Tag Archives: books

My Favourite Novels of 2017

IMG-0247

I read a total of 56 novels this year. In the order that I read them, here are the most memorable and enjoyable books I read in 2017 – 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This was the first novel I read in 2017. I thought I’d set myself a precedent to continue reading more nonfiction over the coming months. Paul Kalanithi’s story moved me to tears, like big ugly nasty tears. Read this book!

The Girl in 6E by A.R. Torre

A. R. Torre might be a weird addition to this list but I honestly don’t care. I loved reading the hell out of this book and the sequel. Sadly I didn’t think the rest of the series was good… but The Girl in 6E was guilty pleasure goodness.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

I’d never read a book set in Iceland, and it turns out this novel is a true historical story about the case of Agnes Magnúsdóttir the last person to get capital punishment in 1828. Fascinating stuff, and could. not. put. it. down. 

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

I’m surprised Fates and Furies made it on to this list since I gave it a low rating on Goodreads. Here’s the thing: I can’t stop thinking about the insane plot and twisted characters… I can’t let go.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant was a cozy, chicklit (ish) tearjerker with important social commentary on mental illnesses. Loved it a lot.

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

Helen Oyeyemi is my literary crush. I want to know how her mind comes up with the things she writes. Boy, Snow, Bird played elements of magical realism, fairy tales and issues of race in a way I didn’t think was possible to concoct.

Panty by Sangeetha Bandyopadhyay

Panty was one of the most exciting magical realist novel ever and it was one of the two translated novels I read in 2017. 

Beauty Is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan

This is the second translated novel. Beauty Is a Wound is a genre-bending compendium of Indonesian modern history and is a book you’ll hate or love. Obviously, I loved it. Haha.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

“I need more Austen in my life.” – Me, since 2010

American Fire by Monica Hesse

American Fire reignited (heh) my love for true crime.

The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish

Okay. So… I freaking love Tiffany Haddish. Her stand up is e v e r y t h i n g. The Last Black Unicorn is supremely funny but it’s also filled with details about her nightmarish childhood and teenage years growing up in foster care. I highly recommend the audiobook version.


Tiny side note: I might be posting less on my blog (in the coming months) because of a massive reading slump + other life stuff. In no way will i ever stop reading though, I’m trying to get into audiobooks at the moment… 😃 

Thanks for stopping by! Happy reading 📚 

Advertisements

Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas (Review)

IMG-0231

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

I went into this thriller with low expectations, and that at the very least I sought to be entertained even if the story was rubbish. But I was PLEASANTLY taken aback. Local Girl Missing is approved. A few months ago (or could’ve been last year) I started reading The Sisters – same author but her debut – and DNF’d it since the plot was going nowhere. I don’t remember much else. I think debuts are tricky, it’s either a hit or miss in any genre. Although I find that authors who write mystery or crime dole out books like it’s nobody’s business 📚 There’s more where that came from, so to speak.

giphy

Local Girl Missing is about Frankie, a Londoner, who goes back to the seaside town she grew up in. What pulls her back to the town is a phone call from her best friend’s brother and news that parts of Sophie have been found. Sophie went missing 18 years ago and is believed to have been murdered. If you know anything about my reading tastes, I (capital l) Love mysteries set in small towns brimming with secrets. The story is divided between Frankie’s POV and Sophie’s diary and is thoroughly creepy as it leads up to the day when Sophie goes missing.

I enjoyed the novel a lot and flew through it. Not gonna lie, Frankie was a little annoying and immature at times. The ending was truly wtf, I didn’t see it coming at all. I’m now curious about Claire Douglas’ latest novel ‘Last Seen Alive,’ and I see it has amazing reviews on goodreads. Yay! I highly recommend Local Girl Alive if you’re going through a reading slump or just want to read a quick-paced thriller with a satisfying ending! 

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (Review)

IMG-0199

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ (3. 5 stars) 

This was my first Agatha Christie novel! ❤️ My brother has been recommending Agatha Christie to me since a decade – no kidding. I really wanted to watch the movie which motivated me to pick up Murder on the Orient Express.

