Tag Archives: book review

Armada- Ernest Cline


Synopsis

Zack Lightman is a video game addict. He spends hours playing Armada and is one of the top players in the world. Then one day he sees a spaceship outside the window, and the really strange thing? It’s a spaceship he recognises from Armada, is he going crazy, or is it something else?

Review

I read Armada as part of Dewey’s Readathon and it was a pretty perfect choice for a readathon. It was easy to read and engaging, I got to geek out, and I didn’t have to think about it too hard. It took a little time to really get going but once it did I was really hooked and it took me less than a day to read the whole thing.

I had bought Armada as a present for my partner after he loved Ready Player One, and I read it because I loved ‘Ready Player One’ too. The boyfriend described it as reading like a book written on the way to getting to ‘Ready Player One’, very similar in lots of ways, but not quite there yet. I get that completely. It wasn’t quite up to the awesomeness that was ‘Ready Player One’, but it had a lot of the same sort of geeky references which were one of the good things about ‘Ready Player One’.

Armada’s storyline is probably a bit more relatable than ‘Ready Player One’, but it makes it less of a fantasy and less escapist too. It also means that you don’t have quite as strong a feeling towards the characters. And it makes it more predictable, I guessed at least some of the plot beforehand and although I still enjoyed it but I like it when plots keep me guessing.

If you’ve not read any Ernest Cline I would go for ‘Ready Player One’ first, but ‘Armada’ may fill some of the void which was left (or may be a big disappointment if you believe some other reviewers, views are very mixed)

4/5

Buy it:

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Other reviews:

Annette’s Book Spot

Leeswammes’ Blog

Silly Little Mischief

Words for Worms

Book Journey

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction review, Sci-Fi

Yes Means Yes: Nice Guys Finish Last


Recently I have been reading ‘Yes Means Yes‘, a collection of essays which talk about female sexuality and consent and how stereotypical visions of female sexuality contribute to a rape culture. It’s a powerful book. I had planned to get to the end and then talk about it overall as I would do with a book normally, but recently some of the articles have really been getting in my head and I feel like it might be better to write down some thoughts specifically on those articles. I probably won’t do this for every article but it seems like a better way to look at it, and I will do a sort of summery post when I’m completely done.

This is my fifth of these review/thought posts for Yes Means Yes, you can read the rest here:

Touch and Consent / Killing Misogyny / The First Time / Sex Education

Why Nice Guys Finish Last

-Julia Serano

‘Why Nice Guys Finish Last’ is probably the article which will be the most controversial amongst feminists, simply because it suggests that women (or more accurately girls) have an active part to play in destroying rape culture. This is somewhat at odds with the idea that girls shouldn’t act in a certain way to avoid rape, however I can certainly understand her argument.

Serano is transgender so she has the advantage of having seen the issue from a male and a female perspective. She has experienced some of the sexist issues which many women experience, but spent her years at school and college as a man.

Serano’s argument is based around the idea of men as predators and women as prey, she says that because women often act like prey that influences men to act as predators.

Serano particularly focussed on how ‘bad’ guys seemed to attract more women than nice guys (actually nice guys, not the type who act nice until they hear no). She says that this influences nice guys to act like bad guys to attract women, and eventually for them to morph into bad guys, because women ‘like it’.

The whole women ‘like it’ argument comes out a little similar to the ‘she was asking for it’ idea, and that’s more what puts me off this than the actual argument. I’m also unsure that the whole women acting like prey thing is completely true. I know plenty of people who date nice guys, and I can’t think of anyone who says they prefer bad guys (although in a general way I have heard the ‘bad guys are hot’ idea), plus I don’t think many people would stick with a bad guy, they might date them but if they are really bad guys then that’s not something which they would commit to. Even if bad guys get more girls I wouldn’t be surprised if nice guys end up in more committed relationships (although those who are interested just in sex are probably going to be the ones who go for it).

What do you think? Do women act like prey? Does that impact on how they are treated by men? Do nice guys really finish last?

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Filed under essays, Feminism, non-fiction review

Gather the Daughters- Jennie Melamed


Disclaimer: This book was given to me free of charge in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis

A remote community lives on an island, the only place that is safe after a disaster left the rest of the world as a wastelands. Only the wanderers have seen the wastelands, where they go to forage for supplies, and occasionally save survivors.

There are rules to the island. The men lead, it is the women’s job to keep house and birth children, which they start to do on their first ‘Summer of Fruition’.

But one year a girl, who is soon to become a woman, sees something which starts the girls questioning what they had always been told, and that things had to be the way they are.

Review

I really raced through this book, it reads like a pretty standard dystopian YA novel, but it has some really dark subject matters which are hinted at; rape, domestic violence, paedophillia, murder, anorexia, and persecution. The community follows the laws laid down by the ancestors in ‘Our book’, and in this sense and the way that the community was quite basic and old-fashioned made me think of the Amish (although I wouldn’t expect the Amish to have a community who raped their daughters as a ‘normal’ thing).

Looking back it does seem that that Melamed wanted to add as many issues as she possibly could, but at the time of reading I found that I wanted to keep reading to see what would happen next, so I guess that was actually a good thing.

At the beginning I found it a little difficult to define the characters from each other, but as I got to know them better I found them easier to distinguish. I ended up really liking Janey, she was strong, I would call her a role model but I’m not sure she is really a good one, whilst her actions have fairly sound reasoning behind them they aren’t always the best choices, and I can see some parents not wanting their kids to read the books because of it.

Other reviews I’ve read have described ‘Gather the Daughters’ as too depressing. Whilst I don’t think it is too depressing I also would say that if you like to read light and easy books it won’t be for you. Overall though I would recommend it.

4/5

‘Gather the Daughters’ is released on 25/7/17 in hardback and kindle editions and on 5/4/18 in paperback

Pre-order now:

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Other Reviews:

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

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Filed under Dystopian, Fiction review, YA

Yes Means Yes: Sex Education


Warning: This post contains discussion of sexual subjects

Recently I have been reading ‘Yes Means Yes‘, a collection of essays which talk about female sexuality and consent and how stereotypical visions of female sexuality contribute to a rape culture. It’s a powerful book. I had planned to get to the end and then talk about it overall as I would do with a book normally, but recently some of the articles have really been getting in my head and I feel like it might be better to write down some thoughts specifically on those articles. I probably won’t do this for every article but it seems like a better way to look at it, and I will do a sort of summery post when I’m completely done.

This is my fourth of these review/thought posts for Yes Means Yes, you can read the first here,the second here and the third here

Real Sex Education

-Cara Kulwicki

In her article Kulwicki talks of what she thinks is an ideal sex education. She says that yes it should include those things a classic sex ed should include; information about STI/Ds, information about safe sex, birth control and pregnancy; but it should also include topics like consent and what makes a healthy sexual relationship- that is consent and pleasure for both parties. She says it should include different types of sexual intercourse than just standard hetrosexual penis in vagina type sex. It should include gay sex, oral sex, masturbation.

Initially this idea sounds a bit like encouraging sex, but actually when you read more you realise that it doesn’t encourage sex as such but physically and emotionally healthy sex lives. It says you shouldn’t be ashamed of exploring your sexuality and of seeking sexual pleasure. Sex is a way of giving and receiving pleasure as well as a way of connecting with someone else, and as a way of creating life.

It also encourages openly talking about sex, which makes it easier for those participating to talk about what they like and don’t, and makes it easier for questions to be asked. It means people shouldn’t feel ashamed about buying condoms, or asking about sexual health concerns, which will promote better physical sexual health.

Shame of sex only breeds the sort of culture where a raped woman can be blamed for her rape, whilst a boy can be forgiven because his sexual urges got the better of him. Where it is understood that everyone should be enjoying what is happening then the idea that a girl who gives no consent is ‘asking for it’ shows that there is no healthy sexual relationship there. It won’t stop rape, but hopefully changing the culture around sex can make it be less excusable.

Reading this chapter made me think about my own sex ed. at school. I went to an all girl’s catholic school (almost 20 years ago) so my experience of sex ed. is probably particularly bad for the time but I do remember it being more or less non existent. I remember learning the very basics of mechanics in science, which was more conception than sex itself, I remember seeing a diagram of intercourse in the science text book- but I don’t actually remember it being mentioned (almost as if sperm just magically appears in your vagina!).

I also remember a talk about contraception. It was given by an unmarried female RE teacher who had taught my Mum when she (Mum) was a teenager. Let’s just say as a group of teenagers we couldn’t imagine that she had any sexual experience (of course now I know that presumption may well be untrue but it meant that the likelihood of us going to her with questions was next to nothing). In the talk she basically listed the different types of contraception, what they did and didn’t do, and told us that ‘The Catholic way’ was the best (i.e. don’t have sex until you’re married then have lots of babies). I can’t imagine Kulwicki’s ‘Real’ sex education ever going down well in schools like mine, but I do think that it may actually be more important there because the girl’s knowledge came from unreliable sources like magazines, and other teenagers, maybe we got the information, but we didn’t get the emotional education, and if parent’s were ‘ultracatholic’ then they wouldn’t feel comfortable asking their parents either.

What do you think should sex ed be changed this much? Does it encourage sex? If it does is that a bad thing? How does this type of sex ed line up with your own experiences?

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Filed under essays, Feminism, non-fiction review

The Accidental Woman- Jonathan Coe


Synopsis

Maria is a woman who is drifting through life. Things happen to her, but she has little drive in what happens. We follow her life for fifteen years, starting just before she starts university.

 

Review

I found The Accidental Woman a little awkward. It’s Coe’s first novel and bares little resemblance to his others. The style of writing is different, and although it is interesting in its difference it also feels a bit like it was used to spread out a story where nothing much really happens.

Coe himself is the narrator, he tells Maria’s story as an author, referring to himself as such. At times this is somewhat amusing because he suggests that he might know how the reader is feeling, but then proceeds not to follow the thought pattern of the reader. In this way he ends up going off on tangents, saying he will tell us about something, then taking a chapter to talk about something else. It is this that makes it seem like a device to spread out the story, but it also makes the reader feel a little like Maria- powerless.

Maria was unlikeable. She seemed so unconnected to her own life, things happened to her and she just let them happen. She would want things but never go for them. She liked to think of herself as somewhat of a loner, but she had friends who she didn’t make any effort with, or any effort to keep, even when she liked them (which was rare).

At a few points it did seem like there was going to be more of a plot, but those points were never explored (which I suppose is Maria’s way), and that was frustrating as a reader.

If you’ve read other novels by Coe you may like to explore the differences in his style by reading ‘The Accidental Woman’, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as your first Coe- maybe ‘The Rotter’s Club’ instead

2.5/5

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Yes Means Yes: The First Time


Warning: This post contains discussion of sexual subjects

Recently I have been reading ‘Yes Means Yes‘, a collection of essays which talk about female sexuality and consent and how stereotypical visions of female sexuality contribute to a rape culture. It’s a powerful book. I had planned to get to the end and then talk about it overall as I would do with a book normally, but recently some of the articles have really been getting in my head and I feel like it might be better to write down some thoughts specifically on those articles. I probably won’t do this for every article but it seems like a better way to look at it, and I will do a sort of summery post when I’m completely done.

