Nick’s Chapter-a-Day Read-Along – Join Us!

Last year, I took part in Nick’s Chapter-a-day read-along of Les Miserables and enjoyed it so much that I’ve signed up to his 2019 challenge! I know that I would never have had the patience to get through Les Miserables without the read-along and I enjoyed seeing everyone else’s thoughts as we were working our way through the novel. This year, I’m hoping to expand my horizons even further!

So, by popular demand, Nick has chosen four books to read in 2019 which in total have 365 chapters. They are:

 

  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes #quixotereadalong
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas #montecristoreadalong
  • Lillith by George McDonald #lilithreadalong
  • The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens #curiosityshopreadalong

Although the idea is obviously to read one chapter a day, last year I found it easier to read in larger chunks. The beauty of this challenge is that you can structure it to whatever suits you – you can read on ahead or catch up whenever you get the chance!

I’ve copied the below from Nick’s original post about the read along, so if you want to join in you’ve got all the information that you need:

How to Participate in the 2019 Chapter-a-Day Read-Along

  1. Get a copy of each of the four books.
  2. If you have your own blog, write a welcome post explaining why you are joining the read-along and what you hope to gain from it. Leave a link to your post in the comments section on Nick’s original blog post. If you don’t have a blog, you can leave your information in the comments section as well.
  3. Download the daily schedule: Nick’s Chapter a Day Reading Schedule 2019
  4. Commit to reading a chapter a day. If you get behind or race ahead, no worries. Life happens.
  5. If you feel like it, post a line a day from the current chapter on social media, using the hashtags listed above. Nick will be posting to Twitter and Facebook each day and would love to read your thoughts, too. When you post, please respect the reading experience of those who may not know the full story. In other words, no spoilers!
  6. Be sure to subscribe to Nick’s blog to receive any read-along updates.

The 2019 Chapter-a-Day Reading Schedule

Here is the broad outline of the year:

  • Don Quixote: January 1 to May 8 (126 chapters plus 2 prologues = 128 days)
  • The Count of Monte Cristo: May 9 to September 2 (117 chapters = 117 days)
  • Lilith: September 3 to October 19 (47 chapters = 47 days)
  • The Old Curiosity Shop: October 20 to December 31 (73 chapters = 73 days)

Nick’s blog has more information including sign up information, graphics and links to where you can get hold of copies of all the books listed so please check it out – and join us!

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Review: Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield

 

Genre: Literary fiction

Similar to: A slower version of The Essex Serpent

Could be enjoyed by: Fans of literary fiction who don’t mind a dash of magical realism

Publication date: 17th January 2018

 

This is an awkward post to write. Initially, I LOVED Once Upon A River – like, sent out a tweet that the author liked about how much I was enjoying it – but once I got into the book…well… I got a little bogged down.

Let me explain…

It’s midwinter in England, in the old Swan Inn on the banks of the Thames. Stories are being told by candlelight by the village locals. Suddenly, a man bursts through the doors, heavily beaten and holding what appears to be a doll. But when the villagers try to help him, they realise that he’s holding the body of a drowned girl. They lay her to rest in a room on her own but hours later – a miracle! – she stirs and seems to come back to life. So starts a tale of intrigue, deception and magic, heavily laden with folklore.

So far so good.

But when the entire book is based around who is the girl  in an age when no-one could tell for sure, I felt like I was literally getting caught in the weeds.

Luckily, Once Upon A River is beautifully, magically written. The prose is lyrical, flowing, well… like a river. However, it also meanders about, with a huge cast of characters forming a number of slower moving tributaries that feed into the main narrative flow. The symbolism wasn’t lost on me but it took a while to understand. It also made the pace of the book s-l-o-w… really slow. Occasionally, the storyline was so stagnant I thought we’d veered off course into an oxbow lake. The gorgeous writing just about managed to pull me through the silt though.

The book is also incredibly atmospheric. I could literally see the characters (there’s pages and pages of descriptive text) even though they’re numerous and somewhat similar. Combined with the writing style this made the novel far more engaging but after a while, instead of gliding effortlessly through the prose I felt like I was drowning in it. I got somewhat swamped by the side stories and exhausted by the sense that I was treading water, waiting for the next thing to happen.

