Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

nevernightcover.jpgThis.

Book.

Though.

Stop what you’re reading – are you reading right now? Put it down. Go pre-order this book. Then go finish your book ASAP so you can be ready for the first installment of Jay Kristoff’s new fantasy trilogy. It’s gonna be a good one, guys. Oh boy. I can’t believe I have to wait for the next one.

Considering it is now a week before the release date for this book, and I spent all weekend ranting to my friends about how good it is to the extent that they all bought it for themselves at the HarperVoyager stand at YALC and could recite the release date themselves, unprompted, I felt it was finally time for a full review.

Synopsis

Mia Corvere is ten years old when she experiences death for the first time. When her father is executed as a traitor, Mia barely escapes his failed rebellion with her life. Swearing vengeance on those who destroyed her family, she fights to survive and makes her way to the Red Church, the school for assassins. In order to become a Blade, Mia must best her classmates in the arts of steel, poison, thievery, and the subtle arts (seduction, steeeamy). But there is a killer on the loose at the Red Church, and Mia must be extra vigilant if she wants to fight to the top of her classes, become a Blade, and ultimately, just stay alive.

Things I liked

We’ll start with the basics.

The setting: The Red Church is a twist on the classic magical school, the ruthless anti-Hogwarts for the post-Potter generation. The world itself is a collision between Ancient Rome and Merchant Prince Venice (as described by the author), an imagined world as if the Republic had never been overthrown. Religious fervor dominates the republic, and its leaders are determined to destroy the Red Church and its Blades once and for all. Coincidentally, it is these same leaders upon whom Mia has sworn vengeance for executing her father and destroying her family. She certainly does not lack ambition.

The freaking front cover: Am I allowed to include this? What a stunning work of art. Designed by the incredible Kerby Rosanes (whose Instagram you should follow, here). What I haven’t mentioned so far is that the world of this book is lit by three suns, meaning that true night rarely falls – unless you’re at the Red Church, of course. The three suns begin on the front page and wrap around the back. I hear they’ll be moving around as the next books in the series come out, like orbit and stuff (thank God there will be more books in this series).

Moving on to the characters.

Mia Corvere: what a protagonist. Never flinch, never fear, never forget. It is not just Mia’s determination and ruthlessness that make her an incredible character to ride along with. It is also her companion, Mr Kindly, the cat-who-is-not-a-cat, who makes her fearless but not to the point of stupidity, and the way she forms relationships with other characters. This is not the story of a friendless, brave hero, the outcast. Mia and her classmates all have their own tragedies, their own reasons for joining the Red Church. They all had to fight to get there and they all have to fight every day to stay. Mia lives her life in the shadows because the shadow answers her when she calls, but she is also funny, bright, clever, sometimes warm and, surprisingly often, kind. She also smokes cigarillos like a bleedin chimney.

The tutors at the Red Church: but I won’t talk too much about them. You should meet them for yourself.

The potential Blades, a.k.a Mia’s classmates: Tric, Hush, Ash. Their stories. Their tragedies. Their triumphs.

I could go on and on here, so I’ll just talk about one more thing.

The narrative voice: the worldbuilding takes its time, it lets you in little by little, as you need to know – but there was no sense of deus ex machina here, no convenient get-outs. The narration is nuanced, gentle when it needs to be gentle, rich when it is rich (steamy when it is steeeamy), and sharp in the midst of action. There are some extremely dark moments in this story but the humour when it comes (which it does, frequently), is excellently judged. The story and worldbuilding are aided by Pratchett-esque footnotes, which sometimes fill in histories you didn’t know you wanted with amusing anecdotes – usually ending up with someone getting themselves killed through a disaster of their own making – and sometimes simply revel in the occasional absurdity of what is happening to our protagonist. I thought these footnotes might be intrusive and break up the flow, but I was happily mistaken.

Things I didn’t like

Um.

Yeah. Um.

I’m sure it’s going to be a very long time until there is another book and I don’t know what I’ll do until then? That’s kind of a thing I don’t like?

Should I read this book?

