8 For 8 – August Mini Reviews

Wow- it’s August?! What the hell happened? What’s even scarier is that I somehow am not struggling to find books stuck in my backlog, even though it’s the eighth month (and that means 8 reviews according to my strange system). I genuinely don’t know how I have so many?! Anyway, this is guaranteed to be a long post, so let’s get on with it!

the falconer

The Falconer–  this was a thoroughly enjoyable book- I loved loved loved the intricacies of the world building. The relationships were done really well, the characters were complex and this was so fast paced that I whizzed through it. All credit to Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku for her excellent review for this one, because it made me pick it up and it was well worth a read.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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mountain in my shoe

The Mountain in my Shoe– this had such a compelling, intriguing start. Actually scrap that: I was utterly absorbed from beginning to end. There was a lull in the middle, but overall it was as well written as you would expect from a book of this name (because wow that title!) There were a few moments of info dumps- but done in such a clever way that it really worked! (I know “info-dump” and “works” don’t normally go into the same sentence). Furthermore, this addressed raw and real subjects that I can’t normally bear to read about this- but this was an exception to my normal rules! Also I want to say another THANK YOU to Meggy for her amazing review that made me pick this up too 😀

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian– I didn’t connect to this*at all*. Mostly I think that was down to the writing style: it read as whiny, a little gross and I had constantly to remind myself that these were serious issues because the voice was so distracting. I liked the cartoons, but this was yet another sign that this was not out for me because the style put it way out of my age range. I would really put this in the category of being for people who liked Tracy Beaker (I didn’t even like that even as a child) just with an American slant. To be honest, it was the Americanisms that made this feel more than a million miles away in the end- I think this will be far more relatable to an American audience.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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don't stop me now

Don’t Stop Me Now– okay moving on from a whiny character to me being a whingebag… I feel like a grumpus for not liking this one cos it’s supposed to be feel-good and yet… it didn’t work for me. To be honest the main character and I got off to a rocky start, partly cos I’ve had similar mishaps in my life (aka dreams not coming true/things not going to plan) and yet I wouldn’t have got through if I’d mentally handled it the way she did. Putting myself in her shoes felt like shaking hands with worst parts of my own psyche. But mostly, I got kind of annoyed at the book because the radio hostess was a bit of a caricature of Katie Hopkins and I ended up playing devil’s advocate for her in my head- and that’s not somewhere I want to go as a general rule (and if you don’t know who she is just count yourself lucky and move on with your day). Basically, this ended up feeling like a hit piece on her, rather than taking on her ideas in a mature debate, which you know, is pretty darn easy to do considering she’s the person who said she wanted euthanasia icecream trucks for old people… Ughh see why I felt uncomfortable when this book made me accidentally relate to her?

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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a confession

A Confession– okay- let’s talk about something more uplifting. This rather short book is quite excellent and really resonated with me, because it explores both the depths of nihilism and, inversely, more spiritualistic pursuits. I do think this might work more for people of a Christian background (and even more so for people who are religious) but I still got a lot out of it and definitely think I’ll reread this in the future.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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prisoner of heaven

The Prisoner of Heaven– I liked this the least of Zafon’s work so far. It was still really well written, but it felt disconnected at times and more of a footnote to the previous two books. I did enjoy the link to Count of Monte Cristo though.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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nomad partridge

Alan Partridge: Nomad– this takes the word “rambling” and runs with it: the subject matter, style, and structure all embody the word. What wasn’t rambly was the punchy humour. This did make me laugh less than Alan’s previous book, but it was sheer gold at time and when it did crack me up I couldn’t stop.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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ice like fire frost like night

Ice Like Fire/Frost Like Night– I literally got nothing out of this- I have only one thing to say about it: why the hell did I bother to continue this series? Between them they managed an average of:

Rating: 1½/5 bananas

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So have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

A Lot of War and Very Little Peace

war and peaceI meant to do this review immediately, but my mind was slightly numb after finishing it and as anyone that follows me on twitter might know- I was absolutely *shvitzing* yesterday! So on with the review…

For so long, I have treated this book as a massive challenge (I mean it is literally *massive*). So in all my calculations about how long it would take and how hard I would find it, I didn’t actually expect to enjoy it. I never considered what it might be beyond that. And my goodness- I couldn’t have been more shocked. Because I loved it. Yes- I realise it’s no ground-breaking statement to say I loved a major classic that so many people have loved before me. But in a way, it’s ground-breaking for me and my silly brain that was so distracted by the humongous size of the thing, that I never thought to consider what was inside (boy does that sound like a weird innuendo!)

Anyhoo- in true bizarro fashion, I’ve as yet failed to review this book- somehow going on a random tangent- which is admittedly appropriate when talking about a book that, in true epic fashion, is 90% tangent 10% plot. Yet- don’t let that put you off! I know, I know this is rich coming from me (who just wrote a whole post about the boring bits in Classics) but in this instance, I can say *categorically* that I wasn’t bored for even a second! Yes- a friend of mine did warn me about the “dull” historical parts- but personally, I found this fascinating instead of dry. Rather remarkably, I found this loose history of the Napoleonic wars, both informative and educational. I found that, as Tolstoy discussed historical theory at length, my mind actually switched on instead of turning off. I am therefore delighted to say that this book wasn’t even remotely dry- but was in fact invigorating and one of the most intellectually stimulating books I have ever read. It is in part a philosophical indictment of individualistic history and in part a criticism of individuals in history. My only complaint is that it made my brain feel a little fried from all the concentrating and thinking it had to do- which is not a bad thing!

In terms of plot and character, the world Tolstoy created with his intricate, beautifully constructed imagery (which thankfully survived the test of translation) that everything in it was so vivid and impossibly realistic. I mean it was so real, that Tolstoy himself rocked up within his own pages to validate the reality of his world (no word of a lie!) I know us bookworms like to say this a lot- but while I was wrapped up in this book, everything in it felt more real to me than my own life! I fell so quickly into a world that was totally alien to me; I forgot straight away that this was a world long forgotten. Because the remarkable thing about a book like this is that it stands the test of time. Impossibly, Tolstoy still speaks to the modern reader just as much as his contemporaries.

Beyond the characterisation and the surprising relatability of their relationships, it is the themes of War and Peace that make this book a timeless masterpiece. Because even with its historicity and context, it is still one of the most human and relevant and universal books I have ever read. The depictions of war and the garish contrast with so-called peaceful societies is a wakeup call of human cruelty. In fact, the ability to ignore the reality beyond the drawing rooms and dances of imperialist Russia highlights, more than anything, the ghastliness of warfare.

Which leaves me with this…

 

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Have you read it? And if you have- did you spot the Tolstoy cameo? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!