Wild: Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed
During the course of reading Wild, I have quite often paused to research the Pacific Crest Trail and found it far more interesting than Cheryl’s narration.
The whole prospect of Cheryl’s journey is actually more interesting that her journey itself in this case. The drama behind the reason for the journey is not dramatic enough…well, it is but the way it is laid out it makes it bland, unremarkable and unmemorable. The story is told in a matter-of-fact way that is making this epic journey sounds like a walk in a park on Sunday afternoon with flowers blooming and birds chirping. It is a shame. She has achieved something incredible but this unfortunately is not coming out from the pages.
I do love the father speech though…
”The father’s job is to teach his children how to be warriors, to give them confidence to get on the horse and ride into battle when it’s necessary to do so. If you don’t get that from your father, you have to teach yourself.”
”To heal the wound your father made, you’re going to have to get on that horse and ride into battle like a warrior.”
The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
I can’t be honest about this one. I had become quite distracted by the fact that there is a dead child in this book. It would not normally happen but when we picked this book, I couldn’t know that someone close to me will lose their child. It wasn’t possible for me to continue reading this book and not see the parallels with the real world and that is despite the fact the circumstances were completely different. A family lost a child. That is a profound and changing experience and I was heavily affected by it, albeit indirectly.
I finished The Shock after I got over the shock of this tragedy but I found it quite hard to get into Matthew’s head after the break. It was hard to swim in the whirlpool of thoughts and very confusing to figure out what is going on. That is not a bad thing in this case. The writing is brilliant and the scattered mind of the main character is speaking in many voices to us. We know we can’t trust the narrator but we believe him.
I think this book deserves my full attention so I will read it again.
Oranges are not the only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
This is a cute little book. Truthfully, I don’t really get the hype around it. I think I’m from the wrong generation. It is interesting that some things from the past resonate with you more than others. I understand that homosexuality especially put in contrast with religion back in the 60s was a completely different matter than it is now (or is it?) but I think we are so exposed to conflicts on a much larger scale that we have become numb and I think I might be desensitised to the individual struggles of Jeanette in this story.
The Fear Index by Robert Harris
Hmmm, mixed feelings on this one again. I liked the idea of artificial intelligence running a hedge fund and in the process evolving into a control freak without anyone realising what is happening – the ‘shot down plane’ and the ‘lift doors’ worked well in the book. But I thought the personal attacks on the A.I.’s creator a.k.a cannibal subplot was just weird.
I wish the story was explored in a wider environment and reduced around Dr Hoffman who I found to be very unlikable character. The potential was there but it stayed mostly untouched. I liked the conclusion though.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Yes, we had Neil on the list already. And yes, I’ve read this book as well. That is why I was so extremely pleased to read it again. It was a great opportunity to experience the story with fresh eyes as I did not remember it as well as I thought I did.
I consider this book the best Neil Gaiman has written. However, it wouldn’t be the book I would recommend reading first. Maybe try Neverwhere or Stardust to ease yourself into Gaiman’s world as my book club accomplice Eva (who has just started her own blog with film reviews) has pointed out the ‘Gods’ can get bit overwhelming.
But for me, I was back in Neil Gaiman’s heaven. I loved the main characters – Shadow and Wednesday, I loved the story and the way different myths were wowen in, the ‘good vs evil’ fight that was something entirely different. This is a road trip of your life but you are not sure if you dream or are awake.
How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
I finished it in two goes, while on a plane. It was very readable however towards the end I was reading carelessly as I found the book, well, boring which may be surprising as there was quite a lot of action at all times.
The main character, Joanna, was very rich, ripe and detailed. She created this new personality for herself that was presented to the outside world and took this ‘new’ her on wild adventures. In a way the writer presented the main character in the same way. I’m not sure if I’m making sense here but reading the book felt as if there were two layers of artificially created personality and we actually never met the real girl.
