Month: December 2015

2016 (No-Spend) Classics Challenge!

classics

First things first, if you haven’t already, sign up to the 2016 Classics Challenge over at prettybooks – it’ll be loads of fun and definitely worth it!

The aim of the challenge is to read One Classic Per Month and then tweet/instagram/blog/vlog about it, answering these questions:

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
WHY I Chose to Read It
WHAT Makes It A Classic
WHAT I Thought of This Classic
WILL It Stay A Classic
WHO I’d Recommend It To

To make this challenge a little harder, I’m going to be only reading books 1. I already own, or 2. are available for free on Kindle. I’m also going to be prioritising books that have been loitering on my Goodreads TBR list for, oh, a few years or so.

Here are my choices (I think):

1Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (already owned)

daphnedumaurier_rebecca_first

Goodreads rating: 4.19

Publication Date: 1938

Goodreads Synopsis: “The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives–presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.

2 – The Princess Bride by William Goldman (already owned)

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Goodreads rating: 4.24

Publication Date: 1973

Goodreads Synopsis: “What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be…well…a lot less than the man of her dreams?
What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.

3 – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Goodreads Rating: 4.23

Publication Date: 1813

Goodreads Synopsis: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners–one of the most popular novels of all time–that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues.

4 – One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (already owned)

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Goodreads Rating: 4.01

Publication Date: 1967

Goodreads Synopsis: One of the 20th century’s enduring works, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world, and the ultimate achievement of a Nobel Prize winning career.

The novel tells the story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the family. It is a rich and brilliant chronicle of life and death, and the tragicomedy of humankind. In the noble, ridiculous, beautiful, and tawdry story of the family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America.

5 – Tess of the d’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy

tess

Goodreads Rating: 3.73

Publication Year: 1891

Goodreads Synopsis: When Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D’Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting her ‘cousin’ Alec proves to be her downfall. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer her love and salvation, but Tess must choose whether to reveal her past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future.

6 – The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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Goodreads Rating: 4.10

Publication Year: 1911

Goodreads Synopsis: 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 the 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.

7 – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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Goodreads Rating: 4.08

Publication Year: 1847

Goodreads Synopsis: Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.

With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte’s innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers.

8 – Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

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Goodreads Rating: 4.00

Publication Year: 1878

Goodreads Synopsis: Leo Tolstoy’s classic story of doomed love is one of the most admired novels in world literature. Generations of readers have been enthralled by his magnificent heroine, the unhappily married Anna Karenina, and her tragic affair with dashing Count Vronsky.

In their world frivolous liaisons are commonplace, but Anna and Vronsky’s consuming passion makes them a target for scorn and leads to Anna’s increasing isolation. The heartbreaking trajectory of their relationship contrasts sharply with the colorful swirl of friends and family members who surround them, especially the newlyweds Kitty and Levin, who forge a touching bond as they struggle to make a life together. Anna Karenina is a masterpiece not only because of the unforgettable woman at its core and the stark drama of her fate, but also because it explores and illuminates the deepest questions about how to live a fulfilled life.

9 – North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

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Goodreads Rating: 4.13

Publication Year: 1854

Goodreads Synopsis: When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the north of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man, John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction. In North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell skillfully fuses individual feeling with social concern, and in Margaret Hale creates one of the most original heroines of Victorian literature.

10 – The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

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Goodreads Rating: 3.78

Publication Date: 1886

Goodreads Synopsis: In this harrowing tale of good and evil, the mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll develops a potion that unleashes his secret, inner persona—the loathsome, twisted Mr. Hyde.

11 – The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde

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Goodreads Rating: 4.03

Publication Date: 1890

Goodreads Synopsis: Written in his distinctively dazzling manner, Oscar Wilde’s story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is the author’s most popular work. The tale of Dorian Gray’s moral disintegration caused a scandal when it first appeared in 1890, but though Wilde was attacked for the novel’s corrupting influence, he responded that there is, in fact, “a terrible moral in Dorian Gray.” Just a few years later, the book and the aesthetic/moral dilemma it presented became issues in the trials occasioned by Wilde’s homosexual liaisons, which resulted in his imprisonment. Of Dorian Gray’s relationship to autobiography, Wilde noted in a letter, “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.”

