Friday, 8 August 2014

Late-July Reads

Today I'll be sharing some mini-reviews. During the summer holidays, I read a lot more than I'm able to in term-time, so rather than swamp you with a load of reviews at the end of the month, I cut this post in half. The first post, of what I read in the first half of July, is here. I read and reviewed these books:

The second half of the month was less productive reading-wise as I was dealing with new puppy, and also because A Game of Thrones is a very long book. Nevertheless I read three books, all of which I really enjoyed. 

Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin

Mishak Gardiner lives inside his own head, dreaming of stars and angels and trying to block out the vile work that his conman father Otis does. Meanwhile in Gloucestershire Cathedral two friends, Thomas and Alexander, study together the music that they love. But whilst class does not matter in the cathedral school, Alexander is the heir to the great Ashbrook estate and his father, blind to his son's extraordinary musical gifts, is determined to pass the estate onto him. And all the while in London the Coram School runs, where for every foundling child taken in hundreds more must die in the streets.

Coram Boy was a re-read, started when I'd just finished Anne of Green Gables and felt like no book could live up to what I'd just read. I loved it the first time I read it, and the second time was no different; it's exciting, fast-paced, with characters you have to love and brilliant depictions of villains and heroes alike. Because I knew what was going to happen I didn't love it quite as much as the first time round, but it still kept me up late into the night and left me shocked, elated and upset by turn. Would I recommend it? Yes I would!!

Eat, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.
"Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.
"I'm a panda," he says at the door. "Look it up."
The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.
"Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."

So, punctuation really does matter, even if it is only occasionally a matter of life and death.

[taken from Goodreads]

Eats, Shoots and Leaves is a guide to punctuation-- no, wait, where are you going? Come back! I know it doesn't sound very promising - but, stay, please. Because though you may not want it, you probably need it - because, friend, you know as well as I that the punctuation of our world is falling around our ears. "Secondhand book's!" signs proclaim. "your welcome", says the text you receive. And how many people actually know how to use a semi-colon?? I will tell you: terrifyingly few.  

Whilst I found Talk to the Hand, also by Lynne Truss, ranty and not very enjoyable (review here), Eats, Shoots and Leaves was not only interesting but also witty and engaging. Through the way it was written I actually cared about the sixteenth-century Italian blokes who invented question marks and the nuances of the "Oxford comma", and I have to say that just the fact that it had been written - evidence that there are still people out there who care about punctuation - gave me comfort and hope for the future. If your punctuation is shoddy: read this book and be put right. If it isn't: read it anyway, and rejoice in the feeling of grammar Nazi solidarity.

A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin

In the kingdom of Westeros, it has been summer for close on a decade - but now, winter is coming. Warden of the North Lord Eddard Stark must choose between family and honour after the mysterious death of the Hand of the King, and in a court where the king rules by debauchery, dissent seems always to be just below the surface. It is impossible to know who to trust - and meanwhile, in exile, the so-called Dragon King has grown to maturity and wishes to return to claim the Iron Throne. And in the terrifying cold of the north, where the nameless gods rule and the dead are rumoured to walk, who knows what terrors lurk beyond the Wall?

I loved this book. A lot. Alotalot. I mean come on, it has a dragon on the cover! I am a huge fan of epic fantasy, so this book was pretty much a must-love; in fact, I'd been feeling like a 'pre-emptive fan' for quite some time, as in, I'd not read it yet but I just knew I would be a fan in the future! The plot was so beautifully complex, the writing was wonderful and the characters - the CHARACTERS! - so nuanced. So flawed. So impossible not to love. Admittedly the book was a little graphic, but, uh, if you're good at skim-reading it's not a problem. Overall, this was a brilliant novel with unbelievable scope and a plot that sunk its hooks into me and didn't let me go till the last page had been turned (and my heart had been ripped out by a writer famous for his unpredictable character deaths). I would definitely and 100% recommend this book!

So ... have you read any of these books? Do you agree with my high praise? Let me know!

Emily x


  1. I remember when my friend read Eats, Shoots and Leaves. I thought the description was hilarious and it really does prove how important punctuation is. I've never been thought how to use punctuation properly (and neither has 70% of Ireland, I'd say). In fact, one of the reasons I started blogging was to improve my English and writing. So apologies fr any incorrect apostrophes.

    Aahh! Game of thrones! I am dying to read it. It sounds absolutely brilliant! But it looks HUGE.

    Marian ^_^

  2. Eats, Shoots and Leaves is sooo good, all hail Lynne Truss for stepping up where schools are failing!

    GAME OF THRONES IS SO GOOD. It is huge, but you just have to roll with it. I'm currently reading the second one!


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