Sunday, 30 June 2019

Book Review: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Anne Elliot broke her engagement to Frederick Wentworth at the age of 19 following pressure from her family. Now 27, Anne’s father rents their family home to the Admiral and his wife (the sister of Wentworth), meaning that Wentworth now re-enters her life all these years later...

"Let us never underestimate the power of a well-written letter."

Persuasion is a really lovely book about second chances. It’s about overcoming obstacles through maturity, and how although people can change in some ways, they stay just the same in others.

Anne Elliot is such an enchanting protagonist, she’s quiet and demure, a sensitive soul, and is almost considered to be over the hill at the ripe old age of 27(!)-  how I’m glad times have changed!! LOL. Anne’s sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, were also great characters that seemingly always brought some drama or eye-rolling moments!

This is only my second Austen after having read Pride and Prejudice back in school, and I do really enjoy her social commentary on the topic of marriage in the early 1800s and how women pursued it as a means to gain economic stability as well as social standing. Sometimes I do struggle with the writing and I’m positive some parts simply go right over my head, but for the most part I have a good time.

Persuasion is quite romantic, although my complaint would be that we really don’t get to know a lot about Wentworth. I wish we could have seen why Anne had fallen in love with him in the first place, as this would have made me root for the couple more. But the letter (if you’ve read the book, you know the one I’m referring to!) is just so beautifully written and touching that you can’t help but be moved by it.

All in all, a heartwarming book about the persistence of true love. I’m glad Jen @bluestockingbookshelf pushed me to read it! 3.5 stars.


Saturday, 29 June 2019

Book Review: Blindness by Jose Saramago

An unexplained mass epidemic of blindness spreads throughout a city, afflicting almost everyone, as civilisation begins to fall apart.

“Perhaps only in a world of the blind will things be what they truly are.”
First things first, this book has an incredible premise and story but you gotta be prepared to put in a little elbow grease to get it! Unless, of course, you are used to reading walls of text with no speech marks and long-ass sentences that go on for half a page.

That is honestly my only real complaint about this book - once you got into the swing of it and you can sit and read for an extended period of time, it becomes second nature! But if you’re picking it up here and there it felt like hard work to get back into it each time.

The premise is TERRIFYING and so disturbingly realistic. As civilisation breaks down and succumbs to chaos and destruction, the blindness amplifies what was already there in the first place - hate, greed, selfishness, theft, rape, murder. Sewage fills the streets, there’s no electricity, food is in short supply, dogs feed on corpses... Everything is stripped back as we are left to wonder what really makes us human? *Trigger warning for rape, by the way*

Blindness is a pretty powerful dystopian novel with an incredibly harrowing message. We might be able to physically see, but what else are we blind to?

I’d recommend this one for sure if the writing style doesn’t put you off - the audiobook might be a great way around that! 3.5 stars.


Friday, 28 June 2019

Book Review: Night Shoot by David Sodergren

Desperate student filmmakers break into Crawford Manor for an unauthorised night shoot.

“He realised how trivial onscreen deaths were. They never got it right, couldn’t replicate the true gut-churning horror of real life.”

The best damn horror book I’ve read in a while! I devoured it in 24 hours and even stayed up until 2am cos I just. couldn’t. stop. And I never do that!!

This is only Sodergren’s second novel and yet his writing reads like that of an esteemed author. He just hits all the right notes and the pace is consistent, yet exciting (until the last 50 pages when I just couldn’t put it down!) I adore how he so effortlessly combines humour with horror, I had to restrain myself from laughing out loud in a coffee shop!

A creepy manor screams out for all the cliches we have experienced so many times, yet this novel felt so FRESH and unique. The kills are incredibly original and inventive and had me grimacing on more than one occasion. AND Sodergren now has a track record of writing spunky female characters in his novels, which I am HERE FOR and there’s also great LGBTQ+ inclusion!

Honestly, if you’re a fan of slasher movies from the 1980s, you NEED this one on your tbr! It’s the perfect homage. I can not recommend it enough, I loved it even more than Sodergren’s debut The Forgotten Island.

5 stars.


