Read in 2016: November


This was our book club pick and I absolutely hated it.  Focusing on the Beat movement, it's based on the author's travels across America and so ticked the task of reading a book with a road trip off of my reading challenge for the year.  Nothing really happens in this book and once I found out that it's not a work of fiction, my opinion of it dropped.  I don't think it's particularly well written so to find out that no imagination went into writing it made me seriously question why it's a modern classic.  It's written almost as a stream of consciousness but some parts read in a list-like fashion; the effect of which being that I found it hard to actually retain anything I'd read or develop any real interest in any of the characters.
Rating: 1/5

Now this one would have been a great book club choice!  It's got a real moral foundation to it - Helen kills her mother (who has been suffering from dementia) and gradually their complex relationship and the events which have led to that moment are revealed.  For the most part I really enjoyed this one, although by the end Helen's actions seemed a little far fetched and hard to apply logic to.
Rating: 3/5

Billed as a The Picture Of Dorian Gray for The Girls generation, I'd seen quite a lot about this online.  Three friends living (and struggling) in New York discover a potion, Pretty, which makes them....well, pretty.  Again there were questions of ethics within this, but I wonder whether it was truly worth the hype and if I'd have just written this off as chick-lit without having previously heard praise for it.  It was certainly interesting and I found the dynamic of the girls' friendship and the issues they were facing relatable but there was too much of an emphasis on sex (one very graphic and unbelievable moment in particular) and it just didn't quite hit the mark for me. 
Rating: 3/5

This was my first venture into Margaret Atwood and I started out really enjoying it.  Set in a dystopian future, Charlene and her husband Stan are bankrupt and living in their car when they hear of Consilience...a social experiment whereby people elect to spend one month living normally with a stable job and home within this complex and the next in prison.  The setting up of this story (as it were) is the part that I enjoyed, but as things fell into disarray I found myself switching off and unable to follow Atwood's often complex imaginings. 
Rating: 3/5

Having been sat on my shelf for months I'm so glad I finally got round to reading this.  Janie's son Noah talks of "going home" and isn't like other children.  When he gets excluded from school she seeks professional help and is shocked to discover that Noah has actually lived a previous life.  I managed to get through this in a day and elements of it have stayed with me since...the mark of a good book!
Rating: 4/5

Rachel Joyce's books are always guaranteed to be good so I knew I had to pick up this counterpart to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.  If you've read the first novel you'll know that Queenie's unwell and dying in a home when Harold Fry decides to walk to see her.  This book looks at modern-day Queenie but also flashes back to key events in her life, many of which feature in The Unlikely Pilgrimage.  As enjoyable as this book was, I wouldn't recommend it if you haven't read Harold's version.  I struggled to remember events and felt that it didn't work as a stand alone and relied on the reader knowing the fleshed out details of The Unlikely Pilgrimage.  Which is fine if you read them close together, but having read them years apart it took away my enjoyment somewhat.
Rating: 4/5

#64 - SISTER
Thrillers aren't really my thing but this one was a surprising break from the norm.  Beatrice is living in New York when she gets a call from England to say that her sister is missing.  The story is essentially told as a letter of sorts but unravels everything slowly through the form of witness interviews Beatrice is having prior to a court appearance.  It was a clever book with a twist that only vaguely crossed my mind so it didn't feel like I'd guessed the culprit outright.  I did slightly wonder whether it was believable an outsider would be allowed to take a murder investigation quite so much into their own hands, but that's just me being picky!
Rating: 4/5

After reading The Heart Goes Last I finally decided to pick up perhaps Margaret Atwood's most famous novel, The Handmaid's Tale.  Again, set in a dystopian future, this time men hold all the power and women fall into various categories - wives, nuns or handmaids.  Our protaganist is a handmaid and so destined to provide married men with offspring and heirs.  It was very similar to Only Ever Yours, but having been written in the '80s it wasn't as relatable to me.  I almost feel that I would have benefitted from studying this in school (as I know so many people have) to get a bit more of a backstory and understand the text and surrounding issues more deeply.  It still felt like an important book to read, but like The Heart Goes Last I found it too hard to follow at points.
Rating: 2/5

#66 - HER
Another thriller - this time we watch successful Nina befriend frazzled housewife Emma in a seemingly innocent relationship.  However, Nina already knows Emma yet Emma hasn't realised, and Nina wants revenge.  This was another quick read and at first was really promising.  Some of Nina's actions were far-fetched, but it was interesting switching narrators between chapters.  The moment we found out why Nina was harbouring a grudge is the point at which this book lost its appeal for me, and I even had to go back and re-read to check that the reason really was something so trivial.  And as a result the ending was just all too much and really let the book down.
Rating: 3/5

Similar to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, this book has a quirky young male protaganist.  Alex has been struck by a meteorite (handled really well and doesn't come across as implausible as it sounds!) and now has epilepsy.  He's also struck up a surprising friendship with elderly widower Mr Peterson who teaches Alex a new way to live his life, and it's this which leads to 17 year old Alex being stopped at customs in the opening chapter of the book.  This was a touching book but for some reason it just didn't resonate with me like I wish it had.
Rating: 2/5

The second part of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, I don't want to say too much about the plot in case I spoil anything.  We're still following Lyra but this time there's more magic, more Dust and more worlds.  I think I enjoyed this slightly more than the first installment but only because it takes place in parts in our world which made it easier to understand. I know there are religious undertones to this series and I think that's what's making me struggle to get into it, as I keep finding myself trying to read between the lines and make links with the comments Pullman's making.  For the sake of finishing the series I'll persevere, but then I'll be looking up book discussions to get a deeper understanding...and hopefully appreciation!
Rating: 2/5

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