Archive for ‘Book Reviews’

May 30, 2012

Jodi Picoult- Part 2

So this is another post about Jodi Picoult, as promised, this time about the novel- ‘My Sister’s Keeper’.
Goodreads Synopsis: Written with grace, wisdom, and sensitivity, this novel is about a teen who was conceived as a bone marrow match for her sister Kate, and what happens when she begins to question who she really is.
When I wrote about The Pact recently, the other book I’ve read by Picoult, I stated that Picoult had a habit of making the extrodinary ordinary. My Sister’s Keeper is definitely the better book, possibly because it deals with something which, sadly, is prevalent in our world- cancer, and is thus much easier to relate to. The book is deeply moving- it honestly makes you cry. It looks deeply into the effect of cancer and into the nature of right and wrong. When faced with unusual circumstances and life and death choices. What is actually the ‘right’ thing to do- as a parent, as a sister, as a a friend. This is life at it’s extreme- and reading it is beyond excellent.
Reading Picoult is a bit like watching Opra- a guilty pleasure you can’t quite seem to tear your eyes from, because the people’s stories make you re-examine your judgements of other’s decisions and make you realize just how easy your life is. And also because it’s kinda like a soap opera. And now it’s a film. Enjoy.
May 23, 2012

Jodi Picoult- Part 1

I feel that I should dedicate a little time to the lovely Jodi Picoult, so the next couple of posts will be about her. This first one is about the first book I read by her- The Pact.
Goodreads Synopsis: For eighteen years the Hartes and the Golds have lived next door to each other, sharing everything from Chinese food to chicken pox to carpool duty– they’ve grown so close it seems they have always been a part of each other’s lives. Parents and children alike have been best friends, so it’s no surprise that in high school Chris and Emily’s friendship blossoms into something more. They’ve been soul mates since they were born. So when midnight calls from the hospital come in, no one is ready for the appalling truth: Emily is dead at seventeen from a gunshot wound to the head. There’s a single unspent bullet in the gun that Chris took from his father’s cabinet– a bullet that Chris tells police he intended for himself.
You may notice a pattern in my reviews in that I tend to review and write about books that I expect nothing from to start out with. The Pact was a bit like that. Even though I was recommended the book by a friend, I was dubious. It didn’t really seem like something that would be up my street. But the more I got into it, the better it was. Picoult keeps you guessing all the way until the end and even when you’re a little infuriated with the story dragging on for so long, you remain completely glued to the page, you need to know what really happened, you need to hear every last detail even if Picoult’s writing isn’t anything special.
The reason I’ve chosen to write about Picoult, and this book in particular, is that she looks at really serious issues from a completely different perspective. She makes the extraordinary ordinary, and gets into the heads of people who do things which shock and appall society and show how that person can be driven to that extreme. So it’s enjoyable in the way that reading a mass murderer’s diary is- you are so compelled by the madness of it that you can’t help but keep reading.
May 16, 2012

Life in a Breath- A vida num Sopro

Goodreads Synopsis: Salazar has just risen to power, and with an iron fist imposes order in the country. Government accounts arebalanced, Beatriz Costa animates the Parque Mayer, the PVED are a constant and silent threat. Louis is an idealistic student who begins to date the honey-eyed Amelia. The love between the two will, however, be severely tested by the objection of the girl’s mother, an unexpected murder and civil war in Spain. Through a story of a passion that defies the traditional values of conservative Portugal, this fascinating novel takes us to through the fire of the years in which the Estado Novo was forged. (apologies for my translation)

This book took me quite a while to get in to, but once it got going it was thoroughly entertaining. Firstly, I loved Santos’ ability to make the character’s voices come alive- you can hear their accents, imagine their movements and see them perfectly in your mind’s eye. Secondly the characters were realistic. They were not heroes- not much of what they do is noble or noteworthy, but it is real. Some of the characters are downright distasteful, but they are also completely human- and that is something quite unique to this book. Finally this book is excellent because of Santos’ portrayal of the fervor of youth mellowing into the reality of adulthood and the bitterness of the choices that life forces us to make.  It’s a realistic Romeo and Juliet- a star-crossed lovers story with a large dose of reality and history to round it nicely off. All in all a great read.

