Saturday, 28 November 2015

Book Challenge - Part 5

I have finally reached the end of my Book Blogging challenge, which I have completed in between all the other millions of books I have read. Which is why it has taken me all year to finish Bringing Up Burns' challenge. Believe me, I have read more than 26 books this year.

But here we are on the final part. As always you can read the previous part here and that has links to all the other books in the #26BooksWithBringingUpBurns challenge. I have really loved the books I have read as a part of this challenge and I hope you have liked the way I have interpreted the prompts.

If you have enjoyed the books I have written about and are interested in everything else that I read, make sure to follow me on Pinterest where I regularly update the world with what I have enjoyed recently.

21. A book with a great first line - Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
It took me a long time to decide which book to use for this prompt. In my head, I had many clichéd ideas such as Pride and Prejudice or 1984. But eventually I decided on the opening sentence from Far from the Madding Crowd.

So I bet you are wondering what the opening line is. It is as follows - 'When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes were reduced to chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared round them, extending upon his countenance like the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun.'

This is a very wordy first sentence, I have to admit and probably not an obvious choice either. But I just loved it because it is so positive. They are describing a smile! Is there any better way to start a book than with a beautiful smile? It made me smile.

And I didn't stop smiling for the whole of the rest of the novel. It is an absolutely beautifully written book. Both the descriptions and the dialogue are so entertaining, which I find really rare within classic novels. I find that those authors are good at either one or the other. But Hardy had all areas of storytelling nailed.

I also adored the amount of character progression that you see within the book. At the beginning the main character, Bathsheba is a little bit of a cow. She strings along men and is generally quite rude to those around her, as well as being ridiculously selfish. But as time continues, she becomes more aware of the world and how you should behave. She has responsibility thrust upon her in the form of her uncle's farm and then there are some tragedies plus she herself is mistreated by her husband. So by the end she is a much more solemn and sensible lady, plus she is far far more likeable. And this is when she becomes worthy of Farmer Oak who she then marries.

It is a wonderfully told story, and it has made me fall in love with Hardy's writing a little bit. I must now read more of his - I think the famous Tess of the D'Urbervilles is next on my TBR list.

22. A book with pictures - Funny Girl by Nick Hornby
It's very unusual to find an adult novel which includes pictures. Even more unusual to include photographs. Yet Nick Hornby does it in his latest book, describing the completely fictional adventures of Sophie, a Blackpool beauty who accidentally becomes a leading comedy actress in one of the most popular BBC series of the 1960s.

As I say, it is entirely fictional, yet I guess the photographs and carefully included factual detail (such as political trends of the time, the other series that are mentioned, other comedians etc etc) all make you wonder whether it is actually real. You hurriedly start googling for a Sophie Straw and a series called Barbara and Jim.

Hornby, famous for About a Boy, has this winningly readable style with snappy dialogue and likeable characters. The book isn't actually substantial in terms of plot, yet you really want to know what happens to the characters as they progress through the making of the TV series. It is almost like a sitcom in yourself and you become emotionally invested with the characters and want them to succeed.

23. A book from the library - Lord of the Flies by William Golding
I haven't been to the library for a very long time and even with this prompt I cheated a tiny bit. I actually own this book as I bought it from a charity shop for a pound but it is, in fact, an ex-library book so it does kind of count.

Lots of people read this book for GCSE but I never have and this was the first time I have read it. But wow what an excellent book. The speed of the descent that the boys took into savagery was frankly terrifying but believable. And it does genuinely depict what would happen if the authority figures were ever removed from our society. I don't doubt for a second that there would be an attempt to keep order, but people would argue and everyone would want power and that's when the war would begin.

At the time of publication, lots of people complained about the ending and how, amongst all the anarchy (which is kind of heartbreaking) it is very neatly resolved by the ship turning up at just the right moment. I, however, don't think like that at all. My immediate thought was that Ralph never escaped his attackers and he was killed by them. So the officer who came to rescue them along with Ralph taking charge once more and Jack being reduced to a little boy again, was just his version of heaven rather than a depiction of real events. Golding was far far too clever, and his view of humanity was too perfect, for him to just wrap it all up in a nice little bow like that. And considering the only other good characters were killed, I think it would be very unlikely that Golding let Ralph live and order be restored.

24. A book you it again - The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Of course it was going to be this book. This is my favourite book of all time and I talk about it a lot. With friends, on Twitter, with random people I meet in the street...

I feel like it has everything - it has romance and a puzzle/intrigue you want to work out. It has such engaging characters and it is unbelievably heartwarming.

I talk about it lot on various booky blogposts and across my social media so I am not going to go on about it here. But I seriously recommend it. Go and read it right now.

25. A book that is more than 10 years old - The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
This only just snuck into being allowed for this prompt as it was published in 2003. But my god, am I glad I read it - it's a beautiful book.

The basic plot is that Eddie dies at the very beginning of the book in a tragic accident where he tries to save a little girl from a falling rollercoaster cart. And then, on his way to the afterlife, he meets five people from his past who can help to explain his life to him.

I love this version of heaven that Albom creates: that you get to meet important people (even if you don't realise just how important they are at the time) from your life and give your life meaning. This can then lead to peace and allow you to choose your heaven where you remain - which is basically the place where you were most happy on earth. It's beautifully done and Eddie goes on such a great journey from being completely dissatisfied with his seemingly pointless life, to being at peace with it and understanding that everything happens for a reason.

This is another lovely idea which Albom promotes throughout the novel - that all lives are interlinked and everything happens for a reason. Which he displays through a simple game of catch that he tells from two opposite sides - one it is just a game, the other it has much bigger consequences that Eddie couldn't have even imagined if he'd tried.

It is only a very short book - around 200 pages which I swallowed in a journey to London and back. But it is absolutely rammed with emotion and it will make you see life a little differently. Which is a wonderful thing to gain from a book.

26. A book based on a true story - War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
This book has been on my TBR list for about a year and came to the front of my mind when the National Theatre announced that the play is closing early next year. So I thought it was perfect for this prompt.

I think A LOT of books are based on real events. Obviously. For instance, if a book is based during WW1 there is going to be an element of truth to it, because the author will do their research to make it accurate and probably base it on the experiences of whoever they find.

This novel was based on a painting of a horse called Joey painted by a Captain James Nicholls. Both of whom are within the book. And although the story may not be true, I love that a portion of the characters are.

It is a very touching story. One of a deep friendship between the main character Joey (who is a horse - I love the unique viewpoint) and his original owner, Albert. They are separated for years and Joey has many adventures on his own both within the British army and behind enemy lines. And I love that about War Horse. It doesn't focus on the British viewpoint of events, but you get to see life in the German ranks too. And that helps us to remember, that they found it just as hard and suffered as many (if not more) losses and hated the war just as much. It is always a good thing to remember that the Germans were humans too and it wasn't their fault that these atrocities happened.

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