Friday, 3 May 2013

And By The Way by Denise Deegan

I read this book after a friend told me about it, she was obsessed. She had written a song inspired by this book so I thought I would go ahead and read it. I loved it. I really liked it as it follows the lives of three best friends living in Dublin. Alex, Sarah and Rachel are all in transition year in a private school so I could really relate to them. This first book is told from Alex's point of view and the following two books are told from Sarah's and Rachel's points of view. Alex's mum has recently passed away and her friends are trying to help but they can't really understand what she's going through. A boy in her class; David's mum also passed away but he seems to be ignoring her. They end up fighting about it and then fall in love. David helps Alex get over the loss of her mum. Alex's dad is distant and doesn't seem to care about her anymore. Throughout the story Alex fixes the relationship with her dad but unfortunately at the end David has to move and Alex goes off the rails. This book is basically just another teen drama but set in Ireland and exactly like my life. Once I started reading it, I couldn't stop. My family had to rip it out of my hands at dinner time or if they needed to talk to me. I didn't want the story to end and luckily there are two more after it which are just as amazing.

Monday, 11 March 2013

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon

I first read this book at the age of eleven after my older brother recommended it to me. His not being an avid reader led me to believe that there was something special about this book. I was not wrong. The book follows 15 year old Christopher Boone who describes himself as a "mathematician with behavioural difficulties". With Christopher's interesting view of the world propelling the plot forwards, I instantly fell in love with this book.
Upon discovering the body of Wellington, his neighbour's dog, Christopher takes on the challenge of unearthing the killer, not knowing where his new endeavor will lead him. Christopher's world is soon turned upside down when he discovers hidden secrets of much more importance than the identity of the dog killer. The reader is sucked in to Christopher's world, wanting to befriend him, to help him through this time of discovery in some way.
The teenage protagonist's attempts to relate everything in the world around him to maths made this book an instant favourite for both my brother and I, being the "maths heads" of the family. This book has stayed with me for years and is still being read all the time, impossible to put down once it has been picked up.

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

I was given this book by an old  friend who liked it and thought I would enjoy it too. I really liked it and have read it at least four times. It is about UnLondon, an alternate realm where all the discarded items of London go. Two girls from London, Zanna and Deeba  stumble upon this world and find out Zanna is part of a prophecy to save Unlondon from the Smog `, a cloud of chemical gases trying to burn Unlondon to feed himself . Zanna gets injured and has to be brought back to London and has her memory wiped but Deeba remembers and goes back to try help her new friends save Unlondon from the Smog.
This book has really interesting characters. The author makes  characters out of inanimate objects like Curdle the milk carton and gives them a real personality that makes you think they are human. This book made me want to become a costume designer because of the description of one of the characters, Obaday Fing, a tailor who makes clothes out of book pages and has a pin cushion for a head.The book is black and cream and has very lovely illustrations by the author on the cover and in the book.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

'Jane Eyre'- Charlotte Bronte

I first came across the story of 'Jane Eyre' when my teacher in fourth class played us an abridged version of the audio book. The characters and the story stuck in the mind, and when I was in first year I finally read the book. 

It tells the story of its title character's life. This begins with her bleak childhood, spent unwanted in the house of her cruel aunt and cousins, and then mistreated in the grim Lowood school. It's only when Jane moves onto her life as a governess at Thornfield Hall, working for the handsome, mysterious Mr Rochester, that she begins to live a happy life. The book continues to reveal the ups and downs of Jane's turbulent life,  and looking back, it's no wonder it  became my favourite book.

It was the first classic novel I'd ever read. In primary school, I read  a lot of fantasy books; any books set in the 'real world' that I read were probably by Jacqueline Wilson or Cathy Cassidy. This was different. The characters were real, flawed people. The plot was intricate, dark and intriguing, and contained pretty complex themes of morality, feminism, religion, and love. These being subjects that hadn't really come up in the books I was used to at that point.
Jane changes and develops so much throughout the book, and even though I wouldn't say that I necessarily related to her as a character, she always felt real.

When I told my mum I was reading 'Jane Eyre', she went through her bookshelf until she found a small brown hardback book, with golden gilt borders around the cover, and extremely thin, translucent pages.
Her dad (who, although I unfortunately never met, I know was never seen without a book in his hand) had owned this book, and when my mum moved from Limerick up to Dublin at the age of 17, she asked if she could take it with her, and she's had it since then. Or at least up until it was passed onto me a few years ago.
This copy is now almost always found on my bedside table, and if I ever can't find anything to read, it's always 'Jane Eyre' I turn to.

The Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones

A book that I love is 'The Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones' written by Cassandra Clare this book is the first book in a very popular series and has always stood out to me for many reasons. One the amazing characters, two the story and three the stormy night when I first came across it. I was at my sister's friend's house for a sort of family friends get together thing, I was thoroughly bored and had being my very sociable self had no interest in speaking to anyone. I picked up the book sitting on her bedside table, the cover intriguing me; an image of a young male with 'markings' covering his body and beams of light coming from his body. The book also had a review from Stephanie Meyer on the inside which interested me.

I began to read it and I had read about four chapters of the book and was really enjoying learning about the supernatural world, Clary Fray had stumbled upon. All of a sudden the lights flashed really bright and the power cut, no electricity, no light, no reading. But I struggled on, reading using the light of my phone but in the end I reluctantly put the book down to gave my straining eyes a break and joined in with everyone else.

After all that happened that night the book was far from my mind until two or three weeks later when my sister's friend had finished with the book and was getting rid of it. She had read the book and didn't enjoy it but when I remembered it I gleefully took it from her and began to read. I finished the book within the day. I discovered there was a second and third book written and there was rumours of there being a fourth book nothing had been confirmed at that point. I squealed with delight, thrilled I did not have to say goodbye to the characters already. Immediately went and bought them. The anticipation too much to bear.

Three years later, another four books written on the world of shadowhunters and demons (totalling 7!!), a movie coming out later this year, another book out later this month (!!), I have lent and recommended this book countless times and it is without a doubt my favourite book. I have returned numerous times to this book only to be enthralled each and every time by the shadowhunters in their constant quest to defeat evil and protect the mundanes but each time I do return, I remember that very eventful stormy night when I first came across it.

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning

When I was five years old, my Mom bought a book for me and my brother, Alex. We were on holidays at the time, staying in a small, cosy lodging near the sea side. My brother and I shared a room, and one night my Mom, after a short bout of shopping, arrived home with a present for us, something to quell the boredom that a seaside holiday in Ireland can bring to two young, fidgety children: a book. Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning, to be exact.

I don't know how much of that is true. I have a an awful memory. I may have made half of that up, conjuring up a romantic image from tattered patches of my childhood. One way or another, we somehow acquired Snicket's book, the first in a series of thirteen that would follow me through out my youth until I was eleven.

Now, being five years old at the time, my reading abilities were a tad sub-par for the task of reading such a book. Luckily, my Dad happily stepped in to read to us, my brother and I, a chapter a night before bed. This nightly ritual would carry on into my life, even when I was old enough to eagerly devour the books myself, because my Dad didn't just read to us. He would narrate Snicket's tale with extraordinary ease, his voice flowing over each sentence, each word, each full stop like they were criss-crossing streets and he had walked them countless times. Never stuttering, never quavering.

That's probably not true as well. I'm probably romanticising these memories, looking back at them with misty, nostalgic filters.

First inspiration from the Last Ship Home

 In a time when I could count the years of my life on my hands my brother and I received a book called The Last Ship Home by Rodney Matthews. It was a fantasy art book containing paintings that he had done from literature and from his own imagination. It was a simple book; square in shape and significantly larger than an A4 page. It had a most spectacular cover of a ship floating through the sky towards a cliff-side village and then a corresponding one on the back cover of the same ship drifting away from the village resulting in the decay of the landscape.

My brother and I spent many hours as children exploring each of the pictures, inspecting every detail with curiosity by tracing outlines with small fingers. I recall at one stage we would take it out every night to look at the pictures, flicking through each page and excitedly pointing to a character exclaiming “He’s my favourite!”  (But of course he would always get the best guy)

I remember my brother reading me the titles of each of the works before I even knew how to read, titles such as “An Unlikely Hero”, “Rivendell – The Last Homely House”, “The Martians” and “Alice and the Caterpillar” – depictions of scenes from The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The War of the Worlds and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – all books that I would then read in the years to come.

For me Last Ship Home planted the seed of curiosity that would germinate and flourish into a part-time hobby and full-time interest in books and art. Even now, a decade later, do I open the book to look at a specific picture and find myself once again pouring over each page with new found wonder and inspiration.