Whimsical Reading – Family Relationships

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As I mentioned when I was talking about my aims and intentions for 2014, this year I’ll be continuing with my whimsical reading challenge, if you need a refresher of the rules, check out this page.  Today I thought I’d share some suggestions for the ‘Family Relationship’ category; there are tons you could pick, but here are a few I would recommend:

Mama Rose’s Turn by Carolyn Quinn

This fabulously written biography tells the story of Rose Thompson, the infamous stage mother of burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee and actress June Havoc. Rather than mulling over the already well publicized lives of her daughters, Quinn looks into the wild and controversial life of the woman who shaped their destiny.

Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

Most people say their favourite Dickens novel is Great Expectations, but this is mine. I’d never been that interested in reading his work before I was given this as a set text, but I have definitely been converted! Check out my review (link above) for more ramblings.

Council of Dads by Bruce Feiler

Feiler’s memoir documents his battle with an aggressive form of cancer, and the way he chooses to deal with it – by putting together a group of men to help raise his twin daughters after his death. I know I’m making it sound quite morbid, but it’s more of a celebration of all the men that have influenced his life.

The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke

This was one of my favourite books read in 2013. I first decided to read it when I start the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club challenge, and I’m so glad I did – I absolutely loved it. The story starts as Katie finds out that her sister has died while travelling of what appears to be a suicide. Overtaken by grief, she uproots her life and follows in Mia’s footsteps, with only her journal as a companion. It’s indescribably well written, hugely emotive so unbelievably worth reading.

Granny is my Wingman by Kayli Stollak

Granny is my Wingman is based on the blog of the same name, and tells the story of Kayli and her Grandmother’s experimentations with online dating. It’s a fun light-hearted read.

Mother’s Curse by Thaddeus Nowak

This is the first instalment in a fantasy series by Thaddeus Nowak, which follows the quest of Stephenie, a princess with a curse, attempting to flee her evil mother and find her brother. Throw in a lost city, a ghostly love story and a few big betrayals and you have a recipe for fantastical excellence. Enjoy!

There really are soo many you could pick for this category… what would you go for?

D x

 

Whimsical Reading – Geological Formation

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I have a confession to make… over the past few months I’ve been neglecting my whimsical reading challenge. Good job there’s no time limit, eh? To celebrate my renewed efforts I’ve made a button (above), so if you’re playing along feel free to grab it!

Today I wanted to share a few more whimsical reading suggestions, this time for the category of ‘geological formation’. If you’ve already picked your book for this category, or just have an idea that would work, leave me a comment below… but here are mine:

The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

I’ve got almost a full set of Alexandre Dumas novels sitting between my shelf and my Kindle library and I’ve never read a single one! I’ve adored all of the film adaptations though, so I’ve promised myself I’ll start reading them soon.

Island beneath the Sea – Isabel Allende

This is probably my favourite of all the books I’ve read this year, and by a new-to-me author too… I’m now in the throes of collecting all her other books!

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon – Grace Lin

Another book on my ‘to be read’ pile, described on GoodReads as ‘fantasy crossed with Chinese folklore’ it sounds like a nice light-hearted treat.

Island of the Sequined Love Nun – Christopher Moore

The premise of this book is utterly ridiculous but so much fun, if nothing else it has the best title ever!

Remember to leave me a link to any whimsical reading challenge posts and I’ll come check them out!

D x

Whimsical Reading – Birds

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We haven’t talked about it in a while, but I’m still plodding away at the whimsical reading challenge (for more info, click on the tab above)… and today I thought I’d share a few more reading suggestions with you, this time on the theme of ‘birds’.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This is one of those ‘must reads’ I’ve had on my shelf for a good long while… and my bestest friend in the whole wide world is always raving about it, so it’s inevitable I’ll get there one day!

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Number#5 in the Harry Potter series seems to get a bit of a slating… but I love it! It’s not my favourite (that honour goes to the Prisoner of Azkaban) but it is far, far superior to the last two… call me crazy but they were just disappointing!

The Wings of the Dove by Henry James

I’ve wanted to read this for years, ever since I saw the film adaptation starring Helena Bonham Carter (who I’ve always adored), I don’t really know why I haven’t got to it yet… especially considering I have a copy on my shelf and on my Kindle. I read another James novel this year, and I found it equally fabulous and frustrating, for my review of Portrait of a Lady click here.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

This is the final installment of the Hunger Games trilogy. I rarely fall in love with book that gets loads of hype, but I just had to make an exception here!

