27 Dec 2010

Favourite covers of 2010

Inspired by a post at Book Chick City - at http://www.bookchickcity.com/ - here is a Top Ten of my favourite book covers of 2010. Always one to fall for a beautiful cover, I just had to do a list like this!

10) Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
I just love the black and white

9) Torment by Lauren Kate
Again black and white. And I like that it is a woman from the back - leaves room to imagine her face. Fits well with the content of the book as well.

8) Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
I like the soft, pale colours and the way that the girls' skin looks perfect.

7) The Passage by Justin Cronin
Again black and white - sense a pattern? :-) I like the close-up, it looks really eerie and a bit worrying but I really like it!

6) The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
Three colous, keeping focus on the title and author name. Like it.

5) The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
Again only three colours but lovely oldfashioned picture with lots of fine little details. I caught my eye straight away.

4) The Early Years by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Love the colours!!

3) The Crow's Wow by Susan Briscoe
Beautiful simplicity

2) Money by Martin Amis
Cool cool cool. I want to read it just for the cover

1) Life by Keith Richards
This cover tells a story and it makes me want to discover what is inside. An iconic cover, if you ask me.

What are your favourite covers of the year 2010?

Review: "Catching Fire" - Reading as if the book was on fire!

So after reading "The Hunger Games" I was impatiently waiting for "Catching Fire", the sequel which promised many more hours spent deep in reading about the country of Panem and the courageous Katniss. When it finally arrived in my mailbox, I saved it and took it with me when traveling to my parents' place for Christmas. And ended up spending most of the night between the 23rd and the 24th of December reading in bed because this book was unputdownable (if that is a word).

Just wanted to warn you :-)

Katniss is back home in District 12, now living with her mum and sister Prim, Haymitch and Peeta in the Victor's Village. Finally they have some stability, enough to eat and a safe place to live. But Katniss and Peeta have to keep up the pretence of being star-crossed lovers as they go on a Victory Tour to the other districts. However, since leaving the Hunger Games the relationship between Katniss and Peeta have been akward and cold and the act is by no means easy to keep up. However, President Snow soon makes it clear to Katniss that the act is crucial to her and Peeta's survival. So Katniss has to do the best she can - and as this is not good enough, she soon faces another round in the Hunger Games arena, taking Peeta with her.

This is a great book. Not as great as "The Hunger Games" but a great sequel. I loved the plot that kept twisting and turning and the growing love triangle featuring Peeta, Katniss and Gale. It was a really strong book for me, mostly because of Katniss. She is so cool. Full of flaws but full of virtues as well. Cold, pragmatic, calculating, no-nonsense - loving, caring, rebellious, thoughtful, clever. She is a really facetted characters, better than most of the other ones out there in fantasy-world.

Want to read what others think?
In Bed With Books: http://www.inbedwithbooks.blogspot.com/2009/09/review-catching-fire.html
Bart's Bookshelf: http://www.bartsbookshelf.co.uk/2009/09/12/review-catching-fire-by-suzanne-collins/
My Friend Amy: http://www.myfriendamysblog.com/2009/08/review-catching-fire-by-suzanne-collins.html

21 Dec 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: All the books I want for Christmas

It's Tuesday and that means that it is time for a Top Ten list!
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This week the theme is the books that we would like Santa to put under our Christmas tree this Christmas. I have been doing a bit of this already in the All I Want for Christmas... posts but doing a top ten is an opportunity not to be missed!
Here we go - in no particular order:

10) "All the King's Men" by Robert Penn Warren
A Pulitzer Prize winner which has been turned into a film twice. It is a political drama set in Louisiana and it sounds like a one of those books that you can't put down once you've picked it up!

9) "Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish" by Tom Shachtman
An account of the Rumspringa tradition in the Amish society. I am curious to know more about how teenagers live in the Amish society and this would be a great book to start off with.

8) "Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen
Need I explain? With all the hype this book has received - the great American novel of our generation and so on - I just have to read it!

7) "Mystics, Mavericks and Merrymakers" by Stephanie Levine
This book unveils some of the traditions of the Hasidic Jews in New York and it sounds really intriguing. Definitely a book I will have to read.

6) "Wait for Me" by Deborah Devonshire
The memoir of Deborah Devonshire - youngest Mitford sister and Duchess of Devonshire. Being a bit of a Mitford Maniac of course I must read this one!

5) "Youth in Revolt" by Payden
The title and the fact that it has been adapted to a movie starring Michael Cera is enough for me. I have to read it.

4) "A Good School" by Richard Yates
By the author of "Revolutionary Road", this book about boarding school boys promises to be a good read.

3) "The Leopard" by Guiseppe di Lampedusa
A classic and a must read!

2) "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov
This book has been praised on many of the blogs out there and I am really hoping to get my hands on it soon.

1) "Undoing Gender" by Judith Butler
Butles is a bit of a hero of mine and I really want to spend a lot of time reading and studying this work about gender structures.

Which books are you asking Santa to bring you this year?

20 Dec 2010

Review: "Frederica" - She who rules the roast

About ten years ago I stumbled across a really cheap version of "Regency Buck" by Georgette Heyer and in my teenage years, I read this one again and again. So now I have decided to read some more of Heyer's hopefully delightful works. Since Jane Austen did not write nearly enough books, I am very happy that Heyer was a more prolific writer who has gifted us with many novels which will definitely warm me up in the these winter months.
The book I have chosen to start off with is "Frederica" - and I have to admit that I chose it almost solely based on the cover. The cover is just so pretty!

The storyline is rather simple. Frederica is a 24-year-old woman who due to her parents' deaths have become the head of a family of five and who have moved them all to London to give her little sister Charis a London season. Charis is a beautiful but rather dull and silly girl and Frederica is hoping that her kindness, charity and her awestriking beauty will be enough for her to make an eligible match. However, in order to be introduced into the London ton, Frederica calls upon the self-indulgent and rich Lord Alverstoke, an old friend of her father. Lord Alverstoke has lived his whole life in indulgence caring for nothing but his own entertainment so even he is surprised at himself when he lets Frederica talk him into introducing the two girls on the London scene. What seems like a small task at first quickly grows as Frederica's two younger brothers Jessamy and Felix continously gets into scrapes from which Lord Alverstoke is called upon to save them. As the weeks flow by, Lord Alverstoke finds himself getting more and more fond of the little family and of Frederica in particular.

What I loved about this books was the characters. To be honest the plot was nothing special, even a slight bit easy to guess but the characters lifted this one out of the normal run-of-the-mill girl-meets-boy stories. Frederica is an independent woman - or as it is put in the book: She rules the roast. She has no care for herself but takes on her responsibilities for her younger siblings with love, passion and maturity. Furthermore she is the queen of witty repartee and it was pure joy to read the conversations between her and Lord Alverstoke. Lord Alverstoke is your typical hero, a 37-year-old Marquis with a stern exterior and a soft heart. What makes him different is his sense of humour. It is so dry and he says the most rude things at the worst timings and get off with it because of his humour. I adored him. Would love to sit next to him at a dinner party!
Frederica's siblings are also wonderfully sketched. Felix is adorable like only a 12-year-old can be, Jessamy imagines himself a scholar and future parson and Charis is as bird-witted as can be.
Heyer also manages to evoke London at a time where industrial innovation with running high and she gives us a rare insight into the going-ons of the London drawing rooms.

