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The Prisoner of Heaven - new release!

Carlos Ruiz Zafon, one of my all time favourite authors, has writtten a follow up to his beautiful book The Shadow Of The Wind. It is called The Prisoner of Heaven and is due to be released in its English translation next week on June 21st. The story sees Daniel, Bea and Fermin returning to the narrative and is once again set in beautiful, gothic Barcelona.

I'm very excited about this release, as it directly ties in to Shadow... (Unlike The Angel's Game which, although brilliant, was advertised as a predecessor but actually only made brief reference) and tells more of Fermin's story - a character many will agree was one of the most charismatic and intrigueing characters from the novel.

I've pre-ordered my copy and will review it as soon as I complete it, but in the mean time, why not try out a new book and read The Shadow Of The Wind if you haven't already? I assure you, you will not be disappointed!
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99 Reasons Why - Review

#1: The reason why I read this book

I needed holiday reading stocks. This book was 99p on the Kindle Store and offered an "interactive Kindle reading experience" which had me curious. Considering I'd have lost less than a pound if it was awful I gave it a go. Upon further research after downloading the book, the author has some very appraising reviews. Good Choice, Mab.

#2: The reason why I thought this book was great

The praise for the author, Caroline Smailes, was well deserved. 99 Reasons Why is a well constructed, intriguing, sometimes dark novel, written in the first person narrator's dialect. Sometimes, reading a first person novel in a dialect can be frustrating, or appear forced and gimmicky. No such trouble here. The words were seamless and natural and really helped me in believing in the character: I felt where they came from.

Another thing I really enjoyed was the chapter structure. (It's the small things!) there are 99 chapters to the book, and each one is a "reason why", alluding to the title. It was clever, it worked, and I really enjoyed it!

So, onto the plot... The story centers around 22-year-old Kate, who lives on a council estate in Britain and watches the Kevin Keegan Day Nursery (Newcastle?) from her bedroom window every day, taking notes as a job for her Uncle. This sounds very sinister, but weirdly it is almost the only thing not sinister about the entire book. One day, Kate flashes her boobs out of her window at the father of a child she likes to watch. She decides she wants the kid, and asks her family to "get her for her", to which they agree. Cue all kinds of strangeness to follow...
Throughout the story, we meet Kates family: her mentally unstable "mum", her un-devoted "dad", her felony-prone "Uncle" and also her best friend (who I wished could have made more of an appearance) We also learn that Kate believes her real mum is Princess Diana, and that she was stolen from her as a baby to escape the Royal life. As a result of this, Kate spends most of her wages from her Uncle on Princess Di memorabilia on eBay.

I don't want to give anything away, but amidst some quite dark subject matter in this book, nothing is ever as it seems. I was surprised by the quality of this book given the price (another title to add to the 99p Kindle Gems list alongside Florence and Giles) and would definitely look to read more by Caroline Smailes in the future.


#3 The reason why I didn't like this book as much as I could have

The interactive element of this book was entirely worthless. In essence, it's a "choose your own ending" concept, offering eleven(?!) different possibilities. However, the "ending picker" felt like a cheap teen-mag quiz (what's your favourite colour?) and no matter which ending I chose, I found it unfulfilling and abrupt. I also found that about four of the offered endings were repetitions of each other, just worded slightly differently.
I was a little disappointed, but at 99p, and with the rest of the book so good, I can easily forgive it. I hope the next title from this author uses this functionality better, if at all. I think the idea is great - Kindles do offer different ways of reading and involving the reader. This book just didn't do it well.

#4 The reason why you should read this book too

For 99p, you can't go wrong here!

***EDIT***

I have just been reliably informed (by the author no less) that the iPad e-book version of 99 Reasons Why overcomes the teen-mag style generator by using a spinning wheel to randomly select a final chapter for you. I haven't used or seen it yet, but already this sounds good! Perhaps Kindle Touch uses the same type of thing?
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Pear Shaped - Review


Time to review the second book I completed while on holiday: Pear Shaped by Stella Newman.

In another rare occurrance, (the previous one being that I read a popular book: at the time it was popular!) I took a genre-risk. Some madness inspired me to give chick-lit a go. Yeah...

Goodness knows I'm not a chick-lit fan. Actually, I don't even like the term "chick-lit" - how demeaning. All other forays into the genre have left me feeling a bit miserable. Maybe I'm just not a good female, but I tend never to relate to any of the characters.

Unfortunately the same must be said for Pear Shaped.

Sophie is a 30-something dessert creater who has fallen head over heels for a fat "lad" in a mid-life crisis. (My words. The author would have you believe his size "fits him" and his "large physique" makes Sophie feel "delicate". This, coupled with a "mischievousness" I can substitute with "immaturity", and a "charming" personality I can substitute with "lecherous". Pfft. Like I said, I simply cannot relate to these characters.)

