Tuesday 27 March 2012

Top Ten Books I'd Play Hooky With

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week features a list of ten books based around a different subject.

This week's title is a little weird for me, as I don't think I've ever used the phrase 'play hooky'. It's not particularly used in the UK as far as I'm aware - I'd generally say books I'd skive with, but whatever. Doing a Top Ten Tuesday list seemed like a good way to get back to blogging!

1. The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffeneger - This book is gorgeous and I've wanted it for so long. Finally I succumbed and bought it last week and it's sitting on the table taunting me.. It wouldn't take up an entire day, being a little graphic novel, but it would be a good start!

2. Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs : The Left Bank World of Shakespeare and Co. by Jeremy Mercer - A book about both books and a foreign country, what could be better escapism?

3. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins - a reread, but as I've not yet seen the film, I'd love to refamiliarise myself with the story before seeing it.

4. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro - the only one of his books I've not yet read, I bought it yesterday and it's all new and smells awesome and Ishiguro can make any day seem like a beautiful, silent, sunny one. 

5. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray - because it sounds really cool and I've heard good things about it and I hope it will be the kind of story that would totally engross me.

6. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness - It's been on my shelf for a while now since I won it in a competition, but I've not got to it yet and it sounds really interesting. Also, what's better than books about magic for a day of not doing what you're supposed to be doing?

7. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon - I love, love, LOVE books about books, and this sounds like it could make me forget that there's any kind of world outside...

8. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson - after The Hunger Games, I decided I need to get over my unreasonable YA prejudice, and the cover of this is great, plus it's about a road trip. What could be better?

9. Harry Potter by J.K Rowling - I don't think I really need to explain this. I love Harry Potter and I always will, there is nothing anybody can say about either books or movies to make me love them less. And Potter cures all sadness.

10. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - I need to reread this book. The best book I've read in ages, by miles, I'm slightly worried that nothing else will ever be quite as magical... I'm going to keep looking though!

Saturday 17 March 2012

Mini Hiatus Type Stuff

Hello people, I just thought I'd post a warning for once rather than just disappearing. I have a huge week coming up in my personal life, and we're anticipating that it's going to be really difficult and stressful, therefore I probably won't be around too much for the next week or two. I will still be reading, and it may work out that blogging and stuff will actually help me destress - I hope so, but just in case it doesn't I thought I'd just say so that nobody wonders where I am!

Have a great couple of weeks!

Sunday 11 March 2012

Review: - Escape by Barbara Delinsky

When Escape landed on my doormat, I had a peek at the first chapter, just to see what I was letting myself in for. This was at around 10.30pm. I finally forced myself to put the book down at 1.30am, because I had to work the next day. It. Is. Great. Reading the blurb I thought it would be quite lightweight and fun, and it really was but it was also really well written, dramatic, and believable.
One Friday morning, Emily suddenly realises that somewhere in life she has chosen the wrong path. She needs to escape; from a job that is suffocating her and a personal life that isn’t making her happy. These days she barely sees her husband James and their attempts to start a family have proven unsuccessful. Realising the fruitlessness and misery of the life she has created for herself, Emily walks out of her office, turns her phone off, packs a bag and leaves New York. She doesn’t even tell James that she’s leaving. But when a new path leads back to her past, and an old lover, a whole new set of problems arise. As Emily begins to carve out a new life, where does that leave everything and everyone she left behind?
(from the blurb)
The book isn’t out in the UK until April 5th, but I wanted to talk about it now because I enjoyed it so much. Originally it appealed to me because of its’ theme – I know there have been plenty of times in the past when I’ve wished I could just walk out on everything and start again somewhere else, and even now, when I’m really happy with my husband, my job, my flat, pretty much with most things, there are still days when I wish I could just not be so in touch with the world. So it resonated from that point of view, but also I found myself really liking all of the characters.
Without giving anything away, the ending is not the one that you would probably expect from the kind of book that this is – Escape is one of those self-discovery type books, but in this case it isn’t just a discovery for Emily, but also for James. Although she focuses on Emily throughout the novel, Delinsky never loses focus on her other characters and allows them room for their thoughts and crises as well. She doesn’t make anybody the bad guy, either which I liked as I really don’t like having to spend half a novel hating somebody for being an indescribable idiot. As well as the major Emily needing to escape her claustrophobic world storyline there is also a bit of dramatic subplot going on which I thought was really great. It could have been overdramatic, but it wasn’t. With this kind of novel I can quite often find myself rolling my eyes and thinking ‘do they really expect me to believe that?!’, but at no point during Escape did this happen. The setting was idyllic, the characters were just lovely, even the flawed ones were flawed in a kind of adorable way, and just reading the book relaxed me which is exactly what I’m looking for when I read this genre. 

