The Bees by Laline Paull [Review]

 ‘Changes the way we see our world’  —SUNDAY TIMES

 ACCEPT. OBEY. SERVE.

This book had been on my shelf for quite a while. Recommended by a friend and selected to be part of Waterstones Book Club I finally decided to pick it up and read it. I have to say it was bizarrely amazing.

the bess laline paullWritten from the bee’s perspective we are introduced into the life within a bee hive. The book follows the story of Flora 717, a bee born a sanitation worker, the lowest on the hierarchy. She is only fit to clean the hive and dispose the dead bodies of her fellow sister bees . Flora is too big, too dark, she’s ugly by bee standards. However, she is strong, a quick learner, curious and can speak, while others of her caste are mute. Different is not usually allowed in Flora’s world. Any bee that is different or deformed is destroyed by the fertility police (Deformity is evil. Deformity is not permitted). A Sage, a high-ranking priestess, intervenes and saves Flora from death as she sees something in her, something different. Here is where the story of The Bees begins. From then Flora is moved to another ‘sector’ of the beehive, the Nursery.  Here, Flora is assigned to feed the newborns by producing Flow, royal jelly if you would like. From the Nursery, Flora moves on to become a forager, collecting pollen (food) for the hive.

Here Laline Paull gives us the wonderful scenes of the world outside the hive. We the readers can see the world through Flora and meet some interesting characters along the way; the wasps (the bees’ horrible cousins), the scheming spiders luring bees or any other insects to their beautiful woven silken webs, dirty flies who are not liked by anyone as they are seen as filthy and the lowest of the low of insects. Once Flora returns to the hives, she enters the dance hall where she explains to her fellow sisters of what she’s been up to, where she has been and what she has seen.

Flora lives to accept, obey and serve her beloved holy mother, the Queen. But, when her instinct to serve is overwhelmed by a fierce and deeply forbidden maternal love, she breaks the most sacred law of all…. only the Queen breeds! What happens to Flora next is an adventure you my fellow book lover will have to discover yourself.

Other than Flora and the rest of the female bees who dominate the beehive, we are introduced to the male bees who I believe add a bit of humour to the book. Preening, strutting drones who are hilarious; ”Think now of those foreign princesses waiting for us. How fatigued, how impatient for love must they be? Would you bind them in chastity a single moment longer? Or shall we fill our bellies with the strength of this hive, then free them with our swords?”.  I have to say the were interesting to say the least!

The Bees is a very strange good book. At first it was a bit weird reading a book from a bee’s point of view and being introduced to her world but slowly you get used to it and become part of that family praying you don’t get on the wrong side of the Sage priestesses. Laline Paull captures the suffocating and claustrophobic feel of the hive, as well as shows us how the bees are able to communicate with each other. The words ”Accept, Obey, and Serve” are echoed throughout the novel. It’s the guiding law and religion of the beehive.

Paull’s extensive research into the bees can be seen throughout the novel and you cannot help but be fascinated by the story and become engrossed with the life of a beehive, from feeding the newborns Flow to the dance hall where Forages dance their flight for their sisters.  After finishing the book I saw bees in a different light. I was sitting in the garden the other day and a bee was flying around, The Bees came instantly to mind and made me wonder whether I was looking at a forager. I definitely recommend this book to anyone. It is a very good read. Enjoy!

Demy no bleed.indd

 

 

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The Kite Runner- Khaled Hosseini [Review]

“For you, a thousand times over.”

The Kite Runner. What a heartbreaking story.

It tells the story of Hassan and Amir, two friends who are as close as brothers and great at flying a kite. The two young boys live in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan. The book starts with Amir, a grown man, living in America and through him we go back to when he and Hassan were 12 years old in Kabul. We get to know the way of life in Afghanistan, the local kite-tournament (a popular Afghan pastime) and how everything changes when war comes to Afghanistan and the country becomes a dangerous place. the kite runner

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant whereas Hassan is the son of their servant. Despite this, the boys are as close as brothers, both lost their mothers when babies and were nurtured by the same woman. Their fathers also grew up together and were as close as brothers. Hassan is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste, and usually gets a lot of abuse from other Afghan children especially Assef, a known bully amongst the children. Amir during this story commits an act of betrayal towards his friend Hassan, which will haunt him for the rest of his life and have to live with that guilt. During the war, Amir and his father are forced to flee Afghanistan for America. Thus The Kite Runner becomes the story of Amir’s journey for redemption and a way to ‘set things right’. He has to return to Afghanistan to make ‘things right’ as it were. On this journey Amir makes new friends, reunites with old friends but also with old enemies.

