Northanger Abbey – by Val McDermid

24 10 2014

This book was my first venture into The Austen Project, where 6 current authors have been tasked with updating Jane Austen’s most famous novels. This is actually the second part of the project, with Sense and Sensibility being published by Joanne Trollope first, but this is just the one I grabbed in the supermarket to read!

I’m a great fan of Austen, but in all honesty, I’ve only read two of her books: Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. The rest are on my bookshelf and to-read list! But I’ve seen TV and/or film adaptations of them all, and love the stories that she writes.

The premise of the original is a girl who loves Gothic fiction and gets this a bit twisted with reality, being invited to join family friends in Bath for the season, and then making friends with people who live in Northanger Abbey, which sounds like something out of one of her books…. and I won’t spoil it with further details.

But that’s Austen, and this is someone else! For the most part I really enjoyed this book. In this edition, we have a home schooled girl who is into vampire novels, and her neighbours offer to take her to the Edinburgh Festival, and the plot follows similarly, we end up visiting Northanger Abbey and wondering what secrets lie within.

I think on the whole the updating of the book worked really well (although, as with any of these re-writes, it wouldn’t be anything without the story it was based on of course). That said, some bits really irritated me. There was a little too much mention of facebook, twitter, phone apps, and trying to get on the WiFi. Yes, this is a modern book, but it was a little too frequent and distracted from what was going on. Similarly some references to the Twilight series, which I worry might not be long term enough to last in this.

But what really bothered me, was references to other Jane Austen books she’d read. I think that if you’re going to write a Jane Austen based novel, you should probably assume the characters don’t know about the other ones – it’s not like the original novels references each other! Maybe I’m just being picky, but it bothered me when this happened!

northanger abbey

An Abundance of Katherines – by John Green

29 09 2014

Colin is 18 years old, and has just been dumped by Katherine IXX (yes that’s right, his 19th girlfriend called Katherine). There’s definitely a couple of parallels between this and The Rosie Project which I read recently – the lead character is a remarkably intelligent man, who struggles a little socially, and tries to find a way to formulate relationships. In the Rosie Project, this was by matching a vast amount of criteria. In this book, Colin is trying to find a formula to predict whether a relationship between two people would work, how long it would last, and who would be the dumper and who the dumpee.

Colin struggles with the fact that while he was a child prodigy, he hasn’t turned into a genius. He wants to be someone who matters. This leads to a lovely quote somewhere in the book: “And so we all matter – maybe less than a lot, but always more than none.”

The book actually follows Colin and his friend Hassan (who has his own issues to deal with) on a summer road trip to try and cheer Colin up, ending up in some random little town and that’s where the story unfolds.

Fairly light hearted mostly, a little confusing until I got used to the flashback stories of previous Katherines through the book, but some great stuff, including a highly mathematical appendix (starting from uber basic and building up) by an actual professor – lovely!

an abundance of katherines

Notes from a Small Island – by Bill Bryson

22 07 2014

From the outset this book had me cracking up audibly.

Bryson is an American writer and journalist, but lived over here for several years. This is written just before he and his wife take his family back to America so that his children can experience life there too, and so he takes one final lap of the UK using public transport. He visits both places he’s been to before and loved, and places he’s heard of and wanted to see before he leaves.

He started in the south, so I loved reading about places I know, and then gradually works northwards. He often goes off on tangents, either old anecdotes, or just thinks he loves, or finds peculiar (or both) about the British. These were probably the bits that made me laugh the most!

I really enjoyed the book, although the last few chapters did get a bit repetitive. He’d arrive in a new city by train, book into a hotel/guesthouse, try and find somewhere for dinner, and comment that all British high streets have the same shops, and some are ruining the original buildings with modern exteriors. But for the most of the book there was so much interest and humour I really did like it!

the complete notes

I’m going to take a break and read something else before reading the Big Country half of the book – but I’ll come back with that soon enough!

How to fall in love – by Cecelia Ahern

26 06 2014

Wait, Ineke finished a book in under a week? I find Cecelia Ahern‘s books just whizz by for me – partly because I struggle to put them down, and partly because they’re so easy to read I just fly through them when I am reading them!

Another of her more “real” books, the basic premise is that our main character, who has a massive addiction to self-help books, finds a guy about to jump off a bridge and to stop him taking the leap, agrees to convince him his life is worth living before his next birthday – which happens to be 2 weeks away.

We delve into all his problems, and discover some of hers at the same time, which she just seems to be trying to ignore. A very engaging and involving book, even right towards the end I couldn’t quite work out where it would end up – which is quite a pleasing quality in it. The overall thread was relatively predictable, which can be quite comforting for chick lit, but the details of how it would happen were a little harder to guess.

Definitely recommended as a heartwarming, easy read!

how to fall in love

Re-read: Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins

26 04 2014

The first time I read this I didn’t enjoy it that much, and I read it so quickly so as to find out what happens that I forgot most of it! My housemate would talk about a major plot point and I wouldn’t even remember that it happened, so ready for the first part of the film release later this year, I thought I should read it again!

I enjoyed it much more this time, and I did exactly the same as last time in that I read the last 150 pages (“part iii”) in pretty much one sitting other than stopping for lunch.

I still don’t like the end, I wanted it to end a little differently, but the story is strong, it still twists and turns right up until the end. Definitely a book that hooks you in.

