Archive for March, 2012


Title: The Hunger Games

Author: Suzanne Collins

Date Finished: 30/03/12

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : No

Overall: 5/5 – absolutely fantastic

I decided to accelerate this book instead of putting it at the end of my TBR shelf as I normally do with new books, as my sister and lots of my friends were saying to me “You HAVE to read this book”.  Also, the film is now out and I didn’t want to risk going to see it without reading the book first (one thing I can’t stand is reading a book after I’ve seen the film version!).  To be honest, I am really happy I prioritised this book as I really enjoyed reading it and couldn’t put it down!

The plot is really where this novel stands out.  So fast moving, it is unreal and completely gripping.  The beginning of the book is just normal, but when The Hunger Games actually begin, I was a goner!   Literally, I came home from school on Friday and read solidly for hours.  I already mentioned in my Friday Quick Wrap-Up that I haven’t read so quickly and compulsively since I read Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy!

The characters are good.  I wouldn’t say they are great, as quite a few often annoyed me and I thought they were a bit unrealistic, but I did end up caring about many of them and willing them on.  I didn’t forget who each character was and what their traits and personalities were once, which shows they have been well-crafted.

I did think the prose did its job extremely well.  What I mean is that this book is designed to be adventure and the prose delivers this perfectly.  There isn’t a huge amount of description compared to the vast amount of action, but that doesn’t matter.  The sentences were often short and snappy and really created tension well.  There is something extremely readable about Collins’ prose – people I know who certainly aren’t readers have been reading this book as obsessively as I did and I think that is really special.  It brings me so much pleasure to see people who I know think reading is a chore and a waste of time opening up their bags and taking these books out.  I really commend Collins for writing a book that is so widely respected and enjoyed by so many young (and I expect older) people.

I think I am going to wait a while before reading the next two books in the series, as there is no film pressure for them and I want to spread out the trilogy.  It will definitely be exciting to see what happens next!

All in all, if you are looking for something exciting or quick or interesting or different or easy-to-read or brilliant or pretty much anything, go out and buy this book now!  I can pretty much guarantee that you will become hooked very quickly and then you can go and see the film to see how the two media compare!

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What is going on in my bibliosphere at the moment?

Well, today I am powering through The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, which I have not been able to put down!  I think the last time I was as compulsively reading as this was when I read Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy.  The Hunger Games is so easy to read and a really ingenious idea…I will go into a lot more detail when I put up my review post.

I am on a quick break from Wuthering Heights because my sister was really nagging me to read The Hunger Games and my friends want to see the film in the holidays, so I have to have read it before then!  Also, Wuthering Heights was growing on me and I was starting to enjoy reading it a lot more than at first, so I thought if I stopped now, I would be likely to dive straight back in after my quick break.

In other news, it is now the Easter Holidays!! And not a moment too soon!  I really have been completely stressed with the amount of work I have been doing and hopefully over Easter I can begin revision and slowly but surely complete my many many tasks.  In the second week of the holidays I am going on holiday to Vienna which I am really looking forward to and I will hopefully be able to get a lot of reading in, as well as all the sightseeing and revising.

Happy Easter everyone!

Every week, The Broke and The Bookish poses a category for book bloggers to post their ‘Top Ten’ in that week’s category.

This week the category is ‘Top Ten Books I’d Play Hooky With’, meaning your top ten books you would skip school or work for.  There are many days when I think I’d rather stay at home and read my book than go to school, but I’ve picked 10 for the moment.

1. Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling.  The Harry Potter books are those ones which you can just sit down and read for hours without noticing how the time flies, perfect for a devouring a book in a day.

2. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë.  The reason I picked Jane Eyre is simply because I can just imagine curling up with this book on a cold Wintry day and reading for hours.

3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams.  If you are feeling down or stressed or upset, then there is nothing better than diving into the hilarious and witty HHGTTG, which is one of the most feel-good series I have ever come across.

4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson.  This series is enthralling and the first book is the most gripping of the three.  I couldn’t put it down both times I read it, so it’s a good one for a couple of hours on non-stop reading on a day off.

5. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins.  I haven’t read these books yet (I am starting tonight actually, as Wuthering Heights is a bit heavy and my sister is nagging me non-stop) but from what I hear, many people find them ‘unputdownable, which suggests they would be good for a day off too.

6. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens.  The reason I picked David Copperfield, is because it is one of those classics that you really have to get into, and what better way to get into a more laborious book, than when you’ve got hours to spare during the day?

7. Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare.  I am talking about all of Shakespeare’s plays here (I only picked Romeo and Juliet as I am reading that one next) when I say that they are quite short which means they are great for playing hooky with because you would probably be able to finish one in a day, which is always really rewarding.

8. The Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith.  Another feel-good series that can pick you up and transport you to somewhere completely different (Botswana in this case) and make you forget about the pressures and stresses in your daily life.

9. To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee.  As many of you know, this is one of my all time favourite books (so maybe I am biased) but I do think it has severe readability and is one of those books that is a real pleasure to read.

10. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens.  I remember reading this Dickens last Christmas and really enjoying it, but I think that was because I could spend a couple of hours every day reading it, so I highly recommend playing hooky with this one.

Yes, I am starting The Hunger Games tonight, as I am nearly halfway through Wuthering Heights and finding it quite hard going and I fancy a bit of easier reading.  I will let you know what I think of both books in due course.

What is going on in my bibliosphere at the moment?

At the moment, I am reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.  As many of you will know, I was expecting something similar to Jane Eyre and was put right very quickly!  To be honest, I am finding it much harder to read than Jane Eyre and less enjoyable (apparently that’s a good thing with this book).  I am just not really into it yet and I am really busy this weekend so I doubt I am going to finish it before April like I planned.
When I (eventually) finish it, I will be moving onto The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon, which is a re-read for me.

In other news, I have a badminton match tonight and I am performing in a concert tomorrow with my orchestra.  One of my friends is playing the Haydn trumpet concerto, which I love, so that should be good.  Also, the Concert Band are accompanying a very talented pianist playing Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, so it should be a stunning evening.  We are all going out for a meal afterwards, so with that AND the clocks going forwards, I am going to be extremely sleepy on Sunday when I have to do all my work.

All in all, I am rather busy at the moment!  Next week is the last week before the Easter Holidays so a lot of rushing around attempting to finish coursework, but I should have time to cram in some reading too.

And This Is True – Emily Mackie

Title: And This Is TrueAnd This Is True

Author: Emily Mackie

Date Finished: 21/03/12

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : No

Overall: 3/5 – just average


I have to start by saying this book was pretty weird! I was given it for my birthday last year and I was quite excited as my copy is actually signed!  I am not really sure what I expected this book to be about, but it certainly wasn’t this.

The plot was very strange to say the least.  From the blurb you really don’t get a clue as to what is going to happen.  Basically, the narrator, Nevis, has lived in a van with his Dad for as long as he can remember.  He is now a teenager and starting to develop, however he is developing a ‘love’ for his father that is more than in a family way.  I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone who wants to read this book, but he acts upon these feelings and shocks his Dad into action – he takes them to a farm and attempts to bring Nevis back into normal life.

Sound like a peculiar story? Well it definitely is.  I think the reason I only gave this book 3/5 was because  I couldn’t really sympathise and I definitely couldn’t empathise with Nevis.  This was quite a big problem as the book is in the first person, so you only have access to Nevis’ rather unconventional thoughts.  I couldn’t relate to how he was feeling at all, even though the book is well written.

For example, Nevis talks about how hearing a person’s voice (that isn’t his father’s) makes him feel physically sick and nervous.  Whilst it was well explained and interesting, this was still very hard for me to understand.  It was interesting to read about someone who is not secure in their own mind but I think it was all a bit too much.

Also, there weren’t really any characters that I liked.  Nevis was too odd, Marshall was much too moody (one of my serious pet hates), Ailsa was annoying, Duckman was unrealistic etc etc.

The prose however was great and the story is written delicately and explicitly, which is quite something.  For anyone who is interested in characters with mental unconventialities (I don’t say problems because I think that is quite offensive), this book is an eye-opener.  However, if you are looking for a good story with great characters, I suggest you pick something else.

Every week, The Broke and The Bookish poses a category for book bloggers to post their ‘Top Ten’ in that week’s category.

This week the category is ‘Top Ten Books on Spring TBR List’ with the guidance basically to list the books you are most looking forward to reading this Spring.  Since I am participating in The Classics Club and The Victorian Challenge 2012 this year, I hope to make a significant dent in these lists this Spring so there are quite a few classics on today’s list.

For me, the year is divided equally into its four seasons: June, July & August are Summer; September, October & November are Autumn; December, January & February are Winter; leaving March, April & May as Spring.  I don’t know why I have always though of seasons this way, maybe it’s to do with how school is structured, by for today’s list, I am focussing on books I am really looking forward to reading in the remainder of March, April and May.

