Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Review: 'The Penelopiad' by Margaret Atwood

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


"In Homer's account in The Odyssey, Penelope - wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy - is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. Left alone for twenty years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan War after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumors, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son, and keep over a hundred suitors at bay, simultaneously. When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters, and sleeping with goddesses, he kills her suitors and - curiously - twelve of her maids." 

In a contemporary twist to the ancient story, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her twelve hanged maids, asking: "What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to?" In Atwood's playful retelling, the story becomes as wise and compassionate as it is haunting, and as wildly entertaining as it is disturbing.

Review

I kind of hate it when I come across a synopsis that so perfectly describes a book because I then try in vain for ages trying to come up with something better.  Or even as good.  Wise, compassionate, haunting, wildly entertaining and disturbing.  The Penelopiad really is all of those things at the same time and it's a heady mix.

I originally 'picked up' (i.e. loaded up on my eReader) The Penelopiad because it combined two of my favourite bookish things of 2013 so far:  Margaret Atwood and twists on Greek mythology.  It turned out to be a riot of literary forms, styles and techniques and has firmly cemented Margaret Atwood onto my list of favourite authors.

Telling the story of Odysseus' wife, Penelope, this glorious novel moves from verse to prose, Ancient Greece to the modern day and from comedy to pathos without ever feeling scattered or disjointed.  In some ways, it's more like a collection of short works of fiction on a common theme, tied together by a single voice.  There were styles and sections that I preferred to others (as with any collection of short stories and the like) - generally speaking, I'm not a huge fan of poetry so, although I actually did find the verse/song sections more enjoyable than I expected, I still preferred the prose.

Penelope's perspective of Odysseus' questing and Helen of Troy's beauty is witty, self-deprecating and really very entertaining.  After years spent in her cousin's shadow and playing second fiddle to her husband's love of a good war, she's wryly bitter:
"If you were a magician, messing around in the dark arts and risking your soul, would you want to conjur up a plain but smart wife who'd been good at weaving and had never transgressed, instead of a woman who'd driven hundreds of men mad with lust and had cause a great city to go up in flames?
Neither would I"
[Page 21 of 119 of my eBook edition]
Still suffering from unfavourable comparisons in the underworld, Penelope is sarcastic, biting and funny.  I really loved her and was dying to drag her off the pages, listen to her rant about her wayward husband and the nastiness of men in general and then give her a big hug. I know that it's supposed to be the 'lowest form of wit' and all but I will always love characters who are liberal with the sarcasm.  The sarkier the better, to be honest.

There's really not much more to say really.  A feminist view on a classic myth with a hefty dose of snark.  I've read some reviews that dismiss the book as too much of a mish-mash of styles or as somehow unfaithful to the myth on which it is based.  I couldn't disagree more; The Penelopiad is almost a companion to the original, breathing life into those that were left behind while their husbands were off battling for a golden fleece or trying to outsmart a cyclops or two.  Cracking stuff.

Overall:  I know it's a cliché but here it's true - there really is something for everyone.  It's a quick read (the eBook is 119 pages) but has plenty to keep you interested with a plethora of clever turns of phrase and creative spins on a familiar story that make it prime for re-reading.  Highly, highly recommended and part of a set of twists on myths (Canongate myths) that I can't wait to explore more.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Date finished:  12 February 2013
Format:  eBook
Source:  Bought
Genre:  Literary fiction; Fantasy fiction
Pictured Edition Published: by Canongate books in 2006

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Review: 'White Cat' by Holly Black

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Cassel comes from a family of Curse Workers - people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all criminals. Many become mobsters and con artists. But not Cassel. He hasn't got magic, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail - he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.


Cassel has carefully built up a facade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his facade starts to crumble when he finds himself sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.

Review

I loved White Cat.  But then, Hanna bought it for me as part of a super generous Christmas present so I shouldn't ever have been expecting anything less.

There are a lot of fantasy series out there vying for your attention.  I know how it is.  You only have so much money to spend on books and there will always be too many series that you want to read.  The Curse Workers series, though, really is worth your money and your time.  It has brilliant world-building (complete with a plausible history and political opinions/nuances), clever characterisation and is exciting to boot. What more could you want?

