Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Whoah. It's been quiet.

Dear Blog,
You're probably wondering why over the last three or four weeks I vanished from the blogosphere without any proper explanation.
I don't really know myself, to be honest.  I guess I'm actually busier during the summer than I am during term-time, and I've been too busy writing/holidaying/et cetera to sit down for a vaguely long period of time to write a book review.

Here are some reasons for my absence:

  1. I've been reading hardly anything lately.  It took me about three weeks to read The Fountainhead, and I've been reading pretty slowly since.  The books I have read haven't really been the sort of things that I review here, so I haven't had an awful lot to talk about.
  2. I'm starting college in a couple of weeks, so it's been kind of chaotic to prepare for all that. I haven't been to school since I was eight, so  imagine I might not be blogging awfully regularly over the next few weeks while I adjust to my schedule and everything. 
  3. I was on a residential orchestra course for a week, and although it was awesome it meant that I was starved of internet for 168 hours. (Actually, that doesn't sound like very many...but it was, believe me.
  4. Since the start of the summer I've been working on a novella.  I'd really love to have the first draft done by the end of the year, before NaNoWriMo if I can, so I've spent quite a lot of time working on that.
So, we'll see how it goes.   Over and out.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

In My Mailbox 27

Dear Blog,
In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren.
So, it's the summer holidays, and therefore I have no extracurricular activities and next to no schoolwork.  Which means two things: 1) hooray!  and 2) I have more time than usual to devote to reading. Therefore when I was in the huge library in the centre of town the other day, I took out a lot of books. They'll keep me busy for a little while.

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (currently reading)

Selected Poems by e. e. cummings
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
The Wish House by Celia Rees
The Awakening and Selected Stories by Kate Chopin
Purple Hibiscus by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie
Lies by Michael Grant

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (*excited squeal*)

 So, there you go.  Did you get any interesting books this week?
That's all. Over and out.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Foreign Language Friday: Le Bal by Irène Némirovsky

Dear blog,
This is two novellas put together in one volume, so I'll review each one separately.

Original titles: Le Bal and Les Mouches d'automne, respectively.
Written by: Irène Némirovsky
First published in: French
Translated by: Sandra Smith
Summary (from Goodreads): Le Bal is a penetrating and incisive book set in early twentieth century France. At its heart is the tension between mother and daughter. The nouveau-riche Kampfs, desperate to become members of the social elite, decide to throw a ball to launch themselves into high society. For selfish reasons Mrs. Kampf forbids her teenage daughter, Antoinette, to attend the ball and banishes her to the laundry room. In an unpremeditated fury of revolt and despair, Antoinette takes a swift and horrible revenge. A cruel, funny and tender examination of class differences, Le Bal describes the torments of childhood with rare accuracy.
Also included in this volume is Snow in Autumn, in which Némirovsky pays homage to Chekhov and chronicles the life of a devoted servant following her masters as they flee Revolutionary Moscow and emigrate to a life of hardship in Paris. 

Review: Le Bal- This was definitely my favourite of the two.  Of course, I didn't like Antoinette, I didn't think much of her father, and I didn't like her mother either.  But then I don't think you're meant to like Madame Kampf and her daughter, so much as just read from both their perspectives and observe both of their actions, and see how they clash. 
Although they both strongly disliked one another, they both had a lot of mannerisms in common, and the same desperate desire to be appreciated, loved, to show themselves off to society.   At the same time their thoughts are written in such a subtly tender way, and I think on some level it's possible to sympathise with and relate to every single character, even those who are somewhat minor and don't play too large a role, which is something I love her for; the way portrays family dynamics in such a horribly truthful way.  Her characterisation is absolutely spot on. 

The scene where Antoinette is hiding behind the sofa is, by the way,  without a doubt one of the best that I've come across in literature over the last few months.  If this makes sense, reading it from Antoinette's perspective, makes you feel almost kind of guilty.  I don't even know what for... just being, I suppose, being able to identify with some of her thoughts and emotions, and to know that they were messing things up.  For such an outwardly simplistic story, there are a lot of motives that you're left pondering for a long time after you read it.

In three words: Vivacious, insightful, tense.
Rating: 5.

Snow in Autumn- I was pretty surprised at how different this was from Le Bal, which felt lively and sort of fierce in a controlled kind of way.  But the best thing for me to compare Snow in Autumn to is actually snow.  It's so quietly beautiful and sorrowful.  It's told from the perspective of a faithful servant when the wealthy family she works for flees persecution in Russia. Wealth and social standing is another big theme, but it's a total contrast from Le Bal, which is kind of a rags-to-riches story, .  Snow in Autumn is the complete opposite, and the central family are left .  Themes of loss and nostalgia, I've noticed, are also a recurring theme in all the Némirovsky that I've read so far, and she writes it very well. 

But for all its haunting glory, I don't know why, but it felt kind of...incomplete.  The story of their journey from Russia to France was perfectly alright, and the way they initially settled in, but I felt like it could have been a lot longer- maybe even a novel in its own right.  I felt like there were some characters that I would have loved a lot more if I had had more time to get to know them, but I didn't, alas.  Still, it's an entirely beautiful novella in a subtle sort of way, and I highly recommend it.

In three words: Lyrical, sad, haunting.
Rating: 4.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Review: Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

Dear blog,
I'm sorry I haven't done any posts in over a week.  I was ill last week, and so I was incapable of writing anything vaguely intelligent about the books I had read.

Summary (from Goodreads): For Nick Pardee and Silla Kennicot, the cemetery is the center of everything.
Nick is a city boy angry at being forced to move back to the nowhere town of Yaleylah, Missouri where he grew up. He can’t help remembering his mom and the blood magic she practiced – memories he’s tried for five years to escape. Silla, though, doesn’t want to forget; her parents’ apparent murder-suicide left her numb and needing answers. When a book of magic spells in her dad’s handwriting appears on her doorstep, she sees her chance to unravel the mystery of their deaths.
Together they plunge into the world of dark magic, but when a hundred-year-old blood witch comes hunting for the bones of Silla’s parents and the spell book, Nick and Silla will have to let go of everything they believe about who they are, the nature of life and death, and the deadly secrets that hide in blood.

