Review: ‘The Book of Lost Things’ by John Connolly [2006]

the book of lost things
❤ Confession: I picked up this book because I was wooed by the cover. ❤

I have to start by saying that I really loved the plot of this novel. It weaves together several Angela Carter-esque rewriting of popular myths and stories, but in this context they are all set in the same Universe (Kind of like the prelude to Once Upon A Time, but way darker). The young protagonist David is forced to travel through this strange, fairy-tale land in what he believes is a quest to find his mother, but is actually an evil plot laid out by the Crooked Man, or as we might know him, Rumpelstiltskin. In a typically formulaic bildungsroman plot David faces multiple challenges and wins battles that no child should ever win, making friends and enemies along the way. ‘The Book of Lost Things’ is in no way ground-breaking, but it is entertaining and very creepy. The best parts, in my opinion, were the stories. The allusions to our own popular myths and fairy tales are reworked into terrifying ‘truths’ – I have always been really excited by this kind of thing (refer back to the Angela Carter comment) so I dived into these sections happily and wish there was more of them. In the same way the most unsettling parts were not the gore but the small implications, such as the relationship between David and Roland, which create a worrying undertone in their interactions. There are also some light-hearted, funny breaks within the plot: such as the new version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves! These are not too frequent, so the true nature of the novel isn’t affected, thankfully.

In between these wonderful stories, though, the plot begins to flag slightly. As I’ve previously alluded to in reference to the formulaic plot, some parts of the novel were predictable – for example the identity of the king and the book of lost things itself, but if you can forgive this it is still an enjoyable read. I have to confess that I wanted more to be written from the Crooked Man’s perspective, the glimpse into his lair and history was brilliantly creepy. As a character he could have been absolutely terrifying but I don’t think this was fully realised and it was kept a little too PG. If you’re going to create a fairy-tale for adults, you may as well go for it and make it really, really creepy. This novel is already unsuitable for children so why stall in some strange half-way stage and not go for full on terrifying? I think the author missed a big trick there and I kept waiting to hit that next level.

Back to the positives: I love the context of the Second World War. This elevates the novel because it draws on the escapist methods often used by children to escape their own lives – it starts to make it believable, as much as a fairy tale can be. David’s tendency to withdraw into the world of his books is captured perfectly, and the subsequent bildungsroman is paced very well. The blend of historical fiction and fantasy is uneven as the history takes a backseat, but the awareness that this momentous war is going on in the background adds an extra layer of depth to the story.

Furthermore, the characters of David’s father and step-mother are written well. They don’t play a major part in any way, but David’s skewed perspective of the ‘evil’ step-mother taking the place of his mother is executed well and as the reader, we can see how her attempts to fit into his life are misconstrued. The same goes for David’s father, and I loved the little references to his work as a code-breaker for the War effort. Seeing through David’s eyes we sympathise, but as adults we can also see how his view is inaccurate and biased: a perfectly understandable eight year old reaction to the trauma of losing his mother. ‘The Book of Lost Things’ would definitely make for an interesting study in psychology and Freudian ideas.

Overall I’m giving ‘The Book of Lost Things’ a thumbs up. If, like me, you’re into the rewriting of old myths and tales it is definitely worth a read.

Review: ‘The Hunger’ by Lincoln Townley [2014]

Lincoln Townley’s ‘The Hunger’ is a brutally honest depiction of his years spent in SoHo, drinking, whoring and snorting. Townley carries us through some of the most memorable experiences of this time, as well as many of the fantasies and hallucinations that haunted his mind as he struggled with his addiction. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this novel and having finished it I can’t say I’m any more enlightened as to how I feel about it. But, here are a couple of points I picked up.

the hunger

It took me a while to get used to the structure of ‘The Hunger’, as it jumped about a lot in time through the narrator’s periods of lucidity. Each passage is titled with the time, date and year, but it’s pretty impossible to keep up with that in relation to the other parts of the book. After a while though I just ignored the timings and embraced the whirlwind nature of the book, accepting that it all happened during one messy period and that, really, the particular times and dates don’t matter at all. Once I relaxed into this it became a far easier read and I enjoyed the flow. Whether one thing happened before the other doesn’t make any difference to most of the narrative.

