30 November 2013

Books of 2013: Part 4

I'm not completely sure any of you are enjoying this....and I know I'm neglecting writing other thing (and I have so much to blog about!) but i'm determined to finish this off!  I'm so ill today and this is the first weekend that I'm not going away somewhere so I'm looking forward to not traveling, but i still have tons of stuff to do!  Anyway enough complaining, on with books 16 through 20!

Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie
Neverland is home to Peter Pan, a young boy who has never grown up. On one of his visits to London, Peter makes the acquaintance of young Wendy Darling, whom he invites to travel with him to Neverland and become the mother of his gang of Lost Boys. Flying through the night sky to Neverland, Wendy and her brothers are soon caught up in adventures.

This is one of my beloved Barnes and Nobel Leather-bound books, it's so pretty and the page ends are all silver!  Anyway moving away from the aesthetics and onto the actual contents!  I'm familiar with this story, as most people are, because I grew up with thee Disney version, which I loved!  I went through a phase in my teens of being obsessed with Tinkerbell, so I was really looking forward to reading this.  It did not disappoint!  This is one of the greatest children storeys I've ever read, different enough from the Disney version but still completely magical and imaginative.  I really wish I'd read this when I was younger as I know it would have completely captured my imagination.  Everyone should read this at least once in their lifetime!

Filth by Irvine Welsh
With the festive season almost upon him, Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson is winding down at work and gearing up socially - kicking off Christmas with a week of sex and drugs in Amsterdam. There are irritating flies in the ointment, though, including a missing wife, a nagging cocaine habit, a dramatic deterioration in his genital health, a string of increasingly demanding extra-marital affairs. The last thing he needs is a messy murder to solve. Still it will mean plenty of overtime, a chance to stitch up some colleagues and finally clinch the promotion he craves. But as Bruce spirals through the lower reaches of degradation and evil, he encounters opposition - in the form of truth and ethical conscience - from the most unexpected quarter of all: his anus.

Well I couldn't have picked a book much different from my last one!  Like all Irvine Welsh's work it's full of sex, drug use and crude language, and frankly I love it!  This is probably my favourite of all of Welsh's books that I've read, and it's also one of the most controversial.  I read it knowing the film was coming out in the same year and I loved both, although there's certain erm....internal things...that the film leaves out....I'm trying not to say anything so I don't give it a way but if you love modern fiction that doesn't hold back and your not squeamish then I really recommend this book!

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that? 

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license - for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. 

The choice Tally makes changes her world forever..

I'd been looking forward to this series for a long time so to be honest I was left disappointed   It was an easy read and I found that while I enjoyed it while I was reading, after I put it down I didn't have much desire to pick it up and carry on with it.  It was full of cliche's and just seemed to go down the same path all the YA distopian novels do.  Maybe I'm just too old or I've read too much of this style, either way it missed the mark for me

Pretties (Second book in the uglies series) by Scott Westerfeld

Tally has finally become pretty. Now her looks are beyond perfect, her clothes are awesome, her boyfriend is totally hot, and she's completely popular. It's everything she's ever wanted.
But beneath all the fun -- the nonstop parties, the high-tech luxury, the total freedom -- is a nagging sense that something's wrong. Something important. Then a message from Tally's ugly past arrives. Reading it, Tally remembers what's wrong with pretty life, and the fun stops cold.

Now she has to choose between fighting to forget what she knows and fighting for her life -- because the authorities don't intend to let anyone with this information survive.
Even though I didn't love the first book I cracked strait on with the second book in the series as I knew if I left it I probibily wouldn't carry on with the series.  If i hadn't already bought the rest of the books in the series I probably wouldn't have carried on with it.  To be honest this one hasn't made much of an impression on me and I think the first and second books have sort of blurred together in my mind.
The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
Meet Pat. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure a happy ending for him -- the return of his estranged wife Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent time in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat's now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he's being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he's being hunted by Kenny G!

This was a birthday gift given to me from my beautiful friend Amy of Cocktails in Teacups and I set to reading it strait away.  I love contemporary fiction so this was right down my street.  I loved the way it was written and how all the character dealt with their flaws, it was really easy to read and very enjoyable, the football stuff was a little lost on me however but I did really enjoy the book references.

So, are you enjoying these?  Let me know if you've read any!

