59. UPSIDE DOWN INSIDE OUT BY MONICA MCINERNEY
Eva was going to be an artist, but various things conspired to get in her way. Now she is stuck in a rut, working in a caf , and wondering how all her ambitions came to nothing. When she goes to visit a friend in Australia, however, her life becomes more exciting when her friend impulsively introduces her to all her friends as a famous sculptor and musician called Niamh. But once she's started pretending to be someone she's not, it becomes quite difficult to stop, and things become complicated...
This is an easy bit of light entertainment, perfect holiday reading - untaxing and fun, with likeable characters and a sweet romance (although I think Eva has a bit of a chip on her shoulder about some things!)
60. SET IN STONE BY CATHERINE DUNNE
Lynda willingly lets her son's friend come and stay with him - he's polite, intelligent, good looking and at first seems to be a good influence on her son. But as the young man settles into their family life, things start to disintegrate, and Lynda realises he is not all he appears to be...
After a slow start, the tension built up nicely and the story maintained my interest - I was keen to find out who was behind it all, and why, but the ending was a real disappointment. So much more could have been done with this story - lots was left unexplored and unresolved, which was a real shame.
61. HUNTING UNICORNS BY BELLA POLLEN
This is the story of an eccentric upper class family trying to maintain their crumbling ancestral home... with no money. An American journalist comes (unenthusiastically) to report on the British aristocracy, and after a series of amusing incidents, finds things aren't quite as she expected them to be after all.
The story is a bit dull for the most part, aside from a handful of genuinely funny episodes (apparently based on real-life anecdotes) which are scattered throughout the book. I found most of the characters either flat or like caricatures, and it was all just a bit uninspiring.
62. THE WAY THINGS LOOK TO ME BY ROOPA FAROOKI
Asif is only young, but since the death of his parents, he has had to look after his younger sister Yasmin, who has autism, sees music in colour, and is undeniably difficult to live with. His other sister, Lila, has always resented her younger sister, whose special needs have absorbed every second of her family's attention. Now, she still has a difficult relationship with her siblings, and feels she is no more than a pretty face. This is a good study of how autism affects a family, asking difficult questions such as what if she doesn't have a disorder, what if she's just a pain in the arse? It deals with complex emotions, balancing the romantic elements of the plot with the darker elements, and I was only sorry it wasn't a longer book.
63. SNATCHED BY MANDASUE HELLER
When Sue goes out clubbing and leaves her 6 year old son at home, sure that her 15 year old daughter will be home imminently to babysit, she doesn't realise that her daughter will never come home, and her son will be trapped and almost killed when her home goes up in flames. Over the next weeks, she struggles to deal with her traumatised son, her missing daughter and the disgust of her neighbours and ex-husband, who think she neglected her children.
My main confusion with this story was how little time seemed to be devoted to finding the missing daughter - she is, after all, only 15, not the sort of girl who ever runs away or gets into trouble, and she has taken none of her belongings with her! But not only do the police seem barely bothered, her family don't seem all that concerned either - it just felt weird! The story is fairly gripping, for the most part, although I found none of the characters likeable and the plot was a little over-simplistic. It reminds me a lot of Martina Cole's novels (in particular The Know) but I thought Mandasue Heller's writing style was a bit more sophisticated and, generally, better!
64. THE SHORT SECOND LIFE OF BREE TANNER BY STEPHENIE MEYER
Fans of Twilight will enjoy this little extra nugget of vampire action, but it certainly doesn't work as a standalone story, focussing as it does on a minor character from Eclipse, and her transformation into a vampire, and subsequent second death. It's short, and dare I say it, a bit pointless?
65. SHATTERED BY DEAN KOONTZ
A nervy, tense story of a man and his adopted son driving across America to join his wife, while being pursued by a psychopath. It's a simple pursuit story, perhaps a little too simple, and the end is disappointingly abrupt.
66. TOUCH BY MARK SENNEN
Perhaps unfairly, I didn't expect much of this book as it was originally issued just as an eBook. However, it proved to be quite well-written, very creepy and nasty, and although it could have done with just a little bit more tension, I enjoyed it very much. It tells the story of the investigation of a series of brutal sexual assaults, but when the crimes escalate to murder it becomes even more important to catch him before he strikes again...
67. DARKNESS COMES BY DEAN KOONTZ
Also known as Darkfall.
A detective unwittingly becomes embroiled with voodoo dark magic when he tries to investigate the murder of several high profile members of the Mafia. This starts as it means to go on with a terrifying opening playing on all our primal fears of the dark and the monster under the bed. Suspend your disbelief (because admittedly some of this can get a bit silly at times) and this is an imaginative horror story of the battle of good vs evil.
