Thursday, 28 October 2010

Doubling up and hitting 50...

I'd like to first point out that 'hitting 50' does not refer to my age - it refers to my super excitement about having reached 50 followers!! I'm extremely grateful to all of you and it makes me ever more happy that I joined this cute little blogging community! So THANK YOU for your support!!

Second, I recently attempted something very out of character for me - reading two books at once. Usually I am most definitely a one-book girl. When I last did this experiment (some years ago), I just found that I very quickly preferred one of the other and just focused on that, meaning I didn't so much read two books at once as start one, put it down, read another and then finish the one I started first.

My motivation for trying this again was that my book of choice at the time (prompted no doubt by a televised adaptation of its prequel) was World Without End by Ken Follett. I don't know if you've seen this nifty paperback but at over 1,200 pages it's a TOME. I'm loathed to buy an ebook copy simply because I already have a 'real' copy and it seems needlessly frivolous. Equally though, I can't face carrying this around in my handbag every day. SO, I thought, why not read World Without End when I'm at home and read an eBook on my commute?

Because, as per my last forray into this, I read 20 pages of WWE and then started The Study Train..(check out my 'Currently Reading' on the right) on my journey the next morning and promptly got so engrossed in it that it became my 'home read' too. WWE is still next to my bed but it's again waiting patiently in line while I finish off The Study Train...ah well, at least I tried (again)!

So, it got me thinking - how on earth do other people go about reading two books at once? Or do you, like me, just not do it to avoid confusion and battles of 'which to read' etc?

Perhaps I should just man up and carry WWE around for a while...

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Book Blogger Hop: 22 - 25 October 2010 - Where do I read?

So, welcome to my blog - Lit Addicted Brit! Never a truer word etc...Here you'll find a load of reviews and whatever bookish thoughts are meandering through my head at the time - I hope you see something that takes your fancy!

Hope you're all having a fantastic weekend and enjoying the hop as usual! I am, once again, slightly late to the party but I'm here and excited about finding some new blogs!
On to this week's question:

Where is your favourite place to read? Curled up on the sofa, in bed, in the garden?

One of my favourite things in ALL the world is reading outside in the sun in a sinfully comfortable lounger with a bowl of devilishly hot jalapeno-stuffed olives and a glass of ultra-cold, ultra-dry white wine...

BUT when reality bites and I remember that I live in a drizzly Yorkshire village (in England), I'll more than happily "settle" for drawing the curtains, shrugging into a huge jumper, lighting a fire and cuddling into a lovely armchair that I have put probably too close to said fire and a huge mug of coffee/cup of mulled wine with plenty of cinnamon...*happy sigh* It's a jolly close second, I must say!

So where do you read?!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Review: 'The Last Key' by Rob Steiner

Rating: 3 stars

Format: eBook

Source: LibraryThing Member Giveaway

Genre: (Epic) Fantasy

Published: By the author in 2010

What the blurb said:

I probably shouldn't get riled up about this book's "blurb" again - suffice it to say, it included what I would consider to be a fairly major spoiler and I've already ranted about it here.

By way of my own description, the novel starts by introducing the three Reaping Keys, guarded in the souls of three separate noble individuals to avoid the apocalyptic event that would be them reuniting and causing utter devastation and chaos. When two are united by Duke Thallan Brael, Jalen and Raven, his novice, are forced to protect the remaining Key and prevent their world being ripped apart.

What I would say:

The story didn't feel entirely original and reminded me both of 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy and 'The Wheel of Time' series but it was reasonably good in its similarities.

The version of magic was interesting and fairly unique - some people can access 'Faith' - those who can are often bound by a Charter to become Dahkshari, protectors and healers of the people. Due to historical upset, all others are forbidden from using their Faith. Those that do so in breach of the law are known as 'sovereigns' or 'heretics', depending on what political side you're on. There were some interesting early discussions about the moral implications of denying the poorer villages the right to use their Faith to maintain their lifestyle, rather than requiring them to move to the cities and under the protection of the Dahkshari but this petered out later on. Great while it lasted...

Future Duchess, Lady Seala, is under the protection of Raven and Jalen in her journey across the plains to a world-changing treaty signing. And it is on this journey that things take a dramatic turn. The length of the journey and its dilemmas were what reminded me of The Fellowship of the Ring (or The Two Towers, I'm not sure...). For me, it was a bit too slowly paced and I felt a bit restless at a couple of points along the way. The action does pick up though and the last couple of hundred pages are fantastically quick and drag the reader along riotously.

