Tuesday, 30 September 2014

September Reads

Hi! I've had a pretty rubbish reading month but here are a few mini-reviews. What have you read this September?

A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin

Following the events of A Game of Thrones [review here], Westeros is in chaos and five factions fight for control. Across the sky a blood-red comet paints its path, an omen or portent. From which god the people cannot say, as the competitors for the throne call on deities old and new to back their bloody cause. 

A Clash of Kings was an amazing book. I. Love. This. Series. It pulled me further and further into the world of Westeros and broke my heart and stitched it together again and gave me things to live for and took them away again I LOVE IT. My one issue? It was, like, way more graphic than the first book. Seriously Mr Martin. Not appropriate. But apart from that, LOVE LOVE LOVE. The library didn't have the third one when I went for it ~angry muttering~ but I'll get it on Friday. 



Anne of Avonlea by LM Montgomery

The sequel to Anne of Green Gables. Anne is sixteen and more responsible -- but the old Anne is still there, and will never leave!

What's the one thing I love more than Game of Thrones? ANNE OF GREEN GABLES! In my review of the first book here I talk about how perfect it is ... and that just continues. I had a lot of feels in this book. A certain ship was, if not quite sailing, definitely putting up its sails. I just ... I just. You know. Perfect, perfect, perfect. I'm sorry that this is a rubbish review but I just thought I should tell you about this gem of a book which made my September so much better. 

And the last passage. Has anyone else read this? Because the last passage. The last passage, though.


Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

Mary Anning has always been different. Struck by lightning as a baby, she sees things that others don't; patterns, objects and meanings. Born into a poor family in the seaside town of Lyme Regis she makes use of her talents fossil hunting on the beach with her brother Joseph.

In London, Elizabeth Philpot is a woman resigned never to marry. When she and her other spinster sisters move to Lyme Regis she throws her life into a passion for fossils, and an unlikely friendship arises between her and Mary Anning. The years pass on the windswept beach, through scientific discovery, opposition and a love for the creatures once alive that are now trapped in the stone forever. 

Aaand, a book that's not a sequel. So a franker review from me.

I don't know if you've clocked this, but Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier is one of my favourite novels. It's a gorgeous, sparse, stunning novel which I just love insanely much. Perfect, perfect, perfect historical fiction.

Sad to say, the same cannot be said of Remarkable Creatures

That sounds harsh! I liked it, OK? But after Girl With a Pearl Earring?? A disappointment. The prose seemed stilted to me, and it didn't grip me overly much. Elizabeth was annoying. So was Mary. I just couldn't feel much empathy for them. And I was not a fan of the romance she brought in. I felt like it just got shoehorned in there, as if the writer felt like the only thing she could do with her plot was to put a man in the narrative and see what happened. 

More than this, I wasn't sure about the questions of religion. Chevalier was writing from the POVs of women raised in a Christian society but what I'm pretty sure are her own atheist beliefs were coming through as she explored the question of science's compatibility with God. This I did not enjoy.

Overall, Remarkable Creatures was good. Yes, it was, and I found it gripping in part; it "warmed up" near the end and I ended up reading the second half of it in the space of an evening  and a morning. But the first half took a week; it didn't thrill me or stun me or wow me. It really just .... meh'ed me. I'm sorry for the harsh review -- because you know I'd much rather rave about a book -- but it can't be denied.

After that, I started A Tale of Two Cities and I'm still only about half way through. It's really, really, really good, and gripping and beautifully written, but because I am a terrible person I'm not reading very quickly, hence why September was a pathetic three-book month. I actually read A Clash of Kings and Anne of Avonlea really fast! But then Remarkable Creatures dragged on a bit ... and know I'm reading Dickens criminally slowly.

So tell me: have you read A Song of Ice and Fire or the Anne series? FANGIRL WITH MEH. As for Remarkable Creatures; have you read it? Did you like it? Am I being too harsh? And also: what book did you read that disappointed you after the author's previous work was amazing? What's the best historical work you've read recently? And, how have your Septembers been reading-wise?? Link me up to your review posts!

Emily x

Saturday, 27 September 2014

THINGS

I HAVE SOME THINGS:

1. NEPHEW NEPHEW NEPHEW. 

Arthur Edward Hunter was born 10:30 am Singapore time this morning, to my brother and his wife. I'm not going to put up a picture because I don't know if it's entirely cool to put pictures of other peoples' children online without asking
BUT STILL.
NEPHEW NEPHEW NEPHEW.
Thanking God for this new member of the family!


