Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Top 5 Wednesdays: Favourite Character Tropes

Hello everyone and welcome back to my ever-expanding blog! Today I bring you another Top 5 Wednesday list, inspired by the wonderful GingerReadsLainey. This week's topic of 'Favourite Character Tropes' was another difficult one for me (Lainey isn't making this easy for us at the moment!), as to start with, I am ashamed to say that I didn't even know what a character trope is! I hope I have now got the gist of it, as it'll be pretty embarrassing if none of the items on this list count as character tropes, but *fingers crossed*. 

So, without further ado...I should probably just launch straight in! 

5) A man considered to be a 'player' who becomes smitten with a girl and becomes tamed.
I have to admit, I tend to see this more in films, but I am sure there are loads of books too that I am overlooking! One that springs to mind is Gideon from the Crossfire series. He is the huge player who doesn't ever commit and has a hotel room permanently rented out for when he wants to bring random girls back. Then he meets Eva, and she is the first to be allowed into his home and into his heart and he settles and devotes everything to her...I love it! :)

4) An interfering family member.
Who doesn't love a bit of a family feud or drama?! I can think of so many examples of this:
- The whole family in Almost English
- The mother-in-law in The Other Woman
- The mum in the Crossfire series
- The sister in The Ugly Sister
All of these cause family drama, and it reminds me how lucky I am to have the family I do! :)

3) Really really kind and wonderful religious people.
I'm sure this is obvious to many people, but I think that these characters in books are so fantastic as they help to neutralise some of the bad press that religious people get! What with extremism etc (wow this is getting heavy..), many atheists can't see the benefit of religion. That's why I think it is so important that religion is represented in its way of creating wonderfully patient, kind and caring people, such as:
- Owen Meany from A Prayer for Owen Meany
- those who work in the convent in Instructions for a Heatwave
- the monks in Hector's Search for Happiness
- the sisters in The Secret Life of Bees

2) A romance that grants the couple a new lease of life.
Back on the loved-up theme, I love really cheesey stories where a romance can change a person's life for the better.
- Violet and Finch in All the Bright Places
-  Pat and Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook
- Lou and Will in Me Before You
All of these characters are going through hardships, and in finding each other, they get a renewed faith in the beauty of life, and I love it! :)

1) An alien trying to make sense of human life.
This has got to be my favourite, because it makes for some hilarious writing at times! Some of my favourites are
- The Humans
- Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
- The Lorien Legacies
An 'alien's' perspective on what it is to be human can be so refreshing and amusing at the same time. These books are thoroughly entertaining, and I would highly recommend them to people who want a little taste of SciFi! :)

That's it for another Top 5 Wednesday! I hope you enjoyed it. If you know of any other books which fit my favourite tropes, please let me know! Also, I'd love to read your lists, so please post the links in the comments below :) 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Top Ten Tuesdays: Characters who are Fellow Book Nerds

Hello everyone and welcome back to my bookish blog! Today is time for another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and Bookish. This week's topic is Top Ten Characters who are Fellow Book Nerds! It came as no surprise to me that a lot of these characters were childhood favourites of mine, as I have always been a complete geek when it comes to books! :) 

10) Isabel Archer - Portrait of a Lady
This book was an epic challenge for me - 680 pages! But I loved the fact that Isabel was the clever, intelligent one and she loved reading! I take that as no coincidence! Also, in true book geekishness, can we please all appreciate how beautiful this cover is?! I think it is one of my favourites ever!

9) Anastasia - Grey (Fifty Shades of Grey)
I may be judged for saying this, but in some ways I felt I could relate to Anastasia - I really liked her as a character! I can't lie, I wouldn't be complaining if a rich man bought me first-edition copies of a book I loved! Who wouldn't love that, let's be honest! :)

8) Liesel - The Book Thief
I don't think anyone can claim to be more committed to books than Liesel! To steal books illegally from fires and read them over and over again until you have the opportunity to steal another? I applaud that commitment to reading!

7) Alice - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
And so begins my selection of favourite childhood characters! Sitting in/under a tree in the sunshine reading a book in a pretty blue dress? What could be more peaceful?! Life goals...that is all.

6) Charlie - Perks of Being a Wallflower
I love Charlie, he is such an adorable character. He forms such a close bond with his English teacher because he gets all his favourite book recommendations and I just think that's fabulous!

