Saturday, 28 September 2013

Across the Pond...

Goodness knows what this post will look like because I'm typing it on my phone hastily during a 30 minute free WiFi at an airport in Paris! We're on our way to Chicago, then St. Louis before heading down to Atlanta for just under two weeks of sun (hopefully), food and drinks!

It's seemed like a long run up but it's HERE! So in case any of you stop by and expect...well, anything, this is just to say: SEE YOU SOON!

Happy reading, friends :)

Saturday, 21 September 2013

A to Z Bookish Survey



As I was banging on about on Twitter for a while, we were due to move house yesterday We didn't, for reasons that relate largely to many less competent members of my profession.  We were, however, told that we would be moving back on Monday so we diligently spent last weekend and most of our evenings this week packing and dismantling furniture.  Which leaves us sat in a house that is packed up (thank GOODNESS for Colin the eReader, who has SAVED me from having no books at all), wondering if we're going to have to unpack again this week.  So obviously instead of writing one of the many, many reviews I still have to write, I'm following in LauraHanna and Ellie's footsteps and filling out the A to Z Bookish Survey that seems to be doing the rounds at the moment.  Pleasantly distracting and stops me from just staring at the boxes and binbags...

Authors you've read the most books from
According to Goodreads, it's a tie between Robert Jordan (author of the Wheel of Time series) and Charlaine Harris (author of the Sookie Stackhouse series) at 11 books each. I'm happy about Robert Jordan because the Wheel of Time series is fantastic but Charlaine Harris? For some reason that fact disappoints me a bit...

Best sequel ever
For a person who would have said that I read a lot of series, I am finding this question ridiculously difficult. I think either Shadow's Edge (Book 2 of the Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks) or Catching Fire (Book 2 of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins). Both were equally as good as their predecessor and had me dying to pick up the next one.

Currently reading
Magic Kingdom for Sale - Sold! by Terry Brooks.  About a man that buys a kingship and all of the silliness that ensues.  Perfect for diverting my attention away from my somewhat less than desirable surroundings.  If the debacle continues much longer, I'll be buying the rest of the series so that I can continue to inhabit Landover.  

Drink of choice when reading
Haha - I think we're all assuming that I'm capable of reading and drinking at the same time without spilling. I do however have to drink sort of while reading if I'm having a binge so let's say coffee (really strong and black), peppermint tea or water since they're the three things that I drink most often.

E-reader or physical book
*perches on fence* Both? I tend to split my time pretty equally between the two.  I love having physical books in my home but I also love not breaking back carrying those books around all the time.  Also, Colin (the Sony Touch eReader) means that I can buy a load of books without Boyfriend knowing, can get some titles from NetGalley and can borrow books from my library without having to go out in the rain.  ALSO Colin means that I can go on holiday with HUNDREDS of books instead of just the ones that I can hide in amongst my clothes while Boyfriend isn't looking. So maybe I prefer Colin overall, actually...hmm...

Fictional character that you probably would have dated in High School
Hanna totally gave the answer that I wish I'd written - I'm not really into the whole "book boyfriend" thing either and the characters that I like now would NOT have been appropriate for High School me.

Glad you gave this book a chance
I'm going to pretend that says "Gave this book another chance" and say Dracula by Bram Stoker.  I first tried to read it when I was about 7 and spent the rest of my childhood absolutely terrified of vampires.  I read it again last October and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.  Yes, it's pretty creepy but it's wonderfully atmospheric and enjoying it felt a little bit like vanquishing a demon of my own (but in a less melodramatic manner).

Hidden gem book
If we're talking really hidden, I'll say Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China that Never Was by Barry Hughart.  Honestly, it's probably one of the most random books I've ever read and it makes me a bit sad that barely anybody has even heard of it.  If we're going a bit less out there, Dark Matter by Michelle Paver is an amazing thriller that is PERFECT for the long, dark nights coming up!

Important moment in your reading life
Other than learning to read by myself in my head?  This blog.  There are few places that I would feel comfortable in rambling on (and ON) about books and I can't think of any other way that I would have made so many friends purely on the basis of a mutual love of all things bookish. Less profoundly, growing up and learning not to be embarrassed about being seen to enjoy fantasy or science fiction.

