Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Book Reviews: Readathon

This weekend, I took part in Dewey's 24-hour Readathon, so I read a lot of books! I thought I'd put them all in one place rather than crowding my blog with separate entries. These will be shorter reviews than normal, as I wrote them up during the readathon.

1. The Naughtiest Girl Again, Enid Blyton.
Expectations: Nostalgia.
Positives: As expected, nostalgia. Feeling virtuous and like I want to be a better person. Crying for Elizabeth's disappointments and triumphs. 
Negatives: I can't bring myself to say anything negative about Enid Blyton. 
Rating: 3 stars.

2. The People's Queen, Vanora Bennett.
Expectations: Low. Philip pa Gregory. Lurid romance.
Positives: Nice language. Plot.
Negatives: Got a bit long-winded in the middle.
Rating: 3 stars.

3.  Who is tom Ditto?, Danny Wallace. 
Expectations: Funny. Bit weird?
Positives: Funny, gripping.
Negatives: None.
Rating: 4 stars.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Event: Readathon

Today, I'm participating in Dewey's 24-hour Readathon. I'll be updating this post as I go along, and also posting pictures and quotations on twitter. I've never done anything like this before, I'm excited. 

Nearly 1pm
Books read: 0.
Pages read: 0.
Mood: Excited!

Books read: 1.
Pages read: 163.
Mood: Positive.

Books read: 2
Pages read: 693.
Mood: Satisfied.

Books read: 3.
Pages read:  1,051.
Mood: Pleased. 

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Book Review: David Copperfield

For my birthday, my parents took me on a mini-holiday to Broadstairs in Kent. I didn't know much about it before we went, but Dad happened to mention that there was a Charles Dickens museum and that we'd probably go see it. Now, I haven't read a lot of Charles Dickens. I know the stories, of course, but as far as actual reading goes, I'd read most of A Christmas Carol, the opening of A Tale of Two Cities and about a third of Hard Times. I decided I should probably try to fix that before going to a whole museum dedicated to the man, and looking through my house David Copperfield was all I could turn up. 


Exceedingly low. I like what I've read of A Christmas Carol, but I couldn't get through Hard Times and I knew nothing about David Copperfield except a vague idea it was the story of a man's life. Having now read it, I think I was confusing it with The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling.


I was pleasantly surprised! This is very different to Hard Times, much less bleak and depressing. I warmed up to the characters relatively quickly, and there were such a lot of different stories that it was easy to stay interested.


There is still something of a language hurdle to get over, and the book is really long, but for all that I enjoyed reading it. (It probably helped that I got the bulk of it read on holiday, I wasn't carting it back and forth to work for longer than a week.)

Final Thoughts 

I've been meaning to give Dickens another try. I thought I'd start with Nicholas Nickelby or The Pickwick Papers. I definitely didn't expect to start with anything this long, but I'm very glad I picked it up. 3 stars.


Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Book Report: A Natural History of Dragons

I'm very pleased to still be on a reading kick. I didn't quite get this book finished as fast as The City of Woven Streets but I did read it on my lunch break and while at home, which is always a good sign.

Relatively high. I bought this book for Rebecca for her birthday last year, and she's since read it and enjoyed it. Plus, the concept is just excellent. A book about a Victorian-esque lady who goes off and studies dragons in a society where dragons are just an expected feature of natural history and there's no other magic? Sign me up!
This book was, as expected, excellent. It was actually even more excellent than I thought it might be. I particularly loved how Lady Trent managed to be both active and adventurous while still being aware of the social mores of the Victoria-esque society in which she lives. There was none of that fantasy cliche of the main character being the only person to see how her society is flawed and rejecting all of it. There were moments in the book where Lady Trent was very much of her time - which provided a nice sense of realism amid her fantastic adventures. 
I also really liked the narrative style, and Lady Trent's thoughts on the publishing process, and her looking back at her youth from a position of age and a relatively more permissive society. 

I thought all (or at least most) of the characters were well drawn, rather than just Isabella and Jacob, which is always nice. The plot was exciting enough to keep me reading - and to ensure I picked up the next book immediately. 

Final Thoughts
I'm honestly not sure I can think of any negatives. A Natural History of Dragons is a great concept executed well. It's not astounding, but it's very, very solid. 4 stars.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Book Report: The City of Woven Streets

It's been a distressingly long time since I finished a book. I almost finished a reread of Devices and Desires - which I love - but then I just sort of stopped. Sometimes it happens, and I wish it didn't because when I start reading again I remember how great it is! Fortunately, I had a little prompt recently, about which I shall be mysterious for the time being, and so I've finished one book, one audiobook and am already working on my next book. 

Honestly, my expectations for this book weren't that high. I was reading it for A Reason, which is never the most auspicious beginning, and it didn't sound like quite my sort of thing. The blurb on the back reads: 
In the City of Woven Streets, human life has little value. You practice a craft to keep you alive, or you are an outcast, unwanted and tainted. Eliana is a young weaver in the House of Webs, but secretly knows she doesn’t really belong there. She is hiding a shameful birth defect that would, if anyone knew about it, land her in the House of the Tainted, a prison for those whose very existence is considered a curse.

