Jackson's 'We Have Always Lived in the Castle' tells a delicious story of horror, isolation, murder and intrigue. With one of the most inspired and vi...moreJackson's 'We Have Always Lived in the Castle' tells a delicious story of horror, isolation, murder and intrigue. With one of the most inspired and vibrant narrators that I can think of, this novel tells the story of Merricat, a young woman who lives in a mansion on a hill with her older sister, Constance and her Uncle Julian after a tragedy is inflicted on their family. Merricat is the most charming and perfect narrator as she introduces you to her strange life, filled with her superstitions (she buries items around her house as sort of talismans) and wonderfully strange rituals. Even though she isn't the most reliable of the narrators the reader is provided with such a clear idea of what Merricat is like it is almost impossible not to fall in love with her. The thing that I love most about the story is that the two sisters try their hardest not to fit in with the villagers, who despise them, and they end up being the happiest they could ever be. The end chapter really reminds me of a house I used to be scared of (so much so I refused to deliver the paper to their house and made my Dad do it!) that is on my street. It is dilapidated and I have only ever seen the inhabitants (two elderly women, maybe sisters?) once the children of my town think that they are witches.. After reading this book I like to think that they are not just lonley but they are like Constance and Merricat, existing perfectly happily without anyone else invading their space. It is difficult to describe this book as it is such a simple story. The only way anyone could truly appreciate the genius of this novel is just to read it. Read with a really sugary cup of tea. (less)
So I have this theory that whenever I read a book where there is a gruff old man who is prickly on the...more"Takes yer time, everythin' 'as its own time."
So I have this theory that whenever I read a book where there is a gruff old man who is prickly on the outside but a big softie in the middle, I will love it.
This book is one of my all-time favourites and I know I say that about every book, but I definitely mean it this time. I first read it when I was about ten and I was in Year 5, learning about WW2 and the Blitz and evacuees. Seeing as I had read all the books we had to read and I was allowed to go into the library and choose my own book. And this one was the first book I chose.
Ms Magorian’s writing feels so comfortable to me; it’s simple and gentle but never ventures into twee-ness (twee-dom?)… fine, it never becomes twee. The setting is perfectly constructed, the friendships that are developed are honest and true and there is always this rich sense of innocent fun running through the story, which is perfectly balanced with the more harrowing points of the tale. But I’m not talking about them because it just makes me too sad. And let’s not forget Sam who is the most endearing fictional dog since Manchee. As I mentioned, I read this book when I was ten and now twelve years later this book was still beautiful. It has aged extremely well. I still laughed (seriously, Zach and I need to be best friends) and I still got teary at certain parts and I still got a warm feeling in my tummy at that epilogue. Yes. That’s right. An epilogue that made me feel warm and fuzzy.
This is book is truly special to me.
Also, I just want to say something about the film adaptation. Gasp. I know, I know. This is a book site! Only heathens talk about film on this site. But whatever, I don’t care. Normally I hate watching adaptations of my favourite books because they never ever EVER measure up. And I think this is the only exception. I think I’ve seen this film at least ten times (five of those viewings were on successive video days on the afternoon of every end of term, The Railway Children in the morning, of course.).
Oh and whoever cast John Thaw as Mr Tom is a champion.
And ALSO, why haven’t I gone and seen this play yet?! One day. :)
This review is part of my Poppies & Prose feature. You can find out more here.(less)
Re-read: 21/03/2012 to.... oh who am I kidding? I read this book in a day.
Dear Ms Collins,
I think I speak...moreRe-read: 21/03/2012 to.... oh who am I kidding? I read this book in a day.
Dear Ms Collins,
I think I speak on behalf of most young adult readers when I say thank you for writing a series that allows us to say “I told you so” when every single person we recommend the book to devours it within a day and adores it.
I may be speaking for myself here but when I say “I read the books before I saw the film” about the Hunger Games, I will say it loud and proud and smugly. Thank you for showing everyone that it’s OK to be a Katniss kinda gal.
Forever a fan, Jo.
Compassionate. Brutal. Awkward. Strong. Loyal. Looks good with a side plait. [It’s a difficult look to pull off, believe you me.] It’s all been said before and I hope it gets said again and again. With you, we readers finally got a heroine who wasn’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in. And also, a heroine who didn’t just believe in boys and kissing.
