Sunday 30 September 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This is a meme by Sheila of Book Journey. A great way for everyone to share their reading week.

I've had a busy but great week. Spoiled rotten by friends over the weekend and I have finished more than one book. I'm still up to date with my reviews and I finished a 2012 challenge. All in all I can't complain.

This week I read;

The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch. Yep, I FINALLY finished it. That was a bit of a slog. Never been so pleased to finish a book and yet I couldn't completely give up on it.

 The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. From a character I hated to a character I love. It was also the last book in the League of Extraordinary Gentleman Challenge. So that's one challenge finished already.

Just now I'm reading;

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. Not sure what to make of it as yet even though I am half way through. It is growing on me but I'm not sure I like the style.

Next I plan to read;

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain. I'll  be reading this for the classics challenge. I know I've already read a Twain for this but this will be my first Twain grown ups book. Looking forward to some humour.

Hope everyone's week has been as good as min.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle

Once again Watson brings together some of his friends famous cases. Much like the last collection each shows Sherlock at his investigative best. Many of these tales are from before Watson's time including Sherlock's first case back in his Oxford days.

These tales run much in the same way as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Not that I was bored with them at all. It was nice coming to this books and a much beloved character after the last book I read. I don't think I will ever grow tired of reading his tales and I have three more books sitting there.

Last time I think I was amused by Sherlock and some of his deductions (notable the hat size indicating intelligence). This time I was amused by Watson. It doesn't matter how many times his friend is able to deduce from the smallest detail it still surprises him. Holmes uses his powers on Watson many times here and still Watson is surprised and occasionally disbelieving until it's explained to him. When will Watson learn to not doubt good old Holmes.

If you notice I attached the League of Extraordinary Gentleman challenge badge on at the start of the post. I know I said that it would be a few books until I got to the Moriarty story but it turns out I was wrong. It appeared at the end of this collection. The story is of course, The Final Solution, and Sherlock comes up against someone who is just as clever as he is. His ultimate nemesis. I've heard so much about Moriarty and how only he could defeat Sherlock that I was actually expecting a larger story. Not to say that it wasn't good. It was but because of it's notoriety I was expecting more.

In terms of the character and a comparison to that of Moriarty in the League of Extraordinary Gentleman I don't think I can compare. The truth is I think he is the character I remember least of all. The truth is that when I picture Moriarty my sci fi geekiness comes out once again.

This is the guy I always picture. If you are not a sci fi fan. This Moriarty was accidentally created to be able to defeat Data (an android). Anyway, I remember him rather than the one I am supposed to be comparing him to. Regardless, I liked the original version of Moriarty and I just wished that there were more of him.

This means of course that I have finished this challenge and have already moved to badge on my sidebar to finished challenges. I'll do a wee blurb about it at some point next week. Overall I have enjoyed the challenge which was hosted by Hanna of Booking In Heels. You can see how far along others are getting (or what they think of various characters) here.

Saturday 29 September 2012

The Sea, The Sea - Iris Murdoch

Charles Arrowby has retired from his life in the theater. Once an actor, director and writer he has decided to get away from London and his friends. Now living in a cottage by the sea he begins writing his memoirs. The memoirs are really a reflection of all the people who have been important to him in his life. His mind keeps going back to his first love and so it comes as surprise to him when he discovers that the one who got away is now an old married woman living in the village. He sees this as a sign that they must be together and that he must save her from a marriage she can only regret.

I only just realised that this won the Man Booker Prize back in 1978. Prize winner or not I struggled with this book. Charles Arrowby is a horrible, self-centred, self-absorbed, delusional man. I mean it. He has no good points to him whatsoever. To be honest, I wasn't particularly keen on any of the characters but I especially disliked him. Which of course makes it difficult since the book is meant to be his memoirs after all.

So why did I persevere with it? Well, something would happen after long descriptions of the sea, his disgusting culinary expertise (turned my stomach) and his self-congratulations for being so wonderful. I then had to read on to see what happened next. It was a vicious circle. I would get annoyed eventually, put it down, pick it up again and sucked back in. Once I was 2/3 of the way through any intention to give up on it was gone and I had to see it through. Despite the fact that I disliked most of the book I did like the ending. It had a sad feel to it. Not sure if Arrowby learned from his reality check but I liked the fact that it was there.

I lied when I said there were no characters I liked in the book. Arrowby's cousin James was a fairly likeable character. He was the only one in Arrowby's life who had any common sense or lived in anything like the real world. He was the only one who wasn't so self-absorbed. He tried his best to make his cousin see sense and seemed to genuinely care for him (not that he deserved it).

