That’s right. Check out this post from Dark Cargo. We’re going to have a little TBR partay. A TBR picnic – and you’re all invited. I’ve just been on a scavenger hunt around the place to pull out a few titles. Now choosing titles from a bunch of books that have already been relegated isn’t easy. You want to read the books that you want to read! So, be forewarned. Below is a list of lame excuses (of mine) why books lose their awesome sauce – and these are precisely the books I’m going to look at:
- You buy a book and you’re gagging to read it but slowly it descends to the bottom of the list. It’s not the ‘big I am’ any more. And, frankly you’re not really keen to read it. I don’t know why that is but it’s the truth.
- You’ve read two books in a trilogy and you have number three – you went out and bought it hot off the shelf as soon as it was released but then for some reason it’s languished on your shelf ever since. I have a number of these and it’s almost like I don’t want to read them now – is that some sort of secret desire not to actually conclude the series?
- You’ve bought a book that you wanted to read before the film was released but now you’ve seen the film so it seems pointless!
- The ‘must read’ book that somebody has given you to read. They’re desperate for you to read it. They want your feedback. But you teeter on the fence of indecision because this book isn’t the type of book you normally read.
- Look at that cover – what was I thinking? Yes, I know it’s very fickle but sometimes it happens and the cover becomes a deterrent
- Finally, the e-book. Too easy to just download from Kindle – literally ’one click’ and next thing you know you’ve run up a massive list of books – that you can’t see! They don’t clutter up your house. There are no dangerous stacks waiting to tumble to the floor and kill your favourite pet. But, they’re there anyway. They stalk you (insert creepy music from Jaws here). They play on your insecurities (I really shouldn’t buy any more books)(And yet, nobody can see these books so you have plausible deniability). Nonetheless,they make you feel guilty. You let your Kindle run out of charge deliberately so you don’t have to pick it up and see that ever expanding list of titles. Then, finally. You switch it on. You scroll through your list to the book you’ve decided upon – and you can see that little row of dots underneath that shows how long the book actually is – and you actually groan inwardly and put it back down AGAIN. The thing is – books are deceptive. Sometimes you pick up a huge book but the text is slightly larger, the spacing is generous, the pages aren’t packed to the gills, there are lots of chapters with blank filler upper pages between. Not on kindle – the size of the text is the size of the book – there is no self delusion here! Nowhere to hide.
So, for the above reasons it’s difficult to make yourself pick up the books you’ve already discarded. Okay, brace yourself woman, you can do this.
Right. I’ve chosen ten books. It’s not going to be a huge dint but it’s a start! And, for the avoidance of doubt I don’t ‘not’ want to read these books. I bought them all (well, okay, not all!) They just got demoted for some reason:
- Wicked by Gregory Maguire
- Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
- Timeless by Gail Carriger
- Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch
- Looking for Alaska by John Green
- Uglies by Scott Westerfield
- Oryx and Crake by margaret Atwood
- The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
- Darkness Falls by Jessica Sorensen
- Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce
- The Pain Merchant by Janice Hardy (Yes, I can count, thank you, but realised I hadn’t put any book from No.4 above).
So – scene sett (check), invitees invited (check), tipple of choice chosen (red wine)(check), date in diary (check). Badge of honour displayed (check).
Watch this space.
Just finished reading Poison by Sarah Pinborough. This is a retelling of the Snow White story with a new twist on both the characters and the plot. I loved it. I mean, to start off with it really is the most beautiful little book to look at. The book I read is the small hardback version. There is no jacket but the book cover itself is decorated and the inside story contains amazing illustrations at the start of each chapter. It really is gorgeous and, in case you’re wondering – the content totally lives up to the expectations created by those first impressions!
Okay, I should probably keep this short as most of you will no doubt be aware of the tale of Snow White. So, if you think of the basic premise everything is contained here, except, it’s all a bit, well, slightly different than we thought. Snow White, called so by her Step Mother – a dark haired beauty, kind and pure and everyone adores her. The new Queen – exactly the opposite. Barely older than Snow herself she has captivated the King with her exquisite and cold beauty – plus, lets, face it, she’s not exactly shy in the sack and he’s fairly enamoured by her bedroom antics, read into this that he’s a paunchy, middle aged guy who can’t believe his good luck to have this temptress as his wife.
