Good afternoon everybody! I hope you are all having a pleasant day!!
Today has been a reasonably busy one for me and that’s why this post is coming to you a little later than usual today. Sorry about that!!
This week has been pretty good, which surprises me in a way. A few nights this week I came home and after doing all the necessary stuff, I just couldn’t get into reading all that much. I did manage to read a little every day, but not as much as I could have done! Thankfully I made up for it yesterday. Monday night was a good one as I was determined to finish American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and I did. The next book on my TBR list was Bad City by Matt Mayr. It was this book I spent most of the week reading (or not reading very much as the case was), but thankfully I managed to read the second half of this book yesterday and finished it with enough time to start reading The Maze Runner by James Dashner. I haven’t read much of this – I’m in chapter 3 at the moment, but it is a solid start.
I always dread logging on to my Amazon account to find out how many books I’ve bought. It’s one of those situations where you want to both look and shut the laptop screen down in a panic simultaneously. I think the trouble is that it is so easy to spend money nowadays – that however is another topic and I’ll go wildly off tangent if I carry on that thought.
Thankfully I was able to sigh in relief when I checked Amazon this week. Admittedly, this week I bought three. I don’t feel guilty though. Two were books on my TBR for this month that I hadn’t bought in advance, being the Maze Runner (my current read) and Making History by Stephen Fry, which is the last book on the list for this month. The other book I bought is In the Blood by Steve Robinson. I actually saw an advert for book three in this series and I thought it sounded really interesting. It said you could read that as a standalone story, but I know what I’m like. I went back and bought this one, which is the first of the series.
So this next week coming up I am actually having a short break away, so I might be a little less active on reading other people’s blog etc. I have a special blog post I am preparing for you to fill the void I am away.
On Tuesday I will be reviewing my recent read of American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I like to try and give everyone a vibe as to what my review is going to be like at this point, but I genuinely couldn’t say. Admittedly I need to sit and have a think on it – I don’t think I’ve entirely made my mind up yet.
Now my special post on Friday is going to cover two books:-
My favourite book so far this year
My favourite book of all time
Now for this post I am going to tease you by keeping my cards close to my chest. You’ll have to check out my post on Friday.
Last but certainly not least I’ll be giving you a round up of the week, and I might even tell you a little bit about the spoils I bring back from my shopping trip!
The last little thing I want to tell you all about refers to my post on Friday, The Diary. If anyone looked closely enough, you’ll see I had an entry in on Friday to have a draft ready for a fairytale short story I am submitting for a competition. The good news is that I was actually ahead of schedule and I have now made my submission into the competition!! It’s the first real competition I have entered, so it’s exciting for me. For that reason I am also not expecting much from it, but I plan on writing more and entering more competitions in the future so if nothing else, it is all good practice.
When I started this blog, it was with the intention of getting myself into a routine of sitting down and to write. It didn’t overly matter what – it was the setting aside time that was the goal.
We all lead very busy, fast paced lives. I work thirty five hours a week, or doing the nine to five, as it is called. I also live by myself, so inevitably all those wonderful household jobs we love fall on me to do. Not only that, there’s people to see and things to do, so how do we find the time to manage everything?
On top of everything else, I initially set myself the task of twenty books this year. This is a goal I had never reached before. Circumstances meant I wasn’t spending much time at home in January; between going to work and visiting a close relative in hospital, my life was hectic. It was the reading habit I developed during this period that helped me knock my reading target out of the park. I had very little free time but I made the most of it. I needed something to relax and help me wind down at night to get to sleep. Reading served both purposes.
It was in April when I decided to start a blog. I wanted to take the plunge to write and I wanted to challenge myself further in terms of reading, so naturally my thoughts wandered to the idea of a book blog. There are many books blogs out there and I love to browse them myself in any free minutes I get. It was hardly an original idea, but the best way to inspire myself to write is by doing it about something I know and love.
I am pleased with how well I have taken to blogging as well as managing my extra reading; over the past few weeks I have really gotten to grips with it. I regularly post three times a week, on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. No longer am I depending on having read books so I can write a review post. I have been inspired by the many other book blogs out there to write book related content as well as reviews and that makes it easier to post consistently.
I am the type of person that needs organisation in order to see something come together, and that is how I have managed to pick my blog up and get it into shape. Yes folks… I got myself a diary. I was fortunate enough to decide to get one a few weeks before the start of school term, so I have an ACADEMIC for a full year instead of a few months! My projects are running January to December in my head so I’ll have to make the switch at some point though.
So this is what my diary looks like this week, for anybody interested.
