Friday, August 27, 2010

'Guilty Pleasure Reads'- 'Twilight'


Publisher: Atom Books

ISBN: 978-1-904233-65-7

Length:434 Pages

Opening Line:

'I'd never given much thought to how I would die - though I'd had reason enough in the last few months- but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.'

Review:

I generally have sensible taste in literature. However, from time to time, I read books which I classify as my 'Guilty Pleasure Reads'.

'Guilty Pleasure Reads', are the sorts of books which you know aren't greatly written or very age inappropriate, but can't help but enjoying. Up until recently, I have counted the 'Harry Potter' series as my guilty pleasure (they particularly cheer me up if I'm ill), however, my new guilty read, is 'Twilight.'

Since this phenomenon came out a year or two ago, I had deliberately stayed away from joining the bandwagon of perfectly sensible, twenty some women (and older), turning into silly teenagers, going on about whether they were on 'Team Edward' or 'Team Jacob'. However, out of curiosity, I watched the first film, adapted from the series of books and hated it. The story was slow, boring and in my opinion, the two central characters had the chemistry of two planks of wood (sorry if I have offended anyone, but that's just my opinion!).

Someone suggested I read the books, but still I resisted, that was until last week. As we have visitors staying at the moment, two of which are teenagers, we asked if we could have some questions at our local quiz, which they could answer. As 'Twilight' was one of their favourite things at the moment, we suggested this and so I decided to force myself to read the first book 'Twilight', so that I didn't look completely clueless. Since then, I've become addicted.

The first part of the saga, tells the tale of Bella Swan, a girl who moves to a small town called Forks in Washington State, from the warmer climbs of Phoenix, after her mother remarries.

Life in Forks is dull and boring, until Bella comes across a group of strange, but beautiful group teenagers, named the Cullens. Bella becomes particularly drawn to Edward and gradually she discovers that the Cullen family are not what they seem, they are in fact, vampires. The difference between the Cullens and other vampires is that over time, they have found a way to control their thirst for human blood, by hunting animals.

However, Edward is not only physically attracted to Bella, but he finds her scent irresistible. Despite the danger, Edward fights his urges for Bella and embark in a love affair.

After an encounter with another pack of Vampires, with a preference to human blood,called James, Victoria and Laurent the story turns into a cat and mouse chase for the Cullens to protect Bella from death.

The book ends, with a stern warning by Jacob Black, a boy from an Native American reserve, whose family have shown hostility towards the Cullen Family for centuries, that Bella should stay away from the Cullens and that his family are watching her.

Even though I thought that Stephenie Meyer's writing could have flowed better, I was surprised just how intelligently she writes. Even though this novel is aimed at a younger audience, I didn't feel that she patronised her audience at all. Ok, there were things about boys and going to the prom, I didn't feel that this novel was particularly over sentimental. Also, I felt that they story was well paced and wasn't predictable, which I had expected that it would be.

The thing that really makes this book, is the way in which she develops the characters Bella and Edward. In the films, I hated the choice of actors to play Bella and Edward, because I didn't like them and in turn, didn't really care about whether or not their relationship would endure the difficulties that they have as a vampire/human couple.

However in the book, Meyer portrays the characters as like able and much more complex. Bella is vulnerable, sweet and feminine, as opposed to her rather hard, moody persona on-screen and Edward is funny, seductive, although sometimes neurotic, but utterly irresistible, compared to his one dimensional, miserable persona in the film.

You can't deny that this novel is a little silly and definitely isn't going to win a 'Pulitzer Prize' for Literature any time soon, but it successfully sweeps you away into a world of romance, fantasy and action. I loved this novel and can't wait to add some more of the 'Twilight Saga' novels, to my 'Guilty Pleasure Reads.'

What are some of your 'Guilty Pleasure Reads'?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

You've been tagged!

So Santa at the 'Being Joan' blog, has tagged me with some questions, which I thought would be fun to answer. In turn, it will help all of us that blog, get to know each other a little. So here it goes:

1. At what time of your life were you happiest and why?

I think one of the happiest times of my life, were when I was between the ages of 18-22. Starting college for me helped me accept that even though I have a disability, being different was ok. Also I felt included and had fun going out more, with people who liked me for who I am.


