Friday, 27 September 2013

Review: Cat's Cradle

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Published: 2008 (first published 1963)
Publisher: Penguin Modern Classics
Pages: 206
Source: Library
'Dr Felix Hoenikker, one of the founding 'fathers' of the atomic bomb, has left a deadly legacy to humanity. For he is the inventor of ice-nine, a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. Writer Jonah's search for its whereabouts leads him to Hoenikker's three eccentric children, to an island republic in the Carribean where the religion of Bokononism is practised, to love and to insanity.'
I'm not sure there's anything I can say about Cat's Cradle that hasn't already been said before. I will warn that this review includes spoilers. This was my first Vonnegut book and I had fallen in love with his writing style by the first page. Cat's Cradle is unique, strange, wonderful and engaging. There were no characters I particularly loved or particularly felt dispassionate towards, but I enjoyed the narrator's interactions with all of them, and the narrator's quick wit.

I loved the idea of Bokononism and the Bokononist songs that were interspersed throughout. My favourite was Papa's death scene with his last rites, which was compelling, entertaining and surprisingly moving.

At the end of everything, when I sit down and think over the entire novel, it's a pretty frightening plot. Frightening because it was written in the sixties and the fear of a nuclear war isn't one that disappearing anytime soon.  There's dark humour laced throughout of course (my favourite being the fact that Vonnegut plays on the idea of the Cold War with ice-nine. Could it possibly get any colder?) and the idea of the end of the world is in the middle of what is essentially a darkly comical book, which makes it easier to ingest - as long as you don't dissect it too closely.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and I'm going to make sure I read more Vonnegut in the near future.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Review: Jezebel

Jezebel by Irène Némirovsky 
Published: 2010 (first published 1936)
Publisher: Vintage
Pages: 199
Source: Library
'In a French courtroom, the trial of a woman is taking place. Gladys Eysenach is no longer young, but she is still beautiful, elegant, cold. She is accused of shooting dead her much-younger lover. As the witnesses take the stand and the case unfolds, Gladys relives fragments of her past: her childhood, her absent father, her marriage, her turbulent relationship with her daughter, her decline, and then the final irrevocable act.'

Jezebel was a book I picked up on impulse in the library, on remembering how much I loved Suite Française. It's not the type of book I'd usually read, but I wanted to take a break from horror and long, 900-page novels (I'm looking at you Stephen King).

I was morbidly curious on reading the blurb, and indeed throughout the entire book, watching the decline of Gladys, half-hating her and half-pitying her. This is not a book full of characters who are good people, or even likeable most of the time. I found myself wanting to tear my hair out at their actions and emotional immaturity, and at times Gladys reminded of both Blanche from A Streetcar Named Desire, and Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby. Gladys is rich, self-absorbed, and cares for little else than her looks and the attention of men, and I found it pretty much impossible to identify with her. Thank God for Gladys' daughter, who was one of the only characters who I liked and fully sympathised with.

Although none of the characters are very likeable, nor are any of them flat. They all have histories, their own lives, their skeletons in their closets and their desires. I wanted to know more about them, even if I didn't really care for them. They were intriguing, like grotesque creatures in a museum.

Despite this not being a book I'd usually read, and my contempt for the characters, I was interested the entire way through and read it in chunks over a period of three days. The writing was superb and beautiful, as with all of Némirovsky's books that I have read, and I felt satisfied and satiated when the novel came to its conclusion.  Overall, I recommend this book if this is the kind of story you're looking for, and if you're interested in Irène Némirovsky's beautiful storytelling.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

To Read: I Do So Worry For All Those Lost At Sea

My copy of I Do So Worry For All Those Lost At Sea by David Keyes that I won through the Goodreads First Read program arrived today! I've been very excited to read it and it finally turned up on my doorstep today, all the way from Toronto!

The book is a short story collection by David Keyes, and not having read anything by him before, I'm intrigued to see what this often-dubbed 'eccentric' author has to offer! 

