Monday, 8 July 2013

Lord Of The Rings - J R R Tolkien

This is certainly an investment of your time; it takes you to another world completely. The level of detail that Tolkien goes into is amazing, it’s so well written, it really is a pleasure to read.

It is much darker than The Hobbit, which is very much like a children’s book in comparison to the sinister and evil times that exist in LOTR. Yet I enjoyed learning what had happened to Bilbo and the other characters after the The Hobbit had ended. 

I watched the films before I read this book (recently before as well) and I would recommend doing this. It meant that I had a very vivid picture in my mind when I was reading it. Sometimes seeing the film before reading the book can ruin the book- or not make it as enjoyable- but I think the opposite is true for LOTR. It made it an easy read and, because the films are so well done, it made it easy to imagine the settings and the characters. What the book did add to the films is a greater depth and understanding to all the characters and the scenarios. Also, there were some slight differences between the book and the films, which made it even more fascinating to read.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this book, it is well worth the time taken to read it.

Has anyone else read Lord of the Rings? What did you think? Has anyone seen the films? If so, how do you think they compare?

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Oh Dear Silvia - Dawn French

I found this book really easy to read as there are so many different character narrators that it really breaks it up. I read it on the train to Birmingham and it made it go very fast! The plot is very interesting- about a woman (Silvia) in a coma and all the different visitors that come. We slowly get to piece together what has happened in her life and how exactly she ended up in a coma.

*Spoiler Alert*
It’s clever how Dawn French makes the reader hate Silvia initially and make you think that Cat is the only one who likes her and is nice to her (even though Silvia apparently “bullies” her too). I actually really pitied Cat at the start. She is a doctor, generally a person that you would respect and trust, and a person who has been abused by her father and brother and then later her husband. However, throughout the book there is a gradual yet noticeable shift in Cat’s behaviour as she becomes more and more psychotic- along with some very shocking and exciting twists!

So, it turns out Cat is actually a leech that has been sucking the life out of Silvia for five years. Now this is just my opinion, but I thought it was very clever how, in her desperate state to get cocaine, Cat scrapes the dirt and filth from the bottom of her bag and rubs it on her gums. She then spits on Silvia’s face. The next chapter sees Silvia with an infection- one that is just explained as something that she must have picked up because her immune system is so low. So, is it just me, or does Cat give her that infection by spitting dirt/ germs on her face? This is a rather fitting (yet tragic and sad) end for Silvia, who has been slowly killed by Cat mentally for the last five years, and then physically by the balcony push and finally the spit. It also could symbolise that it was actually Cat’s verbal abuse that was in fact her most deadly weapon- more so than her physical abuse, as this didn’t actually kill Silvia.

I thought Willow was adorable and laughed out loud when she drew a cat on Silvia’s face. Yet looking back now I’m tempted to think this may also have been a hint that it was Cat who had spat on her face and given her the infection. No matter how hard the nurses try they cannot get the cat t off Silvia’s face; Cat is too heavily ingrained there. I knew from this moment that she couldn’t be saved, it was too late to help her. Do you think I’ve gone too far? Or is this Dawn French’s clever symbolism?

I was glad that Ed/ Cassie/ Jamie all made peace with Silvia before she died. It was very emotional at the end. It highlighted the strong bond and the love of the family, and that no matter what happens, that unconditional love will never go away.

Tia was hilarious- definitely my favourite character! I laughed out loud when she read out the gossip magazines and gave her opinion on everything! Jo really annoyed me- idiot woman, I skim read her chapters to be honest. I also found Ed very boring- enough about trees already! Although I did like his and Winnie’s blossoming relationship, that was a lovely touch and a happy side to sad ending.

