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Daisy Jones And The Six (buddy read with Chrissi Reads) by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Published April 20, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

 

And now for something a bit different…..

 

Hi everyone and welcome to a bit of a different review on my blog today. I read quite a lot of books with my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads. We have regular monthly features like our Kid-Lit challenge and Banned Books and then we have our Talking About feature where we both read a book then come together and do an interview-like post that explores our thoughts and feelings about what we’ve just read. 

I read The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo (arguably Taylor Jenkins Reid’s most famous book at this point in time) as a buddy read with blogger bestie Janel from Keeper Of Pages and enjoyed it so much I immediately passed it on to Chrissi to read too. It made Chrissi and I want to read Daisy Jones And The Six together as a buddy read, where we chatted three times through the book and after we finished, we fancied reviewing it a bit differently too!

We’ve decided to take the word DAISY JONES and for each letter, to find a word that describes some of the themes and in some cases, our feelings about the book.

 

Let’s get on with it!

D is for Daisy – 

Daisy is one of our main protagonists in this novel and such a fascinating character. Even though she makes some questionable decisions in the story, I still found myself rooting for her and caring about her as an individual.

A is for Argumentative –

The band Daisy Jones And The Six reminded me quite vividly of the real-life band, Fleetwood Mac who made an incredible album called Rumours but had so many scandals and in-fighting within the band. Like our band in the novel, it made for some great music though!

I is for Inspiring –

There are a few reasons why this word works for me in relation to the novel. There were some inspiring characters that I adored like Camila and her dedication and loyalty to her husband, Billy. Then there were my own feelings of being inspired by Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing. Everything about this band felt real and like Evelyn Hugo, I felt I could look them up as genuine individuals on Google!

S is for Strength –

Strength relates to some of the characters and their personalities. Again, I refer to Camila and the trials she goes through but it also reminds me of her husband, Billy who goes through hell and back with his own personal demons but refuses to succumb to them.

Y is for Yearning –

Oh yes. A LOT of yearning in this novel. Yearning of the characters for each other, yearning for a better life and yearning within the songs that the band write.

J is for Jealousy –

I picked up on oodles of jealousy in Daisy Jones And The Six. I think that’s quite normal in a band where you have people that steal more of the limelight and whether subconsciously or consciously neglect to let others have their time to shine.

O is for Outrageous –

The rock and roll lifestyle comes with some rock and roll behaviour from some of our characters. However, it was interesting to see how it connects with past events in their lives that may have precipitated more riskier behaviours.

N is for Narcotics –

What else can I say? Even though I don’t condone drug-taking myself, this is a novel about a rock and roll band in the 1970’s and drugs play quite a big role in some of the characters lives.

E is for Engrossing –

From the beginning, I thought this was going to be quite a difficult book to buddy read with Chrissi as I just didn’t want to put it down when I reached a specific checkpoint. Luckily, she was reading like a demon so I never had to wait!!

S is for Satisfying –

This is the perfect word for not only how I felt when I finished Daisy Jones And The Six but how I now view Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing in general. She’s filled me with such a hunger to read everything she has ever written and I await with eager anticipation what she writes next.

 

As you might be able to tell, I absolutely adored Daisy Jones And The Six. It was such a compelling, quirky read made all the more unique by the format it takes i.e. written as an interview with members of the band and those closest to them. Although I was tentative about the entire book being written like this at the start, it completely worked and made it such a fast-paced, enjoyable reading experience. I fell hard and fast for specific characters, in particular Daisy, Camila and Billy and it was wonderful to watch their journey as individuals and through their roller-coaster ride as the band’s fame sky-rocked through the story.

If you love a gripping yarn, stories about real people and their struggles and a plot that is entertaining and exciting, look no further than Daisy Jones And The Six. Believe the hype, it’s real.

