The Reasons I read…

I was not the most academically minded at primary and secondary school, in fact I didn’t get very good grades in English for a long time. It was my weak link, and I went to extra curriculum classes in primary to catch up. I felt bad about this and as a result shied away from reading or anything really school related. I managed to get good enough results to go to college where I met Sophie who quite honestly turned my ambitions around. I then started working harder and aspired to more than before. As a result I managed to get into university and then get my degree. I have lot to thank Sophie for. I also always wanted to read thanks to my parents who have always read a little here and there.

My Dad is very much into Jack Higgins and James Patterson or any Spy Thrillers really whilst my Mum has always been more likely to read Jodi Picoult or romance although she does like the odd mystery novel. Sam, my crazy sister, likes to read almost everything but her favourite is John Green (eugh) haha. Overall my family read more than average I would say and as a result I am a keen reader.

Finally, you all know how much Sophie reads (a crazy amount) her enthusiasm has definitely worn off on me. My favourite genre would probably be Thrillers, however I do enjoy the odd Classic too such as Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

Why do I read?

  1. Getting taken to a different world and seeing things from a different person’s perspective.
  2. Expanding my knowledge
  3. Help relating to others
  4. To get better at writing
  5. To share thoughts and have discussions with people, specifically those close to me
  6. Because Books, right?

That’s just a little insight into me.

 

Danny

Try a Chapter Tag

I have decided to do the Try a Chapter today. This challenge if you are unaware consists of reading the first chapter of however many books you wish (I am doing 5) and then comment as to how you think the book will go, your first impressions etc. The 5 books I have chosen are the following.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens- 4 pages
The Cardturner by Louis Sachar- 2 pages
White Noise by Don Delillo- 2 pages
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini- 5 pages
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood- 3 pages

Anyway here we go…

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens- 4 pages

I have never read Dickens before, I have watched a Muppets Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist before but I somehow get the impression that the novels are much different after reading this first chapter. The main character in this Chapter is Pip, who is visiting his mother and fathers gravesite as well as his 5 younger brothers as well. Quite a sombre event as he dwells over the 6 tombstones, this however is rudely interrupted by what Pip can only describe as a pirate comes into the picture shouting and threatening Pip not to run away or he will kill him. He then interrogates Pip and asks for a favour he asks for as much food as possible and a file (a file and some wittle’s as he says) he also states that if he doesn’t bring these then the mysterious younger man hiding in the area will not hesitate to disembowel him. Pip then runs home to fetch the items requested.

So quite a violent first chapter, however I did find it quite funny that in order to scare Pip into doing what he wants there is a mysterious little man there to act as the enforcer. This just seems too funny to me and happily unexpected. I do enjoy a book that can make you laugh and so far this has. I do hope Pip doesn’t get killed as he seems to have had a pretty crappy life so far. Fingers Crossed.


The Cardturner by Louis Sachar- 2 pages

A short first chapter and not much really happens. I have read Holes and of course seen the movie and enjoyed those so I am intrigued by this novel. I did have a quick look at the blurb just to try and work out where the story is going and it turns out it is about the card game bridge. I have never played this game and can’t say I have ever been bothered in learning how to play but there is a time to learn everything and hopefully I will be able to gleam the rules by reading this book. The first chapter is about Alton Richards and his ‘favourite uncle’ Lester who was only his favourite Uncle because he was hugely wealthy. His mother has forced him to worm his way into his Uncles good books hoping that he will be looked upon favourably on the event of his death.

A very strange concept and a one I am intrigued to carry on reading. It feels very much like a strange indie movie that you watch and at the end even though you’re a little confused you also come to the conclusion that is a goof film. So for that reason I will be reading further and hope things heat up.


