Saturday, 27 April 2013

Still Alive!

I was doing so well in updating my reviews and then it all went to pot. I am still alive though. Since I was here last I have had exams. I also had a large report that I decided to change two nights before it was due. There may have been a little stress. I also was in fear of developing pressure sores after spending hours in front of the computer in the library. Not to worry, I am pressure sore-less. I have also been organising events for my knitting group (how many of you knew I ran one?). We were celebrating five years running and I had lots of things planned. Which is also why I am sadly not joining in the readathon this weekend.

I have had a fun week though and a few ladies from the group made me this pretty bag to match some cushions I made a while ago. I just want to hug it! Tomorrow I get to see some friends I haven't seen in months and I might actually get back to my book after a 2 week hiatus.

Happy readathon everyone!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Amsterdam - Ian McEwan

After a prolonged illness Molly Lane has passed away. Many of her friends have come along to the funeral to pay their respects much to the chagrin of her husband as a fair few were former lovers. Foreign secretary Julian Garmony, composer Clive Linley and editor Vernon Halliday are three such guests. Clive and Vernon had actually become friends due to their connection to Molly Lane and their mutual dislike of Garmony. After the funeral Vernon comes across the opportunity to bring down right winger Garmony and gets his friend involved. However, this hatred and plan for revenge comes crashing down around them.

I forgot this was a Man Booker winner. It wasn't why I picked it up although I have been curious about his winning book. It was more I was in the mood to read one of his books and this was the only one the library had. Having read it I do still think that Atonement is the superior even though that was only short listed.

The characters Clive and Vernon are unlikely friends. They really don't have all that much in common. Clive lives in a world of music and that's all he really cares about. His social circle in the past have always revolved around music and the arts. Molly was a big part of that too and it was really only through her that Vernon was brought into Clive's world. I don't really understand how the two connected considering they have no real respect for each other. Vernon on the other hand is a newspaper editor. Has worked for the papers for years and is well respected in his field.

At this point their hatred of Garmony seems to be their only connection. Especially since Molly is now dead. Garmony is a right winger. Not all right wingers are bad but this one seems to go to the extreme. Or at least he would if he could and it looks like he is heading to be in that position. This is why Vernon gets involved and it just so happens that Molly's husband is able to help. A lot of this hatred and vindictiveness though is petty rather than for political reasons and you do have to wonder what Molly seen in each of them (and this includes her husband). Was she just attracted to their talent? As much as each of the characters repulsed me in some way I had to read on and see what would happen. This seems to be typical of McEwan. The characters always have a darker side, usually a selfish and petty one. In this case all of them.

The book was very well written. Points of view from each of the two men which gave insight into each of their worlds and was important to the ending. As for Amsterdam. Well, it isn't too clear why the book was given that title until the end when all was revealed. A great book and a great ending.

Monday, 15 April 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This is a meme hosted by Sheila of Book Journey. A fun way for everyone to share their reading week.

I have been MIA the last few weeks as far as this meme has been concerned. I have still been reading and I am almost up to date with my reviews. So I haven't been slacking. Having said that I am just going to post last weeks reads.

Last week I read;

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Very much enjoyed it. I haven't read this in years so I had forgotten much of it.

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. I picked this up on a whim at the library and now I am going to have to buy my own copy. Loved it!

Just now I am reading;

John Dies @ the End by David Wong. This is one of the strangest books I have read.

Next I plan to read;

Afterwards  by Rosamund Lupton. Another library whim but I have been wanting to read this since it first came out. I loved Sister so I am looking forward to it.

Not much else to say news wise. Been keeping my head down and studying for exams. This time next week it will all be over

Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Sunset Limited - Cormac McCarthy

Mr White and Mr Black are in the home of Mr Black. MR Black has just saved Mr White from jumping in front of The Sunset Limited. He refuses to let him leave until he can gain some understanding as to why he might do that. He also wants to convince Mr White that there is more out there and more to life and that someone cares for him. Mr Black found God when he was in prison and about to die. He doesn't have much in life other than the four walls around him. Mr White on the other hand has done fairly well for himself. He is a professor but also an atheist.

