WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (9)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (9)

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Commune: Book Two, the sequel to a dystopian novel by Joshua Gayou. I read and reviewed Commune, the first in the series, if you’d like to read that blog post. I’m also re-reading Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift for my university course and reading The Well of Lost Plots, the third book in the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde.

2. What did you recently finish reading?

I finished Middlemarch!

I also recently read Revival (surprise), a Stephen King novel about a crazed man who decides to shun his belief in God, instead looking to harness the power of “secret electricity”. I read (what another surprise) another Stephen King book too, called Gerald’s Game. Apparently, it’s been adapted into a TV show, but I don’t think I’ll be watching it anytime soon. It was the first of King’s books to make me put it down after some seriously icky scenes.

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

I’d love to read some new releases to help me get back into the swing of book blogging again.


– Judith

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Read and Review: Middlemarch

Read and Review: Middlemarch
  • Title: Middlemarch
  • Author: George Eliot
  • Published: 1871

Middlemarch is a book set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch during 1829–32, following the lives of a huge range of characters.

From Wikipedia:

‘The narrative is variably considered to consist of three or four plots of unequal emphasis: the life of Dorothea Brooke; the career of Tertius Lydgate; the courtship of Mary Garth by Fred Vincy; and the disgrace of Bulstrode. The two main plots are those of Dorothea and Lydgate.’

Middlemarch addresses topics such as courtship and marriage, as well as politics and facing the prospect of unwelcome change as a community.

I enjoyed the beginning of Middlemarch; Eliot’s writing is witty and sarcastic, which is particularly noticeable when characters quip about the sexes.

“I don’t see how a man is to be good for much unless he has some one woman to love him dearly.”

Middlemarchp.168

“We must not have you getting too learned for a woman, you know.”

Middlemarchp.423

Middlemarch is not a romance, unlike Austen’s works for instance. Subsequently, Eliot’s characters are more realistic than Austen’s stereotypical romantic characters. The people in Middlemarch speak and behave like real people, in ways that Austen characters never did, making foolish choices which then impacted the plot.

Having said that, I didn’t actually enjoy many of the characters in Middlemarch, or their respective storylines. I liked seeing the life of Dorothea unfold, but I simply did not care for the seemingly endless chapters set in offices, reading about Lydgate and Bulstrode discussing various administrative duties.

As I got about halfway through the book, Middlemarch became much more of a challenge to read and complete – creating a similar experience to when I read Anna Karenina or War and Peace.

I was glad to finally finish Middlemarch but ultimately, I don’t think it was the right book for me.

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this review, please click ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ for more!

– Judith

Opinion Piece: Thoughts on IT (2017)

Opinion Piece: Thoughts on IT (2017)

27 years after the first It, Pennywise the Clown has risen again in a new film adaptation.

27 days after its release (or thereabouts), Judith and Patrick talk about It.


Patrick:

Firstly, how did you think the film compared with the book? Did you like the changes it made?

Judith:

I think the film handled the source material cleverly; they didn’t try to cram absolutely everything from the book into the plot, streamlining it in a way that works best for film.

I loved the characterisation of Eddie and Richie. They were definitely the best acted and felt incredibly accurate to their counterparts in the book. Annoyingly however, Bill and Ben felt a bit “meh” – underdeveloped – and Mike was almost non-existent. Mike’s overlooking in particular is a real shame, because he is meant to be the one who provides the history of Derry to the group and the one to reunite them as adults. His small role could even be seen as problematic, considering he is the only person of colour in the group and has the smallest presence.

My Photo [It 4]

Patrick:

I did think some of the characterisation could have been shared round more. With a running time of over two hours, it was pretty long for a horror film, and it was perplexing why some of that time couldn’t have been spent on giving all the characters equal detail. I think it will be interesting to see who they cast as the older versions of the characters for the sequel.

I think they made judicious choices and made the most commercially viable film they could – in a good way! It has obviously captured audience’s attentions and I think a lot of this is making the story more accessible.

Judith:

Yes, I agree. Perhaps a lack of detailed characterisation for all was dependant on who were the strong / weak actors. In my opinion, Eddie and Richie developed the best performances, which isn’t surprising, as Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie) has had other multiple acting roles in addition to It, and Finn Wolfhard (Richie) is best known for his strong performance in Stranger Things.

