Good Day

It seems my move to York may have interrupted my little ol’ blog life a tad, which I am not complaining about, but I feel like I should maybe get my self back in the world of Books&this in the hope that I can still remember how to write things that are not just work centric.

So hello there.

Good day to you.

What have I been reading of late?… well, not enough if I am honest!

As you can probably see by my 2015 page, the list is not on a par with last year. I am going to blame this on an ever expanding social life (erm) and not just that I am sleepy of an eve and would rather just sleep.

Currently I am reading The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton but it seems to be a little slow going for my liking. This is not helped by the fact I bought a beautiful hardback floral copy which is a little cumbersome to carry around so it has not been glued to me like paperbacks often are.

However, it is a sunny day today and I have limited plans so I think a sit in the garden with a book and a drink* may be in order.

In other book news I did get a lovely surprise the other month! Harlequin Teen sent me a pre-sale copy of Robin Talley’s new offering, What We Left Behind, which I really enjoyed and must actually find words and write a review of… soon.

I’m going to try to be a little more present in future.

Promise

S

x

*gin, most likely. No judgement please 🙂

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Off the Page

This gem is the brain child of prolific author Jodi Picoult and her clearly talented daughter, Samantha Van Leer, who clearly has all the story telling potential her mother has honed!

Despite not having read Between the Lines, the novel this is a sequel to, I can safely say that Off the Page stands alone perfectly.

The introduction of their quirky teenage characters dealing with an even quirkier literary situation is seamless and I was very quickly wrapped up in the mess of a fairy tale world/ real world collision that took place both inside and outside of the book.

With a very clear romantic undertow together these authors manage to make these characters not only likable but believable throughout the unlikely series of events and have even thrown in enough awkward yet witty scenarios to make what could be a wash out romance into a novel worthy of more than just the target audience. It’s fair to say this not so young adult was enthralled to the end and only wishing that I had the imagination to come up with such a brilliant formula for a story.

A clear winner and one that can be held up to the likes of Rainbow Rowell, my personal queen of YA fiction.

A Girl is a Half-formed Thing

As a rule I don’t like to avoid things because they are popular or because they have won all the awards, in fact I buy into the marketing that goes along with awards and it does normally make me want to read the book, buy the album or whatever it may be and at least find out about it so I can have my own opinion. Gosh, I do love to have an opinion and I am sure that sometimes this isn’t a great quality but it’s how I am and it has opened my eyes to a lot of different things… I don’t believe it is possible to have a decent conversation about something unless you have put some leg work in first. Read. Listen. Learn and then real, informed responses and opinions can be formed.

So, I had zero thoughts on A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride until I had picked up the book other than that I had heard that it couldn’t be described as an ‘easy read’ but that is not something that would put me off… if anything that’s a challenge set. Not only winning a Bailey’s and Goldsmith’s Prize McBride has won a total of 6 awards for this novel, written in a mere 6 months and portraying a stream of consciousness from the perspective of a young woman, nameless in this stream, experiencing and dealing with a series of events in her Irish, Catholic family.

A couple of people, internet friends if you* will, informed me that they couldn’t read this book or sorry, couldn’t finish the book. For multiple reasons; disjointed prose, a particularly striking and effective technique that made me constantly uncomfortable plus the subject is unpleasant, is emotionally charged and is regularly very unsettling.

That is not to say the book is not good but I can at no point say I enjoyed it in the normal sense. I cried in public. Tears on the bus are not a good look for a commuter, not ideal for fellow travellers I am sure; how to make other people uncomfortable on a Wednesday morning.

So, while epic in its formulation and so very deeply effective I would both rate this book incredibly highly yet would not recommend it. I really don’t want to share this particular misery.

I can applaud this book but I am happy that is back on the shelf and not in my book bag.

*waves

Lurid & Cute

 Adam Thirlwell’s Lurid and Cute is his third novel and is the first since being awarded title of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in 2013. It is because of this you can be forgiven for having spectacularly high hopes for this novel and in principle it is clearly a feat of good workmanship.

The tale of the narrator opens out as he struggles, like most young adults trying to find their place in a world that has clearly promised too much and not quite delivered enough, to find the correct balance with his wife, friends and the parents he lives with. Sex, drugs and not a great deal of rock n roll feature heavily, and while the story itself plays out to be quite interesting and quickly jumps from morally ambiguous to sheer depravity I did struggle with the unfocussed and often tricky structure which, although clearly an effect to bring the reader closer to the imbalanced narrator, actually removes the reader further from the situation (or it did me at least!).

I was having to read a minimum of 20 pages to even really get involved with the story and, unlike my usual reading style, I could not have ANY distractions without losing the will to read. The anti-page turner if you will.

Probably one that fans of Thirlwell will appreciate (dark, melancholic) but certainly not something I would recommend for the commute.

Leaving Time

Leaving Time is that kind of book that comes with all the expectations and not just because it is by a prolific and highly successful author. It is also because it sees the return of a character which previously featured in a short story by the same Jodi Picoult and although my feelings on that short story were mixed at best it was still a joy to meet that character again. Serenity Jones, genuine psychic or ‘swamp witch’ hack comes to the aid of 13 year old Jenna and the only private investigator she can afford with her meagre pocket money, as they try and get to the bottom of her mother’s disappearance tens years previous.

