Three Months in Book Reviews: Quarterly Recap 3/2016

Book Reviews Summer 2016 - daneesaur.co.ukI’m currently reading six books at once. Six. Granted, some of those are ones I haven’t actually touched in weeks, but when I do pick them up again, I won’t start at the beginning. And I’ll be honest, although sometimes it makes be a bit anxious to have that big number S I X staring at me on my Goodreads profile, I quite enjoy having something to fall back on when the book I’m reading can’t hold my attention. I’m kind of living after Sanne‘s example here, I guess. And I definitely feel that her tip to read at least 50 pages of a book before moving on to another one certainly helps.

This quarter is the one where I managed to complete my Goobadge-home-completed-1736dedbcd3c31946d5b98bb506c1051dreads Reading Challenge 2016! And the year’s not over yet! I’m happy — last year I’d only read 16 books the entire year, which now feels such a tiny, insignificant number. I feel like the world of books has welcomed me back at last! Maybe, just maybe, I’ll have a crack at the 50 books challenge in 2017. Whew.

For the first time in a long time, I also finished a book in one sitting. Two books, actually. Or one and a half sittings, I should say — I did dare to sleep in between. I started both Everything, Everything and Eleanor & Park late-ish at night, went to bed, woke up and immediately started reading again, not stopping until I’d finished. I think the last time I properly did this was still in Harry Potter days?

To jump quickly to a specific book, here’s a helpful list:
Tanea: Am Großen Fluss | Tanea: Der Clan der Wölfe | Outlander | FangirlEverything, Everything | The Last Star | Eleanor & Park | Landline | More Than This | Room | Attachments

Tanea: Am Großen Fluss | ★★★★☆ 4/5

Tanea am Großen Fluss - Book review at daneesaur.co.ukAuthor: Isolde Heyne
Publisher: Loewe
Pages: 185
Published: 1994
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Goodreads

Tanea, daughter of wolves, doesn’t want to go the bear clan at the Great River. But her foster-father Ezuk wants to leave her in the hands of her mother, the healer of the clan. The people at the river are wary of her – apart from Henek, the son of Ezuk’s enemy. But will the love between Tanea and Henek have a future? (translated blurb)

I was scouring my old bookshelf at my mum’s place, looking for something my nephew could read, and came across one of my favourites from my childhood. It’s about an 11-year-old girl in the Stone Age and her journey towards becoming a healer and a woman. It’s actually the second part of a trilogy, but I found this and the next volume in a sale and, to this day, haven’t got my hands on the first part. Might hunt it down online though! Reading the story back now, it makes me hugely uncomfortable that she’s just an eleven year old kid and so many horrible things happen to her that are just glossed over. But that’s what you get for reading about a primitive age, right? Right? I think this was the first book that spiked my interest in botany and prehistoric times, and, like many other things, that interest kind of fizzled out again over the years, only to resurface during the last couple of months. It certainly holds a very special place in my heart.

Tanea: Der Clan der Wölfe| ★★★★☆ 4/5

Tanea - Der Clan der Wölfe - book review at daneesaur.co.ukAuthor: Isolde Heyne
Publisher: Loewe
Pages: 184
Published: 1995
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Goodreads

Tanea has finally found the wolf clan. But there’s a bad surprise waiting for her: Jaka, her nemesis, has become the leader of the clan. And we will not allow her to undermine his authority. But Tanea is not only self-confident and fearless, she is also a healer. And someone like that is desperately needed by the people of the wolf clan … (translated blurb)

Having read the other Tanea book, I immediately continued with the next one. Out of the two, this had always been my favourite when I was a kid, and that feeling carried through to today. More botany, more healing, more prehistoric peculiarities. … more creepy events that should never happen to an eleven or twelve-year-old kid, Stone Age or not. I remember that I was actually kind of creeped out by it as a kid already, so yay me, perhaps? Still, love these books. They’re now sitting on my nephew’s shelf, waiting to be read.

Outlander (Outlander #1) | ★★★★☆ 4/5

Outlander - book review at daneesaur.co.ukAuthor: Diana Gabaldon
Publisher: Dell Publishing Company
Pages: 896
Published: June 1st, 1991
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Goodreads | Bookdepository

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743. Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives. (Goodreads)

I saw the adaptation of this suggested to me on Netflix, remembered seeing it reblogged onto my Tumblr dash, gave it a go … and fell in love. I also remembered that my sister-in-law is utterly obsessed with it, and that my mum owns all volumes. After watching the first season back three times, I gave the original a go. And I have to say … some things, especially in the domestic violence department, made me so angry in the book. I think the show handled those topics much better, which may be helped by the fact that it’s being produced 23 years after the novel. Y’know, fair enough. Other than that, despite Outlander-the-show being astoundingly close to the book, of course the characters are a lot more fleshed out in the book, especially Claire, whose struggle to adapt to 18th century medicine is much more believable here. And she’s a lot less whiny/dramatic and much more sassy. Which is exactly how I like her. Good job, Ms Gabaldon, I really like your writing style!

