Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Beach Reads!

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme over at The Broke and The Bookish.

I was actually in two minds whether or not to take part in this one. It's been a few weeks though since I have done a Top Ten Tuesday. Basically, I don't do beach holidays. I prefer visiting cities and cramming in as many activities as possible within my time there. Needless to say I don't get much reading done (although I still take a book with me). That being said I haven't had a proper holiday in what feels like forever and a beach holiday is looking more and more attractive. So here is what I would take on my first beach holiday.

1. American Gods - Neil Gaiman. I think it's this books ten year anniversary and I have been meaning to give it a re-read (truth be told I can't find my copy and have a horrible feeling the ex has it - grumble). It's such a good book but I have forgotten lots of it so I think this would be ideal.

2. Murder on the Links- Agatha Christie. I thoroughly enjoyed the first Poirot book when I read it a few months back. It's such an easy and enjoyable read. I love Poirot and I think the second one would be a nice relaxing read.

3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte. I know, classics might seem a bit heavy for a holiday in the sun. However, this is another re-read that is long overdue. When I first read it all those years ago it was nothing but a pleasure. I don't imagine it would be any different this time round.

4. A Walk In The Woods - Bill Bryson. Do you ever find yourself planning your next holiday whilst on holiday? I do, so what better way to do that than to read some travel writing. Plus I have been meaning to read Bryson's travel books for a long time. I have heard they are a fantastic and funny read.

5. Silent In The Grave - Deanna Raybourn. Another book I've been meaning to read. Recommended to me by GabeReads. It doesn't look too heavy and would probably be a book I would pass on to my friends (something else I end up doing on holiday).

6. Gone - Michael Grant. Yes, I realise it's a YA and I've been taking a break from them. This one though has been sitting on my shelf for a long long time (I bought it when it was first out in hardback) and it's nagging at me. Plus it's usually YA I take on holiday as it's relatively light.

7. Jpod - Douglas Coupland. Another re-read. Simply because it's one of my favourite books. Problem is it will have me laughing out loud and making me look like a lunatic next to the pool.

8. The Green Rider - Kristen Britain. Another recommendation by a blogger (I am so sorry, I can't remember who it was). I haven't read a fantasy book in a long time. This would be perfect to start a new series.

9. A Game Of Thrones - George R. R. Martin. I really do need to read this again before I move onto the second one. It's quite a large book so with plenty of time on my hands a holiday might be the best time to do that.

10. Charlie Parker books - John Connolly. Okay, this is a series rather than one book. Taken some of these along would be perfect. I know and love the characters already. Nothing better than a series you are comfortable with and still enjoy.

The Iliad - Homer. Final Part.

Turns out taking a week long break from reading this was a bad idea. Meant I spent most of yesterday trying to finish the book. Basically I got to the half way point, read something else and lost my mojo. These things happen I guess but I did finish it.

So the main reason I lost interest in the book half way through is that the story seemed to go back and forth with the Trojans are winning, no wait the Gods are now backing the Achaean's. Oops, back to the Trojans. It got a little tedious although I think if I had kept going in the first place it might not have felt like that.

At the end of part one Zeus had given Hector some fighting spirit and he was pushing the Achaean's back to their ships. Stupidly he decides to take a little break. Whilst his wife and kids have been warned off from interfering he has forgotten someone. That's right, his brother Poseidon decides to help the Achaean's. Hera decides to prevent Zeus from noticing by distracting him with her feminine wiles. It works and the Achaean's are back on form.

Funnily enough when Zeus wakes up he notices what his brother is up to and gets a little angry. He tells him to get back to the sea or else. Reluctantly Poseidon agrees. Meanwhile, the Trojans are winning again and Apollo has renewed Hector's fighting spirit. Achilles best friend, Patroclus, is upset that so many Greeks are dying at the hands of the Trojans. He requests to join the battle which Achilles allows but refuses to join himself as he is still in a huff. This is when we learn that all of this has been planned by Zeus at the request of Thetis who spoke to him on behalf of Achilles. So basically the war is being prolonged because Achilles went crying to his mum. Obviously no one told Achilles to be careful what he wished for because his best friend is killed by Hector as a result.

Achilles then joins the war and it's at this point that Zeus allows all Gods to interfere. He doesn't want Achilles to reach Ilium too quickly. Eventually he does and of course faces Hector in battle.

Despite finding it hard to get back into again I did enjoy the book. It was a lot more brutal than I was expecting. I had been warned it would be but I still wasn't prepared for some of the descriptions such as brain spattered helmets (lovely). I felt that the ending was a little anticlimactic. I wonder if I am mixing up parts of the Odyssey with the Iliad. I do recommend it though. Don't be put off by the verse because if I can read it then anyone can.

Monday, 30 May 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading!

It's Monday is a book meme by Sheila from book journey. I didn't get much reading done last week. I have been out and about quite a lot and was away the weekend too.

Last week I read;

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. I loved this book. Not my favourite book read this year but definitely near the top.

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore. I enjoyed it but disappointed when compared to Watchmen.

Just now I am reading;

The Iliad by Homer. This is part of a readalong. It's supposed to be finished for tomorrow but I'm not sure I will get it finished on time.

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin. Interesting so far. I do love a dystopian. I think it will go on hold until I finish The Iliad though. Mind you, this is quite a short book.

