Lake District

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Lake District


Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

Recently Read

The Good Girl, Fiona Neill

I picked this up in Waterstones on a recent jaunt to the Trafford Centre after scanning through the 'Buy One Get One Half Price' tables and being drawn in by the blurb, which sounded very much like my cup of tea:

"The Field family have just moved from their London home to the wild Norfolk cost. Nine year old Ben's the first to realise that the reasons for the relocation don't quite add up; that the narrative of their family life is constantly being rewritten. 
But why? Just what is everyone hiding?  What is the cataclysmic secret that his mother, Ailsa, harbours from her past? Who is her devoted husband, Harry, receiving anonymous text messages from? Why have their gifted daughter Romy's A-level grades plummeted overnight? And once the truths come out, can the Fields ever go back to how they were?"

I've noticed that this one has received a lot of mixed reviews on Goodreads, but I personally couldn't put it down. The story revolves around one family throughout the course of a year, and is told from the perspective of mother, Ailsa and her seventeen year old daughter, Romy. I found the way in which the author explores the dynamics of the mother-daughter relationship very interesting, particularly since it's presented from two different points of view. It's kind of like a set of two psychological character studies but there was still plenty of excitement in the book to keep my interest the whole way through!

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer

This book had been cataloged somewhere in the back of my mind for years; really ever since my mum and sister going to see the film adaptation in the cinema and came home singing its praises. However, I always thought it might be too sad, and it wasn't until I was putting together a reading list in preparation for Game of Thrones filming (extra work involves an absolutely extraordinary amount of waiting around) that I decided to finally give it a go. The blurb is as follows:

"Entomologist, Francophile, letter writer, pacifist, natural historian, percussionist, romantic, Great Explorer, jeweller, detective, vegan, and collector of butterflies. When his father is killed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre, Oskar sets out to solve the mystery of a key he discovers in his father's closet. It is a search which leads him into the lives of strangers, through the five boroughs of New York, into history, to the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, and on an inward journey which brings him ever closer to some kind of peace."

Doubling as both the story of a young boy coming to terms with the death of his father as well as somewhat of a social commentary, it was a book I'm glad I read, and overall, I liked. Before I even picked it up I had fairly high expectations considering the fact that there are a lot of people who really love this book, and that it's sitting on a very strong rating of 3.98 stars on Goodreads. However, for me, it didn't quite live up to the hype.

It's hard to explain exactly what I didn't like about it but mostly I think I found the writing a little bit pretentious, particularly the way in which some of the characters and the relationships between them were portrayed. I just couldn't shake the feeling that the book was trying to be something it just wasn't, but I think that opinion definitely puts me in the minority. I'd say it's still very much worth a read.

What have you been reading recently?


Bookish Bucketlist 2016

It was actually exactly a year ago that I put together my 'Bookish Bucketlist 2015' after what was a pretty good year of reading for me. Since then I can report I actually haven't read a single book on that list, nor do I have much hope of completing my apparently rather optimistic Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2015- my excuse being that it's been a pretty busy year. Despite this, however, I've still decided to write up another for 2016 since I do believe it acts as a little bit of an incentive for me to get through these books at some stage. So, here we are again with a few of the books I would love to read in 2016 and beyond...

1. Tess of the d'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
2. Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
3. An Education - Lynn Barber
4. The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera
5. A Little Life - Hanya Yanagihara

6. Black Beauty - Anna Sewell
7. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Brontë
8. The Woodlanders - Thomas Hardy
9. The Virgin Suicides - Jeffrey Eugenides
10. Cartwheel - Jennifer DuBois

11. Breakfast at Tiffany's - Truman Capote
12. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
13. Love in the Time of Cholera -  Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
14. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov 
15. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

Hope you all had a brilliant Christmas!
What's on your reading bucketlist for 2016?


October/November Book Haul

I definitely have a bit of a problem when it comes to buying books. I can hardly even walk past a bookshop without having a little nosey inside, and at the moment working right beside a Waterstones isn't doing any favours for my bank balance either! Consequently, I've accumulated quite a few books over the past few weeks from here and there:

The Beautiful and Damned | F. Scott Fitzgerald

"The heir to his grandfather’s considerable fortune, Anthony Patch is led astray from the path to gainful employment by the temptations of the 1920s Jazz Age. His descent into dissolution and profligacy is accelerated by his marriage to the attractive but turbulent Gloria, and the couple soon discover the dangerous flip side of a life of glamour and debauchery."

I picked this up in Waterstones on my last visit to Lancaster. I love these Alma editions of Fitzgerald and have one of Tender is the Night so I just thought I may as well add another and maybe start a little collection?

