QBD Reviews: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

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When Neil Gaiman writes that a novel is "unquestionably the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last 70 years", you know you're in for a treat. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a novel which could easily have been written by one of the powerhouse authors of centuries past, with writing reminiscent of Dickens or Austen. The meticulous historical landscape coupled with thrilling magical feats will keep you enthralled long past your bedtime.

To me, the sign of a good author is one which makes you forget you are reading a book at all, instead you are transported to that time and place, and are watching the events unfurl before your eyes. This is something I first noticed when reading the Harry Potter books, Susanna Clarke has this in spades. It's been nearly a year since I read this book, and there are still certain breathtaking scenes that I can picture clear as day. But I'm not going to write about them here, because discovering them for yourself is half the fun!

This book follows the relationship between two magicians in 19th Century London, in a world which believes it has not known the touch of magic for several hundred years. Beginning as master and pupil, Norrell and Strange soon join forces as equals to combat Napoleon’s advancing armies. However, Strange soon becomes stifled by Norrell's methodical and cautious approach to magic, and begins experimenting with wilder and less predictable forms. Inevitably the two become fearsome rivals, but with an underlying respect which constantly draws them back into each others lives, for the sake of magic and England.

Suffice to say, this is one reader who can't wait to watch the BBC miniseries starting on August 6!

Harry Potter: A Modern Children’s Classic

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A good way to tell if a book is going to turn into a pop-culture driven modern classic is when it's fandom doesn't die. Harry Potter fans that loved the book when they were 9 still love the book today, helped along by the extremely successful movie franchise. The world hasn't been so captivated by a teenager with magical powers fighting an evil overlord since Luke found out he was a Jedi in Star Wars (and Star Wars fans are still loud, proud and growing in number).

For those of you that have never read it: When a letter arrives for unhappy orphan Harry Potter, a magical world opens up to him. For you see, Harry is a wizard! Leaving behind his awful aunt and uncle, for Hogwarts- a wizarding school full of ghosts, enchantments and mystery- Harry stumbles upon a sinister secret in his past, which sparks an epic adventure to defeat a shadowy evil mastermind.

9781408834961After the first book you are left with a bunch of questions, foremost being:
*What sort of twisted monster makes a kid live in cupboard under the stairs?
* I am a muggle... or am I? (test a spell and see!)
*Is Snape good or evil? Evil, definitely evil. No, wait, good? Dammit. (This is a feeling you will become familiar with throughout the series)
You will also want an owl, a unicorn, and a real life chess set- in that order.

Through a twisting, turning mass of contradictions and complicated relationships Rowling takes you on an adventure like no other, with each revelation adding to the rich tapestry that will become Harry Potter's legacy.

QBD Reviews: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

classics
 

Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.

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As soon as this book was published, it was a classic. This is the most heartwarming book I have ever read, and I can guarantee it will be read and loved by generations to come.

Set in the aftermath of World War II, this book is based on the correspondence of Juliet, a witty newspaper columnist stuck for ideas. But inspiration falls in her lap in the form of a letter from Dawsey, a man who has come into possession of a book previously owned by Juliet, and the two soon become fast penpals. Dawsey tells her of Guernsey, which suffered under German occupation during the war, and of the Literary and Potato Peel Society, which was founded as a way for the island's inhabitants to come together and socialise under the noses of the Nazis.

Dawsey describes each of the members with such warmth and humour, that Juliet can't help but find an excuse to visit the island for herself. And once she does, her life will never be the same.

Reading this book always leaves me with a big goofy smile on my face. It is funny, lovely, heartbreaking, redemptive, optimistic, and every other adjective for 'wonderful' that I can think of. I have recommended this to countless people, and every single one of them has fallen in love with this book. So what are you waiting for?

Spotlight on QBD Head Office

Hello from our team at QBD Head Office!

In today's spotlight we share with you some of our most recent reads:

I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes:
9781439177723I was lucky enough to go away on 2 weeks annual leave recently, so found myself with more than enough time on my hands to read a 900 page novel - I didn't need it, I read it in 2 days flat. It had me gripped from the very beginning and I just couldn't put it down. For a book of such length it really does move at quite a pace and certainly left me wanting more. It's very cleverly written and Terry Hayes does an incredible job in letting the readers imagination take a hold. I guarantee that anyone who likes a great thriller in the mould of Bourne / Bond will love this book from beginning to end. - Andrew, Regional Manager

Magician by Raymond E Feist:
9780007466863A medieval fantasy saga of epic proportions. The Kingdom has been invaded by strange warriors from unknown lands. Follow the journey of two boys, Pug and his close Friend Thomas as they develop into some of the most powerful beings in the universe and race to save the destiny of two worlds. 'This was the book that began my passion for Science Fiction and Fantasy writing and I recommend it to everyone who has a similar love in this genre.'
Welcome to the Riftwar!! - Shaun, Regional Manager

