Little Indulgences

Hello everybody! Just a quick post whilst I am in the middle of reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy! As I’m sure you will appreciate this is an incredibly long book, and whilst I have been making progress, it is going to take some time to finish. 

I’m currently about a third of the way through the book. At first I wasn’t sure how I was going to take to it, being that it’s not my usual style of read. As it happens, I have taken to it very well, though I attribute that to having watched the BBC’s TV adaptation last year! How do I not watch that I wouldn’t have a clue what was going on in the beginning so probably wouldn’t have seen it through. 

In the meantime however, and seeing as how it’s payday today I decided to treat myself. What I’m not planning to read any of these books immediately, here are my latest purchases so please watch this space for reviews in the near future! 

I would argue that I am a very balanced person on the whole kindle versus book debate. I am not going to lie, I absolutely love my Kindle and that’s how I read predominately. But nothing compares to the feel or smell of a real book! 

Having loved my last Stephen King read, the Green Mile, I’ve decided to treat myself to a further three of his books. 

I found a recent review for Laini Taylor’s “Strange the Dreamer”, so I want to give this a try too. 

I am also making an effort to read more in the way of classics. Whereas some of my peers at school have read “To Kill a Mockingbird”, it is not something I got the opportunity to study. 

Last but not least I am trying something new by an author of a genre I am familiar with, being Neil Gaiman and his novel “American Gods”. 

I hate to have a review of Leo Tolstoy’s “war and peace” to you before too long, however I’m not going to kill my enjoyment of the book over targets. Having up to my target from reading 20 books this year to 60 (as I finished 20 by the end of April) I have about 32 weeks left this year to read 36 books. With War and Peace going to take me approximately another week to complete I’m going to have a challenge on my hands, but not undoable. 

If all else fails, I just have to remember:

It’s a million-to-one chance, but it just might work – Guards Guards by Terry Prachett 

The Green Mile – Stephen King

I am going to begin this post very simply, and I apologise in advance for my language, but I feel it absolutely necessary.

 

This book is FUCKING FANTASTIC!

 

This is my first read of Stephen King’s work and it has absolutely skyrocketed to the top of my list of all time favourite books . It is rare that a book can truly make you feel the full range of emotions, but by God did this one take me for a ride. I first wanted to read the book as I knew the story and I wanted to see how it covered the topics of the death sentence and racial inequality. I want to come back to this a bit later – what I have to say might be too much heavy reading for only 100 or so words in. I’ll start on a lighter note.

“The Green Mile” explores an incredibly sensitive issue. The punishment of death by electrocution was first used in 1890 and was served only to those deemed as absolute scum-of-the-earth (oh, and black people of course). Does it then sound bizarre that despite knowing their crimes, you invest yourselves into these criminals? All readers have to love John Coffey, I think that goes without saying, but I think Delacroix (and Mr Jingles) are equally powerful characters. I was devastated when he walked the green mile and how it all transpired actually made me feel sick. Criminal or no, nobody deserves to die like that. King is very good at vivid descriptions – I’ll give him that.

So what is it about these murderers that makes you like them?

For me, I think it becomes easy to overlook the crimes committed purely because you can see how human they are. For the most part they are remorseful and perhaps did not intend to commit the crimes they did. This isn’t always the case however (cough cough Wharton – I certainly didn’t invest into him emotionally!) The most human thing about all the inmates, but particularly Delacroix is with the attachment to Mr Jingles the mouse. In the contrast, you then have people like Percy on the outside. That to me seems as much of an injustice as John’s sentence to die. People like Percy thrive on cruelty to others and to me is the absolute embodiment of archaic social attitudes. They say what comes around goes around, and rightly or wrongly, karma gets Percy good.

In case there is anyone out there reading this that has neither had the privilege of reading the book or watching the film, I will explain to you all about what is special about John Coffey – like the drink only spelt differently.

After two girls are kidnapped, a manhunt finds six foot and eight inches tall John cradling to the two dead, naked twin girls. He is crying his eyes out saying “I tried to take it back, but it was too late.” John is convicted of the rape and murder of the twins and is sent to E Block of the Cold Mountain Penitentiary to ultimately walk the green mile. What we later discover is that John has the power to heal and throughout the narrative performs several ‘miracles’.

John is a very interesting character. Whilst being seemingly dimwitted, I would actually disagree with this completely. Yeah, maybe he can’t tie his shoelaces, is afraid of the dark and all in all doesn’t say very much, but the power that John holds makes him far more perceptive than the average person. He can read people’s minds, he can feel people’s suffering and pain as well as heal it. I as the reader had doubts throughout the book about John’s involvement in the crime; eventually so do the prison wardens who have to pull the switch.

