Viewpoint: How I Came To Love Audiobooks By Speeding Them The Hell Up

Hello Bookworms!

I have recently discovered the joy of audiobooks after a somewhat difficult relationship with them. I used to see everyone on Twitter banging on about how wonderful it was to listen to a book on their way to work or whilst cooking and I would think “how can they do two things at once?” I gave it a go a number of times and came to the following conclusions:

  • It is impossible for me to read a recipe, set an oven timer or do anything vaguely technical whilst also keeping up with a story
  • My life is LOUD and my phone speaker is rubbish – as soon as the kettle started to boil I would be struggling to understand what was going on
  • I have the attention span of a goldfish and as soon as anything vaguely distracting happened (i.e. a phone notification) I would immediately try to read it, resulting in my ears stopping working. I receive about 470,000,000 notifications per day so that was never going to work
  • My god, people reading aloud are S—-L—-O—-W. I found that immensely frustrating.

I hadn’t always been so anti-audio. I have fond memories of story tapes (yes Gen Z-ers, actual cassette tapes) when I was little – I can still remember listening to “Kate Visits the Doctor” on repeat (which was quite a strange choice as it was about a girl with an ear infection… but hey, kids are weird).

So, I gave up. Audiobooks are officially Not For Me I thought, whilst pouring boiling water over my hand as I tried to read Facebook and make a cup of tea at the same time.

(Thanks, high pain threshold.)

But then, I got very, very behind on my reading challenge, I got into a reading slump, it was lockdown and I just wanted to watch Tiger King. I realised that if I were to have any chance of getting back into reading, I needed to find a way of fitting it round my nightly Netflix binges. I needed to be reading in the day. I needed to be reading while I was doing other stuff.

Now, I’m in no way against the idea of stirring a saucepan with one hand whilst reading a kindle with the other but the whole thing is pretty impractical. My scalded hands are testament to this – see above example.

There was only one thing for it. I got out my ironing board, downloaded Dracula and started listening.

It’s at this part of the story that you’d expect me to start extolling the virtues of the spoken word, right?

Wrong.

I hated it. It was just as slow and difficult to keep up with as I’d previously thought. Plus, it was the hammiest, Hammer Horror style reading I’d ever heard – and not in a fun, camp way. It was over-acted to the point I started putting in my own dum-dum-DUMS and fake gasps of terror. I lasted about half an hour before I turned it off to listen to The Bugle podcast.

Now, if I know one thing about myself it’s that I’m not a natural DNFer. I so envy people who can just toss a dull book aside, regardless of how much they’ve read to pick up something more interesting. I decided to do some research, download a few more audiobooks and persevere.

And, as slowly as someone turning a 200 page novel into 12 hours of audio, I started to enjoy myself – with a fair few caveats.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. An audiobook on 1x speed is slow and tedious AF but OH MY GOD YOU CAN SPEED THEM UP TO SOMETHING APPROACHING HOW FAST YOU’D READ A BOOK. This for me was a game changer (as I believe all the cool kids say). After a bit of practice I worked my way up to listening at somewhere between 1.75x – 2x speed, depending on accents (I find Americans harder to understand and they seem to talk faster anyway). I didn’t think I was making much progress until my boyfriend started muttering “hihowareyou yeahimgoodthanks ohmygodwhatishappening HAHAHA” and when I asked him what he was doing said “I’m being one of your gibberish audiobooks”.
  2. The narrator is key. You need someone to really make the characters come to life, not just read out a script. I find comedians and actors are the best for this, or just Neil Gaiman Neil Gaimaning his way through his books. (Ooooh, Neil Gaiman ūüėć) Ahem. Full cast recordings can be great but it can sometimes be confusing about who is talking if there are a lot of similar sounding characters, so download with caution.
  3. Headphones are your friends, especially if you’re doing something else like cooking or cleaning. It’s surprising how much background noise there is in the average kitchen and it means you can do things like hoovering whilst still listening.
  4. Some books work better than others, so choose wisely! You will miss stuff and your attention span is often lower if you’re trying to do something else, so I’ve found that thrillers (because they really grab your attention) and lighthearted rom-com style books (because you can kinda see where the storyline is going) work best.
  5. Be careful if you’re listening on a speaker somewhere you might be overheard i.e. in your car or in the garden. Sex scenes are bad enough when you read them in public (ever tried to bend your paperback round so the guy sitting next to you can’t see what you’re reading?) but in traffic with the windows down? UURGGGGH.

