Kent since 1993 -- studied criminology -- love reading / writing / travelling / knitting / cats. 
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7 February 2016





Title
The Tommyknockers
Author
Stephen King 
Publisher
GP Putnam's Sons
Publication Date
November 1987
Pages
558
Genre
horror, alien


Description (from Amazon)


Everything is familiar. But everything has changed.
Coming back to the little community is like walking into a nightmare for Jim Gardener, poet, drunk, potential suicide.
It all looks the same, the house, the furniture, Jim's friend Bobbi, her beagle (though ageing), even the woods out at the back.
But it was in the woods that Bobbi stumbled over the odd, part-buried object and felt a peculiar tingle as she brushed the soft earth away.
Everything is familiar. But everything is about to change.

My thoughts

King on best form here. 
He brings us (once more) to a small town in Maine called Haven. This is where Roberta 'Bobbi' Anderson lives on an inherited farm. In the first few chapters of the book, the story is set when Bobbi walks into the woods with her dog and sees a piece of metal sticking out of the forest grounds. Curious, she examines it and finds that it is much bigger then she initially thought (not a tin can!) and she starts digging around it.

 Almost straight away, she feels a compulsion to continue digging. But this is not the only change. She also seems to have strange abilities, being able to repair household items and invent things for example a type-writer who writes by purely her thoughts. Bobbi's friend James Gardner ('Gard'), an alcoholic and almost of the brink of suicide, visits her and starts digging with her, but he is unaffected from the changes happening as he has a large steel plate in his head, courtesy of a skiing accident in his youth.

As Bobbi and Gard continue to dig, the whole town starts to be effected. People not only become able to make objects work in strange ways, but can mind-read and will communicate with each other by mind only. The whole town changes and is 'becoming'. And it is getting weirder and weirder as the strange and alien force which inhibits the object in the woods is taking everything over. 

The book is separated in 3 parts. Part 1 deals with Bobbi and Gard, how Bobbi finds the object and a bit of a background story on Gard (great descriptions again here of the fallout of alcoholism). Part 2 introduces us to the people in town and what is happening to each of them. Part 3 is the conclusion and what's happening once the object is fully out of the ground. It also sees the 'resurrection' of Gard who spends the first 2 parts in a bit of a drunken stupor. 

I loved it, I never got bored and felt the story moves along nicely. There is a bit of a dip in the middle, but the middle deals with how people in town are effected and all the strange things they do, and that makes a very interesting read. The conclusion also left me satisfied. On a whole, what makes it scary is that it is actually a believable story. Even though King is talking Aliens here, it all takes place on our planet earth and happens to ordinary people. 


3 February 2016




Title
Black House (The Talisman 2)
Author
Stephen King and Peter Straub
Publisher
Ballantine Books
Publication Date
September 2003
Pages

Genre
horror, detective

Description from Amazon


Black House is the second collaboration by Stephen King and Peter Straub, two of the most important writers in genre fiction, and the expectations of their first team-up were considerable. But despite its impressive sales, many were disappointed by The Talisman. Rather than a truly chilling epic, what we got was a rather derivative and by-the-numbers fantasy saga. So fans were reluctant to be too hopeful about their second collaboration... but we needn't have worried. Black House is much more like it, although even here King and Straub have not quite delivered the ultimate horror marathon--this is a psycho-thriller in the vein of Thomas Harris, but none the worse for that. And there are supernatural elements. This is the tale of a small American town held in the grip of evil. Three children have vanished, abducted by a monster called The Fisherman (after a legendary murderer) with a craving for children's flesh. Ex-detective Jack Sawyer, dealing with his own personal problems (in which he is tormented by visions of another world), is keen to stay away from the horrors of this case, recognising how bad involvement will be for him. But--guess what?--Sawyer is soon supping full on the horrors, and the reader is in for an exhilarating (and highly disturbing) experience. Jack is a powerfully realised protagonist, and his journey into the dark world of The Fisherman is genuinely unsettling. Although more of King's fingerprints are on this one than Straub's (notably the conflicted hero, struggling with his own demons), the co-authors' individual styles merge indivisibly in this highly impressive chiller. --Barry Forshaw


My thoughts


I thoroughly enjoyed this book. As I previously mentioned in my review on The Talisman Book 1 , I had trouble getting into and even getting through Book 1, as I just did not seem to understand this other world, The Territories and the story was too removed for my liking from 'our world'. However, in Book 2, the story mostly plays out in our world, with links to the other world, The Territories. And the link is not immediately obvious. Jack, our hero, obviously has blocked out his memories of the Territories, but will have to go back to not only save the missing children, but also to save the world from wider evil. 

