About Me

Glasgow, United Kingdom
My name is Lynsay, and I've decided to start blogging about the books I've been reading, so that I have reviews that I can look back on about the range of books and genres that I have read. I was very lucky to receive a Sony eReader for my birthday, and since then, I've been reading even more!! I read anything and everything, happy to give any style or genre a try! I've also starting writing reviews for a new book review website, The Blossoming Book Club (http://www.theblossomingbookclub.co.uk) Come and visit us here to find your next great read!!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

From the outside, Nick and Amy Dunne appear to be happily married.  On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick get up and goes to work as normal, only to receive a worried phone call from a neighbour, who tells him that the front door of his home is lying open. Concerned, Nick rushes home to investigate, to find that the house shows signs of a possibly deadly struggle and there is no sign of his wife.  He calls the police, who start questioning him, asking probing questions concerning the state of Nick and Amy's marriage, clearly convinced that Nick has had a hand in whatever has happened to Amy.  After telling the police that he hadn't had a disagreement with his wife that day, Nick thinks to himself - and the reader - 'That was the fifth lie I told the police that morning.'  From this point, the story spirals into a twisty, dark tale, which serves to confirm that no-one ever truly knows what passes behind closed doors. Perhaps not even the people behind those closed doors…

  Gillian Flynn is an accomplished writer, who crafts an incredibly clever story which questions how well any person can truly know another person, no matter how well they believe they do.  This story is told in the main by Nick in the present day, recounting the days after Amy's disappearance.  However, the clever concept in this is that we know that he lies, because, after all - he told us that he lies!  Nick's parts of the story are interspersed with excerpts of Amy's diary, starting from when they first met, leading up to the fateful day of their first anniversary.  I'm reluctant to reveal any more of the story, in case I ruin it for anyone, as one of the aspects of the story I really enjoyed was a genuine, slack-jawed, wonder at what could possibly happen next!  That isn't a feeling that too many books inspire, especially if you are a frequent reader.  I have given this book to many of my friends, and they have all had a very positive reaction.

This is Gillian Flynn's third book, and upon finishing this, I went back and read the previous books, Dark Places, and Sharp Objects.  Both are also extremely good, but I think that Gone Girl remains my favourite for the moment.  I can't wait to see what Gillian Flynn will bring out next, in my view she's one of the most exciting authors of recent years.  I first heard of this book on a podcast called Books on the Nightstand, which is a consistently reliable source of great reads.  Both hosts absolutely raved about this tale, recommending it so highly that I couldn't wait to read it.  I'm so glad that this was the case, as this has easily been my stand out book of this year.  It's not a light, easy read, but if you like good writing and great storytelling, you should definitely give Gillian Flynn a try!

As always - all comments are welcomed!!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

We Need To Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver

2011 was a big year for film adaptations of books, and We Need To Talk About Kevin is a great film version of a fantastic book.  This is one of the first books I always recommend to people, as I absolutely love it!  Whether you love it or hate it, there's always plenty to talk about, and I love speaking to people after they've read it to get their point of view on the issues that it raises.

The story is told in letters, written by Kevin's mother Eva, to his father Franklin.  As the story begins, we already know that Kevin has carried out a school shooting (its in the blurb on the back of the book).  Eva is writing to Franklin, discussing their life together, from when they met, to when they had Kevin and everything that led up to the school shooting.

Eva runs her own travel book company, and has always had a wanderlust. She loves to travel, and revels in taking off to far-flung destinations at the drop of a hat.  Her business grows and grows, and she ends up with a more settled lifestyle running the company that she has founded.  Once she has become reluctantly settled, she falls pregnant with Kevin, which is when the trouble begins.

Eva is a reluctant mother, as she's not really sure she wants to be a mother at all. Franklin is thrilled by the idea, and cannot wait for her to have the baby, so she cannot be open about her misgivings.  After Kevin is born, the problems increase.  Eva cannot bond with Kevin, and feels like he's an awkward, fractious baby on purpose.  Franklin bonds instantly and doesn't understand Eva's issues with him.  This continues throughout all the stages of Kevin growing up, with Eva never bonding with him at all, and Franklin not understanding.  