Arrowby's first love and her family were also more normal than his friends, or more average anyway. They still managed to irritate me mind you and I wished that Arrowby would come to his senses and leave them alone. Of course she didn't help matters but mostly it was Arrowby doing all the pestering. Mind you, without that there would really have been no story at all.

I am glad that I read The Bell first because I very much enjoyed that. Had I read this one it would probably have put me off reading another of her books. I should point out that despite all my complaints about the book it was still very well written. Still, it was a relief to finally finish it. Not sure if this one will be staying in my book collection despite its pretty cover.

Friday 28 September 2012

Moranthology - Caitlin Moran

Since the age of 16 Caitlin Moran has been a journalist. We got a taste of her writing and humour with How To Be A Woman. Here though she brings together a collection of articles which covers just about every subject. Downton Abbey, The Great British Bake Off, Paul McCartney, Children's parties, Twitter and Lady Gaga (to name but a few). All with the same humour and candor she brought to her first book.

I have been putting off reviewing this because I made the mistake of loaning it to a friend before I had the chance to write one. I don't usually use the book to write the review but I always like it sitting there by me when I do. I suppose it's a comfort thing in case I do need to remind myself of something. Anyone else like that? However, I can't put it off any longer as I don't want to be as far behind in my reviews as I was at the start of the month.

I think most people will be picking this up because of her first book How To Be A Woman which was a fantastic read. This one is a little different to that which isn't a complaint. Instead of talking about all things female related she shares with us her view points on almost everything. They all come from articles she has written over the years. In her first book she talked a lot about growing up but most of the articles in this collection is fairly recent (although she does reflect on her adolescence). The books converge on the fact that there are both serious and not so serious topics covered. Plus she knows how to laugh at herself as well as the world in general.

Her ability to laugh at herself and her openness about mistakes she has made in her career was one of the things that I loved about the book. She shares many stories of making gaffs when interviewing people she admires. Paul McCartney and Eddie Izzard are just two of the examples. At one point she mentions that award ceremonies for her are usually a who's who of embarrassing interview moments. You can't help but cringe with her and laugh at the same time.

She covers so many different topics it would be impossible for me to list them. Some of my favourites include her love of The Great British Bake Off and her love of Sherlock Holmes. In fact one of the articles is about time she was able to spend on the set and included conversations with Martin Freeman and Russel T. Davies. There were a few topics that didn't very much interest me such as her reviews of Downton Abby. They were still amusing and well written but having never watched it I found it hard to have the enthusiasm Moran clearly has for the series. She doesn't just talk about television but also politics, music and anything really that catches her interest.

I did however, geek out at one point. Feelings of envy were also in there. Moran had included a few articles about this guy! She not only got to visit the set, sit in on a few meetings, met Kylie and Freema Agyeman (before she appeared on our screens) she also got to talk to and drink with David Tennant. There were a few of these articles and it was hard not to feel the excitement that Moran showed in her writing. Mind you, I would have been jealous and geeking out regardless of the writing.

Overall a great book and I am glad I picked it up as soon as it came out. I would have read it in a day if I had the chance. I picked this book for the journalism/humour category of the Mixing it Up challenge hosted by Ellie of Musings of a Bookshop Girl. I was actually struggling to come up with a book for this category. I couldn't decide what to go with. This book was perfect though as it falls under both. I read it a month earlier than I planned but to be honest I couldn't have waited. As a result I have only one more book to read for this challenge. If you want to see how I am getting on you can do so here.

Monday 24 September 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This is a meme hosted by Sheila of Book Journey. A great way for readers to share their reading week.

What a miserable Monday it is too. It's cold and wet for much of the UK and according to the BBC we are expected to experience a months worth of rain in the next 24 hours. Bank holiday Monday too. My plans are to stay in and get some studying done. I am jealous of everyone who is using it as an excuse to curl up with their books.

Anyways, another not to great reading week. I am resigned to that though as my workload has tripled this year. Not complaining though. Still enjoying it.

This is what I read last week;

Moranthology by Caitlin Moran. Loved it. It's almost as good as How to Be A Woman and I have to say I geeked out a few times reading it. Will post more details when I do the review.

Just now I am reading;

The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch. This book was pretty much tossed aside as I read Moranthology and it's now annoying me that it's taking me so long. Truth is I am not loving it and yet can't let go.

Next I plan to read;

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. Same book as was on my list last week. Poor Sherlock is crying out to me!

