What are you reading Wednesday

What I'm Reading

Welcome back to What Are You Reading Wednesday!

The idea of these is for book lovers and bloggers to share, discuss, and recommend the books they’re currently reading.

All you do is answer five questions about your current read then head over to one of the hosts (Marissa at Marissa Writes, Kendall at The Geeky Yogi and Rhianna at Tsundoku Girl Reads) to link up your post. Have fun and don’t forget to check out everyone’s posts as well!

What I finished since last time

Finally, I got through The Kite Runner! I usually choose short audiobooks so this doesn’t happen, but it was one I really wanted to read. And it’s only taken me… um… four months. I finished The Bedlam Stacks, and it was a fantastic read so if you want to see me raving about it hop on over to my Goodreads review – and if you’ve read it please please please chat to me because the worst thing about reading books with no real fandom is not having anyone to flail with afterwards!

What I’m currently reading


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I got a stroppy email from the library telling me I’ve renewed Tower of Dawn (and others) too many times and it’s due back. So, that’s my weekend plans sorted! I thought I was done with this series – and author – but I’ve invested so much time and emotional energy into the previous books. Chaol was always my favourite, and after what happened at the end of Queen of Shadows – and what DIDN’T in Empire of Storms – I also want to see if SJM has taken on board the criticism (justified, in my view) she’s got for her handling of diversity.

Synopsis:

Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.

His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent’s mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.

But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.

1. What made you pick up this book – cover or content?

I’ve kind of answered this already, but I will just add – some of you may know that I am disabled. I don’t use a wheelchair but I have mobility problems due to a number of underlying and long-term conditions. I was hugely affected by the decision of SJM (who at one time was my favourite author) to leave Chaol out of Empire of Storms, and while this book can’t, in my view, make up for it, I’m hoping to see his story treated with respect.

2. Who is your favourite character so far, and why?

Um… I’ve kind of answered this one as well! I’ve always loved Chaol, his loyalty and courage despite being flawed and in my view realistic. I know a lot of people criticised his apparent change in character in QoS, but to me it was always a completely understandable reaction to everything he’d been through in the previous books. He’s only human! (alright, he’s actually only fictional, but you know what I mean – we’re all bookworms here!) And compared to the cast of too-perfect, beautiful and powerful fae, witches, princes and princesses… Chaol is a lot more relatable to me.

3. Will you finish this one?

Yep

4. Finish this sentence: This book reminds me of…

The other Throne of Glass books. Is that cheating?

5. What type of read is this one?

Well, I’m only about 10 pages in, but I’ve already been struck by how wordy it is in comparison to my last few reads. Hopefully I’ll readjust to SJM’s style of writing, because at the moment I’m finding it more than a bit grating.

 

draculaCan I confess to never reading Dracula before? I’m not a huge horror fan, but this is a classic I really feel like I ought to have got to before. I’m not even sure I’ve ever watched any of the films all the way through (at least not the straight dramatisations – I’ve seen a few inspired by or reimaginings, like Van Helsing).

I don’t think this one really needs a synopsis, does it?

1. What made you pick up this book – cover or content?

Content, content, content!

2. Who is your favourite character so far, and why?

Mina and Jonathon Harker. They’re the most understandable and realistic characters, as well as being the ones whose viewpoint we get most. I’m afraid Lucy is a little melodramatic for my liking!

3. Will you finish this one?

100% will! But maybe not this month – it’s having to go on the back burner while I get through that library backlog.

4. Finish this sentence: This book reminds me of…

It’s hard for it to remind me of anything when it’s a story we already know so well! If anything, it’s probably the other way round. I have read some other gothic and Victorian novels and there’s definitely a similarity in tone, but I’d say this is better than, for example, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde which I read last year,

5. What type of read is this one?

A pretty quick read, as classics go. The writing’s not impenetrably dense, which sometimes puts me off what would otherwise be a good story, and there’s very little of the author-narrator’s interference and moralising or philosophising which you sometimes get, possibly because it’s told through letters and diary entries so it would be too jarring. It’s not a style heavy on action, but there’s still a lot of tension and creepiness throughout, and one benefit of knowing the story already is that you can see how the picture and the clues build up.

That’s it!

I’m still working on The Essex Serpent but I’m no further along than I was in the last two Wednesdays, so I won’t bore you all with a repeat of the same answers for a third time. And I’ve queued up Autoboyography on audiobook to replace the Kite Runner, but not started it yet.

What are you currently reading? Have you read any of these? Are you considering it? Let me know in the comments!

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September wrap-up: What I Read

In which I have poor judgementSept 17 Wrap-up

My September reading was never going to be as impressive as August. 13 books is still one of my best monthly totals of the year. But while August had so many brilliant reads and highlights I could barely narrow it down, my September reads were… shall we say underwhelming.

