Review: No Tomorrow by Luke Jennings

Genre: Thriller

Similar to: Something by John Le Carre or Ian Fleming 

Could be enjoyed by: People who liked book one

Publication date: 25th October 2018

No, you haven’t read this review before – this is the second instalment of the novels that the Killing Eve TV show was based on. To be honest, by the time I’d finished this book the show had deviated so utterly from the text that I wasn’t even sure if it had taken the book into account, was going to do so in the next series or if Pheobe Waller Bridge was just forging ahead with her own storylines from now on. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

In No Tomorrow, the main characters remain as in the first book; Eve Polastri (MI6 agent) and Oxana Vorontsova (Villanelle, sociopath and assassin). The two women are locked in a deadly game of cat and mouse, with Eve edging ever closer to Villanelle and the secretive organisation that she works for – only to find out the extent to which she’s been manipulated.

Oooh!

I’ll start with a nice positive – this book was far more coherent than the first one (Codename: Villanelle). The whole narrative flowed better, there was more content, the characters were more fleshed out. I mean, it’s still an overtly glamourous, ridiculously premised spy thriller so it’s never going to win any literary awards but it’s also super fast paced, exciting voyerism. You just have to remember to suspend your belief from time to time.

It was also nice to see a few glimpses of the humour of the TV series but unfortunately it was nowhere near as frequent or as well done. I thought that was such a shame because the TV series really does stand out for it’s quick wit and black humour. However, the book still retains a certain charm and is definitely a page turner. The characters are just as far fetched as ever but the way that Villanelle and Eve are drawn to each other is unique and even a tiny bit sexy. I mean, Eve still has stratospheric leaps of imagination (her instinct, ha! That must be why she’s female) and Villanelle survives some frankly bonkers murder scenes (spoiler alert: a leather suitcase does not provide much protection from a bomb blast) but the dynamic between the two women is fascinating. 

It did find it annoying that I couldn’t for the life of me work out where the book was in relation to the TV series. Like AT ALL. Some events didn’t happen, others were alluded to, some were fairly similar but meant that things that had happened in the TV series didn’t make sense. It doesn’t help that a few of the male characters in the book have been changed to women for the television. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for diverse representation but it doesn’t make it easy when you’re reading ahead to find out what happens and you can’t even figure out who is who!

Overall, I enjoyed No Tomorrow a lot more than Codename: Villanelle and I’m looking forwards to seeing what happens next, both in text and on the television. I still prefer the TV series but the final chapter of No Tomorrow has set up a really interesting premise that I’m super excited about. I need to know what happens!

Rating: Four “don’t eat the banana if it’s got human remains on it” out of five.

Please note that I read this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks Netgalley! 

 

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Review: Codename:Villanelle by Luke Jennings

Genre: Thriller

Similar to: Something by John Le Carre or Ian Fleming (IDK, I’m not a thriller fan)

Could be enjoyed by: People who’ve watched the TV series and would like to know what the hell’s going on

Publication date: 6th September 2018

To clear up any confusion: yes, this is the novel that inspired the Killing Eve TV series. However, the show deviates wildly from the book so if you’re a fan of the programme, be prepared. For those of you who haven’t seen it I’d highly recommend doing so because it’s bloody brilliant and one of those rare occasions where the adaptation is better than the source material (that’s something I’ve literally never said before). 

I digress…

Codename: Villanelle is a super sexy spy thriller, set in various glamorous locations all over the world. It’s your usual fare: a good cop character (Eve Polastri) is recruited to catch a sociopathic assassin (Oxana Vorontsova AKA Villanelle) who is working for a top secret consortium hell bent on creating a new world order. What’s different is that both the MI6 agent and the assassin are women. A bit one dimensional, yes and not brilliantly written but still, it’s nice to see female characters taking centre stage for a change. To be honest, their depictions could have been a lot worse (I don’t know anything about their breasts, for example) but I think that says more about the low bar that’s been set by other authors than the quality of the writing here.