First up, the narrator is male.  That shouldn't be noteworthy but somehow I feel that it is.  Either way, Cassel is likeable enough but he wasn't my favourite character by any means.  I can't even begin to imagine how much thought has gone into this series.  All of the characters and their stories are exceptionally well thought out and have appropriate back stories.  So much so that when there's a twist in the plot and you're thrown off track, you realise that actually there have been clues there all along and that you would have seen everything if only you'd been paying attention.  It isn't that the plot is desperately unique as such, more that it's just been intricately crafted and is utterly seamless.

My favourite idea is that magic has a cost to the Worker.  Want to change someone's memories?  Feel free, as long as you're prepared to spend the next couple of weeks being a little forgetful.  Decided that you want to kill someone?  Go right ahead! Just be prepared to pay the price.  I'm really looking forward to seeing how that system develops - it adds a level of thoughtfulness to everything that you don't normally get with urban fantasy and I love it.

As a first instalment, White Cat does brilliantly and strikes the perfect balance.  Enough to get you completely sucked in but not enough that your appetite for the characters and story is sated.  I've never made a secret of the fact that I'm a huge fan of the starts to series.  There are lots of occasions on which I'll love the first in a series, recommend it to anyone I come across and then proceed to forget about the series the next time I go anywhere where I might expand it (as per Bitten of the Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong).  There are also plenty of times where I read the first in a series and get annoyed and ignore it forever (a la Fallen, part of the Fallen series by Lauren Kate).  The Curse Workers series is the perfect start - one I loved and keep recommending and that I actually remember when I walk into a bookshop.  One of the more creative series aimed at the older end of the YA spectrum of the moment and a book I highly recommend.

Overall:  After finishing White Cat, I hauled myself to Waterstones to lunch to get hold of Red Gloves...only to be thwarted by them having stocked the new (and uglier) versions of the series.  I was gutted that I couldn't run straight on to the next one, which is as good an indication of how much I loved White Cat as any!  Go out, buy it and thank Hanna later ;)

Date finished:  08 February 2013
Format:  Paperback
Source:  A present from Hanna, because she is just that wonderful
Genre:  Fantasy fiction; Urban fantasy
Pictured Edition Published: by Gollancz in June 2010

Still need convincing?  Check out Hanna's review here!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Review: 'The Perfume Garden' by Kate Lord Brown


Rating:  4 out of 5 stars


High in the hills of Valencia, a forgotten house guards its secrets. Untouched since Franco's forces tore through Spain in 1936, the whitewashed walls have crumbled, the garden, laden with orange blossom, grown wild. Emma Temple is the first to unlock its doors in seventy years. 

Guided by a series of letters and a key bequeathed in her mother's will, she has left her job as London's leading perfumier to restore this dilapidated villa to its former glory. It is the perfect retreat: a wilderness redolent with strange and exotic scents, heavy with the colours and sounds of a foreign time. But for her grandmother, Freya, a British nurse who stayed here during Spain's devastating civil war, Emma's new home evokes terrible memories. As the house begins to give up its secrets, Emma is drawn deeper into Freya's story: one of crushed idealism, lost love, and families ripped apart by war. She soon realises it is one thing letting go of the past, but another when it won't let go of you.

Review

I always forget how much I love stories like The Perfume Garden.  The back of the book likens it to the novels of Kate Morton and Victoria Hislop and that's the best description I can start with.  Family secrets, scandals, mixed messages and misunderstandings and half-forgotten intrigue are all blended together and sprinkled with such warmth and compassion that there are some wonderful poignant moments tucked amongst the mysteries.

The story kicks off strongly and goes straight for the tearducts.  I'm an easy target for films and books and am more than happy to shed a tear but I usually save them for when I've had the chance to get to know characters.  With The Perfume Garden, I was welling up in the first few chapters.  Maybe because the novel starts out with a depiction of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and I can empathise more readily with the pain and suffering experienced by thousands while I was in my late-teens than I can with the tragedies of the 1930s.  The sympathy I felt for Emma Temple did also make me more inclined to like her so I didn't have those awkward few chapters where I'm trying to work out if I even like the character I know I'm going to need to be rooting for.

Sympathy vote aside, Emma did turn out to be a character I liked and respected, independent and brave as she was.  My heart hurt for her as she dealt with her mother's recent death and I was willing her to make her peace with her past and her family's past.  I had a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach that I get when I'm really invested in a story a lot of the time while I was reading, which made me oddly happy.  The characters are a blend of emotionally-scarred, complex and wonderful people and I loved them.  Except for the ones that I HATED, in which case I just loved to hate them.

