Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Awakening (William Horwood)

I can’t quite warm to this series by a favourite author

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: Awakening (Hyddenworld #2)
Author: William Horwood
Genre: Fiction/ Fantasy
First published: 2011
Edition: Hardback, published by Macmillan in 2011

A series of extraordinary events mark the beginning of Summer: earth tremors ravage the Hyddenworld; Jack and Katherine have a child, Judith; and a mysterious gem is found bear Brum. That same night, after decades of sleep, the Emperor of the Hyddenworld awakens, in desperate requirements of a gem that might promise eternal life…

***

First line(s):

It was a hushed, still night and a million stars and a rising moon shone down upon White Horse Hill in Berkshire, England.

***

This author has written some of my favourite books, but so far this series does not set my heart on fire. It just feels kind of disjointed and confusing

The first book ended up just being ok and I pretty much feel the same about this one. The story feels original and interesting, but somehow the execution does not quite work for me. I found it hard keeping my focus on the book and though I cared for the characters I was not completely invested in them at any point.

I felt confused some of the time and I sometimes caught myself leafing back through the pages to see whether I missed something. There was an odd feeling of things not quite making sense half the time. Sometimes the story seemed slow and at other times too fast. The pace was simply too uneven to get into the rhythm of things.

I did not dislike this book and at no point did I consider giving up on it, but I had definitely hoped for a bit more connection to the story itself.

I will continue in the series, but I am not loving it at the moment.

4 out of 7 stars

***

CAWPILE score: 6.4

  • Characters: 6
  • Atmosphere: 7
  • Writing Style: 6
  • Plot: 7
  • Intrigue: 7
  • Logic: 6
  • Enjoyment: 6
Books · WWW Wednesday

What I am/was/will be reading on 21 September 2022

It’s officially autumn and the new season started today in gorgeous autumn sunshine and a blanket of mist. As far as mornings go, this was a pretty nice one.

As for my reading, it’s up and down; the weeks have been busy, but I feel pretty good for the most part. Although I love sunny autumn days, I am also aware that during the colder, greyer months my mental health always takes a nosedive, so I never look forward to them.

Hopefully September and October will bring calm sunny weather to keep my heavy moods at bay for a while longer.

Anyway, on with the show:

WWW Wednesdays’ home is at Sam’s blog Taking On A World of Words. Check it out!

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you will read next?

***

So, what am I reading?

My main read is Awakening by William Horwood. It’s the second book in the Hyddenworld series. I gave the first book Spring 4 out of 7 stars, so I did not love that one. Yet, I still wanted to continue in the series. I about 100 pages into this one and I think I am enjoying it. I do keep picking it up and putting it back down, but I will try and make an effort today to get a chunk of it read. When I am reading it, I am enjoying it ok.

I did also make a start in One of Us is Lying by Karen M McManus. I only read the first chapter, so I can’t really say much yet, but I think it may be a quick read once I commit to it.

Finally, I am listening to Wonderland by Brett Westwood and Stephen Moss on audio. I am enjoying that one a lot. The subtitle is ‘A Year of Britain’s Wildlife Day by Day’ and that is exactly what this is – just day today observations in nature. I love listening to it!

What did I finish reading?

Not a lot in the past week. I had big plans, but the days got away from me so quickly!

I finished Shit Cassandra Saw by Gwen E Kirby exactly a week ago. This is a short story collection, but unfortunately it did not quite work for me.

A couple of days ago I finished Marriage Most Scandalous by Johanna Lindsey, a historical romance novel. It was enjoyable and just what I needed, even if it took me far too long to read!

What will I be reading next?

I hope to still fit Kindred by Octavia E Butler in this month. A River Dies of Thirst by Mahmoud Darwish is also high on my TBR.

Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Marriage Most Scandalous (Johanna Lindsey)

Just what I needed – an enjoyable read.

