Monday, 25 May 2015

Major Spotlight: Four Books from Authors Large and Small #1

The Vale of Years: A Sequel to "A Portrait in Time"This week I have the honour of presenting you with not one, but four different books to rest your eyes on! And there will be more coming from Authors Large and Small, a literary publisher which is being kind enough to let me spotlight nineteen of their books in the next few weeks. So, let's get cracking!

Charles J. Schneider's The Vale of Years
Susanne Bruante awakens to find herself in an impossible place: the past. And not just any past, but the very time in 19th century Paris when her double, Nicole Bruante, had lived. That is, before Nicole exchanged places with Susanne and shot through a time-shell to the 21st century. And now everyone, even Nicole’s own mother, believes that Susanne is Nicole.
Continuing the intriguing time-travel story begun in A Portrait in Time, The Vale of Years follows Susanne as she faces a dilemma that soon becomes a challenge for the clever imposter. Somehow, the former Assistant Director of Acquisitions and Special Exhibits at the Musée d’Orsay must insinuate herself in the lives of famous painters of the time. By lying and deceit, she creates a clever scheme that will ensure she won’t just survive, but inherit a fortune from a painter she studied in her former life. 

: Author's Website, Facebook, Goodreads and Barnes & Nobles.

Rocky Gregory's One Groovy Summer: A Summer Adventure from 1968

The critically acclaimed One Groovy Summer is a fun book about two young adults seeking fun and adventure the summer of 1968. It was the Sixties - the time of the Sexual Revolution and the Hippie Movement. Just out of high school, Will and Skip knew they could be drafted into the Vietnam War soon. So they were determined to make the most of their summer break, and they sure did. It was one groovy adventure full of action, romance,and comedy. Young Adults everywhere are enjoying it and telling their friends. So don't miss it.

Links: Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Website

My Razzle Dazzle: An Outsider's True Story
Todd Peterson's My Razzle Dazzle 

My Razzle Dazzle is an unforgettable trip of a lifetime. Beginning with a Wisconsin farm in the 1960s, Todd Peterson characterizes every outsider’s candid, moving, and often hilarious coming-out story that will take you apart and put you together again. His adventures are set against a backdrop of the cultural events of the sixties and seventies and a burgeoning gay Mecca that changed our world forever. Along this unusual journey Todd not only meets carnival freaks and murderers, but also lions, tigers and bears… oh my!
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Facebook

Charles Schneider's Under the Forgotten Oak
Under The Forgotten Oak: Definitive Second EditionWhat if God is not at all what people envision? Imagine a powerful energy portal that stretches from one end of the galaxy to another, the sustaining reservoir of life for Earth as well as a connected sister world where the ancient deities actually live and breath. What if Satan is actually a renegade thread of this interplanetary gateway; and the future of two worlds, and three dimensions, rests entirely on one single human being's actions? 
When Lan MacCamhail unexpectedly inherits an estate and a multi-million dollar legacy overseas, he hopes this stroke of good fortune will give him the chance to make a fresh start in Ireland. The terms of the mysterious bequeathal, however, require that he must find an enigmatic amulet before he can claim his rightful inheritance. Based loosely on the Celtic legend of Oisin and Niamh, Lan's saga, mirrored by his father's strangely similar story from three decades earlier, takes a sinister turn when dark forces intervene. 
Link: Goodreads, Amazon, Author's Facebook

Don't all of these books sound amazing? Check back soon to see what else Authors Large and Small has to offer you.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Weekly Overview

This has been a great week for me! On the one hand I have managed to get some posts up while also getting my coursework and dissertation in. One of the books I read this week, Girl at War, is absolutely stunning and everyone should read it. That's not a request, it's a command!

I can't wait to really get into The Bell Jar. I am a couple of pages in now and I simply absolutely love Plath's writing style.

This post is linked up with the Sunday post over at Caffeinated Book Reviewer!

Friday, 22 May 2015

Friday Memes and 'The Bell Jar' by Sylvia Plath

I have finally finished my degree!! I have handed in my last piece of coursework and now all that is left is to sit around and wait for my grades, which isn't nerve-racking at all! It does mean that I now have months left to get as much reading done as I possible can so that is definitely something I'm excited about. But let's get some memes going!

Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee. This week's question was suggested by Blue Books and Butterflies:

How do you write your reviews?

