I was thrilled to finally get chance to read this, after all the endless hype I've heard about it. It's an engaging and distinctive read, an3.5 stars.
I was thrilled to finally get chance to read this, after all the endless hype I've heard about it. It's an engaging and distinctive read, and Burton's characterisation is impressive, with Nella's growth through the book feeling particularly true. The wide cast of characters is what really brings this book to life: even Hanna, a relatively minor character, seems fully realised and brought delight every time she appeared on the page. I'd quite happily read a whole book about the adventures of her and her husband running their little shop.
I started The Miniaturist expecting a romp through classic magical realism tropes. This...didn't quite happen. (view spoiler)[ I'm still questioning how central the miniaturist herself really is to the plot, and very few of our questions about her are actually answered. Instead, Burton throws drama upon drama into the second half of the novel. My heart did break for these characters, but it almost seemed too much, too messy; in the wake of so much devastation, some of the more mundane plot points get overlooked and a better focus on them might have made the novel feel more measured, and ultimately more realistic. (hide spoiler)]
Still, Nella is lingering in my mind the way all good heroines should, and I'm excited to see what Burton produces in the next year or two.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
2013 is apparently shaping up to be the year in which I read lots of genres that I wouldn't normally go near, and then end up loving them.
Surprise sur2013 is apparently shaping up to be the year in which I read lots of genres that I wouldn't normally go near, and then end up loving them.
Surprise surprise - I never read romance! Never ever! I have nothing against a bit of romance as a subplot, but my problems with pure romance novels tends to be that a) the writing is (generally) awful; b) the girl is (generally) a cliche and/or really irritating; c) I get really bored of just romance really quickly. Buuut this one came very highly recommended by a couple of friends, so I thought I'd give it a shot. And I LOVED IT.
I read it all in one sitting whilst snowed in, so I suspect that over the next couple of days I'll probably mull over a couple of aspects of it that weren't perfect: the slightly implausible (and unnecessary?) twist at the end and the lack of backstory for Harry, amongst other minor things. But at the end of the day, this was a really really enjoyable read, and I think sometimes it's okay for fiction to be just that, without having to have a deep convoluted message.
I really loved Olivia in particular, and it was refreshing to find a heroine who is confident and so assured of her own strengths: she knows she's pretty. She knows she's smart. And her acceptance of those was a delight in what feels like a sea of heroines who are defined by their insecurities.
The relationship between her and Harry, and particularly their transition from friends to disliking each other to falling in love, felt natural and SO MUCH FUN. Quinn's writing was intelligent and witty without being over the top. And honestly, I could ramble on here for ages, but this was just a really, really fun read, and I mean that as a massive compliment. An absolute delight, and one I'm sure I'll be returning to....more
Most of the reviews seem to assume that this is the book everyone has heard of and already knows everything about before opening, so, confession time:Most of the reviews seem to assume that this is the book everyone has heard of and already knows everything about before opening, so, confession time: I had never heard of this book until two days ago. I was wandering around my local library and looking for something to catch my attention, and I'd heard of the author before although never actually read any of her work.
Here's the second confession: if I'd known what this book was about, there is no way I would have read it. I don't read crime, ever. And I work with children/teenagers, so I find it really hard to read anything written in a child's voice unless it's done incredibly well.
Regardless of both of these things - this was an excellent and incredible and shattering read. Commenting on the plot seems somewhat redundant at this point, but I think what really grabbed me was Donoghue's characterisation: every character is flawed but sympathetic (possibly not Old Nick, but that's FINE.) There are no stereotypes here, no lazy attempts to give a character a relation to Jack and assume that the rest will fall into place. Donoghue writes masterfully and boldly of probably the most heartbreaking scenario I can imagine, and the result is spectacular....more
I wasn't expecting to fall in love with this book the way I did. I started it when I was having a bit of a slump where nothing really appealed, and asI wasn't expecting to fall in love with this book the way I did. I started it when I was having a bit of a slump where nothing really appealed, and as I want to read more classics this year and this one happened to be sitting on my kindle, it seemed like a good place to start.
