Monday, 29 December 2014

Monday Musing

This Monday Musing is devoted to the impending new year. I hope that you have all had a wonderful festive season, and are looking forward to an equally fantastic 2015. 2014 has been a year of changes for both me personally and for The Book Habit, and the new year promises to bring even more. Regardless of what this year brings to you, I hope that you will walk into it with positivity, kindness, and plenty of books. The Book Habit will, of course, continue reviewing all types of literature, as well as many aspects of the literary lifestyle. I want to thank you all for your support (and patience) throughout 2014, and I look forward to passing 2015 with my wonderful readers.

Laura x

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Happy Holidays!

A short post wishing you all a very Merry Christmas! I look forward to hearing about your literary-themed gifts, and will inevitably return to tell you of mine. In the mean time, I wish you all a spectacular celebration!

Laura x

Monday, 22 December 2014

Monday Musing

Happy Monday, my literary lovelies! I hope that today has treated you well, following a weekend filled with trips to enjoy Christmas light shows and plenty of hot chocolate. The weather in Missouri is sadly lacking festivity, with pouring rain making last minute Christmas shopping a touch more difficult. But we persevere! 

I will be back to you on Wednesday with a new post, to enjoy in amongst other Christmas Eve festivities. But for those of you who will be internet-less over the holiday period, I wish you a very joyful week!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Week in Review: Missourian Magnificence

Today's Week in Review comes to you following a hectic week of cross-continental travel, family reunions, and Christmas build-up. After a work-filled term of PhD research, I am more than prepared for a few weeks of relaxation and reading. Although it is always a wrench to miss out on a traditional British Christmas, I am fortunate in having a mother determined to replicate this event in the American mid-West. With almost 4,000 miles between myself and the UK, it is wonderful that I can still look forward to pulling Christmas crackers and gorging myself on Yorkshire puddings. While my trip is obviously motivated by a desire to see my family for the holidays, I would be lying to suggest that it wasn't largely due to this gorgeous ball of fluff:

Reading: Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas

This is a book that I picked up last minute at a shop in Heathrow airport. I have a real hatred for flying, and suffer it purely on the belief that it will be worth the trip. One of the ways I coax myself onto flights is through an internal promise to purchase a book at every airport I visit. Ultimately this leaves with me with increasingly weighty luggage, but the method of temptation always succeeds. Having finished up the glorious (and soon-to-be reviewed) Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller, I have thrown myself into this new purchase: Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas.

Reviewing: Clem Anderson: A Novel by R.V. Cassill

I recently received a request to review R.V. Cassill's Clem Anderson, a classic now being released as an eBook. I generally prefer real books, giving into the eReader phenomenon purely due to the convenience for travelling across countries. Despite my personal preference for paper, I am an advocate of anything that encourages people to read more books. And I do believe that eReaders have facilitated a definite trend in this regard. So I was delighted to hear that Open Road Media are making efforts to release eBook versions of renowned, classic authors. Clem Anderson: A Novel promises to be an interesting read.

Loving: Leather-bound Books

One of the joys of returning back home is coming to my mum's vast collection of old books. Many of these have been given by me as gifts over the years, some have been collected for my wedding (which is still a few years away). There is something about old leather-bound books that I absolutely adore. Perhaps it's the history behind them, and thoughts of the countless people who have previously worked their way through the volumes. It could even be the beautiful calligraphy and softness of the covers. Whatever the reason, I am obsessed. My regular charity shop trawls often leave me laden with books of this kind - usually setting my back no more than £2 a time. So, for those of you thinking about last minute Christmas presents, consider a gift laden with history and meaning. This is definitely the way to go.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Review: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

My adoration of a good mystery is no surprise. I have written often of my love for the genre, particularly the works of the Queen of Mystery, Agatha Christie. When it comes to crime fiction, I tend to live exclusively in the past. Modern mystery thrillers, in the mould of those by John Grisham, just don't really do it for me. Give me a non-traditional private detective, such as Poirot or Miss Marple, and I am happy to pass hours unravelling mysteries alongside them. It wasn't until J.K. Rowling adopted the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith and introduced readers to the fantastically tenacious and complex Cormoran Strike, that I finally found a modern crime novelist who fits my reading tastes. Having already reviewed The Cuckoo's Calling (and loved it), I was excited to hear that a sequel would be gracing the shelves in 2014. Some months after the fact, a review is here for your delectation.

"There were undoubtedly those to whom killing was easy and pleasurable: he had met a few such. Millions had been successfully trained to end others' lives; he, Strike, was one of them. Humans killed opportunistically, for advantage and in defence, discovering in themselves the capacity for bloodshed  when no alternative seemed possible; but there were also people who had drawn up short, even under the most intense pressure, unable to press their advantage, to seize the opportunity, to break the final and greatest taboo."

The Silkworm sees a return to the activities of Cormoran Strike, former soldier and roguishly proficient private detective. Following his success in solving the infamous Lula Landry case (as told in The Cuckoo's Calling), Strike is receiving cases thick-and-fast. However, it is following the disappearance and murder of controversial author Owen Quine that Strike finds himself embroiled once more in a dangerous search for the truth. Quine's murder proceeds a leak of his newest manuscript, Bombyx Mori, in which Quine depicts grotesque perversions carried out by his characters. These characters are barely disguised representations of real-life figures and, as such, the pool of suspects for Quine's murder is vast. Strike, alongside his assistant Robin Ellacott, must search through the lies and secrets of Quine's world and relationships in order to discover the truth behind his death.

