Friday, 5 July 2019

Catch Up & Mini-Reviews

Well, hello! It's been a while, hasn't it?

It's not secret that the past few years have been A Struggle for me as far as reading goes, I've probably whined about it on here plenty. Reading slump after reading slump, and in amongst that there was a lot of blogging burn out too, so this year I've just not been stressing about it. I took some time off from blogging, which took the pressure to read off and...it helped.

I've read 43 books so far this year (not much compared to some, but a lot in comparison to previous years). Quite a few of them have been kids books (thanks to the two new tiny humans in my life), but I'm counting those anyway because I can.

I guess my point is...I'm still here? And I figure that instead of writing a review for every book I've read in my blogging absence, I'd just do a little catch up post with mini-reviews. So here they are:

The Amy Shaw Experiment by Kelly Oram

Thoughts: I didn't like this one. I honestly don't even remember what it was about, but I rated it X stars out of 5 and it was completely forgettable which says it all really.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Thoughts: I'm pretty sure I read this, or some of it, years ago but I couldn't remember much about it other than I am. I am. I am. so I decided to reread it and...I'm sure a lot of people will be horrified by this but I just found it really underwhelming. It felt important, and there are moments of beautiful writing and the honesty in it is great but I've read better memoirs that deal with the same subject matter. I liked it, but I'm just not in awe of it the way some people seem to be.

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

Thoughts: I enjoyed this book way more than the first one. It still isn't living up to the hype (again, maybe if I read it when I was younger I'd like it more), but I did really like this one.

The Flat Share by Beth O'Leary

Thoughts: This is just a really cute, fun book. It's one of those ones that I loved while reading it but it didn't linger with me the way the really great books do. It's a good-in-the-moment book.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Thoughts: I can't believe how long it took me to get round to reading this one. But, once again, I wasn't impressed. I don't know if the problem is me, or the books, or the fact that books like this and The Bell Jar are put on such a high pedestal that they just never live up to expectations...but I didn't like this book. It was an interesting concept and I'm glad I read it, but that's about it.

Daughter of the Pirate King and Daughter of the Siren Queen

Thoughts: I read this duology on a whim and I really loved it. It was fun, great characters, and kept me hooked from start to finish. I ordered the second book before I'd even finished the first (I'd been questioning whether I'd totally outgrown YA fantasy books until I read this one).

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Thoughts: I went into this book hesitantly. I think Hank is great, but John has always been The Author of the two of them and Youtubers getting book deals because of fame rather than genuine literary talent has been A Thing for a while (with exceptions). But the book was really good. It's not my usual genre but it was wonderfully weird, loved the characters and I'm desperate for the sequel and it's people like Hank that have made me not just write off books by famous Youtubers.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Thoughts: I feel like I've been reading a lot of Greek Myth retellings, though it reality it's probably only been 3 or 4, but I really loved this one. It tells the story of the Trojan war from the perspective of Briseis (one of my favourite characters from all the adaptations I've read/seen/heard).

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Thoughts: I sort of hated this book and that bothers me, because so many people whose recommendations rarely fail me said this one was great but other than the importance of the subject matter, the book was mind numbingly boring. It took me so long to drag my way through it in spite of how short it is. To me, boring is one of the worst things a book can be. I would honestly rather a book made me mad than bored me.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Thoughts: I loved this book so much. The characters and the setting were so vivid and it burrowed it's way under my skin and made me care about all of it. Definitely one of my favourites this year.

Unearthed and Undying by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Thoughts: This duology was just okay. I enjoyed the first book way more than the second, which fell kind of flat to me and felt more like a filler book than an ending.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Thoughts: This book is excellent, but so frustrating. I think that's part of its charm though. It's a bit Midsummer Nights Dream, where everyone loves the wrong people only there's no magic to make it work itself out in the end and I liked it more because of that because it's easy to want the storybook ending, but it's realistic. You don't get to choose who you love, you can't force it, so I loved that. And I loved the the quirky setting and interesting characters.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Thoughts: Cute book, but honestly this is one of the rare times where I think the movie is better than the book. I liked the characters more in the movie, I liked the relationships between them more in the movie. There were only a few minor things that I felt the book did better.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Thoughts: I didn't like this one nearly as much as I expected to. It's an interesting retelling (I won't say what it's a retelling of, because that would spoil it big time) but I just didn't like it. I didn't feel invested in the characters, I didn't like the way it all played out and it felt like the most interesting characters weren't featured as much as they should've been.

