Saturday, 28 March 2009

Book Review: The Conjuror's Bird by Martin Davies

Genre: Historical FictionPublished by: Hodder & Stoughton (2005)Pages: 306

Synopsis: It seems a long time ago that Fitz and Gabby were together, with his work on extinct species about to make him world-famous. Now, it's his career that is almost extinct. Suddenly, though, the beautiful Gabby reappears in his life. She wants his help in tracing the history of The Mysterious Bird of Ulieta, a creature once owned by the great 18th Century naturalist Joseph Banks. It soon becomes clear that Fitz is getting involved in something more complicated - and dangerous - than the search for a stuffed bird. To solve the puzzle, he must uncover the identity of the amazing woman Banks loved - a woman who has disappeared from history as effectively as the specimen he is hunting.

The book has two parallel stories, separated by almost 300 years. The 1700's story gave you a real feel of how difficult and different life was for a young woman with no prospects at that time, and how dependent they were on men looking after them. This contrasts sharply with both Katya and Gabby, the two very independent women in the present time who face no such problems.

Alternate chapters effortlessly blended into each time line with ease so you didn't feel as if you were getting confused.

Combined with an usual mystery about a stuffed bird this is a lovely mix of history (Captain Cook's voyages) with a little romance........who was the mysterious woman in the woods that Joseph Banks becomes captivated by? And how is she connected to the missing bird?

Martin Davies slowly and tantalisingly reveals the connection between the different eras without giving too much away too soon.

This is an enjoyable mystery with a difference - not just for ornithologists!

First Line: "That Thursday evening I was working late, removing the skull of a dead owl"

Favourite Line: "The cage-reared bird will always partly fear the sky"

What I Liked about this book: How Martin Davies skilfully ended each chapter on a cliff-hanger

What I didn't Like: It was a little slow in the middle


Monday, 23 March 2009

Back from Budapest !

Budapest is such a lovely city ............. from the wide streets to the magnificent buildings, statues and monuments which are dotted around commemorating uprisings, war victories, and heroes in all of this country's long and interesting history.

Me studying my indispensable Budapest Guidebook!

I would definitely recommend this pocket book guide to all the sights along the River Danube ........... we could plan out just where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see ........... lots of descriptions of the various museums, parks, historic baths and spas, hotels, eating places, popular shopping areas, etc etc. Everything you could possibly want and more!

Published by: Dorling Kindersley (Feb 2008)
128 Pages

Friday, 13 March 2009

Book Review: Keeping The World Away by Margaret Forster

Keeping the World Away Keeping the World Away by Margaret Forster

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
I really liked the idea of the book ............ a painting owned by different women and the effect on them ............ but I couldn't finish it, I just found it too boring.

View all my reviews.

Book Review: Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell (Kurt Wallander, Book 1)

This is Henning Mankell's 1st book (of 9) in the Inspector Wallander series.

My review is based on the abridged audio version recently serialised on BBC Radio 7.

One frozen January morning at 5 am, Inspector Wallander responds to what he believes is a routine call out. When he reaches the isolated farmhouse he discovers a bloodbath. An old man has been tortured and beaten to death, his wife lies barely alive beside his shattered body, both victims of a violence beyond reason. The woman supplies Wallander with his only clue: the perpetrators may have been foreign. When this is leaked to the press, it unleashes racial hatred. Kurt Wallander is a senior police officer. . But now, with winter tightening and his activities being monitored by a tough-minded district attorney, Wallander must throw himself into a battle against time and against mounting xenophobia.

This is the first Henning Mankell book I've read/listened to and I know that he is a very popular Swedish best selling author.

Kurt Wallander is your typical over-worked Detective, working long hours but has tremendous dedication for the job at hand. In this book, Wallander has very few clues and no obvious motive for the horrendous murders of a farmer and his wife in their isolated farmhouse. There are some red herrings along the way and also some lucky breaks. It was an easy book to listen to, the writing is fast and pacy, but not too fast that you get confused.

What I Liked About This Book ~ It was a good murder mystery book and I certainly didn't guess 'who dunnit' which is always a bonus!