The Wanderer: Elegies, Epics, Riddles | Michael Alexander

"Legends from the Ancient North brings together from Penguin Classics five of the key works behind Tolkien's fiction. They are startling, brutal, strange pieces of writing, with an elemental power brilliantly preserved in these translations...They are the most ancient narratives that exist from northern Europe and bring us as near as we will ever get to the origins of the magical landscape of Middle-earth (Midgard) which Tolkien remade in the 20th century."

I loved the cover of this book when I found it in a bookshop in Grasmere, and upon closer inspection it sounded incredibly cool! It's a collection of classic ancient and historic legends and tales, such as Beowolf and The Saga of the Volsungs, all of which are claimed to have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien when writing the Lord of the Rings. I've never really read anything like this before so I'm really looking forward to getting stuck in.

W.B. Yeats: Selected Poems

It's no secret that I'm completely obsessed with W.B. Yeats so I couldn't really say no to another collection of his poetry! This is a Penguin Modern Classics edition.

William Wordsworth | Poems selected by Seamus Heaney

Carlo and I spotted this little anthology, again while we were in Grasmere, and just thought that there would probably never be a more appropriate place to pick it up than in the Lake District. It's actually from the same series as my other Yeats anthology which also contains poems selected by Seamus Heaney so it's really nice to have them both!

Cider with Rosie | Laurie Lee

"'Cider with Rosie' is a wonderfully vivid memoir of childhood in a remote Cotswold village, a village before electricity or cars, a timeless place on the verge of change. Growing up amongst the fields and woods and characters of the place, Laurie Lee depicts a world that is both immediate and real and belongs to a now-distant past."

I've very nearly finished this book having bought it in Ambleside and already I can safely say it is, or at least will be, one of my favourite books of all time. It's so full of beautiful sensory imagery it's like an experience in itself!

The Unbearable Lightness of Being | Milan Kundera

"Milan Kundera tells the story of a young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing and one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover." 

I read most of this after having had it recommended to me when I was sixteen. At the time I made a pretty good go of it and I remember enjoying it too, however, it's quite a heavy, philosophical read and I feel like a lot of what's contained in there was completely lost on me back then, so I'm keen to give it another go now that I'm a bit older and hopefully get a bit more out of it! 

Tess of the D'Urbevilles | Thomas Hardy

"When Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D'Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting her 'cousin' Alec proves to be her downfall. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer her love and salvation, but Tess must choose whether to reveal her past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future."

I'm on to another of Hardy's classic works after having enjoyed 'Far From the Madding Crowd' so much. I'm about a quarter of the way through now and I'm loving every minute!

The Small Hand | Susan Hill

"Returning home from a client visit late one evening, Adam Snow takes a wrong turn and stumbles across the derelict old White House. Compelled by curiosity he decides to enter, only to be repelled when he feels the unmistakeable sensation of a small hand creeping onto his own. This is just the beginning of a series of odd experiences."

I got this in the run-up to Halloween and still haven't got around to reading it! 'The Small Hand' is by the same author who penned the Woman in Black, one of my favourite scary films and I really enjoyed another of her stories, Printer's Devil Court when I read it last year so I'm looking forward to getting into this spooky read soon!

The Shock of the Fall | Nathan Filer

"The Shock of the Fall is an extraordinary portrait of one man’s descent into mental illness. It is a brave and groundbreaking novel from one of the most exciting new voices in fiction."

I'd heard an awful lot about this book- a friend's housemate actually wrote her dissertation on it- before I decided I'd give it a read, I've now finished it and I did really enjoy it. It was both fascinating and heartbreaking and I'd recommend to anyone who enjoys character study-type books, particularly if you have an interest in psychology. It's also currently included in Waterstone's Books for Syria campaign in which all the proceeds from the books sold go to Oxfam's Syria crisis appeal, so all the more reason to give it a go!

What books have you been reading recently?

Recently Read

I realised recently that it's been absolutely aaages since I did a book post!! I suppose it's just been down to the fact I haven't had as much time for reading in the last few months so I'm not really getting through books the same way I was this time last year, which is a shame. Thankfully my life is starting to get a little less busy now with my Year Abroad paperwork all done and university (albeit in Spain) back in full swing, so I'm looking forward to having a lot more reading time.

Would you believe I only managed to conquer two books this summer, one of which I absolutely loved; the other, not so much...

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

She was of the stuff of which great men's mothers are made. She was indispensable to high generation, feared at tea-parties, hated in shops, and loved at crises. 

As I've mentioned on my blog before, this was the first Thomas Hardy novel I've ever read and I completely adored it. The novel tells the tale of Bathsheba Everdene, a beautiful and spirited young woman who inherits a farm and small fortune from her uncle following his death. Soon after arriving in the town of Weatherby, where she has gone to assume her place as the estate's sole proprietor, she attracts the attention of three men of very different stature who all set about trying to pursue her.

