Tuesday, 24 December 2013

One Last 12 Days of Christmas, and ACTUAL CHRISTMAS!!!

I've actually forgotten how many of these I've done, so whatever, this is the last one at any rate, because, you know, Christmas is tomorrow. Or maybe today, or two days from now, depending on where you live. So then... one final 12 Days Of Christmas: Presents For Bookworms.

I really, really wish I was the legal drinking age so I could get this as a Christmas present. We found these in Waterstones a while ago, and we bought two copies just because. So awesome. No idea who we're going to give them to.
It's basically a collection of book-based drinks. For example: The Rye In The Catcher, Moby-Drink, etc. Do I need to say anymore?

Aaaaaand... CHRISTMAS. Despite various reservations about commercialism and whether or not Christmas trees are a good idea, I am SO EXCITED. If you're reading this (which I hope some people are), I hope you have a great Christmas, or a great day if you don't celebrate it. I will be getting up at five tomorrow to unwrap presents, so hopefully you'll get more sleep than me!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Review: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Blurb: A whirlwind day in Paris... A chance at true love... Heartbreak is waiting just around the corner.
(That's one explanatory blurb, right there.)

What I thought: I don't know what it is about Gayle Forman's books. The writing is good but not great. The story/idea/plot/whatever is fine. It should end up being an average-to-all-right book. But Just One Day was really good (and by good, I mean I really enjoyed it. I don't mean that despite everything I just said, it turned out to be amazing, and I just can't stop talking about it and all people everywhere should read it).

It did take me a while to get into, just like If I Stay and Where She Went. In the beginning, Allyson annoyed me because of her passivity and Melanie annoyed me because of her me-ness (which is, as of now, a word, and I expect it to be in the OED by Christmas), and you kind of wonder when the story actually starts.
And then Willem turns up, and he seems like SUCH A DICK. Not at first, I mean, but a few pages after he's introduced. I was thinking, okay, nothing happened, and now she's dropped all of the nothing to go off with this guy who kinda sucks. Great. 

HOWEVER. Willem turns out to be kind of awesome. But still kind of a dick. Which is actually kind of nice (kind of, kind of, kind of). Refreshing. But still a bit annoying. Arghhh...

I did think that the story had parts in it that were very like some other books I've read. Although, goldfish that I am, I've now forgotten what those bits were. Got to write reviews closer to when I actually finish the book... Anyway. I do remember thinking that some parts were a bit Anna And The French Kiss, and also some other stuff which, guess what, I don't remember.

But the thing is, all of that really didn't matter. I read an article in my school magazine a few days ago about film critics, and there was a bit about how it doesn't matter if there are slight plot gaps or whatever, if the story makes you forget about them or just not care. If the story is better than it's failings. Which I think Just One Day is. Despite all of the things that could have been better or different, or the parts that annoyed me, it was one of those books that you just can't stop thinking about. For me, that goes for all of Gayle Forman's books that I've read so far. I don't know how she does it.

Rate: 7/10

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Review: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Blurb: Renee is the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building on the Left bank. To the residents she is honest, reliable and uncultivated- an ideal concierge. But Renee has a secret. Beneath this conventional facade she is passionate about culture and the arts, and more knowledgeable in many ways than her self-important employers. Down in her lodge, Renee is resigned to living a lie; meanwhile, several floors up, twelve-year-old Paloma Josse is determined to avoid a predictably bourgeois future, and plans to commit suicide on her thirteenth birthday. But the death of one of their privileged neighbours will bring dramatic change to number 7, Rue de Grenelle, altering the course of both their lives forever.

What I thought: In Anna And The French Kiss, she studies foreign, translated novels. At one point, her English teacher says this: "Foreign novels are less action-oriented. They have a different pace; they're more reflective. They challenge us to look for the story, find the story within the story." Throughout the whole of this book, I was reminded of this quote. It really is like that- there's the plot, and then there's all their (the character's) thoughts and reflections, and it's all so interesting. Most of the books I normally read are English or American, and the whole book is centered around the plot. This is much more about character, and ideas. You could really feel the injustice of Renee's life, and how unfair the world is. And then there's Paloma, and I was desperate to find out what happened to her, and it's so sad because she's just a little girl.

I loved The Elegance of the Hedgehog very much. It delves into all this philosophy about what it means to be human, and Art and Beauty (always given capital letters in the book), and how people naturally are. The main characters are all so interesting and noble and good (but only the main characters, everyone else seems to be horrible), and they make me think of the end of The Fault In Our Stars, where Augustus writes Hazel the letter, and he says "She walks lightly, old man. She walks lightly upon the Earth."

Muriel Barbery is an amazing writer. Most of what I read is either YA or classic-y type stuff. YA authors, while generally very good, are less sophisticated because their books are aimed at a younger age group. Most involve romance, gorgeous boys etc. This book is so different, and I love it. Anyone who likes Banana Yoshimoto or Milan Kundera will love this. And I did cry at the end. I've got to stop doing that.

