Alright. My two sisters said I would cry my eyes out while reading this; that it was not about two stereotypically annoying teenage puppies.
But I didnAlright. My two sisters said I would cry my eyes out while reading this; that it was not about two stereotypically annoying teenage puppies.
But I didn't shed a tear, and I rolled my eyes more than once before that cheesiness. Perhaps I've grown too old for this? My teenage years are far behind me and I can't relate to such things anymore. Also, clearly, I've lost my heart somewhere along the way....more
Fate is a great provider. As a book addict, I’m always looking for the next book to buy and read, although I have a gazillion unread books on my shelvFate is a great provider. As a book addict, I’m always looking for the next book to buy and read, although I have a gazillion unread books on my shelves already. A couple of months ago, I randomly came across the title Starter For Ten on some blog and looked it up on Wikipedia; I liked the plot and decided to order all three books by David Nicholls. I hardly ever buy all books by one unknown author at once but the books were cheap so I thought, what the hell?
Starter For Ten is the story of Brian Jackson, a young man starting university in 1985. Brian never felt like he fitted in with the other kids at school as he liked “intellectual” things and dreamt of being on University Challenge which he used to watch with his late father as a child. University sounds like whole new world to him; a world where he’ll meet like-minded people who will want to discuss serious topics all night and use long, clever words. Of course, reality turns out to be quite different: Brian is more focused on wooing Alice Harbinson than working hard on his papers and the people he meets are either stuck-up Tory Patrick or Marxist Jew Rebecca Epstein who challenges his views and may be a bit too much for him in the first place.
Brian could be detestable if only he wasn’t so real. I remember when I was 18 and about to start university, I too was full of dreams and great expactations: I would meet fascinating people, grow intelligent and interesting and be a whole new person. Of course my days at university were nothing like that – I mean, I did meet fascinating people but when it comes to my good old self, I mainly struggled with obvious social awkwardness and constant disappointment with myself. It’s as though I were trying to reach an ideal me I deep down knew I’d never become. Brian may appear to be trying too hard – and he probably is – but at the end of the day, he’s only trying to find the right balance between who he’d like to be and who he actually is. It’s all about accepting himself while still trying to improve his faults given the opportunity.
The secondary characters should however not be forgotten for Nicholls managed to create a great circle of friends for Brian. As I was reading the book, I kept thinking that he had successfully managed to give them opinions and personalities which were far from Manichean and made them people you could actually know yourself.
Despite his dealing with more serious matters such as classes or trying to figure out who you are, David Nicholls wrote a book that is hilarious – I spent half of my reading literally laughing outloud – and full of brilliant bits which you wish you’d written and would happily quote everywhere. I believe it’s fair to say I have fallen in love with this book. It’s always a sort of “quest” to find a book that will make you feel like this, so I am more than happy Starter For Ten was on my way.
PS: While the film adaptation was good (well, it does have James McAvoy and Benedict Cumberbatch in it after all), the book is ten times better....more
**spoiler alert** After the whole Twilight fiasco – the most infuriating yet hilarious saga I’ve held in my hands – I was not particularly willing to**spoiler alert** After the whole Twilight fiasco – the most infuriating yet hilarious saga I’ve held in my hands – I was not particularly willing to give the whole young adult genre another try any time soon. But when a dear friend more than enthusiastically told me about The Hunger Games and kindly lent me her copy, I began my reading optimistically and hoping I would love the first volume of the trilogy.
The Hunger Games is set in a post-apocalyptic America called Panem. Governed by the dictatorial Capitol, Panem was separated into thirteen districts. After District 13 rebelled, it was wiped off the map and the Hunger Games were set to punish the inhabitants of Panem. Taking place every year, two children from each remaining district aged between 12 and 18 are chosen to fight for their lives in the games – which are televised for everyone to see. The last one standing will be declared the winner. In the first book, Katniss Everdeen, 16, enters the game instead of her beloved young sister Prim, whose name was originally picked randomly.
I was seduced by the storyline in the first place; it came across as a sort of new 1984 aimed at teenagers/young adults which, in our sad days of real TV and empty celebrities, could only make them question the state of society. However I have the silly tendency to be slightly naive at times.
