Monday, 20 October 2014

Page to Screen: 'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn

**WARNING: This post isn’t intended as a review and so does contain spoilers for the book and film – if you haven’t read/seen it yet, you might want to check out my review of the book instead HERE**

First mention goes to Rosamund Pike, who I thought was the perfect Amy.  She’s obviously gorgeous and looks exactly how I imagined Amy but, more importantly, I was genuinely impressed by how completely believable she was as a psychopath.  During the second half, she does an amazing job of coming completely unravelled.  Not only does her appearance change entirely, her mannerisms and expressions are different to Diary Amy and she becomes genuinely disturbing.  Pike basically made this film for me and I could write a whole post about how wonderful I now think she is but you're lucky - I won't.

I wasn't sure how Amy’s diary entries would work but the flashbacks do.  There weren't quite as many as I'd have liked so it doesn't quite push home just how destructive Nick and Amy are as a couple in their later years but they were worked in well.

I think my main gripe was that Ben Affleck is just a bit too likeable.  I don’t know if it’s because I had such a gut-wrenching, anger-filled reaction to the Nick of the book or because I just think of Ben Affleck as a Good Guy but whatever the reason, he came across as too charming.  The nonchalance and the adultery are still there but there’s not as much about the "fall" from working writer to frustrated, cheating failing bar owner and how much he resents Amy and is just as responsible for their situation as she is.  He was a good Nick and that inappropriate reaction thing that Nick has in the book was nailed but he wasn't the perfect Nick.  Although he's obviously wonderfully handsome so I'm really not complaining overly much.

All told, I really was a fan, thankfully.  What was more interesting for me, though, was Andy’s (writing ‘Boyfriend’ over and over will become tiresome and look daft and most of you know his name anyway so there you have it…) views on the film (as someone who hasn’t read the book) and whether seeing the film “blind” had the same effect as reading the book for the first time.  Andy had no idea that there even was a twist because I was super careful not to mention it at all so that he could be a proper test subject.  Even so, he did whisper about 10 minutes before the turning point, “Either t’s the sister or she’s faked her own death”, apparently for no reason other than it all seemed a bit weird and they were the only explanations he could think of.  So there wasn't that great moment where I could watch smugly while he was gawping but never mind...interestingly, he apparently didn’t believe that Nick Dunne was the murderer at any point so maybe if the film does have a failing for those watching it for a reason other than to see how it stacks up against the book it’s that it doesn’t seem to create the question mark over Nick that the book does.

Andy was also not a fan of the ending and I think it ties up with my perception of Nick as not quite coming across as a bad enough guy.  When I read the book, I kind of felt as though they both got the ending that they deserved.  In the film, I really felt as though Nick was hard done by.  He also had an anal point about her not turning up with a head wound despite her story including being hit on the head with a great big chunk of wood but whatever.

There were a couple of things that I think the film actually did better - the media, in particular.  The film really made the media and it's ever-changing portrayal of the saga look ridiculous and it was a canny commentary on how ludicrous some modern 'journalism' can be.  

Verdict:  A truly decent adaptation of a book that I really liked.  As someone who has read the book, I still enjoyed it.  As someone who hasn't read the book, Andy enjoyed it.  Clearly it works for everyone!  It's graphic and dark and very much for grown ups and it's every bit as worryingly fabulous as the book.  You might want to get around to watching it.

Have you seen it, have you seen it?!  Tell me what you thought!  If you haven't seen it yet, watch the trailer and get on it!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon: Sunday

UPDATE 4: 10.35am, Sunday

Pages read since last update:  57 pages
Total pages read:  259 pages
Snacks consumed since last update:  I had a couple of spoonfuls of Ben & Jerry's cookie dough ice cream and half a (large) bag of Kettle Chips while watching TV before bed; this morning I've obviously only eaten breakfast
Books read from since last update:  Cruel Summer by James Dawson; Black Feathers by Joseph D'Lacey
Books finished:  1 - Poison by Sarah Pinborough

Yesterday evening got taken over when we finally made the decision to abandon Amazon's efforts at a streaming service and signed up for a free trial of Netflix.  I won't start my rant but Amazon Prime became a mixture of stuff that was included within the monthly fee and seemingly much, much more stuff that you could watch if you paid ludicrous additional fees.  No, thank you.  I think I've had a LoveFilm account for about 8 years so it's a shame that it got taken over and ruined but never mind. 

