Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Christmas Books

1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens         
The book is about an old man called Scrooge who is visited by three spirits who show him how to care.

2. A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore
The book is about how families wait for St. Nicholas once a year and when a father bumps into St. Nicholas.

3. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
   The book is about how a boy doesn't believe in Christmas and goes on a train to visit Santa to discover the true meaning of Christmas.

4. Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
The book is about how a family go on a Caribbean cruise and leave their daughter in Peru where the story takes a turn for the worst.

5. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
The book is about how six misbehaving children stumble across a church and are assigned roles in a play and through the roles of the play find what Christmas is all about.

Friday, 27 February 2015

OPEN-By Andre Agassi

This autobiography was written by a ghostwriter on behalf of Andre Agassi. I was drawn to giving this book a read as I play tennis myself and I heard many people going on about how much of a great read it was including my parents and friends.
Andre Agassi played tennis professionally from 1986 to 2006. The book is about Andre's life story and how his father forced him to play tennis as a kid, tennis then became his career, even though he hated it. The book focuses on Andre's ups and downs in his life, the friendships he had and his relationships. The book also describes Andre's battles with his great rivals, his devastating losses, and his career changing matches. He describes the intense psychological aspect of tennis and how it can take you to great highs in your life but also to great lows.

The main characters in this book are Andre Agassi, Brooke shields(his first wife), Brad(his one of few tennis coaches), Gil (his personal trainer and in many ways a great friend), J.P and Perry who were two of his closest friends, and of course Steffi Graf who was the best woman tennis player in the world when she retired and also Agassi's wife.

Another main person to impact Agassi's life was his father and he turns out to probably be the most influential person in Agassi's life, The reason for this is from the day Andre Agassi was born his father was convinced that he would be the world's number one. His father built a tennis court in his garden and a machine that would fire balls across the net for Andre to hit back. Andre thought of this machine as a fire breathing dragon who never grew tired. He hated it. His father worked out that if he hit one thousand balls every day, he would hit 365,000 balls a year and that this must make him the best tennis player in the world some day.

By Adam Rufli

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

A Study in Scarlet Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A Study in Scarlet is a book I have been considering reading for a long time. I worried that it would be overly verbose (being written over a century ago) and somewhat outdated. It was a great relief then to find out that this is a novel that has aged brilliantly, outdated terminology aside. Compared to others of his time, Conan Doyle's narratives tend to speed along at a fast pace which (for me) is essential in this sort of murder story in order to keep the reader interested in the plot as it unfolds. Also, while it is something the author cannot have foreseen, the first person style in which it is written provides a wonderful insight into life in the nineteenth century. The hustle and bustle of the busy London streets during the daytime, and the silence of the night is excellently captured.

 I am confident in saying that Sherlock Holmes in one of the greatest characters in the history of literature. From his quirky mannerisms to his immense intelligence (and occasional comedic lack thereof) he is intensely likeable. It is no exaggeration when I say that he improves very scene he is in. It is here, I think, that Conan Doyle made his greatest mistake.

 The novel is divided into two major sections, the first dealing with the solving of the murder case. Holmes is prevalent in this portion, and it makes for brilliant entertainment. The latter section deals with the back story of the murderer, and it is here that I feel the book loses steam. The pace slows down to a halt as we are introduced to an entirely new cast of characters, most of whom are significantly less interesting than Sherlock and Co. (Holmes is entirely absent for these chapters). A grumpy elderly man and his stereotypically attractive daughter are no substitute for the crime-solving sleuth.

 I feel that the entire second half of the book would have been better off as a single chapter, or spread out throughout the narrative. It is effectively a large exposition dump at the end of the story, and while it does pay of in making the murderer feel more three-dimensional I am left wondering if reading it was worth the effort. It is a Sherlock Holmes novel without Sherlock Holmes, and not in the positive sense (see "The Hound of the Baskervilles"). There is no other way to describe it, in my opinion the second half of "A Study in Scarlet" is boring.

 A Study in Scarlet is a book of two (literal) halves. The murder case is everything a crime novel should be; engaging, surprising and genuinely entertaining- a proper classic. The murderer's back story is anything but, although to be fair I do feel that the good outshines the not-so-good. I would still absolutely recommend this book to anyone even vaguely interested in crime, drama, or good novels in general. Just forget the second half!