Definitely a fairy tale for grown ups this story doesn’t shy away from the occasional curse word or sex scene – although stand easy, this isn’t a bodice ripper by any stroke. I really did enjoy this though, in fact I’m sure I’ve already mentioned that once at least. I could easily have just sat and devoured this in one sitting but I decided to take my time a little. SP manages to strike a lovely balance with her writing style. She captures the fantasy world of mediaeval fairy plus gives this a proper fairytale voice. I don’t know how else to say it frankly. Sometimes I think certain retellings lose an opportunity in the making by not quite getting the voice right. Here, it almost feels lyrical but it’s adult. It has a once upon a time feel and yet it has something more. And, for a moment there it almost feels like something that you could enjoy reading with your children – however, I strongly recommend you don’t be fooled into that notion or it’ll be red faces all round! (Unless you learn to read ahead and ad lib as you go along).
You’re probably wondering how the author has managed to give this a different twist. Obviously I don’t want to give away any spoilers so the only real thing I can say here is she gives the characters motivations – and they’re not altogether what you might expect. The Queen is just an excellent character. Really well developed, seemingly cold and evil and yet also unhappy and frankly insecure. Is she totally evil?? Not really sure about that although her background could certainly argue the case. And yet, she shows definite moments of potential ‘teetering on the edge of redemption’. Snow White is much as we expect except she’s not altogether innocent. She is, of course, divinely beautiful with her pale skin, rosy lips and cascading black locks – yet, she’s not exactly shy. She enjoys a bawdy song and a beer and wearing breeches and riding horses in, dare I say it, the male fashion (astride!). Not exactly demure then.
So the author gives us a different insight into the characters, adds another layer to them just in much the same way she does to the world. As you’ll discover at the end of the story, this isn’t just the world of Snow White, this is the world of fantasy, and no end of characters live in it’s dark forests and peasant villages. No doubt there are a few wolves there too!
And, on top of all that I totally take my hat off to the author for an ending that made my jaw drop open, literally. I kid you not! If you see this coming – then well done you! But I totally didn’t. I was expecting something completely different and yet this is carried out in such a gobsmacking and unexpected way that not only are you overawed at the author’s cheek but you actually enjoy what she’s done here. Yes, you might chafe a little against it and a few days (or hours) later think ‘nooooo’ but really I love that she can pull this off. And, this is another reason why this isn’t for children as the message running through this is totally not that which you usually try to give out! I have a feeling, however, that we might revisit this story or at least some of the other characters.
On the whole a lovely, well written, beautifully illustrated retelling of a family favourite fairytale with a new twist. I really do recommend this to you if you’re not too “grown up’ to enjoy a good fairy story and you like a few surprises to shake things up a bit. Go on. You know you want to!
I’m entering this for Stainless Steel Droppings Once Upon a Time event. Details here.
Just finished reading Agatha H and the Airship City which I absolutely loved. Now, before I start I will confess that I’ve not read the webcomics that this book is based on so my opinion isn’t based on any sort of comparison in that respect. But I thought this was excellent and such good fun. In fact I felt like I read most of the story wearing a ridiculous grin. The authors have managed to take this story and write it in such a way that it’s a fully fleshed out novel but still manages to give you the same feeling you have when you read a comic which is no small achievement.
The story is set in a world of dashing and fearless heros where madcap sparks (inventors if you will) have turned the Industrial Revolution into chaos creating all sorts of weird and wonderful contraptions. The Heterodyne Boys – heroes of the people – have disappeared mysteriously and are now only remembered through the story books that people read that recount their adventures. With no deterrent the remaining mad scientists fight a war for supremacy which results in the ruthless Baron Klaus Wulfenbach gaining ultimate control. He now rules the country with an iron fist, aided by his strange and diverse collection of robots, Jagerkin and constructs that he has accumulated through the spoils of war and which now form part of his vast army.