Kariss xxx

24 November 2013

Books of 2013: Part 3

Well I have not stopped, I've been between work in Barnsley, Hertford and London for more work constantly for weeks.  I can't wait for next weekend when the only thing I have to do is Christmas lunch with my school friends! (although I am going to London again in the week for a conference!) I seriously need a lie in!  Anyway because I've been away every weekend for the last month or so I've spent my nights after work catching up with things I normally do at the weekend (cleaning, tidying etc) which has essentially meant I'm miles behind on my blogging!  I am determined not too get too far behind with this book series but that is proving difficult and it also means neglecting my other kinds of blog post, so you'll just have to bare with me!  Anyway enough excuses, on with part 3!

Tessa has just a few months to live.

Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It's her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is sex.

Released from the constraints of 'normal' life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up.

Tessa's feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallized in the precious weeks before Tessa's time finally runs out.

I actually picked this book up during a bit of a buying spree in Waterstones thinking it was a different, similarly named book.  I wasn't expecting much from it when I realised my mistake, but it actually was pretty entertaining.  Its a YA book, easy to read and much more blunt then the usual YA fair (for instance, theres a scene early on in the book where she sneaks into a night club and tries to loose her virginity with a random guy, normally in these kind of books they 'come to there senses',  realises its not right and don't go through with it, in this however she did) and I respected the book more so for this, it felt more real and brave.
This is a book about a dying girl, but she wasn't painted as flawless, just a normal teen with normal desires, trying to get on with her life while she can, and I think this is what made it more enjoyable.  It felt honest and sad at times.  I would recommend this book for anyone after a quick read, dealing with some heavy issues in a not too heavy way

In seventeenth-century Boston, Hester Prynne shoulders the scorn of her fellow Puritan townsfolk for bearing a child out of wedlock. For her refusal to name the father of her daughter Pearl, Hester is made to wear a scarlet "A" stitched conspicuously upon her dress. But though she bears the stigma of the shame her peers would confer upon her, others feel the guilt for her transgression more acutely—notably the pious Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, the confessor with whom Hester and Pearl's destinies are intimately bound up.

I collected Barnes and Noble leather-bound edition books (I will do a blog post about my collection at some point) and added this beautiful book to my collection a year or so ago.  I haven't read most of these books yet (I am quite precious about them) but I was in the mood for a classic.  Spurred on by the amazing film Easy A (in which she reads this book in class and is inspired by it) I decided to get stuck in.
However this is one of the WORST books I have ever read.  The first and last chapters in particularly are both awfully written and completely unnecessary.  Seriously you can completely skip these, they don't effect the story at all, it sort of like "oh i found this robe, I wonder who it belongs to" *rewinds time back and story begins* except much more wordy and unnecessarily long and awkward to understand..  The plot itself you could easily fit into a couple of paragraphs but they stretch it out into a book by using unnecessary language and dragging everything out making it incredibly slow and boring.  Each chapter really only needed to be a sentence.  The general story is OK(ish) and so thats why I have given it more then once star but seriously, buy the book cause the cover looks pretty, leave it at that.

Magic takes many forms. Supernatural magic is what our ancestors used in order to explain the world before they developed the scientific method. The ancient Egyptians explained the night by suggesting the goddess Nut swallowed the sun. The Vikings believed a rainbow was the gods’ bridge to earth. The Japanese used to explain earthquakes by conjuring a gigantic catfish that carried the world on its back—earthquakes occurred each time it flipped its tail. These are magical, extraordinary tales. But there is another kind of magic, and it lies in the exhilaration of discovering the real answers to these questions. It is the magic of reality—science.

Nice bit of none fiction!  This book is aimed at 12+ but it really is good for everyone!  I haven't studied Science since school and this covers some of the stuff I know I learnt then but in a much more fun, interesting and understandable way.  It is a great book for people getting back into this kind of thing or who just have a curiosity.  For instance it covers, atoms, rainbows and evolution in a new light which really made me understand it much more then I ever did at school when I was just learning facts to pass exams!  I would recommend this for everyone old enough to understand it.

On her seventeenth birthday, Cassia meets her match. The Society dictates that he is her perfect partner for life, except he's not.

In Cassia's society, Officials decide who people love.
How many children they have.
Where they work.
When they die.

But, as Cassia finds herself falling in love with another boy, 
she is determined to make some choices of her own.

And that's when her whole world
begins to unravel...

