Wednesday 29 February 2012

Guest Post by author Katie Dale: Literature's top ten bachelors

As part of the blog tour for her new novel Someone Else's Life, Katie Dale is here with a fantastic guest post. Check it out below, and watch for the review of the book coming soon!


So today is February 29th! That rare – once every four years – occurrence!
What are you going to do with your extra 24 hours? Go out and celebrate? Stay in bed a little longer? Propose to anyone…?

Why not? Allegedly, a law passed in 1288 states that February 29th is traditionally the day when a woman can propose to a man – and if he turns her down, he has to pay her compensation ranging from a kiss to a silk gown in order to soften the blow!

So, girls, what’re you waiting for?

If Mr. Right hasn’t come along yet, there’s no shortage of them in fiction. Here’s my countdown of the Top Ten Swoonworthy Literary Bachelors I’d propose to in a heartbeat – if only they were real! Which one would you choose?

10. Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights)
If you like your bad-boys broody and mean, they don’t come any broodier than Emily Bronte’s mysterious orphan, Heathcliff. Taken in by the kindly Mr. Earnshaw, he immediately falls completely in love with his daughter Cathy, and theirs is one of the most intense, passionate, destructive, doomed love affairs of all time. Perhaps a bit high-maintenance, though?

9. Edward Cullen/Jacob Black (Twilight Saga)
I don’t wish to take sides, so the Twilight guys vie for ninth place. They’re both seriously gorgeous, seriously devoted, and seriously strong, but while having a boyfriend who cannot die has its advantages, I’m not sure I could stand to grow old beside someone who stays forever young and beautiful – and I’m not sure I’m quite committed enough to become a vampire just yet (I’ve read what happens!). Jacob may be the better bet – who doesn’t love a beautiful wolf – but I’m not sure the whole aggro side is worth it?

8. Stefan/Damon Salvatore (The Vampire Diaries)
More vampires vie for eighth place, and though I have to say that while on paper Stefan is Mr Perfect, Damon Salvatore swings it for me. The glint in his eye, the hint of danger, the bad boy who’d turn good for the love of the right girl…Irresistible. If only he didn’t keep killing everyone.

7. Mr Rochester (Jane Eyre)
Almost a human Damon Salvatore, Mr Rochester is a tormented soul. Rough and callous, even mean to begin with, he melts in the company of Jane, the one person he finally learns to trust and to love, and finally finds redemption. He’s Heathcliff, but with a happy ending, albeit blind and crippled. Love wins the day.

6. Benedick (Much Ado About Nothing)
Forget Romeo (he falls in and out of love at the drop of a hat) Shakespeare’s Benedick is witty and charming and self-deprecating and is all about the verbal sparring – but beneath all that is a heart of pure gold. Fun to be with, brave, and witty – good combo!

5. Aragorn (The Lord of the Rings)
If it’s a hero you’re after, look no further than Middle-Earth’s own saviour, Aragorn. Whilst Frodo goes off to destroy the ring, it is up to Aragorn to rally the troops and fight all the bad guys to buy Frodo time. Plus he becomes King. Bonus.

4. Prince Caspian – Another royal hunk, Caspian (alright, Ben Barnes) is brave and dashing and achingly gorgeous, and lives in beautiful Narnia. Plus if it doesn’t work out, just nip back through the wardrobe/painting/station and it’ll be as if it never happened!

3. Mr Knightley (Emma)
Sigh. Mr. Knightley is one of those guys. He isn’t the alpha male, he doesn’t dash into the fray at the slightest excuse, doesn’t suck blood or pull a canine – no, his is a quieter sort of swoonworthiness. He’s charming and kind and generous to all – he’s the best friend who knows you better than anyone in the world and isn’t afraid to call you on your faults – but loves you deeply despite them all. A definite keeper.

2. Rhett Butler (Gone With The Wind)
Rhett is almost the antithesis to Mr. Knightley, but he’s all the more irresistible for it. He’s charming and dashing and witty and teasing and slightly obnoxious, but honourable and brave and kind too. Like Knightley, he’s not afraid to tell Scarlet her faults, but instead of chiding her he celebrates them, and loves her just the way she is. Sigh.
Speaking of people who love people just the way they are…

1. Fitzwilliam Darcy/Mark Darcy (Pride & Prejudice/Bridget Jones)
These two kind of come as one (same name, same actor, pretty much same character). Darcy is misunderstood at the outset – thought to be proud and obnoxious and arrogant bad-boy. When really he’s a thoroughbred white knight. His good opinion once lost may be gone forever, but if you earn it, he’s devoted to you for eternity. A fair deal, methinks.

