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  1. Yesterday
  2. Well a lot of things happened since I updated this! I think it's about time I got back it. I decided to go for a bit of a different format, so this update doesn't take too long! Since Soot I have read fourteen books: In reading order (from the bottom of the pile): Sourcery by Terry Pratchett - 5/5 You know I love Terry Pratchett, it was never going to be less than 5 The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar - 3.5/5 This had a very interesting plot, set in the late eighteenth century and based partly on the true story of a merchant ship being exchanged for a mermaid. If you've seen this book on goodreads you might have noticed that it's categorised as 'magical realism' and I disagree with that. There is, maybe, one moment in the book that could be described as magical realism and even that seems more metaphorical than intentionally 'magical'. The mermaid theme runs through the book but it is more about a courtesan (Angelica Neal). There are elements of Angelica's story which are genuinely interesting and there is quite a clever development in how the reader feels about Angelica throughout the book. On the other hand, there were quite large sections of the book where I was just thinking 'where is this going?'. It's definitely not one to pick up if you're looking for a fast pace! I very nearly gave up on the book about half way through, because it seemed as though it was turning into a predictable romance, but I'm glad I stuck with it because I was surprised by the ending. I think the author has a lot to say about sex workers, the nature of desire, the concept of beauty and women's freedom. Unfortunately (and there is a good chance this is just because I wasn't really in the mood for this sort of book) I only really appreciated those things after I'd finished reading and looked back at the various elements of the plot. While I was actually reading the book I felt more like I was constantly waiting for something to happen until about the last quarter. False Value by Ben Aaronovitch - 4.5/5 This series is brilliant and it always feels exciting to meet new characters, find out what's happening with the old ones and discover more about the potential of magic with Peter Grant. I knocked half a start off this for a couple of really small reasons. One contains a spoiler for anybody who hasn't read the previous book, Lies Sleeping, so just in case: The one other very slight thing, which I've heard a few people mention, was all the references to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. There are always 'geeky' references in the Peter Grant books and usually they're quite funny, like sharing an 'in-joke' with the author. There were so many references in False Value though that if you aren't familiar with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy you would be very confused. I have spoken to someone who read the book and didn't understand the references and it just made it seem to them that there was some kind of weird clue that wasn't ever being explained. I understood the references (only because I've seen the film!) but by the end I had started to think they felt a bit silly and (I'm aware this might sound a bit hypocritical when I'm reading a book about wizards in London) made things feel less realistic. I think the latter issue is probably because they act as a constant reminder of the author's presence, which isn't what you want when the narrative is first person, from Peter's perspective. BUT, it's still another great book. All of the good things are still there. I really enjoyed reading it and the ending, as always, left me wondering what's going to happen in the next book. I think I've just talked about all the things I like in this series so much already it's easier to identify the things I didn't like as much . Roots of Corruption by Laura Laakso - 4.5/5 This is the third book in the 'Wilde Investigations' series and they keep getting better. There's a host of really well developed, memorable characters. There's always something new to discover about how magic works and what's possible (a bit like with the Peter Grant books actually!) and I can never guess how the mystery is going to end. This one cleverly explains something that's hinted about in the first book and, in doing so, opens up a whole other aspect of the world to explore. Something I'm sure we'll be doing in the next book. It also made me cry at one point and I don't think I can entirely blame the somewhat stressful state of the world at the time of reading... Things in Jars by Jess Kidd - 5/5 This book had so many of my favourite things; detectives, folklore, my favourite decade (the 1860s). Unlike The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, this one actually could be categorised as magical realism. The main character and detective, Bridie, is a brilliant and very likeable character. The setting and sense of being in the Victorian era is very nicely done. The world feels real and not cliched. There a two separate supernatural elements. One is in the form of a ghost, which I won't say too much about for fear of spoilers, but I loved him just as much as Bridie. The other is a central part of the mystery and where the folklore comes in. This whole element of the story was great. I love reading about the folklore of different places generally and the way it was portrayed for this story was both compelling and believable. Again without giving too much away, part of the supernatural element of this story involves the ability to make people remember things they have tried to forget. This ended up being surprisingly emotional and added a side to the story that I wasn't expecting but loved. It was also just brilliantly written. So 5/5 for this one . Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie - 5/5 (This book is actually half the size of the book in the picture, that edition contains 'A Murder is Announced' too). I think I read this at just the right moment. I'd had a bit of a reading slump. I didn't know what I felt like. The world was being particularly mad, as it has been this year, and I just wanted something that would hold my attention but also be quite relaxing. This was just perfect. The narrative voice, practical and assured, is very relaxing and easy to read. The mystery itself is, I suppose, what people call a 'cosy mystery'. Yes there's been a murder, but there's no really gruesome elements and no sense of fear or even real urgency. It's just interesting to find out how Poirot will solve the puzzle. And it was a really excellent puzzle! One day I would love to go on the Orient Express! Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett - 5/5 I'm sure I've reviewed this here before so I'll just repeat, I really love Terry Pratchett. To be continued...
  3. How many books have you read this year?

