Friday, 27 July 2012

Embracing my inner child...

I've decided that I want to read more children's books. Children's books are brilliant. They deal with the same stuff that adult books do, but most of the time in a much more subtle and mature way. They teach important lessons. They have great morals. Plus, they're really easy and quick to read!

So I've decided I'm going to read one children's book a week and discuss it here on a Friday. This week's book is The Twits by Roald Dahl.

By: Roald Dahl
Published: 1998 by Penguin Books

Goodreads Description: 

How do you outwit a Twit? Mr. and Mrs. Twit are the smelliest, ugliest people in the world. They hate everything -- except playing mean jokes on each other, catching innocent birds to put in their Bird Pies, and making their caged monkeys, the Muggle-Wumps, stand on their heads all day. But the Muggle-Wumps have had enough. They don't just want out, they want revenge.

My thoughts:

I read this as a kid, obviously, but I'd forgot pretty much everything that happened in it. I don't think I was a big fan of it as a kid, and having read it again now, I understand why; anything to do with food/mess knocks me sick. The description of Mr Twit's beard actually makes me gag, no exaggeration. Bleugh. But I was a weird kid, and I'm sure that most kids find it hilarious. I'm sure my brother would!

Reading children's books as an adult is interesting. As a kid, I'm sure I found the fact that the monkeys turned everything upside down hilarious. As an adult, I understand the irony of the Twits getting the shrinks, and understand that it's a lesson in karma. My mum's favourite piece of advice, which she's drummed into me  is 'do as you would be done by', or, 'treat people how you want to be treated.' That's pretty much what The Twits is about.

I love the way Roald Dahl writes, the way he addresses the reader as though they're in cahoots. The language is simple, but not too simple. I love that it's almost like he's having a conversation with the reader, and he's talking to them with respect, and acknowledging that they have thoughts and opinions on things. 

One thing I'd have to say is that 'two wrongs don't make a right' and that Muggle-Wumps could have been the better man - or monkey- and just left. But then what kind of story would that have been? And anyway, the Twits were horrible and deserved everything they got.

My favourite quote:
"If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until it gets so ugly you can hardly bear to look at it. A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely."
Overall, I give this book: 4/5

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

In Which I Gush Grossly About George R.R. Martin. (Game of Thrones Review)

By: George R.R. Martin
Published:  April 2011 by Random House Publishing Group (first published January 1st 1996)

Goodreads Description: 

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom's protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counter-plots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

My thoughts: 
As I warned in my last post, this is less of a review than an excuse to gush disgustingly about how much I love this man and his books!

The characters are obviously what makes a story, and these characters are fantastic. They may even have taken the place of the HP crew as my favourite fictional characters ever. Although Westeros isn't in our world, and the inhabitants live in a completely different time, the characters are still relatable, and easy to like (or in some cases, hate). Although I've pledged allegiance to House Stark, Tyrion Lannister has to be my favourite character, followed closely by Sansa Stark. I can gush for hours about why I love Tyrion, but I think anybody who has read the books/seen the show will understand why without me having to go on and on.

Sansa snook up on me. I disliked her at first but then suddenly one day I was like 'oh, I actually love this character!' My love for her grows as more bad stuff happens to her. I've seen a lot of people saying how they hate Sansa, and I seriously do not understand it. How do you hate an 11 year old girl who is basically being used and abused by everybody around her, the people who were supposed to love and care for her? To me, she is by far one of the strongest characters, and every time she uses courtesy as a shield/weapon, I cheer. I have a feeling things are just going to get worse and worse for her as the books go on, and I'm kind of dreading it, but also really (morbidly) interested in how she'll deal with it.

As for the other houses; I never really warmed to Robert Baratheon, and as for his son...Oh, Joffrey. What can I say about him? Other than 'what a little bastard', in both senses of the word. He's just...evil. I think he's written excellently and I think he's a great character, but I'd happily swing the sword that cuts his head off. His mother is a c*&t too, but I kinda like his 'uncle', the Kingslayer. Not so much like, perhaps, but he does intrigue me.

There's far too many characters to discuss them all, although I should mention Ned Stark, the main man of Book One. Oh Ned, stupid, loyal, noble Ned. You broke my heart, man. Saying that though, I'm kinda thankful for you going and giving up chapter space to Tyrion. There could never be enough of this story told through Tyrion's eyes.

One thing I was disappointed with when reading the book is my lack of interest in the Daenerys chapters. The khaleesi was one of my favourite characters/storylines in the show, but for some reason I was bored by her chapters. I'm hoping they start to interest me more as I read on, but currently whenever I see her name at the start of a chapter, I find myself sighing and seeing how many pages there are until I can read somebody else's, which is a shame!

