Wednesday, 31 December 2014

A Year in Books

It's new years eve today (obviously) so I'm going to reflect on my year in books.

By my count I've read a grand total of 103 books this year, the reviews for which can be found in either my review tag, my year in books tag or on my alphabetised list page. 

Under the jump is a general sort of breakdown of the books I've read, plus the worst 5 reads of the year. Not sure if this post will be of any interest to anyone, other than me, but I had fun looking back and considering what I've read this year.

If your a bibliophile I highly recommend recording (either on blog form, or just in a notebook) what you've read.  

what I've read this month (December)

Another short list this month, I haven't read as much as I expected over Christmas.

1. Lyndsay Faye, Dust and Shadow
2. Mary Roach, Gulp (non-fiction)
3. Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves   

I also started a couple of books J by Howard Jacobson and Exodus: Immigration and Multiculturalism in the 21st Century, Paul Collier and another Man Booker - To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. I'm probably going to polish them all off next both.

I found it a real struggle to get into a book this month, I felt quite apathetic about reading, plus I was short on time. The three books I did read however, were all rather good. Glup was my favourite, an unusual choice seeing as it is a non-fiction book about digestion.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Yay! I've managed to cross another Man Booker off my list, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.

Much has been said about the plot twist, and this review would seem incomplete if I didn't so BIG SPOILER WARNING. If you are planning to read this novel, avoid reading this (and any other) review, as I don't think it'll be half as effective or enjoyable reading it already knowing the twist.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, spoilers, hardback, Man booker, review, book review, book blog, Karen Joy Fowler,

The Plot: Rosemary is unsociable and awkward, a legacy of her unusual upbringing. Rosemary's family life is dysfunctional. Her father, a psychologist, treated her and the rest of her family as a scientific experiment.
 When Rosemary's sister, Fern, vanishes , she is left feeling guilty, although she is unable to remember her role in Fern disappearance, This event also has repercussion on the rest of the family. Her mother becomes unhinged and neglectful, her brother runs away and engages in criminal activity that brings him to the attention of the FBI.  

Rating: 3.5/5
*spoiler warning*

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all my lovely readers! ( or, if you don't celebrate, I hope you're having a fantastic break from work/school).

The postman in the picture comes from my favourite Christmas book ever, The Jolly Christmas Postman, by Janet & Allen Alhberg. It is beautifully illustrated, and includes lots of  of fairy tale characters.

Have a very merry Christmas
Book & Cuppa 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

currently reading

I'm not going to be bloging over Christmas- I'm going to be busy making merry. So here's a quick update of what I'm currently reading:-

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler
This seems like a Christmas appropriate novel, it's all about dysfunctional families. Rosemary's father has used her childhood as an experiment, her half-sister vanished and she hasn't spoken to her brother in 10 years.

I've just started this, and it looks good. I'm finding it far more engaging than J  by Howard Jacobson (another man booker prize short-listed novel).

Also if you're a literature fan and entertaining family this year you really need to try Ex Libris, We played it last year, and it was hysterical. You're given the basic plot outline of some classic fiction, then everyone has to write down your attempt at the first or last line. Then all the lines are read out anonymously, (including the real line of the book) and everyone casts a vote about which they think is the real sentence.

I've explained this in a really muddled way- but trust me it's brilliant! You can see how creative your friends/family are. Some of the entries are so bad they're funny, and there is a smug satisfaction if you successfully manage to convince others that you can write like Jane Austen or Siegfried Sassoon.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Mary Roach, Gulp

As Christmas is 3 days away, this book about digestion seems kind of appropriate, as no doubt a lot of people will be indulging and over-eating. 

Synopsis: (non-fiction) Mary Roach takes a tour along the alimentary canal, from mouth to rectum, making stopoffs along the way to discuss pet food, drug smuggling and fecal transplants. An informative and disgusting look at our digestive system. 

Rating: 3.5/5   
full review under the cut:

Thursday, 18 December 2014

IWM- modern warfare

I'm going to step away from the Christmas posts and show you some more (rather un-festive) pictures from my recent trip to the Imperial War Museum, London.

