Archive for June, 2012

Submarine – Joe Dunthorne

Title: Submarine

Author: Joe Dunthorne

Date Finished: 26/06/12

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : No

Overall: 3/5 – just average

Well, you can’t get much further away from Dickens than this (my previous book was Great Expectations).  This is another British book about a boy with problems.  It is set in Swansea, Wales and takes the form of Oliver Tate’s diary, a 15 year old only child dealing with the usual problems of teenage boyhood: girls, school and parents.

Firstly, the plot is very average.  Certainly nothing special and at some times completely ridiculous, although having said that it was very readable and I wasn’t totally disinterested.  I cannot abide certain male authors who think the only way to be funny/witty is to put in swear words and sexual awkwardness.  These things do not (usually) make me laugh.  For another book (like I though with The Understudy) the blurb completely overrates the book and claims it to be a lot funnier than it really is.

The characters a very very average too.  To be fair, Dunthorne has obviously tried to make them unique and interesting, but by the very nature of the story – to be something we relate to our own adolescence – the characters are quite normal. There are nice touches, like Oliver’s obsession with long words (hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliomania) and Jordana’s pyromania, but I know that I will forget all of the other characters within a week.

The prose was reasonable.  A very wide range of vocabulary (due to Oliver’s obsession) was good but again I was fuming – the use of ‘I was sat’ again in a printed book!! IT IS INCORRECT!  I don’t care if it is an ‘accepted inaccuracy’ – it is still inaccurate and so easy to correct.  As you can tell, it is one of my pet peeves.

I liked the way Dunthorne used some Welsh terms for things during the book – any language makes me happy; I’m not fussy.

All in all, this book was hard pushed to reach a three and I am still unsure whether I should have given a two.  Maybe the use of lots of long words and a bit of languages just swung it!  If you’re after a laugh then probably you should read something else…likewise if you are a stickler for correct grammar…

Title: Great Expectations

Author: Charles Dickens

Date Finished: 22/06/12

Re-Read? : Second time read

Challenges? : Yes – Victorian Challenge 2012 & The Classics Club & The Literary Classics

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

I knew I needed to re-read Great Expectations at some point, because I was too young to really appreciate/understand it the first time I read it, a few years ago.  Basically, I think I got the fundamentals – the basic story and who the characters were, but I remember it being a struggle to read and now I know I was just that bit too young.

Also, the edition I read a few years ago was an old Penguin paperback I found in a second hand book shop with lots of writing in, as the previous owner had obviously studied it at school.  Now, I am someone who needs books to be “nice”.  Note, I don’t say “new” because there is nothing wrong with reading a second (or third or fourth) hand book; but I have real issues with broken books, print that is too small and many other things that make reading harder than in needs to be.  Therefore I thought I would treat myself to a nice new copy, and this was just the time that the Penguin English Library was launched.  What a coincidence – one of their first books was Great Expectations, so that was that!  You can see how lovely it looks.

So I was all prepared to read.

The plot in Great Expectations is something I thought I essentially ‘got’ from my first read of this book.  However, I was wrong.  There were so many twists and turns that I had completely missed the first time and even though I assumed I got the basic story, I didn’t really get that either!

I was really impressed by the story Dickens tells in this books – before, I thought it was a good idea but it was just another ‘hard-done-by boy grows up to be good with disappointments’ but it was so much more than that.  Especially in the second half of the third volume, I could not stop reading.

The characters are another thing I presumed I understood already.  Sadly, no – I was wrong again!  Yes, I remembered Pip, Miss Havisham, Estella and Joe, but I had completely missed Herbert, Biddy, Orlick and many more.  The characterisation was perfection, as I have come to expect from Dickens, and again all these characters are completely unique.  It is truly amazing to think that one person thought up all these different people and got them absolutely spot on – you can see and hear them all right in front of you.

Of course the prose is flawless and the setting, especially the marshes, is completely unique.  The reasons for me concluding with a 4/5 and not a 5/5 are twofold.  Basically, I compared how I felt about reading other similar(ish) books that I really loved, such as Jane Eyre and David Copperfield and I realised that this didn’t spark my reading in the same way.  Until the last 100 pages, I was going quite slowly (for me) and didn’t have the drive to plough on with the story.  Secondly, I didn’t warm to the characters as much as I did with David Copperfield.  I understand that this is obviously a less ‘nice’ book and that there are many unpleasant characters, but I didn’t feel the motivation to read all about the minor characters in Great Expectations as I did in David Copperfield.  No-one rivalled Peggotty/Betsey/Mr Dick.

So overall I really did enjoy Great Expectations, especially towards the end.  Also, it completely proves my case for re-reading.  You can get so so so much more out of a book the second or third or fourth time you read it.  I had missed so much the first time round.  Re-reading lets you experience more because you can see beyond the major plot and characters – you get to really appreciate the author’s skill and craftsmanship.  So yeah, everyone should re-read!

What is going on in my bibliosphere at the moment?

Woooo! ‘Hell Week’ is over!  I am very happy to have done 6 exams this week!! Now time for the last couple, relaxing and reading!

