Archive for May, 2012

The Literary Classics Reading Challenge

Here are the challenge details:

  • Choose how many classics you want to read in a year
  • List them on your blog
  • Link up here
  • Check in, win prizes, enjoy your reading!

These are my books for this challenge:

  1. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens (Finished 22/06/12)
  2. To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee (Finished 20/07/12)
  3. Dracula – Bram Stoker (Finished 25/08/12)
  4. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons (Finished 26/07/12)
  5. Middlemarch – George Eliot
  6. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier (Finished 27/06/13)
  7. Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare
  8. Villette – Charlotte Bronte (Finished 06/01/13)
  9. The Hound of the Baskervilles – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Finished 27/03/13)
  10. Suite Française – Irène Némirovsky
  11. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen (Finished 21/03/13)
  12. 1984 – George Orwell (Finished 28/05/13)
  13. The Mill on the Floss – George Eliot
  14. Macbeth – William Shakespeare (Finished 30/10/12)
  15. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

Title: The Girl Who Played With Fire

Author: Stieg Larsson

Date Finished: 30/05/12

Re-Read? : Second time read

Challenges? : No

Overall: 5/5 – absolutely fantastic

Just wow!  This is the second time I have read this book and I cannot believe I enjoyed it so much again.  It is the second in Stieg Larsson’s world-famous Millennium Trilogy, preceded by The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and followed by The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest.  I read the whole trilogy in summer 2010 and enjoyed it tremendously so that is why I am reading it again.

I read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo for the second time last December and I enjoyed it, but did not read it as compulsively as the first time.  I think this was probably due to it essentially being a murder mystery, and I knew the ending.  However it was still brilliant.  I decided to wait a while before reading the second book again, and somehow it got to May before I did.

The plot in this is book is PHENOMENAL!  I was so surprised to find myself completely hooked the second time even though I had read it before.  That shows how intricate and unpredictable this plot is.  There are so many brilliant storylines and extra details, which I got to notice more this time (the power of the re-read).  This is so much more than a thriller.  I know my Dad has issues with the trilogy being ‘unrealistic’ but I really couldn’t care less if it’s quite an improbable situation – it is addictive and brilliant and sometimes that’s more important than feasibility.

In terms of characters this book is also stands out, although this does apply to the whole trilogy and not this volume in particular.  Lisbeth Salander is one of the most iconic characters I think the world has even seen.  She is totally unique.  The most unlikely heroine possible is the one we cheer on the most.  Other characters are extremely well crafted too and all of them are interesting.  You find yourself violently defending Salaner, Modig, Blomkvist, Berger, Armansky and many more who become the objects of speculation and scrutiny.

The prose is supremely well written in this trilogy.  However, we are in the situation of a work-in-translation again.  Reg Keeland (real name Stephen T. Murray) is responsible for the translation from Swedish to English and he should be highly praised as it retains all its Swedish heart and uses very good English.  I loved reading the Swedish names of people and places and now I am considering adding the Scandinavian countries to my mental list of future places to visit.  Will there be anywhere that I don’t want to go to left?

To conclude, I would seriously recommend this trilogy to anyone, although if you do not like gore and unpleasant content, then maybe not.  So well thought out, you will be guessing until the very end.  I cannot emphasise how amazing the plot is enough.

Have any of you read this trilogy? What did you think?

What is going on in my bibliosphere at the moment?

Hello everyone, I have now completed my second week of exams (although I did only have one this week).  It didn’t go as well as I would’ve hoped, but what can you do? :L  Anyway, I am LOVING the hot weather, even though I am stuck inside revising – I just hope it stays this way for the Olympics and my holidays in the summer.

Here is a bit of a breakdown:

  • GCSE Exams: 3 / 14
  • AS Level Exams: 3 / 4
  • GCSEs done this week: None!
  • AS Levels done this week: Maths Core 2

I can’t believe I have actually done my maths AS – it feels very weird.  (I, along with a few others, took it one year early so we are in a strange situation).

Now for the books!  I have been keeping to the “revise a section or two, read a chapter or two” guide as a reward for revision and it is going very well for me.

This week I finished The Shadow of the Wind and Catching Fire and really enjoyed them both, especially Catching Fire which I couldn’t put down.  I would recommend them both…read my posts to find out why!

