Monday, 2 March 2015

February Reads

For once I am actually posting this on time - yay for me finally learning how to be efficient... This month, I ended up reading a lot more than I expected to (probably due to the fact that I read all the books rather than doing work but anyway- ). I managed to read 7 books and a total of 1986 pages as well as an audio book. I really enjoyed them all so am very pleased with my month of reading.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Cath and Wren are identical twins and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they're off to university and Wren's decided she doesn't want to be one half of a pair any more -she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose. It's not so easy for Cath. She would rather bury herself in the fanfiction she writes where there's romance far more intense than anything she's experienced in real life. Now Cath has to decide whether she's ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she's realising that there's more to learn about love than she ever thought possible.
This book was a reread for me, being one of my favourites last year and if possible, I loved it even more the second time around. Rainbow Rowell's characters are fantastic. She puts so much thought into them and develops them so well, allowing them to have their own flaws and quirks. Levi is just... auhh, I kinda, sorta really love him and wish he was real. I also love Cath and most of the other characters too. The writing is brilliant and the dialogue is well executed so it actually sounds like real-life speech rather than movie speech. Although for me, the story and protagonist was only partially relatable, I can definitely see why other people would find it very much so and ultimately, it is just a really brilliant, cute, real story that I couldn't put down. Every time I finish it, I just want to pick it back up and read it all over again - it has given me such a book hangover. Sometimes, when I'm feeling a bit low I reread my favourite scenes (I don't care if that sounds sad) and it never fails to cheer me up...yep it's that good.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Of Mice and Men is the tragic story of the complex bond between two migrant workers in Central California. George Milton and Lennie Small share a companionship, so unusual for ranch workers like them, and Lennie, a simple-minded, mentally handicapped man who doesn't understand his own strength, relies deeply on George who looks after him and together, they dream of one day owning their own small farm. After getting into some trouble in the town they used to work in, they move on up north to another ranch that appears somewhat troublesome.
This is a book I read in school last yer, and I quickly reread it to refresh my memory of it for an English essay that I had to write. I find it hard to review a book that I have analysed so much because it is difficult to distinguish between what I enjoy and what I appreciate about it but I can say with some certainty that it was an interesting but not challenging to study novella and I really like the writing style and main themes of the story (e.g. dreams and loneliness), as well as the characters in this book because it was all very well developed and reflects a lot of what society was like during the 1930's. The story is not one that I massively enjoy but I definitely appreciate what this book is all about and I recommend it to anyone who is a little interested.

