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Top Ten Authors I’ve Only Read One Book From But Need To Read More

A fabulous blog entitled The Broke and The Bookish holds a weekly feature/web-meme/ link up entitled Top Ten Tuesday.  Each week has a different theme where bloggers from around the world contribute their own top ten and are able to discuss each other’s choices.   This week we’re looking at authors that we have only read one of their books would love to read more.

Ryu Murakami

In The Miso Soup wasn’t a book I had heard much about before I read it but now I just can’t get it out of my head.  The world that Murakami creates in this book sears with violence, sex, aggression and mystery.  As much as I was disgusted by the main scene of violence, by this point I was so engaged with the characters and the concept behind the book that I could not put it down.

Eli Glasman

OK, he’s only had one novel published but it was so good- The Boy’s Own Guide to Being a Proper Jew. It was a great debut and if he continues to write like this I definitely want to read more.  Keep them coming, Eli!

Hayley Long

I need to read more about Lottie Biggs! Lottie Biggs is (Not) Mad was a YA book which was funny, engaging, didactic (but not too so) and just a great depiction of a teenager with mental health issues.  Lottie’s depression and anxiety forms a major part of the book but is not shown to be all that she is.  She is bright, funny, gobby and a bit of a brat at times but is so lovingly and beautifully written.  I wish this was around when I was 13!

Mary Roach

Bonk was a fantastic non-fiction read about sex- not salacious but full of facts that you never knew you needed to know.  Scientific enough not to seem tacky but funny enough not to be boring for the lay person.  The only reason I haven’t read more of her work is I just can’t decide which to read next- Stiff or Gulp? Any ideas?

Rae Earl

My Mad Fat Teenage Diary is another book about a teenager with mental health difficulties, but this time the real life diary of Rae Earl. I loved this and now need to read the sequel and find out what happened to Rae as she went on to college.

Kevin Brooks

The Bunker Diary just blew me away.  I read it within a day but would not class it as an easy read due to the topic.  A hard-hitting claustrophobic read. Who says YA is not intellectually stimulating?

David Levithan

I liked the concept of Boy Meets Boy but there was something in the delivery that didn’t quite work for me.  I would like to read Two Boys Kissing to see how his style has developed (and because I am very intrigued by the idea of the Greek style chorus).

H G Wells

I have read The Time Machine and really enjoyed it.  I have a copy of The War of the Worlds but have just never got around to reading it.  I really should make the effort. (The only problem is that since I started watching Warehouse 13 I can’t think about HG Wells without seeing Jaime Murray!?! I have to keep reminding myself that he actually was a man in real life!!!)

Maya Angelou

I’ve read I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and really want to continue to read the other books in this autobiographical series.

Jeffery Deaver

Occasionally I like to dip into a crime novel. I’ve read Roadside Crosses by Deaver and really enjoyed it so think he would be a good author to return to the next time I need a crime fix.  (Also, my husband is a fan so there are lots of Deaver novels floating around the house meaning I wouldn’t need to buy them or trek out to the library).

Mrs H in London: Crime Scene Live

On the morning of Friday August 29th a body was found in the gardens surrounding the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, London. The Metropolitan Police were brought in to investigate but they then needed to bring in some expert skills including those of Mr and Mrs Holpepper!
Now as regular readers will know, my day job is primary school teacher not a forensic anthropologist. In fact, a real body was not found. Instead the whole scenario was set up as part of the NHM Crime Scene Live.
Crime Scene Live is an interactive event where members of the public are able to practice skills (such as forensic entomology and blood spatter analysis) in order to help with the investigation of a fictional murder.
Upon our arrival at the Natural History Museum we were invited to don very fetching Tyvek suits and taken in to a conference room for a briefing by a senior police officer.

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Throughout the evening we had the opportunity to experience different elements of a crime scene investigation. We were led through how a forensic anthropologist would work with a body in order to determine it’s identity. Our very own Tempe Brennan, the Natural History Museum’s Dr Heather Bonney, showed us how to determine age and gender simply by looking at bones.
From there we had the opportunity to become Dexter Morgan and take part in some blood spatter analysis. We learnt the patterns created by different acts and used chemicals and lights to search for blood on the clothes of our suspect. I even had the chance to create some blood spatter.
No, don’t worry! My husband is fine- it was actually a big slab of pork covered in red syrup that I was walloping!

