Review: The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials #2 and #3)

IMG_0694[1]Back last year I finally took the plunge into the His Dark Materials trilogy. I’d never read it as a child and was slightly worried that the books might not be as good if I was missing out on that nostalgic feeling. I needn’t have worried though, because I quickly discovered that I adored Philip Pullman’s writing and that I loved the first book in the series (Northern Lights). I was really determined to finish the series as a whole, but as usual life got in the way and other books started to get read first. However, I can finally say that my mission is complete and that I have now read the entire trilogy.

It’s usually at this point in my review that I’d give you a little overview of the overarching plot of the book, but I don’t actually want to do this here. Firstly, the series is so full of action and anticipation that I quite honestly don’t want to give even the slightest hint of a secret away. Secondly, I’ve decided to combine my review for both the second book, The Subtle Knife, and the third book, The Amber Spyglass, into one review. I’m hoping that this will help with keeping any spoilers to a minimum as it won’t be so plot specific, and also that it will make for a more general review for anyone who might be unsure whether to pick the books up. What I will say for people who’ve already read Northern Lights is that the book follows on from the dramatic events of the first book and blends seamlessly into the next!

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Review: Melmoth by Sarah Perry

CCPM9991[1]A fair while ago I read The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. I can still vividly remember how much hype that book got across social media and booktube, and as a lover of historical fiction (especially Victorian) I had to agree with the masses. Perry’s writing was beautifully skilled with superb characterisation and interesting contextual themes which saw society questioning the likes of science versus religion (a massively controversial topic in its day). When I saw that she was bringing out another book and that it was called Melmoth I was fascinated to say the least. I knew that Melmoth The Wanderer was a classic book written by Charles Maturin and that it was extremely Gothic and terrifying in tone. If Sarah Perry was going to be writing a book influenced by this, I was one hundred percent on board, as were so many others.

The book follows Helen Franklin, a young British woman who has exiled herself to Prague after committing a deed twenty years ago that she cannot forgive herself for. Every day since has been spent trying to forget it whilst simultaneously punishing herself for it, denying herself even the luxury of flavoursome food. That is, until a strange manuscript falls into her hands from a shaken friend, a manuscript that is filled with testimonies from the darker aspects of history. A common theme recurs throughout them; the watching presence of a silent woman in black with bleeding feet.  This is Melmoth, the loneliest being in the world, outcast from society and condemned to walk the earth forever alone, reaching out to those who are guilty to lure them away for a lifetime spent wandering lonely at her side. The further Helen reads, the more she feels that something, someone is watching her, but can she ever escape her past?

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Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

AMCP6159[1]You see the word ‘Auschwitz’ and what does it do to you? Transport you to another place, another time? Take you right into the face of hell? Conjure images of death and despair, horror and hopelessness? By forming such a violent and incomprehensible part of our worlds history, our connotations of ‘Auschwitz’ are horrific, and rightly so. Yet as a history buff and a literature lover, I can’t help but be drawn to any books that mention the word, or indeed any books associated with World War Two and the holocaust.

The very idea that a recent poll showed that a shocking percentage of both children and adults didn’t even know what the Holocaust was terrified me beyond measure. Such a disturbing and violent part of our worlds history needs to be remembered and commemorated, for how else are we to honour the victims and stop ourselves from falling into the same territory as flawed human beings? That’s why when I saw Heather Morris’s book The Tattooist of Auschwitz, I found myself immediately drawn towards it.

What I liked about the book when I first read the blurb was that it promised to not only tell the story of real victims of the Holocaust, but that it also took quite an original idea in exploring what it was like to be the man who was forced to tattoo his fellow victims with their identification numbers.  This man is Lale Sokolov, who arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1942. The book follows Lale’s story, detailing how he came to be given this job as well as how he met Gita, a young woman whom Lale is determined will survive alongside him.

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Review:Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

HVLJ2760[1]Having read three books recently that focused quite specifically on classic literature and the Victorian period, I decided to shake things up again and grab something much more contemporary for my next read. Options were aplenty, with multiple titles jumping out at me desperate to be read. In the end, however, I decided on an author that I had told myself I was going to go back to, but had never found the time until now; Louise O’Neill. Louise has made quite a name for herself in the both the YA and wider literary world. Her first novel, Only Every Yours, was a massive success, compared to the likes of Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.  I for one really enjoyed it, so I approached her second novel Asking for It, with pretty high expectations, especially considering the praise it had already gotten from such a vast audience.

Asking for It is set in a small town in Ireland, the kind of place where everyone knows everyone and every event is something to be commented upon. Emma O’Donovan lives here, but she is different. She’s beautiful, special, loved by all the boys and envied by all of the girls. Her popularity gives her power and she’s determined to keep it that way. Yet even Emma is not immune from the consequences of what happens that night. Now she is nothing, reduced to meager body parts, her pictures spread everywhere, the word slut hounding her every day. Emma is beautiful, she loved to flirt, she thrived on tiny dresses and skirts – she was asking for it, wasn’t she?

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Review: Victorians Undone by Kathryn Hughes

DNVX0212[1]I’ve been on a bit of classics hype over the last few weeks, rediscovering some authors I’d previously had a bit of a rockier relationship with, and realising that I do actually enjoy some of their works. If you’ve seen either my Ethan Frome post or my Silas Mariner post then you’ll know what I’m talking about, but if you haven’ t, let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised! Delving back into, not only classics, but also the Victorian period (which is my favourite!) was completely refreshing, and having finished both of the above books I was craving something a bit more focused on the historical aspect. That’s where Kathryn Hughes’s Victorians Undone came into play.

Victorians Undone: Tales of the Flesh in the Age of Decorum, is actually a non-fiction book, something I’m trying to make more of an effort to read. The premise is fairly straightforward and has an interesting concept; through five different Victorian body parts Kathryn attempts to not only look at what their owners lives were like, but also what it was like to be them, as well as calling into play the society they lived among. I was pretty instantly sold on the entire idea and loved the thought of discovering the Victorian in a slightly different way, so it was a fairly easy decision to pick this as my next read. Continue reading

Review: Silas Marner by George Eliot

YFBE6659[1]Fairly recently I delved back into the world of classics, giving the much loved author Edith Wharton another go with her novel Ethan Frome. I’d previously read The House of Mirth by her and hadn’t been very impressed, but I was actually pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed Ethan Frome in comparison. Feeling inspired by this, I decided to revisit another classic author; George Eliot. Middlemarch, arguably her most famous work, was a novel I studied in University, and whilst I appreciated the talent within it, I also found it lengthy and pretty boring. However, I knew that many people loved this author, so I decided to give her another go with the much shorter and therefore much quicker read of Silas Marner.

Silas Marner tells the story of the eponymous titular character. Wrongly accused of theft by those he most trusted, Silas is forced to leave the place he calls home, making his way to the smaller rural village of Raveloe. Here he establishes his usefulness in the community as a weaver, yet despite his skills Silas refuses to integrate himself into Raveloe’s society. He lives on the fringes of the rural village, a man whose strange ways cause the local folk to easily condemn him, whilst the children run in fear. All that Silas cares for is his precious stash of coins, saved meticulously over the many years. Yet when his gold is stolen, Silas is forced to once more face society, a task that becomes all the more urgent when an orphaned child, Eppie, finds her way into Silas home and heart. Through Eppie, can Silas transform his life for ever?

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