30 books 30 days: Week One

This is my wrap up of the first week in my April TBR challenge. I think it was around the third or fourth day in April I decided to do this challenge having thankfully already read two manga collections and a short novel which helped my number count from the beginning. In the first week of the challenge I have read seven books!

1: Deathnote Vol II by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata

image1-4

Read: April  3rd making it the fourth of April when I started this challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed this volume and hope to do a series review once I’ve read the subsequent volumes. Doing a review in this way will allow me to give an honest review without being concerned with spoilers etc.

 

 

2: Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

51dhqi5bufl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

Tsukiko is in her late 30s and living alone when one night she happens to meet one of her former high school teachers, ‘Sensei’, in a bar. He is at least thirty years her senior, retired and, she presumes, a widower. After this initial encounter, the pair continue to meet occasionally to share food and drink sake, and as the seasons pass – from spring cherry blossom to autumnal mushrooms – Tsukiko and Sensei come to develop a hesitant intimacy which tilts awkwardly and poignantly into love.

Perfectly constructed, funny, and moving, Strange Weather in Tokyo is a tale of modern Japan and old-fashioned romance.

Also read on April 3rd.  This is a slow paced romance which I did enjoy however this one was just an average read in my opinion. I did not particularly love any of Kawakami’s characters although I did find the writing beautiful and appreciated the added Haiku study.

 

 

3: Orange The Complete Collection 1 by  Ichigo Takano

9781626923027

On the day that Naho begins 11th grade, she receives a letter from herself ten years in the future. At first, she writes it off as a prank, but as the letter’s predictions come true one by one, Naho realizes that the letter might be the real deal. Her future self tells Naho that a new transfer student, a boy named Kakeru, will soon join her class. The letter begs Naho to watch over him, saying that only Naho can save Kakeru from a terrible future. Who is this mystery boy, and can Naho save him from his destiny? This is the heart-wrenching sci-fi romance that has over million copies in print in Japan!

Again read on April 3rd. This manga series is unlike any I’ve read before (although I have only ever tried four different series excluding this one) and while I know some people believe it has no staying power, I think it has a sort of subtle brilliance. The storyline is sad and juggles both reality and science fiction. I like the cast of characters and will be continuing with the series.

 

 

4: The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht

image1-5

Having sifted through everything I have heard about the tiger and his wife, I can tell you that this much is fact: in April of 1941, without declaration or warning, the German bombs started falling over the city and did not stop for three days. The tiger did not know that they were bombs…

A tiger escapes from the local zoo, padding through the ruined streets and onwards, to a ridge above the Balkan village of Galina. His nocturnal visits hold the villagers in a terrified thrall. But for one boy, the tiger is a thing of magic – Shere Khan awoken from the pages of The Jungle Book.

Natalia is the granddaughter of that boy. Now a doctor, she is visiting orphanages after another war has devastated the Balkans. On this journey, she receives word of her beloved grandfather’s death, far from their home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery.

From fragments of stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia realizes he may have died searching for ‘the deathless man’, a vagabond who was said to be immortal. Struggling to understand why a man of science would undertake such a quest, she stumbles upon a clue that will lead her to a tattered copy of The Jungle Book, and then to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife.

Read on April 5th. I may end up writing a review for one book per week of this challenge. You can find my review in two parts: (Part One)  (Part Two)

 

 

5: A Streetcat named Bob by James Bowen

MV5BMTY5MTI1MzE5Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjQzNjEzOTE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_

When James Bowen found an injured, ginger street cat curled up in the hallway of his sheltered accommodation, he had no idea just how much his life was about to change. James was living hand to mouth on the streets of London and the last thing he needed was a pet.
Yet James couldn’t resist helping the strikingly intelligent tom cat, whom he quickly christened Bob. He slowly nursed Bob back to health and then sent the cat on his way, imagining he would never see him again. But Bob had other ideas.

Soon the two were inseparable and their diverse, comic and occasionally dangerous adventures would transform both their lives, slowly healing the scars of each other’s troubled pasts.

A Street Cat Named Bob is a moving and uplifting story that will touch the heart of anyone who reads it.

I believe this was my first non-fiction book of the year which I finished reading yesterday, April 6th. Bowen’s story made me laugh and very nearly cry. I thought it was fast-paced and easy to read. However, I feel like the book did not have a conclusive ending, it seemed as though the book was ended on a whim.

 

6: Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

298230

At age 19 Anne Brontë left home and worked as a governess for a few years before becoming a writer. Agnes Grey was an 1847 novel based on her experience as a governess. Bronte depicts the precarious position of a governess and how that can affect a young woman. Agnes was the daughter of a minister whose family was in financial difficulty. She has only a few choices for employment. Agnes experiences the difficulty of reining in spoiled children and how wealth can corrupt morals.

