2015 Reading Challenge – Are You In?

For those of you who are book lovers, like me, you will know how much fun it is when people recommend new novels to you. It’s quite a personal thing, taking something that had such an impact on you and sharing those feelings with someone else, or at least that’s what we hope to achieve, it’s really quite special.

But as well as receiving recommendations, and giving them, I also enjoy a good reading challenge. Anyone who is a member of Goodreads is aware that you can set yourself a target of how many books you’d like to try to read in a year. Now of course I will be doing this again for 2015, but I wanted something that would really get me thinking and also open my eyes to new authors and worlds. I’m something of a believer in signs and a few times now I have been sent the same ‘2015 Reading Challenge’ by friends and relatives, so I’m going to do it. And I was wondering how many of the beautiful readers of my blog out there are going to play along? It’s quite an extensive list but it fills me with excitement of the journey I will go on and makes me wonder how many new loves (of the literary kind) I will ignite in the New Year.

So without further ado here is a full list of the ‘2015 Reading Challenge’ I will be taking on in just a couple of days;

A book with more than 500 pages

A classic romance

A book that became a movie

A book published this year

A book with a number in the title

A book written by someone under 30

A book with nonhuman characters

A funny book

A book by a female author

A mystery or thriller

A book with a one-word title

A book of short stories

A book set in a different country

A nonfiction book

A popular author’s first book

A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet

A book a friend recommended

A Pulitzer Prize-winning book

A book based on a true story

A book at the bottom of your to-read list

A book your mom loves

A book that scares you

A book more than 100 years old

A book based entirely on its cover

A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t

A memoir

A book you can finish in a day

A book with antonyms in the title

A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit

A book that came out the year you were born

A book with bad reviews

A trilogy

A book from your childhood

A book with a love triangle

A book set in the future

A book set in high school

A book with a colour in the title

A book that made you cry

A book with magic

A graphic novel

A book by an author you’ve never read before

A book you own but have never read

A book that takes place in your hometown

A book that was originally written in a different language

A book set during Christmas

A book written by an author with your same initials

A play

A banned book

A book based on or turned into a TV show

A book you started but never finished

So as you can it’s a pretty long list, some of them may be trickier than others, such as a banned book or by an author with the same initials. It’s going to be challenging but it’s going to be immensely fun and of course, I’m going to share the entire journey with all of my followers. With that in mind, if any of you can recommend any books that will help tick something off the list, then please do get in touch by commenting below, or alternatively you can head over to Twitter @GinaAlanaLane and tweet me with your suggestions.

Happy reading fellow bookworms, and a Happy New Year to you all.

x

Book Review – A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby.

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby.

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I’ve never read a Nick Hornby book before, but I have seen some film adaptations of his other books and always found them to have a certain charm. In this case I’m glad I have read the book before seeing the film.

A Long Way Down had me gripped, now I know I’ve said this about plenty of other books, but seriously I started reading this around 9.30pm yesterday evening and despite sleeping, eating and doing other things around the house I have finished this today at 4.30pm. It follows four very different characters, Martin a disgraced ex TV Presenter who served time in prison after sleeping with an underage girl, Maureen who’s daily routine involves sitting in her home with her severely disabled son, Jess an 18 year old girl who is filled with anger and J.J. an American who delivers pizza’s after the break up of his band and breakdown of his relationship.

On New Years Eve the foursome cross paths when they meet on Topper’s House, a well known site for suicide, but due to conversations, stolen pizza and interventions none of them end up jumping, instead they decide that they will give it 6 weeks and see how they feel. The novel flits between each character and Nick Hornby has done an incredible job of really bringing each of the characters unique personalities and dialogue to life. This ragtag bunch of people soon become friends and end up interrupting each others lives, with sometimes hilarious results.

But overall the tone of the book is quite serious, and at times heart breaking. It really studies our perceptions of life and what makes us feel like we’ve hit rock bottom? What makes life worth living? These types of questions are asked plenty of times throughout the book and it will really make you think about life. The ending was a little flat for me and I felt the last 20 pages or so felt like the author was being a little repetitive, and the writing didn’t grip me as much as it had in the first part of the book. Saying that it is a great book, with well-formed characters and which will provide you with plenty of food for thought.

Star Rating out of 5: 4.5

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‘Sure, I could be pretty anti-social when we were on the road, but if I was playing a Gameboy hour after hour, no one would be on my case. In my social circle, blowing up fucking space monsters is socially acceptable in a way that American Pastoral isn’t.’

 

Until next time fellow bookworms.

x

Book Review – Horns by Joe Hill.

Horns by Joe Hill.

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Ig Perrish wakes up having a really bad day. Not only is he incredibly hung-over but he also seems to be growing horns. That’s right, Ig can’t quite remember what he did to make the horns materialise, but he knows he did something bad whilst visiting the location his girlfriend was murdered, a murder Ig is the prime suspect for.

