Review: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

ImageTitle: A Short History of Nearly Everything

Author: Bill Bryson

Publisher: Broadway Books

Published: January 2003

Genre: Non-Fiction

My Rating: 3/5


Amazon UK

Sorry I haven’t posted in the past couple of weeks, but reading A Short History of Nearly Everything took me quite a lot longer than planned.  I have read a couple of Bill Bryson books in the past and am a big fan of his style; this book, however, was a lot denser and heavier reading than I was expecting.

I was hoping that A Short History of Nearly Everything would include more history of modern day items, but evidently I had misunderstood what the focus of the book is.

The book sort-of follows the story from the beginning of the universe, to us now.  I say sort-of as Bryson tends to focus more on how the science was discovered, than the actual science.  I really liked this as Bryson included a lot of anecdotal stories, which in my opinion, is one of the best things about his writing.  This did mean, though, that at times I was confused about where I was up to in the story of creation.  It also meant a lot of names and dates which is not something I am a big fan of.

While I found this book easier to read than a textbook, I don’t think I have retained any of the information I was reading.  And, as I said at the beginning of this review, I found it quite heavy reading which is unusual of Bryson’s books (from the ones I’ve read so far); perhaps that is due to the very scientific nature of the information being shared.  It took me a couple of weeks to read and I felt I was forcing myself through parts of it. 

It is really the anecdotal stories, told in Bryson’s relaxed manner, that kept me reading til the end; as well as an interest in the subject (even if I won’t remember it all).  I would recommend A Short History of Nearly Everything to anyone interested in how we know what we know about the creation of our world and species, but only if you’re willing to spend a fair amount of time reading about it as this is not a book that is easily skimmed through.  Even though this book wasn’t what I was expecting, and wasn’t entirely what I wanted to read, it didn’t put me off my plan to read more Bryson books in the future.


Review: The Fifty Shades Trilogy

ImageTitle: Fifty Shades of Grey; Fifty Shades Darker; Fifty Shades Freed

Author: E L James

Publisher: Arrow Books

Published: 2011

Genre: Romance/Erotica

My Rating: 4/5


Amazon UK

I’m fairly certain you have heard about Fifty Shades of Grey, but just in case you live under a rock it is a fairly typical story of shy, naive girl meets handsome rich boy.  Only the boy had a terrible childhood creating more issues than he is aware of, and a desperation for control which he channels through his ‘secret’ life as a Dominant.  The books were actually originally written as a ‘Twilight’ Fan-Fiction, but they have become super popular and very controversial.

Firstly, I have to say that I picked up the first book expecting to hate it – and for the first third or so, it definitely wasn’t my favourite read.  I don’t like the unrealistic aspect of it, I mean is there a 21 year old woman in the modern world, one who is just finishing off college, who not only has no sexual experience at all (despite her roommate/best friend having a LOT of it), but uses the phrase ‘oh my’?  Honestly, by the end of the first book I wanted to scream every single time ‘oh my’ came up on the page, which is far too often, though admittedly it mostly dies down in the subsequent books.  And Christian Grey is not only so rich he can literally do anything he wants to, but drop-dead gorgeous to every person who looks at him.  I get the whole rich and hot idea, but other than eyes that are varying shades of grey, Christian is given no other physical attributes other than repeatedly being told that he has incredible looks (to be fair, it is mentioned in the third book that he has floppy hair).  The problem with this for me is that, while I want to fill in the blanks in my own mind, there was nothing to work with so I still cannot picture Christian at all.

Despite that, I found myself enjoying the books enough to finish all of them.  The main reason for that is the relationships and dynamics within the story.  As a romance, the relationship (no matter how fucked-up) needs to be the centre of the story and on this E. L. James delivers.  Well, mostly delivers, as for some reason part of the last book seemed to turn into a thriller which I didn’t appreciate as it felt like extra issues were being added into the story that didn’t need to be so extreme for the character development that occurs because of them.  Admittedly the books could have been better written but I didn’t feel that the writing negatively impacted the telling of the story which is the important thing.

