WWW Wednesday #4

I missed this last week, oops.

WWW Wednesday is a book meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where you have to answer three questions. I will also link to the books I mention on Goodreads.

What are you currently reading?

I’m listening to The Hoarder by Jess Kidd, which was recommended to me by a few people. I’m really enjoying it so far – I didn’t read the blurb or synopsis or anything before I started, so I didn’t know what to expect – just that people I trust enjoyed it.

I have also started another of my Netgalley ARCs, The Smallest Lights in the Universe by Sara Seager, which is a memoir by an MIT astrophysicist.

What did you recently finish reading?

Since I last completed this, I’ve finished quite a few books!

Cholera: The Victorian Plague by Amanda J Thomas (my review)

The Harpy by Megan Hunter (my review)

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (my review)

Perilous Question: Reform or Revolution? Britain on the Brink, 1832 by Antonia Fraser

What do you think you’ll read next?

I might read The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness next. My friend is a huge fan of Patrick Ness and I’ve never read any of his books, so I guess I should try and remedy that.

Review – The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Goodreads synopsis:

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues — a bee, a key, and a sword — that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library, hidden far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians — it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction.

Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life.

My review:

First things first, look how beautiful that cover is. I don’t own a lot of hardcover books (this was a gift from a wonderful friend), but if they all looked like this then I might give up my eBook habit.

I recently listened to The Night Circus (review here), and really enjoyed Erin Morgenstern’s writing, so I was excited to get started with this. It exceeded my already pretty high expectations.

The main character of Zachary Ezra Rawlins was so complex, and so interesting, and so easy to root for. The way the book unfolds, you are following the story just as Zachary does – I found myself wondering what would happen next just as he pondered the same. As he questioned the motives of the other characters, I was thinking about that too. There’s references to popular culture in the book, which usually tend to jar me out of the narrative (they can look so dated in a few years), but they were well chosen here, and I think they will last the test of time.

It’s so beautifully written – it’s a love story about stories, and about love. It’s a pretty hefty book, but I couldn’t put it down. Even when I went to bed, I was still thinking about it, and when I woke up, I was counting down the minutes and hours until I could pick it up again (sadly, nobody pays me to read books, so I have to keep up with the day job to pay the bills!).

It was a different experience, as I read the physical copy of the book, compared to listening to the audiobook of The Night Circus. I would like to listen to the audiobook of this at some point too, just to see how the narrator treats it, which bits are emphasised and which bits aren’t. I will definitely re-read this at some point, but before that I’ll make a few other people read it as well, so I can gush about how great it is with them. This was an easy 5 star rating to give, I would have given it more if I could. It’s going on my “favourite ever books” list, that’s how much I loved it.

ARC Review – The Harpy by Megan Hunter

Thanks go to Netgalley and Pan Macmillan for the ARC ebook, which I received for free in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads link

Genre: literary fiction

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Netgalley synopsis:

Lucy and Jake live in a house by a field where the sun burns like a ball of fire. Lucy works from home but devotes her life to the children, to their finely tuned routine, and to the house itself, which comforts her like an old, sly friend. But then a man calls one afternoon with a shattering message: his wife has been having an affair with Lucy’s husband, he wants her to know.

The revelation marks a turning point: Lucy and Jake decide to stay together, but in a special arrangement designed to even the score and save their marriage, she will hurt him three times. Jake will not know when the hurt is coming, nor what form it will take.

As the couple submit to a delicate game of crime and punishment, Lucy herself begins to change, surrendering to a transformation of both mind and body from which there is no return.

Told in dazzling, musical prose, The Harpy by Megan Hunter is a dark, staggering fairy tale, at once mythical and otherworldly and fiercely contemporary. It is a novel of love, marriage and its failures, of power and revenge, of metamorphosis and renewal.

My review:

I wanted to love this story so much more than I did. The focus on the mythology of the harpy by Lucy reminded me a little bit of Grief is the Thing With Feathers in a way, and it just reminded me more of how much I loved that book, and this felt a little lacking in comparison.

It was a pretty quick read (I read it in a day), and the character of Lucy is really well written and developed, but it felt to me like the story was just scraping the surface of greatness. I don’t know what could have been added, but it was frustrating to read when felt that more could have been written or expanded on to improve it as a whole. It felt like the story was 75% of the way there, and it just needed something extra to push it the rest of the way.

I rated this three stars because I enjoyed the writing style, and it started off fantastic, but by the end it kind of lost me.