Once again I feel a little guilty reviewing a book that doesn’t have an English translation, but it counts towards my challenge, so I hope you’ve enjoyed my review anyway.

April 29, 2012

The Forgotten Garden

Goodreads SynopsisCassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra’s life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family. Inheriting a book of dark and intriguing fairytales written by Eliza Makepeace – the Victorian authoress who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century – Cassandra takes her courage in both hands to follow in the footsteps of Nell on a quest to find out the truth about their history, their family and their past; little knowing that in the process, she will also discover a new life for herself. 

My Ramblings: Kate Morton, the author of this book, should by rights be quite proud of this work. However, as much as I try to appreciate it I really can’t. I’ve tried. Maybe it’s just because I’m insanely tired of the heroine who’s had a difficult life storyline. I try to warm to it. I really do, but it has never worked. It’s not that it’s terrificly bad. I think it’s just that after a while, only things that are a little bit different from what I read before really intrigue me. It’s got a little bit of that ‘dark fairytale’ thing going on, mixed in with the careful splicing of different time periods. Whilst I know that this book is much loved by many, it’s really not my cup of tea. It seems to be a bit like marmite- you either love it, or you hate it.

April 24, 2012

Poison

Goodreads Synopsis: Poison has always been a willful, contrary girl, prone to being argumentative and stubborn. So when her sister is snatched by the mean-spirited faeries, she seeks out the Phaerie Lord to get her back.
But finding him isn’t easy, and the quest leads Poison into a murderous world of intrigue, danger, and deadly storytelling. With only her wits and her friends to aid her, Poison must survive the attentions of the Phaerie Lord, rescue her sister, and thwart a plot that’s beyond anything she (or the reader) can imagine. . .

My Ramblings: Poison was what I called a ‘post office read’- a book I picked up wanting to read something new but with expectation of something a little awful. As usual I am reviewing it because it did surpass my expectations. I do not demand you go out and buy it immediately, but it is still interesting if you’re just looking for a filler read. The themes are very gothic, dark fantasy- nothing happy and fairy-taily about it. For those of you who watch Grimm on NBC, I’d say that Poison is a PG version of this program. There are some classical cliches- the evil stepmother, the naive but witty heroine going on an adventure and thus you do need to persevere for the first chapter or two- but the characters, particularly in the second half of the book, are relatively original and well written (for a fantasy novel). Congrats to Chris Wooding on a solid piece of work.

April 14, 2012

A Discovery of Witches

Goodreads Synopsis: Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

My ramblings:  Possibly because I wasn’t expecting much of a book that I paid 99p for, I ended up actually quite enjoying this novel. My mind was not blown and I had difficulty getting into the book but I found myself getting drawn into the story (slightly ruined by disappointing ending) living the lives of the characters, and that is always fun. It’s about 70% cliche, and the rest is actually not bad reading material. Not a novel made to change your world, but a fairly entertaining read to send you off to sleep. It’s part of a trilogy, so I await to arrival of installments two and three with a very mild sense of excitement. In short, I would describe this book as (a far less nauseating) twilight story with some brutality and a bit of fun that is all its own. (Book written by Deborah Harkness)

March 30, 2012

30 day book challenge- Day 30- Your favorite book of all time

To me, my favorite book of all time could only be a one which answered all the questions of this challenge with the exception of being overrated, a book I have hated, the first book I remember reading or a book that disappointed me.

