It has come to my attention that as I’m growing older my reading tastes are becoming more and more varied. This diversification has lead me to pick up books in genres that I haven’t really explored before and most I’ve recently found myself growing increasingly interested in historical fiction. For a first foray Labyrinth was pretty good, but by no means was it perfect. Continue reading
It’s official folks! Summer is nearly here! Time to dust off those barbecues and enjoy wearing the clothes that have been tucked at the bottom of our wardrobes for months. My exams are nearly over (just one more to go!) so I decided to go ahead and post this before the last of the studying kicks off in earnest.
- Can you find a book with a summery cover?
- This was quite tricky but in the end I went with Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. If the title isn’t enough to convince you then the bright blue cover should, plus it’s packed with all of the kinds of things summer is all about!
- Where would you like to spend your summer vacation?
- Definitely Camp Half-Blood! It’s a summer camp after all! But also, how can you not want to chill out on the beach with your friends and relax by the bonfire of an evening? It just seems as though it would have such a great atmosphere.
- What’s the best book to read lounging by the pool, working on your tan?
- For me this is without a doubt Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson. Yes, another Morgan Matson book. What can I say, she’s the queen of cute contemporary books! This is a novel I’ll always go back to time and time again; it’s got such a relaxing feel to it!
- If you could pick any character as your summer fling, who would it be?
- I thought this one was going to be tricky, but after reading so many great books recently I think I’m going to go with Raffe from Angelfall. I’m not sure he’s my type long term, but since we’re only talking a holiday romance (and, lets be honest, he’s a literal angel who probably has great abs) I’m going to stick with him.
- What book wouldn’t you mind dripping ice cream on?
- Oh boy, there are a few that spring to mind. I’m going to have to go with Looking For Alaska by John Green. It really wasn’t my cup of tea at all. I certainly wouldn’t mourn if I had to sacrifice its pages in order to protect my shoes from getting splattered with ice cream.
- What book would you recommend to someone to pack in their suitcase?
- The 100 by Kass Morgan. This book is great if you want an injection of adventure into your summer holidays. It is the first (and, in my opinion, best) in the series and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a bit of excitement.
So, there we have it. As always, go ahead and leave your responses to the questions in the comments; I’d love to know what you think! Have a great summer guys!
Turns out I have big plans for reading this summer! I really want to get on top of my reading for this year so I sat down and wrote a list of 15 books that I am most anticipating sitting down to read this summer once all of my exams are done and dusted.
- Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
- Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
- Allegiant by Veronica Roth
- The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
- A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
- Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
- City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
- Labyrinth by Kate Mosse
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
- The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
- A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
- Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
- Wicked by Gregory Maguire
- Legend by Marie Lu
- Geek Girl by Holly Smale
That’s quite the list for a few short months. Still, I’ll do my best!
Have a great summer guys!
Sometimes the best books are the ones you pick up on a whim. This was absolutely the case with Station Eleven.
If civilization was lost, what would you preserve?
And how far would you go to protect it?
My eye was initially drawn to it by the bright orange font, aside from which the cover was pretty uninspiring. I hadn’t heard anything about it before – maybe one quick mention in a magazine – and I’d never previously encountered the author. I wasn’t about to go in blind though, so I read the blurb, and imagine my surprise when the first thing I read was related to William Shakespeare, of whom I am a self-confessed fangirl! From that moment on my excitement only grew. I learned that the story was set in a post-apocalyptic world and chronicled the collapse of society and the efforts of those who endured it to survive. I bought it, read it, and have not stopped talking about it since.
Station Eleven is, in a nutshell, a story about people.
Sometimes in science fiction, characters can be insignificant devices through which the plot develops, but this story wouldn’t be as strong as it is without its characters. We meet a vast array of individuals, several of whom offer their perspective of events in chapters set both before and after a devastating flu pandemic wipes out most of the world’s population. Their lives are far more interconnected than you may initially expect, making it a magnificent exploration of their relationships with one another and what they must do to survive in a world where an infected cut could kill you. And their survival isn’t glamorised. People are missing teeth and everyone gets sweaty.
Yet Station Eleven isn’t merely a story about how to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, but about how far people are willing to go to ensure that humanity’s legacy lives on.
Because survival is insufficient.
In addition to its layered and multi-faceted characters, Station Eleven is beautifully written. It has just enough world-building to satisfy the reader but not so much that it overwhelms you or becomes unnecessary. The dialogue feels natural, as do the glimpses we get of a character’s inner thoughts and feelings. There’s no melodrama here; no clichéd scenes or reactions. In fact the whole thing has a shocking amount of realism to it. When I imagine the fall of society, this is how I picture it. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like a post-apocalyptic novel, more like a richly evocative, thought-provoking read which leaves you examining all of the things we take for granted and what it is that motivates people to seek out fame etc.
