Mini Reviews: January 2017

by Kate

I read twelve books in January, which is a personal best, with an average rating of 4.5 stars – so it was an extremely good reading month for me. Below are mini reviews for each book (excluding book club picks and ones with longer reviews to come).

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Rip Van Winkle and Other Stories by Washington Irving

This is a collection of short stories, each of which is supposedly based on an element of Dutch-American folklore. My least favourite story was actually the title one, I felt it was quite anecdotal and a little bit misogynist – we’re supposed to feel sorry for Rip because his wife is always mad at him, but if he could be bothered to help around the house she wouldn’t be! I enjoyed ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ the most as this was the story that felt most true to the folkloric nature of the stories, whilst also providing a ‘rational’ explanation. The folklore aspect was definitely my favourite part as I haven’t read many American legends before.

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Review: The Essex Serpent

I’m a sucker for a book award. I don’t always agree with the verdict, but slap a ‘Winner’ sticker on any novel and it will rocket to the top of my reading list. Call it curiosity, call it elitism, call it argumentative, call it whatever; if a book has been called ‘the best’, I want to find out why.

Hence my reading for this month: Waterstones’ Book of the Year 2016, Sarah Perry’s second novel The Essex Serpent.

Spoilers under the cut!

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REVIEW: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I feel like it’s a lot harder to read a book you think you should like more that you do than a bad book you went into with low expectations. The Night Circus is definitely a book I went into hoping I would love, and unfortunately one I came out of a lot more disappointed than if I hadn’t had those expectations to begin with because I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it and I felt it had decent potential, but at the same time I also saw some pretty crucial flaws in it and I think its popularity exacerbated those flaws and made them all the more irritating to me. After all this was a hugely popular book, and not just with the kind of audience that I might expect to love books that maybe aren’t quite my thing (*cough* every YA bestseller *cough*). Nope this book was lauded by people whose opinions I thought generally matched my own so I went in with the impression that The Night Circus was supposed to be a Great Book. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it to be one, and as I was reading it I became more and more baffled as to why everyone who given it glowing reviews couldn’t see the problems I saw in it. As a result those problems because more and more irritating and obvious, because I wasn’t expecting them to be there.

The Night Circus ostensibly revolves around two characters, Marco and Celia, who both exhibit some kind of magical powers and have both been prepared from childhood for a ‘game’ in which they must use this magic in competition with an opponent. Eventually the two meet through their shared connection to Le Cirque du Rêves, a black and white circus that only opens in the dark and then the game begins…

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BOOK CLUB: Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

We’re one bud down for this month’s slightly delayed book club in which we look at Helen Fielding’s third book in the Bridget Jones series Mad About the Boy. Fielding’s iconic heroine is now a single mother in her fifties and just stepping back into the dating game in the internet age.

SPOILER WARNING: The following post contains major spoilers for the plot of Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy.

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TIE-IN TUESDAY: Night of the Living Rerun by Arthur Byron Cover

Remember back in the first Tie-In Tuesday post I compared the tie in novel to fanfiction? Well, this week we reach the dark side of that parallel, because this particular tie-in novel is like bad fanfiction, hampered by the same problems that drag down so many of its less dignified sister-form. It’s hard to know where to start with the negatives here, from the confusing plot, nonsensical pacing or almost complete lack of continuity with the Buffy television series and its characters.

Night of the Living Rerun is the third novel from the expanded Buffyverse; its plot revolves around the Master’s attempt to rise from beneath Sunnydale through repeating the ascension of a demon called the Despised One in witchhunt-era Salem. Cue reincarnation and visions ahoy for almost everyone.

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REVIEW: Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman

BEWARE – SPOILERS AHEAD

The day you buy your first teen fiction book is a BIG DEAL and I remember mine perfectly. Standing in Waterstones, eleven years old with pocket money in hand and my mum behind me inspecting what I was going to pick. My choice? Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. I then continued to read the subsequent three books in the series and loved them all. Much like Noughts and Crosses, Chasing the Stars is a dual narrative between Vee (Olivia) and Nathan. Two people who are from very different backgrounds. Noughts and Crosses is well known for its discussion on race which adds massively to the depth of the story, and Blackman does the same in Chasing the Stars however this time the big issue is class. In an interview with The Guardian Blackman said ‘I set it in 2164 … I thought about whether there would still be the same preoccupations with race. I would hope not. But I think there will definitely still be a class problem’, hence Blackman’s move towards class. Supposedly based on Shakespeare’s Othello, the story brings a modern day take on class, revenge, desire and manipulation.

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BOOK CLUB: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

For this month’s book club we decided to get into the Halloween spirit by reading Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Regarded as one of the best 20th century ghost stories this story follows a group of paranormal investigators as they spend the summer in a supposedly haunted house with a dark past and begin to experience some seriously strange goings on.

As with last month’s book club we ended up with some wildly different opinions.

SPOILER WARNING: The following post contains major spoilers for the plot of The Haunting of Hill House.

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