Oddly, the narrative picked up pace towards the end – to the point of feeling a little rushed – which I found quite jarring. I didn’t fully understand the ending (I sensed some kind of moral message but couldn’t quite decipher it) although I appreciated how the author tied all of the narrative threads together. I hated the idea that getting married and having a baby would make everything better though.

Overall, this was a very difficult book to review. I can completely see why some people (a lot of people) have given it five stars – it’s an easy book to immerse yourself in. However, I struggled with the slow pace and the lack of action. Whilst I quite enjoyed reading Once Upon A River, I didn’t love it – but I’m sure plenty of other people will.

Three “the words LITERALLY washed over me”s out of five.

Beautifully written and highly original but a little slow for my taste.

 

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Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of NetGalley. Thanks NetGalley!

 

Review: The Map of Us by Jules Preston

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Genre: Fiction

Similar to: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Could be enjoyed by: Quirky fiction lovers

Publication date: 4th May 2018

In keeping with my highly focused and organised lifestyle, I’ve FINALLY got round to reading and reviewing The Map of Us which I requested one whole year ago on Netgalley. Better late than never!

You see, the reason that I delayed…and delayed…and delayed reading the book was that I simply had no idea why I requested it. I think I got sucked in by all of the “next Eleanor Oliphant” hype but in reality it’s nothing like that.

The Map of Us is a complicated story of one family across the generations. There’s Violet, physically disabled and seemingly disowned by her family, growing up at a time when that kind of treatment was somewhat socially acceptable; Tilly, her granddaughter who likes statistics, analyses her relationships with quantitative data and creates a Compatibility Index to prove where her and her ex went wrong; her father who is a professional sand sculptor; her sister who is addicted to buying designer handbags she can’t afford and her brother who is leading world authority on the colour blue. There’s also a whole host of other odd people who crop up along the way, adding to the narrative of the numerous main characters. And – hahaha – they’re all super quirky too! Hahahaha…ha. Oh.

To me, it felt like the characters were all a bit, well, weird purely for the sake of it. Don’t get me wrong, I love an oddball but when literally everyone in the book has their own thing going on that is nothing whatsoever to do with the main narrative then it gets a bit tedious. It’s even harder when the novel is character driven and the plot is wafer thin. For example, Tilly’s Dad refuses to sculpt dolphins, even though they always win the competitions that he enters. Fine – that’s a nicely observed bit of humour but the point was repeated so many times it felt utterly laboured.

My other issue was with the structure of the book. The chapters are written from a first person perspective but it takes a while for you to work out who is actually speaking and that there’s more than one narrator. This stops being a problem once you’ve got to know the family a bit – the chapters are short so it doesn’t take too long – but it is quite hard to get into at first. I don’t know why you’d deliberately make it awkward for the reader?

Overall, I think my main issue was that I just couldn’t engage with the characters and as such, wasn’t really bothered about what happened to them. The book was described as being charming and quirky and I can see why but for me it needed more action and a stronger narrative thread. I didn’t hate the book – it was a nice enough read but unfortunately I got bored with it all.

Two and a half “Oh, do grow up”s out of five.

Cute and quirky but kinda dull. Not for me!

 

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Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of NetGalley. Thanks NetGalley!

 

 

Review: The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

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“I will ride the world, in between times, through the farthest countries of night and day”

Genre: Fantasy/YA

Similar to: Grimm’s Fairytales mixed with classic high fantasy

Could be enjoyed by: Those who like their YA fantasy with a darker edge

Publication date: 10th January 2019

 

I am starting 2019 with a bang!

The Winter of the Witch was my most anticipated reads of this year and I’ve already earmarked it as one of the best books of 2019.

Yes, during the second week of January.

It is that good.

I have ADORED the previous two instalments of the Winternight Trilogy and I was super-duper lucky to receive this book as a physical ARC (my first!) directly from the publishers. So, thank you to Tess Henderson at Penguin Random House for sending it to me. It holds a treasured place on my book blogging trolley.

