Archive for August, 2012

Hello everyone…I feel like I haven’t posted anything in ages!

Well that’s because it has been really busy this last week…and I’m not even too sure why!  I have been doing all sorts of little things and they seem to have built up.  There were some parties, meeting up with friends, watching the US Open, applying for my Provisional Driving Licence, finally starting my summer work and lots more.

Today is the enrolment day for sixth form: I have a short interview around 12 just to check my results were good enough to do the courses I want etc.  Should be fine.  Also one of my friends is leaving for sports college so there is a leaving party tonight which will be both sad and happy at the same time!

All this business seems to have left me basically no time to read.  This is a shame but the days have just flown by and I didn’t even realise until now that I have been reading Fantastique Maitre Renard (Fantastic Mr. Fox in French) for like 5 days now and I’m not finished!  This is pretty poor as the book is very short and includes illustrations!  Well, I will hopefully finish it at some point today.

Up next for me is probably Macbeth, but I am not decided yet and I may turn straight to Middlemarch.  Either way, that will probably take up most of my September reading.  I go back to school next Tuesday and I will probably post my monthly wrap-up tomorrow…so see you then!

Dracula – Bram Stoker

Title: Dracula

Author: Bram Stoker

Date Finished: 25/08/12

Re-Read? : First time read

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

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

Now I haven’t read a classic since the end of July so I needed to get one read in August and next up on my TBR shelf was Dracula.  I got this for Christmas last year and for some reason I wasn’t really looking forward to it.  I don’t know why!  I was very wrong as I really enjoyed it.

It is quite hard to get hooked early on, as it takes time to get used to the epistolary format and everything is quite confusing, but after a day or two (I was on holiday in Majorca) I was really interested.

The plot is really great in Dracula especially in the middle section of the book when you have suspicions and ideas but nothing is confirmed.  At points the story is as gripping as a modern thriller and I really wanted to keep reading.  However, due to the sinister nature of the plot, I wasn’t quite as comfortable staying up for hours at night on my own reading as I am accustomed to!  There were times when I felt quite upset by the book [spoiler] for example, when Dracula is obviously feeding on Lucy and Mina and the men haven’t noticed – I was almost throwing the book down in frustration saying ‘just do something to protect them!’ [/spoiler]

I was very impressed by Stoker’s characterisation in Dracula, as the main little group we get to know contains some very memorable characters, most notably Van Helsing, the Dutch Professor.  The position of women in the 19th Century is quite clear, but Stoker certainly has a point to make there: Mina is very resourceful and useful and ultimately the one who solves all the problems which is quite something for a 19th Century novel, I think.  The characters were intricate and a delight to read about – you couldn’t help but support them.

How could I not discuss Dracula himself and the whole creation of the quintessential vampire that Stoker created?  He really gets the balance between creepy and believable right.  Ok, when it is during the day and you’re lying on a Majorcan sun-lounger nothing seems too bad, but when it’s night time and quite something about Dracula is very scary even today when vampires are almost embraced (thanks for that, Twilight…).  Speaking of Twilight and all modern vampire fiction, I think everyone who says they love all those novels should read this and see where it all stemmed from – beautiful, powerful, terrifying vampires are nothing new and I think that is being forgotten.  I think people may be surprised at how many similarities they would stumble upon.

The Transylvanian setting is so iconic and creepy!  It is great to read about and I love settings I know nothing about – Romania for example, especially in the 19th Century! – although some of the long description at the start of the book (before I got into the storyline) was a bit tedious.  Having said that, Stoker’s prose was superb throughout and was really quite easy to read – I thought beforehand that may have been an issue.

All in all, I am very glad I put this on my challenge lists and that I just went for it – it shows how “judging a book by its cover” is still bad 😉  I would heartily recommend this book to all of you.  I am torn between awarding a 4 and a 5, as I didn’t love it the way I loved David Copperfield or TKAMB, but I liked it a lot more than most other 4s, like Wuthering Heights.  I will stick with a 4 for now, but it is definitely going straight on the re-read list!

FQWU: Results!

Hello everyone…good news!!

Yesterday it was results day in the UK and I was collecting all my GCSE results (I’m sure you remember the rather numerous amount of exams I was doing back in May/June).  I was completely over the moon, as I did very very well.  In fact, I got A* in all subjects!  I couldn’t believe the page in front of me.  My Headteacher whisked me and a couple of friends away to talk to the press, as I was the top achiever in the whole school!  It was surreal and I am just so glad all the hard work paid off.