Whereas the TV series elevates the (slightly generic) story from good to brilliant with the use of clever dark humour and a complex storyline, the book is far less amusing and has a more obvious narrative. The only positive is that the book does provide more of a back story for anyone who has watched Killing Eve and got a bit lost. You get to find out more about the consortium (The Twelve) and their ideas for the world which helps to place Villanelle’s actions within more of a logical setup. You also get to understand a bit more of her back story so there’s less of the “she’s just a sociopath, go with it” which seemed to be the image that the TV series presented.

On the plus side, the book is extremely fast paced and is a real page turner. It’s fairly short so easy to rip through and despite being a bit generic there’s something about the two main characters that’s utterly compelling. Villanelle is a ruthless killer utterly without remorse and although the book has softened her a bit, the things she got up to provided a great big dash of voyeuristic escapism. The cat and mouse games that she plays with Eve were creepy/enthralling in equal measure but I did find Eve’s leaps of logic a tiny bit wearing. From a multitude of options she seemed to guess correctly every single time, leading her in a direct line towards Villanelle. Hmmmmm.

Apart from the occasional need for the reader to suspend their disbelief, the only other thing that let the book down was the writing itself. I found the text somewhat clunky and as the book is four novellas smushed together the narrative flow is a bit start-stop. This can be jarring at times but the action ramps up quickly, helping to smooth out the obviously bumpy plot.

Overall, I found Codename: Villanelle to be exciting and fast paced but also kinda generic and dare I say it – a tiny bit trashy. Pheobe Waller-Bridge has done an absolutely terrific job in adapting the text for TV and if I were you, I’d definitely watch that first then read the books if you have a burning desire to get a bit more background info.

Rating: Two and a half “please put down the champers and drink some water” out of five.

Sexy, fast paced escapism – just don’t expect the brilliance of the TV series.

Please note that I read this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks Netgalley! 

Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

​“From lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail”

Genre: Memoir, Travelogue, Bereavement Help

Similar to: A mix of Eat, Pray, Love and A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Could be enjoyed by: I think people experiencing bereavement could find it helpful

Publication date: 20th March 2012

If you asked me to sum up Wild in one sentence it would be “a woman goes for a very long walk wearing incorrect footwear”. I really did find it that dull as it felt like the book plodded along at a snail’s pace. It’s a shame because I expected far better things from the novel, especially after reading all of the rave reviews. My overarching feeling was “meh”.

To expand on that one sentence description of the book, Cheryl Strayed is a young American woman whose life has been seriously derailed by the death of her mother and the subsequent break up of her marriage. After quitting University in her final term to help with her mother’s end of life care, Cheryl struggles to cope and a series of bad decisions leads to her decision to do something drastic – spending a few months hiking the Pacific Crest Trail completely solo. She has to carry all of her food, water and belongings on her back and camp each night out in the open. It’s an incredibly brave decision to make but ultimately I just didn’t find it that engaging.

Now, before you all jump into the comments section and call me a monster for trashing a book about a young woman who has just watched her mother die, I’m not saying that the book wasn’t emotional. On the contrary, it was harrowingly, viscerally grief ridden – to the point where I struggled to read some of the parts about Cheryl’s Mum’s last few days. It was just…depressing. Obviously, death is an incredibly upsetting topic but I wanted more of a redemptive arc – a sense of letting go of the grief and moving forwards but instead this is how the book went: 

walking, shoe problems, flashback: traumatic illness 

walking, bag too heavy, flashback: traumatic childhood

walking, hungry, flashback: harrowing death

walking, got lost, flashback: drug problems

walking, more shoe problems, flashback: divorce

walking, cold and wet, flashback: family drifts apart

walking, finally some sex, flashback: traumatic horse death

walking, money problems, flashback: more traumatic childhood

walking, anger 

The End.