The characters are again, beautifully drawn and unlike in the first book, there are quite a few characters whom Jack encounters this time and who are envolved, and all of them are from our world. In typical King fashion, the story is based around small-town America and its citizens. My favourite character has to be the Biker (who's name escapes me at the moment).

The book is again co-written King and Straub. I have not read any of Straub's other work, but the reading flows without problem and I did not notice two different styles of writers - if there are, they are certainly nicely merged here. 

In resume, if you are a King fan and maybe didn't get on with Book 1, give this a try. I have to say though that while you can read Book 2 without reading Book 1, I think it helps you to understand and get the 'little hints' early on in the book, and without reading Book 1 first you may struggle to understand the links. 



24 December 2015





Title
Tipping the Velvet
Author
Sarah Waters
Publisher
Virago
Publication Date
1998
Pages
480
Genre
historical romance


Description (from Amazon)


Piercing the shadows of the naked stage was a single shaft of rosy limelight, and in the centre of this was a girl: the most marvellous girl - I knew it at once! - that I had ever seen. 
A saucy, sensuous and multi-layered historical romance, Tipping the Velvet follows the glittering career of Nan King - oyster girl turned music-hall star turned rent boy turned East End 'tom'.



My thoughts

I loved this book! And it affirmed my love for Sarah Waters. This was the second book of hers I bought. My first one was Fingersmith which was an impulse buy in a book shop, and as I loved this book, I then looked for more of Sarah Waters and was not disappointed. 

Tipping the Velvet is a historical romance book and the story of a lesbian self-discovery, telling the story of Nancy 'Nan' Astley aka Nancy King and set mainly in London's East End during Victorian times. 

Nancy lives with her family of sell Oysters in their restaurant in Herne Bay, and can't imagine nothing else but to eventually marry her boyfriend and live as an oyster girl in Kent. But then she visits the the local theatre and sees Kitty Butler, a male impersonator, and though she doesn't know it initially, falls in love. She joins Kitty and stage and the two become not only a double act but also lovers. But there is no happy end in this relationship. But Nan is a survivor, and she will have many more adventures and loves to live in Victorian London.

I loved reading Nan's story, and how she makes her way. I also found the descriptions of London and life at the time fascinating. From the theatre scene to 'lady's club' to rent boys to political activists, all packed into this page turner. 

Yes, there are some lesbian love scenes, but they are by no means explicit, but very tasteful (pardon the pun). The developing romance(s) for Nan are like any other romances really told often before, from madly in love, being hurt, and finally finding a soul mate, and all this in prude Victorian London!


3 December 2015




Title
Bad Billy
Author
Jimmy Pudge
Publisher
Burning Man Productions
Publication Date
September 2011
Pages
64
Genre
Horror, crime, psychological

Synopsis

Bad Billy has spent his entire life in Mama's basement. When the chains break free and he escapes into the world, he must learn the difference between being a monster and a human being.

It's going to be a bloody education.



My thoughts

At only 64 pages, I was happy to give this a try. And I don't mind a bit of blood and gore ever now and again. And you are certainly going to get this here.

Bad Billy is the evil product / spawn of an incestuous relationship. And there is always a story behind the evil. Not only are Bad Billy's parents siblings, they are also suffering from various degrees of mental and physical disabilities. Not being 'bad' people themselves, they can't cope with whats before them. Billy probably just wants to be loved, but after being chained up in the basement and fed only roadkill for all his childhood and adolescence, there is not much human feelings left in Billy.

This short book is about 30% of backstory, and the rest is action - what does Billy actually do when he escapes. Don't try to analyse it too deeply and look for extensive psychological backgrounds. This would not be possible within this short book, and is not the aim of the author I would think. Just simply see it as a feast of horror and human evil. is the whole story a bit over the top? Yes, maybe, but it also makes weirdly addictive reading.  

27 November 2015



Title
The Talisman (Part 1)
Author
Stephen King and Peter Straub
Publisher
Viking
Publication Date
November 1984
Pages
786
Genre
Dark Fantasy

Synopsis (from Amazon)


In a terrifying trip across America, young Jack Sawyer is searching for the Talisman, the only thing that can save his dying mother. His quest takes him into the menacing Territories where violence, surprise and the titanic struggle between good and evil reach across a mythic landscape.


