Thursday, January 30, 2014

Short reviews

I'm on holiday, and making a concentrated effort to do some actual reading of books, so here are three short reviews of the books I've finished recently.

(All by women authors. I'm SLAYING this challenge.)

1) The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

YA fantasy.

I'm not even going to review this really. It's REMARKABLE. Everything about it is remarkable and perfect and joyous and heart-shattering.

Erm. Every October, the sea yields up carniverous water horses to the island of Thisby. The more foolhardy among the residents try to catch the horses and tame them for the yearly race. At 19, Sean Kendrick rules the races with four wins behind him for the stables he's employed by.

Puck Connelly enters the race out of desperation to save her family from complete ruin.

The descriptions of the island and of the water horses and their deep yearning for the sea, and of Puck and Sean's slowly-developing relationship .. everything knits together and the novel rushes at you and pulls away and rushes at you and it's exhausting and perfect.

2) Wake by Elizabeth Knox


Kiwi novelist Elizabeth Knox is best known, probably, as the author of The Vintner's Luck and the Dreamhunter/Dreamquake duo.

Wake is, if I may employ the biggest understatement ever, a departure. It's a horror novel with a lot of depth and shiveriness and all good things.

A small coastal town is suddenly shut off from the rest of the country after the population goes insane and systematically destroys itself. The opening chapter is fairly gory, and there's some truly heartbreaking scenes (no spoilers, but the daycare, and for me, Oscar and his cat, Lucy) as the fourteen survivors try to make the best of it and work out what's happened.

I said this on the twitter and it sums it up for me pretty well: "Wake is like an oil spill: toxic and beautiful, and you cannot look away."

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

YA: General (eating disorders)

I powered through this in a few hours today. It's a short novel, but it packs a pretty hefty wallop.

It starts with 18 year old Lia learning that her former best friend Cassie has been found dead in a hotel room. Lia is struggling with anorexia and self-harm, and an overwhelmed family.

Wintergirls delves into Lia's struggle with determined honesty and doesn't shy away from the difficulties of dealing with such hard to categorise disorders.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

It's Monday

Your meme is hosted here:

I finished The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater and had one of those religious experiences that you sometimes have when you finish a really great book.

Yes. It was that good and if I had copies I would be handing them out and asking random people if they've read it. Have you read it? YOU SHOULD.

Anyway. I'm still picking away at Olivier, and I also picked up Wake by Elizabeth Knox yesterday.

What are you reading?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Longbourn review

I'm generally wary of Pride and Prejudice adaptations or interpretations. I read one a few years ago that was average at best, and it put me off a bit.

However, give me a novel with an interesting premise, and I'll be right there.

Longbourn by Jo Baker is Pride and Prejudice from the servants' point of view. Definitely interesting enough to perk my interest. And it's a really, really good read.

There's lots of descriptions of laundry day and of the working lives of Mr and Mrs Hill, and the housemaids Sarah and Polly. Their lives are ordered and quiet - and busy - until new footman James Smith starts working at Longbourn.

James sets the cat among the pigeons in the best and worst way, especially for Sarah.

I liked it, I liked it a lot. It has a lovely, cosy feel to it, and the characters are all very well-realised, especially Sarah the housemaid, who is striving for something more.

Baker's take on some of the main Pride and Prejudice characters is interesting, as minor players as they are in Longbourn - especially the unfortunate Mr Collins, who she presents in an unexpectedly sympathetic light.

But Longbourn belongs to the servants, Sarah in particular, and Mrs Hill, in a peculiar way.

A very pleasant and pleasing read. :-)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

It's Monday ...

Meme is hosted here:

Well. I finished The Eye of the Dragon and it was great.

I decided to wait on The Luminaries till I was on holiday so I picked up Maddaddam, the final book in Margaret Atwood's dystopic trilogy that started with Oryx & Crake and The Year of the Flood.

I love those two books, especially Oryx & Crake, but Maddaddam is bugging me. As odd as it sounds, it reminds me of the episodes of The Walking Dead that I've been catching up on where the story suddenly veers off into the Governor's origin story. Which. I could not care less about the Governor's origin story and I don't understand why whole episodes are being devoted to it.

I had a whole bit typed out about why it's bugging me in Maddaddam but it's spoilery. Suffice to say I'm more puzzled than intrigued.

So, for now, I'm reading Longbourn, by Jo Baker - which is the story of Pride and Prejudice from the servants' point of view. So far, so good.

I'm also reading a biography of Sir Laurence Olivier, which I'm really enjoying.

What are you reading?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Eyes of the Dragon review

One TBR read down! Heh :D

Stephen King is of course, best known for his horror novels, but once in a while he takes a look down a different aisle, tests out the goods.

The Eyes of the Dragon can be found down one of those offshoot aisles.

Written, apparently, for King's daughter who didn't like horror stories, The Eyes of  the Dragon is definitely a departure.

Not that that's a bad thing. Not at all because The Eyes of the Dragon is great. If it has to be categorised, I would say it's YA Fantasy. It's actually a very straightforward fantasy novel, and I mean that in the best possible sense of the word.

It's set in a magical kingdom, where king Roland is a foolish if kind king, with two sons - Peter and Thomas - and a shadowy magician adviser called Flagg.

When Roland is murdered, Peter is accused of the crime and imprisoned in The Needle.

Peter is, of course, innocent, and Flagg is determined to make mischief.

There's something oddly comforting about The Eyes of the Dragon and I can't quite put my finger on it. It feels like the narrator is telling you the story personally, and all of the elements are familiar, and it just all pulls together into a cosy, remarkably readable whole.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

It's Monday

Meme hosted here:

I finished my first book for 2014 yesterday - World War Z by Max Brooks which I liked a lot.

Next up, I'm tackling The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.

What are you reading? :-)

Women writers challenge.

Challenge number two for the year is here:

I'm going for level 4 - Wonder Woman, which is at least 20 books by women writers in 2014. Frankly if I can't read at least that many books written by women then I need to hand in my girl-card.

I'm also going to go for diversity, and read as widely around the world as I can because, well, diversity is good.

First up, optimistically, is The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, which is the biggest book in the world.*

*The Luminaries is not actually the biggest book in the world.