Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Slam

My second Nick Hornby book! I''l probably read my third one in a month or so, as there is a copy of Juliet, Naked somewhere on the bookshelf. On to this review, then!


Slam by Nick Hornby 
First published by Penguin Books in 2007 (this edition by Penguin Books in 2008)







Description: (from back cover)
''There was this time when everything seemed to have come together. And so obviously it was time to go and screw it all up.'
Sam is sixteen and a skater. Just so there are no terrible misunderstandings: skating = skateboarding. There's no ice. Life is ticking along nicely for Sam: his mum's just got rid of her rubbish boyfriend, he's thinking about college and he's met someone. Alicia.


Then a little accident happens. One with big consequences for someone just finding his way in life. Sam can't just run (let alone skate) away from this one. He's a boy facing a man's problems and the question is - has he got what it takes to confront them?


Opinions:
I enjoyed this book so much! It's only my second book by Nick Hornby, but I have to say he writes wonderfully! It was in no way similar to High Fidelity (you can find my review here). I am only saying that because quite a few authors tend to write in the same way (that they have found to work for them), regardless of what topic they are writing about. Anyway, on to the actual review now.

This book is about a boy, Sam, who meets a girl, Alicia, and everything seems to be going ok. But then something happens. The back cover describes it as an accident. Now, what would you think this could be?? It involves a boy and a girl. So, yes, obviously the book is about teenage pregnancy. Don't go blaming me I've spoilt the book for you. I think it's mentioned in the book in either the 1st or 2nd chapter. So, you do find out soon enough. If you haven't already sussed it out from the back cover.

I can't remember if I have read a book before that deals with the issue of teenage pregnancy, but I have to say that the author went about it wonderfully. He's caught the whole thrill of a relationship, the cooling off, the unexpected pregnancy and the 'telling-the-parents' parts and he has described them in a way that is completely and utterly believable. In my opinion (even though I have not had any teenage pregnancy cases among my friends and family), the way that the author describes the whole process in the book, is also the way it actually happens in real life. There is not one part of it that I wouldn't have believed.

I loved all the main characters in this book: Sam and Alicia, as well as their parents. They all seemed to react in exactly the way I would expect them to react, if they had been my parents. Well, not exactly, but I think you will understand what I mean, if you get round to reading it!

Rating: 8/10


Author:
You can find out more about Nick Hornby from my review of his book, 'High Fidelity', which you can find here.

Counts as Book #22 in my 100 Books In A Year Challenge and as Book #11 in my British Books Challenge 2011!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Cabinet of Curiosities

I received this book from Bloomsbury, through Becky of The Bookette, who managed to get Bloomsbury Publishing to sponsor the month of February for her British Book Challenge 2011. I received 6 books in the parcel and I am now going to review the first one I read out of the bunch!


The Cabinet of Curiosities by Paul Dowswell
First published by Bloomsbury in 2010 (this edition by Bloomsbury in 2011)





Description: (from Goodreads.com)
When Lukas Declercq is orphaned, his uncle summons him to Prague, a refuge for Europe’s greatest alchemists and natural philosophers. Uncle Anselmus is court physician to Rudolph II, the reclusive and unstable emperor. He is also curator of Rudolph’s bizarre Cabinet of Curiosities, a series of vast rooms stuffed with wonders and scientific marvels. As Rudolph retreats further into his fantasy world, the threat of rebellion hangs in the air. Dorantes, a diplomat from Spain, comes with his daughter, Celestina, on a mission from Philip II to persuade Rudolph to give up his heretical ways. Soon Lukas discovers the terrible truth behind Dorantes’s mission. But sinister forces have plans for Lukas too, and before he can thwart the plot against the emperor, Lukas must gamble on Celestina’s loyalty in order to save his own life.


Opinions:
This book was a rather quick and enjoyable read. It tells the story of a boy, Lukas, who is on his way to Prague to join his uncle and train as a physician. He faces many adventures, which begin while he is still on his journey to Prague, and continue throughout the whole time he is living there with his uncle.


As I said before, it was quite a quick book to read. It was quite enjoyable, too, and I did like the book. However, I didn't love it. I think the characters were well-thought out and the story was quite interesting, especially with the inclusion of the Cabinet of Curiosities. From the description inside the book, there seemed to be everything in that Cabinet! Which was more of a series-of-rooms than an actual cabinet. You might wonder how a Cabinet can play such an important role, so as to have the entire book named for it, but it does. Most of the things that happen in the book, either directly or indirectly link back to the Cabinet. (I think I've said the word cabinet one too many times...)


