January: It’s a Wrap

Can you believe that we are already at the end of January? No, neither can I. I feel like 2017 is disappearing in front of my eyes. Not that I am wasting it. Well, not completely wasting it. It just seems to be disappearing very quickly. Before you know it the Christmas decorations will be back out (I say this like ours are completely away….). I welcomed the year with some pretty hefty resolutions (see here). I’m not going to lie, a lot aren’t going to great, but we have 11 more months to sort those ones out. But some are going well, mainly the reading ones!

This month, I have completed one readathon (bout of books) and attempted the 24in48 readathon (which was much less successful). The readathons, Emma, and my growing book shelf kicked me into shape a little this month, and I have actually ended up reading quite a few books. And not just a volume of books, different books, from different genres, time periods, and even consumed them in different formats, and it has been refreshing. January has reminded me just how much I love books.

So, to celebrate that, and also praise myself for reviewing each one on my goodreads, here is a round-up review of all the books I have read this month:

  • girlonthetrainGirl on the Train Paula Hawkins | 27 Dec 16 – 02 Jan 17 | Paperback | 5 stars

It took me a little while to get used the unreliable narrator, however, once I did, this book had me hooked. I has been a long time since I read a book that I literally couldn’t put down, well done Paula! The changing points of views, the unreliable nature of the all the narrators, and the simplicity yet complexity of the narrative is wonderfully real and incredibly readable.

I now see what the fuss is all about!

  • crookedkingdomCrooked Kingdom Leigh Bardugo | 27 Oct 16 – 06 Jan 17 | Paperback | 5 Stars

OK, so you have probably looked at the dates and thought, can you count this. I started again on January 2nd because I couldn’t remember the two chapters I read after completing Six of Crows.  Completely different and yet entirely similar to Six of Crows. The pacing was well timed to create tension and confusion, and once again, the climax of the book was expertly reached and flawlessly put together. I loved it, only a minuscule bit less than the first.

  • valleyoffearThe Valley of Fear Sir Arthur Conan Doyle | 05 Jan 17 – 11 Jan 17 | Audiobook | 5 Stars

I loved this, and as someone who loved Sherlock Holmes, that is a big statement. I like the other longer novels that Conan Doyle penned about Holmes, but for me it was always more about the short stories. Until now. The two parts of the novel feel entirely separate yet gel perfectly, and were brilliant to read.

  • badbeginningThe Bad Beginning (ASOUE #1) Lemony Snicket | 13 Jan 17 – 15 Jan 17 | Hardback | 4 Stars

Utterly miserable in the most brilliant and creative way. The descriptions and similes used to describe the deplorable acts of the orphans new guardians, and the inventive ways of displaying their immense intellect makes for a great children’s book that more than held up as a black comedy short novel when I re-read as an adult.

  • reptileroomThe Reptile Room (ASOUE #2) Lemony Snicket | 15 Jan 17 – 16 Jan 17 | Hardback | 4 Stars

The first time I read these novels was when the later in the series were first released, and this was my favourite back then, and I have a feeling still will be during my adult re-read.  I devoured this in a couple of hours at work, the similes describing the misfortune of these orphans become darker, especially as my older self experiences these seemingly small acts of horror and understands the moment he is capturing in his words more thoroughly.

Although the unfortunate events in this technically happen to the supporting character Uncle Monty, it is still an utterly, and gloriously, miserable tale, that more than lives up to its title, and rating.

  • widewindowThe Wide Window (ASOUE #3) Lemony Snicket | 16 Jan 17 – 17 Jan 17 | Hardback | 3 Stars

Another chapter in the horrifyingly unfortunate lives of the Baudelaire orphans that, if I am honest, lacks a little of the brilliance that I love in the first two books.

I don’t know if it is the underlying phobias and ridiculous fears rather than outwardly unfortunate events. I don’t know if it is the fearful, grammar obsessed guardian, who is not a guardian at all. I don’t know if it is that I liked Lemony Snickets humorous interjections the best out of the whole book.

It isn’t my least favourite in the series, but it’s far from my favourite

  • miserablemillThe Miserable Mill (ASOUE #4) Lemony Snicket | 17 Jan 17 – 19 Jan 17 | Hardback | 2 Stars

When I remember reading these as a child, I can remember thinking this was my least favourite of the series. I couldn’t remember why, but I could just remember I didn’t like it.Having read it again, I think I can see what it is.
Now, before I explain myself, bear in mind that I enjoy fantasy, and can imagine with the best of us, and get lost in worlds and creations that are weirder and wackier than my brain could ever conjure. That, and I like this series a lot. OK, got that?

