Thursday, 27 September 2012

Booking Through Thursday from Uni



So, I've been at Uni for a couple of days now and it is amazing! All the parties are great, the people are great and my throat feels destroyed! I haven't had a lot of time to blog because I've been signing up for seminars, meeting people, trying to ind my way around, etc. But I decided to make a change for Booking Through Thursday and probably Follow Friday tomorrow but after that there will be another silence from me as lectures will start. But don't worry, if any of you were, I am not abandoning blogging! ;)

This week's BTT question is:
Do you bring the book(s) you’re reading with you when you go out? How? Physically, or in an e-reader of some kind? Have your habits in this regard changed? (I know I carried books with me more when I was in school than I do now–I can’t read while I’m driving to work, after all.)
btt button

I usually have books with me wherever I go because packing my Kindle has become part of my daily routine. As a kid I'd usually have a book with me when we'd go anywhere that took longer than 30 minutes to drive to. I never got car sick either, so it was never a problem for me to read a lot. Now though I find that when I go anywhere I usually have other things on my mind and I am procrastinating rather than reading so in that sense I just largely carry the books around for moral support.

So, how about you?

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Review: 'The Mousetrap' at St Martin's Theatre

I just realized that I went to one of the most well-known plays/theatres in London over 2 weeks ago and didn't review it. I mean, where is my mind at the moment? Definitely not in my head, that I know for sure! Anyways, the play I am talking about is 'The Mousetrap' and let me just start this review with some facts:
  • It is the longest running play in London. There is a big number board in the atrium and they keep count of every performance. By now, they have had over  24,500 performances (see the picture).
  • At the end of the performance, the audience members are asked by the actors not to reveal the ending to anyone so that it will remain a surprise for future audiences. So DON'T check out the Wiki page because it will tell you the ending. I repeat: DON'T go on Wikipedia!
  • The play began as a radio play, which was written in honour of Queen Mary in 1947 by Agatha Christie. There was also a short story but Christie requested it not be published in the UK as long as the play is on, which means it has still not been published here, but it has been in the US.
So, let's get cracking with this review. I have never been to a crime-play and I was seriously wondering how it would work. We all know how tension is created on tv or in the movies: scary music, long pauses, intense stares, silences. But this can hardly be used in theatre where the back row can't see your intense stare and where a silence is never really silent. So the tension very much becomes something that the audience itself builds up, which makes the experience much more intense and inclusive. Let me explain this a bit more: on tv, the show does everything for you and you just have to sit there and take it in. In this play, you work yourself up to it, of course helped by a great play, and the scares or the plot twists are so much more intense that way.

Agatha Christie is the woman who gave us Poirot and I am a massive Poirot-fan! He just makes my Saturdays sometimes, I mean what's not to love about that little Belgian man? But he is not in the play, unfortunately. Originally called 'Three Blind Mice', it is set in a pension which has just been started by a wife and husband. News reaches them that a woman has been murdered in London while they prepare to receive their first guests. Of course all of these have diverse characters and spontaneously clash. However, a stranger arrives and they are snowed in, which means no one can leave. A police officer arrives however because a clue had been left at the London crime scene, hinting the next victim will fall in the pension. As is usual with Agatha Christie, everyone is up for suspicion and the killer is not who you expected, at all. I think if you know how Christie's crimes work you might be at an advantage but there are still enough twists to keep it entertaining.

The great thing about a play is that you can measure the success during the break. Are people talking it can be both good and bad. Are they talking about the play, then it's good. Are they talking about their day, then it's bad. During this break people couldn't stop guessing who the killer was and who else would die. My sister and I had read something about cross-dressing, don't ask me where or why, so we came up with the strangest plots, none of which were correct. But the atmosphere was one of excitement and also suspense. So this was definitely an enjoyable experience for me. But being a crime-play, I don't see how you could go see it multiple times. I wanted to see Shakespeare's 'Henry V' over and over again, partly due to an infatuation with the King. But I am quite happy having seen this once and not again.


So in conclusion, it is a very enjoyable play. The actors were great in their roles and also elicited some laughs from the audience at times. The plot is not overly complicated, hints are dropped throughout but they only start making sense towards the end. St Martin's Theatre is beautiful and just off the main street, which means it's not as busy. Another tip, in case you're planning on spending the evening there: Jamie Oliver has an Italian restaurant just around the corner. Who doesn't love Jamie?

So, does this sound like your kind of play? Are you an Agatha Christie fan?

Friday, 21 September 2012

Long Live the 'The Hobbit'!!


'The Hobbit' was published on the 21st of September in 1937, exactly 75 years ago. This means it's time for a celebration. Yes, I did use a Minions-gif to explain my emotions. No, I don't feel sorry.

I absolutely love this book and have really fond memories of it. This book dragged me through the only time in my life where I can remember being really sick. I was just lying in my bed and I couldn't do anything. My dad, being the literary angel he is, knew that what I needed was a comfort read so he pulled out his old copy of 'The Hobbit' and started reading. Nothing could have been better. I just closed my eyes, listened and let my imagination run amok. So yes, this book means a lot to me.

Peter Jackson, Phillipa Boyens and Fran Walsh did an amazing job on 'The Lord of the Rings' and I cannot wait to see what they make of this book. But I can tell you I love the new trailer:

I think this trailer perfectly brings across the humor in the book. Let's not forget that this book was supposed to be a children's book, so of course there is some humor in it and it is a lot simpler, in ways. It does get darker in what will be the second movie, I think, but now I am just so excited!

