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Hayley's Reading in 2020

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I love starting a fresh new book blog :D

 

This year I've set my Goodreads goal to 50, again, and maybe this will be the year I make it! I'm also determined to keep my reading list here up to date, which I was really rubbish at last year. Quite a few books have been added to my shelf (and floor... and under my bed... and basically in every available space) since last January, so here we go...

 

On My Shelf

 

 Abercrombie, Joe. Best Served Cold

Abercrombie, Joe. Half a King

Abercrombie, Joe. Half the World

Abercrombie, Joe. Red Country

Adams, Douglas. The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Adams, Douglas. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Adams, Douglas. Life, The Universe and Everything

Adams, Douglas. So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish

Atwood, Margaret. The Testaments

Ballantyne, R.M. The Coral Island

Banks, Iain. The Bridge

Banks, Iain M. The Algebraist

Banks Iain M. Excession

Banks Iain M. Feersum Endjinn

Banks Iain M. Inversions

Banks, Iain M. Look to Windward

Banks Iain M. Matter

Banks Iain M. The Player of Games

Banks Iain M. Use of Weapons

Barker, Clive. Weaveworld

Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451

Brennan, Marie, A Natural History of Dragons

British Myths and Legends vol. 1: Marvels and Magic. ed. Richard Barber

British Myths and Legends vol. 2: Heroes and Saints. "

British Myths and Legends vol 3. History and Romance. "

Brontë, Anne. Agnes Grey

Brontë, Anne. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Brontë, Charlotte. The Professor

Brontë, Charlotte. Shirley

Brontë, Charlotte. Villette

Burton, Jessie. The Muse

Butcher, Jim. Cold Days

Butcher, Jim. Dead Beat

Butcher, Jim. Proven Guilty

Byatt, A.S. The Children's Book

Caldecott, Andrew. Rotherweird

Christie, Agatha. Murder on the Orient Express 

Clarke, Susanna. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Clarke, Susanna, The Ladies of Grace Adieu

Classic Victorian and Edwardian Ghost Stories ed. Rex Collings

Collins, Bridget. The Binding

Collins, Wilkie. The Haunted Hotel and Other Stories

Connolly, John. The Book of Lost Things

Cox, Tom. Help the Witch

De Muriel, Oscar. Loch of the Dead

Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories Vol. 1

Dickens, Charles. Nicholas Nickleby

Dickens, Charles. The Old Curiosity Shop

Dickens, Charles. The Pickwick Papers

Dumas, Alexandre. The Three Musketeers

Eco, Umberto. The Name of the Rose 

Evans, Claire. The Fourteenth Letter

Faulks, Sebastian. Birdsong

Fforde, Jasper. One of Our Thursdays is Missing

Fforde, Jasper. The Woman Who Died A Lot 

Gaylin, Alison. Into the Dark

Gowar, Imogen Hermes. The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock

Grahame, Kenneth. The Wind in the Willows

Grossmith, George and Weedon. The Diary of a Nobody

Halls, Stacey. The Familiars

Hardie, Titania. The Rose Labyrinth

Hardy, Thomas. Under the Greenwood Tree

Harkness, Deborah. Shadow of Night

Harkness, Deborah. Time's Convert

Horowitz, Anthony. Magpie Murders

Hoving, Isabel. The Dream Merchant

Jemisin, N.K. Fifth Season

Jemisin, N.K. The Obelisk Gate

Jemisin, N.K. The Stone Sky

Kidd, Jess. Things in Jars

le Carre, John. A Most Wanted Man

Lynch, Scott, The Lies of Locke Lamora

Marston, Edward. The Iron Horse

Marston, Edward. Murder on the Brighton Express

Marston, Edward. The Railway Viaduct

McDermid, Val. The Distant Echo

Miéville, China. Kraken

Miéville, China. The Scar

Mirless, Hope. Lud -in-the-Mist

More, Thomas. Utopia

Morton, Kate. The Distant Hours

Mosse, Kate. Citadel

Mosse, Kate. The Taxidermist's Daughter

Owen, Lauren. The Quick

Peake, Mervyn. Titus Groan

Peake, Mervyn. Gormenghast

Peake, Mervyn. Titus Alone

Perry, Sarah. The Essex Serpent

The Penguin Book of English Short Stories Ed. Christopher Dolley 

Pratchett, Terry. I Shall Wear Midnight

Price, Steven, By Gaslight

Purcell, Laura. Bone China

Russel, Craig. Brother Grimm

Setterfield, Diane. The Thirteenth Tale

Stansfield, Katherine. The Magpie Tree

Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men

Taylor, Jodi, And the Rest is History

Taylor, Jodi. A Trail Through Time

Tolkien, J.R.R. Tree and Leaf, Smith of Wooton Major, The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth

Vance, Jack, City of the Chasch

Vance, Jack, The Dirdir

Vance, Jack, Emphyrio

Vance, Jack, The Eyes of the Overworld

Vance, Jack, The Gray Prince

Vance, Jack, The Green Pearl

Vance, Jack, The Houses of Iszm

Vance, Jack, Madouc

Vance, Jack, The Many Worlds of Magnus Ridolph

Vance, Jack, Rhialto the Marvellous

Vance, Jack, Servants of the fiddleh

Vance, Jack, To Live Forever

Vance, Jack, Wyst:Alastor 1716

Verne, Jules. Five Weeks in a Balloon

Verne, Jules. From the Earth to the Moon

Verne, Jules. Round the Moon

Verne, Jules. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Victoire, Stephanie. The Other World, It Whispers

Wells, H.G. The Time Machine

Wells, H.G. The Island of Dr. Moreau

Wells, H.G. The War of the Worlds

Wells, H.G. The First Men in the Moon

Wells, H.G. The Invisible Man

Wesolowski, Matt. Six Stories

Zusak, Marcus. Bridge of Clay

 

 

 

Phew, I think that's all of them...

 

 

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I didn't make any progress on my Discworld re-read last year, which is shocking, so hopefully I'll get a chance to cross some more off the list this year...

 

1. The Colour of Magic
2. The Light Fantastic
3. Equal Rites
4. Mort

5. Sourcery
6. Wyrd Sisters
7. Pyramids
8. Guards! Guards!
9. Faust Eric
10. Moving Pictures
11. Reaper Man
12. Witches Abroad
13. Small Gods
14. Lords and Ladies

15. Men at Arms
16. Soul Music
17. Interesting times
18. Maskerade
19. Feet of Clay
20. Hogfather
21. Jingo
22. The Last Continent
23. Carpe Jugulum
24. The Fifth Elephant
25. The Truth
26. Thief of Time
27. The Last Hero
28. The Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents

29. Night Watch
30. The Wee Free Men
31. Monstrous Regiment
32. A Hat Full of Sky
33. Going Postal
34. Thud!
35. Wintersmith
36. Making Money
37. Unseen Academicals
38. I Shall Wear Midnight
39. Snuff
40. Raising Steam
41. The Shepherd's Crown

 

 

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Purchased in 2020:

 

January:

Follett, Barbara Newhall. The House Without Windows

Morgenstern, Erin. The Starless Sea

 

February:

Aaronovitch, Ben. False Value

Laakso, Laura. Roots of Corruption

Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales from Shakespeare's Fantasy World ed. Jonathan Oliver and David Moore

Rubenhold, Ruth. The Five

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Ok, thread open!

 

January is going to be a really busy month for me, so I don't know how much reading I'm really going to get done, and I probably won't be on here quite as much as usual (I'm still checking in a few times every day, but my comments might be a bit brief!).

 

I have lots of books I'm excited to read though so I'm sure I'll make up for it.

 

Currently reading Tom Cox's Help the Witch.

