Monday, March 16, 2015

Au Revoir

After far to much consideration, I've decided to say au revoir my friends and call a permanent hiatus on this little blog.

I've been here for over two years now, and in that time my life has changed somewhat dramatically. I underwent surgery, relieving some pain that prevented me from getting up and DOING things. I moved to the other side of the world.

Perhaps most importantly, when I began writing here I was working in a public library and studying library science. Living and breathing books. Nowadays (and a surprise to me too) I have a job far away from books and in the private sector, with longer deadline driven hours. And I love it more than I ever would have imagined. Books have gone back from to being a lifestyle to being a much loved hobby. A hobby that blogging has lately felt like like an interruption, rather than a compliment too.

For now, it feels like it's time to go back to reading just for me.

I'll still be reading all your blogs though. Need to keep discovering great books somehow! And if you want to keep up on my reading (with snippet reviews as and when I feel like it) you can find me (and add me!) on Goodreads or on Twitter @SarahJLisle.

So long - I've got many good books to get back to! 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

So, how much did I spend on books in: February

My spending series continues! You can find January's installment here. Unfortunately I can tell you now that my wallet is not going to be thanking me as much in February as it did last month. On the upside, most of these were accumulated because I got to attend some fantastic author events.

Physical Books Acquired

City of Ghosts, by Bali Rai: £7.99 from Waterstones, picked up during an author event
Earth Girl, by Janet Edwards: £5.50 (including shipping) from Serenity Bookshop via Amazon Marketplace, but covered by gift card so £0.00
The Elites, by Natasha Ngan: £6.99 from Waterstones, picked up during an author event
Pea's Book of Best Friends, by Susie Day: £3.68 (including shipping) from Sten Books and Toys via Amazon Marketplace 
Murder Most Unladylike, by Robin Stevens: £3.50 from Waterstones (buy one get one half price)
Arsenic for Tea, by Robin Stevens: £3.50 from Waterstones (buy one get one half price)

E-Books Acquired

Neanderthal Seeks Human, by Penny Reid: Freebie
A Bride for Keeps, by Melissa Jagears: £0.96 (on sale), but covered by gift card
With Every Letter, by Sarah Sundin: Freebie
The 4 Seasons of Marriage, by Gary Chapman: Freebie
Mary Barton, by Elizabeth Gaskell: Freebie

Total Book Money in February: £25.66
Total Book Money in 2015: £25.66

Just like January was an unusually low spend month for books, I feel like February was an unusually high spend month. But, every physical book I purchased in Feb has been signed by the author, and considering I went to one author event that featured 35! authors, I feel like I've been rather restrained. 

How does my spending feel to you? To much on books? Less than you would have thought (or less than you spent!). Lets discuss! 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Fiction Review: The Chimes

 The Chimes is set in a reimagined London, in a world where people cannot form new memories, and the written word has been forbidden and destroyed.

In the absence of both memory and writing is music.

In a world where the past is a mystery, each new day feels the same as the last, and before is blasphony, all appears lost. But Simon Wythern, a young man who arrives in London seeking the truth about what really happened to his parents, discovers he has a gift that could change all of this forever.
The Chimes, by Anna Smaill
2015, [Genre: Literary/ I-don't-know-what-to-call-this]
Source: I recieved a copy of this book to review thanks to Spectre and Bookbridgr. I recieved no other form of compensation and all opinions are my own. 

The Chimes is such a difficult book to review! I think if it proves anything, it's that I'm sometimes justified in my weird perseverance with books and inability to do-not-finish. For the first 127 pages I wanted to give up. Anna Smaill throws you into a world which is difficult to understand. We are following the perspective of Simon, a young man in an alternate London in which the written word is almost extinct and music is everything. Simon is struggling to hold onto his memories. How did he get to London and why is that important? Why are some events more significant than others? Why on earth do certain happenings seem to keep repeating themselves? (seriously, there was a lot of deja vu going on). There's no world building, we just get pushed straight down the rabbit hole. Combine this with an infusion of music into the language (which is beautifully done and by the end, gorgeously lyrical) and the whole thing is just hard to follow.