If you like Jane Austen novels and adore history and romance, this book is for you!

19 Dec 2010

Review: "The Book of Fires" - Smouldering

I picked up "The Book of Fires" at a Waterstones in Twickenham some months ago while out on a long walk. They had one of those "buy 3 for the price of 2" offers and as I wanted two of the books in the selection, I picked this historical novel by Jane Borodale as the third. Not really sure why but it had something.
The story is sets out in a poor village in Sussex where Agnes's family is struggling to make ends meet. For Agnes life has turned bleak as she has accidentally become pregnant without being married - a fate that could ruin her and her family. So when she finds the opportunity, she flees to London where she finds work for the pyrotechnician Mr. Blacklock. The household is dominated by a nosy and domineering housekeeper and a sour housemaid and the silent, introverted Mr. Blacklock. As the months pass, Agnes is struggling to find a solution to her predicament - what will happen when her pregnancy is discovered? How will she and her baby fare in the world? At the same time she discovers a passion and talent for making fireworks and she eagerly sucks up all knowledge that Mr. Blacklock imparts.

This is one of those tales where the drama is constantly lurking beneath the surface and I was constantly waiting for disaster to strike Agnes. The potential tragedy is smouldering in all corners of the story. As a character I found Agnes really easy to like and to get to know but the other characters never really came to life. They kept being a bit two-dimensional and I was really wanting to understand especially Mr. Blacklock better.
Agnes is a girl like you and me, a normal girl with a normal life who just happens to have fallen on hard times and who has to make the best of a bad situation. She is not fighting to come up in the world or to find love or fame or fortune. She is fighting to survive and to make a life for herself and the baby she is carrying. She is a real person with heart and a clever head.
The plotline is great and I loved the ending, loved it. I just wish that a bit more had been done to make the characters come to life and to invoke historical London. This book has some of the same qualities as "The Crimson Petal and The White" by Michel Faber but it lacks that magic which makes Faber's book a classic.

For a second opinion on this book see http://www.bookslut.com/fiction/2010_02_015801.php

17 Dec 2010

Review: "Wedlock" - I now declare you husband and prisoner

If you - like me - have an interest in womens right and the history of England then you need to read this book: "Wedlock - How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match" by Wendy Moore.
In Georgian times matrimony was serious business - a contract that once ventured into it would almost impossible to get out of again, especially for women for whom marriage meant effectively becoming their husband's possession. When venturing into marriage, a womans possessions were transferred to her husband and from then on she lived at his mercy.

For Mary Eleanor Bowes, the heroine of "Wedlock", this was the case as for all women at the time - but not all women (luckily) were married to men like Mary Eleanor's husband... Mary Eleanor, one of the richest young heiresses of her time, married young to the Earl of Strathmore. An unhappy union and when the earl died Mary Eleanor took her life and fortune in her own hands and married a the self-styled Captain Stoney. This choice is a testament to Mary Eleanor's very flawed ability to judge characters because Stoney turned out to be a fortunehunter who speedily turned from ardent admirer into a cruel, bullying, vicious husband who specialised in both physically and mentally tormenting his wife.

I really enjoyed this book even though it was unsettling and upsetting at times. Getting a better understanding of how little rights women had in Georgian times. They were basically on par with children and some were treated with even less respect and understanding. Women were possession, trophies, things to be owned. One woman, however, stood up against her scoundrel of a husband and went to court to fight for freedom, fortune and family and that was Mary Eleanor Bowes. I was impressed by her courage and stubbornness, she really did fight like a tigress for her children and herself even though she knew that her husband was scheming to kill her.
Inspiring and impressive and very well-written. No dust lingers on these pages, I even sacrificed sleep last night to follow and cheer for Mary Eleanor as she fought for her liberty and for justice.

16 Dec 2010

The good, the bad and the really tragic

My post yesterday about movie adaptions touched a subject that I think most of us feel really strongly about. Most often I like adaptions - if they are good. A good adaption makes me feel like really happy, like I am sharing an understanding with the director and producers. Often it makes me want to read the book again - I do love rereading - and I enjoy the visuals of a good book coming to life. However, a bad movie adaption really really annoys me. Sometimes it even makes me angry. I know many of you fell the same. So for the benefit of ranting here is a list of adaptions that I consider good, bad and seriously tragic.

Good movie adaptions
"Pride and Prejudice"
The BCC adaption. Not technically a movie but a mini series, I defy any Austenite not to love this adaption. Beautifully made with great actors and actresses. Apparently it is also quite historically correct - though I don't remember where I read that - but what seals the deal for me is the scene where Mr. Darcy swims in the lake. Ladies, do you agree?

"Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"
Great book and great movie adaption. I have read and watched and reread and rewatched book and film so many time. The three little wizards are so cute and play really well and the settings at Hogwarts are magical!

"Fight Club"
Really cool book and really cool movie! Brad Pitt and Edward Norton do a great job and the fighting scenes are very well-made. The movie follows the book and keeps the narrator voice in a way that really works for me.

A modern day (or at least it was modern in the 1990's) interpretation of Austen's Emma. This was my favourite film when I was 13 years old, I loved it!! It is actually a good adaption. It has the wit and the sassiness of the original book and the themes have translated well into the American high school setting - not least thanks to Reese Witherspoon. My favourite memory about this movie is remembering how awestruck my 13-year-old self was that the characters had their own mobile phones!

Bad movie adaptions
"Pride and Prejudice"
The Keira Knightley adaption. Though the acting is great and the actors are very very good at what they do, a lot of things just don't work for me in this film. The settings and visuals are too pretty, too much. As a movie it is beautiful but as an adaption it just doesn't work for me. My personal peeve about this adaption is that while all of the other characters got to wear beautiful dresses, Lizzie/Keira was stuck in grim, brown dresses - I mean, this is not cinderella and just because Lizzie is clever and bright, she doesn't have to wear dowdy dresses!

So Twi-hards, as much as I loved the "New Moon" adaption, the adaption of "Eclipse" is just bad. Bad bad bad. Most of the time, the scenes set outside looks like they were filmed in front of a blue screen and the white make-up on the vampires have been taken a bit too far... Too bad as it could have been great.

This is one of those where I watched the movie - twice - before I read the book. And good thing I did, because I really liked the movie but when I read the book I understood how much better the movie could have been. Definitely a case of movie magic fading compared to the wonderful magic of books!

Seriously tragic adaptions
"Angels and Demons".
Tom Hanks where was your sense when you agreed to do this film? Come on! The book was bad, the adaption of "The DaVinci Code" was horrific but this one beats it all. The adaption of an unbelievable but somewhat thrilling book has been made into a ridiculous film - tedious and at times even painful.

"Cruel Intentions"
This adaption of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" by Laclos was very popular when I was a teenager. Instead of honouring this classic tale of cruelty and making a costume drama (like Dangerous Liaisons and Valmont), they set the film among a bunch of rich Manhatten teenagers. Bad premise and a rather bad movie - but as an adaption it is seriously tragic.

"Vanity Fair"
All I can say is that I loved Thackeray's book but I couldn't make it all the way through film, it was too tedious.

"Bridget Jones - The Edge of Reason"
I really liked the adaption of "Bridget Jones's Diary" and I looked forward to the sequel. The book was tolerable but the movie adaption was awful. Worse than awful. Not even Colin Firth could save this shipwreck and that tells you something!

