Monday, 24 February 2014

The Hunger Games

Image sourced from here
I'm not sure about reviewing this book. I mean, why bother really when all that could be said, has been said. To the point of nauseum. But I guess it is worth jotting my few thoughts down.

I have managed to avoid The Hunger Games hype. I only found out about the books a few weeks before the movie came out. With Harry Potter and Twilight it was impossible to ignore. But while just as popular in many ways, it was possible for me to read this book knowing only really three things about it:

1. The main character was a girl with a ridiculous name.
2. There are boys and girls sent ever year to an arena style set up to fight to their deaths.
3. SPOILER The main character and SPOILER the boy has to survive as I saw them in trailers for the other movies

It was a good book. Fast paced. Believable dystopia. Competent female protagonist reasonably in charge of her emotions (well, until it turned into a YA romance).

And that is where it lost the plot. Figuratively but also a little literally. Now don't get me wrong, I do enjoy a love interest and you could understand it most of the time. But when you turn a pretty impressive, hunter, hard arse girl into a simpering girl in love (or "love") I get annoyed. Why do we still think that women (although granted some men too) turn into gushing, snuggling, "Schmoopy" calling, air kiss blowing imbeciles when love comes along? Or more accurately, encourage them to be like that. Hell I know enough of my friends who have done that themselves. Love does not mean you have to give up your sense of agency, people!

To be fair, this book wasn't that terrible about this, just the last couple of chapters. And then the last chapter was just harsh. So the last 3 chapters or so cost it a star. But otherwise, I can see why it's so popular.

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened

Image sourced from here
I've been a fan of Allie Brosh for a while. A friend a few years ago put me on to her website Hyperbole and a Half. I've read it religiously since then. I read all the back catalogue. I spent a friends wedding as an Alot (it made a lot more sense after several bottles of wine and no food available). Completely reasonable in my mind.

Allie is hands down, brilliant. She is a wonderful storyteller, an amazing illustrator (how on earth do you make Paint drawings so emotive?), and has a killer wit. I wish honestly, I was just half as funny as her.

Half of the book is from her website. It's been re-drawn or touched up. But it's the same. But like a familiar friend, who has told you all of their stories before, they are amusing and still make you laugh in places, sometimes before the joke has happened. If you haven't read her website, don't and save it for the book. Then read the other posts that aren't in the book later.

Most of the other parts of the book are funny too. A few are a little filler-y. But I can understand that. Print is less forgiving that web based media in that regard. But a lot of them made me laugh as well.

If you haven't read her before, her depression posts/chapters are heartbreakingly honest and so incredibly real. They have helped so many of us who may not of had depression to finally "get it". For those who have, it has helped them realise that what they feel is not weird, it's normal. If nothing else, she has accidently revolutionised experiencing, understanding and connecting with people with depression. Am I over blowing her horn? Possibly. But I am yet to meet someone who disagrees.

Read it. You'll laugh, you'll possibly cry. You'll definitely be yelling PARP!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The Secret Life of Bees

Imaged sourced from here
I am honestly not sure where I am going to settle with this book. I am hoping writing this organises my thoughts about it a little more.

This is the story of Lily, a white, 13 year old girl in 1964 South Carolina. She is lonely and abused by her father, both physically and emotionally. One day she accompanies her housekeeper into town, who is going to register to vote for the very first time, and things happen that lead to her and Rosaleen running away from home.

They end up staying with an incredibly interesting household of sisters in a town 2 hours away who keep bees and have very different rituals and habits. They have been lead here by a card Lily found in her mother's things. They are pretty much adopted by the sisters and all their friends as well. The underlying social problem here is they are all people of colour, and Lily is not, in a southern state during the civil rights movement. Not that any of them have a problem with this, but it lingers in the book.

I have a few issues with the book. One, is I cannot fathom how much Lily lies to the sisters. I find August, May and even June likable, fascinating and incredibly generous people. And they let Lily and Rosaleen stay in their house, no questions asked, not knowing who they are for several months. And anytime something about the past comes up, Lily lies. I can't stand it. But I don't like lying much. I just want to shake the girl and point out everything the sisters have given her, at considerable personal risk, and yet, she won't even tell them her last name.