This is my third of these review/though posts for Yes Means Yes, you can read the first here and the second here

An Immodest Proposal

-Heather Corinna

In ‘An Immodest Proposal’ Corinna tells the story of a stereotypical loss of virginity. Two teenagers, a boy and a girl. They have been dating for some time and are becoming gradually more sexually involved. The boy has made it be known that he would like to have sex, but has not been pushy. The girl decides that she is ready and when an appropriate time comes they lose their virginities together. There is some bleeding for her but it is not painful, he orgasms, she doesn’t.

It is what would often be described as a ‘good’ first time for her. She didn’t feel forced or unprepared, he was nice to her and waited for her to be ready.

Initially you think what is the issue here? Then Corinna reveals that this story- a perfectly believable- and for many associatable- story is about the boy. He wants sex, she is merely ready. For her the experience is not unpleasant, but she gets no real pleasure from it. So is it really fair to call it a good first time? Should she not hope for more? The whole way the language is used to describe a first time makes it seem very passive. Maybe she does want sex, maybe she does want it to feel good, but she has been always told that for a girl’s first time to be good she only has to be willing. When you really think about it that isn’t fair. A boy is expected to want sex, she is expected to wait for love, or at least someone special.

On the other hand a first time should maybe not be expected to be actually good. The participants are inexperienced, they might not even fully know what they themselves like, let alone what their partner wants. They know the mechanics, but maybe not specifics. As they do more and see more what they like, and get to find what makes the other person feel good, as they become more confident, thing should (hopefully) get better. The girl may feel she can get more involved, and be a participant, rather than just someone who had something happening to them.

In an ideal world everytime should be good, but it’s a bit far to actually expect every time to be good. I think women should be able to feel that they can seek pleasure (even the first time), and that they can initiate sex, but for them to expect it, maybe not.

What do you think of this? Are women at a disadvantage when it comes to sexual pleasure from the onset?

 

 

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Filed under essays, Feminism, non-fiction review

Yes Means Yes: Killing Misogyny


Trigger Warning: Rape and (sexual and physical) violence

Recently I have been reading ‘Yes Means Yes‘, a collection of essays which talk about female sexuality and consent and how stereotypical visions of female sexuality contribute to a rape culture. It’s a powerful book. I had planned to get to the end and then talk about it overall as I would do with a book normally, but recently some of the articles have really been getting in my head and I feel like it might be better to write down some thoughts specifically on those articles. I probably won’t do this for every article but it seems like a better way to look at it, and I will do a sort of summery post when I’m completely done.

This is my second of these review/though posts for Yes Means Yes, you can read the first here

Killing Misogyny: A Personal Story of Love, Violence, and Strategies for Survival

-Cristina Meztli Tzintzún

Cristina grew up in a family which seemed stuck in a loop of misogyny. Her father cheated repeatedly on her mother, he was violent, on their first date he raped her, not even the first time she had been raped. Her aunt faced a similar fate, beaten by her father for being raped and later forced to marry her rapist.

Cristina vowed to break the chain, she would never let a man treat her as her family members had been treated. She started reading feminist literature, and became a self-proclaimed feminist. In her late teens she even wrote and had published an article about how she planned to break the chain of misogyny.

Then she met Alan. Alan seemed like the perfect man from first glance. He was a male feminist, and would get into discussions about feminism with Cristina. When their relationship became sexual he agreed to get tested for STIs before they had sex for the first time.

But things were not as they seemed. Cristina developed herpes from oral sex. Initially she refused to see Alan, but she believed that he would be the only one to give her attention knowing that she had an STI and she returned to him.

Over the next few years Alan and Cristina had an on again off again relationship. He would cheat on her, or give her and STI and she would leave him, but she couldn’t resist him and kept returning. She even went to a group for women like her, but they didn’t know about feminism and she didn’t feel a connection to them. Alan knew about feminism and she believed that he wanted to change, despite all the evidence to the contrary she thought she could be the one to change him.

Cristina has left Alan now, for good. She helps support women who are in the situation she was in. She says that she needed to experience that misogyny for herself to be able to understand it, to understand those who are trapped by it, and to do her best to defeat it.

That she has turned her life around is a hopeful message. It says you can change your life. You can get yourself out that hole. You might fall, but you can get up again. Or at least that is how it should be.

Somehow I find that hope hard to see. She kept returning, how can she be sure that this is it? Even her mother was disappointed with Cristina for leaving Alan, but she is stuck in the same life herself. I get that she doesn’t want that life for her daughter, but I find it hard to see why she stays. I know there probably is not one simple reason, but it seems to diminish the hope from Cristina’s own escape.

I have said before that I feel I’m privileged when it comes to my experiences as a woman, so maybe this is why I can’t see the hope in this story, because I have never experienced anything close to it (and I am thankful for that)?

 

What do you think? Am I missing the hope in this story? Does it have more power than I realise for the right people?

 

Feel free to comment anonymously on this post. It will go into a moderating queue but am unlikely not to approve it

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Filed under essays, Feminism, non-fiction review

Yes Means Yes: Touch and Consent


Recently I have been reading ‘Yes Means Yes‘, a collection of essays which talk about female sexuality and consent and how stereotypical visions of female sexuality contribute to a rape culture. It’s a powerful book. I had planned to get to the end and then talk about it overall as I would do with a book normally, but recently some of the articles have really been getting in my head and I feel like it might be better to write down some thoughts specifically on those articles. I probably won’t do this for every article but it seems like a better way to look at it, and I will do a sort of summery post when I’m completely done.

Reclaiming Touch: Rape Culture, Explicit Verbal Consent, and Body Sovereignty.

-Hazel/Cedar Troost

Reclaiming Touch is the first article which really got into my head because it made me look at consent in a whole different light, but I’m still debating with myself over it. In the essay Hazel/Cedar Troost talks about the idea of a sort of expanded consent. The idea is that you should seek consent, and be asked for consent for any type of physical contact, be it a simple hug or something that already requires consent.

Initially I did think that the idea was a bit extreme, that was my sort of gut reaction. I couldn’t really imagine the idea of asking my friends if I could hug them, or my partner if I could hold his hand, because it’s just something that we do. I’m a quite physically affectionate person, I probably wouldn’t just go ahead and hug someone I’d never hugged before without asking, but I guess I would presume consent from having done it before.

It came to a point though where I realised that actually some of that sort of talk is used to justify rape where someone has had sex with the rapist before. In those situations we talk of saying yes once as being consent for that one time, we shouldn’t presume that another time the person may not want it.

It could be the same for any sort of physical contact, just because I have hugged my friend in the past it doesn’t mean that they want a hug now, plus there are times when different types of physical contact might not be appropriate.

Another point Troost made is that seeking consent for small things made seeking consent for bigger things easier. It sets a sort of precedent which means that you wouldn’t even think twice to ask about big things, because you ask for everything else. To me this means that teaching people to ask for consent for everything would mean that they grow to respect other boundaries and makes ‘grey’ rape less likely.

Troost also says that this type of consent actually improves a person’s sex life. I don’t know, it somehow to me makes it seem that things would be less spontaneous, and when you know someone well you can probably read the signs that they aren’t into it (or they would tell you). However I can see it being liberating knowing exactly what each other wants, and knowing that you are both getting enjoyment from the situation. It makes sure you are both on the same level.

 

 

What do you think? Is it extreme to seek consent for everything, or does it create a good habit?

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Filed under essays, Feminism, non-fiction review

Do No Harm- Henry Marsh


Synopsis

Henry Marsh is a renowned brain surgeon working in the NHS in the UK. In ‘Do No Harm’ he gives an account of his life as a brain surgeon. He speaks of how the NHS has changed over the years, his victories and his failures, and the effects these things have had on his life.

 

Review

I found out about ‘Do No Harm’ first through Ellie’s blog, and I added it to my wishlist instantly, since that time I heard lots of great things about it, but it was only when it came up on the kindle monthly deals that I actually bought it, in some ways I’m glad I waited, in others I wish I’d gotten to it sooner.

I actually ended up reading it when I was in hospital for my own operation (because apparently I’m insane) I think that I could read about operations at the time without getting freaked out shows just how interested I was. Having said that I wouldn’t say it’s a good book for the faint hearted, there are some rather graphic descriptions of operations- although personally I felt Marsh’s sense of control and anxiety more than I felt squeamish.

You did get a sense of Marsh caring about his patients, he spoke about how he had caused the death, or lack of life, in some patients and how you had to lock that knowledge away because otherwise you would just give up, but that didn’t stop you from feeling guilty. When you do operations which do have such a high level of risk then there are bound to be times that it doesn’t go to plan, and Marsh has probably saved more lives than he has ended, he has a strange mix of guilt for these cases and the stereotypical surgeon arrogance. It made me start to think of that arrogance as a sort of defense mechanism- like a surgeon needs that arrogance otherwise they will always be terrified of what failure will cause, they have to believe things will go right to be able to take that risk.

Another interesting thing was how Marsh talked about how the NHS has changed, and, as he sees it, has become less effective. He wrote of how things were held back by too much paperwork, and bureaucracy, and computers that didn’t work. At one point he is trying to get some x-ray results, but he doesn’t seem to be able to see them on his computer so he goes to the x-ray department, who only seem to be able to see them with one person’s log in. The computers are meant to make things easier but Marsh says if they had the old x-ray films he could have just picked it up and looked in a few seconds instead of trying for a long time to see them on the computer.

This is particularly poignant now because the NHS has been getting lots of cuts, and sold off to private companies, both things which makes it harder for frontline staff to do their jobs. We are very lucky in this country. Our NHS is (generally) free. Anyone can access healthcare. Without the NHS some of Marsh’s patients wouldn’t have been able to afford their operations. It seems crazy that people think the NHS should be scrapped. No it’s not perfect, but the thought of it going away terrifies me, and that seems to be what our current government is working towards. We have a nursing shortage but for some reason the government decided that they would stop the nursing bursary, and we have lots of foreign nurses which we may no longer have with Brexit, and lots of nurses are leaving because their pay has been frozen, they’re having to do more hours, and the paperwork side of things has increased so much that they feel they can’t give time to patients.

Okay end of political rant.

I really found this book interesting and Marsh’s style of writing made it easy to read as well rather than clinical and dry. Now I just have to decide whether to buy a similar book about heart surgery next or Marsh’s second memoir…any recommendations?

4.5/5

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Other Reviews:

Ellie @ Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

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The Lake House- Kate Morton


Synopsis

Whilst on enforced holiday police officer Sadie Sparrow stumbles across an abandoned house that holds a secret. 70 years ago a young child went missing and was never found. Sadie decides to revisit the case and see if she can solve it.

Reveiw

I really enjoy Kate Morton’s books, I like the combinations of mystery, history and relationships. The Lake House is a little bit different, it has more of a ‘standard’ mystery story about it, mainly because it involves an unsolved crime and the actual police where her others are generally more about the people who are involved in the mystery. It still definitely had her personal element, looking at the way the past had affected people now. From how Sadie’s own past had an effect on her to how the child’s own family had been affected by his disappearance.

There were a lot of theories banded about, at first I thought that maybe ‘The Lake House’ was an earlier book by Morton which had been republished because I always felt I was one step ahead of Sadie. Thinking about it a bit more closely though I think that made me be more closely entangled with what Sadie was thinking, and I had more information than Sadie as the book would shift between times, and included sections where you saw into the minds of different people involved.  This gave not just a good look into the mystery, but also a look at the lives and minds of those involved.

