Tag Archives: 5 Stars

Night Watch, Terry Pratchett

Night Watch, Terry PratchettNight Watch by Terry Pratchett

First Published: 2002

Pages: 364 (Hardback)
Form: Novel
Series: Discworld #29
Subseries: The City Watch #6

Rating: 5/55/55/55/55/5

Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch had it all. But now he’s back in his own rough, tough past without even the clothes he was standing up in when the lightning struck.

Living in the past is hard. Dying in the past is incredibly easy. But he must survive, because he has a job to do. He must track down a murderer, teach his younger self how to be a good copper and change the outcome of a bloody rebellion. There’s a problem: if he wins, he’s got no wife, no child, no future.

A Discworld Tale of One City, with a chorus of street urchins, ladies of negotiable affection, rebels, secret policemen and other children of the revolution.

Truth! Justice! Freedom!
And a Hard-boiled Egg!

A reread in memory of Terry Pratchett. RIP.

I was first introduced to Terry Pratchett when I was twelve. My big sister was playing Ysabell in a year 10 house play production of Mort. Neither of us were familiar with Discworld at the time, but she borrowed the book from the student director and I borrowed the book from her. And that was it. It was wonderful and clever and different from anything I had read before.

Over the next few years I attempted to complete the whole series of (then) around 25 book. With no budget for buying books, and so many to read, I borrowed them from the town library, the school library, the earlier mentioned student director (who was then dating my sister and thought he was only lending them to her), and once I had older male admirers of my own, from them as well.I can’t remember what order I ended up reading them all in, but it was whatever was available at the time, and most certainly not the ‘correct’ order. I read Carpe Jugulam before Wyrd Sisters and got confused by the change of cast, and Feet of Clay before Guards! Guards! and was distressed to find Angua not in the earlier book. The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic (the first two books in the series) were the final books I read in my catch up – which was probably good as they are by far the weakest. But throughout this disorganised mishmash or chronology and characters there was one subseries, and one character, who always remained my favourites. The City Watch, and Commander Samuel Vimes.

I watched the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork shrink and grow and shrink and grow as I erratically read whatever I was able to get hold of at that moment. Only when I had caught up – and my parents had caught up enough on mine and my sister’s shared love of the series to start buying them for us at Christmas – did I start to read them in order. And the first of these Christmas presents gifted to me rather than my sister, was Night Watch. I had finished it by boxing day morning.

Still, when I heard the news of Terry Pratchett’s death this Thursday, it was Guards! Guards! I sought out, and the excuse to finally read The City Watch series in the correct order. As I could not locate the book, however, I picked up Night Watch instead. And I think, even had I found the book I was initially looking for, Night Watch was the right choice. It’s one of the most poignant and most human stories in the whole series. A policeman and a murderer, sent back in time through a freak magical accident (more details on that in Thief of Time) to a time when the city watch was incompetent, the ruler of Ankh-Morpok relied on torture and secret police, and rebellion was brewing in the slums. And a young Sam Vimes needs to learn to become the man (and the policeman) he will be. Only one problem – the murderer’s first act is to kill the man who would teach him that, and potentially change the course of history forever. Its up to Commander Vimes to step into his mentor’s role, teach his younger self the morals of policing, and become the leader of a revolution he already knows is doomed.

But Vimes (wonderful Vimes!) never half-arses a job. And, as the timeline changes in subtle ways, he realises that perhaps things aren’t so doomed after all. If he does things right this time and learns from his past, maybe this time the revolution will be successful, the friends who died might live – but doing so would change his future forever; he would lose both his wife and his unborn child. And this is why Vimes is my favourite character in the whole of the Disc. It’s all exemplified in this one book. Although Vimes is grumpy and pragmatic and cynical and never fails to fight dirty, he will always always do what is right and he will follow a job through right to the end. He adores his wife, but that’s who he is, and he cannot let the people around him down by not trying his best. Its one of the more angsty, more depressing, and most beautiful Discworld books from what I regard the best period of Pratchett’s writing.

And as it deals with Commander Vimes travelling back into his own past, well prior to the events of Guards! Guards!, it serves my rereading from the beginning purpose even better than the first book of the series itself! It sets up what the characters and the city were like before Vimes’ meteoritic rise through the ranks better than any of the early books do, and I’m sure will make me appreciate just how much Vimes achieves in the rest of the series.

So 5 stars. Forever 5 stars. Funny, sad, and thoughtful. A good book for grieving a wonderful wonderful author and a brilliant person. RIP Terry Pratchett. You will be missed.

Sidenote: My copy of Guards! Guards! has now been found, the next two books are reserved from the library. This City Watch reread is totally happening! Watch this space! And I promise future reviews will try to be more about the book than this one.

