Milestone! 

Hi everyone!!! 

Thanks to you all, I now have fifty followers 😊 


Source: Giphy

It’s a little victory I know, but it’s one I’m proud of. When I started this blog, much like other projects I wasn’t sure if I would keep it up or see it through. So far I have, and it is spurring me on more than ever to keep up with my reading challenge and to keep writing on a regular basis. 

Once again I’d like to thank you all for your likes, support and comments! It means a lot to me 😊 

Down the TBR Hole – #3

Happy Tuesday everybody!!

happy jerry

The worst day of the week is over and at least for us Brits… next Monday is a bank holiday, so we have that to look forward to!

A fun little fact for anybody interested, which is timely given that I am currently starting a book series based on this snippet of our history – today marks the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth Field, being the last of the battles of the Wars of the Roses.

Today I am bringing to you another installment of this tag, designed to help you clear out your reading lists of unwanted books. I currently have a reading list that I am using for this blog but I have old items on my Goodreads TBR that I need to sort through and gradually amalgamate my lists into one. Here is how it works:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

Here are the five books that I have focused on for this post:

1   The Young Elites – Marie Lu

The Young Elites

GoodReads – The Young Elites

Verdict: Go

I looked forward to this when I first added it to the list. I suppose it is a little different in terms of plot line but equally clichéd in that the main focus is a character that has more power than she should or anyone else has seen before.

That’s not to say that I wouldn’t ever read anything like this, but I’ve lost the enthusiasm I had for it. It will be nice to break away from the cliché.

2  The Blade Itself – Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself

GoodReads – The Blade Itself

Verdict: Keep

I have had the perfect intention to read this book for a number of years. I’m sure on the sly I tried to read the first chapter in a bookshop once whilst “browsing” to see if I liked it. If any book lover claims they haven’t done this – I am straight up calling you out as a liar. It must be one of the only forms of window shopping that takes any longer than a couple of minutes!!

The part of the synopsis that draws me in the most…

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood.

 

3  The Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings

GoodReads – The Way of Kings

Verdict: KEEP!!!!!!!!

I love Brandon Sanderson. Only the other day was one of my good friends, also a lover of the fantasy genre endorsing this series to me as it was one of her favourites. Sanderson is an amazing fantasy author and I love the Mistborn series. (Thus far I have only read the initial trilogy but I will be reading the later books before too long). The thing I loved most about this series was that whilst it contained magic, it had a physical element to it. It wasn’t spells or just “in the air”. It was a physical source of power present in specific pure metals that only a few people could use. I found it a refreshing change.

Books  that involve war are always a plus for me… who doesn’t love a bit of conflict.

I’m not sadistic… I promise!!

 

4  Luck in the Shadows – Lynn Flewelling

Luck in the Shadows

GoodReads – Luck in the Shadows

Verdict: GO

So the plot of this book initially sounds interesting, if not very familiar (yet another teenage orphan boy… yay). He is imprisoned for a crime he doesn’t commit, however his cellmate takes him under his wing and from there on they go on their winding and mystical adventure.

Whilst the synopsis doesn’t make a point of this, all of the reviews talk about the characters and their relationship with one another. Turns out this book is within the circles of the LGBT genre.

If I had known that, I wouldn’t have added this book to the list. Please hear me out. Do not think me judgemental towards a minority group that has experienced a lot of prejudice over the years; the fact is, I don’t like romance. Full stop. Point blank. Obviously relationships are all around us and done subtly, that’s okay. I find reading about them in very specific detail just makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like it. Sorry. I wouldn’t read this book just as I wouldn’t read Fifty Shades of Grey.

 

5  City of Stairs – Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Stairs

GoodReads – City of Stairs

Verdict: Keep!

Give me a book with any form of political intrigue and I’ll be as happy as a pig in … I’m sure you know the expression. Initially the plot of unraveling a crime doesn’t jump out at me, but if well done this could prove to be a great book. I love plot twists, hidden turns and sometimes the more subtlety employed to achieve this, the better. This has great potential – so it definitely has to stay on the TBR. I also note that it has received a number of awards since it’s release in 2014, which is a fantastic achievement.

 


 

So there you have it folks! If you have made it all the way down here then thank you for reading the ramble. My next post will be a review of Lady of the Rivers, which I am finally getting around to finishing!

Signature

Review: River God – Wilbur Smith

Hi everybody!!

