Tag: book love

Monthly TBR – February 2023

We’ve made it through the first month of 2023, and I’m back today to share my monthly TBR for February! Even though it is a short month, I am setting myself an ambitious list. If I want to make it through this TBR by the end of the month, I have to read the equivalent of just over 100 pages a day!

I’m not going to be mad if I don’t get through this list in its entirety. I know I am pushing myself in this monthly TBR. Being honest, if I am reading the last book at the end of the month, I will take that as an achievement.

I have quite the list of exciting books to read in February’s monthly TBR. Whilst I’m not normally one for themed reading, I have decided to pick up certain books on the basis that it is Black History Month. One of my book club reads was chosen around this theme, and it gave me the idea to choose some other books on my bookshelves as they also fit the bill.

Let’s dive into the books on today’s monthly TBR I plan to read in February!

 

Fixed Reads

 

The House of Fortune

The House of Fortune by Jessie Burton was an intended read in the month of January. However, it escaped mention in my January wrap-up as I didn’t quite get around to this one before the end of the month. When out in town last week, I decided to try and loan this book from my local library – fortunately, they had a copy!

So, I have moved it to my February TBR, and as I’m writing this post, it is my current read. I am already a third of the way through this book. If I am to be on track, I need to make some significant progress tonight – and that is the plan!

I have read mixed reviews about this book. That’s why I wanted to try and borrow a copy of this book rather than get my own. Especially as the book is only out in hardback at the moment, and the e-book is still quite high in price, I didn’t want to take the risk of not enjoying it. So far, that is not the case. Whilst I’m not a huge fan of the main character, I am enjoying the overall narrative. It is definitely reminiscent of its predecessor, The Miniaturist. It also fits nicely into this month’s theme, although I didn’t know that at the time of adding this to my February TBR.

 

Africa Risen

 

Africa Risen is Ezeekat’s book club pick on Fable for February. It is a little different from my usual reading in that it is an anthology. The stories within are from the science-fiction and fantasy genres – ones I read a lot of and love already. It emphasises minority voices and perspectives, which is why it makes for perfect reading during Black History Month.

I feel like the book being made up of short stories will make this easy to read. Although the book in its entirety is over 500 pages, the fact that it is broken up into 32 distinct stories should make this one fly by – it averages out at just 16 pages per story!

 

Becoming

I have had a copy of Becoming by Michelle Obama sat on my bookshelf for several months. Considering I am trying to read more non-fiction, and based on the author’s heritage, I felt this would be a great read for February.

I am not into politics, however, I still feel like I will enjoy this book. I’m looking forward to seeing what both Michelle and Barack are like behind the curtain, so to speak. We have seen so much of their public life since Barack became the first African-American president. Becoming could offer a completely different insight into who they are. I certainly hope so!

 

Illuminae

The last fixed read on my February TBR is Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

Last year, I set up a TBR jar and popped in a piece of paper for each of the books that were on my reading list. The idea behind having this jar is that by selecting a book at random from it, I get little bit of randomness to my reading. It’s also to help me get through some of the books that I might not necessarily pick for myself in a given moment. However, I’m really excited that Illuminae came out for this month!

Last year, I read The Appeal by Janice Hallett, and my understanding is that the book is written in multimedia in the same way that book is. It is not a small book at just over 600 pages. However, with the way in which the story is told, the book is clearly not 600 pages of solid prose. This is what I’m used to reading; the format difference should make Illuminae a much quicker read.

 

Mood Reads

 

The Book Eaters

This next book on my reading list is one and I’ve been hoping to pick up for a couple of months. I recently received a copy of this as part of the Illumicrate subscription. I really like the sound of this book, but I just haven’t squeezed it in yet.

At just under 300 pages, this is the shortest book in my February reading list. It is also quite different in tone and genre. If nothing else, I’m hoping I can read this as a good palate cleanser.

 

The Rise of the Dragon

I was very lucky to receive a copy of The Rise of the Dragon as an early birthday present from mum and dad last month. You know me – I am huge Game of Thrones fan! It is only fitting that this is on my February reading list, as I want to read it in my birthday month!

I have read a significantly more detailed Targaryen history from Fire and Blood previously. I’m excited to see how the illustrated version compares to that book. I’m imagining that it is going to be much more digestible! As much as I enjoyed fire and blood, it is dense!

 

In Every Mirror She’s Black

I’m hoping to squeeze one more minority voice book into my February reading list. I purchased a copy of In Every Mirror She’s Black, having seen a copy on sale in Waterstones after Christmas. It was completely on a whim, but I like the sound of the story and the message I believe it intends to put across.

In Every Mirror She’s Black is more of a contemporary fiction than I would typically pick up. However, I am intrigued by the lives of the three women portrayed, and I’m always trying to read new things!

