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Number of pages: 864

William Makepeace Thackeray's darkly comic novel is mostly about the anti-heroine Becky Sharp and her efforts to climb the social ladder. Becky is very different from most female lead characters in classic novels in that she really is quite selfish, and I got the impression at times that she wasn't meant to be a likeable character. The book also revolves around various other characters, such as Amelia, Captain Dobbin and the vile Marquis of Steyne.

Most of my knowledge of the book came from the 1998 BBC adaptation, and I found the book quite hard going at times, mostly because it was a bit long-winded, with a lot of long sections without dialogue. However, I found myself liking Thackeray's quirky writing style, particularly the way that he constantly addresses the reader. While sometimes it was hard to engage with what was happening, some of the chapters were very enjoyable, particularly the vivid portrayal of the battle of Waterloo.

The book was a mixture of comedy, romance and tragedy, and it seemed to get a good balance between the three. It is quite a long book, but at the end I was satisfied and glad that I had kept going with it.

Next book: Real Lives (D.J. Carswell)

First of 2015

North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell
Pages: 563
Blurb: Milton is a sooty, noisy northern town centred around the cotton mills that employ most of its inhabitants. Arriving from a rural idyll in the South, Margaret Hale is initially shocked by the social unrest and poverty she finds in her new home town. However, as she begins to befriend her neighbours, and her stormy relationship with the mill-owner John Thornton develops, she starts to see Milton in a different light.
My Thoughts: It is my mission this year to try and read some of the many books which have sat on my shelf for years and to try to read the book before watching any adaption. I've been curious to read this for years, having heard it described as a grittier Pride and Prejudice. It did not disappoint. I loved the clear reversal of roles that you get in P&P, with Margaret being full of pride. I loved the character development of Thornton - he had more depth and feeling than many leading men in romance novels. I found Gaskell brave to provide a forward-thinking view in work relations, which must have been quite shocking for the time.
I am normally averse to 'the classics', but this is really something else. Also, give me John Thornton any day over Christian Grey.

Books 23 & 24 - 2014

Book 23: A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Seventh: The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket – 256 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Dear Reader, You have undoubtedly picked up this book by mistake, so please put it down. Nobody in their right mind would read this particular book about the lives of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire on purpose, because each dismal moment of their stay in the village of V.F.D. has been faithfully and dreadfully recorded in these pages. I can think of no single reason why anyone would want to open a book containing such unpleasant matters as migrating crows, an angry mob, a newspaper headline, the arrest of innocent people, the Deluxe Cell, and some very strange hats. It is my solemn and sacred occupation to research each detail of the Baudelaire children′s lives and write them all down, but you may prefer to do some other solemn and sacred thing, such as reading another book instead.

Thoughts:
I continue on my challenge to read this series. This one sees the children shipped off to a strange village to be raised by the entire village, which sounds strange and only gets stranger. As it turns out the village only wants the children to be their personal cleaners. They get taken in to live with one strange man who nonetheless tries to help them solve the riddle of V.F.D and where the children’s friends are, and avoid another run in with Count Olaf. These stories are fanciful but it’s quite amusing to see the things the Baudelaire children come up with in order to get out of trouble.


23 / 50 books. 46% done!


8315 / 15000 pages. 55% done!

Book 24: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – 313 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten. Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, `The Fault in Our Stars` is award-winning author John Green's most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

Thoughts:
I read this book because everyone is reading this book and because there was a movie coming out. I’m still to watch the movie, and whilst I wouldn’t say this book is the groundbreaking amazing masterpiece claim it is, I did still really enjoy it. Part of this was because of Green’s writing style and dialogue, which was both laugh out loud funny and reminded me more than any other writer of my own writing style. The story itself is an interesting one, mostly because you can see how it could be possible. Two teenagers in a terrible situation bond – because of their illness or because it really is love? It’s a fascinating question and one Green doesn’t choose to (or really has to) answer. In many respects, the plot meanders and the whole story with the writer sometimes feels like it was put in there to fill the story out. The fact that she goes to Amsterdam got me a little excited though, given I’m half Dutch and I’ve never read a story set in any way shape or form in the Netherlands before. I don’t know. I enjoyed it but at the same time, it didn’t blow me away. Nonetheless, I can see why it was so popular amongst the teen girl market.


24 / 50 books. 48% done!


8628 / 15000 pages. 58% done!

Currently reading:
-        The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss – 323 pages
-        Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton – 596 pages
-        Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics by Paul Street – 272 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages


Number of pages: 442

I finally decided to give the Hunger Games Trilogy a go. Set in a dystopian (and seemingly post-apocalyptic) future, the main form of entertainment is a violent reality show called "The Hunger Games". This is a game of survival, where the only way to win is not be killed by your rivals.

After the heroine, Katniss Everdeen's sister is picked, Katniss takes her place and she is placed into the arena; you can probably guess how the book will end. Katniss also narrates the story throughout, in the present tense.

Although this book has a slightly younger target audience than many of the books I've read recently, I liked the fact that this was quite an easy read. I liked the first-person narration, and it made it easy to care for the main character, and she goes into great detail about her emotions and how she often seems to be despairing about her situation. At times, this book was quite shocking too, especially a revelation regarding genetically-engineered mutant animals near to the end.

I also liked how Katniss' relationship with other characters was portrayed, and there were a couple of moments that were heartbreaking. Possibly the most shocking thing though was that the Hunger Games did not feel all that unrealistic, and seemed like something that could happen.

The book has a satisfying conclusion that also sets up the second novel, "Catching Fire". I will definitely keep reading.

Next book: The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets (Simon Singh)

Book #3: Shirley by Charlotte Brontë



Number of pages: 624

A book that features both a love triangle and an industrial dispute.

It's fairly obvious in this book that the hero, Robert Moore should marry his lover Caroline; however, things get complicated when the eponymous Shirley appears on the scene.

Shirley is a richer, privileged woman, and Robert ends up proposing to her because he needs the money for his mill. Apparently, Shirley was also based on Charlotte Brontë's sister Emily, author of Wuthering Heights, and is a version of her, "If she had wealth and happiness".

The story also involves scenes in which mill workers riot at the prospect of losing their employment to new technology, although it doesn't take up a large amount of the story that mostly looks at the relationships between the three main characters. I remember noticing that a lot of the story involved Caroline and Shirley getting on like good friends, although Shirley does start to become nastier towards the end of the book.

This book felt somewhat different in tone to Jane Eyre, which I have read a few times, feeling less gothic, and making me think of the writing style of Dickens, possibly because of the number of side characters and various plot strands.

At times I found the book hard going, especially as there seemed to be long descriptions of people expressing their internal thoughts; I've also noticed that Charlotte Brontë often stuck several passages of dialogue in French into her novels. However, the main romantic plot is actually quite simple and mostly easy to pick up.

Next book: "Fundamentalism" and the Word of God (J.I. Packer)

Books 13 & 14 - 2014

Book 13: A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Fifth: The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket – 221 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
As the three Baudelaire orphans warily approach their new home Prufrock Preparatory School: they can′t help but notice the enormous stone arch bearing the school′s motto Memento Mori or "Remember you will die." This is not a cheerful greeting and certainly marks an inauspicious beginning to a very bleak story just as we have come to expect from Lemony Snickett′s Series of Unfortunate Events, the deliciously morbid set of books that began with The Bad Beginning and only got worse.

Thoughts:
Still working my way through these. This one introduces the characters of Isadora and Duncan Quagmire who seem to be in a fairly similar situation to the Baudelaire children and who attempt to help them escape Olaf once again. This time he is disguised as a running coach he tries to run the children effectively to death. The ending’s to these books are starting to get more and more adult in their content, a trend I have noticed as I get further through the series. Still relatively interesting and nice quick reads.