I recieved a copy of the book from the publicist for Canvas.

Friday 9 March 2012

The Classics Club :-)

***This is my original post which I've left up for posterity. I have since revamped my list and you can find the current one here***

Jillian from A Room of One's Own has come up with the brilliant idea of a Classics Club, where people make their own list of 50, 100 or 200+ classics that they want to read within a 5 year period. I adore list making, and there are a lot of classics I want to read. I also love the totally unstressed nature of this project, and the fact that a 'classic' is whatever you define a classic as. Because of this, my list has probably ended up with a lot more rereads of series I loved as a child than it otherwise would have, but I tried to limit myself to books I actually want to read, rather than titles I feel I should have read as I know that they'll just sit on the list intimidating me for five years and I'll feel guilty about not reading them for five years... Hence the addition of such titles as Ian Fleming's James Bond series (they are classic spy fiction), and L. Frank Baum's Oz books, which I never read the entire series of as a child! 

Anyway, here's my list. Currently I have 142 books, but the number may grow. I'm hoping that as so many are children's books they won't actually take me that long to read!

Titles I own are in bold; ones I have read are struckthrough with a link to the review, if I've got around to it!

      20th Century
1. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
2. A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
3. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
4. Alice Through the Looking Glass * by Lewis Carroll
5. Ariel by Sylvia Plath
6. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
7. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
8. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
9. Charlotte's Web * by E.B White
10.Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
11.Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
12.Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
13.Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
14.Forever by Judy Blume
15.For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
16.Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier
17.Gone with the Wind * by Margaret Mitchell
18.Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood
19.Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
20.Kid by Simon Armitage 
21.Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H Lawrence
22.Let the Circle Be Unbroken * by Mildred D. Taylor
23.Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winnifred Watson
24.Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
25.My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
26.Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm * by Kate Wiggins Douglas
27.Robin Hood by Henry Gilbert
28.Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry * by Mildred D. Taylor
29.Save Me The Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald

30.Tell me the Truth About Love by W.H Auden 

31.The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

32.The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein

33.The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

34.The Bell Jar * by Sylvia Plath

35.The Cocktail Party by T.S Eliot

36.The Collected Poems, 1909 - 1962 by T.S Eliot

37.The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

38.The Enormous Room by E.E Cummings

39.The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

40.The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing

41.The Great Gatsby * by F. Scott Fitzgerald

42.The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

43.The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

44-57.The James Bond Series by Ian Fleming (Casino Royale *, Live and Let Die, Moonraker, Diamonds are Forever, From Russia with Love, Dr. No *, Goldfinger, For Your Eyes Only, Thunderball, The Spy Who Loved Me, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, You Only Live Twice, The Man with the Golden Gun, & Octopussy and the Living Daylights )

58.The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald 

59-66.The Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House in the Big Woods *, Little House on the Prairie *, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of the Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, & The First Four Years)

67.The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bugakov

68.The Outsiders by S.E Hinton

69-82.The Oz Series by L. Frank Baum (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz *, The Marvellous Land of Oz *, Ozma of Oz, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, The Road to Oz, The Emerald City of Oz, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, Tik- Tok of Oz, The Scarecrow of Oz, Rinktink in Oz, The Lost Princess of Oz, The Tin Woodman of Oz, The Magic of Oz, & Glinda of Oz) 

