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A Blogging Good Read - September

Monday, 8 September 2014

Morning everyone and welcome to the September edition of A Blogging Good Read. Joining me this month are Lucy from Lucy In The Clouds and Nicola from A Lifetime of DIY. This edition is a day later than usual due to a massive technology fail on my part but I'm sure you don't mind that! Let's see what we read and reviewed:

Lucy's pick was Watership Down by Richard Adams:

I chose Watership Down simply because I bought a cute old Penguin-orange-spine copy in a charity shop a few years ago and had tried and failed several times to get into it, so I wanted to have a reason to read it. I also have some very disturbing memories of catching snippets from the film when I was tiny and I kind of wanted to put that ghost to rest. Most people will know the general premise: a small band of rabbits break away from their warren when danger (a building site) threatens, and embark on an epic journey through the countryside on their mission to find a new place to settle. It’s not hard to see where the inspiration for The Animals of Farthing Wood may have come from. Again it took me a few attempts to get into it (and I’m ashamed to say I’m still only about halfway through at the time of writing this review. My own book choice! What a rubbish BGR-er!), I think partly down to the inclusion of Lapine (rabbit-speak) words and constantly having to check the footnotes for explanations, and partly because so many characters seemed to be introduced in the first few pages that I found it hard to keep track. The tiny typeface and yellowing pages in my 1976 copy don’t help matters! Since getting into it though I have found myself quite compelled by the story, it’s just a shame that it clicked just as I had to go back to work and no longer have the free time for a page-turner.

I compared the story to The Animals of Farthing Wood, but, although the characters are anthropomorphised rabbits, this is not some cutesy Disney tale. It’s quite gritty in places and stays true to what I imagine the life of a rabbit would actually be like. You never forget through the narrative that the characters are not human, every little gesture reminds you. The rabbits’ reactions to everyday things make you really think about things from their point of view too, such as the concept of floating on water on a makeshift raft – most of them are unable to grasp that possibility even when watching it happen in front of them. I also love how well-thought out the whole rabbit world is, with its own language, belief system and folklore. It gives real depth to the story and transports you to another world. I feel I will finally finish it this time!

What did Nicola think?

I really struggled to get into this book. After the other books it was very heavy. I still haven't finished it and it became a bit of a chore to read. I personally don't read books very often and like books that are easy to both read and pick back up. This book was neither. If I had to put the book down to do something I struggled to get back into it and found myself having to read back a bit to remind myself what was going on. To be honest (and I feel bad saying it) I can't see myself ever finishing this book. Sorry :(

I'd never read this before, or seen the film. I know of it - doesn't everyone? - but the specifics had passed me by. I think I was expecting something a bit more along the lines of The Animals of Farthing Wood. Peril, yes, but lots of jolly animals and stuff as well. Erm. In case you haven't already realised, Watership Down is not like that. There's much more of an adult feel to it as it's an awful lot darker and scarier than I expected, plus surprisingly long for something that's acknowledged as a classic children's book.

It's beautifully imagined, with some impressive world building and mythology (wow, seems odd saying that about bunnies!). I particularly liked the author's use of language when it came to nature as it was wonderfully evocative. Yet this book didn't grab me and it took me a long, long time to read it.  Shameful confession: I haven't finished it either! It's not a short book and I don't have a lot of free time at the moment but this did feel a bit more of a chore than a treat. I'm glad I've finally got a copy but I don't think it's the sort of thing I'll want to dive back into any time soon.

I chose Attachments by Rainbow Rowell:

Complete and utter Rainbow Rowell fangirl here. I've met her and she liked my Paddington Bear skirt. Squeeee!! Ahem...

Eleanor & Park is probably her best known book and we've reviewed it in the past for BGR (in short: it's amazing). Although I love everything I've read by her, Attachments is my favourite.  It's such an unashamedly nice book. I mean that in the very best possible sense of the word.  It's gentle, it's charming and it's very easy to get caught up. There's a real sense that you're dropping into the lives of the characters to pay them a short visit and if you like them (which I do), there's nothing better to read about. I'm much more of a romance fan than the average BGR participant so I do tend to hold back a bit from selecting some of the books I'd really like people to read but this is a nice halfway house between the two - much better than chick lit  (I hate that term with a passion) but not too full-on romance to scare people off.

It's set in 1999 and is told through a mixture of emails between Beth and Jennifer, two friends and colleagues on a newspaper, and normal chapters about Lincoln, the IT guy who has to monitor their correspondence.Yes, it could touch upon creepy stalker tendencies but the author has such a deft touch that she manages to keep it just the right side of that line - mainly because we're shown throughout that Lincoln feels really bad about it. He's what makes this book so special for me.  I really like a beta hero anyway but the way he very slowly grows up and changes throughout the book win me over every single time.  I shan't squee any more over it because I could genuinely type all day long about how much I love this book.  Please give it a read though.

Did Lucy share my love for this book?

I’m not a great fan of what could be described as ‘chick-lit’, the literary version of a rom-com I guess. Whenever I read anything by the likes of Cecelia Aherne or Jill Mansell I just feel that I could write better myself if only I could think of an interesting plot. Life is too short to read badly written books! So, even though I had heard lots to the contrary about her, I wasn’t too excited to read a fluffy romantic book by someone with a preposterous name like “Rainbow”.