13 / 50 books. 26% done!


4580 / 15000 pages. 31% done!

Book 14: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge – 342 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
The romance of Beauty and the Beast meets the adventure of Graceling in a dazzling fantasy novel about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny. Betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom, Nyx has always known her fate was to marry him, kill him, and free her people from his tyranny. But on her seventeenth birthday, when she moves into his castle high on the kingdom's mountaintop, nothing is as she expected--particularly her charming and beguiling new husband. Nyx knows she must save her homeland at all costs, yet she can't resist the pull of her sworn enemy--who's gotten in her way by stealing her heart. For fans of bestselling authors Kristin Cashore and Alex Flinn, this gorgeously written debut infuses the classic fairy tale with glittering magic, a feisty heroine, and a romance sure to take your breath away.

Thoughts:
This was a delicious story. It came up on my recommend Goodreads email one month and I put it on my list and for some reason decided to get it from the library while I was on a short break between finishing one job and starting a new one. I wasn’t expecting it to be so delicious, but I have no other word to describe it. It’s a combination of Beauty and the Beast, Graceling (another book I adore), and various mythologies (there is elements of the Psyche and Eros story from Greek mythology). All are things I love. But it could have failed really bad if not for the manner in which Hodge makes her very reluctant, very bitter main character work. Nyx resents her life, resents her sister, resents her purpose, resents her resentment. On her seventeenth birthday she is sent to kill the beast that lives in the castle on the mountaintop. She goes in guns blazing, willing to throw herself at this beast, in order to trick him and kill him. Her plans don’t go the way she intends, and there is an immediate, hate-filled attraction. Hodge does a fantastic job of showing just how thin the line between love and hate is. Nyx wants nothing more than to kill her captor, but she is also drawn to him and to a strange being that lives in the castle. The relationship between all three is bizarre and fascinating and watching it evolve is what makes this story so good. You want it to work out for everyone, even though, maybe, everyone is maybe a little evil, or a little selfish, and maybe they don’t deserve a happy ending. Nyx’s flaws as a person are what make her so engaging for me. I love misunderstood characters, I love romances that make you wonder whether the couple should really be together, even though they make perfect sense in many ways. I flew through this book, determined to find out how it ended, and I loved the ending. It was fitting without being soppy or overly cheerful. For not entirely human characters, it was beautifully human. Highly recommended!


14 / 50 books. 28% done!


4922 / 15000 pages. 33% done!

Currently reading:
-        Bones are Forever by Kathy Reichs – 283 pages
-        Globality: Competing with Everyone from Everywhere for Everything by Harold L. Sirkin, James W. Hemerling and Arindam K. Bhattacharya – 267 pages
-        Sunshine on Sugar Hill by Angela Gilltrap – 310 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages


Number of pages: 480

I remember reading this years ago but had forgotten what happened completely.

The story feels like a standard romantic novel when Gabriel Oak first meets Bathsheba, who at first teases him almost flirtatiously. Although it seems apparent that they don't have a future together, you sort of want them to be able to get together in the end.

Of course, things are made more difficult by the appearance of Farmer Boldwood and Sergeant Troy, who also both have their eye on Bathsheba. While my sympathies were mostly with Gabriel Oak, I found myself feeling sorry for Farmer Boldwood too, especially as he constantly waits for Bathsheba to agree to marry him. Sergeant Troy, on the other hand, comes across very quickly as a dislikeable rogue.

The book felt very talky, but it was a story that felt very accessible and easy to follow throughout. Of course, the biggest shock in the story comes when...

[Spoiler (click to open)]About half way through, Bathsheba turns out to have unwisely married Sergeant Troy. If you've read the book, you will know he becomes increasingly dislikeable after this, particularly in a sequence where it seems that he deliberately faked his own death, and returns to get Bathsheba back, only to be shot dead by Farmer Boldwood.

I was glad to see that she and Gabriel Oak ended up together in the end.



Next book: Snuff (Terry Pratchett)

2013 Summary

It’s only taken me a year to finish writing up my 2013 book reviews (and with nearly 30 2014 book reviews to write in the next month), but alas I am here. So what happened in 2013? I got promoted to manager at work; I travelled to Hawaii and went on a cruise to far-north Queensland, as well as visiting the most northern point in Australia for work (Thursday Island for those of you playing at home); I started saving for a house. No man yet, no published book, but you’ve got have some goals left over for the next year right? I set myself one goal in 2013 – read 15 500+ page books. I read two. Maybe 2014 will be my year, eh? (yeah right!!). Anyway, on with the list:

1.   Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – 598 pages
2.   Rock Chicks: The Hottest Female Rockers from the 1960s to Now by Alison Stieven-Taylor – 314 pages
3.   206 Bones by Kathy Reichs – 308 pages
4.   Britney: Inside the Dream by Steve Dennis – 400 pages
5.   This Charming Man by Marian Keyes – 885 pages
6.   The Iliad by Homer – 460 pages
7.   The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, M.D – 343 pages
8.   Why Some Like it Hot: Food, Genes, and Cultural Diversity by Gary Paul Nabhan – 223 pages
9.   The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings – 283 pages
10.         Sweet Poison: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat by David Gillespie – 205 pages
11.         A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan – 342 pages
12.         Underworld by Meg Cabot – 318 pages
13.         Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan – 385 pages
14.         Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto – 294 pages
15.         The Age of Miracles by Karen Thomson Walker – 369 pages
16.         Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter – 394 pages
17.         Awaken by Meg Cabot – 343 pages
18.         Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan – 375 pages
19.         Insatiable by Meg Cabot – 451 pages
20.         Overbite by Meg Cabot – 275 pages
21.         Pacific Paradises: The Discovery of Tahiti and Hawaii by Trevor Lummis – 201 pages
22.         The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot – 392 pages
23.         The Star Queen by Susan Grant – 322 pages
24.         Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce – 389 pages
25.         Star Trek Enterprise: The Good That Men Do by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin – 446 pages
26.         Company by Max Barry – 336 pages
27.         A Song For Summer by Eva Ibbotson – 424 pages
28.         The Authenticity Hoax: How we get lost finding ourselves by Andrew Potter – 283 pages
29.         Everlost by Neal Shusterman – 377 pages
30.         Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan & Cacilda Jetha – 344 pages


30 / 50 books. 60% done!


11079 / 15000 pages. 74% done!

Comparison to 2012:


30 / 42 books. 71% done!


11079 / 11869 pages. 93% done!

Top 5 books (not including re-reads):

5. Sweet Poison
4. Company
3. The Descendants
2. This Charming Man
1. Steve Jobs

Interesting Facts:
Improvement on last year: -12 (-790)
Library books: 22
Non-Fiction: 9
Most read author: Meg Cabot (5 books/1779 pages)
Books with a sci-fi/fantasy element: 14
Re-reads: 0
Sequels/Not a stand alone or first in a series: 7

I had only set myself one goal this year and that was to read 15 pre-selected 500+ pages books. I read two. Consequently for 2014, whilst I didn’t write it down anyway but a entry at the top of my journal, I set myself this goal again, subbing out the two 500+ page books I’d read for two new ones. I can hand on heart say I will not make this goal (something easy to say when its December of said year), but I will beat my result of two (how much by is for another day!). I have set myself no other specific goals for 2014, besides actually hitting the 15000 pages goal which seems to be relatively achievable. We’ll see what 2014 brings (or you will when I write my 2014 summary in a month’s time – I obviously already know what 2014 has brought!).

On to another year folks! Let’s see if I can get the 2014 reviews done before the end of the month.

