Wednesday, 26 October 2016

His Bloody Project - Graham MacRae Burnet // Book Review

Second up for me from the Man Booker shortlist, His Bloody Project was intriguing to me more from the background of its publication than the plot of the novel itself. The author was a previous winner of the Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award, and the publisher of this novel is an independent Scottish publishing house. It was these things that intrigued me most about it, with the premise and story not really making any huge difference to my opinion or my interest.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Hot Milk - Deborah Levy // Book Review

Last year's attempt at reading the Man Booker shortlist was a bit of a disaster (I still haven't read A Brief History of Seven Killings despite this being the winner) but, in spite of that, I'm trying again this year - so far I've read two of six and hope to get at least two more down before the winner is announced. Although I'm disappointed that Strout didn't make the shortlist - I adored My Name is Lucy Barton - I was quite pleased to see that most of the books that did make it were ones I'd decided to read. First up on the list, as the title indicates, was Levy's Hot Milk.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Ash - Malinda Lo // Book Review

In the wake of her father's death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash's capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.

In what should now be a fairly unsurprising turn of events - I've read another fairy tale retelling (and another Cinderella one at that!). I don't think I'll ever get bored of books that take inspiration from fairy tales, be it a very loose take on the commonly known tales or a more obvious one. I love fairy tales, so in general I'm always going to like something that can be connected to one - although I do really want to start reading more about the history of fairy tales and to discover new tales as well, instead of just reading modern adaptions.

As for this particular adaption/retelling - one of the most interesting things about Lo's work is where it strays away from the well known Cinderella tale. While many of the fundamental elements are the same - orphaned girl, trapped in servitude to her cruel stepmother and two stepsisters - unlike Meyer's Cinder, this novel pulls away from the traditional Cinderella character falling in love with the handsome prince at the ball, and instead has our lead - Aisling, or Ash for short - caught between mysterious and slightly omnipresent fairy Sidhean, and the charming King's Huntress, Kaisa.

It was a slow start to read this, and for me not really exciting or compelling enough to merit such a slow move into the main, more recognisable, Cinderella story. Even as things got closer to the end, I didn't feel especially connected to any of the characters and although I was pleased by the ending, and generally enjoyed reading the book, it just didn't quite hit the emotional connection that I would have liked in a book of this kind.

The novel was, however, quite a beautiful read. At times its more languorous language and mood was pleasant and relaxing to read, but at times it wasn't quite enough for me; I wanted there to be a bit more conflict and a bit more tension. A lot of this is probably because, for the most part, that's my taste - but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy a slow paced, poetic book when it's done right. This book, while getting fairly close, just doesn't quite hit my personal mark for the slow paced novel. I need to either connect strongly with characters, which I didn't find happening for me, or I need to be gripped by the ideas or the world that come out of it, which didn't quite happen either.

Overall, it was an enjoyable book, but just lacking in anything to make me really fall in love with it.