Friday, 7 November 2014

Reading Wrap-Up | October 2014

October turned out to be a great reading month for me; I read eight books, and enjoyed most of them!

by Neil Gaiman

My Rating: 

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family . . . 

Carrying on from Blood Sinister, my last read of last month (which I reviewed here), I decided to cross another book off my Autumn TBR and finally pick up The Graveyard Book. I'd been putting this book off for years (I'm pretty sure I've owned my copy since I was around 14/15) because when I first tried to read it I couldn't get into it. Despite it being one of Gaiman's most popular books I was certain I wouldn't enjoy it, but when I picked it up at the beginning of this month I couldn't put it down. I loved this book, and if you want to see some more of my thoughts you can find my review here!

by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque and Stephen King

My Rating: 

Snyder's tale follows Pearl, a young woman living in 1920s Los Angeles, who is brutally turned into a vampire and sets out on a path of righteous revenge against the European monsters who tortured and abused her. And in King's story set in the days of America's Wild West, readers learn the origin of Skinner Sweet, the original American vampire – a stronger, faster creature than any vampire ever seen before. 

I went to the library at the beginning of October and borrowed a heap of books, including this one. I don't read that many graphic novels, which is something I'm trying to change, and even though I'm not usually the biggest vampire fan I thought this would be a great book to read as Halloween approaches. I enjoyed it and I'd like to read the other books in the series at some point. I reviewed it here if you'd like to see some more of my thoughts!

by Susan Hill

My Rating: 

A mysterious manuscript lands on the desk of the step-son of the late Dr Hugh Meredith, a country doctor with a prosperous and peaceful practice in a small English town. From the written account he has left behind, however, we learn that Meredith was haunted by events that took place years before, during his training as a junior doctor near London’s Fleet Street, in a neighbourhood virtually unchanged since Dickens’s times. 

Living then in rented digs, Meredith gets to know two other young medics, who have been carrying out audacious and terrifying research and experiments. Now they need the help of another who must be a doctor capable of total discretion and strong nerves. 

I hadn't even realised Susan Hill had written another ghost story, so when I came across this in my local library and it claimed to be a story about medical advancement gone wrong - a trope I love in my spooky stories - I was very excited. Sadly, I was bitterly disappointed with the result, but judging by the other ratings on Goodreads I'm one of the only people out there who didn't enjoy it. If you'd like to know more about why I didn't like it, you can find my review here!

by Daphne du Maurier

My Rating: 

Working as a lady's companion, the heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Her future looks bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Max de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. She accepts, but whisked from glamourous Monte Carlo to the ominous and brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding housekeeper, Mrs Danvers...

Not since Jane Eyre has a heroine faced such difficulty with the Other Woman. An international bestseller that has never gone out of print,Rebecca is the haunting story of a young girl consumed by love and the struggle to find her identity.

I've been meaning to read Rebecca for years, and after finally reading my first du Maurier, Frenchman's Creek, last month, I decided it was time to delve into du Maurier's masterpiece. If you can't tell by my rating, I really, really, really enjoyed this book. It turned out to be the ideal read for October - it's quite a spooky read, especially with the presence of that horrid Mrs Danvers on every other page - and I'm so glad to finally cross it off my TBR. I've basically discovered a newfound love for Daphne du Maurier, and I'm trying to read as many of her books as possible. I just wish I'd read her sooner!

by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

My Rating: 

Best known for the 1892 title story of this collection, a harrowing tale of a woman's descent into madness, Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote more than 200 other short stories. Seven of her finest are reprinted here.

Written from a feminist perspective, often focusing on the inferior status accorded to women by society, the tales include "turned," an ironic story with a startling twist, in which a husband seduces and impregnates a naïve servant; "Cottagette," concerning the romance of a young artist and a man who's apparently too good to be true; "Mr. Peebles' Heart," a liberating tale of a fiftyish shopkeeper whose sister-in-law, a doctor, persuades him to take a solo trip to Europe, with revivifying results; "The Yellow Wallpaper"; and three other outstanding stories.

