Review – The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. RowlingTitle: The Casual Vacancy

Author: J. K. Rowling

Publisher: Little, Brown and Co.

Published: Sept 2012

Genre: Contemporary

Source: Borrowed from a friend

My Rating: 4/5

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Amazon UK

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Pagford is a small town where everyone knows everyone else, and gossip is hard to miss.  When Barry Fairbrother unexpectedly dies, everyone is affected, especially as this means there is a ‘casual vacancy’ on the town Parish Council.  Told through the viewpoints of a few families, we are shown how politics can change the face of a town, even when everyone is simply trying to live their lives.

I admit I didn’t know much about The Casual Vacancy before I picked it up, other than who the author is (I think everyone can relate to that), and that it was full of profanity.  Due to having heard a lot about the latter, I was expecting to be hit in the face with swear words, but honestly, I barely   characters, and therefore blend naturally into the storytelling.  For me, this was a huge bonus as I don’t have an issue with swearing, as long as it is not used purely to be controversial, which I don’t believe it was in the this book.

There are quite a lot of characters, yet I didn’t have any trouble knowing who was who (a couple of times I had to stop and think when a parent uses the first name of their teenage ‘Stuart’, but everyone else refers to him as ‘fats’.)  While this story could probably have been told with fewer characters, I actually enjoyed being able to see multiple points of view throughout the narrative, and therefore felt more understanding of almost all the characters.

While this book is, in a sense, about politics, it is more an example of British social structure within a small town.  However, saying that, the main problem I had with this book (and why I didn’t give it 5 stars) was that I couldn’t really relate to the social viewpoints and experiences of any of the characters.  Of course, it would be impossible to have lived every version, and that is one reason why I enjoy reading – because it allows us an internal view of other people – but I couldn’t really find anything to relate to with anyone, which kind of made them feel more like stock characters, even though they were more than 2-d versions.  I’m not exactly sure why I felt so unattached, but it did ruin the overall affect of the book, in my opinion.  Personally I feel The Casual Vacancy would work better as a film.

The book was fairly enjoyable, though I felt the ending was a little contrived.   J. K. Rowling kept the style everyone enjoys in Harry Potter (simple and easy to read), and I certainly feel more confident in wanting to read more of books, and hope she continues to create unique content.

I would recommend this to anyone looking for something that puts the current social and political climate into perspective for individuals. However, I feel that it could also be enjoyed by anyone wishing to expand their understanding of how certain events can affect everyone around them, either directly and indirectly. As stated, this book does contain profanity, as well as addressing things such as drug use, rape and underage sex – if these themes aren’t to your taste, you probably won’t enjoy the book as much.

 

Review: A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R.R. Martin

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Title: A Game of Thrones – Book 1 (A Song of Ice and Fire)

Author: George R. R. Martin

Publisher: Bantrum Sprectre

First Published: August 1991

Genre: High Fantasy

Source: Library

My Rating: 3/5

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Amazon UK

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The first volume of A Song of Ice and Fire, the greatest fantasy epic of the modern age. GAME OF THRONES is now a major TV series from HBO, starring Sean Bean.

Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.

As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.

The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne. [Taken from Goodreads]

I have been hearing a lot about the TV series ‘A Game of Thrones’ recently. Being me, I decided to read at least the first book before watching it. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll be reading any more of them, though I am still hoping to watch the show.

To me, I just didn’t find the plotline(s) that interesting.  A Game of Thrones is set in a fictional world that is very reminiscent of the middle age – with Lords and knights, etc.  I’m still a bit hazy on what actually happened in the book; to be honest, I found it quite boring to read as it’s very long-winded, with very little action happening til the end of the book.

There are a lot of characters, but I was surprised that it didn’t take me long to know them all (or at as each section is headed with who it’s about, it’s fairly easy to follow what is happening to whom (though not necessarily where).  I expect that if I did choose to continue reading, I would become more invested in some of the characters, but as there were so many, it was impossible to really get to know any individual character well enough to care about them.

While this book wasn’t my cup of tea, I can see why it appeals to so many people.  There is backstabbing and secrets and valour, as well as a very intrinsic history which makes the world and its inhabitants believable.

I expect you will like this book if you enjoy high fantasy epics (though I love The Lord of the Rings so I can’t go by that alone), and are interested in the world of Kings and Queens, Lords and Ladies, and the battle between all of them for titles.

 

Review: Burning Embers by Hannah Fielding

ImageTitle: Burning Embers

Author: Hannah Fielding

Publisher: Omnific Publishing

Published: April 2012

Genre: Romance

My Rating: 3/5

Goodreads

Amazon UK

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Coral Sinclair is a young woman making the journey back to her childhood home, Mpingo, in Kenya following her father’s death.  Travelling from England she meets a stranger she can’t help but feel an emotional pull towards, but when she reaches Mpingo she starts hearing rumours about the stranger, Rafe, and how he may have been connected to her father’s death.  However, Coral can’t help but become entranced with Rafe, despite all the warnings she receives to not trust him.

Burning Embers is a typical romance.  It is set in 1970, as change is starting to happen in Africa, but when there is still a society of rich white people, all with their servants and plantations.  Coral is a naive 25 year old who is aware of the changes, but doesn’t seem to be aware of how the changes will affect her life if she were to stay in Kenya which is her plan.  Instead, she becomes wound up with Rafe de Monfort, a handsome man with a very complicated and dark past.

To me this book felt a little bland as there is nothing unexpected in the slightest, though it could be argued that’s a trait of the genre.  One thing I really liked about Burning Embers was the attention to detail.  The author, Hannah Fielding, includes a lot of descriptions which means the reader can envisage this world that most of us would not get to experience otherwise (one reason I love reading).  The characters were a little more two dimensional than I would have liked, but nevertheless they do have believable characteristics (if somewhat exaggerated) and have enough back story to be realistic; I don’t think the novel suffered because of it.

One thing I would especially have liked to see would be more of how the political and social climates of the time affected Coral and her ‘yaha’ (nanny) Aluna, but it was only alluded to and not a main part of the story.

The majority of the book is told from Coral’s point of view, though there are the occasional sections in Rafe’s which, for me, made the book a little less interesting as I wanted to discover and learn about him along with the main character.  There is plenty of rumours and women, so it is easy to see why Coral is wary of Rafe, though I admit that other than her sexual attraction to him, I couldn’t work out why they were destined for one another, but that’s just my opinion.

In general, this book wasn’t anything special, though it was enjoyable.  I would recommend it to anyone who loves exotic romances, and those who enjoy trying to work out the truth amidst the lies, rumours and assumptions.

[I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.]

Musing Monday (7th Oct)

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Musing Mondays is hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. It asks you to muse about one of the following each week…

 

• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it! 
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

My musing:

For some reason this year I just haven’t read as many books as I’d have liked. Of course, I know the year is not yet over, but according to my Goodreads I am 11 books behind my schedule (I put my aim at 60 as I read 59 books last year), so I admit that I feel I’m unlikely to catch up, especially with Christmas coming up. 

I’m not sure why I haven’t been reading so much, but I feel that I have found very few (if any) books that really excite me. You know the ones that keep you up at night because you can’t stop reading them? Well, I’m not sure when the last time I read a book like that was. 

But I want to get excited by reading again. I know that one way to do that is just to read, and I plan on making more of an effort to read during the day as well as in the morning.  So if anyone has any books they can recommend, ones you think will make me want to read and read and read without stopping, please share in the comments, as I miss that feeling of loving reading as much as I once did.