Sunday, August 14, 2011

June & July Books

I realised I haven't written a book post for awhile and when I checked back I'm a couple of months behind so today's post will cover June and July.

At some point during June I reached my 52 books in 52 weeks goal. It seems like a lot of books doesn't it? I do tend to read a bit of YA which helps. I usually have 3 books on the go at once - one audio, one e-book (which I read on my ipod touch while I save up to buy a kindle) and one normal book. Having reached the magical 52, I've decided to aim for 100 books this year - wish me luck!

So the best from June and July?

Feed by M.T Anderson
This one is ...interesting. I listened to it as an audio book (free from the library's Overdrive collection) and currently rate it as one of the best audio books I have ever listened to. It takes a little to get used to but it was very cleverly done. The premise is one of futuristic society where the internet has been taken to the extreme and implanted into people's head as a direct "feed". Can you imagine being bombarded all day by jingles and adverts directly into your brain? Chatting with your friends via the feed instead of actually talking? This book is a brilliant piece of satire of an almost depressingly realistic futuristic dystopian society where intelligence and free thinking have been replaced by a society that revolves around the magical feed.

World without End by Ken Follett
About ten years ago I read Pillars of the Earth and still rate it amongst my all time favourite books. It centres about the building of a cathedral in twelfth century England and was an epic tale of love and treachery. World without End is a sequel of sorts - set in the same town but 2oo years later. It is a little bit like a medieval soap opera but I loved every page.

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
Another "big" book by the same author, this time set during World War 1. I have to admit to not really knowing alot about WW1, or the causes and could never really understand how an assassination could lead to four years of war across Europe, so the historical aspects of this book were really interesting. In Follett's usual style there is a whole cast of characters and they each have their own story to tell - the Russian peasant turned solider, the German aristocrat who suddenly finds himself as the enemy, the English ladies of society, the Welsh miners, with the history (Word War 1, the Russian revolution, the suffragette movement) cleverly woven into the background. Not a quick read at almost 1000pages but one that is engrossing and I am very much looking forward to reading the two planned sequels in this new series.

Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones
This is a New Zealand novel that was nominated for the Man Booker prize in 2007. It's set somewhere in Papua New Guinea during the civil war, a time where soldiers with machetes lurked in the forests and everyone who could has fled the island. In a small village Matilda and her classmates cling to a sliver of normality by attending school with their self appointed teacher Mr Watts - the only white man who has stayed, with his strange ways and their one and only textbook - Great Expectations. Mr Pip is not a long book - 200 pages that I read in a few hours - but the sparseness of the storytelling suit both the isolated nature of the setting and the first person narrative. Overall a riveting, if heartbreaking, read.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher is a young adult novel I have seen on numerous YA lists for best books etc. Here's what I wrote on goodreads:

I listened to this as an audio over 2 nights. The audio was really well done with an excellent narrator for both Clay and Hannah - because the story is half narrated by Hannah as cassette tapes, the audio gives it an authentic real feeling with the pauses, Clay pushing the play button and hannah's voice cutting in etc. The story unfolds with a brutual stark honesty that really rung true for me. The descriptions of the cruelty and fickleness of high school reminded me of incidents that happened in my own school. I often find myself, as an adult reading YA, that "high school" novels (particularly US ones where the schooling system is slightly different to ours)make me feel disconnected, (read: old) but this one had such an authentic, real, here and now, feel to it that I was completely engrossed. The subject matter is unflinching, but as brutal as each of the 'episodes' is, I felt only more compelled to keep listening, to find out what finally tipped the snowball down the mountain. I'm not going to bother to read the negative reviews here though I am sure there are many given the sensitive nature of the plot. I thought this was an excellent novel, one that I hope my own daughters will read when they are old enough.Must read.

And finally, Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. Back in May I read Black Out/All Clear also by Willis which were enjoyable, if way too long. Doomsday book is something of a prequel to these books, set in the same Oxford where time travel is possible. In this book an intrepid historian finds herself sent back to the 14th century in the midst of the Plague. I had some of the same gripes that I had with BO/AC in that there is an awful lot of dithering about and an overuse of cliffhangers at the end of chapters - last time it was tube train doors closing before they could reach someone, this time it was the flu making people unconscious before they could impart the all important life saving piece of information. Once the action finally picked up I enjoyed it more and there were some wonderful descriptions of life in the 13oo's. I won't be rushing to read any more of Willis's books but for a taste of time travel meets historical fiction this is a good place to start.

Currently I am reading the 4th book of the simply delightful Parasol Protectorate books by Gail Carringer which will definitely get their own review next month. What have you been reading?


  1. Actually I've really suprised myself by enjoying the YA and VYA genre- some great authors and great stories there.
    I read the doomsday book years ago and I had completely forgotten about it- I remember really enjoying it now that I think about it.
    Your booklists are great- I must remember to write these titles down for my next library trip

    PS. A razor ruler is also known as a paper trimmer and you get them at warehouse stationary (sorry for the delayed reply)

    PPS. Your new location looks very lovely, hope you and your family settle in smoothly and enjoy the stable geology of your new town.

  2. Hello, I'm really enjoying your blog :) I don't read much YA fiction usually but read Feed after seeing a number of good reviews and I thought it was brilliant - very apt (and disturbing) parody of where society seems to be heading. I enjoyed Mr Pip too but in all honestly I can barely remember a thing about it, I should probably read it again. Pillars of the Earth has been on my reading list since the dawn of time and it's about time I got round to it!! The best books I've read recently would be: Room by Emma Donoghue, A visit from the goon squad by Jennifer Egan, and The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. Right now I'm reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. Thanks for the recommendations!