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

Every single charity shop I’ve walked into seems to have a copy on the shelves… and every single time I see it I think ‘hmm, I’d like to read that…’ – I love history, and Chinese history is something I really haven’t read a lot about… I just haven’t got to this one yet. Sometimes I think there aren’t enough years ahead of me to fit in all the books I’d like to read.

So have you picked your ‘bird’ book yet? Any recommendations?

D x

The Hunger Games

This trilogy satisfies three categories of the whimsical reading challenge… Toy or Game (The Hunger Games), Things You Don’t Like (Catching Fire) and Birds (Mockingjay).

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To to say that I enjoyed these books would be an understatement. It took me about three days to polish off the lot, and considering I’m out of the house about eleven hours a day that’s pretty speedy reading!

Experiencing the unexpected is key to your enjoyment of this trilogy, so I’m going to vague my review up because I really, really don’t want to ruin anything!

Basically, a dystopian world is divided into 12 districts and each year, these twelve districts donate two teenagers to a televised gaming event that combines Castaway and Gladiator (both the film and the ’90s TV show). The game ends when there’s only one survivor. That’s all I can tell you about the content, because I just need you to read it for yourself, and I’m trying not to give anything crucial away!

I’m not going to lie, when these first erupted onto all the bestseller lists I didn’t want to read them. I usually avoid reading the things that ‘everyone’ reads, because these books tend to be underwhelming. Also, YA is not really my genre of choice.

However, I would wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone who ever considers listening to me, you will not regret it!

Because I read the three books continuously, as though they were all one novel, it would be hard for me to pick out a favourite. I love the story, and the landscape that gets set up in The Hunger Games, but as I’d already seen the film I knew what was going to happen every step of the way. Catching Fire had more of the ‘shock factor’, and I really enjoyed that aspect. Mockingjay was good, but probably my least favourite because

a) it didn’t have the gradual build-up of the first two, it was more of a high-speed snowball rolling down a hill forgetting to explain itself properly and

b) it marked the beginning of the end… I was running out of Hunger Games books 😦

Possibly the best thing about reading these books was that I really didn’t expect to like them. They were given to me as a gift, so I gave them a try, and I’m so glad I did. Next time I won’t be so quick to judge a book just because of its genre.

Have you read anything recently that you didn’t expect to love so much?

D x

Whimsical Reading – Countries

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Today is the tenth day of Rosalilium’s BEDM challenge and the theme is travel dreams. If you remember, one of the topics of the reading challenge I’m hosting this year is books with a country in the title, so today I decided to share a few reading suggestions that feature countries I dream of travelling to:

Arabesque: a Taste of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon by Claudia Roden.

This is one of the cookery books I’ve downloaded onto my kindle and I can’t wait to have the time to experiment with some of the recipes! I’ve never been to Morocco, Turkey or Lebanon but I adore the food from all three; I spent the night of eighteenth birthday stuffing my face at a teensy Lebanese restaurant in Norwich. Sooo yummy!

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

TO READ. Another kindle purchase of mine. I’m in love with idea of travelling across America so what could be better than a book about travelling across America PLUS the author comes with Grandma’s stamp of approval.

My Life in France by Julia Child

TO READ. There’s something innately glamorous about France. I’ve been a couple of times and I’d love to go again soon. This book tells the story of the timeless Julia Child’s love affair with all things French, a must for anyone who adored Julie and Julia.

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert

Another three countries I’d love to explore someday. Apparently I went to Italy when I was three, but the only thing I remember is my mum trying to make me a cup of tea out of Typhoo tea granules. Ick. To see my review of Eat, Pray, Love click here.

5. Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa

TO READ. I want to read this both because it sounds good and because it has a gorgeous cover. In a nutshell it’s the coming of age story of a half Polish, half Cuban teenager living in America. Also, I’ve been dreaming of visiting Cuba for years… very possibly because it’s such a good Bond location!

6. The Bolter: Edwardian Heartbreak and High Society Scandal in Kenya by Frances Osborne

TO READ. The true story of Idina Sackville, written by her great granddaughter, it has all the ingredients of greatness; the 1920’s, decadence, Africa and scandal. Can’t wait to sink my teeth in!

So, have you come up with any other books with a country in the title? Don’t forget to leave me a link if you decide to take part in my little reading challenge!

D x

Whimsical Reading – Precious Stone

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Today I’m sharing a few more reading suggestions for the whimsical reading challenge, this time on the topic of ‘precious stone’:

1. The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

TO BE READ. One thing that I absolutely adore is a good period drama, and so I watched the film based on this book as soon as it came out. Despite the slightly not-nice characters, it had a really enjoyable story, so I acquired the book. It’s still sitting on my shelf waiting to be read, but I’ll get there one day!

