Review: Raising Steam, Terry Pratchett

I am a long-term fan of Discworld.  I really wanted to be a fan of this one.  But I finished it just feeling grateful to have reached the end.  I have never felt like that about a book by Terry Pratchett before and I was so disappointed.  There were moments of true hilarity and as always it was nice to see old friends again but the problem was that rather than raising steam as the title promised, this novel seemed to finally prove that Terry Pratchett seems to be running out of puff.

Raising Steam had a feel of a closing-down sale with lightning-quick cameos from a range of borderline-forgotten characters (anybody remember Queen Keli?) - even poor old Rincewind popped up cowering in a footnote.  The whole book had a real feel of a closing down sale, a quick run through of all the characters before the curtain drop forever.  It did not escape my notice that this was the fortieth Discworld novel and I did wonder if Pratchett had simply wanted to power through to reach this milestone.  He has stated himself that he would be happy for his daughter to continue the series after his death but I would actually prefer to treasure the many, many highs that there have been rather than have more volumes which fail to match the original standard.

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books of 2014 vol. 2

So, this year I have been reading like gangbusters this year.  Like gangbusters.  That is a phrase which has largely fallen into disuse - I checked my idioms dictionary and apparently it refers to a 1930s radio programme called Gangbusters which started with 'a great deal of noise and excitement'.  While I have perhaps not been reading noisily, I think that blogging it about afterwards is pretty much the same thing and it has been the cause of a great deal of excitement.  So yes.  I have been reading like gangbusters.  Ahem.  Now, around six months ago I did my Top Ten Books of 2014 So Far - I have actually slowed down slightly since then but I still have had a good few to pick from so I decided to run a Round Two on that topic.  To clarify, this only covers fiction books which I have read since June this year.  I am thinking actually for next week that I'm going to do an overall Top Ten for non-fiction.  I feel as though it's insufficiently Christmassy but I've already done two Christmas-themed posts for my Tuesday lists and we're getting towards the end of the year.  I have end-of-2014 Girl with her Head in a Book business to attend to.  So, the winners for the last six months are as follows (shockingly enough The Boleyn Reckoning did not make this list):

Review: Foxglove Summer, Ben Aaronovitch

With Foxglove Summer, the Peter Grant series hits its fifth instalment - it is now officially 'well-established'.  So well-established in fact that this time, Aaronovitch felt confident enough to ditch the usual formula of 'wizarding police in London' and send Peter Grant off into the countryside.  By himself.  To look for two missing children.  If Peter had discovered any kind of comfort zone over the past four books, it is pretty clear that Aaronovitch's mission in this book is to kick him out of it.  So we switch from urban fantasy to copper on holiday.  Still, having now reached Book #5, there is a real sense of 'you're either in or you're out' and neither Aaronovitch or his protagonist Peter waste any time on explaining the series' back story.

Saturday Poem - Her Kind

Anne Sexton has become kind of a controversial figure in the decades since her death.  This poem is dark and kind of disturbing the more you think about it but the imagery is incredibly haunting.  Yet somehow, there is a real beauty to her words that deserves to be remembered.

Her Kind

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.

Anne Sexton

For the full archive of past Saturday poems, visit Poetry Please in the Features.

Booktube 6 - Wuthering Heights Readalong

Another big shout out about the book club readalong which I'm taking part in/hosting this December along with Kirsty from the Literary Sisters.  Our book for this month is Wuthering Heights and  CGrace, Lory and Rachel are also participating.  I'm planning on blogging my review rather than booktubing but I wanted to share my current copies of the book ...

For an archive of past Booktubes, please visit here.

Paddington at the Cinema

On Friday I saw Paddington - going from the reactions of my housemates, this does seem to have been an unusual thing for a woman in her late twenties to do.  It was a very lovable film though - I went with a friend and we both came out with big happy faces.  I missed out on the Postman Pat film earlier this year although he too was one of my childhood idols.  I think though that it was easier for Paddington to make the jump to the big screen though because there is more of an arc to his 'mythology' (for want of a better term).  While Postman Pat is awesome, his story is that of an ordinary guy doing his job and doing it very well - nothing ever really changes.  Paddington is the bear who has travelled from Darkest Peru to seek a new home - his journey is one of discovery and adventure, far more than that of the world's best postman.  Paddington is just adorable.

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Christmas Moments in Books

Christmas is imminent, the goose has a severe obesity problem and it's Tuesday once again.  Last week, I wrote my extremely optimistic letter to Father Christmas so this week I'm looking at Christmas again from a slightly different angle.  Just about every long-running television series or soap opera has its annual Christmas Episode where it always snows or someone gets married (and seriously, who gets married on Christmas Day in real life?) but in books things tend to go slightly differently, namely because while chucking a bit of fake snow around on-screen makes for instant drama, the reader needs slightly more.  With my birthday coming so close to the Day itself, my childhood anticipation used to be extremely intense - it was when all the new books arrived.  Anyway, these are the books that I came up with - the ones that conjure up Christmas or which have been significant to me in the build-up.

Review: The King's Sister, Anne O'Brien

If my reputation as History Geek Extraordinaire was not already well-established, my joy at noticing this book in the departures lounge bookshop last weekend really serves to underline it.  I am a huge fan of the House of Lancaster.  John of Gaunt is my all time number one Hot Historical Dead Guy and his love story with Katherine Swynford is truly amazing.  I'm not alone in this view - my joint review of Anya Seton's historical novel and Alison Weir's biography has been the most viewed page on my site for over two years and Anne O'Brien's recent adaptation The Scandalous Duchess only served to demonstrate that theirs remains one of the most celebrated love stories in history and it actually happened.  In choosing to write The King's Sister, O'Brien is creating a novel which is almost a sequel or at the very least a companion to The Scandalous Duchess. This is the story of John of Gaunt's second daughter, Elizabeth of Lancaster, consigned to history as a wild girl who caused nothing but trouble and who put her own carnal desires before her family duties.  It is kind of surprising that it has taken this long for her to make her historical fiction debut.