Review | A Room with a View

Title: A Room with a View (1908)
Author: E.M. Forster
Publisher: Penguin English Library
Read: 19th April – 3rd May 2017
Genre: classic
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A Room with a View is a 20th-century classic that begins in sun-soaked Florence before retiring to the Edwardian English countryside and proved to be a rather pleasant surprise for yours truly, quite possibly because I had no expectations for this book and did not know a single thing about it until I opened the first page.

“Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice”

Exploring Italy with her overbearing spinster cousin/chaperone, Charlotte Bartlett, Lucy Honeychurch has her middle-class and thus far limited view of the world challenged by the sights and (yes) the views she sees, not all of them quite so picturesque or pleasant. Whilst staying at the Pension Betolini in Florence, Lucy is thrown into the paths of a cast of comically presented characters: a pair of (frankly annoying) clergyman, Mr Beebe and the interfering Mr Eager; adventurous and outspoken novelist Eleanor Lavish; Mr Emerson who might just be (whisper it in case they hear you) a socialist; and his romantic and free-thinking son George. That is, until a return to England means a return to Lucy’s home in Surrey and a return to the rigid, claustrophobic middle-class country life she knows, complete with pretentious fiancee Cecil Vyse. With Lucy’s world view latterly coloured by all that she has experienced in Italy, Forster’s A Room with a View reads part romance and part satire of the Edwardian England it so shrewdly presents.

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Discussion | Reading Before Watching

Hi folks, I bring you something of a discussion post regarding something that has been on my mind recently – reading before watching. Let me clarify – reading a book before watching the adaptation.

I think I speak for all of us readers when I say that we tend to hold to the sanctity of the source material whenever a television or film adaptation is announced – if it’s a favourite book we probably worry and fret about whether a production team is about to completely ruin something precious to us. Likewise, we might just be excited to see a story we love come to the big or small screen, and look forward to more people experiencing that story, in whatever format that is.

But, readers, I have a dilemma: what do you do when a new series is announced, based on a book, and you haven’t read the book – do you wait for the TV show so that the adaptation is new and fresh for you, or do you read the book beforehand? My instinct obviously tells me to read the book first before watching the adaptation but part of me always wonders if I’m not potentially dampening my enjoyment of the TV show or film. After all – I know what is going to happen then, and nothing is shocking or unexpected (unless they completely diverge from the source material).

nightmanagerI was thinking about this yesterday as I was doing a re-watch of The Night Manager series and had an inclination to re-read the book again. I recalled that, despite having read the book back in February 2016, before the miniseries started airing, I was still overwhelmingly tense and on the edge of my seat whilst watching the adaptation. Now, admittedly, some of that is because I have a slight inclination towards Tom Hiddleston (understatement of the century) so, you know, what you gonna do… but aside from that I also was tense because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. In the effort to modernise the source material and make it more relevant for a 2016 audience, the production team had made the decision to change some key elements of the story. This meant that, though I had read the source material, it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the series by “spoiling” any of the plot’s twists and turns. But not all adaptations are like this.

howardsendLast night I picked up Howards End by E.M. Forster. After having read A Room with a View last week and found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it and how readable I found Forster’s writing style, I decided to give Forster’s most famous novel a read. Then I remembered that the BBC are producing a miniseries of the book which is due to be released later this year starring Hayley Atwell and Matthew MacFadyen (I am sure there are plenty of others too but, I mean, my priority will always be Hayley Atwell because she’s Hayley Atwell). I had a moment of pause then – surely every little twist and turn of the adaptation would be spoiled if I read the novel first? After all, period dramas based on classics or modern classics do tend to push for faithfulness to the source material, for fear of upsetting the delicate sensibilities of readers and their expectations. So if I read the book, would I be as inclined towards watching the series, when it did air on TV?