I've followed the floor plan of the museum and split my posts to reflect the different exhibition, these pictures are all from the modern warfare section:-

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Time for Tea

Another good idea for a Christmas present is to treat a loved one to a spot of tea somewhere special. You could make an event of it, or do it as part of a day trip or shopping expedition.

Here are a couple of places I'd recommend in London and the south:-

Monday, 15 December 2014

present ideas for readers

I've got a slightly smug face on as I've only got one Christmas present left to buy, but if you're struggling to think of something to buy for the reader in your family I've got some ideas.
Gift ideas, presents, Christmas, list, ideas, readers, book-lovers, bibliophiles, shopping

List under the jump:-

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Christmas ideas- Non fiction

One of my new years resolutions for 2014 was to read more non-fiction- I've kind of failed on this one.

Still, here are some non-fiction releases that have caught my eye, and are potential ideas for Christmas presents:-

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Lyndsay Faye, Dust and Shadow

Seems ages ago that I did a proper book review- so allow me to present Dust and Shadow by Lyndsay Faye....

Victorian, modern, Lyndsay Faye, Dust and Shadow, review, detective, Sherlock Holmes, Dr Watson, Jack the Ripper, fiction, hardback

The Plot: A serial killer is on the loose, dubbed The Knife, he is murdering, then mutilating street-walkers in Whitechapel. Unable to solve the case, the metropolitan police engage the help of a renown crime-fighting duo, Dr Watson and Sherlock Holmes. It isn't long before suspicion falls on Holmes himself, and the private detective may well have met his match with Jack the Ripper.  

Rating: 3/4

Friday, 5 December 2014

WW1, Imperial War Museum

As I've already said, the First World War galleries at the Imperial War Museum have recently been renovated.

Imperial War museum, First World War, London, exhibition, photo, photographs, review, visit, uniforms, poppies, trenches,

Let's take a closer look:-

Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Imperial War Museum, London

This weekend I went to The Imperial War Museum. It has recently been renovated to coincide with the centenary of the First World War this year. 

I'm going to split up my photographs, to cover the different exhibitions in depth, but I just wanted to briefly give an overview if you are considering visiting IWM. 

The museum is free to visit, open daily 10:00-6:00. Due to the high volume of visitor at the moment, it is timed entry for the WW1 exhibition, but again this free (but still very crowded). 

Photograph is allowed in the museum, apart from (and rightly so) in the Holocaust exhibition. Another thing to note- the Holocaust exhibition is not recommended for children under the age of 14, and includes graphic photographs. 

We spent about 4 and half hours in IWM and didn't manage to see all of the exhibitions. We didn't go in Truth and Memory or A Family in Wartime, simply because we ran out of time. 

I'd recommend you bring your own food and drink. There was a poor choice of sandwiches and both the tea and coffee are horrible.    

Tuesday, 2 December 2014


With Christmas coming up (hey, it's officially December, it's ok to talk about it now) I thought I'd start giving you some gift ideas for your bibliophile friend.

I was given this bracelet for my birthday by my smallest sister- but this is the first time I'm showing it off on the blog.

Bookity, Haruki Murakami, jewellery, handmade, gift, present, Christmas, idea, for readers, for book lovers, for bibliophiles, review, picture, bracelet, up-cycled
It is available on etsy  and The Literary Gift Company. It designed by Bookity, who makes handmade jewellery from damaged books.

Bookity, Haruki Murakami, jewellery, handmade, gift, present, Christmas, idea, for readers, for book lovers, for bibliophiles, review, picture, bracelet, up-cycled
My particular bracelet is made from Kafka of The Shore by Haruki  Murakami. I'm a big fan of his work, read my reviews of The Underground  and  Tsukuri Tasaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. There are plenty of other authors to choose from including Tolkien, Austen and Agatha Christie.  

The bracelet feels tactile, the inside is smooth. The only downside is, that the clasp is non-adjustable.  

Bookity, Haruki Murakami, jewellery, handmade, gift, present, Christmas, idea, for readers, for book lovers, for bibliophiles, review, picture, bracelet, up-cycled

P.s Happy Birthday to my big sister!