Also read yesterday, April 6th. I had several problems with this novel. The first being that Agnes Grey is supposed to be a loveable and moral character. Personally, I did not like Brontë’s protagonist who, in my opinion, made no real, honest human connection after leaving her family’s home. It’s fair to say from the last statement that I was not a fan of the romance either. That being said I am more than happy to acknowledge that Agnes Grey is, for its time, a feminist novel and is therefore indisputably of high importance. I realise when writing this that I will have to write a separate review of this novel as I clearly have more to say than I had initially thought, which is also a good thing, if you are interested this review will be up over the weekend.

 

7: The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka, translated by Joyce Crick

413SBMCqzXL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

‘When Gregor Samsa woke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed into some kind of monstrous vermin.’

With a bewildering blend of the everyday and the fantastical, Kafka thus begins his most famous short story, The Metamorphosis. A commercial traveller is unexpectedly freed from his dreary job by his inexplicable transformation into an insect, which drastically alters his relationship with his family. Kafka considered publishing it with two of the stories included here in a volume to be called Punishments. The Judgement also concerns family tensions, when a power struggle between father and son ends with the father passing an enigmatic judgement on the helpless son. The third story, In the Penal Colony, explores questions of power, justice, punishment, and the meaning of pain in a colonial setting. These three stories are flanked by two very different works. Meditation, the first book Kafka published, consists of light, whimsical, often poignant mood-pictures, while in the autobiographical Letter to his Father, Kafka analyses his difficult relationship in forensic and devastating detail.

For the 125th anniversary of Kafka’s birth comes an astonishing new translation of his best-known stories, in a spectacular graphic package.

Table of contents:

Meditation
The Judgement
The Metamorphosis
In the Penal Colony
(Autobiographical) Letter to his Father

I finished reading this collection today. After reading The Trial a couple of years ago I was really excited to read more Kafka, my favourite part of this collection was the letter he wrote to his father. While I did not enjoy this collection as much as I hoped, or as much as I enjoyed The Trial, I still find Kafka’s writing beautiful.

 

 

Sophie

Advertisements

Top 10 YA novels

I am by no means an expert in YA (young adult) literature. However, I have read enough to personally compile a list of my current favourites. I am currently reading Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You The Sun and have a few other YA novels I want to get to this year. Nevertheless here are my top 10…

 

Me and Earl and The Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Me_and_Earl_and_the_Dying_Girl

This book is wonderfully unique, as are most if not all of the books on my favourites list. I respect every book that makes me laugh and this book made me laugh so much. It’s witty and realistic, both uplifting and heartbreaking and never patronising which I find far too many YA novels to be. This book deals with cancer and though some people think it’s insensitive I disagree, I think it’s refreshing. This book is nothing like The Fault in Our Stars (which I hated) and I’ve never met anyone who has enjoyed both. If you’re that person please comment! This was Andrew’s debut novel published in 2012, I would like to read his other novel The Haters. If you’ve read it please let me know your thoughts in the comments.

 

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

22910900

Another novel that is truly unique, The Rest of Us Just Live Here focuses on those who are not the ‘chosen ones.’ Its characters and their relationships are well-written and dynamic. Also, this novel is hilarious. It plays with and reinvents the stereotype and I’d quite honestly read anything Ness writes in the future. This was Patrick Ness’s latest novel published in 2015, he now has a new novel Release available for pre-order now. I may very well end up doing so.

 

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

515ck8mcxl

I love Leo Denton, who is a character in this book, therefore I also love this book. The cover is pretty self-explanatory yet the story is captivating from the first page. Danny is reading this novel at the moment so I won’t say anything more. This novel was also published in 2015 and is also a debut novel! Williamson’s second novel All About Mia was published this year and I’m sure I will read it in the future.

 

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

cinder

A YA Sci-fi retelling of Cinderella. I know you are judging, but I think this book is great. Cinder is a cyborg. This is a four part series which also has a prequel novella. I have since read book two Scarlet and definitely prefer the first book of the series. The world building is perfect and the villain and Cinder’s friendly sidekick are without a doubt the highlights of the novel for me. I will be continuing with the series as soon as Cress is ready to be picked up from my local library. Also, ANOTHER DEBUT NOVEL from Marissa Meyer published in 2012.

 

The Giver by Lois Lowry

81cJChEQjSL.jpg

Interestingly, this is the eldest novel on the list published in the year I was/we were born, 1993. This novel is pretty well regarded in the book community and is one I would like to reread soon. This is a YA dystopia which is a genre that has proved extremely popular in the last decade or so.  This book has staying power.