2. Interim new design. I KNOW CHANGE IS SCARY but


It will not stay this white and boring and cramped and silly-looking. To quote Mulan: I'M WORKING ON IT!

3. I'm centering this post because after having the same design for two years and suddenly changing it I'm feeling rad.

4. I would normally never post two days in a row but NEPHEW NEPHEW NEPHEW it was too important.

5. Should I change my blog name and/or url??

6. Observe my snazzy new Awards // Tags page. Very soon all the award buttons cluttering up my sidebar and making this blog look unprofessional as anything will be gone. I'm moving them all. The reason it is a slightly slow process is that I have to HTML Map all the images. But that will be done soon!

7. Soon all the blog buttons will also be gone from the sidebar. Don't worry! I'm not going to stop recognising your blogs! But they will have their own whole page

8. Hopefully my blog will look a lot better after this.

9. Sorry that this post is kinda lame but c'est la vie!

Emily x

Friday, 26 September 2014

Loony Blurbs

Hello. I hope you've all had a good week. Today I'm linking up with Emily @ The Loony Teen Writer for her feature Loony Blurbs! 

loony blurbs 4

Because there aren't enough books in the world (heartbreaking irony intended), this feature involves the game of making up blurbs based on book titles. If you are participating please let me know and I'll pop over; if you're here from the link-up, welcome!


*ahem* If you don't get this reference, just ignore me. Moving swiftly onwards ...

[Note: I do not claim ownership for these titles or covers. The blurbs I have written are fictitious and do not reflect the actual books.]


Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Smoke and Bone were never meant to mix.

In the Shadowland, a faraway war rages between the elite of the Mages of Smoke and Bone. The ordinary people know neither the cause of the war or its details; all they know is that their side is unquestionably in the right, and the other is tainted and wrong. But then two mages from opposing factions do the unthinkable, and fall in love.

Years later, the war still rages and Ashaya has grown to maturity in the far off land to which her long-dead parents fled. Within her, Smoke and Bone Magic is growing, and she must learn to control a combination of power more dangerous the world has seen since the long-ago time before the war began. Now, with a conviction to return to her own country of the Shadowland, Ashaya must choose between safety and passion, because both truth and magic are dangerous, and both could tear her apart.



Walking on Trampolines by Frances Whiting

Elle smiled at the shopkeeper, perfect teeth flashing in her perfect face. "Thanks so much!" she said as she left the quaint little shop, her magazine beneath one arm. At the end of the lane she stopped and smiled again, no longer so angelic. Putting her hand into her skirt pocket she wrapped her fingers around the perfume bottle she had stolen.

Elle is the golden girl of the town. Perfect, beautiful, sweet, honest. Everyone's best friend. And when no one is looking: shoplifter and daredevil. Meanwhile in New York Nicole is living a different sort of wild life, parties and boys and the unquenchable spirit of the city that never sleeps, and when her parents take her to Elle's sleepy town she is non-plussed. But the two girls are soon friends, and rule the town together in a summer of exclusive friendship - and theft. 
   But events in that small town are going to take an unexpected turn -- and Nicole and Elle will be revealed to each other for who they really are. Then, where will they find that their loyalties lie?


The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares

Thalia dumped her bags on the bare wooden boards of the dormitory. Out of the window, Georgian desert stretched into the shimmering horizon. Thalia pulled her iPhone and gasped with dismay. "Are you serious!" she exclaimed. "There's no WiFi!"

Thalia, Anna, Liddy and Jen have never met before when they are thrown together as volunteers in a summer scheme to clean up the Savannah River. In one way or another each is running away from her life at home; high-flying Thalia is trying to escape the pressures of her parents' expectations whilst Anna runs from the boy who broke her heart; meanwhile Liddy has been ostracised from the ones she thought were her friends whilst Jen, snappy, bristly Jen, hides a secret more painful than any. Brought together by a pair of jeans found in the drawer of their rustic dorm room, four very different girls form a friendship that will transcend the boundaries of class, education and social groupings, and last for more than a summer. 


City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

I didn't want to go back ...

Sophia thought she had escaped. The war. The City. The broken heart. 
In a new rural life far away from it all she lives happily, uncomplicatedly, long summer days and a boy who takes her away from everything she's lost. But when a dark cloud falls upon the City and rumours of the past echo through the land, Sophia has no choice but to return, to a wasteland she barely recognises as the city that was once her home. Now no one is safe; now the shadows lurk longer than ever and fear stalks the streets. Now Sophia must meet once more with the boy she never wanted to see again. Now all around them, the City of Bones is rising.