The story is fast paced and never dull. When I started reading this story I could not put it down. I needed to know what will happen and will Amir ever find peace. I feel for Amir, love Hassan’s loyalty towards Amir and the sacrifices he makes for the family. I hate Assef and his horribleness. I want to shake Amir’s father and tell him that he needs to accept his son for who he is and to show him that he loves him. You get so much invested in the characters that you can’t do anything but read, read and read. We are introduced to the world of Afghan life, strange and fascinating and devastating when war breaks out.

The Kite Runner tells the unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant. It is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country torn by violence and war. A gripping and emotional story of betrayal, forgiveness and redemption. The Times have accurately stated that ”Khaled Hosseini  is a truly gifted teller of tales. He’s not afraid to pull every string in your heart to make it sing”. It is a powerful novel that has become one of my treasured books, one-of-a-kind classic as others have described it. Definitely give it a read and see for yourself. I won’t lie, you will be heartbroken by the end and it will stay with you for a few days/weeks BUT it is so worth it. I even cried while reading it. Do put it on your ‘To Read’ list!

‘The shattering first novel by Khaled Hosseini… a rich and soul-searching narrative … a sharp, unforgettable taste of the trauma and tumult experienced by Afghanis as their country buckled’ (Observer)

‘A gripping read and a haunting story of love, loss and betrayal. Guaranteed to move even the hardest heart’ (Independent)

Dracula- Bram Stoker [Review]

Was he beast, man, or Vampire?

I decided to finally pick up my copy of Dracula as I was in a gothic mood. What a read! A book of letters and journal entries, you get to read and experience every character’s thoughts, views, emotions and perspective … apart from maybe Dracula himself.

Dracula begins with Jonathan Harker travelling through Transylvania to Dracula’s castle. On his way there, Harker is warned by many locals that Dracula is not someone you want to visit after dark. The entire first part of the book is ”an exercise in dread” as Jonathan Harker slowly finds out that his host is something inhuman and utterly evil. The book is filled with scenes of horror that could freak you out. For me, there is a particular scene in the first part of the book where Harker sees three women who have been recently turned into vampires and are in search for blood to satisfy their thirst. It definitely sent chills 20150830_150407throughout my body.

The whole book as already mentioned is held via diaries. Through Jonathan Harker’s diary entries we look into his psyche and paranoia as he starts to connect the dots regarding the horrors of the night and the Count. The reader becomes part of the story, he or she is experiencing the fear and paranoia that Harker is experiencing. The build up to the meeting with Dracula and throughout the book to be honest is quite scary and tense. You cannot help but continue reading.

Other than Harker making his way to Dracula’s castle, not much happens in the first section of the story. However, the reader is introduced to Count Dracula and you get the feeling that things are about to get better and more interesting. In the second section of Dracula you’re introduced to Harker’s fiancé Mina Murray and her friend Lucy Westerna, our two female heroes.  While reading the correspondence between Lucy and Mina as well as their diary entries you cannot help but think of Jonathan Harker and what has happened to him, as his fate is left on a stand still at the end of the first section and does not appear in the second. Soon the characters of Dr Seward, Quincy Morris and Arthur Holmwood, the three of which are suitors to Lucy are introduced.  For me, Dr Seward’s entry was perhaps the most interesting as we read about a certain mental patient of his, Renfield. Renfield is an irksome zoophagous mentally unstable. At first you don’t know what relevance he has in the story, but he keeps you on your toes. You find yourself turning page after page and all of a sudden everything clicks. He does have a part in the story. He does have a purpose.

