Thursday, 24 January 2013

What I've Been Reading:
'Mr Suit' by Nigel Bird

I was sent a copy of 'Mr Suit' by Nigel Bird as part of a giveaway. The novella was described as a "noir farce...that delights in the dark humour of the situation as much as it explores the deeper issues relating to painless release".

I can't seem to decide exactly what it is I thought of this novella. I'll admit that the idea was a good one - Archie, an ex mobster with locked-in syndrome wants to die and unable to help him herself, his wife asks head mobster Mr Suit to arrange his death for her. Things don't go to plan and she finds herself making the slowest get-away possible with her wheelchair-bound husband in tow. The story leaps from one chaotic mis-adventure to the next and it did keep me entertained throughout but I did feel as though it was lacking something. I don't think I connected with the characters enough for me to care what happened to Archie and when Mr Suit kidnaps his daughter, Miriam, I felt as though I didn't really know enough about her to worry about her safety. I feel as though she could have been more of a presence earlier on in the novella and that way I might have been more incensed by her situation. As it was, there were times when I struggled to see Archie as 'real', as more than a body stuffed in the corner.

The ending was a surprise that admittedly I didn't see coming. There were some good twists along the way that kept me guessing and all in all, this was an entertaining read that did manage to keep me interested. I think it could of benefited from being longer - perhaps extended into a novel. We need more time as a reader to identify and grow to care about the characters.

The one major downfall for me was the very obvious mistake on page 19 - the attempt to resuscitate somebody while in the recovery position. You can't pound on somebody's chest while they're on their side. Sometimes a little research goes a long way...

All in all, it was an entertaining but slightly flat read.

Rating: 3/5 

Sunday, 20 January 2013

What I've Been Reading:
'Beautiful Creatures' by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

First off, i should admit that I'm one of those people who can't bear to watch a film if they haven't read the book on which it is based. So when I saw the trailer for the film of 'Beautiful Creatures' and decided I wanted to go see it when it's released, I just had to go and buy a copy of the book.

And I adored it.

Garcia and Stohl have brought some fresh and long-awaited new ideas to the field of YA paranormal fiction. I really enjoyed reading a novel of this type told from the perspective of a sixteen year old boy rather than a teenage girl. And it was refreshing not to have a mortal girl fall for the mysterious immortal guy she can never have (also known as the Twilight effect).

I loved the idea of Casters and the fact that destiny is not something that can be controlled. I found some of it sort of philosophical and thoughtful and yet there was none of the preachy let's-put-a-hidden-message-about-abstinence-in-here rubbish that you get with a lot of novels aimed at the younger audience.

I found myself drawn to the character of Lena Duchennes and her crazy family. I think a lot of teenage girls who will read this novel will be drawn to her and her awkwardness. Oh, and I absolutely adore her memory necklace and would sort of love to have one of my own.

I'm desperate to read the next instalment in the series. I may have to treat myself at some point in the next few weeks. And I will definitely be going to see the film when it hits the big screen next month.

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, 19 January 2013

What I've Been Reading:
'Different Seasons' by Stephen King

'Different Seasons' is a collection of four novellas by Stephen King. I haven't really read many novellas in the past but I found these four to be the perfect length. More than a short story, and less than a novel, the novella is an interesting genre and a difficult form to get right but Stephen King does it perfectly as usual.

The first novella, 'Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption' was an interesting tale of a man's wrongful imprisonment for the murder of his wife and her lover. There were some good twists and the narrative reminded me a little of 'Green Mile'. First Person point of view is definitely one of King's strong points.

The second novella, 'Apt Pupil' really gripped me. It showcases the power struggle between a teenage boy and the Nazi war criminal he has discovered living in his quiet suburban neighbourhood. Parts of this story had me wanting to close my eyes and the dream sequences were pretty horrendous. It was a fascinating read though and it really stuck with me for days.

This was followed by 'The Body', the basis for the film 'Stand by Me'. Told from the point of view of the adult Gordie, the novella centers around young Gordie and his friends adventure to go and ind the corpse of a boy their own age who died when he was hit by a train. That's the surface of it anyway. Really, the novella is about friendship, about family and the expectations that life throws at us. It's about the choices we make and the fact that sometimes, though we think we might have a choice, our lives are mapped out for us before we even have a chance. Having watched 'Stand by Me' several times, I was really surprised by how much the screenplay stayed faithful to the original source. At times, I felt as though I was reading the script, it was just so familiar.

The fourth novella, 'The Breathing Method' was probably my favourite from the collection. It's definitely the closest to what I think of as classic Stephen King. An ageing Doctor tells the story of a patient he treated in the early days of his career, an unmarried pregnant woman who despite the convention of the times, will do anything to give her unborn child the life it deserves. It's pretty chilling and while you know that what happens is impossible, the thought still lingers that it might just be possible, that it could really happen. That's the power of Stephen King for you. His writing always makes you suspend your belief in reality. And only the best writing can do that.

All in all, I loved this collection.