What have you been reading? Anyone else stuck on a book they aren't loving and yet can't let go?

Sunday 16 September 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This is a book meme hosted by Sheila of Book Journey. A great way for readers to share their reading week.

This will be two weeks in once since I didn't take part last week. I will get into a routine of posting every week again. However, on the plus side I have since then caught up with all of my book reviews. Oh, I didn't have any actual finishes last week. The finished books are really from the week before.

In the last two weeks I read;

The Crucible by Arthur Miller. I read this for the drama/poetry category of the Mixing It Up challenge. I loved everything about this book. A fantastic read!

The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton. This was my choice for the sci fi challenge. It's been lying in my tbr pile since it came out in paperback (oops). I very much enjoyed it though. Highly recommend Hamilton to any sci fi fan (but if new to the author I wouldn't start with this one).

Just now I am reading;

The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch. This is what's slowing my reading down. I enjoy it when I am reading it but when I put it down and think about it I really don't want to go back to that horrible main character. I will finish it though as, like I said, I enjoy it when I am reading it.

Moranthology by Caitlin Moran. This arrived on my door matt on Saturday and it's for this reason that The Sea, The Sea has been briefly set aside. If you are a Scot (or know one) you will know what it means when we say we couldn't hold our water. Basically I couldn't wait to pick it up and start reading and I didn't. Proving to be a funny and quick read and this is my choice for the humour/journalism category of the Mixing It Up challenge.

Next I plan to read;

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. I love Sherlock. I know this book isn't going to let me down and is going to pages filled with wonderfulness.

What have you been reading? Anything you picked up now because you couldn't wait?

Wednesday 12 September 2012

The Dreaming Void - Peter F. Hamilton

What was once thought to be a black hole in the middle of the galaxy turns out to be a large void with another universe inside it. As it expands it eats away at the Common Wealth Universe. Various humans and aliens are stationed nearby to study it and prevent it from growing. However, one human has received dreams from this void. Dreams of the ideal life which he has shared with others. A whole cult has grown up around it. The dreamer though has disappeared and the man who has replaced him as leader is organising a pilgrimage into the void. The common wealth is split over this. Half want it to occur and the other half believe it wall cause the void to expand and destroy their own universe. The human race is fighting among itself and trying to prevent and at the same time trying to prevent an attack from an alien race who want to stop the pilgrimage. Meanwhile, new dreams are being filtered out among Living Dream and the leader is determined to find who that is and use him to promote the pilgrimage.

If that sounds like a lot it is. Hamilton is known for his large chunky reads with lots of main characters and lots going on. This one isn't quite as busy (or as long) as some of his other books though which made it quicker to read than is usual with his books. Not that this is a bad thing. It means less chance of losing important threads as you read. The story was still complex enough though and it took time to work out why some threads were important.

I should point out before I go any further that this is from the same universe as his Common Wealth series (Judas Unchained). It's set a good few centuries later and the human race has moved on somewhat in it's development with some moving on to being non-physical. This is an element that was in his Reality Dysfunction series early on. It was deemed as a good thing there but in this series there is a lot of controversy surrounding it. Anyway, the reason I mention this is that some of the characters and history of his previous books pop up in this one. I don't think it's 100% necessary to read those ones first but I would recommend it. It irritated me not remembering some of the detail as it was mentioned in this.

Although I have always loved Hamilton's take on the future of humanity and the technology he comes up with it wasn't actually my favourite part this time (still like it mind you). It was the dreams that the dreamer had from the void. It depicted a much simpler life and a young talented boy who wanted to change the world. It was a nice pace from all the sci fi and I looked forward to each of these.

Lastly I also recognised one of the short stories from last months book. With this you definitely don't have to read the short story first. The Dreaming Void was published first. It was just more detail of some of the hints given in this book about one character.

I read this as part of the sci fi challenge hosted by Ellie of Curiosity Killed the Bookworm. The group choice was Earth Girl by Janice Edwards. I haven't looked into it but I think it's a more recent book. I chose though to pick from my book pile as I am trying to work through it. Plus after reading his short stories last month I had an itch to pick this one up. I will definitely be reading the others in the series but that might wait until after the new year (which scarily isn't that far away now). This book was actually my last sci fi in my tbr pile. Which means I might join in next months choice depending on what it is. Or I might take a trip to the library and see what catches my eye. If you want to see what others have chosen to read you can do so here

Sunday 9 September 2012

The Crucible - Arthur Miller

Reverend Samuel Parris is shocked when he sees his daughter, niece and some of the other village girls dancing around with his servant in the middle of it all chanting. His daughter collapses as soon as she is discovered and whilst he tries to find a scientific reason for her collapse the rest of the village are murmuring witchcraft. The Reverend John Hale is sent for to investigate the possibility and the girls are soon pointing the finger at the servant who forced them to dance. The finger pointing doesn't stop there and very shortly no one is safe from the accusations of the young girls.

