Saturday, 29 October 2011

The Novice by Trudi Canavan

The Novice by Trudi Canavan was interesting for me but most readers would say it was boring and nothing happened. And, because I’ve read a lot, I kind of agree.

The majority of this book takes place in the University and we follow Sonea as she begins to really learn magic and the bullying that goes on. As the ‘slum girl’ the other novices mistreat her and bully her. She tends to hold her own (which leads to interesting, yet now well-repeated suspicions about her power) but eventually it gets unbearable for her. Reading this made me genuinely angry, more so than one might expect from such a fantasy book. I hated that the ‘nobles’ did this to her, but understood the need to remind us why we agree with Sonea and perhaps why Sonea needed it in order to stay herself. Thankfully, it isn’t gruesome: just the kind of bullying that wears someone down and all but destroys their character.

There wasn’t a great deal of character development that I noticed or remember besides maturity in Sonea. In this book, it seemed that the focus was on our protagonist reacting to antagonistic secondary characters and the primary antagonist. The two parts I found most enjoyable to read was Dorrien’s visit- and we all knew where that would lead- and the original part when the High Lord stepped in and Sonea’s situation changed. I found it very intriguing to notice the change in her life.

The highlight of the book was, for me, the lessons. Some would hate this but I loved watching Sonea advancing and getting better and actually the lore that some of the lessons delved into. The combat lessons were made to be the most interesting by the fact that they had action and adversity in them. It was also marvellous to see Sonea’s magical strength compared to her fellow novices and also how she occasionally surprised them with an unexpected technique or strategy.

The other part to the story told of Dannyl’s new role of ambassador and we watch him as he learns about ancient magic. The lore side of this is interesting, but also is seeing the other Allied Lands and their customs and people. Tayend, I think, was a nice addition to the novel because I haven’t personally seen as many homosexual characters in books as I’d expect. And he was scholarly, which was nice. Frankly, he was a librarian so I felt little endeared to him merely because he was bookish.

Ultimately, it wasn’t a bad read, and the last scene was great to read. However, even I felt a little let down at the end because I thought something more earth-shaking might have happened at some point in the book: as it happened, they were all relatively unimportant.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Magician's Guild by Trudi Canavan


The Magician’s Guild by Trudi Canavan, Book 1 in the Dark Magician Trilogy, wasn’t actually a bad read. T­­­he plot and such were all fine (though the writing was occasionally lacking) but didn’t manage to be great.

The premise of the book is solid: girl discovers she can use magic, chase ensues by guild to capture and teach her, a misunderstanding sullies relationships, but everything turns out sort of okay. After reading, I couldn’t say I didn’t like the book, I just felt it wasn’t anything special. As you can guess by my short synopsis, the book follows a generic pattern you could apply to a lot of books, and though this isn’t the same as all them word-for-word, it remains a little flat as though the writer (who I know is popular) has followed set guidelines. The world building is a greater aspect of the book, and I found myself rather interested in the politics of these people and their “traditions”. The only little problem I had with it was how Sonea- our protagonist- started using magic so easily before it all went downhill.

Characters in the book were commendable, if a little black and white. The ‘good guy’ Rothen seemed faultless, while the ‘bad guy’ Fergun was your average slick, petty criminal. I sort of felt that only Sonea was a truly grey character that I couldn’t predict: everyone else was too honourable or had their own loyalties that made them predictable. Maybe I’m getting on as a reader so I’m starting to notice all the signs, but I felt myself making usually correct presumptions about people. However, despite my pouting, there is obvious room for Canavan to expand on these characters because we know they have secrets which could be less than innocent. If so, all the characterisation is fine. Sonea herself actually comments that she’s good at reading people and- with a magic user’s fine senses- perhaps it is unsurprising that we can guess what’ll happen.

The writing was good (third person omniscient, in case you’re interested) but sometimes I completely zoned out when reading something. I’d say this was because the sentence seemed unrelated to the rest of what was happening, but I’m not so sure. I think just running through the story one more time may have alleviated some of this.

The Magician’s Guild is actually quite a good book, if you’re into books about magic and fantasy worlds with a messed up class system. I read it all in one solid sitting and it wasn’t short so I was very much engaged and desperate to see what would happen. In fact, I’m going out to buy the rest of the trilogy before the week is over; it was that good. The mystery set-up- such what exactly the High Lord does and questions about what magic she’ll learn and how she’ll shape the world she lives in- mean that I engage myself with the book when the writing doesn’t do that for me. I’m interested to see how everything will play out and though I have suspicions, I wonder how they’ll actually come into being.

As a huge fantasy and magic fan, I wasn’t disappointed and I’m glad to see good, readable books in this genre being released. There’s a lot of paranormal fantasy coming out recently that’s just not my thing, and a lot of contemporary fantasy I read seems lacking. This book actually gives some hope for better and more things to come.

To cut it a little short, the best way to sum up my feelings for this books is that it is good, just not remarkable. If she’d made a little more engaging (not detached) I might have liked it even more.

