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Sunday 29 March 2009

Beautiful Heart Blog Award

I was blessed to have received this award from a favorite blog of mine, J-Kaye's book blog. I am happy enough to know that someone like J-Kaye actually take the time to read my blog let alone award me with such an award. Thank you J-Kaye!!! Furthermore I just wanted to let J-Kaye know that if I could send the award back to her I would as she's definitely got a "Beautiful Heart" and certainly deserves the award a few times over.

I would also like to pass the award onto:-

Sunday 22 March 2009

Thanks for the Memories by Cecilia Ahern

Review:- Joyce Conway awakes at the hospital. She has had an accident, she tripped on her stairs and she's lost her baby, the one she has been trying for, for the last ten years. She wants to start a new life and she decides to separate from her husband and moves in with her father, Henry. 

Justin is a recently divorced Professor who has moved to London to be with his daughter. He's also a guest speaker at St Trinity College at Dublin. Whilst at St Trinity he is forced to donate blood by an attractive Doctor. 

Justin and Joyce's lives collide before they meet. Joyce receives the blood that Justin donates. On the way home from the hospital Joyce and Justin meets at a hair salon as they were both feeling the urge to get a haircut. When they meet they feel a force drawing them together and they feel like they've known each other all their lives despite never having met. They leave and go their separate ways.

Then Joyce starts remembering memories that aren't hers, she also starts doing things unlike her eg. eating meat when she's a vegetarian. She also starts speaking languages she never knew how to speak eg. Latin, French and knows about things that she has previously not known about eg. historical buildings and architecture and art. Joyce tries to solve this mystery.

This book is a light and enjoyable read. It's one of those frustrating books though because they keep meeting and missing each other, one of those so close and yet so far kind of situation. However, through the book I sometimes found it a bit slow going, which I've never found with Ahern's previous books. Also whilst the ending is a happy ending, I was unhappy that they didn't put say another chapter to say what they ended up doing together, but I suppose that's what most book endings are like so I can't really complain. Apart from that, like I said, it's a typical Ahern book which is a sweet love story with a bit of magic thrown in. Anyone that has read other Ahern books would love this one as well. 

So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld

Synopsis:- Hunter is a "cool hunter" he seeks for all things "cool". He meets Jen who is an Innovator, those that come up with the cool ideas all by themselves, she has invented her own shoe laces which are the coolest shoe laces Hunter has ever seen. Hunter invites Jen to his workplace and Jen contributes to the discussion. Hunter's boss, Mandy ends up inviting Hunter and Jen to a job and upon arrival at the meeting point they find Mandy's phone but Mandy was nowhere to be found. The story is their search for Mandy and the conspiracy that's within consumerism.

Review:- This book is strange. The main plot of the story wasn't something exciting and a lot of it can visibly be viewed as totally made up, but having said that, Westerfeld, being such a great writer has still got you turning the pages. He keeps you interested in the characters and the story despite the plot being a bit "meh". 

So this is a short review, the plot was not good but his writing excels and keeps you somehow interested. 

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle

Review:- This is a story about an Irish 10 year old living in fictitious Barrytown in 1968. This book is written in first person and the format is similar to that of a manuscript from a taped interview with a child, one that allows the child to speak of his life openly and without limitations. Roddy Doyle captures the format of a child's thinking and speaking beautifully in his writing, the lack of pauses at times and the chop and change of stories according to what he remembers and decides to stem to from the current topic he is speaking about is so realistic. The book at times lacks cohesion and fluidity but I think that's his technique of making it seem child-like and it succeeds in this aspect.

Majority of this book consists of Paddy speaking of his daily activities with his friends and brother Francis (Sinbad). It's so entertaining to hear of all their activities, even their dialogue is captured by Doyle perfectly. Whilst many reviews love the book simply because they were able to relate to the things the boys did, I liked it because it was so different to my childhood and even more different to the childhood nowadays, but despite the differing in activities there is still the same underlying thoughts, fears, issues and child underneath all that.