And then something just shifts and clicks into place. The story is no longer difficult and you start to understand why everything has been so confused. Gradually, we as the reader can start filling in Simon's backstory and see how he has reached where he is now and why he has reached it. The alternate world itself becomes more plausible as you start to grasp what has made it so strange. Before I quite knew it, I was hooked.

By the end, The Chimes had completely won me over. Anna Smaill has managed to achieve something incredibly difficult in a debut. It's a beautiful story, thematic and moving. If you can stick with it long enough, you realise that you're slowly unwinding a great mystery. There is a growing sense of purpose, with great commentary on the nature of good vs. evil, whether there can be some that have the right to make choices for all others, and whether not-knowing is better than knowing if not-knowing will save us from pain. Philosophical, inventive and with a breathtaking ending. It's also quite refreshing that The Chimes is obviously a stand-alone. If somewhat frustrating, because I'd be quite happy to see more of this world.

I realise I haven't commented overly on the plot apart from the beginning. This is purposeful on my part, because it's hard to do so without giving stuff away. However, even if the pacing is a little off at times (the second half feels very rushed in comparison to the 127 page drag that sets the scene) it is well plotted and sort of like watching a great flower unfurl.

On the whole? If you read for 'quick wins' The Chimes probably won't be up your street. But if you're happy to go into a book knowing that you're going to stick around for the long haul, I promise it's worth the wait. 4/5 stars.

Also, isn't that cover gorgeous? Even more gorgeous in person.

Friday, February 6, 2015

So, how much did I spend on books in: January

I don't spend a lot of money on books. I make use of my library. My brother and I have a standing agreement where he gives me an Amazon gift card for my birthday, which gets used exclusively on Kindle books and pretty much covers me for the year. Etc. But still, I'm interested to know how much I really am spending on books exactly. So, for the sake of my own curiosity I'm going to keep a running tally this year on the books added to my shelves and how much I spent on them. And since this is a book blog I'm running after all, I thought I'd share my tally with you.

So here goes January!

Physical Books Acquired

 A Year in 120 Recipes, by Jack Monroe: Birthday gift
The Chimes, by Anna Smaill: ARC
Twenty to Make: Mini Cross Stitch, by Michael Powell: £4.99 from Waterstones, but used a Bonus Bond voucher we got with our power company reward points.

E-Books Acquired

A Little Something Different, by Sandy Hall: £1.03 (on sale), but covered by birthday gift card
Twelve Year A Slave, by Solomon Northup: Freebie

Total Book Money in January: £0.00

This feels like a great start! I literally spent no money last month, while acquiring five books for my shelves. However I also feels like it's probably not representative of where I would normally be at. It was my birthday in January. I also received a WHOLE lot of books for Christmas, and picked up even more in the Kindle New Year Sale when it started on Boxing Day. Which on the whole meant my box buying tendancies were put off by an already massive new pile. I'm kinda already looking forward to seeing how this ends up comparing to next month. . . .

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

January Fiction Mini-Reviews

January has been, on the whole, a pretty great start to my reading year. Rounding up with some mini-reviews:

Apollo 13 meets Cast Away in this grippingly detailed, brilliantly ingenious man-vs-nature survival thriller, set on the surface of Mars.

I absolutely loved The Martian. It was funny, clever and full of hard core science without feeling like hard core sci fi. Husband loved it too, and I feel like it's going to be one of those books that I'm constantly pressing on people, buying as a gift and generally convincing others to read. That includes you, get to it! 5/5 stars

Only nine people have ever been chosen by renowned children’s author Laura White to join “The Rabbit Back Literature Society,” an elite group of writers in the small town of Rabbit Back. Now a tenth member has been selected: Ella, a young literature teacher. Soon Ella discovers that the Society is not what it seems.