Other than the Cabinet, the book also focused on alchemy (seeing as most physicians at that time were actually alchemists who brewed different concoctions and investigated the properties of ingredients, so as to use them as a way of curing ailments) and the Inquisition. I don't really enjoy books that feature the Spanish Inquisition in them, as there is usually too much violence and too many notions that I find completely and utterly stupid (but which were important to them) but this one was not that bad. Can't really say why, but it wasn't.


There was one character in the book that I did not like: the emperor, Rudolph. From what I saw (after I looked into it a little), Mr. Dowswell has done his research and has pictured him correctly in the book. So my criticism is not for the way the character was developed in the book, but the character in general. He seemed like such a pathetic man. Afraid of everything and desperately seeking to find out the truth about the world. Which is not a condemnable fact in itself (does that sound right?), but it made him the weakest, most pitiable character in the book. It probably came with all the power of the position. Made him feel more vulnerable. I don't really know. Though, having said that, one thing I liked about him was that when he had made a decision, he kept it. Especially ones which were directly connected to the Church.


I didn't mind the author's style of writing. It was by no means fast paced, but it wasn't slow either. A good pace, which is definitely more suited to younger readers. I think I would have enjoyed it a little more, had I read this book when I was younger (which is impossible, but I'm just saying...)


Rating: 6/10


Author:
Paul Dowswell is a British author, who has written both fiction and non-fiction books. He worked in publishing for many years and has written a great number of books that have been published by an array of publishers in the UK. His books have also been published outside the UK. His books are mainly historical fiction (he studied History at university) and information books.


Some of his other books include:


Powder Monkey (The Sam Witchall series) (Amazon.co.uk | Goodreads)

Auslander (Amazon.co.uk | Goodreads)

Sektion 20 (Amazon.co.uk  | Goodreads)
Sektion 20 is his latest book.
You can find out more about the author here:

Counts as Book #21 in my 100 Books In A Year Challenge and as Book #10 in my British Books Challenge 2011!

(All pictures are from Goodreads)

Reminder: I received this book for free from Bloomsbury, as part of a prize pack. It has not influenced my review in any way.

Friday, 25 March 2011

The Messenger Of Athens

This is also a book we have had lying around the house for quite a few years. I remember my brother reading it at the time and telling me that he did not really enjoy it, so I sort-of put off reading it. I decided to give it a try this year, though, so here is the review.


The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi
First published by Bloomsbury in 2007 (this edition by Bloomsbury in 2008)

Book #1 in The Mysteries of the Greek Detective series


Description: (from back cover)
Lies, love, tragedy - and a stranger with the key to every secret
When the battered body of a young woman is discovered on a remote Greek island, the local police are quick to dismiss her death as an accident. Then, a stranger arrives, uninvited, from Athens, announcing his intention to investigate further. His methods are unorthodox, and he brings his own mystery into the web of dark secrets and lies. Who has sent him, on whose authority is he acting, and how does he know of dramas played out decades ago?


Opinions:
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, The Messenger of Athens is a book we have had lying around the house for quite a few years and that my brother had read it and hadn't enjoyed it. I would like to clarify that I did not start reading this book expecting it to be bad, nor was I in any way influenced by my brother's opinions on it.

So, now that's clear, I have to day I did not enjoy this book. But it was not a bad book, per se. I remember that we bought this book because it sounded quite interesting and something we could relate to, in a way (as we live in Greece). The story does sound quite interesting, from the description on the back cover. There has been a death of a young woman on a Greek island which is dismissed as an accident. But obviously, someone suspects foul play, so a detective from Athens is sent over to investigate the case.

So, there's a death AND foul play suspected. You think that might make an interesting story. Well, it's not really. This book is so very slow in its narrative, that it made me want to read it just so that I could finish it. I really don't like leaving books unfinished (even though I have done it sometimes). Just to explain why I found it slow, by the time I reached page 150 (out of the approximately 250 pages of the whole book), the detective had only found out two things about the whole case. Which probably makes you wonder what was going on in those 150 pages.

