Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists! Each week we will post a new Top Ten list that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers. 10 is just a suggestion to aim for if you can hit it -- do a list of 3 or 5 or 20 on your list. Your post, your choice!

Today's Topic: 10 Of My Most Recent 5 Star Reads (Or Ten Of The Best Books I've Read Recently if you don't do 5 star stuff... or you could do 5 of my latest five star reads & five of my most disappointing or 1 star reads)

Here are my Top 10 Most Recent 5 Star Reads with links to the reviews I wrote for them. This list is very similar to the Top Ten Best Books I Read in 2015 list that I put up at the end of last year but I'm happy that I have yet another opportunity to talk about the books that I've loved :)

In chronological order, the most recent reads first:

1. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (2006, REVIEW)
2. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (1986, REVIEW)
3. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (2001, REVIEW)
4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2008, REVIEW)
5. The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz (2011, REVIEW)
6. The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (1926, REVIEW)
7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953, REVIEW)
8. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (1902, REVIEW)
9. Summer by Edith Wharton (1917, REVIEW)
10. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (2007, REVIEW)

Have you read any of these? What are your most recent five star reads?

Monday, 28 March 2016

Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts

Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts is a weekly blogging event hosted by Bookishly Boisterous. It allows book bloggers (and non-book bloggers) to write about pretty much anything, bookish or otherwise (i.e. share exciting plans for the weekend, rants on things they've encountered during the week, etc)

1. I hope everyone reading this is having a very lovely Spring (or Autumn depending on where you are in the world!) and also that you had a very happy Easter holiday! Easter is a wonderful time of year and I love what it represents - hope, redemption, second chances and forgiveness :) Here's what I've been up to over the past few days... On Good Friday I finally got to meet the very cute baby daughter of one of my best friends. This friend now lives in a different town which is quite far away from me so I don't get to see her anywhere near as much as I'd like. The meeting went well although the baby cried (hard!) when I held her and then I accidentally called her "it" at one point *facepalm* Then on Easter Sunday I was delighted when not one but two of my childhood favourites was shown on TV: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and The Great Mouse Detective! ♥

2. At this point in the year the best book that I've read so far is Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn followed by Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I'm also really enjoying the book that I'm currently reading which is Jonathan Tropper's This is Where I Leave You. 

3. In April you can expect to see a lot of poetry themed content on this blog. My blogger friend Hamlette is doing a Poetry Month Celebration next month so I thought I'd just share some random poems I like :)

4. And now I have a guilty bookish confession to make: some of you may recall that I was said I was reading War and Peace in my last post but I've actually given up on that book. I think I managed to read about 300 or 400 pages of that book but then I had to give up on it because I was finding it so dull - and this is coming from someone who loves Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. But, yeah, the characters weren't engaging me and there was too much of an emphasis on boring military politics. War and Peace is still on my Classics Club list for now but I'm going to take it off and replace it with something else.

5. In my last post I mentioned that I was thinking of creating a Twitter account. Well if you click on the link you'll see that I did! :) Feel free to have a look at what I've put up and to follow me! I'd really appreciate that actually since most of the followers that I've picked up so far are clearly spammers.

6. I had my birthday in January and turned 28 :) My birthday was on a Wednesday this year so I had the day off (most of the libraries in my town are closed on that day) and baked a Victoria sponge cake (see below). In the photo you can see me relaxing in my favourite pyjamas which were a Christmas present from my Dad (they're DKNY, the only piece of designer clothing I've ever owned and they're seriously comfortable to wear too) and with a piece of the cake that I made and a cup of tea. Yes, that is a Kylo Ren mug in case you were wondering :D

7. I've made a new and exciting discovery. When I had my birthday I also bought the complete boxset of Avatar as a present for myself and it's one of the best purchases I've ever made! Just to clear away any confusion I'm not talking about the James Cameron film, I'm talking about the TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender. It was a Nickelodeon show that ran for three seasons from 2005 to 2008 and it has a huge cult following. To give a quick synopsis of the show, Avatar is set in a fantasy world where there are four nations and where people can manipulate or "bend" the four elements (water, earth, fire and air). The four nations all used to live together in harmony until a hundred years before the start of the show when the powerful Fire Nation began to try to conquer the others. In the opening episode, two teenage siblings from the Southern Water Tribe, called Katara and Sokka, find a boy who has been magically frozen in an iceberg. When they then manage to thaw him out they learn that the boy is a 12 year old Airbender called Aang. As the Airbenders were all massacred near the start of the war Katara and Sokka quickly work out that Aang must be the avatar: the only one who has the ability to master all of the four elements, communicate with the spirit world, and end the war. In the first season of the show the three of them then go off a perilous quest to the Northern Water Tribe to find a waterbending master to instruct Aang and are pursued every step of the way by Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation.