Personally, some of the books that worked great on audio for me were:

  • Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman – I had already read American Gods so was familiar with the jist of the storyline and it featured actors who I was familiar with so I could tell who was talking
  • The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary – an easy to follow storyline with only two characters (male and female) so it was easy to differentiate and there was nothing too complicated (world building, time lapses etc.) to try to get your head around
  • Rest and be Thankful by Emma Glass – I found the book itself very depressing but hugely impactful. The single voice almost train of thought like narration was very easy to follow
  • Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswell – I really like Meera Syal’s voice and appreciated the proper pronunciation of some of the names/words

Books that didn’t work for me include:

  • Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi – it might be that the actual book was complicated and didn’t make sense in print but on audiobook it was just words.
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern – ditto. What just happened?
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker – as previously mentioned, the narrator was bizzare, it was overly dramatic, overly plummy and that made the book super slow and dull.

There are still some downsides to audiobooks – they can be hard to follow, it’s incredibly difficult to skip backwards to find where you stopped listening and a bad narrator can ruin an otherwise good story. However, they’re incredibly convenient, I can download a huge selection for free from my library’s BorrowBox app and they’ve really pulled me out of a reading slump. I’m now having a great time steaming through at least one or two per week.

Oh, and if my lockdown Netflix addiction means I don’t hit my Goodreads target this year, you know whose fault that is?

Carole Baskin.

Until next time,

Lucinda x


Do you enjoy audiobooks? Have you helped you to read more? Do you find some books or genres work better than others? Let me know in the comments!

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Blog Tour – Kingshold by D. P. Wooliscroft

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Part of #TheWriteReads Blog Tour!

Genre: Fantasy (possibly high fantasy? I’m not knowledgeable enough about the sub-genres)

Similar to:¬†A bit Assassin’s Apprentice with occasional Terry Pratchett overtones

Could be enjoyed by: People who like multiple POV, political fantasy

Publication date: 17th April 2018

I haven’t written a book review in months, so I think the first thing that I should do is apologise for how rusty I am. As always, life has gotten in the way etc. etc. I’ll try my hardest not to ramble but after the week I’ve had even this opening paragraph is a bit of a stretch!

Soooo, Kingshold. To summarise: the King and Queen get assassinated, there’s a city wide search for someone to run the newly-founded republic.

Chaos ensues.

(This is easier than I thought! Oh no, wait…)

To start with the positives – I thought the book was well written. There was the occasional repetition of a more unusual word and the inclusion of some more modern phrases which sometimes felt a little incongruous but overall the tone was refreshingly light, especially for something as serious as a political fantasy. In particular, I loved how I don’t have a single bad thing to say about sexism – the female characters were likeable, had autonomy and didn’t act as “sexy lamps” (standing around in the background waiting to be turned on by men). One of them even got introduced as Ms! I don’t know a single thing about any of their breasts and there were no bad sex scenes so kudos to the author for not writing like a misogynistic dickbiscuit.

On to the not-so-good bits…

I thought that the characters needed a little more fleshing out as a lot of the time they were somewhat interchangeable. Alana and Petra? Motega, Trypp and Florian? I’m still not exactly sure who was who and I struggled to picture them in my head. I also had some issues with some of the names; Neenahwi… Neena-h-wi? Nee-nah-wi? Neenah-wi? Who knows. I did find that every time that character was mentioned, the pronunciation of her name pulled me right out of the story.