Agatha is a lab assistant at a University. She never manages to quite succeed with any of her inventions and seems to be plagued by headaches that leave her unable to think straight. She seems doomed to mediocrity and life conspires against her. Particularly as she sets off for work one morning and is robbed by a couple of down on their luck soldiers who steal her precious locket – this is then followed by the lab where she assists being overthrown and finally results in Agatha being taken prisoner aboard the Baron’s massive airship castle.
The characters in the story are really what made it for me. Lets start with the Jagermonsters – I loved these guys! They are so funny. They’re huge and supposedly imposing in a scary way but they are so great to read and they were just weird about Agatha – ‘Hey! Hyu iz in schombodes howz! Is not goot manners to say dey schmells fonny! Come on, how can you resist. I kept reading all their dialogue to my other half – he was strangely unimpressed. I guess you had to be deeply in the throes of the story! Then there’s all the gadets and robots – particularly all of Agatha’s made up bits and pieces that follow her about like lovesick ducklings. On top of that there are baddies and goodies galore. A bunch of mixed age range children who are all there to give the Baron leverage over their parents – an assortment of characters these not to mention their odd nanny Von Pinn who is this huge and scary Miss Whiplash type of character (really, I’m not kidding) not to mention a sinister assassin called DuPree. Anyway, take my word for it – there is no shortage of excellent, sinister, moustache twirling, funny, dashing or geeky characters. And, I liked all of them! Even, and in fact especially, the baddies!
On top of that Agatha is a real treat to read. She starts the story just marvellously naive about herself and her own past. You could be forgiven for thinking that she was going to be a real pushover instead of which she manages to be quite kickass, intelligent and have a fiery temper once riled up. The Baron’s son, Gil, is soon to take a liking to Agatha – and this is where the ‘romance’ element comes into the story. Don’t be distracted by that though or think this is all about gushing, love sick devotion. The two of them have in common their intelligence and love of invention and the relationship side is only very briefly touched upon here – in fact it’s more of a whet your appetite for things to come I suspect.
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and happily I think there’s at least one further instalment already waiting to be picked up which I’m really looking forward to. I think what really comes across with this novel is that the author’s enjoyed themselves writing it and it really shows.
So, zany, funny, steampunk, touch of romance and a grand adventure. How could it fail to please? Not to mention mechanical insects that turn people into revenants!
So, I was recently thinking about whether I sometimes prefer characters on the periphery of the book to the main characters – and obviously sometimes that is the case. Perhaps this is because these characters dip in and out with quippy little lines and because they’re not heavily involved they seem more intriguing? Anyway, along similar lines I was thinking about books that I’d read where I really disliked the characters and whether this would be enough to stop me from reading. I’ve certainly read plenty of reviews where people say they couldn’t finish a book for that very reason but to be honest, I can’t think of any immediate examples of where that has happened to me – but that’s due to: (1) stupid persistence in continuing to the end of a book even if I’m not enjoying it and (2) only very recently realising that I wouldn’t be struck down with a thunderbolt if I didn’t actually finish a book – this is a new revelation and I’ve actually started to put books down if I don’t like them! So far – no thunderbolt (but I’m still wary). Anyway, that being said. I have read a few books where I really didn’t like the characters and would not either continue with the series or particularly recommend them. The main ones that immediately spring to mind:
Engleby by Sebastian Faulks – Okay, Sebastian Faulks is a very good author but I really didn’t like this book because I really didn’t like Engleby. Of course you’re not supposed to like Engleby!! So, I didn’t and this was the author’s intention – but, I really didn’t like him, so much so that it wouldn’t be the kind of book that I’d say to anyone ‘you really must read it’.
50 Shades of Grey by E L James- or fifty shades of annoying. OMG – I would have thrown this book at the wall, closely followed by in the bin – except it wasn’t mine! I hated Ana and Christian. Really, if these two characters were any more infuriating it would be illegal – they would be locked up, in an oubliette then cast into a black hole!. My review here. Bad idea to read this and my own fault for capitulating to peer pressure!
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – I much preferred the film and could Cathy and Heathcliffe be any more selfish. They are both living in a world called ‘me’ on the land of ‘I want’. Really.
Do you have any character that totally put you off a book or, if you finished the book, put you off recommending it to others?
