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Reading wrap-up: April

April has been a strange reading month for me (and has also seen me be a little despondent about my blog; thankfully though, this seems to be passing). Leading on from the success of March, I had high hopes for April. It definitely did not deliver for a while. It wasn’t until the Song Rising that things started to pick up and I was able to feel that much-loved momentum return.

Here are the 13 books I read in April:

(Apologies for the lack of variety in the pictures, and the fact that I forgot to take any photos of the first two books – The images of Attachment and Life, the Universe, and Everything are from Amazon)

Attachments

Attachments had been on my radar for a long time but for some reason, I was always hesitant to pick it up. However, after adoring Eleanor and Park last month and having spotted the incredible bright pink cover at work, I decided to finally give Rainbow Rowell’s debut a go. This might sound harsh, but I am really glad that I wasn’t convinced by the stripey covered edition – which would have matched really well with my copy of Eleanor and Park – to buy the book. It was okay. I found it incredibly slow to start with, at times having to really force myself to turn the page, and whilst it did redeem itself towards the end, I couldn’t shake the feeling of frustration I had about how long it took to get that point. Essentially, it was good but it missed the human connection and the emotion that I had come to love (and expect) from Rowell. This, I suppose, is the potential danger of reading a debut after subsequent novels.

Attachments 2
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published: Orion, 2011
Genre (According to Goodreads): Contemporary
Blurb
It’s 1999 and for the staff of one newspaper office, the internet is still a novelty. By day, two young women, Beth and Jennifer, spend their hours emailing each other, discussing in hilarious detail every aspect of their lives, from love troubles to family dramas. And by night, Lincoln, a shy, lonely IT guy spends his hours reading every exchange.
At first their emails offer a welcome diversion, but as Lincoln unwittingly becomes drawn into their lives, the more he reads, the more he finds himself falling for one of them. By the time Lincoln realizes just how head-over-heels he really is, it’s way too late to introduce himself. What would he say to her? ‘Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mails – and also, I think I love you’.
After a series of close encounters, Lincoln decides it’s time to muster the courage to follow his heart, and find out whether there really is such a thing as love before first-sight.
Rating: 3/5 Stars

Life, the universe, and everything

I feel a bit guilty about claiming to have read this novel – the third in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series (A trilogy in four parts) – because at least the 100 pages passed in a frustrated blur. My eyes followed the words but I can remember nothing other than a rising sense of anger and confusion. These books are so acclaimed and apparently so well loved but I cannot for the life of me see why. Occasional wittiness was soon forgotten as I struggled to stay abreast of just what on earth – or anywhere in the galaxy – was going on. Everything from the timeline to the location and the characters just cropped up whenever with seemingly no regard for the story at hand. There is no denying that Douglas Adams has a quirky imagination but this read more like a journal – a collection of thoughts and queries – than an edited novel.

Life, the universe and everything
Author: Douglas Adams
Published: Del Rey, 2006
Genre (According to Goodreads): Science Fiction
Blurb
The unhappy inhabitants of planet Krikkit are sick of looking at the night sky above their heads–so they plan to destroy it. The universe, that is. Now only five individuals stand between the killer robots of Krikkit and their goal of total annihilation.
They are Arthur Dent, a mild-mannered space and time traveler who tries to learn how to fly by throwing himself at the ground and missing; Ford Prefect, his best friend, who decides to go insane to see if he likes it; Slartibartfast, the indomitable vice president of the Campaign for Real Time, who travels in a ship powered by irrational behavior; Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed, three-armed ex-president of the galazy; and Trillian, the sexy space cadet who is torn between a persistent Thunder God and a very depressed Beeblebrox.
How will it all end? Will it end? Only this stalwart crew knows as they try to avert “universal” Armageddon and save life as we know it–and don’t know it!.
Rating: 1/5 Stars

When Mr Dog Bites

This is another that I have forgotten a lot about. What I do remember most is the bizarre writing style; a style which very nearly religated Dylan Mint to the DNF shelf. However, after a quick peruse of Goodreads and the reviews from Goodreads users who were apparently as perplexed as me, I decided to persevere. I am, unlike with the previous mention, glad I did. This is the first book I’ve read about Tourettes and this provided an interesting account. However, I feel as though I would have enjoyed it better if that was the main – if not only – focus, or if the others were better explained. For example, it seems that Dylan may have also had a learning disability. The language used in this book was confusing, distracting, and at times annoying and problematic  – ‘but not in a gay way’ was a phrase used very often, not to mention the interactions with female peers – and for a long time, it felt as though there was no reason for this. Of course, reasoning does not excuse problematic behaviour. It also goes without saying that having a learning disability does not make you homophobic and sexist (or vice-versa). However, as a reader, I could have maybe been more understanding (for want of a better word) if I hadn’t just been left to work it out.

