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