5) Pat - Silver Linings Playbook
Pat is another character I just love. In an effort to win back his ex-wife, he begins to read all of the books she teaches on her syllabus, and he learns so much in the process, which I think aids his recovery! He also has very strong reactions and emotions towards certain books, which to me is the sign of a great reader!

4) Hermione - Harry Potter
Yes, she may read textbooks mainly, but we can't discriminate here! You can't really fault Hermione, she is another character who reads and is the most intelligent person there! This can't all be a coincidence...

3) Violet - All the Bright Places
Violet and Finch bond over quoting Virginia Woolfe. Bleurgh, I know, it is quite cringey, but at the same time, I don't think I could honestly say that a boy quoting my favourite authors wouldn't win me over!

2) Belle - Beauty and the Beast
I know this is slightly cheating as it is the Disney film version of this which I love most, but as I used to have a Disney book version as a child, I am counting this. As I am sure I have said before, Belle is just my idol. As her name suggests, she is beautiful, she is courageous, she loves reading, she is French AND she gets given her own library. I mean come perfect can life get?!

1) Matilda
Matilda easily swiped my top spot in this one! Matilda was one of my favourite books as a child because I loved her all through the story as she was escaping the wrath of her parents by shutting herself behind a wall of books, or wandering off to the library. For the story to then end with her having magical powers, what a great finale! She was bright, she was loved by her teachers (story of my life...joking!), and then she had magic powers! This little book geek defeated the hellish Ms Trunchbull, so this heroine deserves my top spot!

So there you have it! I have to say, this was my favourite Top 10 Tuesday: each one of these characters celebrates a slightly different reason why I love reading, and I love each and every one of them very much! Characters who love books really are the best kind :) Who are your favourite nerdy characters? 

Monday, 27 July 2015

V: The Collini Case

Hello everyone! :) Here we have yet another book which I read over my weekend! Continuing on the theme of Nazi Germany, we have 'The Collini Case' by Ferdinand von Schirach.

Collini is an Italian. He is in his 60s. He pretends to be a journalist in Germany, walks into the hotel room of an 80-year-old man whom he has never met, shoots him 4 times, and kicks him so many times that his face is completely disfigured. He then walks calmly down to the reception, tells them there has been a murder, sits quietly and waits to be arrested. 

Why would he do that? What possible cause of revenge could he have? I don't want to spoil the plot of this book too much, otherwise its charm is also ruined. 

Therefore, suffice to say that it is extremely well-researched, and thus very educational! I learned a lot from reading this book! It follows the 'Collini case', which seems so clear-cut. Collini admit to murder, his DNA is all over it, what could his motive be? This motive runs a lot deeper than anyone could have expected, and is thrilling to read.

I gave this book 3 stars because I think it could have been written a little better, but nevertheless, I do not regret a second of the time I took to read this. I learned a lot, and would still recommend it to all those interested in history, particularly German history! 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

U: The Reunion

Hello once again, my lovely readers! :) I really have read some fantastic books this weekend, and would next like to share with you my thoughts on 'The Reunion', by Fred Uhlman. I have included a link to it's GoodReads page as for some reason it is very difficult to find!

Speaking of things which are difficult to find...did anyone else doing an A-Z author challenge find U exceptionally difficult?! I scoured the entirety of a Waterstones store and came to a grand total of three...Updike, this, and a crime series, of which they didn't have the first instalment, so that was scratched from the list of possibilities. I decided to go for this, as I have had very few dealings with novellas, and the synopsis talks of the beautiful development of a friendship - how can that be done in 74 pages? I was intrigued, so thought I'd give it a go!

This is the story of Hans, a 16-year-old Jew, living in Stuttgart in the 1930s. One day, his first true friend walks into his classroom in the form of Konradin, a Christian. The reader is expertly guided through the development and blossoming of their beautiful friendship in only around 30 pages, but yet it never seems to lack detail.

All of a sudden their friendship is turned upside down by the rise of the Nazis, and the fall in respect for the Jews. Hans suffers with extreme feeling of betrayal as he watches his friend mould into the anti-Semitic views of his family, and he himself is sent to America for safety.

The ending is so delicious and warm-hearted, it made me so happy! True friendship never really goes away, it can just sometimes take a while to find your way back to it when the world is trying to push you off its path. The story is so powerful when it asks the question: why did being a Jew and being German have to become mutually exclusive?