Monday, 1 December 2014

what I've read this month (November)

This post should have gone up yesterday, but I was out and about. This month I've read a grand total of two books:-
  1. Patrick Rothfus, The Wise Man's Fear 
  2. Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North 

The Narrow Road was this years' Man Booker winner, but as you can see by my review I wasn't blown away by it. 
The Wise Man's Fear is the second book in a fantasy series I'm intending to work my way through. My review of the first book can be read here.  This one is more of the same really, a solid fantasy epic, that is sometimes formulaic but nevertheless entertaining. 

I've started several books this month, but have yet to finish them. On a morning I'm just picking up whatever is to hand and whatever can fit in my bag, so it has meant my reading this month has been bitty. 

Hopefully I'm going to be more organised this month, and be able to read more and blog more regularly. 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

currently reading

My plan to read the Man Booker shortlist is failing. Two reasons really:-
1. my new job has left me with less recreation time
2. I am super protective of my books, I like the spines, covers and pages to remain immaculate. This means I'm wary about shoving my new books in my handbag, which is littered with all kinds of debris. This is preventing me taking and reading my books on my commute.

So I can get some reading done on the train, I've turned back to my old friend the library, and  have just collected a couple of books:-

1. Paul Collier, Exodus: Immigration and Multiculturalism in the 21st Century 
Does what it says on the tin - this is a factual look at an explosive and controversial debate from a respected economist.

2. Chris Westwood, Ministry of Pandemonium 
I ordered this so many months ago, I can't remember why. It is YA fiction about a secretive ministry department, that aims to recruit Ben, a young man with an unusual gift. This will hopefully be a great thing to read first thing in the morning on the tube, as I'm not expecting it to need much brain power.

3. Lyndsay Faye, Dust and Shadow 
Victorian detectives- one of my most favourite things. I really rate Faye as an author, in this she is taking on two legends- Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper.  

Monday, 24 November 2014

Stowe- part 2

A lot later than I originally planned, here is the second part of my visit to Stowe. (first part here)

Stowe, grounds, gardens, folly, landscape, Capability Brown, architecture, follies, 18th Century, temple, Palladian, UK, English, photo, pictures, photographs, examples,

I thought he most logical thing to do was to split the photos into two- the first part is mainly trees and autumnal landscape.  This post is about the follies that are scattered around around the grounds. For those of you who don't know, a folly is a fanciful structure, built to be primarily decorative and to be an ornamental part of a large garden or estate. Some follies can however also be practical, a place to rest, take tea or even to sleep if they are far from the main house. 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North

As this was the winner of the Man Booker prize this year, I'm sure it'll be on many people's Christmas lists. Although, I've only just started to read my way through the shortlist, I'm not convinced this would have been the winner for me.

fiction, POW, Japanese, Death Railway, novel, book review, Man Booker Prize 2014, winner, Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, WWII, Dorriago Evans, hardback,

The Plot: The Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway, was built by Japan during WWII using forced labour. Approximately 180,000 Asian civilians and 60,000 allied Prisoners of War worked on the railway. Hundreds of thousands of people died, due to starvation, and the brutal regime of the camps.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North is the account of a fictional Australian army doctor, Dorriago Evans, and his life before, during and after his experience on the Death Railway. Dorriago struggles to save the lives of the men under his care, as is forced by his captors to select the POWs to work on the railway each day. Throughout he is haunted by the memory of Amy, the wife of his uncle, who he had an affair with.

The novel is non-liner, showing the long reaching consequences of trauma, and the importance of happier memories in difficult circumstances.

Rating: 3.5/5
Full review after the jump:-

Monday, 17 November 2014

He kept looking for that piece of artery

"Dorrigo Evans kept steadily working on Jack's stump, his bare feet ankle-deep in the bloody mud below the makeshift bamboo operating table, his outer calm a strange thing he knew he preserved at the moments of greatest inner turmoil. He kept looking for that piece of artery, trying to find something in his work to hold on to, unconsciously clawing at the mud with his toes.
And finally he had it, and he worked with the utmost care and delicacy to make sure his work would hold and Jack lives, and when he was done and he lifted his head, he knew Jack had been dead for some minutes and no one had known how to tell him". 
- Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Sunday, 16 November 2014

life lately

So I'm still getting used to the routine of my new job, and therefore haven't been able to update as much as I'd like. I haven't had the time to read as much as I'd like either, so I think my Man Booker challenge is going to take me two months, rather than the one I originally planned.

currently reading: 
Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North - I've just finished this. It was the eventual winner of the Man Booker, so I though I'd start with this, so I could compare it with the others. A full review should be up next week, and by then I should have a handle on how I felt about it, as I'm currently not sure.

