Thursday, 30 April 2009

Digital Fortress - Dan Brown

When the National Security Agency's invincible code-breaking machine encounters a mysterious code it cannot break the agency calls in its head cryptographer, Susan Fletcher, a brilliant, beautiful mathmatician. What she uncovers sends shock waves through the corrisors of power. The NSA is being held hostage - not by guns or bombs, but by a code so complex that if released would cripple US intelligence.

Caught in an accelerating tempest of secrecy and lies, Fletcher battles to save the agency she believes in. Betrayed on all sides, she finds herself fighting not only for her country but for her life and, in the end, for the life of the man she loves....

Well it certainly made a change to have a female in the main role...... and one with brains, as well as beauty. ;0)

As with all of DB's books the start is initially slow, as he introduces the characters and sets the scene........ but then the story sets off at a smart trot, gradually gathering speed until it's rushing towards the ending at an exciting breakneck speed, with a few twists and turns along the way to keep you guessing.

Although a couple of parts (such as "prime" - need to read the book to know what I mean. LOL) had me wondering if the characters were being deliberately thick, am glad to say that others did keep me guessing until the reveal, which is always the sign of a good, well written read to me. :0)
Thanks for sending the book Lynn - thoroughly enjoyed it. :0)

Am registering this with Book Crossing and adding it to my Swap List - shout if you'd like it.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Sands of Time - Barbara Erskine

It was good to find out what happened to the characters from Whispers in the Sand but I have to agree with Julie on preferring to have those two short stories added to the main book to round that story off better.

It's a good "by the bed" book for when you're tired - one story is easily read before you nod off - but I much prefer her full-length novels to really get into a story. Just as a side note: I found that one thing that is very noticeable through the stories is the recurring theme of damaged and/or broken relationships...... which made me realise it also recurs in some of her main books too. Just makes me wonder.....

Book is registered with Book Crossing and will be going to a new home shortly. :0)

Monday, 20 April 2009

Rush Home Road

This is a beautifully written book. Rush Home Road centres around the world of a woman called Addy Shadd who at the age of seventy is left to look after a boisterous mouthy five year old, Sharla Cody, after she is abandoned into her care by her mother. The books storyline is split between the trailer park where the two currently reside, and the seventy years of Addy's tumultuous life, both sentimental and powerful. Growing up as a black female in the U.S in the thirties and forties and then into the fifties, the book deals with issues such as racism, rape and murder and their devastating consequences but also shows that some people do triumph in the face of adversity. It's a tale of the survival of a woman who had to fight through no fault of her own, and the way in which the oddest most unlikely relationships can grow. It is ultimately a book full of hope, wonderfully thought out, thoroughly touching, and thought provoking and also terribly heartbreaking. Be prepared with a box of tissues because you will cry more than once; although not just with sadness but with joy, laughter, sympathy and recognition.
As you can see I loved this book and on finishing it felt bereft that I had finished; I wanted it to go on and on for ever!

Sunday, 19 April 2009

The Other Queen - Philippa Gregory

Two women fighting for one man; two queens competing for dominance.

Mary Queen of Scots is in flight from rebels in Scotland, and puts her trust in her cousin Elizabeth. But she finds herself imprisoned as the enforced quest of George Talbot and his determined new wife, Bess of Hardwick. The couple welcome the doomed queen, certain that this will bring them nothing but advantage in the competitive world of Tudor England. To their horror they find that their home becomes the epicentre of intrigue against Elizabeth. Even their own loyalty comes under suspicion, as George's hopeless admiration for the beautiful Mary is impossible to hide.

The conspiracies come together in the greatest threat that Elizabeth has ever faced. She has no choice but to instruct her spy-master, Cecil, to set the trap to catch her cousin. But even he is caught by the spell of this remarkable young woman, who is prepared to die rather than deny her need for freedom.

I read this book in about three days - I just could not put it down. Each chapter is written from either Mary, Bess or George's point of view. The intrigue is seen from all sides, as is the conspiracy. It becomes very involved with other character who cross each of the three's path with different affect. The story line moves at as fast a pace as the change of location as the trio move around England at the request and sometimes whim of Elizabeth, or is it Cecil that makes these decisions?

This is the first Philippa Gregory book I have read and I am now hooked. I bought this one because it is on offer in Waterstones (spend over £10 and the book is half price) but it is also on offer on Amazon.