I think the thing I love most about classic British literature is the way it allows you to escape to a different time and place. I'm sure everyone knows by now that I am absolutely mad about the British countryside, so the county of Wessex that Hardy describes, full of sweeping green hills, forests, and ocean, really appealed to the anglophile in me. His engaging use of sensory description also really allowed me to picture every shifting and varied rural scene in incredible detail, which I loved.

Bathsheba herself has taken a firm place among my favourite literary characters of all time. Despite an unflappable exterior (and a pretty face), she is infinitely flawed; as are all of the characters in this book. However, it was these flaws in part that endeared me to her. Watching her battle to overcome the hurdles of her position not only as a female landowner, but a very young one (I think she's around 20 years old at the beginning of the novel), was as fascinating a story as any romance in this book and she is definitely a force to be reckoned with if there ever was one.

I know English classics are not to everyone's taste, but if you've ever thought you might like to give some classic literature a go, I feel like this book is a good place to start, especially if you need a bit of an escape. Rating: 

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

People say children from broken homes have it hard, but the children of charmed marriages have their own particular challenges.
I finally got around to reading 'Gone Girl' after featuring it in my December/January Book and Poetry Haul, so I think it goes without saying that it wasn't particularly far up my reading list. 

For those who may be unfamiliar with the plot of 'Gone Girl', it's the story of a couple who from the outside appear to have the perfect marriage. Nick is a handsome and charismatic young writer and Amy, his beautiful and captivating wife, has long been known and loved by the public as the subject of a popular series of children's books, 'Amazing Amy'. However, when Amy mysteriously disappears on their fifth wedding anniversary- apparently the victim of a kidnapping or worse; murder- the subsequent police investigation brings the true cracks in Nick and Amy's marriage to light, with all evidence from Amy's disappearance pointing in Nick's direction.

Obviously there's been a huge amount of hype surrounding this book, especially with all the buzz the movie adaptation created last year, but I have to say, I just wasn't a fan of it. I didn't find it to be a pleasant or particularly engaging read in any way, and I definitely would not describe it as "addictive" as the front cover so claims. It's a thriller, and I suppose thrillers will always sell well, and I will admit I did keep reading on to find out how the Amy mystery would unfold, but by the end I was left feeling vaguely dissatisfied with a bad taste in my mouth.

I've heard this book being criticised over and over again by people who claim their main issue with the book is that none of the characters are particularly likeable, and I definitely agree, though in Flynn's defence, I don't think they were ever meant to be. In any case, the fact that so many of the characters were so horrible just didn't make for an enjoyable read for me, nor did the fact that the plotline just kept getting more and more ridiculous and the characters more and more like garish caricatures and genre clichés as the story went on.

That being said, I thought the writing itself was good and a lot of the imagery was very original but I just found some parts of the book so, so vulgar and crude. I feel like there's a fine line between trying to create dramatic impact and just trying to elicit a cheap shock out of your readers for the sake of it, and I don't feel like Gillian Flynn really knows the difference. In any case, for me it took away from the novel rather than added to it.

I'm really sorry to any diehard 'Gone Girl' fans who might be reading this, maybe it just wasn't to my taste, and I definitely didn't hate it, but I don't think I'll be in a rush to reread it any time soon! Rating: 

Again, I hope I haven't offended anyone with that kind of harsh review. In fairness, 'Far from the Madding Crowd' was always going to be a difficult book to follow because I just loved it so much!

What have you been reading recently?

Recently Read

It's been a long time since I've done one of these! Since I got my Kindle in October the number of physical books I've been reading has decreased more drastically than I would care to admit- which also means no pretty physical covers to photograph, and I'm not 100% OK with that... It's a shame and of course, I still much prefer real books but the appeal of the eBook with its much cheaper, instant download is often all too much to bear, especially being the poor student that I am. At the moment I also find myself having to save the very limited shelf space I have for my more attractive editions and copies of books I have really enjoyed. So basically, in terms of my relationship with my Kindle, I almost feel like a bit of an addict in denial... and I appreciate that's probably what I sound like too. It's so wrong, but it feels so right, you know? No hate.

Anyway, in the time since my last monthly reading roundup around September/October time I've read quite a few books, but I think I'm only going to chat here about a few that I feel are worth mentioning, either because I loved/strongly disliked them or because they're quite popular at the minute and I'd sort of like to contribute my thoughts into the mix. 

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
Melanie is a little girl who loves nothing more than lessons with her favourite teacher, Miss Justineau, and gets up and ready for school each morning just like any other child. Except she's not just like any other child. Instead, Melanie is confined to a cell and each morning is strapped tightly into a wheelchair, a gun pointed to her head, before being wheeled into the classroom for another day of learning about an outside world that she has never known for herself.

