Review: Hawthorn and Child – Keith Ridgway

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Genre: Contemporary, literary fiction, mystery, crime

Publication date: 4th April 2013 by Granta Books

Format: Paperback I purchased used.

Hawthorn and his partner, Child, are called to the scene of a mysterious shooting in North London. The only witness is unreliable, the clues are scarce, and the victim, a young man who lives nearby, swears he was shot by a ghost car. While Hawthorn battles with fatigue and strange dreams, the crime and the narrative slip from his grasp and the stories of other Londoners take over: a young pickpocket on the run from his boss; an editor in possession of a disturbing manuscript; a teenage girl who spends her days at the Tate Modern; and a madman who has been infected by former Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Haunting these disparate lives is the shadowy figure of Mishazzo, an elusive crime magnate who may be running the city, or may not exist at all.

(from goodreads.com)


I actually upped my rating on Goodreads from three (and a half) to four stars after my seminar on this book last Wednesday. I wasn’t sure what rating to give it once I’d finished it anyway, and after discussing it today I realise how interesting it is.

There is no actual plot to this book, and it is split into several short stories / chapters. They do interlink in a few cases, through minor connections, but without the characters of Hawthorn and Child there would be very little to link them at all (and even Hawthorn and Child feel like they aren’t really present in places). However, each chapter is intriguing, and though slightly odd and at times, brutal, it captured my attention and kept it throughout.

There are a lot of trigger warnings that I would have to offer with this book; suicide (very graphic), death (by various means, including the death of a baby), violence, mental illness (unspecified), homophobia, bodily fluids (of all types), and explicit sexual scenes, to name as many as I can think of at the moment (there are probably more). This book is strange, crude and doesn’t hold back. And whilst it is not pleasant to read at times (most of the time), it is incredibly interesting to analyse. Also, the way that it is written is very blunt and matter of fact, and they don’t feel particularly targeted. I’ve probably not worded / explained that very well, but what I mean is that there is absolutely no feeling that the author agrees with what is being said and that comes across very strongly. For example, the subtly homophobic comments come across as detached, and we are led to understand how these comments make Hawthorn (who is gay), feel and the impact that they can have on someone. Everything that is said in this novel (a lot is left unsaid), is said subtly, and the challenging of these terrible viewpoints (homophobic, anti-Semitic (there is a reference to ‘Jew-jokes’, but no such “jokes” are included thankfully – none that I noticed anyway, but it was getting late as I read that part so it may not have clicked)) is definitely there, just not explicitly mentioned. There is the distinct impression that the author doesn’t approve of these comments, though why, I cannot really explain, the way they are written come across as extremely disapproving (thankfully).

However, if you struggle with any of the above-mentioned triggers, this is certainly not the book for you as it is graphic and there are almost definitely books out there that directly challenge these things, or avoid them completely.

I must say that if I read this book for pleasure and in my own, free time, I doubt I would appreciate it as much as I do. There is a huge amount to say about this book when analysed, and what Ridgway is seeking to do is complex and fascinating. It is by no means an easy or ‘fun’ read, as you have probably guessed from the above paragraph.

The form is an interesting choice. It is fragmented, bitty and few questions are answered. It even states in the text that not knowing all of the answers sustains us as humans, and the text itself offers subtle explanations of Ridgway’s choices. Only after looking into it in such detail, scouring every page for recurrent themes and messages, I have begun to understand it – slightly. It is a confusing book. There is no end to be truthful, no resolution. But this book is centred around the idea of the unsaid and the unresolved, and though it feels as though it is lacking, it equally feels as though it is not. It’s very odd, but good. I do feel very conflicted about this novel, and coming back to this review to edit it before I post it, I feel different to how I did before. But the reasons why are almost unexplainable, except that my feelings about this book are as fragmented and disjointed as the book itself.

Rating: 4 / 5 🌟

Review: Richard II – William Shakespeare

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The fact that I couldn’t find a summary by goodreads sums up this play to be honest.