Rate: 8/10

Thursday, 12 December 2013

12 Days of Christmas: Presents for Bookworms

Day 3 

I found an advert for something like these on Tumblr the other day, and it seemed like a really cool idea. I love bookish t shirts- I've got one that says "Daisy Buchanan thinks you're a beautiful fool" on the front that I wear all the time. These tops (and the images) are all from Strand books, and they have a much wider range including children's clothes too. I'm pretty sure you can get them from Amazon or wherever if you don't live in America and don't want to pay postage (like me, although that Jane Eyre top is staring at me). Perfect Christmas presents for people who've read everything you can think of- just get one based on their favorite book.

(Completely unrelated, but I heard this joke today, and I just had to write it down... Have you heard any jokes about Dorian Gray? They never get old.)
 T-Shirt: Women's Pride & PrejudiceT-Shirt: Men's 1984

  T-Shirt: Women's Jane EyreT-Shirt: Men's Catch-22T-Shirt: Women's Great GatsbyT-Shirt: Men's On The Road

Monday, 9 December 2013

12 Days of Christmas: Presents for Bookworms

Day 2:

Essential for reading in bed without disturbing whoever you happen to be sharing a room with: a mini clip-on reading lamp. I got one of these a few weeks ago, and it is so good for when my roommate wants to sleep and I can't tear myself away from my book (which happens quite a bit). I used to use a torch, and I'd have to hold it between my neck and my shoulder. Very annoying. 
But these are really good. They come in tons of different colours, and there are loads of different designs around at the moment, so you have a lot of choice.


Sunday, 8 December 2013

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Blurb: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it... It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

What I thought: I've never been to a circus, and now I'm not sure I want to, because I know it could never live up to this book. WOW. Best setting in any book I can remember reading. I want to live inside The Night Circus. The circus is my favorite aspect of the entire book. I loved how new tents kept getting introduced, so you were gradually discovering the circus throughout the story. I can't possibly describe how much I loved this book, and the circus. As soon as I finished, I ordered another copy as a Christmas present for anyone. Everyone should read this.

Although the setting was probably the strongest part of the book, it was not just a place put down on paper. There is a story, and the circus stems from that, and the characters are so amazing. The most beautiful love story, the most gorgeous magic, the most mysterious plot. For most of the book, it's pretty vague on details (on purpose, relating to the main characters) so you never really know what's going on, or who knows what, and that was part of what I loved so much. The mystery echoes the mystery of the circus, and how no one's really sure what's going on, or what the circus holds.  It's kind of like Harry Potter, in that J K Rowling created this amazing world, and populated it with interesting characters and this fascinating story.

Also, the cover. So beautiful, and so appropriate for the book. I like how the blurb really doesn't tell you much, so you go in with no idea what will happen. I only finished The Night Circus a few hours ago, and already I want to be reading it again. I predict a massive book-hangover, and much re-reading. One of my new favorite books.

Rate: 9/10

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Bookish Calendar: November

I know this is late, but I didn't find a sufficiently November-ish book last month, and now I have. So:

First of all- the cover. So pretty... I haven't finished this book yet, but I absolutely love it, and it does seem very November-like to me. Set in the late 1800s- early 1900s, it is the story of an entirely black and white circus, only open at night, unlike any circus there has ever been. The story of Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair, and all the other circus performers, is enthralling. Such a perfect book (touch wood).

Friday, 6 December 2013

Nelson Mandela

Free Nelson Mandela
Free, free, free, free, free
Nelson Mandela

Free Nelson Mandela
Twenty-one years in captivity
Shoes too small to fit his feet
His body abused but his mind is still free
Are you so blind that you cannot see?
I said free Nelson Mandela
I'm begging you, free Nelson Mandela

Pleaded the courses at the ANC
Only one there in a large army
Are you so blind that you cannot see?
Are you so deaf that you cannot hear his plea?
Free Nelson Mandela
I'm begging you, free Nelson Mandela

Twenty-one years in captivity
Are you so blind that you cannot see?
Are you so deaf that you cannot hear?
Are you so dumb that you cannot speak?
I said free Nelson Mandela
I'm begging you, free Nelson Mandela
Free Nelson Mandela

Begging you, begging you please
Free Nelson Mandela
You've got to, you've got to
You've got to free
You've got to free
You've got to free
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela
I'm telling you, telling you, telling you
You've got to free, you've got to free
You've got to free, you've got to free
Nelson Mandela

- The Special A.K.A, 1984

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

12 Days of Christmas: Presents for Bookworms

I know that the actual 12 days of Christmas doesn't start until Christmas Day, but it wouldn't be very helpful to suggest bookish Christmas presents after Christmas. So I'm going to do a present-recommendation thing, one a day for 12 days between now and Christmas.

