Monday, 7 September 2015

The Monthly Book Wrangle - August 2015

Kia Ora!

I've decided to do a monthly 'wrangle' of which books I read each month. I work as a librarian, and have always been a massive book worm, so books are naturally a huge part of my life. I always have at least one on the go, and often several at a time. It only seems logical that I should share a major part of my life with my readers. I'm thinking that mini-reviews of the books I've been reading, and a proper review if it's a really amazing book. I'm keen to hear others opinions on this type of post, as well as the individual books I'm talking about.

Son of the Shadows Juliet Marillier

I've read this book what seems like a million times over, and then a million times again. It has started to look a bit raggedy, but that's because it has been very well loved. This is the second book in the Sevenwaters series, and explores Irish mythology, as well as appealing to the history buff inside of me. This particular book features Liadan, the child of Sorcha and Red from the first book. Liadan grows up at Sevenwaters (the main setting for every book in this series), and this book tells the story of her love for the Painted Man, and all the dangers involved. It has the perfect mix of action, adventure, romance, betrayal, and mystery. Liadan is a strong female character (particularly for the time in which she lived) and I really like her. Marillier is a master-craftsman, and this book won the Aurealis Awards for Fantasy Novel in 2001.

The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver

This was a book I read for my bookclub in August, and it had been on my 'to read' list for years. I'm happy I finally made it through, and enjoyed it immensely. This story is set around a Baptist missionary family who goes to the Belgian Congo in 1959, and how their experiences shape their lives. The family arrive in turbulent times (politically and socially), and this book tracks their decisions and how these affect each member of the family. The four daughters all have vastly different personalities, which also affects their choices and subsequent experiences. I enjoyed learning more about this area of Africa, which I knew next to nothing about previously. I also enjoyed seeing the long-term consequences of particular events, and following through on the characters lives over many years. I highly recommend this book to everyone, it's a bit deeper than most books, but is exceedingly good (probably why it's in many lists of great books).

Foundation Isaac Asimov

Asimov has long been regarded as one of the 'greats' of science-fiction, and I've put off reading him for years because I was under the impression that 'great' means difficult to read. This is true of other greats such as Margaret Atwood, George Orwell, some of H. G. Wells, and many others. However, Asimov is one of the easiest authors I've read in a long time, and is a master at creating an alternate universe that draws the reader in. Foundation is set many centuries in the future, and deals with a group of engineers and artisans put together by Hari Seldon (a mathematician who created the concept of psychohistory). This group is hidden away at the end of the galaxy to create an encyclopedia to assist in creating the second Galactic Empire, after Seldon forsees the fall of the current one. I loved reading this  book, as it was easy to read, and science-fiction is one of my preferred genres. If you've had this book on your 'to read' list, go grab it from the library and get reading. It isn't the ordeal I expected it to be, and was an enjoyable few hours immersed in Asimov's creation!

Close Your Eyes Michael Robotham*

I'm not normally a fan of mystery novels, but this one was really interesting. I couldn't put it down! It's very much an easy holiday read, but it is well written and draws you in. It has a main character, Joe O'Loughlin, investigating a ghastly crime (the double homicide of a mother and daughter), while also attempting to reconcile with his estranged family. The book is told from the perspective of Joe, alternated with that of the killer. This makes for a very interesting dynamic, but one that continues to draw the reader into the story. Links are made to a series of brutal attacks on women where the letter A is carved into them, creating literary links to Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlett Letter. This was an excellent read, but be prepared for a heart-breaking emotional rollercoaster, especially at the end.

Asking For It Louise O'Neill*

Emma O'Donovan is a relatively typical Irish teenage girl, who is forced to deal with the emotional and social issues around sexual consent and privacy in a digital world. The beginning of the book details her inner thoughts about her friends (which are not always positive), and navigating teenage social customs in an active social life.
This book makes me very uncomfortable at the start, but in a good way. It reminds me vividly of my teenage years; the excessive self-absorption, being less-than-considerate of other people, and the general exclusion of reason or logic at times. These themes are reduced as events in the text take precedence. I took awhile to get through this book, because of the difficult to read content but I did like it. The story is well-written, while the emotions are raw and real. I highly recommend this book, particularly as it deals directly with rape culture, victim-blaming and sexual consent in a modern, digital world and how that is represented in individual lives. This is an important issue as victim-blaming is prevalent in the majority of rape cases, and this book shines a light on the ongoing consequences of the rape, both to the victim, her family, and to the community in a small town society. It's a bit of a harrowing read, but thought-provoking and interesting, and a realistic representation of  the behaviours in society when something this horrible occurs. I recommend this book as it draws attention to these issues, but there are some major trigger warnings to be aware of in the text (rape and suicide themes).

*PR samples and affiliate links. 

Has anyone else read any of these books? What did you think? 

Until next time ...