Friday, 23 December 2011

Songs of the Season Music Hop




Songs of the Season
Event production by Random Magic Tour 
Sasha Soren (Random Magic)
Dec. 10-25, 2011

Welcome to the Songs of the Season music hop! You're invited to join us every day from December 10-25, to enjoy a virtual round of caroling.

You can visit a different blog each day to find another wonderful music selection, handpicked by a great host. You can find the schedule here!


Here's my selection for the event!






Title: Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
Artist: Frank Sinatra
Available at: Amazon 


This one is one of my absolute favourites for Christmas! I'm not sure if anyone else has posted about it during this event, but even if they have, then you should definitely listen to it again (if you happened to see it one someone else's blog, too)! This song always puts a smile on my face! Probably because of the lyrics to be honest! The thing is that I live in a part of Greece where is doesn't really snow.... Honestly, I have only seen real, live snow three or four times in my whole life (and I am 22). So, always, when Christmas is just round the corner, I end up wishing that we could have some snow. It doesn't happen, but I can still keep on wishing, can't I???
(Fortunately, now that I have a car, I can go up into the mountains and get my fill of snow!! YAAAAAAY!)


Oooooooh, the weather outside is frightful and the fire is soooo delightful!!!! (That's me singing to myself!)


Thank you for stopping by and many many thanks to Sacha Soren for inviting me to be a part of this event!

Event production by Random Magic Tour 
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You can follow the linky to see all the other amazing christmassy songs everyone else has picked!







Merry Christmas everyone!!!!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Time Will Come (10)


The Time Will Come is a great meme hosted by Jodie over at Books For Company. The point of this meme is to list a book that has been sitting on our bookshelves unread for too long and we have been meaning to get round to for ages!

This week's pick is:


Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl's virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction—at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful—and completely unforgettable.








This was actually the first book I swapped for. I have no idea why I haven't got round to reading it yet (seeing as it WAS the first book I swapped), but I will! I haven't seen the film, but I have heard that it's supposed to be very good. Now that I have the book, I don't want to watch the film before reading it, so I will have to get to it soon!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
First published by Charles E. Brown in 1850 (this edition by Harper Press in 2010)

Description (from Goodreads)

'Ah, but let her cover the mark as she will, the pang of it will be always in her heart.' A tale of sin, punishment and atonement, The Scarlet Letter exposes the moral rigidity of a 17th-Century Puritan New England community when faced with the illegitimate child of a young mother. Regarded as the first real heroine of American fiction, it is Hester Prynne's strength of character that resonates with the reader when her harsh sentence is cast. It is in her refusal to reveal the identity of the father in the face of her accusers that Hawthorne champions his heroine and berates the weakness of Society for attacking the innocent.

My thoughts
The Scarlet Letter was a book I saw randomly in the bookshop, saw that it was on offer, remembered that it was on the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die list and so, I decided to buy it. I started reading it without reading any reviews of it first or checking the ratings on Goodreads, two facts that definitely played a huge part in my deciding to read it (and also, to try and finish it).

I really did have a problem when reading The Scarlet Letter. It's not that the story isn't interesting. It really is. If you think about it, the book is set in an era when women with children born out of wedlock were shunned by the community and was published at a time when people weren't very receptive of the idea, either (or so I suppose). So, the fact that the main character in this book is such a woman (who has borne a child out of wedlock) allows us to "see" how the person who is subjected to such treatment deals with the whole situation and can account for a very interesting tale.

However, (and that is a BIG however) the book is just unreadable. The language is far too complex, with difficult to comprehend sentences and very long paragraphs with not much going on in them. All of that made the book too difficult to understand at times, which resulted in me ignoring large parts of certain chapters (though I had read them, but failed miserably to comprehend them). And I think it was a pity not to enjoy a book for such a reason. But, really, the difficulty in reading this book took too much of the story away from me.

As for the story and the characters, I can't really say they were clear-cut characters. They were pretty difficult to figure out, as the author made them keep secrets even from the readers, not just from one another. The little child, Pearl, thoroughly creeped me out for the better part of the book and I really couldn't find myself caring for any of the characters in this book.

So as you might expect, this book is not going to be getting a good rating from me. But, from what I've seen on Goodreads, there have been a great number of people who have really enjoyed reading The Scarlet Letter and have managed to "get over" the whole language issue. So, if you like the sound of the story (just like I did), then do not hesitate to try it out for yourself. Even though I did not enjoy it in the end, I am glad that I at least gave this book a chance.

Rating: 2/10


Author:
Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer, who lived in the 19th century. He is considered to be a key figure in the development of 19th century American Literature. A large part of his writing centers around New England (such as The Scarlet Letter). Some of his other works include:


You can find out more about the author HERE.


Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011, Victorian Literature Challenge, 1001 Books To Read Before You Die (personal challenge)

Monday, 5 December 2011

Mortlock by Jon Mayhew

Mortlock by Jon Mayhew
First published by Bloomsbury in 2010 (this edition by Bloomsbury in 2011)

Description (from Goodreads)

The sister is a knife-thrower in a magician's stage act, the brother an undertaker's assistant. Neither orphan knows of the other's existence. Until, that is, three terrible aunts descend on the girl's house and imprison her guardian, the Great Cardamom. His dying act is to pass the girl a note with clues to the secret he carries to his grave.






My thoughts
That there is the most awful book description I have ever seen! I am pretty sure that is not what is on the back cover of the book, but I can't find the book right now, so I'll just have to keep this one for now. Anyways, other than that fact, this one was a book that try as I might, I just couldn't get myself to enjoy.