I guess a review on the Fifty Shades series has to talk about the BDSM aspect of the novel.  Personally I feel that the BDSM is more of the framework of the story, rather than an integral part.  From my understanding of BDSM, there are a lot of incorrect assumptions put across in the books which I feel gives the wrong impression of BDSM and I can completely understand why that community isn’t too keen on it.  I also worry that people may read these books and think that that kind of abuse is okay in a relationship, as long as the term ‘BDSM’ is applied which is obviously not true.  To some extent the ‘rules’ of BDSM are explained in the first book Fifty Shades of Grey, however I feel that while the words may be technically correct, the actions of the characters is not.  For a writer this is a perfect example of the difference between telling and showing as, particularly with the way that Christian acts, he says one thing then does something that totally disagrees with it.

Fifty Shades is an erotica romance.  Yes, it is a romance that has a lot of problems, more than your average book, but it is still first and foremost a romance story and so there are the predictable tropes everyone expects.  As an erotica you can expect a lot of sexual and sensual scenes which, when not interrupted with ‘oh my’ were fairly enjoyable to read.

I did enjoy reading these books, the second being my favourite of them as there was more of the developing relationship dynamic than the first book, but it wasn’t as heavy as the last so, for me, was a better mix of characters and romance.  Reading these books has made me interested in seeing what else the genre has to offer as I am sure there are better written books available, with a slightly more realistic approach which is what I personally prefer.  I would recommend the series to anyone looking for a spicy romance which allows you to experience a large range of intense emotions. However, I wouldn’t recommend it if you don’t like to read sex scenes as that is what the majority of the books are (or talking about sex); they also include plenty of swearing.

Review: The Gift by Rachel Newcomb

ImageTitle: The Gift

Author: Rachel Newcomb

Publisher: Smashwords

Published: June 2013

Genre: Contemporary

My Rating: 4.5/5


Amazon UK

Celia, a Princeton scholarship student and aspiring writer, feels that she hasn’t had enough ‘life experience’ to have anything worthwhile to write about. So when she has to get a new job, she takes a chance on a newspaper advert for an egg donor.

Elise, a freelance editor, is determined to have a child and refuses to accept that her body won’t naturally create one.  Elise is impressed with Celia’s written application and selects her, however Elise is determined to get to know Celia in the process.

Peter, Elise’s husband, is a Princeton Grad student, struggling to complete his dissertation.  Between the stress of starting a family and Elise quitting her job, Peter finds it increasingly difficult to find his focus.

When I started reading, I wasn’t sure whether it would be something I would enjoy. However, that soon left my mind as I became enchanted with Rachel Newcomb’s words.  There were so many times I had to stop and just drink in the beauty of the language used, which is something I rarely find in a book.  This, surprisingly, didn’t detract in any way from the story.  The main reason for this, in my opinion, is the strong and real characters Rachel has created; the fact that the story is told through a mix of the three main character’s perspectives only strengthened this.

I felt I could really relate to Celia.  She is a young woman with dreams of becoming a writer, but once at College/University Celia starts to become aware of how sheltered her upbringing in South Carolina was and begins to worry that without exciting adventures, she won’t have anything to write about.  While I related most with Celia, I could empathise with all the characters, feeling that I knew them as if they were friends.

Despite the controversial topics raised in this novel, I feel that The Gift is a novel about three people finding themselves and not simply constructed in an attempt to share the author’s opinions.  There was enough information for me to understand what was going on in the sense of the egg donation, but that wasn’t the focus of the story.  The novel completely revolves around the characters and I was sorry that it had to end.  Though the beginning was a little slow, the only main issue I had with this novel is the title.  The book felt so unique that I wished it had a title that not only encapsulated that, but one that won’t be easily confused with other novels (such as The Gift by Cecelia Ahern).

I would recommend The Gift to anyone who appreciates the beauty of language, as well as those looking for an interesting contemporary read which doesn’t allow the subject to create a heavy cast over it.  I am definitely planning to read more novels by Rachel Newcomb.

[Disclaimer: I received this ebook in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.]