It’s finally the weekend and we can all breathe a sigh of relief that another week is done. Today I am bringing to you a review of Wilbur Smith’s River God, the first in the series set in Egypt and narrated by Taita, a slave.

I was first introduced to Wilbur Smith as I stumbled across “Pharaoh” in one of my local bookshops with mum and dad. My grandad used to read Wilbur Smith, I was told as I pored over the book for the synopsis on the back cover. I knew at that point I wanted to read his books – and this series in particular.

To tell you a little of me, only one of my grandparents saw me grow to adulthood and even then only just. Just over three months past my eighteenth birthday my last surviving grandparent died suddenly.

I have known and loved all my grandparents equally, but in hindsight I wish I had gotten to know some of them better. I was so caught up and innocent in being the child I was; I had never contemplated that one day sooner than we would all like, they wouldn’t be here anymore. That being said, now I make the effort to do little things that they enjoyed and I use that time to remember them, whether it be completing the puzzles they taught me the rules of, listening to music they liked or even reading the books they enjoyed. It is the little things that count. They may not be with us here and now, but they are with me in spirit. I am a firm believer that whilst a person or their deeds are remembered by the living, they are never truly gone from the world.

GoodReads – River God

River God

**Image from Amazon**

I love historical fiction and am reading a number of books in this genre at the moment. This particular book is set in Ancient Egypt and is set in a period much before all other historical fiction that I have read before. I found the culture and technological advancement fascinating as much of the things Taita creates or modifies are things that we take for granted everyday.

Taita is a slave. He also also a eunuch, a confidante, an architect, a military tactician, an artist, a doctor, a holy man and a seer into the future. He is skilled with carpentry, he can sing, write, direct theatre productions, learn a new language in days and teach his charges all subjects. In short, the only thing he is not very good at is being humble about what he can do and at times this royally got on my nerves. Nobody is this perfect, not even a slave to some of the most powerful men and women of nobility in Egypt.

Taita has been a slave almost all his life and considers himself born to serve. His master is the Lord Intef, the Pharaoh’s right hand man. War against the Pretender cripples Egypt of its wealth. At the festival of Osiris the Lord hosts his Pharaoh, a weak man compared to his ancestors. To better secure his position, Intef arranges the marriage of his fourteen year old daughter to the Pharaoh with the promise that she will become the principal wife if she gives him the male heir he needs to continue his line. Lostris despairs as she has eyes for another, Tanus, an officer in the Pharaoh’s army. At her request Taita works the mazes of Ammon-Ra and foretells that in five years the Pharaoh will be dead. In this secret knowledge, Lostris lives on in the hope that after his death she may join Tanus.

Five years later Pharaoh has his son and heir; war continues to ravage the land and a new threat comes to Egypt. An enemy far beyond the technological advancement of the Egyptians sweeps over the lands and conquers cities. Events unfold as Taita has predicted, and the Queen Regent Lostris is forced into exile with her son and her remaining people in order to survive. Twenty years they spend away from Egypt, relying on the Nile and the goddess Isis for safe passage.

Lostris inters the late Pharaoh safely as promised to him on his deathbed. Her people meet new civilisations, learn from the horrific losses of their previous battles and Prince Memnon grows into manhood. Finally they return to Egypt under their new Pharaoh to overthrow the Tyrant that turned them out.

 

Aside from my occasional dislikes of Taita when he brags about how much he is God’s gift to the planet, I think there is a lot to love about this book. For me reading is a form of escapism and the great thing about historical fiction is that you can learn in a fun way without getting bogged down in dates and particulars. I wish I had studied history more at school… I think there is a lot we can learn from previous mistakes.

This book comes third in my rankings of historical themed books. The first is the series known as “The Last Kingdom” and in second falls a non-fiction recount of events of the state visit by Khrushchev to the US during the Cold War. This is called K Blows Top, by Peter Carlson. The book is aptly named after Khrushchev loses his temper at not being allowed to visit Disneyland on his state visit, and many other hilarious antics unfold during his stay in the US.

I am currently starting another historical fiction series by Philippa Gregory, covering the period of the Wars of the Roses. At this point I also have a confession to make. After River God I was supposed to be reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. A few nights ago I tried in earnest to get started on this book and I just couldn’t get into it. I find the writing style not to my taste. After each chapter I was having to stop and think about what I had just read, to understand what was going on. I don’t mind doing this, but I feel reading this book now would be a hindrance to the progress I have made in my reading challenge.