Patrick:

I think that the success of Stranger Things certain pushed Finn Wolfhard to the forefront in order to draw in that audience.

Yet if you look at something like The Goonies, you know who each of the kids are. They might be more broadly drawn than the kids in the novel of It, but you know where you stand with all of them. If they had to simplify the Losers Club, and shed some characterisation in the process, they could have done it more effectively.

Did you think the film was scary?

Judith:

I think it relied too much on jumpscares and loud noises, although I had expected that from watching the trailer*.

*If you’d like to read our discussion of the It trailer, you can find it here:

When I left the cinema, I described it as “ridiculous macabre” to my friends, because It walks a fine line between creepy and downright ridiculous.

Patrick:

Which moments were the most effective?

Judith:

The scene that affected me most was when Pennywise approached Eddie in the abandoned house. He got so close to Eddie’s face and taunted him, truly terrifying an-already traumatised and injured Eddie. I thought both performances here worked really well; Pennywise felt like a tangible character who could not only psychologically torment them but physically grab, restrain or hurt the children just to scare them.

My Photo [It 1]
Still taken from the Official It Trailer

Patrick:

I thought the scares were fine, there was plenty of atmosphere and a good aesthetic but, as you say, too much of a reliance on loud noises making you jump. I really enjoyed the moment with the projector, the sense of helplessness really carried over and turned what could have been really corny into something quite primal.

My Photo [It 2]
Still taken from the Official It Trailer
Judith:

What did you think about the 80s nostalgia? I remember you mentioning it when we originally discussed our predictions for the film.

Patrick:

I thought it was pretty cynical but it didn’t bother me as much as it might have done. I think it takes some of the surprise out of the film, as you know the aesthetic and the locations almost immediately. It’s transposing the familiarity of the novel’s world to one which countless other films and TV series have taken place. I didn’t think it was too intrusive though.

What did you think of the portrayal of Pennywise? Was Bill Skarsgård an appropriate choice?

Judith:

I think he was creepy and unnerving but, like I’ve said previously, there was an underlying ridiculousness.

He at times looks odd rather than scary. His voice always seemed creepy and never friendly, making me think, “How does a little boy get persuaded to climb into the sewer with a man who already looks terrifying and introduced himself with a jumpscare?”

My Photo [It 3]
Tim Curry’s Pennywise (1990) and Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise (2017)
Patrick:

I thought Skarsgård didn’t have the true creepiness that Pennywise does in the book; there’s such a strange seductiveness to him that makes him even more frightening. He’s like a grounded, realistic predator whereas Skarsgård was simply Coco the Creepy Clown. I don’t know whether someone like Will Poulter (the original choice), would have been better. He certainly looks less eerie. Skarsgård has unnerving written all over him.

Judith:

What did you think about shifts in tone? It mixes comedy with horror so often.

Patrick:

Honestly, I think it came from the 80s setting. This film wanted to be Goonies, ET and Halloween all in one. I certainly think the lurches in tone could have been avoided if the film had been set in the 50s.

Judith:

I think I would have enjoyed It in a similar way if it wasn’t a horror, which is odd, given how much it is marketed like a stereotypical horror. It felt at times more like a summer coming-of-age film; there were jarring scenes of friendship and fun in the midst of what is meant to be fear and tension.

Patrick:

I can see that. I think the film could have been about about ten minutes shorter. To me, it was trying to make a slightly pretentious point about “oh we’re a crafted and prestigious film” and the ending could have been stripped down.

Are you excited for the second film? What changes do you think will be made for it?

Judith:

I’m excited for the sequel because I hope as adults, Pennywise will terrorise them differently and more intensely. Some of the scares in this It were a little tame – perhaps to tone it down for a teenage audience. I hope the adult characters are developed more fully, and we get the chance to see what Pennywise / It truly is.

Patrick:

I hope that the sequel will progress in both tone and maturity. I hope it’s won’t be like The Hunger Games, which remained 12 rated even though, as an audience member growing up with the films, we were 16-18 when they finished.  I hope that they choose good actors rather than stars. I don’t want Chris Pratt to distract from the fact that I’m supposed to be scared.


A sequel for It has been confirmed to be released in 2019.


Thank you for reading!