While I will not reproach Suzanne Collins anything in terms of writing style – I was not shocked by its mediocrity but wouldn’t praise it for hours on either – I have to say The Hunger Games felt like a major let-down. I do believe she tried to create a strong, independent female character with Katniss, only the latter came across as so irritating to me. As I was reading, I kept wondering why so: what was it about Katniss that bothered me so much? How was I going to express it? And the thing is, I think she oozes false modesty. She goes on and on about how she never does anything for herself, how she’s so devoted to her family and friends that she always makes herself come last to assure herself they’ll be alright, how she’s strong despite all the bad around her… And so on and so forth. So much so that in the end, she comes across as the most self-centred person in the book despite her trying to achieve the complete opposite. If she only admitted that she needs to survive and that yes, surviving does require a little selfishness, she would be much less annoying as far as I’m concerned. Don’t even get me started about the whole “we’re in love” pseudo-pretence!
As a result of that, while the book could’ve been about an empowered young girl – which Katniss surely is to a certain extent – it was really about a whining brat who, I kept hoping, would be killed off brutally! The only reason I finished the book was because of my friend and because I kept hoping I’d suddenly like it. Alas!
It left me wondering, though, about female heroines: isn’t it time we had more Hermione Grangers and fewer Bellas? It is now 2012 and women, in theory, can do anything. Yet it seems that female writers find it impossible to detach themselves from the old condition of women. Feed young girls with incredible heroines who kick arse and are truly empowered, for god’s sake!...more
**spoiler alert** When I started reading Call The Midwife, I half-expected a cheesy story about how babies are the most amazing things on earth and pr**spoiler alert** When I started reading Call The Midwife, I half-expected a cheesy story about how babies are the most amazing things on earth and pregnancies are beautiful, so much so that you forget all the pain the minute you hold that little creature in your arms. While there was a little of that, there was also much more than that.
Call The Midwife is the memoirs of Jennifer Worth née Lee about her time working – you guessed it – as a midwife in 1950s’ London’s East End. Through her experience, we discover life as it was back then, when East London was poor and far from its new fate of hipster-land.
Breech births, dead newborns, mix-raced babies from infidelities, women giving birth to their 26th child… Many different and fascinating cases encountered by Worth are depicted there with precise details. If you’re currently pregnant or faint of the heart, I would advise you to wisely leave this book aside for the time being. Myself, as someone who has never given birth and does not intend to, I was left quite comforted in my refusal to bear a child.
As a feminist, though, I could not help but feel a sense of pride: what we women have to go through, no matter how unfair (for biological or social reasons), is amazing. While men have always been at the head of countries or families, I was left wondering if they could take any of what pregnancy and birth-giving mean. I felt empowered, even more so as I’m lucky enough to have a choice regarding my own motherhood – choice that the women in Call The Midwife did not necessarily have.
Indeed, besides midwife stories, the book takes us to the 1950s, when East Enders were beyond poor and lived in atrocious conditions. Tenements where one single tap was shared by dozens, a lack of hygiene, prostitution… You name it. These memoirs are just as much of a History book, with its most appalling pages there for us to turn in disbelief. The 1950s were, after all, not that long ago. In many ways, life has changed. But if you look closer, you will find that many things are still quite the same: while the 1960s and the improvement of medecine have improved (women’s) lives greatly in the Western World, much still needs to be done in our society, not to mention how many out there on different sides of the globe are still dealing with such poor conditions.
