Tuesday, 4 August 2015

The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness / Edwin by Edoardo Albert / The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomas di Lampedusa

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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I downloaded the audio version of The Knife Of Never Letting Go from Audible when it was included in one of their two-for-one sales. Humphrey Bower's narration is perfect for the story and I think I enjoyed it far more as spoken word than I would have done in print. Todd, our young hero, speaks in a way that reflects his almost complete lack of education and continuously reading this would have become irritating, but as audio it worked.

I loved Patrick Ness' creation of New World. I could easily picture and believe in this newly settled planet and its native inhabitants. Noise is an interesting concept too and I liked how this aspect of life was explored. The huge stalking bird is fun and the whole set-up of talking animals is well thought through with their interactions reflecting ordinary human observations of their behaviour. Manchee, Todd's dog, was absolutely the star of the book for me!

Other than our main protagonists, Todd and Viola, who do blossom through the novel, the characters are pretty flat, either Good or Evil, and without any great depth. The unfolding horror of the Prentisstown story is nicely paced, but I did find Todd and Viola's repeated hairs-breadth escapes wearying after a while. Aaron's Terminator-like refusal to die is quite funny, but probably not intentionally so! There is a lot of repetition which gets dull, especially of Todd's woe-is-me litany and asking whether murdering someone is necessary to make a boy a man.

As a basic story, I would only have awarded three stars. There's a good unexpected twist at the end, although this does leave us with a cliffhanger, but the main story arc definitely ends so this isn't as irritating as with other series. However, the lift of the audio narration meant The Knife Of Never Letting Go did hold my interest throughout its twelve hours so I have given a four star rating. I am not sure I will return for the next two instalments though.

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Books by Patrick Ness / Fantasy / Books from America


Edwin: High King of Britain by Edoardo Albert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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I discovered Edoardo Albert's Northumbrian Thrones series through a review of the second novel on Jax Blunt's blog. Regular readers of my blog will know that we have been exploring historical sites in Northumberland over the past few weeks so I hoped that reading Edwin would enhance my understanding of the early peoples. It fits nicely into my historical reading line too, sitting between Skin by Ilka Tampke and A Brief History of The Vikings by Jonathan Clements.

Albert has obviously spent a lot of time researching the Anglo Saxon period in which his novel is set and authenticity runs through every page. I enjoyed reading his descriptions of daily life and religious practice as well as the savage realities of battle scenes. It was interesting that the 'victorious' religion of Christianity did seem to be given a more sympathetic portrayal, even though its adoption as the more powerful supernatural support for warfare was explored in detail.

The characters we meet are well written and believably rounded and I liked how Edwin, already old for the times at the beginning of the novel, noticeably ages in his attitudes and desires. The religious influence of Edwin's new Queen, Aethelburh, was reminiscent of Anne Boleyn and Henry many centuries later. Edwin is a strong novel in its own right and also, hopefully, a good taste of other titles in the series as I enjoyed gaining an understanding of the varied immigrating peoples and ideas that made up Britain before it became the country we know today.

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Books by Edoardo Albert / Historical fiction / Books from England


The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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I found my copy of The Leopard in the OXFAM shop in Hailsham months ago and have only just gotten around to reading it. I liked the cover art and was interested to learn more about the Garibaldi period of Italian history. The eponymous Leopard, Don Fabrizio, is an Italian aristocrat in a fading family and, through his eyes, we see how family reacts and adjusts to the new political climate. The main arc of the story is a love triangle between Fabrizio's daughter, Concetta, his nephew and ward, Tancredi, and a nouveau riche village girl, Angelica.

Tancredi goes off to fight with the Garibaldini, but only ever offstage from the main story and Lampuseda doesn't explore the aims of this army - the reader is expected to already know - so I didn't get my history lesson! I did appreciate his descriptions of the towns and countryside of Sicily, the characteristics of her people and how they have been moulded not only by their unforgiving climate, but also by waves of invaders over the centuries. I felt that the writing came alive far more when about Sicily itself than about the family we were following. They appeared to me as always aloof and detached so I didn't really get into their story and finished the book feeling let down.

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Books by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa / Historical fiction / Books from Italy

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