Friday, 16 December 2016

Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts

Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts is a weekly blogging event hosted by Bookishly Boisterous. It allows book bloggers (and non-book bloggers) to write about pretty much anything, bookish or otherwise (i.e. share exciting plans for the weekend, rants on things they've encountered during the week, etc).

1. I generally try to write a Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts post every 1-2 months but looking through my archive I can see that it's been almost four months since my last one! Oops! Anyway by far the most interesting thing that's happened to me over the past few months is that I finally got to go to New York so most of this post is going to have an NYC theme! :)

2. I went to New York in November with my mum and we had such an amazing time. We flew with American Airlines and after an 8 hour flight we arrived at JFK on Wednesday, the 16th of November. We landed at about 12.30 pm local time but it then took us another two hours to get through customs, claim luggage, ride the Airtrain and subway to get to our hotel in Midtown (the Hilton Metropolitan on Lexington Avenue), and wait to check into our room. After that we freshened up a bit and went to look at some sights! Our first stop was Grand Central Terminal which was about a 10 minute walk from our hotel. We had a look at the concourse there (which really is as beautiful as it looks in all the movies!) and then went down to the food court where I had a coffee and a banana pudding (so good!) at Magnolia Bakery. After that we walked over to the NY Public Library on 5th Avenue and had a quick look around (we didn't stay too long as there seemed to be some kind of a private function going on). Then we sat down and watched the ice skaters at Bryant Park for a while and then walked up to Times Square, After that we then headed back to our hotel and chilled out at the bar for a while before going to bed.

3. We both woke up really early on the Thursday morning as we were both still on UK time. Then we walked back over to Times Square so we could buy some tickets for the Broadway musical The Color Purple that night. I was shocked at how inexpensive our tickets were as the rush tickets were only $35 each and we had really good seats as we discovered later on! After that we then had breakfast at a diner-type place near the theatre and walked up 5th Avenue. We stopped off to look at the beautiful St Patrick's Cathedral and then had to navigate past the Trump Tower which was an absolute circus. The place was full of TV newsreaders, police officers, protesters, and tourists snapping photos. And after that we then went into the Rockefeller Center so we could see the incredible views at the Top of the Rock and then walked over to Central Park. We saw the Mall, the Bethesda Fountain, and Bow Bridge there and the park was so pretty with all of its autumnal colours :) We then stopped to have a drink at the Loeb Boathouse there (I remember having green tea) and then walked back to our hotel so we could change clothes and head back out to Broadway to see The Color Purple which was... oh my goodness it was honestly one of the most moving and inspiring things that I have ever seen in my life! Neither of us went into the musical knowing a huge amount about it and we were both completely blown away by it! Gah...!

4. I think Friday must have been the one with the most amount of walking judging by how exhausted we were by the end of it! First of all we took the subway down to Lower Manhattan so we could go to the Whitehall Terminal and ride the Staten Island Ferry that takes you past the Statue of Liberty. Once we got back we then walked up Broadway and stopped off to look at Trinity Church and Wall Street. Then we went to pay our respects at the 9/11 Memorial and eventually made our way over to the Brooklyn Bridge. We then walked the bridge and got off at the first exit to have a look around the Brooklyn Heights area. Apparently a lot of rich and famous people live around here and I can completely understand why as you get the most amazing views of Manhattan here and the houses are all just so beautiful! We walked around for a while in this area and then made our way back to the bridge so we could eat at the nearby Shake Shack and Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (again, I had such good food on this trip!) After that we then walked back across the bridge and got on the subway to Union Square so I could stop off at the famous Strand Bookstore. I'd told my mum that it was only going to be a quick stop, as I already knew which books I wanted to get, but it took us ages to find the place because we got off at the wrong exit. I felt pretty guilty about it. Once I found the books I wanted (Rainbow Rowell's Attachments and Sarah Andersen's Adulthood is a Myth) we then got on the subway back to the hotel and that was the end of our day.

5. Saturday was our last full day in New York and we started off the day by getting the subway over to the Chelsea Market where I had a breakfast that consisted off macaroons at Bar Suzette and a red velvet cake at another place :D The Chelsea Market is only around the corner from an exit of the High Line so we then got onto it and walked that for a bit. After that we then got on the subway over to Soho to do some shopping. Soho is another beautiful area of the city and I managed to get some overalls at Top Shop and some Mac foundation at Bloomingdale's. By this point it was mid-afternoon and we then got back on the subway so we could go over to Williamsburg in Brooklyn which is where we spent the rest of the day: we had dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant called Diviera Drive and cocktails at a bar/cinema called Videology there before heading back to the hotel. Williamsburg is a great area with so many cool places to eat, drink and shop. Apparently it has a reputation for being full of hipsters but we didn't actually see any hipsters there at all! Brooklyn Heights and Williamsburg were actually my favourite places in New York. They're both such great areas and yet I saw hardly any tourists in these places: just local families and people out walking their dogs which I really loved. I felt like I was seeing the "real New York" :)

6. Sunday was officially our last day in New York although we really didn't have the time to do very much apart from having food at Ess-a-bagels which was just around the block from our hotel. I do kind of wish that we could have had a full week in New York to be honest - as I would have loved to have seen the MET Museum and some of Queens and maybe even gone out to the Hudson River Valley for a day trip - but I still had the time of my life in this city and I know I'll treasure this holiday forever! :) The weather was so mild when we were there as well and I was so impressed by how kind and helpful everyone was (New Yorkers are so much friendlier than their reputation!) and how diverse the city was.

7. So that's what I got up to in NYC basically! But I've also been reading some wonderful books over the past few months! The book that I'm currently reading is Richard Adams' Watership Down. It's actually a re-read for me as it's one of my favourite books from my childhood :) I figured that now would be a good time to re-read it as a combined BBC/Netflix adaptation of it is coming out next year (starring James McAvoy and John Boyega!) which I'm very excited about. Other books that I've read recently and loved but haven't yet got around to reviewing are:
  • The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson (the final novel in the original Mistborn trilogy) which left me an emotional mess! 
  • The first two novels in the Court of Thorns and Roses Saga by the hugely popular YA fantasy author Sarah J. Maas.
  • A stunning children's picture-book retelling of the East of the Sun, West of the Moon fairy tale.
  • A heartbreakingly beautiful novel set in WWII called The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman (which is getting a film adaptation with Daisy Ridley starring).
  • the audiobook of As You Wish by Cary Elwes (a hilarious and touching memoir about his experiences of making The Princess Bride).
8. A very surprising recent development is that I have finally started to like drinking coffee! I've been especially enjoying all of the festive coffees that I've been drinking over the past few weeks :)

9. I think most of my regular readers should already know that I'm a massive Star Wars fan and I finally got to see Rogue One last night. Overall I liked it but I didn't love it. Visually it's an incredibly beautiful film with a lot of action (the space battles are spectacular!) and I really liked that it introduced some more moral ambiguity into the Star Wars universe and that we got to see a lot of new planets in it. But I also can't help but feel that the film got too carried away with all its spectacle and planet-hopping and that we didn't get to know any of its characters properly. I felt that the characterisations and emotions got sacrificed and it's made me appreciate what The Force Awakens achieved even more. So yeah, I thought Rogue One was a very good, solid film with a lot of super cool moments but it didn't blow me away.