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Marriage Most Scandalous
Author: Johanna Lindsey
Genre: Fiction/ Historical Romance
First published: 2005
Edition: Mass Market Paperback, publisched by Corgi in 2006

Lady Margaret Landor first met Sebastian Townshend as a child. Tall, dashing and handsome, he cut a romantic figure, and she never dreamt that one day she would be living at his family’s magnificent estate with his father, the Earl of Edgewood, as her guardian. But by this time, Sebastian has been banished after a duel which ended tragically. When Margaret starts to fear for the life of her beloved guardian, she suspects his younger son may be impatient to succeed to the title. She travels to France to enlist the aid of the one man she believes can help her… and discovers that Sebastian has taken on the identity of The Raven, a deadly mercenary who undertakes any mission however dangerous. Sebastian has vowed never to return to England, but Margaret persuades him to pose as her husband in order to uncover the plot against his father

***

First line(s):

They met at dawn.

***

I was in the mood for some historical romance and this one ticked the box quite nicely. Is it mind blowing? No, but I did not expect or want it to be. It did what it needed to do pretty well.

I think Margaret was a likeable heroine and Sebastian a suitably broody hero. Not all their actions made complete sense to me, but the author did manage to insert some chemistry and the attraction between them felt believable. It has the enemy to lovers and fake marriage tropes, so if you are into those, this will probably work for you.

There were some plot points I was not completely enamoured with and the ending felt a little too tidy and far fetched, but overall I enjoyed the read and it was just what I needed.

I would definitely read more of Johanna Lindsey’s books.

5 out of 7 stars

CAWPILE score: 7.8

  • Characters: 8
  • Atmosphere: 8
  • Writing Style: 7.5
  • Plot: 7.5
  • Intrigue: 8
  • Logic: 7
  • Enjoyment: 8.5
Books · Stay or Nay

TBR – Stay or Nay #1

I noticed I have almost 900 books on my GoodReads TBR shelf that I have added throughout the years. It does include owned books, but there also books I just took an interest in and added so I would remember them. However, the list has become way too unwieldy and I figured it was time to go through a few of them and keep them on there (stay) if I am still interested or yeet them (nay) if I am not. I won’t include the books I own.

So, I let’s look at a few of the books I marked as being interested in:

1. The Incarnations (Susan Barker)

Reading the synopsis of this… taxi driver, previous lives, Chinese folklore… Yeah, it sounds interesting, but really I am not interested enough.

Verdict: NAY

*

2. The Crimson Petal and the White (Michel Fabre)

A classic I definitely want to read at some point.

Verdict: STAY

*

3. The House at Ladywell (Nicola Slade)

I could not remember this one at all, but it seems like it’s some kind of mystery with paranormal historical stuff going on. It still sounds good!

Verdict: STAY

*

4. The Memoirs of Cleopatra (Margaret George)

This book still sounds amazing. Over 1000 pages it tells the story of Cleopatra from her own perspective. The reviews are great and though I have read books set in ancient Egypt, I have never read one about Cleopatra.

Verdict: STAY

*

5. Innocent Traitor (Alison Weir)

I am interested in this author’s historical fiction novels. I am a sucker for all this kings and queens stuff, but I don’t need to have this one in particular on my list.

Verdict: NAY

*

6. A Study in Scarlet Women (Sherry Thomas)

I am only mildly interested in this one. I have heard good things, but I am not sure I am that bothered.

Verdict: NAY

*

7. The Unicorn in the Barn (Jacqueline K Ogburn)

I added this for my daughter really, but she is 10 years old now and this is not really interested in this kind of book. It still sounds good, but I have no reason to get this.

Verdict: NAY

*

8. The Soul of an Octopus (Sy Montgomery)

Yes, give me all the books about octopi! Definitely one that I need to pick up at some point!

Verdict: STAY

*

9. Tooth and Claw (Jo Walton)

Wait! What! All these characters are dragons? That sounds like fun. Definitely want to keep this one of my radar.