Oh, and these are not in order – that would be much too difficult!

 

1. Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë.  I am so looking forward to this book and I am reading it next after I’ve finished And This Is True.  I really loved Jane Eyre, which was my first Brontë, and even though I’ve had good advice from Caro that the Brontës were all very  different, I just can’t wait to get back to 19th Century rural England.  Also, Wuthering Heights count for The Classics Club AND The Victorian Challenge so I am killing multiple birds with one book-shaped stone!

 

2. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón.  I got given this book for my birthday last September by a friend who had heard it was good.  My friend went on to buy his own copy and read it before I could (my book backlog is rather ridiculous) and has said that it was absolutely amazing.  With that kind of recommendation I am expecting great things from this book and am looking forward to sinking into Barcelona!

 

3. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins.  Well there is certainly a lot of hype surrounding this series at the moment – I had a free period in the library on Monday and of the roughly 15 people in there, three people were reading (one being me) and the other two were both reading one of The Hunger Games books.  With the film coming out in 3 days time, no wonder people are going crazy.  My sister borrowed the first book from her friend and read it in one weekend, which is quite unusual for her, and we are both eagerly awaiting the delivery of our own copies of the trilogy! I just can’t wait to find out what is all the fuss about?!

 

4. Emma – Jane Austen.  I haven’t read any Austen before (shocking, I know!) and so I am really excited about getting into this, my first.  I chose Emma because my music teacher said that this was her favourite Austen so it seemed as good a place to start as any.  I don’t really know anything of the story and nothing about the characters, so it should be really fun to read a book without any previous knowledge (something quite rare for me).  It has been on my TBR shelf for a good six months or so, and has finally worked its way to near the top and it also counts for The Classics Club, so all in all I think it deserves to be read now!

 

5. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown.  I have already read Digital Fortress and Angels and Demons by Dan Brown and I enjoyed them both (solid 4 / 5).  However, this seems to be the novel that took the world by storm so I am looking forward to reading it.  I read Angels and Demons (the preceding novel to The Da Vinci Code) whilst on holiday last summer, so it seems right that this one might tie in nicely with my holiday to Vienna this Easter, although that means getting through a couple of other books pretty quickly!

 

6. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens.  This is a re-read for me – I read it in 2010 but I think I missed something as I found it hard to get into and nothing special.  To be fair it was my first Dickens and I was quite young, so now that I am more experienced with Dickens (I’ve read Hard Times, Oliver Twist and David Copperfield since then) I am hoping to enjoy this much more the second time around.  I enjoyed the BBC adaptation at Christmas and I am intrigued to see if the new film that is being made will bring something new to a story well known by so many.  Another bonus is that it will also count towards The Classics Club and The Victorian Challenge!

 

7. The Girl Who Played with Fire – Stieg Larsson.  This is another re-read.  I absolutely loved the Millennium Trilogy when I read them for the first time back in summer 2010 and I have already re-read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last December and loved it again!  Insanely gripping plots – I can’t put these books down so I am really looking forward to reading the second instalment of Lisbeth’s life again.  If you haven’t read these books yet then I seriously seriously recommend them – such vivid characters and instantly captivating plots!

 

8. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell.  I really don’t know much about this book, aside from the fact that it has several different plots (?).  It was recommended to me by the conductor of the regional wind ensemble I play during the holidays as one of the other ensembles he conducts played a piece of music composed to accompany it and he said it was a great read.  If anyone has read this, I would love to know what you thought of it!  I have put it on this list as I know nothing about the book or the author and that is scary but also exciting!

 

9. The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman. I really loved the His Dark Materials books when I first read them due to the inventive plot, great characters and the way they deal with serious questions.  I re-read Northern Lights in December and really enjoyed it again, so I am looking forward to getting into the second in the trilogy, The Subtle Knife, a lot.  It is quite a short and easy to read book so I am hoping to polish it off relatively quickly!

 

10. To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee.  This is (probably) my favourite book ever!  For my GCSE in English Literature we had to study this book as our novel and it was so great for me – I loved reading it and learning all the quotes was a pleasure!  This book says so much and says it so well, it a must read for everyone!  I think this will be the 3rd time I have actually read it through as a book, but I have listened to the audiobook many times and when I was studying for English I just kept it around and dipped in and out, reading whichever bit was relevant to the area I was revising.  If you have not read this book you must buy it and read it now!!  On top of all that, it counts towards The Classics Club too – what’s not to love?