Anyway, reading!  I really enjoyed the 45 pages that I read of Cruel Summer before I got distracted for the night and then headed to bed.  This morning, I've read about 10 pages or so of Black Feathers by Joseph D'Lacey - I've been reading it for a couple of weeks and it's a big of a slog if I'm honest.  I like the idea and the writing but the pace is slow and thoughtful most of the time so it's not an easy read.  BUT my Kindle tells me that finishing it will take 1 hour 24 minutes so I'm going to try and finish it this morning.  We'll see how that goes...Cruel Summer is staring at me...

UPDATE 5:  12.58pm, Sunday

Pages read since last update:  148 pages
Total pages read:  407 pages
Snacks consumed since last update:  A couple of cups of pretty fierce black coffee and a chocolate covered Hob Nob
Books read from since last update:  Black Feathers by Joseph D'Lacey

Books finished:  2 - Poison by Sarah Pinborough; Black Feathers by Joseph D'Lacey

And so another read-a-thon comes to a close.  I'm actually delighted with the amount that I read, even though I realise how little it will seem to those that managed to stay awake for 24 hours!  Mostly, I'm glad that I've finished Black Feathers.  When I logged it as 'read' on Goodreads, it turned out that I'd actually been reading it for three weeks.  It was ok but quite abstract.  Clever in a lot of ways but not what I'd call a relaxing read!  There were a few bits that I had to skim as too gory and dark too, which isn't always a great thing.  It reminded me a lot of The Gunslinger by Stephen King, actually, and I wasn't overwhelmed with love for that - maybe it's one for fans of Stephen King's more horror-focussed writings.

Anyway, all in all, this was a successful read-a-thon even if only because it reminded me that some of the best afternoons are those where you just hide away from the world with a good book and some delicious treats.  We're off out in a few hours to see Gone Girl and I have some bits around the house to do before then so this'll be a slightly hasty wrap-up before I get to the congratulatory blog hopping this evening.  In the meantime:  I hope you all had the BEST read-a-thon :)

End of Event Meme

1.  Which hour was most daunting for you?

None - I wasn't ever planning on powering through the full 24 hours and was instead just focussing on reading more and enjoying a bit of time dedicated to books.

2.  Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

Poison by Sarah Pinborough was a super easy read and surprisingly entertaining so I recommend that (or others in the same series, probably).  There were some rather awkward sex scenes that were less than stellar but there were some neat twists on the 'traditional' Snow White fairytale that saved it.  The ending, in particular.

3.  Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

None at all - it all seemed as excellent as ever to me!

4.  What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

I always think the Twitter support is fabulous and this year was no exception.  It makes me feel as though I'm still taking part in something global, even when I feel as though I don't have the time to roam around blogs or take part in the challenges if I want to get any reading done.

5.  How many books did you read?

I read one whole book and bits of two others.  I finished two though so that's a win.

6.  What were the names of the books you read?

I finished Poison by Sarah Pinborough and Black Feathers by Joseph D'Lacey.  I read about 45 pages of Cruel Summer by James Dawson too.

7.  Which book did you enjoy most?

Even though I didn't read much of it, Cruel Summer by James Dawson.  It's been mostly set up so far but it's surprisingly nice reading something written by an author that's from West Yorkshire, England (where I live) - it's comforting (or as comforting as something can be in a thriller...) reading phrases and terms that I'm used to and having British pop culture references scattered about.  I guess I'd under-estimated how many books I read written by American writers.

8.  Which did you enjoy least?

Definitely Black Feathers by Joseph D'Lacey, for the reasons I've already grumbled about.

9.  If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?

I wasn't but they do a great job so I have no tips :)

20.  How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

Pretty damn likely!  As a reader, definitely.  Every time, I delude myself into thinking that next year might be the year that I try the 24 hour thing.  Then every time I remember why I just don't think it would be wise.  But I'll definitely take part in my usual slightly half-arsed way just because it's nice to be part of a bookish event that's so big!  Let's end on that warm fuzzy note!

If you took part, I hope you had an amazing time.  Drop me a link to your wrap-up and I'll do my best to get visiting this evening once I've caught up with the rest of my life!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon: Saturday

READ-A-THON TIME!  Given that I only decided that I was going to take part yesterday, I'm pretty excited.  Very excited, actually.

I've never done one of the 24 hour read-a-thons "properly" and this time will be no exception. I have to work on Monday and Sunday afternoon just isn't long enough for my old brain to recover from a night spent awake and reading. I realise that the same is true for most people but an 8 hours a night kind of girl and missing out on precious hours renders me appallingly grumpy and terrible company.  We're going to see Gone Girl tomorrow afternoon so to avoid falling asleep in the cinema, I'll probably head to bed at an only slightly later than normal time and get us bright and breezy tomorrow.  I know.  I'm so rock and roll.