Now, this is partly down to the aforementioned poor judgement. I know perfectly well YA contemporary is a tricky genre for me; a lot of books in it simply don’t suit me, perhaps because I’m older than the target audience, or perhaps because it’s such a wide-ranging genre that it’s always going to be a mix. I ought to trust myself and stick to ones I really like the look of, instead of picking up anything I vaguely recognise. Yep, that’s what happened.

What I read

The highlights

The Dark Days Club is best described as Shadowhunters meets Regency Romance. There was nothing particularly deep going on, but it was a fun, quick read. The marriage of the urban fantasy tropes with the social mores of Georgian England might not sound like a match made in heaven but it really worked, the stifling social and familial expectations the MC was under only adding to the conflict and humour. Lord Carlston is one more bad boy with a tragic past and the hints of romance were predictable to say the least – if you’re morally opposed to love triangles you should steer clear – but hell, I enjoyed it. 3.5 stars.

Screenshot_20180109-113001Queens of Geek is another fun, easy YA contemporary with a grounding in the nerdy, fandom worlds I’m so fond of, and I loved the way the diverse cast was incorporated and their various issues handled. However, the story didn’t grab me the way, say, Geekerella did. Still, it was a good book and worth reading just for the angry feminist tendencies of some of the characters (in case there’s any doubt, I view angry feminist tendencies as a Good Thing). One of the MC’s is a girl on the autism spectrum (and #ownvoices) which isn’t something you see very often in YA lit, so if you’re interested in it from the representation point of view I would definitely recommend. 3.5 stars.

Screenshot_20180109-112925Saga Vol. 1 was my first graphic novel and I spent a fair amount of time wondering what on earth I was reading. I loved it anyway; the art was clean and vibrant, the characters leapt off the page, and it had a sort of Star Wars feel to the way so many different races and technologies were just thrown in and you rolled with it. Unlike Star Wars, it is definitely not family friendly. You have been warned! The story zips around between different viewpoints, with the obvious “heroes” being Marko and Alana, the parents from warring races just trying to escape and raise their newborn daughter in peace, but I also loved a number of the side characters such as assassin The Will and his Lying Cat. And that ending! 4 stars.

The rest

IMAG0841The Night Circus was beautifully written, evocative and romantic, with a real sense of wonder and mystery. The characters were likeable if not loveable, and while I often dislike this style of narration – a bit distant, many viewpoints, present tense – it worked for this particular story. The plot, such as it was, took second place to the atmosphere and sense of marvel of the circus. I can definitely see why it’s a favourite for so many people. I’m glad I read it, and it was definitely more enjoyable than not, but there were a lot of parts that were slow or confusing. 3.5 stars.

I got the whole The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy as an omnibus edition from the library. Otherwise, I doubt I would have bothered with the latter two books (It’s Not Summer Without You and We’ll Always Have Summer). I wish I hadn’t. Basically, the entire plot of the entire trilogy boils down to how long can you string out a love triangle between one girl and a pair of brothers. Ugh. She came across very young in the first book, which, you know, fine, the plot was probably supposed to be about growing up as much as the romance. But that was the only book with any sort of half-decent background plot, and she didn’t seem to have improved in book three when she was supposedly a college student. Oh, and the marriage plot in book three just didn’t fit with the young tone and the characters. All in all a complete miss for me. Book one got 3 stars, and it went downhill from there.

IMAG0792Letters to the Lost might have been a favourite in other circumstances, but it dealt with a lot of the same themes as I’ll Give You The Sun, one of last month’s favourites, and didn’t quite measure up. The plot of people writing to each other without realising they know each other in real life isn’t exactly original, but it was done well and I really felt the building chemistry. I loved that Juliet was a photographer with a real passion for her art, something that permeates the story and her viewpoint, and her ongoing grief over her mother’s death was moving and heartfelt. I would have liked it better if not for the twist/reveal at the end – learning to deal with grief and not to judge people so quickly and harshly would have made enough of a story without it. Plus, again, I’ll Give You The Sun had a similar twist but in my view done much better. 4 stars.

Four is a collection of short stories from the Divergent world, written from – you guessed it – Four’s point of view. They were enjoyable enough as they went, and getting some of Four’s background before the events in the main trilogy was interesting. Nothing that’s going to stay with me for long, though. 3 stars.

IMAG0699Hollow City is the second of the Miss Peregrine books, and leapt right into the plot without the degree of worldbuilding and set-up of the first. It made for a tighter, gripping read; the antagonists were far more tangible and threatening, the stakes felt higher and there were a few twists that took me completely by surprise (especially that one at the end). I’m still not sold on the romance, and some of the fantastical elements stretched belief a little too far, though I did enjoy the way the peculiar fairy tales were incorporated into the plot. After the reveals and confrontation at the end of this I’m definitely looking forward to the final instalment. 4 stars.