A really entriging and absorbing read.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The Embers of Heaven

A rich, magical saga, set in eighteenth-century China, which will appeal to fans of Joanne Harris and Amy Tan. In The Secrets of Jin-Shei, eight women pledge themselves as sisters in the name of jin-shei, the unbreakable bond, the promise that lasts a lifetime. This sisterhood shapes their lives, their country and their world. "The Embers of Heaven" begins four hundred years later. In eighteenth-century Syai, and its capital city of Linh-an, things have changed beyond recognition. On the face of it, women are more equal than they have ever been. But the men run the machines, the factories, and the technology. Women have lost the ability to weave their fates and influence the course of events. The foundation of an empire once rested on jin-shei and its customs. It connected women from every walk of life and formed a bond that empowered every woman who swore the oath. The advancement of printing, the developments of technology and the changes in society have seemed to improve the daily lives of the underclass, but women have been stripped of this sacred pact. Amais is heir to her poet-ancestress's manuscripts and journals.The journals are all in jin-ashu, the women's tongue, taught sketchily to Amais by her mother. Amais has the clear vision of an outsider looking in. Combined with her deep and instinctive bond to her ancestors and her culture, she determines to reinvent the Women's Country and bring the jin-shei back. But just as her crusade begins, she and her family are caught up in the storm of history: the whirlwind of the Golden Rising - a people's revolution that is fated to destroy much that was once valuable, gracious and beautiful. "The Embers of Heaven" is a magical epic, with delightful characters, an intriguing scenario and a real feeling of place and history. It has a wonderful combination of character, romantic lives, and spiritual quest, set against a credible historical background.

Although the book was an ok read I won't be rushing to buy anymore

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

The sinking of the Nantucket whaleship Essex by an enraged spermwhale far out in the Pacific in November 1820 set in train one of the most dramatic sea stories of all time. Accounts of the unprecedented whale attack inspired Herman Melville's mighty novel Moby Dick, but In the Heart of the Sea goes beyond these events to describe what happened when the twenty mixed-race crewmen took to three small boats and what, three months later, the whaleship Dauphin, cruising off the coast of South America, discovered when it spotted a tiny boat sailing erratically across the open ocean.

To be honest I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I first started reading this book. I've read a fair bit of non-fiction over the years on a wide variety of subjects, some of which turn out to be those dry, fact and date ridden books that eventually overwhelms your brain so you can't remember what happened when or to whom. In the Heart of the Sea wasn't in that category - though there were still plenty of dates and facts in there, the whole is presented in such an easily readable style it was more like dipping into a good, well written novel.

It isn't always an overly comfortable read though: it deals with the hard facts and realism of the whaling industry in the 1800's and what happens when the crew find themselves stuck in three small boats in the open ocean with limited supplies. Though it shows what depths human beings can plumb when forced into extreme conditions what mostly shines through is how strong the will to survive can be and how resilient, and courageous, some people can be when faced with such extremes and the hard decisions that have to be made. What I liked was that the book didn't end at the point of rescue but went on to recount what subsequently happened to the few survivors.

All told, I feel the author skillfully manages to tell a factual story in an intelligent and readable way, without glorifying the crew members or being overly sensationalistic with the awful events that unfolded. I would definitely like to read more by this author.

This is a Book Crossing book sent to me by a fellow Book Crosser - I would like to pass it on for someone else to read and journal on and who will then pass it on to someone else who will be willing to do the same, to keep this book travelling. Shout if you would like it. :0)

Sunday, 12 April 2009

The Boleyn Inheritance By Philippa Gregory

This is a wonderfully atmospheric evocation of the court of Henry VIII, and the one woman who destroyed two of his queens. The year is 1539 and the court of Henry VIII is increasingly fearful at the moods of the ageing sick king. With only a baby in the cradle for an heir, Henry has to take another wife and the dangerous prize of the crown of England is won by Anne of Cleves. She has her own good reasons for agreeing to marry a man old enough to be her father, in a country where to her both language and habits are foreign. Although fascinated by the glamour of her new surroundings, she senses a trap closing around her. Katherine is confident that she can follow in the steps of her cousin Anne Boleyn to dazzle her way to the throne but her kinswoman Jane Boleyn, haunted by the past, knows that Anne's path led to Tower Green and to an adulterer's death. The story of these three young women, trying to make their own way through the most volatile court in Europe at a time of religious upheaval and political uncertainty,

I have devoured this book from beginning to end, It took me less than 24 hrs to read it, I was captivated once again by the Tudor era!
This book is told through each of the three women, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Jane Boleyn. And how one brings down the other two!
If you liked the The Other Boleyn Girl this is a must as well!
This book is from the library so cannot pass it on!

