Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Book Review: Number 1

As I mentioned in the last post, I've been trying to read a lot more recently. I used to be a voracious reader but over the past few years, my ability to get lost in a book has waned a little.

Over the past month I've read about six books which is probably more than I read in the entire twelve months previous to that. I thought that I'd play about with doing some reviews because I find these types of blog posts pretty helpful for getting ideas about which books to read. One part of the problem is that there's so much choice out there and I tend to get overwhelmed and either not read anything or stick to an author that I know well (like re-reading Harry Potter for the millionth time).

So, I'm doing a little review post for you. Please let me know what you think and I may do some more or I might scrap the idea entirely depending on how useful/useless it is. Also, after reading some other book blogger's posts I feel a little bit useless on the photography front but all of the books, apart from Krakauer's, were read on my iPad so I can't take nice arty photos of the books. I'm a pretty bad blogger. It's all about the words anyway. That's what I'm telling myself.

Into the Wild: John Krakauer.

After reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, I guess that I sort of expected another 'inspirational' book about casting off the bowlines and going after adventure but that definitely wasn't what I took from the book at all.

Instead a year after twenty two year old Chris McCandless' body is discovered in an abandoned bus in Alaska, Krakauer retraces his steps. In doing so he talks to the people McCandless met along the way and sheds light on his family's grief.

The book explores the driving force that propels people to seek out such dangerous adventures regardless of the consequences. Krakauer weaves into the narrative his own experience of chasing such adventure as well as similar stories from other young men who have vanished into the wilderness.  It certainly wasn't a light hearted book and the focal character is a complex one who is often difficult to relate to. That said, I did really enjoy it and I'd recommend it if you like the general themes it deals with.

As an aside, I later watched the film by Sean Penn and enjoyed that too. The character comes across a bit better in the film than in Krakauer's writing although that might be because of the visual aspect of film and also because the film presents a slightly more romanticised version of the story.

3.5/5

One Day: David Nicholls.

This was a pretty easy read. In fact I read both this book and  'Us' by the same author in only about twenty four hours. Easy reading but not entirely thrilling really. The characters were relatable and endearing at times although the 'will they, won't they' aspect dragged on a little too long for me. I felt that the highlight of that saga was the trip to Greece and after that the chemistry between them just sort of fizzles away and I lost interest in what happened.

It is overall quite a sweet and enjoyable story though.

3/5

Looking for Alaska: John Green.

John Green does great Young Adult books. I loved The Fault in Our Stars and so I had pretty high expectations of this book. I definitely wasn't as emotionally invested in this book but then, The Fault in Our Stars deals with some pretty emotional issues. Whilst this book does too it isn't quite as prominent throughout the entire book in the way that it is the central focus in TFIOS.

What remains then is a very sweet exploration of teenage infatuation tinged with sadness and wrestling with some big issues such as friendship, loss and mental health. I'm a big fan of Young Adult novels - possibly because I'm still desperately clinging on to my youth?!? - and in particular am a fan of Green's work.

4/5

Lemon Grove: Helen Walsh

I was convinced to read this book by the artwork on the cover which seemed sort of mysterious and by this part of the blurb;

''As she is increasingly seduced by Nathan's youth and the promise of passion, the line between desire and obsession begins to blur. What follows is a highly-charged liaison that puts lives and relationships in jeopardy. For Jenn, after this summer, nothing can ever be the same.''

I was a little disappointed to discover that the book was more of a fifty shades erotica as opposed to the psychological exploration of desire and obsession that I'd been expecting. I really thought that those themes could have been fleshed out much more and I expected much more of a thriller rather than a kind of romance novel. That said, the erm, sexy scenes were written much more convincingly than the fluffy Fifty Shades of Grey stuff. It was alright if you're after that kind of thing but otherwise, I'd give it a miss.

2/5

The Versions of Us: Laura Barnett

This book is a sweet and clever book focusing on two main characters and as it suggests in the title, the versions of their lives. There are three simultaneous storylines, each featuring the main characters and a few other key characters. The basic premise is an exploration of the paths not taken and what might have been. This is a theme I'm obsessed with so this book was right up my street.

The characters are interesting and flawed and I really felt invested in their stories.

The one difficulty is that, given that there are three separate storyline, it can get a little hard to follow what's going on and separate each storyline from the other. Each chapter is titled with which version it is but still I found it confusing sometimes and often had to pause to remind myself which storyline I was in. Although, I did find it easier once I'd been reading the book consistently for a while, it was mostly difficult when I stopped and came back to it.

That said, I'd still highly recommend this lovely book.

4.5/5

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