Review:  I was quite looking forward to reading this book before I started it as I'd read a lot of positive reviews and there was a good deal of hype buzzing around cyberspace about it.  And although when I started the book I did have some reservations about it, once things got going I really enjoyed it.
It was quite a refreshing sort of book, and it seemed quite different from a lot of the paranormal novels that I've read.  It was certainly a lot darker than some of them.  Also, it pleased me that the romance between Silla and Nick wasn't the centre of the story. 

I wasn't so sure about either Nick or Silla at the beginning of the story, just because the way they came together seemed a bit... clichéd.  Girl with a dark, tragic past; mysterious new boy in town with some dark secrets of his own; it seemed a little overdone.  Also, there was very little distinction between their voices. As a general rule I love books with multiple or alternating points of view, but there isn't much point to them if you can't tell who's talking.  The only thing that gave me indication as to who was telling the story was that Nick swore more. Still, they were both pretty cool characters, and aside from their pasts and the way they came together, they weren't really flat or boring.

While I'm talking about Nick and Silla, I had better talk about their relationship. This is one of the things I wasn't so keen on.  It was just so...rushed, like just because fate seemed to have an awful lot to do with how they came together, they didn't really need to take that much time to initially get to know each other.  One week after they met each other they're already together and he's calling her "babe" all the time? Really? Speaking of which, I really didn't like the "babe" thing.  It made me cringe.   But, aside from those things, they were pretty sweet together and got on well.  There was none of that stalking and watching-you-sleep-at-night business. Also, Silla continued to have a life and pursue hobbies (I feel like I read a lot of books where the main character has no other interests except, well, her love interest) and wasn't one of those characters who must spend all day and all night with her loved one.

The writing style is another thing that I'm not so sure about.  The way that the story flowed from one thing to another was fine, but I don't think some of the word choices were the best, especially with some of the similes, for instance "My brain whirred like a toy helicopter" and "...Like I was being flushed down a toilet" and the metaphor "He was Mephistopheles, smiling and tempting me, his Dr. Faustus, to dance."  Comparing breathlessness to a broken air mattress kind of interrupts the flow of the story, and left me pondering the awkwardness of it for a minute.

It's a pretty dark book, and not at all for the faint-hearted.  I didn't have much of a problem with this because I'm not generally a squeamish person, although I do think that the beheading/killing of the rabbit was unnecessary and really added nothing to the story.  Small, fluffy animals should not die for no apparent reason.  Anyway, it was quite toe-curling and deliciously creepy in some places, and totally one of those books to read in the middle of the night with a torch. The whole book drips with  is full of blood, curses and possession.  I also liked the extracts from Josephine's diary; it didn't make much sense in relation to the story at first, but then as the story went on and more secrets about Nick and Silla's pasts were revealed, it seemed to be a lot more involved in the plot.  Speaking of the plot, it has a totally excellent twist, which was way too cool.  Also, the tension throughout the book really built up to the conclusion, which was entirely enthralling. I couldn't put the book down for the last 150 pages.

So, aside from a few things here and there, I really enjoyed Blood Magic.  Tessa Gratton is a promising author and I look forward to reading more from her.
In three words:  exciting, dark, promising.
recommended for: Girls who don't mind blood.
Rating: 3.5

Thank you to Random House UK for sending me a copy to review.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Another Ten Books I Absolutely Can't Wait For

Dear Blog,
I haven't done one of this posts in an insanely long time, it seems. Well, I should.  Because there are a lot of books that I'm looking forward to that are released later on in the year or in 2012.
So. Without further ado.

The Diviners by Libba Bray- Libba Bray= possibly my favourite historical fiction writer.  New York City in the 1920s = possibly one of my favourite eras. The summary on Goodreads tells me it will be "a wild new ride full of dames and dapper dons, jazz babies and Prohibition-defying parties, conspiracy and prophecy—and all manner of things that go bump in the neon-drenched night."  All I can say is oh my God yes.  Bring it on.

Perfect by Ellen Hopkins- companion novel to Impulse, and is released this autumn.  And look at that cover.  It's so delicious, I could eat it. In fact, when I get a copy I may well have to do so.

Smoke by Ellen Hopkins-Another Ellen Hopkins.  This is a sequel/companion novel to Burned, the ending of which was intense  but very vague.  I haven't heard much of a synopsis about Smoke, either, and it doesn't come out for a good while yet, so we'll see.

 A Million Suns by Beth Revis- Goodreads is killing me. Although it shows the cover, which is by the way absolutely gorgeous, all it says as a synopsis is "The plot of this book is a mystery."  Aaaaargh I want to know what happens right now *explodes*. 

The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges- Russia.  1888.  Teenage debutante and member of the nobility who is also a necromancer. Need I say more?  I must have this book.   

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver- Although I dislike the cover (maybe it will tie in with a paperback cover of Delirium?) which is nothing like that of its predecessor, I am totally looking forward to reading this. The ending of Delirium was so intense and dramatic. However. If there's a love triangle of sorts in this book, I may well scream and rip my hair out, because honestly I dislike nothing more in books, especially when couples go together as well as Lena and Alex and then some unnecessary other character is thrown into the equation for drama.

Audition by


Friday, 15 July 2011

Cover Love #1: The Amazing Mind of Alice Makin

Dear blog,
So I thought that today, with a lack of a Foreign Language Friday post, I would participate in this new Friday feature hosted by Melissa over at i swim for oceans.  Because I love cover art in all shapes and forms, and the idea of sharing some of my favourites with the rest of cyberspace makes me happy.

Title: The Amazing Mind of Alice Makin
Author: Alan Shea
Publisher: Chicken House Ltd.
Release date: March 2008
Genre: Middle-grade, historical fiction
Fun Fact: I, um, don't have one. Sorry.  If there's something really cool behind the general design or creation of this cover I don't know, do tell me.
Why I Have Cover Lust: I read the book when it was first released, and although it wasn't like "Oh my squash this book is amaaazing" so much as, "Eh, it's all right", it still remains one of my favourite book covers.
I suppose the main reason I like it is how vibrant it looks with the fireworks, while at the bottom of the cover you can see silhouettes of a ruined London.  It's set after the Second World War, in a world where Alice's imagination is the only thing that brightens up her drab world of bomb sites and greyness.

