Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Review: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
This swashbuckling tale of derring do, gambling, drinking, getting money off your mistress because you've spent it all on the gambling and drinking, challenging people to duels, dashing to England and back, and generally being a total seventeenth-century badass is, in short, a fantastic read.

Title & Author: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Published: 1844
Pages: 720 (Penguin, 1982)
Read: 13/01/13 - 23/01/13
Series: The D'Artagnan Romances #1
Challenge(s): Project Fill in the Gaps
Status: Owned book

Synopsis: One of the most celebrated and popular historical romances ever written, The Three Musketeers tell the story of the early adventures of the young Gascon gentleman D'Artagan and his three friends from the regiment of the King's Musketeers - Athos,Porthos and Aramis.

Under the watchful eye of their patron M. de Treville, the four defend the honour of the regiment against the guards of the Cardinal Richelieu, and the honour of the queen against the machinations of the Cardinal himself as the power struggles of seventeenth-century France are vividly played out in the background. (from Goodreads)

Review: I have to admit, much of my knowledge of this book comes from the adaptations of it, especially the cartoon Dogtanian (what?  It was a favourite of mine as a kid.  And my friend who is Dumas obsessed says it's probably the most faithful adaptation she's ever watched).  So while I knew the gist of the story going in I wasn't prepared for how dark the book would get - the ending if more tragedy than comedy - or how daft the Musketeers frequently were when it came to anything involving money.  They may have been living the lives of seventeenth century heroes, but they could have at least tried to have some money set by for (picking an example purely at random) buying the equipment they'd need to go to war.  Seriously, guys, think ahead.

The plot itself will be familiar to most: D'Artagnan, a young hot-headed Gascon, travels to Paris to seek his fortune as a member of the King's Musketeers.  He finds out that he can't just wander in and become a Musketeer, and in the course of discovering this he ends up challenging three of the other Musketeers to consecutive duels.  These fights don't actually come off because the four of them are attacked by the Cardinal's guards and I thought the 1970s adaptation (with Michael Yorke as D'Artagnan) was exaggerating how many sword fights these guys get into but it is constant.  Anyone who so much as looks at them funny is challenged to a duel.  I think it's possibly this that helps them all become friends, though part of it is probably also the aforementioned inability to save money when they could be out drinking and gambling.

A vast chunk of plot was unfamiliar, however, and this is the part that makes the book so good: Milady and her machinations.  The Cardinal isn't as sinister as I was expecting, but Milady is (as the book frequently puts it) a fiend from hell.  The Musketeers may challenge those who slight them to duels; Milady simply kills anyone in her way, usually with poison or by getting someone else to do it.  She is devious and tricksy and fabulous, and there are so many awesome revelations about her that I'm just going to say you need to read the book because I am not spoiling.  The end is dark and reminded me of the darker moments of The Count of Monte Cristo - I genuinely didn't expect it to end that way, or that brutally.

The Three Musketeers is one of those books that I thought I knew, but I was still surprised by it.  Well worth reading for the swashbuckling romance alone, it's also a fantastic story that - as usual with Dumas - keeps you turning the pages so quickly that it's size feels less daunting.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 14 January 2013

Bout of Books 6.0: Wrap Up

Bout of Books 6.0 has come to an end and I'm going to detail my achievements.  My goals are here and my progress here (I didn't update over the weekend so it has that information newly added).

My goal was to read 5 books, which I did (pretty much).  There's a graphic novel in there, and I did also reread a book so my total is technically 6 although I was thinking that I should read 5 new books.  I'm counting my final score as 5.

Books Read
1. Blackwood by Gwenda Bond
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
3. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
4. Where She Went by Gayle Forman
5. Astonishing X-Men #5 vol 1: Gifted by Joss Whedon

Total pages = 1,333

Also Read
- The first 125 pages of The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han.  I wasn't really in the mood for this book so officially paused it on Saturday.  I do want to go back to it, but it wasn't right for me at present.
- I reread Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett just because.  I always have at least one reread on the go, even when I feel like I should be sticking to new stuff (286 pages).

