Title: The Zookeeper’s Wife
Author: Diane Ackerman
Category: 42. Read a book that features animals
So this one is based on a true story, set during World War II in Poland. It’s a pretty sad story but also incredibly interesting.
This was also made into a movie this year which is why it was on my list oddly enough. I was tossing up between this and A Dog’s Purpose but it received a lot of bad press regarding the treatment of animals so I picked this instead.
Honestly though, the hardest part reading this was the treatment of the animals during the war. This isn’t something I had put a lot of thought into prior to reading this book but it’s such a horrible thing to read about. Animals either dying or getting out of their enclosures and then being shot during a bombing.
It’s definitely a book that is worth reading and I’ll be checking out the movie when I have a chance too
Rating: 3/5 stars
Title: Lion: A Long Way Home
Author: Saroo Brierley
Category: 27. Read a biography whether auto, normal or memoir
Date Started: May 18th 2017
Date Finished: May 19th 2017
I only heard about this book when the movie was released earlier this year (haven’t seen the movie yet though).
This is the story of Saroo Brierley who became lost as a child in India only to be adopted by an Australian family eventually working to find out who his birth family were.
At first the entire thing seemed completely farfetched to me. How could a six year old possibly become so lost that he couldn’t remember where he was from or who his family was. And even if he did, why were his parents not looking everywhere for him?
It becomes a little more understandable as you keep reading though. But I will let you guys enjoy that for yourselves because this book really is remarkable, as is the story that accompanies it.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Author: Helen Fitzgerald
Category: 31. Read a book on paper
Date Started: September 19th 2017
Date Finished: September 19th 2017
This book is super short and made a great holiday read. Nothing better to do on a huge cruise ship than lay by the pool and read… except of course being in the pool.
The basic idea of this book is that an explicit video of a teenage girl goes viral. She doesn’t remember the night, but she doesn’t have to because it’s all over the internet. She’s too scared to go home, so she doesn’t.
But the video doesn’t seem like something that she would do and her mum becomes suspicious, so does she. But, what can they do? Will the law even prosecute someone for filming and distributing a video of a girl who is clearly too drunk to consent?
Rating: 4/5 stars
Title: The Magicians
Author: Lev Grossman
Category: 9. Read a book in the fantasy genre
Date Started: September 16th 2017
Date Finished: September 18th 2017
This is yet another first book in a trilogy, but in this case I really don’t see myself picking up the rest of the books. It was okay but I don’t think it was really anything special. Despite that, it has been made into a tv series apparently.
I was never a huge fan of fantasy growing up. With the exception of Harry Potter I never found a fantasy series I liked. As an adult I’ve been a little more adventurous. But in the case of this book I’s really one I could’ve missed. Which isn’t to say that it didn’t have great message because it does. In fact in some ways it’s a much more realistic experience of magic in that it really is hard work.
Quentin is on the verge of adulthood, one of the smartest kids in the smartest classes at school. He’s selected to take a test for the most prestigious magic college in America. Brakebills. He gets accepted and thus begins his schooling experience. All of which is contained in this single book as well as his post schooling life. Honestly this is part of my problem with the book, it just feels rushed.
In addition to feeling rushed it feels like Quentin’s personality changes halfway through the book. This is one of the smartest kids in highschool only to start at Brakebills and forget everything he had learned in school and to suddenly seem like he was incredibly average.
I found it kind of hard to connect with the characters to be honest and that’s a real pity because characters are really what makes a great book for me .
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
Title: The Three
Author: Sarah Lotz
Category: 33. Read a book from the horror genre
Date Started: September 15th 2017
Date Finished: September 17th 2017
I started this book at the airport right before getting on a three hour flight. Which is obviously a great idea. tarting a book about a plane crash right before flying. It’s become kind of a tradition though, last flight it was Departure by A G Riddle (great book by the way).
At any rate, 4 planes crash almost simultaneously in completely different parts of the world. There’s a single survivor from 3 of the crashes and none from the fourth, all 3 survivors are children and all 3 start acting weirdly once they get home. A pastor in America believes that there is a fourth child who survived the other crash and that together the 4 children are the horsemen of the apocalypse.
This is one of the stranger books I’ve read and has lead me to a new conclusion that plane crash books are largely incredibly strange. Honestly, I enjoyed the book but… really, not a lot actually happened which is surprising for such a long book and I was left feeling a little like maybe this wasn’t the horror book I was expecting. At least, right until the very end.
Rating: 3/5 stars
Title: Ship Breaker
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian
Category: 10. Read a book labelled as young adult
Date Started: September 5th 2017
Date Finished: September 13th 2017
Set in the same world as Bacugalupi’s earlier book The Windup Girl, this novel is the first in a series aimed at young adults. Taking us back to America somewhere around New Orleans we get to explore the world of ship breaking through young Nailer’s eyes.
His job is dangerous. He crawls through the innards of big old ships, the kind we’re used to seeing photos of today huge iron ships that haul cargo all over the world. His job is to pull them apart though, just the small bits, copper wiring and such, then the so called heavy crew will come in and pull the ship itself apart.
One day he almost dies but he doesn’t, so he becomes known as Lucky Boy. Then he really does get lucky when a storm shipwrecks one of the new clipper ships just off shore and he is the first one to find it. There’s more wealth than he’s ever seen before. And then he finds something else that changes everything. Maybe he could even get out of this place and make it somewhere better.
Unlike the Bangkok we saw in the Windup Girl, New Orleans is completely underwater aside from the occcasional tip of a high rise building to be seen at low tide. Nailer and everyone he knows survives in tiny huts along the beach and everyone he knows works on the ships. He can only dream of what’s away from there. He dreams about the clipper ships that they see in the distance and wishes he was on one but his little corner of America has been forgotten by the rest of the world.