Another character comes into the story, that of Dr. Van Helsing. A Dutch professor, an expert in pretty much everything but most importantly for this story, in vampirism. What a character. He did make me laugh. He is the one who knows all about medicine, superstitions, and religions. He comes to our rescue regarding our ‘beloved’ Count Dracula. All the characters are well portrayed, each with their own unique personality, characteristics and role to the story as they attempt to destroy the inherent evil, Count Dracula.

For someone who did not know the story before and not watching any of the films (I know- I have already been told off for not seeing the classic film of Dracula) I could not stop turning the page. I wanted to know who this Dracula was. I did not know who survives and who doesn’t. Will anyone be turned into a vampire or not? Will they manage to destroy Dracula once and for all? Before Dracula, the only other good vampire book that I had read and really enjoyed was Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice. Now I have two added to my library. Many comment that old classic books such as Dracula are not as captivating or gripping as modern books. I disagree. The horrors of the night and the various warnings of ‘things’ that come in the night are described in such a way that grabs you and makes you worry about the safety of the characters. The language is captivating, the atmosphere gothic and the story itself is heartbreaking, full of emotion. Also the fact that the story is portrayed through diary entries makes it easier to read, I find.

I read somewhere that Dracula ”touches on many themes, savagery, love, religion, technology and xenophobia”, it leaves you thinking. Dracula is a genuine horror story and I would recommend it to anyone.

84 Charing Cross Road- Helene Hanff [Review]

84-charing-cross-road-coverA timeless classic that every book lover should read at least once in their life. A page turner and a must have on anyone’s bookshelf. 84 Charing Cross Road is a book of letters between book lover Helene Hanff and Marks & Co of Charing Cross Road. At the beginning, the correspondent from Marks & Co is bookseller Frank Doel, soon though Helene Hanff is exchanging letters with other staff members and even Frank’s family. She starts her correspondence with the following letter:

“Gentlemen,
Your ad in the Saturday Review of Literature says that you specialize in out-of-print books. The phrase ‘antiquarian book-sellers’ scares me somewhat, as I equate ‘antique’ with expensive. I am a poor writer with an antiquarian taste in books and all the things I want are impossible to get over here except in very expensive rare editions, or in Barnes & Noble’s grimy, marked-up school-boy copies.

I enclose a list of my most pressing problems. If you have clean second-hand copies of any of the books on the list, for no more than $5.00 each, will you consider this a purchase order and send them to me?”

What initially starts out as a business correspondence, between the most reserved Frank Doel and the rather outspoken Helene Hanff, becomes a friendship through the letters exchanged to each other and their love of books. A friendship that lasts for 20 years. The letters start from October 1949 and stop October 1969.

As their friendship blossoms, Hanff starts to send food packages to the antique bookshop for Doel and its staff members during the war, and in return the people at Marks & Co send Helene a Christmas present, a linen cloth made by Frank’s neighbour. The mention of going to visit her dear friends in London is always mentioned in her letters but sadly never happens due to finances.

Guaranteed to cry  and laugh, every reader will love this short bittersweet story. In the revised edition of 84 Charing Cross Road, an account of what happened to Helene Hanff when she finally did manage to get to London a few years after the events of 84 Charing Cross Road is included named The Duchess of Bloomsbury. I will try and not spoil anything, but Helene Hanff as you might have guessed collected all the letters she sent and received from Charing Cross Road and published them as a book. Safe to say, it became a success and thus she managed to go to London after a few years. I will say no more, as there is a bittersweet ending to 84 Charring Cross Road.

A film adaptation of 84 Charing Cross Road was created , starring Anthony Hopkins as Frank Doel and Anne Bancroft as Helene Hanff. I have seen the film and I will say this. It’s a sweet film, Anthony Hopkins is great as Frank Doel and the films does justice to the book. I would recommend anyone to see it, but read the book first as the book is better, of course! 😉

“If you happen to pass by 84 Charing Cross Road, kiss it for me? I owe it so much.”

Trade Wind- M.M Kaye [Review]

”An enthralling blend of history, adventure and romance”

Not so long ago, I wrote a review about M.M. Kaye’s Shadow of the Moon. I did love that book, still do. After reading that my mum suggested Trade Wind. She guaranteed that I would love it also. By god she was right. Now I don’t know which one is better, Shadow of the Moon or Trade Wind? I cannot decide, they are both equally as good.