 

What is going on in my bibliosphere at the moment?

Currently I am reading And This Is True by Emily Mackie which is so far a very odd book but still quite gripping if a little disturbing at times (and that’s putting it nicely).  I am about a third of the way through and will hopefully make a lot of progress over the weekend.

I finished The Understudy by David Nicholls this week and my conclusion was that it was pretty average (full post here)

Coming up next, I have Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and I seriously cannot wait to get into it – I loved Jane Eyre and have high expectations for my next Brontë and it will count as my second book in The Classics Club, which is always exciting!

In other news, there has been a coursework explosion in practically all the subjects I study at school as the deadline is very close now so I am pretty busy with work! Oh, and I am very happy as I did a bit of searching yesterday and found my copies of Anne Frank’s Diary and The Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Galaxy, which both went straight to my TBR pile!

Have a good week everyone,

Adam 🙂

The Understudy – David Nicholls

Title: The Understudy

Author: David Nicholls

Date Finished: 14/03/12

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : No

Overall: 3/5 – just average

The Understudy is the 3rd book I have read by David Nicholls, the 1st being One Day, which was a good read, and the 2nd being Starter For Ten, which was disappointing.  Although I gave both Starter For Ten and The Understudy 3/5, Starter For Ten was closer to a 2 and The Understudy was closer to a 4.  It follows the story of Stephen, who is understudying Josh (a dashing, successful actor) and then goes and falls in love with Josh’s wife.  Sound like a generic film?  Well, it read like one too.

The plot was very very average in this book: I was interested in what would happen next, but it was quite predictable and at some points disappointing.  For a book that has on its cover ‘laugh out loud’ and on the back ‘funniest book of the year’, it was not great.  I think I laughed about 3 times in total throughout the book.
The use of the extended metaphor of a play/performance was quite clever but I thought there could have been more as it kind of petered about by halfway through the book.

Now, the characters were a mixed bag.  I cannot stand failing-but-good-hearted-makes-loads-of-mistakes protagonists – they are just annoying.  Why would I want to read a book where the majority of the time is spent moaning about mistakes or bad decisions the main character has made?  He needed to stop whining and sort his life out!  He is hard to sympathise with, as most people would never say/do any of the things he does.
The other characters were quite unrealistic – celebrities who were happy to spend time with the whining understudy.  I don’t think there was really a nice character in this book – they were all either drug-addicts, horrible, alcoholics or mean, which is a shame.

The prose was again, average.  The trying to be funny aspect of some modern male writers like Nicholls and Nick Hornby is rather annoying; every sentence doesn’t have to contain a joke.  Another thing that put me off this book was one of my all time pet hates: It is NOT ACCEPTABLE or grammatically correct to say: ‘I am sat’, ‘I am stood’, ‘I was sat’ or ‘I was stood’!!! It is ‘I am standing/sitting’ etc.  To see this error published in a popular book upsets me as it’s totally unnecessary, even if it’s a common mistake. Using ‘it’s’ for possession is a common mistake, but there would be uproar if that error was published in a book!

In conclusion, this book is ok for maybe a quick holiday read or something similar, but there is nothing more to get out of it.  Don’t be put off reading One Day however, as that is a good read.  This book seems to be designed for a film not a novel which I think put me off the most (or maybe it was just too bland after reading straight Dickens for a good 6 weeks before!).

Every week, The Broke and The Bookish poses a category for book bloggers to post their ‘Top Ten’ in that week’s category.

This week the category is ‘Top X Genre Books’, and we fill in a genre of our choice. Seeing as it was not that long ago that I was reading children’s books and I am technically a ‘young adult’, I thought it would be nice to do my ‘Top Ten Children’s or Young Adult Books‘.  Also, this genre provides a bit of light relief as we are all a bit classics-crazy due to The Classics Club at the moment!

 

A black-haired young man with round eyeglasses is falling forward along with a red-haired young man and a young woman with light brown hair knocking over cauldrons with gold inside them. Each of them has an apparently blushed face. In the background a goblin's arm is holding a sword. The top of the cover says: HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, while the bottom of the cover says: J. K. ROWLING, BLOOMSBURY.

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling.  My Number 1 Children’s series has got to be Harry Potter!  I have read all 7 books many many times, listened to the audio books, watched the films and dressed up as the characters more times than I would like to admit! I am a truly part of the Harry Potter generation – there is even a photograph of me, about 8 years old, with the huge Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix taking up my entire lap!  I have chosen the last Harry Potter book because it is probably just about my favourite and is the one I couldn’t put down the most.