Day 1: 

The most obvious: a Christmas-y book. I'd suggest something like Dash And Lily's Book Of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan for teenagers or YA readers. Or Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle, which I haven't actually read yet but I'm sure will be great. For anyone who likes more classic-y stuff, go for The Catcher In The Rye. Not strictly Christmas-y, but based around the holidays.

 Or, if you can't find a suitably Christmas-y book, just go for something good, or something that they'll like. So far I've bought Angelmaker, The Book Thief and Code Name Verity as presents for various people in my family. Go for genres they normally read, or something slightly different but still familiar. These are some more books I think would make good Christmas presents, which don't actually involve Christmas stuff.

 Because we all need a little Harry Potter in our lives now and then. Although it might be hard to find someone who hasn't read them yet. If you do, please enlighten them for me.

  For any teenager, or anyone who even remotely likes emotions: John Green's books. And if they've read those, try Stephen Chbosky or Daniel Handler or David Levithan. Jandy Nelson, Matthew Quick and Stephanie Perkins are also amazing.  

 For adults, try Angelmaker. There's a full review below. 

 And for anyone who loves classics, I'd recommend something by the Bronte sisters or Charles Dickens. Not Jane Austen, please. That failing, try Gone With The Wind, To Kill A Mockingbird, or something along those lines.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

An Almost-Review: Catching Fire (the movie)

I saw The Hunger Games: Catching Fire at the weekend, and I've been thinking about it a lot so I thought I'd write about it. This isn't going to be a proper review, because I know next to nothing about films, but I just wanted to say what I thought about it.
First of all, it is amazing. Better than the first one by miles, even though that was really good too. Jennifer Lawrence is a very good actress, and an even better Katniss. I think she suits the role really well. I'm pretty sure there's a different actress playing Effie, although she sounds exactly the same- it took me ages to realise.
But the problem, for me, is that this film is too good. The Hunger Games is not, whatever else you might say about it, a happy story. When I came out of the cinema my palms were covered in red marks- I spend probably about half the movie digging my nails into my skin so I wouldn't cry, and the other half with my hands in front of my face. They (whoever the hell "they" are) have done it so well.
So well that it gets inside you, and then everyone starts dying, and you know you're going to be in a really horrible mood for the rest of the day. It is not nice to do that to a person's emotions.
However: the good is bigger than the sad. I really, really want to see it again. When the DVD comes out I'll buy it and watch it at home, and allow myself to cry in private. It is haunting, and amazing and WOW. Shivers down my spine.

Review: Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

Blurb: Joe Spork, son of the infamous criminal Matthew "Tommy Gun" Spork, just wants a quiet life, repairing clockwork in a wet, unknown bit of London. Edie Banister, former superspy, lives quietly and wishes she didn't. She's nearly ninety and the things she fought to save don't seem to exist anymore. She's beginning to wonder if they ever did. When Joe is asked to fix one particularly unusual device, his life is suddenly upended. The client? Unknown. The device? A 1950s doomsday machine. Having triggered it, Joe now faces the wrath of both the government and a diabolical South Asian dictator, Edie's old arch-nemesis. Joe's once-quiet world is now populated with mad monks, psychopathic serial killers, scientific geniuses and threats to the future of conscious life in the universe. The only way he can survive is to muster the courage to fight, help Edie complete a mission she gave up years ago, and pick up his father's old gun.

What I thought: Angelmaker is maybe the most brilliantly funny book I can remember reading. With the possible exception of The Giggler Treatment, but that does have the advantage of containing little chameleon-things and poo.
It is smart, in the most hilarious way possible. There is a glass-eyed, single-toothed dog named Bastion, a terrifying old lady who could possibly destroy the universe by accident, an evil dictator who wants to be a god, and an ingenious lawyer and his gorgeous-toed sister. Also, Joe Spork, son of a gangster, grandson of a clockmaker, who hasn't quite made up his mind which one he wants to be. And an ex-gangster's wife turned nun. It must be the most eclectic mix of characters since Harry Potter. I particularly like the dog.

Beginning in a dreary, forgotten corner of London, where the most interesting part of Joe's day is his ongoing battle with the neighbour's cat (which is actually rather entertaining), the story escalates into a wild celebration of crime, and humour, and good-against-bad. With a lot of crazy scientists and clockwork added in.
There are some rather horrific torture-related moments, but aside from that, it's not too gory. It's mainly just hilarious. My roommate came in last night while I was reading it, and I was lying on my bed laughing like a complete loony. I'm expecting an ambulance to drive up at any moment.

The thing about this book is that it's just so fun. But the fun-ness (yes, I did just make that word up) doesn't detract from the intelligence or the writing, which is awesome. The story carries you along with it, and by the end you're laughing and grinning and rooting for them to win. Hilarious, satirical and vaguely nostalgic, this is a book that will make you happy.

Rate: 7/10