The brilliance of this book lies in the construction of Esurio: the multi-dimensional, maniacal personification of ‘The Hunger’ – addiction. He starts off as this suave, intriguing character and slowly evolves into something worse throughout the novel. His initial seduction is spellbinding; the way that he convinces Lincoln he is somehow ‘special’ and invincible in ways other people are not. As he gets worse the old-time, well-dressed gentleman begins to shift into something more animalistic and terrifying. At the points where he starts to scream ‘FEED ME LINCOLN, FEED ME’ you can almost hear it yourself, the rage swelling across the pages. It is a fascinating insight into the psychology of addiction.

The most impactful aspect is, without a doubt, the truthfulness of the story. You completely forget when you are reading and can even start to criticise the plot, but then you take a step back and realise every word is true (Esurio is fictional, of course, but his influence is real). At this moment you are really hit with the pain that emanates from the book, the idea that these shocking things actually happened and their effect on the narrator. It becomes something truly raw and often painful to read, even those sections that are edged with a definite bitter humour.

The main problem that I encountered whilst reading ‘The Hunger’ was that it becomes repetitive at times. In many ways I can appreciate that this just gives you even more of an insight into addiction: the reader is drawn into the cycle of repeating the same things and hoping for a different result. However, it did start to drag towards the second half and I had to force myself to finish. I have to conclude that is see ‘The Hunger’ as more of a personal venture for the author, as a way of communicating and understanding his past. I pushed myself through it much in the same way Lincoln pushes his way through life towards the end of the novel, but I don’t regret making myself finish the book. It made me laugh and it made me think. The message it portrays is meaningful and I feel partly honoured that the author has chosen to share his journey with us. In the afterword Townley explains his reasoning, gives thanks to his loved ones and leaves us with a fairly poignant warning: ‘Esurio is very patient and as keen to get to know you as he was to get to know me’.

WWW Wednesday – 17th August 2016

WWW is hosted by Taking On A World of Words (https://samannelizabeth.wordpress.com/) and all you have to do is answer the three W’s:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

So…Let’s give it a shot!

What are you currently reading?

I am currently 10 pages into ‘The Last Pier’ by Roma Tearne, so I can’t say that I know much about it as of yet. The Independent describes it as ‘An atmospheric page-turner and Tearne keeps the reader guessing to the end’, and I absolutely adore fiction focused around the Second World War so I am certain that I will enjoy this novel. I picked this up at random in Waterstones and haven’t heard anything about it, so I’m excited to form my own opinion.

the last pier

What did you recently finish reading?

I have been on a roll recently! Well, maybe not compared to most of you readers, but I’m really starting to get back into the ease and speed with which I used to get through books – and I love it! I’m not going to say too much about these because they are all due to be reviewed on my blog very soon, but here’s the books I have recently finished reading:

the cursed child.jpg

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Jack Thorne & J.K. Rowling

 

The widow.jpg

 

The Widow – Fiona Barton

 

the hunger

 

The Hunger- Lincoln Townley

 

the book of lost things

 

The Book of Lost Things – John Connolly

 

What do you think you will read next?

As I am a little short of funds, I won’t be able to buy any new books in the immediate future so I will be reading a couple of books that my parents have read and then set aside for me. I’m not against that though, I quite like reading books that aren’t quite new and that I know nothing about – you discover some real gems that way.

‘The Shakespeare Secret’ by J. L. Carrell

This one is a little different to my usual reads but I really am so excited to start it. The blurb clams that ‘The Shakespeare Secret masterfully combines modern murder and startling true revelations from the life of Shakespeare’, and from what I can tell the thriller seems to be about a murderer who copies the deaths of Shakespeare characters. Given my love of Shakespeare, I can’t wait to see where the author takes this one and I hope it doesn’t disappoint.