2 . The Jewel Box by Anna Davis

To read my review of this book, click on the link above.

3. Diamonds are Forever by Ian Fleming

TO BE READ. Watching old James Bond movies is a secret guilty pleasure of mine… I love to curl up in the middle of winter with a giant packet of crisps and a bit of Sean Connery on the screen… and I have almost a full set of Bond novels (I think they may have come from my Grandma) but I’ve never read a single one. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever really read a single spy novel that wasn’t by Anthony Horowitz.

4. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

This is the third in the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy, and I would definitely recommend giving these a whirl. I didn’t actually read them in book form, I was given the audio books, but as far as I’m concerned it still counts. I loved them so much I think I listened to the CD’s continuously for about three months!

5. The Emerald City of Oz by Frank L. Baum

TO BE READ. Number six in the ‘Oz’ series, and again I have to admit that I’ve never read a single one! HOWEVER I have downloaded the whole lot onto my Kindle, and as I’ve wanted to read them for such a long time, I feel that they’ll become ‘bus books’ before too long.

Now, I’m off to make a cup of tea and crack open the custard creams, but if you can think of any more books with a precious stone in the title, leave me a comment below!

D x

TO BE READ.

March

This is the book I chose for the ‘month’ category of the whimsical reading challenge

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Even though in this case March actually refers to the surname of Meg, Beth, Jo and Amy. Yes, this book is based on the beloved Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, but instead of girly escapades Geraldine Brooks tells us the story of their absent father.

One of the things I truly loved about this book was the amount of historical detail. The American Civil War fascinates me, but growing up in the UK and Spain, my exposure was limited to books and films. Contextually she seems to have done an excellent job, you can really tell that a lot of research has gone into the weaving of this tapestry…

Except when it comes to the protagonist. Mr March is portrayed as a hippy in Unionist uniform, and I just didn’t find it convincing. I’m very surprised that this vegan, caffeine-free, non-smoking old man managed to survive any amount of direct combat. I think perhaps that 21st century ideals may have allowed to creep in a little too much here.

Although I’m not his biggest fan, I did enjoy his mismatched marriage. The narration is divided between both of their perspectives so we get insight into what both are thinking. It’s quite amusing to see how out of sync they are! March pretty much does everything he does just to impress his wife, and Marmee only endures everything he does out of womanly duty. I can’t help but wonder if there’d have been any novel at all if they had a functional relationship…

Because Brooks incorporates a series of flashbacks into the narrative, we see a lot of character development. She really does explain how and why each character came to be the way they are. This backstory to the March family provides additional context to Little Women, and depth to the character of the little women themselves, which made me think that these two novels could be read in conjunction with each other…

Until the UNTHINKABLE happened. Brooks gives a slightly revisionist account of certain key plot events which I just cannot condone. I, as much as anyone, understand the appeal of a happy ending, but any author who bases their work on a classic should not alter the integrity of the original. In other words, they can add to the story, but taking anything away is unforgivable.

In general I enjoyed the book, and I probably wouldn’t be so critical if I wasn’t such a diehard Alcott fan. But I think that’s the danger when you write anything based on something so well-loved!

D x

The Woman in White

This is the book I chose for the ‘colour‘ category of my whimsical reading challenge. It is also one of my set books for the Open University module I’m currently studying (AA316 – The nineteenth century novel), so I would have had to read it anyway.

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Let me start by saying this is a looong book; you have to be seriously dedicated to actually stick with it. Wilkie Collins was not a concise man, despite his apparent fascination with three word sentences.

The novel is formatted as a collection of ‘evidence’ (such as diaries, letters and witness testimonies) to lend some shadow of  ‘fact’ to a totally unreasonable plot. I’m sure the ‘sensation’ of this novel would have prompted a faint or two in Victorian Britain, but I was left wondering what all the fuss was about. Throughout the entire narrative I was promised a huge, outrageous climax (and that’s what made me keep reading!) but when it finally arrived it was a massive disappointment. Scandal obviously has a very different face nowadays.

I would describe The Woman in White as a novel of plot; Collins is far more concerned with showing a panoramic scene than investing in any character development, which meant it was a little bit challenging to bond with the characters. The diabolical villain, Count Fosco, was probably my favourite and that was probably because he just seemed the most interesting (as a non-British middle class delicacy). If a little sinister. I was expecting greater things from Marian Halcombe, our strong-willed heroine, but to be honest I found her a little bit insipid. She was one of those irritating women who were obviously created by a male, because all they do is talk about feminine inferiority. Not exactly what I’d call empowering. She was allowed to live though, which is quite uncommon for ‘rebellious’ women in Victorian literature.

