Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Book review: The Norfolk Mystery by Ian Sansom

Spanish Civil War veteran Stephen Sefton is flat broke. So when he sees a mysterious advertisement for a job where 'intelligence is essential', he applies.

Thus begins Sefton's association with Professor Swanton Morley, autodidact. Morley intends to write a history of England, county by county. His assistant must be able to tolerate his every eccentricity - and withstand the attentions of his beguiling daughter, Miriam.

The trio begin the project in Norfolk, but when the vicar of Blakeney is found hanging from his church's bell rope, they find themselves drawn into a fiendish plot. Did the reverend really take his own life, or was it - murder?

I picked up The Norfolk Mystery on a whim a few weeks ago. It's an enjoyable read. It's sort of cosy and something about it feels very English. However, I did expect more mystery.

The vicar is found hanged and Morley and Sefton do take an interest in the possibility that it might not be the suicide it appears to be. However, there is really very little actual investigation and Morley's deduction as presented near the end of the novel seems to come completely from nowhere. I understand that this could be a little bit of a parody of the early 20th century mystery novels - and maybe I'm just not well versed enough in the tropes of those novels to fully appreciate it - but the rest of the novel just doesn't seem to be so obviously a parody of anything.

There is some interesting social commentary throughout the novel, which is as relevant today as it was during the time between the two world wars, when this story is set. Morley's views about the goings on in the world sort of balance out how bloody annoying he is the rest of the time. There are also photographs throughout the book, which I had expected to be a fan of (I wrote my dissertation on illustrated novels so I have a specific interest) however in this case I just didn't think the photographs did anything for the narrative.

Despite these complaints, The Norfolk Mystery was an enjoyable read but I'm not sure I'll be picking up the sequel when it's released.

I mean, Morley spends half the book speaking Latin. What's that about? Is that parody???

3/5 stars.

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Monday, 13 October 2014

Book review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends - the Liars - whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True Love.
The Truth.

We Were Liars is my first E. Lockhart book but I'm sure it won't be my last (I've been eyeing up The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks for years, truth be told.) I wasn't too sure what to expect but I'd seen a lot of reviews, all of which seemed to follow the same pattern - this book is amazing but I can't tell you what happens - and now that I've read it I can totally understand why.

We Were Liars is powerful and surprising, both in the story itself and in the way in which the story is told. I've never read anything else like it and I'm sure I never will. But. I'm still not totally convinced about the writing style. While it's definitely interesting, I found it at times to be a little annoying, almost until the end. Towards the end I found myself appreciating the style and it started to make sense retrospectively, but I can't deny that I spent a lot of the book unsure about it. Also I still don't understand why the group are called 'The Liars' but I don't think I'm the only one.

Nevertheless this is definitely a unique novel, deserving of the praise it has gotten. The story unfolds in ever more clever and surprising ways and the final reveal comes like a punch in the gut. But, like, in a good way. I'd recommend it.

4/5 stars.

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Thursday, 2 October 2014

The A-Z bookish survey.

The same day that I decided to make this new blog I saw this tag on The Book Journal and thought it seemed like a fun first post to kick things off with. So without further ado (partly because this is kind of long. Mostly because I'm currently re-watching Gossip Girl and right now I'm on the first Christmas episode!) here are my A-Z Bookish Survey answers!

Author you've read the most books from
Meg Cabot.

Best sequel ever
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins or every single Harry Potter sequel.

Currently reading
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

Drink of choice whilst reading
A nice cup of tea.

E-reader or physical books
I do read a few books on my iPad and find it super useful but I think it will always be physical books for me.

Fictional character you probably would have actually dated in high school
Can I pretend that I was cool enough in high school to land Cricket Bell??

Glad you gave this book a chance
Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier. My mum bought it for me and it sat in my bookcase for ten years or something before I finally got around to reading it. I wish I'd given it a chance sooner!

Hidden gem of a book
I'm going to say Campari for Breakfast by Sara Crowe. It only came out earlier this year but I absolutely love it and I don't know anyone else who's read it yet.

Important moment in your reading life
Probably the first time I finished reading a novel by myself. It was Charm School by Anne Fine and I can still remember how excited I was when I reached the final page because I could finally say that I had read a whole book by myself!

Just finished
Don't Tell Alfred by Nancy Mitford.

Kinds of books you won't read
Probably horror? Maybe?

Longest book you've ever read
I expected this to be Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur but I just checked and it's actually Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, clocking in at an impressive 766 pages.

Major book hangover because of...
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins.

Number of bookcases you own
Two bookcases + a drawer full of books + half a shelf on my parents' bookcase.

One book you've read multiple times
Avalon High by Meg Cabot.

Preferred place to read
In bed or in the bath. Just, lying down somewhere, I guess.

Quote that you like from a book you've read
'God knows I tried my best to learn the ways of this world, even had inklings we could be glorious; but after all that's happened, the inkles ain't easy anymore' from Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre.

Reading regret
That I actually read the entire of The Time Traveler's Wife.

Series you've started and need to finish
The Percy Jackson series! I've only read the first one but I really want to read the rest of the series.

Three of your all-time favourite books
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, Avalon High by Meg Cabot, and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

Unapologetic fangirl for
Harry Potter and The Princess Diaries.

Very excited for this release more than others
Blue Lily, Lily Blue, the third book in Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Boys series.

Worst bookish habits
I can't really think of any. Unless you count buying books faster than I can read them. If you do then that.

X marks the spot - start at the top of your shelf and pick the 27th book
A Series of Unfortunate Events #12: The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket.

Your latest book purchase
The Cornish Coast Murder by John Bude and The Norfolk Mystery by Ian Sansom.

Zzzz-snatcher book - last book that kept you up WAY too late
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins. I barely stopped to sleep or eat while I was reading that book.

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