Sunday, 17 October 2021

Everything I read in August & September

Ignoring the fact that it has been an entire year since I've posted anything, let's move on to discuss what I read in August and September of 2021. If there's one theme that ties together the books I read this month, it's probably: there are better books from these authors.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead :: There's no doubt that Colson Whitehead is a great writer. I find his books (I also read The Underground Railroad last year) very easy to get absorbed into and The Nickel Boys is no different. This story follows the life of Elwood Curtis, a black boy who is sent to a reform school in Jim-Crow era Florida. This is not an easy story to read. The reform school is, as expected horrifying and worst of all, the events are based on real schools that punished young men who were too young, or their crimes too petty, for them to go to prison. 

My one complaint about Colson's writing is that he's almost too cold in his writing. I felt like this reading The Underground Railroad. I felt like I was reading these awful things happen to the character from a very...cold narrator if that makes sense? The story is awful and sad but the emotional part of the storytelling is really missing for me.

Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo :: Have you ever read a book and thought "I am either really dumb or this book just doesn't make sense." I have no idea what happened in most of this book and apparently neither do most people who reviewed this on Goodreads. It follows a young tech billionaire as he travels in his limousine through New York City. If you're looking for a book that's confusing as all hell and you're not sure what the message is then maybe this book is for you. If you'd prefer a book that's a harder read but still comprehensible may I suggest DeLillo's White Noise. It's about noise pollution and the effects that have on one family.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck :: A sweet and short read that I really enjoyed, Of Mice and Men follows the story of two men George and Lennie two displaced migrant workers in the 1930s. I have read Grapes of Wrath and found that novel a little hard to get through, so if you are after an easy read I highly recommend picking this up. I love the snapshot of the 1930s and always get a sense of how different and yet in some ways how similar the struggle of poverty and rural poverty still is when compared to life today.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini :: I really enjoyed this book from the perspective of learning more about life before and after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. I picked this up because of what currently has been happening in Afghanistan. Like all of these books I didn't find this book really connected on an emotional level. I can highly recommend The Kite Runner which is also by Khaled Hosseini if you are after a more emotional story set in the same region.

The Secret History by Donnna Tart :: I've had The Secret History on my TBR list for so long, but once I read it I felt it was kind of overwhelming. I find Donna Tart books are a couple of hundred pages longer than I need to be. Again, it was an interesting read but I kind of felt like I was reading the story from afar and not really engaged with the emotional story of 


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.

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