I am not saying that I won’t read this book, but I am postponing it for now. Dicken’s lovers, please don’t hate on me.

 

Review: Lords and Ladies – Terry Pratchett

Lords and Ladies

GoodReads – Lords and Ladies

Granny Weatherwax, Gytha Ogg and Magrat Garlick get up to their usual tricks and meddling interference once again!! I absolutely love these characters; if anybody else has grown up with strong matriarch’s in the family, you will relate to these women one way or another.

This is the first Discworld book I have come across so far that follows on from events in a previous book (so therefore it is helpful to have read the prior book). Usually they are all independent with common themes. Note I say helpful as opposed to essential.

So Magrat is getting married…. Little, hopeless, lanky, simplistic and typically teenage outcast Magrat is marrying the King of Lancre, no less. Fear not, ladies who prefer to trawl some of the lesser pages of the internet in favour of either finding a man or spending time with the one sat on the couch next to you!! Miracles happen for us all!

Fist pump

Source: Giphy

At least on the Discworld they do, and let’s face it, ANYTHING can happen on the Discworld. And of course who is responsible for the marriage proposal? Well, A N Other witch might be involved.

Meanwhile, bigger problems start to unravel as the boundaries of time align themselves together and the once banished Lords and Ladies are summoned back to the Discworld. Faerie stories have you believing that elves are nice, polite and largely docile creatures, but you’d be wrong. Ever wondered why these stories describe people as having iron horse shoes over the door? There are some truths to all these tales and iron is your greatest weapon against the elves. Oh, and being able to do the Morris Dance…

Just imagine the postcards sent home after that trip. You’d suspect someone had been on the wacky-baccy.

After Prince Verence is kidnapped Magrat goes to her soon-to-be-husband’s rescue, dressed in all bits and bobs of ill-fitting armour and her wedding dress underneath. As you do. The witches have their different and contradictory ideas as to how to rid Lancre of this new threat but can they pull together in the time of greatest need?

You’ll have to read the book and find out. I’m not all for spoilers.

This book was as funny as I expected it to be; Pratchett has an obscure sense of humour at times and although I found it a little difficult to appreciate at first, the Discworld series of books has to be up there among my favourites. That said, I don’t love each and every one of them individually, and with Lords and Ladies in particular, it isn’t my favourite book featuring the witches. It’s still enjoyable, and the characters live up to their good selves, but I prefer some of the other story lines better. There are good elements in all of them, but some of them have more.

If anyone is interested, my current favourite book featuring the witches’ antics on the Discworld is Witches Abroad, the review for which can be found here: Review: Witches Abroad – Terry Pratchett.

My love of these characters pretty much derives from the fact that I can relate to a lot of their personalities and attitudes as they mirror those in my mother’s side of the family. I very much grew up being told, “do as I say and not as I do”, which is exactly what the witches are like. To them, the rules are there for a reason: to be broken.

Down the TBR hole – #2

Hi everyone!!

I originally started this tag about two weeks ago, when I decided that I needed to both spring clean and consolidate my reading lists into one. For anybody interested, please find a link back to my first post with acknowledgements of origins of the tag here.

For anyone who is yet to have come across this tag, it works like this:-

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

So getting straight down to business, here are the next five books on my TBR!

1.  The Summoner – Gail Z. Martin

The Summoner

Verdict: GO

My taste in books has definitely evolved since I added this book to my TBR. Whereas now I appreciate a greater variety of genres, characters and authors compared to that in 2014, I used to only read fantasy books. I have to laugh at myself really, as I used to get bored of reading the same genre all the time but never succeeded in branching out! I must have added this book as a means of a slight branch out from the kind of books I would typically read. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t read this book: the idea is not abhorrent to me… however I have a wider scope now and being perfectly honest, this book doesn’t claw its way through to vie for my attention to make it to the list. Sorry

 

2. Elantris – Brandon Sanderson

Elantris

Verdict: Keep

I’ve had quite an internal debate with myself and it went a little like this:-

Ooh! It’s Brandon Sanderson… that has to be a yes then. Let’s just remind myself of the synopsis… *skims synopsis*

Words. Lots of words. So many things I don’t understand without thinking about it.  *continues to make a futile attempt to skim read*

It’s just some obscure names and places. You’re used to it. It involves magic and rebellion… so that’s a good start. But, gooey romance gone wrong… hmmm not sure about that. (Sorry folks, I’m a die hard realist when it comes to all this one-true-love crap).