The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Thoughts: So I'm beginning to realise just how many disappointing books I've read this year...because this one was disappointing too. There were moments of beautiful writing, the story itself was strange and original which I appreciated, the problem was I just didn't give a damn about any of it. I didn't feel invested in anything that happened in the book, didn't particularly care about any of the characters. The book overall was just a bit meh.

The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta

Thoughts: This isn't my favourite of Melina's books, but it was still really good and she still writes some of the best, most realistic characters and relationships I've ever read and I loved that.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this one, because the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles was beautifully written but the end felt a bit rushed, a bit underwhelming, like it didn't live up to what came before it (I went into it knowing how it would end, given it's a retelling, but it's the execution of it that fell a little flat for me).

Fully Functioning Human (Almost) by Melanie Murphy

Thoughts: I loved this one. I related to so much of it and it was well written. The right amount of deep, the right amount of funny. Melanie is just one of those really great humans, like she has quite a decent online presence and yet she's one of the ones that still seems totally genuine and down to earth and rather than caving to the pressure to present herself and her life in certain way, she calls out the toxicity of that and...I just really like her and her book.

And I guess that's it. There's a few other books I haven't included (like I said, I've read some kids books too, but I'm not really interested in reviewing those).

Hope all has been well with you lot in my absence.

Later.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy Jones & The Six
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Summary: For a while, Daisy Jones & The Six were everywhere. Their albums were on every turntable, they sold out arenas from coast to coast, their sound defined an era. And then, on 12 July 1979, they split. Nobody ever knew why. Until now. They were lovers and friends and brothers and rivals. They couldn't believe their luck, until it ran out.  
This is their story of the early days and the wild nights, but everyone remembers the truth differently. The only thing they all know for sure is that from the moment Daisy Jones walked barefoot onstage at the Whisky, their lives were irrevocably changed. Making music is never just about the music. And sometimes it can be hard to tell where the sound stops and the feelings begin.

Before this book, I had only read one other Taylor Jenkins Reid book (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo), which I loved. Well this one has firmly cemented Taylor on my favourite, auto-buy authors list.

I hadn't even made it a third of the way through the book before buying a finished copy because I just needed it on my shelves.

I felt so thoroughly invested in these characters and their story. I was totally surprised by how much I enjoyed the format of the book -- it's told via interviews with the characters and I loved that it showed how the characters didn't always interpret or remember things the same way and there was that element of unreliable narration to it. The interview thing will be hit or miss for some people, for me it was a massive hit.

And the writing was fantastic, I marked so many quotes I loved throughout this book (which, again, shocked me because of the format, I didn't think the format would've allowed for lovely prose but it did).

The  way the book ended was a little bit disappointing, a little bit underwhelming but it also felt like it was the only way it could've ended well for this story. It felt realistic for these characters, and the way it ended just made it feel all the more real -- like I finished the book feeling like I'd read the story of a real 70s rock back and real people.

I'm not sure there are many authors out there that could pull off a story like this so well, but Taylor Jenkins Reid did it and did it brilliantly. So now I need to go back and read all of the books she's written that I've missed while I eagerly wait for her next release. 

I'd rate the book 5 stars out of 5.

Later.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Slayer by Kiersten White

Slayer
by Kiersten White

Summary: Into every generation a Slayer is born… 
Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic. 
Until the day Nina’s life changes forever. 
Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period. 
As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams… 
But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next. 
One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

I don't really many novelizations or spin-off novelizations of TV shows, but I couldn't resist this one, especially since Kiersten White was the author. In the end, I mostly enjoyed it.

The story was fast paced and fun, though predictable at times, and it had a cast of characters that I really enjoyed reading about (though a few definitely had their frustrating moments). The book reminded me why I love Kiersten White as an author.

The main issue I had, and probably the thing that held me back from really loving it, was that it didn't feel like a Buffy-verse story to me -- sure, it used some names and references from the show but mostly it just felt like its own separate thing with it's own vibe going on and had a few details been tweaked it wouldn't have felt like a Buffy spin off at all.

That wasn't a terrible thing...because it was a good story in its own right, it was only an issue because when it's a spin-off, it becomes very hard not to compare to the source material and in the end I found myself wanting to rewatch Buffy instead of pining for the sequel to this story (though the sequel will definitely be on my TBR when it's out).

I'd rate the book 4 out of 5 stars.