10. And that's pretty much it for me! I'm going to try to do a Top Ten Tuesday later in the month but this could well be my last post for this year. So just in case I'd like to wish everyone reading this a wonderful Christmas and end of year!

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

My Wrap-Up for the Sci-Fi Month (2016)

Hello again everyone, it's almost the end of November and the end of the Sci-Fi Month! In total I read three novels, three short stories, and a novella for this event which were all written by the authors Patrick Ness and Brandon Sanderson. I was also planning on reading and reviewing Ernest Clines's Ready Player One for this event but I didn't really have the time for that one in the end (I hope I haven't disappointed anyone!)

My posts for the Sci-Fi Month were:

Tuesday, 1st November: My Introduction to the Sci-Fi Month 2016 (post)

Friday, 4th November: Top 10 Sci-Fi Films/TV Shows That I Want to Watch (list)

Tuesday, 8th November: Top 10 Sci-Fi Books That I Want to Read (list)

Friday, 25th November: My book review of Legion by Brandon Sanderson (2012, review)

Tuesday, 29th November: My book review of Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness (2008-10, review)

Wednesday, 30th November: My Wrap-Up post

I've written this Wrap-Up post to announce that I'm finished with the Sci-Fi Month now but also because I want to give a huge thank you to Rinn and Lisa (who have done such a wonderful job in hosting!) and to everyone who commented on this blog :) I'm sorry that I haven't done a huge amount of commenting myself for this event but, over the rest of this week, I am going to be writing up responses to comments on here and I'll also be doing a lot more blog-hopping so you might still see me around. I've really enjoyed the blog-hopping that I have managed to do for this event so far though: it was wonderful to see so many people that love the Sci-Fi stories that I love and I found out about some really interesting sounding new ones (i.e. Ken Liu's The Paper Menagerie).

I loved doing this event and I'm definitely planning to take part in it again for the following year. I hope everyone else who took part really enjoyed themselves as well and I wish everyone reading this a fantastic December, Christmas and end of year!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

'Chaos Walking' by Patrick Ness (2008-10)

Synopsis: Chaos Walking is a YA dystopian sci-fi series that consists of three novels (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men) and three short stories (The New World, Wide Wide Sea and Snowscape). The series is set in the far-future on a distant planet that has been colonised by a small group of human settlers from Earth. In The Knife of Never Letting Go, Todd Hewitt is a boy just a month away from his 13th birthday (which would make him a man in the eyes of his community) and is the youngest person in the tiny village of Prentisstown. Todd has been raised by two men called Ben and Cillian - and has been brought up to believe that all of the planet's females and half the men were killed in an act of germ warfare by the native alien species of the planet (the Spackle) during the early years of the humans' settlement. A side-effect of this germ was that all of the remaining males of the town were left with the ability to see and hear each other's thoughts in a constant, cacophonous stream of Noise. Even their animals were affected by this germ. But when Todd and his dog Manchee then go through a walk in the nearby swamp one day they're left both shocked and overwhelmed when they manage to find a small patch of silence in it. And when Todd then goes home to his guardians and lets them know what he's found, the pair of them then mysteriously insist that Todd must now leave Prentisstown immediately. They then force Todd to flee their home and go on the run - whilst fighting off men from the town - and give him nothing but a hunting knife, a map of the planet, a small pack of food, and the diary that once belonged to Todd's mother. Todd and Manchee then escape back into the swamp and are able to discover the source of the silence - a teenage girl called Viola who has crash-landed on their planet. The three of them then embark on a dangerous quest across the planet towards the city of Haven, a larger settlement that should be able to protect them from the men of Prentisstown...

This review is going to be rather atypical for me as I don't think that I've ever attempted to review an entire series in one post before! It hadn't been my intention to review the entire Chaos Walking series in one post at the start of the Sci-Fi Month but I've just been so unexpectedly busy this November that I simply haven't had the time and the energy to write any individual reviews for its stories. I'm actually really glad that this has happened though because this series seriously grew on me as I was going through it and my overall thoughts on it are now far more positive than they were just a few weeks ago! :)

There were two main reasons why I chose to read the Chaos Walking books for the Sci-Fi Month. One reason for my wanting to read the series is because there are film adaptations of it that are now in the works (with Doug Liman directing and Daisy Ridley and possibly Tom Holland starring) and the other reason because I really loved Patrick Ness's brilliant middle-grade fantasy novel A Monster Calls when I read that book earlier this year. However, my experience of reading Chaos Walking was actually very different to my experience with A Monster Calls! The major difference I suppose was that I loved A Monster Calls pretty much instantly whereas with the Chaos Walking series it took me a very long time to decide how I actually felt about it, lol.

This book series really took me by surprise! I knew when I went into it that it had been primarily aimed at an older audience than A Monster Calls and that it would be sci-fi rather than fantasy, and I have read a few dystopian novels before so I was obviously aware that these books were hardly going to be feel-good comfort reads. But even so I was completely unprepared for how emotionally draining this series would be! This series is very dark and violent at times and I found it very difficult to get through in places. In fact there was this one particularly graphic scene of violence in The Ask and the Answer that I found so upsetting to read (my hands were shaking and I genuinely felt dizzy) that I had to put the book down for a few days. For that reason, even though Chaos Walking has been marketed for teenagers, I wouldn't say that this series is for everyone and I'd be very reluctant to recommend it to kids in their early teens.

BUT although Chaos Walking was a very challenging and hard read for me at times I was still very much left with the feeling that this series had all been worthwhile! The concept of the series is so unique, its world is so intriguing, atmospheric and well-developed, and its themes are incredibly rich. This series touches on colonisation, racism, genocide, war, misogyny, slavery, terrorism, religious bigotry and hypocrisy, and the loss of privacy! The prose and pacing in these books is also outstanding. Patrick Ness's descriptions and insights are so beautiful and powerful and there's so much action and suspense in this series!

I was never really able to picture Todd and Viola's characters as 13/14 year olds in this series (in my mind they were always at least 16 so the decision to age them up in the films like the Stark siblings in Game of Thrones makes perfect sense to me) but nevertheless I felt that they were both brilliantly-written. Viola was definitely my favourite character in the series as she's an extremely bright, determined, brave, resourceful and compassionate heroine. Having said that Manchee is the most adorable dog that I've encountered in fiction since Dug from Up and I really liked the characters Lee and Bradley who appear in the later books. As for Todd, it did take me a while to truly warm to him as I honestly thought that he was a whiny, stubborn brat at the start of The Knife of Never Letting Go and that he made some really stupid decisions at times. However Todd really does have a good heart, he grows tremendously throughout the series, and his relationship with Viola is very sweet.

