When I first heard that Cate Tiernan was releasing a new book, I was elated. It had been about eight years since I first picked up Book of Shadows andWhen I first heard that Cate Tiernan was releasing a new book, I was elated. It had been about eight years since I first picked up Book of Shadows and I have been a supporter of her ever since. However, I was apprehensive when I saw that it was described as "paranormal" and "urban fantasy". Paranormal romance is hugely popular at the moment. Lets face it, it's everywhere. The book also has the generic black and red cover design that is clearly marketed at a certain kind of readership - a readership that I felt I no longer belonged to, which is why it has taken me four months to pick up the book.
Secondly, Book of Shadows was published in 2001 - 10 years ago, and things have changed dramatically since then. I was therefore apprehensive about what her writing style and imagination would be like 10 years on. I had grown up, but had I outgrown her work?
Thankfully, Immortal Beloved did not disappoint. We're immediately confronted with Nastasya aka "Nasty" - a confident, blunt, self-assured and at times, hilarious, young girl (although, I have to admit, I can't stand her name), who runs away from the friends she has known for so long once they cause a man to be paralysed and leave him lying in the street. Nastasya heads for Immortal rehab where she aims to overcome her depression and sort out her life. She meets some interesting, mysterious characters with stories of their own, such as Reyn, a beautiful but hostile Dutch boy.
What I enjoyed about this book was that Cate Tiernan manages to create a current storyline whilst staying true to what she knows and what she is good at. She injects familiar notions into the storyline: circles, sigils, rules, spells, and scrying, whilst still managing to make it modern and relevant. Reading this book was like curling up with a cup of hot chocolate in front of the fire on a cold winter night - familiar and comforting. The historical flashbacks add intrigue to the story as we try to figure out how they all piece together; what do they mean?
Tiernan is also unafraid of being understated. Current fantasy novels tend to rely on action and cliffhangers to draw their audience in, such as City of Bones, whereas Tiernan mainly relies on a good storyline.
I was very happy with this book and will definitely carry on reading the trilogy. Cate Tiernan is back!
Thank you Hodder for sending me the book to review!
I'm not going to even attempt to assess a classic, let alone a Jane Austen classic, and I don't even have much to say except I was pleasantly surpriseI'm not going to even attempt to assess a classic, let alone a Jane Austen classic, and I don't even have much to say except I was pleasantly surprised.
I've always been a little intimidated by so-called "classics" but I found Pride and Prejudice to be an extremely readable and enjoyable story. It's enlightening to see that she writes about strong, female characters, and is critical of certain aspects of the society she lives in (e.g. class obsessed, the fact that women can't inherit property, etc). I did not have high hopes after reading half of beginning Emma.
I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who is unsure about beginning a Austen novel. I'm now extremely excited to see how the book is portrayed in the TV series and movie, although I won't be angry if it doesn't stay completely true to the story....more
I chose Fahrenheit 451 to be my seventh classic book because I read Brave New World earlier in the year and so it was the only one of the 'big three'I chose Fahrenheit 451 to be my seventh classic book because I read Brave New World earlier in the year and so it was the only one of the 'big three' classic dystopian novels left for me to read (1984 also being one of them, which a read a few years ago). It was also extremely good timing because John and Hank Green chose it to be their Summer Book Club book (and also not-so-good timing as Ray Bradbury died a week after I purchased it...).
My knowledge of Fahrenheit 451 was actually quite limited. I've never studied it and only met one person (!) that has actually read it. I knew, vaguely, that it was about a fireman who actually caused fires instead of putting them out, and that it was because of government regulation that books were banned. I was actually slightly wrong about this: the citizens in Fahrenheit 451 police themselves; conformity is widespread and accepted across society.
An aspect I found particularly fascinating was that even though Ray Bradbury is hailed as being a huge supporter of physical books (and anti any type of e-reader) that is not what Fahrenheit 451 is about. Perhaps it would be if it was written now as there was no need to comment on the physicality of books because there was nothing else to compare them to (e.g. I have never seen so many people on the Internet talk about the smell of books, the feel of a book, etc as much as I have after the Kindle became popular). But what I took from the novel is that it is the content — the words a book holds rather than what form it takes — that is the greatest loss in the novel, that is what is mourned, rather than the fact that it is illegal to display one's own personal library:
'It's not books you need, it's some of the things that were once in books... No, no, it's not books at all you're looking for... There's nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only what books say.'
Now, as I've said, I've never studied the book and so I may completely wrong. I do not usually eagerly dissect metaphors, and so maybe I am taking it too literally, but I understood it as demonstrating to us how important knowledge is, what the lack of universal education, and fiction, and poetry; a post-literate future, can do to a society, rather than about the loss of books themselves. And as much as I absolutely love and adore physical books and would never give them up, I think the former message is much more important.
