2015 Reading Challenge – Book Reviews pt 1

Hi, Hey, Hello!

I mentioned in this blog post that I would probably do some book reviews as I went along with the challenge this year. I then promptly stopped reading at the rate I would like/need to. I made amendments to the post and cleared up which books I was going to read for the sake of personal clarity, but actual reading? I kind of neglected.

Until I then and went read four books in less than a month (thank you hour long train journeys for 10 days) and made some progress in both crossing off books from the list and also working towards my Goodreads reading challenge for 2015 (I’m still not quite on track with that one. I also keep buying books at the moment because apparently the ones that I already own and should/want to read aren’t sufficient enough to keep me occupied and I must have more books. I am going to try and stop for the time being with the purchasing thing and tackle the ones I own and need to restart and such. (except I have terrible impulse control and am like a moth to a flame with bookshops, so this may turn out to be a TOTAL lie.))

Anyway, on with the 5 books I am gonna give little reviews of today. (Be warned, if you haven’t already guessed I am a rambler, so it is probably gonna get lengthy under the cut as the English language has this habit of running away from me)


1) Life of Pi – Yann Martel – 4.5/5 stars

Okay so my journey with this book starts all the way back in June last year. My best friend and I had just got to our hotel room after we had flown to New York and we switched the TV and scrolled through the channels, to land on this film near to the beginning. We somehow ended up watching it for an hour or so and then we realised that we need to eat, so we went to Red Lobster with half the film still to go. Just over a month later said best friend gifts me the book as part of my graduation present box. At some point in the last quarter of the year I finally finished watching the film and it was this stunning piece of cinema that I finally understood the hype about (I mean my gosh the scenery!). Then I finally, FINALLY, picked up the book.

I knew the second that I started it that I was going to love Martel as writer. The imagery created from the get go was decadent and vivid and perfect. It is not the kind of writing that I could read all the time (I honestly paused reading this at one point and read Gone Girl instead to balance things out) , at parts it was almost a little too descriptive and over the top (I have the same problem with Oscar Wilde), but as a style of writing to read a few times a year it was perfect. There were scenes in this book that I couldn’t help but picture vividly and they felt so real that I even felt a little squeamish, which is something that never happens through either words or visuals (I watch Hannibal and I have also only felt squeamish during that once towards the end of the last season, my squeamish tolerance level is relatively high.)

The beautiful way that Martel has with words also completely took me out of the realms of reality (good, I love when books do that) and made me believe that this ridiculous tale actually happened. It was just hard not to after you had been on this journey with Pi. When the people at the end were questioning it and trying to negate it I found myself on Pi’s side because in the world of the book there is no one else’s side I could be on.

I guess that was kind of what I liked most about this book. It forced me to act against character, because I know if I had been told the story that Pi was telling in my actual I would have taken it with several massive pinches of salt. Here though, not so much. I went on version of that journey with Pi and would strongly recommend that others do the same.

2) Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins – 4/5 stars

My relationship with this little gem started when I kept on seeing it on my dash on Tumblr. Like on an almost daily basis. So I decided to take a walk on down to my local Waterstones to have a look and there it was, one of the last copies nestled on the bookshelf. Obviously I bought it. And then I started reading it about half an hour later.

Then I kept reading it.

And then it was finished.

I went in having almost no expectations and definitely no clue as to what the plot was. I just assumed it had something to do with Paris. I think that was part of the reason I fell in love with it so quickly, I didn’t have to put any preconceived notions or other people’s opinions aside in order to enjoy it.

Anna as a protagonist was instantly likable and I could see certain aspects of myself in her. I have been the person looking in at already existing friendships and trying to somehow mesh into them. It didn’t work as well for me as it did for Anna. But I liked Anna, she was funny and a tad all over the place, and to be honest, refreshingly normal. Although that last part may just be because the last female lead that I encountered was Amy Elliott and well if you’ve read Gone Girl you know how that goes.