Just finished reading Enclave by Ann Aguirre which I really enjoyed. Enough in fact to finish this in virtually one sitting!
Enclave is a post apocalyptic novel set in a futuristic City where people now live in isolated groups. The story is told by a 15/16 year old female called Deuce. People have taken to living in the tunnels that once formed the travel network underneath the city. These tunnels have now fallen into crumbling disrepair and as well as the small enclaves that have independently set up in different areas there are other strange and savage people who roam these tunnels looking for a different type of food – other people. They are know as ‘the freaks’ or ‘eaters’ and seem to be the legacy of a plague which left few survivors untouched. However, small groups of survivors have set up homes and live in these tunnels and this is where Deuce was born and raised. The average life expectancy is not much above 20 and in fact 25 year olds are called Elders. At the start of the novel Deuce has just undertaken her naming ceremony (the children – or brats – are not given a name until they reach the age of 15) and has been designated a huntress – a position which she has been striving towards for most of her young life. The enclave can only exist following strict rules. There is no unauthorised breeders. In fact there are only three designations – builder, breeder and hunter/huntress. The Elders keep people, and potential rebellion, in check by using the threat of banishment to ‘topside’ where the air is unbreathable and the acid rain will simply melt the flesh from a person’s bones.
It’s very easy to get a feel for the world straight away, Dark, cramped, very few resources and the sort of harsh upbringing that hardens people to unnecessary sentimentality. The strong survive and there is no room for the weak. Existence means hard work, observance of the Elder’s code of living, not, ever, questioning the law of the Enclave and eking out survival in the most basic way. There is no technology, no means of travel other than running through the tunnels, no machines, no electronics, no daylight, no means of growing anything. The people survive off the animals they catch in the tunnels – i.e mainly rats. However, if you’ve never known any different you would have nothing to compare this with and so to all intents and purposes Deuce passes for happy. She has two friends, who she grew up with – Stone and Thimble, her dream to become marked as a huntress has now been fulfilled and life is peachy. Until she’s paired with Fade. Fade isn’t from the Enclave – he only joined a few years ago and claims to have lived topside – although nobody believes his claims. From this point on Deuce’s life starts to take a different route. She quickly falls out of favour with her superiors and is then put on a virtual suicide mission which involves herself and Fade trekking over to the next nearest enclave to check out suspected trouble with the Freaks.
It appears that the freaks are starting to evolve. No longer just mindlessly stumbling through the tunnels craving meat they seem to be gathering and working together and Deuce and Fade pretty soon find themselves in some difficult situations.
Anyways, I’m not going to go much further into the plot as I don’t want to spoil what takes place.
In terms of criticisms. Yes, I obviously had a few. I probably would have liked to know what happened exactly to create this world- but, Deuce doesn’t know and as the story is told from her POV she can’t tell us what she doesn’t know. The majority of people live in a bubble of uncertainty. Things about the past have been forgotten and any ‘relics’ are greatly treasured – particularly books or other snippets of information. The survivors live so isolate from each other that ill formed theories and suppositions are the norm. The only thing that is hinted at is some sort of disease or plague. Also, this is YA – which may be enough to put some people off I guess, particularly as it does also contain the beginnings of a romance and the typical YA trap of a love triangle! However, the romance isn’t really in your face and the love triangle is only sort of ‘suggested’ if you will. I also had problems with things like, for example, how these people are managing to even grow, let alone survive, when their diet seems to consist of rats and mushrooms – not exactly a lot of varied nutrition going on right there – perhaps that’s why they are short lived?
Basically, though, my niggles didn’t put me off reading and although there are definite gaps in information they weren’t enough to become a real deal breaker. I like the character Deuce – and also Fade for that matter. We have a couple of other characters who join along the way, one who is rather (read very) unsavoury and I think this particular person may give some people pause for thought. Particularly in the way that Deuce is able to allow him to join the group after his past misdemeanours. But, I think because of the way she has lived she doesn’t carry the same sentiments as we do and recognises that people do what they think is necessary to survive.
So, in spite of my crticisms I really enjoyed this and have every intention of reading book 2.