Confessions of a Reader

'Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.' – Mason Cooley


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The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

“He smiled understandingly – much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced–or seemed to face–the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”  

GG

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

Generally considered to be F. Scott Fitzgerald’s finest novel, The Great Gatsby is a consummate summary of the “roaring twenties”, and a devastating expose of the ‘Jazz Age’.

Through the narration of Nick Carraway, the reader is taken into the superficially glittering world of the mansions which lined the Long Island shore in the 1920s, to encounter Nick’s cousin Daisy, her brash but wealthy husband Tom Buchanan, Jay Gatsby and the mystery that surrounds him.

The Great Gatsby is an undisputed classic of American literature from the period following the First World War and is one of the great novels of the twentieth century.

My Thoughts:

Okay, so some of you may be wondering why I only gave this book a rating of 3/5. I know it is a well loved story – a classic American novel – but it was just lacking in some areas for me.

I enjoyed the description and liveliness of the 1920’s in this novel. I could vividly imagine glamorous girls and suave gentleman, including Gatsby himself. I didn’t feel like I got to know Gatsby well enough though. I understand that this was probably done intentionally, to coincide with his reputation but I wanted more. There was a nice air of vulnerability about him.

As for the narrator, Nick Carraway, I enjoyed reading the novel from his point of view. I thought at times  he came across as a little rigid and boring. I suppose he had to contrast with Gatsby’s rougher and more mysterious edge. The narration allowed Gatsby to remain aloof, as we never got to hear his thoughts or feelings from his own POV. I longed for more description of the goings-on of Gatsby’s many parties though, I wanted to attend one!

I despised Tom Buchanan. I thought he was a miserable, arrogant, aggressive man who did not deserve to be with Daisy, his wife. I desperately wanted him to get his comeuppance. Jordan Baker was a relatively strong, independent woman and I liked this about her. Compared with Daisy, she exuded girl power.

The pace certainly picked up in the last third of the book, which I felt was needed. I wasn’t expecting the events that happened towards the end, so this was a pleasant surprise.

Overall, I liked the book and am glad that I finally got around to reading it. I will certainly be watching the latest film adaptation soon.

Source: Paperback  (film tie-in edition)         Published:  11th April 2013

Pages: 240                            Score: 3 out of 5

‘Set in the glamorous era of the 1920’s and revolving around a mysterious, wealthy bachelor ‘The Great Gatsby’ is a novel that deals with love, betrayal, wealth and what inevitably happens when it all goes wrong. I’m glad I got around to reading it. ‘

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Grimm Tales for Young and Old – Philip Pullman

“Magical…This wonderful retelling is set to become a classic in its own right – Sunday Times”

Grimm

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

In this beautiful book of classic fairy tales, award-winning author Philip Pullman has chosen his fifty favourite stories from the Brothers Grimm and presents them in a’clear as water’ retelling, in his unique and brilliant voice.

From the quests and romance of classics such as ‘Rapunzel’, ‘Snow White’ and ‘Cinderella’ to the danger and wit of such lesser-known tales as ‘The Three Snake Leaves’, ‘Hans-my-Hedgehog’ and ‘Godfather Death’, Pullman brings the heart of each timeless tale to the fore, following with a brief but fascinating commentary on the story’s background and history. In his introduction, he discusses how these stories have lasted so long, and become part of our collective storytelling imagination.

These new versions show the adventures at their most lucid and engaging yet. Pullman’s Grimm Tales of wicked wives, brave children and villainous kings will have you reading, reading aloud and rereading them for many years to come.

My Thoughts:

A great collection of the Brother Grimms Fairy tales, in one penguin classic edition. A wonderful addition to any readers shelves, a book that can be kept for years to come and re-read to children and grandchildren alike.

The book is made up of over 50 fairy tales. Some well-known and loved traditional tales such as Rapunzel, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel. Discovering old fairy tales that I was not so familiar with made this book a real treat for me. There are many stories in this compilation that I had not come across, or had heard of but not read/been told, which have now become firm favourites.

Philip Pullman has made these fairy tales easy to read and memorable. Each one is told with precision, clarity and a sense of magic. Some of the tales are actually rather dark and twisted – arms and legs being chopped off, thieves being nailed into barrels and left to drown in ponds, eyes being pecked out by birds.

After each tale there is a small notes section. Pullman discusses where the tale originated from and when, how much the tale has developed through various retellings and what he as an author has changed and why. I thought this was a nice touch, it was surprising just how old some of these tales actually are!