 

So, those are the books on my monthly TBR that I’m hoping to pick up throughout the month of February. Wish me luck!

What are you going to be reading?

 

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Well, I Didn’t Know That! #3

In today’s Well, I Didn’t Know That! post, I feature an article which introduced me to a book I have added to my TBR that I haven’t seen elsewhere, and frankly, would have had no idea it even existed!

As a blogger and part of an online community, I see a lot of books floating around in that circle. As we all read similar things, I often find that the same books come up time and again. That’s not a bad thing, because it’s books I am interested in for the most part. However, I wanted to branch out a little and decided to take a look at the bookish pages of some of the biggest news providers to see what they were sharing!

Naturally, some very different books came up.

For this post, the article in particular I feature is The Guardian’s list of five best science-fiction and fantasy books of 2022. If you are interested in other genres of book, they have articles sharing their top five for each of the big genres.

 

What’s different?

Immediately, this article had my attention because they listed one of my favourite reads of 2022 – Babel by R.F. Kuang. Clearly, the curator of this article has taste! Even though we have this particular book in common, the rest of the listings in this article are the books that I am not familiar with from my blogging circles.

Most of the books featured in this article are very science-fiction heavy as opposed to leaning towards fantasy; in that respect, Babel is the exception! I enjoyed reading each of the little reviews and synopses of what these books are about. For a listicle style post, it strikes the balance of detail whilst maintaining readability very well.

 

What caught my eye?

It is the first book on this list that caught my eye. It was winner of the 2022 Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction Book of the Year and is the first full-length book to be written in its minority language for over 50 years.

The book is written in Orcadian Scots, a dialect spoken in the Orkney Islands. Combine that with its science-fiction setting, and that it is written in verse, and you get a very unusual combination!

I have a good grasp of English, but other than that, I am not great with languages. At a push, I might be able to read a children’s book in German. Certainly, no more than that.

Having read a sample of Deep Wheel Orcadia, I like that it is written in a dialect of English that I’m not too familiar with. There are words that you can identify quite easily based on the spelling, or sometimes they are best interpreted phonetically. I am sure some of it will come with context as well. However, there is enough variation from English to make you think about what you’re reading. If you’re not overly interested in the language element, this book does have a parallel translation to English. You can’t get stuck reading this book because it does the hard work for you.

 

Summary

Whilst I have read books such as A Clockwork Orange in the past (and hats off to any other readers out there who also managed to get through this one!), Deep Wheel Orcadia is a completely different type of book. I wouldn’t have discovered it in the blogosphere I’m part of. 

It just goes to show why it pays to reach out and discover something new from time to time!

 

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Monthly Wrap-Up – January 2023

Hello everybody and welcome to a very hastily finished off monthly wrap-up post for January 2023! If you want to refresh yourself on the books I intended to read throughout the month, here is a link to my TBR post. 

I would normally shared my monthly wrap-up post tomorrow. However, as this month it falls on a Wednesday, the day in which I publish a regular series, I’ve decided to fast track my monthly wrap-up and publish it tonight. To accommodate the change, I prepared most of my monthly wrap-up post ahead of time, and added the last updates on my current read late this evening.

So, buckle up and let’s dive into my January reads!

 

Books Read

 

The Secret Library

The first book I picked up in 2023 was a carryover from last year. As of the end of the year, I had only made a very brief start on The Secret Library (10% ish). I took the decision not to include that book in my 2022 stats, as I felt more appropriate that it be reflected in 2023.

The Secret Library is a nice short read that covers books shared throughout history – those well known, but more importantly, those lesser known. If you like your facts and tidbits of information, then this is the kind of book that will appeal to you. It was really easy to read, well organised with concise chapters, and the pace was just right for the type of book it is.

The Secret Library was a solid start to 2023!

 

The Secret History

The Secret History

Next, I picked up The Secret History – not to be confused with the previous book I just read!

Unlike The Secret Library, The Secret History is a fictional novel with a dark academia theme. In this book, we follow a group of talented language students and the trouble they manage to embroil themselves in. I had really high hopes for this book based on recommendations from other readers (bloggers and in person), but also, because I really enjoyed my introduction to the genre last year.

I really enjoyed this book overall, although I did find a section in the middle to be a little slow-paced… and I’m not sure about the ending. It wasn’t really how I expected it to end. That said, the narrative is compelling and easy to read, if a little graphic in places. That sort of thing doesn’t bother me, but just a disclaimer that if you prefer your fiction to be less… bloody, maybe pick up a different book.

 

After You

I wanted to pick up After You having read and enjoyed its predecessor, Me Before You some time ago. This isn’t the type of genre I usually reach for, so this made a significant change from my typical TBR.