As well as the practicality of a structured diary, I love the use of colour, so I use different colours depending on the task:-
Yellow – books I have started
Green – books I have completed
Pink – Blog related taks
Orange – Other writing related taks
In the back of the diary I also have a full list of the books I have read this year, and it looks like this:-
When I said I loved colour, I really wasn’t kidding.
I have fallen in love with the idea of bullet journals, but at the moment I don’t think I could juggle creating this as well as the reading and writing. Perhaps this is something to consider further down the line.
What I do know is this – the blog has helped my reading. Looking at that list above I can tell when I started the blog as the books I choose to read become for diverse. Yes, I still read a lot of Pratchett and other series that I have started, but they are more spread out and I try a few different books in-between.
The diary, since I started it has in turn been a great help to my blog. On the 22nd August, four months on from starting the blog (or thereabouts) I hit the milestone of fifty followers – I know that because I popped that little achievement in the diary!! I know I’m hardly a high flyer on the follower count, but I’m still pleased all the same. At that point I began posting regularly as opposed to sporadically and in just over three weeks, I now have just shy of seventy. Again, not huge, but a definite improvement in such a short time.
It’s safe to say that keeping myself organised is paying off for me. I’ll be keeping up the diary and the regular blogging.
I’m interested to know how you keep up your blogs. How do you plan ahead? Do you plan ahead, or post in the spur of the moment. It will be interesting to compare how different bloggers manage the workload.
If you’re a lover of all things Fantasy, Terry Pratchett is a fantastic author to fall back on if you’re looking for a fabulous read. The Discworld series of books are all based on the same fictional world, roaming through time and space on the back of four elephants, which are in turn carried on the back of A’tuin, the Great World Turtle. One of my favourite things about the series is that the books don’t really depend on you having read any of the others, so anyone can pick one up and not be lost. One slight drawback to this is that for devoted readers, you get to read the explanation as to why light travels slowly over the Discworld again and again. And again, just for good measure.
Corporal Carrot has been promoted! He’s now in charge of the new recruits guarding Ankh-Morpork, Discworld’s greatest city, from Barbarian Tribes, Miscellaneous Marauders, unlicensed Thieves, and such. It’s a big job, particularly for an adopted dwarf.
But an even bigger job awaits. An ancient document has just revealed that Ankh-Morpork, ruled for decades by Disorganized crime, has a secret sovereign! And his name is Carrott…
And so begins the most awesome epic encounter of all time, or at least all afternoon, in which the fate of a city—indeed of the universe itself!—depends on a young man’s courage, an ancient sword’s magic, and a three-legged poodle’s bladder.
Men At Arms is the second book following the adventures of the City Guard of Ankh-Morpork. Our main character Carrot, born human was adopted as a dwarf and joined the Watch to make a man of himself. As mentioned above, whilst it may be helpful to have read the first book for backstories of the guards, it is not essential at all. Carrot has now been promoted to Corporal and the City Guard is recruiting. Captain Vimes is getting married to the richest, most dragon-loving woman in the city and is due to retire. Vimes is a man very set in his ways; whilst he tries to adapt to his new life as a hobnobbing gentleman, he struggles to lose his attachment to the Watch. He also doesn’t like the new recruits, a troll, a dwarf and a woman. Vetinari, the City’s leader has decided to champion equal opportunities for all.
When a mysterious weapon goes missing and murders start sprouting up in Ankh-Morpork, despite their differences, can the guards rally themselves to hunt the killer down?
I admire how Pratchett manages to drop in important themes within the utterly whimsical, comical and outrageous world that is the Discworld. Race is a topic that comes up throughout the book. Dwarves and trolls hate each other. Why? At some battle a long long time ago each side accused the other of foul play. Well, that’s how it started. In today’s society, dwarves and trolls hate each other because their ancestors have successfully hated each other for centuries. Why break tradition?
Not only is race challenged as a topical issue, governmental corruption also features massively. Ankh-Morpork is a corrupt city through and through. Home to the Assassin’s Guild, the Thieves Guild and even the Alchemist’s Guild, to mention but a few names, the city thrives on money. For a fee, you can arrange for a certain somebody to disappear. For a fee, you can walk the streets safely in the assurance you won’t get robbed. Nobody can guarantee your safety from flying debris if you walk past the Alchemist’s Guild, however. If you happen to chance your arm robbing somebody and you don’t have a license to do so, you had best pray it’s the Guards that get you before the Thieves Guild.
Here are some of my favourite quotes of the book:-
The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.
Colon thought Carrot was simple. Carrot often struck people as simple. And he was. Where people went wrong was thinking that simple meant the same thing as stupid.