Please, please, please do. I’m pretty sure this is the best fantasy book I’ve read since The Lies of Locke Lamora, which is no mean feat. Make this the next fantasy you read.

*

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And I Darken by Kiersten White

andidarken

Last week I was on holiday and I read four books – so stay tuned for more reviewing!

Contrary to my usual format, I don’t know if there’s going to be a ‘what I didn’t like’ section for this book. I blasted through this in a day, even though it is 400…500? pages long (I don’t have it with me, awks). This book was released the day before I went on holiday, and I stayed in all day (partly doing dissertation work and packing…partly in anticipation) to wait for my pre-order to arrive. I’m so glad it did, this was a highlight of my reading month. Let’s get into the review.

Synopsis

And I Darken is a retelling of the life of Vlad the Impaler – but in this case, Vlad is a girl, Lada. The blurb markets her as a princess the likes of whom you have never experienced. And while I was initially doubtful this book would deliver on that promise, I can safely say it did. Lada is fierce and fiercesome, determined, proud, loyal but not blindly, and entirely self-centred. Against the rich backdrop of the Ottoman Empire, Lada and her exact opposite brother, Radu the Handsome, must navigate the complicated political terrain, wrestle with their own constantly warring feelings toward each other, and figure out once and for all where their own loyalties lie. Initially, they are unwilling to trust Mehmed, who is after all the son of the sultan who holds them hostage against their father, but soon the three of them come to love and rely on each other in an environment where they can trust little else.

What I liked

Let’s start with the obvious: Lada. She was just great. Flawed in unexpected but un-irritating ways. Quite human, and yet utterly inhuman as well. I related to her more than I thought I would. Radu and Mehmed too, are wonderfully crafted characters. Radu and Lada hold the main third-person narration, and while I connected with each of them in different ways I didn’t find myself placing my own character on them – I liked them, as if they were people I knew and I was invested in what they were trying to achieve. Brilliant characterisation.

The setting. This is a period in history (and geography) I know very little about. Fascinating reading – can’t comment on the accuracy of the research but it was flawlessly utilised in the storytelling, not imposing or overwhelming but (certainly from the perspective of a know-nothing Ottoman-ignorant like me) felt real. Well-composed, narratively astute and complementary to the story.

The length. This is an odd one to choose, probably. But as much as I love a chunky book, this one was on the short side of an epic and the long side of a YA novel. It was just the right length for a day of sofa-bound reading when I got sick on holiday. It didn’t drag, and it didn’t rush.

What I didn’t like

Had to put this section in here just for standard formatting sake but do I have anything I didn’t like?

Not really. I felt pretty good about most aspects of this.

I guess, could have had a bit more of the Dad? Prince Vlad of Wallachia The whole conflict on his side of things sounded quite fun, with forces amassed against him, and him an uncaring, spineless and selfish leader. BUT I reckon we’re going to get more of the conflict in Wallachia in the next book, and through a more interesting lens too (but here there be spoilers, so I shan’t elaborate).

Should I read this?

If you’re in the market for some historical epic, without conventional romances or history itself quite as you know it, or if you want to complex, engaging, and morally dubious characters, or if you have been hearing about this and weren’t sure whether to pick it up, then YES. Do read it. Then let me know what you think. Can’t wait for book two.

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This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab

Last year I read V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic. As soon as I finished that I sought out another of her books, Vicious. This year, she has released two more books. One was a sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, called A Gathering of Shadows, which was also excellent. The other was This Savage Song, the first in a new dystopian-YA-urban fantasy series, said by the author to be partly inspired by the Sandy Hook shooting.

SavageSong.jpg.size-230Synopsis

Verity is a city divided. Following a catastrophic event, it is overrun with monsters and divided in two – those who pay Callum Harker for protection from the monsters whom he allows to run free, and those who don’t.

Kate is Harker’s only daughter, relegated to boarding school after boarding school, kept out of Verity and her father’s life. The first chapter opens with Kate methodically burning down the chapel of the painfully forgiving Catholic boarding school, an act which sees her finally sent to a public school in Verity. Kate is determined to prove to her father that she is as ruthless as he is.