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I bought two more books today because I had a £10 Waterstones voucher and no self control. So my first two 2020 book purchases were The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern and The House Without Windows by Barbara Newhall Follett. Both have really beautiful covers. This picture doesn't even do justice to The House Without Windows. The edges of all the butterfly wings are speckled with gold :wub:

 

First Books 2020.jpg

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First off, happy reading in 2020, Hayley!! I hope you'll have a good and enjoyable reading year :).

 

Secondly, I've heard good things of The Starless Sea. I hope you enjoy both books you bought, they both look beautiful!

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4 hours ago, Athena said:

First off, happy reading in 2020, Hayley!! I hope you'll have a good and enjoyable reading year :).

 

Secondly, I've heard good things of The Starless Sea. I hope you enjoy both books you bought, they both look beautiful!

Thank you! I haven’t really read any reviews of The Starless Sea so that’s good to hear! 

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Good luck with your 2020 reading, and the self-control! :lol:

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14 hours ago, vodkafan said:

Good luck with your 2020 reading, and the self-control! :lol:

 

Maybe it should be called.. shelf control :D.

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On 13/01/2020 at 5:12 PM, vodkafan said:

Good luck with your 2020 reading, and the self-control! :lol:

Thanks! :lol:
 

13 hours ago, Athena said:

 

Maybe it should be called.. shelf control :D.

Ha ha! It should!! :giggle2:

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On 11/01/2020 at 10:35 PM, Hayley said:

I love starting a fresh new book blog :D

 

This year I've set my Goodreads goal to 50, again, and maybe this will be the year I make it! I'm also determined to keep my reading list here up to date, which I was really rubbish at last year. Quite a few books have been added to my shelf (and floor... and under my bed... and basically in every available space) since last January, so here we go...

 

On My Shelf

 

BIG LIST

 

Phew, I think that's all of them...

 

There's quite a lot of science fiction there.  If you have not read Iain M. Banks before you are in for a treat!

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20 hours ago, Raven said:

 

There's quite a lot of science fiction there.  If you have not read Iain M. Banks before you are in for a treat!

I’ve read one (Consider Phlebas) so I’m looking forward to seeing what the others are like! Someone I know was given that whole set of books and they don’t read, so they asked if I wanted them, which is why I have so many! Have you read all of the ones on my list?

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Banks, Iain. The Bridge

Banks, Iain M. The Algebraist

Banks Iain M. Excession

Banks Iain M. Feersum Endjinn

Banks Iain M. Inversions

Banks, Iain M. Look to Windward

Banks Iain M. Matter

Banks Iain M. The Player of Games

Banks Iain M. Use of Weapons

 

I have all of them with the exception of the The Bridge, which isn't one of his science fiction novels (you can tell the difference because his sci-fi novels have an 'M' in the middle of his name).

 

The ones I have highlighted in bold above are the ones I have read.  Of the ones I have read The Player of Games is by far my favourite, and I would go as far as to say it is one of the best contemporary science fiction novels I have read.  Use of Weapons is also very good, but in a very different way! 

 

Oh, and by the way, if you have never read The War of the Worlds, you are in for another treat! (it is far, far better than the dreadful adaptation the BBC foisted upon us last year).

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5 hours ago, Raven said:

Banks, Iain. The Bridge

Banks, Iain M. The Algebraist

Banks Iain M. Excession

Banks Iain M. Feersum Endjinn

Banks Iain M. Inversions

Banks, Iain M. Look to Windward

Banks Iain M. Matter

Banks Iain M. The Player of Games

Banks Iain M. Use of Weapons

 

I have all of them with the exception of the The Bridge, which isn't one of his science fiction novels (you can tell the difference because his sci-fi novels have an 'M' in the middle of his name).

 

The ones I have highlighted in bold above are the ones I have read.  Of the ones I have read The Player of Games is by far my favourite, and I would go as far as to say it is one of the best contemporary science fiction novels I have read.  Use of Weapons is also very good, but in a very different way! 

 

I've read (out of those on your list) The Player of Games and The Use of Weapons and I really liked both. The Player of Games is my favourite of his books also. Highly recommend!

