Thursday, 31 May 2012

Les Miserables Trailer

Les Miserables is one of the best musicals I have ever seen and now they've made the movie. What's even better is it stars Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman. So in love right now.

Monday, 28 May 2012

It's Monday. What are you Reading? 28 May 2012

It's Monday. What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey to outline what you have been reading and what you plan to read this week.

It's been such a nice week because for the first time in forever I haven't had to travel for work. So I've been able to be home snuggled up with my man the whole week! It's been bliss.

As for the books side of things I finished The Red Tent (Anita Diamant) so you can check out my review and I turned 1! Such a cool feeling. I started To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf) which I am taking slowly due to the writing. It is such beautiful prose that I just don't want to rush it, I want to savour and decipher every sentence.

From the library I borrowed Our Tragic Universe (Scarlett Thomas). I read her book The End of Mr. Y which I really enjoyed so I grabbed this when I spotted it at the library. It has the same cool cover style too as Mr. Y. I also grabbed another unabridged audio book - this one about Tuscany. I'll see how I go with it. I haven't even reviewed the last audio book I finished!

Friday, 25 May 2012

I'm One!

Guess what. It's my first birthday! Oh yes, you heard that right, Books In the Sun turns one today and like any one year old I'm still finding my feet. It's been a fun year though and I have no regrets at all about starting this journey.

I have already met some fantastic people in the blogger community, am on twitter (I never thought that would happen!), have reviewed a lot of books and have challenged myself a few times along the way. I'm still learning, still trying to find my own individual style in all this and I'm excited to see how things will change over the next year.

Making my way through the classics is still my ultimate goal and I've only just begun to explore them. The two major challenges helping me with that goal is my 100 Book Challenge listing some of the greatest books of all time and the newly created The Classics Club which will see me reading 50 classics first published before 1900. There are some heavy weights in both of those lists with War and Peace, Les Misérables and A Suitable Boy all included within the longest novels ever written. So I'm going to be sticking around for awhile.

I did my first ever read-a-long of The Woman in White organised by Alice at Reading Rambo and I can't wait to participate in some more this year including starting Ulysses (James Joyce) on Bloomsday (16th June).

In the past year I have reviewed 26 fiction books and 10 non-fiction books which averages to 3 books a month. Not a huge amount in the blogger world but I do things at my own pace and well I encourage everyone to do the same. It doesn't matter if it takes you 6 months to read a book, the point is you're reading and I respect anyone who goes and picks up a book.

I want to say a quick thank you to all of my readers for supporting and encouraging me in the past year and a big shout out to my book club girls. Thanks for reading!


Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)

Title: The Red Tent
Author: Anita Diamant
First Published: 1997
This Edition Published: 1998
Published By: Allen & Unwin
Source: Book club borrowed
Genre: Historical Fiction
Goodreads | |

The Red Tent explores the story of Dinah, Jacob's only daughter in the Book of Genesis. This is my first delve into religious historical fiction and I will front this right now by saying I am woefully lacking in my knowledge of bible stories. So I went into this without a lot of prior knowledge about the characters and their history.

So with that said The Red Tent explores Dinah's life as the child of Jacob and his four wives; Leah being her biological mother. I really enjoyed the book. Diamant provides a great depth to the characters and I found many of the scenes incredibly vivid and emotionally engaging.

It can take a bit to get all the names right in your head. Dinah has 12 brothers thanks to Jacob and his four wives Leah, Zilpah, Rachel and Bilhah (all sisters themselves) and of course as soon as the brothers start marrying and having kids its easy to get a little lost with the names, luckily for those of us not so familiar with it all there is a handy cut down version of the family tree at the front to refer to and those that aren't in there don't hang around in the novel.

The focus in this novel is definitely on the women. It is called The Red Tent after all; the tent all the women retire to during their menstrual cycle. Plus Dinah follows the lineage of Rachel and her teacher before her, Inna, and becomes a midwife providing a number of side stories on births. It is incredible to think what it would have been like back then. I feel very privileged to live in a time where deaths caused by giving birth are a rarity and it makes you appreciate the variety of medical options we have available to us. However one of the things I loved about this novel is the portrayal of the inter-connectivity of women in that time and how they all come to rely on one another and learn from one another. As Dinah is growing up she has the support of all the women in The Red Tent and from a young age learns many of the things that women will need to experience in their life. I find this kind of connectivity is lacking in current society, women do not feel as comfortable talking about birth, breast feeding, menstruation etc among themselves, even within families they can be uncomfortable topics which really is to the detriment of individuals because we can learn from others experiences.