This week I plan to read;
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It's part of another readalong which starts on Wednesday. It's also one of the books I chose to read for the 'Books I should have read by now' challenge.

Sister by Rosamund Lupton. This is for my book group.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Book Cover!

I've been away over the weekend and got very little reading done. I did get the best present every. A good friend of mine has recently taken up quilting (I am so very jealous of her talent) and she's made several quilted book covers. They have handles so that you can carry the book as though it's a bag. I have been loaning her a lot of books and so she surprised me with one of these as a thank you. I love it! She even used different stitches from her sewing machine to decorate it.

The 'read me' on the back is my particular favourite. I was so excited by this thoughtful gift I had to share.

Friday, 27 May 2011

V For Vendetta - Alan Moore.

It's 1997 and Britain is ruled by the firm hand of Fascism. No one can move or speak with out the leader being aware of it. Breaking a law or speaking against the regime means instant death. One man has had enough and he decides to set the people of Britain free. Through creating anarchy and chaos he tries to wake the people up to their chains.

This is one of Alan Moore's first graphic novels. When making comparisons to Watchman (which I couldn't help doing) it's easy to spot. It's nowhere near as complex. Plus the art work is inferior. It's not as detailed and I could ignore the art to concentrate on the story without feeling that I was missing out. Only the face of V himself really stood out which was probably the point.

Still, it's a dystopian story which is what I like. Very similar in style to 1984 in terms of 'Big Brother is watching'. Here though you get to see what happens when one man switches those cameras off. Definitely interesting. I have only two real complaints in that regards. I think more could have been made about the history. It was mentioned a few times that there was a war which resulted in the fascists taking control. Apart from brief mentions, including mentions of racial cleansing, there wasn't much else. Watchmen did that part better. I also found that I easily mixed some of the characters, they were so interchangeable. Only one or two had real depth. Again this was something that Watchmen did better.

Despite my complaints I did enjoy it. Whilst the art work was poor the story itself was superior to the first few graphic novels I tried. Only when compared to Watchmen (from my small graphic novel reading experience) does it come up short.

Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates

Jack and April Wheeler are living the ideal life out in the suburbs. Jack commutes into the city to work a job that he finds dull but gives him something to laugh about with friends. April stays at home with the two children and looks after their lovely home at the end of Revolutionary Road. They never actually wanted the American life but now they are stuck in a rut living the same life as the neighbours they scorn. They both try various ways of breaking out which fail. Eventually April grasps onto the idea of moving to France and talks Jack into the plan by flattering his ego. This allows them to fall in love again until something interferes with their plans.

A great book which hasn't dated in the slightest. It wouldn't take much tweaking to set the story in today's world. There are so many themes that are still relevant today. The need to conform to the ideal way of living life may be slightly different and not quiet as strong but it's still there.

The problem with April and Jack is that whilst they are bored with the ideal life they don't actually know what they want. Especially Jack. He's in a job he hates but at the suggestion of taking time out to find a job he would love his initial reaction is fear. It's only through April telling Jack how brilliant he is that he begins to believe in the idea. I can't help but feel sorry for Jack. He has such an unrealistic view of himself and the way people see him so that when things don't go the way he expects them to it throws him. April has this view of Jack too but part of the problem is that she then begins to see the man she really married.

Actually I found it to be a fairly sad book in general. These people were clearly unhappy and don't notice that the people around them are just as miserable. They believe that they stand out amongst their neighbours but in the end they were very quickly and easily replaced. I got the impression that they don't seem to know each other very well either. April sees Jack as this intellectual genius. Jack sees April as a woman made cold by her troubled childhood. Don't get me wrong, I could see the humour to it too. As infuriating as Jack could be I couldn't help but laugh at the fact that he loved the sound of his own voice. Even some of the situations he got himself into (and how easily he got himself out of them) was funny.

I really want to see the film now. I can't imagine how it has been done since a lot of it is internal monologue. I am not a huge Leonardo DiCaprio fan but I can actually see him in the role of Jack.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Booking Through Thursday - Reading Rut

Do you ever feel like you’re in a reading rut? That you don’t read enough variety? That you need to branch out, spread your literary wings and explore other genres, flavors, styles?

Quite a lot. My problem is that when I find a genre or book type I like I go on over kill. I keep track of what I read and if you look at my list for a few years ago it will be mostly a list of YA with some Kelley Armstrong and Kim Harrison thrown in. The problem with that is that I get bored with it and begin to hate the genre. At the moment I am having that issue with YA. I am increasingly finding it difficult to find one I like. It's got to the stage where I don't know if I actually dislike the book or if I am just bored with it. I have some books sitting there that I had been looking forward to. I'm worried now that I'm not going to appreciate it as much and so I'm giving myself a six month break in the hopes that I can go back and enjoy the ones sitting there.

This isn't new to me. I did the exact same thing with science fiction and fantasy. At one point I read almost nothing else. Now it's rare for me to pick up one from these genres. When I do though I do like them so I think the break works. Just now I am mainly reading general fiction with some crime thrown in. I could easily go on a crime kick but I'm trying to stop that burn out. It takes me a while but I do learn eventually.