The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E Lockhart

Frankie always meant to be good ...

A straight-laced town in Surrey. A scatterbrained evacuee from poverty-stricken London. A middle-aged couple with a painful secret of their own. A bad-tempered dog too small for its own good. A summer of happiness, mishap and eventual sunshine ...

Frankie Landau-Banks is an evacuee who bursts into the lives of Mr and Mrs Brown (and their tiny dog) with the reckless energy of a love-starved ten-year-old desperate for a new life. In a series of catastrophes and dilemmas, good-hearted Frankie offends all of war-time Surrey, and wins the love of everyone she meets. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks was an instant classic upon publication and still charms the hearts of readers today, in this rebound celebratory edition. 


I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Skate stared at the clouds flying overhead. Yellow, red, green, purple. There were too fast, too bright, too harsh. Did other people see the world this way?

Skate is a problem child. Problems at home. Problems at school. Problems in her head. At night she lies awake desperately wishing herself out of her dusty town, out of the school where one hundred teachers try to fix her, out of the world she is trapped in and into the sky above. Unable to communicate to anyone the vivid intensity of her thoughts, the strange feelings she can't understand, Skate is falling beneath the weight of her own mind. But that is when Miss Kelly comes into her life: with smiles and ideas different to anything Skate's small town has seen before, she touches the lives of many at the local school. And none more than Skate; linked by personal tragedy on both sides, woman and girl are brought together to finally tap into Skate's extraordinary mind. 


And those are my loony blurbs! Thanks to Emily for hosting this very enjoyable link-up. Did you participate? Now please tell me: have you read any these books? What are they actually about? (I've not read any of them, so I don't know.) And, from these blurbs, which book would you pick up? I think I'd probably choose I'll Give You the Sun, or maybe The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. Tell me what you think!

Emily x

Monday, 22 September 2014

Faith, Fiction and Writing

Recently I've been thinking about faith in the context of books. I do not read Christian fiction as a rule -- what I have read has been cliched, predictable, and often just makes me


I remember one book I read - I can't remember the title - but the plot was a little like this: the MC is a fourteen-year-old girl who feels like her faith is stopping her from being cool. She feels like her friends are growing up without her and starts getting into parties, boys etc. to be "cool" like them. Up until the end it was quite a well-written, relatable book, but my problem was this: after the MC had her climax/turning point and turned to Jesus, all her problems went away. As the book ends she meets a nice, good-looking boy (the implication is clear - he is perfect boyfriend material) and finds out about a youth group where she can meet lots of Christians her own age. "Wahey!" the book trilled. "Become a Christian and you will have a perfect life!" 

Well.

That was mainly a little rant with not that much relevance to this post, but the point is clear: I do not want to write that sort of book.

"So then, Emily, what sort of book do you want to write?"

.... and that, friends, is just what I'm trying to figure out.

Let's take a little look at religion in books, shall we?

~ The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis

“It isn't Narnia, you know," sobbed Lucy. "It's you. We shan't meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?"
"But you shall meet me, dear one," said Aslan.
"Are -are you there too, Sir?" said Edmund.

"I am," said Aslan. "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.” 

As I'm sure you know, the (wonderful) Narnia stories are in many respects an allegory for Christianity, with Aslan personifying Jesus Christ. However CS Lewis said that he did not intend this to be the case, and he was not writing with the aim in mind to take the gospel and translate it into a fantasy setting. In a letter in 1959, he wrote: "I don't say, "Let us represent Christ as Aslan." I say, "Supposing there was a world like Narnia, and supposing, like ours, it needed redemption, let us imagine what sort of Incarnation and Passion and Resurrection and Incarnation Christ would have there."" 

~ A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin

For those of you unfamiliar with this (amazing) epic fantasy series, Martin creates a diverse and impressive religious identity for the Seven Kingdoms: the nameless gods of the North, the new Seven Gods of the South, the Drowned God and the Lord of Light ... 

~ Much historical fiction

Of course, it is only recently that Christianity has been phased out of life in the West, so it has a presence in much historical fiction, as it would have done in life at that time. Off the top of my head I can think of such books as Remarkable Creatures by Tracey Chevalier, VIII by HM Castor (review here), The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (review here) and Stripes of the Sidestep Wolf by Sonya Hartnett (review here), which are all historical fiction containing Christianity.

