Book four of the 50 in a year challenge is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. This book was recommended to me by a family friend and I am thankful as this is not the kind of book I would normally pick up. In fact I would go as far to say that apart from The Girl on the Train this is the first thriller/mystery book that I can remember finishing. I normally loose interest after a few chapters. I guess that is one of the good things about this challenge. Once you start a book you kind of have to finish it. The Shadow of the Wind tells the story of Daniel Sempere a young man living in Barcelona. At the beginning of the book Daniel comes across a copy of a book written by the author Julián Carax. This sends him on a path of discovery as he tries to find out who Julián Carax is and why someone is hell bent on destroying all copies of his books.
I have such mixed feelings about this book. When I first sat down and begun reading the book I was spellbound. The book is beautifully written, almost a love letter to literature as well as to Barcelona. The whole idea of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books caught my imagination and I was sure at the end of chapter one, that this book was going to feature in my top 10 books from this challenge. Unfortunately, I quickly got board. Although the book is beautifully written the stylistic writing becomes tiresome after a while. It also lends itself unfavourably toward cliches. The writing style also made the characters hard to believe and sometimes I just found myself reading for the sake of reading and not really taking in the story. At parts its feels as though the author has swallowed a thesaurus and that is never good. The stylistic writing did lead to some lovely quotes though. The story itself is slow until around 60% of the way through the book. There was a point where I considered starting to read another book in its place however I am glad I stuck with The Shadow of the Wind, the gripping second half made up for the slow first half.
There are many characters in this book and one thing that Carlos Ruiz Zafón does very well is to help the reader keep track of who all the characters are. I was not once was confused about who a person was or what significance they held to Daniel and to his quest. The male characters in the book are all strong however the female characters, not so much. I guess you could argue that Nuria Monfort has a little more depth to her than the other female characters in the book but she is still weak and seems to exist only in the shadows. Daniel himself is likeable and I could relate to him. He is inquisitive, and I liked that. In many ways though Daniel is a walking cliche, he wares his heart on his sleeve and isn’t the most intuitive of people. I personally think the most interesting character was the old hatter. There is much more to this character than meets the eye and I appreciated this. Fermin Romero de Torres is the source of a lot of the humour in this book and at times the comedic lift is really needed. The character is however ridiculously misogynistic and this made me feel uncomfortable, he was unpredictable and some of the jokes that were designed to make me laugh instead just made me cringe. I also just didn’t get Inspector Javier Fumero, the less said about him the better.
The setting of the story is beautiful. This book has made me want to visit Barcelona, a city that was not previously particularly high on places to visit. The book also contains a handy sort of travel guide in the back and I will defiantly use this when I visit the city however I have heard that you can also go on planned The Shadow of the Wind tours in Barcelona. The book also has a Gothic tone to it that really suited post civil-war Barcelona. It got to the point when I was reading this book I was scared of the dark. No book has affected me this much since Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. I know a fair bit about the Spanish Civil War but virtually nothing about Franco’s Spain, which is pretty shocking and this book has spurred me on to go and learn more.
I am glad I read this book, and although I found it to be flawed I enjoyed it. It is defiantly not the worst book I could have read. I would also recommend this book to someone, although it was not my cup of tea I know a fair few people who loved this book and it seems to have a large following. If you looking for a beautiful thriller/mystery that will transport you to another world then this may be the book for you. If not, I would maybe give it a miss.
Currently reading and loving The Little Price. I am hoping to get it finished before the end of the month.
I loved The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Eiking. What a wonderfully warm little book to read during Christmas. I picked up a copy of this book around a month ago during a trip to the book store. The front cover caught my eye and I thought it looked like a nice little coffee table book. We are looking to travel to Scandinavia in the new year and I thought this book might teach me a little about Danish culture. I sort of forgot about this book and thought I would just throw it into Decembers to be read list as a quick read during a busy month.
