Wednesday, 31 August 2016

August Wrap Up

August was a good month for reading for me! I'm not sure how great September will turn out, because I've just started a new job and I might have less time to read now - but we'll see!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - JK Rowling/Jack Thorne/John Tiffany
I still don't really know how I feel about this one. I think Jen Campbell's review on her Youtube channel probably sums it up best for me, when she talks about the emotions she feels reading it coming from the memories of the original texts more than anything significantly strong about the play. I have, however, heard a lot of people say that it's an incredible play to watch - I'm hoping that there will be an official recording released at some point so that I can actually experience it as it was meant to be experienced, because as a narrative alone it fell a bit flat for me.

My Name is Lucy Barton - Elizabeth Strout
I picked this one up just before it was nominated for the Man Booker 2016, and although I haven't managed to read any of the rest of the longlisted books yet, I can really see this one doing well. I definitely think it should make the shortlist - I really loved this book. It was beautiful and compelling, and I've since picked up another of Strout's novels, Olive Kitteridge to read because I enjoyed this one so much.

Scarlet - Marissa Meyer
The sequel to Cinder which I recently posted a review of. It was, to an extent, quite predictable (in similar ways to the first in the Lunar series) but it was still fun to read and I'll probably work around to the rest of the series in time, as I do love my fairy tale retellings.

The Girls - Emma Cline
I think this was too hyped up for me, and I didn't love it the way I thought I would or the way I wanted to. I wouldn't try to put people off reading it, however - I think it's still a fairly good book, even if I didn't love it or find myself quite as impressed as the hype led me to believe I'd be. Definitely good for anyone who likes novels about cults or has an interest in the Manson family. I also wrote a longer review of this recently.

The House in Quill Court - Charlotte Betts
I wrote a full review of this as part of a blog tour last week. Pleasantly surprising given my first impression of it before I started to read it, and a good one for fans of historical fiction with some intrigue, mystery and drama.

Grief is the Thing with Feathers - Max Porter
I bought this after volunteering one day because I wanted something to read on the bus and didn't have a book with me - I ended up reading the whole thing in almost one sitting (between the bus journey and then some time after I had gotten home and had dinner). Absolutely beautiful and genius poetry that has really fuelled my desire to read more poetry - any recommendations definitely welcome!

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins
I decided to read this since the film adaption is due to be out soon, and as an Emily Blunt fan (and unreliable narrator fan) I figured it was about time I got round to it! It wasn't entirely the story I had expected it to be based on the little I knew about it going in (which was basically the blurb, and that Rachel was an unreliable narrator). I was mostly surprised by the chapters from two other characters' points of view, because I'd expected it all to be from Rachel's perspective, but I still enjoyed it. Another minor downside was that I figured out something early enough on that it took away some of the thrill towards the end, but overall it was a good book.

September TBR:
The Dumb House - John Burnside
I've been meaning to read this for a while now after all the praise I've seen for it on booktube, so hopefully this month will be the month.

The Autograph Man - Zadie Smith
Another one that I've been meaning to read for a while (mostly because I love Zadie Smith and it seems silly that I haven't read all of her books yet).

Viper Wine - Hermione Eyre
As above - one that's been waiting to be read for a while. 

The Taming of the Shrew - William Shakespeare
I want to read this play soon as I'm planning on getting to know the play before I read Anne Tyler's retelling of it, Vinegar Girl


Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The House in Quill Court - Charlotte Betts // Book Review + Blog Tour

1813. Venetia Lovell lives by the sea in Kent with her pretty, frivolous mother and idle younger brother. Venetia’s father, Theo, is an interior decorator to the rich and frequently travels away from home, leaving his sensible and artistic daughter to look after the family. Venetia designs paper hangings and she and her father often daydream about having an imaginary shop where they would display the highest quality furniture, fabrics and art to his clients.