Onto the book pile!  My current read is pretty slow and is taking me forever to read so I'm giving it a weekend off in favour of these beauties.  I've just flicked open Poison by Sarah Pinborough so odds are that'll be my first book.  Who doesn't love a Snow White re-telling?  Plus, big print = read-a-thon win.

I'll pop in and update this page every now and then but I'll probably be more active on Twitter (@litaddictedbrit) stalking the #readathon feed on my phone so that I can read more and type less.

UPDATE 1: 2.11pm, Saturday

Ok, so I started late but I had some errands and things to take care of this morning (including acquiring Boyfriend a new PS4 game to distract him from the fact that I'll be reading all day) and then I had to eat lunch and change into PJ bottoms, grab some books and get settled onto the sofa with my favourite throw.  As soon as I've taken care of the introductions, it's onto some reading!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

In a sunny spot on the sofa at home in West Yorkshire, ,England.  

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Cruel Summer by James Dawson.  It sounds like the Point Horror books that I used to devour as a teenager and I'm so excited about it.  And yet I'm not starting with it.  Go figure!

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

We're having a coriander chicken curry for dinner that I am definitely looking forward to eating.  If we're strictly talking snacks, it's got to be salt and vinegar Kettle Chips.  It's always about salt and vinegar Kettle Chips.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I'm a 28 year old British lawyer.  Loves = spicy food (the hotter the better), red wine (pinot noir, preferably), new notebooks and fantasy.  Hates = cows (terrifying), large, slobbery dogs (sorry) and misery memoirs.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I can't remember when the last one I took part in but I do know that I picked completely the wrong book.  It was a slow, descriptive book with writing that I wanted to savour and that slowed my progress significantly.  Not so this time!  I've got plenty of snappy reads lined up and a re-read of The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan to dip into in between.  A fool proof plan, I'm sure!

UPDATE 2: 5.05pm, Saturday

Pages read since last update:  200 pages
Total pages read:  200 pages
Snacks consumed:  2 chocolate Hob Nobs, a handful of grapes
Books finished:  1 - Poison by Sarah Pinborough

Well, what a productive first few hours!  I've actually finished a book within the first quarter of the
read-a-thon, which is completely unheard of for me!  I've been quietly tucked up under a delightfully soft purple throw since about 2.15 and have flown through my first book.  It was an easy read with pretty large print to be truthful but STILL.  I was pleasantly surprised by it overall - it was fun and quirky and managed to be both close enough to the "real" Snow White to work as a re-telling but different enough to make it worth reading (THAT ENDING!).  An early win.

Next up will be...Cruel Summer by James Dawson.  Probably.  Or maybe The 100 by Kass Morgan.  Or a bit more of The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan.  Basically, I haven't a clue.  Whatever I feel the most like reading once I've finished writing this update and doing a bit of socialising.  There'll probably be a break for dinner before long too because I'm getting peckish.  Actually, now that I think about it, I'm quite hungry so it'll be dinner and then my next book.  Which I still haven't decided on.


UPDATE 3: 7.38pm, Saturday

Pages read since last update:  2 pages
Total pages read:  202 pages
Snacks consumed since last update:  No snacks but I have cooked and eaten coriander chicken with spicy chick peas as a side and rice so the need for snacking has been limited
Books read from since last update:  Cruel Summer by James Dawson
Books finished:  1 - Poison by Sarah Pinborough

Ok, so that was a longer break for dinner than I was expecting!  I did get pretty distracted by Strictly Come Dancing to be fair and with catching up with Boyfriend (who I've been sat next to all day but have barely spoken to...) but I'm totally fine with that.  Now I'm going to do a little blog hopping and then get back to reading.  And maybe eating Kettle Chips and ice cream. Separately, obviously.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Review: 'The Collector of Dying Breaths' by M. J. Rose

Rating:  2.5 out of 5 stars

**This is the 6th book in the Reincarnationist series so beware - this synopsis may well have slight spoilers for earlier books in the series**

In 1533, an Italian orphan with an uncanny knack for creating fragrance is plucked from poverty to become Catherine de Medici's perfumer. To repay his debt, over the years Rene le Florentine is occasionally called upon to put his vast knowledge to a darker purpose: the creation of deadly poisons used to dispatch the Queen's rivals. But it's Rene's other passion, a desire to reanimate a human breath, to bring back the lives of the two people whose deaths have devastated him that incites a dangerous treasure hunt five centuries later. That's when Jac L'Etoile suffering from a heartache of her own becomes obsessed with the possibility of unlocking Rene's secret to immortality. Soon Jac's search reconnects her with Griffin North, a man she's loved her entire life. Together they confront an eccentric heiress whose art collection rivals many museums and who is determined to keep her treasures close at hand, not just in this life but in her next.


