#31 The Bride Stripped Bare – Nikki Gemmell

8 Apr
The Bride Stripped Bare - Nikki Gemmell

The Bride Stripped Bare – Nikki Gemmell

Goodreads rating: 3.09/5 (3,200+ ratings)
My rating: 6/10
First Published: 2003
Genre: Adult Fiction; Chick Lit

Originally published anonymously, The Bridge Stripped Bare is the story of a newly married woman, who ends up attending a library group regularly and meeting a man there. Through her diary, she details her sexual awakening that she discovers from being with this man, and the confidence this gives her both with her husband, and within herself.

One thing I really enjoyed about this book is that it’s woven together with an anonymous 17th-century text called ‘A Woeman’s Worth’ which is made up of lessons for women. The author then writes the novel as a response to the lessons in the 400 year old book. I liked reading the old lessons and comparing it to modern times.

Each ‘lesson’ is a different chapter, which are really short. When I began reading it, I didn’t like the format – it wasn’t gripping me and I couldn’t get into it, but after a while I was glad for it as it made it easier to read a little bit and then come back to later!

This novel is pretty straightforward and honest when it comes to the protagonist’s thoughts about sex. I must admit that when reading it at lunch at work I didn’t want anyone to see over my shoulder because some of the content is pretty raunchy. So keep that in mind when you read it!

Notable quotes

There were the endless birthday nights and New Year’s Eves of just you in your bed and no one else. There was the welling up at weddings, the glittery eye-prick, when all the couples would get up to dance. Sometimes it felt like your heart was crazed with cracks like your grandmother’s old saucers. Sometimes the sight of a Saturday afternoon couple laughing in a park would splinter it completely.

Alone you’re refinding a glittering, a clarity, you’re finding your distilled self. …You think of the two types of aloneness you’ve known recently: this wonderful, sparkly, soul-refreshing type, and the despairing loneliness that sucks the breath from your life.

An emptiness rules at its core, a rottenness, a silence when one of you retires to bed without saying good night, when you eat together without conversation, when the phone’s passed wordlessly to the other. An emptiness when every night you lie in the double bed, restlessly awake, astounded at how closely hate can nudge against love, can wind around it sinuously like a cat. An emptiness when you realize that the loneliest you’ve ever been is within a marriage, as a wife.

No one except your husband knows of the cautiousness at the heart of your life. Your adulthood has been a progressive retreat from curiosity and wonder, an endless series of delays and procrastinations. You wanted to be so much, once, but life kept on getting in the way… You settled. Shunned creativity, flight, risk, never had the courage to give a dream, any dream, a go.

Past reviews

“Simply too beautiful… a mesmerising and disquieting novel that will deserve to be read again.” – Vogue Australia

“One of the few truly original voices to emerge in a long time.”- Time Out New York

“A powerful novel that does not flinch from strong emotion or description…luminous.” – London Times

-H-

If you’ve read this, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts or reading your reviews so please share any links!

#30 Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote

16 Mar
Breakfast at Tiffany's - Truman Capote

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote

Goodreads rating: 3.89/5 (87K+ ratings)
My rating: 6.5/10
First Published: 1958
Genre: Classic; Short Story

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a short story about a writer and his neighbour, Holly Golightly, who calls the man ‘Fred’ after her older brother. This name is all we know him as during the novella. Set in the early 1940′s in Manhattan’s Upper East side, Holly is a country girl turned New York socialite, who spends time with rich men who shower her in gifts. Throughout the book she slowly opens herself up to ‘Fred’ (who is eager to get to know her and be part of her life), revealing tidbits of her life story & personality along the way, however never really opening up.

I enjoyed this book – it was light-hearted, short, and easy to read. You never really get to understand Holly or what she’s all about, despite learning things about her past and personal life as the book progresses. She’s not easy to like – but I found her endearing, if not very flaky. ‘Fred’ is just a reliable, caring, shy guy who wants to know Holly and help Holly, but she never lets him in.

I recommend this book purely because it’s a classic and Holly Golightly is one of America’s best known cultural icons.

Notable quotes

Like many people with a bold fondness for volunteering personal information, anything that suggested a direct question, a pinning-down, put her on guard 

“We sort of just took up by the river one day, we don’t belong to each other: he’s an independent and, so am I” – Holly Golightly about her cat

“Well, I might be rotten to the core, Maude, but: testify against a friend I will not” – Holly Golightly

Her bedroom was consistent with her parlor: it perpetuated the same camping-out atmosphere; crates and suitcases, everything packed and ready to go 

-H-

If you’ve read this, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts or reading your reviews so please share any links!