There are one or two things I would like to criticise, though. Firstly, I was sometimes slightly annoyed with Worth’s narration as she would begin to tell you a story… only to leave the end out for later. Of course, it was mainly meant to keep you reading but some of them, such as Mrs Jenkins’ for instance, were engrossing and it was very frustrating to wait one or two chapters (if not more) before finding out what happened. Secondly, Worth’s religious revelation at the end of the book made me cringe. So, she worked in a convent and her depiction of the nuns was fascinating: some of them were far from the pure, innocent, boring goody-two-shoes one could imagine and it amused me greatly. However, Worth makes it sound as though “God” cannot be avoided, as though all of these experiences had to have a holy side to them. As an atheist, I sort of felt as if I were judged, in the wrong for denying the divine aspect of life....more
Sorry, Daily Mail, but The Understudy was not “laugh-out-loud.” Or at least, in my case it wasn’t. But I knew it wouldn’t be. Because Starter For TenSorry, Daily Mail, but The Understudy was not “laugh-out-loud.” Or at least, in my case it wasn’t. But I knew it wouldn’t be. Because Starter For Ten made me, quite literally, laugh out loud like a little mad woman,thus allowing me to believe that David Nicholls’s second book would be a minor disappointment for yours truly. And indeed…
The Understudy is Steve McQueen. Not the famous one, but a British lesser version of him. While Josh Harper, a handsome 29-year-old, has become a superstar adored by all women, Steve struggles to make the ends meet as his acting career goes nowhere. His passion for his job has led him to a divorce and to become a disappointment and/or embarrassment to his seven-year-old daughter Sophie. While Josh is critically acclaimed for his performance as Lord Byron on a stage in London’s West End, Steve gets closer to Nora, Josh’s American wife who’s very cynical and critical of her husband’s superficial lifestyle.
The novel was entertaining – don’t get me wrong. I find in Nicholls’s characters the same quality as in those of Nick Hornby: they are terribly human. They have flaws and seem to often make the wrong decisions, ending up in situations they struggle to get out of. There was something quite pathetic about Steve; you would not expect a 32-year-old to be so immature and stubborn. However, you feel for him: whether you want to tell him he’s being stupid (“not stupid… say silly.”) or sympathize, Steve’s (self-)questioning will assuringly tug at your heartstrings because we’ve all been there at some point.
Nevertheless, The Understudy lacked the “folly” which I enjoyed so much in Starter For Ten. Or perhaps I’m still closer to my Fresher’s naivety and hopes and have not quite reached my complete-cynicism-towards-life phase? (although I’m definitely, slowly getting there!) Also, I was a little annoyed with the depiction of Sophie: while I know very clever children, she sounded more like a moody 16-year-old than a little girl of seven, no matter how intelligent she was supposed to be.
The book remains a good, entertaining read so I would definitely advise it to anyone, but it wasn’t mind-blowing either....more
I picked up Submarine by Joe Dunthorne at my local HMV because it was on sale and I had enjoyed the film back in August when I randomly picked it as mI picked up Submarine by Joe Dunthorne at my local HMV because it was on sale and I had enjoyed the film back in August when I randomly picked it as my film of the day.
Submarine is the story of teenager Oliver Tate from Swansea, Wales. The plot is simple: Oliver would very much like to lose his virginity to pyromaniac Jordana and is quite obsessed with his parents’ (lack of) sexuality – its non-existence being very likely due to Oliver’s father’s depression and his mother’s affair with an old friend.
While I very much enjoyed Submarine and often laughed out loud, I could not bring myself to be completely enthusiastic about it, as much as I wanted to. There were many quotes that I loved and mentally told myself to remember the pages of to scribble them down and use them now and then (of course I forgot every single page!), but there was also a little bit too much vomit involved in this story, which my old stomach could not put up with.
Perhaps it’s my old age, or the fact that my teenage years were not quite the same, but I can’t relate to Oliver Tate and find him very annoying, actually. His know-it-all attitude makes me want to give him a good slap. I imagine the author probably wanted Oliver to be irreverent; however, he also probably wanted us to feel sorry for him in a (good) way. And it didn’t happen for me. Now that I think of it, it’s probably not a matter of age or life experience: I’m just too cold-hearted and demanding to feel sympathetic towards Oliver.
Still, Joe Dunthorne’s writing is very good. Oftentimes it reminded me of that of Mark Haddon in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. A little bit of Nick Hornby in Slam as well, as in it is accessible yet brilliant for it seems easy to reproduce but if you sat down and tried to be as witty and good with words, you’d most probably fail. I also learnt a long list of vocabulary, which is something I like about literature. (the good thing with this book is that the definitions are included so you don’t actually have to look them up in the dictionary.)
