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Thursday, 20 February 2020

The January Book Review




I've loved reading books ever since I was teeny tiny. I started reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone when I was 6 (even if I didn't understand some of it, I still loved reading it) and went on to re-read every Harry Potter book like a total maniac over and over and over again, right through to my late teens. I used to devour book after book (in between playing games on my N64 and Gameboy Advance of course) and reading was a huge part of my life. I got bought a Kindle for one of my late teenage birthdays and read well over 100 books on it, everything from The Exorcist to the Sookie Stackhouse novels to random sci-fi books and love stories. However, as I grew older and got busier and busier and busier, I gradually stopped reading. When you're in your mid-twenties, balancing a social life with visiting family, working a crazy hectic job 9 hours a day and trying to fit in general life admin, fitting in small hobbies like reading can be pretty tough. I realised mid-way through last year that I hadn't read a book in over 2 years and that was a realisation that made me sad. Reading was something that had meant so much to me. I love the escapism, the stories and the learning that reading gives you and I was determined to bring books back into my life. I don't often make New Year's Resolutions but this year I had one main one: to read more. And you know what? So far so good! I've read nearly every day of 2020, even if it's just been for 10 minutes and I've managed to get through no less than five bloody books. I thought I'd write a mini review of each one in a lil post as a lot of people on my Instagram stories have been interested in hearing about what I thought so every time I get through a few books I'll write a post like this for anyone looking for some new reads!



ANNIHILATION BY JEFF VANDERMEER

This one was my first read of the year and it was the perfect book to get me back into reading. It was a Christmas gift from my boyfriend's mum. I'd told her that I wanted to read more after the New Year and when I mentioned I liked post-apocalyptic sci-fi books (grim and specific I know) she went into Waterstones and asked them for exactly that, bless her. This came recommended by the shop assistant and it was great. Some of you might have seen the film Annihilation on Netflix? I watched it when it first came out and had no idea it was based on a book (in fact it's part of a full series called the Southern Reach Trilogy). I try not to compare films and books too much because I always feel that books can convey so much more than movies and films never quite capture exactly what books do. However, the book and the film felt quite different anyway; the main characters in the book have no names and a lot is left to the reader's imagination, in the best way possible.

Annihilation is set in "Area X", a mysterious area cut off from the rest of the world. A biologist, a psychologist, an anthropologist and a surveyor are sent into Area X after the previous ten expeditions all ended in tragedy. The book is quite short but I definitely wouldn't call it an easy read. It does start off quite slow but I persevered and very quickly I got way into it. The way it's written is beautiful, mysterious and brutal all at the same time and I couldn't put it down, devouring it in just a few days. It's not your typical novel and it focuses a lot on creating a creepy feeling while you're reading it, with very little in terms of character development or in-depth explanations about "Area X" but I think the element of the unknown and the level of mystery throughout the book is one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much.

4 OUT OF 5 STARS 


NORMAL PEOPLE BY SALLY ROONEY

I picked this read up in Waterstones with some vouchers I had from Christmas and it was a bit of a random choice if I'm being honest. I hadn't heard of the author or the book itself but I was a bit intrigued by it. This one follows the story of Marianne and Connell, two teens who live in a small town in Ireland. Connell is super popular, cool and loved by everyone in the school but Marianne is the total opposite. Connell's mum works as a cleaner for Marianne's family which is how the two meet and Normal People follows the two teens through school and the years afterwards.

I'll be honest, I enjoyed reading this but not as much as I thought I was going to. Granted it's not my usual type of read as teen romances are not something I usually pick up these days but after reading the blurb, I thought this was going to be a little bit similar to Love, Rosie (which is one of my absolute favourite books and films). However, it didn't go as far through the lives of the characters as much as Love, Rosie did and I was expecting maybe a little bit more? Also, as bad as it sounds, I just didn't really like the characters that much and never got to the point where I really cared that much about what happened to them. It was okay though and was a nice easy read, maybe something I wish I'd saved for after a heavier book and I don't necessarily think that it's a bad book, it just maybe wasn't for me.

