Books · Read in 2021 · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts: Ayoade on Top (Richard Ayoade)

If life is getting you down, read this!

★★★★★★☆

Title: Ayoade on Top
Author/Narrator: Richard Ayoade
Genre: Non-Fiction / Comedy / Satire
First published: 2010
Edition: Audio book

At last, the definitive book about perhaps the best cabin crew dramedy ever filmed: View From the Top starring Gwyneth Paltrow. Ayoade argues for the canonisation of this brutal masterpiece, a film that celebrates capitalism in all its victimless glory; one we might imagine Donald Trump himself half-watching on his private jet’s gold-plated flat screen while his other puffy eye scans the cabin for fresh, young prey.”

***

This is one of those books that on the surface appears completely pointless, but at the same time I am so happy it exists, because it would brighten anyone’s day.

Jokes at the expense of a flop of a movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow? Oh, god yes, sign me up!

I have known Richard Ayoade as a comedian and cinema genius for many years and he is one of those people whose dry wit just works for me. Although in many ways this book is very much just a stand-up comedy routine, it still absolutely worked.

He roasts this particular movie with such an unrelenting barrage of precision ammunation that I cannot help the fact I want to watch this clearly very crap movie right now!

He lost me a couple of times on his meanders, but overall I honestly thought this was very funny. I listened to the audio book read by Ayoade, and of course he delivers it the way it ought to be. This may have coloured my final judgement, but if you are familiar with Ayoade, I am pretty sure if you read it on the page you would recognise his voice in it quite easily.

I would definitely recommend this if you just need a bit of light entertainment in your life. This was a hoot and a half. I wonder what Gwyneth thinks…

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Read in 2021 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: State of Sorrow (Melinda Salisbury)

YA fantasy with more of a touch of political intrigue

★★★★★☆☆

Title: State of Sorrow (Sorrow #1)
Author: Melinda Salisbury
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy .
First published: 2018
Edition: Hardback, published by Scholastic in 2018

By day, Sorrow governs the Court of Tears, covering for her grief-maddened father, who has turned their once celebrated land into a living monument for the brother who died before she was born. By night, she seeks solace in the arms of the boy she’s loved since childhood. But one ghost won’t stop haunting her, and when enemies old and new close ranks against her, Sorrow must decide how far she’s willing to go to win…

***

I am not sure I have much to say about this YA fantasy novel. It was good, I enjoyed it, but I am not going out of my way to continue the series.

There was nothing I disliked about this novel. The writing was fine, the characters were good enough and the plot was interesting. Very political intrigue based, but not too heavy, and I enjoyed that. For me, it just did not have a special something that made it stand out. The world building was not quite extensive enough for me personally. However, I still feel like want to rate it quite high, as I feel my opinion is definitely skewed because I do not read a lot of YA books these days.

I did like this book and I would definitely recommend this to older teenagers and young adults. There is some mild sexual content and the political aspect makes it more suitable for older teenagers in my opinion.

For now, I won’t be continuing with this series, but I may in the future if the second book happened to cross my path. This book is staying on my shelves for now. Nothing to do with the gorgeous cover of course…

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Read in 2021 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Girl With A Pearl Earring (Tracy Chevalier)

A quietly atmospheric novel, but something was missing…

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Girl With A Pearl Earring
Author: Tracy Chevalier
Genre: Fiction / Historical Fiction
First published: 1999
Edition: Paperback, published by Harper Collins in 2003

Griet, the young daughter of a tilemaker in seventeeth century Holland, obtains her first job, as a servant in Vermeer’s household. Through Griet’s eyes we see the complicated family, the society of the small town of Delft, and life with an obsessive genius. Griet loves being drawn into his artistic life, and leaving her former drudgery, but the cost to her own survival may be high. 

***

This book had been lingering on my shelves for a while and I finally picked it up. It was an easy read. It was well written and atmospheric, but I did not love it.

I think everyone knowns the painting this book is based on. It is one of the most famous paintings in the world. This fictional account of its birth is not based on much fact, as little is known about the painter or the painting itself. However, the author brought the time period to life with skilfull writing. The quiet tension between Griet and Vermeer is well written. Overall, this is a quiet sort of book and generally I like a quiet book, but I found something was missing, like the pearl in the painting. There is something niggling at me.

I enjoyed reading this book, but I did not find it particularly memorable. I am glad I finally read it and I would like to read more from this author.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Read in 2021 · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts: Greenlights (Matthew McConaughey)

You could live life by McConaughey’s bumper stickers

★★★★★★☆

Title: Greenlights
Author/Narrator: Matthew McConaughey
Genre: Non-Fiction / Memoir / Philosophy (of sorts)
First published: 2020
Edition: Audio book

“I’ve been in this life for fifty years, been trying to work out its riddle for forty-two, and been keeping diaries of clues to that riddle for the last thirty-five. Notes about successes and failures, joys and sorrows, things that made me marvel, and things that made me laugh out loud. How to be fair. How to have less stress. How to have fun. How to hurt people less. How to get hurt less. How to be a good man. How to have meaning in life. How to be more me.”