Saturday, 22 June 2019

Book Review: The Oscar Wilde Collection by Oscar Wilde

After being such a huge fan of The Picture of Dorian Gray, I knew I needed to explore more of Wilde’s writing. Unfortunately this was a bit of a mixed bag for me!

“Yet each man kills the thing he loves.”
Dorian Gray is at the very beginning and I decided not to reread it - I’ll do that another day. After this we had Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime, wherein Lord Arthur is told by a palm reader that it is in his destiny to be a murderer... however, he wants to get married but decides he has no right to do so until he has committed the murder. Hilarity ensues...

Then there was The Canterville Ghost which was an absolute blast! It’s about the Otis family who move into a haunted house, but no matter what the ghost does, the family refuse to be frightened. It was so incredibly funny at times with Mr Otis advising the ghost that maybe he should oil his chains and Mrs Otis delivering lines like “I don’t at all care for blood-stains in a sitting room.” LOL. The combination of the macabre with some comedy was just perfect!

Following this we have a number of stories for children that Wilde has written. These were hit and miss for me personally. Certain themes and messages became a bit repetitive - there was always a lovely message at the end, but sometimes the message made me roll my eyes... have I become cynical in my old age?!

Next up was A House of Pomegranates which is a collection of his fairy tales. Again, all beautifully written - I can never fault that - but I am not a huge fairy tale person? So again, up and down!

The collection closes with The Ballad of Reading Gaol, which Tes @paperbackbones had told me about before, which is a poem that Wilde had written in exile following his release from the same prison. The inclusion of this poem at the very end left quite a different tone from the stories that preceded it. It narrates the execution of a fellow inmate, highlighting the punishments that all convicts share. I don’t read much poetry but thought this one was well-written and impactful.

So whilst this collection was hit and miss, I will continue to love this man’s voice.

3.5 stars.


Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Book Review: Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

A magical, timeless summer in the life of a twelve-year-old boy named Douglas Spaulding.

“Some people turn sad awfully young. No special reason, it seems, but they seem almost to be born that way. They bruise easier, tire faster, cry quicker, remember longer and, as I say, get sadder younger than anyone else in the world. I know, for I’m one of them.”

Forewarning: this review might just be a series of fangirling comments with no real structure or order.

Halfway between being a novel and a series of vignettes, Dandelion Wine is Bradbury’s ode to summer - and if you know me at all, I kinda hate that season. And yet somehow Bradbury had me brimming with nostalgia for childhood summers when it seemed like anything was possible and that summer might just last forever. *wipes tear away*

In some ways I would compare this to Robert McCammon’s Boy’s Life, there are a lot of similar themes and it gave me that same feeling of magic - that magical realism where you can’t tell what is real and what is simply a young boy’s imagination. The descriptions and prose are mesmerising, you can almost smell, hear and see summer. And any book that evokes nostalgia for childhood memories is a winner in my eyes.

Surprisingly, one of the creepiest and most unsettling passages I’ve ever read was in here too! It really played on one of my biggest fears - a murderer following you home or trying to get into your house. I got goosebumps as Bradbury turned up the tension and really set me on edge.

It’s a book that reminds you that you’re ALIVE - right here, right now- and yes, people will die, friends move away, seasons end, but there’s always magic to be discovered in little everyday things. Does this also sound like another one of my favourite books?? The Thief of Always perhaps?? I think this type of story is really my favourite.

Already marking this one as one of my favourite books of the year. How I would love to spend my summer in Green Town.

5/5. (Because I can’t give five thousand!)

This book is so amazing that it made a summer-hater actually start to appreciate summer... and it also made her nostalgic for childhood summers. Bradbury just has this insane ability to convey emotions and settings. Will certainly be one of my fave books of the year!


Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Book Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Orphaned Jane emerges from her cold and hostile upbringing to become a governess at Thornfield, where she meets the dark and brooding, Mr Rochester.

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me.”

Jane Eyre is the literary heroine I never knew I needed. It’s refreshing to come across a female protagonist in classic literature that is so feminist (even though sexism still surrounds her - looking at you, St John... and at times... Mr Rochester), as women can often be portrayed as the weaker sex, forced to adhere to the gender roles and expectations of the time. But Jane ain’t having any of that.

