June Wrap Up

June proved to be a month of madness, reflecting in the utter lack of blog posts during the month. So as we enter into July, it’s time to look back to see whether I actually got any reading done in all that time I spent not writing for this blog. An apology feels inadequate at this point, so here’s a cute picture of my dogs on my bed to try and make up for it.

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Onto the books.

I first finished reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel last month, something which I have been wanting to read for a very long time and am happy to say did not disappoint. The setting is twenty years after a virus wipes out the majority of the population, leaving the world as we knew it in ashes and the survivors attempting to start again. We follow an array of characters and their lives, with snippets from the new world and the world before, all which are somehow tied to a Shakespeare company who travel around the new world to perform. Imaginative and extraordinary well crafted, this is a Sci-Fi novel that anyone can enjoy.

Next up was The End We Start From by Megan Hunter, which is a short novella that blends poetry and prose. We follow a woman just after she has given birth whilst there has been a climate disaster, leaving London flooded. As she tries to navigate motherhood, she is also trying to survive in this new world (seems there is a theme to the books I read this month). This is a book about love, old and new, relationships, motherhood, survival, and hope. It’s beautiful, poignant, and just such a lovely read – not to mention an important portrayal of what global warming can cause and why we should be looking after our planet more than we do.

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Bar one, I read all of these books in June – all courtesy of the wonderful people at Pan Macmillan. 

I somehow managed a very strong start to the month of June, and read What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi next. A beautiful short story collection, and what connects them are the images, references, and inclusion of keys. Be it keys given as gifts, keys lent to house sitters, or even keys lost – this thread between each narrative can be the central focus or merely a passing moment. Perfectly paced and written in gorgeous prose, this has only made me want to read more short stories.

My final book of June was Who Runs The World? by Virginia Bergin. It’s set in a world a couple of generations away from our own, where a virus has taken over the world and affects only men, meaning that the remaining survivors are taken away to special enclosed camps – leaving women to run the world. The premise is incredibly interesting, but I found that the speaker was a bit too young for me and left me getting bored or frustrated with the narrator. It is a book aimed at YA, but I feel it should be advertised as young teen. It’s an interesting take on a difficult subject and, as I’ve seen in the past, it can be very difficult to write about gender and sexuality without getting something wrong (see my comments on The Power for an example). The author is clearly conscious and knows her subject, speaking very eloquently about gender in interview, but I found this did not come across as well in her novel. Still interesting to read, but not my favourite.

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And that was June! Although I’d like to include a book I finished yesterday within the list, I’m resisting that temptation. It also seems that, apart from the Helen Oyeyemi, all of the books from June were about new worlds being remade after the old ones were destroyed by viruses and natural disasters. If this blog needed a theme, I think this post would definitely fit under the ‘new worlds’ heading, or maybe ‘survival’. My favourite quote is definitely from Station Eleven, which in turn pinched it from Star Trek, which is ‘survival is insufficient’.

Onto the list:

  1. *4 ‘Classics’
  2. *A Man Booker nominee
  3. **A Baileys nominee
  4. *A Feminist Book cover to cover
  5. **‘A Blue Cover’
  6. *A Graphic Novel
  7. A Horror Book
  8. ***Finish a series you’ve started
  9. A friend’s favourite book
  10. *Poetry book
  11. *Book over 500 pages
  12. *Book under 150 pages
  13. Book with a character with your name
  14. *An autobiography
  15. **A play
  16. **A book from your TBR
  17. ******Book published in 2017

Station Eleven has ticked off another book from my TBR, whilst The End We Start From and Who Runs The World? has ticked off a book published in 2017 (again). I think I’ve exhausted that category. It’s apparent that I’m reluctant to tackle that ‘classics’ challenge, but I think I’m going to try to add at least one more classic to my reading pile for July. I’m still, however, searching for a horror book – so recommendations are still more than welcome.

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September Wrap Up

In my head, I thought September was an ok reading month, but now looking back I see that I actually read some fantastic books and – after spending hours last night finishing a book that I literally couldn’t put down – it seems like my reading is picking back up again.