3 OUT OF 5 STARS 



THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ BY HEATHER MORRIS

I'm sure this a book that everyone will have at least heard of, if not read, and it's for good reason. This book follows the story of Lale, a prisoner at Auschwitz who becomes the tattooist who marks all of the prisoners with their identification numbers when they enter. Lale meets Gita when he tattoos her number onto her wrist and that is the beginning of their love story and the book follows them throughout their imprisonment in the camp as their love blossoms in the most horrible conditions. It's based on a true story and the author met with Lale himself before he died and whilst it is still a "historical fiction", the author claims that a lot of it is very very close to the truth and a lot of the conversations are what Lale said word for word.

I loved this book and I read the whole thing in just a couple of days. I think the reason I liked it so much is that it didn't focus too much on the atrocities and awful things that happened in the camps (although there are a few), but it still managed to convey the atmosphere and the terror felt by all of the prisoners. It focused a lot more on Lale and Gita's story, of them stealing away little moments and falling in love, different to what I expected from a book that was set in Auschwitz. It's a powerful book and very emotional throughout; it will definitely stay with me for a long time. There's also a spin-off book to this called Cilka's Story that tells the story of one of the side characters in this book, another read I've heard great things about and I will most certainly be reading it when I've gotten through my current piles.

5 OUT OF 5 STARS 

NIGHT BY ELIE WIESEL

When I visited Tenerife a couple of weeks ago for a few days of winter sun, I stupidly thought that taking one book would be enough. Spoiler: it was not enough. I actually finished the one book I took (The Tattooist of Auschwitz) on the first day of the trip. The next day, I set out on a solo adventure to find a bookshop and I stumbled across the cutest little second hand bookshop that was about a 30 minute walk from my hotel and it was jam-packed with old and new books, in every different language for just a few euros each. One of the three books I picked up, was Night by Elie Wiesel, a book that admittedly I'd never heard of until I came across it hidden in the packed shelves.

This book, although 115 pages long, is one of the most powerful, harrowing books I've ever read. Night is Elie Wiesel's memoir of his time in Auschwitz and Buchenwald and I read this immediately after the Tattooist of Auschwitz. This is different to the Tattooist as it's written by Elie himself and is an extremely difficult read,  illustrating the atrocities that happened in the concentration camps from a prisoner and survivor's perspective. It made me really feel the sheer horror of what happened in those camps and whilst it's not an easy read, records like this are so important in remembering just what the souls in these situations had to go through. I read this in one sitting and whilst it is very upsetting, it's a very important, educational and powerful read. I wouldn't recommend on a day you're feeling fragile but it is excellently written and I'm extremely glad I read it. Elie Wiesel has authored a number of books and actually won the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize for his work and I read a quote by him when I googled this book before reading that has stuck with me: the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.

5 OUT OF 5 STARS 




THINNER BY STEPHEN KING

This was another one that I picked up at the little bookshop in Tenerife. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Stephen King. I've read number of his books that I loved, like the Green Mile and Cell, but others I've struggled with and havent been able to even finish. My problem is, I love the ideas of his stories and the horror genre but I struggle with his execution and I find some of his books hard work. I really wanted to read IT because I love the ides behind it but I saw the bloody length of it and just thought fuck that. So, Thinner was my next choice, simply because the story intrigued me. The book follows the story of Billy, a lawyer who is cursed by a gypsy after he accidentally knocks his wife over in his car. Billy starts to lose masses of weight, dangerously quickly and very soon, people around him are affected by mysterious ailments too.

Honestly, I thought this book was a bit....meh. I read it quite quickly considering the length but it was bloody hard work. I feel like the same story could have been told in half the amount of pages and some of it, is just boring, repetitive and irrelevant to the plot. Again, good idea behind the story and an okay ending but I just found myself checking every few minutes how many pages I had left. I forced myself to finish just because I wanted to know what happened but I wouldn't say i had fun reading this. There are 340 pages of teeny tiny writing and it was just too much for not much reward. I didn't like many of the characters in it, I didn't really care what happened to Billy. I probably would not recommend reading this. If you're intrigued, just google the book and read a summary.

2 OUT OF 5 STARS 

So far I've read 5 books in a month and I think that's pretty impressive considering I thought I "had no time to read" for years! I'm pretty pleased with myself and I hope I can keep this up over the next year!

WHAT'S NEXT?
ALL THE UGLY AND WONDERFUL THINGS BY BRYN GREENWOOD
THE LAST BY HANNA JAMESON
THE QUIET AT THE END OF THE WORLD BY LAUREN JAMES

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