Monday, 24 October 2011


Changed my mind about seven daily posts. I'll just do the one and update it at least daily, then a summary on Sunday, hopefully.

Day One (Monday)

This was a poor start, for me, at the readathon. I ended up being much busier than I expected and then much too tired to read later on. But I made myself sit down and read.

Book: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Word Count: 159 of 324

Day Two (Tuesday)

Even worse! Between rehearsals, a show in the evening, and travelling (Two hours without a book! What an oversight!) I only managed a few pages in the wee hours of the morning to try and get some reading done.
Book: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Word Count: 178 of 324

Day Three (Wednesday)

The story just gets worse... I went to see The Help today (which was amazing, I must add) so I only managed some time in the morning and then maybe 30 minutes later on. It's hard work trying to find time!
Book: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Word Count: 213 of 324

Day Four (Thursday)

Book: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Word Count: 324 of 324 Finished!

Day Five (Friday)

Book: Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting
Word Count: 176 of 358
Finished: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (324)

Day Six (Saturday)

Book: Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting
Word Count: 358 of 358 Finished!
Finished: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (324)
                Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting (358)

Day Seven (Sunday)

Book: The Scorch Trails by James Dashner
Word Count: 359 of 359 Finished!
Finished:  The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (324)
                Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting (358)
                The Scorch Trails by James Dashner (359)

Total: 3 Books, 1041 pages.

Final Summary

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Future Imperfect by K. Ryer Breese

Future Imperfect by K. Ryer Breese is YA novel about a boy who can see the future, but to do so he needs to be knocked out. And after seeing the future he experiences the Buzz, and that is all he cares about until (you guessed it) a girl comes into his life.

The book isn’t bad, and you are so easily drawn into the world of Mantlo and the characters in the life of Ade Patience, our protagonist. I found myself unable to put it down when I actually sat down to read, regardless of what was going on. Something is always going on, but that isn’t to say it’s all action. The thing that kept me reading was the need to know what happens next. Ade has visions of the future and he spends a lot of his time thinking (I should mention it’s first person) of how his life is going to get to that point. Doctors tell him that being knocked out as much as he is, he risks concussion and coma. Yet the life he sees is dandy, so he doesn’t worry.

The Diviners come into the novel about half way and I consider this the kind of turning point of the book, the top of the hill, before things got a bit weird. I won’t explain who they are because their absence is kind of important. But the problem is that Ade starts to understand his psychic ability a bit more, but the explanations are confusing. In trying to be colloquial and analogical, I got more confused than beforehand at some points. It got to a point where I just said okay, I’ll just accept that and move on. It doesn’t ruin the story, but it makes it forgetful.

I liked the romance more than I expected to. I don’t really like the whole “fated to be together” nonsense I read sometimes, and the kind you’d expect in a book where your ‘hero’ can see the future, but it was played down more. Vauxhall (which persistently reminded me of cars) is the yin to his yang. That sounds cheesy, and reading it back I can’t believe I’m going to say this: I believed it. I think it lay in how she was a likable character once the slight promiscuity element was moved past, and I found her interesting itself.

The story is bit disgusting in places, and it uses Ade’s addiction to the Buzz as a kind of allegory for drugs, albeit the best drug on the planet, so it’s not really a Young YA (YYA?) but a more mature one, I’d say (MYA?). I also disliked the implicit preachiness of how Ade’s life was so much better once he didn’t need the Buzz. How it was a great weight of his shoulders, yadder, yadder, yadder. And man was is it easy for him! Most stories of people going cold-turkey are not pleasant; Ade here just seemed to brush it off.

I’ll finish off here, before I starting picking holes in the story, but I think the main reason I liked this was a) the psychic element because it was interesting to watch it change and manifest and b) the romance I didn’t expect to like. Some of the big shocks in the story, the terrible home truths, the dirty secrets and the skeletons in the closet all felt downplayed and Ade seemed to nonchalant. Saying that though, they were still good.

I think I’m torn about the book because I think I’m too harsh (I did enjoy it after all) and looking back it can’t have been that bad, but I think reading it, actually physically sitting down and reading it, isn’t as good as it should be.

October Readathons

First off, congratulations to anyone who took part in the recent readathon. I considered taking part, but I knew I had to do other things yesterday and couldn't possibly join. I wished I had now, but it's too late to mope.

However, to make up for this, I am going to take part in a week long read-a-thon from the 24th to 30th October; which means it starts tomorrow! I'm kind of nervous since I've never tried reading like this before, and I've decided that I am allowed (on this one occasion) to use older books if I need a safer read to get me reading again and bolster my stats.

(You can find it here if you wish to take part or merely want to satisfy your curiosity).

