Favourite Reads of 2017

It has been such a long time since I have written book reviews for the books I am reading – I used to review every single book. I stopped because (amongst other things) I didn’t really enjoy writing about a book straight after reading it. Either the books I read were powerful, in which case I needed time to digest, or they were not interesting to me once they were finished so I didn’t feel like writing then either.

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2017 Reading Challenge

Despite a valiant last push at the end of 2016, I (YET AGAIN!) did not manage to reach my goal of 50 books in a year. I did manage to equal my personal best of 41 books so I’m pretty pleased about that because despite what some people might think, reading on maternity leave is not as easy as you might think (seeing as reading requires a functioning mind etc.).

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Lately…

Watching:

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The Black List and Elementary

Eating:

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Paul Newman Tex-Mex dressing – divine!

Drinking:

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Nice coffee

Listening to:

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Mumford and Sons, Into the Wild Soundtrack, Eddie Vedder’s Ukulele Songs and any song played on Friday Night Lights

Reading:

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Trying to decide what to read next after finishing Gone Girl last night. Perhaps Divergent by Veronica Roth.

Book Club: Perks of Being a Wallflower

I loved this book very much and probably exactly equal to the amount I loved the film. I rooted for the protagonist Charlie throughout the book and the reveal about what had happened to him might not have had the same impact as the corresponding moment in the film but was crushing nonetheless.
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perks

On Wednesday night, we gathered at Berylune for our book club chat. Overall, the group enjoyed the book although some more than others. A coming of age story of a troubled teen in 1990s America, the book takes you through a year in the life of Charlie.

I had seen the film (written by the book’s author Chbosky) and had loved that and the book didn’t disappoint. Other comments from our members:

‘I’m wondering if I will feel more for the characters after I’ve seen the film.’

‘I really enjoyed this book. It took me back to the 90s and reminded me of My So-Called Life.’

‘I really liked the references to other books. Having read lots of them, it added a new dimension to reading the story and understanding the characters.’

Our next book club meeting will be online only. Our next book is Celia Rees’s This is Not…

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Inspirational

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I read this first as an impressionable teenager which was probably the ideal time for the first reading. It is a book that has stayed with me, along with the other volumes in the autobiography. Maya Angelou is the epitome of an inspirational being.

Book Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, #1)The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book as the first book for the Twitter book club set up by my teaching buddy called the #LETbookclub (Lost English Teachers). We get together on Twitter on the 1st of each month at 8pm. I am so glad I was asked to read this book because I had not heard of this series and I would probably have never chosen it since I rarely read crime fiction nowadays (simply because my reading plate pretty full). In my late teens and twenties, though, crime fiction was pretty much all I read for a while. I had not read much of this book by the time of our first online meeting so I was not really able to comment properly and since I had bought the book as an ebook, I was not really aware of its genre – I had assumed because the protagonist was 11 years old that it was aimed at girls or young adults but this is apparently a book for adults.

Now I have read it, this is more clear, especially since the vocabulary is somewhat advanced and I suppose the subject matter (a murder investigation, essentially) although I would be happy for girls or young adults of both genders to read it since the main character, Flavia de Luce, is fantastic: precocious, clever, passionate about science, brave and feisty. Her character is probably polarising – I can imagine some people finding her intensely irritating – but I loved her and I was cheering for her to get to bottom of the mysterious murder, which she ultimately does, of course, in a most satisfying ending.

Tense in parts, captivating, exciting and original with some lovely literary references to boot, I will definitely be open to reading more Flavia de Luce books, if I ever have time.

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Book Review: Life of Pi

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Life of PiLife of Pi by Yann Martel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I knew little of this book other than it had won the Man Booker Prize and that a film had been made of it recently, directed by Ang Lee. All I could tell (and the rear cover confirmed this) that the book was about a boy, a boat and a tiger. I couldn’t quite see how this could be captivating reading. I couldn’t imagine how I would be anxious to read on. Yet, almost as soon as I had started reading, I was intrigued. I wanted to know what was going to happen with this boy on the boat. I wanted to know his story.

A big part of why this book was so captivating was the way it is written. I have read other prize-winning books and found myself wondering what I was missing. Often, the writing is too opaque, too convoluted for the sake of it, too exclusive for me to enjoy reading every night. Martel, though, writes in such a fluid and easy manner that whilst the ideas are lofty and the soul of the book is intact, the reader can gallop through and take in the story and the heart of the story.

At points, I was holding my breath. I was urging Pi to hold on (even though his survival is known to the reader right at the beginning of the book). I felt desperate for his loss, that is, his grief and his geographical loss, adrift in a seemingly endless ocean. The tiger was a character in its own right and I was emotionally invested in his survival too.

The ending was both perplexing and gratifying. I am eager to see how this book translates to the screen; just as I could not imagine this book working, I cannot really picture the film working either. I look forward to being proved wrong a second time.

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Snow Day

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Today was meant to be my first day at my new placement school but the snow brought my first snow day since I was at school, many moons ago. Today has been a gift of time which I was not expecting so I have spent it reading. I have so much reading to do at the moment that this feels just about like a good way to spend a spare day although I also have a lot of writing too, since I have two essays due in over the next couple of months. Still, I find it so hard to read for any amount of time, it has been a joy to relax and read.

Expanding Bookshelf

I already have a ton of books on my bookshelf that I want to read but during some of my lectures over the past week or so, I have been introduced to some more titles that I want to get my hands on.

Stone Cold by Robert Swindells – Kids are disappearing but no one cares. Homeless, frightened and alone, Link finds himself down-and-out in London after fleeing from his brutish stepfather. He only survives because he’s befriended by streetwise Ginger. When Ginger suddenly disappears, Link is in despair.  Intent on his grisly mission, the man who calls himself Shelter stalks his next victim. Will it be Link?

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd – The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

Heroes by Robert Cormier – A provocative story about the return home of teenage war hero and war victim, Francis Joseph Cassavant. He is forced to confront his past – the youth leader he idolised and who betrayed him, and the girl he still loves. The book gets to the heart of human nature and the moral issues and choices we have to make.

Lost Continent by Bill Bryson – After ten years in England, he returned to the land of his youth, and drove almost 14,000 miles in search of a mythical small town called Amalgam, the kind of trim and sunny place where the films of his youth were set. Instead, his search led him to Anywhere, USA; a lookalike strip of gas stations, motels and hamburger outlets populated by lookalike people with a penchant for synthetic fibres.

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman – Sephy is a Cross – a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a nought – a ‘colourless’ member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood. But that’s as far as it can go. Until the first steps are taken towards more social equality and a limited number of Noughts are allowed into Cross schools… Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity by Noughts, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum – a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger…

Divergent by Veronica Roth – She turns to the future in a world that’s falling apart. For sixteen-year-old Tris, the world changes in a heartbeat when she is forced to make a terrible choice. Turning her back on her family, Tris ventures out, alone, determined to find out where she truly belongs. Shocked by the brutality of her new life, Tris can trust no one. And yet she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her. The hardest choices may yet lie ahead….