Suite français - Irène Némirovsky


     Suite français is a book written during and about the Second World War. For the first half of the book, the storm in June, it gives you the story of the war through rich refugees who have to leave their homes in Paris and encounter lifestyles they haven't been used to. They witness people dying and that have run out of food, in some cases some of the families feel sorry but in others they still view themselves as the ones who have lost the most because they have come from upper class lifestyles. In the second  half of the book, Dolce, it tells the story of a French woman and a German soldier. I prefer this half of the book as I think it had more of a story line, even though  Némirovsky dies before she could finish it I honestly think if she had of finished it the story as a whole would not have been the same.

     There are a few over laps in the book of the first and second half, for example the Michauds had stayed with the Angeillers when they had escaped from Paris, and they're son had had an affair with one of the Women in the village.

        When you think of any war most of the time you think of the soldiers, the only soldiers mentioned in this novel are the ones billeted in the french towns. You understand through these soldiers that the war, although there are different views, is mainly the same for everyone.

        Although to story did get a bit confusing at times you would be able to understand it again after a few lines or paragraphs. All and all this book is written amazingly and it's a shame that some of the stories were not completed, but that is also a good thing as you can make up the endings yourself, use your own imagination to know what became of the characters. Even though the author didn't intend that to happen it worked!. I really enjoyed this book, but as I already mentioned I preferred the second part. I do recommend this book to anyone, I feel like there is at least one character in this book that everyone would enjoy, there are a lot of characters.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Looking for Alaska by John Greene

Looking for Alaska is about a young boy who moves school in search for his great perhaps but ends up stuck in this Labrynth.
His name is Peter but when he moves to boarding school his new friends re-name him Pudge.
While at the boarding school Pudge falls for the unpredictable Alaska. Pudge's life changes completely when he moves here he makes life long friends, the Colonel, Takumi, Lara and Alaska...however Pudge's new friends don't quite stick by the rules,this type of life is new to Pudge but its an adventure he doesn't want to miss.

My favourite part of this story is when Pudge and the rest Colonel Takumi... all plan a revenge prank on a few of the people who weren't quite welcoming to Pudge when he first moved especially due to who he had decided to become friends with.

The Girl on the Cliff - Lucinda Riley

Grania Ryan moved away from Ireland in search of a bigger better life in New York, but after suffering the loss of her unborn child she returns home to her family in Ireland, leaving her partner, Matt, in New York with no explanation to her fleeing. Grania meets a young girl Aurora Lisle on the cliff and is intrigued by her confidence and bubbly personality. It was then a friendship began to grow between the two, and without Grania knowing it, history was beginning to re live itself.
Grania's mother had warned her not to get involved with the Lisle family, she kept telling Grania it would only cause trouble because their family's history went back to 1914. This history included war-time romance and raising and loving a child that was not their own .As the story goes on we begin to untangle the past of the two family's and we also get to see the past repeating itself, we see Grania falling in love once again and we see her treating Aurora as if she were her own child.
What drew me to keep reading this book was the character of Aurora, at such a young age she suffered the loss of her mother which as we see in the book affected her life greatly, it also matured her. She w

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

There are two stories to the life of Pi. One is full of animals and  carnivorous floating islands and is a tale of adventure and triumph, whereas the other is a frightening tale of the darker side of human nature. Both are incredible stories of survival, and loss, and faith. And an ordinary boy named Pi who is forced into extraordinary circumstance.

The premise of the novel is that a young Indian boy and his family sell their zoo and pack up to search for a better life in Canada. On their way through the pacific ocean the ship crashes and sinks leaving Pi in a lifeboat with only a hyena, a zebra with a broken leg, an orang-utan and an adult Bengal tiger for company. The story, told through the eyes Pi himself, seems incredibly real and as soon as I opened the first page I was immediately enraptured with Pi Patel's story.

The author's clever use of first person and incredible use of language creates a vivid and mesmerising image in your mind and makes even the mundane moments seem imaginative and special. The landscapes and problems that Pi is faced with along the way are engrained in my mind and will be for quite some time.

At the end of the novel you are told a different story in which the animals that Pi has been trapped on the lifeboat with are replaced with people. The two stories both match up and follow the same story line but when the animals are replaced with people it becomes so much more difficult to comprehend the atrocities that took place. In the second, darker story the ship's cook has devolved to become more animal like, forgetting all the pleasantries and normality that comes with being in a society and has regressed to only thinking in the sense of the Freudian id. Even when Pi is interviewed at the end of the novel and tells his interviewers both stories and let's them choose which of the two to put in their report, they choose the first because they don't want to even consider that any person is capable of such barbaric and vicious behaviour because if they did they would have to admit that then they will be forced to reflect on how they would act if they were put in extreme circumstances.

