Thursday, 31 December 2015

Read Harder 2015 - Fail!

Well, I have updated my original post here to show what I did and didn't manage to do this year.  Whilst I didn't achieve everything I was aiming for, it certainly encouraged me to read outside of my comfort zone and read things that I wouldn't normally have picked up so I have to thank the challenge for that.

In fact, I will probably try this again next year as even though I didn't complete every single point it still made me more aware of what I was reading which can only be a good thing?!

Here's to plenty more reading in 2016!

Review: Lord of the Silver Bow

Lord of the Silver Bow Lord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've had this sat on my kindle for quite some time, waiting for that perfect moment to be able to settle down and enjoy a good slice of ancient historical fiction and finally that perfect time came! But disappointingly the book didn't quite deliver. To me this was very much a book of two halves - the first half, whilst I appreciate was setting the story and introducing the characters, felt plodding and drawn out. However, the second half where we finally reach Troy seemed to pick up the pace and was a lot more enjoyable and I felt more on familiar ground with characters being introduced that I was already aware of from other stories of the Trojan Wars. Because of my love of ancient history, I will be continuing with this series as I have heard a lot of good things over the years about David Gemmell's writing and won't let this first foray put me off.

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Friday, 25 December 2015

My Xmas Pop! Collection

Rocket has Groot, Sally has her Jack, but poor Thor is all on his own...

Monday, 21 December 2015

Review: Holiday in Death

Holiday in Death Holiday in Death by J.D. Robb
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Got to this book in the series at the right time of year (purely by accident!) as this is set around the Christmas period with a serial killer that dresses up as Father Christmas. Alongside this we have Eve trying to figure out what to by those people who have become part of her life over the past year since marrying Roarke, and decide what exactly to get the man who has literally everything. This one has another great mystery story arc, with a pair of creepily close twins who run a dating agency together, but I did feel that the character of Eve had become a bit of a parody of itself with Eve's grumblings and tough attitude almost magnified to comic proportions. Still, there were some nice dynamics in her relationship with Roarke and it was good to see more character development of Peabody and some of the other supporting characters.

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Friday, 4 September 2015

Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman! by Richard Feynman

It's really really hard to rate a book when its a memoir (or collection of transcribed conversations/lectures in this case) as it is someone telling you about their life, and who are we to say whether we enjoy reading about someone else's stories or not?!! Its a weird thing to do, in my opinion.  But hey ho, this was a fascinating insight into a brilliant man who had an incredible thirst for knowledge, passion for learning and curiosity about the world around him.  I love to watch videos of Richard Feynman talking as his sheer joy in explaining things is contagious, even when he is explaining why he can't explain something to you (see here for an example). I actually alternated between the audiobook of this and a physical copy and thought that the narrator of the audiobook did a fantastic job in mimicking Richard's vocal mannerisms, and just think it is a shame that he couldn't have told the stories himself.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Giovanni's Room

One of those few rare books that gave me lots of feels, this was beautifully written and heartwrenching to read. This is the story of a man unable to come to terms with his sexuality and then finding someone with whom he has a true connection but letting his own deep set prejudices plus the stigma of the times cloud his feelings.  I cannot begin to think about how this must be for someone, bearing in mind this is set in the 1950's where society wasn't quite as accepting as it is now (in most places anyway). 

Absorbing and beautiful.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

For me, this would fall somewhere between 3 and 4 stars - it was an excellent story with good plot twists and great relationships, particularly between our heroine Agnieszka and her best friend Kasia, but some points were a little *too* convenient. For example, Agnieszka discovers that she has a latent magical ability that develops, but the rate of which this happens is a little too unbelievable, one minute she is fluffing spells left right and centre, next she is summoning great illusions and casting spells that haven't been cast for hundreds of years!  The other part of the novel that felt a little odd for me, and i never thought that I would find myself writing this, was the sex scene...yes yes, that's right, I thought the sex scene was not in keeping with the rest of the story and was unnecessary! It kinda came from out of the blue (so to speak) and didn't really have much bearing on anything else in the story to be honest.  The rest of the book read like a grown up fairytale which would have worked perfectly well without the scene in question.  Still, it was a great read however I read it in fits and starts (as I have been having staying awake for more than 10 minutes at a time whilst reading recently) and I really would have benefited from reading it in bigger chunks to appreciate it more fully.  Plus the main baddy is great and would happily read a stand alone about them alone!

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Still Here!


Sorry for being so pants and not updating for a little while, been a little busy at work, life etc. and generally been rubbish at doing things like updating blogs!

I'm still reading as much as I can, and have updated my Read Harder list as appropriate, although I have read lots more that don't fit into those categories.  Still, it gives me some challenges to complete before the year is out.

