Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Book Review: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Publisher: Fourth Estate
Published: 20 June 2013
Format: Paperback
Page count: 260
Read from: 17 to 21 January 2015
Synopsis: The haunting, humorous and tender story of the brief lives of the five entrancing Lisbon sisters, The Virgin Suicides, now a major film, is Jeffrey Eugenides' classic debut novel.

The shocking thing about the girls was how nearly normal they seemed when their mother let them out for the one and only date of their lives. Twenty years on, their enigmatic personalities are embalmed in the memories of the boys who worshipped them and who now recall their shared adolescence: the brassiere draped over a crucifix belonging to the promiscuous Lux; the sisters' breathtaking appearance on the night of the dance; and the sultry, sleepy street across which they watched a family disintegrate and fragile lives disappear. (via Goodreads)

My thoughts:
This book took top place on my Christmas list and when my brother gifted me this beautiful edition, it also took top place on my TBR shelf. I had heard mostly good things from people on Booktube and the premise was so intriguing that I got ridiculously excited when I eventually got my hands on it. Funny story actually, I didn't get this book on Christmas day because my wonderful brother left it in his house and couldn't go back and get it so I ended up getting a late Christmas present about a week later. Anyway, it was a really quick read for me and I did enjoy it but I didn't think it was amazing like most other people seemed to.
As the name suggests The Virgin Suicides is about suicide. It is made clear from the start that all 5 Lisbon girls commit suicide. There is no sugar-coating it and it is referenced many times meaning the inevitability of their death looms over us throughout the book and we are just waiting for it to happen. This atmosphere of expectation and inevitability seems to have hung over the girls and the neighbours often said that they knew that their lives would somehow end in tragedy. It is clear that from the very start they were set apart as different even before their youngest sister committed suicide.

The Virgin Suicides is told through the eyes of a group of boys who live across the street from the Lisbon sisters. We never learn the names of our narrators or how many of them there are. They are essentially obsessed with the girls and know everything about them despite only having talked to them a handful of times. They are completely taken in by the mystery of the Lisbon sisters which really translates to us, the readers. They are obsessed and so are we. I think this is due in part to the fact that it was a very visual book. The boys collected souvenirs from the Lisbon sisters' lives and interviewed people who knew them, they then present them to us as if we are reading a document or report about them. It really solidifies the Lisbon girls as real people and draws you in to the mystery
The effect of having outsiders as the narrators is that we will never know exactly why the Lisbon girls decided to do what they did, not even their parents knew. There is a whole lot of speculation and I suppose it is this ongoing mystery that has these boys still thinking about the girls 20 years down the line. Not only are they examining the mystery of the Lisbon girls but also their own childhood. They are fondly looking back at a childhood in a time gone by and thinking about how their lives have changed. When writing the book, they are middle-aged with families, most are growing fat and balding. Back when the Lisbon girls were alive was the best time of their lives and so that is what the Lisbon girls represent for them, their heyday and also what could have been. Who knows, maybe they could have ended up marrying one of the girls.

However I can't help but feel that The Virgin Suicides glorified suicide. There seems to be that feeling of forever remaining young and pure that people think is so romantic these days. People are drawn to tragedy and like to see it for something more than what it is, a tragic event that could have been prevented. The events of this books are horrifying for any family but I think they were downplayed somewhat, more emphasis could have been placed on the severity of their actions.
I really enjoyed Eugenides' writing. He perfectly recreated the atmosphere of the stiflingly small mid-American town where there is very little for young people to do and conveyed to us effectively exactly what it was like living across from these girls. He really draws you in and makes you feel part of the story. I would definitely consider reading Eugenides' other novels, Middlesex and The Marriage Plot, as this was his first novel, I can't help but think that his writing would be much better with a bit more experience under his belt.

To summarise, I really enjoyed this book although it did fall down in places, I'm glad that I read it and would definitely recommend it.

If you want to watch me review this book, here's the link to the video.

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Sunday, 29 March 2015

March Wrap-up

Hi everyone!
I am so proud of myself this month since I actually managed to read something yay! I didn't read just one book, oh no, I read three books, well technically two since I listened to one. This might sound like nothing to you but I've really been struggling with finding time and energy to read so I'm delighted that I've gotten back into the swing of things. This brings my total of read books to 6, I'm aiming for 30 this year so here's hoping I pick up the pace a bit more in April. If you want to keep up to date with what I'm currently reading, you can follow me on Goodreads. Here are the three books I read and listened to in March, reviews of which will follow soon on this blog or on my Youtube channel.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
Read from 26 January to 17 March 2015

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
Listened to from 28 January to 23 March

Death in the Rainy Season by Anna Jaquiery
Read from 20 March to 29 March
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Wednesday, 18 March 2015

It's been 3 years!

Hi everyone!
This is just a really short post to let you all know that this time three years ago, I began this blog! In some ways it's crazy to me that it has been 3 years but in other ways it feels like I've been doing this for years. I know that I'm not the most active blogger and I'm often absent for months on end but I always come back to it. It's really nice to look back on some of my earlier posts that I wrote when I was 17 now that I'm 20, it's like a little time capsule for my thoughts, I love it! 
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Friday, 16 January 2015

Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Publisher: Vintage Books
Published: 24th May 2012
Format: Paperback
Page count: 512
Synopsis: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called "Le Cirque des Reves," and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway--a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love - a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead (via Goodreads).

