Friday, 24 July 2015

March and April Reads

It has been impossibly long since I have blogged because I had been so busy with coursework and then revision and exams and after that I got caught up in the thrill of summer freedom. I really want to keep track of how I felt about the books I have read this year though (although this is going to feel impossible to write) which is why this is coming like 4 months late. Over March and April I only managed to read 7 books and one audio book which is an average one month for me...yay for responsibility preventing me from reading

The Infernal Devices Trilogy by Cassandra Clare     90%
(Synopsis for Clockwork Angel) The year is 1978. Tessa Gray descends into London's dark, supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother only to find that her sole allies are the demon-slaying shadow hunters, of which include two mysterious boys that Tessa is attracted two, Will and Jem. Soon they find themselves battling against a secret organisation of  warlocks, vampires, demons and humans equipped with an army of unstoppable clockwork creatures. Out to rule the empire, can Tessa and her allies stop them in time...?
I finally finished this trilogy by marathoning  Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince and Clockwork Princess during this month, although I had already read the first, Clockwork Angel, last year. I was not aware that City of Heavenly Fire had about one thousand and one spoilers in it for this trilogy so I went into it already knowing quite a lot about about what happens which was very annoying because as a result I was so much less engrossed in this trilogy then I had been in The Mortal Instruments. Nevertheless, I still immensely enjoyed this trilogy and actually think it's far better than The Mortal Instruments (which I still love) in terms of the writing, storyline and the characters. The characters were complex and flawed and just wonderfully crafted and it really made this book for me. I also loved the storyline which was really unique and interesting and flowed really well because of the easy writing style. This trilogy gave me all the feels and was heart wrenching but brilliant and I really need Will so that he can quote classic literature to me all day long.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett     85%        
Enter a vanished and unjust world: Jackson Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren't trusted not to steal the silver... There's Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son's tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from College,who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared. Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they'd be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell...
This was a reread for me of a much loved book. I actually listened to this on audio book while completing my textiles coursework and I would definitely recommend the audiobook to anyone who is interested in reading this but can't find the time as the voices are done very well and it still managed to engross me just as much. The Help is a novel that I will go back to again and again as it never fails to to hit me with a strong tidal wave of emotion and I know that this is something I will appreciate for, well, forever (excuse the dramatics). Wonderfully written with beautifully crafted characters filled with flaws and subtleties which makes them excellently developed causing me to love some of them even more. The story is heart-wrenching and heart-warming, filled with emotion and the unexpected touch of humour which I always enjoy. The brilliant message in this books makes it a vitally important read for everyone.  
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven     59%
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death. When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
My feelings about this book were and still are very weird so this is going to be a very jumbled review with opinions you may not agree with and I haven't even sorted out myself yet. I am really sorry if I offend anyone when writing about the mental illness addressed in this book as that is definitely not my intention. After first finishing this book I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads and you would probably see me saying very different things about it if I had written this when I was supposed to but after a lot of reflection I reduced it to 3 stars and the main reason I didn't reduce it further was due to my original rating of it proving that I clearly enjoyed it. The five stars came down to me thinking this book had a great message about mental illness, loving Theodore Finch, enjoying the story and thinking the writing style was beautiful (even though parts made me cringe and now it all makes me cringe). After thinking about this all maybe a month after reading it, I realised my opinions were beginning to change quite drastically. Not only did the writing and the story lose some of its magic for me as I felt it was rather cliche, cringey and somewhat juvenile (although it has to be said that I still really like the story when I think about it now) but I began to develop quite a big problem with the characters and the message. While I appreciate parts of the message in trying to make people understand that you never really know what is going on in someones life and that mental illness isn't shameful at all, I have a big problem with the way it was executed and dealt with as well as some of the other messages this book had. I have had no personal experience dealing with serious mental illness and if I am correct this author does so I do understand that she may be very good at portraying what it is like to have a mental illness through her characters, however I have had friends who have suffered and have been through a lot with mental illness and so I know that while it can consume them it doesn't make up the whole of who they are. In this book however, I began to feel that the characters merely felt like personifications of their illnesses, as if that was the only thing worth knowing about them - to me it felt as if it was saying that a person's mental illness will become them and that is okay to accept and that people with mental illnesses are all like the characters in this book. I know that there is nothing to be ashamed of in having a mental illness, however I do not think it is okay to promote the characters (such as Theo's) struggles with the illness as little quirks or desirable traits, as if them being their illness is how it is meant to be. To me, it almost feels disrespectful to those who are suffering from these things and are fighting to  make people realise that they aren't their illness, much like someone with cancer, for example, might do so. This is all  just my opinion and I am not even sure it will be my final opinion, I think I will need to reread it at some point to form a full and final opinion about it. Feel free to tell me I am wrong or have got the wrong idea from it if you have read this book, I am really sorry if I have accidentally offended anyone or got the wrong end of the stick with this. I have other problems with the messages in this book too though, one being that it promotes slut shaming, something which I am very against - why do women get called "slut" and shunned for doing what they want and having fun while men are celebrated for the same thing? Anyway that's a rant for another day, but to conclude (after a very long "mini" review), I would recommend that you give this book a try if you are interested, it's a good story that will rip your heart out regardless of some of the problems you may find with it. I would suggest, however, that you go in to it aware of these things so that you can form an opinion for yourself as it is definitely not for everyone.