I had complicated emotions about Cheryl. On the one hand I felt incredibly sorry for her as she seemed to be totally adrift in her life. Her Dad was abusive, her stepdad disinterested, her brother and sister were distant after the death of her mother. But whilst that provided a background for some of the situations that Cheryl got herself into, I did feel like some of her problems were entirely her own fault. Some of the things she had done to other people, whilst clearly a reflection of her own lack of self esteem/depression, were downright shitty. I felt bad that no-one had tried to help her but then would you help your wife if she’d cheated on you multiple times? 

Probably not.

On the plus side, although Cheryl was woefully inexperienced and naive (she doesn’t test the weight of her pack until the day she begins walking and finds she can’t lift it; she doesn’t have enough money; she doesn’t read the guidebook; she has the wrong size shoes) she perseveres and muddles through. In that way I had a lot of respect for her but I did find her lack of preparation infuriating. I mean, people die every year doing that hike. You’d have thought she’d at least have done a few overnight camping trips beforehand. Or, you know, checked she could pick up the bag that she’s be hauling round for the next few months (let along carry the bloody thing).

The journey itself is pretty epic and I will grudgingly admit that Cheryl’s tenacity and no-nonsense attitude was inspiring. I felt like her decision to  hike the Pacific Crest Trail was her attempt to come to terms with everything and although this was a book about “finding yourself” it managed to do so in a way that wasn’t too self indulgent. Unfortunately, this meant pages and pages of just…walking. Lots of flowery descriptions, lots of info dumps, quite a few transitory characters who were so briefly in and out of the story that I couldn’t remember who any of them were when they popped up later on – and it was all interspersed with the depressing details of Cheryl’s life. Then there was a rushed ending where she reached the finish point…and that was it.

Sadly, Wild just wasn’t the book for me – although I’m well aware that my views are seriously in the minority. I thought that the novel literally plodded along and although it was genuinely inspiring I also found it pretty depressing – and I hate to say it but also pretty boring. Imagine Lord of the Rings without any magic. 

Yeah.

Rating: Two and a half “why the hell didn’t you read the guidebook?!?” out of five.

As inspiring as it is infuriating, I found Wild a real slog to get through. Everyone else seems to love it but I can’t for the life of me see why.

Please note that I read this novel as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2018 #13 Read an Oprah book club selection.

Viewpoint: I’m a Book Blogger, not a Publicist

Some of you may have seen the recent furore on Twitter regarding some negative coments about the efficacy of book bloggers and their impact on book sales.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the debate (if you can call it that) and whilst I think it’s pretty obvious that book bloggers ARE a huge part of the PR and marketing plan for many new books – I don’t think that’s not really the point of book blogging. 

At the end of the day, my blog is my little corner of the internet where I witter on about whatever I want. I usually talk about books because I have a deep, undying love for reading and have done ever since I was little. I devote hours of my time to book blogging, for free, purely because I love it. 

But – and I’m going to say this in an outdoor voice *deep breath* I’M NOT HERE TO PROVIDE FREE PUBLICITY. That’s called MARKETING –  showing off whatever you’re trying to flog in it’s most favourable light, highlighting the positives and wilfully ignoring the negatives. If I were, I’d be writing biased reviews about all of the good points of a novel and expecting to get paid for it as some kind of freelance book promoter. And you’d all see through it in about five seconds flat and stop following me.

I hate the idea that giving out an ARC or creating a blog tour is going to generate loads of publicity. That suggests that publishers expect positive responses to the books they’ve given out, purely because the blogger has received them for free. Sorry but that’s not how it works. I’ve received many ARC’s that I’ve been highly critical of (hopefully in a constructive way) because that’s the chance you take. Again – I’ll say it louder for the people at the back – I’M NOT HERE TO PROVIDE FREE PUBLICITY. All of my reviews – every single one – are my own honest opinions. And if you’ve sent me a book that I haven’t enjoyed, I’m going to tell you that. In detail. I’ll be fair and I’ll make it clear if I think I’m just not the target demographic but I won’t be anything other than honest. 