Book #42: Middlemarch by George Eliot



Number of pages: 904

This story of residents living in the eponymous town of Middlemarch felt like the plot to a soap opera, with the numerous subplots mostly involving couples. The reason I got into reading George Eliot's writing was that I read The Mill on the Floss, which I preferred overall to this, although this was also a decent read, just heavy going at times.

The plot that I found myself most interested in was the love triangle involving Dorothea, her husband Edward Casaubon and Will Ladislaw. I wasn't sure exactly what my feeling towards Mr. Casaubon were meant to be, except that most of the time he seemed like Mr. Wrong; right at the start, Dorothea seemed to marry him hastily, but later on was shown to not want to hurt his feelings by trying to leave him or admit to having feelings towards Will.

As for the other stories, there seemed to be a lot about debts and inheritances, and some politics that I didn't find too interested, though towards the end I took more interest in the story involving Lydgate and his wife Rosamond.

Overall, I enjoyed this, even though at times it felt overly long.

Next book: Octopussy and 007 in New York (Ian Fleming)

21: A L'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs

Originally posted by audrey_e at Book 21: A L'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs
21: A L'OMBRE DES JEUNES FILLES EN FLEURS (Eng. Trs: IN THE SHADOW OF YOUNG GIRLS IN FLOWER) Marcel Proust (France, 1919)

45al"ombre

The second installment in Marcel Proust's "In Search of Lost Time" focuses on the author's first love stories and his obsession with female beauty.

I enjoyed this second installment even more than the already impressive first one.
Proust is the ultimate narcissistic writer, and his lyrical daydreams are filled with delightful insights on human nature. His detailed depiction of early twentieth-century society is also particularly valuable because he both adores and loathes it. This contradiction is what makes him the ideal witness of his time; one who is willing to be an active and enthusiastic member of society, while remaining detached enough to fully understand the mechanics of it.

4.5/5

Tags:

Books 33 & 34 - 2012

Book 33: The Girl who played with fire by Stieg Larsson – 569 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Lisbeth Salander is a wanted woman. Two Millennium journalists about to expose the truth about sex trafficking in Sweden are murdered, and Salander's prints are on the weapon. Her history of unpredictable and vengeful behaviour makes her an official danger to society - but no-one can find her. Mikael Blomkvist, editor-in-chief of Millennium, does not believe the police. Using all his magazine staff and resources to prove Salander's innocence, Blomkvist also uncovers her terrible past, spent in criminally corrupt institutions. Yet Salander is more avenging angel than helpless victim. She may be an expert at staying out of sight - but she has ways of tracking down her most elusive enemies.

Thoughts:
The second book in the Millennium trilogy is less of a stand alone story like the first book, and more of a exploration of the character of Lisbeth Salander, and a lead in to the third book. Like Dragon Tattoo it is very readable, but perhaps a little more forgettable. Larsson did a wonderful job creating complex, three-dimensional characters, who have flaws that would potentially make them unlikeable but whom Larsson manages to write in such a way that you don’t dislike them enough for their flaws to dislike them completely. They are very, whole complete characters. These books (all three) are very detailed, and very long, and while this can often drag a book down, Larsson makes it work by weaving such a complex web of characters and events, and by not focusing purely on one character but telling multiple characters’ perspectives throughout (these in my opinion are the best style of books, particularly when writing a series, because it means the reader is less likely to get bored – but I may be biased, because this is how I write my book series). Moreover, it is very impressive to see how Larsson ties the whole story together, and I never felt like there was some huge plot hole, or deus ex machina that made the story completely unbelievable (though maybe not in Sweden – can Sweden be that corrupt? It just doesn’t come across that way – I don’t know, I’ve never been to Sweden). A fascinating crime read and an enjoyable introduction into a country I’d one day like to visit.


33 / 50 books. 66% done!


9665 / 15000 pages. 64% done!

Book 34: Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult – 453 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Paige's mother left when she was five. When Paige becomes a mother herself, she is overwhelmed by the demands. Unable to forget her past, Paige struggles with the difficulties of marriage and motherhood.

Thoughts:
What the above description fails to mention is Pagie’s husband, Nicholas. This is only my third Picoult book and after reading The Tenth Circle and enjoying it so much I thought I’d be bold and take on another Picoult book. Unlike in the Tenth Circle, Nicholas, the husband in this one, was infuriating. He’s a surgeon, a heart surgeon (hence the title) and he’s very, very good. He’s also from a well-to-do family: his father’s self-made, a doctor also, and his mother is a rich girl who went on to become a very, very famous photographer. In some respects, I could relate to Nicholas. His whole life he has to be ‘on’, meeting the expectations of his family, of his community, and eventually his colleagues and superiors in the medical profession. Paige, a young Catholic school girl, raised by her Irish father when her mother leaves when she’s five, is a breath of fresh air to Nicholas, and initially these opposites seem to make sense. And then life gets in the way. For the most part, things are going peachy until their son, Max, is born. Max is a trying baby and Paige struggles. The problem is Nicholas is also not supportive. He somehow just expects Paige to able to shut up Max when he wants to sleep, and can’t understand why Paige can’t juggle keeping the house up to scratch and being a mother. The thing is as events of the story unfold, Nicholas never seems to get just how much pressure Paige is under or how unreasonable he is being. It’s all take and no give. So whilst I felt sorry for him from a job perspective, he was the most frustrating character to really like because he was just so self-absorbed. Paige’s mother, too, was infuriating, a woman who just didn’t seem to ‘get’ being a mother. Really, poor Paige didn’t have a hope in hell. In the end, I really felt sorry for her, and actually quite liked Nicholas’ parents, who in some respects tried to get across to their son exactly what he was missing, even if it seemed to go straight over his head. The ending is kind of unsatisfactory, in that it doesn’t exactly wrap things up. Still I enjoyed it, and like the Tenth Circle it certainly had me thinking. Picoult proves once again that she can write characters that will definitely get under your skin.


34 / 50 books. 68% done!


10118 / 15000 pages. 67% done!

Currently reading:
-        American Gods by Neil Gaiman – 588 pages
-        The Sexual Paradox: Troubled Boys, Gifted Girls and the Real Difference between the Sexes by Susan Pinker – 308 pages
-        My Point…and I Do Have One by Ellen DeGeneres – 211 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages


Number of pages: 399

This is the second book in the Thursday Next series, and follows on directly from The Eyre Affair.

[Spoiler for The Eyre Affair]

The first book culminated in Thursday Next entering the book, Jane Eyre and changing the ending, which was originally very tame, by causing the fire at Rochester's house. There are similar themes touched upon in this book, including the idea that Mycroft Holmes is someone who has inserted himself in the Sherlock Holmes series, claiming to be Sherlock's brother.

The book opens with Thursday finding herself criticised for changing the ending of Jane Eyre, and that sets off many of the other events in the book.



Set in an alternate version of the 1980s, the book is largely about characters physically entering books and meeting the characters, with Miss Havisham from Great Expectations featuring heavily. The book also has Thursday married to a man called Landen, only about a third of the way in he is eradicated; effectively, his past gets changed so that he drowned as a child, so only Thursday has any memory of their wedding.

Thursday is told that if she retrieves one of the previous villains from Poe's The Raven, then Landen will be returned, but there is a catch - that being the fact that it is forbidden to jump into any of Poe's works.

Thursday's efforts to get Landen back form the main plot of the story, although the writer throws in a lot of tangents, mostly about her going on other missions within books, and also Thursday's father's abilities to travel in time; it is all very complex and the action seems to move very fast at times, but despite that I found it quite enjoyable, with the style of writing that often recalls Douglas Adams.