Again, After You was a hit. If I’m honest, I don’t think it was quite as good as Me Before You. However, as I’m sure you will agree, those are very big boots to fill. I enjoyed that book for the difficult topics it handled. That’s specifically why I wanted to pick it up back then! After You isn’t just an airy fairy love story – this one also deals with topics that may be difficult to address. Grief, loss and moving on are the main themes of the book. I enjoyed how well-rounded it was. Despite the themes of the book, there is plenty of humour to lift the mood throughout!

 

The Chimp Paradox

I am ending the month with my current read, The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters. As of publishing this post, I am 72% through this one, although I will be taking this book to bed with me and trying to finish it by the end of the night. 

I have already learned some useful information from this book. If you are interested in a basic overview of psychology and how the mind works, this will probably interest you. If I’m honest, I am personally not a fan of the narrative style. That’s not to say it is difficult to read or anything – I would suggest the opposite! Perhaps it is because I’m a former psychology student with some knowledge in the subject, but I find this narrative really oversimplified. That said, the target audience for this book is probably somebody who has very little knowledge at all. I’m not that person.

To me, it reads like the author is talking to a four-year-old. The narrative is repetitive, as well as oversimplified, and it grates on me a little bit. That’s not to say I haven’t been able to take anything away from this book, because that would be a lie. However, I will admit that I am reading this book to get what I can from it and move on.

 

DNF’s

 

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Another less successful book on my January TBR was Ezeekat’s book club pick, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow. Thankfully I had grabbed a digital copy of this book from my library!

Having read the small amount that I did before I put this back down, I’m glad I didn’t get my own copy! I didn’t enjoy the narrative style at all. That can be a big make or break for me. Additionally, I didn’t have any great love or interest in the characters, and I thought the opening events of the opening chapter to be bland. All-in-all, disappointing. 

Needless to say, the copy was returned to the library rather quickly!

 

So, those were the books I picked up throughout the month of January. I hope you have enjoyed today’s monthly wrap-up!

What have you been reading?

 

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Well, I Didn’t Know That! #2

Could AI become a one-stop-shop tool when you’re in need of legal defence?

That is the feature of today’s post as part of my new series, Well, I Didn’t Know That! and a recent article in New Scientist magazine (issue 3421, pg.10).

To stress, the scenario featured in this article is about a trial. Of the AI. Obviously there is also a legal trial – this one about a speeding ticket.

 

New Scientist – AI Will Advise a Defendant in Court

Artificial intelligence is a hot topic lately. You may have had a play with ChatGBT which has become popular recently. Or, you may have seen discussions around the inter-web about digital art, or artificial intelligence being used in ways in which it could replace human creations.

The idea of artificial intelligence being clever enough to do even more than it already does is a little bit frightening. Now, for the first time ever, artificial intelligence is being tested in a brand-new scenario – the courtroom. Normally, such technology is not permitted. You won’t find yourself defended by anyone other than a lawyer anytime soon. However, a company behind artificial intelligence has found somewhere in which a device supporting AI can be used… and is taking the opportunity to do so.

 

What’s happening?

The firm behind the artificial intelligence, DoNotPay, are trialling the use of its technology in defending against a speed ticket. The company has promised to pay any fines in the event that the AI does not succeed in its defence. In order to represent the defendant, a smart phone is being used to listen to proceedings and advise the defendant on how to respond via an ear piece.

As this case is not due to take place until next month, we won’t know how successful AI will be in this scenario. It was originally developed and trained to assist with legal issues by sticking to factual statements. In a courtroom scenario, the best course of action could be different. That is clearly why the company want to expose their artificial intelligence to this situation. It relies on data. Currently, it has no data of how to respond to this scenario. After this case, that will change.

 

What could it mean?

If we ever see artificial intelligence playing a significant role in legal issues, it is a long way off. In order to get this first trial, the company have had to search long and hard to find somewhere it would be permitted. They are able to implement the technology as a defence tool under a technicality that isn’t really in the spirit of the rules. If AI were to become mainstream, there would have to be significant changes in the law to permit it to be used.

The article in new scientist suggests that AI may instead be used to assist lawyers, rather than replace them. However, at this stage, who can say? Until we get an idea of how well it performs and if the attitude of society changes, we won’t know if it has any permanent role in the courtroom.

 

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Top Ten Tuesday – New-To-Me Authors I Discovered in 2022

In today’s Top Ten Tuesday post, I feature a diverse list of new-to-me authors I discovered in 2022! The list of names in this post really goes to show just how many new books and authors I tried throughout the year – I didn’t even have space to feature all the new names I read! These authors come from a broad array of genres; from fantasy (expected), to contemporary romance (not at all expected)!