The book was not bad in every aspect. The characters were quite well developed, but I think that's what made the book progress in such a slow way. There was also one thing I liked about the narrative. I think that the alternating chapters set in the present (when the detective was investigating) and the ones set in the past (before the death). Another thing I liked about the book is that the author actually gave Greek names to her characters. I remember reading other books, that weren't necessarily set in Greece, but they featured Greek characters, but with Anglicised versions of Greek names or even just plain English names. I'm sorry, but that's just not realistic.

This was the first book in the (quite successful) Mysteries of the Greek Detective (or Greek Detective, for short) Series, followed by The Taint of Midas, The Doctor of Thessaly and The Lady of Sorrows, all featuring the Greek detective Hermes Diaktoros. I am not sure I will be reading any of the follow-up books in the near future, but I have to admit, the covers are quite pretty. I like the fact that they are simple, consistent and look good as a full series.

Rating: 4/10

Author:
Anne Zouroudi was born on the 1st day of the year 1959, in Lincolnshire. After she finished school, she started working in the IT industry, which led her to America. There she started to take writing seriously and bought a typewriter, on which she wrote her first short stories. When she moved back to the UK, she went on holiday to a small Greek island (which serves as a backdrop in her first novel, The Messenger of Athens). She lived for many years in Greece, where she met her husband and had her son. Anne Zouroudi currently lives in Derbyshire with her son, where she is working on a new instalment for the Greek Detective series.


More information about the author can be found here:
Anne Zouroudi Official Website
Anne Zouroudi on Goodreads
Anne Zouroudi on Amazon.co.uk

Counts as Book #20 in my 100 Books In A Year Challenge and as Book #9 in my British Books Challenge 2011!

(All pictures are from Goodreads)

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Pet Peeves


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke And The Bookish. Today we have to talk about are top ten bookish pet peeves. I have to say here that I have never really liked the word 'peeves', but I couldn't go around saying 'top ten things that annoy me about books', as that just sends off the wrong message. I doubt I will be able to come up with ten, as I am not a person who can be easily annoyed.

Sooo...

1. When people leave their books open and upside down so as not to miss their page
This annoys me soooo much! It's one thing I try never to do to books, as it cracks their spines and may even result in missing pages. Most of the times, you just end up with a book that is not flat, and I hate that... My brother does it sometimes and I have to say it really annoys me! That's what bookmarks are for! If you don't have a bookmark, try to find something else to use (napkin, tissue, receipt).

2. When people fold over the corner of a page so as not to miss their page
I know loads of people who do that. I remember quite a few of my friends doing it to their school book. I just can't do it. It ruins the page. Again, use a bookmark.

3. Stickers on book covers
That includes price stickers that the bookshop thought best to place right on top of the book description... I mean, why would anybody do that??? Also, I don't like seeing stickers on the front covers of books, even if their presence means that the particular book is on some sort of offer. Fortunately, most of them come off pretty easily. (Though, having said that, I don't always take them off...)

4. Scribbles inside books
I don't like it when people write inside books. By that, I don't mean writing on one of the first pages (which might be a dedication from a friend or the author). That I like, as it makes the book a little more personal. But I really don't like it when I find doodles in the pages of the main narrative of the book, just because whoever was reading it at the time was holding a pen and decided to doodle.

5. Seeing new books with bent covers in bookshops
Quite a few bookshops just don't treat their books right. They just throw them around or dump them on the floor, which results in bits of dust all over them and/or bent or dented covers. Show some respect to the people who are going to buy them from you!

That's it! I don't easily get annoyed by the stories inside the books, which is why I haven't put any here. I might not love inconsistencies, but not to the point of being annoyed by them!

Which are your bookish pet peeves?? 
Feel free to comment and leave the url to your own list for me to read!

Other challenges - Progress

As I mentioned in this post, I have decided to join a few more challenges this year. The only reason I decided to participate in these extra challenges is because I was already planning on reading quite a lot of books that qualify for these challenges anyway!

So, here I have a post to keep myself up to date with my progress for these particular challenges.

