Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Everything I Read in May and June

May and June have come and gone and brought with it the end of lockdown in New Zealand and a little trip to the tippy top of the North Island. Here's what books I made my way through during these months.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood: A satisfying and solid read, I enjoyed this follow up to Margaret Atwood's modern classic The Handmaid's Tale. As an avid watcher of the series, I was interested in seeing how her follow up book compared. It certainly gave more insight into the inner workings of Gilead and I enjoyed the passages that were told from Aunt Lydia's point of view. 

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien: I've never been a big fan of "war books" but The Things They Carried isn't a typical book about missions and patrols. It's harrowing, sad and insightful but most of all gave a real sense of the pointlessness and numbness that many soldiers experienced while serving in Vietnam and the lives they returned to afterwards. 

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin: An intriguing read about four children who pay a psychic to tell them the date they each die. Each child dies on the expected date, but was it fate or did this knowledge push those who were supposed to die young live more recklessly than their siblings? I enjoyed the premise of this book a bit more than the actual story but it left me with a lot of interesting thoughts nonetheless.

Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton: According to my British friends, Dolly Alderton is a bit of an icon for millennial women who have grown up with her columns and television appearances. I know her from the delightfully insightful podcast The High Low and was intrigued to hear more about her thoughts on relationships, dating and love. I have to think that had I grown with Dolly as an icon I would have enjoyed this book a bit more. It's a fairly light read, peppered with stories about her love life and her close friends' relationships. I did enjoy that the ending was much more focused on self-love and Dolly finding herself, rather than finding the perfect relationship.

Mosquitoland by David Arnold: Fifteen-year-old Mim runs away from her Dad's house and boards a Greyhound to visit her sick mother. This coming-of-age adventure story is peppered with a cast of crazy characters and missteps and a touching ending that has our protagonist realizing a thing or two about the adults in her life. While I enjoyed the story, the character of Mim felt less like a real teenager and more like a vehicle to deliver the wit and insights of the adult author. In the same way that many John Greene characters feel too precocious to be real, Mim didn't really encompass a teenagers point of view in my opinion.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang: An easy read that has cute and realistic autism representation and a cast of funny characters. I have to admit that romances just aren't my jam. While I enjoyed that the writing and plot of this book are fun, I have a hard time staying interested in the will-they won't-they premise of this novel.


Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: DNF Books

I used to do Top Ten Tuesday's all the time, but it's been years since I've rounded up my favourite books that fit the weekly theme. First of all, my TTT happens on a Wednesday, because hello timezones, and this week the theme is books we Did Not Finish. I've tried to sum up why I DNF each book as succinctly as possible.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville :: I talked in my last post about being separated from my Kindle thanks to the lockdown, for the past six weeks. To combat having a lack of access to books, I downloaded this book (for free) onto my phone. I don't know what to say other than that I just don't gel with some overly flowery classics. I thought I would enjoy this book, since I lived in New England for the past year and a bit, but I could not deal with the convoluted language.

Emma by Jane Austin :: This is actually a firm favourite of mine! I downloaded it onto my phone and I think the main reason I stopped reason is I found a physical book to read. No idea what that book was but I would re-read Emma in a heartbeat.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway :: Sensing a theme here? I think there are classics that help you ease into the writing of old authors, and A Moveable Feast was not that book. The book is a bunch of stories told from Hemingway's point of view about life in the 1920s. I don't know what I was expecting but it felt like a lot of rambling with some famous names (Fitzgerald) thrown in for good measure.

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of it All by Jonas Jonasson :: I don't think I've ever read, or at least finished, a Jonasson book before. He had huge success with the 100 Year Old Man and The Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden. I think the writing style just doesn't hook me in that much. I like humorous books, but I felt like this book kind of banked on 'getting' the humour of his past work in order to keep you entertained.

Love Unscripted by Owen Nicholls :: This had all the hallmarks of a book I would enjoy; references to cinema, a love story, kind of snarky characters. I just couldn't get into this book. It's an adult romance, which is fine, but after reading the exceptionally cute Again, But Better, (which is YA) I just found the characters a little grating and unlikeable. It's told in retrospect, so a lot of flaws in their love life are discussed but...there was something about airing all the negative elements of the character's relationship that put me off being invested in their story.