68. THE OTHER DAUGHTER BY LISA GARDNER
Adorable 4 year old Meaghan is murdered, and her family is destroyed by her death. Some time later, still grieving for their loss, a 9 year old girl is abandoned in hospital and nobody has any idea where she has come from or what has happened to her family. Meaghan's family adopt her, and the girl grows up with everything she ever could have wanted - but always in the shadow of Meaghan, and wondering about the events of the past.
Although occasionally this slips almost into melodrama with its over the top events, dramatic revelations and sneering villains, it is a good story with plenty of questions to be answered that keep you turning the pages. (I did figure out the truth fairly early on, however.) More like a soap than a crime thriller, it's action packed without being overly gritty or violent, and there's a sizeable dose of romance to add a bit of variety.
69. ANGEL BY BARBARA TAYLOR BRADFORD
The plot of this shallow story didn't grab me at all, and neither did the bland, "beautiful people" characters with their unrealistically perfect lives. The characters gushed all over each other about how successful and talented they were, and I reached for the sick bag. The Mafia plot strand was unconvincing and almost irrelevant, and the ending was abrupt and needed to be dealt with properly, rather than just being a quick way of getting shot of a loose end. Unimpressive tripe.
70. YOUR HEART BELONGS TO ME BY DEAN KOONTZ
Successful IT developer Ryan is only 34 when his heart begins to fail, and he is told a transplant is his only option. As paranoia sets in, and Ryan fears for his life, he is offered a new heart. But soon after the life-saving operation, Ryan discovers that it's no longer paranoia, someone really is out to get him... The first half of the book I found a little bit odd as I couldn't understand where the paranoia was coming from - there didn't seem to be any real threat, aside from the obvious medical one. The tension built up well in the second part, with the supernatural elements of the story balancing well with the darker human elements to create a real page-turner, with an unexpected conclusion.
71. HEREWARD BY JAMES WILDE
Hereward tells the story of a warrior in the years leading up to the Battle of Hastings. I found it repetitive both in action and dialogue - it's a series of violent encounters punctuated by conversations between Hereward and his monk companion about the possibility (and necessity) of saving his soul. I also felt it really lacked the historical detail that you find in, for example, Bernard Cornwell's books, that really give the book a strong sense of place and history. I can't imagine I'll rush to read the two sequels.
72. CALL THE MIDWIFE BY JENNIFER WORTH
The memoirs of Jenny, a young district midwife working in the East End during the 1950's, and the book on which the excellent TV series was based. This book provides a fascinating insight into a period of English social history which is still within many people's own lifetimes, but yet seems so alien from how people live today. In turn it's funny, sad, thoughtful and intelligent, full of vividly depicted personalities. On another note, it's also lovely for a change to read memoirs about convent life which depict it so positively, rather than as a hotbed of neglect and abuse. I loved it.
73. GRAVITY BY TESS GERRITSEN
A crew goes out into space to carry out research experiments in zero gravity, but one by one they contract a deadly disease... This is nothing like most of Tess Gerritsen's other works, verging more towards a sci-fi horror than a medical thriller. It's horrific, dark, gory and compelling - I loved it. A refreshing change from her usual work, and again goes to show her versatility as a writer.
74. THE LAST DANCE AND OTHER STORIES BY VICTORIA HISLOP
Victoria Hislop evokes a real sense of place and character with each of her short stories set in Greece (and Cyprus) but as always, for me short stories are disappointing. Many of these little snippets leave me longing for more, and I wish they were a novel...
75. THE ALMOST MOON BY ALICE SEBOLD
I've enjoyed Alice Sebold's first two novels (The Lovely Bones and Lucky) despite their essentially very bleak subject matter, because despite the depressing aspects, there is also some hope left within the story. There is no hope in The Almost Moon. The opening is terribly shocking (Helen smothers her elderly mother, who has dementia, breaking her nose in the process) and from then on it's difficult to see Helen in anything other than a negative light. It's difficult to read a book written in the voice of a character who has no redeeming qualities at all - all of her actions are questionable, and while she has obviously had a rough time, I never found myself able to sympathise with her at all. I didn't enjoy the book and I was relieved when it was over, although I found the ending a disappointment as well as nothing was resolved!
76. BREATHLESS BY DEAN KOONTZ
Dean Koontz writes animals and creatures very well - his monsters and made-up beings are always well imagined and I find it easy to visualise them, which helps in this book where they play such a large part. I don't think, however, that I felt the way about them that I was meant to feel - they creeped me out big time! The book felt a little unfinished to me - it was just getting going and then it was over! I did quite enjoy it, there's a pretty strong message in there though, and for the most part I have to admit it confused more than entertained me.