~ Much contemporary/dystopian fiction

In a lot of contemporary fiction, there is no presence of religion, reflecting the trend of our world. 

In my opinion, CS Lewis gets religion pretty perfectly. As for George RR Martin, I am fascinated by the religions he works into his stories; it is very imaginative and impressive. However, as he is an author with no faith, there is a definite sense around his fictional religions of their ultimate meaninglessness/the way in which his characters have blind, pagan faith or do not really believe in the gods at all. For this reason I am wary to make up a religion for my book; I feel like it would end up as idolatry, and I'm not sure how I would work it into the narrative. But on the other hand, I don't think I can really just throw Christianity into a fantasy setting; I don't think it would be very plausible.

At the moment, my characters are without faith. I know that there are many Christian authors who work like this - JRR Tolkien being, of course, a key example - but I don't know if I want my characters to continue going it alone. I don't have to go it alone in my life - I have God who is always with me - so why should they? It's a difficult question to look at; in the end, I guess the only solution is that I need to be CS Lewis

Sadly, this is not possible. 

Very, very sadly.
But anyway. I thought that the next best option would be ... to ask you lovely lot! So please tell me. How do you balance religion in your book? I know a lot of you are Christians; are your characters Christians? If you write fantasy: is there religion in your world? Please tell me more! If you don't write at all: what are your thoughts on religion in books? 

Thank you muchly.

Emily x

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Liebsterified.

Problem: too much homework.
Course of action: panic a bit.
Eventual solution: go on Blogger.

..... As you can see, my logic is a little flawed, but oh well! Let's forget essays and talk about Liebster awards! I'd not had one of these in a while, but in the past month or so I've somehow managed to amass four. Thanks to AliyannaAmy, Ely and Lauren - I will be answering your questions over this post and subsequent ones.

As you may be able to tell my glancing at my sidebar, I've had this award a lot of times (to be precise, thirteen) since starting this blog, but none since about a year ago. Therefore I'm going to put aside my normal (lazy) approach, which is to answer the questions but skip on the facts/nominations, and do the whole thing properly! 

I know, I know. Try to contain your shock. 
OK, so, the rules:

1. Give 11 facts about yourself.
2. Answer the 11 questions you are given.
3. Nominate 11 other bloggers.
4. Set them 11 questions.
5. Put the award button on your site.

So! 11 facts. 

1. I finished Anne of Avonlea on Monday night and it was just a perfect ending, I loved it a lot. I lay in bed for a bit and then reread the last passage, and ended up doing no homework all evening because how could I after Anne of Avonlea?? 

2. I'm currently reading Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. It's pretty good but nowhere near as good as Girl With a Pearl Earring (also by her).

3. Next I'm going to read Great Expectations.

4. It will be my first foray into Dickens.

5. I'm having a mental blank on facts.

6. I should be doing my homework.

7. I want to try making chequerboard cookies later today:


[recipe found on Marian's blog]
8. But I probably won't have time.

9. I have four essays for next week.

10. I've only done one of them.

11. But still, I remain merrily here on Blogger! :D

Next, 11 questions! Today I'm going to answer the first lot of questions I was asked - they are from Aliyanna @ Scribbles of a Catholic Girl - thank you! 

1. Tell me the next word or phrase that comes to your mind when you see these words...
a) ring  -- Lord
b) dalek -- EXTERMINATE 
c) magic -- Harry
d) dance -- -ing queen
e) clownfish -- Nemo
f) glitter -- edible (yes, really. I think of edible glitter. I'm food-driven OK?)

2. Would you rather...?
a) Learn archery with Legolas, Susan Pevensie, Merida, or Katniss?
Legolas all the way! Susan gets a bit annoying sometimes, likewise Katniss, and I've not seen Brave so I don't know Merida. I love Legolas <3 And also ...
Can we take a moment for those cheekbones?
b) Go on an adventure with Gandalf or the Doctor?
Gandalf. Gotta be.
c) Learn magic with Dumbledore or Merlin?
Dumbledore!!! OF COURSE.

3. If you could pick three languages that you would know in an instant without having to spend time learning it, which three languages would you pick?
Hmm. I'm learning Spanish, so I wouldn't pick it (cause I can kinda speak it all read .... kinda). But I might pick .... Arabic, because it's a useful language that would open doors if I ever wanted to work in the Middle East, and also it's beautiful to hear spoken; French, because I love how it sounds; and Hindi, because I'd really like to visit India. 