Verdict: STAY

*

10. Wildwood Dancing (Juliet Marillier)

The cover for this YA fantasy story is enchanting. This one has always appealed to me and I definitely would like to read this one. I like Juliet Marillier’s writing and I think it will lend itself well to this kind of story.

Verdict: STAY

*

11. The Architect of Song (A G Howard)

Although there are elements here that I am interested in, it is not enough in my sea of TBR books that make me want to keep it listed.

Verdict: NAY

*

12. Travels with my Sketchbook (Chris Riddell)

I mainly know Riddell for his children’s illustrations, but this doodle/cartoon diary sounds just great to dip in and out of. I really should get a copy of this.

Verdict: STAY

*

13. Eight Ghosts: The English Heritage Book of New Ghost Stories (Rowan Routh – editor)

Ghost stories and me are not the best of friends, so I am not quite sure why this is here.

Verdict: NAY

*

14. The Phantom Atlas (Edward Brooke-Hitching)

Yes, I need to own this book – it sounds great! It’s all about maps and crap on maps. I need this in my life!

Verdict: STAY

*

15. Arcadia (Iain Pears)

I own one of the author’s books, but this one sounds very interesting for sure. Doorways into other worlds? Where have I read that before? Yes, still interested.

Verdict: STAY

*

So, 6 out of 15 books were yeeted from my TBR – not bad! I need to do this again sometime soon! It feels very cleansing! 🤣

Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Shit Cassandra Saw (Gwen E Kirby)

The tone of this collection did not quite work for me

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: Shit Cassandra Saw
Author: Gwen E Kirby
Genre: Fiction/ short stories
First published: 2022
Edition: Paperback, published by Penguin Random House in 2022

Cassandra may have seen the future, but it doesn’t mean she’s resigned to telling the Trojans everything she knows. In this ebullient collection, virgins escape from being sacrificed, witches refuse to be burned, whores aren’t ashamed, and every woman gets a chance to be a radioactive cockroach warrior who snaps back at catcallers. Gwen E. Kirby experiments with found structures–a Yelp review, a WikiHow article–which her fierce, irreverent narrators push against, showing how creativity within an enclosed space undermines and deconstructs the constraints themselves. When these women tell the stories of their triumphs as well as their pain, they emerge as funny, angry, loud, horny, lonely, strong protagonists who refuse be secondary characters a moment longer.

***

This short story collection just wasn’t for me. Few of the stories went where I would have liked them to go. Not necessarily where I expected them to go, but for me too many of the stories just kind of fizzled out after a strong start.

Although there were a few stories I did not like at all most of them were just middle of the road for me. There was a running theme of women on the brink, which sounded like an excellent angle to write a bunch of stories about and to then gather them up in a collection, but the tone overall was not for me. There was a spitefulness in the tone, a negativity, that I did not much care for. It simply did not work for me.

There were a few stories I thought I was going to love, but then they fell back into a storyline I did not much care for and left me disappointed. There were a couple of stories I really enjoyed, but they could not quite lift the others.

I do think these stories are more than likely to work for someone else. They are certainly creative and the writing overall is pretty good. I just did not get on with them.

4 out of 7 stars

Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Night Owls (Jenn Bennett)

A YA contemporary I actually like! Yay!

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Night Owls
Author: Jenn Bennett
Genre: Fiction/ Young Adult / Contemporary / Romance
First published: 2015
Edition: Kindle e-book

Meeting Jack on the Owl—San Francisco’s night bus—turns Beatrix’s world upside down. Jack is charming, wildly attractive…and possibly one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists. But Jack is hiding a piece of himself. On midnight rides and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who this enigmatic boy really is.

***

First line(s):

The last train wasn’t coming.

***

I keep thinking I do not like YA books, but if more were like this, I would definitely be more inclined to pick them up. I still could not read too many of them, but this story had a lot going for it. It was cute and for once I found the characters and their actions completely believable.

