Archive for March, 2013

Full cupboardTitle: The Full Cupboard of Life

Author: Alexander McCall Smith

Date Finished: 31/03/13

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : No

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

This is the fifth book in the absolutely brilliant ‘Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency‘ series by Alexander McCall Smith and it was worth the wait of over a year since I read number 4!  Back in January 2012, I loved the fourth book in the series, The Kalahari Typing School for Men, and even though this wasn’t quite as good, the characters and setting were still phenomenal.

These books follow the daily life of Precious Ramotswe, the only female private detective in Botswana and we are constantly kept on our toes with puzzling cases and even more puzzling issues at home.  The plot in this particular book was not too strong for me because it did not really have a key case like the others have had which takes up most of the story.  This book focused a lot more at home and with Mma Ramotswe’s fiancée Mr J. L. B. Matekoni.

The characters are always the highlight of these books, as they are all so amazingly unique and wonderful!  Apart from the main characters, Mma Potokwani, the orphans and the apprentices all have roles to play in this book and as we progress with each book, all the characters continue to develop, which is why I think I always want to read the next one straight away.

The setting in Botswana is so amazing and every time I read one of these books I am inspired to go and visit there.  Especially now after having been to Africa (Uganda) and having seen these kind of people face to face it makes it even more vivid and picturable to me.  One of my ambitions in life is to visit Botswana!  Also, another is to read all of McCall Smith’s works!

Overall, I COMPLETELY recommend this series of books to anyone, as I can’t see any reason to dislike anything in them.  I would strongly suggest that you start with the first book and progress chronologically through, as they all lead directly on from each other.  Another plus for this series is that they make a very welcome and refreshing break in the middle of heavy classics reading for example and are all only about 230 pages long!

the-hound-of-the-baskervillesTitle: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Date Finished: 27/03/13

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : Yes – The Classics Club & The Literary Classics

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

Sorry for the silence on the blog recently, I have been reading but I have been (as usual) very busy and although I finished Big Bang by Simon Singh, I didn’t post because I don’t normally write about science books on here.  Anyway, here I am finally on holiday (although revising of course) and I am ready to read!

As normal with Holmes stories, it took me a few days to get into this book, as the scene was set and the plot started to form but once I did I really enjoyed it.  It was interesting to compare this original Holmes writing with that of Horowitz in The House of Silk, which I read back in January.  I also loved reading the Vintage Classics edition (on the right).

The plot is so unique in this story – it really is unlike anything I have ever read before, even though it follows the usual Holmes structure.  I enjoyed the extended feel of the novel compared to the usual short stories that are over so quickly.  I thought the plot twists were quite ingenious whereas sometimes they have seemed a bit silly and contrived for me in the past.  When Holmes revealed himself I was totally surprised!

The characters are vivid as ever in this story – Holmes and Watson are up to their usual antics trying to sniff out a sinister plot but other characters leap out of the pages too, most notably the entomologist Stapleton and noble Sir Henry Baskerville.  I was pleased that there weren’t too many characters flying around to confuse me as sometimes happens.  It always seems slightly more insidious when there are only a few characters and we know one of them must be behind the whole thing.

The setting on the moors is ridiculously spooky so no wonder they are all terrified of this hound!  Dark, lonely, cold,  foggy…there is a lot of pathetic fallacy that helps darken the mood of the story.  I liked the style of writing a lot and I think that writing from the point of view of Dr Watson is one of the reasons why the Holmes stories have been so successful over time – we always feel very involved.

Overall, this was a great read that I would highly recommend, however, I think it is best to experience some of the Holmes short stories first, as there is very little explanation of his queer methods and characteristics.  Another title crossed off my Classics Club list too! 🙂

The Host- Stephenie Meyer

The HostTitle: The Host

Author: Stephenie Meyer

Date Finished: 08/03/13

Re-Read? : Second time read

Challenges? : No

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

This is the second time I have enjoyed Meyer’s lesser known work, The Host, and I am glad I read it again.  I first read it in late 2010 and since I heard about the film coming out this March, I decided I would re-read it.  This was a good idea, because I really enjoyed it the first time (much more than I expected to) and I didn’t remember many details, as it is actually quite a long book.

The plot is centred around Wanderer, part of the race of ‘souls’ who now rule Earth – they are inserted into human bodies and become the minds inside.  This obviously sounds very far-fetched, but after a few chapters, it becomes clear that everything has been well thought-out and you just kind of accept the absurdity and move on.  The plot is definitely the massive strength of this book, as there are so many unexpected twists and turns that you never really have a clue what is going to happen next.  To maintain this excitement for a 600+ page book is really good writing by Meyer, who I think is slightly disadvantaged due to the prejudice against the Twilight books.  Even if you don’t like them, I would still give this a try.

The characters are slightly less endearing – they are all very unrealistic and I guess this is where you hear echoes of Twilight; the people involved are always so quick to offer to sacrifice themselves for the people they love…literally all the time!  The relationship between Melanie and Wanda is brilliant and I also think the development of Ian’s character is really well done, but overall the characters are a bit too silly for me.  On the other hand, they are all very unique and memorable so maybe I am just being fussy.