These are my opinions - now please tell me yours!

15 Dec 2010

Make a Mov(i)e!

So a lot of your are taking part in the Waiting on Wednesday meme but I have to admit there there are not a lot of books that I am impatiently waiting for to be published. However, there are a lot of books that I would very much like to see being adapted for the big screen! I love watching a good movie - last night my sister, my boyfriend and I had official "Eclipse" night, watching the vampires and werewolves alternating between fighting and taking off their shirts. Do I need to add that my boyfriend was less than impressed? My sister and I did enjoy it though.
There are a lot of books out there that I think could make great movies - if treated right that is. Here are some of books that I would like to buy a ticket to the theater to see - a fantasy, a romcom and a historical drama!

Jonathan Stranger and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke - the fantasy movie
New Line Cinema has bought the rights for making this fantastic novel into a film but so far not a lot has happened. Get your skates on New Line!!
The story is set in England around the Napoleonic Wars - a time where magic is returned to England at the hands to two magicians. The gentleman Mr. Norrell and his apprentice rebel Jonathan Stranger. Lots of drama and magic. A Harry Potter for adults.

Got You Back by Jane Fallon - the romcom
Jane Fallon's first novel Getting Rid of Matthew is apparently on the way to the big screen - but I would prefer to watch her second novel, Got You Back - come to life. This is the story of two women who share a man... One is married to him, living a jet-setty life in London, one is his girlfriend living in a small village in rural England. They don't know about each other but when they find out, he is in trouble. Big trouble. Perfect for Jennifer Aniston and Drew Barrymore, if you ask me.

The Life Mask by Emma Donoghue - the historical drama
This drama is based on real historical characters and they sure come to life in this dramatic tale of love, riches, plays and a touch of lesbianism. If you like Sarah Waters, you will love this book about the acclaimed actress Elizabeth Farren (in the picture) who becomes close friends with a famed sculptress while being pursued by a rich earl. The fact that this all builds on historical facts only makes it better! Please please please cast Keira Knightley!

Which books would you like to have adapted to films?

14 Dec 2010

Teaser Tuesday: "Nights at the Circus"

Welcome to one of my favourite memes - Teaser Tuesday!

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

- Grab your current read.
- Let the book fall open to a random page.
- Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
- You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
- Please avoid spoilers!

Send me a comment so I can check out your teaser. Mine is from "Nights at the Circus" by Angela Carter:

"He smiled to himself at the paradox: in a secular age, an authentic miracle must purpot to be a hoax, in order to gain credit in the world."

13 Dec 2010

Show me your books and I will tell you, who you are...

One of my favourite book bloggers, Simon at http://www.stuck-in-a-book.blogspot.com/ - has posted this really fun survey today. Basically it challenges you to describe yourself using titles of books that you have read in 2010.

Hope you will join in the fun and copy/paste the survey and do it yourself as well - send me to link to your survey in a comment and I will come by your blog :-)

Describe yourself: The Exception (by Christian Jungersen)

How do you feel: A Certain Age (by Rebecca Ray)

Describe where you currently live: Neverwhere (by Neil Gaiman)

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Rainbow Valley (by L.M. Montgomery)

Your best friend is: Lady Oracle (by Margaret Atwood)

You and your friends are: The Edwardians (by Vita Sackville-West)

What's the weather like: Twilight (by Stephenie Meyer)

You fear: Decline and Fall (by Evelyn Waugh)

What is the best advice you have to give: Let the Right One In (by John Ajvide Lindqvist)

Thought for the day: All in the Mind (by Alastair Campbell)

My soul's present condition: Strangeland (by Tracey Emin)

12 Dec 2010

Feel the beat

Having had very little time to read this weekend I will not post about books today but instead share a song with you. This one is called "The Balcony" and is performed by a band called The Rumour Said Fire. It reminds me of winter evenings with my boyfriend, winter walks in frozen woods and the pleasure of having a great cup of tea when your toes are cold.

Have a wonderful Sunday!

11 Dec 2010

Willa Wants to Read... Mediterranean Masterpieces!

I will be starting a new string of posts called Willa Wants to Read... and basically these posts will be about my very extensive To-Be-Read list. I have a long list - we are talking pages and pages of titles writing in times new roman size 12. I am hoping that blogging about some of these titles will make it a little bit easier for me to decide which ones to start with.. Hopefully. Do you know that feeling you get when you have to make a choice but have a lot to choice from? Like way way to much to choose from? That is how I feel when I try to decide which books from my TBR to read. I know it will take me years to get through all of them so how do I decide which ones I want to read now?
Hopefully these posts will be a helping hand.

Willa Wants to Read... mediterranean masterpieces!

"The Leopard" by Guiseppe di Lampedusa
Lampedusa's The Leopard is a classic - a novel that has also been made into a movie masterpiece. It is set in an Italy where the winds of change are blowing. It is set in Sicily just before Garibaldi began his work to unite Italy and the main character is an elderly aristocratic gentleman who must faces that times are changing and that his values may not have a place in the new world.

"If This Is a Man" by Primo Levi
This novel describes the years that the Italian-Jewish author spent in German concentration camp Auschwitz during WWII. The novel is famed for being a masterpiece in literature and for dealing with the exceedingly difficult subject in an honest way in a gripping prose.

"In Search of Lost Time" by Marcel Proust
This colossal literary masterpiece totals 3200 pages! That is a lot, more than a lot really. It is seven volumes and I think that I will (at some point) start out slowly with the first one and see how it goes. I quote from amazon.com:
"As it forms the self-contained story of Charles Swann's love affair with Odette de Crécy and is relatively short, it is generally considered a good introduction to the work and is often a set text in French schools."

What's on your TBR?

10 Dec 2010

Another year, another challenge

Cruising around the web on this Friday night I came across a really cool challenge that I will definitely join. So far I have only joined one challenge for 2011 - Back to the Classics Challenge 2011 - but this one will be really great, I think.

The challenge is called 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Named after a book about - well, title gives it away - I do find the title a little dramatic for my taste but I like the idea. It is hosted by Pub Writes at http://www.caitieflum.wordpress.com/ and I think you should join!

The challenge is simple – read some books from the list! Yyou can find a simple list online - I am using the Listology list.

High School Diplomal: 5 books from the list
Bachelor’s Degree: 6-10 books from the list
Master’s Degree: 11-15 books from the list:
PHd: 16+

Challenge runs January 1 2011 – Decemeber 31 2011.
You don’t have to make a list beforehand.
You can use any version of the list, not just the current, since they update it every couple years

Love this simple format and the great amount of wonderful books to choose from. I think it makes for good inspiration!

Here are the 46 that I have already read - still many to go...
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon
Fingersmith – Sarah Waters
Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
Fury – Salman Rushdie
The Ground Beneath Her Feet – Salman Rushdie
The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy
Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood
Morvern Callar – Alan Warner
The Virgin Suicides – Jeffrey Eugenides
The Robber Bride – Margaret Atwood
Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco
The Swimming-Pool Library – Alan Hollinghurst
The Bonfire of the Vanities – Tom Wolfe
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco
Interview With the Vampire – Anne Rice
The Graduate – Charles Webb
Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
The Talented Mr. Ripley – Patricia Highsmith
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
The Story of O – Pauline Réage
Foundation – Isaac Asimov
Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
A Handful of Dust – Evelyn Waugh
Tender is the Night – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Vile Bodies – Evelyn Waugh
Decline and Fall – Evelyn Waugh
The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
The Count of Monte-Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott
Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
Persuasion – Jane Austen
Emma – Jane Austen
Mansfield Park – Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
Justine – Marquis de Sade
Fanny Hill – John Cleland

9 Dec 2010

Review: "Torment" - Yes Indeed...

