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. 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

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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.’

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

Read and Review: The Teacher

Read and Review: The Teacher
  • Title: The Teacher
  • Author: Katerina Diamond
  • Published: 2016

‘In the assembly hall of an exclusive Devon school, the body of the head teacher is found hanging from the rafters. Hours earlier he’d received a package, and only he could understand the silent message it conveyed. It meant the end.’

The Teacher is a contemporary crime thriller in which DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles must work together in order to stop a series of grim murders, and uncover the identity of the killer.

This is a well-written book*; the narrative switched character perspectives, as well as forwards and backwards in time, which I liked. I was able to follow the story clearly, although it took me a while to piece certain characters or details together.

The dialogue felt completely natural and the short chapters kept my focus and moved the narrative along at a nice pace.

*Ironically, the first few chapters of the book seem to have not been proofread – the amount of missing punctuation and spelling mistakes were quite glaring, but I was fortunate that my particular charity shop copy had been re-edited by the previous owner with a Biro!

This book is probably one of the goriest thrillers I’ve ever read; no gruesome details were spared when it came to descriptions. Indeed, no topics were spared from The Teacher either – the book covers murder, suicide, rape and victim-blaming, gory violence, and extremist viewpoints.

I really enjoyed the thrills, uncovering the mystery behind the murders, and watching how the characters develop and link to one another.

However, there are some parts of The Teacher that wound. me. up.

Spoiler Warning: Minor

Firstly, a victim of rape is not believed when the incident is reported, and is blamed instead. I really felt for the character in these frustrating and upsetting moments – I can’t imagine what it must be like to have gone through such a horrific incident and have it dismissed as falsehood. Whilst The Teacher is merely a fiction, sadly, this situation is reality for some rape victims today.

Secondly, certain characters have different, warped perceptions of morality and subsequently, what is right and what is wrong. For some, the act of murder is seen as the crime it is, others see murder as justifiable if done in revenge, others see murder as an entirely acceptable act.

It was incredibly difficult to read the thoughts and dialogue of characters with such a vastly differing moral compass to my own, and it’s tricky to discuss this further without revealing some serious spoilers.

Yet, whilst these parts of The Teacher infuriated me, they still added to my overall enjoyment of the book, and I was glad Diamond’s writing was able to provoke such a strong emotional response from me.

I strongly recommend this book if you can stomach some gore and want to read a well-written, thrilling murder mystery.

***

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: Airborn

Read and Review: Airborn
  • Title: Airborn
  • Author: Kenneth Oppel
  • Published: 2004

Airborn is a young adult steampunk* / alternative history / adventure novel. The aeroplane has not yet been invented, and airships are the main form of transportation instead.

*Steampunk: A genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery.

The story follows two teenage characters: Matt Cruse, a cabin boy for the airship Aurora, and Kate de Vries, a wealthy passenger aboard the Aurora. After a rocky introduction and some differing opinions, the two grow closer and attempt to discover a new species of flying creature, following clues to its existence left behind by Kate’s grandfather.

Airborn was an unusual read, and definitely not a book I would normally choose.

The opening of the book was incredibly dramatic – a rare find for novels in the YA spectrum – and this made the story seem immediately engaging. Furthermore, the plot regularly features action-packed scenes with dramatic or unpredictable twists that truly felt as if they could have been in a film; Oppel’s writing in places is vivid and cinematic.

I quite liked the mix of genres; this assisted my enjoyment of the story greatly, because without an explicit genre to conform to, genre conventions (and stereotypes) were fewer and further between, and much more subtle – this is another rare find within the YA spectrum.

Airborn is written in the first-person, which is not my favourite narrative style. Yet I was impressed that expository information about the characters and the world in which Airborn is set was subtly dropped in throughout the book. This characterisation allows you to learn more, the more you read,  which is a lovely alternative to the “information dump” technique** favoured by many other first-person narratives.