My favourite thing (as so often is the case) were the characters. They were fairly complex and the "good" characters had darker elements and all but one of the "bad" characters had some redeemable aspects. Raven is one of the main good characters but harbours a fanatical hatred of the 'heretics' due to a childhood trauma and his dealing with this prejudice is interesting. Equally, Duke Brael is despicable and vile but at times there are glimmers of the grief and fury that drive him on and its difficult not to occasionally sympathise.

This was self-published and, unfortunately and possibly consequently, there were quite a number of grammatical/typing errors which can be annoying if you notice that kind of thing, for example, 'new' instead of 'knew'. One minor character's name is spelt in a couple of different ways and the lack of consistency was a bit irritating.

Also, it seemed as though the story drove the novel and some elements were forgotten or abandoned along the way. Ruby Fenn, for example, is a fantastic character and was one of my favourites who helps draw a lot out of Raven. However, somewhere between page 500 and 600, she just stops being in the story with very little mention of what has happened to her and no mention at all of what will happen to her. Also, some of the minor details, like the fact that the Dahkshari need to sustain their powers by eating a type of herb every day are completely ignored later on when the stock runs out.

It almost seems like the ending was rushed out and the novel is incomplete....I gave it three stars solely mostly because I found the latter half of the story to be quite exciting despite its flaws. Would I read a sequel? Probably not...

Overall: It's an ambitious first novel and good fantasy story but lacking some attention to detail. I'd recommend it but only to real fans of fantasy who are used to the longer, 'epic' type fantasy and a somewhat forgiving reader.

A thought: If you fancy giving 'The Last Key' a try, I think it is currently only available on Smashwords in eBook format.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Blurbs: A bit of a rant...

I'm currently blighted by a rather unpleasant cold - in the way that makes me utterly unpleasant to be around (what with all the tissues in tow and coughing and all..) but not incapacitated enough to exempt me from life in general. SO when my lovely but distracting boyfriend was away last night for work, I grasped the opportunity to so remove myself temporarily from the world and curled up in a pit of my own germs (usually known as my bed - excuse the vile imagery!) and read a book....

I won a copy of 'The Last Key' by Rob Steiner last month and, at over 700 pages, I was saving it until I had some more time to really get into it so this seemed like a good time. As I usually do before I jump in, I read through the blurb to get myself in the "zone" (gosh, that sounds very 90s!). In the first sentence of said blurb we have this line:
"After the death of......., Raven finds himself...."
It's really the first part that my irritation is directed at, hence me not: a) including the line itself and thereby inflicting annoyance on other potential readers, and; b) typing out the rest of it. If a blurb mentions a death, I assume we're talking the first couple of chapter type deaths BUT:

After 200 pages, this character was still going strong.

After 300 pages, there was a huge battle and I was steeling myself...but no! Still alive.

I'm now over 400 pages into the book and the character's STILL THERE! As it happens, I like this character a lot and it's not like I'm willing him to die but why put it in the blurb when it doesn't happen for at least half of the book. Why not just write the end on there too and have done with it? How much is too much? Spoiling the first half of a book, definitely too much...

Rather than getting fully engrossed, I feel like I'm waiting for a proverbial bomb to go off and it's kind of spoiling it for me. Every time there's even a sniff of a bad event, I'm thinking, "Right, this is it.." and when it's not I'm just annoyed that the blurb has spoiled yet another moment for me with needless preoccupation!

Has anyone else experienced this terrible publishing tactic/blunder?! Or am I the only person in the world that even bothers to read blurbs, thereby inviting this on myself?

Aaaand, breathe...or sniffle, if you're me...rant over...

Friday, 15 October 2010

Review: 'Sister' by Rosamund Lupton

Rating: 3.5 stars

Format: Paperback

Source: 'Borrowed' from a friend

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Published: by Piatkus Books in September 2010

What the blurb said:

Nothing can break the bond between sisters ...When Beatrice gets a frantic call in the middle of Sunday lunch to say that her younger sister, Tess, is missing, she boards the first flight home to London. But as she learns about the circumstances surrounding her sister's disappearance, she is stunned to discover how little she actually knows of her sister's life - and unprepared for the terrifying truths she must now face. The police, Beatrice's fiance and even their mother accept they have lost Tess but Beatrice refuses to give up on her. So she embarks on a dangerous journey to discover the truth, no matter the cost.