From the very first page Joe Hill pulled me in, his style of writing is so natural that it almost feels like you’re privy to a conversation amongst friends. What I particularly loved was the character of Ig, someone who is perceived by his entire hometown, and family, to be this perverse sex crazed killer who murdered his seemingly perfect girlfriend and got away with it because ‘daddy has money’ When really he’s this lost soul, who is innocent but has no way of proving that and lacks the energy to argue with people anymore.

What follows is a series of events that add elements of dark humour to the book, and make you realise how fortunate we are to have the ability to censor our inner most thoughts in day-to-day life. But as with anything, with great strange power comes great responsibility and it isn’t long before Iggy discovers who the real murderer is and sets out to get vengeance for the death of Merrin.

At certain moments involving Lee Tourneau and his mother, the book made my toes curl, but this was down to the believability of such a horrible character, and only further displayed Joe Hills talents as a writer.

The ending wasn’t what I was expecting, and if I’m being totally honest, I was a little upset with how the book ended. I wanted a nicer ending for Ig after all that he’d been through. To summarise, Horns is an excellent novel with plenty of humour and drama in equal measure. The only reason I didn’t get through it so quickly is because I was busy with work and the build up to Christmas, otherwise I would have had this finished in a matter of days.

Star Rating out of 5: 4.5

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‘Maybe all the schemes of the devil were nothing compared to what men could think up.’

Happy reading fellow bookworms.

x

Book Review – The Outsiders by SE Hinton

The Outsiders by SE Hinton.

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This is another book that is often shortlisted as a (relatively) modern day classic. Strangely enough I saw the film many moons ago when I was a young girl growing up but had never actually read the novel. After a quick decision at work one day a few others and myself decided to set up a Book Club and this was the book that was selected.

Right from the start it’s hard to think you are reading a book, the style of writing is so casual that you almost feel as though you’re sat with Ponyboy as he tells you his story. Because of this it makes the characters so much more believable and really brings to life the world in which Ponyboy and his friends live.

There are two groups of people Greasers young men with violent tendencies and way too much oil in their hair and Socs young men from the richer part of town with crisp shirts and plenty of violent arrogance. This book isn’t just about society categorising people based on their looks and where they live but about the divide and pointless violence that is borne out of ignorance and lack of guidance.

When Ponyboy and Johnny are attacked by a group of Socs one night and a Soc ends up dead at the hands of Johnny, the pair must go into hiding. From this moment on this book takes a turn and becomes so much harsher and painfully realistic. You begin to see the frail nature of the relationships and the characters that appear so strong or tough on the outside. When you scratch the surface you begin to realise that this gang of ‘outsiders’ are lost young men, looking for a break and a better tomorrow.

It was easy to fall in love with the characters of this book, you feel frustrated on their behalf and there are two particularly heart breaking deaths which only make the injustice the boys feel so much more hurtful. I can see why it’s such a classic and what’s even more surprising is the fact that SE Hinton was just 15 years old when she wrote this. Perhaps it was due to her age that made the use of language so much more authentic and the emotions so easy to portray, I’m not ashamed to say that I shed a few tears towards the end. An incredible novel, which I would recommend to anyone, especially those who are fans of the film.

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Star Rating out of 5: 4.5

‘It seemed funny that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two worlds we lived in weren’t so different. We saw the same sunset.’

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Happy reading fellow bookworms.

x

Book Review – Wishes and Sorrows by Cindy Lynn Speer

I must apologise once again for my silence over the past few weeks, for those of you who follow my blog, you’ll know that I was busy finalising my wedding. I got married last weekend and without any exaggeration it was the best day of my life. To make a commitment in front of all the people we care about and then celebrate into the early hours of the morning was just the most magical feeling. Here is a photo from the day.

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It seems like a lifetime ago already but now I no longer have appointments and various other bridal related tasks to complete of an evening and weekend, I once again have time to read. Oh, reading. My beautiful, relaxing pastime, how I have missed thee? So what better way to get back into the swing of things than with a book review.

Wishes and Sorrows by Cindy Lynn Speer.

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I was fortunate enough to get a free copy of this in exchange for a fair review from the brilliant website LibraryThings. Cindy Lynn Speer clearly has an incredibly talent for storytelling, through the use of magic and myth she breathes new life into the genre of fairy tales. But before the more cynical amongst you roll your eyes, these aren’t your traditional fairy tales, I’d say they’re for a more mature audience. Right from the first story ‘The Bell Witch and the Queen of Vines’ she brought to life the different characters and their worlds.

As with most things in life everything is subjective, so there were some stories that didn’t really hit the mark with me, like ‘What Will I Do When the Dream is Over’ whereas others just really pulled me in and intrigued me. And I imagine that anyone reading this novel will feel the same. Either way this book has at least one story that will appeal to someone’s individual taste and imagination. A well-written book with great variation in storytelling.

Star Rating out of 5: 3.5

“He does not look pleased, and sometimes, when he seems to be happy, his hand on my swelling belly, talking nonsense to me and our children, waiting for one to kick, a shadow will cross his face, and I realize that he is afraid.”

Apologies…

I am so sorry I have been silent for a couple of weeks, I was caught in the whirlwind of finalising my Wedding. The big day itself happened on Saturday, so my normal service of book reading and reviewing shall continue soon.