Saturday, August 28, 2010


Book: The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

    I focused very hard on the dead geranium in his line of vision. I thought if I could make it bloom he would have his answer. In my heaven it bloomed. In my heaven geranium petals swirled in eddies up to my waist. On Earth nothing happened.
    But through the snow I noticed this: my father was looking toward the green house in a new way. He had begun to wonder.

Note: The book that spawned the movie. I watched the latter first, and although I really wanted to like it, I found it disappointing (oh Peter Jackson). Even without reading the novel I knew they were spending far too much time on Susie's heaven and her perspective, and not on the rest of the plot or characters, which didn't make much sense considering the time and place Susie lived in. Surely there was more to see, more people involved rather than just Susie and her parents. For example her sister, who has a very strong part to play in the story, but is almost barely featured in the movie except as an accessory to her father's grief. 

I found the book more satisfying and ended up enjoying it quite a bit with it's variety of characters. I especially enjoyed seeing the ways different characters dealt with their grief and the horror of the crime. It was a more rounded story with Susie overseeing all, and in the book you got better insight into what the dead do when they're gone, who they visit, what they long for and subsequently receive in heaven. Or what they don't. 

There were definitely some bits I didn't like, but overall I thought it was a very good read.  

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Book: Remarkable Creatures - Tracy Chevalier

The summer of James Foot had been the height of Margaret's potential. The following season she was treated as a fine gown that has dated in storage, the neckline now too high or low, the cloth a touch faded, the cut no longer so flattering. We were surprised that this could happen as easily in Lyme as London, yet there was little we could do to change it. Margaret kept her friends and made new ones from the seasonal visitors. But she no longer returned at night with a sparkle and a dance around the kitchen. In time the turbans she persisted in wearing seemed less daring and more a Philpot peculiarity. She did not manage to escape into marriage like Frances, but sank into spinsterhood beside Louise and me. 
There are worse fates.
(taken from p.55 as nothing on p.56)

Note: Tracy Chevalier never fails to inspire and appeal. I've read three other of her books (The Lady and the Unicorn, The Virgin Blue, and Girl with the Pearl Earring) and have thoroughly enjoyed all of them. She is a straight-forward storyteller, but investing enough emotion and truth that you can't help but tie yourself to every life and every character. Remarkable Creatures is no different. Telling the story of two amazing women, Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, Chevalier breathes air into their remarkable lives, both as women and as major contributors to the study of geology. 

Now both this book and Persuasion make me desperately want to visit Lyme Regis! 

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Book: A Thousand Splendid Suns

For most of the days, Mariam stayed in bed, feeling adrift and forlorn. Sometimes she went downstairs to the kitchen, ran her hands over the sticky, grease-stained counter, the vinyl, flowered curtains that smelled like burned meals. She looked through the ill-fitting drawers, at the mismatched spoons and knives, the colander and chipped, wooden spatulas, these would-be instruments of her new daily life, all of it reminding her of the havoc that had struck her life, making her feel uprooted, displaced, like an intruder on someone elses life.

Note: From the bestselling author of The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini delivers another captivating story in A Thousand Splendid Suns. Hosseini again uses the lives of highly personable characters to recount the war, culture and religion surrounding Kabul and Afghanistan  from the 1970s to the 2000s. I love how he tells complex histories, emotions and stories through simple means. That's the best way I can describe it really. Another powerful and gripping book by this author that deserves to be read.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Book: Emma - Jane Austen

'While you were in the smallest degree wavering, I said nothing about it, because I would not influence; but it would have been the loss of a friend to me. I could not have visited Mrs Robert Martin, of Abbey-Mill Farm. Now I am secure of you forever.'
      Harriet had not surmised her own danger, but the idea of it struck her forcibly.
      'You could not have visited me!' she cried, looking aghast. 'No, to be sure you could not; but I never thought of that before. That would have been too dreadful! - What an escape! - Dear Miss Woodhouse, I would not give up the pleasure and honour of being intimate with you for any thing in the world.'
      'Indeed, Harriet, it would have been a severe pang to lose you; but it must have been. You would have thrown yourself out of all good society. I must have given you up.'
      'Dear me! - How should I ever have borne it! It would have killed me never to come to Hartfield any more!'
      'Dear affectionate creature! - You banished to Abbey-Mill Farm! - You confined to the society of the illiterate and vulgar all your life! I wonder how the young man could have the assurance to ask it. He must have a pretty good opinion of himself.'

Note: I tried reading Emma a couple of years back when I first got my Austen collection but found that I just couldn't get past Emma's arrogance. However a few weeks ago I was determined to finish it (and my Austen collection in the process), and now am very glad I did. I ended up really enjoying it with its range of characters and the development of Emma's character by the end of the book (not to mention the happy ending and the proposal scene). I like that about Jane Austen romances though, that good characters have happy endings, while annoying or bad characters receive their just desserts. Emma is still quite annoying but it's impressive how far she's come by the proposal scene to be mature and listen to Mr Knightley, even though she fears the worse. There was a lot of dialogue in the book too, mostly idle chatter, but I guess in the case of some characters like Miss Bates it was necessary. However I can understand why my friend didn't enjoy studying it in college!

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Book: Little Bird - Camilla Way

Frank looked down at his pint, struggled for a few moments to keep his face straight and lasted exactly four seconds. Jimmy gazed back at his friend, taking in his shiny eyes, the wide grin, the way he suddenly seemed taller and surer and better looking. 'Oh dear,' said Jimmy, shaking his head sorrowfully. 'Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.'

Note: A fictional story about a young woman who was kidnapped at the age of two and raised by a mute in the forest. The author attempts to explore what it would be like to grow up without language, and then subsequently, to try and learn to speak and think in words in an unfamiliar world.