 

The Program by Suzanne Young

THE PROGRAM 0719_LO

Set in our world with the only difference being a major epidemic of teenage suicides, which is worryingly not as far-fetched as we could hope. The Program is about a society forced to take measures to protect its teenagers against depression where teenagers are, as a result, forced to pretend they’re happy incase their parents or teachers suspect they are depressed, if so they must join ‘the program.’ This is the first novel of a series and was published in 2013. I really must buy the rest of the series as I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, it’s haunting.

 

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

10576365

The X-men novel of YA literature. The Darkest Minds also has a ‘problem generation’ expect this time the children HAVE power (at least supernatural power.) The only problem I had with this novel was its ending, although it is the first book in a trilogy therefore its conclusion is less of an issue. It was published in 2012 and the concept of power is interesting. I have yet to read the final book of the series as it was hard to find for a while however I have requested it from my local library and will hopefully pick it up soon!

 

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

51anMWgLi4L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

This is the penultimate novel in Clare’s The Mortal Instruments. As you can see, this is my favourite novel in the series and has some truly epic scenes. City of Lost Souls is a Shadowhunter novel, shadowhunters are demon hunters in order to protect the world and its ‘mundanes’ (us.) There are also other magical species/beings in the series such as warlocks, werewolves, vampires and the Fae, this series has it all.

 

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Sixofcrows.jpg

Another 2015 published novel. Six of Crows has a few really well written characters and I loved the world building, although this is a separate series which is set in the world Bardugo created for her previous series The Grisha Trilogy. This is an action novel about a heist and is very entertaining. I will read its sequel though this novel is low down on my top10 list.

 

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The-perks-of-being-a-wallflower.jpg

I read this novel today and liked it more than I expected I would, although I probably don’t love it as much as you would think. I only knew a few quotes and not much of the storyline prior to reading and it was the cheesy quotes that put me off reading it until now. However I found the novel generally well written and I loved Patrick. Other than Patrick I didn’t get emotionally attached to the other characters in Chbosky’s novel and am looking forward to seeing if the movie changes this. What I do love is pretty much all of the songs, books and movies referenced within this novel. Despite the fact I enjoyed but didn’t love The Perks of being a Wallflower I have a deep respect for its originality. I also respect the fact that all of its characters go through real issues and sometimes mental illnesses, it paints a realistic portrait of today’s society. Chbosky’s novel was published in 99.

 

P.S. I decided not to include Zusak’s The Book Thief and Hosseini’s The Kite Runner in this list as they are not always referred to as YA though they would be my all time favourites. I also wanted to feature other novels and was worried I discuss certain novels perhaps too much.

 

Sophie

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Non-Spoiler] Review: Try A Chapter

I remember first seeing this craze last year and initially ruling it out. However, due to the longevity of my reading slump (caused by the aforementioned disappointing novels) I believe this will help me regain my motivation to read. As I am dedicating this year to mainly Classic Literature I have appropriately chosen five Classic novels. I will provide only a brief summary of my personal thoughts and findings in each Chapter One in order to prevent any (perhaps even accidental) spoilers.

To begin this challenge I read Chapter One of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s novel The Shadow of The Wind. I chose this novel due to my desire to read more of my owned Penguin Drop Caps edition. Here is how it went…

The Shadow of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: Chapter One

I was immediately intrigued by the title of Zafón’s opening Chapter: ‘The Cemetery of Forgotten Books’ which at this time of my life could be in reference to my bookshelf that looms over me as I read. While it becomes immediately apparent that the author is using very conventional plot tropes and some clichés within their language use can be found, such as the ‘deafening silence’ described on page 3, there are already a few (impressively subtle) touching moments. It already seems harsh to judge a book or an author based off of one chapter as there is a theatrical template of mystery and tragedy (etc) in order to draw readers in and therefore one expects to find conventional plot tropes, at least to a certain extent, within a novel’s opening pages. However, if I am blunt about my experience reading The Shadow of The Wind’s opening chapter, I am personally unsure whether I will enjoy this novel.

My primary concern is that the plot is already an interesting premise, yet the book has a total of 511 pages and has very small text. From the first chapter alone it appears as though the novel could not possibly be this long. What I mean by this is that I personally find the basis of the plot more of a discussion topic or literary essay than a fictional novel. I am unsure if the premise is worth 511 pages. In my opinion, again bear in mind this is from one chapter, I see this story being more appropriate for the big screen. This is because the plot is centered around reading and a love of books which first of all seems to me like an unsettlingly easy premise for a novel but also comes across as a little boring. The main audience of Classic Literature are, of course, bibliophiles and are therefore people who have already discovered the magical world of literature Zafón depicts in ‘The Cemetery of Forgotten Books.’ Furthermore the descriptions of settings and characters are lost due to the story building, this would translate better on screen which I would like to see as this was without a doubt one of the redeeming qualities of Chapter One.