These charming tales are not only highly readable and full of humor and invention, but also offer ample food for thought about the social, economic, and personal relationship of men and women — and how they might be improved.

The Yellow Wallpaper is another story I've been meaning to read for some time now, so after I finished Rebecca I decided to pick up this little collection of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short stories, and I liked them! The Yellow Wallpaper turned out to be slightly different to what I expected, though I'm not 100% sure what I expected, but I still liked it and I can understand why it's heralded as a piece of feminist fiction. I also very much enjoyed Turned, another story in the collection, and I'm pleased to have finally read something written by Gilman!

by Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove

My Rating: 

In Marvel 1602, award-winning writer Neil Gaiman presents a unique vision of the Marvel Universe set four hundred years in the past. Classic Marvel icons such as the X-Men, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and Daredevil appear in this intriguing world of 17th-century science and sorcery, instantly familiar to readers, yest subtly different in this new time.Marvel 1602combines classic Marvel action and adventure with the historically accurate setting of Queen Elizabeth I's reign to create a unique series unlike any other published by Marvel Comics.

Classic Marvel heroes in the early 17th century? Yes please! As soon as I discovered that Marvel 1602 exists, which was only a few months ago, and that it was written by Neil Gaiman, I immediately ordered myself a copy. It took me a while to get through, mainly because it was quite a thick graphic novel compared to others I've read and I enjoyed just dipping in and out of it, but I did like it, though I'm disappointed I didn't like it more. I think when it comes to Marvel I'm always going to enjoy watching it more than reading it (and I think Marvel 1602 would make a great film or TV show) but I did enjoy this. I haven't decided yet whether I'm going to read the rest of the series.

by Susanne Alleyn

My Rating: 

This is not a book on how to write historical fiction. It is a book on how not to write historical fiction.

If you love history and you’re hard at work on your first historical novel, but you’re wondering if your medieval Irishmen would live on potatoes, if your 17th-century pirate would use a revolver, or if your hero would be able to offer Marie-Antoinette a box of chocolate bonbons...

(The answer to all these is “Absolutely not!”)

...then Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders is the book for you.

Medieval Underpants will guide you through the factual mistakes that writers of historical fiction—-both beginners and professionals—-most often make, and show you how to avoid them. From fictional characters crossing streets that wouldn’t exist for another sixty years, to the pitfalls of the Columbian Exchange (when plants and foods native to the Americas first began to appear in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and vice versa), to 1990s slang in the mouths of 1940s characters, Susanne Alleyn exposes the often hilarious, always painful goofs that turn up most frequently in fiction set in the past.

This month I also finally finished this piece of non-fiction I've been dipping in and out of. As a writer of historical fiction, books like these can come in very useful - and this book certainly gave me some great quotes for my MA essay! - but I think it could have been written better. Even though there were parts of it that were fun and other parts that were very useful, for the most part I felt as though Alleyn needed to get off her high horse and stop treating her readers like they're stupid. At times there was something quite condescending about her tone that made this a lot less enjoyable than it could have been.

by Diane Setterfield

My Rating: 

A childish act of cruelty with terrible consequences. 

A father desperate to save his daughter. 

A curious bargain with a stranger in black. 

And Bellman & Black is born.

My final read of October was my first foray into Diane Setterfield, known for her other novel The Thirteenth Tale. This book was an odd one. I really, really enjoyed it; Setterfield's writing style is gorgeous and I loved how this novel is reminiscent of the Victorian Gothic genre. However, the more I think about it the more I realise that it's quite a misleading story; I think anyone who reads the blurb will expect an entirely different story to the one they get, I know I did, but because of my love for historical fiction and Setterfield's lyrical writing I didn't mind that. Having read the reviews on Goodreads, though, I know there are a lot of disappointed readers. One of the main issues, I think, is that everyone is describing Bellman & Black as a ghost story, but it's not as simple as that; it's a very subtle ghost story hidden within a family saga, so if you're expecting something like The Woman in Black you're going to be disappointed.

Those are all the books I read in October! What did you read last month?

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