    I am currently on book no. 61.
  4. OK, time for another update. As I've got quite a few books to get through my thoughts will probably be fairly brief. Storming the Eagle's Nest by Jim Ring (3/5) I orginally thought this was a book purely about the final assault on the Eagle's nest but it is in fact about was war in the Alps and Switzerland. It was a solid read and filled in some gaps in my knowledge about WWII as I knew pretty much nothing about the Alpine campaigns. Minimalism by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus (3/5) Not much of a book, more of an extended pamphlete about the basics of minimalism. It reads like a collection of organised blog posts which is what I suspect it is. My one take away thought from this book is that minimalism is a hell of a lot easier if you have already made a decent chunk of money in your life as these two have. Moby Dick by Herman Melville (2/5) This has been on my 'must read' list of years and I finally decided to pick it up. I really enjoyed the initial chapters in which we find a land-based Ishmael looking for work on a boat and meeting Queequeg. After that, a combination of the very dense language and microscopic details about whales started to grate on me. I'm glad I read it but I can't say I enjoyed it. Cherry by Nico Walker (3/5) I have no idea how this ended up in my wishlist but I bought it recently on a book buying binge. It tells the story of an American army medic who turns to drugs and bank robberies shortly after getting out of the military. A bit of further reading reveals this is a pretty autobiographical story. The writing itself is ok but nothing special and I can't say I really engaged with any of the characters. I think I was expected to have sympathy with the protagonist but I really hated him and his actions. The Second Sleep by Robert Harris (4/5) I really like Robert Harris, I don't think I've read a book of his that I didn't really enjoy. I can't really expand without spoliers but this book explores a theme I've been really interested in recently and although it doesn't hit it out of the park I think it does a pretty decent job. A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre (4/5) I've read loads of spy books but this was the first about one of the Cambridge spy ring. Superbly written as usual by Ben Macintyre, it covers all of Philby's life and how failings in the intelligence services allowed him to operate for as long as he did. It also explores the differences in the way the British, American, and Soviets dealt with their own citizens who were caught spying. Night by Ellie Wiesel (5/5) A really superb account of a young boy's experiences going from Sighet in Transylvania to Auschwitz. This book was a really emotional read and the sort of thing that should be taught in schools in my opinion. Bravely, Weisel also covers some of the more controversial aspects of his experiences when he effectively had to put his life before someone else's. Doing that must have been hard but admitting it and putting it into words afterwards for others to see must have been even harder. Solar by Ian McEwan (3/5) A novel about a scientist, Michael Beard who's life is falling apart both professionally and personally when an unexpected escape lands in his lap. He takes the escape and then has to deal with the consequences afterwards. This was an entertaining enough read and I enjoyed it more than I expected to. The Girl Before by J P Delaney (4/5) A young couple are given the opportunity to move into an amazing home as long as they stick to a long list of rules. It soon turns out that tragedy seems to be anchored to the property and the book alternates between the life of the current occupants and the previous one. I had fairly low expectations coming into this book but I found myself really drawn it to more and more. At times I just couldn't put it down and there were several times when I changed my mind about the 'truth'. It loses a star because I thought the ending was a little weak and the sex scenes a bit '50 shades'. King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild (4/5) I was reading sme Goodreads reviews abouty a month ago about Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and several reviewers mentioned this book. I knew nothing about the history of the Belgian Congo and this book is highly thought of so I decided to give it a go. It's a really good history of King Leopold II and his brutal involvement and treatment in Congo. This book is really well researched, and it also covers direct accounts of normal African's who were involved instead of just scholarly sources. Out of Bounds by Val McDermid (4/5) The 4th Karen Pirie book in the series and probably the best one so far. I only discovered Val McDermid last year and the series has been really good so far. I really like the fact that Pirie isn't particularly glamorous and that she doesn't have the usual 'failings' that super detectives have in crime novels. I'm also really warming the character of Jason Murray, her slightly dopey sidekick, as well. A History of Britain Vol 2 by Simon Schama (3/5) This has been my most recent audiobook and it followed on from my listening of volume 1 of the trilogy. This book covers the period of 1603-1776 and in particular the British civil wars. I didn't find this book as engaging as the first and this is a common issue I have with the time period involved. The civil wars involve so many characters that I find it hard to keep track of them all. I'm starting to think that this is a subject so big that you could dedicate a book to each 5 year period and still have to leave out quite a lot of detail. Depsite my reservations I still thought it was a worthwhile listen and although I may take a break from the series now, I will listen to the final installment before the end of the year. I've now finished 66 books in 2020 and I'm running up against a bit of a mental barrier. At the start of the year I had no intention of aiming for 100 books but I am on track to achieve it quite by accident. My issue is that on the one hand I want to hit the target now, but on the other hand I find myself picking shorter books off my shelves instead of going for some of the bigger ones that I would really like to read. If I do decide to carry on towards 100 I don't think I will pick a target next year as it's definitely affecting what I choose to read.
  5. Thanks for the recommendations. I've seen the movie Hidden Figures which I really enjoyed but the book sounds like it would be great to flesh out the true story behind it.
  6. I'm currently on 66 books.
  7. Read-a-thon 2020