1. The Dystopia Challenge (hosted by Bonnie of Bookish Ardour)

Aim: To read 15 dystopian books in 2011 (Contagion level)
The books:
1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
3. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
4. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
5. Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
6. Specials by Scott Westerfeld
7. Extras by Scott Westerfeld
8. Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien
9. Divergent by Veronica Roth
10. 1984 by George Orwell
11. The Host by Stephenie Meyer
12. Sleepwalking by Nicola Morgan
13. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
14. The Declaration by Gemma Malley
15. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
16. The Pledge by Kimberly Derting




2. The Victorian Literature Challenge (hosted by Bethany of Subtle Melodrama)


Aim: To read 5-9 books that were published during the years of the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) (Great Expectations level)
The books:
1. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (pub. 1850)
2. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (pub. 1868)
3. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by R.L. Stevenson (pub. 1886)
4. The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde (pub. 1891)
5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (pub. 1847)




3. The 1st In A Series Challenge (hosted by Katy of A Few More Pages)


Aim: To read 12 books that are the first in any series (Series Expert)
The books:
1. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
3. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
4. The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi
5. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
6. Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder
7. Lament by Maggie Stiefvater
8. The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening + The Struggle by L.J. Smith
9. Immortal by Gillian Shields
10. Wings by Aprilynne Pike
11. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
12. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
13. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
14. Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
15. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
16. The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
17. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
18. Wildefire by Karsten Knight
19. Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien
20. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
21. The Declaration by Gemma Malley
22. Fury by Elizabeth Miles
23. Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz
24. Divergent by Veronica Roth
25. Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren
26. Jessica's Guide To Dating On The Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
27. The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
28. I heart New York by Lindsey Kelk
29. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
30. The Pledge by Kimberly Derting
31. Glimmerglass by Jenna Black
32. The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deaver




4. The 2nds Challenge (hosted by Katy of A Few More Pages)


Aim: To read 12 books that are the second in a series or it is the second time you have read a particular author. (A full plate)
The books:
1. Pretties by Scott Westerfeld (series)
2. The Hunger Games: Burning Fire by Suzanne Collins (series)
3. Babylon Revisited by F. Scott Fitzgerald (author)
4. Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan (series)
5. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater (series)
6. Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick (series)
7. Slam by Nick Hornby (author)
8. Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder (series)
9. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (author)
10. Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl (series)
11. Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr (series)
12. The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deaver (author)











Monday, 21 March 2011

Mouth-Watering Monday (3)







Mouth-Watering Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Brittany of Nice Girls Read Books. All you have to do is post some book covers you admire, be they old or new!
Here are my picks for this third week!


Clara and Mr Tifanny by Susan Vreeland
This book is about stained-glass creations, and I love the fact that they incorporated it into the cover. It's very simple, yet so elegant, with the blue woman against the stained glass background. A cover that would definitely make me pick the book up!


India Black by Carol K. Carr
I just love the colours on this cover. And the dress. It instantly makes me think of London during the times they used to wear dresses like this (I think that's where the book is actually set in...)



Deliverance From Evil: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials by Frances Hill
I think the sepia effect on this cover is what makes the difference. And for some reason, I like the black line going right through the girl's face.



The Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham
It's a simple cover, really. But I really like the font and the solitary rose on the bottom. The whole combination makes me want to read it!

I have to say my favourites are the Clara and Mr Tiffany and The Queen of Last Hopes, out of this bunch!

Did any covers catch your eye this week?? 

(All links go to Goodreads, from where I also got the pictures)

Just In Case

We've had this book at home for years, but I had never read it, for no particular reason. Also, it's my first Meg Rosoff book, even though we have 'How I Live Now' somewhere in this house. I digress... On to the review.


Just In Case by Meg Rosoff
First published by Penguin Books in 2006 (this edition by Penguin in 2007)






Description: (from Goodreads)
After finding his younger brother teetering on the edge of his balcony, fifteen-year-old David Case realizes the fragility of life and senses impending doom. Without looking back, he changes his name to Justin and assumes a new identity, new clothing and new friends, and dares to fall in love with the seductive Agnes Bee. With his imaginary dog Boy in tow, Justin struggles to fit into his new role and above all, to survive in a world where tragedy is around every corner. He's got to be prepared, just in case.


Opinions:
I actually found this book rather weird. David (or Justin) Case is a teenager who suddenly realises that life is not what it seems. After saving his brother from toppling out of the window in his bedroom, his whole life changes, as he realises that he has to outwit fate, some way or another. So, he decides to change his name to Justin and to completely alter the way he looks, in the hope of having fate pass him by - not notice him.


During the course of the book, many things happen to Justin - he meets an older girl, Agnes, and makes friends with a boy from school, Peter. He runs away from home and lives in different places, and while away, he experiences some disastrous events, which lead to him contemplating his life even more.


