Monday, 31 December 2012

100 Books in 2012 Challenge

If you're wondering why this entry is post dated it is because I have no idea how to make a sticky post. I have been attempting this challenge for the last few years. I really don't think I'll manage to reach 100 but I'm going to try beat last years total of 58. :P Reached on 26/09/12! :D

Rules and Guidelines:
1. Read 100 books or more in 2012.
2. Keep track of how many I read.
3. First time reads only.
4. Leave the entry public. If you want to recommend any of your favourites to me, please do so in the comments.

1. Slaughterhouse Five || Kurt Vonnegut [01/01/12 - 03/01/12]
2. This Boy's Life || Tobias Wolff [03/01/12 - 05/01/12]
3. The Bridges of Madison County || Robert James Waller [05/01/12 - 06/01/12]
4. The Sisters Brothers || Patrick DeWitt [06/01/12 - 08/01/12]
5. A Place Called Here || Cecelia Ahern [09/01/12 - 11/01/12]
6. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children || Ransom Riggs [11/01/12 - 13/01/12]
7. East of Eden || John Steinbeck [13/01/12 - 20/01/12]
8. My Name Is Mary Sutter || Robin Oliveira [20/01/12 - 24/01/12]
9. One For The Money || Janet Evanovich [24/01/12 - 26/01/12]
10. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn || Betty Smith [27/01/12 - 02/02/12]
11. The Weight of Silence || Heather Gudenkauf [03/02/12 - 05/02/12]
12. Two For The Dough || Janet Evanovich [06/02/12 - 08/02/12]
13. The Shakespeare Secret || J.L. Carrell [09/02/12 - 13/02/12]
14. Grimms' Fairy Tales || Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm [14/02/12 - 14/02/12]
15. Three To Get Deadly || Janet Evanovich [15/02/12 - 17/02/12]
16. Songs of the Humpback Whale || Jodi Picoult [18/02/12 - 22/02/12]
17. All We Know of Heaven || Jacquelyn Mitchard [23/02/12 - 25/02/12]
18. 11/22/63 || Stephen King [25/02/12 - 07/03/12]
19. Four to Score || Janet Evanovich [07/03/12 - 12/03/12]
20. The Joy Luck Club || Amy Tan [12/03/12 - 18/03/12]
21. Second Glance || Jodi Picoult [18/03/12 - 26/03/12]
22. Blue Sky Days || Marie Landry [27/03/12 - 29/03/12]
23. Wuthering Heights || Emily Bronte [30/03/12 - 04/04/12]
24. High Five || Janet Evanovich [04/04/12 - 06/04/12]
25. The Pearl || John Steinbeck [07/04/12 - 09/04/12]
26. Flash and Bones || Kathy Reichs [10/04/12 - 12/04/12]
27. Lone Wolf || Jodi Picoult [13/04/12 - 18/04/12]
28. Forbidden || Tabitha Suzuma [19/04/12 - 21/04/12]
29. Hot Six || Janet Evanovich [22/04/12 - 26/04/12]
30. Gone With the Wind || Margaret Mitchell [26/04/12 - 13/05/12]
31. A Stolen Life || Jaycee Dugard [14/05/12 - 17/05/12]
32. Deadlocked || Charlaine Harris [17/05/12 - 23/05/12]
33. White Oleander || Janet Fitch [23/05/12 - 01/06/12]
34. The Lucky One || Nicholas Sparks [01/06/12 - 04/06/12]
35. Seven Up || Janet Evanovich [04/06/12 - 08/06/12]
36. The Client || John Grisham [09/06/12 - 14/06/12]
37. Island of Lost Girls || Jennifer McMahon [15/06/12 - 18/06/12]
38. Fifty Shades of Grey || E.L. James [19/06/12 - 25/06/12]
39. The Scarlet Letter || Nathaniel Hawthorne [25/06/12 - 30/06/12]
40. Certain Girls || Jennifer Weiner [30/06/12 - 03/07/12]
41. Hard Eight || Janet Evanovich [03/07/12 - 08/07/12]
42. The Lost Daughter || Diane Chamberlain [09/07/12 - 17/07/12]
43. Stolen: A Letter to my Captor || Lucy Christopher [17/07/12 - 21/07/12]
44. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter || Seth Grahame-Smith [21/07/12 - 26/07/12]
45. The Last of the Mohicians || James Fenimore Cooper [26/07/12 - 03/08/12]
46. Visions of Sugar Plums || Janet Evanovich [04/08/12 - 04/08/12]
47. The Girl Who Chased the Moon || Sarah Addison Allen [05/08/12 - 11/08/12]
48. I Capture The Castle || Dodie Smith [11/08/12 - 18/08/12]
49. The Last Girl || Jane Casey [18/08/12 - 21/08/12]
50. One Breath Away || Heather Gudenkauf [18/08/12 - 25/08/12]
51. To The Nines || Janet Evanovich [26/08/12 - 31/08/12]
52. Rhett Butler's People || Donald McCaig [01/09/12 - 09/09/12]
53. The Midwife's Confession || Diane Chamberlain [09/09/12 - 12/09/12]
54. Of Mice and Men || John Steinbeck [12/09/12 - 15/09/12]
55. The Future of Us || Jay Asher [16/09/12 - 20/09/12]
56. Ten Big Ones || Janet Evanovich [20/09/12 - 22/09/12]
57. The Silver Sword || Ian Serraillier [23/09/12 - 24/09/12]
58. The Best of Me || Nicholas Sparks [24/09/12 - 26/09/12]
59. Ford County || John Grisham [26/09/12 - 30/09/12]
60. The Birthing House || Christopher Ransom [01/10/12 - 05/10/12]
61. The Green Mile || Stephen King [05/10/12 - 09/10/12]
62. The Haunting of Hill House || Shirley Jackson [09/10/12 - 12/10/12]
63. The Witching Hour || Anne Rice [12/10/12 - 23/10/12]
64. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow || Washington Irving [23/10/12 - 24/10/12]
65. Frankenstein || Mary Shelley [24/10/12 - 31/10/12]
66. Eleven on Top || Janet Evanovich [01/11/12 - 05/11/12]
67. The Secret Keeper || Kate Morton [05/11/12 - 13/11/12]
68. Like Dandelion Dust || Karen Kingsbury [13/11/12 - 17/11/12]
69. The Tenderness of Wolves || Stef Penney [18/11/12 - 28/11/12]
70. The Outsiders || S.E. Hinton [29/11/12 - 02/12/12]
71. The Lifeboat || Charlotte Rogan [03/12/12 - 08/12/12]
72. I've Got Your Number || Sophie Kinsella [03/12/12 - 08/12/12]
73. The Stupidest Angel || Christoper Moore [12/12/12 - 17/12/12]
74. The Good Father || Diane Chamberlain [17/12/12 - 26/12/12]
75. Monday Mornings || Sanjay Gupta M.D. [27/12/12 - 30/12/12]