    Oooh that's exciting! If you'd rather move the September read-a-thon forward a week to the 11th-13th September, so you have a better chance to participate, that would be fine with me!
  8. Read-a-thon 2020

    I'm glad you had fun reading ! EDIT: The next read-a-thon is scheduled for 4, 5, 6 September. I will have just moved (moving is in just over a week now!) so will have to see how things are by then, if I have time and energy to participate.
  9. Last week
  10. What's the weather like?

    29°C in the shade, and not much breeze. I think I’m starting to melt..... Haven't had much rain or thunder in NW Shropshire, just one short shower on Monday, though I can hear some rumbling in the distance.
  11. Read-a-thon 2020

    Oops I forgot to update on Sunday! I think the heat is melting my brain. After I finished The House Without Windows I read about half of The Magpie Tree on Sunday. I’m really happy with how much I read and it was really nice to focus on reading for a couple of days. I’m glad everyone else enjoyed it too
  12. Kindle and ebooks deals

    Crikey, sorry, I'd no idea the attachment was going to be so huge. I thought I'd add some colour... Should I take it down?
  13. Kindle and ebooks deals

    'Immortality: This is Probably a Novel' by Anna Faversham is 0.99 on Amazon as an ebook until 16th August or FREE for Kindle Unlimited members. If a stranger said to you, “Let me take you to the world’s best kept secret,” would you go? Chester was not given the choice and he’d much rather be with Kate, the woman he loves and has left behind. In fear of his life, he is hiding in a remote cabin in New Zealand, so who is this person and what is this secret? You are invited into a mystery: intriguing, exciting and deadly. Powerful, moving and thought provoking.
  14. Hi Chrissy, it certainly is. Hope you and family are well?
  15. Even with extensive accurate research, It's incredibly difficult to convey the feeling of being in Victorian times; some quite successful authors (in my opinion) have failed utterly and their novels feel like a stage play set in modern times. Do you think you have avoided that?
  16. My question got answered already! Kirk I can see you have put a lot of effort into the research. This tunnel book sounds like something I must have as well!
  17. Firstly, congratulations on surpassing your Kickstarter goal for The Girl Who Wasn’t There! Thank you, in the first 24 hours the project did really well thanks to some amazing backers. (you can find Kirk's Kickstarter page here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/52ravens/the-girl-who-wasnt-there ) The Girl Who Wasn’t There isn’t your first book though, you also used Kickstarter to publish The Sisterhood of Blood, a book which follows the lives of twelve female vampires in Victorian London, each one inspired by a set of playing cards you designed. You mention, on your Kickstarter page, that The Girl Who Wasn’t There was inspired by a stage production of The Woman in Black. Would you say that the ideas behind your stories always have a visual origin and, if so, do you think that influences the way that you write? The idea for the Sisterhood stories came when the playing card project was in production. I wanted to explore the lives behind the characters on the cards, and soon an ever-expanding world began to form around them. For The Girl Who Wasn’t There, I set myself a challenge to write a ghost story. It came after reading an article that discussed how modern horror films have started to have ‘happy ever after’ endings. This is so that people leave the cinema feeling good, even after the horror they’ve witnessed. Classic horrors in books and films, don’t do this. I struggled with The Woman In Black book, sometimes I find it difficult to connect with a story, the film wasn’t great and it had a happy ending that didn’t sit right. So after we went to see the amazing stage performance in London, I finally saw the true