 

Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb was by far the best author I discovered in 2022!

Her books have been recommended to me before, and I even made a cursory attempt at the first book in the series, Realm of the Elderlings before. But, somehow, I never got around to reading these in earnest. That is, until last year. I am enjoying these books so much that I can see myself making my way through the ret of the series over the next couple of years, maximum!

 

R.F. Kuang

In 2022, I picked up Babel and fell in love with the dark academia genre. Babel has a very loose tie to the fantasy genre, but that isn’t why I loved this book as much as I did.

Throughout this book, we get to conversationally explore some of the finer points of translation, which I found really quite interesting. Most importantly, though, I enjoyed how this book challenges, society, British history and culture in particular. Difficult topics, such as colonialism, classism, and racism are key points of the narrative. If they make you uncomfortable, it is because it is meant to. This book is quite academic in tone, but really point the finger at the less savoury aspects of the British in its history.

 

M.J. Porter

Over the course of 2022, I read three books by M.J. Porter. I read these as part of the blog tours organised for her Eagle of Mercia series. This series will appeal to you if you are fans of Bernard Cornwell and his Saxon series in particular. This is why I chose to pick up these books.

M.J. Porter became a repeat author to read because I loved reading from a familiar setting, but from a different perspective. In the series, we experience the English at war, from the perspective of a youth who initially detests fighting. Instead, he would rather heal. Over the course of the books he comes into the role he is expected to take up, but he does not relish it.

 

Pat Barker

I really enjoyed reading The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker in 2022. Having read another Greek mythology book not long before this one, (coincidentally featured below), I was really in the mood for it. I enjoyed the focus of women and their roles regardless of social status. It also paints a completely different light on war. Rather than glamorising it, it portrays the dirty business of it all.

 

Natalie Haynes

Pandora’s Jar is the book that reignited a love for Greek mythology.

Whilst only a short book, it does a great job of touching upon multiple stories throughout Greek mythology that focus on different women. Where The Silence of the Girls is more of a cohesive narrative, Pandora’s Jar is more of a non-fiction book in which we look at how the roles of women in Greek mythology evolve over time through numerous retellings.

 

R.R. Virdi

The First Binding made it to an honourable mention in my top reads of 2022 list. This book is the author’s debut novel, but I can assure you, it didn’t read like a debut at all. If you enjoy your big, chunky, in-depth, epic fantasy worlds, then this is a series you want to keep your eye on.

Fans of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss will find similarities in narrative style. I also really enjoyed the character development that takes place in this first book. Even though it is a chunky book, it still succeeds in merely scratching the surface to what I hope is going to be a long, in-depth series.

 

Richard Osman

Richard Osman’s cozy mystery series, the Thursday Murder Club, was recommended to me by my sister’s boyfriend. He loaned me the first couple of books to introduce me to his writing– I haven’t looked back!

These are a completely different tone to the other books of my 2022 reading list. I personally really got on with the lighter aspects of the narrative (interspersed with odd, deep and meaningful moments which I confess made my cry). The characters are hilarious. Some of the plot points are perhaps a little ridiculous, but they make for entertaining reads.

 

Frank Herbert

I read the first couple of books in the Dune series in 2022. Whilst I don’t love every aspect of these books (in particular, the blatant homophobia in book one), they are great science-fiction books.

I think it’s important to bear in mind that the attitude of these books will be slightly different because they were published a long time ago. Along the lines of a conversation had at work today, social attitudes have changed significantly since then. Books, and indeed, TV programmes (as was the feature of today’s conversation), cannot express the same attitudes they once did. For the most part, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. 

 

Janice Hallett

In 2022, I read my first ‘multimedia’ book. If you haven’t read anything before in which the story is not written in traditional prose, I would strongly recommend you give The Appeal a try!

The Appeal is told through a series of communications written between the main characters of the book. Predominantly email, but also messages, posters, stage, scripts etc all come together to tell a complex story. I personally enjoyed having to read between the lines and work out what was going on. The subtext is not explained to you, and as a reader, it really makes you think. I loved this book, and so I will definitely read more by Janice Hallett in future.

 

Lindsey Kelk

Perhaps the most surprising author on this list is Lindsey Kelk.

Lindsey Kelk is an author that my mum adores. I wouldn’t like to guess how many of her books she has read. After accidentally ordering two copies of one of her books, In Case You Missed It, she gifted the other to me to try. I read this at a time when I wanted to change of genre and pace. It really worked for me in a way that I wasn’t sure it would.

Contemporary romance isn’t typically a genre I actively reach for on a regular basis. However, on the occasions I have chosen to pick one up, I have enjoyed them. Based on my read of In Case You Missed It, I will definitely reach for another Lindsey Kelk book when I want something from this genre.

