Thursday, 28 June 2012


The second installment of Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate, Changeless, is a brilliant caper that proves that Carriger is more than capable of expanding a complex series beyond one book.   The ending is a little 'squiffy', as a certain character acts completely irrationally, but this has set up a perfectly workable concept for book three.

  Moving the plot out of London and northwards to rural Scotland, Changeless reveals more of Lord Maccon's past before he became Alpha of the Woolsey pack.  While trying not to reveal anything that could be considered as spoilers, Changeless includes: A hat shop, a dirigible ride that has almost fatal consequences and the transmission mission.  With the Parasol Protectorate, Carriger has created the perfect blend of futuristic Victoriana and the paranormal species.

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Week Ahead 25/06

I have a confession to make: I'm running behind schedule.  I finished Down the Rabbit Hole, went to start Open City, and somehow got caught up with Louis Theroux and his Call of the Weird.  Therefore, I've tried to reduce the list this week with books I have already made an attempt at reading, so I can try and catch up.

First up is Tender Morsels.  I've had this for a while after seeing it in a 'fairytale twists' display in Waterstones Norwich, and started it a month ago, but couldn't gain any momentum when reading, and ended up passing it over for other books. This week is Tender Morsels last chance to impress me before it has to be returned to the library.

In her inspired re-working of the fairy tale Snow White and Rose Red Margo Lanagan has created characters that are vivid, passionate, flawed and fiercely devoted to their hearts' desires, whether these desires are good or evil.  It is the story of two worlds - one real, one magical - and how, despite the safe haven her magical world offers to those who have suffered, her characters can never turn their backs on the real world, with all its beauty and brutality.

Next is Atonement.  I saw the film when I was at University, with no knowledge of Ian McEwan,  and then separately started reading other McEwan books (I read Saturday in conjunction with my Modernism and the City module and last year I read and reviewed Solar).  As there was a copy available in the library, I thought, why not?

On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briny Tallis sees her sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house.  Watching her is Robbie Turner, her childhood friend who, like Cecilia, has recently come down from Cambridge.
  By the end of that day the lives of all three will have been changed for ever.  Robbie and Cecilia will  have crossed a boundary they had not even imagined at its start, and will have become victims of the younger girl's imagination.  Briony will have witnessed mysteries, and committed a crime for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone.

Finally, a change from novels I ordered Jo Shapcott's Of Mutability, which happens to be part of the Summer Reads Program '12.

In a series of fresh, unflinching poems, the author movingly explores morality and the nature of change: in the body and the natural world, and in the shifting relationships between people.  By turns grave and playful, arresting and witty, the poems in Of Mutability celebrate each waking moment as though it might be the last, and in so doing restore wonder to the smallest of encounters.

Happy Reading, and here's hoping I don't fall behind. x

Thursday, 21 June 2012


I love the cover for this book but, by now, I should have realisd the prettier the cover the higher the chance the content inside isn't as good.  Not only does Intrusion have a striking cover, but an interesting blurb to match:

Imagine a near-future London where advances in medical science have led to the development of a single-dose pill which, taken when pregnant, eradicates many common genetic defects from an unborn baby.
Hope Morrison, mother of a hyperactive four-year-old, is expecting her second child. She refuses to take The Fix, as the pill is known. Her refusal divides her family and friends and puts her and her husband in danger of imprisonment or worse.

Is Hope's decision a private matter of individual choice, or is it tantamount to wilful neglect of her unborn child?

I wasn't left with a good impression and, having read it only a couple of weeks ago, can't remember exactly what took place within the pages.  There was something lacking, a vagueness that clouded over the whole of the book so that I remained detachted.  It tried to hard to be a commentary on the big brother society, but Intrusion couldn't decide if it wanted to be specualative or full blown sci fi.  The characters were not engaging either; like Christine not having a reason for declining a fix, I could find no reason to empathise with the Morrisons or the other characters.  The only exeception were the segments on unfair profiling, but these too got lost.  A bit of a muddle, and a shame it couldn't be as good as the cover suggested.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Week Ahead

A little late this week, so it's more the weekend ahead.  This time, I'm going with two books that are part of the Writers Centre Norwich Summer Reads '12 program. 

