Sunday, 7 February 2016

All you need is love


Literature is full of romance. There is hardly a fiction book without a dose of love in it. And who could not possibly like it? Especially when the love of the characters is too good to be true.

Due to St. Valentine's Day that is coming shortly, we asked readers to tell us about their favourite romance and here is what they suggested (the order is random):

  • Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.

An old-time classic, set in England in the beginning of the 19th century, it narrates the story of Mr & Mrs Bennet's five unmarried daughters and especially Elizabeth after two rich and eligible bachelors, Mr Charles Bingley and his friend, Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy move in the neighbourhood. Elizabeth and Darcy form the main protagonists of the novel. Circumstances force them to frequent each other often, learn more about their character and their differences. Love does not come easy to them; Elizabeth needs to overcome her misjudgements that are based more on prejudice rather than evidence and Darcy has to set aside his pride and status-consciousness to accept Elizabeth as she is. However, they cannot avoid falling in love and becoming one of the most memorable couples in literature. We just wish Mr Darcy were true.

  • Thelma, by Marie Corelli

A Victorian love story about a breathtakingly beautiful girl called Thelma, who grows up in Norway and is taken away from her country by an English gentleman. She gets to know treachery and adventure whilst she is deeply loved in secret. Her father's man sacrifices his life for her and her husband's friend never shows his feelings. Thelma gives birth to a daughter, who ends up marrying one of these men. It is a sweet and tender story of love and passion, a good, old-fashioned romance that never stops to fascinate.

  • Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon

Mixing historical fiction, adventure, fantasy and romance, the series narrates the story of Claire Randall, a 20th century nurse, who travels back in 18th century Scotland and finds love in the eyes of Jamie Fraser. It is difficult to explain who she is and how she came there, and it is hard to make herself accepted among the Scottish who loathe anything English. She has found romance, though, and this makes her extremely unwilling to go back to modern times when she gets the chance. A thrilling, enchanting romance full of adventure that will make you read for hours and wish you could be in the 1700s yourself.

  • Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

The love story between a teenager, Bella Swan, and a 104-year-old vampire named Edward Cullen in the cloudy and rainy little town of Forks, Washington, US. The narrator is Bella, who meets Edward when she moves to Forks to live with her dad after her mother marries for a second time. She is instantly attracted to him and although things do not seem to work out for them in the beginning, they end up living a strong romance that goes beyond nature, society and dangers. "I will love you forever", literally.

  • Wuthering heights, by Emily Brontë

Heathcliff and Catherine, perhaps the most powerful literary example of how destructive love can be. Heathcliff, an orphan, is brought home by Catherine's father after being found wandering the streets of Liverpool and he and the girl connect immediately. They grow close and speak of love and living together. However, circumstances develop and Catherine accepts the proposal of Edgar Linton, a man of high social status, and this decision has disastrous consequences for all the main characters. Catherine finally dies giving birth to a daughter. Heathcliff is a man of strong, cruel and violent nature, especially to those he does not care about. He is deeply hurt by this marriage and makes his life's purpose to get revenge from the man that took away his love. A powerful novel, full of strong emotions that are expressed in some of the most unforgettable dialogues in the English literature. A love that not even death can destroy.

  • The Time Traveller's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

Both a romance and a fantasy novel, it is the story of Henry and Clare. Henry suffers from a rare genetic disorder that makes him travel through time against his will. He travels to Clare's childhood for the fist time when she is a six-year-old girl and he keeps visiting her at intervals until she is eighteen. They develop a relationship over time until they finally meet "in the present" and get married. As the whole novel develops among the past, the present and the future, it talks about a love that transcends time and shows how people can change through it.

  • The fault in our stars, by John Green

They say that the first love is the one we never forget. What if this first love is the last one, too? Hazel and Augustus are two teenagers who suffer from cancer. They both attend a support group and feel immediate attraction for one another. They read each other's favourite books and they try to find out how one of these books end from its author. After they visit him in Amsterdam, Augustus' health deteriorates and soon afterwards he dies. It's a sweet, tender and heartbreaking love story that will stay in your mind and heart long after you finish the book.

  • Brokeback Mountain, by Annie Proulx

Better known as a film, this short story focuses on the intense emotional and sexual affair of two young men, who are hired to look after the sheep at the grazing range on the Brokeback Mountain. They separate when the season is over, but they cannot forget each other. They keep their relationship though brief encounters for the next two decades beside their lives as husbands and fathers. 

This list covers only a few of all the wonderful stories of love and passion. Which is your favourite one? 

