What I’m Reading Wednesday – 21st February

Featured image credit – webreaktheblock.com

 

After a long spell away from blogging, I really want to return to this platform with love. So here’s my first 2018 ‘What I’m Reading Wednesday Post’ – something I hope to do every month or so to keep readers in the loop:

Questions?!

1: What have you finished reading.

2: What are you currently reading.

3: What will you read next.

 


1: What have you finished reading?

I’ve just today finished ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ by Katherine Arden – a novel I thoroughly recommend to every fairytale fan.

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2: What are you currently reading?

Tonight I’m going to start ‘Dangerous Women: Part I’ by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. Not only do I love badass tales of women, but anything set in the Game of Thrones universe.

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3: What will you read next?

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak. This book has been staring out at me from my bookshelf for too long.the-winter-palace-cover

 

My next blog post will be a review of Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones.

The Good People by Hannah Kent – Book Review.

Title: The Good People

Author: Hannah Kent

Rating: 4/5

Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Gothic, Literary, Irish Fiction


As a reviewer with Irish roots, I’ve always been drawn to tales set in the Emerald Isle. After visiting Ireland a few times, and exploring the Ring of Kerry and the mountains around Dingle, there is a clear sense of ancient magic and wilderness that just oozes from this beautiful country.

So when I was skipping through my Kindle feed (yes I read on the Kindle half the time. With my newest handbag being a Chanel Jumbo, I find it much easier to carry a small Kindle around rather than a beefy paperback), I stumbled upon The Good People by Hannah Kent and immediately got sucked into the story.

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Set in a valley in County Kerry, Ireland, The Good People intertwines folklore, religion, and science in this female-led narrative which is heavily based on their belief of ‘The Good People’ – fairies and creatures that live and cause illness/misfortune to people.

When Nóra’s husband Martin dies and leaves her a bereft widow in the rural community of Crohane, misfortune seems to fall across the valley like a toxin. The cows don’t milk, the crops keep failing and a stillborn baby is delivered, all to the horror of the local population. And fingers and rumours are drawn towards Nóra’s house, as she hides a terrible secret. Her grandson, Micheál – a once thriving boy – has been delivered back to Nóra after the death of her daughter. But much has changed with the boy. The child is unable to walk, speak or even properly communicate, which baffles Nóra as she struggles to bond or care for the boy that was apparently her grandson. However, it is soon suggested that the real Micheál was stolen away by ‘The Good People’, who left a fairy-child – a changling – in their midst. So, it is up to Nóra, her hired help Mary, and the local wisewoman Nance Roche, to sort out the changling child once and for all. But with a new priest in town who disapproves of this so-called heresy over the plight of what he considers to be an ill child, time is running out for these three women.

I’ve found with Kent’s writing that she enjoys writing about female-led stories in which turmoil is mixed in with a dose of reality, as this and her other novel Burial Rites, all deal with stories that have a basis in fact. The worries about ‘The Good People’ were held by Irish people at this time, as were the conflicts that the Church had with these almost pagan ideas. For me as a reader, I enjoyed the sense that what I reading wasn’t all fantasy and from the author’s imagination. It gave it a sense of realism.

What I enjoyed about The Good People was the feeling that Kent managed to draw upon. As the village is set in a closeted community in a rural area of Ireland, there is a real sense of isolation and claustrophobia throughout the text. It felt as though the reader was invading upon something that was very private. With the use of Gaelic words too, and a very apt vocabulary, Kent really goes that extra mile to bring the reader deeper into the Irish landscape.

The characters were all well-written too. The women all had deep layers of conflict, personal history, and individuality that made them all very unique to the story. I enjoyed how radically different some characters felt from the others too, as it presented each situation in a unique way as we read it. What Kent also doesn’t do – a strength here – is give a clear answer to the riddle of Micheál. The reader is left wondering whether a priest, a doctor or Nance’s influence would’ve solved the riddle, or what he actually is. This leaves a good ambiguity to the text which makes it memorable after the first read.

This novel was my first introduction to Kent as a writer, and I’ve happily purchased the rest of her books.

A fast-paced, enjoyable dive into the world of rural, pagan Ireland.

What I’m Reading Wednesday – 1st November.

