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I Am Pilgrim: A Thriller
Terry Hayes
Legends of King Arthur: Idylls of the King
Alfred Lord Tennyson
The Norton Anthology of Poetry
Mary Jo Salter, Margaret Ferguson, Jon Stallworthy


Sleepyhead - Mark Billingham Yes, but Kindle.

White Raven

White Raven - J.L. Weil Selfish American girl is forced to live with her rich grandma in the middle of nowhere after her mother is shot. Can't even work out why her dad is upset. BUT HOLD ON the house is massive, her suite is massive and there's a hot guy just waiting to take her mind off the fact that her mother was horribly murdered. Yeah, let's get in to his pants. First-person narrative in the voice of a diary of a pathetic little tween that just wants to rebel and twerk semi-naked in da club. Horrible narrative, but I certainly believed it was written (narrated) by an idiot, so that had it going for it.

The Silver Ships

The Silver Ships - S. H. Jucha Yes, but Kindle.

Stealer of Flesh

Stealer of Flesh - William King Yes, but Kindle.

The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows (Little Black Classics #24)

The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows (Little Black Classics #24) - Rudyard Kipling Rudyard Kipling is best known for The Jungle Book and his Just So Stories, which show his prowess as a writer and his mastery over words and their wonders.

The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows just doesn't cut it. It was terribly written and I almost forgot who had written it. His poetry is marvellous, his best and most famous being If, and his prose is just as good. He was born and grew up in Indian, which these stories concern.

It may be that I am not interested in India; perhaps that may be it. But there was nothing to grip me and, like a lot of short stories, they lacked a depth and roundedness that the longer format, or even poetry, contains.

The Tinder Box (Little Black Classics #23)

The Tinder Box (Little Black Classics #23) - Hans Christian Andersen Hans Christian Andersen was a 19th Century Danish writer best know for fairy tales and short fables, though he was a prolific writer of plays, novels and poetry.

This is a selection of the lesser-known fairy tales written by Andersen. I've not read any of his other works though I'm well versed in the outside knowledge and I have to say I was disappointed in how terribly they were written and how blasé they seemed as a whole. Although I'm sure some of their charm must have been lost in translation, I still can't say I enjoyed any of them.

How a Ghastly Story Was Brought to Light by a Common or Garden Butcher's Dog (Little Black Classics #22)

How a Ghastly Story Was Brought to Light by a Common or Garden Butcher's Dog (Little Black Classics #22) - Johann Peter Hebel Johann Peter Hebel was a 18th-19th Century German writer and theologian. These short stories are taken from The Treasure Chest, a selection of his shorter writings chosen by John Hibberd.

"Great houses on the town square and small dwellings in the alleyways are all the same when burnt to the ground, just like rich and poor in the graveyard."

These stories are, as one would except, short. They vary in length a little: either half a page to two pages long, but their themes are all akin. They concern people being tricked, either by cunning men or the devil himself, and either give a little moral at the end or simply laugh it off as "eee, nowt as queer as folk".

They're decent short stories with recognisable characters and are amusing to dip in an out of. Good also for historical knowledge.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest (Millennium III)

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest (Millennium III) - Stieg Larsson Not as good as the first two, for obvious reasons, i.e long and drawn out, but still brilliant. Slightly more in-depth review to follow.

The Girl Who Played with Fire

The Girl Who Played with Fire - Stieg Larsson, Reg Keeland Lisbeth Salander has cut off ties with everyone she knows and is travelling the world with a dead man's money, but when she returns home to Sweden she becomes embroiled in the murder of three people: two who were about to reveal some big names involved in illegal sex crimes and the third an old antagonist who apparently won't do as he's told. Blomkvist, one-time lover but forever a friend is famous for bringing down a corrupt business man and has time to bring down a few more...

Whilst this book was nowhere near as good as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in terms of plot, intrigue and general crime-thriller-murder-mystery type trope (I'd rate those at probably 2 or 3 / 5), it is still an almighty read. It made me even more angry than the first one did, not that I thought that was possible.

Again, it was Lisbeth Salander. There was less identifying here (as one would expect) but still there was a connection I could not fathom. Her morals are shaky at best and she is certainly infuriating and straightforward but there is just something there. Her past is brought hurtling in to the present in this second book and the two are colliding like the tornado and hurricane she experiences in the opening chapters.

Again, no comment on the writing since it's translated. There were a lot of typos in this book, actually, but it seemed to flow well and I'm sure the Swedish was no different.

I don't think people realise how important it is that a white man is writing about feminist issues with a tender touch and a hell of a lot of gumption thrown in. He's passionate about these things and it's obvious in these works. The only other author I've read who has taken such an interest in writing memorable, non-girly, non-stereotypical female characters is the late Sir Terry Pratchett.