Despite this momentary dilemma, I am fully aware that it will not stop me from reading the book – as a reader I will always lean towards the side of the primacy of the book, regardless of how excited I am to see an adaptation on the big or small screen, and the book will probably always win. But that doesn’t mean the adaptation won’t put up a damn good fight…

But beware: on the other side of the coin lurks a trap, a trap that I often fall into. On the occasions when I do see a film or TV show adapted from a book first, even if I end up loving the adaptation, sometimes I never quite get around to reading the book afterwards. I know, I know, I’m a terrible reader! After all, I know what happens in the story, so reading the story suddenly isn’t quite as high priority as all the other books on my TBR. I know how it goes, I know how it ends, I’ve experienced the story, regardless of the format it was in… and there are so many other stories that I haven’t experienced yet that deserve my time and attention. This happened with another le Carré book – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I had embarked on a mission to read the book once upon a time, got super confused, and abandoned it. Then I watched the 2011 film starring Gary Oldman as George Smiley, and, though I thoroughly enjoyed it, the book suddenly didn’t really seem a priority any more. I knew so what was the point any more?

Well, Emma, I’m sure the book is much more nuanced, I hear you say, to which I say: touché. And so the vicious cycle keeps on spinning…

Do you have this dilemma too? Do you have to make sure you read a book before watching its TV or film adaptation – or does it not bother you so much? Do you think the effect of a TV or film adaptation is sometimes “spoiled” because you know what’s going to happen, because you read the book first? Does this cause anyone else as much indecision as it does me? On the more positive note – what TV/film adaptations are you looking forward to in the future? Chat to me in the comments below, I’d love to talk adaptations!


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Review | A Feast for Crows

Title: A Feast for Crows (2005)
Author: George R.R. Martin
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Read: 19th April – 3rd May 2017
Genre: fantasy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

In this fourth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, the sheer weight of political machinations and the implications of several key deaths in Westeros slowly begin to take their toll on the houses of the kingdom as a more subdued, but nonetheless bloody, war dawns just as it seems the War of the Five Kings is coming to an end.

“History is a wheel, for the nature of man is fundamentally unchanging.
What has happened before will perforce happen again.”

Warning; if you have not read the first three books in the series, probably don’t read this review as the first section synopsis alone will spoil the events of the previous books. You have been warned.

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Down the TBR Hole #2

Welcome folks to the second round of Down the TBR Hole. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my first round post, or check out Lia at Lost in a Story who is the creator of this wonderful meme/project.

After a semi-successful first round of this project, I have decided to make this a regular feature of my blogging schedule (ha, ‘schedule’ is such a kind word to describe this mess). Plus, it’s good to regularly reevaluate if/why you want to read a book – that way you don’t come back to your TBR years later and have no clue why a title piqued your interest in the first place. I’ve decided to also add a summary of results bit at the bottom of each round so I can track how many books I’ve kept and ditched from my TBR shelf in each round and overall.

Just a reminder of how this works:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

Let’s get going on the 10 books… 

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Review | American Gods

Title: American Gods (2001)
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Headline
Read: 4th – 10th May 2017
Genre: fantasy; mythology; urban fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

In this wacky and wonderful book, Neil Gaiman draws on a wealth of cultures and mythologies in order to create an engrossing and bizarrely original take on the gods of old. Utterly fantastical and surreal, once disbelief is suspended, this proves to be one hell of a ride.

“People believe, thought Shadow. It’s what people do. They believe, and then they do not take responsibility for their beliefs; they conjure things, and do not trust the conjuration. People populate the darkness; with ghosts, with gods, with electrons, with tales. People imagine, and people believe; and it is that rock solid belief, that makes things happen.”

Set in a modern-day United States, American Gods ostensibly tells the story of Shadow Moon, a rather taciturn man about to be released from prison owing to the sudden death of his wife, Laura. But Laura doesn’t stay as dead as she should do, and that’s not the only spooky event in Shadow’s life once he emerges from prison as a free man. Whilst on a plane journey home, he gets to talking to mysterious passenger, Mr Wednesday, and ends up (begrudgingly) working for him. Premised on the idea that gods only continue to exist because of people’s belief in them, the once-powerful “old gods”, brought to the US by the immigrants who settled there, find themselves diminished in the face of people’s faith towards the “new gods”, figures relating to America’s obsession with media, celebrity, and technology. Part satire of the all American road trip novel, part mythological retelling, familiar and less familiar deities pop into the story with aplomb as Wednesday (cough Odin cough) and Shadow try to marshall these forgotten “old gods” to rise up against the “new gods” society now worships instead.

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Friday Reads | 19th May 2017

Another week, another Friday rolls around. You may remember in my last Friday Reads, I was still absorbed in the weird and wonderful world of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (a review of which will be up later today) and having quite the run of longer books.