How I'm going to do this:

  • I'll probably do a master post per day rather than having one post spanning eons of internet time. Frankly, no one wants to load a screen like that.
  • In a similar fashion, I will also try to have an aim of what to read each day. I think I'll say a book and a half for Monday to Friday, and then 2 (maybe three) books on each Saturday and Sunday. I expect to read at least a book a day, but I'll hopefully read 11 over the entire week. I guess it depends what books I choose. It'll probably be a mix of classics and YA/Fantasy.
  • I am actually busy 10-5 from Monday to Friday (with another 2 hours or so on Friday evening) so the posts will likely go up late, at least at GMT time. Also, I'm going to see a show on Tuesday so that will slow things a bit too!
  • I'm not going to make myself do this. If I don't want to read, I won't. Instead I'll hop around the blogs, get a snack or go the cinema to try and make myself want to go out again. I'm kind of weak, but I also like to achieve goals so I'm wondering how this will play out.
I've never done one of these things before to any tips, comments or perhaps even a parlour joke to lighten the mood would be appreciated.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Across the Universe by Beth Revis


Across the Universe by Beth Revis was a dystopia I’ve wanted to read since its release back in spring, but never got around to buying. I had high expectations and, frankly, I didn’t expect them to be fulfilled. But I did think the book was excellent in most areas and my biggest problem would be that it felt jumpy on occasion.

The plot itself is a mix between dystopia, science-fiction and murder mystery. Though I guessed at how things would turn out (I was right) it didn’t make the journey to that conclusion any less enjoyable. In fact, I found myself doubting my prediction numerous times as I thought it too farfetched and unlikely. Reading it wasn’t difficult and I could quite easily picture what I read without trying so I respect the work that must have gone in to achieve such a thing. It was relatively un-put-down-able for me and, being short-ish, I finished it in a few hours. I probably haven’t taken everything in, but too bad; I was too drawn in.

The romance was, for me, a little too sudden and ‘love at first sight’ originally but I do think this sort of corrected itself when past, influential loyalties came into play. Amy’s reluctance, due to Jason, made it so she could actually develop feelings for Elder rather than embarrassing swooning and tiresome make-out sessions. I actually got an idea of how this relationship blossomed.

Godspeed, and the county-like atmosphere it represented, was easily the best thing for me. I enjoy reading world-building, and it didn’t take long until I was completely absorbed in Beth’s. That may have been because there are always secrets in a mystery sort of novel so I unwittingly was solving it, but I genuinely believe that the ship and its inhabitants became (fittingly) one organism and influence I read with glee. I had the hardback, too, which included a map of the ship- making visualisation just that bit easier.

My dislike was, as I mentioned, a feeling of jumpiness. I felt that some parts of the plot felt abrupt and that they came about merely because that was the plot; I didn’t acknowledge any evidence or development that I felt pointed in that direction. I don’t believe in spontaneous inspiration so abruptness in the story jarred me a little. Thankfully, in this case, pros easily outweigh cons. The ending, I might add, felt a little sudden too; but not so much as earlier. In fact, one could put it down to the “surprise!” at the end of the book. I mean, aren’t surprises supposed to seem uncomfortably abrupt?

I genuinely cannot think of someone who wouldn’t like this book. Sure some would say it wasn’t their favourite, but it is easily a well written and enjoyable book that is easy and safe to recommend. Except, of course, if you hate science fiction or murder mystery. Honestly though, I loved it and the only reason I don’t give it a 5 is that that doesn’t feel right for everyone. Truth is, I empathised with most characters to a fault. This doesn’t happen often, therefore I am suitably awed. Don’t miss this or it’s sequel, A Million Suns.

Apart from the review, I also have two personal little enjoyments in the book. One is that I follow Beth’s blog and twitter so I knew a bit of the book’s lore and the origin of some things before reading so I felt that gave me insight and, dare I say, a connection with the book. I guess that shows how effective author blogging can be. The second thing is that I happened to read this when two topics mentioned in the book were on my own mind (the idea that ‘ignorance is bliss’ and the endlessness of space) so it felt as if I was getting another’s views.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Friday Hop Cinq

“What is your favorite type of candy?”

That's a good question. I'm assuming I can't say I just like candy full-stop? No? Okay then...

I think I'd have to say marshmallows. I love chocolate (in forced moderation) and I adore gummy sweets too. I disgust myself really since I can easily just eat and eat and eat when it comes to sweets and I have to wake up and stop myself. I choose marshmallows though because they have different ways to be eaten. Option A: Eat generally. Just rip open the bag and enjoy. Personally this is my favourite since I love the airy squashyness of fresh marshmallow. Option B: Toast them. You can do this on a stick/poker/other utensil. Also, though I'm not sure, you can also get smores or something can't you? I've never had them myself but I think that's because Option A has more immediate satisfaction. Option C: You can have them with Hot Chocolate (not to mention the whipped cream, chocolate shavings and whatever else is around!) and they are divine. I even like when they fall into the Hot Chocolate itself and half dissolve.

Q: What superhero is your alter-ego?

I'm not really Superhero-savvy, but I think I'd say Professor. X from X-Men. A bit ambitious, you might say, but it's more to do with his attitude. He's disabled, but doesn't let it be an issue. His greatest asset is his mind, distinctly a quality of any human. Also, he wants peace, acceptance and fairness among humans and mutants and you can't disagree with that. Also, telepathy is quite cool. I think I mostly just like him because he's like the Oracle in Greek Mythology, except he doesn't know everything. He's just really intelligent and a pretty good guesser. A man after my own heart.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

The Lost Hero is the first book in the sequel series to Percy Jackson & The Olympians series. It a fantasy book series where the Greek Gods are still around and father children: the Demi-Gods. These children perform quests for their divine parents, all the while educating readers on the basics (and sometimes not the basics) of Greek Mythology and characters.

