Saturday, August 1, 2015

July reading wrap up

Another month over, and I once again read far more books than was good for me... I also had a small "what am I doing with my life??" moment when Sweeney mentioned that she wasn't planning on rereading The Diviners before Lair of Dreams comes out, and I was all "I kind of have to because I've read a million books since then and have no idea what happened". Except I calculated how many books it's been since I read The Diviners in December 2012, and the answer is SIX HUNDRED AND EIGHTY SIX BOOKS WHAT THE HELL, KIRSTI. 

Books read: 37. WHAT. HOW.
New vs rereads: 21 new books versus 16 rereads. More even than last month, but still not ideal!
Most read genre: CONTEMPORARY. Again. Contemporary books really need to stop being so damned good... That said, the genres were far more balanced than last month!

Favourite book: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. This feels a little like cheating, seeing as it was a reread. But OH WELL. It was easily my favourite this month.
Least favourite book: Naughty Neighbor by Janet Evanovich. I gave up 50 pages in because it was filling me with rage, and I couldn't handle that much rage at 6.50am.
Favourite cover: I really love the cover on this edition of The Diviners by Libba Bray. It's SO much prettier than the Kindle edition I read when it first came out!

Diverse Books Project: I've decided that from this point on, I'm going to be reading far less books set in the US. Because there are so many amazing diverse books out there, and to have more than 50% of what I've read so far set in ONE COUNTRY seems ridiculous. Other than that, it's going pretty damned well!

In July, I ended up reading 4 graphic novels, 3 non-fiction books, and 30 novels. There are links to all my Goodreads reviews below!

My Life Next Door (My Life Next Door, #1)
4.5 stars: My Life Next Door |

More Happy Than Not
4.25 stars: More Happy Than Not |

War Brothers: The Graphic NovelLies We Tell OurselvesThe Art of Being NormalKissing in AmericaReaper Man (Discworld, #11)Paper TownsThe Complete Maus (Maus, #1-2)Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870A Tale of Two CitiesViciousLion in the Valley (Amelia Peabody, #4)MonsterA Time to DanceThe Diviners (The Diviners, #1)
4 stars: War Brothers | Lies We Tell Ourselves | The Art of Being Normal | Kissing in America | Reaper Man | Paper Towns | Maus | Victorian London: The Life of a City 1840-1870 | A Tale of Two Cities | Vicious | Lion in the Valley | Monster | A Time to Dance | The Diviners |

Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke (Prisoner of Night and Fog, #2)
3.75 stars: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke |

Anya's GhostHawkeye, Vol. 3: L.A. WomanContestHidden Huntress (The Malediction Trilogy, #2)BossypantsIn the Arms of Morpheus: The Tragic History of Laudanum, Morphine, and Patent Medicines
3.5 stars: Anya's Ghost | Hawkeye Vol. 3: L.A. Woman | Contest | Hidden Huntress | Bossypants | In the Arms of Morpheus |

Black Dove, White RavenStarted Early, Took My Dog (Jackson Brodie, #4)The AeneidThirteen (Women of the Otherworld, #13)I'll Give You the SunAn Ember in the AshesScarlet in the SnowSeven Up (Stephanie Plum, #7)99 DaysThyla (Thyla, #1)Lost in a Good Book (Thursday Next, #2)
3 stars: Black Dove White Raven | Started Early, Took My Dog | The Aeneid | Thirteen | I'll Give You The Sun | An Ember in the Ashes | Scarlet in the Snow | Seven Up | 99 Days | Thyla | Lost in a Good Book |

2.75 stars: Thunderhead |

South of Darkness
2 stars: South of Darkness |

Naughty Neighbor
1 star: Naughty Neighbor |

What did you read in July?

K xx

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

Yes, I'm aware that this cover is hideous. But after discovering that ALL THREE copies we have of this at work are abridged, I had to resort to the free Kindle version...

My first exposure to this book came at the age of ten or eleven. Somehow, I got my grubby little hands on a Dickens omnibus, and I slogged my way through A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, and half of this before I left it at a friend's house in England, only to be reclaimed four years later.

So when it came time to assemble my Classics Club list, it seemed appropriate that I should put this on there. And for the most part, I found it enjoyable if not especially Dickensian.

Set during the French Revolution, A Tale of Two Cities is a lot more serious than the other Dickens books I've read. Which isn't to say that other Dickens books aren't serious. Many of them are! But there's usually SOME element of comic relief to the story, one or two utterly ridiculous characters who provide the reader with a few moments to come up for air before diving back into the depths of opium addiction or child abuse or debtors prison or traipsing barefoot across the moors in fifteen feet of snow or whatever other horrors Dickens put his characters through.

Dickens apparently considered this his best work, and while I'm not entirely convinced I agree, it's definitely a fabulously written book that tells a compelling story. Admittedly, it took me a while to get into things, but once I did, it was full steam ahead.

I think what's most fascinating to me where A Tale of Two Cities is concerned is that it's historical fiction. There's a great tendency, I think, to consider historical fiction a product of the twentieth century. But here, Dickens is writing about events that happened some 80-odd years earlier. This is the French Revolution seen through nineteenth century eyes. This is, in effect, the French Revolution as we view the World Wars today. And that gave me a new appreciation for the story.