The shakespear secret

‘My Brilliant Friend’ by Elena Ferrante

Another work of historical fiction, this novel follows the lives of two girls on the streets in 1950s Naples. I know nothing more than that, but I’ve heard the novel is excellently written and I expect I will enjoy it very much.

My brilliant friend

‘A Medal for Leroy’ by Michael Morpurgo

Another Second World War historical novel! I’m spoiling myself. We all know Michael Morpurgo does it well, and it’s unusual for me to come across a novel of his that I haven’t read. Also, there’s a dog on the cover. It’s going to be great.

A medal for leroy

 

That’s all from me! What are you guys  reading?

Anonymous Bookaholics Tag!

I came across this tag in a couple of places, and I think it looks like fun! I’d say i’m only recently suffering a bookaholic relapse after University, when I stopped buying books due to monetary and time-management issues. Now i’m out and running this blog, i’m quickly falling back into old patterns!

What do you like about buying new books?

I love the entire process. Roaming the bookstore, picking up new titles. It’s always torturous narrowing my choices down to a couple, but once I do I can never wait to get home. The touch of the cover, the crisp pages, the excitement of a new story. I love it!

How often do you buy new books?

Not as often as I’d like, because I’m broke, lol. I’m going shopping this afternoon though! After that I probably won’t buy any for a month or so.

Bookstore or online book shopping?

I like online because it’s cheaper, but for that to work I have to know in advance what I want to buy. My preference is to browse a bookshop without anything particular in mind.

Do you pre-order books?

I never have, but I definitely would if I wanted something so badly!

Do you have a monthly book buying limit?

I haven’t needed to set myself a limit yet, because whilst I was at University I never really bought any – I didn’t have the money. I still don’t have much so I just avoid going into bookshops as much as possible unless I’ve set a little money aside.

Book buying bans – are they something for you!

I wouldn’t particularly set a strict ban on myself, just decide not to visit any bookshops for a while! Same as the above, really.

How big is your wishlist?

Not particularly big! I save titles of books I see reviewed sometimes if I want to check them out, but that’s about it. I prefer to buy books on the day without any previous planning of what I want. It’s more exciting to me.

Which three books from your wishlist do you wish to own now?

  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, of course! I plan to buy this book today.
  • The Widow by Fiona Barton is also high on my list, I think it looks incredible.
  • B A Paris – Behind Closed Doors is the final!

 

What do you guys think? What would your answers be? 

The Secret Life of a Book Blogger Tag

Hi guys! I haven’t actually been tagged in this ‘secret life of a book blogger’, but I’ve seen a few people doing it without being tagged and I think it looks really fun, so here goes!

  1. How long have you been a blogger for?

I have been blogging for around three months, as I set up Booklighting after my final University exams in May 2016.

  1. At what point do you think you will stop?

Hopefully not for a long time! I imagine I will get busy and have to slow down a bit eventually, but I like to think I’ll still post occasionally, if only for my own enjoyment.

  1. What is the best part?

For me, the best part about blogging is that it makes me read more. I completely stopped reading for pleasure during University because I just had so much to read for my course, so starting this blog for me was a great way to get myself back into reading like I used to. Now I’m flying through books again!

  1. What is the worst part?

The worst part is the time commitment. There are a lot of things to consider when blogging, it isn’t just writing and adding a post but interacting with other blogs, keeping up to date with what is going on in the community and of course, reading! It can really take up a lot of time and I definitely am not doing as much as I would like to be at the moment.

  1. Who’s your book crush?

I have SO. MANY. Most books I read I end up with a crush of some sort. The first two that spring to mind at the moment are Damon Salvatore from ‘The Vampire Diaries’ series and Devil Wix from ‘The Illusionists’.

  1. What author would you like to have on your blog?

I would love to have Donna Tartt featured on my blog, but that is never going to happen! I am happy to be contacted by any authors.

