25 June 2014

Mrs Readalot's Latest List of Books Worth Reading

First of all, let me just say that Mrs Readalot has read a bunch of books lately, but not all of them are worth recommending - or even mentioning. Some of those books are simply forgettable, others are difficult to remember. Either way they do not rate a place here on this list of Books Worth Reading.

We shall begin with a book (or rather "series of books") which piqued Mrs R's interest after she saw the movie trailer...

Here we have the Divergent series, by Veronica Roth, which has been made into an action packed movie (it's well worth seeing and/or taking your tween/teen to. Loads of action, an interesting plot, very clean and suitable for older kids who can handle fight scenes; Mrs R took Dash to it and he thoroughly enjoyed it, as did she. Dash will begin reading Divergent once he finishes Mockingjay, Book Three of the Hunger Games series).

"I wanted to read this book/series after I saw the movie trailer; the concept of the story really appealed to me and I had heard it compared to The Hunger Games, which I loved. Apparently "Tris" (Divergent's protagonist) will give Katniss a run for her money. Divergent is the new dystopian adventure with a strong female lead.
All true, indeed, at least as far as both series are dystopian YA novels with strong female lead characters, but there the similarity ends. The Divergent world is intriguing but nothing like the world of the Hunger Games; it's a place where people are categorised by their dominant characteristic and organised into "factions" (Dauntless/fearless; Abnegation/service; Candor/honesty; Erudite/knowledge and Amity/kindness). At age sixteen, each person undergoes an aptitude test to determine which of these factions whey will belong to for the rest of their lives. Our hero, Tris, has grown up in Abnegation, but her test results are inconclusive. She is "divergent", with aptitude for three factions, which for some reason makes her dangerous to those in control.

As the story unfolds throughout the three books we learn more about the reason for this society's strange system; it's not what you'd think.
I enjoyed this series all the way through (though I did get a little annoyed with Tris's internal dialogue at times)... but the ending? I hated the ending. At the end of Book Three I wanted to hunt down the author and slap her silly. What was she thinking???!!
I won't tell you why her ending left me annoyed and irritated because I hate spoilers and you really should read it for yourself because in spite of the annoying twist at the end the book did carry me on an adventure. It was original, the characters were believable, there was loads of action and plenty of nail-biting, page-turning moments. Just don't say I didn't warn you if/when you read this series about the less-than satisfactory last-minute twist. (Come back here and tell me what you thought). 
All in all, a worthwhile read, but in my humble opinion it doesn't come close to the awesomeness of the Hunger Games (and I reckon Katniss could take down Tris any day)."


Next we have Silver Linings Playbook, another book with a movie version (which Mrs Readalot loved). Mrs R had heard loads of people raving about the book ("it's even better than the film - and I LOVED the film" etc) so when she skipped the country for a week in Fiji, where she just knew there would be loads of reading-by-the-pool-time, she was desperate to get hold of this book. Eventually a kind friend came to the rescue and lent her her Kindle, which was loaded with dozens of books, including Silver Linings Playbook. Yippee!

"I started reading this on the plane, and I was instantly hooked. It helped that I could imagine the delicious Bradley Cooper as Pat, and the divine Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany. Those two are perfect for each other. So in my head, Bradley and Jennifer played out this story; a messed up obsessive guy (Pat) who has been in some kind of mental institution finally gets out and tries to return to life.

The book differs quite a bit from the movie, it has to be said. The crazy bet made by Pat's dad doesn't feature in the book at all; and we never get to meet Pat's wife either. I guess the book didn't need the extra drama and action, whereas the movie director might have felt more excitement was required.

Right, back to the book. I loved Pat's "voice". My favourite books are the ones written in first-person. I feel like I get to know the characters better; I feel like I'm really inside the story because I'm inside their head. In this book, being inside Pat's head is an interesting experience. At first you have no clue what is going on, because Pat is in denial. He has no idea how long he's been "inside"; he doesn't know why he was there or why his wife left. Everything he does is with an aim to win her back. Poor Pat. I liked pat a lot.

There are a few choice words, but not heaps (for those who hate books full of profanity) and they do only feature where appropriate to the story.

So should you read this book? Yes. It's gritty, it's hopeful and it's funny/sad, just like the movie. Definitely glad I got to read this.


Finally we have Winter of the World by Ken Follett (no movie version this time). Mrs R stumbled over this one on her friend's Kindle while in Fiji. She had read a couple of Ken's earlier books (Pillars of the Earth, World Without End) and mistakenly thought this was a continuation of that series, only to discover that she had landed slap-bang in the middle of a whole new series altogether. And what a series!
"One of my favourite eras for historical fiction is World War II, and after a moment of confusion at finding myself not in medieval England building cathedrals, but in Nazi Germany 1933, I was quickly drawn into this massive epic novel.
I thought I knew a lot about WWII and the Nazis, but oh boy, I learnt a few new things reading this book! Ken researches his books meticulously and tells the story through the eyes of various different families who are up close and personal with history in various corners of the world: Russia, Germany, England and the USA. In this book I learnt about the British Fascist movement (and how close they came to gaining dominance), the Nazi euthanasia programme, the Russian nuclear programme and Pearl Harbour, among many other things. What can I say? I loved it. And then I realised it was a series. Now I'm on the hunt for Book One, Fall of Giants (World War I and the Russian Revolution) to be followed by Book three, Edge of Eternity (due to be released in September 2014). Ah Ken, thanks for continuing my education about world history in such an enjoyable fashion. I love your work."


Just one more little thing - a bonus tidbit for you.
I've been wanting my kids to read the Narnia books for themselves, like, forever, but have yet to persuade them to give those classic books a try (my absolute favourites growing up) so I decided to take matters into my own hands and start reading aloud to them on a regular basis.
I mean, I read a story to Scrag every night, but once the big kids could read for themselves I'd stopped reading to them. But guess what? They may be able to read chapter books themselves, but I have been surprised how much my big kids enjoy being read to. Reading a story aloud is an awesome way to finish the day.
It settles everyone down and is a wonderful way to calm down over-stimulated brains; plus it's so cosy next to the fire cuddled up on the couch on a rainy winter's night.

We began with The Silver Chair, as the kids have seen all the Narnia movies and The Silver Chair is the next part of the story. Having seen the movies they can imagine the characters and the setting, so that eases them right into imagining the story in their mind's eye. I've always particularly liked this book; there are giants, enchantments, a mystery and a dangerous quest - all the best elements for a great story.
The kids are loving it and really look forward to story time. We finally finished the first book on Saturday night, and now they are keen to move on to the next instalment, "The Last Battle".
After that, we'll try The Magicians Nephew; oh I just LOVE C.S. Lewis. Great stories for reading aloud.

More book reviews on Mrs Readalot's BookClub Page

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