I don't think I'll say much more than that as I feel like this is the sort of book where the less you know about it to start with, the better. What I will say though was that it really was an excellent read. M.R. Carey here has created such an inspired, elaborate post-apocalyptic world in this suspenseful novel that grips you right from the beginning. There is quite a lot of gore in this book, so if you're particularly squeamish I'd bear that in mind, however, at the same time, while it does sort of belong somewhere in the thriller/horror genre I feel like the story and characters will appeal to people right across the board, particularly the protagonist, Melanie who really is an absolute darlin'.
Rating: «««««

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
In 1686, 18-year-old Nella Oortman leaves her family and rural town behind to marry a wealthy merchant, Johannes Brandt and begin a new life with him in his Amsterdam home. It soon transpires, however, that married life is not all that she had imagined. Her husband, when he is not away on business, is distant and disinterested, making Nella doubt her decision to move away from her childhood home. However, it's not long before she finds some salvation in the the form of tiny pieces sent to her by a mysterious city craftsman that seem to reveal to Nella the secrets of her strange new household.

I was keen to read 'The Miniaturist', it being a number one best-seller and all. However, in the end I was little disappointed with it. That being said, I know there were a lot of people who really enjoyed it so perhaps it just wasn't to my taste. I just didn't really feel much sympathy for, or connection to any of the characters and the plot, for me, was a bit thin. I thought the premise sounded really good but in the end I just didn't feel like it really delivered.

Rating: ««

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
This book revolves around the experiences of a man called Harry August, a member of an elusive strand of the human race who call themselves Kalachakra. These are basically men and women who when they die, return to the place they first began and live the same life over and over again, retaining all the memories of the lives they've lived before. 

I wish I could explain the story a little bit better here but in truth the plot and the concept is quite complex so I feel like I'd just end up tripping over myself!

I found this book a bit of a challenge if I'm honest. At the beginning I was fascinated by the whole idea of this sort of "rebirth" as its portrayed here and the whole book really made me think a lot about life and the fact that while all these Kalachakra have unlimited opportunities to make the most of their time on earth, I don't. It's kind of depressing in a way but I feel like I could use a reminder like that more often. However, once I got over the initial thrill of the concept itself I felt the story really start to slow down and then just became more and more laborious to the point where I really had to push myself to finish it. It's quite science-heavy in parts which I feel like was part of the problem because that sort of thing just doesn't really interest me, plus, most of it also ended up going straight over my head. I think in retrospect though, it was still a clever and thought-provoking read.
Rating: «««

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins 
Rachel gets the same commuter train to work every morning which stops at a signal in the same spot each day allowing her to look into a house that backs onto the tracks and into the lives of its young occupants. She creates a world for these people in her head, imaging every aspect of their perfect personal lives. However, all her illusions are soon shattered when she witnesses a shocking event that brings their lives into collision with her own.

I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with this book when I read it. I really enjoyed it the whole way through but at the same time I found it so heavy and depressing so it was a bit of a challenge to get through. By the time I came to the end of this book though, I was glad that I'd persevered. It's a really gripping, entertaining thriller, probably one of the best I've read in this genre and I would certainly recommend it.
Rating: ««««

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My Bedside Book List | National Readathon Day with Casper

I've got yet another book-related post today, I feel like I've been doing a lot of these recently but this time I feel it's more than appropriate coming up to the first ever National Readathon Day in the US which is this Saturday, the 24th January. So I suppose this is post is particularly for the benefit of any American readers but I'm very happy to use any excuse to spend the day reading!

In case you aren't sure, National Readathon Day is a movement started up by Penguin Random House, Goodreads, Mashable and the National Book Foundation in a bid to tackle low literacy rates in the US and encourage a love for reading across the country- a very worthy cause in my opinion! To take part, you can join the National Readathon Day FirstGiving page where you can ask friends or family to donate. Then, on Saturday your goal is to read for four whole hours from 12pm to 4pm in whatever time zone you happen to be in. If you're in the US or Canada, there are also a number of different venues across North America holding Readathon events too. If you want a little bit more info on the ins and outs of Saturday's Readathon, there's a much more comprehensive guide on the Penguin Random House website

To celebrate National Readathon Day, Casper, a New York-based memory foam mattress company are asking readers to share some of the books that are on their nightstands which I thought was a fab idea! They offer free shipping and a 100 night trial period of American-made mattresses and like me, their two favourite things are a comfy bed and a good book!
Anyway, without further ado, the books that are currently on my nightstand:

1//A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks
This is a book my friend, Hilary lent to me a couple of weeks ago which is currently at the top of my night-time reading list. It's actually a series of five short stories which basically all explore different people's lives and their search for meaning and connection. I've just finished the first story in the series and absolutely loved it so I'm really looking forward to reading the rest! 