Just In Case was a very good read. It captures the coming-of-age of a teenager who is troubled by guilt (at least, that's how I saw it) and who tries to invent ways to counter-attack the notion of the futility of life. I didn't like Agnes' character very much, but I did like Peter and his sisters, who really and truly supported David (Justin) during his whole Justin phase.


I particularly liked the twist that came in the last few chapters of the book. It wasn't a happy twist, but it did sort-of explain why certain things happened... To me, at least. It's not a happy twist, I warn you. But it was completely unexpected. I would have never though that something like that would happen.


But I do have an important objection about this book. David (Justin) Case was supposed to be 15 years old, and his parents just let him leave home and go and live elsewhere, without showing any objection whatsoever. I thought that was very weird. Which parent would let their 15-year-old child leave home, without knowing exactly where they are supposed to be (or at least wanting to know)?? I found that part of the story to be a little off-putting, as if his parents didn't really care about him that much. I might not bother (have bothered) you, but I did not like it.


Rating: 7/10


Author:
Meg Rosoff is an American author, who has been living in London since 1989. She used to work in advertising, but she began to write novels after her younger sister died of breast cancer. She has written four books for young adults, as well as three short-story children's books (she collaborated with Sophie Blackall, who illustrated them). Her first book, ''How I Live Now'' has received 3 notable awards, and ''Just In Case'' was the recipient of the prestigious Carnegie Medal for 2007. She has also written ''What I Was'', with her latest novel being ''The Bride's Farewell''.
Here are the covers:
How I Live Now (Amazon.co.uk | Goodreads)

What I Was (Amazon.co.uk | Goodreads)

The Bride's Farewell (Amazon.co.uk | Goodreads)
You can find out more about Meg Rosoff and her books here:

Counts as Book #19 in my 100 Books In A Year Challenge and as Book #8 in my British Books Challenge 2011!

In My Mailbox (2)

In My Mailbox is a meme that is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

I did not post an IMM last week, because I didn't get any books. But I think I overcompensated this week. I actually got some books In My Mailbox (I actually call it post, but anyway!), which I am very excited about! All links go to Amazon.co.uk.


These are the books that came in my mailbox this week! I got them from Bloomsbury, via Becky The Bookette's British Books Challenge 2011. Thanks so much, Becky and Bloomsbury! I plan to start reading them as soon as possible. The prize pack included:
In The Bag by Jum Carrington
The Cabinet of Curiosities by Paul Dowswell
Mortlock by Jon Mayhew
Tyme's End by B.R Collins
A Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master
Tales of Terror From The Tunnel's Mouth by Chris Priestley
as well as 2 bookmarks (including a Harry Potter one!!), a postcard and a Mortlock poster.


These are the books I bought this week!
The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet by Coleen McCullough
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (The Hunger Games Book #2) by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (The Hunger Games Book #3) by Suzanne Collins
Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson series Book #2) by Rick Riordan
Yes, I know I am missing the first book in The Hunger Games series, but the bookshop did not have it (???). It's on order, so I'll get round to reading it soon enough!
(Fortunately I had a voucher for 10 euros off, which means I got 1.5 books for free!)

And last but not least,


These books are the ones my brother brought back with him from his trip. A Spot of Bother was his present for me! But I'm listing the other two, too, as we did buy them!
A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
The Wild Things by Dave Eggers
The Film Club by David Gilmour

Whew! That's it for this week! Except for the books I have ordered, I have promised my Mum not to buy books for some time. (She's probably right. I think these will keep me occupied for quite some time!)


What was in your mailbox this week?? 
Feel free to leave a link to your IMM post in the comment section!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

New challenges!!

Looking around many different blogs I came across many different challenges, other than the two I have already signed up to. They crossover with the ones I am already participating in and many of the books I already own can count towards completing them.
So, the challenges I have decided to go for are:

1. The Dystopia Challenge



Dystopia Challenge


This challenge is hosted by Bonnie of Bookish Ardour. She has actually set up another blog (you can find it here) where you can find info about all the challenges hosted by her.
In this Dystopia challenge you have to choose a level that you are going to aim for. There are quite a few levels to choose from (taken directly from her blog):

  1. Asocial–  Choose 5 books to read
  2. Contagion – Choose 15 books to read
  3. Soldier – Choose 30 books to read
  4. Drone – Choose 50 books to read
  5. Conditioned – Choose 75 books to read
For extra hard challenges

  1. Brainwashed – Choose 76-125 books to read
  2. Totalitarian – Choose 126-200 books to read
I have to say, if anyone manages one of the two last ones, I will have to congratulate them! Anyway, I am going to aim for somewhere in the middle, as in the Contagion level. I already own (or plan on owning) quite a few dystopian novels, so I think 15 will be manageable. I'll probably end up reading more than 15, but I'm not sure I'll manage to reach 30, so I'm aiming low.