August Flynn is one of the monsters feared by the citizens of Verity. Born from a tragedy of human violence, he is constantly warring with a darkness within himself that, when unleashed, leaves a trail of death in its wake.

The fraying truce between the Flynn and Harker families begins to crumble when an assassination attempt forces Kate and August into an uneasy alliance, and between them they begin to uncover secrets in both their families that will change their understanding of the world in which they live.

Things I liked/LOVED

I loved August and Kate. I liked their awkward friendship and how they help each other, even before they are forced to team up. And I also enjoyed the castlist of other interesting characters, particularly those in Flynn’s camp, although Schwab definitely knows how to write a compelling villain.

I loved the interesting monsters, the different types, what they do and how they behave, and what they mean. In particular, I liked the human element to the creation of the monsters.

I loved how different this was to all of Schwab’s other books, she is a chameleon of fantastical YA fiction. Also, so far removed from all other YA dystopian series that it was incredibly refreshing.

Things I didn’t like

I came to this fresh out of a month of essay-writing and found that the slow exposition of what the monsters were and what certain little signifiers meant difficult – I was all in for immediate gratification, and while I was reading this before bed or on the bus it wasn’t quick enough. I resolved this issue by sitting still for a few hours on my day off and finishing it in one go. If I’d been feeling more luxurious and languishy I think I would have appreciated the art in the drawn out reveal.

I also felt that there could have been more development on the other students August becomes friends with at school, they felt a little bit like padding rather than actual people. However this is more than made up for in the complexity of the central cast.

Should I read this?

Yeah. Go on then. Then go read all of V.E. Schwab’s other books. I don’t have enough people to talk to about them.

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A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Long time no see, bookworms. Beware, here there be spoilers.

I like Sarah J. Maas. She writes great rollicking adventures with a varied cast of characters, fun villains and interesting leads. Last year I read A Court of Thorns and Roses, the first in her new trilogy, a beauty and the beast retelling set in a world where humans and fae are separated only by a wall. It’s hard writing a review for a sequel, so here’s a little spoiler-y synopsis of the first book. As a bonus.

In A Court of Thorns and Roses, our herione, Feyre, a 19-year-old human huntress who despises the fae people and is struggling to feed her family, ends up killing a fae and in return must go to live on their side of the wall. She lives within the Spring Court, under the dominion of Tamlin, the High Lord there. Beauty goes to live with the beast, so you know how that story goes. However, there is another, darker power on the fae side of the wall, in the form of the fae conqueror Amarantha. Late in the book, Tamlin is held captive by Amarantha. Feyre risks everything for him, making a bargain with Amarantha and undergoing many life-threatening tasks, at one point forced into making a deal with Amarantha’s pet High Lord, Rhysand, reminiscent of Hades and Persephone – that if they defeat Amarantha, she must spend one week of every month with Rhysand at the Night Court. With his help, Feyre defeats Amarantha but dies in the process. BUT the High Lords of all the courts, united by their shared experience of Amarantha’s tyrannical rule, band together and use their power to resurrect Feyre. However, when she wakes, she is no longer human, but fae.

ACOMAF

Synopsis

A Court of Mist and Fury begins with Feyre and Tamlin at the spring court, soon to be married. Feyre and Tamlin are both suffering from the events that took place in Amarantha’s keep, Under the Mountain. Nightmares and high stress punctuate their previously idyllic relationship. Passions still run high and, unlike many YA books, they explicitly have regular sex. But Tamlin’s fear makes him controlling, he prevents Feyre leaving the grounds while he rides out to protect them. He keeps all manner of dangers and secrets from her. Three months after Amarantha’s defeat, the day of Feyre and Tamlin’s wedding, Feyre finds that she wishes she could escape from the impending marriage, the duties of being a consort to a High Lord and all the restrictions that come with them. And, as she hesitates walking down the aisle, Rhysand appears to make good on his bargain, to whisk her away to the Night Court.

