Book Review Roundup

Over the past few months I’ve found myself picking up a lot more books to read. I’m now at a point where I both don’t feel like writing separate posts for them all, and also wouldn’t be able to remember enough about some of them to even fill one. For example, I had to google the name of a few of the characters I mention in this post already. They may have been enjoyable at the time, but clearly not super memorable. Either way, I decided to do another write-up with a few comments about each book. I guess it’ll be pretty obvious which ones I liked.

 

At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill

Ever since I started reading books in English back when I was 13 I have made it a point to attempt to read all books that I’m able to in their original language. At Swim, Two Boys is one of the first books where I wish I had decided to read a translated copy. It took me ages to get through this, but I never stopped because when I liked it I loved it, and when I didn’t fully understand it I just kept reading until I did again. As a result I’m not sure I was fully able to enjoy it the way it’s supposed to be enjoyed, but I’m really glad I stuck with it.

 

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

It took me forever to get through this book. I genuinely really enjoyed The Silkworm, and I liked The Cuckoos Calling, but this one was a bit of a chore to finish. Theoretically I found the plot to be really interesting; someone from Strike’s past coming after him, putting both Robin and his business at risk, etc. But I didn’t like that from the get-go there were really only three suspects. I also didn’t like how much time was spent on Strike and Robin’s relationship, or lack thereof. The more the books explore the attraction between the two, the less interested I am in reading them. Matthew and Robin’s relationship woes were frustrating, and made it hard to remain engaged in the story as I was reading. I’m not sure I’ll read the next installment in the series, unless I hear really good things about the mystery. I know there was a cliffhanger at the end of this book, but at the moment I have no memory of what it was, which I think says it all.

 

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

I enjoyed this book a lot. A story about the people who exist in the worlds of the supernatural without being a part of the actual supernatural drama was a fun little twist and a refreshing break from the superhero saturated state of pop culture at the moment. I also enjoyed that it was a stand-alone novel, as I find that so many current YA books are a part of longer series. Sometimes that’s good, but occasionally I just don’t want to commit to multiple books.

 

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

I liked this, I think. I liked it more for its writing style than for the actual story. Or, I’m not sure if that’s quite right either. I guess I found the pacing of the story a bit lacking, what with the repetitive nature of them running and being chased throughout the entire novel. I did like the premise of Noise and how only men were able to hear each other’s thoughts. I still haven’t read the following two books, but I’m still planning to, so that’s something.

 

The Girls by Emma Cline

I liked this book just fine, but I’ve forgotten large parts of the story. I wish it had been a little bit more compelling than it was. I understand that it’s based on real events, but I’m not familiar with them. I feel like it could have explored cult mentality a lot more in-depth. But maybe I was just looking for something that was never on offer.

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

I read this after reading everything about the plot on Tumblr, listening to discussions about the play and seeing multiple memes mocking the so-called ‘new canon’. Which was good, because I was able to see past the ridiculousness and just enjoy the play. I loved Scorpius, he was a gem. Plus Draco Malfoy got to be excited about farmer’s markets, which is just weirdly delightful.

 

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

I don’t really know what to say about this book. Simply put, it’s probably a contender for my favourite book of all time. It is also a book I’m not sure I’ll ever read again in its entirety. This book is beautifully written. It made me feel things in more visceral ways than most books ever manage, and it raises some really difficult questions that I don’t know if there are answers to, but which I loved exploring nonetheless. What makes this story work for me the most is how it contrasts the best of humanity with the worst, and how it portrays friendships of all sorts, in intricate and complicated ways. Yes, it is borderline too depressing, and at points I did want to throw the book across the room, because why couldn’t Jude just catch a break every once in a while? (Luckily I didn’t, since I was reading this on my iPad) But what can I say; I do love a depressing story. I was physically uncomfortable, literally cringing, while reading parts of this book, and actually ugly crying at several points by the end. But it felt cathartic. The book is long, at times a little repetitive, and definitely not for everyone, but I think it will always be at the front of my mind when discussing books in the future. Oh, and Willem is one of my favourite literary characters of all time.

 

Gina/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz

I like the whole modernised epistolary novel angle. A story told through emails, Tumblr posts and texts can be fun, but it always loses its appeal for me when the novel doesn’t switch over to traditional narrative at the point when the characters actually meet in real life. I enjoyed the back and forth at the start. It was relatable, especially since I’ve personally partaken in the Supernatural fandom way back when (and it was pretty clear that this fandom was the inspiration). But when they got to the hospital and the story still continued to be told through letters and emails I got a bit frustrated and mostly just speed read through to the end. It felt a bit like a missed opportunity. Either way, it was enjoyable for what it was.