There were a couple of things I disliked I thought that (highlight for spoiler) Constance’s killing of Mr LLewellyn just didn’t seem like it was really needed for the story and I found that (highlight for spoiler)Bertie actually being Theo was just a bit too convenient, it fact it slightly spoiled the end of the book for me, maybe I just like a few loose ends.  It didn’t quite hold my attention as well as other Morton books either.

3.5/5

Buy it:

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Other reviews:

The Book Musings

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Nasty Women- 404 Inc.


Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis

‘Nasty Women’ is a series of essays written by nasty women, that is women who apart from being marginalised because of being women are also marginalised for other reasons e.g. being gay. being of non-white descent. The essays talk of life for women in the world today.

Review

I’ve really been into feminist books recently (apart from this I have recently read Moranifesto and Animal, and I’ve started Yes Means Yes), so when I saw this on netgalley it instantly caught my eye.

Nasty Women is inspired by Donald Trump’s comment about Hillary Clinton being a “Nasty woman” and the following twitter trend, because of that I sort of presumed that the book would be written by American women. I was wrong, it doesn’t matter to me, just a comment. 404 Inc. are based in Scotland so, understandably, a lot of the writers were British, and many of those Scottish. In a way I maybe prefered this being British myself because that made a lot of the essays easier for me to relate too.

Having said that I do think I’m a privileged woman. My everyday sexism stories are few and far between, I’m straight, I’m white, I’m educated. Some of the people in these essays aren’t as lucky as I am, and those essays were eye opening. I don’t want to go into too much detail, there were elements I recognised and connected to, and those I didn’t so much but which I could understand.

As far as readability goes it was quite variable. Most of the essays were easy to read, I’d say the conversational types, it doesn’t mean the ones I had to concentrate on more weren’t good, just harder going.

The fact that Donald Trump won though really makes me angry. Partly as a woman, mainly as a human being.

4/5

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Children’s Hour: Jack and the Beanstalk


Children’s Hour is a  feature here at Lucybird’s Book Blog every Thursday where I’m looking at children’s picture books. As I work in a nursery I get plenty of opportunities to look at picture books, and to see what the kids think of them so it really makes sense to use those experiences.

I’d love to hear everybody’s experiences of the books I review too, and feel free to post me a link to your own reviews, I’d love to make this a bit interactive.
A few months ago we got a forest school put into our nursery. The kids loved it, and still do, and we found it really sparked the imagination of some of the children. One of the children suggested that the posts for the hammocks (which we put up as an when) could be candles for a giant’s birthday cake, so that started us off on a whole topic about the giant who had visited our forest school. Of course we needed to find out more about giants so we read Jack and the Beanstalk.

I think there is a reason why some stories stay around for a long time, and the kids certainly enjoyed this one. They used what they had learnt from the book to facilitate their play, from hiding, to cutting down the big tree so that he would fall.

The edition which we have is a lift-the-flap book (it’s the same as the one shown and linked below) which is always something which helps to engage the kids because they love lifting the flaps. They asked to read it quite a few times after it had first been introduced, and a lot of them could tell parts of the story off by heart. We even had one parent coe in and tell us that their son had been talking about Jack and the Beanstalk at home- which is really lovely to hear.

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Small Great Things- Jodi Picoult


Synopsis

When the baby of .a white supremacist dies fingers point to black nurse Ruth who had been banned from caring for the child.

Review

I was excited about reading ‘Small Great Things’ as I generally really enjoy what Picoult writes, but I was also a little unsure. For a white author to write in the voice of a black woman could be problematic, I was concerned about stereotypes, or just that generally the character wouldn’t be right. Thinking about it more I thought that maybe I shouldn’t be concerned about it, after all part of Picoult’s writing is about people who aren’t herself. She can never be a black woman, but then she can never be a male lawyer with epilepsy either, or a child who speaks to God (or at least she can’t be that and a teenage witch, school shooter, abused teenager, abused child, suicide victim) so why shouldn’t she be able to imagine the voice of a black woman?

Whether she wrote an actual realistic representation of a black woman, I can’t say, but I didn’t think that it was stereotypical, and I did think that an interesting view was put on racism which seemed rather empathic. Whether she was actually a believable character is a bit of a moot point, because Picoult definitely did a good job of highlighting, sometimes unnoticed, elements of prejudice and racism.

What I was more surprised about was how Picoult managed to make the voice of the white supremacist a voice which couple be understood and sympathised with- beyond simply as the voice of a man who had lost his child. It wasn’t so much that you could understand why he was racist as you could see how someone could fall into that life.

There was one part of the story which I did find hard to believe, and I don’t think it was really needed. Maybe Picoult just wanted a twist at the end. I won’t say what it was because of spoilers.

I found when I started writing this review that ‘Small Great Things’ is being made into a film– lets hope a better job is made of it as there was on ‘My Sister’s Keeper.’

4//5

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Other Reviews:

Annette’s Book Stop

So Many Books, So Little Time

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

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Beelzebelle- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Beelzebelle is the fifth book in the Clovenhoof series

Synopsis

Only Jeremy Clovenhoof could accidentally acquire a baby, but he’s ready to be a Dad- in his own way.

Meanwhile Michael has discovered a new church, Ben has found a new hobby in taxidermy, and there is a wild beast roaming around Sutton Coldfield.

Review

I’m glad to see the series back with Clovenhoof, not that I didn’t like the others, I just missed that group.

Clovenhoof approaches parenthood like no other, including hiring a monkey assistant  and joining a mother’s group in a quest for milk for the baby. Of course things don’t quite go to plan, especially as he’s not really the baby’s father!

A lot of the more action-y part of the story is focussed around Michael who finds a new church which rewards its members for ‘good deads’, a bit like a supermarket loyalty card. and also, accidently creates a beast in the lab where he works.

As with most of the clovenhoof novels most of the action is towards the end, but there is an amusing journey to get there.

4/5 

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Our Endless Numbered Days- Claire Fuller


Synopsis (written by me!)

When Peggy is young she goes on a trip with her father to a cut off area of the woods, her father tells her that the world has ended, and everyone she knew is dead. They are the only survivors and must keep themselves alive living off the land.  The story is told looking back after Peggy has found the world again, and discovered that her father was lying.

Review

It took me a very long time to get into this book, I as reading it for months. I was in the middle of a slump, which probably was a part of it, but the story was slower than I had expected, and a lot of the time not much was really happening. Towards the end it picked up a lot, and I read the last, maybe third, quite quickly. I’m not sure that last section actually brought up the story enough for me to recommend it, but it probably just about made it worthwhile for me as someone who had already started it.

As I’m writing this review more bits of the book are coming back to me from what was quite hazy. There were some good plot points throughout, although not enough to make me eager to read. They were nice little touches though, and they might be enough for others.

Looking at other reviews it seems to be a very much ‘marmite’ book, so I suppose it might be worth giving a try, although it seems that if you don’t like it close to the

3/5

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Other Reviews

Me, My Shelf and I

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

Word By Word

 

 

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Hellzapoppin’- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Synopsis (from amazon)

Life at St Cadfan’s is never dull. There’s the cellar full of unexplained corpses. There’s the struggle to find food when the island is placed under quarantine. And there’s that peculiar staircase in the cellar… Being a demon in Hell has its own problems. There’s the increasingly impossible torture quotas to meet. There’s the entire horde of Hell waiting for you to slip up and make a mistake. And there’s that weird staircase in the service tunnels… Brother Stephen of St Cadfan’s and Rutpsud of the Sixth Circle, natural enemies and the most unnatural of friends, join forces to solve a murder mystery, save a rare species from extinction and stop Hell itself exploding. The fourth novel in the Clovenhoof series, Hellzapoppin’ is an astonishing comedy featuring suicidal sea birds, deadly plagues, exploding barbecues, dancing rats, magical wardrobes, King Arthur’s American descendants, mole-hunting monks, demonic possession and way too much seaweed beer.

Review

Hellzapoppin’ is the fourth book in the Clovenhoof series, but can easily be read as a standalone novel. We have seen the characters in previous books in the series, but they were minor characters, and the events in the previous books they appeared in don’t really have an effect on the events in this one (I would recommend reading the others anyway).

This one did take a little more getting into than the first couple (probably about the same as Godsquad though), and it had less of an action focus.

I did like seeing the image of what Hell might be like though- again a little bit of a poke at bureaucracy that we first saw in Clovenhoof. I also likes the friendship between Ratspud and Stephen. It seems like an unlikely friendship- a monk and a demon, but actually they ended up bringing out the best in each other.

I also liked some of the odd inventions in hell, and the inclusion of Escher and C.S Lewis. If you know the work of Escher you can probably imagine how hellish a piece of architecture based on his work could be. C.S Lewis is known for being a Christian and his Christian writings so it’s interesting to see him here, ‘on loan’ from Heaven.

escheromhoogomlaag

I enjoyed the comedy of the events at the monastery, even the dark humour which isn’t always to my taste.

Part of the reason I picked up Hellzapoppin’ was because of my loss of reading mojo, which I thought this might get through, and I was right.

4/5

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Didn’t Get Frazzled- David Z. Hirsch


Disclaimer: This book was given to me free of charge in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from amazon)

Medical student Seth Levine faces escalating stress and gallows humor as he struggles with the collapse of his romantic relationships and all preconceived notions of what it means to be a doctor. It doesn’t take long before he realizes not getting frazzled is the least of his problems.

Seth encounters a student so arrogant he boasts that he’ll eat any cadaver part he can’t name, an instructor so dedicated she tests the student’s ability to perform a gynecological exam on herself, and a woman so captivating that Seth will do whatever it takes to make her laugh, including regale her with a story about a diagnostic squabble over an erection.

Review

The author of ‘Didn’t Get Frazzled’ (whose name isn’t actually David Z. Hirsch, that’s a pen name) is a doctor, and that made me a puzzle a lot of the time over how much was true and how much of this story was made up. I’d like to think that most of the actual medical stuff was true, but with patients and doctors given different names, but that the personal stuff was more made up. I at least would expect medical fact to be true.

It compares fairly closely to ‘The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly’ which I think is part of what confused me. It probably is a bit more accessible though because of the extra personal details given. Although I think I would be perfectly happy with just the medical bits to be honest, they were the sections which interested me the most.

Overall I really did enjoy it, there was just one section, where Seth and his friends went to a sort of sex club which I didn’t like, and found completely unneeded to the plot.

I would recommend it though. It’s an interesting, engaging, sometimes funny, and easy read, You could probably read it in one sitting if you had time.

4/5

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Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole- Allan Ropper and David Brian Burrell


Synopsis (from amazon)

What is it like to try to heal the body when the mind is under attack? In this gripping and illuminating book, Dr Allan Ropper reveals the extraordinary stories behind some of the life-altering afflictions that he and his staff are confronted with at the Neurology Unit of Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Like Alice in Wonderland, Dr Ropper inhabits a place where absurdities abound: a sportsman who starts spouting gibberish; an undergraduate who suddenly becomes psychotic; a mother who has to decide whether a life locked inside her own head is worth living. How does one begin to treat such cases, to counsel people whose lives may be changed forever? Dr Ropper answers these questions by taking the reader into a world where lives and minds hang in the balance.