*re-reads synopsis properly* Okay so that doesn’t sound so bad second time round. Plus friends X & Y have read it and rated it at least four stars. And it’s his debut novel. Well I can’t not read it now.

I love Brandon Sanderson and in particular the Mistborn series, so there is no real reason I won’t like this. Goodreads, your synopsis is too long and detailed, but I’ll put up with it just this once!

 

3. Gardens of the Moon – Stephen Erikson

Gardens of the Moon

Verdict: Keep

I have a bit of a soft spot in me for books that involve Gods and their interventions in human life. It probably derives as part of my sense of humour, because truthfully I’m a firm athiest. I also love Terry Pratchett’s concept of the Gods playing their games, rolling the dice and that the Discworld is the stage upon which the great game is played. If this isn’t an excellent foundation, I don’t know what is.

I have heard a lot of praise for this series, and it is this that is persuading me to give this book a chance more so than the synopsis. My friends X & Y (the same as above) have also marked this to-read so we quite clearly have a similar taste in books. I trust their judgement.

I was also fortunate to have found the kindle edition of this book reduced in price not so long ago, so I took the plunge to buy it there and then. I guess I am going to be reading it after all!!

 

4. & 5. Brisingr/Inheritance – Chistopher Paolini

Verdict: GO

I’ve lost my enthusiasm for this series. I read the first two books whilst still at school, in the first year of sixth form if memory serves. I distinctly remember having to supervise younger students and whittling away the minutes of boredom, propped up against the radiator reading Eragon.

It was already five years ago and I already feel slightly nostalgic. Oh for the days before bills and responsibility to act like an adult… at least in public. Behind closed doors, I prance and dance along badly to my favourite music and sometimes get up later than I should at the weekends – as I’m sure a lot of other people do too. I hope…

I find the writing style of these books to be for a younger audience and for me that makes them less enjoyable. I apologise, but I’m going to have to drop these off my list.

 

If anybody else would like to take part in this tag, please do! Comment below a link to your post so I can check it out!!

Signature

 

 

Review: A Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale

GoodReads – A Handmaid’s Tale

The most harrowing thing that stuck with me when reading this book was how easily women in society were downgraded to nothing but merely possessions. Not only that, but the vivid detail with how it was done resonated with me because truthfully, the very same thing could be done now if the right lunatic came along. There would be nothing we could do to stop it.

That isn’t to say I think it will happen; I don’t. We may have a colourful history when it comes to the royalty and presidents that have made their mark on the world, but I doubt things would ever get this far. I have to, for the sake of my sanity.

The whole story is written from the perspective of Offred, a handmaid who tried to flee with her husband and daughter but regrettably got captured when they tried to escape and they were separated.

The roles of handmaid’s were created in order to re-populate Gilead after a disaster that affected many people. As a result of the exposure to toxins in water infertility afflicted many men and women (though of course you can’t say that about men since they are superior – duh!) Other effects are not immediately present. Some of the remaining fertile women give birth to babies that are unbabies – that is to say that the exposure to toxins in water after said disaster has made mutations common.

Taking inspiration from the Bible – Genesis 30 for anyone curious to know, the roles of the handmaid’s were created to serve as child bearers in place of the wives of the Commanders:

When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” Then she said, “Here is my servant Bilhah; go in to her, so that she may give birth on my behalf, that even I may have children through her.”

Reference

I also want to add at this point that it isn’t purely women that are oppressed in this “modern” society – a lot of men are denied access to a handmaid unless they are of sufficient rank and are therefore denied a family.

Many of you may know that Channel 4 has recently being showing a ten part series in the UK based on the book. As of writing this, I am yet to watch the last episode, because I wanted to finish the book first. To make everybody aware, the TV series is a more embellished version of the book. Some plot lines are exaggerated and some are made up to add to the story. The order of things has also been mixed up. For example, in the book Offred does not attend a salvaging until pretty much right at the end of the book, whereas it happens much earlier on in the series. These little things are slight annoyances to me. Don’t get me wrong; I know they have done it to make things interesting, current and appeal to a wider audience… I get that. I don’t have to like it though.