Teaser Tuesday

11 Feb

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Should Be Reading.

Rules
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Teaser

Book: I am reading The Bride Stripped Bare by Nikki Gemmell. I’m up to page 288 out of 373 and I’m enjoying it. It’s very simply written so very easy to follow. My teaser is from page 328. 

You stop, can’t go on, the tips of your fingers press your mouth; you don’t know why you flew to Seville any more, why you didn’t just walk from the bullring, from his life. This is wrong, this is wrong.

The Bride Stripped Bare - Nikki Gemmell

The Bride Stripped Bare – Nikki Gemmell

-H-

WWW Wednesday

22 Jan

W…W…W…Wednesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should be Reading. 

TO PLAY ALONG, JUST ANSWER THE FOLLOWING THREE (3) QUESTIONS:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What did you recently finish reading?
  3. What do you think you’ll read next?

_________________________________________________________________________________

What are you currently reading?

I am just currently reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote. I’m pretty much 3 quarters of the way through, however the edition I have has another 3 stories in it too: House of Flowers, A Diamond Guitar, and A Christmas Memory.

Breakfast at Tiffany's - Truman Capote

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote

What did you recently finish reading? 

I’ve finished three books since my last WWW WednesdayAnd the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini; The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak; and Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant by Daniel Tammet. Check out the reviews to see what I thought of them. 

And The Mountains Echoed - Khaled Hosseini

And The Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini

The Book Thief - Marcus Zusak

The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak

Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant - Daniel Tammet

Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant – Daniel Tammet

What do you think you’ll read next?

The next book on my list is The Bride Stripped Bare by Nikki Gemmell. I have no real idea what it’s about or whether it’s well liked but i’m looking forward to it!

The Bride Stripped Bare - Nikki Gemmell

The Bride Stripped Bare – Nikki Gemmell

I would love to hear your thoughts on any of these books, although no spoilers please for the ones I haven’t read yet!

-H-

Teaser Tuesday

21 Jan

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Should Be Reading.

Rules
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Teaser

Book: I am reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s and three stories by Truman Capote which is made up of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, House of Flowers, A Diamond Guitar, and A Christmas Memory. I’m currently up to page 74 of 100 for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. My spoiler is from page 85.

The male detective seemed embarrassed: by Madame Spanella and by the situation; but a harsh enjoyment tensed the face of his companion – she plumped a hand on Holly’s shoulder and, in a surprising baby-child voice, said: ‘Come along, sister. You’re going places.’ Whereupon Holly coolly told her: ‘Get them cotton-pickin’ hands off of me, you dreary, drivelling old bull-dyke.’

Breakfast at Tiffany's - Truman Capote

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote

-H-

#29 Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant – Daniel Tammet

20 Jan
Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant - Daniel Tammet

Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant – Daniel Tammet

Goodreads rating: 3.8/5 (10K+ ratings)
My rating: 7/10
First Published: 2006
Genre: Autobiography; Non-Fiction

This is a memoir of Daniel Tammet, a man with high functioning autism and savant syndrome. Savant syndrome is what Dustin Hoffman has in Rainman, however Daniel is high functioning and can live a relatively normal life.

The first chapter of this book is eye-opening. Daniel writes about how he sees each individual number, whether it be the number 9 or 131,555, as it’s own image, with it’s own feelings attached to it. He writes about how he can automatically multiply huge numbers in his head without really having to think, and how he uses the feelings that numbers give him to empathise with people.

I probably would have rated this book higher had it continued along the same path*, and had Tammet written more about how his mind worked, however the rest of the book was about his life and experiences. These were definitely still interesting and I enjoyed reading it but it didn’t draw me in as much as the first chapter did.

One of the most amazing parts of the book is when Tammet talks about how he rehearsed to beat the European record for the most decimal places of Pi memorised, and I’m pretty sure he remembered more than 22,500 decimal places of Pi. You’ll have to read the book to find out whether he beat the record or not!

Also in the book he mentions how he goes overseas to film a documentary called Brainman, and after I finished the book I decided to watch it. You can find it on YouTube here.

I have known little bits and pieces about Autism, Aspergers, and Savant Syndrome, but this book is a great way to understand more of what goes through the mind of a person with these conditions, and will also help you understand how to interact with people on the Autism spectrum, so for those reasons I definitely recommend reading it.

*Note: I have just realised, while doing a little bit of background research on this book, that Tammet has since published 2 more books which might possible cover the things I thought this one lacked. His next two books are Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind and Thinking in Numbers: On Life, Love, Meaning, and Math.