This novella is a great testament to the few words needed to make a powerful and poignant story if those words are expertly chosen. It's a work of art, really.

Do you enjoy reading novellas? Are they always this good?! Can anyone give me recommendations of others I might like? I would love to hear from you :) 

T: The Accident

Hello again and welcome back for the second instalment of my weekend readathon! :) This time I am going to talk to you about my 'T', which was 'The Accident' by C.L Taylor.

I really love crime novels. My favourite authors tend to focus on crime on a big level, like as part of the Ministry of Defence, or huge company fraud or international drug rings. This book really intrigued me because it was crime on a much more local level. I'll show you the synopsis that gripped me:

I just thought this was so intriguing, and had to pick it up! I have to say, I was completely hooked from the moment I started reading until the very last page. Taylor had a really clever way of keeping my attention: a chapter of the main story would be left on an epic cliffhanger, then I would be forced to hurriedly read through a diary entry from the past to get back to the main story and find out where the excitement would take me! It was like the frustration of an ad-break halfway through the climax of a film! It was just so fantastically written! There were parts that really made me laugh, there were parts that made me really feel sad for Sue and it was quite emotional! Obviously I can't give away too many details of the plot, but I think it was fab, and even the ending was just utter perfection. 

The comparison to 'Before I Go to Sleep', which is one of my all-time favourite books, is perfectly justified: it is definitely in the same league! I thoroughly recommend you pick this book up! A solid 5-stars from me! :) 

As always, let me know what you think of this book if you have read it...I really hope I encourage even just one of you to pick it up! 

S: The Lovely Bones

Hello and happy rainy weekend! :) This has been the perfect opportunity for me to have an epic read-athon, so I started my weekend on S, and am now almost finished W! :) I guess I should therefore apologise for the review spam you are likely to receive in the next few days as I catch up! :)

So, first off I bring you my review of 'The Lovely Bones', by Alice Sebold. This has been on my TBR list forever, as I have always been very intrigued by the premise: a girl being murdered and then watching what happens to her family once she is gone? Who wouldn't want to see how people reacted to their death?

So, my A-Z challenge gave me the perfect excuse to buy this book and read it as my 'S'. In my time working in Waterstones I have seen many beautiful covers for this, but this is by far my favourite, and I was so happy that it was sitting in Picadilly for me the day I wanted to buy it!

So, for me, the book started off really well. You are immediately introduced to the fact that Susie was murdered, and how that comes about. She then takes you back a few months, to give you a feeling for her personal connection to all those she then decides to watch from heaven. It gave me everything I wanted in the first 100 pages, particularly a really thought-provoking description of heaven and how it is possible to make it everything you want to be. That's a comfort, it's heart-warming and it's just lovely. 

As the police seemed to get farther and farther from solving the mystery of her crime, her family (father in particular) became more and more determined to solve it themselves. For some reason though, their frantic search for her killer wasn't nearly as saturated with emotion as it should have been. For this story to have gripped and moved me, I needed to feel a lot more strongly connected to the characters, and needed to feel close to crying along with them. In the absence of that, I actually felt that the storyline seemed pretty flat. I wasn't engaged with it, and at times became quite bored, which I am ashamed to say! 

I read the foreword after finishing it, where the writer says she first read this book in her 20s and didn't really get the deep meaning in it. She then read it again 10-15 years later and suddenly it was so much more emotive and thought-provoking. Maybe that's my issue? Maybe I should return to this in 10 years and see whether my opinion changes?

For now I just think that a lot more could have been made of such an intriguing and unique storyline! Also, the ending for me was just plain bizarre! I know the whole thing is not 'normal; or plausible, but that bit was just strange! 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one! I am sure there are many people reading this who can't believe I have anything bad to say about this book, so please make yourself known in the comments below! I'd love to talk about it :) 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

R: The Geneva Trap

Wow, I can't believe I am already on 'R' for my A-Z challenge! This time it is the turn of 'The Geneva Trap' by Stella Rimington. This is the 7th book in the Liz Carlyle series, of which there are currently 8. I unfortunately bought this before the wonderful days of Goodreads, so was unaware of its position in a series, so attempted to read this standalone. This made me apprehensive, and coupled with the mixed reviews I have seen, I wasn't sure what to expect!