I had originally been intending to post this review as part of a Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour but work became unbelievably busy at around about the same time and I just didn’t manage to finish the book in time, never mind actually get round to reviewing it!  Part of that was owing to the increased workload but part of it was also because the book took me what felt like forever to finish.  Actually, at a little over a month, it really did take me a really long time compared to even what I now am resigned to as my usual reading pace.

It would be unfair to say that the amount of time it took to read was entirely the book’s fault, although the fact that I got a bit disgruntled and broke off from reading it so that I could read Running Like a Girl probably doesn’t speak to its credit.  This is a tricky position because, although I do know that I didn’t actively enjoy the experience of reading The Collector of Dying Breaths, what I can’t tell you is whether I would have enjoyed anything at that particular time.  Reading it just felt like harder work than I wanted it to be. 

I find the concept of reincarnation fascinating and the idea of a former monk pursuing the secret to reanimating the souls of people he has loved and lost by capturing and storing their last breath was one that was also quite morbidly interesting.  Unfortunately, I found the execution lacking and what I had hoped would be an excellent historical fiction was instead just mediocre.  As with so, so many books that are split between a period in history and the modern day, I eventually grew tired of the modern thread and wanted more of the detail and atmosphere of the historical one.  Rene Le Florentin, monk turned perfumer to Catherine de Medici, is a bit of a sorry soul with a rather tragic back story and Rose does a good job of developing his olfactory way of viewing the world so he was a character I was happy to follow through 16th Century France.  If the balance of The Collector of Dying Breaths had tilted towards more Rene and perfumery and plots in the French court, I’d have been much happier.

While Rene searches for the secret to restoring his loves, Jac L’Etoile (member of famed L’Etoile perfumer family dynasty) is grieving and navigating her unexpected return to the world of perfumery. The two stories are rather dubiously tied together by Jac’s ability to experience “flashbacks” of the dim and distant past, which would have been more fun to read about had she not moaned about it for the whole book.  She’s acceptable as a main character but I don’t feel as though I got to know her enough to care about her or what she was going through. 

I think the main issue that I really had was that the book is the 6th book in the Reincartionist series.  Characters and relationships that seemed brittle and lacking in depth to me are really (I think...hope?) just ones that have been developed over the course of a number of books that I haven’t read.  This rings true not just for the romantic tangent but also the familial and platonic relationships, meaning that there were very few interactions in the modern story that I actually cared about.  There are some catch-up details for new readers/readers that are coming back to the series but I couldn’t really get behind a couple whose history was explained to me in a couple of paragraphs or appreciate the nuances of Jac’s feelings about her “gift” to experience former lives in a novel that was trying to carry its own plot rather than welcome newbies.  I wasn’t overly fond of the ending of the modern plot, either, while we’re moaning. 

And has reading The Collector of Dying Breaths has made me want to pick up the first, The Reincarnationist?  Not in the least, unfortunately.  I know where enough of the overarching story is going to know that I don’t really want to go there.  I have enough series on the go without adding another to the pile.  That might be unfair because I’m reading some endings before I’ve read the relevant beginning but (to use a ludicrous ‘management speak’ phrase) we are where we are.  Average, average, average.

Overall:  I knew that there were other books by the same author that were notionally linked as part of a “series” but I didn’t realise how much the later books (or at least, this later book) rely on the ground work in the earlier ones.  You’ll be able to follow the story told in The Collector of Dying Breaths perfectly well if you haven’t read the earlier books by M. J. Rose but you almost certainly won’t enjoy the experience quite as much as if you already “know” the characters and are able to buy into their motives and relationships.  As a standalone, I’d struggle to recommend it unless you’re desperate to read the historical part and don’t mind a fair bit of modern frippery in your historical fiction generally.

Date finished: 21 April 2014
Format: eBook
Source:  Received via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pictured Edition Published:  by Atria Books in April 2014

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Home Sweet Home

Boston Common was right near our hotel - my pictures are
languishing on my camera so this image is from here
Oh home time, you are so bitter-sweet.  Both Boston and Washington DC were fabulous and we had an amazing time walking everywhere and looking at everything but my goodness me was I tired by the end of it.  Happy tired, obviously, but tired nonetheless and in dire need of some home comforts (our own bed topping the list) and a decent daily quota of fruit/vegetables on the assumption that pumpkin in croissant/muffin/latte/beer form doesn’t count. 