Including these = 6 books read; 1,619 pages

I really liked doing Bout of Books, and will definitely do the next one when I will participate more.  Twitter chats, yay!

Friday, 11 January 2013

2013 Tudor Reading Challenge

Tudor Reading Challenge 2013

The Tudor Reading Challenge is being hosted by Amber at The Musings of ALMYBNENR.  I am signing up because I love me some Tudor reading, and because this will give me a kick to finish a series I love that has just been sitting there on my shelf for months.  There are different levels and I'm going for Henry VIII (Defender of the Faith): 10 books. While we don't need to list our books beforehand, the ones I have in mind to (re)read and review number 11 so that seems like a good level to aim for.

I'll be listing books read with links to their reviews below.


Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Bout of Books 6.0: Progress

So, this week I'm taking part in Bout of Books 6.0.  My goal post is here but can be whittled down to one thing: read 5 books by Sunday.  I'm also giving myself little mini-challenges for my own goal which basically mean 'if I get to my target by this day, I can buy this many books in my celebratory spend up'.  I will have fewer owned books in my TBR list; I will need to stock it up again.

I'm going to put all my progress in one post for ease, and update it each day.  Although as I type the days out it's making things feel a bit Torchwood: Children of Earth and argh!

Anyway, my progress (total progress for the readathon is in brackets):

Day One
Book(s) Started
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (26 pages read) - this is my lunchtime book, so I'm keeping it stashed in my desk at work and bringing it out.  I hope this will give me the impetus to finish the book as I tried reading it ten years ago and wasn't that into it.

Book(s) Started & Completed
Blackwood by Gwenda Bond (325 pages) - I stayed up far too late to finish this last night, but it was worth it.  A good fun read with references to TV shows I love and a fab romance.  Definitely full review to follow.

Books Read = 1; Pages Read = 351

Day Two
Book(s) Started
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han (77 pages read) - in keeping with picking short books I've gone with this. Plus I think it's going to be quite a light contemporary and a fun read.  I didn't get as much read as I'd have liked yesterday, mostly because I was asleep before midnight which is unheard of, and because the switch from my recent reading of peril to a fluffy read was a bit of a shock. Going to keep reading this evening though.

Book(s) Continued
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (13 pages read; page 39) - bit of a broken lunchtime yesterday during which I did next to no reading.  Plus I'm at the point that I think I got stuck on my first attempt at reading this, though I am now past that and into what I think is going to be entertaining galaxy hopping about.

Books Read = 0 (1); Pages Read = 90 (441)

Day Three
Book(s) Continued
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (29 pages read; page 68) - this is better. Got some reading done at lunchtime and really starting to enjoy the book.  Am going to have to read the rest of the series after this.

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han (48 pages read; page 125) - I feel really bad but I'm not that into this book at the moment.  I'll definitely finish it for the readathon and it's a good book, it just doesn't match my mood right now.  May put it on hold till Saturday when I intend to have a day of reading.

Books Read = 0 (1); Pages Read = 77 (518)

Day Four
Book(s) Completed
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (112 pages read; complete at 180) - finally read this!  And now I want to read the rest of the trilogy of five.  And I think that "I wonder if it will be friends with me?" is one of the most depressing lines I've ever read.

Books Read = 1 (2); Pages Read = 112 (630)

Day Five
I kind of ended up taking Day Five off and not doing any real new reading.  I did, however, continue with a reread of Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett which I had started the night before while a little tipsy.

Books Read = 0 (2); Pages Read = 0 (630)

Day Six
Book(s) Completed
If I Stay (233 pages) & Where She Went (260 pages) by Gayle Forman - I spent most of the day curled up with a blanket and too much coffee, reading these books.  I cried far too much over If I Stay, to the extent that when I texted my flatmate with 'what I was doing' she asked if I was OK.  Beautiful, beautiful books.  I'm not sure which I prefer but I am a complete fan of Gayle Forman now and need to get my copy of Just One Day now.

Books Read = 2 (4); Pages Read = 493 (1,096)

Day Seven
Book(s) Started
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (85 pages) - I didn't start this till late at night, having spent most of the evening trying to decide what to read and dismissing a lot of things as not right for my mood.  This fitted it perfectly: swashbuckling fun, slight daftness, and promises of Intrigue.