Rhysand, despite his efforts and good looks, fails to charm Feyre on her first visit, but insists on her learning how to read and write, so she spends much of her time alone. When she returns to Tamlin and the Spring Court, she is quizzed on everything she saw and heard. Tensions escalate, Tamlin is barely able to contain his rage and fear for Feyre, despite her new, stronger, fae form. Finally he crosses line Feyre cannot forgive, and is rescued by one of Rhysand’s inner circle. She remains there, and learns more about the Night Court and the secrets of its mysterious High Lord.

Things I liked

The change of romance. I was all team Feylin in the first book. Tamre. Whatever the correct portmanteau is (the internet can’t seem to decide). Many people thought early on that there should be a Feyre-Rhysand ship. But I was all about Tamlin. The early stages of this book showed how the trauma of what happened under the mountain exposed cracks in their relationship. The attempts of both Feyre and Tamlin to maintain what was good about their relationship before are there, but their respective inabilities to deal with their trauma drives them further apart, when they could have found comfort with each other. That leads me onto another thing I liked…

The portrayal of trauma. Many heroes have an enormous traumatic experience and are fine the next time we see them. These characters went through an ordeal, and they have to cope with what happened to them and what they did under the mountain. It’s nice to see.

Feyre as a heroine. Despite now being fae, she is very human in her emotions, her flaws, and her talents. I believe her, as a character.

There were some big steamy moments. That was refreshing.

Things I didn’t like

I dunno. I had a great time reading this. Wasn’t expecting to write a review. It was..quite long? But I still devoured it in a few days.

Oh – the ending was a little anti-climactic perhaps. The old second book in a trilogy issue. But it was a great lead up to the final instalment…

Should I read this?

Obviously not if you haven’t read the first one. But if you have read it, and maybe you thought it was good but not great, maybe you thought it wasn’t what you wanted after reading Maas’s Throne of Glass series, maybe you were all about Feyre and Rhysand from the very beginning, I urge you to pick up the second one.

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50 books in 2015 (ish)

It’s been over a year since I’ve written in this blog. Since I’ve been away I’ve moved to London, got a job, and I’m now over halfway through my masters at UCL. This is essentially a quick note to say this blog will be up and running again this year! And a list of everything I read (completed) last year.

Like many people all over the internet and all over the world, last year I set myself the goal of reading 50 books. Quite arrogantly I thought this wouldn’t be an issue, and now here I am having to admit that I completed a total of 49 books. Crud.

I don’t have any reviews coming up on these and will probably continue my usual format this year, but if anyone would like an in-depth review of any of the books mentioned leave me a comment below!

In alphabetical order (by author, because that’s how I wrote them down – multiple titles by the same author will be in the order I read them):

things-fall-apart_cover1&2. Things Fall Apart & Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe

These are the first and third installments of Achebe’s famous and extraordinary African Trilogy. They don’t follow on chronologically. They are incredible. I recommend.

 

 

illuminations3. Illuminations by Walter Benjamin

Collection of famous/important essays. Fantastic. How do you pronounce Benjamin? Academics are silently divided on this, and all just say it their own way.

 

 

Through-the-Woods-Cover

4. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Graphic novel, selection of creepy folky stories. Amazing art. Atmospheric and intense. Short read. Highly recommend.

 

 

girls goddesses giants5. Girls, Goddesses and Giants by Lari Don

Children’s book, with classic myths from all sorts of cultures retold so the girl isn’t always waiting for the boy with the sword to come and save her, but gets herself out of trouble. My favourite is the one where the girl’s brains save the day, but the reason they escape and win the day is because the boy is willing to help and take her seriously. Great collection for any young girl who is sick of having to read about damsels.

sex criminals6. Sex Criminals vol. 1 by Matt Frachon (writer) and Chip Zdarsky (illustrator)

Two ordinary people with a special power. Every time they orgasm, time stops. They meet and hook up at a party, discovering the only other person they’ve met with this ability. One thing leads to another and they use this power to rob a bank. So good.

 

7. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

JamieBarn

Whoops. How did that happen. I mean,

Outlander-blue-cover-198x300

Ahem. Outlander is the first in an epic time-travelling-historical-fantasy-romance series. It follows a young woman named Claire, who was a nurse during the Second World War. In the time that follows the war she is having a second honeymoon with her husband in Inverness to rekindle their relationship, but she stumbles accidentally into a magic stone circle and is sent back in time to 18th century Scotland.

