Books, Reading Challenge, reviews

2018 Reading Challenge, Book 1 – History is All You Left Me

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I never stop with the book reading/reviewing thing. And yes, I am already coming at you with my first book of the year.

It took me just about 5 days to read, but on the 5th day I only spent about 5 minutes reading it because I only had 10 pages left and wasn’t with it enough to just finish it at home like I probably should have done…it meant I had to carry two books with me on that Friday, but ho hey.

The first book in question is this one:

2018 Reading Challenge, Book 1, History is All You Left Me
2018 Reading Challenge, Book 1, History is All You Left Me

I’m gonna be honest, I just saw this book crop up a lot on both Twitter and Instagram and well, it doesn’t take much for me to be interested by the prospect of new books, and so as 2017 drew to a close I went on a bit of a book buying binge and this was included within it.

I can’t lie, it took me a while to get into this book. Something about the way it is told really threw me, most likely because I just wasn’t expecting I don’t think. It took me about 50 pages before I really started to mesh with it and after that I just blazed through it.

While I’m talking about the way it’s written, and although it did take me a little bit to get used to it, I found the way that it was written really clever. The two narratives, that eventually merge together in some way at some point was really well done and it really took you on the journey with Griffin as he comes to terms with Theo’s death and the state that it has left his life and the life of those who also knew Theo. Seeing the way that things were in direct juxtaposition with the way that things are was heartbreaking in a lot of ways.

The thing that I really loved, and it was kind of momentary, was how in the present Griffin said that he was done talking to Theo and then the narrative instantly changed. It kind of made me really appreciate that the whole of the present was basically just Griffin trying to come to terms with his new reality. I mean you do kind of know that when it switches between history and present but that total switch off just really drives that home.

I found Griffin himself quite an interesting character to follow as you as a reader move with him as he tries to process his grief and where he stands without Theo. The way he interacts with Jackson felt real. The idea that you try to latch onto the one person that you feel will understand exactly what you’re going through felt pretty accurate. Was it kind of obvious that they were gonna end up having sex? Yeah kind of, but this book did a good job of turning things on it’s head in some ways. Because while I saw it coming I didn’t see the reason for it happening coming. I didn’t see the sequence of events that led up to the incident that killed Theo coming, mainly because I didn’t see Wade coming. I mean he was always there and I found the way he interacted with one of his former closest friends post Theo’s death a bit odd but it got all the more heartbreaking the further you moved through the book.

Yeah, that whole thing really took me by surprise. In a really great way. This book was full of little surprises and unanswered questions that were never going to be answered because they just weren’t Griffin’s story to tell.

The ending, we all know I love to talk about an ending, this one I liked. It seemed to come out of nowhere but that was just because I was so into it that I didn’t want it to end. The ending felt conclusive and it also, funnily enough, felt in keeping with the rest of the novel. It ended on a question that all boils down to perspective. This whole story was from Griffin’s perspective. It was how he viewed all the events that had happened over the past couple of years. There were flashes of how other people saw things but only in how they related to Griffin. And the ending just seemed to remind you as a reader that there are several different versions of the history that has just been told. I just liked that it remained so very complicated and even though I didn’t want it to end, it could only really have ended the way that it did and it ended on a hopeful note in some ways.

It reflected that there is some kind of light at the end of the tunnel in amongst the grief if you just let yourself at least try. And that’s just another way that this book felt so real.

I loved this book. It was a great first book of the year and I am so glad that I got some Adam Silvera in my life. I’m sad because that is no longer the case as I have finished both of his books now, but more on the second one later.

I recommend completely.

4/5 stars

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Books, Reading Challenge, reviews

Bonus Book Review – Caraval

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And here we have the final book review of the books that I read in 2017. Now, you may notice that there are 2 books missing, Alexander Hamilton and  Don Juan. That’s because I just couldn’t read them in time. In terms of pages there were both totally doable to do in the 10 days that I had, but what I hadn’t accounted for rather foolishly was how dense they were. Which made it almost impossible to read them in time. They are both still books that I am making my way through because I did start them and made it some of the way through, but they weren’t going to be read in 2017. Which means that the total number of books that I read last year was 53, which was ahead of my target and kind of blows my mind because previous years have barely broke 40 and this one surpassed it.