Buy from the Book Depository (affiliate link).

My thoughts: 
I bought this book on recommendations from Booktube friends who all enjoyed this book and so I thought well surely I would enjoy it too. I wasn't so sure about the magic element but thought that I might as well give it a go. I wish that I hadn't bothered. The Night Circus is by far my least favourite book of 2014 and had zero redeeming qualities in my opinion. I had three main problems with it.

Problem 1: It is set in a circus during the late 1800s. I can see no reason as to why it was set in this time period. Now I don't claim to be an expert on the social etiquette of the 19th Century but I'm pretty sure that it wasn't what this book depicted. For example women weren't allowed to walk around by themselves at night particularly not if they were unmarried which most of the women in this book were. I realise that I'm being rather pedantic but it's important for authors to respect the era that they're books are set in and I really don't think that Erin Morgenstern did. It led me to wonder why she decided to write about this time period at all when she paid no heed to it. I do think that the Victorian age did suit the circus setting but I think it would have been more believable if it was set in modern times. 

Problem 2: The characters. There were just too many minor characters that didn't add anything to the plot. I have no idea who most of the characters were for the majority of the book. It didn't help that the story was non-linear so with every chapter it jumped from insignificant character to other insignificant characters a few years apart. It just made it more confusing and difficult to follow.

I didn't feel like any of the characters had any substance to them particularly not the two main characters. I usually feel some sort of emotion towards the main characters but in The Night Circus I literally felt nothing. There was a very flat love story between the two of them that was supposedly explosive and exciting but from what I read it was anything but. They fell in "love" extremely quickly and it wasn't romantic in any way, it was actually quite awkward and I though it was a useless addition in an effort to add a plot, which brings me conveniently to problem 3.

Problem 3: The non-existent plot. Up until about page 350, there was no plot, bear in mind that this book is just over 500 pages long. For the first 300 pages it was just a bunch of insignificant characters talking about a circus. The magicians did a bit of magic and that was pretty much it. It only picked up ever so slightly once the magicians "love story" started but by then it was too late.

I was advised while reading it that I really had to stick with it and that although the plot isn't the most exciting, Erin Morgenstern's descriptions are beautiful but even that I didn't like. Yes, I agree that she has a way with words, however a book needs more than flowery descriptions to get a reader through it and so in an effort to finish the book as quickly as possible I skim read the descriptions and focused on the dialogue. It was still like wading through treacle, laborious and a hot mess. I really didn't enjoy reading The Night Circus and I would warn you against it unless you enjoy books with no plot, useless characters and ridiculously long descriptions.
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Saturday, 3 January 2015

New Years Resolutions 2015

It is finally 2015 and and everybody is telling themselves they need to be better and do better. The majority of people don't stick to their resolutions and I'll probably be no different but everyone loves a trier, don't they? If you're not already sick of everyone else talking about their resolutions let me tell you about mine.

Update this blog at least once a week
As you may have noticed in 2014, I did very little with this blog. I left it got to rack and ruin and I will eternally regret that I didn't look after it better. 2015 is all about change however and this year is going to be bigger and better. I am going to post at least 3 times a week, if not more and I'm actually going to put effort into writing and also promoting posts.

Update my Youtube channel at least once a week 
In case you weren't already aware, I have a Youtube channel which has actually just turned one year old today! I am actually quite good at uploading regularly but every so often I stop for a few weeks which I don't want to happen anymore. I love Youtube and really want to put my full efforts into it so just like my first resolution I want to update my channel at least once a week if not twice a week. I think it's pretty doable if I plan all of my videos but we'll have to wait and see.

Read 30 books
Last year I set a goal of reading 25 books and I ended up reading 27 so this year I am upping the ante ever so slightly with a goal of 30 books. I really like the way Goodreads allows you to track what books you've read and I find it really useful. I'm not too bothered if I don't hit my goal but it's a good way of keeping an eye on my reading.

Cross 10 books off my Book Bucket list
Last year I only crossed 5 books off my list which is why I'm including it in my resolutions. I think 10 books won't be too difficult and I already have a few books from the list on my TBR shelf just waiting to be read. If you're curious about what books are on the list I wrote a post about it this time last year here.

Cross 20 movies off my Movie Bucket list
I've never shared this list before, it works much the same like the book bucket list but instead of 101 books there are 200 movies. This is because it is actually two lists, one is of modern classics and the other of all-time greats so it's a good mix of the old and the new. I did really badly with this last year and only managed to cross 4 movies off my list which is why my goal is 20 this year. I will hopefully manage to watch more than 20 though.

Start running at least once a week
This is my only personal goal on the list and that is to start jogging. I nearly always make this resolution not only at New Year but at various points throughout the year too. I have never managed to keep going for more than two weeks at a time but this year is my year. I so badly want to be healthier and fitter but I also want to do it for my mental health. I think it would be so beneficial to me to get out of the house and do something positive since I've been stuck in such a rut recently. I am really excited to don my running shoes and start pounding the pavement!

What are your New Years Resolutions for 2015?

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