Bill’s travels aren’t really evenly distributed across the British Isles and he spends a lot of time on the South of England. Personally, I loved thisBill’s travels aren’t really evenly distributed across the British Isles and he spends a lot of time on the South of England. Personally, I loved this as I felt a lot of the places were either familiar or I could quite easily visit them at the weekend. Even though Bill was less than complimentary on the state of Bournemouth, I couldn’t help thinking he has a point (I’m really not sure why it’s so popular apart from the beach). Though he may, or may not, be happy to know the hole where the IMAX was has now been developed with a weird leaf shelter and some spurts of water coming out the ground that makes you feel like it’s permanently flooded.
I also learned what the Rufus Stone was, having passed the sign for it many times and assumed it was just a boulder in the forest. Turns out it’s an obelisk (a sort of stone) and it has a story. I didn’t know Arthur Conan Doyle is buried in the New Forest or that most the Shelley family is buried down the road from my work.
Bill does come across as a grumpy old man but on many aspects, I am on his side. There’s plenty of monstrosities marring the once grand cities, towns and countryside and whilst I know we all have to live here and be practical, couldn’t we do it without building ugly things?
He pretty much whizzes through Scotland on a train, with some brief thoughts about the highlands before he reaches his destination. There’s plenty of musing about train travel amongst the pages, which isn’t entirely irrelevant, but a bit more time taken in places would have been nice. Maybe he’s planning on returning to Scotland and has been saving it for another book…
The Road to Little Dribbling was, in equal measures, funny and interesting. Despite all his grumpiness, he comes across as genuinely fond of our little country. I’m pretty sure if you are a fan of Bill Bryson, you won’t be disappointed. I have seen a few people complain about his swearing but I don’t think it’s more than an average person uses and it does allow for a rather niche philosophy joke which kept me giggling for ages. ...more
Oscar Wilde is immensely quotable and witty, I’m sure you’ll all recognise some bits of his prose. The Picture of Dorian Gray is a gothic tale full ofOscar Wilde is immensely quotable and witty, I’m sure you’ll all recognise some bits of his prose. The Picture of Dorian Gray is a gothic tale full of various themes, but centrally the fear of aging and the idea that our sins are visible to the outside world through our aging. What would happen if you could halt that process?
I did feel a bit sorry for Dorian in places. He does seem rather naïve at the start and is led astray by Lord Henry Wotton, who thinks being a good person is incredibly dull. It doesn’t go into detail about the sinful things Dorian gets up to but it’s inferred through the fact he ends up with a pretty awful reputation. Yet every now and then there’s a glimpse of the old Dorian and I wished for him to finally see the error of his ways.
This 1891 edition is an extended version rather than that which first appeared in a magazine, and it was also censored in places that hinted at a same sex romantic relationship. I still think it’s quite obvious that Basil fancied Dorian to a modern reader but my clothbound version included endnotes explaining what had been changed. I think I would have liked to have read the original version because I did think it went on a bit in places, it spends a long time talking about the opulence of their surroundings and a lot of conversations about art.
Not that it doesn’t have things to say about the nature of art, but really I wanted to get back to the painting and what Dorian was going to do. Another thing in the back of the clothbound, is a section containing contemporary reviews and, oh my, weren’t the critics scathing in their day? More-so that even the snarkiest blogger, and these were people writing in the national press. Oddly a Christian paper seemed to say the nicest things about the book, seeing it more as a moral tale than one of degradation.
Lord Henry Wotton is pretty sexist, I’m not sure if he’s meant to reflect Wilde’s own views or not, but in his mind women are air-headed, sub-humans. I could have done without all his mean comments but you wonder how much the way society made women act, made them come across that way. Perhaps the societal pressure around marriage was too much for Wilde, so he lashed out against the opposite sex. Maybe he was just angling for laughs....more
This would have been a useful reference guide at the start of the series when all the different types of voyants were a bit confusing! I do like in-woThis would have been a useful reference guide at the start of the series when all the different types of voyants were a bit confusing! I do like in-world books in general and Jaxon's snobbishness towards the different orders comes through in the tone. Not worth reading if you're not going to read the series though....more
After reading an article by Jem recently, I get the feeling this is a highly autobiographical novel. He has a son with autism, which adds a level of aAfter reading an article by Jem recently, I get the feeling this is a highly autobiographical novel. He has a son with autism, which adds a level of authenticity to the everyday tasks and hardships the characters go through.