I also couldn’t help but notice some of the – ahem – similarities between certain other books. Now clearly Kingshold is a genre novel so you’d expect certain tropes but in the absence of clear character definitions my mind started to default to, well, mostly the Discworld. We had Rincewind a dodgy wizard, Gimli bearded dwarves, Great A’Tuin a draco-turtle with a town on his back, Inigo, Fezzik and Vizzini a group of three marauding brothers-in-arms and¬†The Luggage some floating luggage.¬†

There was a large cast of characters and plenty of interaction between them all but in terms of action I found it all a bit, well, admin based. I guess the thing about writing a political fantasy is that there’s quite a lot of tedious going-to-curry-favour-with-Lady-such-and-such and although there were plenty of diversions and random events, I found the plot quite slow overall. The events happened in a kind of “oh look, fire!” or “who is that unknown assassin?” type way, with very little tension or build up. There were also some interesting hooks thrown in that weren’t followed up – was Mareth’s singing actual magic? Where on earth did that demon come from – is she banished? I guess we will find out more in subsequent books in the series.

Overall, I liked Kingshold but I didn’t love it. For me, the pacing was too slow, the characters and setting needed better descriptions and I would have like to see a bit more build up and tension to the events that unfolded. I imagine that if you read a lot of fantasy then you’d probably really enjoy this book (after all, I am the woman who found Assassin’s Apprentice quite tedious) but it wasn’t really for me.

 

Three “Is her name Need-A-Wee?”s out of five.

Good writing, an interesting premise but overall just not for me.

 

 


Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of The Write Reads. Thanks Dave!

 

TBR Alphabet Tag!

Hello bookworms!

I’ve been tagged by the awesome Grey at Use Your Words¬†(aaagggges ago – I’m sorry!) in the huge TBR Alphabet tag! All I have to do is list a book that I’ve been meaning to read for each letter of the alphabet. So let’s crack on!

 

A: The Alibi Girl by C. J. Skuse

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After reading Sweetpea and In Bloom and absolutely bloody loving them¬†I’m really excited about this book! I’ve got it as an ARC from Netgalley so I’ll get round to it soon.

 

B: A Bit of a Stretch by Chris Atkins

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I’ve also got this as an ARC from Netgalley because one of the tasks in the #ReadHarder challenge is to read a book that was written in prison. I need to finish it before the end of the year so it’s an imminent current read.

 

I: I Capture the Castle by Dodi Smith

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I always see this book on “Best Books of the 20th Century” list but I’ve never got round to reading it. It looks like everything I usually enjoy – it’s set in the 1930’s, it’s a coming of age story and its main protagonist is a teenage girl, so I have no idea why I haven’t read it yet!

 

D: Dracula by Bram Stoker

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I really wanted to read something spooky for Halloween and since this is the quintessential horror story I added it to my TBR. As usual, life got in the way so I haven’t actually started it yet but it’s an imminent read.

 

E: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott-Card

Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1)

I’m a bit dubious about this so called classic because of the views of the author (both homophobic and sexist) and I believe his chauvinism is overtly expressed in this novel. However, I’d like to see for myself so I will get to it when I’m in the right mood.

 

F: Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson

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I adore anything by Jeanette Winterson so as soon as I saw this in the library I added it straight to my TBR!

 

G: Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

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Gravity’s Rainbow has been on my TBR FOREVER – I did actually start reading it once but at over 700 pages it’s going to take a considerable effort. Definitely a book for 2020.

 

H: Hunger by Roxane Gay

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I came across Roxane Gay via Hannah Gadsby and I’m really looking forwards to reading it. I love a good memoir – especially a food memoir – so this looks right up my street.

 

I: Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez

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I keep hearing about this book EVERYWHERE and it looks soooo interesting – I can’t wait to read it!

