Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Reading Rush Recap

I just realized that I never did update on how The Reading Rush went for me!

So, basically I succeeded in reading two books:

1. The Secret Garden (this was a reread, and was for the challenge of reading a book set on a different continent)
2. The Book Thief (this was not a reread, and was for the challenge of reading a book with 'the' in the title).

Actually, I may have the challenges flipped, but you get the idea!

Reading The Secret Garden was really quite a nostalgic feeling, I was reminded quite strongly of why I enjoyed the book so much. It's not without its issues - racism is pretty blatant - but not unexpected for the time period that it was written in.

I also just really enjoyed the childlike wonder that was communicated through the pages, the joy and the appreciation of nature and the world in general.

The Book Thief was sadly not as good an experience. I kept waiting to be swept away by it (I posted the review earlier) and just wasn't. This was particularly disappointing for me because so many people gave this book glowing reviews, including a good friend of mine, and then my reaction was just 'meh'.

Ah well. There are always more books waiting to be read! I look forward to the next Reading Rush and hope it'll be sometime when I have more time to read.

Review: The Haunting Of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill HouseThe Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hmm. This is one of those books where I find myself wondering what it would have been like to read it in 1959, before the advent of modern horror in both books and film.

I enjoyed this book, but I can't help but think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't seen the movie based on it (which gave me an idea of where the story was going) and didn't have that experience with other horror books.

All the same, though, the writing is quite enjoyable and I do appreciate seeing the roots of the horror genre as it stands today.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Review: The Book Thief

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This was... ok, I guess? Not a great start for the Reading Rush :(

So first thing about this book, I've tried to read it two, maybe three times? And I've always struggled to get into it. When I switched to the audiobook I was able to finish it, but I have to say that I'm finding myself wondering if I should have taken that as a sign it wasn't going to be an exceptional book for me.

I really wanted to love this book but the truth is, it was just okay. I kept waiting to be struck by all the emotion and revelations that other people apparently had it but it just didn't happen. Maybe it's because I've read some great books like Code Name Verity and Winter Garden and The Alice Network and so I just wasn't blown away by this particular book.

I also didn't connect to the characters as much as I would have liked, other than Max. Max = <3 Yeah. Unfortunately not enough of that here. It's odd because when I sit and think about it, I can pinpoint moments in the book that would strike one as quite moving, and yet I just wasn't really feeling it. I'd been hoping that listening to the book as an audiobook would help me engage with the book more but it seems it didn't.

Part of it was due to some things that just sort of...threw me. Like the way the characters casually insulted and swore at each other all the time. It made me think of modern day Australia and tbh I really have no idea if that was common in the 1940's? Maybe it was, I don't know, but it didn't really do anything for me and didn't add anything to the story as far as I can tell. And I'm not some prude about swearing, it just got to be too much after awhile. It made me wonder if to the author this is some sort of way of expressing affection.

The book also felt way too long. Like at one point I looked at how much of the book I had left and I found myself wondering how it could possibly go on that long! Never a good sign when you think that... To be honest I feel as though a good chunk of the book could have been cut out in favour of focusing on the actual events of the plot and it would have been much tighter, would have given the book a sense of urgency and action, and probably would have been more compelling, too. I think the author was focusing on the development of the characters and development of the atmosphere, but when it's not working for you, it ends up feeling like an eternity.

Perhaps I'll watch the movie at some point because I feel as though it might lend itself quite well to that sort of format.

I'm really disappointed that I didn't love this one as much as other people, but that's just the way it is sometimes, I suppose. Perhaps it's a sign that I need to take a break from WWII literature for awhile.

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Sunday, July 19, 2020

Review: The Boy From The Woods

The Boy from the WoodsThe Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars for this one.

Wow. Just imagine me whistling, here, because this one kept me guessing up until the last minute.

I see some complaints and comparisons to Coben's other books, but this is the first book that I've read by him so I have nothing to compare it to! I'm a bit glad if it means that I would enjoy this one less.

Take a bit of romance, add a dash of political intrigue, some good ol' 'whodunnit' and mystery and you have 'The Boy From The Woods'.

One thing I really enjoyed about this book is that what you think you're getting into when you start the book is not at all the case. The plot takes many twists and turns along the way and builds on itself, and one thing I liked about it is that just when you *think* it's all wrapped up, it turns out that it isn't. There's a good dash of reflection on our society as it is today and American politics, and I enjoyed that without it being too ham-handed or condescending.

I will say that there was a point in the book where I rolled my eyes a bit at a touch of exposition, which is why this isn't a five star read to me. I know it's partly because Coben wanted to keep us guessing, but I think the book would have benefited if he'd taken his time to think of a way to do that without having certain things that one of the main characters did concealed from us.

I quite enjoyed the characters, here. You could probably say that Wilde is a bit of a cliché, and I'd agree with that, but sometimes clichés are loveable and enjoyable anyway, and I found that to be the case here. Give me a moody boy with a bit of a tortured past and I'm definitely there, I guess you could say! I'm invested, now, and definitely open if it turns out that this book will have a sequel. The 'tropeish' parts were ones that I could overlook as they didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the book, and I found myself invested in him.