This was an enjoyable read. I liked the characters and the writing. It is a bit short and I feel that there were places where the story could have lingered a little longer, especially when it comes to Jack’s family situation. The way that was handled I feel was a little bit too simple and rushed.

That was a small complaint in an otherwise very pleasant read. I thought on the whole this was a very nicely written novel with the highlight being the way Beatrix and Jack communicated. It’s a breath of fresh air to read about two young people who do not create extra drama for themselves my misunderstanding each other all the time.

I am not quite the target audience, but I would highly recommend this one for YA contemporary readers. I liked it! It turns out this author has written some historical romance as well (for adults). I’d like to check that out, as I really did enjoy her writing.

5 out of 7 stars

***

CAWPILE score: 7.9

  • Characters: 9
  • Atmosphere: 7
  • Writing Style: 8.5
  • Plot: 8
  • Intrigue: 7
  • Logic: 8
  • Enjoyment: 8
Books · TBR

Belated September TBR

I know we’re a third into September, but I wanted to post my TBR for this month anyway. Apart from the book I just finished, my reads so far were not part of my September TBR, so it still kind of stands!

I realised Bookoplathon was happening this month and a good while ago I made my own Bookopoly board, so I decided to use it to decide my TBR for this month. I wanted to post a picture, but I made it in a Spreadsheet program (a bit like Excel) and however much I tried, I couldn’t get a good screenshot! This one will have to do – it’s not that clear, but hopefully it will illustrate it enough.

My board is quite different from Becca’s (The Bookoplathon host). My board has the aesthetics of the Monopoly board, but every colour is a category of prompts, like page count, or random generators, or stuff like that. I don’t have chance and community shelf cards – instead I have prompts and other categories that work for me personally, so it ended up nothing like original Bookopoly board that Becca created. Still, it’s the same principle, so I guess it counts?

I rolled seven times – I used a random dice roller on the interweb and I did not use Becca’s doubles rule (how is this even still part of the Bookoplathon since I have changed everythinG! I know! But I don’t care)

So, let me run through my rolls:

Roll 1: 7 – PROMPT – using a random number generator I landed on the prompt ‘unlikely e-book’. I have a list of way too many e-books that are sitting on my Kindle that I am not likely to pick up anytime soon. I use the random number generator once again to pick three books from that list to choose from. My options were:

  • Everless (Sara Holland)
  • Night Owls (Jen Bennett)
  • Lifel1k3 (Jay Kristoff)

All YA books – which is interesting, since I don’t read many YA books at the moment. In the end I decided to go for Night Owls by Jen Bennett. I like the sound of that synopsis and it sound like a good read.

Roll 2: 6 – Book published between 2000-2015 – I looked at the books still left on my Summer TBR and I decided to continue with the Hyddenworld series by William Horwood with Awakening, which was published in 2011.

Roll 3: 9 – PROMPT – using the random number generator I landed on ‘book with number in title’ and I decided to go with One of Us is Lying by Karen M McManus, which has been on my Kindle for a long long time!

Roll 4: 9 – This landed on one of the ‘style’ prompts: 1st person narrative. I decided to go with Shit Cassandra Saw by Gwen E Kirby, which is a short story collection. A lot of the stories are written from the 1st person perspective. I am currently reading this one.

Roll 5: 11 – This landed on one of the SHELF spots, which prompts me to read a book in a certain colour range- this case I needed to read a book that was black or white. I chose Kindred by Octavia E Butler.

Roll 6: 8 – Read a book from my Yearly or Seasonal TBR – this was a good one to land on for sure, as I am a little behind with both! For this one I went with A Shot in the Dark by Lynne Truss. That one was on my Seasonal TBR and is my September pick for the Buzzwordathon (book with light or dark in the title). I actually just finished this one.

