21 January 2014

Books of 2013: Part 7

We are getting there!  This is the penultimate 2013 book blog post, I sure read a lot of books! So here we go.

The Hunting of the Snark is Lewis Carroll’s epic nonsense poem, first published in 1876. Though Carroll’s peculiar wit and imagination are evident here, this work, unlike his earlier Alice books, is a much darker tale. Here, ten characters whose names begin with the letter B disappear, go mad, and find themselves struggling to navigate an impossible path through a nonsensical world. Throughout the poem there is a prevailing atmosphere of disorder and chaos, heightened by Carroll’s descriptions of grotesque creatures such as the Bandersnatch and the Jubjub bird and his characteristic use of invented words—such as uffish, beamish, and frumious.
The meaning of the poem, and of the Snark itself, has been the subject of much debate, but nevertheless it remains a fun and lively read thanks to its combination of strangeness and whimsy. This new facsimile edition of the 1876 original is richly bound in red cloth with gold embossing and features reproductions of the original illustrations by Henry Holiday. This edition of the The Hunting of the Snark will be a treasured gift and collector’s item for fanciful readers of all ages.

I am a big fan of Alice in Wonderland and yet I hadn't really read any of Lewis Carrol's other works, so when I spied this unique edition of 'The Huntington and the Snark' at the British Library I had to buy it.  Its a nonsense poem in the true meaning of the phrase.  Its fun, crazy, very imaginative, perfect for children and the original illustrations are great, defiantly worth a read.
****

Eddie is a wounded war veteran, an old man who has lived, in his mind, an uninspired life. His job is fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, a tragic accident kills him as he tries to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakes in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a destination, but an answer. In heaven, five people explain your life to you. Some you knew, others may have been strangers. One by one, from childhood to soldier to old age, Eddie's five people revisit their connections to him on earth, illuminating the mysteries of his "meaningless" life, and revealing the haunting secret behind the eternal question: "Why was I here?

I had heard lots about this book from various people over the years but didn't totally know what it was about.  The title gives some ideas obviously but I wasn't really sure on the situation, I think in my head I expected it to be a 'If you could invite 5 people to dinner' kind of thing.  However it was so much better then that.  I saw this well read copy of it in a charity shop and this just seemed to add to the charm.  I know this made a lot of people cry, I didn't have this reaction but I did find it lovely, sweet and stirred that need for nostalgia we all crave.
****

Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life.Now Tony is in middle age. He’s had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He’s certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer’s letter is about to prove. 

Another charity shop find that I had been eyeing for a while without really knowing anything about it.  Honestly I don't think its an easy book to explain to people, the writing style was unusual but its hard to pin-point why.  The book seemed a little like it was trying to be overly intelligent which sort of got in the way of actually making you connect with the character, but possibly your not supposed to.  This book is famed for its 'twist' but i really didn't find it that surprising, maybe I am just jaded.  It was interesting but but it didn't engage me emotionally, I think I was expecting too much.
****

Set amid the austere beauty of the North Carolina coast, The Notebook begins with the story of Noah Calhoun, a rural Southerner recently returned form the Second World War. Noah is restoring a plantation home to its former glory, and he is haunted by images of the beautiful girl he met fourteen years earlier, a girl he loved like no other. Unable to find her, yet unwilling to forget the summer they spent together, Noah is content to live with only memories...until she unexpectedly returns to his town to see him once again.Like a puzzle within a puzzle, the story of Noah and Allie is just the beginning. As it unfolds, their tale miraculously becomes something different, with much higher stakes. The result is a deeply moving portrait of love itself, the tender moments and the fundamental changes that affect us all. It is a story of miracles and emotions that will stay with you forever.

OK, I know I have stated this before but I really dislike romance novels, however I figured that Nicolas Sparks is such a well renowned writer that there must be something good in it and as it was in a charity shop I wasn't spending much money on the risk, so why not.  However I should have stuck with my instincts, this book would have been disappointing if it was actually expecting anything at all.  The plus side is that it is a majorly easy read and it doesn't take much thought so you can wizz through it.  However the writing is really awful.  Its not that the book is that bad but the writing is just...appalling.  For a start its painfully repetitive, the same descriptions and phrases are repeated every couple of pages 'His eyes are like pools'' yeah yeah we get it for the 50th time.  However the 'sex' scene is one of the funniest things I have ever read, it wasn't supposed to be however.
***


"Dear Claire, I had a stressful weekend. It would be nice to come home and not be made to feel guilty. I hope school was interesting. There's some of the chicken (which was very good, by the way) left over. See you for breakfast. I want to talk to you about something. Mom"
Beautifully told through notes left on their kitchen fridge, this is an intimate portrait of the relationship between a hard-working mother and her teenage daughter.
Stunningly sad but ultimately uplifting, it is about being a 'good mother' or a 'good daughter', and is a reminder of how much can be said in so few words, if only we made the time to say them.

This is another library find that I really liked the promise of, a whole book written in notes.  However it was hugely disappointing, it was dull and because it was so short it had no depth whatsoever, or as I wrote on my goodreads "all the depth of a teaspoon".  Despite being about such a tragic subject I felt nothing but mild irritation towards the characters. 
**

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