White Noise by Don Delillo- 2 pages

At only 2 pages long it is hard for much of an impact, it has made me intrigued but for the most part a little confused. Everything seemed to be quite chaotic in the first few paragraphs as the scene unfolds with all of the students arriving with their parents to college for the first day of the year. Then all of a sudden the narrator is discussing his job as the Chairman of the department of Hitler studies at the College on the Hill. I can picture him standing in his office looking out over all of the cars pulling up and unloading all of the students belongings into their new dorms over the road. The narrator who is the main character also goes on to confirm that he actually created the idea for Hitler Studies which became a huge success with someone who later died in a ski lift accident in Austria (seems a little coincidental don’t you think?) The final paragraph is a little out of the blue and describes missing pets posters attached to the streetlamp’s around the street.

A strange ending but quite an intriguing concept. Clearly this is going to be quite a serious book due to the topic it is likely to cover. However I can’t help but sense that there may be a bit of humour due to the random snippets of useless information and quirky writing style. I definitely think I will continue to read this and look for to it.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini- 5 pages

After previously reading the Kite Runner I already have high hopes for this one. I loved the Kite Runner and have only heard good things about this one. The first chapter here sheds light onto the main character Mariam, a harami, illegitimate child who lives with Nana her mother in a poor part of a Herat, Mariam doesn’t leave the house and rarely does anything that she has not already been told to do. The first chapter introduces three characters. First of all as already stated is Mariam the main character, it also introduces Nana, Mariams mother and finally Jalil, Mariam’s father who comes to visit. Jalil is a very well connected and wealthy man with three wives and nine legitimate children. He has a huge house with servants, Nana used to be a servant until as Hosseini puts it, her belly swelled up, and then she was thrown out and banished. So this is already clear that these two women Nana and Mariam have been thrown out in order to try and clear Jalil’s conscience and to hide his treachery.

So far I can kind of see where this is going, without having a sneaky peak at the blurb I would say that Mariam is going to be discovered by Jalil’s three wives and all hell is going to break lose. All I can really say is that I am excited to see how it continues as Hosseini is an incredible writer. I can’t wait to continue reading.


Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood- 3 pages

As already know that this is a bit of a thriller I am not that surprised that this chapter didn’t leave much of a clue as to what is going on. It simply try to get your attention in order for you to keep on reading. This is a flashback as the final sentence is ‘This is what I told Dr Jordan’. It states that the main character, name not yet disclosed, is a prisoner, however it doesn’t state whether this is a prison (Jail) or someones house as she gets locked into a cellar. It all is a bit confusing as to whether or not the character is good or bad. A hard chapter to analyse as there isn’t much to go on.

I am looking forward to reading this further as I can only assume it will start to make more and more sense as the novel goes on. I am intrigued enough by Sophie’s recommendation and the first chapter that I will be continuing this also.Maybe not the next thing I pick up bit I will be picking it up again.

Happy Reading

 

Danny

 

Love it or Hate it Book Tag

 

3 of your favourite books?

319ztqJM5yL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ IMG_0108 000d6385-614.jpg

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Graduate by Charles Webb

3 of your least favourite books?

Paper Towns by John Green

Blow Your House Down by Pat Barker

The Shock of The Fall by Nathan Filer

3 of your favourite characters?

Hassan from The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Hans from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

3 least favourite characters?

Anyone/Everyone written by John Green and Sarah Waters.

Biggest let-down?

gone-girl-book-cover.jpg

 

Books that you liked that other people hated?

Frankenstein was pretty unpopular throughout my education. I also loved The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger which is famous for dividing opinion.

Characters that people love but you hated?

Again, every John Green character. I also did not care for Elizabeth or Darcy to put it lightly. This tag is practically the Unpopular Opinions tag part two.

Best Quotes?

I’m generally not good at remembering quotes offhand when asked, here are a few memorable ones:

“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”
― Oscar WildeThe Picture of Dorian Gray

“It was always the becoming he dreamed of, never the being.”
― F. Scott FitzgeraldThis Side of Paradise

“We were together. I forget the rest.”
― Walt Whitman

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
― William ShakespeareAs You Like It

“But luxury has never appealed to me, I like simple things, books, being alone, or with somebody who understands.”
― Daphne du Maurier

Worst Quotes?