 

Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate

I did actually like this book enough to rush through the second half of it while on the bus from Leeds to London, but right now I can hardly even summarise what made me enjoy it. I can say for certain that the whole student-teacher romance storyline was my least favourite part of the story, and Juniper’s poetic POV style just annoyed me. I enjoyed Matt and Olivia’s bits, and I appreciate the existence of Valentine and Lucas story and how it progressed (this was actually the best part of the book) for its representation and originality, but aside from that it was not a very memorable read.

 

All About the Game series: The Foxhole Court, The Raven King and The King’s Men by Nora Sakavic

I picked these up after seeing exactly one Foxhole Court mood board post on Tumblr. Because it’s self-published I’m not sure I would have come across it anywhere else, but I’m glad I did and that I decided to commit to it. I wasn’t immediately thrilled with The Foxhole Court to begin with, but towards the end, and definitely by the time I started the Raven King, I was completely hooked. I’ve since gone back to reread bits of the first book and can now appreciate it as a part of the whole trilogy. I have been known to love narratives centred on sport despite a lack of real life interest in any actual sports. I like stories about team building, making friends, creating bonds despite not being friends, etc. Team sport is a very literal way of doing that, and it adds some stakes at the same time. What I liked most about this trilogy, aside from the team building aspect, was the way it developed characters without losing their core qualities along the way. For once, the protagonist was probably my favourite character. They allowed Neil to grow, to develop, without losing who he was in the process. And characters like Andrew are really hard to convincingly allow to grow, but it was done in a way that was believable and not too neatly wrapped up by the end. I think that his character makes more sense on reread, but I found the intricacies of his group’s dynamics pretty fascinating to read. Also, I’m a sucker for the whole dynamic between Neil and Andrew and their whole secret-exchange game.

 

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

I didn’t love it. I like the concept of a world where memory erasure is a possibility and all, and I guess I like how it was used in relation to sexuality, but I didn’t care enough about the characters to really feel invested. I actually didn’t see it coming that Aaron had already gone through with the procedure, so there’s that. I do appreciate that Thomas ended up being straight, because I like seeing unconventional male friendships in YA literature, but I wasn’t a big fan of Aaron’s continued insistence that Thomas was secretly closeted. Generally speaking I wasn’t the biggest fan of Aaron. I also didn’t love how it ended.

 

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

I’ve seen this book everywhere for the last few months, and I wish it lived up to the hype. This is also a book I feel didn’t live up to its full potential. I don’t mind that there was a twist at the end, and that she wasn’t actually sick after all. That was fairly predictable, and I think it could have been more interesting if she actually was sick, but alright. I was more annoyed by how incredibly selfish Madeline seemed even before she found out about her mum’s lies. Like, going to Hawaii was a bit extreme! I stopped feeling sympathy for her fairly early on, and there wasn’t enough time for me to feel any kind of investment in the romance. I also had this intense moment of exasperation of how so many YA characters are all so quirky and witty. This was when Madeline emailed her oh-so-witty Bundt cake recipe. On the positive side, I do appreciate that there is a successful YA novel with a POC protagonist. That’s always nice to see.

 

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

If I’m completely honest I hardly remember this book. I know I didn’t hate it, but I definitely didn’t love it. It didn’t appeal to me stylistically, and the story wasn’t engaging enough to leave me with a lasting impression.

 

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

One of my all time favourite books is The Secret History, so of course I felt like I had to read The Goldfinch. This one took me longer to get through, and I don’t love it as much, but it was still a really captivating read. My favourite part of the book was Theo’s early years, the years running around with Boris in Las Vegas. I started reading without knowing anything about the story, and as a result I never knew how it would progress or how it would end. It turned out a lot different from I expected, but I loved how the story explored all the ways in which that one painting determined how Theo’s life unfolded. I also loved the contemplation of morality, the internal debates about whether the morally and socially right thing to do is always the individual person’s right choice. And the questioning of whether good intentions always lead to good rewards. But mostly I loved how fraught and imperfect, yet deep and committed all the friendships in this book were. From Theo and Boris,to Theo and Hobie, and even Theo and Kitsy. And I loved that Theo’s feelings for Pippa were an undercurrent throughout the entire story but never really came to anything, because the reasons why they couldn’t were still valid at the end.

 

(Reread) Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Not as good upon second read, but fun to listen to when narrated by Lin Manuel Miranda. It’s still a lot better than other books I’ve read this year though, and I do want to read the sequel. Oh, and this is being made into a film, right? I’m not sure if I’m getting my adaptations mixed up or not.

 

(Reread) Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

This one I think I liked better on second read. I’m looking forward to seeing this as a film. I love Bram so much. That’s my main take away from it.

 

Currently Reading:

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I’m reading it on my sister’s recommendation because it’s about time I read something she recommends and stop forcing my favourite books on her all the time. I didn’t love the last Jojo Moyes book I read, but I’m keeping an open mind. So far it’s alright.

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