((I found another description (from the author's website this time). I think it's better than that one above.))



A wonderfully exciting, dark, and gruesomely gothic middle-grade chiller, set in Victorian London. Perfect and pacy entertainment for both girls and boys of 8+. 

For orphan Josie, life is good with Cardamom, the great magician who took her in as a baby and with whom she now performs her astounding knife-throwing act. But then three mysterious ‘aunts’ turn up - taking over the house and transforming into vicious, giant crows, in thrall to evil Lord Corvis. With his dying breath, Cardamon tells Josie to ‘seek the Amarant - and Mortlock’.  So begins a terrifying quest for Josie and her newly discovered twin, Alfie, the undertaker’s mute, who soon realize that the legendary Amarant is a plant with power over life and death, which Cardamon, Corvis and Mortlock first discovered many years ago in Abyssinia.

Only the final destruction of the plant can quench Corvis’s growing powers and evil plans.  Braving a circus of the living dead, and a terrifying encounter with the Amarant in a graveyard, Josie and Alfie will need all their courage and skills to save themselves and the world.



I'm not sure what it was about it that I just didn't like. The storyline itself was not bad. It was based on a rather interesting idea; it was the delivery that I found to be rather lacking.


The story focuses on two long lost siblings; they grew up separately, one - Josie - as an assistant to a magician and the other - Alfie - as an assistant to an undertaker. But circumstances lead to them being reunited, when three terrible aunts arrive at Josie's home and threaten her and her guardian, Cardamom. In the space of days, Cardamom is dead (yes, guess who did it!) and leaves Josie with barely just enough information to figure out where she came from. Joining forces with Alfie, the two children go through some pretty tough situations before finally figuring out the mystery.


So, as you can see, there is much to go with and it does have the potential to make a pretty good and fast paced story. But for me, it turned out to be a little disappointing. There were quite a few pretty gory scenes of birds devouring various things and of weird transformations, which would be pretty scary for the intended audience, but other than that, the story felt a bit flat. It didn't feel as if the two children were very anxious and scared, and as a result, it didn't make me feel scared.


But then again, I do concede that I read this from a different perspective that if I had been a younger reader. I think I will have felt much different after having read it if I were younger. So, if you do like the sound of it, then don't let my review put you off it. Each to their own!


Rating: 3/10


Author:
To find out information about Jon Mayhew and his book, you can check out his website HERE.




Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011, British Books Challenge 2011

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Past Perfect by Leila Sales

Past Perfect by Leila Sales
First published by Simon & Schuster in 2011 (this edition was an eGalley, provided through the S&S GalleyGrab programme)

Description (from Goodreads)


All Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend, hone her talents as an ice cream connoisseur, and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village (yes, really), it turns out Ezra’s working there too. Which makes moving on and forgetting Ezra a lot more complicated…even when Chelsea starts falling for someone new.Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think that a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. But with Ezra all too present, and her new crush seeming all too off limits, all Chelsea knows is that she’s got a lot to figure out about love. Because those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it….

My thoughts
Past Perfect was such a perfect and sweet little book! I remember being in the mood for something light and funny with a bit of romance to top it all off, and this book definitely delivered!

In Past Perfect, we have Chelsea, a girl who has spent the last I-can't-remember-how-many summers working at the Essex Colonial Village; first, because her parents worked there and they used to take her with them and then, as a fully paid re-enactor. So, she was really looking forward to working at the mall this year with her best friend. But then her best friend thinks it's a good idea to work at the Colonial Village and so, Chelsea ends up working there for yet another summer. And lots of other things going on, including ex-boyfriends working at the Colonial Village too, them dating other people and also, cute romantic interests; all amidst the big "war" that has been going on between the Colonial re-enactors and the Civil War re-enactors.

This book focuses a lot on the relationships between the characters, and not just the romantic ones. There is the relationship between the exes, the relationship between two people who are attracted to each other but know that the attraction could pose some problems, the relationship between friends, the relationships between co-workers. But it still doesn't feel too relationship-heavy, as it's all part of being a person.

My favourite thing about this book - and which made it one of the most unique books I have read this year - was the setting. The story actually takes place "now", but, because of the fact that the setting is the Colonial Village, it has a rather historical feel to it. The feud between the Colonials and the Civil Warriors and the actual "War" going on between them is fun, as they actually come up with some hilarious ideas to win the battles.

The romantic story in this book is also rather cute, as are the two characters involved. I'm not going to go into many details, but I am going to say that even though the romance is very "Romeo-and-Juliet"-esque (as in they are on opposite sides of a feud, you do end up wanting them to come to their senses and just ignore the stupid war already!

I know this is not a good review, but a) it has been ages since I last wrote a review, b) I have been writing this review for over two weeks (with not much success!) and c) it has been ages since I read it, so I can't really remember that much about it. I promise the next ones will be much better, though!

Rating: 8/10


Author: 
Leila Sales grew up just outside Boston, Massachussets. She has a degree from the Universiry of Chicago and currently lives in Brooklyn. Other than Past Perfect, she has also written a book called Mostly Good Girls.



Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011

Monday, 21 November 2011

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
First published by Viking in 2009 (this edition by Penguin in 2010)

Description (from Goodreads)

Annie loves Duncan — or thinks she does. Duncan loves Annie, but then, all of a sudden, he doesn’t. Duncan really loves Tucker Crowe, a reclusive Dylanish singer-songwriter who stopped making music ten years ago. Annie stops loving Duncan, and starts getting her own life. 
In doing so, she initiates an e-mail correspondence with Tucker, and a connection is forged between two lonely people who are looking for more out of what they’ve got. Tucker’s been languishing (and he’s unnervingly aware of it), living in rural Pennsylvania with what he sees as his one hope for redemption amid a life of emotional and artistic ruin — his young son, Jackson. But then there’s also the new material he’s about to release to the world: an acoustic, stripped-down version of his greatest album,Juliet — entitled, Juliet, Naked
What happens when a washed-up musician looks for another chance? And miles away, a restless, childless woman looks for a change? Juliet, Naked is a powerfully engrossing, humblingly humorous novel about music, love, loneliness, and the struggle to live up to one’s promise.

My thoughts
Having already read two other Nick Hornby books this year (High Fidelity and Slam) and enjoying them both very much, I decided to read Juliet, Naked. Well, it was also because I was looking for a small book to travel with. But I was going to be reading it sometime, anyway, it just happened sooner rather than later!

Juliet, Naked felt rather different to High Fidelity and Slam, for some reason. In Juliet, Naked, we have Annie and Duncan,a couple who have been together for years and think they love each other. But Duncan also has this pathological "infatuation" with Tucker Crowe - a reclusive musician who has been out of the music scene for nigh in ten years -, that seems to always take precedence over Annie. At the beginning on the book, Annie and Duncan are actually on a Tucker Crowe pilgrimage; visiting all the places that had some significance to the songs from Crowe's disks.

Then, when they get back to England, Duncan gets sent a cd, which has yet to be released and is titled Juliet, Naked, as it features acoustic demos of all the songs on Tucker Crowe's last (and greatest) album. In a conflict of opinions, Annie and Duncan grow further apart and Annie starts a correspondence with Tucker, through a string of bizzare events! And that's where I am going to stop, because if I go on, I'll just summarise the whole book for you!

In Juliet, Naked, we have a variety of different characters. First, we have Annie. Annie is a lovely, if slightly timid (in the beginning) woman, who has become comfortable in the knowledge that she has someone there for her, despite the fact that that someone isn't really there for her. But she starts seeing things more clearly and realises that what she has with Duncan doesn't really mean anything and that she has - essentially - wasted her best years on him. Duncan was a complete and utter idiot. He had his head in cloud-cuckoo-land, was - at best - just passively interested in what Annie was doing and was a firm believer that she could not have an opinion about Tucker Crowe's music; only the best of them, those names Crewe-ologists, had the right (as well as the in-depth knowledge) to do such a thing. Tucker Crowe was another lovely character; it was obvious he had his issues (and was doing a pretty good job of avoiding them), but you couldn't really help but like him. And then there was Jackson! At times, I felt a little sorry for him, but he was such a cute little boy!

The focus of this book is how relationships work (or don't work). There are prime examples of what NOT to do to make a relationship work and other examples of what to do so as to say that you tried, but it just didn't work out in the end (or you have yet to see what will come of it). Nick Hornby has managed to create yet another memorable male character in the form of Duncan; though he will not stay in your mind for how adorable he may sound, but for how idiotic and blind he really is (and actually reaches the point of not recognising what he's lost even when he has lost it). It takes a lot of skill to do that.

Rating: 6/10


Author:
You can find out more about Nick Hornby and his books at the end of my review of High Fidelity.


Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challnge 2011, British Books Challenge 2011

Veronika Decides To Die by Paulo Coelho

Veronika Decides To Die by Paulo Coelho
First published by HarperCollins in 1999 (this edition by HarperCollins in 2009)


Description (from Goodreads)


Twenty-three-year-old Veronika seems to have everything she could wish for. She goes to popular night spots, dates attractive men, and has a caring family. Yet something is lacking in her life. So on the morning of November 11, 1997, Veronika decides to die.After she awakens from an overdose, Veronika finds she has only days to live. The story follows Veronika through those intense days as, to her own surprise, she finds herself drawn into the enclosed world of the local hospital she is staying in. In this heightened state she experiences things she has never allowed herself to feel: hatred, fear, curiosity, love, and sexual awakening. Gradually she discovers that every second of her existence is a choice between living and dying. Paulo Coelho's Veronika Decides to Die, based on his own moving personal experience, is about people who do not fit into patterns society considers to be normal. It is about madness and the need to find an alternative way of living for people who face prejudices because they think in a different way. InVeronika Decides to Die, Paulo Coelho invites the reader to discover the world that lies outside the routine and addresses the fundamental question asked by millions: what am I doing here today?" and "why do I go on living?"

My thoughts
Veronika Decides To Die is the first book by Paulo Coelho that I have ever read. Though we have had a number of his books in our house for ages (my brother went through a Coelho phase a few years ago), I had never really felt the urge to read one of them. Until I decided it was finally the time to give one of them a try. Even though Paulo Coelho is more well known for his book "The Alchemist", it was VDTD that I decided to try first, because I rather liked the sound of the story.

At the beginning of this book, Veronika attempts to kill herself with an overdose of pills. It's not that she is unhappy; it's that she's not really happy that leads her to make that decision. That she doesn't really have anything worth living for; that her life is devoid of meaning. She just did the same thing every day, that she just reached that point where she knew exactly where she would be at what time the next day. No deviation from the norm. But Veronika does not die. Instead when she wakes up, she finds herself in a mental hospital, the infamous "Villette", where she is told that the pills she overdosed on caused very serious damage to her heart and that she probably would only live for a week at most.