“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
― John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars …..“My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.”― John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars.  “So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.” ― John GreenLooking for AlaskaIf I had to give one reason why I dislike John Green it’s his obsession with poor metaphors, and his need to explain that they are metaphors.

Ok so this is a weird one but it makes me uncomfortable: “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” ― L.M. Montgomery. I think it’s the ‘yet.’

“If you’re looking for sympathy you’ll find it between shit and syphilis in the dictionary.”
― David SedarisBarrel Fever: Stories and Essays

Books you didn’t finish?

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

 

What book have you read the most times?

In all honesty it would definitely be The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss.

 

Series where the first book was amazing but went downhill from there?

The MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood. I read these last year and while I enjoyed the first novel I hated the others. My ratings on Goodreads actually halved with each instalment.

 

Sophie

Baileys Women’s Prize 2017 Part 1

This will not be a post reviewing the Baileys Women’s Prize Long-List as between us we have read 0/16 books. That being said, this post will be my first impressions of the selected novels after reading not only their blurbs but also a free sample of each. I will then decide if I would like to continue reading these novels or whether I think they could make the shortlist.

41nO-ogymgL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Upon her arrival in London, an 18-year-old Irish girl begins anew as a drama student, with all the hopes of any young actress searching for the fame she’s always dreamed of. She struggles to fit in—she’s young and unexotic, a naive new girl—but soon she forges friendships and finds a place for herself in the big city.

Then she meets an attractive older man. He’s an established actor, 20 years older, and the inevitable clamorous relationship that ensues is one that will change her forever.

A redemptive, captivating story of passion and innocence set across the bedsits of mid-1990s London, McBride holds new love under her fierce gaze, giving us all a chance to remember what it’s like to fall hard for another

I have owned McBride’s previous Baileys Award-winning novel A Girl is a Half-formed Thing for years and yet it remains unread on my shelf. Therefore I’m interested to see what I make of this one, will it encourage me to finally pick up her other Baileys novel?…

From the blurb I find that the 90s setting really interests me as this may be the decade of recent times that I have read the least. However I’m hoping it won’t have the Sex and the City feel to it that I’m imagining. I also read Brooklyn last year and thought that similar plot aspects were done really well in Tóibín’s novel. Therefore I’m wary of the character differences and whether I will enjoy this reading experience as much. The plot does not seem wholly unique to me therefore, on first impressions,  I believe this novel to have been selected because of its author. Hopefully I will enjoy this one despite my initial concerns.

After reading the sample I am reminded of why I have yet to read A Girl is a Half-formed  Thing, I simply do not like McBride’s writing style. In my opinion it seems as though McBride tries so hard to be poetic and unique in her prose that the readers attention is constantly drawn to the craft of the novel rather than the plot which can be distracting. The prose in this almost stream-of-consciousness opening, and at times the dialogue, feels unnatural.I did find myself at times reading aloud in order to concentrate on what was happening. However as the novel goes on it admittedly gets easier to read, this may simply be due to the fact that our first person narrator comes into more human contact and these exchanges are much less scattered.

As the reading experience did become more enjoyable to me the more I read, I would continue reading this novel although I suspect it won’t make my personal shortlist.

 
51PGzqsrncL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

What is the difference between friendship and love? Or between neutrality and commitment? Gustav Perle grows up in a small town in ‘neutral’ Switzerland, where the horrors of the Second World War seem a distant echo. But Gustav’s father has mysteriously died, and his adored mother Emilie is strangely cold and indifferent to him. Gustav’s childhood is spent in lonely isolation, his only toy a tin train with painted passengers staring blankly from the carriage windows.

As time goes on, an intense friendship with a boy of his own age, Anton Zwiebel, begins to define Gustav’s life. Jewish and mercurial, a talented pianist tortured by nerves when he has to play in public, Anton fails to understand how deeply and irrevocably his life and Gustav’s are entwined.

