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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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‘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

March Wrap Up

In total last month I read seven novels and six graphic novels. I only read one classic which will hopefully never happen again for the remainder of 2017. My book of the month was Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie which is in fact the one classic of March. You can find a review of my book of the month here. My favourite graphic novel was Sex Criminals Volume One: One Weird Trick by Fraction and Zdarsky as it was the most original of the six. The Honourable mention of March goes to Cress by Marissa Meyer which I can’t say much about as it is the third book in a series.

 

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Since its publication in 2003, nearly 7 million readers have discovered “The Kite Runner.” Through Khaled Hosseini’s brilliant writing, a previously unknown part of the world was brought to vivid life for readers. Now, in this beautifully illustrated graphic novel adaptation, Hosseini brings his compelling story to a new generation of readers 

The Kite Runner Graphic Novel by Hosseini, Andolfo, Valsecchi and Celoni. I have previously read the original novel which is one of my all time favourites so this was a reread for me. It was adapted well although it took a while to get into as I felt that in the beginning too much of the story was missed and it felt patchy. This is of course not a problem readers who haven’t previously read the novel would have. I really enjoyed the artist’s interpretation of the characters and liked the colour palette.

 

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“Y” is none other than unemployed escape artist Yorick Brown (his father was a Shakespeare buff), and he’s seemingly the only male human left alive after a mysterious plague kills all Y-chromosome carriers on earth. But why are he and his faithful companion, the often testy male monkey Ampersand, still alive? He sets out to find the answer (and his girlfriend), while running from angry female Republicans (now running the government), Amazon wannabes that include his own sister (seemingly brainwashed), and other threats.

Y: The Last Man by Vaughan, Guerra and Marzán Jr. This was my first Vaughan graphic novel and while I know it won’t be my last I don’t think this one is outstanding. Nevertheless it was entertaining and I enjoyed the art therefore I will be continuing with the series. That being said, having only read this volume I cannot see myself buying the series, I will try and request Volume Two from my local library.

 

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‘Elizabeth is missing.’ Maud keeps finding notes in her pockets with this message scrawled on it, but she can’t remember writing it. That said, she can’t remember much these days: the time of day, whether she’s eaten lunch, if her daughter’s come to visit, how much toast she’s eaten. Still, the notes about Elizabeth nag at her. When was the last time she spoke with her best friend? It feels like ages ago…

Frustratingly, no one seems willing to help Maud find her: not the police nor Elizabeth’s son – not even Maud’s own daughter or granddaughter. It’s like they’re hiding something.

Maud resolves to take matters into her own hands, and begins digging for the truth. There are many clues, but unhelpfully, they all seem to point to another unsolved disappearance: that of Maud’s sister Sukey just after the war.

Could the mystery of Sukey’s disappearance lead Maud to the truth about Elizabeth? As Maud’s mind retreats into the past at a frightening pace, alienating her from her family and carers, vivid memories of what happened over fifty years ago come flooding back to give her quest new momentum.

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey. This is a book that had lots of hype. I enjoyed the novel although perhaps enjoyed its sub-plot the most. The characters are memorable and while it will not be making my 2017 favourites I would recommend this book to others. Especially those who enjoy unreliable narrators. It was a fast and entertaining read.

 

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Carmel Wakeford becomes separated from her mother at a local children’s festival, and is found by a man who claims to be her estranged grandfather. He tells her that her mother has had an accident and that she is to live with him for now. As days become weeks with her new family, 8-year-old Carmel realises that this man believes she has a special gift…

While her mother desperately tries to find her, Carmel embarks on an extraordinary journey, one that will make her question who she is – and who she might become.

The Girl in the Red Coatby Kate Hamer. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as Healey’s crime novel. I found the characters less memorable and while Hamer’s novel was entertaining overall, I found myself getting bored about halfway through.

 

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The classic bestselling book the subject of a play, a movie, and a song that tells the darkly fascinating story of a young, unorthodox teacher and her special, and ultimately dangerous, relationship with six of her students.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. Read more here!

 

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Charlie is a freshman.

