Review: London by Terry Deary

Title: London

Author: Terry Deary

Illustrator: Martin Brown                 

Genre: Non-Fiction, History, Children’s Books, Humour

First Published: 2005

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2012

Publisher: Scholastic Non-Fiction

Collection: Horrible Histories Gruesome Guides

Rating: 4/5 stars

The first time I’ve begun reading a few pages from Horrible Histories Gruesome Guides: London was some years ago before visiting Britain’s capital. However, when I came back, other books caught my attention, so I left it unfinished for a while. In March I finally picked it up again feeling determined to finish it.

In the introduction, Terry Deary puts side by side two testimonials of two priests regarding the London of 1190, which are complete opposites. What does that tell us about history? It is never accurate because everyone sees the world from one’s perspective. In order to understand how people really lived in London throughout the centuries, “this book will only tell you the horrible bits of London’s history –about the bad, not the brave, the horrible, not the happy, the dreadful, disgusting and dirty, not the dear, drippy and delightful.” (Loc. 40-41)

And this book was gruesome indeed with a timeline that stretches from Ancient times to the Victorian era. You will read about legends linked to London and its history, interesting facts about The Tower of London, how horrible people treated animals for their entertainment in the Middle Ages and not only then, criminals and executions, ten dangerous and dirty jobs in London, stories about abused children and forced labour, some bits of information about some iconic buildings in London London’s underground and so on. Every time period has something interesting or disgusting to reveal. Besides the funny illustrations made by Martin Brown, there’s also a map of historical London at the end of the book.

Though the Horrible Histories books are usually very whimsical and you learn new thing while having fun, taking tests and laughing out loud at the jokes the author cracks, this time I think that the gruesomeness surpassed the humour because the animal beatings and fights, the stories about criminals and executions and those about child abuse, filth and disease made my stomach turn. However, I understand the purpose of this book. Usually, we learn at school about the bright side of history and about the brave or brilliant people who changed the world; but there’s also a darker or filthier side of history that is more appealing to us because it revolves around the ordinary people – the sick, the orphan the illiterate and the poor.

What do you think about this book? Have you read it? Leave your answers below.

A Song Title Book Tag

Hello, dear readers! A few days ago I was browsing through my newsfeed when I found an interesting book tag (created by AliceReeds) that I wanted to share with you. There are 10 song titles and you have to choose a book you’ve read to match a certain criterion. Here is my list of books and my argumentation for each criterion.

1. Guns N Roses “November Rain”

 Pick a book with a sad/tragic ending

Dumnezeu s-a născut în exil/ Dieu est né en éxile/ God Was Born in Exile by Vintilă Horia. Though it is an apocryphal journal of Latin poet Ovid’s exile on Scythian shores, the writing style is so intimate and poetic that it makes you empathise with Ovid’s suffering, longing for Rome and long-term journey to self-awareness. I won’t say how the novel ends, but it left a bitter taste in my mouth.

2. Queen “Another One Bites The Dust”

 Pick a book with a lot of killing in it

Song of Roland/ La Chanson de Roland as any ancient or medieval epic, it has betrayal, hatred, a lot of violent scenes and killings in it. After reading the first half of the book, you feel as if you could sense the smell of death.

3. Britney Spears “Oops I Did It Again”

 Pick a book you’ve read more than twice

Ciuleandra by Liviu Rebreanu is definitely one of my favourite books. I’ve read it three times and I’m sure I could never get tired of it, due to the social, psychological and pathological issues tackled in this novel. It is also fast paced, so it won’t take long to explore it.

4. Pink Floyd “Wish You Were Here”

Your most anticipated book

I don’t have a most anticipated book because there are many classics and genre fiction books I want to read. However, I would like to explore someday The Clash of Civilisations by Samuel P. Huntington which deals with conflicts between the Western and Eastern World, their cultures and beliefs in post-Cold War era.

5. Florence and The Machine “No Light No Light”

 Pick a book that was just so bad you’d like to lock it away in a dark corner and never look at it ever again

Basmul Prințesei Repede-Repede by Emil Brumaru and Veronica D. Niculescu is a book I would definitely lock away because it had puerile erotic content mixed with fairy-tale-like adventures. I’m sure that the poet and the writer tried to create something out of the ordinary due to the alternation of poetry and prose, but this experience was a waste of time for me.