Because this book focuses so heavily on the women's lives and men are shown in an unflattering light it could be seen as a book appealing to a more female audience however I feel anyone who enjoys historical fictions could enjoy reading this book. But in saying that this book isn't for the faint hearted - this is bible times we are talking about here and some nasty shiz goes down throughout Dinah's life.

I was surprised at the amount of references to gods and goddesses that predate the Judeo-Christian God and the worshipping of idols but I found it all really fascinating and interesting to read. I can however see how this aspect of the book could be more offensive for some.

This novel is of course never going to be for everyone. Those familiar with the story of Jacob and his family may not appreciate some of the liberties taken by the writer. In writing up this review I couldn't help but read some of the other reviews out there and many of the negative ones call into question the accuracy (to very minute details) of the story. Of course this is always subjective as other reviews hailed how closely Diamant managed to weave the Bible stories. I cannot personally respond to the accuracy of the novel as my knowledge of the Book of Genesis is not up to scratch so I can only say that each person will have to judge for themselves.

Now my question here is whether historical accuracies is a valid condition to base a review on. Forgetting the fact that this obviously sits within a religious context, would inaccuracies in any historical fiction cause you to  review the piece differently or do you review based on the writing and story alone regardless of how many variances it has taken? Personally I'm not too fussed if a story isn't quite accurate, however I give great kudos to those authors that have the guts to step up in their novels and talk about where they have deviated for their own purposes. I have seen a number of examples of this over the years where a note on the historical text will go into detail on any sidesteps that need to be taken for the story to progress as it did. I think this is the best way for an author to present their case for why they have taken some creative licensing with their work.

More of the bad reviews speak on the ill representation of the men in the novel. Again all I can say to that is we are reading from the narrative of Dinah, a woman who at first loves (but may not be close to) most of her brothers but who ends up despising them by the end of the novel due to events in her life (don't want to give no spoilers now!) So of course the representation is going to be one sided, Dinah is the narrator. I mean really what do you expect? And to those who say it portrays all men in a bad light then I throw back to them the characters of Benia and Shalem.

I hadn't planned on commenting on other peoples reviews but I just couldn't help myself. This review is one of the hardest ones I have had to write so far as people have some passionate views on this book and I wanted to do it justice. This is the kind of book that could create some pretty heated debates in certain circles and that's a good thing as long as people are open to everyone's opinions on the discussion. Why not consider this book for your next book club in order to fire up the talks?

Overall I found the novel to weave an incredible story with vivid characters and although this book is simply not going to be for everyone, I loved it.

Read It

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

Friday, 11 May 2012

Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)

Title: Little Women
Author: Louisa May Alcott
First Published: 1868
This Edition Published: Unknown
Source: Book club borrowed
Genre: Classics
Goodreads | |
Photo missing: I had a unique copy borrowed from a friend which didn't even have a publishing date on it and sadly my phone is having problems and won't send the file so I decided any old photo wouldn't do this time.

Little women is the cinnamon sticky bun of books. Oh so sweet. And yet I think that's where it fell down for me. It was so full of morals and underlying lessons I felt like I was re-living an 80s sitcom. Lets see what I can remember from the book - we meet a group of sisters who are living in poverty with their mum while their father is off fighting. They play, they do their chores, they learn some life lessons, they met boy next door, they play, they do their chores, they learn some more life lessons.

Yep think that's about it. Okay so here's the truth of it, I also didn't read the whole story. I thought I would by the end of the book but no it turns out the copy I have (a cute little hardback copy I borrowed off a friend) is only part of the story. It's the originally published Little Women without the additional Good Wives story attached which most publications now include in one. I've seen the movie so I knew by the time I got to the end that I was missing a big chunk of the whole story and so knew there must be sequels. But I wasn't too fussed by this first part so I'm not too worried if I don't pick up the other half or the other ones after it (Little Men and Jo's Boys).

I do like this quote though which alludes to Beth's storyline in future books (CAUTION mini spoiler alert)

"There are many Beths in this world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully, that noone sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping, and the sweet, sunshiny presence vanishes, leaving silence and shadow behind."