Through the book his parents start having fights at night and Paddy sees himself as the unknown referee as his parent's are unaware that he hears these fights. He takes it on himself to stop these fights, unbeknown to him that it's actually not in his control. This also causes Paddy to mature and want to reach out to his brother, his only ally and the only one that knows what he's going through, but Sinbad doesn't know how to react to Paddy's change.

This was difficult read for me due to writing technique and the lack of cohesion and plot, but ultimately Doyle succeeded in his goal of capturing the true child, and he did do that, it just wasn't for me. It was too slow for me and it just didn't go anywhere, no particular plot and whilst the end was sad that was it. However, I do see the brilliance in his writing and hence can understand why it has won the Booker Prize, but it's just not for me. I've been told though that other Doyle books are terrific, so maybe I'll give another one a go.

Monday 16 March 2009

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Review:- During world war 2 a little girl and her brother are being escorted by their Mother to Himmel Street where they've been adopted by an older couple, Rosa and Hans Hubermann. On the train trip there the little boy dies and Death comes for him and notices the little girl...this is her story, narrated by Death.

The little girl, Liesel Meminger, on the day of her Brother's funeral finds a book "A Gravedigger's Guide" and steals it as a remembrance of her brother's death a tangible item of remembrance and hence the title "The Book Thief". 

This story tells of Liesel Meminger's life as she arrives at Himmel Street, as she is taught by Papa (Hans) to read her guide book, as she befriends Rudy Steiner who paints himself black to be like his idol, Jesse Owens an African-American Olympic champion, she befriends, fights and steals from the Mayor's wife, as she meets Max and befriends him and have the happiest time of her life with all four of them under one roof, up to the time that she was the only one left standing on Himmel Street, alone.

This novel is quite long but it's not a tedious read so persevere. Despite it's length it is a very entertaining and heart wrenching book filled with a mixture of laughter, joy, heart ache and tears. It also taught me many things about the war. 

To be honest I do not know what else or how else to tell people about this book, it's brilliancy simply cannot be put into words. Hence, all I can say is that it's a must read for all and one that you are unlikely to ever forget once you've read it. Each part/chapter consisted of memorable story that added to the plot, I didn't feel that any parts of this book was a pointless tale, all contributed to the overall story. This is a beautiful book that all would appreciate. I do not normally read war books nor even have interest in war and I fell in love with this book. I personally think it should be written up to be a "classic" that's how good it was. 

Sunday 15 March 2009

Bride Stripped Bare by Anon

Review:- A Mother produces a manuscript apparently written by her Daughter, a Daughter that has recently disappeared, the manuscript is "The Bride Stripped Bare". This is a very gripping introduction that had me thinking from the start if this is actually true, not so much the novel but if the Anonymous writer had in fact gone missing. This grabs readers immediately and the attention doesn't diminish either.

This book is very creatively and uniquely written, I had never come across a similar writing technique. It's written in second person which invites the readers to participate and/or become the narrator of the book, it makes you think that this is "your" story.

"You" are a recently married London housewife. On the wake of your honeymoon you hear your husband, Cole having a disturbing conversation with your lifelong bestfriend Theo about you! You assume that they are having an affair and in anger and fear you seek out your independence. You have come across a manuscript by an Elizabethan in which she writes witty and confidential secret desires of women of that era, you decide that you too should do something of the kind.

At a coffee shop, away from home and the life that you know, you meet a younger man, a virgin, Gabriel. You decide that he will be the perfect student and tool for your secret fantasies and desires and you start "lessons" to teach him how to satisfy you sexually. Things are good, he is quickly learning but soon he wants more, he wrecks things, this is meant to be a second life, nothing more. It's not meant to replace your actual life, home, marriage, the usual things in life. Gabriel falls in love with you and this scares you. Your two lives aren't meant to join together, they are two separate women, two separate lives, he has no right to do this, you retreat and go back home to Cole, the life that is familiar and you know what is expected of you at all times. 

This is the generally gist of the story. I believe that the writer wanted to write it as if it was a story of your life but at the same time she writes it as if it was a handbook, even going so far as naming her chapters as "lessons".