Overall, a great read for any one who loves fairy tales or wants to re-discover them. Perfect for adults and children, a nice collection which will stay on my shelf for years to come.

Source: Paperback       First Published: 5 Sept 2013

Pages: 448                            Score: 3.5 out of 5

‘A magical collection full of wonderful tales of royalty – gorgeous princesses, handsome princes, wise old women and wicked queens, farmers, millers, and the faithful servant. A great bedtime read for children and adults alike. These fairy tales have been given a new life, with clarity and precision.’


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Throne of Glass – Sarah J Maas

“Libraries were full of ideas–perhaps the most dangerous and powerful of all weapons.”  

Throne_of_Glass

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

Meet Celaena Sardothien.

Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness.

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament – fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?

My Thoughts:

Okay – a female assassin, a competition to become the King’s Champion = awesome. The love triangle/romance side of the novel not so great for me. I won’t delve into the synopsis/plot too far, firstly because I’m sure you’ve already heard of this book and secondly, if you haven’t I won’t spoil it for you.

So, the actual storyline and character development in this book was great. I enjoyed the world building and Sarah J Maas’s ability to describe is admirable. I really felt as though I was there in the action throughout the whole novel. I thought Celaena was a superb character –  a strong, fearless, brave female assassin who had men falling at her feet (quite literally in some cases!). She also loved reading – what?! A female assassin who is also a bookworm, I’m in!

But, my ultimate favourite character had to be Chaol Westfall. Oh my word, I love this man! He fast became one of my favourite ‘book-boyfriends’. He is the perfect combination of strength, courage, vulnerability and longing. From the very first moment they met I wanted him and Celaena to become an item. I cannot tell you how much I love this character, he was one of the redeeming features of this book for me.

The last third of this book is what made me give it a four, nearly five star rating – this is where most of the action starts to happen and the story really moves along. The love triangle prevalent in the novel got a little tedious at times – I wanted more action not romance! I don’t enjoy books that are too soppy, I like the thrill of fights, chases and violence – call me crazy! I was absolutely overjoyed at the ending of the book, this alone made me bump up my score. Considering the author began writing this book at the tender age of 16, it deserves all the praise and recognition it is currently receiving.

I will most definitely be picking up the second book in the series, if only to find out what happens to the lovely Chaol! I will probably pick up the E-novellas too.

Source: Paperback       First Published: 2 Aug 2012

Pages: 432                            Score: 4.5 out of 5

‘A great plot full of romance, handsome guards, dark rulers and magic. A kick-ass female assassin who shows what true girl power is all about!’


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Top Ten Tuesday – Resolutions for 2014

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted buy The Broke and The Bookish. Each week they post a new topic and invite everyone to share their lists.

I decided to have a go at it this week, in order to give myself some reading (and non-reading) goals for the year 2014. The first 6 are book related, the last 4 are just general life related goals.

1 – To start a book blog.
I have been reading book blogs and watching BookTubers videos since March 2013. I came across them by looking for a review of Gillian Flynn’s ‘Gone Girl’ as I couldn’t make up my mind whether to purchase it or not. I had no idea that this community existed and was enthralled. I quickly subscribed and followed YouTubers and Bloggers, hoping that one day I might have my own. I have always wanted something to do, for myself, that doesn’t involve work with the hope that I can make new friends along the way. I guess you could say I have already done/started this one – but here’s to continuing it throughout 2014.

2 – Read 35 books.
I am attempting to read 35 books this year in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. This may not sound like a lot to you but with my full time job and seasonal evening work finding time for reading can be tough. I set this goal to be realistic for me.

3 – Read at least 3 classics.
I rarely read classics. I recently completed an English degree with the Open University in June 2013. I had to read A LOT of classics for part of this course. I think because I had to read so many I wanted a break from them, so haven’t picked one up since. I absolutely loved Emile Zola’s ‘Germinal’ – I am hoping to read another of his works this year.

4 – Read at least 2 graphic novels.
I read Khaled Hosseini’s ‘The Kite Runner’ in graphic novel form last year. It was a great book that really opened my eyes to other genres and styles out there. This year I would like to read at least two graphic novels, I already have my eye on a few. Can you recommend any?

5 – Use my local library more.
I need to stop buying books. I have so many already and my budget will not allow me to keep purchasing. I visited my library a few times last year and was always surprised at the range of books they stock. Why am I not utilising this FREE resource? I intend to use my library more this year.