I noticed there was a heavy influence from Lewis Carroll in this book, with very deliberate references to Alice in Wonderland, as well as similar narrative styles. The act of eradication is frequently referred to as "boojuming", after the imaginary creature that causes people to vanish away in The Hunting of the Snark.

There are other literary references too, and I recognised and enjoyed most of them; I particularly enjoyed the re-writing of The Raven that features later on in the story, which still manages to emulate Edgar Allen Poe's recognisable style.

Overall, it is advisable to start with The Eyre Affair as it might help you to understand things a bit more, as well as get used to the general bizarreness that is present throughout the book. I definitely want to stick with this series and read the other books.

Next book: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Book #35: Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore



The book's narrator, John Ridd, falls in love with the eponymous Lorna Doone. However, things are complicated by the fact that one of Lorna's family killed John's father, stirring up bad blood between the two families, resulting in a romance story that almost feels like Romeo and Juliet.

I wasn't exactly sure what to expect of this book, imagining it to be a gothing, Jane Eyre-type story, but for a while (except for the killing of John's father), this felt like a more gentle story regarding John and Lornas' feelings for each other, that made me wonder if they would manage to have a future together.

As I got further into the book, it felt a bit more like an adventure story at times, as it portrayed John and Lorna fleeing from the Doones, and later on there were also some exciting depictions of battles, some between John and the Doones and also an account of John's involvement in a historical rebellion. Although at times I felt that it got a bit long-winded, with John going on about his feelings for what seemed like several pages at some points, I liked the fact that the book had several plot twists that I did not see coming, some shocking. I wasn't surprised to find that the drama was not over until the story's main villain (in this case the obnoxious Carver Doone) was finally dispatched with, and I found the book's final confrontation to be very satisfying.

Overall, I was glad that I read this book; it was very enjoyable and compelling enough to keep reading to the end.

Next book: Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

Book #30: NW by Zadie Smith



Number of pages: 333

The back cover of this book describes it as "tragi-comic", as it focusses on four characters living in north-west London; Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan; the title comes from the first two letters of the north London postal code.

The book feels somewhat abstract and unconventional, particularly as it often focusses on what the characters are thinking, instead of talking about what is happening, so you have to read "between the lines"; there were some paragraphs where I had to go back and read them again to fully understand what was going on.

I noticed that each part is written in a different style, with part 1 is written in mostly short sentences, with a lot of focus on internal thoughts; it mostly focusses on Leah, and it is presumably written this way to express the fact that she has not had a good education. The whole part is divided into short chapters, individually numbered, and mostly in the order you would expect them to be in, except for about three chapters, all numbered "37", to indicate that one of the characters had a fixation of some kind with this number. The second part is written in the past tense and is a lot more detailed, while part three is divided into a large number of chapters, ranging from one sentence to about three pages in length.

I noticed a lot of themes running throughout the book; race and class were common ones, and seemed to be an accurate depiction of what London is like in real-life; towards the end, I got the impression that it was also about life choices and the regrets the characters had. Drugs are also mentioned early on, with one of the characters shown as being an addict.

I noticed that the storyline of the book is not written in a linear fashion, and when you get to a new chapter, you will often find that you are in a flashback; for example, the first part shows Leah's adult life, while part three shows the characters as teenagers, with one of the main spines being the relationship between Leah and her friend Keisha. I also noticed that often not a lot happened in what was describing, and this was more of a story about lives and seeing through the eyes of the characters; the exception is as follows...

[Spoiler (click to open)]

When Felix is first mentioned, he has been murdered, but this event ties together part one to part two, which focusses entirely on him and the events leading up to the moment when he is fatally stabbed.



My understanding is that this book is more of a social commentary and a portrayal of life in London, and it contained some good observations on how Londoners behave; one of my favourite lines was after Felix had given too much money over in a shop; Someone behind him sighed; he moved aside quickly with the shame of a Londoner who has inconvenienced, even for a moment, another Londoner; a minor incident, but painstakingly observed. I also liked the chapters that described the atmosphere on London's underground trains.

Overall, I found this book difficult at first, but ultimately enjoyable. You might get through this and not understand entirely what is happening, but it feels like something that you have to read over and over, to get the most out of it. A recommended title.

Next book: Simpsons Super Spectacular (Bongo Comics)

6,7,8

6. Still Standing - Paul O'Grady
Blurb: Paul O'Grady shot to fame via his brilliant comic creation, the blonde bombsite Lily Savage. In the first two parts of his bestselling and critically acclaimed autobiography, Paul took us through his childhood in Birkenhead to his first, teetering steps on stage. Now in 'Still Standing', for the first time, he brings us the no-holds barred true story of Lily and the rocky road to stardom...
Paul pulls no punches in this tale of bar-room brawls, drunken escapades and liaisons dangereuses. And that's just backstage at the Panto...Along the way, we stop off at some extremely dodgy pubs and clubs, and meet a collection of exotic characters who made the world a louder, brighter and more hilarious. From the chaos of the Toxteth riots and the Vauxhall Tavern police raid, to the mystery of who shot Skippy and the great chip-pan fire of Victoria Mansions, Paul emerges shaken but not stirred.
'Still Standing' will make you laugh and make you cry. Some of the stories might even make your hair curl. But it stands as a glorious tribute to absent friends and to a world which has not all but vanished.
My View: I actually finished this a few months ago and I wanted to wait and write up a review. Personally I found this highly disappointing. O'Grady leaves the story pretty much at a loose end and it feels as if there needs to be another book. Enjoyable, but left me wanting yet more!

7. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
Blurb: Cool-headed Elizabeth is the only daughter of the five Bennet girls not thrown into fluttering excitement by the arrival of two young men in the country. But despite what she may claim, her heart does not remain so calm when she meets the aloof and eligible Mr Darcy...
My View: For me, Austen had a lot of redeeming to do with me. I had to study her at A-Level and I took quite a dislike to her style of writing and plots overall. Thankfully I have matured and I really appreciated this. Beautifully written and very funny, I was enthralled. I have watched the original adaptation and I was pleased to see it was very true to the book. A true classic.

8. Sad Cypress - Agatha Christie
Blurb: The young and beautiful Elinor Carlisle stands in the dock charged with the murder of Mary Gerrard. Before her misty blue eyes stretches a court packed with people, all watching and wondering....Who murdered Mary Gerrard? Faces! Rows and rows of faces! One particular face with a big black moustache and shrewd eyes. Hercule Poirot, his head little on one side, his eyes thoughtful, watching the woman in the dock. Who did murder Mary Gerrard? "C'est difficle," murmurs the famous detective. It is a difficult case, one of the most difficult in his vast experience. The incomparable Agatha Christie brings all her great talents to bear on this grimly fascinating poison drama.
My View: A nice, quick read. A conclusion is reached really rapidly at the end, and does feel just a tad rush and a bit 'out-there'. I was really glad to have seen an adaptation as the story was complicated!

Book #27: Jamaica Inn by Daphne DuMaurier



Number of pages: 302

Mary Yellan arrives at the eponymous Jamaica Inn following the death of her mother. This is the home of her Aunt Patience, who is living in fear of her aggressive husband, Joss Merlyn. The story largely revolves around Mary's struggles with her family, while Joss is revealed to be a smuggler; it sets up a gothic story that also involves hints of romance between Mary and Joss' brother Jem.

I read this book again because I recently watched the BBC's adaptation of the book, which was largely criticised for having actors who mumbled a lot (I didn't notice this at all); I found it good to read it just after watching the TV version as it helped me to visualise what was happening, and I found the book to be just as enjoyable as when I read it before, with the sense of atmosphere and the build up of excitement, with some shock revelations before the book's climax.

