Thursday, 30 January 2014

Book Reviews feat. Kurt Vonnegut

Hello! Thanks for all your comments on part one of my January book reviews. It would seem you all have a lot to say about Peter Pan! Disclaimer: I apologise for the quality of these photographs. It was dark. It was late. I was achey and tired. I'm a terrible person, I know. 

I've so far managed to read a total of 11 books this month which I think is pretty good. I'm also part the way through my 12th book so hopefully I'll finish that before the month is out because even numbers are a lot nicer, right?! If you'd like to keep up with my reading, you can do so via my Goodreads, my 2014 reads page and my hashtags on Instagram: #beesreads and #bees52books.  Feel free to leave your thoughts below. Here's part two of my January book reviews:



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LOOKING FOR ALASKA BY JOHN GREEN (2005)

DATE FINISHED: 11/01/14 | ISBN: 0007523165 | PAGES: 272





Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" even more. Then he heads off to...Culver Creek Boarding School (where he meets) Alaska Young. She pulls Pudge into her world...Nothing is ever the same.

*fart noise*


Not for me, pals.

RATING: 1/5



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SLAUGHTERHOUSE 5 BY KURT VONNEGUT (1969)

DATE FINISHED: 13/01/14 | ISBN: 0099800209 | PAGES: 157

Prisoner of War, Optometrist, time-traveller - these are the life roles of Billy Pilgrim, hero of this latter-day Pilgrim's Progress, a miraculously moving, bitter and funny story of an innocence faced with apocalypse


I featured this in my 2014 TBR and I didn't waste any time in picking it up as soon as possible. This was my first dip into the works of Vonnegut and, admittedly, I had high expectations. I think those expectations were met. Slaughterhouse 5 isn't an easy book to review because it's just so...different. It's about war. It's about trauma. It's about time. It's about...aliens, of sorts! It's about all manner of things in a very short space of time and I think that's what makes it brilliant! 


At first, I thought the frequent shifts in time were going to be off putting, but I shouldn't have worried because Vonnegut's writing style was faultless throughout, and the time travel was executed perfectly. I highly commend Vonnegut for approaching the narrative in the way that he did. I really liked Billy Pilgrim as a character,  particularly as he was so unreliable, and it was interesting to watch him develop throughout his story, which was sad and vivid and bloody captivating in equal measure. Despite its heavy subject matter, there were times when I found this book extremely comforting. I found the Tralfamadorian concept of time, in particular, quite incredible and it's something that I think I will always refer back to. 


I can see some people being really confused by this book. I think it's definitely a case of love it or hate it, and I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of you read it and thought: 'What the hell, Bee?!'. If you're looking for a typical war novel, don't read Slaughterhouse 5. If you're looking for a refreshing take on the matter, read it. Slaughterhouse 5 was engaging, hugely enlightening and pretty frickin' impressive. It was a fascinating read, and one that I think I'll have to re-read to fully appreciate.


RATING: 5/5


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BLACK BEAUTY BY ANNA SEWELL (1877)

DATE FINISHED: 16/01/14 | ISBN: 0143106473 | PAGES: 224

Black Beauty tells the story of the horse's own long and varied life, from a well-born colt in a pleasant meadow, to an elegant carriage horse for a gentleman, to a painfully overworked cab horse. Throughout, Sewell rails against animal maltreatment...Its message is universal and timeless: animals will serve humans well if they are treated with consideration and kindness 


After Slaughterhouse 5 I wanted to pick up something a little lighter, so I opted for Black Beauty. I got this as a Christmas present from Luke's brother so it didn't make it into November's Penguin Threads post but isn't the cover beautiful?! 


I found this to be a really insightful book, particularly with regards to the welfare of horses at the turn of the century. It was quite a slow read at times, and I think it's probably one of those stories I would appreciate even more if I'd read it as a child and was re-visiting it as a nostalgic adult. Alas, I wasn't. 