There is also a TV adaptation….

diary nobody8. Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith (re-read)

Hilarious suburban goings on. Charles Pooter, middle-aged and middle-class, decides to start a diary.

 

 

eaoaraj9. Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

Etta is 80 years old and she has never seen the sea. So she takes some chocolate and a rifle and decides to walk the 3000 kilometres to the ocean. Wonderful book.

 

 

10. johannes cabal coverJohannes Cabal: The Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard

Johannes Cabal makes a deal with the devil to get his soul back. He traded it off for some powers or knowledge years ago but now it turns out he needs it, so over the course of a year he has to collect some souls to trade for his own, with the help of the reanimated corpses of some thugs who tried to mug him and his vampire brother, and a carnival.

 

crow-ted-hughes411&12. Crow & Tales from Ovid by Ted Hughes

Poetry collections. Wrote an essay on Crow. I really liked it, sue me.

 

 

 

insanity13. Insanity by Cameron Jace

Self-published, dark re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland. Very enjoyable, quick read. Some clever twists.

 

 

portrait14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (re-read)

Coming of age story. Joyce is a genius, etc. This is probably his most approachable book and I would recommend it if you want to start reading Joyce. I re-read this for an essay

 

 

first bad man cover15. The First Bad Man by Miranda July

I don’t want to tell you anything about this book…maybe you’ll like it, maybe you won’t. Telling you anything would ruin it. That’s why there’s no info on the blurb, only quotes. It’s engrossing. It’s bizarre. It’s painfully honest and yet somehow unimaginable. Maybe go read it. Maybe don’t. I don’t know. But probably do. Then come and tell me what you think.

 

misery16. Misery by Stephen King (this was the first book I read last year)

I loved this. So much. As well as being the first book I read last year, it was also my first Stephen King. And what a start! I’d like to read Carrie next. Or the Shining.

 

 

angels-in-america-kushner-tony-paperback-cover-art17. Angels in America by Tony Kushner

Wonderful play. There’s a great HBO adaptation as well. Probably needs to be seen to be fully appreciated – I read and watched at the same time. Incredible piece of work.

 

 

1rosemary's baby cover8. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

This, I read in a single train journey (a long one). I couldn’t stop reading. I wanted to sleep, but I had to keep reading it. It was intense. I’m gonna slowly gather up all of Ira Levin’s books to read.

 

 

assassin19&20. Heir of Fire & The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas

Heir of Fire is the third installment to Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series, and The Assassin’s Blade is a set of prequel novellas. The books follow Celaena Sardothien, an 18 year old girl with a shady and hidden past, who also happens to be the most infamous assassin in the land. Great YA fantasy. Lovelovelove.

 

acotar cover21. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

This is the first installment of the newest YA fantasy series by Maas, a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast. This was also fantastic – the writing has developed a lot since Throne of Glass and the story is just great.

 

 

33.Hilary Mantel-Bring up the Bodies22. Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel

The sequel to Wolf Hall. I managed to read this just in time for the BBC series. I really enjoyed. Much more fast-paced than the first but it doesn’t lose too much of the slow-building intensity.

 

 

23.01-Cinder-high-res Cinder by Marissa Meyer

The first of the Lunar Chronicles. This is a retelling of Cinderella, who in this story is a half-cyborg mechanic, living and working in New Beijing. Pretty original, fun, looking forward to reading Scarlet next and finding out what happens.

 

 

china-meiville-king-rat

24& 25. King Rat & London’s Overthrow by China Mieville

This was partly for an essay, partly for fun. Loved King Rat, I’d only read Kraken before this which I had loved, and I wasn’t disappointed. Trying to read The City & the City at the moment but it’s not grabbing me in the same way. I’ll persevere.

London’s Overthrow is actually the printed version of an online essay by Mieville which I will link here if anyone wants to check it out.

sky everywhere26. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

I found this book on the tube, then I read it. It’s about a teenage girl whose sister died, and how she works through her feelings, her guilt and grief, while normal life continues to happen around her.