Trust me on this one people, Avatar is in no way just for children and if you're a fan of Star Wars, LOTR, Harry Potter or even Game of Thrones you'll find much in it to enjoy. It's an intelligently-written show that can be hilariously funny but there are plenty of mature themes and philosophical overtones in it. The worldbuilding is impeccable. The martial arts-inspired action scenes are intense and thrilling to watch. The characters are complex, well-developed and engaging. There's an interesting range of cultures depicted in the show as the Waterbender's culture is based on that of the Inuit, the Earthbender's on Imperial China, the Fire Nation's on Feudal Japan, and the Air Nomads on Tibetan Buddhism. The voice actors in the show are all extremely good and there are a few big-name actors in its cast: Mark Hamill voices the show's main villain Fire Lord Ozai, George Takei voices a character in one episode, Jason Isaacs has a recurring role in the first season.... Avatar has been an absolute joy to watch and I think it's even... *drum roll* my new favourite TV show! :) I've still got some episodes from season three left to watch and it's going to be such a bittersweet experience to finish them all :')

8. But since I am almost finished with Avatar I'm now at the stage where I'm also starting to think about the other TV shows that I can watch as I'll need something to fill the void! Thankfully Avatar has a spin-off show called The Legend of Korra but I'm thinking that it might not be such a good idea to immediately start watching that show once I'm done with Avatar. So at the moment I'm thinking of starting to watch J.J. Abrams' Fringe.

9. I haven't made many trips to the cinema in recent months - in fact the last time I went was in December to see The Force Awakens as there's been absolutely nothing that I've particularly wanted to see :( Thankfully there are now some upcoming films that I finally have an interest in (i.e. Midnight Special and Eddie the Eagle), The Force Awakens will be out on DVD soon, and the DVD of Brooklyn has now been released. 

10. And finally, I've also made a new and exciting musical discovery - Halsey. I downloaded her debut album Badlands recently and it's so, so good! The best description I've found for it is "imagine if Ellie Goulding, Lana Del Rey and Taylor Swift all teamed up to make an album together" :)

Saturday, 26 March 2016

'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay' by Michael Chabon (2000)

Synopsis: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is a work of historical fiction and is set in New York, Prague and Antarctica during WWII and the Golden Age of Comic Books (the late 1930s to the mid 1950s). Samuel ("Sammy") Klayman is a 17 year old American Jew and lives in a cramped apartment in Brooklyn, New York with his single mother and grandmother. Sammy is an avid comic book fan and an aspiring writer whose head is buzzing with ideas for adventure stories. At the beginning of the novel Sammy is then forced to share a bed with his 19 year old cousin Josef ("Joe") Kavalier. A trained escape artist, Joe was able to smuggle himself out of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia (with help from his Harold Houdini-esque mentor) and has come to his relatives to seek refuge. When Sammy then discovers that Joe is also a gifted artist he immediately suggests that the two of them work on a comic book series and is then able to persuade his boss into giving them an investment. Sammy and Joe then quickly become best friends and, between the two of them, create a Nazi-fighting superhero character called The Escapist. Their comic book series then becomes a tremendous best-seller and goes on to sell millions. However, as Joe's efforts to get his family out of Europe are continually thwarted by anti-semitism and bureaucratic red tape he becomes increasingly frustrated and angry. When he then falls in love with a beautiful, bohemian woman called Rosa Saks his guilt at his own happiness and success only grows. Meanwhile Sammy, who is secretly gay but firmly in denial about it, struggles with his feelings until he meets a handsome radio actor called Tracy Bacon who forces him to acknowledge this part of himself.

I can't remember exactly when or where I first found out about this novel but it was on my TBR list for years and I only managed to get round to it during this year's Jewish Book Week. Although I will say that this book didn't fully live up to my very high expectations I still found it to be an extremely meaningful and rewarding read.