Fangirl | ★★★★☆ 4/5

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - - book review at daneesaur.co.ukAuthor: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Pages: 461
Published: September 10th, 2013 
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Goodreads | Bookdepository

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’s horribly shy and has always buried herself in the fan fiction she writes, where she always knows exactly what to say and can write a 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 realizing that there’s more to learn about love than she ever thought possible … (Goodreads)

Oh Cath. Cath Cath Cath. I’ve wanted to read this book ever since Leena said that it’s the book that made her understand fangirls. I’m involved in fandom culture, and aeons ago I have actually written my own really, really bad self-insert fanfiction that will never see the light of day, but nowadays I hardly read any. So in a way, I’m halfway between Leena’s approach and, say, my friend Anna’s approach to Fangirl and Cath as a character. Cath writes fanfiction about “Simon Snow”, the Harry Potter of their universe (no, really, down to the wizarding school, the Chosen One who gets mentored by the headteacher and has an intelligent best friend and a fairly stuck-up nemesis, etc etc).  I must say, in a way, this is a very generic young adult book; it doesn’t really get social anxiety right (probably because socially anxious people who are actually incapable of making friends and not having anyone gently forcing their friendship onto them is not really entertaining to read about), but it gets close; the romance is super predictable (as in, I called it the first time the character shows up in the novel). That being said, “generic” as it may be, the formula works, and in this instance, it does so so very, very well. I’ve read Carry On before this one and already loved Rainbow’s writing style, and this book just furthered that impression. I’d have given this 4.5 stars on Goodreads if I could have, because I loved it and it almost completely hit the mark for me. One thing that really threw me off, though, is that apparently, Harry Potter exists in this universe as well. I can’t possible imagine how the Harry Potter and Simon Snow franchises can exist alongside each other.

Everything, Everything  | ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon - book review at daneesaur.co.uk

Author: Nicola Yoon
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Pages: 310
Published: September 1st, 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Goodreads | Bookdepository

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla. But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly. Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster. (Goodreads)

Hmmmm. Honestly, my rating should probably be more like 2.5 stars, but I generously rounded it up rather than down. It was an enjoyable read, entertaining and quick, but the more I think about it, the more flaws I find with it. Madeline suffers from severe combined immunodeficiency – also called “bubble baby disease”. It keeps her contained in her house, with air locks and filters and thorough screening processes for everyone and everything that enters. A really interesting premise and not one that is written about all too often. Well, then. She meets Olly, the neighbour’s kid. While the romance between the two is really cute, it’s also so … dull? He’s the first guy she ever really has much contact with (outside of the internet, that is), so of course she immediately falls for him. Plus, he’s a bit of a manic pixie dream guy. What pissed me off beyond all means though, is a massive spoiler for the book, so uh … don’t read on if you don’t want to be spoilered? >> The big fantastic twist in this whole thing was that she wasn’t actually sick, but rather that her mother never really recovered from losing the rest of her family and managed to convince herself that her daughter had an incurable disease that kept her close. Honestly, this cheapens the whole story, because you get this character that has this rare disease that’s rarely written about to begin with, and ultimately it turns out that it was all fake and she just suffered under her mum’s paranoia. Well. Whoop-de-doo.

The Last Star (5th Wave, Pt 3) | ★★★☆☆ 3/5

The Last Star by Rick Yancey - book review at daneesaur.co.ukAuthor: Rick Yancey
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 338
Published: May 24th, 2016 
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian Fiction
Goodreads | Bookdepository

The Last Star is the heart-stopping finale to the bestselling 5th Wave series by award-winning author, Rick Yancey. ‘We’re here, then we’re gone, and that was true before they came. That’s always been true. The Others didn’t invent death; they just perfected it. Gave death a face to put back in our face, because they knew that was the only way to crush us. It won’t end on any continent or ocean, no mountain or plain, jungle or desert. It will end where it began, where it had been from the beginning, on the battlefield of the last beating human heart.’ Master storyteller Rick Yancey invokes triumph, loss, and unrelenting action as the fate of the planet is decided in the conclusion to this epic series. (Goodreads)

I mostly listened to this as an audiobook. I’d written about the first two volumes in previous recaps, but for the first time I only occasionally read a few lines of the e-book instead of just using the audiobook supplementary. The narrators were the same as for the previous installments, and I still like them very much. I’ve noticed that not a lot of Young Adult Fiction is actually narrated by young adults (or at least by people close to that age), so The 5th Wave trilogy is a refreshing change, and Phoebe Strole and Brandon Espinoza are still doing a great job. The whole big secret surrounding the Others and what’s happening to the human population is a big, big mess, in my opinion, but in the end, it was sort of sorted out well. Sort of. I didn’t particularly liked the ending. Not in an “oh my god how dare they” kind of way, but more of an “… huh. Okay.” Hence the “huh, okay” rating.

