The Absolutist - John Boyce
A masterfully told tale of passion, jealousy, heroism and betrayal set in the gruesome trenches of World War I.
It is September 1919: twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, the man he fought alongside during the Great War.
But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan’s visit. He can no longer keep a secret and has finally found the courage to unburden himself of it. As Tristan recounts the horrific details of what to him became a senseless war, he also speaks of his friendship with Will—from their first meeting on the training grounds at Aldershot to their farewell in the trenches of northern France. The intensity of their bond brought Tristan happiness and self-discovery as well as confusion and unbearable pain.
The Absolutist is a masterful tale of passion, jealousy, heroism, and betrayal set in one of the most gruesome trenches of France during World War I. This novel will keep readers on the edge of their seats until its most extraordinary and unexpected conclusion, and will stay with them long after they’ve turned the last page.
John Boyce is known for his crushing stories and heart breaking narratives. He’s a brilliant writer, but that’s a given. The time line jumps from the war, where both Will and Tristan are fighting and suffering the immediate hypocrisy of the British trenches to the heart breaking after effects where Tristan has to recount the suffering pain.
It’s a brilliant read every page, perhaps not an urgent page turner but its consistency enables you to understand each character and understand their depth which can often be neglected by fast paced page turners. The novel focuses on the characters of the war rather than the horrors of the war itself.
Boyce is an author who you expect will make you cry, and he does. You feel a part of the story as Tristan recounts his painful and suffering both from the war, before and after.
The end, well, it all makes sense. It’s painful and almost unbearable but you’ll have to read to get to that bit. But, it’s worth reading just to get there.
The Perks Of Wallflower quotation ‘We accept the love we think we deserve’ is never better placed, because Tristan does not deserve what he gets.
One day, I’ll torture myself by re-reading this fantastic story but for novel I’ll keep the tear-jerking memory of the heart-broken Tristan Sadler and his story to myself.
“One single syllable of intimacy and the world is put to rights.”
I Capture The Castle - Dodie Smith
Cassandra Mortmain is no ordinary teenager. She belongs to an extraordinary family including a father suffering from writer’s block and a lute-playing stepmother, Topaz, who communes with nature near the wild, tumble-down castle that is their home. Cassandra’s diary reveals how their lives are changed forever two American brothers arrive to lay claim, not only to their home, but also their hearts.
Firstly, I’m sorry for the wait. I’ve had A Level English coursework and do you know how difficult it is to find a good orange book that’s not a penguin classic (it felt like cheating the cover system). I started about five or six before I found this one. I’ve been meaning to read it for a while but found it with a lovely orange cover in the school library.
So here we go, ‘I Capture The Castle’.
Dodie Smith’s less known classic (everyone knows 101 Dalmatians - the one with loads of spotty dogs, yep that’s it). I liked ‘I Capture the Castle’ it’s a nice book. You know sometimes when you just stumble across a nice book. The characters are all unique, albeit a little one dimensional but pleasantly so, they don’t have buried dark and haunting pasts which in some ways made this book a nice relief, fresh. The writing it’s beautiful, simplistic as it’s 1st person and aimed at children but all the characters are beautifully described by Cassandra’s narrative. And over the course of the book, I did develop a soft spot for Stephen who was wonderfully caring and compassionate, even if he would be a little annoying in reality.
Cassandra’s optimism is remarkable and perhaps naïve about life, unaware of some of harsh adjustments which definitely lay in her future.
“Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression.”
Stargirl:Pink - Jerry Spinelli
From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, hallways hum “Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’s heart with one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. Until they are not. Leo urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her - normal.
Stargirl reminded me of Fahrenheit 451’s Clarisse McClellan. Both show their unique individuality, outrageous self-confidence and non-conformity even if her antics make her an outcast. It’s a brilliant book which celebrates individualism, there aren’t enough books celebrating this. Stargirl’s confidence is infectious both to the people in the school somewhere inside you feel her confidence inside you.
Leo, the voice of the book, shares his enthusiasm and fascination surrounding Stargirl with the readers. In part, by seeing Stargirl through Leo’s eyes, makes her more mysterious and more marvellous than she otherwise would seem.
The novel also demonstrates how horrible teenagers can be to each other, especially in accepting and rejecting others, while exploring the part social conventions play in our lives. However, this is done in an interesting and engaging way.
Also, just to say, I have a soft-spot for Cinnamon. He is so adorable and I can see why Stargirl loved him.
Stargirl is not a long book and it’s not difficult to read. It’s a unique and fresh book, with an utterly new narrative that creates a rather compelling novel and a rather charming memorable heroine.
“She was elusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl. We did not know what to make of her. In our minds we tried to pin her to a cork board like a butterfly, but the pin merely went through and away she flew.”