So, there you go.  Do you like it, or not? What are your favourite covers?  If you've read it, what did you think of the book?

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Review: The Toll Bridge by Aidan Chambers

Dear blog,

Summary (from Goodreads): Fed up with parents and friends trying to decide on his future, Jan attempts to escape the pressures of home by taking a job as a toll-keeper. Going to live in the country - alone in the house on the toll bridge - Jan hopes to find out who he really is. At the toll bridge Jan meets Tess and Adam. Their friendship works well for a time, but they all have to face a turning point, and for one of them, the result is devastating.

Review: Although Postcards from No Man's Land left me kind of underwhelmed,  I'm quite the Aidan Chambers fangirl these days. When he writes well, it's stunning.  This is All and Now I Know are two of my favourite books; In their own ways they've totally influenced my life or the way I look at the world.  It probably sounds pretty corny, but imagine this: when I read a book, an entirely average novel I quite liked, it drifts around as the centre of my thoughts for a pretty short amount of time.  But TIA and NIK both stuck around in my head for weeks.  But The Toll Bridge fell short for me.  That's not to say I didn't enjoy it. I did.  But when you have such high expectations for an author, it's pretty hard to live up to them.  It was a good book in many respects.  

It's not as...deep, I guess, as some of the other books in the sequence.  I guess it's a more "normal" book on many levels, but there were still proper moments of philosophical contemplation.  It's a pretty universal book; I think all people, whether in their teenage years or not, feel like they just need to disappear from their everyday life and work out where they fit into the universe/make a proper change to their lifestyle/find out what it is that they really want from their life.  This book describes that pretty fantastically.  Adam, Jan and Tess all feel like this but they all have very different attitudes towards their lives and what they feel they should be doing with themselves.

I suppose the plot was the main issue I had with the book.  I enjoyed the beginning, the way all the characters were introduced, but the middle felt like quite hard work.  It's like everything suddenly ran out of steam.  It's only around 200 pages, so it shouldn't have taken me four or five days to read, should it? It felt like it dragged somewhat, like it was an effort to read.  There was  a sense of foreboding in the writing style, so for the longest time I felt like I was waiting for something exciting to happen.  Reading the scene at the party, which I can't really say much about in case I give things away, I felt kind of underwhelmed.  Is that it?  Is that really all the action that's going to happen?   In parts it felt kind of...apathetic.  Events were occurring, things were happening, or could have been happening, but things like the tension and the dynamics between the characters seemed to have dissolved almost completely, and it felt like there was no drive behind the story and no way for things to keep going.

Thankfully, things picked up again at the end, and there was a fantastic twist.  Is it possible to be pleased by an event that's so devastating and has such a big impact on all of the characters?  It makes me feel slightly sadistic, but the ending made me happy because things were happening again, there were things to think about and puzzle over and wonder where things would have gone if things had been slightly different, and what happened after the conclusion.  It's a very open ending, which seems very fitting to the book; there are so many different paths that it could take.

So, I guess I'm glad I read it, but I wouldn't recommend it to someone as their first Chambers novel in case it put them off from reading any more of his novels, in which case they would be missing out on a fair amount of awesomeness.  But if you have, then I do think that it's not to be missed.

In Three Words: original, surprising, anti-climatic.
Recommended for: people who've already read some Aidan Chambers.
Rating: 3

Sunday, 10 July 2011

In My Mailbox 26 or The One with the Mighty Tomes

Dear Blog,
In My Mailbox is hosted by  Kristi over at The Story Siren.
I got a fair few books this week, which makes me happy.  A few of them are something of an epic length and will no doubt take me a little while to read, hence the title of this post.
 Note: Sorry the picture isn't very good, and has acquired something of a holga effect.  There's some sand or something stuck in the lens which means it doesn't open all the way anymore.  This will work well next time I want to take some black-and-white photographs, but alas not for actual proper pictures that I want to share with cyberspace.

Eragon, Eldest and Brisingr by Christopher Paolini

Underworld by Don DeLillo

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan- not pictured, because I had to return it to the library.  Review to come.
Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald- Because I'm partaking in the Vlogbrother read, and if John Green likes it then I should read it, because in my eyes he can do no wrong. 
Daisy Miller by Henry James
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell- because I love .  We and Anthem and the film Metropolis are
among some of my favourite books/films/ forms of recreational media, so I'm totally looking forward to reading this.

Well, there you go.  Did you get any good books this week? 
Also, in relation to the new blog design; what do you think?

Friday, 8 July 2011

Foreign Language Friday: In The Sea There are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda

Dear Blog,

Original Title: Nel mare ci sono i coccodrilli
Original Language: Italian
Translated by: Howard Curtis

Summary (from Goodreads): One night before putting him to bed, Enaiatollah's mother tells him three things: don't use drugs, don't use weapons, don't steal. The next day he wakes up to find she isn't there. They have fled their village in Ghazni to seek safety outside Afghanistan but his mother has decided to return home to her younger children. Ten-year-old Enaiatollah is left alone in Pakistan to fend for himself. In a book that takes a true story and shapes it into a beautiful piece of fiction, Italian novelist Fabio Geda describes Enaiatollah's remarkable five-year journey from Afghanistan to Italy where he finally managed to claim political asylum aged fifteen. His ordeal took him through Iran, Turkey and Greece, working on building sites in order to pay people-traffickers, and enduring the physical misery of dangerous border crossings squeezed into the false bottoms of lorries or trekking across inhospitable mountains. A series of almost implausible strokes of fortune enabled him to get to Turin, find help from an Italian family and meet Fabio Geda, with whom he became friends. The result of their friendship is this unique book in which Enaiatollah's engaging, moving voice is brilliantly captured by Geda's subtle and simple storytelling. In Geda's hands, Enaiatollah's journey becomes a universal story of stoicism in the face of fear, and the search for a place where life is liveable.

