Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Mini Review: The Gifts Of Reading; Robert Macfarlane.

I've really got on board with smaller books this year, especially non-fiction! I was ordering Christmas presents online when stumbling upon this one and I thought, at £2? Why not? It's a short essay of course, but a nice philosophical outlook on generosity, which December is the perfect month for!

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: The Gifts Of Reading
AUTHOR: Robert Macfarlane
GENRE: Non-Fiction, Essays

RATING: 4/5 Stars

Every book is a kind of gift to its reader, and the act of giving books is charged with a special emotional resonance. It is a meeting of three minds (the giver, the author, the recipient), an exchange of intellectual and psychological currency, that leaves each participant enriched. Here Robert Macfarlane recounts the story of a book he was given as a young man, and how he managed eventually to return the favour, though never repay the debt.

Overall Conclusion:
It only takes five minutes to read this book so I won't spend too much time on it, but this was a good read that is well worth the short reading time. Lyrical and charming are a couple of ways to describe Macfarlane's writing, and there were certainly some gorgeous quotes in this one! I also liked the bittersweet anecdotes and was surprised at how emotional I felt reading them. This certainly makes me want to read some of his other, longer works and I enjoyed the book recommendations in this essay. This is, after all, a piece about books!

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'The Best Books That I Read In 2017'.

It's the end of the year, and that's always my favourite because I get to reflect on everything I've read in the last year and pick my favourites. There were some wonderful books this year, so it will be tough choosing ten!

1) 'A Quiet Kind Of Thunder' by Sara Barnard.

This year was a really good year for YA contemporary reads for me. I received an ARC of this eagerly anticipated read from My Kinda Book after I enjoyed Barnard's debut, 'Beautiful Broken Things' so much. I loved this even better. It was a light, fluffy romance (the kind of read that usually makes me roll my eyes) but it felt so inclusive and Barnard did such a great job representing the deaf community. I look forward to reading my copy of 'Goodbye, Perfect'!

2) 'Radio Silence' by Alice Oseman.

Alice Oseman was on my list of authors to read, and 'Radio Silence' proved to be another fantastic contemporary read. Not only did she write a very diverse cast list, but she also made her characters real and relatable. The best kind of teenage reads are always those that remind me of my own teenage years, and this one definitely did! Especially as it is set in the UK!

3) 'A Darker Shade Of Magic' by V.E. Schwab.

This was a year for reading authors that I probably should have read long ago. V.E. Schwab was one of those authors. This book has been raved about in all corners of the blogosphere, and I really wanted to see what it was all about! I loved the fantastical elements: parallel Londons accessed via magical doors, a strong female thief, a Victorian setting. It was amazing. I look forward to reading the next in the series!

4) 'Noteworthy' by Riley Redgate.

I really enjoyed Redgate's debut 'Seven Ways We Lie', and so I knew that 'Noteworthy' would make this list. I have never read a book about acapella groups before, and this proved to be a worthy first. Being set in a performing arts college, it actually reminded me of my own University experiences, and those that enjoy Shakespeare's play 'Twelfth Night', Glee or Pitch Perfect will love this book.

5) 'One Of Us Is Lying' by Karen M. McManus.

Another ones for established fans of TV Shows/Films, but this time I'd aim it at those who liked Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl or The Breakfast Club. It has clearly taken elements from each and evolved them into a thrilling whodunnit that will keep you guessing until the very end. I loved that each character had secrets and they were all given POV chapters so that the reader could really connect with them.

6) 'The Final Empire' by Brandon Sanderson.

Everyone I know has been telling me to read books by Brandon Sanderson. They all said his work would be right up my street, and my friends clearly know me well because I seriously regret not digging into his novels sooner. 'The Final Empire' was more than I anticipated, being more than just characters on a quest. Con artists, thieves, revolutions and rebellions are all found in this fantastic book!

7) 'I Am Malala' by Malala Yousfazai.

The only non-fiction read included on this list, but so important and inspiring. I have of course heard of Malala, she was all over the news when she arrived in England after being shot by the Taliban in her country. But I never understood her story until I read this book, and it gives a really good idea of exactly how the Taliban became a major force in the first place. This book is enlightening to say the least.

8) 'Lies We Tell Ourselves' by Robin Talley.

I'm 99% sure that by the end of 2017, if I had to pick a 'favourite' book for the year, it would be this one. Those first few chapters horrified me, and broke my heart. I liked Talley's 'As I Descended' a lot, but this one blew me away completely! It definitely deserved it's Carnegie Medal nomination, that's for sure. An f/f historical romance set in 1959, during the fight against segregation, that is written beautifully and thoughtfully.

9) 'The Goblins Of Bellwater' by Molly Ringle.

I expected to like this book a lot, but it really did blow me away much more than I thought it would. I've been wanting to read a book about goblins for some time, and Ringle got them so right. Mischievous, strong and very sinister. New Adult is not normally a genre I go for, but I was taken by surprise here. I loved shipping the couples (even the weird, 'cursed' one) and no one can deny that this book is gripping.

