Saturday, 21 April 2012

Read-A-Thon, April 2012

The Read-A-Thon kicks off in about 15 minutes, and it's a lovely sunny day for me to sit inside and not take advantage of at all! I have a stack of four books ready and waiting to go, though with various things getting in the way I will honestly be surprised if I get that far. They are:

1. The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore (Lorien Legacies #2)
2. A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens.
3. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking #1)
4. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

One of these has been sitting on my shelf for years, whilst all the others are quite recent acquisitions. None of them are too long, so I should make some fair progress, and I'm looking forward to reading all of them!

Good luck to everyone else who's taking part!


2 and a half hours in and I'm making good progress with The Power of Six, the sequel to I am Number Four. 248 pages down, 130 to go! Fast paced and enjoyable, though maybe not quite up to the standard of the first. Though seeing them (*ahem*Six*ahem*) fighting with their Legacies is quite cool. The story is now flicking between two storylines which helps keeps it going well. Just when you get bored of John, Six and Sam being constantly on the run, you switch to Number Seven in Spain. A slower story, but interesting. Good book!

Now...back to reading!


1 book down! For the most part, I enjoyed the end of PoS. Fast paced with lots of action you really start to see the characters come into their own. The alternating view points got a little annoying when they were switching like every page - I think it was supposed to build tension but it didn't really do it for me - but that's not the end of the world. And sometimes the fighting seems a little too easy. Yeah, they have all these awesome powers and stuff but when it's like 1 versus 100 you'd expect it to be a little more difficult than what is shown. Some questions were answered, and I'm definitely looking forward to the next one and finding out more.

Next book, the incredibly seasonal A Christmas Carol!


94 pages down, 170 to go, and I'm about halfway through A Christmas Carol, having already read a couple of the 'Other Christmas Writings'. These are nice enough, but nothing of particular note as of yet. ACC, on the other hand, is really very good, though I am picturing all the actors from A Muppets Christmas Carol which is mildly distracting. Still, it is the best adaptation and the one I've most recently seen, so I'm sure this is excusable!

But now I'm stopping for a few hours while I go to work. Scrooge will just have to sit and wait for me to get back.


And now - almost two hours later than original believed due to unforeseen circumstances - the reading can recommence! Snacks, tea and Scrooge, here I come!


A Christmas Carol was a great story. Even though I knew what was going to happen, it was very easy to read and lovely seeing the change wrought in Scrooge in the last section. Unfortunately, the next short story, The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain, falling under the 'Other Christmas Writings' section, has put the brakes on my progress. It's a bit weird, I don't really see where it's going, and so far I can't make it out to be at all Christmas-y in the slightest. And It's 4:30am. And I'm tired...

I'm sorry to say I think this is the end for me this read-a-thon. Sleep is calling, so good luck to everyone else who is still going - you can do it!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Dewey's 24-Hour Read-A-Thon

This is something I found through another website about a year ago. Every six months, a worldwide 24-hour read-a-thon is organised via this website. The next one will be next Saturday - 21st April - starting at 12pm GMT and will be the third one I'm taking part in. It's always a great way to get through a few books in a short space of time. Unfortunately, this time I do also have to work which will take me out of it for six hours or so in the evening. But I'll do as much as I can around this! I'll be reviewing each book as I finish it in one big post. Experience has taught me that several shorter books is better than reading one mammoth one - it's nice to feel you're making actual headway. The first time I took part I tried to read the 976-page Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett...very bad idea...

So if you don't have anything better to do this Saturday/Sunday, why not sign up and join in?


Title: Pure
Author: Andrew Miller
Pages: 342 (paperback)
Published: January 5th 2012
Published by: Sceptre

Paris, 1785.
A year of bones, of grave-dirt, relentless work. Of mummified corpses and chanting priests. A year of rape, suicide, sudden death. Of friendship too. Of desire. Of love...
A year unlike any other he has lived.

Deep in the heart of Paris, its oldest cemetery is, by 1785, overflowing, tainting the very breath of those who live nearby. Into their midst comes Jean-Baptiste Baratte, a young, provincial engineer charged by the king with demolishing it.

At first Baratte sees this as a chance to clear the burden of history, a fitting task for a modern man of reason. But before long, he begins to suspect that the destruction of the cemetery might be a prelude to his own.

