The Big Book Review Top 100 Books…. and a few more

12Oct/100

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesTop 100 Book:: Number 89
Star Rating:: *****

Quick Review::

This novel is a set of 12 short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle based on his character Sherlock Holmes and the sidekick Doctor Watson. Cleverly the stories read as memoirs from Dr Watson’s time with Sherlock Holmes and are re-told as 12 short tales.

The 12 stories are as follows:

  • A Scandal In Bohemia – The longest of the stories in this book. Holmes is asked to find some incriminating evidence to enable Count Von Kramm to happily be wed….. But is Sherlock about to be outwitted…..
  • The Adventure of the Red-Headed League – A red headed man comes to Sherlock asking for help with a conundrum he faces regarding the “Red Headed League”. Who are the league, who are they working for and what did they want with Jabez Wilson?
  • A Case of Identity – An elementary case for Sherlock Holmes! A fiancé gone missing and a controlling stepfather… What will be the outcome of the disappearing fiancé?
  • The Boscombe Valley Mystery – A murdered man, his estranged son accused… All signs point to the son but can Sherlock unlock the mystery as to the real murderer.. or is it the son all along?
  • The Five Orange Pips – A short story involving the receipt of five orange pips signed by K.K.K. The recipient ends up dead a few days later. Can Sherlock solve the mystery before more people die?
  • The man with the twisted lip – A woman appears to Sherlock Holmes desperate to find her missing husband who is an Opium Addict. Sherlock and Watson go on an adventure to discover the whereabouts of the missing husband.
  • The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle – A Christmas Goose with a hidden present inside. Will Sherlock and Watson be able to trace it back to the criminal!
  • The Adventure of the Speckled Band – A young woman suspicious of her sisters untimely death contacts Sherlock for help in the case. Sherlock and Watson venture out to the home of the young lady to uncover criminal activity… Will they find anything before it’s too late?
  • The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb – Dr Watson is woken to discover a young engineer minus his thumb in urgent need of medical attention. After the details of his unfortunate “accident” Watson directs him to Sherlock and they go on a journey to discover what has become of the poor engineers thumb!
  • The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor – A newlywed bride disappears during her wedding breakfast shortly after the disruption of a previous lover of her husband… Why has she gone missing and is this old lover involved?
  • The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet – A very expensive Coronet is left in the home of a banker, only he awakes in the night to find his son holding it and 3 gems missing. Holmes is called to look into the mystery and determine once and for all who stole the 3 gems.
  • The Adventure of the Copper Beeches – To accept a governess job with an incredibly good wage or not? This is Violet Hunters predicament… Holmes and Watson try to discover whether there is anything suspicious in this incredibly good job offer.

A brilliant book! I thoroughly enjoyed the 12 storied, each different, and each varying in their crime levels. I heartily recommend this book to you! The Original Crime Detective at his best! Very worthy of its top 100 position, I can’t wait to read the rest of the Sherlock Holmes books.

12Oct/100

A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

A Confederacy of DuncesTop 100 Book:: Number 95
Star Rating:: ****

Quick Review::

This hilarious novel set in New Orleans in the 1960’s focuses on the life of Ignatius J Reilly a very well educated but incredibly idle man still living with his mum in the local neighbourhood. For reasons disclosed early in the book he finds himself having to go out and find a job and the novel goes on to describe his colourful adventures with characters in the French Quarter.

This book cleverly brings together the stories of several other minor characters as the climax to the book draws nearer. It is an enlightening read and very entertaining. Incredibly easy to read, highly addictive and laugh out loud hilarity I can very much recommend this book to you.

Written by John Kennedy Toole, this book was not released until 11 years after his death. It was a joint struggle to get it published by his mother, Thelma Toole and writer Walker Percy. Thank goodness they went through the struggle! Toole was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1981.