Ketchup Clouds - Annabel Pitcher
Secrets, romance, murder and lies: Zoe shares a terrible secret in a letter to a stranger on death row in this second novel from the author of the bestselling debut, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece.
Fifteen-year-old Zoe has a secret—a dark and terrible secret that she can’t confess to anyone she knows. But then one day she hears of a criminal, Stuart Harris, locked up on death row in Texas. Like Zoe, Stuart is no stranger to secrets. Or lies. Or murder.
Full of heartache yet humour, Zoe tells her story in the only way she can—in letters to the man in prison in America. Armed with a pen, Zoe takes a deep breath, eats a jam sandwich, and begins her tale of love and betrayal.
I liked how you knew the plot of the book, it’s the story of Zoe and how she killed someone. It’s written on the front cover. But of course it’s not the black and white. She’s not called Zoe, and it takes us until the last pages to know who she actually kills. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this though in parts I did find Zoe a slightly annoying in parts. I liked how throughout the story Zoe’s formality when progressing through the story going from Mr Harris to Stu, it was a small detail which could easily be overlooked or left out but it gave a level of detail which just added a little something to the book. I loved how the story was written in letter form. There’s something the stories written in letters that interesting, almost like they’re writing to you and have blocked out all of the thousands of other readers. It’s a sense of intimacy that you struggle to get in any form of writing.
As a book it was real, something which is increasingly common in modern young adult fiction at the moment. You could go to school with Zoe, and you could fancy the same boys at the party and it’s all believable. Brilliant and unique.
“That’s not how you’re going to live, Bird Girl. Not on my account. Spread those strong wings of yours. Fly.”
Perfume: The Story Of A Murder – Patrick Süskind
In the slums of eighteenth-century France, the infant Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift: an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the odors of Paris, and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs.
But Grenouille’s genius is such that he is not satisfied to stop there, and he becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of objects such as brass doorknobs and fresh-cut wood. Then one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the “ultimate perfume”—the scent of a beautiful young virgin.
Told with dazzling narrative brilliance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity.
This a strange book. That’s undeniable. The story of Grenouille is disturbing and not for the faint hearted however it is brilliant. The descriptions of the scents surrounding Grenouille are so vividly explained they transport the reader to the scene. It’s the most powerful use of atmospheric description. Most people have a preconceived idea what characters look like but few offer a preconceived smell in a book or on film. It’s a skill that the films can’t master and only a few books dare to.
This is not a book about a murder; even if it is ‘The Story Of A Murder’ it’s about scent and life and extreme passion and need.
You are forced to be repulsed by Grenouille and his actions but as a character he’s fascinating. His motives are so clearly mapped they are almost plausible.
It would be so easy to let this book slip into a gothic horror or a murder mystery but instead it stands alone. It’s not a horror but with an almost Dickensian charm it’s funny and quirky.
I also like the idea of a German novelist writing about 18th Century France, it’s just a bit different. Well to me at least.
And then the reason I chose the book. And I almost hate to admit it but that’s what this challenge is all about. The cover. It’s beautiful. It’s a piece of Gothic art and stands well above the rest. I couldn’t think of a better cover for this amazing story.
The perfect start to The Rainbow Read.
“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”
I am taking this as a chance to read the epics that had no place in Read 100 so naturally this challenge will take more time per book.
The colours in question will be:
So 14 books in total.
Wish me luck.
1) A Single Man - the start of my love of Isherwood and 1930s literature
2) All Quiet On The Western Front - unbelievable
3) The Catcher In The Rye - a classic
4) Looking For Alaska - my entrance to Nerdfighteria & The Fault In Our Stars - the best of Green
5) The Starboard Sea - an instant favourite
6) The Perks Of Being A Wallflower - a modern classic, timeless
7) Breakfast At Tiffany’s - beautiful
8) The Book Thief - touching and heartbreaking
9) Tell Me The Truth About Love - perfect pocketable poetry
10) Brideshead Revisited - a perfectly executed enchanting tale
Just. To those observant enough to count the fact I have indeed had two full Augusts opposed to ending at the start of August, I hardly read for May/June as I had GCSEs that occupied my brain and time so took the 2nd August in Lou of those missed days in May/June. 100 books read and not only did I read them all but I also reviewed them all. I think I feel more well-read and have wider book knowledge.
While I was getting to the end of the challenge I was wondering what to do with this blog, do I just leave it as it is, or do I shut it off, or do I do something with it.
I’ve decided to keep myself using this and every so often set myself a challenge, probably less strenuous than this but still review and post to this blog.
From October 1st, I am going to start ‘The Rainbow Read’ where I will read books where each cover represents a different colour of the rainbow (I will write a list of colours before I start.) So thanks for joining me on the Read100 journey and I shall see you in October for the start of ‘The Rainbow Read’.
