Tag: bookworm

Review: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – J.R.R Tolkien

Hi!
Anyone who has read my previous post today will know that this week I have been dedicating most of my time to this book.
GoodReads – Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
I actually began reading this maybe just over a year ago but I found it hard work and ultimately didn’t finish it. I don’t know about you fellow readers, but I hate abandoning books. I will only do so with very good reason. If I’d rather pluck my eyes out instead of read the book, then I know it’s time to call it a day.
I’m glad I came back to this actually. I recently just watched the film covering the first book and that is what actually made me pick this one up again. I don’t think I’ll be the first to say that his writing isn’t the easiest in the world. Let me know if you disagree however. I find I have to concentrate a lot just so as not to miss anything.
Thankfully, I remembered what had happened for about the first 20 per cent of the book when Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas are tracking the Orcs and the hobbits Merry and Pippin across the fields of Rohan. I read up to about 30 per cent (apparently) when the hobbits escaped the Orcs but I truthfully hadn’t remembered that part or anything else thereafter.
A large portion of this book (probably about half) doesn’t even cover Frodo and Sam in their travels to Mordor which surprised me. We meet a variety of other characters and I hope this set up of the movements of the remaining Fellowship members comes to some significance in the Return of the King. A lot happened and not a lot had current relevance from my perspective, if you see what I mean. I can’t decide if Saruman is playing his own games or truly is a servant of the evil one. How will the host gathered together by King Theoden and Gandalf meet the enemy to save Middle Earth?
I feel I have left the book with a lot of questions, but not unhealthy ones. I think this can all be answered in the final installment.
When we finally go back to Frodo and Sam they spend the majority of their time being guided by Gollum (or Smeagol – depending on which side of the good/evil fence he is sitting that day). I found myself spending the entire time praying they would ditch him but alas, if they didn’t follow him willingly he was going to follow them anyway. Why on earth they trusted him I don’t know. Desperate times lead to desperate measures I guess. Credit to him in a way, Frodo and Sam would never have gotten so far without him, but I still don’t like the slimy little creature and never will.
The descriptions as always with Tolkien are fantastic and so detailed – in a way I feel I know more about the landscape of the land than I do about what has happened on it! I love the songs in between too as it almost brings a brief glance of lightheartedness in times of peril. There are small glimmers of joy at least.
I did really enjoy the last chapter and I think it has been written really well. We get to see Sam’s conflict of loyalty and duty, over which loyalty prevails even in the darkest of times yet seen in Middle Earth. I feel things are still going to get darker yet; there is much uncertain about the quest ahead. What will become of the Fellowship, and will their burden be lifted on completion of the task? I will find out in due course.

Review: Lord of the North – Bernard Cornwell

Good afternoon everyone!!

I’ve had a busy week this week and I’m going to be catching up with you all today on the books I have been reading.
I finished Lords of the North last Sunday night and as yet had not made time to post the review – apologies! Goodreads is nagging me because I am behind schedule for my sixty book challenge this year.

I have also been reading Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by none other than J. R. R. Tolkien for the majority of this week – finishing that last night and today I have re-read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, which I initially read at school. I will be posting reviews of all of these books today so please go check them out. I know some people dislike multiple postings in a day, but hopefully now I am back on track and I won’t have to do it again.

So first I am going to be talking to you about Lords of the North – the third installment in which we follow Uhtred and the war between the English and the Danes, following their invasion of England.

 


GoodReads – Lords of the North

Enter a world where bloody battles, and heroic deeds combine in the historic struggle to unite Britain in the face of a common enemy.

The third instalment in Bernard Cornwell’s King Alfred series, follows on from the outstanding previous novels The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman.

The year is 878 and the Vikings have been thrown out of Wessex. Uhtred, fresh from fighting for Alfred in the battle to free Wessex, travels north to seek revenge for his father’s death, killed in a bloody raid by Uhtred’s old enemy, renegade Danish lord, Kjartan.

While Kjartan lurks in his formidable stronghold of Dunholm, the north is overrun by chaos, rebellion and fear. Together with a small band of warriors, Uhtred plans his attack on his enemy, revenge fuelling his anger, resolute on bloody retribution. But, he finds himself betrayed and ends up on a desperate slave voyage to Iceland. Rescued by a remarkable alliance of old friends and enemies, he and his allies, together with Alfred the Great, are free to fight once more in a battle for power, glory and honour.

‘The Lords of the North’ is a tale of England’s making, a powerful story of betrayal, struggle and romance, set in an England torn apart by turmoil and upheaval.

