Monday, 28 April 2014

Reading Wrap Up | April 2014

Contrary to what I expected, April turned out to be a great reading month for me - I read ten books in total, so let's dive in!

by Tim Manley

My Rating: 

Disney meets Lena Dunham in this illustrated humor book featuring your favorite fairy-tale characters dating and finding their way in 21st-century America 
The Ugly Duckling still feels gross compared to everyone else, but now she’s got Instagram, and there’s this one filter that makes her look awesome. Cinderella swaps her glass slippers for Crocs. The Tortoise and the Hare Facebook stalk each other. Goldilocks goes gluten free. And Peter Pan finally has to grow up and get a job, or at least start paying rent.

Here are more than one hundred fairy tales, illustrated and re-imagined for today. Instead of fairy godmothers, there’s Siri. And rather than big bad wolves, there are creepy dudes on OkCupid. In our brave new world of social networking, YouTube, and texting, fairy tales can once again lead us to “happily ever after”—and have us laughing all the way.

I read this little book in less than hour (that's how quick and easy it is to get through) and it was so much fun! Tim Manley has taken famous characters from fairy tales, myths and legends and thrust them into the 21st century.

This book just made me happy. It was funny, daft and lovely, and I loved Manley's reinterpretations of Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast in particular. This is well worth a read if you're a lover of fairy tales who's in the mood for a giggle!

by Tim Burton

My Rating: 

From breathtaking stop-action animation to bittersweet modern fairy tales, filmmaker Tim Burton has become known for his unique visual brilliance – witty and macabre at once. Now he gives birth to a cast of gruesomely sympathetic children – misunderstood outcasts who struggle to find love and belonging in their cruel, cruel worlds. His lovingly lurid illustrations evoke both the sweetness and the tragedy of these dark yet simple beings – hopeful, hapless heroes who appeal to the ugly outsider in all of us, and let us laugh at a world we have long left behind (mostly anyway).

This was my first reread of the month, and I was surprised to find I'd never actually marked it as read on Goodreads. I found this little gem in HMV a couple of years ago for about £4, and I knew I had to have it as soon as I realised it was bizarre poetry written by Tim Burton, who is one of my favourite film makers.

I picked this book up for my first read of the Hogwarts House Reading Challenge, and I had a lot of fun rereading it. Like Alice in Tumblr-Land it's one of those bizarre little books that you can read in an hour, and while some poems are funny there are others that break your heart.

If you're a fan of Tim Burton's imagination and you haven't read this, I recommend it!

by Mitch Albom

My Rating: 

In this fable, the first man on earth to count the hours becomes Father Time. The inventor of the world's first clock is punished for trying to measure God's greatest gift. He is banished to a cave for centuries and forced to listen to the voices of all who come after him seeking more days, more years. Eventually, with his soul nearly broken, Father Time is granted his freedom, along with a magical hourglass and a mission: a chance to redeem himself by teaching two earthly people the true meaning of time.

He returns to our world--now dominated by the hour-counting he so innocently began--and commences a journey with two unlikely partners: one a teenage girl who is about to give up on life, the other a wealthy old businessman who wants to live forever. To save himself, he must save them both. And stop the world to do so.

When I arrived home for Easter I went to the library and got a few books out; The Time Keeper was one of them. Like the majority of Mitch Albom's novels it's not a particularly chunky read, so I sat and read this in an afternoon, and I loved it even more than I loved The Five People You Meet in Heaven, which I read back in 2012.

Even though it was a quick read, it was powerful. I loved Albom's portrayal of the world before time began - or at least before we began to count it - and the way he wrote about its discovery. This book definitely made me think.

by Kristen Britain

My Rating: 

Karigan Gladheon, running away from school, is traveling through a deep forest when a galloping horse pounds up to her, its rider impaled by two black-shafted arrows. With his dying breath, he tells her he is a Green Rider, one of the magical messengers of the King. Before he dies, he makes Karigan swear to deliver the message hes carrying, and gives her his green coat, with the symbolic brooch of his office. Pursued by unknown assassins, following a path only her horse seems to know, Karigan becomes a legendary Green Riderfor when given to the right person, a Riders brooch awakens the magic inside.

This month I finally decided to give up on Green Rider; I may go back to it again in the future but I can't say for sure. I started this book back in December and this month I still wasn't even half way through it. It started out with so much promise, but it was so slow. Normally I don't have a problem with a slow read as long as it's executed well, but I got so bored of all the worldbuilding and being introduced to all these characters who, as far as I could tell, had absolutely nothing to do with the actual conflict.

I'd like to try to finish it one day because I've owned it for so long, but right now I still feel frustrated when I think about it.

by Sarah Waters

My Rating: 

An upper-class woman, recovering from a suicide attempt, visits the women's ward of Millbank prison as part of her rehabilitation. There she meets Selina, an enigmatic spiritualist-and becomes drawn into a twilight world of ghosts and shadows, unruly spirits and unseemly passions, until she is at last driven to concoct a desperate plot to secure Selina's freedom, and her own. 