The back of the book reads:

'"The story of a ghost, and the girl that haunts him..."
Ghosts are haunted, girls fling themselves out of windows, wolves are cartographers, hares are pornographers, mermaids are rescued from carnival sideshows and everyone drinks cocktails and comments on the moon. Collected here for the first time are ten short stories and a novella, The House of Sleep. Each story a slight variation on reality, each its own weather system, its own logic surreal, beautiful and haunting, all recording in Keyes' melancholic style.' 

When I opened the book, I had a lovely surprise - it's signed by David Keyes! Awesome, right?

As you probably noticed in the first image above, the package also came with an excerpt from The Blood Red Heiress by David Keyes, and loads of cute things inside, including one of those fortune teller fishes and a cocktail recipe!

This book is definitely the one that's getting read after I finish reading 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King, and I'm super, super looking forward to it. A full review will come once it's finished. 


In other, personal news, I've been accepted on an English Literature with Creative Writing degree at university! I'm thrilled - this is turning out to be a wonderful week :)

Monday, 8 July 2013

Summer To Read List!

I have two weeks of college left until I break up for summer, and I want to get my summer reading list ready. I have 221 books on my Goodreads list to read, and using a random number generator, I'm going to select 10:

1. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
2. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
3. Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer
4. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
5. The Mist by Stephen King
7. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
8. A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway
9. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
10. I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

We'll see if those are the books I actually read, but it looks like an exciting list!

I'm currently reading 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King, and I'm enjoying it so far, but it's not a quick read! I will write a review as soon as I've finished it, but it's taking some time to get through. Thankfully, I'm enjoying every page and easily fall into the world's that King creates.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Review: Angelfall

Angelfall by Susan EE (Series: Penryn and the End of Days #1)
Published: 2011
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 326
Source: Goodreads First Reads
Categories: Strong Females, Young Adult, Fear Factor, Character Love
'It's been six weeks since the angels of the apocalypse destroyed the world as we know it. Only pockets of humanity remain. 
Savage street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. 

When angels fly away with a helpless girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.  
Including making a deal with the enemy.'

I finished reading Angelfall just five minutes ago, and what a fantastic read! I love, love, love the main character, Penryn, and I felt engaged and interested in her struggles and in her journey throughout.

The story is set in an apocalyptic world where Angels walk the Earth and there's a war between Angels and humans. The book begins with Penryn and her mother and younger sister escaping through the deserted, derelict streets of where they live, and - being in the wrong place, at the wrong time - they witness some angels fighting, that results in Penryn's mother running away, Penryn's younger sister being taken and Penryn meeting the injured angel Raffe.

Raffe. The injured angel who might just be the key to helping Penryn find her sister. While reading, I thought he was a bit of a prat, and at one point in the middle of the book I hated him, although I won't say why. And I tried, I tried so much to really hate him, even to dislike him, but by the end of the book I sympathised with him and I began to really like him. I understood why he had been acting the way he had, and even if I didn't agree with it, he was a layered character who I really wanted to know more about.

But this book wasn't about Raffe, it was about Penryn, and she was a strong, capable and independent character who I really got behind, and it was because of her as a character that I kept on reading.

I read this book in three days, and if I had an entire day free then I would have certainly got through it in just one day. I looked forward to reading about it and thought about it even when I wasn't reading it.

Angelfall even hit fairly high on the creepy scale, and didn't hold back like I see some YA novels doing. Overall, I highly recommend this book, especially to fans of paranormal/supernatural/horror books and those who like kick-ass female protagonists.

Top Ten Tuesday: Intimidating Books

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and this week's theme is:

Top Ten: Most Intimidating Books

Under The Dome by Stephen King: Not only is this book epic in length, Stephen King is one of my favourite authors and so I always feel nervous that I won't enjoy a book. Not only that, but I've already read halfway through and then abandoned it, and so picking it back up again is going to be scary. And to top it all off, it's recently been made into a TV show that I want to watch - but only after finishing the book! I need to get back on this one, and soon.  
Les Misérables by Victor Hugo: I received this book for my birthday in May and still haven't opened it yet, because it's very long with very tiny text! It's definitely on my to-read list though, and I'm looking forward to having some time in the summer to tackle it. 

