Goodreads challenge 2017

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Having set myself a target last year on Goodreads to read 27 million books – and clearly failing when real life kicked in – I’m setting a much lower target this year, namely 0. That way, I won’t be disappointed when I can’t keep on top of everything and will be pleasantly surprised when I overachieve. If you too want to set yourself a similarly spectacular aim, click here.


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When are you reading? 2017 challenge

when-are-you-reading-2017-finalIf you fancy reading more across different time periods, this might be the challenge for you. When Are You Reading? is hosted by Sam at Taking On A World of Words where the year-long goal is to read 12 books set or written in previous eras (e.g. pre 1500, 1500-1599 and so on) to the present day. It’s a great way to discover new writing/authors and also maybe just the impetus we need to get to those books that we’ve been meaning to read for ages. Er, the classics, anyone?


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The 2017 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

rhc_cover_pinterestHappy New Year! It’s that time again when we make all our bookish resolutions, to read more, to read well, and to read those books we’ve always meant to read but never had the time. If you fancy a reading challenge, this is the third year of the annual Book Riot challenge; the aim is to read 24 books in a year, i.e. 2 per month, categorised under different themes. There’s a GoodReads reading group to find friends to keep you on track and you can download a pdf of the goals on their site. Continue Reading

The Interestings; vivid, evocative and really bloody good

the interestingsMy rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

I hadn’t heard of Meg Wolitzer but when I read some of the reviews in The New York Times and The Telegraph, I discovered she is much-loved and regarded, in some circles, as highly as Jonathan Franzen and Hilary Mantel. So her story about six friends over the course of their lives  – The Interestings – seemed too good to resist. And by the time my Scribd trial had ended, half way through the book, these characters had so pervaded my head that I simply had to hunt down the book in any form possible, just to find out what they were up to.Continue Reading

My Heart and Other Black Holes; a great YA issues novel

my heart and other black holesMy rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

There are lots of brilliant YA books about suicide (All The Bright Places, Thirteen Reasons Why, Wintergirls, etc) – if a book about suicide can be called brilliant – and My Heart and Other Black Holes is (almost) just as good.

In the same vein as All The Bright Places, the two main characters (Aysel and Roman) meet while contemplating suicide. It’s a great study in how to write a successful YA book – it follows all the basic rules. 1) Make a countdown (they plan to kill themselves in a month). 2) Give them serious, well-thought-out reasons to die. 3) And create a full-blown basic attraction between the two main characters. The writing is a bit generic but well done, full of warmth and you do root for them (even though I ultimately felt they weren’t as memorable as some of the other characters from the other books in this genre).

My only gripe would be about how the big reveal relies on us not knowing the reason why Aysel wants to kill herself. In an age where everyone googles everyone else to find out everything about them, it feels a bit weak that the main characters wouldn’t have had that conversation before they actually do. The author does address it – “I’m pretty sure that a basic google search would have given him an inkling. There aren’t many Turkish people in Langston, let alone Kentucky” – but it still didn’t ring too true. I also felt the ending was sewn up a little too neatly for my adult tastes. That said, it’s a very solid YA read.


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Enduring Love; a huge letdown

enduring loveMy rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

I’m a tremendous fan of Ian McEwan’s books (particularly On Chesil Beach and The Comfort of Strangers) but this was a huge letdown. It has a wonderful plot; a couple are on a picnic on a very windy day when they see a hot air balloon that is in trouble. A young boy is stuck inside the basket, his grandfather has fallen out and everyone in the vicinity desperately tries to grab hold before the balloon blows away…

I’m rather partial to literary books but this one felt like it was trying too hard. It came across as a bit pompous in tone, which I couldn’t remember or hadn’t noticed in his other books. It was distracting. The book was strongest when discussing the breakdown of the couple’s relationship (McEwan is really wonderful at nailing human emotions and antagonism between people) but it didn’t deliver on the fear factor that he has really conveyed in his other work.

I very rarely say this but watch the film instead. It’s much better.


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Everything I Never Told You; a solid but not earth-shattering debut

everything i never told youMy rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

I’ve read a lot of books lately that involve a missing person (We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, The Girl on the Train) but Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng is actually less about how the girl in question, Lydia, has disappeared and focuses more on the family she has left behind. It’s well written and hooked me from the beginning, but it lacked the punchiness of Beside Ourselves (which uses such wonderful language) or the strong narrative of Girl on the Train (with its complicated characters and wonderfully unreliable narrator).

Everything I Never Told You is as much about raising children successfully as anything else. The questions it asks are profound and relevant, notably how far parents should live vicariously through their kids, pushing them towards things they didn’t have or couldn’t do as children themselves. It touches on how far we are shaped by being different (they are the only mixed race family in the neighbourhood in 1970s Ohio) and how we yearn to fit in, and the complicated decisions we make as a result. It’s her first novel – I look forward to reading her second – and a solid, but not earth-shattering debut.


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