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.
Neil Gaiman – The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
I love Neil. I loved this long short story. I can’t call it a novel. It is not a novel. It is not even a novella, not even a novelette. It is a long short story. If it was a novel, I would have been disappointed.
Book review RJ Ellory – Bad Signs
Second book in the book club series was Bad Signs by RJ Ellory. I have finished it in three days, several months ago (not exactly sure when – past is a blur for me).
I couldn’t put it down and it was getting worse towards the end when my e-reader melted into my palms and I ungracefully grazed my knees because I was reading while walking.
Funny thing is, that there was a parallel experience with the first book in the book club series (book no. 1). I was familiar with RJ Ellory through the Quiet beliefs in Angels. I didn’t like it that much but it had nothing to do with the writing. I am not big on the crime genre and find suspense too disturbing; it feels too real – something that could actually happen. I skimmed through the pages after reading the first two chapters and then read the last one. So, you see it was all my fault not liking the book and my inability to brave the story.
This time I have decided I will read the book, the way books are meant to be read, from start to the finish. There were some rather dark events happening though I felt that the tone of the book was quite light. I wasn’t scared reading it. I loved the characters and the way how each of them were introduced to the story, no matter how long they stayed being a part of the story. The story was engaging, the pace and gradual intensity of the writing addictive and if you are thinking to dip your toes in crime reading, this is the novel to start with.