That’s not to say that I won’t help out with promoting a book if my already written, honestly positive review can help the author/publisher. Sure, they can use it for quotes; I’ll happily post it on Goodreads, Amazon etc. I’ll send out a tweet and I’ll include any hashtags or links that they want. I think it’s important to remember though that I’ll do this for any book – whether it’s an ARC, as part of a blog tour, a library book, a borrowed book, a second-hand book, a book I’ve bought myself – regardless of when it was published or how much praise it’s already received. They all get treated in exactly the same way because I’m talking about something that I love. If that’s useful to a publisher then great – if not, it doesn’t matter to me because I DON’T WORK IN P.R. This is my hobby, not my job. 

So, do I want everyone who reads one of my positive reviews to rush out and buy the book? No, I don’t. At the end of the day, it’s just an opinion. My reviews are solely written from my own viwepoint, so of course they’re biased – otherwise I’d be trying to collate everyone’s thoughts and creating some kind of meta-data overview. At the end of the day, I want my readers to think about what I’ve said and make their own judgements. I’ve read loads of fabulous, entertaining, five star reviews where I’ve known that the book in question isn’t something I’d enjoy. Like all readers over the age of ten I know my own preferences and tolerances, so for example if a reviewer goes overboard about the cute romance between two characters that’s a personal red flag for me but if they slate a book for use of profanity – meh, I won’t count that as a negative. 

Now, I could go on for hours about the intangible benefits to publishers of brand recognition, the difficulty of measuring return on investment when your sales could be impacted by a myriad of variables or the fact that you can’t attribute any profit to one specific strand of your marketing strategy if you’re not collecting customer feedback but I’ll leave my business degree knowledge alone because a) it’s boring b) it’s not my job to think about this stuff and c) IT’S NOT MY JOB TO THINK ABOUT THIS STUFF. Does it matter that my blog is tiny and statistically won’t have much reach? No. Because, for the third and final time:

I’M NOT HERE TO PROVIDE FREE PUBLICITY. 

I blog for the friendship, the discussions and the entertainment.

I blog to “meet” likeminded individuals.

I blog because I enjoy talking about books.

If my blog can help to promote a book that I love then that’s great but that’s a by-product of my primary aims. We’re all here, diligently bashing away at our keyboards because we want to share our enthusiasm, our passion and our love for reading. For free. It would be lovely if everyone could be a bit more respectful towards us – after all, without us readers the publishing industry wouldn’t exist.

Lucinda x

Review: Giant Days Vol.1 by John Allison

​Genre: Comic book/Graphic novel, YA

Similar to: Like a grown up Lumberjanes

Could be enjoyed by: Freshers, or people who want to reminisce about Uni

Publication date: 24th November 2015

I discovered Giant Days on my Kindle when I was poorly a few weeks ago. To be honest, I’d kind of forgotten it was there. I can’t even remember why I bought it – I think it was reduced and I was on a buying spree. So not really the best credentials – and when you look at the cover you can kind of see why. The title means nothing to me and doesn’t explain what the comic is about. The artwork looks like the kind of thing you’d see in a newspaper comic strip. There’s no context to the character depicted so no clues there either. Basically the whole thing is pretty forgettable but I wanted to read something light and non-taxing, so I gave it a go. 

I’m so glad that I did! Set at an unnamed UK university, the comic follows three freshers who are just becoming friends. There’s sweet, naive Daisy; acerbic, serious Susan and dramatic, boy-crazy goth Esther. They get up to all the usual uni stuff – drinking too much, getting freshers flu, lazing about in pyjamas getting to know each other. It brought back so many memories 😍

I found the whole set up totally relatable and laughed all the way from beginning to end. I’d almost forgotten how uniquely weird those first few weeks of uni are, where you make friends based on whoever you’re randomly living with despite having totally different backgrounds and interests. I loved how the characters were all so un-alike and yet still became friends – something that I could definitely identify with. 

