Friday, 29 January 2016

Audiobook Review - Pride and Prejudice

Have I ever told you I'm not a fan of classic? Am sure we've had this discussion. But, in case we haven't, I'm not the biggest fan of classics. Not because I hate any book that is over a certain of years old. It's just they worry me. These books are "Classics", which means they are going to be not accessible to me reading them. They are going to be hard work. 

But, here's the thing. I don't want to be. I want to try new things. That's the plan for this year - be braver in my reading habits and if I want to read/audiobook a book that's a little outside of my comfort zone, do it! 

So, when Audible announced they were going to be releasing a new audiobook of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, read by Rosamund Pike, I thought "This is it!". I mean, I have watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved, two web series based on Austen's work and I really enjoyed watching them so I wanted to read Pride and Prejudice and Emma. Just wasn't sure when. But this audiobook came out and I thought "Sod it! Am buying this and am going to listen to it!"

Now, we all must know the plot to Pride and Prejudice. If not, I'm not sure I can do the book justice, but am going to try. In the 19th century, Mr and Mrs Bennet have five unmarried daughters. When Mr Bingley and his friend, Mr Darcey, move into neighbourhood, Mrs Bennet thinks they would be perfect for her daughters. While Mr Bingley takes a liking to the eldest, Jane, it is her sister, Elizabeth, who we follow as she and Mr Darcy clash with each other while trying to adapt to society.  

That's the vaguest I think I can write it. I know there is a hell of a lot more - pride, prejudice, first impressions, second impressions, that immortal first sentence ("It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife" - I somehow doubt that if Austen was alive today, she wouldn't have used that sentence...).

So, reactions. I am surprised by how much I enjoyed myself while listening to this. My biggest fear with this was going to be hard or near impossible for me to get my head round. Like I said earlier on, I had a huge worry that this was going to be inaccessible and I was going to have to watch Lizzie Bennet so I can get my head round what was happening. But, I didn't. It was so easy to get into the story and to keep up. I didn't have any moments when etiquette from the time period made me go "Wait, what?" - I understood and sniggered a little on how relevant it still is today, even though this book was written how many years ago? 

This book was, also, quite subtle. I found that very surprising. Yes, I know the basic plot with Elizabeth and Mr Darcy - I knew how it ended - but it was still a surprise over how subtlety their story unfolded and how both characters grew because of the events happening around them. 

There were a few things I didn't like about the writing. My main is dialogue. I like dialogue, but there were times we had characters speaking, but we had no idea what they said because it was written in a paragraph (aka "They talked for quite some time about the weather"). While i get why this is the case,  there were one or two times I was "Can we not hear them speak?"

And the audiobook. How did I feel about Rosamund Pike's performance? For the most part, I enjoyed it. There were one or two characters who voices took me out of the story. For example, Rosamund Pike's take on Mr Collins's voice always threw me as it was very breathless. There was one or two times I was worried that he was on the verge of an asthma attack. 

Barring one or two things, I did enjoy myself with this. I'm not hugely in love with this book like I expected, but I enjoyed myself and am planning to read another Austen sometime in the future (am thinking either Emma or Persuasion). Or maybe risk PD James's crime "sequel" to Pride and Prejudice, Death Comes to Pemberley. But I am glad I finally read this and got why everyone either adores or hugely respects this book...

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Book Review - Onyx

I have this thing about reading books on my Kindle. If I start something, I really want to finish it. I know, I shouldn't. Aren't I always the one telling you guys that life's too short to read crap books? ... yeah. I am. But I started this in the height of my reading slump and a few weeks ago, I got out of it so I decided to try again.

The second book in the Lux series, Katy finds herself linked to Daemon Black, thanks to his alien mojo. And now, because of this, Daemon wants to prove his feelings for her are real. But Katy's not so sure.

If only their feelings for each other was the only problems. The Department of Defense is in town and if they find out about their connection, both Katy and Daemon are in trouble. And with a new kid in town who knows too much about Lux and Daemon beginning to wonder what happened to his brother...

The truth could get someone killed and not everyone will survive the lies...

Oh, Onyx. Where did it go wrong?

Ok, let me rephrase that. If I had read this immediately after I had read the first book in the series, Obsidian (which I read 2-ish years ago - review for that is here), I would have devoured it. It would have been addictive reading.

But. reading this now, I have problems. I'm not sure if I would have seen these problems if I read this back in 2013, but I see them now, and that made my reading pleasure less so.