Rating: 4/5 stars (definitely be reading the other books in the series)
Title: Into the Water
Author: Paula Hawkins
Category: 14. Read a book published this year
Date Started: August 2nd 2017
Date Finished: August 4th 2017
I’ve been pretty excited to read this for a while after loving the Girl on the Train so much but I was just the tiniest bit disappointed in this compared to the Girl on the Train.
That being said. I really loved it despite not having quite such an unexpected twist at the end. I loved the character development in this one though, in part because I love books that are set in a small town where everyone knows each other so this town was perfect for me. Not just did everyone know each other but many of them had known each other as children as well. So there’s this feel of the past meeting the present and history repeating itself in a way.
I won’t give too much away, but the story follows a woman who’s estranged sister has died leaving her to look after a teenage niece she barely knows in the house they spent their summers in. At first the death seems to be a suicide in a popular suicide spot but it’s not that simple and of course there was some kind of foul play involved.
One of my biggest frustrations with the book though, is that the main character is painted as this ‘ugly duckling’ who lost some weight and grew up to be pretty. I’d love to see tv shows and movies that bothered to tell their story with a little more effort than this. I understand why it was done because it made her an easy target as a child for bullying and what not but there’s no reason it needed to be touted as some great transformation story.
But anyway, check out both these books because they really are great.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Title: The Windup Girl
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Genre: Science Fiction
Category: 35. Read a book labelled as dystopian
Date Started: August 1st 2017
Date Finished: August 15th 2017
So this is the second book by this author I’ve read this year and the two books really couldn’t be much different if they tried. At least on the surface. This is actually the first novel he released way back in 2008. His novel Shipbreaker released in 2009 is kind of a companion book to this one aimed at a slightly younger audience. But it’s only when you consider these two in conjunction with his more recent novel The Doubt Factory that many similarities begin to emerge.
The Windup Girl (and Shipbreaker) are set in the not too distant future in a world that has suffered from both a rise in sea level leaving many major cities submerged, partially submerged or in the case on Bangkok (pictured above) surrounded by a huge sea wall. But this is only the start of the world’s problems. In bioengineering food horrible diseases have emerged killing many people and leaving many starving as well as many species of fruit and vegetables completely removed from the ecosystem.
The novel follows a white man in Bangkok trying to get access to the Thai seedbank under the guise of a factory owner. The novel switches between his story and that of his Chinese assistant, as well as government officials and a windup girl from Japan. A windup girl is essentially an engineered human who is highly prized in Japan but not so much in the streets of Bangkok where it is a struggle just to survive.
Slowly the stories of the characters converge leading to a huge climax. Though for me it was not the story that was a s compelling as the setting. Beyond the bioengineering and sea level rise there is also a huge step backwards in technology with the characters relying not on cars or fossil fuels but on the burning of calories. Though you’ll still see guns and ships as well as factories all of it is powered by people or animals rather than the traditional fossil fuels.
But to step back to the Doubt Factory and the similarities between the two. Doubt Factory took place in a society almost identical to our own but explored the dangers of huge companies telling lies to consumers and hiding behind ‘doubts’. For me, and I have to assume for Bacugalupi as well, this is like a precursor to the world we’re introduced to in the Windup Girl and Shipbreaker. What could happen if we don’t question companies and governments and engage with the world we live in as a whole. In essence, Bacigalupi’s works are a call for all of us to take responsibility for how we live and what our ambivalence could do to the world for our children and grandchildren.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Title: Kafka on the Shore
Author: Haruki Murakami
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Category: 1. Read a book originally published in a language you do not know
Date Started: July 8th 2017
Date Finished: July 29th 2017
So this is my first experience with Murakami, I had no idea what to expect from it. It was an interesting read but definitely not what I was expecting. I’m not even sure how to describe this to someone who’s never read it.
The novel opens on a boy running away from home, he takes the name Kafka and ends up at a charming private library where he is helped by the people who work there. There is a secondary plot though which follows an older gentleman Nakata who receives a disability pension after an event in childhood left him unable to read. But, he can talk to cats.
Ultimately, at the conclusion of the book I’m left wondering how some things connect to one another and how much of what happened was actually real and how much was some kind of hallucination. And perhaps this is because apparently Murakami writes as if if a dream but also that he doesn’t have much of an idea of the bigger picture of the novel when he begins writing. This is kind of baffling to me as someone who has spent a lot of time writing. I’m not sure if I could ever write a book without knowing how it would end or what it meant. But perhaps that is part of the charm of Murakami’s work.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Title: 4:50 From Paddington
Author: Agatha Christie
Category: 8. Read a book written by a woman
Date Started: July 5th 2017
Date Finished: July 7th 2017
This is the third and final of my Agatha Christie reads today and focuses not on the famous detective Poirot, instead it is one of her Miss Marple novels.
Miss Marple’s friend Ms. McGillicuddy is on her way to visit when she saw a woman being strangled on a train that passed by her very close to the station. Naturally nobody believes this older lady could have actually witnessed a murder except Miss Marple. But, and here’s the weird part, no body shows up. So this murder mystery is part search for the murderer and part search for the dead body.
This book is so short that I really don’t want to spoil any of the greatness by telling you more than that. But in traditional Agatha Christie fashion there is a twist at the end. And for once I actually saw the twist coming.
At any rate, there’s a chance there will be more Agatha Christie to come next year. So, what are your favourite Agatha Christie novels that I should be checking out?
Rating: 3.5/5 stars