I will try harder to update more often, but for now I'll leave you with a little music, with Notre Dame...

Friday, 13 March 2015

Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey

Fascinating memoir from a girl who develops a light sensitivity so severe that she is unable to leave a completely blacked whilst being covered layer upon layer of special clothing. Confined to this half-life of darkness she has a trusty radio and audio books for company, plus her boyfriend in whose house she is confined as she would be unable to function on her own some days.  There is an interesting psychological perspective into how she finds ways to survive her situation and to cope with those days where dark thoughts creep in and she has to decide if it is worth carrying on.  There are good times too - we have almost heart wrenching memories of the life before and holidays with her partner, and the small advances that she makes, the joy of being able to stand on her back garden at night to look at the stars.  It also made me stop and think about what I would do if that were to happen to me, how would i cope if things that I loved were suddenly beyond my ability - reading, listening to music, even the internet and gaming. Would I be as strong and resourceful as Anna?

Monday, 9 March 2015

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Aaaaaaand done!  An okay story about Maia, an half elf/half goblin who is the (unwanted) fourth son of the Emperor living on a secluded estate in more or less exile, when an unfortunate 'accident' occurs which kills the Emperor plus other three sons, meaning that Maia is the heir to the throne.  From here on in his life becomes a whirlwind of protocols, servants and adjusting to court life, which was interesting, I liked this part of the story.

But, oh my, the names! So many of them and so complicated they were!  Each person seemed to have a number of names, ranging from titles, to formal, to informal, males and females would share the first part of their names but have a different suffix according to their sex and marriage status.  Plus the place names.....unfortunately I am the kind of reader who likes to be able to pronounce everything in the story so this issue caused a number of stumbling blocks for me.  My only other 'issue' was the inclusion of goblins.  Not that I am at all fantasy racist, just that I had a hard job imaging the goblins as they were represented in this novel, let alone an elf/goblin mixture...I still picture goblins as the things from the Hobbit films, or from the Goblin Banks in Harry Potter... (or David Bowie!) and also elves apparently have very animated it, you'll see!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

Just when I thought that this series couldn't get any better, it goes and knocks me for six!  The brilliantness of Jim Butchers writing makes me wonder if he has all this planned in advance or whether he wings it from book to book (the nerd in me really hopes that he has big charts everywhere with all the story arcs, characters and twists all planned out book by book...) The best book yet, in my humble opinion, we see a more thoughtful and insightful Harry which is kinda understandable given his current predicament.  Picking up from the cliffhanger ending of Changes, we learn what has been going on in Chicago with Murphy, Molly and the gang plus some of the story arcs from previous novels are starting to pull together nicely.  I am left with the impression too that there is still a lot more in store for Harry, i think that there were some interesting points made in Ghost Story that made me look at Harry in a slightly different way, that maybe he is an unwitting bad guy after all if you think about some of the things that he has done?  I have to eke by last couple of Dresden Files out now, as goodness knows when the next will come...

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Not quite the story that I had imagined it to be but was still an interesting tale set during the 17th century Dutch Golden Age, a setting that is so far removed from where I live now.  It was scary to read people's reactions and beliefs at the time and prejudices that were around.  I just wish there was more involvement with the Miniaturist, or maybe that was the whole point of their being, to cause our heroine Nella to think more about the choices she makes in her life.  There were some nice touches to details, such as lack of sanitation, lack of heat and the scandal that could be caused by a woman wandering through the streets of Amsterdam alone.  It was also interesting to read about the different personalities and ambitions of the various female characters, some happy to be wedded and looked after, Nella who was very young and naive and married off by her family to a rich merchant, and some who were more of a force of nature who did not have the desire to be tied to a man but happy to be an independent woman (not an easy task in the 17th century apparently). Plus more reminders that religion can be scary thing...

Friday, 23 January 2015

Changes by Jim Butcher

OH MY GOSH! This instalment of the Dresden Files certainly hits the ground running and the pace never slows down. So many revelations, so many fights and close calls, so many great characters and so many cliffhangers! I don't know if I can bear to not pick the next up straight away, but I have to force myself to eek these out for a bit longer as now I am approaching the current end and am having to face the fact that my Dresden supply isn't endless...

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

I do love a good first contact story, and The Sparrow certainly fulfilled that criteria.  The story was told both in the present and by flashbacks to the events leading up to the present situation, which encouraged an air of building tension as we slowly progress, unraveling the plot and answering questions as to what on earth had happened to the expedition in order for the situation to have reached the point that it is at in present day.

I found that this had a lot of similarities to another favourite of mine, Contact by Carl Sagan – Both involved picking up signals via a radio telescope, both involve mounting an expedition to the new galaxy and both involve first contact.  Also both raise questions of faith, what it means to have faith and to question it in the grand scale of the universe and the discovery of life elsewhere.  Sure I had a few qualms with some of the plot points but these could be easily overlooked.