77. STOLEN BY LESLEY PEARCE
A young woman is washed up on a Sussex beach. She has rope marks on her wrists and ankles, her hair has been viciously hacked off and she has no memories of what has happened to her. When her friends come to claim her, they slowly learn the terrible things that have been done to her, but more is yet to come...
The story itself isn't bad, but it uses every clichin the book. The heroine is beautiful, kind, clever and actually completely perfect, but despite this her parents are cruel to her and terrible things happen to her. Not only content with telling the reader this at every opportunity, the other characters feel obliged to tell the heroine that she's beautiful, kind. clever and perfect all the time. It got more than a bit tedious. Most of the characters are just cardboard cut-outs - the perfect heroine, the ballsy best mate, the cruel parents, the evil villains, the dashing hero, the bitchy boss... none of them felt real. Generally speaking, nothing about the story felt real - after all that trauma, for example, you'd think the heroine might be a bit screwed up, but she isn't at all. It doesn't ring true. Neither, for that matter, did the police investigation, or the reactions of some of the characters, and the ending was straight out of a teenage high school movie. Put bluntly, it was a good idea for a book, but the execution was lame.
78. THE TAKING BY DEAN KOONTZ
"First the rain, then the dark, then The Taking."
From the first page to the last this was an onslaught of terror, with a succession of horrifying events, each tweaking a different fear to keep the reader on their toes and looking over their shoulder. It was genuinely frightening and I loved it!
79. A STREET CAT NAMED BOB BY JAMES BOWEN
The story of a busker who is adopted by a neglected stray cat and finds that the new relationship changes his life. This is a lovely story, although very simply written, and will charm cat lovers. It also provides an insight into the lives of people living an unconventional life, trying to earn a living off the streets, and is a new and interesting perspective.
56. WHIP IT (2009)
Bliss (played by Ellen Page) is 17, works in a diner and subjects herself to entering pageants in order to keep her mum happy.By chance, she picks up a flyer in a shop, and tries out for a roller derby team. It's pretty much a coming-of-age/mother-daughter relationship film combined with an underdog sports movie, but the combination works pretty well - there's a good combination of action, humour and emotional scenes. It's refreshing, too, for a female teenager's sense of self-worth in a film to come from something other than bagging herself the sexiest boy at the school... I really enjoyed the film.
57. HOT TUB TIME MACHINE (2010)
Three men return to the town where they had an amazing holiday in their youths, accompanied by one of their nephews, but find that it's now run down and a bit crap. Not to be disheartened, they all have a drunken hot tub party, and with the aid of some toxic Russian energy drink, they wake up in the 1980s.... This is one of those gross out, stupid bloke sex comedies, in the vein of The Hangover - although without most of the humour. There were a couple of funny moments, but mostly I just found it vaguely irritating. Also, I found it mildly offensive that one of the positive outcomes of the film is that one of the characters gets to be a man by not taking his wife's name and going double-barrelled. Yeah, man, don't bow down to your wife's right to keep her own name as part of her identity, and while you're at it, keep her in the kitchen where she belongs.
58. SOURCE CODE (2011)
Jake Gyllenhaal wakes up on a train in another man's body with a woman he doesn't know. Eight minutes later a bomb hidden on the train explodes, killing everyone. But he doesn't die - he wakes up again in a capsule, in contact with a mysterious military facility who say that he has to go back in time to find out where the bomb is, and who planted it... It's like Groundhog Day suddenly got really serious. Originally I thought this was all a bit predictable and I saw where it was going pretty quickly, but it actually turned out to be smarter than I expected, without showing off about it and being overly complicated. It's thoughtful with a weirdly uplifting seize the day message, amid plenty of fast-paced (8 minutes 'til you're dead - again!) action. Great film.
59. SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD (2010)
Scott Pilgrim starts dating Ramona, but finds that in order to do so he has to defeat her seven evil exes in combat. Cue lots of video game style noises, explosions of coins, health bars and high scores. It's quite a witty idea for a film, but while it's occasionally funny, for the most part it was just a bit annoying.
60. LETTERS TO JULIET (2010)
Sophie is in Verona on a pre-honeymoon, and discovers a wall where women write letters to Juliet, which are then answered by a group of women who feel that the various dilemmas the women write about in their letters deserve a reply. While there, she discovers an old forgotten letter written 50 years ago, and she sets out to answer it, because when it comes to love it doesn't have to be too late.
This is a bit of a sappy film, but it's quite likeable... it would be more so if it wasn't for the horribly stereotypical English man with a poker up his arse. Really? NOBODY is like that anymore, not even English people. It got my back up a bit. In general the story is sweet, Amanda Seyfried looks pretty and it's quite watchable, but nothing special really.
61. LES MISERABLES (2012)
Again! (Original review .) Have developed ill-advised crush on Russell Crowe. Everyone thinks I'm weird. I don't care.