1913: The Year Before The Storm – Florian Illies
A moving true account of European society on the brink of war
The stuffy conventions of the nineteenth century are receding into the past, and 1913 heralds a new age of unlimited possibility. Kafka falls in love; Louis Armstrong learns to play the trumpet; a young seamstress called Coco Chanel opens her first boutique; Charlie Chaplin signs his first movie contract; and new drugs like cocaine usher in an age of decadence. Yet everywhere there is the premonition of ruin - the number 13 is omnipresent, and in London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Trieste, artists take the omen and act as if there were no tomorrow, their brief coincidences of existence telling of a darker future. In a Munich hotel lobby, Rilke and Freud discuss beauty and transience; Proust sets out in search of lost time; and while Stravinsky celebrates the Rite of Spring with industrial cacophony, in Munich an Austrian postcard painter by the name of Adolf Hitler sells his conventional cityscapes. Told with Illies’ characteristic mixture of poignant evocation and laconic irony, 1913 is the story of the year that shaped the last century.
Utterly unique in its engaging perception of history. This is less a history book, more a map, tracing the lives of writers and influential throughout the course of 1913. Travelling month by month through minor events in the lives of some of the greatest names of the age.
Written as a series of short entries describing the events in a narrative fashion, this novel provides an interest and in depth clarity that is often lacking in non-fiction works. The descriptions and detail is unparalleled in more serious textbooks about the time. The sentences carried a poetic flow which transferred one entry to another seamlessly. It’s an amazing way to see what all the figures were doing at a particular time. This is perhaps a book for those who are well versed in 1913’s German writers, such as Kafka, Mann, and Rilke etc. however it’s not essential as it provides a gateway into other books.
It’s an amazing book and a through pleasure to read.
It is easy to read and pick up and put down whenever you want but it was engaging enough to read in one sitting.
“(November) Rilke sits in Paris, thinking distractedly about summer and autumn in Germany. As he traveled uneasily back and forth between all his wives and uber-mothers, between Clara, still his wife, his ex-lovers Sidonie and Lou, his summer love Ellen Delp, his mother, his helpless admirers Cassirer, von Nostitz and von Thurn and Taxis. Keep everything open, don’t go down any one path, wherever it may lead: this is what Rainier Maria Rilke is thinking on 1 November. As an attitude to life it’s disastrous. As poetry it’s a revelation.”
The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within – Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry believes that if you can speak and read English you can write poetry. But it is no fun if you don’t know where to start or have been led to believe that Anything Goes.
Stephen, who has long written poems, and indeed has written long poems, for his own private pleasure, invites you to discover the incomparable delights of metre, rhyme and verse forms.
Whether you want to write a Petrarchan sonnet for your lover’s birthday, an epithalamion for your sister’s wedding or a villanelle excoriating the government’s housing policy, The Ode Less Travelled will give you the tools and the confidence to do so.
Brimful of enjoyable exercises, witty insights and simple step-by-step advice, The Ode Less Travelled guides the reader towards mastery and confidence in the Mother of the Arts.
A brilliant book that is an essential for all who read poetry as it explains the complexities of the poetics structures. Sounds boring right? It’s not. It’s brimming with all of Fry’s wit, clarity and charming and effortlessly encourages you to explore into your own poetic voice.
The details of the structures are superb from someone with little to no knowledge of poetry.
I’ve only just got this book back to finish as I leant it to a friend to read before her poetry exam, she said it was brilliant as it explained all of the structural information such as the multiple varying types of metre.
The book itself stems from Fry’s private passion of poetry writing, so this book is riddled with enthusiasm and excitement for the topic, this enthusiasm seeps through to the reader and you feel the same excitement as he does. I am glad he wrote this book even if I would have liked to read some of his own poetry.
It’s a thoroughly enjoyable book to learn from and is the prefect present for lovers of language and words.
“I have a dark and dreadful secret. I write poetry… I believe poetry is a primal impulse within all of us. I believe we are all capable of it and furthermore that a small, often ignored corner of us positively yearns to try it.”
Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus - Mary Shelley
A stunning new clothbound edition of Mary Shelley’s infamous work of horror fiction, designed by the award-winning Coralie Bickford-Smith. These delectable and collectible Penguin editions are bound in high-quality colourful, tactile cloth with foil stamped into the design
Obsessed by creating life itself, Victor Frankenstein plunders graveyards for the material to fashion a new being, which he shocks into life by electricity. But his botched creature, rejected by Frankenstein and denied human companionship, sets out to destroy his maker and all that he holds dear. This chilling gothic tale, begun when Mary Shelley was just nineteen years old, would become the world’s most famous work of horror fiction, and remains a devastating exploration of the limits of human creativity.
