A Trip to My Local Library | Book Haul

Of recent, I've fostered a love-hate relationship with my local library. The love part? The adult section and the sci-fi/fantasy section. The hate part? The teenage section (it used to be brilliant but now has NO new releases). But, nevertheless, I decided to take a trip there (I say trip like it was a grand expedition, but, in reality, I live on the same street as my local library).
Library Haul: The Six Books I Picked Up 
THE ROSIE PROJECT by Graeme Simsion
I'm hesitant about this one… I'm worried it will be too predictable and clichéd but, given all the raving reviews, I'm going to give it a chance. Who knows, maybe I'll LOVE it?

EATING ANIMALS by Jonathan Safran Foer
Okay, so I finished this one last night (I even surprised myself by reading a non-fiction book in one go) and it was BRILLIANT. As a vegetarian, I'm naturally very interested in vegetarianism and, as a Jonathan Safran Foer fan, I'm naturally very interested in any of his books. So, it's safe to say this book was a winner for me.

BIRDS WITHOUT WINGS by Louis de Bernieres
I absolutely LOVED Captain Corelli's Mandolin so when I saw another Louis de Bernieres novel on the 'recommended' shelf, I grabbed it pretty quickly.

I'm not usually a non-fiction fan, so I surprised myself again by picking out another one. I hadn't heard of this before but it's all about arsenic poisoning so, you know, probably my cup of tea. 

This books sounds COMPLETELY like a book I'll love. Plus Emma Watson starring in the film??? Yep, definitely a book I need to read.

THE SANDMAN: PRELUDES & NOCTURNES [volume 1] by Neil Gaiman
I have wanted to read this for SO LONG. You know this on-going quest I have to find a graphic novel that I'll enjoy? Well, I think I may have found it.
Have you read any of these or do you want to? Please tell me what you thought! Also, what do you think of your local library? Is your teen section also AWFUL?

My Top Ten Book Endings

Endings of books are crucial. Once you turn the last page, read the last sentence, close the covers: it's over. And, regardless of whether the ending is heartwarming or heartbreaking, it has to be memorable. These are ten I won't be forgetting anytime soon:

[No spoilers are mentioned below]
BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
Tragic, thought-provoking and mind-numbingly brilliant, the ending of Brave New World is so fitting. A truly fantastic ending.

It has been a while since I read Atonement, but I still remember the ending having a profound effect on me. After the entire novel being focussed on Briony's atonement, the ending is so apt.

TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
This ending is complete perfection – I adored it! Lily Briscoe's satisfaction with herself makes it a satisfying ending for me too.

CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
An enigmatic ending for a simply perplexing novel. I just want to know what happens next!

THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak
Beautiful, simply beautiful. 

As I wrote in my review, "it's a novel reminiscent of the tinkering bell at a bookshop door: full of hope and promise" – and the ending echoes this more than anything. Heartwarming. 

[Words cannot explain the meaning "All was well" holds]

NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro
The ending of Never Let Me Go is… indescribable, pretty much. The final passage is one of my favourites from literature, regardless of how heartrendingly painful it is to read. And, no matter how impossible you know it is, every time you reread the passage you always hope for the same implausible event to happen.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has an ending I simply can't do justice to. The best ending. If anyone has read the book, you'll understand what I mean.

The last sentence killed me. I wanted to cry and throw the book at the wall and scream… but oh it was the perfect ending for the perfect dystopian tale.
Did you enjoy any of these endings? Do you have any favourite endings?

DISCUSSION: Killing Off Characters & Why It's Not ALWAYS a Bad Thing

[Each named character who died in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has their death marked]
Raise your hand if you've ever cried over a fictional character's death. Hmm, yep, I thought so. I have too. It's painful isn't it? But, here's a fact: I don't really mind characters dying. Or, at least, I understand why they have to. That's not to say that it's not heartbreaking (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows hurt me more than the characters, and that's saying something) but it's necessary.
Why Killing Off Characters CAN Be Good

If an author is prone to killing off an excessive number of characters (e.g. GEORGE R.R. MARTIN) then at least there's an unpredictability to who dies, regardless of whether they're a major or minor character. Whilst with series like Harry Potter you know Harry, Ron or Hermione won't die, with ASoIaF anyone could die with a flick of the page. George R.R. Martin mentioned in an interview that he wants the "suspense to be real"…

"I want my readers, and I want viewers, to be afraid when my characters are in danger. I want them to be afraid to turn the next page because the next character may not survive it."