And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can’t stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Another hyped novel, this book read like a classic and has some memorable characters, although in my opinion Chbosky’s novel has stronger male characters than female. Nevertheless The Perks of Being a Wallflower made my list of Top 10 YA novels.  You can read more about my thoughts of the novel by clicking the title link. I also watched the movie adaptation this month which I also really enjoyed, especially the dance floor scene.

 

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From the author of The Sky Is Every­where, a radiant novel that will leave you laughing and crying – all at once. For fans of John Green, Gayle Forman and Lauren Oliver. Jude and her twin Noah were incredibly close – until a tragedy drove them apart, and now they are barely speaking. Then Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy as well as a captivating new mentor, both of whom may just need her as much as she needs them. What the twins don’t realize is that each of them has only half the story and if they can just find their way back to one another, they have a chance to remake their world.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. If only I’d read that Goodreads blurb before reading, “For fans of John Green” I agree with this comparison. This was a hyped novel that I honestly found underwhelming, I found it full of clichés, I did not like the relationship between the two main characters or even the characters themselves. While I did enjoy Noah’s narrative more I still did not particularly enjoy Nelson’s YA novel. It is also really long so overall an unfortunately disappointing read.

 

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Though they have the vote and the Pill and haven’t been burned as witches since 1727, life isn’t exactly a stroll down the catwalk for modern women. They are beset by uncertainties and questions: Why are they supposed to get Brazilians? Why do bras hurt? Why the incessant talk about babies? And do men secretly hate them? Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women’s lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own, from adolescence to her development as a writer, wife, and mother.

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, another book I did not enjoy this month which I’m deeply disappointed by as it is one of my reading goals to read more non-fiction, memoirs included. However I will not be reading any of Moran’s other works, the humour was not for me.

 

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The Definitive Deadpool by  Fabian NiciezaJoe MadureiraJoe KellyTony MooreDaniel WayRob LiefeldPaco MedinaAlé Garza , Brian PosehnGerry Duggan

This was as I expected it to be, some of it was entertaining and witty and other parts I found boring. The problem probably stemmed from the fact that while I enjoy certain superheroes I am more a fan of X-Men and Batman than other Marvel characters or in this case individual Marvel characters. I am not an Avengers fan for instance as I think they always try too hard to be funny. Therefore I guess I’m trying to say take my words with a pinch of salt.

 

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Callum is a nought – an inferior white citizen in a society controlled by the black Crosses.
Sephy is a Cross – and the daughter of one of the most powerful, ruthless men in the country.
In their hostile, violent world, noughts and Crosses simply don’t mix. But when Sephy and Callum’s childhood friendship grows into love, they’re determined to find a way to be together.
And then the bomb explodes . . .

The long-awaited graphic novel adaptation of one of the most influential, critically acclaimed and original novels of all time, from multi-award-winning Malorie Blackman

Noughts and Crosses Graphic Novel by Blackman and John Aggs, another reread for me. I enjoyed the graphic novel and found that the story flowed better in this adaptation than it did in The Kite Runner: A Graphic Novel however I liked the art less. I would recommend the novel over the graphic novel. 

 

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Suzie’s just a regular gal with an irregular gift: when she has sex, she stops time. One day she meets Jon and it turns out he has the same ability. And sooner or later they get around to using their gifts to do what we’d ALL do: rob a couple banks. A bawdy and brazen sex comedy for comics begins here!

Sex Criminals Volume One: One Weird Trick by Fraction and Zdarsky, a highly original and funny graphic novel. I can’t go into it without spoilers but I will vaguely say that I had an issue with the characters introduced at the end of the novel and what they were there for. I will also try to request Volume Two from my local library.

 

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Cress by Marissa Meyer. I can’t insert a blurb for this one as it is the third in a series. However, I will be doing a spoiler review of The Lunar Chronicles once I have read the final novel Winter.

 

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Combined for the first time here are Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale and Maus II – the complete story of Vladek Spiegelman and his wife, living and surviving in Hitler’s Europe. By addressing the horror of the Holocaust through cartoons, the author captures the everyday reality of fear and is able to explore the guilt, relief and extraordinary sensation of survival – and how the children of survivors are in their own way affected by the trials of their parents. A contemporary classic of immeasurable significance.

The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman, a family history of the holocaust. This graphic novel is deeply effecting and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

5books7days Wrap-Up!