To check out what Chrissi chose for her DAISY JONES words, please see her fabulous post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Wizard And Glass (The Dark Tower #4) – Stephen King

Published April 1, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Jake’s pet bumbler survive Blaine the Mono’s final crash, only to find themselves stranded in an alternate version of Topeka, Kansas, one that has been ravaged by the superflu virus. While following the deserted I-70 toward a distant glass palace, they hear the atonal squalling of a thinny, a place where the fabric of existence has almost entirely worn away. While camping near the edge of the thinny, Roland tells his ka-tet a story about another thinny, one that he encountered when he was little more than a boy. Over the course of one long magical night, Roland transports us to the Mid-World of long-ago and a seaside town called Hambry, where Roland fell in love with a girl named Susan Delgado, and where he and his old tet-mates Alain and Cuthbert battled the forces of John Farson, the harrier who—with a little help from a seeing sphere called Maerlyn’s Grapefruit—ignited Mid-World’s final war.

What did I think?:

I thoroughly enjoyed my re-read of the Dark Tower series last year and it’s finally time for my review of the fourth book, Wizard And Glass which just happens to be my favourite book written within this epic world. As a result, I apologise in advance for the nauseating gushing which is bound to occur as I talk about this wonderful, unforgettable addition to the series. See – there I go already!! My first memories of Wizard And Glass are actually connected with a stay in hospital when I was nineteen years old, undergoing investigations for unexplained abdominal pain. My amazing mother bought this book for me, knowing I was an already avid King fan, not realising that it was the fourth book in the series and I hadn’t read the other three yet. To be fair, it can *almost* be read as a stand-alone, despite the fact that it carries on immediately after the dramatic events and a nail-biting cliffhanger of an ending in The Waste Lands. 

Stephen King, author of Wizard And Glass, the fourth book in the Dark Tower series.

I say that it could potentially be read as a stand-alone because Wizard And Glass is actually Roland Deschain’s story from when he was a young man, fell deeply in love for the first time and earned his reputation as a formidable gunslinger. Obviously I would definitely advocate starting this series from the beginning (although if you’ve read my previous reviews, please don’t be too put off by the first book, The Gunslinger! It gets a LOT better i.e. The Drawing Of The Three) but because it goes back to Roland’s tumultuous past, it reads like an entire story all on its own. From the very first page, as Roland starts to tell his story to his ka-tetSusannah, Eddie, Jake and the adorable Oy to the last page, where his story is complete, we learn so much more about our strong male lead and what events have happened in his life to make him the man he is today. The reader sees a much more vulnerable, emotional, tender and human side of Roland and because of this, begins to fully understand why he now hides all his feelings behind such a hard and unyielding exterior.

Susan Delgado, love interest of Roland in Wizard And Glass

Image from: https://darktower.fandom.com/wiki/Susan_Delgado

My heart went out to Roland from the very first moment of this book. I love the way in which he opens up to the people who become his dearest and most loyal friends by sharing with them such an important and life-altering part of his past. His story is moving, devastating, eye-opening and thrilling but more than anything, it’s impossible to put this book down without feeling such a deep sense of longing to pick it right back up again. It’s always a pleasure to sit down with one of King’s books of course for me personally, but there was something about Wizard and Glass that affected me in all the right ways. His strength of characterisation is superb as always but he has a real gift for writing exciting action sequences tempered with softer, more gentle moments between the huge cast of characters that seem to come at just the right time. It allows the reader to recover from the frantic, fast pace of the narrative and appreciate the stories and personalities behind each individual we meet and what their motives, hopes and dreams for the future are.

I truly believe you won’t find characters as personable and delightful – Roland and his buddies Alain and Cuthbert, the sweet innocence and determined bravery of Susan and Sheemie and the villainous, dastardly elements of Rhea the witch and The Coffin Hunters to name a few. However, what I find absolutely incredible is how King manages to give each individual their own qualities and unique personality, despite the enormous cast that he has created across the series in general. This is a novel packed full of adventure, thrills and surprises combined with the author’s classic element of making the reader feel just a little bit uncomfortable but nevertheless, fully invested and enthralled with the world that he has built.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP SOON: Wolves Of The Calla (The Dark Tower #5)

The Crimson Petal And The White – Michel Faber

Published February 6, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Sugar, 19, prostitute in Victorian London, yearns for a better life. From brutal brothel-keeper Mrs Castaway, she ascends in society. Affections of self-involved perfume magnate William Rackham soon smells like love. Her social rise attracts preening socialites, drunken journalists, untrustworthy servants, vile guttersnipes, and whores of all kinds.