What I would say:

I don't normally read thrillers or 'proper' mysteries because, like I've said a lot, I'm a wimp. This was recommended to me, though, as "something a bit different" so I gave it a try one unpleasant and windy afternoo...and was unexpectedly hooked! And it was dark and tempestuous without being too scary - winner!

As I think I might have said when I started reading this book, everything about it is raw and jagged. The novel is told exclusively from the perspective of Beatrice in the form of a letter to her younger sister, Tess, peppered with memories of shared moments and conversations. The tone is impeccable - every moment of guilt, breath of horror and feeling utter devastation is portrayed painfully realistically and it imbues the story with a unique sense of perpetual anguish, completely unlike other novels of this genre I have read.

Even through all of the emotion and the pain, this book manages to also be a celebration of the relationship between sisters and it was this that made it for me. In places, the memories and illustrations of this bond are beautiful and are used both to soften the tone and provide hope or to strengthen the sense of loss. I have a younger sister myself and am extremely protective towards her, much like Beatrice - identifying with the narrator in that way made for very compelling reading! I'm sure that enjoyment of the story doesn't depend on that but it certainly heightened it for me.

The only real negative for me was that the story dawdled slightly through the middle and could have done with being wriggled on a touch. From the point where one of the twists becomes a little bit apparent, it takes marginally too long for our narrator to twig. I know, I'm being picky. This is probably in large part due to my lack of experience in this genre. It also touches on some of the same themes (for example, the girls' relationships with their mother) just a couple of times too many which can feel a bit repetitive.

Finally, there are a couple of great twists in the plot towards the end (one I kind of saw coming and one I didn't) which keep you guessing and hopelessly engrossed until the last page.

And yes, I did cry. As per usual.

Overall: Not everything about this book is easy to read but it's quite the emotional journey and I would recommend it to fans of thrillers/mysteries with a not too sensitive disposition! It's a great and moving read for a blustery, moody day (suiting the current season perfectly, if you're in the ever-autumnal north of England that is...)!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Mailbox Monday #...3? (Yes, 3...)

The meme baby of Marcia at The Printed Page and currently being hosted at She Reads and Reads, this is a happy little tale of books with new homes and tumbling TBR piles! It suits me perfectly because I get giddy at new books and this gives me somewhere to gush appropriately!

Borrowed/stolen from my bestest friend

For some reason, this lovely girl will read a book, rave about it at me and then hand it over without even a speech about its required care, not bothered about whether it will grace her bookshelves again. I'm not complaining - we have very similar taste and these books more often than not dawdle my way (and then my mum's, truth be told...)! And I know that my life would be less cluttered if I was like her...but I'm not...ANYWAY, from her bedroom floor, I snaffled these:

Sister by Rosamund Lupton

This is a mystery-with-a-twist type book where Beatrice Hemming tells the story of her sister's her sister in the form of a letter. It's my current read and it's hard-going in places, not least because I'm a big sister myself and the story is one huge torrent of raw emotion, but I'm finding it oddly compelling!

Also *rescued* were: The Night Watch by Sarah Waters and The Other Side of You by Salley Vickers.

A moment of weakness in Waterstone's...

...saw me greedily grab up The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger - so I now have books 1, 2 and 3, or to give them their names Soulless, Changeless and Blameless which I am *tremendously* excited about!

I also bought a beautiful new cookbook of homely deliciousness in the form of Kitchen by Nigella Lawson. I'm not sure if she's as popular in the US but I love her and wish I could emulate her domestic goddessness - at least I'm one step closer now!

And finally...

From the charity shop

Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie which was recommended to me by Dad and has otherwise been touted as brilliant. One quote about it which I loved was this one:

"Has such a sad story ever been told so beautifully?"

So this is marked up as a mega find for me!!