 

5 hours ago, Raven said:

Oh, and by the way, if you have never read The War of the Worlds, you are in for another treat! (it is far, far better than the dreadful adaptation the BBC foisted upon us last year).

 

Agreed, I really liked The War of the Worlds (the book, that is).

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Well I was going to read the Ian M. Banks books in order anyway (although I know you don’t need to) so Player of Games will be next! And now I’m much more excited about it! :lol: 

I haven’t read War of the Worlds (actually none of the books on my list are re-reads) but it’s one of those books I’ve wanted to read for ages and just never got round to (luckily I missed the tv series!). The same goes for all the H.G Wells books. Those were a present from my sister, so my huge list isn’t all my fault... 

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23 hours ago, Hayley said:

 Those were a present from my sister, so my huge list isn’t all my fault... 

 

Oh, dear: I didn't think your list was that huge - looked quite respectable to me!  Nice mix too. Unlike Raven, I'm not much of a sci-fi fan (although I'm looking forward to War of the Worlds as well),so can't comment on your selections there, but there are others on your list which I loved.  The three standouts for me are The Essex Serpent, Of Mice and Men, and The Name of the Rose, all on my favourites list.  Adams almost goes without saying, and have to mention Agnes Grey as it's Ann Bronte's 200th birthday today (haven't read Tenant yet).  Good luck with your goals for this year!

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7 hours ago, willoyd said:

 

Oh, dear: I didn't think your list was that huge - looked quite respectable to me!  Nice mix too. Unlike Raven, I'm not much of a sci-fi fan (although I'm looking forward to War of the Worlds as well),so can't comment on your selections there, but there are others on your list which I loved.  The three standouts for me are The Essex Serpent, Of Mice and Men, and The Name of the Rose, all on my favourites list.  Adams almost goes without saying, and have to mention Agnes Grey as it's Ann Bronte's 200th birthday today (haven't read Tenant yet).  Good luck with your goals for this year!

Thank you! Actually, you're right! I don't have too many books, I have a perfectly respectable number of books but too little shelf space! :lol:

I am particularly looking forward to The Essex Serpent. Sarah Perry's Melmoth was one of my favourite books last year and if it's even half as good as that I know I'll love it! Of Mice and Men is one I've had for a really long time. I'm always slightly put off picking it up because I know it's going to be really sad. I've only heard great things about The Name of the Rose and am fully expecting to love it.

This year will have to be the one I read Ann Bronte in, as it's her 200th birthday year!

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I went to get Ben Aaronovitch's new Peter Grant book, False Value, today and was tempted by the sale shelf, so I also ended up getting The Five by Hallie Rubenhold and Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales from Shakespeare's Fantasy World. And now I think I should start reviewing some of the books I've already read!

 

 Help the Witch .jpg

Help the Witch by Tom Cox

3.5/5 - I really liked it.

 

This book was completely different to what I expected. I imagined it would be a bit like Zoe Gilbert's Folk, but perhaps a bit darker (not that Folk isn't already pretty dark...) and less magical. I feel like varied isn't a strong enough word for the sheer range of subjects and styles it actually covers, but the only other word I can think of is mad, so lets stick with varied... There are haunted houses and giant, vengeful hares (those were more along the lines I expected), but there are also robots you can step inside and talking tomatoes. Cox clearly has a quirky and vivid imagination, and it was fun going on this 'varied' journey through generally unconnected stories. There was one story I didn't particularly like, which is mainly why I didn't give the book 4 stars. 'Speed Awareness' came after a part of the book I thought was really good, where you get to piece together a story through various listings in a newspaper, so maybe that made it seem more disappointing, but it really just felt didactic and predictable to me, to the point of being quite cheesy. It sticks out like a sore thumb from the rest of the book, which is genuinely original and clever. I can only imagine that maybe the author feels strongly about traffic accidents caused by speeding, which is fair, but it just seemed odd in the context of the book.

An overall good and very interesting collection though, which I'd be happy to recommend. 