I actually lent this book from my younger sister in the sumer of 2012 and got about 75% of the way through it before I left it in the back of a friends car on the way to a gig, never to be seen again.  I eventually got round to replacing it for her and finished it off.  To be honest I haven't got much to say about this, it's hard with me having read most of it so long ago.  It's a decent YA dystopian, no more no less, I wouldn't mind finishing the trilogy at some point but I'm in no rush to do so.

Restoration is set in eighteenth-century England: a world of
cruelty, injustice and iron privilege. Lord Are is forced by poverty
into an unwanted marriage with the daughter of a wealthy mineowner. One
morning, during breakfast, he commits a bizarre and fatal crime. He
seeks to pin responsibility for it on his guileless, illiterate
footman, Bob Hedges. A battle ensues between Bob's black,
justice-hungry wife and the fortified privilege of the ruling classes.

I'm an ex-drama student and worked in theatre for 4 1/2 years so it makes sense that every now and again I like to read a good play.  On top of that at some time during my second year of university I took an interest in the restoration period (the time when Charles II was restored to the thrown after the Puritans got rid of the monarchy), so much so I wrote my dissertation about a famous figure of this period.  This book I bought to read during that time and never got round to it, and finally got read it this year!  It was mega short and billed as a comedy, so I figured I'd wiz through it and get a laugh, I was greatly disappointed   To be totally honest looking back now I don't remember much other then I hated it and it had no plot, don't go out of your way to read/see this.  That's all I have to say.

So there you are, books 11-15, we have a long way to go!  I hope you enjoyed it!  I'm currently in London, having come down for work, and stayed the weekend to grab some culture so hopefully I'll be sharing that soon.  In the meantime if your liking this book series follow my Goodreads I update it regularly :)

13 November 2013

Books of 2013: Part 2

Well part one showed me starting the year of in a reading fury, completing all the five books shown before the end of January, now to continue with my final January book and on into March!

Submarine by Joe Dunthorn

"At once a self-styled social scientist, a spy in the baffling adult world, and a budding, hormone-driven emotional explorer, Oliver Tate is stealthily nosing his way forward through the murky and uniquely perilous waters of adolescence. His objectives? Uncovering the secrets behind his parents' teetering marriage, unraveling the mystery that is his alluring and equally quirky classmate Jordana Bevan, and understanding where he fits in among the mystifying beings in his orbit. Struggling to buoy his parents' wedded bliss, deep-six his own virginity, and sound the depths of heartache, happiness, and the business of being human, what's a lad to do? Poised precariously on the cusp of innocence and experience, Oliver Tate aims to damn the torpedoes and take the plunge."

This was a book from my christmas list and I happily opened my hardback first edition!  I'd been looking forward to reading this for quite a while, I was certain it would be a prime example of 'my kind' of book, and with that thought I was left disappointed.  This is not a slight against the book, the book itself is pretty good I was just expecting more.  I love The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Grow up and having lazily watched the film I expected this to fit into the quirky growing up tales category perfectly.  On paper it did, but it still misses the mark, the lead character Oliver is defiantly quirky enough but the writing lacks an essential intelligence that makes these kind of books endearing and memorable.  

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 

"The world and his mistress are at Jay Gatsby's party. But Gatsby stands apart from the crowd, isolated by a secret longing. In between sips of champagne his guests speculate about their mysterious host. Some say he's a bootlegger. Others swear he was a German spy during the war. They lean in and whisper 'he killed a man once'. Just where is Gatsby from and what is the obsession that drives him?"

I really wanted to watch this before the film came out so I prioritised it, I think this is the kind of book you need to read more then once to really appreciate.  On the first read I enjoyed it but i think i missed much of the symbolism that is key in this novel.  After seeing the film and looking at a lot of discussion about it I honestly think I'd five star it if I re-read it, but for now it's a 4, I can defiantly see why it's a classic but I think you need to see it as more then just  novel to really appreciate it.  I also really the bravery it must have taken to write important characters that an audience can enjoy even though essentially they are "bad" people.  The intelligence in the writing is brilliant and that is why i think you could read it over and over and always see something new.  Also can we just take a minute to appreciate how beautiful this version of the book is!  I may have traveled to several book stores before I found one with an unspoiled cover....

The Colour of Magic of Terry Pratchett

"In the beginning there was.a turtle.

Somewhere on the frontier between thought and reality exists the Discworld, a parallel time and place which might sound and smell very much like our own, but which looks completely different. Particularly as it's carried though space on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown). It plays by different rules.But then, some things are the same everywhere. The Disc's very existence is about to be threatened by a strange new blight: the world's first tourist, upon whose survival rests the peace and prosperity of the land. Unfortunately, the person charged with maintaining that survival in the face of robbers, mercenaries and, well, Death, is a spectacularly inept wizard."

