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!

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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!!

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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!

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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.

Reading List: August 2017

We are officially into August and into the height of Summer! I will always associate August as being Summer as that is when I used to go on holidays with my mum and dad and of course, school was out. For me, it was the best time of the year.

So this month I’ll be starting by finishing the last book of my July list, being A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I didn’t quite get to finish it since Magician took me a little longer than anticipated to read.

Here is a list of the other books I am planning to read this month. If any of these catch your eye please look out for my reviews of these books as well:-

1 Lords and Ladies – Terry Pratchett

Lords and Ladies

GoodReads – Lords and Ladies

Yes guys, I’m going back to one of my favourite authors this year and one of the best (and longest) series of books I have read. This also features some of my favourite characters on the Discworld, including Granny Weatherwax and her coven of witches! I love the escapism you get whilst reading of the wild adventures of the Discworld, yet somehow when the book is finished you realise that between all the magic and lunacy (and it’s hilarious lunacy at that), there is something you can take away from the book that really smacks of the world we live in. I daresay the madness isn’t as far from the world we live in as we would like to think… expect Earth isn’t transported through space and time on the back of a giant turtle of course.

2 River God – Wilbur Smith

River God

GoodReads – River God

My granddad used to read a lot of Wilbur Smith, apparently. I only found this out fairly recently, having stumbled across a newer release of his in a local bookshop with my mum in tow. I think the book we stumbled across was called Pharaoh. I also share a lot of my reading “ventures” – for want of a better word – with a colleague of mine and when telling her about this I found out she too had read Wilbur Smith and enjoyed his books. We have similar taste in books so at that point I decided to give this a go. It’s completely new to me, but I’m excited. It’s also for me a way to get closer to my grandad. Sadly all of my grandparents are no longer with us, so if I can take the time to enjoy the things they did I see that as one of my ways of remembering them.

3 A Tale of two Cities – Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities

GoodReads – A Tale of Two Cities

I hold my hand up and say I have never read any Charles Dickens – not even A Christmas Carol. It’s one of those films I like to try to watch every year, as well as Miracle on 34th Street (but it has to be the 1994 version with Richard Attenborough as the man in red). I think I have just committed myself to reading the book this year out of shame!! As much as I say I have never read any of the works of Dickens, I’m not saying I am unfamiliar either; I have never taken the time to appreciate these works is all. Whilst I am finding myself with an appreciation for classics, I’m jumping right in to read as many as I can.

4 The Lady of the Rivers – Philippa Gregory

Lady of the Rivers

GoodReads – The Lady of the Rivers

I love history and I think I pretty much always have. Whilst the potential was always there my real love for the subject was kindled by two excellent teachers we had at our high school, husband and wife – they were a load of fun. They had done well for themselves, even have written textbooks distributed around schools on the subject, but equally they were the kind of teachers that would happily let you watch a film and where necessary narrate the historical context of what was going on. There was also the bread sticks too…

I have digressed from my point slightly. As I have said, I love history, but whilst I was at school I didn’t get the chance to study the Wars of the Roses… which is silly really because that is far closer to home than the likes of the Cold War and America from 1920-45.

I have heard great things of Philippa Gregory as a historical writer so this should be a great indulgent read. My sister also managed to buy me the second book of the series, The White Queen, for a pound just a couple of weeks ago. Saving money on book buys is always a bonus!!

5 Extracted – R R Heywood

extracted

GoodReads – Extracted

This book caught my eye as it also has some element of history involved. I will openly admit in the past I haven’t been inclined to read much in the way of science fiction. In fact I think my sci-fi library goes as far as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The War of the Worlds and some short stories by George R R Martin. My dad is definitely a science fiction lover by comparison. I can’t explain what it is, but a lot of the time, I can’t take to them. It’s funny really: you would think my love and purpose of reading as a form of escapism would allow me the greater ability to stretch the imagination in order to read these books. A lot of the time however I am not inclined to read it, with a few exceptions. I’m making one for this book however, so fingers crossed I haven’t made a mistake.

6 Pet Sematary – Stephen King

Pet Sematary

GoodReads – Pet Sematary

I add this last book to my list tentatively, as I may not get to finish it this month, but I’ll sure as anything give it a try! Horror is also a new genre for me to read; I have steered clear of horror as I absolutely detest horror films. To set the record straight, this is not because they scare me… I think they are so predictable they don’t scare me at all. I’m hoping with writing it will be more suspenseful rather than cheap shots at scaring people by having something jump into the camera for a quick “thrill”. Do me a favour… this is not entertaining at all. I’m also trusting that dipping my toes in the water with a Stephen King novel will be a safe way to start exploring – I already know I like his writing style!


So that is how I’ll be spending my free time this month – I’m sure keeping busy! As well as all this reading you can catch me here with updates as to how I am getting along.

Has anyone else read any of the books listed above? If so, what was your verdict?

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