I try to write them in one go usually, the day of or the day after finishing the book. I always feel like I should be writing notes while reading the book, but I always think that if I was distracted enough to write while I read, then clearly I'm not intrigued enough by the book itself. And then once I've finished the book and sat down for the review I tend to both write about the things I found interesting and about some logical things such as the feel of the book and the author's writing style.

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Billy over at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. This week's question was suggested by Elizabeth over at Silver's Reviews:

Why would you stop reading a book? Too long, wrong genre, bad language, not what you expected, or something totally different?

Length is definitely not something that can stop me from reading a book. I tend to not pick up books that are the wrong genre though, so that wouldn't be it either. Bad language is a maajor turn off for me and it is not something you can really guess about a book either from the cover either. If an author can't write properly than I have no interest in continuing their book either. Usually it's a good thing when books do the unexpected because I'm tired of reading the same tropes over and over again. Did that just turn into a mini rant?

This week I'm using a book I've been wanting to read for ages. I was waiting for coursework to be over so I could really get into it. That book is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Book Beginnings and Friday 56 are hosted, respectively, Gilion over at Rose City Reader and Freda over at Freda's Voice.

'It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York. I'm stupid about executions. The idea of being electrocuted makes me sick, and that's all there was to read about in the papers - goggle-eyed headlines staring up at me on every street corner and at the fusty, peanut-smelling mouth of every subway.' p.1
I love Plath's writing, she writes incredibly honestly. When I read parts of her diary I was also struck by how much she confided in her own writing without knowing it. She lays a lot of herself bare and it means I'm both excited for and slightly scared of what is about to come.

'Marco's small, flickering smile reminded me of a snake I'd teased in in the Bronx Zoo. When I tapped my finger on the stout cage glass the snake had opened its clockwork jaws and seemed to smile. Then it struck and struck and struck at the invisible pane until I moved off.' p.56
The way Plath writes about gender is something I always found intriguing. I feel like I have met people before who fit Plath's description of Marco. It is a strange description and yet it's one that works very well.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Review: 'Girl at War' by Sara Nović

Sometimes you hear of a book and realize that you simply have to read it. For me, Girl at War was that kind of book. From the moment I read the blurb I was intrigued and looking forward to reading about this part of European history. I want to thank Netgalley and Little, Brown for providing me with a copy of this book.

Pub. Date: 21/05/2015
Publisher: Little, Brown

Growing up in Zagreb in the summer of 1991, 10-year-old Ana Juric is a carefree tomboy; she runs the streets with her best friend, Luka, helps take care of her baby sister, Rahela, and idolizes her father. But when civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, football games and school lessons are supplanted by sniper fire and air raid drills. 
The brutal ethnic cleansing of Croats and Bosnians tragically changes Ana's life, and she is lost to a world of genocide and child soldiers; a daring escape plan to America becomes her only chance for survival. Ten years later she returns to Croatia, a young woman struggling to belong to either country, forced to confront the trauma of her past and rediscover the place that was once her home.
Girl At War is a haunting, compelling debut from a brilliant young writer, rooted in historical fact and personal experience. Sara has lived in the States and Croatia, and her novel bears witness to the haunting stories of her family and friends who lived through the height of the conflict, and reflects her own attempts to come to terms with her relationship to Croatia and its history. It is an extraordinary achievement for a novelist of any age, let alone age 26.
Sara Nović's novel is an absolutely enthralling read. Nović writes on relentlessly, no matter what she is discussing and how it might make her readers feel. It is incredibly important to have novels like Girl at War that tackle periods of history that aren't often discussed and do so in an open and honest way. Ana is a really interesting character, both an unreliable narrator and incredibly emphatic. The narrative doesn't move chronologically, meaning that the reader, at times, feels equally disjointed as Ana. Nović also doesn't shy away from not always giving an answer to the questions that she asks. How does one move on from spending their childhood seeing their country torn apart? How does moving away change your feelings about your home country? Having a child be her main character, Nović is able to both give the novel the sense of potential redemption while also having it be strangely depressing.