Saturday, 25 August 2012

All We Know of Heaven by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Title: All We Know of Heaven
Author: Jacquelyn Mitchard
Pages: 320
Genre: Young Adult
Published: 2008
Rating: Four out of Five

Two best friends

A horrific accident

One survives

But which one?

Based on a true story of mistaken identity, "All We Know of Heaven" is a universal story of ordinary people caught up in an unimaginable tragedy and of the healing power of hope and love.

This novel was inspired by a true story. It is about two girls, Bridget and Maureen, who are so alike and yet so different at the same time. They look quite similar, they have the same colour hair and eyes, and they are the same height. The two have been best friends since they were small children.

One night while travelling home from a cheerleading practice, there is an accident, an extremely serious one, and the lives of these two girls are changed forever. One girl dies while the other one survives. One family buries their child, while the other sits over their child's hospital bed as their injured and broken daughter lies in a coma. When the girl, who is believed to be Bridget, finally wakes from her coma, it is soon realised that the wrong child has been buried.

This is really a fantastic novel. The book is unputdownable! It's a tale of tragedy and hope, renewal and death, romance, growth and forgiveness. The characters are portrayed so clearly and vividly. It is a thrilling read and nearly impossible not to become completely absorbed into the situation.

Four stars!

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

Title: Forbidden
Author: Tabitha Suzuma
Pages: 432
Genre: Young Adult
Published: 2010
Rating: Four out of Five

She is pretty and talented - sweet sixteen and never been kissed. He is seventeen; gorgeous and on the brink of a bright future. And now they have fallen in love. But... they are brother and sister.