Just finished
The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson, which I really loved.  I own a lot of Sanderson's books but hadn't read any before.  I love how much thought has clearly gone into the magic system and it makes me really excited about reading some of his adult fiction. Plus, I really, really want to finish the Wheel of Time series that Sanderson ghost wrote the final few books of after Robert Jordan died.  Ghost wrote?  Is that right?  Because it looks weird...*shrugs*

Kind of books you won't read
Definitely misery memoirs. To be honest, I'm not really that big on any autobiographies  at the best of times but ones about abuse?  No, thank you.  Also, self help books are a no.

Longest book you read
I think The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett at a wrist-straining 1,088 pages. It also happens to be one of my favourite books.

Major book hangover because of...
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.  That book is just...amazing.

Number of bookcases you own
Currently two.  Because of the "yes, you're moving - pack"..."NO MOVE FOR YOU" thing, they're empty at the moment.

One book you've read multiple times
I suppose technically Dracula by Bram Stoker but otherwise, none?  There are a lot of really great books that I'm dying to read and I always think of the books that I won't get to read because I'm re-reading. I talk about re-reading favourites all the ime and I am SO CLOSE to deciding to re-read the Wheel of Time series before I read the final few books but I just don't tend to re-read.

Preferred place to read
Wherever I happen to be when I have some time to read.  I love reading while travelling and on Saturday and Sunday mornings in bed especially but otherwise anywhere suits me. I'm not quite as good at blocking out background noise as I used to be but I'll still pick up my book if there's even a slight chance that I can get some reading done.

Quote that inspires you
I've only really started noting down quotes recently so I can't point to anything particularly profound...I do really like this quote though from HHhH by Laurent Binet, which is inspirational in the context:
"When I watch the news, when I read the paper, when I meet people, when I hang out with friends and acquaintances, when I see how each of us struggles, as best we can, through life's absurd meanderings, I think that the world is ridiculous, moving and cruel.  The same is true for this book: the story is cruel, the protagonists are moving, and I am ridiculous"
Reading regret
I can't even imagine what I could regret about reading...

Series that you started and need to finish
WHEEL OF TIME!  Who knew that this series would be the theme of my whole bookish survey?!  I read The Eye of the World when I was about 12 or 13 and steadily worked my way through the series during the rest of high school.  When I finished what was released, I sort of lost track and even though I own all but the final book, I've only read up the eleventh (out of 14). I feel as though I owe it to my teen self to see out the series but it's a sprawling epic fantasy and I'm worried that I won't remember enough of the details to do the final three books justice.  Hence the ponderance of the re-read.  Less urgently, the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan (because they're fun and I sense dark times to come...) and the Curse Workers series by Holly Black (because the first, White Cat, was really good).

Three of your all-time favourite books
Gosh, this question is TOUGH! I'm going to just write the three that come to my head first because every time I give an answer to a question like this it's different and otherwise I'll be here all day:

1.  The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
2.  The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
3.  The Song of Achilles by Michelle Miller

Unapologetic fangirl for
I honestly can't think of an answer to this question!  How is that possible?!  Sorry, friends...

Very excited for this release
I tend to read a good few months (years) behind the whole book blogosphere so I'm not usually hanging on for new releases but I really want to know how the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth ends and also the Blood of Eden series by Julie Kagawa.  

Worst bookish habit
Finishing everything I start.  I only remember putting aside one book in the past few years and that was because I was really mad at it and about it and I was barely a quarter of the way through it.  My general feelings on reading are that life is too short to spend any time not enjoying it.  And YET I feel as though I'm quitting on something if I put something aside.  I would love to say that will change but it probably won't.

X marks the spot! Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book
I can't even begin to answer this since my books are all safely stowed away in boxes.  Super...

Your last bookish purchase
Erm...an eBook copy of Little Face by Sophie Hannah.  I finished the most recent in the vaguely connected Spiller CID series and loved Hannah's sense of humour so I figured I'd go back and start at the beginning!

Zzz snatcher- which book kept you up way late?
I am VERY keen on sleeping plenty each night so that I'm not cranky at work but I put my usual early bed back a good hour to finish The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson because I really couldn't not see out the ending.  