It's a fun series that I read with a little bit of guilt. I always buy these for my brother, then read them without telling him. They're short so there is no drawn out periods in reading them, but they are entertaining and fun to read. I think of them as comfort reads because they are so easy to read, even if the humour is cringe worthy and awkward sometimes.

Anyway, this book doesn't even feature Percy Jackson directly (though he is mentioned and he is in the sequel to this), instead following Jason. Jason has amnesia, but seems to know a lot of Roman mythology and is combat proficient. He even comes out with bits of knowledge he even seems to be surprised to know. They go on a quest to try to rescue Hera (mother of the Gods) and in the process restore his memory. He goes with Leo Valdez and Piper McLean, both revealed to be demigods as time goes on. And that isn't a spoiler. If you know the series, you know it's going to happen and anyway, you can probably see it coming a mile away as a new reader.

I like the characters in Riordan's books because they tend to be fresh, entertaining and bearably cliché. Okay, all of the characters tend to fit into a certain stereotype of person and follow that, but I think the age the book seems to be for lets you get past it. I'm not sure if it's YA or MG or whatever (I'm not confident on my genre classification) but I think it isn't YA since it seems too young, at least in my opinion, and much to happy-go-lucky.

The best things for me with these series is that it's the type of simple, urban fantasy I can't help but like where the teens have powers and are teenager-y and fun about it, while I love the element of mythology. We see Medea and Midas in this book, but we've met Circe, all the Greek Gods (I think), Medusa, Cerberus and more that I can't remember or whose name I have forgotten. But it's highly educational, even if you think you know mythology. The way the Gods and characters are shown in a modern world is interesting. I actualy think that the mythology is the main thing I like about the books, and that the plot is mostly peripheral.

It's a good, easy-to-read book that I think any fantasy reader can like if they're not too fussy with a bit of cliché and few bad jokes. The adaptation of Greek Mythology to our world is just mind-bogglingly well done and is something to read the books for if nothing else. And if you're already a fan of the books, this novel at least sticks to the tried and (successfully) tested formula.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury


Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is a more classical dystopia in a world where books are against the law and incinerated if found. The reason I like this book is that the premise and the world itself are very clever and believable, but I found the writing itself wanting.

I don’t want to ruin the plot (not that there is much of it) so if I seem vague, assume it is for that reason. All I can say is that it isn’t too important, I think, because it is a book designed to encourage you to think and presents you with ideas; think like Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy of five books. In a nutshell, plot is peripheral, I felt.

The way the world is built in this novel is so understandably logical (and in a way, proven) that one could worry for our own books’ safety. Though the law encourages the destruction of books, books became obsolete before the law came in. It is a book about the most extreme of censorship, stemming from self censorship. In our desire not to offend others, we would censor our books to avoid this offense starting with words and phrases before gradually destroying the book itself. The other reason cited (which is more political) is that society is generally happier when it doesn’t have to think. In the achieving of this hedonism, all thought is stopped by limiting social interaction, confusing ideas and what Orwell coined “doublethink”. How? Television.

It is a different kind of television but it is the idea that these people are your friends and family and that interaction is straightforward with the technology causing you to feel something without having to go through the mental stages of reaching that emotion: through chemicals or colour. I think- this was something I sort of felt my way into understanding because Bradbury was a little wordy, but I’ll explain the way he wrote in a minute.

The other interesting pieces of technology are earpieces that play music to induce a certain mood. Sound familiar? You’re hearing the prophecy of your iPod and MP3 players! These are supposed to distract and occupy humanity. Because as long as we are occupied, we cannot stop to think: so cars drive at unimaginably fast speeds, porches were gotten rid of to discourage leisurely sitting and neighbourly chatting while the law keeps tabs on suspicious morning walkers; all in the interest of reducing free thought.

But away from the story: to prose and writing. I felt that Bradbury was just explicitly in love with ideas. While writing in the plot, he would start off down the winding road of tangent and rambling which- though coherent- made the return to the actual story sort of like dropping into cold water. Nonetheless, it was interesting. Yet, for me, as someone who likes the story to fit like a jigsaw and not just be held forcibly together, I found this way of writing detracted from my complete pleasure in reading. If it had been beautifully written, I would have given it the next point level.

I think if dystopia is your thing (as is abstract) you should read this, ideally before buying. It’s an ideas book and so you need to be ready to learn and absorb otherwise the book becomes are huge mess of utter confusion.

I know I babble and ramble a little incoherently, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find myself annoying as well. I would fix this problem, but it’s too difficult. I don’t have a problem with it, it just distracts me from the book a little.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

One Day by David Nicholls

One Day is love story, but only cliché in how the pair end up together. As someone who usually prefers romance as a peripheral sort of thing, I was mesmerised by this book and the finely woven plot. It's told strangely, one day (the same date) each year of our two main characters over a period of years, but it isn't hard to get used to; it's rather clever actually.