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Since my husband took classes in parasitology at university he’s always felt a little bit of a frustrated entomologist so he loved having the opportunity to indulge his inner Hodgins (another Bones reference, sorry!!) and work with maggots! We were able to identify how long it was since the body had been lying in the garden and thus give us an idea of date of death.

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Following a short break we returned to the conference room to watch real barristers and a real judge carry out the evidentiary hearing for our findings!
This was such an exciting way to spend an evening and my husband (a huge fan of Bones) had a huge grin on his face for the whole night due to being able to carry out the tasks he sees on his favourite show!
The Natural History Museum regularly host these events and I can definitely recommend them for fans of CSI, Silent Witness, Dexter, Bones or indeed fans of Kathy Reich’s books.

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REVIEW: In The Miso Soup- Ryu Murakami

It’s just before New Year, and Frank, an overweight American tourist, has hired Kenji to take him on a guided tour of Tokyo’s nightlife. But Frank’s behaviour is so odd that Kenji begins to entertain a horrible suspicion: his client may in fact have murderous desires. Although Kenji is far from innocent himself, he unwillingly descends with Frank into an inferno of evil, from which only his sixteen-year-old girlfriend, Jun, can possibly save him.

I’ve written before about how I began reading American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis but just couldn’t bring myself to go on.  Part of my reason for not going on was the gruesome descriptions of Patrick Bateman’s acts.  To be totally honest with you though, that wasn’t the main reason.  The main reason was that I was bored.  Bored of the constant lists of designer clothes and CDs and gadgets.  I know that the point was to depict 1980s excess and that the relenting listing creates a reflection in the relenting violence that later occurs.  However, it just took so long for anything to really happen.  Patrick goes to bars, Patrick goes to restaurants, Patrick has sex with the girlfriends of co-workers and friends but nothing really happened.  Well, nothing in the way I was expecting.  There were hints at violence and hints at what would later occur but it took so long for anything to happen.  And when it finally did I had lost interest in Patrick Bateman.  I didn’t find him engaging enough as a character to carry me through the violence, to want to know why he did it.  It also probably doesn’t help that I already know the ending of the book. I do want to finish the book but I just didn’t find the character of Patrick engaging enough.

In In The Miso Soup, Ryu Murakami has created a psychopathic character who is so engaging that no matter how horrible it all got I just couldn’t put the book down.   By the time I reached the main graphic scene of violence, I was so caught up in the mystery of Frank that I just had to read on, no matter how degrading and horrible the action got.  Where Patrick Bateman is handsome, presentable and professional on the surface, Frank is immediately portrayed as false, fake, disconcerting and unnerving.  The description of his skin as plastic-like or silicon contributes to the idea that you just can’t believe his words or even his physicality.  We, like Kenji, are encouraged to question every single thing about Frank.  When I began reading I felt that the connection between Frank and the reported assaults on local girls was too quickly made to be plausible. He didn’t really have any evidence other than a feeling.  I particularly wondered how we would possibly notice a miniscule piece of evidence found by his own house and how on earth he would make the connection he did.  Kenji admits himself that his feelings have no basis but as he gets to know Frank more and more he becomes more obsessed with the idea that he is a killer and rapist.

The scenes of violence are so graphically depicted that they are stomach churning.  This is not a book to take with you to a café and read whilst you devour a cake.  The book does feature descriptions of terrible acts and sexual violence that is just absolutely abhorrent but what is even more shocking is the way that Murakami’s writing makes you feel complicit in the acts.  Like Kenji, we have been drawn into this action and need to question our role in these acts.

As well as allowing for an exploration of the psychopathic mind, In The Miso Soup provides a fascinating glimpse into the sex industry in Tokyo.  In the blurb above Kenji’s job is described as a ‘night-life guide’ which perhaps sounds more pleasant than the role actually is.  Kenji is a guide for foreign tourists (gaijin) but specifically for those wishing to visit sex clubs and hostess bars.  He only advertises his services in travel guides aimed at the sex tourist and knows his way around the backstreets of KabukichoIn The Miso Soup shows the bleakness of a district full of love hotels, massage parlours, lingerie pubs and peep shows.  Karumaki depicts the lives of the people who depend on this industry for their living and the bleakness of this existence.  We see how practices such as compensated dating have created a consumer-led view of both love and sex and how difficult it is to break free from this way of life.