  1. What do you wear when you write your blog?

I usually write blog posts at the weekend, so I’ll be slobbing around in leggings or shorts and a t-shirt.

  1. How long does it take you to prepare a post?

I tend to write my blog posts in one sitting, maybe in an hour or something like that. I like to bullet point my thoughts on a book first and then turn it into paragraphs, which is a nice and easy transition.

  1. How do you feel about the book blogger community/culture?

I think everyone is really friendly. When I first joined I received many welcoming comments and they seem to have dropped off now, but that’s alright. I’m hoping I’ll be able to find some closer connections within the community soon.

  1. What do you think one should do to have a successful blog?

For me, I think the important thing to remember is to interact with others. Leaving comments on people’s blog posts and contacting twitter accounts goes a long way towards attracting followers.

 

What do you guys think? Do you agree/disagree with any of my thoughts?

Review: ‘Luckiest Girl Alive’ by Jessica Knoll [2015]

Greetings, bloggers! I hope you have had wonderful weeks – mine was full of work and job interviews, but somehow last week I managed to absolutely FLY through ‘Luckiest Girl Alive’. This book is plastered all over the front of my local Waterstones at the moment, so when I received it for my birthday last month I couldn’t wait to get stuck in and immediately snuck it to the top of my list. This is the fastest that I’ve managed to get through a novel in a long time because it was an interesting read, however I did have some issues with it.

 

luckiest girl alive

‘Luckiest Girl Alive’ is not by any means ground-breaking, but it is gripping, and a thoroughly enjoyable read. It is also shocking: let me tell you now, the thing? You think you’ve figured out the thing, and then a new, bigger thing comes along and you realise that nothing you’ve been assuming so far is correct. It’s a real surprise when everything starts to kick off. BUT, I won’t get into that any further.

One of my favourite things about this book is how conflicted I feel about the majority of its characters. Ani, our protagonist, is understandably difficult. I like that I don’t particularly like her, but I feel desperately sorry for her. The way that her family and friends begin to close in around her is brilliantly executed, and something that I can definitely relate to. Her journey of acceptance and discovery is compelling and I absolutely adored some of her snarky quips and mean little digs. However, I struggled to connect with Ani. There is absolutely no emotional link there, and on the very first page of the novel she considers the possibility of stabbing her own fiancé in the stomach. This little suggestion so early on in the novel made me think that it was going in a completely different direction. The other characters I mostly disliked, which is not to say that they are not written well. Luke is bland, boring and perhaps a little judgemental, but I can forget him in the face of my hatred for Ani’s mother. The woman is absolutely everything that I hate: a woman so concerned with appearances that she neglects her own child’s pain to hide it. Having said that, she must have been written brilliantly in order to incite such emotion from me!

My biggest, and frankly quite an important problem, was with the way that the novel dealt with such important issues: namely rape and eating disorders. And when I say ‘dealt’ with them, I mean they were thrown in there in an attempt to make the novel more exciting, and then were largely glossed over. Other than her complete emotional disconnect we don’t see any after effect of Ani’s rape, and I would go so far as to venture that her eating disorder was glamourized for the sake of this high-society, hard-working City girl character that the author wants to construct. It feels a little like she is throwing as many things in as possible in order to keep shocking the reader, without any thought as to the deeper underlying issues that could be explored with just one of them.

As for the ending, I thought it was a little lacking. I completely get it, that final line: ‘I’m TifAni Fanelli’ symbolises the circle that our protagonist has completed, and her acceptance of self. It should be impactful and meaningful, but I actually just turned the page and thought ‘oh, is that it?’. I would have liked to see more of TifAni’s life following the final page.

Dear readers, don’t let these issues put you off. I really enjoyed this book, and I would still recommend it despite the problems that I found. If you want to read, enjoy, and not delve any deeper, you probably won’t pick up on most of the things that I have highlighted here. For a debut novel, ‘Luckiest Girl Alive’ is a success.