Saturday, 12 July 2014

Booktube-A-Thon 2014 To Be Read!

So, for those of you who haven't already heard, next week is the Booktube-A-Thon!! Booktubeathon is a reading marathon on Youtube created by Ariel Bissett, in which any viewer, blogger, or youtuber can join in. This year, it is also sponsored by the Book Depository. The reading marathon begins from midnight, anywhere in the world, on the 14th July, to midnight on the 20th July. For more information and videos, check out the Booktube-a-thon channel where Ariel Bissett explains everything else you may need to know:

Not only does this reading marathon involve reading as much as possible, but this year there are also some reading challenges for those involved!
1) Start and Finish a Series.
2) Read a Book with Pictures.
3) Read a Book from a Genre You've Read Least This Year.
4) Read a Book with Red on the Cover.
5) Read a Book to Movie Adaptation.
6) Read a Book Someone Else Picked Out for You.
7) Read at Least Seven Books.

For the start and finish a series challenge I shall be reading the Maze Runner Series which includes: The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure, and The Kill Order by James Dashner
For the read a book with pictures challenge I am planning to read the comic Pokemon Adventures Volume 2.
Read a book from a genre that you've read least this year; for this challenge I shall read a thriller novel as I haven't read any this year, and that will be Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.
For the read a book with red on the cover, I will count The Scorch Trials by James Dashner, thereby accomplishing two tasks in one!
Read a book to movie adaptation; for this I will read Marley & Me by John Grogan.
A Book someone else chose for you: My friend recently told me to read Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card so I will be reading that!
Read 7 books. Complete if I read the books I mention above!

So overall, for the week, I'm hoping to read:
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
The Death Cure by James Dashner
The Kill Order by James Dashner
Pokemon Adventures Volume 2
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Marley & Me by John Grogan
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

I have to say, I won't be too disappointed if I don't complete all of these challenges for this Booktubeathon as I have a busy week ahead of me. Not only am I graduating, but I'm also moving across the country so a lot of my time will be taken up with those things. However, I will certainly try to keep up to date with all this reading.

Good luck to anyone else participating in this event! Let me know what you're planning to read!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Genre: Dystopian/Young Adult Fiction

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Page

Goodreads Summary:

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready.

**Spoiler-Free Review**

Before reading this book I had heard it had a very disappointing ending and that many people disliked it. After reading the Delirium Trilogy, another Dystopian set of novels, and being thoroughly disappointed with its conclusion, I feared something similar would happen when I read this finale to the Divergent Trilogy. Thankfully, I was wrong.

I found the conclusion to this trilogy raw and powerful, and it reminded me what true Dystopian books are meant to be about. This is the first dystopian trilogy I have read which discussed the past of where the books were set, in this case the United States, and connected it to the 'present', allowing the reader to know how society became a dystopian world. It also gave scope for a world to be fixed, restored, and rebuilt.

I thoroughly enjoyed this trilogy as a whole and despite the final book leaving me a tearful mess, I really enjoyed the series. Many of the characters developed further than in the previous two books, which I loved. I was disappointed that some of the characters seemed to revert, and that some of my favourite side-characters were hardly present, for different reasons. Although the pacing of this book was a bit slower than the previous two, the action still picked up the pace and I personally found the 'slower' parts of the book very interesting and necessary to the plot. I think my main criticism of the novel just has to be at my frustration towards the two main characters and their angst and unnecessary drama which could have been solved by TALKING. But this is merely pointing out a frustrating character flaw rather than a flaw of the book itself. My other problem with the book was the dual perspectives. I don't mind dual perspectives normally but in this book it often became difficult to know who was talking in each chapter, as the characters sounded very similar.

Overall though I thoroughly enjoyed this series, and I would highly recommend them to anyone who enjoys dystopian/young adult fiction. It is fast-paced, easy to read, enjoyable and poignant all at once. As if you need any more persuading, Veronica Roth's companion novel to the trilogy, Four, has recently been released and gives so much more to the series!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

BOOK REVIEW: A Lion Called Christian by Anthony Bourke and John Rendall

A Lion Called Christian by Anthony Bourke and John Rendall

Genre: Non-Fiction/ Animals/ Autobiography

My Rating: ★★★★★


Goodreads Summary:

A Lion Called Christian tells the remarkable story of how Anthony “Ace” Bourke and John Rendall, visitors to London from Australia in 1969, bought the boisterous lion cub in the pet department of Harrods. 

‘A Lion Called Christian’ is a true story by Anthony Bourke and John Rendall and it is incredible! If you haven’t seen the Christian the lion reunion on youtube, the two minute clip referred to above, then you MUST watch it. The book is written by the two owners of Christian, who purchased him from the Harrod’s Department Store in London, from the exotic pets section in the 1970’s, to save him from a life of permanent and (possibly) harsh captivity. The story is full of anecdotes and is both heart-warming and touching.The trials and tribulations a pet can cause are amplified through Christian and it portrays the reality that exotic animals cannot be pets, but can love and be loved. Anyone who loves animals will adore this witty and truthful book, and even if you don’t, when you watch the video, it is likely that your heart will melt. 

