Ten Bookish Questions Tag

Good morning!  I saw the 10 bookish questions tags around the blogosphere and thought it might be fun to share my answers.  OK here we go.

1) What book is on your nightstand now?

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas.  This is the second in the Court of Thorns and Roses series.  I’m only a few pages in, but to be honest, so far it’s not really grabbing my attention.  I know that’s probably an unpopular opinion right now, but personally I’m far more engaged in Maas’ Throne of Glass series.  I’ll probably continue to give it a go, though.

2) What was the last truly great book that you read?

I’m currently also leafing through George R.R. Martin’s A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, inspired to do so mainly by the TV show.  I’m reminded just how deep and complex Martin’s characters are, and how beautiful his writing is, a trait that is, sadly, not always shared by the show.  The show is wonderful in its own way, but Martin’s books are a whole different ball game.  Incidentally, I have been swapping chapter by chapter from Feast and Dance, which works remarkably well.  

3) If you could meet any writer – dead or alive – who would it be? And what would you want to know?

I think I’d have to go with George R.R. Martin so that I could hassle him for spoilers on the rest of A Song of Ice and Fire.  I’d love to know more about the White Walkers and what their story is.  Martin is not the kind of writer who goes in for a purely black and white, good vs evil perspective so I think we have a lot more to learn about them.

4) What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

Hmmmm, let me think.  Opera for Dummies by David Pogue and Scott Speck, perhaps?  Although I have for a long time been passionate about musicals, it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve started to follow opera, sparked mainly by my friend Natasha and the New York Metropolitan Opera’s streaming operas live in cinemas.  I know very little about opera still, and like most Dummies books, Opera for Dummies gives a decent if superficial overview into the genre.  As a bonus, it comes with a free CD of some of the main highlights, showcasing a variety of composers and styles.

Another surprise might be Le Francais au Bureau by the Office de la Langue Francaise here in Quebec aka the French Language Police.  I learned French back in the UK so it was French from France I learned rather than Quebecois.  I invested in this book not long after I arrived to help me through the differences in a work environment.  

5) How do you organise your personal library?

To be honest, I don’t.  Most of my books are in Kindle format so I rely on good old search to find any book I’m looking for.  I do also have a program on my Mac called Delicious Library which I use to display my ebooks.  I wrote a blog post on it a couple years back.  It doesn’t link up to my Kindle library automatically, unfortunately, so if I buy a new book I have to remember to go in to add it manually.  I have set it up to display by author, then subdivided by series.  The nice thing about Delicious Library is you can switch how the library is organised at the touch of a button.  Sometimes, for the fun of it, I switch it to order by cover colour which looks really nice, too.

6) What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet? Anything you feel embarrassed never to have read?

I think I should have read A Scot’s Quair by Lewis Grassic Gibbon.  This is a Scottish classic and tells the story of Chris Guthrie, a young woman living in the rural north east of Scotland not long before the first World War.  It deals with the changes in Scottish society at that time.  Many Scots read this in school, but I didn’t.  Or at least if I did, I don’t remember!

7) Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you were supposed to like but didnt? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

As I mentioned in my last reading roundup, I was rather disappointed by The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi.  I did finish it, but I struggled – I just couldn’t get into it.  A lot of people seem to have enjoyed it though.

8) What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?

I am drawn to stories with good character development.  Any book in which the characters are changed by their experiences will suck me in.  George R.R. Martin is a master of this.  I am likely to be frustrated by books in which the main characters barely change throughout or, worse, sequels which ignore any character development.

Psychological horror/thrillers are one genre I tend to steer clear of.  I’m thinking Silence of the Lambs or Before I Go to Sleep.  I know that these books get under my skin far more than more supernatural horrors.

9) If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

I’m in Canada, so we don’t have a President! 

10) What do you plan to read next?

I will probably listen to the audiobook of Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman.  I received an Advance Reader Copy of the sequel, Gemina at BEA, so I plan to refresh my memory of the first book before picking it up.

Thanks for reading!  Have a great day.

Reading roundup – May 26th 2016

Hello and welcome to my reading roundup for this week.  I have read/listened to a couple of books about which I’d like to tell you.

