Let’s Catch Up

Today Book Chat is back after a short hiatus (wooo!) – for those of you just tuning in, Book Chat is (you’ve guessed it) a chance to chat books, hosted by The Tangerine.

Today’s theme is ‘Let’s Catch Up’, so I’m going to talk about some of the books I’ve been reading recently. As you know, this summer I’m attempting all the books from the Richard and Judy Book Club list. I’ve already reviewed Tigers in Red Weather, This is How it Ends and The Sea Sisters, but now I have a few more to update you on…

Close My Eyes – Sophie McKenzie

This novel tells the gripping novel tells the story of a woman who is told one day that the daughter she thought was still-born is actually alive, and her husband was complicit in whatever happened all those years ago. The magic is that it’s never clear if Geniver is crazy, or if she’s been lied to by her husband, or sabotaged by one of the enemies they’ve accumulated; we’re left in the dark until the final chapters, and even after that, the final page is simply chilling. Well worth a read.

Natural Causes – James Oswald

As a crime novel aficionado, I’m always on the look out for a new team of detectives to follow. Natural Causes is Oswald’s debut, and I can only describe it as FAB. After reading the blurb, I was a tad worried that it would be written in a dialect (my biggest pet hate), what with being set in Edinburgh, but fortunately everything was impeccably written and easy to understand. The mystery was baffling, and (unusually for me) I didn’t unravel it by the end; there was a great (potentially supernatural) twist at the end which has really left me eager for Novel #2 of the Inspector McClean series.

The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker

I knew I wouldn’t enjoy this book… I can’t explain how, I just knew it. I had to renew it twice before I even started it. After reading about a third of it I just gave up for good. I couldn’t empathise with any of the characters; I didn’t find the plot very substantial… it just seemed quite wishy-washy and two-dimensional. Oh well, you can’t love them all… and as reading is my hobby, not my job, I’m determined to only follow through with the novels that I enjoy.

I have four R+J books left (to read before the end of August) : The Light Between Oceans, The Sea Change, The Universe Versus Alex Woods and The Girl Who Fell From the Sky; but as I’m dependent on my local library right now, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get to them all!

So what have you been reading lately? Is there anything you’re hoping to get to soon?

D x

P.S. For a more comprehensive overview of my reading habits, check out Readarama Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Readarama Update

Firstly I’d like to say WOW. I’m so humbled and grateful for the kind responses to my slight identity crisis yesterday. I hope you’ll all go and check out Lynn, Janet, Beth and Buffy and leave them some love (and send some good thoughts out for Mog – I don’t have a link to her blog, but she’s one of the fab five who gave me the lift I needed yesterday). They reminded me of the things I love about blogging, and made me realise that people actually enjoy reading the things I write.

I have a few scheduled posts ready to go, but other than those, I’m going to have a little bit of down time and get working on some new things (top-secret at present!), also I’m buying a house this week so I’m kind of busy.

And now back to today’s posts…

A week or so ago I shared an update of my Readarama progress (the Penguin hosted challenge involving reading at least one book per week for the whole of 2013), but I only went up to the end of May… so today I thought I’d bring you up to date.

w/c 3rd June

Tigers in Red Weather – Liza Klaussman

w/c 10th June

Week off with the legitimate excuse of final exams!

w/c 17th June

This is How it Ends – Kathleen MacMahon

The Sea Sisters – Lucy Clarke

The Biscuit Witch – Deborah Smith

w/c 24th June

Close My Eyes – Sophie McKenzie

w/c 1st July

Natural Causes – James Oswald

Becoming Indigo – Tara Thompson

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

w/c 8th July

The Sweetest Hallelujah – Elaine Hussey

w/c 15th July

Lady MacBeth: On the Couch – Alma Bond

Little Joe – Michael E Glassock III

w/c 22nd July

Bones in Her Pocket – Kathy Reichs

w/c 29th July

Cosmo – Spencer Gordon

As I said before, I have many a review pending, just be patient with me!

