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Monthly Archives: July 2014

BLOG TOUR: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness..

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Today I am hosting and kicking off The Book of Life UK blog tour! *Squeals* If you haven’t heard about the All Souls Trilogy, where have you been? Below are the first two books in the trilogy, definitely have a read, you will not be disappointed!

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On today’s blog stop, Deborah Harkness will be telling us about why she loves libraries. Without further ado, let’s hand over to the lady herself.


Once upon a time, a man from London wrote a letter to the government about the need for a national library. Many libraries had been destroyed in the previous two decades, and the man feared priceless treasures would be lost unless someone stepped in and oversaw their preservation. He was so dedicated to the concept that he volunteered to visit other European libraries and copy missing volumes himself.

No one listened. The year was 1556, and the man’s name was John Dee.

Mary Tudor was superbly educated herself, but remained unmoved by Dee’s pleas. His conviction that such a library would benefit the nation in incalculable ways did not persuade a monarch facing serious problems at home and abroad including popular dissent, economic collapse, and tricky international relations.

Sound familiar?

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth he saw a rise in status, but was never as influential as he hoped to be. Nevertheless, John Dee amassed a private library larger and more significant than any institutional library then in existence. He very nearly bankrupted his own family buying books, which he then made available to explorers and intellectuals. When he died, his family sold off the library. The contents were dispersed far and wide. Some were sold to a London baker, who greased the pages and used them to line his tins so his pastries wouldn’t stick.

Despite Dee’s persistent efforts to get someone to pay attention, his dream of a national library did not come close to being realized until 1753, when George II approved the Act of Parliament that established the British Museum. Today, libraries all over the world face closure because of government budget cuts.

As a scholar and writer, I have often had reason to be grateful for British libraries. And I’m not referring solely to the British Library—whose value to me is incalculable. Since 1985 I’ve had the privilege of using libraries in Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and London. When I was living in England as a Fulbright Scholar, the Oxford Central Library provided the books I read at night and on the weekends while the Bodleian Library provided me with the scholarly materials I required during the day. The Oxford Central Library, too, is facing closure.

People say that Britain can’t afford to keep so many libraries open. Politicians and pundits present evidence of declining use, and promise that soon the internet will make libraries obsolete.

Somewhere, John Dee is laughing. He heard similar arguments when England’s great monastic libraries were destroyed. There was no need to keep old records and papers, said the naysayers, or ancient philosophical and religious manuscripts. A new technology was available—print. In 1556, print was the answer to everything much as the internet and electronic books is the answer to everything now. But I still have a pen, and am very glad that nobody pitched the Lindisfarne Gospels into the rubbish on the grounds that “we have a printed book for that.”

I’ve also heard that nobody can be bothered to actually go to the library these days. People stay at home and send their neighbors messages on social network sites like Facebook.

Tell that to a five-year old whose love for the written word is being fostered in their local library, or to a pensioner who doesn’t own a computer. We rely more than we know on libraries and librarians. Libraries are the last magical places on earth, and their staff are wizards who can pull rabbits out of hats when you are desperate to find information on where your grandmother was raised or steer you to the right book to help you understand how to better manage your money. When I stumbled across a lost manuscript at Oxford, it was the Bodleian librarians who helped me piece together how it arrived there, when we lost track of it, and where other copies might be found. It’s not possible for me to imagine a world without them.

The value of a library cannot be measured in the number of patrons who walk through its doors on a given day or the estimated price the collection would fetch should it go up for auction. Bottom-line thinking and outcome studies are useless. Ask yourself this: if your local library has only one patron, and that person renews the same book week after week, but finds within the pages the inspiration she needs to find a cure for cancer, would you consider it money well spent to keep the doors open?


Deborah Harkness

Deborah Harkness

Thank you Deborah for stopping by my blog today! It was a pleasure and if you enjoyed today’s stop, don’t forget to check out all the other blog stops this week as well!

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There you have it folks! If you would like to find out more about Deborah, you can do so on her official website. Want to keep up to date with Deborah? You can follow her on twitter and facebook.

The Book of Life can be purchased from the following places:

Amazon UK Amazon US Barnes and Noble

Want to know where it all began from? Grab yourself a copy of A Discovery of Witches now and read my review here.

Enjoy!

Sunathon..