Reading roundup – May 26th 2016Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Series: Caraval #1
Format: ARC
Narrator: Priya Ayyar
Pages: 416 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

The first of these is Caraval by Stephanie Garber.  Now, you won’t find this in the stores yet; it was one of the Advance Reader Copies I picked up at BEA and it won’t come out until January 2017.  I won’t say too much about it – I’ll post a full review nearer the time – but let me say you have a treat in store.  Garber has created a wonderful, whimsical world in Caraval with lots of mysteries, red herrings and weird characters.  I have the feeling that this first book is only starting to scratch the surface of what we will find out about this world.  This is a definite five out of five for me.

Reading roundup – May 26th 2016The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Priya Ayyar
Length: 9 hrs and 22 mins
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: two-half-stars

I wasn’t nearly so happy with the second book I listened to, which was The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi.  This is a retelling of the Persephone/Hades story and unfortunately, it failed to grab my attention.  I kept falling asleep while listening to the audiobook.  I forced myself to finish it, but it was a struggle.  There is nothing specifically wrong with it that I can point to.  The world is well drawn, the characters are interesting enough and the narration was excellent.  It just didn’t grab me.  Sorry.  I gave it two and a half stars out of five.

In other matters, I can’t not mention the superb episode of Game of Thrones, The Door, which was broadcast this week.  It really hit me in the feels.  I have been leafing through both A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons lately, reading one chapter from each.  That works surprising well, but rereading Martin’s words has really emphasised the show’s weaknesses, especially in terms of character development.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the show. Realistically, though, when the source material has to be compressed into a few hours of television, a lot must be lost. Sunday’s developments, which are confirmed to have come from Martin, were scripted and acted pitch perfectly and Ramin Djawadi’s score really hit it home.  It’s going to be heartbreaking to read in the yet to be published books.

Added to my library this week

Yes, I know I just brought back 30 books from BEA.  I still added two more books to my collection.  I have a problem.

The first of these is A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray. This is a YA sci-fi fantasy series which is billed as Orphan Black meets Cloud Atlas.  Our protagonist, Marguerite. is in possession of an artefact which allows her to leap into her alternate personas in multiple dimensions.  She must use this to track her parents’ murderer.  This definitely sounds intriguing and I am i the mood for something more sci-fi than fantasy right now.  I’ve also read a couple of Gray’s Star Wars novels, which are solid works, so I’m up for this.

Also added to my library is The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye.  This is a YA fantasy set in a Russia-esque world.  The audio sample sounded great, so I picked it up.

Upcoming releases in June

There are two books being released in June about which I”m super excited.

Mark Lawrence releases the finale in his Red Queen’s War series, The Wheel of Osheim.  Now, if The Emperor of Thorns is anything to go by, Lawrence knows how to end a series.  I’m excited to see how he does it.  The Wheel of Osheim comes out on June 7th.  I picked it up on Kindle.

Danielle Paige is releasing another novella in her Dorothy Must Die series called The Order of the Wicked.  While it’s not necessary to have read the novellas to enjoy Paige’s imaginative retelling of the Wizard of Oz, I’ve found they do add a lot of colour and depth to the world.  I’ll certainly be picking up The Order of the Wicked on June 28th when it’s released in ebook only format.

That’s all for today.  Catch up with you soon!

five-stars

BEA 2016 Book Haul – part three of three

BEA 2016 Book HaulHere we go for the third and final post in my BEA 2016 book haul series.  Thank you for sticking with me.

The first book I’d like to talk about, and the obtaining of which was one of my highlights of BEA is Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven King.  This is the fourth and final volume in the The Raven Cycle of which I have read 1.95 books.  (I’m just finishing off The Dream Thieves.)  I loved having the opportunity to meet Maggie and discuss book hangovers with her, and she has said her aim with The Raven King is to leave her readers with the book hangover to end all book hangovers, so I can’t wait!  The Raven King has already been published.

Next up is First Blood by Elly Blake.  This was another of the ARCs available in a roll the dice game.  This is a YA fantasy about a young woman who has fire magic which is a challenge when living in a kingdom controlled by frostbloods, with ice magic.  It sounds intriguing and I look forward to reading it.  First Blood will be released in January 2017.

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett is a YA mystery, but I don’t know much more than that.  I’ll certainly give it a go. It will be released in January 2017.