*Spoiler part over*

Altogether, I would say this is a very easy read, there’s a bit of everything in it- life, death, the family, coupled with a touch of mystery and humour.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Sing You Home - Jodi Picoult

Right from the word go, Jodi Picoult plunges the reader into the drama and the tragedy of a woman, who has tried for years to get pregnant, losing her baby. Needless to say, this book is emotional. In a nut shell, it tells the story of a woman’s fight to be able to have a child with the woman she loves, the struggle to overcome the prejudice of the church and for gay rights to become accepted, all in a thrilling court case. It is fascinating, moving and, ultimately, gripping.

First of all, I like how it is told from the perspective of the three main characters: Zoe, Max and Vanessa. It made me feel like I really got to know each of them well, making them seem a lot more real, and allowed me to understand all of their different viewpoints and reasons for their actions.

There are so many different debates and ethical issues in this book, it really gets you thinking. The main points brought to our attention are gay rights and gay couples having children, couples that can’t have children, relationships, Evangelical Christians and the Church’s views on homosexuality. It’s so interesting and great to discuss with other people that have read it.

*SPOILER- stop reading if you have not read this book yet*
It was very moving at the beginning but also very infuriating. Zoe’s obsession with having a baby has driven away all her friends and then eventually her husband, I pitied her but also wanted to shake her and tell her it wasn’t the be-all and end-all, why not try adopting rather than taking so many medical and health risks trying to conceive?

Moreover, I thought the beginning was a bit horrific, it seemed like one terrible thing after another and I was thinking ‘this really isn’t my sort of book, I want to escape from the depressingness of real life, not read about someone else’s problems’. However, after all the initial drama and heartbreak, it did get better, by half way I was hooked, and by the end I read into the early hours of the morning to find out what would happen!

Personally, I was angered by the Evangelical church and the hypocritical and old fashioned views that it took on gay people, picking and choosing which bits of the bible to believe and take literally, and which parts not too. I found Pauline, the Christian woman who described herself as being ‘ex-gay’ quite a sad and very irritating character as she clearly was still gay (having never actually been in a relationship with a man) yet had repressed all those feelings and preached to others to not be gay anymore.

However, Max was by far the most infuriating character. He was just so weak and pathetic. The fact that he was trying to have a baby in the first place was only because Zoe wanted one so badly, and him turning to religion was mainly due to Reid and Liddy pressuring him. He’d been in love with Liddy for ages, and that’s what made me so angry; he wanted the embryos for the selfish reason of Liddy having his baby, not because he thought Zoe and Vanessa would be corrupt. I felt so sorry for Zoe and so angry on her behalf.

I enjoyed how Jodi Picoult portrayed the two warring couples (Zoe and Vanessa, and Liddy and Reid) in a very ironic way. The church was arguing that Zoe and Vanessa should not have children because their relationship was a sin and not stable, whereas Liddy and Reid’s was perfect in every way. As the reader, we saw that, in fact, the opposite was true: Zoe and Vanessa were happy and stable, whereas Liddy and Reid had a strange and ultimately breakable relationship. I enjoyed the hypocrisy and the way in which Jodi highlighted it in an almost satirical way. This book certainly does not portray religion in a good light; it’s unyielding, outdated, prejudice, hypocritical and cruel.

I liked the ending- I was surprised but glad that it ended happily- but then I am a bit of a sucker for a happy ending! The final chapter was interestingly done through the narration of Sammy, although I do wish I could have found out more about what happened to the characters; for instance, what happened to Reid? And did Liddy try for a baby again?

Overall, this book gives you a lot to think about and is very different. It is not the kind of book I would normally read and I am glad that I have. I have been thinking about it for days after finishing and it has certainly made me want to read more of Jodi Picoult’s books.

Has anyone else read it? What did you think? Does anyone fancy reading it now?

Monday, 28 January 2013

Book Releases To Look Forward To In 2013

Here are a few books that I’m looking forward to that are coming out in 2013:

Inferno - Dan Brown
We can look forward to the return of Robert Langdon in Dan Brown’s new thriller ‘Inferno’. Always gripping, and a nice, easy read.

Amazon says:
Dan Brown's new novel, Inferno, features renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon and is set in the heart of Europe, where Langdon is drawn into a harrowing world centred around one of history's most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces.’

