Saturday, 24 September 2011

30 Week Book Challenge #2 - Your Least Favourite Book

I know this is slightly later than promised, but this week it's the turn of my least favourite book. I only very rarely put down a book halfway through reading it if I'm not enjoying it - I can't allow myself to do that as I feel I will never know what exciting thing might have been just over the next page...kind of an OCD thing, don't ask! So I've pushed myself to struggle through some really awful books during my time, but far and beyond all the others, the book I enjoyed the least has to be 'The Catcher in the Rye' by J. D. Salinger.

I know, I'm sure many of you are falling off your chairs at this as I know it's very popular and is even considered a 'classic' by some. If you are one of those people, I'm awfully sorry for not sharing your love. But seriously? I just didn't see the point. It was the most ridiculous, pointless book I ever read. In my opinion, it didn't have any plot to speak of, I didn't get along with any of the characters, and it was far too short.

My dislike of this book may have something to do with the fact that I read it as an early-teen, and so didn't appreciate it or its metaphors or social commentary or whatever it is that makes this book so popular. Whatever it was, I consider reading it as a waste of my time, hence why I won't ever be reading it again!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Book Beginnings On Friday

I know I've been rubbish this week, and I'm sorry. Does the fact that I have a French oral exam tomorrow count as an excuse? :) No? Oh well, worth a try...

However, I have still found time to fit in a Book Beginnings post. This is part of a weekly meme hosted at A Few More Pages. To participate, share the opening of whatever you're reading, along with your thoughts on just that beginning.

This week has seen me finally get round to starting 'Crazy in Paradise' by Deborah Brown. She sent it to me a few weeks ago, and I'm ashamed that it's taken me so long to get to! This is the author's short description of the book:

Madison Westin, the main character, inherits her aunt’s beachfront motel in the Florida Keys, or so she thinks. Tarpon Cove is not your typical sleepy beach town: Seduction, drunks, ex-cons and fugitives are not the usual fare for someone looking to start a new chapter in their life. Wrestling control of the property from both the lawyer and the conniving motel manager will be no easy feat. But Madison likes living on the edge so she feels right at home. Bullets fly, a dead body turns up, a kidnapping and blackmail. Madison really has to learn not to leave home without her Glock or it could get her killed.

I've been quite looking forward to reading it, as it sounds both fun and exciting. Anyway, here's the opening:

"There should be a law a person can't die in South Florida during the summer. The death of a loved one was hard enough without the added humiliation of sweat."

I like the wit in this! I imagine that if I lost one of my nearest and dearest, being a bit hot and sweaty would be the least of my concerns! If I were to look at just the first sentence, I would suggest it seems intriguing and a bit mysterious, with the hot, sticky summer weather making a great setting for a book of this type. However, when you include the second sentence as well, it really lightens the tone and - as inappropriate as it may sound - makes the event more fun. So far the rest of the book continues in this sort of style, and I'm really enjoying reading it!

In other news...

As I say, I know I've been slack this week, and next week will probably be the same, but hopefully I'll have this week's 30 Week Challenge post up this afternoon. As for reviews, I have a few piling up, so with a bit of luck I'll find the time to put the next one up this weekend. If I don't quite manage it, please bear with me!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Book Beginnings On Friday

Book Beginnings On Friday is a weekly meme hosted at A Few More Pages. To participate, all you have to do is share the opening of whatever you've been reading and your opinion of said beginning. Then just link it back and take a look at what everyone else is reading!

Recently my mum and I went on a bit of a book buying spree, and one of the titles we bought was 'Afterwards' by Rosamund Lupton, which I opened up and started reading last night. Here's the opening, which I have taken from the prologue:

"I couldn't move, not even a little finger or a flicker of an eye. I couldn't open my mouth to scream."

