Books, geekery, Lifestyle

What I’ve been reading lately #1

It feels like forever since I wrote a book review that wasn’t for aliljoy (I just checked and it was for The Fault in Our Stars back in April!) and I average one a week. I plan on getting back to a full post per book but here’s a rundown of what I’ve been reading lately. Have you read any of these?

the book thief by markus zusak
The Book Thief

Yep, I went straight from The Fault in Our Stars to The Book Thief. Smart move, right?! It was worth it though. I’m kinda fascinated by stories set during war-time – odd considering I didn’t much care for studying it during my school years. I think it was just ignorance teenage-dom… Having read The Diary of Anne Frank quite recently, it felt like it was kind of on the same sort of lines but there were so many more characters to care for. For those of you not in the know, the book is narrated by Death (so far so cheerful) as he (?) whisks thousands of people off beyond the white light during World War 2. At the centre of his (I’m gonna go with ‘his’) story is Liesel, a girl sent off to safety by her mother, only to be adopted into a home which doesn’t much care for her. It’s the relationships which hook you in – between Liesel and her new parents, their house guest, her friend, the Mayor’s wife… It’s quite a long book but you genuinely won’t be able to put it down. It’s so engrossing.

the marriage plot by jeffrey eugenides
The Marriage Plot

I decided to give this book a go because it was written by Jeffrey Eugenides of The Virgin Suicides fame and the blurb claimed to be about a college woman writing her thesis on Jane Austen and the marriage plots within her novels. To be fair, it is loosely about this but, for me, what it’s really about is a woman torn between a guy she friend-zoned who worships the ground she walks on and a bipolar guy she has a heated relationship who needs her but doesn’t really love her. It went off on a bit of a religious tangent when Friend Zone Guy finds God and decides to do His work but what I really found fascinating was when the story focussed on The Boyfriend and his issues. As for the girl at the heart of the book, I really couldn’t give a toss beyond her infatuation with classic literature. The ending was somewhat satisfying but I nearly gave up a few times getting there.

wedding night by sophie kinsella
Wedding Night

Ah, Sophie Kinsella. I love this woman! The Shopaholic series is one of my favourites and I eagerly await the next instalment of Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood)’s adventures. Her other novels, however, tend to leave me a bit underwhelmed. I like them enough as a bit of easy reading but I don’t really get that invested in them. With Wedding Night there were two central female characters and I can’t really say I identified with, cared about or even liked either. It’s about two sisters: one (Fliss) going through a divorce and the other (Lottie) who spontaneously gets engaged on a first date after assuming her previous boyfriend was going to propose and didn’t. In order to prevent her sister making the same mistake she did, Fliss does everything in her power to stop the wedding from going ahead. Not easy considering they’ve jetted off to an island for an exotic but quick wedding. What I didn’t like about Fliss was how bitter she had become over her divorce and her inability to try and talk some sense into her sister. I get the farcical situation making ‘good reading’ etc but it got old quick. Lottie bugged me because she supports this idea of women ‘needing’ to get married and it was so daft that she broke up with the guy just because he wasn’t in fact proposing. Of course, everyone does a complete 180 during the story and grows as a person, blah blah blah. It probably isn’t worth your time. Don’t bother with it. The best bit was reaching the end and finding out that a new Shopaholic book is on the way!

an abundance of katherines by john green
An Abundance of Katherines

Ah, John Green. The Fault in Our Stars broke my heart and I was enticed into reading another of his novels. My next choice was An Abundance of Katherines, the story of a high-school graduate who has had his heart broken by 19 Katherines. He takes an impromptu road trip with his friend to blow off some steam before college and meets a girl. Guess what her name is! Does this mean he’s destined for failure again? Colin, being something of a genius, devises a formula to predict the outcome of the relationship before it even starts. But can love really be that predictable?  It was interesting to ponder whether or not you could make such a formula work in real life but what I really liked was the story of small-town kids who are at that crossroads in their life between childhood and adulthood. More great writing from John Green. Looking For Alaska is on my wish list.

death of the family
Death of the Family

This was gifted to me by my baby brother and is only the second Batman story I’ve actually read, despite claiming he’s my favourite comic book character. It’s probably not the best first title if you’re new to Batman, as it’s about Joker’s return to Gotham, but it’s a pretty cool story, bringing in later characters including Bat Girl, Robin(s) and Nightwing.

the killing joke
The Killing Joke

Holy dark story, Batman! The Joker’s origin story is kinda depressing. And what he did to Gordon and Barbara? Shit! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go out and read it. Like, now. If you think comics are for kids, think again!

the hunger games limited edition trilogy
The Hunger Games

I finally made a decision about which way round to the read the books. I had watched the first two films and liked that I didn’t know what to expect, so I read the first two books and am saving the third for after the fourth movie. I will, of course, be obsessing over trailers in the run-up to the release. Fortunately, the third instalment is out on my birthday – winner! It seems the adaptations have been pretty faithful to the source material. There are a couple of things which don’t translate as well, such as the incredible costumes (they really made the most of those for the big screen and I’m excited to see what’s next), and I don’t recall the tributes/wolves thing being in the first film. I don’t think that would have worked so well. As for the ‘love triangle’, I found that I cared more about Gale while reading the books (granted he’s the best looking in the films – I know that’s not important!) and I also cared less about Haymitch. Woody Harrelson brought him to life and then some. The casting choices were great.

the rosie project by graeme simsion
The Rosie Project

This is such a sweet alternative romance and I can’t wait to see what they do with the film. It’s an Australian novel about a single 30-something guy who decides to find a wife when he realises that married men are happier and live longer. In order to find one quickly, minimising the risk of terrible dates, he devises a questionnaire to find the perfect woman. It reminded me a bit of the formula in An Abundance of Katherines – this idea that you can predict whether or not you will be happy with someone or, indeed, if the relationship will last. Of course, it just so happens that Don meets a woman (the titular Rosie) who is the complete opposite of what he’s looking for. Can he cast his ideas of what’s ‘perfect’ aside and take a chance on someone who is technically ‘wrong’ for him? It sounds cliched and predictable but it’s a genuinely lovely story. It has an added variable to its competition in that its hero has Aspergers, a condition which makes social situations difficult at the best of times. This is what made the central characters so endearing and quick to warm to and I really can’t praise it enough. In fact, as soon as I finished reading it I thrust it into my mum’s hands and told her she had to read it.

postcards by annie proulx
Postcards

I gave this a go because it was written by Annie Proulx, the woman behind Brokeback Mountain (which, admittedly, I haven’t read). It’s about a guy who hides his dead girlfriend’s body and leaves town, living out the rest of his years on the road. The story doesn’t just focus on him (and doesn’t actually reveal details of her death) but also on the family he leaves behind in the 1940s and what becomes of their home and farm. It’s a slow burner but a great ensemble story. I hate to say it’d make a great film (because there’s no reason why a great book can’t be just that – no adaptations required) but I can totally see this as a Kelly Reichardt movie – it had definite tones of Wendy and Lucy’s loneliness and isolation and Meek’s Cutoff’s outback style.

Have you read any of these titles? Do you have any recommendations? Leave a comment!

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