When I picked this up in the library I was unaware that McCarthy had written any plays. In fact this is his second. It's also the second book I have read by him and I'm not exaggerating if I say that The Road and this is completely different. Night and day.

Anyway, I have to confess that had I known there was a religious theme to the book then I would have avoided it. Like Mr White I am a sceptic and I hate it when one character tries to convince another to believe. Mr Black isn't really preaching though. He is just trying to stop Mr White from carrying out his earlier intentions. He wants to save his life rather than his soul. So the religious content didn't so much bother me in the end.

The play was rather short and it took me no time at all to read. It was set in only the one room and I imagine it would have been quite interesting to go and see. As I have learnt from previous plays you can get as much out of them as novels. I just wish that maybe I had taken a little bit more time with it. Mr Black was the more interesting of the two characters. He has had a hard life and yet he goes out of his way to save someone completely different from himself. Mr White doesn't seem to appreciate and it's harder to gauge what Mr White is all about. Perhaps he himself doesn't know.

It was an interesting idea and I after weeks of mulling it over I have decided that I did like it. Glad I picked it up on a whim.

Friday, 12 April 2013

The Hunger Games!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins was one of those books I read before my blog existed. It was back when I still worked with books and one of the few times I wasn't involved in the children's or YA books. A friend of mine had taken over that position and she would push all her books on me. This is the friend I have told you about before. The one who pretty much reads YA exclusively. She does occasionally make a foray into the grown up world but it's rare and usually comes as a surprise to her when she does. Back then I still devoured YA so I was usually happy to read the books she recommended (apart from the times she managed to get zombie books past my radar but that's another story).

The Hunger Games was one of those books that I was actually reluctant to read. I was sure it had been done before and so I wasn't interested. I really wish I had kept a book journal back then so that I could look back at what I was thinking as I read but alas I didn't. When I finally agreed to give it a go it was with a determination that I wouldn't like it (which is unusual for me). My friend was right though and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It had it's faults but I could ignore that for the most part. That scene with Rue (you know the one) melted my heart and from then on in I was hooked. I loved the next two books too. I think I probably enjoyed the third book more than most of the fans did. I think most people were expecting more of the same thing and were disappointed when it took a different turn. I would have been disappointed had it not taken a new direction.

So when the film came out I didn't want to see it. Now this is not unusual. I hate films that destroy my favourite books and it has happened so many times in the past that I now have trust issues. So I didn't go and see it and I have managed to avoid most advertising for it when the DVD came out. I then made the mistake of joining netflix and last week I gave in and watched it.

It has to be one of the few films that I have loved as much as the book (that's two in a row with Perks being the last one). One minute I was thinking I'm not going to enjoy this the next I was holding my breath because I knew what happened next. It was very well done and Jennifer Lawrence was a perfect choice for Katniss (something else I very rarely agree on). There were certainly things missing but I had read the book so long ago that I probably didn't notice half of them. Then the moment I was not looking forward to came. Yep, that scene with Rue and I sobbed my heart out. I mean proper sobbing. It would have been mortifying had I not been on my own.

So now I am eagerly anticipating Catching Fire. Of course I won't be going to see it in the cinema as I remember crying reading that book too.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Wind Through The Keyhole - Stephen King

Roland, Susannah, Eddie, Jake and Oy are making their way towards the Dark Tower. Oy has been behaving strangely and Roland has an idea why. A sudden storm is about to descend on them. The kind that kills instantly and the only way to stay alive is to take shelter in a stone building. Thankfully one is close by and once they are settled the convince Roland to tell them a story. He tells them of the time he is sent by his father to investigate reports of a shape shifter killing some villagers. The reports turn out to be true and Roland must hunt the shape shifter down and kill him as his hunts are getting larger. One survivor is a young boy and to distract him Roland tells him the story of The Wind Through The Keyhole. A story his mum used to tell him when he was little.