I just don’t buy into the story in this book. I don’t buy the lumber mill, I don’t buy the hypnosis, I don’t buy Sonny being allowed in there. If you can’t suspend disbelief for such major points in the book, then you’re never going to enjoy it. If it wasn’t about the Baudelaire’s, and wasn’t a link in the chain of A Series of Unfortunate events that I enjoy as a whole so much, then this would be a 1-star review.

  • rebeccaRebecca Daphne Du Maurier | 06 Jan 17 – 20 Jan 17 | Paperback | 4 Stars

Rebecca is undoubtedly a modern classic, and I can certainly see why. I have been gearing myself up to read this for quite a while. I had high expectations, and in the most part, the book delivered.

I enjoyed the beginning, the harking back to the time at Manderley and the time spent in MOnte Carlo, where Mr. and Mrs. de Winter met and became engaged. Once the book returned to Manderley, I felt like it abruptly slowed in pace, and it was the middle section that pulled this from being a higher rating.

I liked the slightly (understatement) creepiness of Mrs. Danvers, and I enjoyed reading about the workings of Manderley, but I quickly became tired of the ”Rebecca did this…Rebecca thought that…Why don’t you do it like Rebecca?…Mrs. de Winter is a spineless young girl” angle that the middle of the book pushed so heavily. I understand that given the later revelations, these points were necessary, but I think the book could have been a good 50 pages shorter without losing the message carried. I enjoyed the last third of the book immensely, when the mysteries that are apparent throughout the novel are revealed.

Reading parts felt like it dragged more whilst I was reading it than it probably did when I look back. If it has been a little shorter, or the middle had slightly more content, then this book would have been a 5-star read for me. The middle section felt long to read through, and while I look back and think of how much I enjoyed the book as a whole, it is only upon completion that I can do this.

Despite my reservations, and my small issues, it is a must-read and an enjoyable book; I look forward to reading more Du Maurier in the future.

  • thecounsellorThe Counsellor Cormac McCarthy | 20 Jan 17 – 21 Jan 17 | Screenplay Paperback | 4 Stars

I’ve never read anything by Cormac McCarthy. Even though I’ve heard great things about his writing, and even own 3 of his works, I’ve never picked any of them up until I wanted to take something short with me to work.

I went in with no expectations for this screenplay, hell, I didn’t even know it was a screenplay until I opened it. It took a few pages to get used the the style, the lack of punctuation and flow more so than the screenplay style. Once I did, I enjoyed it immensely and finished it within a couple of hours. The sharp short speech interspersed with plain and detailed descriptions of different scenes compliment the fairly brutal tone of the story.

I can’t wait to read more by him!

  • sincityvol1Sin City Vol #1: The Hard Goodbye Frank Miller | 21 Jan 17 | Graphic Novel Paperback | 5 Stars

I have put off reading this for over a year because I only own the first 3 volumes, and I can’t yet justify buying the rest. But I need to, I really need to, because Sin City is brilliant.

The artwork is minimalist and colourless, the simple black and white negative detailing providing more than enough depth and narrative to support the conversation and story filler. The story itself is wonderfully dark, spectacularly violent, menacing, and quick paced. I flew through this graphic novel so quickly that, as I feared, I am eager to pick the next one up straight away.

If you’ve never read a Graphic Novel, it is a soft start that is easy to follow and will hook you in. If your an avid graphic novel reader or a fan of Miller’s work, it is more than a must!

  • austereacademyThe Austere Academy (ASOUE #5) Lemony Snicket | 19 Jan 17 – 21 Jan 17 | Hardback | 3 Stars

I have no opinion on this book. I couldn’t remember it at all from the first time I read it, and the second time left little impression. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. It was fairly unbelievable, as they all are, but this was negated by the introduction of the Quagmire Triplets, who I like going forward, so…yes…it is what it is. An average book in the series, one I will probably forget in the future…again…and a little bit of a means to an end.

  • ersatzelevatorThe Ersatz Elevator (ASOUE #6) Lemony Snicket | 21 Jan 17 – 23 Jan 17 | Hardback | 4 Stars

This is pretty much the only one of A Series of Unfortunate Event book that comes after the first three that I could a) remember, and b) remember enjoying.