 

 

monster calls cover

27. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (sob)

This book devastated me. It’s probably one of my favourite books of the year, if not all time. I finished this book on the bus, crying for the last 20-odd pages. It was crowded, it was awkward.

Conor, a 13 year old whose mother is terminally ill, is visited by a monster who insists that Conor summoned him. He tells Conor that he will visit him and tell him three stories that will help him. And in exchange, Conor must then tell him his own story.

The_Art_Of_Asking_Book_Cover

28. The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer’s highly acclaimed and wonderful memoir/self-help book. I just….really enjoyed this.

 

 

pater29. Studies In The History of the Renaissance by Walter Pater

Pater’s essays on renaissance artists et al. Aestheticism, woop. I wrote an essay on this too.

 

 

 

plath-belljar30. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I don’t know what I expected going into this, but I loved it. I enjoyed the first half more than the second, but that’s only because the first half was SO GOOD.

 

 

Soul-Music131&32. Soul Music & Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Dipping back into Terry Pratchett. I was familiar with Soul Music thanks to the remarkably faithful animated adaptation which I have watched many times. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read of his, but definitely don’t feel like I’ve read enough. Aside from these I think I’ve only read Mort? Any recommendations for the quintessential Pratchett very welcome. I think The Wyrd Sisters is what I would like to read next.

goodmorningmidnight33. Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

Great novel (novella?) about a young woman living independently in Paris in the 1920s (I think). I loved the tone of Rhys’s writing in this book.

 

 

graveyardshift34. Graveyard Shift by Angela Roquet

Self-published book about Reapers, Grim’s assistants who collect the souls of the dead and live among Gods and creatures of various underworlds so that they can send the souls to the correct afterlife. Great idea, well-executed, fun characters and good use of mythology.

 

 

name-of-the-wind

35. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (annual re-read)

The Kingkiller Chronicles: Day One. Comfort reading. A world I’m happy to fall into any time. Intending to re-read The Wise Man’s Fear this year. Everyone read this. Please. Everyone. I haven’t met anyone who has read this and doesn’t love it.

 

 

fangirl36. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Coming of age story. The main character writes fan-fiction and has a dedicated following online, the book follows her first year at university – romances, friendships, difficulties. Really fun, immersive read. Great characters.

 

 

darker shade of magic

37. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

There is more than one London. There is Grey London – the one we know – and Red London, where there is magic, and White London, where magic rules. And Black London. But nobody goes to Black London. The main character can travel between these realms. So good.

 

vicious38. Vicious by V.E. Schwab

So I felt this one needed its own block even though I’ve grouped the same authors in some of the previous listings. Vicious is the story of two boys at university, when they are best friends, experimenting with near-death experiences to try to give themselves superpowers. It is also the story of the same boys ten years later, when they are enemies.

The anti-hero is strong with this book. I loved it.

 

lainitaylor39. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

A twist on the classic star-crossed lovers story. And a twist on the classic angels vs demons story. Great worldbuilding and characters, excited to continue with the trilogy.

 

 

40-44saga 1. Saga volumes 1-5 by Bryan K. Vaughan (writer) and Fiona Staples (illustrator)

Graphic novel series following a couple who had been fighting on opposite sides of a war, narrated by their child from the moment of her birth. Funny and full of originality, and my favourite cat-sidekick of all time, Lying Cat.

 

WP_001140

 

In fact, we’re just gonna pause for a minute here while I post some excellent Lying Cat moments.

2727402-the_will_saga_4_lying

 

Heheh. And this, more serious one:

sophie and lying cat

And finally, confused Lying Cat:

lying cat question

Ahem. Thanks for bearing with me on that one. Moving on….

slaughterhousefive45. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

This took me an embarrassingly long time to get to. But I was given it for Christmas, so I read it on Boxing Day. I freakin LOVED it. I’ve been describing it as having an ethereal mutedness that I didn’t expect.

It’s an anti-war novel, lingering in particular on the Dresden Bombings.

