Review: Cinder – Marissa Meyer

Cinder

This book was un-put-downable! That’s the only way I can describe it. I read it in less than 24 hours (started it Saturday afternoon and finished it in bed Sunday morning) and it was great.

I went in to it with a bit of trepidation, as I always do with books that are highly recommended by friends and the online community. I’d seen this everywhere and, out of curiosity mainly, I did eventually succumb to buying the eBook. I don’t regret it.

If anyone doesn’t know what Cinder is about, it is a futuristic retelling of Cinderella. It doesn’t follow the original story word for word, it only loosely uses the plot of the story we’re all familiar with, actually. It follows Cinder – part human, part cyborg – and she is awesome. It’s the only way to describe her. Our underdog protagonist has a lot of trials to overcome in this novel. There is so much going on in this book, there is a plague, a lost princess and an evil queen from the moon on top of the things that we’re all familiar with from Cinderella – evil step-mother, a ball and a prince. I mean, that gives it no justice and sounds absolutely crazy but it’s a fair summary!

While this was perfectly fun and readable, it wasn’t mindblowing. It was good but it was predictable (I mean, even with the twists and turns and deviations from the original story, it was bound to be predictable). The characters were good, the story was good, I loved the twist in the tale, it was engaging – I read what is a 400 page book in only a few hours – but it just didn’t resonate with me how it seems to have with others! I’ll continue reading the series because I’d like to see where it goes, but it’s not top of my list.

Overall, this gets a 3/5.

Oops I Did It Again… || Book Haul VI

2015-05-23 17.09.38I really cannot wait for this crazy exam period to be over because I’ll no longer feel the compulsive need to buy books in order to relax. I don’t understand why I do it. Maybe it’s simply that books make me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside and that, in turn, releases endorphins. I don’t know. All I do know is I have bought too many books again this month. Though, they’re all books that I’ve been wanting to buy and, in fairness, a lot of them were bought with points/credit in various places so… not quite so much money spent!

These books are pretty varied, from impulse buys to those that I bought after a lot of debate. Some I have already read in the past but didn’t own a copy of.

I bought a number of classics as I really want to get a lot of them read over the Summer. Also, Penguin English Library editions are a great way to boost a buy up in price over the £10 limit that generally gets a stamp on a card in most bookshops! Then there’s also a bit of non-fiction there, I want to also read a fair bit of that over the Summer to keep my mind active! Anyway, on with the books themselves because that’s the important part.

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Review: The Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro

BuriedGiantThis was a book I was highly anticipating this year but, as someone who is a complete fusspot when it comes to matching covers on books I was naturally going to wait for a paperback copy. However, Tracy – the lovely woman who runs my favourite bookshop – let me borrow her ARC of it so I could finally read it. I’ve only ever read Never Let Me Go and that was a few years ago now, so I can’t exactly call myself an Ishiguro expert.

Set in 6th Century Britain after the death of King Arthur, in a country divided between Britons and Saxons, The Buried Giant follows an elderly couple who set out from their village to find their son. However, there is a mist that is covering the land; making memories hazy and reducing everyone’s perception. This is a very clever tool, it adds an air of intrigue and mystery to the novel but is also frustrating because everyone is an unreliable narrator or character. You can’t really believe anyone’s story!

Initially I loved this book, I did go in to it with some trepidation as I know a lot of people have said it was a little disappointing. It was great, it was very fairy-tale or fable, it was full of intrigue and fantasy; it really got me wanting to actually read some epic fantasy. Then I hit about 40% of the way through, pretty much at the start of Part II and I slowed. It started to lose my interest. This is really the point at which it switched from Axl and Beatrice in to the secondary characters points of view and… I really wasn’t interested in it. All I wanted to do is finish it because I wanted to know what was the actual point of it all?! The introduction of Sir Gawain was where, I feel, it started to lose it’s charm a bit.

This book had a charm about it, it was great in places but… it just didn’t resonate with me on the whole. It was good, the themes were good but I just found it somewhat cumbersome and clunky at times. Also, I hate books that just stop. I was just getting invested in it again and it just stops. It was necessary I think, but it still felt a bit dissatisfying.

It was by no means an awful book, it was just not as a whole as good as the first 90 or so pages were! This was a hard one to get through, but I think it is one that I will purchase myself when it is in paperback and reread as I feel maybe it would benefit from that. It has me thinking and I feel that maybe it’s one that I will have kinder thoughts of in hindsight! Right now, it’s a 3/5 but that is likely to change at some point.

Review: The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood

yearofthefloodHoly mother. I hate to post reviews on top of each other like this – within 24 hours of each other – but this book. THIS BOOK. I just had to. I’m sorry!

I loved this so much more than Oryx and Crake. I read the first in this series in December and, while I enjoyed it, I struggled to get through it at times. This I was sucked in from the outset as, while Oryx wasn’t at the forefront of my mind as I initially went in to it, it made me love the first part of this trilogy more in hindsight. It’s not really a sequel, more of the same event from a different perspective that fills in some of the blanks and I really appreciated that!