***

I like actor Matthew McConaughey well enough, but I would not have thought about picking up this book, if not for two reasons. One: I saw him talk about his book on the Russell Howard show and it sounded like a hoot, and two: I do really like his voice. Reason enough to download the audio book, I’d say!

And I am glad I did, because this was a joy to listen to. There is something incredibly pretentious about this book and yet, it feels very honest and grounded in the person McConaughey is. It’s a paradox, I know!

This is not a straightforward memoir. In fact, McConaughey tells his life story while explaining his life philosophy bumper sticker quote by bumper sticker quote and plenty of notes to self, and to be fair to him, it all seems to make a lot of sense!

He talks about all the normal things a memoir like this would entail, but at the same time he takes a very critical look at himself throughout. This man has done some crazy things for some even crazier reasons! He emphasises life lessons and philosophies learned and adapted along the way.

Now, I have not seen a ton of his movies (Interstellar is probably my favourite from the ones I have seen), but I actually really enjoyed this book and I appreciate this man a whole lot more after reading (listening to) this.

I would definitely recommend this as an audio book, because he tells his own story with a lot of ‘oomph’, and he truly has one of the best voices out there!

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: It Only Happens in the Movies (Holly Bourne)

Bourne, Holly - It Only Happens in the Movies

★★★★★★☆

Title: It Only Happens in the Movies
Author: Holly Bourne
Genre: Fiction / YA / Contemporary / RomCom
First published: 2017
Edition: Kindle e-book

Bad boys turned good, kisses in the rain, climbing through bedroom windows… It only happens in the movies. When Audrey meets Harry, it’s the start of a truly cinematic romance – or is it? Audrey knows that Harry is every movie cliché rolled into one. But she still chooses to let him into her heart…

This is without doubt one of my favourite YA contemporary romance/romcom kind of books that I have read.

I loved main character Audrey so much. The first half of the book was absolute perfection to me. Audrey clearly struggled between her responsibilties to her parents and her simply wanting to be a teenager. On top of that she was still heart-broken over an ex that was clearly a bit of a piece of work.

I thought the way this book dealt with losing your virginity and sex realistically and very well. Too many of these books are way too romaticized and that is exactly what this book is criticizing, mostly by looking at movies, but at the same time the same applies to too many romance books, YA and adult both.

Throughout the book also deals with the divorce of Audrey’s parents and the repercussions of that on the mental health of her mother and on Audrey’s own ideas of love.

The book lost me a bit in the third quarter, but thankfully it finished strongly. I really enjoyed this book and I do feel that this is the kind of book that teenage girls should be reading. The heroine is realistically strong, but flawed as well. The male lead is even more flawed, but you kind of like him anyway, just like Audrey does.

The ending gives a strong message that hopefully would empower teenage girls reading this book.

Also, bonus points for mentioning ‘Before Sunrise’ which is one of my favourite movies of all time.

This was so close to 7 stars if not for that 3rd quarter.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Drift (Clare Littlemore)

Littlemore, Clare - Drift

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Drift (Flow #3)
Author: Clare Littlemore
Genre: Fiction / YA / Dystopian  Pages: 347
First published: 2019
Edition: Paperback, self-published

Quin believed that a life away from The Beck would make her happy, but as disputes surface and rebellion is threatened, Quin quickly realises that their new home isn’t the sanctuary she had imagined. And when one of her fellow citizens is willing to go to desperate measures to save those he loves, he puts the entire community in danger.

This is the third book in the Flow series. I wish this series was more widely read, because it is well-written and a bit different without being ‘out there’.

It is hard to talk about this book without spoiling the two previous books, so I will keep it pretty brief and will not touch on the plot apart from the above exerpt from the synopsis.

I love the author’s writing style. It is easy to read, uncomplicated, but still intelligent, which I really appreciate. As far as this particular book goes, it feels a little on the slow side, but I still really enjoyed it.

The struggles of our main character Quin were interesting in this book. I enjoyed getting to know the new characters and the new setting with her. I particularly like Quin as a main character as she feels very normal. She could be anyone, but at the same time she is brave and caring. Yes, I like her.

Where the book lacks a bit is description. I have to admit I do like a bit of flowery writing and this book has none of that. For example, we are never told even what the characters look like – at least not in this book. It does not bother me particularly, but it was something I noticed and it made it feel a little clinical in places.

I will definitely be reading the next book. If you like a bit of dystopian YA every now and then, please do check out this series, because it really is pretty good!

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Poetry · Reviews

Poetry Review: In The Dark, Soft Earth (Frank Watson)

Watson, Frank - In The Dark, Soft Earth

★★★★★☆☆

Title: In The Dark, Soft Earth
Author: Frank Watson
Genre: Poetry   Pages: 232
First published: to be published 7 July 2020
Edition: E-book, kindly sent by the author

Vignette verses explore the workings of love, nature, spirituality, and dreams with sprinklings of tarot symbolism and jazzy blues. Together these verses contemplate the subtle underpinnings of a soft earth.

*

Poetry is very personal. Something one person loves, may not work for another. Poems that do not work when you read them internally, may suddenly make sense when you read them aloud.

