I hope everyone enjoyed last week’s post, (did you enjoy it? Did you get to the end? It is Ok if you didn’t…)
So let’s hop right back on it, short, sweet reviews!
‘The Long View’ – Elizabeth Jane Howard – I love Howard’s books, I especially enjoyed the Cazalet series, it ticked all the boxes for me. This book, I enjoyed, but it wasn’t an easy read. It tells the story of a couple from modern day, going back in time to when they first met. It was heart-breaking, and at times frustrating, but to go back to the beginning and find out why they made the decisions they did, it was an incredible way to tell a story. If you like Howard, this is definitely for you. If not, I would start with the Cazalet series first.
‘You’re Never Weird on the Internet, (Almost) – Felicia Day – Loved this book and couldn’t put it down, it was so funny and truthful, and I loved finding out more about one of my favourite people on the internet. If you are a fan, or even a casual observer of Day, you must read. I loved it, and will probably pick it up again in the future. It is a relatively slim volume, so doesn’t take long to read, and it is incredibly engaging.
‘A Natural History of Dragons’ – Marie Brennan – I adored this book, it was so good that I couldn’t put it down. I only bought it because Amazon kept on heavily suggesting it to me on my Amazon page, so I downloaded a sample, got sucked in really quickly and finished it in no time. I was on holiday in Marrakech at the time, and spent most of my time on the flight reading it, and when we weren’t out exploring, I sat on the roof terrace, drank beer and read this book some more. It is written from the perspective of an elderly, respected naturalist, whose research focus was dragons. It goes back to when she was young, and tells the story of how she came to be where she is, how studying dragons wasn’t considered a serious pursuit, never mind one for a woman, and how she overcame that and became a cultural icon of her time.
‘The Tropic of Serpents’ – Marie Brennan – Yes, there is a second one! It is part of a series. This one I did not enjoy quite as much, and did not get as sucked in, I found it a bit of a slog to get the end, but it was still enjoyable. However, I have not yet read the third book in this series, but it is on my to-read list. Whenever I get around to it. The list just keeps growing!
‘Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell’ – Susanna Clarke – Oh my God, I hated this, I hated every single moment I spent reading it. I read the whole thing, this was for a number of reasons. A few reviews said that the book takes a while to kick off, but once you are in the midst of it, it starts getting really good. This did not happen for me. Another reason was that it was set during the late 18th/early 19th century I think? This is my period, I love this period, but still no. Finally, the TV series was getting really good reviews, so I figured the book must be good. No. Did not enjoy at all, I only finished it, because by the time I realised that it wasn’t getting any better for me, I was more than half way through, and I was determined to get there. Definitely not for everyone, but it has a dedicated fan-base, so if you saw the TV series and enjoyed it, you will probably enjoy the book. I assume, I didn’t see the TV series.
‘Am I Normal Yet’ – Holly Bourne – I loved this, and it was a fantastic light read after the last book I had read (see above). It is about a girl with crippling OCD, and charts her life as she attempts to return to normality after a particularly difficult time. It was a great insightful look into teenage friendships, and, from things I have read, an accurate representation of OCD.
‘Anne of Green Gables’ to ‘House of Dreams’ – L.M. Montgomery – I re-read these books every so often, I find them really comforting, and it is always around autumn that I get this need to read them. I don’t know why. I am also desperate to visit Prince Edward Island so I can swan about and pretend to be Anne. Just adore these.
‘Farseer Trilogy’ – Robin Hobb – I am not going to do individual reviews for each of these, but overall I really enjoyed this series, although I think the second book in the trilogy is the best. The books follow the story of Fitz, a bastard of the reigning king, who then resigns due to his indiscretion. The story then tells of Fitz’s fate, and the actions he has to take to allow the Farseer crown to continue to reign, and prevent the world falling into anarchy. A classic fantasy read, beautiful writing, and if you enjoy this genre, you will definitely enjoy this.
‘A Portable Shelter’ – Kirsty Logan – I wrote a full review of this on Goodreads and here it is, slightly edited, below:
I don’t really feel this review does the book justice, and I imagine that in about an hour’s time I will realise what I should have said, but here it is.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I picked this up. I don’t normally read collections of short stories, but I am so pleased I gave this a go. It is beautifully written, and you get the impression that the author has spent huge amounts of time exploring and trying to find the wonderfully delicate phrasings and imagery present.
The short stories are all linked together by a couple sharing their tales to an as yet unborn child, to try and teach it to be ready, to be prepared for the world waiting and lurking. The stories follow a theme from birth, through life, to death; and some of them have a sense of a story once known and then forgotten.
I found myself lingering over certain sentences, certain truths, and I almost wish I had read it on my Kindle (although I love my beautifully illustrated hardback copy) so I could see who else had highlighted what. I really wanted to highlight and annotate the whole way through, to find all the layers of meaning.
If you are the kind of person who enjoys the familiar with a twist, fairy tales with a dark underside, and carefully crafted writing I would thoroughly recommend this.
‘The Bees’ – Laline Paull – Oh, I did not enjoy this. I picked it up as from the blurb it sounded really interesting, and it had so many good reviews, but honestly, I just found it disappointing. It follows the tale of a bee, and how it fits into the hive’s social structure. This bee, has particular talents, and as such, you get to see more of the hive and how it works, from the perspective of this bee. It had so much potential, but I just found it dull and uninspired. It did, however, encourage me to do more research on bees, hives, and how they work, so that is something at least.
‘My Real Children’ – Jo Walton – The structure of this story is similar to ‘Sliding Doors’, that is one life changed by one key decision, and then the stories tell both parts, and it is for you to decide which was you feel was the better and right path. I cried at the end. It was tragic, and sad, particularly when the woman was old and in a home, and couldn’t quite tell which life was real and which was imagined, or whether she was truly remembering both lives, or flicking between the two. I suspect it isn’t high literature, but I love books like this. I also enjoy Lionel Shriver’s, ‘The Post Birthday World’, which I don’t think got great reviews, but which I really enjoyed reading.
‘The Bone Clocks’ – David Mitchell – I loved this. I had read ‘Cloud Atlas’, and not really enjoyed it (and watched the film, and not really enjoyed it), so I had actually put off reading this book. However, Laurie Penny had read it and raved about it, and she is one of my heroes, so I figured it can’t be all bad. I was at my sister’s on Christmas Eve when I decided to download it, and ended up staying up until about 2am reading it, I got sucked in that quickly. Here is my review from Goodreads:
It is split into sections, told from different perspectives, linearly, over about a century. There are occasional references and discussions about earlier times, but these glide in, and in no way detracts from the main beef of the plot.
Briefly, the story opens with a teen called Holly, whose younger brother disappears, tying her into a larger story involving people who are reborn and those who essentially cannibalise the life source of others in maintain a kind of immortality. The plot makes it sound all high sci-fi when it isn’t. It’s about more than that, it is about people, real life, how we interact and view the world. It tells the individual stories of many people and show how they all form unexpected links, loyalties and understandings. It also shows us a potential future, partly dystopian in nature, but also something that could be quite real.
It was a wonderful book, I did not want to put it down, which was unfortunate given all the celebrations I attended. It was bliss to get a couple of days where I could just demolish it. The prose was magnificent, and the structure was absolutely seamless. Dark humour, real lives, incredible insight. Definitely a must read
So, that is my final review for today, with part 3 to come next Sunday. Hopefully that will then be me up to date, and I can start back on the more detailed reviews of books I have been reading.