Howard Jacobson, J- This book was the one I was most looking forward to reading out of the Man Booker shortlist, dystopian fiction is one of my favourite genres.

currently listening to:
I've recently discovered podcasts (I'm so old, and behind the times). I'm hooked on Serial, released every Thursday, it is an investigation of a true murder case, with clues and suspicious gradually revealed each week. I've also been falling asleep every night to the sound of A History of the World in a Hundred Objects, it's interesting, but also soothing.  My commute has been made far more enjoyable listening  to Woman's Hour and Welcome to Nightvale

currently eating:
Last night I went for food at Bubbledogs (website here). It's a trendy restaurant which serves fancy hotdogs and champagne.

I wasn't sure about the concept to begin with, as a vegetarian I didn't think it would be for me. However I was pleasantly surprised, there is a whole list of options and then you can choose if the sausage is beef, pork or vegetarian. I went for a chippy dog - battered vegetarian sausage, with scraps (a Northern delicacy, tiny flakes of chips and/or batter)  and a garlic, brown sauce. So good! but I could have easily eaten two).

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Lest we forget

Like 4 million other people, I went to pay my respects at the commemorative art installation at The Tower of London.
Lest we forget, poppies, Tower of London, First World War, tribute, commemorative, art, instillation, weeping window, UK, visit, Blood Swept Land and Sea of Red, 888236, photo, photography, armistice, 1914, WW1

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red comprises of 888,236 individually hand-made poppies planted in the moat of The Tower to represent a British military fatality during the First World War.
Lest we forget, poppies, Tower of London, First World War, tribute, commemorative, art, instillation, weeping window, UK, visit, Blood Swept Land and Sea of Red, 888236, photo, photography, armistice, 1914, WW1

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Stowe part 1

I went to Stowe a couple of weekends ago, but I took far too many photos and I've been putting off editing them. So many photos in fact, that I'm spreading them over two posts.

Stowe, day trip, visit, colours, Autumn, trees, nature, orange, yellow, conkers, sunny day, traditional, activity, UK, England, blue sky, elm, oak, chestnut

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Man Booker Prize 2014

The winner of the Man Booker prize was announced a couple of week ago - The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan.

Man Booker shortlist, review, photo, book stack, pile of books

So I've accidentally bought the entire shortlist -much to my mum's exasperation, as she claims there is no more room in the house.  It was an absolute bargain though, £30 for six  hardback books from The Book People.

The aim this month is to read all of them, then compare and rank them. Basically, I'm going to pretend to be a Man Booker judge. The hardest decision is going to be deciding on the order in which I read them.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Sarah Waters, The Paying Guests

As far as I'm aware I've read all of Sarah Water's books, and I've enjoyed every single one. It's no secret I love a bit of historical fiction, even though it's often trashy, Water's novels tend to be a classier affair.

Sarah Waters, The Paying Guests, historical fiction, hardback, blog, book review, 1920's, lesbian

The Plot: 1922, London. Widowed Mrs Wray and her daughter, Frances, are forced to take in lodgers because of financial difficulty. Lillian and Leonard Barber, members of the 'clerk class', begin to unsettle Frances' mundane routine. They bring excitement, unexpected friendship and remind Frances of her scandalous past. Dangerous loyalties and secrets will cause disturbances beyond the walls of the respectable Champion Hill house.

Rating:  4/5
* minor spoilers warning*
full review under the cut

Saturday, 1 November 2014

St Pancras

Ok, St. Pancras is just a train station, but it really is stunning! Therefore this small post is justified. It is grade 1 listed building, which was opened in 1868.