My thoughts

This book is a collaboration of Stephen King and American Novelist and Poet Peter Straub.  There is a Part 2 to this book ('Black House'). Part 1 gives an ending which is not a cliffhanger, and therefore can be read on it's own. I have yet to read Black House, but so I understand, whereas in Part 1 our main protagonist, Jack Sawyer, is a 12 year old boy, in Part 2 he is an adult who will have to re-visit his previous adventures. So I kind of guess that it may be helpful to have read Part 1 before going into Part 2. 

At 786 pages, this is not a quick read, but then many of King's books are about this size. (The Kindle edition has actual page numbers which is nice.) I have not read anything else of Straub's work. You would not be able to say that this was a book written by two different authors, and the story flows without an obvious difference in style.

The story is a typical 'quest' where our main protagonist (12 year old Jack Sawyer) leaves his home (as it happens, a hotel he stays with his mother) and goes in search for a particular item (a talisman), has to overcome obstacles and at the end, returns to his initial place, the hotel. There is the personal reason for Jack to find the Talisman - to save his mum's life, but, as he learns in his travels, this also has wider implications for the world. It is again a struggle between the good and the bad. 

It is also a story of a parallel world, the 'Territories' , where everyone in this, our world, seems to have a 'twinner'. As Jack will find out, his father and also his father's business partner were well aware of the Territories. 

I know that many King fans love this book, but I have mixed feelings. For some reasons, I have not taken like I do to most other of his works. Part of the problem might be that I am not a great fan of fantasy worlds. I did not always properly understand the Territories and the concept of Twinners. Are they two people, are the the same person in different worlds? How exactly does it work in the Territories?  There were certainly parts as well which I liked a lot. The concept of the Territories, a parallel world, is so interesting and has great promise.  I could often image that strange, different world and who Jack moved between the worlds. And the characters are all so wonderfully drawn out. I loved the character of wolf. Maybe I should re-read it at some stage

I occurred to me that King used the idea of a parallel world again in 22/11/63 - I absolutely loved that book and fully understood the concept there which is more time travel then parallel world.

24 October 2015



....

Title
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter 7)
Author
J K Rowling
Publisher
Bloomsbury Children 
Publication Date
July 2007
Pages
640
Genre
fantasy, children


Description (from Amazon)


As he climbs into the sidecar of Hagrid's motorbike and takes to the skies, leaving Privet Drive for the last time, Harry Potter knows that Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters are not far behind. The protective charm that has kept Harry safe until now is now broken, but he cannot keep hiding. The Dark Lord is breathing fear into everything Harry loves, and to stop him Harry will have to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes. The final battle must begin - Harry must stand and face his enemy.


My thoughts

The sevenths and final adventure for Harry, Ron, Hermoine & co.

I knew the story and also the ending from the movie which I watched first, but this did not matter - it was still a fantastic read and I felt myself being drawn into the final battle which Harry, Hermione and Ron are facing. The writing is flawless as always and JK Rowling knows how to create tension and tell a fantastic story. 

I also felt that this book was a very fitting ending to the Harry Potter Books, creating the final climax and having a nice little 'wrap up' at the end. Without trying to give to much away, I think most know that Harry does indeed survive his adventures, and the last chapter tells us what Harry and his friends are doing 20 years later. 








5 October 2015





.....

Title
After You
Author
James Farmer
Publisher
CreateSpace
Publication Date
August 2013
Pages
201
Genre

Fiction, Romance, Contemporary

Description (from Amazon)

‘The day we met. Our first kiss. Our first dance. The night we first made love. The first time your text didn’t end with an X. The day you said it was over.’

It was supposed to last forever...

Is it ever possible to pick up the pieces and start again after losing The One?

An honest and evocative tale detailing the aftermath of the break-up that was never meant to happen.

My thoughts

At only just over 200 pages, this little book can be read almost in one/two sittings, and only 99p at the moment (I've picked it up as a Freebie from Amazon a while ago).

The story of a break-up, as simple as that. No hidden agenda and no big twists and turns in the middle nor a huge revelation at the end. I could almost physically feel the pain of the protagonist. And even though the author says at the end that it is not based on personal experience, it certainly feels that way. The way the raw emotions are described, it feels like you can only write about it in that way if you 'have been there'. It starts out depressing - and that's the point of it I think, as the author wants to show how incredibly hard it was. And that's it's not a one-way street but have throw-backs. How your friends think they are helping you but actually just seem to make at worst. At least at the beginning.

But there is a positive message at the end. I don't think it is too raw to read if you are just going through a difficult break-up, as it shows that others have been there, and there is hope. (I know it's fiction but even fiction taken from real life here for sure.)