On an unrelated note I apologise if it seems as though I haven't been around. I have been having continuing problems with blogger. It stays on a loop of asking me to sign in. The only way I can get it to work is by using google chrome as my browser (which I hate) but it's fixed for now.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Watchmen - Alan Moore

One of the original masked super heroes, the comedian, has been murdered. Most are of the opinion that it was a burglary gone wrong. Rorschach on the other hand believes that someone is out to get masked heroes. He has even taken to calling him the Masked Murderer. Meanwhile tensions between the US and Russia are high. Only Dr. Manhattan is preventing it from escalating. Upset by allegations he then disappears allowing the Russians to make their move. Rorschach, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre begin to believe the two incidents might be linked.

This is one of those very few instances where I saw the film first. Actually, I never read the books of comic book films yet I love going to see them. Rarely still I wasn't worried that the book and film wouldn't match up. Probably because of my limited knowledge of graphic novels. Regardless, there was no need to worry. I think the film was fairly true to the book. Sure there were parts missed out (I doubt that they could have been transferred to the screen) but it didn't detract from the story.

This is the first graphic novel that I have read this month that I can honestly say I very much enjoyed. It was just so much more indepth than the others. It didn't just deal with the mystery behind the Comedian's death but the whole background to the superheroes too. At the end of each chapter there was an excerpt from some written pieces about the minute men such as biographies, interviews and newspaper articles. All of these gave insight into the background and giving it more depth. I looked forward to each of these sections.

The political aspect of the story was also done well. It's an alternative history where, thanks to the Comedian and Dr Manhattan, the Vietnam war ended quickly and well. As a result of this the rest of history is different from ours and in 1985 the US is under threat from Russia. This was something 1602 tried to do, involve the politics, and failed in the end. So, I was pleasantly surprised by this one.

Another aspect I liked was that these superheroes (apart from Dr Manhattan) were really just ordinary people. Inspired by the comic books that were coming out at the time they decided to put on the masks for their own reasons. One was because he liked the idea of it and another because she wanted the fame.

As for the art work, I did like it. I especially like the larger panels as there seemed to be so much detail. There were also a few pages where no words were necassary and (surprisingly for a reader) I liked this too. I think if I was to recommend graphic novels to a newbie I would say to read this one first and don't make the mistake that I did. This has definitely renewed my interest in them.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This is a meme from Book Journey.

This week I read;

The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe (hated it)
Miss Chopsticks by Xinran (loved it)
Annexed by Sharon Dogar
Watchmen by Alan Moore (reviewing later today)

Just now I am reading;

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (liking it so far)
The Iliad by Homer (readalong)

This Week I hope to Read;

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore.

I have a lot on this week so whilst I think I might get the chance to start another book I don't think I will finish it. Also this week I joined Good Reads and decided to go ahead and add everything I have read onto it. I say everything, I couldn't actually remember it all and I left out books that I read growing up. I signed up to take part in a blog hop giveaway too. So look out for that on the 25th June if you want the chance to win a classic.

Annexed - Sharon Dogar

Peter Van Pels is dying in a German concentration camp. As he lies on his cot his mind wonders back to his time in the Annexe. In his mind he writes events as seen through his eyes and how he came to love Anne Frank.

One of my favourite books is the Diary Of Anne Frank. I read it in school originally. Since the teacher wasn't going fast enough for me (and I'm sure missing out chunks) I borrowed my parents copy and read it for myself. Conveniently that copy stayed in my possession and I have read it many times over the years. Even from a young age I found the story of Anne Frank inspiring and moving. So when I was asked by a friend to read this (she wanted my opinion) I jumped at the chance. What I didn't realise is that it would actually make me feel uncomfortable. At least the first half which is set in the Annexe did.

Anyone who has read the Diary has their own view of each of the people that were shut away together in hiding. What this book did though was try to change some of that. Auguste Van Pels became this sweet, motherly woman. Anne was loud, boisterous and irritating. I am sure each of these people did have some of the characteristics that this book claims they did but it felt too much like the author was putting words in their mouths and it didn't always fit. I think I didn't like the fact that it was tainting my image of them.

The second half of the book is set after they have been discovered and tells the story of them being sent to the camps. This half of the book felt like it could have come from anyone who went through the same experiences. In fact the author used the testimonies of several camp survivors to write this. It doesn't matter how many books you might read on the subject but it's always shocking to read detail of the inhumane things that were done to people in the camps. This book was no exception. I don't mind admitting that I did find myself in tears by the end.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Upcoming Blog Hop Giveaway!

Lesswamme is hosting a blog hop giveaway and I've decided to take part. It will involve giving away a book to one of my followers. The only condition is that the book must be of literary value. I have picked out the one I am giving away already. It will take place between 25th - 29th June so I'm not going to reveal the title until then. I can tell you it's a classic and it's a pretty nice edition (at least I think so anyway). The copy I am giving away is also unread. If you fancy being in with the chance of receiving a classic then come back on the 25th. Or if you want to sign up head over to Lesswamme's blog. The sign up deadline is the 22nd of June.

On an unrelated not I have finally signed up to Good Reads. I know there are a lot of bloggers out there already a member. I have been a member of a few similar sites but quickly got fed up with them. This one looks to be more active and certainly more interesting. Just now sure how it will effect my 'no buying more books' will power. I have a question though for all you Good Reads people out there. Did you add all the books you also read before you joined? Or did you just add books as you read them from the point of joining?

Friday, 20 May 2011

Book Blogger Hop.

