Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Looking Back: May 2011

I read some great books this May:

1. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
2. Jessica's Guide To Dating On The Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
3. Journey To The Centre Of The Earth by Jules Verne
4. The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
5. Death In The Clouds by Agatha Christie
6. The Loving Spirit by Daphne Du Maurier
7. The Plague by Albert Camus
8. Across The Universe by Beth Revis
9. Raised By Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
10. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
11. The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa
12. Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
13. When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman
14. Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro
15. Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

My favourite this month was definitely The Loving Spirit by Daphne Du Maurier. This is the sixth book I have read by her and they never disappoint. When God was A Rabbit was another that I loved and thoroughly enjoyed. I also really enjoyed Unearthly, Across The Universe, Raised By Wolves and Jessica's Guide To Dating On The Dark Side and can't wait to continue the next books in all these series!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

In My Mailbox (23)

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi from The Story Siren.

These are the books I got this week:

1. Wood Angel by Erin Bow
2. Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

3. The Shakespeare Curse by J. L. Carrell
4. Trial By Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I'm so excited for Trial by Fire. I read Raised By Wolves this month and loved it so can't wait to read its sequel. I've also had my eye on Wood Angel for a while now after reading great reviews so I finally picked it up in a 3 for 2 offer. I got The Shakespeare Curse after spotting it in a charity shop since I quite enjoyed J. L. Carrell's first book The Shakespeare Secret. I also picked up another small leather bound book from the charity shop, Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas, which is the sequel to The Three Musketeers which I loved :)

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Journey To The Centre Of The Earth By Jules Verne

Journey to the Centre of the Earth explores the prehistory of the globe, but can also be read as a psychological quest, for the journey itself is as important as arrival or discovery. Professor Lidenbrock and his nephew Axel travel across Iceland, and then down through an extinct crater towards a sunless sea where they enter a living past and are confronted with the origins of man. A classic of nineteenth-century French literature, the novel's distinctive combination of realism and Romanticism has marked figures as diverse as Sartre and Tournier, Mark Twain and Conan Doyle.

This book definitely inspires a sense of adventure and wonder. Professor Lidenbrock is the enthusiastic and eccentric scientist Uncle of Axel, the narrator. After decoding a secret map, they make their way to Iceland, and with the help of a Danish guide, Hans, they embark on a quest for the discovery of the centre of the earth. There they discover an immense inner world, including a vast ocean and sky. The concept that there is a whole other world inside a world seems like fantasy and highly illogical and yet Verne describes it with such realism it makes you wonder. You can tell that Verne really knew his science, including geology, archaeology, anthropology and physics and used this wide range of knowledge to put belief into his story.

Initially, Axel is reluctant to set out on this adventure and would prefer to stay at home pursuing his love but he does eventually come around because Lidenbrock's thirst for exploration and discovery is infectious, so much so that you really start to hope that they succeed in their journey. The majority of that success was down to their strong guide, Hans, who exuded a brave and diligent aura and was always there to get them out of a spot of trouble.

Whilst there is a sense of wonder and awe to the story there is also a few parts that felt a bit slow and seemed to drag a bit, especially the part where the three seem to be endlessly traipsing around tunnels inside the volcano. I loved the descriptions of the inside world but at times it felt a bit overly descriptive in regards to their preparation and travels to Iceland.

Whilst the ending was a bit anti-climatic, I did enjoy the journey overall. I also really loved all the scientific knowledge that went into making the world real but if you are in no way scientifically inclined it might, to some, have a textbook atmosphere. That being said though, I thought it was an interesting and enjoyable book that opens up your imagination and can awaken that explorer in you.

Random Passage: He was right. It may be imagined how big these plants grew in their preferred hot, humid environment. I knew that the Lycoperdon giganteum reached, according to Buillard, eight or nine feet in circumference; but here we had white mushrooms 30 or 40 feet high, with caps of the same width. There were thousands of them. No light could pierce their dense cover, and complete darkness reigned beneath those domes, crowded together like the round roofs of an African city. I still wanted to push further in. A mortal chill seeped down from these fleshy vaults. We wandered about for half an hour in these dank shadows, and it was with a real rush of well-being that I got back to the sea-shore.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

In My Mailbox (22)

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi from The Story Siren.