They enter into a relationship where all the commitment comes from Sophie, and all the attraction seems to be due to a dark blue Maserati. The entire time, Sophie knows this man doesn't make her truely happy - but Lordy, she's just so goddamned attracted to him. *facepalm*

Things start to go wrong when Sophie gets dumped (for what she assumes is a younger model who happens to have "Wolford legs"), and she literally falls apart over it - despite the fact that being rid of this guy is the best thing to have happened to her. He makes her feel fat. He makes her feel inadequate. He never compliments her. He never says "I'm sorry". And worse. SHE THINKS THIS IS OK?!

The best parts of Pear Shaped are the scenes in the food company she works for. It's like The Office. Devron/"Divron" was hilariously close to a real person, and her colleagues were actually believable characters.

Would I recommend it? No. In fact, I may never make a return to the female fiction genre again.

**Disclaimer**

This review may be the slightest bit tainted by the fact one phrase in the first few pages almost made me choke on my tea:

"I'm a size ten with tits and an ass"... hence followed by: "I'll never be thin - the Kleins are big boned"

Oh f*** off.
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Fifty Shades of Grey - Review


I feel kind of proud that I have read a popular, pre-hyped book amidst it's hype, and not a year or so after it for once. However, I'm not so sure how I feel about the fact that I had to borrow this story from my mum...(!)

Here's how it happened: stranded in tourist-America and not a bookshop for miles, I found myself on the familiar book-scavenge I find myself participating in almost annually, as I prematurely finish ALL books I had cared to take with me for my holiday stay. So my mum offered me hers. You'd think in the Age of Kindle I would be well prepared for this. However, there's a global recession don't ya know. I'll take free reading where it's available if I can :p

So, onto the "phenomenon" that is Fifty Shades...

The basic plot is this: Girl falls instantly in love with a guy she knows nothing about apart from the fact he's rich. From there she enters into a world of sexual discovery and BDSM despite the well concieved warnings of her closest friends and family.

I'd heard about this book (who hasn't?) and I was intrigued. I had curiosities as to what made such a story so popular: was it chick lit? Was it deep? Was it just gratuitous? Was it the second coming (sorry) of "O"? Did it make any feminism remarks? Generally, I'm not on the hunt for erotic fiction, but this one has taken the world by storm. WHY?

It actually came highly recommended by my Mum. She had spent the past week giggling at it. I mean, actually giggling. Was it funny? That seemed odd for the genre...

I had also noticed a lot of people reading this book out in public. In crowded areas. (We had ventured into Disney a few days.) So perhaps this book wasn't as erotic as whispers on the grapevine had made out? I had some stereotypical image in my head of people reading these stories like a guilty secret... in the comfort of their own homes... safe from people knowing! Has this book done the incredible, and removed the stigma sometimes attached to such genres?

Only one way to find out.

As I reached the final pages pages of Fifty Shades of Grey, I could honestly say that I could take or leave the next two in the series. I wouldn't go and buy them, but I'd read them if they were lent to me.

I can see why the book has become popular. It has made an "intrigueing" world accessible through naive, chick-lit-friendly characters and the comfort of a "normal life" existing around it. I mean, the BDSM lifestyle is like some dark forbidden fruit. You know it's there. You know it happens. You might even like some of it. But you'll be damned if you're gunna Google it to find out more, especially on the family computer! Fifty Shades of Grey gives people a bit of insight, I guess...

It reminds me of when Secretary came out. Remember? "Oh my God Jake Gyllenhall's sister's getting spanked. ON SCREEN". But, actually, it was a really sweet love story? That's kinda what Fifty Shades is... but with worse characters. Lets get onto that!

I really feel that the narrator of the story was at once the best and worst thing about the book. At one moment, Ana is a focussed and successful graduate with a level headed view on the world, but at the next, she's garbling on about her inner goddess and conscience having a row like she has a split personality?! I liked that she was naive to both sex and relationships, as she approached the "situation" as most readers would. Her inner thought processes were actually quite amusing (hence my mum's giggles, I hope!) and practical. However, some of her actions and decisions seemed immature and even a little crazy. I don't know if this was just the writing and choice of phrases/words, but it actually made me doubt whether it was appropriate for her to be the subject of such a relationship...

One character I did really like, though, was Kate, Ana's best friend. She was smart, honest and caring, and she was straight up. She saw and said it like it was. Of course, she was ignored!

As far as recommending this book goes, I probably would suggest it to people if they're after something light and err... thrilling?! It's definitely a member of the "Summer Read" category of book types.

My mum left her copy on the coffee table of our apartment when we left America. Maybe that tells you all you need to know?
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