Monday, 14 March 2016

February Book Wrangle

Kia Ora

I know it's the middle of March now, but I'm catching up on all the book related blog posts this week. So be prepared for a lot of book reviews! Read on for what I read during February!

Stolen - Lucy Christopher
This book was a great read. It was told as a letter after the fact, and covered the time in which Gemma, a 16-year-old girl from London, was kidnapped and held in the Great Sandy Desert in Australia. It's a wonderful representation of the complicated relationship between Gemma and her kidnapper, Ty, and how she starts to experience aspects of Stockholm Syndrome. I really enjoyed the writing style that was used, and the way that the author explored both the details of such a complex relationship, and the effects that the setting had on both characters. The Outback is desolate and demanding of Ty and Gemma, and ultimately forces Ty to make a decision that leads to Gemma's release. It's interesting to see how the kidnapping changes Gemma as a person, and the nuances that affected her the most throughout the experience. I really enjoyed reading this, and although it's not a light book, it is a very good story.

The Martian - Andy Weir
I saw the movie in October last year, and have heard that the book was just as good so I had to see for myself. It's also one of the challenges on Book Riot's 'Read Harder' challenge to read a book and see the movie, so that was also part of my decision to read this book. I'm so glad I did! This book is fantastic! I couldn't put it down, and I laughed my way through it. The writing is witty, the science appears sound (from a non-scientist perspective), and it was inclusive of all perspectives. This is the story of astronaut Mark Watney, who is left behind on Mars after a failed mission, and has to figure out how to survive. It is a spectacular way of detailing many of the dangers of space and living on other planets, outlining the many challenges faced, and how that affects both the stranded astronaut, his crewmates, and those left behind on Earth. I really enjoyed reading this book, and the same sharp wit that is displayed in the movie is one of the predominant features of this novel. 10/10, would certainly read again!

Burial Rites - Hannah Kent 
This book is about Agnes Magnusdottir, set in Northern Iceland in 1829, and the few months before her death - her participation in the brutal murder of two men is what has lead to this conviction. This book is a fictionalised version of a real story, giving personal details to the last woman to be executed in Iceland. I would liken it to other popular true crime stories that are currently popular, such as the Making a Murderer documentary and the Serial podcast. This book draws out details about Agnes' relationships with both the murdered men, and the two others accused of their murder. It allows a different view into the situation, and the ways in which Agnes may have coped in the months between her conviction and execution. A very enjoyable read, particularly for those who appreciate true crime stories. 

The Butterfly Summer - Harriet Evans*
This book is told from two perspectives - that of Nina Parr in the present, and through a book written by her grandmother and hidden away. It describes the history, and myths, surrounding Keepsake, the family home. The horrors that have been common for the Parr women throughout history, and have been repeated through the generations, and revealed slowly to Nina when she discovers her heritage. This is a compelling book, and although it isn't what I would usually pick up, I really enjoyed it. I read it very quickly, over a weekend. and my Mum has snagged it to read next. I can't say too much more without spoiling the novel's secrets, but it was a great read, and easy - so perfect for a lazy day or a holiday at the beach. 

Throne of Glass - Sarah J. Maas
Celaena Sardothien is an assassin (of a very high calibre), and is co-opted into participating in a challenge to be the King's Champion by his son, Prince Dorian. There were many things that were supposed to be thrilling and dangerous in this book, but I struggled to finish it because the writing was terrible, and the plot/characters were simply boring. The old adage of 'show not tell' was clearly not told to this author because the entire book was a litany of telling the reader how wonderful, attractive, dangerous, clever, knowledgeable, and sexy the main character was. I couldn't stand the fact that most of the things had the potential to be very very interesting (the loss of magic in the world, an older form of runes and wards that were still accessible, the mysterious past of Celaena, histories of the different cultures interacting in the king's court) were glossed over in favour of having Celaena having to cope with both the prince and the captain of the guard fawning over her, and attempt to get into her pants, skipping over the action scenes in favour of talking about how great Celaena's assassin skills are, and her paltry friendship with someone who clearly is more than she seems. I was most infuriated when the author attempted to describe one or two of the tests that the potential king's champions were put through, and then the next paragraph was some seriously lazy writing - it started with some variation of "over the next week there were two more tests, both of which went well". If you're going to neglect to describe the tests, then don't bother to mention them. Most of the exciting action happens off-page and is mentioned in conversations after the fact by the characters, and what does happen on-page is clumsily written and attempts to tell the reader what happened and what to think, rather than showing the reader the events and allowing them to draw their own conclusions.
I have heard that the further into the series you get, the better the books get. But I don't know that I can force myself to read anymore as this first book is very very painful (as my workmate can attest to as she was forced to listen to my wrath after just about every page). Do not read. Or read at your own risk. 1/10, and it only gets the one as there are glimmers of hope. Urgh.

*PR sample and affiliate links. 

There you go folks, some seriously great books to check out, and one to avoid at all costs. Let me know if you've read any of these, and what you thought! Feel free to make friends with me on Goodreads if you want to keep up with what I'm reading.

Until next time ...

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