I can understand why some people haven't enjoyed it. The writing is occasionally jarring; the discussion of slavery does at times read more like an essay than a novel (which is by no means a bad thing, but possibly not what everyone expected when they picked this book up); the quotations from the Bible and the christian preaching could easily come across as heavy-handed. I get that if you're not a christian or you're looking for something which is constructed more as a novel rather than to convey a message, this might not be the book for you.
That said, I absolutely loved it. The characters were real and intense and loveable, even when they were wrong. Certain events that took place had me sobbing. And for all it wasn't Dickens, the writing held some beautiful fragments - the sort that catches your breath and leaves you paused to re-read it again and again. I loved it. There's a certain power, too, in reading something that has changed the course of history, in knowing that the same words you're reading and think contain obvious truths were earth-shattering in their day.
It's not without its flaws by any means, but this is a book that will stay with me for a long time. ...more
I finished this book, but that's about all I can say for it. I've enjoyed reading Joe Simpson's other mountaineering books, but his foray into fictionI finished this book, but that's about all I can say for it. I've enjoyed reading Joe Simpson's other mountaineering books, but his foray into fiction has come with an overabundance of adjectives and a definite lack of a good editing job. Part One is hard to plough through: pages and pages of flowery descriptive sentences, with no dialogue as the plot just follows one man trying to climb his way out of a desperate situation. I skimmed quite a few sections(/pages) hoping it would improve, and I'm a climber/walker myself, so I can only imagine that this would be even more boring for folks who aren't familiar with the terminology and equipment used. I do feel like he has the remnants of a good book here: it just needs an awful lot of editing and a bit more action.
In terms of the plot, it did improve (slightly) in the second section. I found Cassie to be at least a mildly interesting character, but it was a shame that we never got to find out more about her life. (view spoiler)[The scene with her watching the northern lights and then deciding to return to Patrick was one of the only ones that really caught my attention, but she was never fleshed out as well as she could have been. (hide spoiler)] I liked Patrick considerably more in the second part too, and enjoyed seeing how he'd changed, (view spoiler)[but I couldn't help but feel that his spending twentyfive years in the hut was slightly beyond the bounds of belief, even after such a tragedy as the one he'd experienced. (hide spoiler)]
And besides the problems of the prose, the endlessly gruesome and unnecessary descriptions of injuries and corpses, and corpses revisited several years later, have left me somewhat repulsed and creeped out. It's not often that I actually regret reading a book, but I think this might be one of those cases. I haven't had any of these complaints about Simpon's writing in his factual accounts, but he needs to learn not to overwrite before constructing another fictional narrative.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Right, it took me MONTHS to get through the first 200 pages of this book. I borrowed it from a friend who'd given it the highest of recommendations, aRight, it took me MONTHS to get through the first 200 pages of this book. I borrowed it from a friend who'd given it the highest of recommendations, and I was trying so hard to perserve, but, honestly, it was just really boring. It was far too difficult to keep track of the myriad of background characters, and none of the varying storylines seemed tied together, and to be honest the only character I vaguely cared about was LLewelyn running wild in the welsh hills.
And then, all of a sudden, just when I was about to give up entirely and either return it to my friend with the vaguest of comments orrr point her in the direction of better reads, it got REALLY GOOD. I mean, couldn't put it down, stayed up too late, read the last 600 pages in two days sort of good.
My knowledge of historical events is only just this side of nonexistent, so I must admit that some of the finer plot points - particularly on the political side of things - went a bit over my head. But thankfully, as long as you can keep track of the main characters, you can muddle through the rest of the book with only a mild sense of occasional confusion. And it is so, so very worth it.
Joanna and Llewelyn both had my heart pretty much from the first time they appeared on the pages. I'm rarely one for romance reads, but their love story had me gripped, and I found myself dearly rooting for their marriage to survive everything thrown at it.