It was refreshing to read about a UK uni experience (sitting chatting in bars, having your mother visit because you’re only a few hours away from home etc.) and nice for my poor virus riddled brain not to have to convert words like faucet and college into tap and university. I think that this definitely helped me to identify more with the storyline and made me forego my “no backpacks” rule – I often find that I’m too old to identify with YA literature so I was pleasantly surprised. 

I absolutely loved all of the characters in Giant Days but I especially identified with Esther – she was exactly like I was when I was 18 (she also reminded me of Pandora from Kerrang! magazine – that’s a reference literally none of you will get 😜). I loved the female representation and how their unlikely friendship thrived, with none of the usual in-fighting, bitchiness or generic mean girl tropes. It would have been nice to see more diversity, although I did appreciate how Daisy began to explore her potential queerness (which was handled really well and again felt totally authentic). 

Overall, I thought that Giant Days was a brilliant graphic novel – highly relatable, fun, hilarious and charming. I thought that it captured that whole coming-of-age, exploring who you are thing really well and the way that the characters and their friendship was represented was just great. What a perfect read for October – especially if you’re a first year student – and what a great going-away-to-uni gift! 

Rating: Four “stall my mum while I sober up!” out of five.

Funny, warm and charming, Giant Days is the most relatable story of being a fresher that I’ve ever come across – the nostalgia will give you all the feels. 

Please note that I read this novel as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2018 #18 Read a comic that isn’t DC, Marvel or Image. 

 

Blog Tour: Dear Mr. Pop Star by Derek and Dave Philpott

Genre: Epistolary novel, farcical comedy, pop music

Similar to: Air Mail by Terry Ravenscroft

Could be enjoyed by: Fans of pop music from the 60’s – 90’s.

Publication date: 20th September 2018

I’m really excited to be taking part in my first ever blog tour πŸ˜€, so thank you very much to Derek and Dave Philpott for the opportunity and for giving me a copy of their new book, Dear Mr. Pop Star, in exchange for an honest review. 

“For more than a decade, Derek Philpott and his son, Dave, have been writing to pop stars from the 1960’s to the 90’s to take issue with the lyrics of some of their best-known songs. But then, to their great surprise, the pop stars started writing back…”

Things you should know about me before reading this review: I’m a huge fan of music from the 1980’s and 90’s, especially anything indie/alternative/new wave/synth pop/new romantic. I’m also a big fan of a comedy letter, especially if there’s some kind of critique or complaint involved. So when I heard about this book (that makes me sound like I have my finger on the pulse – in reality Dave emailed me directly) I was really looking forwards to reading it.

I wasn’t disappointed. 

I loved the mock outrage humour contained within the letters, the nitpicking nature of the authors and the cleverly constructed observations about somewhat forgotten song lyrics. I really enjoyed how the songs often weren’t explicitly named so it was left up to the reader to trawl through their memory banks (or perhaps Google) to ascertain exactly which lyrics were being referred to – often reference would be made to several songs in the same letter so you really needed to dig deep to fully appreciate all of the puns being made. The humour was frequently very subtle (and very English) which sometimes made me pause before I comprehended the joke:

“We must go now Toploader as for some inexplicable reason we have an overwhelming urge to put a wash on”

I liked how the authors had structured the book with shorter observations (one-liners, if you will), many of which were absolutely hilarious and worked well to break up the longer letters and responses.

 “Dear Ms. Carlisle, are you sure you don’t mean Devon?”

The longer letters themselves were very funny and very clever – sometimes using puns based on the band name or titles of their biggest hits or sometimes referencing one song in a farcical manner e.g. Dear Devo Re: Whippet was a letter about dog racing. What surprised me was the number of responses gained and the willingness of the respondents to play along. There must have been thousands of letters sent in order for Derek and Dave to have received the hundred or so responses that are published in Dear Mr. Pop Star and the sheer amount of effort and dedication earns them a gold star from me. 