This weekend I had a little something waiting for me: "Torment" by Lauren Kate, the sequel to "Fallen" which I quite liked. My experience is that often the sequel is better than the first - at least that's how I felt about Twilight and Hush Hush. So after reading "Fallen" I was of course really interested in getting my hands on "Torment" and so I devoted most of my Saturday to enjoying this one. So what did I find when I was done reading "Torment"?

Well actually, I found that the title was very appropriate, it was tormenting. And not really in a good way either. Let me explain. "Torment" begins where "Fallen" left off. Daniel is escorting Luce - the love of his eternal life - to a new and safer boarding school in California. And just as grim, grey and forbidding as her former school was, just as free, luxurious and posh is the new one. Here Luce is put in a class for specially advantaged kids - a phrase used to camouflage that the kids in this class all have some angel running in their blood.
Luce is fighting to adapt and to make friends with her less than friendly roommate, she is fighting to keep up in class and she is parted from Daniel. With this parting comes the opportunities to get a lot of new information about her boyfriend and also about her former lives. Wanting to know more about herself and get to know about the things that Daniel remembers and she doesn't, Luce persuades her friends to help her tackle the shadows that hold the keys to her past. This quest leads her into not so few life-threathening situations and it leads to some so relationship-threathening knowledge.

All this is quite good but something was missing. I not sure exactly what it is but there seemed to be a lack of storyline going through the book. I wanted more glimpses into the past and less boarding school. It took away from the love story - which was further diluted by the lack of Daniel in the book. And then there was the ending which was a bit of a mess really. Too much, too fast, too confusing. Too many characters and loose ends.
So all in all not a favourite with me - tormenting having to read it and not being swept away and tormenting having to wait for "Passion" (third in the series) and not knowing if the mess left behind in "Torment" will be untangled.

7 Dec 2010

Top Ten Tuesday is one of the highlights of my blogging week - I love lists! It is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish - http://www.brokeandbookish.blogspot.com/.

Today's topic is favourite places to here and here we go in no particular order but sorted according to favourite spots and not-so-favourite spots:

In my parents' garden in the summer. Lying on a cotton throw on the green green grass, listning to the birds singing and reading a good book. My absolute favourite spot is right next to a bed of flowers and herbs where the fragrances are enough to make my head twirl!

On the beach on vacation. Love it. Remember lots of water and suntan lotion and spice the reading up with a swim every now and then.

Lying next to my boyfriend. Anywhere. With each our book.

In my bed on a sunday morning. Need I say more?

In our Fatboy giant pillow, snuggled up with a cup of tea and blankets.

While cuddling my beloved cat with one hand and turning the pages with the other.

In a bubble bath in a fancy hotel. Particularly if the complimentary bubble bath/bath salts are really nice and girly.

In the gym while on the bicycle-monster-meanie-thing. Not because it is particularly nice but because reading is the only thing that gets me through those half-hours spent on the damned thing.

On the bus in the morning trying to pretend that the bus is not way too full.

When eating alone in restaurants. Sometimes I have to travel alone with my job or I go for lunch on my own and on those occasations I do feel a very close relationship with my books.

Actually this Top Ten does not make a lot of sense with me - because I LOVE TO READ ANYWHERE!! What is your Top Ten?

6 Dec 2010

Review: "The Hunger Games" - I'm hungry for more!

After seeing so many people out there in the blogosphere raving about the Mockingjay series I thought I would give it a chance but to be honest I did not expect much. I kind of expected something rather interesting where I would read the first book in the series - "The Hunger Games" - and then decide that this was nothing for me. How wrong I was. Once I began reading this book there was no putting it down again. I read everywhere until I had turned the last page - and when I say everywhere I mean everywhere. On the bus, at the gym, while walking to the gym, even while cooking (and that cannot be recommended unless you are a trained read-while-you-do'er).

So for those of you who haven't yet been convinced to read this yet, what is this all about? "The Hunger Games" is the story of the teenager Katniss who grows up in North America sometime in the future. The world has changed drastically and American has been renamed Panem and is divided into twelve districts, of which Katniss lives in the poorest district where most people work in the coal mines. Katniss has had to take responsibility for her mother and her sisters and is the main breadwinner of the family. She is fiercely protective of her family and when her sisters is called on to take part the hunger games, Katniss volunteers to take her place, thinking that this is sure to be a death sentence. Because the hunger games is not just any old games - it is a reality tv-show where 24 teenagers are forced to fight until only one is still alive and is crowned the winner. Katniss' chances do not look good but she would die for her sister and alongside another teenager from her district, she goes to the capitol to fight for her life.

Normally I am not one for these futuristic/dystopian tales - the only other one I have ever liked is "The Handmaid's Tale" but not liking this book was not an option for me. This is YA at its best. It is well-written and the universe that Katniss exists in is well-constructed and believable. It is logical in the way that it is build up and nothing sticks out as seeming wrong. It is no pleasant universe though. The rules and rulers are evil and inhuman and it takes a lot of courage and cleverness to survive.
Even more courage and cleverness is needed to survive the hunger games and I really enjoyed reading about the way Katniss handled herself. Trying to survive while sticking to her ideals and principles. As a main character I loved Katniss. She has lots of flaws and she is not aware of all of them herself but she is a cool chick with a lot of backbone and a lot of personality. She lets no one mess with her but at the same time she is vulnerable and doesn't always find it easy to understand other people. I loved her instantly.

My only complaint is that I did not buy the next two books in the series when I bought the first one - but I only have myself to blame for that :-)

So here is a question for those of you who have read "The Hunger Games", what did you love most about the book? For me the best part was Katniss, I can't wait to read more about her.

5 Dec 2010

Review: "Mapp and Lucia" - Girlfight!

Thanks to Simon from Stuck in a Book - http://www.stuck-in-a-book.blogspot.com - I became interested in reading the Mapp and Lucia seris by E.F. Benson. However, I didn't do my homework properly and thus ended up starting with the fourth book in the series! This happened because I bought a used edition of "Lucia Victrix" which contains the last three books in the series, something I only discovered when I was almost done reading the last book... Well done!

However, I must say that it doesn't really matter because it was very easy to get into the books and the scenery - not prequels ever struck me as missing, the books worked fine as they were. Here I will write a bit about the first one I read: "Mapp and Lucia".

The story centers on Lucia - Mrs. Emmeline Lucas as her real name is - who rents a house in the small seaside town of Tilling for a couple of months over the summer. Along with her, her best friend Georgie Pillson also rents a house in the town and these two friends prepare to take on the social scene of Tilling - they for some reason reminded me of a sophisticated 1930s version of Batman and Robin. This, however, is not what Elizabeth Mapp has in mind. It is her house Mallards that Lucia has rented and Mapp has made plans to introduce Lucia as her protege. Lucia is not one to be condescended and soon the two ladies are heading for collision. No weapons are sacred in this fight for social power and tea parties, bridge games and dinner parties are all part of the war. One battle in particular is over Lucia's recipe for lobster a la Riseholme - a secret that Mapp will do anything to get her hands on.