I have read very few plays outside school. In fact apart from the Shakespeare plays I read back in January I can't remember the last time I picked one up. It seems I am missing out however. I read this in one night. It's not a large play but even if it had been I doubt I would have had the power to put it down. I hadn't even intended on reading it since I was in the middle of another book. I was originally just having a quick flick through it since it was going to be my next read. That flick was fatal because of course I was instantly transported into the play.

The detail in it was amazing considering it is limited in comparison to the novel. I actually quickly forgot it was a play I was reading. Of course I new the plot of the story. It's fairly well known and despite not having read it or seen it dramatised or the film I knew most of it. A group of girls are about to be caught having performed witchcraft with one girl as their leader. She then points the finger to save herself and of course finds it a convenient way to rid the village of all the people who may have crossed her at some point. What I wasn't expecting was that it is seen mainly from the point of view of some of their victims rather than the girls themselves. If anything it gave more drama to the play as you sense the fear of the characters and then their resolution.

It was very well paced and as the book proceeded the more out of control the girls got, the more the fear increased and the pace quickened again. Reading the blurb at the back the play wasn't meant to be just about the Salam witch trials. It was a reflection of the era. Particularly the McCarthy era. I actually know a little about it thanks to another favourite book of mine, The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. When the cold war and fear of communism caused lots of finger pointing.

I read this for the poetry/drama category of the Mixing It Up Challenge hosted by Ellie of Musings of a Bookshop Girl. I am not the clued up on poetry and to be honest can take it or leave it. I was more excited about trying some drama which I also have little experience of. I am sure I would have read The Crucible anyway but it's thanks to this challenge that it was sooner rather than later. Possibly one of my favourites of the challenge so far and another fantastic classic to add to my list. If you are interesting on seeing how I am getting on with this challenge you can find my edited original post here (only two more categories to go).

October Read-a-Thon

The new dates for the readathon in October has been announced on the Dewey blog. This year it will take place on 13th October. I have checked and I have no essays or exams the following week and I am not on placement either. So I have signed up again.

Last time I raised £130 for Crohns and Colitis UK. Not bad considering my target was £100 and even then I thought I was over reaching. This time I am raising money for the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH). This one is pretty important to me as I know so many people who have some sort of mental health problem. It's a lot more common than you think and everyone at some point may come close to their mental health being under a lot of strain. This time my target is £150 because I am going to try to get a small group of friends to join in even if they can only manage a couple of hours. It could be fun I think as well as raising money for a good cause. Look up my Just Giving Page if you are interested in learning more about the charity and what it does.

I haven't decided what I am going to read but I am going to try to use it to get through my tbr pile. My goal is to have the pile just about gone by the end of the year. I am sitting at about 30 books and with the readathon it my just be manageable (depending on me not going out and buying more). Anyone else going to take part?

Saturday 8 September 2012

Villette - Charlotte Bronte

Lucy Snowe has spent much of her childhood with her God Mother. A kind lady who dotes on her son. Her last summer with them is the most memorable as they also have the company of a strange little girl, Paulina. When Lucy leaves them she puts the past behind her as she faces a future of loneliness and difficulty. After working as a companion to on old lady she heads Europe hoping for a teaching post. Once she reaches Villette she begins teaching at a school for young ladies. There she finds some new friends and strange characters. More importantly she finds some old friends she never thought she would see again.

Not quite as good as Jane Eyre but this book just reminds me of how much I love the Bronte sisters. I quite happily got lost in the pages of this book. Seriously didn't want to leave it. The language is simple and flows very easily. Or maybe it isn't as simple as it seems but is just so well written that it feels that way. Either way I enjoyed the writing as much as I enjoyed the story.

Lucy is rather an odd character even for the Bronte's. Odd as a main character that is. Not once do we get a full picture of who she is. We learn almost nothing about her family and her early childhood. We know that she has had to take on work beneath her station because she alone in the world. That's pretty much about it. Even as the book continues it is hard to pin down her character. She is different to each of the characters in the book. She is sweetness to her God Mother, charming to her God Brother and a little short tempered with her friend Ginevra. Her friends themselves are rather peculiar. M. Paul Emanuel is short tempered all the time and this temper comes out when seeing the littlest fault (in his eyes) in Lucy. I actually found him difficult to like until near the end and we got to hear more of his back story. Paulina was very odd. She didn't read like any normal 6 year old and was more likeable when we meet her again later on. Basically, what I thought of one character was subject to change.