ending. I read the book in full, and I knew I wanted to write a ghost story that doesn’t have a happy ending. You’ll have to read The Girl Who Wasn’t There to find out if I succeeded. You obviously have an interest in the Victorian era. What is it about that time that appeals to you? I think it is such an interesting time. On one side we have wealth, luxury, industrial invention that changed the world, but on the other side, underneath all the glamour, millions of people suffered beyond understanding within the city of London. The contrast between the two sides is only separated by a thin line, so it holds a wealth of inspiration. I highly recommend a walk around London’s street. You will be surprised how much of Victorian London is visible, it's hidden among modern architecture but it's still there if you know where to look. Is historical accuracy important to these stories and, if so, how did you ensure that they would be historically accurate? Even though my stories have been about ghosts and vampires, I feel that grounding them within the real world helps to give the fictional world some strength. I’ve tried to keep as much realism as possible so that it feels like the stories could be true. I started out researching Victorian London and soon it became an obsession for me. I have a huge pile of books published from the time as I felt the words of the people had more value to them than historians second-guessing. I even went as far as to study maps from the time to make sure streets and roads were there, which sounds crazy but I really wanted to make sure that if someone looked up a detail from the story that they would find it. All of this helped massively for the Sisterhood stories and they are full of little historic facts. With The Girl Who Wasn’t There, I needed to make sure I had an understanding of the housemaids working life and this came from a diary and letters written at the time. You’d had successful Kickstarter projects even before The Sisterhood of Blood, with your custom playing cards. Did you explore other publishing options for your books before deciding to go with Kickstarter, or had your earlier experience with Kickstarter already prompted that decision? As I had started with the Sisterhood playing cards on Kickstarter it felt natural to release the stories on there for the people that backed the project. So when it came to The Girl Who Wasn’t There it was an easy decision to release the book on the site first. Kickstarter also allows you to create additional items that backers can pledge for, like the Victorian Tunnel Book that I have for The Girl Who Wasn’t There. These items are exclusive to the Kickstarter project and they make a nice keepsake that ties in with the story, something you can’t do with normal publishing. What was the biggest challenge you faced, publishing a book using Kickstarter? Admittedly Kickstarter can be restricting as a publishing platform in the sense that it will only go ahead if you meet your funding goal, but this also means that there are no upfront costs as a self-publisher. Marketing can always be difficult, but with Kickstarter, your project is placed in front of people that are looking to back a project that they can connect with, which can be less scary than self-publishing to amazon and being lost in a sea of books. Is there anything you learned from publishing your first book that helped you with The Girl Who Wasn’t There? I never intended to release the Sisterhood outside of Kickstarter as I knew I was targeting the playing card project backers. But with The Girl Who Wasn’t There, I’ve placed it on Kickstarter as a comfort blanket. I wanted this one to head out into the world to a small group of people. I’m very self-critical, and the idea of people reading my work is quite scary, so with this book, I’m testing the water and depending on the response I may look into amazon or approaching a publisher. Without giving too much of the plot away, you chose a