Review

Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole was one of my five star reads last year, but my lack of blogging means I haven’t actually reviewed it yet.

In fact I’ve been on a bit of a non-fiction drive over the last year. In so far as I’ve been reading this year proportionally I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction.

It’s a little bit like ‘The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly’ combined with ‘House’. Lots of real life medical symptoms which seem to have obscure reasons behind them. That tends to be a lot of physical symptoms which have neurological causes, or neurological or psychological symptoms which actually have a physical cause. It’s part of what I always found interesting about House, so it’s even more interesting to see it in real life.

In other ways it’s a lot like some of Oliver Saks work. However I found it easier to read than the things that Saks had written (and I’ve read).

I also liked that you got to see a bit of the hospital itself and also the authors own learning curve. It added a little something. I guess you could say it’s a human element which you don’t get from standard case studies.

5/5

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Some Small Reviews, and Serial Reader


breakfast-serial-iconRecently I’ve been reading some books on an app called Serial Reader. Serial Reader is a free app, which I found out about on thingy thing. It has a number of  books on it (mainly classics) which are sent to the app in small bite sized chunks (of about 10 minutes worth of reading time) with one chunk being sent per day.

It’s really designed for people who don’t have time to read (who I don’t understand) but I find it’s good for when I’m waiting for a little time and don’t want to get involved in a whole book.

So far I’ve only been reading the shorter pieces, which I feel is more ideal, but you can read longer things, it just takes longer.

There is a Serial Reader premium, which allows you to read ahead and highlight, among other things.

So far I’ve read two books, and started two others, so I thought I’d review these. I also started Sun Tzu’s Art of War which I doubt I’ll finish but is on the Rory List

The Monkey’s Paw– W.W. Jacobs

Most people know the barebones of The Monkey’s Paw, at least anyone who has watched a few of The Simpson’s Halloween episodes. The  basic premise is that there is a monkey’s paw which gives the owner three wishes. However it is somewhat of a curse because of the way the stories came true.

It was pretty spooky, but had a little too much superfluous information which made the beginning drag, and the actual wishing bit was more brief than I expected. A quite entertaining little read.

If you would rather read it on your kindle it’s only 49p

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button– F Scott Fitzgerald

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the story of a man who ages backwards, he is born as an old man, and dies as a baby.

My own knowledge of the story comes mainly from the film, the film lasts over two hours, so I knew they really must have stretched the plot to make a short story into such a long film. I think I expected a bit more similarity though.

It was an enjoyable read, and I think it did well as a short story (which I often find are lacking in something). I didn’t really feel much for Benjamin, but I think what was more interesting was how others reacted to him.

You can read this one on kindle for free (as part of Tales of the Jazz Age)

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Delusions of Gender- Cordelia Fine


Synopsis (from amazon)

This is a vehement attack on the latest pseudo-scientific claims about the differences between the sexes – with the scientific evidence to back it up. Sex discrimination is supposedly a distant memory. Yet popular books, magazines and even scientific articles increasingly defend inequalities by citing immutable biological differences between the male and female brain. Why are there so few women in science and engineering, so few men in the laundry room? Well, they say, it’s our brains. Drawing on the latest research in developmental psychology, neuroscience, and social psychology, “Delusions of Gender” rebuts these claims, showing how old myths, dressed up in new scientific finery, help perpetuate the status quo. Cordelia Fine reveals the mind’s remarkable plasticity, shows the substantial influence of culture on identity, and, ultimately, exposes just how much of what we consider ‘hardwired’ is actually malleable. This startling, original and witty book shows the surprising extent to which boys and girls, men and women are made – and not born.

Review

This book has been on my kindle since 2014 (according amazon anyway), which makes me wonder how long some of my ‘real’ books have been on the shelves unread.

I kind of wish I had read it sooner, but I’ve been on a bit of a roll when it comes to non-fiction recently, so maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind before.

It was a while ago so more exact details are lost to me, but there are certain things which still stand out, and in a way doesn’t that make for a better review? I was helped a little to remember by reading Ruth’s review (which I recommend).

Delusions of Gender did take a little getting into, in terms of a ‘sciencey’ book it was easy to read, and it was interesting, but not necessarily immediately engaging.

I did find some of the arguments a bit repetitive, which makes sense when you’re talking about different but similar studies, but not so much when you are talking about the same one. It is difficult though if you are referring to something said earlier to know how much to say to make sure the person you are writing to knows what you are referring to.

The main thing I got out of it really is about how much difference small things might be able to make, especially when a child is still trying to work out their identity. Would not gendering a child change this? I’m not so sure, at some point the child themselves would want to know what they are, and I’m sure they could work it out.

In a way those little things seem hopeless, because they’re the type of things that you don’t even think about, so how can you hope to have a gender neutral environment.

4/5

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Juliet, Naked- Nick Hornby


Synopsis (from amazon)

Annie lives in a dull town on England’s bleak east coast and is in a relationship with Duncan which mirrors the place; Tucker was once a brilliant songwriter and performer, who’s gone into seclusion in rural America – or at least that’s what his fans think. Duncan is obsessed with Tucker’s work, to the point of derangement, and when Annie dares to go public on her dislike of his latest album, there are quite unexpected, life-changing consequences for all three.

Review

Wow it’s been a long time since I’ve read a book this quickly, took me just over a day. I’m not convinced it’s all down to the book, I was phoneless at the time (ok that’s not quite true, I had the boyfriend’s old iphone which is so out of date that apps just aren’t compatible with it) so there were less distractions.

Part of it was the book though. Hornby is very readable, and the story was engaging. It had a bit of a High Fidelity feel about it, although I wouldn’t say it’s up to the same level.

Part of what I liked but also sort of disliked was that the characters were rather unlikeable. I suppose that makes them more real, which is good, but it did mean I didn’t feel that much of a connection with them.

The ending sort of fizzled out too which was disappointing but maybe true to life.

4/5

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Love Anthony- Lisa Genova


Synopsis (from amazon)

Olivia Donatelli’s dream of a ‘normal’ life was shattered when her son, Anthony, was diagnosed with autism at age three. He didn’t speak, hated to be touched, almost never made eye contact. Then, just as Olivia was learning that happiness and autism could coexist after all, Anthony was gone.

Now she’s alone on Nantucket, desperate to find meaning in her son’s short life, when a chance encounter with another woman, Beth, brings Anthony alive again in a most unexpected way. In a piercing story about motherhood, autism and love, two unforgettable women discover the small but exuberant voice that leads them both to the answers they need.

Review

I’m becoming quite a fan of Lisa Genova, and I enjoyed this one, but it wasn’t quite what I expected. It still had the sort of knowledge I would expect of Genova, she obviously had more than a layman’s knowledge of autism, but that didn’t really feel like the centre of the story.

The story was more about the two women, and, although that story was somewhat involving, it didn’t have that extra kick that I expect from a Genova novel.

I felt like I was reading the novel waiting for the two stories, the stories of the two women, to intertwine. Part of that was I think because of the synopsis I read (which was the one above) which made it seem like there would be more of a relationship between the two women. The relationship was pretty intense, but it was also a while in coming.

I did enjoy it it just wasn’t a typical Genova.

4/5

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Currently part of amazon’s 3 of £10 promotion

Other reviews:

So Many Books, So Little Time

Reading With Tea

 

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Ready Player One- Ernest Cline


Synopsis (from amazon)

It’s the year 2044, and the real world has become an ugly place. We’re out of oil. We’ve wrecked the climate. Famine, poverty, and disease are widespread.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes this depressing reality by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia where you can be anything you want to be, where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade is obsessed by the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this alternate reality: OASIS founder James Halliday, who dies with no heir, has promised that control of the OASIS – and his massive fortune – will go to the person who can solve the riddles he has left scattered throughout his creation.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that the riddles are based in the culture of the late twentieth century. And then Wade stumbles onto the key to the first puzzle.

Suddenly, he finds himself pitted against thousands of competitors in a desperate race to claim the ultimate prize, a chase that soon takes on terrifying real-world dimensions – and that will leave both Wade and his world profoundly changed.

Review

I’d been hearing great things about Ready Player One, reviews that almost made me want to read it, but I didn’t really think it sounded like my type of book, so I didn’t seek it out.

Then I was trying to think of a present for my partner. I’d had a fair amount of success with books which sounded good but a little too fantasy or sci-fi for me, so Ready Player One came to mind.

My partner really enjoyed it, so, when my TBR pile wasn’t looking especially appealing, I decided to borrow it.

Oh how I wish I’d read it sooner. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with sci-fi- which is the main thing that puts me off, but this book definitely fell on the love side of things.

It had everything, action, romance, intrigue. The geek in me loved it. A lot of people say that they liked the nostalgia element, but most of the things based o the past were from the 80s, I was born i 87 so a bit early for me, and I was’t a console player anyway which a lot was based o. Maybe if I was I would have enjoyed it eve more, but as it was I loved it.

5/5

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Paperback (£5.84)

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Other reviews:

Reading is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac

Book Journey

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

Silly Little Mischief

Ink and Page

Girl Vs Bookshelf

Leeswammes’ Blog

Words For Worms

Nylon Admiral

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Oddjobs- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from amazon)

It’s the end of the world as we know it, but someone still needs to do the paperwork.
Incomprehensible horrors from beyond are going to devour our world but that’s no excuse to get all emotional about it. Morag Murray works for the secret government organisation responsible for making sure the apocalypse goes as smoothly and as quietly as possible.
In her first week on the job, Morag has to hunt down a man-eating starfish, solve a supernatural murder and, if she’s got time, prevent her own inevitable death.

Review

I’ve been really enjoying the Clovenhoof books by Goody and Grant (I’m reading Hellzapoppin’ at the moment) so when they sent me an offer to read the first book from their new series I jumped at the chance.

Oddjobs has the same humourous tone that the Clovenhoof books do but I think it has a bit more of an edge to it.  It’s a little bit political, about work in general and probably a lot about more about government work (I’ve only ever really worked in that sector so I’m not sure how true it would be of other sectors).  Basically about red tape and silly ideas.

It has more action throughout that the Clovenhoof books too, which makes it readable in a different way.

Clovenhoof is probably a bit more easy going, but I think overall this might be a more interesting series, I’ll be looking forward to the next one.

4/5

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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close- Jonathon Safron Foer


Synopsis (from amazon)

Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is an inventor, amateur entomologist, Francophile, letter writer, pacifist, natural historian, percussionist, romantic, Great Explorer, jeweller, detective, vegan, and collector of butterflies.

When his father is killed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre, Oskar sets out to solve the mystery of a key he discovers in his father’s closet. It is a search which leads him into the lives of strangers, through the five boroughs of New York, into history, to the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, and on an inward journey which brings him ever closer to some kind of peace.

Review

After loving Everything is Illuminated I had high hopes for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, maybe that’s why I was a little unimpressed. It took me a while to really get going, and it really didn’t have the emotion that I expected. I expected Oscar’s Dad’s death to be a major theme but it was more of a trigger point for the rest of the story.

There was a certain amount of emotion, but I’m pretty sure Oscar was autistic, or at least he didn’t show emotion in the ways most people would. It just didn’t hit me like I expected.

Reading on a kindle didn’t help either, there are pictures in the book, which were in the kindle version, but they were never very well displayed, whether that is just a kindle thing I’m not 100% sure, but I think it probably was.