Review – The Mysterious Montague: A True Tale of Hollywood, Golf, and Armed Robbery by Leigh Montville

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Goodreads link

Synopsis (from Amazon.co.uk):

He was a 1930s golf legend and Hollywood trickster who adamantly refused to be photographed. He never played professionally, yet sports-writing legend Grantland Rice still heralded him as “the greatest golfer in the world.” Then, in 1937, the secrets of John Montague’s past were exposed—leading to a sensational trial that captivated the nation.

John Montague was a boisterous enigma. He had a bagful of golf tricks, on and off the course. He could chip a ball across a room into a highball glass, and knock a bird off a wire from 170 yards—and when the big man arrived in Hollywood in the early 1930s, he quickly became a celebrity among celebrities. Yet strangely Montague never entered a professional tournament, and in a town that thrived on publicity, he never allowed his image to be captured on film.

The reasons became clear when a Time magazine photographer snapped his picture with a telephoto lens … and police in upstate New York quickly recognized Montague as a fugitive wanted for armed robbery. As Montague was indicted in the tiny upstate town of Jay, New York, hordes of national media descended and turned a star-studded legal carnival into the most talked about trial of its day – the trial of “the Mysterious Montague.”

My review:

Full disclosure, I only downloaded this audiobook because I particularly love the narrator (Scott Brick) – his voice reminds me of Dr Spaceman from 30 Rock, and so I have quite a few audiobooks that he’s narrated, even if from the look of it, the book isn’t in a genre I tend to choose.

This book spanned the genres of celebrity, sport and true crime, which makes it a lot more enjoyable than if it was just a book about golf (I probably wouldn’t have downloaded it if that was the case – I do have my limits). I had never heard of John Montague, despite the list of famous friends that crop up in the book, including Oliver Hardy and Bing Crosby. It was a pretty fascinating story, which I don’t want to spoil too much, but the title itself kind of gives the game away.

It felt a bit like the book was too padded out with non-essential and/or repeated information to make it long enough. I would have enjoyed it more as a long-form article or as a shorter section in an anthology type book. I can see it making a decent biopic kind of film too, but as a book it’s a bit… meh.

I joined bookstagram!

I joined bookstagram! If you want to follow me there, my username is @lazyfourstripes because captainprocrastination would have been too long I think! I’m new to the whole bookstagram thing (I have a personal one but it’s not quite the same is it!) so any tips and tricks would be gratefully received.

Review – Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Goodreads synopsis:

In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell; shortly afterwards the two Germanies reunited, and East Germany ceased to exist. In a country where the headquarters of the secret police can become a museum literally overnight, and one in 50 East Germans were informing on their countrymen and women, there are a thousand stories just waiting to get out. Anna Funder tells extraordinary tales from the underbelly of the former East Germany – she meets Miriam, who as a 16-year-old might have started World War III, visits the man who painted the line which became the Berlin Wall and gets drunk with the legendary ‘Mik Jegger’ of the East, once declared by the authorities to his face to ‘no longer to exist’. Written with wit and literary flair, Stasiland provides a rivetting insight into life behind the wall

My review:

I originally bought this book a few years ago, when we went on holiday to Berlin. We visited the DDR Museum, which was fascinating – when we are able to travel again, I fully recommend it. I’d love to go back and see it again.

My expectations for this book were that it’d be stories compiled by someone wit little or no link to the history of East Germany, and so I was prepared for quite a clinical approach. However, the author herself lived in Berlin for a while (she is originally from Australia), and builds up relationships with the people she interviews.

I rated it three stars, because whilst I enjoyed reading it and found the first-hand stories very interesting, I felt that the information around the author’s life tended to take away from the narrative rather than enhance it. I have felt this about a previous book before that takes the same approach (The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule, about her friendship with Ted Bundy), so maybe this style of non-fiction isn’t for me.

Reading this book has made me want to learn more about life in East Germany between the end of WW2 and the fall of the Berlin Wall, so there’s a positive outcome here at least. If anyone has any recommendations, I’d love to hear them.

Blog Goals for May 2020

I think it will be useful to have some goals for this blog in May, just so I can keep up with posting and reading. I’m a bit of a blogging newbie so it’ll probably take a while to find my stride and my style, but I’ll get there eventually!

In no particular order, here’s a list of things I want to achieve this month:

  1. Write up my outstanding reviews and schedule the posts
  2. Read more Netgalley ARCs
  3. Read some physical books for a change (looking at you, The Starless Sea)
  4. Participate in more book tags
  5. Comment more on other people’s blogs
  6. Follow more blogs (to this end, if you have any recommendations, please comment and let me know!)

Do you set goals for the month, or are you more of a “see what happens” kind of blogger?