Don't get me wrong I can do sweet, I really enjoyed Anne of Green Gables, but I just couldn't get into this book. Maybe reading it straight after The Woman in White which is a kick-ass book is half my problem. Maybe ordering your reading is more important than I've ever realised.

Read as part of these challenges: 100 Book ChallengeThe Classics Club

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

Friday, 4 May 2012

The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins)

Title: The Woman in White
Author: Wilkie Collins
First Published: 1859
This Edition Published: 2009
Publisher: Penguin Classics Hardcover
Pages: 720
Source: Own copy
Genre: Classics
Goodreads | |

Those of you who follow this blog will be aware that I have read The Woman in White as part of a readalong which means you can see my full thoughts about every detail of this book in the leadup and parts one, two, three and four of the readalong.

The issue with this of course being that each entry contains full spoilers of the book and anyone who hasn't read the book will skip over all said posts. So this one is for you guys. I'll keep it simple since I've already talked about this book but essentially The Woman in White is a Victorian mystery / drama that follows Walter Hartright as he takes a job as drawing master in the house of Mr. Fairlie, his niece Laura Fairlie and her half-sister Marian Halcombe. Along the way he encounters the woman in white whose mysterious story throws intrigue across their lives.

In short this book is full of page turning suspense, mystery, villainry and one damn great female character that is Marian Halcombe. She is certainly one of the best female characters I have ever encountered in a classic novel. The writing is brilliant, the story compelling and the characters fascinating.

If you haven't tried a classic before give this one a go. You won't be disappointed.

Read It

Read as part of these challenges: 100 Book ChallengeThe Classics Club | Mixing It Up Challenge

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The Woman in White Fini - Ta da!

And so it ends. This wonderful journey we've been on together marvelling at the genius that is The Woman in White. I didn't want to finish this all off until I had actually finished (i.e. read the introduction, notes on text and even the play edition of the novel written by Wilkie himself - oh yes my friends I must read it all!). And so I can happily say I have now come to the end.

* Warning spoilers! *

So we are left off with knowing Percival's secret which of course he tries to destroy - wasting himself in the process. There's a bit in the intro which got me thinking about this part actually. One of the most interesting things about The Woman in White is that it is all told by the characters narratives which means that you don't have an overarching narrator who tells you the truth. How do you know as a reader that the narrating characters haven't told little white lies for their own purposes. What if Hartright didn't really try everything he could to get Percival out... who knows what kind of little differences to the truth may be scattered throughout the novel. Intriguing....

What else did we find out - oh yes Anne and Laura were half-sisters; their dad being a bit of player. Not so interesting really. Fosco is in love with Marian (well who wouldn't be really, am I right?) and so decides not to act on the knowledge of their whereabouts. I absolutely adore the line:

"The best men are not consistent in good - why should the worst men be consistent in evil?"

So brilliant. Laura and Walter get married - yeah we all saw that coming but lets be honest no-one really cares. Pesca returns, oh yes best part of the section. Walter has the nerve to suggest we may have forgotten him - yeah right. And then he turns out even cooler by being some kinda spy / secret organisation mobster dude. Very cool.

Pesca sees Fosco and is all 'nup don't know him' and Fosco sees Pesca and craps himself which means Fosco is in this Italian secret brotherhood business too but obviously pissed someone off. Walter and Fosco face off which is one of the more impressive parts of Walter's abilities throughout this novel. But sadly we then have to read through Fosco's confession which has to summarise everything that has already happened and basically puts me to sleep. Nice one. Fosco had some cool phrases but seriously tell me something I didn't know.

And then Fosco goes into hiding but you can't run from the brotherhood assassins! So he's found bobbin' around in a river and Mr. Fairlie kindly heads to the heavens early too so that Walter, Laura and Marian can all live happily ever after at Limmeridge House. Meh that kind of annoyed me for being too convenient and I wanted to see Marian and Pesca get 'acquainted' but it is what it is.

And there we have it. We come to the end of my first readalong (which I loved) and a fantastic book which I highly recommend to everyone. Thanks to everyone who joined me along the way and we'll see you at the next one!

p.s. The play is very different to the actual chain of events in the novel which makes it kinda weird to read.