Mort – Terry Pratchett

Mort, an awkward teenager, is recruited by Death as his apprentice. One evening when covering for Death, he decides not to follow the rules and allow Princess Keli to live, but this has a disastrous consequence on reality which he must try and fix.

This is the fourth novel in the Discworld series and is probably my favourite so far. It is full of humour and I loved the characterisation of Death. I look forward to seeing him in more Discworld novels.

Advertisements

Goodnight Mr Tom – Michelle Magorian

At the outbreak of World War Two, 8 year old William Beech is evacuated to the village of Little Weirwold and sent to love with an elderly man called Tom Oakley. At first he is extremely timid and nervous due to his strict upbringing by his mother who is a religious fanatic, but gradually he develops confidence and begins to love his new life in the country. After a few months, he receives a letter saying that his mother is unwell and wants him to go back to London. A few weeks later, not having heard a word from William, Tom decides to go to London with his dog Sammy to find out what’s happened.

I really enjoyed the first half of this book but afterwards I felt the plot became a little disjointed. I also didn’t always find William’s character development believable, such as when he and his friends decide to investigate the spooky house in the village and he is the only one brave enough to go ahead. I did however love the character of Tom, and thought the writing was very effective when describing William’s life with his mother.

Dead Simple – Peter James

Michael Harrison is a bit of a prankster, so on his stag do his friends decide to get their revenge by burying him alive for a few hours in a coffin. However, before they can let him out, they are killed in a car accident. Detective Superintendent Roy Grace must try and find out where the missing groom is, and whether his bride may know more than she’s letting on.

I had actually seen a play version of this story before reading it and although I could remember the main premise I had forgotten some details so it did not spoil my enjoyment. I thought it was very well written, particularly the chapters about Michael in the coffin which were fantastic at portraying the claustrophobia and were very uncomfortable to read. I also really liked Roy Grace as a character, and I’m looking forward to reading more in the series.

Charlie and the great glass elevator – Roald Dahl

Charlie and the great glass elevator picks up immediately where its predecessor, Charlie and the chocolate factory left off. Charlie, his parents, both sets of grandparents and Willy Wonka first head off on an adventure in space where they come across some vermicious knids, and then head back to the factory where one of Wonka’s new creations, Wonka-Vite, goes a bit wrong.

Before rereading this I wondered why I didn’t remember this story as clearly as I could remember Charlie and the chocolate factory, and I think it must be because it isn’t such a good story. I felt there was a lot of build up in the section in space, which then came to am abrupt end, and then the rest of the story back in the factory almost felt like a completely different book.

There are some classic Dahl wit here, but not his best story by far.

Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman

When Richard Mayhew helps a stranger on the street, little does he know that this act of kindness will change his life forever and introduce him to the hidden parallel world of London Below, where there is an Angel called Islington and Black Friars living at Blackfriars.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Neil Gaiman and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s funny, original, exciting and it has fantastic characters. Richard is very likeable, but I particularly liked Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar as the baddies. I’ll definitely be reading more by Neil Gaiman in the future.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles – Agatha Christie

Arthur Hastings is on leave recuperating during the First World War. When on convalescence he meets an old friend, John Cavendish, who invites Hastings to stay with him and his family at Styles. While he’s there, John’s stepmother, Emily Inglethorp, is murdered, and Hastings persuades John to allow his friend, the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, to investigate.

This is the first of Agatha Christie’s Poirot mysteries and I found it very enjoyable. Some of the language is is very dated, but the mystery itself is intriguing and Poirot is a fantastic character.

The Constant Princess – Philippa Gregory

The Constant Princess describes the early life of Katherine of Aragon, beginning during her childhood living in the Alhambra with her parents, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, and then telling the story of her marriage to Prince Arthur and then King Henry VIII.

As most people know, the basis of Henry VIII’s justification for divorcing Katherine was his interpretation of a Bible passage that a man will be childless if he marries his brother’s wife. Katherine always swore that her marriage to Arthur was never consummated, but in her novel Gregory assumes that this was a lie, that Arthur and Katherine were very much in love and that she swore to him on his deathbed that she would marry his brother to become queen.

I found Katherine (or Catalina, as she was before she married Henry) a difficult character to like initially. She’s very headstrong, devout and unyielding. However, by the second half of the novel I grew to like the characterisation a lot more as she develops from a naive and stubborn princess to an informed queen. I suspect this character development was intentional by Gregory, as by the end of the novel Katherine realises that some elements of what she was always told and believed since she was a child are wrong.

I always enjoy Gregory’s writing style; this is written in a mixture of third person and first person from Katherine’s perspective. However, I did find parts of the novel a little repetitive at times, particularly when there were several consecutive passages where Katherine was telling Arthur stories from the Alhambra. Having said that, learning of some of the history of the Alhambra and the Spanish royals was interesting.

Philippa Gregory’s novels are always fun to read and informative, and she always manages to maintain interest and suspense despite the fact that most readers know what is going to happen. This isn’t my favourite book of hers, but it was definitely worth a read.

The Casual Vacancy – J.K Rowling

The sudden death council member Barry Fairbrother is shocking for the small village of Pagford. His space on the town council intensifies several divisions in the community regarding the changing boundaries with the nearest large town, Yarvill, particularly regarding the local council estate, The Fields.

This novel was quite slow at first and nothing much really happens until the end, but as with all of Rowling’s writing her characterisations are strong. Not my favourite Rowling novel but a pleasant enough read.

The Keeper of Lost Things – Ruth Hogan

Anthony collects items that people have lost, and stores them at home, labelling each one and sometimes using them as inspiration for his writing. In his will, he leaves all his possessions and his home to his housekeeper, Laura, who decides to try and reunite the lost items with their owners.

I bought this story before going on holiday as I wanted something light to read, and this was described as ‘feel good’. I enjoyed it initially but it quickly became very predictable, sickly sweet and there were just too many coincidences and clichĂ©s. The appearance (for want of a better word) of the ghost in the last few chapters was the final nail in the coffin for me.

Equal Rites – Terry Pratchett

The dying wizard Drum Billet passes on his powers to a baby, who he believes is an eighth son of an eighth son. However, it turns out that this baby is in fact female. As Eskarina grows up the town witch, Granny Weatherwax, tries to teach her how to use witch magic, but the power of wizards is different and so they decide to head to the Unseen University where they try and challenge the traditional misogynistic views of wizards.

This is the third novel in the Discworld series and it is full of typical Pratchett humour, from the obvious (Esk’s home town is called Bad Ass) to the more subtle wordplay. I’m enjoying working my way through the series and meeting new characters along the way.