Friday, 10 February 2012

Friday Hop Dix-Sept

Q: What would your prefer: reading your favorite book over and over again until you got sick of it OR reading 100s of mediocre books? And why?

I would definitely say my favourite book. Everytime I read it I am bound to discover something new in it and I enjoy it so much more for that and I can see the whole book in a different way. Also, why would I settle for mediocre when I can have the utmost best? Also, it's that idea that I would rather live a terrible life but have one moment of pure bliss than merely abide a life of pure mediocrity. It's like choosiing true love over simply living with someone you like for your whole life.

Love Stories: What are some of your favorite fictional love stories?

I adore Jane Austen's stories, and Pride and Prejudice still kind of holds the title of my favourite of all time. It's so perfect, in my opinion, in every which way and I knowing the ending (who doesn't know the ending?!?) makes all the little machinations and side comments up to that point so much better. I've read Emma and Northanger Abbey too- both of which I adored- but Pride and Prejudice is and will remain my favourite.

I also liked the Time Traveller's Wife for the romance since the disjointedness of it makes it quirky and you doubt that it might ever work- but the romance is believable and you're swept away with it all (well, I was).

A non-novelistic love story that always makes me squirm with joy and anticipation is the one in Love Actually- namely Colin Firth's Character's one. He's an English writer, recently in France, with a Portuguese housekeeper. But they slowly fall in love with one another and their conversations, where neither understands the other, is blatant but sweet way to say that on some level they understand one another and that they are on the same page (ha...) in an odd, inexplicable way.

Happy Hopping!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Slaughterhouse 5 (Or, the Children's Crusade) by Kurt Vonnegut

This is well-known modern classic that follows Billy as he jumps through his timeline in what is an utterly bizarre story that somehow didn't lose my attention, though I expected otherwise.

It's an incredibly short book, which is nice. I think that had this book been maybe another 50 pages longer then I would have been annoyed; what featured in the book was that which was applicable and relevant. And there isn't actually anything bloody (despite what it's name suggests). There is some death but of a gory description. Billy actually repeatedly say "So it goes." as a simple to just accept death and move in. This kind of sums up the tone of book in general- it's emotionless without being bland or boring. Billy is stolid about most events in his life (either because he is or he has to be) so even the death of loved ones does not bother him in any discernable way.

The time jumping theme is also very well done. In some ways, it's like reading 3 or 4 different stories at different points in a linear timeline. The two goods things of this are, one, that when the other stories are perhaps less exciting, one stories will remain more interesting as it builds to a small conclusion of something that has been built up to. The other is when all the stories come to pinnacles at the end. In way we know what they'll be (what with time jumping and all) but watching everything come to a conclusion in tandem really pushes an idea of time to the forefront.

The idea, courtesy of the Extra Terrestrial Trafalmadore species, is that time isn't expressly linear and that everything you do in life is merely a path we can't see. This annoyed me in some ways since I don't believe in fate or destiny (and I get the impression that Vonnegut doesn't really either) but I appreciated the effect it had in terms of telling a story. It was one of the reasons that Billy was so stolid; because he knew what woul happen in the future and so he wasn't worried about it happening. There was a wonderful idea that since those moments in our life surround us, we are constantly living in the past or future in the best moments of our lives. So the point I took from the ending of stories all being reached similtaneously is that your life comes down to crucial moments that you are constantly working towards. The notion of legacy is always one I find interesting, and is a message I always take from a Chekhov production. Mortality scares me as much as anyone, but I like to think I live in other ways that aren't so tangeable. I'm not talking afterlife: I mean the influence you have on people, the things you do and the impression you make.

Quite famously, this is meant to be an anti-war novel. I can see it now I look back, but it wasn't something that leapt out at me, but I did notice some things. The major one was the nonchalant way in which the Trafalmadore know they will destroy the Universe when testing spaceship fuel. But knowing this, they assume it cannot be stopped; that time always has ended, always is ending and always will end at that time for that reason. Again my anti-fate idea is showing since my argument would be that that is no just excuse to destroy all life. Part of me wonders that Vonnegut didn't make war considered inevitable in the book only because, as humans, we are so adamantly against those ideas. True, some believe a higher being has a plan for them, but no one thinks their entire life is etched in marble; we like to believe we influence our owns lives and make our own consequences, for good or for ill.

