Some thoughts on book recommendations

I don’t have a review today.  The reason for this is that I am reading my massive ‘Collected Tales of H.P Lovecraft’, which is over 1000 pages and I am also reading ‘The Beauty Myth’ by Naomi Wolf.  ‘The Beauty Myth’, in particular is going to be quite a big post, it has given me a lot to think about and has also lead to the discovery of a lot of opinions, so I want to take my time on that one and do it justice.  In the meantime, I have a couple of thoughts on book recommendations that I wanted to share.

I was recently out having a coffee with a friend of mine and she had recently finished ‘The Girl with all the Gifts’, which I had recommended to her ages ago. As an aside you should totally read that book, it is wonderful, thought-provoking, beautiful, with one of the most perfect endings I have ever read in my life. She said that she loved it, that she couldn’t put it down and that I always make really good recommendations.

I have another friend who I recently recommended ‘Name of the Wind’ to, similarly, she is loving it and I believe is onto the next book in the series and is in love with Kvothe (let’s face it, who isn’t?), and was a bit depressed when she recalled that I told her the third book isn’t out yet and likely won’t be for a while.

So, I do a good recommendation on a personal level and I can generally tell what kind of books people will like and as I read all genres, I generally have a pretty good level of book knowledge. Not great, but pretty good. Which leads me to my issue, on this blog I review pretty much every book that I read – or at least I try to as it is one of my aims for the following year,  I am aiming to do one blog post a week, posted on a Sunday at 6pm – but I don’t think it gives a really good sense of what books I particularly enjoyed or would recommend. So I am currently trying to work out how to improve on this.  In addition, there are some books which I have read in the past and loved but have never done a blog post on them.  Things like ‘Anne of Green Gables’, and that whole series.  I think it is one of those books that you read as a child and loved and therefore it always sticks with you.  I only read the full series 3 years ago, as as a child/teen I had only ever had copies of ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and ‘Anne of Avonlea’, and it was so wonderful to finally finish the whole series, but it didn’t really feel appropriate for a blog post.  In the same way I recently read ‘Are you there God, it’s me, Margaret’ by Judy Blume for the first time.  I didn’t enjoy it, I am too old, but I know that it is one of those books that is adored by a huge readership, so I didn’t want to do a blog post on it as it wouldn’t have added anything as a whole.

However books like this I would like to feature in some way, so what I am thinking I will do is edit the layout of the blog, which should be an interesting learning curve for me, and have a separate page with specific features on these books where people can click and read if they are interested.

I would also like to add a page where I list all the books I have reviewed and do a “If you likes this, try this”, type situation.  However, that is in the long term plans.  In the meantime, if any of you reading have any suggestions for improvement, please let me know and I will see if I can use it.

Also, I just want to say a quick thank you to all my subscribers and everyone that is reading this, you have stuck with me through my horrible, infrequent posting, my writing (which is hopefully getting better) and while I try a number of new things to try to get this blog somewhere that I am happy with.  Next week I will be back with another review, hopefully on ‘The Beauty Myth’, and it will be a belter!

Thanks

Amy

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Red Seas Under Red Skies – Scott Lynch

Red Seas

This is the second book in Scott Lynch’s ‘Gentleman Bastards’ series and it is incredible.

It is the kind of fantasy I adore and get sucked into way too easily. Also, have a literary crush on Locke Lamora, because of course.

I have read a few reviews that felt this book wasn’t as good as the first one and I would have to disagree, it is certainly different but only because Jean and Locke have lost some of their light-heartedness due to the events in the preceding book. If anything, Locke’s scheme in this book is far more intricate and complicated than the first and the layers upon layers astounded me, it would be so easy to get lost but I never did. How Lynch even began to come up with such a scheme is beyond me – I didn’t even bother to try work out where Locke was going with this scheme, however, as with all great puzzles, the solution was wonderfully elegant.

It was beautifully written too, the descriptions are so vivid and littered throughout and yet it never feels like too much. However, there is one criticism that I have and that is towards the final third of the book. There is a scene where Locke and Jean persuade Captain Drakasha to allow them to come ashore with her and it seemed out of character to me, why, when she has already picked the crew to come ashore (who, prior to this point had never been mentioned), would she allow Locke and Jean to come along with her, and then for them to be allowed play such a large part in the following action? In addition, during this scene, Locke and Jean get a running commentary from the crew around them which also seemed out of place. I appreciate that it was being used to drive the plot forward – and probably saved a lot of tedious, round about narrative of Locke and Jean trying to get the relevant information other ways, but I found it a bit jarring. Yet this part comprised a very small part of the book and did not detract at all from my overall enjoyment. Indeed, the book quite quickly returns to what I felt were far more believable actions on the part of the characters in question.

Finally, the ending was perfect and left me with just the right amount of anticipation (and desperation) to get started on the next book in the series.

