14 March 2014

Mrs Readalot Returns (with some Rather Good Reads)

Where is Mrs Readalot these days? you may have been asking yourself. She has been rather quiet lately, after all.
It may have been 266 days since she last posted, but don't for one minute think that Mrs Readalot has gone off the boil when it comes to reading books. On the contrary, our bookaholic friend has been devouring books wherever she can lay her hands on them. She doesn't mind whether they are the papery kind that you hold in your hand with pages that turn, or if they are downloadable and backlit and come with a built in dictionary. She'll read them free from the library OverDrive app (when she can get them) or she'll fork out a few bucks to get them instantly on Kindle. Mrs R is not fussy. As long she she is reading she is happy.
if she doesn't have a book on the go she gets rather twitchy and has to resort to watching crappy TV shows, which is not ideal at all.

So what literary gems has Mrs Readalot been discovering lately?
Mrs R has discovered some new favourite authors (to supplement Jodi Piccoult and Phillippa Gregory as tried-and-true never-fails). She has devoured a wide range of stories, eclectic in style from mystery to fantasy to historical to futuristic; they have been memorable and forgettable, award-winning and simply fill-in-the-hours-worthy.
Here is a snippet of just some of Mrs Readalot's most memorable books from the past 266 days of reading (a lot):

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

This is the book by the Kiwi Author who just won the prestigious Man Booker Prize and got herself famous (and turned her book into a bestseller). I'd been dying to read it and so asked for it for Christmas, took it camping and ended up lost in a New Zealand Goldmining town for three days.

This is one of those books which takes a little bit of getting used to, at first. You have to concentrate pretty hard at the beginning because the author has adopted a style of writing and language which is authentic to the 1800s. You might hate it. You might find it really off-putting and way too much work to bother with.
I actually didn't mind it, and after the first four-or-so chapters I was completely hooked.
It's a lovely fat book, so perfect for taking on holiday. At the heart of the book is a mystery, told through the eyes of a motley assortment of very well-drawn characters.
The picture the author paints of early New Zealand during the West Coast gold rush is absolutely fascinating.
Because of the style she uses, you actually feel as if you are right there, watching the drama unfold. There plenty of twists and turns, and the story picks up pace until at the end you are riding a runaway stallion.

When I closed the final page of The Luminaries, I felt as if I had emerged blinking back into the 21st century from an adventure in an earlier time. I sat, thought it all over, and went back and re-read the last twenty pages. I wanted to savour the ending and be sure I had not missed anything.
This was a satisfying read, an original story and a unique glimpse into our nation's past... well worth the effort of coming to grips with some archaic phrasing. (I totally get why Eleanor won the prize.)


Kate Morton: a New Favourite Author
I can now say that I have read everything Kate Morton has written.
Beginning with "The Secret Keeper" (which I picked up at the airport on my way to Hawaii last year), I found myself being drawn into Kate's stories, and sometimes haunted by them.
Kate is an Australian author but who usually bases her stories in England where she partly grew up.
Each story she writes captures a different era, switching back and forth between the present and the past.
Her stories feature strong women characters, interesting plot lines and are just plain readable.
My favourite of Kate Morton's books would have to be "The Distant Hours"; this one really did stay with me for some time, haunting my thoughts.
I read all but "The Secret Keeper" on my tablet via the Library OverDrive app - for freeeeeee!
If you haven't discovered the Overdrive app, it's worth checking out. You find your local library and log in with your library card, then you can borrow eBooks for free. Some popular books (like Kate Morton's) have a wait-list, but in my humble good-story-loving opinion these are worth the wait.


Kate Atkinson: Another new favourite Author

I first came across Kate Atkinson when a friend recommended her bestselling new book "Life after Life". It wasn't available from my library so I purchased it on my Kindle app... and found the book riveting. Until the end, which I hated - it felt like I'd been dropped from a plane with a parachute that failed to open. There were annoying threads left unresolved (one of my pet peeves) and despite the beauty and cleverness of the writing, the poor ending really negated the whole point of reading the book!
However despite a disappointing ending to a fascinating book, I did really enjoy Kate's writing style, so one day when I was bored and bookless I went hunting for more books by this author (on Kindle) to see what else she had to offer. The nice thing about Kindle is that you can download a free sample of books you might want to read to see if they grab you before you buy.
I downloaded "Started Early Took my Dog" - a Jackson Brodie book, and liked it enough to buy it.
Since then I think I've read all the Jackson Brodie books, not in a big rush, just when there's a between-books lull and I can't find anything Amazeballs. What I like about these books is (a) they always have a mystery or some kind of crime that needs solving (I do like a good crime/mystery story) (b) the characters are always really well written and so are the plots (c) There is lots of action, twists and turns to keep you interested but they are not gory or creepy and (d) it's just a good read, bottom line.


Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox
I love Elizabeth Knox's writing; she has a brilliant mix of fantasy and reality that I love. The world and characters she creates have just enough grit and familiarity that it makes anything seem possible. The first books I read of hers "Dreamhunter" and "DreamQuake" are among my favourites ever. So when I saw that she had a new book out based in the same world - Mortal Fire - I had to read it.
Did I love it? Yes. Do I hope there's a Part Two? Yes. Is Elizabeth Knox one of my favourite authors? Yes.
If you love novels with a bit of fantasy, a dash of grit, great memorable characters, twisty plotlines and plenty of the unexpected... I recommend Elizabeth Knox to you (she's a Kiwi, her books have a Kiwi flavour to them, a hint of 1950s New Zealand).


Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor

OK, now this series has to be my favourite in ages - maybe since the Hunger Games. It's killing me that I have to wait til April for the conclusion (Book Three, Dreams of Gods and Monsters), but at least I only read Books One and Two in January and haven't had to wait years, like some of Laini's fans.
What is it about these books that I like so much?
Firstly, the originality of the story. The world Laini paints is so vivid, the characters (both human and non-human) are real and three dimensional. They make mistakes, they mess up. But you love them.
Then there's the epicness of the story. It's big. It's interdimensional, it's (here's that word again) fascinating. I love that the main character has blue hair - not from a bottle but from a wish. I love the tinge of magic, and the way the story takes you away from reality but without leaving any plotholes or gaping inconsistencies.
I'm not really a huge fan of supernatural fantasy stories, but this one has an earthiness to it - it's not like any other. What can I say? I loved it, and I can't wait for April.

Book One: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Book Two: Days of Blood and Starlight
Book Three: Dreams of Gods and Monsters (coming in April)



So there you have it, just a few of Mrs Readalot's most memorable reads from the past 266 days. Right now Mrs R is contemplating starting up a REAL LIFE book club, one where friends who love reading can share and exchange books, have coffee, eat cake and chat. If you're in Auckland and this sounds like you, let me know! (This is part of Mrs Readalot's cunning plan to get a ready supply of new books -  bwhahaha)

(you can link up your book reviews)

Mrs Readalots bloggy Bookclub

Read any good books lately?

P.S. Mrs Readalot is now OUT OF BOOKS and is considering getting "Divergent" on her Kindle. Has anybody read it? Is it any good? (it looks interesting; we quite like well-written dystopia books)

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