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A lot of you book bloggers may already know about the upcoming Sunathon which has been organised by a fellow book blogger. I am very excited for this readathon as it is my first! I know, I know what on earth have I been up to until now? Mostly busy with university, gaining work experience and squeezing in book reviews, the usual ;). This is the first readathon that I’ve come across which is available to anyone and everyone. You don’t have to be a book blogger to take part, all you need is a bit of love for reading, perfect!

So what exactly will be happening during the Sunathon? Well hear it from the words of the organiser:

From the 21st to the 27th July, book bloggers from all around the world will be taking part in #sunathon. What is #sunathon? Created by Emma Louise (@EmmaIsWriting), for that particular week in the gorgeous sun (or rain in you’re in the UK), we’re going to read. It doesn’t matter how much you read, as long as you make time for reading. There are a lot of people around the world who are blind to the magical world of books and it’s a shame. More of us should read. I’ve decided to make it a full week: Monday-Sunday because a lot of book bloggers have full time jobs and they squeeze reading in between. I’ve made it longer just for them.

Use #sunathon to follow book bloggers around the world talking about it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the UK, or America, or Malaysia or Germany – it’s about us all coming together to read.

Make sure you follow each other, cheer one another on. Who knows maybe next year, we’ll be back? You can tweet along your book journey and at the end of it all, blog about what you read and what you’re going to read next.

There you have it folks!

What will I be reading for the Sunathon?

Well it was really difficult to try and choose some books and I constantly changed my mind. Plus I’ll be busy most of the week so I thought it would be sensible of me to only pick out two books. Eventually I decided on two books that I have been waiting to read for ages and are, in my opinion, the perfect summer reads.

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Hope you all have a funtastic Sunathon! 🙂

 

A Place to Call Home by Carole Matthews..

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Blurb:

All it takes is one life-changing decision …

Ayesha leaves behind a life of pain and heartache and boards a coach to London with her sights set on a new life for herself and her little girl, Sabina.

Hayden, a former pop star, has kept himself hidden away for years. In all that time, he’s opened up his home to just two people – Crystal, a professional dancer with a heart of gold, and Joy, an ill-tempered pensioner with a soft spot for waifs and strays. But he reluctantly agrees to take in Ayesha and Sabina.

As different as they may be, all these damaged people quickly form a loving bond. So when enemies from their past threaten their peaceful life, they will do whatever it takes to save their home and each other.

Review:

I’m a huge Carole Matthews fan and I had heard so many amazing things about this book from fellow book bloggers and as such I was dying to get myself a copy. It took me forever to get my hands on this book but once I did, I finished it one sitting. Carole Matthews does not disappoint with another incredible novel.

The story revolves around the lives of five main characters: Ayesha, Sabina, Hayden, Crystal and Joy. Fate works in mysterious ways and brings these polar opposite individuals together in extraordinary ways and takes them on a journey where they realise the true meaning of home. I particularly enjoyed this book because it was so different from the other books by Carole. It definitely had Carole’s trademark humour and wit but as well as that it dealt with sensitive subjects such as domestic violence.

Domestic violence is not uncommon in this day and age and Matthew’s portrayal of it is realistic. How a woman who has suffered abuse her whole life longs to be free and to live a safer life for that of her child and herself was depicted beautifully and definitely tugs at your emotions. Ayesha is an incredible character. Having suffered what she has, she still starts the day with a smile and never lets her daughter, Sabina feel what she has been through. She steps into Hayden’s household like a ray of sunshine, basking in all of the occupants into her warmth. Without a doubt she was my favourite after little Sabina, of course.

Ayesha’s not the only one who’s had to live a difficult life. Crystal and Joy have suffered problems of their own whilst Hayden has suffered following the death of his girlfriend. Their grief, in many ways, is what unites them but it’s their gradual love for one another that binds them together and makes each of them realise what it means to be a family. The novel shows how family isn’t just made of blood; it’s made of love, warmth and affection.

If you are a Carole Matthews fan and haven’t yet read this, I urge you to do so as soon as possible. This is by far Carole’s best book yet and I can guarantee you that it will leave you with a big smile on your face. An uplifting, emotional novel that will have you rooting for each and every character in this book and will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy for sure!

Overall Rating: 9/10

If you would like to find out more about Carole’s novels, you can do so on her official website. You can also follow Carole on twitter and facebook.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness..

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Blurb:

When historian Diana Bishop opens a bewitched alchemical manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library it represents an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordinary life. Though descended from a long line of witches, she is determined to remain untouched by her family’s legacy. She banishes the manuscript to the stacks, but Diana finds it impossible to hold the world of magic at bay any longer.