In the genre of historical fiction one of the few books I picked up was Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, about a young slave who tries to escape from the antebellum South.  Not being from the States, this is a period which fascinates me.  I really look forward to this one.  The Underground Railroad will be released in September 2016.

Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige was one of my must-have books from BEA and I was lucky enough to snag a copy – yay me!  I’ve really been enjoying Paige’s retelling of the Wizard of Oz in her Dorothy Must Die series so I am highly anticipating reading this Snow Queen reworking.  Stealing Snow will be released in September 2016.

While waiting inline for a signing, one kind person offered me a spare copy of Rainbow Rowell’s Kindred Spirits.  This is a short novella of whose existence I was unaware.  It’s about a girl who LOVES Star Wars and the people she meets while waiting in line to see the latest movie.  I adore Rowell’s writing so this will be a pleasure to read.  This book came out in February 2016.

One of the more beautifully presented ARCs of BEA 2016 was Lauren Oliver’s Replica.  It came in a plastic box closed with velcro and the ARC itself is double sided – the same story is told from two different perspectives, so you flip the book one way to read Gemma’s story, the other for Lyra’s.  Replica will be published in October 2016.

News of the World’s Amazon blurb says the following:  In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.  Should be an interesting read.  This book will also be published in October 2016.

Another middle grade story I picked up was Tracey Hecht’s Nocturnals – the Mysterious Abductions.  This tells the tale of three anthromorphised animals who must solve the mystery of the disappearance of their animal friends.  It sounds very cute.  Nocturnals – The Mysterious Abductions was released in April 2016.

The final book in my BEA book haul is The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood.  This is about a mother whose love of a special book helps her through a very difficult time in her life.  Being a booklover myself (obviously) this is one I will be checking out.  The Book That Matters Most is released in August 2016.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey through my BEA 2016 book haul.  As well as a shedload of wonderful books to read I have many happy memories of my trip to Chicago.  Roll on BEA 2017!

BEA 2016 Book Haul – part two of three

BEA 2016 Book HaulWelcome back to the second part of my BEA 2016 book haul.  There are lots of exciting books still to come!

The first book I’d like to mention is Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Kay Kristoff.  This is the sequel to last year’s awesome YA sci-fi thriller Illuminae.  Like its predecessor, Gemina’s formatting plays an integral part in the story, and this is a cool looking ARC.  I plan to re-listen to Illuminae in audiobook format to refresh my memory before starting Gemina – the audiobook was fantastically well done and actually won an Audiie at this years Audie awards.  Go Team Illuminae!  Gemina was another of the hot books at BEA, with people starting to line up hours in advance of the ARC drop.  I was one of the last people in line to actually get one, and I was so happy.  You can pick it up for yourselves in October 2016.

One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank is a young adult contemporary about a young woman who spends a summer in France after her parents’ divorce and father’s remarriage.  I’m hoping it will be in a similar vein to Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss which I adored.  We shall see.  This book is available from June 2017.

Next up is The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick.  I don’t know much about this one, but it appears to be a love story between an Irishwoman and a Frenchman in the setting of an Antarctic research base.  It appears they have been destined to be together since time immemorial, so colour me intrigued.  The Comet Seekers is available in October 2016.

The main reason I picked up Florence Foster Jenkins!!! The Life of the World’s Worst Opera Singer is because of the trailer for the upcoming movie starring Meryl Streep.  The trailer makes Florence sound such an engaging and fascinating character – I look forward to reading her story before seeing the movie.  Check it out from June 2016.

The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles is a book about which I don’t know a great deal.  From the blurb it seems to be a YA thriller novel.  It was blurbed by Peter Jackson of The Lord of the Rings movies, so it does comes with high praise.  Thrillers aren’t generally my cup of tea though, but I’ll give it a go.  It is not available until January 2017.

Keith Donohue’s The Motion of Puppets drew my attention because the protagonist comes from Quebec.  This novel tells the story of a woman who is turned into a puppet and how she and her husband must struggle to be reunited.  It could be an interesting read.  Pick it up in October 2016.

One of the few middle grade books I picked up was The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart.  Reuben finds a magical antique watch and as a result, is drawn into many fantastical adventures and must work to defeat the villainous Smoke.  Should be worth a read.  It’s around from September 2017.

