Sunday, 12 February 2017

Life After Life

Book 11 of 2017 is Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.

This book has been on my To Read list for quite some time. It turns up a lot on "best books of the year" lists. I can not for the life of me work out why.

The idea is good. It is a WWII Groundhog Day but in the end, I couldn't like the main character or her family. One thing I will say is that the first half of the book was thoroughly boring. The second half almost redeemed it but is it ever worth sticking with it?

2 alternative lives out of 5.

Should I read this? No, don't.
What did I learn? Nothing is perfect. No life is perfect. I'd rather just do it once.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Golden Keel

Book 10 of 2017 is The Golden Keel by Desmond Bagley.

People often ask me how I find books from vast arrays of genres. The answer is that I go off recommendations from my friends. That is why GoodReads my primary reading discovery source.

In the case of this book, I picked it up because Desmond Bagley was one of my Mum's favourite authors when I was a child. In fact, both my parents enjoyed The Golden Keel. That made this book extra meaningful to me.

Books that people recommend are a glimpse in to who they are. Once I witness someone share many similar book likes with me, I learn to trust them implicitly and vice versa with books some have like that I did not.

The Golden Keel is a great heist adventure on stormy seas with pirates and unusually for my normal set, characters from South Africa and Italy.

My tropical Mum told me today (when I was half way through this book) that the first time she read the word avalanche was in one of his books and he described it perfectly. That brought an awareness when I was finishing this. This book talks about sailing and a lot of books do but Bagley describes perfectly what a concept or actual thing is in a way that is easy to understand. That is a talent, especially with sailing terms. He also described being trapped under something heavy in a way I felt I'd experienced in ways although I never had.

If you pick this up, keep in mind that it was written in 1963 and reflects the post war boom times in many countries. That said, it could be set right now too.

5 heavy keels out of 5.

Should I read this? For sure. It is a funny and easy read.

What did I learn? I need to read more books about great adventures. Why did I ever stop?

The North Water

Book 9 of 2017 is The North Water by Ian McGuire.

This book is full or gore and great examples of the worst kind of men imaginable. I did not enjoy it at all. There wasn't anything that redeemed it in any way.

It is hard to say if my quest to read more female authors and the eight I read prior to this book meant that the very male story, characters and theming seemed over the top. The killing of animals, people and an awful chapter about pouring puss out of a man's abdomen was just too much. It wasn't even done in a way that made it fit properly. It was like the author would pause once in a while and describe something disgusting in great detail. That behaviour also distracted from the story.

Two polar bears out of five.

Should I read this? No. There are many better books in this genre.
What did I learn? Reading a majority of male writers desensitises me things I don't like in some male writing. There is certainly a different voice.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Men Explain Things to Me

Book 8 of 2017 is Men Explains Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit.

I have to stop reading similar books one after the other. This is good writing. This is relevant to what is happening in the world at the moment and certainly to my work.

The only complaint I have about this book is that it seems to lack purpose. It is a bunch of very well written essays that are not pulled together to draw a conclusion or make a point. That is thoroughly disappointing.

Four mansplainers out of five.

Should I read this? I wish I could have every man I know read this but in reality, it will be the women. Read it and know you are not alone. Find your confidence and don't let anyone shake it.
What did I learn? You should carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white male :P

All the Single Ladies - Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation

Book 7 of 2017 is All the Single Ladies - Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister.

I am a feminist. That's not new news to anyone who knows me. This book isn't about being single and justifying that. It is about research backed data that explores the idea that western women are now in control of their own lives and choose how men will participate in.

My concern when starting this was that it would be bitter but it was kind, respectful to all and hopeful.

Five strong women out of five.

Should I read this? For sure. It is not just for single women.
What did I learn? So much that I would need a post all about this. The data she presents is solid and then accompanied by anecdotes too which made it more human. I now like that kind of non-fiction.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

How To Train Your Dragon

Book 6 of 2017 is How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell.

For a book that is aimed at children, this transcends all those boundaries. My friend Katie chose this as an audio book for a road trip we did last weekend and it was perfect. Light, well read by Dr. Who (David Tennant) and an enjoyable story with characters I wanted to love and hate. This is wonderful on every level.

This is the kind of book that you should read no matter your age.

Five toothless heroes out of five.

Should I read this? Yes. No buts about it. Just read it already.
What did I learn? Scholars are heroes.

Thursday, 19 January 2017


Book 5 of 2017 is Illuminae by Amie Kaufman.

Continuing with consciously reading female authors in 2017 sees me read my fifth in five books. I'm sure I can't ignore male authors but this gives me a good incentive to read books I may have decided to top with something higher up the pile written by a man. It is changing my reading style.

This book is very interesting. It is written in the style of a hacked dossier so fits the whole wikileaks theme of the moment. The AI character is very HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey but extends that in a Young Adult book way. I won't say too much about that so as not to spoil it for anyone.

This is book one of a series and I'm not sure I will continue with it but this was enjoyable because it was original but safely predictable.

Three space walks out of five.

Should I read this? This is another YA book that will appeal to someone who wants an easy read with a few twists.
What did I learn? You never know when your entire world will fall apart so live life like this is your last day on Earth... or the moon.

Friday, 13 January 2017

A Man of Some Repute

Book 4 of 2017 is A Man of Some Repute by Elizabeth Edmondson.

This has been described as a very British mystery and boy, is that true? I could hear the accents as a read it. With that in mind, the story is very much like a BBC weekly crime show and I love those. In keeping with this genre, the twists were mostly predictable so this was more about the characters. The Brits often appear mild and reserved but there is often more to a person than that. This is what I enjoyed thoroughly about this book.

This is not the best murder mystery book out there but it keeps with the theme and is a satisfying read.

Four men fainting at the sight of blood out of five.

Should I read this? Yes, if you like BBC murder mysteries.
What did I learn? Some authors write accents really well.

Friday, 6 January 2017

If Someone Says "You Complete Me," RUN!

Book 3 of 2017 is If  Someone Says "You Complete Me," RUN! by Whoopi Goldberg.

I consumed this as an audio book. This is the third book I've read this year and so far they are all by female authors. My goal for this year is to have at least 50% of the authors of the books I read be women. So far, so good. Last year, 10 of the 30 books I read were by women. Very disappointing.

This is my kind of relationship book. When I picked it up, I didn't consider it a relationship book but more comedy. Interestingly, it was both.

My life is not quite a conventional one and although my friends and family respect how I choose to live for myself, I've not oft heard this touted as by someone famous in a book. This took me from always loving Whoopi to feeling quite connected to her.

Some people are not meant for relationships but society seems to keep forcing us to reassess what is wrong with us and why we choose to be alone like we are broken. It is so nice to hear someone say that it's a different way to live but it isn't wrong.

Four drive-bys out of five.

Should I read this? In this case, it is a 4 hour listen so not too long. I think that it would be helpful for most people single or otherwise to read it.
What did I learn? I am not alone in how I choose to live my life.