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

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

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

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:

(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!


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


First up, we have Kiwi!!

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.

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.

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???
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

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

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

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

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