 

46-1ratqueenscover47. Rat Queens volumes 1 and 2 by Kurtis J. Weibe (writer) and Roc Upchurch/Tess Fowler (illustrators)

Another graphic novel series I’ve been loving. A band of kick-arse mercenary women face evil, have sex, and….kick arse. Hilarious, well-designed, reads like a D&D session. Love it. Cannot wait for more.

 

artbeingnormal48. The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

This is a YA novel about being transgender. Neatly put together, an easy and important read for young people. The characters didn’t grab me particularly but the story did.

 

 

revolutionary road49. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

Suburbian life is hard. We all think we’re special but maybe we’re not. We make plans we never follow through and don’t want to admit we like the stability of a boring job…

This book is so intimately painful to read – in like, a good way? – with beautifully observed truths throughout. It was intense. My only criticism is the ending, which I thought was a cop-out. Feel free to disagree

BONUS: the first book I read in 2016, which I should have just read on New Years Eve since it took all of ten minutes

guinea pig pp50. A Guinea Pig Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Alex Goodwin and Tess Gammell

I have nothing negative to say about this at all.

 

More Fool Me

Sooooo this is another cheat. I haven’t had this sitting on my shelf for a long time. I haven’t even been meaning to read it for that long (since it came out the day I bought it…). But I went to see Stephen Fry give a talk about and some readings from his new memoir, More Fool Me, and started reading it immediately. In my defence, it has taken me a long time to finish reading it because I’ve been prioritising my masters reading. Ok? Ok.

stephen fry coverSynopsis

Following the first two instalments of memoir, Moab Is My Washpot and The Fry Chronicles, More Fool Me covers the period of Fry’s life when he was a) writing The Hippopotamus, b) enjoying a life of luxury and success and c) addicted to cocaine. He is very careful about not glorifying cocaine use while also attempting to be honest about his own experiences of it. The book includes a list of all the places he did cocaine (such as Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the Groucho Club), photos from his life grouped and spaced throughout, and some hilarious name-dropping stories, such as the time Prince Charles came over for New Year.

Things I liked

The style – I think I will always love Stephen Fry’s writing style. The Liar, although structurally flawed, is one of my favourite books purely for the style in which it is written. Listening to Fry speak and reading his book are almost identical experiences. I can say this with some sincerity, having done both of these things at the talk he gave in Bristol. It is Wodehouse-ian in its flippant tone and yet self-deprecating, enlightening, and warm. If you aren’t a fan of Stephen Fry, there is nothing in this book for you, as it is very personally and individually his.

The world of the biz. How different it all was, evening just in the eighties and nineties. It feels as far away as reading about stars of Hollywood in the Golden Age; you still know all the names and the faces, the roles they played and the things they created, but there is just as wide a separation as if they had been living and working fifty years ago. That is, if you’re in your early twenties like me. I imagine if you were experiencing these creations at the time, reading about them now would be a completely different thing. I’d be interested in how someone between the ages of 30 and 60 would feel reading this book…

The little side-notes about fact-checking amongst those mentioned – particularly those with regard to Hugh Laurie, they were very funny.

Things I didn’t like

There is a large section at the end which consists entirely of Stephen’s diary at the time about which he is writing. Although it was incredibly interesting to read something so personal and explicit, that was written at the time and not just about it, there was maybe too much of it. Also, I think I do prefer the reflective style of a memoir rather than the immediacy of the diary. However it’s not that I would cut it out completely… I definitely would not have put it at the end of the book with little else to round it off, maybe included it throughout or had a smaller part of it, somewhere in the midle? It seemed as though the editors might have run out of ideas or thought it wasn’t long enough as it was.

Should I read this?

I liked it. If you like Stephen Fry’s writing, you will like it. If you liked his earlier memoirs, you should enjoy it. If you like him generally, you will probably want to read it, and I say go for it.

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The Book Depository

You can buy the book here.