4. What is the one household chore that you utterly detest?
Hoovering -____-

5. If you got a million dollars, what would you spend it on?
GAaaah I hate this question, I never know what to say! I'd probably freak out about having so much money and end up taking my parents' advice and doing the sensible thing: saving it in my bank account. 

6. How would you respond if someone came up to and told you that they were going to take you on a deluxe cruise for two months that he or she would pay for entirely (including shopping at stores on landing places), but you had to leave right now without going home to say goodbye to your family?
I'd probably be highly suspicious of said person and would not get in a car with them. ~creepy voice~ "Yes the cruise ship is this way, come with me girl ..." 
However if I knew they were authentic .... well. It would depend where the cruise was going!

7. What comes into your mind when you see this GIF?


Me and my sister XD
8. Tell me one of your biggest dreams that is probably impossible but you'll never stop wishing for it anyway.
To be an acclaimed, loved, fangirled-over author. 

9. What is one of your most embarrassing moments? (See, I'm letting you pick one - it doesn't have to be the most!!!)
Ugh. I recently fell over in a coffee shop, dropping water and toastie everywhere. However that was not my most embarrassing moment because I didn't know anyone there apart from my friends who I was with. Hmm. I'm really not sure. 

10. If a crocodile came up to you and told you to lie down and let him eat you, would you trust him?
These questions are getting weirder as they go, Aliyanna ...


11. What would you do if your phone woke you up in the middle of the night and there was a creepy voice on the other end asking you for ransom money in return for the release of your best friend?
Probably start freaking out, run and find my parents .... call the police? I don't know! Depends how convincing the creepy voice was! 

Now then .... nominees! 

Lauren @ Always Me
Sunny @ A Splash of Ink
Chelsea @ A Wee Bit of Madness
Carly Meyer @ Books and Etc.
Ely @ What can I say?

^ And, because that is really not eleven nominees, the old crowd
Amy @ The Blog Hermit
Marian @ Ivory Clouds
July @ I Solemnly Swear I Am Up to No Good
Seana @ The Totally Insane Writer
Hawwa @ It Was Lovely Reading You
Treskie @ Occasional Randomness

It is a tribute to those six bloggers that I did not even need to check their urls before linking them up; I know all their blogs that well. You six, I know I've nominated you all for a hundred awards before, so please absolutely no obligation to do this one! I love you all v. much and leave this Liebster award to your interpretation. 

Finally: the questions.

1. Which book world would you live in, if you could never return?
2. Which book world would you travel to for a week before returning?
3. What book have you been meaning to read forever but just not got round to?
4. What book did everyone else love, but you hated?
5. What book were you very sceptical about reading but actually loved?
6. Fictional crush?
7. Most perfect book ending?
8. What do you do when you're bored?
9. When did you last cry, and why? (If you want to tell us!)
10. What's your happy song(s)?
11. And finally, what's your sad song(s)?

Thanks again Aliyanna! I hope you all have a lovely weekend and I leave you with this picture which had me in paroxysms of laughter (which I guess tells you what kind of person I am). 



That is all.

Emily x

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

August Reads

Hello! A few reviews today, of what I read August-wise. 


The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

After the events of The Raven Boys, Blue is being sucked further and further into the lives of Adam, Gansey, Rowan and Noah and the quest for lost Welsh king Glendower. But there are more secrets, more changes and more hidden things than Blue has realised ...

I LOVED THIS BOOK. I had to wait for ages before I could get my hands on it, but it was everything I could ask for in a sequel and has me clawing for Blue Lily, Lily Blue (to be released in October!). Can we make a quick list about what to love in The Dream Thieves? I knew you'd say yes. 

~ The frikking dream thieves. Oh. My. Word. I love magic and Maggie Stiefvater's take on this, through the character of Ronan, was just perfect.

~ The bromance. Adam and Gansey specifically. I love the Raven Boys' friendship :3 My Adam feels were really on the up:

The only rub was, Blue was another troubling thing. She was like Gansey in that she wanted him to explain himself. What do you want, Adam? What do you need, Adam? Want and need were words that got eaten smaller and smaller: freedom, autonomy, a perennial bank balance, a stainless-steel condo in a dustless city, a silky black car, to make out with Blue, eight hours of sleep, a mobile phone, a bed, to kiss Blue just once, a blister-less heel, bacon for breakfast, to hold Blue's hand, one hour of sleep, toilet paper, deodorant, a soda, a minute to close his eyes.
        What do you want, Adam?
        To feel awake when my eyes are open.

^This is basically my favourite passage in the book and, just, ugh, ADAM. THE FEELS. That is all.