So what was in your mailbox this week?!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Review: 'No and Me' by Delphine de Vigan

Rating: 4.5 stars

Format: eBook

Source: Waterstone's website

Genre: Literary fiction

Published: by Bloomsbury Publishing in August 2010

What the blurb said:

Lou Bertignac has an IQ of 160 and a good friend in class rebel Lucas. At home her father puts a brave face on things but cries in secret in the bathroom, while her mother rarely speaks and hardly ever leaves the house. To escape this desolate world, Lou goes often to Gare d'Austerlitz to see the big emotions in the smiles and tears of arrival and departure. But there she also sees the homeless, meets a girl called No, only a few years older than herself, and decides to make homelessness the topic of her class presentation. Bit by bit, Lou and No become friends until, the project over, No disappears. Heartbroken, Lou asks her parents the unaskable question and her parents say: Yes, No can come to live with them. So Lou goes down into the underworld of Paris's street people to bring her friend up to the light of a home and family life, she thinks.

What I would say:

I've seen a lot about this book on all kinds of blogs since it was published and I saw comments on plot, characters, style, cultural references...the list goes on. But nowhere did I see anything about how the novel deals with its key subject matter: homelessness. I'll admit that part of the reason I loved this book so much was that it tackles the issue with sensitivity and understanding and I respect de Vigan so much for this.

I've struggled for some time since I finished this book on Friday about how to formulate this review because it is, after all, 'only' a novel. But it felt like a lot more than that to me. It forces you to look at how you respond to this emotive social issue but avoids being sanctimonious by a well judged ending. I wouldn't have loved this book half as much if it had been all sunshine and light at the end and I think it would have been much less powerful.

Lou is an incredible choice for the novel's narrator. At 13, she sees everything with moving simplicity. No is homeless. She has a home with a spare room. If No had a home, things would be better for her. The solution is simple to her - No lives in the spare room. I loved everything about her: her awkwardness; her compassion; her fragility and her unique kind of genius. What isn't said by her is often painfully obvious to an adult reader by her observations and I adored her for her naivety. Most of all, though, I loved how she kept fighting and trying to understand No. I always find it upsetting when I hear people say, "Oh, it's their own fault" or "They could always just get a job.." etc about homeless people and it was touchingly refreshing that this book bypassed that in Lou, who is almost baffled by how No came to be where she is:

"At what point is it too late? From what moment? The first time I met her? Six months ago, two years ago, five years? Can you get out of a fix like that? How do you find yourself at the age of eighteen out on the streets with nothing and no one?"

Although this is mostly about No and Lou, their relationships with Lou's parents and Lucas lend brilliant support and Lou's glimpses of others' interactions are often revelations for the reader, if not always for Lou.

One more obvious point is that this is written by a French author and is set in Paris. I have read criticism of this book for making too many cultural references. I disagree. Paris is one of my favourite places to visit and every time I go I love it more so I would have been more than happy to lose myself in reminders of its streets - worry not, this isn't the case. Amazingly, the book manages to depict the atmosphere of the city without making it a key factor. Part of the point of the book for me was that it could be any city in any country.

My favourite quote sums up the book, Lou and the issues they address perfectly:

"We can send supersonic planes into and rockets into space, and identify a criminal from a hair or a tiny flake of skin, and grow a
tomato you can keep in the fridge for three weeks without it getting a wrinkle, and store millions of pieces of information on a tiny chip. Yet we're capable of letting people die in the street."

Overall: This is in one way a very easy read - the narration is that of a teenager and is written in that style. It is, however, difficult to read without feeling somewhat guilty about the comfortable chair you're reading it in or the steaming mug of coffee you're sipping or the biscuits you're chomping...and I couldn't recommend it enough for that very reason!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Short Story Review: 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' by Washington Irving

When I first bought my eReader, I was offered 100 free eBooks and a couple of links to sites like Project Gutenberg, where you can download the 'classics' for free. This one caught my eye because I remember going to see the film adaptation (starring the ever wonderful Johnny Depp - I couldn't resist a picture...) when I was younger and being petrified. I thought it would be a suitable bite-size read (at only 30-something pages) for the month of Hallowe'en.

As is often the case, this original story published in 1820 bears very little resemblance to the film it became.

It is set in around 1790 in a Dutch settlement known as 'Tarry Town' where the inhabitants are extremely superstitious, believing most of all in the Headless Horseman, the ghost of a Hessian trooper whose head was shot off by a stray cannonball during the American Revolutionary War. The ghost now, allegedly of course, haunts the site looking for his head.

Ichabod Crane is the character who unwittingly crosses paths with this phantom, after spending the evening trying to charm the beautiful daughter of a rich farmer. The description in this story is superb and the atmosphere of the settlement created at the beginning is one of the most charming I remember reading. Irving leaves nothing to chance - I don't think a passage goes by where the reader isn't painted a clear picture - it really is almost artistic!

