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review 2018-01-14 22:01
The Feyguard series by Anthea Sharp (and Feyland)
Spark - Anthea Sharp
Royal - Anthea Sharp
Marny: Feyguard Book 3 - Anthea Sharp

I recently finished reading the last of the books in the Feyguard series by Anthea Sharp - Marny. I first encountered the books about the magic world Feyland on Wattpad. Since I loved the first book, I wanted to read the rest of the series. Eventually, I bought both the first series - Feyland, then the second one too - Feyguard.

Basically both series are set in the (near?) future. There are computer games that you can enter, like Star Trek's Holodeck. Throughout the books you get to know several people and in the first book it's Jennet and Tam. At the beginning of the first book (later a sort of prequel) Jennet finds out that the game Feyland is connected to a real Fairyland, but not a cute Disneyland type of faerie, a really dark world where you can end up injured or even dead. And your injuries sustained in game can carry over to the real world. In the 'real' Feyland the main characters encounter various magical creatures, need to complete quests etc, rather like in a computer game, but of course here, the stakes are higher.

I liked the whole Feyland world. The 'real' world is very well done too. I also liked all the characters but I think my favorite was Marny. In the end, she gets her own book (book 3 of Feyguard).

The plot is fairly straightforward, but not in any way dull. If you don't like YA books you might not like this series, but it's a well written, well researched series of books and it's not too dark. If you like YA fantasy I think you'll like these two series. You can still read some of the books for free on Wattpad, so if you're there you might want to take a look.

 

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review 2018-01-07 20:54
A Far Cry from Kensington
A Far Cry from Kensington - Muriel Spark

If you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work ... the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk lamp ... The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding. And the tranquility of the cat will gradually come to affect you, sitting there at your desk, so that all the excitable qualities that impede your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost. You need not watch the cat all the time. Its presence alone is enough. The effect of a cat on your concentration is remarkable, very mysterious.

I am trying to get to know Muriel Spark's work a little better before going to an event celebrating her work at the end of this month, so I am reading up on a few of her works because the only one I had known was The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

 

A few books into this little project and I have a new book to use as a benchmark of her work: A Far Cry From Kensington.

 

It took me a while to get into the book. I even re-read the beginning a couple of times because I just could not make out what she was going on about. Was this a serious book or not? 

Once I set every expectation aside and just let the story unfold, it became pretty clear that not much in the book was what it seemed. Advice given by the MC, was not meant to be serious advice. On the contrary, it was mockery. The whole idea of our larger than life protagonist being singled out and put on show by any of the characters in the novel was a mockery, a spoof, and most of all an exercise in exorcism as little by little our MC finds the confidence in her own voice and her own pursuit of life to stand up to the curses that have tried to bring her down. 

 

This will probably remain my favourite Spark for quite some time. It was a suspenseful little story told expertly with a lot of wit. Yet, there was also some warmth to it, which was not something I have seen in Jean Brodie, The Girls of Slender Means, or Memento Mori.

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review 2018-01-02 12:41
Memento Mori
Memento Mori - A.L. Kennedy,Muriel Spark

Memento Mori - "Remember you must die" is the message that an anonymous caller issues to several elderly people, who all react differently to receiving the nuisance calls.

 

What follows is a confused look into the lives of the recipients of these calls and into the way that society neglects the elderly.

 

I don't know what it was about this book, but I rather disliked it. I gather from the reviews of others that there is humorous, yet, macabre writing in this, but I didn't really find much humour in it and found it more sinister and cynical than anything. 

 

Not for me.

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review 2017-12-29 01:41
The Girls of Slender Means
The Girls of Slender Means - Muriel Spark

What an odd story. What an odd composition.

 

Told mostly in flashbacks, The Girls of Slender Means tells of a group of girls who share lodgings at a home for women under 30 who have limited means of income. The story is mostly set during the summer of 1945 - between the end of the war in Europe and in the Far East. 

 

As a snap-shot of the time that the story is set in, this books works wonderfully well. Spark had a gift for preserving details in the pages of her books that other authors may have have left out in favour of prolonged dialogue or inner monologue. Not so with Spark - her details bring to life both the characters and the atmosphere that frame the plot. Well, the little plot there is. 