Review:  When I sat down to start reading this book, I wasn't sure how many boxes of tissues I was going to need.  Surprisingly, I didn't need any- the story was told in a very straightforward manner, without  much strong emotion at all.  But although it didn't make me cry, it was still an entirely hard-hitting and harrowing book.  There were some moments now and again that just struck me as particularly horrifying, perhaps because of the unadorned and almost casual way they were described, as if they were nothing exceptional to Enaiatollah.  It reminded me a little of The Book of Everything in that respect; having things just told as they are, without any exaggeration, strong emotions and such put in, makes the events seem entirely shocking.

Enaitollah talks about human trafficking, the extremely hard time police across the Middle East and southern Europe give him and the desperate measures he'll go to in order to go abroad in such a frank way I want to just grab him and trap him in a massive bear hug.  Still, I think that was only because of his experiences; sometimes I wished that there had been more of his own thoughts and emotions included.  Although it's a very direct book, like he's sat right across the table from you telling his story, it would have been nice to have felt what he felt, as well as see what he saw.

In The Sea There are Crocodiles reminds me a lot of the Breadwinner trilogy by Deborah Ellis, which were some of my favourite books a few years ago (I read the whole trilogy in about three days). It's very insightful into the world of illegal immigration, and if I hadn't read this book then I  wouldn't have been aware of how it works in any detail. As well as that, there were things like the places Enaiat worked; for fourteen hours a day in a stone-cutting factory, and running all the errands for a hotel, that reminded me how lucky I am to be able to just babysit once a week and still be able to eat three meals a day, sleep with a roof over my head and get a good education.

Still, it's not entirely without hope, which was a pleasant surprise.  Enaiatollah, once he reaches Italy, recounts how he managed  to (gradually) settle down and live an ordinary life.   Enaiat was so resilient and just kept on going whatever life threw at him.  He did such brave and resilient things aged ten or eleven that, as a teenager, makes me feel hopelessly ditzy and (hypothetically) incapable of surviving in such a harsh world.  His fearlessness and determination to keep going, through five years and six countries, will stay with me for a very long time.

In three words: Insightful, hopeful, direct.
Reccommended for: Armchair travellers.
Rating: 3.

Thank you to Random House for sending me a copy for review.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Things Dystopian Novels Have Taught Me

Dear blog,
I'm one of those people who worries about the end of the world. A lot.  I am also one of those people who reads a lot of dystopian novels, perhaps as a way of preparing myself for the future state of mankind.
Thankfully there are a lot of books that serve as an entirely handy guide to surviving rising sea levels/nuclear kersplosions/creepy governments/insert other grim demise of humanity here. 
Here are some of the words of wisdom that I think are particularly essential, from some of my favourite novels of the dystopic variety.
Be warned: There are a few spoilers here, so proceed with caution.
Life as we Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
You need food.
And water.
If you're not sure if you've got enough, obtain more of these things.

The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Cities are the worst place to be in an apocalypse.
For the love of God, don't go in a lift when the electricity system in your building is unreliable.
No matter how many inhalers you have, they still cannot ultimately save you from your asthma.

Gone by Michael Grant
Kids are very creepy when they want to be.
Do not live near a nuclear power plant.
You are probably a superhero mutant freak waiting to happen.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Life sucks.
Ultimately there is no hope for humanity.
You are either going to die or go slightly crazy on an island. But probably both.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Wasps are the most efficient way of killing off your enemies. But make sure you're out of the way first.
Despite the fact your government is evil and corrupt, there are always plenty of shallow hair stylists you can hang around with to lighten your mood.
Your dead villains will come back to haunt you as mutant wolves. 

The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd
Being an English teenager in the years to come will be pretty harsh.
Carry a torch with you at all times.
Keep pigs.  They're amazing.

The Declaration by Gemma Malley
There will always be a slightly too-good-to-be-true boy available to sweep you off your feet and tell you how bad the world is.
Life's not fair and everyone hates you.
There are probably a ton of revelatory secrets about you/your family that you do not know.

Siberia by Ann Halam
Your cute little critter companions may be the one thing that will save your life when you're on an epic trek across a bitterly arctic Europe.
Sweden, the place roughly described as Sloe's ultimate destination, is the place to be (Also, I have proof, because I went to Sweden when I was eleven and it was amazing).
You should listen to everything your mother tells you.

Riding Tycho by Jan Mark
Knitting gets boring very quickly if you have no Ravelry to supply you with fresh exciting patterns, and you are eternally doomed to knit stockings all your life.
Your friends are superficial, two-faced and not worth your time.
Especially when there are Welsh singers available who can open your eyes to the wider world.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver
See The Declaration.
Don't sweat it if you're worried about your authoritarian government stopping you from having a good time; as a general rule, you should be able to sneak out to the country for a party.
You need a motorbike for the ultimate escape to be achieved.

Exodus by Julie Bertagna
If you're unsure if you live on high enough ground to escape the rising sea levels, move higher up.
Do not eat raw fish in unclean waters.
If possible, befriend or fall in love with the son of one of the most powerful men in your city.

Zenith by Julie Bertagna
Greenland is the place to be when the sea levels rise.
Do not get pregnant when you're having a hard enough time fighting for your own survival.
There is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Review: Pink by Lili Wilkinson

Dear blog,
Summary (from Goodreads): Ava Simpson is trying on a whole new image. Stripping the black dye from her hair, she heads off to the Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence, leaving her uber-cool girlfriend, Chloe, behind.
Ava is quickly taken under the wing of perky, popular Alexis who insists that: a) she's a perfect match for handsome Ethan; and b) she absolutely must audition for the school musical.
But while she's busy trying to fit in -- with Chloe, with Alexis and her Pastel friends, even with the misfits in the stage crew -- Ava fails to notice that her shiny reinvented life is far more fragile than she imagined.

Review: This is one of those books that totally proves why you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.  I was expecting this to be a light, fluffy sort of novel.  But it was so much more than that.  Although Pink is pretty lighthearted in a lot of ways, I quite enjoyed that: it was pretty refreshing to read a LGBTQ novel which isn't just about the protagonist coming to terms with their sexuality, coming out etc. A lot of the YA novels I read about sexual identity are pretty heavy going, which I do understand, but the general take on Ava being a lesbian in Pink seemed quite...relaxed, if that makes sense.