I also found myself invested in Hester, the irascible lawyer. She's all prickles and snark and wit, which I love, but she's also got a past and a history, which I also love.

Beyond these two there's also a cast of characters that are interested and nuanced in and of themselves. What the reader thinks of any one person throughout the book isn't necessarily the case, and it's interesting to see the hidden motives (dark ulterior ones and otherwise) put on display as the book comes to a close.

I just thoroughly enjoyed this, really. Definitely going to check out more of Coben's books!

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Thursday, July 16, 2020

Reading Rush? Hmm...

I follow Zoe (Read by Zoe) on Youtube today and she caught my attention when she was talking about the Reading Rush!

Oh, I can't help but wish that this was last week! I had some time off and it was a great time to catch up on some of my reading (I'm not quite as far behind on my reading goals as I was). However, now I'm back to a normal schedule and so I'm not sure how much I'll be able to participate.

The Reading Rush Book Club will be reading the following!

I've heard a lot about this book this year and I am interested to read it, I am going to set a reminder for myself to try and dip into it next week!

In addition there are challenges:

1/ Read a book with a cover that matches the colour of your birth stone.
2/ Read a book that starts with the word “The”.
3/ Read a book that inspired a movie you’ve already seen.
4/ Read the first book you touch.
5/ Read a book completely outside of your house.
6/ Read a book in a genre that you’ve always wanted to read more of.
7/ Read a book that takes place on a different continent than where you live.

To be honest I don't think I'll be able to get to many (if any!) of these, but I might try to do these before the end of the year... We will see!

At any rate, it's such a fun idea so if you can participate you should! I would be stoked to dive in if I didn't have to work during the day.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Review: Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told YouEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are books that sear you with the story they weave, with the characters within them that are almost altogether real in pleasant ways. This is one of those books. It's a book that had characters that made me frustrated and disgusted and angry, but also made me cry with the depth of pain express on the pages.

This is an examination of quite a few things. Feminism. Family. Expectations. Racism. Grief. I could probably find more, but these five alone are so incredibly powerful in the story that has been built, here. I felt as though if I closed my eyes, I could see Lydia before me, or little Hannah, or even their parents.

The plot is intensely character driven, so if that's not the type of book that you'll enjoy then I'd say that you likely won't enjoy this. The dialogue is sparse, the story told through the eyes of each of the Lee family members, and by the last page it's managed to be aggravating but romantic, incredibly painful and hopeful all at the same time. It isn't a sweet, fluffy story, it is a story that touches on what it means to be human, with all the bumps and bruises and triumphs and joys that come along with it.

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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Review: The Library Of The Unwritten

The Library of the Unwritten (Hell's Library #1)The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Oh, it *pains* me that this book does not have more reviews and attention! This is one of those books I want to shout about from the rafters.

I've always been a sucker for books about books, I'm going to admit that right off the bat. But authors still have to be careful when deciding to write this sort of story - have to watch their step, tread carefully to make sure they're not just indulging themselves and playing into familiar tropes that don't require much creativity or effort on the part of the author.

This book is not like that in the slightest and it is so good.

Right from the beginning, we're tipped into a fascinating world. Claire is our main character, the Librarian of the Library of the Unwritten - books that never came to pass, books that wait for the potential to be. It's a fascinating concept, one that tugged at my gut because, well, are there many voracious readers out there who *haven't* imagined writing a book one day themselves?

The world building here is so intriguing, I loved it. It has a dab of Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch and a splash of The Archived but it is its own unique and compelling story and I loved so much of it.

The characters in this book are lovely, never quite what they seem. I love when that's the case, especially when the author is writing from different perspectives, but still keeping secrets, still keeping the reader guessing. There are heroes and villains but they're never quite the archetype, and though there are some things I guessed at, there were still quite a few surprises among these pages.

Claire is a fascinating and layered character - arrogant but with vulnerabilities, reserved but with much beneath the surface. She has made mistakes and lost, but she still is still a character that is eminently endearing in spite of it all, even if she frustrates you at times.

And the plot? The plot is a whole lot of fun. We get to dip in and out of other realms, each interesting and with their own merits. Nothing is as straightforward as it might seem, and there's a lot of personal growth for the characters as we go around. Leto is my baby and I'm prepared to fight for him, I'm just saying!

Ugh, just an altogether satisfying read for the weekend and this is a book where I definitely want a physical copy on my shelves. I've been approved for an ARC of the next book on Netgalley and I can't wait to read it!

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Friday, July 10, 2020

Review: A Girl Made Of Air

A Girl Made of AirA Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

My first dnf of 2020, unfortunately.

I was so drawn in by the description of this book, but unfortunately the stylistic tone of the writing just did not grab me. I got about a third of the way in and have decided against plugging on because I just have so many other books to read and I feel like I gave it a fair shot.