Here is a bit of a breakdown:

  • GCSE Exams: 12 / 14
  • AS Level Exams: 4 / 4  FINISHED!
  • GCSEs done this week: Geography; German Listening; Physics; History; Latin Literature (Verse Selections); Latin Literature (Narratives).
  • AS Levels done this week: None – Finished.

Finally, the worst is over.  6 exams in one week is never fun, but the good thing is, I am almost finished!  Hell Day last Wednesday when I had Physics, History and Latin Literature was definitely hard, and Physics and History both could have gone better, but I am so relieved it is over.  You can all look forward to the end of my exam-orientated posts after next week, as I only have 2 exams left: Geography on Monday and German Reading on Wednesday.  Then it is 6th form induction days on Thursday and Friday, my orchestra’s summer concert on Saturday and then camping with my friends from a week on Monday!  Lots of good things going on.

Now for the books!  This week has been quite a good one in terms of reading, considering the amount of work I’ve had to do – I am almost finished with Great Expectations (like literally a few pages left) and I have really enjoyed it – a post will be up this weekend.  I do love me some Dickens.

Next up is Submarine by Joe Dunthorne which is quite short and about as far from Dickens as you can get, I think.  It will be nice to read something easy!

Have a great week everyone 🙂

P.S Wimbledon starts on Monday WOO!  And England are through to the Quarter Finals of the Euros! 😀

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

This week the category is ‘Top Ten Books on your Summer TBR list‘ and even though I’m very busy (3 exams tomorrow), seeing as I haven’t posted in a while, I thought I would have a go at this topic.

I LOVE summer reading!  It is (for me) the best time of year to read lots of books – I usually get through a fair amount when I go on holiday, but also when I’m off school at home in the summer too.

Here are (some) of the books I am really looking forward to reading this summer (not in order):

    1. The Timetraveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger:  I haven’t read this kind of book in a while, so it will be nice to have some easier reading (compared with the classics) and my sister really enjoyed the film (I refused to watch until after the book) and said it was a great story, so that’s encouraging.
    2. To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee:  Yes, I know it is on practically every TTT post I write, but it is (probably) my favourite book ever, so why should I not be really excited about re-reading it?  Again!
    3. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest – Stieg Larsson:  I am re-reading the Millennium Trilogy this year (I have already read TGWTDT and TGWPWF) and hugely enjoyed both of them again, so I can’t wait for the epic final instalment to this unique series.
    4. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons:  I talked about this on my TTT for The Classics Club post as well, and as I said then, it is meant to be very funny and light-hearted so will be very nice to settle down with in the garden in the sun (well maybe the sun).
    5. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown:  Even though Brown’s books are ridiculously unrealistic, they do make your heart pound.  I read Angels and Demons last August so it seems right to read The Da Vinci Code this summer.
    6. Middlemarch – George Eliot:  Another Classics Club read and a scary one.  I am looking forward to the challenge, because so many people sing Eliot’s praises, I really want to give her a try, even if Middlemarch is scarily long!
    7. Fantastique Maitre Renard – Roald Dahl:  Well, even though I am currently in the middle of German and Latin exams (I finished my French exams a few weeks ago) I am still looking forward to reading my next French children’s book!
    8. Mockingjay – Suzzane Collins:  The Hunger Games Trilogy has had me completely hooked; you can read my thoughs on book 1 here and book 2 here.  I just know that I will power through this volume too and to be quite honest, I cannot wait!
    9. Villette – Charlotte Brontë:  we are getting a long way down my TBR shelf now, but you never know – I might have a very voracious summer!  I loved Jane Eyre and am seriously craving some more Brontë right now!
    10. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – Douglas Adams: I ADORE this series and the radio episodes are perfection (I have all 5 series on CD – thanks Dad!) and I thought it is only fair if I read the books soon as well.

Are any of these books on your summer TBR lists too?

What is going on in my bibliosphere at the moment?

Firstly, I have to apologise for the lack of posts this week: I am very busy with revision and I haven’t finished any books…so that’s why.  (Although I am still reading!)  Slowly but surely I am getting through my exams.

Here is a bit of a breakdown:

  • GCSE Exams: 6 / 14
  • AS Level Exams: 4 / 4  FINISHED!
  • GCSEs done this week: Biology; Chemistry
  • AS Levels done this week: None – Finished.

I like science exams so this week wasn’t too bad, but next week I have 6 exams 😦 😦 😦 so I have been trying to get in some revision for them too.  Next Wednesday I have 3, with Latin Literature clashing with History…I advise people to be cautious around me on that day!

Now for the books!  I have not been keeping up with my reading-revising idea this week, as there has been so much sport to watch!  The Euro Football championships are on so I have been supporting England a lot and watching as many matches as I can.  This has meant less reading time is available…I hope to make up for this when I have finished my exams and have time to spare.

I am still ploughing on with Great Expectations which I am almost 2/3 done with and it is picking up again for me.  I am looking forward to finishing and putting up a post as it counts for a lot of challenges and I know you all will have comments about it!

Hope the Europeans are enjoying the football; have a good week. 🙂

What is going on in my bibliosphere at the moment?