It’s an emotionally tough and challenging read in places, although the prose flows easily and the pages turn quickly. Whilst Ben loves his son, the constant care is stressful and neither parent can live their life to fullest, let along hope for the future they wanted for their son. What do you do in those brief moments where you wish you didn’t have to deal with your child? The best they can do is get him into a school that meets his needs, a school that will cost the local authority a lot of money.
If caring for Jonah wasn’t enough, they must go through a tribunal to get him a place at a residential school, one where he won’t just be another child to pass through the system. Yet Georg, his grandfather, doesn’t want him sent away, he thinks he should stay with his family, not packed off for the convenience of Ben.
There’s definitely tension between Georg and Ben, but as the story progresses you see more and more why Ben isn’t as well liked as you might expect. It’s not just about Jonah but his own destructive nature. And Georg soon has his own troubles to think about, all culminating in an emotional ending.
Whilst Emma remains in the background, the narrative kept my opinion of her changing. She’s trying to do the best for her son, but then she’s selfish, and then the truth comes out, the real reason the family dynamic is so hard. It’s not what you might assume. It’s easy to think harshly on people without knowing their full stories, and no one is perfect in this family, the reader may very well dislike them at times, they all are very human and fallible. I can empathise with all of them by the end.
I’m not entirely convinced it needed the additional back story of Georg. It explains his determination for Jonah to not be sent away, but it felt a little contrived to me. It didn’t feel as intimate and real as the rest of the story....more
Way Down Dark dealt with the idea of being punished for the crimes of your ancestors, being unable to escape your circumstances in life, and the themeWay Down Dark dealt with the idea of being punished for the crimes of your ancestors, being unable to escape your circumstances in life, and the themes of incarceration and rehabilitation are explored a bit further in Long Dark Dusk. As well as people an action packed ride through a future earth where populations have plummeted and every human being should be a productive member of society.
Chan finds herself living in the docks, surrounded by those at the bottom, the junkies, the criminals, those that just can’t get ahead in this highly controlled city. She feels like she has made a few friends, Ziegler, a reporter keen to tell her story of life on board Australia and the crash that has been kept secret, and Alala, a woman who trades in anything that might be needed, be that information or drugs. I’m not quite sure why the slums at the docks were left to run riot if this is a future where every human life is precious, where the state wants every to contribute. It is reflective of the kinds of places where the poor end up, but it seemed at odds with what the people in charge said they wanted. Maybe that’s the point.
It's amazing how fast peace can turn into a riot, how quickly a single violent act can upend the status quo.
I was really keen to know what had happened to Earth to lead it to send prisoners into space. Chan reveals plenty of snippets about the history, through visits to the museum and things Ziegler tells her. Overpopulation and global warming has changed the face of the Earth, now the obliging live within walled cities, the air filtered and every move monitored. Some of the constraints of the new world are shown through encounters Chan has. As the book opens she is trying to help a girl with an illegal baby, suggesting that reproduction is now strictly controlled. These things aren’t central to the story but they help to shape the world it unfolds in.
I liked the evolution of some of our familiar technology now into Gaia, the Siri/Cortana of the future, and driverless cars. The augments might seem further fetched but there are already bionic limbs and you can have your retinas zapped with lasers to help you see better.
Just as the second part of the first book made more of an impact on me, the things I really liked about the second instalment fell in part two. Again! So I don’t feel I can talk about much without dropping some spoilers. The people from the Australia are still considered criminals, even though they were never sentenced, not in a court of law at least, and there is no proof of what they did on board the ship. They deserve the chance at rehabilitation but not without the chance to be themselves, to prove that they can be better without state intervention.
Chan is a good person at heart, despite what she may have done to survive. She wants to help other people, keep her people safe and ultimately keep her promises, no matter how hard that might be. Her treatment feels a lot like an injustice, her past clouding the judgement of those who might otherwise see her as an individual.
I did find it a bit slow to get going, like I said of the previous book, action isn’t really my thing so I was glad that it was in three distinct parts, with some of it being a bit more introspective. I am still excited to read the third book, Dark Made Dawn (that's a positive title, right?), which is out October this year. So not too long to wait!