When an unknown woman with her tongue cut off and Eliana’s name tattooed on her skin arrives at the House of Webs, Eliana discovers an invisible network of power behind the city’s facade. All the while, the sea is clawing the shores and the streets are slowly drowning.
It sounded a bit dystopian, which isn't usually something I'm into. However, it had good reviews and I quite liked the first paragraph (always my litmus test) so I picked it up. 

As indicated by the first sentence, the writing was good. Better than just 'readable', as well (though I'll take readable without complaint if the story is good enough). I didn't think it was quite on a par with Scott Lynch, who is my personal fantasy pinnacle for great description, but it was definitely noteable as a positive feature.
The story was nowhere near as dystopian as I feared. While the world is a dystopia, in the strictest sense, it doesn't feel like one enough to be oppressive. It's restrictions and dysfunctions are revealed slowly, which is what I'd much prefer. This is also definitely a fantasy world, not a future-of-earth or a science-fiction setting.
The story was solid and the characters were nicely established, though outside the two main characters they weren't given that much depth. Without giving away too much, there were a few character / relationship facets that came as nice surprises.

The italicised dream sequences didn't really work for me. But then, italicised dream sequences that take part outside the narrative of the novel rarely do. I could see what Emmi Itäranta was trying to do, and I'd be curious to see what happens if you read all the dream sequences as one long piece — but not actually curious enough that I've done it, which is rather the point.
I also found the ending a little confusing / unsatisfying. Again, I feel like I understand the aim but it just didn't quite work for me. I'm sure it would work for other people, I just tend to prefer all-threads-tied-up to ambiguity.

Final Thoughts
This was a good book to get me out of my drought, and I'm glad I read it even though it wasn't usually the sort of thing I'd pick up. 3 stars.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Book Report: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

A birthday present from Dylan, I'm actually quite pleased with how quickly I got around to reading this. I have a habit of leaving present-books by the wayside in favour of books I've chosen myself. 

I'd seen the film adaptation some years ago but I must not have been paying very much attention because beyond the very basic premise I wouldn't have been able to describe the plot. 'Dowdy middle-class woman gets swept up in the life of modern socialite for a day' would have been about the best I could have done. Not exactly piercing analysis. I did remember that the film (and the book) also came recommended by Nickie - so with two friends who'd enjoyed it I was hoping it would be good. 

I really enjoyed the main character and the story. The author really gets inside the head of Miss Pettigrew — so much so that the other characters are a little bit cardboard cut out. It’s also a good story of the character you care about triumphing over her own hangups and sorting her life out, which is always satisfying. It's a nice look at the social mores of the time, as well.

The writing style had me questioning the book a couple of times. There are lines of dialogue that just go ???!!!???!!!??? which seemed like very lazy writing. There's also no great emotional depth to any character other than Miss Pettigrew.  

Final Thoughts
I enjoyed it. It was quite light and a little shallow, perhaps, but enjoyable nonetheless. 6 stars. 

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Book Report: Devil's Cub

My first book in February seemed to go by very fast, probably because I finished The Summer Tree with four days still to go in January. That's fine, the further ahead I can get the better because then I might actually feel like I have time to tackle a longer book without falling off pace. 

Mixed. Very decidedly mixed. This book was a present - years ago - from Nickie, whose judgement I trust. On the other hand, it's still a Regency romance novel and as such I expected it to be pretty predictable. I made a wordsearch about romance novels for Valentine's Day and I've been wanting to give a bona fide romance a try every since - I'm not sure this quite fulfilled that niche in my mind. I might still need to track down Dare I Be Happy? or Cupid Rides Pillion

At least one of the plot twists in this book actually surprised me! For the first several chapters I thought I could see exactly where it was going: respectable, strait-laced young woman gets involved with dashing, impetuous junior lord in order to save beautiful but irresponsible sister. Of course, opposites attract and the two main characters will slowly fall in love and end up properly married and living out their happily ever after, right? In broad strokes I was absolutely spot on, but there were more steps to get to that end result than I was expecting and a certain turn of events that I won't spoil honestly threw a spanner in the works. 

I liked the characters — especially Mary. The background characters were very much straight out of an Austen novel, but Mary and Lord Vidal were at least a little different. I also got a fair few laughs out of some of the dialogue, particularly when the uptight male characters (Mr John Marling and Mr Frederick Cummin) come up against the wilder of the ladies. Georgette Heyer has the advantage over Jane Austen that she's writing for a modern audience and therefore doesn't have her jokes hinging on the exact type of barouche the characters drive. (Which isn't to say I don't find Jane Austen funny, I do — Mr and Mrs Bennet have perhaps one of the best comic relationships in literature.)

The plot was, after all, a little predictable. I knew from very early on exactly which characters would end up together and nothing ever happened that caused me to question that. 
The prose also suffered from a lot of showing not telling, especially when it came to Mary. Though Georgette Heyer describes how Mary feels for Lord Vidal it’s rarely shown in her actions, which causes her feelings to fall a little flat. 

Final Thoughts
I don't think I'll be rushing out to find more novels by Georgette Heyer, but it was perfectly good for what it was and I got a few laughs as well — 6 stars

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