The copy that I read has a blurb that compares it to gothic novels like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, and I could definitely see this, both in the settings of the book and the brutal nature of many of the scenes. It also has some nicely unexpected twists that you probably won't see coming, and it is very easy to care about Mary right from the start.

This book was written in the early 20th century, although it does have the feel of something written in the mid-19th. I feel that I should probably read some more of Daphne DuMaurier's novels.

Next book: Doctor Who: The Vault (Marcus Hearn)

Books 14, 15 & 16 - 2012

Book 14: The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty – 388 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Sophie Honeywell always wondered if Thomas Gordon was the one she let get away. He was the perfect boyfriend, but on the day he was to propose, she broke his heart. A year later he married his travel agent, while Sophie has been mortifyingly single ever since. Now Thomas is back in her life because Sophie has unexpectedly inherited his aunt Connie's house on Scribbly Gum Island -- home of the famously unsolved Munro Baby mystery. Sophie moves onto the island and begins a new life as part of an unconventional family where it seems everyone has a secret. Grace, a beautiful young mother, is feverishly planning a shocking escape from her perfect life. Margie, a frumpy housewife, has made a pact with a stranger, while dreamy Aunt Rose wonders if maybe it's about time she started making her own decisions. As Sophie's life becomes increasingly complicated, she discovers that sometimes you have to stop waiting around -- and come up with your own fairy-tale ending. As she so adroitly did in her smashing debut novel, "Three Wishes," the incomparable Liane Moriarty once again combines sharp wit, lovable and eccentric characters, and a page-turning story for an unforgettable "Last Anniversary."

Thoughts:
I read Liane Moriarty’s book ‘Three Wishes’ several years ago and really liked it, and I’ve read most of the books by her sister Jaclyn Moriarty and really liked those too, so I gave this one a try. It’s an odd book, but that’s the Moriarty sisters’ style. Sophie inherits a house owned by her ex-fiancé’s aunt. Odd, but not the oddest part of the story. This house has a story behind it, an unsolved mystery involving her ex-fiancé’s mother (I think – I can’t quite remember anymore). At the same time this is all happening Thomas’ wife, Grace, a new mother, is suffering with undiagnosed post-partum depression. The story jumps perspectives, and as Sophie becomes more involved in Thomas’ family’s lives and the mystery in the house, Grace spirals further into her depression. I had a fair idea of what the mystery was right from the start, but Grace’s story made the book tough reading. It reminded me why I normally read fantasy. Whilst I appreciate the importance of the topic (ie. Post partum depression), I read to escape reality, not to immerse myself in it. Call me selfish or misguided if you will, but I don’t want to be depressed when I’m reading. So it took me a while to get through this one, because I really struggled to work through Grace’s issues. If the overall story itself had been more engaging I probably would have enjoyed it more, but given I’d already worked it out, that did little for me as well. So good, but not great! Having said that, I really liked the ending which was very…’modern’. Not as good as ‘Three Wishes’ but a good read if suburban family drama/mysteries are your thing.


14 / 50 books. 28% done!


4873 / 15000 pages. 32% done!

Book 15: Hatter M: Volume 3: The Nature of Wonder by Frank Beddor and Liz Cavalier; illustrated by Sami Makkonen – 187 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
In Volume 3, "The Nature of Wonder", Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan follows the Glow of the setting sun into America's wild west in search of Wonderland's lost princess. Hatter's adventures will include a shamanic vision quest in the Grand Canyon and tracking Black Imagination through San Francisco's Barbary Coast where he discovers an astounding clue to his own haunted past.

Thoughts:
This is the third of the Hatter Madigan graphic novels, filling in the years between Princess Alyss of Wonderland being tossed into our world and her finally getting back to the Queendom she rightfully rules. I love the character of Hatter Madigan (he’s like a nicer version of Vegeta from Dragonball Z, in my head) and its fun to read about his exploits, particularly given how Beddor and Cavalier interweave his story with history, Forrest Gump style. Alas, another volume must come, as Hatter does not succeed in finding the lost Princess at the end of this story. A cool companion piece to one of my most favourite series.


15 / 50 books. 30% done!


5060 / 15000 pages. 34% done!

Book 16: Fire by Kristin Cashore – 384 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
A must-read title for all fans of Patrick Rothfuss and Trudi Canavan, FIRE is an exceptional fantasy novel. From the deft characterisation to the gripping story, the fast-paced action to the evocative prose, this is one of the strongest fantasy novels of the year. Set in a world of stunningly beautiful, exceptionally dangerous monsters, Fire is one of the most dangerous monsters of all - a human one. Marked out by her vivid red hair, she's more than attractive. Fire is mesmerising. But with this extraordinary beauty comes influence and power. People who are susceptible to her appeal will do anything for her attention, and for her affection. They will turn away from their families, their work, and their duties for her. They will forget their responsibilities to please her ...and worse, crush nations, neglect kingdoms and abuse their power. Aware of her power, and afraid of it, Fire lives in a corner of the world away from people, and away from temptation. Until the day comes when she is needed - a day when, for her king, she has to take a stand not only against his enemies, but also against herself ...

Thoughts:
I have absolutely fallen in love with this book. The character of Fire reminds me vividly of the main character in my book, and yet is quite different. I think it’s their spirit that is similar and that in of itself draws me to this story. Her position as the only living ‘monster’ and the psychological battle she undergoes in order to accept herself and her role in the world is heartbreaking and beautiful. But its not just Fire who makes this story. It’s the ensemble cast, comprised, mostly of the Royal Family of the Dells, the region this book is set in. The region itself sits in the same world as Graceling but in a part of said world that is not known to the Seven Kingdoms mentioned in the previous book (a mountain range divides them). I love ensemble casts. My own story has a massive ensemble cast (almost a 100 characters, spanning 13 books and 35 years) and its ensemble casts that usually keep me going through a series. Harry Potter would have been unbearable if it hadn’t have been for the ensemble cast because Harry in himself got really annoying after awhile. Similarly, I finished the Twilight Saga and kept reading the Merry Gentry books not for the main characters themselves but for the supporting cast, the ensemble. Luckily, in Fire, both Fire herself and the ensemble cast are magnificent, but even if I hadn’t had liked Fire, I would have kept reading just to find out what happens to the ensemble. The book has some of the best (as in funny) lines I’ve ever come across in a fantasy novel (I’ve liked about 10 of them on goodreads) and the pace is solid, allowing sufficient reflection time whilst still cracking along nicely. I can’t say enough good things about this series and I genuinely can’t think of anything I’d change. The saddest thing about the entire affair is knowing that its set significantly before the events of Graceling (the previous novel in publishing order) and Bitterblue (its successor) and as such the characters I had grown to love are rather old when they make an appearance in Bitterblue. Without a doubt, one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read ever!


16 / 50 books. 32% done!


5444 / 15000 pages. 36% done!

Currently reading:
-        A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Fifth: The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket – 221 pages
-        The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown – 509 pages
-        Man Drought and Other Social Issues of the New Century by Bernard Salt – 276 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages


Number of pages: 285

I was intrigued by this book just by reading the title, and it revolves around thirtysomething Professor Don Tillman, a single man who has Asberger's syndrome. He has difficulty finding the perfect woman, so he devises a questionnaire to find whether the women he meets are compataible (in other words, they meet his very pernickety standards). He eventually meets the eponymous Rosie and dates her, only to realise that she is completely incompatible with him.

However, Don is intrigued when Rosie reveals that she doesn't know who her biological father is and, deciding to try and be friends with her, Don sets out to help her find out who it is, mostly through obtaining DNA and performing scientific tests.