I think it’s fair to say that despite their differences, they are both enjoyable. It is best to appreciate them separately. Let’s not forget that A Handmaid’s Tale was first published in 1985 and there are a lot of differences between society and the readership then and us now. To take one example from the TV series, Ofglen (the original one – the handmaid’s names are based on their “masters”) had a girlfriend back before she was captured and trained to be a handmaid. For conspiring against the society that enslaves her, Ofglen is forced to watch her girlfriend (who is not fertile and therefore expendable) hanged to death. Given that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, this is a relevant topic today. I acknowledge at this point it was technically only illegal for men, but as the series is based for the most part around the oppression of women in times where human fertility is dangerously low, you have to work with what you’ve got. This story line wasn’t in the book at all. Ofglen conspired all right, but after she was found out she disappeared entirely, never to be seen again.

It is fair to say that this book is an acquired taste to read… you are either interested in the subject, or you’re not. I tried to read this a couple of years ago, got about a third of the way through and gave up. I hate leaving books unread, but I hate forcing myself through them more – I won’t enjoy it as there is little point. Watching the TV series helped for me. If anyone has watched it and is curious about the book I would recommend giving it a read too. As I said above, there are subtle differences so it’s worth checking out!

Have any of you watched the series or read the book? What did you make of them? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Signature

 

Review: A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange

GoodReads – A Clockwork Orange

My first thought having read the first chapter of this book:

“Right, so what the fuck did I just read?”

A Clockwork Orange is written from the perspective of Alex, a teen who spends his time away from school by terrorising the local neighbourhood. It’s safe to say, he’s a bad egg. When he isn’t doing that, he is usually in his room deep in the peaceful abyss of classical music. He narrates his tale in the language that he uses when with his crew and fellow teens of the book; it is a confusing form of slang with Russian being a heavy influence.

Our pockets were full of deng, so there was no real need from the point of view of crasting any more pretty polly to tolchock some old veck in an alley and viddy him swim in his blood while we counted the takings and divided by four, nor to do the ultra-violent on some shivering starry grey haired ptitsa in a shop and go smecking off with the till’s guts. But, as they say, money isn’t everything.

If you are anything like me, you would probably have been scratching your head at this point, but as you read on you begin to work out the meaning of the obscure words. Some are less obvious than others, trust me. The above caption from the book should give you an idea of the attitude of the teens, and the older characters of the book we meet indicate that this attitude is wide-spread. A lot of people fear to walk the streets at night, frightened of each of the gang leaders and their “droogs” (that’s friends, to you and I). Those who don’t fear the streets will wish they hadn’t ventured out.

When we meet Alex it is apparent he is already a person of interest by social services, and much as the title foreshadows, he always ends up on the same path of crime and anti-social behaviour. The law catches up with Alex when he becomes responsible for the death of an elderly woman, and as a result he is sentenced to fourteen years in prison. After two years he kills a cell mate who tries to get too “friendly” with him – I find it ironic that as a person he would think nothing of such behaviour if it were him committing the act, but it being done to himself is an entirely different story.

I have digressed; after this Alex is put forward for a program designed to reform individuals like him in as little as two weeks. This ultimately becomes a highly controversial method of treatment as Alex, being “reformed” (or mentally scarred through a cruel form of torture if you ask me) is released back into the new world. He struggles to adapt to his new life, feels rejected by his parents and is no longer able to love classical music as a result of the “treatment” he received. Much again in line with the concept of clockwork, once out he finds himself subjected to beatings from the police and subjected to being treated as if he is on the bottom rung of society.

He ultimately attempts to commit suicide. Whilst he doesn’t succeed in this he frees himself of the conditioning of his mind – he can listen to classical music and his thoughts venture into the desire to commit violent acts again. Does this make him “normal” again? Who can say definitively. There is wrong and there is right, but equally there are so many shades of grey in between, and that is where we all find ourselves… somewhere between the goal posts of the “holy saint” and “spawn of the devil”.

The book is an interesting read in that it highlights a number of issues in the justice system. Whilst ethically no treatment like Alex endured could be practiced now, it raises questions as to how far we can go in order to guide people to behave in a manner defined be society as acceptable. At the end of the book Alex raises the point as to what he could do were his son to behave in the same way, and his son after him etc… like clockwork.

Sadly, it is equally apparent that society shuns these individuals regardless of reform or punishment just as rigidly.