Often characters are killed off to make points. E.g. In Harry Potter, each death symbolises something different. Killing off a character (for the majority of authors) is not gratuitous, it's to make a statement about something or other.

Sometimes killing off a character can change EVERYTHING. Perhaps another character completely reevaluates what they're doing or reevaluates who they trust… everything can depend on the death of one individual.

E.g. If you've read Daughter of Smoke and Bone: Remember the ending? "They're dead, Karou. It's too late. They're all dead." That certainly changed things around… exciting right?

Okay this is the part where I begin to sound like a psychopath. BUT, hear me out. I mean, in an epic, action-filled series, killing off characters IS realistic and HAS to happen. Yes it's heartbreaking when a ton of characters on the 'good' side die, but one side can't win a battle without making huge sacrifices: not all the 'good' people can live on… it's unrealistic. And, to quote Moriarty (although, in the least heartless way possible, because I promise you I'm not evil):

So, where do you stand on authors killing off characters? Especially authors killing off A LOT of characters? Do you agree with me that it's (sometimes) good?

July Mini Reviews

The Girl With All the Gifts
Zombie novels are not dead, yet this is the preconception that, sometime across the past few years, I managed to come to. By the age of 12, I'd read all the zombie novels out there – each almost identical in its plot, the characters practically interchangeable. My interest in zombies was over: been there, done that. So, naturally, I was hesitant to begin The Girl With All the Gifts; yet, once again, I was proven wrong: M.R. Carey's latest release is a killer.

Author: M.R. Carey | Publisher: Orbit | Pages: 460 | Source: Bought | Publication date: 06.06.14 |

Not every gift is a blessing.

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite. But they don't laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.

MY THOUGHTS: The Girl With All the Gifts is the opposite of Pandora's box; opening the covers of this novel does not unleash all evil, but every aspect of a good book. The characters (for instance, Melanie, the Pandora, if you will) were all distinctly written and riddled with complexity, the pacing was spot-on and this twist on your average zombie novel was pulled off with remarkable flare. M. R. Carey touches upon so many different themes, notably morality and education, within her exploration of a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested Britain – it's certainly a book that leaves you with something to mull over.

The book, although perhaps too dense at parts, builds up to a brilliant ending – it's all you could ask for. And, whether The Girl With All the Gifts leaves you feeling hopeful or at loss, you'll certainly be dying to read more.

My favourite quotation: "Growing up and growing old. Playing. Exploring. Like Pooh and Piglet. And then like the Famous Five. And then like Heidi and Anne of Green Gables. And then like Pandora, opening the great big box of the world and not being afraid, not even caring whether what's inside is good or bad. Because it's both. Everything is both."

Reasons She Goes to the Woods is a dark exploration into the mind of a sadistic young girl, entwined with Angela Carter-esque prose. In short: I loved it! Perhaps the ending was too clichéd for my liking (surely this is an all-too-common trend by a now?) but the experimental style made Deborah Kay Davies' latest release an interesting one.

Author: Deborah Kay Davies | Publisher: Oneworld | Pages: 256 | Source: Sent for review | Publication date: 06.02.14 |

Pearl can be very, very good. More often she is very, very bad. But she’s just a child, a mystery to all who know her. A little girl who has her own secret reasons for escaping to the nearby woods. What might those reasons be? And how can she feel so at home in the dark, sinister, sensual woods, a wonder of secrets and mystery?

Told in vignettes across Pearl’s childhood years, Reasons She Goes To The Woods is a nervy but lyrical novel about a normal girl growing up, doing the normal things little girls do.

MY THOUGHTS: Perhaps the most fascinating element of Reasons She Goes to the Woods is the portrayal of Pearl: a young girl, twisted in her morals, written with unflinching brutality. Across the pages, Pearl manifests into an extraordinary creation – one to both be marvelled at, but also terrified by. However, Pearl couldn't be brought to life in this way without Deborah Kay Davies' keen eye for magnificent prose; Davies is a storyteller who knows exactly where each word belongs, paying attention to each dash and dot: her writing is a pleasure to read.