7Jul/101

How I Paid For College – Mark Acito

How I Paid For College - Mark AcitoRecommended by:: Jonathan Whiting
Star Rating:: ****

Quick Review::
Ferris Bueller Meets Adrian mole in a hilarious novel set in the 80's. Meet Edward Zanni, a teenager in New Jersey, USA whose aspirations to study at the prestigious Julliard School in NYC are quashed when his father refuses to pay his tuition fees. Thus ensues the subtitle of the book

" A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship, and Musical Theater"

Edward and his merry band of friends go on a mission to get his entry to musical theater by any means possible!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, a cracking debut by author Acito. It is exactly my kind of humour and my style of writing. An easy, laid back read full of sex, theft and friendship :)

I heartily recommend it to you.

5Apr/100

To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee

To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee

Top 100 Book:: Number 5
Star Rating:: *****

Quick Review::
To kill a Mockingbird is one of those books that almost everyone has heard of! It is one of those books that a lot of kids read in school (unfortunately I was not one of those) and is still a top seller 50 years after it was written.

To kill a mockingbird is a semi-autobiographical novel written through the eyes of Scout Finch a young girl growing up in a fictional town in Alabama. I absolutely love the fact that Lee chose to write the book through the eyes of Scout, the innocence makes the book just so much more appealing to read. Covering so many touchy subjects Lee manages to make the book so playful and pure through the eyes of a child.

The main plot of the book focuses on Scout’s father Atticus Finch, a very well respected lawyer in the town he is handed the case of a black man accused of raping a white girl. In a time where prejudice was rife across the US the Finch family have to deal with the racial reactions to Atticus being given the case. Written with warmth and humour this beautifully written book explores love, hate, friendship, family and race in the deep south of America.

This is a truly moving book, I found myself getting very emotional throughout the book, I could relate to Scout’s innocence about race and prejudice and the struggles her father faced trying to give his children a normal upbringing. A truly magnificent book that is very much worthy of its top 100 status. If you haven’t read this yet I recommend that you do before you read anything else.

14Mar/101

The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro - The Remains of the DayTop 100 Book: Number 84
Star Rating:: ***1/2

Quick Review::
One of Kazuo Ishiguro’s most famous works, The Remains of The Day is an interesting novel about Stevens, a very creditable English butler reliving his life through this book in order to clarify its meaning to himself.

The book begins with Stevens taking a holiday from his current employer and during his travels he tells the tales of his past with focus on particular characters including the lovely Miss Kenton with whom he was never able to declare his affections towards.

I won’t go too much more into the story but this gives you a general picture of the storyline and the plot it doesn’t stray much from the line. So where do I sit... well it isn’t my kind of thing! I can understand completely why it is in the top 100, it is totally different from any other book I have ever read, but it just didn’t grip me, I found myself getting too excited as the end was approaching and I could move onto something else.

This is now a very famous movie starring Anthony Hopkins and I haven’t yet got round to watching this film. From what I have heard it is pretty good! So my low down, I would give this book a read so you can say “done that” but I wouldn’t go out of your way to make it your life priority there are plenty of better books in the sea in my opinion!

10Feb/100

Memoirs of A Geisha – Arthur Golden

Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
Top 100 Book: Number 39
Star Rating:: *****

Quick Review:: I thought that this was an absolutely amazing book! Full of so much emotion and cultural references it drew me completely from page 1. Memoirs of a Geisha follows the story of young Chiyo-chan an orphaned young girl from a fishing village and her sister Satsu as they are thrust into the world of Geishas. The book follows young Chiyo-Chan as she grows into a young teenager, the struggles she faces in the Nitta okiya and her transformation into a beautiful Geisha.

Arthur Golden develops the characters beautifully and you build real connections to the characters in the book, in particular Chiyo . The narrative is descriptive and slow. Although the book covers most of her life it doesn’t feel rushed in any way and has a wonderful flow to it. I couldn’t put it down when I started it and managed to finish it in one sitting. Thoroughly recommended as a poignant insight into an art that is slipping away into history.