6 – Begin hunting for books at local charity shops.
I am always surprised by the good books fellow bloggers seem to find in local charity shops. I am going to hunt my mine and see what gems I can find. Cheaper than buying brand new!

7 – Drink more water, less fizzy!
This is a personal goal. I drink way to many sugary drinks, this year I want to cut down and drink more water. Simples.

8 – Begin work on our house, starting with the bathroom.
Since beginning to save for our wedding since Jan 2012, our funds have not allowed us to decorate/renovate our home. This year me and my husband intend to do just this, starting with the bathroom. We have plans and ideas, this is a goal I desperately want to fulfil.

9 – Start yoga at home.
I am always sceptical about gym memberships. I’ve never had one through fear of wasting money on something I will not use. I have always wanted to try yoga but find it tricky to get to classes. I found a great site online that allows you to stream FREE classes in the comfort of your own home. I intend to do this at least once a week. You can find the site here.

10 – Remember birthdays and anniversaries.
I am terrible at this. So, although a very simple goal I intend to remember all birthdays and anniversaries of family and friends this year. I have even purchased an address/birthday book from WHSmiths, find it here.

What are your 2014 resolutions?


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The Light between Oceans – M.L Stedman

“You don’t think ahead in years or months: you think about this hour, and maybe the next. Anything else is speculation.”  

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

A boat washes up on the shore of a remote lighthouse keeper’s island. It holds a dead man – and a crying baby. The only two islanders, Tom and his wife Izzy, are about to make a devastating decision.

They break the rules and follow their hearts. What happens next will break yours.

My Thoughts:

Wow, I adored this book. An absolutely fantastic read that kept me wondering the whole way through. A story of moral values and decision making, deciding between right and wrong, struggling with grief and finding hope. Strong female characters adorn this book, even through all their trials and tribulations.

The story, set in Australia, follows Tom Sherbourne, an ex-soldier – resilient, methodical, moral, loyal, a stickler for the rules, a true gentleman. Shortly after taking on a post at Janus Rock looking after a lighthouse he meets Isabel Graysmark – headstrong, outgoing, loveable, independent. After a whirlwind romance they marry and live on Janus, looking after the light. The story follows their plight to becoming a family and the devastating affect that this can have on people, if things don’t quite work out the way they had first planned.

I do not want to give too much of the storyline away, so instead I will talk about the book in general. The author incorporates a lot of characters into this novel, using an omniscient narrator. Moving backwards and forwards from the past to the present, Stedman writes a believable plot, that questions all of your own moral values. There were many times when I asked myself “What would I do?”. Even though the novel had a lot of characters to follow, there was not one point when it became hard to follow. All of the characters were well developed, with their own unique personalities and values.

The book is split into three parts; the final part is definitely the most gripping in my opinion.  There was a point in which the content, along with Stedman’s beautiful prose, left me on the verge of tears. The story builds gradually from the start. I love how this was done, I really got a sense of completion – I was satisfied with the ending, although it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if the story had taken a different route.

I loved this book and it will definitely be staying on my shelves. I already have a few friends in mind to whom I will recommend this book. I am absolutely blown away by the fact that this is Stedman’s first novel, I cannot wait to read more from her. Read this book now, you will not be disappointed.

Source: Paperback       First Published: 9 May 2013

Pages: 464                            Score: 5 out of 5

‘An absolute gem of a book. Tender, heart-breaking and gripping – a book you will find hard to put down. A true love story that encompasses pain, grief, trust, betrayal and hope.’


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Pushing the Limits – Katie McGarry (#1)

“Because growing up means making tough choices, and doing the right thing doesn’t necessarily mean doing the thing that feels good.”

Pushing-the-limits

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

They say be a good girl, get good grades, be popular. They know nothing about me.

I can’t remember the night that changed my life. The night I went from popular to loner freak. And my family are determined to keep it that way. They said therapy was supposed to help. They didn’t expect Noah. Noah is the dangerous boy my parents warned me about. But the only one who’ll listen. The only one who’ll help me find the truth.

I know every kiss, every promise, every touch is forbidden. But what if finding your destiny means breaking all the rules? A brave and powerful novel about loss, change and growing up, but most of all love.

My Thoughts:

I actually read this book in Nov 2013 but thought I’d still review it on my blog. I had heard lots of good things about this novel on BookTube, so when I saw it in The Works (a bargain bookstore here in the UK) I snapped it up quick.