 

My Thoughts…

I made a start on this series this year having discovered that the TV series, which I love, was based on these books! I loved the first series and so when the second series started, I began catching up with the books! This book picks up the beginning of the second series and much to my delight, there aren’t particularly any discrepancies between book and show. The only thing that crossed my mind was that one of the characters on the slave ship in the show (Hallig) was never in the book, but that is literally all. Inevitably comparisons will always be made when shows/films are based on books – some are better than others.

I actually found this book slightly easier to read than the previous two and I think it’s because we could relate to him more. The story flows very well and we get to see a refreshing development of character for Uhtred. As a general rule he is very self-confident, cocky even – he conveys a sense of self-importance and angers at the smallest sleight against him. Admittedly he knows as a Saxon born man who was raised as a Dane; he is in a unique position and knows how to use it.

In this book we see him mature; from the beginning of the book we start with Uhtred as a 21 year old young man, back from war feeling underappreciated by King Alfred… again. Whilst traveling back to Northumbria he encounters Sven and old bitter resentment returns. Throughout the book he endures at least two and a half years in slavery and then returns to England to face the man that put him in chains. Old Uhtred would have gutted that man, regardless of who he was, but I think his time as a slave must have both humbled him and given him time to think because he in fact forgives Guthred and saves him from the clutches of the other lords of the North – including Kjartan, with whom Uhtred and Ragnar have a bloodfeud.

As ever there are epic battles, daring missions and all too human struggles as Uhtred finds himself in the centre of all the conflict. Fate is inexorable, and I cannot wait to see what the three spinners bring Uthred next.

Interim: Book Theme Analysis

Whilst I am working through my reading list for this month I have had something on my mind… And it something I wanted to share my opinion on.
This year I am endeavouring to read a variety of new books as a part of my book challenge, including new authors, different genres and also some classics.
My reading list has a couple of what I would define as classics on my list; namely Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird are coming up shortly. I also have plans in the not too distant future to read Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies. Anyone in my generation (and in the UK particularly) will probably recognise these as the types of books that are currently studied in high school English lessons as part of the literature curriculum.
For the most part I loved school and particularly English. I left with pretty decent grades at both GCSE and A-Level (not top grades of the class – but still to be proud of) but I can safely say that since leaving school probably about 80 per cent of the topics we covered have gone straight out of my head. Never have I had to analyze a poster or piece of writing based on the themes of gender or power and the development of language in children is not something I have ever had to consider since I left that exam someday in June four years ago.

Never, in the four years since leaving school, have I had to tear a book to shreds by over-analyzing it and by God am I thankful for small mercies. 

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that I’m a great book lover. I love to read… Probably more than a large percentage of the general population, but it is the repeated assignments students have to complete discussing and scrutinizing  philosophical themes of books that really gets my goat.

I’m telling you now from first hand experience, the only thing that achieved for me was getting a grade B in English Literature and a loathing of classic books. 

I can hand on heart say that I enjoyed ONE book I studied at school… and that’s a shame.
As it happens I have come to realise the reason I disliked the books so much and I’ve overcome it by revisiting them. The books themselves aren’t at fault; its the way the “messages”, themes and concepts are mercilessly rammed down your throat by the teachers and the curriculum that takes all enjoyment out of reading them. Not only that, you then have to regurgitate all that crap onto paper in horrendous detail.
Yes books have messages, I’m not denying that for a second. To take Of Mice and Men as an example, it is fair to say that the book overall explores theme of the American Dream and how unattainable it is; the Green Mile by Stephen King highlights racial inequality.  On the other hand, arguing the presence of red curtains representing a character’s desire, promiscuity or lust… Now that’s a bit excessive. It is the over-analysis that I loathe and making kids read so in depth into the smallest, pettiest little details is what I think saps all the joy out of a book. To my mind it is a crime to inflict this on the youth of today and the future.
Yes, discuss philosophical themes, but know where to draw the line. I’m sure authors didn’t even intend half of the rubbish that gets analysed today. Please, for the love of all things sacred, for the love of our beautiful language and the joy of literature, make it stop.
I know I am not the only person to think this. As ever, I’d love your thoughts too. Do you think the education system has gone too far?

