Thursday, 26 June 2014

Book Reviews feat. Gillian Flynn

bees mini book reviews lifestyle book blog uk vivatramp

Sup planet dwellers! I'm having a little bit of a strop right now because I planned, wrote and formatted this entire post and then it suddenly disappeared completely. Pesky technology! I've subsequently had to re-write this entire post for your eyes.  In future, I might just send my book reviews via carrier pigeon to all of your homes. That'd be fun, right?! I read a nice little selection of books this month, some surprisingly good and some surprisingly disappointing. I feel like I've been a bit controversial this month which is rather liberating, indeed! You know the drill, leave some book recommendations in the comments and let me know what you thought of the following books!



date finished: 05/o6/14 | isbn: 1472200322 | Pages: 248
A middle aged-man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. He is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a remarkable girl, Lettie. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades yet he sits by the pond..(and) the unremembered past comes back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone... 

It saddens me to say it but I really didn't enjoy this book as much as I wanted to...

I picked this up from the airport because there was a buy one, get one half price offer on and I do like a bit of Gaiman. This book was undeniably Gaiman-esque, full of characters in fantastical situations. However, I just didn't find it as immersive as Neverwhere or Coraline and, if I'm honest, I felt quite disappointed by it. I found the characters really difficult to relate and latch onto and, despite enjoying the second half a lot more, it felt like a tapestry of images in places rather than a sound piece of work. There was, however, some really nice true-to-form food descriptions that I thoroughly enjoyed. Thanks, Neil!


Take my review with a pinch of salt because a lot of my friends and peers have read it and really enjoyed it, with some even hailing it their favourite of Gaiman's works. It was a quick pool read but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. Read it if you're a Gaiman fan, because you'll probably enjoy it. I'd also recommend it to those of you that read a lot of fantasy books as children because, again, you'll probably enjoy it. However, if you're a Gaiman n00b, I'd advise you start elsewhere!


rating: 3/5

DATE FINISHED: 07/O6/14 | ISBN: 0857868764 | PAGES: 304
When an extraterrestrial visitor arrives on Earth, his first impressions of the human species are less than positive. Taking the form of a Professor, a leading mathematician...the visitor wants to complete his task and go back to the planet he comes from - a utopian society of infinite knowledge...He is disgusted...but as time goes on, he starts to realise there may be more to this weird species...in picking up the pieces of the professor's life, the narrator...begins to question the very mission that brought him there...

The Humans had been on my 'to read' list for a long while, ever since Matt followed me on Twitter, and I'm very glad to say I finally got round to reading it this month. Unsurprisingly, I wasn't disappointed. 

It was comforting and heartwarming and funny yet also the sort of read that left you with a lump in your throat on more than one occasion. I sailed through it in one read thanks to the engaging writing style and the way in which Haig approached human nature from an angle that wasn't too twee nor too brooding. It was actually quite honest and restorative in its approach, I felt like it restored my faith in myself as a human being and I think that's the sign of a good book. I actually have a note in my book review notebook that simply says 'I'm not doing too badly'. That has got to be a good reaction, right?!  

Pick this up if you fancy a semi-light thought provoking read. It's easily digestable for people with little time to read so I'd say it's pretty much accessible for everyone. It's definitely worth your time. 

RATING:4/5

DATE FINISHED: 09/O6/14 | ISBN: 0753827666 | PAGES: 466
Who are you? What have we done to each other? These are questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy's friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn't true. So what did happen to Nick's beautiful wife? 

As you know by now, I've been reading Flynn's works in chronological order over the past few months and I have a huge soft spot for them. Thankfully, Gone Girl was no exception and it was everything I could have hoped for. 

Everyone went bat shit for Gone Girl when it was first published so I approached it with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Thankfully, I didn't have anything to worry about because it was an incredibly clever tale, an absolute delight to read, and I devoured it in one sitting. There's no denying that it felt a little more commercial  than Gillian's earlier books but I wouldn't necessarily say that it was a bad thing. It was still as gripping and intense as her first books, even if it wasn't quite as violent and dark. A few people have expressed their annoyance with regard to the ending but, without giving anything away, I thought it was quite haunting and understated. 