More intense than I anticipated, but a truly gripping read. The ideas surrounding language and development, as well as the psychology of identity and relationships, was absolutely fascinating in this book. One of those books you put down and still think about, and even discuss with others after the fact.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Book: Persuasion - Jane Austen

So passed the first three weeks. Michaelmas came; and now Anne's heart must be in Kellynch again. A beloved home made over to others; all the precious rooms and furniture, groves, and prospects, beginning to own other eyes and other limbs! She could not think of much else on the 29th September; and she had this sympathetic touch in the evening, from Mary, who, on having occasion to note down the day of the month, exclaimed, 'Dear me! is not this the day the Crofts were to come to Kellynch? I am glad I did not think of it before. How low it makes me!'

Note: My favourite Jane Austen, and one of my favourite books. The whole waiting for love and the maturity of Anne Elliot appeals to me. Although after reading it again, I've only just noticed the ending and it's a bit odd. Oh well, the rest is pure romantic bliss. I swear in every Austen novel at least 3 couples get married (I was just about to list them but for those who haven't read the books yet, that wouldn't be cool).

Monday, April 5, 2010


Book: Pride & Prejudice - Jane Austen

Mrs Hurst sang with her sister, and while they were thus employed Elizabeth could not help observing as she turned over some music books that lay on the instrument, how frequently Mr Darcy's eyes were fixed on her. She hardly knew how to suppose that she could be an object of admiration to so great a man; and yet that he should look at her because he disliked her, was still more strange. She could only imagine however at last, that she drew his notice because there was something about her more wrong and reprehensible, according to his ideas of right, than in any other person present. The supposition did not pain her. She liked him too little to care for his approbation.

Note: A classic that you end up reading multiple times. However it's not my favourite Austen (that would be Persuasion). I find it too dissatisfying on Lizzie's side because her admiration of Darcy is so incredibly gradual, and then there's some of the things she says, that once she actually declares that she loves him, I, for some reason, feel a smidgen of disbelief. That and even the part of me that really wants to be swept away, etc. feels that it's too short a time for her love for Darcy to really sink in. Darcy however is fantastic. One of Austen's best constructed characters I think, but I probably only think so because I didn't have him as the narrator.

Friday, April 2, 2010


Book: David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

Long after it was dark I sat there, wondering whether anybody else would come. When this appeared improbable for that night, I undressed, and went to bed; and, there, I began to wonder fearfully what would become of me. Whether it was a criminal act that I had committed? Whether I should be taken into custody, and sent to prison? Whether I was at all in danger of being hanged?

Note: I had to read this for Victorian Literature, but it has become one of my favourite books! An incredibly satisfying read, but at 855 pages, it was never meant to be read quickly (as someone, I unfortunately forget who, said very judiciously). My lecturer described it as the greatest book of English Literature. How's that for a review? But I'm inclined to agree. Go read it - slowly - because it's awesome.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Book: Trust Me, I'm a (Junior) Doctor - Max Pemberton

'I want to be the first person there. Get the best for him,' she explained.
The truth is, it's ridiculous - here she is, a good three hours before any shop is open, getting ready to buy a Christmas present three months early for her eight-year-old son, whom she hasn't seen for six years. I have this gnawing image of him opening his present on Christmas Day, from a mother he has no memory of, a moment so insignificant for him, but of such importance to her. This is all she has to hold on to. I look at all the people milling about, starting their day, oblivious. She's just a middle-aged woman standing in the street, anxious about what present she is going to get for her son for Christmas. For me this sums up the tragedy of how mental illness ravages people's lives, destroying them piece by piece. And yet Mrs Walden is still, desperately, holding on to the idea of a relationship with her son. She puts the photo back in her bag, waves goodbye and boards the bus.

Tuesday 30 September

We have now completed two months as doctors. It's unbelievable. To celebrate I visit Trudy, on the pretext of giving her some letters for Mr Butterworth to sign. She makes me tea, hands me some cake, then sits filing her nails and ignoring the telephone while we chat.

Note: Based on the award-winning daily telegraph column, this book was borrowed by me on the pretext of learning more about what it was like to be a doctor. It seems very glamourous on Scrubs or Grey's Anatomy doesn't it? As author Max Pemberton shows the reader, it most definitely is not. At some point you will need to stick your finger up someones bum in order to diagnose them. Enough said.
Great read, couldn't put it down, and highly recommended for anyone thinking of taking on the medical profession.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Book: The Marriage Bureau for Rich People - Farahad Zama

The mangalsootram, a chain of yellow thread with two gold coins, is, along with the vermilion dot on her forehead, the symbol of a Hindu woman’s married status. It is tied around the bride’s neck by her husband as part of the wedding ceremony and is only removed on her death or when she becomes a widow. Mrs. Ali knew that for a Hindu woman to give up her mangalsootram is a sign of desperation only considered after a couple has exhausted all other possibilities.

Note: A nice, relatively easy read. A fair bit of drama and romance goes on (it is a marraige bureau for rich people after all), but unfortunately it didn’t hit the right note with me in that regard. I didn’t have any emotional response except at a particularly pride and prejudice-esque moment. Very interesting detail about Indian tradition and culture though. Features like-able characters.


Book: The Host - Stephenie Meyer

“Why not? Haven’t you subdued the human yet?” She laughed loudly. Laughing at me.

I turned my back to her and concentrated on calming myself. I tried to pretend that she wasn’t there. That I was all alone in my austere kitchen, staring out the window into the little patch of night sky, at the three bright stars I could see through it.

Note: Her first “adult novel”, grammar is not Stephenie Meyer’s strong point, but for some reason I really like this book. Following two characters but one body (Mel and Wanderer - human and alien respectively), this book is about an alien race that take over the minds of human hosts, only to discover that we’re not as evil and destructive as they first believed.