Tag: reading

Sunday Summary: 24 September 2017

Hi guys!! Hope you are having a lovely weekend!!
I don’t know about you, but this has been a pretty mental week for me. Some of you may know that I was away on a short break earlier on this week, so I actually didn’t pick up a book for two days! TWO!! I had to on the third, since I had a several hour boat trip home to kill some time on. The lack of internet may also have swayed my decision…
 

Books Read


On account of being away for those few days my reading game has been pretty weak. I started The Maze Runner by James Dashner last Saturday night; I finished this yesterday and I have read about 25% of Dunstan by Conn Iggulden. I told you it was bad.
I’ll console myself with my pile of shopping instead.
 

Books Discovered

I get to this stage every week and feel like I should be going to Confession in church. I lack two things to be able to do this though. Firstly, I’m not remotely religious. Secondly, I have absolutely no intention of promising to stop buying books.


So, I bought two. Two isn’t so bad, right? That’s what I tell myself. I bought The Sun God’s Heir, by Elliot Baker and Red Sister by Mark Lawrence. Whilst the former is a completely new discovery to me, I actually added Red Sister to my TBR back in April this year. The opportunity came up to buy this book at a discount, so I took it!
As well as purchasing books, I have added a number to the TBR this week. I set myself up on Twitter last week and it has proven to be very useful for connecting with other bloggers and writers too! So much so, over the next two months I have four ARC’s to read! Exciting times! I’ll tell you a little more about them when I publish my reading list for the month they are being read and reviewed in!

As well as the books I have purchased, I have added quite a few books to the pile that I am yet to buy, including Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco, The Stone in the Skull by Elizabeth Bear, Consider Phlebas by Iain Banks and 99 Red Balloons by Elisabeth Carpenter.
Finally, my last addition to the TBR is The Scorch Trials by James Dashner, as I completed reading The Maze Runner yesterday.
 

Coming Up…

So this next week I am blessed with some additional time off work and no other major commitments, so I’ll be able to fit lots of reading in!
On Tuesday, as usual, I will be publishing a review of one of my latest reads. This week, it is Bad City by Matt Mayr. This is his first novel so I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on any further releases from this new author!
As I have time on my hands I am also bringing you an extra little cheeky blog post this week!! On Thursday I am going to be reviewing my TBR pile again and having a sort out using the meme created by Lia @ Lost in a Story.
As the first of the month begins on Sunday, and I am too fond of my Sunday summaries for organising myself, I am instead publishing my October Reading List on Friday and my Sunday Summary will be published as usual.
I hope you all have a fantastic week ahead! What books are you reading?
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Down the TBR Hole #4

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

The Sheep Look Up
GoodReads – The Sheep Look Up
Verdict: Keep
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

The Just City
GoodReads – The Just City
Verdict: Keep
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

The Alloy of Law

GoodReads – The Alloy of Law
Verdict: Keep!!!
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

Snow Like Ashes
GoodReads – Snow Like Ashes
Verdict: Go
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

The Talisman
GoodReads – The Talisman
Verdict: Keep!
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!
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Reading List: September 2017

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
Men at Arms

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
American Gods

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
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:-

Night Philosophy
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4  The Maze Runner – James Dashner
The Maze Runner

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
Dunstan

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
Making History

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?
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Sunday Summary

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.
 

Discovered Books

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:-

  1. Eagles in the Storm – Ban Kane
  2. Kill the Father – Sandrone Dazieri
  3. 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:-

  1. Mayflowers for November: The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn – Malyn Bromfield
  2. 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!
 

Coming Up…

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
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Source: Giphy

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Reading List: July 2017

As if July is here already?! The year is flying by… it’ll be Christmas before we know it!
No seriously, it really will. Hate me for saying it as much as you wish…
 
Let’s tactically cast away those worries for another day. The most planning ahead I am doing extends as far as the end of July and working out how many books I can cram into the month… so without further ado here is the list for my July reads:-
 
The Last Wish – Andrzej Sapjowski
The Last Wish
GoodReads – The Last Wish
I first came across the character of Geralt and the concept of the Witcher through the first game of the series. Admittedly, I haven’t played too much of it as my laptop is getting somewhat ancient compared to modern tech and it doesn’t even run it very well, but I know enough of the character as a foundation for the book. I’m being adventurous for me as this will be the first book I read from the Polish writer too, so fingers crossed I fall in love with this one and that’s another series to add to my TBR!
 
Stardust – Neil Gaiman
Stardust
GoodReads – Stardust
I have heard amazing things about Neil Gaiman. He has also co-written books with other authors I love so whilst I have not read any of his books yet, I’m trusting Terry Pratchett in that he recognised a good author when he saw fit to write Good Omens with him. They were also good friends if I recall the documentary I watched about Terry earlier this year. This will be another first for me.
 
Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King
LOTR Return cover
GoodReads – Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
I cannot wait to finish this trilogy… I recently finished “The Two Towers” and absolutely loved it. Tolkien’s writing isn’t the easiest to read if you aren’t in the mood – one lapse of concentration can get you lost; equally, he can have you completely enraptured in the world of Middle-Earth! I’ve managed to steer clear of the books, films and my equally fanatical friends so I don’t actually know how it ends – I’m probably one of a minority of the population! Not for long…
 
Magician: Apprentice – Raymond E Feist
Magician Apprentice
GoodReads – Magician: Apprentice
This is actually going to be a re-read for me. I must have initially read this book maybe three or four years ago – I cannot recall. I remember I was living with my parents still, but that is about all. It is such a lengthy book and I have had the next two in the series to read for years as well, but I can’t move onto those because I genuinely don’t recall what happened in the first one…
Oops! I was obviously paying a lot of attention, wasn’t I?!
 