The most tear jerking moment in the book for me (remember that emotional roller-coaster) took place two days before John was due to sit the chair. Paul Edgecombe is making final arrangements for John’s last evening and John says the following:-

“You and Mr Howell and the other bosses been good to me,” John Coffey said. “I know you been worryin, but you ought to quit on it now. Because I want to go, boss.”

I tried to speak and couldn’t, He could, though. What he said next was the longest I ever heard him speak.

“I’m rightly tired of the pain I hear and feel, boss. I’m tired of bein on the road, lonely as a robin in the rain. Not ever havin no buddy to go on with or tell me where we’s comin or goin to or why. I’m tired of people bein ugly to each other. It feels like pieces of glass in my head. I’m tired of all the times I’ve wanted to help and couldn’t. I’m tired of bein in the dark. Mostly it’s the pain. There’s too much. If I could end it, I would. But I can’t.”

 

I just want to leave that one with you to mull over – a quote from a six foot and eight inches tall black man, convicted and sentenced to die over the rape and murder of two girls. There were holes in the evidence given in Coffey’s trial, but nobody cared to look at them. He’s only a Negro, after all. It couldn’t possibly have been a white man now, could it? I hope I’ve made my opinion on his sentence to die clear.

Tackling these issues must be difficult for a writer without sparking one form of controversy or another, but I’m glad these issues are raised. I’ve also just found out that the electric chair is still an optional method of execution in some states of America, as an alternative to the lethal injection.

Eww.

They say history repeats itself, but I only hope we can arm ourselves with the knowledge so that we do not go back to these dark ages of discrimination again. I’m just saddened that this particular history isn’t that old.

I know this is quite a long post and I apologise. I feel very strongly about the issues raised I’m keen to hear from you if you do too!

Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith

 

Hi everybody!

Further to Monday’s post, as promised, I have finished reading Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith! I would like to thank Shaun for giving me the opportunity to read and review the book – being an independent/self published author, I may not have come across his work (at least for some time) had he not approached me directly.

A lot of reviews I saw initially compare the book to the Harry Potter series. Whilst I suppose it is true there is a similar introduction and is loosely based around the same concept I hope to steer anybody away from the idea that it is any kind of fan fiction. It is not. It is a novel of its own kind and has its very own story to tell.

I will be perfectly honest and say it took a few days of picking the book up in stages to get me introduced to the characters and get into the novel. There is quite a bit of set up (as with any fantasy style book which does not follow “normal life” conventions) and I took my time getting my head around/into it. In contrast, I must have read the rest of the book over about 5 hours across two evenings!

The novel focuses on the life of Ewan Pendle, who spends his childhood being passed around from one foster home to another, never settling for more than a year before he is moved on again. It is common for foster children to feel like they do not fit in, but there is something unusual about Ewan that means he really does not fit in.

He sees dragons eating out of dustbins.

Creatures roam the world and it is the duty of the Lenitnes to both understand and protect various Creatures (and humans) from each other. To do this, the students are inducted to train at Firedrake Lyceum, run by Enola Whitewood.

Ewan enrolls at this unique school upon invitation of Enola, where he finally gets the chance to make friends and begins to learn and acquire some of the power that being a Lenitnes demands.

Shaun cleverly lays down the foundations for the plot early, leaving us guessing after each chapter how different characters are all going to come together. The first chapter thrills us with Betony and her secret mission; later we meet the mysterious Jack Mangrove and learn of plots to kill the real Monarch of England. Following all these twists and turns through the perspective of young Ewan kept me as a reader engrossed entirely! Young or old, we are all as green as Ewan to the world of the Lenitnes and Vilhmied and our understanding gradually begins to grow with him.

There are also those characters that you love to hate; the teacher that picks on you and makes you run laps round the “Pain Yard”, the typical “it” club of the school year who bullies everybody not in the clique and the class weirdos and that nerdy girl with braces.

This really is a book for all us misfits and I hope to see more from Ewan and friends in the future as there is a lot of potential for this as a series! I really hope that this author gets more exposure and readers because it truly is deserved.

 

My next read, which I’m admittedly about a quarter of the way through already is “The Green Mile” by Stephen King. Though I can’t make any promises, I wouldn’t be surprised if I can get the book finished and review published by Monday.

Until next time, peace out!

P.S. For a while I was the nerdy librarian girl with braces, greasy hair and usually had my nose buried in a book – surprise surprise.

Current Reading List: May 2017

Hi guys!! I thought I would begin this week by giving everybody an idea as to what books I am currently reading, as well as a look ahead as to what I plan to read in the near future. 