I adored Boston.  If I was moving to America, Boston would be the top of my list of places to pick out of those that we’ve visited.  It’s the perfect mix of modern and historical and has some really lovely architecture and the people seemed wonderfully friendly and chilled out.  I also have a big love of seafood so that helped (the lobster rolls and crab that I tucked into were particularly delicious!).  We did a lot of the properly touristy things and I made my peace with toting my camera fastidiously along the Freedom Trail like a bit of a plonker.  We went on plenty of tours and pleasantly endured some thankfully light-hearted jests about the horrid British Empire and its admittedly rather shaky tax-imposing/uprising-repressing ways, which was fascinating because it’s a huge part of America’s history as an independent country that is told in a hundred different ways over there but that was barely touched upon in my British history education.  ALSO, we went to watch Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, which was so quaint and a super fun night.

As much as I loved Boston, Boyfriend loved Washington.  I definitely really enjoyed Boston, don’t get me wrong, but just not as much as Andy.  Where I went for the more…charming feel of Boston, Andy went for the modern hustle and bustle of Washington.  It helps that he loves all things political, I think.  It was super warm in Washington while we were there too, which made returning to permanent rain all the more tragic.  We basically went as many places as would give us security clearance (the Pentagon included) and it was exhausting in the best way.  Incidentally, we stayed not far from the Georgetown area which was adorable and had some fabulous restaurants so if you’re over there, visiting that area is my tip. 

Basically, Boyfriend abhors “just sitting around” (which is what other people know as “relaxing”) so our holidays tend to involve a lot of exploring, going on tours of historical/political/other culturally significant things, eating and drinking.  We’ve been on three beach holidays in the seven plus years we’ve been together and two of those were forced upon Boyfriend by family members with significant birthdays.  I’m in no way complaining but it does mean that our holidays can be a little hit and miss in the reading stakes.  This time, I read three whole books and two halves of separate books and was pretty darn pleased overall. 

I finished World War Z by Max Brooks on the flight on the way out and found it to be a bit of a mixed bag, really.  There were some parts that I was gripped by and some that I found…dry.  I am in awe of how clever the book is and I couldn't fault Brooks for attention to detail.  The version of the world that he's created is impeccable and I do respect it, I just didn't enjoy reading it.  Early on, I really struggled to engage with it.  I can see that one of the book's strengths is the multiple views and how the global picture develops but it stopped me really connecting with it.  When the 'invasion' was in full force,  I was interested enough but when it moved on to military tactics, I couldn't bear it.  I'll admit that I skimmed quite a bit...I can see why people do love it but it wasn't for me.

After that and while I was jet-lagged, I wanted something light-hearted.  Percy Jackson and the Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan won the day and I enjoyed it just as much as I did the first two in the series.  If I have children, this series is going to be right up on the list of those that I'll be buying them and hoping that they love as much as I do.  Obviously, I'm looking forward to the next one.

Next up was We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.  I'd heard great things about it before I set off and it definitely lived up to my expectations.  The writing is quirky and beautiful in its way and I flew through the story in a couple of days.  It's short, admittedly, but I was also completely obsessed with reading it and I read it at every single possible moment.  I don't want to say anything else because it's better if you just read it.  I definitely recommend that you do read it but I don't want to tell you why.  You're welcome.

My last full read was Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.  I've been craving a Christie for a while and I figured that I might as well go back to one of the most well known.  It wasn't really what I expected and was a different style in a lot of ways to other books of Christie's that I've read.  I keep being surprised by how different and how intelligent her books are.  I obviously didn't solve the mystery ahead of Poirot but the journey was every bit as fun as I'd hoped.

I started Black Feathers by Joseph D'Lacey on the journey home and it's definitely...interesting.  It's apparently a "modern fantasy set in two epochs: the Black Dawn, a time of environmental apocalypse, and generations into the future in its aftermath, the Bright Day".  It's rather dark and it's lauded by Stephen King as something rather brilliant so I still have high hopes, even if the first third has been a little slow.  I've had it for years and may already have the second in the trilogy so it'd be great if it could be a series worth going on with.

What have I missed?!  Hope you've all had a wonderful few weeks full of books and other treats!  Tell me that I'm not the only one mourning the loss of sunshine, even while I adore winter reads and pumpkin-based deliciousness!