I really enjoyed the sense of nostalgia that I got from reading this book. Many of the songs referenced were *ahem* of a certain vintage but some of the wider pop culture references were too. I was excited to see that the hit medical drama “Angels” got a mention – my cousin Darren used to be in that! He played the gormless ginger kid who frequently looked at the camera and got sacked after a few episodes. See Philpotts, you’re not the only ones who have links to the glittering world of celebrity!

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Dear Mr. Pop Star and would highly recommend reading it little and often – perhaps as a coffee table (or dare I say it – downstairs loo) book. It would also make a great present for that hard to buy for music lover.

Rating: Four “is that really what EMF stands for? Unbelievable!” out of five.

If you want to find out more about the Philpotts (I mean, why wouldn’t you) you can find Derek on Twitter @DerekPhilpott or via Facebook. More info about Dear Mr. Pop Star can be found on Goodreads and Unbound and the book can be purchased via Amazon

TL;DR September Review

Hello Bookworms!

Finally, it seems like the weather has turned and I can get back to my usual attire of slouchy jumpers, boots and cute scarves. Hurrah!

September was our holiday month and we had a lovely trip to Devon with my parents. I’d actually forgotten what it’s like to spend long periods of time with them and to be honest there were times when I could have killed my mum for her incessant talking but overall we all had a great time.

Views across the edge of Dartmoor:

We went round Powderham Castle (very interestng, brilliant estate shop), visited lots of quaint villages and did a boat tour round Dawlish where we met this cheeky fellow:

Another highlight of the trip was a visit to Greenway, the home of Agatha Christie, where I got to sit in the chair that she edited her manuscripts in and generally nose around at her families collection of antiques. If you’re ever in South Devon I’d highly recommend a day out there, especially as it’s so remote and has beautiful views of the River Dart. 

As such, we’ve been massively lax about DIY although we have had the damp patches in the living room plaster looked at. It turns out it’s something to do with the salts in the new brickwork which the new plaster has drawn out and are now attracting moisture from the air. In some ways this is good news (no structural issues) but it’s still going to cost us a load of money to sort out. Luckily, the owner of the house next door is a director of a damp proofing company so they’ve revised their original quote (we had them round before we found this out) to make it a bit cheaper. So, until the plaster work is sorted out we can’t do that much (oh no! Poor us 😜).

I managed to contract some weird virus thing mid September which knocked me out for a whole week (and was followed by the worst migraine I’ve ever had) so I’ve had a really quiet month blogging wise. I wrote a couple of discussion posts about Weird and Wonderful Books I Wouldn’t Have Read Without the Read Harder Challenge and one called Confession Time where I talked about my bookish confessions. I also took part in the Calendar Girls meme where I chose Big Little Lies for my favourite book set in a school.

I wrote four book reviews in September, again surprising myself at the consistently high ratings. They were:

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank: Bloody hell, this book was not what I expected AT ALL and it affected me in a way that I hadn’t anticipated. Still can’t stop thinking about it. 🌟Five out of five🌟

The Kite Runner Graphic Novel by Khaled Hosseini: I’d read the book when it first came out and I can honestly say that the graphic novel surpassed my expectations. I loved how it retained everything of the original whilst adding an extra dimension. Four and a half out of five. 

1Q84 Book Three by Haruki Murakami: Ah, the final instalment of this incredible trilogy where we get to find out…precisely nothing. Every single question was left unanswered and yet I still loved it. Four and a half out of five. 

The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt: This was such a cute, classic kids fantasy tale. A great middle grade read that deserves to be better known in English speaking markets. Four out of five

So that’s September wrapped up! I’d also just like to say thank you to you all for following my blog – there’s now over 300 of you and whilst I don’t put much stock in blogging stats it’s lovely to think that my little corner of the internet is growing πŸ˜€.

So, how was your September? Have you read any of the books I read last month? Are you a Calendar Girl? Are you taking part in the Read Harder Challenge? Follow the links or let me know in the comments!

Calendar Girls October: Best Book With Witches

​Hello friends! Welcome to another edition of The Calendar Girls!

Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia at Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads. It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favorite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post. 

