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

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: On The Come Up (Angie Thomas)

Thomas, Angie - The The Come Up

★★★★★★☆

Title: On The Come Up
Author: Angie Thomas
Genre: Fiction/YA/contemporary  Pages: 435
First published: 2019
Edition: Paperback, published by Walker Books

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

Having absolutely loved The Hate U Give, I must admit I was pretty apprehensive to read this one. What if it did not live up to expectations?

I am glad to say I really enjoyed On The Come Up as well. Did it capture my heart the way The Hate U Give did? Maybe not quite, but it was the same straightforward writing that is so easy to read, combined with a story and characters that feel utterly real and believable.

It brings to life the struggle people have to deal with, simply because of the colour of their skin and the prejudices that make life a hell of a lot more difficult than it needs to be, limiting the life choices available. This novel deals with that issue so well, at the same time creating strong female characters in both Bri and maybe especially her mother Jay.

Bri’s encounters with the rap business were well handled and eye openining. I imagine the real business could be very much like this, though I know very little about that! I enjoyed the lyric parts, though I did wish I could hear them instead of reading them (audio book?). That there are pitfalls on the road to success should not be surprising.

Another highlight of this novel were Bri’s family’s dynamics. I loved how much they all cared about each other and how supportive they were, even if their choices were not always the best ones. The love and support of your family can mean so much. Also,  the friendship triangle of Bri, Sonny and Malik was just perfect.

On a side note, I really appreciated how this dovetailed into The Hate U Give, with little references here and there.

I did not love this quite as much, but I still loved it a ton.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Manga Thoughts: The Promised Neverland, Vol 1 (Kaiu Shirai/Posuka Demizu)

Shirai, Kaiu - The Promised Neverland 1

★★★★★☆☆

Title: The Promised Neverland, Vol 1
Author: Kaiu Shirai (story) / Posuka Demizu (art)
Genre: Manga   Pages: 189
First published: 2016
Edition: Paperback, published by Viz Media in 2017

Emma, Norman and Ray are the brightest kids at the Grace Field House orphanage. And under the care of the woman they refer to as “Mom,” all the kids have enjoyed a comfortable life. Good food, clean clothes and the perfect environment to learn—what more could an orphan ask for? One day, though, Emma and Norman uncover the dark truth of the outside world they are forbidden from seeing.

This is only my second manga, but I am already much more used to the art style and method of story telling. This one had me gripped from the start.

The story itself made me feel anxious in the best possible. I soon came to feel for our main characters and I cared about what happened to them and their ‘siblings’ The story became dark pretty quickly and the rest of this volume is centered around trying to find a way out.

This was a strong start to a series and I will definitely be ordering the second volume. I really enjoyed the art style and the panels were clear and well thought out.

Apparently there is also an anime of this series, so I would like to check that out if I can!

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

(Audio) Book Thoughts: Face It (Debbie Harry)

Harry, Debbie - Face It

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: Face It
Author/narrator: Debbie Harry
Genre: Non-Fiction/Autobiography/Memoir
First published: 2019
Edition: Audio book

Musician, actor, activist, and the iconic face of New York City cool, Debbie Harry is the frontwoman of Blondie, a band that forged a new sound that brought together the worlds of rock, punk, disco, reggae and hip-hop to create some of the most beloved pop songs of all time. As a muse, she collaborated with some of the boldest artists of the past four decades. The scope of Debbie Harry’s impact on our culture has been matched only by her reticence to reveal her rich inner life—until now.

*

Debbie Harry of Blondie is someone I consider an icon and when I heard she had an autobiography out I was keen to read it and the audio book narrated by herself seemed the perfect choice.

As a book it does not flow incredibly well and the way she tells her story feels strangely dispassionate, but I guess Harry is not a natural writer and I should not hold her to the same standard as someone who is an author by profession. It does make it feel more authentic to be fair. I don’t know whether she used a ghostwriter, but it certainly does not feel like she did. I do respect that.

Neither is she a natural audio book narrator. Her delivery is quite stilted and sometimes lacks dynamics, but I still prefer it than if it had been narrated by someone else.

So, overall I am conflicted on this one. There are really interesting bits to her story, but in parts it struggled to keep my attention. It could have done with a bit more sprucing up, I guess. The way she tells her story feels slightly repetitive, even if she is talking about different events. It’s hard to explain.

Is this the best memoir I have ever read or listened to? No. Did I enjoy the ride? Yes, I guess I did. It paints an interesting picture of a particular time in New York City and I appreciate her frank way of talking. I just wished it was a bit more dynamic in its delivery, both in the writing itself and the audio book narration.

