Tag Archives: Reading Challenge

The Queen’s Secret – Victoria Lamb

24 Aug

Started – 6/8/12

 

Finished – 21/8/12

 

Format – Hardback Book

 

Synopsis – July 1575

 

Elizabeth I, Queen of England, arrives at Kenilworth Castle amid pomp, fanfare and a wealth of lavish festivities, laid on by the Earl of Leicester. The hopeful Earl knows this is his very last chance to persuade the Queen to marry him.

 

But despite his attachment to the Queen and his driving ambition to be her King, Leicester is unable to resist the seductive wiles of Lettice, wife of the Earl of Essex. And soon whispers of their relationship start spreading through the court.

 

Enraged by the adulterous lovers growing intimacy, Elizabeth employs Lucy Morgan, a young black singer and court entertainer, to spy on the couple. But Lucy, who was raised by a spy in London, uncovers far more than she bargains for.

 

For someone at Kenilworth that summer is plotting to kill the queen. No longer able to tell friend from foe, it is soon not only the queen who is in mortal danger – but Lucy herself.

 

My Thoughts – I read this book as part of the Hardback Historical Challenge from the Transworld Publishers. I really had a craving to read a book from this time period and this book really fitted the bill for me.

This book is set in the time period of Queen Elizabeth I and is about Lucy, a girl in the courts. She starts off by being an entertainer in a big group, but ends up being one of the Queens favourites as the time goes on. There is also a big love triangle between the Queen, her cousin and a man, Robert. Along with spying and lots of other things this book had the premise to be a very good book.

I really enjoyed this book, especially the part where a young Will Shakespeare makes an appearance. As her is part of the climax of the book i was really surprised to see him in there, however this really made the book a lot more enjoyable for me.

I also enjoyed the big love triangle. This for me was really good and I couldn’t help but think how long it would be before they all got caught and it all became unraveled.

I’m not sure how historically accurate the book was as this time period is not my strongest, but i really enjoyed reading about it. I really want to learn more about this time period and read more books set in it.

I loved this authors writing and having a look there is a follow-up book to this one, due out next year and i will definitely be wanting to read that when it is released.

A great book that is highly recommended by me
Rating – 5/5

 

 

Dracula – Bram Stoker

8 Aug

Started – 14/7/12

Finished – 5/8/12

Format – Kindle e-book

 

Challenges –  BBC Top 200 Books

1001 Books To Read

Ultimate Teen Book Guide Challenge

501 Must Read Books

World Book Night 2012 List

 

Synopsis – ‘The door is shut, and the chains rattle; there is a grinding of the key in the lock; I hear the creaking of lock and bolt…I shall not remain alone with them. I may find a way from this dreadful place, away from this cursed spot, from this cursed land, where the devil and his children still walk with earthly feet!’

 

Young lawyer Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania on business for a mysterious Count. Months later in England, beautiful Lucy Westenra falls ill and dies, inexplicably, as if from a severe loss of blood. Lucy’s friends, including Jonathan’s fiancée Mina and the intrepid doctor Van Helsing, must begin a desperate battle against a powerful, ancient evil, in Bram Stoker’s definitive gothic tale.

My Thoughts – Dracula must be one of those books that everyone is familar with, even if they have not read the story. I downloaded this onto my kindle the day i got it, as there were so many classic books that i just hadnt read.

The book takes the form of diary entries, letters and other simular writings between the main characters in the story. For me, I really liked this and i felt that it helped the story. There was nothing left out and at times it was easy to forget the format of the book as so much detail was gained.

The book starts with Jonathan Harker who travels out to visit Count Dracula in his castle and to arrange him moving over to England. It is here that we get the first encounter with Dracula himself, and as apperances go he does seem quite normal in the begining. However, towards the end of this part of the book Draculas colours are reveiled. One scene really scared me, him crawling down a wall, and this is the first time that a book has scared me, however it was scary in a good way.

We are also introduced to the other main characters, Mina, Lucy, John Quincy and Arthur. These are the main characters that the letters and the diary entries come from. There was also lots of changes in the narrator and i liked how quickly this changed and how good it was to get a difference of opinion at times. The other character is Dr Van Helsing, who i didnt know was actually a character from Dracula. This was a nice surprise for me. To start with i was a little unsure as to how all the characters would fit together, but once they did it all made sense.

What eventually happens to Lucy, and i dont want to say if others havent read it, really did affect me in a way. I desparatley didnt want it to happen, but i can see why it did for the sake of the book. This enabled the latter part of the book to pan out and have an introduction to it.

The final part of the book was good, the hunt for Dracula and what to do with him once they caught him. I liked the journey and also all the parts with Mina. This for me made the book so brilliant. However i did think that the ending was a little bit quick and id have liked to read more and more.

I think the best part of this book is that Dracula isnt actually in it all that much. Its the creepyness of where could he be, what would happen next and the general threat of him. I also liked his character he was so clever and almost seemed one step ahead of everyone else.