For anyone interested, the subjects I took were:  Maths, English Literature, English Language, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, French, German, Latin Language, Latin Literature, History, Geography, Music and RE.
I even managed 100% in Latin Language and 100% in numerous Science, French, German, Latin, History and Geography modules. does sound like I’m blowing my own trumpet!  Sorry if any of that sounds arrogant or self-absorbed – I am just so happy and wanted to share my news with the great book-bloggers who have constantly offered support and encouragement throughout my exams – thanks a lot!

In reading news, I am still on Dracula and going rather slowly (it is too creepy to read late at night!) but I should be finished with it rather soon.  It has been an unexpected pleasure to read.  Next up is Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl…but in French!  Should be a nice read.

I hope any of you who have been involved with exams/results are pleased and relieved and that everyone else is having a relaxing August doing some great reading.  🙂

The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

Title: The Da Vinci Code

Author: Dan Brown

Date Finished: 16/08/12

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : No

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

Last summer I read Dan Brown for the first time: Digital Fortress in July and Angels and Demons in August.  I enjoyed both and bought The Da Vinci Code and Deception Point from charity shops shortly afterwards.  I decided, however, to leave them on the TBR shelf until this summer as I just feel they are perfect summer reads.

Usually, I would think the storylines were ridiculous, but when I’m on holiday, not thinking about school, I want nothing more than to lie back on a sun lounger and read them.  They are very compelling and can be read extremely quickly.  I would recommend any Dan Brown as a holiday read but not so much for other times of the year!

The plot in The Da Vinci Code was surprising – I was expecting something more similar to Angels and Demons.  It had the same kind of twists and turns but it was…less active?  I mean fewer car chases and less running.   It was still very much a page-turner and obviously written very convincingly but all the talk of Mary Magdalene etc etc was beyond silly really.

The characters were so unrealistic!  I don’t think a single one seemed real – most were double-crossing-obsessive-conspiracy-theorists and the rest like Langdon and Neveu were just totally unrealistic too.  I am not saying it wasn’t enjoyable to read about them, but there was no way you could identify with anyone.  Although, this is not really the point of these quick-paced detective/thriller/crime novels so why shouldn’t the characters be a bit too perfect/evil?

The prose does what is is meant to do – makes you keep reading.  There is a new chapter practically every page and the prose is very easy to read so you do find yourself not putting it down when perhaps you would put down another book.  I liked the Paris setting, as I visited there a few years ago and could identify with one or two of the places (e.g. The Louvre & The Champs-Élysées).

Overall, it is very clear why this novel is such a bestseller: it is packed full of shocking conspiracy theories, intense action and basically ‘a treasure hunt for grown-ups’ (my name for Brown’s symbol/code trails).  It was perfect for ploughing through during my holiday and that is the only time I would particularly recommend a Dan Brown book.  I wonder when I will get round to reading Deception Point and The Lost Symbol.

Friday Quick Wrap-Up

Hello everyone from Majorca! I am having a lovely time in the 30’c heat and really relaxing.

I am aware that it is Saturday not Friday but never mind. As some of you may have remembered, I took maths AS this year (a year early) and I got my results on Thursday…
GOOD NEWS! I got A’s on all 3 modules including 100% in one! I am ecstatic! Thanks to everyone for all the support and hopefully next Thursday will be just as successful (when I get all my GCSE results!)

In reading news, I have finished The Da Vinci Code and am now flicking between French Harry Potter and Dracula.

I hope you’re all enjoying August and I will catch up on both commenting and replying to comments when I am home 🙂

The Crow Road – Iain Banks

Title: The Crow Road

Author: Iain Banks

Date Finished: 12/08/12

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : No

Overall: 3/5 – just average

This is another book I was given last year and I didn’t know anything about.  I knew the author had written The Wasp Factory but nothing else.  I didn’t have any expectations about reading this book and all I could glean from reading the blurb multiple times was that it might be similar to Submarine or And This is True, but it wasn’t.