Considering that this is rumoured to be one of the earliest examples of American writing still read today, it's fantastically accessible. The turns of phrase and "old-fashioned" preoccupations like your horse-riding stance, for example, rather than seeming remote just evoke a wonderful sense of history and a more innocent time.

This story won't chill you right to the bone but it might give you goosebumps on a dark night - Ichabod's encounter with the ghost (or is it...?) is fast-paced and a good climax to the tale.

Overall: Best devoured in one sitting, this is nothing like the blood bath of the film (aside from the names of characters...) and well worth the short while you'll spend on it!

Monday, 4 October 2010

A for-once-on-time 'Mailbox Monday'

Meme currently being hosted at She reads and reads - WARNING: this can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and insurmountable wishlists!

I always intend to participate in this meme because I love it (and all such similar posts) when done by other bloggers'. It doesn't help me stop buying books or racking up a monster of a wishlist on LibraryThing but I like finding out about what other people are buying and enjoying etc.

Its simple, and you all know how this goes: here's a run down of books I received this week...

From the Waterstone's website:

No and Me by Delphine De Vigan - a story about a 13 year old super-intelligent girl who befriends a homeless girl while researching for a school presentation. I know it will make me cry and probably break my heart but I'm doing it anyway!!

Also bought: Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder; The Dead Girls' Dance (Morganville Book 2) by Rachel Caine

Won at The True Book Addict

Dandelions in the Garden and The Hidden Will of the Dragon by Charlie Courtland

These are a two-part historical fiction series about the 16th century Hungarian Countess, Elizabeth Bathory (aka 'The Blood Countess'), who may or may not be the most prolific female serial killer ever known. I'm trying desperately not to read about the real life figure before I read the book but its getting tough - I shall resist temptation by starting these as soon as possible!

And before I forget...

I bought an ebook copy of Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce because I've been wanting to buy one of her books for ages and this way, I've no excuses!

AND I bought The White Queen by Phillippa Gregory on Kobo books for £2.70 - it practically threw itself into my 'basket' and I couldn't help it!! I've read a mixture of books by Gregory and they haven't always been favourites but, what can I say? I have no self control...

So, what have you all snatched up this week?!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Review: 'Shadowland' by Rhiannon Lassiter

Rating: 2.5 stars

Format: Paperback

Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewer program

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Science Fiction

(Re)published: By Oxford University Press in July 2010

What the blurb said:

'What happens here is real and dangerous. You have stumbled into a darkness you don't understand.' They thought they could handle it. They thought they understood the rules. They were wrong. Now four of Earth's teenagers are trapped in new and unfamiliar worlds - paying for their part in destroying the city of Shattershard ...and almost destroying each other. Each thinks they know their friends from their enemies, but who can they really trust? And will they ever find their way home?

What I would say:

In the interests of fairness, I should probably mention that this is the third in a series of five. If my objectivity fails me, just remind me of that fact! So, on to my thoughts...

I've tried to think of this book from two different perspectives when formulating my opinions: as part of a series I'm familiar with and; as part of a series I'm new to. The conclusion I keep coming back to is that it doesn't quite work as either. Nearly the whole of the first half of this book is recapping the events of the previous two. I know how I feel when a series does this and I already know the characters and back stories - I find it a little bit annoying so I can say with some confidence that this recap would be a little too exhaustive. Now looking from the perspective of someone who was new to the series (as I actually was), the recap was still a tad too much - I found that because it took up so much of the book, I couldn't get into the story or characters as much and the 'action' was stalled for too long.

That said, what I did see of the characters I liked and the worlds in which our lead characters are stuck are interesting. The worlds all centre around the 'Great Library' where Doors lead off to different worlds controlled by different factions - personal favourites of mine were the faction who believed in idolising books but NEVER reading them and the faction who was obsessed with making lists and cataloguing books!

There is a nice mixture of politics and magic - Morgan, who was a 'Goth' on Earth is now a powerful witch and Laura aspires to be a manipulative politician (and that isn't an indictment on politicians but on Laura!). The contrast makes for a good range of interpretations of the same characters. I really liked the premise of the book but felt that, as soon as I started to get invested in the story, it was over...

Overall: This would be suited to a younger reader looking for a mild-mannered introduction to fantasy fiction with some 'mild peril' or possibly to someone looking to try out science fiction without investing too much time.