On the surface this is a long classic book, something that i will admit puts me off a book. However i got really into this book and for a person that isnt always at one with the classics that is something. And its also long, but once i got into the story i just couldnt stop reading, i was sorry when it ended. This book is fantastic, one that everyone should read, if they havent already!

Rating – 5/5

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum

2 Aug

Started – 20/7/12

Finished – 25/7/12

Format – Hardback Book

 

Challenges – Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge

1001 Childrens Books You Must Read

 

Synopsis  – One of the true classics of American literature, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has stirred the imagination of young and old alike for over four generations. Originally published in 1900, it was the first truly American fairy tale, as Baum crafted a wonderful out of such familiar items as a cornfield scarecrow, a mechanical woodman, and a humbug wizard who used old-fashioned hokum to express that universal theme, “There’s no place like home.”

Follow the adventures of young Dorothy Gale and her dog, Toto, as their Kansas house is swept away by a cyclone and they find themselves in a strange land called Oz. Here she meets the Munchkins and joins the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion on an unforgettable journey to the Emerald City, where lives the all-powered Wizard of Oz.

My Thoughts – I’ve owned this book for years and years and its always sat on my shelf. I read this once when i was a lot younger and i thought that i woud read it again now that im older. I was hoping that i enjoyed the story as much as i did as a child.

This book is the story of Dorothy, who lives in Kansas. It is the most boring grey place and she doesnt really like living there. Then during a cyclone Dorothy and her dog Toto are swept away to a place called Oz. This is the most brightly coloured land and it is there that she meets her new friends, the brainless scarecrow, the tin woodman with not heart and the lion with no courage. Together they want to go to see The Wizard of Oz to ask for the things that they want.

Now i felt that parts of this book was quite scary for a child and sometimes quite shocking. for example, the flying monkeys and the wicked witch. As a child this really scared me and i think that this is what put me off reading it again when i was younger. I also felt that when Dorothy was asked to kill the witch it was a little bit shocking. Its not like modern stories and for a little girl to have to kill somebody, it just didnt sit right with me.

However, i did enjoy the story and the journey through the land of Oz. I really got into the story and really fell in love with the characters. I loved the cowerdly lion i think he was my favourite character. I think that there was an important message behind this book with the no brains, heart or courage. I think its kind of like the lion already had his courage he just needed to believe that he already had it.

The only problem i had with this is the musical that was made based on the book. I kept getting ‘follow the yellow brick road’ stuck in my head at various points of the story.

This is a very enjoyable read, not only for children but for adults too.

Rating – 4/5

The Opposite of Fate – Amy Tan

4 Jul

Started – 5/6/12

Finished – 26/6/12

Format – Hardback Book


Challenges – Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge

 

Synopsis – Unbearably moving, intensely passionate, deeply personal account of life as seen through the eyes of one of America’s best-loved novelists

When I began writing this history, I let go of my doubts. I trusted the ghosts of my imagination. They showed me the hundred secret senses. And what I wrote is what I discovered about the endurance of love.

So writes Amy Tan at the beginning of this remarkably candid insight into her life. Tan takes us on a journey from her childhood, as a sensitive but intelligent young Chinese American, ashamed of her parents’ Chinese ways, to the present day and her position as one of the world’s best-loved novelists.

She talks of beauty and how she was perceived as a teenager in a country where Marilyn Monroe was the ultimate sex symbol. She describes the daily difficulties of being at once American and Chinese and yet feeling at times like she was truly neither. Most significantly, and heartbreakingly, she tells the history of her family: the grandmother who committed suicide as the only means of defiance open to her against a husband who ignored her wishes; her remarkable mother, whose first husband had her jailed when she tried to leave him; and the shocking deaths of both her father and husband when Amy was just 14. How this weight of history has brought itself to bear on the adult Amy looms large in her own story. Ghosts, chance and fate have played a part in her life, and The Opposite of Fate is an insight into those ancestors, the women who ‘never let me forget why these stories need to be told.’

My Thoughts – This book was picked as a group read for the Rory Gilmore challenge on the BCF. I really enjoy reading memoirs and this book was no exception. This book is about the authors life in China, America and many other countries in between.

Amy Tan grew up in China to start with in her life and had a very traumatic start to life. She lost her father and brother within six months of each other, and they both died of brain tumors. Her mother was also challenging at times and Amy had to also deal with this. Then they moved across to America and started a life their. This began a spate of moving across countries to other homes under her mums request.

In fairness she had a very trumatic life. One of her best friends was killed, on a night that she could have stayed in the house that he was in that very night. She also had to deal with her publisher dying of cancer and her mum being diognosed with alzheimers.

I found the differences in cultures very fascinating. Considering how her grandmother and mother lived in China and how Amy lived in America, it was all very different. In the book Amy goes back to China to visit her family and the differences in cultures was so apparent.

I wasnt aware of this author before i read her memoir, which is quite shameful considering how well known she is in America. I think i would have enjoyed the book even more if i had read some of her works, epecially The Joy Luck Club before reading the book.