In the end I did sort of enjoy it, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it to anyone

3/5

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Other reviews:

Knitting and Sundries

The Perpetual Page Turner

Lit and Life

 

 

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The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps- Michael Faber


Synopsis (from amazon)

Note: I don’t like this synopsis, but it’s the best of a bad bunch and I can’t write a better one myself, so…yeah

Siân, troubled by dark dreams and seeking distraction, joins an archaeological dig at Whitby. The abbey’s one hundred and ninety-nine steps link the twenty-first century with the ruins of the past and Siân is swept into a mystery involving a long-hidden murder, a fragile manuscript in a bottle and a cast of most peculiar characters. Equal parts historical thriller, romance and ghost story, this is an ingenious literary page-turner and is completely unforgettable.

Review

This is more a novella than a novel, which suits my reading habits right now.

The synopsis makes it sound more exciting that it really is, it’s more interesting than exciting. The story carried on nicely though, and was quite beautifully written, it’s no Crimson Petal and the White but it fills the gap well enough.

There’s not really that much of a story to it. The letter offers some intrigue, but it isn’t really used to the best it could be, and the romance was a bit everyday.

I did enjoy it enough though to be disappointed when my kindle copy ended at around 60%, and I felt a bit ripped off, I must admit the customer service at canongate were very good when I complained on twitter though.

Both editions listed below also contain the novella ‘The Courage Consort’

3/5

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The Seed Collectors- Scarlett Thomas


Synopsis (from goodreads)

Aunt Oleander is dead. In the Garden of England her extended family gather to remember her, to tell stories and to rekindle old memories. To each of her nearest and dearest Oleander has left a precious seed pod. But along with it comes a family secret that could open the hardest of hearts but also break the closest ties…

Review

I adored Pop Co. and loved The End of Mr Y, but the Scarlett Thomas books which I’ve read since have been a bit disappointing, not not good, just not as good. So I approached The Seed Collectors with a mixture of excitement and apprehension.

I think with The Seed Collectors Thomas is getting back to the writer I love, the writer who I was excited to see new books by. I think the gap between this book and her last was bigger, and maybe that shows.

It’s still not as good as Pop Co. It took more time to fall into- more like The End of Mr Y- but I ended up loving it all the same.

It wasn’t exactly what I expected, I expected it to mainly be a book about the seeds, but it wasn’t really about the seeds much at all. I suppose you could say it was a story about a family, but that makes it sound boring. This isn’t some ‘normal’ family, everything is screwed up. Plus some of the people are vile, ok all of the people are pretty awful (so if you like to love your characters, this probably isn’t the one for you).

To be completely honest it’s not really very plot driven, but I really enjoyed it all the same and found myself reading it in the same sort of incessant way that I would normally only read a plot driven book in.

4.5/5

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Hardback £13.48)

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A Tale For The Time Being- Ruth Ozeki


Synopsis (from amazon)

Ruth discovers a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore of her beach home. Within it lies a diary that expresses the hopes and dreams of a young girl. She suspects it might have arrived on a drift of debris from the 2011 tsunami. With every turn of the page, she is sucked deeper into an enchanting mystery.

In a small cafe in Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao Yasutani is navigating the challenges thrown up by modern life. In the face of cyberbullying, the mysteries of a 104-year-old Buddhist nun and great-grandmother, and the joy and heartbreak of family, Nao is trying to find her own place – and voice – through a diary she hopes will find a reader and friend who finally understands her.

Review

‘A Tale for the Time Being’ marks the beginning of what I am calling my return to ‘normal’ reading, ok still not completely normal for me- I’m reading one book at a time rather than two. I’d had a few single books which have held my attention since my return to blogging, but now I’ve had a bit of a run, and I hope it’s not just due to the books I have chosen. (You can read a bit about my lack of reading here). Is it ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ which made me be able to come back to my old reading levels? I’m not sure, but I do know that I enjoyed it, I do know that I wanted to read it above other activities which require less concentration (and which I had been holding my interest more than reading), and II do know that since reading it I have read a number of other books which have held my attention (which I intend to review in due course).

So, yes, I really did enjoy ‘A Tale For the Time Being’, but actually I don’t know if I have anything significant to say about it.

It did take me a little time to get into, but once I did get into it I didn’t want to stop. I especially wanted to know what had happened to Nao, and Ruth’s story helped fuel that as she got so absorbed in Nao’s story.

I liked Nao’s voice. It made subjects which were sometimes very emotional easy to read, and her story really did sounds like she was telling it to a friend who she was slowly getting to know.

I certainly recommend it. Although if you can go for a paper copy rather than an ebook, I read the ebook and all the footnotes were at the end of the book, which doesn’t really work when you can’t flick through it!

4.5/5

Buy it:
Paperback (£8.99)
Kindle (£5.29)

Hardback (£16.59)

Other reviews:

The Relentless Reader

Words for Worms (contains spoilers)

Fay Simone

As the Crowe Flies (and Reads)

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

 

 

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Furiously Happy- Jenny Lawson



Synopsis (from amazon)

In Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson regaled readers with uproarious stories of her bizarre childhood. In her new book, Furiously Happy, she explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

As Jenny says: ‘You can’t experience pain without also experiencing the baffling and ridiculous moments of being fiercely, unapologetically, intensely and (above all) furiously happy.’ It’s a philosophy that has – quite literally – saved her life.

Review

I loved Let’s Pretend This Never Happened so I was excited when I heard Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) had a new book coming out.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened was hilarious, so I was expecting the same from Jenny’s new book. It was very funny, but it had more of a serious side than her first book had. I still liked it, but it wasn’t as easy a read.

This one featured a lot about Jenny’s mental illness. That made it less light, although a lot lighter than you would expect of a book which has a high content about mental illness. She had a philosophy of always being Furiously Happy when her illness would allow her. A way to show that she could have a good, happy, time, a way to say that that illness is not her.

Jenny says she wrote this book with people who have the same problems as her in mind. So I wasn’t exactly the target market, but I still found the book pretty uplifting, and I definitely enjoyed Jenny’s sense of humour.

If you loved the first one you can’t go wrong with this, but I think you may be better off starting with the first.

4/5

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Other reviews:

Alison McCarthy 

Words For Worms

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The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly- Matt McCarthy


Synopsis (from amazon)

In medical school, Matt McCarthy dreamed of being a different kind of doctor the sort of mythical, unflappable physician who could reach unreachable patients. But when a new admission to the critical care unit almost died his first night on call, he found himself scrambling. Visions of mastery quickly gave way to hopes of simply surviving hospital life, where confidence was hard to come by and no amount of med school training could dispel the terror of facing actual patients.

Review

McCarthy’s autobiography is an interesting and eye opening look into the American healthcare system. It would be interesting to see how it differs from a doctor’s experience in the NHS.

I must admit that I expected to see lots about patients who couldn’t afford the healthcare that they need, the idea of no NHS is not one I like, and I never really understood people who are against ‘Obamacare’ in the US. There was a little bit of that, but in was only really a very small part of the book, and I wouldn’t even say it was particularly hard hitting. At one point McCarthy was interning in the medical centre, which seemed pretty much like a drop in centre would be here in the UK, except that the same patients would keep returning. I say like a drop in centre because the treatment seemed rushed, and fairly basic, for example medication over other possible solutions which a specialist might recommend. Plus it seemed like it was mainly run by interns, which suggested a lack of continuity of care. McCarthy found that it was difficult to get to grips with the patient notes because there was a rush and lots of notes to read. He found reading just the latest notes wasn’t enough, but reading further took too much time. Part of this I think was to do with his approach, but it seems that with this patients would end up falling through the gaps.

There was also a section where he went to se and treat the homeless. This bit was too brief I felt, but he only did it for one night. There was certainly enough to give me admiration for people who do it. I think this bit would be pretty much the same in the UK, I imagine homeless people easily don’t see GPs, or go to appointments at hospitals, just because they are hard to keep contact with, and I’m not even sure if you can register with a doctor if you don’t have an address.

Anyway I am going on somewhat of a tangent. I really enjoyed this book. There were plenty of ups and downs and at times you thought that maybe Matt wasn’t cut out for it. After all being a doctor is one of those jobs where a mistake can really cost someone, even to the point of death. But everyone has to start somewhere and it was a real eye opener on how hard things are for doctors, especially those still training.

The hours were absolutely ridiculous. I mean you’d think that you want someone that important to be as sharp as possible when they were working, but the long days meant that was practically impossible. It certainly gave me more sympathy for the junior doctors over here (and I already supported them).

Despite the subject having the potential to be either over emotional or too dry I thought McCarthy did a really good job. There was emotion when it mattered, but it a way you had to be like a doctor and not get too bogged down in the emotions- and the way McCarthy wrote helped with that. He actually made it quite an easy read, and entertaining, which I hadn’t expected. I had expected it to be interesting, and it was, but I did expect it to be so entertaining. I thoroughly recommend

5/5

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Other Reviews:

Sam Still Reading

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The Radleys- Matt Haig


Synopsis (from amazon)

Life with the Radleys: Radio 4, dinner parties with the Bishopthorpe neighbours and self-denial. Loads of self-denial. But all hell is about to break loose. When teenage daughter Clara gets attacked on the way home from a party, she and her brother Rowan finally discover why they can’t sleep, can’t eat a Thai salad without fear of asphyxiation and can’t go outside unless they’re smothered in Factor 50.

With a visit from their lethally louche Uncle Will and an increasingly suspicious police force, life in Bishopthorpe is about to change. Drastically.

Review

The Radley’s was on my wishlist for years, before I read The Humans, before The Humans was even released. I have a problem, I add things to my wishlist and never buy them, because when I’m in a bookshop (or to a lesser extent on an online store) I get distracted by books which are not on my wishlist, and end up buying them. I think I ended up buying The Radleys because it was on kindle deal.

I’m trying to think how to review without spoiling.

It’s somewhat of a coming of age novel, although not in a classic sense, because the thing which is making the Radley children grow up is not exactly normal. Also that there is a sort of coming of age novel for the parents too- who says you have o be a teenager to ‘come of age’?

At times it was sort of predictable, but that’s ok, I enjoyed it anyway.

3/5

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Other reviews:

Reading With Tea

Leeswammes’ Blog

Knitting and Sundries

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

B Reading

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Why Not Me?- Mindy Kaling


Synopsis (from amazon)

Mindy Kaling has found herself at a turning point. So in Why Not Me?, she shares her ongoing journey to find fulfilment and adventure in her adult life, be it falling in love at work, seeking new friendships inunlikely places, or attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behaviour modification whatsoever.

Review

I love Mindy’s show The Mindy Project, when I read her first book last year I adored her even more, I watched The US version of The Office just because I needed a Mindy fix (despite being a bit against American adaptations as a general rule, and yeah actually I was proved wrong on that one). When I heard she had a second book coming out I was excited, but I was finishing buying a house, and was on a self inflicted book buying ban (and well, even on amazon the paperback is almost £10, that’s a lot for a paperback…yeah I’m like that).