I'd been building this up in my head for a long time, having had so many people tell me how incredible this series is.  It felt like everyone had started reading these really young and I was missing out, its a crazy long series (somewhere in the 40's now in terms of individual books, not including all the extra stuff), however if you read my review of The Light Fantastic, the second book in series and my first post on here, you will know I was disappointed.   I struggled to imagine the world fully, or at all in some places, and as much as there were elements I enjoyed, (mainly the characters and humour) I was left confused at certain aspects of the story and struggled to keep up with where the hell they were!  

Smut by Alan Bennett

Two unexpected tales written by the bestselling author of The Uncommon Reader, Untold Stories and The History Boys.
The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson
Mrs. Donaldson is a conventional middle-class woman beached on the shores of widowhood after a marriage that had been much like many others: happy to begin with, then satisfactory and finally dull. But when she decides to take in two lodgers, her mundane life becomes much more stimulating...
The Shielding of Mrs. Forbes
Graham Forbes is a disappointment to his mother, who thinks that if he must have a wife, he should have done better. True, her own husband isn't all that satisfactory either. Still, this is Alan Bennett, so what is happening in the bedroom (and in lots of other places too) is altogether more startling, perhaps shocking, and ultimately more true to people's predilections.
I am a huge fan of Alan Bennett but hadn't read any of his newer books since I was a teenager.  This book looked so cute and neat on the shelf I couldn't resist it and lets face it, everyone is drawn in by a sexy title.  This book is split into two short stories, both were entertaining, funny and enduring in different ways.  Despite the title his is not a "50 shades of grey" style book, and that is important to know before reading.  It is a book about people dealing with sex not a titalation, which is great for me because they are not my style at all!  As with all Bennett the characters are perfect, always totally fleshed out and realistic and its this that really makes the stories. 
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
"The compelling story of two outsiders striving to find their place in an unforgiving world.

Drifters in search of work, George and his simple minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other and a dream--a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. Eventually they find work on a ranch in California's Salinas Valley, but their hopes are doomed as Lennie, struggling against extreme cruelty, misunderstanding and feelings of jealousy becomes a victim of his own strength.
Tackling universal themes and giving a voice to America's lonely and dispossessed, Of Mice and Men has proved to be one of Steinbeck's most popular works, achieving success as a novel, a Broadway play and three acclaimed films"

I wasn't one of those kids who had to read this in school, I had A Kestrel for a Knave and Macbeth as far as I recall, so I feel like I missed out.  Most of my friends had read it for their GCSE's and it was pretty much the only required reading I've heard people say they still enjoyed , even after all that analysing!  I was surprised by how short it was when I bought it, knowing nothing about it perviously, and I can defiantly see why it's picked for teenagers, who are notorious for there short attention span!  I loved the book, it is without a doubt worthy of the title modern classic, it has depth and manages to make you really care about the characters in such a short within such a short amount of text.  I think I need to read it again to really appreciate all the themes and I know I would enjoy it just as much the second time round.

So that's it, we are up to 10 books of 2013 so far!  See you next week so the next 5!

6 November 2013

Molton Brown body wash gift set

This isn't a haul or a review, I don't really know what it is!  I just got a pretty gift and I wanted to show it off.  A few weeks ago my older sister bought me this gift set from Molton Brown as a congratulations for starting my new job and it's so cute I had to share

Look at all the pretty colours!  The top rom left to right: Black Peppercorn, Ylang-Ylang, Templetree, Silver Birch, Samphire, Eucalyptus.  Bottom row: Gingerlily, Pink peppercorn, Suma Ginseng, Japanese Orange, Orange & Bergamot, Coco & Sandalwood.

The are really unusual scents and seem really subtle so I look forward to giving them a go.  Have you had any good gifts lately?  


5 November 2013

Books of 2013: Part 1

So here's a new feature I've had in mind for a while, I've been unemployed for a large part of this year and as such I've done a lot of reading.  So I decided that every week I will share 5 of the books I've read this year with very short reviews (lets see how well my memory serves me!).  In 9 weeks its the first week of January (scary right!) and seeing as I have already read 34 books and plan on reading at least 40 (hopefully somewhere between 40-50) I realised I need to start now to be finished by the start of the new year.  So without further adieu:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.
It's a small story, about: a girl, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.