Down The Rabbit Hole - Juan Pablo Villalobos

Tochtli lives in a palace.  He loves hats, samurai, guillotines and dictionaries, and what he wants more than anything right now is a new pet for his private zoo: a pygmy hippopotamus from Liberia.  But Tochtli is a child whose father is a drug baron on the verge of taking over a powerful drug cartel, and Tochtli is growing up in a luxury hideout that he shares with hit men, prostitutes, dealers, servants and the odd corrupt politician or two.

Open City - Teju Cole

Along the streets of Manhattan, a young Nigerian doctor wanders aimlessly. Walking meets a need for Julius: it releases him from the tightly regulated mental environment of work, and gives him the opportunity to process his relationships, his recent break-up with his girlfriend, his present, his past.  He is navigating the busy parts of town, but the impression of countless faces does nothing to assuage his feelings of isolation.

It is not only a physical landscape he covers; Julius crisscrosses social territory as well, encountering people from different cultures and classes who will provide insight on his journey - a journey which will take him to Brussels, to the Nigeria of his youth, and into the most unrecognisable facets of his own soul.

Happy Reading.x

wide sargasso sea

Part of the Penguin Essentials set, that just happen to have gorgeous covers, I've always wanted to read Wide Sargasso Sea and as a new book in the library I felt compelled to rent it. 
A sort-of prequel to Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea attempts to explain how Mr. Rochester's first wife, Bertha, ended up 'haunting' Thornfield Hall.
  I found it difficult getting my brain back into proper literature mode, as I've been devouring some mindless fluff for a while, but after re-reading certain passages, I felt that I had a better grasp of what was happening.  There's a lot of interesting questions raised by Rhys, and this is not a read-once and never think about it again type of book.  Maybe in a year, I'll give it a re-read and be able to divulge a bit more!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Troupe

I had been expecting a more of Hell Train like romp.  However, after reading I found I was making more comparisons with Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus. 

Young and talented pianist George is tracking down his father.  Where his quest leads him is to a mysterious vaudeville troupe, where audience members only have a vague recollection of their performances.  George soon finds that he is not the only one looking for his father, and after integrating himself within the troupe starts to learn the many secrets of this small group.  

 My opinion of The Troupe is that it was a more intelligent version of The Night Circus.  Less focused on spectacle and romance and more on plot and lies, I found The Troupe to be a captivating read, that was not only enjoyable, but made me think about literary type things.  The characters are all written very well, every aspect of their personality is informed by their back story.  As for the narrative that followed young George's point of view, I found that even when plot twists were obvious to me, they wouldn't have been obvious to George, so the narration always stayed true to his observations as a cocky sixteen-year old-boy.  The scope of the novel was also interesting (tangents that included the creation of the world, and then stepping into the world of the fey) as it wasn't limited to the usual horror fare, and this made me question why The Troupe is placed in the horror/paranormal section while something like The Night Circus is in the 'normal' fiction section of the bookstore.  All these queries aside, The Troupe is a mesmerising page turner that rattles against the boundary of its genre.

Before I Go To Sleep

Christine wakes up.  She doesn't know the man beside her and assumes the worst.  However, after getting up and entering the bathroom she discovers there are notes all around the mirror, and a photograph of her and the man together.  These inform her that he is her husband.  Christine finds out that she had an accident that affected her short-term memory, and thus everyday is a new start for her.  Playing with the idea of memory and strong link it has to identity, Christine is desperately to trying to remember her life, but will she discover memories better left forgotten?

Again, I'm keeping this one to a list as it is very easy to go into spoiler territory, so here are the three non-spoiler things I liked:
  1. How Watson kept the repetitive nature of the plot in check.  This type of story could have easily strayed into a tedious rhythm of 'who am I?', yet this was avoided as each time a memory was repeated Watson provided new information that was critical to Christine's narrative.
  2. The accessible nature of Watson's writing.  Could read it in a day, or spend a week's holiday dipping in and out.
  3. The story kept unfolding right up until the end.