I can’t quite put into words how gorgeous this book is – it is BEAUTIFUL and MAGICAL and ATMOSPHERIC and HISTORIC and ETHEREAL and I have made a Pinterest board to try to get across a little bit of the flavour of the novel because shouting at you in capitals simply won’t achieve it. If you’re so inclined, you can check it out here:

The Winter of the Witch follows on from The Girl in the Tower, with Vasya getting caught up, as usual, in the action and having to flee for her life. Moscow is burning and the people are in turmoil; a small, scruffy witch girl makes for an easy scapegoat. Vasya is tested to the extreme but like a phoenix rising from the ashes, what doesn’t kill her makes her stronger. Helped by the most unlikely of characters she travels through Midnight – a magical realm beyond mortal boundaries to explore her family legacy and realise her true potential. As she returns to the city she foolishly focuses on the battle but not the war and – drumroll – this is where the true scope of her quest is finally revealed.

If you’re expecting a classic tale of good vs evil, that’s not what happens next. Instead, The Winter of the Witch is far more complicated, more nuanced and has far greater scope than the usual trek-through-a-forest-and-one-final-battle fare that is so often recycled in fantasy novels. Tropes are turned on their heads – the princess not only has to save herself but everyone else (twice), the demons don’t get slain, and one of the starring characters…well, no spoilers but OH MY HEART!!!!

Of the three books in the series, I think this one is my favourite. It’s more similar in tone to The Girl in the Tower but less straightforward, more multi-layered, more grown-up. Vasya learns far more about herself and it’s wonderful to see her really coming into her own, mastering her true power and potential. The other characters are further developed too, with each of them showing both the light and shade of their true selves. New characters join the story (with one that could almost be described as cute – but don’t worry, he totally fits in) and there’s a welcome return of the Chyerti, who have a much bigger role than in The Girl in the Tower. Thank goodness there’s a family tree in the back of the book because there’s a lot of people, they’re all related and what with the Russian patronymic system varying by gender (not to mention the nicknames)… yeah, it gets complicated.

The writing, as always, is utterly spellbinding and I was completely drawn in to the mythical world of medieval Russia. The atmosphere is similar to The Bear and the Nightingale but it also holds a more ethereal air – Vasya wandering through Midnight is like the forest from the first book but seen through a veil: real but also not-real, cold and dangerous but also mystic and enchanted. There’s also more violence in this book: more bloodshed, more destruction, more tragedy. The sense of loss and despair is strong and quite visceral at times – I had huge empathy for Vasya and the difficult choices that she was forced to make.

The ending really is the endgame to end all endgames. It was just everything that I’d hoped for, with everything that had been hinted at in the previous two books coming to fruition – and so much more. The twists and turns that lead to the final conclusion were hard to spot in advance and I genuinely didn’t know how things were going to turn out – I was completely mesmerised up until the final page.

Overall – I just loved everything about The Winter of the Witch. The atmosphere, the characters, the plot – all were captivating and I literally devoured the novel in a couple of days. I was worried that the book wouldn’t live up to my expectations but it utterly surpassed them all.

Rating: Five “how can it be over?”s out of five stars.

One word: spellbinding. This is a beautiful, cleverly crafted novel that turns many tropes on their heads whilst retaining a sense of traditional classic storytelling.

A future classic. 

 

 

 

Calendar Girls January: Most Anticipated 2019 Release

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 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 favourite 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…

calendar girls january

…and my response is…

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

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So even though I’ve already read this book as an ARC, it’s not released until 10th January and I am SUPER excited to see what everyone else thinks about it!!! I even made a Pinterest board to show off how how gorgeous it is:

The novel follows on from The Girl in the Tower, after Vasya has travelled to Moscow from her village where she has been cast out as a witch. There will be thrills, spills – and an explosive conclusion to the series!

I love the Winternight trilogy for many reasons – Vasya is a fearless heroine, defiant about the rules governing her as a woman and strong in a way that isn’t purely based on macho “I’ll fight them at their own game” tactics. The stories are wonderfully written, combining folklore and history to create an utterly immersive world. They don’t shy away from the harsh realities of fourteenth century life but the grittiness lends itself to the starkly beautiful setting. I also adored how dark the books are – just the right side of creepy – giving a deeply atmospheric air to an utterly spellbinding fairytale.

So, what’s your most anticipated release of 2019? Have you read The Winter of the Witch? Let me know in the comments! 

What Lucinda Did…in 2018

Hello Bookworms!