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Read and Review: Skybreaker

Read and Review: Skybreaker
  • Title: Skybreaker
  • Author: Kenneth Oppel
  • Published: 2005

Skybreaker is the sequel to Airborn in a series of young adult steampunk books, set in a world where the aeroplane has not yet been invented. You can read my review of Airborn here.

Taking off from (no pun intended) Airborn, Skybreaker follows the protagonists Matt Cruse and Kate de Vries, as they board the airship Sagarmartha in an attempt to find a mysterious ghost ship, lost in the air, and the treasure left buried inside it.

I think Skybreaker is a better book than Airborn for the following reasons.

The descriptions are clearer, the dialogue is a lot wittier, and the overall writing is better*. Furthermore, characters – both those newly introduced and those from Airborn – are developed and the relationships between these characters are more complex.

*I’m pleased to report that Matt Cruse did not feel any ‘tingles’ in this book!

This character development really helped to shape the protagonists – something lacking from Airborn – , so I knew them better and decide who I liked and who I disliked; I liked the character of Matt, but strongly disliked Kate.

Matt Cruse comes from a lower social status, but longs to better himself. He is hardworking, caring, and eager to be of assistance whenever he can. Albeit, he envies those with more money because with money comes opportunities and power, and he hopes that this will help him win the heart of Kate de Vries.

Kate de Vries is from a wealthy background and used to a comfortable life, with a passion for flying and travelling. However, she has a tendency to, whether intentional or not, look down on those lower than her – Matt included – and spend time with men of a higher social status. She is arrogant, and offended by the very notion that her flirtations with those in society who are rich might make Matt feel unable to “compete” because of his social class.

Skybreaker has a similar dramatic beginning to its predecessor, something I initially thought was a positive. Yet, as I continued to read the book, I noticed a lot of other glaring plot similarities, which at times felt like I was reading the same book, just with better writing:

Matt learns of a mysterious ship (an air balloon/ Sagarmatha) carrying a mysterious man (Benjamin Malloy/Theodore Grunel), who has a mysterious journal about a mysterious discovery (a new species of animal). Kate and Matt have a rocky friendship, Kate grows closer to a boy of a higher class (Bruce/Hal) and together the youths must seek out the mysterious discovery, protecting the secrets from a troupe of villains (Vikram Szpirglas /John Rath).

It’s a shame the plot of Skybreaker is so similar, and I hope this doesn’t become a trope of Oppel’s writing; in my review of Airborn, I specifically praised the book for being able to cover various different genres without falling into the trap of recycling stereotypical genre conventions.

However, despite this criticism, I did enjoy reading Skybreaker a lot more than the first book – I read it in just 2 days.

Will I read the other books in this series? Quite possibly.

***

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this review, please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more book reviews.

– Judith

 

Read and Review: WEAVE A MURDEROUS WEB by ANNE ROTHMAN-HICKS & KEN HICKS @KenHicksnyc

Read and Review: WEAVE A MURDEROUS WEB by ANNE ROTHMAN-HICKS & KEN HICKS @KenHicksnyc
  • Title: Weave A Murderous Web
  • Author: Anne Rothman-Hicks, Ken Hicks
  • Published: 2017
  • Date Started: Wednesday 16th August 2017
  • Date Finished: Friday 25th August 2017

Whilst dealing with a case of divorce, Jane Larson, a litigator for a law firm in New York, discovers a father’s hidden assets, which unravels a web of lies, drugs and murder. Jane has to uncover the identity of the murderer before she becomes the next victim.

My Photo [Weave A Murderous Web]

This is the second book in the Jane Larson series, the first being Praise Her, Praise Diana (which I haven’t read).

Initially, I wasn’t sure what to make of Weave A Murderous Web.

I’ve read some other reviews of the book, and a frequent comment I’ve noticed is that it took a while to get engrossed in the plot. I agree with this; there was rather a lot of dialogue and lots of character names flung around at the start so it was hard to focus at first.

However, after a little perseverance, the book settles down and the plot starts moving. I’d say it is a good and interesting story – a murder mystery that unveils a ring of criminals, all of whom are hiding in the city behind their high-flying professions.

Admittedly, the administrative and legal jargon tripped me up, but the thrill of Jane uncovering criminal secrets produced some exciting and tense scenes, like something out of a spy film or a police drama.

I thought characterisation could have been improved. There are lots of characters in Weave A Murderous Web – some major, some minor – but so many didn’t feel fleshed out that it was difficult for me to feel invested, or indeed care, about what was happening in their lives.