When Mr Dog bites.JPG
Author: Brian Conaghan
Published: Bloomsbury, 2014
Genre (According to Goodreads): YA
Blurb
Dylan Mint has Tourette’s. For Dylan, life is a constant battle to keep the bad stuff in – the swearing, the tics, the howling dog that escapes whenever he gets stressed. And, as a sixteen-year-old virgin and pupil at Drumhill Special School, getting stressed is something of an occupational hazard. 
But then a routine visit to the hospital changes everything. Overhearing a hushed conversation between the doctor and his mother, Dylan discovers that he’s going to die next March. 
So he grants himself three parting wishes: three ‘Cool Things To Do Before I Cack It’.
It isn’t a long list, but it is ambitious, and he doesn’t have much time. But as Dylan sets out to make his wishes come true, he discovers that nothing – and no-one – is quite as he had previously supposed.
A story about life, death, love, sex and swearing, When Mr Dog Bites will take you on one *#@! of a journey . . . 
Rating: 3/5 Stars

Oranges are not the only fruit

Eurgh, this book. I picked it up because it was short, because I had read it before,  and because I had enjoyed it enough then to make me wonder whether I would understand it better, take more from it now. I was wrong. So wrong and upon finishing it, actually threw it across the table. I do think a large part of that was my general frustration with reading in April. I had yet to find a book that I truly enjoyed reading and Jennette Winterson’s debut just seemed to compound the issue, and what was worse, I wanted to love it! Instead, I find myself wholeheartedly agreeing with the other 1-star raters. The central themes are religion, motherhood, sexuality, and how all three can conflict. What should have been a fascinating and profound text – especially as it is based on Winterson’s childhood – was lost amongst a collection of nonsensical phrases and a profound sense that the author was trying to prove how clever she is by making the plot entirely undiscernable.

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Author: Jeanette Winterson
Published: Vintage, 2001
Genre (According to Goodreads): Fiction
Blurb
This is the story of Jeanette, adopted and brought up by her mother as one of God’s elect. Zealous and passionate, she seems destined for life as a missionary, but then she falls for one of her converts. At sixteen, Jeanette decides to leave the church, her home and her family, for the young woman she loves. “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit” is a few days ride into the bizarre outposts of religious excess and human obsession.
Rating: 1/5 Stars

The song rising

This book marked the turning of the tides – thank you, Samantha Shannon, thank you! The third in her Bone Season trilogy I lept into this with no reservations (and also very impatient to remove myself from the cliff upon which I’d been hanging since the conclusion of The Mime Order). It did not disappoint, restoring my faith that fulfilling books could be found. There is not a lot that can be said about this sequel without spoiling the story. However, I would say that this was probably my favourite so far. They are all fantastic, extraordinarily developed and well rounded, but this felt the most confident in its skin.

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Author: Samantha Shannon
Published: Bloomsbury, 2018
Genre (According to Goodreads): Fantasy
Blurb
Paige Mahoney has risen to the dangerous position of Underqueen, ruling over London’s criminal population. But, having turned her back on Jaxon Hall and with vengeful enemies still at large, the task of stabilising the fractured underworld has never seemed so challenging.
Rating: 4/5 Stars

Armada

Following my re-read of Ready Player One last month, I decided to give Armada a second chance. The first time I read it I determinedly rated it as ‘okay’; it was nothing special and especially disappointing after the enjoyment I felt whilst reading Ready Player One. I came really close to un-hauling it, but it hung around. For some reason, I just couldn’t commit to removing it from my shelves for good. Gathering dust, it sat next to my bed for months until I finally decided that I would give it one last chance. If my thoughts hadn’t changed, to the charity shop it would go. I’m honestly so cross with myself for considering passing it on. There can be no denying that it isn’t as good as Ready Player One. The characters are less likeable and relatable and the plot was less exciting. However, it was still fun. I really enjoyed the merging of reality and fantasy and the way that was done. I can’t see Armada being re-read as often as a lot of the other books on my shelf but I won’t rule out reading it for a third time at some point.