For witches are not the only otherworldly creatures living alongside humans. There are also creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires who become interested in the witch’s discovery. They believe that the manuscript contains important clues about the past and the future, and want to know how Diana Bishop has been able to get her hands on the elusive volume.

Chief among the creatures who gather around Diana is vampire Matthew Clairmont, a geneticist with a passion for Darwin. Together, Diana and Matthew embark on a journey to understand the manuscript’s secrets. But the relationship that develops between the ages-old vampire and the spellbound witch threatens to unravel the fragile peace that has long existed between creatures and humans—and will certainly transform Diana’s world as well.

Review:

Thank to you the wonderful people at Headline Publishing who provided me with a copy of this book and its sequel via Bookbridgr.

The novel has by many been called the ‘new-generation Twilight’. I personally don’t think it’s fair to compare either of these books together because where Twilight was YA; this is definitely targeted towards adults. The book itself is long and honestly speaking I was intimidated by the size. However once you get into the story, the length of the book is suddenly no longer an issue.

The novel focuses on Diana Bishop, whom we know from the blurb comes from a long line of witches but has kept her magic a secret since the death of her parents. She is part of a race that makes up ¼ of the world’s population. The other races being humans, vampires and daemons. Up until now all four races have seemingly been living peacefully amongst each other however Diana’s decisions soon change that. Her meeting and eventually falling for the hero, Matthew Clairmont (a vampire) sets of a chain of events that has them turning their back on everything and everyone they believed in and embarking on a journey where they fight to retain the peace that once existed.

Initially, it took me a while to get into the story. The pace of the story is quite slow and therefore I found myself skipping pages quite early on in the book. Diana’s meeting with Matthew was the turning point for me and from then on I felt the book picked up its pace and the story began to grow. Deborah does a good job of interweaving different twists and turns that keep you engaged throughout the book. As well as that, I felt that the writing flowed smoothly from page to page, making the overall reading experience more enjoyable.

My favourite character in the book was the protagonist, Diana. Diana is just so endearing that it becomes quite easy to like her. Her intelligence, her simplicity and subtle beauty is what draws the reader (and Matthew) in and I can gladly say that she is a much better protagonist than Bella Swan. Matthew is a gentleman through and through. Again as he’s as intelligent as Diana and both make a perfect match.

As I’ve said, I wouldn’t label this a book for Twilight fans because it’s so much more. There aren’t any angry werewolves who have six packs, no damsels in distress or sparkling vampires. This is a much more sophisticated romance with magic, manuscripts and mayhem. Honestly, for me it was a step further than the Twilight series and I enjoyed it so much that I’m halfway through the second book and eagerly awaiting the release of the third book (which just so happens to be today)!

Fans of supernatural romance books will love this book as much as I did. If you’re put off by the length then don’t fret, the story will immerse you in such a way that you’ll have reached the ending feeling disappointed that it’s over so soon. Deborah Harkness has done an exceptional job with this novel and from what I’ve read so far, with the second too! Don’t forget to pick a copy, it’s well worth it!

Overall Rating: 8/10

If you would like to find out more about Deborah, you can do so on her official website. You can also follow Deborah on twitter and facebook.

If you’ve read Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night, the third and final book in the trilogy – The Book of Life, releases today!! Don’t forget to pick up your copy.

Punjab 1984..

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This post will merely reflect my personal opinions of the film and nothing else.

Yesterday I went to watch a Punjabi film with my family called ‘Punjab 1984’. Being a Sikh, this was a film that I know a lot of fellow Sikh’s were eagerly anticipating the release of. There were also those who weren’t as eager but more hesitant as the film depicts the aftermath of what occurred in June 1984 – Operation Blue Star – when Harminder Sahib, in Amritsar, Punjab (The Golden Temple) was raided by government militants and hundreds of innocent Sikhs were killed in a crossfire.

Growing up I’ve heard, as I’m sure many other Sikh children have to, various stories and accounts of what happened on that fateful day. For me personally, I was given first account details because at the time, my mum was living in India with her family. Her account of what occurred during and after the massacre was harrowing and sickening. At the time no one could have predicted how one order from a government militant would become the catalyst for the destruction of so many innocent lives, in years to come. Yet, that’s exactly what happened and this is what is portrayed in Anurag Singh’s (the director) film.