What did I think?:

I have picked up my laptop to start writing my review of The Crimson Petal And The White and literally just stared at the screen for ten minutes. I’ll tell you the issue – this is one of my all-time favourite books that I read initially before I started blogging and re-read recently (as part of my reading three books at a time thing – one fiction, one non-fiction and one favourite). For some reason, I find reviewing a five star book that I absolutely adored a LOT harder than reviewing a three or four star read or even a book I’ve been a bit more critical of. Does anyone else get this? I mean, there’s only so many adjectives out there in the world that I could possibly use to describe a novel like this and with Crimson Petal? Just all the positive adjectives. Every single one of them.

There’s only one word I can use to describe this story in my opinion (thankfully, that isn’t an adjective haha!) and that’s a masterpiece. This entire narrative is sumptuous, rich, lyrical, gritty and even though the size of the novel might be slightly intimidating, every single page is worth your effort. When I sat down to re-read it, there’s always a worry that I wasn’t going to enjoy it as much this time round but my anxiety was soon squashed as soon as I entered the seedier parts of Victorian London and re-acquainted myself with the fascinating and unforgettable characters that Michel Faber has created.

Michel Faber, author of The Crimson Petal And The White.

Just like the first time I read it, the story of Sugar and the means by which she is raised from squalor by a rich benefactor, William Rackham reverberated with me and has stayed with me weeks after re-reading it. I can only attribute this to the power Michel Faber has not only with his words and creating characters that you want to read about but his mastery in developing a world that reeks of authenticity and is both vibrant and colourful. It might not be a story for everyone – it’s quite sexually graphic at points (it follows a prostitute, what do you expect really?) but at no points did I feel it was ever gratuitous or unnecessary. Every character is brought to life, vividly and expertly by the strength of Faber’s imagination and as I read, I felt like each individual had their own voice and story to tell. They are so well-drawn and so available to the reader that believe me, you want to listen to what they’ve got to say.

Romola Garai and Chris O’Dowd as Sugar and William Rackham in the TV adaptation of The Crimson Petal And The White (also highly recommended).

There are occasional moments of real hideousness in this novel. I mean, quite dark, disturbing instances that require an open mind and knowledge of the fact that times were incredibly hard, especially for those in poverty in 1870’s London. The author is refreshingly honest and exceptionally brutal with his characters’ past, present and futures but for me, it was nothing but brilliant as I could never completely predict where their journey would take them next. With Crimson Petal you get the whole range of humanity from the very low and humble to the excessively rich and arrogant. Watching two such different people collide with the repercussions it has for themselves and people around them was endlessly intriguing.

If the word “epic” means anything to you, it describes everything that is right with this novel from the glorious cast of characters to the difficulties of poverty and additionally, the vast differences between the genders in such a patriarchal society. I re-read this book quite slowly alongside a couple of others as I mentioned and it took me quite a number of months to complete it but to be perfectly honest, I read it deliberately slow because it seems as if every time I pick up this book, I never want it to end.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 JANUARY READ – Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Published January 31, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Margaret Simon, almost twelve, likes long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain, and things that are pink. She’s just moved from New York City to Farbook, New Jersey, and is anxious to fit in with her new friends—Nancy, Gretchen, and Janie. When they form a secret club to talk about private subjects like boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret is happy to belong.

But none of them can believe Margaret doesn’t have religion, and that she isn’t going to the Y or the Jewish Community Center. What they don’t know is Margaret has her own very special relationship with God. She can talk to God about everything—family, friends, even Moose Freed, her secret crush.

Margaret is funny and real, and her thoughts and feelings are oh-so-relatable—you’ll feel like she’s talking right to you, sharing her secrets with a friend.