You are the ultimate.
Yours always, Jo. xxx
ps. I have also been keeping track of the boy with the bread. When I say ‘keep track of’ I mean ‘fancied the pants off’….
Dear Peeta, It struck me when I read Katniss’ 100% true memoir the entirely fictional account of the 74th Hunger Games how hilarious you are. For some reason, I forgot this in the lull between the first reading of the book and the second reading. I like how you are actually a character with your own personality and not just one of the tired YA boy clichés that get paraded out when the heroine needs to look ‘feminine’ and ‘normal’ and less “squirrel-killery”. Because, obviously, kissing boys is the only way this can be done, right? Anyway, I think I have done you a great disservice by describing you as the ‘nice’ guy when I have been recommending this book to my family and my friends and that weird woman who wouldn’t leave me alone when I was waiting at the train station. So, for that, I apologise. I mean, you are nice but you also have an incredibly dry humour which I adore so much.
“You here to finish me off, sweetheart?”
“Yes, frosting. The final defence of the dying.”
“Remember, we’re madly in love, so it’s all right to kiss me any time you feel like it.”
You’re also so incredibly swoony and I would like to cuddle in a cave with you while you whisper sweet nothings into my ear. And when I say ‘cuddle in a cave’ I mean in a fancy restaurant where an oddly attractive psychopath isn’t out for our blood. And there would probably be profiteroles. And when I say ‘sweet nothings’ I mean recipes for delicious cakes...
It will be a cold day in hell when I don’t fancy a boy who can provide me with regular baked products. I LOVE BREAD AND I LOVE YOU.
Lots of love, Jo. xxx
G- I always root for the underdog. “Catnip” *sigh* Also, I always root for the tall, fit hunter-gatherer type who would always be there to protect the heroine but lets her protect herself because he knows she could do it just as well, if not better, than he could and he respects that and encourages her strength. Probs just me.
Haymitch, mate, you need to ring me. You left your phone at my house and god it’s been ringing off the hook. Effie really wanted to speak to you, dunno what about. I listened to some of the messages (God, she’s shrill, isn’t she?) and all I got from it was that Katniss needed you to get her something. Something about Katniss not being able to find water and needing you to send her some? Or else she was gonna die? Ha. Effie is such a drama queen, isn’t she? Does that make any sense to you? Nah, I didn’t get it either. Anyway, last Friday was BRILLIANT. Remember? We got really drunk and we ended up on that pedalo? And then we were in that club and you requested Mysterious Girl by Peter Andre from the DJ and I was like “THIS SONG IS ALL ABOUT ME!” and you were like “OMG THIS SONG REALLY IS ALL ABOUT YOU!! ….. You really don’t remember? Anyway, we need to do that again because us two, H? We’re in it for the long haul. I know what happens in the Capitol stays in the Capitol but I guess it’s also the law…
‘Til Sambuca do us part, Jo. xxx
ps. Do you have my left shoe? I’ve looked all over Panem and I can’t find it.
Can I call you Cin? You never replied to my other letter so I’m guessing it’s OK. Anyway, Cin… speaking of those other letters, do you have an answer for me? Would you be willing to be my Life Coach? I know it would be a bit of a task because, well, I’m pretty much failing at all things life-related but this is where you come in. Just picture it, we could go shopping. We could talk about make-up. You could diagnose what the hell is going on with my hair. We could talk about politics. Me and Katniss are practically best friends too, so you could go ahead and book is in on the same session. It’ll be glorious and just think how satisfying it would be to succeed. We could do a Before and After kind of thing. Or make it into a reality TV show?!?! We could be the next Audrey and Rex! Anyway, I’ve included a self-addressed envelope just in case you lost my address. Can’t wait to hear back from you!
ps. I spent about three hours in Boots looking at gold eye-liner last weekend. I just couldn’t decide whether I would suit it or not. I think it takes a certain kind of person to wear that colour, you know? So instead I went to get a meal deal but the woman on the til said I couldn’t have two brownies and a Diet Coke instead of a sandwich, a brownie and a Diet Coke. So I glowered at her for a bit and bought the two brownies anyway and then added another one to my basket IN PROTEST. And I refused to get an advantage card. TO SPITE HER.
pps. See? Life failing, thy name is Jo. HELP.