What I find really interesting is Gollum. He looks a lot more innocent in this trailer. I mean, that bit with him made me laugh, both because I had missed him (I know, I'm strange) but also because he just seems so...sweet almost. His eyes are bigger, bluer and he seems mischievous, rather than evil. So I guess that losing the Ring is going to drive him completely over the edge. Also, Ian McKellen is still my hero, his voice must be the voice of God. Cate Blanchett is a godess who deserves her own religion and WETA has done an amazing job on the animation and setting and props. I think this movie will be great and the book definitely deserves it,

Vonnegut's Friday

Gain New Blog FollowersAnother Friday has come and with it another chance to visit other blogs and socialize! Screw packing, I'm blogging! Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee and this week's question is:

Q: What hyped up book was worth all of the fuss?


I don't know whether this counts as a book hype, but if it does it's going to be a popular answer: Harry Potter. I got the first book in German from a family member who works at a massive German publisher, who happened to publish Harry Potter. I loved the first book so much and was hooked straight away. In my mind, the hype didn't start until later, when the movies came out. And I have never been disappointed by either the books or the movies, which doesn't mean I always agree with what happened in the books. For example, the entire thing in St Pancras in the last book. I did like it, but it was also a bit strange. But the hype around Harry Potter was definitely deserved and I don't know anyone who regretted really getting into the series.

I am currently reading 'Breakfast of Champions' by Kurt Vonnegut, which is great, he's an amazing author. So I decided to use that one for Book Beginnings (Rose City Reader) and Friday 56 (Freda's Voice).
BB:
'This is a tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast. One of them was a science-fiction writer named Kilgore Trout. He was a nobody at the time, and he supposed his life was over. He was mistaken. As a consequence of the meeting, he became one of the most beloved and respected human beings in history. The man he met was an automobile dealer, a Pontiac dealer named Dwayne Hoover. Dwayne Hoover was on the brink of going insane.'
This is so typical of Vonnegut's writing style throughout the book. Straightforward, plain and really funny. His humor is so dry and it really feels like you are sitting in a cafe with an old friend who is telling you a story.

F56:
'Dwayne Hoover sat in the used Plymouth Fury in his own vacant lot for an hour, listening to West Virginia. He was told about health insurance for pennies a day, about how to get better performance from his car. He was told what to do about constipation. He was offered a Bible which had everything that God or Jesus had actually said out loud printed in red capital letters. He was offered a plant which would attract and eat disease-carrying insects in his home. All this was stored away in Dwayne’s memory, in case he should need it later on. He had all kinds of stuff in there.'

Again, the language and writing is  really straight forward, he describes what his character heard without being overly dramatic and is thereby able to capture exactly what it is like to listen to those kind of radio shows: loads of information you don't need but you still remember.

I decided, because this is a Friday, to share one of the drawings Vonnegut has made for the book. They are absolutely amazing and it is just so funny to read a book by a literary genius and have him say:
There was a picture of a flamingo sandblasted on the glass of the bathtub enclosure. It looked like this:
I'd say it's a pretty good drawing of a flamingo, which just goes to show how amazing Vonnegut is. I have to warn you, I'm turning into a major Vonnegroupie!

So, what have you got for us this Friday? Don't hesitate to post your link in the comments below!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Booking Through Thursday: Reading Right Now

btt2I'm feeling all melancholic. This is the last BTT I will be writing from home. Next time I will be at my student accommodation, probably with a massive hangover from partying and socialising! But I will still be reading a lot and therefore this week's question is perfect:

Quick–what are you reading right now? (Other than this question on this website, of course.) Would you recommend it? What’s it about?

Ok, so at the moment I'm reading three different books:

'Breakfast of Champions' by Kurt Vonnegut.
In Breakfast of Champions, one of Kurt Vonnegut’s  most beloved characters, the aging writer Kilgore Trout, finds to his horror that a Midwest car dealer is taking his fiction as truth. What follows is murderously funny satire, as Vonnegut looks at war, sex, racism, success, politics, and pollution in America and reminds us how to see the truth.
I am loving this book, Vonnegut is a great author. And the little drawings he did to illustrate the story are hilarious. The tone is almost casual, as if you are sitting down with him and he's telling you a story. But it's also really interesting from an authorial point because it discusses the influence books can have.

'Life Knocks' by Craig Stone
Life Knocks is the story of a guy who falls from grace, but rather than confront that fall, decides to hide in his room and pretend it never happened; but, little by little, Life Knocks...The story will confront, challenge, evoke laughter, tears and, in parts, possibly offence...But then life never claimed to be Disney world.Step outside your bubble, because the only thing to fear in life is living in one.
Another book that has a very casual tone while discussing quite serious things. The characters are great and Stone is amazing at describing his surroundings, using the most absurd but perfect comparisons. This book makes me laugh, the right way.

And finally,
'The Picture of Dorian Grey' by Oscar Wilde
Written in his distinctively dazzling manner, Oscar Wilde’s story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is the author’s most popular work. The tale of Dorian Gray’s moral disintegration caused a scandal when it first appeared in 1890, but though Wilde was attacked for the novel’s corrupting influence, he responded that there is, in fact, “a terrible moral in Dorian Gray.” Just a few years later, the book and the aesthetic/moral dilemma it presented became issues in the trials occasioned by Wilde’s homosexual liaisons, which resulted in his imprisonment. Of Dorian Gray’s relationship to autobiography, Wilde noted in a letter, “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.”
Do I even have to say anything? This is a great book, Wilde is a genius and you should read it too!