One of my favourite books! It’s such a clever concept with such a powerful story, and on top of everything it’s amazingly executed. Somehow Shelley manages to make you feel for the monster, he’s practically an abandoned child, helpless and dependent. Victor is one of those characters that you can’t make up how you feel about him, on one hand he’s created a monster and cowardly abandoned it, on the other hand he’s terrified and brought the dead back to life.
It’s a classic tale of social insight and I love how the monster is almost a secondary plot, the main importance is the characterization of each individual characters who are all detailed and intricate creating vivid emotions and an indepth clarity of a situation which to the modern reader still appears so far fetched. It’s a superb book and I cannot recommend it more.
“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
Selected Poems – Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath (1932-63) possessed one of the most commanding voices in twentieth-century poetry. She published only one volume of verse, “The Colossus”, during her life and a single novel, “The Bell Jar”. After her death “Winter Trees”, “Crossing the Water” and, most notably, the remarkable poems in “Ariel”, brought her posthumous fame.
The brilliantly selected edition which I am studying! It’s an amazing collection, a perfect mix of sorrow and humour, which is not something you would associate Plath with. Plath’s poetry is so current, such as ‘Face Lift’. I find it hard to relate to Plath’s poetry but the power of these poems is undeniable, the images are vivid and clear, transporting you to Plath’s world. In parts these poems are dark and chilling, or revolting imagery, enough to make you squirm or repel because the images Plath musters are unbelievably haunting. It takes an unbelievable about of skill to create a physical reaction to a poem.
I’ve now been studying this book for a term and I throughly love it. Plath is an utter genius. Following her moods, especially in time with Hughes’ own work. you can map the ups and downs of both their relationships and Plath’s mindset. Plath’s sense of self in almost all of her poems is remarkable, achieving an intimate and almost narrative state. Some of her poems make you almost cry ‘Nick & The Candlestick’ but that makes her joyous poems even more joyous. It’s an amazing collection. Superb.
“The window square//Whitens and swallows its dull stars.”
Collected Poems – John Keats
This is an entirely new selection of Keats’s finest poetry containing all his best known work as well as a sample of less familiar pieces. Keats published three volumes of poetry before his death at age twenty-five of tuberculosis and, while many of his contemporaries were prompt to recognize his greatness, snobbery and political hostility led the Tory press to vilify and patronize him as a “Cockney poet.” Financial anxieties and the loss of those he loved most had tried him persistently, yet he dismissed the concept of life as a vale of tears and substituted the concept of a “vale of Soul-making.” His poetry and his remarkable letters reveal a spirit of questing vitality and profound understanding and his final volume, which contains the great odes and the unfinished Hyperion, attests to an astonishing maturity of power.
John Keats is a perfectly English poet. He’s one of the first that people list when they think of the British greats. His poetry is plastered with the beautiful, elaborate descriptions and images which are superb!
Poem wise, I follow the general consensus as I absolutely loved ‘To Autumn’ it’s one of my absolute all time favourites. It’s such a beautiful poem with so much depth and richness.
His poetry is very different from that of the more modern poets with more complex words and tones which do make a more challenging read to a more modern reader however that is all part of the amazing personality which Keats’ poems portray.
I’m planning on watching the movie about Keats ‘Bright Star’ it’s supposed to be good.
“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness//Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;”
The Black Cat - Edgar Allan Poe
The Black Cat“ is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. It was first published in the August 19, 1843, edition of The Saturday Evening Post. It is a study of the psychology of guilt.
A terrifyingly creepy tale, I’m still not sure if I liked it but it has definitely unnerved me. Perhaps for fans of horror then this would be a brilliant short read, but Poe is undeniably a genius in order to accomplish so much in so few words. However, for me, it was difficult to read with a cat sitting on your lap and the haunting was creepy but the scariest part was summed up by this quote:
"he became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.”
Dash & Lily’s Book Of Dares - Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”
So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors ofNick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?
Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own
I found this book while I was looking for Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, the two authors original book but found this instead and thought I’d give it a read.
It’s brilliant. These characters are me. The characters personalities were so relatable which made them easy to like and interesting. Any bookish teen would think that they are so like the characters. It’s a book about real people, not the messed up or the ‘interesting’, and I bet the characters would both think, I’m not interesting enough to make a story. But the characters are interesting and had a pleasant depth - enough that you felt you knew them but not so much as though you feel that you’re inside their heads.
Despite being a little Christmassy for August - I fell in love with this story! It’s such an easy book to read and just absorb all of the romance and the beautiful writing.
I just love David Leviathan’s writing and was so glad that I found him through John Green and through Levithan I have discovered Rachel Cohn.
It’s not a heavy read but what’s wrong with that. Sometimes we all want to read something easy, light and enjoyable - and when you do - this is what you should read.
“The important people in our lives leave imprints. They may stay or go in the physical realm, but they are always there in your heart, because they helped form your heart. There’s no getting over that.”