Thursday, April 16, 2015

Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns 

“If you don't imagine, nothing ever happens at all.”

I love most of John Green’s books, but Paper Towns was the first one I read, and has always stood out as my favourite. Green’s books are wonderful at capturing teenage sentiments realistically, and avoiding the trashy clichés too often found in the genre. Although I’m no longer a teenager myself, I still enjoy revisiting book from that time in my life, and find I still relate to many of the characters.

For those unfamiliar with the plot of Paper Towns, Q and Margot have been next door neighbours for years. One night, she climbs in his bedroom window and leads him on a madcap adventure through the streets of Florida. The next morning, she has vanished, and now Q and his friends have to follow the trail of clues she left behind. As a protagonist, Q is likeable and relatable, and I was rooting for him the whole way through, which is always important for me when reading a book - I’’m not going to enjoy it if I don’t like the main character. Margot is mysterious and mischievous, a whirlwind that turns his world upside down. I love the possibilities that she brings to the story; I grew up reading fantasy novels, so it’s great when there’s a bit of adventure and mystery in a novel set in the real world. There’s also a road trip featured, which makes me long for travel again myself.

Without giving away the ending, I think it’s excellent. Whatever you think it’s going to be, you’re probably wrong, and I love a book that avoids the cliché ending, and keeps me on my toes like that. I find Green’s books to be more realistic because of endings like this, and because he throws in a few harsh truths. In this case, people and places aren’t always as great as we think they are in our heads:

“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.”

I also like that his characters avoid stereotypes too, and instead have unique little quirks, as most of us in the real world too. These details are pretty unforgettable too; this book will always make me think of the world’s largest collection of black Santas (and you’ll have to go read it if you want to know what that’s all about!).

The film adaptation of the novel is also coming out this year, which I’m a little anxious about. We’ve all seen good and bad adaptations before, but I really don’t want one of my favourite books to be ruined on screen! However, I liked the last John Green adaptation, The Fault in Our Stars, and the trailer looks good, so I’m staying optimistic!

Paper Towns has everything I look for in a novel - realistic characters, an interesting and exciting plot line, a unique writing style and a lack of clichés. But liking a book is more than just checking off these points on a list - my favourite books make me feel, I get excited or nervous about the fates of characters, I sympathise with them and root for them; I want to be a part of the story. This novel is about friendship and adventure and mystery and feeling like a teenager again. And that’s why I’ll always go back to read it again.

“As long as we don't die, this is gonna be one hell of a story.” 

This 'Favourite Book' submission is courtesy of Charlotte, thank you!

 Charlotte has her own blog, entitled "Just Muddling through Life"; and she can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

If you'd like to share your favourite book with my readers, click here (or the tab at the top of the page) to find out some more info.  The books shared by various bloggers & authors can be found hereeee.  


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

M A Y A  A N G E L O U

Maya Angelou reciting 'Phenomenal Woman':


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Charity Shop Book Haul

Today I spent a lot more money than I intended to....on books.  Given the volume of work and books-waiting-to-be-read on my desk, it will probably be a while before I get around to reading and then reviewing these.  Nevertheless, I thought I would share my finds with you as I was particularly pleased with this bunch.  I envy my fellow book bloggers who find charity shop books for mere pennies; perhaps because I live in London they're more expensive, but I don't mind paying extra when the money goes to a good cause.  Plus, it's probably the only thing between me backing the car up to the shop and asking them to just fill it with books (yes, I have a problem, like the blog didn't give that away already!)


In India, at the birth of the last century, an infant is brought howling into the world, his remarkable paleness marking him out from his brown-skinned fellows. Revered at first, he is later cast out from his wealthy home when his true parentage is revealed. So begins Pran Nath's odyssey of self-discovery - a journey that will take him from the streets of Agra, via the red light district of Bombay, to the brick cloisters of Oxford and beyond - as he struggles to understand who he really is.


