Books

So…Contemporary-a-thon is done!

I set out to read three books for Contemporary-a-thon this past week and I did exactly that, which I am realy happy about. Oftentimes when I decide to compete in a readathon I already set myself up to fail with a stupidly ambitious TBR, so this time I set myself a very doable TBR.

My TBR consisted of only three books, which were My Sister, The Serial Killer (Oyinkan Braithwaite), The Poet X (Elizabeth Acevedo) and Home Fire (Kamila Shamsie).

Contemporaryathon TBR

The challenges and books I read for the readathon were:

  • Read a book with green on the cover: My Sister, The Serial Killer
  • Read book by an author that is new to you: All three!
  • Read a diverse contemporary: All three, I guess!
  • Read a backlist book: Home Fire
  • Read a dark/hard hitting contemporary: Home Fire
  • Read a book with an illustrated cover: The Poet X (kind of)
  • Read a recommendation: Everyone and his dog has been talking about My Sister, The Serial Killer!

Overall, I really enjoyed all three of the books. My favourite was The Poet X, which got a rare full 7 stars from me! I also really loved My Sister, The Serial Killer at 6 out of 7 stars and I also enjoyed Home Fire at 5 out of 7 stars. I was really happy with my choices!

Did you participate? What contemporary books did you read recently?

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Home Fire (Kamila Shamsie)

Shamsie, Kamila - Home Fire

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Home Fire
Author: Kamila Shamsie
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Retelling
First published: 2017
Edition: paperback, published by Bloomsbury in 2018

Practical-minded Isma has spent the years since her mother’s death watching out for her twin brother and sister in their North London home. When an invitation to grad school in America comes through unexpectedly, it brings the irresistible promise of freedom too long deferred. But even an ocean away, Isma can’t stop worrying about her beautiful, headstrong, politically inclined sister, Aneeka, and Parvaiz, their brother, who seems to be adrift—until suddenly he is half a globe away in Raqqa, trying to prove himself to the dark legacy of the father he never knew, with no road back.

In this novel the author used the framework of Sophocles’ Antigone to build a very current multidimensional story.

The tale is told in sections from a number of perspectives, which all come together to show the impact the jihadist movement has on Muslim families living in Britain. The idea of having to consider how your every action could come across is deeply troubling and heartbreaking , yet the reality of many of the families living not only in Britain, but across the western world. This novel manages to convey this heinous fact and also explores the conflicts of love, both in the familial and romantic sense.

This was a very powerful read, but I regret that I did not fall in love with this book. Though I enjoyed it, I never felt quite pulled in. I think this was the writing more than the subject matter. I always felt quite distant from the characters in the various perspectives and I found it a little frustrating. I did not believe in the characters as much as I wanted to.

Overall, despite my own frustrations, this was a really good read that I would highly recommend and it is a subject matter I would like to explore more.

5 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Callanish (William Horwood)

Horwood, William - Callanish

★★★★★★★

Title: Callanish
Author: William Horwood
Genre: Fiction / Animal Fiction
First published: 1984
Edition: paperback, published by Penguin in 1985

An immature golden eagle is captured and brought to the London Zoo for showcase and display. Creggan begins to lose his sense of freedom, as the cage curls around himself, cutting off access to the sky. An older female eagle who’s been trapped in the cages for a long time gives Creggan the strength to survive, and the hope of one day escaping this man-made construct.

This was a re-read for me. It probably had been about seven or eight years since I last read it and I had forgotten how amazing a read this is.

William Horwood has been a favourite author of mine since I was a teenager. He writes stories about animals being animals incredibly well. This particular one is about golden eagles and follows the journey of a captive juvenile eagle at London Zoo and at the same time follows our human main character, whose path echoes some of the storylines of the eagles. Of course he does anthropomorphize his animal characters to some extent, but his stories hold so much love and respect for the natural world. I love his descriptions of the animals and their surroundings and seeing the world through their eyes.

Something about the way Horwood writes makes me feel all the feels and although this is not a sad story, it is powerful (at least it is for me) and I cried like a baby several times, sometimes out of happiness! Both the eagles’ and the human stories broke and warmed my heart. The ending is simply perfect.

An absolute treasure of a short book at under 200 pages. The blurp really does not do it justice.

7 out of 7 stars

 

Books · WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesdays: 12 February 2020

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WWW Wednesdays’ home is at Sam’s blog Taking On A World of Words. Check it out!

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you will read next?

***

What am I currently reading?

MacDonald, Helen - H Is For HawkI am still listening to H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald, which I am really enjoying a lot. The author narrates it herself and I find it quite soothing listening to her. I am loving the book as well. It’s very Horwood, William - Callanishinteresting.