I am very definitely not a fan of the history plays by Shakespeare. I don’t understand half of what is going on, nor do I understand the reasons why things are happening. I mean, it’s very likely just me that can’t understand it, but there we go.

Richard II is a very complex character, granted. We see him descend into a state of madness (Hannah looked it up and he truly did go ‘mad’), and there are so many things wrong with him (again we looked it up and it’s mostly because of the inbreeding that went on in the royal family back in the 1300s), but these made his character incredibly interesting. And, considering the fact that this play was written in the Elizabethan times, it’s pretty well portrayed (nothing compared to today’s standards however – thankfully our expectations have improved).

As for the events of the play, I would discuss them… But I don’t actually understand what happened. They seemed dramatic? There was a lot of going back and forth between people and places and there were too many people and places to keep up.

I do feel that maybe because my heart wasn’t really into watching / reading it, I didn’t get the full benefit. However, I don’t think I’ll be picking it up again anytime soon to give it the benefit of the doubt. Shakespeare has written so many other plays, I have plenty to go through first before ending up rereading Richard II.

Rating: 2.5 / 5 🌟

Review: Hope – Rhian Ivory 

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Genre: YA, Contemporary

Publication date: 15th September 2017 by Firefly Press Ltd

Format: Paperback I purchased from Waterstones

The summer between school and sixth-form. When Hope doesn’t get into drama college, and her friends do, all her plans fall apart. She’s struggling with anger, grief for her father and a sense that her own body is against her. She meets Riley on the ferry and his texts give her someone to talk to. But this isn’t a story about a boy fixing everything. It’s about trying new things and having the courage to ask for help.

(from goodreads.com)


I read this book a little while ago, back when it was released. As soon as I saw it in Waterstones I picked it up and I was not disappointed. It was a wonderful read, and I’m so glad I got to it so soon.

Hope is a complex character, there is so much going on with her. Even now, though I’m at a different stage in my life / education, I relate to her struggle about what to do next with her life so much. It was interesting to see this portrayed accurately, and the struggle she faces when her dream doesn’t quite come true and the subsequent paths she has to look at and choose from were well executed.

The main thing with this book, however, it that is does not shy away from talking about periods. It discusses the condition of PMDD, and it was great to see something talked about that is usually shied away from. It’s not something I personally struggle with, but I can see how reading about Hope’s struggle and coming to terms with it would really help someone. I can’t comment on the accuracy of the portrayal, but Hope’s emotional response came across as realistic and raw.

I couldn’t put this book down. It’s set in the Midlands area, which was amazing as I don’t think I have read any other book that explicitly mentions Birmingham. It was a surreal feeling reading a book and recognising the places mentioned. I mean, I recognise some of the famous names dropped in books set in London, but America I kind of guess at. Reading a book set so close to home made such a lovely, lovely change.

I would highly recommend this book. It completely grabbed me and I sped through it. The characters, their emotions and feelings, were so well developed, and I fell in love with it. I find myself wanting to reread it, which is unusual for me, and always a good sign!

Rating: 5 / 5 🌟

Review: Henry V – William Shakespeare

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Henry V is Shakespeare’s most famous “war play”; it includes the storied English victory over the French at Agincourt. Some of it glorifies war, especially the choruses and Henry’s speeches urging his troops into battle. But we also hear bishops conniving for war to postpone a bill that would tax the church, and soldiers expecting to reap profits from the conflict. Even in the speeches of Henry and his nobles, there are many chilling references to the human cost of war.

(from goodreads.com)


Firstly, I don’t feel I can write a ‘review’ of a Shakespeare play. It’s Shakespeare, England’s most famous writer, I think it’s fair to say. But I wanted to share some of my thoughts about the play anyway.

I’m not really a fan of the histories, I must admit. I read this play back in year twelve (nearly three years ago) and wasn’t really keen on it, and reading it again for uni made me understand why I don’t particularly enjoy it. I watched it, rather than read it, this time around. It helped, as my attempts at reading it were just not going to happen!