 

 

Soot.jpg

Soot by Andrew Martin

2/5 - It was ok

 

The idea behind Soot sounds great. We basically begin in 1799 with a man who's in debtor's prison. A mysterious benefactor pays half his debt and buys him a month of freedom, on the condition that in that time he must find the killer of a murdered artist. The start is promising. We get introduced to some interesting and shady characters, learn a bit more about the murder and how our protagonist is going to trace potential suspects. I was quite hooked at this point, gathering clues as each suspect comes to light, but then it all went a bit downhill... I think part of the problem was that nobody really seems to care about the murder. There's really no urgency or emotion associated with it. The ending was poorly tied together and seems like the author intended there to be a second book, although I don't think there is one.

I had fun reading this for maybe 80% of the book, but it fell flat by the end, so for that reason I would not recommend it.

 

 

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4 hours ago, Hayley said:

I went to get Ben Aaronovitch's new Peter Grant book, False Value, today and was tempted by the sale shelf, so I also ended up getting The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

 

 

Stonking read - really hope you enjoy this (although 'enjoy' is probably the wrong word!).

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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:

 

Book Log Update 13.08.20.jpg

 

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 :lol:

 

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:

Spoiler

The fact that Peter was no longer going to be doing his old job as a police officer, because it was a dangerous job and he's soon to be a dad, was a big reveal at the end of Lies Sleeping. Wondering how this was going to work and what Peter would be doing instead was part of the excitement going into False Value. But I quickly forgot he was even supposed to NOT be police, he just slipped so easily into the old role. To such an extent that I was confused at one point and I can't actually remember at what point he ends up working with the police again. I'm not sure I see the point of him ever leaving. I suppose it just gave him a reason to be where he was at the beginning of the book?

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 :lol:.

 

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... :) 

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I loved Murder on the Orient Express too! And of course Sourcery and Wyrd Sisters :).

 

I love that you made a picture!

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6 hours ago, Athena said:

I loved Murder on the Orient Express too! And of course Sourcery and Wyrd Sisters :).

 

I love that you made a picture!

Thank you! It felt a bit weird not stacking them with the biggest book at the bottom but I wanted them to be in reading order!

 

To continue the list:

 

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame - 4/5

This book has sentimental value to me because my great aunt gave it to me when I was little. It has a local newspaper name on the inner fold of the dust jacket, so I think she probably saved coupons from the newspaper to get it. Sadly she passed away a few years ago after suffering from dementia, but I have lovely memories of her. One of the things I loved about going to her house was playing in the garden. She had a long garden with a stream at the bottom, which was where (the adults told us) the fairies lived. So this book doubly reminded me of her, as the little animals navigated their boat around the streams and the big river. I expected it to be a very simple and potentially not very entertaining book as an adult, but I was very pleasantly surprised! The loveliest thing was the language and Grahame's descriptions of the natural world and changing seasons. It is really beautifully written and I can see now why it's considered a classic.

So, thanks auntie Peggy :)

 

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke - 5/5

I would put this book alongside my all time favourites. It was brilliant. It's also huge (I think around 800 pages), which put me off for a while because I knew it would take me a long time to finish it and I thought that it would probably require a lot of concentration (which this year has not been great for!). I needn't have worried though. I often put this book down for a few days, even a week at a time, when I wasn't in much of a reading mood, and it was very easy to dip back into. There is always something happening in this book. Every chapter is exciting. Yet it's also so easy to read and to follow, because you're absolutely immersed in the world every time you pick it up. There's just nothing wrong with this book. It's incredibly well written, the plot is intricate but easy to follow, the characters are great, the whole concept feels original yet familiar (probably due to the fairy tale / folklore references and the very believably constructed nineteenth-century world). I would fully recommend it and I can't wait to read more from this author.