Shatter Me by Taherah Mafi     78%
Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but the Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal but as long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one cares. With diseases destroying the population, scarce food and birds that can no longer fly, the world is too busy crumbling to worry about a 17-year-old girl. Claiming that their way was the only way to fix things, the Reestablishment threw Juliette into a cell. Now that so many people have died, the few remaining survivors are whispering war and the Reestablishment have changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than just a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she is exactly what the Reestablishment need right now. Juliette has to make a choice: be a weapon...or be a warrior
I really enjoyed this read, managing to fly through it in one evening - yes, it was that addicting. I found the writing style really unique and beautiful and it completely engrossed me from the word go. Taherah Mafi's writing perfectly captured Juliette's mental state helping me to understand her so much more and added complexity to the story. I also really enjoyed the fast-paced, action-filled dystopian story line which, although I wouldn't say was unique, made for a fun and interesting read only emphasised and improved by the romance aspect which I also enjoyed (despite the insta-love). Although I really liked the characters and caught glimpses of their more complex sides (something I assume and hope will be expanded in the next two books), I didn't really form much of a connection with any of them, I think because I found it so fast-paced. For me forming connections with characters is what converts a YA novel from being fluffy and fun to being heart-wrenching and important so that aspect was a bit disappointing but hopefully, that will change once I delve a little further into the Shatter Me world as I definitely enjoyed it enough to want to pick up the next book. All in all, a fun, interesting and beautifully written dystopian (but perhaps a guilty pleasure) read that I would definitely recommend.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller 
 Arthur Miller wrote of his classic play about the witch-hunts and trials in seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts. Based on historical people and real events, Miller's drama is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria. In the rigid theocracy of Salem, rumours that women are practising witchcraft galvanise the town's most basic fears and suspicions; and when a young girl accuses Elizabeth Proctor of being a witch, self-righteous church leaders and townspeople insist that Elizabeth be brought to trial. The ruthlessness of the prosecutors and the eagerness of neighbour to testify against neighbour brilliantly illuminate the destructive power of socially sanctioned violence.
I had to read this for school for my Literature exam and because of the deep analysis and everything I am not really sure if and how much I liked it (hence the missing rating). If I had read this in my own time it is hard to say if I would have enjoyed it as it is not something I would usually reach for, but I definitely wouldn't have understood it for all there is to appreciate about it. The themes in this book such as hysteria, theocracy and betrayal are really important and I think that this book holds some really interesting points about oppression in a puritan society as well as the paranoia and hysteria that can build from false accusation in a theocracy. Additionally, the parallel this play draws between the Salem witch trials in the seventeenth century and McCarthyism during the 1950s (the persecution of communists in USA) is incredibly interesting and I now know so much more about both this and Salem witch hunts because of it. The characters are also brilliant- fantastically flawed and realistic and through Arthur Millers commentary in between scenes as well as the dialogue that we witness, we really get a feel for why the characters are desperate enough to do the things that they do. This really helps with the back-story and foreshadowing as well. All in all, it is a very interesting, though somewhat bizarre and strange (which is further highlighted if you have seen the film) read with well written characters and a lot to think about. It is definitely worth picking up just to see what you think.

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome     70%
The Walker children - also known as Captain John, Mate Susan, Able Seaman Titty and Ship's Boy Roger - set sail on the Swallow and head for Wild Cat Island. There they camp under open skies, swim in clear water and go fishing for their dinner. But their days are disturbed by the Blackett sisters, the fierce Amazon pirates, The Swallows and Amazons decide to wage war and so begins a summer of unforgettable discoveries and incredible adventure.
This book was a lovely adventure story that I am sure I would have loved when I was a kid - I mean, it certainly isn't a children's classic for nothing. However reading it now, I found it quite difficult to get into because I couldn't relate to any of the characters and it didn't feel like much was happening, even though for the characters a lot was, and this made it slightly boring to read. The story did start to pick up a bit and it was a very lovely and sweet children's adventure that I did really appreciate, this was certainly helped along by the writing style which I also enjoyed. The characters didn't really feel well developed but they were still executed in a way that created a great group dynamic between them which I liked. Although it wasn't the most enjoyable read and I won't be continuing on with the next books, I am still glad that I read this and I definitely appreciate it for what it is.

Have you read any of these books, what did you think of them?

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

Today, Sunday the 8th of March, it is International Women's Day, and as I was planning to write this soon anyway, no day seemed more fitting than a day which is dedicated to the very same cause that Everyday Sexism is: a greater awareness for female equality.
Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates is a book brimming with feminism and is based on and outlines a gender equality campaign that strives to make women and girls' voices heard and help ignorant people understand that sexism is still a big issue. Sick and tired of the constant sexist harassment that herself and other women receive on a day-to-day basis, in 2012 Laura Bates established the Everyday Sexism Project. Every girl and woman has a story, a story of discrimination and prejudice because of their gender, and the Everyday Sexism Project is a way to use an online space and social media (through the project's website and Twitter) for ordinary women all over the world to come together and share their stories. They range from rape and domestic abuse or sexual harassment on the street, to losing a job after becoming pregnant as well as a whole host of other stories that scream to people, loud and clear, that sexism is still a very prominent issue today. The project is showing women everywhere that they are not alone in this struggle, proving wrong those who say sexism is dead and empowering and inspiring women to stand up and shout back.

