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A Blogging Good Read - December

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Morning all!

I'm joined for this month's edition of Blogging Good Read by Steph and Denise. They're both back again for another go. Aren't they ace?!

Steph chose Queen Mabby Kate Danley:

I came across this book without knowing what it was about, I have read & loved some of Kate Danley's other books so thought I'd give it a go. It is very different to the stuff I'd read, but still easy to read without being patronising. I love the characters and I was screaming in my head at times.

Oh how I loved this book, it is a different view of a very well known tale, but explores some of the other (more interesting...) characters. I thought it was cleverly imagined - possibly not for Shakespeare purists though. Without giving too much away the story looks at the surrounding to Romeo and Juliet without the focus being on them, Queen Mab plays a role in their fate and events are not quite as they seemed to be.

If you have seen Wicked and enjoyed it, you will probably enjoy this.

Did Denise like it?

In some ways you could say this is a behind the scenes version of Romeo and Juliet, focusing on Queen Mab and Faunus, who are pulling all the strings and using the Montagues and Capulets as players in their own private battle.

I am familiar with the story of Romeo and Juliet, but I confess not with all the supporting characters, so I found parts of this book hard to follow, I couldn't quite keep track of who was who and all the relationships. There were scenes that I liked, and I got the overall flow of the book, but at no point can I say I enjoyed reading it or felt connected to any of the characters. I wonder if I was to go and re-read Romeo and Juliet and then try this book again if I would enjoy it more?

Overall this book was not for me, and it was a struggle to finish.

I really enjoyed this. Written Shakespeare isn't usually my cup of tea. Studying it at school drove all possible enjoyment out of my brain and it wasn't until I started seeing his plays performed that I really grew to understand and love them. I still have to tune my brain into Shakespeare mode but after a few minutes it's all fine. Romeo & Juliet isn't one of my favourite Shakespeare plays but I've seen enough versions of it to be really familiar with the text.

Kate Danley's take on it is really interesting - a reimagining which takes that familiar plot but seeks to expand on it and explain it by featuring more of the minor characters. Mercutio was always one of my favourites so I loved the larger role he played in this story. I'm really glad Steph picked this as I doubt I'd ever have come across it otherwise.

My pick was Life After Lifeby Kate Atkinson:

This was a recent impulse read from the library, picked mainly because it looked like a good, long book and I liked the cover. Cover karma generally doesn't work in my favour but it definitely did here. Yoicks! The story is all about Ursula Todd, starting with her birth in 1910 during a snowstorm. It begins with quite a wallop: the baby dies. Then on the next page, her story starts again, only this time she lives.

The plot follows the title. Ursula lives life after life with certain things remaining constant but others, mostly relating to her choices, altering with each life. She's not conscious of this - it's only something that's revealed to the reader - but every decision she makes takes her a step closer to achieving the life and choices that she was "right" for. It's a swirling narrative that covers life in most of the twentieth century in evocative detail, with the most vivid sections revolving around life during WW2. Sometimes you might find yourself wishing that one of the lives was the one that the author stuck with but overall, the end result is a wonderful, multi-layered book that's well worth the effort you might have to put in at the beginning stages.

Unfortunately Steph wasn't able to read this one, so here's Denise's review:

I had never heard of this book, so I started reading knowing nothing more than the back cover description of 'what if you had the chance to live your life again until you finally got it right'.

I'll admit that at first, I didn't enjoy the book, I didn't really 'get it', I struggled to figure out the small plot differences in the repeated scenes at the beginning and thought that the book was going to be a bit tedious. However, I stuck with it and I'm glad I did. Once I got my head around the format of the book, and got the characters straight in my head, I was hooked. With each situation Ursula found herself in, I was willing for her to make the best of it and to come back unscathed.

I enjoyed the time line of the book, going from her birth, right through her life, looking at all the different paths she could have taken, some heartbreaking, some entertaining and some empowering. While I felt that some of the plot points were utterly ridiculous, such as her last foray to Germany, the attention to detail in the writing was beautiful, with some very vivid descriptions, and some of the writing about Ursula's time in the blitz will stay with me for a long time.

Denise selected Sisterby Rosamund Lupton:

I first read Sister a few years ago as part of the Domestic Sluttery book club, and it was one of those books that I couldn't put down. When I found it on my kindle again recently, I decided it was about time for a re-read and it became my choice for this.

A story about two sisters, one receiving a call that her sister has gone missing, and gone missing just days before her due date for her first baby. Beatrice jumps on a flight from New York home to London, and begins to piece together Tess's last movements. Initially judgemental of Tess's lifestyle, Beatrice slowly finds herself fitting into her life, slowly becoming more and more like her sister as she works through what happened and continues her never ending search to solve her sister's mystery.

I won't say too much about how it ends, or the twist, but it is a book that I found I got more out of on the second reading, little things suddenly became significant and I began to second guess myself and what happened. My final thought on the book is that I'd like one more chapter, or a postscript, it really leaves you wanting more!

What did Steph think of it?

I enjoyed the beginning of the book, intriguing and sensitively layered but I found the last part of the story unrealistic and found myself drifting.It is a tale about someone who is dealing with the loss of her sister. I won't spoil the end which I thought was quite a good idea, I just got lost along the way as it didn't make sense to me with what had happened so far.

I'd say it is a good read but I'm not sure some of the medical details are accurate. Not really for me.

I don't think this book entirely worked for me. It's not bad by any stretch of the imagination but I initially found the narrative framing device a bit awkward. Beatrice is meant to be writing this as a letter to her dead sister and retelling the investigation into her death and there's something about that that just didn't work for me. I grew towards ignoring it as the book went on, occasionally jarred by the odd bit of unwieldy wording that reminded the reader about it, and then at the end it left me feeling a bit cheated, although if I'm being entirely fair that may be because of the twist rather than the narration. Either way, it didn't leave me thinking "yay, I love this book!"

Now I've got the bad stuff out of the way, let's hit the good stuff. I always enjoy a good mystery novel and this was definitely one of those. It's really well written and enthralling and I was really caught up in it immediately, hoping that more clues would be revealed soon. The way the author weaves all of that plot and drama into what is also a beautiful, sensitive portrayal of family and sisterhood is really praiseworthy. I'm willing to bet that the narrative device will work really well for most people so don't let my opinion on that put you off!

So that's the three books for this month. Thanks so much to Steph and Denise for taking part again!

I'll be back next month and we'll be reading Fahrenheit 451by Ray Bradbury, A Sensible Lifeby Mary Wesley and Howl's Moving Castleby Diana Wynne Jones.

Hope you'll join us for lots of lovely book chat.


  1. This is the first time that these books have all been ones I've never read. If you ever need people to take part in a blogging good read then please do contact me - I love reading:

    Lizzie's Daily Blog

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  3. I remember reading Sister when it came out for a book club and really struggling to finish it. I just didn't care about any of the characters enough to follow it closely, I think and I remember not particularly liking the way it ended.


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