I just have to add one more contender – Andy from Someone Else’s Life (represented by the gorgeous Andy Garfield). He’s kind and loyal and supportive and sexy – a definite Mr. Right – but then I’m biased because I invented him! That’s the great thing about fiction – you can make your very own Mr Right be whoever you want him to be!

Who’s yours?

Katie Dale
Author of Someone Else’s Life
Published by Simon & Schuster February 2012
Twitter: @katiedaleuk

Monday 27 February 2012

Review: Angel by Arnold Jansen op de Haar

Many people have plenty of reasons to run away, but very few actually do it.

Timjen Klein Gildekamp is a jobbing writer living in a small provincial town. His world is lonely and stifling.
We find out why his father's war is still important to his life today and how the world has changed. Timjen has moved away from his roots, but not far enough, so he feels trapped.
When all seems lost, Angel comes to the rescue, but is she too late? They make an interesting pair: she the masseuse by day and singer by night, and he the committed writer of literature.
A surprise lottery win enables them to escape their dreary and oppressive everyday existence. During their flight, they experience a number of monotonous incidents in Spain and London, ending up on a remote Scottish island.
Timjen believes that, at the end of our life, what remains of us is love, but is he right?

Angel is a novel about expectations, failures and the fragility of our existence.

Angel was first published in Dutch under the title of Engel, and has been translated into English by Bernadette Jansen op de Haar. It's the sequel to King of Tuzla, but can be read as a stand-alone novel.

The story is very intriguing: it's about a couple who decide to literally run from their lives together after winning 50,000 Euros, in an effort to escape their pasts and the everyday grind that they struggle with. But, perfect as it sounds, things don't go completely to plan.

Frequent flashbacks, and even some chapters which show the perspectives of those people that they are trying to run from, provide the reader with a good dose of insight. However, while this was useful, at the beginning of the book I found it a little confusing, and perhaps it would have been useful for the start of each chapter to mention the place and year. But this was something I got used to later on.

With that said, I did appreciate the variation, and another interesting aspect was the inclusion of poetry. I understand the author has previously had works of poetry published, so I enjoyed that he chose to intergrate this aspect of his abilities into a novel.

Overall a good read, but some room for improvement. If you like your novels to be rich in complexity, and want to read a thriller with a bit of a rhythmic difference, then perhaps you will enjoy Angel.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

For more information about Angel, visit the publisher's website.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Review: Ugly to Start With by John Michael Cummings

Jason Stevens is growing up in picturesque, historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in the 1970s. Back when the roads are smaller, the cars slower, the people more colorful, and Washington, D.C. is way across the mountains—a winding sixty-five miles away.
Jason dreams of going to art school in the city, but he must first survive his teenage years. He witnesses a street artist from Italy charm his mother from the backseat of the family car. He stands up to an abusive husband—and then feels sorry for the jerk. He puts up with his father’s hard-skulled backwoods ways, his grandfather’s showy younger wife, and the fist-throwing schoolmates and eccentric mountain characters that make up Harpers Ferry—all topped off by a basement art project with a girl from the poor side of town.
Ugly to Start With punctuates the exuberant highs, bewildering midpoints, and painful lows of growing up, and affirms that adolescent dreams and desires are often fulfilled in surprising ways. (via Goodreads)

Ugly to Start With is a series of short stories all narrated by a teenage boy named Jason, and in each he tells us something new about what's going on in his life. The subject matters are all different, from sexual encounters to arguments with parents.

I got the impression that the setting was the most important aspect of it all, as Jason continually struggles with the small town minds of the Harpers Ferry residents. His big dream is to make it out of there and go to the city, which he's been led to believe is a whole other world away. There really is a sense of character growth throughout, and I found it most interesting that the first and last stories both involve a connected subtext which help demonstrate this growth.

However, one drawback of Ugly to Start With is the lack of plot driven occurrences. As mentioned before, a lot of it is about the setting and encounters, so in some of the stories I didn't feel there was enough going on to keep me engaged. But, with that said, it's an interesting book, and quite different from anything else I've read. If you like short stories with a bit of a twist, then Ugly to Start With could be for you.

Rating: 3 / 5

Saturday 18 February 2012

Review: Hard Times by Charles Dickens

The 'terrible mistake' was the contemporary utilitarian philosophy, expounded in Hard Times (1854) as the Philosophy of Fact by the hard-headed disciplinarian Thomas Gradgrind. But the novel, Dickens's shortest, is more than a polemical tract for the times; the tragic story of Louisa Gradgrind and her father is one of Dickens's triumphs. When Louisa, trapped in a loveless marriage, falls prey to an idle seducer, the crisis forces her father to reconsider his cherished system. Yet even as the development of the story reflects Dickens's growing pessimism about human nature and society, Hard Times marks his return to the theme which had made his early works so popular: the amusements of the people. Sleary's circus represents Dickens's most considered defence of the necessity of entertainment, and infuses the novel with the good humour which has ensured its appeal to generations of readers. (via Goodreads)

According to Goodreads, I've been reading Hard Times since 9th January, so thank goodness it's over and I've read it! Yikes. What a struggle it was to get through. If I didn't have to read it for a university course, I would've given up long ago. I even had to switch from print to audio book just to make it easier on myself!