Again and again these ladies wage war, competing for power and the role as queen of Tilling and it is really really entertaining to read about. There is no real action, no mystery, no love story line - just a description of the lengths these go to in order to have one up on each other. The characters are perfectly created with a lot of depth - they all have flaws and vanities but it is impossible not to care for them because they are so incredibly human.

Just like so many of the other books that Simon has recommended, I loved this one. Absolutely loved it and within the next few days, I will review the other two Mapp and Lucia books that I have read - hope you will pop by my blog to read them!

4 Dec 2010

Review: "The Bad Girl" - A Good Story

Since Mario Vargas Llosa won the Nobel Prize earlier this year, I have been wanting to read some of his works and now I have. My first Vargas Llosa I have read is "The Bad Girl" and I think it was a good place to start.
"The Bad Girl" is basically Flaubert's classic tale "Madame Bovary" in a new wrapping - a good wrapping though. A good South American boy whose only ambition is living in Paris meets a bad girl who continually breaks his heart and leaves him to pursue something bigger and better, men with more money more ambitions.

The good boy meets the bad girl for the first time when they are both teenagers, then he meets her later in life where she is masquerading as a communist, however, as soon as she is almost his, she runs off to Cuba and becomes the arm candy of one of the leaders of the communist movements. Then they meet in Paris where she has morphed into a fashionable lady. Then in England where she has become part of a racing horse-obsessed set, all twinsets and pearls. This pattern continues through the decades, in different continues and settings. The only thing that is constant is the devotion of the good boy to the bad girl. No matter how much she tortures and humiliates her, her still return to her, saving her time upon time from her self-created problems.

The good boy lives a quiet life, a simple life with simple pleasures which I actually enjoyed reading about. His love for languages, for Paris, his ability to make few but important friendships. He is a nice man. However, he is also frustrating. Really frustrating. Because he keeps returning to this woman even though she is clearly bad for him.
The bad girl fascinated me - I found her pathetic, her lack of self-knowledge and independence annoying but at the same time I had to admire her for her courage to chase her dreams. She is so desperate for what she perceives as a better life that she seems to spoil her own chances of happiness.

"The Bad Girl" does not paint a pretty picture of its female main character. Her vanity, her lack of honesty and her lack of thoughtfulness. She is hard to care for. The same could be said for the male main character though. He has no backbone, no strength of heart. He lets himself be swayed by the bad girl time and time again. He is brought down by his own weakness as is she.
It is not a tragic tale though. I enjoyed it. For through all the difficulties and heartbreak, there is also a lot of happiness. I liked it, it is beautifully written, beautifully structured and full of life and passion.

3 Dec 2010

Review: "Big Mouth & Ugly Girl" - The Big Ugly Teenage Truth

Lately I've seen a few posts out there about how the girls and boys in YA are always really hot/sexy/cute. However, then I suggest you meet Matt and Ursula from "Big Mouth & Ugly Girl". Ursula Riggs is a big girl. Not fat - but tall and big and a little big clumsy but she refuses to give into the cheerleader-world-domination standards. Instead she has created an alter ego: Ugly Girl. Ugly Girl doesn't take any cr-p. She is true to herself and her ideals at all times - being a vegetarian, standing up for people, refusing to give into group pressure. She is a loner but a strong loner and I honestly found her cool!
Ursula/Ugly Girl's sense of justice is awoken when her classmate Matt - a popular, goofy, kind guy that everyone loves - is accused of having made a bomb threat. Suddenly Matt's life is falling apart, his friends are disappearing, his position at school changed but Ugly Girl stands up for him and an unlikely friendship blossoms.

This is a short but really cute book. It is easily read and perfect for teens because it tackles a subject that is really difficult but does it in a clever and very well-written way. This is the book I would give to a 13-year old cousin for Christmas. I love the way Ursula is described, so strong, yet with a range of emotions and things that she is worried about. She is a real person, a great girl with a lot of ideals and thoughts that I found inspiring. Read it if you want some clever YA that deals with the real and difficult things in teen life.

30 Nov 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Who would you be friends with?

Top Ten Tuesday, always a favourite with me and especially this one as the topic is Top Ten Characters I'd Like to Be Best Friends With! Difficult topic in a sense because there are so many to chose from but also a really great topic for the same reason. If you want to play along, go to The Broke and the Bookish to sign up - http://www.brokeandbookish.blogspot.com

So here I go:

10)Princess Mia from the series by Meg Cabot because she is a teenage princess with a zest for life.

9)Athos, Porthos, Aramis and d'Artagnan from "The Three Musketeers" by Alexandre Dumas. They would have your back in a fight and be fun on a night out, I am sure.

8) Anne from "Anne of Green Gables". She would have been the perfect childhood friend - and when I was a girl I used to pretend that she was my friend.

7)Sparhawk from the Elenium series by David Eddings. Strong, cool fighter with a soft heart and a dry humour. He always makes me feel at ease when I read and re-read these books!

6) Aliena from "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett. Strong girl who would be not only a friend but a role model as well.

5)Judith Taverner from "Regency Buck" by Georgette Heyer. Judith is cool, she dares venture beyond the regency perceptions of how a lady should act. I admire her strong will and courage and would love to go for a drive around Hyde Park with her.

4) Peeta from "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins. He is such a loyal, clever guy who seems genuinely nice. Somebody you could come to with a problem or when you need a friend.

3)Elizabeth Bennett from "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen. She would be the kind of girl that you can go to when you need advice or when you need someone to share an hour-long conversation about all the big things in life with.

2)Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. Clever, fun and loyal, she is definitely a girl I would like to hang out with.

1) Kay and Finn (and Ava) from "The Sopranos" and "The Stars in the Bright Sky". I think I would fit right in with these girls.

Which characters would you like to be friends with?

28 Nov 2010

Review: "Moonlight over Odessa" - Ode to Odessa

It was one of you bloggers out there - I don't remember who, unfortunately - who recommended this book, "Moonlight over Odessa" by Janet Skeslien Charles and I am very grateful that you did. I have to say I really do not like the title, it is slightly naff if you ask me but luckily the title is nothing to go by. This is a really funny, sensitive and enlightening book.

The story is told by Daria, a 23-year-old Ukranian girl living in her native Odessa and making a living as a secretary for an international company. The job is well-paid, very well-paid and lots of benefits - however, it also has a major disadvantage: Daria's boos Mr. Harmon. Having little understanding for the Ukranian way of doing business, he spends most of his timing bossing around Daria and making inappropriate suggestions. So when Daria introduces him to her good friend Olga, she thinks that it will make everything easier but it is only the beginning of her trouble. Suddenly Olga is out to get Daria's job and to get a financial safety net, Daria begins to work for "Soviet Unions", a mail order bride company who makes arranges marriages between American men and Ukranian women who are longing for the American dream. Daria becomes sucked into the world of these women whose lives in Ukraine are so difficult that they are more than happy to leave everything they know and follow a strange man halfway across the globe.