 

J: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

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This book WILL NOT DEFEAT ME! I started reading it years ago but the text is so tiny and I kinda got bored. I will pick it back up again, honest…

 

K: Kane and Abel by Jeffery Archer

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True story: I met Jeffery Archer when he’d just come out of prison and he made a joke about it that only I laughed at (in a room full of about 300 people). Awkward. Anyway, I’ve never read any of his work so although he was a bit slimy in real life I’m kind of intrigued.

 

L: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

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This is one of those books that somehow doesn’t appeal to me but everyone always says¬† how brilliant it is, so on to the longlist TBR it goes!

 

M: My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, the Serial Killer

I’ve heard both good things and bad things about this book so I thought I’d find out for myself.

 

N: No Good Deed by John Niven

No Good Deed

This has been floating around my NetGalley backlog for years and I honestly have no idea why I requested it! I will get to it eventually (can you hear the excitement in my voice…)

 

O: On Beauty by Zadie Smith

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Oooh, Zadie Smith. I quite liked White Teeth (even if the ending was a bit weird) but I thought her writing was beautiful so I expect great things from this book.

 

P: The Passion by Jeanette Winterson

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More Jeanette Winterson! I just love her writing so much and I found this in a National Trust bookshop, so I immediately bought it.

 

Q: The Quiet American by Graham Greene

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I love all of those mid-century, middle class authors who write about odd, awkward characters not really doing very much. I liked Our Man in Havana so I’m looking forwards to this.

 

R: Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor, #1)

I keep hearing excellent things about Mark Lawrence from some of my most trusted blogger friends but for some reason I’ve never got round to reading him. I’ll get to this once I’ve finished The Priory of the Orange Tree.

 

S: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)

Yes I know, everyone in the world loves this book and I STILL haven’t read it! I’m not always a huge fan of YA fantasy so I’m perhaps not as excited about it as I could be but I will read it just to see what all the hype is about.

 

T: Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

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I ADORE Sarah Waters and this is another one of those books that’s been on my TBR forever – I literally can’t wait to read this. Why is it taking me so long?

 

U: Unhappenings by Edward Aubrey

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I bought this book last year and… I can’t remember why? Is it good? Has anyone else read it? Let me know!

 

V: Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

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This is another one of those books that WILL NOT DEFEAT ME! and yet I can’t be bothered to actually, you know, read it. Maybe if the publishing industry implodes and books stop being written I’ll get round to it.

 

W: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race

In the period between starting this post and finishing it, I have actually begun reading this book and OMG IT IS AMAZING! Highly recommended to everyone.

 

X: The X-Men, Vol 1

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Considering I’ve been “reading” i.e. started then ignored Watchmen for years now I doubt I’ll be getting to this any time soon but it’s definitely something I want to read. I just need more hours in the day!

 

Y: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

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I stupidly bought MaddAddam before realising it was the third book in a series so I will get to this once I’ve read book one. I love Margaret Atwood so I’m excited for it.

 

Z: Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates

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I just checked Goodreads and this book appears on both “the most disturbing books ever written” and “I like serial killers” lists so it looks right up my street!

 

And that’s it! Thanks to Grey for tagging me, I tag:

The Orangutan Librarian

NS Ford

Travel in Retrospect

Sucker for Coffe

…and anyone else who wants to join in!

 

So, have you read any of these books? Is your TBR as terrifyingly long as mine? Let me know in the comments!

How The Write Reads Has Helped Me OR How I joined a Book Blogging Cult and I Regret Nothing

Hello Bookworms!

Today, I want to talk about a Twitter phenomenon, a celebrity amongst the book blogging community, our most exalted leader… Dave. All hail Dave!

 

 

Dave is amazing for a number of reasons, not least because he set up The Write Reads – a super fun, super awesome group of book bloggers who are just the best, most supportive, loveliest people EVER!!! If you want to be part of the¬†cult gang, all you have to do is follow @thewritereads on Twitter and agree to read and retweet (and if possible, like and comment on) the two featured blogs of the day – one is a book review and one is more of a discussion post. When it’s your turn, Dave will contact you and you get to choose your content to be Blog/Review of the Day. That’s right bookworms – this one weird trick will see you evolve into a better blogger!