 

Those are my top 10 new-to-me authors I read in 2022!

Have you read any of the books listed, or other books from these authors? Who did you discover in 2022?

 

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First Lines Friday – 20/01/23

Hello all welcome to today’s first lines Friday post to wrap-up the working week!

For today’s post, I intended to go a completely different way about choosing the book I feature in this post. Having read my last TBR Jar pick, The Secret History, it’s been on my mind that I needed to select another one. So, with that, in mind, I planned to pull my next book out of the TBR Jar and feature it in this post.

I’m really happy with the book that came out. It is a book that I have wanted to try because I have enjoyed other books by this author. My understanding of this book (and series) is that it is unconventional in its writing style. It is one that I have encountered in another book last year, and really enjoyed!

There was just one problem with my plan in including it in my first Lines Friday post – I’ve already featured it in this series before. What were the odds of that?! So, my plan went out the window. Instead, I have randomly selected a book on my Goodreads reading list.

Can you guess today’s book from the introduction?

 

Let me tell you the story of a righteous man.

The righteous man of the story is King Minos of Crete, who set out to wage a great war on Athens. His war was one of retribution upon them for the death of his son, Androgeos. This mighty athlete had reigned victorious in the city’s Panatheniac games, only to be torn to pieces by a rampaging ball on a lonely Athenian hillside. Minos held Athens responsible for the loss of his triumphing son and thirsted for blood-soaked punishment for their failure to protect the boy from the savage beast.

 

 

Ariadne – Jennifer Saint

Genre: Greek Mythology

Pages: 320

Audience: Young Adult

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Publication Date: 04 May 2021

 

 

Goodreads – Ariadne

Ariadne, Princess of Crete, grows up greeting the dawn from her beautiful dancing floor and listening to her nursemaid’s stories of gods and heroes. But beneath her golden palace echo the ever-present hoofbeats of her brother, the Minotaur, a monster who demands blood sacrifice.

When Theseus, the Prince of Athens, arrives to vanquish the beast, Ariadne sees in his green eyes not a threat but an escape. Defying the gods, betraying her family and country, and risking everything for love, Ariadne helps Theseus kill the Minotaur. But will Ariadne’s decision ensure her happy ending? And what of Phaedra, the beloved younger sister she leaves behind?

Hypnotic, propulsive, and utterly transporting, Jennifer Saint’s Ariadne forges a new epic, one that puts the forgotten women of Greek mythology back at the heart of the story, as they strive for a better world.

 

My Thoughts…

After reading multiple books about mythology last year, in particular Greek mythology, I added a couple of Jennifer Saint’s books to my reading list. Ariadne was the first, but I also added Elektra at the same time.

The books I read last year that inspired these additions were Pandora’s Jar (Natalie Haynes), and The Silence of the Girls (Pat Barker). The latter of these two inspired me to read these new additions most. That book is all about women and their influence in Greek society, regardless of their roles – as prominent women or as slaves.

I really enjoyed diving into Greek mythology. I have read a few books about it in the past, but it’s a genre I haven’t really tapped into all that much. By picking up Ariadne, I hope to change that. In my experience, these books are also nice and light to read. The Greek gods are never ones to sit down and feast (at least for very long), so there’s always action. I can’t wait to try this new book from the genre I enjoy, by a new author!

Have you read Ariadne or Elektra by Jennifer Saint? Are you looking forward to the upcoming release of Atalanta? Let me know in the comments.

 

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Well, I Didn’t Know That! #1

Hello everyone and welcome to today’s first ever post of my new series, Well, I Didn’t Know That! For today’s post, I’m sharing information I learned from an article in Writing Magazine (October edition, pg. 5) that indicates how financial technology have future impact the publishing world.

If you want to find out about the series, you can check out the link to the Well, I Didn’t Know That! introduction post. I’ll also be keeping an index there of historical posts in the series, as well as update it with future topics. Of course, if you’d like to take part in Well, I Didn’t Know That! for yourself, I’d be thrilled. Please just link to my introduction page so I can check it out and readers can find out about the series.

Whilst the article of today’s feature focuses on textbooks sales (as they are more expensive than most books and frequently sold on after use by students), it is clear the whole publishing world will latch onto this idea if it works.

The article title is listed below if you wish to read it for yourself.

 

Textbook Publishers Plan Tech to Control Secondhand Market

If you are familiar with the financial market, you may have heard of technology called blockchain. It’s commonly associated with the likes of digital art or cryptocurrencies. I won’t go into any of the boring detail, because I’m not going to pretend I understand the ins and outs of it. I will, however, try to summarise simply so you get a feel for how the technology publishers wants to use works now.