It is the best book I read last year, which makes it also a book I read often. It is (sort of) in my faovrite series, as well as being a guilty pleasure that inspires both happiness and sadness in me and sometimes even tears. Highly underrated, it is a book I though I wouldn’t like but did, not to mention being my favorite classic and my favoured work by my favorite author. It is a book that more people should read and one that should be on every college reading list as a warning for the ignorant and small minded not to mention that it contains some of my faourite quotes. It is my favorite book that  turned into a movie (which was also partially desecrated), is favorite book from childhood which made me fall back in love with reading at a time where I was bored with its predictability. It has changed my opinion, has a surprising plot twist and in a nutshell is my favourite book title of all time.

In case you hadn’t already guessed from the picture to the side, my favorite book of all time is the short story ‘The Painted Veil’ by W. Somerset Maugham and the title is taken from for a Shelly sonnet. The story follows a very shallow Kitty who marries the highly intellectual Walter Fane, a bacteriologist who lives in China and who falls madly in love with her. The marriage, on Kitty’s part is motivated purely so she can be married before her younger sister, and to get away from her mother. Bored with life in Hong Kong, and a husband whom she doesn’t understand, Kitty begins an affair with the well-regarded Charles Townsend. Caught by her husband, Kitty is forced to choose between accompanying her husband or being scandalously divorced by him. What follows is Kitty’s growth into a woman and her gradual realization of her own mistakes and shallow nature without making her into a different human being, a hero or something amazing- simply a real woman realizing things about herself. Beautifully written, Somerset Maughan manages to write a book that is both incredibly interesting and spectacularly well written. A real triumph, and thus my favorite book of all time.

Also, I love the film with the exception of their slightly change to the plot: 

March 29, 2012

30 day book challenge- Day 29- A book that makes you cry

Before I write about this, I will clarify the title- it is not so much about a book that makes me cry, it is about a moment in a book that is so emotional, or a character written so well that something which happens them provokes a physical reaction. I don’t just bawl my way through the entire novel on the train- never fear!

Book one which makes me do this is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Alcott is a like an American Austen and what’s not to love about this heart warming novel that follows the lives of four sisters- Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March as they turn into little women. Even though it’s been years since I’ve read it, Little Women is still a book (and film) that makes me cry- normally only when Beth dies as she is such a kind and sweet character whose death just seems to highlight everything that is wrong in the world. Being an only child I also spent a lot of my childhood being attracted by the idea of four sisters, so the death of Beth spoiled this perfect image of the four-child family.

Another book that makes me cry- or moment in a book, to be more exact, is actually the death of Dumbledore in Harry Potter. Something about that death is so utterly devastating to me that tears ran down my cheeks from the moment of his death till the end of the book. I even had to go ask my mum for a cuddle.

So there you have it- the two book moments that make me bawl more than any other!

March 28, 2012

30 day book challenge- Day 28- Favorite title

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. Definitely my favorite title of all time! I know, I can see the awesomness you feel just reading it. It drew me instantly in because of its aforesaid weird awesomeness. The book is pretty good too- an autistic boy- Christopher-attempts to figure out who killed his neighbor’s dog. What is more awesome however is that the title is actually a remark made by the Sherlock Holmes in “Silver Blaze”- and as Sherlock Holmes is one of the most awesomest characters of all times, this adds to the overall awesomeness of the title “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time”. Overall, I would define this title as ‘awesome’.

March 27, 2012

30 day book challenge- Day 27- The most surprising plot twist or ending

It’s difficult to think of a particular book that has a surprising twist or ending, particularly as I’m about 80% right in my guesses about endings these days. However, just about anything written by Agatha Christie invariably surprises me- no matter how convinced I am that I know the perpetrator of a particular crime. When I feel that the whole world’s literature is simply written with the same plot, it just takes an Agatha Cristie mystery to perk me up again. Obviously Murder at the Orient Express comes to mind, but also the two books shown in the pictures- At Bertram’s Hotel and Black Coffee. Question moment- have any of you ever guessed the correct wrong-doer in an Agatha Christie novel?