I'm incredibly intrigued to see the film but I'll need to read the third and final book before I do that: if they so much as make light of any of the feminist issues in the books I doubt I'll watch another Hollywood film again.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Reg Keeland, Stieg Larsson The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is Lisbeth Salander, a young woman who is a product of the Swedish care system, designated incapable of looking after herself and her finances: therefore it is necessary for someone to look after them for her. Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist who has just been sued for libel and is taking a break to work on an old man's obsession about a member of his family who disappeared over 25 years ago. They will meet in strange circumstances and intrigue will rule their lives.

I read this book in a day and when that happens it means either one of two things: it was terrible and I wanted it to end or it was fantastic and I didn't want it to end, but needed it to. This falls in to the latter.

I will refrain from commenting on the writing style: Larsson wrote it in Swedish and, although the text may be a direct translation, you still can't get a hold on someone's writing ability through a translation, so I refuse to comment on that.

The most fundamental, heart-stopping brilliance of this book was that it made me angry: an anger I haven't felt for a long time. I like books that make me feel an emotion so much, regardless of which emotion it may be. It made me angry at the pathetic nature of men who cannot handle strong women. It made me angry that people think feminism is about women wanting to be "better than men". It made me incomparably angry at society as a whole.

Usually I refrain from long reviews, but there's no way I can express my love for Lisbeth is one paragraph. She is one of the few characters I've identified with for such a long time it came as an odd shock. I feel the need to clarify: I have not suffered abuse like her, my childhood was wonderful and I'm a fully(ish)functional person. Identifying with Lisbeth came through her emotional stuntedness, her social ineptitude and her sheer demonic need for privacy. Lisbeth is obviously off the scales with these, but I found myself understanding her (for the most part) in ways I have not done with most characters in most books I read. She was incredibly in-depth and so 3D I could see her clearly. The other characters were less developed in my mind, but still more 3D than most authors care to make them. I thought Blomkvist was particularly well-developed and his particularly journey was believable and tantamount to reality.

I will cease with praises, since most other people will have articulated what I'd like to say much better. Instead I will expand the reason why it only received 5-stars. My Blithe shelf is reserved for life-changing books or ones that I adored so much I re-read and quote sporadically. Will I re-read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? Unlikely. It is a decent-enough crime thriller, though I don't see what the fuss is about these Scandinavian books being "gritty and dark". I found nothing more disgusting and dark than what I've read in Ian Rankin and Stuart MacBride novels. Whilst this book certainly made me intrigued I actually thought the plot was sub-standard at best: it was a rollicking ride, don't get me wrong, but with such characterisations and locations, I felt something more could have been done. It was brilliant and the anger I still hold in my heart has lit a fire I doubt will go out, but it was not life-changing, nor will I be quoting this book with joy. Maybe it was because it was dark and gritty, but really I don't know. It was great, brilliant, excellent, fantastic: all those words. But it just wasn't blithe.

Trimalchio's Feast (Little Black Classics #21)

Trimalchio's Feast (Little Black Classics #21) - Petronius Arbiter Petronius, a first-century courtier is believed to be the author of The Satyricon of which this segment is taken from. As a whole it concerns Encolpius the narrator and his young lover Gidon as they adventure through the lowest and highest parts of Roman society. Sadly, The Satyricon does not exist as a complete novel, but as a fractured remains of a mixture of prose and poetry.

Trimalchio's Feast is a bawdy, drunken affair with men, food, slaves and a great deal of sexism. It is hilarious at points and also typical of the male kind of writing that we are used to: men being men with woman following after them with the bucket. An important piece of early writing, especially about the lower classes during the Roman Empire, but emphatically patriarchal.

The Communist Manifesto (Little Black Classics #20)

The Communist Manifesto (Little Black Classics #20) - Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, born in Prussia in the 19th Century, were German philosophers. Along with other Communists, they wrote The Communist Manifesto in London and translated it in to several other languages. It is regarded as the best work of literature regarding Communism and is still as important now as it has always been.

It's sad that this is written in such a way that it was. Although I appreciate it is 19th century language, it still made me feel a little bleak whilst reading. Despite this, it is still full of valid points, I just think one should perhaps take ones time and find a thicker book with an introduction and notes.

Olalla (Little Black Classics, #19)

Olalla - Robert Louis Stevenson Robert Louis Stevenston was a 19th Century Scottish writer, most famous for Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Olalla is an early short story about a young English soldier recovering in the Spanish mountains from his war wounds.

"And if they knew you were the handsomest and the most pleasant man that ever came from England (where I am told that handsome men are common, but pleasant ones not so much so), they would doubtless make you welcome with a better grace."

It is a very well-written early take on Vampires, pre-dating Dracula by 12 years. It is of the early Gothic type, where the horrors are narrated only via the narrator himself, and not gone in to much detail. It is majestic in its description, as any first-person story should be, but which all modern-day ones lack completely.