Roll 7: 8 – WHATEVER! – Unlikely book – I have added this category with a few random prompts that will help me get books off my shelves read. As with ‘unlikely e-book’ I have a list of physical book that I am unlikely to get to any time soon. I use a random number generator to pick three and I choose from. I have generated them, but I haven’t decided which one to read yet. I will leave it to my mood at the moment I am picking one of these up as they are all quite different. It’s good to have a mood read on hand.

  • Luz (Elsa Osorio) – I own this book in Dutch, but the English title is ‘My Name Is Light‘ – I bought this in a charity shop recently. It’s by an Argentinian author and originally published in Spanish.
  • The Gnole (Alan Aldridge) – This book has been on my shelf for about twenty years I think. I am very tempted to pick this one, simply because it has been in my possession so long. I don’t know much about it, apart from it’s a fantasy book with a emphasis on the environment. I have no expectations.
  • Marriage Most Scandalous (Johanna Lindsey) – This is historical romance and I definitely have to be in a certain mood for this one.

All three of those books are in the region of 350 to 450ish pages. I think the Johanna Lindsey is by far the quickest book to read as it has the least pages, but we will see what my mood is like when I am about to pick one of these up.

I am haven’t read ton so far this month, but hopefully I will be able to catch up with these. It should be doable. None of them are extremely large. I think the page count of all these books added together is around 2250 to 2400 pages, which should be doable. I finished one already, so minus 300 odd pages. Some of them may be relatively quick reads as well.

So in short, my TBR is:

  • A Shot in the Dark (Lynne Truss) – finished
  • Shit Cassandra Saw (Gwen E Kirby) – currently reading
  • One of Us is Lying (Karen M McManus)
  • Night Owls (Jenn Bennett)
  • Awakening (William Horwood)
  • Kindred (Octavia E Butler)
  • Unlikely physical book: TBC
Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: A Shot in the Dark (Lynne Truss)

Kind of a cozy mystery with a very dry sense of humour

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: A Shot in the Dark
Author: Lynne Truss
Genre: Fiction/ historical / mystery / humour
First published: 2018
Edition: Hardback, published by Raven Books in 2018

After the notorious ‘Middle Street Massacre’ of 1951, when the majority of Brighton’s criminals wiped one another out in a vicious battle as the local police force enjoyed a brief stop en route for an ice cream, Inspector Steine rather enjoys life as a policeman. No criminals, no crime, no stress. He just wishes Sergeant Brunswick would stop insisting that perhaps not every criminal was wiped out that fateful day. So it’s really rather annoying when an ambitious – not to mention irritating – new Constable shows up to work and starts investigating a series of burglaries. And it’s even more annoying when, after Constable Twitten is despatched to the theatre for the night, he sits next to a vicious theatre critic who is promptly shot dead part way through the opening night of a new play. It seems Brighton may be in need of a police force after all…

***

First Line(s):

The day of the notorious Middle Street Massacre dawned like many another in those happy, far-off days.

***

I have to admit I bought this book for the cover. I love Brighton and a book set in Brighton sounded like fun, especially since this appeared to be kind of a cozy-ish mystery. I had read a book by Lynne Truss before, so I kind of knew what to expect from her, humour-wise.

I did not mind the writing exactly, but I did find I lost interest at times throughout. I did not fly through it the way I had expected to. It was a light read, but it still took more reading than I bargained for. I think I struggled with too many of the characters and did not really like any of them. I just wanted to bash everyone’s heads together and I am not sure that was what the author intended.

This book was set in 1950s Brighton and references Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock a lot, a book I have not read, but is sitting on my shelf. I am not sure I ever quite got that 1950s feel. All the right references were there, but somehow it did not ring true.

Overall, I did enjoy parts of it and I kind of enjoyed the way the author always let the reader know she was crafting a story, almost pulling the reader closer so she could tell you a secret.

This is not a novel I would recommend to everyone, because it has a very specific sense of humour. It’s very British and even for me it is a bit too droll at times.