In the end I found Chaos Walking to be extremely rewarding as it was deeply powerful, thought-provoking and haunting. The series is hard to read at times but looking back I don't think that the story was ever without hope and optimism and, ultimately, I felt that it was a tale about love winning out over war :)

Overall Rating: 5/5

P.S. Recently I've actually seen a few sarcastic and negative comments about the Chaos Walking books online. When the film adaptations were announced I saw quite a few comments along the lines of "Oh great, yet another YA dystopian adaptation" and "Oh yeah whatever, this series is clearly just a rip-off of The Hunger Games". This is sooo frustrating to me now that I've actually finished this series! Firstly, because The Knife of Never Letting Go was actually published a few months before the first Hunger Games novel and, secondly, because I now think that Chaos Walking is the best dystopian series that I've yet read. Although I have a great fondness for The Hunger Games, I found Chaos Walking to be the far more visceral and thought-provoking of the two, and for me it actually got better with each book whereas the sequels to the first Hunger Games novel stayed the same and then got worse. Erm, yeah... I couldn't finish this review on too positive a note, I had to get a rant in there somewhere, lol!

Friday, 25 November 2016

'Legion' by Brandon Sanderson (2012)

Synopsis: Legion is a sci-fi mystery novella and is the first in a planned trilogy. Stephen Leeds (a.k.a. "Legion") is a reclusive millionaire living in modern-day America and has been diagnosed with a multiple personality disorder. However, Stephen's real mental condition is considerably more unique and bizarre than this and is actually extremely useful to him. Stephen is able to hallucinate about many different "aspects" (imaginary persons) who all have their own specific personalities, skill-sets and knowledge. J.C. is a trigger-happy Navy SEAL and weapons expert, Ivy is a psychologist, Tobias is a historian and philosopher, Kalyani is a linguist, and so on and so on. Although Stephen is technically mad (and is of immense interest to the medical community), his various aspects help him to do almost anything and he's been able to earn a huge amount of money as a private detective. It's then that Stephen is approached by a woman called Monica who offers him a very unusual case: to track down a scientist called Balubal Razon who has been able to develop a special camera that can take pictures of the past. It turns out that Razon has now gone off to Jerusalem to try to find out if Jesus Christ truly existed so Stephen, Monica and the aspects all get on board the next available flight to Israel. However, the group soon discovers that finding Razon's exact location is the least of their problems as a dangerous terrorist group is also after the camera.

I wasn't originally planning on reviewing Legion for this year's Sci-Fi Month but as it's only a novella I was able to squeeze it in amongst the novels that I've been reading :)

Earlier this year I managed to read the original trilogy of Brandon Sanderson's epic high-fantasy Mistborn series (which I absolutely loved!) Now obviously since Legion is a far shorter work that belongs to a different genre and is set on modern-day Earth it made for a very different change of pace to The Mistborn and it certainly didn't compare to the richness, depth and overall brilliance of that trilogy - but that being said Legion was still a terrific little read! Its premise is fascinating, the writing is fast-paced and brisk, it's got plenty of action and mystery, and it even manages to touch on themes of faith, science, mental health, and politics. However, as much as I enjoyed its plot, the very best about Legion for me was without doubt its characters. I loved how quirky, eccentric and diverse Stephen's aspects all were - not just in terms of personality but also in terms of gender and race - and all of the amusing bickering that went on between them and Stephen :D

Although I do wish that this novella could have been longer and that the subplot concerning Stephen's mysterious ex-girlfriend Sandra could have been explored more, I had sooo much fun reading this novella. To be honest I wasn't in a good mood at all when I started it but it really cheered me up! I'm definitely looking forward to reading this book's sequel Skin Deep now and more of Sanderson's fantasy and sci-fi works in general of course! Once I'm done with Skin Deep, I'm thinking either Warbreaker or Steelheart will be my next Sanderson reads...

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Top 10 Sci-Fi Books That I Want to Read (Top Ten Tuesday)

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists! Each week we will post a new Top Ten list that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers. 10 is just a suggestion to aim for if you can hit it -- do a list of 3 or 5 or 20 on your list. Your post, your choice!

It's been a while since I've done a Top Ten Tuesday post but today I'm doing a joint post for both Top Ten Tuesday and the Sci-Fi Month - which makes me feel as though I'm being extra productive! :D For anyone who's not a regular reader of this blog, the Sci-Fi Month is basically a month-long celebration of the science fiction genre that I'm taking part in at the moment. I've written two posts for this event so far: an Introduction post and a list of the Sci-Fi Films and TV Shows That I Want to Watch. After publishing that last post I then got to work on a list of the sci-fi books that I'd like to read and then figured that I might as well link it up with TTT since today's topic ("Ten Books I've Added To My To Be Read List") is a close enough match to that. 

So below you'll find the Top 10 Sci-Fi Books That I Want to Read. Although I have made a bit more of an effort in reading more books from the sci-fi genre over the past couple of years, and will be knocking off even more during this month, there are still quite a few sci-fi books that I really want to read and these are...

1. Dune by Frank Herbert.
Dune is a classic space-opera novel and is generally considered to be The Lord of the Rings of sci-fi. This book was also a major influence on George Lucas when he was writing Star Wars: A New Hope which is the main reason why I want to read it. I'm a massive Star Wars fan and I've been really wanting to check out some of the biggest influences on those films (for example I also really want to watch the samurai films of Akira Kurosawa and to read Joseph Campbell's non-fiction writings on mythology).

2. Red Rising by Pierce Brown. 
This book is set on Mars and is the first in a dystopian trilogy that I've heard a lot of good things about. A friend of a friend describes this book as being what would have happened if the survivors from The Hunger Games had then been "rewarded" with getting to live in the world of Game of Thrones. In space!

3. Steelheart and Legion by Brandon Sanderson.
The original trilogy of Brandon Sanderson's high-fantasy Mistborn books is now one of my favourite fantasy series ever and I can't wait to read more from this author! Sanderson has also written a couple of sci-fi works and both of them sound extremely interesting to me. Steelheart is the first in The Reckoners series which sounds like a truly fascinating blend of YA dystopian sci-fi and urban fantasy (a world ruled by evil supervillains!) and Legion is the first in a planned trilogy of sci-fi mystery novellas about a private detective with multiple personalities.

4. More Than This by Patrick Ness. 
This book is a YA novel and is supposed to be the most existential of Ness's works. I became determined to seek out more from this author after reading Ness's brilliant middle-grade fantasy novel A Monster Calls earlier this year and I'm actually reading his dystopian sci-fi series Chaos Walking at the moment.

5. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.
Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic novel set in the Great Lakes region of Canada and I've heard nothing but great things about it. In fact this book has received so much hype that I'm somewhat concerned that it won't live up to it! But, yes, I do still intend to give this one a read some day.

6. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.
Outlander is the first novel in a hugely popular time-travel series that I've heard is both extremely gripping and romantic. However - as I was saying in my list of the Top 10 sci-fi films and tv shows that I want to watch - although I do really want to read the books I can see myself checking out its TV adaptation first as there are quite a lot of books in the series and they're all super long.

7. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis.
I have John Green to thank for this one as I first found out about it when he said that it was his favourite time travel novel in this YouTube video. I then looked into this book a little bit more and I became even more interested! This book has won both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards and it sounds like such a fun and engaging romantic-comedy adventure type story. Come to think of it, I'm surprised that I haven't got around to it already!

8. A Robot in the Garden by Deborah Install.
This is a book that I only found out about a couple of days ago (thanks to my friend Lianne over at Eclectic Tales) but I now really want to read it. Overall it sounds like such a sweet and whimsical story :)

9. Bloodline by Claudia Gray. 
Bloodline is an official Star Wars tie-in novel, is set about five or six years before the events of The Force Awakens, and is focused on Leia Organa's character - which sounds pretty damn awesome if you ask me! :D

10. Shards of Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold.
This book is the first in a Hugo Award winning space-opera series called The Vorkosigan Saga and is yet another book that I want to read due to its Star Wars associations - because when I googled "Books similar to Star Wars" a few months ago this was one of the titles that came up :) To be honest it took me quite a while to get past the awful book covers in this series (I know, I know, I'm such a bad reader for letting covers put me off a book!) but after reading several good reviews I've finally been persuaded to give it a try.

So, what about you? Do you want to read any of these books yourself or have you already read some of them? :)

Friday, 4 November 2016

Top 10 Sci-Fi Films/TV Shows That I Want to Watch

Hello again! :) Today's post is my second for the Sci-Fi Month. As you've probably already gathered this isn't going to be my book review of Patrick Ness's The Knife of Never Letting Go as I'm now enjoying its sequel The Ask and the Answer so much that I just can't bear to drag myself away from it for too long :D But at the same time I didn't want to leave any of my readers with nothing else to read from me today so what I thought I could do instead would be to just make a super quick list post of the various Sci-Fi films and TV shows that I want to watch at some point. So without any further ado and in no real particular order...

The Top 5 Sci-Fi Films That I Want to Watch are:

1. Star Wars: Episodes VIII and IX and Rogue One

2. The Circle
An upcoming dystopian film (based on a book by Dave Eggers) with a cast that includes Emma Watson, John Boyega, Karen Gillan and Tom Hanks!

3. Pacific Rim
I wasn't terribly interested in this film when it came out (I can't even remember why) but the good things that I've heard about it ever since and all of the excitement that I've seen over its sequel have now definitely got me interested :)

4. Arrival
Amy Adams is in two films that are out later this month and there's a huge amount of Oscar buzz about both of them. One of those films is Nocturnal Animals which looks like a dark psychological thriller and the other is this Sci-Fi thriller called Arrival. November is going to be a bit of a busy month for me but I'm hoping that I'll be able to squeeze in both!

5. Wonder Woman
Okay... here's the thing. I don't consider myself a DC fan (I haven't liked any of their films since The Dark Knight Trilogy ended) and I've come to the realisation that I'm not even a Marvel fan (which is like the ultimate sin in nerd circles). And yet I'm actually getting quite excited about this film! Its latest trailer looks super fun, it has a female superhero as its lead (Yes!), and I really like the WWI setting!

And now for the Top 5 Sci-Fi Shows That I Want to Watch...

1. Fringe
As you may have gathered from my introduction post to the Sci-Fi Month I'm a huge J.J. Abrams fan (loved The Force Awakens, Super 8 and his Star Trek films!) and I really want to finish this particular TV show that he helped to produce. I've actually already seen the first couple of episodes of this show on Netflix and I really enjoyed them but as I happened to be going through another TV show then I figured that it would probably be best if I went back to it at another time. Unfortunately I lack the multi-tasking skills to binge-watch more than one show at once!

2. Outlander
A time-travel show that's supposed to be deeply gripping and romantic and is based on a hugely popular book series by the author Diana Gabaldon. Although I do really want to read the book series as well I can see myself watching this TV adaptation first as there quite a lot of books in the series and they're all super long. 

3. Orphan Black
A Canadian show made by BBC America about multiple clones, this is yet another TV show that I've seen a couple of episodes of on Netflix and really enjoyed but just didn't have the time back then to watch the show in full.

4. The X Files
A hit '90s show that's become rather iconic! Although I've heard that its seasons are rather variable in terms of quality, I still really want to watch this show. Partly because Mulder and Scully's characters were featured in one of my all-time favourite episodes of The Simpsons ("The Springfield Files") and partly because I loved the film Midnight Special which came out earlier this year (go see it if you haven't already as it's awesome!) and I know a lot of people felt that that film had a similar "conspiracy thriller" vibe to this show.

5. Stranger Things (Season Two)
I really wasn't too sure which show to put down for my fifth choice so I've just gone with the second season of Stranger Things. I finally got round to watching its first season a couple of weeks ago and oh my word it was every bit as amazing as I'd heard!

So that's it from me for today. I'm now planning to write about the Sci-Fi books that I want to read in a separate post and I'm still fully committed to the planned book reviews that I mentioned in my introduction post. I hope you enjoyed this list. So what about you? Do you want to watch any of these yourself or are you a fan of these already? :)

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

My Introduction to the Sci-Fi Month (2016)

Hello everyone! I know that I've been neglecting this blog as of late - and I am genuinely really sorry about that! - but I'll be making up for that a bit as I'll be taking part in the Sci-Fi Month this November :) To any regular readers who might not know what this is, it's basically a month long blog event to celebrate all things science fiction. The event's been around since 2013 and is co-hosted by Rinn from RinnReads and Lisa from Over the Effing Rainbow. Taking part in this event was one of my major reading aims for 2016 and I've been really looking forward to it!

About Me
So... my name is Hannah, I'm 28 years old and I'm from the city of Birmingham in the UK. I've lived here for all of my life apart from when I spent three years in Manchester where I was completing my degree in English Literature and Linguistics. I've also been an avid reader for pretty much all of my life and I mainly talk about books on this site as I am always happy to talk about the books that I love and to recommend them to people :) I write book reviews of my own on here and I also occasionally take part in the Top Ten Tuesday event (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) and the Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts event (hosted by Christine over at the Bookishly Boisterous). My favourite genre to read is probably fantasy but I do try to keep the genres that I read relatively varied. When it comes to the science fiction genre I'm really more of a sci-fi viewer than I am a reader but I have been making more of an effort in reading sci-fi books over the past couple of years. And apart from reading, my other main interests in life include travel (I'm actually going away to New York during the middle of this month!), baking, the theatre, and watching great films and TV.

