Monday, 23 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - X

X is for Literally no book I've ever read.


in a tenuous link, the Xanadu from Coleridge's Kubla Khan is vaguely relevant. I recommend every read the poem. If you're not into poetry, listen to Benedict Cumberbatch reading Kubla Khan for a crash conversion course in why everyone can be into poetry if it's read in a sexy voice!

Sorry for the dud guys, Any X recommendations for books?

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - W

W is for The Woman Who Went to bed for a Year

The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year
Sue Townsend
Penguin 13/9/2012
Found in housemate's giving away bag

I loved this book, it wasn't an easy read though. I struggled with the story progression, there was a climax problem with the plot. It was a really interesting concept though. An insight into the weird psychology of an under appreciated mother.
Things kept taking more and more bizarre turns in the people surrounding the protagonist. Eventually though she needed someone to come and rescue her, white knight style, which bothered me a little. I couldn't decide what I thought about the concept, 'Just get up', but when the doctor's argued with her I was on her side.
It was very cleverly written and one I would definitely recommend to people of sound mind; it occurred to me to follow suit but I am alone with no one to bring me food. *note to self, make sure to have a family and support system before doing something mad.*

Saturday, 21 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - V

V is for Vathek

William Beckford
Borrowed from sister

Vathek was written at a time when the Arab world was exciting and new. Arabian nights had just been translated into English and was inspiring writers and artists. It is a Faustian tale with the added character of a devilish mother. I did not enjoy this book. I liked the descriptions of all things luxurious and pleasurable. And even the eternal torments were well described, but without any feeling it seemed. It just seems uninspiring in its writing style. There was very little to go on in terms of character and I found it quite biblical: begot Simon, begot John, begot Adrian, begot Ahmed, begot Roger, begot Dave.

I did manage to finish the book in case something interesting happened, but I found it neither frightening nor gripping. Not a Halloween read I would recommend. There are two more books in the collection to go and I am hoping for more chilling tales. Perhaps there was something about the setting that made it difficult to feel Halloweeny. I associate fear with cold shivers and misty moors, Vathek is set some where in the desert or middle east and no one is ever cold with fright and the setting didn't suit the Gothic feel I wanted. Can anyone recommend a book that takes place in the heat and is frightening for next year?

Friday, 20 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - U

U is for Ullyses.

I'll admit that I have not read this cover to cover. Similarly I have not understood it. But I've seen a few documentaries that do make me want to read it. Stephen Fry had a program all about the language and had people read it aloud.

I've come to the conclusion that you have to let the writing rush over you and just try to enjoy the language, with maybe a chapter guide at your elbow just for the summary.

I'm planning to tackle this sooner rather than later, but I might be delayed for a year... or two. Ah it's going to be hard but I think you just have to bite the bullet and give it a go. I think secondary reading might be the tactic for this one.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - T

T is for Throne of Glass

Another Sarah J Maas!

Throne of Glass
Sarah J Maas
Bloomsbury 02/08/2012 Paperback
Bookhaul (Bloomsbury)
The role of the female assassin is beautifully captured in Celena Sardothien. I liked that this whole novel was complex. She has a dark history and back story, her relationships, romantic and otherwise, are not clear cut or simple and the mysterious forces that run through the sub plot are complicated. I love that the other characters are constantly trying to figure her out, while the reader can see that Celena is just like every teenage girl in the world, trying to figure herself out as well. A YA read with a fantasy/action hybrid that keeps the pages turning. Bring on book Two. 

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - S

S is for One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Another one I DO NOT recommend. But I think it is important that people read all the reviews, some love it some hate it, I'm in the latter camp.