It was very diary-like, but not describing real events but events that were perhaps based in reality but ended up ballooned up out of proportions. Everyone went through the crazy hormonal phase as a teenager, trying to find who they are, doing stupid things etc but this felt unrealistic.
I found it also very predictable not maybe in a way of what will happen next but that something will happen – the story started on a real high and it just continued to create more and more unbelievable situations. You could basically expect another ‘disaster’ coming up in the next paragraph.
I admit that I knew nothing about the author but if this story is autobiographical it makes sense why I felt about the character that way. If Caitlin Moran indeed was writing about herself, she basically transformed herself into this character and then the character again created a new ‘improved’ over the top version of herself.
I’m not saying it couldn’t happen – truth is sometimes stranger than fiction – but it just felt too elaborate to be realistic. There was too much of thinking events through and highlighting the most fantastical bits. It’s like when you tell a story and it becomes better with time because you have time to perfect it? This book had double doses of this and then extra.
Also, every other character in this book would fit in IKEA flat-packed box.
I still plan to read Caitlin Moran’s other book How to be a Woman which is meant to be amazing. How to Build a Girl wasn’t my cup of tea though.
The Girl with All The Gifts by M R Carey
I think this book caused our first disagreement within the book club. I really liked it while Eva thought it was rather flavourless.
The story is set in a post-apocalypstic world (Britain specifically) and humans are close to extinction. I don’t read many zombie novels but I think this might be the only one written from the zombie’s point of view.
The zombie girl Melanie is really lovely if you don’t advertise yourself as meal on legs to her. She is smart too and saves the day and the world – for the zombies, not humans. Humans are kind of doomed in this book.
I loved the ending.
The Horla by Guy De Maupassant
It was very short. Very intense. Could have turn into a full blown psychotic experience. I’m glad it didn’t.
Most definitely the shortest of the book club choices – pity really as it has an amazingly haunting atmosphere, you want the story to go for just a little longer. On the other, as someone who doesn’t like to be scared, it might have been just the right amount for me.
I haven’t known this before reading the book and actually before writing this review but there are few version of this story that may or may not be a reflection of Guy de Maupassant’s real life paranoia. I think I will do little more research into it.
This is a rare Gothic gem of a read.
When it’s a Jar by Tom Holt
I love Tom Holt; most of the time he gets it right. My all time favourite of his is You don’t have to be evil to work here, but it helps. My problem is, I have read loads of his book one after another and can’t really distinguished between them anymore. He is clever in a way I appreciate – mixing reality with ridiculousness. So I was excited when the ‘Jar’ showed up on our book club’s list.
‘Maurice has just killed a dragon with a breadknife.’ That’s the description of the book. I was hooked. You can imagine my disappointment as this was the only dragon in the book.
I liked the idea of the multiverses etc but the writing felt bit forced and Tom Holt was trying too hard to be clever. The plot wasn’t the strongest point, there were snippets of good ideas but it didn’t really work as a whole. For me there wasn’t enough fantasy for a book that promotes killing dragons.
The ending was very linear, no anticipation or climax, just a full stop. It also didn’t help that the Maurice character was without ‘flavour’ and he never managed to own the role of ‘unexpected hero’. Also there were not enough dragons (not sure if I mentioned that).
However it was interesting to read it after 1984 – there were parts that echoed the feelings from 1984 – and I can’t really explain why.
Another issue – not Tom Holt’s fault this time. This book also has a predecessor – Doughnut. Which we only found out after finishing the ‘Jar’. I guess that’s why our reading experience was mildly confusing and I wasn’t always sure what was happening. Of course I have read the ‘Doughnut’ book after the ‘Jar’. I liked it better.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
This is one of the books that must (and indeed has been filmed). It is also one of the books, that when it gets filmed, you don’t want to see the film. You don’t want to be disappointed by it.
I loved it. It was sad but not pathetic. Dreams where dreamt but dreams did not come through.