The Librarian was, of course, very much in favour of reading in general, but readers in particular got on his nerves. There was something, well, sacrilegious about the way they kept taking books off the shelves and wearing out the words by reading them. He liked people who loved and respected books, and the best way to do that, in the Librarian’s opinion, was to leave them on the shelves where Nature intended them to be.
People ought to think for themselves, Captain Vimes says. The problem is, people only think for themselves if you tell them to.
I’m sure like many other readers out there, I read to escape from reality for a little while. I read to forget about those bills I have to pay and to forget I have to get up and go to work in the morning… and that’s okay. I get that escapism from books. For me, it makes a goddamn fantastic author if they can achieve this and still highlight issues within our society without smacking you in the face with it. It’s there, and you know it’s there and you can choose to pay attention to it. If you want to at least.
You may have been able to find the words to say exactly what you thought of the world Terry, but nothing I could say about you will ever live up to the legacy you left behind. Not all super heroes wear capes, after all. Rest in Peace – you’ve earned it.
Good afternoon!! Here’s wishing you a great weekend here from our not-so-sunny little Island today.
Without any further preamble, here is how I have been getting on so far this week:-
Books I Have Read
I haven’t gotten as far as I would have liked on the reading front this week. I finished Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett on Tuesday night, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This was the first book on my TBR for September. I then started American Gods by Neil Gaiman on Wednesday. In order for me to keep on track with my reading goal I need to finish a book, on average, every six days. Today is day five of reading American Gods and so far I’m only at 57%.
When I started this book I was advised that it is the kind of book you probably need to read again to be able to understand/appreciate it a bit more. If anyone ever tries to tell you this book isn’t peculiar and easy to follow.. they are lying to you. It’s perfectly readable, don’t get me wrong. I personally find it’s one of those books where you read a bit, then make yourself a cup of tea. Read a bit, sort out some washing. Read a bit more. You get the picture. I need to take breaks to digest what is going on in order to continue, and that’s taking time. I’m actually a couple of books ahead of schedule at the moment so no need to panic about taking a bit more time, but it’s a little frustrating.
Up until the beginning of this month I was under the impression I was about four books ahead of schedule – it was only when I was going through the books I have read this year I found GoodReads had chucked in a couple of duplicates for good measure. Oops. Better to find out now than on the 31st December I suppose!!
I was reasonably well behaved again this week and only bought one book, on offer for £1.99! I subscribe to daily emails to notify me of discounted books and I came across Killing Floor by Lee Child, the first of the Jack Reacher novels. Lee Child is one of those authors for whom I have seen loads of books around but never really known much about him or his work. My mum, being one of the fonts of all knowledge in my life mentioned that her dad, my grandad used to read the Jack Reacher novels. At the time I thought about adding this first one to the list but I’ll admit I forgot. When I read the email telling me it was discounted, I figured even if I didn’t like it I may as well find out and get to know what my grandad used to like reading.
I also added a couple of books to the TBR without actually buying them yet, being After the Fire, by Will Hill, The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver, Carrie by Stephen King and Sleeping Beauties, a collaboration between Stephen King and his son Owen.
Also, following on from my post on Friday, Down the TBR Hole #4, I have added the books I decided to keep to my list. The five books I featured this time were mostly books I was interested in keeping – in fact I only discarded one.
One of the simple facts of life is that a reader is always going to have a stack of books they want to read. There is no such thing as the “end of the pile” unless you are physically picking it up to put another book on the bottom. There is no end of the tunnel – that light you can really see is just for maintenance purposes. As much as this is the case, that is exactly how we want things. Much like that tub of ice cream hidden from everybody else in the freezer, you continue to eat it but really you don’t want to have to be scraping out the sides at the end of the tub.
One of my favourite things about blogging is getting to see what everybody else is reading. At least fifty percent of the books I add to my list are as a result of looking at other people’s reading lists or reviews, so thank you to everybody for sharing. I am proud to be a part of this community and I hope I can inspire other people to read the books I am too.
As I mentioned above I finished reading Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett on Tuesday and I will be publishing my review of the book on Tuesday next week. My next post will be on Friday and I am doing something a little different. You may have noticed that I am beginning to post on a regular basis now. Equally, you probably haven’t. That’s fine – you’ll just have to take my assurance that I am. My post on Friday will be explaining how I am managing my reading and my blog, as well as any other reading/writing projects I am doing. On Sunday (it will creep around again far too quickly) I will be giving you another summary of my week.
Just one final note from me before I sign off – whilst I haven’t had an overly productive reading week, yesterday I managed to finish my first draft of a short story I am looking to enter into a competition! That’s one little victory for me. I’m exploring a re-write with a different (and I think better ending), so that’s my next little project. I have until the 15th October to submit the story, but I’m not sure if the re-write will be ready in time. I have some time off work this month, so I can only try.
