Books

Books I’ve Bought Recently – Part One

My parents’ house has a ridiculous number of books in it. Everyone else in my family reads extensively, so that for years I thought that I didn’t read at all despite finishing a book every three weeks, just because I didn’t come near to anyone else in my household.

I have been reading much more recently though. Unfortunately my tastes tend to differ from my parents, so I can’t make use of their collection for the most part. Instead, I’ve been collecting recommendations and trawling charity shops, as well as downloading a free trial of audible. I wanted to talk about some of my purchases with you all, so here are some of the books I’ve been reading recently, and some I will be reading in the near future.

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Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli

Really, this is the book that got me back into reading and writing. Visiting a friend in Spain last spring, I realised while waiting for my flight that I had forgotten to pack anything to do on the plane or before bed. I nipped into the airport’s WHSmith and picked up a notebook, a pen, Pilot TV Magazine, and this book.

I read nearly half of it on the plane. I could have happily read more, but as it was the only book I had access to for the next three days I made the effort to pace myself.  It was several months ago now so I can’t give a fully nuanced review, but I do remember that it was a really fun book. It was readable and warm, and I loved the email segments, the plot, and the characters of Blue and Simon. I’ll probably be reading Leah on the Offbeat, and I might even see the film.

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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

I don’t have my own photo of this one because I passed it onto a friend, because, wow, I loved it. I was actually a little annoyed on finishing that I didn’t have the perfect person to recommend it to, because the number one person in my life that this book was written for is me. It’s so much tailored to my tastes that it’s now my third favourite book of all-time. While I was reading it it was constantly in my hands, while I ate, in my break at work, walking from the building to the car. I finished it in just a few days and I absolutely loved it. Eleanor Oliphant is a book about loneliness, growing friendship, small acts of kindness, family, and mental health, all topics near and dear to my heart, and all with minimal reference to romance, which is another bonus.

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Misery – Stephen King

I’ve never read a Stephen King book before and I don’t think I’ve even seen any of his films (although I have listened to the Carrie musical), but this one in particular has always appealed to me.

It always seemed like a good combination of three of my favourite topics, writing, reading, and kidnapping. The main thing that surprised me about this book was King’s writing style. I don’t know what I imagined it to be like, but I don’t think it was this – particularly in the early chapters. The first page specifically read exactly like a fan-fiction I’m pretty sure I’ve both written and read.

I can see why he’s such a popular author though. His style is very compelling, if a bit mature for my tastes. The story did not go where I expected it to go. There were parts that were incredibly tense that left me anxiously turning the pages. The excerpts from Misery’s Return were a nice little bonus story-within-a-story. I did enjoy it overall, but perhaps differently from how I was expecting to.

I realise that this book is more of a thriller than King’s other books, but I would be intrigued to check out one of the horror ones some time soon.

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Finding Yvonne – Brandy Colbert

This one was an audiobook, and another timely read/listen for me personally. The titular Yvonne has just turned 18 and realised that she isn’t actually passionate about the career path she’s been on since she was a little girl, which is to be a violinist. I couldn’t relate to any of the specifics in Finding Yvonne – I am not black, or in a love triangle, or a violinist, or a baker – but most people can relate to that period in your late teens and early 20s where you’re expected to lock into whichever passion you’ve decided to dedicate your entire life to, and how intimidating and impossible that is. This was an enjoyable enough book and character to explore the issue.

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Coraline – Neil Gaiman

I feel like I would’ve enjoyed this book more if either I had either never heard of the film or if I had actually watched it.

As it was, I knew very little about the story, but already had vague mental images – screencaps of the film – to fill in the world. The problem is it’s a very visual book. My reading experience was marred by my not being able to create this eerie world in my own imagination, leaving it feeling a little thin. If I had seen the film, this would’ve been less jarring, because I wouldn’t be expecting as much (if any) new content. It seemed like a fine book, but nothing about it gripped me or engaged me unfortunately.

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The Raven Boys – Maggie Steifvater

This book was recommended to me so many times by so many people that I had to give in. If I’d known it was a four-book-series before I started I might’ve resisted longer – in general, I don’t love the commitment asked by book series – but I did really enjoy it.

I’ve gone off of magical quest-type books recently in favour of stories and themes I can relate to my own life, but it’s more of a passing mood than a hard-and-fast rule, so I was happy to make the exception here. The characterisation is particularly enjoyable, with every character being complex and likable in vastly different ways, so that even when you don’t agree with their opinions or actions, you understand them. It’s so character-focused that it’s hard to really articulate what it’s about – a non-psychic girl and her family of psychics, and a boy looking for the Raven King with his friends – without losing the majority of the story’s essence. It was a very readable writing style, so I will definitely be picking up the next book at some point.

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The Killjoy – Anne Fine

I know that I read Anne Fine’s Flour Babies when I was younger and I know that I enjoyed it, even if I no longer remember very much about it. So when I was scouring the internet in search of new books to read, I thought I would pick up another Anne Fine book to see if I enjoyed that now as an adult. The answer is currently inconclusive.

I’m about halfway through The Killjoy and it is… interesting. The first- and second-person point of view intrigues me. I like that it seems to be a police interview for an unknown crime. stylistically it is creative and it has a good grasp on psychology and character. It’s clearly a good book. It is just unclear if I enjoy it. There is nothing about it that especially inspires me to pick it up whenever I have free time, so that even though it’s short it is taking me a while to get through as I only read a couple of pages a night before bed. We’ll see how I feel about the ending.

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Final Girls – Riley Sager

Another audiobook, this time the one I’m currently listening to. The title refers to three characters who were each the only survivor of a separate massacre, and so were given the horror film trope name by the press.

This book so far is falling into the same issue I have with most thrillers in that, being plot-oriented, it goes off on what I would consider ‘a tangent’ in the pursuit of a plot twist rather than just exploring the concept that drew me to it in the first place. This isn’t a fault with the book per se, just a fault with me for continuing to expect a book to defy genre conventions just for my own personal tastes. Hopefully the final plot twist will be good enough to make the journey worthwhile.

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Bel Canto – Ann Patchett

Normally this book probably wouldn’t be at the top of my To Be Read list, but it is going to be the next book I read because I would like to finish it before Christmas, in order to know if it will make a good gift for my friend (who has been mentioned on this blog before).

The concept – an entire party being taken hostage by terrorists – definitely appeals to me but the literary-style of prose and the setting puts me off, though these are exactly the things that I know my friend would enjoy about it. I’ve heard good things from other people who weren’t expecting to like it, and I do have a history of falling in love with books that have a large, rich cast of characters, so I suspect I will either be bored to tears by this book or have it be a new favourite.

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Here Lies Bridget – Paige Hardison

I’m so excited to read this book.

Here Lies Bridget is about a high school mean girl who has an accident and then, trapped between life and death (my fingers are crossed for a coma, my favourite story-telling trope), sees life through the eyes of different people she’s bullied. This is another one of those books which is just so tailored to my tastes it’s embarrassing. I love a moral, I love a coma, I love a Groundhog Day/A Christmas Carol/It’s a Wonderful Life-style set-up. I am desperately hoping that I’m compatible with the writing style for this one so that it can become another favourite of mine. I’m imagining it to be somewhere along the lines of Gabrielle Zevin’s Elsewhere, if only because that’s the only other life/death teen girl book I’ve read.

I do have a few more books to talk about, but there’s enough of them to save for another post, so keep an eye out for that in the next few weeks. In the meantime, please let me know if you’ve read any of these books and what you thought of them, and also send any books you think I would enjoy my way. I might start a Goodreads account for this blog if there’s any interest, so please take the poll on my Twitter.

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