The main theme of the book is nature versus nurture.  Would Kevin have been so bad, and instigated a school shooting, if Eva had been able to bond with him?  Did he know, subliminally or otherwise, that Eva didn't want him, and was all his bad behaviour a result of feeling unloved or neglected?  Franklin did think that he had a great relationship with Kevin, but Eva feels that Kevin sees his dad as an idiot, and fakes the bond with him, while all the while looking down on him.  I always wonder whether or not Franklin realised what Kevin was really like, but just glossed over it.

One of the main points of the book is that its all from Eva's point of view, so the issue of bias runs through the story.  Was Eva selfish to have a baby that she didn't really want?  A few years after Kevin was born, Eva decides to have another baby, and does so, without really involving Franklin in making the decision.  She has Celia, who is the polar opposite to Kevin.  An interesting point in the story is that Franklin doesn't really take to Celia - I think partly because Eva tricked him with the pregnancy, but in my opinion,  I think that Celia is very like Franklin, whereas Kevin takes after Eva.  

I'm reluctant to say too much more about the book, as I always want people to read it and talk about it!  I recently saw the film, with Tilda Swinton, and I'm happy to say it more than lived up to the book.  Slightly uncomfortable viewing (as it should be), it encapsulates the eerie build up to the school shooting and how the relationship between Kevin and Eva imploded and rippled out to impact on the lives of everyone that they knew.

Please feel free to leave any comments!!

Monday, 6 June 2011

The Sherlockian, by Graham Moore

To start with... I'm a big Sherlock Holmes fan. MASSIVE! I've read all the short stories and books, multiple times, and still go back to reread them fairly regularly. They were my first introduction to one of my favourite genres, and I still think that they stand up as much today as when they were first printed, which says a lot about any story. I've also even visited the museum!

With that said, you can guess that I was very intrigued by the premise of the Sherlockian. I haven't really read much about Sherlock Holmes apart from the official canon, so I was interested to see how I would find this tale of a man called Harold White, who is inducted into the Baker Street Irregulars, which is the one of the most famous Sherlockian society in the world, renowned for meeting every January for a weekend of study and celebration of Sherlock Holmes and the stories that made him famous.

Anyone with even a passing interest in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Sherlock Holmes will remember that Sherlock Holmes was infamously killed off by Conan Doyle, who was tired of writing Holmes stories, and longed to write something with more substance and gravitas. This mourning period lasted for eight years, during which time Conan Doyle received death threats from Holmes devotees, who could not believe that their favourite detective had been cut down in his prime.

After the 'Great Hiatus', Conan Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles, arguably one of the best, and best-known Holmes stories. However, it has never been explained what caused Conan Doyle to finally crumble after eight years of resistance and start writing Holmes stories again - its one of the great mysteries surrounding the legend of Sherlock. What adds to this though, is the true fact that the diary of Conan Doyle which would cover this period has always been missing, and unless the diary is found, no one will ever know Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's reasons for resurrecting the character he had so decisively killed off.

In The Sherlockian, Harold White is the newest inductee into the Baker Street Irregulars, but the big interest of that weekend is centered around another member, Alex Cale, who has announced that he has discovered the long lost diary, and intends to unveil it to the world at the conference. However, before he can do so, he is mysteriously murdered, and Harold White takes it upon himself to discover the murderer and the missing diary, which was stolen from the room of the murdered man.

The book follows an interesting structure, with the chapters alternating between the modern day story of Harold White investigating the murder and the missing diary, and flipping back to the start of the century to show Sir Arthur Conan Doyle investigating a series of murders which strike close to home for him, with the help of none other than Bram Stoker.