So, what are you reading? What are you recommending? Leave your link in the comments!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Teaser Tuesday: 'An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory'

Oh yes, you read the title of this post correctly. I'm getting serious about literature and life, I am actually about to delve into 'An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory' and decided to use Teaser Tuesday as a way of getting myself pumped up for it. University is going to be a blast. Also, I know this might sound really pervy, but the pages of this book feel soooo nice. They're so smooth and just..nice. Ok, I'm going to sit in a corner and feel slightly embarrassed but not really about that admission. Also, how absolutely brilliant is it that I can get some of my uni books on my Kindle? Love it!

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading.
'Characters are the life of literature: they are the objects of our curiosity and fascination, affection and dilike, admiration and condemnation. Indeed, so intese is our relationship with literary characters that theu often cease to be simply 'objects'.' P.63
Oh yes, Mr Darcy is much more than just an object for me. But this is very true, characters are absolutely crucial to literature and people get so passionate about them!
'It is as if 'Creative Writing' were calling out: 'Look at me , come and write literature here, come and experience the literary, it'll be fun! This way to the creative writing class!' P.91
Well, I'm not doing Creative Writing at university because I decided to go for Shakespeare and the Vikings rather than my own writing, but I definitely agree that Creative Writing advertises itself as the fun side to reading and literature.

So, what are you teasing us with?

Review: 'Franny and Zooey' by J.D.Salinger


Franny and Zooey

Finally, I finished this book. It's usually not a good thing when you're relieved once you finish a book but sometimes I feel that it's different with Salinger books. They are very much a journey, for the reader and the characters, in which you and they work through problems. Of course you're relieved when you find the answers at the end. And thankfully, Salinger does give answers. Next to this I was terribly busy with work, which I finished yesterday. So now I'm all back to having time to read and blog. Here's a description of the book by Salinger himself.
FRANNY came out in The New Yorker in 1955, and was swiftly followed, in 1957 by ZOOEY. Both stories are early, critical entries in a narrative series I'm doing about a family of settlers in twentieth-century New York, the Glasses. It is a long-term project, patently an ambiguous one, and there is a real-enough danger, I suppose that sooner or later I'll bog down, perhaps disappear entirely, in my own methods, locutions, and mannerisms. On the whole, though, I'm very hopeful. I love working on these Glass stories, I've been waiting for them most of my life, and I think I have fairly decent, monomaniacal plans to finish them with due care and all-available skill.
These are two short stories but so closely related, 'Zooey' (a novella) starts where 'Franny' (a short story) ends, that it is probably better for both stories to be read together. Zooey Glass and Franny Glass are brother and sister and the two youngest of seven children. All of them have been on a quiz radio show 'A Wise Child' which seems to have led to all of them having difficulty in dealing with other people. 'Franny' centers on her going to meet her boyfriend, Lane, for the weekend which turns into a disaster on the first day because she seems to be out of sorts. 'Zooey' then offers an explanation of this from the brother's perspective as she comes home to wallow in her problems. We get an insight into their history and an explanation and solution for Franny's problem

Perhaps 'Franny' was my favourite, although 'Zooey' is the bigger of both and I found myself agreeing with it. In this story Salinger shows the same kind of humour in description as in 'Catcher in the Rye'. His observations of, once again, university students and their attitudes (I can't wait to join their ranks) are funny and also quite true. He exposes the phony self congratulation and self importance that is even more present now then when he wrote this and finds the same issues in the entertainment industry. 
"Everything everybody does is so-I don't know-not wrong, or even mean, or even stupid necessarily. But just so tiny and meaningless and - sad-making. And the worst part is, if you go bohemian or something crazy like that, you're confroning just as much as everybodt else, only in a different way."
Here is where I have difficulty with Salinger's writing. He is terribly judgmental, or at least, his characters are. For someone like me, who just ignored people when they're being difficult, it can be difficult to read about characters who are so busy with looking at the faults in others. Then again, Zooey and Franny are very aware of this character flaw and blame it on their education and participation in 'A Wise Child'. But it also present in his writing style, which sometimes says a lot in one sentence and then spends a page on nothing. It made this novella quite a difficult read, simply because I had to put a lot of thinking into it. But on the other side, he did show his humor once in a while and proved that sarcasm in leading men is nothing new:
"You listening to this? You fat old Druid?" Zooey inquired. "Or are you just staring at my gorgeous face?"
I don't think this book will appeal to anyone who doesn't like thinking about religion and life. The excerpts below show some of the nice religion bits:
'Jesus realized there is no seperation from God.''But most of all, above everything else, who in the Bible besides Jesus knew - knew- that we're carrying the Kingdom of Heaven around with us, inside, where we're all too goddam stupid and sentimental and unimaginative to look?'
I did quite like it because I agree with this view of Jesus and religion, but before getting to this I had to put a lot of work into reading long conversations between Zooey & his mother and Zooey & his brother Buddy about life, the entertainment business and family. This book is a lot of work, which also has to do with the structure of the writing. At times I felt I was reading a novelized play. 'Franny' has one long scene in a cafe, 'Zooey' has one scene in the bathroom, one in the living room and one in the bedroom. All of these are quite static, relying heavily on the dialogue and seems perfect to be staged. There is detailed description of the rooms, the setting so to say, and there are descriptions of the small actions of the characters, picking up a cigarette, looking out the window, sitting, standing up, etc. 'Franny' seems to have more action because the cafe offers more space to other characters and her interaction with Lane is quite fun. 'Zooey' really only has three characters: Zooey, Franny and their mother, Bessie. And their conversations just become a bit much after a while. But the ending is very nice, which made up for a lot.