So without further ado, this month’s theme is…

Oooh, topical! 

When I started looking at options for this category I was amazed at just how many of my favourite novels have witches in them. Again, there’s one incredibly obvious choice that I’m not going to go for but I feel like I have to at least acknowledge some of the brilliant books that I didn’t pick. So, honourable mentions go to:

– Terry Pratchett (various books, all brilliant)

– Neil Gaiman for Stardust and possibly The Ocean at the End of the Lane (are the Hempstocks witches?)

– Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett together for Good Omens (highly recommended)

– Roald Dahl for The Witches (which absolutely terrified me as a child)

– Helen Nicoll for Meg and Mog (adorable children’s book)

– Katherine Arden for The Bear and the Nightingale (debatable whether Vasilisa is a witch – I’m guessing this might be revealed in the final instalment of the trilogy)

However, despite the sheer abundance of options my pick is…

The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy


Argh, I have soooo many fond memories of reading this book as a child. I loved the character of Mildred Hubble and reading about how she was literally the worst witch at Miss Cackle’s Academy, making enemies of the smarmy Ethel Hallow and getting witchery totally wrong. The book contains all of the classic children’s book tropes (doing the right thing, perseverance, strict teachers being harsh but fair) but never comes across as preachy or holier-than-thou. There’s a whole series of Worst Witch books and I loved them all for their fast pacing, easy reading style and the sheer likeability of Mildred and her friends.

It was also a great mid 90’s kids TV programme that I weirdly still remember all the words in the theme tune to.

https://youtu.be/YQgW_v9ReDk

Also, check out the Moaning-Myrtle-a-like! I knew I’d seen that witch somewhere before…

So, have you read The Worst Witch? What would be your Calendar Girls pick? Let me know in the comments! 



Review: 1Q84 Book Three by Haruki Murakami

​Genre: Magical realism/fantasy

Similar to: Literally nothing. 

Could be enjoyed by: Fans of Murakami who also have a lot of patience

Publication date: 16th April 2010

The world of Haruki Murakami is a very, very weird one. Literally no-one writes like he does. All of his books are set in quiet towns in Japan where people with ordinary lives have extraordinary, strange and bizzare things happen to them. His work defies categorisation – weird Japanese realistic fantasy is about as close as I can get. However, the stories are so brilliantly written and beautifully detailed that the fantasy elements feel totally natural to the overall narrative – to the point where you can describe an entire book and forget to mention that the main character can converse with cats.

This is quote from my review of 1Q84 Book One (which I also used in my review of 1Q84 Book Two) and I still think it sets the tone nicely. Basically, Murakami books are downright weird – and 1Q84 is possibly the weirdest one yet. 1Q84 Book Three (the culmination of the trilogy) is where the average writer would begin to tie up loose ends…but Murakami clearly had other ideas. I’m actually left with more questions now than I had at the beginning, some of which involve pretty major plot points. The question is though – do I actually care? Did I expect to find anything out?

I guess the answer is…no. 

A big, fat resounding no. 

No

NO

NO.

You see, that’s the genius of Murakami. I didn’t really expect to have any answers, I don’t know what happened, nothing has been resolved before getting to the book’s final destination. 

All I know is, I just really, really enjoyed the journey.

1Q84 Book Three kicks off directly after the dramatic ending of Book Two, where Aomame was stood with a gun in her mouth about to pull the trigger. There’s a slightly laboured point about Chekhov maintaining that any gun introduced to a story must be fired so I was expecting some major drama. Except…that’s not what happens. 

Basically – nothing happens. 

The book is one long nothingy nothingness of no action, no drama and no plot development – and yet it still managed to grip me from the first page to the last.

No, I’m not entirely sure how either. But it did.

I think that perhaps one of the ways that Murakami managed this feat was the introduction of time slips and the concept that time was moving faster and slower for different characters or in different situations. This is all done extremely subtly through suggestion and the storyline is left up to the reader to piece together as the characters (none of whom meet each other until the very end of the book) weave in and out of each other’s narratives. In reality, this was done extremely effectively so it wasn’t as confusing to understand as it sounds and it added a new layer of WTF to keep me entertained. 