The 13th Continuum is a young adult dystopian novel about a world in which humanity has had to retreat to havens known as Continuums after a cataclysmic event nearly destroys the Earth.  A group of young people has the opportunity to change their reality.  The sequel, Return of the Continuums was also available so I picked it up, too.  The 13th Continuum is already available – it was released in April 2016 – but you’ll need to wait til November 2016 for the sequel.

One of the ARC drops at BEA was a roll the dice game which indicated which book you won.  I ended up with Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott, an author whose works I have very much enjoyed before.  Poisoned Blade is the sequel to Court of Fives, which I have not yet read, so I’d best get on it 🙂  The Poisoned Blade is available in August 2016.

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer is the final book for this part of the haul.  I don’t know much about this one, but I’ve heard of the author’s previous works, so I’ll check it out.  You can read it from September 2016.

That’s all for today folks.  Final book haul post up soon!

BEA 2016 Book Haul – part one of three

BEA 2016 Book HaulHello, and welcome to the first of three posts detailing all the books I picked up at Book Expo in America last week.  It was a wonderful time and I picked up some amazing books.  There’s a lot to get through, so let’s get started.

Of the ARCs I picked up one of the ones I’m most excited about is Caraval by Stephanie Garber.  I was able to snag a ticket to get it signed about which I was very happy.  This is the first in a YA duology by a debut author, and it is certainly getting a lot of buzz.  The tagline for the book is Before you enter the world of Caraval, you must remember that it’s all a game . . .  This sounds really intriguing and it will be one of the first of the ARCs I picked up that I will read.  It is next on my list after finishing Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves.  Caraval will be published in January 2017.

Another book I picked up was Aaron Safronoff’s Sunborn Rising: Beneath the Fall.  This is a YA fantasy book in which Barra and her two friends must work to prevent a blight of creeping vine from destroying the treescape world of Cerulean which is her home.  This is chock full of breathtaking images – one to read in hard copy rather than Kindle I think.  Sunburn Rising: Beneath the Fall will be published later this month in May 2016.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald is a contemporary novel the synopsis of which really spoke to me as a booklover.  It tells the story of Sara, a young woman from Sweden who travels to Broken Wheel, Iowa, to meet with her bookworm penal.  Sadly, on her arrival she finds that her friend has sadly passed away.  Instead of returning to Sweden, Sara decides to remain in Broken Wheel to open a bookshop.  Sounds like a winner to me!  This book hit shelves in January 2016.

As a speaker of both English and French, I was intrigued by When in French (Love in a  Second Language) by Lauren Collins.  This is a memoir detailing Collins’ romance with and marriage to a French speaker and aims to explore how much of our understanding of a different culture is related to language.  I am a native English speaker, married to an Anglophone,  but have lived in both France and Quebec. I am very interested to read of Collins’ take on the matter.  When in French Love in a Second Language is available in September 2016.

Scholastic Audiobooks were also giving out cards to download samples of some of their upcoming books.  These include Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven King, and Everland by Wendy Spinale.  Being an audiobook aficionada, I will definitely be checking these out.

When I saw the title Women Who (Still) Love Cats Too Much I couldn’t resist.  This is a cartoon book by Allia Zobel Nolan and cartoons by Nicole Hollander and I had a nice chat about, what else, cats, when meeting them at BEA.  This book is already available – it was released in September 2015.

Unfortunately, not all the books at BEA were full copies – some were only samplers.  Two of these are very highly anticipated – Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom (the sequel to Six of Crows) and Carve the Mark, the latest novel by Divergent’s Veronica Roth.  I picked them up anyway, although sometimes a sneak peek can be so frustrating if you want more.

Another of the books I was most anticipating from BEA was Sabaa Tahir’s A Torch Against the Night.  This is a sequel to the YA fantasy book An Ember in the Ashes, which I very much enjoyed.  I am anticipating reading about the further adventures of Laia and Elias.  You can pick this up starting in August 2016.

One book with an especially eye-catching cover is The Graces by Laure Eve.  This is a young adult fantasy about three siblings who are witches.  I don’t know much more about it, but it promises to be intriguing.  Check it out in September 2016.

Another book about witches – is that a theme this year? – is Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova.  It’s about an unwilling witch who tries to rid herself of magic, but the spell backfires.  We shall see what it’s about.  Labyrinth Lost is available in September 2016.