Ava already has a long-term girlfriend, but she's actually wondering if she's not gay.   She likes the colour pink, things haven't been going so well with her girlfriend Chloe of late and she doesn't see the appeal with hanging out with their edgy radical friends anymore.  She was an entirely likeable character for all her flaws, and I think that absolutely anyone could relate to her in one way or another. I'm sure everyone at some point in their life wants to be different, wants to fit in with the right crowd.  Throughout the book Ava made a lot of mistakes in her attempts to be accepted. She could be pretty selfish and thoughtless at times, and although I often facepalmed at her actions, I still totally understood why she did the things that she did.

The thing I loved best about this book by far was the characters.   Except Chloe.  Although I had high hopes for her when Ava mentioned she read Anaïs Nin (because anyone who likes Anaïs Nin is generally an awesome person in my book), alas that was not to be. She was mean.  Her remarks to Ava were so cutting and bitter I had a hard time understanding why the two of them were still going out.  Anyway, in the respect that she was totally three-dimensional and believable, yes, she was a good character. All the supporting characters were good.  Seriously, how do Australian authors do this?!  Jaclyn Moriarty and Margaret Wild have the most incredible cast of characters as well, and they both live Down Under.  It must be all that sunshine.

The Pastels were, again, characters I disliked, but were totally believable.  It's like Lili Wilkinson has gone into a school with a video camera, filmed everyone's comings and goings and then broadcast them on a giant outdoor television screen. Everything feels exposed, from the settings to the character dynamics.
Also, the Stage Crew, i.e Screws. They are awesome, although in their anti-Glee win and discarding of pecking order in their school, they made me feel slightly guilty for  being one of those people who loves singing on stage, and whose only pair of high heels is a pair of character shoes.  Still, reading the scenes with all their highly entertaining banter and trivia, it feels like you're painting the sets with them or half-asleep at the movie marathon (by the way, that was one of my favourite scenes in the whole book). 

 So, if the rest of Lili Wilkinson's books are as awesome as Pink, I'll definitely be reading more of her novels in the future.

In Three Words: light-hearted, excellent, refreshing.
Reccommended for: Anyone who's willing to see past the bright pink cover.
Rating: 4.5

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Review: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Dear blog,

Summary (from Goodreads): Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in fragile bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the thinnest. But then Cassie suffers the ultimate loss-her life-and Lia is left behind, haunted by her friend's memory and racked with guilt for not being able to help save her. In her most powerfully moving novel since Speak, award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia's struggle, her painful path to recovery, and her desperate attempts to hold on to the most important thing of all-hope.

Review: Right now I'm wearing shorts and a t-shirt, it's entirely humid and boiling outside and all the windows in the house are open.  I crave ice cream.  But Wintergirls is impressive (and slightly creepy) in that you can read it in this climate and still feel cold.  It totally leaps off the page.
Wintergirls is not an ideal summer read. It is not for the lighthearted. But it is one of the most disturbing, powerful books I've read in the last few months.

I think Laurie Halse Anderson took a risk with writing Lia the way that she did.  Her narration was cold and distant, like she was really keeping the reader at arms length.  She's one of those characters I didn't really like on a personal level, but totally had sympathy for anyway because of the downward spiral she fell into. I wasn't sure if I was going to like her, because I read Speak, one of Laurie Halse Anderson's contemporary "issues" novels, last year and I couldn't warm to Melinda however much I wanted to.  But Lia was interesting.  She had a personality, and just as importantly she had hobbies, which I think can sometimes get easily forgotten about in books dealing with contemporary issues: There's so much focus on one certain thing or event that defines the story, that the protagonists' background can get totally lost under everything else.  Naturally they're not the driving force of the story, but I still think that if you want to create an entirely likeable, fleshed-out sort of character, small things like hobbies can have a pleasantly surprising sort of effect.

The writing style took a little getting used to, as well.  There are lots of strikethroughs in the text, for example if she referred to her mum, then crossed out the world and referred to her as Dr. Marrigan to try and stop herself from getting too close to her.  It took a few chapters to adjust to that, but when I did it was a fantastic way of seeing into Lia's mind.  For a lot of the book she sounded cold and distant and slightly bitter.  Is it possible to feel like you're stood 100 miles away from someone, and there's just this big frozen wasteland between you, and still feel like you totally understand why they do the things they do and the entirely intense inner functionings of their mind? Lia is like that. I would run up to her and envelope her in a gigantic, entirely crushing bear hug, but I get the impression she would probably shove me away and ask what on earth I was doing. Oh, and, uh, she's fictional, so that also might stand in my way slightly.

But I digress.  The actual use of language, the choice of words and such, was fantastic for the most part.  It was entirely lyrical and flowing,  but there were a couple of points when Laurie Halse Andersen seemed to get almost too deep into all the similies and metaphors,  which made me busy trying to work out what she was saying I kind of forgot what she was actually comparing life/school/herself to in the first place. But aside from those few places here and there, the general flow of the words went pretty much uninterrupted. 

I guess my only real problem with the book was the ending.  Considering the rest of it was so hard-hitting and powerful, it left me feeling a little underwhelmed.  I mean, the actual turn of events were good, but I suppose that the way they were put across wasn't  as satisfying.  I can't really talk about it without giving it away, but it was quite hurried.  Like, once you'd reached the ending, that was the end and that was all there was to it, as opposed to going into more detail about Lia's gradual road on the way to recovery.

Still, I can totally disregard that because the rest of it was so intense, darkly poetic and thought-provoking.  It totally exceeded my expectations, as well, having only thought Speak was okay. But, anyway, this.  Wintergirls is totally unmissable.
In three words: Intense, haunting, cold.
Recommended for: Anyone who wants to gain insight into anorexia and self-harm. Book-clubs. Teenagers. Adults.
Rating: 4.5

Monday, 20 June 2011

How to Make a Packet of Minstrels Last the Length of a Novel

Dear blog,
Now for something completely different.
 To explain: The other day I was reading a list put together by the food company Innocent about how to make a bowl of popcorn last the whole length of a film.I was thinking about this, and how similar it is to those times you sit down with a novel and a packet of minstrels*, but then have devoured them all by the time you’re at page 50. 
I am going to remedy this for you, readers.  Here's a guideline; depending on what you're reading, certain events should indicate how many Minstrels you should eat and when.
Note: some packets of Minstrels are quite small.  Some novels are like 400 pages.  This is why I'm referring to the packets of Minstrels that you can get at the cinema, which are a little bigger.
Another note: Eating a packet of cinema-sized minstrels in one go is discouraged.  It will probably make you feel sick and therefore ruin the whole experience.  It takes me a few days to read most books, so this is a sufficient time to eat a packet of minstrels.