Well, what can I say?! Oh the suspense, oh the drama!! I thought this story was SO clever! Stella Rimington is said to be a former head of MI5, and it shows! That background experience gives her stories such a credibility and plausibility, so they escape the far-fetchedness that a lot of crime/spy thrillers can suffer with! There were so many clever threads in the plot, so you finally think you have nailed-down a clue, then 10 pages later it has all been thrown back up in the air again! There was just the right number of characters: not too few that the story was easily predictable, but not too many that they became impossible to keep tabs on (another common problem with this genre). 

I really could not put this book down, and as a consequence, I stayed up far too late at night to finish it! I thought it was a clever move by Rimington to make some of the characters at risk Liz's friends and family, as it added an extra tier to the stakes, and made the story all the more exciting. 

I always make a point with this genre to try my hardest not to try and guess the ending. Had I tried to, there is potential that I could have worked out the ending ahead of time, but as I don't like to spoil books for myself in that way, it wasn't a problem for me and I was hooked right until the very end! I thought the ending was great as it tied up all the loose ends and left me completely satisfied! 

I really urge those of you considering this book to ignore all the negative reviews and pick it up! You don't need to read them in order, this works perfectly well as a standalone novel! Needless to say, I will be keeping my eye out for more from Liz Carlyle! A definite must-read from me! :)

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Q: The Silver Linings Playbook

Well here I finally am with a very long-overdue review of The Silver Linings Playbook, by Matthew Quick. This was completed as part of my A-Z Author Challenge 2015!

I should point out that I did something I never do with this one...I watched the film before reading the book! I just couldn't resist when I saw it playing on TV! However, luckily there were loads of differences between the film and the book, so that was fine by me! :) Also, sometimes I don't like watching films first because then all I can imagine are the actors from the film, but in this case that wasn't a bad thing either, as I love Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, so I was quite happy for them to be playing the parts of Pat and Tiffany in my head! :)

However much I like Bradley and Jennifer though, their movie cover will never live up to the original:

So, a quick synopsis from Goodreads:
"Meet Pat. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure a happy ending for him -- the return of his estranged wife Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent time in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat's now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he's being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he's being hunted by Kenny G!
In this enchanting novel, Matthew Quick takes us inside Pat's mind, showing us the world from his distorted yet endearing perspective. As the award-winning novelist Justin Cronin put it: "Tender, soulful, hilarious, and true, The Silver Linings Playbook is a wonderful debut."

Oh Pat, you break my heart! I love Pat as a character, he is portrayed so well and it is so endearing to see him fight so hard to win back the woman he loves. He has such an air of innocence; he may be aggressive at times, but I couldn't possibly hold that against him and I got frustrated along with him when he messes up! It was so heart-breaking to read that he was so convinced that by changing his ways he could win his ex-wife back, she is clearly his entire world. I felt just as much sympathy for him as I would if he were my real-life friend! He tries so hard, bless him!

Then Tiffany is thrown into the mix, and she shifts his life once more! He is willing to learn to dance just to get a chance to talk to his ex-wife! Yes, the ending may be predictable, but it doesn't make it any less delicious! It is almost like the adult version of the ending I so wanted from All the Bright Places

I just loved it! I couldn't put it down, and I was rooting for Pat so strongly that I cried, laughed and smiled along with him! A really lovely story :) 

Top 5 Wednesdays: Characters Who Deserve Their Own Series

Hello everyone and happy Wednesday! It's time for another Top 5, a meme hosted by GingerReadsLainey. This week's topic is 'Top 5 Characters Who Deserve Their Own Series'. I actually found this quite difficult, because it is easiest to fall in love with the main character in a story...a side character has to be particularly memorable to be included in this list! But, alas, I have chosen 5, so here we go....

5) Cary from the Crossfire Series
The Crossfire series is based on Gideon and Eva's relationship, both of whom had abuse problems in childhood. Eva met Cary at a group for people recovering from childhood trauma, and I think he is just such a likeable character with a very A-list and exciting life, so I would like to read a book written from his perspective! Maybe not a whole series though...

4) Setrakus Ra from the Lorien Legacies
I'm sure many of you know how much I love the Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore! They are the story of 10 Garde members, sent to Earth to escape their planet which had been decimated by the Mogs. Setrakus Ra is the leader of the Mogs, and follows them to Earth, in an attempt to wipe out the remainder of their population He is so evil, and makes me so angry, but I would love to hear the story of the Mogs a bit more! We do get a little bit of that in the spin-off novellas, but it isn't nearly enough for me!