I think I should say, before going further, that I had actually seen the movie before reading the book, but only because it was in its last run at the cinema. I'd put off going to try and read the book beforehand, but I was unlucky. I don't think this affected my reading too much, but I did know what was going to come in the story (I jumped in the movie) so I could see some of the preemptive clues.

The book is actually really good. Like amazingly good. I was completely in love with Emma (as I think you're supposed to be) and her self-chastisement and the occasional things she says that hints at her education and intelligence despite working in fast food. I laughed heartily when reading it, which isn't that common, so I can't say this side of the story was bad. Even the kind of sad elements about her, since I got the feeling she always was so, only made her deep and realistic. She acts charming, funny and content- but she spends so much time worrying inside. It's a bit cliché but it worked well.

Dexter, on the other hand, was...something that I can't politely say. Until he grew up. When he was older and had his little rant at Emma about politics and such, I really liked him. Once he matured a little, just after he got with Sylvie, I liked him more than at the beginning. When he was younger, he was a stereotypical, handsome bachelor who did whatever took his fancy. I can't abide characters like that, and only the pricks of a guilty conscience as he did these things kept me sane and reading about him. And he's right: Emma made him a better person by being around. On the days they were together, I found him much more bearable.

The reason I would be hesitant to call it just a love story is that the bulk of what is good about this book is the parts when it isn't romance, when there are issues of identity, day-to-day problems or the general feeling that life is falling apart around you. And then the conversation afterwards, when they examine their feelings (and all that clichéd jazz), means you can see these people growing up. I suppose when a book is written as this one is, that has to be the one thing you're bound to notice: that the characters are growing up. The French saying "the more things seem to change the more they stay the same" is true in that these people grow and do things we would never have expected, but they always have the same reasons we might expect. I think perhaps that phrase kind of sums up a lot of the book. Even though it sounds bad to say it, there was no true spontaneity and we can always say that something made sense.

All in all, it not hard to see why this book was so popular, even though for me some of Dexter's scenes dragged. The ending of the book is the real killer (no pun intended) and when you get to the last third, you don't want to stop because everything is going great, everyone's happy and you just know something has to happen. But to whom does it happen?

I don't think I'll forget this book too quickly, nor will cease recommending it to anyone.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth


Divergent by Veronica Roth was wonderful, brilliant, astounding and any and all those synonymous adjectives. I adored it; as I expected to.

It’s a dystopian novel and the society is divided into 5 factions that each seek to combat war and suffering by adopting a particular ethic and thinking according to that ethic: sticking to that above any personal morals or relations. In the books own words: Faction before blood. That means family, but I sort of think it means before yourself too: kill yourself instead of betray your faction. The protagonist is called Divergent because she- Tris- cannot adopt one way of thinking: she could fit in with many of the groups. Obviously, this causes her a load of trouble as well as a unique way to solve it.

I thought Roth wrote brilliantly almost consistently: only occasionally did I find myself being bored by some of what was going on. I think, because this is book one in a trilogy, the setting the scene and giving her and everyone else a background was a focus. Unlike some, I actually like this sort of thing because I am an information junkie; some people just thought it was pointless.

The first 104 pages were available online and before even considering buying the book, I read these pages. Now, this has never happened before. Not once have I been able to access a book in this format (free!) and it was odd. But I read it, and liked it. By allowing me to read this, I was persuaded to buy the book because I expected I would like the entire thing. I now believe every writer should do this: it means, as a reader, we can find out whether we will like the narrative and the writer themselves should we buy it. It was win-win as far as I was concerned. And even when I got the book, I read those pages again.

The book was marvellous and I shan’t rave about it for pages on end but you need to know above all else that I loved it like a cat loves a mouse, a dog loves a ball and a reader loves a good book.

The book wasn’t unbelievable though. I think that this society (the beginning Utopia) has something that could work if possible, but it isn’t. That’s of course the problem with a Utopia: that they are impossible. The reason this one was so much so was because human individuality would have to be controlled and that cannot be feasibly done. I’m not a utopian and I don’t want this is occur in this universe, but accepting the merits of this society gave me an insight to how the characters might think and react.

Veronica Roth was, lets face it, brilliant and faultless. If she’s a nice person in real life too, I think I’m in love.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Top Ten Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time

God, what an amazing meme! I've come out of my lack of blogging because I must do this. Nicely, this also gives me two posts today, I think. Or will do.