My problems started right from the beginning, namely that the author had two characters speaking and the dialogue did not sound realistic at all. There are certain ways that people speak, from the haughty to the commonplace, but generally they don't sound as though they are writing descriptions in a novel while doing so.

From there the format switched to the main character speaking themselves in their own writing, and that was a bit better. But again, it didn't sound like something that a person would actually *write*. I suppose there could be some argument that if you're telling a tale you would add certain embellishments, but even then, it just didn't quite work for me. You have to sell that sort of style choice and I don't feel the author did (for my particular tastes, at least).

Beyond that, the plot just didn't draw me in the way that I wanted to, and I struggled to hold my interest in what I was reading. I may try again later as I see some positive reviews from others.

This book will be released in September, 2020. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for this advance copy! View all my reviews

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Review: The Monster Of Florence

The Monster of FlorenceThe Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was absolutely gripping.

I'm a fan of true crime books. Of course these days one can most likely read a wikipedia article about crimes and serial killers, etc, but there's a certain sort of enjoyment that comes from cracking open a book that takes the cold facts and presents them in a compelling way.

This book is one of those books. It tells the story of how the author comes to find that the peaceful little area of Italy he's moved to is actually the site of a vicious spate of crimes, a discovery that plunges him into an investigation that is both thrilling and dangerous. Over the span of seventeen years eight different couples had been brutally murdered during nighttime trysts, the violence so shocking that it left locals in a state of shock, dreading when the Monster of Florence would strike yet again.

The book doesn't just tell us about the murders, though. It's about much more than that. It delves into the Italian justice system, touching on corruption, power, and tendency of human nature to seize upon any explanation that tells us what we want to hear. The book covers a dizzying array of possible suspects and a convoluted trail of wild stories and accusations, and also touches on the importance of the freedom of the press.

This story isn't for those who are seeking a tidy, wrapped up story of a criminal and their comeuppance. But it is worth a read for anyone with a fascination for unresolved mysteries and the trials and tribulations of the justice system.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Review: Death's Acre by William M Bass

Death's Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell TalesDeath's Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales by William M. Bass
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is not for everyone, but oh, I enjoyed it!

I'm well aware that I have a bit of a fascination when it comes to death and the macabre. I remember as a teenager checking out a book on Fred and Rosemary West, the infamous serial killers. True crime interests me, as does the nature of death and how people relate to it.

The descriptions in this book are sure to turn some stomachs, I would definitely say that if you're not prepared to read honest - and in some case, graphic - descriptions of corpses and decomposition, then you may want to give this book a miss. The stories Bass has to tell are intriguing and fascinating, though, and are well balanced against the details of the author. Intertwined with these are highlights of students and colleagues, which I appreciated.

It's interesting - while I stand by my warning up above, I did find myself thinking just now that it's possible that people could benefit from reading books like this. Not necessarily this book, but books on death, and dying. We are so removed from the process, now.

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Sunday, July 5, 2020

Review: Hidden Valley Road

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American FamilyHidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a combination of heartbreaking and fascinating, and it weaves a compelling, if tragic story as the author tells the story of a family beset by schizophrenia.

It definitely reminded me of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in many ways. One thing I enjoyed about this book was a closer look at the subjects of the book, though due to the nature of the illness it's limited to the family members who aren't mentally ill.

The story of the family is by turns frustrating, shocking and saddening. As I read I couldn't help but wonder if the story would have turned out differently if the six sick boys had been born just a few decades later - if their parents had been products of different backgrounds, more able to reach out for help. The parents undeniably bear a lot of responsibility on their shoulders, but at the same time the era they were born into or grew up in was so ill-prepared for this sort of illness, especially on this scale, that I found myself having a lot of empathy for them. It's easy to have criticisms of them but I wonder how many could stand in Mimi or Don's shoes and survive what they did.

Intertwined with the story of the family is the story of the advancements of our understanding of schizophrenia - I'd lke to be able to say 'treatment', but I'm not sure if that would really be accurate. One thing the book makes clear is that we are only now truly starting to develop an idea of how the disorder works and what it encompasses. Hopefully that work will help us as we move into the future, so that one day other people won't have to go through what Don, Jim, Brian, Matthew, Joseph, Peter and the rest of their family did.

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Friday, July 3, 2020

Review: Into Thin Air

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest DisasterInto Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Much like Into the Wild, this book has convinced me that the world takes all kinds, and some do things that seem insane to many of the rest of us.

However, while there was a certain air of romanticism to the idea of just walking off into the wilderness to live for awhile, there's little romanticism in this book. It's interesting that the two books were written only a few years apart, yet the tone in this one is much grimmer. Krakauer had recounted another climbing adventure in 'Into The Wild', but the feeling I got from that one was much lighter than this book. It speaks to just how shaken Krakauer was by what took place on Everest, I think.

This book is not here to wrap things up in a tidy bow - 24 years later, there are still many unanswered questions about this expedition. This is just Krakauer's story of his experience and the role he may or may not have played in what transpired.

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