May’s Reading List

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Really getting into this reading thing.

I’ve actually had to hold myself back from starting the next book on my list as I find myself disabled from doing anything else once I’ve started reading a new book.  I just can’t bring myself to do anything else with my time until I’ve finished whatever I’m reading.  It’s very bad for productivity!

The latest two books I’ve read read are ‘White Teeth’ by Zadie Smith and ‘A Million Little Pieces’ by James Frey.

1) ‘White Teeth’ by Zadie Smith

In my last book review post I talked about Zadie Smith’s latest novel ‘NW’ and said that it wasn’t really my cup of tea.  A friend persuaded me that her previous work was quite different and lent me her debut novel ‘White Teeth’.  Having not really enjoyed ‘NW’ I did put this book on the back burner for a while, especially as it’s a particularly thick one.  Hearing Zadie Smith name dropped by Lena Dunham in her TV show ‘Girls’ persuaded me that if Lena liked her I should definitely give her another go.  So I got stuck in.

Would I now read another Zadie Smith book? Definitely.  This book totally changed my opinion, I can’t believe this was her debut!  The book follows the lives of two intertwined families from different cultures living in North London.  It begins in 1975 when we see Archie attempt to take his own life.  When he is foiled by a halal butcher who is irritated that he is blocking up his business’ delivery area Archie realises he didn’t actually want to die and sets off on his journey to improve and enjoy his life.

The book follows the intertwined lives of Archie’s family and his best friend Samad’s family. It’s written beautifully and explores themes of cultural identity and faith with an equal mix of humour and poignance.  If you like books with vibrant and thought-provoking characters then ‘White Teeth’ will blow your mind.

2) ‘A Million Little Pieces’ by James Frey

‘A Million Little Pieces’ is excruciatingly painful to read in places… in a good way… I think?!  The ‘story’ starts with the main character, James, waking up on board an aeroplane with his front 4 teeth missing, covered in blood, urine and sick, with no recollection of how he got there.

I say ‘story’ as although the book was published as a memoir there was some outrage when The Smoking Gun uncovered the ‘truth’ behind the book and published an article titled ‘A Million Little Lies: Exposing Frey’s Fiction Addiction‘ which accuses Frey of embellishing details and wholly fabricating parts of the book.  I read into it a little and it’s still unclear to me exactly how much of the book is true and how much is fictional, I think Frey was a little vague!

Whether fact or fiction A Million Little Pieces is an exciting, emotional, and uncomfortable read.  The book begins with Frey coming home in pieces after a drug and alcohol fuelled binge.  Aware that his life has spiralled shockingly out of control and that his body is close to giving up Frey allows his parents to check him into rehab.

The book follows Frey’s difficult and painful journey through rehab.  The language the book is written in is easy to read, and yet the subject matter is far from easy – it’s downright torturous at times!  There were times when I had to pause from reading as I was gritting my teeth and wincing too much.  Whether fact or fiction A Million Little Pieces is one hell of a roller coaster ride and not one for the squeamish or fainthearted.

January’s Reading List

Well… I’ve actually kept up one of my new year’s resolutions until the end of January! (And long may it continue!) I decided that in 2014 I wanted to read much more than I have been over recent years, and so far I’ve already made it through four books, so I’m dead impressed with myself.

As a kid I was a bit of an obsessive reader (the days before I got the Sega Megadrive!) I’d even get excited when it was the school summer holidays because our local library allowed you take out 10 books instead of 5 (I was easily pleased as a child!)  I remember one particularly hot summer spending almost the entire six weeks off school sat in the paddling pool in the back garden keeping cool with a stack of books.

During the peaceful hours spent reading you get to be someone else, living an entirely different life and forget all the trivial annoyances, stresses and sorrows of the real world.  Reading is definitely my therapy of choice.

Once I reached the age of 17 or 18 I more or less completely gave up reading for the next 10 years.  I suppose I got a life and decided to live in the real world for a while.  Now I’ve reached the grand old age of 27 (nearly 28) and I’ve become dead boring again! So here I am rediscovering my love of fiction.

This was my January reading list:

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1) Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

After reading Gone Girl whilst on holiday in Corfu last year I was pretty excited to get my hands on the previous two novels that Flynn had written.  Sharp Objects was her debut and I absolutely loved it. It’s about a young journalist called Camille who works for a small town newspaper in America.  Her boss sends her packing back to her hometown to try to get a scoop about the recent spate of child murders.  Being forced to stay with her estranged mother and family forces Camille to painfully unravel the secrets from her own past as she struggles to solve the mystery of the murders.  The book is, in my opinion, much darker and more chilling in the way that it is written than her other two novels.  The characters are intense; and characters that I care about is an absolute must for me.  This is the shortest of Flynn’s books, but probably my favourite of the three.

2) Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

To complete my Gillian Flynn binge I moved onto Dark Places.  This book has already been swept up for a film adaptation which is due for release in September or October of this year (around the same time as Gone Girl I think).  It took me a little longer to get into this one, the main character Libby Day has a rather (intentionally) flat character.  Libby was just a child when her entire family were murdered and she gave evidence which condemned her own brother to prison.  Now aged about 30 and with her donations from well-wishers and sympathizers drying up, Libby is forced to confront what really happened all those years ago.  I loved this book, but I did find myself hurrying through the ‘present day’ chapters to the chapters detailing what happened in the past.

3) Divergent by Veronica Roth

I picked up Divergent after it was recommended to me by a friend and after hearing it being described as ‘the next Hunger Games’.  It’s important to keep in mind that this is a kids’ book, so after my recent Gillian Flynn binge it took me a while to get back into the swing of reading children’s fiction.  Veronica Roth is/was very young when she wrote the first Divergent book (her first novel), and I did feel a little put off by the simplicity of the book when I first started.  I’m by no means a literacy snob, I struggle to enjoy a lot of the ‘classics’ and only read what I enjoy (fairly easy reads), but I still felt a little like this book was a bit overly simplistic like “Let’s do this” she said. “Ok” he said.  The plot and characters were fairly interesting though and although I’ve not raced to buy the second book in the trilogy yet I’m sure I will eventually do so.

4) N-W by Zadie Smith

This book wasn’t really my cup of tea.  I’ve not read anything by Zadie Smith before, but since reading this book I’ve heard that this one is a bit different to the rest of her stuff, so I’m not going to write her off yet. The book is divided into a few different sections, and each section is about a different character.  The character’s stories  intertwine throughout the book.  The whole book is based in London and describes the different cultures and lifestyles led by the city’s inhabitants.  Throughout the book, particularly at the beginning there are descriptive sections that are written in broken sentences that I found that I really had to concentrate on to understand.  Call me a lazy reader but I don’t like books that are hard work, I read for enjoyment and to get lost in a story – if it’s too much like hard work I tend to stop.  This book  can’t have been sooooo bad as I did make it (somewhat reluctantly) to the end but it didn’t really capture my imagination or interest, I wasn’t very excited to keep picking it up.