All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker is unusual in that they also provided an advanced copy of the audiobook, read by Dylan Baker.  It’s difficult to pinpoint what the book is about – the publicity seems to be focussing on the fact that Reese Witherspoon has bought the film rights.  I guess I’ll find out in due course!  You can find out for yourselves from July 2016.

That’s all I have for today.  More book haul posts to follow!  Let me know if you’re excited about any of these books.

 

Back home from Chicago and Book Expo America!

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So, as I’ve mentioned in my blog before, this year I attended BEA (Book Expo America) in Chicago.  As my books are being shipped, this is not my official BEA book haul – expect that one in a week to ten days!

This was the first time I have attended, and I was both a little nervous and excited.  Although I’ve heard it described as San Diego Comic Con for booklovers, it is a trade show for those in the publishing industry as well as those involved in promoting books through blogs.  Now, I’m passionate about books, but this blog is pretty small fish compared to some and at first, I admit I felt somewhat overwhelmed and, to be honest, a bit of a fraud.  I found myself thinking, I don’t work in publishing should I really be here getting all these free books?  That lasted for about two hours!

It was a great experience meeting some fantastic authors, checking out all the awesome upcoming releases and chatting with like minded bookworms.  Note to self: when waiting in line to meet famous authors, take the time to Wiki their last book if it’s been more than a few months since I read it. This is to prevent excessive fangirling and/or complete mental blank when asked who my favourite character is. With apologies to Leigh Bardugo.  I also caught sight of some of my favourite BookTubers (Kat from Katytastic, Jesse the Reader, Christine from PolandbananasBooks and Natasha from Tashapolis).  Weirdly, I was more intimidated to go up and say hi to them (I woosed out) than to meet my favourite authors!  I think it’s because if you’re standing in an autograph line, you know the author is expecting some kind of interaction.  I never know if I’m bothering the YouTubers.  Sorry, guys, I do love your vlogs even if I didn’t say hi.  

I used the official BEA app on my iPhone and tablet to plan my days at the conference and it worked very well.  I planned which ARCs and autographs I really wanted and focussed my efforts on getting those.  I was able to pick up all but two of the ARCs I really wanted; the two I missed out on were Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin (LOVED Wolf by Wolf) and Marissa Meyer’s Heartless.  Heartless really was THE hot book in town this BEA; tickets sold out within minutes, and it became quite the currency. 

Of the ARCs I picked up there are four about which I am really excited.  I’m really looking forward to reading:

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, this is the sequel to Illuminae, which was amazing.  The formatting of these two books are integral to the story and I’m so excited to read Gemina.

A Torch Against the Night.  This is Sabaa Tahir’s sequel to An Ember in the Ashes which I enjoyed very much.  I can’t wait to see where she takes the characters next.

Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige.  This is the first in a new series by the author of Dorothy Must Die, and is a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.  I really loved what Paige did with her reimagining of The Wizard of Oz for the Dorothy Must Die series, so I’m super excited for this new one.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber.  This is the first in a YA duology by a debut author, and it is certainly getting a lot of buzz.  The tagline for the book is Before you enter the world of Caraval, you must remember that it’s all a game . . .  This sounds really intriguing and it will be one of the first of the ARCs I picked up that I will read.

I got to meet some really amazing authors.  The highlight of BEA for me was probably discussing book hangovers with Maggie Stiefvater. Tahereh Mafi and Ransom Riggs were both signing as was Leigh Bardugo.  I was also lucky enough to have Sabaa Tahir sign her latest book – that was probably the longest line I waited in other than that for Maggie and Marissa. 

So, I’ve returned from Chicago with many happy memories and a box full of wonderful books.  Check back later for my full BEA book haul.

The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan – Review

The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan – ReviewThe Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
Series: The Trials of Apollo #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 384 pages
Genres: Children's, Contemporary Fantasy, Humorous
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The Trials of Apollo Book One The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan is the start of a new Greek mythology series from middle grade staple Rick Riordan.  This new series centres around the god Apollo, who has been stripped of his godly powers by his father, Zeus.  Naturally, adventures and shenanigans ensue.

For me this read a little younger than the Heroes of Olympus series, more in line with Percy Jackson.  Apollo’s human persona is aged 16, but he spends a lot of time hanging around with 13 year old Meg which naturally makes the feel of the book somewhat younger.  Also, there is no emphasis at all on romantic relationships.