3) Voldemort from Harry Potter
Along the 'baddies' theme, I would definitely like to know more about Tom Riddle, and his rise to evil power. How did he recruit the Death Eaters? What made him turn so evil? I think that'd be a great story.
I would also like to praise the idea I saw on ATimeThatFlies: the Marauders from Harry Potter! SO true! How good would it be to learn about James, Lupin, Peter and Sirius at Hogwarts?! That would be so amazing!

2) Tiffany from Silver Linings Playbook
I love both Tiffany and Pat from SLP, but seeing as Pat is the main character, Tiffany gets this spot! I think Jennifer Lawrence is perfect to play her in the film too! She has issues, and a troubled past, and finds ways to heal herself through dance. I would love to know more about her history and her road to recovery! Again...maybe not a series, but definitely a book! :)

1) Daniel Cleaver from Bridget Jones
I was so proud of myself for this idea...I would LOVE to read a diary written by Daniel Cleaver from Bridget Jones. You could even do a dual POV thing with Mark Darcy to highlight the hilarious contrast between them! Daniel Cleaver is just such a cheeky bad boy that I think it'd be fab to spend a day inside his head!

So there you have it, my top 5 characters I would like to read more about! I guess most of them would work as a single book, rather than a full series, so I hope that's not cheating! What characters would you most like to read more about? Post the links to your T5W list below! :) 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Top Ten Tuesdays: Books that Celebrate Diversity

Hello my lovely readers...iiit's Tuesday so that means it is time for another Top Ten Tuesday! Today's title is 'Top 10 Books that Celebrate Diversity', and there seems to be a lot of focus amongst other bloggers, particularly those who read a lot of YA, on LGBTQ books, which is great! Unfortunately, I have not read many books with LGBTQ characters, so this post will take a slightly different angle. I have chosen to include books that not only celebrate diversity, but also highlight the struggles that others encounter, which people who are considered 'normal' may not understand, as I think that is equally as important.

So let's get started!

10) The Colour Purple - Alice Walker
I couldn't bear to put this book any higher because it is just such a harrowing read, and under a title of 'celebrating diversity', it just didn't feel right. This book is set in the deep American South, and centres around the struggles of a young woman who was abused by her father and gets married to someone who isn't much nicer! Unfortunately, it seems that this wasn't a rare occurrence in that society, and the book is written very well...just don't expect it to be uplifting!

9) Elizabeth is Missing - Emma Healey
Maud suffers from Alzheimer's. I didn't rate this book very highly as it was written very erratically, but actually, it does serve as a very strong testament as to how confusing the life of a person suffering with this condition must be! I really struggled to follow the thread of the story! Nevertheless, being the first book I had read with a character like this, it was definitely an eye-opener!

8) My Name Is...? - Alastair Campbell
This story is about a girl called Hannah, who suffers with alcoholism. Cor, these first 3 have been depressing, right?! I promise I'll cheer it up as we get higher up the list. Again, this book was such an eye-opener for me as it describes the effect that Hannah's condition has on her mother too, and it's really powerful!

7) The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Okay I know I said I would cheer this up...I promise I will after this one! For those who follow my blog, you may remember my recent review of this book, and remember how strong the emotions were that it provoked within me. It made me so angry to see the treatment of a girl in the 1960s with depression, and how decisions were always made over her head. I am glad that we live in a society where this is slowly changing, but unfortunately it is not changing quick enough, and this book serves as an extremely powerful, and emotive testament to that.

6) The Secret Life of Bees - Sue Monk Kidd
Yay, a much cheerier note! Set in South Carolina, this is the story of Lily's search for her mother's history, when all she has to go on is a picture of the Black Madonna with a place name on the back. She finds a trio of beekeepers who agree to look after her, and teach her the way they worship Black Madonna. I found this absolutely fascinating, as I had never encountered this religion/belief before, so I think it is a great celebration of more obscure cultures, and I really enjoyed it!

5) Me Before You - Jojo Moyes
People may think that this is a classic contemporary romance, but come on, this is Moyes: it is so much more than that! Lou meets Will, who has suffered a motorcycle accident which has left him in a wheelchair. This is one of the few books I have read that involves a disabled person, and it is such a beautiful story, and Will is such a wonderful character - definitely a must-read!