What I Didn't Like ~ The Swedish names were hard to remember but I know that's just me being pedantic! It is based in Sweden after all!

Why Did I Read It ~ I love a good detective story and I'd heard good things about Henning Mankell's books so I thought it was time that I tried one.

Would I Recommend It ~ Yes, and I'll certainly be looking out for his other books in the series.

Here is a list of the other books in the Kurt Wallander series ~

The Dogs of Riga

The White Lioness

The Man Who Smiled


The Fifth Woman

One Step Behind


The Pyramid

Monday, 9 March 2009

Book Review: The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block

Abel Haggard, 70, all alone on his farm in Texas, lives on memories of the family he has lost. Once he lived there with his brother, who had Alzheimer's disease, his brother's wife and their daughter. But since they've been gone, he has steadily sold bits of his farmland to the developers who have built 'mansions' all around him, his house is now ramshackle and he is just waiting...........

Hundreds of miles away, 15 year old Seth Waller (who's ambition is to be a Scientist) lives with his mother and father. Over the years Seth has come to realise that his mother is not well but doesn't know what's wrong with her. After an incident at home it is decided that it is for the best if she goes into a home. So begins Seth's quest to find out more about his mothers condition.

Each chapter is narrated by either Abel or Seth and we learn more of their past and how they come to this point in their lives. At first we think they have nothing in common but as Seth begins his 'empirical investigation' to uncover the roots of the disease we realise they are inextricably linked.

They also share the knowledge of a mythical land called Isidora where no-one remembers anything, no-one has a name and all is peaceful and happy. In some ways this reminded me of Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin which has a story within a story.

I can't believe that this is Stefan Merrill Block's debut novel...........he writes with such experience and assuredness for one so young.

Favourite Lines From The Book ~ 'Theorists support the hypothesis that our success as a species is based as much, if not more, on our ability to forget more than on our ability to remember'

What I Liked About This Book ~ The way the words just seemed to flow along with ease. I liked the way the author delved back and forth in time so we slowly began to learn the secrets of each family.

What I Didn't Like About The Book ~ I could have done with less of the scientific diagnoses, I thought they went on for too long and were too difficult to comprehend.

Why Did I Read This Book ~ It was being discussed on the radio a few months ago and it sounded like a book that I could enjoy and learn something from. I had a relative with Alzheimer's Disease and so I was already interested in the subject matter.

Would I Recommend It ~ some parts it is quite heavy going, but at the heart of it is an interesting and heart warming tale, a story of loss and faith and of how the mind remembers what's important and forgets the unimportant.

Published by: Faber and Faber Limited
Pages: 310

Friday, 6 March 2009


Don't you just love them! I use my local library an awful lot, I probably go in there twice a week, armed with a list of all the recommendations I've either read on the internet, heard about on the radio, seen on the TV or just from friends saying how much they've enjoyed a particular book.

I want to praise my wonderful library which, apparently, is one of the most popular and busiest in the UK despite being in a relatively small town.

After a major £1 million refurbishment in 2003, Blackburn Library has reinvented itself as a community resource with a retail feel – bright, spacious and funkily lit. It offers PDAs loaded with ebooks to take on holiday, comfy chairs, self service borrowing and a range of clubs including reading groups linked to others around the world, reflecting Blackburn’s diverse population.

In one corner of the library, near the CD's and DVD's, there is a wall-mounted plasma TV screen showing Sky Sports with comfy chairs, in another part you'll find young adults playing the latest games on a Playstation. Then in the main part is a large range of fiction and non-fiction titles, including many Audio Books, a Quick Choice section (picture shown above) ......... and that's just on the ground floor!

There's the Reference Library, Childrens Library, Learning Centre where the computers have internet access, Reading Room, Community History area for looking up newspapers etc. etc. so many things to mention. It's open 7 days a week, yes, 7 days!

It really is a credit to the people of Blackburn......and of course I mustn't forget there is the warm and friendly staff who are only too ready to help you. What more could one possibly want?!!

