Read in 2017: February

1.3.17

#10 - DIVERGENT // Veronica Roth
"For sixteen-year-old Tris, the world changes in a heartbeat when she is forced to make a terrible choice. Turning her back on her family, Tris ventures out, alone, determined to find out where she truly belongs. Shocked by the brutality of her new life, Tris can trust no one. And yet she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her. The hardest choices may yet lie ahead..."
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Divergent was our book club pick and to be honest I wasn't too jazzed about reading it.  I was wrong!
I haven't seen the film so had no idea what to expect when I began reading, but in a nutshell this is a world where society is divided into 'factions' and at 16 the characters have to choose which they'll live as.  This concept really piqued my interest and the subsequent fast-pacing and interesting characters made this a thoroughly enjoyable read.
I've read a few dystopians now and am so glad I didn't give this one a miss.  If you're on the fence about reading then you should definitely give it a try!
Rating: ★★★★★

#11 - THE WONDER // Emma Donoghue
"An eleven-year-old girl stops eating, but remains miraculously alive and well. A nurse, sent to investigate whether she is a fraud, meets a journalist hungry for a story. 
Set in the Irish Midlands in the 1850s, Emma Donoghue's The Wonder - inspired by numerous European and North American cases of 'fasting girls' between the sixteenth century and the twentieth - is a psychological thriller about a child's murder threatening to happen in slow motion before our eyes. Pitting all the seductions of fundamentalism against sense and love, it is a searing examination of what nourishes us, body and soul..."
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 Novel-wise I'd previously only ever read Room by Emma Donoghue and if you're looking for more of the same then do not pick this up.  This is historical fiction done well...the characters felt real for their time and the author successfully conveys a real sense of the damp, bleak and miserable surroundings.
The storyline itself is interesting and I found myself caught up in the mystery of it and wondering how it would all unravel.  The dynamic between nurse Lib Wright's battle to uncover the truth and Anna's family's willingness to let Anna continue to fast and relish her icon-like status was another of the story's strong points.
Unfortunately, beyond that this story is rather forgettable.  Worth a read if you like atmospheric historical fiction.
Rating: ★★

#12 - HOMEGOING // Yaa Gyasi
"The night Effia Otcha was born into the musky heat of Fanteland, a fire raged through her father’s compound. It moved quickly, tearing a path for days. It lived off the air; it slept in caves and hid in trees; it burned, up and through, unconcerned with what wreckage it left behind, until it reached an Asante village. There, it disappeared, becoming one with the night.
Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader's wife.
The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. As each chapter offers up a new descendant, alternating between Effia’s and Esi’s bloodline right up to the present day, a chasm of experience and the differing legacies of chance are brought starkly to light."

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Homegoing has been getting a lot of hype.  And rightly so!  This book spans decades and generations, exploring the impact each of the original sisters' lives have had on those of their descendents.
It's hard to pinpoint and discuss aspects of the plot as this was more of an overarching, atmospheric sort of book for me.  What I will say is that my eyes were opened with regards to slavery and I hope I don't sound too ignorant/privileged when I say that.  There was a lot that we were never taught in school and I really think we should have been.  It was also interesting to see the impact that slavery had on the family bonds and watch the generations unravel and grow further apart or closer together, dependent on the circumstances.
Sadly, the ending really let me down as it just seemed to tie everything together too neatly.  I won't say more than that, but after enjoying the rest of the book so much I was disappointed.
Rating: ★★★

#13 - WHAT MILO SAW // Virginia MacGregor
"Nine-year-old Milo Moon has retinitis pigmentosa: his eyes are slowly failing and he will eventually go blind. But for now he sees the world through a pin hole and notices things other people don't. When Milo's beloved gran succumbs to dementia and moves into a nursing home, Milo soon realises there's something wrong at the home. So with just Tripi, the nursing home's cook, and Hamlet, his pet pig, to help, Milo sets out on a mission to expose the nursing home and the sinister Nurse Thornhill. 
Insightful, wise and surprising, What Milo Saw is filled with big ideas and simple truths. Milo sees the world in a very special way and it will be impossible for you not to fall in love with him and then share his story with everyone you know." 
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This book was reminiscent of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey, as Milo struggles to adjust to changes in family life and battles to get his Gran out of a nursing home and back at home where she belongs.  It was a nice, cosy book which was quick to get through and would be perfect for rainy days with a hot chocolate.
A few things did surprise me with this, however.  Namely that Milo's retinitis pigmentosa didn't really feel like a key part of the story.  More, an additional quirk (together with the pet pig) and almost a USP to "explain" why Milo sees things that others miss.  Although perhaps I'm being criticial.  Another issue was Milo's Mum's age....towards the end of the book I learnt that she was (from memory) in her late 20s/early 30s but this was definitely not the way she'd come across throughout!
Give this one a read if you're a Rachel Joyes fan and enjoy books about family....but don't expect anything groundbreaking.
Rating: ★★★

 #14 - STUFFOCATION: LIVING MORE WITH LESS // James Wallman
"We're all stuffocated. We have more stuff than we could ever need - but it's bad for the planet and it's making us stressed. It might even be killing us. 
In this groundbreaking book, trend forecaster James Wallman finds that a rising number of people are turning away from all-you-can-get consumption, from the exec who's sold almost everything he owns, to the well-off family who moved to a remote mountain cabin.  In Stuffocation, Wallman's solution is to focus less on possessions and more on experiences. It is a manifesto for a vital change in how you live - and it's the one book you won't be able to live without."
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Stuffocation is a non-fiction book which I'd heard was good if you're interested in minimalism.  It got off to strong start with a chapter focusing on Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists and following on with chapters detailing other individuals who have made the move away from consumerism in varying different ways.  This human aspect of the book I really enjoyed and found I could identify with much of what was being written.
The book then moves into more political grounds and this is where I struggled.  Wallman makes predictions for the future, trying to explore different ways in which we can impact change based on research and forecasting, but ultimately I felt that the author's views were being pushed on me a little too much.
I'd say this is a good starting point for someone who wants to reduce their consumerism (there's a checklist at the back which I'll definitely be using!) but it's not without its flaws.
Rating: ★★★

#15 - TOUCH // Claire North
"Kepler is like you, but not like you. With a simple touch, Kepler can move into any body, live any life - for a moment, a day or for years. And your life could be next."
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This was a fast-paced, high energy book...albeit a little slow to start.  It took me a while to get into Kepler's head - understanding her motives and reasoning for actions carried out - but once the story got going it felt like it flowed more and things fell into place without me worrying over the finer details.  It's interesting that you never know whether Kepler is male or female, so brought up some interesting gender binary thoughts.
The idea of switching bodies by touch as a means of getting from A to B (or indeed staying a while and living as that person) is one I've not read about before and I think North imagined this very well and thought of lots small factors to build up a cohesive world. I liked the writing style as Kepler slipped between bodies but found it to be a little drawn out and hard to keep up with at the end.  And speaking of the end...I'm not sure I fully "got" it and wasn't 100% sold on the main villain's rationale.  Which is a shame, and the reason behind the lower rating.
Rating: ★★★

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