Rating: 6/5 (They're just that good)

Reading Update

A quick update on my Goodreads challenge;

May (cont):
Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling ***

The Ambassador's Mission - Trudi Canavan ***
May I Have Your Attention Please? - James Corden ***

The Happiness Project - Gretchen Rubin ****
Shoot The Damn Dog - Sally Brampton ****
A Song of Ice and Fire Book One: A Game Of Thrones - George R.R. Martin *****
The Twits - Roald Dahl ***

Currently reading:
A Song of Ice and Fire Book Two: A Clash of Kings - George R.R. Martin

So I've become a tad obsessed with George R.R. Martin and his beautiful books. I watched the series A Game of Thrones after buckling to peer/tumblr pressure and fell in love. I wasn't planning on reading the books because I thought that they would be hard and slow to read, like LOTR. I was wrong. I love the books more than the show, if that's possible! I'm going to attempt to write a review of A Game of Thrones, but it'll probably just be a post exclaiming how much I love it, so I apologise in advance for my lack of critical skills! The only bad thing I can say about the books is that because they're so frickin' huge, I'm ridiculously behind on my challenge (11 books) but I'm cheating a little  catching up with smaller books!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Reading Update

I just cannot seem to catch up with my recommended reading speed on Goodreads. I'm trying though, and I'm only two books behind now. I WILL CATCH UP.

I've read 21 books so far, which is laughable to some people. I've always been a fast reader, so it has been a bit of a shock that I've only managed 21 books in 4 months. I've realised though that it's not the speed that's getting me behind, but how often I read. Growing up I always had my nose in a book, but now, as a social media junkie, I often neglect my books because I'm too busy staring at the computer screen hours at a time. I have recently caught myself getting on buses with longer routes so I can spend more time reading, though. Anyway, here's the update on the books I've read so far;

March (cont.)
The Fault in Our Stars - John Green ***
Delirium - Lauren Oliver ****
13 Little Blue Envelopes - Maureen Johnson ****
The Last Little Blue Envelope - Maureen Johnson ***
The Girl Who Couldn't Say No - Tracy Engelbrecht ***
A Walk To Remember - Nicholas Sparks ****
Six Reasons to Stay A Virgin - Louise Harwood **

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling ***
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling ****
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling *****

Insurgent - Veronica Roth *****
The Unlikely Disciple - Kevin Roose ****

Currently reading
The Year of Living Biblically - A.J. Jacobs
All These Things I've Done - Gabrielle Zevin

A few of those are re-reads; obviously Harry Potter, as well as Six Reasons to Stay a Virgin, which unfortunately only got two stars; it was a tongue in cheek gift from my mum a few years ago, and upon reading it again, I realised the writing wasn't actually that good. A Walk TO Remember is also one of my favourite books, and I've read it many, many times.

Delirium was awesome, but I couldn't bring myself to review it as all I was able to say after finishing it was 'WAAAAAHHHHHHHH! WHY ALEX WHYYYYYYY?'

I've been waiting impatiently for Insurgent ever since I read Divergent last year. I pre-ordered it on my kindle so I got it as soon as it came out. I spent the whole of yesterday reading it and didn't get to sleep until around 3.30am because I couldn't. Put. It. Down. Review is coming soon.

The Year of Living Biblically and The Unlikely Disciple are both unusual ones. I found The Year of Living Biblically on Amazon, and as I started reading it, I discovered the existence of The Unlikely Disciple, written by Jacobs' assistant Kevin Roose. I took to Roose a lot quicker and therefore read his book a lot faster. A review will be coming soon.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The Fault in our Stars Review

By: John Green
Published: January 10th 2012 by Dutton Books

Goodreads Description: 

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

My thoughts:

I have very mixed feelings about this book and the characters in it. I've read a lot of reviews and seen a lot of people talking/raving about it on tumblr, so I had the expectation before I read it that it would totally blow my mind and change my world view etc. It didn't. Not that I'm saying I didn't enjoy it...I did enjoy it, if you can call liking a book about kids with cancer enjoying it. I just thought that it was a bit pretentious at times, and when Hazel or Augustus were giving some of their big speeches about the universe and oblivion etc, I have to admit I got pretty lost at times.

I liked Hazel. She wasn't a hero. She was a pissed off teenager, mad at the world and at her terminal disease. Rightly so. I understood her fears of hurting the others around her by dying, and not wanting to get close to people she could avoid hurting. I was torn between not wanting her to get too close to Augustus, (because we all knew what would happen to him, let's be honest) and screaming 'JUST LET HIM LOVE YOU!' at her.

Augustus was sweet and charming and just...*sigh*. What he did for Hazel, his letters to Van Houten. I have to admit he made me cry in many public places.

Isaac was probably my favourite character though. He was another one that didn't even pretend to be the typical strong, heroic cancer kid types. He was sad (though admittedly less about losing his sight and more about losing his girlfiend) but hey, he's a teenage lad, we can forgive him for that. He had a self depreciating humour that I just found adorable. I loved his relationship with Hazel too, and of course his love for Augustus. Oh man, his...let's say speech...turned me into a weeping mess.