One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Penguin 06/09/07 Paperback
Gift (Penguin Intern)
This book either gets five stars or one. For those who award five, a review of incredibly critical insight is written. For those who award one they apologise for 'not getting it'.  I will not apologise.
I get it. The passage of time, the reality of time, the madness of the human condition. The absurd. One critic called it  Dali in words. I loved passages of the writing. Perhaps one paragraph in nine. But I could not finish it. Such importance was put upon the family, but we were raced through it. I lost interest in trying to keep up. Unlike Ulysses where the beauty of the language has to wash over you as you read it (and perhaps this is the downfall of translation) one hundred years of solitude read as a very dull timeline with extraordinary events chucked in. Other critics I read said: one hundred years of Boredom/Tedium/Torture. I am inclined to agree. I did not finish it and I would not recommend it.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - R

R is for Rasputin's Daughter

Not technically a recommendation as I didn't like this book... but it appears to be the only R in my reading record. So:

Robert Alexander
Penguin 19/01/2006
Mummy's Library
This short book was an easy read and perfect for the plane ride home from Istanbul. This piece of historical fiction was a interesting, but only because I am already interested in this period of history. The little nuggets of interest were mostly already known, and there wasn't anything particularly ground breaking in terms of the story line. 
A sweet book, It had some adult themes but I felt that the writing style was slightly too young for me, aimed more at a young adult audience then me. If you're into historical fiction from this time, then it's a good one, but it's not the best and is particularly simple. 

Monday, 16 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - Q

Q is for Queen of Shadows

Another one for the TBR list. I love Sarah J Maas' books and would love to round off the series with the last book. I've been doing pretty well with my TBR list and have been focusing on those books on my shelves that really need to be read or disapear.

This is a YA novel, so it is unlikely to hang around for long as I tend to devour them, particularly the really well written ones by Maas. In this new book Celaena Sardothien is out for revenge and by all accounts it's a passionate and exciting finale. I can't wait to get my hands on it, I'm only stopped by my HUGE list of other books to read. but soon. soon I will read this one. 

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - P

P is for Pride and Prejudice


Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen
T.Eggerton, Whitehall 28/1/1813
Borrowed from Mummy's library

I took this book from Turkey for the plane ride home. I LOVED it. amazingly, having grown up watching pride and prejudice 1992 TV series on VHS round and round until we didn't know the colours of the dresses, I never actually read the book.
This is part of my classics initiative. Now that I'm not working in publishers, I have less access to new releases so I am focusing on some of the classics that I SHOULD read. Anyway, Pride and Prejudice lived up to everything that I wanted it to be. I loved reading the original characters and felt them evolving and changing in my brain.
I will say though, that it was easier to read because I already had the tone of the TV series in my mind, and so it was much easier for me to follow than I think it would be if I wasn't so familiar with the narrative already.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - O

O is for Orlando

Virginia Woolf
Hogarth Press 11/10/1928 Kindle
Kindle Classics

In a strange turn of events, I actually saw the film of Orlando before the book. I found the story much more dark, confusing and bizarre than the film and I really enjoyed that, it felt like I was unwrapping a secret part of the story I didn't know before. I loved the Tiresus style gender bending and the struggles of the genders between them selves. The exploration of ying and yan in a persons' personality as well as their body was interesting as well as the impact of a woman losing her fortune and rights in a world where she was once a man.

It was fantastical in all the right ways and incredibly readable. I was surprised as I've struggled with Woolf's essays before and thought the book would be another dribble of musings from the mind. I find stream of consciousness style writing quite self indulgent actually, so I was pleased to find that Orlando was very well constructed and not in the least annoying. I might even try another of Virginia's soon (first name basis, obviously).

Friday, 13 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - N

N is for Nutcracker

Since it's Christmas, the classic Christmas story of the Nutcracker is the obvious choice when it comes to recommendations. The story has obviously been taken over successfully by the ballet but the original story by E.T.A. Hoffmann: The Nutcracker and the Mouse King is a charming story and well worth a read. The festive story is the perfect prelude to watching and enjoying the ballet by Tchaikovsky. 

It is no wonder that the story was taken up as Clara is whisked away into a world populated by dolls that come alive. 

Definitely one for Christmas time! 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - M

M is for The Miniaturist

The Miniaturist
Jessie Burton
Picador 3/7/14 Hardback
Christmas Present!

