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!

5stars

 

 

 

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!

24485858

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:

IMG_7440

 

  • 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:
http://www.cookcreateread.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/august-flip.mov

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.

5stars

 

Review: I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

review of i let you go

 

Wow.  Ok.  I have literally just finished this book and feel the need to review this right away!

This book starts slowly.  It took a little while until I was gripped by the story, and then it begins to trip along quite nicely, developing into a pretty good mystery at a steady pace.  And then …. WHOAH NELLY!!!  It took my breath away!  I had to put the book down, pick it up, re-read a section, put it down … I did NOT see that coming!  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Don’t you just love it when a book surprises you?!

The story plays with your emotions.  At first you feel sadness and pity, then you feel anger, then you feel empathy, anger again, all with a background tension that builds up and up until BLAM! You’ve finished the book and you can’t quite believe you’ve come to the end.

And besides the whole mystery/thriller/psychological thing, the descriptions of the remote cottage near a little beach with crashing waves … well, it had me looking on rightmoves for properties, I can tell you!  Please don’t tell me I’m alone in sometimes fantasising about leaving everything behdin and running off to a little cottage near a lonely beach … just me? … Ok then, moving swiftly on!

This is one of those books that make you wonder how the author does it.  How does someone get inside the mind of a complete psycho so much so that they are able to portray them so convincingly like this?  I think the answer in this case is that Clare Mackintosh has experience as a police officer, and so her research is extensive and meaningful.  But strangely it is her portrayal of the police officers that irritated me and caused me to mark the book down a star.  DI Stevens seems a bit pathetic and weak, his relationship with Kate felt teenagerish and cliched and it seemed entirely unnecessary to the plot.

Despite this last point, this is a fabulous read, far surpassing the likes of Gone Girl and Girl on a Train in my opinion, and one I will be foisting upon all and sundry!

 

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.

Friday Reads

Here’s a little wrap up of what I’ve read this week and what I’ll be reading next!

I finished One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, and loved every word of this book.  It has gone straight to my favourites shelf and I’ll be forcing everyone I know to read it if they haven’t already done so!

I then picked up We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo but sadly I just couldn’t connect with this one.  I didn’t like the writing style, I can’t stand books with no speech marks, and the main character was very irritating to me, so unfortunately I gave up on this one!

I’m now reading Gone by Rebecca Muddiman.  This is a copy I received for review via bookbridgr and is due to be published in the UK on 15 January.  I’m not far into it yet, but so far so good! I think it’s going to be gripper!

What are your reading plans for the weekend?