The other area this book really triumphed in was its portrayal of the welsh lands and the welsh spirit. Although there aren't that many descriptions of the wild landscapes (at least not considering its 800 pages), those that remain are spot-on. Joanna's fear and awe and amazement at her first glimpse of them is perfect. And the characteristations of the welsh people: spirited, untamed and deeply, deeply passionate about their land and their culture and their people, particularly when it comes to defying the English - I'm struggling to think of any books (outside of welsh fiction) which grasp that so wonderfully.
I wouldn't recommend this if you're looking for a light, easy read. This is a spectacular, epic work of historical fiction, overflowing with facts and nuanced characters and complex political alliances. I enjoyed it immensely, and I'm looking forward to reading the next...but only after a bit of a break with a couple of less-absorbing novels.
PS Disappointingly, not a single dragon featured. The fleeting appearance of even one might have pushed this up to five stars. Hoping Penman will reconsider this for her future novels....more
The main argument of this book revolves around the idea that the 'early Welsh sources' of Arthurian legend are likely to be the correct ones, and focuThe main argument of this book revolves around the idea that the 'early Welsh sources' of Arthurian legend are likely to be the correct ones, and focuses on trying to situate a sixth-century Arthur within the Welsh context. This is great and, as someone who lives in the Welsh hills, it's not a stretch to say that no place seems more suited to Arthuriana than these desolate and misty mountains. The problem is that for all Blake and Lloyd are passionate about these early Welsh texts, they hardly quote from them at all. I'd have loved to see more basic information about these texts and be able to read some extracts from them, and that would also have served to give this book the solid ground to stand on which it seems to lack. The rest of their argument - looking at place names, fitting the location to what we know from the legend, looking at any actual finds which may or may not exist from there - was incredibly interesting, but I definitely felt that it needed more of a basis. If you're well read in these Welsh texts and thus don't need a re-cap, then this book is probably excellent.
It also felt too quick to dismiss certain facts and traditions without giving the readers much of an explanation for this. The grave site at Glastonbury, for example, is automatically talked of as something which has been fabricated, but this argument would benefit from an explanation or two. This lack of explanation seemed even more strange given that the most convincing argument Blake and Lloyd present is for the burial of Arthur near Rhyd Llanfair. The combination of an early graveyard found there combined with the references to Vera Historia had me perfectly convinced and, if I'm completely honest, rather keen to jump in my car and drive over to explore the site for myself. I hope that some keen archaeologists latch onto this idea some time soon and we hear of some proper excavations taking place: it seems strange that, as somewhere that could quite feasibly be Arthur's burial place, no one has yet done this.
Overall, an interesting read, but may come across as somewhat indecipherable to those unfamiliar with Wales and the Welsh language, and it would have benefitted greatly from slowing down to explain the sources they're working with. It has, however, left me keen to do more investigating of these Welsh sources... and to take a little trip up to North Wales sometime soon....more
I very rarely delve into nonfiction reading, but being a bit of a geek when it comes to Arthuriana this was a welcome exception.
Ashe makes a calm andI very rarely delve into nonfiction reading, but being a bit of a geek when it comes to Arthuriana this was a welcome exception.
Ashe makes a calm and convincing argument for the identification of Riothamus as Arthur. He looks at history, literature, myth and archaeology, and it gives him an excellent base to make this claim from. His writing is straightforward and approachable, and meant I whizzed through the second half of this in one afternoon, hardly noticing the time pass.
An enjoyable, interesting and informative read. I shall be keeping my eye out for his other similar titles....more
I feel - as I did with If Nobody Speaks - that I need to re-read this once or twice to fully appreciate all the layers of it.
I spent half of it stunneI feel - as I did with If Nobody Speaks - that I need to re-read this once or twice to fully appreciate all the layers of it.
I spent half of it stunned by McGregor's capable skill, and the other half struck by how genuinely important this book is. Even The Dogs is not an easy book to read. It's not a particularly fun book to read. But this tale of despair and vulnerability and deep desperation is the kind of story that needs to be more widely read. McGregor pulls you into this world of addicts: those lying unheeded and uncared for on the fringes of society.