What struck me about this book was first and foremost the language. I fell for Daria straight away as Skeslien Charles has given her an incredibly clear voice. She really jumps out of the pages and comes to life. Daria is an intelligent, mature young woman and I found her refreshing because she takes responsibility not only for herself but also for her grandmother. She is the main breadwinner and she really is different from many of the other chick lit heroines out there, she is a breath of fresh air.
Another fantastic thing about this book is the way it describes Odessa. I mean, I am actually looking for flight tickets right now! Skeslien Charles makes it sounds like the most intriguing city full of warm and welcoming people.

If you want a great story with a lot of room for laughing but also full of thought-provoking topics, then this is a book for you - you can read more about it here http://www.jskesliencharles.com

26 Nov 2010

All I want for Christmas is... "The Master and Margarita"

Firstly, I love the title "The Master and Margarita". Secondly, the reviews that I have read out there in bloggo-land has made me really want this book. You, my fellow bloggers, are praising it, calling this novel by Mikhail Bulgakov a masterpiece. So naturally I need to read it.

Here are some words from the review on Amazon.com:
"Surely no stranger work exists in the annals of protest literature than The Master and Margarita. Written during the Soviet crackdown of the 1930s, when Mikhail Bulgakov's works were effectively banned, it wraps its anti-Stalinist message in a complex allegory of good and evil. Or would that be the other way around? The book's chief character is Satan, who appears in the guise of a foreigner and self-proclaimed black magician named Woland. Accompanied by a talking black tomcat and a "translator" wearing a jockey's cap and cracked pince-nez, Woland wreaks havoc throughout literary Moscow."

What do you want for Christmas?

25 Nov 2010

Let's read!!

Have you stopped by Quinn's blog "Seeing Dreaming Writing" - http://www.seeingdreamingwriting.blogspot.com/? Otherwise I recommend that you do, it is a really great blog with lots of interesting posts. Quinn has just posted a really thought-provoking list from the BBC - according to BBC you are well-read if you have read more than 6 books from this list.

Always up for a review of my


• Copy this list.

• Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety.

• Italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read only an excerpt.

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
The King James Bible
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Nineteen Eighty Four (1984) – George Orwell
His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
Complete Works of Shakespeare
Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
Middlemarch – George Eliot
Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
Emma - Jane Austen
Persuasion – Jane Austen

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
Animal Farm – George Orwell
The DaVinci Code – Dan Brown
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Atonement – Ian McEwan
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Dune – Frank Herbert
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
Dracula – Bram Stoker
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
Ulysses – James Joyce
The Inferno – Dante
Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
Germinal – Emile Zola
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
Possession – AS Byatt
Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
Watership Down – Richard Adams
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
Hamlet – William Shakespeare
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

So I think I qualify as being well-read :-) But there is still a long way to go if I want to read all of these. And to be honest, I think all of the books on this list deserve to be read! Which ones have you read? And which of them are your favourites?

24 Nov 2010

Teaser Wednesday - suprise!

As a follow-up on Teaser Tuesday yesterday, I felt like doing another teaser as I am reading more than one book at the moment (actually I always am). So here comes a teaser from "All Souls" by Javier Marias:

"The more one knows and tells about other people, the greater one's dispensation not to reveal anutomg about oneself. Consequently the whole of Oxford is fully and continuously engaged in concealing and suppressing itself whilst at the same time trying to winkle out as much information as possible about other people..."

23 Nov 2010

Teaser Tuesday: The Bad Girl

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read and let the book fall open to a random page.
Share with us two “teaser” sentences from that page.
You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!

So here is my teaser - today it is from "The Bad Girl" by Mario Vargas Llosa:

"Are you still in love with me?" Was her opening remark, to break the ice.
"The worst thing is that I think I am," I admitted, feeling my cheeks flush. "And if I weren't I would fall in love with you all over again today. You've turned into a very beautiful woman, and an extremely elegant one. I see you, and don't believe what I see, bad girl."

Which books did you choose teasers from?

22 Nov 2010

Review: "The Blue Flower" - Blossoming Love

I found this book of one of the lists of "100 Best Novels by Female Authors" and decided to give it a try - and I am really glad I did because it is a beautiful and moving little story, written by Penelope Fitzgerald who won the 1979 Booker Prize for the novel "Offshore".

"The Blue Flower" is the fictious story of the historical figure Friedrich von Hardenberg, who found fame as a writer and poet under the name Novalis. Hardenberg was born in 1772 in Germany and the family though nobility were very poor so even though Hardenberg was highly educated, he still faced having to work for a living. In "The Blue Flower" we meet the 22-year old Hardenberg as he is having to make choices about work and his future but the most important storyline in the book is about his meeting with 12-year old Sophie von Kühn. It is love at first sight for him and maybe for her as well?

Sophie is a young girl, not even mature for her age, of little education and little beauty. However, this does not seem to matter to Hardenberg who loves her passionately and when Sophie is 13 years old, they get engaged. It is around this love that the story revolves and the characters evolve.
And actually the characters are a very important part of this story. I soon came to feel that I knew Hardenberg's and Sophie's family. The strong sisters Sidonie and the Mandelshloh who take charge when their mothers give up, the little brother the Bernhardt and Erasmus who looks up to his brother Hardenberg. Their voices are so strong and they provide a great cast for this novel.

Fitzgerald's prose is beatiful, she really manages to conjure up Germany in the time of romanticism where science was still young and the students philosophised and discussed the great matters in life. I could almost smell the dirt and taste the beer, hear the horses. The prose is what stood out for me because it captures these star-crossed lovers - the educated gentleman and his somewhat dimwitted childbride. It is lovingly fun, subtlely pointing out the follies of man while revering the love of Hardenberg for Sophie von Kühn.

19 Nov 2010

Back to the Classics - what to read?

Enjoying a quite night in trying to put together a shortlist of books for the "Back to the Classics Challenge 2011".
Here is what I have so far:

- A Banned Book
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence

- A Book with a Wartime Setting (can be any war)
Atonment by Ian McEwan

- A Pulitzer Prize (Fiction) Winner or Runner Up:
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
American Pastoral by Philip Roth

- A Children's/Young Adult Classic
The Secret Garden by Frances Burnett
Peter Pan by J. Barrie
Little Women by Louisa Alcott

- 19th Century Classic
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
La Dame aux Camelias by Alexander Dumas

- 20th Century Classic
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

- A Book you think should be considered a 21st Century Classic
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

- Re-Read a book from your High School/College Classes
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

18 Nov 2010

All I want for Christmas is... "Wait for Me"

I have a thing for the Mitford clan - you may even called me a Mitford maniac. As you can see on your left hand side, "The Mitford Sisters" is one of my favourite book and earlier I posted a review of Anne de Courcy's biography of Diana Mitford.

So of course I have to add Deborah Devonshire's new book "Wait for Me" to my Christmas wishlist. Debo, as she is often called, is the youngest Miford sister and she is now in her 90's. She is the kind of lady that I can't help but admire and her books should be full of delicious tales spiced with historic celebrities.

What will be on your wishlist?

17 Nov 2010

Back to the Classics Challenge 2011

Sarah over at Sarah Reads Too Much - http://www-sarahreadstoomuch.blogspot.com - has started the perfect challenge to take on in 2011! It is called "Back to the Classics Challenge 2011" and it is .... surprise... about reading and re-reading classics!