In the end I got it as a Christmas present, and it was the first of my present books which I read. I did really enjoy it, but I think I prefered her first. I think the first one was just a bit more accessible. In the first book she wasn’t famous, or becoming well known I suppose. It just meant a lot of what she talked about was a bit more recognisable. In Why Not Me for a good part she was well known, and for some I would go as far as to say she was famous. Her stories, whilst still entertaining didn’t quite have that same sense of reality.

I think it was a bit less thought provoking too. There were still elements which were thought provoking, but not in a way that hit me like the occasion with the dress in Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Part of the problem I had I think was that there was so much build up for me. I was excited from back when I knew the book was going to exist. That’s quite a while to anticipate something.

I still love Mindy. I would still recommend this book, I did really like it, but it is less memorable than her first for me, and I don’t think it quite meets up to it.

4/5

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Other reviews:

Bookjourney

Alison Mccarthy

Chris Book-a-rama

 

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Wool Series- Hugh Howey


The Wool series consists of 3 books; Wool , Shift and Dust

Synopsis (written by me, because there isn’t just one)

Years in the future a civilization, the only survivors on earth are living in a silo. Outside the air is poison. The Wool series of books looks at how this came to be, and how things started to fall apart.

Review

Note on the review: Because I read Wool, Shift, and Dust one after the other I have decided to review them all in one go rather than as separate books. Because of this I’ve decided to use a sort of key code. Anything in black refers to all the books and isn’t a spoiler. Anything in red refers to Wool, there may be spoilers for Wool but won’t be any spoilers for previous books. Anything in green refers to Shift, it may contain spoilers for Shift or Wool. Anything in purple refers to Dust, it may contain spoilers for any of the three books.

I bought Wool (and later Shift and Dust) for my partner initially. There were quite a few reviews around at the time (I definitely remember that Ellie reviewed Dust) and I thought the books sounded good, but not quite me. These sorts of sci-fi things are more my boyfriend’s taste. However when he enjoyed it I thought I would give it a read too.

Overall I did enjoy the series although for all the books I found they started slow and after a while became more interesting. I must admit as well that I found my interest in the series overall wavered with each book, so although I fairly enjoyed Dust, it had significantly less pull than Wool did.


By the end of Wool I was really looking forward to starting Shift and seeing what happened next. My boyfriend warned me I would be somewhat disappointed, and he was right because Shift doesn’t continue on from where Wool left off, instead it jumps back to when the silos were new and gradually moves to the same time but in silo one- head silo- and how the events in Wool effect that silo.

I still enjoyed Shift by the end, it was interesting to see another side. It was also interesting how Jules almost became the enemy. Or I suppose I should say how it didn’t seem like the plans we learnt about in Wool were so bad after all. They seemed somewhat good intentioned.

I sort of wish things had stayed that way, where you can see both sides of the coin, but Dust changed it into bad plans again. I think it would have been more interesting to see Jules and silo one discussing her problems with what they were doing and maybe finding a solution.

Dust’s start was rather disappointing. It didn’t start where Wool had left off but jumped a little further forward, and I think partly because of this things were a little confusing. Jules seemed to know a lot but it was difficult to understand how she knew a lot of it. Of course I could have forgotten what exactly had happened in Wool which may have marred my impression of Shift.

 

Would I recommend the series? I don’t know. A lot of promise seems unfulfilled, but I did enjoy reading them, so maybe

3/5

Buy it:

Wool (from £4.99)
Shift (from £4.99)
Dust (from £4.99)

Other reviews:

Leeswammes’ Blog Wool | Shift

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm Wool | Shift

Quirky Bookworm Wool

The Sleepless Reader Wool

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Filed under Contempory, Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction review, YA

The Tiger’s Wife- Téa Obreht


Synopsis (from amazon)

Natalia is on a quest: to discover the truth about her beloved grandfather. He has died far from home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery.

Recalling stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia suspects he may have died trying to unravel two mysteries. One was the fate of a tiger which escaped during German bombing raids in 1941; the other a man who claimed to be immortal. But, as Natalia learns, there are no simple truths or easy answers in this landscape echoing with myths but still scarred by war.

Review

I read the first chapter of this book back in 2011 when it was in the first Waterstone’s Eleven. It went on my wishlist then, but it’s was only towards the end of last year that I actually read it.

There are four stories in this novel. That of Natalia as a child and her relationship with her Grandfather. The story of Natalia now. And the two stranger stories, those of the tiger’s wife, and the deathless man. All the stories are meant to be true, the stranger stories being stories which Natalia’s grandfather told her about his life.

The stranger stories are what make the book really. They have an almost fairytale like quality. I especially liked the tale of the deathless man because it had elements which seemed more real than that of the tiger’s wife, but they were contrasted in the idea of this man who couldn’t die. The idea of a woman falling in love with a tiger was less supernatural I suppose, it’s more how much it was believed I think that was unusual.

I did enjoy the writing in this book, however I’d find I got interested in one story only for it to stop and give way to one of the others, and then I’d stop reading because I didn’t want to read that other story. Even though I liked each story on it’s own I wasn’t ready to leave one for another, and that meant it took me a surprisingly long time to read for such a short book.

(Isn’t the new cover awesome?)

3/5

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Other reviews:

Word by Word

Lit and Life

Nose in a Book

Page Turners

Literary Lindsey

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Look Who’s Back- Timur Vermes


Synopsis (from amazon)

Berlin, Summer 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of open ground, alive and well. Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman.

People certainly recognise him, albeit as a flawless impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable, the inevitable happens, and the ranting Hitler goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own T.V. show, and people begin to listen. But the Führer has another programme with even greater ambition – to set the country he finds a shambles back to rights.

Review

This book has had some controversy. Mainly focusing about is it right to write a humorous book about Hitler? I think the main problem people see in it is that it sort of makes light of Hitler and in doing so somehow makes light of what he did.

I think the people who say this miss the point somewhat however. It’s a book about Hitler in the basics, but really it’s more about the media and how life now views Hitler. He’s seen as a sort of spectacle. Think of all the tourist destinations which wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for Hitler. Is this about the point of not forgetting so it can’t happen again? Or is it more of a morbid curiosity or some sort of extended rubbernecking?

I think it shows how something similar could happen again. Hitler in this book became known and famous. Maybe he would never have been taken seriously as a politician, but the start of it was there. It does make me think somewhat of the popularity of people like Trump, many people are against him, but he also has a certain amount of support- and that could be dangerous.

On the surface this is a humorous book, and it did make me laugh. You could probably read it just as an entertaining read if you wanted to. If you didn’t feel the need to justify it.

It won’t be for everyone. I know it’s something that could offend. I understand why. But I liked it.

4/5

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Other reviews:

Plastic Rosaries

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Double Dexter- Jeff Lindsey



Double Dexter is the sixth novel in the Dexter Series.

Synopsis (from amazon)

Everyone’s favourite serial killer is back and deadlier than ever…

A witness. Such a simple concept – and yet for Dexter Morgan, a perfectly well-disguised serial killer, the possibility of a witness is terrifying. As an upstanding blood-spatter analyst for the Miami Police, Dexter has always managed to keep the darker side of his life out of the spotlight. An expert at finding truly bad people – murderers who’ve long escaped justice – Dexter has long been giving them his own special brand of attention.

But now someone has seen him in the act. Dexter is being followed, manipulated and mimicked, leading him to realise that no one likes to have a double – especially when his double’s goal is to kill him.

Dexter is not one to tolerate such displeasure … in fact, he has a knack for extricating himself from trouble in his own pleasurable way.

Review

I’ve recently finished watching Dexter on netflix which made me want to read more of the series (which I hadn’t read so far because of the size of my to be read pile) so I borrowed ‘Double Dexter’ from the library. The TV series is pretty much a completely story to the books, so one doesn’t spoil the other, although if you try to compare them it just makes you annoyed that the TV series is so different, and that I suppose is what made me want to keep reading the books. The TV series is good, as a TV series, just not as an adaptation.

In ‘Double Dexter’ Dexter is, well, different. He gets seen and that puts Harry’s Code under threat, because he has to deal with this new threat.

One thing I really feel shows skill when it comes to Jeff Lindsey’s  writing is how he makes the reader actually feel sympathy with Dexter. It makes some sort of sense in the other books because the people who he murders are murderers themselves, it’s a sort of vigilante justice. That isn’t true in Double Dexter, because the person who he is trying to kill did nothing criminal- he just saw Dexter at his work. However we still feel sympathy for Dexter.

One thing though I tend to get with the Dexter books (and I have mentioned it before) is that sometimes Dexter seems very slow. I’m not sure if that is just that I’m cleverer than Dexter, or if there has become a certain predictability with the books.

This one though is the first time I’ve got frustrated with Dexter for other things. Like how he expects Rita just to have the dinner on the table. Sort of sexist. Except is he sexist or is he just single minded? Because it’s always been like that does he just not question that maybe it shouldn’t be like that?

3/5

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Hallucinations- Oliver Sacks


Synopsis (from amazon)

Have you ever seen something that wasn’t really there? Heard someone call your name in an empty house? Sensed someone following you and turned around to find nothing?

Hallucinations don’t belong wholly to the insane. Much more commonly, they are linked to sensory deprivation, intoxication, illness, or injury. In some conditions, hallucinations can lead to religious epiphanies or even the feeling of leaving one’s own body. Humans have always sought such life-changing visions, and for thousands of years have used hallucinogenic compounds to achieve them.

In this book, with his usual elegance, curiosity, and compassion, Dr Sacks weaves together stories of his patients and of his own mind-altering experiences to illuminate what hallucinations tell us about the organisation and structure of our brains, how they have influenced every culture’s folklore and art, and why the potential for hallucination is present in us all, a vital part of the human condition.

Review

Oliver Sacks is probably generally seen as one of the most accessible neuroscientists of modern times.  Considering that, and my interest in psychology it’s quite surprising that I haven’t read anything by him before now. I can see why he is seen as accessible from his writing style, however I did find Hallucinations a little hard-going, more because of repetitiveness than anything else.

The book was split into sections based on causes of hallucinations (e.g. particular illnesses, sensory reasons, drugs), which made sense in some ways, however it also meant that when more than one cause for a particular type of hallucination could be found a description of that type of hallucination would be given in each chapter about each cause. There were different first-person accounts, which was interesting in it’s own way because different people hallucinate different things, even within a set type of hallucination. Even that did have some repetitive air to it though.

Having said that it was very interesting. I think Sack’s main aim was to make hallucinations more acceptable. They are generally seen as a sign of madness, and they can be that, but usually they aren’t, there are many more things that can cause them, and lots of different presentations of hallucinations which many people wouldn’t consider.

In fact he described what one would call a migraine aura usually as a type of hallucination which is interesting. I suppose calling it an aura makes it seem less serious or scary- but is that just because of a sort of stigma put on the idea of hallucinating. I do sometimes find migraine auras distressing- would they be more distressing if I called them hallucinations? Anyway it just shows that hallucinations aren’t all what one’s first thoughts of hallucinations would be. They aren’t always ‘real’ things. They aren’t always pictures even.

I did find it very interesting, and it probably changed my view of hallucinations a bit. It could have done with a bit of editing though. I’ll certainly read more by Sacks, and I already have Musicophilia and Migraine on my wishlist.

Oliver Sacks sadly died this weekend, which is what prompted me to write this review over the others that are waiting to be written.