St Pacras Station, London, architecture, photo, photography, railway station, trains, visit, The Meeting Place, stature, Paul Day

Friday, 31 October 2014

what I've read this month (October)

Here's my monthly round-up:-
  1. Robin Hobb, Assassin's Quest 
  2. Jessie Burton, The Miniaturist
  3. Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation 
  4. Joe Abercrombie, The Blade Itself
  5. Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind 
  6. James Dashner, The Maze Runner
  7. Robin Hobb, Fool's Errand 
  8. Emma Healy, Elizabeth is missing 
  9. Sarah Waters, The Paying Guests 

I've read a fair bit of fantasy this month, 4 out of the 9. Fool's Errand was the best of the bunch, to see my review of the first book of the series see here. I'm a bit wary of reviewing the books individually, as it will contain a lot of spoilers and I'm thinking it will be probably be best if I hold of and review the series in its entirety once I'm done. 

Two of my list could be regarded as science fiction, Annihilation and The Maze Runner, and I was frankly unimpressed with both of them. 

The Paying Guests and The Miniaturist are both accomplished novels. They are historical fiction, with The Paying Guests set in London in the 1920s and The Miniaturist  is set in Holland in 1686. 

The absolute highlight of this month was Elizabeth is Missing. It is just outstanding, I was profoundly moved throughout. It is just one of those books that you want to share with everyone, I strongly urge you to read it. 

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Terror and Wonder at The British Library

I've never actually been to The British Library before, which seems like a huge oversight for a bibliophile that lives close to London. So to rectify this, me and mum took a trip over to see an exhibition, 'Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination'. The event is Halloween appropriate, but will running until the 20th January, so you have plenty of time to catch it.


Wednesday, 29 October 2014

James Dashner- The Maze Runner

Recently released at the cinema, and billed as the new Hunger Games, I thought I should give The Maze Runner a chance. I discovered that the comparisons to The Hunger Games (a book and film series I adore) are totally inaccurate. The Maze Runner has a similar set up, a group of young adults trapped in a deadly arena, but it is a much poorer book than Hunger Games.

The Maze Runner, UK edition, James Dashner, review, book review, blog, photo, plot synopsis

The Plot: Thomas wakes up disoriented, with no memories in the middle of the Glade. The Glade is populated by a community of teenage boys, surrounded by an ever-shifting maze. Mechanical creatures called Grievers roam the maze, killing anyone who finds themselves still in the maze after sundown. Each month a new boy arrives in the maze through the 'box'. The day after Thomas' arrival comes another unexpected newcomer- a girl. She holds in her hand a note that reads 'She's the last one EVER'. The appearance of the girl is a catalysis for change, and the boys increase their efforts to escape the maze, before it can claim more lives.  

Rating: 1.5/5 
*spoilers warning* 

Monday, 27 October 2014

Heybridge & Tiptree tea rooms

Heybridge is a pretty village, lovely old houses, waterways and a fantastic tearoom. Ideal for a weekend jaunt really. After our trip to Bradwell, we popped in for a cream tea.

Heybridge, Tiptree, Maldon, tearooms, cream tea, afternoon tea, scones, jam, photo, photograph, boat,

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Bradwell & St. Peters

We were starting to feel a bit trapped indoors by the afternoon so decided to go for a walk at nearby Bradwell.  

Bradwell, Essex, walk, photo, photograph, St Peter's Chapel, oldest Christian church, UK, visit, landscape, bleak, grey, fields, wind turbines

When me and my sisters were small we used to go to the power-station at Bradwell every other weekend. A nuclear power-station may seem to be an odd choice for a family outing, but it has a beach, a nature reserve and was more importantly free entertainment when we were strapped for cash.

The nuclear facility has now been decommissioned and is in the process of being demolished, but the area is still a popular site for walkers (and unfortunately also for doggers, the ground is littered with used condoms so be careful where you stand).

The landscape looked rather bleak in the grey weather, but I think I managed to get some half decent pictures.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

currently reading

Sorry I've been M.I.A this week, I'm starting a new job (v. excited) next week so I've been busy getting everything sorted. 

Anyway, here's a a quick update of what I'm currently reading:-

1. Fool's Errand, Robin Hobb 
I'm carrying on with this fantasy series. For my review of the first book, see here. The quality of the series is remaining consistent, and Fitz and the Fool are fantastic endearing.

2. The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters 
I love Sarah Waters, every single one of her books has been highly enjoyable, and I'm confident that this will live up to expectations. It's about a mother and daughter who have to take in lodgers, because of financial difficulties post-WWI. Lesbians and historical fiction, win win. 