This book is very original and I adored the writing. This type of writing technique would not be easy to pull off but she did it wonderfully. I like the plot and enjoyed the book thoroughly. However, I did have some qualms, one being that the whole disappearance of the Author was never again mentioned so as a reader you wonder what happened? After all, this is what grabs you at the start, hence I believe readers would like to know how it went from the happy ending to her disappearance? This is something that the writer doesn't elaborate on, I'm unsure if this is done on purpose to allow the readers to draw their own conclusion, but it was a confusing element for me.

There is sexual references to this book and whilst I've never read a book with such vivid description I still think that these parts of the book was still done with enough taste that you didn't feel like your reading pornography. However, there is one sexual reference that I didn't like nor did I understand it's point within the book, and I doubt that many if any women would be able to empathize with this part of the story. After breaking up with Gabriel she wants to forget about him and she still wants to continue on her sexual escapades and when taking a taxi home she tells the taxi driver to bring a friend and meet her at the hotel. I found this ever so unrealistic, cheap, tacky and just plain wrong. Whilst I understand it is fiction and it is reflecting the sexual fantasies of one woman, the writer, I had assumed from her writing, that she is trying to reflect and represent the general women population and whilst I don't know statistics I had assumed that there wouldn't be many that would just tell taxi drivers to meet them in hotels. I just didn't understand that part.

Apart from that I thoroughly enjoyed the book, it's writing and it's general story. I thought this was cleverly written and put together and whilst I didn't really see many similarities between my life story and that of the Author I can still sympathize and empathize with some of her actions and decisions and the story rounded off nicely too.

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Review:- Being an Australian student I was introduced to Melina Marchetta's work by doing "Looking for Alibrandi" at school but I actually recall reading it prior to being made to read it. I recently read Jellicoe Road  and fell in love with her work as an adult...but now after reading Saving Francesca I'm going to have to buy all her books as I just love, love, love her!!!

This story is a coming of age story but it seems so much more realistic than most and it really made me laugh so many times and brought me back to my High School years.  This story is based on Francesca Spinnelli who has recently moved to a new school for her Senior year, a school, that right up till that year was only for boys. The boys aren't welcoming, she has none of her previous friends and to top it off her Mum goes through a breakdown and life changes completely and she takes over being the rock in her home. During this time she needs to escape and finds it at an unexpected place...her new school with an unexpected bunch of people. 

This story is amazing! It is short but the writing is beautiful and it's very entertaining that the length did not detract from the overall story. Marchetta was still able to form a coherent story with a good ending without the length of a usual novel. There are so many entertaining parts as well as those heart wrenching ones that you have either felt yourself in high school or have seen others go through. I appreciate the fact that Marchetta is able to bring her readers, despite not being a teen back into the world of teens. Some of these types of teen books tend to be on the corny and immature side that you just want to slap the protagonist and other characters for being so blind to the world around them, but in this book you just accept that they are only 17, these are important themes to them and they act on it according to their age but it's alright, we were all once there too, and that's what I really liked about Marchetta, she allowed me to understand being a teen without actually being in my teens anymore.

I'd love to list all my favorite parts but this review will become too long so I'll stick to one. Frankie asks her Father, "Do I look like Sophia Loren" and he answers absent mindedly "I used to tell your Mother she looked like Sophia Loren" and then it dawns on him "Oh my god, a boy is using that line on you?!"

Monday 9 March 2009

The Last Vampire & Black Blood by Christopher Pike

Review:- The Last Vampire is about Alisa Perne a 5000 year old vampire who is being anonymously chased. Through meeting people and threatening them she soon realizes who is after her, her Creator, Yashka. She has thought that Yashka had died decades ago but she knows that Yashka has made a promise to "God" in that he will have an after life IF he destroys all the vampires that he had created which includes herself.

Black Blood is the second book in the series. Alisa encounters a group of newly made vampires. The leader was perceived to be stronger and faster than her. This is a mystery for Alisa, no newly made vampire could possibly be as strong, fast and as smart as her, as vampires age the faster/stronger/smarter they get. Alisa starts to ponder the mystery of who made them. She must destroy all the vampires and destroy the Leader to ensure that no more vampires are created.