In The Miso Soup is certainly not for the faint-hearted but it’s an engaging and exciting read which provides a glimpse into a murky and dangerous world.

Mrs H in London: Books About Town

There has always been lots of benches dotted about London but for the last few months some of them have been much more exciting and bookish than usual.  A selection of book-inspired benches have been created by a range of artists and distributed around four areas of London- the City, Bloomsbury, by the Thames and Greenwich.  Originally fifty were created but then Guardian Books asked their readership to vote for which title should be depicted on the 51st bench.  Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere was the winner and a bench showing characters from London Below will be placed today at King’s Place in King’s Cross.

When my husband and I went down to London recently we had a fairly full itinerary planned.  However, we had a few hours at our disposal and although Mr H wanted to sit down with a coffee in a cafe somewhere and put his feet up, I managed to persuade him to trek around Bloomsbury with me visiting some of the benches in that area.  Despite his initial protestations, he really enjoyed it.  It brought out his competitive streak and we found ourselves sprinting around parks to be the first to reach the bench each time- great fun!

It’s a shame we didn’t get out to the other areas to complete the trails there, but I’m glad that we were able to participate in this event in some little way and to see the fabulous artwork that had been created in honour of some fantastic books.
The Importance of Being Earnest- Oscar Wilde

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Mrs Dalloway- Virginia Woolf

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1984- George Orwell and the building that inspired the Ministry of Truth

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A tribute to the James Bond books of Ian Fleming

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REVIEW: Panic- Lauren Oliver

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a poor town of twelve thousand people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game; he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them-and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

Thanks to Hodder & Stoughton and Bookbridgr for an Advanced Reader Copy of this book in return for an honest review.

It took me a while to read this book and then when finished it has taken me a while to get around to reviewing it.  This is because I have had so many different mixed feelings whilst reading this book.

At the beginning of reading Panic I was gripped.  Oliver doesn’t waste time with scene setting or background information- we get straight into the action, watching as the teenagers plunge down into cold icy water as part of the first part of ‘Panic’.  This immediacy worked really well- after having read about what they did I was then desperate to find out what would drive them to such extreme depths.  I wanted to know about their motivation and I wanted to know how the game would develop.

I wasn’t really sure at times about the character of Heather.  I was annoyed with her at first that it seemed that her reason to enter the game was because of a boy.  However, as the book continued it became apparent that although this may have been why she initially jumped it wasn’t actually her reason for then continuing to play.  Heather’s family life is fleshed out gradually, allowing us to realise why she would risk her life to play this game.  I also found that I really liked the character of Nat, Heather’s best friend.  At first I thought she was just going to be a one-dimensional pretty girl character with no depth but the hints of OCD and anxiety under the surface make her a much more believable and sympathetic character.  I would have perhaps liked more focus on Nat- maybe even for her to have been one of the p.o.v characters along with Heather and Dodge.

Speaking of Dodge, I wasn’t that keen on him.  First of all, he didn’t seem to see past Nat’s pretty exterior to her vulnerability.  I understood why he wanted to stand by his sister but rather than being either sympathetic or a well-written anti-hero character, he just came across as petulant and childish.

Now, there was a point in the novel where my initial excitement for the book began to wane- once we were made aware of the tigers living in friendly maternal Anne’s farm.  The book had been fairly realistic up to this point and it was a stretch too far to find out that there had been tigers living there for some time without anyone finding out about it.  I just couldn’t get my head around it and it ruined my enjoyment of the rest of the book.

The start of the book develops the idea of Carp as a claustrophobic no-hope dead-end town really well.  You can see why these teenagers would be willing to jump off a cliff to try and escape there.  However, as the challenges develop in difficulty it became harder and harder for me to understand why anyone would risk serious injury or death in this way.  I think as a younger reader I would have just accepted this without query, but at the age of 32 I could see other options for the characters that didn’t involve taking ridiculous risks.

I think that this book starts really well but it didn’t maintain the momentum in my opinion.  I think that a younger audience may appreciate it more but as an adult YA reader this one wasn’t really for me.

