Vintage Fiction – To Kill A Mockingbird

“Ladies in bunches always filled me with vague apprehension and a firm desire to be elsewhere.”

Much has been said about the importance of the messages of Harper Lee’s famous novel; what’s less talked about is how surprisingly funny it is. The characters live and walk and breath and as soon as you start reading, it’s as though you have stepped into Maycombe Alabama yourself. Dill’s wisecracks will have you in stitches, Jem’s naivety will break your heart, Scout’s innocence will give you hope – and you can’t help wishing you knew an Atticus.

Lee also gives a powerful lesson in what it means to follow your conscience, even if everyone else is swimming the other way. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Young Adult – Dead Ends

I had a foot on some guy’s throat and a hand in my pocket the first time I saw Billy D.

As a rule, I’m not a fan of YA fiction. For the most part, it’s flooded with soppy teen romance and usually involves at least one vampire. But Dead Ends is in fact much more mature than your average teen novel.

Billy D is in special ed and looking for the father he lost sometime ago. Dane is a top scoring student who is one punch away from expulsion. Add a girl with a funky white hairdo, a map book full of riddles and a slightly heart breaking road trip and you have yourself one excellent novel.

What surprised me was how often Billy D could make me laugh; and just how hard Dane could make me cry. A brilliant story of unlikely friends, and how they can redeem and save each other in the strangest ways. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Mystery Thriller – And Then There Were None

In the midst of life, we are in death.

Ten people are invited to Soldier Island by the mysterious U. N. Owen. When they arrive, they find their host mysteriously absent and a voice accusing each of them of harbouring a deadly secret. At first inclined to refute the allegations as some horrible practical joke, the guests are quickly forced to accept the seriousness of the situation when one by one, they begin to die. Trapped with a murderer among them and time running out, will anyone leave the island alive?

This, I think, is Agatha Christie’s most sublime creation. Here she has created the perfect murder mystery – guests dying right, left and centre (and, chillingly, all according to a rather gruesome little nursery rhyme) and yet it is never once ridiculous and it’s never obvious who the murderer is.

The atmosphere is close and claustrophobic, she ratchets the tension up and doesn’t let it drop the whole way through. A fantastic read, with an ending that will leave you reeling – 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Memoirs – My Family and Other Animals

Gradually the magic of the island settled over us as gently and as clingingly as pollen.

I’m not much for memoirs or autobiographies as a rule, but even I was caught up in this delightfully innocent novel. His description of the gut wrenchingly beautiful Corfu is so vivid, that the island buzzes and hums with all the varied and fascinating life forms that Gerald Durrell finds there. Not to mention the hilarious antics of his eccentric and charming family which are hysterical. A lovely book for a quiet and easy read – 🙂 🙂 🙂

War Fiction – Private Peaceful

Tonight, more than any other night of my life, I want to feel alive.

Michael Morpugo’s heartbreaking story of love and loss goes further than most World War novels. Whilst we get an in depth look at reality in the tranches, and the training and punishment that soldiers had to undergo, this is more a story of family than it is of war. The relationship between the two brothers Tommo and Charlie Peaceful, forms the centre of the story in a tragic and touchingly realistic depiction of sibling rivalry and love, jealousy and loyalty, anger and kindness. More than anything else, it explores what happens to that relationship when it is put to the test. And there is no greater test for the boys than the First World War. Heartbreaking and soul searching. Fantastic. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Sci-Fi – The Lunar Chronicles

While her sisters were given beautiful dresses and fine slippers, Cinderella had only a filthy smock and wooden shoes.

Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles are brilliantly original and fantastically clever. What better way to rewrite the classic fairytales than to stick the familiar characters in a high-stakes political drama set in a future ravaged by a deadly plague?

Full of fast paced tension and drama, once this series gets going, it’s a real page turner. With a manipulating Lunar Queen desperate to take over the world, it’s up to Cinder and a cast of old favourites to stop her. For the action lovers, there’s plenty of dramatic fight sequences and chases; for the drama lovers, betrayals and plot twists to make you gasp in shock; and for the romance lovers, plenty of gorgeous guys, each with their own love interest (well, every princess needs a prince, right?).

However, the genius of Meyer’s books is the clever twists on the details from the old classics which are subtly woven through the novels. Keep an eye out for them as you go along, for example, the evil queen’s issue with mirrors and how Cinder loses her shoe, along with many others.

Honestly, this series just keeps getting better as it goes on so the final instalment should be brilliant. A great read for sci-fi fans – 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Crime Fiction- Moriarty

Does anyone really believe what happened at the Reichenbach Falls?

Anthony Horowitz once again steps into the world of Sherlock Holmes after his debut ‘The House of Silk’ and does a fantastic job. I actually had to put the book down and give it a round of applause when I finished it. Full of all the mystery and intrigue of Doyle’s originals, but with a decidedly darker atmosphere, and interestingly, without Holmes himself (well…).

The story takes place after the death of the two great adversaries, Holmes and Moriarty and a new super-criminal is stalking the London Underworld. With the great detective dead, (for the time being) it’s up to Scotland Yard’s Detective Inspector Athelney Jones and Pinkerton’s man Frederick Chase to hunt him down. Capturing the spirit of Doyle’s original stories, there is plenty of mystery, drama and suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the whole novel – right up until the very last chapter.

The denouement of this book is so fantastically shocking and unexpected that I audibly gasped and had to go back and read it all through again. Only once you’ve hit the end do you realise just how clever Horowitz has been – like Doyle, he has mislead us all the way up to the end.

A brilliant read for all Sherlock fans or if you just fancy a good mystery thriller. One word of caution though, Horowitz does take it up a notch with the violence and there are a few gruesome scenes so this may not be to everyone’s taste. On the whole though, a fantastic read, even if just for the ending. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