The film tells the story of a mother and son, who is captured by police and tortured and made to succumb to a ‘fake encounter’, he survives and as such goes on a journey to gain justice to what has happened to not only him but hundreds of young men. The son, Shivjeet Singh Maan, is wrongly accused of terrorism and is only captured because the police officer Deep Singh Rana, was instigated by Shiva’s relative who wants his land and in order to gain that he wants Shiva dead. As a result, Shiva’s mother, Satwant Kaur goes in search of her missing son until they finally meet at the end where she is tragically left alone once again.

A lot of people have criticised this film. Mostly because they believe that Sikhs are shown in a negative light and that the film is ‘propaganda for the state’. I disagree completely. Only those who were in India during that time and experienced the horror are fully aware of what the circumstances were. I wasn’t born then, so many people would say that I’m just a new generation Sikh who doesn’t really have much of a clue. Frankly speaking, yes I wasn’t born then, I didn’t experience anything first-hand but I do know family relatives that did. My parents have always stressed the importance of knowing about 1984, and when I was younger, I didn’t fully understand why or even bother understanding it. For me it was a world away from what my life was. However, that changed once I was wise and old enough to decipher the meaning of the massacre, I did my own research and gained my own perspective on what happened. As such, I believe that what happened during June 1984 and after had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with power, control, money, status, greed and corruption – in other words, politicians.

The film depicts this quite clearly and in my opinion, realistically. One of the politician’s in the film is a Sikh, but by name only, for he is corrupt. No shock there because at that time, you were lucky if you didn’t bump into someone of authority who wasn’t corrupt. Preaching peace on one side and manipulating Sikhs and Hindus against each other on the other side, typical behaviour of a politician who wants power and votes. This however, doesn’t portray Sikhs in a negative light, as some have suggested, it portrays politicians in negative light and rightly so. What occurred in the after-math of 1984 was man-made. Human beings were pitted against each other, not in the name of religion but in the name of power. Those brave enough to stand up against it were deemed terrorists when in reality terrorists were those who had authority and took advantage of the innocent individuals who became collateral damage, in a fight for leadership.

Whilst watching this film, I was deeply moved by the harsh reality that so many families had to live with. I cried throughout most of the film and the final moments of the film were incredibly difficult to watch because I felt the pain, the hurt, the anger and the betrayal of what happened to Satwant Kaur (the mother) and her son and as such it made me realise that, to this day there are many women like her still waiting and hoping for their son’s, brother’s, father’s and husband’s to return home. My mum was also deeply affected, the film brought back so many memories of her own experiences. Of how her mother, my nani ji (maternal grandmother) lived in fear everyday for her husband and sons to return home. How my mum’s brother, my mama ji, at the tender age of 15 was too frightened to use the bathroom outside, in the middle of the night in fear of being picked up by the police. How everyday my mum and her siblings had to get in home in time as a curfew was forced upon everyone currently living at that time, in Punjab. One of my mum’s relative’s was unfortunately captured by police, he was one of the very few lucky ones to have survived but to this day does not forget what he experienced.

‘Punjab 1984’ will no doubt cause an uproar in India, amongst many individuals. That was always expected. However I believe that the people that are against it the most are those who have something to be guilty of. To this day I wonder who those police officers were and who those government spies/officials were that carried out this injustice and whether or not they will go and see this film, and see themselves reflected in it.

It has now been 30 years since Operation Blue Star. Punjab and the people of Punjab have been on a recovery process since then. Slowly, lives are getting back to how they used to be. Time has moved on decades, yet June 1984 is never forgotten and never will be. It is remembered as a dark day in Sikh history. The injustice of what happened still haunts many and will always do so. I remember it as a day when humans made dire mistakes and innocents suffered the consequences.

I urge people to watch ‘Punjab 1984’, not just for Diljit Dosanjh (the actor who played Shiva) but for our community in general. A lot of youngster’s will not know the truth of what happened and perhaps this film doesn’t show the full truth but you have to be the judge of that, of what you believe in. People need to see the film in order to understand the plight of so many innocents and the injustice done to them.

Many will say why rehash the past? I say that although the past is past, it is never forgotten and shouldn’t be forgotten. The past teaches us to not make the same mistakes in our present and future. It is up to the individual whether they take that on board and as such shows the difference between the good (who will learn from the mistakes) and the bad (who will still make the mistakes).

I set out to make this a post which regards my personal opinion of the film and I realise that I may have gone quite a bit in-depth into it. None of the above was written to offend anyone and if it has, I apologise. I believe that everyone has a right to their own opinion so I welcome anyone else’s opinion who thinks differently. –