What did I think?:

Where on earth do I start with this book? First of all, if you’re new here at bibliobeth hello, welcome and thank you so much for reading! Just to let you know I have two main gods author wise in my reading life. Well, to be fair I do have quite a few but if we’re comparing them to Zeus and Hera of Mount Olympus (the top dogs, for all you non-Greek mythology fans), Stephen King would be my Zeus and Judy Blume would be my Hera.

Chrissi and I read her middle grade book, Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing last year for our Kid-Lit 2018 challenge and I had such a delicious nostalgia trip that when the time came to pick our list for this year, I gently persuaded her we should pick another Blume. She didn’t need too much persuasion as she is my beloved sister after all, but I swear I could hear her roll her eyes via text message!

Now, it’s always a worry when you pick a childhood favourite and read it as an adult that it won’t live up to expectations and with Judy Blume, she has her OWN gigantic shoes to fill so I have to admit, I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t love it as much. However, I had nothing to fear, it was such a wonderful trip down memory lane and made me remember everything I originally loved about it as a young adolescent.

Judy Blume, author of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Of course, reading this book as an adult was quite a different reading experience in general. When I first read this as an innocent young girl, I identified so strongly with Margaret. During the tumultuous time of puberty when your hormones are going haywire and you perhaps don’t have access to the best or most accurate sex education, Blume and her character Margaret were absolute godsends to me. I learned brand new information that I hadn’t been taught either at school or at home yet and for the most part, I got the desperately needed answers to feed my curiosity about boys, bras and periods.

One of the things that I admire most about Blume as an author though is the way she taps perfectly into the minds of pre-adolescent/adolescent girls, gives them an important voice and reassures them that all the things they are thinking and experiencing are positively normal and nothing to be afraid of. Her honesty and sensitivity in forming a narrative that has spoken to millions of young people across the globe is refreshing and for this reason, she will always remain such a crucial part of my childhood.

Hera, Queen Of The Gods aka Judy Blume??

Re-entering the world of Margaret as an adult was such a strangely rewarding experience, coming back to it with all the adult knowledge and life experience that I now have. At some points it was lovely, other times odd and frankly, a few times embarrassing to remember my teenage self and how I felt about things whilst growing up and becoming a woman. I remember vividly taking on board a certain “exercise” that Margaret and her friends used to do (complete with the infamous rhyme) in desperation that it would take effect and make me grow up that little bit faster! Cringe. Additionally, I also appreciated how Blume explores other avenues in the narrative, like female friendships, the importance of a strong, supportive family and one of the major elements of the story – a crisis of faith. She isn’t afraid as an author to explore those subjects that others might shy away from to give teenagers the answers they crave or indeed, to let them know that it’s okay to be unsure and indecisive about other things.

The fiction of Judy Blume will always have a special place in my heart and I’m sure will prove relevant to generations further down the line than myself who are struggling with difficult issues and want to know they are not unusual or alone. I’m already considering which Blume I can coax Chrissi to put on our list next year? I don’t want to ever get off this nostalgia train!

For Chrissi’s fantastic review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP IN FEBRUARY ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The BFG by Roald Dahl.

The Diary Of A Young Girl – Anne Frank

Published September 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Anne Frank’s extraordinary diary, written in the Amsterdam attic where she and her family hid from the Nazis for two years, has become a world classic and a timeless testament to the human spirit. Now, in a new edition enriched by many passages originally withheld by her father, we meet an Anne more real, more human, and more vital than ever. Here she is first and foremost a teenage girl—stubbornly honest, touchingly vulnerable, in love with life. She imparts her deeply secret world of soul-searching and hungering for affection, rebellious clashes with her mother, romance and newly discovered sexuality, and wry, candid observations of her companions. Facing hunger, fear of discovery and death, and the petty frustrations of such confined quarters, Anne writes with adult wisdom and views beyond her years. Her story is that of every teenager, lived out in conditions few teenagers have ever known.

