Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Anvil - Ken McClure - Book 136

The Anvil is a medical thriller. All of the people involved in the development of a wonder drug that virtually eliminates the need for facial reconstructive surgery die inexplicably - except one, who spends years on the run before deciding to fight back against the drug company that once employed him. Full of entirely believable scientific skullduggery, this book was a gripping read. Recommended.

A Dog Named Slugger - Leigh Brill - Book 135

I loved, loved, loved this true story of how Leigh Brill gets a working dog to help her deal with the challenges of cerebral palsy. The book examines their growing bond and you learn a lot about how such dogs are trained and work, too. An easy and excellent read - highly recommended.

The Litigators - John Grisham - Book 134

Finley and Figg are the partners in an ambulance chasing legal firm that is always on the edge of financial disaster. Then David Zinc walks out of a pressurted career at a much more upscale firm and joins them. The book follows the firms fortunes through two mass tort cases - one successful, one not. I didn't find this thriller particularly gripping - nowhere near the standard of Grisham's early work.

The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein - Book 133

The Art of Racing in the Rain is one of the most enjoyable books I've read recently - and the fact that it is narrated by a dog is part of its appeal. Enzo tells the story of life with his master Denny, a racing driver who experiences lots of family problems. It's a chance for the rest of us to get inside a dog's head - and if you have ever owned a dog, the thoughts and feelings Enzo expresses are entirely believable. Amazon describes it as 'A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope--a captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it.' That about sums it up. Highly recommended (and in case you're wondering, it has a happy ending, sort of.)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Change in Altitude Book - Anita Shreve - Book 132

Anita Shreve is one of my favorite authors, so I had high hopes of A Change in Altitude. It's the story of Margaret, from whose point of view the story is told, her husband Patrick and their sojourn in Africa. While it seems a romantic idea to visit Africa, and the fulfillment of a dream, it soon turns sour after a mountain climbing expedition results in the death of one of the party. They struggle to recover equilibrium after that. While I found the book mildly interesting, I wasn't gripped in the way I have been by some of her previous novels and found the characters kind of dull. If you're an Anita Shreve fan you'll probably read it anyway, but there's no need to rush.

Project Management Guide - Book 131

Jen Stakes-Roberts' Guide to Project Management was an eye-opener for me - and I'm no slouch at organization. This ebook, which I raced through in an hour or so, provided sound advice on taking a project management approach to your business. I have used the advice in the book to make some changes to my writing business and am trialing some of the project management tools she suggests. At the moment, this book is available here.

Afterlife Club - Jude Ryan - Book 130

In the Afterlife Club, the heroine is dead, but that doesn't stop her from being the kind of person that we can identify with. OK, so she's a bit whiny, but wouldn't you be if you'd been dragged under a truck while minding your own business on a bicycle? The Afterlife Club tells how the heroine finds a new purpose in the afterlife after finally learning to let go of the past. An easy read - and I'll be looking out for more from author Jude Ryan.

SEO School - Book 129

Looking to learn more about search engine optimization. SEO School provides an introduction to the subject with a series of easy tips that anyone can implement. Here's what it contains:

  •  Your SEO Crash Course
  •  The Only Moving Parts You Need To Pay Attention To
  •  Setting Up Your Analytics So You Can See What’s Working
  •  Fixing “SEO Leaks” On Your Site
  •  Organizing New Content To Boost SEO
  • Tweaking Existing Content To Boost SEO
  • Getting Backlinks On A Regular Basis
  •  On-Page Optimization Checklist

I found it a quick read and, although I know a lot about SEO, discovered a couple of new tips and tools. The handy checklist at the end makes a good guide for anyone setting up a new site. Recommended.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Before I Go To Sleep - S J Watson Book 128

Before I Go To Sleep is the story of Chrissy, who wakes up one morning and doesn't know who she is. The trouble is, that happens every morning. As a result of some past trauma, she suffers from a strange kind of amnesia - she can remember everything that happens during the day, but when she goes to sleep that - and much of her past life - is erased from her memory as if it has never happened. This novel follows Chrissy's attempts to piece her life together and it turns out that some of the people in her life may not be who they seem. This was a totally gripping read and the best book I've read so far this year. Highly recommended.