The Year of the Flood is more about the ‘everyday’ life in the future that Atwood has created. We follow two women; Toby and Ren. We get their stories, both before and after “The Flood”. We explore the cultish movement of “The Gardeners” and how they met as characters, how they developed over the years with The Gardeners. I found this absolutely fascinating, I can’t lie. I loved the exploration of what is essentially a religion based around both Christianity and Veganism at extremes – it was so interesting!

Atwood shaped characters so wonderfully in this book. I’d happily read a book from any of the perspectives of the main body of characters we are introduced to over the course of this novel. Pilar, the beekeeper was the character I really wanted to know more about and didn’t quite get enough of and I’d have loved to have read from her point of view because I think she had a very interesting story to tell! The characters in this were what made me love it all the more, I found them so much more readable than those in Oryx and Crake.

A moment that really made this book all the more fantastic – and how it embellished Oryx and Crake all the more – was when things started to weave together. In Oryx and Crake – Jimmy reads his lovers diary; this isn’t a very big moment, in fact it’s quite a small moment that’s very much a non-event which was only triggered in my memory by the fact that it is told from Ren’s perspective in The Year of the Flood. It becomes a lot more personal, it’s Ren’s diary he is reading and now she isn’t just some girl, she’s a fully fleshed out character that we’ve got the story of. That was actually a moment where I sat back and went “woah!”

A lot of people said this was a step down from Oryx and Crake but I disagree. I found this more compelling to read and, also, I found that it made Oryx and Crake more enjoyable in hindsight having had some additional information from this. Though this could be read as a standalone, reading it after Oryx and Crake will probably mean you get the most out of it as a reader.

I’m apparently having a very good month because I’m giving this a 5/5 too. Damn I can’t wait to read MaddAddam!

Review: Frenchman’s Creek – Daphne du Maurier

frenchmanscreekSo this month saw me pick up another du Maurier novel. I’ve had a couple of months off from reading du Maurier but I felt the urge to be back in Cornwall and she is, obviously, the Queen of Cornish Literature. And also, this book contains pirates. That did pretty much sell it to me.

The story follows Dona, a London socialite who is fed up of her lifestyle in the City and moves down to Cornwall – away from her husband – to start afresh. Soon after her arrival in this sleepy Cornish coastal village, she learns that it is plagued by pirates – one Frenchman in particular. Naturally, this appeals at first to her sense of adventure. Their paths do of course cross and what goes on from there you can only imagine.

This was a slow start. I honestly thought I was going to have to admit defeat and call it a day with this very early on because I just wasn’t feeling it. I only persevered because, well, it’s du Maurier and I will always try with her novels because even if the plot lacks, the prose is beautiful and sometimes that makes up for it. For me, this picked up at around the 50 page mark, though it wasn’t un-put-down-able it was perfectly readable and I did enjoy it for the most part from there on out. I snuggled up and read the majority of what was remaining in only a couple of sittings.

Daphne du Maurier is a literary genius. I say it every time. How she captures atmosphere and how she just makes me lose myself in a book is incredible. Those questions in which you’re asked “who would you have at a dinner table?” I would pick her in a heartbeat.

“And all this, she thought, is only momentary, is only a fragment in time that will never come again, for yesterday already belongs to the past and is ours no longer, and tomorrow is an unknown thing that may be hostile. This is our day, our moment, the sun belongs to us, and the wind, and the sea, and the men for’ard there singing on the deck. This day is forever a day to be held and cherished, because in it we shall have lived, and loved, and nothing else matters but that in this world of our own making to which we have escaped.”

Once again, it’s a 4/5 for du Maurier. This book, while a bit of a struggle for me to get on with, was wonderful.

Review: Matilda – Roald Dahl

matildaThis was one of my favourite books as a child and today I was feeling nostalgic so revisited it. A cold, stormy afternoon is the perfect excuse to revisit a beloved childhood book.

In the end, though I own the 25th Anniversary Edition (which is beautiful and unread), I listened to the audiobook and it just made it so much better for me! Kate Winslet read this beautifully, it has to be said. She breathed a new life in to it that I haven’t felt from the book since I was a child myself, however much I have revisited it over the years.

I still love this book. I will always love this book I think. Matilda is precocious; she reminds me of me when I was little! Maybe not to the extent I read Dickens at the age of 3 or 4, but I’ve always identified with her in some way. She is absoluely unbelievable, that much is given and it’s only more obvious now I’m older, but she is still charming. Her positivity, and all round optimism, is infectious. The Trunchbull is still one of my all time favourite ‘villains’ – up there next to Delores Umbridge!

If anyone doesn’t know the story of Matilda, it follows the story of an unusually bright girl who has very unsupportive parents. She learns to read, write and do mathematics herself at a very young age with the help of a lovely librarian. The first half of the book follows her home life, the second half is her story when she starts school and we follow her as her life changes upon the introduction of (a not so formal) education. Oh, with a little bit of magic…

This was the first “chapter” book I read as a child; I still love it as much now. Though, as I said, the audiobook in which Kate Winslet reads it, has injected fresh life in to it for me and reignited the love I had for it as a 7 or 8 year old when I first read it. So this time, 5/5

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

OceanAtTheEndOfTheLaneSo far in my life, I’ve read The Graveyard BookAmerican Gods and Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman and I’ve never really got the hype. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a great author (and screenwriter, The Doctor’s Wife is one of my favourite episodes of Doctor Who) but I’ve never really loved his books like others seem to. This book made me understand that hype that he is surrounded by. This book was magical.