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Review: 'The Immortal Rules' by Julie Kagawa

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

To survive in a ruined world, she must embrace the darkness….

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a walled-in city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten. Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them—the vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself dies and becomes one of the monsters.

Forced to flee her city, Allie must pass for human as she joins a ragged group of pilgrims seeking a legend—a place that might have a cure for the disease that killed off most of civilization and created the rabids, the bloodthirsty creatures who threaten human and vampire alike. And soon Allie will have to decide what and who is worth dying for...again.

Review

There are obviously a lot of vampire books around at the moment.  A lot of them are surrounded by hype and clamoured over by fangirls.  Some of them actually feature vampires that survive by drinking the blood of humans.  Relatively few are centred around vampires that are BAD.  The Immortal Rules breaks away from a lot of the modern vampiric YA and gets back to the vampires of old that would have hunted you down in the dark and devoured you (in a bad, life-ending kind of way, not in a weird angsty way) and it was really very good indeed.

The America of The Immortal Rules is a dark, miserable place full of vampires that believe that humans are only worth anything as walking meals and rabids that linger just outside the Fringe ready to maim and consume those unlucky enough to cross them.  Allison Sekemoto is part of a small gang that have sacrificed access to regular food and a life of relative comfort for freedom from having to be part of the ruling vampires' food supply.  I don't think it's as unique as it felt to me but a lot of the 'mainstream' YA that I've read recently has completely avoided facing up to the death and destruction reality of a world where humans are prey.  People die in this book and it isn't pretty.  Some of the vampires are genuinely very creepy and much of the novel is set in sewers (populated by Mole Men, gangs of humans that have resorted to cannibalism to escape starvation) and an abandoned underground former research facility, padded cells and all.  An absolute atmospheric win.

Kagawa doesn't quite dodge the vampires-can-be-good trope but she does a great job of making sure that none of her characters are twee.  Allie is a good narrator to get to know because she has a strong sense of self-preservation.  Characters that always act in the world's best interests can be a bit predictable (because of course they will endanger themselves for even a slim chance of saving a flea) but Allie has a bit of an edge borne out of years of looking after herself in dire circumstances so I didn't always feel as though I could second guess her actions. She has a conscience and is trying to adjust to needing human blood to live but she does JUST manage to avoid becoming sanctimonious.  Which is more than we might say about some of the other characters.  Oh, Zeke...*sigh* Where Allie is largely neither pious nor self-righteous, Zeke is almost the polar opposite weakened the story for me, even though part of my heart refused to not love him.  Those characters that will always insist on being Good that I mentioned?  Zeke is one of those and he can be ever so slightly irritating.

I think my only real complaint (which is not at all true of the next book in the trilogy so is worth taking with a pinch of salt) is that the plot ambles a bit in places.  The first part is fast-paced and hard to break away from but some of the middle chapters seem as though they dawdle along a bit.  A lot of the story is fun to read and (for want of a better phrase) action-packed but there were some slower parts that almost had me thinking that I'd been lured into another YA tale of love against the odds.  I think I'm just too cynical for stories of young people finding love in the dark always against the odds.  There is a bit of a romantic sub-plot but it isn't intrusive and didn't render anybody incapable of making a sensible, objective decision.  The pace does pick back up again towards the end too so don't worry too much about the occasional lull.

So the characters are mostly great, the story is mostly brilliant and the world of The Immortal Rules is pretty impressive.  I'll go out on a limb too and vouch for the series in general because the next book is fiercer and darker and even more riveting, if anything.  I still don't fancy Kagawa's Iron Fey series but I'm really glad I listened to the positive reviews of the Blood of Eden series.