The story is based around two teenagers, Echo and Noah. Once a popular girl Echo is suddenly battling with memories of the most horrific night of her life. Noah is fighting for his visitation rights to his younger brothers. Echo believes Noah is a girl-using, angry guy with nothing better to do but get high. Noah thinks Echo is a strange, mysterious girl – but very attractive – with no social life. Their paths cross and they find that they have a lot in common.

There were many good elements of this novel. Firstly, the relationship build up between these two characters – believable, exciting with the ability to keep you guessing.  The character building was also brilliant. Both characters had a good, strong back story – the events in the book make perfect sense, everything moulds together successfully.

There were good elements of romance throughout. There are some ‘steamier’ moments. I certainly felt the passion and angst between the characters through Katie McGarry’s dialogue and attention to detail. I felt that I knew the characters well throughout the novel, their decisions were true to their individuality.

My favourite character was Noah. Katie McGarry managed to create a strong, bad-ass male protagonist with an underlying caring and vulnerable edge. The chemistry between him and Echo was evident from the start, the way this built up over time made it more engaging.

This book is a great YA read, full of teenage angst and drama. I have given it 3.5 stars for this reason. At times the teenage angst and drama got a little too much for me. Overall, an action-packed easy read with two great protagonists and a well developed plot.

     Source: Paperback       First Published: 3rd Aug 2012

Pages: 416                            Score: 3.5 out of 5

‘An action-packed, easy read – perfect for those interested in YA fiction. A great plot, mixed with well developed characters and a high-energy, passionate young romance.’


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Karl Pilkington – The Moaning Of Life

‘Who looked at an ostrich and thought, “I could make a nice bag out of that”?
All the trouble Noah went to saving the animals two by two and now we’re making bags out of them.’

the-moaning-of-life

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

‘I’ve been on the planet for forty years now, and I’m still none the wiser as to what it’s all about really. I’ve never worried about life’s big questions. People at my age sit about pondering “why are we here?” The only time I ever asked myself that is when Suzanne booked us a surprise holiday to Lanzarote.’

Karl Pilkington is forty years old. He’s not married, he doesn’t have kids, and he’s got a job where he’s known as an ‘idiot’. It’s time for him to take stock and face up to life’s big question – what does it all mean?

Karl is no stranger to travel, and now he’s off on a series of adventures around the globe to find out how other cultures approach life’s big issues. Travelling from far-flung tribes to high-tech cities, Karl experiences everything from a drive-thru wedding in Las Vegas to a vocational theme park in Japan, he meets a group of people in Mexico who find happiness through pain, undergoes a plastic surgery procedure in LA, and even encounters a woman in Bali who lets him help deliver her baby.

Have his experiences changed him? Find out in this hilarious new book where Karl shares his stories (and opinions) in his inimitable style. Karl Pilkington is back on the road, and this time he’s on a journey of self-discovery…

My Thoughts:

I got this book as a Christmas present from my younger sister. I have watched ‘Idiot Abroad’ but have yet to watch ‘The Moaning of Life’. I was dubious about this book, as I wondered whether it would be well written whilst keeping the humour that Karl is all about. I was not disappointed!

Based on the recent TV series this book can be read alongside or as a stand alone. It is split into five chapters; Marriage, Kids, Vocation & Money, Happiness and Death. Karl travels to many different parts of the world and explores various traditions and cultures, learning about some weird and wonderful rituals.

I found this book surprisingly informative. I learnt about arranged marriages, sea gypsies in Bali, a hip hop dancing clown in Mexico, bizarre funeral rituals in Ghana, the job of a professional mourner in Taiwan and hanging coffins in Sagada. Karl’s anecdotes and one-liners are brilliant, a true reflection of his unique individuality.

The book is an exceptionally fun read. The events are bought to life with the fantastic colour photographs and illustrations. This was a brilliant touch, helping me to visualise his surroundings and the people he met on his travels. The chatty, informal manner of the book was also a bonus. I felt like Karl was having a conversation with me over a cuppa.

I would definitely recommend this book for Karl Pilkington fans, or those who want to learn more about different countries, cultures and traditions in a fun, light hearted way.

     Source: Hardcover       First Published: 10th Oct 2013

Pages: 384                            Score: 4 out of 5

‘Full of anecdotes, quotes and one-liners – a funny, light hearted read which explores many different cultures and traditions. A great book for those who enjoy travelling and learning about new places or are simply die-hard Karl Pilkington fans.’