Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'One Day' by David Nicholls


Publisher:
Hodder & Stoughton

ISBN: 978-0-340-89698-3

Length: 435 Pages

What the 'Blurb' says:

' You can live your whole life not realising that what you're looking for is right in front of you. 15th July 1988. Emma and Dexter meet on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways. So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that? And every year that follows?'

Opening Line:

Friday 15th July 1988 Rankeillor Street, Edinburgh

'I suppose the important thing is to make some sort of difference,' she said.'


What's good about this novel?

Fundamentally the thing that I liked about this novel, were the characters themselves. In my opinion, if you can't identify with a book's main characters then there is no point reading on, because why would you care what happened to characters, that you couldn't identify with them in some way?

The main characters Dexter and Emma were believable and likeable. Even though Dexter is perceived as a self absorbed idiot, I warmed to him. I also thought that David Nicholls' interpretation of love was also realistic. Too many times I have read 'chick-lit' type novels (although 'One Day' isn't strictly a chick-lit book), where the idea of love is all hearts and flowers, but not in this novel. In my opinion, this made a refreshing change.

'One Day' has a plot which keeps the reader on edge and the story has many twists and turns that I had not anticipated. I also liked the concept of delving into Emma and Dexter's lives, on the same day every year. The plot was still linear, but Nicholls' way of structuring the novel is, innovative and interesting.

I enjoyed Nicholls' style of writing. He is humourous and intelligent, in parts I laughed out loud at his turn of phrase and narrative. However, there is also great sensitivity in his writing.

What's wrong with this novel?

Although I feel that the ending of this novel was sufficient, for some reason I felt that it was all a bit too convenient. It was as if the book was wrapped up a bit too nicely. However, closing a novel such as this was always going to be difficult. This is because by the end of the novel, I felt like I knew Dexter and Emma and so leaving their story was difficult, because I wanted to read on.

Is this novel worth a read?

Before reading 'One Day', I thought I was going to hate it. I didn't, I loved it. This novel gives a realistic portrayal of love, has brilliant, believeable characters and a compelling plot. I really recommend this.

Have you read this novel? What did you think of it?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Snippet

You could say that over the last few weeks I have felt disheartened with the whole blogging process. After spending a lot of time organising my new blog feature 'Chapters In My Life' and not really receiving much response, I have contemplated throwing in the towel and deleting the blog.

However, yesterday I read a really interesting blog post by litlove on 'Tales from the Reading Room'.

It talked about why people post reviews and the reason why they blog in the first place. Like me, a lot of the people commenting, said that they felt disheartened when they spent hours on a blog post, only to have no comments. What I have learnt, is is no science to creating popular blog posts and so I should just carry on and write, despite whether my blog posts receive a lot of comments or not. What are your views on this subject? Do you blog for yourself or an audience? Have you found a secret to lots of comments?

Another thing that has revitalised my blogging passion, is that Carol from 'Dizzy C's Little Book Blog' suggested that I visit a blogging forum called 'Blogaholic Social Network', which is a forum for bloggers to get together and swap ideas. I think this will help me to feel involved in blogging again than lost in CyberSpace, which I have done lately.

Some of you might think that I'm ungrateful to you my small, but loyal readers for stopping by and reading my posts. However, that couldn't be further from the truth. What I think I'm trying to say, is that I have been in a blogging rut and it's time to shake things up a bit.

One element of the blog that I want to carry on is 'The Sunday Snippet'. I have been terribly slow with my reading progress of Deborah Lawrenson's novel 'Songs of Blue and Gold' but, as I have probably said before, that has no reflection on the book itself. It has lovely descriptions of sun-kissed Corfu and a interesting storyline. Here's a 'snippet':

P76- 'The sea and the light constantly moving together, interweaving and patterning, made Melissa aware of being alive, of blood coursing around the body, sun on her arms as she stood at the open window.'

'Songs of Blue and Gold' by Deborah Lawrenson

Sorry for writing such a long post for a Sunday. Whatever you are doing for the rest of the weekend, enjoy yourself.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Chapters In My Life -Week 9

It's already week 9 of 'Chapters In My Life' and this week, Zohar from 'Man Of La Book' is going to share their book selection:

'I have read many books over my life, but not that many were significant or influential. Of course there are some of those books, those ones we all look for, which make you look at the world differently when you read them or beyond – but they are far and few in between.

When Spangle contacted me about the guest post I thought “sure, no problem”, but with a little more thought I was hard pressed to come up with five significant or influential titles. I was actually surprised, being a lifelong reader, how difficult this assignment was, but here we go.

1) Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes is a book which I clearly remember my grandfather reading to me (the condensed version of course). I will always have a soft spot for this wonderful book and even named my blog as a Quixotic pun.

2) Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson – this was the first book I remember that I loved and that my mother loved as well. It’s a book which we talked about and talked about again when I read it recently.

3) Kofiko, the Monkey by Tamar Borenstein-Lazar – this is a series of children’s books which I read non-stop in second/third grade. I remember cracking up at the adventures of Kofiko. These books taught me to love reading.

4) On the other hand, the Young Sportsmen by Avner Carmeli – a series of books about two high school students who are playing for the Israeli national team – was the first series of books I could talk about with other kids my age.

5) Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott taught me two lessons. The first, when I read it as a child of 10-11, is that I could read and enjoy “grown up” novels. The second lesson I learned recently when I re-read it, this book was as good as I remembered it, even better if you could believe it.

Thanks Spangle for making me go through this exercise, it was very beneficial and enlightening. Happy holidays to one and all.'

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Chapters In My Life -Week 8

It's week 8 of 'Chapters In My Life' and this week, Carol from 'Dizzy C's Little Book Blog' is sharing the books that have influenced her life:

I don’t have early memories of reading with my mum but know that books were important in our house. We had two bookcases on the upstairs landing full of books. Each night I would choose books to take to bed.
Some of these would be comic style annuals like The Beano, Cor, Whizzer and Chips.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C S Lewis

A magical story that still delights children today. I remember a teacher reading this to us at school and then re-reading it at home.

I do feel a little sad that these days some of our literature is turned into Hollywood blockbuster films and that many children go straight to watching the film.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl.

Every child should read at least one R Dahl novel. This was my favourite and for me the most exciting. How I longed to visit the Chocolate factory. I visited Cadbury World in Birmingham, UK with my own children a while ago. I believe the Cadbury factory was the inspiration for this book.

As a mum with 3 children of my own I have found many more exciting children’s books, including

Green Eggs and Ham – Dr Seuss

How did I miss these as a child? Great fun rhyming books. Green Eggs is my favourite as I used to read this to the class (as a teaching assistant) and they would challenge me to see how fast I could read it. We had fun with this one.


Digital Fortress – Dan Brown

I was bedridden for a couple of weeks after an accident with my back. A friend I worked with at school dropped off some books. Dan Brown? Not my type of book, but I read it and loved it..I went on to read Angels and Demons. I still have The Lost Symbol on my TBR shelves.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – Maggie O’Farrell.

A novel about a young woman spending most of her adult life in an institution until the home closed down and her great niece is asked to collect her. Her story unfolds in this wonderful novel by one of my favourite authors.

Saving Cee-Cee Honeycutt – Beth Hoffman

This is where my reading changed dramatically. It was a recommendation I found on a book blog. I had no idea what a blog was until I happened upon one. I managed to get a hardback version of this book from overseas and loved it.
I realised there were many more resources and books out there I could get hold of.
I am so pleased for Beth Hoffman that the UK will finally get this novel in Jan 2012.

Star Gazing – Linda Gillard

A beautifully written novel. I would not have found this novel if it had not been for the author contacting me. Until then, I had only looked at books in the top 20 charts from a few sites. It just shows the power of book forums and book blogging. Fairly unknown, but amazing novels can be reached by a wider audience.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Snippet

Apologises for not doing a 'Sunday Snippet' last week. It's not the attitude to take, but I wasn't feeling in the mood to blog. However, I'm trying to make an effort to get back to blogging.

Having read Deborah Lawrenson's brilliant novel 'The Lantern' recently, I've turned to another one of her novels 'Songs of Blue and Gold'. Reading progress is slow, but I am enjoying the book so far. Here's a snippet:

Page 52: 'The following morning, Melissa stood on the bridge where the two rivers met not far from her mother's house. A turquoise kingfisher darted like a bullet down the river. A few flashy seconds and it was gone, leaving only a stab of remembered brilliance.'

'Songs of Blue and Gold' by Deborah Lawrenson

What are you reading at the moment?