This is a six book series. This particular edition that I read had both book one and two in one book, hence why the combined review.

I've just got to sing this book praises. I didn't expect much from this vampire series, after all, vampire stories mostly have very similar plots but I was happily surprised with this series. I've read many Christopher Pike books in the past and from what I remember his books were simple and straight forward horror books for teens, a good past time but nothing that got you thinking. This book however, I would go as far as saying a "near masterpiece". The writing was brilliant and the information provided were so in depth that it was believable that this "history" that he has created is in fact real.

The Last Vampire is written with alternating chapters. One being the story of the present and the other being Alisa's past history eg. how she became a vampire, her life before becoming a vampire etc etc. That part of the story is what really got me in this book, it was so in depth, very original and once again the brilliant writing. I will definitely be reading the rest of the series.

Review ~ Frostbite by Richelle Mead

Review:- Rose is constantly dipping into Lissa's mind when Lissa and Christian are sharing intimate moments further magnifying Rose's loneliness of not being able to spend time with Lissa and the love that she cannot have, Dimitri. Rose turns to Mason but soon realizes that Mason wants more and in response to Dimitri's rejection she tries to rebound onto Mason. If that's not enough Janine Hathaway, Rose's Mother, a well renowned Guardian and one that was never present in Rose's life shows up and things get more complicated.

The Badicas, a Moroi Royal family has been massacred by an unusually large group of Strigoi. Evidence further points that the Strigoi has recruited humans. This changes everything for the Morois as there is no time in the day that they are going to be safe from attacks, humans have no limitations to sun light and Moroi magic does not affect them. 

In response to the attack St Vladimir Academy students and any Moroi family who wants to take refuge are taken to an exclusive ski resort owned by one of the Royals. Christian's Aunty, Tasha arrives and Rose finds herself in a competition for Dimitri's affection and attention. A Royal, Adrian Ivashkov befriends Rose but everyone tells her that Adrian is a bad influence but Adrian seems to be using Rose to get to Lissa and soon Lissa succumbs but fails to tell Rose what's going on.

When a second attack happens and Mia's Mother is killed in the massacre, Mason, Eddie and Mia are determined to take revenge. When Rose realizes the trio is missing, her and Christian follow in hope that they can find them before they encounter any Strigoi. 

This book was filled with lots of action. As I read more of the series I enjoy it more. In this book it wasn't really Lissa that was the main focus but Rose whereas in the Vampire Academy I felt that much of the focus was on Lissa and Rose was just the sidekick, in Frostbite this changes. I really enjoyed the ending in Frostbite, despite something tragic happening to one of them (obviously this isn't an ending I wanted) but the rest of the ending was sweet and I can only hope that in the next book that this path continues.

Sunday 8 March 2009

The Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle

Review:- The Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle is about two couples who live in the same area but their lives are worlds apart. The chapters alternate, written by each of the characters. There's Candido, a recent divorcee to his current wife's older sister and there's America, Candido's new wife, 17 year old and also pregnant who left her whole family for Candido and the American dream, they are Mexicans who have crossed the borders illegally and are camping at Topanga Creek in Los Angeles, homeless.

Then there's Kyra, a successful Real Estate agent and the bread winner of her family, she is married to Delaney who is the stay at home Husband and Step-Father to Kyra's son from her first marriage, Jordan. Delaney is also a freelance writer who has his own nature column. They have the proposed American dream of a beautiful home at an exclusive estate with important neighbors and nice cars. They too have recently moved to Topanga Creek but with a different reason to Candido and America, they moved simply to be closer to nature and yet still be close enough to the amenities of the city.

Their lives collide when Delaney hits Candido with his car, Candido refuses medical treatment and requests for cash instead. Delaney gives Candido $20 and from then on their lives each impact the others' lives unknowingly.