Lately I’ve been a little uninspired with blogging, so I’ve decided to do a What I’m Reading series. This is a brief update on me as a reader, and I’d love if you guys answered it with me.

1: What have you finished reading.

2: What are you currently reading.

3: What will you read next.


1: What have you finished reading?

The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman – review coming soon!

The Good People by Hannah Kent – review also coming soon!

2: What are you currently reading?

Burial Rights by Hannah Kent

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Currently really enjoying it. I’ve never read a book set in Iceland before, and I’m loving finding out about different cultures and worlds.

3: What will you read next?

Anno Dracula – One Thousand Monsters by Kim Newman. (One of my favourite series and I can’t wait to read this on holiday)

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (I’m seeing Hamilton in April next year, so I want to clue myself up as much as I can before then)

 

Happy Hump Day everyone ♥

-Alice

 

Clade by James Bradley – Book Review.

Title: Clade

Author: James Bradley

Rating: 3/5

Genre: Environmental, Dystopian Future, Sci-Fi, Fantasy


Note – after a three month hiatus, I’ve returned back to (hopefully) regular blogging. Apologies for such a long time. My Masters has finally finished!

So, as a few of you know, I get kindly sent books from Titan Publishing in order to read and review them a few weeks before publication. I get to pick and choice my books from a brief synopsis, which allows me to get excited about them before they arrive in the post.

About a month ago, I was sent Clade by James Bradley, and was instantly drawn in by the blurb. Set against a very startling and believable world of climate change, Clade follows the tale of one family and their generations as they struggle to live in a world that has been ravaged by pollution and population size. The world is close enough to our own to feel familiar, but also fitting in with the sci-fi/dystopian genre of YA fiction.

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With each chapter virtually introducing a new character/story arc (and possibly set years apart from the previous arc), this story explores both familial and romantic relationships against the backdrop of a decaying world. One thing that I did notice was that sometimes it took a while for the key figure to be introduced, which made me drift slightly whilst reading it. The almost ‘snapshot’ image of this new member of the family (the Leith family, for anyone interested) did well in keep with the horrific world that they lived in, but it did make me, as a reader, a bit unsure about who I was reading about, and why Bradley focussed on them. This may have been because the book is relatively short (250ish pages) and in order to write about an entire generation, you need a much larger book.

However, when Bradley really wanted to concentrate on the development of the relationships and the family member, he did so with delicacy and precision. One relationship I particularly enjoyed reading about was Ellie and Adam, as their relationship is shown from extreme happiness to a complete breakdown.

Bradley’s other strengths lie with the world building. A very plausible and alarming future has been built, and Bradley keeps the reader intrigued with his tidbits about how super tsunamis/storms/earthquakes affect the rest of the world and not just the countries in which Clade is set. He has also taken one hell of a controversial and political subject and made it very readable for people who aren’t entirely clued up with the climate change deal.

All in all, Clade has been a refreshing take on the dystopian/environmental future genre. Apart from some weaknesses with the Leith family dynamic, (which could be down to Bradley being an overeager writer?) Clade is a relatively short, well-written novel that will leave you mulling over climate change after you’ve finished the last page.

Buy Clade by James Bradley on Titan Books 

 

Our Dark Duet by V.E Schwab – Book Review.

Title: Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity Book 2)

Author: V.E. Schwab

Rating: 3/5

Fantasy: Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult, Fiction, Adventure, Teen Fiction


Last year, I got the chance to review the wonderful kick off of the Monsters of Verity series, This Savage Song on my blog, and I loved it!

So when Titan Books sent me the sequel and conclusion to this series (without even requesting it, so a huge thank you to Titan Books for keeping me in mind), I was thrilled. Obviously, I had to do a reread of the first book, and I fell back in love with the world that Schwab created, along with the badass characters that she wrote about.

Without giving too much away, Our Dark Duet is set six months after the big climatic end of This Savage Song, and the world of Verity is thrown into chaos. With the monster issue really becoming a problem, and war between human and creature becoming an inevitable reality, we follow as our protagonists battle to save their cities along with themselves. August has become the leader he never really wanted to be, and Kate has become the hunter she always knew she could become. But when a new monster comes into a fold – a monster that seems unstoppable, uncatchable but reaping devasting power, Kate and August are thrown together again in a battle that will determine the real winners. Lives will be lost, blood will be spilled and sacrifices will be made9781785652769.