**The “information dump” technique provides minor details that have little relation to the plot all in one go – usually at the very start of the book – and looks a little like this:

“I suppose I should tell you about myself. I’m 5’1, I have long brown hair and blue eyes. I like reading and writing. My favourite colour is blue. Anyway, back to the plot….”

Airborn Screenshot 1

However, despite my enjoyment of the story and the characterisation, I had some minor issues with some of Oppel’s writing. The first-person perspective, whilst it isn’t bad, leads to Matt describing his feelings frequently and unnecessarily generally these feelings involve a tingle*** down his spine, a tingle across his back or a tingle in his mind.

***I don’t believe anyone should tingle that much.

Oppel also overly relies on some words I have gradually been growing a dislike of, such as ‘chuckle’ and ‘guffaw’. I will admit though, these issues are nit-picky and didn’t damage my perception of the book.

Overall, I enjoyed the majority of Airborn, and if you like alternative history, science fiction, action and adventure, young adult, or any other genre – there’s a strong chance you too will like Airborn!

***

Thanks for reading!

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

– Judith

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (7)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (7)

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 have 3 novels on the go currently; Wise Children by Angela Carter, Middlemarch by George Eliot, and Dreamcatcher by Stephen King.

2. What did you recently finish reading?

Last month, I was in a reading slump and hadn’t read much at all. This month has been the exact opposite!

I’ve read:

  • [re-read] Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  • Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
  • Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
  • Painted by Kirsten McKenzie
  • Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel
  • Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
  • Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
  • The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
  • The Teacher by Katerina Diamond
  • The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  • Thinner by Richard Bachman / Stephen King

When I get going, I think my reading average is roughly 3 books a week!

I’m working on writing and posting book reviews for most of these books; the benefit of reading a lot not only means I can cross more books off my Goodreads list but I can generate more blog content!

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

I have no idea! I’ve been reading quite an eclectic mix of books at the minute, so I could pick up absolutely anything.


– Judith

#RBRT Read and Review: PAINTED by KIRSTEN MCKENZIE @Kiwimrsmac #BookReview #Horror

#RBRT Read and Review: PAINTED by KIRSTEN MCKENZIE @Kiwimrsmac #BookReview #Horror
  • Title: Painted
  • Author: Kirsten McKenzie
  • Published: 2017
  • Started: Monday 24th July 2017
  • Finished: Saturday 29th July 2017

Image via TheWomanInBlackWikia.

Painted is a paranormal horror and thriller.

‘If art can capture a soul, what happens when one of those souls escapes?

My Photo [Painted]

When art appraiser Anita Cassatt is sent to catalog the extensive collection of reclusive artist Leo Kubin, it isn’t only the chilly atmosphere of the secluded house making her shiver, it’s the silent audience of portraits clustered on every wall watching her, including those of the unfinished portrait on the artist’s easel. A portrait with an eerie familiarity.’ (Amazon)

Painted is the first book I’ve reviewed for Rosie’s Book Review Team since May – this seems like an age ago – and it was a brilliant book for getting back into RBRT reviews.

It was well-written, and I was engaged in the story throughout.

McKenzie’s creation of build-up and tension was subtle but well-done, creating a consistent tone of uneasiness, which made the climax of the book even more exciting.

There are strong parallels to Susan Hill’s horror novel The Woman In Black*, so much so that I imagined the house in a similar way to Eel Marsh House. This comparison is a good thing however, because I enjoyed both the novel and its film adaptation a lot.

*A lonely protagonist moves into an isolated house in order to complete work commissioned by their employer, but gradual ghostly occurrences unnerve them.

However, unlike The Woman In Black, the protagonist doesn’t remain completely isolated in the house; introduction of her co-workers adds new characters and allows McKenzie to develop a good cat-and-mouse style of horror, in addition to the paranormal activity.

My criticisms are small.

I think Painted occasionally relies too heavily on informing the reader of what the protagonist hasn’t seen. This is an understandable technique – its horror film equivalent would be zooming or panning to reveal a detail within the frame the audience can see clearly but the protagonist hasn’t. If Painted were a horror film (which I wish it was), I’ve no doubt this would be incredibly effective. However, translating this into written prose often within the story doesn’t have quite the same effect.