This is a book like no other and it's definitely not one that I would have picked up on my own accord, it was this month's discussion in one of the online book clubs. Whilst it was a slow read for me I would still say that it's enjoyable enough. There were a lot of heart wrenching moments and it really opened my eyes to what people actually go through and hence, I was able to be more thankful for what I do have. The pain that Candido and America goes through for simple basic needs is just pitiful and in today's society no one should have to go through that. 

In the discussion forum for the book club there are so many different points of views. Many simply states that they are illegal and so...but I personally think that many of us that live in a beautiful country and able to have the basics are just lucky, it could have been any of us to be born in the wrong country, to the wrong family with the incorrect financial status so we need to have compassion for those that do not have what we have as it's certainly not their fault. Candido and America are hard workers, many Americans or Australians probably aren't willing to work as hard as them for minimal wage but they are and what for? To simply have what we all take for granted. A roof over our heads and food on our table.

Anyway, the book is a deep thinking novel which introduces many themes and they are serious themes. This is an eye opener to what others go through and I'm grateful for reading this book as it has changed my perspective on many things and have also allowed me to be more understanding of people's circumstances. Like I said it is not an easy read and could seem a bit tedious at times but persevere as it teaches the readers many things, including compassion, love, understanding and appreciation. 

The Society of S by Susan Hubbard

Review:- This is not your usual vampire story, I'm actually quite sure that Susan Hubbard only added the vampire part of the character just to make it more interesting but it's certainly not the main plot of the book. This is a coming of age story.

The main character, Ariella Montero is a 12 year old who has been brought up and home-schooled by her Father. She knows no one beyond the people that work within her home. Whilst very textbook smart Ariella knows nothing about the world outside the walls of her mansion. Ari soon becomes depressed and lonely and Mrs McGarritt, the housekeeper invites Ari to spend time with her kids, two being Michael and Kathleen.

Ari and Michael become romantically involved and Kathleen becomes her best friend. Soon as she sees more of the world she starts seeing that all she has been taught and all that she has seen within her home is not always what it seems and questions are constantly arising in her mind. When tragedy hits and Kathleen is found murdered, Ari decides that there's no time like the present to seek the answers to her questions, questions that only her Mother can answer.

This story is about Ariella Montero's personal journey. From being an isolated, home-schooled child to growing up into a teen when she meets kids her own age to finally being forced into an adult situation as she travels on her own to look for her Mother. Whilst it consists of your usual coming of age themes, it also has many original elements eg. vampires, the vampires living amongst humans, vampires not needing to kill for blood as supplements have been created for this purpose. 

This book is very well written and I was so very surprised that it's considered a YA fiction. I am looking forward to reading the Year of Disappearances which is the sequel to this book. It has many themes including environmental awareness and it really gets you thinking about the way we live our lives. 

Thursday 5 March 2009

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

Review:- Sookie Stackhouse is back with three mysteries to solve! Lafayette, Merlotte's African-American cook has been found murdered in local policeman's car, Andy Bellefleur. Last seen speaking about a sex club Sookie must find this exclusive and invite only club, be invited and trusted so that she can bring justice to the killer and free Andy from wrongful conviction.

Sookie has been "loaned" by Eric to a Dallas vampire, Stan. Stan's brother, Farrell has been missing and he wants Sookie to find him. Farrell is found in custody of an anti-vampire organization and Sookie is way over her head as she finds herself just as trapped as Farrell, can she free herself and Farrell by sunrise, when he's scheduled to be burned?

And if that doesn't seem enough to you, Sookie has a near death encounter with a maenad, another supernatural being who is known to worship the Greek God of wine. It seems that Sookie Stackhouse's life will never be the same again. 

This review is difficult for me to write as I cannot seem to decide how much I enjoy this series. I've read the plot summary for the entire series and like what I see and excited to read till the end but as I read each book it doesn't feel like it's fully satisfying. Each book has it's pros and cons.

Dead Until Dark was better in terms of mystery where you may not realize immediately who the killer is whereas in Living Dead in Dallas there is no mystery to solve, everything is shown to the reader in due time without clues ahead of time. However, Living Dead in Dallas immediately went into action and suspenseful scenes, so I will only say that I will persevere with the rest of the series and I believe that it will only get better. So till then...


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