2. Where and when did you meet the love of your life?

I haven't met the love of life, as in a man. However, since our dog Sadie arrived a year ago, I've realised that I couldn't be without her.

3. Favourite item of clothing ever or most treasured possession?

I love my pink, stripy dress which I bought about 3-4 years ago, because it's so comfortable to wear in the summer and seems to be invincible against stains! Also I adore my I-Pod, even though it is a bit temperamental at times. Also, the copy of 'Treasure Island' which was given to me by my grandad. It's about 70 years old maybe more.

4. Must have makeup or beauty item?
lip gloss and tinted moisturiser

5. What do you think is your worst vice or fault .. honestly?

I'm undisciplined, indecisive (that's why I can't keep on writing one book for too long!) and messy, despite trying not to be all three!

6. Would you tell your friend, if you knew her husband/wife was cheating on her/him?

I think so.

7. What ambitions, wishes or desires, for your life, do you still hold close to your heart?

To be a published author, run a book shop and be happy

8. Where do you see yourself in five years from now?

Still living in Spain with hopefully at least one of my books published.

Now it's my turn to tag! Here are the blogs:

Fyrefly's Book Blog

Fashion, Art and Other Fancies

StephTheBookworm

Wordstitcher

Hannah Stoneham's Book Blog

If your blog is featured on the list and you would like to take part, then copy/ paste the questions on a new blog post. Then once you have answered the questions, tag some more blogs (excluding my blog, I've already answered the questions!) and see what answers they give you.

Apologies for the off topic post, but it's just a bit of fun.

Friday, August 20, 2010

'The Boleyn Inheritance'- Review


Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers

ISBN: 978-0-00-719033-1

Length: 514 Pages
Opening Line:

'It is hot today, the wind blows over the flat fields and marshes with the stink of the plague.'

Review:
I hated history at school. It didn't help that for G.C.S.E History, one of the subjects we were required to learn about, was field crop rotation. However, the bits we learnt about Victorian Medicine, with all its gory details about leeches and amputations, was strangely, very popular with my entire class!

Since then, I haven't given history much thought. The mere mention of the word and my eyes glaze over. However, a few months ago, I was talking to friend who strongly recommended that I read 'The Other Boleyn Girl' by Philippa Gregory. When I enquired as to what the book was about, she started telling me it was about the courts of King Henry the Eighth in the 16th Century. Well, straight away I assumed that this book was definitely not for me, as it was bound to be dull and boring. After much persistence on my friend's part, I reluctantly decided to read it and how wrong I was!
This review isn't about 'The Other Boleyn Girl', but the follow up to this sequences of historical events. I was going to re-read 'The Other Boleyn Girl' so that I could review the series in order, but I was so looking forward to reading the second book in the series, that I will review 'The Other Boleyn Girl', at a later date. However, I do recommend that you read this, before 'The Boleyn Inheritance'.Anyway back to this book. The story is told through the eyes of three different women, who are witnessing King Henry's courts, at the same period of time.

Firstly, there is Anne of Cleves, a woman who is chosen as King Henry's new wife and is desperate to flee the restraints of her controlling brother. However, after making a faux pas at one of King Henry's events, Anne's chances of becoming a great queen, are thrown into jeopardy.

Then, there is Katherine 'Kitty' Howard, a 16 year old girl who is manipulated by her uncle, a man who will stop at nothing to ensure that his family progresses to the throne, into ensnaring the king. In reality however, Kitty would rather think about boys and pretty clothes, than running a country.

Finally, there is Jane Boleyn, a woman who has been widowed due to the actions of her late husband George and his sister Anne. She believes that the events that happened in the past,were not her fault, but she is used as a pawn to ensure that the Howard family succeed.

The book interchanges between the three characters, to take you into the women's lives, of glamour and hardship, during the times of Henry the Eighth.
In my opinion, the plot within this novel is brilliant. The way in which Gregory tells the story through the eyes of these three different women, makes for intriguing and fascinating reading. The pace of this novel is exciting and evenly paced. Her way of describing the sights, sounds and smells of the courts, transports you right into the glamour and hardship, of King Henry's court.