D x

Readarama Update

I have some news… I’ve passed my GoodReads reading target of 50 books! I have to admit I’m pretty pleased with myself… that’s more than double what I read last year. Seems like I’m almost getting back to normal…

Unless you’ve been following for a while, you won’t know about the other reading challenge I’m taking part in, Penguin’s Readarama (which involves pledging to read at least one book per week for the whole of 2013). The last update I gave you was back in March, so I thought I’d do a quick run through of some of the other lovely stuff I’ve been sticking my nose into…

w/c 8th April

Council of Dads – Bruce Feiler

The Mango Season – Amullya Malladi

w/c 15th April

700 Sundays – Billy Crystal

w/c 22nd April

The Wildwater Walking Club – Claire Cook

The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress – Beryl Bainbridge

w/c 29th April

Unexplained Fevers – Jeannine Hall Gailey

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum

All My Friends are Superheroes – Andrew Kaufman

w/c 6th May

Someday, Someday, Maybe – Lauren Graham

w/c 13th May

Driving Over Lemons – Chris Stewart

Mother’s Curse – Thaddeus Nowak

w/c 20th May

Daughter’s Justice – Thaddeus Nowak

w/c 27th May

The Circus of Ghosts – Barbara Ewing

Before I Met You – Lisa Jewell

Two month seems like a big enough chunk to bombard you with in one go, so I’ll be back with more later. As you can probably see I have a fair few reviews pending, so stay tuned!

D x

Dracula

drac

Dracula, by Bram Stoker, is officially the last set book I’ll be reviewing for you this year, possibly ever (depending which courses I pick for next year). I didn’t manage to read them all this year… I skipped Heart of Darkness, but I couldn’t get into it, I didn’t have to do an assignment on it and I didn’t have to be examined on it… so to be honest there was very little incentive!

Anyway, back to Drac.

In all honesty I would probably never have picked this book for myself. It’s not that I don’t adore the vampire side of things – because I really am a bit of a junkie for vamp-infused TV… Dracula has just never really appealed. Maybe because I already knew the story so well, it seemed pointless to bother reading it.

However, there were actually things that I really enjoyed. I enjoyed the often poetic language. I enjoyed crazy Renfield (who doesn’t love a good fruit-loop?). And I enjoyed that it inspired an episode of Buffy (among many other things, obviously). But there were definitely things that grated on me. A lot.

The two main female characters (Mina and Lucy) were insipid. They were so morally sound and perfect and so unbelievable lovable that every man in the book couldn’t help but throw themselves at their feet. My other issue was with said men… how fickle were they?! They all adored Lucy, were willing to give her their blood and pretty much die for her. As soon as she was out of the picture, however, they had no issues desecrating her corpse and moving on to Mina. Not really the enduring love one would normally associate with vampire fiction, is it?

I find it quite hard reviewing books that I’ve studied… if you develop quite sturdy critical knowledge of a novel, it’s not so easy to talk about it in terms of entertainment… after my original reading, I quite enjoyed it (despite all the simpering, heartfelt postulations), but after going a bit more in-depth… I’m not so sure. One of my pet hates when reading stuff by the critics, is when they assume that every author is just writing about sex. But in this case, I have to admit that maybe it’s true. Each character seems to be living out some sort of Victorian taboo… however, I don’t think these references to lesbianism, sexual domination and incest are grotesque enough  o be obvious to all modern-day readers. You probably won’t be able to escape the total misogyny and shameless racism though.

I can say wholeheartedly that I will not be reading Dracula again. I’m glad I’ve read it once, but once was enough. Now that I’m aware that it’s about a bunch of sexual deviants, I don’t think it’s really quite so charming…

D x

The Hunger Games

This trilogy satisfies three categories of the whimsical reading challenge… Toy or Game (The Hunger Games), Things You Don’t Like (Catching Fire) and Birds (Mockingjay).

hg

To to say that I enjoyed these books would be an understatement. It took me about three days to polish off the lot, and considering I’m out of the house about eleven hours a day that’s pretty speedy reading!

Experiencing the unexpected is key to your enjoyment of this trilogy, so I’m going to vague my review up because I really, really don’t want to ruin anything!

Basically, a dystopian world is divided into 12 districts and each year, these twelve districts donate two teenagers to a televised gaming event that combines Castaway and Gladiator (both the film and the ’90s TV show). The game ends when there’s only one survivor. That’s all I can tell you about the content, because I just need you to read it for yourself, and I’m trying not to give anything crucial away!