Mahmoud Darwish is one of the most acclaimed contemporary poets in the Arab world, and is often cited as the poetic voice of the Palestinian people. During the summer of 2006, Darwish was in Ramallah. He recorded his observations and feelings in this diary as Israel attacked Gaza and Lebanon. Darwish writes of love, loss and the pain of exile in bittersweet poems leavened with hope and joy.


Istanbul is a shimmering evocation, by turns intimate and panoramic, of one of the world's great cities, by its foremost writer. Orhan Pamuk, winner of the Nobel Prize in 2006, was born in Istanbul, in the family apartment building where his mother first held him in her arms. His portrait of his city is thus also a self-portrait, refracted by memory and the melancholy-or hüzün- that all Istanbullus share: the sadness that comes of living amid the ruins of a lost Ottoman Empire.  As he companionably guides us across the Bosphorus, through Istanbul's historical monuments and lost paradises, its dilapidated Ottoman villas, back streets and waterways, he also introduces us to the city's writers, artists and murderers.


Two weeks after September 11th, award-winning journalist Åsne Seierstad went to Afghanistan to report on the conflict there. In the following spring she returned to live with an Afghan family for several months.  For more than twenty years Sultan Khan defied the authorities - be they communist or Taliban - to supply books to the people of Kabul. He was arrested, interrogated and imprisoned by the communists and watched illiterate Taliban soldiers burn piles of his books in the street. He even resorted to hiding most of his stock in attics all over Kabul.  But while Khan is passionate in his love of books and hatred of censorship, he is also a committed Muslim with strict views on family life. As an outsider, Seierstad is able to move between the private world of the women - including Khan's two wives - and the more public lives of the men. And so we learn of proposals and marriages, suppression and abuse of power, crime and punishment. The result is a gripping and moving portrait of a family, and a clear-eyed assessment of a country struggling to free itself from history.


In 1960s Nigeria, a country blighted by civil war, three lives intersect.  Ugwu, a boy from a poor village, works as a houseboy for a university professor. Olanna, a young woman, has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos to live with her charismatic new lover, the professor. And Richard, a shy English writer, is in thrall to Olanna’s enigmatic twin sister. As the horrific Biafran War engulfs them, they are thrown together and pulled apart in ways they had never imagined.  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s masterpiece, winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction, is a novel about Africa in a wider sense: about the end of colonialism, ethnic allegiances, class and race – and about the ways in which love can complicate all of these things.


A tiger escapes from the local zoo, padding through the ruined streets and onwards, to a ridge above the Balkan village of Galina. His nocturnal visits hold the villagers in a terrified thrall. But for one boy, the tiger is a thing of magic - Shere Khan awoken from the pages of The Jungle Book.
Natalia is the granddaughter of that boy. Now a doctor, she is visiting orphanages after another war has devastated the Balkans. On this journey, she receives word of her beloved grandfather's death, far from their home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery.  From fragments of stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia realises he may have died searching for 'the deathless man', a vagabond who was said to be immortal. Struggling to understand why a man of science would undertake such a quest, she stumbles upon a clue that will lead her to a tattered copy of The Jungle Book, and then to the extraordinary story of the tiger's wife.


Still in her teenage years, Nazneen finds herself in an arranged marriage with a disappointed man who is twenty years older. Away from the mud and heat of her Bangladeshi village, home is now a cramped flat in a high-rise block in London's East End. Nazneen knows not a word of English, and is forced to depend on her husband. But unlike him she is practical and wise, and befriends a fellow Asian girl Razia, who helps her understand the strange ways of her adopted new British home.
Nazneen keeps in touch with her sister Hasina back in the village. But the rebellious Hasina has kicked against cultural tradition and run off in a 'love marriage' with the man of her dreams. When he suddenly turns violent, she is forced into the degrading job of garment girl in a cloth factory.
Confined in her flat by tradition and family duty, Nazneen also sews furiously for a living, shut away with her buttons and linings - until the radical Karim steps unexpectedly into her life. On a background of racial conflict and tension, they embark on a love affair that forces Nazneen finally to take control of her fate.

Have you read any of these?   
Are you one of those lucky souls who can find books for mere pennies? 
Let me know in the comments!

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