I decided to listen to this as an audiobook and I don’t regret it. I really have trouble with audiobooks. I generally when reading need to invest everything in to the book, I struggle to then focus on anything else. But Neil actually narrated this himself and I couldn’t say no, really! So I settled down on Saturday afternoon and listened to this for nearly 4 hours while colouring and… I just loved it!

Essentially, this book is about a man who returns to the village where he grew up; triggering memories from when he was 7. We then get taken back to when he was 7 and, for the majority of the book, spend time in his mind when a big event happened in his life and everything comes down to the house at the end of the lane. As the story progresses there are a number of other peculiar events, including us meeting Lettie Hempstock and her family who seem almost magical. This book was magical.

This story is wonderful. Really. Having it read by the author is so much more engaging because it is read how it was intended to be and I really like that! The descriptive nature of his writing is brilliant, the characters are expertly crafted. I cannot explain how much I loved Lettie and her family! While it is short, it really packs a punch! It’s a really rich, expertly written book and I just loved it.

I’m still not entirely convinced by an audiobook, I did find it hard to pay attention at times but I think once in a while I may listen to one, especially now I’ve found a love of colouring! Gaiman reads this expertly, obviously, so I may well check out more of his books as audiobooks because I find his voice really good to listen to.

Ultimately, this is a 5/5 from me. I loved it!

Review: Faery Tales – Carol Ann Duffy

FaeryTalesI loved this collection. I absolutely adored it actually. I am so glad I picked this up to read during the bulk of my exams because it was just so beautiful to read a couple of stories before curling up to sleep!

I initially picked this book up a few months ago, simply because I loved the cover. I don’t often do that, especially when it’s a £20 book but this was so worth it. If you haven’t seen the book in person, you really ought to check out out because it genuinely is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever had the pleasure of looking at.

Anyway, the stories in this book are very short, and the font is relatively big and it is just a pleasure to read. Duffy is a master of language; the adaptations of well known fairy tales mixed in with new stories of her own creation leads to a wonderful collection that is perfect for the slightly childish grownups among us.

The original fairy tales (Anderssen and Grimm’s) were quite dark, most people are aware of the fact that Cinderella was not nearly as pretty as Disney painted it. Duffy does echo the format of these traditional tales; there is violence, questionable morals, things are black and white, good or bad – there is no in-between or shades of grey. There are also beautiful, black and white, illustrations which are so intricate… gah. I cannot express how much I loved the publishing of this book.

It wasn’t perfect, there were a few stories that were 3/5, some that were 5/5 so ultimately for me this is a 4/5.

Review: Agnes Grey – Anne Brontë

agnesgreyAgnes Grey was Anne Brontë’s first novel. It is somewhat autobiographical in that it does mirror Anne’s life quite significantly. It is by no means long, it is definitely the shortest of the Brontë novels I’ve read at just over 250 pages (the first 50 or so of which are actually an introduction to Anne and her life).

Agnes is 18 when she goes off to be a governess – it’s a Brontë novel, of course there’s a governess – as she wishes to prove herself to her family, showing them she’s not a helpless child that they all see her as. The first family, the Bloomfield’s, are ghastly; the eldest son is one of the most infuriating, awful children I’ve ever had the misfortune to read, and his sisters are not much better. Between them, they get Agnes in as much trouble as possible. Not deterred, she moves on from this position to the Murray family, some 70 miles from home, filled with renewed hope. It’s not a long story, but it is definitely a lovely read.

Agnes is naive and a little too perfect at times. Don’t get me wrong, she is a wonderful heroine who does develop over the course of the novel but she is sometimes just a little bit too sweet; I’d like more of the sassy Agnes we get occasionally! The narrative of this novel is delicate, Anne is just a wonderful author and I really wish she had written more.

If you want drama on the scale of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights then go for Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall because Agnes Grey is a much gentler read, it isn’t very dramatic, it’s a much cozier read when compared to her sisters’ works. It took me longer to read this than I had hoped, simply because of exams, but I would have happily have read this in an afternoon had I have had the time! I’m very happy to give this a 4/5 and I think it’s gone to my list of comfort reads, this is one I’d very much like to reread in future.

#JusticeForAnneBrontë

Blog: On Libraries and My Book Buying Addiction

There has recently been discussion in the bookish community online about libraries and their place in the modern society. There was a video by Ariel and then a video response from Leena. I was inspired to make a post because Blaise over at The Book Boulevard did and I’m a big fat copy-cat. So this is going to be my contribution to the discussion, which is going to include my use of libraries and also how book buying and ownership has become a big thing for me. It wasn’t intending to go down that route but it sort of veered that way naturally.

So, without further ado…

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