Hello everyone and welcome to the April edition of A Blogging Good Read. Joining me this month are Maddie from Apostrophe M and Jenni from Bows, Bangles and Bakes.
Our first book this month is my choice, Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer:
I LOVE THIS BOOK. I can't even tell you how much. Lots of people scorn Georgette Heyer and lump her in with Barbara Cartland and all the modern Regency rubbish romances. I think these people are idiots. She basically created the genre of Regency romance, although her books are so much more than that. A lot of them are comedies of manners, some are mysteries, some are straightforward historicals; all of them are immaculately, captivatingly written. Devil's Cub is my absolute favourite of all her books and probably my favourite book ever, by any author. I love it so much that I want to shout to the world about how amazing it is but I have to fight that constant battle of people being judgey about romance novels. Please don't be put off if you don't like girly books or romances - give one a go and judge it on the quality of the writing and storytelling. She puts most authors to shame.
This is a Georgian romance rather than Regency and is a sequel of sorts to These Old Shades which is also rather glorious. Dominic, the Marquis of Vidal, is a very wild young man; a reckless gambler, drinker and dueller (totally swoon-worthy though!). Mary Challoner's younger sister Sophia, a rather ditzy piece, is about to flee to France with him when he's forced into exile but Mary intercepts a note and takes Sophia's place (masked, of course) in order to save her reputation. Well as you might imagine, things don't go exactly to plan. It's a tremendous romp through France with elopements, shootings, duels, fibs and confusions aplenty and a wonderful hero and heroine.
Here's hoping that they both liked it! Firstly, what did Maddie think?
I've wanted to read a Georgette Heyer book for ages now, having read many a blog post of Alex's where she heaped high praise on the author. This is a good enough recommendation for me, and yet I'd started reading These Old Shades a year or so ago and somehow never finished it. I'll be fishing it back out from the back of my bookcase now though, as I really enjoyed Devils Cub, and it's actually a follow on story of sorts from These old Shades.
The characters we meet are well defined and familiar- you've got the sensible and witty Mary who is overlooked by men in favour of her silly younger sister and the cad of all cads, Dominic, who is the original Bad Boy. You can of course see how the story is going to develop, but that really doesn't matter. It's Heyer's writing which is the real star of the show- real smiling to yourself, snorting as you read it in public stuff. What I particularly loved about the story was the idea that it was a man who needed saving, not a woman as is usual in historical romantic novels. Here however, Dominic is not only a bad boy but well and truly out of control and on a downward spiral before meeting our heroine, Mary, who is frankly having none of it. I loved her. Feminism alive and well in the Regency period! It's a really well written, witty, comical book, and really who can argue with an author who brings exclamations such as Egad! to your vocabulary?
Did Jenni like it?
I tweeted about this book as in all honesty, to begin with, it made me feel slightly stupid! There's a lot of French phrases in this book (I've never done French) and it refers to items of clothing and terms of phrase I've never heard of. After spending the first few chapters reading the book with my phone by my side checking out every single thing I didn't understand, in the end I just gave up and skipped over those bits. I'm so glad I did as I actually started to enjoy it then! It takes a couple of chapters to get going and the ending is slightly predictable but who cares! When the inevitable finally happened, I positively swooned with joy! I'd certainly consider reading regency romances again after reading this, whereas before they were something I would have never considered.
Jenni's choice was Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan:
At first I wasn't sure whether to put this as my choice as I was worried it wasn't perhaps quite 'highbrow' enough. After chatting it over with Alex I decided to go with it. As a Potter-nerd, Percy Jackson appeals to my sense of 'fantasy in the real world' in that there are secret lives out there hidden away from us boring normal people. As a schoolchild I always really enjoyed Greek mythology and this book has it in bundles! Percy Jackson is such an easy read and for me that's what I enjoyed about this book, that it is pure fantasy escapism, and when I found I had read the kindle sample within half an hour I knew I was going to enjoy it. It's pitched at a fairly young level and is written in the first person. It's not going to challenge you or ask you to think too much but that's exactly why I like it and therefore chose it.
I really, really enjoyed this book! I was so pleased when Jenni decided to choose it as I hadn't read it before but had always fancied it. (Also PFFFT to picking "highbrow" books for this series - it's all about picking and sharing books you love!) I love a book that you can pick up, dive into and find yourself in a totally different world. Percy Jackson seems to be living a vaguely normal life at the start of the book, albeit one where he's constantly being kicked out of school, but it isn't long before unusual things start to happen and his world starts to reveal itself as a lot more magical than he ever suspected.