Seventeen- year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.

I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book at first due to the extremely sensitive subject – incest – but I actually enjoyed it and by the time I was half way through the novel, I found myself rooting for the couple and desperately hoping for a happy ending for them which I knew would never happen.

This novel makes you re-think everything you've thought about consensual incest and realize that it does happen and what terrible pain and heartache it causes to those that themselves involved in it. I was impressed at how Tabitha Suzama tackled such a taboo subject and made the story believable at the same time.

No matter how wrong, sick and disgusting you may think consensual incest is, I challenge you to read this novel and not find yourself painstakingly wishing that Maya and Lochan could somehow find a way to be together.

Four stars!

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

Title: The Last of the Mohicans
Author: James Fenimore Cooper
Pages: 448
Genre: Classics
Published: 1826
Rating: 3.5 out of Five

The wild rush of action in this classic frontier adventure story has made The Last of the Mohicans the most popular of James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales. Deep in the forests of upper New York State, the brave woodsman Hawkeye (Natty Bumppo) and his loyal Mohican friends Chingachgook and Uncas become embroiled in the bloody battles of the French and Indian War. The abduction of the beautiful Munro sisters by hostile savages, the treachery of the renegade brave Magua, the ambush of innocent settlers, and the thrilling events that lead to the final tragic confrontation between rival war parties create an unforgettable, spine-tingling picture of life on the frontier. And as the idyllic wilderness gives way to the forces of civilization, the novel presents a moving portrayal of a vanishing race and the end of its way of life in the great American forests.

The novel was entertaining and enjoyable but I found it took real patience to get though, especially at the beginning. I found the amount of descriptions of the setting and scenery was over-done, it was extremely infuriating after a while but I managed to stick with it. The second half of the book was a lot better than the first - the pace of the novel speeds up, there's a lot more action. I really enjoyed the novel once I got passed the halfway mark. This novel may be hard-going, but it's worth reading. You will need to take some time over it and persevere with the first half, but when you finish the novel you'll feel it was worth it.

Note: You'll need a dictionary or the internet to hand to translate the French dialogue, but this doesn't occur much.

3.5 stars!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Flash and Bones by Kathy Reichs

Title: Flash and Bones
Author: Kathy Reichs
Pages: 304
Genre: Crime
Published: 2011
Rating: Two out of Five

Kathy Reichs--#1 "New York Times "bestselling author and producer of the FOX television hit "Bones"--returns with a riveting new novel set in Charlotte, North Carolina, featuring America's favorite forensic anthropologist, Dr. Temperance Brennan.

Just as 200,000 fans are pouring into town for Race Week, a body is found in a barrel of asphalt next to the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The next day, a NASCAR crew member comes to Temperance Brennan's office at the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner to share a devastating story. Twelve years earlier, Wayne Gamble's sister, Cindi, then a high school senior and aspiring racer, disappeared along with her boyfriend, Cale Lovette. Lovette kept company with a group of right-wing extremists known as the Patriot Posse. Could the body be Cindi's? Or Cale's?

At the time of their disappearance, the FBI joined the investigation, only to terminate it weeks later. Was there a cover-up? As Tempe juggles multiple theories, the discovery of a strange, deadly substance in the barrel alongside the body throws everything into question. Then an employee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention goes missing during Race Week. Tempe can't overlook the coincidence. Was this man using his lab chemicals for murder? Or is the explanation even more sinister? What other secrets lurk behind the festive veneer of Race Week?

A turbocharged story of secrets and murder unfolds in this, the fourteenth thrilling novel in Reichs's "cleverly plotted and expertly maintained series" ("The New York Times Book Review"). With the smash hit "Bones "about to enter its seventh season and in full syndication--and her most recent novel, "Spider Bones, "an instant "New York Times "bestseller--Kathy Reichs is at the top of her game.

I've been a fan of the Temperance Brennan series for about six or seven years now. I've read all fourteen novels in the series and this book was the worst one yet. I loved most of the books that Kathy Reichs has written. They are usually well written but this one was something of a letdown. The author only writes one book per year. Every year I wait in anticipation for the new novel but for the first time it really wasn't worth the wait!