Sands of Time - Barbara Erskine

This one is a collection of over 20 stories. It was nice to see what happened to the characters from Whispers in the Sand and a conclusion to Louisa, Anna, Carstairs and Toby as they were left hanging in that book. I would have much preferred the 50 pages in the front of this book and the 50 pages in the concluding chapter to have been added to Whispers in the Sand although i did enjoy the 'little stories' inbetween.

I know Karan and Rachael have this one and Karen has read it, so i am taking it to the stitching club with me to give to one of the ladies there as i think she will like to try it.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

House of Echoes By Barbara Erskine

A woman unexpectedly inherits a beautiful English manor from the mother she never knew--a place where her two young brothers died many years ago. The locals whisper of a dire curse on both the house and her family, as eerie, inexplicable occurrences begin to threaten her own two sons. Now she is completely on her own to face a centuries-old malevolence--with the lives of those she holds dear hanging in the balance!
I really enjoyed this book, but part of it being quite disturbing really!
Although the Female heroine lacks backbone once again, as do most of Barbara Erskine main leading ladies in the books I have read, something I detest I must admit, (yes I really want to shake these characters if they were real)I would love just once for one of them to not be a total walkover, or maybe only we the readers can see what total doormats these women are! But I did enjoy the story!!
Sorry! just had to have a little rant over my pet hate!!
Julie I will get this out to you next week if you still want it

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Angels and Demons - Dan Brown

When a world renowned scientist is found brutally murdered, a Harvard professor, Robert Langdon, is summoned to identify the mysterious symbol seared onto the dead man's chest. His conclusion: it is the work of the Illuminati, a secret brotherhood presumed extinct for nearly four hundred years - now reborn to continue their bitter vendetta against their sworn enemy, the Catholic church.

In Rome, the college of cardinals assembles to elect a new Pope. Yet somewhere within the walls of the Vatican an unstoppable bomb of terrifying power relentlessly counts down to oblivion. While the minutes tick away Langdon joins forces with Vittoria Vetra, a beautiful and mysterious Italian scientist, to decipher the labyrinthine trail of ancient symbols that snakes across Rome to the long-forgotten Illuminati lair - a secret refuge wherein lies the only hope for the Vatican.

But with each revelation comes another twist, another turn in the plot, which leaves Langdon and Vetra reeling and at the mercy of a seemingly invincible enemy.....

The book initially seemed to be a little on the slow side and I wondered if I was going to get into it......... then everything seemed to pull together and along came an exciting read that became distinctly unputdownable as it raced towards the final few chapters and the conclusion.

There are a few minor similarities with The Da Vinci Code, with the symbology, secret brotherhood, clues and a trail to follow angle, but despite this it's a distinctly different read and, IMO, more thrilling. Despite the fact that I had suspicions about the Illuminati leaders identity some time before it was finally revealed it didn't spoil the story or the ultimate revelations.

All told I would class it as the better book of the two and will now be on the look-out for more of Dan Brown's books.

Am registering this with the Book Crossing site and adding it to my Swap List - shout if you'd like it. :0)

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. By Mark Haddon

Christopher is 15 and lives in Swindon with his father. He has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism. He is obsessed with maths, science and Sherlock Holmes but finds it hard to understand other people. When he discovers a dead dog on a neighbour's lawn he decides to solve the mystery and write a detective thriller about it. As in all good detective stories, however, the more he unearths, the deeper the mystery gets - for both Christopher and the rest of his family.

From the Back Cover
Fifteen-year-old Christopher has a photographic memory. He understands maths. He understands science. What he can't understand are other human beings. When he finds his neighbour's dog lying dead on the lawn, he decides to track down the killer and write a murder mystery about it. But what other mysteries will he end up uncovering?

Well this one I read after my son Reece, got it out of the school library. It was recommended because of the main character having Aspergers Syndrome, and it certainly helped me understand a little better what my son goes through, even though his Aspergers is not the same. But I think it is a book that everyone should read, then maybe they wouldn't be so critical of parents and their children who have a form of autism.
This book made me cry, laugh and well, nod my head in understanding. My son liked this book because of the mystery! lol