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Book Reviews feat. Shirley Jackson

book reviews lifestyle blog

If you haven't read the first half of my February book reviews, you should do so now. Seriously, it's a matter of urgency...or not. It would seem a lot of you had some interesting things to say about Nabokov! 

 If you'd like to keep up with my reading,  shimmy your way over to my Goodreads page and my Insta hashtags: #beesreads and #bees52books.  Feel free to leave your thoughts on the books I've read below. Here's part two of my February book reviews:

uk lifestyle blog book review the insufferable gaucho


DATE FINISHED: 16/02/14 | ISBN: 0811217167 | PAGES: 164
The Insufferable Gaucho contains tales bent on returning to haunt you. Unpredictable and daring, highly controlled yet somehow haywire, a Bolano story might concern an elusive plagiarist or an elderly lawyer giving up city life for an improbable return to the family estate, now gone to wrack and ruin. 

I feel bad for giving this collection such a low rating, because it would seem a lot of people regard Bolaño as a 'genius' but, honestly, I just wasn't fussed by this collection.

There were a lot of references to things that I didn't understand, and I ended up feeling extremely alienated as a result. I'm certainly not denying that Bolaño is a good storyteller, because he obviously is due to his wide readership and I'm sure I would've enjoyed these stories a lot more if I had a bit of context to go with them. Unfortunately, this collection just wasn't for me. 

I did, however, enjoy the Gaiman-esque darkness of Police Rat, and Ialso thought Jim was quite snappy. Alas, it wasn't enough to make me rate this collection any higher. I have one of Bolaño's novels still to review, so we'll see if I enjoy that a bit more! Watch this space. 

RATING: 2/5                                                 *I was sent this book by the publisher but my review is honest. 

we have always lived in the castle shirley jackson book review blog
DATE FINISHED: 20/02/14 | ISBN: 0143039970 | PAGES: 160
Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods - until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. 

We Have Always Lived In The Castle is a deliciously dark psychological thriller, of sorts, that I bought a long time ago after hearing really great things about Jackson.  Jackson, for me, perfectly depicts the tormented mind here, and all the while coats it in hugely endearing prose and rich character development.  The way the girls interacted with one another, and related to their surroundings, was one of my favourite things about this tale, and it made me feel extremely uneasy throughout. The opening paragraph was also pretty wonderful.  

It's slow, it's quiet, it's chaotic and it's chilling. I can tell it's going to be one of those reads that haunts me for a good while yet, because it's one of those reads that reveals even more of itself post-read. I'd recommend it to those that like their tales dark and their characters complex. I'm definitely going to be picking up more of Jackson's works because I've heard such good things about them, particularly The Lottery! 

rating: 4/5

the witches roald dahl uk book blogger lifestyle vivatramp

date finished: 22/02/14 | isbn: 0140317309 | Pages: 206
A young boy and his Norwegian grandmother, who is an expert on witches, together foil a witches' plot to destroy the world's children by turning them into mice. 

I was hankering for a relatively light read to pull me out of a little reading slump, so I thought I'd attempt to try and read The Witches without crying and/or screaming. Thankfully, I managed it. I used to have The Witches on VHS as a child and it used to absolutely terrify me! 

Whilst this isn't among my favourite Dahl tales, it's still every bit as fun and imaginative as his other works, and it's suitable for children and grown-ups alike. One of my favourite things about this particular tale was Grandma, simply due to her crazy amount of enthusiasm, wisdom, love and knowledge. 

However, it'd be wrong of me to finish this review without mentioning the one thing that made me feel really uneasy, and quite angry, about this book. I really didn't like the way Dahl discussed baldness in women. I get that he probably meant it within the context of witches, but it still made me feel upset that he was suggesting it was 'disgusting' for a woman to be bald. I wouldn't want a child to read it and be influenced by it in the wrong way. This tale also has quite a bit of a sadistic ending when you think about I just won't think about it. 

Overall, it was a quick inventive read that helped to get me back into reading following a little slump. It's not without its faults but, on the whole, it made for an enjoyable reading experience. I'd recommend it to readers of Dahl's other works, and to those who like their bedtime stories to be more than a little frightening. 

RATING: 3.5/5

fahrenheit 451 ray bradbury book review uk vivatramp top lifestyle blogs
date finished: 23/02/14 | isbn: 0006546064 | pages: 227
Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hyperdermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down these dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books. 

Fahrenheit 451 addressed such a fascinating concept and, for me, it was a concept that was executed pretty well. 

Written in the 1950's, Fahrenheit 451 offers a social commentary that is still hugely relevant today, and perhaps even moreso now than it was back then due to the rise of social media. This social commentary is made all the more powerful thanks to Bradbury's pitch perfect writing style - his well-developed characters and illuminating dialogue are also both testaments to his aptitude. Bradbury tackles censorship, the power of the written word, war, the way we situate the self, equality, intellectualism and many other issues in such a short space of time and it's highly commendable. It also makes for a fast-paced read. 

I've bookmarked so many different passages to refer back to, and I just know that this is a book that I will continue to re-read at different stages of my life because there are so many different messages to pick up on. As much as I enjoyed it, the latter half did feel a little weaker to me, almost as if it were a little mishmashy. I did a little research and it would seem that my suspicions were correct, as parts of the tale were made up of shorter stories. It made me feel a bit disappointed but, nevertheless, I enjoyed this read. 

It's horrifying. It's clever. It's heartfelt. You should probably give it a read. I'd definitely recommend it to fellow bibliophiles, and to those who like to read modern classics. 


hamlet william shakespeare review uk lifestyle book blog

date finished: /02/14 | isbn: 1853260096 | pages: 191
Hamlet is the story of the Prince of Denmark who learns of the death of his father at his hands of his uncle, Claudius. Claudius murders Hamlet's father, his own brother, to take the throne of Denmark and to marry Hamlet's widowed mother. Hamlet is sunk into a state of great despair...and is torn between his great sadness and his desire for revenge.