Once again, as any regular readers of my blog will know I am clearing out my reading list of unwanted books. I have a reading list as long as my arm for this blog but I still have old items on Goodreads that I need to sort through and gradually amalgamate into one list. Here is how it works:
Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
Order on ascending date added.
Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
Read the synopses of the books
Decide: keep it or should it go?
Here are the five books that I have focused on for this post:
1 The Sheep Look Up – John Brunner
GoodReads – The Sheep Look Up
When this book was originally published in the 1960’s it was considered a work of science fiction. Today, with the concerns of global warming and climate change rapidly reaching new heights it is less of an abstract work of fiction and more a haunting potential reality. In the debate of the effect of our carbon dioxide emissions I’m largely undecided as to which side of the fence I sit. I cannot say I am sufficiently educated in order to make a decision; perhaps this topical read will help me come to one conclusion or another.
2 The Just City
GoodReads – The Just City
I don’t read a whole lot of books that feature mythology… although it’s a subject I think it would be interesting to learn a bit about!! The characters within all seem to originate from different time periods as well, which may be difficult to portray or become confusing. It’s something I’ll be paying particular attention to when I do get around to reading this.
3 The Alloy of Law
GoodReads – The Alloy of Law
Have I mentioned how much I love Brandon Sanderson?! Maybe once or twice… And just look at that cover too!! I loved the first trilogy of books in this series and its my understanding that the next three pick up quite some time after the time the first three are based. Will the understanding of metals and their alloys have advanced? What has changed? I’m keen to find out. I also have the next book after this one, Shadows of Self on my GoodReads TBR. This would be due to come up for review in my next Down the TBR Hole post. I’m going to save some time and put it through here as well. I know it’s a keeper.
4 Snow Like Ashes
GoodReads – Snow Like Ashes
The clichés are back!!! We have yet another orphan on the whirlwind of destiny. Oh, she’s sixteen?! Well there’s a surprise.
When I was sixteen I was too busy dealing with raging hormones and all that jazz. Truthfully I’m a little tired of these nuances of fantasy at the moment. Maybe it’s because this book aims to target a YA audience, but the prospect of a teenage girl undermining me in this fictional world, tasking herself with retrieving a locket that will restore magic instead of contending with all manner of female issues that crop up at that age, is not one I think I am of the mindset to enjoy right now. Maybe the smudge in my mind will wash away in time, but I am dropping this off my list for now.
5 The Talisman
GoodReads – The Talisman
I am going to try to read more of Stephen King’s works, given that I have very high expectations following on from reading The Green Mile and Pet Sematary. This is a blend of Fantasy and Horror and I think this will make for an interesting and equally uncommon pairing.
Much like Snow like Ashes, this features a child. Jack Sawyer is going on a quest to save his mother’s life. I’m keeping this on the TBR but I probably won’t be reading it until well into next year. I need to let my gripe with over achieving youths and my comparative lack of extraordinary talent drop.
I can hear my mum telling me now, as she was wont to do “If the wind changes, your face will stay like that”.
Oh the funny little expressions we have.
Have you reviewed your TBR pile lately? What have you discovered that perhaps you had forgotten about? I’d love to hear from you!
This week has been a productive week. Not only did I finish my reading list for August, I also had a few days spare to work on an additional project – a short story I am looking to enter into a competition.
That is currently in the editing stage. I had some trouble drafting it initially – once I had gotten the first 500 words or so on paper I lost the spark a bit. I am a linear thinking person so naturally I was trying to write it all chronologically. I knew how the story would end but I couldn’t get there because I didn’t know what was going to happen in the middle.
Having been given the great advice in these circumstances to drop my way of thinking and to write the end, working backwards, I managed to get the first draft completed. I have until mid October to submit the entry so until then I’ll be working to improve it as best I can.
Books I have Read
On Tuesday I finished Stephen King’s Pet Sematary and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Up until now I have never read any horror books because I really dislike horror films. I like thriller and suspense, but I have no respect for films that take cheap shots at scaring people by having something jump at the camera. Anyone can do that. Give me a thriller with an exciting plot and themes that play on your mind and I’m all up for that.
I’ll admit I wrongly tarnished horror books with the same attitude that I have towards the films. My full review of this book will be published on Tuesday, but I can happily say that my expectations were more than surpassed.
I’ve been well behaved this week when it comes to buying books compared to the five I acquired last week.