I liked the story itself too. I liked the odd school which Lucy came to work for and I liked the ambition she held for herself and the determination to do well. I liked the fact that she continued her own studies just so that she wouldn't fail. Then of course there is the ghost haunting the school. I would have been disappointed if there hadn't been one and I was amused by the outcome of that.

Overall a lovely book which has reminded me that I need to one day read the rest of the books by these fantastic sisters.

I read this book as part of the classics challenge by Katherine of November's Autumn. This months (yep I have caught up with my reviews and am onto Septembers reads) prompt is about music and what fits the book. I do love music but I am hopeless when it comes to placing music with things. I would be a rubbish film maker. So I'm afraid I can't pick out a piece of music that would fit the book. Then Lucy is a closed off character I think it would be hard to find something that would fit her. If I had to it would probably be something light and classical. Just don't ask me what. It doesn't help that I don't listen to music while I read. I like both too much and usually want to concentrate on them. I can't concentrate on both at the same time so I tend to keep them separate.

Does anyone else pick out music to listen to whilst they are reading? Oh, and yes this book is another one of those vintage covers.

Friday 7 September 2012

A Walk In The Woods - Bill Bryson

Bryson lives near the Appalachain Trail and one day decides it's about time he explored it. He decides to start at from the South and work his way north with his old friend Stephen Katz in tow. The Trail is approximately 2,184 miles and passes through 14 States. Bryson gets himself and his friend kitted out and reads every book he can get his hands on. This in now way prepares him from the humongous task ahead. The hike alone is hard going but he also has to put up with irritating hikers, snow blizzards and of course his friend who is in no way fit for the challenge. Then of course there is his fear of bears.

This is second book by Bryson and my first travel book. I've been wanting to try his travel books for a long time so the travel category in this challenge was ideal. I don't know why I picked this one up though other than the fact that I think it was the title that was most familiar since quite a few of my friends have read it. I have to say though that I was vaguely disappointed. I was expecting big laughs. There were some but not really from Bryson. For the most part his friend Katz provided the entertainment. I quite liked his one liners and there were times when I felt that Bryson was just a little too hard on his friend.

The book came across as a little preachy at times. There were large portions of the book dedicated to how we are destroying the world. Or how the AT is being destroyed or misused. Having said that I did learn a lot. Especially about the trail. My knowledge of it didn't go much further than the fact that I knew it was there. I even learned a lot about my own country and all the plants that I had previously thought were indigenous to it.

For the most part I enjoyed it. It was written in a way that made it very easy to read and I found that I managed it quite quickly. It wasn't as good as his autobiography but it was still good. I think I would have liked it more if it had been a little less preachy and a little more about his experiences on the trail itself. It hasn't put me off though and I will read more of his books. Usually I start with the first of an authors books and I think I will go back and do that.

As I mentioned I read this for the Mixing It Up Challenge hosted by Ellie of Musings of a Bookshop Girl. I am getting there with this challenge. Slightly ahead since I read this book and another in August. I couldn't wait though. If you want to see how I am getting on you can do so here.

Thursday 6 September 2012

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle

Although now married and moved out from 221b Baker Street Watson still keeps in touch with his old friend Sherlock. In fact many a time he still accompanies his good friend on a case. As before he takes note of these cases for Holmes and so brings together a collection of some of Sherlock's stranger cases. The result is a book of short stories where Sherlock works out the seemingly most impossible of mysteries. He helps a King recover potentially embarrassing pictures. In another he discovers the owner of a hat and a goose that have been left after a struggle. In all Watson wonders how on earth he can possibly solve these riddles but Holmes never fails.

I honestly didn't think it was possible to love Holmes more. Then I read these short stories and I was smitten all over again. Doyle has a talent for short stories. In each he manages to put the detail and characterisations that he put into his longer novels. The only difference being is that the back story is shorter and less intricate. However, not for a second do you feel that you are hard done by. Instead you are left with so many wonderful tales rather than one.

I have to admit that I wondered how poor Watson would continue to manage to accompany Holmes. It's hard to imagine Holmes too without Watson who is after all his only friend. I needn't have worried though as it would seem that Watson's wife is more than happy to be rid of him when Holmes needs him. His profession is dull enough that he quite happily abandons it at every opportunity.