My verdict? I’m on the fence really. I thought the plot was fairly predictable and the emails between the girls grated on me no end – who actually writes like that in email (or even talks like that in person)?? BUT, the writing wasn’t bad at all and I did find myself really liking Lincoln, identifying with him a bit and wanting to find out what would happen next. The fact that it all takes place around the time of the Millennium Bug gave it a nice sense of nostalgia too, for those of us of a certain age! If we were doing star ratings this would get a solid 3/5 from me, and I’m certainly interested to read Eleanor and Park now.

How about Nicola?

This book is a very easy read. No real need to concentrate. To be honest, I was bored quite quickly at the beginning and I highly doubt I would have carried on reading it, had it not been for Blogging Good Read. Having said that, the characters did grow on me and I am pleased I stuck with it, even though the plot was pretty obvious.

This book is a nice, light read if you stick with it, ideal as a book to read while lazing around the pool on holiday. It is almost voyeuristic in the way you meet 2 of the main characters by reading through their personal emails. It doesn't seem right to be reading them, especially as you know how Lincoln feels about reading them. I couldn't help but like Lincoln and did feel sorry for the way he seemed unable to move on with his life after Sam.

Nicola picked The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger:

This book was not quite what I expected. I imagined, from the title, that the book would be written from the perspective of the wife. However, once she grows up, it seems to be all about Henry.

I did enjoy reading this book and would recommend it, if you can get past the seemingly seedy nature of a naked 40 year old man visiting a young girl throughout her childhood. The dates at the start of each chapter and the ages of each character was essential to following the plot. I am an inherently lazy reader and skipped it a few times. Each time I skipped reading the dates/ages, I found myself confused and had to re read from the start of the chapter. Once I got into the habit of noting these facts then the plot was easy to follow.

Did Lucy like it?

I first read The Time Traveller’s Wife about 8 years ago and just absolutely loved it. I was so pleased to have a chance to re-read it, as the way it is written - jumping back and forth in time with an alternating first-person narrative - is so intricate and you have to really ponder what is going on. The fact that Henry travels back to meet Claire as a child and reveals that they will spend their future together throws up some interesting questions about fate, destiny and free will. Does Claire actually have any control over her relationship choices or does she play out her life the way it has been described to her? Is it really all written in the stars?

I do love a good bleak book with plenty of misery and this has it in spades – the obvious dread in the lead up to a very significant event, which is hinted at in his earlier ‘travellings’ in the book (imagine knowing it’s coming and not being able to do anything to avoid it!), and also the Ingrid sub-plot which really resonated with me for some reason, it’s just so sad. A couple of incidents towards the end of the book are a little bit cheesy but that didn’t stop me crying buckets. Highly recommended by me.

I first read this during the initial hype when it was published and quite liked it (unlike Her Fearful Symmetry by the same author which is honestly one of the worst books I've ever read). It's been on the bookshelf ever since then though as for one reason and another I never fancied picking it back up. Am I glad I had to reread it? Hmmm. My reaction is mostly the same as it was first time round. It's alright. It just doesn't quite seem to push my reading buttons.

I find books like this quite frustrating, or perhaps I find myself frustrating. Who knows?  I mean, you can't love everything you read, but when there's something that everyone thinks is brilliant and you're a bit meh about it, you do start to wonder what you're not seeing.  Suppose I admire this book more than I like it.  The way it's crafted is undoubtedly impressive.

Huge thanks to Nicola and Lucy for taking part this month! Can't believe we all failed to finish Watership Down though. Whoops!

Next month I'll be back with two different bloggers and we'll be reading Atonement by Ian McEwan, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Any Human Heart by William Boyd.


  1. I remember reading The Time Travellers Wife when it first came out and totally loving it, it's still one of my favourite books. Then I gave it to my mum to read and she hated it! She still recoils if I mention it! So maybe it's one of those books that divide people ;)

  2. Oh good, I'm glad it's not just me who really disliked Her Fearful Symmetry, I think it's because not one of the characters was someone I could empathise with, even though I really tried to (also, what is it with Niffenegger and her "older man and much younger woman" plot devices?)

    I've never read Watership Down but I've heard from lots of people that it's dark and hard to finish so it's not just you :)

  3. I'm with Lucy on Attachments. I picked it up from the library last week as I'd sort of thought I'd look out for it, but it was super predictable and a little bit "meh". I will still look out for Eleanor and Park, though.

  4. I love Rainbow's books, I like something that is a but fun and I don't always want to read classics. She's a lovely light relief x

  5. After reading Eleanor and Park I'm keen to try more Rainbow Rowell books. I adore the time travellers wife and have read it a few times.

  6. Thanks for having me Alex - I loved reading your reactions to the books. Sorry I picked a stinker!! :\

  7. I love Watership Down and the Time Traveller's Wife. I'm not a fan of chick lit either, and if the plot is predictable then I'm already out frankly.

    Lizzie's Daily Blog

  8. I used to love the Time Travelers Wife had read it about 4 times, read it again last month and felt so differently. Clare's life is really miserable and she suffers so much because it was always predetermined she would have Henry, the best part of their relationship for either of them takes place when he is a weird schoolteacher paternal figure, when they meet again he is a bit of a douche and she spends more time waiting for the more mature Henry to show up, as he travels into the past reliving their "heyday" she is left alone and suffering loss after loss. Much less romantic then I remembered and actually quite grim.


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