Throughout the book, Don and Rosie have a very typical "will-they-or-won't-they" relationship, but although I could guess how it would end, I found this book very enjoyable.

The main reason for this was because the character of Don (who narrates the whole story) is very easy to empathise with, particularly as I was diagnosed with Asberger's a few years ago, and I could tell that Graeme Simsion had researched the condition very well.

So, Don is portrayed as someone who finds social interactions different, and who is obsessed with order and routines, getting upset if someone upsets his plans. Every time he meets a character, his immediate response is to very precisely guess their age and body mass index in a compulsive manner.

The other thing I noticed in the book was that often Don just did not understand certain things that were happening. For example, when Rosie does air quotes at one point, he starts describing her body language and what he sees her do, but doesn't straight away get the meaning. In another scene, he enters a gay bar and starts commenting that it is full of friendly people in odd costumes, without realising why they're being so friendly towards him. My first impression of the character was that he was very much like an Australian version of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory.

Something else that was very clear throughout was that Don just did not understand the concept of dating and physical attraction, and it was easy to feel sorry for him as he struggled through his relationships, and also how he was desperately trying to change his own behaviour.

Overall, the way that Don is portrayed, with his extensive backstory and depth of character was what made this such a good book for me. I liked the fact that it had a good mixture of drama and humour throughout.

Also, in case you get at all curious when reading the book, Don's questionnaire is printed near to the back (as well as some cocktail recipes!), and you can see what sort of standards he sets for his women. Overall, a recommended book.

Next book: Buttoned-Up (Fantastic Man)

Books 13 & 14 - 2013

Book 13: Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan – 385 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
16 years ago, Waverly and Kieran were the first children born in space. Now a perfect couple, they are the pride and joy of the whole spaceship. They represent the future. The ship is their entire world. They have never seen a stranger before. Old Earth is crumbling, and the crew is hoping to reach (and colonise) New Earth within fifty years. Along with their allies on the second spaceship - who set off a year before them and whom they have never met. One day, Kieran proposes to Waverly. That same morning, the 'allies' attack - and Kieran and Waverly are separated in the cruelest way possible. Will they ever see each other again?

Thoughts:
This was a really interesting, though at times, frustrating, book. The concept was quite cool, and something I’d seen pondered in a number of Star Trek episodes in various different ways. Kieran and Seth and Waverly are raised on what is effectively a generational ship, but there are poisoned people on this ship, and Kieran is little too religious for the atheist ship he lives on (the other ship, 6 or so months ahead of them, is the religious ship). Unexpectedly, at least to the children, the other ship, the New Horizon, has slowed down to match up to its sister ship, and New Horizon attacks. In a manner that is just a slight stretch (but its necessary for the purpose of the story), the majority of the adults are killed, and all the girls are kidnapped. What subsequently unfolds is a Lord of the Flies type story tainted by religious fanaticism and humanity’s terror at not being able to reproduce. None of the characters in this book are perfect, even if their intentions are understandable, and I really appreciated that. Kieran is annoying and has elements of one of the cult like figures, who starts to believe his own hype, but you can kind of appreciate that he thinks he’s doing what’s best for the community. Seth hates Kieran and its not necessarily hard to understand why, though he takes his dislike way too far. Waverly is caught in the middle, and she often appears the voice of reason, but she too suffers and makes questionable decisions. All are put in inevitable positions, and its fascinating to see them cope. This is the first in a trilogy, and definitely an interesting sci-fi version of Lord of the Flies. Worth a look.


13 / 50 books. 26% done!


5064 / 15000 pages. 34% done!

Book 14: Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto – 294 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Three years after her husband Max's death, Shelley feels no more adjusted to being a widow than she did that first terrible day. That is, until the doorbell rings. Standing on her front step is a young man who looks so much like Max-same smile, same eyes, same age, same adorable bump in his nose-he could be Max's long-lost relation. He introduces himself as Paolo, an Italian editor of American coffee table books, and shows Shelley some childhood photos. Paolo tells her that the man in the photos, the bearded man who Paolo says is his grandfather though he never seems to age, is Max. "Her" Max. And he is alive and well. As outrageous as Paolo's claims seem-how could her husband be alive? And if he is, why hasn't he looked her up? - Shelley desperately wants to know the truth. She and Paolo jet across the globe to track Max down-if it is "really" Max- and along the way, Shelley recounts the European package tour where they had met. As she relives Max's stories of bloody Parisian barricades, medieval Austrian kitchens, and buried Roman boathouses, Shelley begins to piece together the story of who her husband was and what these new revelations mean for her "happily ever after." And as she and Paolo get closer to the truth, Shelley discovers that not all stories end where they are supposed to.

Thoughts:
I’m not sure what I expected, but this was a really beautiful story. Shelley’s beloved husband Max dies in an explosion on a train. Three years later, a man comes to her door who looks just like Max. Shelley is shocked when this man, Paolo, tells her that he is Max’s grandson. So begins two stories: the story of how Shelley and Max met, and the story of how it is that Max could possibly have a grandson. It’s a very clever story, but also very beautiful, and I certainly wasn’t expecting the ending. Max’s story is a reflection on what makes a life. Shelley’s love for her husband is one of those special one of a kind type of loves. Max’s stories, told in the flashbacks that explain how Max and Shelley meet, are obscure little tales that you almost wish were real. It’s a whimsical, meandering kind of story with a beautiful heart.


14 / 50 books. 28% done!


5358 / 15000 pages. 36% done!

Currently reading:
-        The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory – 437 pages
-        Celebrity Crimes: The Dark Side of the Limelight by Xavier Waterkeyn – 233 pages
-        A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Fifth: The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket – 221 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages


Number of pages: 505

J.K. Rowling’s first novel since the end of the Harry Potter series opens with the death of Barry Fairbrother, a local councillor in the book’s fictional setting, Pagford.

This event sets of the subsequent events in the story, including principally the politics behind electing Fairbrother’s replacement, but throughout the book it is shown that many of Pagford’s residences have skeletons in their closets throughout the many intertwined plotlines, including defamatory messages about one of the candidates appearing on the Parish Council website posted by “The Ghost of Barry Fairbrother”.

When this book first came out, it was a well-known fact that this was going to be very different from Harry Potter, and it is. Aimed at an adult audience, the book introduces a lot of mature themes, from extra-marital affairs to domestic violence and rape; and there is also a lot of profanity.

The pace of the story is quite slow; the first part of the book introduces all of the characters, and deals with their reactions to Fairbrother’s death. I enjoyed this a lot, particularly the portrayal of middle-class England, and the way that just about every character was portrayed to show them as very ugly on the inside. It took a few chapters to get into, but I found myself hooked on the story, all the way to the harrowing conclusion.

Next book: Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

Book #10: Going Postal by Terry Pratchett



Number of pages: 352

At the start of this book, the hero Moist von Lipwig is hanged. This might not sound like much of a start, but he is subsequently saved at the last minute and offered a choice: Be hanged for good or revise the Ankh Morpork post office.

This is the first book to feature Moist von Lipwig as a recurring character, and right from the start you can tell that this is less serious in tone than some of the previous adult novels in the series; I loved the opening chapter with its quite literal gallows humour. However, both times I read this I found myself somewhat nonplussed, perhaps mostly because the first half of the novel, while providing some great observational satire on human behaviour (in relation to sending of mail), dealt almost entirely with Moist setting up the post office. Other plot threads involved a bad guy, who didn't really do much until about two thirds of the way into the book and a romantic storyline that felt very insignificant.