This is the first full-length Dickens novel that I've read, and it's undoubtedly put me off reading any of his others. The description says that this is the shortest of them all, so imagine how long Great Expectations, Oliver Twist or Little Dorrit might take me! I don't think I'll be trying them out any time soon.

Hard Times had a number of points I struggled to feel enthusiastic about, but there were a few that I enjoyed about it. The characters are very diverse and of course well written; the villains are properly so, and the endearing characters grow more intriguing. There are also many twists which aren't expected, and the conclusion I found somewhat heartwarming. But, in the end, Hard Times proved too monotonous for me.

I'll stick to reading Dickens' short stories and articles, which I seem to enjoy much more.

Rating: 2 / 5

Friday 17 February 2012

Tag along!

The always fabulous Barbara over at March House Books has tagged me in this fun blogger Q&A meme (see end of post for details). Here are my answers to her questions...

Do you use a bookmark or will any old bit of paper do?
I have so many different types of bookmarks, so 99% of the time opt for these (unless they've all gone missing, which sometimes happens!) My favourites are a selection of free ones I got from a zoo a few years ago; they have a Dalai Lama quote printed on, alongside a gorgeous wildlife photo.

What new books are you most excited to read this year?
In terms of new releases, I'm really looking forward to reading Sophie Kinsella's next novel. Other than that, I've got a good few older books scattered around my house which I'm itching to read, particularly A Good Year by Peter Mayle (one of my favourite films was based on this book but still haven't read it yet!), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, and one on meditation which I can't wait to practice when I have the time.

Favourite season?
Hard for me to choose between spring and summer. They're both way too short!

If money were not an issue, what present would you give yourself?
Oh darn. I've got chronic shop-a-holic syndrome, so I think the question is what wouldn't I buy myself! Haha. But I'd probably go for a year-long trip around the world, since there are so many places I want to visit (Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Kenya, Argentina, Brazil, Hawaii, Switzerland, etc!)

Do you buy second-hand books, new books or both?
I mostly buy second-hand these days, unless it's  reduced to a good price.

Early bird or night owl?
Night owl. Strangely, I can't fall asleep until after 1am most nights!

Do you like to read a specific genre? If so, what genre is it?
No specific genre, really, though lately I've been favouring contemporary fiction. I'll go through a fantasy, classics, young adult, etc phase sometime in the year as well!

Who is your favourite literary character of all time?
Very tough question. But actually, now that I think about it, Mr Darcy wins this category hands down.

Physical books, E-books or audio books?
Definitely physical books. I love covers and the feel of paper. Plus with eBooks, I don't really feel as if I posess them, if that makes any sense. Audio books are good, but they're usually too expensive for me.

If your life was made into a movie, who would you like to play you?
Sarah Michelle Gellar, just because I love her. But she'd have to get a tan first!

Cat person or dog person?
Can I be both? I'd love to have a dog because I've never had one. Or, actually, a cat for that matter. But I think me and a dog would get along better; with cats, I'd always be worrying about them clawing the furniture!

Now it's my turn to pass it on...

The tag rules
1. You must post the rules!
2. Answer the questions and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
3. Tag eleven people and link to them.
4. Let them know you’ve tagged them.

My questions (ETA: Haven't been very original, sorry guys!)
What's the name of the book you've had the longest and still haven't read?
Do you have a favourite place to buy books?
What are some of your favourite films?
Other than blogging, what do you like to do?
Who's your favourite literary couple?
Are you more of a techno-phobe or a techno-geek?
What was one of your favourite TV shows when you were a kid?
Now for the age old question... what's your favourite word?
Do you have any pets? If so, what are they?
Do you read any magazines or newspapers?

Blogs I tag
Alaskan Book Café
For the Love of Reading
Leah's Literature and Coffee
Tiny Library
Kate's Blog
Darkest Sins
The Beauty of Eclecticism
Mind Reader
Chick's Lit
Audacious Reader
Author K.C. Neal's Blog

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Looking forward: Taste & Breaking Dawn Part 2!

Lots of exciting things are popping up this week: Sophie Kinsella's novel is out on Thursday, I'm going to finally complete Hard Times after over a month of suffering, and also finish my latest overdue uni assignment!

But there's also more.