"[Love] should lie no longer under the bonds of silence, a dumb thing, living by the eye only, like the love of beasts; but should now put on the spirit, and enter upon the joys of the compete human intimacy."

A tale of old-kind love, which at its heart is not so different to ours now, but one which speaks so much more deeper than many I have encountered.

Jason and Medea (Little Black Classics #18)

Jason and Medea (Little Black Classics #18) - Apollonius of Rhodes Apollonius of Rhodes was a 3rd century BCE librarian and scholar who wrote the epic Greek poem The Voyage of Argo. E. V. Rieu, who translated the story, was a classicist and initiated the Penguin Classics books.

Jason and Medea is a small segment of The Voyage of Argo, focusing on the god-imbued love Medea feels for Jason, whom had arrived to take the Golden Fleece. He is set a task by Medea's father, King Aeetes, to sow teeth that grow in to giants and slay them all. An impossible task, unless one had help from a witch named Medea...

The other story concerning Jason and Medea is Euripides's play Medea, which focuses on her rather more than Apollonius does here. It is a nice story and one that all fans of Greek myth should encounter at some point, but unlike Euripides, Apollonius is not sympathetic towards women at all, though he begrudgingly accepts that goddesses have powers, too.

Plague Land

Plague Land - S. D. Sykes *Recieved via Bookbridgr

Oswald de Lacy has spent his childhood in a monastery but at the age of seventeen he is sent back home to be Lord of Somerhill Manor after the plague wipes out his father and two brothers. Waiting for him at home are his mother who insists incessantly that he marry as quick as possible, his sister who insists incessantly that she herself marry a very unsuitable man and the death of a young woman named Alison Starvecrow who, before she was seen last, was known to have wanted to speak to Oswald. But the local priest is insisting it is the work of a dog-head: a man with the head of a beast doing the work of the devil. Oswald does not believe that story: but how can he convince the locals and find the true murderer?

This book had some promise. I found little to criticise in the writing: it was quite concise at times and there were only a few minor mistakes. It just was not very engaging which, coupled with the weak plot and paper-thin characters, made it quite the slog.

The characters were, for all intents and purposes, only there to be there. Every single character was unlikeable and seemed either there to simply antagonise the main character Oswald, or as filler. Oswald himself was the most developed character, but even then he was undeveloped and he certainly didn't develop in any way as the novel went along, nor did any other characters.

There was an attempt to create strong female characters (such as the sister) to counteract the misogynist stereotypes but they were feeble at best. I also found the way the characters (especially Oswald) just knew things (like how long a body has been dead for by examining certain things) just a little too fishy and handled in a blasé manner. I have no idea if they could tell how long a person has been dead for in the mediaeval period but the way it was dealt with here felt unrealistic and inaccurate. I'd be happy to be corrected on this matter.

The plot was intriguing at first: a girl is found dead after wanting to speak with Oswald but no-one else seems to think it is anything but the work of the devil. It was infuriating the way the simpletons of the town went along with everything the priest said; whilst this may be accurate I don't think it was handled well. The story just drags: I quite enjoyed the mystery though I figured it out very early on and the ending was quick to come, but at the very end it was whole-heartedly confusing.

It wasn't particularly written badly, nor was the plot all that bad. It was mainly the characters that let it down the most. Though what I will say is that the world-building was intense and very satisfying. There is a map provided but you might as well disregard that as the description and location within the book itself is fantastic. I felt very much like I was within mediaeval times, though atmosphere was lacking and it felt mostly like I was in the countryside.

It's a relatively good book but it just didn't grab me at all and I was very happen to finish it. I wish I knew more about mediaeval England to evaluate the historical accuracies because honestly that's one of the areas where I felt most sceptical.

Caligula (Little Black Classics #17)

Caligula (Little Black Classics #17) - Suetonius Suentonius was a 2nd Century CE Roman historian, who is best known for his work The Twelve Caesars, in which he writes of the twelve Roman Emperors, from Julius Caesar to Domitian (49 BCE to 96 CE).

This Little Black Classic is a wonder to behold. It recounts the horrors of Caligula, the nickname of Gaius Caesar, 3rd Emperor of the Roman Empire during the 1st century, CE. At the age of 26, Caligula was sleeping with his sisters, stealing wives, having relations with famous dancers and killing anyone he decided to. Suetonius's biography was the original and it recounts the most bizarre and horrendous escapades of a man who would not let any man, woman or child mention goats within his vicinity. It is written so well, but at the beginning there are so many names you may need to place yourself to get to grips with the Roman Empire's lineage. Caligula, whilst obviously severely mentally ill, was also absolutely hilarious, but only with 2000 years worth of retrospective perspective.