Gregory's characterisation, is also brilliant. Unlike some novels I've read, for example 'Three Girls and their Brother' by Theresa Rebeck, whose plot was good, by the characters within the novel, were not distinguishable from e
ach other, Gregory gives each of the characters their own distinctive personality.

Anne for example, may be perceived as serious, but really she is naive and lacks confidence in being her own person. Katherine comes across as the Paris Hilton of the court, whose only preoccupation is for all things sparkly, but in essence, she is still a child in a world of adults. Jane is perceived as a victim, but her warped sense of reality, makes her dangerous. However, during each of the women's journey's, my feelings towards each of the women changed. I felt sympathy towards Kitty, happy for Anne and rather uncomfortable with the actions of Jane. Also in general, reading this and the other novel, shows the characters to be less stuffy and more devious ad therefore, interesting.

The thing I think is most clever, both with 'The Boleyn Inheritance' and other Gregory's historical novels, is that you can read these books, on many levels. Firstly, if you already know about this period of history, you can enjoy Gregory's interpretation of events. Then if you are like me, who only knew that King Henry the Eighth was a fat king, who ruined England and had a lot of wives, who sadly, he had the habit of beheading, you can learn more. Then finally, if you knew absolutely nothing about history whatsoever, in my opinion, you can enjoy this novel as a straightforward fiction novel, which is essentially about betraying and plotting against people, to gain fame and fortune.

I wouldn't say that schools should get rid of their history textbooks, in favour of Philippa Gregory's novels. However, what I would say, is that if you are studying this period of history or are interested in reading about it, then you could consider reading this and the other historical novels. Philippa Gregory writes about the events and people within this period of history so well, that she breathes life into these historical figures and makes the act of learning more interesting. Alternatively, if you just want a tale of scandal, plotting and deceit, then 'The Boleyn Inheritance' will be for you also.

I'm sorry for the essay length review, but, as you can probably tell, I loved this book and would definitely recommend this novel. I'm looking forward to reading more in this series.
Similar titles you may enjoy:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

'Violet Jelly' is now available on Amazon

Yesterday, I spoke about how excited I was, about the fact that Kate Atkinson's novel 'Started Early, Took my Dog' is released today. Well there is something to get as equally excited about, as my friend Ann's debut novel 'Violet Jelly', is now available to order on Amazon.

I've previously mentioned her novel on the blog and can't possibly talk enough, about how great it is. Although this is aimed at children 8-10 years old, this could be enjoyed by adults too. It's unique, imaginative and also encourages children to develop their vocabulary, whilst still having fun.

With two other titles from the trilogy in the pipeline, in my opinion, this series is definitely worth a read. If you would like to find out more about Ann, or if you would like to order from a range of 'Violet Jelly' merchandise, visit her official website.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pre-ordered Prose

So, I said that I would only post on the blog every Monday but, living in Spain, you come to realise that any rules here, aren't actually fixed. They are merely guidelines, which could change at any minute. So I've decided to post, when I've got something to say!

Over the last week, I've got back into the swing of reading other people's blog posts every morning. Unfortunately I was horrified to realise, that Kate Atkinson' new novel 'Started Early,Took my Dog' is released tomorrow and I had not pre-ordered it, as I said I would!

A lot has happened in the last for weeks and so I suppose that I could be forgiven for letting it slip my mind, but I'm still gutted that I won't get the book when it's released. It's not often that I pre-order books, but, as Kate Atkinson is one of my favourite authors, any new material from her is quite exciting.

I was first introduced to Kate Atkinson's writing a few years ago. I was lent a copy of 'Emotionally Weird' for some holiday reading and since then, I've been hooked. I love her novels, because she skillfully weaves many strands of plot and characters throughout her books, but somehow (I would love to know how she does it) she managed to connect everything together, in a way that you couldn't possibly foresee. Also, her 'Jackson Brodie' detective series, perfectly weaves humour, mystery and suspense, to create a wonderful tapestry of writing, which doesn't alienate people, who have never previously been interested in crime fiction.