This is something that I have been wanting to do forever - not only read classics but read them in a structured manner. So of course I have signed up already and I really think that you should join :-)

Thechallenge is open to anyone who would like to participate and you join at Sarah's blog. There is a 6 month time frame for completion and the goals to complete are:

- A Banned Book
- A Book with a Wartime Setting (can be any war)
- A Pulitzer Prize (Fiction) Winner or Runner Up
- A Children's/Young Adult Classic
- 19th Century Classic
- 20th Century Classic
- A Book you think should be considered a 21st Century Classic
- Re-Read a book from your High School/College Classes

Not sure which books I will be going for. I am thinking maybe "Peter Pan" for Children's Classic - do you have any ideas?
For 20th Century Classic I will probably go for "Brideshead Revisited" by Evelyn Waugh... For the rest I will need to do some research before deciding.

16 Nov 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Criminals, Villains and other Degenerates!

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish - http://www.brokeandbookish.blogspot.com/

Everyone is welcome to join - just you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post and sign the mister linky on the B&B blog.

This Tuesday are dedicated to Top Ten Villains! We all know that sometimes it is the villain that makes a story so here is a post celebrating those baddies and nastiest in literature!

10. Mr. Wickham from Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice". Because he is a nasty golddigger with no shame what-so-ever. He really deserves getting married to Lydia, talk about a match made in hell...

9. Zenia from Margaret Atwood's "The Robber Bride". In Denmark there is a saying that goes "Women are woman's worst enemy" and that is exactly Zenia. She enters the lives of three women and wreaks havoc. What a b-tch!

8. Humbert Humbert from "Lolita" by Nabokov. Because he is outright creepy and disgusting!

7.Captain Hook from "Peter Pan" by J. M. Barrie. The man wants to kill children. Honestly. He may not seem bad in the Disney movie but he is a nasty piece of work.

6. Marquise de Merteuil from "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. Again a woman who will stop at nothing to get her will, you definitely do not want to cross her...

5. The three witches from Neil Gaiman's "Stardust" who are plotting to kill an innocent, young fallen star and cut out her heart to recapture youth and beauty.

4.William Hamleigh from "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett. This guy will do anything to destroy his personal enemies and he sure knows how to hold a grudge. The characteristics of his personality seem to be brutish, violent and evil.

3. The totalitarian regime in "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margeret Atwood. I can't describe the horror of this regime that has turned women into caste-divided creatures that only live to serve men. The scariest book ever.

2. Voldemort fra the Harry Potter series (J.K. Rowling, don't think I have to mention that...). Need I say more? Voldemort is evil, really evil.

1. Milady de Winther from "The Three Musketeers" by Alexandre Dumas. I have always been really scared by Milady de Winther - she is a chilling character. Evil to the bone but able to conceal it behind a mask that alernates between worldly beauty, damsel in distress and pious scapegoat. She is a villain if there ever was one!

Do you want more villains? Then check out this link http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3560987/50-greatest-villains-in-literature.html

Who are your fave villains?

15 Nov 2010

Review: "Crescendo" - No more hushing up the truth

A couple of days ago "Crescendo" by Becca Fitzpatrick landed in my mailbox to my utter delight! I read "Hush, Hush" a couple of weeks ago and though I had not been craving the sequel, I was still really looking forward to reading it. I didn't really have time to read during the weekend but I found time - in my bed, under my duvet with a flashlight trying not to disturb my boyfriend.

The story of "Crescendo" starts where "Hush, Hush" left off. Nora has put the dramatic events behind her and is enjoying her twosomeness with gorgeous Patch, her guardian angel (who btw. is definitely not the angelic type!). However, not long into the book Patch starts getting weird. He hides stuff from Nora and when she says the three big words....he drives off!!
So Nora - being a cool chick with a good deal of sense - decides not to let herself be used as a doormat and breaks up with Patch! I so did not see that coming but I was delighted that Nora turned out to be such a strong girl.
Then a new guy Scott - aka Scotty the Potty aka Scotty the Hottie - moves to town and very early on it becomes clear that he has a past. A scary, bad sort of past.
However, as Patch is now spending time with Nora's sworn enemy Marcie, Nora needs Scott to show Patch that she is over him. Let the action begin.

I have to say that my expectations weren't that high for this sequel but I was so surprised. I actually liked "Crescendo" better than "Hush, Hush". Mostly because Nora steps up to the plate and tells Patch where to go because he really lets her down and acts like a total jerk. So good on Nora for standing up for herself.
Also I have to say that I enjoyed the little catfights between Nora and Marcie - that girl really has a fighting spirit - but at times (will not say anymore to avoid spoilers) my heart was aching for Nora.

This book was great as paranormal romance goes. A really good book that left me feeling 16 years old again. Also it was full of twists and mysteries, especially surrounding the death of Nora's father.
If you like Bella&Edward, Luce&Daniel or any of the other romances out there, this one will not let you down!

Do you want to read what other bloggers though of this book?
BrittLit: http://thelifeofateenlibrarian.blogspot.com/2010/10/review-crescendo-becca-fitzpatrick.html

The Compulsive Reader: http://www.thecompulsivereader.com/2010/11/crescendo-by-becca-fitzpatrick.html

Ink And Paper: http://jo-scrawls.blogspot.com/2010/09/review-crescendo-by-becca-fitzpatrick.html

Bye bye bullying!

How I wish that I could wave a magic wand and say those words! Bullying affect so many children and also many adults all around the world every day. Luckily there are people out there who are working to fight this - and there are a lot of great books out there about bullying.

Asamum Booktopia is hosting an Anti-bullying Week starting today so head straight to http://www.asamum.blogspot.com/ to read more.
On the schedule for today Asamum has

Introduction to Advice on Bullying by Bullying UK - at Asamum Booktopia Monday 15th November

Review: The Silence Seeker by Ben Morley - at Susan K Mann Monday 15th November

Review and Giveaway: Dancing in the Dark by Peter Prendergast - at Chicklish Monday 15th November

Review: Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers - at Fluttering Butterflies Monday 15th November

Guest Review: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli - at Asamum Booktopia Monday 15th November

If you want to read more about bullying, here are some of my reading recommendations on great books that deal with this topic:

- "The Exception" by Christian Jungersen
- "Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson
- "Let the Right One In" by John Ajvide Lindqvist
- "The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things" by Carolyn Mackler

14 Nov 2010

Review: "Inexcusable" - When good guys do bad things

Another day, another YA read. I don't know what it is about me but these days I am really in a YA mood, reading all young adult books to come my way :-) In my mailbox this week, yesterday actually, I got "Inexcusable" by Chris Lynch which I ordered after reading "Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson as this book tackles the same difficult topic. Date rape. This is a topic that I think is really important and I commend these writers for dealing with it and making it approachable for teens.
In "Speak" we heard the story of Melinda who was date raped and suffered from a depression as she failed to cope with the emotional turmoil that the assault left her in.

In "Inexcusable" we meet Keir Sarafian, a senior at the local high school, a prominent football player and allround good guy. At least this is how he sees himself - but just like Eva in "We Need to Talk About Kevin", Keir insight into his own personality and he reflections on his own actions are lacking... To say the least. As Keir sees it, he is a the American Good Guy. He has come to fame in the local community after a game in which he - accidentally, maybe - hurt a player from the opposite badly. He lives in perfect bachelorhood with his dad, as his sisters Fran and Mary have left for college and he has a teenage crush on Gigi Boudakian.
However, the book alternates between scenes from a room, a situation where Gigi is accusing Keir of having raped her, and the past few months leading up to this where Keir argues his case. He is a good guy. And good guys do not rape the girls they have a crush on.