In wanting to break away from that I decided to pick up what I thought was the most fun and fluffy of the books I felt like reading – Gail Carriger’s Soullessthe first book in The Parasol Protectorate, her steampunk paranormal series in which vampires and werewolves are part of Queen Victoria’s society and, indeed, her government. The heroine, Alexia Tarabotti, is “soulless”, an individual whose touch can reverse supernatural states, so, if say, she touches a werewolf, their fur disappears and their eyes become a little less wolfish. The hero of the piece? Well, he’s an Earl, Lord Connal Maccon, a gentleman (kind of), he occasionally slips into his Scottish burr, and he’s obviously an Alpha of a werewolf pack because this part paranormal romance so of course he is. He’s also gruff and he and Alexia argue a lot so we can all see where that’s headed from the moment of their very first tiff in the book.

But, hey, it’s a fun romp, it’s very diverting and it’s steampunk so I am all over that … the one thing that slightly disrupts my otherwise easy reading pace? You can kind of tell it’s written by someone who isn’t, themselves, English. There are very subtle differences between British English and American English that most people don’t realise until they write with someone from the other nation – by which I mean, I myself have come to terms with this only through writing forum roleplay with an American who found it forever amusing that I would say things like “fortnight” (apparently that’s not used generally as a word in America??) and “half an hour” instead of “a half hour” as others might say. Little nuances like that that are difficult to handle correctly (mostly because you’re not aware of them being nuances) and you’re bound to slip up.

Although, one stonker of a mistake in the first few pages: “jelly” was used to describe what we English call “jam” (you know the stuff you spread on toast and scones?)… I just cringed at how glaringly obvious it stood out. (I bought the book used and the previous owner had angrily circled the word “jelly” in pencil – they clearly took issue with it too!) The more I re-read this book the more I notice them, and that’s what probably means I’m struggling a bit with this book. Lord Maccon, in particular, says things that just… no – even if he’s meant to be Scottish, they’re not Scottish, they’re not even English, couple of case in points:

“How on earth did you finagle that?” (Um excuse me, what’s “finagle”?)

“What in tarnation is that?” (We don’t say tarnation, sorry Lord Maccon)

Of course, really, it’s a book about vampires and werewolves so I mean if I’m already suspending disbelief for them then I can let a few language issues go and just enjoy it. Or, I hope I can let it go anyway because the whole point of re-read the first book was so that I could swiftly continue on with the series ahead and get to Changeless, Blameless, Heartless, and Timeless in quick succession. I’m also kind of hoping that after the first book someone might have pointed out the more blatant Americanisms and they were corrected. We shall see.

(Wow ok I didn’t realise how long this post is getting… apparently that rant about British English needed to be expressed or I would have burst.)

But, aside from everything that is The Parasol Protectorate, I also have a digital pile of eARCs to get to as soon as possible. Yes, my friends, I finally discovered NetGalley and was astounded to learn that I did have enough online presence to be approved for some titles after all. (Is it weird I find that strangely flattering?) I’ve already took advantage of that and got my grubby little mitts on Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time and bloody loved it – I have such love for Matt Haig’s writing in general, to be fair, so it wasn’t a hard sell – but I think I’ll be re-reading it before writing a review for it, since it doesn’t come out until July. Aside from that I also have these titles to choose from this weekend:

  

  • Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott
    This just sounds odd and mysterious and I’m all for that. I hear it’s a bit Victorian and a bit Gothic in its tone, and that’s plenty enough to intrigue me. The cover is intriguing and Hilary Mantel has praised it. That’s all I know, that’s all I want to know.
  • Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny
    I’m 17% through this and I’m not really old enough to appreciate the topics it covers, I think, but I’ll still try to finish it for the sake of reviewing it because it’s an easy enough reading experience. There are 4 and 5-star reviews of this on Goodreads so clearly I’m in the minority here.
  • Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell
    ‘Magic is a con game’ – that’s quite enough of a PR selling phrase to grab me, hook, line, and sinker. Yes, I am that easy.

