Tuesday, November 13

Reading Challenge 2012, Dunzo!


Last year, I didn't even finish my reading challenge, this year I finished a couple of months early. Yes, I took a more relaxed approach to the target this year - last year I didn't count short stories, graphic novels and books I re-read, this year I realised that it's supposed to be fun, not homework and actually enjoyed it! However, as with last year, I mostly enjoyed the social aspect of Goodreads; not necessarily talking to people about books, but reading reviews and seeing the books other people are rating. Goodreads has seriously increased my to read pile (if you're looking to follow someone on Godreads, I'd recommend Blair from Learn This Phrase, she puts me to shame by reading my entire target once a month)!

The first three book reviews can be found here.

(From the most recent, top left)

1. Breaking Away by Anna Gavalda
Three siblings flee a family wedding to visit their brother who is working as a tour guide in the French countryside. For a few hours they forget their adult lives, by spending a day revisiting childhood memories.

The story of me choosing this book to read, was that I had added another Anna Gavalda book to my to-read list on Goodreads, which is what I use so I don't have to stay in the library too long. When I got to the G shelf I saw that they didn't have the Gavalda book I was looking for, but they did have this one. So I thought, "Hey, why not?", at 142 pages it looked a short and easy read, so yeah, why not? Well, the 'why not' was mainly because the story of finding the book was more interesting than the actual book (and don't worry, I know the story of finding the book wasn't interesting either). I'm a big fan of films where nothing happens (think Dedication, Before Sunrise and Broken English), but with books, I'd like at least one twist or turn. Honestly, I had to edit the summary because it basically tells you everything that happened in the book. I was almost wishing for more pages, so that something vaguely exciting would happen. Perhaps the French translator took out all the good bits?

(more after the jump)

2. Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds
Tamara Drewe has transformed herself. Plastic surgery, a different wardrobe, a smouldering look, have given her confidence and a new and thrilling power to attract, which she uses recklessly. Often just for the fun of it.

During the aforementioned library trip, I also spent some time looking at the Graphic Novels. I don't have much knowledge of the graphic novel genre (is it even a genre?), seeing as my knowledge is mainly limited to Scott Pilgrim (post-film), Ghost World (pre-film), skimming my sister's Japanese books and skimming Maus in Fopp. My interest in Tamara Drewe was a result of seeing the film, which I found quite odd, with its interesting blend of comedy, drama and romance. The book is also a mix of comedy, drama, romance and the unexpected addition of feminist commentary, told in the form of both illustrations and text, which works so much better in graphic novel form (and a lot more than I was expecting). 

3. How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper 
Doug Parker is a widower at age twenty-nine, and in his quiet suburban town, that makes him something of a celebrity—the object of sympathy, curiosity, and, in some cases, unbridled desire. But Doug has other things on his mind.

I read This is Where I Leave You (also by Jonathan Tropper) as part of my challenge last year, and I really enjoyed it. So much so, that I was really intrigued to read a few more of Tropper's books. Having now read two, it would appear that Tropper definitely has a formula; A young man hit by some form of tragedy, having to deal with that tragedy, whilst also coping with his dysfunctional family. Out of the two I definitely enjoyed This is Where I Leave You a lot more, but that isn't to say this wasn't any good, but I found the balance of comedy/sadness was a little skew-wiff and cliche at times. 

4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro 
Never Let Me Go is narrated retrospectively by Kathy H., who is thirty-one years old and introduces herself as a ‘carer’ who works with ‘donors’. Her story begins some years earlier when she is a student at an institution called Hailsham, and the first chapters detail her friendships with a girl named Ruth and a short-tempered boy, Tommy, who is often teased by the other students.

This is a book, and an author, that is always being recommended to me as the sort of book I'd like, however when I originally picked it up to read, it didn't really pique my interest. This was mostly because almost every description that I've read describes this book as a Sci-fi. Now I love the odd sci-fi film, but am not sure when it comes to books of that genre, and for some reason I'd convinced myself that it was a book about robots, so obviously, not for me. Turns out it's not about robots, and not really as much of a sci-fi as it has been described. It came across more as a social commentary on the value of life. If that sounds a bit heavy, I should add that it's coupled with a very endearing coming of age story.

5. Selected Tales by The Grimm Brothers
"The tales gathered by the Grimm brothers are at once familiar, fantastic, homely, and frightening. They seem to belong to no time, or to some distant feudal age of fairytale imagining." Regarded from their inception both as uncosy nursery stories and as raw material for the folklorist, the tales were in fact compositions, collected from literate tellers and shaped into a distinctive kind of literature.

I absolutely adore folkloric fairytales; I'm a very big Hans Christian Andersen fan (The Little Matchstick Girl, The Little Mermaid and The Red Shoes are my favourites), but it was my first time reading most of Grimm's in their original form; A lot of the stories would be familiar to Disney fans, but I actually found these a lot more fun - gothic, frightening and delightfully morbid. Now as well as putting Phillip Pullman's collection of Grimm's tales on my wishlist, I'm also on the lookout for a collection of Charles Perrault's fairytales.


6. The Love Letters of Dylan Thomas
The beauty and power of Dylan Thomas's voice are captured here in a stunning collection of letters to his wife Caitlin, as well as his various lovers and close female friends. With a style as grand and lyrical as his poetry, Thomas expresses his affection in letters that are sensual, uninhibited, romantic, funny and always loving.

As you can imagine with a poet like Dylan Thomas, he writes a pretty good (albeit wordy) love letter. As you can probably also imagine with a philanderer like Dylan Thomas, he wrote to a lot of women. the book was an interesting insight into the love life of a widely known womaniser; some of my favourites and definitely the more interesting of his letters were those he sent once he had been caught out by his beloved and the letters sent to his mistress, where he discussed how much he loved his wife.

7. Bossypants by Tina Fey
Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.

Ok, I'll be honest I originally chose to read this book in the hope there would be lots about Amy Poehler. There wasn't a whole lot about her (surprisingly, in a book about Tina Fey's life), but one of my favourite stories was (this one). I'm not as big a fan of Tina, as I am of Amy, but I did love her book. So much so, that I read it during an entire Bank Holiday weekend spent on the London Underground, shuttling between museums and libraries trying to complete my thesis (so a welcome break from textbooks); I even caught someone sat next to me reading it over my shoulder, giggling at the funny bits and sighing when I took too long turning the page.  

8 & 9. Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life/Scott Pilgrim Vs The World
Scott Pilgrim's life is totally sweet. He's 23 years old, he's in a rock band, he's "between jobs," and he's dating a cute high school girl. Nothing could possibly go wrong, unless a seriously mind-blowing, dangerously fashionable, rollerblading delivery girl named Ramona Flowers starts cruising through his dreams and sailing by him at parties.

This was definitely a geeky indulgence for me, having watched and adored the film many times (being a bit of an Edgar Wright fangirl). I mostly wanted to know more backstory about the characters, I wanted to revisit the jokes and I wanted to compare and contrast the books with the film. I read both in a few hours, but it was a few thoroughly enjoyable hours.

10. An Anatomy of a Disappearance by Hisham Matar
Nuri is a young boy when his mother dies. It seems that nothing will fill the emptiness her strange death leaves behind. Until Mona.

For my review, see here.

At the moment I'm reading Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, after that I'm going to attempt to read something a little more serious, which may seem an odd thing to say, but I've read a lot of funny books and memoirs of funny people recently. I've had In Cold Blood, Les Miserables and Crime and Punishment on my bookshelf for a few years so I may have to start at the deep-end of seriousness and get stuck into one of those three! Any suggestions what I should start off with? I'd love to hear what you're currently reading too.

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