This almost doesn't count because I finished it at exactly half past midnight which probably tells you a great deal about how much of a party animal I was this new year!  I asked for this for christmas and just devoured it, from the opening paragraph I knew i was going to love it.  The writing style is amazing and having it narrated by Death adds a great deal to the stories tragedy and charm (yes, Death can be charming).  I enjoy character driven books and this has some fantastic characters, but overall it is the writing that is the main draw.  I was warned that it would make me cry but I managed to keep the tears inside.  There is a film of this book coming out in the new year and I will defiantly be checking it out but I am quite sceptical, there are certain things that make this book special that I just don't think they can translate to film which leaves it at the risk of being just another war film.  Overall I highly recommend this book to pretty much anyone

Wonder by R.J Palacio

"I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.
August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?"

I picked this up on a whim at Tesco after hearing great things about it.  Technically it's a children's book, vaguely aimed at the 10-12 age range but I'd heard so many adults rave about it I thought it was worth picking up.  It was an enjoyable read, although I only gave it 3 stars almost everyone else has voted it higher (its at almost 5 stars on Goodreads!) and I just felt it was missing something.  This could be because it's not aimed at my age range.  I did really enjoy the different perspectives, each chapter is told be a different person in Auggie's life and it allows you to see things from different angles.  I challenge you not to be moved and fall in love with the protagonist, he's one of those characters you just want to scoop up and make everything ok!

One Day by David Nicholls 

"Emma and Dexter meet for the first time on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways. So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that? And every year that follows? 

Twenty years, two people, ONE DAY."

Ok, I'm going to be really controversial here, I do not like this book at all.  I know everyone loves it and it's some what of a modern classic but I just found it really boring.  To be honest I don't like romance novels but so many people had told me how great this book was I thought they had to be something to it.  But no, it just proved once more it's just not for me, dull dull, dull.  I also thought the guy was a doosh and it all seemed kinda shallow.  Every time someone saw me reading this and I told them I wasn't enjoying it they gave me a look like I'd just kicked a puppy.  I still gave it 3 stars but I can't remember why, there must have been some redeeming features.  I do remember relating quite a lot to the female character

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

"The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a Wizarding classic, first came to Muggle readers’ attention in the book known as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Now, thanks to Hermione Granger’s new translation from the ancient runes, we present this stunning edition with an introduction, notes, and illustrations by J. K. Rowling, and extensive commentary by Albus Dumbledore. Never before have Muggles been privy to these richly imaginative tales: “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot,” “The Fountain of Fair Fortune,” “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” “Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump,” and of course, “The Tale of the Three Brothers.” But not only are they the equal of fairy tales we now know and love, reading them gives new insight into the world of Harry Potter"

So another confession, until last year, I'd never read Harry Potter, more then that I knew nothing of the story!  I managed to read all the series before June when we went to Florida to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  At the end of the year I read Mysterious Beats and Where to Find Them and Quiditch Through the Ages and that just left this cute little book.  As a companion novel it's a great edition, the stories are short, simple and cute

The Acid House by Irvine Welsh

"Made up of a collection of Welsh's most powerful stories, all come from the rough, tough badlands of the schemes of North Edinburgh and take us into a dark but hilarious world of drugs, deviant sex and football hooliganism fired by Welsh's passion and fierce steaming rock and roll.
Stories include: The Shooter, Eurotrash, Stoke Newington Blues, Vat '96, A Soft Touch, The Last Resort on the Adriatic, Sexual Disaster Quartet, Snuff, A Blockage in the System, Wayne Foster, Where the Debris Meets the Sea, Granny's Old Junk, The House of John Deaf, Across the Hall, Lisa's Mum Meets the Queen Mum, The Two Philosophers, Disnae Matter, The Granton Star Cause, Snowman Building Parts for Rico the Squirrel, Sport for All, The Acid House, A Smart Cunt: a novella"

Like with all collections of short stories, it's a bit hit and miss.  Some stories are always going to be more engaging and personal choice dictates you'll always like somethings more then others.  Welsh hits the mark most of the time and his unique writing style is evident throughout, although it usually takes me a couple of pages to be able to understand the language and I occasionally have to google the odd Scottish slang word that I don't know.  

So there you are, what do you think of my new feature?  Have you read any of these books?  Let me know and we'll start a discusuion
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