The prose in this book is so eloquent, haunting and beautifully-written and the story has such a big scope: touching on anti-semitism, Jewish folklore, LGBT rights and family relationships. It's the theme of escapism which is the major theme of this novel though and that deeply resonated with me - because I happen to be a big reader and watcher of genre fiction which is commonly referred to as "escapist" and the term "escapist" carries such negative connotations usually. Nine times out of ten if a critic refers to a story as "escapist" they'll usually mean it in a disparaging sense which is completely ridiculous when by their very nature that's what stories are supposed to be! In this book Chabon makes the argument that escapism through literature and stories is essential to our humanity because life can be so harsh and cruel (there have been many writers who have made similar arguments including J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and Neil Gaiman). In this book Joe's art and magic acts keep him sane by giving him some solace in not being able to help his family, and Sammy's reading of comic books helps him to cope with his father abandoning him and with his insecurities about being a polio cripple. And although there are still people today who dismiss superhero stories as silly, childish wish-fulfilment fantasy Chabon effectively shows that the rise of the superhero genre was in fact very much linked to contemporary life and with everyday reality.

As I've already mentioned Kavalier and Clay didn't entirely live up my expectations. This book is a very long novel and, although I loved the majority of it very much, there were some parts where the pacing lulled and the book dragged for me (i.e. Joe's travels in Antarctica). Having said that this book is still a fantastic novel. Joe and Sammy are very endearing characters and I was deeply touched by their relationship. The book is clearly extensively researched and covers a fascinating period in American history. It's fun and witty but is also heartbreaking and emotional. And the book celebrates comic books, the superhero genre, and escapism in general. I definitely plan on reading some more of Chabon's work in the future and I would highly recommend this book :)

Rating: 4.5/5

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists! Each week we will post a new Top Ten list that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers. 10 is just a suggestion to aim for if you can hit it -- do a list of 3 or 5 or 20 on your list. Your post, your choice!

Today's Topic: Ten Books on My Spring TBR List

I wasn't sure whether to do today's topic since I'm still working my way through the books on the Winter TBR List that I posted back in January. So far I've only managed to finish three of the books on that list although I feel I should point out that one of those books was over 650 pages long and the book that I'm currently reading (and have almost finished) is about the same length. But then I thought "Well, really it would be no different to buying books when you've already got unread books at home and you do that all the time anyway!" So you see I had to do a post for today, for authenticity! :D

So... here's a list of yet more books that I want to read soon. I am still fully determined to read all of the books from my previous list but you might see me starting to mix it up a bit over the next few months: a review from a book that was on the Winter list, then a book from the Spring list, etc, etc.

1. Kim by Rudyard Kipling. Kim is on my Classics Club list and is set in colonial India. I've developed a bit of a fascination with India in recent years so I'm really looking forward to the book's choice of setting and also because I've heard such wonderful things about the story.

2. The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson. This is the second novel in the high fantasy Mistborn series. I loved the first Mistborn novel (review) so I'm really looking forward to this one!

3. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. I'll be going somewhat out of my comfort zone with these next two books since they're both general adult contemporary novels and I hardly ever read those. Readers who visit my blog regularly may have noticed that I tend to read a lot of literary classics and that when I do read modern novels that they're mainly genre fiction (fantasy, historical, etc). A contemporary novel will need to have a super-interesting sounding plot for me to consider reading it. Anyway I found out about this particular book after seeing the trailer for the adaptation (which stars Adam Driver and Tina Fey) and thinking that it looked like such a hilarious and fun film :)

4. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. This author has written novels for both adults and teenagers and I've been hearing wonderful things about all of her books for a while now. The problem is that I've heard such great things about them all that I haven't known which book to start with which I guess is a pretty nice problem to have! In the end I just decided to go with Rowell's debut novel which is, yeah, Attachments

5. The Foundling by Georgette Heyer. I bought Heyer's False Colours and The Foundling a while ago but only got round to reading False Colours fairly recently which I sadly found disappointing. Heyer's books do tend to be very hit-and-miss for me though so hopefully The Foundling will turn out to be another one of those hits.

6. Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde. The second novel in the genre-defying Thursday Next series. I absolutely loved the first book in the series and it was one of my favourite books from last year (review) so this is another title that I'm really looking forward to :)

7. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (re-read). I've been meaning to re-read this book for years! A Tale of Two Cities isn't without its flaws - it's quite slow-moving at the start and both Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette's characters are dreadfully insipid - but it has a truly wonderful story and Sydney Carton is one of the very best anti-heroes ever written.  

8. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin. Another book on my Classics Club list. Eugene Onegin is an epic poem or a "novel in verse" and is a hugely important and influential text in Russian literature. Partly because of its themes and innovative rhyme structure but also because at the time the book was written it was actually French which was the primary language of Russian aristocrats (many of whom could barely speak their own native "peasant" language).

Since I still have quite a few unread books from my previous list I'm going to end this post here with just eight books. So, what about you? Have you read any of these books or do you want to read any of them? What books will you be reading this Spring? :)