Book Blogger Hop
Book Blogger Hop is a meme over at Crazy-For-Books. This weeks question, if you were given the chance to spend one day in a fictional world (from a book) which book would it be from and what would that place be?

I would love nothing more than to spend a day in fiction world from the Thursday Next books. Specifically from "One of our Thursdays Is Missing" since it was reformated to look like a world and even has a map. I am sure I could be thoroughly entertained by staying in one part such as the classics but I would have to see it all. I imagine that walking through the crime district wouldn't be too safe. Imagine being able to talk to all your favourite characters and discovering what they are really like.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Miss Chopsticks - Xinran

Three is the third daughter out of six. Her father believes that he is cursed for having no sons and decides to marry his daughters off the best he can. Three doesn't want this marriage and so runs off to the city with the help of her uncle. Her two younger sisters, Five and Six, soon follow her and they all find jobs in the big city and learn about the wider world in their own way.

This book almost reads like a fairy tale. Or as though the narrator was telling you a legend. It had that simplistic style. For this reason it was easy to mistake the book setting to be in the distant past. This was only made all the more so because you were seeing the world through the eyes of the three sisters. Coming from the country it's almost like they are from a different century. I found myself just as shocked as the sisters when someone begins using something like a mobile phone or talks about the Internet. I had to remind myself again and again that this book was set after the millennium and not two hundred years before.

My knowledge of China is poor. I have read maybe one other Chinese author. So I was also learning a little of China's Modern history along with the sisters. I found it to be interesting. I could feel the distress of the sisters as they tried to learn the ways of the city which was being engulfed in Western culture. They found it difficult as they were used to a life steeped in Chinese tradition. Not to say that all Western culture is bad. In fact Five loved it and wanted to travel to these mysterious Western countries.

It wasn't just about these three girls trying to make it in the modern world. When it came right down to it, it was really about three girls trying to prove their worth to their father. They wanted to show him that although they were girls he could still be proud of them. I had a soft spot for Five as she seemed to have the most to prove. Her father took her out of school after only a week believing she was too stupid to have this money spent on her education. Five believed it herself and yet she found that she had her own way of learning and became the most successful of the three sisters in picking up new skills.

I loved this book and actually found it a little sad. These three girls are actually based on the stories of women the author has met during her return visits to China. If you do read this I highly recommend that you read the background the author has written at the end. It was this that truly brought the book home to me.

Booking Through Thursday - Censorship!

In Contrast to last weeks question - What do you think about censoring books BECAUSE of their intended age? Say books to old for your kids to read?

My parents never censored what I read. I think they were just glad that I was reading and wanted to encourage that. If I had kids I probably would be the same.

However, I don't have a problem with it. It's another form of protection and parents shouldn't be penalised for that. I do buy books for my nieces all the time and I am careful about what I get them. Their parents are quite liberal but as they aren't my kids I still wouldn't feel right picking up a book that might be a little too old for them. The problem is that they are ahead of their age when it comes to reading. In fact the 8 year old has the reading level of a 13 year old. I want to pick books that would challenge their abilities but they aren't street wise. Despite being very bright they are still quite innocent and I would hate to have them grow up too fast. Just makes buying books for them that little bit more challenging.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Bonfire Of The Vanities - Tom Wolfe

Sherman McCoy has it all. He has a Park Avenue apartment, an exciting job on Wall Street, a beautiful wife, a sweet little daughter and a sexy bit on the side. Life is good for Sherman and can only get better. He then has an accident in the Bronx which puts a young boy from the Bronx in a coma. From then on his life seems to fall apart and he could lose everything.

I honestly don't know how to describe how much this book irritated me without going on a full blown rant. I have looked at other reviews of the book and it seems you either love it or hate it. First of all I can see some positive aspects about this book. A lot of work clearly went into it and it was well written. I did like the story idea and it was the only thing that kept me going. I most definitely would not have continued with the book if it wasn't for the fact that I had to know what happened (I have managed to avoid all references to this book in my x years).

When I first opened the book it started from the point of view of Sherman. I was vaguely amused at first as he referred to himself as a 'Master of the Universe' and was very proud of his 'Yale chin'. I thought this is going to be a ridiculous character and indeed he was but it wore thin after the first twenty or so pages. By the end of the first chapter I hated the guy. I am pretty sure I was supposed to feel a little sorry for him at one point but he annoyed me so much I just didn't care anymore. If he was the only irritating character in the book I could have handled it but he wasn't. They ALL were. I realise that they are supposed to represent corruption and everything that was bad in 1980s New York but that didn't make it any easier to read. By then end of the book I was hoping they would all get what was coming to them. I hated the lawyer who was hoping to use the fame of this case in order to have an affair (he was repulsed by his wife who just had his first baby) and I hated all the characters who were using it as a method to rise in politics. Most of all I hated the Xenophobic British reporter.

There were other irritations too such as constant reminders. I don't need to be told again and again that Sherman had a Yale chin. I also don't need to be told more than a few times just how Maria pronounces Sherman. I wouldn't mind so much if it was part of the dialogue but the pronunciation followed it. Same with Sherman's lawyer who seemed to have a very strong, stereotypical New York accent. Then there were the descriptions. I love a good description but this was overkill. I think this book could have had at least 1/3 cut out just by getting rid of unnecessary descriptions.