I am currently reading Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played With Fire (the second in the hugely successful Millennium Trilogy).  It is a re-read for me and I am loving it again – a brilliantly written and devised thriller with stunning characters…at the right I’m going, a post should be up pretty soon!

I hope everyone in the UK is making the most of this amazing weather and that people in other countries are getting some sun too 🙂

Title: Catching Fire

Author: Suzanne Collins

Date Finished: 22/05/12

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : No

Overall: 5/5 – absolutely fantastic

As you may remember, I read the first book in the Hunger Games Trilogy back in March and decided to wait a while before moving onto the second, as I enjoyed the first so much and wanted to savour the experience!

It was certainly worth the wait.

I thought that perhaps this second book would be a bit of a disappointment after the riveting first instalment, as the main part that occupied me was the actual tournament…however (and I’m not going to spoil it for the people who haven’t got this far yet) people who’ve read this one know that I wasn’t disappointed in that area!

It was interesting when my sister asked me “which book did you prefer, 1 or 2?”, as I answered with “neither”.  What I meant was that I saw the second book as just a continuation of the first, not a different story.  This was good and it felt like the second volume of the story rather than another book about the same characters.

Again the plot is the supreme highlight of the novel.  After the first hundred pages, I simply couldn’t put it down again, just like the first one.  I read from pages 200 to 480 (the end) yesterday!  Sadly at the cost of my revision :S  I can only say, don’t pick up this if you’ve got lots of things to do!

Again, the characters were good but still not great.  They do just seem a bit too unrealistic to me.  However, you feel for them and spur them on regardless.  Certainly, they are all vivid and memorable which is great as there are often so many to keep track of.

I have to echo myself yet again when I say that Collins’ prose is perfect for the job it does – makes you want to keep reading.  In my post on the first book I said:

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.”

This applies again to Catching Fire and I assume it will to Mockingjay as well.  Just as the ‘Harry Potter years‘ seem to be closing, it is encouraging to see a new literary phenomenon taking their place.  And I also have to say I hope the films are as good as the books – I haven’t even seen the first film yet!!

Overall, another brilliant, readable and thrilling book from Suzanne Collins and I would seriously recommend this trilogy to everyone.  It is taking a lot of willpower for me not to pick up Mockingjay and carry straight on with the story, but I am determined to have a break (even if it is very short) so that I will appreciate the last book even more.

Title: The Shadow of the Wind

Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Date Finished: 19/05/12

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : No

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

I was given this book by my friend Miles (who is new to book blogging over at ) for my birthday last year and it has finally reached the beginning of my TBR shelf.  I didn’t know what to expect from the novel, as I had never heard of it nor the author but since the blurb introduced it as a literary-orientated thriller, and Miles said it was great, I thought it was definitely worth a read.

I was right.

The plot is intricate and definitely ensnared me quickly.  The story is a mystery within a mystery and there are countless parallels between the enigma of Julian Carax, a vanished author who someone seems out to obliterate all meaning of, and Daniel Sempere, the narrator.  We follow Daniel’s story as he tries to uncover the dark mysteries surrounding Carax and wait, biting our nails as he comes across all manner of unpleasant characters.  The plot is brilliant and this is one of those holiday reads that you really can’t put down.

Now, the characters are probably the least impressive aspect of this book for me, and essentially why I gave it a 4/5 and not a 5/5.  Don’t get me wrong, many are unforgettable and complex, but they just all seemed a bit unrealistic.  The intense desire for vengeance they all had was questionable.  Also, the way they are all happy to go looking for horrific characters at night, on their own, in deserted and disgusting places was very unrealistic.  However, this is pretty much the essence of a thriller, so maybe it is an issue I have with the whole genre, as opposed to this book specifically.

One aspect of this novel that really stood out for me, was the fantastic prose.  I remember when I started a week or two ago, I described it as ‘a really well written Dan Brown’.  And it’s true – the prose is sophisticated and mature.  What you have to bear in mind, though, is that this is a work-in-translation – the original is written in Spanish.  Therefore, huge appreciation must go to Lucia Graves, the translator – I was seriously impressed.

