Teaser Tuesday
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Teaser Tuesday – Brisingr

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Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! All you have to do is grab the book you’re currently reading, open to a random page and share two sentences from that page. But make sure you don’t share any spoilers!

Cover of BrisingrI’ve finally managed to start on book three in Christopher Paolini’s ‘Inheritance Cycle’. This one – with my most favourite cover out of all the books – is called Brisingr, and picks up where we left Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, at the close of Eldest. I’m  finding it a bit slow at the moment but despite this and the fact that I’m only reading it for about half an hour before I go to bed, I’m making pretty good progress! So, here are this week’s sentences:

“The glowing image on the surface of the water flickered and then vanished into darkness as Eragon ended the spell he had used to create it. He leaned back on his heels and gazed up at the multitude of stars, allowing his eyes to readjust to the faint, glimmering light they provided.”

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The Liebster Award, AKA Answering A Bunch of Questions About Myself

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liebsterawardA couple of weeks ago Julianne at Outlandish Lit nominated me for the Liebster Award (does anyone know what a “liebster” is??), the general idea of which is to share a few things about yourself. So if you have no interest in knowing more about me as a person, stop reading now because you’ll be bored. If you are interested in knowing more about me as a person, stop reading now because what I have to say is incredibly boring! If you are crazy and decide to read on anyway, make sure you check out Julianne’s blog first – she always writes about great books and really is one of my favourite book bloggers (not that I play favourites or anything).

The Rules:
1. Make sure you thank and link back to the person who nominated you.
2. List 11 facts about yourself.
3. Answer the 11 questions put forward by whoever nominated you.
4. Ask 11 new questions to 9 other bloggers.
5. Go to their blog and inform them that they have been nominated.

Here are 11 facts about me that you never wanted to know:
1. Along with working full time and reading like a fiend, I’m also doing a B.A. in Professional Writing and Publishing via correspondence.
2. I procrastinate like no-one has ever procrastinated before, despite the amount of stuff I need to get done.
3. I’ve recently started going to the movies by myself and I love it!
4. I’ve never put petrol in a car. Or driven a car. Or got my license. Whoops.
5. I have about half a dozen different styles of handwriting. Sometimes I like to think I was a forger in a past life.
6. I really love watching NRL (a football code here in Australia). I feel like it sort of goes against my bookish persona, but sometimes you just need to yell profanities at a tv screen and watch a bunch of guys bash into each other. It’s good for the soul.
7. I can’t get enough of watching old Disney films like ‘Beauty & the Beast’, ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘Sleeping Beauty’, ‘The Sword in the Stone’ … basically any Disney film made prior to CGI becoming a thing. And even more than watching them, I LOVE singing along to the songs.
8. Pasta is my favourite thing to eat. My favourite way to have it at the moment is to cook some penne with a clove or two of garlic in salted water until al dente. Then I drain it, crush the cloves with a garlic crusher into the pasta, add a pinch of sea salt flakes, a crack of black pepper, a glut of olive oil and a splash of good balsamic vinegar (to taste). Then stir it all around, whack it in a bowl, grate some parmesan over and then devour it. Quick, simple, delicious.
9. I can crochet! I only know about three or four stitches, but I’m really good at those stitches.
10. I always get what I want on sale. For example, I saw this really nice coat in a shop and wanted it so bad, but didn’t think it was worth $300. A couple of days later I get an email from another shop selling nearly the exact same coat for half the price and discounted on top of that. This has happened to me with flights, hotel bookings, cameras, other clothes, books – the list goes on. I think of something I want, then I just sit back and wait for an email telling me I can get it for cheap. It’s a great power to have.
11. I love all animals except for: scaly things, anything with more than four legs or less than two, and anything poisonous. I firmly believe there is a special place in hell (or wherever) for people who are cruel to animals.