Top Ten Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time

  1. Harry Potter. Everyone will say this, but that is because it is so true. I'm full of Harry Potter love
  2. The Hunger Games. Okay, I didn't think of this myself, but I agree with everyone who did say this.
  3. The Help. I've only just recently finished it but it was amazing.
  4. The Belgariad. My favourite series ever. If I could read this again, I'd get the same smug smiles like I'm sharing a joke with the characters, or the content full face smiles when I predicted something. Fantastic series of books.
  5. Pride and Prejudice. This was my first foray into Austen's books and I was blown away that I liked it so much. I love getting something that you thought would be bearable, but ends up being one of the most amazing things ever.
  6. Eragon. Kind of my first real stab at High Fantasy that set me up in what kind of books I loved thereafter.
  7. Necropolis. It is the fourth in the Power of Five series, but it blew me away. I was terribly impressed considering the 'Meh' attitude I had to the other books.
  8. The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness. Another one of those great books. I was incredibly sad when this series ended. It wasn't a bad ending but I felt so lost when it was over. I think if I read it for the first time now, though, it would seem perhaps too young.
  9. The Elegance of the Hedgehog. My favourite book. Yes, my favourite book and series are separate. I have to break the rules of book favouritism in order to satisfy my book love. I sort of think I'd like to read it again for the second time since that was when I really fell in love.
  10. The Perks of being a Wallflower. Another great books that left me blown away when I finished. Everything just worked about that books and I can't express how wonderfully it was: both in idea and execution.
Okay: all done. I had to miss Divergent and The Road but they are both spiritually part of the list. I was also really in love with Enclave (which was like my first Austen foray) and The Millennium Trilogy which was great in its own separate right. In a way, it'd be kind of nice to just start reading again. To go through those week and years of reading and then the realisation that you love books. That you have read so many great things and then it hits you: what else is out there?

Scorpia Rising by Anthony Horowitz


Scorpia Rising by Anthony Horowitz is the last book in the Alex Rider series. I have to admit I gave up on the books after Ark Angel which was 3 books ago (I think) but as with most readers, I kept with the series out of a determination to know what happened.

As it happened, the same thing happened that happens in every book- except that a relatively important minor character was killed and Alex Rider is emotionally broken. No biggie really: a shock, but I could have predicted it if I gave it some thought. And I saw it coming 50 pages away. Horowitz is a marvellous writer, and that is part of the reason I probably read the books as well, but I think he has a set pattern of writing that he tends not to deviate from with Alex Rider:
  1. Alex Rider accidentally recruited by MI6
  2. Starts Mission and all seems normal
  3. Clues point to conspiracy
  4. Conspiracy Discovered
  5. Starts to combat conspiracy but fails
  6. Taken into custody by enemies and all hope seems lost
  7. Rider has actually planned an getaway and succeeds
I suppose I should tell you the premise of the books now.

They follow a teenage boy (just turned 15 in this book) who is hired by the British Secret Service MI6 and goes on missions that only an agent who appears as a teenager could do. He was trained by his Uncle for this (unbeknownst to Alex) and is therefore a super spy and very resourceful. I won’t ruin any of the books, but they just deal with his missions and revealed conspiracies and more personal revelations.

They are good up until Scorpia which was the fifth book.

The plot of the book is straightforward and for the most part it was very predictable for me as someone who has read the other books by him. The prose is very good and Horowitz, ever objective, is a good writer that can make the book fast paced, engaging and very hard to put down.

The characters are always a good part in his books: they have suitable back stories, clear motives and a few skeletons in their closets. They are developed really well, but in 8 books, that’s hardly surprising. In fact, I feel that by this book he can’t go anywhere else with them so it is good that this is the finale. I think that he does a good job of tying up the loose ends (though there aren’t many that he carries over between books) and leaving a reader suitable satisfied that everything has been dealt with. It’d be nice to know what happens to Alex, but it’s not a pressing detail and can easily be overlooked.

There is the tiniest of bits of romance in the book but, by this point, Horowitz has cut it down to such a minimum that he only references it on a few occasions: there is actually no romance in this book.

I loved the books and, as I’ve said, I only read this one out of loyalty and the need to know what happens, no matter how dull. I’m content with the ending but overall this is a mediocre book compared to other ones: a cheap thrill, if you will. Nevertheless, it is not a bad read. Maybe I’ve just gotten tired of the books over time. I give it a 4 only because of previous like of the trilogy and Horowitz’s writing.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

House Rules by Jodi Picoult


House Rules by Jodi Picoult is a basic fiction novel in my eyes. It takes an interesting concept and writes a story about it. With all due respect, it is very simple and straightforward as a book. Not that it was bad, of course.

It’s an interesting story about a young adult with Asperger’s syndrome (AS) and is accused of a murder. It is apparently a much dramatised book: no AS sufferer is ever that affected and socially inept. He has been said to be the highest degree of every possible AS. I can understand why she may have done this, to educate and increase drama, but it annoyed a lot of people who labelled the books unrealistic.

The book is engaging and though it’s not un-put-down-able, you do have it on your mind. Picoult is an excellent writer and you get absorbed utterly in the story. At one point, I even had to stop reading because I felt too emphatic with Jacob, the protagonist with AS, and it was tearing me apart to read it. A credit to her skill, do not doubt that.

It is told in the way of multiple narrators- Jacob with AS; his mother, Emma; his brother, Theo; their lawyer, Oliver; and the police investigator, Rich. It is a slightly ruined family but fairly understandable and a real portrayal of how a family would be in this scenario. There are also typical elements of romance, a tad of action and mystery. I mean, who actually committed the murder?