~ The romance. I'm not giving any spoilers from the first book, but there was so much to ship and grieve. If you've read the book, you'll understand. 

~ The plot twists. Maggie Stiefvater and her extreme cliffhanger endings!! MY WORD. When is Blue Lily, Lily Blue coming out again??? ~slavers~

All in all, The Dream Thieves was a fantastic sequel and I would rate it very highly indeed! Have you read it? FANGIRL WITH ME!



The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Hailed as the supreme American novel, The Great Gatsby is the story of dreams, love and loss: a stark portrait of a society drunk on the money, sex and alcohol of the Roaring Twenties. Nick Carroway, our narrator, is intrigued by the life, wealth and famous parties of his neighbour Jay Gatsby, but he does not know all that is present behind the facade of luxurious contentment.

I had to read The Great Gatsby for English - I will be studying it next term - but that is not to say I was not expecting to love it. A book this famous and acclaimed is difficult to "review", but here are some of my thoughts.

These are the things that I was expecting about The Great Gatsby:

~ an extremely emotional and powerful read.

~ the beautiful, lyrical prose that everyone's always going on about.

~ a staggering look at the decadence of the Twenties and the hollow nature of the American dream.

Were these expectations fulfilled? Yes. It was definitely a thought-provoking (not to mention depressing) book that I will not be forgetting any time soon, with a brilliant portrayal of the American Dream. and there were some stunning lines. When I'd finished it there was part of me that didn't feel quite as bowled-over as I was expecting; I mean, I have a friend who told me that The Great Gatsby "changed his life", and for that I didn't find it that affecting. However I think this was largely due to the very high expectations that the opinions of others had set up for me, which I guess is the price any classic, or any well-loved book, has to pay. Overall though I loved it and it's a novel that I'd definitely recommend.


Persuasion by Jane Austen

Persuasion is Austen's last, often considered her best, novel. At twenty-seven Anne Elliot is by far her oldest heroine; unlike Austen's other young women characters, such as Elizabeth Bennett and Elinor Dashwood, Anne has loved before and lost that love. Persuasion is the story of her life when she leaves her country home for Bath and watches the romances of her cousins and friends.

I love Austen, a lot. Her writing is just so perfect, her social commentary astute and brilliant, and I love all her main characters. I also love the romances. (Because I am a sucker for romance - Pride and Prejudice to Tangled to Georgia Nicolson to Shrek, I love it.) Persuasion was pretty great -- it was the most subtle of her works that I've read. In her other novels -- Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Sense and Sensibility are the three I've read so far -- I was able to predict at least part of the ending midway through the book, but not so for Persuasion. It was completely gripping and I could not stop reading! My one issue (and I would love some discussion in the comments for this one) was that when the ending came, I couldn't visualise it as much as in her other books .... I can't really say anything without giving spoilers, but please tell me if you've read it and we can chat. Anyway, the long and short is that Persuasion is fantastic and you should definitely read it! 


Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Rose Justice is an American ATA pilot fighting for the Allied forces in Britain. A budding poet, she translates her feelings through words, but in the end Rose must face a reality more terrible than anything she has seen, written, heard of or imagined.

ROSE UNDER FIRE ASDKFASDLKFJ. It's not a secret on this blog that I love Elizabeth Wein's first book, Code Name Verity, so of course I loved this series. Because this has been quite a list-y review post so far, let's make a list on what I loved.

~ the poetry. We're going to take a break from the list to share a couple of the poems:

To A Young Poet by Edna St Vincent Millay

Time cannot break the bird's wing from the bird.
Bird and wing together
Go down, one feather.

No thing that ever flew,
Not the lark, not you,
Can die as others do. 

This poem was the dedication in the front of the book. Throughout the book Wein references Edna St Vincent Millay, who is Rose's favourite poet, including some of her work -- the book is written in the form of Rose's diary so she sometimes copies out poems she loves.

Triolet for Irina by Rose Justice [Elizabeth Wein]

Rigidly spread, like taut wings, fly
her open hands. Above her head
mute ruthless fingers slice the sky
rigidly spread like taut wings, fly
while forty thousand women lie
in frozen cinders, blind with dread,
rigidly spread. Like taut wings fly

her open hands above her head.

This is probably my favourite of Rose's poems that she writes during the book. The language and rhyme is just gorgeous, and read in the context of the story it's so beautiful and compelling.

Now to continue with the list:

~ I loved the character of Rose. She was so honest and optimistic and likeable.