I found the plot slightly predictable. Which isn't a bad thing, folks. But I expected more from this. I thought there would be more twists and a few things I wouldn't see coming. But I guessed them fairly quickly and when I was proven right, I thought "Oh, is that it?". And because of that, Onyx came across like an info-dump book.

Also, there were a few chapters in the middle of the book that annoyed me. It's stupid, I know, but I felt that they were repeating themselves. Repeating why Katy was doing the things she was doing, why she was telling/not telling Daemon about them, repeating information we knew. It felt like the book hadn't hit a certain word/chapter count so padding was needed.

Also, was it me, but were there several moments in this book where we had slut-shaming? Sorry, nope. I get why this topic is reference in YA books - because it happens in real life - but no, I don't want to read about that. Nope. Am going to make a small rule to self over if I see this in future reads from now on...

I feel like I am being really negative on this book. I don't want to be. There are elements of this book I really liked. I liked Katy's and Daemon's relationship and how it evolved throughout the book. I liked the snarky dialogue between Katy and Daemon. It's one of the things I liked the most about this book - their dialogue sizzled. I liked how easy it was the read and how there wasn't a dull moment - there was always something that pushed the story forward.

While I am not giving up with this author - I have Oblivion and Obsession on my kindle and both have connections to this series - I felt a bit let down with this book.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The Tale of Kitty in Boots

It was announced yesterday (no warning at all!) that there is going to be a new Beatrix Potter story being released in September of this year! There was a TV programme of More4 in the evening, announcing this but the news broke in the morning. 

And it sent the news (and Twitter) into a frenzy! 

The story was discovered by fluke. One of the publishers from Penguin Random House (which owns Frederick Warne & Co - the publishers who still publish Beatrix Potter's work to this day) found a reference to "Kitty In Boots" in an out-of-print biography a few years ago and discovered a rough manuscript of the story at the Victoria and Albert Museum, along with a rough colour sketch of Kitty in Boots (please see left) and a pencil sketch of the villainous Mr Todd. 

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter's birth, Fredrick Warne & Co will be publishing this story with illustrations done by Quentin Blake sometime in September 2016. 

Is is wrong am quite excited over this? It's been YEARS since I read a Beatrix Potter book (I can still remember the covers that held my attention as a child!) and I think this will be wonderful. I am a little uncertain if Quentin Blake's style is suitable for a Beatrix Potter, but I won't pass judgement to I actually have the book in my hand and I have read the story. 

Of course am going to buy it. This is me we're talking about. 

And this makes me realise that I have only read a handful of her works - maybe it's time I reread some of them and discover the rest. What do you guys think? Any that I must investigate or return to?

I feel so sorry for my library over the next few months... Or the people behind the official Beatrix Potter Twitter feed, where I will annoy them with questions and trying to shamelessly book-flirt information out of them... 

What Makes Us Human - Wrap-Up



This was such an interesting and weird tour. Interesting as I found reading/watching everyone's thoughts on this question (and it wasn't an easy question, I grant you) but weird as I have never been in charge of a tour. I usually have an idea and then don't do anything about it. 

Not this one! Not this time. And because this tour was weirdly fun, I might do this again. Maybe. I'm not sure. If I did, I would like to make it a bit bigger and more international... Or maybe something linked to a book series I want to reread...

But let me recover from this one first before I start plotting again, ok? 

Before I give you all the links (in case you missed the tour), I have a few tiny thank yous to say. To you lovely people who followed and read the tour, tweeted it, Facebook it, Instagram it, spread the word, I hope you liked it and it made you think. 

To everyone involved in the tour - Laura, Stevie, Michelle, Rhys, Virginie & Vivienne - thank you so much for taking part. I know it was a weird idea, but to have you guys on board and giving unique opinions and ideas on this question was wonderful. A second thank you goes to Vivienne who I emailed before everyone else, saying "You do blog tours. I need an opinion on if this is a good idea or not...", thank you for telling me to go for it! 

Anyway, now we have that out of the way, if you missed the tour or want to reread the thoughts of everyone who took part, please click on the below links. And thank you again. 

Wednesday 20th January 2016 - Sisterspooky
Thursday 21st January 2016 - SableCaught
Friday 22nd January 2016 - Tales of Yesterday
Saturday 23rd January 2016 - Thirst for Fiction
Sunday 24th January 2016 - The Pewter Wolf (Yours truly...)
Monday 25th January 2016 - Chouett
Tuesday 26th January 2016 - Serendipity Reviews

Sunday, 24 January 2016

What Makes Us Human?