This book, written by Laura Bates, pulls all these stories together, all the things that have been learnt from the project as well as vital statistics. She addresses the major issues that women face due to sexism with a strong and intelligent voice that forces people to recognise that sexism truly is endemic- socially, politically and economically. Following a foreword by Sarah Brown and an introduction fittingly called Everybody Has a Tipping Point the book holds 12 different sections that outline some of the most important topics within the issue of sexism. These sections are: Silenced Women: The Invisible Problem; Women in Politics; Girls; Young Women Learning; Women in Public Spaces; Women in the Media; Women in the Workplace; Motherhood; Double Discrimination; What About the Men?; Women Under Threat and finally, People Standing Up. Each separate section starts with some extremely well researched vital statistics, followed by a brief introduction to the topic before proceeding to showcase some of the stories that women have shared with the project, the author's response to this as well as a more in-depth explanation surrounding the topic about why this is an issue. Some glorious feminist rants are also thrown in there for good measure.
In my opinion, this book was fantastic: inspiring, informational and wonderfully interesting. Although I already considered myself a feminist, knew quite a bit about this topic and already wanted to do something about this huge issue, I learnt so much from this book and found myself becoming increasingly eager to make a difference. I found that this book was extremely well-researched and these snippets of information and facts brilliantly supported the fantastic arguments surrounding the many important sub-topics within this issue, a lot of which I have already used in countless rants and arguments with misogynists and ignorant people alike.  
I also thought that it was extremely well written. Laura Bates managed to get her points her across very clearly so that everything she wrote about made so much sense - it seemed like she had the answers to everything. Her writing was also very emotive and powerful which really inspired me and made me feel so many emotions, something that I believe is very important in a non-fiction book where issue are tackled and it's aims are to make people more aware of the problem. 
The vital statistics at the beginning of each chapter were, in my opinion, a valuable addition to the book because they introduced the sub-topic and gave me more of an insight. It also gave me some perspective of the main issues and the scale of the problem. Furthermore, I felt that it really aided in the understanding of the section throughout the rest of the chapter and gave Laura Bates writing, opinions and information validity. 
The stories from so many women and girls were a really powerful tool in the book and really demonstrated that this is a problem that affects so many, not just the odd few. I really enjoyed this aspect because it also ensures that girls and women everywhere know that they are not alone. Many of the stories made me feel very emotional, showcasing that this is the reality for so many girls and women portraying the monumental issue that this is. 

Many extremely important topics are addressed in this book. For example, Laura Bates writes about the society's ignorant view of feminists' as "feminazis" who think women should rule the world when in actual fact all we want is equal rights for both men and women and this is why everyone should be a feminist. If you believe in equal rights for both men and women, when asked if you are a feminist, regardless of your sex or gender (because it does affect men too), your immediate response should be yes
The issue of cat calling and the media's representation of women is also talked about, addressing the misconception that commenting on a female's physical appearance and consequently making them feel vulnerable and insecure is okay; as if it doesn't matter if you are a straight A student, or someone who dedicates all her time to charity, people will always comment on what your wearing first, or the amount of cleavage that you are showing. It is making people believe that behaviour like this does no harm, that its fine to sexually objectify and oppress women even thought, evidently, it's not. 
The topic of sexual and domestic violence is a huge theme addressed in this book and is an issue that I have always, and even more so after reading this book, feel extremely passionate about. 1 in 3 women will experience rape or domestic violence and every 6 minutes a female is raped causing millions and millions of girls and women (even ones who haven't experienced it) to feel extremely vulnerable and alone as well as terrified simply walking down the street and yet these women are still being accused of attention-seeking, lying and are being convinced that they are the ones to blame while so many aren't believed, so many abusers walk free and hundreds of thousands of them stay quiet about what they have seen, what has happened to them, because of fear of being accused for something that isn't true, fear that they will be blamed for wearing a short skirt or getting a little too drunk. Let me tell you something though, women and girls can wear what they want and do what they want. We can show off our bodies and flirt and drink and that doesn't matter in the slightest because we are in charge of our own bodies and not giving our consent is still just as valid regardless. Sexual, and violent, abuse is never the victim's, or survivor's, fault. They should not be blamed.
In the book, women and girls are also shown standing up against all of this, and this is what empowered me the most. It showed how little reason there is for this oppression, objectification and harassment. Women can be strong, smart and witty and still *shock...horror* wear a short dress with a low cut top or upload a selfie on Instagram with their cleavage on show if that's what they want to do. Just like how men can be strong, smart and witty and upload a selfie on Instagram without a shirt on if that's what they want to do. Ask yourself this, in what way is that any different? 

So many other issues (including more global ones) are addressed that are equally important and need to be equally targeted which is why this book is an extremely important and inspiring read that is making a huge difference and I honestly believe that it is essential for everyone to read it. I can't recommend it enough. Although, as Laura Bates herself states, Everyday Sexism is not a book that offers solutions to any of these problems, nor does it aim to, it is one that raises awareness for sexism and that is where we must start in order to fight it. By getting women, and men, to shout out and say enough is enough, awareness is being raised and those who are ignorant are being forced to realise that sexism is still very much a problem, that there are many things that need to change. 

Enough is enough. 

