Sunday, April 14, 2013

And now I am done!!

Just worked my way to the end of LOTR today and now, 5 years, 10 months, 13 days after I began this challenge, I've completed it.

Despite HATING some of the books, I'm glad I set myself this challenge as I have certainly read many books out of my comfort zone and enjoyed them.

But now I'm going to go read some trash :)

Friday, June 1, 2007

List Number One!

So this is a pretty self-indulgent blog (because of course, there aren't any of those on the net already!) so ignore if you wish. Who knows how you've happened here...maybe you're a friend of mine, a forum buddy or perhaps an English student somewhere googling for free exam papers. Well, bad luck to the latter (and go and do your own work!) - this is just my new little pet project.

About a year ago, one of the bookstores put out their top 100 list (okay, yes it was A&R) and I picked it up to see how many of the pop culture books I had read. It ended up being only about a third which actually quite surprised me. However, on this list, there are lots and lots of books from genres that I would never pick on my own. So I decided to read the entire list...

Well, it's 2007 now and they've just released the updated list. And I'm still working on last years'.

The new list, thankfully, contains some Steinbeck and the most over-rated book ever published, The Alchemist has dropped off. Maybe I should read that one but eh - anyone who knows me, knows I have completion issues so I'll perhaps get to that later in the year. Or in the next decade sometime.


My plan is to write up the ones that I have read so far and then tell people about this blog. Maybe someone else will read it - who knows. I'm always being asked to recommend books anyhow (I'm a mild manner English teacher by day) so this will be a start for those people anyhow.

Please feel free to argue with me, warn me or praise any of the books that I have/haven't got to - using the comments. Please don't use the comments to say "Oh My GOSH, you haven't read Lord of the Rings" or similar, cause that just annoys me. Oh, and would love to hear some of your favourite books ever that aren't on the list. I'd heartily recommend the new Mitch Albom or my absolute most recommended, but exceptionally disturbing novel ever - We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.

Alright, here goes.... Will be back to update soon.

By the way, if you are very interested, and wish to be emailed when I update, please send me an email with the URL of this site as a subject - - and I'll let you know.

Oh darn, now I have to read Lord of the Rings.

1. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Yeah, it was okay.

That was my reaction when I finally read this book that everyone had been raving about. It was definitely *the* book for 2005-06 so that's probably why it's on this list. I don't think it's got the substance to achieve real longevity - it's slipped from #1 anyhow on the updated list.

Basically, the story is about a professor - an expert in religious symbolism - who gets caught up in a thriller to discover the truth about the Holy Grail. I think we all know the controversy by now. I bet the Christians that protested about this book and the subsequent film were not all that impressed that it beat the Bible by 26 places.

It was a reasonable book but not really worth the hype. And the movie was horrible. Read it if you want. I'd give it about a 7/10 cause it was interesting but there's other things to read first in my opinion.

2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

I did it! I laboured through this tome and now I am done!

This has been one of those books (or set of three really) that I always thought I *should* read but never really cared enough to. I'm not a massive fan of the fantasy genre and having the Hobbit read to me when I was in Year 7 scarred me a bit.

I did enjoy the movies when they came out, and I think they actually helped my enjoyment of the books too. I think I may have struggled to keep all the characters straight otherwise, though I almost wish I hadn't seen them on the other hand, so that I could have given my imagination a workout. 

I had to work hard to get through this - I think I've been "reading" these for about six months now and was definitely counting down the page numbers at the end. R offered me a reference guide so I could research along the way but I think not. I did enjoy the last maybe 80 pages with the re-taking of the Shire - a nice "surprise ending" that I either didn't remember or that wasn't in the movie.

Won't ever do it again, but kinda glad to have conquered it. Like running a marathon or climbing a mountain - it was a little too much like hard work for a pastime that's supposed to be enjoyable!!

3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Well, now, I'm a female English teacher so I have to love Austen. I think it's a given. And I do - though not the the extent that people often suspect. Austen really was the Marian Keyes of her generation and these romances with all their intrigue and manners are a gorgeous glimpse into life in the 1800s. I had the phase many of us did, when I was about 16, where I devoured these novels and was gutted to think that there would not, and could not, be any more to come from Austen - quite a depressing thought! This isn't my favourite of them all - that's Persuasion - but it's a wonderful read for a summer's afternoon.

4. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This is my equal-first favourite book. It's one that I come back to every couple of years and re-read. I just love it - I find it so beautifully written and crafted.

The story is set in the deep South during the 30s. It starts off introducing the narrator, Scout's family and then slowly, through her eyes and growing awareness, moves into the main plot line. Scout's father, Atticus Finch defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. It's a terribly bittersweet book - moments of laughter and hope contrasted with the worst of human nature.

Just gorgeous - I could gush for hours. I was captivated by this novel when I was 15 and it's one of the only books that I can see myself re-reading for the rest of my life.

5. Memoirs of A Geisha by Arthur Golden

This novel is set in Japan in the 1930s and 40s. Chiyo is sold to a geisha house by her parents and eventually is trained and debuts as a successful geisha. Along the way, she describes, in a first person narrative, the lessons she learns about the art and also of the cruelty and jealousy involved in this exacting tradition.

I rather liked this book. Didn't get so involved that I started buying kimonos on the net and developing a Japanese obsession like a few people I know did, but it really was a very insightful view into a culture that I knew very little about. I was very surprised to realise halfway through that it was written by a man though. I know he worked in consultation with a true geisha but the narrative is very well written, describing the confusion and emotion that Chiyo, later Sayuri, experiences.

6. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

This is the first book of the series that spawned the Da Vinci Code. Robert Langdon is a American expert in religious symbolism who is unwittingly drawn in to a plot to destroy the Vatican. Much like the Da Vinci Code, a lot of the novel relies on the conspiracy theories concerning secret religious societies.

I actually quite liked this book. I read it as a book club selection after reading the DVC which I wasn't that impressed with - but was pleasantly surprised. I felt this plot had more surprises in it and less "running-around-frantically" which drove me mad in the second novel. Perhaps it's time to mention here that I HATE The Amazing Race for just that reason so I was bound to hate anything with a frantic treasure hunt. Anyhow, quite liked this book, especially the visions of Rome and the Vatican which I could visualise so clearly. Hated hated hated the helicopter scene - just a LITTLE far fetched!

7. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

This is a book where the plot sounds so strange, it puts people off. I did really like the premise - it starts with the murder of the 14 year old narrator, Susie, who then continues observing the events after her death from heaven and also in a ghostly state on earth. The depth of development of the family's trauma and eventual "moving on" is very clever.

The ending however - horrible. Horrible for the reader in terms of satisfaction. Erk. Awful. It just made me so cross because it didn't seem true to the rest of the book. I'd give it a 7/10, I guess - minus 30% for a few dozen horrible pages of plot twists seems about fair.

8. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, is about a teenage girl who sues her parents for the right to make her own decisions about how her body is used when a kidney transplant is planned in order to potentially save her older sister from cancer. She has been conceived through in vitro fertilisation to be a perfect donor match for a bone marrow but this did not send her sister into a long term remission. The novel is told through narratives from all members of the family involved and is quite interesting in that way. It examines, from each point of view, the conflicts and ethical choices that have to be faced.

I thought this book was okay, if a little predictable. Maybe I'm a little cynical but I saw the "surprise twist" from about the third page and I kept thinking, This can't be it! I also though the ending was also the ultimate cop out and was really disappointed that the author went that way. It felt a little like "The Lovely Bones" or something by Nicholas Sparks with the horrible, trite, sentimental ending. So I haven't been converted to Ms. Picoult yet, even though she seems to be filling everyone else's bookshelves!

10. Magician by Raymond E. Feist

I should preface this my saying that I am not a real fantasy fan. Dwarves, elves, magicians, eh... However, I really rather enjoyed this. I think the biggest difference was that the characters were quite well developed generally. The storyline had a lot of depth and enough twists to keep me interested and the war scenes themselves were fast paced and didn't extend over too many pages. I was a bit cynical that everyone seemed to survive quite so well through the nine years of war, but otherwise, I would have to say that this is quite an enjoyable novel, for the reader who perhaps doesn't really swing this way normally :)