What's your library like?
Is it better than mine?
In what way?
Is it worse?
Do you have a library that's nearby or do you have to travel a long way?
Please feel free to leave me a comment.............

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

The 20 Best Selling Mass Market Fiction Books 2008 in UK*

  1. No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay
  2. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
  3. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
  4. This Year It Will Be Different by Maeve Binchy
  5. Book Of The Dead by Patricia Cornwell
  6. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
  7. The Outcast by Sadie Jones
  8. The Appeal by John Grisham
  9. Engleby by Sebastian Faulks
  10. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  11. The Secret Life Of A Slummy Mummy by Fiona Neill

  1. The Kite Runner (Film Tie-In) by Khaled Hosseini
  2. East Of The Sun by Julia Gregson
  3. Notes From An Exhibition by Patrick Gale
  4. Sepulchre by Kate Mosse
  5. Thanks For The Memories by Cecilia Ahern
  6. PS, I Love You (Film Tie-In) by Cecilia Ahern
  7. The Ghost by Robert Harris
  8. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  9. Exit Music by Ian Rankin

*52 Weeks Ending 27th December 2008 from the Nielsen BookScan (

It's amazing the effect that Richard and Judy have on book sales. Of the 17 authors in the chart, 11 of them have featured in their Book Club.

I have read
  • No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay 8/10
  • The Outcast by Sadie Jones 8/10
  • East Of The Sun by Julia Gregson 8/10
  • PS, I Love You by Cecilia Ahern 9/10
On my Bookshelf to be read
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • Notes From An Exhibition by Patrick Gale

The 20 best selling Hardback Fiction Books to come next .................

Monday, 2 March 2009

Book Review: The Pirate's Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson

Genre: Fiction
Headline Publishing Group
Pages: 512


An unforgettable story of love and adventure, spanning three decades of Jamaican history.Jamaica, 1946.; Errol Flynn washes up on in the Zaca", his storm-wrecked yacht.; Ida Joseph, the teenaged daughter of Port Antonio's Justice of the Peace, is intrigued to learn that the 'World's Handsomest Man' is on the island, and makes it her business to meet him.;For the jaded swashbuckler, Jamaica is a tropical paradise that Ida, unfazed by his celebrity, seems to share.;Soon Flynn has made a home for himself on Navy Island, where he entertains the cream of Hollywood at parties;that become a byword for decadence; - and;Ida has set her heart on marrying this charismatic older man who has singled her out for his attention.; Flynn and Ida do not marry, but Ida bears Flynn a daughter, May, who will meet her father but once.; The Pirate's Daughter" is a tale of passion and recklessness, of two generations of women and their battles for love and survivial, and of a nation struggling to rise to the challenge of hard-won independence.

For 14 year old Ida Joseph growing up in Jamaica in the 1940's, Errol Flynn brings the glamour and glitz of Hollywood to the small town where she lives. She can see Navy Island (which is about a mile from the coast) from her house and she loves the stories associated with it of Captain Bligh and Pirates and buried Treasure and of a ghost that walks the island, Sabine.

Her father becomes friends with Flynn and Ida meets his several times over the course of the next few years and, when she is 16, they become lovers. For Ida, he is the love of her life and she never stops loving him. For him, she is probably no-one special, just another one of his many conquests.

The author does not judge Flynn or his way of life, that is left to the reader to make their own mind up.

Ida then becomes pregnant with Flynn's daughter, May, the Pirate's daughter of the book's title. The second part of the book is concerned with May and how her mother struggles to bring up her daughter and look after her sick father. To do this, Ida goes to New York to earn some money, when May is 3. She comes back after a few years and the mother and daughter have to learn to get to know each other again and adjust to life together. All the while, knowing that Errol Flynn is living on Navy Island just a short taxi-boat ride away.............

The book also deals with serious issues of the violence surrounding Jamaica's independence and of how close to home it becomes.
I loved the descriptions of the Jamaican way of life, the food they ate, the mountains where Ida's grandmother lived where you had to ride on a donkey cart to reach her house!

An enjoyable read.


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