2015 Reading Challenge – Book Reviews Pt. 3

Hi, Hey, Hello!

These review posts are gonna arrive like buses this week. None for ages and then two come along at once. The main reason for that is because I hit a massive reading slump and couldn’t really get into any books. Then I started commuting to and from work and acquired half an hour of uninterrupted time to read and finally switching off technology for one day over the weekend and spending it doing other things, like reading (or anything else creative). So in the last month and a bit I have finished 10 books easily. There is very little more satisfying then turning a final page over and shutting a book before picking up a new one and starting a new adventure (on Thursday I got to do that in between train journeys which was fun). This surge in reading productivity also means that I am creeping ever closer to actually maybe completing this Goodreads challenge (although the amount of looonnngggg (and in some cases really dense) books that are to TBR list for the rest of the year are presenting a challenge in themselves to me already). I’m just gonna start reviewing these books now.

  1. The Book Thief – Markus Zukas – 4.5/5 stars

This book took me an annoyingly long 12 weeks to finish because I was mid reading it when that wall crashed over me, but that is no reflection on the book itself, because damn it is really good.

Firstly I loved the fact that it is told from the perspective of Death because it is such a unique view point to take on a World War II story. This was doubled by the fact that the main protagonist of the story was this little girl who was navigating her way through a slowly more and more war torn Germany. For various reasons I have read a lot of literature from with a storyline that takes place during the war and this one was by far my favourite because it has such a different take on it. And the way Death narrates the story is so beautiful at points and just heartbreaking at others.

Another thing that I found myself really enjoying in this book, which I don’t always because sometimes it can get really confusing, is the fact that this book isn’t told 100% linearly. It links back to the narrator being Death who is reflecting on this particular story but I liked that certain plot points where mentioned early on in the novel and then trailed throughout the story until they became relevant again. It added an even greater sense of sadness to events because as a reader you already know the fate of some characters and it never got too confusing or felt like your head was all over the place. The stories of the characters all came together perfectly and so beautifully and the ending was so bittersweet…and maybe a tad emotional. The overall structure of it was something that I really noticed and could probably get proper analytic about it if I keep typing so I gonna stop and move on.

But also, I highly recommend this book.

2. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde – 4/5 stars

I had no intention of reading this book when I did, but then I found myself in Waterstones sub-consciously searching for this book because I was in the depths of a Penny Dreadful binge watch. Then I read it mid- The Book Thief and I’m gonna say it was what kick started the whole reading thing again.

While I enjoyed this book (it even forced me back into the habit of annotating the margins which I haven’t done since I graduated and forgot how much I enjoyed just writing my thoughts next to the words directly) I’m just gonna say it. Chapter 9 was maybe the most pointless chapter of literature I have ever forced my way through. Ever. And also for a little while it’s not even bloody relevant to the plot, other than to highlight just how immortal Dorian really is. Which I can’t help but feel was already known. While I’m talking about Dorian, and yes I am aware that in many ways this was probably Wilde’s intentions, good grief was he annoying. His continual fascination with youth and immortality came across as so immature at times, which was definitely a good thing actually as it continually brought back to your attention as a reader that he is kinda still very much a child. He’s susceptible to what Henry is saying and that’s why he got himself into the whole immortality mess, but I haven’t want to shake some sense into a character so much in a very long time (I also wanted to do the same with Henry actually, mainly to stop him from sounding so ridiculous, even though there was a part of me that entertained by their sustained levels of pretension).

The language of this book was maybe my favourite part of it. I loved the recurring images that Wilde kept going back to throughout the narrative and even though at times it did feel a bit excessive overall it is was very suited and in keeping with the tone of the story. The final image of the story was so well constructed and .I loved how it came to a close. If you’re looking for a classic then I would defo recommend this one.

3. Bossypants – Tina Fey – 3.5/5 stars

The cover of this book has caused me much amusement every time I see it on a bookshelf over the past few years and honestly was one of the first things I noticed about. The other thing I noticed was that it was by Tina Fey. But for some reason I never went to buy it, probably because I am so fiction minded sometimes that although I acknowledge non-fiction books I don’t tend to gravitate to them in the same way I do the fiction section.

And that’s where this challenge this year has been really useful because it’s forcing me out of my reading comfort zone and that pretty much started with this.

I know going into it that there would be an element of comedy to it because it’s Tina Fey. And that was exactly what I got. Multiple times I found myself audibly laughing on the train (at rush hour I might add, yes I got some strange looks sometimes. Mainly in the morning). The way it is written makes it an enjoyable read because there is an element of it being a real page turner, that honestly I wasn’t expecting, and I found myself burning through it super quickly. And enjoying every single second of it.

4. Yes Please – Amy Poehler – 4/5 stars

Obviously I followed up Fey’s autobiography with the one from her partner in crime. Which I loved so, so, so much. Like it’s probably my second favourite book I’ve read this year so far (because, yup The Night Circus still honestly owns a part of my soul and shows no signs of relinquishing it anytime soon).

It was so witty and funny and I loved the chapter headings and the fact that there were a couple of chapters written by other people, adding another layer to it. I loved how honest the first chapter was (writing is hard). I loved the way it was written. I loved the pictures. I loved the fact that I got so caught up in it that I forgot that I was on a train on my way to or from work (I am also very grateful for the fact that I am pretty the end of the line both outward and inward so I don’t 100% have to pay attention, usually) Should I stop saying ‘I loved’?

Okay I will after this, I loved that I came away from that book with a greater appreciation for Amy Poehler and a new philosophy for life ‘Good for you, not for me’.

5. James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl – 3/5 stars

I had an entire Sunday afternoon on my own splayed out in front of me, so I went ahead and read the book that started it all.

It being my love affair with reading and all things to do with it.

Firstly I actually completely forgot that Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge were truly awful human beings. Just so terrible. Actually none of the adults were all that great because there was a serious case of Stranger Danger with that dude that gave James those green thingies that changed his life. That guy was creepy and his aunts were poorly equipped to deal with a child (or maybe just other people in general…).

Still undecided as to whether it was good option for James to live in a giant peach with giant insects, but it probably was. What was weird (which sounds strange given that the majority of this story surrounds a giant bloody peach) was how fantasical it was. The thing with the seagulls keeping them suspended for so long, ending up pierced on a skyscraper in New York somehow, the shoes on the centipede (seriously, where did they come from??). But then at the same time I liked how that ignited my imagination and it was those really freaking strange parts that made me remember why I fell in love with this book (and Dahl in general) in the first place all those years ago.

Another thing that I most definitely did not appreciate when I was younger (or even notice in all honesty) was the little breaks in the prose for sections of poetry. If there was one thing that I learned about myself during my years at uni it was that sometimes (and it is only sometimes) I love a good change in form mid book. I learnt this mainly from A Visit From the Goon Squad which most notably just has a chapter that is told in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, and I loved it (and even though I am not talking about that book in any depth AT ALL, I recommend that book as well. One of the best things I ever read for my degree).

This served as a nice little trip down memory lane and I’m glad I took it.

Right that these one’s done. See you for more of the same (but obviously with different books) tomorrow!

(I didn’t forget. Parentheses count: 19)

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