I can see why people might like the book but it just isn't for me. Maybe I just don't have the patience (although I think I did well just finishing it). I can say this is the first and last Tom Wolfe I will read.

Top Ten Tuesday - Minor Characters!

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and The Bookish. This weeks theme is minor characters.

1. Grandma Mazur (Stephanie Plum series - Janet Evanovich). Seriously this lady should have her own series. She's honestly the only reason I keep going with these books. Just one small scene makes it worth while. The woman is hilarious and doesn't care what anyone thinks of her. She just wants to have a bit of fun in her old age even if it is driving her daughter to drink. Some of my favourite scene's have been her dressing as Madonna, shooting the Sunday roast, learning to drive and making a nuisance of herself at various funerals.

2. Ronald Weasley (Harry Potter - J. K. Rowling). Not so much in the last book but Ron was one of my favourite characters. Actually, I loved the Weasley's in general but Ron was the funniest.

3. Joe Gargery (Great Expectations - Charles Dickens). I always felt so sorry for Joe. He was quite happy as a blacksmith and loved Pip like a son. I don't think Pip really deserved that unconditional love.

4. Tanith Low (Skulduggery Pleasant - Derek Landy). Like all most of the characters Tanith has the ability to use magic but she would rather use her sword. She's good at it too. She doesn't really answer to anyone but spends her life fighting criminals and helping out Skulduggery now and then.

5. Angel & Louis (Charlie Parker series - John Connolly). They have to be mentioned together because they are a team. Angel is a recovering thief and Louis is a hit man. Not the nicest of job titles and yet these two characters are willing to help Charlie Parker with his investigations. Loyal and a lot of humour makes for two great characters.

6. Q (Casino Royale - Ian Fleming). Q happens to be my favourite character in the films. I love the scene's with him mostly for his humour. Imagine my disappointment when he was merely mentioned in the first book. Where were the gadgets? I only hope that there will be more of him in the rest of the series.

7. Master Harper Robinton (Pern Books - Anne McCaffrey). When I first tried fantasy I loved these books. I'm aware that they are meant to be more sci fi but to me they read like fantasy. They had dragons for a start. Robinton was always one of my favourite characters. He was the wise voice that wasn't always listened to although he was respected. He did eventually get his own book in the series but before that I don't think there were enough scenes with him.

8. Miss Havisham (The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde). Unlike the original Miss Havisham this one is hilarious. I loved all her scenes. My favourite though is when she races Toady of Toad Hall.

9. Orleanna Price (The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver). She does have her little sections in the book but it's mainly from each of her daughters point of view. You have to admire her strength in the end. Her marriage has fallen apart, she's lost a daughter, one is handicapped, another is ill and she still tries her best to get them out of the war torn Congo.

10. Lish Donadio (The Passage - Justin Cronin). Another strong female character. Her childhood is a little bit of a mystery to everyone even though she was brought up in the same colony. She is the first to defend and stand up for those who aren't as strong as she is. Sometimes putting herself and others in danger to do it.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Readalong: The Iliad part1 Books 1-12

This is for a readalong that Allie from A Literary Odyssey is hosting.

Not sure how I should review a book in parts like this so I am just going to do what feels natural.

The story so far;

I am actually going to split this in two as there are really two stories running. There is the fight between the Trojans and the Achaean's (that's Greeks to you and me) and then there is the squabbles amongst the Gods.


Paris (or Alexandrus as he is actually called which confused me no end - thank you glossary) has stolen the beautiful Helen from Menelaus. Funnily enough he is non too happy about it (and I don't think Helen is either to be honest) and so his brother, Agamemnon, decides to bring an army of Achaean's to ransack Ilium (otherwise known as Troy). It's ten years into the war and still it continues. It looks like things are going to go bad for the Achaean's as Achilles is pulling himself and his men out of the fight. He isn't happy with Agamemnon who brought down the wrath of Apollo onto them. Agamemnon then takes his favourite slave girl which results in Achilles hissy fit. Later when Agamemnon realises he needs Achilles he offers her back with a whole load of other stuff but Achilles decides to keep pouting. Mainly though I think it's because he knows his destiny and will die if he fights.

Despite all that it did look like the Achaean's were going to win. Agamemnon, Odysseus and Nestor are quite good at raising the fighting spirits of their men. Plus there is Diomedes who seemed to be in a blood lust and invincible. He even had the audacity to attack a couple of Gods. Things go downhill for them when Hector (leader of the Trojan army and brother to Alexandrus) enters his own blood lust. He manages to push the Achaean's right back to their ships (it's at this point that Agamemnon begs Achilles).


To be perfectly honest the Gods started all this in the first place. Namely Aphrodite who encouraged Alexandrus to pinch Helen in the first place. It's what she does and she has a soft spot for Alexandrus so naturally wanted him to have the most beautiful woman. However, it resulted in a ten year war so when Diomedes attacks her and then both Zeus and Athena patronise her I have little sympathy. At one point there is a truce between the two armies until of course Aphrodite once again steps in to save Alexandrus.

Things might still have been okay but Athena and Hera are having none of it. They like The Achaean's and want them to bring down Ilium. So Athena encourages the Trojans to break the truce and fighting starts out again. Athena and Hera interfere quite a bit. It's Athena who makes Diomedes invincible. She helps rally the troops and she even distracts Ares from helping the Trojans.