The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3) by Philip Pullman 
(Synopsis to 1st book so to avoid spoilers.) Here lives an orphaned girl names Lyra Belaqua, whose carefree life among the scohlars at Oxford's Jordon College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim ouutline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternative universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs.Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multi-layered naarrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument. All around children are disappearing - victims of so-called "Gobblers" - and being ued as subjects in terrible experiments. And somehow both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved. 
I started the final instalment to the His Dark Materials trilogy as an audio book absolutely ages ago and for some reason never finished it, but I started it back up this month so I could get in some "reading" while doing other bits and bobs and I'm really glad I did because it was a great end to the trilogy. Although it didn't feel like everything was completely tied up (there were still some loose ends and parts I was confused about), I still feel pretty satisfied. The story is really fun and the writing is brilliant. I also really enjoyed the characters and world building as well as the background information - it managed to answer some of my questions from the previous books. This trilogy is a definite recommendation if you haven't yet got round to it.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
What secrets lie behind the doors at Misselthwaite Manor? Recently arrived at her uncle's estate, orphaned Mary Lennox is spoilt, sickly and certain she won't enjoy living there. Then she discovers the arched doorway into an overgrown garden, shut up since the death of her aunt ten years earlier. Mary soon begins transforming it into a thing of beauty, unaware that she is changing too. But Misselthwaite hides another secret, as Mary discovers one night. High in a dark room, away from the rest of the house, lies her young cousin, Colin, who believes he is an incurable invalid, destined to die young. causing him to fly into frightful tantrums. Will Mary be able to help Colin by getting him to love the secret garden as much as she does and letting its magic work wonders?
This children's classic is such a lovely story with some truly lovely morals. It is full of childish excitement, development and beauty. Although it had important, deeper and darker themes, it really took me back to when I was young and enjoyed running around outside with my friends and it was so sweet and heart warming. The writing was also brilliant, with beautiful descriptions and fun, humorous dialogue - something that I really enjoyed. I found that the characters were real and interesting and saw them really develop.  My only issue with this book is that that it started of a little slowly for my liking and took me a while to get into, but once I had, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Sent to investigate the disappearance of two little girls in her home town, Camille finds herself reluctantly installed in the family mansion, reacquainting herself with her distant mother and a precocious thirteen-year-old half-sister she barely knows. Haunted by a family tragedy, troubled by the disquieting grip her young sister has on the town, Camille struggles with a familiar need to be accepted. But as clues turn into dead ends Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims and realises she will have to unravel the puzzle of her own past if she's to survive this homecoming.
This was a pretty dark and psychological crime story which is not something I usually read on account on how much of a wimp I am, but I am so glad that I decided to risk it because it was truly great. Gillian Flynn writes really well, managing to give the protagonist a really distinct voice and creating extremely interesting characters which was something that really made this story for me and made it all the more realistic and absorbing. The themes in this book are pretty dark, traumatic and emotional, which it hard for me to read at times, but they were a really important part of the story and added a lot to the mystery aspect. One major part of Camille's background and character is self harm and it is very darkly portrayed and used throughout the book to show Camille's character development and psychological well-being as well as having quite a deep effect on the whole story. (I do warn however, that this may be a trigger to some people on account of the detail gone in to). All in all this was a great read that left me shocked and almost emotionally scarred and something I definitely recommend to people who enjoy psychological, darker themes in a story.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
It's 1999 and the Internet is still a novelty. At a newspaper office, two colleagues, Beth and Jennifer, e-mail back and forth. They discuss their lives in hilarious detail, from love troubles to family traumas. And Lincoln, a shy IT guy who thought he'd spend his time building firewalls and crushing hackers but instead is responsible for monitoring e-mails, spends his hours reading every one of Beth and Jennifer's exchanges. At first their e-mails offer a welcome distraction, but the more he reads, the more he finds himself falling for one of them. By the time Lincoln realises just how head-over-heels he is, it is too late to introduce himself. What would he say...?
Attachments was my third Rainbow Rowell book, having read both Fangirl, which I absolutely loved, and Eleanor and Park. Although I enjoyed Eleanor and Park, I was mildly disappointed because, for me, it felt unrealistic and didn't live up to the hype that it had received so I was hoping that Attachments would be more of a hit with me as the synopsis sounded so appealing. It did not disappoint. I really enjoyed the format of this book, with alternating chapters of emails and of Lincoln's point of view. I felt that it was a really interesting storyline that was well written along with some very well developed and enjoyable characters that were really relatable. This book was extremely addicting because of the flowing writing style and absorbing story meaning that i found it almost impossible to put down. My one criticism, however, would be that the story did not last long enough. Once I had reached the end, I found myself wanting more and feeling as though not everything was tied up, as if the story continued elsewhere... Maybe this is more telling for how much I enjoyed the characters and where it felt like the story was going. Asides from that, I really enjoyed the ending of Attachments and this book as a whole. It's safe to say that it has restored my faith in Rainbow Rowell as a talented story teller.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates
Everyday Sexism is a book written in relation to the Everyday Sexism Project which was set up by Laura Bates so that people could share there stories of their sexist experiences online and raise awareness. The book is full of these stories as well explanations and rants about why sexism is still a big problem today, as well as a book that could be a massive eye opener to those who don't realise that sexism is an issue. Everyone needs to read this. I am currently writing a review for this book which will include a bit about sexism, feminism and my views so look out for that if you are interested.

Pigeon Pie by Nancy Mitford
Pigeon Pie tells the story of the highly imaginative Lady Sophia Garfield. When she discovers a nest of very real German spies living in her home, nobody believes her; with her maid murdered and her beloved bulldog held hostage, she sets out alone to gain proof and save Britain.
This was my fist Nancy Mitford book, and having not heard much about her I really wasn't sure what to expect but luckily, I very much enjoyed this novel. Pigeon Pie is very satirical and mocks British high society, religious cults and spy stories and I really enjoyed it for that as I found it very funny and light. I also thought that the authors writing style was brilliant - witty and flowing. The story was really fun and the snippets of history about ww2 (though it probably wasn't really history for Nancy Mitford) was pretty interesting so I liked that aspect too. I definitely recommend that you give Nancy Mitford a try if you enjoy satire, wit and books set between the 30s and 60s and I can't wait to try out some of her other works.

I hope you enjoyed these mini reviews and are having a good week. What did you read in February, anything particularly special?
Love Ellen xxx