What I Love About Sci-Fi
Science-fiction is a wonderful genre! For me the very best sci-fi tales have an epic scope and are exciting and emotional character-focused stories with fascinating and imaginative ideas and worlds :) I'm really not into the hard sci-fi spectrum of the genre where there's a very heavy emphasis on all of the mechanics and scientific accuracy but I love the space opera, time travel, dystopian, sci-fi mystery, and comic sci-fi subgenres.
(c) National Geographic

My Introduction to Sci-Fi *gushing alert!*
I've been a Sci-Fi fan for 15 years now - ever since my Dad bought me a VHS boxset (hey, remember those?!) of the original Star Wars trilogy when I was 12 years old. I then sat down and saw Star Wars: A New Hope for the first time and was completely spellbound by it. ANH wasn't actually my first Star Wars film as I'd already been exposed to The Phantom Menace about a year or two before but that film had done absolutely nothing for me. After seeing ANH I then went on to watch The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi over the next couple of days and I became, well, obsessed :D Along with the Harry Potter series, Star Wars was a major part of my adolescence and is hugely precious to me. I'm still not a fan of any of the prequels and, to be honest, I have very little patience with the argument that the prequels have all of the same virtues and flaws as the other Star Wars films and that anyone who doesn't like them is merely blinded by nostalgia. It's not that I have a problem with people liking the prequels(!) but since I'm still fairly young and my first Star Wars film was actually The Phantom Menace that argument can hardly be true in my case and I find it really quite insulting. But as for the other four Star Wars films? I adore them. I love that the films aren't at all hard sci-fi and are very much sci-fi fairy tales. I love that they're full of adventure and excitement. I love their wonderful characters. I love how funny the films are and I find them very emotional and powerful. I love the romance. I love John Williams' stunning music for the films. I love the films' aesthetic. I love how ripe with mythological roots and symbolism the films are and their mystical/spiritual elements. I love the famous twist ending in ESB which is arguably the greatest movie twist of all time. And I love that the films all have themes that fascinate me and are close to my heart: compassion, family, friendship, hope, redemption, rebellion, faith, fate, courage, love...

It's obviously a hugely exciting time to be a Star Wars fan right now and I'm extremely excited for what's in store. I'm so happy that these stories that were so important to me in my past are continuing to be a huge part of my present and future :')

My Favourite Sci-Fi Stories are...: 

Books: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher and The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Films: Star Wars, Super 8, The Prestige, Inception, Midnight Special, The Matrix, Edge of Tomorrow, Minority Report, The Hunger Games, Jurassic Park, Galaxy Quest, the Star Trek reboot films and Danny Boyle's Frankenstein (a filmed stage production).

TV Shows: Doctor Who, Firefly, Futurama and Stranger Things.

My Plans for the Sci-Fi Month:

Reading and reviewing Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness - This is a YA dystopian series made up of three novels and three short stories. I've already read the first novel (The Knife of Never Letting Go) in this series and my review of it should hopefully go up by the end of this week. There were two reasons why I chose to read this series for the SF month: 1) because I read Ness's fantasy novel A Monster Calls earlier in the year and I was absolutely floored by it, and 2) because these books are getting made into films that will star Daisy Ridley (who I ❤ ) and will be directed by Doug Liman, the director of Edge of Tomorrow (such an underrated Sci-Fi film!)

Reading and reviewing Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - Another dystopian story but a standalone novel for adults this time. This book only entered my radar when I found out from an article that Steven Spielberg was about to direct a film adaptation of it and that the film would star Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg, and Ben Mendelsohn. That and the fact that the book was described as being like "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets The Matrix" immediately piqued my interest! Oh, and since then the film has actually been shot in my hometown! They filmed portions of the film in Digbeth and the Jewellery Quarter (which are old industrial areas) not too long ago.

Possible Further Reading: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (a time travel novel), Legion by Brandon Sanderson (a Sci-Fi mystery novella), and Bloodline by Claudia Gray (an official Star Wars tie-in novel) .

Some Questions that You May Want to Answer:
  • Are you taking part in this year's event? If so, is this your first time or have you been taking part for a while now?
  • Would you class yourself as a huge Sci-Fi fan in general or are there only a few stories from the genre that you love?
  • Do you like any of my favourite Sci-Fi books/films/tv shows as well? What are your personal favourite Sci-Fi stories? Please feel free to recommend me any Sci-Fi stories that you think I might like based on my favourites by the way as I'd really appreciate it!

Monday, 29 August 2016

Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts

Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts is a weekly blogging event hosted by Bookishly Boisterous. It allows book bloggers (and non-book bloggers) to write about pretty much anything, bookish or otherwise (i.e. share exciting plans for the weekend, rants on things they've encountered during the week, etc).

1. Hello again, everyone! I hope everyone reading this is well. It's also August Bank Holiday here in the UK today so I'd like to wish all of my fellow Brits a very happy day :) Hmm, I seem to be making a habit out of writing these posts on a Bank Holiday...

2. The books that I'm reading at the moment are an edition of Jane Austen's juvenilia, a collection of Pablo Neruda's poetry (I've been slowly making my way through this book since May), and the audiobook version of As You Wish which is Cary Elwes' memoir about the making of The Princess Bride :)

3. I've signed up to participate in a blog event called Sci-Fi Month this November and I'm really looking forward to it! The event's being co-hosted by two bloggers called Rinn and Lisa and it's still not too late to sign up if anyone else is interested (just click on the above link). I'm planning on starting off the event with a short little introduction post and then going on to read and review some SF books: the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline :)

4. One of the reasons why I'm so interested in reading Ready Player One is because an adaptation of it is currently being made with Steven Spielberg directing, John Williams composing, and Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg and Ben Mendolsohn all starring. And where is this film being made? Er, WHERE I'M FROM!

5. Regular readers of this blog will know that I started watching the TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender earlier in the year, completely fell in love with it, and then started to go through its sequel show The Legend of Korra. I'm about halfway through that show now but I've taken a short break from it, as I wanted to catch up on the first series of Poldark before its second series gets shown on the BBC later this week :)

6. I've joined yet another social media app: this time Snapchat. I haven't been posting anything on it though. I just really like some of its filters and have been putting them up on my Instagram instead.

7. I went to Cardiff last Friday and had a great day! We got there by train and went to its castle first. After that we then had lunch and did some clothes shopping in the city centre and then after that we got another train out to its bay area and had a look around there before heading home. Quite by accident we stumbled across an adorable independent bookshop/cafe/wine bar in the bay area called Octavos which I would completely recommend! The staff were so friendly, the wine was delicious, and the shop itself was so cute and lovely :) I bought two poetry collections from this place: one of Rumi's and one of John Donne's.

8. Apart from that I haven't really gone out very much over the past few months (which is usually pretty typical for me, lol!) and I haven't even been to the cinema much lately. I still haven't got round to seeing Star Trek Beyond yet and I missed out on seeing Love and Friendship sadly. I had planned on seeing it but I really wasn't feeling too well on the day that I'd decided to go so I gave it a miss. But then after that I struggled to find another time when I could see it so I'm now having to wait for the DVD release. Another DVD that I'm waiting for is Disney's Zootopia which I bought online last night. I've heard great things about it so I'm really looking forward to it! The film's called Zootropolis over here in the UK for some reason though :S

9. Has anyone seen the trailer for Guy Ritchie's upcoming King Arthur film? And am I the only one who thinks it looks AWFUL?! I'd been mildly curious about this one as it's been quite a long time since an Arthurian film came out (I think the last one was that film with Keira Knightley way back in 2004) and because I'd read that Katie McGrath (Morgana from the BBC's Merlin) would be having a minor role in it. But any interest that I had has been killed stone-dead now that I've seen its terrible-looking trailer and official synopsis! I mean, "a streetwise young Arthur who runs the back alleys of Londinium with his gang"?! I enjoyed certain aspects of Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes films but turning King Arthur into a thuggish gangster is going much too far!

