Friday, 30 January 2015

Our highest scoring book ever! I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

I loved this book from really early on. In fact I haven’t spoken to anyone who hasn’t loved it and all the reviews on social media seem to be positive. Why?

It was fast paced, dotting all over the world yet it remained human (the 9/11 wheelchair story, the little boy on his bike racing to see if it was his father being executed). I found it believable and well thought out with every little thing linking in, even when at first you thought it was just a random memory designed to illustrate one point it often illustrated two or three further down the line. No story was superfluous which is important in a book with a large number of pages.

It has strong likeable characters. I particularly liked Battleboi and loved the idea of him setting a place at his table every year. Pilgrims relationship with his stepfather left you wishing he could have just had the chance to say ‘thank you, I love you’ all amidst the gun battles, torture and hatred that the book had plenty of. I liked the fact there was no love interest that these down and out heroes so often come across whilst saving the world. I liked the fact Pilgrim questioned himself, the life he had fallen into and the possibility of ever escaping it and living a ‘normal life’

There were lots of strands to the book and it was in danger of losing the reader especially when you seem to stray so far from the girl in the bathtub introduced at the beginning but Hayes walked the line just right and kept me on-board throughout.

There were negatives – I slightly got annoyed with Pilgrims comments at the end of chapters such as ‘that was a mistake I would pay for later’ ‘I should have realised at the time how important his eagerness was’ I have totally made these up as I don’t have the book to hand whilst writing this but you get the gist i.e. there is going to be more on this later so remember it. Hayes’ writing was good enough not to need these signposts and I think the reader would have got more out of it by realising themselves that the chapter you had read 50 pages back was knitting with the present one unexpectedly.

Looking back the probability of the two stories both randomly ending up in Turkey and the Turkish cops connection to the two stories was highly unlikely but I didn’t question it whilst reading it and am only trying to deliver a rounded critique.

It really did make you stop and think how easy it is for someone willing to play the long game to extract all kinds of hell, how life can sometime turn on a chance (the quicklime and the Australian soldier) and how much information is out there on the internet (gene splicing, whatever that is). I read this on the back of the Paris gun attacks and terrorism is such a massive topic that is going to affect us for years to come. How you stop it and how you ever catch even one proposed attack is such a large seemingly insurmountable problem. But anyway this is a book blog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hayes did leave it open for another one. I’m not sure there should be one as this was really good, another one would tarnish it somehow like Dan Brown and his ‘how many clues hidden for thousands of years can one American professor unearth in a short space of time?’ You just feel like saying, really he is single handily saving the world again? So please Mr Hayes, you wrote a brilliant book, have the balls to keep it as a one off. You’re a brilliant writer, write something different, don’t cash in on Pilgrims popularity and have him saving the world again, it would spoil it.

The group agreed with the general opinion of the rest of the world and all enjoyed the book. We gave it a 9.5 with the lowest score being a 9 which is unheard of in this group. I think this makes it our highest scoring book ever (not counting the festive 10s we have given out over the years). It’s going to be a hard act to follow! Next book is Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

Question of the month - Is there any books you feel strongly shouldn’t have a sequel? Which ones?

Friday, 2 January 2015

The one you have been waiting all year for - The Big Review of the Year 2014!

Another year has gone racing past which for the book club means 13 more books have been read and reviewed (No we don’t exist in some different calendar world, we did a double bill in January). In a nutshell these are the ones we read starting with January 2014.

The Silent Wife by ASA Harrison. Score 5.5. This had the widest split of scores (10 to a 4) but in general we hated the lead character which effected our overall enjoyment.

Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James. Score 7.5. Very English, didn’t stray too far from the original which we liked but not a brilliant crime novel when you think who the author was.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Score 7.3 liked by all, funny but with interesting points to discuss.

The Cuckoos Calling by Robert Galbraith. Score 7.5. We said it would make a good TV show and low and behold its going to be one! A successful second venture into the non-wizarding world. Looking forward to reading Silkworm

The Hidden Child by Camilla Lackberg. Score 5.5. Most disappointed by this one. It had the most potential but too many elements and a too unbelievable husband and wife team got in the way of a good story.

Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach. Score 6.5. Most thought provoking dealing with very of the moment issues.

Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse. Score 5. Easy enough to read but very similar to other books on the market right now

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan. Score 5.5. Like an ice sculpture perfectly formed but lacking warmth

Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope 4.5. Introducing Marianne and Elinor to twitter was a step too far for us

The Goldfinch Donna Tartt. Score 7.66 recurring rounded up to an 8. The longest but in some ways the best.

Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer. Score 7.3. ‘Easy to read with good characters but it didn’t blow me away and I won’t remember it in 6 months’ time’

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. Score 5. Unanimously loved the beginning but thought it became more silly as it went on

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. Score a festive 9. Short, sweet and Christmassy.

Those were the books and these are the Cramlington Book Club Awards for 2014!;

Lowest Score – Sense and Sensibility

Highest Score – The Polar Express but if you take away festive cheer then it was The Goldfinch

Most Forgettable – Sweet Tooth. I had to read nearly all of my review before I remembered the storey.

Most Recommend – The Rosie Project. I look back with most fondness on this one.

Overall not as many standout books as last year and a few of them left me disappointed (Her Fearful Symmetry, The Hidden Child and The Silent Wife mostly). There were some definite talking points though (Kiss Me First) and as I got The Silkworm for Christmas there will definitely be a revisit to Comoran Strike, probably my favourite character of all year.