The only real down-side with the characterisation was painting Emma as a world-famous perfumier. Some speeches about the glory of aromas and comments on characters' unique scents aside, I felt that there wasn't quite enough to make me really believe that Emma was as talented and passionate as other characters seemed to feel that she was.  The title had me expecting indulgent descriptions of smells and a vision of the world through Emma's nose and it wasn't as strong as I'd hoped.

The story has a very rigid structure, with chapters alternating between 1930s Spain and twenty-first century Spain.  Most of the time, I was more than happy to flit between the periods because it meant that I never had long enough to get sick of either.  The obvious flip side is that the narrative moves around a lot and when the chapters are shorter, it can feel a bit as though you're being dragged around.  Generally, though, I thought that the balance between the darker Civil War story and the relatively lighter modern day one was well held and worked.  

I really did enjoy The Perfume Garden but I was rather disappointed in the final few chapters.  There was definitely one twist of drama too many in the final pages and I felt that some events were done almost for a last-minute shock for readers.  Perhaps intended to have readers closing the pages gaping.  I wouldn't go so far as to say that the ending spoilt the book for me because that would be a bit melodramatic but I did feel it completely jarred with the rest of the story and was unnecessary.

Overall:  The writing in The Perfume Garden is really very charming and I got that jumpy feeling in my heart while I was gripping the pages and yearning for a happy ending in both eras.  Recommended to readers looking for something a little bit bitter-sweet that will give more than a few solid tugs on your heartstrings.  A word of caution: I loved the combination of "women's fiction" and historical fiction but fans of the fluffier side of romance/women's fiction or of the grittier side of historical fiction might be put off by the presence of the other.  If you're a fan of both, you won't be disappointed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

About the Author:  Kate grew up in the wild and beautiful Devon countryside. After studying philosophy at Durham University and art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, she worked as an international art consultant, curating collections for embassies and palaces in Europe and the Middle East. She is married to a pilot, and lives with her family in Qatar. Her debut novel 'The Beauty Chorus' was inspired by the many hours she spent on airfields in the UK, and the experiences of pilots in her family during WW2. Her second novel about the Spanish Civil War, 'The Perfume Garden', draws upon the years she lived in Spain, and will be published in paperback in April 2013 by Atlantic.

For more information, head over to Kate Lord Brown's website and blog.  Also check out the Facebook and Pinterest page for The Perfume Garden.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Date finished:  11 May 2013
Format:  Paperback
Source:  Received from the publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review
Genre:  Historical fiction; Romance
Pictured Edition Published: by Corvus in April 2013

Monday, 20 May 2013

Bout of Books 7.0: The Wrap-Up

Bout of Books

Whew, that week FLEW by, didn't it?!  It seems like no time at all since I was posting about getting back into The Hunger Games trilogy and pondering taking part in Twitter chats!  

First up, let's get sentimental for a minute, shall we?  This week has been lovely - all of my favourite blog people were taking part and being able to check on Twitter or my blog feed and see what they were all reading was so much fun.  I've chit-chatted with some new bloggers and done some milling about but mostly I think I've used this week to generally get back in the habit of blogging and visiting friends. There are so many wonderful people out there blogging about books and I am in love with the whole community sometimes.  This week has been one of those times!  Big hugs all round.  Aaaand, that's the smush out of the way.  Let's get on to the GOALS!

Goal #1: Reading

My final stats ended up looking like this:
Total pages read:  858 pages
Total books read:  Two and a bit...


Believe me, I know that some participants will be looking at a total pages read of under 1,000 and wonder why I bothered but I read two books and started a third and averaged over 100 pages a day and that's more than enough for me :)

Did I read more than I normally would?  I think I did, actually. Part of it was because I picked back up with The Hunger Games trilogy.  I'd forgotten just how addictive that series was! So I almost HAD to pick up my book in my spare time because I was pretty much stuck to it.  I think maybe I should more be glad that there being a read-a-thon gave me the kick I needed to get back into the series than about spurring me on to read pages just for the sake of it?  Either way, I was (and am!) really pleased with my reading week!

Goal #2:  Blogging

I actually struggled with this part.  I was really busy at work and poorly for a lot of the week so managing a general update post, visiting other bloggers and squeezing in the actual reading was enough for me! I do have some hasty scribbles but I think that now the read-a-thon excitement has died down, I can get back to writing some reviews. 