3. The King's Curse, Philippa Gregory
Such trash, but good trash. Historical fiction from the queen of bodice rippers. Set in the reign of Henry VII, and all about court intrigue and politically advantageous marriage, this is sure to be a guilty pleasure.    

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Emma Healey, Elizabeth is Missing

Elizabeth is Missing, début novel from Emma Healey left me with a heavy feeling in my heart, but it deserves all the hype
Elizabeth is Missing, Emma Healey, review, book, blog, literature, hardback, opinion, plot, synopsis, Maud, Helen, charterers,  fiction, family, dementia, Alzheimer's, powerful, elderly, detective

The Plot: Maud is suffering from dementia, she writes notes to herself to remember not to cook, not to leave the house and not to buy more tinned peaches. Her memory is splintered, and time is non-liner. She often relives the disappearance of her beloved sister, Sukey. Now her friend, Elizabeth, is also missing. Maud is desperate to piece together the fragments, find Elizabeth and solve the historic disappearance of her sister.  

Rating: 5/5
full review

Friday, 17 October 2014

Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

Another fantasy review for you today, The Name of the Wind. I promise this'll be the last one (for a little while) so if these isn't a genre that interests you don't worry, I've been reading a variety of other things as well.
paperback, review, The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss, photo, photograph, picture, book, fantasy, KingKiller Chronicles, Kvothe, magic, school, university, education, spirits, UK edition, saga,

The Plot: Kvothe is masquerading  as an unremarkable innkeeper, but his origins are a lot more eventful. When his parents are murdered Kvothe is left destitute, scrambling for survival on the streets of the city, but he still harbours ambitions to attend the prestigious university. Providing he can pass the entrance examination and scrape together the tuition fee, the university offers to teach him the magical disciplines of Sympathy, Alchemy, Artifice and Naming. This if the first book in the Kingkiller Chronicals, which recalls Kvothe's early life as he tell his story to a scribe. 

Rating: 3.8/ 5 (I liked it slightly more that The Blade Itself , but not quite as much as Assassin's Apprentice

Thursday, 16 October 2014

the problem with fantasy

I've been reading a fair bit of fantasy recently, and though the issues of racism and sexism are not exclusive to the genre, I've noticed a repeated pattern that these sagas are predictably full of white, straight men swinging swords. Women, and People of Colour are rarer than dragons.
Brienne, Maid of Tarth. George R.R Martin, Song of Ice and Fire 
Artwork by Rory Phillips

*warning small spoilers for Song of Ice and Fire/ Game of Thrones 
see after the cut for my opinion on the problem with fantasy

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Joe Abercrombie, The Blade Itself

I'm still on a fantasy kick at the moment (read my review of Robin Hobb The Assassin's Apprentice here) and ordered a whole bunch from my local library after reading some samples (see my mini-review of fantasy samples here).

Joe Abercrombie, The Blade Itself, fantasy, review, book, fiction, literature, book cover, paperback, photo, photograph

The Plot: Logan Ninefinger, renown warrior of the north has become separated from his comrades, who believe him dead. He is found by a wizard's apprentice and taken to meet the great Bayaz himself. Together they form an alliance against the king of the North. Inquisitor Glokta, himself crippled in the dungeons of the Gurkul Emperor, now tortures and investigates treason in the Union. Captain Jezal, arrogant and wealthy seeks glory in the fencing circle. A war is brewing between the North, the Union and Gurkul. Conspiracies, treachery and death are coming to the three countries and Logan, Bayaz, Glokta and Jezal all have a part to play.

Rating: 3.5/5

Saturday, 11 October 2014

currently reading

I've got a ton of books that I've bought or I've borrowed (stolen) from my sister, so I've made a mini pledge to myself not to go to the library as often so I can crack on with these. 

However, I went on a ordering rampage last month, and books I requested have finally started coming into my local library, and I can't just ignore them. I think I've explained this before, but at my library you can request books from all the other libraries in the county and then pick them up locally. 

 I picked these two up the other day:-

Elizabeth is Missing, Emma Healey 
This got a lot of buzz when it was first published, which is why I had to wait ages to get it. 
I'm expecting big things from this, a detective story with a twist. Maud is investigating the disappearance of  her friend, but she is hampered in her search as she has dementia. 

