Friday, 22 May 2015

Borrowing Ebooks from the Library

Now that I've finished university, I've got a lot more time to read, which is great – I've already read four books and it's only been a week or so. However, in addition to all the free time I now have, I also have the slight problem of being unemployed and even more skint than I was when I was just a skint student, as I've not got a bursary/loan coming in every month. So, I've put myself on an indefinite book buying ban and unless I'm given a gift card for Waterstone's or Blackwell's, I won't be buying myself any books.

Luckily, a few weeks ago I discovered that through the library I can actually borrow ebooks, which is something that I had heard about but never really looked into.  I'll still be going to the real life library and getting books from there too, but the great thing about the library's ebook service is that if I finish a book I can get a new one right away, and it's completely free. I don't know if the libraries in other cities and countries use the same system, but all I had to do was email the library to get permission to download ebooks, then get the Overdrive app (I have it on my phone and my tablet) and I was ready to download ebooks. It didn't take me long to add 50 books to my reading list through the service, and I've already read two ebooks with it – Coraline and The Graveyard Book, both Neil Gaiman. I'm working on all the physical books I've bought over the past nine months first for the most part, but there's a lot of YA available on there that I was slightly reluctant to buy (just because I wasn't sure if it would appeal to me) which I look forward to reading. Often when I'm reading a lot of literary fiction or longer novels I end up craving a book that I can read in a matter of hours, and YA is almost always perfect for those moods.

It's definitely a great resource for people with lower incomes and/or people who don't have the space for physical books, and should really be better advertised! You can even set your own loan periods, so I think it would be ideal for anyone who's going on holiday or away on a trip too.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Diary of a Provincial Lady - EM Delafield // Book Review

I've got to be honest – the only reason I picked this book up is because of the cover design. I was in the Oxfam bookshop, already having picked up a copy of The Princess Bride, and when this caught my eye as I was on the way to the till I just couldn't help myself. Even before I'd finished reading the title, I wanted to take it home – that's how much I loved the design.

Luckily, the book itself was good too. It wasn't outstanding or quite as brilliant as I'd hoped it to be, having read the introduction, but this is definitely a book I'll hold onto, and not just because of how pretty it is; I think I'll come to appreciate the 'plot' itself a lot more when I have more in common with the narrator (the titular provincial lady). As it is, I'm a twenty one year old almost graduate, and I know I'd appreciate it more and connect with it better if I was older, married with children, trying to manage a home and every day life. That's not to say it isn't enjoyable if you're not a married middle class woman, of course – there were plenty of parts of the book that amused me, like the bulbs (a running kind of gag through much of the book), her dilemmas with clothes, fashion and shopping, and more. In a way I'd compare this book to one that I read in my Victorian literature class last year, Diary of a Nobody. This book is set in the interwar period, rather than the 19th century, and is obviously a woman's diary instead of a man's, but a lot of the humour is similar. They both focus on the kinds of every day, situational humour that exist within a household/family, in a way that often succeeds in being relatable despite the huge temporal gap between the text and the reader, never mind all the other gaps. I think everyone understands the comedy and frustrations of family life, and I really do look forward to reading this one again when I have more in common with the narrator.

I'd rate this book 3 out of 5 stars

Diary of a Provincial Lady | EM Delafield
Cath Kidston edition of Diary of a Provincial Lady

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

You Should Have Known - Jean Hanff Korelitz // Book Review

You Should Have Known - Jean Hanff Korelitz
[Quick note – I didn't have time to take a photograph for this one as I'm writing an essay this week, so it's just a stock Goodreads photo] 

This novel was one that I got as a Christmas gift, and I think it's unlikely that I would have picked it up and read it for myself otherwise – and I really doubt I would have persevered as much as I did with it if it hadn't been a gift, either.

I'll start off by explaining how much I knew going into the book, which wasn't much; I'd never heard of the book or the author before, so I was going entirely on what it said on the back of my edition, which included reviews that implied it was comparable to Gone Girl. I enjoyed Gone Girl, and have more recently come to appreciate it even more (my love for Rosamund Pike and the film helped!), so when I saw that, my interest was piqued. However, I decided to read this one right now because it's one of the few books on my shelf that I hadn't hyped myself up for in some way, and because I thought a thriller would be a good book to read during exam time – I tend to find more thrilling, mysterious books appeal to me when I'm busy and stressed, because they manage to keep me gripped far better than any other texts, and which make me want to go back and read them instead of forgetting about them amidst all the studying and rereading I have to do. Plus, it can function as quite a good reward when you're studying to let yourself read for fifteen minutes, so the more exciting and engaging the book, the more successful it is as a reward. 

This ended up being my major problem with the book. It was not gripping, thrilling, exciting, or engaging. Now I'll admit, me during exam time is probably a pretty hard test on a book like this, so my opinion might have been different at another time. However, I felt there was a real absence of any proper build up or suspense. It took near enough a hundred pages before the murder that the blurb had prepped me for took place, which felt far too long. I realise that the author was presumably trying to build up a connection between the reader and the characters, and give out a decent sense of context and knowledge for us to have later in the book when things got going, but I still think it could have been much shorter. Then there was the fact that I figured 90% of it out before the murder even took place, probably because of how hard the author was trying to give you the information that would solidify what we, and the central character Grace, would later uncover. There were a few little surprises and thrills in there, but even these didn't have any serious build up. It was more like, here's a piece of information – now here's a piece of counter information that you would not have expected. Except even then, although I'd figure out the wire framework of the murder before it even happened, the clues were just too obvious so that there was only really a couple of genuine surprises for me.

Another annoyance was the lack of closure at the end of the book. Maybe I watch too many crime shows and I'm too used to getting everything neatly tied up at the end, like a play by play of who did it, why they did it and how they did it... but that was left pretty open in the end. I suppose I should have expected to have something less clear and conclusive given how heavily it followed the main character, Grace, and not any of the others involved, but it was still a bit disappointing to have it left open as it was.

Yet I have to admit, as soon as I stopped trying to read this like it was a thriller, and instead focused on reading it as a book about a woman whose husband is a murder suspect (which is immediately obvious from the blurb) I started to enjoy it more. Without the desire or expectation for suspense and tension, it didn't bother me so much that it wasn't there. Admittedly, it was still a little bit frustrating how obvious it all was (I was half hoping for a major curveball to prove me wrong, which I didn't get) but it was relatively interesting in the end, as it made me think about something I tend not to think about much – which might also prove useful to me for something I'm writing myself. 

Ultimately, I am glad that I stuck with it and finished the book; I just wish I hadn't read the blurb first, as I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more otherwise.