4) Henry's Demons - Patrick and Henry Cockburn
This is the only non-fiction addition to this list! This is the biography of Henry's schizophrenia, told from both his point of view, and that of his father. I read this book a long time ago but it has always stood out to me as it is such an open, honest, and in some places entertaining account of such a life-changing condition. Not only does it affect Henry, but his whole family's lives are turned upside down by his 'demons', and once again, it is a complete eye-opener to a condition that is so misunderstood.

3) The Rosie Project/The Rosie Effect - Graeme Simsion
I love Don Tillman! He is such an endearing character, who seems to suffer Asperger's syndrome. However despite this, he is the cutest character I can think of, and I love all his quirks and how intelligent he is, and just everything! He is a fabulous celebration of how amazing those with Autistic Spectrum disorders can be! :)

2) House Rules - Jodi Picoult
Along the same theme, this is one of my favourite Jodi Picoult books! Jacob had Asperger's syndrome, and one day his behaviours make him look very suspicious when there is a murder case in the town! This fantastic story tells of how his mother fights to get his voice heard - why should his voice be any less heard? An absolutely amazing read!

1) The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - John Boyne
Celebrating diversity is about seeing through any prejudice, right? And who sees through prejudice better than young children? Their youthful innocence allows them to become friends with whoever they like, irrespective of any prejudice or misconception. That is why The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas tops my list, because it is the perfect example of an unlikely friendship, that would not have occurred had prejudice played a part. Unfortunately it doesn't have the happy ending it should, but nevertheless it will always be one of my favourite stories and is thus very deserving of top spot!

Thank you for reading my latest Top Ten Tuesday! What do you think? I have tried to include as many different examples of diversity as I could. What books really celebrate/highlight diversity for you? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below :) 

Monday, 20 July 2015

Monday Musings

Hey everyone! I'm back from a long stint of busy-ness and therefore blog neglect! Today, to ease myself back into blogging, I bring you my Monday Musings, as a contribution to the Meme started by A Daily Rhythm. Each week, we are asked to answer one of the following prompts:

I’m currently reading…
Up next I think I’ll read…
I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
I can’t wait to get a copy of…
I wish I could read ___, but…
I blogged about ____ this past week…

There will also be a random question each week! So let's get started...

I blogged about....very little this past week as I have had a lot of stuff on with work and have been sorely neglecting my dear blog! I am glad to be back though, and shall hopefully bring to you my review of The Silver Linings Playbook soon! I am also reading Stella Rimington's The Geneva Trap which I am really enjoying so far, so shall hopefully bring you some critique on that too!

THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: Are you able to read while in a vehicle (in motion)? Have you always been this way?
Yes, of course! I think this is one of those 'mind over matter' things, because I feel absolutely fine reading whilst moving, except when someone says to me "don't you feel sick doing that?", when, on cue, I suddenly start to feel very queasy! I love reading in cars, but my favourite is trains! I don't know why but there is something so great about sitting by the window on a train, reading the time away! I have always loved that, for as long as I can remember getting trains!

Can you read whilst in a moving vehicle? Let me know below! :)

Monday, 13 July 2015

Top Ten Tuesdays: Last Ten Books That Came Into My Possession

Hello everyone, and welcome to another Top 10 Tuesday! This was started by The Broke and Bookish, and the topics just get better and better! :) This topic gives me the chance to share with you the last 10 books I have bought. I have spent far too much money on books recently, convincing myself that I need to so that I can complete my A-Z author challenge, but I can never stop at just the ones I need! Luckily for me, my mum took me shopping 2 weeks ago, and decided to treat me to some books, so a lot of the ones I am going to talk about today are courtesy of her..*thanks mummy*! the bookshelf! I am going to order these in the order that they were acquired...oldest being 10, and therefore first :) The shameful think about this is that I have bought all of these in less than a month...I really need to start budgeting better!

10) A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving/ Grey - EL James
These two are the only ones on this list which I have actually read so far! They share 10th place as I ordered them at the same time, to fill my I and J spots for my A-Z challenge. I actually really enjoyed both of them, despite them both being a lot longer than I expected them to be...the longest on my challenge, in fact!

9) The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Z is quite a difficult letter to come by, but I was recommended this by someone on the Goodreads Book Group which started the A-Z challenge, so thought I would give it a go! Unbeknownst to me, it is part of a series, which may mean that I end up reading the full series, because I don't like to leave things unfinished!