Finally Zeus has had enough. He loves Ilium and is fed up with everyone interfering (particularly Hera and Athena) and tells them all to back off. Of course being the father of the Gods he can still do what he wants and it's him who helps push Hector forward.

If you can't tell I am loving this book. I knew there was more to it than battles (which are a bit gruesome in their descriptions) but I didn't realise how much. I particularly like the petty rivalries amongst the Gods and how this is affecting the outcome of the war.

I was actually never worried about liking the book. I have come across so many retelling's of it in various books and I always enjoyed those. What I was worried about is that it's in verse. Poetry is not my strong point. High school was the last time I studied it although I have read bits and pieces since. Thankfully, I am finding it a lot easier to read than I thought. In fact I think if I wasn't pacing myself for the readalong I would have finished it by now. I'm glad I am taking the slow road though as I think I am taking more of it in.

Only one character is really annoying me in the book and, believe it or not, it isn't Achilles. Actually there has been very little of him so far. It's old Nestor. I get why he is such an important part of the book. He is the wise man. The one who the younger Captains rely on for sage advise especially when they are about to do something rash. There is only so much of "back in my day..." or "if only I was as young now as I was then..." I can take. At this point I am routing for Hector to get to him.

Like I said I am loving it and I am looking forward to the next half of the book. What I really wish though is that Agamemnon and Hector decide they aren't going to be messed about with the Gods anymore and rise up against them. Don't worry, I know that doesn't happen (at least not in this book - try Ilium by Dan Simmons).

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading is where we share what we read this past week, what we hope to read this week…. and anything in between! D This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well… you never know where that next “must read” book will come from! This is a meme from Book Journey.

This week I read;

"Sweet Valley Confidential" by Francine Pascal (awful but fun)
"Heroes Vol 2" by Various (only good if you like the TV show).

Just now I am reading;

"Bonfire of the Vanities" by Tom Wolfe (irritating me no end).
"The Iliad" by Homer (part of a readalong, first post will be up today).

This week I hope to start;

Miss Chopsticks" by Xinran
"Watchmen" by Alan Moore (in an attempt to get through my graphic novels)

Sunday, 15 May 2011

"Books I should have read by now" challenge!

Gabe over at GabeReads is hosting a challenge. The challenge is to read some of those books that have been collecting dust on our bookshelves. It starts on 1st June and ends on 31st December and you can choose which level you want to read at (ie how many books you want to read each month 1-3). If you are like me and have 100+ books sitting on your shelf I highly recommend taking part. Will make you feel a little less guilty when you buy more books (maybe).

I have decided to sign up for Voracious reader which means 3 of my TBR books a month. I am hoping that I'm not being too adventurous with that. That means 18 books which isn't a lot considering I am over 50 so far this year. However, the last six months of the year are going to be my busiest plus I have my book group choice. Anyway, fingers crossed. I have picked out a list of what I hope to read. I tried to mix it a little but realised that a lot of my TBR books are quite large. So I put a lot of shorter books in there and if I am ahead I can swap in one of those large tomes. As it is there is a lot of crime books. I didn't realise I owned that many and all by authors I haven't read before. Must have been when I discovered that I might like crime after all. There is even a couple of non fiction on the list.

Hard Times - Charles Dickens
Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
Making History - Stephen Fry
Century Rain - Alistair Reynolds
A Storm of Swords - George R. R. Martin
Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
Mary Tudor - Anna Whitelock
A is For Alibi - Sue Grafton
The Surgeon - Tess Gerritson
The Bachman Books - Stephen King
Lullaby Town - Robert Crais
Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet - David Mitchell
The Greatest Show On Earth - Richard Dawkins
I Can See You - Karen Rose
Skin Privilege - Karin Slaughter
Shantaram - Gregory David Roberts
The Woods - Harlan Coben
A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

I won't necessarily be reading them in this order either although I do think a Charles Dickens might be first. If you fancy signing up for the challenge click on the image and it should take you straight to Gabe's original post.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Sweet Valley Confidential - Francine Pascal

It's ten years after high school and a lot has changed. Elizabeth is now in New York writing for a start up magazine. Really she is hiding after her sister and ex boyfriend betrayed her. She's been in New York eight months and all she can think of is revenge. Meanwhile Jessica and Todd are just trying to hold things together back in Sweet Valley. Jessica loves Todd but is distraught over the thought of her sister never speaking to her again.

I had to! I LOVED these book back when I was in primary school. My best friend and I would devour them. I even read a few of the Sweet Valley University books. So as much as I am anti chick lit I had to pick this up and read it.

I managed it in a couple of hours, not that I expected it to be a complicated read. My reactions to it are a little mixed. There was very little of that nostalgia there. It was almost like that part was forced on you. The introduction of all those secondary characters we once knew and loved were awkwardly thrown in. This feeling was only enforced by the section at the end which listed them all and what they are up to now. I have to say I remember very few of them. Plus, these characters were also meant to show how much people can change in ten years and yet we were expected to believe the main characters hadn't.

There were so many other things that annoyed me about this book. The attempt to make it more up to date seemed a little out of place when the dialogue of the characters were still pretty much the same (apart from the new found bad language). Twitter and facebook were mentioned several times. There was an openly gay couple contemplating marriage. Sweet Valley losing local business to malls. Starbucks all over the place. I could go on. Nothing wrong with any of these things but it seemed like it was trying too hard to add that modern edge.

