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

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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

 

 

 

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!

Review: The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

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I read this book as part of my global reading challenge.  Tan Twan Eng is a Malaysian author who writes in English.  The Garden of Evening Mists was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2012.

Set mainly on a tea estate in the Malaysian jungle but told through flashbacks and memories, this book is very atmospheric and beautifully descriptive.  Tan Twan Eng’s writing is wonderfully evocative and lyrical – in stark contrast to some of the subject matters covered.  I became totally immersed in this world through his writing which conjured up beautiful pictures of a place I have never visited and knew little about.  Here’s one of my favourite passages:

Memory is like patches of sunlight in an overcast valley, shifting with the movement of the clouds.  Now and then the light will fall on a particular point in time, illuminating it for a moment before the wind seals up the gap, and the world is in shadow again.

There are many contrasting themes within the pages of this book – love, hate and forgiving, beauty and horror, war and peace, memory and forgetting.  I learnt about a period of history I knew little of and about which I am now keen to know more.

If you like slow burning stories (although actually these are generally not my favourite!) set in different cultures, and studies of memory, I think you would enjoy this book.  It is not a fast paced thrill read.  The story reveals itself slowly and quite gently; it feels quite meditative in fact.  4 stars

4stars

 

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: 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!

 

Belated! My Top 5 Reads of 2014

A few notes about my reading in 2014:

  • I read a total of 53 books. I didn’t quite meet my Goodreads target of 72 books, but I’m ok with that.  I know I go through long periods of not reading a thing (something I want to work on this year!) and I should’ve factored that into my target!
  • Of those 53 books, 36 were written by female authors and 18 by male authors.
  • Page total was 20613
  • Author nationality breakdown is as follows:
    • 23 American
    • 16 English
    • 3 Irish
    • 2 Japanese
    • 1 Alaskan
    • 1 Scottish
    • 1 New Zealander
    • 1 South African
    • 1 Welsh
  • 8 books were either prize winners or nominees (Man Booker, Pulitzer, Costa)
  • The oldest book I read was The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, first published in 1959

Two books were huge disappointments for me this year: 
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton may have won the Man Booker Prize, but I just didn’t get it.  Skilfully written, maybe, but to me it was over-long, tedious and boring!  (Read my full review here)
The second bomber for me was perhaps the most hyped book of the year – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  I hesitated in picking this one up for so long, but then I heard the movie was coming out and I wanted to read the book before seeing the movie.  I hated this thing so much.  Read my full review here.  I haven’t seen the movie yet, not sure if I will, but I live in hope that it is better than the book.  
On to my top reads of the year! These are in no particular order, because that is just too hard …



Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I gave this book 4 stars because the ending was a bit of a let down for me, but this was such a fun book to read.  I loved the 80s references.  It was fast paced, action packed and filled with great characters.

(Read my full review here)

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

A wonderfully sensitive book dealing with some tough subject matter.  This one has stayed in my thoughts since I put it down.

(Read my full review here)


 Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

I think pretty much the world and her dog has read this book, and I’ve seen it on many people’s ‘top books of 2014’ lists, and deservedly so.  A thoughtful and heart-wrenching read.

The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman

This book was so much better than I expected, truly one of those that I couldn’t put down and devoured in a couple of sittings.  Another tender tale about hope and loss.

A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Oh … this book.  This book would be in top spot and goes down as one of my favourite books of all time.  I savoured every word and did not want the story to end.  This is one of those books I recommend to anyone who so much as mentions reading in my earshot!
Let me know what your top reads of the year were!