Screenshot_20180109-112951Radio Silence incorporates a lot of Facebook messaging, tumblr, text messages, Twitter… it did not translate well to audiobook. That aside, the characters and concept were interesting, and the MC in particular was very relatable, but the plot never quite felt joined up. The last quarter was definitely the best, and I did love the focus on friendship rather than romance. One of the characters produced a a podcast called Universe City and the snippets of its episodes included really added depth and atmosphere. 3 stars.

A Room With A View was the first E. M. Forster book I’ve read, but it definitely won’t be the last. Although a little too fond of grandiose philosophy in places, and occasionally confusing, it was an engaging read peopled with delightfully ridiculous characters. Their flaws and foibles took centre stage and were as entertaining to me as they were exasperating to each other. The ending was a little weak, but overall I loved the witty, light-hearted writing style and gave it 3.5 stars.

Z for Zachariah showed its age, but read it for what it was and it works. It’s funny to see how much shorter books aimed at the YA market were! The post-nuclear survival story was much more popular back then, and this is a good example of it. The MC, Ann, was the sort of character you could really root for, resourceful and determined. There was a really claustrophobic feel to the plot and the setting which kept the tension high, and the conflict between the two characters was brilliantly done, the issues of who had the trust and the power, Ann’s options gradually being closed down until the final confrontation. 4 stars.

September book haul

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Ooops. Well, when you walk past a charity shop with a window display of almost all Rick Riordan’s books, including several hardbacks, what else can you do? Then there’s One Dark Throne. I was dubious about it, after finding the first book underwhelming, but since it was on offer I decided to give it another chance.

And while it might be another failure to stop buying so many books, I did at least read more than I bought this month! There’s hope for my TBR yet.

Let’s chat!

There’s a comment button right below, whether you agree or disagree with my reviews. I’d love to know what you think!

What are you reading Wednesday

What I'm Reading

Welcome back to What Are You Reading Wednesday! The idea of these is for book lovers and bloggers to share, discuss, and recommend the books they’re currently reading – even if that happens to be the same book several weeks in a row (who, me?).

All you do is answer five questions about your current read then head over to one of the hosts (Marissa at Marissa Writes, Kendall at The Geeky Yogi and Rhianna at Tsundoku Girl Reads) to link up your post. Have fun and don’t forget to check out everyone’s posts as well!

What I finished since last time

Last time I posted about The Plague of Doves, and although it took me most of the week, I have now finished (three cheers for me!). I also finished Milk and Honey, which I’d had sitting around half-read for an embarrassingly long time. And Saturday was the monthly TBRknockdown24 readathon hosted on Instagram, so I knocked out a cute & quick contemporary, The Start of Me and You.

What I’m currently reading

IMAG1501~2The Bedlam Stacks is another library book, but one I’ve been really looking forward to for quite a long time! Here’s the synopsis:

In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall after sustaining an injury that almost cost him his leg and something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather’s pines explode, and his brother accuses him of madness.

When the India Office recruits Merrick for an expedition to fetch quinine—essential for the treatment of malaria—from deep within Peru, he knows it’s a terrible idea. Nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who’s made the attempt has died, and he can barely walk. But Merrick is desperate to escape everything at home, so he sets off, against his better judgement, for a tiny mission colony on the edge of the Amazon where a salt line on the ground separates town from forest. Anyone who crosses is killed by something that watches from the trees, but somewhere beyond the salt are the quinine woods, and the way around is blocked.

Surrounded by local stories of lost time, cursed woods, and living rock, Merrick must separate truth from fairytale and find out what befell the last expeditions; why the villagers are forbidden to go into the forest; and what is happening to Raphael, the young priest who seems to have known Merrick’s grandfather, who visited Peru many decades before. The Bedlam Stacks is the story of a profound friendship that grows in a place that seems just this side of magical.

1. What made you pick up this book – cover or content?

The cover grabbed my attention first – it was featured quite heavily on bookstagram when it was first released. But the synopsis sounded fascinated, and when I read and loved the author’s first book (The Watchmaker of Filigree Street) this one jumped right up to the top of my TBR.

2. Who is your favourite character so far, and why?

Merrick is amazing, resilient, compassionate and intelligent, and clearly struggling with all he’s been through to get to the situation he’s in now. And while he might be a smuggler, he’s also a gardener, which is so different from your usual fantasy protagonists. I can’t wait to see how he copes with the adventures I’m sure are in store. But I also have a soft spot for Clem, who’s adorable and irresistibly cheerful; even his naive idealism is endearing. He’s clearly been a good friend to Merrick through some rough spots and wants the best for him now.

3. Will you finish this one?

Absolutely!

4. Finish this sentence: This book reminds me of…

Oh no, I still haven’t found a book I can answer this for! It’s similar to Natasha Pulley’s first book in the writing style, but it’s started off much quicker. There’s kind of a Doctor Who vibe as well, with the strange goings on at Heligan. Is it actually possible to read about moving statues without thinking of those weeping angels? And Merrick with his  friends kind of makes me think of how the Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue group might be when they’re all a little older (Merrick is Felicity!).