I actually snatched this book from my dad, who was given this book for Christmas. I was so excited I immediately started reading it and finished it in a week.
Broken neatly into 3 parts, each more exciting and intriguing than the next this beautiful book follows Nella Brant in her new Amsterdam home. Full of gold, Guilds and gossip 17th Century Europe comes alive. With the fantastical twist of a watchmaker's daughter whose watchful presence disturbs the peaceful waterways with ripples. Is she casually observing, predicting the future or orchestrating it?
The characters absolutely made this book for me. They were each so vivid that I remember now a month later. I'd highly recommend this book. Nice one Picador, my 17th century hat is off to you.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - L

L is for The Land Where Lemons Grow

The Land Where Lemons Grow
Helena Attlee
Particular books (Penguin) 03/04/14 Hardback
Stanfords Bookshop (Covent Garden)
This heady mix of travel writing, history, biology and social anthropology was a joy to read. The Citruses of Italy are the main characters of this book, but also the people who look after them. The elderly man who maintained a limonaria or lemon house in the northern mountains every winter by carefully regulating the temperature with fires to drive away the frost. The stubborn and yet still fragile characters of Italian lemons have a tumultuous history in the early days of the mafia.  The importance, the rise and decline, and the reflection of the Italian people through their interaction with the fruit is all wrapped up in this sensuous book. A summer/holiday read preferably somewhere where the possibility of procuring a lemon sorbet is at your fingertips.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - K

K is for King Thrushbeard

Thrilled to hear that you can read the original story of King Thrushbeard by the brothers Grimm. I know the rendition by Rik Mayall in Grimm Tales almost by heart.

A classic grim fairytale about a shallow princess who is taught a lesson about judging people by their appearance.

definitely one to read and if not I'm sure Grimm Tales is on Youtube!

Monday, 9 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - J

J is for James and the Giant Peach

A classic recommendation from my early years, it is of course the brilliant Roald Dahl. Known for his classic children's books, I certainly read them when I was a child.

The story follows an enchanted magic peach which blows up to the size of a mansion and travels around with a small boy inside it. It's fantastic, literally. Anyone who has not yet read it, do not classify this as a children's book which will be below your level, please pick it up and get ready for the giggles.

I am a reader, and though there are a number of authors who contributed to that fact, Roald Dahl said: "If my books can help children become readers, then I feel I have accomplished something important." You did, Sir. 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - I

I is for I Am Pilgrim

Well, now for something completely different. I can't post a review of I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, because I haven't actually read it. It is on my TBR shelf and will hopefully be tackled in 2016 after my Christmas haul.

It's on my list to read because it was recommended to me by my dad, who has good taste in books generally, though our tastes are a little different, we both love crime. One thing that daunts me immediately about this book is that it is MASSIVE. It reminds me of Clarissa it is so big, I hope it's a page turner or I am in trouble! Hopefully I can finish it soon and post a proper review.

Has anyone read this tome? What did you make of it?

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - H

H is for Heir of Fire 
Heir of Fire
Sarah J Maas
Bloomsbury Childrens 11/09/14 paperback
Book review for Bloomsbury
I loved reading Heir of Fire, I am a late comer to the Throne of Glass series, I missed Crown of Midnight completely and I haven’t read Assassin’s Blade either.
One thing I would say is that Throne of Glass felt a lot more like a standalone book than Heir of Fire.  Not so much because I missed Crown of Midnight out but – and I’m trying not to leave spoilers – but the ending. I invested considerable hours reading all about a set of characters and their adventures only to be left on a cliff hanger? Sarah J Maas had a similar set up in Throne of Glass where there is a learning curve for Celaena, a considerable chunk of training which culminates in a huge fight followed by a cliff hanger for the future. A good technique for a six book series. I need the next book NOW.  
But let’s really get into it. I want to talk about the ladies . . . one of the reasons I love Heir of Fire is how well it portrays women, and how it is set in a NEARLY gender equal society. There are pages and pages of female characters and what I love about them is that there is absolutely no question about 'traditional feminine traits'.  The women do not hold their tongues and do not hide away from battle or hardship. There is no surprise that the most deadly assassin is female, all you need to know is that she can kill you, and she will kill you. 
There are also glimpses of LGBT story lines, which I would have liked to see more of and I'm sure we will in the rest of the series. 
There is a huge number of female leaders in Heir of Fire, and I am all for that, I love that that is possible, that there is power for the women, but there is one niggling issue: The girls seem to need magic to make them awesome, the only cool female human has a fatal flaw which I can't reveal. One of the things Sarah *Yup First Name Terms* does really well is that characters have shades of grey to their characters. No one is totally evil or totally good, they're all flawed, like real people, which is something that is hard to get right. 
I love the new characters of Mannon and the Blackbeaks, their unique social dynamics was brilliant to read, I just wish I knew what happens!!! Hats off to Sarah because she definitely has me wanting the next book already. 