Fierce, astringent, profoundly tender, Rose Tremain’s beautifully orchestrated novel asks the question, what does it do to a person, or to a country, to pursue an eternal quest for neutrality, and self-mastery, while all life’s hopes and passions continually press upon the borders and beat upon the gate.

This is the novel I have heard the most about. I have only ever seen and heard rave reviews of Tremain’s novel although I am sure there are also criticisms. From the plot alone I believe I will enjoy Tremain’s novel as I usually like novels set during this time period (1947.)  I also think I will enjoy the friendship that forms between Gustav and Anton, two boys from completely different backgrounds and upbringing.

After reading the sample I can say that while I would definitely love to keep reading The Gustav Sonata, I personally cannot see it winning the Baileys Prize. I believe it to be too ‘safe’ a choice. That being said I loved the friendship between Gustav and Anton from the beginning and found their dialogue, in contrast to The Lesser Bohemians very natural and masterfully innocent. The prose, the characters, the plot all seem effortless and realistic thus far. Gustav lives in poverty and also helps his mother work. He is too young to remember his father but feels the effect of his loss every day through his mother. He is a young boy with already too much to bare on his shoulders when he befriends Anton. I am looking forward to finding out how the story progresses from here.

 

51QccAVJjEL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

In the late seventeenth century two penniless young Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord, a “seigneur,” for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters—barkskins. René suffers extraordinary hardship, oppressed by the forest he is charged with clearing. He is forced to marry a Mi’kmaw woman and their descendants live trapped between two inimical cultures. But Duquet, crafty and ruthless, runs away from the seigneur, becomes a fur trader, then sets up a timber business. Proulx tells the stories of the descendants of Sel and Duquet over three hundred years—their travels across North America, to Europe, China, and New Zealand, under stunningly brutal conditions—the revenge of rivals, accidents, pestilence, Indian attacks, and cultural annihilation. Over and over again, they seize what they can of a presumed infinite resource, leaving the modern-day characters face to face with possible ecological collapse.

This is an author I am very interested in reading for the first time due to one of her previous novels Brokeback Mountain. After reading the plot I believe this will be the heaviest of the selected novels thus far, and that also unintentionally speaks for the length of the books.

As with The Lesser Bohemians it took me a little longer to be immersed in this novel. I believe this is a result of the samples I have read and their various time settings. Thus far Tremain’s novel is a much easier read, and as previously mentioned, is a much safer choice meaning it took me a few pages to adjust. However I loved the descriptions of the woods and really enjoyed the theme of nature. There is mystery centred around the ‘sauvages’ and also, similarly to The Gustav Sonata the theme of poverty is clear from the outset. I would genuinely love to continue reading Proulx’s novel. I believe it to be the hardest plot to execute well of the three and therefore think that it is the most worthy winner so far. That being said I am obviously basing this judgement on samples of each book therefore my opinions are not fully backed up.

 

51y6ZiVk-eL

Father and Son, Landyn and Vale Midwinter, are men of the land. Suffolk farmers. Times are hard and they struggle to sustain their property, their livelihood and their heritage in the face of competition from big business.

But an even bigger, more brutal fight is brewing: a fight between each other, about the horrible death of Cecelia, beloved wife and mother, in Zambia ten years earlier. A past they have both refused to confront until now.

Over the course of a particularly mauling Suffolk winter, Landyn and Vale grapple with their memories and their pain, raking over what remains of their fragile family unit, constantly at odds and under threat of falling apart forever. While Vale makes increasingly desperate decisions, Landyn retreats, finding solace in the land, his animals – and a fox who haunts the farm and seems to bring with her both comfort and protection.

Alive to language and nature, Midwinter is a novel about guilt, blame and lost opportunities. Ultimately it is a story about love and the lengths we will go to find our way home.

In contrast with the previous selections, this is the first novel and author I have no previous knowledge of. After reading the blurb I will say that I would not normally read this novel. I don’t believe I will enjoy this one although I would love to be proved wrong. I expect this novel will be depressing and slow-paced and also expect myself to get far too frustrated with the characters and their ‘even bigger, more brutal fight’ which I assume amounts to them not talking to each other.