Because I am trying not to use Amazon in my own half-arsed protest-y way, I’d like to recommend to people that they check out The Book Depository, which is a great, user-friendly site with affordable books ranging from brand new releases to classics, and in many different editions at less-than brand new prices. As I am now officially an affiliate of The Book Depository, I gain a small commission if you use my affiliate link to buy books! Please do check it out, even if you don’t buy anything right now.

http://www.bookdepository.com/?a_aid=SpidersLibrary

The House That Groaned

I bought this crazy graphic novel from a small independent bookshop in Cardiff, read it on the train home, thought about it for days, and forgot to write a review. D’oh.

housethatgroaned3 Synopsis

A young woman moves into the empty flat in an old, strange townhouse. Its inhabitants include a man who photoshops pictures of women and is therefore unable to find real women attractive (until he sees the new resident), a man who is only attracted to those close to death/ the very sick, a middle aged woman/skinny-obsessive who runs a weight loss group from her living room, a morbidly obese woman who runs continual food-orgies, and an old lady who quite literally fades into the background. Over the course of the graphic novel we learn how this strange collection of people ended up sharing this house, their sometimes devastating pasts.

Things I liked

House-Groaned-(1) So very many things. Before I get into the specifics, I want to talk quite generally about this book because I don’t think I’ll be able to do it justice. It’s all at once funny, poignant, intimate, thought-provoking, engaging, original, and well-constructed. I feel absolutely confident recommending it to anyone, as long as I don’t think the subject matter will hit home anywhere too painful. There is something for everyone in this book, whether it is the retrospective, reflective structure, the particular sadnesses and stories of the characters themselves, or just the physical book itself. I’ve included a picture of the cover with the very front panel peeled away, which reveals the individual rooms you can see through the ‘windows’ when it is all closed. The art itself is peculiar and unique, it took me a while to get used to the way the faces were drawn, but once I was accustomed I loved it.

Specific things I liked

The art style (as mentioned above): the colour scheme, which remains the same throughout, the way of drawing the faces with prominent round cheeks. The cartoony style accompanying the sometimes dark subject matter gives at once a sense of the absurdity of everyday life and the assumptions we make about people without knowing anything about their pasts, as well as giving an unreal quality to the mostly ordinary (I hesitate to use the word mundane) events that take place. It also especially brings out those moments that are slightly outside the realms of reality – nothing that happens in this book is supernatural or impossible, but it certainly feels it at times. I don’t feel I’ve explained this particularly well… let me know if this makes sense.

The collection of characters who live in the house. I went into some detail above about the characters themselves so I won’t linger too long on this. There’s something about this selection of people that works so perfectly, in my opinion: they are at once zany and messed up enough to make it interesting, and normal enough to make them realistic and make the setting work. Except one…

The reflective and individual chapter structure, in which we meet the characters separately, see them go about their daily lives and have run-ins with each other, then we are shown their lives before the House. We get to form and re-form our opinions of the characters. It makes them feel infinitely more real, and so intimately connects the reader with the goings-on in the House. Wonderful technique.

I could go on and on…but I don’t want to ruin it.

Things I didn’t like

I loved this book. Loved loved loved it. You may have noticed, if you’ve read some of my other reviews, I usually only have one, maybe two, bad things to say about the books I write about. Honestly, if I finish it and want to write about it, it usually means I liked it and want to spread the love. Unless I had a reaction filled with violent hatred – can’t wait for my first angry review…

Here’s my one criticism: there was a slight cop out in the ending. It didn’t necessarily affect my love of the book, as it was not because of the plot particularly that I enjoyed it so much, but I will always call books on their cop out endings. Likewise films.

F***ing One Day, man. Cop out cop out cop out.

Should I read this?

Yes. It may look bulky, but I read all of it on the train between Cardiff and Bristol (for those of you who don’t make that journey as often as I have, it’s less than an hour).

* * * * *

The Book Depository

You can buy the book here.

Because I am trying not to use Amazon in my own half-arsed protest-y way, I’d like to recommend to people that they check out The Book Depository, which is a great, user-friendly site with affordable books ranging from brand new releases to classics, and in many different editions at less-than brand new prices. As I am now officially an affiliate of The Book Depository, I gain a small commission if you use my affiliate link to buy books! Please do check it out, even if you don’t buy anything right now.

http://www.bookdepository.com/?a_aid=SpidersLibrary