I am always reading. Always. I feel really twitchy without a book. I don't watch much TV, but when I do, I like to have a book there for the adverts/scary bits/boring bits. So I thought I'd keep a list of the books I read, and let you know the best ones, and the ones definitely not worth even picking up for 20p in your local charity shop...

Kraken, by China Mie Ville.
This book was crazy. Really mad. It felt like remembering a dark dream. The concept was interesting - a dead giant squid being stolen from a museum by people who think it's their God - but it was just a bit much, a never-slowing-down run through the story without any character thoughts except panic at the situation. I would give another of his books a go because I hear they're all very different, but this one was only ok.

The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood.
I'd already read this book a long time ago, but I'd completely forgotten the story. It is a great book, but has such a sense of unfairness and hopelessness about it that it makes for slightly depressing reading. Maybe it's because I am an independent outgoing woman, that I can't stand to read even a fiction book about women having no choices. I find Margaret Atwood's books quite frustrating, it feels like she doesn't give you just quite enough information to fully understand the situation, which is obviously on purpose, but makes me feel quite unsatisfied reading them. Plus the ending....arrrrggghhh!

The Memory Keeper's Daughter, by Kim Edwards
This is a good book, about a man who delivers his own son and daughter, but sends the daughter away when he realises she has Down Syndrome (it's the 60's at the time). It definitely keeps you interested throughout, but is one of those books where you just think 'even though this isn't real, if that character just hadn't done that obviously stupid thing in the first place then none of this would have happpened'! I get it with films too, as good as the film might be, if it's started by a bad mistake, all I can think is 'well if you hadn't done that in the first place...'! Anyway, although it has a slightly lacklustre ending, it's a sweet story.

The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan
I have a very geeky boyfriend. He doesn't look like a geek, but he is one. And he often tries to persuade me to read his sci-fi books, but I'm just not into sci-fi. So when he tried to get me to read the Wheel of Time series, I was really against it. Mostly because there are FOURTEEN books in the series - I mean I read freakily fast, but that seemed like a big committment. Also because it had a review on the front, albeit by The New York Times, that read 'With the Wheel of Time, Jordan has come to dominate the world Tolkien began to reveal'. I thought, hey, nothing beats the LOTR books, don't even try. But that was kind of misleading, because when I started them, it turned out that although there are some similarities - the main characters are persuaded away from their village to reluctantly begin an adventure, there are 'Trollocs' which are very similiar to 'Orcs', among other things - it's a whole different world, and completely different books, just in a very similar specific genre.

Anyway, I'm now on book 9, and we've just ordered book 10. After book 7 I really slowed down, it does get hard a) reading the same character names, descriptions and thoughts over again and b) learning all the new names, there are so many new ones added almost every chapter. They are amazing books though, very easy to get caught up in, and you do really want to find out what happens next. The last one hasn't been written yet though; the author died in 2007, and a guy called Brandon Sanderson finished the 11th book, and has carried on with the rest. I'll announce if and when I ever finish them!

Plan B, by Emily Barr
I'm going to review three out of seven Emily Barr books I bought recently; my three favourites.

Plan B was great, possibly my favourite Emily Barr book yet! I can't really say much without giving away the plot, but here's the blurb:
Emma adores living in Brighton, but she loves Matt more. When he suggests they buy the perfect farmhouse in the south of France, she reluctantly agrees, even though he continues commuting to London while she looks after their daughter and the builders. But France is not the idyll he promised, and when she discovers the true reason he spends half his time in London the foundations on which she’s built her life start to crumble...

I kind of guessed what was coming from that, but the way it unfolds it great, I think one of the best things about Emily Barr's writing is just how well you can imagine yourself in the same situation, both from the plausibility of her description of the event, and from the the desperation of the main character, which I personally felt would be just how I reacted. Having read so many of her books in such a short time, I wondered a lot how much of what I was reading were the authors own experiences - not the dramatic stuff but the smaller details - because they too are desribed very well. I know Emily Barr was a travel writer for the Guardian, and I think this shows in the great way she describes the countries her books are set in.

The Sisterhood, by Emily Barr

Elizabeth Greene is devastated when her boyfriend of ten years leaves her for someone else. After a night of drowning her sorrows leads to an unexpected one-night stand, Elizabeth finds herself pregnant, alone and vulnerable.
Helen has just discovered she has a sister she didn't know she had. Bored with her privileged life in France and driven by a need to gain her parents' approval, Helen sets out to find her sister and reunite her with her long-lost mother. When her search leads her to Elizabeth the two women become closely linked. But their connection to one another is founded on a dark deception, with the truth having extreme consequences...

This book kind of carries you along with it, it's quite fast-paced and dark, mostly because of the character Helen, who is clearly a bit mad from the beginning, and as the story goes on you find out quite how mad she is...
Again, this shows how good Barr is at describing the characters emotions, as you can relate to all three of the main female characters, even though one is speaking from the past, one is a pregnant almost 40 year old, and one is a young disturbed woman. Again the random descriptions of life that add to the story without being really related are very good, and help make the story more realistic as you're reading it.

The Perfect Lie, by Emily Barr

For Lucy Riddick, Venice has always been the dream destination. A dream inspired by the pretty picture pinned to her mother’s kitchen wall. To Lucy, Venice seems the ideal place to lose herself. And now she needs to do just that. The secret she’s been keeping from her boyfriend and her friends has finally caught up with her and Lucy needs to disappear – and fast. There’s no better time to pack her bags and head for Italy. But what if, when she sets foot in Venice, Lucy finds that the one thing she has been running from, the one thing she has been trying to escape, is already there, lying in wait for her? Time to run away again? Or time to end the chase, once and for all?

This is Barr's most recent book, and it's probably the darkest yet (by the way, when I say dark, it's more subject matter than the actual story, it's not a twisted thriller, in fact I struggle to "define" these books to people, not 'chick lit', not thriller, just a bloody good book!). The way the characters past unfolds through the book is really good, I was actually a bit impatient about reading the 'present' bits! There's also a character that you'd almost describe as a supporting character which is good, another way to flesh out the story and add more detail, and provide a "normal" perspective to go with the story of the main character.

So I'd definitely recommend this author, I probably should have reviewed some of her other books to give a more balanced view, but my criticisms would still be minor. Sometimes her books are a bit too much inside the characters head, maybe that's why I liked the above three best because they were more balanced. If you haven't read it already, her first book, Backpack, is fantastic. Now I've just got to wait for her next one!