When I came up with this idea last year, I was excited over this. I was so excited to see everyone's reactions on what they thought made us human. All the good reasons why we're human. I wanted this tour to be positive, happy, exciting, uplifting.

I have loads of reasons of what makes us human. Love, empathy, compassion to name but a few. But when I started to think about my post for this tour, I kept circling over one idea. But it went against what I wanted for this tour - it went against everything I want for this tour and what I believe - so I kept pushing it away. But it kept coming back. So, here it is. This is my post in the What Makes Us Human tour.

What makes us human is the acts of cruelty we can inflicted on others and how others enjoy the pain caused.

Yep. This post is going to be dark and is going to look at evil. Sorry about that, but hear me out and stay with me.

The world is a dark place. We can turn on the news and we watch horror after horror. And most of them is humans causing pain and hurt onto other humans. Some people believe its for the greater good. Some people do it accidental and without meaning to. Some people just enjoy causing pain.

Even the stuff we do to each other which doesn't make the news can be seen as cruel. Cheating of your partner. Spreading that piece of gossip. Saying that tiny white lie. We do cruel things without realising it. And sometimes, we enjoy the pain we cause. In most cases, the pain and damage we cause is small, tiny, insignificant. But it's the others, the aftermath can be devastating and heartbreaking.

Which means me onto another reason on what makes us human. Something which is hugely important. More important than the cruelty and the evil that we see in the world.

What makes us human is belief.

We believe.

For every act of evil and cruelty, we believe in the act of kindness and goodness. After the horrid shootings in Paris last year, the city defied the act of terror by donating blood. When there is a natural disaster, people donate their time and money towards helping those in need. When someone we know and love (or hate) is in danger, most of us try and come to the person's aid.

We believe that evil will be defeated. And that, to me, is what truly makes us human: our power to believe in better.

If you wish to continue with What Makes Us Human tour, tomorrow's stop is Chouett so check her post out at But before I leave you, I am going to leave you with this quote from JK Rowling:

"We do not need magic to transform our world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better."

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

#re3 - Quidditch Through The Ages

Crawling out of reading slumps are hard! And I have only just, I think, got out of it. But, because I am doing quite a few things on the blog this month, am scheduling my reviews/#re3 so by the time you read this, I shall be back to my reading self so HA HA! Eat that, reading slump!!!

So, Quidditch Through the Ages. As you guys are aware, I reread all seven Harry Potter novels last year (and enjoyed myself so much! I am thinking of reread one of them later this year) and I wanted to continue the Potter-ness with reading the novellas, the movies and maybe the stage shop! 

This is a book that Harry, Ron and Hermione read during their time in Hogwarts. In it, we discover the history of Quidditch, how the balls came into play with the game, the roles, the teams of Quidditch from the UK and from around the world and other things that relate to the wizarding world's most popular sport. 

This is for the Harry Potter fans. There's no two-ways about it. Plus, when you buy a copy, the money goes towards comic Relief so it's a win-win! (Not sure if this is the same thing outside of the UK). 

What I found fascinating was how much detail JK Rowling put into Quidditch. Which shows us that JK Rowling had it all planned out or knew enough of the world she was writing when this novella was written (remember, Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts was written after the publication of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Plus, with this book, there was lots of little hints and nods to the previous Harry Potters. It was fun, fast reread and it made me want to read the others before the year is through. 

And recently, I discovered that Quidditch is now a real Muggle sport so reading this made me go "I wonder if anyone has stolen these Quidditch teams's names?"

Monday, 18 January 2016

A Series of Unfortunate Illustrations - Part 1

While I was reading they first three novels in the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room and The Wide Window), I couldn't help looking at the illustrations by Brett Hellquist. They always caught my attention when reading the books and I wanted to show some of them to you for two reasons. First, the illustrations shown in the UK editions might not be the same as what's shown in the US/international editions. And second, as illustrators aren't always shown the praise they deserved, I wanted to go "Look at these! Aren't they great?!"

So, in order of each book (The Bad Beginning to start and The Wide Window to end), let's get cracking!

I can't help but love the first and last images I used in this post. They always caught my eye and I just love the detail in them. They could inspire stories (don't get me started! I could think of ideas for short stories based on some of these illustrations!)