Ok, I may be getting picky but even the dedication of this novel aggrivated me. I thought, as you might now, that I was overreacting until I read the prologue and found that I was already not enjoying this novel.  Foxes are mentioned in the prologue with the first line being “Think about a fox” this made me really worried about enjoying the novel as not only was this too early to be talking about the foxes in my opinion but I typically have a hard time when books feature animals purely for the purpose of metaphor. This may also be problematic for me when reviewing two of the other longlisted novels. I also believe that the prologue gives the plot away and wish I did not have to continue reading, but for the sake of this post I do.

The drama was already exaggerated and overdone a couple of pages in when Vale explains his frustrations as eloquently as “I felt this fuckin’ mad rage in me” and “It wasn’t slow like my walks usually are it was angry.” It was after this second quote that I stopped reading. My initial response is surprise that this novel was selected, perhaps if I read on I would learn why but for now I’m not willing to accept that risk. I am fully willing to admit that my dislike of this novel may be fully down to personal taste. Nevertheless Midwinter will not be making my personal shortlist.

 

26046339.jpg

Hortensia James and Marion Agostino are neighbours. One is black, one white. Both are successful women with impressive careers. Both have recently been widowed. And both are sworn enemies, sharing hedge and hostility which they prune with a zeal that belies the fact that they are both over eighty.

But one day an unforeseen event forces the women together. And gradually the bickering and sniping softens into lively debate, and from there into memories shared. But could these sparks of connection ever transform into friendship? Or is it too late to expect these two to change?

Another novel and novelist I had not heard of prior to the Longlist. My first impressions from the plot is that the author has a lot of work to pull this off. Done well, this novel could be both heartbreaking and hilarious. I will also say that these characters have the potential to be memorable from what we know of them already, I particularly like the fact that both are ‘successful women with impressive careers’ which is mentioned before the fact that they are widows.

However if done badly then this novel will be yet another where the two main characters work solely to reflect each other and in doing so seem entirely two dimensional. I go into the sample with an open minded hoping for the best…

After reading the sample I would definitely continue reading Omotoso’s novel. Race is a key theme as is wealth which gives the novel the depth it needs. I enjoyed the writing style and the fierce protagonist Hortensia, who when the novel opens is a Black woman married to a White man facing prejudice from the local townspeople. The Woman Next Door grabbed my attention and feels as though it could be of a higher importance than it initially seems.

 

30201327

With echoes of The Night Circus, a spellbinding story about two gifted orphans in love with each other since they can remember whose childhood talents allow them to rewrite their future.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a love story with the power of legend. An unparalleled tale of charismatic pianos, invisible dance partners, radicalized chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians, brooding clowns, and an underworld whose economy hinges on the price of a kiss. In a landscape like this, it takes great creative gifts to thwart one’s origins. It might also take true love.

Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1910. Before long, their talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing clown routines, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen.

Separated as teenagers, sent off to work as servants during the Great Depression, both descend into the city’s underworld, dabbling in sex, drugs and theft in order to survive. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes after years of searching and desperate poverty the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they’ll go to extreme lengths to make them come true. Soon, Rose, Pierrot and their troupe of clowns and chorus girls have hit New York, commanding the stage as well as the alleys, and neither the theater nor the underworld will ever look the same.

With her musical language and extravagantly realized world, Heather O’Neill enchants us with a novel so magical there is no escaping its spell.

I have never read The Night Circus although I am aware of its huge popularity. My first impression of this novel from the blurb is that it seems action packed! The Lonely Hearts Hotel already feels layered and the characters are already exciting and perhaps dynamic. I am hoping that this novel can pull all of these elements off while being realistically heartbreaking as the main characters are orphans as well as being fantastical in terms of the circus and New York setting.