5. What type of read is this one?

I’m only 36 pages in but it’s beautifully written, really vivid in both characters and setting, and it’s already surprised me a few times.

 

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My buddy read of The Essex Serpent is still ongoing. If you missed it last time, here’s the  synopsis:

Set in Victorian London and an Essex village in the 1890’s, and enlivened by the debates on scientific and medical discovery which defined the era, The Essex Serpent has at its heart the story of two extraordinary people who fall for each other, but not in the usual way.

They are Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome. Cora is a well-to-do London widow who moves to the Essex parish of Aldwinter, and Will is the local vicar. They meet as their village is engulfed by rumours that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming human lives, has returned. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist, is enthralled, convinced the beast may be a real undiscovered species. But Will sees his parishioners’ agitation as a moral panic, a deviation from true faith. Although they can agree on absolutely nothing, as the seasons turn around them in this quiet corner of England, they find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart.

Told with exquisite grace and intelligence, this novel is most of all a celebration of love, and the many different guises it can take.

1. Why did you decide to pick up this book – cover or content?

A cover buy!

2. Who is your favourite character so far, and why?

I’m no further on than I was at the end of December. Will Ransome, the vicar from the synopsis, is my favourite so far.

3. Will you finish this one?

Yes, I think so.

4. Finish this sentence: This book reminds me of…

Maybe Poldark-ish? Or like a modern Bronte, only not so grim!

5. What type of read is this one?

It’s slower than the YA and fantasy that I read much more of, but it flows well and it’s got a very lyrical way of writing.

 

Kite RunnerI’m also still working through my audiobook of The Kite Runner. I’ve made a decent amount of progress in the last couple of weeks, and I’m now about 80% of the way through. Synopsis:

“It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime.” 

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir’s choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.

1. What made you pick up this book – cover or content?

More reputation than anything else, so I guess that counts as content.

2. Who is your favourite character so far, and why?

The narrator, Amir. Everything is filtered through his lens and we know him – with all his flaws and issues – much better than any of the other characters. In the last week or so he’s begun trying to overcome some of his flaws and it’s making for a very compelling read.

3. Will you finish this one?

Yes, definitely.

4. Finish this sentence: This book reminds me of…

It reads like a memoir, although it’s fiction; a real slice of someone else’s life and culture. The only things I can think of that compares are actual memoirs and autobiographies – Memoirs of a Geisha, Oleander Jacaranda, The Colour Purple. It’s not exactly like any of them, but something about the flavour of it brings them to mind.

5. What type of read is this one?

Slow, absorbing, detailed and evocative, especially the sections in Afghanistan.

Your turn

What are you currently reading? Have you read any of these? Are you considering it? Let me know in the comments!

Reading with two hats on

2 hatsNot literally. Although it’s a good image.

What I mean is, the more I write, the more I look at books with my writer’s brain instead of just a reader brain.

It means a book has to work a lot harder to impress me. Where I might have been carried along by the plot regardless of the writing style, now I have to put up with a little corner of my brain telling me there’s too much description slowing things down or she’s said that five times in the last two chapters or whatever it might happen to be. Screaming cliche! at me or rolling around in agony at the merest hint of an info-dump (to be fair, I’ve always hated info-dumps).

If the beauty and grace of a particular character is commented on every other time they appear on the page, or if they’re referred to by name in one place then by job title a few paragraphs down and their formal title over the page… I can’t overlook it any more. And so much writing advice recommends using simple said, asked, or replied for speech – or even just action beats – that every hissed, snarled and muttered stands out a mile.

It’s not all negative. My own writing can only improve with a better appreciation for what works and what doesn’t in other people’s. Reading A Darker Shade of Magic made me realise I need to seriously up my game with my settings and make them work harder for the story and Glass Sword highlighted the power of having characters – even protagonists – who aren’t always likeable.

And there’s times something is so well-written I enjoy reading it even more – especially on a reread when I have time to appreciate it. Flashfall wove characterisation, worldbuilding and relationship-building into the thick of a wickedly fast action plot so well I was in awe from the opening few pages. And then Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom take clever plotting and subtext to a whole new level (warning – minor spoilers ahead!)

Rereading, you pick up all the little hints of how Kaz’s plans come together, how skilfully they’re placed so you’re always surprised but never cheated by the revelations. And the subtext is so powerful, it’s a masterclass of show-don’t-tell. Like this snippet:

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It isn’t laugh out loud funny like a lot of Jesper and Wylan’s banter, but is so on point for the development of their relationship I could write a whole post about all the ways it’s so cleverly done.

Let’s chat!

Are you a writer? Have you noticed how you read – or even what you read – changing with your writing habits? What books would you recommend for showing how it should be done?