Today marks the end of the 5books7days readathon hosted by the wonderful Lotte! Thus here is our first reading challenge wrap-up. We had a great time and hope to do another readathon in April. Here is what we managed to read during the readathon since it started on Monday.

Firstly a recap of our original TBR for this challenge:

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Sophie: Sky Burial by Xinran, The Last Summer of Us by Maggie Harcourt, A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler, The Revenant by Michael Punke and Young Sherlock Holmes: Death Cloud by Andrew Lane.

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Danny: Politics&The English Language by George Orwell, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup and Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell

 

And the results are as follows, Amount of books read:

Sophie: 6

Danny: 3

 

To conclude, here is what we actually read and what we thought of each book:

S: So I managed to read six books in total although I did not finish one of the novels on my original TBR. During the readathon I received a signed book to review from the author M.Jonathan Lee through Goodreads. This book is called A Tiny Feeling of Fear and is Lee’s third novel. I was so excited to read this novel that I started reading it straight away putting books on my TBR on hold. I also listened to the audiobook of Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling and have previously posted my review. I loved both these novels, gave them both five stars on Goodreads and added A Tiny Feeling of Fear to my all-time favourites list.

Despite straying from my TBR on those two occasions I also managed to finish four out of five of my planned reads. I read The Last Summer of Us first and I believe gave this four out of five stars. This was at first a slow read but I grew to love the three main characters and their relationships. The story deals with identity and loss, in particular it focuses on the three main character’s relationships with their parents. Another cool thing about this novel, other than the characters and random animal appearances, is that it is set in Wales and it may very well be the first book I have read that is set in this country.

I then read Sky Burial by Xinran which was also a four out of five star read for me. Xinran is a successful Chinese journalist who is writing the story of Shu Wen, a Chinese woman who spent over 30 years in Tibet searching for her husband. The romantic pairings in this story were perfect and this was probably due to the fact it is a true story. This is the second ‘Penguin Drop Caps’ novel I have read and I have gave them both four stars therefore I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

My least favourite read of the readathon was definitely The Revenant. I did not hate this book I just found it frustrating due to it primarily being a revenge story. I wrote a short review of this book on my  Goodreads page. I read this book because I wanted to see the movie which I will once Danny has read the book. This may very well end up on a Movie Adaptation Monday feature in the future. I gave Punke’s novel a two out of five stars. My final read was a Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel by Anne Tyler titled A Spool of Blue Thread. I enjoyed this novel and thought it was very fast paced. A Spool of Blue Thread is centred around the ordinarily complicated Whitshank family. I did not however enjoy the section about Junior and Linnie May’s life which appeared late in the novel. I felt this unnecessary to the story and would have enjoyed the novel more if it was shorter. I gave Tyler’s novel a three out of five stars. I also started the final book on my TBR which is Young Sherlock Holmes: Death Cloud by Andrew Lane and hope to finish this tomorrow.

D: As he mentioned earlier Danny was ‘made’ to listen to Kaling’s audiobook Why Not Me?  It is fair to say he did not enjoy Kaling’s second book as much as I did giving it three and a half stars. He particularly disliked the Sliding Doors style essay although liked the audiobook overall often laughing out loud to Kaling’s quips.

Danny was also able to read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. He found that this was at first a disappointing read, although this quickly changed and was ultimately given four out of five stars. In terms of its Classic Dystopia genre Danny prefers Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984.

His final finished book was Politics & The English Language by George Orwell. Orwell is one of Danny’s favourite authors and this was a re-read. Danny has given this a four out of five stars which is quite impressive due to its size. During the week Danny has also started reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, although he has previously seen the movie adaptation he is still enjoying the book. He is particularly enjoying the unique narrative. In case you do not yet know The Book Thief is narrated by death. This is done well in the movie although obviously the narrator has more content in the novel. At the moment he is surprised by the humour in the novel and is looking forward to finishing the book. I believe Danny would like to watch the movie adaptation again soon, perhaps this will feature in our Movie Adaptation post tomorrow night. Although Danny did not manage to read as much as he wanted to he admirably managed to read three books in one particularly busy week.

 

Thanks for joining us throughout the week and happy reading!

Sophie