Recent Reads

It’s been a while since I posted one of these ‘recent reads’ catchup posts, so it may be slightly longer than usual. I have been plugging away steadily trying to reach my 50 book total for 2011, but I’m sorry to say I’ve not been able to cross many more books off of the Time list to help out with my 101 in 1001 days challenge. I have however managed to discover a new book to add to my all time favourites list (hint: it’s Cloudstreet).

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – I didn’t know much about the Hunger Games trilogy before beginning to read the series, other than the fact that a movie is in the works and the storyline is oddly similar to that of Battle Royale. I really enjoyed The Hunger Games, and managed to power through it quite quickly. Taking into consideration the fact that it’s classified as ‘young adult’ fiction, it’s not a badly written book and the storyline was intriguing enough to keep me up reading late into the night just because I wanted to know what happened next.

Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal – As sad as it may seem, this was my most anticipated book release for 2011. As it turns out, it also happened to be the worst book I’ve ever read (and guys, I’ve read Twilight). It’s almost like time has turned Francine against her once beloved characters, to the point where she now actively hates them. It also seems like she took it upon herself to hire someone to open pages of the book and point to random sentences where she could insert the word “like”. Granted, the Wakefield twins may have been highly superficial and unrealistic fictional role models for young women (and lets face it, Jess was borderline sociopathic), but they did have a pretty firm grasp on the English language. If you wish to retain some fond memories of the old school Sweet Valley, two words – don’t bother.

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton – (not pictured, borrowed out to my dad) As I mentioned in the introduction to this post, Cloudstreet has now become one of my all-time favourite books. I am of the opinion that nobody can match Tim Winton in his ability to write about Australia and her people. His character development is amazing, and I fell in love with each and every character that appeared in Cloudstreet. I also found it really interesting to read a story based in my home town of Perth, Western Australia. Granted, it is set way before my time but there were still a lot of areas and landmarks that were familiar to me, which was nice. I’m now really looking forward to watching the Cloudstreet TV miniseries when it airs.

Day of The Triffids by John Wyndham – Most of you will already know about my love for dystopian literature, and post-apocalyptic storylines. I had high expectations for Day Of The Triffids as it fits into this genre, and I was especially excited to read it after my mum convinced me that it was one of the scariest stories she’s ever read. Unfortunately, this book didn’t quite live up to my expectations at all. Even taking into account the fact that it was written in 1951, I didn’t find it scary in the slightest. I did however appreciate the humour in the storyline, and liked the fact that the female character was not made out to be a dithering idiot, as with some 1950’s published books I’ve read in the past. (I’m looking at you, On The Beach)

Bossypants by Tina Fey – (not pictured, borrowed out to a friend) I adore Tina Fey. I love the fact that she is living proof that beautiful and intelligent women can also be pee-your-pants funny. I am a huge fan of her self deprecating humour, and 30 Rock is one of my favourite shows on television. Okay, enough of the Fey love and on to Bossypants. I’ll be upfront and say that Bossypants wasn’t as funny as I’d expected. But to be honest I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Having said that, the book was still very humourous and I often found myself laughing out loud on the train home from work (note: this is highly embarrassing and people will stare at you). I really loved the fact that this book was clearly written in Tina Fey’s voice, and was not an obvious ghostwritten mess. I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fast and easy read, or who wants to get to know a little bit more about Tina Fey.

Brief Interviews With Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace – Despite David Foster Wallace’s undeniable brilliance, I don’t think anything could ever make me love short story collections. This isn’t the first book of short stories that I’ve read, and it probably won’t be the last but I just can’t bring myself to like them. I find that they’re often disappointing, as there is usually only one or two stories within the whole collection that I enjoy. Having said that (and true to form), there were a couple of short stories in this book that I loved. David Foster Wallace is one of my favourite writers, and everything he writes is truly inspiring and brilliant. I am really interested to see the film version of this book, especially after reading that it was adapted for the screen and directed by my coffee-making crush John Krasinski.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – This is the second installment in the Hunger Games trilogy, and I found it just as face paced and intriguing as the first book. As with the first book this was also a very easy read, and I managed to finish it in around 3 days (great for those of you like me who are trying to knock out a few quick books in their 50 book challenge for this year!). The storyline continues to be interesting and kept me turning the pages throughout the entire book. The whole ‘ teenage love triangle’ aspect continues to annoy me, but I have come to the understanding that its all part of the territory of YA fiction.