Failing to disappoint after its dramatic blurb, the opening chapter is shocking. Pierrot’s birth is the theme of chapter one where it is revealed that his mother, aged 12 was raped by her cousin and sent away to an establishment for pregnant girls and given a horrific new name ‘Ignorance’ or ‘Iggy’ as some sort of supposed lesson. My concern is that similarly to Midwinter this novel has too much drama from the beginning. This may prove boring in the longrun and I expect will be very easily overdone. In the sample I read there was already a hanging. The children at the orphanage are also beaten for silly reasons some of which are listed and then the author writes ‘It was sad for all the children’ sad? they spend their lives doing slave labour and being beaten and they’re just sad?

Also the nuns believe “It was necessary to thwart all love afairs in the orphanage. If there was one thing responsibile for ruining lives, it was love. They were in their pathetic circumstances because of that most unreliable of feelings.” I had an issue with this part of the novel as it was not then explained how misled the nuns are, writing a rape scene in the first couple of pages and then referring it to love is dangerous. That being said, we as readers are not supposed to agree with the nuns, nevertheless I thought that this section was unnecessary. I did not finish reading this sample either and am not interested in finding out what happened to these characters that we were supposed to like purely because worse characters didn’t. I personally would be a little disappointed to see this one make the shortlist.

3105NIwZaeL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_

From “one of Britain’s most original young writers” (The Observer), a blistering account of a marriage in crisis and a portrait of a woman caught between withdrawal and self-assertion, depression and rage.

Neve, the novel’s acutely intelligent narrator, is beset by financial anxiety and isolation, but can’t quite manage to extricate herself from her volatile partner, Edwyn. Told with emotional remove and bracing clarity, First Love is an account of the relationship between two catastrophically ill-suited people walking a precarious line between relative calm and explosive confrontation.

My first impression of this novel from the blurb was that the success of the novel depends entirely on its main character, Neve. An ‘acutely intelligent’ narrator could be instantly likeable or annoying. Also a tumultuous relationship could be frustrating to read about particularly if the characters are immature. I initially cannot see this novel becoming one of my all time favourites. Also, the blurb seems extremely short in comparison to the others on this list.

As the blurb suggests, after reading the e-book sample I can confirm the narrator of Riley’s novel and Edwyn, her partner are definitely a toxic pairing. I cannot say much about what I have read so far as it is mainly setting the scene of an unhappy relationship and the unhappy history that is Neve’s love life. In all honesty the writing style never blew me away and I definitely prefer other novels on the list from what I’ve read so far. Interestingly, I believe this is the shortest of all the longlisted novels and I would therefore continue reading this one as I am intrigued by this fact alone.

51DajNvVaLL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

The Second World War is over, a new decade is beginning but for an East End teenage brother and sister living on the edge of the law, life has been suspended. Sent away to a tuberculosis sanatorium in Kent to learn the way of the patient, they find themselves in the company of army and air force officers, a car salesman, a young university graduate, a mysterious German woman, a member of the aristocracy and an American merchant seaman. They discover that a cure is tantalisingly just out of reach and only by inciting wholesale rebellion can freedom be snatched.

Initially, from the blurb, I was excited to read the sample of Grant’s novel. I am interested in reading about the sanatorium. This is the second novel on the longlist set in 1949 and the second novel set in London, at least at the beginning.

The novel is fast paced and its characters are interesting, Lenny is trying to avoid being drafted when he discovers he has TB. I am unsure about the relationship between the twins as there seems to be a reference to incest. Although I’m not sure about this and would have to read more to pass a judgement. Either way the sample is difficult to read at times for example here…

“Plus, they were Hebrews, and that lot were only out for themselves, particularly the refugees. You had to keep an eye on them, they were swarming these days like bees “

The sample did capture my attention all the way through and I would continue reading this novel as I believe it to be a unique, easy read. Despite being set in the same time period this novel had a completely different feel and writing style to Tremain’s The Gustav Sonata. In comparison I liked Tremain’s characters more but believe this novel to be more original.