I came in from work one cold night, turned on the Christmas tree lights, lit a candle, made a cup of tea and sat down to read The Little Book of Hygge. Little did I realises that what I was doing was was very hyggeligt. Hygge hard to describe and this book does it perfectly. Hygge is the feeling you get when have been out all day hiking and you return home to homemade stew surrounded by friends and family. This book claims that hygge is more of an emotion than a thing in itself. It turns out that hygge is something that we have been practising in our household for years. Candles are forever burning and cosy throws and tea are in almost limitless supply. In fact as I write this I have candles on, a throw over me and a cat sitting on my lap. So if hygge a specifically danish thing? or is it present in every culture and the Danes have just found the perfect way to describe it? I haven’t yet quite decided but I think in Scotland we use a lot of the same techniques as the Dannish to get through the long cold winters.
This book shows all different kinds of hygge, all of which I would expect most people to be able to relate too. When I purchased this little book I was concerned that the book might be a marketing tool telling people that if you want to happy like the Dannish you need to buy this and that. I wasn’t really into that, but like I have said I liked the front cover and the pictures were pretty. This book is far from a marketing tool. In fact in order to make your house more hyggeligt you probably already own all of the things needed for a hygge night. This book is about slowing down an enjoying all of the small things in life. The book is easy to read and encompasses various diagrams and beautiful photos that encourages you to stop and look. I do not think it would be possible to rush your way through this stunning little book.
If I had one criticism of this book it would be that to me and I would image a lot of the people around me, hugge is very obvious. I am very fortunate in the sense that I live in a very homely home and often make a conscious effort to surround myself with the people that I love. I don’t really need coaching on how to do it. This book also repeats itself and states the obvious a lot of the time. It dose however encourage you to stop and think and I am all for that.
All in all this is a lovely little book that will make you feel warm and cosy. It also makes a great gift. I gave a copy of this book to a close friend before I has even finished reading my copy. If you fancy giving this a little read defiantly buy the hard back copy of this book. The kindle version will not give the same experience.
I am plodding on with Shadow of the Wind and will hopefully have a review for you in the next couple of days.
The Martian by Andy Weir is one of those books that has been reappearing on my Audible recommendations list for some time now. Every time I logged into audable Matt Daemon’s face would appear on the front cover of the book. I don’t like Matt Daemon, or books about space . So, there is no chance I was going to read this book. Well after some gentle persuasion, a friend at work convinced me to give it ago. It had a spare audible credit and I suppose if it turned out not to be my kind of thing I am sure my Fiancé would give it a go. Well how wrong I was. THIS BOOK IS FANTASTIC! I laughed, I cried, I also for a short period of time convinced myself that I understood Chemical Reaction Engineering (don’t worry a proper academic in Chemical Engineering put me in my place).
Set in the not to distant future this book tells the story of Mark Watney. An astronaut who finds himself stranded on Mars. I am not going to say much more than that. I don’t want to give the story away. What I can say is that this book is fast paced. It is exciting and I found myself on a number of occasions sitting outside of my house, not wanting to turn the book off and go in. This book is really approachable for people who have little or no knowledge of Science and Engineering. Although I cant say how accurate the science in this book is it is not condescending to people who are a lot more intelligent than me and get this kind of thing! The reason for this is all down to the lead characters fantastic sense of humour.
The character of Mark Watney is just fantastic. He reacts exactly the way I would expect someone to react to being left on Mars. Well someone with the training that is, if you left me on Mars I would curl up in a ball of self pity and die. Mark’s story is told through mission logs that he continues to write on a daily basis(or a sol basis to be precise, see I did learn something about space in this book). In these mission logs we learn what Mark is up to, both with spacy type things as well as his new found love for 70s television shows. Mark’s character is very much the guy next door and I guess this is why I warmed to the character from the offset.
This audio book is read by R.C Bray and he does a fantastic job. You can tell exactly what kind of mood Mark is in within the first few words of each chapter. The difference between Mark’s carefree attitude and the rather more stressful atmosphere at mission control is done really well. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the narration. Not once did I get board and this is quite unusual. I often find myself drifting off and needing to hone back in on what is happening in the book.
If I had one criticism of this book it would be why the hell did they make a movie of this film, directed by Ridley Scott starring Matt Daemon and Sean Bean! This stopped me reading this book for so long. I really shouldn’t have judged the book biased on this but I felt that the story would be predictable and boring and how wrong I was. Lesson learned. I am going to watch the film this weekend and I hope that it proves my concerns wrong but I get the feeling Mark Watney’s sense of humour and fantastic sprit will disappear and I will see America saving the day..once again!