The Maze Runner, James Dashner 
A film adaptation has just been released, and it is being touted as the next Hunger Games. Although I'm going to reserve my judgement until I've finished reading it, I'm dubious about these claims at the moment. It's interesting to see how literary trends work, after the success of Twilight bookshops where full of vampire boyfriends, now it's all about killing kids as part of weird survival games.  

Friday, 10 October 2014

Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation

I've come to the conclusion that science fiction might not be for me. I'm in favour of the genre's close cousins, dystopian, fantasy and speculative, but what I regard as proper science fiction - futurist technology and extraterrestrials, is a big nope. Though I quite like film and tv about this sort of thing, it doesn't appeal to me in literature.

Therefore, I'm in some ways the wrong person to review Annihilation, as I don't have have an appreciation of this sort of thing, but I always strive to be honest and document my personal response to a book. So take my feelings towards science fiction as a caveat, if you are a fan of science fiction Annihilation maybe right for you, but as a tentative foray into the genre, it left me cold. 

Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer, Science Fiction, novella, Southern Reach, trilogy, book one, review, hardback, book cover, UK edition

The Plot: A biologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a psychologist have been sent by Southern Reach to explore Area X. This is the 10th expedition, the others have failed, former participants have vanished completely or returned mentally disturbed and terminally ill. Written as journal entries by the unnamed biologist, it soon becomes clear that Area X has a swift and deadly effect on the group, and few, if any, will be leaving alive. 

Rating: 2/5 (like I said this is a personal reflection, I'm sure many science fiction fans will love this).
*warning contains spoilers*

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Books about Town

Throughout the summer The National Literacy Trust  has worked in conjunction with Wild in Art  to display illustrated, book shaped benches around London. Today, the benches are been auctioned off to raise money for the Trust's work to improve literacy in the UK. 

James Bond - Ian Fleming
Artist: Freyja Dean 

As I don't have a spare couple of thousand, unfortunately I won't be buying one. However I have gathered together a list of my favourites. 

To see my top 5, take a look under the jump:-

Monday, 6 October 2014

Jessie Burton, The Miniaturist

The Miniaturist, début novel from Jessie Burton has had a recent burst of publicity, with reviewer comparing it to Donna Tartt. My sister lent me her copy, so I had to see if ii lives up to the fuss.

The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton, book review, Holland, blog, literature, book cover, sugar trade, Nella Oortman, Johannes, gay, historical fiction, Dutch East India Company, slavery

The Plot: 1686, Amsterdam; Nella Oortman an eighteen-year-old from a respected but impoverished family has come to the city to join her new husband, Johannes Brandt, a wealthy merchant trader. She is greeted at the door by her sister-in-law, Marian who is censorious and hostile to the new bride. Neglected by Johannes, Nella is frustrated and lonely. To divert her attention, Nella is gifted a beautiful, miniature replica of her marital home. Soon, mysterious, unsolicited, prophetic figurines arrive addressed to Nella to furnish her dolls house.

Rating: 3.5/5

Thursday, 2 October 2014

currently reading

Just a quick post to let you know what's on my reading list at the moment:- 

1) The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton - kindly lent to me by my sister at the weekend, she was rather impressed with this and I trust her judgement. Set in 1686, Amsterdam, eighteen-year old Nella Oortman has come to join the wealthy household of her new husband.

2) The Blade Itself, Joe Abercrombie - even after reading 3 or 4 fantasy novels last month, I still haven't had my fill. I briefly mentioned this book in my review of kindle fantasy samples last month. From the blurb it looks like it's going to be full of knights, barbarians and tortures, which is just my thing at the moment.

3) Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer - I posted about this book way back in July, I've been waiting that long for it to get in my library. Though in lots of ways my local library is brilliant, it really is slow when it comes to ordering other books in. They offer a service in which you can request books from other libraries in the county to be sent to your local for collection, but sometimes it can take months. Anyway this novel is the first in a science fiction series.

You'd be ruined as God

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Audrey Magee, The Undertaking

There has been a lot of buzz about The Undertaking, it was the winner of the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. Luckily, it lives up to the hype, it is a very powerful novel about the second world war.