What did I think?:

The Diary Of A Young Girl is one of those pieces of non fiction that occupies a very special place in my heart. I’ve read it a few times now at different points in my life through my adolescence right through to adulthood and each time I’ve managed to get something unique out of each reading experience. It’s not a five star read for me and that’s only because, I have to be honest, I do find parts of Anne’s diary a bit slower than others but it earns a rightful place on my favourites shelf because of what it’s given me over the years. Over this past year, I’ve challenged myself to a little experiment where I have a current read, a work of non fiction and a favourite re-read on the go at the one time. I set this challenge for myself as I realised I have a host of non fiction books on my shelves that just aren’t getting read and that I need to get round to, whilst also realising that with all the exciting new releases coming in, I don’t get a chance to re-read the books on my favourite shelves. The Diary Of A Young Girl is one of my all-time favourites and after this latest re-read, definitely deserves to keep its spot on the shelf.

Anne Frank, the author of the diary entries put into a collection by her father, Otto Frank.

If you haven’t managed to get round to reading this book yet (and I feel like it should be required reading in ALL schools!), Anne Frank is a young girl from a Jewish family who is forced to go into hiding with her parents, sister and another family when the Nazis descend upon their town and begin to remove all people of the Jewish faith to camps and ghettos, basically sealing their fate to one of misery, poverty, disease and in far too many scenarios, death. Assisted by some friends, the two families are ensconced in a Secret Annex concealed from the world by means of a bookcase which opened onto their tiny living quarters where they were forced to hide for two years. Most of the time they had to exist in complete silence because of the workers in the office below or the proximity of the other houses to their own space. Discovery of the family would result in deportation and execution of all those that hid there and of those that helped them evade the authorities so playing by the rules of the house, being as quiet as possible and desperately awaiting the end of the war became normal life for the families that lived there.

Reconstruction of the bookcase that hid the doorway to The Secret Annex.

Image from: By Bungle – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4132164

As I mentioned earlier on in my review, I’ve managed to extract something different from each experience I’ve had reading The Diary Of A Young Girl. Reading it as a teenager, I felt strangely close to Anne and I felt a well of emotions being stirred up regarding the horrific situation she finds herself in, her normal feelings as a young teenager herself (particularly about boys!) and those awkward adolescent moments where the hormones are raging and you feel yourself developing into a woman coupled with the confusion that often accompanies these thoughts and feelings. Having to cope with all of this whilst living in such close quarters with her family, another family and having no means of escape left me feeling so uncomfortable and sorry for Anne that at times, I had to silently applaud her for her tenacity, humour and bravery that is clearly apparent and so endearing throughout her diary entries.

On my latest reading of this book, I got even more than I ever could have expected from it emotionally speaking and that’s because I had the good fortune to visit Amsterdam about eight years ago and more specifically, the house and Secret Annex where Anne Frank was hidden. It was an experience I will never, ever forget, especially when I saw how small their quarters actually were. It was frightening to think that eight people had to live in such a small space and I couldn’t stop saying to my partner how unbelievable it was that they could survive in those cramped, overcrowded conditions for so long and all parties managed to keep their sanity. However, there are two stand-out points that I take away from Diary Of A Young Girl that I find particularly heart-breaking. The first is that Anne’s story does NOT have a happy ending and it’s especially hard to read, knowing this and seeing her joyful optimism for the end of the war, having a normal life and realising her dreams of becoming a writer. This leads me onto the second point – Anne is quite obviously a hugely talented writer. Her diary entries are succinct, empowering, beautiful, raw and so very authentic and it’s devastating to think of what she could have done in her life if she had been given the chance to see the end of the war and become an adult. Even writing about it now makes me feel so emotional and it’s definitely a book I’ll be re-visiting in the future, it’s too important not to.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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The Drawing Of The Three ( The Dark Tower #2) – Stephen King

Published August 23, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In 1978, Stephen King introduced the world to the last gunslinger, Roland of Gilead.  Nothing has been the same since. More than twenty years later, the quest for the Dark Tower continues to take readers on a wildly epic ride. Through parallel worlds and across time, Roland must brave desolate wastelands and endless deserts, drifting into the unimaginable and the familiar. A classic tale of colossal scope—crossing over terrain from The StandThe Eyes of the DragonInsomniaThe TalismanBlack HouseHearts in Atlantis’Salem’s Lot, and other familiar King haunts—the adventure takes hold with the turn of each page.