If I Stay- eat two every time the word “cello”, “guitar” or “band” comes up.

The Princess and the Captain- Eat two every time you wish Orpheus was real.

Forbidden- Save all the minstrels for the end, and then devour them all to comfort yourself.

This is All- Eat three every time you feel enlightened, learn something new or have gained new insight into something.

Looking for Alaska- three every time Alaska is drunk or two every time there’s a gorgeous profound quietly beautiful quote.

Becoming Bindy Mackenzie- have two every time you’re all, “Pure genius. Jaclyn Moriarty is one.”

The Broken Bridge- Eat three every time you’re like, “Why does Phillip Pullman need to write those sweeping epic trilogies when, fantastic as they are, he can write such an engaging, refreshing but simplistic YA book about a sixteen-year-old girl?”

Tokyo- Eat one every time the writing style, which tries so hard, too hard, to sound like the POV of an eighteen-year-old boy, makes you cringe.

Anything by Haruki Murakami- two minstrels every time you fangirl squee.

The Hunger Games or Catching Fire- Four every time someone dies or is brutally beaten.

Notre-Dame de Paris (okay it's not really a YA book, but I feel like it deserves a mention as one of my favourite books of all time)- Read the book first, saving all the minstrels until the end. When you’re done, melt them, pour them between the pages and then eat the book.

Anthem (again, not a YA book, but.) - Two every time there’s some mention of “self”, “identity”, or “ego”.

Twilight- two every time Edward says something along the lines of “But Bella, it’s not safe for us to be together!” or half a minstrel every time Bella describes his porcelain skin, smouldering eyes and the like.

Crank or Glass- Two every time Kristina/Bree smokes or abuses some sort of illegal substance.

Eunoia (again, not YA, but every poetry lover should read it)- three every time you’re like “Dayum, Christian Bök has a way with words.”

any of the Ichigo Mashimaro volumes- one every time you laugh, snort, or fall out of your chair in a fit of giggles.

*or Maltesers, crisps, smarties, a bar of chocolate or some of those Tesco mini brownies. 

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Review: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Warning: There are spoilers in this review for both If I Stay and Where She Went.  If you haven't read them, which I suggest you do right now, you had better not read this review, because it gives away critical things.
Summary (from Goodreads): It's been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.
Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future–and each other.
Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

Review: So.  Where do I begin. 
If you've been following the blog for a while you may or may not know how much I've been going on about this book. I even contemplated taking an intense crash course in French so I could read it when it was released in France back in November. Alas, the Russian subjunctive and German subordinate clause have given me more than enough to worry about at the moment, and it was probably never going to happen, so I never did.
And then it was finally released here in the sceptr'd isle, so I read it in English, which is probably for the best anyway, because I doubt the fantastically haunting and spare writing style could be sufficiently translated into any language.

However, it's probably worth me mentioning that I was hesitant to actually start it, as soon as it was in my clutches: What if I didn't like it?  What would happen if Mia and Adam had changed from the awesome people they had been? What if them both being like that prevented me from not only disliking Where She Went, but If I Stay as well?  Most importantly, what would happen if either of them were killed off? 
But then my inquisitiveness got the better of me, and so I ended up tearing through this book in about two sittings. I guess it was kind of a combination of the fact that it was just so, well, amazingly done, and out of curiosity to find out what was going to happen next.  If I Stay was one of the best books that I read last year, and it was fantastic to see the stories of the characters I loved so much three years on.    And it's just as good as If I Stay, but for much of the book in a much more subtle way, I think.
Three years on, and Adam isn't at all like the passionate, enthusiastic musician that he was when we left him.  He's a perfect example of the cliché that is rock and roll, complete with an actress girlfriend, a house in LA, and thousands of fangirls across the world.  Strangely, although Adam's band has really taken off in Where She Went, and Mia was about to embark on a tour to Japan, I didn't feel like music was such a strong element of the book. I mean, music was the reason that Adam had become such a train wreck, and why Mia was in New York, but actually, directly, there wasn't that much of it.  In some respects this was kind of a shame, because to me that was one of the most powerful things about its predecessor.  It's a book not about events, or what makes up or leads up to events, so much as the events after the event; about the wheres and whens and whys and what ifs.  Does that make sense?  Ignore me if that makes things any easier.

It's one of those books that I couldn't really give a proper plot summary of. If I said to someone who asked me what it was about, or what happened in the book, I'd be like, "it's about a cello virtuoso and a singer in a band...and they used to be in love, and then she was in a car crash and lost her whole family..." but no, wait, that happened in the first book. What happens here?  "Well, uh, they find each other in New York City, and they spend the night together, and then they fall back in love,..." Yeah, it could just be me because I suck at summarising books, but at such a summary it doesn't sound like the most heart-stopping, gut-wrenching, turn-the-page-with-so-much-enthusiasm-you-almost-tear-it sort of book.  But oh, it is.  Very very much so. I read most of this while I was babysitting, and if one of the boys I was looking after had woken up I would have been like, "Wait just a second!  Mia's about to tell Adam why she never came back!"

Which is where we get to all the revelatory stuff.  The way the story is laid out is absolutely perfect; everything is gradually revealed, so that just when one thing is worked out or explained you're told about something else.  It's like unwrapping a present. There are so many layers and as you get deeper and deeper into the story, and you find out more and more, until you're just left with the one thing that really matters, the thing that you really want to know.  And, to me, it was an entirely sufficient explanation for why Mia just vanished from Adam's life after deciding to stay.  I felt a little twinge of dislike for her then, for doing that to Adam, but she had her reasons, and I totally get that. Gayle Forman has such a powerful way of writing about people and why they do the things they do.