Whereas Shadow of the Moon was based in India during the Indian Revolution in 1856-7, Trade Wind is based in Zanzibar in 1859. Zanzibar was the last and largest centre of the slave trade. Hero Hollis, our main protagonist, is the niece of the American consul in Zanzibar and a passionate opponent of slavery. Her main mission is to travel from America to Zanzibar and try and stop the slave trade. Soon she involves herself in a revolt that sweeps the island, and then cholera breaks out.Trade Wind

A story full of action and drama. A book that I could not put down. Hero Athena Hollis is a handsome, courageous, wealthy American who travels to Zanzibar after her father’s death. Her journey to Zanzibar was anything but smooth. She finds herself caught in a storm and soon is thrown overboard, thought to be  dead by her fellow companions. She is then fished out from the harsh sea by a Captain Emory Frost. Rory Frost is scandalous, gun-runner and slave trader; everything Hero stands against. You want to hate him but you can’t. Rory delivers Hero to Zanzibar without realising what a beauty he has had on his ship, as Hero was battered, bruised and sick from her fall in the ocean. Probably for the best really! Once in Zanzibar, Hero finds herself joining a plot against the Sultan (with the best intentions as far as she is concerned)in order to throw him off the throne and his younger brother, Yabid Bargash, to take over.

M.M. Kaye’s story is rich in historical detail and background, the storylines have depth and scope. Kaye’s description of Zanzibar is just magical and so colourful. Images of an exotic paradise  of shimmering sand beaches, crystal waters, and perfumed with the scents of blooms and trees. But, there is also the horrible side of Zanzibar, that of squalor, filth and disease. When Hero arrives to Zanzibar she comes across with the sight of slaves being thrown overboard , being sold or just transported. She is horrified, and cannot believe a place as beautiful as this can be at the same time horrible and barbaric. The contrast between the eastern and western cultures is interesting and thought provoking. Hero soon comes to the conclusion that her noble mission to stop slavery might not be as simple as she hoped.

Hero can be seen as naive and spoilt. She thinks that she can change the world despite Rory Frost telling her it is not that easy. She soon realises that everything is not black and white as she originally thought and you get to see Hero mature throughout the book and gain a perspective that is more realistic. She becomes more open and warm. We also get to know Rory Frost’s background and the reasons that led him to be who he is and do what he does. Hero and Rory’s relationship is intriguing, and despite the fact that when you began reading the book, you could see their differences, slowly but steady you understand their attraction for each other and can see it developing into something more.

There is a particular scene in the book that a lot of readers were appalled by and in a way ruined the book for them. I am not going to say what the scene was in case I spoil it for anyone who wants to read this book but I will say this. I will acknowledge that this particular incident is very controversial, but for myself, I can see why M.M. Kaye put it in the story. If you think the context of the plotline, the time period  and maybe the motivation of the lead male character, I believe the action was well justified. I will be honest and say that when I first read this particular scene I was angry, frustrated and shocked. I did not know whether it would make me change my appreciation for the main male character. After thinking about it and when I read his reasons for doing so I could see the importance of ‘building of character’ and the necessity of it later in the story. However, I do understand if other readers will not agree with me.

The characters in Trade Wind are well drawn and some you hate and some you love. From the beginning of the book you know there is something strange with Hero’s fiancé, her uncle’s stepson, Clayton Mayo. He turns out to be exactly what you think and in some certain circumstances he will surprise you. Like in Shadow of the Moon there is always another female character who you dislike at the beginning but in the end turns out to be a respectable woman and a great friend to the main female character. After Rory Frost and Hero I think my favourite character would be Batty, a sailor on Captain Rory’s ship, who was a rogue through and through, but also has a heart. He is the loving uncle who would protect Rory as best as he could and tell him when he is being a scoundrel and wrong. The Sultan is also an interesting character. Rory Frost is his confidant and great friend and can manage to get away with a lot because of his connection with the Sultan.

