Review: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

small angry planet

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet has appeared on many ‘best of 2015′ lists, and its’ recent publication in paperback caused quite a ripple in the twitterverse.  Together these two things would generally put me off reading it for a while, but for some reason it was calling to me – it could well have been the very pretty cover – and I’m very glad it was!

As a rule, I’m not a keen fan of aliens in books.  Or films.  I’m not sure why this is.  Sometimes it just feels lazy – you know, “oh, it was the aliens’ fault”.  Whatever.  Too often, books about life after Earth implodes are so full of doom, gloom and misery … but not this one!  The world Becky Chambers creates within the covers of this book is bloody awesome!  So much fun and adventure.  So many diverse and interesting characters with such different cultures, sexualities and ideas.  If the whole world read this book and took heed of the messages within, us humans might have some hope of getting along with each other better.

On the surface, this is a light, fun, fast paced read, but scratch a little deeper and there are so many wonderful themes about love and respect.  This book should be compulsory reading for every living being – human or alien!  A fabulous 5 stars, and I can’t wait for the sequel which I believe is coming in October 2016!

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Top Reads of 2015

*flies round with duster*

It’s been a while.  But this time I have reasons for not having blogged in an age.  I increased my work hours from November and now work full time, which quite frankly is just a bit rude!  It took me a long time to get used to the hours and everything else just fell by the wayside.  I was desperate to read, but too tired, and my spare time was consumed by ridiculous TV watching.  Then my mum fell ill and spent a week in hospital, so that was a lot of fun.  She’s on the mend now.  And now of course it is the busiest time of the year, I’m more unprepared for Christmas than I have ever been, my house is a mess and needs cleaning from top to bottom, but I have the urge to blog and my mind is turning to challenges and reading goals for 2016.

But that’s another post!  This one is all about my top reads of the year!  I always enjoy reading this type of post and watching this kind of roundup video on the booktube … so here we go!

Out of the 57 books I read in 2015, I gave 5 stars to 8 of them.  These are in no particular order, except that I’ve saved my absolute favourite to last, because I can 🙂

(Click on the picture to go to the Goodreads page for the book.)

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

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Everyone knows what this is.  A very short essay on feminism, very readable and very relatable.  It’s so short I hesitated to add it as a ‘book’ but it is a thing I read, so …  I truly believe everyone in the world should read this.

Under a Dark Summer Sky by Vanessa Lafaye

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I received a copy of this via NetGalley and I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but this story drew me in straight away.  I loved the characters and the build up of atmosphere in this book.  It is devastating and hopeful and beautiful.  Read my full review here!

A  Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

 

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This was a bit of a surprise to me.  There was a lot of buzz around this one, which usually means I’ll hate it, but I was immersed in this world right from the start and this was one of those rare books that I didn’t want to end.  Emotional and gorgeous.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

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This was recommended to me on the basis of me loving the apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic parts of Station Eleven.  A harrowing and grim read, and so simply written.  This had me hooked from beginning to end.  Read my full review here!

The Martian by Andy Weir

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Another surprise!  Lots of hype, and I loved it.  Funny, fascinating and fun but also thought provoking and emotional.  The film was great too!

Just Kids by Patti Smith

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This memoir by Patti Smith was utterly fascinating.  Focusing on her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, I found this insightful and inspiring.  I am now completely obsessed with the woman and am hoping Santa brings me her latest memoir, M Train!

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

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I read this very early in January, but it has stayed with me ever since.  I have a morbid fascination with anything mental hospital-ly, and this did not disappoint.  Tears were shed.

And my absolute favourite read of 2015 …

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

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Who would’ve thought that an epic 900 page cowboy book would be my favourite read of the year?!  The characters in this story are just amazing and I loved every single word.  An absolutely brilliant read that I will recommend to everyone I meet for ever more!

Have you read any of these? What did you think?  And tell me what your favourite book of 2015 is!

The Month that Was: September

We’re fully into Autumn round these parts now.  It is chilly, nights are drawing in and Christmas things are beginning to appear in the shops already (grrr).  I read 5 books and watched 3 movies (one of those at the actual cinema!) … kind of  a slowish month, but certainly not my worst!

The books

september books

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My book of the month (and possibly my lifetime!) was Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.  Oh my goodness.  I cannot describe how much I loved this book, and how much of a surprise it was to me.  I mean, it’s a western in which a ramshackle bunch of cowboys drive a herd of cattle from the bottom of the USA to the top, and it’s a doozy at nearly 1000 pages.  But seriously, this book now has a very firm spot on my favourites shelf.  Loved it.  (Review coming soon!)