I feel like I'm rambling a bit now, and that I can't really do it any justice. So. Just find a copy and read it and see for yourself. Laugh. Cry. Scowl. Cheer.  And be glad that Mia decided to stay and she went where she did.  And that probably sounds really cheesy, but it's true.

In three words: Powerful, revelatory, haunting.
recommended for: Everyone who wants to know what happened when Mia stayed.
Rating: 5

Sunday, 12 June 2011

In My Mailbox 25 or The One with the Armchair Travelling

Dear Blog,
IMM is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.
I got a lot of books this week, which is mostly the fault of the huge charity shop in the centre of town, which has shelves and shelves and shelves of secondhand novels. I've probably sung its praises before, and with reason.
A lot of the books I obtained are a sufficient transportation method to other corners of time and space; Japan, Korea, Greece, Russia, China and so on, which is entirely ideal because I've been wanting to read lots of books set abroad lately.

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
The Last Day of a Condemned Man by Victor Hugo (read, review here)
Ten Thousand Sorrows by Elizabeth Kim
We The Living by Ayn Rand
Beijing Doll by Chun Sue

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (she's reading this with her book club at the moment, and though I'm quite the Murakami fan I haven't read this one yet.)

The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery (currently reading. Entirely fascinating, but pretty heavy going)

So, there you go.  I'm off now to push on with The Teahouse Fire and write poetry.  Over and out.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Foreign Language Friday: The Last Day of a Condemned Man by Victor Hugo

Dear Blog,
I'm sorry I've been gone from the blogging universe from so long.  I was in Devon last week, and since then I've been entirely busy.
A note about The Last Day of a Condemned Man: This book is made up of one novella (id est, the title of the book) and a short story called Claude Gueux

Original Title: Le Dernier Jour d'un condamné
Original Language: French
Translated by: Christopher Montcreiff
Summary (from Goodreads): Victor Hugo, the shining light of French Romanticism, was an indefatigable campaigner against the death penalty. This unique anthology of his controversial writings on crime and punishment reveals the author's generosity of spirit and his pity for the condemned. However, as always in Hugo, a degree of endearing self-glorification is never absent. The Last Day of a Condemned Man, while not seeking to minimize its protagonist's responsibility for the murder he has committed, reminds the reader of the mental anguish endured by a man condemned to a cell. Claude Gueux is a documentary account of the martyrdom of a prisoner driven to crime by poverty, and to murder by the casual brutality of a head warder. Also included are Hugo's moving diary entries recording his visits to the prisons of La Roquette and the Conciergerie.
Review: So. One of the first things you should know about me is how much I love Victor Hugo. I read Notre-Dame de Paris last November and it was an entirely welcome break from the frenzy that is NaNoWriMo for a few days. 
Yes I am going somewhere with this.  When you're so in love with a book, when you've read it two or three times and highlighted your favourite parts and drawn little pictures it's easy to forget how thrilling it is to read a Victor Hugo book for the first time. Reading The Last Day of a Condemned Man there are some moments where you're just entirely blown away, like, "Oh my God, this man is a freaking amazing writer."  The writing,  the emotions and the tension are just so entirely enthralling, even though the impending death of the unnamed narrator leaves nothing a mystery.  Still, the pacing is pretty perfect and the build-up to his execution is entirely tense.

Both of the stories are something of a social commentary of French society in law in the day. We never really find out what the condemned man has done (there's one implication of a murder, but that's it), and there's next to no deep detail about the crime he committed, his past and his personal life. All we know is that he has a wife and a young child. In some scenarios and books I prefer it when books go into lots of detail about the character's past, but I think it worked really well here. The way you were cut off from the narrator, and there was just you, him and his impending death: he could have done something absolutely awful but it makes no difference to the reader.    Claude Gueux goes into more detail about the functioning  and dynamics of an early nineteenth-century prison, and there's less focus on the emotions.

While I'm talking about it, Claude Gueux is a short story, and alas it didn't live up to my expectations for two reasons. One: Although I too felt sorry for his plight, his imprisonment and his desperation, which were as excellently portrayed as in TLDOACM, it appeared to me that Claude just wanted his little friend back because he shared his food out with him and without the extra bread he was going to be hungry. Not even starving, just hungry, even. In all his speeches and pleas to the workshop manager, he always seems to mention the food, or lack thereof, first and his friend second. 
The second thing was the ending.  It gradually morphed into a long speech of sorts about the unfairness of prison life and how it could be fixed, the ideal path for improving the prison system in France, and the transformation was pretty gradual until about two pages from the end I was like, "Hang on a minute...this is meant to be about a prisoner..."  And although on one hand you're totally punching the air like, "Yes, Victor! You da MAN!"* it would be kind of nice if we could get on with the story.

Oh, and here's a delightful coincidence  I noticed. Claude Gueux= Age thirty-six. Claude Frollo, my favourite antagonist in literature= age thirty-six.  Claude Gueux= obsessed with the man who gave him his extra food. Claude Frollo= obsessed with a sixteen-year-old truant.  I'm sure Monsier Gueux is the great-great-great-great (etc. etc.) grandson of Dom Claude.

So, to conclude it was an entirely awesome return to Victor Hugo.  Now I'm off to order Ninety-Three and The Man Who Laughs.  (I know, no Les Miserables yet.  It intimidates me.  So many pages...)

In Three Words:  Insightful, fast-paced, enthralling.
Recommended for: people interested in law, human rights, and French literature.
Rating: The Last Day of a Condemned Man: 5, Claude Gueux: 4.
*I should not be talking about one of the most influential writers in French literature like this. 

Friday, 27 May 2011

Armchair BEA: Blogging About Blogging

Dear Blog,
The last day of Armchair BEA (Alas). Today's the day of the Book Blogger Convention in New York, so the focus of the Armchair BEA posts today is focused on the blog part of book blog.
I thought today I would take a  few of the questions in the link-up post and answer them myself.
Note: I'm sat in an armchair today.  Whooo.
Oh, before I start: Sorry I missed out on yesterday's post.  I was kind of too busy to think about blogging yesterday, what with lots of Russian homework, various musical escapades and the fact that I was entirely engrossed in reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
So, anyway.