At the beginning of that week, Veronika just feels as if she has been cheated. She wanted to die, but was unsuccessful in the attempt. She doesn't like the fact that she doesn't get the chance to decide when she dies (like she did with her suicide attempt); that her heart will just fail her at any time. After a couple of days of not wanting to accept the fact that she is not dead, she starts associating with the other "tenants" of Villete. Each one of them has their own story of how they ended up there and each one of them influences Veronika in their own way.

Though Veronika Decides To Die was a great story, I didn't find myself completely swept away by it. A lot of my friends read Coelho when I was still in school and they all thought it was weird that I hadn't tried reading one of his books. Now that I have, I do recognise the appeal, but not so much as to say "Now, why didn't I read this years ago?". I did like his style of writing, so I am definitely going to be reading something else by Coelho (after all, we do have quite a few of his books!) I really liked how he dealed with the psychological aspect of the whole story and I liked his choice of characters. Each one of them brought his/her own to the story: craziness (from somewhere you don't expect), disappointment, hope, even love.

And, to end this review, a quote that I loved:
“Be like the fountain that overflows, not like the cistern that merely contains.” 

Rating: 7/10

Author:
Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian author, born in 1947 in Rio de Janeiro. He worked as a theatre director, an actor, a lyricist and a journalist, before finally becoming an author. He has written many books which have been translated into many languages. Some of those include The Alchemist, Brida, The Devil and Miss Prym, The Witch of Portobello and, his latest, The Winner Stands Alone.


Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011

Friday, 18 November 2011

String Bridge Blog Tour: Review of String Bridge by Jessica Bell

So, I am back!! At long last! Had quite a bit of downtime, due to moving house (and having internet reconnection problems for nearly two weeks), but now everything is back to normal!

Today I am participating in a blog tour for Jessica Bell's debut book, String Bridge.


String Bridge by Jessica Bell
First published by Lucky Press, LLC in 2011 (this edition was an ARC provided by the author)

Description (from Goodreads)


Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a 'proper' career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage--and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits ...


My thoughts
String Bridge tells the story of Melody, an Australian musician, who came to Greece to sing and ended up getting married to a Greek music promoter, Alex. But life in Athens is not what she expected it to be. She is not doing any gigs, but instead has sort-of settled into the roles of businesswoman, mother and wife. Over the years, she has come to miss that feeling she got when she was creating and performing and it has instead been substituted by the dreary monotone of doing the same - unenjoyable - thing, day after day. Her relationship with Alex seems to have lost its spark, with Alex not wanting Melody to have anything to do with performing music of her own and Melody having that nagging feeling that Alex may be cheating on her.

In this book, we get to see how Melody deals with all these things that seem to have come upon her. And the way with which she does that is realistic. During the course of the book, Melody encounters the everyday, small scale problems everyone has to deal with, but she also comes to deal with other, much bigger events. There was one in particular that I found to be so devastating, I was actually wondering at the time: "Oh, Jessica, how could you have done this??".

As a character, I couldn't always sympathise with Melody, because I did feel she overreacted a few times. I suppose it's just a different kind of temperament, that I am just not accustomed to. But she was real, strong, not afraid to chase after her dreams. Alex, on the other hand, took a bit of getting used to. His attitude changed considerably in different parts of the book, but that didn't make him a bad character; just one who seemed to have made some not necessarily wrong, but rather misguided choices.

All in all, String Bridge is one of those books that is not all that easy to put down. While I was reading it, I just had to keep going just to find out what the author had prepared for the characters next. Jessica Bell's writing is very good and rather lyrical, but it all fit together with Melody's musical personality! And seeing as Jessica is just as talented as her character, there is also an soundtrack to accompany the book, entitled "Melody Hill - On The Other Side", links to which you can find below.



Rating: 7/10


Author:
Jessica Bell is a literary women's fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter who grew up in Melbourne, Australia, to two gothic rock musicians who had successful independent careers during the '80s and early '90s.

She spent much of her childhood travelling to and from Australia to Europe, experiencing two entirely different worlds, yet feeling equally at home in both environments. She currently lives in Athens, Greece and works as a freelance writer/editor for English Language Teaching publishers worldwide, such as HarperCollins, Pearson Education and Macmillan Education.

In addition to String Bridge, Jessica has published a book of poetry called Twisted Velvet Chains. A full list of poems and short stories published in various anthologies and literary magazines can be found under Published Works & Awards, on her website.

From September 2012 Jessica will be hosting the Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca, home of Odysseus.





And now, for all the links!



Purchase links:

Other links
String Bridge Website: http://www.stringbridge.com/



(Disclaimer: Anything stated in this review reflects my personal opinion of the book. Other than receiving a copy of the book for review purposes, I have not been compensated in any other way for what I have said.)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Time Will Come (9)



The Time Will Come is a great meme hosted by Jodie over at Books For Company. The point of this meme is to list a book that has been sitting on our bookshelves unread for too long and we have been meaning to get round to for ages!

This week's pick is:

My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

Ten-year-old Jamie Matthews has just moved to the Lake District with his Dad and his teenage sister, Jasmine for a 'Fresh New Start'. Five years ago his sister's twin, Rose, was blown up by a terrorist bomb. His parents are wrecked by their grief, Jasmine turns to piercing, pink hair and stops eating. The family falls apart. But Jamie hasn't cried in all that time. To him Rose is just a distant memory. Jamie is far more interested in his cat, Roger, his birthday Spiderman T-shirt, and in keeping his new friend Sunya a secret from his dad. And in his deep longing and unshakeable belief that his Mum will come back to the family she walked out on months ago. When he sees a TV advert for a talent show, he feels certain that this will change everything and bring them all back together once and for all.


