The Bookish Olympics

So many of my posts recently have been tags of link-ups. Sorry about that! But I saw this tag on Kristen‘s blog and I just couldn’t resist! Kristen got the tag from another Kristen, which somehow amused me, but the whole thing started on It Starts At Midnight (where it was just called The Olympic Book Tag, but I had to steal Kristen’s title along with the tag because it was just perfection!)

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I didn’t actually watch a single bit of the Olympics (except a tiny bit of a report on the BBC the day after Mo Farah fell because I wanted to see how bad the fall actually was). In fact, while I’m in confession mode, the only Olympics I’ve ever really watched was London 2012 mainly because it was my Olympics, sort of. Such a hypocrite! Books, on the other hand, I can do any day of the week!

1

In the Woods by Tana French. I actually didn’t even give this book a top rating because I was so mad that the mystery of what happened to the boys in the woods was never actually solved! Stupid blurb giving me the wrong impression of the book! But the writing sucked me in from the first sentence and I really, really enjoyed this book. Still want to know what happened in the woods though!

2

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence. I was originally going to use this book for the friendship category (you’ll see later), but it turned out I haven’t really read any road trip books, other than An Abundance of Katherines and that was boring! This one isn’t exactly a road trip book, but it does feature a road trip of sorts. Well, a drive anyway. To Switzerland. It’s the closest I’ve got to a road trip, okay? And it’s a weird but amazing book.

3

I couldn’t think of any good love triangles (can a love triangle be “good”?) so I looked up love triangle on Goodreads and for most of the ones I had read I kept thinking “Wait, where was the love triangle in that?”. Either my memory is really bad or other people have different definitions of love triangles! Anyway, I think I’m going to go with Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Whether the love triangle is good or not, it’s a classic!

5

Possession by A.S. Byatt. I mean, I got the basic story, but I felt like I was missing something and/or not intelligent enough to get the deeper meaning behind this book. Meh.

6

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. Actually, it’s set in several summers. I’ve read this book twice and loved it both times, even though Caitlin is horrible and the book is heartbreaking!

7

I wanted to say all the Harry Potter books for this (loads of bloodshed there!) but that felt like a cop put sooo… The Dragonlance Chronicles by Magaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Actually this is three books but since they’ve been repackaged with the three volumes in one book it counts 😉 These books may not be the best written, but I devoured them (along with many of the spin offs) when I was around 13-14 and I still love them. They’re based on Dungeons and Dragons, which I’ve never played, and aren’t always realistic, but who cares? And since these three books are pretty much entirely about a war between the forces of good and evil you can bet there’s plenty of fighting (including on dragonback!) and bloodshed.

8

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. This is the same one Kristen picked but I totally agree! I read books with twists fairly regularly but this is one of the few where I had no idea what was going to happen. The main big twist was so unexpected!

9

I have to confess that a lot of books make me cry (included the previously mentioned Summer Sisters), but one that had me sobbing most of the way through was P.S., I Love You by Cecelia Ahern. Yes, it’s chick lit, but it’s good chick lit (in my opinion). The film ruined it so don’t bother watching that!

10

The Catcher in the Rye? Haha, joke, that one wasn’t slow to start… I’m still waiting for the story to actually start. Hmm, the only one I can think of right now is The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I had to stop for a while because it didn’t seem to be going anywhere, then towards the middle it picked up and the ending was weird (and depressing). It wasn’t a bad book but 100 pages less would have been fine… preferably taken off the beginning!

11

I’m going waaay back now to nursery school age! Each, Peach, Pear, Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. I adored that book and can’t wait to share it with my children. (Later I spent my pocket money on Babysitters Club and Point Horror books. I still have them all at my dad’s. Good times!).

12

I’ve read many books that feature animals, but I thought I’d take the equestrian part literally and go with The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans. The ending was kind of weird and ridiculous, which is why my rating was only 4 stars, but for me it was all about the horse anyway. If you can’t stand the idea of animals being hurt this book is not for you! I cried so hard at that part (told you I’m pathetic!).

13

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. To this day I’m not sure why I even bothered to finish it, except that I was stubborn and it was a gift from my grandma so I felt like I had to! I was given it at around 15 and it took me 5 years and three attempts to get more than half way through. I was so, so, so bored by the whole thing! Yes, I know it’s a classic. I don’t care – I hated this book!

14

Beaches by Iris Rainer Dart. It’s both similar to the film and really different. The Hilary character is called Bertie (Roberta) in the book and at times I just wanted to shake her! CeeCee is even more self-centred, if that’s possible, but somehow I liked this book (and their friendship) anyway. Also, in the book Bertie/Hilary has cancer, not whatever it was in the film. Not perfect writing by any means but I like it.

15

Apparently I don’t read any books that feature sport?! Umm… somebody starts taking swimming lessons in Butterfly Summer by Anne-Marie Conway. Maybe that counts? This is a cute book with some truly stunning descriptions of a butterfly garden. The mystery is easy to guess, but I’m much older than the intended audience (which I’d guess to be around age 11) so that’s a little unfair. It’s a quick, cute read anyway.

I’m not going to tag anybody, but if you decide to do this please let me know so I can read your answers (and add to my already insanely long to-read list!)