Review: Witches Abroad – Terry Pratchett

Witches Abroad – GoodReads link
Having completed War & Peace last Saturday (hallelujah) I decided this week I would wind down from such an epic and return to some lighter reading to recover. For this, I returned to one of my now favourite authors to do so.
Anyone who follows my blog will know that I have a slight obsession with Pratchett and can quite easily prattle along quite happily about his books. Apologies in advance guys – I can’t usually help myself, although I will try!
Pratchett is known for using his books as a means of challenging certain ideologies or misconceptions faced in the real world, and this book is no exception. He focuses this book on stories and inevitability, or fate as you may wish to call it. I loved this as it focused on fairy tales, (predominantly Cinderella – with a twist of course) but other fairy tales also featured along the way, including Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood etc.
Whilst traveling to Genua in order for Magrat to become the godmother of Emberella to STOP her marrying the prince (get it… cinders, embers…) they stumble across a multitude of tales and inevitably get themselves caught up in them. Granny Weatherwax is the kind of character that cannot prevent herself interfering… she’s how I’d imagine a mother-in-law from hell to be; always sticking her nose in, telling you what you are doing wrong and being immovably stubborn and adamant that she has never made a mistake. Obviously. Thank the lord I don’t have in-laws – especially ones like that!
Unlike the previous Discworld books featuring the witches, I felt this book enabled the reader to get to know one of the three witches, Gytha Ogg a lot better. In the previous two books Gytha somewhat sits in the background not contributing much but she really comes into her own in this tale – let’s just say the rather “childish” topic is counteracted with a lot of twists and adult humour. Not only is she a witch; she loves and can hold her liquor (particularly rum and banana daiquiri’s) and has a very promiscuous past of which we are regularly reminded. Equally she is only human (as such) because she regularly writes home to her illiterate son, Jason. (Across the whole series the Discworld inhabitants are a little slow on the uptake of general common sense, intelligence, and the ability to spell, which also makes me laugh). Writing to your illiterate son is a perfectly logical thing to do…
During my last years of school I studied Performing Arts and for one assessment we had to create a performance aimed at children; we focused on the topic of fairy tales. In hindsight I really wish I’d read this book sooner as there are some fantastic ideas we could have … *cough cough* borrowed… Not that we ever did such a thing. Ever. Much.
This is the first book of Pratchett’s that had such an adult humour content and I’m glad it did as I think it needed it really to keep the story going for a wider audience. It was a fantastic, laugh-out-loud light read and was just what I needed.
For anyone considering Pratchett’s books, you don’t have to read the whole series. His books do actually stand alone so you would never have to read the entire forty something book long series. I’m just choosing to… because I can.
I have already started “Lords of the North” by Bernard Cornwell as my next read, albeit slowly – I’ve been busy the past couple of evenings doing some proofreading and I spent yesterday in the garden (note: not mine) breaking my back to help tidy it. Now summer is here, what are sunny bank holiday’s for if not that?! Needless to say, today has been a very chilled day in comparison so I’ve gotten loads of work done.
How do you guys spend your bank holidays? What books are on your reading lists? I’d love to hear from you. Until my next review, ciao for now!
 

Current reading List: June 2017

Hi folks!
Further to the review I posted yesterday I have been reading the next book on my list: Witches Abroad by Terry Prachett!
It’s a new month and I am coming to the end of the last reading list I gave you for May, so without further ado, here are my planned reads for this month:
1. Lords of the North – Bernard Cornwell
This is the third installment of the series written by Cornwell, in which we follow the movements of the Danish invasion of Britain after 800 A.D. The narration is told from the perspective of Uthred, who has conflicting ties with both sides and struggles to find his place in the ever changing world.
2. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – J. R. R. Tolkien
This clearly needs no introduction! I’m looking forward to this one having re-invigorated my passion for it watching the first film the other night. I have had the kindle editions of the books for some time but as the narrative can be a little hard to follow, I have to psyche myself up to it. I definitely have now so I’m going for it!
3. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
This should be a quick read for me. I read the book for the first time whilst studying at school as a part of my GCSE’s, and can hand-on-heart say that this is the only book I genuinely enjoyed studying at school. I’m looking forward to re-reading the text again from a slightly more mature perspective.
4. Small Gods – Terry Pratchett
Back to one of my favourite series’ for the next book. These are excellent, light-hearted reads with amazing humour from Pratchett. These books took some getting into (i.e. books 1 & 2) personally, but now that I have, I’ve fallen for them hard.
5. The Gunslinger – Stephen King
I have only just begun to give Stephen King’s works a try and I’m looking forward to trying this one. Those that follow my blog will know that I have not long read “The Green Mile” – shameless link to my review and discussions here The Green Mile – Stephen King
I downloaded a sample of this book some time ago, however after reading The Green Mile I decided I was going to buy the book even without trying it as I’m sure I’ll love it too. Apparently there is an upcoming film of this to be released starring Idris Elba *drools* so I’m going to have to read the book before this hits local screens. I believe it is being released in August in the US, so I’ll have to wait just a LITTLE bit longer. Sad face.
 
Any-who, these are my intended reads for June so I had best get those pages turning! As ever, if you have any comments to the above please drop them below!

