Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog by John Grogan

Paperback, 340 pages
Published 2008 by Hodder and Stoughton Ltd. (first published October 18th 2005)
ISBN 0340922109 (ISBN13: 9780340922101)

Blurb: "John and Jenny were young and deeply in love, with a perfect little house and not a care in the world. Then they brought home Marley, a wiggly yellow furball of a puppy. Life would never be the same.

Marley quickly grew into an uncontrollable ninety-seven pound steamroller of a Labrador retriever. Expelled from obedience school, even the tranquillisers prescribed by the vet couldn't stop him.

Yet through the chaos and the hilarity he won hearts and remained a steadfast model of devotion to his family, even when they were at their wits' end. Unconditional love, they would learn, comes in many forms."

This book is an example of why I both really would love a pet dog and why I'm reluctant to get one. Marley is an absolutely mental but completely loveable dog (nice paradox there). The trouble he causes his family with ruined furniture, walls and eaten food and objects can only be negated by the unconditional love and loyalty which he shows them in his eventful life. He was even chosen to star in a film as a typical family pet - I might watch it someday if it was transferred to DVD format.

This book made me laugh uncontrollably at times and, when it came to the end, shed tears for his loss. This book particularly resonated with me as my family had a mental dog like Marley for a year or so. Millie was completely untrainable, stealing my brother's socks while he was still wearing them and jumping up to open doors, but she was a brilliant dog and very loving, like Marley.

Having seen the film first I thought that it was translated well from the novel, with some artistic license.

An enjoyable book for all dog-lovers.

6 out of 10 :)

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

Hardcover, 424 pages
Published April 1st 2011 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published March 1st 2011)
ISBN 1444724533 (ISBN13: 9781444724530)

Massive blurb:
"Zoe Baxter has spent ten years trying to get pregnant, and after multiple miscarriages and infertility issues, it looks like her dream is about to come true – she is seven months pregnant. But a terrible turn of events leads to a nightmare – one that takes away the baby she has already fallen for; and breaks apart her marriage to Max. In the aftermath, she throws herself into her career as a music therapist – using music clinically to soothe burn victims in a hospital; to help Alzheimer’s patients connect with the present; to provide solace for hospice patients. When Vanessa – a guidance counselor -- asks her to work with a suicidal teen, their relationship moves from business to friendship and then, to Zoe’s surprise, blossoms into love. When Zoe allows herself to start thinking of having a family, again, she remembers that there are still frozen embryos that were never used by herself and Max.

Meanwhile, Max has found peace at the bottom of a bottle – until he is redeemed by an evangelical church, whose charismatic pastor – Clive Lincoln – has vowed to fight the “homosexual agenda” that has threatened traditional family values in America. But this mission becomes personal for Max, when Zoe and her same-sex partner say they want permission to raise his unborn child.

SING YOU HOME explores what it means to be gay in today’s world, and how reproductive science has outstripped the legal system. Are embryos people or property? What challenges do same-sex couples face when it comes to marriage and adoption? What happens when religion and sexual orientation – two issues that are supposed to be justice-blind – enter the courtroom? And most importantly, what constitutes a “traditional family” in today’s day and age?"

I have read quite a few of Jodi Picoult's novels now and yet again in this one she attacks a number of controversial topics in her novel.

This novel deals with both the rights of people in homosexual relationships, including how they are discriminated against by society (in this case in America), and the issue of who can gain custody of fertilised embryos after a marriage has ended.

I found Max, the ex-husband, to be a very frustrating character when reading from his point of view. He was very hypocritical and open to persuasion by anyone, and didn't have the guts to do what he thought was best for most of the novel. He is an alcoholic who converts to an evangelical church which is strongly against gay relationships and marriages. So when his ex-wife falls in love with and marries another woman he doesn't react well when they want to use the embryos to have a child together. The author definitely gives a balanced argument between the two sides.

The novel also deals with fertility issues and the devastating emotions associated with failed IVF treatments and miscarriage. These sections of the novel are very moving.

I can't say that I particularly enjoyed this book as some of the opinions were difficult to read and I am becoming a little disinterested by Jodi Picoult's slightly formulaic style of novel writing, after so many books dealing with controversial topics. That being said, it is still a very well written book.

This book also has a soundtrack that goes with it which I haven't heard yet as they had run out of copies when I received my copy of the book at an event where the author was speaking. I did manage to get the book signed though and I heard a couple of the songs live! Jodi Picoult definitely comes across as an intelligent, very caring lady which was nice to see!

This was an interesting novel which deals with very real, contemporary issues.

7 out of 10.

Monday, 22 July 2013

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

Paperback, 387 pages
Published February 16th 2012 by Bantam Press (first published October 31st 2011)
ISBN 0593059824 (ISBN13: 9780593059821)

Blurb: "I've lost it. :( The only thing in the world I wasn't supposed to lose. My engagement ring. It's been in Magnus's family for three generations. And now, the very same day his parents are coming, I've lost it. The very same day. Do not hyperventilate, Poppy. Stay positive!! :)

A couple of glasses of bubbly with the girls at a charity do and Poppy's life has gone into meltdown. Not only has she lost her engagement ring, but in the panic that followed, she's lost her phone too. As she paces shakily round the hotel foyer she spots an abandoned phone in a bin. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number with the hotel staff. It was meant to be!

Except the phone's owner, businessman Sam Roxton, doesn't agree. He wants his phone back, and doesn't appreciate Poppy reading all his messages and wading into his personal life. As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, phone messages and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his parents, can things get any more tangled?"