Currently, upon request of the author I am reading “Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith” by Shaun Hume, so expect a review to follow shortly. So far I would rate the book as a great read for anyone who loves fantasy. You could either check it out now or alternatively wait for my full review before making a decision. 

The next book I have lined up is from a very famous author that I am looking to explore further – the book itself explores some pretty controversial themes. It is a story I believe a lot of people are familiar with as it has also been made into a film. I hadn’t actually realised Stephen King was the author of this book until recently and it goes to show that I really need to branch out more. (I actually came across this knowledge watching a video on YouTube of a Rap Battle between Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe… (just for giggles – here’s the link https://youtu.be/56R3hU-fWZ ). 

If anyone hasn’t guessed by now you must be as sheltered as I was a couple of months ago. Yes, I am talking about The Green Mile! 

The next read on my list is an absolute CLASSIC. It’s something I would never have entertained picking up a couple of years ago and I’m not sure it is entirely my cup of tea now, but I like a challenge. Not only is it a classic, it’s an epic at approximately 1,000 pages. 

Any ideas as to the identity of the book yet? You’ve probably all guessed it! It’s War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. As I said before I’m not sure what I will make of this, but I’m interested to find out and I’ll for sure keep you informed of how I get on! 
I think I am going in with the preconception that it is going to be hard work just because is it so LONG! I hope I’m pleasantly surprised – I enjoyed the TV adaptation made by the BBC so I remain hopeful I don’t get bogged down in all those pages. 

The final book on my list for this post drifts back to something a little more lighthearted and back to my most comfortable genre. I have been making a real attempt to read Terry Prachett this year, and although it took some work getting into his writing style, I adore it now. The next installment is “Witches Abroad” and features one of my favourite characters of all, Granny Weatherwax. Here’s a couple of my favorite quotes from her just to show how awesome she is… 

“Granny Weatherwax was not lost. She wasn’t the kind of person who ever became lost. It was just that, at the moment, while she knew exactly where SHE was, she didn’t know the position of anywhere else”. 
“Haven’t you got any romance in your soul?’ said Magrat plaintively. 

‘No,’ said Granny. ‘I ain’t. And stars don’t care what you wish, and magic don’t make things better, and no one doesn’t get burned who sticks their hand in a fire. If you want to amount to anything as a witch, Magrat Garlick, you got to learn three things. What’s real, what’s not real, and what’s the difference.” 

That’s all for now folks! As ever, if you have any comments please drop me a line – and check out that video I’ve linked up if you’re up for a laugh! You won’t regret it 🙂 

Reaper Man (Terry Prachett) 

Hello everyone! Following my last review of “The Pale Horseman” by Bernard Cornwell I advised that the next book I was  planning on reading and reviewing is “Reaper Man” by Terry Pratchett – the 11th book of the Discworld series. 

I began the series towards the end of last year and initially found the books difficult to get into; it took me three attempts to read “The Color of Magic” all the way through without mashing my brains. It is safe to say that Pratchett has a very specific writing style and sense of humour which has grown on me, albeit over a bit of time. 

There are a lot of things I could say about Prachett. As a person I have a lot of respect for him, having come to know his background. Perhaps that is a post for me to share with you all another time. For now I shall focus my attention on the book to hand. 

 
As the title suggests, this novel focuses around the role of Death. Over the years doing his duty of taking people into the afterlife and moving them on, he has acquired snippets of personality from them. He is curious about life and in previous books, has tried to experience what it is to be human. The other Deaths of the Universe deem this not to be fit – he is removed from his post and made mortal. 

Whilst arrangements are made to replace Death, there is a buildup of life force on the Discworld as nobody truly dies, including 130 year old wizard Windle Poons who becomes undead, despite the numerous attempts and best efforts of the other wizards to see him off for good!

There is a particular element to the story which I didn’t really understand. We learn of the mysterious appearance of thousands of snow globes, which hatch as a result of the build up of life force. I won’t go into too much detail here, but whilst this element of the story is entertaining for humorous reasons more than anything, to me it lacks purpose. The only apparent link this plot line has to the story of Death is in relation to the build up of life force acting as a catalyst. I don’t recall any particular explanation as to where the snow globes came from, their history or previous effect on the Discworld. This is unusual for Pratchett; usually his storylines have very full descriptions and context but I was lacking understanding for this one. 

With the inevitability of the Discworld and the involvement of wizards and the undead, vampires and were-people, obviously everything goes disasterously wrong. I found this part of the narrative actually left me with more absent minded questions than answers really. Whilst trying to get my head around it in the shower I found myself thinking of questions much like the chicken and egg theory – which came first… the snow globe or the city?! Stupid I know. I have come to the conclusion Pratchett came up with the idea for this particular plot line during the early hours of the morning after a drunken night out. 