10) 'The Girl In The Tower' by Katherine Arden.

Also: A special mention for 'The Bear & The Nightingale' which I read at the beginning of the year.

That's right. I'm cheating. I read and loved 'The Bear & The Nightingale' in January, and it would certainly have made the official top ten list had I not adored it's sequel even more. I love fairy tale retellings, especially if the tales are not so well known or from another culture. Here, the folklore is Russian, and Arden did a great job incorporating the many spirits, creatures and Gods as well as legendary figures into her work. With a strong heroine and more POV chapters from her family too, it was the perfect sequel.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Last Week's Shenanigans (4th December - 10th December)...

What a strange week! I feel like so much has happened, but looking back on it, it hasn't really. Mat and I put up our Christmas decorations on Monday, watched Frozen, listened to some Christmas bangers and generally had a very festive day. I love decorating the tree, so it was a lot of fun! We've been trying to watch The Punisher TV series on Netflix to catch up with the MCU because we want to get back to The Walking Dead!

On Friday I did something very exciting too. I won't talk about it too much for now but it gave me the opportunity to explore Canary Wharf a little, somewhere in London that I've never actually been until now. It is beautiful. The shopping centres are so cute too, I even popped into a Waterstones to buy my self a little treat. I ended up buying four little treats...I have no regrets.

I Read...

I Received...

- We Care For You by Paul KitCatt: Approved by Netgalley (04/12/17)
- Moonshine by Jasmine Gower: Approved by Netgalley (04/12/17)
The Beginning Of The World In The Middle Of The Night by Jen Campbell: Approved by Netgalley (07/12/17)
- Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie: Bought in Waterstones (08/12/17)
- Last Night In Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel: Bought in Waterstones (08/12/17)
- Calm by Tim Parks: Bought in Waterstones (08/12/17)
- Madness by Roald Dahl: Bought in Waterstones (08/12/17)
- The Gifts Of Reading by Robert Macfarlane: Bought on Amazon (10/12/17)

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Book Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki & His Years Of Pilgrimage'; Haruki Murakami.

This book, for better or for worse, provoked a strong reaction out of me. I'm still not quite sure whether I liked or disliked it for that very reason, especially as I threw it so violently across the room upon finishing it.

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki & His Years Of Pilgrimage
AUTHOR: Haruki Murakami

PAGES: 298
GENRE: Contemporary, Asian Literature, Adult

RATING: 3.5/5 Stars

Tsukuru Tazaki had four best friends at school. By chance all of their names contained a colour. The two boys were called Akamatsu, meaning ‘red pine’, and Oumi, ‘blue sea’, while the girls’ names were Shirane, ‘white root’, and Kurono, ‘black field’. Tazaki was the only last name with no colour in it.

One day Tsukuru Tazaki’s friends announced that they didn't want to see him, or talk to him, ever again.

Since that day Tsukuru has been floating through life, unable to form intimate connections with anyone. But then he meets Sara, who tells him that the time has come to find out what happened all those years ago.

What I Liked:
  • Okay, so after a slow start, this story gripped me. It was weird, metaphorical and almost 100% symbolism rather then literal. But it worked. And the mystery was one I was totally on board with. I wanted to know all about Tsukuru's past, his four friends, and what had happened all those years ago. The side tracking did help to build tension, Murakami certainly has a knack for keeping readers hooked.
  • I liked Tsukuru as an MC! He was a little lifeless (as he was supposed to be) but his strange anxieties and elements of his depression and paranoia resonated with me, making it impossible not to care about the fate of his character. I loved watching him develop too, as he got deeper into the mystery and started to care more.
What I Disliked:
  • I did not become that invested in 294 pages for that ending. I'm sorry, I hate vague endings at their best, but here I felt like I was missing pages. There were so many unsolved mysteries and unanswered questions, and that final chapter felt like such a waste of page space. Maybe I just didn't get it, or it wasn't supposed to be important, but it's the reason why I had such a tantrum after being so engrossed. I was disappointed.
Overall Conclusion:
This book won't be for everyone. I have doubts that it was for me even, but really I can't deny that I found it highly thrilling to read most of the time. It definitely had a slow start though, and Murakami's tendency to go of on a totally unrelated tangent will irritate people if they like a story that keeps moving. I have so many regrets about becoming so invested however, because now I am left feeling cheated. What did Sara say on Wednesday? What actually happened to Shiro? And where did Haida go? I will never know. That upsets me.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Book Review: A Christmas Carol; Charles Dickens.

My first ever Dickens read? Whaaaaat? The truth is, I've grown up with his work, I loved the film Oliver! while growing up and watch The Muppets Christmas Carol every year at Christmas! This year, I felt it was necessary to read the book as well, seeing as I've loved the story so much for so long. It did not disappoint.

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: A Christmas Carol
AUTHOR: Charles Dickens
PUBLISHER: Wisehouse Classics

GENRE: Classics, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

A Christmas Carol tells the story of a bitter old miser named Ebenezer Scrooge and his transformation into a gentler, kindlier man after visitations by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come.