Friday, 6 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - G

G is for The Great Gatsby

The Great Gastby
F Scot Fitzgerald
Free classics collection on Kindle

'What Gatsby?' I absolutely loved this book. I came to it rather late, it was one of those amazing books that I never got around to reading. Notoriously, I tend to shy away from American fiction. I wasn't exposed to it as a child, we never had it in the house and so the titles are unfamiliar and here I am at 23, reading it for the first time.
I admit that I had Toby Maguire's voice in my head from the movie, but it didn't take away from how much I enjoyed the book. I'd been to uni with people who had studied and loved it and I also listened to book club podcasts and all kinds of things, I had basic background knowledge I'd absorbed from the zietgeist.
I wanted to forget all that analytical stuff when I was reading it but it was nearly impossible not to notice it.
Over all I thought it was captivatingly written and a short easy read. It made me want to read for a copy of Waugh's Bright Young Things.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - F

F is for How to win Friends and Influence people

How To Win Friends & Influence People
Dale Carnegie
Vermillion 6/4/06 Paperback
Christmas Present!

I was told when handed this book that it would change my life. And as I read it people would come up to me and start conversations about how it had changed theirs. Twitter notifications poured in to pay attention. Perhaps I'm still too young.
When I finished this, I felt like I should just flip back to the beginning and read it all over again. It was so well written and interesting, and obviously has some great advice that should be drilled into you. but I wanted to give my self a break first. I think I'll pick it up again in a few months and see if I feel any differently about it.
My biggest problem with this book was that it was all advice given from a position of power, how to get your minions to work effectively. Unfortunately I'm one of the minions, so there is never a moment where I can influence anyone really. I just do as I'm told. It didn't really help the little man, just big managers. Which is why I think I'm too young/in the wrong stage of life. My outlook isn't the most positive, neither am I ever really asking anything of anyone. Plus I recognise that I probably am just being a 23 year old and assuming that I know everything.
It had some brilliant advice which I should try to use more often. Definitely one to pick up again.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - E

E is for An Echo in the Bone

First reviewed here in February Reviews

An Echo In The Bone
Diana Gabaldon
Orion 30/9/10 Paperback
Christmas Present

Another book in the brilliant series. This time I had the added enthusiasm that a new TV series has started following the story from the beginning. I love these books. As a hooked reader, anything that Diana writes will be eagerly lapped up. AND she appeared in the TV series with a little cameo role, which tickled me into a fan-girlish frenzy.
The book is another fantastic epic with as many twists and turns as I always expect. I had less patience for the history in this book than earlier ones. I was drawn to the mystical hills of Scotland and although we got a little it was twenty first century following Bree, Roger and their children.
I struggled with the age of the characters as well. It is just as well the Bree and Roger are involved in this story, plus Will and his story line because Claire and Jamie are becoming distinctly aged.
They are my romantic powerhouse, and they are increasingly closer to death which just depresses me. However the descriptions and the writing are powerful enough to make me believe the development of the characters I love so much. Either way. Fascinating, Brilliant and I look forward to the next one.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - D

D is for Dead Ends

I recently reviewed Dead Ends by Erin Lange for Movellas. Here it is!