First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.
Also, I was glad to find that romance was far from central to this story. True, you have people in relationships, people who are repeatedly unlucky in love, people with babies, women who don’t need a man, homosexual relationships: the whole lot! But it doesn’t define the novel and it certainly doesn’t define the character. Instead, Mandel gives us a vividly stunning depiction of life in her ‘post-collapse’ world. It is a story that is so compelling, so gripping and atmospheric that I found it nearly impossible to put down. If you like books that make you think then do yourself a favour and pick this up. I cannot recommend it enough.
For me personally, nothing!
However, I can see little things that might not appeal to others. The lack of action sequences, for example, might decrease some readers’ enjoyment of the book. They are in there, just not in every chapter (the book really doesn’t need it, but for those who like adventure it may not be what you’d expect). The writing style could also be too ‘flowery’ for some, but again that all depends on your personal tastes. The chapters do cut back and forth between time periods and characters, so if you’re one of those people that struggles to juggle multiple points of view then be warned. And if you really don’t like Shakespeare then you may find the beginning tougher to get in to than I did.
This is by far the best standalone novel I’ve read in a long, long time. It was poignant and elegant and I LOVED it! The pacing is consistently steady and I like the effect this had on me whilst I was reading. The story doesn’t feel like it follows a typical beginning, middle and end structure: it could keep on going on and on if you let it. The story doesn’t start and finish with the first and last page, it has a past and it has a future. Station Eleven has reminded me why I love fiction so much and for that I give it five out of five stars.
In essence, this weighty volume is a comprehensive in-world history of the Seven Kingdoms, providing accounts of the epic battles, bitter rivalries and daring rebellions that lead to the events of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’, as told by a Maester Yandel in honour of the new king (whose name, as we see on the first page, has had to be corrected several times). Chronicled in these pages is all of the knowledge, scholarly speculation and inherited folk tales of maesters and septons and singers, recorded with no lack of detail. The World of Ice and Fire makes for a definitive companion piece to George R. R. Martin’s vividly conceived universe.
I absolutely loved this book for a number of reasons, first and foremost of which was the gorgeous illustrations. This encyclopaedic tome was packed full of stunning artwork that really blew my mind; everything from black and white sketches to lavish, colourful images that spanned entire pages. The inclusion of these pictures really served to bring everything to life in a way that I never expected, especially in cases like Martin’s vision of the Iron Throne which looks much grander (and more deadly) in the book.
Another highlight was learning about the Targaryen dynasty. Sure, everyone’s heard of Mad King Aerys and a bit about Aegon the Conquerer, but we’ve barely touched on the rest of the family. This book fills in all those empty spaces in their history with a fascinating depiction of their uniting and subsequent ruling of the Seven Kingdoms. Plus we get a really good description of the ‘Dance of the Dragons’, the Targaryen Civil War. Apart from my brain’s inability to distinguish between the seemingly endless number of Aegons in that family tree, it was quite informative.
In spite of all of this Martin hasn’t disclosed all of the mysteries of his world. Since this was written as an in-universe text, there is much that Yandel (and the reader) doesn’t know about. Just what happened in Valyria? What exists beyond the borders of the known realms? Who were the forgotten, vanished races that predate the First Men and left mysterious, complex structures behind them? I hope that we’ll one day know the answers to these questions but until then it’s nice to know that there is still more to discover. Plus it kept the framing device realistic. Little things like references to other documents, conflicting sources and citing other maesters worked well here too.
So although the book is about a fictional universe it is still written as a history book. This means that some sections are more exciting than others and at points the book can feel a bit like an information dump. You definitely need to sort through all of the data to get to the good stuff during some sections and as a result I could end up feeling slightly overwhelmed at times. Then there are all of the battles. Some kingdoms have rivalries that stretch back millennia so there’s a good deal of fighting and back-and-forth invading of lands going on. Particularly in the Stormlands and the Riverlands it’s very much a case of ‘oh look, yet another battle!’ Sometimes this feuding gets repetitive, but it does do a good job of reflecting medieval life.
Also, more maps please!
I think to fully appreciate this book you need to be familiar with the world, so – personal biases aside – I’d award it four stars. Some companion novels do nothing more than repeat things that we already know, but not this one! I’d say about ninety percent of the information we got was new and all of it left us with a much better understanding of the world of the Seven Kingdoms, but also, frustratingly, with more questions than answers. If you’re a fan of the series, this one is a must read!