The American setting is slightly dull, until we hit the desert!  The way Meyer manages to interweave some really good description into the action is proved by the fact that I could really imagine the setting under the desert.  I am very interested to see how my perceptions compare to the film sets when the film is released/when I actually get around to seeing it (I still haven’t even seen The Hobbit!)

Meyer’s writing style does exactly what is says on the tin: this book is very action-packed and at its heart, a love story so consequently the prose is very emotive and often includes snappy speech.  Some of the way the characters express themselves is very exaggerated I think – ridiculous outpourings of love or complete antipathy are rather common!

Overall, even though this is obviously not usually the type of book I read, I would seriously recommend it to anyone who is after a good story.  It is probably not one that will become what school students study and analyse in 30 or 40 years, but it does the job and kept me reading.  However, if you do read this book, make sure you persevere well past the first 150 pages or so – both times I read it, I found it very slow-moving up to then (afterwards it’s action packed until the end).

February Wrap-Up & March Plans

Well February is always a month that goes quickly, as obviously there are only 28 days, and this year that was the case too.  I had an absolutely amazing week in Uganda – I truly fell in love with Africa and with Uganda especially.  The music, the scenery and above all the people just made it the best week of my life.  I won’t bore you with loads of details but basically, my Dad set up a link with his school to a school near Masindi about 6/7 years ago and this year he went back with me, my sister, two students from his school and two teachers.  We saw all the amazing developments the link has made possible for the school in Uganda and we were hosted magnificently well.  We spent the second last day on a river cruise along the Nile to Victoria Falls, which was obviously mind-blowing.  We even saw elephants in the wild!
Unfortunately, while I was in Uganda there was such intermittent power and basically no alone time, so I barely read at all.  Since I came back, I managed to read a bit but my time was taken up with mounds of coursework!

Here’s what I read in February 2013:

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Richard III – William Shakespeare

I know this is a bit rubbish as I aim to read at least three books every month.  This is fewer books than I read in January, but I do think I had good excuses!  My aim of 1200 pages a month was not fulfilled as I read only 637 pages.
I definitely did not keep up my 30 minutes reading a day, although I did read at least for a few minutes every day, even in Uganda when it was like midnight and I knew I had to get up at about 6!
I did take Big Bang with me to Uganda, but I have not read at least one science book every two months so I need to read 2 between March and April ideally!
I definitely fulfilled my at least one classic a month target as both the books I read were classics!
Lastly, I try to stay an active blogger and this was definitely a fail for February – I haven’t been that good at posting or commenting, but I hope I will improve in March.

I am not too disappointed as I did read 2 books and The Host (which I am reading now) is very long anyway.

Challenge Progress in February 2013:

The Classics Club :  12/60 books read  (2 this month: Pride and Prejudice and Richard III )

I reviewed my Classics Club list and have added a few alternatives as I am now a year into my list – details here!

I hope there may be some new challenges in 2013 that fit in with my reading plans for this year; if not maybe I will create my own!

Currently In Progress:

At the moment, I am rereading The Host and actually really enjoying it (I know it may not seem like my kind of book, but it’s actually really good!) I was hoping to finish it in February, then at the beginning of March but it is very long and may take a bit longer than anticipated!

March Plans:

Books: The next three books on my TBR shelf are Big Bang – Simon Singh, Le Petit Nicholas and 1984.  I need to read Big Bang and I would love to get to 1984 and Le Petit Nicholas as well, but this may not be possible!

Challenges:  If I do get to 1984, then it will count towards the classics club.

I really hope to find some more reading time in March – hopefully the Easter holidays will give me a few more hours in the day to play with…but with uni open days and exams looming, it may get worse before it gets better!!

Hello everyone, been a while since I’ve done a weekly wrap-up and I expect to do a February wrap-up soon too, but there is a definite reason why I need to post today.  Basically, one year ago to the day, I started book blogging!  I literally cannot believe it was that long ago – this year has gone very quickly.  I am really pleased with myself for persevering with the blog even when I had loads of exams and at times when I essentially wasn’t reading any books.  It would have been very easy to just let it all go and not be able to start posting again.  So yes, I am proud but I am also very very grateful.  I wouldn’t have lasted one week, let alone one year without all the encouragement and interest that other book bloggers have always given me.  I felt very welcomed and part of the community practically straight away, so thank you!

I think this is definitely a consequence of joining The Classics Club, which united so many book boggers across the world so I am extremely glad I was one of the first members of the club!  I also more recently enjoyed the readathon hosted by the club – it is very pleasing to see it still gaining even more members.  All the challenges, events etc have helped shape and structure my reading which I am very grateful for – with so many books to read, there needs to be some kind of help with which ones to read when!

This week I have been busy as usual, but not over-stressed so I have had a bit of time for reading in the evenings – I am really enjoying my reread of The Host.  It’s a shame there aren’t more days in February, as I’m not really ready for March – we get our exam results next week and then it’s go go go for starting serious work for the next set of exams and some serious decisions about university.  Anyway, I am hoping to finish The Host in the next fortnight and I am not really sure what I will feel like next.  Thanks again for all your continuing encouragement, support and interest; I hope this is the first of many blogoversaries! (..does that exist..?!)