The setting is very interesting too.  Barcelona is somewhere I haven’t yet visited, although my sister went with school last year and really enjoyed herself.  Also, this is in post-civil-war Barcelona and, considering we don’t study anything about the Spanish Civil War at school, I was completely clueless as to what it was like.  That probably contributed to my enjoyment of this book, as I was really curious.

All in all, this book is right at the top of the thriller genre, so if that’s your thing, pick up a copy!  Even for those of you who don’t particularly read thrillers, there is actually a lot more to this book like the setting in Barcelona and aspects of humour, romance and literature that guarantees you will find something you like.  A PERFECT holiday read, I think.


What is going on in my bibliosphere at the moment?

Bonjour! I have now completed my first week of exams!  It feels very good to have got a couple of tricky ones out of the way (and even better to know they have gone well!)

Here is a bit of a breakdown:

  • GCSE Exams: 3 / 14
  • AS Level Exams: 2 / 4
  • GCSEs done this week: French Listening, French Reading and Music Listening
  • AS Levels done this week: Maths Core 1, Maths Statistics 1

Although French and Music are some of my best subjects, it is good to have got 2/3 of AS Maths done as it’s pretty hard!  Next week I have Maths Core 2 but nothing else…so prime reading time.

Now, my actual bookish update!  (I guess all of you are probably sick of hearing about my exams now haha) Well, one of the (huge) benefits of study leave is that it gives me time to read during the day.  I can do an hour or two of revision and then reward myself by reading a few chapters!  It is a technique that works very well.

I have really been enjoying The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón this week and I am nearly finished.  The story is enthralling and I am really intrigued to see how it all wraps up, as it is far from complete yet.

Once I have finished this thriller I will be moving onto Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (the second of The Hunger Games trilogy), as my sister has been nagging at me again.  She even used the guilt trip – ‘you can’t not have read a book that practically the whole world has’!  She knows me too well.

Hopefully, you’ve all been getting some relaxing and reading time in this busy period – let me know how yours or others exams have been going. 🙂

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

This week is a free week for us to decide on a category for ourselves.  I saw that Jillian had picked the top 10 books she was looking forward to reading from The Classics Club and I thought this was a great idea, so I have ‘borrowed’ it!

For my full Classics Club list and details about the challenge, click here.

  1. Villette – Charlotte Brontë:  I am most looking forward to this because everything I’ve heard about it suggests I will love it – I loved Jane Eyre, really enjoyed Wuthering Heights and people have said it’s ‘full of French’ which is a language that I love!
  2. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens:  I have been looking forward to re-reading this for a long time, as I didn’t really get it the first time (I was too young).  On top of that, I bought a stunning edition the other day (a new Penguin English Library edition!) so I can’t wait to get into it.
  3. To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee:  This is (possibly) my favourite book of all time so I can’t wait to read it again and see if I enjoy it even more (or maybe less).
  4. King Lear – William Shakespeare:  I saw this play at the Tobacco Factory Theatre in Bristol in February and it was absolutely amazing.  I really loved reading Much Ado About Nothing, so I am anticipating my next dose of Shakespeare.
  5.  The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins:  I don’t seem to have read a negative word about Collins recently and it’s so exciting to get into a new author – especially if there is a great mystery to look forward to!
  6. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons:  Again, I am going by recommendation – I have heard this book is hilarious.  It is not too long, hopefully not too hard to read and I have a feeling it will be a pleasure to read.
  7. Middlemarch – George Eliot:  I am just as scared of reading this mammoth volume as I am excited!  It is so long I might have to stagger reading it through the summer, although I did plan to do that with David Copperfield and loved it so much I just powered through!  I am excited about getting into a new author and considering it is number 1 on Daily Telegraph’s list of ‘100 novels everyone should read’, I have great expectations for it (see what I did there?!).
  8. Nicholas Nickleby – Charles Dickens :  As I’ve already mentioned, I loved David Copperfield so can’t wait to get stuck into another massive Dickens!  This one is meant to be quite funny too (I think?) so I should enjoy it.
  9. Suite Française – Irène Némirovsky:  This book is all about Nazi occupied France and I think I’ll find it really interesting.  Also, I bought a lovely edition (Vintage 21) in Vienna so it looks amazing on my shelf!
  10. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen:   I recently read Emma and really enjoyed it, so I am looking forward to getting stuck into some more Austen – I have bought Pride and Prejudice and plan to read it next Christmastime.  Also, I will finally be able to say I have read this iconic book!