I also liked how the book jumped about on the timescale. I found that this made the story a bit more interesting as you found out different parts of information as the story went on. My favourite part of the book was the chapter about What the Library Means to Me. This was a brilliant chapter and just shows how much books can mean to a person.

This is a wonderful book, it was fascinating to read about the authors life and also her works. I am now going to try and read more of her books.

Rating – 4/5

Grimm’s Fairy Stories – Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

27 Mar

Started – 21/3/12

Finished – 23/3/12

Format – Kindle e-book

 

Challenges – Rory Gilmore Challenge (Rapunzel, Snow White and Red Rose)

1001 Childrens Books You Must Read)

501 Must Read Books

 

Synopsis – The Brothers Grimm rediscovered a host of fairy tales. Together with their well-known tales of “Rapunzel”, “The Goose Girl”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Hansel and Gretel” there are darker tales which deserve to be better known. This is a collection of their tales.


My Thoughts – This was one of the many kindle books that i downloaded on the first day of me having my kindle. Its one of those classic books that has always been on my list of books that i want to read but have never got around to reading them all.

 

I really enjoyed this collection of short stories. Although i read most of them in one sitting, it is definitely a book that could be dipped in and out of. I could actually see myself reading these stories aloud at bedtime to my younger cousins.

 

Some of these stories i was familiar with and some i wasnt. Stories like Snow White and Cinderella i was familiar with, due to watching the Disney films when i was a lot younger. However there were some new to me stories like Bearskin and The Three Brothers. I was hoping that all of the stories were contained in the edition, but unfortunately not. I will be keeping my eyes open for more of the stories.

 

Now, although i enjoyed the book i did find some of the stories a little disturbing for a younger child to read nowadays, as all fairy stories at this time all seem to have happy ending and live happily ever after. For example, Little Red Riding Hood. Where at the end she is gobbled up and dies in this story, maybe nowadays that would be upsetting for a child.

 

I did find some themes reoccurring throughout the stories. The handsome prince, the poor princess, the wicked stepmother, the ugly step sisters, the youngest sibling is always the good one etc. Now i liked all these and thought that these were good parts of the fairy stories.

 

I also thought that these books were very easy to read considering they were written over 200 years ago. I know that i didnt read these in the original language, German, and that they had been made to be easier to read, but i still had concerns that i wouldnt be able to read them very well.

 

This book is really good, well worth a read if you havent already read this.  Plus i would say good for bedtime stories for older children

 

Rating – 4.5/5

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

18 Jan

Started – 1/1/2012

Finished – 18/1/2012

Format – Kindle e-book

 

Challenges – 1001 Must Read Books

 

Synopsis – Amid the foggy streets of sinister London and the even more sinister countryside, Holmes and Watson once more solve the unsolvable. This book is a collection of stories, including -A Scandal in Bohemia, A Case of Identity, The Red-Headed League ,The Boscombe Valley Mystery.

 

My Thoughts – I downloaded this book for my Kindle the day i got it because at the time it was the top free book in the downloads, and it was a book that i have always wanted to read but never got around to it. I am so so so so glad that i downloaded it and read it because it is an amazing book. To start with i was a little bit worried that i might not be able to get into the book properly as it is a classic and that is something that i always struggle with, but this was not the case with this book. I really got into it from the start and couldnt put it down. I also liked the variety of the short stories. Some i guessed straight away what was going to happen, and others i really couldnt guess. I was hooked at finding out what had happened with the stories and really want to read more.

 

i think my favourite story from the lot was The Read-Headed League. This one really had an intricate plot and it kept me guessing until the very end. I also enjoyed the character of Holmes himself, and how extravagant he was.

 

I have a couple of negatives, but only small ones. The kindle edition had a few typos and couldn’t pick up some of the money symbols which was a bit puzzling at first until i worked it out what it was and i read this book out of sequence too. It doesn’t matter from the book front, it’s just me, i like to read books in the order that they were written!

 

A brilliant book, highly recommended and i cant wait to read more!

 

Rating – 5/5

BBC Top 200 Books Challenge Wrap up 2011

30 Dec

This is my first year of taking part in this challenge properly. This challenge is good because so many of the books are well known, and i have a lot on the list that i have already read. I orginally thought that this was only a 100 book challenge, but found out this year that there are actually 200 on the list. oh well, more books are always good!

Books Read in 2011

1- Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden This book is fantastic. One of my favourite reads of the year. I thought i wouldnt enjoy it, but it was fantastic. This book has opened me up to reading about other cultures.
2- The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien This was the first time i had read this book, but this was another fabulous read.
3- The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkein As i read this book in the three separate books, i would ideally like to say i read it as three! wow what a trilogy, i need to go back and re-read this because i dont think it all sunk in properly.
4- The Day Of The Triffids, John Wyndham This was another good read, i really enjoyed the genre of this book and i want to read more.
5- A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving As a contrast, i didnt really like this book, i just couldnt get into it, at all.

I only managed 5 books this year, which is actually a bit disapointing. I must do better next year.

Random Stats

Percentage Complete – 16%

Books on TBR at the end of 2011 – 19

Books on Wishlist – 16

Target for 2012 – 10