I said in my Book Two review that I felt emotionally distant from the two main characters and this feeling remained during Book Three. For all his genius, I don’t think that Murakami writes women very well and honestly, the number of times that breasts were mentioned bordered the ridiculous. I literally know more about Aomame’s tits than I do about the main storyline (to be fair, not that difficult) and the final heartening scene was somewhat ruined by her apologising for having small boobs. I mean, really….

The ending itself explained literally nothing and although I was heavily invested in the storyline, I quite liked the open-ended “resolution” as I felt I had enough information to draw my own conclusions.

So, who are the little people? Why were Tengo and Aomame inextricably linked? What even is 1Q84? 

Who gives a shit. This is a brilliant, epic trilogy; a masterpiece of magical realism and a fantastic, complex work that I’m sure most people will hate but I absolutely loved. 

Rating: Four and a half levels of unexplained weirdness out of five.

Please note that I read this novel as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2018 #19 Read a book of genre fiction in translation.

 

Confession Time…



Books I haven’t read…yet.

As we all know, there’s too many books out there to be read in a lifetime (sob!) so you have to pick your reading material wisely. This inevitably leads to gaps in all of our reading histories, which got me thinking…which books do people expect me to have read that I haven’t? 

1. About 97% of the Classics



I just don’t get on with classic books by people like Charles Dickens or Jane Austen. I find them so hard to get into, they usually fail to hold my attention and I generally get frustrated at the way that the characters are so bound by societal norms that they can’t just say what they want and get on with it. Also, representation of any minority group is pretty much zero so I kind of get bored reading about very similar types of characters over and over. Am I being unfair? Probably, and perhaps there is more diversity out there than I realise but overall – not for me.

2. The vast majority of YA literature



I’m too bloody old to be interested in all that teenage angst! Again, there are some brilliant examples of YA books that I’ve really enjoyed (most recently, Illuminae) but books by the likes of John Green don’t really do it for me. I have a bit of a personal rule that if the main character carries a backpack, I’m out (she says whilst reading Wild, where the narrator’s backpack features so heavily it almost becomes it’s own character). What can I say, I’m a conundrum 😜.

3. Core texts for most schools


For some unknown reason, my school chose a) not to stream English lessons by ability, b) to devote as little time to English as possible and c) to make us read the most random books ever. This resulted in a woeful teaching standard and one very bored Lucinda. So whilst everyone I’ve ever met that’s roughly my age read books like Of Mice and Men, we got stuck doing Hobson’s Choice which is literally the most boring novel ever. We also had to watch the immensely dull film which was made in 1954, in black and white, which did nothing to improve my feelings for the story. In fact, the only interesting work that we did study was the poetry of Maya Angelou, which has stayed with me to this day. I recently read Of Mice and Men and it was great – no idea why we didn’t study it. 

4. Shakespeare


Again, we’re back to my “how is this relevant?” feelings about classic literature and also the emotional scarring caused by my senior school. I have memories of teachers who would rather make us watch the RSC televised “play” of Macbeth  – a group of hammy actors sitting in a circle reading their lines (no set, no costumes, just big shiny faces) than read the actual book. Possibly something I should revisit as an adult but as soon as I start reading all those doths and tis trues every fibre of my being shouts “NOPE!”

5. Any Harry Potter stuff that isn’t books 1 – 7



 The term “flogging a dead horse” comes to mind when I see all these HP spin off books, play scripts and tenuously linked additions to the Wizarding World. Either write something else entirely (I quite enjoyed The Casual Vacancy) or make up a new fantastical world and start a new series of books there. It seems such a shame that someone as talented as JK Rowling keeps getting dragged into all these watered down versions of her original (brilliant) series. 

So that’s mine – what are your bookish confessions? What famous books haven’t you read? Let me know in the comments!