Eleanor & Park | ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - book review at daneesaur.co.ukAuthor: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Pages: 328
Published: February 26th 2013 
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, 80s
Goodreads | Bookdepository

Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor. 
Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. (Goodreads)

I’m on a Rainbow Rowell roll right now! Eleanor & Park is her first young adult novel, published a couple of months before Fangirl. Rowell definitely took the “write what you know” advice for writers to heart, at least as a baseline; so far, everything I’ve read of her (excluding Carry On) has taken place in or had something significant to do with Omaha and/or Nebraska, where she’s lived for a long time herself (maybe even grew up there? I don’t know) and in 1986, when E&P takes place, she would have been a teenager herself. No harm done there at all, but it’s something you notice when you read more than one piece of her work. I liked this book, but it didn’t grip me quite as much as it could have. I felt for Eleanor, but there’s just something about the American high school experience that I can’t really relate to. Thanks to this novel though, I had a bit of an epiphany when I realised the theme song to Charmed is a cover of song by The Smiths. The more you know~

Landline | ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Landline by Rainbow Rowell - book review at daneesaur.co.uk

Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Pages: 308
Published: July 2014 
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Science Fiction
Goodreads | Bookdepository

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now. Maybe that was always beside the point. Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her. When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything. That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts… Is that what she’s supposed to do? Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened? (Goodreads)

Woop, more Rainbow! This is the first non-YA book of her that I read (the other one being Attachments … see a couple of books down. Hah!) … aaaannd I liked it. I mean, I’m still frustrated that we either get YA of 16-18-year-olds (either high school students or college freshmen) or “regular” fiction of people in the midst of jobs and marriage. Anyway! I don’t have much to say about this book, other than that I enjoyed reading it, and it did get me hooked, but I also didn’t love it. I really liked that time travel bit, and especially how (does this count as spoilers?) it managed to stay relatively small, without blowing up into a butterfly effect-esque end of the world sci-fi thriller. I like stories like that. One thing that annoyed me though (and this is where I do give spoilers away) is that Neal’s shitty behaviour, i.e. ghosting his wife just before Christmas, was never addressed in the end. 

More Than This | ★★★☆☆ 3/5

More Than This by Patrick Ness - book review at daneesaur.co.uk

Author: Patrick Ness
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
Pages: 480
Published: September 1st 2013 
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia
Goodreads | Bookdepository

A boy drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments. He dies. Then he wakes, naked and bruised and thirsty, but alive. How can this be? And what is this strange deserted place? As he struggles to understand what is happening, the boy dares to hope. Might this not be the end? Might there be more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife? From multi-award-winning Patrick Ness comes one of the most provocative and moving novels of our time. (Goodreads)

3.5 stars for this one! Honestly, it has a really, really, really slow start. Sure, stuff™ happens right at the very beginning, i.e. our main character dies (not a spoiler, it literally happens on the first page), but everything after that takes so friggin long to get rolling. Once it does though, it’s super entertaining. It’s sort of a Young Adult take on the Matrix and … well, everything else would be spoilers.  Gee, writing reviews while keeping them spoiler-free is incredibly hard, you guys!

Room | ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Author: Emma Donoghue Room by Emma Donoghue - daneesaur.co.uk
Publisher: Picador
Pages: 432
Published: 24 July 2015
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
Goodreads | Bookdepository

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits. Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work. Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another. (Goodreads)

Phew. Well, I expected this to be a hard read, and that it was. The book is narrated by Jack, and throughout the book I couldn’t really get used to his way of talking, i.e. his grammar and phrasing. The topic itself is something heavy as well, and I’m not gonna lie, I don’t do well with heavy books. I like my books to be fun and escapist, ultimately. Let me just say it was beautifully executed and well-written. I won’t say I enjoyed reading it, cause I didn’t, and I don’t feel it’s the right word to use here, but it’s worth reading.

Attachments | ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell - daneesaur.co.ukAuthor: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: Plume
Pages: 323
Published: April 14th 2011
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Goodreads | Bookdepository

“Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . ”
Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives. Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke. When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories. By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself. What would he say . . . (Goodreads)

Last one on the list! (I’ll just ignore that I finished another book just a few hours before I’m writing this – this blog post is long enough already, tyvm!) I must say, I enjoy Rainbow’s non-YA stuff, I’m actually hoping she continues to write both in the future. I loved the e-mails between Beth and Jennifer, it’s an interesting way to establish characters purely by seeing (written) interaction with somebody they’re already friends with. Sometimes it felt as though they weren’t speaking outside of the e-mails at all, there weren’t any missing bits (until way into the book). Surely if you’re work besties, you’re also gonna talk IRL from time to time. Did not care for the stalkery vibes, surprisingly coming from both sides of the love birds. It’s just not cool, even if you end up finding each other cute.  All in all, it wasn’t a page turner for me, but I still liked it. 

Whew. Eleven books, not bad. I’m excited to see what the last quarter of this year has to offer me, book-wise. What have you been reading lately?