10Feb/100

Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen FieldingTop 100 Book: Number 68

Star Rating:: **

Quick Review:: You must have been stuck in a cave somewhere for the last 10 years if you haven’t heard of Bridget Jones’s Diary! A major movie starring Renee Zellweger as the unlucky in love, eternal spinster Bridget Jones.

So you have seen the film, what about the book? It’s fairly true to the script, a few differences in events and timelines but essentially the same set of characters and the same ending! But I did not enjoy this book at all and am quite surprised it is in the top 100. Fielding’s style of narrative irritated me immensely. I can’t quite describe here what I mean by it, but believe me it is grating after a while.

But moving on to the actual story itself, very cutesy, very funny and very chick flick. I am not surprised it was made into a film. The story follows Bridget Jones a ‘typical’ single woman living in London always conscious of her weight and looks. The character of Bridget is the type that makes you cringe with all her mishaps and misfortune. Completely besotted by her boss Daniel (Hugh Grant) the story follows her trials and tribulations in trying to seduce the boss and deal with the things life throws at her along the way.

The story itself is well written and flows very nicely; it is very warm and cosy and ends how you imagine it will. I just couldn’t wait to finish it though the annoying narrative killed any warmth I had towards the story itself. I haven’t read the sequel yet but I imagine it’s more of the same. I am definitely more a fan of the film then the book in this case!

16Dec/090

The Magicians – Lev Grossman

The Magicians - Lev Grossman

The Magicians - Lev Grossman

Top 100 Book: Not a top 100 book

Star Rating:: ***1/2

Quick Review:: To all my friends I have constantly described this book as a dark Harry Potter meets Narnia and from scouring the web it appears others have supported my view. The Magicians tells the story of young Quentin Coldwater who stumbles across the magical school of Brakebills (your Hogwarts) unintentionally when he turns up for his Princeton interview to find his examiner dead and a mysterious envelope bearing his name.

Everything changes once Quentin immerses himself in the life of a true magician love, death, pain, laughter, lust and hard work lay before him and the book concerns itself with his tales at Brakebills and his life after it.

My opinion, I am on the fence on this one! There were elements I loved, and elements I loathed, I felt that the author tried to cover too many storylines with this one, not that it was difficult to follow, I think I found some areas rushed and rather shallow. It may have served better as two books or a trilogy covering Quentin’s Brakebill days and his life after.

9Dec/090

The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

Top 100 Book: Number 19

Star Rating:: ***

Quick Review:: Now a successful film the Time Traveler's wife is the story of Henry and Clare. Henry has a condition which means that he travels through time regularly and is unable to control it so he goes forward and backwards without any control! I likened it to Journeyman if anyone has seen it. This book tells the story of Clare and Henry in a diary style as they meet at various points through Henry's travels.

A wonderful concept which would have been more highly recommended if it had been around 200 pages less. It got a little repetitive and seemed to keep going over the same stories again and again. The beginning and the end were very well written, lose some of the mindless middle dribble and it would have been a much more enjoyable read.

Detailed Review:: *SLIGHT PLOT SPOILERS*

2Nov/090

The Wind In The Willows – Kenneth Grahame

Wind In The Willows - Kenneth Grahame

Wind In The Willows - Kenneth Grahame

Top 100 Book: Number 30

Star Rating:: **** 1/2

Quick Review::
Written in 1908, The Wind In The Willows is a "Cutesy" tale of friendship, respect and companionship between wildlife animals, focusing on the lives of Moley, Ratty, Badger and Mr Toad. It's known as a childrens book but I feel us adults can learn a lot from this book. It has a lot of underlying morals which are put across in a very gentle way. We follow the mischevious Mr Toad, The river bank loving Ratty, The home loving Mole and the father, authoritive figure of Badger. There is no real storyline as such it is more a collection of their adventures along the river bank and in the countryside of Pastoral England. A very enjoyable book to read.