I'd wanted to buy this one ever since I first saw it. So, when I spotted a rather cheap hardback copy of it in a Greek bookshop, I bought is straight away. Needless to say, it is still sitting on my bookshelf, unread, though I have picked it up a few times while trying to decide what to read next. Soon.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Bookie Brunch: The Smell of Books and Other Obsessions



Welcome to Bookie Brunch
Come join the discussion!
Founder: Sasha Soren (Random Magic)
* Every Sunday*

Today's host: Phanee at funny wool
Next week’s host (November 13th): The Fluidity of Time
This week’s discussion open through: November 8th

Your host this week:
Phanee at funny wool (meeeee!!)

My guests this week:
Kiwi at Assortments
Emma at Book Angel Booktopia
Stevie at Sable Caught (on YouTube)

Kate at That Book Blog


Welcome to the Bookie Brunch! Created by the wonderful Sasha Soren, the Bookie Brunch is a traveling event where bookish people get together to discuss bookish things. Every Sunday, readers will share their opinions on a particular topic, and you are welcome to join us!

Please join me in welcoming Kiwi, Emma, Stevie and Kate to funny wool! (For all of you who are visiting for the first time, I know that my blog name is weird, but I just came up with it in a pretty random way, which is why it might not make sense!)



It also happens that today is the day that I am moving house! (Yay! Exciting stuff!) So, I hope everything with the post scheduling goes ok!




ON THE MENU THIS WEEK


Do you like the smell of books? 



Related topics to consider: Do you have any other odd book-related obsessions? For example - must have matching covers in your series books, must be the first to open the book or crease the cover, or can't stand creased covers or pages, if you have both paperback and hardcover versions of a series, the cover art has to match etc




LET US BEGIN!



First up, we have Kiwi!!



(source)
My beverage for the brunch: a mug of hot chocolate with coffee for me
My food for the brunch: Cheese toast!

My answer: I lurrve the smell of book, especially old ones- the yellowed paper and the musty smell.*sighs* Heck even,new crisp paperbacks smell brilliant and inviting. There apartments I live in has a library of its own; the librarian has been lighting the same incense every since he opened his library. So ALL his book smell of that particular incense which I love.
Odd-book related obsessions- mine are very Monica Geller sorts. He he!
--> Cracking spines! I cannot stand people who crack the spines of books, it makes me cringe and I swear I can hear the book groaning in pain!
 --> New books, I HAVE to read them before I lend them out and when I do I cannot bear to crease the book. It has to remain brand new looking after I read it! *sheepish grin*

Thanks you for having me over at Bookie Brunch! It was a pleasure brunching with you! :D



Second up, we have Emma!!




Ohhh such a tough question to answer. No I don’t think I sniff books but I maybe immune to the smell of books as I work in a library and get to be surrounded by the precious all day 5 days a week. Yeah, I know you are totally jealous but try lending them to teenagers and actively encouraging lethargic teens to read while you’re at it. Hmmm not so appealing to some now is it – but I have to admit I completely love it. Going completely off the point here but I have to say this is one of the most rewarding things I have ever some with my life besides having children. When I get a pupil tell me they have enjoyed a book that I have recommended for then and what else would I recommend – well that my friends is absolutely priceless.

Goes back to the point – so no I think I am immune to the smell of books. But of the shininess of the new covers and un-creased pages when new books come into the house or the library then that is another story. What can I say but I am really glad that we have the covers to go over the books in the library. Pupils think I am psychotic in my nagging for looking after books. At the start of term my library lessons had the pupils making me posters for the rules of the library and I can tell you that every single poster had the words RESPECT THE BOOKS on it.

(source)
In my own bookcase I do like to keep the books in pristine condition as much as I am able. Occasionally I bribe the girls to dust my books for me – who wants children now :D I always, always use a bookmark and actively encourage the pupils/my girls to so the same. Dog eared pages are such a no no – ick. Plus the cracking of the spine of a book literally sends shivers up my spine. Let me tell you a little story. On one of the first days of school a girl came into the library where a pile of shiny new books were looking tempting on my new book stand (yes, I have a stand, or 3, for new books). So tempting in fact that she went to inspect one but instead of just looking at the synopsis and flicking a few pages she cracked the spine. Saying it like that ‘cracked the spine’ is exactly how I felt about it – jarring bones being snapped. Needless to say ‘Miss’ went a bit mental. The pupil does still borrow books but has a lot more respect for them since that day.

Ummm so yes I guess I have my quirks when it comes to books and how you treat them, but I do think it is a good thing to teach people to respect books; that way they last a lot longer and in the case of library books this means that a lot more people will be able to enjoy them. Budgets are greatly limited these days so looking after books is very important as we just do not have the budget to replace lost or damaged books. I hope this makes you look at how you treat books in a whole new light – if you respect that book then it allows the opportunity for other people to enjoy it too. Now how is that for a reward? Don’t you want a book that you completely love to get into as many hands as possible? So now you know why I say RESPECT THE BOOKS.


Next, we have Stevie, coming to us in vlog form!






And now, Kate!



Drink (and food - in a way!) of choice: I think my drink of choice will have to be a mug of real hot chocolate topped off with some whipped cream and marshmallows. Yum.