I give this novella...

3 UNIVERSES!!!

Together, the two stories only measure up to 88 pages, so I thought it would be unfair to give it any higher than three Universes. I also found it quite a challenging read, causing me to spend longer on it than I had planned. Franny and Zooey are really interesting characters, as is their interaction with each other and their mother. I do want to know more about them, but I think I need another Salinger-break before I read his other short stories on the Glass-family. I read this book for my '100 Classics'-list for the Classics Club.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Follow Friday

Gain New Blog FollowersFollow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read & Parajunkee. This week's question is:

What hyped up book do you think was not worth all the talk?

I hope nobody is going to hate me for this, but I really thought The Mortal Instruments weren't that amazing. I don't know what I was expecting, but it's not as awesome as some of the fans make it out to be, for me anyways. I do admit I started reading it because Jonathan Rhys Meyers is going to be in the movie and he rocks my world, but after reading the first book I had to ever so slightly force myself to read the others. I reviewed 'City of Bones' quite positively because I hoped perhaps it would slowly pick up in the other books, but I was ever so slightly disappointed. I mean, after the third book I had sort of hoped for a little more knowledge of the setting of the books. I haven't read 'The Infernal Devices', so perhaps that's why I lack more knowledge, but I got really sick of Clary and her inexplicable actions. The entire sibling thing also bothered me, not because I think it's wrong to use; George Lucas did it ages ago and better, but because it felt really contrived. I quite liked Jace and felt he was the only character who was allowed some kind of development, whereas the rest stays the same. I also thought Sebastian's character could've used some work although I liked the idea of him. Perhaps I should read the others too, just to be able to decide at the end whether it was a waste of time or not. 

Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader and Friday 56 by Freda's Voice. I am going to review this book tomorrow, so I decided to use it for these two memes: 'Franny and Zooey' by J.D. Salinger.
BB:
'THOUGH brilliantly sunny, Saturday morning was overcoat weather again, not just topcoat weather, as it had been all week and as everyone had hoped it would stay for the big weekend— the weekend of the Yale game.'
Sometimes it's just one of those days, you look outside and realize you are going to have to bring a coat when you'd rather have left it at home. I quite like Salinger's writing style, I liked 'Catcher in the Rye', but his writing style is a bit long sometimes, as if he wants to make something clear and decides to take 3 pages rather than 1 for it. I mean, there is one scene in the bathroom which takes up a third of the book (admittedly, it's a short book).

F56:
"I didn't say good, I said courageous. Let's keep on our toes here, buddy. The morning after it's produced, everybody in the building'll go around slamming each other on the back in an orgy of mutual appreciation."
Zooey, who is a man by the way, is talking about a play he is in. Just like 'Catcher in the Rye', there is a lot of observation and judgement in this novel, again of intellectuals. I like this description though because I do feel a lot of people are very appreciative of what they themselves do. 

So, does this sound like your book? And has a book not lived up to your expectations and its hype?

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Booking Through Thursday: Shelving

It's Thursday and that means we have another BTT question waiting for us:
btt buttonHow do you organize/store your books? Do you go through them often? Or do you pretty much just shelve them and then leave them alone until you need them?
This is actually a question I myself was thinking about today. Here at home I had a big bookcase in my room for my own book and two others downstairs for the family books. Whenever I bought books I usually would either put them on my bed because I wanted to read them or put the in my bookcase. The only shelf I have that is organised is my shelf of antique books. I like them to be nicely shelved, all of them in a straight line without anything to disturb me from staring at them. I believe that a 100-yr old book should be treated with some respect. For the rest I sort of try to keep series together, but that often doesn't work out!

This picture to the left isn't how my room usually looks, trust me. I just moved out of my room and I had to pack all of my books. I never realised how chaotic I was when it came to books until I took them all out. I actually loved being surrounded by stacks of books! My problem was that my bookcase is continuously full, which meant books we be laying on top of others, shelves were doubly stacked, my desk, meant for schoolwork, was covered in books and usually there were some downstairs as well. I usually tried at least once a week to prioritise my bookshelves, so that the books I wanted to read now were the closest to my bed etc, but that usually just ended up with me being frustrated. So I mainly just left them the way they were until I read them. Now that I'm going of to University I have no idea how the book situation is going to work out, but I'm going to do English so I'm sure there will be a lot of books!

This question led me to look into the fascinating world of bookshelves and cases and there are some amazing  ones out there I wanted to share!

Stairs BookcaseThe Book Staircase:

I mean, just wow. I would never leave the stairs. I'd just make it a big bigger to fit in a seating area where I could also put a phone and then this is where I would spend my time. Just imagine the categories you could come up with to fill each shelf! I could do an English shelf, a Dutch one, one for just Jane Austen and the Brontes, a Shakespeare step! Only worry would be me kicking my books the entire time, which would be a shame. But it's a great way to save space. I love it. 