Yeah, I have a lot of reading to do, especially since 2 out of 3 of these books have been already released so I’m definitely behind. But I have little to no plans for this upcoming weekend currently so hopefully I can breeze through a couple of the books from this list – fingers crossed anyway! The galleys really ought to be my priority and they will be, provided I don’t get distracted by whatever shenanigans Alexia and Lord Maccon get up to in The Parasol Protectorate books!

That was my Friday Reads for this week but enough of me – what are you currently reading going into this weekend? Are you planning much for the next couple of days? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear it!


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Tag | My Life in Books Tag

You know the drill – it’s Thursday, time for another Tag Thursday etc. etc. I was somewhat struggling to find a tag this week, so I went onto some of my favourite blogs and discovered this short-but-sweet tag courtesy of Stephanie at Adventures of a Bibliophile. This is the My Life In Books tag and let us all just get going on the tag because life is short and there are books to get reading!

Find a book for each of your initials.

E – (The) Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
L – Longbourn by Jo Baker
B – Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Count your age along your bookshelf: What book is it?

I’m 24 and my 24th book on the top shelf of my bookshelf is *drum roll please*… The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Pick a book set in your city/country.

I’ve only just (relatively speaking) moved to Liverpool and no one writes books about the town I’m actually from so… let’s just broaden that to books set in England so that I have many to choose from, though I’ll at least try to stick to picking a book about the North of England. I’m going to pick North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell because Milton is totally Manchester.

Pick a book that represents a destination you’d love to travel to.

There are so many places I want to see, but Italy is pretty damn high on my list – y’know, on account of wanting to see Venice before it completely sinks. So the book that represents that (and that lodged this desire to see Italy in my younger, pre-teen brain) is City of Masks by Mary Hoffman, the first in her Stravaganza series. It’s about a boy who is able to travel to an alternate history version of 16th-century Venice when he falls asleep holding a Venetian diary.

Pick a book that’s your favourite colour.

Well I have two favourite colours – one is lime green, for which I choose Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre (because the spine is horrendously bright and it’s glorious), and the other is teal so I choose All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (whose cover is just stunning).

Which book do you have the fondest memories of?

Matilda by Roald Dahl probably? This also ties into my obsessive rewatching of the film when I was a child. Imagine, a girl who reads so much and finds herself the odd one in the family because she does so, then finding herself valued and appreciated by a teacher who then nurtures her love of reading and education. No I have noooo idea why that appealed to me.

And then all of the Harry Potter books, obviously, but I feel like that’s a given for the majority of my generation.

Which book did you have the most difficulty reading?

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy… the “peace” bits with the society stuff I’m fine with, the war bits are incomprehensible to me because my knowledge of history is shockingly bad, especially military history.

whispers I finally shelved this book as ‘put aside for now’ which really means ‘I don’t want to DNF this indefinitely because then I’d have to re-read like 300 pages but also by the time I get around to trying it again I will definitely have forgotten what happened in those first 300 pages’.

Which book in your TBR pile will give you the biggest accomplishment when you finish it?

See above? But, for another answer, I suppose… Moby Dick by Herman Melville or perhaps The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton – both are long and complex, I’m told, but rewarding if you stick with it. Someday I hope to have the drive to do just that but, until then, I’ll continue to just mention them in tags like this.

That was it – that was the My Life in Books tag. If you are reading this and feel the urge to do this tag then, please, by all means consider yourself tagged by yours truly! If you do the tag, please link to it in the comments below as I am nosy and would love to see your answers.

NB: After writing this tag post, I realised that I actually did this tag before, back in 2015, (click here to view) but my answers are different so that’s fun to realise that my take on these questions has changed since then!


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T5W | Summer Reads

Welcome one and all to this week’s Top 5 Wednesday post! For those of you who don’t know Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme/challenge which was created by the wonderful Lainey from gingereadslainey and is now overseen by the equally lovely Sam from Thoughts of Tomes. Every Wednesday, participants devise their Top 5 based on a given topic.

This Wednesday’s topic is Summer Reads – the weather is heating up (for half of the world), so what books remind you of summer and are your quintessential summer reads?