However, I feel it is my responsibility to warn you that there is a downside to joining the cult gang. Possible side effects may include:

  1. Awkwardness – the gang members are very friendly and supportive. Positivity about your own work doesn’t come naturally to the common-or-garden introvert book blogger so may result in unexpectedly warm and fuzzy feelings.
  2. Increased workload – guys, you have to do TWO blog hops PER DAY. That’s right – TWO!!! That extra ten minutes that you spend reading relevant, interesting content is going to have to come from somewhere, Karen!
  3. Increased workload – The Write Reads gave me a huge stats boost which means even more people now know about my blog (and now I have to interact with them all, sigh ūüėČ)
  4. INCREASED WORKLOAD – you’ll pick up so many blogging tips and so much advice and knowledge that it’s genuinely difficult not to try them all out IMMEDIATELY, thus leaving your house in a state, your career in tatters and your love life non-existent. Or maybe that’s just my inability to multi-task. Either way, Canva has stolen too many of my Sunday afternoons (the multiple windowed little minx).
  5. Shock – you might feel like you’re so cool and misunderstood with your alternative theories about the ending of Harry Potter but then you realise that YOU’VE FOUND YOUR TRIBE and suddenly, you’re not a special little snowflake anymore ūüėĮ.
  6. Injury – I’ve added sooo many new books to my TBR since joining up that my virtual one gives me anxiety and my physical pile is threatening to topple over and squish me.
  7. Stress – being part of the gang gives you access to competitions, giveaways etc. which may result in you needing to find somewhere to home¬†yet another book¬†or decide which novel from your massively increased TBR you’d like to purchase with your free voucher. Another book simply will not fit on my shelves I CAN’T BEND THE LAWS OF PHYSICS DAVE.
  8. Obesity – we all know that reading is a pretty sedentary hobby and being part of The Write Reads gang will only encourage your lazy ass to avoid the gym and pick up a book instead. The horror!
  9. Ostracisation Рyour friends are gonna hate you for all of the cool new opportunities that you get from being a member of the gang, like access to the biggest and best blog tour going, or your shiny new free virtual badge (this alone can induce murderous intent amongst your peers).
  10. Guilt¬†– you’re meant to be a word-loving free spirit, not a corporate drone! Doing those two retweets every day may provide your life with a level of structure that you’re just not comfortable with. You’ve sold out, man!

Joking aside, I really do love being part of The Write Reads. I’d like to say a personal thank you to Dave for everything that he’s done for us gang members – he’s a top bloke and he’s put so much effort into making this thing a real community. I don’t know how he finds the time to keep The Write Reads running successfully (Dave, do you actually¬†live¬†on Twitter?) but he does and it’s thanks to him that the group is as brilliant as it is.

Cheers Dave!

Review: Come Back For Me by Heidi Perks

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Genre: Thriller

Similar to: Now You See Her, The Girl on the Train… all the usual suspects

Could be enjoyed by: Thriller fans Рthis is definitely a good example of the genre 

Publication date: 1st June 2019

I feel like I need to start this review with an apology – I received an email giving me super early access to read this book AGES ago and I’ve only just got round to writing the review. Luckily I’ve just about managed to beat the publishing date soooo…. yay? Ooops? Not really sure. Anyway, life has taken over a bit from the blog recently so I’m sorry that I’ve not been around much and I’m sorry that it’s taken me until now to write this review – especially as I really enjoyed Come Back For Me.

Grovel over… on to the review!