You've heard of Kate Evangelista, right? If not, then you should visit her blog. You should also know that Kate is a writer, and has recently signed two book deals. Well, more than two when you consider that one of her babies, 'Til Death, has been picked up for a three book deal! I'm beyond happy for her, especially after reading about the run-around she went through trying to get published in 2011. Her other novel, Taste, was the first to be signed, and now the cover artwork has been released. Check it out below!

Looks fantastic, doesn't it? I really enjoy Kate's blog, so I can't wait to read this beauty. Congrats, Kate!

Lastly, a treat for all the Twilight fans out there: a Breaking Dawn Part 2 clip! I couldn't believe it when one of my Facebook friends posted this little beauty. A clip this early in the year? But hey, I'm not complaining!

Check it out. The audio quality isn't great, but you'll get the idea. Bella looks so vamp-esque!

That wraps it up for now. Back to work!

Friday 10 February 2012

Review: The Good Witch of the West by Noriko Ogiwara (& art by Harahiko Momokawa) [manga]

Fifteen-year-old Firiel lives in the remote highlands with her reclusive father. Country life is pleasant enough for Firiel--her father's servants adore her, his apprentice Rune is a good friend, and she's about to attend her first ball! But as Firiel prepares for the gala, she discovers her past is more complicated than she had thought--and she may be the heir the throne! Unaware of the danger that faces her and those whom she loves, Firiel courageously quests for the truth. In this unique, evocative Cinderella story, heritage and destiny converge to change a young girl's life forever! (via Goodreads)

It's been a while since my last manga review )and I am shamefully behind in my regular reading), so I thought it was about time for another.

The Good Witch of the West is a fantasy drama manga about a young woman living a modest life in the countryside. However, her world is turned completely upside down after she attends a ball at a palace and discovers that she is an heir to extraordinary power.

I really enjoyed The Good Witch of the West. It got off to a bit of a slow start, but that's usually how it is when I read manga; takes me a few pages to get into the right 'flow' (reading right-to-left instead of left-to-right can take some getting used to!) But it didn't take long for this one to capture my interest. It's probably the most well-constructed story of any of the manga I've read so far. Of course, it's still pretty over-the-top (as you would rightly expect), but the writer has done the majority very tastefully, even including a good few artsy metaphors which help to enhance the elegance of the story.

Altogether, The Good Witch of the West is a fantastic manga. If you love some great artwork, an absorbing storyline with a difference, or just enjoy the fantasy genre, then give this a try.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Thursday 2 February 2012

Spread Love, Not Hate because bullying sucks

Spread Love, Not Hate

Time for the Spread <3, Not Hate event! It was put together by authors KM Parr and KC Neal, to raise awareness about bullying. Each one of the bloggers signed up for this event will write a blog post about bullying – their opinions, maybe reflect on past experiences, etc. The whole idea is to get everyone thinking and talking about it, and to consider the fact that all forms of bullying are unequivocally wrong. Learn more about the event and sign up (while the list is still open) by visiting KC's blog.


Now I'm going to tell you a little about my experience with bullying. Where to start? I guess I'll tell you that I was bullied for a while in secondary school/high school. Nothing physical was ever done to me – it was all verbal bullying – but that can be just as bad, if not worse. And I went to an all-girls school, so you can imagine the bitchiness that went on there, right? Especially with a group of teenage girls!

Sometimes I wonder what happened to me during my teenage years. I was a very normal and happy child, and didn't have many problems fitting in. But when I hit puberty things started getting weird. My hair got frizzy, I needed glasses, braces, was gaining weight, and to top it off my personality was very different to many of the other girls, and so they took advantage of this. I didn't fit in with the 'cool' crowds, wasn't the smartest girl, was completely shy and let everyone walk all over me. Bingo – a list like that makes a good prime target.

It got so bad that it began eating me up, and I ended up having a breakdown. This is when the teachers finally stepped in, spoke to my class, and thankfully everything started to get better at that point. In fact, much better. I think then the girls realised how horrible they had been, so they all apologised to me and more or less left me alone. Thank goodness! It was a bad experience, but after that I was able to relax more my last two years at that school. But I wouldn't go so far as to say I enjoyed it! Sixth Form at my next school, though, was 110% better... and mixed gender! Woohoo!

Anyway, that's way behind me. I'm now in my twenties and happy to be over that phase of my life! I can stand up for myself much better now, too, which is so important.


Indeed, never feel that you don't ever feel that you can't speak up for yourself. I didn't back then, but you always have that right. Whether you're being bullied at school, work, even by someone who's supposed to be your friend, never believe that they're superior to you because they aren't. We're all equal here, and we all deserve to speak for ourselves and be who we want to be.