Monday, 29 December 2014

Book Reviews feat. T. S. Eliot

Did you all have a good festive period? Mine consisted of two Christmas dinners, winning 5 consecutive quizzes (much to my family's annoyance) and a horrendously embarrassing family game of Cards Against Humanity in which Luke's Gramps played cards about sad handjobs, anal sex and necrophilia. Despite the deep emotional trauma that I experienced as a result of the latter, I am hailing it a massive success! It's all over for another year and I'm already thinking about my goals for 2015. 

We have reached the end of a seriously successful reading year for me. I managed to reach my goal of reading 52 books in 2014. Quantity isn't everything, and it isn't necessarily healthy to focus on numbers, but by challenging myself to read a certain amount of books I encouraged myself to use my time more wisely and opened myself up to lots of new reading experiences. Anyway, more on that another day! I'm here to share my mini book reviews for November and December. As ever, feel free to discuss my reads in the comments below and let me know what books you've been reading lately. I'd love it if you could leave some recommendations below too because I've got some gift cards burning holes in my pockets!



vivatramp lifestyle book blogger uk

45.POETRY ANTHOLOGY - W. B. YEATS (1962)
FINISHED: 27/11/14 | ISBN: 0571247342 PAGES: 132

Yeats' works are particularly interesting to me because his writing style, and overall approach to poetry, transformed throughout his lengthy career: from his quest for an Irish identity and his tales of fairies and folklore, to his more Modernist pieces on time and the self. 

Yeats writes with a blinding honesty that I really warm to as a reader. He shares his anxieties, or at least his speakers do, and he muses on a variety of subjects - from war and politics, to love and lust and longing. This particular edition is a really well thought out collection spanning his entire career and let us not forget to mention how beautiful it is! It would make a really nice gift, that's for sure. 


Whilst I do enjoy Yeats' poetry, I found some of his poems to be quite jarring and a little more challenging. However, that could just be me, and I think I would've got a lot more out of the ones that I didn't enjoy if I had further knowledge of their context. Overall though, I really love how Yeats draws you in and engages with you, contradicting himself and asking a great deal from his reader. It means you can't really leave this collection without thinking of things beyond your everyday. Check his poems out online! 

RATING: ★ 1/2


vivatramp amy poehler book review

46. YES PLEASE BY AMY POEHLER (2014)
FINISHED: 03/12/14 | ISBN: 0062268341 PAGES: 329
Yes Please offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice. It's a book full of words to live by. 

I only knew Poehler through Parks and Recreation but I'd heard good things about Yes Please, particularly the audiobook, so I thought I'd give it a go - especially as I didn't really have the time to read any of the physical books on my TBR. 


Whilst at times I wasn't sure of her motives, Poehler was very honest about times where she has fucked up - admitting her faults and attempting to address them. She tells us about the time she unknowingly took part in an SNL sketch that mocked a woman with a disability. I think this anecdote made me come away from the book looking at her and comedy, in general, in a different light. It left a bad taste in my mouth and I would be lying if I said it didn't change my opinion of her. Memoirs can be strange things to read because they're so personal and, more often than not, you pick them up with a degree of expectation. Amy and I are two very different people with two very different lives. There were some things I agreed on, others I didn't. Despite our differences, I didn't find this memoir too difficult to read. Whilst it doesn't follow a linear narrative, the anecdotes were easy to follow and varied and her writing style was engaging. I particularly liked the Parks and Rec and Moon Hunting chapters. 


If you're a fan of Poehler and / or her characters, you will probably really enjoy this book. If you are a fan, I would recommend listening to the audiobook as she has a few guest stars and the last chapter is performed in front of a live audience. 

RATING:
vivatramp book review uk lifestyle book blo
FINISHED: 05/12/14 | ISBN: 0679723056 PAGES: 164
In his second collection, Carver's characters are peripheral people -- people without education, insight or prospects, people too unimaginative to even give up. Carver celebrates these men and women. 

Stories leave me all the time, characters fall by the wayside and plot details blur, but Carver's settle down in my brain and refuse to leave. They are so vivid, honest and beautifully crafted.


Carver's craft is like no other. His stories work on a sentence level: nothing is there that doesn't need to be and each word has been meticulously debated. Look at his opening sentences and you'll probably be able to see what I mean. As a creative writer, and one who has just completed a Short Story module, he has taught me a great deal. 


One of the things that I like most about Carver as a writer is the space that he gives his readers. He writes obliquely, offering up slivers of emotional truth before letting you piece it all together, and a lot of the time it's more about what isn't included in his stories than what is. It takes a great talent to be able to pull that off, in my opinion. So many writers write emotively and capture the big performance of intense emotion but Carver captures the subtleties too - the horror and the hurt that are only usually shared in the slightest of expressions. His stories are stark and intimate, yet some of the most illuminating that I have ever read. As Kermode said, '...one realises how completely a whole culture and a whole moral condition is represented by even the most seemingly slight sketch'I always leave feeling slightly winded, with a desperate need to talk to someone about what I have just read. Even if the stories don't resonate with you initially, you'll muse on them and figure out what they were trying to tell you and then some. 


A truly great writer. If you like short stories but you've yet to read Carver, you're making some poor life choices.  If you like your stories clear cut, don't read Carver but I'm telling you: you're missing out.  Pick this collection up if you fancy it! My favourites are: 'Why Don't You Dance?', 'I Could See The Smallest Things', 'The Bath' and the titular story 'What We Talk About When We Talk About Love'. 