Having studied the French Revolution in high school, the story made far more sense to me this time than it did at the age of 10. (Shocker, right??) The villains are spectacularly villainy. The heroes are long suffering and make sacrifices to save those they love. It's a story almost entirely free of side plots, which must have just about killed Dickens to do, because the man really does love a good side plot (not to be confused with Victor Hugo, who loved a good 100 page tangent). And it's a story full of some of the most amazing quotes to come out of nineteenth century literature.

In short, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Have you read it? What did you think?

K xx

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

TTT - Diverse Books

Time to link up with The Broke and the Bookish again!

I wasn't planning on participating in Top Ten Tuesday this week. But when I saw what the topic was? How could I resist??

For those of you who aren't regular followers, this year I'm reading a diverse book every week and vlogging about it on my Youtube channel. So obviously, I have a lot of diverse books that I want to shout about from the rooftops!

All the books I'm reading for my challenge have diverse protagonists. It's one thing to have diverse characters in a book, it's another entirely to tell it from the PERSPECTIVE of a diverse character. In a lot of ways, I feel like young adult novels are doing diversity reasonably well. There are an increasing number of books featuring not just sassy gay/black/Latino best friends, but characters who are transgender, who are intersex, who have a disability, who are mixed race, who have mental health problems or eating disorders, or who are diverse in multiple ways.

Really, it's adult books that are failing where diversity is concerned. And it would be great if there were more diverse young adult books in the spotlight that AREN'T set in the US...

ANYWAY. Here's my list.

1. Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda - Becky Albertalli

As I've told the girls at school with disturbing regularity, this is the best book I've read so far this year. It deals really well with a teenage boy struggling with his sexuality and coming out, not only to his family but to his friends and the wider school community.

2. The Wrath and the Dawn - Renee Ahdieh

I absolutely adored this retelling of The Arabian Nights. All the characters are people of colour, the culture shines through brilliantly, and basically this book made me really hungry because it talks about food so much.

3. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Saenz

One of the best books I read last year. It's the story of two Mexican-American teenage boys growing up in the 1980s, and discovering that maybe there's more to their relationship than just friendship. Astonishingly beautiful from start to finish.

4. The Shattering - Karen Healey

Set on the south island of New Zealand, this book is told from the perspective of three teenagers. One's Maori and a lesbian, one's Samoan, and while the other is straight and Pakeha (of European descent), she's dyslexic. It's a fabulous book, not only because of its diversity, but because the story essentially fits into multiple genres. It's contemporary but also a crime story but also there's magic involved??

5. None of the Above - I.W. Gregorio

A teenage girl sleeps with her boyfriend for the first time, and as a result of massive pain, learns that she's intersex. This has a massive impact on her relationship, her friendships, the way she's seen at school and, potentially, her future as she's got an athletics scholarship to university that might be compromised by her intersex status. It was feels-tastic and absolutely brilliant.

6. People of the Book - Geraldine Brooks

This book starts with an Australian paper conservator being summoned to Bosnia by the UN to examine and preserve the Sarajevo Haggadah. The rest of the story takes us back through time, telling the stories of the people all over Europe who created and transported the Haggadah, keeping it safe across the centuries. The vast majority of these people, including Hannah, are Jewish though there are also some fabulous Muslim characters.

7. Two Boys Kissing - David Levithan

Oh, please. Like you could make a list of diverse books and not include at least one by David Levithan. I cried four times reading this book, and it's only two hundred pages. I know the narration - a Greek chorus of the dead of the AIDS generation - doesn't work for everyone, but I absolutely adored it. And I loved the diversity WITHIN the seven or eight main characters. Sure, they're all gay, but there are a range of different ethnicities involved, and one of the characters is transgender.

8. Laurinda - Alice Pung

Set in Melbourne, this is the story of a teenage girl who wins a scholarship to a snooty private school and really struggles to come to terms with the two halves of her identity - the scholarship girl struggling to make friends in a new environment, and the rough-as-guts western suburbs girl who came to Australia by boat and who knows exactly where she fits in. Not always an easy read, but an important one.

9. Not Otherwise Specified - Hannah Moskowitz

A lot of reviews on Goodreads talk about how grating and awful the main character is in this book. But personally? I loved Etta. She's African-American, bisexual, and has an eating disorder. And all she wants is to be a dancer and leave Nebraska. Not necessarily in that order. I loved how open Etta is about her sexuality, how well the issue of food was dealt with in the story, how Etta's told that her body type will prevent her from achieving her dreams but she keeps on fighting. Basically, it was great.

10. Stormdancer - Jay Kristoff

A steampunk story set in Shoganate Japan with nothing but diverse characters? Uh, YES PLEASE. It took me a while to get into this one, because the world building was sort of...scattered?? And Kristoff's writing is very heavy on the descriptions. But I really loved the world and the characters that Kristoff created. Plus, how can you pass up a sassy, scene-stealing griffin??

What's on your list this week?

K xx
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