On a happier note, films that I am looking forward to seeing are:

Rogue One

A Monster Calls (I can't believe that we have to wait until January to see this in the UK though!)

A United Kingdom

10. And that's almost that for today. The only other thing that I want to mention are my travel plans. As some of you will know, I'm going to New York this November for five days (I'm planning on starting my chosen books for SF month in mid-October so I can get them all reviewed in time) but I'm also planning for a trip in April as well now. I can't say much about it at present but it's something that I'm extremely excited about! :D

Saturday, 20 August 2016

'A Monster Calls' by Patrick Ness (2011)

Synopsis: A Monster Calls is a low-fantasy middle-grade children's novel. The story was conceived by the author Siobhan Dowd but because of her terminal cancer she arranged for the book to be written by Patrick Ness. Connor O'Malley is a 13 year old boy living in modern-day England whose single mother is seriously ill from cancer. As if that wasn't upsetting enough, Connor's father has moved to America, he has a strained relationship with his grandmother, he's being bullied at school, and he's having a terrible recurring nightmare. Then one night, at exactly 12.07 am, an ancient monster turns up outside Connor's house. Connor isn't the least bit afraid of the monster (as the thing that he sees in his nightmares is far more terrifying) although the monster is certainly menacing-looking. The monster then makes a deal with Connor. The monster will tell Connor three stories that will be of help to him and in return Connor must then tell the monster a story - a story with a deadly truth that upsets Connor more than anything.

A Monster Calls is my first Patrick Ness novel. I'm not really a huge reader of middle-grade and YA fiction so that's probably the reason why I only found out about this hugely popular author a year ago! That was back when it was announced that Ness would be the show-runner of the new Doctor Who spin-off show Class. But when I then saw the stunning trailer for this book's film adaptation I was suddenly no longer content with Class being my first experience of Ness's work and knew that I would have to read this book sooner rather than later! :D

A Monster Calls has won many awards and it completely deserves them as it's an absolutely brilliant fable and is such an absorbing and compelling read. The book is quite short with a story that is superficially simple and yet it is so beautiful, moving and poignant. Obviously given that this book deals with grief, death and loss it's a very sad read in places - but then it's also a book with powerful themes of courage, love, hope and forgiveness. I can understand why some might be hesitant to read this book but it is a more uplifting read than one might think.

This book is so nuanced, compassionate and intelligently written as well. Connor does do some pretty bad things in this book but, because of his situation and his emotions being so vividly portrayed, as the reader you're able to understand exactly why he's behaving in the way that he does. This, combined with his spirit and his flashes of sarcasm, makes him hugely endearing and sympathetic. Also the stories that the monster tells go to some surprising places with its characters all being complex and morally ambiguous. This book isn't at all sanctimonious or condescending to its younger audience.

A Monster Calls may well have been written for a middle-grade child audience but it's an astounding novel with huge depth that teenagers and adults will also be able to love. I'm so excited to see this book's film adaptation and to experience more of Ness's work now, especially his dystopian sci-fi series Chaos Walking which is also getting a big-screen adaptation. I'd really like to read some of Siobhan Dowd's work as well.

Oh, and before I wrap this thing up I absolutely must recommend getting the illustrated version of this book rather than the non-illustrated paperback or the e-book version! I have nothing against e-readers at all (I myself own a Kindle) but Jim Kay's pictures in the illustrated version are so atmospheric, spooky and stunning! They not only complement the text beautifully, they enhance it. I mean, just look at them!

Rating: 5/5

Friday, 12 August 2016

'The Well of Ascension' by Brandon Sanderson (2007)

Synopsis: The Well of Ascension is the second novel in the Mistborn series and is set a year after the events of Mistborn: The Final Empire. Although the tyrannical Lord Ruler is now dead, the Final Empire is now in turmoil with various outlying regions having disintegrated into anarchy due to the collapse of the former government. Elend Venture has been crowned the King of Luthadel and is attempting to restore order but is facing numerous threats: including assassins, his council not trusting his decisions, a hidden kandra imposter in his court, and the three separate armies which are intent on conquering the city. Elend's lover and personal bodyguard Vin is also mourning the loss of her brilliant, charismatic mentor and father-figure Kelsier and is still continuing to struggle with her insecurities. Not only that, the mysterious mists which used to only appear at night have now begun to appear during the day and seem to be the cause of several deaths. The ancient legend of the well of ascension seems to be the only hope for their world but no-one is entirely sure where it is or what it can even do...

I read the first book in the Mistborn series, Mistborn: The Final Empire, about six months ago and I found it to be a brilliant read. The Well of Ascension is quite a different book to The Final Empire in some respects - the pacing is slower for the most part and it's more focused on the character development and political intrigue - but it's an enthralling sequel to that book and is probably one of the best sequels that I've ever read! All of the characters from the previous novel that are in this book get huge development (especially Elend, Vin, Sazed and Breeze), we're introduced to some highly intriguing new characters (Zane, Tindwyl, Allriane and OreSeur), and we get to learn a lot of fascinating new information about the kandra and the koloss. There were also three or four separate plot twists that were so clever and unexpected that they literally made my jaw drop! :D

One of the other things that I'm especially loving about this series right now is seeing how Sanderson is able to take these certain typical fantasy tropes and then be able to subvert them in creative and imaginative ways. For example one of the most interesting aspects of The Final Empire was that we were kind of able to get a sense of what Tolkien's Middle-Earth might have become if Sauron had actually won the War of the Ring, whereas in this book we now get to see what the consequences of overthrowing an evil despot are. In fact it's only now after reading this book that I realise just how shockingly under-explored it is in fiction! Usually we don't get to see very much of the consequences of a revolution at all in fiction apart from the immediate happy celebrations but that isn't the case with this book at all. Because even with the Lord Ruler gone things are still pretty awful in this world and in some ways the world is an even worse place.

I'm not planning on reading the next book in this series immediately but I certainly don't intend to hold off on reading that book for as long as it took me to get around to reading this one. The Well of Ascension was a fantastic read and it's hard for me to say which of the two Mistborn books that I've read so far is better. I did really miss Kelsier in this one of course so I think the first book may have the slight edge but there's really very little to separate them in my mind. If the third book is able to match their quality then it will easily go down as one of my favourite fantasy series.

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists! Each week we will post a new Top Ten list that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers. 10 is just a suggestion to aim for if you can hit it -- do a list of 3 or 5 or 20 on your list. Your post, your choice!