Goal #3:  Socialising

One thing I *still* haven't managed to take part in is a Twitter chat.  None of them were really at times that worked for me so I didn't quite make it :-/ That will be my cast iron goal for next time I do a Bout of Books (which actually might not be 8 because I'm on holiday for half of the week it's scheduled for - ARGH!!).  Otherwise, though, I did plenty of visiting and some commenting and I found a couple of new-to-me blogs that I'm really enjoying catching up on.  There was also plenty of Twitter-based silliness and general stalking of the Bout of Books hashtag.  As always, I wish I'd done MORE socialising. You know I love you all though, right?  Right! :)

Need something to fill that Bout of Books 7.0 shaped hole?  Why not fill it with excitement for Bout of Books 8.0?! The next read-a-thon is scheduled for 19th - 25th August!

Thanks as always to the lovely ladies that run Bout of Books so smoothly - it's terrific and I'm definitely grateful to the organisers for keeping it going.  THANK YOU :)

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Bout of Books 7.0: Sunday

Bout of Books


Sunday's Stats

Books read from:  Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins; Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Pages read:  136 pages 
Books finished today:  Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Read-a-thon totals so far:  858 pages

12:50pm

This is a hasty update before I head out for the afternoon but this morning I finished Book Number 2 so figured that deserved a mention!  It was really, really good and I actually preferred it in many ways to The Hunger Games (which I might have mentioned yesterday but I'm rushing so I don't want to go and check...sorry!).  And at the end of it, I scampered right off to dig out Mockingjay and get started. Sadly, I now have some chores to do and then I'm going out so I can't spend the afternoon in Panem, much though I might want to.

It's Boyfriend's Dad's birthday so we're going out to eat some delicious French food and generally ignore the fact that it's Monday tomorrow.  Hopefully I'll be back in time to cram in a couple of chapters of Mockingjay, whip around fellow bout-of-bookers' blogs and post something about how many pages I haven't read because I've been stuffing my face.  Until then, HAPPY READING!

10.00pm

Guess what?  I haven't read anything! Actually, that isn't strictly true.  I did read 15 pages  of Mockingjay on the bus into Leeds earlier.  HOWEVER.  However, however, however. I have eaten the following:

www.brasserieblanc.com

Butterhead salad with anchovy, parmesan and a caesar dressing

Roast rack of free range cherry orchard pork with apple fritter, roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, cabbage, carrots and green apple sauce

and

Hot chocolate mousse with pistachio ice cream

And it was all absolutely as good as it sounds.  It might not have been the huge, resounding sweep on pages that I'd half-hoped of for this afternoon but it was really lovely so I won't complain :)

I'm kind of sad that this will actually be the last Bout of Books 7.0 post I'll be posting.  This one has seen me hang out with some new people on Twitter, chat with friends and re-connect with a series I'd pretty much forgotten about.  If only it could be Bout of Books every week, right?  *blows kisses to all*

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Bout of Books 7.0: Saturday

Bout of Books

Saturday's Stats

Books read from:  Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Pages read:  191 pages 
Books finished today:  None...
Read-a-thon totals so far:  722 pages
Reviews written:  *points* Look, over there, a dragon! *runs away and hides*

12:00pm

This is the LAST time that I'm going to mention it but I really have had a super busy week at work and I've had a kidney infection too so I've felt pretty grim BUT I woke up after a solid night's sleep, had a really long shower until I was all wrinkly, used all of my favourite scrubs, hair treatments and potions and feel much better this morning.  Ready to READ!  I've read about 50ish pages so far this morning while I was tucked up in bed this morning.  Soon it's lunchtime but then it'll be time to bring on the pages.  I'm about half-way through Catching Fire and I'm remembering just why I flew through The Hunger Games so quickly.  There's something about the series that just keeps your eyes glued to the pages.  Love it.

Actually, I'm also hoping to squeeze in some review-writing today so let's see if I can tear myself away from District 12 long enough to get that done too...

6:00pm

Catching Fire has me well and truly hooked.  I was supposed to be spending at least some of today writing reviews and all I've done is read Catching Fire.  Well, actually, there was an intermission where Boyfriend and I booked a holiday for later in the year, which was fun and gives us something to look forward to until summer actually arrives.  That aside, I've been completely sucked into the politics and shenanigans in the Capitol and I *love* this instalment so much I almost don't want to finish it and move on to Mockingjay.  At least I have it to hand if there's a huge cliffhanger or something...