(source)
I love the smell of books, yes, but generally the older ones which have been gathering dust on shelves for years. New ones smell nice enough but they just don’t have that same sense of nostalgia about them, do they?
I have many oddities when it comes to books, like having bookmarks facing the exact right way and reading my hardbacks without the dust jacket on. Some people don’t like to break the spines of their books, but I’m obsessional about doing it every 50 pages or so. I know, it’s weird. I don’t mind much about having book covers match, not anymore, because I’d rather get the book cheap than have it look pretty on my shelf - and spend more money.





And last, but not least, we have me!!!



Drink of choice: I've been in a tea mood as of late (what with my cold and all), so I am going to go with a nice hot cup of strong English tea, with two spoons of sugar!

What's not to love about the smell of books?? Old and musty smelling books just add so much more to the story between those pages! I had the good fortune of growing up in a very bookish family, so I have always been accustomed to having old, dusty books to read. And believe me when I say that we have A LOT of them... (My brother and I have decided to catalogue all our books, now that they're all accessible because of the move. Hopefully we will do it!) I also love the smell of new books, just a teeny bit less, though!

Isn't this one of the cutest bookmarks you've ever seen???
(source)
As for other bookish obsessions, I have to say I am pretty ok! I don't mind cracked spines, though I absolutely hate bent covers! I also don't mind having different editions of the books in a series on my shelf. I don't usually feel the need to have all the books in a particular series with matching covers and matching sizes (though it definitely looks nice when they're all the same). But there is one thing that I absolutely, well and truly hate and that is creased pages, especially when they're creased to act as a bookmark. USE AN ACTUAL BOOKMARK!! Seriously! I just find that so irritating. That is the reason bookmarks exist!

So, maybe I do have a few after all!



What are YOUR thoughts on the matter??? I would love to know! Really looking forward to reading all your answers!



And we have some goodies for this Bookie Brunch!

About: She was a Victorian parson's daughter, from a remote English village, who wrote a notorious and beloved novel. That's what many people know about Charlotte Brontė, the author of Jane Eyre. Not as many
are aware that she lived a life as rich in adventure, romance, and tragedy as her famous novel. In this historical fiction thriller, Brontė finds herself embroiled in a dangerous chain of events that  forces her to confront demons from her past. She works to unravel a deadly web of intrigue that threatens not only her own safety but the very fabric of the British Empire.


Author commentary: I happened upon her story years ago, by sheer accident. I was a premed student, but my favorite study break was browsing the shelves in the library. One day I picked up a biography
of Charlotte Brontė. I was enthralled by her experience at a grim Victorian boarding school, her extraordinary siblings, her dramatic rise to literary fame, her late in life marriage, and her early, tragic death. Life intervened. I never went to med school. But I never forgot her. (More)


Shown above: Portrait of Charlotte Brontė. Cropped from Charlotte Brontė (1850) by George Richmond. Chalk. National Portrait Gallery, London (UK). A Bookie Brunch discussion mentionining this author and a Jane Eyre video clip may be found here.

Excerpt: There are certain events that have the power to ravage lives and alter the fate of nations, yet they transpire unnoticed by the general public and leave no record because their history is a secret locked within the minds of the few mortals involved. Such were the events that I, Charlotte Brontė, experienced in the year of 1848... (More)

And for the exciting stuff!!

Details: A cozy mystery for lovers of costume drama, mysteries or literary fiction, or anyone who loves the work of Charlotte Brontė. To win, just join the discussion by leaving a thoughtful comment, or an interesting reply to someone else's answer, in the comments section below - and leave your email so you can be contacted if you win this book. Have fun and good luck! International. Through December 15, 2011, 12 midnight EDT.

Goodies brought by: Sasha Soren (Random Magic)
Find Random Magic: Trailer | Print (Amazon) | Kindle
Explore Random Magic: YouTube | Tumblr | Twitter



 

Friday, 4 November 2011

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
First published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in 2010 (this edition by Razorbill in 2010)

Book #2 in the Caster Chronicles
(My review of Beautiful Creatures - Book #1)

Description (from Goodreads)

Ethan Wate used to think of Gatlin, the small Southern town he had always called home, as a place where nothing ever changed. Then he met mysterious newcomer Lena Duchannes, who revealed a secret world that had been hidden in plain sight all along. A Gatlin that harbored ancient secrets beneath its moss-covered oaks and cracked sidewalks. A Gatlin where a curse has marked Lena's family of powerful supernaturals for generations. A Gatlin where impossible, magical, life-altering events happen. 
Sometimes life-ending. 
Together they can face anything Gatlin throws at them, but after suffering a tragic loss, Lena starts to pull away, keeping secrets that test their relationship. And now that Ethan's eyes have been opened to the darker side of Gatlin, there's no going back. Haunted by strange visions only he can see, Ethan is pulled deeper into his town's tangled history and finds himself caught up in the dangerous network of underground passageways endlessly crisscrossing the South, where nothing is as it seems.

My thoughts
When I spotted a copy of this one in a charity shop, I just had to buy it! I had really, really enjoyed reading Beautiful Creatures and I was excited at the prospect of reading the second book in the series. And for £1.99??? I just couldn't resist.

As this is the second book in the series, I will probably be mentioning stuff from the previous book, so if you haven't read it but are planning to, just proceed at your own risk. (There, you've been warned.) (I'll still try to be vague, though!)

