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The Orange Prize for Fiction 2010 June 12, 2010

Posted by KJ theBookGirl in Uncategorized.
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As a judge on the Orange Prize for Fiction 2010 Youth Panel, I was one of 6 judges deciding upon the “Winner of Winners” out of the last 14 books which have won the Orange Prize for Fiction awards.

The winner we selected was Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels; as announced by HRH the Duchess of Cornwall at the awards party on Wednesday:

This year’s winner of  the Orange Prize for Fiction was Barbara Kingsolver with “The Lacuna”:

For more information on the Orange Prize visit:
http://www.orangeprize.co.uk/

Twilight By Stephenie Meyer February 28, 2010

Posted by KJ theBookGirl in review.
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The following video is a requested review of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. I discuss the different attitudes towards Twilight, as well as reviewing the novel.
Click here to read my written review of Twilight.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold February 28, 2010

Posted by KJ theBookGirl in Analyse.
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I have only just started this novel, but already it had made me consider the social issue of dealing with murder.

The following video outlines my thoughts:

Penguin’s Poems for Love selected by Laura Barber February 13, 2010

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Penguin's Poems for Love, selected by Laura Barber

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

Here are the poems to take you on a  journey of  ‘suddenly’ of love at first sight to the ‘truly, madly, deeply’ of infatuation and on to the ‘eternally’ of love that lasts beyond the end of life, along the way taking in the flirtation, passion, fury, betrayal and broken hearts.

Bringing together the greatest love poetry from around the world and through the ages, ranging from W. H. Auden to William Shakespeare, John Donne to Emily Dickinson, Robert Browning to Roger McGough, this anthology will delight, comfort and inspire anyone who has ever tasted love – in any of its forms.

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)”

Penguin’s Poems for Love are beautiful. They are a carefully thought out collection, consisting of deeply passionate ideals, and brutally honest realism. There is something in every poem that will cause you, as the reader, to connect with the poet, and what the poet in trying to convey.

Single, taken, married, divorced, widowed…there is a poem relating to it all, so this is not just a poetry collection for those flying on cloud nine, and nor is it purely for the cynics who simply don’t believe in love.

The range is so great you will be astounded at the linking, and connections, which create the flowing pattern, regardless of the age of the pieces, and the variety of poets.

The poems are organised through themed chapters, throwing together unlikely combinations, to follow the various paths life may take love through. Even the organisation of these poems reminds the reader that love is a timeless thing, a powerful emotion that has survived through centuries, and caused destruction through decades.

The power of words is intense in these poems; it is near impossible not to find a poem to suit your mood, feelings or situation.

The only criticism I have, is that with these combinations, often I find the poems don’t sit well together, for the dramatic change in language, content, poet and style, although highly effective, destroys flow if more than a couple of poems are read. This takes from the credit of the poets, unnecessarily.

In conclusion, this collection is well worth reading, and contains a very strong combination of poems, stirring deep emotions. However, do not expect flow through the paths the poems take with each other.

KJ
theBookGirl

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini January 30, 2010

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A Thousand Splendid Suns paperback by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a book you will never forget, for it’s beautiful characters, intricate plot, and heart wrenching tale lives on long after the last page is turned, made all the more tragically striking with the truth and honesty in the setting, history and ideas portrayed.

“Mariam is only fifteen when she is sent to Kabul to marry Rasheed. Nearly two decades later, a friendship grows between Mariam and a local teenager, Laila, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter.  When the Taliban take over, life becomes a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear. Yet love can move people to act in unexpected ways, and lead them to overcome the most daunting obstacles with startling heroism.”

The plot follows two tales, each unwrapping the events creating the coming of age of a young girl, forced for one reason or another, to assign her life to misery, pain, loss and cruelty.

Mariam, unloved and resented, discovers betrayal and guilt, and, as a strong minded character who can endure if nothing else must live with what she feels are the consequences.

Laila, a partially cherished yet partially overlooked daughter, grows up with Tariq – a friend and boy next door, he is everything to her. Yet, with disaster and horror, Laila too must put together a life destroyed by surroundings, religion and power.

These tales are told within Afghanistan, following years of communism and Taliban rule, the chronological modern history of the country, and  the implications for the working class people who must live between rockets and bullets, and obey the strict laws from Shari’ a to communist.

The story is beautiful, although extremely tragic, and it will wrench at your heart for Hosseini’s talent swells in this novel, making you truly feel for the characters, and understand their lives.

Sensational.

KJ
theBookGirl

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory January 11, 2010

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The Other Boleyn Girl follows the story of Mary Boleyn as she faces the trials of life in Henry VIII’s court. Falling in love with the King, and having to resign this to your deadliest rival, at the order of family definitely gives a good plot, but further twists and turns with the demands of the court and of others promising you that to fly away with your dreams can be done…well, only Philippa Gregory is capable of such a masterpiece of a novel.