 

I then selected classic Irish novel Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. I selected this novel as I believed, before reading the opening chapter, that this was a Children’s novel. I am hoping to incorporate children’s classics to this year’s reading list. I have previously seen the Rob Letterman movie starring Jack Black based on Swift’s novel which was the extent of my knowledge of this particular classic. I am hoping this novel is as witty as I expect it to be. My copy of this novel is a Roads Classic Edition gifted to me by The Ginger Blogster.

 

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift: Chapter One

Ok so this was an unexpected surprise. I am unsure how I could have spent my life without the knowledge that this is not a children’s novel but a Satire! My edition of Swift’s magnum opus begins with a letter from Captain Gulliver to his cousin Sympson relating to the published account of, unsurprisingly, Gulliver’s travels. Immediately the language was vastly different from what I expected and I instantly knew this novel was more than I had believed it to be. I am thoroughly excited to continue reading this novel despite the fact its opening chapter does not give too much away. It is already witty, or perhaps snarky, despite being political therefore it is easy and quick to read. In all honesty my main interest in this novel is that it is obviously not at all what I was expecting. However there is an apparent quirkiness from the narrator and author that is apparent from the very first  page and I cannot help but find that impressive. From the first chapter I believe that this should indeed be a novel and if that isn’t something of wonder I’m not sure what is. I have high hopes and would like to read more of Swift’s work once I finish this novel.

 

My third choice is one of Penguin’s Modern Classics therefore I look forward to seeing a difference in writing from my last choice. My third selection is also political, described as being “a stunning fictionalization of a political drama that tore the United States apart.” That novel is of course…

 

The Book of Daniel by E.L Doctorow: Chapter One 

Fun (yet ultimately useless as almost all fun facts are) Fact: I have oddly chosen two out of three books so far that have a main character named Daniel. Praise number one is the quote selection that prefaces this novel including a bible verse as well as Whitman and Ginsberg extracts. The novel is split into four books, Book One is titled ‘Memorial Day.’ From the opening page I believe Doctorow’s writing style to be unique. Unlike Zafón’s novel I do not find the opening chapter expected or clichéd, I find it simultaneously charming and gritty. Chapter One I have assumed due to the layout of the novel is a mere five pages and yet it has peaked my interest. In those five pages it touches on relationships, family life, sex, politics and national identity. The opening chapter has left me eager to read more, from the first five pages I believe it will be a book of substance and character.

 

And now onto my fourth choice, another Penguin Drop Caps edition, another never before read author and a novel I have been meaning to read for a long time…

 

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding: Chapter One

Chapter One is titled ‘The Sound of the Shell’ and is 30 pages long! In the opening chapter, in the midst of a World War, a group of boys are stranded on a deserted island.They immediately begin to play adult and start their own society. Everything about the opening chapter is unsettling, the bonding over bullying, the feeling of alienation and there is almost a stabbing towards the end. Therefore violence is very much foreshadowed in the opening chapter. The writing style is very simplistic perhaps due to the fact all of the characters are young boys. Overall I thought the opening chapter was just ok. For some reason I feel as though I know the full story, just through what I have read so far and what I believe will happen. I have surprisingly had no spoilers and would still like to read it to the end despite being underwhelmed by its opening chapter.

 

The last book I have chosen for this challenge is the novel I know least about but was strangely finding myself most attracted to, yet again the author is new to me and the book is…

 

The Dear Green Place by Archie Hind: Chapter One

I love the opening line of Hind’s novel which is “In every city you find these neighbourhoods.” The opening chapter is 13 pages long and centres around who I assume to be the main character, Mat Craig, a writer who considers his upbringing and the change Glasgow has gone through from small town to big city and is soaked in history. The first chapter briefly touches upon community, poverty and survival. What draws me to this novel is the knowledge that its author knew it would not make enough money to support him but decided to write it anyway. Despite this fact it received several prizes almost instantaneously on its publication. I have not read enough novels based in my home country and this novel seems to me to hold its own integrity. I also have a habit of loving literature from the 1960’s. I am eager to read more about Hind’s aspiring writer Mat Craig and his views on his land and culture.

 

image1-2

 

In conclusion I actually really enjoyed this challenge, and would recommend it,

Happy reading!

 

Sophie