I only bought one – that’s very restrained for me. I also tend to read a lot of pure fiction as opposed to non-fiction, so this will be an interesting read:
Acclaimed master of psychological suspense, Emmanuel Carrère, whose fiction John Updike described as “stunning” (The New Yorker) explores the double life of a respectable doctor, eighteen years of lies, five murders, and the extremes to which ordinary people can go. GoodReads – The Adversary
As well as actually buying this book I added a number of other books to my TBR to buy at a later date:-
Executed – R R Haywood
Soul Identity – Dennis Batchelder
The Shining – Stephen King
12 Years a Slave – Solomon Northup
The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton
Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee
Bad Girls from History – Dee Gordon
As mentioned above I will be publishing my review of Pet Sematary on Tuesday next week, so I hope you look forward to that. I know I do!
On Friday I will also be having a look at my TBR list to weed out some of the books I added that I no longer want to read. It’s actually quite interesting to see how my book interests have changed over the past few years. If anything, I am reading a far wider scope of books than I ever have before… which is in part what I wanted to achieve with this challenge.
Last but not least on Sunday I’ll be rounding up the week with a summary.
I hope to see you then!
It’s Friday and the beginning of a new month, which makes for one happy weekend of reading for me!
As usual it’s time to publish my reading list for the month ahead, so without further ado, here are the books I am planning on reading this month:-
1 Men At Arms – Terry Pratchett
Corporal Carrot has been promoted! He’s now in charge of the new recruits guarding Ankh-Morpork, Discworld’s greatest city, from Barbarian Tribes, Miscellaneous Marauders, unlicensed Thieves, and such. It’s a big job, particularly for an adopted dwarf.
But an even bigger job awaits. An ancient document has just revealed that Ankh-Morpork, ruled for decades by Disorganized crime, has a secret sovereign! And his name is Carrott…
And so begins the most awesome epic encounter of all time, or at least all afternoon, in which the fate of a city—indeed of the universe itself!—depends on a young man’s courage, an ancient sword’s magic, and a three-legged poodle’s bladder. GoodReads – Men At Arms
Terry has been a regular haunt on my reading list this year and this month is no exception. This next installment of the Discworld series goes back to characters who made their debut in Guards, Guards!, being the eighth of the series. As ever I look forward to Pratchett’s unique sense of humour and the escapades Carrot and company get themselves into. 2 American Gods – Neil Gaiman
Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.
But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and a rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.
Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. Soon Shadow learns that the past never dies…and that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing – an epic war for the very soul of America – and that he is standing squarely in its path. GoodReads – American Gods
I bought this book back at the end of May and I have been looking forward to getting around to picking it up ever since! I have noticed a lot of reviews flying around for both the book and the recent TV series which makes me anticipate reading it even more. Where I have seen reviews, I have tried fervently to avoid them so as not to spoil it for me. What little snippets I have seen though seems positive. I also recently read my first Neil Gaiman book, Stardust, which I enjoyed too.
3 Bad City
In the violent world of post-apocalyptic South Town, Eli Baxter is king, ruling from the thirteenth floor of his building while henchman do his bidding. Simon Gray, a talented young thief, now disillusioned with South Town, is desperate to escape with the woman he loves. As he plots their journey north, glimpses of his childhood in South India and Northern Ontario reveal the world as it once was, fueling his desire to break away. But when he’s handed a new job, one that will make Eli untouchable, Simon realizes that escape – and transcendence to love and a peaceful way of life – might be harder than he thought.
Dark, atmospheric, and gritty, Bad City is the debut novel by Matt Mayr and was a quarter finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.
“Degrees of blood and violence like a shockwave of radiation, an eternal extension of the darkness that came hard and fast when the river poured into the city.” GoodReads – Bad City
I can’t help myself when it comes to dystopian/post-apocalyptic themed books. I quite often wonder just how much society would break down and chaos run riot in the streets if a major disaster happened to us. I sincerely hope it doesn’t *touches wood*, but it is something interesting to mull over whilst driving on the way to work or doing the dishes. Our way of life and attitudes are largely governed by other people and general expectations. Given the opportunity, just how would these rules be tossed aside and life change?
In case you hadn’t gathered – my mind wanders a lot. I am always looking for one form of escapism or another. I will perfectly admit I have full scale conversations/debates with myself in my head. I have been known to be lying in bed to go to sleep at night and one or another burning question pops into my mind:-
4 The Maze Runner – James Dashner
If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.
Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.
Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.
Everything is going to change.
Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.
Remember. Survive. Run. GoodReads – The Maze Runner
Here’s a confession for you all. I broke my rule and watched the film first.