3.5/5

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane- Neil Gaiman


Synopsis (from amazon)
It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed – within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.
His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

Review

Neil Gaiman started off writing ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ as a short story for his wife when they were apart, but it just kept growing. You can sort of tell that he was thinking about her at the time. The narrator keeps speaking about stories or books as a comfort and an escapism, I can see that as being what Gaiman intended this story to be for his wife. I put a few of the most interesting quotes on my tumblr, but I think this one sums it up the best:

“I went away in my head, into a book. That was where I went whenever real life was too hard or too inflexible “

In a way it is more ‘adult’ than the other books I’ve read by Gaiman. I think it’s because it’s narrated by the main character as he looks back. It’s more introspective and that gives us the sort of insight that a present narrator wouldn’t give. Looking bak he could see things which he might not see at the time.

It still had the normal Gaiman fantasy and action-y bits which stopped it being too thoughtful, but actually I preferred the times when the narrator was just thinking. The thoughtful times I suppose.

There’s some interesting messages in it too about an adult’s relationship with his own childhood. About how looking back can be a comfort, and about how we never really loose that childhood part of ourselves, it’s just often hidden by life.

3.5/5

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Kindle (£0.99)

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Other reviews:

Reading is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac

Under a Gray Sky

Alison Mccarthy

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

An Armchair by the Sea

Words for Worms

Chrisbookarama

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Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)- Mindy Kaling


Synopsis (from amazon)
Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: comedienne, actress, obedient child of immigrant professionals and, now, writer. With a blend of witty confessions and unscientific observations, Mindy writes about everything from being a timid young chubster afraid of her own bike to living the Hollywood life, dating, friendships and planning her own funeral – all executed with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls.

Review

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? has been on my wishlist for so long. I heard about it before I even knew Mindy Kaling existed (oh, sad times). I just heard it was funny, and it seemed like the sort of thing I would like. Then I saw The Mindy Project, and I realised I really wanted to read it. However due to my thing of not actually buying off my wishlist I didn’t end up buying it until it popped up on the kindle monthly deals this month (yay!).

I read it a couple of weeks ago when I was ill. It took me a few hours, less than a day. It’s been a long time since I last read something that fast (of course I was stuck at home with nothing to do). I really loved it. I had to start watching the US version of The Office afterwards to stop me getting withdrawal (I had avoided it so far because usually US remakes are a bit rubbish, and I only occasionally liked the original version of The Office), which I’m now on the seventh series of (so yeah, I am liking it actually).

I love how Mindy blossomed I suppose. She was a pretty shy kid, you could still see a bit of that Mindy quality, a sort of no cares attitude, although it had it’s quivers. She really was a self-made woman. It sort of reminded me of how Stephen Fry and his contempories came up. They started as their own thing and sort of got ‘discovered’. I like that, it’s genuine.

I also like how she tried to use her position to teach girls who might admire her. There was one scene (and, God, I hate People magazine for this) where Mindy was going to a photo shoot, something about beautiful people. Nice yeah? At the time she was a size 8 (which I think is a size 10 in the UK) so about average. The stylist only had size 0s, which is just rubbish, especially when you are showing someone ‘normal’ who was beautiful, and then to suggest they couldn’t wear nice clothes because they were too ‘big’. It just makes me mad. And Mindy is really pretty. It still makes me mad now.

So despite the fact that most of the time it was funny there was a serious side too, and now I love Mindy even more. I just wish I didn’t have to wait all the way until September for her new book

5/5

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Other Reviews:

Alison Mccarthy

Girl Vs Bookshelf

Ink and Page

Words for Worms

Recovering Potter Addict

Chrisbookarama

Silly Little Mischief

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Stardust- Neil Gaiman



Synopsis (from amazon)

Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall – named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester and for the coveted prize of her hand, Tristran vows to retrieve a fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends him over the ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining…

Review

This is one of those books where I saw the film first. And I really like the film. It sort of put me off reading the book because I find if I watch the film first I’m just waiting for my favourite bits of the film. It’s part of the reason I try to read books first, sometimes I can still enjoy the film then, but I would rather get the enjoyment out of the book, generally speaking.

I couldn’t help comparing it to the film. I did think it was a little slower to start but I didn’t mind because it meant that a similar atmosphere could be built, and actually it gave me a better idea of the contrast between the village of Wall and the land beyond the wall.

On the other end of the spectrum though one of my favourite bits of the film is the pirate captain. He was still significant in a way in the book but his actual part was less big, we didn’t see so much of him, so we didn’t get as much of a sense of character from him.

Overall I did enjoy it. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t seen the film first. But it was a nice little story, I just don’t really have anything much to say about it.

3/5

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Other Reviews:

Nylon Admiral

Words For Worms

Chrisbookarama

Literary Lindsey

 

 

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The Winter Guest- Pam Jenoff


Synopsis (from amazon)

Helena and Ruth Nowak are like chalk and cheese: one staunchly outspoken and independent, the other gentle and caring. Caught up in the struggle of Nazi occupied Poland, the sisters have bound together and created an enviable bond that can’t be broken. Or so they thought…

When Helena discovers a Jewish Allied paratrooper, wounded but alive, she risks the safety of herself and her family to hide him. As her feelings for the solider grow deeper, she finds her loyalties torn.

Review

Why yes I have been reading a lot of Pam Jenoff recently (and I have ‘A Hidden Affair’ still to review too). There are things I like about her writing. It’s often set during world war two. It’s exciting. It’s easy to read without feeling ‘fluffy’. This one. Well, I liked it, but it didn’t have quite the same excitement as the others by her that I’ve read.

Don’t get me wrong there was excitement there, but it was a long time coming, and whilst there was always some promise of it most of the time it was unfulfilled.

Actually I would say that this story is less an excitement based story, or even a war based story as a story about people. It’s a story of the relationships between Helena and Ruth, between Helena and Sam, and the girl’s family. It’s also a story of self-discovery. Both girls learn more about themselves.

Both become stronger in their own ways.

It didn’t hook me in the same way as some of Pam Jenoff’s other books have, but I think it showed a more sophisticated writing style and plot than her others have.

The others may have been more enjoyable at the time of reading, but The Winter Guest is more likely to stay with me.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£5.03)

Paperback (£7.99)

Other Reviews:

Silver’s Reviews

Have I Missed Your Review? Leave me a link in comments and I will add it here

 

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Filed under Fiction review, Historical

The Thirteenth Tale- Diane Setterfield


Synopsis (from goodreads)

Angelfield House stands abandoned and forgotten. It was once the imposing home of the March family–fascinating, manipulative Isabelle, Charlie her brutal and dangerous brother, and the wild, untamed twins, Emmeline and Adeline. But Angelfield House conceals a chilling secret whose impact still resonates…

Now Margaret Lea is investigating Angelfield’s past–and the mystery of the March family starts to unravel. What has Angelfield been hiding? What is its connection with the enigmatic author Vida Winter? And what is it in Margaret’s own troubled past that causes her to fall so powerfully under Angelfield’s spell?

Review

I read The Thirteenth Tale so long ago now that I had to read the synopsis just to remind myself what happened (I don’t like this synopsis by the way, but I don’t think I can write a better one so I decided to lump with it, it’s the same as amazon’s, except that it doesn’t mention the film). All I could really remember is that I didn’t want to include it as a short review because I felt (still feel) it deserved more than that.

This book sat on my wishlist for a long time after I read lots of positive blog posts about it, then it sat for a long time on my to be read pile. It may have sat their for longer if I hadn’t read Bellman and Black as a review request.

It was better than Bellman and Black too. They both had that gothic element which I love, and a certain mystery to them. Plus a element of the past effecting the future. The main different with this general background was that for William (of Bellman and Black) it’s his own past which effects him, and for Margret it’s more Vida’s past which effects her.

The story takes part during a two time periods, there is the past story of the twins at Angelfield, told in a rather detached way by Vida Winter, and the current story of Margret as she hears Vida’s story and makes her own investigations, as she has been commissioned by Vida to write her biography. At least initially Vida’s story is the most engaging, however the further we get into the story the more the two stories become entwined.

Trapped up in Vida’s big empty house, having nothing to do except listen to Vida’s story makes Margret rather crazy, understandably. (A classic of gothic literature, think Jane Eyre trapped in Thornfield, with all those noises, and the strange maid, and unexplainable fires…you get the idea) But how much is Margret imagining? How much is real? Is she just being effected by Vida’s story? By her own past? Or is there something more to it?

Vida’s own story has the aura of a gothic mystery too. All the way through you are trying to work out what actually happened in Angelfield, just as Margret is.

There was an added little story which I didn’t really think was that necessary to the story. I’m not sure it added all that much either, although it did create a bit of a twist in the tale which I suppose was good, if a little over the top.

It got me guessing right up to the end.

4/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£5.99)

Kindle (£3.66)

Other Reviews:

The Book Musings

Books at Violet Crush

HeavenAli

The Perpetual Page Turner

Reading With Tea

Alison Mccarthy

Words For Worms (Discussion, contains spoilers)

Have I missed your review? Post a link in comments and I will add it here

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Mystery

Moranthology- Caitlin Moran


Synopsis (from amazon)

In MORANTHOLOGY Caitlin Moran ‘gets quite chatty’ about many subjects, including cultural, social and political issues which are usually left to hot-shot wonks – and not a woman who sometimes keeps a falafel in her handbag.

These other subjects include…

Caffeine | Ghostbusters | Being Poor | Twitter | Caravans | Obama | Wales | Marijuana Addiction |Paul McCartney | The Welfare State | Sherlock | David Cameron Looking Like Ham | Amy Winehouse | ‘The Big Society’ | Big Hair | Nutter-letters | Failed Nicknames | Wolverhampton | Squirrels’ Testicles | Sexy Tax | Binge-drinking | Chivalry | Rihanna’s Cardigan | Party Bags | Hot People| Transsexuals | The Gay Moon Landings

Review

I wanted to read Moranthology since it came out, but somehow it hasn’t happened until recently. After all the build-up and how much I loved How to be a Woman it got to a point where I was almost expecting to be disappointed.

I found it interesting and funny, just like How to be a Woman, but less cohesive, maybe because it was actually made up of lots of Moran’s columns from The Times. Some columns were more funny than others, and some more interesting. It was nice to see a variety of topics, even though it did make for a less cohesive book. I think although the book was split into sections it might actually have been better to have as a flick through book than one to read cover to cover, as I did.

I always feel a little cheated when I read a book made up of things which have previously been published, simply because I feel I could have already read them for free online (ok, maybe not so much with The Times), or bought the paper. There was a little original material, and that did contain some of my favourite bits (the conversations with her husband most notably).

All in all a very good read, but not to the levels of How to be a Woman. Which is hard by the way because that basically gave me a girl crush on Caitlin Moran

4/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£6.74)

Kindle (£5.98)

Hardback (£7.94)

Other Reviews

Between the Pages

Nylon Admiral

Devouring Texts

Lit and Life

2 Comments

Filed under Essays, non-fiction review

Short Reviews the Third


I’ve decided to do some little reviews again. This time for books that I don’t have a lot to say about, but I still want to mention.

The bold links are amazon affiliate links (the money goes back into the blog).

 

Left Neglected- Lisa Genova

Left Neglected is another book about brain damage by Lisa Genova. This one is about a woman (Sarah) who looses her left after a car accident, basically she can’t see anything to the left of her, it’s as if it never existed.