6. Skylar Grey “Final Warning”

Pick a book with a kickass protagonist you wouldn’t want to piss off

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë has a badass protagonist with whom you wouldn’t want to mess. Heathcliff is loyal to the ones he loves, but if his trust is shattered to pieces, he becomes obsessive, revengeful and merciless. Though Heathcliff is sometimes cruel and heartless, he is one of my favourite male characters.

7. My Chemical Romance “I’m Not Okay…I Promise”

Pick a book that deals with a hard topic

Disgrace by J.M Coetzee is a novel that deals with serious topics such as the post-apartheid era in South Africa, the vulnerable state of women in a male-dominated society, rape, violence and racism.

8. Linkin Park “Breaking the Habit”

Pick a book that you read that was outside your comfort zone but you still enjoyed

The Satyricon by Petronius it’s a book out of my comfort zone not because of the sexual and LGBTQ content, but because it shows the how elder masters used teenage boys as their sex slaves and little girls are ‘initiated’ in becoming priestesses in Priapus’ Temple. However, overall the book is hilarious and sometimes grotesque in a manner that inspired Rabelais’s works.

9. Troye Sivan “Happy Little Pill”

Pick a book that makes you happy

Pride and. Prejudice by Jane Austen is an enjoyable book about an important problem that kept the minds of girls and of their parents preoccupied for centuries – marriage. Yes, this novel makes me happy that I didn’t live in that era. Well, besides that, what can be funnier than a love-hate relationship à l’anglais?

10. Ladyhawke “Dusk Til Dawn”

Pick a book that you read in one night/one sitting

Confessions of An English Opium-Eater by Thomas de Quincey was also a book out of my comfort zone, not so much for its theme, but because of the erudite writing style mixed with Latin and Greek terms. Though the beginning was not too appealing, the protagonist’s journey from addiction to recovery and the depictions of his hallucinations kept me reading for hours and hours – from dusk to dawn and beyond.

How would your list look like? Feel free to write it in the comment section below.

Review: Dawn of Rebellion by Michelle Lynn

Book 1 of Dawn of Rebellion

                                                           

Title: Dawn of Rebellion

Author: Michelle Lynn

Genre: Adventure, Dystopia, Young Adult

Year of Publication: 2013

Published by Creativia

Series: Dawn of Rebellion

Rating: 3/5 stars

Ever since I’ve begun writing book reviews, I heard about books and genres which are popular among different categories of readers. Because I’m a curious person, I’m experimenting with various genres to discover what I like and what is not quite my cup of tea. Therefore; today I’m going to review the first instalment in Michelle Lynn’s young adult dystopian adventure trilogy entitled Dawn of Rebellion, which was sent to me by the author through Twitter.

In short, this is the story of two teenage sisters (Dawn and Gabby) who live in a dystopian and segregated version of London, where soldiers march on the streets, people are divided into three classes of citizens, and if you’re breaking the law, you are sent to the colonies to work in some kind of concentration camps. There, you are tortured or put to death in “the box” which made me think of a gas chamber. After Gabby steals a bracelet for her sister’s birthday and the authorities decide to send her to the colonies, Dawn along with Gabby’s boyfriend (Drew) embark on a risky journey to save Gabby. The adventures that await all three teens will shape both sisters and teach each one of them to develop sides of their personalities they didn’t know they had. They will also meet new friends and discover secrets buried in their past.

Though I have a complicated relationship with young adult novels, I admire the strong devotion and love the two sisters have for each other despite their totally opposed personalities: Dawn is quiet and studious, while Gabby is outgoing, confident and stubborn. The memories they have of their childhood and parents made me sad and sorry for the abandonment from their parents’ part and the way those memories are narrated broke my heart. This novel also gave me some strange vibe because of the constant presence of the soldiers, the gloomy atmosphere and pure terror lurking in the shadows. I found the adventures interesting, suspenseful and very realistic with all the beatings and the story of how the US lost its identity. The writing was pretty good, though I had some trouble understanding some British words I’ve never heard before.