Watch my video blog below to see my thoughts on the outstanding novel:

A Room With a View by E. M. Forster January 1, 2010

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The cover of "A Room with a View" by E. M. Forster

Miss Lucy Honeychurch is a girl inexperienced in the world of love; but she’s soon to learn much more through an enchanting trip to Italy, where her journey is not only physical, but emotionally challenging too.

The plot of one of  E.M.Forster’s most famous novels follows young Lucy as she travels to Italy with her overbearing cousin, and discovers not only the world of renaissance art, living outside the rule book, and experiencing real life, but also the mysterious, working class George Emerson, and his father.

The book explores how Lucy, a very impressionalble girl with no opinions of her own, but a promising spirit develops as a character, growing a backbone, as well as a taste for real, hard, living love – and in this grows to love life. She explores a world of confusion and choices, where a whole cast of characters attempt to influence her in every decision she must make.

The style of the novel is also notable; in the way it voices the thoughts of many of the characters, but is always in third person and narrated by Forster. This brilliant subtlety allows the reader to know what the characters are thinking, and their motives, without their voicing obvious intentions or ideas which would be otherwise unrealistic.

Lucy’s character is well considered and her development is carefully tracked. Her flaw – of being without opinions and often without thought – is used to show her as real, but also to demonstrate it’s healing as she develops as a character.

Other characters are equally well written, from Mr Beebe, a hypocritical priest who, I feel, plays his role like a puppet master with Lucy on the strings, to George Emerson, the true love interest, written with no specific merit, other than his ability to love completely and passionately, and ask questions other men are too scared or ignorant to voice.

The novel seems to be tellinga story of romance, but with the message that one must live for the present, fully and passionately, and follow one’s heart to answer life’s questions, rather than simply following mindlessly, without independence, in the way previous generations had done.

The greatest flaw of the novel is the unnecessary length as Lucy takes an extremely long time to grow as a character and do something about her feelings once she has developed them. This leaves the reader growing irritated, as they know how the book will end in a fairy-tale classic way, but Forster’s style prevents the reader throwing the book down in exasperation.

The love story is not unique, but the journey Lucy follows is an almost unique representation of the awareness humans realise of living for the moment, and not simply for society.

In conclusion, this story is a reasonable love story, but with much more social commentary swirling in the undertones. It is definitely worth a read, but it’s dragging pace may lose the more demanding reader.

KJ
theBookGirl

The Road by Cormac McCarthy December 29, 2009

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The Road by Cormac McCarthy

McCarthy’s The Road is brilliant. Simply brilliant. The plot follows a man and his son as they travel along a road south after what seems to be an apocalyptic event. It ventures to question the fundamental survival instincts of human nature, wondering how far we would go to keep ours and our own alive.

The style of this novel is truly original. With no punctuation other than the trusty full stop, and no elaborate descriptions or unnecessary words, the story is kept to basics, conveying a true raw power of the message and plot of this story.

McCarthy is surely one of the greatest writers of our time, for the strength and force of his tale are beyond most literature of our century.

The story unfolds as the man and his son discover awful things that other humans have done; see scarring sights that no one should have to see. Their journey, of hardship, of poverty, of hunger; shows the relationship between a man and a boy who have absolutely nothing but one another.

This shows the pure reliance each have on the other, the dependence for encouragement when there is no hope, the dependence for love when there is nothing else.

McCarthy explores how lives could change in such a cataclysmic event that no one can be trusted to be a “good guy”…but also how a leap of faith to that trust could be worth it if only it was tried. The risks are numerous and so the man and his son must struggle to survive alone in this powerful, man eat man world where nature has taken it’s revenge.

The emotional journey the characters go on shows the hardship of a hopeless eternity, and the contrast between the young and the old, the trusting and the suspicious, the want to help and the action of help.

McCarthy’s only downfall is, perhaps, the length of the novel. It is not particularly long or short for a novel, but it seems the events can get a little repetitive in that nothing changes. Perhaps this is the point – the characters have nothing and never will have anything, with every day for eternity a struggle to survive. But sometimes it seems that a different or speedier occurrence would be welcome.

In conclusion, this excellent novel of McCarthy’s seems destined to be an eternal classic of our time. It is a must read for it’s messages and ideas are so deep, that even if not fully understood, they should be attempted and savoured, for it is full of lessons for humankind to learn.

KJ
theBookGirl

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks December 28, 2009

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The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

The Notebook is a highly emotional novel written by Nicholas Sparks. It follows the story of two old lovers; Allie and Noah, as they find one another again.