I am not sure what exactly it is about this book that makes me, well, laugh. Whether it is the ridiculous list of things that can be in or out (and the extraordinary lengths taken to ruin your life in pursuit of this perfect ‘in’lifestyle.) I don’t know if it is the clever names (Squalor for a couple who live in an immaculate palatial penthouse, or Café Salmonella for a celebrated restaurant.) Whether it is the idea that everyone in the book wears pin stripe suits.

I don’t know what it is about this, but it just sits at a higher level than many of the others. It’s clever, it works as a premise despite who ridiculous it is, and it is enjoyable. The lighter moments make for a present break from the heavy drab lives of the Baudelaires!

  • noughtsandcrossesNoughts and Crosses (Book #1) Malorie Blackman | 13 Jan 17 – 24 Jan 17 | Audiobook | 5 Stars

OK, so I have given this a 5 star rating. I thought long and hard about it, because truthfully, I think that is a little high, but a 4 star rating is just too low.

I really liked the premise of this story. Malorie Blackman has taken a basic premise and executed it really well. It is has an alternate universe/history/dystopian world that the story operates in, really before the dystopian boom was even thought about. It really was the forerunner to the now incredibly popular ‘YA’ genre.  And it is this little bit that drags it from that perfect book. I can feel it’s not meant for my age group, and I know that if I had read the book on paper, I wouldn’t have liked it nearly as much.

This is because the magic and life of this story, for me, was in Syan Blake and Paul Chequer’s narration. I have listened to books and enjoyed them before, the narration adding to the story, but this was more than that. The narrators brought Sephy and Callum to life, they added context and emotion appropriate for the story, and added something to the plights of the characters that made me both understand and feel their stories in a way I never would have had I just read it.

And so my lesson from this is sometimes a good book can become great in the hands, or voices, of the correct people!

  • sincityvol2Sin City Vol #2: A Dame to Kill For Frank Miller | 23 Jan 17 – 26 Jan 17 | Graphic Novel Paperback | 4 Stars

If you like Sin City and the concept of these graphic novels, then you are naturally going to love this, but just like the films that were inspired by these Miller pieces, the second isn’t as good as the first.

I still love the idea of the gun-toting, self-defending prostitutes of old town, and I still love the art and story, but I think it’s as simple as I don’t love Dwight. As a lead character, I find him a little weak. Ava, the dame in the story, is an interesting character. I like her, a lot, despite her flaws and her intentions. But I loved Marv from The Hard Goodbye more, and I don’t like his near complete absence from this graphic novel.

All of this said, it’s still awesome, and I still will desperately move into the next one

  • vilevillageThe Vile Village (ASOUE #7) Lemony Snicket | 23 Jan 17 – 26 Jan 17 | Hardback | 3 Stars

I have read this series before, and knowing this is the only way that I have convinced myself that I am, in fact, read this before.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked it. I liked the couplet riddle, I liked the obsessive if contradictory rules, I like Count Olaf’s disguise, I like Hector’s invention. The book itself, however, is forgettable.

I already feel like I am losing the intricacies of the finer details within the story arc, and I feel like, as a book, it is a bit of a place holder. An enjoyable place-holder, but a place-holder none the less.

  • hostilehospitlThe Hostile Hospital (ASOUE #8) Lemony Snicket | 26 Jan 17 – 31 Jan 17 | Hardback | 3 Stars

Much like no. 7 in the series (The Vile Village), I found this book extremely forgettable the first time round. And while I found the plot more engaging, and fuller this time round, I still have the strong sense that over the coming weeks and months, I will forget this book in the same way I did the first time round.

I am a little disappointed that I am finding, once again, that the further I progress with the series, the less entertaining and memorable the books seem to become. For someone who loves the misery and bizarre circumstances that befall the Baudelaires, it feels odd to struggle to progress through such a small children’s novel.

That said, the inclusion of Esmé Squalor as a villain accomplice and girlfriend to the evil Count Olaf is welcomed, both to add an extra element to the story, but also to add a layer to Count Olaf, who was starting to become somewhat stale and predictable.

Books read: 16 | Ave. Rating 3.94 Stars

This month, as you can see, has been a reading success. A little of me thinks that so many children’s books and graphic novels devalue the number of books read somewhat, but I am really pleased. It’s nice to be genuinely enjoying so many genres again!!

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