Ratty (blinger) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Ratty
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50bookchallenge

Books 27 & 28 - 2012

Book 27: The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult – 388 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Fourteen-year-old Trixie Stone is in love for the first time. She's also the light of her father, Daniel's life -- a straight-A student; a pretty, popular freshman in high school; a girl who's always seen her father as a hero. That is, until her world is turned upside down with a single act of violence. Suddenly everything Trixie has believed about her family -- and herself -- seems to be a lie. Could the boyfriend who once made Trixie wild with happiness have been the one to end her childhood forever? She says that he is, and that is all it takes to make Daniel, a seemingly mild-mannered comic book artist with a secret tumultuous past he has hidden even from his family, venture to hell and back to protect his daughter. With "The Tenth Circle," Jodi Picoult offers her most powerful chronicle yet as she explores the unbreakable bond between parent and child, and questions whether you can reinvent yourself in the course of a lifetime -- or if your mistakes are carried forever.

Thoughts:
This was one of those books that prior to hitting the 100 page mark I wanted to throw across a room, and then once I got to that point, the characters had managed to worm their way into my heart effectively enough that I was enthralled. Daniel Stone is a comic book artist writing a new comic book for Marvel. His wife Laura lectures on Dante’s Inferno. Their fourteen-year-old daughter Trixie is doing what fourteen year olds do – which is where all the problems start. Or so it seems. The stuff Trixie was getting up to at fourteen, whilst probably not that unusual for the average fourteen year old, horrified me and made me ever so grateful I’m as ‘weird’ as I am (and therefore didn’t behave as a normal fourteen year old). Fourteen year olds should not be having sex (there’s laws in place for a reason!) and they certainly shouldn’t have intimate knowledge and experience with the game ‘Rainbow’ (when I explained that to my Mum, she was horrified – she’d thought ‘Spin the Bottle’ was risqué). When Trixie is raped by her ex-boyfriend, suddenly this picture perfect family starts to unravel at the seams. Turns out Laura’s not been the best wife in the world, and Daniel’s past in the Alaskan bush not so much catches up with him, as it starts to weigh heavier and heavier on who he is and what his life has become.
This is only the second Picoult book I’ve read. I read ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ several years ago, though the ending was ruined for me by Mum who has a terrible habit (and one I’ve started to pick up) of skipping to the end about a quarter of the way in. I have acquired quite a collection of Picoult books (she seems to churn them out quite quickly) though like approximately 60% of the 500+ books I own (I guesstimate – I am essentially moving house at the moment and I intend to catalogue my books then to get an exact number) I haven’t actually read most of them. I really enjoyed ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ even if it is a little melodramatic. Sometimes, I need a melodrama to remind me I’m human (seeing as I spend so much of my reading time hanging out with aliens, monsters, hybrids etc). I really didn’t think this book would get to me like it did, but I am generally drawn to ‘dark’ male characters, and Daniel filled this role perfectly in this story and I was rather enthralled by him, and by Picoult’s lovely little tidbits about Alaska. I’ve never really considered visiting Alaska, and I’d probably not get to see the things described in the book anyway (nor would I likely survive the cold – the one downside to being Australian is my sheer inability to cope with temperatures below 20C/65F) but reading this book certainly inspired me. Ultimately though, I really loved Daniel’s metamorphosis as a person, from the angry white kid picked on in the Alaskan bush to the devoted father in small town Maine (I also love stories set in New England – I want to buy a house in Marblehead, MA, one day when I’m rich and famous). I love seeing characters change and develop, and its one of the joys I get out of both reading and writing. For me, Picoult manages to pull this off and it made this book a joy to read, and one that has stayed with me.


27 / 50 books. 54% done!


8046 / 15000 pages. 54% done!

Book 28: Alice I have been by Melanie Benjamin – 365 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Part love story, part literary mystery, Melanie Benjamin's spellbinding historical novel leads readers on an unforgettable journey down the rabbit hole, to tell the story of a woman whose own life became the stuff of legend. Her name is Alice Liddell Hargreaves, but to the world she'll always be known simply as "Alice," the girl who followed the White Rabbit into a wonderland of Mad Hatters, Queens of Hearts, and Cheshire Cats. Now, nearing her eighty-first birthday, she looks back on a life of intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. First as a young woman, then as a wife, mother, and widow, she'll experience adventures the likes of which not even her fictional counterpart could have imagined. Yet from glittering balls and royal romances to a world plunged into war, she'll always be the same determined, undaunted Alice who, at ten years old, urged a shy, stuttering Oxford professor to write down one of his fanciful stories, thus changing her life forever.

Thoughts:
This book was strange. I have no other word for it. I’m a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland – I’ve read both Alice’s Adventures and Through the Looking Glass, though my original interest came about as a result of Frank Beddor’s amazing ‘Looking Glass Wars’ series (love, love, love!!). Since Looking Glass Wars, I’ve developed a real love for reading anything Alice related, so when I saw the release of this book a few years ago, I was really excited. While living in England temporarily, I got to a point where I actually ran out of books to read (I brought seven books for fifteen weeks, but as I ended up having 3 hour round trip commutes each day, I ended up with a lot of reading time every day!). This book was on sale on bookdepository.co.uk so I picked up a copy. It was the last book I started reading while in England, and as a result I didn’t get it finished before I left for Italy and the US. I finally finished it on my flight across the Pacific to Australia (I’m tapping away on my computer now on said flight, eager to get off a plane after 10+ hours in the air, as well as eager to see my dog after so many weeks away!). It looks at the life of Alice Liddell, the little girl who gave her name to Alice in Wonderland and who nagged Charles Dodgson to write down the story he told on that now famous afternoon. Dodgson seems to have been a very strange person to me, and this book does nothing to dispel that sentiment. Of important discussion within the story is the break between Dodgson and the Liddell family, which, to this day, has not been fully explained. Benjamin doesn’t necessarily have a huge amount to add to why the break occurred, and she doesn’t elaborate on her hypothesis until right at the very end. The book is split into three parts – Alice’s childhood and her relationship with Dodgson during the inception of Wonderland; Alice in her early twenties and her relationship with Prince Leopold, and; Alice as an old woman and the loss of two of her three sons to the First World War (definitely had tears at that point – very sad!). I found it really hard to get into the first part of the book as the relationship between a child Alice and Dodgson crept me out. The middle third is interesting but still drags a bit, especially given the way Benjamin writes the relationship between Alice and Leo and knowing what is to become of that relationship. The last third is by far the most readable and rather devastating. The key thing throughout the story is Alice’s tumultuous relationship with her Wonderland alter-ego, something Benjamin reflects on nicely in a short author’s note at the end of the book. I found this particularly interesting, as in my own book, my main character writes and publishes a fictionalized version of her own life, and I have explored the resulting effect of said book on her life within the story. Ultimately, an interesting read for anyone fascinated by the creation of one of the world’s most famous stories.


28 / 50 books. 56% done!


8411 / 15000 pages. 56% done!

Currently reading:
-        A Curse Dark As Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce – 392 pages
-        A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Seventh: The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket – 256 pages
-        The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – 313 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages
Tags: family saga, historical fiction, period fiction (20th century)
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