And to keep the birds of prey theme going, I am re-reading Callanish by William Horwood, who is one of my favourite authors. It’s been a few years since I read a book by him and reading this now I am reminded why I love his writing so much. He has written quite a few books about animals from the animals’ perspective, but with the animals behaving like actual animals a lot of the time. This one from a captive eagle’s perspective pulls on all my heartstrings! I definitely want to read more from him this year. I especially want to make time to finally read the Hyddenworld series!

What have I recently finished reading?

Since last week Wednesday I have finished quite a bit! I finished my audio book, which was How To Train You Dragon by Cressida Cowell (5/7 stars), The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag (4/7 stars), Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (6/7 stars), Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier (5/7 stars), My Sister, The Serial Killer (6/7 stars) and finally, I finished The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo today, which I absolutely adored and it is the first book this year that I am awarding the full 7 stars! I am sure that is the most books I have finished in one week ever! I do have to note that apart from Towers of Midnight, which was almost 1000 pages (and I had only 300 pages left at the last WWW), these were all under 300 pages. Actually The Poet X is just under 360 pages, but written in verse, so very quick to read.

Shamsie, Kamila - Home FireGarland, Rosie - VixenWhat do I plan on reading next?

I am sure the coming week will be a lot slower! I can’t stay on this roll forever! I have one book left to read for the Contemporary-a-thon, which is Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, which I will probably start tomorrow. The other book left on my February TBR is Vixen by Rosie Garland.

I hope to read both of those in the coming week, which would leave me lots of time for mood reading! Yay!

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Poet X (Elizabeth Acevedo)

Acevedo, Elizabeth - The Poet X

★★★★★★★

Title: The Poet X
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / YA / Poetry
First published: 2018
Edition: paperback, published Egmond UK Limited in 2018

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

This novel was a joy to read from start to finish. But is it a novel? Or is poetry? I think it’s somewhere inbetween or both. It tells a story in verse and it manages to tell this wonderful story with so few words.

I have never read a novel quite like this in style and I found myself clinging to every word, every sentence. The story is simple, about a girl conflicted by her upbringing and her desire to be free. The slam poetry angle really works incredibly well. I found it hard to stop reading!

You cannot help but love Xiomara and with the way this book is written, you feel like you come to know her so well. I could not help but feel a real affection towards this fictional teenage girl with these big feelings. That is very clever writing indeed.

Tthis is a popular YA book and it absolutely should be. If you have not read this yet, please do, because I have no doubt you will enjoy it.

This novel is a triumph.

7 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: My Sister, The Serial Killer (Oyinkan Braithwaite)

Braithwaite, Oyinkan - My Sister, The Serial Killer

★★★★★★☆

Title: My Sister, The Serial Killer
Author: Oyinkan Braithwaite
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
First published: 2018
Edition: paperback, published by Atlantic Books in 2019

Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead. Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.

For a shortish novel, this sure packs a nice punch!

I went into reading this book, fully expecting to love it after seeing so many raving reviews about it from people I trust! Luckily, it completely lived up to my expectations.

This novel is sassy and original and I truly savoured every page. The chapters are short and snappy and it is easy to think you will just read one more, thus I ended up reading this within 24 hours, which pretty good for me and says something about how it kept me reading.

I liked how this novel is set up and told. It is not quite a thriller, not a mystery, but it does involve murder and I kind of love that. I also thought the characters were really well presented and the way they interacted was just so well written.

The ending did not quite hit the mark for me and I found it a tad predictable, but that did not bother me that much on a whole, as I simply enjoyed the ride. Did I mention it is set in Lagos, Nigeria?

If you are looking for a short read with a bit of sass and a likeable main character that does not always make the right choices, look no further. 

6 out of 7 stars

Books · TBR

Contemporary-a-thon TBR

I will try and do this readathon that takes place 10-16 February.

The challenges are as follows (and you’re allowed to use one book for as many challenges as you like):

  1. Read a book with green on the cover
  2. Read a book by an author that is new to you
  3. Read a diverse contemporary
  4. Read a backlist book
  5. Read a dark/hard hitting contemporary
  6. Read a book with an illustrated cover
  7. Read a book recommendation

For challenges 1 (green), 2 (new to me author) and 7 (recommendation) I have chosen to read My Sister, The Serial Killer by Onyikan Braithwaite. I have heard so many good things about this one – hence I chose it as a book recommended to me by others!

For challenges 3 (diverse) and 6 (illustrated cover – sort of, right?) I have chosen The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, which I have been meaning to read for a while.

Finally for challenges 4 (backlist – as I have owned this book for over a year) and 5 (dark/hard hitting contemporary) I will read Home Fire (Kamila Shamsie).

I think those three books should be doable and they are three books that I think I will love!

Are you taking part? Which books are you reading?