If I continue with my reading/rereading of the Series of Unfortunate Events, I would love to show off more of Brett's illustrations and any other illustrations I find in any novels I read. Would that be ok with you guys? With Series of Unfortunate Events, it will be each 3 books per post with book 13 in series ether being put on its own or clubbed up with books 10, 11 and 12. 

I hope to do another of these post soon. But if you like what you have seen, you can check out Brett Helquist's work at

Sunday, 17 January 2016

What Makes Us Human? Tour

Hi everyone! This is a surprise announcement over something I have tried to set up! 

I am here to announce a small blog tour between myself and several other lovely book bloggers, asking one question: what makes us human?

Ok, quick history lesson: This idea came to me last summer when I was listening to the radio. On it, there was someone who was talking about this very question. I remember disagreeing very strongly with his wonderings, but as the day went on, I kept thinking about the points he made and going, "Yeah... he does have a valid point...". And the question stuck with me. It got stuck in my brain and I wanted to explore it via this blog, but decided to sit on it for a while and decide the best way to tackle it. 

A few months later (November, I think), I was watching the news in horror. There was one story (and I fear we all know which) that made me really question humanity as a whole. And that was when I knew I had to put this idea into action. So, over the course of the week, I emailed some of my book blogger pals, asking if they wanted to be involved, and they rose to the challenge! Because of that, I love each of you so much! 

So, on this tour, starting this Wednesday, each blogger will answer the question; what makes us human? So, who is taking part? Well... 

Wednesday 20th January 2016 - Sisterspooky
Thursday 21st January 2016 - SableCaught
Friday 22nd January 2016 - Tales of Yesterday
Saturday 23rd January 2016 - Thirst for Fiction
Sunday 24th January 2016 - The Pewter Wolf (That's me! *panics over my post*)
Monday 25th January 2016 - Chouett
Tuesday 26th January 2016 - Serendipity Reviews

I hope you guys all join in with this tour, ask questions about humanity and we can all have a healthy (but civil) debate over this question and all our answers. To everyone who told part in this tour, thank you and, if I ever decide to do this again, you have my blessing to grab a newspaper and hit me round the head with it in an Edna-like fashion or cheer me on! 

See you when the tour starts!

Friday, 15 January 2016

Rebel of the Sands Trailer

I'm currently reading this now (Hopefully, I will read this before the book's release. Stupid reading slump throwing me off my reading game for a month!), but when the lovely Hannah emailed to say they were going to release a book trailer for Alwyn Hamilton's Rebel of the Sands, I knew I had to show you guys.

So, with no further ado, TA-DAH!!!

Thursday, 14 January 2016

#re3 - The Wide Window

This should be the last Lemony Snicket book to talk about in the coming weeks. Sorry, but had a really bad time with last month's reading slump, and I just seem to go towards the first three books of Series of Unfortunate Events (not sure why, but hey-ho!)

The Baudelaire orphans travel to Lake Lachrymose to stay with their relative, Aunt Josephine, who seems to be afraid of everything. The front door mat, the stove, door handles, the lake itself (but the lake, she has good reason to fear it). And her love for grammar is... well...

But the Baudelaires are trying to make the best of it. Expect... expect that Count Olaf is after them and their fortune, and will stop at nothing for it. And they see him with his fake disguise that seems to fool all the adults, and with Hurricane Herman on the way (a hurricane? On a lake?!), will they escape him again?

This has the same feel as the first two books, which is very nice in a weird way. It's nice that, this early in the series, we know the rhyme of the series (though this is beginning to wear a bit thin). And it's interesting to meet the guardians as,over the course of these three books, each has been different and quite unique. Count Olaf being the villain so we have to meet him from the off. Uncle Monty from The Reptile Room, who cared for the Baudelaires deeply (and they to him) and wanted them to see the world and love life. And now, Aunt Josephine, who loved grammar and her safety more than the children's care, but is still an adult who, in the series, is quite an interesting character. She is quirky, which fits pretty well in this quirky yet gothic read.

But still, tiny things bugged me. Like I said earlier on, this is beginning to fit into a pattern (Baudelaire's go to guardian, Count Olaf appears in bad disguise, the children see through disguise but no adult does [how stupid are these adults?!], guardian goes missing/dies, children prove Count Olaf is Count Olaf, Count Olaf escapes and Baudelaire go to next guardian, thus the cycle continues!) and while this is ok for the start of this 13 book series, this can't be the pattern for all 13 books! It just can't! Even for a middle grade series, this can't be the pattern to each book as readers will bore quickly!