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I finished reading this book the other day and I loved it so, so, so much that I couldn’t be content with just writing a review on Good Reads… my blog needs one too!

The plot:
Essentially, this is a book about a circus – Le Cirque des Reves (which means “Circus of Dreams”). Except… it’s not really a circus. Not that kind of circus anyway. There are tents and some of them even have acrobats in them, but that’s as far as the similarities with a normal circus go. Plus, this circus is only open at night, closing its gates again at dawn. And anyway, the story isn’t really about the circus. Actually, it’s about two magicians competing against each other in a kind of game (that’s actually more of a… test? Battle of wits? Experiment?). Oh, I give up… summarising the plot is just too difficult!

My review:
In case you hadn’t gathered yet, I loved this book! It started off fairly slowly and I was torn between finding it interesting and being a bit put off by the pages and pages of description but not a lot of actual action. But gradually it sucked me in, until I got to the stage where I wished my commute to work was longer so I wouldn’t have to stop reading. I am aware that a lot of people won’t like The Night Circus – it’s like the Marmite of books, I think. Either you love it or you hate. Looking back, there isn’t really much of a plot and takes ages to figure out what’s actually going on (both for the reader and the magicians themselves!), but somehow, despite these failings, I fell in love with the characters and – more importantly – with the circus itslef. I desperately want there to be a real Cirque des Reves so I can go and visit it over and over again. I had to give it five stars on Good Reads because that’s all I’m allowed, but I want to give it a million stars.

The Various by Steve Augarde

Another book read for the Semi-Charmed Winter Reading Challenge! I read this one for the category “Read the first book in a series that is new to you“, which is worth 15 points. The Various is the first book in the Touchstone Trilogy.

The plot:
This is the story of 12-year-old Midge, who is sent to stay with her eccentric uncle over the summer while her mother tours with her orchestra, and her adventures with “The Various” –  a band of fairies, or little people, or whatever you want to call them. For many years, The Various have lived in the woods bordering on Uncle Brian’s farm, hidden away from human eyes. When the two world’s begin to clash, The Various are threatened with extinction. This is a tale of friendship, loyalty and adventure.

My review:
This was one of those books that made me wish my commute was longer so I could carry on reading. I LOVED it! It has all the ingredients of my favourite childhood books – perfectly ordinary girl stumbles on something extraordinary and has an adventure. Midge (whose real name is Margaret) is a believable character and I liked her a lot. I especially liked that, when she was in danger, she actually thought about the best thing to do (for example, realising that hiding in something would mean being trapped once she was found) instead of panicking and doing the exact opposite of the sensible thing – think horror films where people realise the killer is in the house and run up the stairs rather than out the front door! None of that here. She seems quite mature for her age, but as the only child of a single parent, I thought it made sense for her to have grown up fairly fast. I also liked Midge’s cousins, Katie and George. Katie is a fairly typical 13-year-old girl, more interested in clothes and boys than hanging around with her younger brother and cousin, but she comes good in the end (after stopping to change her clothes on the way, of course!). The language of the Various is quite old-fashioned with some made up words, which makes them difficult to understand at times, but I got used to that over the course of the book and I actually thought that was a nice touch. 5 stars for this one. Now to get hold of the other two books in the series…

The Long, Dark, Tea-time of the Soul by Douglas Adams

This was the second book I read for the Semi-Charmed Winter 2014 Reading Challenge and I’m so glad I put it on my list! This book was for the category “Read two books with a different meal in each title”, which means as of right now it doesn’t get me any points because I need to read a second book to get them.

The plot:
It’s kind of difficult to describe this book without spoilers, so instead of writing my own text, here’s the blurb from the back of the book: “When a passenger check-in desk at London’s Heathrow Airport disappears in a ball of orange flame, the explosion is deemed an act of God. But which god, wonders holistic detective Dirk Gently? What god would be hanging around Heathrow trying to catch the 3:37 to Oslo? And what has this to do with Dirk’s latest–and late– client, found only this morning with his head revolving atop the hit record “Hot Potato”? Amid the hostile attentions of a stray eagle and the trauma of a very dirty refrigerator, super-sleuth Dirk Gently will once again solve the mysteries of the universe…

My review:
In case you couldn’t tell from my introductory sentence, I LOVED this book! I’m sure you’ve all heard of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series if nothing else. Well, this book has nothing to do with that series, but it’s just as good. It was written in 1987, but it’s perfectly possible to read it now. The only thing that seems dated (other than the lack of mobile phones) is that it’s impossible to get a pizza delivered. People who are older than me… is that really true? Could you not get pizza deliveries in the UK in 1987? I honestly don’t remember a time when you couldn’t order a pizza and have it brought to your house! But anyway, on with the review… Adams’ writing is as insightful and funny as ever. The main premise of the book seems to be “what happened to the immortal gods (Norse ones in this case) once people decided they didn’t need/believe in them any more?”, and the plot admittedly does get a bit thin at times,  but the writing itself was so good that for the most part I didn’t even notice. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul is a sequel to Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, but you can just as easily read it as a stand-alone book. I’ve forgotten the majority of the first book and that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this one at all. I’m not being very articulate here, so I will sum by saying if you have any interest at all in Norse gods, Douglas Adams or indeed the fantasy genre you should definitely read this book. 5 stars!