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Book Review – ‘The Night Manager’

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9780141393018Title: The Night Manager
Author: John le Carré
Genre: Fiction – spy thriller
Rating: ★★★★★

With the BBC mini-series adaptation of John le Carré’s The Night Manager scheduled for release in 2016, I thought it was about time to wrangle the book out of my tower of to be reads and give it a read to get a feel for the story before I watch the adaptation. I remember when I watched Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy that I was glad I’d read the book beforehand, as it helped me more easily grasp the plot of the film – there’s so much going on, it’s easy to miss things. Le Carré’s work, while fantastic (in the opinion of this reader) can be quite complex at times, full of politics and intrigue, and little strands of loose plot throughout that sometimes make no sense until he cleverly pulls one thread and brings it all together.  The Night Manager is no exception, and while it strays from the subject matter of his previous work, that of the politics of the Cold War era, it is certainly no less thrilling than what an avid reader of le Carré – or spy thrillers for that matter – could hope for.

It is 1991 and the Gulf War has just begun. On a cold January night in Zurich, Jonathan Pine, former British undercover soldier turned hotel night manager, is anticipating the arrival of a party of guests at his hotel, one of whom is Richard Onslow Roper: “the worst man in the world”. Roper is English, rich, charismatic, and famous. He is also a suspected arms dealer, and a spectre from Jonathan’s past that he has never quite managed to shake. Soon after this encounter with Roper, Jonathan is enlisted by a British intelligence agency (headed by the indefatigable Leonard Burr) to infiltrate Roper’s inner sanctum and to build a case against him. As Jonathan sets out on this path of redemption, revenge, and subterfuge, we see the cannibalistic and at times corrupt nature of the spy business, as rival agencies vie to be on top and are willing to sacrifice whoever and whatever it takes to get there.

After reading seven novels involving the master spy himself, George Smiley, I had my doubts that this new generation of spy and this new political era could even come close to the Cold War espionage of le Carré’s earlier novels. But I needn’t have worried – The Night Manager is the spy novel I didn’t realise I wanted to read, and Pine is the spy I didn’t know I’d been waiting for. He’s not the career spy of past stories – he’s the volunteer whose questionable motives for volunteering could eventually prove to be the undoing of the operation; he’s the man who would be willing to sacrifice his future to build a believable past for himself.  Roper is the complex villain you love to hate, but with that hate comes conflict – yes, he is the worst man in the world, but he is also a father and a lover; a man who would do what he must to provide for those dearest to him and the sort of man you want to see get away with things because he is just that good at being bad. And it is these two characters who weave through the web of politics spun by the men behind their polished desks. A web with threads that can just as easily ensnare the spider as it can the fly. This is not James Bond – it’s not sexy, it’s not full of action, there are no fancy gadgets. This is proper spook work in all it’s subtle and lonely glory.

I have little doubt that the BBC’s adaptation of this novel will be nothing short of magnificent. While I have some misgivings regarding the casting of one character in particular, the casting of the two leads is nothing if not perfection. As I read The Night Manager, knowing that it would be Hugh Laurie as Roper, facing off against Tom Hiddleston as Jonathan Pine, I couldn’t read  without seeing them in my mind. Hearing their voices speak the dialogue, I couldn’t imagine anyone else being more suited for the roles than these two incredibly fine actors. But the most important thing for me is that I know in bringing these two complex characters to life, they will do just justice to le Carré’s work and the book will be complemented perfectly.

WHO YOU’LL LOVE - Jonathan Pine is a beautifully crafted and complex character, so it’s difficult not to become attached to him. I particularly enjoyed being able to follow him as he built his legend (spy lingo for ‘back story’) in preparation for taking on Roper. He’s multifaceted and at times conflicted, making him a very interesting character to read.
WHO SHOULD READ IT - Obviously fans of le Carré’s other work would enjoy this (if they’ve not already read it), but also anyone who enjoys quality spy fiction. If you’ve not read le Carré previously I think this novel is good starting point, as the narrative is a little easier to follow than some of his other novels (although I think that may be because I’ve been reading so much of him lately, so I’m used to it).
FAVOURITE QUOTE - “‘When God finished putting together Dicky Roper,’ he told Rooke earnestly over a Friday evening curry, ‘He took a deep breath and shuddered a bit, then He ran up our Jonathan to restore the ecological balance.’”

