Thursday, 27 November 2014

My Modern Classics TBR List

I believe that one of the easiest ways into classic fiction is through the slightly more recent classics, but those written far before even my parents were old enough to read. They have the complexity and the literary standing of the traditional classics but with language that’s easier to access and a setting that is more familiar. Here are the ones I’m hoping to read in the next year:

The Handmaids Tale, Margaret Atwood
I actually read the first third of this a few years ago and I was really enjoying it, but I had to take it back to the library before I had a chance to finish it. It was engrossing and a fascinating world that I need to get back to soon.

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
This was one of the options that we got to choose between to read for my A-Levels and it wasn’t picked – I was so disappointed! One of the original dystopias, I’m dying to see how much the genre has changed an developed over the last 80-odd years to what we know of it now.

Farenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
In all honesty, the thing that draws me to this novel is the book burning. I want to discover the world, the people, the events that put this horror in motion.

The Color Purple, Alice Walker
This is an important and powerful novel that I bought ages ago with the intention of reading straight away, but you know, time flies away and all that... I think I’d have to be properly prepared and in the mood for this or it might be a little too much. But I’ll eventually get around to it.

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
I recently saw Non Pratt (I think...) talking on Twitter about how she has bypassed this for so long and then fell head over heels in love with it when she finally got around to it. It reminded me how long I’ve been meaning to read it for. It’s one of my classics TBR books for 2015.

The Secret History, Donna Tartt
This is a chunky book so I keep putting it off but I’ve only heard amazing things about it. With the recent release of The Goldfinch my awareness of The Secret History has gone back into high again.

The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
A teen classic that I’m ashamed I haven’t read. I worry that I’ve missed the prime moment of reading this, but then again, I’m still pretty angsty, world-weary and terrified of adulthood so I’ll probably still love it!

Lolita, Vladimir Nabikov
I have a worrying enjoyment of forbidden love stories, but this, between a  much older man and a teenager, has the potential to squick me out. I want to read this so bad, though.  

It’s shameful that I haven’t read some of these, especially as I own most of them...


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Positively Mine, Christine Duval

Pages: 204
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Release Date: 19th December 2013
Edition: e-book, purchased

It is four weeks into her freshman year of college, and Laurel’s first test is unexpected. Discovering she’s pregnant isn’t exactly what she had planned for her first semester, and while she intends to tell her emotionally-distant father, being away at school makes it all too easy to hide.

An imperfect heroine plagued by bad choices and isolated during what should be the best time of her life, readers are sure to identify with Laurel as she confronts teen pregnancy, in secret.

I went into Positively Mine with no expectations other than for a quick, easy read, and that’s what I got, but it was also a thoughtful story about the struggles of teen pregnancy.

Stories set at university are ones I crave and I was really pleased to see university life portrayed for more than just the partying and the social side of it. From the beginning the academic rigour of Laurel’s school, the occasional loneliness of living in dorms with people you don’t know and the distance from home is emphasised. As Laurel’s denial of the reality of her pregnancy continues throughout the novel, so does the strength of these often ignored aspects of university life. It was refreshing to see them in YA.

There’s a lot of family politics in Positively Mine and it was all fairly standard: dead mother, dad pushed only daughter away because it was daunting, lack of communication, new family that Laurel isn’t a part of – and yet I still really felt for Laurel. It was the worst timing for lots of the things that she faced with her dad during her pregnancy!

I was a little disappointed about how little there was to do with the identity of the father. There was very little back story, no dramatic reveals or awkward and timely meetings, and I think that they could have worked brilliantly, especially with the presence of Mike or Audrey. moments like that would have added some spice to Positively Mine which I think it was a little lacking in for me, seeing as the family drama was expected and not really surprising.

Duval’s debut is a short, engaging read that enjoyed enough to seek out her future work. Worth a read on a rainy afternoon.