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Chapters In My Life -Week 7

It's week 7 of 'Chapters In My Life' and this week, Simon from 'Stuck In A Book' tells us about his book choices:

I’m so pleased that Spangle asked me to participate in this series, it’s fun to delve back into what bloggers and authors used to like, as well as what they tell us about now. But that’s where I hit my first dilemma – my reading tastes have changed a lot since I was a teenager. Whose hasn’t? I’m only in my mid-twenties, so if I look back to half-my-life ago, I do wrinkle my nose in disgust a little. Sweet Valley High? Point Horror? Goosebumps? Shouldn’t I have been one of those prodigy kids who reads Dostoevsky under the covers aged six, and is translating postmodern Urdu poetry by the time I turned ten? Well, I decided to pick books which reflected what I loved at particular times in my life, but also those which pushed me towards my current tastes.

Five Get Into Trouble by Enid Blyton
This was the first book I ‘read by myself’, although really it was me reading one page very slowly and then Mum reading the next one – and, when things got exciting (will George, Julian et al ever escape from being kidnapped?! Er, yes) I would read one page and Mum would read three.

It saddens me that a lot of children were banned from reading Blyton – I read little else for several years, and it helped turn me into the voracious reader I am today. Yes, she could be sexist and even racist, but I’m not one who believes in getting rid of every book which reflects mindsets of the past. What Blyton could do best (and goodness knows it wasn’t style or dialogue) was write a ripping yarn which made a five year-old desperate to turn the pages – and keep on turning pages for the rest of his life.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
I was too embarrassed to pick something from my Sweet Point Goosebumps phase – although kudos to my parents for letting me read what I wanted to, rather than making reading seem awful by forcing me into books I didn’t want to read. Luckily for me, my pre-teenage years were not entirely blighted by unillustrious reading matter. I can’t remember what led me to pick Anne Frank’s Diary off the shelf, but I was engrossed and fascinated. I haven’t reread it since, but I remember Anne being an exceptional writer, as well as the voice of a generation.

It has also led onto my love of real-life recordings of 20th century history, usually through diaries or letters. I always have a volume on the go (Nella Last’s War has been a recent love of mine) and I feel as though I understand the past much more intimately.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Nineteen Eighty-Four was the first ‘grown-up’ book I ever read – and also, I believe, the first non-children’s book that all four members of my family had read. Again, I have no idea why I chose it, but I thought it was brilliant. For the first time in my reading life I was grappling with a classic – and all that that implies: deeply complex characters, a sense of purpose to its construction, and above all Orwell’s brilliant writing. I suppose all these ingredients can be present in children’s writing, but let me remind you of my diet of Blyton. Nineteen Eighty-Four didn’t turn me into a socialist, but it did make me realise that books deemed classics weren’t necessarily dull – and re-reading this one a couple of years ago confirmed that it was still an incredible novel.

Modern Humour by various
I’ve tried to pick books for Chapters in My Life which I haven’t done to death on my own blog, and this was an important little book for me which led onto all sorts of other delicious reading. Don’t let the title fool you, Modern Humour was actually published in 1940, and I picked it up in a little book stall on our local market. I bought it because it had a short story by AA Milne, but of course I flicked through the rest – and really loved two pieces by E.M. Delafield. Off I went to my library catalogue, and that’s where my love of EMD started (with a large-print copy of The Provincial Lady Goes Further, being the only Delafield title Pershore had.)

Modern Humour didn’t only send me off to read Delafield, now one of my very favourite writers. It also made me feel part of a early-20th-century reading world, even if vicariously. Reading any novel in isolation is really only an experience of one author and one set of characters – Modern Humour surrounded me by many authors, many glimpses into different books and different readers. It helped set off a love for the period which has only increased.

Speaking of Love by Angela Young
Finally I’m going to choose one of the books which has been most important to me in the most recent stage of my reading life – which is blogging. I started Stuck-in-a-Book in mid 2007, and was extremely excited when I started being offered review copies of books later that year. Now I get offered so many that I can’t read them all, but back then I eagerly read everything I was sent – including Angela Young’s first novel. It’s a novel about mother/daughter relationships, the impact of mental illness, love, and above all: story-telling. So it helps that Young is a story-teller par excellence. The reason I’ve chosen it isn’t merely because it’s very good – but because I was quoted on the back of the paperback edition. You can imagine how excited I was – and how pleased that it was on a book I really loved.

