Caught up in the magic and under a spell

Hi everyone

Hope you are all having a good Thursday.  I have started reading Midnight’s Children and I struggled a lot with the first chapter.  I must have had to reread certain passages at least twice to have any grasp of what is going on.  I was fearing that this was going to be a really hard read and if I hadn’t been forcing myself to read it for my challenge, I would have given up immediately.  However, I am now halfway through chapter 2 and I can already feel the magic of this book.  I am now really excited to carrying on reading this and I can’t believe at first I didn’t understand it.  I will follow up with a review in 515 pages time.

Jennie

Book Review: Kane & Abel by Jeffrey Archer

Book 96

They had only one thing in common…

William Lowell Kane and Abel Rosnovski, one the son of a Boston millionaire, the other a penniless Polish immigrant – two men both born on the same day on opposite sides of the world, their paths destined to cross in the ruthless struggle to build an empire.

An unputdownable tale, spanning sixty years, of two powerful men kinked by an all consuming hatred, brought together by fate to save… and finally destroy… each other.

Not only does this book have many pages (550) but there is so much storyline crammed onto every page that you feel you are reading several books, not just one.  At no point does the storyline let up; it never drags or loses the pace for a moment.  I would say a lot of the story is descriptive rather than dialogue, but this suits the style of the book as you are taken through various decades and different parts of the world.  The book follows the two main characters from birth through their lives, dedicating alternative chapters to each character.  Some chapters are quite long, so you forget what has been happening with the other character when you return to him, but other chapters are so compelling that you don’t want to leave that character’s story line for one chapter.

What I liked about this book:  I really enjoyed this book from start to end but I think my favourite part is Abel’s early life.  He was born in a Poland controlled by Russia and then during the First World War he was held captive, suffering at the hands of the German army, then the Russian army after the war.  It is by far the most interesting part of this compelling story, even though in parts it is the most harrowing.  It gave me an insight into life in an occupied country, it was not something I had really come across in such depth before when reading on the subject of Europe during the First World War.  I also liked how you really felt time passing through the book.  As the book spans 6 decades there is a risk that you will not be able to comprehend this through the characters and the events in the book, but I did feel that is was clearly evident that both the main characters changed as they aged and the events they lived through changed them.

What I didn’t like about this book:  At times I felt the book sometimes focused too much on business and how the two characters made their respective empires.  It was a big part of the storyline though so it was important it was there in the book, but it slightly detracted at times from the story in my opinion.

This books main success is that even though the two characters come from completely different backgrounds, they are essentially the same at heart and at no point in the book do you feel either of the characters have become a better person than the other.  There are times when Kane and Abel each act in an underhand or despicable way, but they also redeem themselves continuously so that you never feel that either one is to blame for the feud between them, more that it was all just a matter of circumstance.  I have never read a Jeffrey Archer novel before and perhaps never would have as I always viewed his novels as being more of a man’s book rather than an all-round novel.  However after reading Kane and Abel I would not hesitate to read another Jeffrey Archer if it was recommended to me.  The story was so compelling I struggled to put it down and it touched on subjects I have not read before in a book. A thoroughly good read.

4 Out of 5 stars

Book Review: The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

Book 99

The princess diaries

‘You’re not Mia Thermopolis any more, honey,’ Dad said. ‘You’re Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo, Princess of Genovia.’ A PRINCESS?? ME??? Yeah. Right. One minute Mia’s a totally normal Manhattan 14-year-old. Next minute she’s heir to the throne of Genovia, being trailed by a trigger-happy bodyguard, taking princess lessons with her bonkers old grandmere, and having a makeover with someone called Paolo. Well, her dad can lecture her till he’s royal-blue in the face, but no way is Mia going to turn herself into a style-queen. And they think she’s moving to Genovia? Er, hello?

I never knew that The Princess Diaries had been adapted from a book until I first looked at this list.  It is written as a diary, with Mia in the first person, which might sound slightly strange but works perfectly.  There are snippets of dialogue throughout her journal pages so that it doesn’t feel like a monologue and the style of the writing conveys the age and the character of Mia yet it does not feel childish or too immature for an adult reader.

What I liked about this book:  There was not much I didn’t like really. I loved all the characters, in particular Mia and Her grandmother, Grandmere.  Mia’s world is quite small to begin with but as her world begins to unravel more characters are introduced to the reader, adding layers to the story. The storyline unfolds at a good pace; the book never feels tedious and the mixture of dialogue, Mia’s descriptions and her opinions in each journal entry keeps the reader going.

What I didn’t like about the book:  The whole story is very clichéd.  The character of Mia especially, who is an environmentalist and a vegetarian who wants to work for Greenpeace but instead is destined to rule a small principality.  But I still enjoyed this book despite this as there is a lot of humour and clever presenting of how the characters interact with each other so that you can see past the clichés.

I am so glad a read this book, its light-hearted and fun, and even though I am not 14 I still really enjoyed it.  My only regret is that I have another 97 books on my list to go before I can read the next one in the series.

Two weeks in

Hi everyone

I am now 2 weeks into my challenge of reading 100 books this year.  I’m seriously behind due to the amount of time it took to read Love in the Time of Cholera, but I have made up for it today with Girls in Love.  The next book will be The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot, hopefully another easy read, then if Midnight’s Children (book 100) has still not appeared at the library I will be reading Kane and Abel (highly recommended by my Mum).  Feel free to comment on my reviews, especially if you have read the books as well, I’d love to hear other people’s opinions.

Update you all in a few days with my progress.