Anna of the Five Towns - Book 127

Anna of the Five Towns is by British novelist Arnold Bennett (1867-1931) and it's thought to be one of his best books (according to the Amazon bumph anyway). It's the story of Anna, a young woman just reaching her majority who lives with her domineering father and little sister. The story follows her from her birthday (on which she gains ostensible control of her fortune) to her marriage. I found her an interesting character, but like many novels of the period, the pages are full of richly drawn descriptions, which sometimes went on a bit too long for my liking. While it was a decent read, I won't be rushing out to stock my Kindle with the rest of Bennett's books. (link is the Kindle edition, as the other editions are quite pricey).

Thanks Mom (Chicken Soup series) - Book 126

In the last year, I've become a big fan of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, so I was really pleased when my daughter gave me 'Thanks Mom' as a Christmas present. Like others in the series it contains 101 moving anecdotes - this time of mother-daughter relationships. It's a great book to dip into daily to read a couple of inspirational chapters and in my experience you always get a lift from doing so - and sometimes food for thought. Recommended.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Christmas Wedding - James Patterson - Book 125

I sometimes wonder if James Patterson writes any of his books any more, since he has a long series of coathors and is more prolific than Barbara Cartland. That said, I enjoyed The Christmas Wedding. Here's the description on Amazon:

The tree is decorated, the cookies are baked, and the packages are wrapped, but the biggest celebration this Christmas is Gaby Summerhill's wedding. Since her husband died three years ago, Gaby's four children have drifted apart, each consumed by the turbulence of their own lives. They haven't celebrated Christmas together since their father's death, but when Gaby announces that she's getting married--and that the groom will remain a secret until the wedding day--she may finally be able to bring them home for the holidays.

I really loved Gaby and her kids and their stories are told simply and effectively till they intertwine on Christmas Day. It's lightweight and somewhat implausible but somehow leaves you feeling happy.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Long Way Gone - Ishmael Beah - Book 124

You might think that A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier would be a depressing read, but considering its subject matter it was surprisingly upbeat. Author Ishmael Beah tells of his life in Sierra Leone when he was conscripted into the army to fight the rebel forces. It helps that we know from the start - really from the blurb - that he made it out alive.

For those of us safely removed from daily violence, what he had to endure seems unimaginable, yet he is matter of fact about his actions and feelings through the horrors of war and the actions he is forced to take, then comes to accept as normal. The story of his rehabilitation is also moving. I thought this was an excellent read. Highly recommended. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi - Book 123

A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi - Words We Pinched from Other Languages is a word nerds delight. I breezed through the book in a couple of hours, revisiting the origins of foreign phrases commonly in use in English. For each entry, there's a literal translation, an explanation and an example of it in use. Most of the examples are funny, making the book even better. If you love words and are fascinated by their origin, you will love this book as much as I did. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I Before E - Book 122

I before E except after C (Old School Ways to Remember Stuff) gives exactly what it promises. If you're looking for word and number mnemonics that will help you to remember important rules, formulas and even historical facts (though these are UK based) then this book is for you. It's like taking a step back into your school days and is an easy read. Recommended.

Going the Half Hog - Spike Wyatt - Book 121

Just finished this excellent primer on freelancing. I'll be reviewing it in detail on my writing blog and will post the link here when it's done. Update: Here's the link to my Going the Half Hog review.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Short stories - Books 119 and 120

For a change, I decided to read a couple of books of short stories. The first, Dark Doses by Todd Thorne, contains several pieces of short science fiction, of which the first and last stories are by far the best but still not that exciting. I won't be going out of my way to read more by this author. Not recommended.

In contrast,Take Five by Renee Pawlish contains five excellent mystery stories, a few of them featuring the same main characters. I found it a great introduction to her work and will definitely be on the lookout for more from her, especially the Sarah Spillman stories. Highly recommended.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Mrs Jones - B A Morton - Book 118

Mrs Jones by B A Morton has a great story - Lizzie, a woman over from the UK on her first trip to the US, sees a hit-and-run and gets embroiled in a turf war among the police, the bad guys and the Feds, helped by cop Tommy Connell. There's lots of double and triple crossing - and it turns out that the mystery of her parentage is key to the case. The book has a full cast of likeable good guys and reprehensible bad guys, as well as a few who skate between the two and is a gripping read. There is just one jarring note - though set in the US and with mainly American characters, the language is very British and the disconnect between the two sometimes jars. It's still worth a read and I'll be looking out for the next book from this author. Recommended.