Truly, this is a great book. It's the kind of one I'd pass to someone who wants to read more fiction and is perhaps leaning towards trying classics at some point. It's not at all difficult to read, and my only problem with it was that the Science Fiction element of the Trafalmadore felt wrong. It was well written and worked for the story, but it felt off. The book wouldn't have been the same without either though, so I am of two minds about this.

Anyway; this was excellent so I urge you to buy it somewhere and read it. Did I mention it's only 150 pages too? Beats a 700+ page Dickens novel.

Top Ten Books That Broke Your Heart A Little

  1. Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger Because the ending is just heartbreaking. When she can't reach him before he disappears... I was distraught. It really is the saddest thing. What's worse is that you don't expect them to meet, but it still seems so cruel when it actually happens.
  2. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery The ending of this threw me into a slump for weeks afterwards since the pure sadness that took over stopped me from enjoying anything. It's an amazing book, it really is, but I hate that that had to be ending. And it was foreshadowed (I realised on second read) which bothered me more.
  3. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins Most people probably know why this is heart breaking, because everything seems so disjointed at the end. I can't put my finger on it, but it just felt like all the joy and everything that was good in the book's world was lost and I just couldn't believe it ended so- to me- hopelessly.
  4. The High Lord by Trudi Canavan The ending of this is kind of bitter sweet. Looking back, it made perfect sense and I can't fault it, but it was still so sad. To think that he who one is led to dislike becomes he who is loved and then once again his fate is turned on its head. I'm trying not to give it away, but I think you get the idea.
  5. Enchanter's Endgame by David Eddings Not because of the love: because it was the end of the series I loved most! I found out there was a sequel series, plus two prequels, later on; but it killed me at the time to know that I had no more to read of that series. The others were good (especially the prequels) but never like reading those 5 books the first time.
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee Less heartbreaking, more bitter sweet, was how I found the ending and the book in general. There is some heartbreak in the hopelessness of the case, but it is there and it is poignant.
  7. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson Mainly because we find out a lot more about Lisbeth and truly start to understand her situation. This is augmented by the next book (The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest) but realisng how terrible her life is just exemplifies the pity you already feel for her. But pity isn't the right word; since she is more than competent and above pity. Compassion, perhaps. Also, what happens in the end broke my heart in terms of how much had been done for such a small, empty even, gain.
  8. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern How things had to turn out with the Circus, and also the slow coming to this eventuality, just makes you ache with sorrow. It isn't particularly bad in some ways, but how much they gave up moves me into an area I can't express with words. 
  9. The Road by Cormac McCarthy They go so far in this novel, and the father remains hopeful no matter what befalls them. He is rock in the story and is amazing though we basically know nothing about him. The ending, then, is all the more tragic because it symbolises so much more than a loss of a person, but the loss of hope and driving force in an otherwise empty and broken world.
  10. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë As most people probably know, this boils down to a book of unrequited love and the things it can do to different people. Despite all the evil things done and the amount of times I wanted to scream out in anger, one is constantly emphatic with Heathcliff. Anyone can understand his motives, so we question whether we might do the same should such a fate befall us. This book, in some ways, is something that just keeps breaking your heart in several places.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Top Ten Books You'd Hand To Someone Who Says They Don't Like To Read

  1. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery Because I loved this book and I think most people could like this. It is straightforward fiction though, which some people dislike, and some of the ideas in the book are weird and a tad confusing. This is a bit like Jumping into the deep end, even though the water's warm.
  2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett Since I could draw them in using the great movie adaptation and then try to get them to read the book too! I actually did this with one of my friends who has never before read an entire book by choice. YAY!
  3. The Night Circus by Erin Morenstern I think the person would have tobe someone who liked fantasy films/games but I do think this could be enjoyed by a lot of people. However, I admit that a handful of people might find it boring to read.
  4. The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling Do I need to explain? Huge, well-loved films but everyone thinks the books are better.
  5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins Again, I could convince them to read using the trailer for the movie and even possibly use the movie after it is out. Then they will just get the craving to read the books and then happiness ensues.
  6. Divergent by Veronica Roth Another book that is really well-loved in the blogosphere so I think it reaches out to and connects with a lot of people. This is definitely something most to all would like.
  7. I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore Despite the infamous controversy over this book, it is a good book. It's action packed and extremely film like with its imagery and how one imagines the entire book. If I know someone who like Urban Fantasy films, I try to point them in this book's direction.
  8. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams Seriously, they are some of the wittiest, most amazing books I have read. Everything said in the books makes perfect sense when you think logically, but it's all so unreal and bizarre. The person would have to be someone who liked the whimsical and can take things with a pinch of salt, but they are great. 
  9. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson Very much an thriller/mystery/adventure/crime and it can appeal to anyone with even a little curiosity. There are some bits that are unpleasant to read, but the author is being honest- if brutally so. And, as a blogger reminded me the other day, Lisbeth really is one of the most amazing and unique heroines out there.
  10. The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger I don't think I say how good this book is sometimes, and how much I love it. It's slightly barmy and sometimes slow-paced but it makes for a great read. It reminds me of Romantic Comedy films in the way it is written and I think I'd be safe to recommend it to a few people who would take me seriously. (They can't lend my copy though since my Grandmother has it!!!)