It was fascinating to watch how our intrepid party coped with such a huge discovery, that we are not alone, and how things unfolded to the point where only one person returned, maimed and damaged. It was hard to imagine what could possibly have happened for things to have ended up the way that they did.  An absorbing read that involved more about the nature of belief rather than it be a book about religion, and I look forward to reading the sequel.

Friday, 16 January 2015

A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn

This is another one where I would love a 'half-star' rating system.  Set in the 1920's Delilah Drummond is an American socialite living it up in Paris when she is embroiled in one scandal too many and exiled by her family to newly colonised Africa.  Here, she is to spend some time away from the headlines until things calm down, but it seems trouble follows Delilah wherever she goes.  Staying light hearted, it briefly touches on the conflicts between the colonists and the natives, the impact upon nature and politics of the time, but mostly the story focuses on delightfully witty and headstrong Delilah who tries her best to make the most of a less than ideal situation.  She is sharp witted, modern and fiercely independent, especially for the period and admits herself that she is broken.  It was refreshing to read a strong female lead who has many layers to her and obviously delighted in her freedom as a woman.  A touch of romance too that I was expecting to have more closure to it, but turned out perfectly in the end.

3/5 stars

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Turn Coat - Jim Butcher

Having had a break from the world of the Dresden Files for a while, I was glad to be back with Harry and Co, as chaotic as it was.  As usual, the story starts with a bang and continues this pace throughout. Poor Harry takes more than his fair share of beatings and punishments whilst trying to prove that Morgan, who has always been a royal pain in Harry’s behind, is innocent of the accusations made against him.  I loved how threads of the storylines from the previous novels were pulled together here, and can’t wait to see what happens next.

4/5 stars

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Read Harder

As you will be able to tell in time, I like to read and seem to be stuck in the realms of fantasy, paranormal and sci-fi.  Whilst I love these genres, I thought that this year might be a good time to start diversifying slightly and came across this year long book challenge set up by the guys over at Book Riot which might just encourage me to step outside of my comfort zone and try some new things.  This is what I hope to achieve this year, aiming for 1 book per task but preliminary planning shows that there will be some cross-overs:

1. A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25 - difficult as as a rule I just pick whatever I fancy next on my Kindle without looking at the age of the writer involved. Didn't manage to do this to the best of my knowledge

2. A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65 - Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman! (yes, I'm including this one for this category as it was published when Richard Feynman was over 65 and technically it is all his own words, just collated by someone else!)

3. A collection of short stories (either by one person or an anthology by many people) - I have a couple of collections on my 'to read' list but didn't get around to actually reading onw

4. A book published by an indie press - Again, something I don't pay attention to, to my shame :(

5. A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ - Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

6. A book by a person whose gender is different from your own - Changes by Jim Butcher

7. A book that takes place in Asia - Kafka on the Shore - Haruki Murakami

8. A book by an author from Africa - Nope

9. A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture (Native Americans, Aboriginals, etc.) - The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

10. A microhistory - Yes, kinda, I mean I read Confessions of a Sociopath and Life Moves Pretty Fast which both should count, I think!

11. A YA novel - Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

12. A sci-fi novel - The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

13. A romance novel - A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn

14. A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade - The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (Specsavers National Book Award Winner Books Are My Bag New Writer of the Year 2014) 

15. A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.) - Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi (Snow White re-telling)

16. An audiobook - How To Be A Woman by Caitlan Moran

17. A collection of poetry -  I dabbled in a few but didn't read one all the way through 

18. A book that someone else has recommended to you - To Kill A Mockingbird - by Harper Lee

19. A book that was originally published in another language - ah yes, The Complete Persepolis i think counts but I included it for point 20 ...

20. A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind (Hi, have you met Panels?) - Persopolis by Marjane Satrapi

21. A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure (Read, and then realize that good entertainment is nothing to feel guilty over) - Quite a few but then realised that nothing should be a 'guilty pleasure' it if is enjoyed!

22. A book published before 1850 - Nope!

23. A book published this year - Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey

24. A self-improvement book (can be traditionally or non-traditionally considered “self-improvement”) - Not really.

and see the original post on Book Riot introducing the challenge here: The Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge

Will update this list as I go and also have a shelf set up over on Goodreads.

New Year, New Blog

Well, here we go, another new year, and a new blog to go along with it!

The main purpose of this will be to share some of my book reviews that are normally posted over on Goodreads, collect favourite quotes, and maybe share the odd photo or two as I also plan to improve my photography skills, having invested in a new camera a few weeks a go.

Thanks for reading, and hope you stick around!

Happy New Year :)