So first off we have Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter. By the time I reached the end and had some time to think about it, I liked it far more than I thought I would. A combination of prose and poetry, it looks at grief within a family throughout the eyes of those who are left behind along with the strange character of the Crow, inspired by Ted Hughes’ poem, that has a very Tim Burton vibe. There was a good balance of dark humour along with beautiful passages and, although I was confused by a lot of it, I did love it in the end.

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Then I read the spectacular sci-fi novel, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. The world building took up most of the book, and it was incredibly well done, but it was the characters that kept me reading. I absolutely loved how we saw their relationships play out, and how everyone was very distinct. Even when something terrible happened, I felt like it was happening to someone I know – and that’s when you know that the author has really succeeded in writing.

After that was The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L Armentrout, an author who I usually read on kindle and love – she has this way of writing which is just effortless to read, and I’ve always bought her books from the Lux Series beyond. Her New Adult books are usually my favourite, and although this one was perhaps a little younger it was still a lovely read. The secondary characters, and this goes for all of her books, remain to be my favourite.

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Then came the usual mid-month Kindle extravaganza, with Retrieval, Drive, The Boss, and Machine. As usual, they were light, easy-reading, and great flicks.

The final book I finished this month was The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye, which I’d heard some great reviews on and, honestly, they weren’t lying. I adored this book, and the magic within it was perfectly done. Like the other books of this month, it was all down to the characters once again, and I am honestly desperate for the sequel. Like seriously – I need it immediately. What was that ending? What happened? I literally spent hours online searching for someone who knew the answers I’m sure only the author knows, so basically I need the sequel because I need to know what happened.

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On that note, for my physical books that brings me to 43/50! I am just seven books away – and with October already under way, I’ve already finished a book (as mentioned previously, due to the late-night-can’t-stop-reading phase). It’s so exciting as the year goes on to actually see progress, and to think that from October-December I need to have read 7 books I’m even more motivated. If I read three books a month, I will pass my  goal – and although university is kicking off and the work is piling on, I hope that I’ll make sure I find the time to read, read, read.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I like new ways to read – and for me, that list was basically narrowed down to reading on a kindle, listening to an audiobook, and reading novellas/short stories. Basically, I liked finding new ways of reading to break up the long periods of reading large physical books. Kindle meant that I could download books cheaply and travel with many books at the same time without weighing down the plane. Audiobooks meant that I could listen whilst walking, or just before going to bed but giving my eyes a rest. Novellas and short stories let me feel accomplished for having finished reading something in its entirety, but in a remarkably shorter time period, so I could pick up things I may not like just to try and not feel indebted to give up hours and hours of my life.

Illuminae became one of these ‘new ways to read’. A sci-fi read composed of different documents, like records, transcripts of conversations, summaries of footage seen, and so much more. This book was so unexpected for me, and I was absolutely hooked from the very first page.

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This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

I lifted the above blurb from Goodreads because, honestly, their description makes this book sound so much better than some other retailers. I was at first hesitant to pick up this book, having had more disappointments from the YA genre than anything else recently, but I am so glad that I did decide to give it a chance. It has the combination of the classic YA – teenagers, love, angst, drama beyond belief – but it was in this brilliant sci-fi setting with perfectly constructed characters that shone through the format of reports and interviews, a fantastic plot, and just so much that I can’t even say.

Basically, words fail me when it comes to this book.

There is brilliant wit and humour throughout the book, and the opening pages won me over in a heartbeat. To summarise without spoiling, Kady and Ezra are interviewed about their experience of their planet being attacked and how they escaped. Yet these are two teenagers, who are more caught up with their own drama to really give a damn about the official interviewers, and just emanate the typical teenage ‘leave me the hell alone’ vibe. I loved it.

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Once you get into the story, you barely notice the format and just enjoy the narrative. It was surprisingly not distracting to switch from one format to the next, and once the plot starting travelling at warp speed, nothing was going to stop me from devouring this book. I don’t want to say too much about the plot, but I will highlight from the blurb that there is a mysterious plague that is attacking the ships, there is dissent amongst the people in charge, and the AI they depend on can’t be trusted. And that ending? Those final chapters? I was crying, feeling sick, generally feeling traumatised, and when it finally ended I had to lie down for a while. Then I was back online to find out when the sequel was out.