"...writers are a savage breed, Mr. Strike. If you want life-long friendship and selfless camaraderie, join the army and learn to kill. If you want a lifetime of temporary alliances with peers who will glory in your every failure, write novels."

J.K. Rowling does an exemplary job of weaving together a complex and intriguing plot, pulling the reader along with the narrative developments in a way that makes them feel as if they too are solving the crime. This is the mark of a truly great crime author. It is undoubtedly the case that when one reads Agatha Christie's Poirot, the experience is of a different nature entirely. Poirot's demeanour is one of superiority and the ultimate conclusion of the cases often involves a leap of intuition and logic undetectable by the reader. Christie's works have tremendous merit, but the reader is typically consigned to the role of outside observer. With The Silkworm, the reader instead becomes a party to the crime solving. This has much to do with Rowling's story-telling style, a talent most clearly demonstrated in the Harry Potter series. Her natural skill in weaving complex, relatable, and engrossing narratives is perfectly suited to the mystery genre. This is exemplified throughout The Silkworm.

Beyond this, the characters are well-developed and evocative. Cormoran Strike is fast becoming one of my favourite literary detectives. His imperfections are clear, without dominating his character and deductive style. He is perfectly imaginable, with a personality and talents within the spectrum of realism. This, as I mentioned in my review of The Cuckoo's Calling, is notably absent from literary detectives such as Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes, both of whom exhibit elements of unreality. Strike is fantastically alive, and well complemented by an array of excellent and intriguing characters. From his tenacious assistant, Robin Ellacott, to the mysterious publishing master, Daniel Chard, all are multifaceted and interesting.

This is, then, a book for those who already have a love of crime fiction - particularly those who, like me, harp back to the literary classics. However, it is inevitable that there are many existing Rowling fans who will be looking to recapture elements of their Harry Potter experience. While The Silkworm is sadly devoid of wizards, you will always manage to pick up elements of Rowling's narrative style reminiscent of the Hogwarts days. Indeed, there are many instances of reverse Dumbledore-style philosophising on life, the universe, and everything:

"We don't love each other; we love the idea we have of each other. Very few humans understand this or can bear to contemplate it. They have blind faith in their own powers of creation. All love, ultimately, is self-love."

There are, then, many reasons to throw yourself into J.K. Rowling's latest literary endeavour. I only suggest that you make a start when you have some time to spare, because these are some novels that are pretty tough to put down.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Monday Musing (on a Sunday)

Hello friends!

Since I will be on a plane tomorrow, I am posting my Monday Musing a little prematurely. Hopefully it will serve as motivation for that final push through to the Christmas holidays. For those of you who do not celebrate, it remains a perfect time of year for many occupations that require cold temperatures and family get-togethers. I only recommend that you steer clear of mixing alcohol with aggressive board game play.

I wish you all an excellent start to the week. I will return shortly with more reviews and various literary ramblings!

Friday, 12 December 2014

Week In Review: December Discoveries

What a wonderful week! With a well-timed slow-down in PhD work, I have thrown myself back into lazy reading days and bookshop visits. This is by far the most perfect Christmas build-up possible. Next week, I fly back to the US to visit my family for the holidays and, inevitably, spend much of my time reading in a different country. So, come Monday, The Book Habit will be coming to you live from Missouri. For now, however, here is my week in review:

Reading: This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Like many post-high school readers, the extent of my F. Scott Fitzgerald knowledge comes entirely from assigned reading of The Great Gatsby. A remarkable book in many respects, its central place on school curricula serves in part to negate the perception of Fitzgerald as having any legacy beyond this sole volume. Gatsby has become such a reputed masterpiece, and its antagonist so dominant a fictional figure, that it is difficult to look beyond this to Fitzgerald's other fantastic works. Only last week did I decide that it was high-time I corrected this omission. I chose This Side of Paradise - Fitzgerald's first novel and an edited version of his unpublished work The Romantic Egoist.

I have rushed through the book, driven on by Fitzgerald's worthy literary skills. Not only does the novel justify its author's position as the Jazz Age's most prominent literary figure, its semi-autobiographical content is a brilliant insight into Fitzgerald's mind and life. A review will be coming to The Book Habit shortly.

Reviewing: Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

One of the great bonuses of running a book blog is being asked to review books coming up for publication. It is a rare delight, however, to receive a review package as amazing as the one I got this week from Penguin, with a review copy of Claire Fuller's Our Endless Numbered Days. The book tells the story of a young girl named Peggy, who is taken by her father to live in a remote forest cabin. For nine years, Peggy lives an existence with her father where she is led to believe that the world has disappeared. Having finished with Fitzgerald, I have just opened up Fuller's debut novel. Look out for a review here soon.

Loving: Shakespeare Tea Towels

Last weekend I had a fabulous visit from my Aunt and Uncle, accompanied by some glorious Christmas presents. Among these, I was so excited to unwrap some Shakespeare tea towels bought from The Globe. If you've been following my blog for a while, you'll know that I have a soft spot for literary themed home accessories. So my delight is understandable. Take a look at The Globe's Online Shop for these and a whole load of other fabulous items!