Thursday, 29 January 2015

Review: Cinder

Title: Cinder
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: YA Sci-fi
Year: 2012
Pages: 387

Cinder is a retelling of the classic fairy tale Cinderella and follows Cinder, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing. She is, however, also a cyborg which is slighly frowned upon in her society. When her stepsister suddenly falls ill, her stepmother blames her for this.

I want to start out saying that, yes, I did notice this novel's flaws, its predictability and not-so-perfect-writing. However, at the time I read this, I was in the mood for a simple but fun young adult read. And this was just it.

Even though the story is based upon another story, it is a very interesting new concept which I really enjoyed to explore. The world building was done quite well too - it was interesting finding out how things - politics - worked. Moreover, would we look at the themes of Cinder, it is relevant, and applicable to today's society (racism, for example). The themes were perhaps too obvious, though, maybe even too didactic.

I would reccommend this to anyone who is in the mood for a quick, young adult, science fiction read. Just don't expect it to be brilliant and mind-blowing, because half way through, you'll know how it ends.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Review: Paper Towns

Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Genre: YA Contemporary
Year: 2008
Pages: 305

We follow Quentin, who's always been crazy in love with Margot. They haven't really been friends in the past few years, so when Margot climbs through his window, asking him to join him for a night filled with revenge, he cannot decline. The next day, Margot is not at school.

This novel was devided into parts, and usually with novels like that, I tend to dislike some parts, generally the middle one. Yet again, this was the case here. While most of the story and character development and writing was quite good, I just constantly felt it could have been better. I thorougly enjoyed most of the action, and most of the dialogue, and I find it hard to point out why exactly I didn't fully love it, but I didn't. And I guess I was disappointed, going into it with too high expectations. While I did laugh out loud at some parts, I didn't feel all the feels I guess I was supposed to feel. I felt little affection for any of the characters.

I initially rated this four stars, but I think I'll rate it 3.5 now, having thought of it for a while and deciding it just was not the best read but terribly fun anyway.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Review: Slow Man

Title: Slow Man
Author: J.M. Coetzee
Genre: Contemporary 
Year: 2005
Pages: 240

I've recently been reading a lot of Coetzee as I'm taking a course on South African literature in which we focus on Coetzee and Gordimer. I've not yet reviewed any of the other novels and although this is the last I'll read for the course, this is the first I'll discuss on here. 

Slow Man centres around 60-year old Paul Rayment who, as a consequence of a cycling accident, has his leg amputated. We follow him in his struggles dealing with his new disability. Unlike the other novels I read, this novel is set in Australia rather than South Africa. This allows the reader to look at Coetzee in a different light - no political or cultural context that limits or determines the story. His other works are inevitably read with the notion of Apartheid.

Even though this novel is complex in its own way, I felt it was much more simplistic than any of the other literature for this course. While that made it light and comprehensive, second levels were so obvious it felt like the primary layer - not much thought is needed to understand. This makes it a light read, as well as quick, but it does take away the challenge which is something Coetzee's other novels do offer. This, to me, did make the journey less exciting, although the novel may be a nice start if you want to get into his work.
There was another problem I had with this novel though, and that had to do with the main character. HIs determination to be doomed after his accident even though there were plenty of opportunities to escape the downward spiral was just plainly annoying.

However, all in all, I did enjoy the book and the story, but it just wasn't as good as others I've read.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Review: Murder in Memoriam

Title: Murder in Memoriam (Meurtres pour memoire) 
Author: Didier Daeninckx
Translator: Liz Heron
Genre: Fiction
Year: 1984
Pages: 154

This novel is set in France, Paris to be exact. In the beginning it is 1961, and there is a huge Algerian protest. During this protest, a man, Roger Thiraud, is killed. We then skip ahead in time, and twenty years later, his son Bernard, is also murdered. Inspector Cadin expects a link and tries to figure out what exactly happened.

This novel is so much more than just a detective, but in order to understand that, one has to be aware of the social and historical context. The novel deals with the Algerian war and protests surrounding it, as well as with deportation of Jews during the Second World War. I think it is important to read up a bit on France's involvement in order to fully get the plot, as it does turn quite complicated towards the ending.

I did enjoy this novel, but that was mostly due to its, sometimes subtle, sometimes explicit, critique on society. The detective side of the story did not interest me so much, although I was curious to know what happened.
The main problem I have with your average detective, I also had with this novel: Inspector Cadin has no idea who killed the men, but once he figures it out, he knows every single detail of the murders, every single thought the killer had, even though he didn't know who it was until minutes before.