Our Dark Duet shows real character growth, as both August and Kate have to deal with relationship issues from newcomers, along with having to confront demon’s from their past. Schwab has maintained this easy flow of writing that I commented upon in the first book, and she has once again made the story very readable and addictive from the first page.

With a new monster coming into the fold, this gave the novel a much-needed kick that I was hoping it would have. This Savage Song did leave the story
off with a good cliffhanger, but I didn’t think it would be enough for the entire book to be based around, as I felt it would’ve weakened the storytelling. So to have a brand new nemesis mixing with the older ones became very effective.

However, I do have some criticisms about this novel. I felt the solution to the new monster’s death was a bit rushed and didn’t feel as strong as it could’ve been, along with the speed of the final battle. There were also character’s who seemed relatively important at first, and then really disappear without a trace. Having them come back into the narrative would’ve been a cool little reminder for me.

But this was a good conclusion for the Monsters of Verity series. I’m definitely going to be looking out for more from this author.

Our Dark Duet is out on the 13th June – preorder now.

The Many by Wyl Menmuir – Book Review

Title: The Many

Author: Wyl Menmuir

Rating: 4/5

Fantasy: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Paranormal, Ghostly


As part of my job, I’m very lucky that I can go and interview authors and people of note. So when I was put onto contacting and reading The Many by Wyl Menmuir, I was not only excited to have some new reading material, but intrigued that this small publication (independently pushed and just over 130 pages long) has been long-listed for the prestigious Man Booker Prize.

So I picked up a copy from my local bookshop, and set about reading. It took me just over an hour to devour it, and I’m pleased to say I was hooked. The Many is worthy of the nomination, as the story is brilliantly woven, expertly told and with different voices and with a satisfying ending that will both leave questions unsolved, yet the reader entirely sated.

9781784630485_grandeSet in an unnamed fishing community on the North Cornish coast, the novel focuses around a new arrival to a very close-knit and closeted community. On paper, Timothy Bucchanan’s move from London to the village makes perfect sense. However, the narrative dives into a world that is completely isolated, mysterious and unfriendly to newcomers. With the ghost of a man that still holds sway over the locals, wasted fish being hauled from a contaminated sea, and unsettling dreams, Timothy soon gets swept up in village life, and with thousands of questions going unanswered, Timothy decides secrets must be unveiled, and the past has to be dug up.

The Many is rare in how it spans and encapulates different literary genres. With biological warfare and contaminated seas signalling science fiction, a world that is cut off and completely isolated being something out of dystopian literature, a murder mystery that has yet to be solved, and a touch of fantasy blending alongside magical realism, this novel feels a lot bigger than it physically is. Menmuir has given the readers enough of the characters to be interested by them, but not bog them down with unneccessary backstories. The figure of Perran, a character who died years before the narrative is set, is like a ghostly figure over the village, and his influence and story is hidden within plain sight. He is never properly physically described, nor do we properly hear him speak (apart from within flashback sequences) yet despite being dead, he is so present within the village conscious.

Timothy arrives at this village with his own issues. He has hopes and dreams of settling down and moving his wife away from the London rat-race, and in touching passages he can imagine himself through different social scenerios. However, this doesn’t happen. And Timothy is left constantly on the outside, yet being the most talked about man in the village.

The village dynamic is also very well written about. As I live on the Cornish coast, I know that there can be some animosity towards newcomers, yet this village certainly runs with it, and brings a Wickerman-esque feel to the narrative.

The novel has some interesting dream sequences, and moments of surrealism/magical realism, which reminds me of the writing styles of Alan Garner and Gabriel García Márquez. These sequences do have to be taken a face value, and towards the end of the novel, the world of the village and probably even Timothy’s own mental state does get a bit fractured, which just adds to the dynamic of the novel.

All in all, a great piece of literature. I’d thoroughly recommend it if you want to try a good read that will stick with you, yet isn’t too physically big.

The Many is out now!

Click here to buy the book.

Authors Website

Authors Twitter

Top 5 Books – Classic Literature.

 

Apologies for the lack of posting. My work has been hectic, and I’m taking a much deserved family holiday this week. A regular blogging schedule will resume soon.