When a handsome but antagonistic stranger, Jack Chamberlaine, arrives at the Lovell’s cottage just before Christmas bringing terrible news, Venetia’s world is turned upside-down and the family have no option but to move to London, to the House in Quill Court and begin a new life. Here, Venetia’s courage and creativity are tested to breaking point, and she discovers a love far greater than she could have ever imagined . . .

published August 25th 2016 by Little, Brown

From the multi-award-winning author of The Apothecary’s Daughter, The House in Quill Court is a gorgeously evocative Regency novel bursting with historical flavour and characters you won’t forget. If you love Philippa Gregory and Joanne Harris, you will adore Charlotte Betts.

To begin with, I wasn't sure how I'd get on with this book. I don't often read a lot of historical fiction - although I do usually mean to read more, which is probably what motivated me into reading this one!

I also went into this book expecting something that was remarkably different from what I got. I thought this would be primarily a romance, but the plot was much more than a love story (although there are romantic subplots). Particularly as the story went on and the plot developed, I enjoyed how thrilling and exciting the main plot was. Without giving too much away, the main characters in the novel find themselves wrapped up in an escalating conflict, and many times the plot takes twists and turns that were unexpected and shocking - all adding together to make the story truly compelling and fun to read.

Friday, 19 August 2016

The Girls - Emma Cline // Book Review

Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong. 

Goodreads | The Girls - Emma Cline

The Girls is, in essence, a fictionalisation of the Manson Family cult. I'd picked up on this before I read it, but I wasn't entirely sure either before or during the book whether it was actually linked to real events, or whether it was just loosely 'inspired' by them. If anything, I think I went into it assuming that the parallel was drawn based on the era and the concept of a violent cult, more than any direct references to the reality. Since finishing, I've found that there are actually much more significant connections between Cline's plot and parts of the true history - although it's worth noting that from my vague research into the Manson Family, the plot doesn't include all of the Mason murders that took place in the 60s.

It's a slow start, and I thought it was difficult to really get into the book; I found it less exciting and gripping than I'd hoped it would be. It seemed to take a while for the story to get to the kind of place I had assumed it would take from the start, and I felt like I was waiting and waiting for the story I'd actually come for.

The way that the main narrative of young Evie's experiences with Russell, Suzanne and the rest of the cult in 1969 is framed by the story of present day Evie didn't really work for me. I can see why it was done and the purpose it served, but personally I didn't like being pulled in and out of the main narrative. It felt a little clunky and slightly too obvious to have Evie's life in the modern day leading the narrative of the past. From within the 1969 narrative, it was still clear that we were being told the story by a present day Evie, and as such it didn't feel necessary to keep withdrawing from 1969.

If anything, I was disappointed that towards the end of the book, there wasn't much there to fill in the gaps between 1969 and the years that followed and led to the Evie who was telling the story. Perhaps that was because, both from the author and Evie's point of view, there wasn't anything good to tell - Evie's life so mundane and ordinary after the excitement and wildness of the summer of 1969 that nothing else could possibly compare. Yet I would have liked more about those years in between, and more of an emphasis on Evie's life post Russell and Suzanne.

However, in spite of these things, I did still enjoy the book for the most part. I've never been someone fascinated by cults or the Manson Family - although I do have an interest in the more sociological side of cult behaviour - so in some ways I think this was never going to excite me as much as it would excite someone who is interested in cults and the Mansons. Overall, I think that this novel just wasn't exactly what I was expecting or what I wanted it to be. This isn't to say that I disliked it, but it didn't quite reach a point of wowing me either.


Friday, 12 August 2016

Cinder - Marissa Meyer // Book Review

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Goodreads | Cinder - Marissa Meyer

This is another book that I read a little while ago now, but one worth talking about as I've just finished reading the sequel, Scarlet. I'm a big fan of fairy tales and fairy tale retellings (two of my favourite TV shows are Once Upon a Time and Grimm, which are two shows that I've seen referenced in relation to this series before!). Meyer takes it further than the 'modern day' setting for her retellings, instead setting the tales and characters in a future world unlike our own - with Lunars, cyborgs, netscreens, androids and more.