12 – Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

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Goodreads Rating: 4.o1

Publication Date: 1868

Goodreads Synopsis: Classic novel of 19th-century family life during and after the Civil War, in a household with four sisters. Alcott based the March family largely on her own real-life family.

So there are my choices for this 2016 Classics Challenge!

What books have you chosen? What do you think of my choices? Tweet me @AnnaliseBooks or comment below!

Happy New Year!

Annalise x

 

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Review: The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ok, so I read this because I wanted to watch the Amazon series, but also always want to read the source material first. I became so enamoured with the idea of the book, that I actually went to Waterstones Piccadilly after a job interview, with the sole intention of buying this book.

The book is set in an alternate universe where Germany and Japan won the Second World War. The United State of America has split into three sections – the Pacific States, controlled by Japan, the Reich Controlled Eastern States, and the neutral buffer zone of the Rocky Mountains in the middle. The Soviets have been obliterated, and a cold war is breaking out between the Germans and the Japanese.

I really like the world – this is a book which makes you think about the impact that wars have on society and real people, after the fighting and military action has supposedly come to an end. The world doesn’t end at the United States – what is going on all over the world (and on other worlds) is explored, and I enjoyed the politics of the novel.

The book is a mishmash of several characters – Frank Frink, a Jewish jewellery maker in the Japanese region of the US, his ex-wife, Juliana Frink, living in the buffer zone with an Italian fascist with a secret agenda. Nobusuke Tagomi, the ranking Trade Mission lead in Japanese San Francisco, who meets with Mr Baynes, a Swedish industrialist, in San Francisco. Robert Childan, owner of American Artistic Handicrafts, who sells Frank Frink’s jewellery to the Japanese.

So here’s the rub: the ideas are brilliant, but the characters are forgettable and the story just doesn’t click enough for me. The book follows these characters who don’t really do anything, and are strenuously connected. I expected the novel to end with them all meeting (in particular, Frank Frink and his ex-wife), but the character development just isn’t there for me. I didn’t become invested in these characters; I didn’t have to read on because I wanted to find out more.

There’s no meaningful ending to this novel, no real pay-off. The concept is there but the plot and characters aren’t – they are simply a means to showing off this world a little.

I’ll be really interested to see where the TV series takes this novel (I’ve heard it’s a little different) but this is a book that just didn’t have the wow factor I expected.
View all my reviews

Review: The Winner’s Curse

The Winner's Curse
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So, the Winner’s Curse is another book I bought way back in July at YALC. It was a complete impulse buy, driven by the fact I’d just watched a panel with the book’s author, Marie Rutkoski, and I’d heard amazing things (but then again, YALC is just a huge festival of book recommendations). So I rushed on down from Olympia to Foyle’s Charing Cross and picked myself up a copy (along with Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours and some books about writing fiction) but I haven’t got round to reading it until now.

First off, the cover for this book is beautiful. The vast majority of current editions use the same photo (the girl in a big pink dress), with slightly different formatting. This is a cover I want, no, need, on my shelf, and the formatting inside of the book is also gorgeous – I’m a huge fan of the black pages at the beginning and ends of the book in my copy, and the whole book is sleek and stylish. Strangely enough though, this delayed me reading the book. Beautiful books on the outside do not always equal beautiful books on the inside (on this occasion, I am delighted to be wrong).

The Winner’s Curse is the story of Kestrel and Arin. Kestrel is the general’s daughter, a 17 year old faced with the decision to either join the military or get married. On a whim, she purchases Arin, a young slave of the race her father conquered 10 years before. As Kestrel warms to Arin, she starts to realise that her impulse buy may have serious consequences…

Marie’s prose is beautiful, and the world is built up beautifully. This book is both fantastical and historical, which I love – I love how Marie takes a historical world (here one with a strong military and the presence of slavery and rebellion – based on the Greeks and the Romans I believe) and really expands it, with strong women and lavish balls and societal gossip. Personally, I love how there is no clear ‘good’ and ‘evil’ – every character has motives, beliefs and a fleshed-out back story, and this really helps the reader empathise with all the characters in the novel – it’s rare for a novel (especially a YA novel) to engage me with so many characters at once – and not to spoil anything, but there isn’t a particular side that I’m rooting for (as both sides are fighting for what they believe in, which conflict).