Jennie

Book Review: Girls in Love by Jacqueline Wilson

Book 98

Girls in love

Ellie, Magda and Nadine are determined to explore the, as yet uncharted, country of the boyfriend. When best friend Nadine gets a boyfriend, Ellie finds herself saying that she’s got one too. Trouble is, he’s the too young, too nerdy and too ugly boy who fell in love with her during her boring holiday in Wales. But when Nadine’s dishy boyfriend starts causing trouble we see just how important girlfriends are and just how lucky Ellie is to have found a boy who is really her friend.

I haven’t read a Jacqueline Wilson book since I was in primary school and I read The Story of Tracy Beaker (book 31 on the list).  This book was quite short, hence why I have read it in about 2 and a half hours.  It was easy to read and made me very nostalgic for when I was 13 and desperately wanted to be 16 so that I could get a proper boyfriend.  Jacqueline Wilson has definitely captured the essence of a teenage girl’s life and it was an enjoyable read, even at my age.

What I liked about this book: The main character, Ellie, is completely charming and probably represents what most women felt like when they were 13.  Her friends and her family are portrayed in a realistic light, even when shown through Ellie’s eyes.  The embarrassing situations aren’t over the top and the story flows nicely, touching on some serious subjects along the way.

What I didn’t like about this book: It’s too short, I felt it could have easily gone on for longer.  It’s the first book in a series, so the story does continue, and I know the book isn’t aimed at my age group, but even when I was 10 I think I would have felt short-changed with the amount of story I had to read.

Overall I would definitely recommend this to a niece to read, I couldn’t put it down myself.  Like all Jacqueline Wilson books it will draw the reader in and captivate them right to the end of the book.

4 Out of 5 stars

Book Review: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Book 97

Love in the time of cholera

‘It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.’

Fifty-one years, nine months and four days have passed since Fermina Daza rebuffed hopeless romantic Florentino Arizo’s impassioned advances and married Dr. Juvenal Urbino instead. During that half century, Florentino has fallen into the arms of many delighted women, but has loved none but Fermina. Having sworn his eternal love to her, he lives for the day when he can court her again.

When Fermina’s husband is killed trying to retrieve his pet parrot from a mango tree, Florentino seizes his chance to declare his enduring love. But can young love find new life in the twilight of their lives?

Love in the Time of Cholera is a book about love in its many forms and although it contains many love stories, is not in my opinion a love story on the whole.  The book starts like many do, at the beginning of the end, and then goes back and follows the lives of the two main characters (Fermina Daza and Florentino Arizo) from when they first met.  Garcia’s writing style leaves the reader with a comprehensive view of the world that he writes about, not only describing what you cannot see, but also what you cannot hear or smell.  I found sometimes the descriptions went on too long and I would lose track of the storyline and have to reread a passage.  But on the whole I felt I really could imagine the world the characters inhabited just as Garcia saw it and could feel the changes in their world as time moved from the 19th to the 20th century.

What I liked about this book: I enjoyed the character of Fermina, she was almost a modern woman in the way she thought and how she acted, even though she was born in the 1800’s.  Her character was in keeping with the period of the book, she knew her place as a woman, but her fiery personality gave her some backbone and she was not afraid to stand up for herself when it mattered.  She wanted love and romance, but she was intelligent enough to know what was practical in her situation and that a fortuitous marriage was more important than any kind of love.  I feel if the book had allowed her to look back on her life, she would not have regretted any of her decisions.

What I didn’t like about this book: Mainly the character of Florentino, but also some lack of relationship building between his and his many conquests.  Florentino starts out as a love struck teenager trying to woo a school girl several years younger than him.  At this stage in his life, I pitied Florentino; his whole life revolves around his first crush on a girl he never really got to know.  After Fermina rejects him, Florentino’s moral code becomes quite warped and as he gets older he cares less about the effect of the relationships he has with other women to replace Fermina.  He believes that as long as he never truly loves all the women he sleeps with then he is not harming his chances of winning Fermina back.  At first the women he sleeps with are women who need his attentions maybe as much as he needs theirs, but as time goes on he treats these women with less and less respect and I was no longer filled with pity for Florentino, but disgust.  When I neared the end of the story (which is also the beginning) and both Fermina and Florentino are in their seventies, I felt Florentino had not deserved Fermina more in his life than at that moment.

This book has so many good qualities and maybe if I had the time to read it again I might understand the meaning of it a bit more, but on my first read I couldn’t appreciate how the relationship between Florentino and Fermina turned out as I felt Florentino became a despicable man who did not deserve Fermina.  I found the book hard to get back into every time I picked it up (10 days to read a book for me is unheard of) and I would not rush out to read any of Garcia’s other works.

Who said it was 368 pages?!

I don’t know where I got my information from, certainly not the book itself. Last night I discovered I still had another 98 pages to go as Love in the Time of Cholera finishes on page 424. I worry that my slow progress with this book might be a sign of things to come with my challenge but I will try not to fall at the first hurdle. I’m taking this book back to the library Saturday and I will not be defeated. You will hear how this story (saga more like) ends soon!

Jennie

Still going!

Hi everyone

Just a quick update, I’m still reading Love in the Time of Cholera and I’m officially halfway through.  It’s taking me a lot longer than I would have expected to read it, partly because there are no chapters in the book and partly because the language is quite antiquated so I’m having to concentrate a lot more (i.e. read slower!) to keep up with the story line.  Will post again as soon as I have finished the book to let you know my thoughts.

Jennie

And so it begins…

Hello!

I’m a little late in starting my book challenge, partly due to library opening hours and partly due to my organisation, so I have some catching up to do already. The first book I will be reading on my challenge is… book 97, Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. Gabriel García Márquez is Colombian, so the book was originally published in Spanish, but I will be reading the translated version. I know nothing else about the book, except that there is apparently a film adaptation (I won’t name names here, but someone keeps telling me to watch the film/tv adaptations for each book as well!). It’s 368 pages, so hopefully I will have it read by the weekend.

I’ll update you all with my review later in the week!