 

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

2. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – C.S. Lewis.  I adore the Narnia books, and again I have read them many times and listened to the audio books a lot too.  The stories and characters are so interesting and you can’t wait to find out what happens next.  I especially enjoyed The Horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Last Battle, but The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has to be my favourite as it is so spooky when they are travelling through the huge horrible cloud and visiting these strange, creepy islands.

 

3. The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman.  The His Dark Materials series is so good – really makes you think about life and religion and love whilst still keeping a fast-moving and exciting plot.  This series is rich with vivid characters and the ending of The Amber Spyglass actually made me well up a bit the first time I read it!  I am in the process of re-reading this series at the moment – The Subtle Knife is coming up this summer and I read Northern Lights last December – and I am really looking forward to reading about Lyra, Will, Pan and the rest again.

 

4. The Witches – Roald Dahl.  This is my joint favourite Roald Dahl book (with Matilda) and I used to listen to the audiobook so much when I was younger.  I loved the plot and the descriptions of the witches were just amazing.  Also, the way Norway was portrayed was lovely and I still wish to visit there, purely from the wonderful accounts of it in this book. Oh, and my edition is so old that it has that amazing musty smell!

 

5. Goodnight Mister Tom – Michelle Magorian. This novel is something special and not just for children.  The story and characters are vivid and lovely but what makes this book stand out is its accuracy.  Last year I was writing an essay for history coursework all about evacuation in Britain during the war.  One of the sources we studied was an extract from this book and, me being me, that wasn’t enough so I went to the charity shop and bought a copy and read it through in a few days.  It really does show you what it was like to be an evacuee in wartime Britain so is definitely a must-read for anyone interested in that.

 

6. The Recruit – Robert Muchamore.  The Cherub series accompanied me through my childhood very nicely.  The story is exciting and unpredictable, there are lots of books so you get to see the characters really develop over time and thirdly it’s so cool – who wouldn’t want to be a teenage spy with money and resources no object?!

 

7. The Ersatz Elevator – Lemony Snicket.  The Series of Unfortunate Events is, obviously, rather miserable and I have to say I was totally disappointed with the last book, however I did enjoy reading the majority of the books and enjoyed the way they were quite complicated (for a 10 year old).  There was a lot of mystery and hinting which I enjoyed as many children’s books have one obvious plot and that is it.

 

8. Madame Doubtfire – Anne Fine. For anyone who has not read this book or seen the film YOU HAVE MISSED OUT!  Such a hilarious idea and the book is a pleasure to read.  The film, aptly starring Robin Williams, is great too, if a little dated now maybe,  and I cannot recommend both the film and the book enough.

 

9. Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman.  This book is definitely young adult, not children’s, and deals with some difficult issues.  The idea of alternative history/distopia has always interested me and I think this is one of the most ingenious ideas I have ever come across. Although the first book, Noughts and Crosses completely outdid the second book, Knife Edge, I am yet to read the last two books of the series but don’t really have plans to read them soon.

 

10. Harry Potter À L’École Des Sorciers – J.K. Rowling.  Now maybe it’s cheating to have the same series of books twice but I have two legitimate reasons.  a) they are my favourite young adult/children’s books so why shouldn’t they be on here twice? b) this section refers to the French versions.  I am currently reading Harry Potter 1 in French for the second time to improve my French and because it’s fun, and I have the second one stored deep in my TBR pile too.  There is something magical (ha ha) about reading about the characters you love in another language and I recommend anyone who is interested in improving their language skills to pick up a copy of a favourite book and just give it a go!

The Classics Club

Jilian is hosting a long-term challenge called The Classics Club (see here for more information) and I am excited to announce my participation!

 

The idea is to unite all bloggers who are passionate about classics and make reading and discussing classics easier and more fun.  Every participant has to list at least 50 books at their blog, set a date to finish them all by and blog about them as they go.

 

Here are the basic details:

  • choose 50+ classics
  • list them at your blog
  • choose a reading completion goal date up to five years in the future and note that date on your classics list of 50+ titles
  • write about each title on your list as you finish reading it, and link it to your main list

 

You can access my list of 60 classics here. I have decided to read 60 classics in 5 years (which averages at 1 every month).   I am really excited to get going and a huge thanks to Jilian for organising such a brilliant challenge.