Into the Water – Paula Hawkins

Title: Into the Water61oleghqzvl-_sx329_bo1204203200_
Author: Paula Hawkins
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 386
Category: 14. Read a book published this year
Format: Paper

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

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The Windup Girl – Paolo Bacigalupi

Title: The Windup Girl6597651
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 361
Category: 35. Read a book labelled as dystopian
Format: Paper

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

Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami

Title: Kafka on the Shore41qubmy2pol-_sx309_bo1204203200_
Author: Haruki Murakami
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Pages: 615
Category: 1. Read a book originally published in a language you do not know
Format: Paper

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

4:50 From Paddington – Agatha Christie

Title: 4:50 From Paddingtoncover
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 288
Category: 8. Read a book written by a woman
Format: Paper

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

 

 

The Girl on the Train (2016)

Title: The Girl on the Traingirl_on_the_train_ver3_xlg
Year: 2016
Director: Erin Cressida Wilson
Genre: Drama/Mystery
Date Watched: May 6, 2017
Category: #14 A drama

I was a little bit apprehensive when I heard that Emily Blunt had been cast as the main character in this movie, not because I don’t love her as an actress but more that I imagined her as being slightly older (until I was reminded that Emily Blunt is no longer a 20 something). As it turns out Emily Blunt was the perfect choice, but not just that so was Haley Bennett as the girl who went missing and Laura Prepon as the roommate.

If you’ve read the book then you’ll notice that the movie does stick to to the plot of the book quite well. Right down to the surprise ending.

Honestly, this book and the movie were slightly uncomfortable to read and watch for me because there is not a single likable character in the whole thing for most of the movie, maybe because I spent the whole thing hating each character for a different reason from the ex-husband who didn’t help his wife with a tough time to the missing girl who seemed to hate the baby she was sitting for and was sleeping with someone who wasn’t her husband. At the same time is really is a great movie (and a great book).

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Cannibal by Chuck Palahniuk and Other Short Stories

Okay, so this one is going to be a little different in format. Rather than just one short story there’s 4 here! Enjoy! All these stories were available online so I’ve included the links for you to read them if you wish. Before we jump in though, the first two on this list are definitely a little more gory than many people can handle so feel free to skip past them if that’s not your thing. (The quote above is from Chuck Palahniuk)

Title: Cannibal
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Genre: Short Story
Words: 2505
Category: 20. Read a short story, one with less than 5000 words
Format: Online 

So, if you’ve never read any of Chuck Palahniuk’s books or short stories then you are in for quite the treat. That being said, this one is not my favourite of his short stories. I won’t spoil this one too much because it is quite short and Chuck Palahniuk is known for his twists and turns. Go check out Guts if you like this one though, that is one of the most disturbing things I have ever read. What I will say about Cannibal is, that I started reading it not long before I needed to go somewhere and lost track of time and was very nearly late to where I was going, only to have to find the last of the story on my phone and read it once I got there.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

 


 

Title: Obsolete
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Genre: Short Story
Words: 4347
Category: 20. Read a short story, one with less than 5000 words
Format: Online 

This one is a little different to the other stories I’ve read by Palahniuk and didn’t hold my attention nearly as much as the others. Though I was still surprised by the ending at least. If this is your first time reading something by Palahniuk I would suggest picking something else to start with even if this one is comparatively tame by his standards. It just doesn’t fit together as well as some of the others I’ve read.

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

 


 

Title: The Zero Meter Diving Team
Author: Jim Shepard
Genre: Short Story
Words: (????)
Category: 20. Read a short story, one with less than 5000 words
Format: Online 

This one was actually quite a sad read, unsurprising given the subject matter, though I was immediately drawn to it because of the subject matter. The Zero Meter Diving Team is the story of a trio of brothers and their experiences with Chernobyl, with one working there, one living nearby and being on the river at the time of the explosion and the third being part of the bureaucracy called in to help with the clean up. The imagery in it is beautiful, and the emotions are raw. It was just a great read.

Rating: 4/5 stars

 


 

Title: All Summer in a Day
Author: Ray Bradbury
Genre: Short Story
Words: (????)
Category: 20. Read a short story, one with less than 5000 words
Format: Online 

This was an unusual read for me. I’ve never read anything by Bradbury before (despite actually knowing his granddaughter), but I saw this and decided to give it a shot. The writing isn’t necessarily a style I enjoy but it was written quite a while ago so I don’t mind. What was unusual for me, is that it is about such an ordinary school yard occurrence except that it occurs in a science fiction setting in a school room on Venus. That being said, I definitely identify with the poor girl in the story (I won’t tell you more so I don’t spoil it).

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Doubt Factory – Paolo Bacigalupi

Title: The Doubt Factory9780349002569-us-300
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 496
Category: 25. Read an indie book, where the publisher is a small or niche house and not one of the top 6 publishers (Atom)
Format: Paper

Date Started: February 7th 2017
Date Finished: February 10th 2017

The perfect book for the amateur conspiracy theorist, The Doubt Factory explores the question of just how much we can trust the brands and products we’re using. Specifically the pharmaceuticals that many of us need just to stay alive. Are these same pharmaceuticals actually killing us?

Alix has lived a very sheltered and affluent life going to the best private school money can buy with a house that many of us would be envious of and a perfectly boring suburban family. Her dad works long hours, her mum keeps the house in order, she gets good grades and her younger brother is always getting himself into trouble. Perfectly normal. Her friends are also perfectly normal, their private school kids just like her, who’s parents work and earn enough money to also send them to private schools. Her afternoons are spent in Starbucks with friends, going to the mall or doing homework. At least until 2.0 shows up and things start getting weird for Alix.

A prank at school that she is told is all her fault, then her brother runs off and her dad starts freaking out. Why does 2.0 have it in for her family and why is she now stuck with Death Barbie following her around all the time to keep her safe?

As the plot begins to unfold so do the questions, like falling down a rabbit hole, one after another. And Alix does feel kind of like she’s falling down a rabbit hole as her perfectly regular life begins to unravel around her.

The book is a bit slow to get started, but once it does it’s a fascinating exploration of the way we embrace new products without really knowing the risks they pose to us. Is your asthma medication going to put you in a coma? Is aspirin going to kill your kid? Yes, this is a novel and as such slightly dramatised, but it does make you wonder just how much you know about the products you’re using and how they’re regulated.

Despite the subject matter this is a nice easy read, the language straightforward and the concepts well explained, after all it is a young adult book. Some of the twists I saw coming, some of them I didn’t which is always a plus from me. If you can handle a story that builds slowly and a somewhat dense main character (at least for the first half of the book) then you should give The Doubt Factory a chance.

Rating: 3.5/5