What is going on in my bibliosphere at the moment?

Hello everyone!  It feels like ages since I last posted, but that is probably due to this past week being the busiest of my life so far!  Unfortunately, you may say, I do not mean in terms of reading.  Basically, it was school year 11 leavers’ week – we had our ‘Celebration Day’ on Thursday morning and our Prom on Thursday evening.  Pretty much all my time between Monday morning and Wednesday evening was spent making my Celebration Day costume (we all dress up).  Here is a picture of me and my friend Rachel dressed as ‘music’:

We painted music symbols and a stave on our shirts (which took soooo long!) and then made huge cardboard, papier-mâché, spray-painted music notes to wear too.  It was all worth it in the end!

In the evening we had Prom, which was really enjoyable and a great way to say goodbye to those friends who are leaving (the majority of my friends are staying on to do a-levels at our sixth form).  Here is a picture of me (all suited and booted) with my date, Kirsten:

All this excitement was followed by a good after-party and I slept till Midday on Friday!!  Hence the ‘Friday Quick Wrap Up’ being on Saturday.  As you have probably already gathered, there was not any time for anything this past week so I have not read much of The Shadow of the Wind, despite the fact that I am really enjoying the story.  I haven’t had time to do any revision either, and I have got 5 exams next week (including 2 AS maths modules), so let’s say no more about that!

I hope you’ve all had a great week and good luck to anyone entering the exam season – students, teachers parents alike, as it’s no fun for any of us!

April Wrap-Up and May Plans

So it is the end of my second month of book blogging, and I am still going.  To be honest, I haven’t read as much in April as a) I did in March b) as I would’ve liked to.  This is, as I’m sure many of you are aware, because my exams start in TWO WEEKS TIME! SCARY!  So as you can guess, I have been doing lots of work and revision and less reading.  I have 19 exams by the way ( 😦 ) and they stretch from mid-May all the way to the end of June!  Well, escapism in the form of reading will certainly be on the cards for me.

Here’s what I read in April 2012:

Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon

Emma – Jane Austen

This is good as I aim to read at least three books every month (and these were all great books).  I read slightly less in terms of numbers of books than in April but not massively.  Also, my target of at least one classic every month was fulfilled in April by Wuthering Heights AND Emma!

Challenge Progress in April 2012:

The Classics Club :  3/60 books read  (Wuthering Heights – Emily BrontëEmma – Jane Austen)

The Victorian Challenge 2012:  1/6 books read  (Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë)

This is great as Wuthering Heights counted for both challenges I am involved with and I tacked my first Austen too (there are quite a few on my Classics Club list.  I am on target for both challenges as I only need to read a Victorian every 2 months and a classic every month to complete these challenges on time.

Currently In Progress:

The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón:  I am not very far into this book yet, but from the first few chapters, it seems as though this is definitely a book for me: a good mystery, a foreign setting, a focus on books…what more could I want?!

I still have Harry Potter À L’École Des Sorciers – J.K. Rowling, Living French and The Languages Book by my bed, for whenever I feel like a bit of languages reading.  I take Harry Potter À L’École Des Sorciers with me for any chance I get to read in school (not very likely with upcoming exams) and I dip into the other two for about a chapter once a week.  It is nice to read something completely different now and again.

May Plans:

Books:  the next three books on my TBR shelf are Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins, The Girl who Played with Fire – Stieg Larsson and The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman.  I am not too sure about how long I will take with The Shadow of the Wind, with all my other commitments, but I should finish Catching Fire and maybe The Girl who Played with Fire too.

Challenges:  in regards to challenges, I don’t have any books planned for April that will count for The Victorian Challenge 2012, and none for The Classics Club either!  This isn’t that great but I am well on track for both so it is not really a big deal.  Great Expectations is next up for both challenges, but I am currently deciding which edition to buy…the new Penguin English Library editions are very appealing, I have to say.  You can access the paper for The Classics Club here.

How is everyone else getting on with The Classics Club and have you got any favourite editions of Great Expectations to recommend?