Saturday, 16 July 2016

Recent Reads #3

Lately I've been busy with decorating and clearing out stuff around the house (thanks brexit for making my parents realise we may be moving sooner rather than later and so a lot needs to be done to get the house shipshape and get rid of a decade and a half of accumulating junk) but I've also had quite a lot of time to plough through books at a rate of knots. Case in point: I re-read the entire Twilight saga in under 6 days - not my proudest achievement I have to say. Anyway, here's a quick run-down of what I've been reading lately and my somewhat convoluted thoughts.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt 

Okay. This is a rare thing for me to say because I don't often come across a book that deserves this praise, but I think this may be my Favourite Book of All Time. It's kind of like a cross between The Catcher in the Rye, PRIVATE and Looking for Alaska, but in the best possible way: you've got the outcast, disillusioned by society and estranged from his family; then there's the semi-elite boarding school/university setting and the inner circle of a select few students who seem to be beyond the rules and live an opulent lifestyle, plus (spoiler alert) murder; and finally the mystery of it all, the way the main character idealises the others and gets sucked into their lives. I can't quite put my finger on why I though this was so brilliant but it absolutely captivated me. I think it's also the setting, parts of which are so well drawn it took my breath away, and just the whole pretentiousness of it all. Basically I love everything about this book. It was kind of slow to start with, especially as the first chapter basically tells you what happens in the end, but it soon picked up and it was interesting to see the events unfold in such a way that they reached the conclusion that was initially revealed.

Rating: 10/10

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

I knew I wasn't going to love this from the moment I opened it - 'boy ends up stuck on boat with tiger and has an adventure' is definitely not the type of thing I'd usually go for, but I got the book a couple of years ago when it was popular and decided I ought to get around to reading it, purely to say that I'd read it. It fulfilled my expectations exactly: the subject matter didn't appeal in the slightest, but to give the author credit it was well-written enough to hold my interest as I found myself still wanting to know what happened in the end. I think I might have enjoyed this a few years ago, but it just didn't wow me. I definitely won't bother re-reading this in the future but it was an afternoon decently spent.

Rating: 4/10

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

I both loved and hated this book. It's set in Amsterdam in the 1600s, which would normally make it a winner for me because there's just something about 17th century Holland that appeals to my historical fiction-obsessed side - not to mention the thrill I get when my 6 years of learning the language mean I can understand the odd snippet of Dutch. It differed slightly from the usual storylines of novels set in that era which (in my experience) tend to be told from the point of view of a maid (e.g. Girl with a Pearl Earring, while here the protagonist was the new wife of a merchant. Nevertheless it still held my attention and I was really enjoying the story, trying to imagine possible solutions to the main conundrum of the plot: who is the miniaturist and why is she so interested in the protagonist's life? I was avidly anticipating the big reveal but to my immense disappointment it never came, as the ending just sort of petered out into nothingness. I hate unsolved mysteries in books and this annoyed me no end, pretty much ruining the book for me. I got the feeling the author was just enjoying building up the mystery but actually had no clue how to provide an explanation for it so didn't bother. A promising read with a disappointing end.

Rating: 7/10

The Originals by Cat Patrick

I've had this book on my shelves for absolutely ages, at least since my dystopian YA phase and probably before that. It's about three girls who are clones and each live one third of the day in the public eye: one does the morning at school, one does the afternoon and the third goes to evening classes and a part-time job. I thought this was an intriguing premise and it was certainly interesting to puzzle out how it would work in practice, but I felt that the plot itself left something to be desired: half the book seemed to be taken up with the narrator (one of the clones) whining about how she couldn't date some boy at her school and trying to find ways to convince her mum to let her... which bored me to tears. Towards the end of the book things seemed to pick up and there was a bit more action, but the ending fell flat in my opinion and didn't seem to resolve much. The whole thing reminded me a bit of Meg Cabot's Airhead trilogy (which is about a girl who has a brain transplant and how she deals with waking up in a new body) but without addressing the nitty gritty reality of living with a nebulous identity in society and the implications of this at a national/governmental level. All in all I was mildly let down but it was still quite a good read, though I think I would have enjoyed it more a few years ago.

Rating: 7/10

Lucky by Alice Sebold

This book is truly not for the faint-hearted. The first chapter describes the narrator's brutal rape in a local park in her first term of university, and no detail is left out - thankfully I can only imagine what it must have been like to write that. What makes it even more poignant is that it's autobiographical, and Alice Sebold does an amazing job of keeping the integrity of her character intact throughout. The story follows her coming to terms with her ordeal, dealing with the reactions of others (including her friends, family and community) and eventually succeeding getting justice at the end of a long court case. It's truly heartbreaking in places, uplifting in others and generally well worth a read. I could see quite a lot of overlaps in terms of subject matter with Alice Sebold's other book The Lovely Bones but Lucky is told from a very different perspective, almost like the story has been flipped. To say I enjoyed this doesn't seem quite the right word to use but I would definitely recommend it.

9/10

What have you been reading lately?

xx

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