Madeleine Thien - Do Not Say We Have Nothing

 

“In a single year, my father left us twice. The first time, to end his marriage, and the second, when he took his own life. I was ten years old.”
Master storyteller Madeleine Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations—those who lived through Mao’s Cultural Revolution and their children, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square. At the center of this epic story are two young women, Marie and Ai-Ming. Through their relationship Marie strives to piece together the tale of her fractured family in present-day Vancouver, seeking answers in the fragile layers of their collective story. Her quest will unveil how Kai, her enigmatic father, a talented pianist, and Ai-Ming’s father, the shy and brilliant composer, Sparrow, along with the violin prodigy Zhuli were forced to reimagine their artistic and private selves during China’s political campaigns and how their fates reverberate through the years with lasting consequences.

With maturity and sophistication, humor and beauty, Thien has crafted a novel that is at once intimate and grandly political, rooted in the details of life inside China yet transcendent in its universality.

Wow. The first line of the blurb captivated me. That was unexpected. To a certain extent I did expect to enjoy this novel as not only is it long listed for this prize but was also long listed for the Man Booker Prize. I also tend to enjoy novels set in China. I am really looking forward to reading the sample of Thien’s critically acclaimed novel.

So upon reading further I have discovered that the first line of the blurb is also the first line of the novel. This has to go down as one of my favourite first lines in literature which I may do a blog post about soon, would anyone be interested in seeing that feature? And does anyone else have this post on their blog?

I immediately love the writing style and am moved from the first page which describes her diseased father in a really human way that does not seem robotic like first-page descriptions often are, “My father has a handsome, ageless face; He is a kind but melancholy man.”  It is the details I love “His eyes, dark brown, are guarded and unsure.” These descriptions are so vivid that I found myself immersed in the narrator’s life. The sample of this novel was heartbreaking and in a way not exclusive to its narrator “the truth was that I had loved my father more,” I felt for every member of Li-Ling’s family.

 I enjoyed reading the discussions between Li-Ling and Ai-ming but it was the relationship between Li-Ling and her mother that I was automatically invested in. I have a feeling this novel will make it onto my personal shortlist. In short, I have high hopes for this one.

Sophie

The Art of Being Normal – Mini Review

A Mini Review on where I am currently up to in The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson. According to my Good Reads app I am 73% through the book. I would therefore like to reflect on what I have read so far.

I knew that this was going to be quite different to my usual read, but hey what are challenges for. I may drop spoilers in here so please tread carefully. The book comprises of 2 boys in High School. The first chapter is David Piper, it is only one page, well actually half of a page and it basically states that David is not quite happy with himself, in fact he states that he would like to be a girl as he believes that he was born the wrong gender. It then becomes about how now named and seen as David is coping with this and what society thinks of her and why she can only tell her 2 really close friends the full truth.

This is definitely an insight in to how, I can only imagine, a lot of people feel and is not recognised by society as acceptable and as a result ridicule and bullying ensues. The other character in the novel is Leo Denton who shares the limelight of the novel; he comes from the wrong side of the tracks and is expected to be a bit of a psycho as he came from a bad school into David’s nice (posh) school. His transfer is one that is on the lips of many students, how can anyone get expelled from that school and he must have been really bad etc.

Leo and David become friends after an incident in which Leo sticks up for David when her bully is abusing her. This lumps them both in detention and as a result they become friends. Leo is a lot more against the relationship than David is, keeping up his reclusive hard-man routine.

So far I am enjoying the book, I don’t think I am enjoying it as much as Sophie and Amy did however I feel like this is simply because it is just so different and isn’t something I would normally pick up.

I did however enjoy the twist and look forward to completing the book. I hope it continues down the same road and there are more twists to come. I also hope that everything works out for the characters as I have become quite invested in their wellbeing.

That’s it for today. I’ll let you know what I thought of it further when I’ve finished.

Danny

5 Books I am dying to Read

The top 5 Books I am most looking forward to reading this year

I have been challenged to read many books this year and I really hope to complete them all by the end of the year. But which books do I want to read the most?