1. Dune by Frank Herbert
2. Running With The Demon by Terry Brooks
3. Brick Lane By Monica Ali

4. The Mysterious Affair At Styles by Agatha Christie
5. The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
6. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

7. Lark Rise To Candleford by Flora Thompson
8. Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
9. Money by Martin Amis

10. A Pocketful Of Rye by Agatha Christie
11. Death On The Nile by Agatha Christie
12. A Murder Is Announced by Agatha Christie

13. The Kingdom Beyond The Waves by Stephen Hunt
14. The White Woman On The Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey
15. Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

I got a fair few this week, although they are all from charity shops or the local market so I got a good bargain on them! I also got two more small leather bound books too; the first The Black Tulip and the second Chicot The Jester, both by Alexandre Dumas. I picked them up because Dumas is one of my favourite authors (I've already read The Black Tulip and loved it) but not only that, somebody had written inside both covers in the same scrawl 'Audrey Hilda Bottoms 1935'. Now, I absolutely love knowing that somebody has read and enjoyed the books previously and this Audrey must has been a big fan of Dumas becasue there was a whole load more of these little books by him on the shelf.

I'm looking forward to reading the Agatha Christie books. I first read Peril At End House last year and loved it, so I've been picking them up cheap whenever I see them. I've read three of her books so far and I've yet to guess the ending :)

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Delirium By Lauren Oliver

There was a time when love was the most important thing in the world. People would go to the end of the earth to find it. They would tell lies for it. Even kill for it.

Then, at last, they found the cure.

Now, everything is different. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Haloway has always looked forward to the day when she'll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But then, with only ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable...

Delirium is the first book I've read by Lauren Oliver and I liked it and even though I thought it worked better as a romance and coming of age story more than a dystopian it is still an enjoyable read with a very intriguing premise.

The whole dystopian part of the book is based on there being a cure to love. Love is seen as a disease that causes all the upheaval in the world. The idea that love can be eradicated is quite a scary thought considering it's what I believe is the fundamental essence that gives hope even in troubled times. I'm not sure I was ever truly convinced that any society would ban love whilst reading this book. I just didn't feel it was plausible that a government could convince enough people to follow a way of life that involves the complete removal of strong emotions. I can understand why a government would want to suppress strong emotions like hate or the craving for power, for example, but not love.

Lena is the typical brainwashed teenager in this dystopian world and can't wait to have her procedure when she's eighteen so she is no longer at risk from 'catching' the love disease. At the start of the story she doesn't think for herself or question any of the rules, she just thinks what she is told to think about love and it's not until her best friend leaves a seed of doubt in her mind that it begins to grow and she ends up questioning the world around her. It's not until she meets Alex and discovers there is more beyond the fences of their city that she sees that she can choose her own rules. I really enjoyed reading about Lena's gradual changing perception of love and how she is finally able to think for herself and with this comes a huge amount of courage that allows her to go against everything she'd been taught to believe and to finally listen to her heart and see the truth.

The story did take me a while to immerse myself in this new world and I would have liked to learn more about how this apparent disgust at love came about and how the government implemented this compulsory cure on everybody. However, I did get the feel for how brutal the regulators could be especially during the raids with their obvious delight in violence. It's like their main enjoyment is the catching of anybody that appears to show the slightest hint of being in love and the doling out severe punishments. So there was that constant fearfulness to the world that you might just catch the regulators on a bad day.

The part where I think Oliver really excels in this book is how she describes love and she managed this with some really beautiful writing. I loved it how Lena finally seems to awaken with the first stirrings of this new emotion. I also really liked the ending too which I thought I had guessed near the end but Oliver actually surprised me with a suspenseful and heart-pounding cliffhanger and I can't wait to see what Lena will do next.

Whilst I think there are more depths that could have been delved into with this society it is only the first in a trilogy and I really did start to care about the characters towards the end and can't wait to learn more about the Wilds (a society of people that have managed to escape the clutches of the cure). I would recommend this book to anybody who liked the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld because there are definitely some parallels between the stories.