2//The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I just started this last night and I am absolutely addicted. I think I came across it on Goodreads new releases shortly before it came out, which was only this past week, so I've had my eye on it for a little while. I've heard critics describe it as "the new 'Gone Girl'" and even though I still haven't read 'Gone Girl', I can imagine this book being just as good, if not better, if what I've heard is anything to go by. The story basically begins with a woman who gets the same commuter train to work every morning, one which stops at a signal each day allowing her to watch a young couple going about their daily business in their house backing onto the tracks. Over time she invents a whole life for this couple in her mind, imagining in elaborate detail, every aspect of their lives, until one day she witnesses one shocking event that changes everything. 

3//The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
I think I started this book around New Year and at the start I really liked it, I thought it was really engaging. Basically it's about a man, Harry August, whose mind, after every time he dies, returns back to the start of his life and he continues to live it over and over again. Soon he finds that there are others of his kind who exist within a secret organisation called the Cronus Club. However, I'm about halfway through now and the plot, for me, is beginning to get a little tedious. Nothing much has happened at all over the last several chapters which is quite frustrating as well but I'm just going to keep reading and see what I think of it by the end.

4//Emma by Jane Austen 
Ok, so I've been reading 'Emma' for an embarrassing length of time. I don't even know why, because it's not that I'm not enjoying it. I suppose it's one of those books that gets set aside any time I pick up a serious page-turner. I am really loving this book so far though, I think Emma is a great character. She sort of epitomises "everywoman" in a way and there have been lots of times when I've actually laughed out loud at this book. I'm really looking forward to reading some more of Austen after I eventually finish this.

What books are on your bedside table at the moment?

A January Instagram Diary | 10% off Waterstones online

1. Cocktail night with my bestie/former housemate, Sam.// 2. That time it snowed for about 30 seconds in Lancaster// 3. My wise words of the week// 4. Cos it's cool to be cosy// 5. Apparently 12th January was National Kiss a Ginger Day. Isn't that fun.// 6. Fab book of short stories I'm currently making my way through.// 7. Cake for breakfast!// 8. I have really hot friends.// 9. From when Buddha used to always get stuck down the back of my bed in my old uni room.

I've been back at uni now for a couple of weeks and so far it's been pretty chilled. My uni hours per week have basically halved this term so now after finishing off the coursework I had due, I've had a lot of free time on my hands which is great, though I'm not sure I've been putting it to much good use so far. I've really just been sleeping a lot and eating and drinking my weight's worth in tea and cake from a coffee shop near my house, and of course, getting in some very long-awaited catchups with friends. 

My main priority for this term will be trying to find a placement for my year abroad in Spain which is a little bit stressful but exciting at the same time. I'm hoping to find an advertising internship somewhere, hopefully in the south of Spain around Seville- but beggars can't be choosers! It'll be nice to spend a bit of time in the sun next year. 

For all my fellow book lovers out there: are currently offering 10% off orders over £25 online at Waterstones! As far as I know you can use this code as many times as you like between now and the offer's expiration on 31st January 2015. So, if you're planning any serious book shopping in the next 11 days or so you can get a bit of a discount here.

A December/January Book and Poetry Haul

Firstly, apologies for the (relatively) long absence! I've just been finishing off some assignments I should have done over Christmas. You know, just the usual. Also, with these long winter nights/short days at the minute I keep forgetting to take photos early in the day while I can still take advantage of some natural light. Legitimate #bloggingstruggles right there.

Anyway, I'm back now with a little book haul. These are just a few books I've gotten recently either for Christmas or just from the other day when I had a little peek into Waterstones on my way around town and decided to treat myself.

W.B. Yeats with poems selected by Seamus Heaney
I've really been enjoying a good poetry anthology recently. It's no secret that I love Yeats, he's among my absolute favourite poets so I asked my mum if she'd get me this anthology for Christmas specifically because the collection had been selected by the late Seamus Heaney and I just feel like this combination couldn't actually get any better. I may have even shed a small tear at the sight of this.

John Keats with poems selected by Andrew Motion
I also asked for this lovely Keats anthology. I haven't read much Keats in the past but I saw 'Bright Star' earlier this year and just fell in love with the film and the story and so have since resolved to read some more of his work. 

'Poems to Learn by Heart' edited by Ana Sampson
Ok so, this is a really nerdy fact about me but I started learning poems off by heart at quite a young age. I'm not really sure why I started, I just remember having to do a comprehension in English class on 'The Lady of Shalott' by Tennyson when I was about 9 or 10 and loving the poem so much I just decided to learn it by heart. Then, throughout my last years of primary school we had handwriting classes where we'd practise by writing out poetry- cue my very first introduction to Yeats through 'The Lake Isle of Innisfree'- and I started learning those off too and since then it's just something I've kept doing. It's strange but I find it really relaxing and it's also been a helpful practice for me especially during times when I've suffered from bad anxiety since it really takes your mind elsewhere. 