The plot was well thought out, and the clues were drip fed so that we were guessing and making conclusions as the story went on. And then, at the end, the final realisation of what happened in the murder added a final but nonetheless foreshadowed twist.

Like I said, it is typical albeit good.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Friday Hop Quatre

This week, we aren’t answering a question. We are spotlighting our fellow bloggers. Find your favorite(s) author interview(s), guest post(s), book review(s), or bookish article(s) that ANOTHER BOOK BLOGGER featured on their site recently and tell us why you love it/them! As an additional challenge, find your favorite one of EACH of the categories above and spotlight all 4 (interview, guest post, review, article). (Here)

Argh! I hate things like this. I'm going to have to break the rules a bit because I can't comfortably say what I are my favourite reviews and all that. I have preferred reviewers i.e. Tiger at All Consuming Books, Karen at For What It's Worth, Kathy at  I am a Reader not a Writer, Adam at RoofBeamReader, Hannah at Once Upon A Time. But they only encompass the ones I read everything by (and I mean that)! If you look at every blog I follow (here), I swear to you I read all of them at least once a week because they post interesting things. I forgot Allie at Literary Odyssey. See. That's how bad it is. I'm at a point where I try to read so many it is hard not to forget some. And they are only the book bloggers. I love author blogs and general comment/thought blogs too.

Life is hard as a blog reader.

Q. If you could pick one character in a book, movie or television show to swap places with, who would it be?

I think I'd like to swap with Garion (Belgarion) in the Belgariad since they are my favourite books. And I'd like the cool powers. And the amazing sword. Oh- and that other thing I can't say since it is a HUGE spoiler (that you'd guess if you read it anyway). I kind of agree with most people on the hop.

I mean: who wouldn't want to travel with the the Doctor in the TARDIS? To go to Hogwarts? To shapeshift and all that in paranormal? To get super powers in general fantasy? To see dragons in High Fantasy? To truly see what life is like in a dystopian society? Reading is mainly about escapism for me, so I tend to want dive into my books and try out every character.

 To-Be-Read's: How big is your pile? Which book keeps getting pushed down the stack, but you keep meaning to read it?

My physical pile of books is only about twenty or so, but I'm convinced that I must have some around that I haven't read and will curse myself for forgetting soon enough. I think I'm quite good at reading my books since I try to read YA, then Classic, then Contempory, then Other. It doesn't happen (ever) but I at least have it in mind of what I read last. I'll never read the same genre in a row, for example. 

In terms of my list of books that I want to buy and read... I could be here all night. It is somewhere in the hundreds. This is because, let's face it, as a reader, all I want to do is read and read and read some more. I never want to stop reading, so even if it's a genre I don't particularly like, I will read it because I know I'll enjoy being drawn into the story though I might be dubious about the contest.

Friday hop, over. 

Everyone enjoy their weekend now and try to not read too much!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help is the startling yet wonderful tale of black maids in 1960s Mississippi as they write a book to show exactly what they are subject to daily from white employers. It is told by two maids, Minny and Abileen, and one white woman, Skeeter, who hides her passion for Civil Rights. You could argue that this is therefore a biased book, but other people in the story portray the racist nature of many at the time. Yet it needn’t: racism is topic of a one-sided nature anyway.

The way the story is written by the maids is supposed to be in the manner of how they spoke; such as “I done raised” or “Taking care a white babies”. Personally, I struggled with this in the beginning but, persevering, I got used to eat and (if this doesn’t seem cheesy) recognised the kind of rhythm of the speech. By the end, I was charmed by it and even slipping into it myself form speaking verbally.

Being a story about racism, the prime element of the narrative is interaction between people, and how these reactions differ. For example, the way Abileen originally acts towards Skeeter and how Minny is around her highlights the oddity of their arrangement. One line I liked, from Abileen I think, was that these were lines in their heads that they had to erase because they had led themselves to believe them. I liked the fact that every time this trio broke down a barrier between themselves, an unrelated event would always occur to contrast it to show just how racism wasn’t dead and that there were others still believing their prejudiced beliefs and symbolising the challenge they faced. Perhaps even the challenge they have overcome.

I personally felt that Abileen was the main character though because, important as Skeeter is, the book could never have been written without Abileen since she has a hand in everything. Her commitment and sorrow lead her to believe in and champion their book.

Her child-rearing is just adorable to watch as well. Mae Mobley (to me suggesting a bubbly child) asks the kind of question that the white people never asked their maids. This is one of Abileen’s lines. Yet Abileen answers them and more in seeking to help this child. Her stories for Mae Mobley made me smile and they highlight the main issues and items of the civil rights movement: such as the Martian, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or the story of two girls- one black, one white- deciding they must be the same because they have the same limbs. Yet the aspect of her telling Mae suggests where she saw the source of the problem: racist parents brought up their children to be the same. Abileen willingly risks her job for this because she cannot stand by and watch another loveable child, who she loves so dearly, become corrupted and begin treating her like dirt.