Truthfully, I had heard of the book before but thinking I wasn’t going to be that interested in it, I shoved that tidbit in the mental cardboard box equivalent to the “unless junk” pile you have somewhere. Don’t try and lie to me. You have one, I can see the guilty look on your face right now.
Joking aside, I really enjoyed the film. I think I had recorded it for emergency TV should the schedule be any more abysmal than it usually is. It didn’t disappoint. What I hadn’t realised until the end of the film was that this isn’t a standalone book! Bonus!
5 Dunstan – Conn Iggulden
The year is 937. England is a nation divided, ruled by minor kings and Viking lords. Each vies for land and power. The Wessex king Æthelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, readies himself to throw a spear into the north.
As would-be kings line up to claim the throne, one man stands in their way.
Dunstan, a fatherless child raised by monks on the moors of Glastonbury Tor, has learned that real power comes not from God, but from discovering one’s true place on Earth. Fearless in pursuit of his own interests, his ambition will take him from the courts of princes to the fields of battle, from exile to exaltation.
For if you cannot be born a king, or made a king, you can still anoint a king.
Under Dunstan’s hand, England may come together as one country – or fall apart in anarchy . . .
From Conn Iggulden, one of our finest historical writers, Dunstan is an intimate portrait of a priest and murderer, liar and visionary, traitor and kingmaker – the man who changed the fate of England. GoodReads – Dunstan
When I read about this book it couldn’t help but remind me of another series I am making my way through at the moment, being The Last Kingdom series by Bernard Cornwell. This book is set a little further along the timeline of history to Cornwell’s fiction but I love the history behind it.
One of my colleagues at work introduced my to the Last Kingdom series and the history of the Danish coming to Britain. I couldn’t bring myself to use the word invasion there. That says a lot. The colleague in question is Danish whilst I am British so it makes for some interesting conversations; to be fair she can see both sides of the argument. Given my love of this period, I want to learn the history from another authors perspective.
6 Making History – Stephen Fry
In Making History, Stephen Fry has bitten off a rather meaty chunk by tackling an at first deceptively simple premise: What if Hitler had never been born? An unquestionable improvement, one would reason–and so an earnest history grad student and an aging German physicist idealistically undertake to bring this about by preventing Adolf’s conception. And with their success is launched a brave new world that is in some ways better than ours–but in most ways even worse. Fry’s experiment in history makes for his most ambitious novel yet, and his most affecting. His first book to be set mostly in America, it is a thriller with a funny streak, a futuristic fantasy based on one of mankind’s darkest realities. It is, in every sense, a story of our times. GoodReads – Making History
This is a very last minute addition to the TBR for this month and it has been recommended to me by another colleague. Having each discovered we, in our own separate ways, dabble in the realms of writing I introduced him to my blog. His contribution involves writing weekly articles in one of our local newspapers, which from this day forward I solemnly swear to read every week since you have given me some great advice. It’s also nice to have someone to talk to properly, as opposed to many halfhearted conversations with people that either don’t care or think I’m crazy! I’m not going to testify I’m not crazy – I let everyone draw their own conclusions…
After discussing my recent review of Extracted – R R Haywood he thought I would find this book to be an interesting read as it raises some of the similar complications I refer to in my review. I also haven’t read anything by Stephen Fry before either, so I’m looking forward to that too.
So there you have it – that is the official TBR for this month. Now I have said this on purpose. Normally it would be a push for me to read six books in a month. As it happens, I have a wonderful two weeks off work planned this month, (yay!!). Whilst I have plans for a few of those days, I should have plenty of time to fit in lots of reading.
Can’t you tell how gutted I am?
In 2061, a young scientist invents a time machine to fix a tragedy in his past. But his good intentions turn catastrophic when an early test reveals something unexpected: the end of the world.
A desperate plan is formed. Recruit three heroes, ordinary humans capable of extraordinary things, and change the future.
Safa Patel is an elite police officer, on duty when Downing Street comes under terrorist attack. As armed men storm through the breach, she dispatches them all.
‘Mad’ Harry Madden is a legend of the Second World War. Not only did he complete an impossible mission—to plant charges on a heavily defended submarine base—but he also escaped with his life.
Ben Ryder is just an insurance investigator. But as a young man he witnessed a gang assaulting a woman and her child. He went to their rescue, and killed all five.
Can these three heroes, extracted from their timelines at the point of death, save the world?
In 2061 the time machine is created. During testing it is discovered if time is allowed to follow its course, the world will end in 2111.
In order to save the world three of the best human beings ever to have existed are extracted from the point of their death; Mad Harry Madden is rescued from his mission during the Second World War in 1943, Ben Calshott is extracted during an attack on the London Underground in 2015 and Safa Patel is retrieved whilst defending the Prime Minister in 2020.