‘Dead Ends’ by Erin Lange is a story about friendship, family and fathers. My alliteration skills astound even me. It might be suggested that Dane, Seely and Billy D are an unlikely friendship group because they are all so individual; The school fighter, the rock chick and the kid with Downs syndrome. But I think that that is a very 2-dimensional view of them as characters. Lange builds people not characters.
Billy D and Dane are brought together, essentially, because they live next door to each other. Thrown together by proximity, they become friends at first because they each have something the other wants and they stay friends because of their fathers.
Both of their dads are MIA, while their useful friend Seely has two. While we don’t ever meet Seely’s parents, Lange introduces a subtle discussion of same sex parenting. While other authors might have used Seely’s “struggle” on how she deals with other people’s views of her having two dads. Lange actually uses Dane as society’s mirror; he struggles at first with how to react. He teased Seely to cover up how uncomfortable he was, but eventually he realises the fact that while she has two dads, he and Billy D don’t have one between them and he cannot begrudge anyone that kind of luck. Dads are important, even the missing ones.
Seely often seems weak to me. Even though Lange has said that she was her favourite character to write. She is definitely a minor character and shows up at appropriate moments to supply a place to hang out/ a car/; a double helping of pseudo father figures. She is unique and clever, sassy and “different” from the other girls at school. I didn’t see her as a “strong” female character; I just thought she was a girl – a useful plot device that just happened to be female. I think she easily could have been a boy, but I expect Lange would be accused of the story being overly male-centric.
The true strong female characters are Dane and Billy D’s mothers. Fiercely protective, hardworking, single, fighters. I read them both as incredibly nuanced and brilliant women. I love that they both had flaws, a quick temper or a secretive nature. It was because of this that they became the most realistic of the characters. Lange can write strong female characters, but it seems, only if she’s not trying and just stumbles on accurate and poignant, normal women.
The comparison to John Green probably comes from the quirk. From riddles and treasure hunts to famous last words, from okay? Okay, to ‘it’s a metaphor’, John Green always has an underlying quirk to his writing. ‘Dead Ends’’ quirk is the funny place names and the riddle/test that Billy D’s dad apparently left for him. ‘Dead Ends’ is a maze and Billy D and Dean are looking for something: Where is Billy D’s dad, why did he leave, who is Dean’s and why are Billy and Dean who they are? So many questions and Lange answers them all.

Monday, 2 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - C

C is for The Chimes

First posted in Underground Bookclub - September Reviews

The Chimes
Anna Smaill
Sceptre 12/2/15 Kindle
Amazon Kindle

Ambitious is what I would say about Chimes. I thought it would be a brilliant change to spice up the Man Booker list this year which was looking a bit dower. It didn't make it to the shortlist and now, having read it, I can see why. It was an incredible idea which really ought to be a series. I thought the second half seemed rushed to cram the story in and it got a bit lost after that. The move from London to Oxford in a re imagined world was a bit too close to the Northern Lights and The Bone Season ideas and unfortunately isn't nearly done as well. I will now deal with a minor spoiler. For those in the know: the relationship between Simon and Lucien which takes a turn...was an utterly unnecessary plot point that adds nothing and appears to be there to do something to make the two characters more of a team, which honestly was pointless. It was also done with a rather blunt style and painted a rather ridiculous relationship.

It definitely was a beautiful read to begin with, although the history eventually began to come out I honestly wasn't that interested. It was difficult. On the one hand it's a mammoth story with a mammoth style to go with it and was rushed into a single narrative and it suits it to stay within that style and just keep getting more mad. I thought the idea could have been handled more simply and been a smaller story beautifully written and nuanced but I think Smaill just had to run with what she had. It's a shame; I think she has incredible potential as a writer but the narrative was rushed and not thought out well enough to build a single good book.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The Alphabet in Books - B

I've decided to make this an Advent Calendar! I hope I've read enough books!

What is your B in your alphabet in books? Join in in the comments or on twitter.

B is for Birds Without Wings

This is my review first posted in July Reviews - Revisiting Turkey

Birds Without Wings
Louis De BernieresPenguin 4/7/155/5Birthday haul

After the first time I read this book, I'm sure that I thought I didn't need to read it again. I was a little young to appreciate how great it is. I think as a younger reader I tried to rush through much of the story because I wasn't able to wrap my brain around the full picture of this narrative from different times and different view points.

Again another book based in Turkey, there was a nostalgia that I had reading this book for the village life. I love the picture that's painted because it feels so accurate. As my family might be leaving Turkey in the next 5 years, the situation is making me very appreciative of the life that I have lived there. I would love to read more books set in and about Turkey and Istanbul because it keeps me in touch with the place I grew up.

It's a gorgeously written book and had a big impact on me this time around.