The last book that I read of the year was this one:

Bonus Book Review, Caraval
Bonus Book Review, Caraval

First of all the pages are gilded. Red gilded. We all know how I feel about a gilded page. The book is just very aesthetically pleasing. And so it the contents.

This book was captivating.

I blitzed through it in about 4 hours total in the end and the last two days I was reading it I was so stressed out trying to figure everything out. And it kept on surprising me. Seriously, it was one of those books that always kept me guessing. I both loved and hated that.

Mostly hated.

Not for any bad reasons, but seriously at one point I was so stressed out by all the possibilities that the story could have gone down. It didn’t work out the way that I thought it would. Not at all. In fact the whole narrative didn’t really end where I thought it would.

It was all very stressful.

It was also the perfect ending for my fiction reading of 2017.

This book gave me serious The Night Circus vibes and not just because it was set in that kind of magical realm where things weren’t quite as they seemed and all that jazz. It just evoked the same kind of feeling that I felt when I was reading that book. I loved the character building and the set up of the world and how they all wove in with each other.

It was just delightful.

Okay, let’s get into the characters a bit.

Scarlett was an interesting character to follow the arc of. The way the reader watched her evolve and went on the rollercoaster that was her storyline meant that it was kind of hard not to like her a little bit. Or a lot. And then in total contrast to her was Donatella who as the story progressed you realised maybe wasn’t all that different to her. The whole dynamic between the two sisters was one of my favourite aspects of the whole book and I am really interested to see where that ends up going in the next book.

Julian was fascinating. I liked that even by the end of the book you never really know where you stand with him. The same, obviously, applies to Legend as well. The whole last 50 pages of this book really confused me pretty much for that reason. In fact it was the main cause for my stress. I don’t really know what to think of Scarlett and Donatella’s father, I never really felt his motives for treating his daughters the way he did ever reached a state of clarity, in fact a lot of their back story remains kind of murky and I hope that’s just because otherwise the book might get all info dump-y and these things are going to slowly make themselves clearer in time. If not then that aspect will be a little disappointing as it was kind of the only down side. This also kind of applies to the Count, he felt a bit like a wasted character and his appearance mad little to no sense. Although having said that both of their presence did help with the development of Scarlett, which is ultimately the most important part.

I am super interested as how the next book is going to play out, because the way Donatella talked about the way it worked as the book wrapped up was hella intriguing and even though this book felt like it concluded in some way, and it alleviated a lot of the stress that the previous pages had caused me, it did also open up a whole new realm of possibilities that I am excited to see play out.

I would definitely recommend giving this book a read, it’s crept onto my list of books that I will pretty much always tell people to read and that is a pretty hard list to get on for me. So yeah, do it. Read it.

4/5 stars

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Books, Reading Challenge, reviews

2017 Reading Challenge Book 45 – Grimm’s Fairytales

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I gave you far warning that this month would be very heavy on the book reviews right? Because I am very aware that it has almost been nothing but, but well I had a lot of catching up to do. I’ve done a lot of reading since August and not a lot of talking about them in specifics.

So, the next book in question is this one:

2017 Reading Challenge, Book 45, Grimm's Fairytales
2017 Reading Challenge, Book 45, Grimm’s Fairytales

I’ve pushed this book on my reading list so many times since I picked it up in September. I got like a third or something of the way through it before I couldn’t do it anymore and then moved onto my penultimate Neil Gaiman book of the year. Then I shifted to my bonus books for the year because I did not have the heart to go back to this book and finish it.

You’d think it would be a relatively easy book to get through. What I hadn’t anticipated was how long the book actually was in itself, my edition is like 400 pages or something, which I didn’t know at first. Then there is the fact that there is an awful lot of repetition in this thing. I honestly think I read the same story back to back several times with just some slight amendments. And this happened so many times.