The back of my copy says Fahrenheit 451 is a 'prophetic account of Western civilisation's enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity'. Clarisse, I think, is seen to be the opposite of this and I really liked her character; her inquisitive nature. John Green says that she is not a realistic character, which I agree with, but I also agree with Hank that the entire book is full of unrealistic characters. I did not see her as someone who represents those who feel/are 'superior' enough to see past blind conformity, but as a way of showing us just how much was kept from the people in Guy Montag's society.
Fahrenheit 451 is a novel that is at first deceptively simple, but one I can see myself reading again and again, extracting new meanings from each time. It now has a space on my mental 'favourite dystopian novels' list and I urge everyone else to read it! I have learned, if nothing else, how to spell 'fahrenheit'.
The Virgin Suicides made me think about what exactly the word 'classic' means when it comes to books (spoiler: I still don't know). I discovered it waThe Virgin Suicides made me think about what exactly the word 'classic' means when it comes to books (spoiler: I still don't know). I discovered it was first published in 1993 only after I had chosen it to be my eleventh classic of the year. I'd never considered before that one would've been published in my lifetime, but according to Goodreads, many other people have shelved it as 'classic' also. It also has that modern classic feel to it. It seems that everybody has read it or has heard of it yet it's not just popular, but acknowledged to be a literary gem. Regardless of whether it is or not, I felt that it was one of those novels that I must read. And so I did.
As per usual, I did not read the blurb before starting the book and so I had assumed that it'd be about a suicide pact, perhaps one started by a group of friends at school. But it's actually about much more than the suicide, because you already know that it's going to happen and how, but not why. It centres around five sisters: the Lisbon girls – Therese (17), Mary (16), Bonnie (15), Lux (14) and Cecilia (13). It is narrated by the boys who doted on them, but twenty years later. They simply refer to themselves as 'we' and seemed to tell the story in a very emotionally detached way and so I couldn't quite work out who they were at first – they often refer to specific 'exhibits' such as photographs. Yet they also often slipped into dreamy reminiscence. The Virgin Suicides felt blissful in spite of the imminent tragedy. The boys knew the girls better than anyone, but also did not know them at all.
I usually see storytelling as being more important than the writing, but in this case I couldn't separate the two – the writing is beautiful and the style feels essential to the story. I felt that The Virgin Suicides depicted heightened (and exaggerated) realism and it forces you to truly think about the Lisbon girls, not just as characters, but as real people with intentions. Although the reader is viewing them from the outside, it is still very much the girls' story – it's just that they are not the ones telling it.
The Virgin Suicides is a poignant, contemplative and very American novel that takes us on a distorted flashback through adolescent heartache and emotional pain that can be difficult to grasp unless experienced. I'll definitely be watching the movie adaptation because I've heard that although it's very well done, it's very different. I'll also have to read Jeffrey Eugenides' other novels, Middlesex and The Marriage Plot.
I chose Jane Eyre to be my eighth classic of the year for two reasons: 1) I watched the adaptation last Christmas and, unexpectedly, really enjoyed itI chose Jane Eyre to be my eighth classic of the year for two reasons: 1) I watched the adaptation last Christmas and, unexpectedly, really enjoyed it. Reading Rebecca earlier in the year also gave me confidence to finally pick it up. 2) I wanted to read The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, but thought I may miss certain references, and so not appreciate it fully, if I haven't read the book.
I hadn't really planned on picking up Jane Eyre when I began the challenge, but I'm so incredibly glad I did. I'm constantly surprised at how readable and accessible the classics I've been reading are; it has certainly changed my perception of them.
I separated the novel into three parts: Jane's childhood, her time at Thornfield Hall, and 'after'. I really loved the first two parts of the novel: finding out who Jane is, how her unhappy childhood and neglect shaped her, key incidents in her life that she'll never forget, and then those people who showed rare kindness.
Jane Eyre is a fantastic character - independent, honest, blunt and dignified. Even though the book was written over 160 years ago, and I'd expect women to be complacent and submissive (and for men to treat them that way), Jane is anything but. ('I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you.'). I was rooting for her all the way, yet devastating things kept happening to her, and I wondered if she'd ever get to be happy. Mr Rochester is also one of the most interesting characters I've come across in a novel. I'm not sure if I ever really liked him — he is complicated, moody and sometimes patronising and belittling — but I found him utterly fascinating. I enjoyed his witty, quick banter with Jane! The unconventional romance between them was also enjoyable, even though I knew what was coming. In one way, Jane Eyre is a simple, straightforward story but in other ways it's completely mad and dramatic. I think this contrast was why I was so absorbed and fixated with the story.