The novel is set entirely on a train travelling from Istanbul to London. Hercule Poirot, “the world’s most famous detective,” is aboard and as expected crime and mystery follows at his footsteps. On a snowy night, a man is found stabbed 12 times. There are a dozen travellers (now suspects) in the coach. What I loved about the novel was Poirot’s witticisms, the interrogation scenes, the backstory, and the final reveal. Agatha Christie’s writing is precise and to the point. So is the structure of the book.

My preference is towards seedier crime novels with modern settings, and Agatha Christie leans towards respectable or classic crime. I’ll definitely be picking her novels up in the future when I want a cozy read. After I finished reading Murder on the Orient Express I went to watch the movie a few hours later. It was lovely! I was from riveted start to finish and even though I knew what the suspense was I was still invested and entertained. Kenneth Branagh did an excellent job at directing and playing Poirot. I have no idea why the reviews online aren’t that favourable… I was not disappointed at all, this was a clean-cut mystery with a fantastic ending.

I’d highly recommend Murder on the Orient Express, both the novel and the film adaptation.

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 12.48.34 pm

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (Review)

IMG-0135

⭐ ⭐

Well, this was a load of crap.

I haven’t changed my mind even after sleeping on it. After reading the last page, all I could think was how unfinished the story felt. Also, plot… hello? Nada. The Book of Strange New Things is a “science fiction” novel that is about Peter Leigh, a Christian pastor, who leaves his wife Bea behind on Earth and goes on an intergalactic mission with a company named USIC. He reaches planet Oasis and is ready to spread the word of God to the native population.

There is some semblance of direction and plot in the first 180 pages but after that, it’s boring. It’s annoying. The love story between Peter and Bea falls apart quickly once they’ve separated. The emails they write one another are fucking tragic. Bea whines about earthquakes in (I don’t even remember) Nepal and tsunamis and how people are dying and there’s no chocolate in Tesco’s. Boo hoo. Peter couldn’t give any fucks either and writes back infrequently, angering his wife. At one point I wanted Bea’s character to die so the emails would stop.

Peter on the other hand is loving Oasis. To be honest, I did enjoy Michel Faber’s world building and descriptions of the new & alien planet: the days are long, the air seems ‘alive’ and moves differently, the rain travels in swirly dots, and the Oasan’s are strange looking creatures who can speak a little English. I thought Faber’s attempts to demonstrate the Oasan’s language was juvenile and stupid. The s’s and t’s were represented by weird symbols. Peter is the Oasan’s third pastor, the first two having gone ‘fully native’ and run away. I thought the story would have an element of mystery and maybe  have some sinister aspects. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.

Coming to the writing, it’s not bad. Michel Faber can certainly write. He explores ideas and aspects of humanity but that couldn’t hold the plot together, which is a complete and utter mess. From what I read online, this might be Faber’s last fiction novel. He wrote The Book of Strange New Things as a way of dealing with the passing of his wife to cancer. He felt distant and alienated, because during the time his wife was suffering he enjoyed a lot of success in his career when his novels were turned into a tv show and movie. I still haven’t changed by mind though, this was an insanely boring novel. You might want to skip this one. 

Mystery/Thriller Reviews #2: Her Every Fear & Friend Request

img-0112.jpg

Trashy 3-star thrillers are my jam. A few months ago, my best friend read and hated (or expressed dissatisfaction for) The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson and proceeded to spoil the whole plot for my entertainment. It was silly but I was intrigued anyway, I really wanted to read Swanson. Her Every Fear was marketed as a “Hitchcockian Thriller” and… I was sold. Think, Dial M For Murder and The Talented Mr. Ripley but not as sensational.

The story goes like this: Kate and Corbin are apartment swapping cousins. Anxiety ridden, Kate is somewhat relieved to escape from her nightmarish past in London and live in a new city (Boston). The night she arrives at the apartment complex, Corbin’s next door neighbour Audrey has been found murdered. This novel had the potential to be great noir but Swanson shoots down the suspense fairly early on and the leftover plot is predictable.