I found the story itself a little aggravating. Things turned out well more than a little too easily but then that was the way the old books were too. Funny how some things just don't change and just like old times things seemed to land on Jessica's lap. Funny how Elizabeth was managing to survive on so little in New York. Despite all that, the bad writing and the cheesiness I had fun reading it. I can't wait to pass it on to my best friend who will no doubt love hating it too.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Heroes Vol 1 & 2 - Various authors.

Welcome back everyone! Seems I lost all my comments from yesterday so I apologise now that I haven't responded to your BTT or to your comment. These things happen I suppose and at least the post itself is back (which I was beginning to think wasn't going to happen). If you are on blogger I can't leave comments yet.

Anyway, I decided to review these books together since essentially they are the same thing. Also I am still not 100% sure on how to review a graphic novel so I apologise now if I don't cover things I should be covering.

Essentially these two volumes are a collection of short stories. They feature the main characters to an extent. Giving them more depth than the tv show was able to. Essentially though they are about the minor characters. Giving them a back ground and reasons behind their actions in the television show. I liked it for this and I really do wish I had read them whilst I watched it. I think I would have enjoyed them all the more. Most fans must have felt this way and the artists/writers saw that because the second volume is almost entirely dedicated to these minor characters. Only Claire has a couple of her own stories and those are linked to someone else. There were actually a few I didn't recognise and I am tempted to go back and watch the first few seasons again.

I'm not sure I enjoyed them though. I just couldn't get excited about it. My interest in the show stopped round about season 3. I don't remember if I even finished watching that one. For this reason and because you are expected to know at least some of these characters I recommend the books only to the fan. I don't think anyone else will really get much out of them unless they want to get into the show themselves.

As for the art work. I am in no way an expert to judge. Each story was written and illustrated by different people which was easy to see in both writing style and art. I couldn't tell you if it was done well or not. In my limited knowledge I can say that I preferred the darker and more realistic artwork within the books over the cartoony style (I am sure that's a technical term). Overall though I much preferred the images in 1602.

These haven't sold me on graphic novels but to be completely honest I didn't expect them to. As I have said I would have liked them when I loved the show. One thing that did amuse me was that Volume 2 outed Benjamin Franklin as a potential Hero.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Booking Through Thursday!

Do you read books “meant” for other age groups? Adult books when you were a child; Young-Adult books now that you’re grown; Picture books just for kicks … You know … books not “meant” for you. Or do you pretty much stick to what’s written for people your age?

I have never stuck to books for my age group. Even as a kid I read above and below my age range. The only thing that mattered to me was that I liked the book and my parents didn't censor what I read (although they did censor my tv viewing). I would read my sisters books, my books and would even try my mum's books. If it was a book I wanted my mitts on it. I remember being quite young and reading to my grandad from one of his Westerns (although I am pretty sure I wouldn't have understood it).

It was only as a teen that someone objected to my reading habits. An English teacher only saw me reading Point Horror. She wasn't aware that I was also reading John Grisham, Stephen King, Jane Austin, Charles Dickens and Bram Stoker (I am sure I even read a few Catherine Cookson during that time). Anyway, she commented on it to my dad who went into panic mode. I already didn't like this teacher and wasn't best pleased that she only noticed me reading YA. I should thank her though because this teacher was also a sci fi nut and my dad came home the next day with a big pile of books she had recommended. It included Isaac Asimov and I fell in love with science fiction from then on. Oh, and it also included "The Grapes of Wrath" which is one of my favourite books to this day.

Since I knew that I was reading from all levels I didn't let that stop me from enjoying my point horror's or Christopher Pike's. I was just a bit more wary about what I took into school. I still read YA although I am taking a little break from it at the moment. I also LOVE picture books. I am a little sad that my youngest niece is now insisting on big girl books with chapters. I don't mind admitting that I have one or two of my favourites on my own bookshelf.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Jerks!

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists! Each week we will post a new Top Ten list that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists.

1. Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte). I bet he is going to make quite a few lists. Since Catherine made my top ten mean girls it's only fair that Heathcliff made this one. He is just as selfish as Catherine and goes through life in a perpetual tantrum. He never learned to grow up or the valuable lesson that you can't have everything you want. Didn't care that he made other people miserable in the process.

2. Nathan Price (The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver). His fanaticism was dangerous and put his family in danger. Their safety and health didn't even enter his mind once. He did have horrific experiences during the war but surely that's no excuse for what he then put his family through.

3. Alexander Zalachenkov (Millenium series - Stieg Larsson). Truly an evil man. Used the fact that the Swedish Government wanted to keep him happy as an excuse to do what he liked to women. Then in turn he gave his daughters the same treatment. There is a huge list of disgusting things he put his daughter through just to keep her quiet.

4. Lestat de Lioncourt (Vampire Chronicles - Anne Rice). Has been alive along time and still his only concern is his next amusement. He's selfish and prone to dangerous tantrums if he doesn't have his own way.

5. Draco Malfoy (Harry Potter - J. K. Rowling). So his parents didn't help for being who they are (and for giving him a name like that). Still, don't really need to explain why he is a jerk.