Friends, this week’s Top 5 Wednesday post comes from the perspective of a girl who is not the fan of summer in the least. Don’t get me wrong, being able to step outside on a morning without having to worry whether you can risk leaving your umbrella behind is refreshing. But I live in England, and England does moderate weather best, so summer is rarely summer for very long. (Case in point: glorious sunshine last week, pissing down yesterday/today. It never lasts very long.) So I would ask you to bear in mind that I’m not the best person to talk about this week’s topic but let’s see what I’ve managed…

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Bout of Books 19 | Wrap Up

This past week saw round 19 of Bout of Books readathon happen and I am really, really glad to have taken part in my own very low-key way. At the start of the week I devised a TBR/intentions post and I think I ended up doing pretty well, even if I didn’t get to the books I mentioned in that post (I very rarely do stick to readathon TBRs, tbh). I didn’t get around to doing any of the official challenges owing to wanting to focus my free time on an evening to reading itself, but I still had a jolly good time all the same. I did manage to participate in the Saturday Twitter chat (I can never make the weekday one because it’s much too late in England) and I really enjoyed that too.There is nothing quite like interacting and flailing with other readers.

Now, I can’t deny that the fact that my friend and housemate Liz (aka Travel in Retrospect) has been away on a work trip probably lead to me reading so much for this readathon – that’s not to say that I can’t, or don’t, read when she’s home, it’s just that we often watch TV or a film together on an evening rather than picking up a book. I mostly read on train journeys or just before I go to sleep which means I grab 20 minutes of reading here and there but I don’t tend to regularly sit down for long periods of time to read unless I happen to be in the house alone.

But I really made a concerted effort to make reading a priority this week, and made sure to read on my train journey to/from work Monday through to Friday and I even spent most of my lunch hours with my nose in a book too. It helps that I am in my own office and people only come in to check their pigeonholes and occasionally pop their head in, so I had a very quiet environment in which to read at my desk.

I still managed to fit in some TV so I didn’t feel too deprived of that; when I wasn’t reading I was watching Bluestone 42, a BBC comedy show about a bomb disposal squad in Afghanistan which doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs but trust me, it’s brilliant. (It also has an army-ified Matthew Lewis, if that floats your boat at all.)

But that’s not what we’re here to discuss – we’re here to round up or wrap up how I did at Bout of Books. This round, rather than updating a blog post periodically (which I always fall out of the habit of doing somewhere around day 4), I chose to do low-key updates via Twitter – you can check out my Twitter thread of updates to see what I got up to this past week. (I know I have a few more hours left of the readathon but I don’t anticipate reading much more of my current book, Soulless, so I’m calling it now.)

The TL;DR version of how I did is this…

Finished 3 books:

from pg 345 – end/295 pages of American Gods by Neil Gaiman (5 stars)
237 pages of A Room with a View by E.M. Forster (3.5 stars)
400 pages of The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill (5 stars)
Total: 932 pages

Summary: not too shabby at all! I hereby deem my taking part in this round of Bout of Books a success! I just want to take this opportunity to say thank you to the ever-lovely hosts, Amanda and Kelly, and to everyone who commented or tweeted me during the readathon. I always love Bout of Books for these kind of interactions, they are truly what makes the readathon so great to participate in and keep me coming back for more.
I’ll see you all next round and, until then, happy reading!

Did you participate in this round of Bout of Books? Comment below if so, I’d love to hear how you did this past week, what you were reading, and how you liked it.


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Down the TBR Hole #1

I bring you a brand new feature on this blog today and that is Down the TBR Hole. I first saw this via Emma on Emma’s Library and this meme/project was originally created by Lia at Lost in a Story. My TBR has long since been getting out of hand so I think it’s about time I took a good hard look at myself my Goodreads shelf and actually figure out if I still want to read half of the things that I once put on there – this feature is perfect for helping (/forcing) me to do that. At the end of March, I did an impromptu cull to get it under 1000 (prompted by the TBR tag I was doing at the time) and I felt so much better once I did so, clearly, participating in this kind of project would be a really great idea for me. I also want to seriously look at my actual physical TBR and weed out the outliers I just will never read but, first things first, let’s fall Down the TBR Hole…

This is how it works:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

Simple, right? (Question: anyone else have The Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go? in their heads now? Just me? Ok.) I thought it would also be interesting to note if I actually own these books or not, and whether that plays some part in how hesitant I am to ditch stuff off my TBR (I’m sure it will play a huge part in it!). Let’s just get going on the first 10 books…

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