That's right this is a story within a story within a story. To be honest it was disappointing. I was so excited to read this book. I have very fond memories of reading The Dark Tower books. There were so many things I loved about them such as links to this world, links to other King novels and all the other little surprises in there. Of course there was the characters themselves too which I loved. Some of that magic though seemed to be missing. There wasn't much in the way of Roland and his current ka. It was really just a way for Roland to tell a story. Really what is there is just to remind you of these characters and how they interact with each other.  Nothing more.

As for Roland's two stories. I actually found them to be a little dull. Roland's task wasn't particularly exciting or new. I suppose you learn a little more about his relationship with his mother and you learn a little about one of his friends who has been sent with him but not much else. The excitement of the tale doesn't really begin until the second half, after Roland has told his story to the little boy. Even then it's over fairly quickly.

The story Roland tells the little boy is much better. It's a little slow in starting and I do think some of it could have been edited out but it was still interesting. The story of a little boy who shows bravery in order to save his mother. Parts of it was a little obvious such as how his father died and the evil step father. Other than that I was intrigued by the forest and the evil magician.

Each of the three stories are linked together in some way. The obvious link is Roland but there are others in there if you look hard enough. The storm is one of those links although I couldn't help but picture The Day After Tomorrow.

In case  you are wondering the book is placed just after the fourth book in the Dark Tower series although King does say it can be read on it's own. Not the King's best work but still glad I read it.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Capital - John Lanchester

Pepys Road in London started out as a street for the middle class. A group of people not especially well off but able to hold their own. Over the decades this has changed along with the houses themselves and before the market crash they could be sold for a couple of million. Just before the market does crash the street is filled with an interesting group of people. A powerful bank manager, an old lady who was born in her house, a young footballer just discovered and a family who own the corner shop. The only thing each of them have in common is that they live on the same street. One day though they start to receive strange postcards. The postcards state "We Want What You Have" but there is no clue as to where they came from or why. As the months pass the cards keep coming and eventually they change to become a little bit sinister.

I didn't feel this book really went anywhere in terms of a story but I enjoyed it. It kind of just followed the path of all these people without really doing much other than living normal lives. I quite liked that though and each of the characters were interesting. The only character I didn't particularly like was the arrogant banker and his selfish wife. It was hard to like them since all they wanted to do was get filthy rich and cause each other pain. However, they did  pave the way of us seeing into the life of their builder, Zbigniew. He wasn't particularly nice at first either. Also quite selfish at times and to busy working on his plan to make money to enjoy life. He was an interesting character though and I liked how he developed. I liked the old lady, the family who owned the corner shop and even the young footballer. I enjoyed each of their sections and looked forward to them coming round again.

As for the main plot line. At first those cards were really only a way of seeing into the lives of these people. They connected them as each of them would have very little to do with each other. Only the family who owned the corner shop would have any real reason to interact with others in the street. Each of these groups of families react to the cards in a different way. The old lady ignores them but her artist grandson takes an avid interest. The father of the young footballer finds the cards sinister from day one. When the cards do take on a slightly darker tone this brings in the police and it's then that the book truly focuses on them.

I have to admit that at first I didn't think I was going to enjoy the book. However, it quickly grew on me and in the end I was sorry that it was over. I also had an invested interest in each of the characters and I found the outcome of some to be quite sad. As to it being outrageously funny, I wouldn't go that far although it did have it's moments.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The Perks of Being A Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

It's Charlie's first day at high school and he's a little bit apprehensive about it. Hi older brother is off to college and his sister would like the world to be unaware of the fact that they are related. Unlike his successful siblings he isn't popular. His best friend killed himself the year before and their other friend has a whole new set of friends and would like to forget the years before. Charlie is too shy to make new friends and feels awkward doing it but has promised his favourite teacher to join in. This is where he meets Patrick and Sam. Although they are seniors they accept Charlie and he becomes a part of their group. Through them he experiences acceptance for the first time. It gives him a way of forgetting his past and putting those demons away. Problem is when things don't go well for Charlie they want to come out and haunt him.