“North Carolina, October 1946. Noah Calhoun has recently returned from war: he tries to forget the horrors he has seen and experienced by restoring an old plantation home. But though his days are spent working, his nights too often give way to dreams of his past.

Fourteen years ago, Noah fell in love with a girl, and he is still haunted by her memory but convinced he will never find her again. But when the past slips into the present, Noah realises his ghosts are never far away.”

Allie is a beautifully written character, a fierce and strong protagonist who, although recently engaged to a high flying lawyer, cannot forget her old love, Noah, who she met for a brief but perfect summer at the age of fifteen. As her first love, he was special, but more than that, we quickly realise that the two of them were meant for each other.

Noah, too, has never forgotten Allie, and although he achieved great things for a man of his social class in southern America, it is the simple beauty of life and nature that makes him work. As a character he is breathtaking; he is wise, and realises what it really important. Yet mostly his undying, pure love for Allie, which is strong in every breath he takes, every word he speaks, makes the reader feel such empathy for him that he is destined to be an unforgotten classic of this decade.

This novel has an excellent plot, it really touches upon current emotional issues, and allows the reader to feel the full weight of implications they cause, in particular the deterioration of life, which is brilliantly contrasted with the tale of the lively, feisty youngsters. Every reader will relate to the way in which what was once so fresh and powerful will age, and change, but still can hold a power beyond human understanding. Sparks has captured this beautifully, in a genre which usually avoids such complex and deep issues.

The only criticism I assign to the writing is the way the characters are too perfect – of course, this makes the contrast between young and old much more powerful, but the characters have no real flaws. They have the indisputable love that is comparable to Heathcliffe and Cathy; but they have none of the flaws which make such an epic love possible.

It may also be suggested that, although the plot of the story is near perfect, and the characters are beautiful, the style is too simplified to show such a deep love. Perhaps this is because the love is a simple thing, but often the expression of it seems a little tame or repetitive “Her fell in love with her…he fell in love with her…he loved her”. However, this may just be demonstrating the extent of the love and the full, unelaborated power of it.

Perhaps one of the best ways Sparks expresses the love of the characters is through the incessant poetry running through Noah’s mind. He quotes and inserts in a way that not only flows with the novel but enhances and immortalises it, causing the reader to yearn for more and feel the deep emotions of Allie and Noah.

The novel is a brilliant read, and perfect for any emotion. It is a beautiful story and excellently written, despite its minor flaws, with quotes which could prove to be lines to live by. If you have not read this bestselling novel, you simply have not lived.

KJ
theBookGirl

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audery Niffenegger September 20, 2009

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The Time Traveler's Wife by Audery Niffenegger

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audery Niffenegger

The Time Traveler’s Wife is a very intense, beautiful story of two people – Clare and Henry – who fall in love and live in love, despite Henry’s very peculiar condition.

Henry can time travel. He can’t control it, he can’t stop it, and he can’t take anything with him. Including clothes.

“This is the extraordinary love story of Clare and Henry who met when Clare was six and Henry was thirty six, and were married when Clare was twenty two and Henry thirty. Impossible but true, because Henry suffers from a rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future. In the face of this force they can neither prevent nor control, Henry and Clare’s struggle to lead normal lives is both intensely moving and entirely unforgettable”

The plot follows Clare as she grows up with rare and mysterious visits from adult Henry. They form a loving but appropriate relationship as he offers an escape and friendship throughout their childhood. Of course, as she grows older, she feels more for him and a stronger relationship forms. Then she meets him at a time which is his natural time. From here the story begins for the reader, and for Henry. We are then invited along the journey as Clare and Henry’s relationship develops, is tried and is tested, with many dramas and questions along the way.

The plot follows Henry as he meets beautiful Clare and finds that she already knows all about him. More about him than he knows himself – she knows the future him. It then follows his relationship with her, in the same way it follows hers with him.

The plot challenges the reader to imagine our very ordinary world in an extraordinary way. We must consider the feelings and predicaments of being, or, even more peculiarly, marrying a time traveller.

This puts the strength of the characters to the test, as the book would only work with the deepest characters that can be formed – a two dimensional character would be simply too flat for this complex plot to work. But, indeed, Niffenegger can more than pull this off, and has conjured a masterpiece of a book, which I am certain you will lose yourself in, wanting nothing more than to sit and read, simply content as long as you can find out what happens next.

With the very perceptive display of characters, original twist on time travel, and a brilliantly realistic basis, this novel is purely excellent, a brilliant read.

It demands the reader’s attention, interrogating the reader with questions…what would they do? What is moral in these situations? How would they cope with this double edged knife of time travel?

KJ
theBookGirl

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