August Wrap-Up: What I Read Part 2

Aug 17 Wrap-upIn Which I Spent The Summer Holidays Reading

Firstly, if you missed Part One, you can go catch up, should you feel like a double dose of my ramblings. Secondly, the reason I had to split the wrap-up is because it’s hard to review 21 books in any reasonably-sized single post. Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, I’m still gloating. Part One has the explanation, and in this part I’ll waste no more of your time but dive straight into the non-readathon part of my bookish August.

The Highlights

IMAG0395Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe would probably be described as literary fiction if it wasn’t YA; it’s not like any other YA contemporary I’ve read. There’s not so much a plot as a journey through a period of Ari’s life. Luckily he’s such a compelling character – so lost, angry and sad – that it really works. The other characters are complex and flawed as well, and you’d think the book would feel bleak but there’s always this air of hope to it, and the ending is just perfection. Definitely a must-read – 4.5 stars. Let’s just not talk about the people who would ruin such a beautiful cover by sticking PERMANENT PRETEND STICKERS all over it. Yes, I’m glad it won all those awards. Yes, there really are other ways you could have told me about it.

IMAG0754The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is impossible to categorise. Is it fantasy? Steampunk? Historical fiction? Romance? Whatever it was, it started slow but built into something incredibly beautiful, both in the writing and in the subtle development of the characters and their relationships. The emotion coming through was so heartfelt and understated and had me close to tears at several points. The plot threads wove together gradually and satisfyingly, the story managed to retain the ability to surprise me all the way to the end, and oh my goodness this is one for rereads – the details you pick up on the second go through are amazing. Plus, you know, any book with a clockwork octopus in it has got to be a winner. 4 stars.

The Rest

The Bone Season was a bit of a let down, after I’d heard so many reviewers sing its praises. I loved the setting, a mix of Victoriana and futuristic elements with a seedy, gritty feel that played perfectly off the MC, Paige, with her confidence and anger and sense of injustice that really fed into the plot. But the info-dumping, especially early on, was very heavy-handed and stopped me really getting engaged with the story. I also had a problem with the antagonists, who felt a stretch too far for belief and almost pantomime-y at times, at odds with many of the other characters who were fascinating and complex. When the plot got going it was a great mix of intrigue, danger and not knowing who (if anyone) could be trusted, but the romance felt rushed, maybe even unnecessary. I’ve been told the other two books out so far in this series really improve (especially on the info-dumping side) and there was enough good in here to make me willing to give them a try. Side note – I went into this thinking it was YA fantasy, but apparently it’s adult, or at least crossover. 3.5 stars.

The Bane Chronicles on a square of white booksThe Bane Chronicles collection of short stories is a mixture of fluffy, fan-service snippets (especially the ones featuring his relationship with Alec) and episodes that cast a little more light on events in the other Shadowhunter series. All of them showcase Magnus at his best, as witty and irreverent and… well… sparkly as ever. It’s fascinating to learn more about his past and his connections with other characters, many of whom show up in person. It’s hard to rate the stories individually, but if I had to choose a favourite it might be Vampires, Scones and Edmund Herondale, or Saving Raphael Santiago. All together, they paint a larger picture and earn 3.5 stars

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is my favourite sort of horror – where the ‘monster’ is human nature, twisted and exaggerated to be sure, but still rooted in people, not a frightening ‘other’. This is more novella length but that works, packing the menace and uncertainty into a smaller space. I still struggle a little with the tendency of Victorian novels to narrate at a distance, as if someone not directly involved is telling the story, and that’s the main reason it doesn’t get more than 3.5 stars.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was not what I expected. At all. Instead of the ghost story I was looking forward to (and which every film adaptation I’m aware of turned it into) I got a tale of entirely human folly, with a dash of greed and jealousy thrown in. Having said that, it was actually very well written, with gloriously vivid descriptions of setting and character alike packed into a short space of pages – 3 stars.

If you were considering reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover because it’s a considered a classic, don’t bother. If you were considering reading it to see why it was considered so shocking, don’t bother. Harsh? Maybe, but this book was truly awful and if not for the controversy surrounding it’s original banning, I doubt it would still be anywhere near the public consciousness in the way it is. Yes, there’s swearing and nudity and sex. But it’s all incredibly tedious, none of the characters are likeable and the philosophising of the author/narrator and the various chips on his shoulder got old very, very quickly. Somehow, I finished it. 1 star.

Bookhaul

Screenshot_20180104-124307~2Did I mention it was my birthday in August? A birthday does not make for a reasonable-looking bookhaul! The picture says it all, I think. Oh, all except for Red Queen and One Of Us Is Lying, which arrived on the very last day of August after I’d already taken my haul photo. Some were from the second-hand bookshop, so they hardly count. Some were birthday presents, or bought with gift vouchers. Wicked Like A Wildfire was my FairyLoot book (one I’d had on my wishlist anyway, so three cheers for FairyLoot). And yes, some were impulse buys – most notably the Percy Jackson box set. I read books one and two last year, from the library, but never quite got round to the rest of them. And of course, I have already ‘read’ A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue as an audiobook and loved it so much I had to get a hard copy.