The Plot: Desperate for a respite from the Eastern Front, Peter Faber, a German solider agrees to arranged marriage with a woman he has never met, Katharina Spinell. Although their marriage begins awkwardly, they soon develop an unexpected sexual chemistry and depth of feeling for each other. Their brief 3 week honeymoon must sustain them whilst Peter confronts the horrors of Stalingrad. Katharina, encouraged by her delusional parents, aligns her interests to the Nazi party, but as the regime begins to crumble she begins to regret her decision.

book review, The Undertaking, Audrey Magee, plot, World War II, Germany, Nazi, Eastern front, review, recommendation, Women's Prize for fiction
Rating: 5/5
Trigger warning: rape, violence, war, anti-Semitism, Nazi ideology, starvation

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

what I've read this month (September)

 Here's my monthly round-up of what I've read in September:-
(click on the title to see my full review)
  1. Patrick DeWitt, The Sisters Brothers 
  2. Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere 
  3. Claire King, The Night Rainbow
  4. Robin Hobb, Assasin's Apprentice 
  5. Patrick Ness, More Than This 
  6. Michel Faber, The Fire Gospel 
  7. Robert Harris, Pompeii 
  8. Robin Hobb, Royal Assassin 
  9. Ian McEwan, The Children Act
  10. M.R.C Kasasian, The Mangle Street Murders 
  11. Audery Magee, The Undertaking 

This month I concentrated on diversifying the genre I usually read. I started a new fantasy series that I've really enjoyed, Robin Hobb's Assassin novels. Although Game of Thrones still wears the crown for my favourite fantasy saga, the Assassin books are keeping me entertained and I've come to regard Fitz, the Fool and other characters fondly. If sword fighting, power struggles and magic are your thing, I highly recommend you give Robin Hobb a chance. 

Another highlight  this month was The Mangle Street Murders, a detective story set in 19th Century. A pastiche of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Mangle Street was far funnier than I expected. Sidney Grice and March Middleton are an unlikely partnership who's bickering and intriguing backstories kept me amused. The streets and slums of London come to life thanks to Kasasian's vivid descriptions. Thank you again, to Tiziana for the recommendation

The disappointment of the month was Michel Faber's The Fire Gospel. For me, it just didn't live up to the standards of the other Cannongate myth series. 

Is there anything that you read this month and particularly enjoyed? I love receiving recommendations,  so put your suggestions in the comments below or send my an email at 

Friday, 26 September 2014

banned books and censored literature- is it ever right?

While listing all the banned books I've read I started thinking about my views on censored literature.

My first instinct is to preserve freedom of speech, that hateful books, even those like Mein Kampf, should be available, as even though the views expressed are disgusting, people still have the right to hold these views. Plus books such as these are historical documents, they are revealing of society and culture.

Some of the reasons for banning books is in my opinion puritanical, sex, drugs and swearing in a book written for adults doesn't bother me. If you are sensitive to these things, the solution is simple - don't read the book. Violence, drug taking and sex in literature isn't promoting these activities, it is just portraying human realities.

banned for 'promoting' lesbianism 

Also the banning of these books is obviously influenced by homophobia, racism and sexism. The inclusion of many books on the banned list by African-American women such as Toni Morrison and  Maya Angelo, is act of misogynoir, Black female sexuality is seen as obscene. I'm sure many more explicit books passed through the censors as they cover white, male, heterosexual sexuality, rather than the experiences of women.  

On the other hand- I can completely see why some of the novels have been banned, especially in schools. I am in favour of racial slurs being blanked out, or been moved all together. For example, references to g****w**** or the n-word have been taken out of new editions of Enid Blyton. These words are offensive and inappropriate and should not be read by impressionable children.

Novels such as Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mocking Bird have been removed from schools because of the racist depiction of black people. In both books African-Americans are portrayed as infantile, servile, low intelligence and of need of a 'white saviour'. Without the contextualising these books, and discussing the historic and current impact of racism, these books could be problematic. Therefore, I totally approve of the restriction of these books in schools. However, I don't believe in a blanket ban, as again these novels provide a snapshot in time and are representative of time when these views were common place. In the right hands racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic or otherwise offensive novels can be a useful educational tool.

This all just my personal opinion of course, and I'll to hear yours! Leave your comments about banned books and censorship in the comments below.