2. The Victorian Literature Challenge



This challenge is hosted by Bethany of Subtle Melodrama. In this challenge, the aim is to read books that were published during the years of the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). Again, you get to choose the number of books you will aim to read. The levels available are (taken directly from her blog):

Sense and Sensibility: 1-4 books.
Great Expectations: 5-9 books.
Hard Times: 10-14 books.
Desperate Remedies: 15+ books.

In this challenge, I will be aiming for the second level, Great Expectations. I have already found some books I would love to read for this challenge (of which I own 5), so once again, I am aiming low!


3. The 1st In A Series Challenge



This challenge is hosted by Katy of A Few More Pages. The aim is to read a certain number of books that are first in a series. Again, you can choose the level you are to aim for. The levels available are (taken directly from her blog):
  • Series Novice: Read 3 books that are the first in any series.
  • Series Lover: Read 6 books that are the first in any series.
  • Series Expert: Read 12 books that are the first in any series.
  • Series Fanatic: Read 20 books that are the first in any series.
In this challenge I am going to aim for the third level, Series Expert. That means quite a few books, but I already own 6 books that I plan to read in the immediate future and I am pretty sure I will end up reading more than 6 1st's!

And last, but not least,
4. The 2nds Challenge



This challenge is also hosted by Katy of A Few More Pages. In this challenge, the aim is to read EITHER books that are 2nd in a series OR books that are written by authors you've only read once before (this being your second novel of theirs). The levels are as follows (taken directly from her blog):

  • Just a spoonful - Read 3 books that are 2nd in a series or the second time you've read the author. 
  • A few more bites - Read 6 books that are 2nd in a series or the second time you've read the author.
  • A full plate - Read 12 books that are 2nd in a series or the second time you've read the author.
  • All you can eat - Read 20 books (or more) that are 2nd in a series or the second time you've read the author.
I am going to aim for the third level (A full plate). I think I can manage that number of books, seeing as I am going to be reading quite a few books that are first in a series. I'll just try to combine these two challenges, wherever possible!

This means that I have added quite a few extra books in my reading pile... Fortunately, quite a few of them crossover, so the list will not be as long (I hope...) Wish me luck!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

A Calculated Risk

I didn't even know this book existed, until a friend of mine told me she had read the Greek translation of it! So I rushed to the bookshop, looked for it, found it and bought it. Time for the review!!

A Calculated Risk by Katherine Neville
First published by Ballantine Books in 1992 (this edition by Ballantine Books sometime after 1998 - can't find the date in the book)






Description: (from Goodreads.com)
When financial executive Verity Banks' latest proposal is axed by her boss, she decides to show how easy it is to break through automated security, hide money, and then show senior management where it is. Then her former mentor, financial wizard, Dr. Zoltan Tor ups the ante, and dares her to steal a billion dollars, invest it to earn thirty million in three months, then put the original billion back before anyone notices. To heighten the challenge, Tor and Verity will compete against each other, though Tor gives Verity an edge: she can use a computer for her theft, but he cannot....


Opinions:
This being my fourth Katherine Neville novel, I have to say I love her! The first book of hers I read was The Eight, even though I had actually bought The Fire first. I was quite frustrated at the time for not being able to read my new book. Plus, I ordered The Eight and it took more than a month to arrive!! (Preposterous!)


This book had quite a lot to do with computers, hacking and banks. Computers as a theme, I don't mind, but I find banks absolutely boring. So, in this case, I was pleasantly surprised by the novel. The banks were there (they were necessary to the whole plot), but Neville does not ramble on and on about the bureaucracy that rules them. It is necessary to state some obvious facts, which are what leads up to the main part of the book, but it's doesn't get tiring.


I love the relationship between Tor and Verity! Verity has spunk, but she tends to keep it in check. Enter Tor, and all rational thinking has gone out the window! He ''makes'' her do things she would never normally dream of doing. Fair enough, Verity was so fed up with the system that she decided to break through the security system, take some money and hide it away. But Tor is not satisfied. He says that if Verity is planning on doing it anyway, why not try and get some money out of it?? And, on second thought, why not make it into a challenge between them??


