Winter Reading List (+ Autumn Reviews)

(note: I will be reading book 2 of 1Q84)

Ten by Gretchen McNeil 4/10 – This was an easy read, I think I managed to get through it over the course of one weekend. Not an amazing book, but good for what it was – a fairly basic young adult thriller.

The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell 5/10 – I had high hopes for this book, and enjoyed how it started out but wasn’t that impressed with where it ended up. Another fairly easy read although I slowed down a little bit towards the end because I just wasn’t that interested in picking it up.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 8/10 – I read this because I wanted to have it fresh in my mind before seeing the film when it came out this year. I love this story, and it’s nice and short so it was easy to devour in a few sittings. I found that while I was reading it I was imagining the characters as the actors playing them in the new film, which was interesting.

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris 7/10 – I’m in love with the new Hannibal TV series that started up recently, and I’m now inspired to read the books that the show is based on. I started at the beginning of the series with Red Dragon. I enjoyed this, it was another easy read and I devoured it (lol) pretty quickly.

Autumn Reading List (+ Summer Reviews)

(I’ve already finished Ten by Gretchen McNeil but I’m incluing it as an Autumn read anyway…)

What I Did by Christoper Wakling (4/10) – This was one of the designated reads for the book club that a group of my friends and I have together. It wasn’t something that I could see myself picking up of my own accord, which is one of the things I love most about being part of a book club. I started out really liking it, but it ended with a terrible anticlimax that made me change my opinion of the book as a whole leading more towards the negative.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (8/10) – I really liked this book, and I won’t say too much about it because it’s one of those books that the less you know about it the better it will be.

1Q84 (Book 1) by Haruki Murakami (6/10) – I enjoyed this but I found it quite obvious that it was part one in a trilogy. I didn’t feel like there was a complete story in the book, which was a bit frustrating but having said that I was captivated by the story enough to look forward to reading the other two books in the trilogy.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (10/10) – A new favourite book. This was such a beautiful story, so fascinating and incredibly well told. It came highly recommended to me and now I highly recommend this to you.

2012 50 Book Challenge Update #2

I’ve been gradually plugging away at my 50 Book Challenge for this year, and although I am 3 books behind (thank you for the constant reminders, Goodreads) I feel like I’m doing okay. Following on from my first update, I have since managed to complete these books:

Genesis by Bernard Beckett – I thought this book had an interesting concept until everyone turned out to be monkey robots at the end (I am not kidding).

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – I’d seen this listed on a few ‘top post-apocalyptic books’ lists floating around on the internet and had purchased it a while ago but never got around to reading it. Now that I’ve finally read it I’d class it as one of my favourite books. I wasn’t a huge fan of The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood but this book seems to have a completely different style of writing (at least in my opinion) and I love it. The basic story outline is that our protagonist Offred is living in a future society where women can no longer procreate. Those that are still fertile are segregated from the rest of society and live with powerful men who attempt to get them pregnant. If they fail to do so, the women lose their value and are cast aside. The thing is, Offred still remembers life before this major shift in society, and seeing her struggling to come to terms with the current arrangement makes things all the more interesting. The most terrifying aspect of this book is how real it could be, and how bleak the thought of that is.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – I re-read this book before going to see the film adaptation earlier this year. I love Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark so much it makes me sad that the character is not actually a real live person that I can marry and make babies with.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt – This was the first book suggested for the recently established Seekrit Reeding Klub. It was a heavy read but I really enjoyed it. The character development was great (which is apparently crucial to me liking a book) and the dense waffly nature of the plot made it feel like every time I picked up the book and read for five minutes I had been transported into another world for an extended period of time. I can’t describe the plot without getting too dense and waffly myself, so here is the blurb – “Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and for ever.”. I can’t wait to see how this is transformed into a movie (if it ever eventuates). Jake Paltrow if you ever read this, Dee and I have some casting ideas we’d like to workshop with you.

The Long Walk by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman) – I bought this book on a whim after seeing it mentioned in a video by Priscilla at The Readables. The concept of the story is basically a group of teenage boys embark on a “Long Walk”, an event held every year in a futuristic (for the time it was written I assume) society, and the last man standing wins. Quite literally, as everybody else either drops dead from sheer exhaustion, or collect their ‘ticket’ if they get over 3 warnings for stopping or slowing down too much and are slaughtered on the spot. I won’t go into too much detail because I don’t want to ruin it for anybody else, but that description alone was enough to entice me in.

True Grit by Charles Portis – One of the most dry and witty books I’ve ever read and I loved it. I’m not sure if it helped that I had seen the recent remake of the film, because I could quite clearly hear Hayley Steinfeld’s clipped voice narrating the story in my head.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – I re-watch the 90’s film version of this story at least once a year and it still remains one of my all time favourites. I’d read the book as a child but had no recollection of the way it was written and how much the original book differed from the film. This is such a timeless story, I love the way that it’s written and the way that it makes me feel. I want to move to England and live in a big mansion on the moors where it’s cold and rainy most of the time but when it’s sunny I can go outside and play with a hot country boy and grow roses in a garden. Is that too much to ask?

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!