 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury - 5/5 

If anybody ever doubts the importance of books to a society they should be made to read this book. It's quite hard to talk about the specific things I liked without spoilers but I thought it was very powerful and emotional, as well as being a very gripping story. The dystopian world Bradbury created has disturbing similarities to our own and I was particularly impressed by Bradbury's portrayal of human nature, both its good and bad sides. This is the kind of book that stays with you. The edition I had was an anniversary one (my sister bought it for me for my birthday) and I do think it's worth getting because it contains some interesting notes from Bradbury about what he would change about the book and how he imagined the background of one of the characters.

 

Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski - 4/5

This is the first book in a series of thrillers based on the (very clever, I thought) idea of a podcast looking into an unsolved murder. Six different people who had some involvement with the victim are interviewed (these are the 'six stories' of the title) and the reader gradually builds up a picture of what really happened as well as seeing where the stories don't quite add up. It was just a really good book with a clever plot. I had to force myself to put it down and go to sleep, otherwise I would have read the whole thing in a day. I've just ordered the second book in the series so I'm hoping it will be just as good!

 

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë - 4/5

I was expecting this to be a relaxing read but the families Agnes ends up being a governess for in this novel stressed me out! They're awful! And I think that response is proof of how well this book is written. The characters, particularly the children, really represent all the worst bits of human nature and I think they'll stay in my memory for a long time!

This is also definitely, for anyone interested in the nineteenth century, an interesting insight into the experience of a young woman starting work as a governess.

 

The House Without Windows by Barbara Newhall Follett - 4/5

This is such a beautiful book. I will admit I was originally attracted by the cover. The illustrations by Jackie Morris throughout the book are beautiful too and just perfect for the story, which is all about nature and the desire to be part of it. The story itself was written by Barbara Newhall Follett when she was about twelve, and ended up oddly mirroring her life of exploration and her subsequent disappearance. I would like to think that, in the end, she found the freedom she wanted.

The story is incredibly well written for anybody, it's easy to forget, while reading, that it was written by a child. The descriptions of the natural world are really beautiful. There was a niggling issue for me, which was that, at times, I found myself not really liking the main character, Eepersip. In her quest for absolute freedom she sometimes comes across as very selfish and fickle. I'm not really sure whether this was intentional, a sort of down-side to freedom, or not. Eepersip is undoubtedly represented as an ideal character, compared to fairies and nymphs, she is absolutely free and all of nature loves her. But, for example, at the beginning of the book we're told that Eepersip's parents build the most beautiful garden for her, to give her everything she needs to be happy. She is happy with the garden for a while, but then she gets bored and just runs away. When her parents start trying to look for her they instantly become the antagonists of the story, nastily trying to trap Eepersip and take her away. She doesn't seem to care about them at all. There are other moments in the story where Eepersip essentially uses a person/animal for her own pleasure but quickly abandons them when they don't suit what she wants any more (and she changes her mind about the things she desperately needs to see/do a LOT). So, as beautiful as the story and Eepersip's love of nature was, there was that troubling element that I couldn't shake off.

I think maybe it's best to read the story as a kind of fairy tale and to try not to think of the real-world practicalities of the things that happen. If you do that then it is an excellently written quest for freedom that takes the reader through a sort-of panorama of the natural world.

 

The Magpie Tree by Katherine Stansfield - 3/5 

This was... interesting. There's a missing boy and talk of witchcraft, which instantly sounded good to me. We follow two female detectives as they try to solve the mystery and claim the offered reward.

The first thing that put me off a little bit with this story was the fact that, although nothing anywhere says that it is part of a series, there is a book before this one. The Magpie Tree refers to people, places and things that happened in this previous book a lot, which made me feel like I was missing something. In the end I looked up the author on goodreads and found that there is a book called Falling Creatures which explains these missing bits of plot and also how these two detectives met.