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Author: Ernest Cline
Published: Arrow, 2016
Genre (According to Goodreads): Sci-Fi
Blurb
It’s just another day of high school for Zack Lightman. He’s daydreaming through another boring math class, with just one more month to go until graduation and freedom—if he can make it that long without getting suspended again.
Then he glances out his classroom window and spots the flying saucer.
At first, Zack thinks he’s going crazy.
A minute later, he’s sure of it. Because the UFO he’s staring at is straight out of the video game he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.
Rating: 3/5 Stars

The Martian

Another re-read, I predominantly picked up The Martian because I was craving more ‘action’ and choices are limited on my shelves. I was actually really hesitant to re-read this as it was one of my favourites of 2016 and I didn’t want my opinion of it to change. I obviously knew, deep down, that I wouldn’t feel the same this reading. It’s not that I disliked it but, for whatever reason, the humour didn’t make me chuckle as it had before and Mark Watney was a little less endearing and a little more annoying. It’s still a good book and an enjoyable read (the film is also excellent), I am just sad that it didn’t hit the mark as it had two years ago.

The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Published: Del Rey, 2014
Genre (According to Goodreads): Sci-Fi / Contemporary
Blurb
I’m stranded on Mars.
I have no way to communicate with Earth.
I’m in a Habitat designed to last 31 days.
If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

So yeah. I’m screwed. 
Rating: 3/5 Stars (Was 5/5)

How to find love in a bookshop

Once you spot a title like this one how can you not pick it up? The weather was rumoured to be really nice for the next few days and, as I wasn’t working, I wanted nothing more than to sit in the garden with a sweet book; having this also be a book about books was obviously a big bonus. As promised, and as hoped, it was the perfect garden read, easy and fun. However, I was a little disappointed that the romance didn’t occur in the bookshop, or rather the bookshop (and books) was less instrumental in the romance than I had wanted – it felt somewhat like Veronica Henry was trying to be more serious than the plot allowed for.

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Author: Veronica Henry
Published: Orion, 2016
Genre (According to Goodreads): Fiction
Blurb
Everyone has a story . . . But will they get the happy ending they deserve?
Emilia has just returned to her idyllic Cotswold hometown to rescue the family business. Nightingale Books is a dream come true for book-lovers, but the best stories aren’t just within the pages of the books she sells – Emilia’s customers have their own tales to tell.
There’s the lady of the manor who is hiding a secret close to her heart; the single dad looking for books to share with his son but who isn’t quite what he seems; and the desperately shy chef trying to find the courage to talk to her crush . . .
And as for Emilia’s story, can she keep the promise she made to her father and save Nightingale Books?
Rating: 3/5 Stars

This should be written in the present tense

There’s not a lot to be said about this book. I picked it up from the library, along with How to find love in a bookshop, on a whim. The cover is gorgeous and the premise sounded interesting enough, plus I like short books. Furthermore, I had never previously read anything translated from Danish. It was, like many books in April, okay. The simplicity of the writing style was perfect for an afternoon in the sun. Whilst I occasionally felt as though I was reading a list, I liked how it was used to portray the mundaneness of the protagonist’s life. I enjoyed it, it was fine, but it didn’t make me feel anything.

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Author: Helle Helle  
Published: Harvill Secker, 2014
Genre (According to Goodreads): Translated fiction
Blurb
This should be written in the present tense. But it isn’t.

Dorte should be at uni in Copenhagen. But she’s not.

She should probably put some curtains up in her new place.

And maybe stop sleeping with her neighbour’s boyfriend.

Perhaps things don’t always work out the way they should.
Rating: 2/5 Stars

Parsnips, Buttered: How to win at modern life, one email at a time

Oh, Joe Lycett, you do make me laugh! I’ve been wanting to read this for ages but had kind of forgotten about it until I spied the bright yellow spine nestled among the shelves at work. Within three days both myself and Dad had finished it; laughing a good proportion of the time. A lot of the content I had heard before either from watching him Live at the Apollo (on the TV) or on 8 out of 10 cats does Countdown. However, that didn’t detract much. Basically, if you want a laugh, read this book.