None of these books were 'bad' reads, I just struggled with my own expectations to really get into any of them. I'd love to know if you enjoy any of the books I have mentioned above and what your most recent DNF books are.


Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Everything I Read In March and April 2020

March and April were significant reading months for two very different reasons; we started lockdown here in New Zealand, and I made the critical mistake of leaving my Kindle at my house, while I was 'sheltering' at my mum's house an hour away. Originally, my stay was supposed to be for 14 days, but six weeks later I was allowed to travel back home.

On the one hand, I had been trying to reduce the amount of money I was spending on Kindle Amazon books, but I don't think the pandemic was the best time to test how easy this would have been. Even so, I managed to read some great books over the past two months.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck :: I absolutely fell in love with East of Eden when I read it two years ago and was excited to try a second Steinbeck novel. Overall, I didn't love the experience of reading this novel. It was driven by dialogue and written in a heavy Okalhomian dialect that required some mental gymnastics to interpret what was being said, and what was actually meant. I did like the overall themes of the novel and exploring just how abruptly lives were changed during the Great Depression. It certainly made me think, and considering I read this mere weeks before the lockdown, now have an even deeper sense of empathy for those who were forced to survive by any means necessary during this time.

Again, But Better by Christine Riccio :: This was the perfect follow up to the slog (sorry) that Grapes of Wrath felt like at times. It's a fun story about second chances that actually, unexpectedly hit me in the feels. I knew Riccio was a Youtuber and was intrigued to read her debut novel. It's a cute, funny YA novel about a college girl called Shane who has been 'doing college wrong.' Stuck in her room reading books and going to classes, Shane signs up for a year abroad and decides to put herself out there, make friends and is determined to have her first kiss. This is a really sweet read that hits on many pressures that students face about seeing their college years as the "best years of their lives." There is also a fun twist that I had to admit, I did not see coming.

The Farm by Joanne Ramos :: I wanted to love this book, but it almost became a DNF. I think part of the problem is that it's packaged as a dystopian novel which made me think it would be more like the Handmaid's Tale or The Power. Instead, the drama mainly centres around the mother, Jane, an immigrant from the Phillippines, who becomes a surrogate at The Farm. Overall I liked the premise of this book, but the way the drama was constructed was unbelievable at times. Mainly, Jane was prohibited from seeing her own daughter and was finding The Farm increasingly controlling. It just seemed weird to me that the book focused so much on surrogates living a stress-free and healthy life but then prohibited Jane from seeing her daughter, something which would be crazy-stressful for any parent. It had potential but didn't live up to the hype for me.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller :: Chanel was originally known as Emily Doe, the victim in the Brock Turner sexual assault case. I was surprised at how well Chanel writes and that the warmth and humour with which she tells her story only makes it all the more frightening. I came away from this book feeling angry that survivors like Chanel are treated more like victims, that privilege has an enormous part to play in how we treat offenders, and that Chanel spent more time fighting her case than her offender served in prison. For a dark read, it's still filled with moments of light and hope despite the subject matter.

Normal People by Sally Rooney :: Wow, what a showstopper of a read. I loved Normal People, but also kind of disliked the characters because of how realistically flawed they were. The book follows Connell and Marianne's deeply flawed on-again off-again relationship through high-school, university and into their adult lives. Messy, and realistic, it's one of the more interesting portrayals of growing up, finding love, and figuring out right from wrong.

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton :: This was a cracker of a read.Told in a uniquely Australian voice, Boy Swallows Universe follows the life of Eli Bell, a 10-year-old boy growing up in 1980s suburban Brisbane. Eli's childhood is anything but normal. His brother is mute, his father is in prison, his mum is a junkie, his step-dad deals drugs and his babysitter is a notorious criminal. Even so, Eli's life is filled with love, albeit in a flawed way. When a local drug king-pin pays his family a visit, leaving his mum in jail and his step-dad missing, Eli is determined to set things right.

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