Cryptocurrencies are unregulated investments, and the trading of these digital assets is done through blockchain. Blockchain, put simply, is a decentralised system that records transactions. In order to record these transactions, the digital assets being re-registered need to have a non-fungible token (NFT) – in basic terms, a unique identifier which certifies proof of ownership. This is the technology publishers want to harness.

 

Why?    

Publishers lose out on second hand sales and exchanges of digital assets. Whilst it is certainly not encouraged, there are currently no restrictions on sharing digital copies of books with others. That could well change if publishers can successfully harness this technology.

By embedding NFT’s – the unique identifiers – into ebooks and any other digital asset, it is possible to restrict access to just the individual recorded as the owner of the digital asset. With this change, publishers can prevent unauthorised access to these documents. They cannot be shared as is currently possible.

 

What do publishers gain?

These changes will inevitably have an impact on first-hand sales, as these digital assets can no longer be owned and accessed by more than one individual at a time. However, it appears from the article that they are primarily targeting second-hand sales too. How will they do it?

With the use of the unique identifier, digital assets are registered to a singular owner. If an individual wanted to transfer their ebook etc to another person, it would need to be re-registered at a decentralised location to enable the new owner to access it. The publisher benefits as they can impose fees to do so. By imposing these fees, they can set minimum re-sale values of their books and in taking a cut, gain a source of revenue that they are currently not tapping into at all.

 

What does it mean for us?

If the technology proves successful and publishers decide to outlay the costs necessary to implement the technology, it will inevitably mean paying more for second-hand assets. As digital books don’t degrade or have any wear-and-tear as physical ones do, it’s justifiable that the cost of such an asset should be a lot closer to retail value. And the trouble is, publishers will have the power to dictate that.

Arguably, this would take time and money to implement. And, for the majority of books, we’re not talking mega bucks. It is more exaggerated in the case of textbooks, because they are pricey to begin with.

I doubt we will be seeing this change coming into force anytime soon. However, I found this article interesting in that it shows how the publishing world flouts it’s stereotypical ‘traditional’ image by embracing new, developing technology.

 

 

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Book Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J. K. Rowling

Hello everybody, and welcome to today’s book review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling.

I re-read the Harry Potter series in 2021/2022. It had been a long time since I read the series – in the case of the earlier books, I started those as a young teenager and read the series over the course of around six years. I wanted to revisit the books to see if my experience and perception of them changed by reading them as an adult.

If you have not read any of my previous reviews of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, or Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, you can find links to those reviews here.

Now, let’s jump into today’s review of the next book in the series!

 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J. K. Rowling

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 636

Audience: Young Adult

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publication Date: 08 Jul 2000

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

 

 

Goodreads – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The summer holidays are dragging on and Harry Potter can’t wait for the start of the school year. It is his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and there are spells to be learnt and (unluckily) Potions and Divination lessons to be attended. But Harry can’t know that the atmosphere is darkening around him, and his worst enemy is preparing a fate that it seems will be inescapable …With characteristic wit, fast-paced humour and marvellous emotional depth, J.K. Rowling has proved herself yet again to be a master story-teller.

 

My Thoughts

Plot

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has an interesting plot line. That’s not to say I don’t think it has its flaws, however. Installing a magical cup in the school and inviting those who think they are adept enough to take part in a dangerous tournament is one thing. Doing so around a community full of minors, well, can only go wrong somewhere. Especially when entering your name is a legally binding contract. It’s all a bit too convenient that Harry finds his name put forward.  

Despite this, it still makes for an interesting read. In particular, the tournament itself adds a lot of drama and action to the narrative. Its dramatic conclusion also adds to the book and the series as a whole. I’m not going to spoil it for you-you’ll have to read it yourself.

What I like about Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is that we, break away from a narrative almost purely set in the usual school year cycle. We see wider plot development. We still have that familiarity of the school year, which comes to a conclusion with the Triwizard tournament. However, there is a lot more to this book, and plenty of it is quite sinister.

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, we are introduced to characters that come into this world and plot line later on. I would argue that in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we start to see this take shape.

 

Narrative Style

Despite being significantly larger than its predecessors, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire still retains the easy narrative style readers can come to expect.

You know me, I’m not one to shy away from a chunky book. I really hope that the length of this book doesn’t put potential readers off. It is not complicated. Even if you are less enthused by big narratives with wider story arcs, and lots of elements that will inevitably come together at the end, there isn’t so much going on that it will confuse you. Equally, there are little bits and pieces you can pick up in hindsight that hint to what happens later on.