8) The Silver Linings Playbook - Matthew Quick
I am SO excited to read this! I was so happy when I realised that I needed a Q, and that this book was written by Matthew Quick. I did something I never do...watched the film before reading the book. It was on TV, and I must confess, I am usually very lame and in bed by 10pm, but I stayed up until 12.30 on a school night to watch this film! That shows how good it was! I really hope the book surpasses the film, as I expect it to!

7) The Good Women of China - Xinran
Again, X is quite a difficult surname to come by, and I was warned on the A-Z Goodreads group that really a Chinese author is the only option. This suits me just fine as I have never read anything by a Chinese author before, so I am excited to give it a go! This work is biographical too, and I always feel good stories have an even better edge when you know they're true!

6) Instructions for a Heatwave - Maggie O'Farrell
Again, an addition to my A-Z reading challenge. When I got home, it transpired that my mum has this book (one of the few books she actually has in hard copy these days, she is a slave to her kindle), but never mind, I like to have books for myself anyway! I had heard good things about this one, but unfortunately I didn't think it lived up to the hype!

5) The Heroes' Welcome - Louisa Young
Yes, you've guessed it...I also struggled to find a Y! I could not find a single Y in the entire Waterstones Southend store, after having checked all the genres I was open to reading: fiction, crime, SciFi, fantasy, you name it! Just as we were leaving, I found this gem on a table, and am very intrigued by it, because a) how beautiful is the cover?! and b) I have read the first book written by Young and loved it, so let's hope this is just as good!

4) Reunion - Fred Uhlman
I was very intrigued by this one! Of course, it is another addition to the A-Z, and I wasn't exactly spoiled for choice. However I found this and thought it would be interesting, it is only 75 pages long, but the synopsis on the back makes it sound like a lot happens in that space! I am always dubious of books that try to cram too much into a small space because I feel it can seem rushed or disjointed, but I felt the urge to give this one a go!

3) Bonjour Tristesse - Francoise Sagan
This is my most anticipated book! It frustrates me that I have to finish my A-Z challenge before I can read this, because I have been waiting to read The Lovely Bones by Sebold for aaages too. I got an email about this book from Waterstones, as they are doing a scheme where they try to resurrect classics which have fallen through the net of the public radar, which, may I say, I think is a great idea! I was really intrigued by this one, it seems to have a great plot and I was immediately drawn to it when I saw it in the store! Cannot wait to read! :)

2) The Year of Reading Dangerously - Andy Miller
I am worried this one may contain too many spoilers of books I have on my TBR list, but I couldn't resist! A book about how reading changes a man's life for the better? Yes please! I love contemplating the power of books and reading! :)

1) The Skeleton Cupboard - Tanya Byron
My most recent purchase - I saw this when I was at the airport on my way to Portugal, and thought it'd be silly to buy it there when I already had 3 books packed for 5 days! However it has been on my mind ever since, and I finally got round to buying it :) It is a non-fiction book containing stories from a clinical psychologist. You may have noticed that I am fascinated by mental health and psychology, so this is a must-read for me! I hope it is like 'The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat' by Sacks, which is one of my favourite books!

So there we have it, my most recent purchases! What are yours? Have you read any of these...if so, what did you think? I'd love to hear any comments! Please also post links to your TTT in the box below!

Monday Musings

Hey everyone! Apologies for the post spam today, but I have just discovered the Monday Musings Meme, started by A Daily Rhythm. Each week, we are asked to answer one of the following prompts:

I’m currently reading…
Up next I think I’ll read…
I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
I can’t wait to get a copy of…
I wish I could read ___, but…
I blogged about ____ this past week…

There will also be a random question each week! So let's get started...

I'm really upset by some of the books I have read recently! Merely by coincidence in the way my A-Z Author Challenge has forced me to read books in a certain order, I seem to have been on a run of books about mental health, and of all of them, only one of them really offered a happy and hopeful ending! The Bell Jar made me so angry that I couldn't even appreciate the hopeful bits, All The Bright Places was heart-breaking, as was Silver Linings Playbook, but at least that had a happy ending! I feel like I have been battered and bogged down! Luckily, I am now onto 'R' and it's a crimey-spy-type book, so let's hope that I can give my emotions a rest for a while! :)

THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: What book (or books) would you take with you on vacation? Why?
I love to take books which require my full attention on holiday with me. That could be because it is a complex read which really makes you think, or just because it is by one of my favourite authors and I want to completely and utterly savour it. Holiday seems to be the place where I can concentrate on reading the best, so it's the best place to dedicate myself to a great book! My only hesitancy is that I don't like to take really pretty new books away with me where they are at risk of being covered in sand, sun cream, water or worse, being left there because I can't fit it in my suitcase when coming home! 