And because of the aforementioned hookage, I haven't been super at visiting and commenting on other blogs yet either :-/  We're heading out for a little while but when I get back, there will be commenting.  What?  THERE WILL!  See you soon read-a-thoners :)

Sunday update:  After my 6.00pm update, Boyfriend and I popped to the local pub and had a drink, came back and ate apple pie and custard and watched The Usual Suspects.  I didn't get many more pages read but I did have a lovely, relaxing evening so that's as good.  And no, I didn't write any reviews...there's always tomorrow!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Bout of Books 7.0: The Updates

Bout of Books

Want to check and see if I'm sticking to my Bout of Books goals? Head here.

It feels kind of like I've been waiting forever for this read-a-thon and it's HERE!  I've picked out some books that I've been reading for a while so it'll be nice to spend the week focussed on them.  This is where I'll be keeping my updates for Monday 13th to Friday 17th May, as well as tweeting about my progress on Twitter (@LitAddictedBrit).

Monday 13th May

Pages read today: (as at 8.00pm) 43 pages
Total pages read so far:  43 pages
Total books read so far:  Part of The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

Thoughts from Day 1 of the Read-A-Thon:  The Immortal Rules was a good place to start. It's been *ages* since I read a book about vampires but even so it's kind of refreshing to read one with BAD vampires.  The nasty, stalking about in the darkness, predatory kind of vampires.

Good book though it may be, I just haven't had much time to read yet because I was bombed out at work.  I knew I was going to be though so at least I don't feel disappointed!  I read a bit on my train to and from work but nothing much more yet.  I was supposed to be going out for sushi this evening with some friends from work but a couple of them couldn't go so we deferred until next week. Does it make me a bad person that part of me thought, "Yey! Pyjamas and my book!"? Maybe.  Regardless, even though it's now only 8.21pm, I'm heading off to bed to get some reading in before I fall asleep :-/

Tuesday 14th May

Pages read today:  (as at 9.53pm) 154 pages
Total pages read so far:  197 pages
Total books read so far:  Part of The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

Thoughts from Day 2 of the Read-A-Thon:  Ok, so I didn't *quite* get to my book last night as planned. I logged off as planned but then Boyfriend suggested watching a bit of Criminal Minds (which we only just discovered on LoveFilm and is GOOD) so I did that instead and then fell asleep.  Best laid plans and blah, blah, blah...ANYway, today has been MUCH better in page terms.

I got on the bus to work this morning at 7.30 aaaand proceeded to sit on the bus for 90 minutes while it *crawled* through traffic to where I work.  That's 90 minutes to cover about 6 miles (ish).  Not great, admittedly, but I did read plenty in that time so it could have been worse!  I was pretty busy at work so time re-sped back up.  Never fear! I turned up slightly early for a doctor's appointment at 5.40...and got called in at 6.15.  Sure, there are more comfortable places to read than a leather chair of questionable hygiene but a chair is a chair and read I did.  So yes, mostly the world has sought to inconvenience me but I have thwarted it by reading in its FACE! Hurrah for Bout of Books! :)

See you tomorrow fellow read-a-thoners!


Wednesday 15th May

Pages read today:  167 pages
Total pages read so far:  364 pages
Total books read so far:  1 and a bit (The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa; part of Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins)

I was actually so busy reading the end of The Immortal Rules that I'm writing this on Thursday...not super efficient and organised but I did finish my first read-a-thon book so I'm still a happy (if quiet) bout-of-booker!

Thursday 16th May

Pages read today:  (as at 8.48pm)  58 pages
Total pages read so far:  422 pages
Total books read so far:  Still 1 and a bit (The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa; part of Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins)

So I *finally* started the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy!  I obviously haven't read very much yet so I can't say if I like it as much as the first but I do still like it.  I'm not sure I'm a huge fan of the Gale v Peeta thing that's developing but I like the whole revolution thing so hopefully that'll balance out.  Also, with this one I have no idea what to expect, which is fun.  The Hunger Games obviously lit up the blogosphere in a massive way so by the time I did read it, I knew which characters lots of readers seemed to love and which I was probably going to end up hating. I still loved it but it's nice to be reading Catching Fire with an element of surprise.  Time-wise, I haven't done particularly well today.  One of the solicitors in my team is on holiday at the moment so I'm doing my work and her work and it doesn't leave much time for eating lunch, never mind reading during lunch!  Thank GOODNESS it's Friday tomorrow...:)


Friday 17th May

Pages read today:  109 pages 
Total pages read so far:  531 pages
Total books read so far:  About 1 and a half (The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa; about half of Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins)

I didn't get chance to post yesterday because we had a big completion going down at work but I got through a good chunk of Catching Fire while commuting and before I fell asleep in the evening!  