This is one of those books I wish I had read as a teenager but still enjoyed now. I think I would have loved it back then. I was awkwardly shy at times and could in some way relate to Charlie. Charlie is a great character. You read some of these recent YA books and the teenagers don't sound like teenagers. Not so with Charlie. Although he is bright it wasn't hard to believe that he was 15. His language and emotional maturity seemed about right for his age. He didn't have the Dawson Creek factor. The book is written in the form of letters to a stranger. We never do find out who that stranger is but that's kind of the point. Charlie needs to talk to someone who isn't in his life and this way we see his first year at high school unfold.

As for the other characters I loved them too. Patrick and Sam were outsiders in their own right too but had their own group of fellow outsiders. People who didn't care if their intelligence showed and knew their own mind in terms of music, films, books and of course a shared love of The Rocky Horror. To be honest they sound like a fun bunch and I loved each of them. The kind of group I would have loved to have been a part of myself.

The book was written and is set in the 90's. It's easy to tell with the obsession of the mixed tape. I went through that obsession too and have many memories of friends and I sharing mixed tapes (although our music taste was nowhere near as cool as these guys). I loved the soundtrack to this book and I don't mind admitting to looking some of them up. As well as the music there is a list of books that Charlie is given to read by his English teacher. Quite a few I have read and quite a few I haven't but I am thinking of picking up. Unlike The Silver Lining Playbook though there is no real spoilers here. So it doesn't matter if you haven't read the books mentioned.

As for Charlie's demons/ghosts I can't say that I was expecting them to turn out to be quite what they were. You already know that Charlie has a sad story in his past and you think you know what it is until you reach the end (or near the end). It gives that book that hint of sadness. Well more than a hint but not the crying your eyes out kind.

For a small YA book I got quite a lot out of it and I might have to go out and buy a copy for my own collection. It's a book that I would pass on to my kids when they are young teens (if I had any). The week I finished reading this I watched the film too and I was pleasantly surprised by it. It didn't deviate much at all from the books. The small changes I could live with. It's understandable that films based on books can't put everything in it but this one retained all the important scenes. It also had the songs I had hoped it would, mainly The Smiths which the book talks about regularly. I don't normally bother with soundtracks in films but I would have been annoyed had the film ignored it. Oh, and Charlies books were there too.

So if you haven't read the book or seen the film I recommend that you do.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

March Overview/ Month Ahead

This photo has no relevance to this post other than the fact that I found it highly amusing and it (sort of) links into my previous post about Stephen King. I should really read that book again at some point.

Well, January and February may have been slow for me book wise but March certainly wasn't. I read more than both months put together. A good month even compared to last year. I managed a total of 10 books. Most of them were good ones too. Here's my list;

Did You Miss Me - Karen Rose
The Woman Who Died A Lot - Jasper Fforde
The Beginner's Goodbye - Anne Tyler
Ready Player One - Ernest Kline
The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
Capital - John Lanchester
The Wind Through The Keyhole - Stephen King
Sunset Limited - Cormac McCarthy
Amsterdam - Ian McEwan
The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton.

My favourite of the bunch is Ready Player One. I didn't have to even think about that. It was a geekfest from cover to cover and a good story to boot. There was nothing in there that I didn't like. Plus to get a dystopian that's actually a little fun is unusual.The Woman Who Died A lot, The perks of Being a Wallflower and Amsterdam were close in the running. As I said most of them were good. Sunset Limited though. I am still mulling it over. I don't think that will ever really leave. Did You Miss Me was the only one I didn't enjoy at all.  As I said in my review I think I am over this series.

Last month I finally paid a visit to the library (first of the year I'm ashamed to say) and bought some lovely books. I also managed a fair number of reviews although I am still behind. I am also still behind on my good reads goal but I am catching up and I should catch up in the next week or so.

For this month I have no real plans. Got another visit to the library this week. Have to return some books and it would be rude not to get a few more. I plan on finally catching up on all those reviews and my good reads goal. On the cards I have John Connolly, Janet Evanovich, Thomas Hardy and possibly Charles Dickens.

It's the Dewey's Readathon this month too. I didn't expect to be able to take part because of exams but I will have finished them by then (27th April). Sadly I still can't as I have other plans already. It will be a long day so don't think I will be able to join in even for 12 hours. I will be looking forward to seeing how everyone else gets along.

Anyone else got any plans this month?