Laura of The Lovely Jumble came up with the wonderful idea for bloggers to sum up their year so far in books. I’ve been trying to devour as many books as I can this year, as I’ve been doing the Good Reads reading challenge (trying to read 20 books before the year is out), and this is a fun opportunity to share and talk about some of them. Please excuse the enormous length of this post, but once I got started, I couldn’t stop, because, well…books!
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
I really rather like Rainbow Rowell. Attachments is aimed at an older audience than many of Rowell’s other novels, and while I didn’t find it quite as relatable or compelling as Fangirl (I loved Fangirl so damn much), it was an enjoyable read, with a really sweet romance at its heart. The peek into Beth and Jennifer’s friendship is also lovely. Hooray for gal pals!
Rating: 3.5 starts
Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
Not to get all negative when we’re only two books in, but I *really* disliked this book. The story of a midwife who performs an emergency caesarian during a home birth, and the ensuing controversy, told from the point of view of the midwife’s fourteen year old daughter, it certainly raised some interesting ethical issues, but it was sloooow and I didn’t find any of the characters to be particularly likeable. The thing that annoyed me most was the male author’s attempt to get inside the head of a teenage girl, through somewhat sexist conclusions about how teenage girls think and behave. No dice, Bohjalian.
Rating: 1.5 stars
A Study In Scarlet/The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
I adore the BBC Sherlock TV series (Benedict Cumberbatch will always have my heart), so naturally I had to suss out the source material, and my goodness if it isn’t endless fun! The old fashioned language and style of writing, while sometimes rather dense is also delicious. There are slower parts, but all in all, they’re just great, rollicking mystery stories!
Rating: 3.5 stars
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
This book still has me baffled, not because I didn’t understand the plot, but because I think I read an entirely different book to everybody else. Cloud Atlas has won numerous awards and has an average 4.01 rating on Good Reads, but alas, I couldn’t stand it. I won’t say anything about the plot, as I think it’s best experienced that way, but I felt that it was trying too hard to be profound and to prove it’s central premise (that ‘everything is connected’), and instead ended up being completely contrived. Then (because when I commit to something, I REALLY commit!), I watched the movie adaptation, which was, if possible, even more unbearable.
Rating: 1 star
Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown
Confession: I am 25 and have no idea how to adult. I am forever terrified that I’m going to ruin my clothes in the washing machine and petrol stations intimidate me. If you can relate to this, you may very well enjoy this book. It’s divided into useful sections such as ‘relationships’, ‘money’, and ‘health’, full of helpful hints on how to be a bit more grown up and mature. The tips range from the practical (i.e. how to get stains out of clothing), to the profound, to the fun and silly but sill rather useful. The book is also peppered with funny illustrations and stories from Williams Brown’s own life, written in her sassy yet friendly older-sister style voice.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
Creative peeps, who amongst us isn’t in a constant creative crisis caused by comparison, and insecurity? This book will make you feel better. Steal Like An Artist is packed full of illustrated bits of wisdom about creativity and creative careers from Kleon’s experience. My particular favourite line was: ‘You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes.’ Wonderful.
Rating: 4 stars
Craft for the Soul by Pip Lincolne
Pip’s book is the prettiest, loveliest thing you ever did see/read. It’s like sitting down for a cup of tea and chat with a good friend, and coming away feeling warm and fuzzy and armed with good ideas that might make your life a bit better, like going for more walks, hanging out with excellent people and being creative. There are cute activities and lists to help you get started doing nice, things, and it’s full of cute illustrations and water colour splashes, recipes, quotes and even some bonus craft projects. My favourite piece of advice from Pip’s book? ‘Sloth on’.
Rating: 4 stars.
Toby Alone by Timothee de Fombelle
This was an English translation of a French children’s novel (yes, I read children’s novels. See above about how I cannot adult) about a race of tiny people who live in a tree. Toby, our millimetre tall hero, is pursued by villains after his father makes a controversial discovery about the fate of The Tree. Surprisingly dark and complex for a children’s novel, even the most minor characters are described in such beautiful detail that the world and culture of the tree really comes to life. This book is the first in a series and has an environmental message, as well as adorable illustrations throughout. A surprisingly compelling read.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Crush It: Why Now Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuck
Vaynerchuck has a really brash, in-your-face style, which could be off putting to some, but as you read, you realise that he knows his stuff! It gets you thinking about exactly what it might take to pursue your passion and includes some practical tips on branding and marketing yourself in the digital age. The main lesson? Pretty much anyone can do pretty much anything, but you have to work hard. Like, really freaking hard.
Rating: 4 stars
Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling
This tiny little book is only 68 pages long, because it’s actually a book-ified version of the commencement speech that Ms Rowling gave to students at Harvard University. It’s absolutely gorgeously illustrated and full of Rowling’s eloquent and comforting thoughts on failure and imagination, which are things we definitely need in our lives. Also, J.K. Rowling. ‘Nuff said.
Rating: 4 stars
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
I don’t want to say too much about Eleanor and Park, because the plot is quite straight forward, so it’s hard to talk about without spoilers, however, I will say that it’s wonderful and adorable, and you should most definitely read it. It’s an unlikely love story between two misfit teens, but it’s oh so much more than that. I’d liken in to John Green’s books, in that these aren’t the shallow, underdeveloped, stereotypical teenagers that we come across in fiction so often. They’re smart and complex and interesting. The story packs a real emotional punch (I’m still recovering. Ouch, my feelings) and made me want to look twice at everyone around me and consider what they might be going through.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
You know when you’re so captivated by a book that you have to incessantly inform everyone around you about the book as you’re reading it? This was one of those for me. Set in a post-apocalyptic world after the vast majority was the earth’s population have died of a highly contagious flu, the story cuts back and forth between several characters pre-civilisation’s collapse, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the new world, playing music and performing Shakespeare. It’s quite dark and St John Mandel’s writing is sort of starkly poetic. While some of the characters’ stories were more compelling than others, everything is rather nicely connected (*glares at Cloud Atlas*). In terms of the structure of the story, it didn’t quite get to the place that I wanted it to go, but I’m still giving it five stars, because it’s been a while since I was so completely enthralled by a book and I desperately want to read more (there are vague rumours of a movie. Yes please). It really got my mind working and brought up a lot of ethical issues around survival, our reliance on technology, and just how fragile our civilisation really is. A word of warning to hypochondriacs though…I am now paranoid that we’re all going to die of some horrible contagion.
Rating: 5 stars
Wow, that felt like a rollercoaster of books! I’d love to know if you’ve read any of these, and what your thoughts are. Below are some other lovely bloggers that are summing up their year in books too. Visit them! Expand your reading list! If you’d like to follow me on Good Reads, you can do that here. Happy reading y’all!