Sunday, 22 January 2012


Title: Kidnapped

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Number of pages: 270

Started: 16 January 2012

Finished: 22 January 2012

Opening words:

I will begin the story of my adventures with a certain morning early in the month of June, the year of grace 1751, when I took the key for the last time out of the door of my father's house. The sun began to shine upon the summit of the hills as I went down the road; and by the time I had come as far as the manse, the blackbirds were whistling in the garden lilacs, and the mist that hung around the valley in the time of the dawn was beginning to arise and die away.

Plot summary:

When young David Balfour is orphaned he discovers some surprising truths about his family. His meeting with his uncle Ebenezer turns out to have disastrous consequences leading to kidnap and imprisonment on board a ship bound for the Carolinas. However, the voyage is full of incident and after violent conflict and a shipwreck, David finds himself in a daredevil chase across the Scottish Highlands in the company of the irrepressible warrior Alan Breck Stewart...

What I thought:

Having got over my school text phobia during my last read, this book put me right back there. I have read other books by Stevenson and enjoyed them, but I thought Kidnapped was very hard work. This did nothing to recommend classic literature to me.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

A Kestrel for a Knave

Title: A Kestrel for a Knave

Author: Barry Hines

Number of pages: 160

Started: 13 January 2012

Finished: 15 January 2012

Opening words:

There were no curtains up. The window was a hard edged block the colour of the night sky. Inside the bedroom the darkness was of a gritty texture. The wardrobe and bed were blurred shapes in the darkness. Silence.

Plot summary:

Billy Casper is a boy with nowhere to go and nothing to say; part of the limbo generation of school leavers too old for lessons and too young to know anything about the outside world. He hates and is hated. His family and friends are mean and tough and they're sure he's going to end up in big trouble. But Billy knows two things about his own world. He'll never work down the mines and he does know about animals. His only companion is his kestrel hawk, trained from the nest, and, like himself, trained but not tamed, with the will to destroy or to be destroyed. This in not just another book about growing up in the north - it's as real as a slap in the face to those who think that orange juice and comprehensive schools have taken the meanness out of life in the raw working towns.

What I thought:

This is the kind of book I was forced to read when I was at school. I would have hated it. But, now it had somewhat of a different effect on me. Despite its brevity, it was quite an enchanting book – perhaps a strange word to use given the hard life that it conveys. But it sucked me into the life of a teenage boy who finds and tames a kestrel. It was a brief, but good read – and I am so glad I never had to read it at school.

Thursday, 12 January 2012


Title: 1222

Author: Anne Holt

Number of pages: 313

Started: 9 January 2012

Finished: 12 January 2012

Opening words:

As it was only the train driver who died, you couldn’t call it a disaster. There were 269 people on board when the train, due to a meteorological phenomenon that I have not yet understood completely, came off the rails and missed the tunnel through Finsenut. A dead train driver comprises only 0.37 per cent of this number of people. Given the circumstances, in other words, we were incredibly lucky. Although many individuals were injured in the collision, these injuries were mostly minor in nature. Broken arms and legs. Concussion. Superficial cuts and grazes, of course; there was hardly one person on board who wasn’t physically marked in some way after the crash. But only one fatality. Judging by the screams that ripped through the train minutes after the accident, one could have gained the impression that a total disaster had taken place.

Read a longer extract here.

Plot summary:

A train on its way to the northern reaches of Norway derails during a massive blizzard, 1,222 meters above sea level. The passengers abandon the train for a nearby hotel, centuries-old and practically empty, except for the staff. With plenty of food and shelter from the storm, the passengers think they are safe, until one of them is found dead the next morning.

With no sign of rescue, and the storm continuing to rage, retired police inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen is asked to investigate. Paralysed by a bullet lodged in her spine, Hanne has no desire to get involved. But she is slowly coaxed back into her old habits as her curiosity and natural talent for observation force her to take an interest in the passengers and their secrets. When another body turns up, Hanne realizes that time is running out, and she must act fast before panic takes over. Complicating things is the presence of a mysterious guest, who had travelled in a private rail car at the end of the train and was evacuated first to the top floor of the hotel. No one knows who the guest is, or why armed guards are needed, but it is making everyone uneasy. Hanne has her suspicions, but she keeps them to herself.
Trapped in her wheelchair, trapped by the storm, and now trapped with a killer, Hanne must fit the pieces of the puzzle together before the killer strikes again.

What I thought:

I like a good bit of Scandinavian crime fiction and I had high hopes for this book. Even a chap in Waterstones told me this was a really good book. But somehow it didn’t live up to expectations. It was readable enough and the idea behind the book was pretty good – a train trapped in a snow storm, people take refuge in a nearby hotel, and then murder victims start to pile up. But somehow I found the book never really took off for me. It lacked the ability to truly engage the reader (or this reader at least) and whilst I thought the characters had potential, I felt they never truly became fully fledged.

This is the second of Anne Holt's books that I have read and looking back at what I thought of her previous one, I see I was equally non-plussed by that.

Friday, 6 January 2012


Title: Gone

Author: Michael Grant

Number of pages: 560

Started: 29 December 2011

Finished: 6 January 2012

Opening words:

Chapter One

299 hours, 54 minutes

One minute the teacher was talking about the Civil War. And the next minute he was gone.



No "poof." No flash of light. No explosion.

Sam Temple was sitting in third-period history class staring blankly at the blackboard, but far away in his head. In his head he was down at the beach, he and Quinn. Down at the beach with their boards, yelling, bracing for that first plunge into cold Pacific water.

For a moment he thought he had imagined it, the teacher disappearing. For a moment he thought he'd slipped into a daydream.

Sam turned to Mary Terrafino, who sat just to his left. "You saw that, right?"

Mary was staring hard at the place where the teacher had been.

Read a longer extract here.

Plot summary:

Suddenly there are no adults, no answers. What would you do? In the blink of an eye, the world changes. The adults vanish without a trace, and those left must do all they can to survive. But everyone's idea of survival is different. Some look after themselves, some look after others, and some will do anything for power...Even kill. For Sam and Astrid, it is a race against time as they try to solve the questions that now dominate their lives...What is the mysterious wall that has encircled the town of Perdido Beach and trapped everyone within? Why have some kids developed strange powers? And can they defeat Caine and his gang of bullies before they turn fifteen and disappear too? It isn't until the world collapses around you that you find out what kind of person you really are. This book offers a chilling portrayal of a world with no rules. When life as you know it ends at 15, everything changes.

What I thought:

This book is aimed at youths aged 12 and over, but I thought I would give it a go, as the intended target audience does not mean that it might not appeal to someone of slightly more mature years.

As it turned out, the book was very readable. I could see that there were some aspects that would particularly appeal to or strike a chord with a teenager, but it was a plot driven book that started with a mystery – everyone over 14 years old disappearing – and you have to read on to find out why that happened and the impact on those left behind.

It wasn’t the best of this type of book that I have read, but it was pretty decent nonetheless. There are a number of books in this series, and this was the first. I don’t feel compelled to go out and read the next on the series, but if I was looking for an easy and plot-driven read, this series is one that I would consider. Don’t expect hard-hitting analysis, but equally, the plot keeps going and unravels at a fair pace – and, in a few places, it isn’t for the squeamish.