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Teaser Tuesday
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Teaser Tuesday – Lone Star

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Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! All you have to do is grab the book you’re currently reading, open to a random page and share two sentences from that page. But make sure you don’t share any spoilers!

y450-293Teaser Tuesday is a little bit different this week. I recently signed up to this great website called NetGalley, which allows me to request new book titles to read prior to their release, and then review them (because I obviously need more places to get books)! During the week I requested, and was lucky enough to be approved for, an advance copy of Paullina Simons’ (author of The Bronze Horseman and Tully) latest book, Lone Star.

Now, I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to post any sentences from it as it’s not available for purchase yet, so instead I’ve provided a link to the website of the publisher, HarperCollins, on which  you can find a sneak peek of the novel, made up of the first three chapters in their entirety. It’s quite different to other novels I’ve read by Simons, but still has that wonderful ability to reel the reader in and not let go. So, head on over the HarperCollins website, click on the sneak peek and have a read. Lone Star is released in Australia on April 1st, 2015 – my review of it will be posted the same day.

SNEAKPREVIEW BUTTON


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Top Ten Bookish Problems

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I’ve had many problems over the years, but by far the most ongoing are my bookish ones. It is not a finite list, and no doubt once I publish this post I’ll think of something else, but I have to start somewhere I suppose. So here are my (current) top ten bookish problems. What are yours?

10. Paper books smell and feel so good, but ebooks are so convenient. This one is fairly self explanatory. Nothing in this world beats the feel of a book in your hands, but realistically once you’ve been collecting for a few years, they start to take up a lot of space. With ebooks they’re all in the one device and when you finish one book, you’ll more than likely have another one right there ready to go.

9. Reading a series that goes for thirteen books, when really eight would have been plenty. But you have to keep reading anyway because you’ve started it and have to finish it. This happened to me with the Sookie Stackhouse novels, the quality of which really degenerated as the number of them increased.

I think I’m at ‘reality check’.

8. Fear of loss. Sure there’s ten copies of that book on the shelf in the shop and sure they probably have more out the back and could order it in for me. But what if every copy of this book caught on fire tomorrow and the ebook file was deleted from everywhere? I better buy it now and add it to the fifty other books in my to be read pile.

7. Feeling like a zombie after pulling an all night reading binge. And knowing that no amount of coffee in the world will help you get through the day. But you’d do it all again. In fact, you’ll probably do it again tonight. Because finishing that book is more important than being able to do your job effectively.

6. When you really like a character in a book, and then the show gets adapted for the big/small screen and the casting of the character is all wrong. This happened to me very recently. The Night Manager is being made into a tv series and they have cast a female in the role of one of the best characters in the book, a male. I will admit that the book itself is very heavily male populated and it would have been done to diversify the cast, but I worry that it will change the dynamic between the characters. Anyway, what can you do?

This needs to be a thing that can happen.

5. When you’re going away somewhere for more than a week and can’t pick which book/s to take. There are so many factors to consider: what would be a good holiday read, will I have enough time for reading, will I have too much time for reading, the book can’t be too big otherwise it’ll be cumbersome to carry around with me, should I even take one with me or should I just visit a book shop there, or should I take one and visit a book shop. Packing clothes is easy by comparison.

4. Getting to the end of a series and it being over. Two words: Harry Potter. Also The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and for me the George Smiley series.

3. A ridiculously long wait between books. I’m looking at you George RR Martin! Oh, and Justin Cronin as well, I’m going crazy waiting for the third book in The Passage Trilogy.

2. Lending books and never getting them back. This has happened to me once and only once. I foolishly lent someone a book I hadn’t even had a chance to read yet, and never saw it again. Be considerate borrowers you guys.

And my Number One Bookish Problem is…

1. There’s not enough time to read all of the books. I’ll just have to become a vampire I suppose.

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Book Review – “The Last Unicorn”

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811zpBTHvzLTitle: The Last Unicorn
Author: Peter S. Beagle
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: ★★★★★

When I was little, one of my most favourite movies to watch (on video!) was The Last Unicorn. Unfortunately I’ve not watched it in many years and had actually forgotten how much I enjoyed it, until someone posted about it on Twitter a few weeks ago. It was also at this point I discovered that the film was actually based on a book of the same name, written by Peter S. Beagle. So to make up for my years living in ignorance, I immediately went online and bought myself a copy and upon immersing myself in it, was immediately taken back to my childhood.