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
A Clockwork Orange
GoodReads – A Clockwork Orange
I remember seeing this in a guide-book of books to read before you die; it’s only when I saw one of the versions of the book cover again I recognised it! I truly don’t know what I’ll make of this one – it tells the tale from the perspective of Alex, a 15-year-old boy institutionalised. It discusses morality and freedom, and the effect of “reforming” these individuals. It isn’t the sort of thing I would automatically pick up, but I’m trying to broaden my horizons and so it doesn’t hurt to give it a try.
 
The Handmaid’s Tale
The Handmaid's Tale
GoodReads – The Handmaid’s Tale
Has anybody else been watching the series on Channel 4?! If not I implore you, even if you don’t like the book, or books in general, please give it a try. There have been a few classic books which have made it onto the TV screen, in an attempt to target the likes of my generation, including War & Peace on the BBC last year. All I will say for the last scene of the last episode aired on Sunday just gone; I’m glad I didn’t have to watch that whilst living with my parents… parents and “intimate” scenes are just completely awkward.
Normally, I don’t watch things before I read the books. I have actually tried this book in the past and didn’t get on with it. I think it is a maturity thing now that I can appreciate classics more so I’m going to re-try this one.
 
So there you have it – I hope you look forward to the reviews as much I do reading these!
Until my next review, happy reading!
Rebecca  🙂

Review: Small Gods – Terry Pratchett

Hi guys!

So I wanted to add this little section as we have something to celebrate – I have now achieved reading 30 / 60 books of my challenge with about a week to spare, and that includes having read some epics so far!

My review of Stephen King’s The Gunslinger will follow in the next couple of days; there’s no rest for the wicked as I have started what was the first book on my July List, being To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I’m hoping to sneak this in before the end of the month to give me a head start.

I was dubious when I upped my target from 20 to 60 this year but I’m more confident than ever that I can achieve it, so fingers crossed.

Thanks for everybody who has been supporting me and listening to my impassioned rants about books at home… I know none of you particularly share my love to the extent I do. Thank you to all of my followers too; I hope that you enjoy my reviews and I would appreciate any feedback you can give me. I only strive to improve for you all 🙂

Thanks guys!

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So you guys have probably guessed that I have become a Pratchett fan somewhat, as I have read and am gracing you with a review of the next book in the Discworld series, Small Gods.

 

Goodreads – Small Gods

Just because you can’t explain it, doesn’t mean it’s a miracle.’ Religion is a controversial business in the Discworld. Everyone has their own opinion, and indeed their own gods. Who come in all shapes and sizes. In such a competitive environment, there is a pressing need to make one’s presence felt. And it’s certainly not remotely helpful to be reduced to be appearing in the form of a tortoise, a manifestation far below god-like status in anyone’s book. In such instances, you need an acolyte, and fast. Preferably one who won’t ask too many questions…

 

My Thoughts…

I have found through reading Pratchett’s books that they often have some underlying message, often by parodying life and our everyday struggles or alternatively, other literature; Equal Rites addresses the issue of gender equality, Wyrd Sisters parodies the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Moving Pictures is a humorous take on Hollywood and the power of media.

Small Gods I think is no exception, introducing the idea that the power of God(s), one or another (there are thousands on the Discworld) are relative to the number of believers they have. In a way can I get behind that idea. I would truly be concerned however if God, Allah, Thor, Loki, Apollo etc all sat in heaven throwing dice and using us mere mortals as pawns for some game we don’t understand the rules of. As well as his ability to address these topics – Pratchett has an extraordinary sense of humour to do it with!

We experience this tale from the perspectives of Brutha and the small god Om. Om was once a powerful God, however true belief in his powers dwindled away as the Church raised in commemoration to him established it’s own hierarchy and the struggles within take precedence instead of the reverence to Om. Acolytes worship out of fear from the Quisition, who torture and kill any man believed to be sinful. The Quisition can NEVER be wrong as Om wouldn’t lead them to doubt the faithful…of course. Please note the sarcasm here.

Om finds himself manifested as a tortoise and sets out to getting himself heard among his “believers”. His only true believer is Brutha, a mere Novice of the church. Brutha attracts attention to himself with the Quisition and upon discovery that he is Om’s Prophet – the Chosen One, he lands himself in a dangerous predicament with the higher powers of the Church.

Corruption in the church is also an issue which is brought up, as the local population with the help of Om attempt to dipose Vorbis, the head of the Quisition with whacky schemes of a million-to-one-chance odds, so it just has to work… right?! Well, nothing ever goes exactly to plan, but the Discworld population are adaptable if nothing else.

This book has some real laugh-out-loud moments, and although I wouldn’t say it was in my top favourites of Pratchett’s Discworld novels, it still holds its own. I’m not a religious person at all, but maybe this would have better resonance with somebody who is? I can’t say for sure, but I did enjoy it nonetheless.

Here’s one of my favourite quotes from the book, which I think says a lot of my opinion when it comes to politics:

The Ephebians believed that every man should have the vote. Every five years someone was elected to be Tyrant, provided he could prove that he was honest, intelligent, sensible and trustworthy. Immediately after he was elected, of course, it was obvious to everyone that he was a criminal madman and totally out of touch with the view of the ordinary philosopher in the street looking for a towel. And then five years later they elected another one just like him, and really it was amazing how intelligent people kept on making the same mistakes.

As mentioned above, a review of the first installment of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger will be posted in the next couple of days. I’ll also be publishing my July reading list soon so please stay tuned!

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!
 

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