Anyway, I spied this anthology, 'Poems to Learn by Heart' and just couldn't not get it. It's separated into chapters by subject matter, which is everything from magic to love to war. I'm yet to have a proper look at it but I'm very much looking forward to having some time off where I can really spend some time looking through. (I've just had a quick look and 'The Lady of Shalott' is in there- this is fate, pretty much).

'The Girl with All the Gifts' by M.R. Carey
Finally, after receiving so many recommendations, I decided to pick up 'The Girl with All the Gifts' by M.R. Carey and 'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn. I actually already have 'The Girl with All the Gifts' on my Kindle, but recently I've really been feeling like there's nothing quite like an actual real, physical book. Don't get me wrong, I love my Kindle (especially because e-books are so much cheaper!) but it's just not the same. I just find it so satisfying when you're really getting through a book and you can see the bulk of it getting thinner as you go along. Kindles almost make reading quite laborious in that sense because you're just sort of continually flicking through this endless wordy abyss. And besides, I've pledged to read the printed word!

'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn
I know I'm a little late on the bandwagon with 'Gone Girl'. To be honest I wasn't actually planning on ever reading it just because, despite the hype, I just didn't really think it sounded like my kind of thing. However my friend, Hilary assures me it's an excellent read so I thought I'd finally give it a go.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

Book Review | All the Beggars Riding by Lucy Caldwell

Lara and her younger brother, Alfie, living in London during the 7os and 80s, are used to their father's absence. As a Northern Irish plastic surgeon, he spends most of his time in Belfast attending to bomb victims of the Troubles and only coming back to work at a Harley Street clinic and to his family in London every other weekend.
However, When Lara is twelve he is killed in a helicopter crash and it is then the truth of his double life is revealed. He has another wife, another family, other children in Northern Ireland and Lara's mother is, in fact, his mistress.

I found this in Waterstones in a section of Irish authors and picked it up for my granny for Christmas because she's normally all over this sort of thing. However, the blurb intrigued me so much I ended up reading it on my Kindle myself.

This book was basically everything I expected- an insight into a painful and complicated family situation that transpires as the result of one man's selfishness and the effect it then has on his children, both at the time and in much later years, as an adult Lara struggles to make sense of her childhood and understand her father for the person he really was.

One thing I really liked about this book is that there was nothing at all pretentious about it. I think this was partly down to the fact that Lara, as the narrator, is portrayed as simply trying her hand at writing for the first time in order to get her family's story down on paper. Actually, Caldwell captured the character of Lara and all of the emotion of the story so well that I  had to check to make sure it wasn't an autobiographical novel, and it wasn't. The author's life is in fact world's away from her character's, Caldwell being both younger and a Cambridge graduate which I think really shows her skill as a writer.

However, there were times when I did find Lara's character as an adult a bit annoying, mostly for her tendency for self-deprecation and 'woe is me' attitude. Also, I will say this is quite a heavy read at times and for anyone who likes to see all (literary) conflicts resolved at the end of a book, you might find this one a little frustrating. Overall though it's definitely a worthwhile read. [Rating: «««]

Bookish Bucket List 2015

As 2014 comes to a close and this year's Goodreads challenge also comes to an end, I've been left to ponder the books I'm most excited to read in 2015. Some of these I've started already and hope to finish in the new year and others are books I've been wanting to read for absolutely ages. Either way, I think having them down on (virtual) paper will act as an incentive for me to really try and get through them all! So, without further ado, here's my bookish bucket list for 2015:

1. 'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Brontë 
2. 'Dracula' by Bram Stoker
3. 'Frankenstein' by Mary Shelley
Gothic fiction is one of my favourite classic genres so I thought it was high time I got my teeth stuck into these three.

4. 'The Luminaries' by Eleanor Catton 
5. 'Emma' by Jane Austen
Two books I started and never finished in 2014 but I'm still very keen to add them to my 'read' list!

6. 'Dubliners' by James Joyce
I recently read one of the stories contained in this collection - 'The Dead'- and absolutely loved it (you can read more about what I thought here!) so I'm really excited to read the rest.

7. 'The Screwtape Letters' by C.S. Lewis
8. 'A Grief Observed' by C.S. Lewis
It's no secret that C.S. Lewis is one of my all time favourite writers and thinkers. I started 'The Screwtape Letters' several years ago and never finished it- I think I was a bit too young at the time and it just went straight over my head- but I'd really like to give it another go. I've also been wanting to read 'A Grief Observed' for a while now. It was written following the death of Lewis's wife, Joy during a time when he really wrestled with the fundamentals of his Christian faith. Apparently it makes as a really interesting comparison to 'The Problem of Pain' as well. 

9. 'This Side of Paradise' by F. Scott Fitzgerald
10. 'The Beautiful and the Damned' by F. Scott Fitzgerald
After having loved 'Tender is the Night' so much this year, and of course being such a big fan of Gatsby I've decided that 2015 will be a year of Fitzgerald for me.