For the fact that this is a debut novel, Nović has an incredibly strong writing style which really gives her a voice throughout the novel. She manages to find a way to fluidly move between time periods and from horrendous war crimes to family memories. Nović tells Ana's tale in a way that is almost understated without censoring herself. She doesn't employ overly sentimental language in order to draw the reader in but rather lets the gravity of her story do that which makes it a very mature novel. Girl at War is not only a novel about war, but also about a girl. Ana is not only a survivor, but also a sister, daughter and friend. Nović doesn't let war consume her novel, which means that throughout her novel there is a ray of hope that not only Ana will be fine, but that her whole country will be.

Our world is no stranger to war and yet a lot of war occurring all around the world right now seem strangely far away. Although I was very young, technically too young, to really remember the start of the Yugoslav War, it was something I consciously grew up with. Being Dutch, the massacre at Srebrenica was something that weighed heavily on my mind. While the Yugoslav War was the background for some of the biggest war crimes committed since the Second World War, there doesn't seem to be a lot of attention for it. It's very gratifying to see such a strong novel coming out of such a horrendous time in European history. With this kind of conversation about such topics, the hope is that we can eventually prevent it from happening again.

Historical fiction can be a difficult genre because an author has to be able to find the perfect balance between the history and the fiction. In the case of Girl at War, how much time is enough to spend on the war and how much is too much? No one wants to read a fiction novel with footnotes, whereas a history book with fictional accounts is also not very desirable. Nović's novel strikes a perfect balance which allows the reader to acknowledging the history as the background to Ana's life but also to never forget the gravity of the history.

I give this book...

5 Universes!

Girl at War is an incredible read which deserves to be read by everyone. Ana is a fascinating character and Nović writes her life-story beautifully. Girl at War brings light to an era in European history which seems to be pushed out of the limelight a lot. The novel is both heart-breaking and beautiful and it will keep you captivated until the very last word.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Review: 'Little Wars and Floor Games: The Foundations of War-Gaming' by H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells is one of my favourite authors and his The War of the Worlds one of my all-time favourite novels. As such there was no hesitation on my part when I saw this book become available. Little Wars and Floor Games seems to exist in the space between manual and satire and is as such a strangely interesting read. Thanks to Netgalley and Dover Publications for providing me with a copy of this book.

Pub. Date: 18/02/2015
Publisher: Dover Publications
Ironically enough, one of the twentieth century's leading pacifists wrote Little Wars, a book that has entertained and enlightened war buffs for the past hundred years. H. G. Wells, the great science-fiction pioneer, turned his attention from tales of time travel and alien invasions to write the first classic book of war games. His simulations of past battles and hypothetical future clashes allow readers to test their tactical and strategic skills and attempt to rewrite history. 
The companion piece, Floor Games, offers a more lighthearted look at war games. Based on the playful battles Wells waged with his sons, the narrative describes how creative play with miniature figures can transform an ordinary room into a magical world. The book has since been hailed as an inspiration for the development of a nonverbal psychotherapeutic method employed in the treatment of adults and children. Both Little Wars and Floor Games feature winsome illustrations by J. R. Sinclair that enhance their antique charm.
Dover Publications excels in bringing rare works by well-known authors back into public view. H.G. Wells is one of the 20th century's most famous authors thanks to works such as The Time Machine and The Island of Dr. Moreau. As the blurb states, Wells' was a convinced pacifist and one of the joys of Little Wars and Floor Games is to notice his criticism of actual, or as he calls it Great, war. Floor Games, despite being written first, is added to the later Little Wars as an addendum. Whereas Little Wars focuses completely on war-games and their rules as played by grown-ups, Floor Games focuses more on children and how they play. I personally enjoyed Floor Games more since an active imagination is what I live on.

More than anything, I would argue that Little Wars and Floor Games is a book about and for the imagination. A familiar sight at many kindergartens and primary schools is children huddled together shouting about all kinds of rules before engaging in a 'no holds barred' game. I have also never met anyone who didn't know about the 'the floor is lava'-game. The need to create and play together seems to be universal. Wells' enthusiastic writing style of such play and detailed description of painstakingly created huts and roads infuses both novellas with much-needed spirit. Were it not for Wells' own encouragement and passion, Little Wars and Floor Games would just be another dry manual. As it is, it is a read with which time flies.