Gosh, I’ve just been flicking through my blog posts from this year and I can’t believe how fast 2018 has gone! I started the year not being particularly serious about blogging, with about 150 followers and no other social media presence. I’m ending the year with over 350 followers, 240 Twitter followers and a far more regular blogging schedule, plus more varied content and participation in the wider blogging community. Oh, and I’m finally writing my posts on a laptop instead of tapping everything out with one finger on my Kindle Fire! I can actually resize images!

I also bought myself this nifty little trolley from Ikea and turned it into a Book Blogging trolley (which the good people of Twitter seemed to really like). I love it so much!

In terms of reading, I’ve read and reviewed 62 books on my blog this year and had several rated five out of five. I was actually surprised at how many poorly rated books I read – something that I’m planning to change in 2019. No more Foxhole Court! I was also surprised at how few books I’d read – I think reading Les Miserables took up quite a lot of time and should count for at least five!

I’ve already talked about my favourite books that I read as part of the Read Harder challenge but I’ve got a few other honourable mentions from my reading total:

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a wonderful novella with layers of symbolism that I found completely enthralling.

Bitter by Francesca Jakobi was a fantastic, twisted book about what happens when a mother’s love becomes obsessive. I was totally engrossed from start to finish by this clever, atmospheric novel.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata was wonderful. I loved the sheer weirdness of this short book – again, the novella was completely multi-layered, packing a huge amount into what initially appears to be a simple story about a woman happy to work in a simple job in a convenience store.

The Lido by Libby Page was a lovely book that feature a rare appearance from a main character who was actually older than sixty! I loved the relationship between the characters and seeing how the community all came together was lovely. It also made me want to take up swimming again!

However, there was one other book that really stood out for me this year that I’m officially naming as my favourite…

Drum roll…

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It was Skyward by Brandon Sanderson!

I loved everything about this amazing novel, from the female representation to the complex characters, the world building and the TOTAL LACK OF TEENAGE SNOGGING! Amazing!

I hope you all had a great 2018 too! What were your favourite reads? Let me know in the comments!

New Year’s Resolutions

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Hello Bookworms!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a fantastic time last night drinking, dancing… going to bed early with a good book. However you celebrated, it’s time to push those hangovers/novels aside and think about priorities for the New Year.

Last year, I was incredibly laissez-faire about setting out plans for my blog and yet it grew far more than expected, so this year I’m going to be a bit more targeted in my approach to see if I can keep that momentum going. I’ve outlined ten (!) objectives that I’m hoping to achieve during 2019 which, as a thoroughly non-ambitious person is already making me feel queasy but I’m feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Well, for January anyway…

  1. Make my peace with Goodreads and use it properly. I dislike everything about the site but it’s a fantastic resource that I only semi-engage in. I want to at least log and give a star rating to every book that I read. I’m even going to set a reading target of 100 books – wish me luck!
  2. Smash my NetGalley backlog out of the park. Oh, book that I requested three years ago and still haven’t even started, I will get to you this year, I promise.
  3. Consistency is key, Lucinda. Basically, stop f#*king about with your “unintentional hiatuses” and post according to a proper schedule. Have the blogging equivalent of an emergency frozen pizza in your drafts so that you don’t get caught out.
  4. Keep going with the varied content. I published far more discussion style posts in the last half of 2018 and really enjoyed writing them, so…yeah. Keep it up.
  5. Branch out into other forms of social media. I’m now on Twitter but I also have a fun idea for Pinterest that I want to try out.
  6.  Get more involved in other people’s stuff. I’ve tailed off with the blog hopping recently so I need to get back on it.
  7. Complete Read Harder 2019. I’ve done the last three so this shouldn’t be a problem – it equates to reading two books per month so it should be easy.
  8. Complete the Chapter-a-day Read-along. This is hosted by Nick at nicksenger.com and as I had so much fun reading Les Miserables last year I’m taking part in the new FOUR BOOK challenge!
  9. Just…try to make a dent in your physical TBR. Now that I’ve got all of my unread books together I can see how many I have to get through. Oops. I’m determined to get the pile down. It’s currently 26 so should be achievable (this is just my physical TBR, I’m not even going to attempt to get my digital one down).
  10. Mumbles *something about getting 500 followers*. I’ve always been very much against the idea of counting followers but it is more fun when lots of people respond to what you’ve written. So, 500 is the nominal target. Wish me luck.

