Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Top Ten Tuesday - Beach Reads!
The Iliad - Homer. Final Part.
Monday, 30 May 2011
It's Monday! What Are You 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.
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.
Sunday, 29 May 2011
Friday, 27 May 2011
V For Vendetta - Alan Moore.
Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates
Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Booking Through Thursday - Reading Rut
Monday, 23 May 2011
Watchmen - Alan Moore
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 week I read;
The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe (hated it)
Just now I am reading;
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (liking it so far)
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
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.
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
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!
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
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!
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
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?
"Sweet Valley Confidential" by Francine Pascal (awful but fun)
"Heroes Vol 2" by Various (only good if you like the TV show).
"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).
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!
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
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.
Thursday, 12 May 2011
Booking Through Thursday!
Tuesday, 10 May 2011
Top Ten Tuesday - Jerks!
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
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;
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)
Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
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
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.