Stella grew up on a tiny island just off the British mainland and had a seemingly idyllic childhood – think The Famous Five but without the racism. Then one day – completely out of the blue – her Dad decides that they all have to leave, despite the huge storm that makes it totally unsafe to travel. Despite the fact that the family survive the ferry crossing to the mainland, they’re oddly changed by their move. Stella’s parents split up, her brother moves away and severs contact, her mother dies. She has no idea what happened and longs for her picture perfect childhood home. Then one day she spots her old house on the news – it seems that a body has been found buried in the garden. Stella is both horrified and intrigued and as she struggles to understand the implications of the discovery, she realises that it’s not just human remains that have been uncovered – it’s a web of family secrets too.

I really love the way that Heidi Perks writes. Her descriptions of the island and it’s inhabitants were brilliant and I could see the kind of utopia that she’d created – all children doing wholesome activities like climbing trees whilst their mothers baked bread and hung out the washing. There was a real risk that her setting could have felt too old-fashioned for the 1990’s but it was just the right side of modern but cozy.

The family exodus takes places in the first chapter and my heart was absolutely in my mouth. The writing was so tight and the situation so dangerous that it really kicked things off with a bang. It opened up numerous possibilities for the reasons behind the family needing to urgently leave and I loved how I was immediately drawn into the novel, inventing my own theories as to what had happened straight away.

As the book progressed, the tension built brilliantly and there was a good number of red herrings thrown in to the twisty turny plot that kept me constantly re-evaluating what I thought I knew. I loved the way that island setting slowly moved away being safe and secure to being smotheringly claustrophobic once secrets started to be revealed.¬†I actually struggled to put the book down, so much so that I put off doing some major household tasks so that I could sneakily finish it off. Sorry bathroom ceiling, you’ll have to wait for that final coat of paint!

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Come Back for Me and thought that it was a thoroughly engaging read. My only issue with the novel was with the name of the island – Evergreen. Guess what I was singing in my head every time it was mentioned…

 

 

Four “We’re gonna take this life and make it…” out of five

Really addictive, exciting and fast paced – a hard book to put down.


Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of NetGalley and Penguin Random House. Thanks to Natalia Cacciatore for giving me advanced access!

 

Review: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

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Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism

Similar to: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Could be enjoyed by: Lots of people, apparently

Publication date: 2nd July 2015

 

First things first – I hated this book.

There.

I said it.

I’m very sorry to those of you who have told me this is one of your favourite novels but I just did not get on with it at all. This appears to be a Marmite book – you either love it or you hate it – as the reviews on Goodreads seem to be either five stars or one star.

If you loved it… well… you might not want to read what’s coming next…

 

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – A Rant.

By Lucinda Is Reading, aged 36 1/4 

 

Lets start by describing the story. A man named (urgh)¬†Thaniel¬†(I hated the name – to me it sounded far too modern for someone who was meant to be living in Victorian London) finds a watch in his flat. Six months later, the watch emits some kind of alarm that makes him leave the pub (seems pretty tenuous to me but ok) when suddenly a bomb goes off.¬†Thaniel has been saved by his loud timepiece! He somehow, through his work in the Foreign Office, gets involved in the police investigation because – I think – the bomb was clockwork and he has been given a watch and the clockwork is the same. Or something. I don’t know. So he goes off to live with the watchmaker who he thinks made his watch and maybe the bomb, in order to collect evidence in his official capacity as Home Office admin clerk. He finds out that the watchmaker has special powers but isn’t fazed and just accepts this as though it’s an everyday occurrence. A random scientist called Grace enters stage left. She has to get married to inherit a house, so she marries Thaniel after meeting him maybe twice. Turns out Thaniel likes someone else but we don’t get to find that out until he literally walks up to that person and starts snogging them. On his wedding night. Grace, having given literally no indication that their relationship is anything more than a business deal, is inexplicably jealous. Then there’s another bomb but that doesn’t have anything to do with the first one.

Oh, and there’s a clockwork octopus.

The End.

Now, obviously that’s me being mean for comic effect but I honestly couldn’t make head nor tail of the plotline of this book. There were so many things that didn’t make sense, so many threads that were left open-ended, and so many situations where characters acted so, well, out-of-character that I almost gave up numerous times. I slogged through to the end – but only just – and STILL nothing made sense. In fact, it just got weirder.