Today's Topic: Top Ten Tuesday REWIND -- go back and do a topic you missed over the years or recently or a topic you really want to revisit

For today I've chosen to do a topic that I believe came up sometime last year which was... Top Ten Characters You'd Like To Check In With (meaning, the book or series is over and you so just wish you could peek in on the “life” you imagine they are leading years down the line after the story ends). 

It was a lot of fun to think about the book characters that I would most like to read sequels about and in one instance a prequel about! Follow-up works can sometimes be horribly disappointing in real life of course but, when they're done well, it's a truly joyful experience to spend more time with the worlds and characters that we've come to love :)


1. James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.
At this current moment in time, the script for the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play has only just been published (I'm planning on writing a little bit more about that in a future post but for now I'll only say that I found it flawed but enjoyable) and we're still waiting on that first Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them film. However the depth of world-building and characterisation in the Harry Potter series is so brilliant that there are a myriad of potential spin-off stories that J.K. Rowling could still tell and the one that I would most want is a Marauders prequel. I had huge crushes on both Sirius and Lupin when I was a teenage girl and it would be so amazing to read about all of the Marauders' crazy antics and adventures when they were at Hogwarts! :D We'd presumably get to see the younger versions of Snape, Lily Evans, Regulus Black, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Frank and Alice Longbottom, Lucius Malfoy, etc. at the school as well and we could also get to learn more about the Marauders' work for the Order of the Phoenix.

2. Howl and Sophie Pendragon from Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle. Now of course Diana Wynne Jones did in fact write two sequels to this book (Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways) in which Howl and Sophie make appearances and in which we get to learn a little bit about their lives as a married couple but, as nice as this was, it wasn't really enough for me. I can't help but wish that Jones could have written a fourth novel in the series, with a story that was once again completely devoted to Howl and Sophie's lives and adventures.

3. Richard Mayhew from Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. Not only is London Below one of the most vivid and fascinating fantasy worlds that I've ever read, I'm extremely curious to know how Richard has settled down in this place and whether he's now in a relationship with Door?!

4. Nobody "Bod" Owens from Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. Yet another character from a Gaiman novel! As beautiful and perfect as The Graveyard Book's ending is - this book is my favourite of Gaiman's works - I'd be thrilled to get some closure about what happened to Bod after he left the graveyard. I desperately hope that Bod is happy and has found a home and made friends. *sniffs*

5. Shasta/Cor, Aravis, Bree and Hwin from C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. The Horse and His Boy is such a brilliantly exciting adventure story in the Chronicles of Narnia. Its characters are wonderful as well and I really wish that C.S. Lewis could have written an extra novel in the series that focused on them more. We could have also learnt more about Archenland and the romance between Cor and Aravis in that book.

6. Margaret Hale and John Thornton from Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. I have no doubt that the two of them are happy but it would certainly be interesting to find out how Margaret has adjusted to her new role as the mistress of Marlborough Mills and to see whether her relationship with John's mother eventually improved! I also have a headcanon that Thornton took Margaret to Spain on their honeymoon so that she could visit her brother Frederick and his wife :)

7. Jonathan Strange, Mr Norrell, and pretty much everyone from Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.
I adore the incredible Regency AU that Susanna Clarke created in this book and I would love to spend more time in this world again and to find out what happened to its characters! Did Jonathan and Norrell ever manage to escape from the tower of darkness? Are they getting on better these days or are they still quarrelling as much as ever? I bet they're having tons of adventures on their travels. And what's it like in England now that magic has returned? What are Childermass and Vinculus getting up to these days? How is Stephen finding life as a king in Faerie? Is Arabella okay? And what about the Raven King? What's going on with him?

8. Matilda Wormwood from Roald Dahl's Matilda. With her genius-level intellect, I'm sure that Matilda went on to have a top career. But what did Matilda go on to do? Did she ever meet her parents again? I can easily imagine them trying to contact her again if she ever became rich and famous. Did Matilda's telekinesis ever come back? And what about Miss Honey and Lavender? What are they up to these days? Argh, so many unanswered questions! :D

9. Margaret Dashwood from Jane Austen's Sense and SensibilityI would love to know what happened to Elinor and Marianne's younger sister Margaret after they got married and left home! Margaret is of course a very minor and underdeveloped character in Austen's novel but I love the fact that Emma Thompson greatly expanded Margaret's role in the 1995 film adaptation and Emilie Francois' funny and adorable performance in that film. I think a love story involving a grown-up Margaret could be tons of fun! There's even a line from the final page of the book in which Austen implies that Sir John Middleton and Mrs Jennings began to switch their matchmaking attentions over to her after Marianne got engaged ('fortunately for Sir John and Mrs Jennings, when Marianne was taken from them, Margaret had reached an age highly suitable for dancing, and not very ineligible for being supposed to have a lover'). I strongly suspect that Margaret, being rather overlooked in Sense and Sensibility, wouldn't have minded these attentions towards her as much as it bothered her sisters and I really wish that Austen could have given Margaret her own story.

10. Kvothe from Patrick Rothfuss's The Kingkiller Chronicle. This is a bit of a cheat since The Kingkiller Chronicle isn't over yet and is still an ongoing series but - argh! - I need to read The Doors of Stone so badly! What turned the younger Kvothe into the world-weary, haunted man that we see at The Waystone Inn? Why is Bast so devoted to him? What's up with those giant spiders? I MUST KNOW!

And now, if you want, a bunch of questions that you might want to answer! Have you read any of the books that I've talked about today? Do you agree with my choices? What characters would you most like to check in with? What are your favourite sequels/prequels? What topics have you chosen for today? :)

Thursday, 14 July 2016

'The Rosie Project' by Graeme Simsion (2013)

Synopsis: The Rosie Project is a contemporary romance novel set in Melbourne, Australia. Don Tillman is a 39 year old genetics professor on the autism spectrum and has a meticulously organised lifestyle. Don is a very intelligent and handsome man but most people find his manners awkward and confusing. Don has struggled with social norms for all of his life, has never been on a second date, and has convinced himself that he's simply not wired for love, romance and marriage. But Don then changes his mind and decides to embark on a "Wife Project" after a comment from a friend that he would make a wonderful husband. In keeping with his ultra-methodical and logical approach to life, Don then creates an online profile with a detailed questionnaire attached that should eliminate all of the unsuitable women who do not meet his exact specifications. Don's perfect wife will most definitely not be a smoker, a drinker, a vegetarian, a late-arriver or a woman with "emotional issues". However, Don then meets a 29 year old barmaid called Rosie Jarman who is all of these things and is also beautiful, intelligent, sarcastic, and fiery. Rosie is on a mission to find her long-lost father and is hoping that Don's work as a geneticist and his access to a lab can help her. Don agrees to do so in spite of his reservations and soon finds himself becoming extremely confused by his feelings towards Rosie.