The story is narrated through three perspectives (Dawn, Gabby and Drew) of which I personally preferred Gabby’s because she is more independent, stronger and more courageous than Dawn, but Dawn learns to get out of her comfort zone too with Drew’s and her new friends’ help. When it comes to romance, it’s not really the focus of the story, but this doesn’t mean that it’s non-existent. The thing that I didn’t particularly like was the moment when Drew couldn’t make up his mind who he really loved – Dawn or Gabby?

In the end, I have some mixed feeling about this book and about dystopias in general because they are not something I particularly enjoy reading, but, on the other hand, the author did a pretty good job depicting both the oppressive fictional British regime and the Texan rebels who still called themselves Americans.

Review: A Wounded World by Crit Kincaid

Title: A Wounded World

Author: Crit Kincaid

Genre: Paranormal, Young Adult

Year of Publication: 2014

Self-Published by A Work Day World

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The world has wounded this boy terribly, Marsh, and he can’t forgive it. He’s angry and obstinate and fears nothing— even and especially me. I just can’t make this boy see and act for his own good. He hides from the world in that bloody garden and paints the moments of his life, ignoring his past and thereby rejecting his future.(…)”  (p. 170).

What would you do if you lost it all in a terrible car crash and had to live with the haunting guilt that you weren’t able to do anything to save your loved ones from the cold hands of death? This is the story of Norman Albert Steves, the protagonist of the debut novel entitled A Wounded World, written by Crit Kincaid. Tormented by constant nightmares where the teen (who prefers to be called Normal) lives over and over again the terrifying last moments of his family’s life, the guilt and self-hatred, but also the acute feeling of loneliness that comes along with the pain and loss. Normal is stuck between his memories and his fears. If this wasn’t enough, the only relative the boy still has, Granny Rachel, who suffers from ALS, can’t take care of him anymore, due to her declining health. Thus, the teen is forced to face his greatest fears. How will this hypersensitive and talented boy cope with this world that always seems to hurt him and who will manage to bring him back into the light?

He’s like that graveyard cat, who hunts mice amongst graves at night and occasionally ventures out into the bright light of the living world. But even then, he stays in the shadows, avoiding contact, forgetting that his natural place is with the living and not with the dead.” (p. 186)

I won’t give away more details because this is one of those books where you need to plunge into it without knowing too much about the story. What I can say is that I felt a deep connection with Normal because anyone who lost a loved one in their childhood can relate to this boy’s story along with the fear of being abandoned or losing the loved ones who are still alive. There’s also the fear of the past and the temptation to run away from it in order to suffer less. There are also other situations that made me relate to Normal. For example, he was bullied at school because he stuttered, while I was laughed at because I was visually impaired. The paranormal elements are amazing and to be honest, if it weren’t for them, I would have given this book a much lower rating.

A Wounded World is a paranormal young adult book I highly recommend to anyone, regardless of what genre you love to read because any reader will find closure and a different message, depending on each person’s life experience. Young Adult books don’t usually appeal to me that much, but I’m impressed by how many themes and issues are intertwined and discussed in this book in a way that makes you pause and think about each one of them.

De Vorbă cu Adela de la Vanilla Moon Books

Notă: imaginile din postare mi-au fost trimise de către Adela.

Cu puțin timp în urmă am descoperit canalul de Youtube al Adelei de la Vanilla Moon Books prin intermediul scriitorului Oliviu Crâznic, a cărui carte, Ceasul Fantasmelor, era amintită într-unul din filmulețele ei. Am urmărit cu interes mini-recenziile din vlog și am fost impresionată de stilul dezinvolt al Adelei de a vorbi în fața camerei și de vocea ei dulce și copilăroasă. Apoi i-am vizitat blogul (Vanila Moon Books), care, atât prin designul  său magic, cât și prin conținut, te va purta într-o lume fantastică.

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Cum s-a născut pasiunea ta pentru lectură?