  1. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 22.53.33

This is actually one of the books I have been challenged to read this year which is really convenient. I have wanted to read a Dickens for so long and just never gotten round to it. I have already discussed my thoughts on the book but just getting my first Dickens under my belt is really exciting.

  1. The Resurrectionist by James Bradley

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 22.54.15

I bought this book shortly after completing my dissertation on Grave-robbing Laws in England and Wales in the 19th Century. I of course am very interested in the subject, as I wouldn’t have written my 15,000-word dissertation on it. I cannot wait to pick this up and see what the idea is behind the novel.

  1. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 22.55.53

I actually bought this for Sophie as a Christmas Present along with the other shortlisted Man Booker Prize nominees. I read the blurb at this time and thought it was really interesting. I have also only heard good reviews on Instagram and want to see what all of the fuss is about.

  1. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 22.57.38

Last year I read Hemingway’s the Old Man and the Sea. It since has become one of my favourite books I have ever read. Sophie has read a Farewell to Arms and has only good things to say. Therefore I cannot wait to read more Hemingway and this has to be the next one I pick up.

  1. The Golden Compass by Phillip Pulman

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 22.59.29

This again is a recommendation from Sophie as are most of the books we own. Sophie loves Phillips Pulman’s work and has even been to meet him in person when he visited Durham last year. She was so excited and has wanted me to read this for so long. Also not to mentioned I have also been challenged to read this by my sister Christie. It must be good right?

Anyway I am going now so I can go and finish my current read so I can go and start on one of these.

 

Danny

On the Road – Review

Prior to reading On the Road by Jack Kerouac I was really optimistic, I had heard lots of good reviews and lots of people were talking about it. Not to mention it has appears on so many ‘100 books to read before you die’ lists. Already it sound like I hate it but that is not the case. It’s not that it’s a bad book; it is just a very difficult book to read when you have a busy lifestyle.

I am going to discuss the plot a little and try not to spoil anything for our readers. The Story is about Sal Paradise who is the narrator and his travels across America. There are five parts of the novel that are five different stints of being On the Road. Sal’s friend Dean Moriarty is a prominent story line in the novel. The novel is set in 1947-1950 in America in the post-war beat culture. Its all about the Jazz scene in America at that time.

The first stint On the Road was my favourite by far the endless ‘newness’ that Sal discovered and the fact he was constantly just scrapping by, getting a job here and there when required. At this point in the novel I was really enjoying the novel. Dean’s character, in other words he is a bit of a character, shines through. At some points you feel as though Sal would like to be like Dean and not have a care in the world and some times you get the impression that he feels sorry and even wants to avoid him at times. The first stint ended due to the inevitable lack of money and Sal needing to go back home to New York to his Aunts house to recoup both energy and money.

The novel continues in the same vain with slightly different experiences along the way. This is the main issue I have with the novel. I feel like every chapter is almost identical to the one before and it just feels like you are constantly reading the same thing in a different location. The fact that it feels like a chore to continue at times puts me off massively.

Dean Moriarty first of all comes across as a bit crazy and insightful turns out to be a complete nutcase who is actually a bit of an arsehole. I would not look up to him in the way Sal does and if anything I would try to avoid him like most of the other characters strive to do.

The fact that nothing really life changing occurs and the fact that Kerouac didn’t actually live these moments makes the novel a bit of a flop. I enjoyed it however I do not think I will be picking it up again anytime soon. I do however have it on good authority that Kerouac’s Big Sur is a much better novel and actually truthful. I therefore look forward to reading that in the future. I am however going to check out the 2012 film adaptation by Francis Ford Capolla of One the Road as I feel the story lends itself quite well to a movie.

To conclude, if you haven’t read it you have to according to all of the lists but its really not that great. Its not terrible but its not great. I am sorry if you read this and feel like I am talking a load of rubbish and you really loved it but lets face it that is the beauty of free speech. I hope you enjoyed this kind of moany review and stay tuned for further content coming up.