There is also a television documentary on the story is anyone is interested but I would highly recommend reading the book. It’s very short, I think about 180 pages, and the wit of the author’s is highly amusing.

Youtube link - Christian the Lion:

SERIES REVIEW: A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
1. The Bad Beginning  ★★★★★
2. The Reptile Room ★★★★★
3. The Wide Window ★★★★★
4. The Miserable Mill ★★★★★
5. The Austere Academy ★★★★★
6. The Ersatz Elevator ★★★★★
7. The Vile Village ★★★★★
8. The Hostile Hospital ★★★★★
9. The Cavernous Carnival ★★★★★
10. The Slippery Slope ★★★★★
11. The Grim Grotto ★★★★
12. The Penultimate Peril ★★★★★
12. The End ★★★★

Genre: Children's Fiction/Dark Humour/Absurdist Fiction

My Overall Rating: ★★★★★


Goodreads Summary:

Dear Reader, 

I'm sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.

In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.

It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing. 

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

I should forewarn anyone who is about to read this review that it would be better for them if they didn’t. This review contains nothing but misery, despair and… nah, I’m just kidding.

I was going to attempt to write a review for each of the thirteen books in this series individually but realised that it would be a mistake as some books are so short that the review would be nothing more than ‘This was a very good book’ and the later books would contain nothing but spoilers which would have been rather unfortunate (excuse the slight pun) for anyone who accidentally stumbled across them. Therefore, I’ve changed this so all the books are included here. This will be an entirely spoiler-free review so have no worries there!

A thirteen book series (but with each book only being about 200 easily digestible in one-sitting pages) which covers the unfortunate adventures of the children: Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire. The books explore a mystery, which surround the parents of these newly orphaned children, whilst they also attempt to escape the clutches of a sinister man named Count Olaf who wants their fortune.

The author, who goes by the name Lemony Snicket, has such a distinctive style of writing that you just can’t help but get completely wrapped up within the story and enthralled by the simplicity of such an unfortunate mystery. Snicket manages to embrace the concept  of children’s literature whilst adding a hint of gothic to the text, making it thoroughly enjoyable for both adults and children alike. As well as this, through a second reading of the texts as an adult now, I have been able to spot cunning and humorous word plays and jokes, which I previously had not noticed. Particularly in the language of the youngest Baudelaire.

I have to admit that by the tenth book the air of mystery starts to become somewhat frustrating as the reader just wishes to know the truth, however, I find that this adds to the character of both the novels and the author so completely, that it just fits.

I would highly recommend these novels to absolutely any reader, whether you read avidly or hardly ever. Such simple yet amazing texts that have not had the credit they deserve, in my opinion.

Also, as a side note, if you were put off by the film adaptation, I would just like to add that it was rather a disappointment when compared to the texts as it was much more humorous than the books first intended. Still, Jim Carrey did very well in his role, but it did not do justice to the books and malicious Count Olaf.

Postmodernism Essay

A Close Analysis of Frederic Jameson’s Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism with reference to “Shipwreck” from Julian Barnes’s A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters.