Personally, I think the latter part of the series is quite well balanced in that it offers a little bit more than the first few books in the series (which are for the most part, comparatively superficial). This works perfectly well for people like me who grew up reading these books. At age 11, I wouldn’t have the reading capability to be able to take on these later tomes. Even so, going back and reading these later on has made me appreciate the later books in the series even more. They are more similar to my reading taste a an adult.

 

Characters

As with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, we see a full new complement of characters introduced in this fourth book of the series. Some of these have a direct impact on the story, whereas others set the scene (for later books) and help develop the wizarding world in which these books are set.

I am a huge fan of world-building and the depth of detail that can be explored in these kind of books that fill out the whole story. Knowing everything from relatives of the main characters, down to the sports personalities, all comes together to make an immersive reading experience.

There are also a few introductions which will help us later in the series (particularly for the next book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix). I think this is pulled off very well so as to not overwhelm, but it does make a difference when you read the next book. Understanding who everybody is and what their role is ahead of time is a big help! Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix is the chunkiest book in the series by far. If we’d had to go through all those introductions in that book as well, then it would be significantly larger!

 

Summary

Despite the slightly convenient plot line, I rated Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire five stars. If you enjoy fantasy series with darker elements to the story, or broad, overarching story lines that run throughout a series, stick with this one until you’ve read this fourth book. It’s at this point we really start to see this woven into the storyline.

Have you read any books from the Harry Potter series? Have you re-read it? Let me know in the comments.

 

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Well, I Didn’t Know That!

I have wanted to create a series on my blog for some time that encouraged me to read more non-fiction. The other defining feature I wanted for this post is to emphasise that all reading is reading.

Yes, I read a lot of books. But, that’s not an exclusive requirement. There is far more reading material out there – magazines, online articles and reference sites, periodicals etc. They are a great starting point for touching upon or discovering a new topic of interest. Most importantly, they are more accessible to read.

I’m all about encouraging reading – any kind of reading! Whilst I feature books heavily on my blog already, Well, I Didn’t Know That is a series that makes dedicated space for other mediums.

Of course, if you like the idea of this post and want to post your own spin on it, please do! The aim is to encourage reading in all ways – I’d only ask you link back to this introductory post so anybody else interested can take a look at how it works!

I’ll be starting the series in earnest on 18th January 2023. Today’s post is merely the introduction! If you want to look back at previous features, I’ll keep an index below as a reference. If you have read something interesting and you’d like me to feature it in a future post – get in touch with me and let me know!

 

Well, I Didn’t Know That!

 

Upcoming Posts

08/02/2023 –  Business book tops the bestsellers charts

 

Previous Posts

  1. How FinTech could give publishers more control over their digital assets than ever before
  2. Could AI replace lawyers in the courtroom?
  3. A unique book featured in The Guardian’s top five of 2022 

 

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Top Reads of 2022!

Hello everybody, and welcome to today’s post, which is all about my top reads of 2022! I read a total of 47 books throughout the year, and my average rating was actually quite high. It’s fair to say I had a great reading year!

Today’s post is all about the best of the best.

When going through the books I read in 2022, there were three very distinct books that jumped out at me as my favourites. There is also one honourable mention, and I’ll explain why this didn’t quite make the list.

If you enjoy fantasy or dark academia, then there is at least one book on my top reads list for you! I’m listing the books in chronological order, as there is very little between these books for me to rank them. They are a bit different, and I enjoyed them for these differences!

 

Top Reads

 

Empire of the Vampire

Empire of the Vampire is what I would describe as an epic Gothic fantasy, written by Jay Kristoff. If you are a fan of his other books (such as the Nevernight series), you enjoy stories that heavily feature vampires, and/or epic fantasy novels with elements of coming of age, detailed world-building, and character development, then Empire of the Vampire has something for you.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book. I wanted to give it a try because I have really come to enjoy Jay Kristoff’s writing style. Having listened to the audiobooks for the Nevernight series, I knew I like the way he dealt with darker topics. Personally, I’m not really one for vampire stories. There are some exceptions, this book and future series now being one of them. However, the narrative style (likened to Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind) and setting of the world appealed to me.

This appealed to me for all the right reasons! I love the way in which this story is told. As in the aforementioned book, the story is told almost in the style of a confessional, through the eyes of the main character as a mature adult. Throughout this narrative, not only do we experience the development of the main character, but we also come to learn a lot about the world in which the story is set, the lore behind the vampire families, and how they grew large.

This book has everything you would expect from an epic fantasy – complex and detailed world-building, a vast array of characters with detailed backstories and relationships, and a storyline that will inevitably span a large number of chunky books!