There are so many characters. I know it’s a historical piece and Shakespeare couldn’t exactly cut them out of the play but I could not follow them. This is why watching it made it so much better. I could put a face to a name at the very least (admittedly, I had no clue who some of the people were but hey). I just got so confused reading this and I struggled to get through it (well, I didn’t). It is important to remember it is written for the stage though, even more so than today’s plays as the majority of Shakespeare’s audience wouldn’t have been able to read, so I guess there’s that.

I did love some of the speeches, the ‘Crispin’s Day’ speech is truly wonderful. Henry V definitely has good, motivational speeches going for it. But otherwise, I was bored. As I said, I’m not really a fan of the histories – I prefer the over the top drama of the tragedies and comedies personally. But I can see its merit. I mean, I find history interesting to learn about, but historical fiction in general is not my thing, let alone Shakespeare’s version of it!

Rating: 3 / 5 🌟

 

Review: Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters – Rick Riordan

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Genre: Middle grade, fantasy

Publication date: 1st April 2006 by Hyperion books

Format: Paperback purchased from The Works

After a year spent trying to prevent a catastrophic war among the Greek gods, Percy Jackson finds his seventh-grade school year unnervingly quiet. His biggest problem is dealing with his new friend, Tyson–a six-foot-three, mentally challenged homeless kid who follows Percy everywhere, making it hard for Percy to have any “normal” friends.

But things don’t stay quiet for long. Percy soon discovers there is trouble at Camp Half-Blood: The magical borders which protect Half-Blood Hill have been poisoned by a mysterious enemy, and the only safe haven for demigods is on the verge of being overrun by mythological monsters. To save the camp, Percy needs the help of his best friend, Grover, who has been taken prisoner by the Cyclops Polyphemus on an island somewhere in the Sea of Monsters–the dangerous waters Greek heroes have sailed for millenia–only today, the Sea of Monsters goes by a new name…the Bermuda Triangle.

Now Percy and his friends–Grover, Annabeth, and Tyson–must retrieve the Golden Fleece from the Island of the Cyclopes by the end of the summer or Camp Half-Blood will be destroyed. But first, Percy will learn a stunning new secret about his family–one that makes him question whether being claimed as Poseidon’s son is an honor or simply a cruel joke.

(from goodreads.com)

This was such a good second book; I’m still fairly new to the series, but I already feel so invested in the world and the characters’ lives. The introduction of Tyson, a cyclops, really changed the character dynamic in the story and I loved his character as well.

The character development almost seemed a little different in this book. I mean, it was explicitly stated in the first book – to an extent – whereas in this one I felt that there was more showing and less telling. I enjoyed both, but I felt that maybe it was done ‘better’ in this book. We learn some of Percy and Annabeth’s deepest flaws and worries, and I loved this, it really altered the story and the way I saw the characters in their given situations.

Reading this book almost makes me a lot more excited for the continuation of the series. The first book made me want to continue to see what happened next, whereas this one has given me faith in Rick Riordan (not that I didn’t have any faith in him before – the sheer number of books he has published says it all really about his writing and storytelling abilities!). He took his characters and gave them a completely new adventure, adding new characters and changing relationships along the way. It wasn’t just a continuation of the first book, it was a new story in itself.

The development of the backstories of several characters really caught my interest too – Annabeth’s in particular. I feel as though there is a lot more to her character compared to what has been revealed so far, and I look forward to where this will go later on in the series. Chiron, too, has a backstory that I hope to learn more about as I work my way through the rest of the books.

I really enjoyed this book, and I can’t wait to carry on through the series – I will be picking up the next one as soon as I’m on track with uni reading! This has definitely given me confidence that every book will be different in some way, and not just an ‘oh it’s a new summer so there must be a new adventure’ kind of thing, the adventures have their reason for being and are well thought-out. I completely understand the hype about this series now, and my only regret is not reading it sooner.

