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Title: The Crimson Petal and the White
Author: Michel Faber
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 932
Date read: November, 2012

Meet Sugar, a nineteen-year-old prostitute in Victorian London who yearns for escape to a better life. From the brothel of the terrifying Mrs. Castaway, she begins her ascent through society. Beginning with William Rackham, a perfume magnate whose lust for Sugar soon begins to smell like love, she meets a host of lovable, maddening, unforgettable characters as her social rise is overseen by assorted preening socialites, drunken journalists, untrustworthy servants, vile guttersnipes, and whores of all kinds.

First a disclaimer: I use the Goodreads definition of the stars, where 2 stars means "It was ok". I.e. this is not a bad rating! It's an average rating.

Because honestly, I thought it was an average book. It was pretty well written, but it was so LONG! And not good enough to justify 900+ pages. The story could easily have been told in half that space. The plot was interesting enough, although I did sometimes wonder where on earth Michel Faber was going with this... which turned out to be a reasonable worry, because the answer was "Nowhere."

Had it had a better ending, I would probably have given it a rating of 3 - maybe even 3.5. But it hadn't, so I didn't. Instead I turned the last page thinking, "That was it?!?!?! What a cop-out!"

I wanted to know what happened next! I wanted the happy ending we got cheated out of. It's a pathetic book indeed when the characters are happier 200 pages from the end that they are at the end - and not a type of pathetic I do well with.

So average. Not a book I'm likely to reread, but one I'm glad to be able to cross off my to-read list and say "The Crimson Petal and the White"? Sure, I've read that!" :)
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Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Author: Stephen Chbosky
Genre: YA
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 228
Date read: November, 2012

This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Similar in style to Marcelo in the Real World and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, but even better than both. I picked it up yesterday morning to read on my commute to and from work, but ended up finishing it at home instead, because I simply couldn't put it down.

Charlie, Patrick and Sam were all adorable, and I loved reading the friendship that grew between them, and how it influenced Charlie and changed him (for the better). In general, all the characters seemed very real and well described. I couldn't help but wonder whether Charlie actually has Asbergers (or something similar), because of his way of reacting to things.

I'd expected a pretty run-of-the-mill YA - what I got was anything but. I highly recommend it.
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Title: The Casual Vacancy
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 503
Date read: November, 2012

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils...Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

First a confession, I probably wouldn't have read this book if it hadn't been written by J.K. Rowling. The blurb didn't make it sound like my typical style of book at all, but I was curious how she'd manage anything other than Harry Potter or at least the fantasy genre.

J.K. Rowling's personal style very quickly became very apparent. Even in such a vastly different book, I could still recognize her 'voice', and have to admit that she knows how to write.

But if one were to make comparisons to Harry Potter, that's as far as they could go. Beyond JKR's writing style they have absolutely nothing in common.

A word of warning if you're about to read this, "The Casual Vacancy" is SLOW to start. The first 200'ish pages are spent setting the scene and introducing the people. I never got bored enough to consider giving up on it, but I did seriously start to wonder when the plot was going to start rolling. "The Casual Vacancy" has a HUGE people gallery. I'm usually pretty good at keeping everybody's names straight, but here even I would have benefited from a quick list in the start of the book. It took me awhile to get everybody sorted.

Don't be fooled - this is absolutely a book for adults, and a depressing one to boot. My biggest beef with this book is that apart from one single exception, every single person seemed worse off at the end of the book than they had at the beginning (okay, a few were probably the same... at least within a slight margin). This is not a book that'll put you in a good mood - I closed the book with a feeling of hopelessness more than anything else.

So why still three stars? Because JKR has proven without a shadow of a doubt that she knows how to create an engaging universe. I might not have liked it much, but it was REAL... and it's probably precisely because it felt so real that I didn't like it much.
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Title: A Single Thread
Author: Marie Bostwick
Genre: Crafts, Chick-lit
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 344
Date read: November, 2012

The moment Evelyn Dixon sets foot in New Bern, Connecticut, she realizes she's found her home. The abrupt end of her marriage was Evelyn's call to get busy making her dream of opening a quilt shop come true. When she opens it, in walk Abigail Burgess and her niece Liza, and Margot Matthews. Troubled and angry following her mother's death, Liza threatens to embarrass her aunt. And Margot, a victim of downsizing at the peak of her career, is looking for networking opportunities. As they stitch their unique creations, Evelyn, Abigail, Liza and Margot form a sisterhood they never anticipated

A lovely feel-good novel - very similar in style to "The Shop on Blossom Street" and just as charming :) The writing style took some getting used to though - Marie Bostwick would occasionally, and for no apparent reason, step through the fourth wall and address the reader directly. I didn't mind as such, it just threw me a bit. Fortunately she either stopped doing it after the first few chapters, or I stopped noticing.

I think I would do very well indeed in a small town like that - at least I loved the atmosphere as described here, and would have been very keen to visit Charlie's Grill on the Green and go browsing in Evelyn's store. Not that I've ever actually quilted myself, but I've always loved the idea of it and find quilts absolutely gorgeous.

I had wondered if I'd feel as caught up in a book about a craft I know nothing about as I do in the knitting books I've been reading, but thankfully that wasn't the case at all, and I was very pleased to finish it in one lazy afternoon :)
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Title: The Bar Code Tattoo
Author: Suzanne Weyn
Genre: Dystopian, YA
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 256
Date read: November, 2012

The bar code tattoo. Everybody's getting it. It will make your life easier, they say. It will hook you in. It will become your identity.

But what if you say no? What if you don't want to become a code? For Kayla, this one choice changes everything. She becomes an outcast in her high school. Dangerous things happen to her family. There's no option but to run for her life.

More blatantly YA than I had expected - or at least a younger YA. Which meant that it didn't go into as much detail as I would have liked. I still liked it though, and read it in just a couple of hours this morning. I don't know if I'll bother with the rest of the series though.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Lightning
Author: Dean Koontz
Genre: Suspense
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 384
Date read: November, 2012

A storm strikes on the night Laura Shane is born in 1955, and there is a strangeness about the weather that people will remember for years. As the dazzling blue-white jagged bolts of lightning split the heavens, a stranger materialises out of the raging blizzard to guard Laura from the not so tender mercies of a drunken doctor and ensure her safe passage into the world, before disappearing back into the night. Eight years later, Laura meets her mysterious saviour again, when he saves her from the perverted and deadly intentions of a durg-crazed robber.

Throughout her childhood, even more terrifying troubles beset the young girl, but with increasing courage, she finds the strength to prevail - even without the intervention of the stranger.

In time she marries and has a son, while also finding success as a novelist. Gradually the memory of her strange guardian and the troubles of her youth dim in the light of her happiness. Until the lightning strikes once more and shatters her world.

This time the stranger has become the angel of death. As Laura flees with er young son, Chris, she knkows she must prepare for the final confrontation that will come with the powerful forces that stalk her. The adventure - and the terror - has only just begun.

Probably my favourite Dean Koontz novel so far. Not as gory as some (which is a good thing!) and more a suspense novel than a thriller or a horror novel. Not that I mind neither thriller nor horror if it's well done, but those genres seem harder to get right, and Lightning just worked for me. The paradoxes of time travel were nicely explained and I really came to love Laura. I'm just sorry she had to go through so much... that's the problem with Dean Koontz' books (and those of Stephen King, for that matter) - if the main character is happy and content at the half-way point of the book, you know that's going to change soon.

I was fascinated by the idea of the lightning road and how it came to be used.


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