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Review: 'The Uninvited' by Liz Jensen

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A seven-year-old girl puts a nail-gun to her grandmother's neck and fires. An isolated incident, say the experts. The experts are wrong. Across the world, children are killing their families. Is violence contagious?

As chilling murders by children grip the country, anthropologist Hesketh Lock has his own mystery to solve: a bizarre scandal in the Taiwan timber industry. He has never been good at relationships. Asperger's Syndrome has seen to that. But he does have a talent for spotting behavioural patterns, and an outsider's fascination with group dynamics.

Nothing obvious connects Hesketh's Southeast Asian case with the atrocities back home. Or with the increasingly odd behaviour of his beloved step-son, Freddy. But when his Taiwan contact dies shockingly, and more acts of sabotage and child violence sweep the globe, Hesketh is forced to make connections that defy the rational principles on which he has staked his life, his career and - most devastatingly of all - his role as a father.

Review

I wasn't at all convinced by this book when I first started it.  The summary was so dynamic and shocking sounding that I expected to be thrown straight into child-killer horror early on.  I think because I was expecting fireworks, I was a bit frustrated when it became clear that the story was going to take its time warming up but, as with so many slow-burners, I appreciated it by the end.  The characters are given time to slowly make links between seemingly unrelated tragedies and the gradual deterioration of culture, morals and society ultimately felt much more sinister than a huge IMPLOSION followed by lots of scrabbling around can feel.

The initial chapters see Hesketh going about his random-sounding day job and investigating apparent acts of sabotage within businesses, interspersed with news reports of killer kids.  It felt quite disconnected, even though there were hints that something was tying everything together.  When Hesketh and Professor Whybray start to make connections between the incidents, the pace cranks up to a satisfying level.  It's never quite edge-of-the-seat stuff but it does manage to be captivating, letting the more science-fiction-y  elements shine through.  Because Hesketh has Asperger's Syndrome, he is mostly quite a detached narrator and removes a lot of the sensationalism from even the more grim incidents of mass juvenile violence. His love of behavioural patterns and logic gives the story a clinical edge that I mostly found intriguing, even though it does make the story difficult to connect to at times. I wanted to get behind Hesketh and Freddy but it wasn't easy and I almost always felt one step removed.  There are some moments where Hesketh's attachment to Freddy dragged me in but overall, it was a strangely emotionless reading experience.  Fascinating in many ways, sure, but emotionless.

As always, it's hard to talk about my favourite part of The Uninvited without spoiling it.  What I will say, though, is that in amongst the child violence and general apocalyptic trauma, there are some interesting human rights/humanitarian questions about how to deal with toddlers that are trying to kill adults on mass. Written out that way, I realise that it looks as though there's going to be some clumsy and/or boring hypothesising by one or more of the characters but it's actually quite well done.  You have plenty of time to get used to the way Hesketh and Professor Whybray think and communicate so it doesn't seem jarring when they start spouting biological or sociological theories about what is happening or how to deal with the fact that children have become more likely to turn on you with a nail gun or push you down the stairs than they are to do anything else.

The ending was pretty much perfect and fitted so well with the rest of the story.  When I was reading the final few pages, it actually occurred to me how nice it was to be reading stand-alone books for a while.  Nice not to 'turn' the last page on my eReader and be filled with more questions than I had to start with.  Well, actually, I did mull over this one for a little while after finishing, although instead of trying to plot out the next instalment, I was just pondering the final chapters.  