If you're looking to ease yourself into the genre, this is an excellent place to start. I don't think it's my favourite of hers, that title still goes to Dark Places, but it was still really great. Gillian is an incredibly clever writer who meticulously weaves fucked up characters into fucked up situations in a way that will forever blow my mind. Perfect summer reading.

rating: 4.5/5

DATE FINISHED: 10/O6/14 | ISBN: 0140265007 | PAGES: 281
On The Road swings to the rhythms of 1950s underground America, jazz, sex, generosity, chill dawns and drugs, with Sal Paradise and his hero Dean Moriarty, traveller and mystic, the living epitome of Beat. 

The white male hipster manual of choice, On The Road has divided readers for years and I think it will continue to do so for a long while yet. Viva readers with a good memory will remember that I featured this in a charity shop book haul last summer so I was pretty excited to get round to it. I've posted about this book on instagram a couple of times now and it always seems to inspire controversy, you either love it or you hate it so, naturally, I felt a mix of emotions towards it.  

Beat writing is undeniably a little dry in parts and, more often than not, a little self-indulgent and this can make for quite an awkward reading experience. Kerouac's writing style is simplistic and spontaneous and he maintains the round-the-campfire tone throughout. This can be both a positive and a negative. The characters weren't all that likeable and, whilst that's the point, it makes it difficult to engage with and enjoy sometimes. Having said that, Kerouac is really talented when it comes to writing madness. It's peppered throughout On The Road yet it's so delicate and subtle that it doesn't feel sensationalised or trivial at all. There were parts of the prose that I thought were really quite beautiful and I did end up bookmarking a lot of pages, especially those that mentioned 'inky' nights. I came away from this book feeling like I'd gained something from it so I guess that's a huge positive. However, I just can't shake the slight feeling of disappointment at how dry some of the passages were.


Does On The Road live up to the hype? In my opinion, no. However, I think it hugely depends on its cultural significance to you as a reader and a human being. I don't think I'll be re-reading it anytime soon but I'm glad that I read it, nonetheless. I'd recommend it to people that like American literature or writers of the Beat generation. I've got some more Kerouac to read so watch this space!  

rating: 3/5

brave new world aldous huxley book review book lifestyle blog vivatramp uk
DATE FINISHED: 21/O6/14 | ISBN: 0060850523 | PAGES: 259
Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Researvations, where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress... 

Brave New World is a dystopian classic and, despite its slow start, it's one that I quite liked. Huxley's world building and general conceptual ideas are really quite incredible when you about how he wrote BNW in the 1930's! I feel like it's one of those texts that is even more poignant to the modern day reader than it was back then and I think that's what pretty much defines a classic for me. Despite being of the dystopian genre, this book was very human at heart and I really admired that about it. 

I'll be honest with you, it took me quite a while to get through this book because it was a tad dense at times. However, towards the end it really began to gain a bit of momentum and there were moments that were really haunting -  the passages on religion and sorrow, in particular. It was one of those books that gave you quite a bit to think about and I think that's an appealing quality to quite a lot of readers. 


It was quite different to what I expected but I still liked it and I'm really glad that I've read it. I think I'll re-read it some day so I can, hopefully, appreciate it a lot more and maybe even tap into the Huxley hype myself. Conceptually, I adore this book.  I found the way in which it looked at the pursuit of pleasure really really fascinating. However, I would've liked it a whole lot more if it was consistently engaging because there were times when it felt like a bit of a chore. Nevertheless, I would say it's a must read for anyone interested in the genre and it's definitely a good place to get into dystopian literature too. Just don't pick this book up if you want a light read. 


RATING: 4/5

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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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15 comments

  1. I am a big Neil Gaiman fan and yeah, I totally enjoyed The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I really need to read Flynn's works 'cause I only hear good things about them. It took me quite a while to get into Brave New World too. I had paragraphs that I devoured and paragraphs that I loathed! But I did love the book, and especially the world and the system that governs it.