You know when you’re trying to sleep in in the mornings and there’s that bloody annoying bird outside your window that is just screeching and squawking and you’re just like “HOLY MOCKINGJAY WOULD YOU SHUT UP?!?!?” That was me trying to send you a message via a wood pigeon. I learnt too late that they are not Mockingjays and they do not have the ability to send messages. So… um.. sorry for the squawking and disturbing your Sunday lie-ins. Basically, I just wanted to say that you’re a wonderful little girl and if I think about it really hard, you’re the starting point for everything that happens in this book.
Dearest Finnick, Yes, I know you’re not in this book but I wanted to just let you know that I will be reading Catching Fire again in the near future and I am SO EXCITED because you are one of my favourite real life fictional boys ever. Also, I have missed it when you take off your top randomly and show your abs.
KISSES AND ETERNAL LOVE FOREVER AND EVER, Jo. xxxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxx xxxx xx x
Dear Jennifer Lawrence,
I can’t decide whether I am more in love with your boyfriend or you. Who am I kidding? It's totally you. I don’t know what this means.
Best wishes, Jo.
ps. You don’t happen to still have Michael Fassbender’s number, do you?
Initial Final Page Thoughts. Ahhh. Everything is going to be OK.
High point. OK, I tried to just pick one, but I couldn't narrow it down to just one in...moreInitial Final Page Thoughts. Ahhh. Everything is going to be OK.
High point. OK, I tried to just pick one, but I couldn't narrow it down to just one in this case. I LOVED LOVED LOVED THIS BOOK. But anyway- Vera Dietz, one of the most realistic (and likeable) heroines I have ever read, such a compelling story, AS Kings' writing is just ridiculously engaging and I honestly couldn't put it down, well-thought out characters (even the secondary ones), BEST DAD EVER, heart-breakingly honest, FLOW CHARTS and finally, I loved how it was told from different perspectives (even inanimate buildings!)
Low Point. GODDAMMIT CHARLIE, WHY ARE YOU DEAD?!
Heroine. I feel I need to create a new award for Ms Dietz. The Vera Dietz Soul Sister Prize. She is just so awesome and fiesty and real and honest and perfect and I like to think that we would be friends if we went to the same high school. We would eat Big Macs (and she could have all my pickles because I don't like them!) and bitch about the bitchy bitch slag that is Jenny Flick. Seriously, why can't all heroines be like this? SORT IT, AUTHORS.
Love Interest. Oh Charlie Khan. You weird one. You treat my soul sister like crap but I'm still rooting for you to get together with her. And then I remember you're dead and my heart is broken and it's not pretty. Thank you, AS King. You write the cutest scenes ever and make me wish I had had a sort of mentally unstable lovecrush when I was 16 who encouraged me to eat napkins and throw paper aeroplanes and then after a few of heart-fluttering moments be like 'Mmm.. yeah, CK is dead and this lovely thing between him and Vera? Yeah, it's not happening. Nor will it EVER.' Gutpunch.
Baddie. Ugh, Jenny Flick. I went to an all girls school so I knew lots of people like her (not to the same mental state as JF, but definitely the same needless maliciousness that only teenage girls know how to execute to make people's lives hell). The combination of Jenny Flick and Vera just shows how perfectly AS King understands teenagers, especially girls. Even though I hate hate hate her, she is a great character.
Angst Scale. 6/10. Even though death is one of the major subject of the book, it is not what it is all about. Vera isn’t sure how she feels about Charlie’s death because she wasn’t sure how she felt about Charlie. I have given it a relatively low score on the angst scale because Vera is very mature and downplays the grief that is bubbling below the surface. Really effective. Also, the relationship between Vera and her Dad is just perfect, especially because we get a few chapters from his perspective. Jenny Flick may cause angst… but she’s a bitch and isn’t even worth bothering over.