What's on the top of your reading list for 2015?

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300 Followers Giveaway | The Penguin English Library (Now Closed)

Hi guys! So, I am absolutely over the moon to be able to say that Alphabeth has just reached 300 followers!! I actually can't believe it, I almost feel like I finally have a proper "grown-up" blog now, if you know what I'm saying? Maybe not. But anyway, I just wanted to say thank you so much to everyone for all the love and support I've received over the last 6 months since I've been writing this blog. It's amazing to be part of such a positive and encouraging blogging community to the point where I can honestly say that starting Alphabeth has been one of the best decisions I've ever made, if only just because it's given me the chance to get to know so many of you!

Just to say a massive thank you for everything, I've decided to run my first ever giveaway, albeit just a lil mini one. Since I know there are a lot of you out there who share my enthusiasm for the gorgeous Penguin English Library books (Amanda and Jess, I'm looking at you!) so I thought it might be nice to give you the chance to win any one book of your choice from the entire collectionFor a full list of the 100 books available in the collection click here!

The rules: This is an international giveaway open to anyone who would like to enter (though you must be following me on Bloglovin') and will close on 12th November 2014. Follow the steps below on Rafflecopter to enter and remember to tweet a message to gain additional entries!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Read in September

This month I finished quite a good mix of fiction- bit of young adult here, bit of "chick lit" there, meshed in with a couple of classics too! I just want to say though before I go on to the breakdown of what I've read this month, there were a couple of these books that I really didn't like so I apologise for any ranting on my part and I've also realised that this post is really reeeally long so again, apologies! But without further ado:

'The Rosie Project' by Graeme Simsion
I've seen this described on Goodreads as "Sheldon (Big Bang Theory) in love," a comparison I would certainly agree with. The novel tells the story of one nerdy guy who devises a compatibility questionnaire with very specific criteria in order to find the perfect mate.
I have already written a review of this book here which will give you a better overview of my thoughts but long story short, I really enjoyed this book, it was very funny and played out somewhat like a romantic comedy. I believe this book started off life as a screenplay in fact, so that would explain why I've seen a few people describe it as "cinematic". The characters are also very likeable and it's just a real fun, easy read! 
Rating: «««

'Will Grayson, Will Grayson' by John Green & David Leuithan
For me this book was one serious disappointment. In fact, the plot was so thin I'm actually struggling to think of really what exactly this book was "about" so here's the blurb for you:

"One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical."

I was drawn to this book obviously because it was a John Green collaboration. I'd always been aware of it and when I set out to read another John Green novel, the blurb drew me in because it was so ambiguous- now of course, I understand why. 
For one, all of the main characters are like banal stereotypes; you've got your Will Grayson number 1, the typical "boy next door", then you've got his best friend, Tiny Cooper who is so stereotypically and outrageously "gay" it's ridiculous, followed by Will Grayson number 2, the dry, cynical "emo kid". Aside from that though, apart from one huge revelation a couple of chapters in, virtually nothing happens in this book. At all. I kept waiting, but whatever dramatic outcome I was anticipating, it never came.
Don't get me wrong, this book was okay, it was readable and there were a good few laughs in there but overall, I just didn't like it, especially the ending.
Rating: ««

'Tender is the Night' by F. Scott Fitzgerald
According to my instagram, this book took me a whole 10 weeks to finish (in my defence I was reading other books at the same time) but finish it I did, and aren't I glad. 
This is the story of the beautiful and mysterious Divers, an American ex-pat couple living in the French Riviera who at first glance appear to be a vision of glittering perfection. That is, until they encounter pretty, young up-and-coming Hollywood actress Rosemary Hoyt whose appearance, as well as causing irrevocable damage to the couple's fragile marriage, prompts details of a much darker past to come to light.

Many of us will already be well-acquainted with Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby', particularly with the movie having been released last year as well as its recent reappearance on the A Level syllabus for English literature. It is by far Fitzgerald's most famous work and as such it can be difficult to approach his other novels without feeling the need to compare. I say this for the benefit of those who will pick up this book expecting it to be anything like Gatsby, it's not, but it is by no means any less beautiful or profound.

I found this to be quite a slow and sometimes uncomfortable read. I say "uncomfortable" because I would describe this as being more of a psychological novel than anything else as in it's more of a study of the characters, but I certainly do not say it as a criticism. It reminded me a lot of "The Rainbow" by D.H. Lawrence actually in that, like Lawrence, Fitzgerald really dissects the various relationships in this book and examines the characters very deeply in terms of their virtue and integrity. As someone who tends to interpret things in black and white, the intricacies and complexity of these characters unsettled me. By the end I didn't know what to think or how to feel, it was as if they were their own entities that I would never be able to fully grasp or understand, I merely had to accept.