-H-

If you’ve read this, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts or reading your reviews so please share any links!

#28 The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak

9 Jan
The Book Thief - Marcus Zusak

The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak

Goodreads rating: 4.36/5 (414K+ ratings)
My rating: 9/10
First Published: 14th March 2006
Genre: Historical Fiction

When I put on Facebook that I was about to read this book I got loads of responses like ‘One of my favourite books, it really is beautiful’, and ‘this is my favourite book – it’s amazing’, and I thought ‘yeah, yeah okay so it’s a good book – probably really overrated.’

But I was so wrong. This is a beautiful, thoughtful, interesting, well written story – especially for a book lover. It’s about a young girl, Liesel Meminger whose younger brother dies, and whose mother gives her away to the Hubermann’s – a German family living in Molching – just out of Munich. They have two older children in their 20s and take on Liesel as one of their own. When her little brother dies on their way to the Hubermann’s, she finds a book buried in the snow near his grave. She steals it. This is the start of her book thievery career.

Narrated by Death, The Book Thief follows Liesel in her quest to learn how to read, and her journey on understanding the world during Nazi Germany – at the height of Hitler’s reign. She’s a really likeable character, and the majority of the characters are relatable and likeable.

The movie came out in Australia today and I’m looking forward to seeing it this weekend, although I doubt it will do the book justice. Obviously I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I highly recommend reading the book before watching the movie as the books are always better than the movies.

Bits & pieces

  • Was listed on the New York Times Best Seller list for 230 weeks
  • Zusak took 3 years to complete the book and even went to Munich, Germany to research some of the finer points
  • Zusak said that writing the book was inspired by two real-life events related to him by his German parents: the bombing of Munich, and a teenage boy offering bread to an emaciated Jew being marched through the streets, ending with both boy and Jewish prisoner being whipped by a soldier.
  • He rewrote the first 90 pages of The Book Thief 150-200 times

Sources: The Guardian; The Book Thief Fan Page; Shmoop;

Notable quotes

He must have loved her so incredibly hard. So hard that he would never ask for her lips again and would go to his grave without them.

The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn’t be any of this. Without words, the Führerwas nothing.

The last time I saw her was red. The sky was like soup, boiling and stirring. In some places it was burned. There were black crumbs and pepper, streaked across the redness. 

In fact, on April 20 – the Führer’s birthday – when she snatched a book from beneath a steaming pile of ashes, Liesel was a girl made of darkness. 

For me, the sky was the color of Jews.

In front of him, he read from the copy of Mein Kampf. His savior. Sweat was swimming out of his hands. Fingermarks clutched the book.

She was a Jew feeder without a question in the world on that man’s first night in Molching. She was an arm reacher, deep into a mattress, to deliver a sketchbook to a teenage girl.

“When a Jew shows up at your place of residence in the early hours of the morning, in the very birthplace of Nazism, you’re likely to experience extreme levels of discomfort. Anxiety, disbelief, paranoia” 

-H-

If you’ve read this, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts or reading your reviews so please share any links!

#27 And The Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini

3 Jan
atmeAnd The Mountains Echoed - Khaled Hosseini

And The Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini

Goodreads rating: 4.02/5 (68K+ ratings)

My rating: 7.5/10

First published: 21st May 2013

Genre: Historical Fiction, Drama

The third book by Khaled Hosseini (author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns), And The Mountains Echoed doesn’t disappoint. I had pretty high expectations as A Thousand Splendid Suns (ATSS) is one of my all time favourites, and although I found And The Mountains Echoed less full on than ATSS, it was still very enjoyable. 

Each chapter is almost written like a short story in itself. The overarching story starts with a boy, Abdullah, and his younger, beloved sister Pari who is sold to a rich family in Kabul without him. Each chapter follows the lives of a different character revolved around both of these children including Pari’s adoptive parents, her step uncle, the family next door who move to America, the Greek Doctor who moves into her childhood home during the war in Afghanistan, and a young, rich, oblivious boy. 

I’ve found other books written in a similar format, such as A Tale of Two Citiesreally hard to follow, but Hosseini has a great ability to fill you in on the background of each character, and help you get to know them in just a few pages. He also ties in each story to the overall theme really well and in an engaging way. Another thing I love not only about this book but Hosseini’s other novels, is his description of Afghanistan. In this story he describes pre-war Afghanistan and it sounds like a beautiful country – it’s a way i’ve never heard Afghanistan described as before, and just for that it’s worth reading.