Although reading the novel was pretty hard going, if you look at individual extracts there is some really beautiful writing involved. Not when he cracks out his dialects (which as you know is one of my pet hates), but whenever he’s working on generating suspense. The example that sticks out in my mind falls at the end of epoch 2, when Walter is faced with the veiled lady in the cemetery. This extract also illustrates the development of Gothic literature; Collins incorporates references and literary techniques to evoke a sense of the Gothic in a very domestic environment, establishing himself as a pioneer of his day.

I know I’ve been a little bit negative here, but I invested so much time in this one, that I wish I could have got a little more back… However, I’m still glad I stuck with it, even if I probably won’t read it again.

I hate reading books I’m ambivalent about, they spawn my worst reviews.

D x

P.S. Have you read a book for ‘colour’ yet? Leave a link below!

 

 

 

 

Whimsical Reading – Feelings

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My reading frenzy seems to have halted slightly- I’ve only finished one book in the past week or so (what’s that about?!).

Here are a few more reading suggestions I’ve come up with for the ‘feeling’ category of the whimsical reading challenge:

1. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Check out my review by clicking the link above.

2. Your Sad Eyes and Unforgettable Mouth by Edeet Ravel

TO BE READ. This book revolves around the friendship cultivated between two girls who are children of Holocaust survivors. My intuition is telling me not to expect rainbows and kittens with this one, but hopefully the writing itself will make up for this.

3. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

I know this is somewhat of a ‘classic’ but I really did find it quite underwhelming. I’d recommend the Tim Burton flick in an instant, but that may be because it’s a completely different story.

4. Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

TO BE READ. Why do I want to read this, I hear you ask? Because it sounds like epic literature, or because the movie trailer features a really great Fleetwood Mac cover? I’ll leave that to your powers of deduction.

5. Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

(Translated: Hello Sadness). This is so teeny that I suggest (and by suggest I mean demand) you fit it into your life at some point. It’s melancholic, it’s decadent, it’s French and it’s morally ambiguous… in other words, a Gatsbyan treat!

Have you come up with any ideas for books with a ‘feeling’ in the title? Feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments below! If you feel like joining in with my little reading challenge, send me a message (in a comment or email, whichever you prefer) and I’ll hop over and follow you.

D x

Island Beneath the Sea

This is the book I chose for the ‘geological formation’ category of the whimsical reading challenge.

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Island Beneath the Sea, by Isabel Allende, tells the story of Tete a young slave girl, and the stories of those who impact her life.  Set predominantly in Santo Domingo and Louisiana, the decadence and grit of Allende’s descriptions ooze tropical heat and drag you kicking and screaming into a world of sickening wealth and hideous poverty. The is no Gone With the Wind style romanticism; the planters and the slaves are pretty much as cruel as each other.

There are a number of key themes present in the novel that are interwoven to create an addictive, epic, narrative.

1. Family:

The family unit is very fluid in this novel, and needless to say, very dysfunctional. Obviously this was a different time, so we cannot judge the actions or morals of others by today’s standards but wow. We may be privy to a few snapshots of familial hell, but there are also some really hopeful images of profound love. This love may have been encountered as a result of unfortunate circumstances, but it endures nonetheless. I’m finding it really hard to describe what I mean without giving away any of the plot twists, so I think you’ll just have to read it!

2. Faith:

One thing I really enjoyed about this novel is that it really isn’t didactic in the slightest. There is no moralistic Christian thread running through each chapter, judging everything and everyone. A number of belief systems play a part, ranging from Catholicism to Atheism to Voodoo but the most significant thing I took from this is the mutual respect of the differing worshippers. That is something I find pretty rare, usually we see one dominant religion trying to squish the rest but in Island Beneath the Sea we see Voodoo practitioners turning to a Catholic priest, an Atheist praying for salvation, a Catholic madwoman haunted by Voodoo spirits and a Christian doctor taking lessons from a Voodoo High Priestess. I think that by weaving in all of these unexpected relationships Allende has created not just a setting for a novel, but a real world of ‘grey area’ and blurred lines.

3. Discrimination:

Despite the apparent religious tolerance mentioned previously, this is not a novel of acceptance. Discrimination creeps into the novel on almost every page, whether it be a result of gender, financial status or the very complex caste system; in Island Beneath the Sea there isn’t just black, white and mixed race… there are countless shades (and nationalities) in between that all mean something different.

Looking back, I’m not sure I would call this a ‘nice’ book, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is probably the best book I’ve read in a good long while, and I hope you will give it a chance. I for one will be hunting down every other novel written by Isabel Allende because this one truly did blow me away.

D x