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Five stars without doubt. This was my perfect kind of book, and I’m so happy that I gave it a shot. Don’t let the YA attachment to this book put you off, because it is such great fun – who cares if it’s about teenagers? Reading is about enjoying the experience, and nobody – I repeat nobody – can tell you what you can or can’t read.

Take that, haters.

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Book to film: The Martian

I have been meaning to make a post about this for months, but what with procrastination, forgetfulness, and lots of other things to do, I just haven’t gotten around to doing it. Well I’m here now and hopefully I can do this justice, even though I’ll admit that I have already forgotten most of the points I wanted to say. Man, what I way to start a post – I bet you’re really psyched to read this now. I promise I’ll do better.

I’m stranded on Mars.

I have no way to communicate with Earth.

I’m in a Habitat designed to last 31 days.

If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

So yeah. I’m screwed.

Already I even feel I’ve been hard done by because that cover looks incredible and I wish the UK had supply of that cover. Instead I had one of Matt Damon’s face – now I’m not saying anything is wrong with his face, but I prefer book covers that are about the book and not the film adaptation. Just saying.

Anyway, a phenomenal book, even if I hadn’t immediately been inclined to pick it up. In all honesty the only reason I bought this book was because everyone and their mothers were telling me how amazing it is, so I gave it to my Mum for Christmas then stole it after she’d finished it (I know, I’m such a good daughter).

This book is all about Mark Watney and how he was stranded on Mars, and that’s probably all I really want to say about it in the spoiler-free section. All I will add is that the fantastic reviews are fantastic for a reason, as it really is all about the brilliant character that is Mark Watney who, despite his situation, is a hilarious commentator with such well-thought out witty dialogue that you’ll be laughing throughout. A five stars from me without fail.

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Now, onto the discussion about the book to film adaptation. This will contain some spoilers on what the film misses out and, therefore, some scenes that happen in the book, so approach with caution.

If I hadn’t read the book, watching The Martian would have been a great experience – and, admittedly, it still was good fun. However the film misses out some really big scenes that I remember from the book, and half of you is enjoying the film whilst the other half is fuming that they’ve missed out a bit. Obviously they can’t cram in everything that happens in the book into the film, so that’s understandable, but I still felt bitter. Can’t help that.

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Just for those who didn’t read the above warning SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

There were big action scenes and explanations missed out that I think needed more time devoted to. For example when Mark makes the long trip to get the radioactive substance and test his solar panels, they kind of just breeze over that and don’t really talk about the solar panels that much. All the mini trips he made were left out, and all of a sudden he’s got his way to communicate with earth and now he’s off on the final long trip to be rescued. And let’s talk about that trip – it was remarkably easy. He was supposed to crash, roll around in his make-shift caravan, and we all are supposed to think he’s dead for a heart-stopping minute. The film made it look all too easy, which I personally think is just plain rude to Watney and his efforts.

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The next thing that upset me was that, despite the film being all about him, it still felt like there wasn’t enough Mark Watney. The huge punch lines in the book and Mark’s fantastic dialogue didn’t feel emphasised enough or focussed on. It definitely felt like the film was concerned most with the plot, whereas the book is all about the characters. Even the secondary characters, like those on earth and his crew-mates, weren’t really fleshed out enough. They were just…secondary characters, and not important. I wanted to hear all about Johannson and Beck and all the others whose names I’ve now forgotten (I’m sorry). I wanted to hear more about the love story between Mark Watney and his potatoes, because really that’s what the book is all about. (I’m joking, but then again I’m not).

It’s going to happen with pretty much any book that’s made into a film – there are bits that you adored in the book which were missed out, or sections that you felt deserved at least twenty minutes and instead got about twenty seconds. It’s difficult watching a book you love being turned into a film which you like, but not as much as the book. Just remember that we’re all going through the same thing and together we’ll make it through.

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