The story is chilling not just in its isolation, but in its sense of connectedness, which has always been McGregor's strength: its sense of how easy it is to tie these lives together, of how easily that could be your family or your friend or your neighbour.
I'm still a bit too stunned by it to formulate more thoughts. Not the book for a Sunday afternoon easy read, but if you want something hauntingly realistic that will stick with you for days, and something masterfully written, this is the book for you....more
4.5 if Goodreads would let me be that picky. This review is going to be a little bit all over the place, due to me having far too many feelings and fa4.5 if Goodreads would let me be that picky. This review is going to be a little bit all over the place, due to me having far too many feelings and far too little time. The short version, however, is that this was excellent and I am now desperate to get my hands on both John Green's other novels.
The best thing about this book is the realism: the characters feel like teenagers; they sound like teenagers; they act like teenagers. As much as I love YA lit, so often I find myself halfway through and picturing characters in their early/mid-twenties rather than hormone-driven sixteen year olds. But these kids are perfect. They bicker, they flirt, they do stupid things at parties, they skip school, they actually go to school - and, more importantly, they care so much about this one girl that they (well, Q, at any rate) can't focus on anything else until it's solved.
One of the little details that I really loved was that Q actually talked to the police! When he found himself out of his depth and not knowing what to do, he acted like an actual teenager might actually do and didn't just immediately think he was the best person for the job but realised someone else might be better situated to find her! Beautiful. (view spoiler)[ The police man didn't, of course, actually help, but the book felt a lot more solid for Q's attempts to get some proper help in finding her. (hide spoiler)]
Also, the plot! This was one of those books where you find yourself stuck in the middle, suddenly realising that out of all the possible outcomes you can think of, none of them feel satisfying. (view spoiler)[ The scene in the abandoned building had me convinced that they were going to find Margo's body (and, let's not lie, I was utterly freaked out by the idea) which would have seemed a little easy and predictable, and also I didn't particularly want to spend the rest of the book reading about their grieving processes, as important a story as that may be. And them finding her at the first (or even second, or third) place they tried, arms outstretched to welcome them and just admitting that she wanted some drama..well, that would've felt a little cliche, and a little hard to redeem her character from. (hide spoiler)] Buuut I needn't have worried: John Green pulled together a plot that astonished and delighted me. I couldn't have predicted the ending no matter how hard I tried, and there are few things I love more than books that manage to surprise me whilst exceeding my expectations.
Green's writing is lovely: beautiful and lyrical without being saccharine or unnecessary considering the YA audience. I was a bit concerning starting the book: I'd heard SO MANY good things about his writing that I thought it might be a bit like Jasper Fforde again - a serious case of the overhype, which inevitably left me disappointed. Paper Towns, however, was just as brilliant as I'd been hoping for, and I will most definitely be picking up Green's other books as soon as I can get my hands on them.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I picked this up from the library when I was in need of some light-hearted comfort reading and had exhausted all of my usual list. Pratchett is alwaysI picked this up from the library when I was in need of some light-hearted comfort reading and had exhausted all of my usual list. Pratchett is always fantastic for readable, entertaining novels when you're in the mood for them, or for something a bit deeper if you look for it.
The trouble with Pratchett is that I have a couple of definite stand-outs (Mort; The Hogfather; Soul Music) and I find that the rest tend to blur together. Small Gods, however, has jumped straight into my list of favourites.
Brutha himself was a delightful character: honest, naive to the point of ignorance, and literally unable to forget anything he's ever heard. I must admit that some of the finer dynamics of the city politics went over my head (see: comfort reading kick and not wanting to have to actually think whilst reading, goodness), but Brutha's delightfulness (I know I've already said that, but I really cannot think of a word that could better sum him up) kept me gripped to this. Pratchett's digs at religion come across more as fond and well-meaning observations, and, on occasion, startlingly astute comments, rather than anything intended to cause offense.
I have also now decided I wanted a pet tortoise ... so, maybe don't read this if you have a phobia of tortoises or something. Otherwise, this was a lovely read and cheered me up excellently!...more