Rating: 5/5

My 5 Favourite Books

as you can see, they're all pretty battered!

My 5 Favourite Books are all ones that I've read multiple times:


Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel

I discovered this book when I was 15. I'd been self harming for a year and still really had no idea what self harm was or why I was doing it. I also had no name for the feeling of emptiness that had descended over me. I felt lost in my life and I wasn't even out of High School. This book showed me that the things I was feeling were all tied up in depression (something I wouldn't be diagnosed with until 2 years later). Elizabeth Wurtzel's prose allowed me to see that there were other people going through the shit I was dealing with and that I wasn't so alone in this crazy world.

Prep by Curtis Sittenfield

This is one of those books I wish I could have written. It's beautifully composed, stylistically flawless and has a protagonist that you can instantly connect with. Although I didn't read this novel until I was in University, Lee and her experiences made me think of my own teenage years and it gave me a little sense of acceptance. I love it. I may have to read it again this year.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I discovered this book when I was 18 and getting ready to start my degree. The novel seemed appropriate for that time of my life, spreading my wings and entering the 'adult' world. It's such a beautiful little book and I could read it again and again.

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder

(The copy in the photo is actually the third one I've owned. The last two got far too battered from too many re-readings!)

I first read this book when I was 12 years old. It was my introduction to Philosophy and it seriously opened my eyes. I've read it several times since and each time I get something new from it. I think it probably has something to do with the way I've changed since the last time I read it, the life experiences and knowledge I can bring to the page with me.

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

My best friend Stacey introduced me to this gem of a book. I adore the way it's written in the third person, narrated by an un-named observer of events. It adds something really special to the story. Again, this is a book that makes me feel part of something, allows me to feel that other people have been where I've been.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

What I've Been Reading:
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

After reading several negative reviews of the latest Jeffrey Eugenides novel, I was nervous about reading The Marriage Plot. I adore both of Eugenides' previous novels 'The Virgin Suicides' and 'Middlesex' and was really hoping that I'd enjoy his third novel.

And I did. I loved this novel. It absorbed me from the first page. The characters and their situation appealed to me. I've always loved Campus Novels but this was the first one I've read that opens on Graduation day and flashes back to the university experience while moving forward with the characters into their post-university lives.

The characters intrigued me. I saw myself and some of the people I know in them and I actually cared about them, wanted things to work out for them as they ventured into the adult world. I was surprised by how many of the novels I've read were referenced as well. And it was strange how one of the professors reminded me a lot of one of my own university lecturers.

I really connected with this novel and would definitely recommend it. I'll also probably be reading it again at some point, and no doubt I'll connect with it even more on a second reading.

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, 12 January 2013

A Quote That Means a Lot to Me

from 'Elm' by Sylvia Plath

'Elm' by Sylvia Plath is one of my all time favourite poems. Without wanting to sound like a hippy, it really speaks to me, you know?

In fact, I'm planning on incorporating its third line into my next tattoo.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

What I've Been Reading:
'Coraline and Other Stories' by Neil Gaiman

My best friend Stacey bought me this book for Christmas. I've been excited to read it since then and it really didn't disappoint.

'Coraline' has to be my favourite story in the collection. I would have loved to have read it as a child. The idea of an 'Other Mother' is super creepy and the thing with the button eyes is hideous!

'The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds' was a cute little story giving a new twist to all the old nursery rhymes from my childhood. 

I also loved 'Chivalry'. The idea of the Holy Grail being hidden away in an Oxfam Shop somewhere in Britain is inspired.

Actually, I loved the whole book, every single story. I can't normally say that about short story collections (there are usually one or two I start reading and then skip) and so 'Coraline and Other Stories' gets a huge thumbs up from me.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, 3 January 2013

What I've Been Reading:
'Blockade Billy' by Stephen King

This was a quick read. 130ish pages for 2 stories and I devoured it in less than an hour and a half. 

The first story, 'Blockade Billy' was pretty good, told in the voice of an old-time Baseball coach who is recounting the story of a Baseball player whose existance in a Major League Baseball team was wiped from the sport's history books. Despite knowing absolutely nothing about Baseball, I still enjoyed the story and it had a nice little twist that I wasn't expecting. I also liked the inclusion of the inside King joke of Billy's shirt being number 19.

The second story, 'Morality' is interesting. It questions the nature of Sin and how our deeds impact on our lives and relationships. I really liked it. It had a distinctly King feel to it.

Rating: 3/5

What I've Been Reading:
'On The Road' by Jack Kerouac

To begin with, this novel swept me away with its dreamy beat prose but before long Sal and Dean's to-and-fro-ing across America got dry. I got sick of the charting of Dean's highs, his indecisive flitting between various wives. By Part 4 I was bored and if I'm honest, I began scanning, rather than reading properly, desperate to get to the end. I'm disappointed. I had high hopes for this novel.

Carlo Marx, Kerouac's version of Alan Ginsberg was a redeeming feature but not quite enough to rank this as one of my favourites.

Rating: 2/5