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Monday, 30 January 2012

Reading Progress: January

As I mentioned at the start of the month this year I have decided to do the 50 Book Challenge again.  As a result of this I've decided that I will do a monthly update on my progress because well... 

So what was my grand total completed books for January 2012?  Three.   I read three books, and started five.  I liked all of them but to be honest I wasn't very 'into' them.  I had been hoping that by now I would be really wrapped up in the reading, but I'm not.  I read a disappointing Neil Gaiman book that in retrospect was a bit of a door stopper, but I decided to run with it because every other one of his books that I have read I read very fast.  I will be doing a review on that in the near future. 

I read 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' and thought it was interesting, but not much else, hence I didn't even bother with a review.  In my opinion, because of it's classic status it would be a tough one to review anyways, and at the end of the day I think everyone should try as many classics in their lifetime as possible, irrespective of reviews.  The classic book lover in me also screams that reviews (unless from the actual time period) of the classic genre are at best a bit pointless, and at worst a bit... I suppose the word would be wrong.  To me it feels wrong.   I did review 'Heart of Darkness' by Conrad before, and that was probably the hardest review I've written so far.  It just felt wrong.  I know I'm rambling (lack of sleep) but my point is that I just don't see myself doing many (if any) reviews on such books in the future.  I know I am probably coming across as a book snob, and I am probably insulting some bloggers out there.  I don't mean to offend in any way.  I've just never once actually read a review of a classic prior to reading it, and I like it that way.  I like figuring out for myself why the book is so special (or in some cases overrated).  However, I do like reading reactions to those kind of books, and obviously I am doing the classics challenge, and enjoy how that is being done.  It is nice to discuss classic books. 

The third book that I read in January was 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets'.   It was a re-read after several years (four and a half to be exact) and I loved it like I always do.  Like most readers my age, Harry Potter was one of my childhood favourites, and so it was a nice re-read.   I also started reading 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' which is going well. 

Finally I also started 'Crime and Punishment' which so far I am enjoying.  It's very engaging to read about a mind that is so apparently ill and fractured.  In the past I tried to read the book, and got quite far in, so I know what is to come for a good part of the book.  My reading mood right now is probably on the dark, gloomy and gritty side of the scale. 


Friday, 27 January 2012

New music discoveries

2011 was the year that I got into Crime dramas / Cop shows on TV.  It started with Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, then progressed onto Law and Order: Criminal Intent.  Then, after watching a lot (by that I mean seasons upon seasons) of the Law and Order franchise I decided to try out Criminal Minds.  I found out about this song 'Far from Home' by Five Finger Death Punch from the Criminal Minds episode 'What Happens at Home'.    Great for when you feel angsty or a little sad and it fit the ending of the episode with Agent Seaver perfectly. 

While I'm still on topic, I think my obsession with cop shows is really impacting on my reading.  However, I am currently reading 'Crime and Punishment' by Dostoevsky and I have to say that because of the analysis that they do on Criminal Minds I am seeing the book in an entirely different way then when I tried to read it a few years ago. 


Thursday, 5 January 2012

January Prompt - A Classics Challenge

The above is a picture of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, famously known as Lewis Carroll, the author of 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'.  He was born on 27 January 1832 in England, and he lived there all his life, only leaving once to go on a trip to Russia with a friend.  He also wrote the sequel to 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' called 'Through the Looking Glass', and also the less acclaimed novel 'Sylvie and Bruno'.  Carroll was several things throughout his life - such as a mathamtician, lecturer, novelest, photographer.  He liked to invent things, like a writing tablet that you could use at night.  He also liked to illustrate his unpublished manuscripts - he even did it with Alice, but he then hired a real illustrator once the book was going to be published.  Scattered throughout the post areexamples of his handwriting/drawing skills, in my opinion they look cute.