The Bookcase Door:
Bookcase Secret Door

This one is pretty epic. I mean, everyone has seen it in the movies: you pull a book and a secret door opens. But this is the real world and it is even better. You simply open up your bookcase and enter a different room. I want this one, very badly, and I would put it in between my work space and bedroom. You could do the entire dirty library scene from 'Atonement' but simply move to the bedroom at some point. I'm loving this idea so much! It's not only ingenious and pretty, it would be a great party trick and it is simply a proper bookcase. It's big, sturdy-looking and could hold quite a lot of books. Possible problem, what happens when it becomes to heavy to be shifted easily, you could end up lock in our out of your room.

Artistic BookshelvesGeometric Bookcases:

I think this could work quite well, especially because it also serves as decoration so you could literally out these all through the house. And it is funny to look at. My only worry would be that some books simply don't fit in and I'd still need to have proper book case for the bigger books.

So, what is your answer and do you have any unusual book case/shelving solutions?




Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Teaser Tuesday: 'Beautiful Wild Rose Girl' by B. Magnolia

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading and this week I decided to tease you with bits from a book I just reviewed: 'Beautiful Wild Rose Girl' by B. Magnolia, a modern style fairy tale for young girls. SO hop on over to SBR and join in on the teasing fun, I want to know what you guys are reading and reviewing!

'Between the Swamo and the nearest village lay a field of roses. These roses were fierce and wild, and more beautiful than any roses than any roses that could ever be grown in any garden. And so much were they more beautiful than other roses, so their thorns were more sharp and terrible.'
P.2 
I love the description of the roses and I can completely imagine myself as a child just imagining these beautiful roses. And the idea that sometimes something beautiful can also be terrible is quite a good thing to pick up on.
'The strange Moth alighted from the poor shepherd's sack, flew high into the air, and followed the shepherd boy into his field. There the Moth sat all day on a wild deed, watching the boy as he looked after his sheep, and listening to him dreaming aloud abbout his love for the Beautiful Wild Rose Girl.'
P. 10

So, what do you think? I really want to know what you're reading so leave a link in the comments :)

Review: 'Beautiful Wild Rose Girl' by B. Magnolia

PictureWhen I was emailed by Mystic World Press about this book, I was ever so slightly prejudiced in favor of the book because I love fairy tales. And their message is amazing. I thought instead of giving you a short version, I'd let their message speak for itself:
At Mystic World Press we endeavor to produce Children's stories that have true Depth and Beauty, stories that can inspire young Hearts and Minds.
We believe that Children's stories should never fall short of the potential of the brilliant young minds they are presented to. At Mystic World Press we recognize that Children need stories that are as Beautiful, Profound and Magical as Childhood itself.
In short, we believe Children deserve nothing less than Literature. 
And I couldn't agree more. Children are very impressionable and fairy tales are the perfect way to guide them into reading and enjoying it. Also, the morality in good fairy tales is so subtle yet strong children pick it up very quickly which can also only be beneficiary. But let's get back to the actual book: 'Beautiful Wild Rose Girl' by B. Magnolia.
Beautiful Wild Rose Girl is an original, classically told fairy tale, about a poor, sad girl who lives in a swamp, a place where every night bullfrogs sing to her: “Trooonk! Troonk! Trooonk! What a stupid ugly girl!"
PictureEvery day the sad girl goes to the village to sell her wild roses, and because everyone finds her so beautiful, they call her “Beautiful Wild Rose Girl” but the poor girl hears instead “Stupid Ugly Swamp Girl” and she lowers her head and takes a step back because she is sure she smells like the awful swamp.
Beautiful Wild Rose Girl is a story about the mysterious forces that can haunt a person's self-image, and about how through love and self-realization these demons can be overcome.
 This story is both simple and heart warming in the way that classic fairy tales are. In straight forward yet beautiful language, the story of the Girl is set out for the reader. Fairy tales were always meant as a warning, in the kindest sense of the word. In a world where there are less and less true dangers, the pressures of society have become even heavier, especially on young girls. The importance of a story like this, which shows the reward for hard work, a good character and forgiveness and that what others say is often not reflective of the truth, cannot be underestimated. Encouraging stories like these can definitely help in preventing a generation of girls to grow up expecting to be scrutinized and wanting to be perfect. B. Magnolia herself said "In these uncertain times there is nothing more needful than the comfort of fairy tales." and I couldn't agree more. 

B. Magnolia manages to tick all the right fairy tale boxes. There is the right amount of despair in the Girl's surroundings, there is just enough magic to give the tale something mystical and there is a Boy who would give anything. The ending is therefore perhaps predictable but also satisfying in the way that only fairy tales can be. There are no frills to the way Magnolia describes the Girl, the Boy and the Village, giving enough space to the imagination of a child to come up with its own images. I truly liked the illustrations by Jamila Keba. They somehow reminded me of prints with a South-American twist to them. The 4 major illustrations are set a key scenes in the story, highlighting the most important elements. The little illustrations throughout the book are also very nice.