I have heard Stardust described as a fairy tale for adults, and I think that is as succinct a description as you might find for this highly entertaining novel. It is classic, and has a timeless feel to it while at the same time incorporating darker themes and a more modern, humorous and subtle style of prose. For my first foray into Neil Gaiman’s writing I was suitably impressed.
I love the mixture of magic, adventure, intrigue and romance that Stardust incorporates within its pages. No one element overpowers the others. I was rooting for the main characters, anticipating the downfall of the villains and enchanted by the story. The imagery used whenever we encounter a new setting really drew me in too and even small things like the glass flowers were vividly described.
With the fantasy genre so popular and certain comparisons unavoidable, it’s easy to understand why a few people feel as though some of the elements of the story are not that unique. The quest storyline may be well trodden ground but so much of the journey (in search of a fallen star no less) is entirely uncharted territory. I think that Gaiman does a good job of making his particular brand of witches, princes and faeries unique to his world. True, there are details that are a tad silly but that’s all part of the fun of the novel: no matter how bizarre things get, he makes them work.
I also want to say that I personally really liked the ending of the book. I can see why not everybody would but the way it felt grounded in reality pulled me in to the story more. Usually when faced with an immortal, unkillable force the inexperienced protagonist is somehow able to destroy the bad guy and rid the world of evil, which is all fine for a while but after a point becomes increasingly unbelievable. Stardust isn’t like that and I was almost relieved to read a more benign ending that I could genuinely picture happening.
I don’t actually have any major criticisms of the book that I think would stop me wanting to re-read it again. What I will say is that the novel definitely feels more adult compared to some of the stuff I’ve read before. This was not only because it had ‘adult themes’, but because of the way the story was structured. The narrative threads of different characters all seemed very separate and kind of detached from one another and the pacing sometimes felt a little slow. This certainly impacted how quickly I was able to read it; for a relatively short book it took me a fair while to get through. But I would say that I thought this made it feel more realistic – ironically, for a book about magic – and I enjoyed it all the more for the fact that I didn’t have to suspend by disbelief too much. Aside from some slightly predictable plot points I think you’d be hard pushed to find much to complain about.
I certainly had a tricky time deciding on a rating for this book but overall I’d settle on three and a half stars. As a warning I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who is uncomfortable with mature themes like gore, sex and the like, but other than that it was a short, engaging, very well written book and I really liked it. Perhaps now I should go and watch the film!
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I’m not an emotional reader.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel for the characters, I just don’t have it in me to break down every time something sad happens. This means that on the rare occasions that I do, I remember it. So I decided to make a list of the ten most memorable moments (so far) I could think of that have left me teary-eyed.
There will be some spoilers from this point on. So if you haven’t read the following books and don’t want to be spoiled, go read them and come back later…
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Like most of us here, I have an endless list of fictional characters that I absolutely adore, and one of the joys of reading is being able to continuously add to that list with each new book I read. But the thing is, characters in literature are often so diverse that we find ourselves drawn to different ones for different reasons. So I asked myself: who exactly is it that I like or dislike? And, more interestingly, why?
Spurred on by my own curiosity, here’s a list of the seventeen questions that I used to figure out quite why some characters I really love reading about, while others… not so much.
(Some possible mild spoilers…)
(Warning: Spoilers Abound!)
I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading a book I love to be surprised, whether it’s because the content is so much better than I was expecting, or because the writing style works really well and I didn’t expect it to, or even because I’ve grown attached to a character I wasn’t expecting to like.
One thing that I can’t stand is a predictable plot twist.
Now, I don’t wish to brag, but it takes a hell of a lot to catch me out when it comes to books and their big reveals. I am not one who is easily surprised, so when it occasionally happens I properly freak out, and what follows is a compilation of the five biggest shocks I’ve got so far while reading…
Seriously, some major spoilers from here on out. If you haven’t read the following books and don’t want to ruin it for yourself, look away now…
Since the very first page of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series I have been left in awe of his skill as a writer. The scale and grandeur of his world is phenomenal, and his talent is evident in the way he is able to weave so many threads together without once leaving you lost or confused.
So, if A Game of Thrones was the literary equivalent of George R. R. Martin carefully constructing a miniature world with glue and a pair of tweezers to slot everything in place, A Clash of Kings is the point at which he pulls out a baseball bat and begins smashing his creation to pieces, with Avril Lavigne’s song ‘What the Hell’ playing in the background.
Suddenly, the whole world and his squire wants to be the king of Westeros.