Monday, 2 March 2015

February Reads

For once I am actually posting this on time - yay for me finally learning how to be efficient... This month, I ended up reading a lot more than I expected to (probably due to the fact that I read all the books rather than doing work but anyway- ). I managed to read 7 books and a total of 1986 pages as well as an audio book. I really enjoyed them all so am very pleased with my month of reading.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Cath and Wren are identical twins and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they're off to university and Wren's decided she doesn't want to be one half of a pair any more -she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose. It's not so easy for Cath. She would rather bury herself in the fanfiction she writes where there's romance far more intense than anything she's experienced in real life. Now Cath has to decide whether she's ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she's realising that there's more to learn about love than she ever thought possible.
This book was a reread for me, being one of my favourites last year and if possible, I loved it even more the second time around. Rainbow Rowell's characters are fantastic. She puts so much thought into them and develops them so well, allowing them to have their own flaws and quirks. Levi is just... auhh, I kinda, sorta really love him and wish he was real. I also love Cath and most of the other characters too. The writing is brilliant and the dialogue is well executed so it actually sounds like real-life speech rather than movie speech. Although for me, the story and protagonist was only partially relatable, I can definitely see why other people would find it very much so and ultimately, it is just a really brilliant, cute, real story that I couldn't put down. Every time I finish it, I just want to pick it back up and read it all over again - it has given me such a book hangover. Sometimes, when I'm feeling a bit low I reread my favourite scenes (I don't care if that sounds sad) and it never fails to cheer me up...yep it's that good.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Of Mice and Men is the tragic story of the complex bond between two migrant workers in Central California. George Milton and Lennie Small share a companionship, so unusual for ranch workers like them, and Lennie, a simple-minded, mentally handicapped man who doesn't understand his own strength, relies deeply on George who looks after him and together, they dream of one day owning their own small farm. After getting into some trouble in the town they used to work in, they move on up north to another ranch that appears somewhat troublesome.
This is a book I read in school last yer, and I quickly reread it to refresh my memory of it for an English essay that I had to write. I find it hard to review a book that I have analysed so much because it is difficult to distinguish between what I enjoy and what I appreciate about it but I can say with some certainty that it was an interesting but not challenging to study novella and I really like the writing style and main themes of the story (e.g. dreams and loneliness), as well as the characters in this book because it was all very well developed and reflects a lot of what society was like during the 1930's. The story is not one that I massively enjoy but I definitely appreciate what this book is all about and I recommend it to anyone who is a little interested.

The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3) by Philip Pullman 
(Synopsis to 1st book so to avoid spoilers.) Here lives an orphaned girl names Lyra Belaqua, whose carefree life among the scohlars at Oxford's Jordon College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim ouutline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternative universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs.Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multi-layered naarrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument. All around children are disappearing - victims of so-called "Gobblers" - and being ued as subjects in terrible experiments. And somehow both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved. 
I started the final instalment to the His Dark Materials trilogy as an audio book absolutely ages ago and for some reason never finished it, but I started it back up this month so I could get in some "reading" while doing other bits and bobs and I'm really glad I did because it was a great end to the trilogy. Although it didn't feel like everything was completely tied up (there were still some loose ends and parts I was confused about), I still feel pretty satisfied. The story is really fun and the writing is brilliant. I also really enjoyed the characters and world building as well as the background information - it managed to answer some of my questions from the previous books. This trilogy is a definite recommendation if you haven't yet got round to it.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
What secrets lie behind the doors at Misselthwaite Manor? Recently arrived at her uncle's estate, orphaned Mary Lennox is spoilt, sickly and certain she won't enjoy living there. Then she discovers the arched doorway into an overgrown garden, shut up since the death of her aunt ten years earlier. Mary soon begins transforming it into a thing of beauty, unaware that she is changing too. But Misselthwaite hides another secret, as Mary discovers one night. High in a dark room, away from the rest of the house, lies her young cousin, Colin, who believes he is an incurable invalid, destined to die young. causing him to fly into frightful tantrums. Will Mary be able to help Colin by getting him to love the secret garden as much as she does and letting its magic work wonders?
This children's classic is such a lovely story with some truly lovely morals. It is full of childish excitement, development and beauty. Although it had important, deeper and darker themes, it really took me back to when I was young and enjoyed running around outside with my friends and it was so sweet and heart warming. The writing was also brilliant, with beautiful descriptions and fun, humorous dialogue - something that I really enjoyed. I found that the characters were real and interesting and saw them really develop.  My only issue with this book is that that it started of a little slowly for my liking and took me a while to get into, but once I had, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Sent to investigate the disappearance of two little girls in her home town, Camille finds herself reluctantly installed in the family mansion, reacquainting herself with her distant mother and a precocious thirteen-year-old half-sister she barely knows. Haunted by a family tragedy, troubled by the disquieting grip her young sister has on the town, Camille struggles with a familiar need to be accepted. But as clues turn into dead ends Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims and realises she will have to unravel the puzzle of her own past if she's to survive this homecoming.
This was a pretty dark and psychological crime story which is not something I usually read on account on how much of a wimp I am, but I am so glad that I decided to risk it because it was truly great. Gillian Flynn writes really well, managing to give the protagonist a really distinct voice and creating extremely interesting characters which was something that really made this story for me and made it all the more realistic and absorbing. The themes in this book are pretty dark, traumatic and emotional, which it hard for me to read at times, but they were a really important part of the story and added a lot to the mystery aspect. One major part of Camille's background and character is self harm and it is very darkly portrayed and used throughout the book to show Camille's character development and psychological well-being as well as having quite a deep effect on the whole story. (I do warn however, that this may be a trigger to some people on account of the detail gone in to). All in all this was a great read that left me shocked and almost emotionally scarred and something I definitely recommend to people who enjoy psychological, darker themes in a story.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
It's 1999 and the Internet is still a novelty. At a newspaper office, two colleagues, Beth and Jennifer, e-mail back and forth. They discuss their lives in hilarious detail, from love troubles to family traumas. And Lincoln, a shy IT guy who thought he'd spend his time building firewalls and crushing hackers but instead is responsible for monitoring e-mails, spends his hours reading every one of Beth and Jennifer's exchanges. At first their e-mails offer a welcome distraction, but the more he reads, the more he finds himself falling for one of them. By the time Lincoln realises just how head-over-heels he is, it is too late to introduce himself. What would he say...?
Attachments was my third Rainbow Rowell book, having read both Fangirl, which I absolutely loved, and Eleanor and Park. Although I enjoyed Eleanor and Park, I was mildly disappointed because, for me, it felt unrealistic and didn't live up to the hype that it had received so I was hoping that Attachments would be more of a hit with me as the synopsis sounded so appealing. It did not disappoint. I really enjoyed the format of this book, with alternating chapters of emails and of Lincoln's point of view. I felt that it was a really interesting storyline that was well written along with some very well developed and enjoyable characters that were really relatable. This book was extremely addicting because of the flowing writing style and absorbing story meaning that i found it almost impossible to put down. My one criticism, however, would be that the story did not last long enough. Once I had reached the end, I found myself wanting more and feeling as though not everything was tied up, as if the story continued elsewhere... Maybe this is more telling for how much I enjoyed the characters and where it felt like the story was going. Asides from that, I really enjoyed the ending of Attachments and this book as a whole. It's safe to say that it has restored my faith in Rainbow Rowell as a talented story teller.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates
Everyday Sexism is a book written in relation to the Everyday Sexism Project which was set up by Laura Bates so that people could share there stories of their sexist experiences online and raise awareness. The book is full of these stories as well explanations and rants about why sexism is still a big problem today, as well as a book that could be a massive eye opener to those who don't realise that sexism is an issue. Everyone needs to read this. I am currently writing a review for this book which will include a bit about sexism, feminism and my views so look out for that if you are interested.