Random Passage: Sometimes I feel as though there are two me's, one coasting directly on top of the other: the superficial me, who nods when she's supposed to nod and says what she's supposed to say, and some other, deeper part, the part that worries and dreams and says 'Grey.' Most of the time they move along in sync and I hardly notice the split, but sometimes it feels as though I'm two whole different people and I could rip apart at any second. Once I confessed this to Rachel. She just smiled and told me it would all be better after the procedure. After the procedure, she said, it would be like coasting, all glide, every day as easy as one, two, three.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

In My Mailbox (21)

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi from The Story Siren

I got four books this week:

1. Divergent By Veronics Roth
2. A Monster Calls By Patrick Ness

3. Dead Reckoning By Charlaine Harris
4. Between Shades Of Gray By Ruta Sepetys

I've already read Dead Reckoning and enjoyed it, although it rises more questions than answers so I'm already anticipating the next installment. I loved the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness so couldn't wait to pick up A Monster Walking after seeing it over on Fluttering Butterflies and reading a rave review on Jess Hearts Books. I also had to pick up Divergent and Between Shades Of Gray after reading great reviews and they were buy one get one free :)

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

When God Was A Rabbit By Sarah Winman

We stood in the middle of our garden, unsheltered, unprotected, and looked around at the turbulence of the lives we backed on to, sat next to, the lives of the neighbourhood, and it shook clear out apathy until we saw again what our life here had been. There was the sledge our father had made, the one we took to school, the envy of all, and the ghosts of swings and climbing frames that had held us, and dropped us, the sounds of our tears. And we saw again the cricket and football matches that had scuffed the grass bare at the bottom lawn. And we remembered the tents we had made and the nights spent within; imaginary countries, us the explorers. There was suddenly so much to say goodbye to.

This is a book about a brother and a sister. It's a book about childhood and growing up, friendships and families, triumph and tradgedy and everything in between. More than anything, it's a book about love in all its forms.

When God Was A Rabbit is such a charming and soulful book! It's split into two parts; the first part follows the childhood years of Elly from her birth in 1968 and the second part follows some of her adult years into the 21st century. I loved how we get a peek into the life of a family that on first appearances looks like your average family, but when you scratch beneath the surface they are in fact completely fascinating.

My favourite part was the childhood years of Elly. I really enjoyed reading about her life and understanding how she perceives the world around her with a child's sense of wonder and a keen perceptiveness. The family bonds are strong especially with her older brother Joe. They can talk honestly with each other and he is the one responsible for giving Elly her pet rabbit which she chose to name God. Apart from Elly and her family there is also a whole bunch of eccentric and zany characters. There's Jenny Penny, Elly's childhood friend, Arthur and Ginger, a pair of quirky family friends and Nina, Elly's famous actor Aunt.

One of the ways in which Winman makes you really connect with the book and its people is by weaving real life events in with the story. The Queen's silver jubilee, the death of Princess Diana and the 9/11 attacks are all included. They never diverted your focus from the plot but they helped you be part of the story by reviving your memories and actions during these events and how they brought everybody together. These are times where most people can remember exactly what they were doing at the time and how their lives were impacted.

This book courses through the ups and downs of a family and even though it deals with a lot of big issues and scopes four decades of a persons life the writing continues to flow through out the whole book. At times it's light hearted and funny and others its darker and serious but it's always captivating. The characters are all likable and you end up really caring about them. It's sweet, rich, whimsical and utterly absorbing and touching. I can't wait to read her future releases.

Random Passage: And I was right. We would see each other again, but only the once - as children, anyway - before our lives diverged like rivers separating and carving across new terrain. But I didn't know that as I waved to her from the car and shouted, "See you soon, I'll miss you!" I didn't know that as I shouted, "You're my best friend! Write to me!" I knew none of that as I looked back and watched her and our street recede like the point of light in a tunnel, until the moment we turned the corner and she and it were gone. I felt the air sucked out of my lungs like life itself.