The plot was quite interesting, particularly towards the end – at the beginning everything moved quite slowly.  Also, I just kept getting confused – there were too many things to understand all at once.  The constant flash backs to apparently irrelevant bits of the past was tiresome even though I eventually understood towards the end.  I really don’t like being confused about something when reading so I got quite irritated when I had got the wrong end of the stick about things.

I am also slightly in two minds about the characters.  Certainly, Banks has worked hard to make them all interesting but pretty much all of them, especially Verity and Fergus seemed completely unrealistic.  There were also far too many different characters to keep track of, especially in the first half of the book with everyone having about 5 siblings each with 3 or 4 different children AND the changing of time I just lost track of half of them.

In terms of setting it was quite interesting as I have never been to Scotland and don’t have anything except the stereotypical view of kilts, lochs and lots of rain.  I enjoyed the Scottish traditions as well.  Banks’ prose was very good and not too hard to read but he did say ‘I was sat’ a few times too.  It is so bad that many writers are still published with this error uncorrected.

Overall I would recommend that you read something else as there is nothing particularly special in this book.  However, it was not rubbish and had a decent story so that’s why it earned 3/5.

Hello everyone!

It has been so long since I last posted! (Over a week!)  Sorry about that, but I do have my reasons: first and foremost I haven’t finished reading any books.  This is not very good but sometimes a book just takes a long time to finish and that is my situation with The Crow Road.  The second reason I haven’t posted is that the Olympics has taken over my life – I don’t just mean by watching them on TV; I actually managed to go and watch them in London.  What a once in a lifetime experience!

We saw Table Tennis on Friday evening, Athletics on Saturday morning and Women’s Basketball on Sunday evening.  We also went to the Women’s Marathon on Sunday.  Everything was amazing and London just looked brilliant.  Some people have been saying during the Olympics, London has been ‘the capital city of the world‘ and I have to agree.  And of course…well done Team GB!  (Our best performance in an Olympics since 1908!)

So I have not had much time to read and therefore nothing to blog about!  Well I am off to Majorca for a week next Tuesday so hopefully I can get some good reading done then.  I am hoping to post once while I am there because I will get my a-level results!  You may remember I did my maths a-level early (this year; year 11).  I will get the rest of my results (my GCSEs) a week later so expect lots of nerves and a thorough wrap-up post after them, as I know lots of you were so supportive during the exams and will be interested in how they all turned out.

Recently The Classics Club blog has been set up which is making The Classics Club much more dynamic and helps out Jillian a lot who was getting slightly overwhelmed by the enormous amount of members!  Although we will never forget who started the project in the first place!

Anyway, I hope you have all enjoyed the Olympics and have cheered on your country as much as I have and that you can get some great reading done over August.  I leave you with my view from sitting in the Olympic Stadium:

July Wrap-Up and August Plans

You may have noticed I’ve been a bit quiet this last week or so – not posting/reading/replying much and I think that’s fair.  I have been watching the Olympics non-stop – it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a home games and I am making the most of it.  We are off ourselves on Friday and I will try and get a post up to describe what we’re going to see!

I have had a good reading month in July, I think.  Considering I was camping for a week at the start with my friends (didn’t get chance to read) and have been pretty busy so 4 books is great!

Here’s what I read in July 2012:

The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman

The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

This is great as I aim to read at least three books every month.  This was one more than I read in June.  Also, my target of at least one classic every month was fulfilled in May by To Kill a Mockingbird AND Cold Comfort Farm!”

Challenge Progress in May 2012:

The Classics Club :  6/60 books read  (To Kill a MockingbirdCold Comfort Farm)

The Victorian Challenge 2012:  3/6 books read  (None this month)

The Literary Classics Reading Challenge: 3/15 (To Kill a MockingbirdCold Comfort Farm)

Really good progress in The Classics Club and The Literary Classics, just need to stay on top of The Victorian Challenge over the next few months.

Currently In Progress:

At the moment I am slowly making my way through The Crow Road by Iain Banks, which I can’t say I am enjoying, but I am not very far in – too early to say I definitely don’t like it!

August Plans:

Books: The next three books on my TBR shelf are The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, The Da Vinci Code and Dracula. These are all pretty big and so is The Crow Road so I doubt I will get through them all.

Challenges:  Dracula is the only one of these which will count for challenges – all 3 actually so maybe I should prioritise that one…

Hopefully you are all enjoying some downtime in August, be it by enjoying the Olympics by not 🙂