I think the premise of this story was absolutely fantastic, but there's something about it that just fell a bit short for me. I wasn't that keen on the ending, as I feel it was a bit of an anti-climax, after a fair amount of twists and turns throughout the novel. I didn't really connect that closely with Harold White either, which may have been a part of the problem.

I actually think that this book may serve as a good introduction to the genre and the world of Sherlock Holmes, and I enjoyed reading a bit more about the background of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, along with the modern day fans of Sherlock Holmes, and it certainly made me want to find out more and seek out more non-fiction concerning them. However, I doubt I would ever re-read this book, which is unusual for me, as i re-read frequently. I think if the premise intrigues anyone, they should definitely give it a try, but I was definitely left with a wee sense of disappointment at the end.

Three stars from me, which is a generous score, purely based on the very clever premise - I just wish it had been executed slightly better!

Monday, 23 May 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer, by Michael Connolly

Its been a while... I've had a very busy couple of months, but I'll be posting regularly again from now on! The book i'm going to blog about just now is probably familiar, as the film adaptation of this novel was recently released, starring Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Philippe and William H Macy. I always want to read a book before I see its film version, and this was no different. I love a good courtroom drama and was keen to see the film, so I made a point of picking the book up beforehand.

I had previously read one of Michael Connolly's books, The Brass Verdict, which is actually the sequel to The Lincoln Lawyer, and features many of the same characters. I had enjoyed it, but just didn't get round to picking up any of his other novels until now.

Mickey Haller is the Lincoln Lawyer of the title, a lawyer who defends small time clients ranging from prostitutes to con artists, drug dealers and drink drivers, disillusioned and working purely for the money. He operates from the backseat of his Lincoln Town Car, staying mobile and moving from court to court to pick up whatever clients he can find, until one day, a veritable goldmine falls into his lap.

Louis Roulet, a Beverly Hills estate agent from a well-to-do, well-respected family, is arrested for the brutal beating and attempted murder of a girl. He's a franchise client, which means that he can afford to pay for his defence costs, which is rare with the type of clientele Mickey's used to having. He requests Mickey Haller specifically, protesting his innocence, and Mickey believes that he may finally have that elusive catch amongst criminal defence lawyers - an innocent client. This is difficult for Haller, as he was taught by his father that one of the most difficult clients is an innocent man, due to the fact that if they end up being imprisoned, it will remain on the lawyer's conscience. He quotes his father as saying;

"There is no client as scary as an innocent man."

However, as time goes on, Mickey starts finding holes in the case, and a disturbing similarity to a previous case that he has dealt with, and he has to decide whether or not he has a client that he can trust... or one that is guilty of the most heinous crime, and has been manipulating the situation all along?

I thought this book was fantastic! Tightly plotted, this book pulls you through all its twists and turns until you can't wait to find out what happens next and how it all works out. Interestingly, Mickey Haller is not the most sympathetic of characters. He is not shown in a favourable light throughout the novel, making many selfish and foolish decisions, but I like that he wasn't fallible, or perfect. After all, who is? He's shown throughout the book to be looking out for his own interests before others, including vulnerable clients of his, but he's also shown to have a heart, and he does his best to do the right thing. I'm looking forward to re-reading the sequel, as I think i'll view it in a different light with the backstory from this book to add to it, although I believe that all of the novels can be read as standalone books.

A good summer read, if you like a solid courtroom drama, then this is definitely worth a look. I did go and see the film after reading the book, and also enjoyed that. Its one of the best book-to-film adaptations I think I've ever seen, following the book quite faithfully, without butchering the story to a shadow of its former self. Three stars from me - I think this is setting the scene for a strong series of novels, and will stand up to later re-reading.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Secrets of Eden, by Chris Bohjalian

If you've had a look at the list of blogs/podcasts that I follow, you'll see that one of the list is Books on the Nightstand (which is my absolute favourite!). BOTNS is run by Ann and Michael, who both work for Random House, and create a weekly podcast to talk about books they'd like to recommend, new books to watch out for and back catalogue books that they've just loved so much they want to share them with people. This year, they are also organising the BOTNS retreat, which will be a gathering of podcast listeners, blog followers and BOTNS-favourite authors. Unfortunately, I won't be making it to the retreat, but I wanted to read work from some of the authors who are going to attend.