Overall, I would have to say this isn't my favourite of the Discworld series, and it does seem to be full of things that are becoming clichés, particularly with yet another appearance from one of the lisping Igors. I've noticed that Sky TV did a dramatization of this, which I plan to watch at some point, though after doing Hogfather and The Colour of Magic, I'm not sure why they chose this one.

Next book: The Casual Vacancy (J.K. Rowling)
16041863

I've began reading Scott's Rome series last year. I liked the first book a lot, loved the second and believed nothing can surprise me in this series anymore.

I thought wrong.

Featuring new style, new voice and the newest addition to my ever-growing list of favourite literary characters - Demalion of Macedon: a reluctant soldier, a natural leader, a survivour, a loyal friend - this book is my favourite so far in this magnificent series.

Though of the military fiction genre, this is not your typical blood-and-guts book. The training, the battles, the daily camp life are written in, perhaps, the best way I've read to date - with some lovely phrasing and sense of humour, it was all real and to the point, and yet touching, somehow. It felt fresh and exciting and like nothing else out there.
Apparently it is possible to write an Ancient Rome military novel without a single "f**k" in the text (the word, not the act).

I loved how each soldier had his own story, some anecdote about them, some distinguishing trait, each one a character, not just scenery. And yet, they are not exceptional - just real, and we love them for it.

One of my favourite things is time measurments - many historical fictions has characters talking in minutes and seconds, which doesn't sound plausible at all. Here, time is measured in heartbeats and breaths, not only for style's sake but also for accuracy.

There's also an underlining of politics throughout the book, a subtle struggle while the Empire is ruled by the innefectual Nero.
Generals Corbulo and Vespasian, larger than life men of the people, whose actions hurry along one of the more glorious and famous dynasty changes in history.

There's nothing I didn't love about this book but if there is one thing I loved above all else is how wonderfully un-military this book about soldiers and war is.
Don't get me wrong - it's got action aplenty, it's not about the plot but the way it's all described - the language used, the emotions invoked, the ethereal, poetic, subtle violence.

One doesn't read this series for just another dose of blood and guts, one reads it for the feelings, and, man, does this book provide!
I have the imagination of someone who has absolutely none, so it has always been hard for me to emphatise with book characters because, try as I might, I could not see them.
This time, I saw.
And if I got a bit weepy at certain points of the story, I ain't telling.

It becomes apparent pretty quickly that the book is written like a memoir, years after the events take place, making it more real, more personal.
We relive all these wonderful, personal, glorious moments, and there are heaps of unforgetable scenes, among my favourites being the wonderfully ridiculous one of discussing seige tactics while pissing.

Demalion is not the only hero in this story.
A legion's Eagle is another one - a golden god, a symbol of strenght and honour, losing and finding of one a running theme throughout the book.


Number of pages: 507

This book tells of Jane Eyre's life starting with her childhood; the first chapter is quite brutal, as Jane gets caught reading a book by her brother, who reacts by throwing the book at her; however, Jane's reaction (which is to attack him) lands her in trouble, and she ends up locked up in the house before being sent to a strict boarding school.

The book then tells of her fortunes as she grows up and starts teaching at the school, before becoming employed by Edward Rochester as a governess and the most significant and memorable parts of the book revolve around the relationship between Rochester and Jane. During her stay at Rochester's house, however, Jane starts to become aware of strange noises in the night, but is unable to find out what is causing them.

A lot of people are probably familiar with the book's plot twists, but the rest has been put behind a spoiler cut just in case.

[Spoiler (click to open)]

After Jane becomes frustrated that Rochester wants to marry another woman, she is surprised when he proposes to her instead; things seem to be better, but the wedding is interrupted by a man who tells them that Rochester is already married. This leads to the revelation of Rochester's mad wife, who has been locked up in the house while Jane was living there (and was the cause of the mysterious noises). Jane soon leaves Rochester's house and ends up destitute; the chapters where she is shown wandering about with no place to call home are absolutely heartbreaking.

She eventually comes into some fortune, partially because of a large inheritance she receives, and it seems like Rochester is forgotten about, but he isn't. After refusing a marriage proposal from St John, the man who took her in to his house, she "hears" Rochester calling to her, and returns to him, to find that he has been blinded in a fire that reduced his house to a ruin, during which Mrs Rochester committed suicide. Although he doesn't think he is any good for her, Jane shows that she still loves Rochester and wants to be with him, which makes for a very touching ending.



The whole book is narrated by Jane, who frequently addresses the reader, and I found it a very enjoyable book to read. It did not feel overlong, and proved to be an enjoyable story telling of its heroine's fortunes. This is a book I had read before, but on re-reading, I found I got a lot more out of it.

Next book: Night Watch (Terry Pratchett)

48: Eugénie Grandet

Originally posted by audrey_e at Book 48: Eugénie Grandet
48 EUGENIE GRANDET Honoré de Balzac (France, 1833)

8eugenie

In the French countryside, the Grandet family lives in fear of the patriarch, a cunning miser, who forces his family to live in poverty despite his wealth, but the life of his daughter, the gentle Eugénie, changes the day her dashing cousin pays the family a fateful visit.

This is my first Balzac, and one of the many volumes in his series on French society during the Restoration called "The Human Comedy".
Eugénie Grandet's setting and mood is claustrophobic and grim in way that lingers with the reader long after he/she has finished reading the book. Its plot is straightforward and representative of its time, but one has to applaud Balzac for ensuring all his characters were complex enough to be realistic, even the good-hearted heroine.
This novel will no doubt resonate will all of those who have suffered from the anger of an authoritative patriarch.

3/5

Book #66: Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott



Number of pages: 501

When I read Ivanhoe with its appearances by Robin Hood, I got the impression that Sir Walter Scott liked to introduce historic figures into his novels; this belief was reinforced by read this book.

The version I read was in the original text, which starts with a lengthy essay regarding Scotland several hundreds of years ago and the wars between individual clans; mostly this was a biography of the eponymous Rob Roy McGregor Campbell, known as the Scottish Robin Hood as he was a notorious outlaw. This was useful for giving some of the book's context in terms of the historical era in which it is set.

The story itself starts with the hero, Francis, being sent away after refusing to join the family business. This leads to him meeting a woman called Diane Vernon, but getting framed for treason; when this fails, the book's villain Rashleigh sets out to ruin Francis' family.

This novel was a bit different than I expected, as a lot of the first half of the book focusses on Francis' relationship with Diane, and Rob Roy does not appear until about half way when he assists Francis in getting revenge on Rashleigh, turning it into a classic swashbuckler. I found this to be quite a difficult book to read, mostly because it was quite wordy and long-winded, written in the form of a memoir from Francis. A lot of the time I had trouble with understanding the colloquialisms used (I have no idea what a "muckle" is), and I felt that I had to pay attention to everything that was happening in case I missed something. I did, however, like the vivid way in which the time period and Francis' travels through Scotland were portrayed.

While the plotlines involving Rob Roy were difficult to follow, I found myself enjoying the romantic plotline between Francis and Diane more. Starting with his jealousy of her other suitors, the book presents this as a romance that seems doomed to end in disaster, and it felt like they would never find happiness with each other.

Overall, I was satisfied with the book when I got to the end; the climax was epic, and there were some memorable moments. This is worth reading, but you need to be patient.