Furthermore, I would have preferred a more malignant ghostly presence – the ghosts were a little sympathetically written for my liking! For example, in The Woman In Black, although the reader learns the sad back-story behind the woman in black’s haunting, the reader also sees her as a ruthless and malignant ghost, which adds to the horror of the book.

These are nit-picky problems because all in all I really enjoyed this book, and I will most likely try to grab a paperback version at some point, in addition to my free e-book copy!

If you’d like to read a well-written horror story that doesn’t rely on cheap scares but genuine thrills, I strongly recommend Painted.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Painted is available to buy as a paperback or an e-book from Amazon UK or Amazon.com.

***

Thanks for reading! This is another #RBRT review.  Thanks to Kirsten McKenzie for sending me a free e-book copy to read. You can find her website here: http://www.kirstenmckenzie.com/www.kirstenmckenzie.com

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

– Judith

Read and Review: Thinner

Read and Review: Thinner

Sass Warning: Low/Mild

  • Title: Thinner
  • Author: Richard Bachman / Stephen King
  • Published: 1984

Thinner is one of five novels penned by King under a pseudonym, to test whether his books would be as well received if they weren’t linked to the King “brand”. It is about Billy Halleck, who is cursed to become thinner and thinner, after accidentally hitting and killing the daughter of Tadzu Lempke, a ‘Gypsy’*, with his car. Halleck begins to lose weight at an alarming rate, and further macabre events follow.

*This slang term refers to Romani people who originated from India, and took to a travelling lifestyle. Europeans incorrectly assumed that, because of their physical and cultural differences, these people must have been from Egypt.

First things first, Lempke and his family are Romani. Thinner does not challenge any negative racial stereotypes – indeed using the word ‘Gypsy’ is indication enough – and in many places conforms to negative stereotypes.

For example, Lempke is physically disfigured, thus making him a scarier antagonist. His family also dabble in curses, magic and the supernatural and their travelling business is treated as suspicious and untrustworthy. Moreover, the narrative of Thinner seems to push Halleck’s biased view against the ‘Gypsy’ group, a view which I struggled to (and ultimately couldn’t) share. I can only hope this negative representation of a racial group stemmed from a place of innocent ignorance.

The issue of race in Thinner is not the element which dissatisfies me most, but I wanted to mention it so there were no discrepancies about using the word ‘Gypsy’.

When I started reading Thinner, my initial thought was that it was a quick-paced story, (it’s one of King’s shorter novels) with a creepy premise.

Because he wrote under a pseudonym, there are a few fun self-aware moments such as:

“You were starting to sound a little like a Stephen King novel for a while there, but it’s not like that.”

“it starts to sound a little like Stephen King again, wouldn’t you say?”

(Thinner, page 115)

However, once the curse had taken its toll upon Halleck, as well as manifesting upon a few other characters in different ways, I felt the plot began to slow down.

Rather than a novel about the gruesome deterioration of Halleck’s body or some horrific supernatural occurrences, Thinner became a novel purely about a manhunt from Lempke, with lots of phone calls, interviews, and the exchanging of documents (exciting stuff).

The final confrontation with Lempke and the ‘Gypsy’ camp was somewhat exciting, but short-lived.  Furthermore, the nature of the curse completely changes in the last few chapters, making the ending Thinner infuriatingly unsatisfactory.

Thinner is the Stephen King novel I enjoyed the least, which is a real shame because normally King provides solid character development, engrossing plots and genuine horrors – all three of which were lacking in this novel.**

**The Stephen King illusion had to shatter eventually.

I’ve had a quick scan of other readers’ reviews on Goodreads and it would seem my sentiments are echoed similarly there.

If you’d like to read a really good Stephen King novel, you should probably choose something else.

***

Thanks for reading!

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

– Judith