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Elizabeth is Missing, Emma Healey

Elizabeth is Missing, Emma HealeyElizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

First Published: 2014

Pages: 282
Form: Novel

Rating:5/55/55/55/55/5

Maud is forgetful. She makes a cup of tea and doesn’t remember to drink it. She goes to the shops and forgets why she went. Sometimes her home is unrecognizable – or her daughter Helen is a total stranger.

But there’s one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing. The note in her pocket tells her so. And no matter who tells her to stop going on about it, to leave it alone, to shut up, Maud will get to the bottom of it.

Because somewhere in Maud’s damaged mind lies the answer to an unsolved seventy-year-old mystery. One that everyone has forgotten about.

Everyone, except Maud . . .

Elizabeth is Missing is part mystery, part historical fiction and part family drama. But really what it’s about is Maud; an elderly woman slowly losing her memory to dementia. And the real strength of the book is not in the mysteries (which aren’t that hard to solve) but in the way Maud narrates the story. First person present tense – which I normally loathe –  works absolutely beautifully here for a woman not giving an account of something that has happened, but permanently stuck living in the moment (either in the present or in her 1940s childhood). The repetition, the contradictions,confusion, and denials of something she has already said all make her very sadly realistic as she progresses from ‘forgetful’ to in need of permanent care.

But, throughout the dementia; the blanks in her memory, the confusion over words, the occasional inability to recognise her own daughter, Maud maintains a strong and distinct personality of her own and is never ‘just’ a forgetful old lady. She’s not the sharpest tool in the box (even before the dementia) but she is likeable, funny, strong-willed, and tenacious. So once she’s decided that her friend, Elizabeth, is missing she does not let go of it as her carers and her daughter all tell her to, but determines to find her for herself. And, as she slowly loses grip on the present, trying to find Elizabeth brings back memories of her older sister, Sukey, who disappeared in 1946.

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The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton

The Luminaries, Eleanor CattonThe Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

First Published: 2013

Pages: 832
Form: Novel

Rating: 5/55/55/55/55/5

It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand Goldfields. On the night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.

The Luminaries is one of those books I’ve been picking up and then putting down in bookshops ever since I spotted the hardback. Intrigued by the blurb, daunted by the size, and more than a little wary of that ‘Winner of the Man Booker Prize’ label (I was less than wowwed with the last one of those I read), I always ended up putting it back on the shelf while I waited for the recommendation of someone I actually knew. Well that never came (presumably my friends have not read it for similar reasons!) but, finally, I got sick of always being drawn to the same book so I bit the bullet and bought it. And I’m very glad I did, because it turned out to be utterly brilliant.

It’s a bit slow to start with, with a lot of pages given to the presumed main character, Walter Moody, as he lands in Hokitika, New Zealand, for the first time to seek his fortune and accidentally stumbles across a secret gathering of twelve men in the parlour of his cheap lodgings. The tension and unease in these early pages are palpable, but it was only when the rest of the gathering start to tell their own stories, revealing a complex, tightly plotted web of interconnected events and interactions, that I really got sucked in.

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Foxglove Summer, Ben Aaronovitch

Foxglove Summer, Ben AaronovitchFoxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

First Published: 2014

Pages: 394 (Waterstone’s Hardback with bonus short story)
Form: Novel
Series: Rivers of London/Peter Grant #5

Rating: 5/55/55/55/55/5

When two young girls go missing in rural Herefordshire PC Peter Grant is sent out of London to check that nothing supernatural is involved. It’s purely routine, Nightingale thinks he’ll be done in less than a day.

But Peter’s never been one to walk away from someone in trouble, so when nothing overtly magical turns up he volunteers his services to the local police who need all the help they can get.

But because the universe likes a joke as much as the next sadistic megalomaniac, Peter soon comes to realise that dark secrets underlay the picturesque fields and villages of the countryside and there might be work for Britain’s most junior wizard after all.

Soon he’s in a vicious race against time in a world where the boundaries between reality and fairy have never been less clear…

 

I’ve made no secret about my total love for the Rivers of London series (apart from the second book – that one’s crap). They’re one of my go to’s for comfort reading: quick, entertaining, easy to read, and a little bit different former standard modern fantasy. For a start, the protagonist, Peter Grant, actually acts like a real police officer! He doesn’t pull the maverick cop act (much) but co-operates with other officers and departments, does his paperwork, follows procedure (as much as you can do when dealing with the supernatural) and generally acts in a way you expect a real person who doesn’t want be fired to act.