Wow. This grabbed my attention straight away! Why can't this person move anything? They can't be tied up or trapped because surely they would still be able to move their eye... And what is happening to them that's so scary they want to scream? Frightening stuff! I'm immediately keen to find out what has happened to this person and why... I have read on a bit further into the book but I don't want to give anything away!

I'm not exactly sure of the genre of this book - I think it's sort of like a mystery, but a very emotional one. Lupton has also written another book called 'Sister' prior to this, which I believe is a mystery although I haven't read it, so I assume that this is along the same sort of lines. Please do correct me if you've read 'Sister' and I've missed the mark completely. 'Afterwards' is written in an unusual style but you'll either have to wait for my review on it or read it yourself to see what I mean! All in all so far it looks like a good'un.

Have a good weekend folks x

Monday, 12 September 2011

30 Week Book Challenge #1 - Your Favourite Book

So here we are! The start of a 30 Week Book Challenge (meant to be 30 Day, but I decided I couldn't keep up with that) where each week I will share with you one of my picks on a given topic. Before I start, I'd better to say I nicked this challenge from here - that post, as well as all the participating posts after it, are written by the lovely Nadine Rose Larter, author of Coffee At Little Angels.

Anyway, first up is my favourite book. This is so much harder to choose than I expected! I enjoy so many books, and often I form some sort of emotional or meaningful attachment to them, that it's hard to choose one over the other. Nevertheless, after much deliberation, I have opted for a book which I haven't read in years, but which I plan to pick up again soon: 'The Clan of the Cave Bear' by Jean M. Auel.

No surprises - it's set at the time of the cavemen, when there were two tribes, one distinguished by their darker features, the other is known for the people's light colouring. The paler clan is more physically and psychologically advanced than the other, and one might say more 'clever'. One little girl from the lighter clan is orphaned, and taken in by the rival, darker clan, and throughout her life she both confuses and stuns her guardians with her bright mind.

Not my usual sort of book, I know, but somehow it has just always captured my interest. The era of the cavemen is one we know very little about, so perhaps it is this insight into their lives which intrigues me. Perhaps it was the allure of an exceptionally bright young girl being far more advanced than anyone she knows. Perhaps it's just the descriptive writing style or the plot. I'm not really sure why I like this book so much, but I just do!

It is the first of a series, but it is the only title I have read. From what I understand, the rest of the series goes a bit downhill, so I have no intention of reading anything else from it. I don't want to ruin the magic!

I originally saw and enjoyed the film version of this when I was tiny - I was probably only about 6 or 7 at the time - well before I ever knew it was a book. Some years later I saw the book for sale and couldn't resist buying it, which is a decision I'm really pleased I made! I must have been pre- or early-teen when I first read it, so it took me quite a while to get through (it's 587 pages) and some of it went over my head, but I really enjoyed it.

As I say, it's been years since I last read it, but recently I've put it back in my TBR pile, as I'd love to re-read it again and see if I still enjoy it much as I always did!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Book Beginnings On Friday

To tie in with the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks this Sunday, I will share the opening of 'That Day In September' by Artie Van Why, which I read this week.

Book Beginnings On Friday is a weekly meme hosted over at A Few More Pages. To participate, just share the opening of whatever you've been reading during the week, and if you wish, give your opinion of the opening. Then link back and see what everyone else is reading!

'That Day In September' is a personal memoir from a man who was working in New York at the time of the terrorist attacks. He witnessed everything first-hand and is now still struggling to come to terms with what he saw, right to this day. Here is the opening from his very emotional story:

"I want it to go away. I don't want it to have happened."

This is part of what the author has called a 'reflection', which makes up the first chapter, and it is all written in this style. Straight away you can just sense the emotion and anguish that the author must be feeling, and it sets the tone for what's to come. I can but imagine what it must have been like to be there, but this opening had me gripped straight away to read about a man's real-life experience, to give me more of an insight than the television pictures could ever give me.

If you're interested in reading more of my opinion on this book, you can read my full review which I posted this morning.