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee: This book is a classic, and everyone I know who's read it has loved it and recommended it. I really want to enjoy this book, so I'm having a little trouble starting it. 

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: I've been recommended this book quite a few times over the years, and I've also been warned I'll need tissues, which is another reason why it's intimidating. I'll have to get around to this book when I've got some time to cry!

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut: This is a book I really want to enjoy. I  haven't read any Vonnegut before but I've heard very good things, and I always find myself picking Slaughterhouse-Five up whenever I'm in a book store but not purchasing it. Next time, though - next time!

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien: If I claim to love books and love reading, I've got to read Lord of the Rings, right? I've also got to read The Hobbit, which I started a very long time ago but thankfully can't remember. This is one of those series where I love the films, and I'm hoping I'll love the books just as much and that I won't constantly be comparing them while I read.  

Divergent by Veronica Roth: This is a book that everyone seems to have read, and have said really good things about, but I haven't got my hands on a copy yet! I'm somewhat nervous to read it in case I can't see what everyone raves about, but I'm excited at the same time to see what I've been missing.
World War Z by Max Brooks: This is another one I've heard a lot of good things about and I really love zombies, so I'm hoping it will be a great read. I think I'll be pretty disappointed if it isn't, and I've been looking for a good zombie book for a long time, because at the moment it feels like zombie films are topping books in this respect! 
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: After studying Plath's poetry in English class a couple of years ago, I've wanted to read The Bell Jar. This is one I'm really having trouble forcing myself to start, and I wasn't sure whether to put it in this category or the previous one, but because I've heard lots of good things I settled with because of the hype.  
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski: I feel like this is a book that I just have to enjoy. I mean, it's supposed to be creepy and unnerving, which I love when I read books. I could talk about psychological horrors and thrillers and my love for them for a long time, and this is one I really want to love.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Review: Tomorrow, When The War Began

Tomorrow, When The War Began by John Marsden (Series: Tomorrow #1)
Published: 1993
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 304

'When Ellie and her friends return from a camping trip in the Australian bush, they find things hideously wrong — their families are gone. Gradually they begin to comprehend that their country has been invaded and everyone in their town has been taken prisoner. As the reality of the situation hits them, they must make a decision — run and hide, give themselves up and be with their families, or fight back.'

I've been meaning to read this book for a while, and I feel ashamed to say that I first heard about it after watching the 2010 film based on the novel. Thankfully I couldn't remember much of the film, and so I was reading with an open mind.

The story follows seven Australian teenagers as they go on a camping trip in a beautiful, uninhabited place called Hell, and return home to find that while they were away their town has been invaded. There's some great, atmospheric scenes at this point, and I think it might be the place in the novel where I felt the most anxious for them. The story is told from the point of view of Ellie, and unfortunately I didn't engage with her too well, finding other people in their little group more interesting. I found her more interesting until the romance began, where Ellie is conflicted over her feelings between two different boys. I found this dull (although I'm not a fan of novels with love triangles, in general), and it was during these times that I was wondering what everyone else was up to. Thankfully these scenes were never that long, but it's what made me decide to rate this book as a 3 rather than a 4.

Despite this, there were some engaging characters (such as Robyn, who I grew to love and I'm definitely putting her into the Strong Females category here at Wendigo) and the novel kept my attention pretty much throughout. I think the reactions of the teenagers to the war, and the teenagers themselves, were very realistic, and even the characters we didn't know a lot about didn't feel flat. The entire premise - Australia being overtaken in just a few days - isn't entirely plausible, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I would have liked to know more about the war, about why exactly Australia was invaded, and who was invading, but I'm hoping that will be covered in following books in the series, and I'm intrigued enough to read them in the future.