And the tower awaits….

The Second Volume in the Epic Dark Tower Series…

The Drawing of the Three

While pursuing his quest for the Dark Tower through a world that is a nightmarishly distorted mirror image of our own, Roland is drawn through a mysterious door that brings him into contemporary America.

Here he links forces with the defiant young Eddie Dean, and with the beautiful, brilliant, and brave Odetta Holmes, in a savage struggle against underworld evil and otherworldly enemies.

Once again, Stephen King has masterfully interwoven dark, evocative fantasy and icy realism.

What did I think?:

The Drawing Of The Three, the second book in King’s epic Dark Tower series has to have been my biggest surprises out of all the author’s books. If you’ve read my review on the first, The Gunslinger, you might realise why. When I first read The Gunslinger, I wasn’t a big fan of this series at all. In fact, I may have even thought – “Stephen King, what ARE you doing?” Sacrilege I know, but it was only when a good friend persuaded me to give the second in the series a shot that I forced myself to continue and by gum, am I glad I did? This is actually my re-read of the entire series and it hasn’t lost its magic or power, not by a long shot. By the second book, things are really kicking off and we meet a host of characters that will prove so crucial for the entire series. I felt so much more comfortable with this world and the people within it and from the very first call of the lobstrosities in the opening pages – “Dad a chum? Dum a chum?” I was officially obsessed.

Stephen King, author of The Drawing Of The Three, book two in the Dark Tower series.

As this is a second book in the series, I won’t be telling you too much about the plot in any great detail but as the first book was a bit of an unholy mess (in my opinion), I won’t be spoiling anything to tell you that THIS is where the story really begins. Obviously I would advocate reading The Gunslinger before The Drawing Of The Three to get an idea about the world and our main character, gunslinger Roland Deschain but, and I feel treacherous for saying this, it wouldn’t be the worse thing in the world if you accidentally skimmed tiny portions of it. I feel like with The Gunslinger, there are certain points of the narrative that are pretty important, others are kind of negligible and I’m not really sure of their purpose in the story. However, I must mention again that it did improve on a second reading experience recently, probably because I was completely familiar with the world at that point in time.

One of the terrifying lobstrosities, as imagined in the graphic novels of the Dark Tower.

So, in The Drawing Of The Three, our hero Roland finds himself alone on the beach, dazed and confused. The last thing he remembers is chasing after the elusive Man In Black and now he finds himself in a deserted area by the sea. Well, not completely deserted as he soon discovers to his horror when some curious, dangerous lobstrosities come to visit him. His purpose for being on the beach? There are three doors that he must enter, all three go to different points in time in a different world and he must draw from this world three very important people that become part of his ka-tet (or clan) as he continues his quest to find The Dark Tower. These people will all help in some way on his journey and become as close to him as family, but this is merely the start of a long, hazardous trip for all of them where they will encounter things from their worst nightmares and change forever as the individuals they once were.

I adore The Dark Tower series with every fibre of my being and I was so delighted and relieved to have pushed myself to continue after the initial disappointment of The Gunslinger. In fact, if I had to choose a favourite book of the series, this one would be tied with the fourth book but also has a special place in my heart for restoring my faith in Stephen King as a writer of fantasy. He pulled it off AMAZINGLY well and I can’t urge everyone enough who has a love of the genre to please, please give this series a try. What makes it so special? Of course, King has an innate talent for creating wonderful characters that live on in your memory long after closing the book but the group he has drawn in this series is nothing short of magnificent. I love them all dearly, all for very different reasons and because you follow them over the space of seven books (some of them a sizeable page length!) you really get to know and love them as individuals.

Secondly, the intricate and complex world he creates is imaginative, unique and brilliant and although it may seem confusing at the beginning, stick with it, the rewards are well worth the effort. As a genre, I’m getting into reading fantasy a lot more recently but trust me when I say, The Dark Tower is going to be a tough one to beat. I can’t think of any other series that has captured my heart and endlessly fascinated me as we journey with Roland and his ka-tet to reach the end of his mysterious quest.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP SOON: The Wastelands (The Dark Tower #3).