Recommended for. EVERYONE. People who like interesting and complex stories. People who want to read books that are set in the now. People who like convincing teen speak and not all ‘LOL’ and ‘LMAO’. People who love strong female mcs. People who like books that aren’t all about romance and lurrrve. Or if you are... realistic love that reminds you of summer days sitting with friends when you're supposed to be doing a million different things. People who like Big Macs…and pizza.(less)
High Points. The beginning- what a hilarious opening. Hopefully I’ll never be caught in the middle of a bank heis...moreInitial Final Page Thoughts. Say what?
High Points. The beginning- what a hilarious opening. Hopefully I’ll never be caught in the middle of a bank heist, but I just know that if I ever were, that is exactly how I would act. Marv and Richie! The Doorman. Australia! Pa-pa-pa-poker faaaace. Mystery. Intrigue. Clues. (Most of) The messages were beautiful and made my little northern ice-heart melt.
Low Point. I am still undecided about whether I liked Ed, I’ll discuss this more in the hero section. Even though the whole idea of the book was fantastic and so original, I hate to say it failed in the execution. Whether it was just me, I’m not sure, but I have NO idea what the ending was all about or… actually, what the whole ‘message’ of the book was all about. Also, the logistics are absolutely ridiculous. I mean, I don’t mind suspending my disbelief… but if I was going to suspend my disbelief for this book I’d probably need a crane. Also, the love story. YAWN.
Hero. OK, I loved Ed at first. He was sarcastic, funny, self-deprecating and he ticked all my boxes (yeah I fancied him). But as the book went on I found it more and more difficult to sympathise with him. He was one of those characters that are ridiculously slow at getting the gist of things and you just want to reach in and shake them by the collar and be like ‘WHY DON’T YOU GET WHAT’S HAPPENING YET?!’ I know there has to be an element of cluelessness in books like this so the author can develop the story properly… but this was silly. I don’t want to end on a negative tone so I will say a few things about what I liked about Ed. He treated The Doorman, aka the second best dog in literature (Manchee still has my heart), with the respect he warranted. He did deal with crazy men in balaclavas turning up in house very bravely. He likes Bob Dylan. He was very sweet when it came to some of the messages, particularly Sophie, Angie, Marv and the Tatupu. Oh, and I’m always fascinated by people who can play cards without inadvertently launching into a game of 52 card pick-up. Seriously, I can't even play Snap.
Love Interests. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue saying it until all the authors in the universe heed my infinite wisdom: A book does NOT need a love interest to be a good book. Yes, I love it when authors bring the swoon. But only when it either adds something to the story or aids the development of a character. A romance shouldn’t just be thrown in as an afterthought. I couldn’t get behind Audrey and Ed because it seemed really forced and rushed. Also, Audrey was kind of a tease. Even though she has good taste in films…
Best Friends. I loved Marv and Richie. One of my greatest weakness in life (I do have a few) is a boy who defends his run-down car to the death, so Marv and his blue Falcon was like cat nip to me. So many of Marv and Ed’s exchanges made me laugh so loudly and I could just imagine boys their age talking like that. But my Marv keeps his cards close to his chest, I don’t want to give anything away but Marv’s message was my favourite part of the whole book. It came at the point in the book where I had pretty much written it off, so I was completely surprised when I found myself being a bit choked up! I also really liked Richie but I just wished he had been in it a bit more because I think his story line was great. I also LOVED that he had a Jimi Hendrix tattoo on his arm... that looked like Richard Pryor. Hahaaa. I love authors that don’t just let their secondary characters stand around in the background, leaning against the wall and having a cigarette break.
I don't mind admitting that I love a good metaphor but I feel like I was cheated a little on that front by this book, so I’ve chosen a song brimming with metaphor. And it’s all linked to card suits as well! It's like it was written for this very moment.
People who haven’t read The Book Thief… your high expectations will be dashed. DASHED I SAY. People who play cards. People who have always wondered whether driving a taxi is more glamorous than it seems. People who will not hear a word against their beloved ride even if it is a danger to humanity. People who like Zola Budd. People who like books that are a mixture of The Christmas Carol and PS. I love you… except not as good as the former and not as painful as the latter. People who have always wanted to find themselves in the middle of a mystery with anonymous clues being dropped off at their door. People who have always been too nervous to give their dog caffeine but have always been tempted… just to see what happens.