Pigeon Pie by Nancy Mitford
Pigeon Pie tells the story of the highly imaginative Lady Sophia Garfield. When she discovers a nest of very real German spies living in her home, nobody believes her; with her maid murdered and her beloved bulldog held hostage, she sets out alone to gain proof and save Britain.
This was my fist Nancy Mitford book, and having not heard much about her I really wasn't sure what to expect but luckily, I very much enjoyed this novel. Pigeon Pie is very satirical and mocks British high society, religious cults and spy stories and I really enjoyed it for that as I found it very funny and light. I also thought that the authors writing style was brilliant - witty and flowing. The story was really fun and the snippets of history about ww2 (though it probably wasn't really history for Nancy Mitford) was pretty interesting so I liked that aspect too. I definitely recommend that you give Nancy Mitford a try if you enjoy satire, wit and books set between the 30s and 60s and I can't wait to try out some of her other works.

I hope you enjoyed these mini reviews and are having a good week. What did you read in February, anything particularly special?
Love Ellen xxx

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

2015 Reading Resolutions

I know it's a bit late into the year to be thinking about new years resolutions but I thought that I would write this post anyway as an incentive for me to stick to these goals.

My first resolution is to read 60 books this year and I have set my Goodreads challenge to this goal although I am praying that I will pass it. Last year, I think I managed to read 92 books, surpassing my Goodreads of 50 by miles (causing me to increase it a fair few times, finally up to 90) which I am so pleased with. However this year, I have a lot more school work that I unfortunately have to prioritise - what with coursework deadlines being terrifyingly soon, GCSE exams coming up in the next few months, as well starting my AS Levels at the end of this year - so reading that many books again this year doesm't really seem feasible, especially if I want to continue making time for blogging. 60 books still seems like its going to be quite a push considering how much I am struggling to make time already but I have a long summer break this year (about 12 weeks or so) so hopefully I can get in 20+ books during that time which will help massively.

This year, I am also aiming to complete the PopSugar 2015 Reading Challenge which, if you don't already know, is basically a list of 50 different reading-related challenges to complete in 2015. It seems like a really fun, motivating way to read and has some really interesting challenges - some of my favourite ones are: read a book with an antonym in the title; a book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit; a banned book. If you are interested you can find a list of all the challenges, some of the books that I am planning to read for them and my progress here.

Another one of my goals is to read at least 12 books from The BBC the Big Read. This is a list of 100 books to read before you die, as voted by the British public, and I started working my way through them last year (although luckily I had already read a few of them before I found the list). I'm not doing too badly but it is taking me a while and ideally I would have a few more crossed off - hopefully setting this as a goal will keep me motivated. You can view the list of books, as well as see my progress here.

I have so many unfinished series, as well as a lot of other books that I really want to read this year. For this reason, I have set myself the challenge to finish at least five series this year. I also want to take part in a lot more read-a-thons to motivate me to read, have fun and give me a chance to get around to all the books that are high up on my to-read list.