Everyone would like to think that they would act like Pi, who turns to God and himself instead of violence, but this novel shows that people are capable of terrible things if put under enough pressure. But with extreme self discipline and faith in something someone can survive a terrible ordeal without forgetting what it is to be human.

Friday, 30 January 2015

"The Road" by Cormac McCarthy

I really enjoyed reading "The Road". I hadn't read any books by Cormac McCarthy before so I was curious to see what "The Road" would be like. "The Road" is unlike any book I had read before. I found that McCarthy's use of dialogue added to the sense of near complete silence and fear that the characters experienced throughout the book.

"The Road" is set sometime in the future where every day is a struggle for the people who have managed to survive whatever catastrophe had happened in the years past. It is a story about a man and his son who are trying to stay alive with only a few rations and gun with two bullets and their journey to reach the coast. Throughout the book they are followed by men who are starving and will try to kill them. We don't know the age of the man but the boy is about seven. They end up reaching the coast after a hard and treacherous journey in which they encounter many horrific things.

However, they start to run out of the little food they the have left and the man dies from starvation. I thought that the young boy was going to die too, but a few days after his fathers death he is saved by a group of people who agree to help him.

My favourite character was the father. He kept trying to reach the coast in an effort to keep his son alive. He was extremely brave throughout the book and tried to protect his son from the men and from seeing the horrific things that they saw on their journey. He was also very kind. When there was a shortage of food he would always give the son the larger share of food.

My favourite scene was when they were running dangerously low on supplies and they found a warehouse packed with food such as cans and other food that doesn't perish easily. This scene was such a rare moment of happiness in the book where the characters felt safe and happy and this is why its my favourite scene.

I would sincerly recommend this book. It is such a sad but beautiful story and I feel that people should read it and acknowledge the author and how great this book is. I would definitely read other books by Cormac McCarthy.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

 This was the first Charles Dickens book I had read, and despite its length of 880 pages, and the language, which took some getting used to, it has now joined my list of books which I will never forget, and will probably reread many times. It takes a couple of chapters to get into, but when you do get into it, you will fall into its pages, and for the days, weeks or months while you're reading it, you will only have to glance at a page to disappear into the world of Nicholas Nickleby.
  The story follows the life of our central character, Nicholas Nickleby, after the death of his father. He moves to London with his sister and mother, but soon, needing a job, he leaves them to work in a school a long way away. It is here that we first meet Smike, an unhappy and helpless boy whom Nicholas befriends. Nicholas is very quickly, like the other inhabitants of the school, entirely unhappy. Events at the school build to a climax, resulting in Nicholas and Smike fleeing back to Nicholas's family in London. However, between the terrible schoolmaster, Squeers, (Dickens has a flair for  naming his characters!) and Nicholas's cruel and money- obsessed uncle, Ralph Nickleby, life for the Nicklebys, and their devoted friend Smike, is far from uneventful. The book documents the many adventures, and more often misadventures, of Nicholas, Kate, their shallow and talkative mother, and the various characters they meet along the way.
  The thing I most enjoyed about this book was the characters. At times it is hard to keep track of them all, but each character has a very developed personality. Nicholas was a very believable character- he was strong, brave, caring and intelligent, but none of these characteristics was unrealistically over- developed. He had enough depth and complexity to make him the kind of character you can relate well to and understand. His mother's incessant, mindless and highly irritating chatter contrasted perfectly with his steady, considerate patience.
  Somebody once told me that Dickens's books are funny. I expected that. What I didn't expect was the moments when I was sitting there reading in a room full of family members, all staring at me as I  laughed hysterically at the book. This is one of the very few books that has made me laugh out loud. It was mainly the character of Newman Noggs who provided the entertainment- Dickens's descriptions of his many oddities, especially in the scene where we first meet him, had me grinning like a lunatic.
  I expected "Nicholas Nickleby" to be good. What I hadn't expected was the the way it captured my attention. Sometimes a chapter will be spent on some seemingly random and unrelated scene, which is forgotten until it is woven back into the story twenty or thirty chapters on, to create a complex and thrilling twist in the plot. The story's many layers and side- plots add a depth and extra dimension to the book that give it that bit more reality and complexity  than any other book. I would give this book 10 out of 10.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I read the book pride and prejudice by Jane Austen. The book is about the Bennett family mainly who live in Longbourn, the family has a variety of very strong contrasting characters, Jane the eldest of five daughters and  is supposedly the most beautiful, Elizabeth who is my favourite character is really confident and witty, Mary the middle child is the intelligent quiet one and the youngest two are kitty and Lydia who are just silly and ditsy and love going to town to see the officers. Mrs Bennett main purpose in life is to get all five of her daughters married, preferably to wealthy men with large estates.

