Monday, 20 October 2014

Magic, Feminism and Anne Rice

As I've always liked reading, I set the following goal on The List:
050. Read 3 books per month for 1 year
You'd think this would be an easy task, but in truth I set it because I became pretty lax with reading, meanwhile the 'books to read' pile was growing bigger and bigger...

Anyway! I started on this goal back in July, and realised it's about time I start blogging about it.

I'm rating each book out of 5 for how much I enjoyed it overall.


Sod Abroad by Michael Moran (2/5)
I bought this in WH Smith, thinking it looked fairly funny - a satirical explanation of why we Brits ought to stay at home instead of attempting a holiday abroad.
It was mildly amusing, but overused long words where shorter ones would suffice, and sometimes seemed to be trying a bit too hard to be dry and witty. Had high hopes for this book but ended up a little disappointed.

I Never Knew That About England - Christopher Winn (4/5)
Non-fiction book chock full of facts about England, with a chapter devoted to each of England's counties. There were a few things that I'd already heard of, but a heap of interesting facts that I didn't know! Of course half of it has clean gone out of my mind already but at least I now know the story behind Old Speckled Hen.

How to be a Woman - Caitlin Moran (4/5)
My middle sister gave this to me whilst she was clearing some stuff from a cupboard. I could remember the publicity it had when it first came out but hadn't been interested in reading it. Since it was given to me, I figured I'd give it a go. It's basically something of an autobiographical book on feminism. Whilst I don't agree with all of the author's opinions, I found the book  thought-provoking.


Strong Imagination - Daniel Nettle (4/5)
Another non-fiction book, this time one that explores the link between creativity and mental illness (mostly schizophrenia and bipolar) and also the potential for these illnesses to be hereditary. I found this incredibly interesting and was grateful of the understandable explanations of what can be malfunctioning in the brain when these illnesses occur. Only down-side to this book was that it took me much longer to read--I could only digest a chapter at a time before needing to give my poor brain a rest!

Paulo Coelho: Confessions of a Pilgrim - Juan Arias (5/5)
This non-fiction book takes the form of an interview between Juan Arias and Paulo Coelho (author of the international bestseller, The Alchemist). In this, they discuss Coelho's very eventful life - including his arrest and torture, his being once involved in black magic, and the times his family had him shut away in a sanatorium. I could quote a bunch of inspiring lines from this book!

Neither Here Nor There - Bill Bryson (3/5)
Older and wiser, Bill Bryson retraces his own footsteps on a journey around Europe that he took during his youth. I read this as I thought it would inspire me to travel but if anything it put me off a little! Still, there are some amusing and interesting anecdotes. What I learnt from this book is: have money. Book hotels in advance. Beware pickpockets.


Titus Alone - Mervyn Peake (4/5)
This is the third book in The Gormenghast Trilogy and is a re-read. I read the first two in August, but since I'm only aiming to read 3 each month, those were a bonus!
In this book, Titus Groan, Earl of the strange kingdom of Gormenghast, sets off to explore the unknown territory beyond the mountains, and encounters people and lands beyond anything he'd imagined. I don't honestly like Titus Groan (isn't it terrible to dislike the main character?) but the storyline made up for it. The BBC once adapted the first two books of the trilogy into a miniseries; I think they could do pretty well adapting this one, too.

Titus Awakes - Maeve Gilmore & Mervyn Peake (4/5)
Published a great many years after The Gormenghast Trilogy, this book was written by Maeve Gilmore, Mervyn Peake's wife, and was based on notes and fragments found after his death. This book feels like a simplified, cut-down version of a Mervyn Peake story, and really shouldn't be read as one of his. It's more of an homage to his work. Titus Groan still annoys me, but the storyline is much easier to digest than Peake's original writing.

Prince - Ib Michael (5/5)
I bought this at a charity Christmas fair last year, and wasn't really sure what drew me to buy it, which was probably why it took me so long to read it. I regret not reading it sooner! The story revolves around Malte, a boy who finds the coffin of a sailor washed up on the shore. The story itself is mostly narrated by a spirit, and as the book continues, events of the past and present slowly unfold. I can't summarise this book very well, but it gets full marks from me because it was truly magical, and brilliantly captured the imagination and adventure of childhood.


The Witching Hour - Anne Rice (3/5)
When I started reading this, I didn't realise it was 1200 pages long. This is the first in a trilogy, The Lives of the Mayfair Witches. Neurosurgeon Rowan Mayfair discovers she's the heiress to a huge legacy, and finds she has a whole family she never knew about in New Orleans. Meanwhile Michael Curry, a man who drowned but was saved and came back to life with the ability to sense things by touch, struggles with his new powers, and the memory of a man he always saw outside a house in New Orleans when he was a boy. The pair meet, Michael goes to New Orleans to uncover the truth, and enter Lasher, the spirit that has hung around the Mayfair family for centuries...
This is a huge book and that's not even half of the storyline! A vast proportion is back-story about the Mayfair family. This book took me just over a week to read--a huge difference considering I can usually devour a novel in 1-2 days!

Lasher - Anne Rice (3/5)
Book 2 of The Lives of the Mayfair Witches. Spoilers ahead!
Lasher has run off with Rowan. The rest of the family is hunting for her, meanwhile Lasher attempts to impregnate various members of the Mayfair family, causing death at every turn. Whilst this is happening, something is clearly wrong within the ancient, supernatural-observing order of The Talamasca, and new character Yuri, along with established character Aaron, try to figure out what--and how it is linked to the Mayfair Family.
To be honest I don't remember much of this book, even though I read it last week. Also, I don't particularly like Rowan Mayfair. Hoped she'd grow on me after the first book, but no.

Taltos - Anne Rice (4/5)
Book 3 of The Lives of the Mayfair Witches.
Lasher is dead, his daughter is dead, and legacy heiress, thirteen-year-old Mona Mayfair is pregnant. Rowan is catatonic and never speaks. Spoiler: she snaps out of it, and goes off to England with Michael. There, they meet the Taltos, Ash, possibly the last of a long-lived and mysterious, non-human race. As they uncover the truth behind things uncovered in Lasher, the flaws in The Talamasca are uncovered, and Mona's baby comes somewhat earlier than expected...
Nope, still don't like Rowan Mayfair. This was the best of the three books, and also the shortest! I enjoyed the development of the story behind the Taltos, and wish this had been touched upon more during the whole trilogy to be honest.

Usually I love Anne Rice's work, but this trilogy didn't really do it for me. Still, if she ever decides to publish a book about Ash and the Taltos, I might give it a try.

Well, those are my books so far. Four months down, eight to go! Next month is going to be a challenge, as it's NaNoWriMo. So I'm more likely to be typing like a demon than have my nose in a book. My plan is to read three very short books during November!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like your goal is going well! I've never heard of Paulo Coelho: Confessions of a Pilgrim, or Strong Imagination before and they seem interesting from your reviews. Thanks for the recommendations! ^^