Jean-Baptiste Baratte is an engineer. His first proper job - digging up the cemetery of Les Innocents and knocking down the church there, cleansing it and the surrounding area of Paris namely of the smell. He moves in with a family and sets to work, building new relationships with those he meets on the job and in the area and resurrecting old ones to get it done.

This is another book I'm reading for my book club, and in all honesty one I didn't really want to. I (generally) know what I'm going to like, and historical fiction is not it. Especially when it is centred around a graveyard being dug up. Decomposing bodies...not my idea of a great read. So, I went in with quite low expectations and not expecting to enjoy it at all.

And while I didn't particularly enjoy it, neither did I dislike it. My opinion of this book is just a bit, meh. It wasn't bad, but there wasn't anything to grab my attention. Actually, that's not quite true. There was one event which was quite a surprise, and the result of which piqued my interest. First thing to note: I love language. It absolutely fascinates me. So when a bash around the head means one of the characters begins to forget the names of certain objects (aphasia) I was all like 'ooh! This is going to be interesting!' Unfortunately, this only lasted in any real capacity for like a chapter so my interest dropped off again quite quickly when I realised it wasn't really going to be a present aspect of the story any longer. The bits where they were actually digging up the mass graves which made up most of Les Innocents was also quite interesting, but this for the most part wasn't the focus of the story so there were appearances of what they were doing and how, but nothing all that substantial.

The story itself was alright. A fair portion of it was Baratte organising stuff and people, and there were some allusions to social uprising, but given that this taking place just a few years prior to the French Revolution I expected there to be slightly more of this stuff. Especially given the fact that Baratte considers himself something of a philosopher, as does his new friend Armand.

There are several secondary characters, but I didn't feel you really got to know any of them at all. They were all there to serve a specific purpose, and past this I didn't think they had any real depth. Armand was the revolutionary, Marie the nosey servant, and there are others whose purpose I can't really name without spoilers. Even Baratte is a bit like this: he is an engineer, and there doesn't seem to be much else about him that I could particularly see. Yes, there are hints of philosopher and revolutionary but nothing more than hints.

Overall, not a bad book but not a great one either in my opinion.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Fire Baptized

Title: Fire Baptized
Series: Habitat #1
Author: Kenya Wright
Pages: 286 (ebook)
Published: January 16th 2012
Published by: Dragonfairy Press

Since the 1970s humans have forced supernaturals to live in caged cities. Silver brands embedded in their foreheads identify them by species: a full moon for Vampires, a crescent moon for Shifters, a pair of wings for Fairies, and the list goes on, for each supernatural species has been tagged and categorized by humans. 

Lanore Vesta is marked with a silver X, the brand of Mixbreeds, second-class citizens shunned by society. She stays to herself, revealing her ability to create fire only during emergencies. All she wants to do is graduate college and stop having to steal to survive. But when she stumbles upon a murder in progress, she catches the attention of a supernatural killer. Now all she wants is to stop finding dead bodies in her apartment. 

Enlisting help from her Were-cheetah ex-boyfriend MeShack and a new mysterious friend named Zulu, she is steered through the habitat’s raunchy nightlife. But their presence sometimes proves to be more burden than help, as they fight for her attention. 

While the corpses pile up, and the scent of blood fills the air, Lanore is left wondering: will she find the psycho or die trying?

Lanore is a Mixie - a half-breed in a world where various supernatural species live alongside humans. Or rather, live imprisoned by humanity in caged cities. She lives with MeShack (Meschach, Shadrach and Abednego anyone? Rather distracting while reading) in a rough part of the Santeria Habitat just outside of Miami. As a Mixie she is a second-class citizen, but still does her best to achieve something with her life, attending college rather than just falling into the life of the average half-breed which namely seems to involve illiteracy and drug abuse from what we are shown.

But then she witnesses a murder and gets herself into a whole lot of mess.

I think the world Wright has created is an interesting one, with a great deal of potential. There are nice introductions to the various species and factions working in the world without being overwhelming, and I want to know more about the history of the characters and the world, and want to know what the outcome is going to be of their imprisonment. As you can imagine, they aren't particularly happy with it, and with the abilities some of the creatures have (super speed/were-creatures/vampires etc.) there could definitely be some great stuff to come.

