20 May 2013

The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England

 Title: The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England
Author: Ian Mortimer
Year published: 2012
Pages: 432
Time It Took To Read: A few weeks

God, I'm on such a go-slow this month. I've got an exam looming in 25 days (GULP) and despite the fact I'm putting revision off, I cannot concentrate properly on anything else. Except blind panic and flailing, but that's fairly standard.
Anyhow, I started reading this a few weeks ago, and have been persevering VERY SLOWLY. That's not to say it's a difficult read - it really isn't - I just have a lousy slow mind at the moment.  I am a big fan of Ian Mortimer - the Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England is one of my favourite history books. 
Instead of concentrating on the monarchy, which virtually every other history book does (mainly because that's where the documentation lies), Ian Mortimer looks at sources to find out how regular people lived. He writes the book in the form of a guide to another country, with sections on the land, diet, entertainment, transport and illness. It is FASCINATING. 
Although this isn't written as a series, you will probably find it helpful to read the Medieval England guide first, as this book assumes you've read it and builds on the knowledge in that book. It compares life in Elizabethan England both to the medieval era, and to the present. 

Book count:  27/50

I have a VAST TROVE of books to read after my exam, including the latter three Song of Ice and Fire series, and loads of other fantasy. But for now, I fear the revision needs my attention a touch more.

2 May 2013

Shadow of Night

No photo. Go look it up on Amazon, it's BLUE.

Title: Shadow of Night
Author: Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls Trilogy Book 2
Year published: 2012
Pages: 630
Time It Took To Read: Two afternoons

After reading the first of this series, I compulsively bought the second. Then I remembered how horrendously behind on uni work I was and made myself forsake it until my last TMA was in. My last TMA was submitted on Sunday and I picked this book up yesterday. AND DEVOURED IT. 

Now, I don't want to give away any major plot twists, but the story thus far is that a witch has fallen in love with a vampire (as you do) and now they're hiding in time from the Congregation - a scary collection of witches, vampires and daemons who keep order. The witch, Diana, has a very shaky grasp of her power, and is trying to find a teacher. The vampire, Matthew, has his finger in every possible historical pie.He is omnipresent, friends with every luminary of the 1590s, and exceptionally politically powerful. Diana has to cover up her 21st century origins, and Matthew has to try and cover up several hundred years of changing ethics and politics. And then they have to try and get what they came for, and then get home again.

There are, as mentioned before, lots of parallels with the godawful Twilight series. The biggest differences are that Diana is a fully rounded character, not a melancholy teenage idiot, and the author really knows her historical stuff. The book falls down slightly in some of the dialogue, but more than makes up for it in invoking the atmosphere of 16th century Britain. It did slightly rankle at how quickly Diana dropped her modern behaviour, though this is explained away by her learned background. 
Also, my useless vasovagal response kicked in when there was biting of chest arteries, and I nearly passed out. It is no good being triggered by venepuncture, when enamored of vampire fiction.

There will be a third in this series, but Deborah Harkness hasn't BLOODY WRITTEN IT YET. I feel slightly like going a bit Misery to force her to write it faster, but that way madness lies ;-). It really is quite a compulsive read. I am not a patient person, but will certainly be reading it when it finally emerges.In the mean time, if you are a fan of vampire books, or supernatural books, or alternative history books, or just historical fiction, I really recommend this particular book. But read the first one first, or it won't make all that much sense.

Book count: 26/50

The Hobbit

For some reason, the photo uploader's down. I have the 1980 Unwin edition, with a picture of Smaug and his treasure on the front. You'll just have to imagine it!

Title: The Hobbit
Author: J.R.R Tolkien
Year published: 1951
Pages: 285
Time It Took To Read: A few hours

I first read this book in 1997, when I was 12. It was one of the set texts for English that year. Unusually for a set text, I didn't immediately develop a long term loathing of it, or it's stupid author (unlike, say, Ian McEwan), but neither did I ever have any particular need to read it again. My parents bought me Lord of the Rings for my 17th birthday, and I read it annually, even though it's now battered to hell. But The Hobbit remained a vague memory.

I went to see the film earlier this year, in a cinema an hour from my house, because we almost left it too late to catch it before it stopped showing. As it was, we were late and missed the first 15 minutes because the mines of Moria have nothing on the Leicester ring road. I joked to my boyfriend that they'd split it into three films, just to fit in the endless singing, and it would appear that I am about right on that assumption.

Anyway, seeing the film rekindled an interest in reading the book, and as my boyfriend is such a geek he can VIRTUALLY SPEAK SINDARIN, he lent me this copy. I read it over a couple of long evenings getting my children to sleep.I didn't read it to them, though I did resort to reading LOTR to my four year old when he was ill a few months ago. He pronounced it 'boring'. *sigh*
It is very much a children's book - probably ideal for 10 to 13 year olds - but it's still a good read, especially if you're acquainted with LOTR either by film or book. The plot is relatively simple compared to, say, the Silmarillion, but there's enough depth to get your teeth into. The language and dialogue are gentle and there's a lot of humour throughout. Despite the intended audience, the characters are three dimensional. There is no dichotomy of good and evil, and even the so-called good guys have moments of utter prickishness (I'm looking at you, Thorin Oakenshield).
It's an excellent introduction to Middle Earth, and the high fantasy genre in general. Go! Read!

Book count: 25/50.