Overall:  It's been a long time since I've read the first in a series and really felt as though I had to read the next in the series soon after.  I read the next in the Blood of Eden series, The Eternity Cure, a little more than two months after finishing The Immortal Rules and I am absolutely dying to get my hands on the final instalment, The Forever Song.  There are very few modern YA series that I would say that about so I guess we'll end there!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Date finished:  
15 May 2013
Format:  
eBook
Source:  
Received from the publisher via NetGalley - thank you, Harlequin Teen!
Genre:  
Urban fantasy; YA
Pictured Edition Published: 
by Harlequin Teen in March 2013

Monday, 9 September 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? #13

Join in the fun here
How has it been eight months since I posted an 'It's Monday'?! I've been meaning to write one for ages because my reviews are months behind and this gives me a way to check in with what I'm reading now and recently. Obviously writing this isn't necessarily helping with the backlog but STILL, we are going to talk about what I'm reading now because that's what I fancy writing about this slightly gloomy Sunday evening (that's right - this is about the second time ever that I am scheduling a post in advance).  Also, I'm watching the film adaptation of The Woman in Black and I am not good (i.e. terrible) at watching scary things so writing this while I'm watching is my way of avoiding emotional collapse.  What is up with loud banging noises and scary music?!  As if the seeing of ghosts and phantom rocking chairs wasn't scary enough!! 

What have I been reading?

Last weekend saw the start of R.I.P. VIII so I promptly picked up The Carrier by Sophie Hannah as my first sinister read of the event.  This is the first book in quite some time that I bought without having read at least one review beforehand.  I have however seen a load of posters at the train station every morning with the cryptic tagline "He swore he was a killer. The truth was worse".  Call me a sucker but I totally fell for the advertising.  Fortunately, my whimsy has been vindicated and I'm really enjoying the blend of impenetrable mystery (seriously, I haven't a CLUE who the murderer is and I'm over three quarters of the way through) and hefty doses of sarcasm.  There's something very British about the sense of humour of a couple of the characters and it suits me down to the ground.  An early win for R.I.P VIII it seems.

What am I reading now?

Other than ANYTHING to distract me from the downright frightening film that is on my TV right now?  The Carrier.  I have about 100 pages to go before the end so it's getting all kinds of tangled and exciting.  I was going to finish it this evening but I think something jollier might be in order after facing down this stupid film.

What will I be reading next?

I was all set to get down to my next R.I.P. VIII title but I think I might fancy something a bit less focussed on the darker side of humanity and go with a bit of fantasy instead. The ever lovely Hanna bought me The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson for my birthday and it's next up on my reading pile.  

I own a lot of books by Brandon Sanderson (six, maybe?) and I haven't even read one.  And I've heard brilliant things about every single one so I have absolutely no excuse.  What better way to start on my Sanderson collection than with one that's shiny and beautiful and has little sketches and things in it (because yes, I peeked...)?  No better way at all.

So that's my terrified start to the week!  Help me chase away the nightmares by distracting me with comments about what you're reading!  Happy reading, folks :)

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Review: 'The Murder of Roger Ackroyd' by Agatha Christie

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Roger Ackroyd knew too much. He knew that the woman he loved had poisoned her brutal first husband. He suspected also that someone had been blackmailing her. Now, tragically, came the news that she had taken her own life with a drug overdose.


But the evening post brought Roger one last fatal scrap of information.

Unfortunately, before he could finish the letter, he was stabbed to death...

Review

Agatha Christie's novels are a recent-ish comfort read of choice for me and it's led me to a nice little side obsession with adorable little series of food or book-focussed cosy mysteries. For a good third of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, though, I was disappointed and felt as though everything was a bit laboured and quite dry. I forgot that it was Agatha and that she had never let me down before. Then came the ending. But I skip ahead. Let's go back to the beginning...

This is the second Poirot story that I've read and I think I'm starting to understand them a little more now. When I read The Mysterious Affair at Styles (and reviewed it here), I was annoyed because the narrator, Captain Hastings, kept belitting Poirot and being smug despite being quite the idiot. This time around, Dr Sheppard is in charge of relaying events and he was much less irritating than his predecessor. Maybe because he didn't spend most of the book deriding a man who is quite clearly his intellectual superior. All of which means I've done a bit of u-turn and decided that I quite enjoy seeing the enigmatic Poirot through the eyes of different characters because it preserves the mystique shrouding the famous detective.