You can also read the review for this book and others and a whole lot of other exciting stuff on my blog here.(less)
Initial Final Page Thoughts. Well, I wasn’t expecting THAT ending. In a good way. In a great way. In the best way possible.
High Point. Elaborate revenge...moreInitial Final Page Thoughts. Well, I wasn’t expecting THAT ending. In a good way. In a great way. In the best way possible.
High Point. Elaborate revenge schemes in the dead of night, three best friends that anybody could ever have, black Santa’s, kick-ass parents, poetrypoetrypoetry, adventure, hilarious-do-not-read-in-public-for-fear-you-will-be-judged-for-barking-like-a-seal dialogue, Omnictionary (which, to my utmost delight, actually exists!)and perhaps the most important high point…. NAKED GRADUATION.
Low Point. MORE BEN AND RADAR. Seriously, when you read this (which you will!) you will agree with my 100%. I wish the book had featured more of ‘The Vessel’ section. Seriously, that road trip…
Hero Have you ever seen Practical Magic? If you answered no, then you’re probably not going to understand the rest of my analogy for my feelings towards Quentin Jacobson (or Q as he’s known to his friends…and me.). I’ll carry on. You know the part where the young Sally creates that love spell for a man who has one blue eye and one brown, who can flip pancakes and his favourite shape is a star? And then he turns up and it’s all lovely? Well, when I read this book I realised I must have also cast one of these spells to entice my perfect man (indie geek with funny, awesome, nerdy conversation and a tendency to quote T.S Eliot and would dedicate a song to someone by their locker combination and who would probably be played by Jesse Eisenberg or Michael Cera in a film version of their life) and completely forgotten I had done it. Then this list must have fallen into the hands of John Green and using my template, he created all his protagonists. Seriously. It’s ridiculous how much I love these guys. And how much I kind of fancy them or at least want to be bffs with them, bffs that occasionally kiss. If you haven’t seen Practical Magic…. Then I’ll put it simply: Quentin Jacobsen is my kind of guy.
Love Interest. Margo Roth Spiegelman is the type of love interest I would normally hate because she is cool, edgy, kooky and has a, shall we say, flair for the dramatic and being centre of the attention. But I liked MRS because unlike so many heroines before her, it wasn't all me, me, me. Also, it probably helped that even though she feature heavily in the novel and was mentioned like a million times, she is only really in the first few chapters (and gee whizz, is she in these chapters… I liked to live vicariously through her in these sections, the phrase ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ was coined for Margo! Next time I get messed around by a boy I am calling this girl!) but as a character she is mostly featured to let Q… for want of a better phrase, explore who he is when he is teetering on the edge of adulthood. I can’t really explain MRS’ role in the book without either spoiling it or making it sound terribly cheesy… but it’s really not, I promise. You probably know by now that I hate cheesy books and this really steered away from the predictable and, as the book came to the end and I realised it wasn’t going to be the ending I was expecting, I was kind of craving some kind of clichéd, disgusting ending. But no, because John Green is never clichéd and that is why I love him so even if it breaks my heart.
Best friends. If my entry on the love interest was weirdly ambiguous and rambly it was because I desperately wanted to scream ‘THIS ISN’T A BOOK ABOUT LOVE IT’S ABOUT FINDING YOUR PLACE IN LIFE AND HAVING AMAZING GEEKY, NERDY BESTFRIENDS’ and it was affecting my ability to form coherent sentences. Friendship. This is what this book is about, at least in my opinion, and in my (albeit brief) experiences with John Green I have found he is the master of creating amazingly well-thought and realistic characters, both main and supporting. The conversations between the Q, Radar and Ben are exactly what my friends and I sound like when we get together (OK, maybe not exactly like them… I don’t think we sound as cool as them but you get the gist!) and it just feels so familiar which is good because sometimes conversations between teenagers in YA fiction can be so alienating and try-so-hard and it’s just like…cringe. There were so many times when I literally barked with laughter ("The last time I was this scared," Radar says, "I actually had to face a Dark Lord in order to make the world safe for wizards."). I’ve said it before and, no doubt I’ll say it again, but John Green knows exactly what it’s like to be a teenager and he depicts it so perfectly that you can almost imagine these guys in the dinner hall chatting with all their private jokes and movie references. I would totally have been the loser sat close to them, chuckling at their jokes but never going to join them. So often in books the best friends betray them or are not-so-secretly nasty to them or so under-developed they have no personality, but these guys are true friends and I love JG for keeping them that way.