4 out of 7 stars

CAWPILE score: 6.4

  • Characters: 6
  • Atmosphere: 5
  • Writing Style: 7
  • Plot: 7
  • Intrigue: 7
  • Logic: 6
  • Enjoyment: 7
Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts: Did I Say That Out Loud? (Fi Glover & Jane Garvey)

Seven hours of (way too) relatable chat

★★★★★★☆

Title: Did I Say That Out Loud?
Author: Fi Glover & Jane Garvey
Genre: Non-Fiction/Essays
First published: 2022
Edition: Audio book

Jane Garvey and Fi Glover offer a series of essays interspersed with the waspish asides for which they are beloved, with witty musings on their lives, from pet deaths and garden hose repairs to the gender pay gap and the trouble with HRT patches. Their book promises to take mid-life by its elasticated waist and give it a brisk going over with a stiff brush. At a time of constant uncertainty, what we all need is the wisdom and experience of two women who haven’t got a clue what’s happening either. 

***

This was a rather random choice for an audio book, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Apparently these two ladies have a very popular podcast (which of course I had never heard of), which I believe is called Fortunately…

Well, fortunately indeed that I saw this audio book recommended somewhere (Ha, I won’t have been the only one making that crappy joke). It is basically two middle aged women having a chinwag about a variety of topics from divorce to Covid, technology and all sorts of every day subjects. I have to admit I kind of loved it.

It was just a very enjoyable listen. These women are radio personalities, so their voices are perfect for an audio book, and I loved the way they interact bookending the chapters. They just chatter about what the chapter is/was about and simply adds a little sass and fun.

I can’t really add much more. It’s two funny middle aged women chatting about life and it was a joy to listen to. I don’t own the physical book, but I would highly recommend the audio book.

Will I now listen to their podcast? Maybe I would if I actually listened to podcasts, but unfortunately I don’t.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Sarum (Edward Rutherford)

A sweeping novel spanning thousands of years

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Sarum
Author: Edward Rutherford
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: 1987
Edition: Kindle e-book

This rich tapestry weaves a compelling saga of five families—the Wilsons, the Masons, the family of Porteus, the Shockleys, and the Godfreys—who reflect the changing character of Britain. As their fates and fortunes intertwine over the course of the centuries, their greater destinies offer a fascinating glimpse into the future.

***

First Line(s)

First, before the beginning of Sarum, came a time when the world was a colder and darker place.

***

This was one of the bigger books on my Kindle and it was one I actually found quite intimidating to start. I don’t think I needed to be intimidated after all – it was not so hard to read and it was -in parts- very interesting.

First of all, this book is expansive! It is a multigenerational book, but it starts in prehistory and ends two years before the book was published with the last shirt chapter being set in 1985. It reads like a series of short historical stories, but they are all interconnected by multiple family lines that run throughout and keep encountering each other.

The author clearly has a passion for Salisbury and its history and throughout these stories he shares this history with the reader. It clearly took a lot of research and I think it’s an absolute achievement.

Although this novel is not hard to read I found some parts more interesting than others and I lost interest in a couple of stories along the way. Overall though, I was surprised how engaged I was for the most part. I do think the first half was stronger than the second half, but maybe that it because I am more interested in the earlier parts of history. This could be entirely be my personal preference and could be very different for another reader.

I think this book is a great way to learn about history. It’s not too dry for the most part and the writing is easy enough to follow. I enjoyed it.

If you’re interested in the history of England and more specifically Salisbury, this could be the book for you. I am only disappointed that some of the locations, such as Stonehenge, mentioned in the earlier part of the novel, kind of get forgotten later on. I think he the author missed a trick there. There must have been stuff going on there throughout this time. Pagans and the like? Maybe?

5 out of 7 stars

CAWPILE score: 7.7

  • Characters: 7.5
  • Atmosphere: 7.5
  • Writing Style: 8
  • Plot: 7.5
  • Intrigue: 7.5
  • Logic: 8.5
  • Enjoyment: 7.5