Let’s chat!

I know I’m still way behind on these wrap-up things, August in January, but I’m trying and I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the books I read or bought, or recommendations for more. Comment down below & have a virtual cookie.

What are you reading Wednesday

What I'm Reading

Welcome back! This is my second What Are You Reading Wednesday, since I’m disorganised and over-committed and skipped a week (I think it was just one?) It’s the thought that counts, right?

The idea of What Are You Reading Wednesdays is that book lovers and bloggers share, discuss, and recommend the books they’re currently reading. All you do is answer five questions about your current read and then head over to one of the host’s sites (Marissa at Marissa Writes, Kendall at The Geeky Yogi and Rhianna at Tsundoku Girl Reads) to link up your post. No one minds if you’re reading the same books several weeks in a row – which is just as well, in my case! Have fun and don’t forget to check out everyone’s posts as well!

What I finished since last time

Two weeks ago I was reading The Thousandth Floor, and I steamed through it in a couple of days. I won’t post a detailed review here, since I do that in my monthly wrap up post. I also had a pretty productive reading week, getting through five books for an Instagram readathon which was coincidentally also hosted by Kendall – Frost Like Night, The Language of Thorns, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, Wintersong and The Hate U Give. Since they missed all the Wednesdays, you’ll have to come back for December’s monthly update for those reviews too (shameless plug – follow me if you don’t want to miss it).

What I’m currently reading

IMAG1587~2The Plague of Doves is another library book; I’m slowly but surely working my way through my backlog and then I pinky promise I’ll get on with reading the books on my shelves, ok? Here’s the synopsis:

The unsolved murder of a farm family still haunts the white small town of Pluto, North Dakota, generations after the vengeance exacted and the distortions of fact transformed the lives of Ojibwe living on the nearby reservation.

Part Ojibwe, part white, Evelina Harp is an ambitious young girl prone to falling hopelessly in love. Mooshum, Evelina’s grandfather, is a repository of family and tribal history with an all-too-intimate knowledge of the violent past. And Judge Antone Bazil Coutts, who bears witness, understands the weight of historical injustice better than anyone. Through the distinct and winning voices of three unforgettable narrators, the collective stories of two interwoven communities ultimately come together to reveal a final wrenching truth.

1. What made you pick up this book – cover or content?

Neither! The author had been recommended to me so I dutifully went off to the library website to see what they had by her.

2. Who is your favourite character so far, and why?

Mooshum. Admittedly, I’m not very far in, but so far I’ve only had Evalina’s narration and she is grating on me. Her grandfather’s sense of mischief and storytelling makes him very intriguing.

3. Will you finish this one?

Not sure. I don’t like DNF’ing books but this one hasn’t grabbed me so far.

4. Finish this sentence: This book reminds me of…

The Life of Pi. There’s something about the style of writing that brings it to mind, and the same way flights of fancy and stories are woven into the narrative.

5. What type of read is this one?

Slow, detailed. The narrator has a very strong voice but where that usually pulls me into a book it’s almost doing the opposite this time and making it hard for me to engage.

 

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My buddy read of The Essex Serpent is still ongoing. If you missed it last time, here’s the  synopsis:

Set in Victorian London and an Essex village in the 1890’s, and enlivened by the debates on scientific and medical discovery which defined the era, The Essex Serpent has at its heart the story of two extraordinary people who fall for each other, but not in the usual way.

They are Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome. Cora is a well-to-do London widow who moves to the Essex parish of Aldwinter, and Will is the local vicar. They meet as their village is engulfed by rumours that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming human lives, has returned. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist, is enthralled, convinced the beast may be a real undiscovered species. But Will sees his parishioners’ agitation as a moral panic, a deviation from true faith. Although they can agree on absolutely nothing, as the seasons turn around them in this quiet corner of England, they find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart.

Told with exquisite grace and intelligence, this novel is most of all a celebration of love, and the many different guises it can take.

1. Why did you decide to pick up this book – cover or content?

A cover buy!

2. Who is your favourite character so far, and why?

I’m no further on than I was two weeks ago, so no-one’s threatened Will Ransome’s position as my favourite yet.

3. Will you finish this one?

Yes, I think so.

4. Finish this sentence: This book reminds me of…

I’m terrible at this sort of question! I don’t read a whole lot of historical novels so it’s hard for me to compare it, but it’s maybe Poldark-ish? Or like a modern Bronte, only not so grim!

5. What type of read is this one?

It’s slower than the YA and fantasy that I read much more of, but it flows well and it’s got a very lyrical way of writing.