What I Liked:
  • Dickens' characters are a little like caricatures, and that's what I love about them. They are exaggerated, but it's part of the story's charm. I love how much personality and quirky humour he gave each one, and it made the story so endearing to read! I was also glad for the female characters in this book: they are strong, have a voice, and are viewed as 'equals' in almost every respect.
  • The story itself is famous but I was surprised to see how deep and reflective it really got. I recognised some of the quotes (this book is very quotable) and it really is a book that makes the reader reflect upon the true meaning of Christmas.
  • Dickens did a great job with the fantastical elements of the story, and it was my favourite part of reading it. His ideas for the ghosts that visit him, Marley's fate and the way that the story plays out really shows a great imagination on Dickens' part. Bravo!
What I Disliked:
  • I think that Dickens handled the 'paid per word' thing that Victorian writers did really well! He almost mocked himself for it! That being said, as a lot of Victorian literature is, Dickens used a lot of repetition in this one. Do you need that many paragraphs to tell me that Marley is dead? I think not.
Overall Conclusion:
I adored this book and the proof is in the fact that I didn't originally intend to read this right now. I opened it on my Kindle in preparation for when I would nearer to Christmas and found myself completely engrossed. It was everything I'd hoped, watching media adaptations before reading the source material can often be a disappointing experience. Not here.

Last Week's Shenanigans (27th November - 3rd December)...

This week feels busier than it has actually been because I've done a few things differently at work! But I did get a lot of time to myself and I really enjoyed taking more time to read! On Sunday I went down to Ashford with Mat to see my family. We went for a lovely dinner with my grandparents and discussed all the exciting, upcoming things in our lives.

I Read...

I Received...

- 'The Wicked Cometh' by Laura Carlin: Approved by Netgalley (28/11/17)
- 'The Cruel Prince' by Holly Black: Approved by Netgalley (28/11/17)
- 'Folk' by Zoe Gilbert: Approved by Netgalley (30/11/17)
- 'Piecing Me Together' by RenĂ©e Watson: Approved by Netgalley (30/11/17)
- 'The Battlemage' by Taran Matharu: Approved by Netgalley (30/11/17)
- 'The Mermaid And Mrs Hancock' by Imogen Hermes Gowar: Approved by Netgalley (01/12/17)
- 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens: Bought on Amazon (03/12/17)


Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Winter TBR List

I Posted...

November Wrap-Up
Planned Reads For December
Bookish Bingo Sign-Up Post

Friday, 1 December 2017

Book Review: Ghost Stories; Whit Taylor.

Here's the thing. I thought the cover of this graphic novel was so cute and the premise looked promising. Everything else...I really didn't like.

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: Ghost Stories
AUTHOR: Whit Taylor
PUBLISHER: Rosarium Publishing

PAGES: 157
GENRE: Young Adult, Graphic Novels, Contemporary

RATING: 1/5 Stars

Ghost Stories is a graphic novel collection offering three haunting explorations.

Granted the chance to meet three of her dead idols in "Ghost," the author’s cartoon-self embarks on a journey to remote and unanticipated landscapes, in a story of self-discovery and healing. In "Wallpaper," a child tells the story of a household move, remodel, and loss through the lens of flashbulb memory. And in "Makers," two girls with an unorthodox friendship make a rocky transition into adulthood. 

Throughout each tale, ghosts exist as past selves and remnants of past relationships that are met with inquiry, resolution, and personal rebirth.

What I Liked:

  • Uhh...like I said, the cover? Seriously guys. I struggled with this one and spent the whole read trying to make sense of and like something. I failed.
What I Disliked:
  • The stories were so disappointing. I already knew they weren't going to be creepy, I didn't feel misled by the title in any way (a lot of people were though). However, I was expecting deep and reflective. I got what felt like a load of nonsense. There was no point to any of them - 'Ghost' felt more like a poor theory lesson on Campbell and Darwin's life work more than anything. 'Wallpaper went by so quickly that I did not get a story from it at all. And 'Makers' felt...pointless?
  • The art...meh. It was rough. Like looking at a twelve year old's homework, not the work of a professional artist. It might sound harsh but I really hated it and I felt pretty cheated. Even the wallpaper designs for story two really didn't entice me, and the odd glimmer of 'oh that panel looks semi-okay' is not what I expect to find in published work.
  • The work is riddled with grammatical and factual errors? Firstly referring to a companion as 'me and <name> went to...' made me inexplicably angry. 'NAME'. AND. I.' Also, don't make a joke about the moon by referring to it as a planet? It's a moon. Which is why it's called the moon.
Overall Conclusion:
Hmm. Maybe I've been harsh but I really felt very negatively about this work. It felt, above all, that it had been lazily handled by all parties. An editor really ought to have gone through this with a fine tooth comb but it really showed that this hadn't happened. I expected way more than I got and it left me feeling very lacklustre about the whole thing.