One thing I found really powerful about this book was also how much the plot paralleled events in Fitzgerald's life at the time. I don't want to elaborate too much as I don't want to give anything away but I will say that the Divers seem to be very much like a portrait of Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda. It's easy to see pieces of Fitzgerald in his own writing but this book in particular I feel speaks honestly from deep within the man himself.

This book absolutely consumed my thoughts for hours after I'd finished reading it and I think I may read it again just to get a better grasp of it. All in all I'd say it's a very poignant, thought-provoking read especially for anyone who enjoys character studies in books.

Then on my Kindle app I read:

The Dead by James Joyce
This is actually a short story taken from Joyce's 'Dubliners'. I read this after hearing it described as one of the best short stories ever written which I thought sounded promising, and in actual fact this turned out to be one of the most beautiful pieces of prose I've ever read. The story is similar to 'Tender is the Night' in being a study of the protagonist, Gabriel Conroy and takes place during the course of an evening, at a dance and dinner party hosted by Gabriel's two ageing aunts in the first week of January 1904. The main bulk of the narrative mainly examines Gabriel's social awkwardness and insecurity as well as his flawed since of self-entitlement, though the power of this story comes in its ending. I think that's all I'm going to say for now but I would highly recommend this little story, it's so beautifully written, there were parts of it that just made me melt.
Rating:  «««««

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
I got this on my Kindle app to read on my commute to work and unfortunately this was another book that I really really did not like. Basically it's about a boy who comes home one day to find he has received a box full of tapes recorded by a girl he knew from school who recently committed suicide. On each tape are reasons, thirteen to be precise, for why she decided to kill herself and he is one of the reasons.
I don't know whether it was the degree to which this novel plainly romanticised suicide or more how it seriously misrepresented mental illness/depression but damn, this seriously grated on me. I'd even go so far as to say it's actually irresponsible to write a book like this aimed at teenagers.

It has been suggested by psychologists in the past in response to the vast numbers of suicides by teenagers each year that young people may actually have some sort of "immortality complex" whereby their minds are not able to comprehend the finality of death and that once they're gone, they're really gone. If this is actually the case I can only imagine how this book could easily perpetuate this sort of mentality in young people, particularly in how although the girl, Hannah Baker, is already dead for the entirety of the book her presence through the tapes remains the focus, as if in some way she was still there. Not to mention the fact that her untimely death only seems to make her more beautiful and mysterious in the eyes of Clay Jenson, the boy who receives the tapes and who is also the book's narrator.

I also personally felt Hannah Baker came across manipulative and vindictive in carrying out such an elaborate act of revenge no matter how much it may or may not have been deserved. In my mind this element of the novel only sends out the message that committing suicide is an effective way of getting an emotional response out of people, that "they'll be sorry". No. Perhaps they would be sorry, but you certainly would not be around to see it.
There was also what I felt to be a really unnecessarily graphic scene near the end of the book that seriously creeped me out, especially due to the fact that this book was written by a middle-aged man and is aimed at teenage girls.

To finish, this book would be getting 0 stars if it wasn't for its one singular redeeming quality, in that it does present the effect that sexism and sexual harassment can have on young girls and what a serious issue this is in our society quite accurately. Overall though, I would not recommend.   

Are there any books you have really enjoyed (or really didn't enjoy) this month?

Book Review | The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Don Tillman, a university professor of genetics, has a plan for absolutely everything in his life. His days are mapped out, dictated by a strict schedule down to the very second. Unable to find the right woman for him (partially due to his incredibly lofty standards), Don devises the 'Wife Project', a questionnaire designed to find him the perfect girl... But then Don meets Rosie, spontaneous and impulsive, Rosie meets none of Don's essential criteria, yet Don finds himself swept up in her and her world, unable to understand the force which causes him to gravitate towards her.

I picked this book up after receiving a recommendation from someone I knew but I'd already heard about it through Goodreads, Amazon etc. and even the lady in Waterstones when I was buying it told me how brilliant it was, so I was very keen to give it a go. In truth this book as absolutely hysterical. The narrative and concept are very fresh and the book itself, all in all, is highly entertaining.

It's difficult to voice my reservations about this book without giving away spoilers but I will say that the fact that many of the jokes are at Don's expense has caused considerable controversy. Although this approach undoubtedly works to brilliant comic effect as intended, the ethics of this novel are a bit skew whiff and I've noticed from reading reviews that a number of people feel that it misrepresents a certain group within society. Normally I don't pay much heed to these sorts of claims (e.g. 'Eleanor and Park' has been accused of being racist?) but certainly I can imagine one of my friends in particular being offended by this book. For that reason, I'm reluctant to give this novel a sparkling review, although I did enjoy it. In summary, I would recommend with reservations.
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