Monday, 6 February 2012

Book Blogger Confessions - 3

This meme is hosted by Karen at For What It's Worth and Tiger at All Consuming Media

The idea of this is to recount, perhaps even vent in order to ward off violent outbursts, about the nuances of life as a book blogger.

Deadlines for reviewing and blogging. Do you set them? How do you keep them? What do you do if you can't meet a deadline?

I always try to set deadlines, but they're never stringent because I think that would take the fun of it out of reading and then reviewing. In my head, I like to think when I can finish a book by and when I might be able to get a review written for it. I finished Slaughterhouse 5 on Friday, and I have general idea that I'll review it this week, but I won't force myself to. I need to think I can sit down and write it when I have time. Even though I want to post as much as possible, I know that I have to put things like school first. I tend to still be reading, but the reviews come slower.

Concerning keeping deadlines, I do try to avoid reading more than 2 books without reviews- even if just a rough draft. I leave a book for too long, I can't write a review properly. Saying that though, a few of the ones I have left for longer and not been wholly in love with haven't garnered negative attention so I try not to have too many issues with this. I also seem to keep to a deadline if I see everyone posting reviews while the spiders are busy making my blog look old and deserted.

I haven't been in a position where I've missed a deadline (yet!) but I don't know what I'd do. I think all one can do is apologise and try to explain why it was missed. Anyone who is expecting you to do something is also human and I like to think they can understand if you can't manage to do something. We're all human after all, not robots.

One final point before I finish.

I tend to a lot of memes in ratio to the reviews I do, but this doesn't bother me. Frankly, I feel lucky if I can manage a review a week and over the moon if I can do two. I like to do memes so that I can (figuratively) say I'm still alive, reading, loving books and I haven't forgotten about my blog. But then deadlines for these (since they fall on days) also sometimes push me. I tend to do Top Ten Tuesdays on Sunday (when I try and persistently fail to do all blog things) and the Follow Fridays on the Friday morning and Thursday evening. When it comes to hopping back for comments though... it's shameful. As I said, I put other things before blogging so I only tend to hop back when I have time, which usually isn't until Mid-Week.

An excellent topic this week- and I hope this explains a seeming tardiness or lack of reviews!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Friday Hop Seize

Q: Define what characteristics your favorite books share. Do they all have a kick ass heroine or is the hot love interest the Alpha Male?

I like books with at least a hint of the fantastical and slightly unbelievable. I do like, as the question asks, a kiss-ass heroine too! It's no fun reading about a meak one slowly struggling through life; someone with attitude, perserverance and willpower is much more interesting for readers. I tend to also like my romance to be slow- and I prefer watching a long period of falling in love then seeing the struggles they face after it. Falling in love is many time more engaging, for me, and the moment of realisation gives me a warm tingle up my spine.

Most books I like also seem to be reasonably long. Something about dedicating a lot of time to a book, and being able to be completely drawn in, are some important qualities. Other little things I like are: a whimsical side character who is humorous, clever and mysterious; the gruff 'teacher' role who helps the protagonist (this is kind of high fantasy exclusive, I think); and I like the main characters slowly learning to control and direct their abilities or skills towards another purpose (I thinking fantasy again here!).

Book Appeal: When you're browsing goodreads, the library, or another blogger's reviews, what grabs your attention to make you want to read it? 