What I liked

Riordan’s writing style.  After many series including Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Heroes of Olympus, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Riordan’s light, witty style should be familiar to most readers.  If you enjoyed the earlier books, you will certainly enjoy this one.  They are very funny.  I breezed through The Hidden Oracle in an afternoon.  While it is not necessary to have read the earlier series, I would strongly recommend doing so before picking up this latest one.  There are many references to characters and events from previous entries that, while not necessary to enjoy the story, are enhanced by knowledge of both of the other Olympian series.

The protagonist. I was amused by Apollo – his attitude and the circumstances he kept finding himself in.  In theme it’s very similar to Marvel’s Thor movie in which a god becomes mortal but takes some time to adjust to his new situation.  I enjoyed Apollo’s character development and how he changes throughout the course of the adventure.  I do have some concerns if that level of character development can be sustained through the other four planned books in the series, but time will tell.

Catchups on our other favourite demigods.  In this book we touch base with our heroes from the previous series.  It was good to hear how Percy, Annabeth, Jason, Piper, Leo and the others are all getting on with their post Gaea lives.

What I didn’t like

Perhaps because this was aimed at a younger audience, at times it was a little formulaic, especially if you know the previous book.  Still, it’s more than made up for by Riordan’s wit and humour.

In summary, if you’ve enjoyed the previous books, you will certainly enjoy The Trials of Apollo.  I gave it four stars out of five.

four-stars

Reading roundup – April 29th 2016

Hello and welcome to another reading roundup.  I’ve clearly been on a bit of a social history kick lately – all of the books I’ve read and/or listened to in the last couple of weeks have had social change as a strong theme.  Let me tell you about them.

Reading roundup – April 29th 2016The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
Also in this series: Julian Fellowes's Belgravia
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Fiona Hardingham
Length: 15 hrs and 47 mins
Genres: Social History
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The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson is a slice-of-life look at an English town in the summer of 1914, just before the First World War.  This conflict had a profound impact on British life, especially in terms of the class system and women’s role in society and so this particular period of time about which Simonson writes is a real turning point.  The author clearly has a strong knowledge of and interest in social history and it comes across very well in the book.

Add to this wonderful, engaging characters (I’m heavily invested in our protagonist Beatrice Nash and young Snout) and this is a great read.  I’m about two thirds of the way through the audiobook and enjoying it very much.  Fiona Hardingham is undertaking narration duties and does an excellent job of distinguishing all the characters.

Reading roundup – April 29th 2016Julian Fellowes' Belgravia by Julian Fellowes
Series: Belgravia
Also in this series: Julian Fellowes's Belgravia
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Juliet Stevenson
Length: Approx 11 hours
Genres: Social History
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The second social historical audiobook I’m enjoying is Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia.  Fellowes is, of course, known for the wonderful Downton Abbey television series, which follows the Crawley family through a period of history that saw major social change in the UK.  How accurate it was is a different discussion.  Belgravia is set a few years earlier, on the eve of Waterloo, but again it follows a family through a period of social change.

The interesting thing about Belgravia is that is being published in a serial format.  There are eleven episodes, each one around one hour long, narrated by Juliet Stevenson.  The first four episodes have been published – of which I have listened to one – and the others are following weekly.  Each episode costs around $2.50 with a complete book to be published when the series is complete.  I enjoyed the first episode and intend to keep following it.

Reading roundup – April 29th 2016The Translation of Love by Lynne Katsukake
Format: eBook
Pages: 336 pages
Genres: Social History
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The final book I’d like to talk about is The Translation of Love by Lynne Kutsukake.  This is a non-typical choice for me.  It tells the story of Aya, a young second generation Japanese Canadian who along with her father at the end of the Second World War after life in an interment camp is forced to choose between moving east of the Rockies or repatriation to Japan.  (Not a great period in Canada’s history).  She moves to Japan where her path intersects with that of Fumi, a young Japanese girl trying to find her sister and that of Matt Matsumoto, a Japanese American who serves in the office of General MacArthur translating the thousands of letters received by the General from Japanese citizens requesting his aid.