Autumn in Carthage – Christopher Zenos

Autumn

This book was terrible, so terrible I couldn’t even finish it.  Normally when a book is terrible I finish reading it anyway because I grudge paying for a book I don’t read, however, this one was a deal through BookBub and therefore I only paid 99p for it.

First off, the prose is terrible and the book makes excuses for itself even before it has really begun. it was as though the author was saying “Sorry, I know this plot is ridiculous and over the top, so let’s just go for it”.  I don’t know how many times I rolled my eyes at the dialogue and the plot itself took ages to go anywhere.  I managed to get  19% of the way in and I couldn’t even continue.  There were consistent, regular hints dropped about where the story was going – to the extent that I am pretty sure I know what the ending will be – however, real information was never given, there was never any moment of realisation or explanation which resulted in it being frustrating as well as obvious.

The casual sexism also frustrated me, the men were all presented as complex actual human beings in comparison to the women whom are described primarily by their features.

The book itself, and indeed the main character comes across as very biographical, this is fine everything has to come from somewhere after all, however, the author seems to spend a lot of time explaining why the main character is such a good person and so misunderstood. This shouldn’t need to be explained, it should be self evident. Also, when a character is too good, in my opinion, it can make them a bit boring.  What is interesting about people, and therefore characters is their flaws, explore them, utilise them, do something with them, just don’t make the character boring.

As an aside, despite the author’s protestations, I just wound up getting the impression that the main character is a complete and utter arse. Avoid at all costs, this was terrible. (Disclaimer: As noted above I didn’t finish this book, so potentially, the book may have gotten better and surprised me).

The Slow Regard of Silent Things – Patrick Rothfuss

Slow Regard

Honestly, I think this book is wonderful. I was nervous about reading it because of Patrick Rothfuss’ introduction and that it would detract or lesson The King Killer Chronicles story arc. I had nothing to be afraid of.

I have mentioned before that I have the commute from hell and quite often I am tired and upset from work. To lessen the stress that this causes I aim to use the commute as free time and books like this are when I am glad I have a journey of two hours each way. I use this time for reading and listening to podcasts – I would recommend listening to the ‘Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy’ interview with Patrick Rothfuss, it was excellent and a wonderful addition to my commute.

Anyway, I am a bit irritated at myself for having left it so long to write this review, I finished the book a while ago and am now struggling to recall all of my thoughts on it, however, I have some notes to remind me.

First of all, so many lines in this novella feel infused with meaning, I found myself reading the same line over and over to ensure I hadn’t missed anything, that I hadn’t missed some clue as to the nature of the story, to ensure that there isn’t some other meaning which I am missing and thus will render me unable to follow the plot. In other words, typically beautiful Rothfuss writing which makes me despair at my terrible, terrible efforts.

Auri is a wonderful character, so childlike but with a sense of adult knowledge hard won. However she still remains a mystery, there are very few clues to her background and how she ended up in the Underthing; however, it was wonderful to discover and explore more of the Underthing with her. I found myself constantly striving to understand Auri, trying to follow the way her mind runs, the way she makes connections and even though she can seem so foreign I found parts of myself reflected in her. I also at one point tried to find myself trying to diagnose her (because I am such an expert in that field), before realising she is who she is and is nothing more or less than the sum of her parts.

Also, I spent a lot of time wondering if Rothfuss was just making up words, so I used my handy in-built dictionary to check words such as: Frangible, Apetalous, Coruscant, Incarnadine – fun fact, all real words, also I am an idiot.

I mentioned above that I worried that this book would ruin some of Kvothe’s arc, however, what it succeeds in doing is adding more depth to the world that Rothfuss has created. For example, there is a scene in ‘Name of the Wind’, I think, where Kvothe and Elodin are discussing Auri, and Elodin expresses frustration that she won’t take clothes from him. At this point Kvothe explains that she refuses to take second hand clothes. Auri’s reasoning for this is explained in a beautiful and subtle way and leads you to the realisation that Auri will never take a thing that has not been given freely, a thing that was never meant to be hers.

The ending, when it came, was so sudden that initially it seemed unfinished, however, when meditating on it further I discovered how perfect it was, it left a sense of anticipation and couldn’t have been ended any other way.

Rothfuss includes an author’s note at the end about the book, about how it came to be and the initial feedback he received, a friend said “I don’t know what other people will think. They probably won’t like it. But I really enjoyed it”. This, far more succinctly than I could ever put it, sums up how I felt overall about the book. He also makes the statement that “I’ve had person after person tell me that they empathise with Auri. That they know where she is coming from.” That sentence right there, it made me feel like I was part of some unknown, unnamed club, and made me a feel a part of the story. The further I got into the author note, the more I nodded, the thoughts and sentiments expressed I had experienced throughout my reading.

Overall, a solid 5 out of 5 for me! Also, probably a re-reading at some point in the near future.