The next audio book I am going to read will be an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It’s Christmas time after all. I don’t think I will include this as its a adaptation.
Hopefully I will get an actual book I have read to you shortly. The Shadow of the Wind is great and I cant wait to talk about!
The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney was one of the books this month that I was most excited to read. I had heard wonderful things about this book and had come across some great reviews for the Audio book read by Shelly Atkinson. McInerney won the Baileys Woman’s Prize for Fiction for her depiction of the messy lives of a group of misfits living in Cork and messy is definitely one word to describe this book.
The book starts with a murder taking place at the hands of the mother of one of Cork’s biggest gangsters. This is the catalyst for a whole host of events that carry the reader across a span of 5 years. At first you do not see how all of the character lives are intertwined and I liked this. It is exciting to learn that characters that you have known for many chapters are involved in events that you would not have necessarily linked them to. The only problem is, I don’t really like many of the characters. The majority of them are weak, stereotypical and very predictable. Often the relationships are cliche and I just found it hard to believe that these characters could be real people. I ddid feel some connection with Ryan though. As a teenager with so much potential unfortunately Ryan’s social situation sends him into a life of crime. I should say that I began this book soon after finishing Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch and I feel that this may have impacted on how I approached The Glorious Heresies. The books are similar with regards to the fact that they are stories dealing with the coming of age of a young male who is surrounded by a life of drugs and crime. I feel that I may have held extremely high expectations for this book that unfortunately, it failed to meet.
Although the book itself is not to my liking Shelly Atkinsons reading of the book is fantastic. I normally struggle to listen to audiobooks that are not read by someone with a well spoken English accent. This is not the case here. Atkinson has a really thick Irish accent and I feel that this really complements a lot of the dark humour in this book. The separation of characters is clear and it is easy to slip into the story as soon as her voice comes through the speakers. If I had one criticism of the reading of this book it would be that some of the female characters, particularly Maureen, are read with a slightly screeching tone that I found could be slightly grating after a while. I do think though that I would not have finished reading this book if had tried to read this on my kindle. I don’t think I would have gotten through Chapter one!
Next audio book – The Martian by Andy Weir.
50 books, one year. Why? because I genuinely think my cat is more intelligent than me! I legitimately asked someone at work the other day there if time zones existed before planes. I mean of course they must have what kind of idiotic question was that? but there you go, it came pouring out of my mouth, like idiotic word vomit.
Since graduating from University a year ago with a masters degree in Play-writing and Dramaturgy I have done absolutely nothing except get up go to work, come home, watch some crappy television and then go to bed. Not exactly the most stimulating routine. In an attempt to stimulate my brain and maybe surpass my feline house mate in general intelligence (though given that the little devil is able to convince both me and my fiance on almost a weekly basis that he is being starved I feel the bar has been set pretty high) I have decided to increase the amount of books that I read in a year by almost double.
Last year I read some great books after being gifted a kindle and subscribing to audible. After years of reading plays, reading about plays, reading about how to write plays the rediscovery of the written word has been fantastic. Now I say written word. Most of the books I “read” are audio books. There is a reason for this. I am dyslexic and I recon that I could cycle the length of Britain in the amount of time it takes me to read a standard novel. I am no Chris Froome, in fact I have been overtaken by a toddler out walking when I was out cycling so, you know, its going to take me a long time to finish a book. I also have an 88 mile round trip to work daily and audio books have proved to be a life saver for those long and boring commutes. That doesn’t mean that I wont read some books in the traditional sense over the next 52 weeks. That just wouldn’t be right. This year I intend to read 25 written books and listen to 25 audio books. I will listen to longer books and read shorter books in order to reach the goal of 50 books by December 2017. I have not set out a full list of books to read this year. This is mainly because I love to get book recommendations from people. Some of the best books I have read I wouldn’t have picked up if friends hadn’t recommended them. Feel free to send my book recommendations at any time.
December 2016’s books will be;
- The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Read – Kindle)
- The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney (Audiobook)
- The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Eiking ( Read – Hardback)
- The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (Ready – Kindle)
- The Martian by Andy Weir (Audiobook)