Now, the relationship between these two women was another thing that bothered me and I don't know whether I would have felt differently if I'd read the first book. It's made clear, at the beginning of the book, that these women have had some kind of sexual relationship in the past (I assume in the previous book) although they aren't a couple. The one character, Shilly, is represented as quite a vulnerable person. The woman she loved has died (it's not clear how at first, I had to read about the previous book to make this clear), she struggles with serious alcohol addiction and she's often very childlike. From a comment she makes about another character's age she is supposed to be about nineteen. The age of the other woman, Anna, is never revealed, but it's specifically mentioned that she's older than Shilly. Old enough to have false teeth and creaky knees. It's obvious that Anna likes Shilly and wants to help her to stop drinking, but at the same time she's often unkind and controlling. As part of her detective work (and because she likes doing so) Anna dresses as different people and takes on their personas. One of these characters is a man who she uses to be particularly cruel to Shilly, accusing her of being drunk when she isn't. Moments where Shilly is really grateful for the slightest kindness or affirmation from Anna felt quite sad. This dynamic just made me feel uncomfortable and detracted from the story rather than adding to it. I would much rather have just had Shilly as the detective.  

I was interested in the outcome of the mystery and there were moments of good tension. I liked the supernatural element but thought more could have been made of it. It was a decent mystery but if I'm honest there are better examples in the same genre (like Things in Jars).

 

 

 

And I am up to date! At last! Now to try to keep it that way...

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21 hours ago, Hayley said:

Well a lot of things happened since I updated this! I think it's about time I got back it.

 

The world done and got sick on us... (in oh so many ways...).

 

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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:

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The fact that Peter was no longer going to be doing his old job as a police officer, because it was a dangerous job and he's soon to be a dad, was a big reveal at the end of Lies Sleeping. Wondering how this was going to work and what Peter would be doing instead was part of the excitement going into False Value. But I quickly forgot he was even supposed to NOT be police, he just slipped so easily into the old role. To such an extent that I was confused at one point and I can't actually remember at what point he ends up working with the police again. I'm not sure I see the point of him ever leaving. I suppose it just gave him a reason to be where he was at the beginning of the book?

 

 

In the words of River Song, spoilers:

 

Spoiler

Peter was suspended from duty at the end of Lies Sleeping, following Lesley shooting Martin Chorley whilst he was handcuffed to Peter, and as part of that he had to move out of The Folly whilst it was being investigated.  This also tied in with him finding out he was about to become a Dad, so it makes sense he would move in with Beverley anyway (if memory serves, Peter makes a comment at the beginning of Lies Sleeping that he is spending most of his time living at Beverley's house anyway).  With regard to his reinstatement, I think you are right; I don't think Aaronovitch did a very good job of explaining what happened between the two books - it all feels a little fudged and rushed in the need to get on with the current story - but it is explained, albeit briefly.  I think it would have been very difficult for the series to continue without Peter still working for the MET on some level, as once sacked from the MET there would have been no way back to The Folly as Nightingale's apprentice, so I wasn't expecting him to lose his job when I started reading the book (although I couldn't work out how he came to be working for his new company until it was explained).

 

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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.

 

I may have said this in my review (can't be arsed to go and look!) but I found all the Hitch-Hikers references a massive distraction and, as you say, unrealistic.  Someone would have thrown the copyright hammer at the company for such flagrant commercial use of the IP, if nothing else!  If the company had to be a bit geeky, he could have gone with names of computer pioneers, like Babbage, Lovelace and Turing etc. 

 

Although I enjoyed it, I think with distance I would mark False Values down as well, and give it 4/5 (though that might go up again on a re-read!). 

 

At the end of Lies Sleeping it felt like there was going to be a massive change in direction for the series, but that never really happened.  False Values feels like a side story before what comes next, although I think there may be parts of it that will prove to be very significant later...

 

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Wow, you have had a read fest! And a review fest too :boogie:

 

I’ve still got a couple of the Peter Grant series books, but always seem to falter at Moon over Soho.... I can’t get into it :unsure:.

 

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5 hours ago, Marie H said:

 

I’ve still got a couple of the Peter Grant series books, but always seem to falter at Moon over Soho.... I can’t get into it :unsure:.

 

 

If you enjoyed Rivers of London, skip Moon Over Soho and go on to Whispers Underground.  If you get into the series, you can always go back and read Moon Over Soho later.

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