 

There is a plot, but it struck me that the development of the plot seemed to counteract the development of the characters - the more likeable or "human" the characters became, the more it seemed that the plot of the book tried to make them suffer - as in, first Spark got us to care fore the characters and then she throws in our face that the characters were surrounded by a world of horribleness. Like a vanity painting that reminds us that nothing lasts and that all snap shots only depict a certain angle. 

 

While Spark's writing is impressive, I could not help but compare The Girls of Slender Means with the other two books of hers that I have read - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and A Far Cry From Kensington

 

The Girls almost read like a sequel to Miss Jean Brodie but I think this is exactly where it didn't work for me - it was too similar not to make comparisons and I couldn't enjoy it as an independent story quite as much.

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text 2017-12-05 17:30
Books I Read In October and November
The Diamond Empire (A Diamonds Novel) - K'wan
Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel - Jesmyn Ward
Brazen - Katherine Longshore
The Longest Memory - Fred D'Aguiar
The Tragedy of Brady Sims (Vintage Contemporaries) - Ernest J. Gaines
The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah
An Extraordinary Union - Alyssa Cole
A Hope Divided (The Loyal League) - Alyssa Cole
Perennials - Julie Cantrell
Driver's Seat (Penguin Modern Classics) - Muriel Spark

I read six books in October and five books in November. I'm pretty pleased about my progress. There were a few books that I thought I'd love and a few that I was unsure of that after reading became favorites. Here are the reading results:

 

 

5 Star Reads

 

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

 

*I listened to most of it on audio and then switched to the ebook. This book is worth all the hype. It is an unforgettable read. I will definitely re-read this book and I highly recommend if you enjoy WWII books and stories about family.

 

 

The Longest Memory by Fred D'Aguiar

 

*This was definitely a hard read. There's family betrayal, heartbreak and the harsh realities of plantation life. The characters in this book will stay with me for some time.

 

 

4 Star Reads

 

The Diamond Empire by K'wan

 

*Crazy characters, violence and deception all play into great entertainment. I love this series and can't wait for the next book. K'wan knows how to keep you captivated, on edge and panting for that next read.

 

An Extraordinary Union (The Loyal League) by Alyssa Cole

 

*Absolutely more than I anticipated. I loved the premise, characters and the writing. This book has interracial love, familial love and characters that stand for what they believe in. Another that I highly recommend to lovers of romance and historical fiction. Alyssa Cole is an author I will continue to pick up.

 

A Hope Divided (The Loyal League #2) by Alyssa Cole

 

*Loved it! Just as great as the first, but I fell in love with Socrates (Ewan). Marlie and Ewan had their own personal struggle, but manage to fight for what's most important, love.

 

Perennials by Julie Cantrell

 

*I listened to the entire book by read-to-me function on my Kindle Fire during the seven hour ride to Las Vegas. Perennials is what I call a slow burn. There's much going on throughout the book, but it all comes together like an intricately weaved  fabric at the end. I love family books. This book was heartbreaking and sweet.

 

Brazen by Katherine Longshore

 

*I'm trying to clear out the last of my YA books. I read the first two books in The Royal Circle trilogy and enjoyed them so, I decided to read Brazen before I donated it. I'm finding that the YA books I purchased are truly written for a very young audience and I can't read them. The writing is too juvenile in language and tone. However, I was able to read this and enjoyed it. It was a fun engaging read.

 

 

3 Star Reads

 

The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark

 

*Okay, but completely forgettable read. I would've preferred someone to have just told me the story and saved my money and time.

 

Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata

 

*Another okay read that I had too high expectations. I get the parts about the importance of traditions with the tea ceremony, but even that wasn't enough of a grab to save this little book. Someone could've just told me the plot and I could've skipped it.

 

 

None Rated Books

 

The Tragedy of Brady Sims by Ernest J. Gaines

 

*This definitely didn't turn out the way I thought it would. It's strange it's a book in my opinion. I don't read short stories, but I would call this one. I'm baffled and don't have much to say. Another book I could've skipped.

 

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

 

*This is the third book that I've tried to love by Ms. Ward. I just don't think we get along. The first book I read of hers was Salvage the Bones. After I tried The Men We Reap. I found it to be slow and melancholy to the point of distraction. My mind would wonder while reading the words. I get the point of the books or what's trying to be conveyed. I just don't enjoy the process of getting there. I find her books have the same formula. Therefore not agreeing with my tastes. Many readers love Ms. Ward and she's won numerous awards. I'm sure she'll continue with much success and I do wish her well.

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