Monday, 27 May 2013

143/111 - Requiem by Lauren Oliver

I bought this very recently and decided to read this in the car once more as its an easy read. I had also already read the first two books in this trilogy, so I thought I'd be able to pick up where I left off. However, I did find that the first two books had left so little impression on me that it was a little tough to square up who all the characters were and the journeys they'd been on.

It seems like there's also a crazy trend in YA fiction at the moment for two-guys-and-a-girl scenarios (or maybe it's always been that way - I'm not heavily into YA books) and I find them kind of irritating. Very melodramatic.

I was also kind of unsatisfied by the ending of the series - I'm going to ruin this for you if you haven't read it, so look away now. When they finally infiltrate the city and start tearing down the walls, I was expecting there to be some sort of transitioning period where all the citizens begin to realise how wrong and prejudiced they have been, and maybe they will all decide to reverse the Cure or something. Nope. Instead the book ends with them tearing down the walls and that's it. Which I guess is sort of a hopeful ending, but I found it to be sort of a cop-out. We don't even really know who Lena chose as her super awesome boyfriend in the end! Annoying.

I enjoyed this book for what it was, which was a great distraction from a boring car journey. I also enjoyed it because I got to impress my little brother, which I rarely do, by reading the whole thing in one sitting, as it was a nice, easy read.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

142/111 - 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

This is another book I've had for ages. I think I probably bought this around the same time I read Horns, as I enjoyed it very much. I had a long car journey this weekend so I thought I'd take this along as I find it hard to read long stretches in the car as I get sick and this is a book of short stories. Also, next week Joe Hill will be doing a book signing at the Waterstones i used to work in, which I'm hoping to go to, so I thought I'd get ready. However, I found that I didn't get sick at all this time, so read the whole thing. Score!

I really really enjoyed this collection, it was great. Every story was so weird and wonderful and creepy, exactly what it was supposed to be. I liked the story about the editor of a horror collection who gets caught up in his won horror story, I liked the story about the boy who wakes up to find he's become an insect, I loved the story about the inflatable boy, and the ghost forest, and I also loved the last story about the boy who builds a cardboard fort that takes you places. Just amazing, pretty much all of them.

One of the things that I though was done really well in this collection was the stories told from points of view of narrators who are imperfect in some way - either unhappy, or down and out, or downright unlikeable. Just ordinary people experiencing slightly odd things. Anyway, his new book is out next week and I'm looking forward to it.

141/111 - The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead by David Shields

I can't remember why I bought this book, however I think it might have been because I read the preview on iBooks, and found it quite interesting. It's book seems to be part biography and part biology of the human body, and I found it to be both uplifting and depressing.

I found it uplifting because there were many moments of lightness and lots of really interesting facts. It covers lots of different stages of human development, from fertilisation and implantation, to puberty, to death, all interspersed with personal anecdata. However, the depressing part was how he catalogues all the points at which humans reach their prime, and it's clear that according to the science, I'm pretty much past my prime now. I'm starting to lose brain cells, my fertility is going down, I'll start shrinking and losing water and my metabolism will slow down, and basically I'm already on a march to death and never even realised that I had reached that point yet! What a shame that I never realised my power as a younger woman!

That's all from this, I can't remember too much else specifically that I enjoyed, but overall this was good.

140/111 - The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

I've had this book for so so long, I can't even remember when I bought it or why (although it was probably because I was really into Margaret Atwood or whatever). The reason I decided to read this is that every few months I meet up with a bunch of old school friends, and this time around, one of them suggested that we do a little book club format, so that every few months when we meet up we have something new to talk about. Someone suggested The Blind Assassin, and so we were on our way!

I didn't start reading this until quite late, and since I have been pretty ill with a cold the last couple of weeks, I didn't actually get to finish it in time for the book club, but never mind.

I did not enjoy this at all. There were definitely parts which were note resting and I really wanted to like it as I like Margaret Atwood, however it was such a slog. It was very clever - a story within a story within a story - and it won the Booker prize in the year it was released. But I didn't care about any of the characters really. I was already 300 pages in before it had even moved past the main character's childhood!

There was one part that really struck me, which was quite near the beginning, when the narrator is looking back at her life, and she's getting something out of her fridge late at night:

"Standing there with the jar in one hand and my finger in my mouth, I has the feeling that someone was about to walk into the room - some other woman, the unseen, valid owner - and ask me what the hell I was doing in her kitchen. I've had it before, the sense that even in the course of my most legitimate and daily actions - peeling a banana, brushing my teeth - I am trespassing."

I really empathised with this idea of feeling like you're trespassing in your own life, and I often catch myself feeling like I don't deserve to be in the position I'm in at my job, for example, and that I'm going to get caught. Or I'll catch myself being inauthentic with my friends, thinking, I better keep this up or they're going to see me for who I really am. I guess I've never imagined another woman coming to find me and kick me out of my own life, but I get where she's coming from.

That's it, really, for me that was the most interesting part. From talking about this with the others I've come to the conclusion that I love Margaret Atwood's sci-fi, like The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake etc, but I don't like her 'realist' novels all that much. Luckily she writes awesome sci-fi, so I'll just keep reading that.

139/111 - Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

First of all, I'm amazed that my iPad's autocorrect has the name 'Palahniuk' in its library - wonders will never cease! I've read this before, however I decided to re-read this again recently after attending a course called The Landmark Forum a few weeks ago. When I was reading about the course, I discovered that he had also attended the course and it was partly responsible for his decision to become a writer, and, there is also a healthy amount of satire directed towards the course in the book.

The first time I read Fight Club was after I'd seen the film, and I remember preferring the film to the book on that occasion. It is a great film. This time around, I think I enjoyed the book a lot more. Everyone knows what Fight Club is about, so I'm not going to go into too much detail here, but I really enjoyed this book, and it's probably one that I'll re-read every few years.

I've got some more Chuck Palahniuk stuff to read that I'm not sure I'll enjoy quite as much as everything else seems to be sitting in the shadow of Fight Club.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

138/111 - Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell

I've seen this book around last year, and recently its sequel has been released, so I downloaded them both to read for a bit of a chuckle. I enjoyed both very much indeed, although it might have been nice to have the book framed around some discussions of what's going on for bookshops at the moment and how they plan on surviving, but I suppose that's a discussion for another time.