The disjointed writing was majorly off-putting. Several times I had to re-read a paragraph to work out who or what the author was referring to. Some parts of the narrative were extraordinarily detailed; others were completely lacking. The dialogue between characters was wooden and I don’t think there was a single emotion either displayed or explicitly mentioned throughout the entire book. That made it supremely difficult to get a handle on anyone’s motivations and made their actions seem, at times, completely random.

I also found the actual plot of the book… dull. Yes, there’s a super cool clockwork octopus that may or may not be alive but there’s also an awful lot of wandering around, not really saying or doing anything meaningful. I wasn’t engaged in the narrative at all as I felt there was a complete lack of tension or excitement.

One part of the novel which I will obliquely refer to as¬†the wedding night¬†came so far out of left field that I just couldn’t believe it had been thrown in. It felt completely inauthentic and the general reaction was far, far too modern for a novel set in the Victorian period. There were numerous other examples of inaccuracy – Thaniel learning conversational level Japanese in about a month, Grace being forced to marry because she got caught staying out late, jokes by the watchmaker about how shit the West Midlands is (one of the major centres for watchmaking during that period)… I could go on.

However, my absolute least favourite part of the book (which I will have to paraphrase, having already returned the novel to the library) was a paragraph in which a character seemed to jokingly suggest that one of the ways in which you could get out of a marriage proposal was to take a trip alone to Hampstead Heath at night. Now, I might have got the wrong end of the stick here (again, the writing is extraordinarily convoluted) but… is that a rape joke? If not – what the hell did it mean?

Overall, this book was really, really,¬†really¬†not for me. Plenty of people seem to love it so by all means don’t avoid it on my account – but don’t say that I didn’t warn you!

 

One “Did I miss something?”s out of five.

“Not for me” is the nicest thing I can say about this book.

 

 

Mid Month Mini-Reviews – March

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Hello bookworms!

Due to the success of my last post, I’m going to keep going with a few more mini-reviews. Look, I even made a graphic! I had no idea how fun these things were to write so I think they might become a monthly feature. Woo hoo! No more trying to drag out interesting comments about dull 2.5 star books.

Today, I’m focusing on clearing out some of my NetGalley backlog, Marie Kondo style. That “older than three months” tab does not spark joy.

 

Golden State by Ben H. Winters

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I quite liked this book – it was proper old-fashioned science fiction along the lines of Philip K. Dick and reminded me very much of Minority Report. The story centered around Lazlo Ratesic, a citizen of the Golden State and member of the Speculative Service whose job it was to enforce the Objectively So: the criminal offense of lying. The upholding of the truth requires Lazlo’s special sixth sense combined with the constant surveillance of all Golden State citizens but absolute power corrupts absolutely and when he stumbles across previously unknown truths, his reality unravels.

I really enjoyed the Big Brother overtones within the novel and it was interesting to read from the point of view of the enforcers, not the average dissenting citizen. The world building was great, very cohesive for such a bold idea and held together well. I enjoyed the questions that the book raised around morality – is it possible to be completely honest all of the time? Is freedom always such a good thing or should we appreciate the use of CCTV etc. as a protectionist measure? However, as the book went on it became a bit absurd, then a lot absurd, then descended into an ending that came so far out of left field that it could have belonged to another novel entirely. Still, I enjoyed the majority of the book very much so I gave it:

Three and a half “is honesty always the best policy?” out of five.

 

Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett

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I have to say that I really, really tried with this book but unfortunately I had to DNF it at 60% (see, I told you I gave it a good go). It’s well written but, frankly, dull. Cass is¬† a singer-songwriter re-launching her career after years of shying away from the public and the book flips between her life now and her back story. I initially enjoyed reading about Cass’ early life and relationship with her family but as the book progressed I felt like the action was sorely missing. Cass has a horrible relationship with her jealous boyfriend (another member of the band) but this point is so laboured and the endless chapters about yet another gig, yet another argument, yet another London flat were so repetitive and dull that I lost interest.