That being said, I read this with relative ease and I couldn't help but warm to Black Beauty, and I found his determination to survive and his fighting spirit really infectious. Ginger was a pretty badass supporting character, but I think I would've liked to come across some other strong female leads too. Although, I guess that this is symptomatic of the time it was written in. My favourite thing about this book was how character driven it was. Sewell allows you to engage with a range of different characters, and allows the majority of them to share their own personal journey with you, and I really enjoyed that.


Overall, it was an infectiously empowering read for a quiet day. I would recommend this book to those who like to read children's classics, and those who are interested in animal welfare. The chapters are ridiculously small so it's also a good read for those who don't have a lot of time to spare! 


rating: 3/5



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TEN THINGS I'VE LEARNT ABOUT LOVE BY SARAH BUTLER* (2013)

DATE FINISHED: 19/01/14 | ISBN:9781447222507 |  PAGES: 277
I was sent this book to review but my review is entirely honest. 

Alice has just returned to London from months of travelling abroad. She is late to hear the news that her father is dying, and arrives at the family home only just in time to say goodbye. Daniel hasn't had a roof over his head for years, but to him the city of London feels like home...He spends every day searching for his daughter; the daughter her has never met. Until now...


Ten Things I've Learnt About Love is about many things: from identity to love, from home to family. However, I think it's the way in which the characters explore their personal identity in relation to people and place that this novel really comes into its own. Butler runs a consultancy which develops literature that questions our relationship to place, and this is hugely apparent in the novel,. As her characters begin to feel more comfortable within themselves, they become to feel a lot more comfortable with their surroundings. 


Alice and Daniel take it in turns to share their story, with each new chapter beginning with a list (!!!). I really enjoyed both sides of the story, and felt the Butler was entirely respectful of the delicate nature of the overarching story. Daniel's synesthesia was also absolutely fascinating to read about, and Butler's poetic prose was considerate and beautifully fragile. 


This is Butler's debut novel and it's a highly impressive one at that. Quiet, compassionate and really quite beautiful. There's a lot to take away from this novel, and I feel like I've undoubtedly taken many things from it both creatively and personally. My only qualm with this book is the cover art. If I saw this in a bookstore I would instantly think it was your average bit of chick lit and whilst chick lit is totally fine, I think, in the context of this novel, the cover design is misleading.


'A unique story of love lost and found, of rootlessness and homecoming and the power of ties that bind', indeed. 


RATING: 4/5



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the rosie project by graeme simsion (2013)
date finished: 22/01/14 | isbn: 9781405915335 | pages: 329

Love isn't exact science - but no one told Don Tillman. A handsome thirty-nine year old geneticist, Don's never had a second date. So he devises The Wife Project, a scientific test to find the perfect partner. Enter Rosie - 'the world's most incompatible woman' - throwing Don's sage, ordered life into chaos. Just what is this unsettling, alien emotion he's feeling?


I picked The Rosie Project up after it was recommended to me by a couple of people and after seeing it on sale for a few pounds at my local supermarket, I thought I'd give it a go. Thankfully, I wasn't disappointed. 


The Rosie Project is one of those reads that you can consume very quickly, because it's easy to read yet hugely endearing. The characters, for me, made this book. They were engaging, and relateable, and you genuinely wished them all well.  Don Tillman was the most perfect protagonist and I thought the development of his character was absolutely superb, as well as being honest and respectful. 


I think, upon reading the blurb, it'd be easy to dismiss this as some sort of schmaltzy romance but it's way more than that. It's funny, charming and undeniably hopeful, and the plot has spectacular pacing. I think this book is pretty much accessible to most readers, so I'd recommend it to all, in particular those currently experiencing a reading slump! 


I've given this book the highest rating. No, I don't think it'll get put on the canon or passed around in hundreds of years time but I really enjoyed reading about Don's escapades and couldn't really find any fault with it, so that's why it gets a big thumbs up from me. Read it before it inevitably gets turned into a film. It was originally a screenplay and it figures!  