Here’s to a happy and prosperous New Year to you all!

What are your plans for 2019? How did you do with your 2018 resolutions? Let me know in the comments!

TL;DR December Review

Hello Bookworms!

I can’t believe that’s Christmas over for another year.  As usual, we ate a lot, drank a lot, saw family and friends and even squeezed in a bit of reading (although not as much as I would have liked. We were at my Mum’s this year, which meant the usual Xmas eve crisis (no butter) and as always, one item of food being forgotten about on the big day itself. This year it was the pigs in blankets:

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We had some fun days out over the festive period, including a trip to the magic lantern festival at Birmingham Botanical Gardens:

…as well as a lovely Boxing Day walk round Kenilworth Castle (which was basically me saying LOOK AT THE DOGGIES!)

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We also had a family party and a get together for my friend’s sons birthday, which was nice – he’s three and him and his friends were very cute. We’re out at my friend’s brewery for New Years Eve so that should be fun too!

We’ve done almost nothing to the house this month – Christmas got in the way and it’s no fun doing DIY in an empty house with no central heating! We’ll start again in the New Year. It feels like the jobs will never end but when you consider that this time last year it looked like this:


And now it looks like this:


We’ve not done too badly! (No idea why the non-hubs is always bending over in my pictures, no wonder he has a bad back).

I completed the Read Harder Challenge in early December (which is unheard of – I’m usually finishing off the final few books over Christmas) so I can start afresh next year with the 2019 challenge. You can read my wrap up post here. The 2019 challenge has already been announced and I can’t wait to get started!

As usual, I also took part in the Calendar Girls meme where I chose Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist  as my favourite book that’s set in Winter. I also did a fun Bookish Naughty or Nice tag where I found out that I’d been naughty – oops!

I was so busy with Christmas that I didn’t post many reviews on my blog but I did finally finish Les Miserables which had taken me all year to read (!) I was so pleased that I’d stuck with the novel (even through the boring bits) and I’m looking forwards to a new four-book challenge – more news to come shortly!

The reviews I managed to post were:

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo: An epic, sprawling novel that sometimes drifted off into existential waffle but was nonetheless brilliant. Four-and-a-half out of five.

Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton: A fun, fast paced adventure that he somehow published from beyond the grave. Not his finest work but still a good book. Four out of five. 

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie: I didn’t understand the hype around this book at all. It felt disconnected, unrealistic and many of the characters felt underwritten. Not terrible by any means, just not for me! Three out of five.

Of Women by Shami Chakrabharti: A fantastic overview of all the issues facing women but written in a dry, textbook style that loses the impact of the data in the way that it’s presented. A good overview but a thoroughly dull read.

So that’s December wrapped up! Have you had a good Christmas? Have you read any of the books I read last month? Follow the links or let me know in the comments!

 

Review: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo


Genre: Classic

Similar to: In a weird way, the Bible? 

Could be enjoyed by: Fans of heavy lifting

Publication date: 1862

Ok, I lied. This isn’t a review.

There is simply no way to summarise a book that is over 1200 pages long and covers almost every topic that you can think of without it turning into a dissertation (or a parody review – I could use massively flowery language and insert a big chunk of text about Waterloo somewhere in the middle…) but it’s Christmas and whilst I’m ideas rich I’m time poor (although that is a suitably massive sentence – stop it Lucinda!) So instead, I’m going to attempt to talk about some of the main points that struck me about the book-that-has-taken-me-a-year-to-read. Wish me luck.

Les Miserables is a vast, epic novel written in the about what life in France was like for it’s ordinary citizens during the first half of the nineteenth century. Jean Valjean is a prisoner, put to work on the galleys (prison ships) for stealing a loaf of bread. He escapes, reinvents himself and goes about trying to live his life as the best person he can be, helping everyone he meets as and when he can. He sacrifices himself numerous times for his ethics but continues to live selflessly. He encounters Fantine, a woman doing everything she can to ensure a good life for her daughter Cosette. Through a series of events, Jean Valjean discovers that Cosette is being worked like a slave by the unscrupulous Thénardier family and buys her from them, bringing her up as his own daughter. He escapes the clutches of the law numerous times and ensures Cosette is given a the happiest life possible. (This is a hugely simplified summary with many events and characters missing but it’s the best I’ve got).