 

Kite RunnerI’m also still working through my audiobook of The Kite Runner. I’ve made a decent amount of progress in the last couple of weeks, but I’ve still got a good four hours listening time left, so this one will be sticking around for at least another week. Synopsis:

“It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime.” 

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir’s choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.

1. What made you pick up this book – cover or content?

More reputation than anything else, so I guess that counts as content.

2. Who is your favourite character so far, and why?

The narrator, Amir. Everything is filtered through his lens and we know him – with all his flaws and issues – much better than any of the other characters.

3. Will you finish this one?

Yes, definitely.

4. Finish this sentence: This book reminds me of…

It reads like a memoir, although it’s fiction; a real slice of someone else’s life and culture. The only things I can think of that compares are actual memoirs and autobiographies – Memoirs of a Geisha, Oleander Jacaranda (an autobiography I read for school years ago), The Colour Purple. It’s not exactly like any of them, but something about the flavour of it brings them to mind.

5. What type of read is this one?

Slow, absorbing, detailed and evocative, especially the sections in Afghanistan.

Your turn

What are you currently reading? Have you read any of these? Are you considering it? Let me know in the comments!

August Wrap-Up: What I Read – Part 1

Aug 17 Wrap-upIn Which I Love Readathons

This month I took part in two, both Instagram based. And damn, did they work for me. August was the month when… wait for it… I read TWENTY ONE books.

This is kind of a big deal for me. I’ve mentioned a few times on here that I’d lost a lot of my reading habit since having children. I’m back, people! So you can see why I’ve had to split this month’s wrap-up into two parts. This post, I’ll talk about the readathons, and next time I’ll be back for the rest.

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The clue’s in the name – this was the 24 hour readathon. I hit a glitch with time zones, never my strong point, when 8pm on a Saturday evening in Australia (a perfectly reasonable time to sit and read like a maniac) became 11am in the morning here in the UK. Still perfectly reasonable – unless you happen to be a responsible adult with three small children rampaging around the house. Just as well we don’t know anyone matching that description.

I fit in two whole books and two half books around the children and with the help of a rather late night. Not bad for 24 hours!

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The highlight was The Upside Of Unrequited was a bright, cute and adorable contemporary, set above the rest of the genre by the fantastic MC, Molly. She was relatably insecure and awkward but trying not to be, her relationships with her friends and family were complex and shifting but you could always tell she was good-hearted beneath it all, and hooray for real, meaningful diversity of all types and a heroine – a romantic heroine, no less – who (mostly) unflinchingly describes herself as fat but isn’t looking for weight loss to solve her problems. Four stars, and (controversial!) I actually preferred this to Becky Albertalli’s first book, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

I also enjoyed Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, which I felt was aimed at the younger end of the YA market but still had an interesting concept and decent worldbuilding. It had a few pacing problems, mainly where exposition had to take place, and occasionally the action felt a little disengaged or irrelevant, but other than that it was an enjoyable ride of an adventure with interesting and not always likeable characters and a sense of mystery, and the inclusion of the vintage photos throughout the book really added to the atmosphere. 3.5 stars.

There are books which are average, or disappointing, or just not for me, but very few I actually hate. The Graces was one of them. I feel bad saying it about a writer’s work, but I found this book plain unreadable. Not a single character was likeable, the MC suffered from the worst case of Not Like Other Girls I’ve ever seen (she said so outright. Many times.) and it was trying so hard to be dark and dangerous but just… wasn’t. Obsession masqueraded as love, which might have been the point, but the lesson was never learned. I skipped the whole middle section and read the end without feeling I’d really missed anything. 1 star, DNF.

Beat The Heat Summer Readathon

Another week-long readathon, but unlike last month’s BookTubeAThon, it had no theme or specific challenges other than to make a big ole dent in your TBR.

Eleven books, people. Eleven books in one week. Allow me a moment of smugness, if you will.

The highlights

Screenshot_20180101-221208After enjoying The Raven Boys last month, I binge-read the remaining three books in the Raven Cycle. The story meanders and takes unexpected about-turns, and as the series progresses there’s more and more a sense of real menace and of things falling apart. And it’s still all about the characters, with every member of the expanding cast as complex and interesting as the main five. The character development – both good and bad – is amazing, the writing is beautiful and evocative, and the books never cease to surprise. Dream Thieves was my least favourite of the three; it felt like a diversion from the main story thread, though the amount of time spent with Ronan was a saving grace and it was still a solid 3 stars. Blue Lily, Lily Blue went back up to 4, and The Raven King was a satisfying conclusion to the series with enough pain and sacrifice to make the payoff worth waiting for, and a full 5 stars. My favourite Raven Boy? Maybe a slightly unpopular opinion, but Adam Parrish.