Create a "rule list" of things you should and shouldn't be doing on a book blog.  
  • Be yourself.  That's the best thing you can do.  I'd rather read a blog where the writer sounds at ease with themselves and their audience than someone who tries to be overly uptight and takes themselves entirely seriously. Blogging is meant to be fun. 
  • Don't feel like you have to post every day.  Post when you have something to say. Though it's true you should post regularly because otherwise you'll lose interest from your readers, I'm less inclined to read a blog that's updated every day when it doesn't really need to be. 
  • When talking to other people in the literary and publishing worlds, be polite.  Bloggers/authors/publishers are friends. Not food. 
  • As for blog design: I know I'm not the only blogger who dislikes music players on blogs.  I'm also not the only one who feels put off from things like glittery text and a black background with bright text.  Make sure your blog is easy to read in terms of layout and format as well as content.
  • Be honest. Yes there is a way of being honest without being mean.
  • Don't forget to be awesome.  There's no need to be shy (*cough*likeme*spluttercough*) when the blogosphere is such a fantastic place. 
What are your tips for balance life and blogging?    There are, alas, some things that take priority over blogging  for me (schoolwork, music practise, etc).  I try and do three book reviews a week, but it changes depending on what else I've got on that week and how much I've read.  One thing I would suggest, though, is to read a few books, write a review as usual and then just save it, so that you can just post at those times when you haven't read any new books.

What genre do you blog about and why? My blog's a bit of a weird mix at the moment; probably about 70% young adult fiction and 30% classics/literary fiction.  Doing the Foreign Language Friday series has really got me into some more adult books I might not have found otherwise if I hadn't been purposefully searching for some good translated fiction.

How do you keep your blog fresh and interesting to your readers & yourself? This is something I'm struggling with at the moment, actually, and I'd totally appreciate suggestions.  I don't feel bored with what I'm doing at the moment: I'm quite happy rambling on in my way talking about books as I do. After all, it's what I'm here for.  But it would be better, certainly, if my blogging life had more variety to it.

So, there you go.  What about you?  Have you got any essential blogging tips?  How do you manage to keep your blog consistently interesting? 

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Armchair BEA Interview: Gwen @ Chew And Digest Books

Dear Blog,
Today's  Armchair BEA topic/event is interviewing:  I interviewed  Gwen over at  Chew And Digest Books
She mostly reviews nonfiction on her blog, and says that she dreams that "one day, people would stop turning up their nose at nonfiction and finally embrace the goodness that those treasured pages contain."
I've only ever interviewed one other blogger before, and that was for last year's interview, so forgive me for being slightly nervous.

What originally drew you to book blogging, and what are your favourite things about it? I started blogging about relationships in 2006 and I was already reviewing books on other more general sites and a couple of print publications. One day in 2008, it hit me, wouldn't it be nice to have just one place where I could find all of my reviews? I didn't even know there were other book bloggers out there for quite a while.
Once I found the whole book blogging community I was amazed. There were other people out there, just like me, who still read constantly and liked to talk about books! Even better, they were really involved in building a community. In my off-line life, I just never came across people that read for pleasure and I felt like I finally found my people.

What book are you reading at the moment? Thoughts so far? I am reading a biography of Fredrick Law Olmsted by Justin Martin, called Genius of Place. Most people know that Olmsted is the man that designed Central Park, but he did so much more! He was a sailor and went to China, a farmer, a reporter that chronicled life in the south before the Civil War, etc. I get excited when a biography really immerses me in the period that a person lived, not just their life in it. Justin Martin has already made me look at the pre-war South in a whole new way and I am not even halfway through yet.

If you could have dinner with any four people, living or dead, who would they be?Tough question and I am sure if you asked me tomorrow, I would give you another answer....
Edgar Allan Poe. He was the man when I was a teenager and his work and life story continues to touch me so many years later. Most likely, because we dealt with/deal with depression.
Ronald Reagan. He was the President of my childhood and later, he was suffering from Alzheimer's, the disease that took my grandfather from me. I would love to have an unscripted conversation with him. There are times that it was hard to know if he really felt what he was saying or if he just thought it was the right thing to say at the time.
Erik Larson. The author of The Devil in the White City, Issac's Storm, Thunderstruck, and now In the Garden of Beasts. I cannot think of one other non-fiction author that has the ability to tell a factual story in such a way that you lose yourself in it. Every time I read his work, I am amazed to find myself unable to put the book down because I want to know how it turns out. The thing is, since it is non-fiction, we already know how it turns out, but he has a way of making it come alive.
Frank Lloyd Wright. The architect of some of my favorite buildings. Much that I have read about him makes me seem like a great man ahead of his time or a completely unlikeable selfish person, or both. I find myself wondering if I would have had the "right stuff" to work under him as I walk around his homes and buildings. Last year, walking around Taleisin West, I pondered applying for their Masters program, but the thought of living in a tent in the Arizona heat was a bit much for me.

What are your three favourite fictional novels? Last year, I bought 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, so I have been on a classics kick as I trudge through that list. I loved the emotions I felt when I read Howard's End by E.M. Forster and Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser. In both, I just wanted to shake the main characters and say take control of your lives, say what you really think!

What are your three favourite non-fiction books?
Anything by Erik Larson and I read a great memoir by Emily Plaicdo last year called Julita's Sands. Total tear-jerker about her relationship with her mother later in life. Think The Notebook, but about a mother-daughter relationship.

Pancakes or Waffles?
If I am not the cook? Waffles with strawberries and Cool Whip.

Do you read much poetry? If you do, what's your favourite poem?
I don't read current poetry, but do find solace in some of the old poems. Poe stand out with Alone.   I have often felt like an outsider.
From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.

When you're not reading, what are some of your other hobbies?  Currently, I am going through a major health issue, so most of my hobbies have taken a back seat to ovarian cancer. I like to paint, garden, cook, sew, and refinish furniture when I am running at 100%. This year it has been about keeping my proverbial head above water with freelance writing assignments, school, and two blogs when I am up to it.

Well, there you go.  Thank you, Gwen!