Wedding Night - Sophie Kinsella
I always look forward to the next Sophie Kinsella novel- she never fails to disappoint! They’re usually light and funny, this one sounds like it is going to be just as good as the rest.

Amazon says:
Lottie just knows that her boyfriend is going to propose during lunch at one of London’s fanciest restaurants. But when his big question involves a trip abroad, not a trip down the aisle, she’s completely crushed. So when Ben, an old flame, calls her out of the blue and reminds Lottie of their pact to get married if they were both still single at thirty, she jumps at the chance. No formal dates—just a quick march to the altar and a honeymoon on Ikonos, the sun-drenched Greek island where they first met years ago.
 Their family and friends are horrified. Fliss, Lottie’s older sister, knows that Lottie can be impulsive—but surely this is her worst decision yet. And Ben’s colleague Lorcan fears that this hasty marriage will ruin his friend’s career. To keep Lottie and Ben from making a terrible mistake, Fliss concocts an elaborate scheme to sabotage their wedding night. As she and Lorcan jet off to Ikonos in pursuit, Lottie and Ben are in for a honeymoon to remember, for better . . . or worse.

Requiem Lauren Oliver
Third instalment of the Delirium trilogy- a new trilogy that is set to become a film. The first book is called ‘Delirium’ and is all about a dystopian future where love can be cured.

Amazon says:
Lena can build the walls, but what if there's no one left to take them down? The powerful, heartbreaking conclusion to one of the most eagerly awaited, talked-about series is here.

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
This sounds very intriguing...

Amazon says:
What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.
What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?
Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, she finds warmth even in life's bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here isKate Atkinson at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.

Nine Lives – S J Watson
I loved ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ so cannot wait to read S J Watson’s new book! There is no blurb yet as it’s not being released until September but watch this space!

The Accidental Apprentice – Vikas Swarup
From the author of ‘Q & A’ (AKA Slumdog Millionaire) and ‘Six Suspects’ (which I really enjoyed!) comes ‘The Accidental Apprentice’. It sounds like it’s going to be another fantastic read!

Amazon says:
Life pivots on a few key moments. This is one of them. Sapna Sinha works in an electronics store in downtown Delhi. She hates her job, but she is ambitious and determined to succeed, and she knows without the money she brings in, her family won't be able to survive. Little does she know it but her life is about to change forever. As she leaves the shop on her lunchbreak one day, she is approached by a man who claims to be CEO of one of India's biggest companies. He tells her he is looking for an heir for his business empire. And that he has decided it should be her. There are just seven tests she must pass. And then the biggest lottery ticket of all time will be hers.’

What do you think? Any take your fancy? Do you know of any more books coming out this year that I have not mentioned?

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes

I expected this to be a chick lit type of book that would be light-hearted, funny and a nice cosy read to escape the January blues. It’s so much more than that.

This book attracted me because it’s been in Amazon’s bestsellers list for over a year now and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I have never read anything by Jojo Moyes before but I will be buying her other books now.

I literally could not put it down and when I physically had to (to work, eat and eventually sleep) I was thinking about it constantly.

It provokes so many questions. About life and death, about euthanasia and suicide, about disabilities, about love, about jobs and money. The concerns of the characters allow you to relate to them- being unemployed and experiencing the job centre during this recession, supporting your family and worrying about money. But it also gives you an insight into much bigger problems that exist, that the majority of us do not come into contact with everyday- such as living life as a quadriplegic, after a tragic accident, and for the people that care for him.

It’s so thought-provoking, moving and incredibly gripping. It’s sad in places but I would not call this a sad book (I really don’t like sad books so please don’t be put off by thinking that this is one). This is definitely not a chick lit. Do not underestimate it. This book is about life: the fragility and the meaning of living life. I would highly recommend it for a powerful read and one that will stay in your mind for weeks after.

Has anyone else read this book? If so, what do you think of the ending?
And has anyone read any more Jojo Moyes books that you can recommend?