The other thing is while the sister's spiritualism and religion is interesting, and I was interested in knowing the stories, I got a little over it. I mean, as in I got it. I got what they were trying to say. I didn't need it all spelt out to me in odd honey smearings. Or just spelt out to me.

But lastly, I just felt ill during the second half of the book. Mainly as I knew what the narrative climax was going to have to be, I was terrified it was going to go the way I didn't want it to go. I guess that is a credit to the book really. I was that worried about the characters, even the slightly sociopathic 13 year old liar child, I felt ill.

I read it as part of a team challenge, I had to read a chick lit book. It was more than just chick lit though, which is why I am glad I read it instead of some of my other options. But if this sounds like your kind of book, and you like a spiritualism/self discovery aspect to your novels, then you'll probably like it more than me. And you should read it.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

The Road

Image sourced from here
I left my current book at work. I hate that. It's particularly bad when you have a reading comp starting on Sunday. So on a windy, rainy Saturday morning (okay, as I got up at 11.30am, afternoon) I picked up The Road.

I have been meaning to read this book for a long time. No. I have been meaning to read Cormac McCarthy for a long time. And especially since I started reading reddit. If you read that, The Road and Cormac McCarthy are supposed to be the most life changing, emotional things you will ever read.

Well, not for me I am afraid. It was a beautiful, haunting book. I will grant it that. It's the story of a father and a son walking through a post-apocalyptic world. There are few humans left, most of those who have survived have done so through dubious means. It's approaching winter, and the father knows they have to get to the coast and south before it sets in as they are too weak to survive another northern winter.

I read the book in about 4.5 hours. I am a reasonably fast reader but by no means a speed reader. The style it is written in makes it accessible (helps when one of the characters is about 7 years old) and written as dialogue. But also I got swept along, I wanted to know what happened to them both.

I am a skeptic though, sometimes a pessimist, and even as I started reading the first few pages I felt like the outlook was not happy for either of them. This may of coloured my reading. I expected terrible things to happen the whole way through. I'm not going to say if this did or did not ring true, but it definitely impacted my reading of this book I think.

What I really, really wanted to know about, was what had happened to the world. No idea. It was always niggling at me. But that's what I like about post-apocalyptic/dystopian books. I want to work out how we got there. I want to figure out how to prevent it. I wasn't given that luxury in this book.

I still don't know exactly what to think of this book. I have been hovering between 3 and 4 stars. 4 because the prose was wonderful, it was a brilliantly constructed book. But 3 as it didn't really hit me where I expected it to. Was it me? Was it the book? I am unsure. But I expected life changing and I didn't get it. But I guess it's not the book's fault that there is hype? I think I will settle on a 4 star, but I will say though, I don't think I will bother with the movie.

Monday, 3 February 2014

The Famished Road - #49

Image sourced from here 
So from one Booker winner to another. And we could hardly get any more different. This book is a classic example of why I and the Booker Prize do not get along very well. This is why I avoid them now and almost miss amazing books like The Luminaries. Because a good 50% of them are just a bit crap.

The Famished Road is the story of Azaro who is a small child who was born into a family in Nigeria. But Azaro also is a spirit child, which is a spirit that is born as a child who doesn't want hang around in the mortal world and wants to go back to the spirit world asap. Makes a lot of sense really, much nicer way to think of the child mortality rates.

The book follows Azaro through an indeterminate amount of time. He doesn't seem to age at all really. It talks about him and his experiences. Real worldy - he's living in the world where Nigeria is about to be independant and the political upheaval is insane resulting riots and such. But the rest of the book is Azaro hallucinating weird spirit dreams. Some of them are interesting, some of which I wish I knew the myth for. But some of them, most of them, are tiring.

They talk about the poetic nature of his writing. And it is, especially the dreamy bits. But there is so much drunkenness, vomiting, eye fluids, chasing children around to beat them (properly beat them), it loses the poetry for me. Yes. It's 1960s Africa I realise, but still not so poetic.

I honestly had very little clue what was going on 90% of the time. There was little continuous story throughout the book, and I feel this review is similar. It was incredibly frustrating. 500pp of nothing. Prettily phrased nothing, but nothing. There was no climax. There was no resolution. Book just stopped. It would have been the same if it had stopped 300pp earlier. And there are another 2 books about Azaro. No thank you very much.