This is the first time I have read Shakespeare for pleasure and it was an enlightening experience! I won't lie to you, I've never really got on with Shakespeare and I have to say, I am astounded by how much I enjoyed this play. 

Hamlet is a tale of grief, of sorrow, of love, of carnal desire and of descents into madness. Each character in this play is so deafeningly anxious and unsure, and these questions of life and death not only manifest themselves within the characters, but they also manifest themselves within you as you read/watch. Is there life after death? Should you have faith? If so, where should you place this faith? Should you grieve? Is there a right way to grieve? How? Why? etc etc etc...This uncertainty guides the play seamlessly, and I have to say the pacing was superb! I was hooked right up until the very last second. 

One of the things I always found so inaccessible about Shakespeare's plays was the language. I remember sitting in a classroom agonizing over every word in every line, wondering why Shakespeare had chosen to write his works in riddles. However, I found Hamlet to be hugely accessible, and understandable, which made for a really enjoyable read. Hamlet loves his soliloquy's and whilst they're really bloody frequent, they're also really bloody great. I have marked pages and pages of them to refer back to at a later date because they were just so delicious. Hamlet really is a fascinating character. 

I would recommend this to existing Shakespeare buffs and Shakey skeptics alike. I'm now planning a Shakespeare binge! I can't believe I found this play so interesting, like seriously whut?! My old English teacher, Mr Lockett, wouldn't believe you in a million years. 

RATING: 4.5/5

sharp objects gillian flynn book review
date finished: 25/02/14 | isbn: 0753822210 | pages: 321
When two girls are abducted and killed in Missouri, journalist Camille Preaker is sent back to her hometown to report on the crimes. Long-haunted by a childhood tragedy and estranged from her mother for years, Camille suddenly finds herself installed once again in her family's mansion...Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming. 

Seriously impressive debut! 

Holy ffff! I devoured this read within a matter of hours. It was absolutely fascinating. Genuinely superb. I'm not for one minute suggesting that I have read a ton of crime thrillers, and that this is the best work of the genre because, if I'm honest, I haven't read many. Maybe that worked as an advantage? Regardless, this thriller consumed me. 

It's really dark and compulsive, blunt and unsettling. Flynn's characters are three dimensional, fucked up and complex. They're seriously gripping, and I think it's going to take me a couple more re-reads before I can really suss them and their motives out. It's safe to say that none of the thirteen year olds I know in the West Country are anything like the ones Flynn has created here! The pace was equally as fantastic as the character development, and if the premise alone doesn't draw you in, a million other things will. 

This book does come with a huge trigger warning though, particularly with regards to self harm and sexual assault. Whilst these aren't major triggers for me, there were times when I did feel uncomfortable with some of the issues raised and that's why I didn't give it the full five stars. I urge you to take caution. Furthermore, there's quite a lot of sexual content in this book so, again, if that's something you'd rather not read then don't buy this book. I will say though that I found the consensual sex scenes in this book quite refreshing in that they weren't ridiculously romanticised or constructed around the male's satisfaction. There's nothing worse than reading a book with terrible cringeworthy sex in it, in my opinion. 

In short, if you like reading crime and / or psychological thrillers that are really dark, this is for you because I think it pretty much covers every element of a good thriller. It's one of the most macabre thrillers I've read, that's for sure. I'm going to pick up Dark Places as soon as possible, as I've heard it's even better. Flynn has seriously impressed me, and not just because she very briefly referenced my illness!

RATING: 4.5/5

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The vast majority of my book collection has been bought with my own money. Sorry, bank balance! However, sometimes I'm sent books to review. These books are marked with *. Handy, eh?! This page also contains affiliate links. If you buy the books through the links I've so lovingly provided, I'll earn a tiny commission to put towards books in the future. If you've used my link to buy books, thank you! You're a good egg.


  1. Oh I really want to read We Have Always Lived In The Castle now, it sounds so exciting and chilling at the same time. Great post :)
    Water Painted Dreams xxx

  2. I love We Have Always Lived in the Castle and really want to read more Shirley Jackson now. Fahrenheit 451 is also great, though a bit of a book lover's nightmare! xx

  3. Great reviews :) I've wanted to read We Have Always Lived in the Castle for a while now - I've heard so many good things about it! I've never really read Shakespeare for pleasure either, but I've been thinking recently about having giving it a go. Your review of Hamlet has made me think that I should start with this play :)


  4. Ooh a few good suggestions here, I'll definitely be looking out for some of these :)
    I always loved The Witches, I was a bit of a twisted child though - I loved the ending haha!

    Jess xo

  5. I've heard so many good things about We Have Always Lived in the Castle and i'm definitely adding it to my summer reading list! I recently finished 'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn and loved it so am desperate to read her other two novels! x

  6. I do love reading your book reviews but I think I'm always going to have a never ending list of books to read!


  7. I've heard Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl is amazing, will have to check Sharp Objects out too! :)

  8. I love Gillian Flynn's writing - Sharp Objects and Gone Girl are two of my favourite reads recently. We Always Lived in the Castle sounds intriguing, I can see me purchasing that soon! xx

    D Is For...

  9. I love books and you've given me a new to-read list! ;)

  10. I'm currently reading sharp objects and really enjoying it so far, just hoping the ending is better than flynn's other novel gone girl-don't know if you've read it? You do get through a hell of a lot of books! Xx

  11. I really loved Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and I'd love to hear what you thought about it! I have read Dark Places, also by Flynn, but it was so...dark that I can't bring myself to re-read! Sharp Objects sounds interesting, though. Love your blog as always, Bee! xx


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