83.The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

84.The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

85.The Road to Memphis * by Mildred D. Taylor

86.The Silmarilion by J.R.R Tolkien

87.The Story of Doctor Doolittle by Hugh Lofting

88.The Stranger by Albert Camus

89-101.The Swallows and Amazons Series by Arthur Ransome (Swallows and Amazons *, Swallowdale *, Peter Duck *, Winter Holiday, Coot Club, Pigeon Post, We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea, Secret Water, The Big Six, Missee Lee *, The Picts and the Martyrs: Or Not Welcome at all, Great Northern?,  & Coots in the North)

102.The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall

103.This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

104.Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

105.Ulysses by James Joyce

106.Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M Forster

19th Century

107.A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

108.Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

109.Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

110.Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant

111.Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

112.Grimms' Fairytales by Jacob & Willhelm Grimm

113.Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

114.Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

115.Nights with Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris

116.North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

117.Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

118.Quo Vadis? * by Henryk Sienkiewicz

119.Shirley by Charlotte Bronte 

120.Tales of Mystery & Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe

121.The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

122.The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

123.The Awakening by Kate Chopin

124.The Children of the New Forest * by Captain Marryat

125.The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

126.The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G Wells

127.The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

128.The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

129.The Professor by Charlotte Bronte

130.The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

131.The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

132.The Time Machine by H.G Wells

133.The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley

134.Villette by Charlotte Bronte

135.Walden by Henry David Thoreau

136.War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
18th Century
137.Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

17th Century

138.Macbeth by William Shakespeare

139.Tales of Mother Goose by Charles Perrault
1st Century B.C (approx)

140.The Aeneid by Virgil

8th Century B.C (approx)

141.The Odyssey by Homer 

142.The Iliad by Homer

* = re-reads (some so distant I only barely remember that I've ever read the book, and not at all what it was about!)

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Review: - The Magician's Nephew by C.S Lewis

I’ve finally got around to reviewing the only thing I managed to read in February for the Telling Tales Challenge! Chronologically the first of C.S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, The Magician’s Nephew is actually the sixth in terms of publication and was written in order to explain how Narnia was created, and primarily how the famous lamppost came to be there. Whenever I write about a book that I’ve always loved I tend to assume that everybody else in the world has read it too. Most of the people I know in real life have read the Narnia books, but I’m sure that there will be somebody reading this who hasn’t managed to get around to it yet. If you haven’t read them, all I can say is that you really, really should.

A quick explanation, for anybody who doesn’t know and also because it’s been so long since I wrote a synopsis that I don’t know if I still can!

The seven books in the Narnia series are all based around religious analogy, with Aslan as the Jesus/creator figure, and The Magician’s Nephew shows the creation of Narnia and its’ beasts and how they come to talk. The main character is Diggory Kirke, a young boy (who later grows up to be the professor from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!) living with his aunt and uncle because his mother is very ill. He forms a friendship with his next door neighbour Polly Plummer, and together they start out to explore the attics of their houses. Their explorations get them into a difficult situation with Diggory’s creepy Uncle Andrew, a magician who has discovered a way to travel between different worlds, and tricks the children into trying it out for him...
I’m a giant fan of the original BBC adaptations of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair, and the film versions aren’t at all bad either. I always lamented the fact that they never made The Magician’s Nephew and lately I’ve been hearing rumours about it being turned into a film. Who knows if that will ever actually happen but I’ve always thought it would be brilliant. It’s got it all; a larger than life villain, mystery, magic, adventure, chase scenes, drama, and of course a happy ending.

As a kid I loved C.S Lewis, and re-reading The Magician’s Nephew as an adult I loved it for different reasons. This time around I really enjoyed the religious aspect because it is so obvious if you know it’s there, but at the same time it’s completely possible to read the Narnia books, especially The Magician’s Nephew, without realising that they are religious at all. Because it is a book that I knew so well as a child it was brilliant to re-read as an adult, and parts of it made me smile as I read them, because sentences and phrases came back to me and I could see myself aged about seven, during the phase where I used to keep books in the end of my bed underneath my soft toys, because I couldn’t bear to be parted from them, reading the same paragraphs by torchlight way after the lights should have been out. This is part of the reason I love rereading so much. Recently, Jillian wrote a post about how reading books connects us to other people, and I feel like rereading connects me to myself at different ages. It’s kind of nice to know that although a lot of things aren’t how I pictured them being when I was a child, my life is still turning out pretty well so far!