The cherry on top of this very large cake was how well the book managed to create and retain atmosphere. It definitely maintained Gothic vibes throughout. I really enjoyed this. You may not expect this to be the kind of book to would take on holiday to read in 20+ degrees sunshine, but that is exactly what I did. Even despite the vast contrast in the fictional and actual setting, my mind lived in this book whilst reading it… and for a long time afterwards!

I can’t wait for the sequel!

 

Assassin’s Apprentice

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb is another fantasy series I started in 2022. I can only ask myself why I didn’t start it sooner! This series has been recommended to me before, especially by a close friend of mine. She knew what this was all about, and I should have listened to her and picked it up before now.

Before picking up this book in earnest, I had trialled the first chapter or two previously. However, I had done so from the e-book on my phone. I just don’t read this way at all. I don’t quite remember the circumstances in which I picked this up on my phone, but the intention wasn’t just to sample it. Why I didn’t pick it up properly thereafter is beyond me.

Anyway, I finally got there in the end. I decided to pick up a physical copy of the book, trusting Rachael’s recommendation, and knowing that I really enjoyed the sample I had tried previously. I have since gone on to purchase seven books out of sixteen, and I read four of them in 2022. I’m sure that in itself will speak volumes, but I’ll go into some more detail about the book, and why I specifically enjoyed this one, below.

Assassin’s Apprentice is also an epic fantasy. Whilst the first book isn’t too chunky in itself, it is the opening book of the first trilogy in the Realm of the Elderlings universe. In my opinion, it is the perfect introduction to such a world – there is plenty of page count to set the scene, explore the characters, and establish the wider story arc, without intimidating the prospective reader either.

If you enjoy your fantasy with detailed plotlines and character relationships, then Assassin’s Apprentice will scratch that itch for you. There is already a lot going on in this first book. Royalty, political subterfuge and magic intertwine to set the scene in this first book. These are all elements I have enjoyed in other fantasy series and did not disappoint in this one either!

 

Babel

The last book in my top reads of 2022 list is Babel by R.F. Kuang.

Babel was my first real foray into the dark academia genre. If you are unfamiliar with the premise of this book, we follow a character called Robin Swift. He is taken from China as a young boy after losing his family. He is taken in by a professor at Oxford University, where he later studies translation in the titular building.

There is a lot going on in Babel, and a lot of it I didn’t expect in the extent that the book went to. Whilst part of the dark academia genre, there are elements of fantasy in this book. It is a nod to a genre I really enjoy, but in execution and tone, it doesn’t read like a fantasy. On the contrary, it reads quite academically. It is evident that the author knows her stuff when it comes to translation. Through the narrative, we explore ideas around translation, such as maintaining fidelity, and how that is best achieved.

But more surprisingly, it is the more difficult topics for which I really enjoyed this book. Babel in particular explores colonialism, racism and classism. It is a book that makes example of how the British empire has invaded, taken, and manipulated its way into other countries resources in order to selfishly better itself. There’s a lot of debate about this in the book, but also in the wider community at the moment.

Some people find this uncomfortable to read. Personally, I don’t think you should shy away from a book/topic that makes you uncomfortable. More often than not, it should make you uncomfortable – it’s intended. If you think that any person, country, or idea is perfect and shouldn’t be challenged, then you are wearing rose-tinted spectacles. Babel is very much an example of this kind of book, and I really enjoyed taking on these ideas in a loose fantasy setting.

It was everything I expected it to be, and a bit more besides. It has made an R.F. Kuang reader out of me!

 

Honourable mention

The First Binding

My honourable mention for this list is The First Binding by R.R. Virdi. I had the pleasure of reading this debut novel to review it in the blog tour organised by the publisher in August 2022.

There is definitely a theme to my reading and this post. Epic fantasy is a very significant genre that I read but also have high expectations for. Even so, this one has made it very close to the top of the list. Did I mention it was a debut?

Similarly to Empire of the Vampire, The First Binding is narrated by the main character after events have taken place. In this particular example, the character ends up taking on the role of a storyteller in the early days of the novel. Naturally, setting up a character in such a way raises expectations exponentially. Most authors would be setting the bar so high that they’d be setting themselves up to fail. However, R.R. Virdi does not disappoint in pulling off a flawless narrative with theatrics and compelling language to complement this already interesting narrative.

The only reason The First Binding is an honourable mention, rather than a top read, is because of the circumstances in which I read this book. I only had around two weeks to read and then review this book for the blog tour. At over 800 pages, this is quite the undertaking. As a result, I had to effectively set myself daily reading targets to get through this in time to review it. If I’d had the luxury of reading this book at my own pace, it probably would have been a top read. I almost had to force myself to read it, and that detracted ever so slightly from the experience. But I will stress, it is slight!

 

What was your favourite read of 2022? Have you read any books that made it onto my top reads list?

 

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