April saw me read my very first Sarah Waters novel! I've been meaning to read her work for a while now ever since I discovered her last year, and her novel Fingersmith is the historical fiction read I mentioned wanting to cross off my TBR list this year in my 2014 Booket List.

I decided to start with Affinity not only because it's shorter, but also because it counted as my read for the second week of the Hogwarts House Reading Challenge. I really enjoyed this book (even though it broke my heart a little) and now that I'm acquainted with Sarah Waters' writing style I can't wait to pick up Fingersmith!

by Shirley Jackson

My Rating: 

First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill Househas been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a "haunting"; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

April also saw me read my very first Shirley Jackson novel, and I can say with full confidence that I'm most definitely a fan! I received The Haunting of Hill House for Christmas, and because it's quite a thin book I decided to finally pick it up during my Easter holiday.

I loved this book. It is by far the best 'haunted house' story I've come across. Jackson doesn't try and get cheap scares out of people with blood and gore, instead she plays with your head until you're not entirely sure what it is you're supposed to believe. I'm definitely going to be picking up more of her work in future!

by Neil Gaiman

My Rating: 

In the sleepy English countryside of decades past, there is a town that has stood on a jut of granite for six hundred years. And immediately to the east stands a high stone wall, for which the village is named. Here in the town of Wall, Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester. One crisp October night, as they watch, a star falls from the sky, and Victoria promises to marry Tristran if he'll retrieve that star and bring it back for her. It is this promise that sends Tristran through the only gap in the wall, across the meadow, and into the most unforgettable adventure of his life.

My third read for the Hogwarts House Reading Challenge was Stardust which, despite being really short and despite me having owned my copy for years, I hadn't read yet. I enjoyed this little read, it felt like reading a bizarre fairy tale or fable, but I have to say I think this is one of the rare instances in which I prefer the film to the book!

by John Donne

My Rating:

From "The Flea," a sly and witty sonnet of seduction, to his celestial and holy "A Hymn to Christ," John Donne's poems capture both love and death, earthly and heavenly passion. Here are his most beautiful songs and sonnets; elegies and epithalamiums (poems in honor of a bride and groom); satires, verse letters, and poems of the Divine--a portrait of Donne's range and magnificence.

I finally finished making my way through a little collection of John Donne's poetry this month. I don't read much poetry at all - and really I should read more - but I've always had a fondness for John Donne. I love that his poetry initially seems so profound until you realise he's actually just talking about sex.

If you haven't read anything by John Donne then I do recommend him - "The Flea" is probably his most famous poem.

by Essie Fox

My Rating: 

Uprooted from her home in India, Alice is raised by her aunt, a spiritualist medium in Windsor. When the mysterious Mr Tilsbury enters their lives, Alice is drawn into a plot to steal the priceless Koh-i-Noor diamond, claimed by the British Empire at the end of the Anglo-Sikh wars.

Said to be both blessed and cursed, the sacred Indian stone exerts its power over all who encounter it: a handsome deposed maharajah determined to claim his rightful throne, a man hell-bent on discovering the secrets of eternity, and a widowed queen who hopes the jewel can draw her husband's spirit back. In the midst of all this madness, Alice must discover a way to regain control of her life and fate...

This was the second book I got out from the library and I only sort of finished it. I was really looking forward to this read; I've been hearing a lot about Essie Fox lately - she also wrote Elijah's Mermaid and The Somnambulist - and if you've been reading my blog for a while you'll know I'm a fan of historical fiction. This particular story is set in the 19th century and focuses a lot on the Koh-i-Noor diamond which was stolen from India, recut and then given to Queen Victoria when she became known as Empress of India. Another famous story which is heavily influenced by the theft of the Koh-i-Noor is Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone, which is one of my favourite classics, so I thought I was going to really enjoy The Goddess and the Thief.

Sadly, though, I felt as though this was a book with so much promise that just seemed to dwindle on the edges of a great story. I got around half way through the book when the plot took a turn which I felt was unbelievable, so it annoyed me, and after that I just sort of skim read the rest. 

This book does have great ratings on Goodreads, however, so maybe some time in the future I'll have to go back to it and try rereading it. Perhaps I missed something!

by Suzanne Collins

My Rating: 

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans--except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay--no matter what the personal cost.

Lastly, in April I reread the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy for the first time since I originally read it back in 2012. I'd forgotten a lot of the smaller details since my first read so it was good to revisit the final book, even if the story is heartbreaking, plus it counted as my final book for the Hogwarts House Reading Challenge. 

Katniss is one of my favourite YA heroines and I really enjoy reading from her point of view; she goes through a lot of crap, and I love that the final book is as horrifying as it is. This is a trilogy about war, so I'd be annoyed if Suzanne Collins tried to convince me it's actually a story about Katniss and Peeta.

I can't wait for the film later this year!

That's everything I read in April. What did you read this month?

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