Looking at Kate Atkinson's official website, I'm excited to see that in 2011, a 6 part television series is going to be broadcast on the BBC, which has been adapted from some of her mystery novels. I'd be very interested to see how her complex, multi-stranded stories, translate onto the small screen.

As for 'Started Early, Took my Dog' I will have a painful wait, until I have a permanent address before I can order it. However, I will review this as soon as possible.

In the meantime, there any authors, whose novels you just HAVE to pre-order?

Monday, August 16, 2010

'Around the World in 80 Days' -Review


Publisher: Penguin Popular Classics

ISBN:
978-0140620320

Length:
256 Pages

Opening Line:

'Mr. Phileas Fogg lived, in 1872, at No. 7, Saville Row, Burlington Gardens, the house in which Sheridan died in 1814.'

Review:

By the time this post is published, it will be Monday. However, I'm actually typing this on my balcony on a bright Sunday afternoon, just before I head off for Sunday lunch. If I tried to write this after lunch, I think it possibly wouldn't make too make sense, as I'd be too sleepy or full of wine!

Anyway, having previously enjoyed '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' by Jules Verne, I thought that I would try another one of his titles. I usually feel a sense of trepidation when embarking on additional titles from an author, whose book I've just enjoyed, as I normally find that reading a second or third novel by them, is never quite good as the first. However, I decided to give 'Around the World in 80 Days' a go and I'm happy to say, that this novel was even better than the first.

It revolves around Phileas Fogg, an English gentleman with a stickler for routine, taking on a £20,000 wager with the other gentlemen in his local Reform Club, to circumnavigate the world in 80 days. Along for the ride is Passepartout, his newly appointed servant, hoping for a quieter life. However, he finds himself on an unexpected adventure, saving a young Parsi woman called Aouda, causing chaos in Calcutta and riding elephants in the jungle.

Throughout the story, Phileas Fogg is pursued by a Scotland Yard policeman named Fix, who is convinced that Phileas Fogg is a bank robber and he deceives Passepartout into helping him to catch his criminal. Will Phileas Fogg escape imprisonment and arrive back in London on time? It would be wrong of me to spoil it for you!

I loved this book. I enjoyed '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea', but I found that'Around the World in 80 Days' had a pace which more suited my reading preference, it explained everything sufficiently, but wasn't quite as slow as '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea'. Also, I found that I wasn't bogged down with information, as I felt when I read '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea', even though the facts featured within that book, gave authenticity to the novel.

I love the characters within the book. In fact, I feel that on the whole, Jules Verne has the ability to create great characterisation within his novels. However, he likes his main character to be forthright gentleman and Phileas Fogg, is the quintessential English gent, who is never phased by a crisis.

This book is charming, funny and so gripping that you can't wait for the next chapter, to see what happens next. In fact, it's the perfect illustration of the game 'Can you?' which Stephen King talks about in his novel 'Misery'. Verne puts his characters into impossible situations and leaves the reader thinking 'How are they going to get out of this one?', then he rescues his characters, but with convincing resolutions.

'Around the World in 80 Days'
is fun, exciting and a good old fashioned adventure story, which is easy to get lost in. I definitely recommend it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Business as usual!

So I may still not have electricity in my apartment block (we are in rented accommodation at the moment and may be for some time), but I am happy to report that we now have 24hr access to the Internet! This means that blogging can resume.

I never knew how much the Internet could make a difference to my life. Some of the time that I spend on the web is completely pointless. I mean, ploughing fields and rearing cyber cows and sheep isn't exactly important. However, having the feeling that I can't easily connect with the world and not to be able to read people's blogs, made me feel like I had been left out and not exactly lonely, but definitely like I had missed out on something.

Anyway, I'll be spending the next few days catching up on every one's blogs and on Monday, I'll put my long awaited review of Jules Verne's 'Around the world in 80 Days'. Then, a review of a book that I just finished today called 'The Boleyn Inheritance' will follow. This is the second book in a series of historical novels written by Philippa Gregory, who since reading 'The Other Boleyn Girl'(I'll post a review of this in a future blog post), I've become a huge fan of.

So there are lots of things to come on the blog. I'm really looking forward to getting back into blogging again.

What books have you read whilst I have been away?