And Foxglove Summer really is Peter Grant’s book – taken out of London and away from his cast of supporting characters, Foxglove Summer gives Peter the chance to shine on his own for the first time. Regulars like Nightingale, Lesley, and Beverly do make their appearances, but generally it comes from the other end of the phone and, I was surprised to find, I didn’t miss them at all. I didn’t even miss the London setting, which has always been one of the highlights of all previous novels. Quietly, and without me really noticing it, Peter has grown up enough to carry a book – and a police case – on his own, and it was great to read him doing just that, and doing it pretty dang competently. Continue reading

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The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowing

The Casual Vacancy, J.K. RowlingThe Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

First Published: 2012

Pages: 568 (paperback)
Form: Novel

Rating: 4.5/54.5/54.5/54.5/54.5/5

In the idyllic small town of Pagford, a councillor dies and leaves a ‘casual vacancy’ – an empty seat on the Parish Council.

In the election for his successor that follows, it is clear that behind the pretty surface this is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, wives at war with husbands, teachers at war with pupils . . . Pagford is not what it first seems.

From the smallest of elections in a sleepy British town, J.K. Rowling conjures an epic emotional and compulsively readable tale that has had millions of readers hooked.

I love J.K. Rowling so fucking much. Harry Potter, her ridiculously huge donations to charity, and then this. Now, I’ll admit I probably wouldn’t have looked twice at this book if it wasn’t for the name on the cover (certainly not this cover anyway, it’s fucking bland – the original illustrated red cover on the hardbacks I would totally have picked up) and I was prepared for anything from mild disappointment to vehement dislike, judging on the mixed reviews it recieved, but actually I really really liked it. It’s not going to be for every Harry Potter fan of course, and I can understand why so many of them really didn’t like it – it’s bleak, it’s depressing, it’s full of swearwords and sex, it’s very very mundane, and none of the characters are really ‘likeable’. But that’s actually what I liked about this book. It felt realistic. And doubly so because I actually live in a town very very like the fictional Pagford myself.

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The Code of the Woosters, P.G. Wodehouse

The Code of the Woosters, P.G. WodehouseThe Code of the Woosters, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

First Published: 1938
Pages: 286 (Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: Jeeves and Wooster #6

Rating: 5/5 = I loved it5/5 = I loved it5/5 = I loved it5/5 = I loved it5/5 = I loved it

When Bertie Wooster goes to Totleigh Towers to pour oil on the troubled waters of a lovers’ breach between Madeline Bassett and Gussie Fink-Nottle, he isn’t expecting to see his Aunt Dahlia there – nor to be instructed by her to steal some silver. But purloining the antique cow creamer from under the baleful nose of Sir Watkyn Bassett is the least of Bertie’s tasks. He has to restore true love to both Madeline and Gussie and to the Revd Stinker Pinker and Stiffy Byng – and confound the insane ambitions of would-be Dictator Roderick Spode and his Black Shorts. It’s a situation only Jeeves can unravel…

It’s summer again! And summer means lying out on the lawn with a cold drink and a Jeeves and Wooster. The UK’s been having somewhat of a heatwave recently so actually the ‘lawn’ was more like ‘straw’ and I missed the company of my beautiful dogdog who passed away last month, but otherwise it’s as close to perfect Jeeves and Wooster conditions as you can get and I was able to spend a very enjoyable day snorting to myself over Bertie’s misadventures.

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The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, Catherynne M. Valente

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, Catherynne M. ValenteThe Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente
Illustrated by Ana Juan

First Published: 2012
Pages: 344 (Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: Fairyland #2

Rating:

In the kingdom of Fairyland-Below, preparations are underway for the annual Revels . . . bur aboveground, the creatures of Fairyland are in no mood for a party.

It has been a long time since young September bid farewell to Fairyland, and she is excited to see it again; but upon her return she is shocked to find that her friends have been losing their shadows, and therefore their magic, to the kingdom of Fairyland-Below . . . It spells certain disaster and September won’t stand for it. Determined to make amends, she travels down into the underworld where, among creatures of ice and moonlight, she encounters a face she recognizes all too well: Halloween, the Hollow Queen. Only then does September realize what she must do to save Fairyland from slipping into the mundane world forever.

Come and join the Revels with September and her friends. But be warned: in Fairyland-Below, even the best of friends aren’t always what they seem . . .

Still in post-novel afterglow here (this is what happens when you’re more interested in books than people). I really love this little series, it’s like a slice of childhood, I just want to drizzle cream and chocolate sauce all over this book and gobble it up. But that would ruin a very beautiful paperback (and probably my digestive system too) so instead I will simply love it and stroke it and tuck it carefully back on my bookshelf to treasure for all time. Like, seriously, if I could do the Gollum voice that is exactly what I would be doing right now.

And now that I’ve scared all the normal people off I’ll get onto the review. . .

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