I like Lewis’ writing style a lot too, and he’s very good at depicting children’s reactions to things. I also adore the fact that neither Diggory nor Polly ever question the possibility of there being other worlds, they pretty much just accept that there are. When you are a child you are so full of possibilities that pretty much anything could turn out to be real without bothering you too much. When you grow up, though, nothing can happen without you questioning its’ possibility, rationality and logic. If it isn’t logical, it isn’t possible, and that kind of thinking is why I’m doing my best not to grown up!

Narnia has got to be pretty much the ultimate escapism. It’s definitely right up there with Harry Potter in terms of amazing things you’d really like to be true, and aside from references to obscure items of clothing and foods nobody eats anymore, it’s amazing how little the Chronicles of Narnia have dated. Considering they were published well over 50 years ago, the themes set up in The Magician’s Nephew are still really relevant today. It’s basically about good versus evil and the importance of standing up for what you believe in. Although as a child I didn’t know that it wasn’t written first, on rereading it, it seems clearly more mature in tone than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and made me want to reread The Last Battle, about which I remember virtually nothing except something about dwarves and a door, and which scared me so almightily with its’ theology on first reading that from then on I read books 1 – 6 and vehemently denied the existence of the seventh book.

Apparently I’m finding it difficult to actually stay focused on The Magician’s Nephew and have digressed to talking about the series as a whole. Perhaps this is fitting: The Magician’s Nephew is the introduction to Narnia after all, and the book which sets up the premise from which all the others follow. Short and to the point, it contains two subjects of my childhood nightmares – Uncle Andrew, and Jadis, who later becomes the white witch, were both absolutely terrifying to me as a child and although I’m no longer scared of them the descriptions of both of them are still enough to give me the shivers.

In the great Lewis vs. Tolkien debate, despite my love of Lord of the Rings (and I really do love it), I’d have to say from the point of view of what affected my life in terms of morals, ethics and imagination, I’m firmly in the Lewis camp. I do think that every child should be read The Chronicles of Narnia, whether or not they are religious, because they are brilliant, imaginative, captivating stories which subtly contain real issues and dilemmas.

I don’t think I’m going to need to write too much about the rest of the books after that, but hey, I finally got around to writing a review! 

Sunday 4 March 2012

The Telling Tales Challenge March Link Up!

How on earth is it March already?! I'm sure that time is going faster every year... Anyway, so far I've been doing terribly with this, but other people are continuing to be fabulous and I hope reading some great stuff! :-) I did read The Magician's Nephew in February, but I haven't got around to review writing yet - hopefully I will this week. 

Anyway, here's the link up for March reviews. Happy reading, everybody!

See what people have been reading in January and February.


Sunday Salon - Where I've Been...

Once again I've been totaly awol for a while now. I'm not going to apologise or explain, but just say that at the moment life is getting in the way of blogging and that I miss it and do hope to be back in the not to distant future. 

That said, what I've been doing lately which has also hindered my posting of reviews, is getting stuck into the first of my biannual rereads of Little Women and sequels. I've had to drag myself away from  Little Men because Magical March has begun and I need to start on Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which I've just done in the past ten minutes and I'm hoping it'll be as great as The Ladies of Grace Adieu which I read last year and adored. 

There's not been too much else going on, except my failure to write a review of The Magician's Nephew or follow it up with reading any more of the Chronicles of Narnia for the Telling Tales Challenge and the Narnia Reading Project. I've heard rumours that they might finally be making a film of The Magician's Nephew, and if it's true then I'm ridiculously excited as I've always thought it would make a brilliant film and don't understand why nobody's done it before!

Speaking of awesome films, I'm going to finally see The Muppets Movie this afternoon at my teeny tiny local cinema, and I'm really hoping it will be as brilliant as I want it to be. I'm a giant fan of the Muppets and also of Jason Segel and Amy Adams, so I have high hopes!

That's about it from me, I'm going to try for at least one review this week, but we'll have to see how it goes. Hope everybody's having a great weekend!