Flash and Bones is contrived, repetitious and extremely dull. I was left feeling frustrated and disenchanted by this novel. The plot was slow, flat and predictable and the characters were one-dimensional and boring. I guessed correctly who the killer was 30% into the novel which is something I'm not normally able to do with this authors other books but this one lacks the twists and turns the other books have.

It seems like the author had writer's block while writing this novel and just wrote any old crap down just for the sake of having something to give to her publisher at the end of her deadline. I have a feeling that the author was also getting paid to advertise stuff in her novel. There are countless adverts for Youtube, iPhones, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Poptarts, Pringles, Pampers and other products throughout the novel.

I like the personal relationship between Andrew Ryan and Temperance Brennan, which was missing from this book. Ryan only appears once or twice in the form of phone calls and emails. This novel was also lacking the forensic science which is what makes this series more unique than all the other crime series out there.

What hurts the most about this novel, is how Kathy Reichs has turned the character of Temperance Brennan from a brave, strong, capable, intelligent woman into a incompetent, indecisive, weak, horny nymphomaniac. The character really deserves much better than that! I mean, what was the deal with Galimore? Really Kathy? What the hell where you thinking girl?

Two stars!

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Title: The Pearl
Author: John Steinbeck
Pages: 96
Genre: Classics
Published: 1947
Rating: Three out of Five

In this short book illuminated by a deep understanding and love of humanity, John Steinbeck retells an old Mexican folk tale: the story of the great pearl, how it was found, and how it was lost. For the diver Kino, finding a magnificent pearl means the promise of a better life for his impoverished family. His dream blinds him to the greed and suspicions the pearl arouses in him and his neighbors, and even his loving wife cannot temper his obsession or stem the events leading to the tragedy.

For Steinbeck, Kino and his wife illustrate the fall from innocence of people who believe that wealth erases all problems. Originally published in 1947, The Pearl shows why Steinbeck’s style has made him one of the most beloved American writers: it is a simple story of simple people, recounted with the warmth and sincerity and unrivaled craftsmanship Steinbeck brings to his writing. It is tragedy in the great tradition, beautifully conveying not despair but hope for mankind.

First off, I would have given this novella four stars if the introduction written by Linda Wagner-Martin hadn't completely spoiled the story for me. The whole plot of the book is given away in the introduction. So my advice to anyone that also as this edition of this book: Skip the intro and read the novella first!

I thought the Pearl was a wonderful little story and John Steinbeck is an absolutely amazing writer. He is one of my favourite authors. Steinbeck's stories are poignant and full of reality. He describes everything so wonderfully that I could picture it all so clearly in my head.

The Pearl is a very basic story, but everything is the novella also has a double meaning, which is extremely thought-provoking. The novella is a parable for modern times, even though it was written in 1947. The moral for the story is money doesn't always bring you happiness and good things. And some people will do whatever they can to take advantage of you.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Blue Sky Days by Marie Landry

Title: Blue Sky Days
Author: Marie Landry
Pages: 223
Genre: YA Romance
Published: 2012
Rating: One out of Five

A year after graduating from high school, nineteen-year-old Emma Ward feels lost. She has spent most of her life trying to please her frigid, miserable mother - studying hard, getting good grades, avoiding the whole teenage rebellion thing - and now she feels she has no identity beyond that. Because she spent so many years working hard and planning every moment of her life, she doesn't have any friends, has never had a boyfriend, and basically doesn't know who she is or what she really wants from life. Working two part-time jobs to save money for college hasn't helped her make decisions about her future, so she decides it's time for a change. She leaves home to live with her free-spirited, slightly eccentric Aunt Daisy in a small town that makes Emma feel like she's stepped back in time.

When Emma meets Nicholas Shaw, everything changes - he's unlike anyone she's ever met before, the kind of man she didn't even know existed in the 21st century. Carefree and spirited like Daisy, Nicholas teaches Emma to appreciate life, the beauty around her, and to just let go and live. Between Daisy and Nicholas, Emma feels like she belongs somewhere for the first time in her life, and realizes that you don't always need a plan - sometimes life steers you where you're meant to be.