Reasons She Goes to the Woods does not go without fault though. Perhaps I'm alone with this thought, but the ending of Davies' novel didn't have the same subtle originality as the rest of the book; in fact, to me, the revelation at the end seemed something of a cliché. This said, do not let that factor put you off reading Davies' latest release. Whilst Reasons She Goes to the Woods is a book to be devoured in one sitting, the aftertaste lingers, ensuring you do not forget this tale of one very, very bad young girl.

My favourite quotation: "As the lovely water laps her ears and throat, moves inside her shorts, slips across her fragile ribs, Pearl grins, thinking she hears laughter, and raises her arms to the just-glimpsed sky. These are some of the reasons she comes to the woods."

The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains
The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains was not quite the tale I expected, but I still found myself gripped by both Neil Gaiman's enticing plot and Eddie Campbell's intriguing illustrations. For any Neil Gaiman fans out there who have yet to read this, you won't be disappointed. That said, is this my favourite Gaiman tale? Definitely not.

Author: Neil Gaiman, Eddie Campbell | Publisher: Headline | Pages: 74 | Source: Sent for review | Publication date: 17.06.14 |

You ask me if I can forgive myself?
I can forgive myself…

And so begins The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains, a haunting story of family, the otherworld, and a search for hidden treasure. This gorgeous full-color illustrated book version was born of a unique collaboration between New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman and renowned artist Eddie Campbell, who brought to vivid life the characters and landscape of Gaiman's award-winning story. In this volume, the talents and vision of two great creative geniuses come together in a glorious explosion of color and shadow, memory and regret, vengeance and, ultimately, love.

… for many things. For where I left him.
For what I did.

MY THOUGHTS: For me, the illustrations felt incomplete at times – or perhaps this is just the illustrator's style. That said, for the majority of the book I did enjoy how the illustrations enhanced the tale, especially with the colours bringing out different moods and the detailed depictions of landscapes helping to set the tone.

The tale itself was a beautiful one, different to what I expected, but beautiful nonetheless. Neil Gaiman has the ability to make any tale endearing, his writing style so fitting and comfortable. This book isn't one I'll be rereading anytime in the future, but I'm sure I'll remember odd quotations and stray images. All in all, I would recommend The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains, despite Campbell's illustrations not necessarily being 'my thing'.

My favourite quotation: "You are wrong. The truth is a cave in the black mountains. There is one way there, and one way only, and that way is treacherous and hard. And if you choose the wrong path you will die alone, in the mountainside."

Thank you to Oneworld Publications for my review copy of Reasons She Goes to the Woods and thank you to Headline/Bookbridgr for my review copy of The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains. 

Bookish Summer Bingo

Summer is the time I read ALL the books. I have a whole month with no work to do, so I dedicate most the time to catching up with all my reading – last summer I read something ridiculous like 35 books! So, inspired by Oh, the Books!, I decided to do a book bingo card for the summer! And because, like I said, I just read EVERYTHING in summer, the squares aren't summer-specific but instead I've tried to squish in a variety of different briefs.

Larger version can be seen HERE.

B/1 The second book in a series.
I/1 A non-fiction book
N/1 A prequel
G/1 A book with magic
O/1 Recommended by a friend

B/2 A fairy tale retelling
I/2 A book about books
N/2 A graphic novel
G/2 A prize winner
O/2 Recommended by a blogger

B/3 An author I've never read
I/3 5+ colours on the cover
G/3 A beautiful spine
O/3 Recommended by family

B/4 A classic
I/4 An author I love
N/4 A stunning cover
G/4 Final book in a series
O/4 Recommended by Goodreads

B/5 Set in another country
I/5 Reread a favourite
N/5 Genre I don't often read
G/5 A hyped book
O/5 Recommended by Twitter

Obviously the aim is to fill out an entire column/row, but I'm actually aiming to fill
out *almost* the entire thing – I'll post an update post towards the end of summer!
What books do you read during summer? Which books would you read for each square? Pick a random square and tell me a book from your summer TBR you'd pick!