Parsnips, buttered
Author: Joe Lycett  
Published: Hodder, 2017
Genre (According to Goodreads): Non-Fiction
Blurb
Dear Reader,

Life is hard. We are a bombarded generation: Facebook, billboards, Twitter, Instagram, taxes, newspapers, watches monitoring our sleep, apps that read our pulse, terrorism. There’s such an onslaught to the senses these days it’s a marvel any of us manage to get out of bed. I love bed.

While we are overwhelmed and confused by the miasmic cloud of information, there are those that seek to take advantage: there are parking fines, hate Tweets, Nigerian email scams and Christmas newsletters from old school friends about their ugly kids. And just as we’re getting round to doing something about it, we’re distracted again.

I, Joe Lycett, comedian, wordsmith, and professional complainer, am here to help. During my short life of doing largely nothing I’ve discovered solutions to many of life’s problems, which I impart to you, dear Reader. Containing a centurion of complaint letters to unsuspecting celebrities, companies and anyone brave enough to clog up my phone, as well as illustrations, one-liners, jokes and life hacks, this little gem offers you a collection of tips and advice* for all manner of modern woe. By the time you have finished reading this book you will have learnt how to:
– Reverse a parking fine 
– Manipulate the tabloid press 
– Navigate social media 
– Respond to hate mail 
– Out-weird internet trolls 
– Contest a so-called ripe avocado 
– Send the perfect Christmas newsletter 
– Defeat ISIS 
– Take down multi-national companies 
AND MUCH, MUCH MORE!
Rating: 4/5 Stars

Anna and the French Kiss

Anna, and the other members of Stephanie Perkins’ YA series, have become somewhat of a comfort blanket to me. These books have never failed to lift my mood, make me smile or compel me to hug the book upon finishing it. Picked up as something to read before bed, this time was no different. Light(ish), sweet, romantic contemporaries, these books don’t try to be anything more than what the covers imply and I have no shame in declaring them pretty much perfect.

Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins  
Published: Usborne, 2014
Genre (According to Goodreads): YA
Blurb
Anna has everything figured out – she was about to start senior year with her best friend, she had a great weekend job, and her huge work crush looked as if it might finally be going somewhere… Until her dad decides to send her 4383 miles away to Paris. On her own.

But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna finds herself making new friends, including Etienne, the smart, beautiful boy from the floor above. But he’s taken – and Anna might be too. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss she’s been waiting for?
Rating: 5/5 Stars

It only happens in the movies

I was so surprised to find this at work and checked it out to myself before anyone else had a chance to. I don’t really know what to say about this read. I enjoyed it, it earned a solid 3 stars from me, maybe even 3.5, but there was something that stopped me really gelling with it. As a fan of the rom-com, on occasion I felt as though I was being told off, chastised for liking a genre of film that the main character (author?) deemed ‘dangerous’, constantly being told ‘they’re not real!’ Audrey had her reasons for being annoyed with rom-coms, they were very valid, and I understood. However, at times it felt like a somewhat excessive rant about the genre and an unnecessary disparage of the reader should they not feel the same way. I may write a full review of this at a later date as I am still collecting my thoughts.

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Author: Holly Bourne  
Published: Usborne, 2017
Genre (According to Goodreads): YA
Blurb
Audrey is over romance. Since her parents’ relationship imploded her mother’s been catatonic, so she takes a cinema job to get out of the house. But there she meets wannabe film-maker Harry. Nobody expects Audrey and Harry to fall in love as hard and fast as they do. But that doesn’t mean things are easy. Because real love isn’t like the movies…

The greatest love story ever told doesn’t feature kissing in the snow or racing to airports. It features pain and confusion and hope and wonder and a ban on cheesy clichés. 
Rating: 3/5 Stars

 

Lola and the boy next door

Essentially, see my comment on Anna and the French Kiss. My least favourite of the series, it is still a 4-star read; I just don’t quite connect with the characters in the same way.

 

Lola and the boy next door
Author: Stephanie Perkins  
Published: Usborne, 2014
Genre (According to Goodreads): YA
Blurb
Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion… she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit – the more sparkly, more wild – the better. And life is pretty close to perfect for Lola, especially with her hot rocker boyfriend.
That is, until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket return to the neighbourhood and unearth a past of hurt that Lola thought was long buried. So when talented inventor Cricket steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally face up to a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door. Could the boy from Lola’s past be the love of her future?
Rating: 4/5 Stars

What did you read during April, let me know in the comments below? If you have a blog, don’t forget to leave your links. Happy reading!

 

 

 

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