Beautiful Darkness was every bit as good as Beautiful Creatures. When Beautiful Creatures finished, we were left with Lena in a bit of an inbetween state and with quite a bit of woe and sorrow going around because of the death of one of the "main" secondary characters. In this second book, things take on a completely different turn. Lena is becoming increasingly distant and hanging out with the "wrong" crowd. Ethan knows she is trying to find a way to cope with everything, but he is rather sad that she is choosing to distance herself from him in the process, knowing full well that she is also doing it to protect him from her. There is also the matter of Ethan finding out that he is more than he thought he was; that he really does play an important part in what is going on with Lena and not just in the way that he thought he did.

Link plays a much larger part in this book than he did in the previous one. It doesn't feel as if he is acting like a substitute for Lena, because he was an important character in the first book. It's just like any normal situation. When a boy (ie Ethan) "stops" having a girlfriend, he hangs out more with his friends (ie Link). We also have the addition of a few new characters. First, we have Liv, who came from the UK to Gatlin to work with Aunt Marian and who also knows more about the Caster World than she lets on. Then, we have John Breed, one of the "wrong" crowd Lena is hanging out with. But there is a bit of a problem with John Breed. We have no idea where he came from, what he is, what his intentions are. And also, we get to see a completely different Ridley. Remember the one who caused a lot of the problems in the first book? Yes, her. All pretty mysterious.

Beautiful Darkness has some pretty surprising revelations that keep up the interest in lieu of the third book in the series, Beautiful Chaos, which only just came out in October. Which I definitely will be buying!

All in all, Beautiful Darkness was neither better nor worse than Beautiful Darkness. I found each one of them as enjoyable as the other, a fact I was very glad of, because sometimes, second books aren't as good as the first ones. But, seriously, this series is definitely one to look out for. It's very well written and it also has a male narrator!! (Rather refreshing after all those female narrators!)

Rating: 8/10


Authors
You can find out more about Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl at the end of my post about Beautiful Creatures!


Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011, 2nd In A Series Challenge

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

One Day by David Nicholls

One Day by David Nicholls
First published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2009 (this edition by Hodder Paperbacks in 2010)

Description (from Goodreads)

'I can imagine you at forty,' she said, a hint of malice in her voice. 'I can picture it right now.' He smiled without opening his eyes. 'Go on then.' 15th July 1988. Emma and Dexter meet for the first time 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? Twenty years, two people, ONE DAY. 



My thoughts
One Day was a book that I had been seeing around quite a lot, especially since the trailer for the film (starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess) came out. I had seen it in my local bookshop a couple of times, but it always disappeared before I got a chance to buy it for myself. Sometime later, I was talking to my Grandma and the subject of books and my blog came up. She said that she had a book that is very popular, but which she read and pretty much hated. And then she said the book was called One Day.

So, you can see that when I got round to reading it myself, I was preparing for the worst. My Grandma has quite good taste in books (though not always), and it was one of the few times that she has expressed strong (bad) feelings about a book to me. But I still wanted to try and read it for myself and it sounded like a nice book to read on the beach, so I did.

The story is told in a rather different way. Emma and Dexter meet for the first time on the 15th of July 1988, the night of their graduation. Each chapter in the book is focused on events on or surrounding the 15th of July in later years. So, essentially, you get to see one day of every year in the lives of Emma and Dexter over the span of 20 years.

The book started off as rather promising. Both Emma and Dexter were perfectly likeable (Emma a little more so) and the story was progressing in a nice way. But then something happened that caused Dexter to act like a major idiot and resulted in my not liking him at all. And wondering why Emma puts up with all that idiocy (and other nice words I'm not going to mention). Emma was likeable throughout the novel; she has a lovely personality, is genuinely nice and sweet and definitely brings out the best in Dexter. Dexter is mostly an obnoxious, arrogant and supremely irritating boy (and, yes, I do mean boy, as he pointedly refuses to grow up for the greater part of the book) and it because of him that I ended up not enjoying the novel as much as I hoped to.

One Day is by no means a bad book. It is a lovely love story and it is told in a rather different, interesting way. The fact that the author chooses one day in each year to tell you about all things Emma and Dexter works very well and, essentially, allowed him to span the story over so many years, without it getting too tiring (seeing as there wasn't much space to put unnecessary information in). And then, there was that ending. I was shocked; I was appalled; I am still trying to figure out what on EARTH possessed the author to finish the book like that. You'll know what I mean when you read it.

Rating: 6/10


Author:
David Nicholls is a British author, screenwriter and actor. He studied English Literature and Drama at the University of Bristol. After he graduated, he won a scholarship to study at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York. Upon returning to the UK in 1991, he worked as an actor, as well as a screenwriter and script-editor. Other books by David Nicholls:


You can find out more about David Nicholls from his official website.


Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011, British Books Challenge 2011

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
First published by Faber & Faber in 2005 (this edition by Faber & Faber in 2006)

Description (from Goodreads)

From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Day comes a devastating new novel of innocence, knowledge, and loss. As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. 
Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special–and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together. Suspenseful, moving, beautifully atmospheric, Never Let Me Go is another classic by the author of The Remains of the Day.

My thoughts
When I bought this book, I had never heard of Kazuo Ishiguro. It just happened that one day, when I went to my local bookshop, they had just brought some new books in and this one was one of them. I read the description on the back cover, decided to buy it and when I got home put it away on my bookshelf. It stayed up there for quite some time (except for that one time when I decided to give it a try, opened the book up, saw the tiny font and decided to leave it) and the main reason I decided to finally read it was because my brother read it while we were on holiday in England and actually enjoyed it very much (and read it much faster than he thought he would).