I’ll provide an example.

In my opinion, Vinnie and his wife were strongly developed characters, despite their minimal roles in the book. Their characters were established by describing not only physical appearances, but their jobs, their body language to one another and to others, the words they said and how they said them. In next to no time, I had formed a picture in my head of who this couple was and what they were like.

In contrast, characters such as Lee, David and Bryan, came across as men who just happened to be in the plot. I don’t remember much detail being provided about them other than a basic appearance, and so it was difficult to “know” anything about them that made me invested in seeing their lives unfold.

Overall, I think Weave A Murderous Web is a good story featuring a strong and independent protagonist, with some twists and turns to keep you guessing.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Weave A Murderous Web is available as an e-book or a paperback from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

***

Thanks for reading! Thanks also to Ken and Anne for sending me a free e-book copy to read. They have a Facebook page which you can find here.

As a reminder, I was given this book for free in exchange for an honest review. Therefore, although some of my comments are more on the critical side, I believe constructive feedback is important to help shape future works.

If you enjoyed this review, please click ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ for more!

– Judith

 

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (8)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (8)

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

I feel like I haven’t done much reading in the last month because I’ve been moving to my student house, so the only steady book I’ve been reading is Middlemarch by George Eliot.

2. What did you recently finish reading?

I read War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, Wise Children by Angela Carter and Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe, in preparation for my next year at university. This month, I also had 2 new books sent to me to read: Shakespeare and the Psalms Mystery by Jem Bloomfield and Weave A Murderous Web by Anne-Rothman Hicks and Ken Hicks. I also read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon – a short Stephen King novel in the midst of moving stresses.

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

As usual, I have no idea, but I hope I pick up some more books in a genre I’ll really enjoy, like horrors or thrillers.


– Judith

Read and Review: SHAKESPEARE AND THE PSALMS MYSTERY by JEM BLOOMFIELD @jembloomfield

Read and Review: SHAKESPEARE AND THE PSALMS MYSTERY by JEM BLOOMFIELD @jembloomfield
  • Title: Shakespeare and the Psalms Mystery
  • Author: Jem Bloomfield
  • Published: 2017
  • Started: Wednesday August 16th 2017
  • Finished: Thursday 24th August 2017

From Amazon:

‘In Shakespeare and the Psalms Mystery, Jem Bloomfield investigates the literary legend that the famous playwright left his mark on the Authorized Version. He delves into the historical, textual and literary evidence, showing that the story isn’t true – but that there are much more engrossing stories to be told about Shakespeare and the Bible.’

My Photo [Shakespeare and Bible]

I’m an English student at the University of Nottingham. Last year, I studied a module called Shakespeare’s Histories: Critical Approaches. Jem Bloomfield was one of the lecturers responsible for providing some thoroughly enjoyable lectures, talking to us about Shakespeare’s works, as well as the literary, historical and religious contexts.

One lecture that I particularly found interesting was exploring the intertextual links between Shakespeare’s plays such as Richard II and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and various editions of The Bible.

When Jem contacted me his year to ask if I wanted to read his new book, which explores potential links between the King James Bible and Shakespeare, needless to say, I was interested.

Shakespeare and the Psalms Mystery was a good, quick read. As Jem talks* you through a variety of literary, linguistic, and contextual evidence, it soon becomes clear religion and Early Modern Theatre are subjects he is passionate about.

*I say talks; the book captures Jem’s voice wonderfully as he debunks a myth I never even knew existed, recreating the feel of another engaging lecture.

The structure of the book is mostly clear. Jem discusses why the Psalm 46 myth is merely a myth, then moves on to answering questions such as why the legend even exists, and what attracts people to it. However, the only section that tripped me up was the chapter focused on Rudyard Kipling. I didn’t really understand this section, which was a shame, as I followed everything else quite easily.

Nonetheless, if you’d like to learn some interesting things about Shakespeare and the Bible, presented in an engaging and accessible way, I recommend Shakespeare and the Psalms Mystery.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Shakespeare and the Psalms Mystery is available as an e-book or a paperback from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

***

Thanks for reading! Thanks also to Jem for sending me a free e-book copy to read. He has a blog on WordPress too at:  quiteirregular.wordpress.com.

If you enjoyed this review, please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more book reviews.

– Judith