Picture
I was sent three different copies of the book by Mystic World Press because they put such an emphasis on their handmade copies and I thought I'd give all of them some attention too. The one at the beginning of the review is the Paper Pocket Book Illustrated, 8.5" x 5.5" which has 32 pages. I loved the feel of this copy in my hand. The cover is soft, the binding secure and the pages turn without a problem, not obscuring any of the text. This is a beautiful copy to give as a present. The Large Soft Cover Illustrated Japanese Stab Binding, 11"x 8.5"  to the left has 34 pages. This is probably the best version to buy if you plan on reading it to your children. The print is bigger, the pages more sturdy and can therefore be viewed more easily by two or three people. The Paperback Edition also has 34 pages and can be seen in the middle of the review to the right. This might be the perfect version to get if you have a messy child. The glossy cover has a different illustration to the others but I quite like this cover. All version carry the Children's Literary Classics Seal of Approval. My favourite version was probably the Large Japanese one. It lies in the hand very comfortable and is just generally beautiful. I have to say it feels very special to hold a hand made book.

I give this book...

4 UNIVERSES!!!!

This is a charming fairy tale that your children are bound to love. The care and love with which the books are created definitely shows and it therefore really pays to invest in a handmade copy. The story is sweet and inspiration and not too long to be read to a child before bed. It is sure to inspire belief inside girls that hard work is worth it and a good character worth much more than beauty.

What do you think? Doesn't this sound like a charming fairy tale?

Monday, 10 September 2012

My memories of: 'Watership Down'

I was trying to get my hands on a copy of 'Watership Down', a book that is on my classics list, when I was gripped by childhood memories. The plot of 'Watership Down' is rather simply in the sense that it is about a group of rabbits who leave their warren, Sandleford, because one of them, Fiver, forsees it will be destroyed. They settle down in Watership Down and hear of the destruction of their warren after their departure. But they cannot settle down in peace just yet when they become aware of another warren: Efrafra. The rabbits are anthropomorphic, which means they are given human characteristics such as emotions, religion and speech. It is a classic fantasy novel that I have some of my earliest literary memories from. No, I didn't read a 285-page book at the tender age of 8. I had something much better. (Please excuse my terrible photography skills, I used my phone!)

The cover above belonged to a picture book of 'Watership Down'. In 1978, an animated movie was made which might sound terrible but wasn't. I still haven't watched it, don't ask me why. But the pictures in my picture book were 250 stills from this movie. I wanted to share some of my favourite pages because they are simply beautiful and they have been imprinted in my mind.

The picture to the right shows the destruction of Sandleford by a bulldozer, as reported by one of the rabbits that escaped in time. What is great about these four stills is the way in which they are so abstract. The frantic red eyes, the open mouths, they seem to be screaming out. It really highlights the distress that must be felt by the rabbits. And then there is the bottom right picture which shows the horror of the bulldozer. The figure of the rabbit is stripped down and looks completely lifeless. The one uprooted tree is both symbolic and simply shows what a bulldozer does. Also, the choice of the contrasting blue against the red and yellow just makes this picture all the more impressive.

In the picture to the left, we see Blackavar being mutilated and punished for wanting to escape Efrafra. Efrafra is another warren in Watership Down which is a police state. Blackavar was made an example of: no one leaves Efrafra. I loved the brutality of this picture. When you think of cartoon you think of a children's story, the same counts for rabbits. This one still shows that 'Watership Down' is different. There is an agression and power in this picture that used to scare me as a child, in a good way. I understood the terror of a police state much easier this way. The consequences of disagreeing with the state might not be worth it.  Much like 'Animal Farm', animals have taken on human traits to make us take a step back and look at ourselves.   

 The next two picture are in sequence. They show Fiver, the rabbit with the gift. He has just heard from the other two rabbits that his brother, Hazel, has been shot. I think that the first drawing captures Fiver's despair at his brother's absence perfectly. Again, I apologize for my appalling photography skills. I also think that they captured the way rabbits move quite well in the stills. The ears at different angles, the way the paws are placed, etc. In the other still below, Fiver is led by a vision to where his brother lies with a shot wound. I love the stylized version of the rabbit that leads Fiver. It sort of seems this spirit that could otherwise slip into Fiver. I guess it's also a representative of a lot of Stone Age-art, the rough edges, the representation of motion and the dark colour.

These images, the way they used colour and the way they portrayed the characters were simply amazing. Even before I could read I used to look at the picture and imagine the story around it. Imagine my surprise when the letters at the bottom started making sense and I found there was a story there. Although I love words and always take the saying 'a picture says more than a thousand words' with a pinch of salt, some images are great at capturing the imagination and adding something extra to the words. I've never read the novel, I am about to start, and the picture book only adds a couple of words to each picture, outlining the major plot line. Therefore I cannot wait to start reading this book, only to see whether I'll develop the same kind of ties to it as I have to this picture book. I might have to steal it of my dad and kidnap it to university!

So, what do you think of the pictures? Do you have fond memories of any childhood book?