The fourth instalment in the Hercule Poirot set of mysteries is set in a very British, small village that is alternately brilliant and annoying. Repressed ageing villagers are nothing if not well-practised at concealing secret despairs and loves from the people that they spend their lives in close proximity to so there are plenty of misunderstandings and revelations scattered throughout the story to occasionally offer a moment of relief from the otherwise slightly twee narrative. There was something that grated on me about the nosy, prying, gossiping characters and for some reason I let that lure me into thinking that I wasn't really enjoying reading about them.

As always, though, much of what I had been taking at face value was not as it seemed and nothing was a wasted detail. There's a retired elephant hunter, a slightly shifty seeming butler, a swooning young woman, a formidable housekeeper and a victim that had secrets of his own. I made the mistake of thinking that it was business as usual so that you don't have to. This is a reasonably short book but one that will pay you back in dividends.

Having read about it, it seems that the twist in this tale is not widely appreciated and was the source of much controversy at the time. I thought it was brilliant. I like Agatha Christie because I like not quite being able to trust what I'm reading. I don't read crime fiction (cosy or otherwise) because I want to get to the end and be able to pat myself on the back for guessing a twist or picking out the murderer; I read crime fiction because I want to be kept on my toes and surprised when things are revealed to not be quite what I thought. I don't feel "tricked" if I've followed the red herrings down the wrong road because it just makes the Big Reveal moment all the more fun. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd would have clocked a mediocre 2.5/3 star rating if it hadn't had an ending that made me gawp. Gawp-inducing endings are winning endings. Fact.

Overall: I do recommend The Murder of Roger Ackroyd but only if you trust me. There may well be times when you're reading it that you think, "This is dull - what was Charlotte thinking in recommending it?" so I only want you to read it on my recommendation if that isn't going to be your final thought before abandoning reading it entirely. The ending makes everything worth it. Honest.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Date finished: 01 May 2013
Format: eBook
Source: Borrowed from my library's eBook site
Genre: Crime fiction
Pictured Edition Published: by William Morrow Paperbacks in February 2011 (Originally published: 1926)

Sunday, 1 September 2013

R.I.P VIII is HERE!


I am coming to a realisation: there are few things I will not do if Laura, Ellie and Bex are doing them too and talking about doing them on Twitter.  That includes breaking away from my usual inclination to avoid horror so that I can take part in R.I.P. VIII!  I was half-sure that I wanted to do it anyway but those three pushed me over the edge and into the dangerous territory of ghouls, criminals and general mysterious and/or supernatural goings-on.  


I had intended to do a special library trip yesterday morning to stock up (the library nearest to me is only open between 10am and 12pm on Saturdays...) but we had some friends round for dinner on Friday and may have consumed one too many glasses of wine, leaving Saturday morning shrouded in self-inflicted unpleasantness.  BUT it turns out that I actually already own plenty of books that fit the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril brief so I suppose that might be a blessing in disguise...

At this precise moment, I am super keen to get stuck into some creepier books because it is gloomy and windy and the weather is perfect for some literary chills so I'm going for Peril the First, i.e. four books that (sort of) fit into the following sinister categories:

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.
Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above

My potential read pile/list is too large for a couple of months worth of reading (particularly considering that I will need to inject one or two non-scary reads to stop me having a breakdown) and can't choose where to start because I am over-excited. 

The 'real' books
The eBooks
As soon as I've read one (WHICH ONE?!), I'll set up a master progress page and keep track of my efforts there!

I am even worse at watching scary films than I am at reading scary books (because I do not make loud noises or play scary music while I am reading) and the only reason that I'm even mentioning this part of the challenge is that we have The Woman in Black on DVD from LoveFilm at the moment because I loved the book and want to see how it stacks up on screen. Bonus also being that I have read the book and therefore know what is coming. Phewf!

Another one that I'm mentioning for a very specific reason.  I don't really read short stories very often at all.  And by "not often at all", I of course mean "practically never" but I'm being polite to short stories.  Anyway, I have a collection of Edgar Allen Poe that I bought about this time last year and haven't picked up since.  Actually, I might have picked it up and flicked through it before putting it lovingly back on the shelf.  I'd like to read a few of the stories this year. 

Want to join in on the fun too?  Head over HERE to sign yourself up and then come back and tell me what freaky books you're hoping to tackle!  Already signed up? Say hello so that I can stop by your sign-up post and be in awe of how brave you are!