I’m about a third of the way through this and am enjoying it very much.  I am unfamiliar with much of Japanese culture, but Kutsukake is doing an excellent job of describing it through the eyes of Canadian born Aya who, raised in Vancouver, is more Canadian than Japanese in outlook.  I am also very much appreciating the characters and following their story.

Upcoming books in May

There are three books coming out in May about which I am very excited. 

First, we have The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle, by Rick Riordan.  This is a new series set in his Percy Jackson Greek/Roman world, but this time there is a twist.  His protagonist is the god Apollo himself, who, stripped of his powers by Zeus, must live as a mortal – with Percy and friends’ help of course!  I love Rick Riordan’s writing style, humour and world building so this is a no brainer for me.  I have pre-ordered it in both Kindle and Audible formats.

The Hidden Oracle is released on May 3rd.  

Also on May 3rd we have the release of The Crown, the fifth and final book in Keira Cass’s Selection series.  The Selection has always been my guilty pleasure with its soapy mix of The Bachelor(ette) meets Cinderella meets dystopian YA fiction and again this was another no brainer, especially as the previous book left a real cliffhanger ending.  I pre-ordered The Crown in Kindle format.

The final book about which I am excited, also being released on May 3rd is A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas.  This is the second in the Court of Thorns and Roses series.  Although I prefer Maas’ Throne of Glass series, I did enjoy a Court of Thorns and Roses and expect to enjoy the sequel.  I have pre-ordered A Court of Mist and Fury in Kindle format.

That’s all I have today.  Enjoy your reading and perhaps I’ll meet some of you next month at the Book Expo of America!

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld – Review

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld – ReviewEligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Series: The Austen Project #4
Also in this series: Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Length: 13 hrs and 21 mins
Genres: Contemporary, Classics
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Evelynne's rating: one-half-stars

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is the fourth in the Austen Project of modern retellings of Jane Austen’s novels and attempts to bring her classic Pride and Prejudice into the 21st century.  Having read the other three Austen adaptations, I was intrigued to see how Sittenfeld would update the story of Elizabeth, Darcy, Jane and Bingley.  From experience I know that Austen adaptations, when done well, can be wonderful. (check out The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube if you don’t believe me.)

I really, really wanted to like this book – I love Jane Austen, and the pre released teaser sample sounded excellent – but no matter how hard I tried, it didn’t sit well with me.  In the interests of fairness, given how well known and beloved Pride and Prejudice has become, it was always going to be one of the trickier ones to adapt.  Let me talk about what I liked first.

What I liked

The modernisation.  Many things in the update worked surprisingly well.  The transfer of the action from Hertfordshire to Cincinnati was seamless and gave a very similar flavour of the small town mentality that caused Darcy’s snobbish attitude.  The Bennet family’s future being at risk because of the lack of a male heir is not something that would fit well with a modern tale, so Sittenfeld uses a more up to date threat which works in well.  Surprisingly the whole reality TV show plotline adapts well and served to enhance both the story and the characters.

The narration.  I listened to Eligible in audiobook format.  Narration duties were undertaken by Cassandra Campbell who did a great job of narrating the tales of the Bennet sisters.  I chose the book in audiobook format because of the sneak peek narration.

What I didn’t like

The chapter break up.  The audiobook is 13 hours and 21 minutes long, so approximately 800 minutes.  This is relatively short in terms of audiobooks.  I believe the hard copy comes in at around 500 pages.  There are over 180 chapters in the book.  Let me say that again.  One hundred and eighty chapters.  This means that, on average, there is a new chapter roughly every four minutes.  Some chapters last less than 40 seconds.  Especially in the audiobook I found it extremely distracting and detrimental to my engagement in the story to have it broken up so frequently.

Character development.  My biggest issue with Eligible was that I didn’t feel Sittenfeld accurately portrayed – or even at times understood – Austen’s wonderful characters and/or their journeys.  It is fair to say that, perhaps her interpretation of Elizabeth, Jane and Lydia just isn’t the same as mine; however I would argue that they also differ from Austen’s.