This collection for me was a little bit hit and miss. There were poems I absolutely loved, like the title poem, which really struck a chord. But there were some that just felt like a collection of sentences that did not necessarily make sense to me as a whole. At times the poems went somewhere I really did not expect and sometimes that worked, but at other times they lost me completely.

I found I especially loved the poems that had imagery of music and nature. Those crept into my heart and i found myself thinking about afterwards. I also really enjoyed the series of poems under the heading of An Entrance to the Tarot Garden.

There was some phrasing that felt a bit repetitive. I am not sure whether this was deliberate, but it was something I noticed a little too much, especially in the first half.

Would I recommend this collection? I think I would. I did feel there was a deeper meaning to these than I have not quite grasped on first read. This is a poetry collection I will come back to at some point in the future.

An example of one of the shorter poems I really liked in this collection:

jazz notes

jazz notes
blue totes

cold air
and sudden stares

as bebop blew
the ragged zoo

of thin-skinned moats
and sinking boats

until we knew
our time was through

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Selection (Kiera Cass)

Cass, Kiera - The Selection

★★★★★☆☆

Title: The Selection
Author: Kiera Cass
Genre: Fiction / YA / Fantasy / Dystopian Pages: 339
First published: 2012
Edition: Kindle e-book

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape a rigid caste system, live in a palace, and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her, and competing for a crown she doesn’t want.

*

I think I needed this kind of read right now. Something light and not too deep, but still well written and well thought out.

I was kind of surprised  how much I enjoyed this one, especially the first half of the book. I loved main character America. Here we have a strong female character who is sassy, but not overly so. She is kind and has integrity, but still makes mistakes and loses her cool every now and then.

I liked the competition element in this. It never went too far and ridiculous as it was, it was fun to read! This definitely is a book not to take too seriously.

I thought the second half of the book lost a bit of the vivaciousness of the first half, but it remained an easy read throughout.

The writing is pretty strong and it is what made this rather straightforward tale come alive. I will definitely read the others in the series.

Is it a must-read? No, definitely not, but it is the kind of book to keep in mind when you need something easy and fun that is still well carfted. Perfect to escape reality with.

5 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: How To Stop Time (Matt Haig)

Haig, Matt - How To Stop Time

★★★★★★★

Title: How To Stop Time
Author: Matt Haig
Genre: Fiction/Contemporary/Historical
First published: 2017
Edition: Hardback, published in 2017 by Canongate Books

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history–performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.

*

I loved this book an incredible amount. I have read The Humans by the same author before and one of his children’s books and loved both of those,  but this was a completely different kettle of fish. I adored every page.

This is kind of a quiet sort of book, a little quirky and very human. This is a combination that gets me every time. I loved being immersed in all these different time periods and actually believing it. I could understand the emotions that main character was going through and I loved that he was never too old to learn.

The peculiar thing is that I wrote a draft for a novel many years ago that had a very similar theme as this one, so it felt a bit like déjà vu all the way through. Maybe that was why I connected with this book on a deeper level. My own story will never see the light of day, but I simply love the concept of a group of people experiencing the passing of time in a different way from the majority.

I loved the writing and the way the story was told. It never got overly emotional or too ridiculous. This is a story that could so easily be overdone, but this wasn’t.

From start to finish, this novel has my heart.

7 out of 7 stars

 

 

 

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Wilding (Isabella Tree)

Tree, Isabella - Wilding

★★★★★★★

Title: Wilding
Author: Isabella Tree
Genre: Non-Fiction/Natural World Pages: 384
First published: 2018
Edition: Audio Book (& Hardback)

Forced to accept that intensive farming on the heavy clay of their land at Knepp in West Sussex was economically unsustainable, Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell made a spectacular leap of faith: they decided to step back and let nature take over. Thanks to the introduction of free-roaming cattle, ponies, pigs and deer – proxies of the large animals that once roamed Britain – the 3,500 acre project has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife numbers and diversity in little over a decade.

*

I had a feeling I was going to love this book. I love books that are about someone going on some sort of journey and learning about a subject with them. This kind of felt like that and it felt like a revelation.

As I followed this couple with a farming background return their estate in Sussex to a natural state (or as close as possible with modern rules and regulations in place) I learned what nature actually means. I discovered how manufactured what I think of as nature actually is. But what I learned most is how Mother Nature in all her glory knows exactly what is best for her. One creature’s actions can cause a chain reaction with far reaching consequences for all the creatures and plants around it. This goes for us humans, but also for a Tamworth pig or a beaver.

Of course I loved hearing about nightingales and butterflies, deer and Exmoor ponies, but surprisingly I found the passages on farming incredibly interesting. Both in how farming and government incentives have helped destroy our natural diversity and health and how changing farming practices can be our saving grace.  This book deals with a lot of environmental arguments and it made me much more aware about the world around me and how we can still turn things around. I found it both profoundly sad, but also gave me hope for a brighter future. 

I am not doing justice to this gem of a book, but if you are at all interested in nature and the environment, this is a must-read book.

7 out of 7 stars