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:
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.
Not for me, pals.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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".
I 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!
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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.