Each of the stories are quite different even if Holmes' deducting is the same. There isn't always a bad guy involved. Just a mystery to be solved which keeps Holmes' away from his drug addiction (although I was amused to find that Opium users disgusted him). I enjoyed every single one of them and was sorry by the time I got to the end of the book. I'm afraid I don't have a favourite to pass on but I was amused by one. The one with the hat which I mentioned in the blurb. From the hat Sherlock is able to deduce the history of the owner without ever having met him. The details are all in the hat. What amused me was that he decided that the hat must belong to a man of great intellect. For it is a large hat to fit a large head. Large head of course are formed because they cover large brains. A product of it's times but it still gave me a chuckle.

If you haven't read any Holmes yet I highly recommend that you do. They make for very entertaining reads.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Manhattan In Reverse - Peter F. Hamilton

I'm not going to write much of a blurb for this one. Simply because I find it difficult to write a blurb for short stories that are mostly unrelated to each other. If you have read his Commonwealth Saga then you will recognise one of his characters from that series in a few of these stories. Paula Mayo is the best detective in history because she has been designed to be thanks to the hive. She has been asked to look into terrorist attacks on one of the dynasty families. In the second story she is having to redeem herself and has been sent to a newly settled world to discover why seemingly docile animals have begun attacking the settlers.

Those are only two of the stories but they all have a similar theme. Most of them are detective stories and they all have Hamilton's signature technology. The Mayo stories stood out for me though because I liked her character back when I read the Commonwealth Saga. It was nice to see her getting her own story and I actually would have liked more. A strong female character who is determined that justice will always prevail. She always gets the bad guy.

One of my favourite stories in the collection though was the first one. A boy from a ruling family is murdered. One of the family who has been charged with discovering the murderer spends a few centuries doing so. The murder investigation itself was interesting although I had guessed from the start who the murderer was (just not he reasons and there is absolutely no hint as to why until it is revealed by the investigator). What I loved about this story was that it was set in a completely different universe to all the others. In this one the Roman Empire didn't leave Britain. It just changed hands a few times. It story begins around the late 1800's and it's interesting to see that technology has developed a lot quicker. Later I enjoyed the differences and the parts which paralleled our own history and technological advancement. It was these little bits of detail that made the story for me.

I'm not sure if it's worth reading if you haven't read any by Hamilton before. I would probably recommend his Greg Mandel trilogy first. Their his first books and whilst a little different to his later books they do give a taste of his later series. Plus they aren't as bulky as some of his others.

I was looking forward to these stories though when I first saw they were being released as a collection and I wasn't disappointed. Hamilton claims that he is unable to write anything short and this is probably true with only one story coming in at a few pages. However, that didn't bother me in the slightest. Last month after reading Reynolds I was down on the whole space opera genre but this has renewed my interest in it. Which is why I have chosen another book by Hamilton for this months Sci Fi read.

I read this as part of the sci fi challenge hosted by Ellie of Curiosity Killed the Bookworm. I am a little late in posting this review but if you want to see what others read in August you can do so here. Septembers book is Earth Girl by Janet Edwards but as I mentioned I have went with another Hamilton.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

A Sorcerer's Treason - Sarah Zettel

Bridget is the keeper of the light at a lighthouse on Lake Superior. A bit of an outcast from the locals due to her past keeping the light in memory of her father is the only thing she really has to keep her going. The visions in that sense help as she see's those in danger and is sometimes able to help. This is true of one night when a strange man is in trouble on a stormy night and Bridget saves him. Turns out he is looking specifically for her. He is from another world where Bridget's visions would just be the start of her powers. As a result he needs her help. He wants her to go with him to this other world to help his Queen. Bridget decides to go with him despite her aunts warnings that she should not trust this man.

I have to say that this book was a little slow in starting at first but I enjoyed it once it got going. I enjoyed the fact that magic on this world is literally woven and that the animal spirits have more power and their own agenda. Made it a little bit different for me.

There is actually quite a lot going on in this book and is it any wonder that poor Bridget doesn't know who to trust. This made me sympathise with her although I did like the fact that she was a strong female character. This was despite her being in a strange place and the time period she came from (1800s). Actually found that a little hard to believe at times. It wasn't always believable that Bridget was from that era partly because of the language and partly because of Bridget's reactions.

