Review: Summer Knight (Dresden Files #4) by Jim Butcher

Summer Knight
Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finally an instalment in the Dresden Files series that I can confidently give a 5 star rating to!

Throughout my progress on the series so far I’ve met many reviewers saying ‘it gets good around book 3/4/5/6’ (the number varies massively depending on who you ask), and at long last I’ve found where in the series that moment happens for me and it’s here, right with this book which fortunately for me, is almost unrecognisable from the confusion and incoherence that was Grave Peril.

So why such a big turnaround?

First of all, Harry Dresden gets some long-awaited character development beyond the overly done funny-underdog-saves-the-day-by-a-hair’s-breadth-and-is-at-the-brink-of-death-two-dozen-times (phew!) formula that Jim Butcher keeps on winging out for him. Now we’re treated to only a little of self-pitying instead of being swamped by it and this alone does great things for Dresden’s likeability. We’re also introduced to much stronger and more interesting characters than Butcher has ever given us in the past and seeing Harry’s reactions to these gives a solid plus in his direction. It’s nice as well to see some old faces in the book – their personalities really took on a realistic shape thanks to the intricacy of the plot (more on that later).

Secondly, the humour in the books is either improving greatly or I’ve finally became used to it! It took some time to see it as anything other than cliché and cheesy action-hero lines but in Summer Knight Butcher finally takes the humour a little further and pulls it off to great effect.

Thirdly, the plot! Wow did this book get intricate! A far-cry away from the previously simplistic plots of figuring out the bad guy and taking said bad-guy down via several drawn out action scenes (view spoiler), Summer Knight’s plot takes on a much more ambitious storyline and manages to make it work throughout the entire book. I must admit, I was a little lost-off around 200 pages towards the end but I soon managed to pick up on what was going on thanks to brilliant pacing and plot development.

Last but not least…

How much more incredible does the magical world get in this book? You need to read it to believe it. I didn’t think the series would ever go beyond anything more than ‘whodunit’ with a pinch of magic thrown in for variety but instead, it becomes much much more.

Finally this series is starting to live up to the hype that surrounds it by giving us a glimpse of where Jim Butcher’s world-building talent lies. I can’t wait to move onto to Death Masks and see what more adventures Harry Dresden has in store for us!

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Photos and Words: They Say it’s a Place on Earth

– ‘This must be what Heaven looks like,’ She said, gazing up at the treetops with joy in her eyes. The only sounds were that of birdsong and the gentle beating of her heart as she entwined her fingers with his, snuggling closer to his chest.
‘Yes,’ he whispered as he drank in the beauty of her smile and the soul he carried so much love for, ‘it must be’. –

via Instagram

Review: Company of Liars

Company of Liars
Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an excellent book and Maitland did a brilliant job of bringing the past to life in a way that was realistic without being overwhelming.

In parts the plot pacing was a little shaky as it could often be quite slow but I think this was more than compensated for by the great attention to detail which kept the reader hooked into the plot by all the eccentricities of medieval life. I absolutely loved all of the superstition and religious elements that were included! They’re the main reason I enjoy studying the medieval period and Maitland did a brilliant job of including them without it becoming overbearing or without it seeming out of line with our modern beliefs on what is and isn’t possible (view spoiler). Furthermore, the mysteries were very deftly done and I spent most of the book trying to second-guess what was behind them all. Though some were a bit of a let down, I do think this was more in part to the amount of suspense leading up to them rather than the plot itself – with that much suspense constantly building up throughout a novel most revelations would feel like a let down!

The entire theme of truth throughout the novel was a pretty unique take on a book like this and I thoroughly enjoyed how it was explored in most situations. It didn’t delve too far into challenging whether lying was necessarily a bad thing in every scenario but it did raise enough questions to make the book linger in the reader’s mind long after they finished a chapter.

A writing device used in the book I particularly liked was the way Maitland had the characters tell stories and, instead of repeating them to us parrot fashion, she voiced their content through the different reactions of the character’s. This really helped keep my interest up in the story as well as move the plot on very nicely while giving us more information about the characters.

The only criticism I would have of the novel, and a small one at that, is that the characters of Osmond, Adela and Rodrigo would’ve been better with more development. This is particularly the case with Adela as the fact that she was ‘tender-hearted’ was both shown and told to the reader repeatedly but there seemed to be very little else to her and this did get a bit irritating towards the end. A much stronger backstory for all three of those characters would have improved the book tremendously, I’m aware there is some extra material to accompany the novel so I hope I find what I’m looking for in there!

All in all this book was a fantastic read and I’d highly recommend it to anyone interested in either English history and/or myths and legends.

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Book Review: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

This book is a difficult one to review as never before have I had such a giant change of heart towards a book as I’ve read it; initially I hated it and dithered about over whether to forget it entirely but I persevered until the 30% mark and I’m very glad I did as I grew to love it. It wasn’t until that point that it hit me what this book is really about beneath all of the technical academic terms and the dislikeable main characters, growing up.

P.S. Blink 182’s greatest hits make a great soundtrack to this book, you’ll see what I mean if you read it!

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“The Marriage Plot is set in the early 1980s and it follows three intelligent American graduates through a love triangle as they struggle with their own identities, answer some of life’s tougher questions about love, religion, hardship and mental illness (to name a few) and the transition from education to ‘real life’ and adolescence into adulthood.

What’s good about it?
There were scenes in this book that had me crying, not because they were particularly sad or heart-warming but because Eugenides managed to show the character’s emotions, mental states and reactions to their experiences in an incredibly authentic way. If you wish to know what it’s like to have someone close to you suffer from a mental illness or to have a mental illness yourself then you should really give this book a try as there is little fiction out there that conveys it as well as The Marriage Plot.
In this book, you follow each character’s journey as they try to find their own identity and answer questions about life and its meaning – the perk of this is that it will probably help you answer questions of your own or at least, provoke the curiousity to ask them.
The academic references and discussions were a major pull for me but I’m pretty biased since I’m a full-on nerd. For me, the focus on feminism and theology was brilliant but The Marriage Plot gives many topics a try and does it wonderfully by applying things you’d normally learn in a university lecture hall to realistic everyday life situations.

What isn’t so great?
The Marriage Plot will bog you down with technical language unless you happen to have an advanced knowledge in literature, theology and biology (not a common mix). This has put so many people off the book that I’m surprised someone didn’t tell Eugenides to peg it down a few notches as it makes it quite a drab read at times. This alone almost made me put down the book as it feels incredibly pretentious but don’t despair! Though it’s a marked downside, all the jargon and concepts actually add to the whole effect of the book so it’s worth persevering through them if you can, particularly as they might touch on something that you never realised interests you.
Another downside to The Marriage Plot is that the characters aren’t very likeable, particularly in the beginning. It took me ages to connect with them and even still they just didn’t really come to life off the page for me until I was almost finished reading. Without liking the characters all that much, it’s very hard to care at all about the love triangle which, though meant to be the main plot, becomes more of an annoying obstacle that just exists to keep the characters loosely linked together.

The Marriage Plot a very easy book to hate on first glance but somehow, it’s up there with my favourites. If you take a chance and read this book and it doesn’t do a thing for you then that’s too bad, peg it down to a lost couple of hours. However, if your chance pays off then you’ll see The Marriage Plot in a whole new way and it’ll probably change your life.”

(Read 23rd – 28th May, 2015)