In some ways, Katherine Neville reminds me of Dan Brown. The topics they choose to write on have some important similarities. But her style of writing is completely and utterly different to Dan Brown's. I find that when I am reading a Dan Brown novel, I can guess what is going to happen next, just because of the fact that he writes his books in the exact same way (that does not mean that I don't enjoy them). I don't get that with Neville (which is a relief!) I'm definitely looking forward to reading more books from her in the future!


Back to the book, I enjoyed this one very much (as I do with many ''logic - maths - computers'' novels) and I would definitely recommend reading it! This one is quite different to her other three!


Rating: 8/10


Author:
Katherine Neville is an American author, who writes adventure novels. After finishing college, she moved to NYC and pursued a career in the computer field (hence the knowledge to write this particular book, I assume). In the 1970's she worked as an international consultant for the Algerian government (which probably explains The Eight and The Fire, too). In the 1980's she moved to San Francisco, and eventually became the vice president of the Bank of America (Wow, that is impressive!). She currently lives in Washington, DC, with her husband, the renowned neurosurgeon Karl H. Pribram.
Katherine Neville has written another three books (other that A Calculated Risk):


The Eight (Goodreads | Amazon.com)
The Fire (Goodreads | Amazon.com)
The Magic Circle  (Goodreads | Amazon.com)
(All images are from Goodreads)
I would definitely recommend reading her books, if you haven't!
You can check these out, if you are interested!
Katherine Neville Official Website
Katherine Neville on Wikipedia
Katherine Neville on Amazon.com
Katherine Neville on Amazon.co.uk


Counts as Book #18 in my 100 Books In A Year Challenge!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters I Would Want As Family Members

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke And The Bookish. This week we have to come up with ten characters that we would just love to have as family members! Should be relatively easy! There are so many great characters out there! So, in no particular order, here is my list:

1. Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice
She is such a lovely person! Kind and caring and very very sweet. But also, very sharp and quick-witted. I think I would love to have her as a sister! I think we would probably get into a fight over Mr Darcy though...


2. Mrs Weasley from Harry Potter
She is the perfect mum! She is so kind and loving to all of her children, as well as Harry and Hermione. She is a little overprotective, but can you really blame her?? Voldemort was on the prowl.






3. Charlie from The Other Hand
He is such a sweet little kid. He spends all of his time in the book dressed in a Batman suit, trying to cope in his own way with a very tragic loss... I'd love to have him as a little baby brother!



4. Sookie Stackhouse from The Sookie Stackhouse Series (aka The Southern Vampire Mysteries)
She is sweet and witty, but very brave and seems to be able to get through so many bad things that have happened to her! I'd love to have her as the cousin, who is really one of my best friends! Though I probably wouldn't appreciate the mind-reading thing!


5. Carlisle Cullen from The Twilight Saga
Sophisticated and good looking (probably more so, because he's a vampire). And also a doctor! Now, wouldn't that come in handy??





6.Ariel Manto from The End Of Mr Y
I like the fact that she is so open to trying new things. When she finds a copy of The End Of Mr Y (a book that has been missing for many years) she is so intrigued by it, she just has to read it, despite the warning that accompanies the book! I'd love to have her as that slightly quirky cousin!

7. James from Lament
I absolutely loved James' character. He is so supportive and always seems to be there when you need him. I'd love to have him as a brother!







8. Annabeth from the Percy Jackson Series
Annabeth is by far one of the best characters in the book (I've only read the first one, so my opinion is based on limited knowledge). She is smart, brave and loyal, and she is a proper heroine! Annabeth, do you want to be my sister??


9. Grandma Redbird from the House of Night Series
Grandma Redbird is the only person Zoey can trust (outside of school) and she has many tricks and suggestions up her sleeves! I also love her surname (Redbird). No wonder Zoey chose it when she became a fledgling!




10. Hans and Rosa Hubermann from The Book Thief
One of the nicest set of parents I have ever seen in a book. Usually there is something wrong with one of them. But no, Hans and Rosa are both lovely, each in their own way. I would definitely like to have them as parents.




So, this was my top ten list for today! Please leave a link to yours in the comments! I'd love to read your favourites!


Coming up next week: Top Ten Bookish Pet Peeves!

(All links lead to Goodreads. When the characters are from a series of books, I have linked up the first book in the series. Just to avoid confusion!)