But as we’re due the film soon, I still think I’ll avoid spoilers and just say I misjudged it a little last time, and it really is good!


Edit: 2nd May 2014

I can’t believe in my re-writing this, I forgot the major bit I intended to mention!

There’s a conversation between a couple of characters relatively early on in the book, which is set in the future. It seems to be to be a very direct comment on us:

“If we win, who would be in charge of the government?” Gale asks.

“Everyone, “Plutarch tells him. “We’re going to form a republic where the people of each district and the Capitol can elect their own representatives to be their voice in a centralized government. Don’t look so suspicious; it’s worked before.”

“In books,” Haymitch mutters.

“In history books,” says Plutarch. “And if our ancestors could do it, then we can, too.”

Frankly our ancestors don’t seem much to brag about. I mean look at the state they left us in, with the wars and the broken planet.Clearly they didn’t care about what wold happen to the people who came after them. But the republic idea sounds like an improvement over our current government.

“And if we lose?” I ask.

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

17 04 2014

I sat my GCSE’s in 2004, including English Literature. English was never my strong point, I’m a maths and science girl, and much as I read like crazy as a younger child – Secondary School English really put me off, I didn’t read books for leisure properly for years afterwards (other than Harry Potter maybe!).

The book that was chosen for our exam was To Kill A Mockingbird. I read a couple of chapters of it, and watched the film, and then the night before the exam tried to cram in a few more chapters, and came out with a C grade overall, and everyone was happy.

But a couple of months later I decided to read the book and try to read it properly. It then sat on my shelf until a month or so ago, when I finally picked it up to read properly this time, and it was fantastic! No wonder people rave about it, but when as a 15 year old you’re made to sit there and analyse the placement and choice of every single work then it is impossible to enjoy the story. (Maybe that’s why these blogs I do on books I’ve read can’t really be classed too much as “reviews!)

Reading for leisure, I really enjoyed this. The book has two main storylines, which kind of take turns to be told, but I was laughing at point, sad at others, and genuinely couldn’t see what was coming next! If you failed to read this at school, do try again – it’s worth it!

To Kill a Mockingbird

Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Scarlet – by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

15 02 2014

I’m a relatively recent convert to Sherlock. I watched my first episode on New Year’s Day this year when the first episode of series 3 was aired – I was hooked! I dedicatedly watched the rest of the series and am now catching up on series 1 & 2 that I’ve been able to borrow from friends.

I was aware they’re based on the old series of books, and another friend offered to lend me the first one – I thought, why not?! Always aiming to read more, why not read something a bit more classic.

I read “A Study in Scarlet” which is the first book in the series, where Sherlock Holmes and John Watson meet, it’s also the book that the first TV episode, “A Study in Pink” was based on. It didn’t disappoint.

Considering the books were written in the 1800s I was expecting it to be hard work, but it wasn’t, the story grabbed me in and I was so keen to know what happened. I had an idea as I’d already seen the TV episode, but there’s enough difference that I didn’t really know how it would come together.

Just when it was about to resolve though I had a bit of a shock. Suddenly we were in Utah, USA, with different characters, and several chapters without any reference at all to our Hero. I messaged my friend who had leant me the book and assured me it was still the same story, but the jump was so sudden I really wasn’t sure.

In the American section of the book there’s a whole bit on the Mormons which was slightly weird for me as one of the last books I read had also had a large section on them – bizarre!

Definitely a recommended read. The book is only little and even then less than 200 pages, so it doesn’t take long, and is definitely entertaining.

sherlock holmes

One Hundred Names – by Cecelia Ahern

29 07 2013

I was partway through a slightly heavier book, but what with the heatwave that’s been going on the last few weeks, when my pre-order of Cecelia Ahern‘s latest book arrived, I decided it was time for a break and a slightly easier read!

I have read every novel this lady has written, she’s brilliant! Best known for P.S. I Love You, most of her books have some slightly mystical element, something not quite real, but this was one of the “realistic” ones, one that could technically happen.

I was a little nervous as I started it, the blurb was a little bland. Someone has a list of 100 names and has to work out what links them, but as the book moves on I got more and more involved with what’s going on. I read the entire book in a week and was so sad for it to end!

The only criticism I’d have is that I struggled to keep up with the number of characters. Each time a name came up for the first time in a chapter I had to work out who they were and remind myself, it wasn’t til I was about 90% of the way through I got to grips with them all!

But I’d still recommend it, a really lovely story 🙂

one hundred names

Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins

7 04 2013

The final Hunger Games book! As a trilogy these books are phenomenal!

This book I’d say was the weakest of the three, but that does NOT make it bad! The speed of time jumps around a lot which gets a bit confusing. There’s a lot going on, but I just didn’t feel it flowed as well as the first couple, the plot was a little more juddered.

This doesn’t mean I still didn’t exclaim out loud at some bits, and yesterday afternoon as I finished it I think I read about 150 pages straight, it’s still one that’s hard to put down!

Again, don’t want to put any spoilers here so won’t discuss the whole outcome with the various elements – but do read it!!


Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

31 03 2013

This book definitely fell into the category of can’t-put-it-down; I read the first half in 2 days, and 3 days later had finished it!

Following the first book we’ve moved on a little while, and deal with the fall out of the events. There are so many twists and turns, I don’t want to write anything for fear of giving away the plot, but just to say, in places this book actually made me gasp audibly – very highly recommended!

catching fire