Overall, I would still warmly advise this book to anyone who wants to have a good time. I read it fairly quickly considering I took it out of my bag while waiting for the bus or picked it up from my bedside table every evening when I was knackered and read a couple pages before falling asleep. I believe the only reason why I’m not more excited about this book is because I couldn’t bring myself to like Oliver despite his faults. So if that little heart of yours is full of compassion, do not let my review stop you from reading Submarine....more
**spoiler alert** It’s easy to understand why some girls would write and sing love songs to Stephen Fry on YouTube asking him to maybe let them carry**spoiler alert** It’s easy to understand why some girls would write and sing love songs to Stephen Fry on YouTube asking him to maybe let them carry his baby. Making History was the first thick book which I picked up after two intense years of dissertation-writing. My Masters finally done and over with, all I wanted was to sit down and enjoy a good read “for pleasure”. I have loved Stephen Fry for years now but despite staring at his books on the bookshop shelves many a time, I never went ahead and bought one. Liking the summary at the back of my copy of Making History, I decided to finally lose my Fry-novel virginity with it.
The story is that of Michael, a Cambridge History student about to finish his thesis about Hitler. His relationship with his slightly older girlfriend – a biochemistry researcher – is not going too well but Michael is confident that his masterpiece of a thesis will secure himself a successful life and career (he does call it “das Meisterwerk” after all). But things don’t go as planned: his thesis turns out to be a failure and his girlfriend dumps him. However his meeting with Leo Zuckerman, a professor, is about to change his life and the face of the world: what if the two men could change History and prevent Hitler’s birth?
I could not put down Making History. The story is fascinating and thought-provoking. You can’t help but wonder, what if? Stephen Fry here chooses to imagine that somebody else would have taken Hitler’s place. His argument is that nationalism was growing in Germany, as was anti-Semitism, and that the rise of a Hitler was unavoidable. I would like to believe otherwise although Fry’s pessimistic approach is most probably the most realistic one. Europe becomes a giant dictatorship ruled by the Nazis (German becomes its one and only official language) and the United States and Russia fight side by side against Germany. Furthermore, Stephen Fry’s Hitler-free world has never known the 1960s – this means that segregation is still in place in America and that homosexuality was never decriminalised.
Fry did an incredible job with his research: everything is perfectly detailed and, I imagine, accurate since a bibliography is to be found at the end of the book (and anyway, he apologises for any mistake he may have made, and who wouldn’t forgive Stephen Fry?!). The style is also to be commented upon: while most of the story is written in prose, the more “action-packed” chapters are written in screenplay mode. To be honest, as I’m not used to reading to screenplays, I found it long to get through these chapters.
Overall, I would genuinely advise this book to anyone who likes a good thought-provoking yet distracting read. I was disappointed in the end which felt a little like an anti-climax after such an intense experience however I decided to not hold it against Stephen Fry (too much) because he definitely gave me five-or-so days of terribly pleasant compulsive reading....more
I had of course heard of the film adaptation of this historical novel but I had neither read the book nor seen the film. I kept meaning to buy the booI had of course heard of the film adaptation of this historical novel but I had neither read the book nor seen the film. I kept meaning to buy the book, but truth be told it was either missing from my favourite bookshops’ shelves or when it did appear, it was a tiny bit too expensive for my tastes. However, back in June a friend most kindly bought it for me and I spent the last six weeks going through these 500+ pages retracing the life at court of Mary Boleyn, Queen Anne’s sister… the other Boleyn girl history had forgotten until very recently.
As is now better known, Mary Boleyn was Henry VIII’s mistress before her more famous sister Anne – second wife of the king and mother of Elizabeth I – won the king’s heart, setting her tragic destiny. This book recalls the story of the Boleyn family and their rise and fall in the English court from Mary’s point of view. How the three siblings – Mary and Anne as well as their brother George – were thrown in the game to enhance their family’s position, resulting in a dramatic bloody ending caused by too much ambition. It also explores a great deal the rivalry between the two sisters who were in turn made to fight for the king’s desire.