This story is heartbreaking and touching, and totally worth the read. It’s a pretty quick and easy read, the language is really simple, but I definitely recommend it.

Notable quotes

A story is like a moving train: no matter where you hop onboard, you are bound to reach your destination sooner or later.

All my life, she gave to me a shovel and said, Fill these holes inside of me.

Beauty is an enormous, unmerited gift given randomly, stupidly.

Creating means vandalizing the lives of other people, turning them into unwilling and unwitting participants. You steal their desires, their dreams, pocket their flaws, their suffering. You take what does not belong to you. You do this knowingly.

If an avalanche buries you and you’re lying there underneath all that snow, you can’t tell which way is up or down. You want to dig yourself out but pick the wrong way, and you dig yourself to your own demise.

If culture is a house, then language was the key to the front door; to all the rooms inside. Without it, you ended up wayward, without a proper home or a legitimate identity.

It’s a funny thing, but people mostly have it backward. They think they live by what they want. But really, what guides them is what they’re afraid of. What they don’t want.

If you’ve read this, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts or reading your reviews so please share any links!

-H-

#26 All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque

8 Dec
All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque

Goodreads rating: 3.81/5 (128K+ ratings)

My rating: 8/10

First published: 29th January 1929

Genre: Historical Fiction, War

This book is not very long. It’s less than 300 pages and is broken up into short chapters, which makes it super quick to get through. It’s from the perspective of an early 20s man called Paul Bäumer, who is a German soldier who is convinced by his teacher, along with the rest of his classmates, to join the German army at the start of WWI. It details his experiences, along with his best friends’, on the front line, in training, and on leave.

I’ve read quite a few books that are set during wars, and whilst all are quite sad, none have ever got to me as much as this one. The level of detail about how Paul is feeling while sitting in the trenches on the front line, cowering from the shelling, and watching friends die while he starves, is incredible and devastating.

It was weird reading this knowing it was from a German soldiers perspective for two reasons – a) because I’ve never read a wartime book that was from a German’s perspective and b) I feel like I should be ‘going for’ the other side when reading these sorts of books as my Grandfather fought in WWII for the English side, and I’ve always felt like I should ‘go’ for England. Yet reading this book you totally forget that you’re reading about a German soldier. It feels like it could be any soldier in any war, and I felt sad for him regardless.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone. It’s pretty raw, and it gave me more insight into war (which was devastating). The book is well written, and the ending is just right.

Notable quotes

We march up, moody or good-tempered soldiers – we reach the zone where the front begins and become on the instant human animals.

When we went to the District Commandant to enlist, we were a class of twenty young men, many of whom proudly shaved for the first time before going to the barracks. We had no definite plans for our future. Our thoughts for a career and occupation were as yet of too unpractical a character to furnish any scheme of life. We were still crammed with vague ideas which gave to life, and to the war also, an ideal and almost romantic character. 

The soldier is on friendlier terms than other men with his stomach and intestines. Three-quarters of his vocabulary is derived from these regions, and they give an intimate flavor to expressions of his greatest joy as well as of his deepest indignation.

But the shelling is stronger than everything. It wipes out the sensibilities, I merely crawl still deeper in the coffin, it should protect me, and especially as Death himself lies in it too.

In the branches dead men are hanging. A naked soldier is squatting in the fork of a tree, he still has his helmet on, otherwise he is entirely unclad. There is only half of him sitting up there, the top half, the legs are missing.

“It’s queer, when one thinks about it,” goes on Kropp, “we are here to protect our fatherland. And the French are over there to protect their fatherland. Now who’s in the right?” 

-H-

WWW Wednesday

4 Dec

W…W…W…Wednesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should be Reading. 

TO PLAY ALONG, JUST ANSWER THE FOLLOWING THREE (3) QUESTIONS:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What did you recently finish reading?
  3. What do you think you’ll read next?

_________________________________________________________________________________

What are you currently reading?

I am just about to start And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini tonight! One of my favourite books of all time is A Thousand Splendid Suns by Hosseini so I’m really excited to read his latest, as I also loved The Kite Runner too.

And The Mountains Echoed - Khaled Hosseini

What did you recently finish reading? 

I’ve finished three books since my last WWW WednesdayA Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving; A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens; and All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque which I will be reviewing later this week. Take a look at the other 2 reviews to see what I thought of those.

A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving

A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque

What do you think you’ll read next?

The next book on my list is The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. I’ve heard so many amazing things about this book so I can’t wait to read it.

thebookthief
I would love to hear your thoughts on any of these books, although no spoilers please for the ones I haven’t read yet!

-H-

A poem of mine a day :)

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