The first book I picked up was Secrets of Eden, by Chris Bohjalian - the story of a murder-suicide that takes place in Vermont. I found this story absolutely compelling. The narrator changes several times, to allow us to experience different points of view in the story, and through the whole tale there's a creeping sense of dread, and an undercurrent of things just not being quite right...

Alice Hayward is a battered wife. This isn't really a secret in her town, and is known by people including her fifteen year old daughter, Katie; her best friend Ginny, and her pastor, Stephen Drew. Alice decides to get baptised, and after it's complete, she goes about her day like any other Sunday, little realising that within 12 hours, her husband will have strangled her, and then shot himself in the head. Although as time passes in the town, rumours and theories start to spread that the circumstances may not be as clear cut as originally thought.

The story starts off being told by Reverend Stephen Drew, the man who baptises Alice on the day of her death. The narrative role switches between several different characters, allowing an insight into how the deaths of Alice and her husband George have rippled out to affect other people, not only their own daughter but people that they had never even known. As the pastor states early on however;

“Believe no one. Trust no one. Assume all of our stories are suspect.”

This is a powerful statement to make in the opening chapters of the book, but I liked it, and it stayed with me throughout. As the tale winds on through the aftermath of Alice and George's death, we start to realise that this earlier statement is, and was very significant to the tone of the entire tale and something that should be kept in mind, not only in terms of the story but in terms of real life. People can hide behind half truths, or lie by omission, and no one can ever really be sure they're being told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I feel that I haven't went too in-depth into the actual ins and outs of the story, but I feel that if I write much more it could possibly ruin the story - some books just have to be read!

I wanted to blog my review for this book as i finished it weeks ago, I've read several books in the meantime, and I'm still thinking about this! I have went in search of other works by Chris Bohjalian (Midwives will be my next read from him), and I'll be listening eagerly to the reports from the BOTNS retreat to learn about possible upcoming works!

This book gets a solid four stars from me, and I highly recommend you check it out (along with Books on the Nightstand!)

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

As someone who reads consistently, I was quite ashamed to say that this was a book I hadn't read. I have a vague memory of attempted to start it when I was about fifteen, and giving up after about six pages, full of impatience. However, I picked it up again on the recommendation of my friend, and it's one of the best reading discoveries I've had for a while - I'm starting to see a theme with why 'classics' are classics!

Jane Eyre starts by describing Jane's childhood, spend with her aunt, uncle and cousins, as she has been orphaned. When her uncle is on his deathbed, he makes his wife promise to treat Jane as one of her own family, and its a promise that she bitterly regrets making, as she greatly dislikes Jane and favours her own children, to the point where she ends up sending Jane to boarding school, as she no longer wants her at home.

We follow Jane through her time at Lowood, where she has a rough beginning, but grows to love the school as it becomes the home she never had, due to a particular teacher. However, when that teacher leaves, Jane feels that it is time to move on, and applies to be a governess, which is when we start getting to the heart of the story...

Jane describes herself in fairly derogatory terms, although her narration of the story shows the wit and intelligence that lies within the character, along with the goodness of her personality. Always self-deprecating, she tries her best to be honest with people, which sometimes leads to a lack of tact, as shown in one of the first scenes when she meets Mr Rochester and describes him as being ugly - to his face.

Mr Edward Fairfax Rochester, of course, is Jane's new boss, and the owner of Thornfield Hall, as well as starting off as a thoroughly mysterious character. However, as time goes on, the pair become closer and closer, and Jane thrives in Thornfield Hall, despite some strange happenings that occur. They enjoy teasing each other, which leads on to a proposal that sound absolutely horrific when taken out of context without reading the book;

You-- you strange, you almost unearthly thing!--I love as my own flesh. You--poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are--I entreat to accept me as a husband."