IMAG0922I was warned to have tissues on hand for History Is All You Left Me. It didn’t quite drive me to tears (what can I say, I’m a hard-hearted soul) but there were definitely a lot of feelings. Having the storyline unfold in past and present was meant we watch poor Griffin’s life collapse around him in both directions. It’s also own voices for OCD, and really shone a light on a condition that’s too often reduced to comic effect. All the characters were so likeable and real, their rough edges and nasty moments not glossed over. I was surprised by a few turns the story took, and the ending was spot on. Enough resolution, but not too perfect. 4 stars and Adam Silvera goes on the autobuy list.

Screenshot_20180101-220850I’ll Give You The Sun was almost unbelievably vivid. Told in first person from each of a pair of twins, it was never confusing which was which. The imagery of art and luck and life running through it was gorgeously done, lyrical and gripping and un-put-downable. I wanted to cheer for Jude’s rediscovery of herself and weep for all Noah’s broken dreams. At its heart, it deals with grief and guilt and lost confidence, and yes it might get a bit heavy on the romance (and one love interest is a bit of a cliche) but the way it’s written that draws you into the twins’ worlds and makes it so much more than the sum of those parts – 4 stars.

The Time Machine is a classic for a reason; the power of imagination evident in the story is incredible, and it’s easy to see why H G Wells is regarded as one of the founding fathers of science fiction. His ideas of how the human race might have evolved, split into two races as a long-term result of industrialisation and the class divide, is as thought-provokingly creepy now as it must have been at the time of publication, and the attention to detail in both the people and the world around them is a lesson in world-building that current day genre writers should learn from. Definitely still worth the read today – 4 stars.

The rest

Enchanted Glass had Diana Wynne Jones’ typically whimsical sense of humour and writing style, and a fantastic magic system which I wish we’d seen more of, but the plot was lacking, and there were large sections of the book where not a lot seemed to be happening, or worse, whenever a problem did occur the protagonists took a break to go home and sleep/eat/think. One protagonist seemed a very odd choice for a YA book – a thirty-something absent-minded professor – but the other was more engaging. The antagonists were fantastically creepy but spent too little time in direct conflict, and the resolution (the tying up of loose ends rather than the showdown itself) was a letdown. Not her best – 2.5 stars.

The entire book of The 100: Day 21 felt like a cheat. There was far too much focus on unbelievable and un-engaging romance rather than, you know, survival. The Angst was back in full swing, and character development was horribly inconsistent. Half the conflict which did occur could have been avoided if the characters hadn’t been needlessly keeping things from each other, half petered out on its own and the rest (yes, I know that doesn’t add up) was left hanging and unresolved – presumably to the next book, but I won’t be bothering to read it to find out. I’m bored with this whole series now. 2 stars.

Screenshot_20180101-220941Wait For Me was a new genre for me – when I do occasionally read historical novels they tend to be adult lit, but this was YA, and also set during WWII, a period I don’t normally gravitate to. It deals more with the impact of a distant, impersonal war on everyday life than with it’s specifics, and the romance at its heart was sweet and engaging, as was the MC with her struggle to find her place in the world and navigate friends, enemies, dreams and disappointments. I enjoyed the story’s details and simple but elegant writing style, which were grounded firmly in its setting, but it lacked a certain spark to elevate it beyond pleasant. If you’re a bigger fan of the genre or of romance book in general, you’d probably really enjoy this. For me it was 3 stars.

Screenshot_20180101-221009Cruel Crown is the bind-up of two short stories written as prequels to the Red Queen series, which is one of my favourites. The first was from Coriane’s (Cal’s mother) point of view, but her character had so little drive or agency it left me frustrated, and also a little confused, with the diary entry format having too many gaps and too much distance, although I did enjoy seeing the petty nastiness and ambition of a younger Elara. The second, from Captain Farley, was much more interesting and the backstory it reveals added to the complexity of her character and actions, already a favourite of mine from the main series. Overall, 3 stars.

SAM_2461I’d been looking forward to Wayfarer since January but it fell short of my (admittedly high) expectations and didn’t live up to Passenger. I spent the first third unbearably confused, and after a fast-paced and action-packed start the pace dropped frustratingly. The parts of the book with Nicholas and Etta separated didn’t work as well for me, and the various conflicting timelines and double-triple-crossing characters made it hard to follow the overall plot. The middle picked up, making more sense and seeming to lead to a satisfying conclusion, only then to be thrown around into something completely different and equally confusing at the end. There were good points – the Belladonna had potential as a villain, even if it was eventually squandered, the action scenes were gripping, and some of the betrayals had me gasping and cursing. Sophia’s character development was outstanding and definitely elevated parts of the book. But there were so many twists that some of them weren’t followed through. I left, ultimately, feeling unsatisfied to the tune of 3 stars.

Stay tuned…

… for part 2, the other ten books I read outside readathons. I’ll have it up as soon as I can! In the meantime, let’s chat about the books in this half and since I’m always up for recommendations, throw me some contemporaries in the vein of this month’s successes. Or answer August’s real burning question – your favourite Raven Boy.