I didn’t think it had quite the same emotional punch as Still Alice, but it was still very easy to sympathise with Sarah. Where Still Alice was about Alice’s deterioration Left Neglected has more hope and shows how Sarah learns to cope with her injury and how she begins to make things better 4/5

The Apple- Michael Faber


The Apple is a series of short stories about the characters in ‘The Crimson Petal and the White‘. It’s descriptions are less than in Crimson, but they are still rather beautiful. It also was quite as ‘racy’ as Crimson, which I am not bothered about either way but some may prefer. It didn’t have quite as much detail as I would have liked, but was still interesting to read.  3.5/5

Satan’s Shorts- Heide Goody and Iain Grant

Satan’s Shorts is the third book in the Clovenhoof series. It’s a series of short stories based around the characters in the other Clovenhoof books, and you probably wouldn’t get much out of it of you haven’t read any of the others. It is funny like the others but not as engaging. 3/5

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Filed under Fiction review

Children’s Hour: It’s Mine


Children’s Hour is a feature here at Lucybird’s Book Blog every Thursday where I’m looking at children’s picture books. As I work in a nursery I get plenty of opportunities to look at picture books, and to see what the kids think of them so it really makes sense to use those experiences.

I’d love to hear everybody’s experiences of the books I review too, and feel free to post me a link to your own reviews, I’d love to make this a bit interactive.

The image (if you were wondering) is taken from Shirley’s Hughes’ Alfie and Annie-Rose books which I loved as a child.
This week we read It’s Mine! for the first time. It’s written by Rod Campbell who is probably better known for his book Dear Zoo. It’s a simple story, not even really a story. You see little bits of the animals (e.g. the elephant’s trunk, the giraffe’s neck) in the jungle and the reader is meant to guess what it is.

The kids really weren’t that great at guessing the animals, or were being shy and didn’t want to speak up. Some of the animals were a bit difficult for the animals to guess, I had to peak at the next page on the bear for example because even I couldn’t tell what it was going to be.

They did however like naming the animals when they saw the whole of them, and they really liked the lion at the end.

Technically it’s a pop-up book, but a bit of a lame one, only the last page pops up

Buy it:

Boardbook (£3.59)

1 Comment

Filed under Children's Hour, Fiction review, Picture books

Godsquad- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Disclaimmer: This book was given to me free of charge (by the author) in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from amazon)

The Team:
Joan of Arc, the armour-plated teen saint of Orleans.
Francis of Assisi, friend to all the animals whether they like it or not.
St Christopher, the patron saint of travel who by papal decree has never existed – no matter how much he argues otherwise.

The Mission: An impossible prayer has been received by Heaven and it’s a prayer that only Mary, Mother of God, can answer. Unfortunately, Mary hasn’t been seen in decades and is off wandering the Earth somewhere. This elite team of Heavenly saints are sent down to Earth to find Mary before Armageddon is unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

Godsquad:
A breathless comedy road trip from Heaven to France and all points in-between featuring murderous butchers, a coachload of Welsh women, flying portaloos, nuclear missiles, giant rubber dragons, an army of dogs, a very rude balloon and way too much French wine.

Review

Godsquad is the fourth book in the Clovenhoof series. However it’s rather differ to Clovenhoof and Pigeonwings and can easily be read as a stand alone novel. It contains some of the same characters as the pervious books but they have been relatively minor characters before. It contains neither Satan or Gabriel.

I always rather liked Joan of Arc in the previous books so I was looking forward to seeing more of her, but on the other hand I found Francis of Assisi annoying- so wasn’t so much looking forward to seeing more of him.

In terms of action and adventure Godsquad did seem to promise more than either of the previous two books, so I found myself a little disappointed that the action didn’t get started earlier. It was somewhat interesting to see the saints adapting to modern life, but we have seen a lot of that in previous books and it might have been nice to have something different.

However when the action did get going I did find in very engaging, and the second portion of the book went very quickly for me.

I still really liked Joan of Arc by the end- more so if possible, and Francis of Assisi had grown on me too- although there are still annoying elements to him, and I liked Christopher too.

I found Mary to be a rather amusing character. Feminist, anarchist, anti-capitalist, but pretty much clueless really- that’s why she was amusing.

In fact on reflection I think it may be my favourite in the series.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£2.99)

Paperback (£8.99)

3 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Humour

Ajax Penumbra: 1969- Robin Sloan


Synopsis (from amazon)

San Francisco, 1969. The summer of drugs, music and a new age dawning. A young, earnest Ajax Penumbra has been given his first assignment as a Junior Acquisitions Officer – to find the single surviving copy of the Techne Tycheon, a mysterious volume that has brought and lost great fortune for anyone who has owned it. After a few weeks of rigorous hunting, Penumbra feels no closer to his goal than when he started. But late one night, after another day of dispiriting dead ends, he stumbles upon a 24-hour bookstore and the possibilities before him expand exponentially. With the help of his friend’s homemade computer, an ancient map, a sunken ship and the vast shelves of the 24-hour bookstore, Ajax Penumbra might just find what he’s seeking…

Review

Ajax Penumbra 1969 is the prequel to Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, it can be read alone with no problems, but I think those who have read the sequel first would probably get more out of it.

I must admit I actually think I prefered this one to the sequel. It certainly was quicker to get going, but then it was a short story- so I suppose there wasn’t much time for ‘faffing’.

It was interesting to see how Penumbra started, and his job sounded like a great job! I found his adventure more interesting than the adventure in the sequel too, although I would have liked to see more of his early days in the bookstore.

I came out of it liking Penumbra as a character much more too. He had interested me before, but we didn’t really get to know him.

I would like to know if they really did sink ships in San Francisco and build on top of them.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£1.89)

Hardback (£6.39)

 

2 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review

The Dirt- Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil, and Mick Mars


This book was read as part of The Rory List

Synopsis (from amazon, but I’m a bit meh about it)

Ten years ago, Motley Crue’s bestselling The Dirt—penned with rock chronicler extraordinaire Neil Strauss—set a new bar for rock ‘n’ roll memoirs. A genuine cultural phenomenon, this turbocharged blockbuster, with more than half a million copies in print, has now been reissued to celebrate thirty wild years with rock’s most infamous band. No band has ever lived this hard, and lived to tell the tale. You won’t just find sex, drugs, violence, fast cars, and every rock & roll cliche turned on its head inside, you will find uses for burritos and telephone handsets that you couldn’t have even imagined in your wildest dreams. This is the classic book that’s made countless ordinary mortals want to transform into lawless rock stars, and created countless spin-off books for Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil, and Mick Mars, who hold nothing back in this outrageous, legendary, no-holds-barred autobiography.

Review

Right from the offset Motley Crue make their intentions clear, they are out to disgust and disturb you, for they are the world’s most notorious rock and roll band- and they are going to prove that.

For all of the first few chapters they seem to be out to shock you more and more, even if you think it can’t get worse- except then it does. It even got to the point that it seemed almost normal- which is possibly worse.

I think it was probably planned that way. Nikki in particular seemed so egotistical that I can see him wanting to be the most scandalous band, which makes you wonder if you should believe it all. Indeed at some point each of the members mentioned how it was an expected rock and roll lifestyle- like they had to do it o have any credibility, which is a bi crazy.

Later on things get lighter, as the band members get married and start having kids, and at times it is rather sad.

I don’t really know anything about Motley Crue. I knew the names of the band members, but not in relation to the band. And I don’t think I could name any of their songs, they’re not really my style to be honest. I don’t think that mattered though, I could still read the book, sometimes I got a little confused with who was who and especially who was dating who, but I’m not sure how much easier that would have been if I knew the band.

In a way I would say it’s a bit of a coming of age tale. As the band begins to change and grow, even what they write seems less egotistical and more introspective.

If you can make it though the first disgusting bits then you will be rewarded by the end (and I think the beginning is needed for the balance).

4.5/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£4.68)

Paperback (£8.99)

Hardback (£18.94)

5 Comments

Filed under Biography, non-fiction review

Some More Short Reviews


I’ve decided to do some little reviews again. This time for books that I don’t have a lot to say about, but I still want to mention.

The bold links are amazon affiliate links (the money goes back into the blog).

 

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore- Robin Sloan

Wasn’t there a character on some TV programme called Robin Sloan? (Maybe I’m thinking of Diagnosis Murder, but that was Mark… I think).

Anyway Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is about a 24-hour bookstore (believe it or not!), but there’s something not quite ‘normal’ about the bookstore and the new clerk starts to find out what it is. Lots of people have told me that they loved this book because it was about a bookstore. I don’t really see that- it’s more a mystery, almost an Indiana Jones type story. It was strange but rather intriguing and there was a good amount to puzzle out and action towards the end. I got into it well enough to buy the prequel. 3.5/5

 

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared- Jonas Jonasson

Try saying that with a mouthful of toffee! I’m going to abbreviate it (laziness!) to THMCWD.

THMCWD is a book about THMCWD, sounds dull? Well he gets up to all sorts of things which you wouldn’t expect, with the police on his tails all the time. There’s robbery, criminal gangs, murder, and an elephant. When the action was going on I read it quite quickly but when it wasn’t I found I wasn’t too encouraged to read it at all. I did find that despite not being the longest book it took me a long time to read because I lost interest. However at times it was funny, and bizarre, and I really thought that Allan was an interesting character.

THMCWD is in a middle of a lawsuit here in the UK and can no longer be sold by the British publishers, but you may still be able to get your hands on a copy somewhere. Amazon is selling the US version of the kindle edition (by the way what is up with that cover? Allan looks more like 30 than 100) 3/5

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Filed under Fiction review

Raven Girl- Audrey Niffenegger


Synopsis (from amazon)

Once there was a Postman who fell in love with a Raven…

So begins the tale of a postman who encounters a fledgling raven while on the edge of his route and decides to take her home. The unlikely couple falls in love and conceives a child – an extraordinary raven girl trapped in a human body

Review

Raven Girl is a graphic novel by the author best known for the fantastic book The Time Traveller’s Wife. It tells the story of a man and a raven who fall in love and have a daughter, she looks like a girl, but inside she is a raven, and is stuck in a sort of hole where she can never truly be either.

Raven Girl is a strange little story, right from the premise really. It’s sort of a sweet story though, and you could almost swap the Raven Girl for anyone trying to fit in, or anyone stuck between two cultures. You can see the style of Niffenegger’s writing which you recognise from her novels- it’s style is probably closer to Her Fearful Symmetry than to The Time Traveller’s Wife- although the story itself is much more simple.

The art work (also created by Niffenegger) fits the story well. It’s a bit mismatched, a bit strange, but still quite pretty. I’m sure Niffeneger designed the pictures to be like this as her other graphic novel which I have read, The Night Bookmobile, has much more realistic pictures (see below)

Image from The Night Bookmobile Source

Image from Raven Girl Source

It’s the sort of book you want to possess as much as read, like a piece of artwork.

I found out during my search for the images above that there is a ballet of Raven Girl which is showing at the Royal Opera House in October, I think i would be quite interesting to see.

4/5

Buy it:

Hardback (£13.59)

Other Reviews:

Alison Mccarthy

Have I missed your review? Leave me a comment in links and I will add it here.

4 Comments

Filed under Fiction review, Graphic Novel