Rating: 4.5 / 5 🌟

Review: With Paper for Feet – Jennifer A. McGowan

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Genre: Poetry

Publication date: 23rd February 2017 by Inpress Books

Format: eARC sent to me for review by Inpress Books via Netgalley

Jennifer A McGowan’s collection of themed narrative poems is steeped in the traditions of oral storytelling and folklore.

Each section addresses a different source: world folk stories, Shakespeare and the Iliad; skillfully mining old stories for new truths, giving a voice to silent characters, or an alternative take on the accepted view – especially of women.

(from goodreads.com)

With Paper for Feet is a unique collection of poetry, and I really enjoyed it. The poetry was lyrical, and well-executed.

The poet has said that her intention was to give a voice to people who went unheard, primarily women, and she does this extremely well. I loved the way that it was divided into sections, each focusing on different characters from history or literature or folklore. The perspectives were interesting and thought-provoking, they forced me to think about those characters / people who the ‘original’ stories don’t really cover.

I did find myself struggling to understand who some of the characters were, and a little clarification would have been helpful. Otherwise though, a quick google search sorted things out, and it’s probably because I’m not that knowledgeable on folklore / mythology, even though I love reading about it. That’s probably why I found this book so good; because it focuses on a less talked about aspect to something I find intriguing anyway.

The writing wasn’t overdramatic or too flowery, which was lovely to read. It wasn’t simple either, but it flowed and wove beautiful stories and it worked so, so well.

I would definitely recommend this collection, it was insightful, unique, and I loved the writing style. It’s certainly well worth a read.

Rating: 4 / 5 🌟

Review: A Secret Garden – Katie Fforde

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Genre: Romance, chick lit

Publication date: 23rd February 2017 by Century

Format: eARC sent to me for review from Randomhouse UK, Cornerstone, Century, via Netgalley

Lorna is a talented gardener and Philly is a plantswoman. Together they work in the grounds of a beautiful manor house in the Cotswolds.

They enjoy their jobs and are surrounded by family and friends.

But for them both the door to true love remains resolutely closed.

So when Lorna is introduced to Jack at a dinner party and Lucien catches Philly’s eye at the local farmers market, it seems that dreams really can come true and happy endings lie just around the corner.

But do they?

Troublesome parents, the unexpected arrival of someone from Lorna’s past, and the discovery of an old and secret garden mean their lives are about to become a lot more complicated…

(from goodreads.com)


Another review courtesy of mum, she’s read pretty much all of Katie Fforde’s books and loves them!

A Secret Garden is set in the grounds of Burthen House, a beautiful Cotswold Manor owner by Peter and his formidable mother Anthea. The gardens are being restored by head gardener Lorna, who is middle-aged, divorced and a childhood friend of Peter. Needing assistance, Lorna enlists the help of Philly, a girl who has moved to the area from Ireland with her beloved grandfather Seamus and who now runs a small holding growing plants, which she sells on her market stall.

Lorna and Philly, together with Anthea, discover a secret garden within the grounds of the manor, which they set about restoring in time for Anthea’s birthday, hence the book’s title (although, strangely, this doesn’t happen until halfway through the book). All three women, despite being generations apart in age, form a strong friendship and the plot centres around, not only the restoration of the garden, but the path each of them takes to finding love. All three are strong, capable women and the characters are likeable, even if you do want to shake them from time to time!

Lorna, who initially thinks she’s in love with Peter but has to watch whilst he falls for someone else, meets Jack, attractive but younger than her. Philly meets Lucien, a chef who dreams of becoming an artisan baker. Both couples encounter obstacles along the way in order to be together. All three women have to overcome age or class barriers to find love.

The plot is warm, comfortable and interesting, if a little too predictable. The descriptions of the garden are lovely and the relationships between the characters sweet and gentle (particularly that of Philly and her grandfather).

To be honest, A Secret Garden lacks as much depth and excitement as some of Katie Fforde’s other novels but nonetheless is still a good story, full of gentle humour, romantic escapism and the required happy-ever-after ending. It is effortless to read, pleasantly entertaining and there is enough going on to keep you turning the pages.

Not a standout novel by Katie Fforde but still enjoyable.