I feel like there’s a good story within the novel but to stretch it out over 400 pages was too much for me. When my Kindle estimated that it would still take over three hours for me to finish I made the decision that life was too short and gave up on it.

Two “MY GOD WHEN WILL IT END” out of five.

 

Notes to Self by Emilie Pine

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This book is a collection of personal essays focusing on a number of taboo subjects – the alcohol addiction of Emilie Pine’s father, her own problems with fertility, the loss of children, of miscarriage, of regret and death and guilt. Whilst the book is brutally honest, it’s just… a lot. That doesn’t make it bad exactly but it does make it a difficult read. Everything is laid bare in quite a matter-of-fact way and whilst I was glad that Pine never wallowed in self-pity it was the lack of personal reflection that left me feeling a little cold. I struggled to get a handle on who she was and her lack of empathy for others or consideration of the wider issues that impacted upon her life meant that in turn I struggled to empathise with her.

Whilst I wouldn’t say that this book was enjoyable, it was a powerful read containing beautifully written prose. I appreciated the honesty of the author in tackling such difficult subjects but I struggled to connect emotionally.

Three “check your privilege” out of five

 

So, have you read any of these books? Is 60% a ridiculously long way into a book before DNFing it? Let me know in the comments!

 

Review: Of Women by Shami Chakrabarti

Genre: Non-fiction, feminist literature

Similar to: A Good Time to be a Girl

Could be enjoyed by: People looking for a broad overview of feminist issues

Publication date: 26th October 2017 

*puffs out cheeks, blows out through pursed lips* 

Yeah.

This book was so close to being a DNF multiple times but I was just about interested enough to keep going. 

JUST.

Of Women in the 21st Century (to give it it’s full title) is a series of essay-like chapters regarding the treatment of women in various different areas of life (education, faith, healthcare etc.) highlighting the myriad of injustices that they face. Light bedtime reading it ain’t.

As the description suggests, the book is, well…it’s pretty depressing. There are SO MANY issues facing women and Shami Chakrabarti has detailed them all, with credible stats and references, eleventy billion times throughout the text. My main takeaway is that women are basically f*cked.

And that’s my problem, because I’m generally a positive little sunflower and I like to think that the world is ever so slowly changing for the better. I know that all these problems exist but there are lots of people working very hard to tackle them. It would have been great if they had got a mention – or if Chakrabarti has proposed her own solutions in a more concrete fashion.

I’m not knocking the inclusion of facts and figures in the book – far from it, Of Women is impeccably researched – but that doesn’t make for an enjoyable reading experience. The endless stats became meaningless when read as large chunks of text and the whole thing felt highly impersonal. I didn’t disagree with anything that she said but I wasn’t fired up by her arguments either.

I also felt that the book was highly, highly biased. There was no interrogation of the data presented and no consideration for any counter-arguments. I also got the impression (even though it’s not overtly stated) that it’s those bloody Conservatives who have caused/failed to solve some of the problems detailed – remembering of course that Chakrabarti is a Labour Party politician. Again, I didn’t necessarily disagree with what she was saying but it was all very one sided.

However, there were some parts of the book that were genuinely enjoyable. In particular, the section on faith was really interesting and well researched. I think this area is often overlooked in feminist discussions so it felt like Chakrabarti was bringing something new to the table, instead of summarising the main points of old ground.

Overall, I felt like the book was a fantastic overview, a starting point, an introduction to some of these issues but the tone of the piece was so dry and heavygoing that I could only really recommend it as a reference book for the basics of gender studies.

Rating: Two and a half stars out of five.

A good overview of the main issues facing women but written in such a dry, uninspiring fashion that what should be a hard-hitting account became meaningless.

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