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.