Sorry Pratchett, I love the book overall, but absolutely not this part. If anybody has some better understanding of this section of the book, or I have missed something please let me know.

I have to say my favorite part of this book was the end. Whilst Death is mortal he comes to work for Miss Flitworth, helping bring in the harvest. I think she helps him to understand what it is to be human; to be imperfect but accepting of it. Whereas Death may have at one point had a very flippant attitude to life, he develops compassion for fellow humans. If you want to find out how, you’ll just have to read the book! No spoilers here! It is a very poignant and touching moment the first time he shows it so you can’t miss it! It also makes itself apparent with Miss Flitworth in the last few pages of the book, though if you’re not paying attention, you might miss some part of it. I had to read it over a few times before I understood what happened. 

Overall, I would recommend the book as a good read. There are some sections I found myself wanting more from, but perhaps I have interpreted them wrong. If anybody else has read this book, please let me know your thoughts! 

For my next read, I’m going to be reading the works of an author I haven’t encountered before. The book in particular I am reading is “Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith” by Shaun Hume. I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts with you all already! 

The Last Kingdom & The Pale Horseman – Bernard Cornwell

I first came across this series as a television show back in autumn 2015, in which we follow the story of Uthred. Initially baptised as Osbert, he is raised in his ancestral home of Bebbanberg until one fateful day, when riding along the beach with his father, Danish ships are spotted on the coast.
As Ealdorman of Bebbanberg, Osbert’s father has to take action immediately. He sends his eldest son, Uthred, to spy on the ships and report back, however emboldened by the apparent lack of numbers, Uthred attacks and is killed by the Danes; his head delivered to his father as a warning. The Ealdorman is also subsequently killed in battle and Osbert, (now baptized Uthred as the eldest son of the family) is raised by the Danes that killed his father and took his home.
Thus begins the invasion of the Danes. Throughout the first book of the series, “The Last Kingdom”, we observe as the majority of the kingdoms of England are gradually taken over by the Danes, leaving only Wessex to make a stand for its freedom.

Uthred’s mixed loyalties are constantly challenged throughout the books so far. Whilst he spends the majority of time bound by allegiance to King Alfred’s fight for a United England, in hope that one day he can take back his ancestral home, he secretly longs for the Danish way of life, to serve his half-brother and join the Danes.

I only discovered that the series was based on Bernard Cornwell’s novels when my sister bought me the DVD of Season 1 for my birthday. I discussed this with a work colleague of mine who happened to have a copy of the first book. I loved the book that much I read it in a week, using every free minute to read.
It is the second book of the series I have just read and I felt it appropriate to include the first book as part of this write-up to fully explain where I am in Cornwell’s novels to date.

The second book of the series, “The Pale Horseman” begins with Uthred returning from battle with the Danes, in which he gave Ubba, one of the men who raided his home his warriors death (Danes believe that warriors, upon death, go to feast in Valhalla). He then goes to find his wife and child before returning to Alfred, who has been told different stories of Ubba’s death. His immense pride gets him in trouble once again, and Alfred forces him to pay penitence by crawling to an altar in front of a laughing crowd for God’s forgiveness. Oswald (the King’s nephew) convinces Uthred to do it to keep the peace and accompanies him, drawing attention away from him by making a show of himself instead.
Uthred continues to fight for the King as Wessex is raided by the Danes, at one time commanding ships for him, others serving as a hostage. Peace is negotiated and broken time and time again between the two sides whilst the Danes bide their time, waiting for more ships to land and join forces. Uthred becomes impatient with Alfred’s lack of actions and at one point let’s himself off the leash, taking the last ship he has command of and raiding England, disguising himself and his crew as Danes to acquire wealth.
Alfred is slowly driven into hiding with his family deep in the country of Wessex until they at last have to make a final stand and fight, or die.

I have only given the bare bones outline here as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone else who is reading or wishes to read the books. I would absolutely recommend them to anyone who loves historical fiction. I found the place names used take some adjusting to; as they are in archaic English (and not consistent apparently – though I haven’t noticed yet) some are very unlike modern names. Cornwell does however provide a reference for anybody interested in learning the names and where they relate to in modern-day England.
I think having watched the series helped me read these books. Whilst this is a genre I liked to read, it helped give context as to the roles people played and the hierarchy within society etc. These are explained by Uthred in the novels, but I found it easier to see and to have the constant reminder of it in this way rather than just a one-off explanation.
If anyone had read these books please share your thoughts! Did you enjoy them? Alternatively if you are struggling perhaps or have any questions, maybe I can help. Please drop me a line either way.

 
My next book of choice is Terry Prachett’s “Reaper Man”, which I will introduce to you all and review in due course!