Postmodernism is a movement of aesthetic practice and has been regarded as the culture of multinational late capitalism. In this extract of his work, Frederic Jameson, a literary critic and Marxist political theorist, argues that the postmodern era suffers a crisis in historicity. He states: ‘[T]he producers of culture have nowhere to turn but to the past: the imitation of dead styles’; he argues that postmodernity has distorted the historical past into depthless stylisations, which he calls pastiche, that merely draw attention to a fascination of the present that can be commodified and consumed (Jameson 1991). Hutcheon points out that ‘one of the few common denominators of postmodernism is the […] agreement that the postmodern is ahistorical’ (Hutcheon 2004, 87). Jameson is just one critic who claims this; however, this argument can be problematic when applied to some postmodern texts.
In Julian Barnes’ postmodern novel this debate of representing the historical can be examined in the chapter, “Shipwreck”. This chapter is divided into two parts with one presenting an account of the sinking of the Medusa, while the other discusses the representation of history through art. Barnes uses history throughout his novel to examine the difficulty of writing the past. Hutcheon argues that both fiction and history are discourses; both are interpreted and history becomes a construction of the past, using the same linguistic frames of reference as fiction (Hutcheon 2004). Postmodernism, therefore, moves away from the idea of a unified past and narrative singularity, to portray the complexity and diversity of history.
Barnes does not merely place historical facts in the present, as Jameson suggests postmodernism does, but uses history to examine its complexity and the difficulty of portraying the truth. His text, therefore, is not pastiche or ‘the cannibalization of all styles of the past, the play of random stylistic allusion’ but becomes a complicitous critique of the difficulty of representing and retelling history (Jameson 1991). Jameson’s call for the return to history is rendered almost unnecessary, as this postmodern text directly concerns itself with the past. In “Shipwreck”, Barnes asks the reader ‘How do you turn catastrophe into art?’; or rather, how can you turn history into art, something which is no longer present to portray accurately? (Barnes 2009, 125). He goes on to argue that ‘perhaps, in the end, that’s what catastrophe is for’, for people to interpret and recreate within art, to turn into something reassuring (Barnes 2009, 125). However, Barnes shows that although there may be some consolation, the full truth of the past is lost. When GĂ©ricault was asked about the painting he says ‘Bah, une vignette!’, or ‘a thumbnail’, thereby highlighting that art cannot capture the full truth and extent of history (Barnes 2009, 139).
The extract from Jameson’s work is also concerned with the ‘consumer’s appetite for a world transformed into sheer images of itself’ (Jameson 1991). He argues that postmodernism is a reproduction of history and therefore fits with capitalist society, in which the world is more concerned with reproduction rather than industrial production of goods (Jameson 1991). He also finds that the late capitalist age focuses on commodification and the recycling of old images and signs (Jameson 1991). While modernity believed it could represent reality in signs, it was troubled by the possibility that signs might not represent any reality beyond themselves; the signifier no longer having a signified meaning. Jameson argues that postmodernity no longer fears this and assumes that signs exist alone, detached from external reality. This portrays Plato’s conception of “simulacrum” or ‘the identical copy for which no original has ever existed’ (Jameson 1991). Jameson argues that our images of all historical events are merely built of simulacra; the idea that reality is replaced by a representation, history is replaced with an alternative history. Barnes writes the story of the sinking of the Medusa based on a translation of a narrative, therefore, re-writing history based upon another history, saying ‘It began with a portent’ (Barnes 2009, 115). Although Barnes does not actually know this, his narrative suggests truth and authorial knowledge, thus presenting a fictionalised narrative, based upon another narrative of history, as truth.
Barnes also examines this idea in Part II of his chapter which discusses the painting and the artist’s portrayal saying: ‘It begins with truth to life. The artist read Savigny and CorrĂ©ard’s account; he met them, interrogated them […] got him to build a scale model of his original machine. On it he positioned wax models to represent the survivors’ (Barnes 2009, 126). Similar to Barnes, the artist also read the account to capture the catastrophe in the form of art and even re-created it. However, by doing this he no longer painted a representation of the history, but a representation of a re-creation. Although Barnes states, ‘You can tell more by showing less’, by doing this history is no longer solid, and the representation of the past, becomes a representation of a representation, or as Jameson succinctly describes, a ‘simulacrum’ (Barnes 2009, 128). Without any grounding in the real, our knowledge of the past is confined to the symbols we associate it with when we portray it. As Barnes suggests, the artist could have painted any moment of the shipwreck but chose certain aspects. With two representations of the shipwreck in the novel, Barnes asks the reader ‘do we end up believing both versions?’ and therefore disregarding that there ultimately was only one version of what happened, one history (Barnes 2009, 133). Barnes goes on to describe the painting as having ‘slipped history’s anchor’ as it no longer represents the event itself (Barnes 2009, 137). This idea coincides with Jameson’s argument that in ‘The new spatial logic of the simulacrum […] The past is thereby itself modified’ (Jameson 1991). Jameson’s idea of the depthlessness of postmodernism manifests itself through the postmodern rejection of the belief that it can move beyond the external appearances of ideology to a deeper truth; we are instead left with ‘a vast collection of images, a multitudinous photographic simulacrum’ (Jameson 1991).
Ultimately, Jameson’s argument that we should look to the past for ‘any vital reorientation of our collective future’ is accurate to an extent (Jameson 1991). Nonetheless, having examined Barnes’ text, postmodernism does engage critically with the past and is not merely a pastiche of representation. However, Jameson’s view of the postmodern commodified society, in which the past is modified through signifiers with no signified, is clearly portrayed in Barnes’ novel; he equally examines the complexity of portraying history, and the fallibility of human interpretation, when history fictionalised, based on symbols which may have no meaning.

Barnes, Julian. [1989] 2009. A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters. London: Vintage Books.

Barthes, Roland. 1984. “The Death of the Author” from Barthes, Roland, Image, Music, Text. London: Flamingo.

Hutcheon, Linda. [1988] 2004. “Historicizing the Postmodern: The Problematizing of History” from Hutcheon, Linda, A Poetics of Postmodernism. New York and London: Routledge.

Jameson, Frederic. [1984] 1991. Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press.