I have written in the list of all of the books that I have listed for this challenge that this one counts as my book with a love triangle in it. And as books with love triangles go this is one my favourites because it is just one corner of the triangle. The main point of it is St Clair and because of the perspective this book is told from I never really had to deal with him flitting between Anna and Ellie first hand. And it was fantastic for me. Although still super frustrating because I just wanted to scream at St Clair to use his words and get his shit together. Although I guess if he did that then I wouldn’t have an entire book to fall in love with…

3) Lola and the Boy Next Door – Stephanie Perkins – 4/5 stars 

I told myself that I was going to not buy anymore books and make my way through the books I already own for this challenge, but I loved AATFK so much that I couldn’t not. So I went down to Waterstones again and picked up books 2 and 3 (last copy of IATHEA, so clearly that was fate). I got back home, picked up this book and kept reading and reading and reading and then 5 hours had gone by and I had finished it and fallen a little bit in love in the process. It was the perfect book to snuggle down with on a slightly dreary Saturday afternoon.

Anyway onto the book itself. Firstly I loved how on the whole Lola was so unashamedly and self assuredly herself and didn’t feel the need to change it for anybody even though other people didn’t really understand her. More importantly, I loved that Cricket never expected her to be anything but herself and embraced her quirkiness and well thought through outfits (seriously they sounded so damn intricate and impressive).

Another thing I quite liked was that Cricket wasn’t afraid of his feelings. He just came out and said them unapologetically and it was refreshing, especially because St Clair in the first book just didn’t (Anna and St Clair and little check in with their relationship from an outsider perspective was much appreciated and I loved the interactions/relationship between Lola and Anna). Which brings me on to another thing about Cricket that I liked. That gift at the end was so sweet and well thought through and adorable and a cute little way to end the book. And I just felt all warm and fuzzy when I was reading it, which sometimes is the best way to feel when you’re reading on a slightly dreary and cold Saturday afternoon.

I would 100% recommend this book if you just want a little bit of escapism in a well written, easy to read manner.

4) Isla and the Happily Ever After – Stephanie Perkins – 4/5 stars

So with this book I started around about the time I did a couple of weeks of work, therefore I restricted myself to reading this on my train journey to and from the office. That meant I was reading this in two half hour installments a day and it was fine at first, and then things started getting interesting and I would have to leave it on slight cliffhangers and it would sit in my bag next to me at my desk and mock me for the day.

The thing with this book is that it was too good too soon. I was like 150 pages in or so and realised that this could only go downhill. And then it did and my heart broke a little (and my train journey stopped, curse you arrival to Old Street!). I loved (is that the right word?) the fall out from it and it was in that moment that I realised that of the three protagonists in this series Isla was the one that I related to most. I understood the way she was feeling and reading her come to terms with that and figuring out that she was worth so much more was so satisfying to read.

Shout out to that Anna/St Clair conclusion. And also watching Elijah become his own person outside of Isla was delightful to see (as was the fact that there was no ulterior motive to the Isla/Elijah friendship.)

This may be my favourite one of the three of them and therefore obviously I would recommend this one as well.

5) The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion – 4.5/5 stars

Total change of pace, veering away from YA, but still reading it in the confines of two half hour train journeys, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I’m gonna go as far as to say as it is one of the best books I have read in a while (I am pretending there is not a sequel right now, because I have a whole load of other books to read).

I picked this book purely based on the cover and went in with no expectations (which is the best way to go into it I feel). I had no idea what it was about and then I read the first page and honestly thought I was going to hate Don as a narrator, although I’m going to be honest that is primarily because I have never encountered a protagonist that most likely falls on the autism spectrum before and I didn’t quite know what to do with it. But within a few pages I was hooked, Don’s view on things was so blunt and black and white that it was fascinating to watch the very well stitched together seams of his life slowly get picked apart by Rosie.

I’m pretty sure I went through most of the emotions available to me on the spectrum (except tears) through the course of the book and it sure made train journeys more interesting and may have caused a few commuters to throw a strange look my way as I tried to keep my reactions minimal (and probably failed at many points).

The ending, oh my gosh the ending! I have been jilted by many an ending to both books and TV shows (and the odd film) and I still can’t decide how I feel about it. Mainly disbelief and surprise and this overwhelming feeling of fate having to exist because well the whole book is kinda about that in a round about way. I loved it. I loved watching Don question everything that he thought he knew, I loved watching him come to terms with some of his feelings, I loved Don’s characterisation, I even kind of liked some of Gene’s actions and I really didn’t like him as a character. I loved it.

I cannot recommend it strongly enough. Seriously read it.

Okay, so that’s the first five done, I figured out over on Goodreads that I have 40 books (not even close to 52 really is it?) to read for this challenge and I am five down so yay! 

Now, parentheses count: 21. See you on Wednesday!

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