M.M. Kaye has a beautiful way with words. Her knowledge of the far East shines throughout the book. She stays as historically accurate as she can and she does not hold back when it comes to the customs of Zanzibar, the slave trade and the cholera epidemic. Once again, just as she did in Shadow of the Moon, M.M. Kaye shows us how different the west and east are. How they both have completely different cultures and traditions and will probably never see things the same way. Trade Wind is a beautiful tale that will get you hooked from the first page. I would recommend to any historical fiction lovers, any M.M. Kaye lovers or to anyone who wants to try something new.

A Study in Scarlet- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [Review]

”Truly you are brilliant Holmes!” -Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes series

I have always been intrigued about the Sherlock Holmes books. Part of me knew I would enjoy them but did not realise how much I would. I came across A-Study-in-Scarlet-by-Arthur-Conan-DoyleA Study in Scarlet on my bookshelf and thought it was about time I tried reading it. I was hooked from the first page. I did not put it down until it was finished. I think I even ignored my housemates for the day.  😛

A Study in Scarlet is the first book in the Sherlock Holmes series. It introduces readers to Dr. Watson, the intrepid chronicler, who is newly returned to London from the Afghanistan War after being shot in the leg. He is in search of a place to stay and through a mutual friend he meets the eccentric, nebulous Sherlock Holmes. Soon they both rent a room at 221B Baker Street. Watson learns who Sherlock really is and that he works as a consulting detective. A mystery case comes up and Sherlock Holmes is on the case with Dr. Watson by his side. A dead man is found in an abandoned house, no mark upon him, and no clues save for the word ‘RACHE’ written with blood on the wall.

Trivia for you: A Study in Scarlet was the first detective work of fiction to incorporate the magnifying glass as an investigative tool.

Trivia: A Study in Scarlet was the first detective work of fiction to incorporate the magnifying glass as an investigative tool.

Sherlock Holmes is a genius when it comes to clues and mystery, he plays the violin beautifully, but he is completely ignorant of other things- such as the fact that the Earth revolves around the sun. “His Ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge.” Dr Watson once remarked.  In addition, Sherlock is very cheerful, eccentric , sarcastic, loves to be flattered, and is bluntly honest. You cannot help but fall in love with his character and love him despite his many flaws. Watson’s witty and snarky (sometimes) comments about Sherlock Holmes are hilarious. You cannot help but laugh at his various observations for his fellow flatmate. He even writes a summary list of Sherlock Holmes’s strengths and weaknesses:

“1. Knowledge of Literature: Nil.
2. Knowledge of Philosophy: Nil.
3. Knowledge of Astronomy: Nil.
4. Knowledge of Politics: Feeble.
5. Knowledge of Botany: Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening.
6. Knowledge of Geology: Practical but limited. Tells at a glance different soils from each other. After walks has shown me splashes upon his trousers, and told me by their colour and consistence in what part of London he had received them.
7. Knowledge of Chemistry: Profound.
8. Knowledge of Anatomy: Accurate but unsystematic.
9. Knowledge of Sensational Literature: Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century.
10. Plays the violin well.
11. Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.
12. Has a good practical knowledge of British law.”

The mystery itself is great and very well done. Clues were presented at a regular pace and you found yourself turning one page after another until you discovered who the murderer was and how the crime was done. A good crime mystery is that there are a number of suspects, each have their own agenda and you don’t know who the real guilty person is until the very end. You won’t see the ending come, which is why I love this book so much. If you happen to have watched the BBC series with Benedict Cumberbatch I will say this; the first episode of the first series, A Study in Pink, is quite faithful to this book and maybe you won’t be surprised with who the murderer is  but the back stories are slightly changed so it is not as predictable as you might think.