Review – War & Peace

Hi guys!!
Firstly I would like to sincerely apologise for not having published in over a week *slaps wrist*
As you know (and as the title suggests…) I have been taking on this epic of a read and admittedly it was a risk. My initial challenge this year to read 20 books has been increased to 60 and as I was already dancing the fine line as to whether I’ll succeed or not, this has probably put me a little behind.
Anyhow, that is a concern for another day.
I have a lot of friends who are avid readers and having checked Goodreads, absolutely none of them have neither touched this book nor seem to even intend to, which frankly shocks me! I imagine that a lot of people are put off by the length of the book and I am not going to lie to you, it is long. I was pleasantly surprised however that the tone of the book and the writing style was very approachable. I didn’t expect this to be honest; bear in mind this novel was first published in Russian in 1869 and the version I was reading was translated and published in the 1920’s. You wouldn’t know – I had to look that up!
I was dubious as to whether I would see this through; I love historical fiction and I loved the TV adaptation the BBC aired last year here in the UK (I subsequently bought the DVD). I actually ended up referring to that in the beginning to to work out which character was who! I definitely couldn’t have gotten through it without that bit of background knowledge. I generally like to read the book first before I watch any TV/film adaptations, but I’m glad I broke the rules on this one.
It is notable that this text isn’t purely a narrative. Particularly towards the end of the book there is a lot of philosophical discussion about the historical recording of the war, how it’s movements were influenced and the impact one general or another had compared to the mass of movement and the will of the troops etc. The narrative is also written in an (almost) historically correct way as well (so we are told by Andrew Kaufmann – I haven’t checked), so if you are interested in learning about the movements of the war, then perhaps this is for you. Needless to say, if you are not interested in the historical element of the text, then I wouldn’t recommend this to you.
I’ll be perfectly honest and say whilst I did for the most part enjoy the book, there is an awful lot of information in there – perhaps too much for my liking. In the end I had to not let myself get bogged down by dates and times (there are references to old and new style dates?!). From about Book 13 I was just willing it to end. There are so many chapters about the French retreat and maneuvers by the Russians to cut off instead of routing the French (there are repeated arguments by Tolstoy that the french were doing this themselves so why waste troops engaging them – but hey, hindsight is a wonderful thing right?!).
Needless to say, I got a little bored by this point, but having come so far, I wasn’t giving up. I finally finished the book at 9:30pm last night, so decided to wind down by spending the next three hours watching the Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.
… I think that says a lot about me.
Anyhow, back to War & Peace. I think every reader should make their own mind up as to whether this kind of text is for you. I didn’t think it was for me, but I’m glad I took the plunge. I can’t say I enjoyed 100% of it; it was hard work, but knowing I took on the beast and beat it is a reward in itself. It was an experience that has broadened my scope of knowledge and I can happily say that in two weeks I completed this book – that’s pretty good going if you ask me!
I’m going to be spending the next couple of weeks reading some lighter material to recover! My next book is Terry Prachett’s “Witches Abroad”, so hopefully I can start getting the regular reviews back on track.
Has anybody else taken on War & Peace? If so, what are your thoughts?

Little Indulgences

Hello everybody! Just a quick post whilst I am in the middle of reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy! As I’m sure you will appreciate this is an incredibly long book, and whilst I have been making progress, it is going to take some time to finish.
I’m currently about a third of the way through the book. At first I wasn’t sure how I was going to take to it, being that it’s not my usual style of read. As it happens, I have taken to it very well, though I attribute that to having watched the BBC’s TV adaptation last year! How do I not watch that I wouldn’t have a clue what was going on in the beginning so probably wouldn’t have seen it through.
In the meantime however, and seeing as how it’s payday today I decided to treat myself. What I’m not planning to read any of these books immediately, here are my latest purchases so please watch this space for reviews in the near future!
I would argue that I am a very balanced person on the whole kindle versus book debate. I am not going to lie, I absolutely love my Kindle and that’s how I read predominately. But nothing compares to the feel or smell of a real book!
Having loved my last Stephen King read, the Green Mile, I’ve decided to treat myself to a further three of his books.
I found a recent review for Laini Taylor’s “Strange the Dreamer”, so I want to give this a try too.
I am also making an effort to read more in the way of classics. Whereas some of my peers at school have read “To Kill a Mockingbird”, it is not something I got the opportunity to study.
Last but not least I am trying something new by an author of a genre I am familiar with, being Neil Gaiman and his novel “American Gods”.
I hate to have a review of Leo Tolstoy’s “war and peace” to you before too long, however I’m not going to kill my enjoyment of the book over targets. Having up to my target from reading 20 books this year to 60 (as I finished 20 by the end of April) I have about 32 weeks left this year to read 36 books. With War and Peace going to take me approximately another week to complete I’m going to have a challenge on my hands, but not undoable.
If all else fails, I just have to remember:

It’s a million-to-one chance, but it just might work – Guards Guards by Terry Prachett