Where can I possibly start? While reading A Clash of Kings, the first thing that struck me was that Martin makes writing epic fantasy seem totally effortless. He can create a legendary character in the space of a few paragraphs, which is a godsend in books where the supporting cast of minor characters is vast and ever expanding, meaning that their lives need to be as intricately constructed as those of the main characters. The man also has a real gift for describing architecture. It’s one thing to have grand visions for a castle like Pyke, or a set piece like the Iron Throne, but if you can’t translate the image in your head to something a reader will respond to on paper it makes no difference. Thankfully, Martin doesn’t have that problem.
The scope of the plot is ever-expanding and, as I’ve said before, I give Martin kudos for having such a grand vision and keeping it all straight in both his head and ours. Even things like religion, which can often be overlooked in fantasy, are detailed and complex. And it always means something. I don’t ever feel as though any of the storylines are unnecessary, and I have complete faith that they will culminate in the most amazing revelations at the end of series. Until then he keeps you guessing, constantly in flux about who you think has the upper hand – and who you want to have the upper hand. In this novel alone it occurred to me multiple times that I didn’t really know who I was rooting for. It was not a problem of apathy; Martin craftily drew his characters and the politics of the situation so multi-dimensionally that I just couldn’t decide which outcome would be better. In the end, rather that fret over such things, I sat back and immersed myself in the twists and turns.
A Song of Ice and Fire is, first and foremost, a story about family: family loyalty and family rivalry. This is why you can’t help but try to sympathise with everyone, good or bad, when you know that their motivations are often to protect those they love. Then there’s Martin’s merciless reputation for killing off his characters left, right and centre. No-one is safe, which makes reading the books a delightfully tense experience; and rightly so, because if you do see a light at the end of the tunnel, you shouldn’t trust it. Virtually nothing is off limits here, and I always look forward to seeing just how far the author can push things. Evidence of this is everywhere in this book: major characters aren’t the only ones who get the chop (sometimes literally) in this series – its places too. A place you’ve spent over a thousand pages getting to know can be razed to the ground in a heartbeat. Even if these books aren’t your particular cup of tea, you have to admire Martin’s ruthlessness when it comes to this world he’s created.
Tyrion is without a doubt one of the best parts of this book; his wit is unrivalled and he is the first person I’ve read about that I imagine to be truly cut out for the political chess match that is running Westeros. He was hands down (pun intended!) the best Hand of the King to so far take up the position. New character Jaqen H’ghar is also a standout character, and his unusual friendship with Arya was pretty cool, although I seriously question his decision making skills. Honestly, who wakes up and thinks that essentially telling a ten-year-old “I-O-U three murders” is a bright idea? Sansa Stark also stood out for me this time around. She has fast started maturing into a much more self-aware character, and while she still comes across as a bit useless at times she is nowhere near as irritating as she was in book one. If she continues to develop at the rate she is now I can picture her becoming a serious player in the ‘game of thrones’.
Let’s be honest, length is an issue. Getting through this monster took me several months, partly because of the pressures of school work, but also because it is freaking HUGE. My biggest complaint, though, was that the whole book doesn’t really have much of a plot, when you think about it. This book really feels like most second instalments of a trilogy do, because it was mostly set up for things that will happen later in the series. I was ready for stuff to happen! A Game of Thrones had me on the edge of my seat almost from the word “go”, and A Clash of Kings just didn’t have that same tension for a large part of its 900-odd pages. I know that given the circumstances that’s appropriate here, but I wanted a few more dramatic confrontations. Furthermore, as this is a middle book there are no cliffhangers to agonise over, yet very little is properly resolved. Every door has been left open just a crack so that the author can explore that room again later.
Lastly, it’s inevitable that you will prefer some perspectives over others. Fans of Daenerys be warned: you will have a rather long wait between chapters; and even when you do get there not a lot really happens until the last one. Unfortunately, I discovered that Theon Greyjoy got a lot of page time here, and for reasons I cannot disclose, this irritated me, because I find him to be a massive jerk. Theon’s story feels almost like a separate novella interspersed in amongst the rest of the book and while it was interesting, he did nothing to adhere himself to me and I ended up wishing he would, quite frankly, piss off. One day when I re-read the book, I will probably skim most of his chapters.
I would say that A Clash of Kings has earned itself four out of five stars. I know what you’re thinking – only 4 stars? It’s true that I love the series, but after such a brilliant first instalment there was a lot of setting up to do for the future and as a result the plot was a bit slow in places, hence the loss of a star.
My advice to anyone would be: don’t start this series unless you’re ready to devote yourself to reading every published story. Also, bear in mind that these are BIG books, and they’ll require your complete concentration, so consider taking breaks in between each one to read something lighter. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I’ve finished the last one on my shelf and have to sit around waiting for Martin to write and publish the rest. That will certainly be a sad, sad day.