Don't Say Oh Well by Grouplove This song reminds me of summer and going on exciting adventures with your best friends and following your heart's plan and not thinking too much and just forgoing consequences and just doing things you want to do and having no regrets. Basically what this whole book is about, or at least what it means to me.
Angst Scale. 5/10. I wouldn’t say that this book was angsty. Probably more thought-provoking, which can sometimes lead you to feeling emotionally drained which then can also lead you to mistaking it for angst. There are some problems that are mentioned (Margo’s problems with her family and her compulsion of running away) but they are never really explored in depth, but this book isn’t that kind of book and these issues are dealt with respectfully even if they are not covered. However, the last couple of chapters and especially the ending left me with a very bitter-sweet taste in my mouth.
Recommended For. People who always wanted to sit at the indie, band-geek table in the dining hall (or for us Brits… People who wished they had attended a clichéd, fictional American High School where indie, band-geeks are segregated from the Jocks and the Girls Who Eat Their Feelings). People who love stories that don’t always have an immediate, all-loose-ties-are-tied-in-a-nice-neat-bow, happy endings. (Referring to the first part of the book) People who love kick-ass girls getting kick-ass revenge on ridiculously stupid boys and crappy friends. People who want to go on an adventure. People who like mysterious treasure hunts that involve Walt Whitman and Woody Guthrie. People who like original premises and metaphors that aren’t tired (seriously, after I finished reading this book I went straight onto Google to find out more about paper towns and other copyright traps… so fascinating!). People who have always wanted to break into theme parks at night. People who have always wanted to know what exactly happens when you need to pee when you're on a strict driving schedule and there are no planned stops for another three hours...
You can find this review and other exciting stuff on my blog here.(less)
This is not a review. This is a badly written poem.
“Then I choose to drown,” Finnikin said. “In hope. Rather than float into nothing.”
Since I was a n...moreThis is not a review. This is a badly written poem.
“Then I choose to drown,” Finnikin said. “In hope. Rather than float into nothing.”
Since I was a nipper I have come to the conclusion That when it comes to fantasy: I am strongly opposed. When I read a book with long, confusing names And swords and maps, its pages remain closed. So imagine my surprise when I finished this one (In the early hours of this morning, I feel I should note) That my stomach was rumbling (I had no time to eat!) And my heart was in my throat. A tale of hopeful heroes, sacrifice and loss History, homeland and prophecies told, Of faraway lands, identity and faith And love and flower fields of gold. I learnt a lot from the tale of Finn and his friends Like how to remain fierce in a threadbare smock And how to fight thieves and how to hold a sword (FYI: Similar to how you’d hold a….*cough*) MM’s heroes are not made of puppy dog tails And they don’t mope around being rude It appears you can be a great character (and get the girl) Without being in a permanent mood. They are complex, compelling and always sexy brave, And they treat their chosen one like an equal except Will. From Jonah to Mackee to good old Trevanion Finn. (On Froi, the jury is out ‘til the sequel) But this book isn’t about the boys for the ladies are the ones to watch With their passion and love and their unrelenting loyalty And determination to show they will fight for what’s right From the goddesses to the lost ones and, of course, the royalty.
But it’s easy to see, from my other reviews, that I am smitten With every single book that Ms Marchetta has written. And it’s safe to say that if her next book was about Broody boys who are mean and think it’s sexy to shout Or crying girls and fairies and triangles of love Vampires and angling or all of the above. Even if it was called “The Mating Habits of Eels” Or “Puppies Aren’t Just For Christmas: 100 Delicious Meals” I’d still read it and laugh and swoon and cry And then place a copy in the hands of my friends and say “You need to give this a try.”
I received a copy of this book from the author.
You can find this review poem and other exciting things on my blog here.