It was refreshing to read a completely different genre for a change. I think the last time I read a true science fiction book was when I read War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. That also happens to be the first book I downloaded on my first Kindle, ever. To my mind time travel is a subject that can get very complicated very quickly, and thankfully, so far this book was not difficult to follow. Equally there were elements of this book that I found disappointing, which I will go further into below.
I prefer books written in third person by default, but I found the perspectives between the three characters switched sporadically. I understand that during times of action you want the narration to be punchy and have impact, and of course all three characters will have their own perspective of what is going on, but I feel more structure could have been applied so that the point of view of the text didn’t change so frequently and unexpectedly.
I also found the book lacked the amount of progress I was expecting from it. In essence, our three heroes are tasked with locating the point in time at which the end of the world was made inevitable and have to change it. If you don’t mind me saying, this is a pretty big task. To my mind this first book spent too much time focusing on the personal developments of the characters following their extraction and as a consequence the plot was underdeveloped.
That isn’t to say I won’t be continuing to read the trilogy. What has been written is perfectly readable, if not the finest piece of literature I have ever read. This series has a lot of potential and now I have invested into the characters so much, I want to see how they achieve this seemingly impossible task.
What I will say of R R Haywood’s writing is that the time travel element is explained well. I always knew who was where and when, and even when there are a couple of overlaps I was clear as to who is where and what their purpose is at that time. As I mentioned before, it is a subject that can get very confusing very quickly, but I felt this was handled very well.
Sundays come around far too quickly and today is no exception! The only bonus is that tomorrow is a bank holiday here (yay!)
The Sunday Summary is a post I am going to be submitting weekly from now on to let you guys know how I am getting on, what I have been reading throughout the week, tell you about books I have discovered and added to the never ending TBR pile and lastly, what to expect coming up in the following week.
Books I have Read
Following on from last Sunday I finished Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory on Monday night; the review for this book I posted on Friday and can be found here. If anyone is interested in historical fiction I would highly recommend reading this book, as it gives background to the beginnings of the Wars of the Roses without too much nitty gritty detail.
On Tuesday I began reading Extracted by R R Haywood, a science fiction book based on the concept of time travel. I haven’t read any science fiction for a while so this made a refreshing change! I am yet to post the review for this book, but it will be coming your way on Tuesday so keep your eyes out for that if you would like to hear my thoughts.
As well as finishing Extracted on Friday night I also started reading the eagerly anticipated Pet Sematary by Stephen King. I can happily hold my hands up and say I have never read anything in the realms of the horror genre before and so far, being approximately half way through the book I am not disappointed. With Stephen King as the author I didn’t think I would be, but you can never be sure until you try. The review for this book will also be published in the near future and I hope you can check it out.
I have added a lot of books to the TBR pile this week. It’s no wonder I don’t stand a chance of ever seeing the pile in a manageable state (and preferably less than 100 books – next joke!).
This week is quite rare in that I have acquired a number of physical books. The majority of books I purchase are on kindle due to cost and convenience of being able to carry them everywhere I go, but this week I have three books added to the bookshelf in my hallway. They are:-
Eagles in the Storm – Ban Kane
Kill the Father – Sandrone Dazieri
The Good Life – Martina Cole
I always love a book bargain when I can get one. Eagles in the Storm and Kill the Father were purchased in my local supermarket at two for £7 – which is a really good offer bearing in mind you could easily spend this on one book alone!
The best bargain of the week has to be Martina Cole’s The Good Life. My sister is a customer of a UK mobile network that allows customers to buy the book they have on offer every week for £1… yes you read that right! She lets me know what the book is every week and if I’m interested she will get it for me. As it happens, she is visiting this weekend so I managed to get this book quickly.
I have also downloaded two books for my kindle this week, including:-
Mayflowers for November: The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn – Malyn Bromfield
The Elizabethan World – Lacey Baldwin Smith
You can tell I’m being a bit of a history geek lately but I’m excited all the same!
I figured as well as telling you what I have been doing, it would be nice for you all to know what will be coming up on my blog next week.
As mentioned above, Tuesday’s post will be a review of Extracted by R R Haywood. I always try to avoid spoilers, so if anyone is concerned about that please be assured I try my hardest not to give anything away.
Friday brings to us the start of a new month so I will be publishing my reading list. This month I was too ambitious in adding six books to the list, but as it happens I had to add one to the DNF pile (hopefully only temporarily). Next month I have only added five books to the list to read but if I get ahead of myself and manage to squeeze in another, I’ll keep you posted.
