Thursday, January 16, 2014

My Holiday Reads: A Bunch of Mini-Reviews (part 1)

Bringing my Kindle turned out to be one of the best decisions I made for this holiday. Other than the 16 hour flight over we had several 4+ hour bus or train rides, which were the perfect times to settle down with one of the books I'd downloaded and lose myself in their stories. I managed to finish 8 books and start 2 more, all of which I really enjoyed. I wanted to write proper reviews for them all, but I read them so quickly after each other and made so few notes I don't think I could really pull out a full-length review that'd do the books justice. So instead here are some smaller reviews about each of my holiday reads.

*Bossypants by Tina Fey* 

I'd been meaning to read this book for ages but never got around to picking it up from the book store or library. I ended up buying an audio copy with some Audible credit and I am so glad I decided to go that route. I'm sure the actual-words-copy is awesome too, but how can you pass up a book being read by Tina Fey? You can't basically. Apart from the greatness of listening to Tina Fey read out her own life experiences and jokes, the audiobook also included a few moments when she broke script and spoke off the cuff as well as some audio-tracks from her time on SNL playing Sarah Palin. There are some bits about her childhood but the book is really about making a career as a female writer/actor in a very male dominated world and raising a child to be level-headed, secure and happy in such a world. It's a wonderfully girl-powery book without actually setting out to be that kind of book. It's really the little things, like remembering the time that Amy Poehler was telling a gross joke and when a male colleague said "ew stop, it's not cute" she told him to fuck right off. Or when she made the decision to use yellow instead of blonde so that her daughter never thinks that one hair colour is more special than another. I don't know if I'd recommend this to someone who isn't aware of or already in love with Tina Fey, but if you're even remotely aware of who she is you'll probably get a kick out of it.

*Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman*

I wasn't if I'd like this book. Don't get me wrong I love the show, but even though the first 50 pages or so are incredibly close to what was included in the first few episodes I wasn't sure if I had much interest in the memoirs of a middle-class white lady going to jail. After finishing I still feel pretty much the same way. It was an interesting book, the details about America's prison system (guuuuys, what the F) that Piper included were illuminating and it was interesting to see how much of the TV show's characters are actually true to life (or true to Piper's memory anyway). But, I don't know, I felt like the real story was sitting just off the page. The beauty of the TV series is that you see so many stories, and how similar the women are even though they've had very different lives up to that point. In this there's a momentary peek at the other women but it's only ever to do with how they relate to Piper or impact on Piper's stay in some way. I knew that the book would not be the TV show, but I think I'd probably have liked the book more if I'd read it first...or at least I wouldn't feel like I was missing out on so much. That said, if you've seen and loved the show you should definitely give it a read. I know I just spent an entire mini-review whinging but I am definitely glad I gave it a read.

Also this. There was a little bit of this.

*The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman*

I know not everyone here is a big fan of Neil Gaiman and although I loved a lot of the books you've all disliked, I think you'll like this one. Like Coraline and The Graveyard Book this one is (maybe not really) for children and has that wonderful modern fairytale feel. Most of the book actually takes place in a flashback as a middle aged man remembers an eventful period in his life at his childhood home. It's an absolutely gorgeous tale. It's such a profoundly moving story of childhood innocence and trust and the fear of monsters unleashed in our lives and the power of words and stories. It's basically right in Gaiman's wheelhouse and it made me feel so many damn feels that even now, nearly two months later, I am caught up in the melancholic feelings that the book evoked. It's probably more YA/Adult than children (there are a few scenes that would be a little graphic or complicated for little minds) but it retains the special magical feel that Gaiman seems to reserve for his younger novels.

*Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell*

Do I need to even bother with a review here? You all know it's going to be a bunch of squees and OMG LEVI's right? Anyway, in case anyone was wondering if Rowell released two smashing books and then fumbled the third - nope. She is on fire, I only hope she can keep writing as many wonderful stories full of the best relationships (platonic and romantic) in contemporary fiction.

 I really loved exploring the two vastly different twins and their experiences in college. While Wren is out conquering the campus one keg stand at a time, Cath is struggling to gather the courage to even step into her mess hall. And neither lifestyle is really demonised or victimised which was really refreshing. They both have their downs (and way way downs) but there are obvious benefits to each of the twins' approaches to life in college and life in general. And, a few small tweaks aside, it works for them. And that's kind of beautiful. Not that it isn't without conflict since that's basically what the book is about, but it was a really honest look at that awkward/terrifying/invigorating transition period between high school and university, childhood and adulthood.

*Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs*

This book was actually a bit of a mixed bag for me. I thought the story was intriguing and imaginative, but it was ( sometimes painfully) clear it was Riggs' first novel. Some of the writing and plot progression was stiff or a little weird, and there were definitely times when it felt like the pictures were guiding the story too much, rather than complimenting it. However, I think I went into this with pretty high expectations and that tainted what should have been a fun and mysterious read. When I put the awkwardness out of mind I really enjoyed the story and I'm interested to see where the next two (I believe it's meant to be a trilogy?) books head and how he develops the adventure for these peculiar children.


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