Friend Request by Laura Marshall is my more recent read and I definitely enjoyed this more. I might be biased but imho, women authors write better domestic thrillers. Friend Request – as you’d have guessed – involves Facebook. I deleted my Facebook account two weeks ago and haven’t looked back since. It honestly feels good to be rid of it & Laura Marshall is brilliant at describing just how soul-sucking social media is. The blurb on the front reads: “Maria Weston wants to be friends. But Maria Weston is dead. Isn’t she?” YES. The timeline flicks between 1989 and 2016 and is about Louise, a single mother in London, who carries a deeply tragic secret involving her classmate. There were many satisfying twists at the end which I did *not* see coming. A brilliant whodunit!

True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray by James Renner (Review)

IMG-0105

⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Readers, I have fallen deep inside the True Crime rabbit hole! It’s a wonderful land. True Crime Addict is part memoir and part – you guessed it – True Crime about the Maura Murray case. Infamous and eerie, Maura Murray’s disappearance has been an open investigation since 2004. In order to keep the suspense intact, I won’t focus on all the details of her disappearance in this review. Maura vanished without a trace and her story has reached a cult like status for web forums and online sleuths.

James Renner’s obsession with this case is unparalleled. He describes it as being the “first great mystery of the social media age,” Facebook having been launched during the same week she went missing. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Renner’s life story (the memoir bits) though it’s slightly relevant in the end. I feel like his avid interest and obsession with Maura Murray borders on unhealthy territory throughout the book, especially when he exposes his family to the ire he receives online.

As I said, the case is still an open investigation 13 years later. James Renner mentions the strange way Maura’s family and friends act and how unhelpful they are regarding releasing information. There hasn’t been any real resolve to the mystery but endless avenues and theories have cropped up over this time. True Crime Addict ends with more questions than answers – which isn’t a criticism. I enjoyed reading it. This is a deeply interesting case with various scenarios and possibilities: Did Maura concoct a genius plan to run away? Was it a perfect murder? It’s a quick and fun read, if that’s what you’re looking for. 

Thoughts on Reading Lit and Writing: A (Long) Conversation with Mr. A

IMG-0076

A really long post lies ahead… you’ve been warned, unsuspecting visitor! When I began this book blog, my boyfriend (henceforth to be referred to as Mr. A) asked me something along the lines of “Can I be in it?” to which I answered affirmatively. We’ve bonded over stories of different kinds over the months and years. I certainly don’t regret it but I’ve always wondered how different my life would’ve been if I’d studied English in college instead of History. Mr. A had some enlightening things to say about life during and beyond his English Major years:

  • You read a lot as a kid. Which books did you remember reading multiple times and loving?

I remember reading a lot of Fantasy novels. The series I probably re read the most was Harry Potter. I was in the first grade when my parents bought me a copy of The Sorcerer’s Stone and I probably read that book hundreds of times. After the Fellowship of the Rings came out in theatres I grew enamored with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Calvin and Hobbes is a series that I’ll never get tired of either. It’s so relatable and humorous no matter how old I get. My dad always used to take me to Barnes and Noble. After I did my homework I’d be allowed to read for a few hours. He’d always make me read classic novels before I read anything I wanted though. Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man, War of the Worlds, Gulliver’s Travels, he made me read all of these before I was even 12. I’d always complain when he first picked out the books, but I simply couldn’t put any of them down.

  • When you were choosing your major, did you have other subjects in mind or was english your one and only preference? Why?

When I was first picking out my major it was a toss up between English literature and History. This changed pretty quickly after I took my first American Literature and History course during my first semester of college. I was bored out of my mind and spent most of the classes playing vs matches of Pokemon on my laptop. I still got a B+ in that class, but it was clear to me I did not want to be a History major.  I also considered Psychology as my major with English as my minor. Learning more about how people thought and acted fascinated me. Then I took some classes and realized that there was a lot more statistics and pedal pressing rats than I cared for. So ultimately, I decided to be an English major with a Psychology minor.

  • I love reading your stories and poems. Besides prompts, what inspires you to write (and when)? Can you share a little poem?