Not much action on the blog this week I’m afraid; I have been very busy with…you guessed it, revision.  It is half term this week and I am trying to cram in a LOT of knowledge for all the content exams I have in the next 3 weeks.  (after that, FREEDOM!)

Reading-wise, I have been enjoying Great Expectations and still reading at least some every day, but my usual revise-and-read tactics are on hold due to the French Open, which I am using as a reward.  I absolutely adore watching tennis and I can’t wait for Wimbledon later on this year.

Therefore, I haven’t really got through a lot of Great Expectations (I am just over a third done) but hopefully that will change this weekend, as it is our church’s parish weekend away.  We are off to Devon today and coming back on Sunday and should be really great.  I will be using the car journey to tackle some more Dickens.

In other news, I saw yet another brilliant classical music concert at the Colston Hall in Bristol this week – (it was a jubilee celebration including Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto, The Lark Ascending by Vaughn Williams and Handel’s The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba amongst many others).  The amazing thing is, for under-18s all the classical concerts at Colston Hall are ONLY £1!!!  It is brilliant for me and a couple of friends who adore both playing and hearing classical music.

I am so looking forward to the summer now, as the weather is (again) terrible and I just want to be free to read all day in the sun!  Fortunately, the end of the exam period is now just about in sight, although I have to get through 10 more exams first.

Well I hope you are all coping if it is exam time for you, and even if I seem to be a bit dormant, blog-wise, don’t fear – I always read the posts from blogs I follow (I get them emailed to me), even if I don’t comment.   Have a nice weekend!

May Wrap-Up and June Plans

Three months book blogging and I am still going strong.  I am really grateful to everyone who has followed/reads my blog and I hope you feel like it’s a two way connection and that I am just as interested in your posts as you are in mine, because believe me I am! 🙂

May has been a very hectic month for me: earlier on, I had my Last Day and Prom which were great and then the exams kicked in…which were not so great.  (You can catch with my exam progress in my Friday Quick Wrap-Up posts.)  But in terms of reading, it has been quite a good month and I am very pleased with what I have achieved.

Here’s what I read in May 2012:

The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins

The Girl Who Played With Fire – Stieg Larsson

This is good as I aim to read at least three books every month (and I really enjoyed these books).  This was the same number of books as I read in April.  Also, my target of at least one classic every month was not officially fulfilled in May, a I haven’t read any classics, but I read two in April so it works out fine anyway.

Challenge Progress in May 2012:

The Classics Club :  3/60 books read  (None this month)

The Victorian Challenge 2012:  2/6 books read  (None this month)

This isn’t amazing but doesn’t really matter, as 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.

In other challenge news, I have recently signed up to Ali’s Literary Classics Reading Challenge, which ties in very nicely with the other challenges I am participating in.  Here is my sign up post

Currently In Progress:

Great Expectations: I am re-reading this as I don’t think I understood it enough to enjoy it when I struggled through it a few years ago, and so far (about 20% through) that is proving to be right – I don’t seem to remember anything except the basic story.

I still have Harry Potter À L’École Des Sorciers – J.K. Rowling, Living French, The Languages Book and Italian For You by my bed, for languages reading, but with my Latin and German GCSEs not complete, this is quite a rarity at the moment (I don’t want to get my languages muddled).  Yes, I am going to teach myself basic Italian grammar and vocabulary over the summer and hopefully enter for a GCSE in it before I leave school – I just think it’s a great language!

June Plans:

Books:  the next three books on my TBR shelf are Submarine – Joe Dunthorne, The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman and The Time-Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger.  Great Expectations may take me a while, although I do have a week’s break this week so (even though levels of revision are high) I should get some reading time.  Therefore, I will probably get round to Submarine and The Subtle Knife, at least.

Challenges:  Great Expectations will count for all three of the challenges I am involved in – The Classics Club, The Victorian Challenge 2012 and The Literary Classics Reading Challenge, which is great.

I hope you’re all looking forward to some (hopefully) warm weather this month and can take some time out to relax with a good book!

What is going on in my bibliosphere at the moment?

Hello everyone, I have now completed my third week of exams and I had two this week.  They were both ones I wasn’t too worried about and they went well so that’s good.  A week off for half term now is very welcome.

Here is a bit of a breakdown:

  • GCSE Exams: 4 / 14
  • AS Level Exams: 4 / 4  FINISHED!
  • GCSEs done this week: Latin Language
  • AS Levels done this week: Critical Thinking

I have finished all my AS exams which is great as I am taking a few early and they were getting in the way of my GCSEs.

Now for the books!  My read a bit revise a bit system is still going very well and I hope it continues.

This week I finished The Girl Who Played With Fire and really enjoyed it, despite it being a re-read. I would recommend seriously recommend the Millennium Trilogy to anyone who hasn’t read it yet!

I am currently reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, which is also a re-read for me.  However, I seemed to have missed out on absolutely everything apart from the basic story the first time I read it!  I am enjoying reading about Pip and Miss Havisham again.

On a challenge-based note, I have signed up to The Literary Classics Reading Challenge (my post is here) as it fits in with the other challenges I am involved in really well.  I would recommend you take a look as it is very relevant to members of The Classics Club too.