Life is wonderful, an endless string of blue sky days, until Nicholas is diagnosed with cancer, and life changes once again for Emma in ways she never thought possible. Now it's time for her to help Nicholas the way he's helped her. Emma will have to use her new-found strength, and discover along the way if love really is enough to get you through.

I was really looking forward to reading this book. I got excited when I read the summary of the novel, at first glance I thought it was such a fantastic premise. I really thought to myself that this sounded like a book I would really enjoy reading but the novel didn't live up to my expectations.

There were so many things that bugged me about this novel. I immensely disliked the character of Emma, who was the narrator of the novel. I found her to be dull, self-absorbed and incredibly whiny. The character whines constantly about how her mother doesn't love her, about how she regrets spending too much time studying in high school because it meant she never had time to enjoy being a teenager, about how she has no friends, etc. There are chapters and chapters of this. It's annoying and extremely off-putting! Note to the author: Emma hates her mother, we get it, we don't need to be told this a million times, enough already! The reader doesn't need to read 100+ pages of Emma moaning on and on about her hypercritical mother and her lack of a social life! This persistent whinging is quite draining to your readers and drives them crazy!

The romance storyline is revoltingly sickly sweet and corny. Emma and Nicholas's relationship is so perfect - it's boring! In fact, even the characters are too perfect. None of them (apart from Emma and her mother) have any flaws at all. They are all too unbelievable to be realistic. Every single one of them is perky, cheerful and easy-going ALL OF THE TIME. The characters are completely infallible and can do no wrong. The novel is chock-full of Mary-Sues. People aren't like this in reality. It makes all of Landry's characters, even Emma, seem one-dimensional. This made it impossible for me to connect with the characters. Landry spend a lot of time describing how her characters' LOOKED (especially Nicholas) but not enough time defining her characters personalities. All the characters need 'roughing up'.

The dialogue between Emma and Nicholas seemed false throughout the novel. The relationship between the characters was cheesy and unbelievable. Romantic moments, which I'm sure the author meant to be touching and heart-warming, turned out to be unintentionally hilarious as they were so far-fetched and nonsensical.

Absolutely nothing happens in the first 48% of the novel. Literally you could skip the first 150 pages and start reading from the middle and not miss a thing. There's virtually no exciting twists and turns to keep the reader interested in the first half of the book. I think the novel would have been much better if there were multiple narrators instead of one sole narrator. I think it would have been more interesting to see Emma and Nicholas through the eyes of the other characters. This might have made it easier for me to connect with the characters of Emma and Nicholas, as well as help the supporting characters (which were poorly developed) evolve.

The second half of the book was better but I thought it seemed a bit rushed. I think the author should have put more focus on the leukaemia storyline. I thought that Nicholas's illness should have been introduced a lot earlier in the novel. It would have made the story so much more compelling. The author padded out the first half of the novel with nonsense that really shouldn't have been there in the first place and then the most interesting part of the story was just squeezed in at the end. What was the point in that..?

I received no enjoyment what-so-ever from reading this novel. At times, it really was a chore to read which is why I'm only giving it one star. Blue Sky Days is a ridiculously bad romance novel but it may be an excellent cure for insomnia though. It's a total snooze-fest!

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Title: The Joy Luck Club
Author: Amy Tan
Pages: 288
Genre: Contemporary
Published: 1989
Rating: Five out of Five

Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who's "saying" the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. "To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable." Forty years later the stories and history continue. With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined. Mothers boast or despair over daughters, and daughters roll their eyes even as they feel the inextricable tightening of their matriarchal ties. Tan is an astute storyteller, enticing readers to immerse themselves into these lives of complexity and mystery.

This is a beautifully written novel that describes the lives of four Chinese mothers, who left China for America, and their Chinese-American daughters. All the characters are well developed and the personalities of each one come through very strongly. The stories of the mothers' lives in China are sensitively and delicately combined with the perceptions of the daughters, making the novel eloquently poignant tale. The author captures the complexities of the relationships between the mothers and daughters extremely well. It was fascinating to read about the history of the Chinese mothers', and how their experiences affected their relationships with her American-born daughters, who couldn't really begin to understand what their mothers went through before leaving China for a better life.

Although it is a captivating and enticing novel, at times it is often easy to become confused about what mother goes with which daughter. A small gripe about an otherwise superb novel.