In a world in which magic is real but belief in it is waning, a unicorn sets out from her home to find out what happened to the rest of the world’s unicorns, for they disappeared many years ago and she is now the last. She is aided in her quest by Schmendrick the Magician, a complicated character whose destiny is entwined with her own; and Molly Grue, a woman whose own life is reflective of the changes that have taken place in the world since the unicorns disappeared. On her journey, the  unicorn meets a talking butterfly, a witch, and outlaws who have tried to style themselves in the fashion of Robin Hood; and while it initially begins as a quest to find the rest of her kind, it also ends up being a journey of self-discovery and change for her.

There is not one bad word I could say about this book. As I read I found myself thinking that fantasy novels just aren’t written like they used to be, and this is due to the beautifully descriptive writing of the author. From the opening lines of the novel to the last, Beagle’s writing made everything seem vivid and almost real. It’s not a story that has an overly complex plot either: it has a straightforward beginning, middle, and end, and is not weighed down by unneeded loose ends that in other novels would need to be tied up at the novel’s conclusion. While this may sound simplistic and perhaps a little boring, it was really lovely to follow the story as it happened without having to worry about too many little sub-plots as is often the case in many contemporary novels. As the unicorn moved through her own journey on one road, so too does the reader get moved through the novel without having to think too much – they can just sit, read, and enjoy. Which is precisely what a reader should be able to do.

It’s not often that I read or watch things that take me so completely back to when I was small. As I read The Last Unicorn, I could hear the voices of the characters from the film in my head, which I have since discovered included the likes of Jeff Bridges, Alan Arkin, Christopher Lee, and Angela Lansbury (which explained why the voices in my head sounded so familiar), and after finishing I’ve actually picked myself up a copy of the movie on DVD, which I’m really excited to watch. While I didn’t read the book as a child, reading it for the first time as an adult did not diminish the magic of it. I especially loved the feeling that even after reading hundreds of books in my time, and despite being a bit cynical in my old age, I still pick up a book for the first time and be left with a sense of wonder and joy.

WHO YOU’LL LOVE - Schmendrick the Magician was definitely my favourite character. I found him to be the character with the most depth and the hardest decisions to make, which also caused him the greatest inner turmoil.
WHO SHOULD READ IT – anyone who loves classic fantasy fiction will definitely enjoy this. While it’s not as complex or lengthy, it is definitely in the same league as The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit.
FAVOURITE QUOTE - “‘I have time,’ the skull replied reflectively. ‘It’s really not so good to have time. Rush, scramble, desperation , this missed, that left behind, those others too big to fit into such a small space — that’s the way life was meant to be. You’re supposed to be too late for some things. Don’t worry about it.'”

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Teaser Tuesday
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Teaser Tuesday – Eldest

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Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! All you have to do is grab the book you’re currently reading, open to a random page and share two sentences from that page. But make sure you don’t share any spoilers!

Eldest_book_coverSo I’m now up to the book two in Christopher Paolini’s ‘Inheritance Cycle’, Eldest. So that’s where my sentences are from for this week. I’m quite enjoying it so far and although I’m not that far into it, it’s safe to say that I am liking Eragon much more as a character and the writing has improved, just as I was hoping!

“Thereupon Saphira arched her neck, and a jet of blue flame emanated from between her serrated fangs and splashed against the scree, blackening the lichen, which released a bitter smell as it burned. The air grew so hot that Eragon was forced to turn away.”

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The Seven Deadly Sins of Reading

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I love books and reading. And I love tags about books and reading! So, many thanks to JD over at The Happy Typewriter for tagging me in the ‘Seven Deadly Sins of Reading’ post. Before you read any further in this post, make sure you click on over to her blog and check it out – it’s full of book reviews, writing tips and generally awesome stuff. So do head over there right away.