That Day In September - Artie Van Why

As it’s the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack this Sunday, I have a review of a special book, ‘That Day in September’, by Artie Van Why, to mark the occasion.

On the 11th September 2001 two planes were flown into the Twin Towers in New York as part of a terrorist attack, which killed 2996 people and injured (physically and psychologically) many more. It was the day that changed the world.

I’m sure we all remember seeing the awful images which played out across our screens on that fateful day. The world watched in horror as innocent people lost their lives as a result of a minority group’s extremist views. Most of us can probably remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news, and it has stuck with us ever since. Artie Van Why certainly can – he was working in a building opposite one of the World Trade Centres when the first plane struck, and this is his story.

Artie left his building shortly after the first plane struck and headed out into the devastation. He stood amongst falling debris, watched helplessly as people fell to their deaths, and saw the second plane strike the other building. Amidst his fear, he attempted to give help to others where he could, but luckily he was unharmed throughout the whole experience. However, he has lived with what he saw every day since, and now that he has decided to put his story down in writing, he has been able to give those of us who weren’t there a glimpse of what it must have been like. His words are shocking, deeply saddening, inspirational, but most of all an incredible tribute to everyone who was there that day, and to everyone who lost their lives.

I was only nine when the attack happened, so don’t remember the moment I heard about it (probably because at the time I didn’t properly understand what it meant), but I remember sitting watching the pictures on TV later that evening, and over the following weeks and months. I’ve also seen loads of those documentaries and programmes which contain footage from the scene, and the one thing I have always found the hardest to watch, right from that first evening, are the pictures of people who felt they had no choice but to jump from the buildings, knowing full well that either way they were going to die. For me those pictures are the worst. That’s why, when I read that Artie watched some of those people, from right up close, my heart really went out to him as I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have actually felt like. That fear, that helplessness.

That’s the thing that comes across a lot throughout this account, is the complete dread and inability to anything that everyone there felt. This is an amazing first-hand account of what really happened, and although it’s the closest I’ll ever come to knowing what it was like, I’m sure it only scratches the surface.  Nevertheless, it is a heart-wrenching tale filled with emotion, right from the first page until the very last.

My mum always says I have an incredible ability to let upsetting things wash over me, and although I don’t see it as being ‘incredible’ (I just see it as being me), I am aware of the fact that I don’t let things bother me if they have any negative emotion attached to them. Don’t ask me how, that’s just what I do. I’m certainly not one for showing any sort of emotion – positive or negative – when I’m reading. However, the first page of ‘That Day In September’ had my eyes welling up, and from there it just went downhill! There were many times throughout the course of this memoir that I found the words blurring as I cried. I don’t know whether it was just the upsetting subject matter, the ‘realness’ of the first-hand account, or the emotional writing style which got me going, but either way I found this to be a deeply moving story.

Despite this, not all the emotions were negative. At several points I was astonished at the courage and selflessness that people there showed, Artie included. They had no reason to help anyone but themselves – the natural instinct would have been to run as far and as fast as a means of survival – but yet Mr. Van Why stopped to help a complete stranger. As I’m sure many survivors do, I think Artie feels he could have and should have done more to help or save others, but from what I read he already showed more courage and helpfulness than I could ever have done.

Furthermore, to be faced with so much death and destruction has turned many people away from religion, saying that if there was a God, He would never have let such an awful thing happen. Even people who were never there have lost their faith over the events they saw unfold. However, I find Artie inspirational and a breath of fresh air as he said the following: “You know, I don’t believe I had witnessed the wrath of anyone’s God that morning. What I had been a witness to when I looked up at those burning towers was the ultimate evil that man is capable of.” I find this quotation so deeply saddening that man can be capable of such atrocities, but at the same time refreshing to know that he doesn’t hold anyone accountable, doesn’t blame anyone, but those few, sick people whose idea it was.