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Top Nine Underrated Books

A fabulous blog entitled The Broke and The Bookish hold a weekly feature/web-meme/ link up entitled Top Ten Tuesday. Each week has a different theme where bloggers from around the world contribute their own top ten and are able to discuss each other’s choices.  This week we are focusing on authors and books that we feel are underrated.

Middle Grade / YA Books

The Deptford Mice- Robin Jarvis

Anastasia Krupnik- Lois Lowry

The Trial of Anna Cotman- Vivien Alcock

These were three of my favourite books during that awkward tweeny-teen age.  You’re too old for some children’s books but too young for romances or anything too scary.  These three books don’t seem to be as readily available or popular anymore but I still hold a special place in my heart for them all.  I’ve also revisited them all more recently and my liking of them has not waned.  They are just as special to me as they were then. 

The Deptford Mice books scared me intensely but I couldn’t stop reading the series.  I loved the sense of the supernatural underlying the books and especially loved Madame Akkikuyu in the second book- The Crystal Prison.  I felt similarly scared by The Trial of Anna Cotman but this book was more psychological.  It was a more human terror brought on by bullying, drugs and cults.  It was one of the first books I read that dealt with these issues and I just loved the honesty of it all.  Lastly, I just wanted to be Anastasia Krupnik. 

Classics

Evelina- Fanny Burney

Love and Freindship- Jane Austen

Titus Andronicus- William Shakespeare

The Revenger’s Tragedy- Thomas Middleton

I know it’s strange to call classics underrated.  Simply by calling them ‘classics’ we are showing that they have stood the test of time and are, thus, well rated.  However, I have chosen four books (well… two are plays) that I feel don’t get as much attention as other classics.  Evelina is a beautifully written comedy of manners written in epistolary form (letters).  It’s really funny, really well observed and shows the types of works that Jane Austen probably would have read and been inspired by.  Speaking of Austen, I would heartily recommend any Jane fans to read Love and Freindship.  It’s part of her juvenilia and although it isn’t as well-polished or subtle as her later work it is well worth a read.  She is much more harsh with her comedy in this work and, at 14, hasn’t developed the skill of satire as opposed to out and out lampoon. 

Titus Andronicus is an early Shakespeare play, and again may not be as polished as his later work but it packs a punch.  In fact, both of these plays (Titus and The Revenger’s Tragedy) are pretty gritty and gruesome.  If you don’t fancy reading them there are some good film adaptations of both. 

 

 

 

Contemporary Literature
In The Miso Soup- Ryu Murakami
It’s strange to call Ryu Murakami underrated when he is hugely popular in Japan but in the UK/US his name-sake, Haruki Murakami, seems to be the more well known author. This book is not necessarily a pleasant happy read but is so enthralling that I could not put it down. A definite read for fans of Bret Easton Ellis or Chuck Palahniuk.
The Black Angel- John Connolly
This was the first of the Charlie Parker books that I read. I picked it up after my husband had finished it and didn’t expect to like it. It’s a really intelligently written crime novel and the supernatural element seemed really unusual to me at the time. I also loved the inclusion of the setting of the Ossuary in Sedlec, Czech Republic.

Mrs Holpepper: Chatterbox (2)

It’s time for a little catch up.

Blog-wise I’ve been a little quiet over the past few weeks.  You see, I’ve been gearing up for my return to work. Yes, I’m back!! At the moment I’m only doing a few days a week to allow myself to build up and to prevent relapse but I’m still doing it! I’m back at work and I’m so happy about it!  It’s been difficult stopping myself from getting stressed about it but I am getting there and am hoping to be full time before too long.  

Another reason the blog has been a little quiet is that before I returned to work my husband whisked me away to London for a few days.  The main reason for going away was to keep me busy before the return to work.  He knows I worried I get about the new term at the best of times so thought it was a good idea to keep my mind busy in these days.  We had a great couple of days in London and had a very book-inspired time- visits to the British Library, exploring the Books About Town benches, a trip to the Warner Bros Harry Potter Tour and an opportunity to be like Tempe Brennan and carry out some forensic anthropology as part of the Natural History Museum’s Crime Scene Live.  I aim to review/report back on these events in more detail so keep your eyes peeled on here for more on the Holpepper Trip to London.