Book(s) Completed
Astonishing X-Men volume #1: Gifted by Joss Whedon (152 pages) - this is where I worry that it was a bit of a cheat, because it took me no time at all to read the graphic novel.  But it's Joss Whedon!  I count that.

Books Read = 1 (5); Pages Read =  237 (1,333)

Monday, 7 January 2013

Review: Slated by Teri Terry (Slated #1)

Slated by Teri Terry
A British dystopia?  An intiguing set up, good worldbuilding and a kickass heroine?  All present and helping to make Slated pretty damn awesome and a good first book for the year.

Title & Author: Slated by Teri Terry
Published: 2012
Series: Slated #1
Pages: 429 (Orchard ,2012)
Status: Borrowed from the library
NB: I'm not counting this towards my 2013 Debut Author Challenge as, technically, it was a 2012 debut in Britain.  Also I started reading it in 2012 so it would all feel like a cheat.

Synopsis: Kyla’s memory has been erased, her personality wiped blank, her memories lost for ever.

She’s been Slated.

The government claims she was a terrorist, and that they are giving her a second chance - as long as she plays by their rules. But echoes of the past whisper in Kyla’s mind. Someone is lying to her, and nothing is as it seems. Who can she trust in her search for the truth? (from Goodreads)

Review: I have to get something out of the way right at the top of this review - my biggest problem with the book was the ending.  Without spoiling, I'm just going to say that it felt rushed and was so clearly setting up book two (Fractured) that I felt a little cheated.  It's actually what knocked this book down a little in my estimation, as there's no real resolution and Kyla has a couple of sudden epiphanies that seem to come out of nowhere and are just there to make you want to read Fractured.  I wanted to read it without that ending!  It isn't a cliffhanger in the traditional sense, but it feels rushed and as if the book just stops with Kyla making a decision about what to do next and then bam, the end.

Having said that: I really liked this book otherwise.   It's a British dystopia!  There were elements that made me go "oh, cool, that references stuff that's happening now - argh, wait, this is stuff that's happening now!" and I particularly liked that the Evil Government Up To No Good were called the Central Coalition (though I then had another argh moment over this).  There's also reference to the EGUTNG being a result of severe riots and, yeah, hello 2011.  In a weird way, I liked that it was my country that had turned to the Dark Side (in fiction, anyway).

The science fiction elements are well handled: people under 16 who are deemed an enemy of the government are given a chance to start over again by being Slated - their memories are removed and they're given new families.  They're also closely monitored and non-consenting minors* and there are a lot of hints about what happens if you're over 16 and annoy the EGUTNG, but not so much that I have all the answers.  I get the feeling that this will be explored more in the rest of the trilogy, and that we'll get more on just why people get chosen and how the technology was developed - more so than we have already, anyway.

All in all, this was a good first book let down by a rushed ending.  I will definitely be reading the rest of the trilogy, but this would have been the case even without the open ending - I was intrigued from page one and really enjoyed the world and characters, I just wish there had been a proper resolution to the story of Slated before we rushed into Fractured, but I still think this a very good, accomplished and taut thriller throughout the rest of the book.

* In most cases.  I did like that there was reference to the way in which Slating is used to help people get over severe trauma, as it did suggest that the technology could be used to help rather than oppress, and also stopped it being completely one-sided.  Still, complete memory wipe? 

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 4 January 2013

Bout of Books 6.0: Goal Post

Bout of Books 6
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 7th and runs through Sunday, January 13th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 6.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. -From the Bout of Books 6.0 team
So, setting my goals for the first Bout of Books I've participated in.

- Read at least 5 books.

I'm going to be starting off with fairly short books at the start of the week and save the weekend for longer ones/catch up. 

I'll also do my best to join in Twitter chats and comment on other blogs, especially as something I said I'd do on my 2012 End of Year Survey was join in more, but I don't want to set any definite targets for that.

So, five books.

Update: I'm posting my progress on one post here.
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