Adela: Nu ştiu dacă se mai practică acum, dar pe vremea când m-am născut, unii părinţi le puneau în faţă bebeluşilor mai multe obiecte. Se spunea că obiectele alese de copil vor arăta ce va aprecia mai târziu, în viaţă. Eu am întins mâna spre un creion şi o carte. Toate astea mi le-a povestit mama când deja eram cititoare convinsă şi făceam încercări de poezii sau romane. Dar ca să îţi răspund concret la întrebare, am început să citesc de la 6 ani şi jumătate, după ce am învăţat singură să citesc. Toţi membrii familiei citesc şi mi se părea un mod firesc de a petrece timpul liber.

Cum ai descoperit comunitatea BookTube?

Adela: Acum vreo patru ani, cred, a distribuit cineva pe Facebook un clip amuzant al lui CassJayTuck, o parodie despre poziţiile de citit. Am dat „Subscribe” ca să fiu la curent cu ce videoclipuri mai face şi am început să o urmăresc constant, recenzia ei video m-a făcut să citesc The Fault in Our Stars când la noi nu se făcea încă vâlvă în jurul ei. Apoi, am descoperit treptat şi alţii care făceau clipuri despre cărţi şi am început să îmi doresc tot mai mult să vreau şi eu să fac asta.

Îmi place foarte mult sistemul tău de rating pentru cărțile citite – de la o floare de vanilie la cinci. A existat vreo carte care nu a meritat nici măcar o floare?

Adela: Da, din păcate se publică multe cărţi proaste şi inevitabil, am dat şi peste aşa ceva. E nevoie şi de ele câteodată, măcar să îţi aminteşti cum să le apreciezi pe cele excepţionale. Am un raft pe Goodreads cu cărţi pe care le-am considerat o pierdere de vreme, dacă sunteţi curioşi.

Între o carte clasică și una dintr-un gen cu mai multă priză la public (fantasy, aventură, mister, Young Adult) ce ai alege să recenzezi?

Adela: De regulă, nu scriu recenzii la clasici. Despre ei s-a vorbit atât de mult, încât e cam greu să spui ceva cu adevărat nou. Mă rezum doar să îmi expun părerea în câteva vorbe in clipurile în care vorbesc despre lecturile lunare. Cărţile cu priză la public le recenzez dacă am multe de spus despre ele sau dacă le-am primit de la autori/edituri/librării/companii de promovare. Dacă nu, ajung şi ele tot în clipurile lunare. Citesc cel puţin 5 cărţi pe lună şi nu îmi ajunge timpul să filmez câte un clip pentru fiecare.

Care este autorul tău preferat?

Adela: Agatha Christie. O iubesc atât de mult pe scriitoarea asta, încât am ales-o ca subiect pentru atestatul la limba engleză. A avut o viaţă extraordinară şi mă fascinează tare mult. Am în plan un clip în care vorbesc despre ea.

Am înțeles din Q&A-urile de pe canalul tău  că ești studentă la Farmacie. Cum reușești să împaci facultatea cu pasiunea ta pentru lectură? 

Adela: Nu e nevoie să le împac, din fericire nu se ceartă una cu alta. Îmi iubesc facultatea, iubesc lectura şi faptul că iau o pauză din învăţat ca să citesc îmi dă apoi spor să învăţ. M-am obişnuit să îmi inchei ziua măcar cu câteva pagini dintr-o carte, oricât de ocupată aş fi.

Ai vreun motto după care te ghidezi în viață?

Adela: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ― Oscar Wilde

Și ultima întrebare. De ce ar trebui să te urmărească iubitorii de lectură pe Youtube sau să îți citească recenziile de pe blog?

Adela: Sunt întotdeauna sinceră în părerile pe care le exprim, atât pe YouTube, cât şi pe vlog şi mă bucur că am reuşit să stabilesc o legătură destul de strânsă cu oamenii care mă urmăresc şi au încredere în recomandările mele. Pe lângă cărţile în jurul cărora se face vâlvă, citesc şi cărţi mai puţin cunoscute şi care de foarte multe ori sunt mai bine scrise sau cu subiecte mai neobişnuite. Pentru că abordez aproape toate genurile de literatură (mai puţin non-ficţiune), este câte ceva pe placul fiecăruia.

 Sursă imagini: Adela, Vanilla Moon Books