But there was something I saw in this reread that I missed the first time. There are two tiny details in the final chapter that hint to series as a whole. On page 211, Lemony Snicket mentions the following sentence (I put in bold the bit that needs to be taken notice of): "And we can never know exactly what was happening to Aunt Josephine as the children sat on the dock, unable to help her, but I will say that eventually - about the time when the Baudelaire orphans were forced to attend a miserable boarding school...", Snicket is revealing what is going to happen in two book times, in a book titled "The Austere Academy". 

Also, four pages earlier, Count Olaf pipes up something, hinting to everyone who is paying close attention that he was involved in the fire that made the Baudelaires orphaned and killing both their parents. He says, after Mr Poe tells Count Olaf will be arrested and charged for fraud, murder and endangerment of children, "And arson". This is the earliest hint, to my knowledge, that Count Olaf gives to show he was involved in the fire and yet, no one seems to have heard him.

Am oddly enjoying (up to a point) rereading these books, I might continue rereading and discovering (Remember, I didn't read the whole series and I didn't read the books I have read in order [1, 2, 3, 10, 13 then 4]) for rest of the year. Maybe. Till Netflix air their version of the series...

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

#re3 - The Reptile Room

I know I said I'm not allowed to read the same author in a row this year. But am reading and writing this in 2015 so am ok! Not breaking my own rule! Plus, at the time of writing this, am reading the third book in the Series of the Unfortunate Events: The Wide Window as I'm trying to get out of my reading slump!

In this second novel, the Baudelaire children is moved into the care of their Uncle Monty and his collection of reptiles. But Count Olaf is coming for them and their fortune... And nothing is going to stand in his way. Not an giddy man, his collection of reptiles or three smart children...

Out of Bad Beginning and Reptile Room, I prefer Reptile Room. I'm not sure why, but I think it's because this is the start of the pattern where the Baudelaire go to a relative and think they are safe, but Count Olaf appear (in an awfully bad disguise) and the children tell the adults who Count Olaf is (and they don't believe them), they prove Olaf is Olaf and he gets away, meaning the Baudelaires have to go to another relative.

It still has that 2D feel to this where characters are slightly cardboard - Olaf especially. It fits the start of this series, but this is a 13 book long series and each book is slowly getting thicker so I hope this doesn't continue.

I am intrigued to see where this series goes, but I'm fearing that this will do a rinse and repeat.

However, I like the little nods to the readers as they are on the same page as the Baudelaire and I like how Snicket interacts with the reader. For example, there is one page just covered in one word repeated over and over again - ever. Plus, Brett Helquist's illustrations are wonderful - I love looking at them and I am planning to do a blog post on his art within the first three novels within this series.

But yes, I liked this book more than The Bad Beginning but it still isn't as good as I would like. I think this is because I have read so much and I'm not the book series's target audience. But this is a fun read that getting me out of a reading slump!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

#re3 - The Bad Beginning

Let's start the year of book reviews and rereads as we mean to go on, shall we?

The Bad Beginning is the first book in the Series of Unfortunate Events series - a series I have been thinking on and off to reading (or rereading) throughout the course of this year (it's only an idea and I'm still not sure if I am going to do this due to time and the amount of books in this series!).

The main thing I took away from this reread was that, yes, this is middle grade and the style reflects that. It's very interesting to return to middle grade books after reading a lot of YA and adult and the main reason I picked up Bad Beginning was because I hit a reading slump and I thought this would be fast and easy read. Which is was as I made it stretch over four/five days (real life and reading slumps suck sometime).

But because this is a middle grade read, I felt quite nit-picky over some the things. It felt like an old fashioned book for children where the adults are useless (Mr Poe - oh, let's not start my fury on him!) or just clueless to what's happening while the kids know what's going on and figure out what to do. This is ok, but having this stark black and white between adults and children bother me. I like my characters to be flawed and rounded, but having one age group painted as one thing and the others painted another bothers me.

Another thing I noticed was Count Olaf. He's a bit of a panto villain, isn't he? You know he's the bad guy, you know he's going to do bad things but you know he will be found out. You can boo and hiss at him. I know, as the series goes on, he becomes less of a panto villain and will be more rounded a character, but in these early books, he's going to be a 2-dimension baddie.