RATING: 



book reviews the resurrectionist e b hudspeth

48. THE RESURRECTIONIST: THE LOST WORK OF DR SPENCER BLACK BY E. B. HUDSPETH* (2013)

FINISHED: 22/12/14 | ISBN: 1594746168 | PAGES: 208
The Resurrectionist offers two extraordinary books in one. The first is a fictional biography of Dr. Stephen Black, from a childhood spent exhuming corpses through his medical training, his travels with carnivals, and the mysterious disappearance at the end of his life. The second is Black's magnum opus...a Gray's Anathomy for mythological beasts...You need only look at these images to realise they are the work of a madman. 

When Quirk Books sent me an email asking if I would like to review this book, I jumped at the chance because the concept sounded right up my street. 


Unfortunately, this book really failed to deliver. Whilst the idea was fascinating and the illustrations were beautiful, the whole thing was let down by a severely lacking narrative. I didn't care about the characters because I didn't know enough about them or their situation to care. I wanted it to be a lot bigger than it was. It could have been so much better, and so much more expansive!!! Stick to Frankenstein, if I were you. 


I can't say I'd recommend this book but, if you're a fan of the macabre, I would keep an eye out for the author's future work as this was only his debut! I'd be interested to see what he comes up with next. 


*Book sent for consideration.


rating:  



joan didion the year of magical thinking book review lifestyle book blog

49. the year of magical thinking by joan didion (2005)

FINISHED: 24/12/14 | ISBN: 1400078431 | PAGES: 227
Joan Didion explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage -- and a life, in good times and bad -- that will speak to anyone who has ever loved (or lost). 

This was a beautifully raw and honest account of grief and loss and what it means to live beyond those things. 


I had previously come across Didion's writing in a class for university so when I saw this book for 99p in my local charity shop I thought I would give it a go. It's one of those books about death, like A Monster Calls, that you can read and take a great deal from emotionally. Whilst Didion writes following a traumatic time in her life, in which her daughter was really ill and her husband had passed, you'd do well to remember that this is not a 'how to' guide or some sort of self-help book. It's simply a memoir of the things that we hold on to and the things that we fear following death. 


Mourning is such a personal experience and I think sometimes when we experience it we feel like no one has ever felt the way that we have but I found Didion's take to be really illuminating and comforting as a result. I'm glad I read it. 


I would recommend this book to anyone that thinks they could benefit from it. 


RATING: 



vivatramp the tiny book of tiny stories lifestyle book reviews

50. THE TINY BOOK OF TINY STORIES BY JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT & CONTRIBUTORS (2011)

FINISHED: 25/12/14 | ISBN: 0062121669 | PAGES: 87
The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories brings together art and voices from around the world to unite and tell stories that defy size. 

As a big fan of contemporary and experimental fiction, I was really pleased when I unwrapped this volume. The artwork throughout was beautiful and the perfect accompaniment to the tiny stories. This book made me happy and made me want to write even more stories of my own, and share them with you all here. I'm going to pick up the other volumes at a later date and inject some artwork into my own tiny stories! 


RATING: 



vivatramp lifestyle book blog uk book reviews

51. ADVENTURE TIME VOL. 1 BY RYAN NORTH (2012)

FINISHED: 26/12/14 | ISBN: 1608862801 | PAGES: 128
The Lich, a super-lame, SUPER-SCARY skeleton dude, has returned to the land of Ooo, and he's bent on total destruction! Luckily, Finn and Jake are on the case...but can they succeed against their most destructive foe yet? 

Oh my glob, this is a must read for all my fellow Adventure Time fans! It was a thoroughly enjoyable read! The story was great, full of my favourite characters and it was funny and fast paced. Everything you would expect from an episode of the television show and then some. The art style was beautiful, and I loved the way they played around with space on the page too. This volume also comes complete with a selection of cover art and behind the scenes info so it'd make a really great gift. I was certainly happy to find it underneath my tree this year.


 I'm definitely going to be buying the next volume with one of my gift cards so watch this space! 


RATING: 



vivatramp uk lifestyle book blogger book reviews what i read

52. THE WALKING DEAD VOL. 1 BY ROBERT KIRKMAN (2006)

FINISHED: 27/12/14 | ISBN: 1582406723 | PAGES: 144
The world we knew is gone...An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe, causing the dead to rise and feed on the living. In a matter of months society has crumbled: no government, no grocery stores, no mail delivery, no cable TV. In a world ruled by the dead, the survivors are forced to finally start living. 

I have been meaning to get into this series for such a long time, as I'm a big fan of the television show, so I was pleasantly surprised when I unwrapped this on Christmas Day. 


I really liked the art style, as it's strictly grayscale, and I think it really added to the narrative. I also liked the basic premise, because I'm a huge post-apocalyptic fan. However, there were a few things about this volume that annoyed me slightly. I think the one thing that really irked me was the erratic pacing. Everything moved a little too quickly, meaning that the characterisation suffered, especially as it was meant to be an introductory volume. 


Secondly, the majority of the men got on my tits, spending most of their time criticizing the same women that were holding the camp together rather than actually doing anything productive or helpful. Having said all that, I'm looking forward to carrying on with this series as I imagine fast paced action will complement the later volumes a lot more and I'm hoping the female characters will be allowed more agency as time goes by. 


I would recommend the graphic novel series to everyone that has watched AMC's adaptation, because it is fascinating to see how they have adapted it for the screen.


RATING: 


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3 comments

  1. Oh gosh, I hope you recover from your cards against humanity related trauma very soon hehe! I also think I need some Carver in my life asap! xo

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  2. I need that Adventure Time book in my life! xx

    http://peanutbutterandmussels.com/

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  3. I love The Walking Dead comics, it can take a while to get into but it's worth it! Completely different from the show though..
    Imogen’s Typewriter. <3

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