RATING: 5/5 



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animal farm by george orwell (1945)

date finished: 23/01/14 | isbn: 0141182709 | pages: 120

Tired of their servitude to man, a group of farm animals revolt and establish their own society, only to be betrayed into worse servitude by their leaders, the pigs, whose slogan becomes: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others".


picked this up after spotting it for £2 in the Foyles sale and I have to say I'm glad I finally got round to buying it. It may be short but it certainly packs a socio-political punch!


I'm not going to pretend that I approached this book with a sound knowledge of Stalin and the Soviet Union, etc. I didn't. Fortunately, my particular edition had an excellent introduction that helped me contextualise and, in turn, fully appreciate the text post-read. However, I don't think you necessarily have to be well informed of the context to get something out of Animal Farm, as a lot of the concerns featured are still very relevant today!


This is a clever piece of political satire and, due to its simplistic writing style, I believe it is a tale that is pretty accessible to all those that may be interested in reading it. It's certainly one of those reads that will leave you with a lot to think about! I even dreamt about it, for god's sake! 


rating: 4/5


If you'd like to scroll through all of my book blog posts then you can. Or, alternatively, you could just flick through my book reviews instead.


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The vast majority of my book collection has been bought with my own money. Sorry, bank balance! However, sometimes I'm sent books to review. These books are marked with *. Handy, eh?! This page also contains affiliate links. If you buy the books through the links I've so lovingly provided, I'll earn a tiny commission to put towards books in the future. If you've used my link to buy books, thank you! You're a good egg.

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12 comments

  1. I loved Slaughterhouse 5 when I first read it too but you are so right, it is very difficult to write a short review. I picked up The Rosie Project last week and was a bit meh about wether I would actually enjoy it (it was the second one in a buy two for deal) but it sounds like a perfect Sunday from your review so maybe I will pick it up this weekend :) xx

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  2. 11 books is an awesome start for this year! I also read Looking For Alaska and I 100% agree with you. I didn't like any of the characters and felt that it was hard to get into because of that.

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  3. Love this series of yours. I'm going to try Looking for Alaska. I loved John Green's other books! Have you read Gone Girl before?

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  4. Slaughterhouse 5 is on my to-read list. I loved Animal Farm, it was my favourite book in high school.
    Andreea | http://catsfika.blogspot.ro/

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  5. Oh, I've been wanting to read The Rosie Project for an age, will have to pick that one up.
    And Black Beauty - ahh, reminds me of staying at my Nana's when I was little and being read it as a bedtime story.

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  6. 11/12 books is a great reading total for any given month, but particularly the first month of the year when we've just getting back in to the swing of things.
    Ten Things I Learnt About Love may well just make it on to my wishlist. I love it when we read a debut that kind of takes our breath away. I'm currently reading The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer and it's doing the same thing - amazing. Thanks for sharing. I'm already looking forward to next months edition!
    :-)
    Bits & Bobs

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  7. I think the only one of these I've read is Animal Farm and I remember enjoying it but being incredibly creeped out and uncomfortable at the same time - which I'm pretty sure is the intended effect!

    11 books is amazing for the month. I've only just managed four which is way down on my usual. Hopefully things will pick up on the reading front for me in February.

    Sorcha x Bright Field Notes

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  8. Woah, good going with 11 books! I read TFIOS recently this year and really enjoyed it and I thought I'd get a few of John's other books too including Looking for Alaska. I've taken your review into mind but still excited to see what becomes of it! Looking forward to more of your reviews Bee!

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  9. 11 books! That's an amazing start!! Have been trying to work out what to read next and after reading this post decided on The Rosie Project, only to find I've already downloaded it! Score!

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  10. I've been wanting to read The Rosie Project, and your post has made me want to even more now! x

    http://hepburnspixiecrop.blogspot.co.uk

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  11. definitely going to look at reading The Rosie Project!

    http://letsgetwonderfullylost.blogspot.co.uk/

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  12. Loving your reviews-- and I love that cover of The Rosie Project! I'm about halfway through it, but I'm interested to see how it develops and all plays out!

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