I finished so many of them jut confused as to what the hell the moral was even supposed to be and then being mildly impressed that they managed to actually write the same story again and again and get away with it some capacity. And then I kept wondering why I was wasting my time with them in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong, some of them are great. But, like it’s the ones that everybody knows about and the ones that get fleshed out in order to become something (like a Disney film). The rest are all just kind of weird. And full of strange stuff. And there’s a lot of people looking for things and being deceived and deceptive and people turning into animals and trying to get turned back. It’s all just very strange and it does nothing for teaching anyone anything I feel.

The ones that I liked were well written. I liked that they were short and sweet but still relatively compact with morals and all that jazz. There just didn’t need to be so many of them. At all.

Apparently some editions of this book can be over 700 pages and that’s just too many pages for a book that is effectively the same story but recycled in many ways.

I would recommend all the ones that you already know from this. Then you can kind of read a couple of other ones and get the jist for the rest of them. I’m being serious. Don’t do the whole thing to yourself. It’s kind of not worth the time and there’s a reason it took me like 2/3 months to get from the first story to the last one.

2/5 stars

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Books, Reading Challenge, reviews

2017 Reading Challenge, Book 44 – The View From the Cheap Seats

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This my last Neil Gaiman book of the year and I was almost so sad about it when I realised that. I’ve had a lot of Gaiman in my life this year and I never really thought about it coming to an end.

But it did.

And it came to an end with this:

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J8NN614RO915

Now I knew that this was a non-fiction book. I just didn’t really know what the exact set up of it was. Turns out it was just a collection of his non-fiction writing, be they introductions that he has written for books, speeches he has given or interviews that he did for various things.

It was full of things that I really needed to read in the run up to Nano (let’s not talk about that one though. I mean I will, but not right now. The relationship remains complicated.). There was a lot of inspirational stuff, there was a lot of stuff in there that meant that I just added to my ever growing reading list, there was just a lot of stuff in it.

A lot of great stuff.

The kind of stuff that just reaffirms your belief in something. I don’t even know what exactly, but it just soothed some part of my soul.

I love the worlds that Gaiman creates, I love getting to fall into them and seeing what is going to happen with them. His non-fiction work is funnily enough similar in that respect. Only it’s grounded in a bit more reality.

It talks about genre and writing and other authors/musicians in such a gorgeous way that it’s hard not to be somewhat enthralled by it all.

For example, there is a heavy focus on sci-fi in this, which for the most part is not a genre I read all that often. I mean I do and I usually love it, but it’s just not high on my list of go to books when I go to pick up a new book. But making my way through this book I found myself more intrigued by it as a genre. There is a foundation for me to build on. Starting points for me to go through. I ended up with a well compiled list that were sold to me so well just by the way that Gaiman spoke about them that it just felt natural.

It gave me a different perspective on fantasy as well, which is a genre that I read, but I tend to be relatively safe with it. I stick with what I kind of know and for that reason a lot of the worlds that are created in the books I read have a lot of similarities and I don’t tend to venture into high fantasy partly out of fear. Again this book changed those views somewhat. In that it makes me want to dip my toe in slightly deeper fantastical waters. Again, this book provided some kind of foundation for that.

It gave me a perspective on some music that to be honest I’ve never really thought about before. It changed the way that I viewed music in terms of lyrics and things. It sort of fuelled a different appreciation for music just by the way that Gaiman talks about it.

That’s the thing that I love so much about this is just getting to swim in all of Gaiman’s thoughts on things and getting to feel his appreciation for them. Finding out what fuels other people and getting to see/hear/read them talk about something that they care about is one of my favourite things, which means that this book was just right up my street.

If you want to read some non-fiction, have a particular interest in science fiction or just want your faith in literature restored then I would recommend this book in a heartbeat. Especially if you love Neil Gaiman in the first place. But if you only read one part of this book then make it the Make Good Art piece. And if you love Terry Pratchett then read the last story, although be warned it may break your heart a little….

4/5 stars

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