I’m not going to lie, when these first erupted onto all the bestseller lists I didn’t want to read them. I usually avoid reading the things that ‘everyone’ reads, because these books tend to be underwhelming. Also, YA is not really my genre of choice.

However, I would wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone who ever considers listening to me, you will not regret it!

Because I read the three books continuously, as though they were all one novel, it would be hard for me to pick out a favourite. I love the story, and the landscape that gets set up in The Hunger Games, but as I’d already seen the film I knew what was going to happen every step of the way. Catching Fire had more of the ‘shock factor’, and I really enjoyed that aspect. Mockingjay was good, but probably my least favourite because

a) it didn’t have the gradual build-up of the first two, it was more of a high-speed snowball rolling down a hill forgetting to explain itself properly and

b) it marked the beginning of the end… I was running out of Hunger Games books 😦

Possibly the best thing about reading these books was that I really didn’t expect to like them. They were given to me as a gift, so I gave them a try, and I’m so glad I did. Next time I won’t be so quick to judge a book just because of its genre.

Have you read anything recently that you didn’t expect to love so much?

D x

On Relaxation

The theme for today’s ‘Blog Every Day in May‘ post is Pampering. What is your ideal way to pamper yourself and relax? I don’t really do the whole ‘pamper’ thing. I don’t own a bath. All my candles belong on a cake. Most of my cosmetics have sealed themselves shut. But that’s not to say I don’t indulge myself, because I do. In just under four weeks (following my final exam), my season of self-indulgence will commence.

My self-indulgence takes a number of forms:

TV – I like to spend the summer catching up on entire seasons of the TV shows I love. I tend to avoid watching things on a week-by-week basis, I’m not patient enough for cliffhangers. This summer I have the latest seasons of Revenge, Game of Thrones, Vampire Diaries and Bones  to entertain me.

Arty Stuff – See this post for more information on the classes I’m taking this year.

Leisurely Reading – As an English student, a lot of my term-time reading can be pretty heavy. It’s not that I don’t love Classic literature, because I do, but you can’t really kick back and relax to Les Mis can you? I came across a ‘reading for fun’ challenge yesterday on Books, Biscuits and Tea that I’m going to have to take part in…. the idea is to work your way through all of the books on the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club list:

Tigers in Red Weather – Liza Klaussmann

The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker

Close My Eyes – Sophie McKenzie

This is How It Ends – Kathleen MacMahon

Natural Causes – James Oswald

The Light Between Oceans – M. L. Stedman

The Sea Change – Joanna Rossiter

The Universe Versus Alex Woods – Gavin Extence

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky – Simon Mawer

The Sea Sisters – Lucy Clarke

[Click on the links to read the Amazon blurb/reviews]

The good thing about this challenge is that I would never have picked any of these books myself, so hopefully I should be introduced to something new that I’ll really love (as they all sound pretty good). To sign up for the challenge, visit this page.

So tell me some of the ways you like to relax.

D x

Island of the Sequined Love Nun

The theme of this week’s ‘book chat‘ is ‘strange books’. Picking a book to talk about here depends entirely on your definition of strange. If we’re going for strange-disturbing or strange-baffling then I’d go for Diary by Chuck Palaniuk. I’ve decided to look at a book that is more… strange-original and strange-amusing: Island of the sequined Love Nun. The title alone says it all…

cover

This book tells the story of Tucker Case, a pilot who breaks his penis after crashing a pink jet. (first strange thing) He then makes his way to a tropical island with a cross-dressing gigolo and a talking bat (second and third strange thing), only to be strung up by a cannibal (fourth strange thing) before being delivered to a high-tech research facility in the middle of the island. Add in some weapon toting Japanese thugs, a homicidal doctor, a giant conspiracy, a stripping Stepford wife, a cult that prays to a god named Vincent and a bunch of sharks… well, you have one strange book on your hands.

It’s great fun, very entertaining and completely unpredictable. I’d definitely recommend to anyone who want something enjoyable to read… and I’ve downloaded the rest of his books onto my Kindle… it looks like he’s written a few vampirey things that look quite good.

So what’s the strangest book you’ve ever read?

D x