Review: 'Pushing the Limits' by Katie McGarry

Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits, #1)I hadn't planned on reading this book, but then I saw it was available on NetGalley and decided to give it a try. I liked the blurb and after liking 'Beautiful Disaster' so much, I figured I should put my prejudiced hesitations to the side and go for it. And I am so happy I did.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.
Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.
This book, like many new YA novels, uses the split point of view, which means that as a reader you are more aware of what happens than the characters. And it really worked in this novel. Echo and Noah both have a very interesting background and I loved the chance to explore both. I, for a personal reason, felt I could really connect to Echo. Her pain over her (lack of) memories is described beautifully. I had expected the stereotypical teenage wailing about heart-break, pain etc, but rather I got quotes like this:
"Her shoulders never shook. No tears streamed down her face. The worst type of crying wasn't the kind everyone could see--the wailing on street corners, the tearing at clothes. No, the worst kind happened when your soul wept and no matter what you did, there was no way to comfort it. A section withered and became a scar on the part of your soul that survived."
This, I believe, is the kind of pain everyone feels at least once in their life, over different kind of experiences and events. And although there are many novels out there that describe scarred people, yet I really felt that McGarry was able to put aside the romance and allow for the characters to be explored and developed. I also really liked that Noah was much more than the blurb makes him out to be. He can be emotional, he has something to fight for and a strong belief in family.

I am a Greek mythology fan and immediately picked up on Echo's name. Unawares, I had recently done a post on Echo and how she's presented by Ted Hughes. Thankfully here Echo is a much stronger character in 'Pushing the Limits'. The idea that she is a shadow of her former self and cannot speak for herself is definitely present at the beginning of the book. She seems to live her life for others and only slowly develops her own voice. Noah is also a nice opposite to Narcissus, who is much more present in Echo's ex. But the mythology flows throughout the entire book, as the quote below shows.
“We’d read about sirens in English this fall; Greek mythology bullshit about women so beautiful, their voices so enchanting, that men did anything for them. Turned out that mythology crap was real because every time I saw her, I lost my mind.” 
It's a beautiful description and I'm really happy to find this kind of description in a YA novel.

Although there is mythology in it, one of the reasons I liked this book is because I feel it is rather realistic, especially the high school setting. The social pressures of being popular or being accepted aren't described overly dramatic but very consciously. I have no experience with the foster system, but  I felt it was dealt with fairly. It's failures were highlighted without giving up hope on the entire scheme. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and give it...

4 UNIVERSES!!

Once I picked up this book I didn't put it down until the last word had been read. The characters come to life in a realistic way and stir true emotions from the reader in their struggles. McGarry masterly shows us two young people fighting against the world without falling into the cliches of modern YA novel. There is true character development which isn't obliterated by forced romance but the romance that is present feels all the stronger and true for it.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Friday, Friday!

Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee.
Gain New Blog FollowersWhat are you reading right now? How do you like it?

Yaay, I love this question! I finally got a new Kindle which means I have dreadfully neglected my family. I have read 'Pushing the Limits' (review will be up soon) which I really liked because I thought out of all the YA novels I've read so far, it seemed the most realistic.  I just really liked Echo and felt I could relate to her. I should probably really stop reading romances baout damaged people, but I find I can identify with them much easier and their happy endings are always so hopeful. I also read the first 3 'The Mortal Instruments' books. They're enjoyable, but I felt that things were seriously lacking in plot development, character development and context development. After 3 books, I really expected to know more about...everything really, not just Clary's feelings. I don't really like her either. I'm not going to review these.


Next to that I have started on some classics like 'On The Road' by Jack Kerouac, 'The Picture of Dorian Grey' by Oscar Wilde and 'If On a Winter's Night' by Italo Calvino. I am really enjoying all of them.

This week I am using 'On the Road' by Jack Kerouac for Book Beginnings (hosted by Rose City Reader) and Friday 56 (hosted by Freda's Voice).  I just started reading it and I quite like it. Hopefully I can finish it before someone forces me to go see the movie with them.
BB:

'I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up. I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead.'
That's some disease if it makes you feel everything is dead. Also, the linguist within me notes that the character mentions Dean  before his wife, which shows how important Dean will be in his life. I really need to get back to school.


F56:

'I fished up a dollar and moved into it. There were a bed, a stove, and a cracked mirror hanging from a pole; it was delightful. I had to stoop to get in, and when I did there was my baby and my baby boy.'
I love it that the character is happy despite living in a tent because he's got his 'baby and my baby boy' there. That's a really sweet description by the way.

So, how's you Friday shaping up? I'm going to the Athletics at the Paralympics tonight, so I'm buzzing!


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Review: 'Felice's Worlds' by Henry Massie


This review is part of the 'Pump Up Your Book' blog tour.
'First she escaped the Holocaust and the poverty of the Shtetl. After that, she moved in many worlds and in every one she made her mark.
Felice Massie was a student in France, caught up in the horrors of nazism when she was 20 years old. Cut off by the war from her family living in a small village in Poland, she shifted from one country to another, attempting to find a gome for herself and a means to rescue her parents, brother, and sister. As the Holocaust descended on her shtetl, she arrived penniless in America. Over times she raised a family and amassed one of the foremost collections of American modern art. Her boldness and resilience became a beacon of hope and inspiration for others. 
One of the things I enjoyed about this book were the way Massie described the setting, especially Palestine. I have always wanted to go to Jerusalem, because my parents met there, to Haifa and to Tel Aviv. And thanks to Massie I feel as if I was really have spent time walking around these old cities, could smell the different spices and hear the many different languages. Sometimes authors get lost in their own descriptions and they become too extensive and fantastical, but Massie is able to link it to events and let the descriptions flow easily as they would when you actually visited a place like Jerusalem. It makes a biography that chronicles an amazing life vivid rather than stuffy.
Book__Felice's_Worlds_1.png
I really enjoyed reading about Felice. Her character really reminded me of my aunt, both of whom somehow had this gift of inspiring people and simply experiencing life in the moment. In a way I think the book portrays a bygone world in which there was still trust in the promises others made and in their human integrity. Now, we often lack this trust because sometimes people are a lot rasher in their promises and in breaking them.
I was slightly skeptical taking on this book because biographies written by children often turn into either a work of admiration or a battleground of family issues, neither of which correlates to reality. Massie achieves in reaching the middle ground. He is able to portray his mother's character realistically, as far as I can tell, and not make an angel of her. Felice is at times full of herself, sometimes blind to the obvious truth all around her, but always open for experiences. She comes across as very likeable and it is fascinating to follow a character through one of the most exciting periods in human history.