The only other thing I want to mention. I had trouble trying to figure out when this series is set. No information is given but am curious. The world has a gothic feel so I first thought 1920s/1930s but with cars and walkie-talkies, it must be later - 1940s/1950s? But if that's the case, the gothic feel would be gone.

But saying that though, if this series was out when I was 8 or 10, I would have devoured this series. I would be obsessed with these characters and Snicket's writing style. I loved the first few lines in chapter 2 that tackles about death and grief because it's so true. Plus, there are moments where Snicker did tricks with his writing that I've not seen before: when Klaus was reading a book very late at night and was reading the same line over and over again, Snicket just repeated the same sentence two or three times to give the reader the same feeling Klaus had. And I know in later books, Snicket continues with these little tricks and I am intrigued to find them.

Also, tiny sidenote before I leave you is how much I liked the illustrations used, drawn by Brett Helquist. They are fun and I really like the style - and feel they don't get as much attention as they should as we bracket his art with Lemony Snicket. But, as I move forward with me maybe rereading/reading this series, I hope I continue to enjoy Brett's work.

Friday, 8 January 2016

T.R. Richmond Talks What She Left

I want to welcome T.R. Richmond to the blog today. T.R Richmond wrote the novel, What She Left, which have had people comparing it to Gone Girl on Goodreads and Amazon. The story starts with Alice Salmon, a young woman who died when returning to her university town one night.

But as Professor Cooke begins to look into Alice's life via her paper and internet trail, he begins to wonder...

To celebrate this book's US release (out next week, for those of you in the States), T.R Richmond has joined us to reveal why he wrote What She Left in the style that he has.

Before I hand it over to T.R. Richmond, I just want to say thank you to him for taking time out to write this post. I know how busy he must be, but thank you nevertheless.

I expect most people who read this blog, as well as loving traditional “paper” books, also have an electronic reading device. 

It’s not just how we read novels that’s changed in the last decade or so, however. The way we get our news and information has changed more in the last 10 years than it did in the previous 100.

Long gone are the days of keeping up with what’s going on in the world by taking one newspaper or catching one radio or TV news bulletin. The internet allows us to hear about local, national and global events in a host of ways from a multitude of sources. 

It's also true of how we communicate with friends, colleagues and loved ones. We interact in a variety of disparate, episodic methods. We text, email, tweet, blog, post on Facebook and use picture-sharing websites. So many ways, these days, to get in touch, stay in touch and to hear – and spread – news, views and information.
I wanted to reflect this in my novel, so rather than featuring one single narrative voice included multiple subjective accounts and snippets. My lead character was a 25-year-old woman who was part of the Facebook generation – it felt appropriate to tell her story in this way. 

Of course, it means readers have to do a bit of “join-the-dotting” (is that an actual expression?) as they piece together the story of Alice Salmon’s life and, ultimately, the mystery surrounding her death. But hopefully that’s the fun bit – they get to “play detective” as they sort fact from fiction, work out who to believe, and come to their own conclusions about what she was like and what she left. But this is actually no different to what we all do every day – we piece together news and the narratives of our own lives. 

As for why I opted for multiple first-person narrators, well, I’d always enjoyed this form (we’ve all read Gone Girl, right, and I’m currently watching a TV show called The Affair which also does it brilliantly). It feels like an “honest” approach because we all see things from our own perspective and are all, in fact, unreliable narrators of our own lives. I’m also a fan of epistolary novels (everything from Dracula to Bridget Jones) so was drawn to this format.
Ultimately, I wanted to explore how representative of us the traces we leave behind in this digital age are – because, more than at any point in history, we all leave a “footprint” nowadays. 

So this was the challenge I set myself – to write a suspense story that collated a life (and the circumstances of a death) from this footprint. In some ways, I wanted What She Left to feel like an unfolding news story, as well as a novel.

I might have set out with such motives, but when you get into the heart of a story, the characters take over. It not so much then about what I wanted – more about what they told me they were going to do. At times, it felt like I was doing a jigsaw puzzle, but that’s how life feels, isn’t it.

Writing What She Left highlighted to me how much I enjoy the digital world – it reminded me of its joys, its power and its omnipresence. That said, it’ll never replace that most old-fashioned and wonderful of things – face-to-face human contact. Just as electronic reading devices will never totally replace traditional books.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Book Review - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I'm back reviewing books again! No more weird End of Year/New Year's Resolution messages! And the name of these have changed! Bye bye Goodreads - it was a good run - but I think, for the sake of people who don't know my blog does book reviews, am changing your name to Book Review! So, out with the old and in with the new!