    I just finished Orange Is the New Black (I didn't watch the show) and it was a really interesting book, but it's very hard to like the narrator and it's her memoir. She just sounds so arrogant, fortunately, she has a lot of interesting story to keep me reading.
    Andreea | http://catsfika.blogspot.ro/

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  2. I love On The Road, it's one of my favorite book and I've read it several times and every time I read it, it gets even better. But I agree it's easy to hate this book, I know a lot of people who really didn't like but just as much of these who loved it just like I did :)
    Miglė x | Meet Me On The Balcony

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  3. I find it interesting how polarizing the beats are. I adore Kerouac and On The Road is one of those books I always end up re-reading from time to time. On the other hand, I know people who totally don't get along with the stream-of-consciousness style and find it too rambley.

    I like a book that divides opinion though!

    Sorcha x Bright Field Notes

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  4. Great reviews! I loved Gone Girl too, as well as Flynn's other books - to be honest I don't know if I could pinpoint a favourite, but I definitely preferred the lead characters of Sharp Objects and Dark Places.

    I think when you've read a number of works by an author who has a very definitive style like Gaiman, you can start to recognise their formulas too much and it can feel samey, or not as special. I had a similar feeling with Haruki Murakami recently - I've just read too many of his books now, so I all-too-easily pick up on his style and it feels a little constructed.

    I just finished reading Tampa by Alissa Nutting - disturbing, but really well written and a short read, too. xx

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  5. I really didn't like On The Road either. I found it so boring and a struggle to read. I really want to read Gone Girl.
    Hayley
    Water Painted Dreams xo

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  6. I love your reviews, there are short but to the point and always very informative :). I have tried reading Gone Girl, but I was quickly annoyed by the style of it. However, I would like to discover other novels by Gillian Flynn to see if I can change my opinion on that author! Brave New World is on my TBR, but I'm a bit afraid to read it (very depressing, as you said). The Humans seems to be a really interesting and agreeable read...

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  7. Hmm... those are some interesting books to look into. I've read Brave New World, and I thought it was very good, I'm a big fan of both it and 1984. Shame that most of the people that I talk to it about do not grasp the deeper idea behind it all, and dismiss it due to the crude things it suggests.

    Celestralite.tumblr.com

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  8. I always love reading your book reviews!!

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  9. I very much that The Ocean At the End of The Lane is not the book to start with if you've never read any of Gaiman's novels. I'd say I loved it given that I have read the bulk of his stories (except his short story collections)! You're right that his food descriptions are amazing - the one about the porridge with cream and jam stirred into it is to die for! Interesting review of BNW (unlike you, I was gripped by the start and concept but not actually so intrigued by the plot...). I was a bit meh about trying Gone Girl out when everyone was denigrating the ending but you've convinced me to give it a go this summer!

    Tamsin xx | A Certain Adventure

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  10. I felt the same the first time I read On the road but when I went back to it years later, I enjoyed it more. I think it's something you can get different things from depending on what stage of life you're in. I really need to read Gone Girl. x

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  11. I loved Gone Girl - it has completely converted me to thrillers! Looking forward to the film in October even though I know all the plot twists. I always love your book reviews!

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  12. Brave New World and On the Road are two of my favorite books! I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to Kerouac, but I have a deep love for the Beat Generation in general. I can totally see how some of the passages come off as dry or boring, though. I'm definitely adding The Humans to my ever-growing to-read list!

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  13. Gone Girl is sitting there expectantly in my "to read" pile. I'm hoping to get around to it soon.

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  14. these look like really interesting reads, ive recently done a review on my blog >>>

    http://wiltedxfaded.blogspot.co.uk/

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  15. I loved The Ocean at the End of the Lane, particuarly because it did remind me of my reading experience as a child. I really enjoyed The Humans too! I haven't read the other books you mentioned yet, but they're all on my list to read :)

    Gemma

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