On a side note though, I did love Minny. She was SO funny and incredibly correct in her roundabout way. She is led by her own sense of morality and justice, though this costs her jobs since she cannot help but to speak up. Celia Foote only made Minny the better and more interesting because we could see how she herself was so indoctrinated by the racism, by the lines and unspoken rules, that she finds pleasant Mrs. Foote absurd.

The book is comedy-drama (apparently) and until I read it, I never would have believed a book could work with the subject matter. But Kathryn is witty and writes like a comedian writing a sketch sometimes. And though it is fiction, it has roots in fact: the writer confesses how she lived in Mississippi, had a black maid and thought nothing was wrong until she grew up. The section at the back where she explains this and talks about her Help makes clear some of her inspiration for Abileen and Minny.

I have only touched on what I like about this book: there is the ending, certain events, the other maids’ stories and a sprinkling of romance that only add to the book. I cannot believe that anyone could wish other than to read this because it is so easy to be drawn into it. It demonstrates that despite the way it appeared, most of America was very much ready for the move away from racism.

Do not miss this.

And by the way, I cannot wait to see the film here in the UK, and I’ve also heard the audio book is superb.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

City of Ships by Mary Hoffman


City of Ships by Mary Hoffman is the fifth instalment in her Stravaganza series. It’s a series of books about students aged 16 and up who can travel- via talismans- to a parallel universe not unlike fourteenth century Italy.

The books all seem to follow a general pattern of a surprise visit to Talia (the parallel universe), disorientation, finding ones place in Talia, life improves back home, calm, problem in real world affecting parallel one, fix problem, main problem in Talia (usually fantasy violence), solved indirectly by protagonist, everyone’s happy. That may seem lengthy, but to my memory they have all genuinely followed that pattern without much notable deviation.

That isn’t to say they are bad books though: they are interesting and not taxing to read. They don’t strike me as international best seller material, but that’s only my view and in my taste; I believe in actual fact that most people would enjoy them.

They are young adult books and it is pleasant to see that besides a few necessary clichés, they are mostly true to reality. It’s like a breath of fresh air. They don’t speak with slang every other sentence and they are typically normal (if a little middle class). I rather enjoyed this book in that I think it branched out a little. It used elements from previous novels that had been mostly untouched when they were moderately important and brought them to light. It also spoke about rape which I don’t recall in other books: or any such heinous crimes. Then again, it’s been a long time since I read them.

But these new things being brought in may also be the beginning of the end. I’ve read and watched enough of the fictional media to know that when something new is brought in, it can occasionally feel like a grasping of straws. In the interest of making the novel sell and be interesting, the author introduces a new dimension to the novel that hopes to ‘shake things up’ and keep consumers buying. I don’t think the new information is too much like that- it’s all necessary at the moment. But if the next book is not a finale, I think I am right about this.

There is little else to say about this book: it is well researched and the characters are fairly relatable. Some hicks such as when the narrator uses a colloquial phrase unlike the usual objectivity and sometimes the characters are written for a younger audience which tends to make me feel alienated: like Hoffman has forgotten who she’s writing for.

I wouldn’t urge anyone to go out and buy the book now, but it is worth loaning from the library for interested parties. Just loan the first in the series: City of Masks.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë


Wuthering Heights is a romance novel like no other.

As clichéd as it sounds, that’s the honest to God truth. I finished the book and didn’t know what to feel or how to respond. It was such an odd book and I’m still asking myself questions and processing what happened.

The characters are excellent, as any reader would probably tell you. Heathcliff is twisted, cruel and diabolical- but completely understandable. His motives are clear and he follows them through; even near the end when he… changes, he is still getting what he wants- just in an unplanned way. At least that’s how I interpreted it.

Yet, as I said at the start, it is obviously a romance novel and relationships begin early on in the narrative. In the introduction of my book, I was informed of such a thing and I could see it because I was looking for it. I think this reiterates how one should read prefaces and all the stuff some people skip at the start of the book. It’s there for a reason people. Romance is also portrayed in every which way you could think of: sincere, debased, passionate, considerate, contented and foremost as unwavering. Though the love (or lack thereof) is present throughout, the lovers all seem to remain adamant about their feelings. Yes there will be disagreements and the like, but the lovers will leave feeling the same about each other. It is when affection changes that the course of the novel changes and in this way, the book is utterly propelled by love.

Of course, I must mention the fact that most consider this book so fine. It is said to unabashedly show an outlook on human nature transcendent of her time. What would have repulsed many contemporaries is what fascinates the modern reader. The contrast between every character to another, of each place to another, demonstrates the finely wrought story of Brontë were everything has its own opposite counterpart.

I don’t think I truly appreciate the novel yet. The plot was superb (with a typical Victorian climax, I thought) and I said the characters were good. But they are surface story- nothing in depth or more personal. Admittedly I touched on some ideas, but they are only a general interpretation of a broad feeling; there is something below the surface that I just haven’t reached.

I know I’ll have to read it again.