It's quite a large book and it does answer some of the many questions that is created though out. Not them all though. There is enough of a question mark over it to want you to read the rest of the series. Something I hope to do eventually. It's a good fantasy story although no where in the league of George R. R. Martin (the only other fantasy I have really read much of over the last few years).

I read this as part of the Mixing It Up Challenge hosted by Ellie of Musings of a Bookshop Girl. The category was Sci Fi/Fantasy. I had actually intended on reading a sci fi book and combining it with the sci fi challenge. Howeve, I really want to get through my tbr pile and the only sci fi books I had there were by authors I had read many times before. That wouldn't really be pushing myself. I did have this book sitting there though and it's been there for about 4 years. About time I picked it up really and I'm glad I did. If you want to see how I am getting on with the challenge and links to my other reviews you can do so here.

Monday 3 September 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This is a book meme hosted by Sheila of Book Journey. It's a fun way for everyone to share their reading week. Once again it has been a while since I had joined in. I have still been reading just not posting. I am now slowly catching up with my reviews and after this post I will have already posted more this month than I did in August. If you want to see what I read in August you can look at my post for the months overview. Few books but I enjoyed every one of them.

This week I started a book, sat it down somewhere and so started another. I will get back to it as soon as I remember where I put it.

This week I read;

Villette by Charlotte Bronte. I read this for the classics challenge. It's been a long time since I read a Bronte. This isn't the best one I have ever read but it was still a fantastic book. Glad I finally picked it up.

Just now I am reading;

The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton. I am reading this for the sci fi challenge. It has been on my tbr pile for a couple of years now. Reading Hamilton's short stories last month (still to review) put me in the mood to pick this up. Not far into it but I am immediately reminded as to why I love Hamilton.

Next I plan to read;

The Crucible by Arthur Miller. This is for the drama/poetry category in the Mixing It Up Challenge. It's a shock that I haven't read this yet. My sister was lucky enough to have this one in school and I was always jealous of that. Looking forward to it.

Anyone got anything exciting planned for their next read?

The Invisible Man - H. G. Wells

A small village in England is host to a rather strange man. A scientist who spends his days locked up with his experiments. No one really knows what he looks like because of his strange get up. However, they do know that he dislikes company, their curiosity and has a bit of a temper if things don't seem to go his way. This they put up with as he has the money to pay his way and doesn't barter over expenses. A rarity in those times. However, when the money runs out so does their patience and the confront the man. The result is that he loses his temper and begins terrorising the village as his secret is revealed. He is invisible and how do you fight an invisible man?

In all honesty H. G. Wells is hit or miss with me. I have read some of his books I have liked and some I have found extremely boring. Thankfully I loved this one. It is now one of my favourites by Wells which surprised me a little. I really didn't expect it to surpass The War Of The Worlds but it did.

It reminded me a little of Jekyll and Hyde. An experiment gone wrong and a mans determination to change back. Then of course he begins to terrorise the villagers. However, this one is far more exciting as it leads to a grand chase through out the country side and the story builds up pace right to the end. The story also differs in that I had absolutely no sympathy for this man. When you hear his back story near the end of the book I don't think he was every likeable at all. His ego pushed him to these experiments and then he wanted to use the results for evil deeds.

It has it's moments of humour too. Particularly in the shape of the tramp who is minding his own business when the Invisible Man convinces him to help. I loved this character and he certainly gave more depth to the story.

I read this book as part of the League of Extraordinary Gentleman challenge hosted by Hanna of Booking In Heels. As Hanna mentioned in her set up post for this challenge the film couldn't get the right to use the real Invisible Man so instead the character had stolen the potion from the original. I don't remember much about him other than I think he was one of the good guys. Unlike the orignal this one was a bit of a jack the lad. The difference is great but forgivable since they aren't meant to be the same people.

I only have one more book in this challenge to read which is the last Sherlock Holmes featuring Moriarty (Moriarty being the character featured in the film). I want to read all of these books in order so my next and last post for this challenge will be a few months in coming but it will be here before the year is out. If you want to see what others have said about this challenge and it's characters you can do so here.

Saturday 1 September 2012

The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne

Hester Prynne has been found guilty of adultery. The evidence is her little Pearl who was born despite Hester's husband being missing two years. The fact that her husband has been missing means a more lenient punishment. Instead of facing death she has to forever wear a large red letter A embroidered by her own hands. Her refusal to tell who the father is as well as the red letter has her shunned from society. Only when her embroidery skills are needed is she reluctantly approached by the women of the village.

