What I’ve been reading – Love and Freindship by Jane Austen

Love and FreindshipLove and Freindship by Jane Austen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve always been under the impression that this was just a fragment of Austen’s juvenilia and of doubtful utility and value. Which is why I left it so long to check it out, but turns out I’ve been missing out. Whatever a modern day Jane would have been up to and gets up to, in modern adaptations of her persona and work – working her own Youtube channel, snapchatting away, book-blogging and fanficcing and whatnot – it’s kind of superfluous, redundant. This is the snarky teenage Jane, and it comes through on every page. Plus, I’d just like to say for anyone who’s read it – the 9th parcel, silver buckles! lol.

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What I’ve been reading – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane EyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have loved this book for years now, but… honestly, what a cad Rochester is. I know it’s not precisely an original observation, but still. Jane deserved better. And only a blinkered Charlotte, with exactly the narrowly circumscribed inculcated nineteenth century notion of a woman’s lot she ascribes to Jane, could possibly think that ending a happy one.

And yet, it’s still one of barely a handful of books in my lifetime that have reduced me to feeling off my head while reading it, light-headed and nutty and unsteady as if I’d had a drink or two. What can you do? A massively annoying permanent classic.

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What I’ve been reading – Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Sense and SensibilitySense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This gets an extra star just because it’s Austen, and I can’t bring myself to rate Jane Austen lower than that. This is the only major Austen work I’ve never managed to finish, until now. What a labour, almost a waste of effort, except at least I know better than to ever pick this book up again. I’ll just re-read Pride & Prejudice or Persuasion for the nth time instead. What a pair of insipid limp rags Elinor and Marianne are. Even Fanny Price is Nicki Minaj combined with Sharon Horgan, compared to Elinor. (I quite like Mansfield Park although obviously Fanny should have run off with Henry Crawford instead of mooning around over Edmund. Fanny is all right, she’s a bright spark, underrated.)

You may deduce from the above that I didn’t care for it much, but it’s still Austen. She’s still a genius, but no-one could convince me this qualifies as essential reading. Forget it, try George Eliot or a Bronte instead.

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What I’ve been reading – Dance On My Grave by Aidan Chambers

Dance on My GraveDance on My Grave by Aidan Chambers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m unable to write about this book without vague spoilers being involved. Because the romance between the MCs is so fully, perfectly realised and completely credible, such anticipation built up… That I was COMPLETELY FLIPPIN’ CRUSHED by further developments and the ending!

CRUSHED! I’m still grinding my teeth about it. I have a bit of a grudge against this book and against Chambers, now.

Still really good, though. Especially how delicately the issue of the different assumptions two people can come to a relationship with is dealt with, how what seems obvious and inevitable to one might be overstepping and alarming to another. And regarding bereavement, the treatment is a lot more subtle than the ‘life goes on’ platitudes of a lot of YA, and for that matter adult, fiction.

First love is wonderful and painful and awful, and this book really makes that truth live.

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What I’ve been reading – Black Virus by Bobby Adair

Black Virus (Black Rust #0.5)Black Virus by Bobby Adair

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book, but if I hadn’t pressed on past the first couple of pages then I might never have known it. The opening scenes were quite slow and flat, almost awkwardly written! But I persisted a bit, and the story quickly picked up speed, incident and excitement. It’s quite odd how different the initial impression was, almost as if the manuscript got into the hands of an editor who decided they were going to ‘improve’ the initial introduction to the book – it actually reads like a different writer.

But most of the book is great. I like the lack of sentimentality, the hard edge and realism of Christian, the adolescent MC. He sees the world as it truly is, both before and after the apocalyptic events that wreck human existence, and he sees human motivations without rose-coloured glasses too. It makes him unnerving to most people, since ‘humankind cannot bear very much reality’. But I like him for it.

There is a fight scene early on that is brilliantly written, concise but with every necessary detail supplied and the choreography of the scene implied without laborious plotting out and the written equivalent of anatomical dolls to diagram the action. (The polar opposite of a fight in a paranormal romance I read recently, which went on for pages and went to ludicrous lengths to describe the movement of every pinkie finger and the emotional responses of the participants.)

And the climax, when it comes, had me putting my hands over my eyes as if I were watching a really good and bloody horror film. Shocking, but brilliant and clever and almost funny, rather like the violence in Fight Club. I don’t normally care for violence in books or films – it has to be this well-done for me to appreciate it.

Recommended, really well done and worth your time.

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What I’ve been reading – The Little Grey Men by B.B.

The Little Grey MenThe Little Grey Men by B.B.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very gentle, sedate fantasy adventure, with just a few moments of high excitement. I give it four stars for the quality of the writing, although I usually like fantasy novels with more of the fantasy equivalent of car chases, explosions and alien invasions. The characterization is good enough that one does suffer along with the gnomes, lots of angst hoping for their safe journey and eventual reunion. If you invest the effort into really getting into the book then I think it pays off, although it might take a bit of doing.

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What I’ve been reading – The Volcano Lover: A Romance by Susan Sontag

The Volcano Lover: A RomanceThe Volcano Lover: A Romance by Susan Sontag

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a long time since I read it and hard to remember details. Barring Emma’s mum’s disgusted aside of “Men are bad!”, which is hard to argue. Also clear is the memory of how loving and devoted the mother/daughter relationship is – a filial ideal, a beautiful sororal dream that I can’t believe in any more. It’s not like that really with women, kids, it don’t really exist! It’s Middleton that got it right: ‘Women Beware Women’. And how.

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What I’ve been reading – A Wizard Of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #1)A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Le Guin, but this isn’t a cosy anodyne fantasy with feel-good endings and a hero to root for. Hi, Harry! It’s bleak as life itself, and morally stern and sometimes frightening, even for an adult perhaps. The stuff of nightmares for a sensitive kid, if you’re not careful about choosing the right recipient in your gift-giving. Ged is a little bastard who grows into an old git, with not much interim period. Power is misused, love is broken, gifts are unfairly distributed. Some mistakes are irrevocable, others pay the price for your sins.

Welcome to the world, magical or otherwise. It sucks.

Beautiful, perfect, a monochrome wash. Unforgiving. I really love this book, did I forget to say?

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