Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Anne of Avonlea by L M Montgomery

Anne of Avonlea follows on from Anne of Green Gables. After the shock decision of Anne not to attend university but to return to Avonlea to be with Marila, Anne manages to secure a job teaching at the local school. As if a new job wasn't enough a relative of Marila's dies and Marila is left to bring up six year old twins Davy and Dora whilst their uncle finishes his job and secures a new home for them. Although Dora is extremely well behaved, Davy is a handful and is soon getting into all sorts of scrapes. Anne somehow also finds the time to work on improving Avonlea with the Improvement Society and it is not long before she too gets into some scrapes. With new neighbours and friends and old rivals Avonlea continues to provide adventures for Anne during her late teens.

Anne of Avonlea picks up right from where Anne of Green Gables finishes. Although some of the characters from the first book are no longer present or take much lesser roles in the book, there are enough of the core characters to keep a sense of familiarity. The book is another gentle trundle through Anne's adventures with the usual mix of mini disasters and small triumphs. It is certainly a mellow book, entirely suitable for young children and adults alike and best enjoyed over a mug of hot chocolate.

It is hard to be critical of Montgomery for her style of writing. After reading Anne of Green Gables I find that my expectations have changed and I was able to slip into reading Anne of Avonlea quite easily and not find it tedious or irritating. Certainly Anne has managed to rid herself of some of her more annoying habits and as one might expect is beginning to grow up. The book was written at a very different time from the modern day which means we have to accept its differences.

I would recommend that anyone who wants to read this book read Anne of Green Gables first (click on any mention of Anne of Green Gables in this review for a link to my review for the book). It is certainly worth reading if you want a light and gentle read to whisk you away to another more innocent age after a long hard, miserable day at work.

*3 stars*

Young Bloods by Simon Scarrow

Napoleon Bonaparte and Wellington are arguably two of the most well known figures of the late 18th/early 19th century. In his new series, 'Revolution', Simon Scarrow charts the the lives of these two men side by side from birth to death. Although fictional, the books do draw greatly from what is know about these two figures with a little added artistic licence. In the first book 'Young Bloods' the two men are followed from birth, through their school days and up until the start of their involvement in the European wars of the late 18th century.

Don't let the size of this book put you off. At 512 pages it is not a short book but it is definitely an excellent read. I know little about this period of history and therefore cannot vouch for how accurate Scarrow is, yet I feel that I have learnt a lot by reading this book. It paints Napoleon as a born military figure. He fights hard to overcome the racism against his origins and to prove that he is a talented man. Wellington (or Arthur Wesley as he was orignally known)does not strike you as a born man of the military. In some ways he makes his way into the army in an easier fashion than Bonaparte as he at least comes from a good background. Instead he has to deal with lack of talent (although he is a gifted musician), his mother who does not seem to love him and the eventual ruin his family suffer. Scarrow tries to deal with both characters sensitvely and impartially but it is clear to see how stubborn both men are and how they can at times be obnoxious or loveable.

Both men seem to have a talent for leadership. This is something that becomes apparent towards the end of the book and will no doubt become more important as the series progresses.

I was amazed at how easy the book was to read. I have to admit I read it in a day and read quite a bit before I realised how much I'd read (if you know what I mean!). It was engaging, interesting and I very much felt that most of the characters had depth. Despite having no interest in Napoleon and Wellington prior to reading this book I now find I watch the occasional documentary about this period as I now know something about this.

As this is the first installment of the series there is not a huge deal of fighting and action in that sense in the book. I suspect that the next two books will have far more fighting in them which may render them slightly tedious. However this book has certainly peaked my interest and I look forward to reading 'The Generals' in the near future.

*4 stars*

The Savage Garden by Mark Mills

It is 1958 and Adam Strickland has reached the end of his second year studying at Cambridge. He is not the most diligent of students and when his tutor asks to see him he presumes he is in trouble for slacking. Instead he is offered a dissertation topic, studying the garden of a Tuscan villa owned by a friend of his tutor. Intrigued and desperate not to follow in his father's footsteps Adam agrees. What he does not anticipate is that the garden hides a 400 year old mystery and a curse that has followed the owners for years. Armed with his intellect alone Adam feels he must solve the mystery of the garden and the mystery that surrounds the current owners in the few short weeks he has.

I picked this book up as I hoped it would be something different to what I usually read. I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. Although the first few chapters had me wondering if anything was going to happen as the story unfolded I was gradually drawn in. Like any good detective story by the end I was heading in the right direction although I hadn't quite guessed what was going on. There are plenty of twists and turns but for fans of fast paced action you will find this book very slow and lacking in action. Much of the story line involves looking at the garden and several of the older characters reminiscing, as well as family dinners.

It is certainly one of the better representations of Italy I have read of late. The descriptions make you want to visit but they don't drown the story line. The family at the centre of the book feel convincingly Italian. There is good food, good company and a general happiness that you expect from your stereotypical Italian experience.

Its a book that is well worth trying and persevering with past the first few chapters. Its not a difficult read and if you want a detective story with more similarity to Rosemary and Thyme than Waking the Dead then this is probably for you.

*3 stars*

It's been a while!

Ok guys so it's been a while since I updated this blog. Apologies! Still have no internet access at home and only get access to things like Blogger when I go and use the library computers (which tend to get quite busy). Ah well, such is life.

I've been keeping myself busy and been reading lots and lots of books. Unfortunately I can't review all of them but I'm going to add a few over the next few hours so keep a weather eye out.

Thanks for all the comments you've been sending. It really helps to know what people are interested in so I make sure I review a range of what I've been reading :) I'm open to requests so don't be shy to ask. Just add a comment direct to the blog or if you want to be a bit more private about it send it to my e-mail address (as printed in my profile).

I hope you all got lots and lots of books for Christmas and I wish you all a happy New Year.