Burning Bright

This is my second Tracy Chevalier book. I hadn't actually planned on getting it. It just caught my eye in the bookshop and I bought it, just before Christmas! Now, on to the review!


Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier
First published by HarperCollins in 2007 (this edition by Harper in 2008)






Description: (from back cover)
London, 1972. The Kellaways move from rural Dorset to the tumult of a cramped, unforgiving city. They are leaving behind a terrible loss, a blow that only a completely new life may soften.
Against the backdrop of a city jittery over the increasingly bloody French Revolution, a surprising bond forms between Jem, the youngest Kellaway boy, and streetwise Londoner Maggie Butterfield. Their friendship takes a dramatic turn when they become entangled in the life of their neighbour, the printer, poet and radical, William Blake. He is a guiding spirit as Jem and Maggie navigate the unpredictable, exhilarating passage from innocence to experience. Their journey influences one of Blake's most entrancing works.


Opinions:
This was such an easy book to get into! Even from the very beginning! I didn't have enough time at first, but when I found some on Saturday, I practically devoured the book! I stayed up until very late, because I just had to finish it! (That actually happens far too many times, to be honest). Now, on to the actual review.

The book tells the story of a family, the Kellaways, who leave their home in Dorset and come to live in London, to escape their memories. Upon arriving, they realise that is not so easy to do, but stay there anyway, with the father working for Mr Astley (of Astley's Circus - a famous London circus in the 1790s). Jem, the youngest child, meets Maggie, a Londoner who just happened to be there when the Kellaways were moving into their house. Together they embark on all sorts of adventures, many of them revolving around the well-known radical Mr William Blake.

I had actually only heard of William Blake, prior to reading this novel. I did recognise his name, but I did not know what he was known for. Turns out he was actually a very well known poet, as well as a printer.

The book is very well written and instantly drew me in. The characters are wonderfully constructed. The frightened Kellaways, who have left their home in Dorset and are now living in the big city; Maggie, a girl who wants to show she is tough-as-nails, but is really quite vulnerable; the Astleys, proprietors of the circus that seems to dominate everyone's lives; William Blake, who plays such an important role in the whole story. Everyone mentioned in this book, seems to play some important part in the story, every detail is important. The descriptions of the places and goings-on (going-on's ???) in the book are just wonderful! I think Chevalier has managed to describe the fun and the intrigue (both in front of and behind the scenes) of the circus.

As you have probably gathered by now, I enjoyed this book very much! I think Tracy Chevalier is getting to be one of my favourite authors. She has such a great style of writing. I would definitely recommend reading it!

Rating: 9/10


Author:
You can read more about the author in my post on Remarkable Creatures.
Clarification: Tracy Chevalier was born in America, but as she currently resides in England and her book was first published in the UK, I believe she qualifies for the BBC 2011. If not, please let me know!

Counts as Book #17 in my 100 Books In A Year Challenge and as Book #7 in my British Books Challenge 2011! 

Monday, 14 March 2011

Mouth-Watering Monday (2)






Today, I will be posting book covers from books by Katharine McMahon. I haven't read any of her books yet, but I stumbled upon them on Amazon and thought most of them were just lovely!
Here we go!

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Footsteps: I like the fact that this cover does not have a whole person on it, just the flowing full skirt. I also like the sepia look it has to it. Lovely font, too!



The Crimson Rooms: I found three covers for this one, but I did not like the third one at all, so I didn't put it here. These two, however, I really liked! They both have lovely fonts and lovely colours. I think the colours on the one on the right are nicer and warmer, but I am more intrigued by the cover on the left. What do you think?
(photos from: left and right)


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The Rose of Sebastopol: I think this is such a lovely cover. It looks just like a painting! It might even be a part of one, but I don't really know. It's definitely not one of my favourites, though....


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Confinement: I love the greens in this cover. It is so simple, yet I find it so elegant. Again, not the prettiest in the bunch, but anyways...


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A Way Through The Woods: I can't say I like this cover. I just put it here, because )otherwise) it would have been the only book by Katherine McMahon I didn't mention. I don't know what the book is about, but the cover does not make it stand out in any way. It's just the back of the head of a girl with a messy up-do. I'm not very sure it would make me pick it up...

My favourite out of the five books (and six covers) would have to be Footsteps, with The Crimson Rooms coming in at second and third places (for the white and readdish covers respectively).

Which are your favourite covers this week?? 
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