Wednesday, 19 September 2012


Reef by David Kendrick

David was once in my Thursday writing class so when I heard he'd published Reef for Kindle I had to buy it, as I remembered bits of it from when he'd read it out in class. The paperback is just out as well, if you prefer that to an ebook.

Reef is set in New Zealand. An artificial surf reef has been built, and is apparently upsetting the local Maoris, particularly Gnat. Englishman Shaun and his pregnant girlfriend Chloe arrive to investigate the reef with a view to building a similar one in Bournemouth. Gnat causes trouble when he sets fire to some surfers' cars and in the process badly injures one of them. But it is surf shop owner Mickey who has most to lose from the reef. Shaun befriends him but Chloe instinctively mistrusts him.

The story twists and turns at a rapid pace. There's lots of detail of Maori culture in there, and a good sense of place. I've been to the area in New Zealand where this is set, and funnily enough live very near Bournemouth's failed artificial surf reef which was presumably part of the inspiration for this novel. So on a lot of levels I liked this book very much. My only gripe is that is could have done with a better proof-read - there were quite a lot of errors which I found distracting.

But as a story it races along, the plot is brilliant, the characters are memorable and I loved the way they all developed during the course of the novel. Well worth a read if you enjoy a thriller with an unusual setting.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

August Books

Read the following in August, either just before my holiday in Peru, or during it.

This Little World by Imogen Parker
The third book of the trilogy about Kingshaven. This one takes us through the 90s and into the new millennium. Again there are tight parallels with the royal family, so of course you are waiting for the big car crash in 1997... It happens, but not in quite the same way things turned out for Diana (can't say, spoilers!)

This book concentrates mostly on Iris, who has been present in all 3 novels. Here she's coping with her young child and her seriously ill oldest friend. We are also introduced to a wholly new character Cat who is hard to place for a while though I had my suspicions who she was and they turned out to be correct. It's a while since I read this and already the details of the plot are fading, but I did enjoy it. As with any trilogy, by book 3 you know everyone so well they are like old friends. In this 3rd novel, the scenes are a little longer than in the previous two, so it jumps around less than the earlier books. I'd got used to that however, though in the beginning I found it a little disconcerting.

An enjoyable trilogy overall, and recommended as perfect beach/holiday/recuperation reading where you need to lose yourself.

The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon
Came across this recommended on another blog somewhere though I can't quite remember where. Read it entirely on the plane on the way to Lima - it's a short book.

This is the story of 15-year old Mary in 1830 who is sent by her bullying father to be a maid and companion for the local vicar's invalid wife. There she learns to read and write, taught by the vicar, and her story is written with unusual punctuation and grammar, reflecting her newly acquired skills. The vicar begins to expect 'payment' for his tutoring skills, and Mary gradually reveals why it is she has such an urgent need to tell her story.

Very unusual and distinctive voice in this book, and it is captivating. The ending is shocking and unforgettable. I couldn't put this one down.

Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James
Bought this for Kindle because I loved the idea of a murder mystery involving the characters and settings of Pride and Prejudice. I should have read the Amazon reviews before I bought it. It's rare that I dislike a novel as much as I disliked this one. I've not read anything else by PD James so I don't know if this is her usual style or if she was attempting to copy Jane Austen's style. It's a poor imitation - the prose lacks all the sparkle and wit of Austen's. The characters sit around making long speeches to each other. For the first third, the plot of P&P is recalled and summarised in a very 'tell' kind of way. I was waiting for the novel to get going and for some dramatic scenes. But even when the body is found, the scenes are very 'tell' throughout. Most of the novel is written from Darcy's point of view -disappointingly we see little of Elizabeth.
Overall I hated this, and am not sure why I persevered to the end.

The Lost City of the Incas by Hiram Bingham
Bought this in Cusco having just completed the Inca Trail and visited Machu Picchu. This is the centenary edition - American explorer Hiram Bingham discovered Machu Picchu almost by accident in 1911, and his account was first published in book form in the 1950s.

It's a fascinating story, and was all the more real to me as I'd been there, seen what he found, experienced what he'd experienced. The book contains an introduction with a brief biography of Bingham, then an account of the last few Inca chiefs and their fate at the hands of the Spanish invaders, then the story of Bingham's search for the last Inca capital and how he stumbled upon Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu was never found by the Spanish, and as such was better preserved than other Inca settlements. It's also in the most stunning, dramatic location. It is these facts which have made it so world famous today. Walking there via the 4-day Inca trail was one of the best experiences of my life.