I hope you all enjoyed my first Monday Musing as much as I enjoyed writing it, so I look forward to more rambly musings! What books do you like taking on holiday, and why?

P: The Bell Jar

Everyone must read this right now. I have a very important review to share with you, of Sylvia Plath's 'The Bell Jar', read as part of my A-Z Author Challenge.

I think this book is incredibly powerful. Never before have I read a book that left me so enraged that I was actually irritable in real life too! This is the story of a girl in her 20s who suffers from depression in 1960s America, a time when mental illness was as misunderstood as it is possible to be. Now, I did Psychology A-level, so I have learned a lot about the treatment of mental health patients in the past, but nothing could have prepared me for the raw emotions I felt when I read this book. The first half of the book starts off so 'normal', just a girl finding her feet in a new city, in a new job. As things start to unravel for her, she explains her feelings so matter-of-factly, and doesn't make suicide seem like this big glamorous drama that it is sometimes perceived to be, but contemplates ways to kill herself in such a casual way. 

The bit that angered me was the way she was treated. Even now, I think there is a huge problem in the fact that mental health patients are not trusted to make their own decisions. Yes, their perspective has changed so they may no longer see life through rose-tinted glasses, but why does that mean they should be forced into treatments that they don't feel are right for them? Surely the best person to know what would help rebuild an unravelled mind is the person who lives with that mind every day? It just frustrates me SO much, and this book brought out a whole wave of these feelings for me, which I had been harbouring for a long time. 
The narrative highlights with such clarity how depression isn't always a feeling. Not all sufferers feel sad or down all the time, it is just as likely that they feel numb - completely devoid of all emotion. I love the 'bell jar' analogy, because it is great imagery to describe how a sufferer knows and can feel what is going on around them, but feels that they are experiencing it from within a bell jar containing their own dark, putrid air. 

I think it's so important that books of this kind are spread as widely as they can be. It doesn't at all surprise me that 'The Bell Jar' became so famous when it was released as it was shared in a time when mental health had a huge stigma attached to it, compared to modern day. It was an incredibly brave piece of work at the time, but now that society is becoming more accommodating, a lot more fantastic books of this type are springing up, getting braver and braver in their honesty and openness. 

Plath writes in such a compelling way, and I implore people to read this! Also, it has one thing on 'All the Bright Places', which is that it represents hope! 

Have you read The Bell Jar, or any other work by Sylvia Plath? I would love to discover more from her, so please leave any recommendations in the comments below! :) 

Sunday, 12 July 2015

O: Instructions for a Heatwave

Here I am again with another book review from my A-Z Author Challenge. Today for you, I have my O: Maggie O'Farrell's 'Instructions for a Heatwave', nominated for Costa Book Awards 2013.

I had quite high hopes for this one! My cousin and nan had enjoyed it and been passing it around the family, so that must count for something, right?

The synopsis is as follows:
"The stunning new novel from Costa-Novel-Award-winning novelist Maggie O'Farrell: a portrait of an Irish family in crisis in the legendary heatwave of 1976.
It's July 1976. In London, it hasn't rained for months, gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he's going round the corner to buy a newspaper. He doesn't come back. The search for Robert brings Gretta's children - two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce - back home, each wih different ideas as to where their father might have gone. None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share."

I must have missed something here! I just don't get it! I didn't find any of the characters like-able and the story seemed so slow and 'dithery' (stolen this word from a GoodReads reviewer which I loved!) The climax just completely fizzled out really. I ended the book feeling lost and confused!

Despite all this though, I still gave this book 3 stars on GoodReads! It's a weird sensation, because even though nothing seemed to happen, I didn't dislike it and kept feeling compelled to pick the book up! Maybe that's Maggie's charm? Whatever it is, I would definitely pick up another of her books to see if I can work it out! :) 

Have you read this book? Let me know your thoughts below: are all Maggie's books like this?