Blog__Button__Pump_Up_Your_Book_Tour_Host.jpgNext to the time Felice spent in Palestine, I also enjoyed her time in America. It was fascinating to have an insight into the America of then, through the eyes of another European. The way it opened up to educated migrants yet still remained closed in many ways. Especially in this part of the book I felt that the main message shone through. Felice's life was largely influenced by how open she was to opportunities and how willing she was to move on and work. By reading her story, it becomes clear how much success is dependent on this kind of attitude, something that is at times lacking in our time and age where people expect opportunities to be created for and handed to them.

I give this book....

4 UNIVERSES!!!

This is a truly good book. As a biography, it still manages to tell a story rather than simply recount events. Henry Massie shows a true gift for describing atmosphere, transporting the reader to the streets of Jerusalem, Nancy and Vilnius alike. Felice's story is fascinating in its ability to awe and inspire and it is only right that it has been written down.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Teaser Tuesday: 'Where Angels Fear to Tread'

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. I chose this book because I am simply in love with the title of it and I quite like the author. I still haven't started reading it though which makes me slightly sad. Do you ever have that feeling when you see a book you have wanted to read and just haven't found the time? Almost as if you are neglecting one of your children! Anyways, here are two teasers from 'Where Angels Fear to Tread' by E.M. Forster.
Where Angels Fear to Tread (Forster novel) 1st edition cover.jpg
“He. Her. If you don’t look out he’ll murder you. I wish he would.”“Tut tut, tutlet! You’d find a corpse extraordinarily inconvenient.” Then he tried to be less aggravating. “I heartily dislike the fellow, but we know he didn’t murder her."
P.78
I decided this wasn't a spoiler because it says nothing about who's dead and who might have killed her. It does sound very interesting though and I can imagine a corpse would be very inconvenient.
'Naturally she was not greatly interested. She had not come from Sawston to guess why he had been to Poggibonsi. She answered politely that she had no idea, and returned to her mission.'

P.104
I love the idea of this woman just sitting there, waiting for the guy to finish with his babbling so she can continue with whatever she came for. You sometimes see that when you go to restaurants and you can see first dates failing, with the guy still talking about footbal and the girl just sitting there, wanting to get out of the restaurant and hang with her friends.


So, what are you teasing with this week?

Monday, 3 September 2012

'The Dragondain' has launched!

The Dragondain (Moon Realm, #2)The sequel to 'The Moon Coin' by Richard Due has launched early today and I am very excited. I loved the first one (here's my review) and the second promises to be just as good! Here's the Amazon summary:

It's the middle of the night, you need to send your brother to the Moon Realm, and he won’t wake up. So you improvise. . . .
When a confused Jasper awakes, he's convinced he's dreaming. But by the time he meets Greydor, Jasper understands that this is no dream. In fact, persuading the King of the Rinn to work with the men of Dain to defeat their common enemy is a nightmare. Then there’s the other side of the coin: convincing Tavin and Dubb that saddling a Rinn isn’t certain death. (“It’ll be fun!”) And perhaps even a greater worry: can he make friends with Dubb’s daughter Darce before she punches his lights out?
Lily has problems, too. There’s a little mousie scratching in her closet. Or at least, it sounds like a little mousie. Oh, and her second confrontation with Curse, and trying to form her first peerin. (Don’t you have to be from Dain to do that?) And where’s Ebb?
Only one thing is certain. Now that Lily and Jasper have entered the Moon Realm, nothing can ever be the same again.
The official launch page is over here: The Moon Realm. Hop over there too for a preview of two chapters! And of course, there are more beautiful drawings by Carolyn Arcabascio. Doesn't this sound like a great book?

Some more praise for 'The Moon Coin':

“The Moon Coin is a beautifully written fantasy novel, perfect for middle graders to pore over themselves or as a bedtime story for younger kids. The descriptions of everything, from Uncle Ebb’s electronic fish-bird hybrids to the fanciful creatures Lily meets in the Moon Realm, are so rich that the action instantly comes alive for the reader. The story’s tension builds slowly but the excitement is constant, with Lily asking the same questions puzzling the reader. The Moon Coin has all the elements of a great fantasy: a unique, complex world, a battle between good and evil, and creatures that are a mix of comical and terrifying.” — ForeWord Reviews


"So begins a beautifully descriptive, cleverly written, intricate story, full of adventure and captivating characters, who draw you into their very lives and worlds. The wider adult reading population will no doubt be entranced by the skill of the author, Richard Due. I just cannot believe that this maturity and skill with the written word comes from a debut author.” —Fiction Books