6. Uriah Heep (David Copperfield - Charles Dickens). I was about 12 when I first read this book and I still remember Uriah Heep giving me the creeps. Reason enough for him to be on this list.

7. Darryl Van Horne (The Witches of Eastwick - John Updike). Don't want to spoil the book for anyone who hasn't read it. Lets just say he does some not nice things in the end. Truthfully though he is another character who just gives me the creeps.

8. Dex (One Day - David Nicholls) I loved this book. Dex though is a bit of a jerk through most of it. I didn't actually like him until near the end. He's arrogant and a little bit selfish. He does redeem himself mind you but it takes him a while.

9. Ignatious J. Reilly (Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole). He's intelligent but arrogant and he believes that he is far superior to everyone around him. The result is chaos wherever he goes. He's also disgusting.

10. Dorian Gray (The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde). I disliked this character so much and I don't think his friend can be entirely blamed for what happens to Gray. In the end it's Gray's own vanity and selfishness that lead him into doing anything to keep his youth and beauty.

Found this difficult to do. I actually don't think Dex deserves to be on the list with the rest (mainly because he redeems himself).

Monday, 9 May 2011

Around The World In 80 Days - Jules Verne

Phileas Fogg leads a quiet and methodical life. He has a routine and does not like to be broken from it. Then one evening at his Reform Club he makes the mistake of insisting that it is possible to travel round the world in just 80 days. A bet of £20,000 is made and so Fogg sets off that very night with his very surprised manservant. Little does he know that he is being followed by Inspector Fix who believes he has robbed the Bank of England and is using this bet as a cover. Manservant Passepartout must ensure that Fix doesn't upset Fogg's plans.

It's hard to like the character Phileas Fogg at first. He doesn't give anything away. Instead Passepartout does all the worrying for him whilst Fogg works around anything that might interrupt his schedule. He comes across as very cold and is reserved even for a typical Englishman (which is what I think Verne was trying to portray). It's through the eye's of those around them though that you warm to Fogg. Instead of seeing him as cold and emotionless they admire him for his collected calm. Even Fix changes his view of Fogg. The other characters are easy to like. It's hard not to like Passepartout's devotion to Fogg and his enthusiasm for winning. Mrs Aouda said very little through the book but she came across as a strong character. I even liked Fix in the end despite his determination to arrest Fogg.

I loved the book. I actually had difficulty putting it down. The chapters were short but somehow this built up the excitement of Fogg's travels. I wanted him to win and found myself just as annoyed as Passpertout when anything got in the way. Add the police chasing him without Fogg even being aware just made the story all the more exciting. The ending too didn't disappoint and I would even list it as one of my favourite endings.

Before I read this I actually had very little knowledge of the story. I knew the outline a little thanks to the 80's cartoon. I thought then that it was the reform club who had him chased round the world in order to prevent him from winning. The fact that it wasn't just made it all the more interesting. I also seemed to have watched only the episodes set in India so wasn't sure what other adventures he would have. I did have to try very hard not to picture Phileas Fogg as a lion!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

It's Monday! - What Are You Reading!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading is where we share what we read this past week, what we hope to read this week…. and anything in between! D This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well… you never know where that next “must read” book will come from! This is a meme from Book Journey.

This Week I read;

Roadside Crosses by Jeffery Deaver
City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare (which has resulted in a 6 month holiday from YA)
Heroes Vol1 by various authors
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (LOVED it)
Around the World In 80 Days by Jules Verne (will review it later)

I am now reading;

The Iliad by Homer (readalong)
Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

This Week I plan to read;

Heroes Vol2 by Various authors (in a bid to get through my graphic novels)

I haven't planned much else as Bonfire of the Vanities is quite a large book. I don't know how quickly I am going to get through it as I have just started it.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Casino Royale - Ian Fleming

Le Chiffre is a Soviet Spy who is down on his luck. After several unsavoury business failures he is making his last bid to bring in the money and get back his power. Failure means death. He makes his last stand at the Casino Royale gambling for high stakes and so far is succeeding. The UK government would rather he failed and so send their undercover agent, 007, to bet against him. The French and American governments are of the same belief and so send Bond some back up. Unfortunately his cover is blown before he even gets there. However, Bond still has a job to do and he intends on doing it.

I have to admit that in the first chapter I had a little trouble with the language of the book. I can't quite put my finger on why but there were a few sentences that made absolutely no sense and I had to continually go back and re-read them. Either I got used to it or the language improved as that problem went away after the first few pages. I did notice that Fleming like to use the word ironical over and over which irritated me slightly. He has this in common with Doris Lessing. Like Lessing though I managed not to hold it against him.

That aside I loved the book and I am so completely surprised by that. Who knew I would love spies that much? In fact it wasn't nearly spy enough for me. Also I should probably confess that I hate gambling. I find it completely boring. Almost as boring as I find magic shows and have no interest in watching, reading or taking part in gambling games. That said I found the game exciting. I had no clue about the rules since I skimmed that part (too much detail there) but I still found myself routing for James. The book itself was dated. A little chauvinist (I really wasn't expecting anything else) and Bond came across as a petulant child at times. Still these things amused me and it fitted in with the era.

I will definitely be reading more of these books but I still find it hard to see Deaver writing in this style. Oh, and it would seem that my poor reading mojo was mainly down to my disappointment with City of Fallen Angels.