Sophie Kinsella's books never fail to make me laugh and this is no exception!

Poppy is a great character, who I related to really well although sometimes her actions were a bit extreme and bordering on the ridiculous. Having taken the random phone and offering to forward messages to Sam (the owner of the phone) while she waits to find her ring, she starts taking matters in his life into her own hands. While this is funny it also kind of annoyed me as in real life that would never be acceptable behaviour. However, this is the only thing that I can critique the novel on. The conversations between Sam and Poppy were definitely my favourite parts of the novel.

This is a lovely, light-hearted read which is really good fun. Be warned you will probably laugh out loud causing weird looks to head your way!

9 out of 10

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Paperback, 272 pages
Published February 28th 2013 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published January 1st 2005)
ISBN 0007523165 (ISBN13: 9780007523160)

Blurb:
"Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (Fran├žois Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same."

It took me a while to get into this novel as it was not what I was expecting, the style of the novel being very different to John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. In fact, it actually reminded me of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (which I will review at some point!) in terms of the personality of the main character and the writing style.

This novel is about a group of misfits at boarding school in America. In forming close friendships they get drunk together and try to come up with the best prank their school has ever seen. I felt that at times Pudge was pressured by his friends into keeping up with them, however, it did not feel too negative but rather that they were broadening his horizons.

Pudge becomes friends with the Commander and Alaska - the most beautiful, smart and crazy girl he's ever met - until she unexpectedly leaves the school (can't tell you how or why) and her friends are left to deal with her absence and the guilt they feel over the events leading up to this.

I can't say any more without revealing big events in the plot so I have to leave it at that. However, I will say that this book is moving and insightful. It was a really interesting read - particularly reading the last words of famous people (Pudge's strange hobby) - which I enjoyed a lot.

8 out of 10.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The First Last Kiss by Ali Harris

Paperback, 496 pages
Published January 17th 2013 by Simon & Schuster
ISBN 0857202936 (ISBN13: 9780857202932)

Blurb: "How do you hold on to a love that is slowly slipping away from you?
Can you let go of the past when you know what is in the future?
And how do you cope when you know that every kiss is a countdown to goodbye?

This is the story of a love affair, of Ryan and Molly and how they fell in love and were torn apart. The first time Molly kissed Ryan, she knew they'd be together forever. Six years and thousands of kisses later she's married to the man she loves. But today, when Ryan kisses her, Molly realises how many of them she wasted because the future holds something which neither of them could have ever predicted…"

I ended up really enjoying this book, however I was initially put off by the way in which the story jumps around, and to be honest I'm still unsure as to the order of some events in the story.

The story flicks back and forth between the present, where Molly is moving house, and variuos different points in her relationship with Ryan. Which would be fine except the parts in the past are not in chronological order but swap illogically between late and early in their story. Admittedly, they do put dates at the beginning of each chapter which rewind or fast forward signs but I still found it quite confusing. I usually don't mind time changes, but I do like them to be in order!

The main characters were likeable, on the whole, and were well-developed. Although Molly's inner-younger-voice which kept telling her that she was settling for less than she had planned was annoying at times.

Once the story was more established and I had figured out what was going on, the story was lovely and moving and seemed to reflect really well the turns a relationship and lives lived together can take.

Also, I love the cover design!

6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite

Paperback, 384 pages
Published by Penguin

Blurb: "At a club in Missing Mile, N.C., the children of the night gather, dressed in black, looking for acceptance. Among them are Ghost, who sees what others do not. Ann, longing for love, and Jason, whose real name is Nothing, newly awakened to an ancient, deathless truth about his father, and himself.

Others are coming to Missing Mile tonight. Three beautiful, hip vagabonds - Molochai, Twig, and the seductive Zillah (whose eyes are as green as limes) are on their own lost journey; slaking their ancient thirst for blood, looking for supple young flesh.

They find it in Nothing and Ann, leading them on a mad, illicit road trip south to New Orleans. Over miles of dark highway, Ghost pursues, his powers guiding him on a journey to reach his destiny, to save Ann from her new companions, to save Nothing from himself..."

So, I'm back, after another long gap in reviewing, but don't worry the reading did not stop! Unfortunately, one of the books I read in the interim was this...

This was a very strange, dark and twisted book. The synopsis makes it seem interesting, but it does not warn you that all of the characters have serious issues. Strangely, it also doesn't mention a couple of key characters (although I suppose they are limited for space in a blurb). So there is also Steve who is Ghost's best friend and Ann's ex-boyfriend, and Christian, who is the oldest vampire in the novel and who knows secrets about Nothing's past.

The only character who is even vaguely likeable in this novel is Ghost, who is some form of psychic, who is thoughtful and loyal to his friends. However, even he has a violent side. Everyone else in the novel has serious issues, and I found it difficult to relate to their actions which were extreme, and were awful - no matter how isolated they were feeling.

I don't want to go into specifics in case anyone actually wants to read this. However, this whole novel revolves around drugs, sex and murder. Most of the characters are bisexual but there are only a couple of instances of heterosexual sex in the novel and one of these was rape. The novel continues with more sex - including male group sex and incest - and blood-drinking (complete with gory descriptions which is fair enough) and murder.

Despite all this, I will admit there were times where the prose was well-written and had good descriptions. However, it took me weeks to read this and I do not recommend it. Although the concept in the book that vampires were born and not made was interesting. I only continued because I hate not finishing a book!

2 out of 10.