So, five quite different books, even though four of them come from the 1940s. My reading tastes still aren’t as wide as some people’s (although I’m willing to experiment sometimes!) but I doubt I could love books any more than I currently do! I’m very grateful all the reading of my youth led me in this direction, and look forward to many more years of reading to come!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Word of The Week

Unfortunately I couldn't find an appropriate image for this week's 'Word Of The Week'. However, I liked the sound of it:

Flibbertigibbet- 1. A chattering or flighty, light-headed person.
2. A gossip




Saturday, November 5, 2011

Chapters In My Life -Week 6

This week on 'Chapters In My Life', my friend and fellow blogger Aguja talks about the books that have had an influence in her life:

'As a child, I was totally absorbed in and mesmerised by fairy tales; it did not matter whether they were gruesome or romantic as I had entered into the realm of imagination and fantasy. I believe that I have carried this parallel existence – reality travelling alongside fantasy – through my life, so it has influenced both my writing and my drawing. Fairy tales were often illustrated in detail and I loved to wander through the illustrations, wondering what was 'just beyond the page'.

Adventure stories were the genre for later childhood, in particular 'The famous Five' series by Enid Blyton. My friends and I emulated the characters for our own adventures around the streets, or on the beach. And then, at thirteen, 'The lord of the Rings' by J.R.R. Tolkien and 'The Diary of Anne Frank' became my obsessions.

Later, Virginia Woolf and Alain Robbe-Grillet took over, along with plays, especially Theatre of the Absurd and Greek Tragedy. I based a painting on Ionesco's 'The Rhinoceros'.

There followed a period of Jane Austen which I read each summer, along with my older daughter; one novel after another.

I read diversely, now, and the books that draw me are those that are well written and composed; where character, description and structure meld; the words excite and challenge to create an intrinsic fabric of delight.

Throughout, from the age of five, poetry has been the greatest influence on my own words. Poetry is the essence of my 'word-stitching'. Poetry is a part of my inner being.

Did I mention 'obsession'? I used it deliberately because I am indeed obsessed by the way in which words come together to create their own world – be it the words of others, or my own.'

To view my list of 'More Than Once Books', go to my blog at:

http://www.aguja-wordstitcher.blogspot.com

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

'The Lantern' by Deborah Lawrenson



Publisher: Orion Books

ISBN: 978-1-4091-3548-7

Length:
341 pages

What the 'Blurb' says:

'When Eve falls for the charming, secretive Dom, their whirlwind romance leads them to Les Genévriers, a run-down, yet beautiful house in the South of France. But as summer fades to autumn, Eve finds it impossible to ignore the mysteries the house seems to be hiding- not least the strange disappearance of Dom's beautiful first wife. And what is the connection to a young girl who lived in the house decades before?

As Les Genévriers' tangled history begins to unravel, and Dom grows increasingly distant, Eve must discover the secrets of the past- before history has a chance to repeat itself.'

Opening Line: 'The rocks glow red above the sea, embers of the day's heat below our balcony at the Hôtel Marie.'

What's good about this novel?

The writing in this novel is exquisite. 'The Book Club' reviewed this novel recently and one of the panelists said that this novel contained too much description. I disagree completely. I have never read a book which contained such unique descriptions that engulf the reader into the world being created, without distrupting the flow of the story. Also, I have a never read a book in which perfume and smells were so vivid. Lawrenson's use of language creates atmosphere and impact. So much so, that from reading page 1 of 'The Lantern', I was intrigued and wanted to read on.

Being a regular reader of Deborah's blog, I also enjoyed making the connection between subjects and places in which she has talked about in her blog and how they inspired 'The Lantern'. In some ways, this gives an almost autobiographical feel to the book.

The plot is quite complex, combining events taking place in the past, present and also a crime/mystery plot running throughout, but I didn't feel that this was too much in one novel.All of the elements within the novel related to each other and I felt that all of the plot lines were given equal attention.


One thing that I found particularly interesting is how the novel was not only a good read, but also made a social comment on how the past has an effect on the future. Not just on a personal level, but Lawrenson highlights how traditions and myths can shape people on a larger scale for example, the village in which the book takes place.

When reading most novels, as readers we focus on the words on the page and then when we are finished, pick up another book and focus on that. But what I found with 'The Lantern', was that I was thinking about the ideas Lawrenson presented in 'The Lantern' for a long time after reading the last page.


What's wrong with this novel?

If I had to be picky, I would say that the only thing I found difficult about this novel, was that sometimes at the start of chapters I wasn't sure whether the story was in the past or the present. Occasionally I had to re-read the first part of the chapter again to clarify this. However, I soon became used to the structure of the novel and it didn't really pose too many problems. It certainly did not inhibit my reading experience.

Is this worth a read?

In my opinion, yes. Its beautiful prose and intriguing plot would make 'The Lantern' a brilliant book for a holiday or for curling up with on a cold, winter evening.
It is also the kind of book in which you could find new elements within it, the more times you read it.