The main theme of this book is love, marriage and money. throughout the book all three themes are very apparent. Love is found in marriage and hopefully money is brought with marriage. You see love between Jane and Mr Bingley even at the very start when you see how he cares for her so much when she falls sick when she comes to visit him which contrasts with the love between Darcy and Elizabeth which is not very clear at the start but it becomes more apparent throughout the book.

The book starts with news of a new wealthy single man arriving in town to buy Netherfield park, Mr Bennett is sent out by Mrs Bennett for a social visit as she hopes that this young man will be the future husband of one of her daughters. Mr Bingley first meets Jane at a ball and falls for her beauty at first sight, he dances with her most of the night. Mr Darcy is also introduced but as an arrogant man with excessive pride as he refuses to dance with Elizabeth. Later on in the novel Jane goes to visit Mr Bingley in Netherfield park but has to stay there when she falls sick, , Elizabeth then travels to Netherfield park to take care of her sister and encounters Mr Darcy again with Ms Bingley, Mr Bingley's sister who is chasing Mr Darcy. Ms Bingley is not impressed with Elizabeth at all and her stay in Netherfield park is not the most pleasant and she is happy to return home.

Mr Collins a clergyman is then introduced who is supposed to be inheriting the Bennett's land, after a while he proposes to Elizabeth but is refused and later marries her friend Charlotte. The Bennetts and Mr Collins go to visit their uncle in town when they meet Wickham who is an officer, He tells Elizabeth of what a horrible man Darcy is and how he cheated him out of his inheritance, this adds to Elizabeth's dislike of Mr Darcy.

The book continues with more encounters between Elizabeth and Darcy and more marriages between the young ladies. I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to anyone. its beautifully written and is a grasping novel and quite humorous at parts.

Kyla O'dwyer

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

The book that I read was Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. It's about these two people who are outsiders in their lives who meet and fall in love. It's quite generic to be honest.

The main girl Eleanor is constantly described as being fat and having massive unruly red hair and always dressing really weirdly. Yet that's okay because Park is in love with her. It just seemed that it was always being like "how does he like me? I'm fat" like I get that she was supposed to be a self conscious character but I mean stand up for yourself. The only times she actually felt good about herself was when Park said nice things about her and that doesn't exactly scream role model or strong person in any way. I get that her home situation was really bad, her stepdad hated her and she always had to walk on eggshells around him but love yourself for yourself sometimes not because someone else said that you looked nice! plus Park is always saying things that sound like thinly veiled back-stabbing compliments towards her.

Park is the main guy in the book. He is introduced as kind of popular yet at the same time is an outsider who is really actually unique and perfect in his own way. With about one friend. He is half Korean and it seems that the book can't go one chapter without mentioning it. One time it even said something that went like "No Korean guys can be good looking" I mean WHAT? Isn't that a touch racist? Park's mum is a beautician and one day he starts wearing eyeliner because he thinks it makes him look better and his dad asks him why because guys don't usually wear eyeliner and he starts crying. I don't really know why but I think it was supposed to show that Park's family isn't perfect either..?

In this book both the main characters acted normal enough at the start but then fell in love in about a second and then started acting like they were on drugs. Having random mood swings, becoming so dependent on each other I thought that I was reading Twilight and just a general strangeness. I think what the author was trying to do was have them as the classic YA John Green or Stephen Chbosky outsiders but just missed the mark. I just couldn't have any feelings about them because I thought that they were utterly ridiculous. Maybe if Rowell had spent more time exploring other characters like Eleanor's mother and the abuse that she was going through regular beatings and what I'm guessing is rape would have given the book more range and depth. The "super emotional ending" just flopped because by the end I just didn't care.

So overall I would not recommend this book but I wish the author tons of luck with their other books in the future.