Saturday, 29 December 2012

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Paperback, 423 pages
Published 2012 by Headline Review
ISBN 0755380541 (ISBN13: 9780755380541)

Literary awards: UK National Book Awards for International Author of the Year (2012)

"Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart—he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone—but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place, things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them."

This is another book which I had heard was really worth reading so I decided that winter is probably the best time to read it to get the best feel for the book. I'm pleased I did read it at this time of year - despite a distinct lack of snow in England at the moment - as the magic of the book seems to fit with Christmas, even if the story has nothing to do with the festive nature of the season.

This book really makes me want to visit Alaska. The descriptions are exceptionally vivid and create an amazing atmosphere for this moving and magical story. The author evokes great sympathy for the main characters, Jack and Mabel, who are both trying to deal with their circumstances in different ways. They are both very interesting characters with a lot of depth to them which make the magical moments in the story more believable.

Faina is also a really interesting character, who you never fully understand. Her fey-like nature and mix of childish-innocence with seemingly age-defying wisdom definitely intrigued me. I love that the magic that seems to surround her is never fully explained, as if the author had tried to define it I think it would have spoilt the story. I also liked that speech in the scenes with Faina did not use quotation marks as it really made you wonder to begin with if she was real, and brought more questions later on in the story.

I really enjoyed entering the world of this book and I would give it 9 out of 10.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Bewitching the Werewolf by Caroline Hanson

Book blurb: When witch for hire, Megan Stephens, is assigned to help the local werewolf pack leader find a mate, she thinks the job will be easy. Get in, get it up and get gone. But when she meets Zack Connor, she realizes her future might have a lot more dog jokes in it than she ever imagined.

I had a really happy moment this week when I realised that my phone could get the Kindle App on it, so this is one of the first books I downloaded. It was free so I thought I might as well give it a try.

This is a short story and I really enjoyed it. It was sexy and funny, and it was written well enough to draw me in. Obviously it isn't a book with a great deal of substance to it, but for a short supernatural/paranormal romance I thought it was really good. She seems like a promising new author to add to the genre.

The story also comes with the first few chapters of her (low-price) book: Love is Darkness. A clever move, I have to admit, as I now really want to know how that story ends too!

I'd give it a 7 out of 10. Most points lost because it could have been longer so that the events didn't feel quite so rushed!

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Book blurb: After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, one solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild, blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan... and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger. The scene is set for one of the most extraordinary works of fiction in recent years.

I've heard great things about this book for years but the film version being made became an added incentive to get round to reading it (I promise not all the books I read are being made into films!), so here are my thoughts on it.

I have to admit that the beginning of the book didn't really capture my attention. The book begins with Piscine's life in India and how he came to be known as Pi. It describes life at the zoo where he lived with his family and also his decision to practise three religions all at once: Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. The author also has a bit of a rant about it being better to be an atheist than agnostic, as by believing in nothing you believe something which I didn't really think was necessary to the story.

However, the story becomes a lot more interesting after the boat Pi was travelling on with his family has sunk. The descriptions of life at sea are fantastically vivid. My only criticism is that when Pi first realises his family may be dead I didn't feel any real emotional connection with the characters or their deaths. In other books, if a character dies I have been known to actually cry and it just didn't come anywhere close here.

The dynamics between Pi and the other animals on the boat were cleverly described and made me think about social dynamics and life in the animal world. I know I wouldn't survive if I ended up in a situation like this. I was completely engrossed in Pi's struggle for survival.

Reading back on this review it probably sounds like I didn't enjoy it that much, but it really is an excellent book. The story is really captivating and makes you question what you believe in terms of morals, ethics and religion. The imagination of the writer is impressive, as is his ability to almost make you believe it really happened. I can't wait to see it brought to life in the film!

Overall, I would give this book 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Book blurb: Living with his sister and her husband, Pip is an orphan without any expectations. It is only when he begins to visit a rich old woman, Miss Havisham and her adopted niece that he begins to hope for something better. When it is revealed that Pip has inherited a large sum of money from a mysterious benefactor on the condition that moves to London and become a gentleman, Pip's adventure really begins. Epic, illuminating and memorable, Dickens' mysterious tale of Pip's quest to find the truth about himself is one of the most enduring and popular novels to date.

So I decided that I should read the book of this before I watch the new film version. It's never the same reading a book after you have images of the actors playing the characters in your head. I'm really glad I did it.

The opening paragraph explains that Pip's real name is Philip Pirrip which really made me laugh. Pip is quite a flawed character, as all of us are I suppose, but it sometimes made it quite annoying to read about his decisions when you could tell he would regret them. It's even worse when he knew that he would regret them but couldn't stop himself, particularly with regard to Estella. This seems to characterise Dickens' writing in that his characters are often flawed but with redeeming features, which makes them more realistic.

The descriptions of Miss Havisham shut up away from the world in her decaying house are brilliant. Her adopted niece, Estella, who isn't actually her niece, is another interesting character. Twisted by Miss Havisham's need for revenge against men, she definitely keeps the story entertaining. The mystery surrounding both of them especially adds to the slightly gothic feel of the book.

There are parts of the story which can seem quite slow, and occasionally the prose is a little confusing. However, Pip's story of coming to terms with and dealing with his great expectations is really good. Without giving too much away, the plot definitely keeps you guessing until the end. Frustratingly, the story is left with a bit of a cliffhanger as you suspect you know how Pip's life is going to unfold but he doesn't explicitly say it.

I finished this book a few weeks ago and overall I really enjoyed it. I would give this novel 7 out of 10.

A New Chapter Begins

I’ve decided to start this blog to share the books I read. I love to read. If I could, I would read all day, every day. As it is, I read more than anyone I know. Although some of my friends are catching up!
My plan is to review the books I read and describe what the books made me think and feel, because, after all, what’s the point in reading a book if you don’t feel differently at the end of it? Reading a good book always transports me into that world, and I will never fail to find that exciting. Ever since I started reading and began to get lost in the worlds of Narnia and Harry Potter I have been a bookworm and found that there are just too many books and too little time!

My hope will always be that reading will make me a better person for considering what others think more. Now, maybe by writing these reviews I’ll become better at expressing myself rather than always thinking and feeling too much. Anyway, slight philosophical ramblings over with, I’ll be back soon with my first review. I’ve just finished reading Great Expectations so I’ll let you know soon what I thought of it…