Later.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott

Five Feet Apart
by Rachael Lippincott
Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis 

Summary: Can you love someone you can never touch? 
Stella Grant likes to be in control—even though her totally out of control lungs have sent her in and out of the hospital most of her life. At this point, what Stella needs to control most is keeping herself away from anyone or anything that might pass along an infection and jeopardize the possibility of a lung transplant. Six feet apart. No exceptions. 
The only thing Will Newman wants to be in control of is getting out of this hospital. He couldn’t care less about his treatments, or a fancy new clinical drug trial. Soon, he’ll turn eighteen and then he’ll be able to unplug all these machines and actually go see the world, not just its hospitals. 
Will’s exactly what Stella needs to stay away from. If he so much as breathes on Stella she could lose her spot on the transplant list. Either one of them could die. The only way to stay alive is to stay apart. But suddenly six feet doesn’t feel like safety. It feels like punishment. 
What if they could steal back just a little bit of the space their broken lungs have stolen from them? Would five feet apart really be so dangerous if it stops their hearts from breaking too?

I don't normally read "sick kid" books. There are exceptions, but in general they tend to bother me, so I avoid them. But two things made me give this one a chance:

The movie trailer and Claire Wineland. The trailer was cute, and Claire... Well, Claire Wineland was a young woman with CF. She made Youtube videos, most about what it was like to be a sick kid and to grow up spending so much time in hospitals. Unfortunately, Claire died a few months back due to post-op complications from her lung transplant. But the story (or at least the character) was, in part, inspired by her and she was a consultant on the movie/book.

I know this is supposed to be a review of the book, but that context is important to explain my opinion of the book: what I'm trying to say is, I trusted this story because of Claire, and I'm glad I did because I really liked it. 

It wasn't perfect. There were definitely things about it I didn't like (it does romanticize the sick kid thing a bit, as Sick Kid books tend to) and glosses over some things, the love story was a little rushed, and it contains a certain LGBTQ+ trope that bothers me so much.

But... I loved the characters, and the story made my heart break in unexpected ways. The bits of the story that were inspired by Claire were clear, and it's like that breathed a realistic humanity into the book that it would've been otherwise lacking.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how the movie measures up. I'd rate the book 3.5 stars out of 5, but if I had to round it then it'd get a 4.

Later.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

My Favourite Books of 2018

Well hello there, it's been a while. I seem to be saying that a lot this year but life keeps happening and it happened a lot in the past little while so I've not been around much.

Anyway...I figured I'd stick with the routine of posting my favourite books of the year, even though this has been one of the most spectacularly bad reading years I've ever had. Still, there have been a few books definitely worth the mention, so...onto the list!

In no particular order:


Okay, that was a lie...the order of this one was intentional because it truly was my favourite. I loved this book so much. I'm not going to say anything more about it because it's better going into it knowing less (though I will mention it includes abuse, in case anyone needs that heads up).


This was one of the only classics I read this year, but it was a good one. I've always loved the story but had never read the novel. I don't like the representation of deformities/disfigurements, but the story is a product of its time. Overall, the book was fun and fast paced and it didn't drag the way I find some classics do.


This book wrecked me a bit. It haunted me for a good while after finishing it. It's not an easy read at all, but it was worth it (though again, for those that need the heads up: the book deals with sexual abuse).


An odd one for the list. Late last year my best friend had a baby, round about the same time this year my sister had another baby... I've been reading a lot of kids books, is what I'm getting at, and this one was a favourite. I enjoyed the illustrations and I like that there's kind of a punchline to the story that the adults get but it kind of goes over the kids head and they'll only understand it later. The little one I read it to seemed to enjoy it as well. 


I love Tijan's books. I always love her books. This one was so different to most of her other books, it was a more subtle favourite. 


I read this one way back at the start of the year and have been pining pathetically for the sequel ever since (only a few more weeks to wait!). I'd never read any Holly Black books before this one and I felt like an idiot for waiting so long, because I loved this one so much.


This one is a prequel to Code Name Verity and it's so underrated. It's basically a queer 1930's murder mystery set in the Scottish Highlands and the characters are a delight.


Novels in verse aren't normally my sort of thing, but this one just worked. It totally hooked me and I couldn't put it down once I got started.


The first book was one of my favourites from last year. It took me a lot longer to warm up to this one, but once I did, I loved it. It had a different sort of spark than the first book did, but no less wonderful.

And that's all. Hope you all enjoyed the holidays.

Later.

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