The beautiful, magnificent writing was also one of my favourite things about Jane Eyre. It's just perfect; so eloquent yet not overdone ('Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education'). I admired the characters and their superior vocabulary, and the way that Jane addresses the reader. It's so different — more complex — from the writing style I usually come across, but so easy to read, something I'm constantly surprised to encounter.
Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy the 'after' as much as I had expected to. I'm not sure whether it was because I had been reading the book for longer than I usually would and it started to make me fidgety, or whether I just didn't find the situation as interesting, but it drew me back towards the end. It's the reason why I couldn't give the book the full five star 'I loved it' rating, although I desperately wanted to. I'm hoping that I'll appreciate it more when I re-read it someday, and it has still made it to my 'favourites'.
Jane Eyre was a surprising novel to me in every way and I adored it. I have now added the latest adaptation to my Christmas list, as I'd love to watch it again, and look forward to reading Villette!
The only thing I knew about The Thirteenth Tale was that it was about books and narrated by a booklover. This alone encouraged me to pick it up. It'sThe only thing I knew about The Thirteenth Tale was that it was about books and narrated by a booklover. This alone encouraged me to pick it up. It's described as historical fiction and although we're not told when the story takes place, there is a historical feel to it that's really similar to The Little Stranger or Jane Eyre. It's also described as a Gothic novel, which is unfamiliar to me but I found it easy to become absorbed in the narrative and the way it is told.
The Thirteenth Tale made me feel as if I was being told a story, rather than just reading a book. I’d describe the reading experience as cosy and comfortable. Stories is also an important theme in the novel seeing as the main character (Margaret Lea) is hired by a bestselling author (Vida Winter) to write her biography - a story that no one has ever been told before but has been trying to unveil for years. The mystery aspect of the book - the story within a story - also captured my interest. We're catapulted into the past and attempt to piece together how the stories of the twins Adeline and Emmeline, their uncle Charlie, and mother Isabelle, amongst other secondary, but no less important, characters fit together to provide us, and Margaret, with the truth.
The Thirteenth Tale is also wonderfully written and this was my favourite aspect of the book. It really is just beautiful. There's many quotable lines and passages that you find yourself reading more than once, just to experience them again.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Thirteenth Tale. It has everything you could want in a story - mystery, intrigue, fascinating characters, combined with impeccable writing. “A good story is always more dazzling than a broken piece of truth."
I hadn’t watched the About the Boy movie before reading the book and so I knew nothing about the plot nor the characters. I was therefore very surprisI hadn’t watched the About the Boy movie before reading the book and so I knew nothing about the plot nor the characters. I was therefore very surprised to find that it’s narrated by Marcus as well as Will. I thought this worked perfectly they are both stand-out, likeable characters. I loved Marco’s naivety and his ability to see things in a straightforward, literal way, and I loved Will’s hilarious cynicism. If you’re familiar with Danny Wallace, that’s who he reminded me of.
I was rooting for Will and Marco’s unconventional friendship throughout the book. Why can’t an adult male and a child be friends? Why is everything made out to be so sordid? I also noticed that Hornby’s very good at intermixing humorous moments with extremely serious moments. The novel could be very gloomy: Will’s jobless and without family, Marco’s constantly bullied and he’s mother’s depressed. But Hornby’s fantastic at portraying these situations in a comical way without taking away their importance, whether it’s by using dialogue, events, or references to popular culture.
I played out the whole novel in my head as a film and cannot wait to see how the real version differs. About a Boy is a very funny, quick read that’s perfect to snuggle up with around Christmastime.
Sister is a psychological thriller from the viewpoint of Beatrice. Beatrice communicates to her missing sister Tess through a letter or diary-like entSister is a psychological thriller from the viewpoint of Beatrice. Beatrice communicates to her missing sister Tess through a letter or diary-like entries. The plot is centered around her attempts to find out the truth about Tess's disappearance.
I loved this book. Another reviewer described it as a "crime fiction novel for people who don't like crime fiction" and I agree with that description. I've read a few crime fiction novels and really enjoyed them (e.g. the Millenium trilogy) but it can be a difficult genre to get right. I always feel overwhelmed when entering the crime section of a bookstore or library, faced with hundreds of books that look and sound the same. However, Sister stood out to me because it has a beautiful cover and not one you would associated with a crime investigation. It's serene as opposed to bold and bloody. I would have assumed it was more of a family drama novel and I believe this novel bridges the gap between the two genres.
Sister is an extremely easy and captivating read - I particularly enjoyed the ethical debates concerning medicine - and I'm not surprised that it was on the UK bestsellers list for so long.
edit 2012: I wrote this initially to be a 'personal review' so it's not very good, but I'm sure my enthusiasm for the book still comes across ;)...more