Thanks gorgeous, glad to know you like my writing so much. Different things inspire me to write. Sometimes I use my writing to  express how I’m feeling when I feel like I don’t have any other outlet. Occasionally I’ll think of a line or two and I’ll extrapolate that into a full poem. Other times a character or plot will wander along and I’ll write a little bit of their story. It’s very random and spontaneous, but I really ought to take more time and just write even if I’m not feeling inspired. Also, sharing my writing is a tad embarrassing but I will for you.

Somedays I just want to

Sleep for ten thousand years

Under a blanket of starlight

Dreaming into the future

A vast expanse

Unknowable

Uncountable

To be gone and forgotten

And wake up where no one

Knows me. After the end

In the stark silence

(Side note: Let it be known that, depressing and heady as this poem is, Mr. A’s  romantic poems & stories are absolutely enchanting and scintillating) 

  • You really enjoyed teaching at one point of time but later became disillusioned with it. Now you’re working in sales. How do you feel about that transition?

I find sales and teaching to be very similar in certain regards. Both jobs depend a lot on being able to understand what someone wants and needs. Being a teacher is very rigid in certain ways. You are the authority in the classroom and you need to own that position. Students acknowledge your authority and most will usually do as you say. Sales is different in that you do not start off in a position of authority. You have to persuade the customer to your way of thinking by leading the conversation and controlling the flow. I’m a somewhat introverted person by nature and sales doesn’t really come naturally to me. But I do like how I have to maintain a positive and outgoing attitude to be successful at my job. I feel that I’m slowly improving my skills and that I’m getting out of my shell bit by bit.

  • When you were studying english, what were your favourite or most memorable classes/modules?

While I was studying English, my favorite course I took was the 400 Level Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. Seminar. My Professor was the world’s foremost expert on Oliver Wendell Holmes and we spent the entire semester reading through The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table. Although it’s a slim book, the story is filled with an absurd amount of references to all manner of subjects including history, science, mathematics, philosophy, and literature. It’s a difficult book to get through because several of the allusions are quite obscure. My professor himself reflected the novel. He was unyielding, intelligent, and extremely well cultured. He never failed to call us out on our wrong answers, but if he praised you it was genuine and well earned. I learned something new and interesting in every one of his classes. The book was not annotated at the time I took the class so every homework assignment required a good amount of research. For our final project we were each given 20 pages to annotate. It’s the most amount of work I’ve ever done for any class and I spent a good 40+ hours on my portion of the project. In the end it was completely worthwhile and rewarding, our class had done something that had never been done before. The annotations are actually the first result on Google for “The Annotated Autocrat.” 

  • Do you think that critically analysing and deconstructing a text takes away some of the enjoyment from the story?

Yes and no. I think that the first impression you get from a story is very important. In some ways it’s fun to shut off your brain and consume a piece of media. You take in the story and let it pull you along its trajectory. Not knowing the plot ahead of time can allow you to enjoy the twists and experience the development at a natural pace. You can enjoy the flash and pizazz of the surface appeal. On the other hand, critically analyzing and deconstructing a piece of work lets you enjoy the deeper workings of the story. It allows for multiple readings and interpretations, almost like getting a different story each time. You develop an eye for technique and skill. You begin to look at how the story was put together piece by piece. By taking in a story without thinking about it you’re allowing yourself to feel as the author intended. By analyzing the story, you begin to look at how the author makes you feel what you do.

  • What are you favourite genres and themes in novels and why?

I’m a big fan of Fantasy and Sci-Fi. I like stories that explore the impossible and the improbable, that stimulate your imagination and takes you to wonderful places that could only exist in your imagination. I also enjoy stories that are heavily character driven, that really delve into a person’s motivations and desires. I always want to know why someone acts the way that they do, and media is a great way to explore that.

  • Final question – Can you address your beef with Charles Dickens? 😛

Haha. I don’t really despise Dickens as much as I say in our personal conversations. I just don’t enjoy reading most of his work. His novels are often great character studies and wonderful snapshots of the time he lived in. They can also be very dry and a slog to get through. My big issue is that there’s a lot of filler that could be cut out to make for tighter stories. The man was literally paid by the word so he had incentive to milk out stories for all they were worth. I don’t like padding for the sake of padding. Not going to lie, I do like A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist. Who doesn’t?