This book was a really quick read. It is written for teens and the language and the style is perfect for this segment. If I had read this when I was 13, I would have been so crazy about it and I have to say that I am impressed by the way that Lynch handles this subject. The story line is a difficult one - it is not a main character that you easily find yourself liking but somehow, despite all his flaws, Keir is quite likeable. He is a spoiled kid with a bad grip on reality and no understanding of himself or his actions but he is not mean.

I will save this books and give it to a teen someday. It is a really good YA read in the sense that it does not condescend, it understands and explains. If you are an English teacher teaching 13-15 year olds, this is a great read to introduce them to, just as "Speak" is.

13 Nov 2010

Review: "Let the Right One In" - Petra Pan the Vampire Girl

So I picked up "Let the Right One In" in Heathrow Airport because I desperately needed a book to read in the evening. As there was not a lot to choose from, I was very pleased to see that they had "Let the Right One In" by John Ajvide Lindqvist as I really like the film adaption - "Let Me In" - and have been wanting to read the book.
Have you seen the movie? If yes, you will have a really good idea about what this book is about because the film follows the book quite rigidly. In a good sense, that is.

This is a different type of vampire fiction, more reminiscent of the Anne Rice vampire fiction than of Twilight.
Oskar lives in Swedish suburb Blackeberg with his mother. It is a pretty grey and grim world with not a lot of happiness in it. Which is very much to do with the bullying that Oskar is subjected to at school. He is bullied in that nasty, violent way that some boys experience, getting his head "washed" in the toilet and getting beaten up. He is such a poor lonesome kid that the first part of the book almost broke my heart.
But then Oskar meets the girl Eli who has just moved in next door and comes out to play at night. There is something different about Eli. She lives with an elderly man who takes care of feeding her... And this means that Blackeberg suddenly expriences some violent, awful murders.
We also meet some of the other characters in Blackeberg - the bums, check-out ladies and other lonesome existences who all in one way or another come entangled with Eli and Oskar and as the plot unfolds, it becomes a more and more sticky situation.

What I really liked about this book are the small twists here and there. Nothing is what it seems. The poor old man is actually in my opinion more of a bad guy than Eli who is just trying to survive. And Eli is a sort of unlikely, involuntary Peter/Petra Pan who is trapped in a youthful exterior. And Oskar, Oskar is such a sweet boy. He really loves his mother but at the same time the only way he can find to deal with the violence he experiences at school is by inflicting torture and pain in his daydreams.
I kept wanting to take him by the hand and show him some kindness.

This is a strong mystery, vampire fiction tale. However, it is also a tale of bullying, betrayal and survival of the fittest. It is somehow a gruesome yet sophisticated story about the frailness of human beings. I liked it. And if you are looking for an antidote to romantic hot vampires then this should fit the bill.

12 Nov 2010

Story telling - surely that lives on forever?

So I just read a great post on Pretty Witter's blog - http://www.pettywitter.blogspot.com/- about story telling through the times, asking if we think that story telling will die out.

In my opinion story telling is an intrinsic part of being a human being. Telling stories about ourselves helps us contruct our identity, it is a way of understanding ourselves and passing on our experiences and values and so on to others. What do you think?

I really like this quote by Paul Ricoeur:

"Myth expresses in terms of the world - that is, of the other world or the second world - the understanding that man has of himself in relation to the foundation and the limit of his existence."
Paul Ricoeur

11 Nov 2010

Review: "Room" - Life within four walls

You have probably heard about the Natascha Kampusch case or the Elisabeth Fritzl case. "Room" by Emma Donoghue is the story of the Jack and Ma case. Jack is five years old and he lives in Room with his mother, Ma. Room is his little kingdom - he sleeps in Wardrobe and is friends with Spider, Plant and even Door. Sometimes he watches TV even though he knows - Ma has told him - that the people inside the TV are not real. There are only three persons in Jack's world, himself, his Ma and Old Nick, the evil old man who brings them food and Sunday treats and who visits them only at night.
For Jack this is the entire world but his Ma knows that there is more in Outside and one day she decides that she needs to save herself and save Jack. However, becoming part of the world outside is not easy - neither for Jack, nor for Ma.

This book was nominated for the Booker Prize in 2010 and I can see why. It is an amazing literary book that Emma Donoghue has written. She really takes the reader into Jack's world, letting us experience this from his innocent perspective. His love for Ma, his fear of Old Nick and his dependence on Sunday treat. And through his eyes we understand Ma, a 27-year-old who has been trapped in a garden shed for eight years and who has almost more trouble dealing with the vast real world than with her confinement between the four walls.
Jack loves his Ma unconditionally and so did I. Though we never get to experience her thoughts or feelings directly, I came to respect this character immensely for what she inspires in Jack. He is such a sweet kid with such an childish insight in life.

I read this book more or less in one go, once I started on it, I just could not put it down. It is a fantastic book and all it lacked from my perspective was more pages. I really wanted to read more about Jack, he had become so real for me and he really interested me. Emma Donoghue has written a beautiful book that I think many of you out there will enjoy.

7 Nov 2010

Review: "Decline and Fall" - A Satiric Tour de Force

Evelyn Waugh is one of my favourite authors, his literary fiction is of an exceptional standard, his language is gripping and beautiful and his storylines are unique. Waugh had a way of pointing out the ironies in society, satirising people and situations and shedding light on follies.

"Decline and Fall" had been on my TBR list for a good long while and this week I finally managed to read it. And I have to say that I am so glad I did. This is a work of art, a funny satire about one man's unintentional stumbling road through life. Paul Pennyfeather is studying theology at Oxford but is sent down from university in disgrace though this is by no means his own fault. Penniless Pennyfeather takes on a job as a teacher at Llanabba, a public school in Wales run by a staff of little competence and a great many oddities. Here he forms a friendship with one of the students, Peter Beste-Chetwynde, whose mother Margot Beste-Chetwynde (pronounced beast-cheating) he is hopelessly in love with.
Paul's happiness therefore seems secured when Margot ask her to tutor Peter in the vacation and he ends up engaged to her. However, Margot Beste-Chetwynde is not what she seams, she runs a brothel business and though Paul knows nothing about this he ends up getting arrested on the morning of their wedding. Then follows months in prison, something which becomes him well, however, he is saved by Margot's new fiancee and her lover and Paul ends up back at Oxford whereby the circle comes to a close.

This plot is so dramatic, so full of events but what is captivating is the fact that Paul has no hand in these events. He is simply carried by the waves of life through all these events. He takes no decisions himself, chooses nothing for himself. He is an anti-hero if there ever was one. A sad excuse for a man. But reading about him and all of the hopeless situations he has to go through is very entertaining.
The satire shows of the idiocies of mankind, it is a great comic masterpiece that will have you laughing not with Paul but at him and his many troubles. He is a character to you despair of but at the same time you cheer him on and Waugh's ability to make me feel compassion and understanding for this ridiculous little man is fascinating. If you like P.G. Wodehouse, this is definitely a book for you!