Culturally however, as I said before, it's exquisite. It's shocking to figure out what happened during those initial demonstrations - also due to the graphic way in which Daeninckx writes these events - and also to know how the government dealt with it - by silence. They kept quiet what happened and for example gave the public wrong - very low - numbers of deaths.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Top 10 Books of 2014

In no particular order, I present to you, my top 10 books I read for the first time in 2014.
I must admit narrowing down a top 18 to a top 10 is incredibly hard.

#10 The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The story of Liesel, a nine-year-old girl living in Germany during the Second World War. Beautifully written from a unique perspective. While it took me a while to get into to the story, it did blow me away and I keep recommending it to everyone. Kids, grown-ups, I think anyone will be touched by this story. (full review)

#9 Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Another story with a nine-year-old protagonist, though completely different. This one is about a boy whose father has passed away in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He finds a key in his father’s closet and decides to solve the mystery of the lock belonging to the key. Yet again a touching story, for both children and grown-ups.

#8 The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Cecilia is six years old when her father enrols her in a challenge. She has no clue what the exact rules are, nor does she know who her opponent is, or even when and where the game will take place. Beautifully and magically written, and an amazingly well-developed plot. (full review)

#7 Wonder by R.J. Palacio
This is a contemporary young adult novel about a little 10 year old boy, August, who has a severe facial deformity. His mother has always home schooled him in order to protect him, but now he is at an age where his parents believe he should go to school. Both heart-warming and heart-breaking. (full review)

#6 The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Who doesn’t love this novel? I certainly did. We follow 17 year-old cancer patient Hazel Grace who tries to make the most of her life while it lasts. At a support group she meets and incredibly handsome and charming guy, and falls for him. Not at all your average love story but just like number seven, heart-warming and heart-breaking – although in this one the latter is much more dominant. (full review)

#5 Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
This top ten is really showing my weakness for contemporary stories about children. Oh well. This novel tells the story of Ari - an angry boy who has never really had any friends. Until he meets Dante, who tries his best to teach him how to be a friend and how to get rid of his anger.  I honestly don’t know what else to say than that yet again, it’s heart-breaking and heart-warming… I’m sorry. (full review)

#4 Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Humbert Humbert is a middle-aged college professor who likes younger girls, and especially Lolita. Horrifying and disgusting, but incredibly beautifully written. A novel I’ll never forget. (full review)

#3 Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five is an unconventional novel discussing the Second World War and consequential trauma. The narrator tells us the story of Billy Pilgrim, who, after having been abducted by aliens, gets unstuck in time. Sometimes confusing, but very rewarding and a novel I’d love to read over and over again. (full review)

#2 Life and Times of Michael K by J.M. Coetzee
“In a South Africa torn by civil war, Michael K sets out to take his mother back to her rural home. On the way there she dies, leaving him alone in an anarchic world of brutal roving armies.” I find it hard to explain why this novel touched me, but somehow I felt Michael K was a very relatable character, even though he is so far removed from who I am. Wonderfully written and so many layers that the story will be interesting reread after reread.

#1 The Road by Cormac McCarthy
This novel follows a man and his son as they wander through a desolate country which once was America. This apocalyptic story is interestingly realistic and while I have not yet read much of this genre, I feel it has very unique characteristics. The writing style – read punctuation – does take some getting used to, but that really is the only negative aspect to this novel. (full review)

Thursday, 1 January 2015

2014 Wrap Up

Happy new year, dear readers!
I thought it’d be a good idea to wrap up the year in order to be able to start from a clean slate in 2015 (in terms of reading, that is). So here we go. In 2014, I read a total of 17,563 pages, divided over 64 books. This means the average book was around 275 pages. The longest book, however, was Gone Girl by Gilian Flynn, with 560 pages. There were 7 books which I started, but never finished.
There were 2 books I really did not enjoy and rated merely 1 star. There were 9 books that were given 2 stars. The average rating of 3 stars was given to 24 books. I did read quite a lot of good books, having rated 22 books 4 stars, and 7 five.

The upcoming posts will consist of a few lists including favourite books of the year, least favourite, and some plans and goals for my reading and blog for the year of twenty-fifteen. So please check back if you’re interested in any of that!

Love, Suzan.