4 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Sweet Thing (Renée Carlino)

Carlino, Renee - Sweet Thing

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: Sweet Thing
Author: Renée Carlino
Genre: Fiction/Romance
First published: 2013
Edition: Kindle e-book

Mia Kelly thinks she has it all figured out. She’s an Ivy League graduate, a classically trained pianist, and the beloved daughter of a sensible mother and offbeat father. Yet Mia has been stalling since graduation, torn between putting her business degree to use and exploring music, her true love.

When her father unexpectedly dies, she decides to pick up the threads of his life while she figures out her own. Uprooting herself from Ann Arbor to New York City, Mia takes over her father’s cafe, a treasured neighborhood institution that plays host to undiscovered musicians and artists. She’s denied herself the thrilling and unpredictable life of a musician, but a chance encounter with Will, a sweet, gorgeous, and charming guitarist, offers her a glimpse of what could be. When Will becomes her friend and then her roommate, she does everything in her power to suppress her passions—for him, for music—but her father’s legacy slowly opens her heart to the possibility of something more.

*

This romance book kind of worked for me, but there were things that irked me a great deal as well. I liked the idea of a musical element in this love story, as music is a big part of my own life.

I was a bit conflicted on Mia, the main character. She was really relatable in some ways and a complete idiot in others. I could appreciate that she had some emotional issues she needed to work through, but I am not sure that was enough of an excuse to be a complete asshat a lot of the time (on of her words!)

I did like Will, the love interest. He was definitely likeable, though the repetitive way he was described sometimes got a bit much. I think the editor simply could have done a better job here.

The musical element worked well enough for me. It was a little cringe-worthy in a few places, but  to be fair I pessimistically expected that to be far worse (as is usual).

I did like this novel overall, but it just could have been a much tighter story in my opinion.

I would like to read more from this author.

4 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: A Memory of Light (Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson)

Jordan, Robert - A Wheel of Time 14 A Memory of Light (w Brandon Sanderson)

★★★★★★☆

Title: A Memory of Light (The Wheel of Time #14)
Author:  Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fiction/Epic fantasy
First published: 2013
Edition: Massmarket Paperback, published by Orbit in 2014

All humanity is in peril – and the outcome will be decided in Shayol Ghul itself. The Wheel is turning, and the Age is coming to its end. The Last Battle will determine the fate of the world …

As far as conclusions to series go, this is the most epic of epic closers. I felt that the first time I read it and I feel exactly the same way this time around.

It took me quite long to read, but that had more to do with my attention span (bad) than the book itself. Because although this is an amazing book, it takes some reading, especially the begining. This is probably because the writing still goes into unnecessary detail, but man, it is grand. In this book The Last Battle is fought and the scale and course of that battle is so well described you could practically draw it out. There are so many blazes of glory and epic fails, that once The Last Battle rages, it is hard to stop.

We get to spend time with all of our favourite characters and none are safe. They all fight for what they are worth. Will they all survive this final battle?

Just as a side note, there is a chapter called ‘The Last Battle’, which is over 200 pages long!

This series is worth it for this last book alone. The journey is hard, just like it is for our characters, but the pay-off is everything.

I will write up an overall review for the whole 14-book series at the beginning of May, because it deserves it.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

(Audio) Book Thoughts: The Return of the Native (Thomas Hardy)

Hardy, Thomas - The Return of the Native

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: The Return of the Native
Author: Thomas Hardy
Audio book narrator: Alan Rickman
Genre: Fiction/Classic
First published: 1878
Edition: Audible audio book & paperback, published in 1974 by Macmillan

Tempestuous Eustacia Vye passes her days dreaming of passionate love and the escape it may bring from the small community of Egdon Heath. Hearing that Clym Yeobright is to return from Paris, she sets her heart on marrying him, believing that through him she can leave rural life and find fulfilment elsewhere. But she is to be disappointed, for Clym has dreams of his own, and they have little in common with Eustacia’s. 

This is one of those classics I had tried to read the paperback of several times and never got very far. When I noticed there was an audio book narrated by the inimitable Alan Rickman, I knew that was the one for me.

As to this narrative, it is not really for me. I did not like any of the characters. I just felt if any of these characters had stopped to think just for a minute, their world would have made a much better place. Instead, we have a bunch of characters feeling sorry for themselves in a beautifully described landscape. So yes, the descriptions of the heathland were masterful and the portrayal of Eustacia’s depression and Clym’s guilt very human, but the story itself did little for me.

This is not a happy tale. It is filled with sadness, depression and bad choices and although I am glad I finally read it, this is not the kind of book I would return to. I would like to try something else by Thomas Hardy in the future though, because in places his writing was absolutely beautiful.

A note on Alan Rickman’s narration: overall I really liked it and it helped me get through to the book, but he made every woman in the book sound like a whimpering soul. However, if not for his narration I would have given up on this book again before the halfway point.

4 out of 7 stars