To me, classic literature doesn’t mean it’s just old literature, but something that will echo for generations to come. Whether it be remarkably forward science fiction, or acts of romance that make people swoon, or just stories with morals, my top 5 list is my interpretation of literature that people should read in their lifetime.

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1: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

A personal favourite, this novel is grand and sweeping. A dazzling romance set in one of America’s most brutal and blood-thirsty periods, Gone with the Wind shows a civilisation and time that has now disappeared. It’s a tale of survival and new beginnings for one Southern Belle, who changes from being a pampered mistress to a fighter in the Deep South.

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2: 1984 by George Orwell

This novel is one I can read time over time over time again. An alternative yet familiar world, 1984 set the bar for dystopian literature. With forbidden romances, government control, cult leadership and surveillance taking over the world, 1984 is one of those novels that will broaden your mind forever, and make you realise that Big Brother really could be watching you.

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3: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Set in the sublime and wild Yorkshire Moors, Wuthuring Heights is a classic tale of revenge and obsession. With a multi-generational family, gothic overtones, physical and mental cruelty, Wuthering Heights tugs at the very extremes of nature vs nurture. A fantastic book.

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4: Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Another tale of revenge, tragedy and ghostly happenings. Hamlet is a classic for its use and portrayal of madness and murder, and with famous soliloquies surrounding dreams, death and life, Hamlet also offers an insight into the human condition.

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5: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Another personal favourite, and subject of my dissertation. Dracula has set standards for the vampire novel, as well as being a staple in the gothic genre. The novel also focuses on Victorian ideas of masculinity, femininity, religion, science and invasion from foreign shores, and with a host of excellent characters and bone-chilling moments, you won’t forget Dracula in a hurry.

 

These are my top 5 choices for Classic Literature, and if you have any personal choices/opinions, don’t hesitate in letting me know.

 

Top 5 Books- Fantasy Sagas

Now, I’m a girl who loves a good fantasy series. Fantasy books and television series can transport you to new worlds, and through the characters you grow to love, or hate, you can witness political backstabbing, murders, battles and mythical beasts.

So, in this Top 5 post, I thought I’d give my favourite fantasy book sagas, for any readers who have yet to stumble upon this genre.

1: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R Martin.a_song_of_ice_and_fire_by_ertacaltinoz-d9fzd8e

I’ve actually done a full review of this book saga on my blog, so I won’t go too in-depth here. So what I will say is this book saga is excellent and intricate. Wars, old grudges and bloodlust makes for very interesting reading, and the saga has been made into an award-winning television series. I would rate this a very obvious staple choice if you want to read any fantasy at the moment.

2: The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss.

the_kingkiller_chronicle_one_and_twoWith two novels published in this soon-to-be trilogy, this saga is a favourite of mine. The story-telling is good, the plot is highly enjoyable and the fact of it being somewhat of a biography for the main character, a mysterious figure known as Kvothe, makes me love it more. I have read and reread this story, and I still find it as enjoyable as when I first picked it up. If you like high fantasy, excellent writing and a host of unique characters, I suggest this.

3: His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman.51sf-9svtul-_sx319_bo1204203200_

This is a book series you just have to read. And don’t be put off by the bad adaptation of the first book. His Dark Materials really transcend all age ranges and different audiences. Featuring alternative worlds, witches, polar bear warriors and battles with God and religion, this saga is not only brilliant at world-building, but the writing is easy enough for young teenagers to understand.

4: 200px-thewayofkingsThe Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson.

Once again, I’ve done a review on the first book here, but this series really deserves to be on this list. World-building in this series is done masterfully, and if you like battles, magic, different cultures and history, then you’d like this series. The characters are complex and well thought out, and I never felt bored when reading this ornate world.

5: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien.

I doubt there could be a fantasy book list without this saga. Written in the 1950s as a sequel to The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings revolutionised the world olotr111f high fantasy and epic fantasy and has been influenced authors for years to come. The books are atypical of Tolkien’s florid and highly descriptive writing style, and follow the story of the destruction of the One Ring by the Hobbit, Frodo Baggins and his comrades.  So I would say, if you’re looking for the ultimate of ultimate fantasy novels to read, why not try this? You can’t be worse off. And then watch the movies.

So here are my top 5 choices. I doubt there are any shockers on here, but if you have any comments or queries, just send me a question.