I think the first thing to do is a shout out to whoever invented e-readers. I read Les Miserables on a Kindle and it’s a good job too – this is a BEHEMOTH of a book. As much as I would have liked to slam it down on a train table, or perhaps carry it in my arms whilst looking wistful in a Breton striped top, I simply don’t have the upper body strength for that sort of show-offy nonsense. If you’re into that kind of aesthetic though, this is the book for you.

In order to deal with the sheer length of the book, I signed up to a read-along where you read one of the 365 chapters a day for a year. I would guess that the book was written with that in mind, although the chapters themselves vary wildly in length with some less than a page long and some taking half an hour to get through. I quickly found that reading just one chapter was never going to work for me, so I tended to save up a week’s worth of reading and have an omnibus binge instead.

The novel, apart from being massive, is amazing. And very…French. It’s political and idealistic and raw and gritty and factual and endlessly quotable and brilliant and sad and funny and despite being written nearly 200 years ago it’s still (sadly) relevant to society today. I imagine that it was controversial in it’s day for the portrayal of ordinary people struggling through their ordinary lives; living in poverty, going hungry, doing everything they can to make ends meet. There are some truly tragic characters but through Jean Valjean there’s a sense of hope and an overall redemptive arc that lifts the narrative from depressing to inspiring.

There are literally SO MANY life lessons to be learned from Les Miserables. I’ve just read another review where someone said that this book makes you want to be a better person and I think that’s right. One of the central ideas is that by treating everyone – even a convict or a prostitute – with respect, that person will not only use that kindness, they’ll pay it forwards. If we could all see each other as human beings, rather than putting them into boxes full of made up assumptions, wouldn’t the world be a better place?

There’s also huge questions around ethics; what is legally right and what is morally right. Jean Valjean learns that whilst the state can punish him, abuse him and take away his freedom, they can’t harm his soul. He consistently does what he feels is right, even when this is often the hardest (and sometimes the illegal) option to take. In contrast, we see Javert the police officer bound by the letter of the law, acting entirely within the boundaries of legality even when this causes abject human suffering. The compassion that Jean Valjean is able to show eventually becomes Javert’s undoing (written, I have to say, in an extraordinarily beautiful way).

Despite the heavy moral overtones, Les Miserables never comes across as preachy or judgemental. There is so much light and shade within the novel that despite it’s length, you’re compelled to keep reading. True, the language used is often excessively flowery but somehow I didn’t mind it. I was concerned that the book was going to stray into the realms of poverty porn, romanticizing the misery that many of the characters faced but I needed have worried – there are scenes of children going hungry, homelessness, torture…the parts that stayed with me the most were the treatment of prisoners being moved across the country and the slow demise of poor Fantine. These scenes were truly upsetting but again, beautifully written.

Occasionally, there were parts that dragged – I almost gave up when I got to the part about the battle of Waterloo – but the short chapters and interspersing philosophical/historical/cultural asides into the main narrative really worked for me. I felt like I learnt so much about that period of history and my new found knowledge keeps rearing it’s head in the weirdest of places – like when I was on holiday in Devon and found out that 19th Century French prisoners of war had been moved from galley ships to Dartmoor prison and had built the church there by hand.

In contrast, there were parts that I absolutely flew through – the Thénardier heist, the barricade scenes and the sewers were some of the best bits of literature that I’ve ever read. Truly amazing prose.

Overall, Les Miserables is an incredible book. I found the portrayal of ordinary people a particularly fascinating topic and I loved learning about the real world events that took place during the same period. Yes, it takes time and dedication to read – and you will have a truly epic book hangover when you’re done – but it’s well worth it.

Rating: Four and a half “this can’t be right…96% complete, 4 hours 37 minutes left – WTF?” out of five.

Exhausting, occasionally waffley but overall brilliant. Plus, you’ll have arms like Michelle Obama if you read it in hardback. 

Please note that I read this novel as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2018 #24 Read an assigned book that you hated or never finished.

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!