As my final reading resolution, I have set myself five books to complete this year. They are all books that I really want to read, and have for a while but have either simply never got round to or am slightly imitated by. The first book, and probably the one that I most want to read this year is A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. This book is huge meaning that it kind of terrifies me but I desperately want to read it because it just sounds so amazing as I am sure you know... and because I want to watch the TV show but feel like I should read it first. I also really want to read The Book Thief by Markus Zusack, one that has been on my must-read list for what feels like forever; The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson simply because it sounds amazing and has had soo much hype; Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler because it is a book that I have wanted to read for so long (I actually think it is one of the first books I ever added to my Amazon wish list and yet I still haven't got round to it...why do I do this?!); and finally Emma by Jane Austen because.. well, it's Jane Austen - how could I not read at least one of her books this year.

I hope you enjoyed this post regardless of the fact that it's sort of a scrambling, rambling mess and long overdue. What are your reading resolutions for 2015?

Love Ellen xxx

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Saturday, 7 February 2015

January Reads

I only read three books this month which I am really disappointing with because I normally read at least twice that amount. School has been so busy this month - I have so much work to do and I feel like the load is only going to increase which means less reading for me...don't know how I will be able to bear it.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

This children's classic tells the story of a horse's own long and varied life, from a well-born colt in a pleasant meadow to an elegant carriage horse for a gentleman to a painfully overworked cab horse. Throughout, Sewell rails against animal maltreatment. Young readers will follow Black Beauty's fortunes, good and bad with gentle masters as well as cruel. 

For me this book had its highs and its lows. I thought that the premise of narrating from the point of view of the horse was a really nice touch and I really appreciate it as an easy and simple children's story because of the important themes about animals as well as the simple but deeper meaning and symbolism that was still there - something which I really liked. I also felt that the writing style was well-suited for a children's book and managed to capture the voice of Black Beauty and the feel of the story. However, reading it as a teenager/young adult (or whatever I am classed as at this age..who really knows) at times it felt quite slow and a little boring, making it hard to get through. I was either already in a reading slump going into this story, or this novel put me in on; its hard to tell but I suspect the second. While I really appreciated the premise of the story and what it is as a children's book and I am glad that I read it, I didn't enjoy reading it that much and wish I had read it either when I was younger or to a younger person.

Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian

Set during the Second World War, Tom Oakley - an elderly and unsociable widower - finds himself with a young evacuee on his hands. Willie is a sickly, under-nourished and ill-treated London child, but he flourishes in Tom's care into healthy, happy and talented boy. He makes friends for the first time, and is surprised to find that he soon forgets to be homesick, as there  is always so much to do in the village. This story traces the beautiful and profound relationship that develops between Tom and Willie.

This was a favourite throughout my childhood that I read countless times so I thought that it was about time that I read it again and it was just as good as I remember it. Goodnight Mister Tom is both heart-breaking and warming and the writing is amazing - it is raw and honest, while capturing the story perfectly and making you really feel. For me, what always stand out the most in this story are the emotions and the characters, The realm of emotions that this book induces is epic and harsh and inspiring, it is truly a beautiful read. Not only this but the characters are spectacular - so real and flawed with fantastic character development. This book is a must-read.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A collection of 13 Sherlock Holmes stories, following the "death" of Sherlock Holmes and his return to London thereafter. 

Everyone knows what Sherlock Holmes is briefly about and I really advise reading the books if you like the BBC mini series(which if you don't know, is fantastic - Benedict Cumberbatch...need i say more). I am slowly making my way through the whole Sherlock Holmes Collection and only have two full stories and two collections of short stories to go, so I will be sad to finish them because I am really enjoying it so far. The stories are always so interesting and intriguing and I really enjoy reading about Sherlock's investigation methods and quirks as well as Watson's take on it. However, The Return of Sherlock Holmes was not my favourite - I found it less enthralling than the others but, regardless it was still pretty good.

I hope you enjoyed this post and are having a good day. What did you read in January?
Love,  Ellen xxx

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Instagram: @ramblingsofabibliophile

Monday, 19 January 2015

Winter Book Haul

A book haul is long overdue...but  better late than never, right? I thought I would do this post because I got some pretty interesting books recently which I am really excited about.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
What secrets lie behind the doors at Misselthwaite Manor? Recently arrived at her uncle's estate, orphaned Mary Lennox is spoiled, sickly, and certain she won't enjoy living there. Then she discovers the arched doorway into an overgrown garden, shut up since the death of her aunt ten years earlier. Mary soon begins transforming it into a thing of beauty - unaware that she is changing too. But Misselthwaite hides another secret, as Mary discovers one night. high in a dark room, away from the rest of he house, lies her young cousin, Colin, who believes he is an incurable invalid, destined to die young. His tantrums are so frightful, no one can reason with him. If only, Mary hopes, she can get Colin to love the secret garden as much as she does, its magic will work wonders on him.
I found this beautiful Parragon children's classic edition tucked away in a charity shop, and at 50p I simply couldn't resist. It is a treasured children's classic as well as on the The Big Read 100 books list so I am excited and interested to pick this up and see what I think.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
With the wisdom of age and a haunting voice, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. it begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old girl, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. Here she learns the rigorous acts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing a kimono; elaborate makeup and hair; pouring sake to reveal just a touch of her inner wrist; competing with a jealous rival for men's solicitude and the money that goes with it. In this story we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girls virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion.
This was yet another charity shop bargain and a very popular book (made known by the fact that it's also on the 100 books to read list) so I thought it was as good a time as any to buy it. It sounds extremely interesting - exactly the type of novel that I would enjoy so I am very excited and intrigued to give it a go.
Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