~ The friendships!! One of my favourite things about Elizabeth Wein is that whilst she's a YA author, she's not obsessed with romance; instead, she bothers to build strong friendships among the characters.

~ The style -- written as Rose's diary, with letters and snippets from others written in. It is so cleverly done, and Wein uses her style to express the plot.

~ The historic aspects. I've always loved historical fiction and this was a stunning example of WWII fiction. The most affecting thing for me was learning about the Polish Rabbits, so called because they were used like rabbits for experimentation; these were girls, war prisoners in concentration camps, who were essentially tortured in the name of science. Doctors simulated battle wounds or gangrene in them to find better cures for their soldiers, but largely the operations and experiments were not followed up and thousands were left dead or mutilated. I had no idea that this went on - it is yet another facet of the terrifying truth about WWII.

~ The links to Code Name Verity! I hadn't realised that Rose Under Fire was a sequel of sorts, but it was. I loved it because the main character changed so I didn't have to remember lots of details from the last book (yes I'm lazy like that), but it was so cool to see what had happened to a few of the characters. There was a lot of feels involved. Far too many feels.

Overall Rose Under Fire was just amazing - I could not stop reading and I would utterly recommend it (though, read Code Name Verity first!). 

And that is what I read in August. What did you read; what was your best book? Link me up to your review posts! And in the comments, if you've read any of these, please tell me:

~ Who do you ship in The Dream Thieves?? I'm going crazy here!!
~ What are your thoughts on The Great Gatsby? Have you ever read a book that was so praised beforehand your expectations were too high?
~ What did you think of Persuasion's ending? Do tell!
~ DON'T YOU LOVE THE LINKS BETWEEN CODE NAME VERITY AND ROSE UNDER FIRE??? Fangirl with me!!!

Emily x

Saturday, 6 September 2014

The Siren Call of the Secondhand Bookshop

The siren call of the secondhand bookshop. Am I the only one who hears it? Walking down the street, it flows through the closed door and fills my ears. "Emily!" it says. "Cheap books, Emily! Old books, Emily! New books, Emily! For you, for you, Emily, books, Emily, books, books, books!"
     "I am not buying any more books," I tell it sternly. "I already have far too many, I'm running out of space, and when on earth will I ever read them all?"
      "But Emily," it says, "who knows what's in there? What if it's that book that you've been wanting to read for ages that the library doesn't have? What if it's the most gorgeous edition ever of your favourite book that you don't already own? What if it's only two pounds??"
       "No," I say ..... but I am powerless to resist.

Basically, this is the story of how I bought yet more secondhand books in the month of August. Remember this post, where I talked about what I'd bought in July? Can anyone remember how many secondhand books I bought?

The answer is 16.

The truth is I have Compulsive Secondhand Book-buying Syndrome and I am draining both my purse and my bookshelf space, not to mention endangering my sanity as I find yet more and more and more books and OTPs to fangirl over, and endangering my status as someone with friends as I consider becoming a hermit so as to read the excessive number of books I own.

Now without further ado: do you want to see my book haul of August? 

These books were all bought in St. Andrews, on the day trip during summer camp. This one, I believe, was bought in the Salvation Army shop. I'd never heard of it before, but it was so pretty and hardback and only £1.50, and basically, as we've found out, I have no self control. So I bought it. Historical-fiction-with-magic: nom nom nom.


This absolutely stunning hardback was purchased in the Barnardo's bookshop for £4. I've never read any Kipling but I know that Kim is an internationally renowned classic so what could go wrong? And (ranking more highly in my estimation) it's so pretty and shiny. ^_^

This is yet another addition to the never-ending saga of Books I've Never Heard Of But Bought Because They're Pretty. I was immediately intrigued by this book's cover, and yet more by its blurb, so I snaffled it up in Oxfam.


Also bought in Oxfam for only £1. I'm a little ashamed to say that my inner book snob vehemently rears its head at this one, but you know what, I'm going to read Anna and the French Kiss and I'm not even sorry. In fact I'm very excited!
In St Andrews, there is this tiny secondhand bookshop crammed full with every kind of book: contemporary fiction occupies several shelves, but there is also a vast collection of old and collectible books. Needless to say, I would happily take a bed and a fridge into the shop and live there. It is difficult not to SPEND ALL THE MONEY, but somehow I managed to buy only two books. The first was this one: The Cuckoo's Calling by JK Rowling (writing as Robert Galbraith). I don't normally read crime fiction (I mean, I never read crime fiction) but I think that JKR has proved herself to me in the small matter of Harry Potter (that is to say, Harry Potter is basically my life)  so of course I want to read her other books, crime fiction regardless).