If I could sum up this book in one word, it would have to be clever. I liked the parallel between Hazel's story and that of Anna, though I was really expecting it to end in the middle of

Rating: 3.5/5

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Name of the Star Review

By: Maureen Johnson
Published: September 29th 2011 by HarperCollins

Goodreads Description:

The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

My thoughts

Wow. There were so many things I loved about this book. It's not what I usually go for, but it was recommended to me and I liked it straight away, just because it was £1 in Waterstone's. Plus the main character was called Rory, and I totally judged a book by its cover (I love the name Rory).

In the first few pages, the writing style actually frustrated me. I thought at first that it was being written by an English person trying to write from an American's point of view. It was only those first few pages though, and then I forgot anything about what I thought. (I also discovered that Maureen Johnson is American so maybe that made me forget.) Overall though, I loved the writing style. I liked Rory's voice and how Johnson told the story from her point of view, and I think she did a good job of writing a believable teenager who was a bit out of her depth in another country.

I loved Rory as a character, too. She was strong, independent and proved from the start that she could stick up for herself. I liked her sense of humour. I liked Jazza too, although her problem with Charlotte did bore me a bit. I loved the easy relationship between Rory and Jazza. I felt a personal connection to their friendship because it reminded me of my relationship with my friend Keeley, who's from Iowa. A favourite America vs. England conversation of theirs has to be;

‎'I feel quite boring next to you.' Jazza Said.
'Boring?' I repeated. 'You're English.'
'Yes. That's not very interesting.'
'You...have a cello! And dogs! And you live in a farmhouse...kind of thing. In a village.'
'Again, that's not very exciting. I love our village, but we're all quite...normal.'
'In our town,' I say solemnly, 'that would make you a kind of God.'

It's very similar to conversations I've had with Keeley in the past, so I laughed reading it. As for the rest of the characters; I liked Jerome, and their relationship was set up really early on in the story, so I was a bit disappointed that he sort of dwindled out and wasn't really involved in the end. I thought he would have had a bit more of a storyline. I liked Stephen and Callum, and the fact they brought a bit more emotional depth into their stories than Boo did. Boo was just...Boo. I figured out almost straight away who/what she was, so I think that spoiled it a bit for me when it came to the big reveal about the squad.

My biggest problem with the characters had to be Charlotte. I personally didn't see anything wrong with Charlotte, other than that she was a bit of a bitch. But who isn't? The first couple of chapters seemed to be setting her up as a bit of a villain, as did the way Jazza and Jerome talked about her. Again, her part seemed to fizzle out as the story went on, until the end. Sure, she was annoying and got in peoples' way, but I didn't really see any reason for Jazza to go on about her like she did, other than petty jealousy. Hmm, maybe that's just my opinion? I don't know.

The story was really clever. I learned a thing or two through reading it. I've never really learned anything about Jack the Ripper, so it was interesting to find out more about him. I think the parallel between the two cases was great. The idea that they knew exactly when are where the murders were going to happen was pretty scary, especially towards the end when they were trapped inside the school. The ghosts were really interesting, and I liked the idea of the squad and how they were able to see them; that added more depth to the story and the characters, because like Rory, I wanted to know what had happened to them. 

Overall, I really enjoyed it and spent pretty much all day yesterday reading it, because I wanted to know what happened. The end made me sad though, although it was understandable. I can't wait for the next one now! 

I give this book 4/5.

Dear Laura's Library...

I'm sorry that I have neglected you for so long. I created you, lovingly designed you, posted few and far between pretty rubbish posts, and then abandoned you. I regret my past actions. Please take me back? I promise to pay more attention to you in the future. I'll update you more, even write some proper reviews.


Awesome. So here's an update on my Goodreads Reading Challenge...

Nicholas Sparks - The Lucky One (****)
Jason Manford - Brung Up Proper (***)
E.L. James - Fifty Shades of Grey (*****)
E.L. James - Fifty Shades Darker (*****)

E.L. James - Fifty Shades Freed (****)
Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games (*****)
Suzanne Collins - Catching Fire (****)

Suzanne Collins - Mockingjay (****)
Maureen Johnson - The Name of the Star (****)

With 9/70 read, I'm 3 books behind. I blame February. I started both The King's Speech and The Lord of the Rings and quit them both. I really tried with LOTR, but after a week and only getting three chapters in, I had to give in. It was just so tiring! Hopefully, at the speed I've been reading over the last couple of weeks, I'll catch up soon!

I've really enjoyed the books I've read so far, as you can probably tell from all the 4 and 5 star ratings. I think I need to work on being more strict with my ratings, but whatever. I can't help falling in love with books! I also need to remind myself not to read The Hunger Games in public places, because I will cry and I will embarrass myself.

Currently reading:

Reviews of Fifty Shades of Grey and The Name of the Star are coming soon.