This book isn't really the type to give a synopsis for so I thought that instead I would share the story behind it and give you some background information. In 2012, Laura Bates, a young journalist, started the Everyday Sexism Project after being sexually harassed in London whilst on public transport. She began to collect stories surrounding this issue and everyday sexism in general; stories sharing countless women's experiences with this problem that is in every woman's life. she received so many responses that she created this book packed full of stories where people (both men and woman although mainly focused on the female side of the issue) have been subject to sexism in everyday life such as cat-calling, sexual harassment and discrimination. It is brimming with feminist rants and is her way to speak out against sexism that we are subject to everyday. I am very passionate about this topic and see myself as a major feminist, you can always find me having a rant about sexism. Because of this I am looking forward to reading this very much and it will probably make me very angry. I will be doing  post on it once I have read it so look out for that if it is something you are interested in.
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

John, Susan, Titty and Roger sail their boat, Swallow, to a deserted island for a summer camping trip. Exploring and playing sailors is an adventure in itself but the island holds more excitement in store. Two fierce Amazon pirates, Nancy and Peggy, challenge them to war and a summer of battles and alliances ensues.
I know very little about this book and wouldn't even have been able to give you a brief synopsis if I hadn't researched it earlier, but it sounds like a really fun adventure story and a loved children's classic so I can't wait to give it a try.
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
This children's classic tells the story of a horse's own long ad varied life, from a well-born colt in a pleasant meadow to n elegant carriage horse for a gentleman to a painfully overworked cab horse. Throughout, Sewell rails against animal maltreatment. Young readers will follow Black Beauty's fortunes, good and bad with gentle masters as well as cruel.
This book was one of my mum's favourites as a child (hence the reason she got it for me for Christmas) and is also on the 100 books list so it is something that I really want to read. Supposedly, the horse-human relationship is meant to reflect human-human relationships to some degree as well as having a few morals for young kids thrown in there too making it something that I am quite interested in.
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Ten-year-old Abdullah would do anything for his younger sister. In a life of poverty and struggle, with no mother to care for them, Pari is the only person who brings Abdullah happiness. For her, he will trade his only pair of shoes to give her a feather for her treasured collection. When their father sets off with Pari across the desert to Kabul in search of work, Abdullah is determined not to be separated from her. Neither brother nor sister know what this fateful journey will bring them.
Being set in Afghanistan, it is a story that really interests me because I don't know much about the country but I love reading books set in other countries with different cultures as I find it so interesting. It s something I really want to read as the story sounds emotional and beautiful and I really want to read more diversely. 
The Penguin Complete Novels of Nancy Mitford by Nancy Mitford
Here in one volume, are all eight of Nancy Mitford's sparklingly astute, hilarious and completely un-put-a-down-able novels, with a new introduction by India Knight. Published over a period of 30 years, they provide a wonderful glimpse of the bright young things of the thirties, forties, fifties and sixties in the city and in the shires; firmly ensconced at home or making a go of it abroad; and what the upper classes really got up to in peace and in war.
 Nancy Mitford (1904-1972) is well known as one of the "Mitford sisters" who did everything and met everyone. She is the most famous writer of the sisters (I am not sure how many sisters there were, maybe three, and how many wrote) and was a novelist and biographer as well as translating various other peoples works into English but she was most famous for her partially autobiographical story, The Pursuit of Love. I am really interested in the "Mitford Sisters" after hearing about them though a YouTube video and doing some research to find out more so I thought reading Nancy's collective works was a good place to start and I am excited to hopefully become engrossed and amused by her world and life.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

A memoir-in-comic-strips, Persepolis is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution and how this went on to affect her life in many ways. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a yung life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.
I have already read this and absolutely loved it. The history, politics and hint of feminism thrown in made it an extremely interesting read and I definitely advise that you pick this up. The art in it was simple but really well executed and added so much to the story. It was only my second graphic novel (my first being Maus) and really encouraged me to keep reading them because I always enjoy them immensely.
Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen
Over the New Year period, I spent an amazing week in Hamburg, Germany with friends from all over the world and although I know very little German, I thought it would make a nice souvenir to pick up the German edition of Harry Potter and the Philosophers sStone. I really like the cover and it excited me to know that I now own a book in another language (even though I am a lot more likely to read one in French). Some may say it's ridiculous that I spent money on it because it is extremely unlikely that I will ever read it, but for me, my books are a collection and Harry Potter is my favourite series as well as an influential part of my life and I like that I'm growing my collection in an interesting way. I also think that it makes a really interesting souvenir and a way to remember the places I have been too, I think that for the next 6 different countries I visit, I will pick up each following book in the series so that I eventually have the full series with each book in a different language as it is a way to expand my collection and collect a meaningful souvenir. I am really glad I got it and am excited to see it displayed on my shelf.
I hope you enjoyed this haul that was hopefully a bit more unusual and slightly different from the normal YA hauls that you usually see (not that there is anything wrong with that, because, let's face it, I love those as much as the next person, I just felt like mixing it up for a change...). Maybe you found it interesting, maybe you didn't but anyway... Have you read any of these books? What did you think?
Love from, the Rambling Bibliophile, Ellen xxx

Saturday, 10 January 2015

November Mini Reviews

I haven't posted in a real long time and this post is extremely late but I have been super busy with school work and mocks and other things, which is also a reason I didn't read as many books as I would have liked in November. However I did read more than I thought I have, somehow managing to finish 5 books even though I was insanely busy and struggling through a reading slump.