The whole thing is a delicious whirl of adventure, intrigue and mythology, all wrapped up in a world that you think you recognise but which keeps changing and surprising you. It was thoroughly good fun from start to finish. I read it in two hours flat on a train journey back from London and I've promptly borrowed books 2 and 3 in the series to take away on holiday next week - I think that shows how much I liked it!
Over to Maddie:
I'd read this before, a couple of years ago and so was quite looking forward to giving it another read.
The first thing that struck me about this book is the way it taps into the teen conscious we can all well remember- that of being a bit different to everyone else, not quite fitting in and thinking there may be something just a bit strange about you. In the case of Percy Jackson, he's right to think he's different, as he is a half blood son of a Greek God, and the furies of Hades are AFTER HIM.
I loved the way the author weaves the Greek legends so easily into modern America, and the matching up of Olympian places to their US counterparts is genius-for example Mount Olympus being high up "in the gods" at the top of the Empire State Building and the Underworld being in downtown LA. There are definitely certain similarities to Harry Potter, in that there is another, magical world running parallel with our own yet humans don't have the capacity to realise it, Percy has two friends accompanying him- one a slightly goofy boy and one a rather bossy girl, but I'd say this is just enough to keep ardent HP fans engaged, as this is a great book in its own right. It's very fast paced and easy to read, and certainly for kids would be a great way to get them interested in the Greek Legends, by making it relevant to them. I really enjoyed it myself, and would definitely carry on reading the series!
Maddie's choice was Nella Last's War:
This was my choice for the review, as Alex asked us to pick one of our favourite books and surprisingly, this is the one that immediately sprang to mind. I'm going to start by admitting that I originally heard of the book by watching the TV show "Housewife, 49" a few years ago. It was a fantastic programme, but the book, as ever, is even better. During the Second World War a project called Mass Observation was started, and ordinary folk were invited to write diaries of their everyday lives, including all the details they might find boring themselves, and send them in. Nella Last was an ordinary northern housewife, who had long harboured an ambition to write and so she started a diary.
What follows is an account of the war from the ground, if you like.We more often hear about the battles, the fighting and the shocking human conditions of prisoners of war when we read about the Second World War, so I relished hearing about the everyday nitty gritty of what Nella cooked, what her worries were, what she did day to day. If Nella were alive today, she would definitely be a blogger, and one we'd all love to follow, I'm sure. Her tone of voice is so strong throughout the book and she is incredibly witty, warm and engaging. It's like having the chance to ask your Grandma, or Great Grandma all about their younger days, which I whole heartedly wish I'd had a chance to do. I know it's a non fiction book, but it genuinely is one I will pick up again and again. A true favourite.
Did Jenni enjoy it?
I really really wanted to love this as I love anything about the Home Front, but I'm not going to lie - I still haven't finished it yet. I found it like wading through treacle to start with as I never seemed to get anywhere! I'd think I had read lots due to how much the story moves on but then find I'd barely begun to scratch the surface of the book. I think this is because it spans 5 years of WW2. Once the book reached elements of the war I know about such as the Blitz, it became much easier to read and understand the emotions Nella was going through. It's not a book that makes you want to find out the ending (as we know what that is, in some respects) and I wouldn't say it's a page turner, but it's more the type of book you can pick up and read at a leisurely pace. I will finish as I am enjoying it, and I hate to leave a story unfinished but it's just doesn't "grab" me in the way I expected.
I zoomed through this one on the train as well! Are you sensing a theme here? I thought it was absolutely fascinating. I've read a lot of books about WW2 and they've covered all sorts of aspects of it but I've never read anything about life up North on the Home Front. As a diary writer myself, the thing that really struck me was how eloquent Nella was, especially when you consider the conditions she was writing this under! The note at the back of the book by the editors was really interesting on the topic of how they tidied up some of her spelling and grammatical idiosyncrasies but it's her voice that really shines through this. The subject matter could be mundane in the hands of someone less talented with words - there's a lot of description of cooking good food on very little money and rations, making things for the war effort and the power struggles involved in running a canteen - but the way she talks it about is interesting and incredibly readable. I totally agree with Maddie; I can definitely see Nella writing a cracking lifestyle blog if she was alive nowadays!
Thanks to Maddie and Jenni for joining in this month and for picking such good books! I'll be back at the start of May when we'll be reading Good at Games by Jill Mansell, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson and You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sarra Manning.