This story is very short, as I devoured it in just half an hour – it was interesting, gripping and compelling. I found that the author didn’t go into huge amounts of detail or description, but this honestly didn’t bother me at all. I imagine that the scenes were so horrific that any survivors would have difficulty remembering the events in any great detail, as their minds must just have blocked everything out, so I was glad to read of exactly what Artie could remember. In addition, the story is so emotional and moving that if there had been any greater detail or description, it would have just been too hard to read. This may be a short book, but it was enough. I could put it away once I’d finished reading and move onto other things: the people who experienced it first-hand never can, and are living with it every day of their lives.

Needless to say, this book contains some very upsetting and sensitive subject matter, so may not be suitable for younger audiences. As I said, I’m a bit of a tough nut to crack, but even I cried at this, so please be aware of this if you have a more fragile disposition.

If you can spare just a small amount of your day to read this, I would recommend it. Whether you want to read a personal memoir, pay tribute to everyone who lost their lives, or simply gain a greater understanding of what it was like for those on the ground on the day, this book is worth it every time. I’m pleased that Mr. Van Why decided to pen his memories, as he has put down on paper his part in one of the biggest events in living history, which will help the future generations to learn about what happened, and hopefully it will keep the memories alive of all the people who lost their lives.

This is the type of event that only the people who were actually there will ever truly know what it felt like, but I feel like this story has certainly opened my eyes to what really happened and the consequences. I saw the pictures from afar, but now I see the personal side.

My deepest thanks to Mr. Van Why for sending me a copy to review. :)

A paperback version is currently available on Amazon for £5.62, or Kindle copies can be bought for £4.30 each. The author says that for him, this is not about making money, but rather it is about his story being told.

The BBC wrote a piece on the author earlier this month, which includes a small amount of what is covered in his book, as well as pictures and an audio clip of the man himself. Highly recommended extra reading!

Summary: A deeply moving, very personal account of a first-hand experience of 9/11
Rating: It feels crude to give this sort of book a rating, as it’s not about that, it’s about a man getting his story out. Nevertheless, if I had to, I’d have to give it the highest rating of 5/5 for the courage that he showed, and the very moving tale.

In memory of all 2996 people who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of 11th September 2001. xXx

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A Brief Interlude

Firstly, let me apologise, apologise, apologise for my absence over the last ten days...two weeks...three weeks... Goodness, I don't even know how long it's been! Time is flying! I have been up to my ears in work, so, much to my dismay, have had to put my blogging on hold for a while. I have been severely lax with my reading, reviewing, commenting, and networking, for which I am so sorry! However, I just wanted to let you know that I am still here and that I am coming back! Over the next couple of weeks I should be able to get back into this a lot more. Hopefully.

With regards to reviewing, it has been at least a week or two since I last posted anything which is something I vowed would never happen! But thankfully, I will be popping up within the next few days. I have a review which needs to be posted this week, next at the latest, so keep your eyes open for that! Hopefully that will go hand-in-hand with more reviews and the re-start of my Book Beginnings involvement.

Also, I have one other thing for you to look forward to! You know those 30 Day Challenges which have been floating about on cyberspace recently? Well I have found a book one (most of you have probably already done it, I know I'm a little slow), which I would love to share with you. I thought it'd be a good idea to share with you some brief opinions of mine on a wide range of books - I'm going to try and be varied, to show you that I do have some wider tastes! However, I don't want you to bombard you with posts every day (and, to be honest, I don't know that I'll keep up with it every single day), so I've decided to turn it into a '30 Week Challenge', giving you one post a week. That sounds like a fair deal to me! I'm really excited for it, and I hope you are too. I hope to be starting that soon, so please keep checking back :)

I think that's all for now. As I said, I just wanted to reassure you that I haven't fallen off the face of the planet, and to let you know that I have some exciting things up my sleeve. I hope all of you are keeping well, and I look forward to seeing you in a more formal, regular fashion again soon! :)