[written by FK for Walkley Library]

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Book review: An astronaut's guide to life on earth

How many of us had been asked when we were kids about what we wanted to be when we grew up and answered "astronauts"? And how many of us actually became one?

Well, Chris Hadfield was nine years old when he watched the first human walking on the Moon on TV and his mind was made up: being an astronaut was the only thing he wanted. He set this as a life goal, and his actions and thoughts were always aimed towards this achievement. 

In this partially autobiographical book, Hadfield goes through his career from the first steps as a fighter and test pilot to how he managed to enter the Canadian Space Agency and begin his exciting path to fulfilling this childhood dream. 

He narrates his story with wit and humour and all the excitement is there for the reader to feel chapter after chapter. What it means to become part of a Space Agency, what training is all about, what astronauts do to be suitable for a space mission, what they do when they are on Earth and what they do when they are in Space. The parts of his space travels are so vivid and interesting that one feels being with Hadfield right there on the Soyuz taking off, on the International Space Station and the Cupola, on his way back into Earth. Most people hear about space exploration, but do not realise what all this involves and how much preparation and risks are on the menu. From this point of view, Hadfield's book is really revealing.

Nevertheless, this is a book full of life lessons as the author himself experienced them through events that changed his life and his perspective over people and situations. Through its pages he shows that being humble, determined, focused and hardworking always pays back the right way. Space is a hostile environment for humans where good teamwork, leadership and personal integrity are elements that save lives. Did you know that most astronauts who train never fly in space? This may seem disappointing, however Hadfield suggests that the joy is not to be found only in the end, that an astronaut should try to find satisfaction and pleasure in the other things which form part of their life, e.g. training, assisting missions from Earth, talking and promoting public awareness about everything being done in space. This applies to all of us who are stuck here on this planet as well. 

So, this is a book about how people should find happiness in whatever they do: how to work hard, be focused, do not lose hope, work with others and for others, be humble, enjoy little things and be prepared for the worse. The author shows ways to be successful and his message is that we should always learn, always strive to become better humans. 

Once, on Q&A sessions on Reddit, Hadfield had said:

Decide in your heart of hearts what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction. Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight, turns you into who you are tomorrow, and the day after that. Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person. You may not get exactly where you thought you’d be, but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in. Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become.

It is an encouraging and inspirational text.
Worth reading even if you have already achieved going to Space.

+ perfect for space enthusiasts, motivating, enjoyable, insightful, informative
- a bit repetitive

Have you read this book? Feel free to leave us a comment.

[written by FK for Walkley Library]

Sunday, 25 October 2015

What to read for Halloween?

Image source:

If you are among those people who wait impatiently for Halloween 364 days per year, you are in the spirit of it already.

For the rest of us, the perfect book(s) that will give us a little "push" to feel it in our skin is the right trick.

Here is a list with some of our favourite stories for the season:

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving 

A truly gothic story around the headless horseman who is looking for his head and terrorises the quiet hamlet of Tarry Town, New York in 1790. The story was written while Irving was living in Birmingham and it was first published in 1820. 

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

A love story filled with suspense about a teenager and the vampire she falls in love with. As Bella puts it: “About three things I was absolutely sure,” she says. “First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him – and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be – that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.” 

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Four people come together in a haunted house to investigate the supernatural phenomena that occur in it. An unsettling ghost story that will make you look suspiciously at every dark corner or jump at every strange sound you hear.

Prince Lestat by Anne Rice

Are you afraid of vampires? No? Well, you may be after you read the story of the perfectly evil blood-sucker hero of Rice's series of The Vampire Chronicles. From our part, we've done our duty and warned you.

The woman in black by Susan Hill

Another gothic story, placed in the 19th century England. The papers of a deceased (and creepy) lady need to be examined and the lucky guy finds himself in a mansion haunted by the ghost of a woman dressed in black. The description of the moors that surround the place is so vivid that you'll be dragged inside the story either you want it or not.

Pet sematary by Stephen King

Could a Halloween list not include at least one work of Mr King? This is for all those who think that they can't go on living without their pets. For those who wish their pets could live forever. Well, think twice, folks...

Dracula by Bram Stoker

The original Count Dracula. Not for the devoted fans of Twilight, but if you want to be counted as a real vampire fan, you just should read this. We love its gothicness, the desperation of the victims and the elegance of the Lord of the Night.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman  

A boy living in a graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts. And gets involved in a lot of magical and terrifying adventures. 

The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde and other stories by Robert Louis Stevenson
Dead until dark by Charlaine Harris

Do you have a favourite book for Halloween? Please share it with us by leaving a comment.

[written by FK for Walkley Library]