13 November 2013

Books of 2013: Part 2

Well part one showed me starting the year of in a reading fury, completing all the five books shown before the end of January, now to continue with my final January book and on into March!

Submarine by Joe Dunthorn

"At once a self-styled social scientist, a spy in the baffling adult world, and a budding, hormone-driven emotional explorer, Oliver Tate is stealthily nosing his way forward through the murky and uniquely perilous waters of adolescence. His objectives? Uncovering the secrets behind his parents' teetering marriage, unraveling the mystery that is his alluring and equally quirky classmate Jordana Bevan, and understanding where he fits in among the mystifying beings in his orbit. Struggling to buoy his parents' wedded bliss, deep-six his own virginity, and sound the depths of heartache, happiness, and the business of being human, what's a lad to do? Poised precariously on the cusp of innocence and experience, Oliver Tate aims to damn the torpedoes and take the plunge."

This was a book from my christmas list and I happily opened my hardback first edition!  I'd been looking forward to reading this for quite a while, I was certain it would be a prime example of 'my kind' of book, and with that thought I was left disappointed.  This is not a slight against the book, the book itself is pretty good I was just expecting more.  I love The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Grow up and having lazily watched the film I expected this to fit into the quirky growing up tales category perfectly.  On paper it did, but it still misses the mark, the lead character Oliver is defiantly quirky enough but the writing lacks an essential intelligence that makes these kind of books endearing and memorable.  
****

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 

"The world and his mistress are at Jay Gatsby's party. But Gatsby stands apart from the crowd, isolated by a secret longing. In between sips of champagne his guests speculate about their mysterious host. Some say he's a bootlegger. Others swear he was a German spy during the war. They lean in and whisper 'he killed a man once'. Just where is Gatsby from and what is the obsession that drives him?"

I really wanted to watch this before the film came out so I prioritised it, I think this is the kind of book you need to read more then once to really appreciate.  On the first read I enjoyed it but i think i missed much of the symbolism that is key in this novel.  After seeing the film and looking at a lot of discussion about it I honestly think I'd five star it if I re-read it, but for now it's a 4, I can defiantly see why it's a classic but I think you need to see it as more then just  novel to really appreciate it.  I also really the bravery it must have taken to write important characters that an audience can enjoy even though essentially they are "bad" people.  The intelligence in the writing is brilliant and that is why i think you could read it over and over and always see something new.  Also can we just take a minute to appreciate how beautiful this version of the book is!  I may have traveled to several book stores before I found one with an unspoiled cover....
****

The Colour of Magic of Terry Pratchett

"In the beginning there was.a turtle.

Somewhere on the frontier between thought and reality exists the Discworld, a parallel time and place which might sound and smell very much like our own, but which looks completely different. Particularly as it's carried though space on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown). It plays by different rules.But then, some things are the same everywhere. The Disc's very existence is about to be threatened by a strange new blight: the world's first tourist, upon whose survival rests the peace and prosperity of the land. Unfortunately, the person charged with maintaining that survival in the face of robbers, mercenaries and, well, Death, is a spectacularly inept wizard."


I'd been building this up in my head for a long time, having had so many people tell me how incredible this series is.  It felt like everyone had started reading these really young and I was missing out, its a crazy long series (somewhere in the 40's now in terms of individual books, not including all the extra stuff), however if you read my review of The Light Fantastic, the second book in series and my first post on here, you will know I was disappointed.   I struggled to imagine the world fully, or at all in some places, and as much as there were elements I enjoyed, (mainly the characters and humour) I was left confused at certain aspects of the story and struggled to keep up with where the hell they were!  
***

Smut by Alan Bennett

Two unexpected tales written by the bestselling author of The Uncommon Reader, Untold Stories and The History Boys.
The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson
Mrs. Donaldson is a conventional middle-class woman beached on the shores of widowhood after a marriage that had been much like many others: happy to begin with, then satisfactory and finally dull. But when she decides to take in two lodgers, her mundane life becomes much more stimulating...
The Shielding of Mrs. Forbes
Graham Forbes is a disappointment to his mother, who thinks that if he must have a wife, he should have done better. True, her own husband isn't all that satisfactory either. Still, this is Alan Bennett, so what is happening in the bedroom (and in lots of other places too) is altogether more startling, perhaps shocking, and ultimately more true to people's predilections.
I am a huge fan of Alan Bennett but hadn't read any of his newer books since I was a teenager.  This book looked so cute and neat on the shelf I couldn't resist it and lets face it, everyone is drawn in by a sexy title.  This book is split into two short stories, both were entertaining, funny and enduring in different ways.  Despite the title his is not a "50 shades of grey" style book, and that is important to know before reading.  It is a book about people dealing with sex not a titalation, which is great for me because they are not my style at all!  As with all Bennett the characters are perfect, always totally fleshed out and realistic and its this that really makes the stories. 
****
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
"The compelling story of two outsiders striving to find their place in an unforgiving world.
Drifters in search of work, George and his simple minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other and a dream--a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. Eventually they find work on a ranch in California's Salinas Valley, but their hopes are doomed as Lennie, struggling against extreme cruelty, misunderstanding and feelings of jealousy becomes a victim of his own strength.
Tackling universal themes and giving a voice to America's lonely and dispossessed, Of Mice and Men has proved to be one of Steinbeck's most popular works, achieving success as a novel, a Broadway play and three acclaimed films"

I wasn't one of those kids who had to read this in school, I had A Kestrel for a Knave and Macbeth as far as I recall, so I feel like I missed out.  Most of my friends had read it for their GCSE's and it was pretty much the only required reading I've heard people say they still enjoyed , even after all that analysing!  I was surprised by how short it was when I bought it, knowing nothing about it perviously, and I can defiantly see why it's picked for teenagers, who are notorious for there short attention span!  I loved the book, it is without a doubt worthy of the title modern classic, it has depth and manages to make you really care about the characters in such a short within such a short amount of text.  I think I need to read it again to really appreciate all the themes and I know I would enjoy it just as much the second time round.
*****
So that's it, we are up to 10 books of 2013 so far!  See you next week so the next 5!

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