Last year, I said I was going to reread all seven Harry Potter books. And I did! I COMPLETED MY CHALLENGE! THROW THE CONFETTI AND LET'S CELEBRATE!!!

I admit, I cheated with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as I didn't read it, but I audiobooked it. The lovely people at Midas asked if I fancied reviewing some audiobooks via Audible and when they offered Harry Potter, I jumped at the chance to listen to Stephen Fry reading Deathly Hallows.

Now, for those of you not sure what Deathly Hallows is about, let me be as brief as possible - then we can have a real discussion about this book. Harry has a mission that Dumbledore has left him: find all of Lord Voldemort's Horocruxes and then kill Voldemort, freeing the magical world of his evil. But with Dumbledore dead, leaving Harry very few clues and Voldemort slowly taking over, how can Harry complete this seemingly impossible task...?

This book very much divide the fandom. Yes, it's the last book in the series and yes, it does do a lot of things the series has been running towards, but it does divide the fandom as most of the book, the main characters are camping/hiding and have very little idea on what they are doing. Which is the entire point! The main characters are seventeen years old and have NO IDEA what they are doing! And even though very little happens, a lot happens at the same time. A lot of character development, plotting, explaining. Yes, it's not as action packed as we all hoped (compare to the previous books), but this book does serve a purpose!

It was refreshing to come back to this book as, compared to the others, I haven't read this as often. I think I have read it once or two (normally, I would reread Philisopher's Stone, Prisoner of Azkaban or Goblet of Fire) so it was nice to go back to the final book in this series, sit down and pay attention to little details and clues.

Stephen Fry is a good narrator and his reading of this book (if not, the whole series) is great as he slows readers down and shows things that we readers miss in our reading run. There were several things in this relistening that I went "How did I miss that?!" or events that happened that, because of Mr Fry's reading, made it all the more emotional (let's not go down that route, shall we?). At times, though, Stephen's voice did seem flat or the character's voice didn't match the voice he used a few minutes prior, but this could be down to a number of reasons so am going to be very kind on this front.

But listening to this was very interesting. We all know the immortal line Mrs Weasley screams at Bellatrix (Gif below) but it was surprising how much swearing Ron and a few other characters got away with. Yes, these characters are adults so yes, they can swear but remember, this series is usually placed in the 8-12 reading range in book shops and libraries so go figure that logic. (But compared to The Casual Vacancy, the swearing in this book was very bare on the ground).

What was also interesting to remember was Ron's return. When he left, it was a shocking moment in the book the first read and seeing this build was a long time coming. Seeing Harry's and Hermione's reaction to his departure was hard, but seeing him return and their reactions was interesting. In the movie, Harry forgives Ron very quickly because Ron saved Harry's life and destroys the Locket Horocrux, and Hermione forgives Ron after a few scenes (mainly after Ron's speech). Even in the movie, he still got a bit of stubbornness because he goes "Of course not, I only destroyed a bloody Horocrux! Won't that change anything?" when Hermione says "This doesn't change anything?"). The book, however, is different. While Harry forgives Ron very quickly, Hermione doesn't forgive till much later in the book. Ron's return upsets Hermione because he left and then, he just returns. Even his story doesn't soften Hermione, who talks to him quite coldly and lofty. Ron has to work hard over the coming days/weeks/months to gain her trust and forgiveness again, but in the movie, because of time frame, it happens much quicker.

My main moment where I love that Hermione's attitude towards Ron and even, up to a point, Harry is when they return to the campsite after destroying the Locket Horocrux and Hermione sees them in The Silver Doe chapter. Let me get the UK hardback and US hardback and get the quotes.

