Monday, 15 April 2013

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday

When he is asked to become involved in a project to create a salmon river in the highlands of the Yemen, fisheries scientist Dr Alfred Jones rejects the idea as absurd. But the proposal catches the eye of several senior British politicians.
Fred then finds himself forced to work with the eccentric Sheikh Muhammad and his beautiful assistant Harriet. And there's the small matter of figuring out how to fly ten thousand salmon to a desert country - and persuade them to swim there ...

First Sentence:
15 May

Dear Dr Jones
We have been referred to you by Peter Sullivan at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (Directorate for Middle East and North Africa).

I didn't know this had been a book before watching the movie. On opening the book I found scenes that seemed to have been taken out of the novel and written in to the book. I like when a movie is true to the book so this made me so happy and excited to read on.
The story is told through letters, interviews and other documentation. For some this might put people off but for me it was a pleasant reminder of 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society' which I also enjoyed.
The character Fred starts off quite wooden and matter of fact but as the novel progresses and he spends more time with the Sheikh he becomes more eloquent on belief and more open. I found some of his diary entries so thought provoking, they were a pleasure to read.
One such quote:
'That is why some of our people hate the West so much. They wonder what the West has to offer that is so compelling that it must be imposed upon us, replacing our religion of God with the religion of money, replacing our piety and our poverty with consumer goods that we do not need, forcing money upon us that we cannot spend or if we do, cannot repay, loosening the ties that hold together families and tribes, corroding our faith, corroding our morality.'
As much as I loved the journey, I was disappointed with the ending. It doesn't end the same way as the movie. I think I would still have been disappointed with the ending had I not seen the movie first but the fact that I had and was expecting a different ending made the disappointment twice as bad.
Three stars, because I liked the journey but disliked the end.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

A forbidden romance.
A deadly plague.
Earth's fate hinges on one girl...

Cinder, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing, is also a cyborg. She's reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister's sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai's she finds herself at the centre of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen - and a dangerous temptation.

Cinder is caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal. Now she must uncover secrets about her mysterious past in order to protect Earth's future.

This is not the fairy tale you remember.
But it's one you won't forget.

First Sentence:
The screw through Cinder's ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle.

I really enjoyed this book. I'd heard a lot about it online and worried that it wouldn't live up to the recommendations. Yes it's a fairy tale retelling which pretty much means I'm going to love it. I felt I was stretching myself in terms of books I'm reading because of the unusual cyborg element. The retelling means that the storyline is predictable and at times I had a love hate relationship with this aspect, you know how it's going to end, however I found that it had twists and turns I didn't expect. I wanted to know what happened to the characters. I wanted things to work out for them. I cannot wait to read the rest of The Lunar Chronicles quartet!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

That morning, my brother's life was worth a pocket watch...
One night fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother and young brother are hauled from their home by Soviet guards, thrown into cattle cars and sent away. They are being deported to Siberia.
An unimaginable and harrowing journey has begun. Lina doesn't know if she'll ever see her father or her friends again. But she refuses to give up hope.
Lina hopes for her family.
For her country.
For her future.
For love - first love, with the boy she barely knows but knows she does not want to lose...
Will hope keep Lina alive?

First Sentence:
'They took me in my nightgown.'

This book is amazing. I really enjoyed reading it. Lina's family are Lithuanian. The author's father was the son of a Lithuanian military officer. Sepetys researched for this novel by interviewing surviving deportees, she compiles the first hand accounts together and intertwines their experiences into the story of Lina, her family and those they meet along the way. So although the story is fictional, it is based upon first hand accounts and memories. 
Please watch the video found here. She decided to write this book when she went to Lithuania, visiting her cousins and as she says, naively asked "do you have any photos of my grandparents or my father?" The family went quiet and said "No Ruta, we had to burn them all, we couldn't let anyone know that we were related to your grandfather." When I watched the interview with Ruta is I think when the enormity of this 'story' hit home to me. I love the photographs I have of my ancestors, it is heartbreaking to me to imagine having to burn them.

I really liked Lina. I also loved her mother who was such an example of reaching out and loving others in the most trying of circumstances. There are moments when Lina watches her mother's actions and expresses her disbelief at her mother's willingness and persistence in helping others. I must admit that like Lina, a part of me was asking 'really? you're going to help that person after the way they treated you?' she made me want to be better. I wanted their family to be safe, to escape the struggles of their life. I liked how there were flashbacks to her life before they were hauled from their home. In terms of bad language, I don't remember any. Some of the experiences were unpleasant - it's a book about deportees bullied by the NKVD, I felt the writing portrayed the awful situation they found themselves in without going too far. The first chapter is entitled 'Thieves and Prostitutes' but don't be out off by that. It makes sense at the end of the chapter.
I really like this book. I'm a bit ignorant when it comes to the lives of those within the Baltic states during the second world war so it was good to read a book based on true life. This is the kind of book I would love to discuss in a book club so if anyone wants to read it and discuss it at a later point, let me know in the comments.
I borrowed this from the library but I think I'm going to have to get my own copy!
Five stars from me!