Now, I’m supposed to tag people in this to answer the questions as well, but these tagging posts are becoming a weekly occurrence for me, and I will run out of bloggers to tag. So if you’re reading this, consider yourself tagged and feel free to answer the questions whenever you feel like it! And now to my reading sins (which is a bit of an oxymoron in my opinion).

GREED, defined as: an intense and selfish desire for something.
What is your most expensive book? Hmmm, I think this would be one of two books. The first is a gigantic coffee table book that has all of the artwork of the Vatican Museums in it. I actually went to the Vatican Museum a couple of years ago and they were selling books like the one I have there, but I didn’t have time to get one. So when I got home I came across one online that was even better and I grabbed it. It’s really beautiful. The other book I have is probably more valuable than expensive – it’s a copy of Sir David Attenborough’s Life On Air that has his autograph in it. That makes it priceless in my opinion.

WRATH, defined as: extreme anger.
What author do you have a love/hate relationship with? George RR Martin. JUST FINISH THE DAMN BOOK GEORGE!!

seven_years_tibet_harrerGLUTTONY, defined as: intense over indulgence.
What book have you devoured over and over with no shame? That’s a tough one. I’m trying to read every book in the world before I die, so I don’t have a lot of time to go back and reread books. But the ones I have read the most over the years are Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer, and Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. Oh, and the Harry Potter series – there’s always time for Harry!

SLOTH, defined as: a reluctance to work or make an effort.
What book have you neglected to read due to laziness? Many years ago, when I first started reading Tolkien, I tried to read The Silmarillion, but I think I read maybe 40 pages and gave up (I was probably about 12 at the time). I’ve pushed it to the back of my mind ever since and not wanted to try again, but I think I should give it another go.

PRIDE, defined as: satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements or from qualities or possessions that are most widely admired.
What books do you talk about most in order to sound like an intellectual reader? I don’t think this is really something I do, mostly because I can’t hold an intellectual conversation about a book – I’ve recently decided I hate looking too deeply into books. But if I had to pick one it would probably be the most intellectual book I’ve read, The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester, and that’s not because I want to sound intellectual – it’s because I’m usually recommending it to someone who loves words and who I think would find it interesting (if you’re reading this and you love words, you should read it, I wrote about it here if you’re interested).

LUST, defined as: a strong sexual desire.
What attributes do you find most attractive in male (or female) characters? I honestly couldn’t settle on anything in particular. My taste varies so greatly that I think it could be used as evidence for my split personality. For example, my most favourite male character in anything in recent times, is George Smiley – a short, chubby, glasses wearing, middle aged British spy, with a taste for German literature. But then I also really liked Eric Northman from the Sookie Stackhouse novels – he’s tall, blonde, toned, sassy, and at times cruel, with a taste for blood. I suppose the one thing they have in common is that they are both intelligent and charismatic in their own way.

johnson2ENVY, defined as: a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities or luck.
What book would you most like to receive as a gift? This is going to sound completely nerdy of me, but I would really love to have a copy of Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language. Until the completion of The Oxford English Dictionary 173 years later, Johnson’s dictionary was considered the leading source for the definition of words (his project also gets a mention in The Surgeon of Crowthorne).

What, if any, are your reading sins? Do you have any bad reading habits?

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Book Review – ‘Eragon’

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Eragon_novelTitle: Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle #1)
Author: Christopher Paolini
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult/Children’s Fiction
Rating: ★★★★☆

As mentioned in this “Teaser Tuesday” post, all the way back in 2009 I purchased the first three books in the ‘Inheritance Cycle’ by Christopher Paolini. About two years ago I purchased the final book in the series and it’s been sitting in my to be read pile ever since then, perpetually at the bottom as I read everything on top of it, always with the intention that I would eventually dig the rest of the series out of the box in the garage. This finally happened two weeks ago (after some prompting from a fellow blogger) and after six years I began reading the series, starting with Eragon. My initial thoughts of the series, based purely on this first installment, are along the lines of, ‘oh my gosh, I can’t wait to read more’.