Overall:  The Uninvited felt to me like the perfect blend of dystopian fiction and science fiction.  A bit of a mixed bag but the intelligent pay-off worth the effort of paying attention through the dawdling early chapters.  Recommended to anyone looking for a less melodramatic dystopian read (so much as there is such a thing!) who is happy with a little deferred gratification.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Date finished:  02 February 2013
Format:  eBook
Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley - thank you Bloomsbury!
Genre:  Dystopian; Science fiction
Pictured Edition Published: by Bloomsbury in July 2012

Monday, 6 May 2013

Bout of Books 7.0: The Sign-Up and Goals

Bout of Books
As if I was ever not going to sign up!  Over the past week or so, my feed has filled up with other bloggers' sign-up posts so I know that this time is going to be no less fabulous than the other three that I've taken part in.  Roll on the 13th May! :)

Want to join the fun? 

Here are the details...

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 13th and runs through Sunday, May 19th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 7.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

The Goals

1.  Reading

I'll be working Monday to Friday and I know that I'm going out on the Saturday night so I don't have the hours to set aside for reading that I otherwise might like but there are a few books I'd like to read (or part read, if we're being accurate)...

            

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa - it's been a while since I read anything featuring vampires but I don't think I've read a bad review of this and I have a copy from NetGalley so it's made the shortlist.

Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins - I finished The Hunger Games in March 2012 and still haven't read the second or third.  I've lined them up for a couple of read-a-thons before but still haven't read them.  Plus, I imagine that they're quick reads so ideal for picking up when I only have an hour or so to spare.

My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent - clearly this read-a-thon will have a YA theme!  I've actually had the first three in this series for quite a while but haven't got round to starting them.  I feel as though I should fix that!

2.  Blogging

As always, I have plenty of reviews to write so if I can write and publish two during the week, that'd be awesome.  Failing two, one will do!  Heck, I could even live with some scant notes!

3.  Socialising

One thing I've never done during Bout of Books is participate in a Twitter chat.  They look frantic and ridiculously hard to keep track of and, from the snippets that I've caught in the past, fun.  So taking part in one of those is my third and final goal :)

Sunday, 5 May 2013

And that was April!

SPRING IS HERE!  I'll admit that it's still pretty darn chilly at times but at least it's still light at half 8 in the evening and we get treated to the occasional glimpse of sunshine. That'll do for now.  Despite the inevitable perkiness that usually accompanies the arrival of Spring, April's been a bit of a weird month so far as the books go.  I didn't read quite as much and I seemed to stumble across a couple of books that I was completely underwhelmed by and it made me *feel* as though I'd had a kind of dud month, even though there were a couple of books that I really enjoyed tucked away in there too.  Something about April just felt...off.

Total books read in April   3 full books and most of 2 others

Total pages read in April  1,676



So that makes one thriller, one urban fantasy, one non-fiction, one historical fiction and one cosy crime.  The Gift of Darkness was much better than I expected, despite being freaky as heck at more than one point.  City of Dark Magic was...just not good.  I liked a lot of the ideas and I will forgive a story a lot of it settles itself in amongst a city as beautiful as Prague.  In the end, though, there were just too many gaps in the plot and lazy choices for me to like it.  How To Be A Woman was AWESOME - it's genuinely hilarious but also had me really thinking about feminism for the first time in years.  If you're a woman but the thought of reading about feminism makes you feel a bit weird, you should definitely read it.  Shadow on the Crown was another of those that sounded great and did have some good writing and the occasional stellar moment but it was pretty repetitive in places so yeh...not hugely impressed. The last book of the month was The Murder of Roger Ackroyd...after posting about cosy mysteries, I really felt like reading one and snaffled this one off my library's eBook site.  If you'd asked me on April 30th (which I suppose should technically be the cut-off point for this post) what I thought, I'd have mumbled something about it being alright.  But THEN I read the end on 1st May and it changed everything.  So in April, it was one of my disappointments and now I'm a fan.  So fickle!

Favourite of the month?  Bit of a tough one but I'm going for How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran - really, really good.  Clever and funny and one I've already compelled Boyfriend's sister to download.  Thanks, Hanna!

April on the blog

I was all prepared to say this had been another quiet month but, although it was in some ways, it was better than March so I suppose that's something.  Work has been super busy so I'm really just striking the best balance I can at the moment while still giving myself time to actually read.  Anyway, what happened in April? I posted my top ten favourite books I read before I started blogging, which I *loved* writing.  A little later in the month, I highlighted some of the terrific book guides that I noticed on Waterstones' website - bad news for those with already groaning bookshelves and wishlists but good news if you're in the mood for something specific. 

Reviews this month (click on the titles for reviews):