As a side note, in late May, I attended a Q+A with S.J Watson at the Norwich and Norfolk Millennium Library that Norwich Writers Centre had put on in accordance with their 2012 Summer Reads program.  It was an interesting evening, that skirted around spoilers (just in case people in the audience hadn't finished the book, or library visitors for that matter!) but still gave a good insight into Watson's writing process and then the publishing aspect of releasing the novel.  For example, he originally wanted his first novel to buck the trend and write something that was as far away from himself as possible.  However, although not obvious, there are traces of him throughout the book. 


Nick Harkaway's Angelmaker is an astounding piece of literature, that includes but is not limited to:
lesbian spies, mechanical bees, undertakers, a villain that wouldn't look out of place in a Bond movie, rivalries and J. Joe Spork.
  Joe is a humble clock maker, who intends to live his life on the straight and narrow, unlike his criminal father.  This plan goes to pot after he is sent to a strange town to inspect a strange device, and he becomes entangled with a rivalry and plot to destroy human kind that has lasted decades.  With plenty of meanderings throughout what seems like a complex ,and yet once deconstructed totally simple, plot Angelmaker is hilarious, sombre, sad, and baffling all at the same time.  The size of the hardback may be intimidating, and the first few chapters are perhaps not the page turners that the rest of the book turns out to be, but trust me, Angelmaker is bonkers, and that's why it is brilliant.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone is about Karou, a blue haired, tattooed art student who lives in Prague, and has just gone through a painful break-up.  Her sketch book is full of drawings of creatures made up of different animals that are actually portraits of the people who raised her.  Leading a double life isn't easy, and Karou's life is about to become even more complicated.

I really enjoyed this book.  The settings of Prague and Marrakesh were refreshing and vividly described as were the Chimera.  The imagination and the thought that must have gone in to create them amazes me.  Even though the dreaded love story is a focal point, there was enough Otherness about Daughter of Smoke and Bone that kept me reading.  Also, if I'm honest, I loved the Sailor Mooness of it.  Another thing I liked was that a YA author managed to include the topic of sex in a completely normal way, and did not put the issue on a pedestal that took up most of the novel.  It is mentioned briefly at the start, and then the real meat of the story comes into play.  After reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone  I only had a couple of complaints:   
 Firstly, Karou's loneliness. Why does she feel the need to be with someone, and why are most YA novels so focused on the 'importance' of romantic relationships?
Secondly, that the entire last half of the book is given over to back story.  I realise that this is needed but it leads to my next point and that was the feeling that there should have been more book after the back story was finished. I know that it is being saved for the rest of the series, but I would have happily read another hundred pages.  However, maybe it's a good thing that I'm left wanting more as I will definitely be on the look-out for the next offering from Taylor.

the fates will find their way

The Fates Will Find Their Way, is told through the collective narrative of a group of adolescent boys/adult men who once knew a girl that went missing from their small surburban American town.  Pittard explores the reprocussions of Nora's dissaperance, blending the mythology that the group have created, and re-written, throughtout their lives post-Nora and the retrospection of how this one event effected the rest of their lives. 

The boys deep rooted obsession, and the narative style, instantly reminded me of Jeffrey Eugenides The Virgin Suicides.  Like that novel, there are plenty of stylistic and narrative choices to be enjoyed within this book but don't expect any answers, or any facts that the boys tell to be verified as truth.  An intriguing read, worth a look if you're a fan of this type of angst ridden genre.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


Gail Carriger's books have been on my radar for a while, but for some absurd reason the cover always put me off.  This changed recently, after finally reading the blurb on the back of the book, and I decided to give Soulless, the first in the parasol protectorate series, a chance.

  After finishing Soulless I couldn't express how glad that I finally decided to read this fantastic series.  Alexia Tarrabotti is an intriguing, and somewhat refreshing, character, as are the other colourful creations to be found in Soulless.  In the beginning, it becomes evident that Carriger is extremely adept at developing a world all of her own for her strange characters to inhabit.  Her description of Tarrabotti's world is so vivid and detailed that I wondered if  I had picked up the second book by mistake. 
  The only negative is that perhaps the plot is not as strong as it could have been, but this was a capable entry into what will hopefully be a fascinating series.