At it’s essence, Eragon is a coming of age story, as are most books that could fall into the ‘young adult’ category. The plot centres around Eragon, a farm boy with a seemingly mundane future ahead of him – that is, until he discovers a stone which eventually turns out to be a dragon egg. The discovery and subsequent hatching of this egg sets in motion a chain of events that sees Eragon travel far and wide across the fictional world of Alagaesia, battling evil forces as he goes and discovering new powers within himself as he does so.

For the most part the book is well paced, although at times it did drag on a little bit. I particularly found the constant travelling between towns a little bit tiresome, mostly because it was a lot of the same thing happening at these times – lots of talking, honing of sword fighting skills, and a smattering of fighting the bad guys. Despite this, I flew through the book a lot quicker than I had initially intended to, this was mostly due to the easy to read writing style of the author. While the writing itself was not perfect (although, is there such a thing?), I anticipate that the writing will improve as I move through the series, which will be interesting in itself – watching the writer develop over a few books, and seeing him hone his craft.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read and it has whet my appetite for the next three books – I particularly enjoyed the novel’s climax. While there certainly many aspects of the book (and I suppose the books that follow) that could have comparisons drawn with some truly great works of fantasy – namely the work of JRR Tolkien, there’s enough in this book to differentiate from the others and make it a reasonably original and enjoyable read. Indeed there are some rather scathing reviews of Paolini’s work on Goodreads, in which readers have essentially called Eragon plagiarised, however I would challenge those people to point out one work of fiction from the last decade or so, that isn’t influenced by the work of another author. In any case, I feel Eragon is a good starting point for young readers who enjoy fantasy fiction, but are perhaps too young to read Tolkien’s work and I honestly didn’t sit there while reading it, trying to make a connection between every event in this book, with events that occur in Tolkien’s work.

WHO YOU’LL LOVE - I didn’t particularly like the character of Eragon that much – he really did behave like a petulant child at times, and it irked me to no end. My favourite character was probably Murtagh – he’s a bit sassy and has that whole mysterious past/is he good or is he bad thing happening. I’m really looking forward to reading more of him and hopefully seeing his character develop.
WHO SHOULD READ IT – obviously it’s written for a much younger target market, but I’m nearly 30 (gah!) and I really enjoyed it. I think if you enjoy Tolkien and Rowling, you’d probably like this too.
FAVOURITE QUOTE - “Eragon returned to his chair, holding the book gently. It’s amazing that a man who is dead can talk to people through these pages. As long as this book survives, his ideas live.

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Teaser Tuesday
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Teaser Tuesday – The Night Manager

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9780141393018Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! All you have to do is grab the book you’re currently reading, open to a random page and share two sentences from that page. But make sure you don’t share any spoilers!

Surely it’s no secret by now that John le Carré is one of my favourite authors. I might even go so far as to say that he is my absolute favourite author. While I’ve not written any spy novels (although I hope to one day), I’d like to think that his writing has had a small influence on my own. Certainly when I read his books, I am extremely observant of how he writes certain things – I am especially in love with his ability to set a scene and make me feel as though I’m there. So you can imagine my excitement when it was announced that one of his novels, The Night Manager, was being adapted for the small screen and the main roles were to be played by two very excellent actors (Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston). As I’d not read it, I felt it was important to do so prior to watching the tv series. So here I am, reading it and hence it is from this novel that I’ll be sharing my teaser for this week. I’ve only shared one sentence this week as the one I landed on was really long:

“After the Royal & Ancients came Burr’s pet hates, and probably Roper’s too, for he called them the Necessary Evils, and these were the shiny-cheeked merchant bankers from London with eighties striped blue shirts and white collars and double-breasted suits, who said ‘ears’ when they meant ‘yes’ and ‘hise’ when they meant ‘house’ and ’school’ when they meant ‘Eton’; and in their train, the bully-boy accountants – the bean-counters, Roper called them – looking as if they’d come to extract a voluntary confession, with take-away-curry breath and wet armpits, and voices like formal cautions that from here on everything will be taken down and faked in evidence against you.”

Just as a side note, how great is the cover of this book?

What are you reading at the moment? Feel free to share some sentences in the comments section.

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