31 January 2014

Books of 2013:Part 8

We are finally here!  The grand finale! Books 35-42, all the books I read in 2013!  Over 10,000 pages in all!  I must be crazy, here goes!

The Lovely Bones is the story of a family devastated by a gruesome murder -- a murder recounted by the teenage victim. Upsetting, you say? Remarkably, first-time novelist Alice Sebold takes this difficult material and delivers a compelling and accomplished exploration of a fractured family's need for peace and closure.
The details of the crime are laid out in the first few pages: from her vantage point in heaven, Susie Salmon describes how she was confronted by the murderer one December afternoon on her way home from school. Lured into an underground hiding place, she was raped and killed. But what the reader knows, her family does not. Anxiously, we keep vigil with Susie, aching for her grieving family, desperate for the killer to be found and punished.
Sebold creates a heaven that's calm and comforting, a place whose residents can have whatever they enjoyed when they were alive -- and then some. But Susie isn't ready to release her hold on life just yet, and she intensely watches her family and friends as they struggle to cope with a reality in which she is no longer a part. To her great credit, Sebold has shaped one of the most loving and sympathetic fathers in contemporary literature.

Having been struck by Alice Sebold's 'Lucky' earlier in the year I thought I would try out her other and more well known book 'The Lovely Bones'.  This is a really gripping and interesting novel, I couldn't get it off my mind.  In a world where you want justice for the innocent it really makes you realise how hard that can be to come by, and how one event can effect a family.  Although I think it lacked something that would make this novel great, it played on my mind so much I had to give it 4 stars.
****
 Being the Life of John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester"Lord Rochester's Monkey" was written between 1931 and 1934 and, because of the reputation of its subject, the notorious Restoration libertine and poet, the book failed to find a publisher. Rochester was the most prominent of rakes. He was also a fine lyrical and satirical poet whose work, in Greene's opinion, has been greatly underestimated, being overshadowed by his life of lechery and drunkenness, wild pranks and practical jokes. At court, Charles II suffered but respected Rochester's coruscating satires, joined in his erotic escapades and rewarded him with distinctions. Yet the last thirteen years of his life were "clouded by the fumes of drink" and literary quarrels. On his deathbed in 1680 - he was only 33 - he called for Dr Burnet and repented. His friend Etheridge wrote of him: "I know he is a devil, but had something of the angel yet undefac'd in him"

John Wilmot, the Second Earl of Rochester is one of my favourite historical figures so I was looking forward to learning more in this book.  I knew it would have aged somewhat since it was written but I really did find this book a let down.  It was strangely written, neither chronologically or by theme, which made it hard to understand and I struggled to read more then a couple of pages at a time before loosing my concentration.  I didn't learn much from it that I didn't already know and the layout of information was baffling.
**
Thomas Healy was a drunk, a fighter, sometimes a writer, often unemployed, no stranger to the police. His life was going nowhere but downhill. Then one day he bought a pup—a Doberman. He called him Martin. Gradually man and dog became unshakable allies, the closest of comrades, the best of friends. They took long walks together, they vacationed together, they even went to church together. Martin, in more ways than one, saved Thomas Healy’s life. Written with unadulterated candor and profound love, this soulful memoir gets at the heart of the intense bond between people and dogs.

Another library sale find, I've had a few this year!  This book is heart warming but unfortunately it doesn't have much substance beyond that.  Just average.
***
It's a few years after rebel Tally Youngblood took down the uglies/pretties/specials regime. Without those strict roles and rules, the world is in a complete cultural renaissance. "Tech-heads" flaunt their latest gadgets, "kickers" spread gossip and trends, and "surge monkeys" are hooked on extreme plastic surgery. And it's all monitored on a bazillion different cameras. The world is like a gigantic game of American Idol. Whoever is getting the most buzz gets the most votes. Popularity rules. As if being fifteen doesn't suck enough, Aya Fuse's rank of 451,369 is so low, she's a total nobody. An extra. But Aya doesn't care; she just wants to lie low with her drone, Moggle. And maybe kick a good story for herself. Then Aya meets a clique of girls who pull crazy tricks, yet are deeply secretive of it. Aya wants desperately to kick their story, to show everyone how intensely cool the Sly Girls are. But doing so would propel her out of extra-land and into the world of fame, celebrity...and extreme danger. A world she's not prepared for.

The final book in the Uglies series.  As you have probably seen I haven't enjoyed this series much so I convinced myself to pick this book up knowing if I let it drag on into 2014 I probably would never finish it.  This is a companion novel rather then a follow on and I have to say this is its saviour.  To my surprise I really enjoyed this book, I think it is by far the best in the series.  I thought the Japanese cultural elements really worked and the updated dystopian world, set a few years on from the original trilogy, seemed believable and interesting.  I liked the main character much more and the action was much more exiting and less predictable, very refreshing.
****
Life is tough and cheerless for Billy Casper, a disillusioned teenager growing up in a small Yorkshire mining town. Violence is commonplace and he is frequently cold and hungry. Yet he is determined to be a survivor and when he finds Kes, a kestrel hawk he discovers a passion in life. 

I first read this book in school but my english teacher at the time skipped all the description as he said it was boring, to be honest he was sort of right, it is the worst part of the book.  However this is totally made up by the rest of the book, the dialogue and relationships between people are bleak but realistic.  Living in the town this was set I can honestly say it hit home with me, theres something about this town I can't fully explain, a legacy, that is woven into this book.  This novel shows that all humans have hope, even in the most unlikely of circumstances.
****
When he falls ill on his way home from school, fifteen-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover—then she inexplicably disappears. When Michael next sees her, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a hideous crime. As he watches her refuse to defend her innocence, Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder.

I didn't think I knew anything about this book until I started reading it and then realised I'd seen the film, a little frustrating!  It was interesting and blurred moral grounds in a way that must have happened to some extent to people post world war 2, an interesting thought.  The relationships in this book were very interesting and defiantly worth reading if you haven't already.
****
The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud tells the haunting story of a young man who narrowly survives a terrible car wreck that kills his little brother. Years later, the brothers’ bond remains so strong that it transcends the normal boundaries separating life and death. Charlie St. Cloud lives in a snug New England fishing village. By day he tends the lawns and monuments of the ancient cemetery where his younger brother, Sam, is buried. Graced with an extraordinary gift after surviving the accident, he can still see, talk, and even play catch with Sam’s spirit. But townsfolk whisper that Charlie has never recovered from his loss.Into his carefully ordered life comes Tess Carroll, a captivating, adventuresome woman training for a solo sailing trip around the globe. Fate steers her boat into a treacherous storm that blows her back to harbor, to a charged encounter with Charlie, and to a surprise more overwhelming than the violent sea itself. Charlie and Tess discover a beautiful and uncommon connection that leads to a race against time and a desperate choice between death and life, between the past and the future, between holding on and letting go.

I felt like this book should have been really cute and magical but it missed the mark somewhere, it ended up just being average.  It was enjoyable but not memorable, which is a shame because it did have potential, I think I just didn't care about the characters enough.  The love story was rather sweet in places but it wasn't heartbreaking in anyway and I thought this is probably what it was aiming for.
****
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