The truth behind my prolonged absence and my pile up of awaiting reviews is that this was the next one and I had (have) a mental block. Nothing I say can do it justice. Quite a bit of what I want to say will result in major spoilers. As in you would know the entirety of the story before you read it. So I apologise if this review is far from my best.

What attracted me to this book is the fact that it is set during the famous witch trials although that is not what the book is about. There is some mention of them however. In fact one of the minor characters of the book believes herself to be a witch and believes that little Pearl has the same master. It turns out that an ancestor of Hawthorne himself had a role to play in the witch trials which possibly explains the setting of the book.

I loved the character of Hester Prynne. A beautiful lady of society from London who is unhappy in her marriage. That's not to say this is why she committed adultry but we get a good view of her before from flashes she has of herself in the past. Now she just wants to quietly live with as much dignity as she can muster considering her circumstances. Of course Pearl herself takes some of that dignity away at times and is a trying child. In the book it is hinted that her nature could readily turn to evil if she chose but today we can easily see that she can't help but notice her isolation along with her mothers. Any child would react to that. Despite this Hester has a lot of patience and love for Pearl. She also stands strong in her refusal to voice out who the father is. You can't help but admire her for that although you don't find out her reasons until later on. Call me selfish but I would have been shouting out his name and pointing fingers since he was too coward to stand beside her in the first place.

I really don't know what else to say about the book out of fear of spoiling it. It was one of those books which you felt tied to emotionally from page one. You couldn't help but feel Hester's stubbornness and frustrations at being so isolated. Her worries for her daughter. Plus her terror on behalf of Pearl's father. It's one of those books that will stay with you a long time.

August Overview/ Month Ahead!

I have to confess that I have been slow in my reading this month and even slower in my posts. I am quite far behind in my reviews. I was even far behind in my book journal although I have caught it up. So if you don't follow me on twitter or on goodreads you might not know where I am at reading wise. Here is my very short list;

1. The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
2. The Invisible Man - H. G. Wells
3. A Sorcerer's Treason - Sarah Zettel
4. Manhattan In Reverse - Peter F. Hamilton
5. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle
6. A Walk In The Woods - Bill Bryson

Like I said a very short list. I finished my placement and have had two weeks of my three week holiday. So no excuses really. I would have been at 7 (possibly) but I have mislaid A Feast of Crows by George R. R. Martin. Not to worry, I enjoyed what I read. Not a single one of those books did I dislike. In fact I very much enjoyed them all. The Sherlock Holmes is probably my favourite but the others fall closely behind it.

Challenge Overview

I have read all of my challenge books including one extra for the Mixing It Up challenge. In that at least I didn't fall behind. However, as I have yet to review any of them I haven't posted them on the organisers blogs.

 I read two books for this challenge. The first was for the fantasy/sci fi category. I went with A Sorcerer's Treason by Sarah Zettel as it has been lying on my tbr pile for quite some time. It was a birthday present at least five years ago. I quite enjoyed it and I might even read the rest of the series. I also read A Walk In the Woods by Bill Bryson for the travel category. I had warned when I bought it that I might not be able to wait and I was right. Not as good as I had hoped it would be but I still liked it. Next category is poetry/drama and I have picked The Crucible by Arthur Miller. To my shame I have never read this before.

 For the classics challenge I read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne as recommended by fellow blogger FBT. I very much enjoyed it. I can see exactly why it is a classic. I highly recommend it too. For this month I picked Villette by Charlotte Bronte. I loved Jane Eyre so have been looking forward to this. I am about 1/3 of the way through already.
 My sci fi choice was Manhattan In Reverse by Peter F. Hamilton. A collection of short stories. I loved them. It showed that maybe I am not done with space operas after all. As a result my next book for this challenge is also by Hamilton, The Dreaming Void. Looking forward to it now (plus it's been on my tbr pile a while).
I have just about finished this challenge. I read The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Next up is the last Sherlock Holmes featuring Moriarty. However, I want to read the Holmes books in order. I have a number to get through before I reach this one. So until I get through them this challenge will be on hold. I will still have it finished by the end of the year but I plan to enjoy those Holmes books.

I have also been thinking about challenges for next year already. I have been considering a fantasy challenge (much like the sci fi one) and continuing with the classics. However, I have decided that there will be no challenges for next year but one. That one is to read whatever takes my interest at the time. For that I want to get through my entire tbr pile by the end of the year. There are now less than 30 in that pile so fingers crossed that I can manage it.

For the rest of September I plan to read more Holmes and just work through my tbr pile as much as I can. Oh, and catch up with my reviews as well as visiting blogs (have been remiss on that too).