Lanore is a nice enough character. She is principled, caring and strong, but the life she has led has made her aware of her limits. For the most part she is sensible and doesn't just rush headlong into things. She has reasons and motivations which make sense. She is fire baptised - she can ignite fire from her body and control it with her mind where it already exists, within a certain range. The first time we see her use this weather conditions (i.e. torrential rain) make it pretty ineffective, and this is the impression that stayed with me through the book. This meant I was mildly surprised every time she used it at all well, even though I was aware of the adverse conditions under which my first impression was taken. I can't decide whether this is a good thing or not, whether it was done on purpose to make you underestimate the character as she is underestimated for being a Mixie, or whether it was just badly introduced.

Unfortunately, she is the only character we really get to know. The other two male leads form the inevitable love triangle: MeShack and Zulu. They both have their histories which come to play a little in this book, but I feel they will both be developed on a lot more in the future. As it stands at the moment, they namely seem to be there to form the requisite love triangle and be pretty. But Lenora isn't distracted by them (too much) which is nice. She stays focused on the task she has set herself: finding the killer.

The story trips along nicely, and there weren't really any sections which dragged. Some of the murder scenes were a little graphic, but nothing horrendous. One even had glitter which was a first for me! The climax on the other hand happened almost without me noticing. It was over in a matter of pages and I didn't ever really feel there was that much tension or anything. There was a lot more that could have been done with it. The end of the story itself was well done, in that there was a definite ending to the events of this book, but enough in the series arc to keep me interested (but for me not very excited, which would have been better) in what's coming next. I will be reading the next one, but I won't be jumping on it as soon as it's released.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The Woman in White

Title: The Woman in White
Author: Wilkie Collins
Pages: 672 (paperback)
Published: April 29th 2003 (first published 1859)
Published by: Penguin Classics

‘In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop… There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth…stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white’

The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright’s eerie encounter of a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter becomes embroiled in the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his ‘charming’ friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of the English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.

Walter Hartright is a drawing master working in London when he is employed to work in Cumberland for three months, repairing the collection of paintings in Limmeridge House for the owner, Mr. Fairlie, and instructing the two young women who reside there in watercolours. The night before his departure he runs into Anne Catherick just outside of London in the middle of the night. This meeting is to throw him into a mystery which had its beginning decades before and which impacts the lives of many people in different ways.

This, in essence, is a detective story. The narrative as we read it has been compiled by Hartright with the testimonies of the people best able to relate the events which took place. We see them in chronological order, I think making it somewhat easier for the reader to work out what might be going on (though some key ones are left out of this order, instead related in Hartright's narrative as he finds things out by talking to people) than for those embroiled in the plot.

And quite a plot it is. There are twists and turns and things going wrong all over the spot. My first instinct of 'oh, well this is obviously what happened' turned out to be completely wrong, and while there were a couple of instances where I worked out what had happened, for the most part I was completely in the dark as to what was really going on. Which is exactly what you want from this kind of story - you want to be trying to work it out and getting it wrong, or at least parts of it. The point of the detective story is to show off the prowess and tenacity of the investigator and it loses something if it is too easily solvable.

To be fair, Hartright had more tenacity than prowess - he is so desperate to solve the mystery that he stops at nothing and you know he would not give up until every possibility had been thoroughly investigated. He is a great character, if a little overdescriptive at times in his narratives. But being an artist, this is maybe to be expected and actually shows his character coming out in his writing. Of the other contributors to the narratives my favourite has to be Count Fosco - he is a wonderfully eccentric and flamboyant character, while also quite clearly being something of a genius, particularly when it comes to human nature. Even before he had his say and he was merely appearing in other reports he was my favourite character. Especially because you're never quite sure what his motives are or whether you can trust him or not. Mr. Fairlie - the owner of Limmeridge House - was also quite amusing in his complaints. Think Mrs. Bennett from Pride and Prejudice, only more.

There were a couple of mildly creepy moments, but not as much as I was expecting given that it was described as part-Gothic horror. Yes, sensibilities have changed a lot in the last 150 years, but I was still expecting a little more. On top of this, the story did drag at times and I didn't find it the easiest book in the world to read. Still, it was definitely enjoyable and makes you want to find out what has happened and what the cause of the whole thing was. Everything is tied up nicely and nothing of significance was left unanswered - even if some of it was only conjecture on the part of Hartright.