Other books read this month (reviews coming eventually)

  • After Me Comes The Flood by Sarah Perry – this one started off good, was really intriguing, but then it just fizzled into boringness.  2 stars.
  • The Chimes by Anna Smaill – ugh.  I posted a review of this here.  2 stars.
  • Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt – a gorgeous book!  4 stars.
  • The Martian by Andy Weir – another surprise for me.  I absolutely loved this and gave it 5 stars.
  • As far as my reading stats and challenges are concerned, this was not such a great month!  Anna Smaill is from New Zeland, so that’s one more country ticked off my global reading challenge.  And Larry McMurtry won the Pulitzer for Lonesome Dove, so that’s my prize winner for the month.  But that’s it.  I aim to do better next month!

The Movies

september films

Dave and I are a bit late to the party on the Bourne series.  With a new film coming out soon we decided it was high time we watched these, so we made a start this month …

  • The Bourne Identity – this was good.  A little confusing.  But I like Matt Damon.  Dave gave this 7.5/10, and I gave it 6/10. It dipped in the middle.
  • The Bourne Supremacy – Not quite as good as the first one.  I’m still a bit confused.  5/10 from each of us.

Then we decided to treat ourselves and actually leave the house to go see a movie!

  • Legend – I was really not expecting to like this film very much.  I’m not keen on violence for the sake of violence, and all I knew about the Krays was that they were violent gangsters.  But this film went a bit further into the people and I ended up really enjoying it.  How much of that was down to Tom Hardy’s superb portrayal of the twins, I’m not sure.  He was excellent.  We both gave this 7.5/10.

And Elsewhere

  • Dave finished a 42 mile bike ride and it feels like we will never hear the end of it!
  • New schools and school years were started.
  • Strictly season began!  I love Strictly Come Dancing so much!  Early favourites are Peter Andre, Jay McGuinness (don’t judge me people!) and Anita Rani.
  • My thoughts are turning to reading aims for next year – I always get this way in Autumn!  I have a few ideas ticking over in my brain; more to come!

 

The Month That Was: August

August has passed us by and summer is drawing to an end.  I’ve had 6 weeks off work, probably the last time I’ll be able to do this as the kids are now teenagers and don’t need me around as much.  Thank goodness I found my reading groove again!  I managed to read 10 books in August, watched 4 films and 1 TV series 🙂  Here’s a quick roundup.

The Books

I managed to squeeze in10 books for August, the last one ending up  my highlight of the month!

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A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale was an impulse buy.  I went into town to get my haircut at this place where you just turn up without an appointment, but even though I got there 10 minutes before opening I was already 4th in the queue.  So I bought books instead, of course!  I got home and started reading this straight away, and then I pretty much didn’t put it down until I’d finished.  Beautiful writing; I wish everyone would read this book.  This one gets a rare 5 stars from me (my third of the year).

Other books read this month (reviews will be coming … if I ever get my act together!):IMG_7424

  • You by Caroline Kepnes – there’s been a lot of buzz around this book and I had high hopes, but I really didn’t like it very much at all and it was just a 2 star read for me.
  • Dear Girls Above Me by Charlie McDowell – I listened to this on audio through Scribd.  I liked it, it was a bit of fluff, easy to listen to with a few chuckles along the way.  3 stars
  • The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler – I feel like this one could’ve been so much better with a little more editing!  Swedish husband/wife duo author, so it fits with my global reading challenge. 2 stars
  • The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (who I keep wanting to call Ron Jonson!) – this was a fun non-fiction read.  His writing style is very conversational and this was an interesting look at the topic.  3 stars
  • The Reader by Bernhard Schlink – A German author, so another one for my global reading challenge.  I really enjoyed this story.  4 stars
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – Australian author, another for my global reading challenge.  A quick, easy read with a great plot.  4 stars
  • An Untamed State by Roxane Gay – I’d been waiting for this one to come out in paperback.  Wow.  This one gets you right in the heart.  4 stars
  • Blue Is The Warmest Colour by Julie Maroh – French author, and also my first graphic novel! I read this on my kindle through Scribd.  A quick easy read was just what I needed after An Untamed State and this fit the bill perfectly, though of course the subject matter is quite serious.  I really enjoyed this.  4 stars
  • Little Face by Sophie Hannah – I think this was my dud of the month.  I’ve heard good things about Sophie Hannah and was really looking forward to this, but sadly it did nothing for me.  2 stars

What we watched:

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  • First up this month was The Enemy starring Jake Gyllenhaal … Oh my god this movie was awful.  Slow, boring, tedious, confusing – the ending had us both looking at each other with WTF looks on our faces.  3/10 from Dave and 2/10 from me.  Afterwards I read some reviews and most people are of the opinion that it’s better the second time around and has some deep and meaningful message that you’ll only understand if you research the film.  Well, I’m afraid I watch a film to be entertained – if I learn something while I’m watching that’s dandy, but I’m not going to go and do a load of research so I can understand what I’ve just watched, and then waste another 2 hours of my life watching it again!  No thank you 🙂
  • We then watched The Conjuring and holy moly was this film scary!  It really freaked me out.  Thoroughly enjoyable in that way only scary films can be!  7.5/10 from Dave, 8/10 from me.
  • Next was Dog Day Afternoon.  I’m ashamed to say I don’t think I’ve seen any Al Pacino films!  This film was really good – he is such a great actor.  It was a little dated, obviously, but it was fun to see the 70s portrayed authentically and we both really enjoyed this.  8/10 from both of us.
  • Gladiator with Russell Crowe was next.  I’d seen bits of it before and Dave had seen all of it before.  It was enjoyable, but it kind of dipped a little for me in the middle, and could’ve been 30 minutes shorter.  8.5/10 from Dave, 7.5/10 from me.
  • And finally we watched the first series of Peaky Blinders.  I had heard many many good things about this series and Dave bought me the box set for my birthday in January, so I was looking forward to finally sitting down to watch it.  We were hooked straight away and watched the first series over three nights.  Good story and great acting.  7.5/10 from Dave and originally I gave this 9/10, but if I compare it to Breaking Bad, our series barometer, I think I should probably downgrade it to 8/10 – it’s good, but not BB good!

Elsewhere in August:

  • Natasha received her GCSE results and did amazingly well with 7 A*s and 4As.  Her place at 6th Form College is all confirmed and she starts next week
  • A lot of lounging around was completed – outside in the sunshine when possible, or curled up indoors when it was raining (most of the time!)
  • Here’s the rest of August in a nutshell:
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And now I’m looking forward to September!

What was the highlight of your month?

Review: Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye

Summertime

I received a copy of Under A Dark Summer Sky by Vanessa Lafaye via Netgalley.  This book is published in the UK as Summertime.

Published in the UK in May 2015, I had not actually heard of this book before I saw it on Netgalley, but I was immediately drawn to the (US) title and cover.  I had no idea what it was about, but decided to give it a go.  And I’m very glad I did!

Although set in a fictional seaside town in the Florida Keys with fictional characters and a fictionalised plot, this book is based on true events, and I learnt quite a bit from this story!  For example, I had no idea that veterans returning from the utter horror and grimness of the First World War were treated so badly, neglected and failed so spectacularly by the government.

A very atmospheric novel with wonderful, flawed yet likable characters, the themes of the novel are manyfold, but the main focus is on prejudice, cruelty and love.  We see the strength of the human spirit, maintaining a dignified and decent outlook in the face of hideous racial prejudice and cruelty; the cruelty of the human race and the cruelty and devastating nature of the weather; love in many forms – between brother and sister, man and wife, parent and child, the love of home.

This novel affected me quite deeply, bringing on a recurring nightmare I have occasionally, and it is a novel that will stay with me for quite a long time.  This is Vanessa Lafaye’s first novel and I will be waiting with baited breath for her second!

Finding a place on my favourites shelf, I gave this book a wonderful 5 stars.

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Review: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I hesitate to review a classic like this, but here are the thoughts spilling from my mind.

After reading Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel (review here), which, incidentally, recently won the Arthur C Clarke award, I asked on Goodreads for recommendations of non-YA apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic fiction.  (Nothing against YA, I hasten to add!)  The two recommendations that stood out to me (mainly because I hadn’t already read them) were The Stand by Stephen King, and The Road by Cormac McCarthy.  As I had The Road sitting on my shelf, I went with that one.

I’d heard great things about this book, and as usual I had high expectations, with some reservations.  I was hesitant because I knew that the dialogue was not contained within speech marks.  A minor thing maybe, I know, but it tends to irritate me as I read.  I know not why!  I also thought, holy moly, how can a whole book about a man and a boy walking along a road be that interesting?!  Well.  I was very happy to be proved wrong on that count!

McCarthy’s writing is beautiful and evokes the atmosphere of the destroyed world perfectly.  The story gripped and held me and I read this in two sittings.  For such a quick read, this book really packs a punch.  This sad and harrowing tale of the doggedness of the human spirit is not one to pick up of you’re after a lighthearted read, but I urge you to pick it up when you’re in the mood for something wonderful.  This is well deserving of my rare 5 stars and its’ place on my favourites shelf.