Never Let Me Go tells the story of three people whose lives are closely interconnected: Kathy, Ruth and Tommy. As children, all three were students at an exclusive boarding school called Hailsham, a place of certain notoriety and mysterious rules, where every student is encouraged to be creative and is constantly reminded of how special he/she is. Told from Kathy's viewpoint, we get to experience everyone - and especially Ruth and Tommy - through her own eyes. All the story is a narration, with Kathy telling her story in chronological order - starting with their being students at Hailsham and ending with her being where she is at the moment.

The whole world described in this book is rather surreal. And what makes it even more surreal is the way in which it is described by Kathy. Her tone - as well as that can be inferred from the story - is just normal; as if she's just recounting something acceptable and non-condemnable. The story doesn't start out as very engaging. It's just a narration of sorts, referring to the three characters' childhood years. And then, you start to notice that word popping up, too often for it to be insignificant. "Donor". You start to wonder if what you are thinking could possible be the case and if so, then what kind of a sick book is this. And you read on and on, wanting to make sure that you have understood correctly.

Never in the book is exactly what happens and what everything means mentioned in a straightforward way. The author kind-of beats around the bush and lets your mind do the talking and the figuring out, which was one of the things I loved the most about this book. Another thing I loved were the characters. Even though I wasn't a big fan of Ruth and the way she behaved towards everyone else (and especially Kathy), all characters were excellently developed and with great depth.

All in all, if you have not read Never Let Me Go, I urge you to do so. Even if it looks like too much of a heavy read, I assure you it's not. And I don't think you will regret giving it a try.

Rating: 8/10


Author
Kazuo Ishiguro is a British novelist. He was actually born in Japan, but his family moved to the UK when he was rather young. He has an MA in Creative Writing from the Univesity of East Anglia. In 1989, he received the Man Booker prize for his book The Remains of the Day.


You can find out more about Kazuo Ishiguro and his books from his Goodreads page.


Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011, Dystopia Challenge

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Glimmerglass by Jenna Black

Glimmerglass by Jenna Black
First published by St. Martin's Griffin in 2010 (this edition by Pan Macmillan in 2010)

Book #1 in the Faeriewalker series


Description (from Goodreads)


Dana Hathaway doesn’t know it yet, but she’s in big trouble.  When her alcoholic mom shows up at her voice recital drunk, again, Dana decides she’s had enough and runs away to find her mysterious father in Avalon: the only place on Earth where the regular, everyday world and the captivating, magical world of Faerie intersect. But from the moment Dana sets foot in Avalon, everything goes wrong, for it turns out she isn't just an ordinary teenage girl—she's a Faeriewalker, a rare individual who can travel between both worlds, and the only person who can bring magic into the human world and technology into Faerie.
Soon, Dana finds herself tangled up in a cutthroat game of Fae politics. Someone's trying to kill her, and everyone seems to want something from her, from her newfound friends and family to Ethan, the hot Fae guy Dana figures she’ll never have a chance with… until she does.  Caught between two worlds, Dana isn’t sure where she’ll ever fit in and who can be trusted, not to mention if her world will ever be normal again…

My thoughts
Glimmerglass is the story of Dana, a young girl who lives with her alcoholic mother and has never had any contact with her father. One day things with her mother go too far and she makes the decision to leave her home and go to live with her father in Avalon: the only place on earth where faeries and humans co-exist. Her arrival in Avalon isn't what she expected and she soon finds out that a) her father is a pretty important man in Avalon and b) she is a Faeriewalker, an individual who can travel between both world and the only person who can bring technology to Faerie and magic into the human world.

Glimmerglass is the 4th faerie book I've read this year and I was very glad of the fact that it differed significantly from the others I've read (Wings by Aprilynne Pike, Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr and The Iron King by Julie Kagawa). They all follow the same basic outline (with Seelie and Unseelie courts), but each one of them has very distinctive features that set it apart from the other faerie books. (I'm always referring to the ones I have read myself) In Glimmerglass, there is a strong focus on politics. Dana's father and aunt are directly involved and Dana herself - because of the revelation of her status as a Faeriewalker - is thought to be a valuable asset for each and every one of the political big-wigs.

Dana, as a character, was ok. It is obvious in the beginning of the story that she is just plain fed up of "clearing up" after her mother (which is why she decides to up and leave), but then, as the story goes on, and she discovers more and more about her new friends, her father and Avalon, she becomes confused, defensive and distrustful. She is headstrong and tries to make decisions for herself, and while I can't say I loved her, she didn't come off as too annoying.

I was really appalled by the "parent situation" in this book, too. Why is it that in every other young adult book the protagonist has to come from a broken/nonexistent/noncaring family??? Her mother's behaviour throughout the book was pretty bad and irritating and her father wasn't so great (but without being too bad either). As for the boyfriend situation, I have to admit that I didn't really like Ethan. I much preferred a certain other person who appears later on in the book! (If you've read the book, you know who I'm talking about!)

Glimmerglass is a book that is definitely worth reading, if you are in the mood for something fairy-like, but with a splash of something else too. The characters are well developed, the storytelling is good and the plot while, in my opinion, isn't very fast paced, it is definitely engaging and appealing enough. I, for one, will definitely be reading the next books in the series.

Rating: 7/10


Author
Jenna Black has a BA in Physical Anthropology and French from Duke University. Initially, she wanted to be a primatologist, but then found out that primates spend most of their time doing ... not much! She has published quite a few books, including the next two in the Faeriewalker series.


You can find out more about Jenna Black and her books from her official website!


Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011, 1st In A Series Challenge 
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