Carroll wrote in a genre called Literary Nonesense.  It was a genre that I'd never heard of before.  I found 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' an interesting text to read.  I feel that I would have loved and tresured the book, if only I'd read it as a child. The book is very dreamlike, I don't know if I am spoiling it by saying that it was all a dream.  I admired that the book and the way it was written played this straight - it felt like a dream, and had the logic of a dream.  So ironically it was quite realistic.  Even though it is all supposed to be a load of nonesense sometimes Alice would say or do something that I found quite profound.  Here's an example:

'But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.'Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: 'we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.'You must be,' said the Cat, 'or you wouldn't have come here.'
I think Lewis Carroll wrote for his own amusement.  He wrote a lot, but only published something if he thought it was extra special.  'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' was well recieved and popular when it was published.  It was rumoured that the Queen at the time loved it so much that she wanted him to dedicate his next book to her.   Over the years it has been loved by lots of people and studied by many as well.  There have been many adaptations of 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' over the years, some of which I have enjoyed such as the recent Syfy version.

This post was made in responce to Novembers Autumn's post which can be found here. 


Sunday, 1 January 2012

Bookish New Years Resolutions

I have made some reading resolutions for 2012, which I have to say I am very excited about and I feel should put down in writing on my blog.    Mainly I am doing this to shame myself into attempting to do what I say I want to. 

This year I am doing the 50 Books Challenge again.  I did it for the first time in 2010 and loved it.  I thought it was a lot of work, but it was well worth it as I discovered about three new book series that year and tried a pile of books that I had bought but never read before.  I didn't do it in 2011 because I did feel that reading shouldn't be about numbers, but had thought about trying the 50 book challenge again in the future.  As you can see I am very excited, and if you are a slower reader like myself you might be able to understand why. 

I've already posted on here about doing the Terry Pratchett challenge and the 'A Classics Challenge'.  I also hope to read something for the 'Once Upon and Time' and R.I.P Challenges too.  

Happy New Year! 

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Spoiler Review: 'Twilight's Dawn' by Anne Bishop


Before I start I just have to say that this is an ironic post.  I knew about blogs, but I only started really getting into them when I googled for early reviews of this book.  So in a way this is the book that started this blog. 
After reading the book, I do think 'Twilight's Dawn' is good. It had a lot of guts in it. Anne Bishop was really brave in my opinion to go where her characters took her. I do not think that this is a series breaker. I actually think that 'Twilight's Dawn' hearkens back to what the story was always supposed to be about - the price of happiness. 

I think that, from reading a lot of reviews on 'Twilight's Dawn', most people who talk about this book need to use spoilers.  I'm going to do the same, particularly with 'The High Lord's Daughter'.  I don't think you can review that story without spoilers.  I also will be a bit different in this review from my other, usual reviews, because I, like a lot of fans read the spoilers before publication.  Many fans refuse to read Twilight's Dawn or even acknowledge it.  I want to explain my opinions of the book before and after I read it.  This could be a long post (in fairness most of mine are).  You have been warned. 

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Review: Queen of the Darkness by Anne Bishop

Following on from my review of 'Heir to the Shadows' I will go ahead and review 'Queen of the Darkness' as if the reader has read the first two novels in the series. 

Character growth is probably my favourite thing about 'Queen of the Darkness'.  This is the book where all the characters come together and start to form a real family.  It is a joy to read about how the three main narrators - Saetan, Daemon and Lucivar - have changed from the first instalment 'Daughter of the Blood'.  Lucivar especially has grown into a man in a way that he wasn't before (spoiler) he is now married, has a son and has his own ruling responsibilities as well (end spoiler).  Jaenelle and Daemon also reunite (I don't think that really needs to be forewarned as a spoiler) and it is really fun to read about their awkward yet cute early beginnings in their relationship.  The most touching and laugh-out-loud relationship in this book for me is Saetan and Daemon - they both begin to understand what being each others mirror truly means.  They are both supportive and wary of each other. 

It isn't surprising that with all this character growth and family bonding that 'Queen of the Darkness' also contains a lot more risk factor.  The characters have a lot more to lose when the baddies start making some moves as they now not only have Jaenelle to protect they also have their new family.  I think that the level of sacrifice is high but it also makes the story swerve away from the cheesiness that sometimes it goes into.  Everything has a price after all, and that price is pretty extreme.  Daemon and Saetan are probably the ones who make the most personal sacrifices, but also do a whole lot of other characters, many of which are characters that have played a relevant role in the earlier books. 