One of the most incredible things about the book - and the series so far - has been the world building. Meyer creates a fascinating, interesting world, and manages to balance how much you know about it without risking inundating the reader with too much information. It was also a wonderful, subtle approach to creating a 'futuristic' world without it feeling heavy handed or over the top. I also loved the way the "original" source story (Cinderella) was both paid homage to (the relationships between Cinder and the other characters, like Kai and her stepmother; the ball) as well as the ways that it actually differed from the original while still 'fitting' into the familiar narrative.

I can't say I have many criticisms of the book, although if there was a slight downside for me it would be how obvious the twist at the end was - I might have preferred a little more suspense and surprise from that side of the story, although it wasn't enough to detract from my overall enjoyment of the book.

As I said above, I've just finished reading the second book in the series, Scarlet and I should get around to reviewing that here soon - and I also look forward to reading the rest of the series when I get the chance/they're available on Overdrive!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Jane Steele - Lyndsay Faye // Book Review

Like the heroine of the novel she adores, Jane Steele suffers cruelly at the hands of her aunt and schoolmaster. And like Jane Eyre, they call her wicked - but in her case, she fears the accusation is true. When she flees, she leaves behind the corpses of her tormentors.

A fugitive navigating London's underbelly, Jane rights wrongs on behalf of the have-nots whilst avoiding the noose. Until an advertisement catches her eye. Her aunt has died and the new master at Highgate House, Mr Thornfield, seeks a governess. Anxious to know if she is Highgate's true heir, Jane takes the position and is soon caught up in the household's strange spell. When she falls in love with the mysterious Charles Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him - body, soul and secrets - and what if he discovers her murderous past?

Goodreads | Jane Steele - Lyndsay Faye

It's time to catch up on unwritten book reviews from the last couple of months, and what better place to start than with one of the most entertaining books I've read - Lyndsay Faye's retelling (of a sort) of the classic novel, Jane Eyre. In Faye's novel, we meet instead Jane Steele; in many ways a similar young woman to Jane Eyre, but with a more murderous twist.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

August TBR

Now that I've (almost) completely moved into my flat, it's time to get back into blogging and talking about books - and what better place to start than with a TBR for the month ahead!

I feel like the list/pile of books I want to read next is out of control - I've already counted at least 30 unread books after unpacking and shelving them, and that's not including ebooks... whoops - so hopefully giving myself a sense of structure and some goals will help me get through it all!

The Woman Warrior - Maxine Hong Kingston
This is August's Feminist Orchestra read, so I'm hoping to get around to re-reading it at some point this month. I read it once while I was at university, and although I wasn't a huge fan at the time, I think I might appreciate it more now that it's outside of the stress of studying.

Devil Take the Hindmost - Martin Cathcart Froden
I got a copy of this for review a little while ago now, and have yet to get around to it - but I keep seeing people talking about it, and I've noticed that it's also been nominated for the Edinburgh Book Festival's First Book Award. I don't remember what drew me to it, or what it's really about, but I suppose I'll find out!

The Girls - Emma Cline
I picked up a copy of this recently after seeing a lot of positivity about it. As far as I can see, this follows the story of a teenage girl who is drawn into a cult in late 60s California. I'm excited to read it and see if it lives up to its reputation!

My Name is Lucy Barton - Elizabeth Strout
I've wanted to read this for a while, although I can no longer remember who I saw praising it. I bought a copy about a week before it was announced as part of the Man Booker 2016 longlist, which has only spurred me on even more to read it as soon as possible! The story follows the eponymous Lucy, who is visited by the mother she hasn't spoken to in years while recovering in hospital.

I'm going to leave the list there for now, although I do hope to get more read than this by the end of the month (and I've already read a book and a half so far!). Stay tuned for a few reviews or general blog posts on what I've been reading since May, too...