female heroine for this book which has themes of isolation and entrapment. Will the particular experience of women in this era, particularly working class women, be a leading theme in the book? The main character, Lucy, had grown up in the workhouse and then sent out into the world to look for work once old enough. For young women of this time, working as a servant girl was extremely common. You would work from five in the morning to ten at night, nonstop and with great physical effort. There wasn’t much room for a personal life, no days off. Many became institutionalised by this lifestyle, trapped within their work as the alternative was street life. When Lucy is sent to Corvus Creek Manor, no matter how hard it becomes for her, she reminds herself that there isn’t anywhere else to go. She becomes trapped and this forces her to discover the meaning behind the strange events that occur. What do you hope your readers will feel when they read The Girl Who Wasn’t There? Fingers crossed, if I’ve done my job well, the readers should feel tense and scared of the ghostly appearance. With the isolated location and the fear of the fact that there is nowhere else to go, I hope the reader wills Lucy to discover the reason these events are happening, and finish the story satisfied that the haunting tale was worth the journey. Yes! If anybody has any questions just post them here or send them to me in a private message before Saturday 15th August .
  18. Quick book thoughts. Bianca Toeps - Maar je ziet er helemaal niet autistisch uit (re-read) I re-read this after finishing Druks (see previous post). Dutch autism memoir published by the same publisher as Druks. Elise Cordaro - Anders gaat ook (re-read) I wanted to re-read this memoir as well (autism and ADHD memoir) Tomohito Oda - Komi Can't Communicate 3: Volume 3 Tomohito Oda - Komi Can't Communicate 4: Volume 4 I enjoyed reading books 3 and 4 in this manga series. Christophe Chabouté - Alone (Tout Seul) This was a nice graphic novel about a person alone in a lighthouse. Pam Smy - Thornhill This book is part textbook (prose) and part illustrations / graphic novel. I liked it. Brandon Mull - Fablehaven 1: Fablehaven Middle-grade fantasy, I read this together with a friend. It was quite good. Jeff Lemire - Roughneck Graphic novel about a former ice-hockey player and his sister. She is on the run from her abusive ex. This was a nice read. Craig Thompson - Blankets This is part graphic novel and part graphic memoir, I'm not sure how much of it is fiction. It's about Craig growing up, with his Christian family, the relationship with his brother and Craig as a teenager falling in love with a teenage girl. I liked the book for the most part. E. K. Weaver - The Less Than Epic Adventures of T. J. and Amal (1-3) This is an omnibus of the whole story. Two men (Amal and T. J.) meet and decide to go on a road trip together, and fall in love. I really liked it.
  19. Read-a-thon 2020

    I'm glad you enjoyed it ! Thank you! Thanks, my granddad is doing okay under the circumstances gladly . Haha! Yay! I'm glad you are liking it ! Yesterday (Sunday) I finished off Blankets by Craig Thompson (548 pages read on Sunday). I also read The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by E. K. Weaver (527 pages). I had a lot of fun reading during this read-a-thon!
  20. What's the weather like?

    Agreed! Records were broken here in the Netherlands the past few days. I hope things cool down soon over there. They predict the heatwave here will last until Friday, we shall see (they said Thursday before..)..
  21. Finished Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson, a reread of a much loved book for one of my book groups. As good as ever! 6/6 Moving on to another favourite for another book group: The Outrun by Amy Liptrot.
  22. Read-a-thon 2020

    I started volume 1 of Komi Can’t Communicate today, and it’s very good too.
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