Although this book has many faults, I will easily admit that I devoured it and that the only reason why it took me so long to get through it is that I was moving abroad and did procrastinate now and then. However, the 500+ pages never once felt boring and it is always such a great joy to experience this when one is reading a book: never did I feel that Gregory was taking too long to describe a scenery or a room. I never felt like skipping a sentence or two, or worst: a page. Although every literate reader will know the outcome of the story, you can’t help wanting to know how it is going to end. While Mary sometimes annoyed me with her goody-goody behaviour, I could not help but shake for Anne and die to tell her to give it all up and run. Henry VIII was very rightly described as a grand but spoilt king whose mood was about as fickle as the English weather. And yet, everyone who knows me also knows that I have some sort of unreasonable passion for Henry.
This book should not however be taken literally as this is no way a history one: although Philippa Gregory has done research (she provides a bibliography of works that she read to write this novel), she has on many occasions chosen her version of the story as some facts are still being discussed and researched by historians themselves. For instance, it is not certain in what order the Boleyn children were born; Catherine and William are said to be Henry VIII’s children although it was not yet proved that he fathered them; Anne and George Boleyn were accused of incest and Gregory gives us this version – while it is not openly stated, it is suggested that Anne gives birth to “a monster” which was the fruit of an intercourse with George as she was desperate to give the king a son. Historians also reproached Gregory her depiction of Anne Boleyn as cold and ambitious beyond words. While Anne Boleyn certainly had ambition, she was also the instrument of her family’s desires and victim of a capricious king who thought himself almighty. I suppose she had her revenge when Elizabeth became one of the greatest monarchs to ever reign.
As I said, while this book should not be read as a bible for the Boleyn era of Henry VIII’s reign, it remains a most entertaining read and will delight any Tudor enthusiast....more
Twitterature is good fun and obviously not to be taken seriously. Overall, I enjoyed this book and it cracked me up quite a few times, although it remTwitterature is good fun and obviously not to be taken seriously. Overall, I enjoyed this book and it cracked me up quite a few times, although it remains uneven for obvious reasons. The first one is that naturally, not every single tweet is hilarious so you have to keep reading until the one which will make laugh comes up. The second reason is that when you don't know the original classic, 80% of the humour is gone. Unfortunately, there were several books I didn't read out of the twittered ones, so these I read through quickly or even fully skipped. My favourite twitterclassic was 'The Great Gatsby', I believe, just for the "This guy knows HOW TO PARTTTTTTY!!!" (or something along those lines) tweet.
Moreover, Twitterature is obviously not a novel so you don't sit down and read through it entirely. It is on the contrary the kind of books you have in your bag or by your bed and from which you'll read a few pages at a time when you have to wait for something/-one or are bored....more
I read Book VII of this for a literature seminar about London. I'll be honest: I'm not into poetry. I love literature, and I love reading, but poetryI read Book VII of this for a literature seminar about London. I'll be honest: I'm not into poetry. I love literature, and I love reading, but poetry is just one genre that I cannot seem to appreciate; it doesn't touch me. But to each their own, right? While reading it before said seminar, I was really bored and almost literally fell asleep at the library. I thought I would be just as bored in class, but I underestimated my wonderful professor who made the studying of this extract fun and worth it. An enjoyable journey through the English capital....more
As I'm typing this, I am aware that 1) this is a classic 2) this is first and foremost children literature. However, I cannot deny that I was rather bAs I'm typing this, I am aware that 1) this is a classic 2) this is first and foremost children literature. However, I cannot deny that I was rather bored while going through this book and that I am relieved to be able to move on. Although this was written for young children, I wish the story had been a little more detailed: here, we go straight to the point and I didn't feel inclined to use my imagination much. It was also a little bit too goody-goody to my taste at times - although I do see the good/bad aspect etc.
Overall, I can see the appeal for young children but this is unfortunately not a book I had much fun reading. It doesn't feel like an 'Alice in Wonderland' or even 'Harry Potter' to me....more