Centred on the study and care of elephants, both in the wild and in captivity, the amount of research and therefore information that is piled into this story is fantastic whilst also circling around the comparisons between the indelible bond between mother and child in both elephants and humans. I would recommend this book solely based on the fascinating information on elephants if it wasn’t for the fact that the story was so intriguing and had managed to swallow me whole. The combination of the two has led me to race through this book and now I am feeling a little lost. In regards to the aforementioned expectations, if you have read anything about this book before now you will be aware that there is a big fat twist, so I am not spoiling anything when I say that I really did not see that one coming and I imagine to read it all again with that information up front would have the potential to completely change the dynamic of the read. If I didn’t think that life was a little too short for rereading books I would probably be tempted to give it another go. This one definitely goes up there with my other favourite Jodi Picoult book, The Pact.

Reading Challenge?

January means it must be a New Year – unless I’ve missed something while pub hopping in Dublin for a few days – and New Year means resolutions. Just like everyone else I am terrible with resolutions. For example, it is the 8th January and I have still only downloaded the Couch to 5K App. Downloading is not running, apparently.

There is one thing I am good at though and that is reading so, although I am hoping to be busy and therefore not quite so intense on the reading, I would like to jump on the bandwagon of book challenges. But which??

Thanks to the joy of Pinterest there are just so many to choose from. Do I go on a list of books already created (65 Books You Need To Read in Your 20’s) or the likes of a book ‘challenge’ where you are prompted to read a book based on certain criteria (2015 Book Challenge)?

While I mull this over and finish the two books I already have on the go please feel free to hit me with recommendations of books or book challenges you are trying out this year.

S x

A Very Merry Christmas and a Sparkling New Year

Now seems as good a time as any to wrap up this year and the ridiculous level of reading I have done.

Although I have always loved reading it only really become prolific when I went on a lovely jaunt to Spain and started to use reading to leave reality and homesickness. A friend’s dad once said that he didn’t read fiction because this world has enough going on in it for him… and while I am a happy bunny with my lot, most of the time, I think it is amazing that you can pick up a book and be transported wherever the author decides to send you. Reality is not enough for me it seems.

So, for me reading is escapism and my read list this year probably shows I have needed to do a lot of that. (Books number 46 and 47* are currently still being read but I am sure they will hit the list before 2015 graces us with its presence.)

BUT 2015 is already starting to take form and a new job is on the horizon so reading in office hours will not be required. Yey!

All the same I intend on documenting 2015 in the same way, via books, and hope that the few lovely folk who read this prattle will join me for the ride (Hi Mum!! *waves*)

Have a very Merry Christmas and a sparkling New Year.

Roll on 2015 and whatever it decides to throw at us

xx

The Here and Now

This is a super short review for a book that didn’t spark my imagination particularly.

With a dystopian future upon them, Prenna’s family are sent back to live their lives in the 2000’s, hundreds of years prior to the break down of their version of earth. What isn’t quite clear is what those chosen to go back are actually doing to fix the ever looming problem of their doomed future.

Time travel, forbidden romance and a looming apocalyptic future are all ingredients for a classic YA novel however as Bushares’ female protagonist becomes involved with a ‘time native’ and is quickly embroiled in a ‘save the world’ escapade the story is often left on the cusp of becoming too clichéd to take this one from generic YA fiction to a cut above the rest.

While not the best available in its field I would say this book will appeal to the teen audience but the highly obvious love story and flawed, sometimes rushed, story line just didn’t do it for me.

Honeyville

Daisy Waugh’s latest book offers an insight into a piece of American history that rarely makes it into historical fiction; the 1914 miner’s strike in Trinidad, Colorado. It was this strike that led directly to the Ludlow Massacre, killing twenty plus people and leaving the town of Trinidad shaken to its core.

Twenty years after the events that left a small town reeling we find Dora Whitworth being presented with a letter taking her back to her time in that town and retelling the story of her, a woman of questionable reputation and Inez Dubois, a lady of high social standing in Trinidad and how these two very diverse yet equally strong women started to cross one another’s paths.

Waugh has given this story depth through strong and colourful characters set in a town that is painted with precision, a place where you would not want to be yet the rhythm of the book draws you in. In some respects I would be tempted to call this an easy read but that is by no means a negative, as I finished it in about three sittings. A highly worthy read and one that spiked my interest in a period of history I was completely ignorant about. Entertaining and educational. Win!

Landline

Having only read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell I was a little cynical as to how well she would translate from YA fiction to adult fiction but my cynicism has been squashed, smashed and sent packing. While not completely sold on the idea of Landline initially this basic story has been threaded brilliantly with a lot of cult references (from the 80’s onwards) and humour along with characters that you want to be friends with. Now I have finished the book I feel a little bereft of Georgie McCool and her far from perfect life.

We see Georgie struggling with work and home life, and after making one too many decisions to choose work her husband and children fly off to Omaha for Christmas while she stays at home to work on her beloved sitcom with her best friend Seth. Their departure sends Georgie into a mini breakdown and to her old bedroom at her mum’s house where she discovers her old ‘landline’ phone. The strange thing being that this phone seems to have a direct connection with Neal, from the past, in the week before he proposed to her.

The story of Georgie and her husband Neal is certainly a sweet one and Rowell does a brilliant job of not painting a picture of ‘happily ever after’ without showing the work and sacrifice required. It was actually quite nice to have some realism alongside a big dose of time travel.

A great Christmas-centric read for December.