Tuesday, 25 November 2014

My Clothbound Classics Addiction

I first stumbled across the beautiful fabric-covered, hardback Penguin Clothbound Classics in Waterstone’s Bath where a table at the front of the store had all different editions of Jane Austen’s novels a few years back. I’m pretty sure it was during the Jane Austen celebrations that take place all over the city every September.

I ended up buying my Mum the clothbound copy of Persuasion, her first Austen novel, and now mine too, as her cheap 70s paperback was falling to pieces. When she passed away, I took on the beautiful edition and my collection began. I went on to buy the rest of Austen’s novels one at a time – I only allow myself to buy one a month (they’re fairly pricey!). I now have the full collection and it ended up tying into my 2014 reading goal to read the three Austen novels that I hadn’t yet – Northanger Abbey, Emma and Mansfield Park. I’m currently reading my final Austen, Mansfield Park, so the challenge will be complete!

But I couldn’t stop with the Jane Austen. Next came my favourite non-Austen classic, Frankenstein, and the beloved classics that I plan to read over the coming months – Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Dracula.

I still have loads more on my list to collect – Great Expectations, Metamorphoses, Anna Karenina, Cranford, Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Vanity fair, Little Women, Tess of the D’Urbervilles...yeah, I have a problem. 

And this isn’t taking into account the newly discovered Penguin English Library for the smaller, more modern classics like HG Wells, EM Forster, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edith Wharton. They’re beautiful, well-priced paperbacks that I’m betting are going to make another gorgeous collection.

You really can smell an English Lit grad from miles away can’t you...

(P.S. Apologies for the terrible photos, both my phone and iPod are dead and my iPad was the only option...)

Do you collect any special editions?


Monday, 24 November 2014

Before You, Amber Hart

Pages: 304
Publisher: K-Teen
Release Date: 29th July 2014
Edition: US e-proof, NetGalley review copy

It will haunt me. It will claim me. It will shatter me. And I don’t care.

Faith Watters has a picture-perfect life. She’s captain of the dance team, popular, happy. She even spent her junior year travelling the world before returning to Oviedo High for her senior year. But she’s living a lie.

Diego Alvarez hates his new life in the States, but staying in Cuba is not an option. Covered in tattoos and scars, Diego doesn’t stand a chance of fitting in, and doesn’t want to. His only concern is his secret past – a past, which if it were to surface, would cost him his life.

Everyone knows that Faith and Diego don’t belong together. But fate has its own plan. All they want is to be free. What they get is something different entirely.

Love – it will ruin you...and save you.

From the synopsis, I was hoping that Before You was going to be a sexy, addictive and emotional rollercoaster akin to Perfect Chemistry but sadly it didn’t quite live up to that awesome.

Before You is incredibly cheesy and easy to read, but even with the sensitive topics covered in Faith and Diego’s story, there wasn’t a whole lot of depth to it. The issues of drug use, gang involvement, prejudice, privilege and race all felt a little preachy which added to the shallow sense of the story for me. And yet I still thoroughly enjoyed Hart’s debut. It’s a palate-cleansing kind of novel – a quick, easy read to get me reading again; it’s engrossing in its mindlessness.

The dual narrative really demonstrated the obvious differences between Faith and Diego, but it also emphasised their similarities as well as how they made each other fit in their worlds a little better. They made a brilliant couple, but I still didn’t buy into their chemistry or love. It just felt too full-on too quickly; it felt false. I did still want them to overcome the obstacles between them to get it together, and I enjoyed the moments of tension and sass between them.

I do think that a lot was given away from the very beginning. Faith’s secret was revealed very early on and I think it could have had real impact if it was held onto for a bit longer, teased out and hinted at for the reason behind Faith’s facade. Diego’s involvement with the cartel was explored in the opposite way and I much preferred that. It was a painful time for him and he kept it close to his chest which felt a lot more authentic and when the truth behind that scar came out it felt more powerful and relevant.

Even though Before You was far from perfect it was quick and fun to read and I have the companion, After Us lined up to read soon.

Thanks to NetGalley and K-Teen for the review copy.