I have really mixed feelings about Memory of Water; there were some lovely pieces of writing and hints at a future following ecological disaster but tI have really mixed feelings about Memory of Water; there were some lovely pieces of writing and hints at a future following ecological disaster but the pacing was all wrong. It starts slowly, taking time over describing the tea ceremony and traditions, maybe too slowly as it felt like nothing was happening. It echoes the calmness of the ceremony itself and could have been forgiven if it weren’t for the fact that when things start to happen, they’re over in the blink of an eye, and then it ends.
Noria and her friend Sanja spend their free time trawling through the plastic grave for salvageable items or things of interest. Noria has been collecting TDKs and shiny discs, with no idea of what they are for, but when Sanja finds an object intended for playing audio, they put two and two together. I always wonder what on earth people of the future will think of our discarded items and I enjoyed the passages where they describe things without knowing their names or purpose.
The plastic grave highlights the problem with our disposable consumerism, that we throw away perfectly good things. In the future they repair plastic, one would never throw away a plastic bag, let alone more sophisticated objects. There is no more oil, so no more plastic.
A discovery in the plastic grave links the girls to the past, learning a little of the Twilight Century when the oil ran dry and the sea levels rose. But they are only glimpses of the past. The promise of a journey, and answers, never surfaces. In one way the ending felt final, yet so many things were left hanging, unfinished, unanswered.
I’m impressed that Emmi Itäranta translated the book herself, and I don’t believe the fault is in the translation itself. It’s refreshing to read about a dystopian future from the perspective other than the UK or America. The Scandinavian Union appears to be occupied in China, with a mix of cultural references intertwined into the story. However I wasn’t ever really sure what had happened. It’s not a book to read if you are super keen on world-building and the history that comes with that....more
I actually think Harriet grows up a bit in Head Over Heels. I mean, yeah she still ends up in some ridiculous scenarios but she actually stops to realI actually think Harriet grows up a bit in Head Over Heels. I mean, yeah she still ends up in some ridiculous scenarios but she actually stops to realise how unprofessional she can be. Circumstances lead her to think about how, even if she doesn’t care about the fashion industry, there are other people whose jobs depend on it. And one of those people is her agent Wilbur, who she decides she must help.
As she goes to look sees, she actually experiences a lot of what models must do on a regular basis; rejection. No one’s swooping in to save her this time. And her family are much harder to fool these days. Sometimes she still does get lucky. I absolutely loved the part where she goes to India, it was full of adrenaline and joy.
She does meddle quite a bit in other’s lives. I think that’s partly the point of this book. She has decided to put romantic love on the back burner and focus on friendship. But when Harriet focuses on something, out come the co-ordinated binders and spreadsheets. When she sees an opportunity for romance amongst her friends, there’s no holding her back. She must make sure everyone is happy and having the most fun ever. Even if that’s not what they want.
Like every Geek Girl book, there’s still plenty of facts and a whole lot lovely family relationships. And fingers crossed she hasn’t driven her lovely friends too far. I'm a bit sad Nick hasn't come back but in the end there's hope for something new for Harriet. No one needs to be hung up on their first love forever.
Spot the Difference is about an important subject for teens that often gets overlooked in fiction; acne. It’s something that so many of us go throughSpot the Difference is about an important subject for teens that often gets overlooked in fiction; acne. It’s something that so many of us go through yet characters in books have great skin, the most they get seems to be an odd spot. Avery has severe acne, so much so that she’s been seeing a specialist about it for years. Her mum’s been holding out putting her on medication due to side effects, but there’s a new drug trial on the horizon. What happens when Avery is freed from her skin?
It’s not as shallow as it seems because, of course, Avery learns an important lesson. But your appearance is something that affects you a whole lot, even if deep down we know it shouldn’t. Plus Juno gives you a great World Book Day costume for future years in the finale!...more
Kindred Spirits, follows Elena as she joins The Line for the new Star Wars movie. Turns out the line is only three people long and she really does havKindred Spirits, follows Elena as she joins The Line for the new Star Wars movie. Turns out the line is only three people long and she really does have a weak bladder. The story spans over 4 days of queuing and sleeping rough, for a film you can buy tickets for online, but that’s not the point. It’s a cute celebration of fandom and nerdiness, and also touches a little on the feelings of both sides when it comes to the subject of “fake geek girls”....more