I'd been hearing some great things about this book and as I've been making a bit more of an effort in seeking out contemporary fiction lately (those of you who read this blog regularly may have noticed this) I thought I'd give it a try. I'm so glad I did because The Rosie Project is easily one of the best books that I've read this year! It's a wonderfully engaging, heartwarming and quirky romantic comedy that is genuinely hilarious!

Originally Graeme Simsion wrote The Rosie Project out as a screenplay but then decided to turn that screenplay into a novel after he had trouble landing a film deal. I wasn't at all surprised to find that out as this book is not only very fast-paced and tightly-written (I managed to tear through it in just a couple of days) but has some big comic set-pieces that would probably transfer to screen brilliantly e.g. Don using his martial arts skills on a couple of overzealous bouncers, his night out as a cocktail barman, and a dance number. Given this book's success I think a big screen version of it in the near future is pretty much inevitable and that it will probably be an excellent film but having said that I still think that the book would be the better of the two for giving us access into Don Tillman's head.

Don is such a lovable, funny, well-meaning and endearing character and his narration is one of the most unique and quirky that I've come across. Don is on the autism spectrum and probably has Asperger's syndrome although this is never explicitly stated in the book since it's told in first-person and Don hasn't diagnosed himself as one. The Rosie Project has been very well-received by the Autistic/Asperger's community and by the end of the book I definitely felt that I'd gained a much greater insight into what it must be like to be a person on the spectrum. Another aspect of this book that I especially loved was its setting. Although the majority of it is set in Australia - which was great! - there are a few chapters in it that take place in New York. I'm going to New York later this year and this book has made me even more excited for my trip.

The Rosie Project is such a funny and delightful read. I loved this book and it would make for a fantastic summer/beach read! :)

Rating: 5/5

P.S. I know that Simsion has written a sequel to this book called The Rosie Effect but I've been put off by its reviews which haven't been as positive as the reviews for The Rosie Project. If I do end up reading that book it's probably not going to be any time soon.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Mini Book Reviews

It's been over two months since I last posted a book review which is a long time for me! There are a couple of books that I've read during this time that I'm planning longer reviews for but I've written mini-reviews for the books below. The reason for that is because I don't really feel that I have enough thoughts or opinions on these books to write detailed reviews for them; and also because one of the books is a non-fiction title and I personally find it really hard to write in-depth reviews for non-fiction books without summarising everything in them. So, the books that I'll be talking about in this post are:

  • The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham (1925) - a 20th century classic
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman (2001) - an urban fantasy novel
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (2012) - a contemporary novel
  • Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde (2002) - this one spans a number of genres! (SF, fantasy, detective fiction...)
  • The Theater of War: What Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Teach Us Today by Bryan Doerries (2015) - a nonfiction title

The Painted Veil. This book is a beautifully written character-driven novel. The book's heroine Kitty starts off as a flighty, self-absorbed, shallow young woman but then goes through a huge transformation and becomes a much stronger and wiser person. Even her husband Walter, who surprisingly gets very little page-time in this book at all, is an extremely vivid and well-rounded character. I'm always drawn to stories that have themes of forgiveness, repentance and self-growth and The Painted Veil is a wonderful example of that. Having said that, I read this book shortly after seeing the 2006 film adaptation and, as much as I enjoyed the book, I preferred the film. Because unlike the film, Kitty never comes to fall in love with Walter in the book and only ends up developing a sense of respect for him. I'm a romantic at heart so I couldn't help but find that aspect of the book rather disappointing. But I still think that this is a great book overall and I'd definitely recommend it.

P.S. This book was the 10th read on my Classics Club list. I'm finally onto double figures! :D

Rating: 4/5

American Gods. I first read American Gods many years ago. It was my first Neil Gaiman novel and I didn't think very much of it. But after reading several of Gaiman's other books over the years I now consider him to be one of my favourite writers and when it was announced that American Gods would be getting a TV adaptation from Bryan Fuller I thought it would be high time to re-visit this book. I was hoping that I'd be able to appreciate it a lot more but - argh! - I'm afraid that I still don't like this book very much :( It pains me to say it but I have to be honest! American Gods has a terrific concept and some interesting ideas but my issues with it are still there: namely that I find this book to be way too long and slow-moving and that I find Shadow to be a dull protagonist who lacks personality and is much too passive. It frustrates me so much that he just sort of... casually goes along with everything and that he's so unemotional as a character. Even though Gaiman says that Shadow is incredibly upset about his wife Laura's adultery and her death I never once felt it and I found it very hard to care about his character. To be honest the only part of this book that I really truly enjoyed was a colourful short story in it about an eighteenth century Cornishwoman.

Rating: 2/5

Me Before You. This book was actually a DNF for me. I gave up on it when I was about 1/3 of the way through. Not because I hadn't been enjoying the story (I found the writing engaging and the main character Louisa Clark very likeable) but because I lost my enthusiasm for the book due to all the negativity surrounding it. I wasn't aware of this until recently but there's been quite a backlash against this book as people in the disabled/quadriplegic community have argued that it's badly-researched, reinforces ableist stereotypes, and is a classic example of inspiration porn with Will Traynor being used as a prop for Louisa's character development. I'm not saying that I'm not ever going to read this book again now but I feel pretty leery about it at present.

Rating: a DNF so no rating. 

Lost in a Good Book. This book is the second novel in the Thursday Next series and is the sequel to The Eyre Affair (which was one of my favourite books from last year). But sadly Lost in a Good Book was another disappointing read. Although there are still some hilarious moments in this book (e.g. Thursday's television interview in the first chapter!) I found its plot far more slow-moving and confusing than The Eyre Affair's. Although I have heard that the next two books in this series are an improvement, I'm not sure if I'll bother with them now.

Rating: 2/5

The Theater of War. My favourite of the books on this list! It's both a memoir and a piece of literary analysis and was written by a man called Bryan Doerries - who runs a charity organisation called "The Theater of War" that has put on productions of plays (mainly Greek tragedies) for soldiers, prisons, churches, synagogues, hospitals, and natural disaster survivors. In the book, Doerries talks about the Greek tragedies, explains how he came to form his organisation, and includes some very moving stories from his personal life and the people that he's met over the years. The audiobook version of this book is read by Adam Driver (I'm not a huge audiobook listener but I try to keep a lookout for those that are read by my favourite actors) so I downloaded it on iTunes and listened to it on my way to work over several weeks. Unfortunately I never had the chance to learn about any of the Greek tragedies when I was younger as I don't think that they're very well-taught in British state schools but Doerries explained the plots and the relevance of the plays extremely well and now I feel far more enthusiastic about reading them! This book also works as a highly eloquent and passionate defence of tragedies in general. Tragic stories can sometimes get a very bad rap in our culture for being "negative" and "depressing" but this book effectively shows that tragedies can have a hugely positive impact: because they allow us catharsis, encourage us to develop empathy and compassion for the suffering of others, show us that we're not alone, and enable us to heal. Listening to this book was such a fascinating and thought-provoking experience and Adam Driver does a terrific job reading it. Highly recommended!

Rating: 5/5