As always, all book recommendations for the future are welcome!

Recent Reads

The 50 Book Challenge is still going strong, and I am still on well track to reaching that target by the end of the year. As with my last ‘recent reads‘ post recently, here are 4 small reviews of some of the books I’ve read during the challenge so far.

The Odyssey by Homer
This was the first text that I had to read for my University course this year, and boy was it a heavy one. It follows the story of Odysseus as he makes his way home after an epic journey in which he gets kidnapped by the goddess Calypso and is stranded on an Island. It was definitely not a book that I would have picked up on my own due to the scale of it, despite my fascination with ancient Greek mythology. I am glad that I read it though because it was an interesting book and although not one that I would call a page turner, it was definitely interesting.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
This book was a re-read for me. I had originally borrowed it from a friend a couple of years back but then I saw the a copy on the shelf at a second hand book store recently and decided to buy it for myself. I love this book. Basically, it’s the story of a teenage girl named Susie Salmon who is murdered in her hometown in the 1970s. The book then goes on to describe the stages of grief that her family and friends go through after her death, all of which is observed by Susie from her own little patch of heaven. The story itself and the way it is told is absolutely heartbreaking, but ultimately hopeful. I would recommend this book to anyone who needs a good cry.

The Woman In Black by Susan Hill
This book was recommended to me by a reader and I really enjoyed it, so thankyou Tonile! It’s an old-school ghost story that left me feeling unsettled and chilled on finishing the book. I won’t go into too much detail because I don’t want to give too much away, but it is a very subtle sort of story so if you’re into gore and hardcore ghosty thrills this probably isn’t for you. Interesting fact: they are making a film of this book starring my imaginary boyfriend (#56) Daniel Radcliffe. Exciting!

The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
This is book two in the ‘Forest of Hands & Teeth’ series about zombies (or as they’re called in these books – The Unconsecrated). I preferred this book to the first in the series, which I think is mostly due to the fact that the female protagonist didn’t annoy me as much. A lot of the questions that I had on completing book one were explained and wrapped up in book two, so I was happy about that. This book follows the story of Gabrielle, another young girl facing life in the future world infested with the undead. I won’t go into too much detail as this is a follow up book in a series and I don’t want to post any spoilers for those who’ve not read book one yet…

As always, hit me with your book suggestions if you’ve got them!

Recent Reads

I am well on track with the 50 Book Challenge this year, and I’m quite pleased with my progress so far. I am 10 books in to the challenge, and have quite a few good books lined up over the next couple of weeks (including school texts) so it’s all running pretty smoothly. As with my first ‘recent reads‘ post earlier this year, here are 4 small reviews of some of the books I’ve read during the challenge so far.

The Forest Of Hands & Teeth by Carrie Ryan
I was initially drawn to it’s book due to the fact that it’s subject matter contained a post apocalyptic world infested with zombies. Stories that involve zombies (whether film or book) have always intrigued me, so I was quite excited about this book before reading it. I had been warned by various reviews that the female protagonist Mary was quite annoying and that wasn’t too far from the truth. Having said that, I was happy to put Mary’s personality and the annoying ‘young adult’ love triangle aside due to the more interesting aspects of the story (read: zombies). The village that Mary resides in is surrounded by fences that stand between humans and ‘the unconsecrated’. One day this fence is breached and Mary has to venture into the forest to try and find safety in another village. I enjoyed this book, it was a quick and interesting read and I am currently reading book 2 in the series, The Dead Tossed Waves.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
This book was quite a stumbling block for me. For some reason I really struggled to get involved in the first half of the story, despite it being an interesting and well written book. The story moves between three different timelines and a contains large collection of characters which made it hard at times to follow the flow of the story. Once I forced myself to sit down and really try to read a decent chunk of the story I was quite captivated and ended up finishing the second half of the book in a couple of days after struggling with the first half for over a week. I enjoyed it, and particularly liked Kate Morton’s style of writing. I’d be interested in checking out some of her other work in the future.

Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien
This was yet another of my high school texts that I recently felt the urge to re-read. The story revolves around a young girl who is doing her best to survive in a post-apocalyptic world following a nuclear war. The style of writing was slightly old fashioned, due to the fact that the book was written and published in the 1970’s, but I still found the story and themes to be really interesting. I know this subject matter isn’t for everyone, but if you’re interested in the whole post-apocalyptic theme like I am, this book might be for you. It was a quick and easy read and I managed to finish it in a couple of days.

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis
Ahh, Narnia. I plan on re-reading the entire Chronicles of Narnia series this year, and on re-reading the Magician’s Nephew for the upteenth time I was reminded once again of how magical C.S. Lewis’ writing style is. Despite the writing style being somewhat old fashioned, Lewis’ humour and wit is still relevant and I actually laughed out loud a couple of times while reading this book. The magic of Narnia never really dies for me, and I will openly admit to being a huge geek and getting super excited when Aslan first made his appearance in the story. Yes, I’m sad. Who cares. Narnia is awesome.

As always, hit me with your book suggestions if you’ve got them!

Recent Reads

I am happy with how my ’50 Book Challenge’ is progressing so far, having completed more than the necessary average of books per week so far this year. Here are some mini reviews of the books that I have read so far in 2011. (note: My copy of The Collector by John Fowles is not pictured, as I have leant it to a friend to read).

American Subversive by David Goodwillie
I picked this book up at a bookshop and was lured in by the interesting cover art. Thankfully it wasn’t too much of a let down (as it can sometimes be when you judge a book by it’s cover) and I did enjoy the book as a whole. The concept of the book seemed really interesting to me, but in my opinion the execution didn’t really live up to the storyline. The basic plot is that in a post 9/11 New York City a bomb is detonated in a building, and the media immediately assumes and points the finger at a middle eastern extremist group. A political blogger receives an email with an attached picture of a caucasian woman crossing the street in front of the bombed building, and the message “This is Paige Roderick, she is the one responsible.” I like the character development in the book, but found the lack of action quite boring and at times frustrating.

The Collector by John Fowles
I initially read this book in my highschool English Literature class, and had re-read it over the years, but for some reason I picked up a lot more about the story during this re-read than ever before. For one thing, I had always thought that the book took place in modern day Australia, but it’s in fact set in London in the 1960’s. I also found the story and theme of the book far more chilling than I ever did before. The story is split narrative between a middle aged sociopathic man and the 20 year old girl that he becomes obsessed with, and later kidnaps. I really enjoyed this book and got through it rather quickly (I think I finished it in 2-3 days) and the ending was as haunting as always.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusac
The immediate front-runner for my favourite book of 2011, The Book Thief was so incredible that I now count it amoung my favourite books of all time. (ALL TIME! …Okay, pipe down Kanye) I don’t think I’ve ever been as emotionally wrecked by a story as I was by The Book Thief, except perhaps while reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which was another emotionally gruelling literary adventure. The character development in this story was second to none, and it was probably due to my attachment to the characters that I felt so shattered at the end of the book. The Book Thief is narrated by death (if that doesn’t draw you in immediately, I’m not sure what will) and revolves around a young girl called Liesel and her life in Germany during WW2. I absolutely loved this book, and would recommend it to all who are in the market for a good read.

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
I purchased this book as it was on one of the “top apocalyptic fiction” lists that I found online, and I’d read quite a few good reviews of the story on different book blogs. It’s set in the US in the 1950’s in a post-apocalyptic scenario that occurs after a nuclear war between Russia and the United States. As with most pre-21st century apocalyptic fiction, it wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped, and dealt more with the coping mechanisms of the small country town than anything else. Having said that, it did a good job to translate the era difference despite the constant reminders as to how pathetic women are (thanks, 1950’s mentality) and the subject of segregation which is something I have a hard time relating to in this day and age. The ending was quite poignant and tied everything together nicely for me.

What are you reading at the moment? Any good book suggestions for me?