Believe it or not, this is actually a romantic speech, but it is much longer and is really best understood in the context of the whole book. I found it interesting as I had seen that snippet before, and enjoyed reading it in the context, as it made much better sense!

Needless to say, there are plenty of twists and turns that still lie ahead of Jane at this point, involving arson, a suicide, homelessness, a new family, another wedding proposal and a reunion with an unexpected character.... but you should go and read that for yourself!

I've also seen that there is a prequel of sorts to Jane Eyre, which is Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, which deals more with the world of the original Mrs Rochester, but I haven't been so tempted to pick that up yet. If anyone has read it and would recommend it, please let me know!

As for Jane Eyre, this classic definitely stands the test of time - three stars!!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Dracula, by Bram Stoker

Finally I've come to read Dracula... the vampire classic that has never been out of print since it was first published in 1897, the flagship book that has spawned countless contributions to vampire lore, up to the present day with the popularity of Twilight and the Vampire Diaries, the age-old story that everyone is familiar with.

Not quite. I settled down to read Dracula, with the thought that I would probably fly through the book, as I felt I know the story so well, but i was very mistaken!! Surprisingly, for a book that is so vivid in people's consciousness, the book is actually a very different tale to the one I though I knew.

The book is set out as a series of letters and journal entries by various characters, detailing what happens throughout the story and how their individual actions end up bringing their stories together and affecting the final outcome. The first character we are introduced to is Jonathan Harker, a solicitor who is travelling to the castle home of Count Dracula of Transylvania, in order to assist him with the legal issues involved with the purchase of real estate in England. At first, everything appears to be in order and Mr Harker and the Count get on amicably, until Mr Harker realizes that he is a prisoner in the castle, causing things to take a dark turn.

While we are slowly being introduced to Count Dracula and his possible dark intentions, the story cuts between Jonathan Harker's narrative and that of Mina Murray, who is Jonathan Harker's fiancée, and her friend Lucy Westenra.The two girls are close friends who correspond frequently, and we get a fair insight into their lives through their letters to each other, and later the diary entries of Mina Murray, after she moves to spend an extended visit with Lucy, who mysteriously starts to waste away.

Another narrative strand is dictated by Dr John Seward, a suitor of Lucy's who is in charge of the local lunatic asylum, which features heavily in his sections of the story. As he becomes more alarmed about Lucy's health, Dr Seward calls for the aid of his trusted mentor, Professor Abraham Van Helsing of Amsterdam. Realizing what is behind Lucy's health issues, the Professor at first attempts to help Lucy without telling anyone of his suspicions, for fear of others disbelief.

At this point, the stage is set... all the characters are in place, we are privy to their innermost thoughts and wishes, and the sense of impending doom has already crept up on us! The sheer level of tension in the book is a masterpiece, as it rises and rises with each page, through hints and implications that are revealed by each character, often before they have managed to piece their own thoughts together and realize what is actually happening. I was always a bit wary of epistolary novels, thinking that there would be too much jumping about and the story would be too fractured, but Bram Stoker weaves each narrative thread together with skill and grace which has to be seen (read?) to be believed. After reading this, I can completely understand why it has remained in print for over 110 years, which is a fantastic achievement for a book which is basically a retelling of a popular folklore. The success of the story is absolutely unbelieveable, and its a success many authors pray that that can emulate today. The basic story has spawned its own genre, and you can see its influence in things as diverse as Sesame Street, through to the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

This book is a solid five stars from me - I'm reluctant to award full marks to anything, but if anything deserves it, this does! A true classic which stands up to repeated re-reads, I plan on buying the annotated version for my next re-read, to get a bit more depth to the story. So switch off Vampire Diaries, and put down the Twilight saga, and go back to basics with the book that started it all. All thoughts, feelings and opinions welcome!!