One word keeps coming to mind with this book - ethereal. It's magical, sometimes funny, sometimes scary and deeply disturbing, but mostly just ethereal. Its that type of magical realism that makes you doubt yourself and the perspective of every narrator and character in the thing. Unfortunately, it was slightly ruined for me by the unnecessarily disturbing aspects (the members of my book club who also read it agreed). 3.5/5 stars

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.

Another LOVE read. Rainbow Rowell dives into the realities of a love that's been around for a long time like few writers have ever done before (that I've read anyway). It so perfectly captures married love, it's difficulties and it's triumphs. I'm so glad I have a hard copy (signed) because this is one I'll treasure for a long time. 5/5 stars. 

Northern Iceland, 1829. A woman condemned to death for murdering her lover. A family forced to take her in. A priest tasked with absolving her. But all is not as it seems, and time is running out.

Beautifully written and lots of great themes/symbology going on (you know I love me some of that). But somehow it just didn't grab me like I expected it would. Perhaps because the storyline is somewhat predictable? I saw every turn a mile off and could have foretold the end accurately after the first two chapters. 3.5/5 stars

Friday, January 30, 2015

Kindle Tracking Love

I have a new love in my life, reader friends. Kindle price tracking! I am loving eReaderIQ. I may be behind the times on this, but who knew I could just plug in a book, tell it what I want to pay for it and it will email me when it drops below that price.

I feel like this may be a revolutionary discovery. . .

Yep, I snapped that deal up. Loving it!

Do you use a price tracker for your e-reading?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Musing on Rainbow Rowell's Landline

So, I just finished Rainbow Rowell's Landline. I finally got around to it (it's been in my to-read pile pretty much since it was published) and I loved it. What's funny is, most people didn't. Perhaps one of the reasons I put it off so long is that I remembered all of the fairly middling to negative reviews I saw on blogs when it first came out. On Goodreads it has the lowest star rating average of any of her novels. Why? In almost every case it was because the reader felt they couldn't identify with the main characters. They didn't understand why Georgie loved Neal. They didn't understand why Neal loved Georgie. They didn't find their marriage an interesting subject.

It's an interesting one for me, because the reason I loved Landline was because of how perfectly it resonated. NOT because my marriage is in trouble folks. But because Rainbow Rowell perfectly encapsulated what mature love is like. The real, deep love that comes with knowing someone for a very long time and continuing to love them after all that time. The love that comes with building a family with someone, and generally sharing a life. That's an extremely difficult topic to do well and I think Rainbow Rowell just did it the best I've ever seen it done. And I wonder how many reader's found that Landline (and Georgie and Neal's marriage specifically) didn't work for them because they don't know that experience themselves. A majority of the negative reviews I've seen have been by teenage reader and teenage bloggers (or those who are in general, by their own admission, not married). I've even seen a few of those who are more contemplative in their reviewing style readily admit that might be the root cause.

I also wonder if this is at the root of those who don't understand why Georgie and Neal love each other. Rowell not only captures mature love, but she captures a very specific love story (as arguably, she has done in all of her novels so far). Georgie loves Neal because he complements her, and vice versa. It's worth thinking about - I think most people could look at almost any relationship outside of their own and ask why one person loves the other. Love isn't an obvious thing. Rainbow Rowell has this unqiue way of pulling out the details of a love story in a way that makes it feel more like truth than fiction. Like she has picked a random couple, got into their heads and written a novel about them (and a magical phone). I have my own love story. I love my husband. Other people might not understand why I love my husband, but that doesn't make my love for him any less important. And in some ways, I think the 'whys' of Georgie and Neal loving each other in Landline isn't all that important either. At the crux of Landline is a simple story - there is a life time of love, but the love has gone astray somewhere along the line. Can it be fixed? And even if it can, should it be? Is it enough?

What do you think? Is the fault in Landline that it's just not relatable enough? Or is it just not relatable for those who haven't experienced the type of relationship Rowell is writing about? Did you love Landline like I did? (please note, I am not trying to offend anyone by my musings and am not being a pro-marriage advocate, disrespect single people etc. I just think these things are interesting to think about).