The other book I bought in that shop was this adorable, tiny gorgeous copy of The Lady of the Camellias by Alexander Dumas. I've never read any Dumas (yet), but this is so lovely and it was only £2. 50. ^_^
Close-up of this gorgeous spine.
All in all, August was a good month for buying good books, but a bad month for conserving money and bookshelf space. Not as bad as July, but then what month is??

So tell me: do you have Compulsive Secondhand Book-buying Syndrome? What's been your best find of late? Link me up to your haul posts! 

Emily x

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Monthly Roundup // This Month's Hearts // Best Book of August

Hi everyone! It's September and I'm rounding up the month's posts, telling you a lil bit about my month and talking about books (because let's be honest when do I not talk about books?).


Roundup

BOOK HAUL OF JULY (and a few other things) - I shared the books (and clothes etc) I'd bought in July. More books than I'm proud of.

Late-July Reads - I reviewed Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin, Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss and A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin

Art Tuesday: I draw people?? - my attempts at portraiture.

The sunshine award from Marian and July

Art Tuesday: Poetry - I shared some scrapbook pages and fangirled over Ted Hughes.

September - May: A Bookish Tour (Part 4) - I reviewed The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Black Angels by Rita Murphy.

Beautiful People - I participated in the writing meme and interviewed my character Freddie. 

Titles on the brain - I talked about title turn-offs and turn-ons; what makes a good title?


This Month's Hearts

General Life

~ Went on summer camp. Amaaazing. Love, love, love. Great new friends. Great teaching. Amazing. Love. Love. Love.

~ Went on holiday with my family! It was very chilled and nice :)

~ I've started school again (this is not really a Heart at all, more just a general update). So that's not exciting. But it's nice to be with my friends again. 

~ The Great British Bake-off started again!! Yaaayy I love this programme a lot. Are any of you watching it? I'm rooting for Martha and Chetna, though my prediction for the final is Martha, Richard and Kate. Ooh it's on tonight, the excitement!

~ My mum booked our flights and hotel for Singapore in October - !! I don't know if I've actually told you this, but my sister-in-law is pregnant (the baby is due really soon, in like two weeks!!) and we're going to see them (her, my brother and the baby) in Singapore (where they live) in October.

~ I got a mention on Marian's blog Ivory Clouds in her "best posts of the month" post. So proud :'D


Music

~ I've been listening to Alt-J's new album. GUYS I'm seeing them in 15 days!! O.o




Writing

~ Yayayay I've written a lot this month! AND -- I crested 40k! Part of my brain is reminding me that there's no point in having written 40k if it's 40k of rubbish (which it might well be) but the much larger part is going:

[source]

Reading

~ I've finally read The Dream Thieves and Rose Under Fire, and I can I just say LOVE LOVE LOVE. I also read The Great Gatsby and Persuasion, and now I am reading A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin. Can I just say, that man has no respect for my feels and I am pretty much an emotional wreck because of this book. I love it. But it's killing me. Oh, it's killing me. Anyway, reviews of those four books I read in August coming soon!


Posts I've loved

OK, this is the part where I post a ridiculously long list of posts I've loved from you guys (because your blogs are awesome!)

Cait @ The Notebook Sisters talks book hangovers


Anne-girl @ Scribblings of my Pen produced the best of the Beautiful People posts I read in August. LOVING the sound of her novels. 

Marian's Chequerboard Cookies -- this recipe looks AMAZING! 


Cait @ The Notebook Sisters talks about why she loves The Book Thief. (I fangirled and maybe cried a little).

Ruby @ Feed Me Books Now reviewed We Were Liars - I want to read this book A LOT!

Heather @ Story Monster accurately writes about health kicks

Hawwa @ It Was Lovely Reading You reviewed Code Name Verity. (My feels just exploded.)

Kathryn @ Hidden Orchards talked about Romeo and Juliet. (I left an exceptionally long and fangirly comment.)


Best Book of the Month


It was a wrench to choose before the four books I read in August. Rose Under Fire, The Great Gatsby and Persuasion were all great, but I've been waiting for The Dream Thieves for so long and it was just. So. Good. Full reviews of all these books coming soon!
That's all from me today - link me up to your own roundup posts! And tell me: what is the best book you read in August? Was it a tough call (like for me) or a clear favourite?

Emily x