"You - complete - arse - Ronald - Weasley!"
She [Hermione] punctured every word with a blow: Ron backed away, shielding his head as Hermione advances.
"You - crawl - back - here - after - weeks - and - weeks - oh, where's my wand?"
"Hermione!" said Harry. "Calm -"
"I will not calm down!" she screamed. Never before had he seen her lose control like this; she looked quite demented. "Give me back my wand! Give it back to me!"
"Hermione, will you please -"
"Don't you tell me what to do, Harry Potter!" she screeched. "Don't you dare! Give it back now! And YOU!"
She was pointing at Ron in dire accusation: It was like a malediction, and Harry could not blame Ron for retreating several steps. 
"I came running after you! I called after you! I begged you to come back!"
"I know," Ron said, "Hermione, I'm sorry, I'm really -"
"Oh, you're sorry!"
She laughed, a high-pitched, out-of-control sound; Ron looked at Harry for help, but Harry merely grimaced his helplessness. 
"You come back after weeks - weeks - and you think it's all going to be all right if you say sorry?" 
(Pages 309 to 310 in UK hardback edition & pages 380 - 381 in US hardback)

"Gosh, what a gripping story," Hermione said in a lofty voice she adopted when wishing to wound. "You must have been simply terrified. Meanwhile, we went to Goodrich's Hollow and, let's think, what happened there, Harry? Oh yes, You-Know-Who's snake turned up, it nearly killed both of us, and then You-Know-Who himself arrived and missed us by about a second."
"What?" Ron said, gaping from her to Harry, but Hermione ignored him. 
"Imagine losing fingernails, Harry! That really puts our sufferings into perspective, doesn't it?"
(Page 311 in the UK hardback edition and pages 382 & 383 in US hardback edition)

Another thing that is interesting is that this is the book we look at Dumbledore and the childhood vision Harry and the readers have of Dumbledore is finally gone. No longer the kindly grandfather/God-like figure, we see him as a man who had huge faults and failings. This is the same with Snape, but Dumbledore was the character I focused on as I am going to write a blogpost about Dumbledore in, hopefully, the near future! 

I loved this series and rereading them in 2015 reminded me why I love the series so. So much so, I am making plans to reread at least one Harry Potter book this year and, hopefully, read Tales of Beedle the Bard, Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them before I go see the stage show and the movie... 

2016 is going to be one busy Potter year! 

Monday, 4 January 2016

New Year Resolutions

Dear Andrew,

I know you don't like thinking about New Year Resolutions as you don't usually stick to them. But with the blog, I thought it would be nice of you to have a few. Just for a while. Plus, these are resolutions are resolutions I think will keep.

So, let's talk about these resolutions for the Pewter Wolf, shall we?

1. Don't stress over the blog
I know you worry about the blog. I know this as you worry you're not good enough or the blog isn't good enough. This has to stop. You shouldn't get yourself into a state over the blog. This is suppose to be a fun full-time hobby. So stop worrying. You're doing good, don't let worrying over it.

2. More rereads (#re3) & try and use your Kindle more...
I know you said you would reread more books over the past few years and last year, you read all seven Harry Potter books and you had fun! You enjoyed doing them, and you always started thinking about rereading other books. So, why not? I'm not going to give you a target but this year, just try to read a few rereads. I think we know what rereads you want to read...

And Kindle... yeah... moving on!

3. Don't double up
Ok, I know you don't do this, but let's try and see if we can keep this going. It's rare that you read the same author back-to-back (I know you read Lemony Snicker back to back for a while, but that was in 2015 to get you out a reading slump, so this doesn't count!), but maybe for a month or two, we should try and make this rule go with genre as well. It would be an interesting challenge.

4. Take more risks
You've done this with the audiobooks you listened to last year and you had have kinda started with the books, but let's push ourselves. Let's go further! You might not like everything you read, but at least you're trying new stuff and things outside your comfort zone. If you want, keep trying new things with audiobooks but be braver with stories! BE BRAVER!

5. Take Blog Breaks (And Stick to Them!)
I know you try and take time away from the blog and not post anything for a month - your RSM - but you changed the dates last month. And you didn't really stick to it. You posted guest posts and you wrote posts for the following month. How about for a month, you take a break from the blog and you stay away from your laptop? It will do you some good to have a break. The world isn't going to end because you take some time off. Ever if it's for a few weeks, do it! Enjoy your non-blogger life. You might like that hot glowing thing in the sky...

6. See resolution one over you feeling like a book blogger fraud
Relax. Breath. You are not faking this so please don't stress over the feeling you are not good enough to be a book blogger, that you are a fake, a fraud. You are not. How many more times will people need to tell you this?

7. Read for fun!
Ok, this is something you are very good at. Just read what you want to read. And to hell with everyone else!

Do you think you can do that, Andrew? Will you at least try?

Glad we had this chat. Ok, off you go into 2016 and to doing that boring thing we call a job...