 The baddies - Hekatah and Dorothea - are still pretty bad.  We don't see the same shocking displays of evil that characterised 'Daughter of the Blood' but there are still hints of who they really are.  I'm pretty hard to please when it comes to villains though - the only series that really satisfies me in these terms is 'A Song of Ice and Fire'.  Overall though, I think 'Queen of the Darkness' has its share of dark and disturbing moments - what certain characters have to do to play the nasty game highlights the standard of evil in the series, and as always some of the things included are pretty graphic. 

The climax of the trilogy  for me was okay.  I wasn't overly sold on it despite the fact that 'Queen of the Darkness' is a strong book.  I think that the way the conflict was resolved was a little out of nowhere - obviously the reader wasn't supposed to know what is about to happen, but even the way the main characters (the ones who set it up) come up with it is a bit off in my opinion.  I still think that it was a decent, and logical solution, I just also thought that it smacked of a cop-out.  Just a little bit.  Also, it basically advertises 'The Invisible Ring' as an explanation of what the characters here do.  I know 'The Invisible Ring' came out after the trilogy, but still it feels a bit like a way of getting out of really fleshing out why Jaenelle does what she does - she just simply gets inspired by characters that haven't made an appearance in the story thus far. 

 After the climax the story is still good.  We see the rebuilding of many things, and also see that the emotional toil of what went down is something that the characters will live with for the foreseeable future.  There are some heartbreaking moments, but also a couple of happy ones that many readers have been waiting for.  

'Queen of the Darkness' is a heartbreaking read in some respects but it is also heartwarming in others.  The entire trilogy, which can be bought in an omnibus version, is something that to me is special.  I bought the book on a whim, and I believe that I would have never have read it at all only I was doing the fifty book challenge that year.  I was very unsure of it, because it is the type of series that is both very unique but also very hard to get an impression of based on reviews or summaries.  I know that I found the book an easy read but also one with a very rich world and fascinating characters that I couldn't help but root for.   I think that the best way to recommend the trilogy, or the rest of the series for that matter, is to say that the books are cult.  They do have bits that are a bit out there, but the characters and the world are always believable at their core, and the people who like these books tend to really like them perhaps because of this. 

Friday, 23 December 2011

Review: 'I - Empire' by Angels and Airwaves


In my previous post I explained the basics about Angels and Airwaves, so I’m not going to do much repeating here.  You can check out what I said here if you want to.    There was a slight line-up change around the time of this album because Matt Watcher replaced Ryan Sinn as the bassist.   I remember reading once – I think in Kerrang! Ages back – that the ‘I’ stands for ‘Imaginary’ Empire but I’m not too sure.  The ‘I’ could stand for anything. 

I really liked the single ‘Everything’s Magic’ in a way it sums up the band in terms of its cheerful, upbeat sound and lyrics.   I have to admit that this isn’t my favourite album by them.  However I do like many of the songs on the album – and none are so bad that I wouldn’t listen to them.  Some of the songs on ‘I Empire’ are gentle and delicate love songs – like songs of this nature should be.  Examples are ‘Breathe’ and ‘Sirens’ – they are both very sweet songs.  There are also some real anthems such as ‘Secret Crowds’ and ‘Heaven’.

‘Heaven’ is an important song for Angles and Airwaves, not because it closes the album, but because it is a prominent example of how the band re-use riffs.  ‘Heaven’ echoes ‘Valkyrie Missile’.  Angles and Airwaves are after all a multimedia project, so it could be suggested that they re-use riffs and sound bites for effect as opposed to laziness.  The way I see it is that they use instrumental themes like they do in musicals. 
 ‘I Empire’ is a decent album.  I do recommend ‘We Don’t need to Whisper’ over it in many respects, but I do believe that ‘I Empire’ does contain some real gems that shouldn’t be missed.