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton:
9781784752224I read this book as a teenager before the movie came out, and have re-visited it at least twenty times, to the extent that the pages are now falling out of my circa early 90's hardcover edition. It was the kind of book I could read the last page and immediately turn the book over and start again. It was THAT good.
In Jurassic Park, Crichton has expertly blended engrossing, believable scientific research, exciting and terrifying action scenes, and a cautionary tale of corporate greed and espionage. He rivals Isaac Asimov in technique and credibility, matches Matthew Reilly in structure and pace, and generates fear and suspense that puts him in the same league as Stephen King. He has the unique ability to leave the reader feeling both educated and exhausted.
You know the premise of the book due to the success of the genre-defining movie franchise, which is one of the highest grossing of all time and revolutionised the way we look at cinematic special effects. Let me assure you though, just as Jurassic Park is the pinnacle of techno-thriller genre, it is also the perfect exemplar of the phrase "the book is better than the film". Jurassic Park the novel goes one step further, it bites the movie's head clean off. - Jeremy, Regional Manager

The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas:
9781408832332Nicole put me onto this series and I naively assumed it was a trilogy and all the books had been released (I was so wrong about that and I’m waiting impatiently for the next book like everyone else). I’m a pretty big fantasy reader but it has been a while since I read fantasy and loved it as much as I did this series. I fell in love with the characters straight away and had so much fun with Celaena Sardothien, she’s sassy and headstrong and totally badass. - Kate, QBD Buyer

9780857502476The Queen of The Tearling by Erika Johansen:
The Queen of the Tearling is the story of a young woman who has been raised in hiding, who must now reclaim her dead mother’s throne.
In a world ravaged by war and built on secrets and lies, Kelsea must claim her throne to save her people and realm from the clutches of war. But first she must stay alive.
If you love fantasy with a strong female lead, you’ll love this! A great read for fans of Kristin Cashore, Maria V. Snyder or Sarah J. Maas. - Nicole, QBD Buyer

The Maze Runner Series by James Dashner:
9781909489752I really enjoyed reading the maze runner series. Thomas took you on an action adventure where you never really knew who was going to live or die.
A group of teenagers with their memories removed have to learn to create order and find their way through a maze with deadly mechanical creatures, then cross a scorched landscape full of variables and people trying to kill them, never knowing who to trust. People are dying or going mad with disease and time is running out for a cure to be found. This series keeps you enthralled until the very end.  - Ros, Administration

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts:
9781742611075It is almost impossible to write a review for Shantaram that would give it the credit it deserves. This book is definitely a must read, an epic journey of self-discovery to be savoured. Do not be put off by its size. Once you start, it will not be long before the beauty of this book will be revealed. With colourful and diverse characters, a myriad of wonderfully written and thought provoking quotes and passages throughout, this book will stay with you long after you're done. - Donna, Administration

Me and Earl and The Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews:
9781760290184Greg Gaines and his friend Earl make films, and not always good ones, but it is what they do. To be more precise, it is what they did.  Once Rachel was force-fed into their lives, everything turned upside down.
After reading The Fault in Our Stars, I was not ready for another tear-jerker, but this line got me hooked and I had to read this book: "This book contains precisely zero Important Life Lessons, or Little Known Facts About Love, or sappy tear-jerking Moments When We Knew We Had Left Our Childhood Behind for Good, or whatever."
The first person narrative of this book is completely enveloping. You get drawn in by Greg's sarcastic humour, Earl's rough, other-side-of the-tracks attitude, and Rachel's sweetness and you just never want to leave. And even though you know at the outset that Rachel is going to die, you still kind-of hope she won't, just so you can linger a little longer. - Shannon, Marketing

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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

classics
9780141037509Abandoned at birth in the slums of Paris, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille possesses a unique ability: heightened sense of smell. Life as an underprivileged orphan is not easy but Grenouille is driven by the desire to catalogue every scent on earth. But one night, during a delivery for his employer, Grenouille stumbles upon an elusive scent that sends him on a chase through the streets of Paris: that of a virgin.

Driven down a spiralling path of obsession, Grenouille knows he must capture the scent and embarks on a determined mission to perfect the art of perfumery. After persuading an elite perfumer to take him on as an assistant, the tools of the trade quickly become Grenouille’s fixation and his need to learn all he can drives him out of Paris and into the far corners of the earth. Amongst his mistakes and despair, there is a macabre sort of triumph as Grenouille soon finds the solution to his problem: a solution that starts with committing the ultimate crime.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is a chilling classic that explores the depths of obsession and the lengths one will take to get what they want. Grenouille’s interactions with his surroundings and his reactions to his failures and successes make him all the more human, meaning his dark downfall into depravity really strikes a chord. Above all, this haunting novel forms an enchanting picture of the complexities of the human mind and is a novel that you’ll be unable to put down until you’ve devoured every last word.