Wednesday, 7 September 2016

My August GoodReads reviews

August was quite a productive reading month for me - mainly because I took a week off to go to the Edinburgh book festival (and the general festival) and it would seem a tad churlish not to get some serious reading done while there. And because I am sure everyone is as fascinated by my opinion as I am, I've decided to collate (not sure that's the right word to use but it sounds posh) my GoodReads reviews (in chronological order) in this blog post:

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two (Harry Potter, #8)Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can't say too much as I don't want to spoil the plot for anyone, but it was lovely to revisit the world of Harry Potter. Harry, Hermione, and Ron are older but otherwise not much changed and pretty much have the same roles that they did in the books - reluctant hero, super smart, and muddles along.

I wasn't a great fan of Albus, Harry's son, or Rose, Herminoe's daughter, purely because they seemed like reruns of their parents. Draco's son, Scorpius, on the other hand isn't Draco mark II and was actually one of my favourite characters.

As much as I would like to see the actual play, I am not prepared to sit by my computer waiting for the tickets to be released or whatever. I think I'll wait for the film because let's face it, they are going to make one a some point.

According to YesAccording to Yes by Dawn French
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am so irritated by this book!

First off, the book cover and book description makes you think it's going to be some light-hearted, chick-lit esque novel about a Mary Poppins/Maria Von Trapp character teaching an uptight family to be less, well, uptight.

It isn't; it has a lot more edge to it than that - which should come as no surprise to anyone who has read one of French's previous novels or watched any of her comedy (stuff she's done with Jennifer Saunders rather than Vicar of Dibley).

Why do publishers have this obsession with marketing a work by a female author that isn't literary fiction as chick lit? Why can't it just be marketed as a novel? Like books by male authors are?

Mind you, the second thing that really annoyed me about this novel is that French lacks the courage of her convictions to continue with the edgier stuff until the end. She raises a few issues but then conveniently overcomes them. I think it would be much more interesting if the pitfalls of the "saying yes to everything" philosophy of Rosie Kitto, the book's heroine, were highlighted to a greater extent. There are several events that occur as a direct result of this philosophy that in real life would not play out as smoothly as they do in the book.

One can only hope in later novels, French is tad a braver and lets her books end more messily than this one does.

The Tidal ZoneThe Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A very well written, poignant tale of coping with the aftermath of a shocking event (the narrator's daughter stops breathing for no apparent reason) and with the realisation we don't really have any control over the future.

The only reason I've given it three stars is because I felt it was about two or three chapters too long. I thought Moss laboured the end a bit and could have wrapped things up sooner than she did without detriment to the plot or to the characters' development.

Ethel and ErnestEthel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautiful biography of Riggs' parents - from their first meeting to their deaths. He shows their imperfection (Ethel can be a bit of a snob while Ernest is somewhat insensitive) but most of all, he shows their devotion to each other. Despite spending most of the book bickering, Ethel and Ernest have a deep, obvious love for each other.

As we have come to expect from the author of The Snowman (it's not Briggs' fault it is shown every sodding Christmas), Father Christmas, and When the Wind Blows, the artwork is beautifully understated.

SpectaclesSpectacles by Sue Perkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A heartfelt memoir about the ups and downs of life - from meeting kindred spirits to the pain of break ups. The Bake Off barely gets a mention (one chapter and a reference that to the fact Perkins can't go anywhere - even when coping with a dog with diarrhoea - without someone shouting "bake" at her). In fact, she spends more detailing the things that have gone wrong in her career than the things that have gone right. I much prefer celeb autobiographies to be this way rather than someone blathering on about how great their life has been or how embarrassed they are at how successful/bright they are (unlike some celeb autobiographies I could mention*). It's comforting to know that even household names are muddling along in life just like the rest of us!

* = Stephen Fry's The Fry Chronicles may as well have been called "I didn't choose to be this clever" for the amount of humblebragging that went on (Fry later redeemed himself with the much better More Fool Me).

View all my reviews The Gap of Time: The Winter’s Tale Retold (Hogarth Shakespeare)The Gap of Time: The Winter’s Tale Retold by Jeanette Winterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Your enjoyment of this book will probably depend on how much you know of The Winter's Tale. I knew the very basics, so the idiot's guide at the beginning did help. But then again, it almost spoiled the book for me - because I knew what was going to happen, I was looking for it and got a little bored on occasion waiting for it happen (when I should have just been enjoying Winterson's unique prose). Had I skipped the recap bit, I might have enjoyed it more because I could have read it as a "normal" story (ie. not know what was going to happen). On the flip side if you know The Winter's Take well, you might enjoy reading how Winterson had modernised the tale (particularly some of the original's more fantastical elements) and how she has interpreted the characters.

Mind you once I learnt to just to enjoy Winterson's writing, I really started to like the book. For me, she's definitely one of those authors whose books - not matter what the content - I tend to lap up. Actually, she seems to have a bit of a habit of writing books to a particular theme. She's also written The Daylight Gate for Hammer Horror (read & loved) & Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Hercules (on "to read" list) for the Cannongate Myth series. You get the impression she likes a project (no bad thing)!

View all my reviews

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