Animal Farm by George Orwell 90%
Tired of their servitude to man, a group of farm animals revolt and establish their own society, only to be betrayed into worse servitude by their leaders, the pigs, whose slogan becomes "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
This is a satirical novel which essentially addresses the communism and beliefs of Stalin in the Soviet Union using animals metaphorically to symbolise different aspects of the Soviet Union. Although I had some knowledge of the communist set out of USSR at this time, it wasn't extensive but this book really improved my understanding of it and I found it thoroughly interesting. It is, I think an important book to read, as with all George Orwell's work, which relentlessly worked to expand my knowledge and interest of the subject as well as portraying how corrupt it was and putting forward Orwell's clear opinion. Of course, it was extremely well written, and though not fast-paced, short and concise and never bored me. I definite must read for anyone interested in history and politics. 

Just Listen by Sarah Dessin 75%
Last year, Annabel, was "the girl who has everything" - at least that's the part she played I. The television commercial for Kropf's Department store. This year, she's the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong. Tall, dark and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owens' help, maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she lost it all. 
This is the third book by Sarah Dessin and I think my favourite. I really enjoy her books as fast, easy reads to bridge a gap between two more intense books that I want to read. I flew through this book and really liked it. It felt a lot more real compared to her other two, and the characters felt relatable and very well developed. It also dealt with bigger issues, such as Anorexia and she did it in a sensitive way without being too cautious, representing the illness in a way that was raw and truthful. Having my own experience dealing with someone I know having Anorexia this was something I really appreciated as people on the outside rarely see how it can make the person act. I also liked that we got the opportunity to see other characters stories and see them develop. However, her writing, though well composed and clear, isn't distinct or interesting in a way that would make this close to a five star rating, 

To Kill a Mockingbord by Harper Lee 95%
"Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." A lawyers advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird - a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man's struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much...
This was a re-read for me, being a favourite book of mine as well as one of the most influential that I have read, and I loved it even more than last time. It is such a beautiful, heart-wrenching and emotional story with an imperatively important message. It is also amazingly written, Harper Lee has such a beautiful style in which she tells the story and a distinct, unique voice that draws you in. This novel never fails to both warm my heart and rip it out, as well as making my cry on multiple occasions. It is a book that will always hold a place in my heart, will always be room for on my shelf and one that I will come back to again and again. A definite recommendation (especially for someone looking to start reading more classics and not knowing where to start) and something everyone needs to read at least once in their lifetime. 

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas 92%
I won't give a synopsis for this because it's the second in the series and spoilers would be inevitable but you probably have some idea about what the Throne of Glass series is about. I loved this book, possibly even more than the last. The story was so intriguing and mysterious and just gripped me right from the beginning. The world building and character development is phenomenal, there is so much background and it is all so well-developed and thought out, making the story the author has created genuinely amazing. The writing is also fantastic, being fast-paced and interesting. And then the emotions, oh I had all the feels, sadness, humour, intense frustration...everything. I am actually really struggling to hold back and not read the next one, Heir of Fire, because I really want to find out what happens next, but know I'd have to wait for ages for the next one and I don't know I'd I can do that This epic fantasy series is a definite reccomend if your are looking to get into more fantasy, especially high epic fantasy type books. 

The Waiting Room by Alysha Kaye 43%
Jude and Nina are the epitome of that whole raw, unflinching love thing that most people are jealous of. That is, until Jude dies and wakes up in The Waiting Room, surrounded by other sounds who are all waiting to pass over into their next life. But unlike those sounds, Jude's name is never called by the mysterious "receptionist". He waits, watching Nina out of giant windows. He's waiting for her. What is this place? How long will he wait? And what will happen when and if Nina does join him? The Waiting Room is a story of not just love, but of faith, predestination, and philosophy, friendship and self-actualisation, of waiting.
I have a lot of thoughts about this book so I may do a full review, but I'm not sure if I've left it too late. Although I would love to say that I really enjoyed this book, it really wasn't for me. Starting of well because premise is really interesting and the book is very well written as well as fast paced it went downhill pretty quickly after Nina turned up. This book felt repetitive and kind of boring, especially after going into it thinking it would be discussing important issues and making me think a little differently, it kind of fell flat and disappointed me a bit. It was pretty short, but felt quite long and dragged out and then the ending came without me even realising, it was so abrupt - I was reading it on a kindle app and I clicked to move on to the next page and continue reading only to find out it had actually finished, I was very confused. Saying that, there were some enjoyable parts and it has some good reviews elsewhere so it might be something you may enjoy, it just wasn't for me. 

That is everything I read in November, sorry this post is so late. I hope you are having a good week and enjoying the lead up to Christmas or general winter holidays. What was your favourite read in November?
Love Ellen xxx
(p.s sorry about the absence of photos I am having to post this using my phone because of my tablet breaking and uploading a photo would be rather challenging)