As a novella on war games, it is almost impossible for H.G. Wells not to descend into imperialist and colonialist ways. Especially when discussing the Game of the Wonderful Island, there seems to be a blatant acceptance of the fact that women and non-British men are disenfranchised. The difficult thing with books from different eras is that there will undoubtedly be attitudes represented which we nowadays would consider antiquated and potentially even offensive. I'd argue that, instead of therefore ignoring these books, it is important to confront yourself with these sentiments. Although there is, of course, no truth in racial prejudices, it is interesting to see how easily such attitudes enter into culture and how hard it is to get rid of them.

I give this book...

3 Universes.

Although I didn't find Little Wars and Floor Games a fascinating read, it was kept entertaining by H.G. Wells' sense of humour which came across perfectly in his writing. It is, however, definitely not for those not interested in war games or floor games. J. R. Sinclair's drawings greatly add to the charm of the book and illustrate Wells' explanations beautifully.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Review: '100 Poems: Old and New' by Rudyard Kipling, edited by Thomas Pinney

When I saw '100 Poems' on NetGalley I knew I wanted a look at it because I have only ever known Rudyard Kipling as a novelist and short story writer, although I have to admit, to my shame, I haven't read The Jungle Book yet. His poems are, although less known, very interesting and to see so many together in a collection really puts each in perspective. Thanks to Netgalley and Cambridge University Press.

Pub. Date: 03/10/2013
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936), winner of the 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature and author of one of the most popular poems in the English language, 'If–', has long captured the interest of poetry lovers. Here, Thomas Pinney brings together a selection of well-established favourites and the best of the previously uncollected and unpublished poems from The Cambridge Edition of the Poems of Rudyard Kipling (2013). The poems, whether exploring the colonial experience, exposing the injustice of war, or appreciating the beauties of nature, resonate with Kipling's keen observations of his world and strong sense of poetic rhythm. Discovered by Pinney in an array of unlikely hiding places, the uncollected and unpublished poems show the diversity and development of Kipling's talent over his lifetime, and, when combined with long-held favourites, offer readers a unique opportunity to experience Kipling's mastery of poetry in a new way. Beautifully presented, this collection makes an ideal gift for poetry lovers and Kipling fans alike
'If-' is one of my favourite poems and I only now realised it is by Kipling. This poem, also included in this collection, is the reason why I believe Kipling's poetry to be stunning. I myself am struggling to find words to properly review his poetry and he manages to describe perfectly what it feels like to battle the world and move between independence and company. A poetry collection is rather difficult to review, since poetry is not only subjective but one poem also majorly differs from another despite sharing an author. Whereas one poem can be to your liking, another can be in a completely different tone. It is in that sense that I have to admit that I don't care for his poems titled after fruit. 'Apples', 'Berries', 'Grapes', 'The Peach', 'Plums' and 'The Watermelon', all of them, just don't do anything for me.

Rather than try to describe the entire collection, I think it makes more sense to try and describe Kipling's impact by picking a particular poem. In this case, I've decided on 'Gunga Din'. Still one of Kipling's more famous poems, it is really interesting the way attitudes shifts in the poem. People sometimes forget about Kipling's history as a soldier, especially in India. That is where this poem takes place as well, displaying perfectly the imperial ideology that Kipling was confronted with on a daily basis. Authors from Britain's Imperial history are often plagued by the stigma of their time. Another famous example is Joseph Conrad, whose Heart of Darkness is not intrinsically racist although his characters often are. It is easy to associate Kipling's poetry with these attitudes but often there is more behind them than immediately meets the eye.

I give this collection...

3 Universes!

The variety of poems is what makes 100 Poems a good collection. By bringing together old and new poems, Pinney makes 100 Poems an interesting read even for those who are already familiar with most of Kipling's available work. Although personally I am still not a major fan of Kipling's poetry, I would recommend this collection to those interested in reading different attitudes to colonialism and Imperialism.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Weekly Overview

I've only got one more piece of work to hand in and then freedom awaits me! I can't wait to have everything handed in and just be able to read what I want and have lie-ins till late! This week has partially been really good, but on the other hand I've been slacking a little bit! Let's see what this week had in store for me:

Three reviews is pretty good, considering I have been buried in course work. I can feel that I am getting annoyed with the pressure of having to review all these books in time. But I guess it's also a bit of a luxury problem since I get to read a lot of books I otherwise wouldn't have gotten my hands on.

This post is linking up with The Sunday Post over at Caffeinated Book Reviewer!