To take Lydia first; while both Austen’s and Sittenfeld’s youngest Bennet sister is young, immature and, yes, does occasionally push the boundaries of propriety I have never perceived her as being downright crude and vulgar as she comes across in Eligible.  Admittedly, I will never be able to read P&P with an Austen era mentality, so I could be wrong here. Secondly, Lydia’s story arc in Austen’s original has her family (and ultimately Darcy) having to step in to protect her from the consequences of an imprudent and ill considered decision.  While it is not an easy task to come up with a modern storyline that has the same shock value and social repercussions that nineteeth century Lydia’s running off alone with a man would have, and I can see what Sittenfeld was trying to do, I personally disagree with her choice.  At that point in the story I found myself thinking “What imprudent decision?  What consequences?”  Sittenfeld even has her Lydia try to sit down with her parents and discuss her decision before taking action and the impression I was left with was that it was a far more balanced and thought out decision than Austen’s Lydia would have made.  

Jane’s character arc, too, wasn’t always given the service it should have.  In my mind, in the original, Jane’s character flaw was that she wasn’t confident enough to express her feelings adequately to Bingley.  This allowed Darcy to interfere in the relationship believing that she was not very strongly attached to Bingley.  This is a flaw which she must overcome to achieve her happy ending.  In Sittenfeld’s reworking, it’s Jane’s circumstances which force her to be more reserved about expressing her feelings, therefore no flaw, no character development.

Finally, we come to Elizabeth, the second oldest Bennet sister.  My impression of Elizabeth from Austen’s original was that she is an intelligent, strong willed woman, who has a strong sense of self worth and who is not prepared to compromise that.  Sittenfeld’s description of her Liz’s relationship with Jasper does not show a woman with a strong sense of self worth.  Perhaps that’s Eligible Liz’s character arc, to regain that sense of self, but it’s not the arc of Austen’s character, and as such I didn’t feel it should have been part of the story, especially as Austen’s Elizabeth already has a strong character development arc in overcoming her prejudice of Darcy.

While there were some excellently written parts of Eligible, for me, it is the weakest of the Austen project books in terms of bringing Austen’s characters to life in a modern setting.  I gave Eligible only 1.5 stars out of five.

If you want to see a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice done well, I recommend you rather take a look at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube.

one-half-stars

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon – Review

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon – ReviewDrums of Autumn Format: eBook
Pages: 896 pages
Genres: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon is the fourth in the time travelling historical fiction series following our protagonists Claire and Jamie Fraser as they attempt to start a new life in the American Colonies.

Weighing in at nearly 900 pages, or 44 hrs and 54 mins of audiobook, this is a real behemoth of a book.  It’s also the book on my shelf that’s taken me the longest to read.  GoodReads tells me that I finished the previous book in the series, Voyager, back in April 2015, and I started Drums of Autumn around that time.  This means that Drums of Autumn has taken me almost a year to finish.

I read it in chunks.  I would read a large section – usually when the Outlander TV series piqued my interest again – and then struggle to continue and put it aside for other books.  It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it; I simply struggled to maintain my interest to read 800+ pages over a short period.  

What I liked

The characters.  I love the characters in the book, particularly Claire and Jamie and their unconventional romance.  Gabaldon has said that she wanted to show a mature relationship – one in which the partners have been together for many years – and she certainly achieves that with Claire and Jamie.  Brianna and Roger also take centre stage in this book and that was wonderful to read.

The Jamie/Brianna relationship.  For me, this was one of the highlights of the book.  I adored the interactions between Jamie and his daughter.  They are both stubborn Frasers, with differing views of morality due to their different upbringings in different centuries and both have red headed tempers.  it was clear that things were never going to go smoothly for them.  I loved that Claire was stuck in the middle and was uncertain if she should physically separate them or let them fight it out.  What was particularly beautifully written was the way in which Jamie’s and Brianna’s past experiences created a real bond and connection between them.

What I didn’t like

Repetition.  I must admit, earlier parts of the book are rather foggy in my memory having been read almost a year ago, but I seem to remember there was a distinct pattern of Jamie and/or Claire getting into some kind of situation in which they are in mortal danger and then they are rescued.  Rinse and repeat.  Given that this is the fourth in a (likely) ten book series, there was absolutely no dramatic tension at all.  There was no way either of our two main protagonists was not going to survive.  I imagine this was intended to provide colour to show how dangerous their environment was, and perhaps to develop their relationship, but I must admit I found it a little tedious after a while.

All in all I really enjoyed Drums of Autumn and gave it four stars out of five.

four-stars
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