The characters aren’t only believable and fleshed-out, they’re also different. Kestrel is intelligent and cunning (not traits that are always apparent in female YA characters), and the relationship between Kestrel and Arin is developed slowly and subtly throughout the novel. However, I do have one gripe – the relationship between Kestrel and Arin is a little strange – he’s a slave with a secret and he just doesn’t act like it. He talks back, he’s sassy, and he walks all over Kestrel when he really shouldn’t be in the position to do so.

If you’re going to read any YA, make it good YA. This is good YA – mainly because the writing itself is beautiful (don’t underestimate the power of good writing). It’s not another YA rehash – it’s original and interesting, with intelligent characters who are really tested through power shifts and political turmoil. The world-building is done well – it’s subtle and understandable – and something YA does really well is light fantasy – just enough that you’re aware this is a different world but with human, relevant and relatable situations, and it never feels like you’ve just been thrown in at the deep end of this completely different world.

If you’re looking for something a little different, with interesting, political themes, forbidden romance, intelligent characters and which is, most of all, written fantastically, look no further.

I’m looking forward to completing the trilogy this coming year (The Winner’s Crime is out now, and The Winner’s Kiss will be released this March).

How did you find the novel? Is there anything you want to see more of in the coming novels? Tweet me @AnnaliseBooks or comment below!

Annalise x

View all my reviews

TBR 2016 : Personal Challenge Edition!

Updated: 24th April 2016 with books I have since read.

Hello!
It’s been a long time since my last post, mostly due to a lack of reading during university time. Reading just isn’t appealing to me at the moment, so I though I’d set myself some challenges over the next year to reduce my TBR pile and invigorate my reading.

Challenge 1: Kindle TBR

Using a Kindle really slowed down my reading, and I’m slowly making my way back to favouring a old-fashioned paper book. It’s so easy to stop reading a book on Kindle and forget about it – and I’ve abandoned quite a few books mid-read and left them there for a few months… ok, a few years.

This challenge is to read all the books that have been abandoned unread in the cloud.

  1. Bright Young Things – Anna Godbersen
  2. Superconductivity: A Very Short Introduction – Stephen Blundell
  3. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  4. Bad Pharma – Ben Goldacre
  5. Pushing The Limits – Katie McGarry
  6. The Fiery Heart – Richelle Mead
  7. Hard Bitten – Chloe Neill

Challenge 2: Finish ALL the series!

As well as abandoning books mid-read, I abandon series mid-series. I want to finish some series which have ended already, to achieve a sense of completeness (and so I can start some new series, naturally).

This challenge is to finish series that are worth finishing, and have already finished/will finish by the end of this year.

8. Night Huntress Series by Jeaniene Frost – One Grave at a Time, Up From the Grave

9. Bloodlines by Richelle Mead – The Fiery Heart, Silver Shadows, The Ruby Circle

10. Chicagoland Vampires by Chloe Neill – Hard Bitten, Drink Deep, Biting Cold, House Rules, Biting Bad, Wild Things, Blood Games, Dark Debt, Midnight Marked, Untitled… (This is definitely a challenge!)

11. Anna and the French Kiss series by Stephenie Perkins – Isla and the Happily Ever After

Challenge 3: Up To Date

There are a few series which have serious hype every time a new book comes out (Sarah J Mass, am I right?!) but I’m just not caught up with the latest book.

This challenge is to get up to date with series I’m seriously behind on, by the end of the year or the next release (whichever comes first).

12. Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J Maas – Crown of Midnight, Heir of Fire, Queen of Shadows

13. Illuminae Series by Amie Kaufman – Gemina (released 2016)

14. Normal Series by Holly Bourne – How Hard Can Love Be? (released Feb 1st, 2016)

15. Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin – Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons…

Challenge 4: You’ve Bought ’em so You Might As Well Read ’em.

I’ve got loads of books which are looking very very pretty on my bookshelf. I should probably read them.

This challenge is to read all the books on my shelf currently, that haven’t been read.

16. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

17. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

18. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

19. Asking for It – Louise O’Neill

20. The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

21. The Kingdom of Little Wounds – Susann Cokal

22. The Finisher – David Baldacci

23. The Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson

24. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

This post only really covers series I’ve already started or books I already own – there are loads of new books and series coming in 2016 that I’m looking forward to which will be covered in later posts.

Happy Holidays!

Annalise x