The Mayan Codex by Mario Reading


Sometimes there are bad books that you read as a guilty read and that's alright. Then there are books that you read that are just plain awful and you feel like you've wasted your time - this is one of them.

This is a continuation of a first book called The Nostradamus Prophecies but is supposed to be able to be read as an individual book. Herein lies the first of MANY problems with this book, the first book story is repeated continually to every new character introduced - thus reminding us regularly, roughly every 25 pages.

Then we get to the characters, ticking every box for Christianity references - there are 12 people who are part of a cult to kill the main character who knows where the Antichrist is going to be born because he discovered, learnt and then destroyed the missing prophecies written by Nostradamus. All these 12 people are freaks of nature exhibiting all sorts of physical deformities with demonic names and they've been brought up to believe they are in the right.

The story starts in France, moves to America when the main character is introduced and then moves to central America where we then start to tick all the boxes in stereotype Mayan legends - pyramids etc. The story even stumbles into telepathy which feels hopelessly and pointlessly added on. The story ends with a jump back into Europe where the Antichrist is going to be born to a gypsy woman and then stops abruptly, for no apparant reason. The story is continued in the 3rd part of the trilogy and I felt totally robbed.

Now, it is a page turner, I accept that as a book it is not meant to tax the brain too much. However, the language was so simple and consisted of lots of short words, there are lots of 'dangs' and 'darn it's' the only swearing is done by the French character and even then it's in French and the description were far too simple - in other words it just REALLY REALLY annoyed me.

The thought occured to me that this is written for a completely different audience than me, I quite honestly thought it was awful and have absolutely no intention of reading the first or third part.

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D James


To start this I am going to make a bit of a sacrilegious comment: I am not a real fan of Jane Austen. I mean i've read one or two of her books and didn't really enjoy them.

This book, a spin-off of Pride and Prejudice, begins with build-up to a ball, an arrival, a murder, a magistrate investigation and ends with a trial - I don't want to spoil anymore because it is all about the style but all I'll say is that I didn't get who the murderer was!

This is a very clever book written by a lady who is 93. It reads as a Jane Austen novel in language, style and description with a focus on the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth and the effect of the murder. I started this book expecting not to enjoy it but curious to read it and by the end I was mightily impressed with a murder mystery written in the 18th Century style.

Anyway, it's definitely worth a read and has made me consider re-reading an Austen novel - somthing I was not expecting

The President's Hat by Antoine Laurain


If I am in the mood, a whimsical book is just what I want to read and by golly this was marvellously whimsical and charming.

The story is basically the effects of President Mitterand of France's hat on various sorts of people of various ages. But it raises interesting thoughts about whether the hat has magic powers or whether the hat gives people the encouragement to make the decision to change their lives for the better.

I'll admit the idea of some 'thing' being used as a mechanism to change a character's life is nothing new, but this book translated from it's native French was really engaging (even if it does sag slightly in the middle) and the slight twist at the end made this book just lovely and a thoroughly entertaining read.

Pills, Thrills and Methadone Spills 2: Mr Dispenser


Community pharmacy can be a pretty lonely career at times. It can be a horrendously stressful and pressured environment to work in. It can also be hysterically funny, and those times often make the rest of it worthwhile. In a workplace that is ultimately centred around illness, the pinpricks of hilarity become all the more important.

Its good, then, that someone decided to make a book of all those funny moments that happen in the average pharmacy day. Its even better when they decide to do so twice. Enter the second instalment of Pills, Thrills and Methadone Spills by fellow anonymous pharmacist Mr Dispenser.

Those of us pharmacy types who use (for which read obsessively depend on) Twitter or who read any pharmacy magazines will no doubt be aware of Mr Dispenser, who is a regular day-brightener with his wit and humour. 

Everything Beautiful Began After - Simon Van Booy


I love the way Simon Van Booy uses language, and particularly enjoyed The Secret Lives of People in Love His words sing. But there is a large portion of this book that just didn't work for me.

The prologue is a thing of beauty, and Book One is a heartbreaking joy of beautiful prose and gorgeously flawed characters. Not much happens for most of it, but it's utterly compelling. 

Book Two is where my infatuation began to wane. There was a sudden switch from third person to second person narrative. It grated, because "you" is actually "Henry" And instead of making me feel closer to him, it forced a distance that wasn't there in the third person narrative. 

It might have worked for me if it was just done for the period of the dramatic event that happened at it's beginning - Henry's shock and disorientation reflected in the way I responded to the change in pronoun - but it continued throughout both Book Two and Book Three and I ceased to care. Until Book Four and a return to third person narrative.

I am almost certain that the jarring disconnect caused by the switch of narrative styles was intentional and it's very cleverly done. But it is cold and calculating where the rest of the story is warm and human and incredibly beautiful.

We Need To Talk About Kevin- Lionel Shriver 2003


There But For The Grace Of God Go I.

A strange phrase for me to use to open this review, given that I am an atheist. But I think the sentiment stands. This book is, for me, utterly, completely terrifying, because it is a stark reminder of how my life could have turned out, had I not had the strength and courage to stick with my child-free convictions.

The first time I read this book, I loved it. I was so drawn into Eva's character- her complexities, how she talks, her failings and successes. I could see myself, were I as clever and successful as Eva, writing in a similar style to her. Then those last few pages happened, and they were- unusually- a complete shock. I sat for hours after I had finished it, just processing the cruelty and horror of it. 

I've read it over and over since, and each time it has left me with a creeping cold fear. The last time I saw it was part of the Tyneside Cinema's Book Club, when the film came out, and the discussions were fascinating. Who was to blame for the outcome, why is the outcome so extreme, why why why? People were enthralled by the story, and particularly by Eva. Tilda Swinton was perfect. 

Forbidden Flowers- Nancy Friday 1994


I very much dislike this whole Fifty Shades of Grey fashion that is going on at the moment. This is not  because I am particularly prudish, but instead because I find the whole concept of the craze rather distasteful and patronising. I do not believe that women need to be given permission to be able to admit to enjoying something written about sex, and I don't like how books like this reinforce the belief that to make sex acceptable to women, it needs to be dressed up as a second-rate romance. Furthermore, its utter crap, and in the few paragraphs I have read (out loud, in a dramatic voice, from our office communal copy which has since mysteriously gone missing) I have been driven to distraction by the poor quality, half-arsed writing style of it (denote that she is thinking by writing in italics. Finish every sentence with either Holy crap, Holy Jesus, Holy shit etc etc, because then the reader will know how very innocent she is and will be able to identify with her because we are all delicate flowers)

Anyway, that all helps to put this review of Forbidden Flowers into context. This is a follow up book to My Secret Garden, which I haven't yet read, but I don't think that makes much difference.