Well, of course, the book cover is the best thing to grab my attention, followed quickly by the title of the book. I think the title is how the author or publisher has thought best to define a book; so it almost sums up the essence of that book in a short phrase or even just one word. For me the author isn't overly important- though I'm persuaded to try something if it is an author I know and like.

When it comes to goodreads or blogs, I also tend to look at the rating- and if it isn't a blogger I'm familiar with I'll scan their past review for books we've both read and see if I agree with what they say their. Goodreads has that handy comparison feature which I tend to utilise in this case. If I don't have much time, I'll also scan their introductory and final paragraph, since they tend to be more of a book overview than other more case-specific paragraphs.

Sometimes, reviewers also compare the books they read with other ones (such as when I've seen Legend compared with Divergent). This has been something that I've seen while going to leave the page, but has stopped me because I think if I liked one, maybe I'll like the other.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

A Million Suns by Beth Revis

The sequel to Across the Universe, this is a dystopian novel set in space. Once again, it follows Amy and Elder in their separate lives aboard Godspeed, and delves into their growing infatuation for one another as it continues to grow in a realistic, albeit quick manner.

As a general overview of what I thought, I would say this book is much better than the first (though this review is harder to write without spoilers or abandoning good English). I didn't know what to expect from book two because, in many ways, the ending of book one was very final and suggested a very linear series with the same kind of goal each time. But Beth completely blew me away by turning the book on its head- turning it into a mystery novel, without losing its strong YA elements. I really mean that, since I could never predicted that this or that would happen. About half way through, I felt some of the foreshadowing was a bit too obvious and that the protagonists were being a bit unobservant, but it quickly passed and the book became enjoyable and wonderful once more.

The romance is better here than book one, but I was startled by the fact that Amy seemed to completely forget Jason though, in book one, I remember him being mentioned often. Amy and Elder do seem to have chemistry, and you can tell that it was  one of those "I want to love him, but can I or should I?" romances which can get tiresome as our protagonist goes home and spends a few pages agonising over little details and their numerous loyalties. Not so here, I felt. Instead it's more of a thought that passes through Amy's head (Amy's the reluctant one and Elder the hopeful, but never pushy other) when they flirt with something more romantic. One thing I that I really liked was how Beth portrayed how they were flitting about the subject of their relationship, without having to mention it every time. It was lingering there and I loved that it didn't need to be perpetually repeated.

The plot of the story isn't actually all that different to book one: an unknown someone is causing trouble and they have to find out who. That sounds worse than it is, since the ship is full of discord and their are other issues to contend with i.e. Amy's peculiar appearance (to the ship's residents) and Elder's duties as a leader. I can't say too much about that without giving away spoilers for book one or two, but I assure they are interesting and perfectly apt for the tone and setting of the book. The conclusion of the mystery side of the story was really well done because I kept doubting myself and I was of the opinion that it could have feasibly been any of three people. The other side of the story concerned Godspeed's mission- that is, it's mission to find a new planet to inhabit. This starts with a bang in the book, so to speak. The point reached in book one is rendered unimportant in comparison to what we learn in the first few chapters of the book, but once again it is faultlessly blended with the story and doesn't seem like a straight-forward plot device.

Things I didn't like about the book are almost so minor that they aren't worth mentioning, but they are the reason A Million Suns gets a 4 and not a 5. There are frequently scenes were Amy goes to see her frozen parents, and though I could accept her reasons and couldn't defend a complaint, they annoyed me. I kind of felt that she was going there so that some point about her adjusting to life on board Godspeed could be made, and not that it achieved a great deal. Another thing was that Victria seemed bent on hating Amy, despite all the selfless, supportive things she did. I couldn't understand why would she hate Amy that much, even if she did blame her for... well, something bad in Victria's eyes.

A Millions Suns succeeds in being something I could never do. It is a riveting story wrapped in messages of loyalty, trust and change. Elder and Amy seem to realise that after everything is done, the only person they know they can trust is one another- and even when it seems a shaky idea, it's rooted firmly and will not change. The use of Orion is also amazing; constantly leading us to the grey area of whether we can trust him or not. This is a YA book that I can actually feel safe in calling mature for not dodging around issues. In some ways, you could say there is too much being confronted in the book: ostracization and sexual exploitation being the two worst and most prominent. But I would fire back that our society has this and more: just because a protagonist is younger doesn't mean they won't face these issues.

Seriously, just don't miss this book. It's (to use a word I notice Beth using on her blog frequently) awesome.