After Sherlock Holmes apprehends the murderer, the entire narrative changes from Watson’s first person account to a third person omniscient. Conan Doyle does this in order to tell us the history of the murderer, his motives and his reasons. I have to say that I did not expect this and I did not know what to make of it, but I did enjoy this change of narration. I don’t think I have come across this in a novel (as far as I remember). I have read that some readers did not like this change and were struggling to get through the book as they missed Dr. Watson’s witty comments. However, I came to enjoy it and as wrong as this sounds I even felt sorry for the murderer. You get to hear both sides of the story as well as the murderer’s reasons for committing the crime. I liked that you got to read [in this book] about different cultures, different traditions in a different country in a completely different time; in this particular case it was about early Mormon settlements near Salt Lake City in 1847. There are some who believe that Conan Doyle was wrong to write this section of the books as he pictures Mormons in a very negative light. I will agree on that argument, when reading about the Mormons I did think that Arthur Conan Doyle was being harsh and maybe he had something against them? But then again this story was written and published in 1887. I did read somewhere that Doyle did state ” All I said about the Danite Band and the murders is historical so I cannot withdraw that”. Later on, his daughter added  “You know, father would be the first to admit that his first Sherlock Holmes novel was full of errors about the Mormons.” So whichever the case might be I am just going to focus on the fiction itself and not on the historical accuracy [which is surprising considering I am a Ancient Historian graduate and History fanatic!]

Overall, It is an incredible and good solid story with witty dialogue and fascinating character development.  Arthur Conan Doyle offers a story full of action, intrigue, and eerie suspense for any mystery-lover. Even Holmes’ arrogance and egotism is amusing and entertaining. A Study in Scarlet introduces us to Doyle’s most enduring character figure and one of the most iconic, strongest pairings in all literature. I thoroughly enjoyed A Study in Scarlet and I cannot wait until the next book in the series.

Sherlock_Holmes

“To a great mind, nothing is little.”

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard [Review]

‘Red Queen is a clever blend of The Hunger Games, The Selection, Graceling and Divergent.” – Starbust

Taken from the back cover of the book:
The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite isbn9781409155843warriors with god-like powers. To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change. Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.
But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

This is Reds against Silvers,  prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart….

If you enjoyed reading The Hunger Games, Graceling and I guess the Divergent series [have not read Divergent yet] you will like/love this book. My reason for picking up this copy was due to my love of both the Hunger Games series and the Graceling series.

Red Queen opens with a Roman style amphitheatre battle between two Silvers. Full of plot twists and betrayals, soon you don’t know who to trust. The world that Victoria Aveyard has created is wonderful and capturing. Red blooded slum dwellers are ruled by the silver blooded nobility; who each have different powers and those with the strongest powers hold the higher chairs of nobility.Sound familiar?

 Due to the fact that Mare, a Red, discovers that she has an ability of her own, the King forces her to play the role of a long-lost Silver princess. She is soon betrothed to the second prince, Maven, and she is watched constantly by the Queen. Mare is drawn further  into the Silver world and uses her position to help the Scarlet Guard (Red rebellion group) hence risking everything. Mare is a great main character; she is fearless, rebellious, headstrong and very brave. She would do anything for her family and friends. In that sense, she reminds us of Katniss Everdeen and Katsa.  As far as the Princes go, you do not know who to root for. Maven, the youngest, who constantly lives in the shadow of his older brother or Cal, the Prince who is next in line for the throne and a soldier. You can guess from the beginning of the novel there will be a love triangle or should a say a love square? If there is such a thing as Mare acquires three male admirers.

 You are immediately hooked from the first page. You feel for the Reds and hate the Silvers, apart from maybe the Princes. 😉 Soon you do not know who to trust, the King’s second son Maven or his first born and heir Cal or maybe neither! One thing you do know, is that you hate Queen Elara. I can see how Red Queen is being compared with the Hunger Games, with its corrupt ‘government’ and rebellious groups.  You can even argue that you see a bit of Game of Thrones in this series especially when it comes to Queen Elara, who you could say was modelled of Cersei Lannister? Maybe.

It is well-written, fast-faced and in certain points predictable. However, I am willing to give it a chance because I feel like it will be a series that I will love and I could not put it down once reading it. It is the first book in a trilogy, so there is plenty of room left for Victoria Aveyard to ”spread her wings” and create a really good series. I might not love it as much as The Hunger Games and Graceling, but close enough. It is worth reading if you get a chance and I feel it will become a favourite amongst young-adults… even to a some extent adults. 😛

 ‘Power is a dangerous game.’