 

Atonement – Ian McEwan

Published August 8, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.

On a hot summer day in 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives—together with her precocious literary gifts—brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece.

What did I think?:

I’m so, so glad I made the decision to go back and re-read the books on my favourites shelves alongside a non fiction read and a “main,” read. Atonement is one of my all time favourites and it definitely deserved every single one of its five stars and a spot on the shelf. I don’t keep every single book that I rate five stars – ha, I just don’t have the room sadly! So how does a book end up on this shelf? It has to move me, be memorable and stay with me long after finishing it and finally, it has to be a book I can see myself re-reading again in the future. It’s also a great way of seeing if re-visiting a book after a period of time away from it will lead me to rating it differently and potentially getting rid of it from the shelves – something I was very nervous about! Luckily, Atonement remains both a firm favourite, maintaining its illustrious position and making me consider if I might re-read it again in a few years once again.

Ian McEwan, author of Atonement.

Set just before the outbreak of the Second World War, we are initially following the Tallis family – Briony the youngest, Cecilia the eldest girl and their brother, Leon who is returning with a friend for a rather swanky dinner party at home that same night. The family also have their cousins staying with them under quite unhappy circumstances as their parents marriage is going through severe difficulties. So in order to cheer them up and distract them from the rumours surrounding their parents, Briony (an inspiring and precocious writer) is determined to put on a play she wrote herself. For childish reasons, she might also be clamouring for attention, desperate that her family especially her mother and beloved older siblings, would take pleasure in her talent.

A scene from the movie adaptation of Atonement with Keira Knightly and James McAvoy.

As you may have suspected, Briony’s grand plan doesn’t end up going off to plan and she becomes sulky, distant and incredibly vulnerable. It’s at this particular point of her mood that she witnesses an altercation between her sister, Cecilia and her childhood friend Robbie Turner that she doesn’t help matters by deploying her vivid imagination to mistakenly think of what “might” have been happened. The situation is only exacerbated when Briony comes across a note from Robbie to Cecilia that shocks her to her core and then once more happens upon them in the library alone together. All these little happenstances and coincidences leads Briony to make the most life-changing accusation she has ever perpetuated in her life and permanently alters one man’s dreams and wishes into something a whole lot different. Briony must atone for what she has done but the problem is, can she ever be forgiven?

Okay, I’ll admit….when this book started at first I wasn’t into it at all. I found myself confused as to why this book was so highly rated (by myself as well!) and this was mainly because of the extra slow speed and occasional complexity of the narrative. It is literary fiction at its most beautiful and moments, characters, situations are described so picture postcard perfectly, you might wonder why I hesitated. I DO love all of these things and much more besides, but I felt like if McEwan had threw more weight behind to what was going on with his lesser characters, like the elusive Mrs Emily Tallis and the suffering of cousin Lola Quincey, I would have become invested in the story at an earlier point.

Then THE EVENT occurs. This is when Atonement really starts to hit its stride and I could breathe a sense of relief and wipe an anxious drop of sweat from my brow. One of our main characters ends up in quite a difficult, dangerous situation, fighting overseas as a soldier in France and the things he sees and has to deal with on a daily basis as well as trying to remain alive himself are nothing short of horrific. Briony is back home herself working as a student nurse and attempting to do her part for the war effort but she still cannot stop thinking about the awful things she did when she was a child and begs her estranged sister, Cecilia for contact and a forgiving ear.

I’ve read a few other things by Ian McEwan, some I’ve enjoyed, others I haven’t liked at all sadly, but I honestly think this is his most wonderful piece of writing yet. The betrayal, the secrets, the lives they have had to lead and the guilt and turmoil that follows every single character round is hugely fascinating and occasionally emotional to read about. Short-listed for The Man Booker Prize back in 2001, it was a worthy contender for such a prestigious prize and I really hope, because of this accolade you will be interested to give it a shot if you’ve never read any of the author before. I truly believe this is the most perfect place you could start with his writing but I beg, please push through the slow parts, it becomes an undeniably stupendous novel that I will continue to treasure.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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