Perhaps there are some question marks over whether certain parts could be considered feminist, but for me, it all comes down to choice. And Jane CHOOSES her path. She is always true to herself and acts with such integrity and strength, and I could honestly write an entire review on why I love Jane so much... but I’m reviewing the BOOK, not Jane.

The gothic atmosphere had me absolutely swooning - the writing is gorgeous, the setting is just right. And it’s pretty damn creepy at times!

Another surprise for me was how absolutely hilarious some parts were. I was cackling away to myself when Jane throws water over Mr Rochester during a fire and he says “are we in a flood?” LOL and just the entire sequence with the fortune-teller was so ridiculous that it became endearingly funny.

If I had to get nit-picky, I’d say that some parts maybe dragged on a bit, and I would be feeling quite eager for the story to move along... but that was quite rare. And I LOATHED St John. Usually I keep notes in my phone as I’m reading a book and jot down little thoughts, and lets just say... there were a lot of expletives and capital letters when I was expressing my feelings on St John!!

It was a joy to become lost in this book, and the love story of Jane and Mr Rochester. I may have even shed a tear at the end. Jane Eyre has certainly became one of my favourite classics. 5 stars.


Friday, 7 June 2019

Book Review: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankstein by Kiersten White

The story of an orphan, Elizabeth Lavenza, who is taken in by the Frankenstein family and forms a close relationship with Victor.

“I sought to puncture Heaven and instead discovered Hell.”

I’m gonna be honest here... I’ve never understood the point of retellings. Why would I want to read the retelling of a story that is already pretty damn good? It just always seemed kinda pointless to me. Well, I’m here to tell you I was WRONG. (I also feel like I should mention that another reason I stay away from retellings is because I don’t always know the original story and it would be lost on me anyways!)

But I thought this was so much fun!! I loved noticing the similarities between this and Frankenstein, as well as embracing the differences. If done well, a retelling is basically like reading an homage to a story you love! I have now seen the error of my ways and I am open to reading more retellings.

Another reason why I really loved this one - strong *clap* female *clap* characters! *clap*  And strong female friendships too! I hardcore loved Elizabeth and how manipulative and deceptive she could be (also got a lot of love for Mary and Justine), and I really enjoyed how the author wove Elizabeth and Victor’s stories together. Victor be fucked-up.

It wasn’t until I started reading this that I was told it was YA, and to be honest, if I hadn’t been told, I probably would never have categorised it as that - it’s so dark and creepy, and the writing is so exquisite at times, I really was incredibly impressed! I definitely recommend this one if you’re a fan of Frankenstein!

Thanks so much to the lovely @margaritathedrink for recommending this to me! It was a delight! 4.5 stars.


Sunday, 2 June 2019

Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A blind French girl and a German boy’s paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

“Time is a slippery thing: lose hold of it once, and its string might sail out of your hands forever.”

This is gonna be one of those reviews where I struggle to put into words how incredible this book is - I always feel like I can’t do such books justice and I’m better off just giving a 5 star rating and moving onto the next one!

So obviously I loved this one. We have two main characters that we follow as well as two different timelines, and we just constantly jump back and forth between all of them, which is executed so wonderfully and beautifully that I have zero complaints about it.

The short chapters also really helped me just burn through sections in one sitting. However, an instagram buddy had told me he felt that the short chapters meant he didn’t form a close connection with either character, and I can kinda relate to that. I mean, I did have a connection, especially with one of the side characters Frederick (sad face), but it wasn’t particularly intense and I didn’t cry whatsoever, which, for being such a huge crier, is unlike me! But that’s really just a minor grievance because the story itself is spectacular.

And the writing. Ooooh, the writing - it was just out of this world!! It’s one of those books that really awakens all the senses with its beautifully descriptive prose and reading it can be quite an immersive experience. The story moves along slowly at times, which doesn’t bother me as I enjoy a slow-burner, but if that puts you off, just know that it all comes together so perfectly and your efforts will have been worth it,

There’s just something incredibly fascinating and heartbreaking about books set during WWII, it’s such a bleak part of history. Yet that somehow makes the good people and their actions shine even brighter. 5 stars.


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