Next book: Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

Books 4 & 5 - 2013

Book 4: Britney: Inside the Dream by Steve Dennis – 400 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Britney Spears -- the Princess of Pop -- is making a comeback, and there isn't a person out there who hasn't heard about it. In this, a fully up-to-date and authoritative biography, Steve Dennis reveals all there is to know about the much-loved star. Hitting our radios for the first time in 1998 with '!Baby One More Time', Britney Spears quickly became a pop idol. Now, at just 27 years of age, she has racked up five number one albums, seven top-ten singles and seven sell-out world tours, as well having performed on stage with both Madonna and Michael Jackson. Just a decade after breaking onto to scene, she has become nothing short of a pop legend. Her private life, however, has not been so easy. In 2004 Britney famously married a childhood friend at The Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas; since then her personal life has seemingly been thrown into turmoil. In the last five years she has had numerous failed relationships and endured a very public divorce and custody battle - all in the full glare of the international media. Drawing on exclusive interviews with those closest to the superstar, Britney: Inside the Dream is a engrossing portrait of fascinating star. A frank biography, with no detail spared, it reveals the real Britney Spears, like you've never known her before.

Thoughts:
I grew up with Britney. I bought her first album when I was probably about sixteen (she’s only a few years older than me). She was a pretty brunette on the cover, and she sang pretty harmless pop music. Like the rest of the world, I watched as her life disintegrated over the next few years. This book exposes her pretty crappy childhood and the pretty hellish time record companies put their stars through. Whilst it seems that Britney lacks the intellect or imagination to fight her situation (unlike someone like Pink for example), I can’t help feeling that the people around her really use her. The media too need to take a lot of blame – it doesn’t say much about humanity when people will stand around and watch a person’s whole life explode and simply take photos. This book finishes sometime shortly after her Dad took up conservatorship so it’s good to see that ‘so far, so good’. Now if someone could just sort out Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes!


4 / 50 books. 8% done!


1620 / 15000 pages. 11% done!

Book 5: This Charming Man by Marian Keyes – 885 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Lola has just found out that her boyfriend - charismatic politician Paddy de Courcy - is getting married. To someone else. Heartbroken, Lola flees the city for a cottage by the sea. But will Lola's retreat prove as idyllic as she hopes? Journalist Grace wants the inside story on Paddy de Courcy's engagement and thinks Lola holds the key to it. Grace knew Paddy a long time ago. But why can't she forget him? Grace's sister, Marnie, might have the answer but she also has issues with the past. Her loving loving husband and beautiful daughters are wonderful, but they can't take away memories of her first love: a certain Paddy de Courcy. What will it take for Marnie to be able to move on? Alicia Thornton is Paddy's wife-to-be. Determined to be the perfect wife, Alicia would do anything for her fiance. But does she know the real Paddy? Four very different women. One awfully charming man. And the dark secret that binds them all.

Thoughts:
This book was not at all what I was expecting (I very rarely research a book before I pick it up) but oh my it was amazing! It’s a long read, over 800 pages, so I saved it for my 7 day cruise, figuring I’d get plenty of time to read lying on a pool deck getting a tan (tick!). The first 100 or so pages are told from Lola’s perspective, and frankly it was hard to work out what Paddy had to do with everything except for the fact that he was Lola’s boyfriend who was all of a sudden marrying someone else. Having said that, Lola’s life and manner of imparting the story was so engaging, I couldn’t help falling in love with her. Eventually, the perspective moves on, to Grace, her sister Marnie and then briefly to Alicia. The book changes perspective on and off throughout, jumping time as necessary, and unraveling Paddy’s story through the lives of these four women, as well as Paddy’s boss, the female leader of a new political party (she was a good character – I really liked her!). I won’t give away what it is about Paddy that drives the story, but I cannot express enough how well the story is put together. Of all the characters, Marnie annoyed me the most. She had serious problems and I understood that, but watching her come up with excuse after excuse and lose everything important to her really frustrated me. She reminded me too much of friends I have that just can’t get out of their own way for one reason or another. Alicia was probably almost as annoying but very little of the story is told from her perspective so it didn’t really matter. Lola and Grace really drive the story and I loved them both. A really great, very well put together story. Could have benefited from a little more background to Paddy and why he was the way he is, but overall, un-put-downable!


5 / 50 books. 10% done!


2505 / 15000 pages. 17% done!

Currently reading:
-        The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory – 437 pages
-        Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore by Bettany Hughes – 412 pages
-        Everlost by Neal Shusterman – 377 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages

Book 3

3. Tipping the Velvet - Sarah Waters
Blurb: A saucy, sensuous and multi-layered historical romance, Tipping the Velvet follows the glittering career of Nan King - oyster girl turned music-hall star turned rent boy turned East End 'tom'.
My View: I could not wait to read this book! Having seen so many adaptations of Waters' novels which were enthralling, I knew her books must be too and this did not disappoint. Waters' has a wonderful way of writing, which makes you want to keep reading. You care about her characters, even the main character of Nan who is far from likeable at times. The book is split into three chapters, each taking place over one-two years in Nan's life and each is beautifully written. The detail Waters' puts in, not only to the characters, but the costumes and descriptions of Victorian London bring the story vividly to the imagination. It is refreshing to read a historical novel which has been so wonderfully and carefully researched. The sex scenes, which are surprisingly few, are well-written and not overly graphic compared to some novels of late. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in an 'alternative' love story.
Pages: 472


3 / 50 books. 6% done!

Book #18: Stonemouth by Iain Banks



At the start of the book, the central character, Stewart Gilmore, is standing on the parapet of a bridge in Scotland, apparently considering whether to jump off. Stewart also narrates the story, explaining how he has returned to his hometown of Stonemouth to attend a funeral. However, Stonemouth is run by gangsters and he has to request permission just to return.

What follows is a series of flashbacks to Stewart's youth in Stonemouth, growing up with his friends and his love interest, Ellie, as well as a narrative that recounts events taking place in the present. The flashbacks are all very poignant, and occasionally shocking, particularly the account of one of Stewart's friends dying during a game. The story moves along slowly, and for most of the book nothing much happens, with the main focus being on Stewart meeting his old gang again and also confronting Ellie, who he split up with many years ago. There is also an issue with the recent, suspicious, death of Stewart's friend Callum, and throughout the book the precise circumstances unravel.

There are also some incredibly violent moments in the book, particularly the story's climactic scene, but one of the best bits about this book was the relationship between Stewart and Ellie; the book does a good job of conveying the tension between the characters and the feelings that her family have, but you also sense that they still have romantic feelings for each other, which makes the reader hope that they have some sort of future.

Stonemouth is one of Iain Banks' last books, because he is now dying of terminal cancer, but I found this to be a very profoundly-written, and satisfying book.

Next book: Underground Overground by Andrew Martin

Book #8: Londoners by Craig Taylor



The Days and Nights of London Now - as Told by Those Who Love it, Hate it, Live it, Left it and Long for it

This book is a collection of monologues about different aspects of life in London. All of the people in the book were personally interviewed by writer Craig Taylor, and it is written in a format similar to a screenplay, usually starting with the scene being set and often "stage directions" appear within the text, describing the actions of the person being interviewed. I loved the way that this gave a sense that the person in the book is actually talking directly to the reader.

There were some fantastic accounts given by some individuals; I enjoyed the story of one immigrant from the Middle East who was really surprised when all the women on the plane removed their headscarves, as he'd only seen a woman without one on the television, and also the story of one individual who ended up homeless on the streets of London. There was also a long account of Craig Taylor's overnight visit to Spitalfields Market, and there was a very shocking account of a young woman's suicide by jumping in front of a train.

The book talks about all aspects of London, including living there and working there, and the only drawback was that some subjects were more exciting than others; I found myself less interested in some of the sections on business and finance in London than peoples' experiences getting around. I was interested to see that many people found people in London to be less friendly than places outside of the capital.

This was a book that I had been wanting to read for a long time, just because I commute into London to work every day. I enjoyed it a lot, and it provides an authentic picture of how individuals perceive the city of London.

Next book: Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction by Sue Townsend

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