Monday, 4 March 2013

Remembrance by Theresa Breslin

Summer 1915, and the sound of the guns at the Western Front can be heard across the Channel in England.
Throughout Britain, local regiments are recruiting for Kitchener's Army. And in the village of Stratharden, the Great War will alter irrevocably the course of five young lives...

First Sentence:
"It's just not quite respectable."

The poppies on the cover caught my eye at the library. I have had a soft spot for World War One literature ever since I studied it for a module at school. I absolutely loved this novel. It explores the lives of five young people who each take a different role with the outbreak of war. I love the focus on the lives of women alongside those of the men. I also loved the dilemma each of the young individuals faced, with the changes in society and the expected roles of women some mothers did not approve of the lives their daughters were leading. I felt this book gave enough description of the trauma of war without going too far. When studying at school some descriptions went so detailed with the grotesque injuries that I felt physically sick and had to stop reading. Remembrance is well written and I completely see why it won a Carnegie medal. I give five stars!
I loved how the book ended, with the war memorial and the names of those who died from Stratharden being read out followed by the poignant words of 'Aftermath' by Siegfried Sassoon:

"Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads - those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?...
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you'll never forget."

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

The narrator of Atwood's riveting novel calls himself Snowman. When the story opens, he's sleeping in a tree, wearing an old bed sheet, mourning the loss of his beloved Oryx and his best friend Crake, and slowly starving to death. He searches for supplies in a wasteland where insects proliferate and pigoons and wolvogs ravage the Pleeblands where ordinary people once lived, and in the Compounds that sheltered the extraordinary. As he tries to piece together what has taken ace, the narrative shifts to decades earlier. How did everything fall apart so quickly? Why is he left with nothing but his haunting memories? Alone except for the green-eyed Children of Crake, who think of him as a kind of monster, he explores the answers to these questions in the double journey he takes - into his own past, and back to Crake's high-tech bubble dome, where the Paradise Project unfolded and the world came to grief.

First sentence:
Snowman wakes before dawn.

I studied one of Atwood's books at school. The one chapter I really disliked was the one we focused our study on. I learned to hate the book.
I tried Oryx and Crake, I don't consider myself to be a prude but for me, there were too many swear words within the first chapter. I couldn't bring myself to continue reading.
This book will be returned to the library unfinished and I've kind of been put off Atwood's books for life.
I didn't like this book

Fire by Kristin Cashore

Her beauty is a weapon - and Fire is going to use it.
Fire's exceptional beauty gives her influence and power. People who are susceptible to it will do anything for her attention, and for her affection.
But beauty is only skin deep, and beneath it Fire has a human appreciation of right and wrong. Aware of her ability to influence others, and afraid of it, she lives in a corner of the world away from people - not only to protect herself from their attention, their distrust, and even their hatred.
Yet Fire is not the only danger to the Dells. If she wants to protect her home, if she wants a chance to undo the wrongs of the past, she must face her fears, her abilities, and a royal court full of powerful people with reason to distrust her.

First sentence - prologue:
Larch often thought that if it had not been for his newborn sob, he never would have survived his wife Mikra's death.

The Prequel to Graceling, I read this first. Saw it on the shelf in my local library. (I didn't know Graceling existed but intend to read that soon). According to other reviews it's more of a companion novel than a story directly linked to Graceling.
Initially the cover grabbed me and I eagerly anticipated this fantasy world.
I enjoyed this. It kept me reading and wanting to know how it finished.
I really liked Fire's character and her abilities. I liked that Fire the protagonist is considered a monster and dangerous by others. I also liked that the main character had red hair! I felt the story was well told. I struggled to read because of my illness so sometimes it was difficult to keep track of characters and things but that was more to do with my head than the author's ability as a writer.
I give 3 stars.

O.4 by Mike Lancaster

'My name is Kyle Straker and I don't exist anymore.'
So begins the story of Kyle Straker, recorded on old audio tapes.
You might think these tapes are a hoax. But perhaps they contain the history of a past world...
If what the tapes say are true, it means that everything we think we know is a lie.
And if everything is a lie does that mean that we are, too?

First Sentence:
'... Is this thing on?'

I don't often read the sci-fi genre but I really enjoyed this book. I finished and recommended it to my younger brother. I liked the idea of it being narrated onto cassette tapes.
I liked the characters, I felt they were developed well. It was written well and built up suspense, I found myself trying to guess the ending. It's classed as a young adult book and I think it fits into that category.
I think I give this book four stars. I felt it was unique and well written. It also has me branching out of my comfort zone a little.