Lastly I will be posting again next Sunday with another weekly update! Until then, I hope to see you around
Good afternoon folks!! Here’s wishing you all a happy Friday!!!
Today I will be giving you my thoughts on the latest read I finished on Monday night (at a time verging on being socially unacceptable given I have to get up at 6:45am the next day) – Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory.
I am loving historical fiction at the moment; not only have I read some amazing books of the genre recently… turns out I have been buying quite a few this month too! To name a few, these include The Elizabethan World by Lacey Baldwin Smith, Mayflowers for November by Malyn Bromfield and just last night I treated myself to Eagles in the Storm by Ben Kane.
I tell myself repeatedly to chill the f**k out and buy fewer books, but most of the time I see them on offer, and who can refuse a bargain? It’s not like I am buying books I won’t read… so it isn’t a waste of money. That’s what I tell myself anyway! GoodReads – Lady of the Rivers
So now I know why Philippa Gregory is a popular historical fiction writer. For me the biggest factor in whether I am going to be able to see a book from one cover to the other is writing style. If I can’t hack the style (Shakespeare and Dickens please accept my sincerest apologies), it’s unlikely I will finish it. Not impossible, but not likely either. I like to read books, not study and analyse them to death.
It goes without saying modern books are easier to read in terms of the language and grammar the author uses to tell the story. To take Shakespeare as an example, I do not get iambic pentameter. I can hear it when spoken (David Tennant is amazing at this I might add) but I cannot read it. Shakespearean plays are fantastic theatre – yet somehow I cannot translate the archaic terms into something meaningful unless I can see the emotions unfolding before my eyes, or read the text about six times over with the help of the wonderful internet to tell me what has happened.
I far prefer simpler writing styles for reading – especially with books that are taking you into a new timezone, society and culture. Both of my recent reads, River God by Wilbur Smith and Lady of the Rivers achieved this very well. There is no better feeling than getting lost in a book, investing yourself in the characters and hoping for the best for them throughout the conflicts and uncertainties they have to navigate. If the language the book uses is too different from my own, there is a resistance there and I can’t get into it.
Equally, some modern language I despise too. If a character was going on about their “feels” for their boyfriend or “spending time with the fam” – I want to punch them for being a lazy s**t for not pronouncing that one extra and evidently taxing syllable. I’m qualified to say this – sadly it is my peers that are using this language.
I have digressed. I apologise, but my point is this; this book is neither of these extremes. Lady of the Rivers is narrated from the perspective of Jacquetta, a young woman who navigates through the English court during the conflicts in the Hundred Years war. She is initially married to the Duke of Bedford, uncle to the King, and the marriage is in many ways political. Jacquetta’s heritage is believed to be descendant from a Goddess and the Duke of Bedford wishes to keep her pure and use her powers to foresee the outcome of the war with France.
After the Duke of Bedford’s death, Jacquetta longs to be loved and for the closeness of an intimate partner. She falls into the arms of the Duke’s squire, Richard Woodville and marries him in secret, without the King’s permission. They are as good as made destitute having to pay a fine and live purely off the land left to them, but their family thrives. The Woodville’s fortune changes when Jacquetta’s cousin marries King Henry VI. Richard proves himself to be an able soldier and commander; he is sent to France to hold Calais after the loss of Normandy.
Henry VI proves to be an overly pious yet inadequate King, unable to make up his own mind about matters of state. As a result, there is much in-fighting between the members of his council who try to persuade him to their way of thinking.
A note of personal interest to me was when the Duke of Gloucester and his wife were tried for treason and sorcery against the King. The Duke was executed, the “witch” accused alongside them burnt and the Duke’s wife, having aided these two was imprisoned in Peel Castle on the Isle of Man until her death fourteen years later.
Sunsets at Peel Castle are gorgeous to watch – as you can see.
Matters at court go from bad to worse as rebellions weaken the position of the King and ultimately the King’s health takes a turn for the worst. Queen Margaret has to take over and there is much resentment at a French woman ruling in Britain. The Duke of York, heir to the throne until the birth of a royal heir is excluded from court and events unravel in such a way that sparks the beginnings of the Wars of the Roses.
I read the book to give myself background to start the series spanning the period of the Wars of the Roses and I wasn’t remotely disappointed. The book is written in a remarkably approachable way. It is history – but you don’t get bogged down with facts. Having looked into it, the book is written very well in terms of being historically accurate, but the most important thing is that it is able to be enjoyed and entertaining. I never got the opportunity to learn British history like this at school, which to my mind is utterly stupid. It’s my country’s history. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to learn in other ways than through formal education and I hope there are other people out there of the same opinion as me. Every day is a school day, they say.
I would be inclined to agree.