Friday, 9 January 2015

What I've Been Reading Recently - January 2015

So I haven't blogged in awhile, a mixture of work commitments and personal issues have left very little time to think about much else but it is a new year and all that and this year I will dedicate more time to writing so let's start as I mean to go on with a catch up on some of the books I have been reading over the past few months.

I am a big fan of trying to read books before I watch the movies they are based on and I was successful on one account at least when it came to Gone Girl. I am a huge Ben Affleck fan so there was no way I was going to miss seeing him on the big screen but enough about my Hollywood crushes (although if we were Jake Gyllenhaal and Bradley Cooper would also be involved...) because Gone Girl is a brilliant, dark pager-turner of a book which more than deserves all of the praise that was heaped upon it. 

Nick and Amy are such wonderfully complicated and interesting characters, you are always wondering who is in the right and who is in the wrong but the brilliance of the book lies in its tone and pace and the huge surprise you get halfway through. Best to read totally cold, you will find yourself thinking just one more chapter. 

I went in reverse with The Wolf of Wall Street, I had watched the movie when it was released but picked up the book for a song in Sainbury's when the DVD was released. The movie was that of greed, excess and what both could do to a man and was actually pretty tame in comparison to some of the stories Belfort recalls in the book. King of his own castle, Belfort is the embodiment of the American Dream, coming from very little and building up a billion dollar business through grit, determination and some not entirely legal means. He has lived the life of about fifty men and is still here to tell us all about it. They say the truth is stranger than fiction and in this case nothing could be truer.

If you have read my previous book post you will know I am a huge fan of YA so it is hardly surprising that the new couple of entries are based within the genre.
I really enjoyed Dawn O'Porter's debut novel Paper Aeroplanes and was looking forward to catching up with Renee and Flo to see where life has taken them and I wasn't disappointed as O'Porter once again manages to capture the joy and agony of growing up in the 90's, Although tied closely to the friendship that has grown between the two since their first adventure, the book focuses on what happens when you grow up, become your own person, make your own decisions and decide what you want to do with your life. I'm really looking forward to the next book and seeing what life has thrown at Renee and Flo in the intervening years.

Having been a huge fan of The Fault in Our Stars I was really disappointed with the next two John Green books I read, Searching for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherine's as I honestly could not connect with either book or its characters but thankfully this wasn't the case with Paper Towns. Green loves to present a story of impossible love and loyal readers will not be disappointed. Quentin is the lovelorn teen who, after the girl of his dreams Margo vanishes, decides to take it upon himself to find her, suspecting she is hiding somewhere in the Paper Towns (the fake towns made up by map companies). With the help of his friends Ben and Radar (who are some of the best secondary characters Green has produced), Q's quest is heartfelt and as the reader you feel his victories and his frustration in not only the quest itself but with trying to comes to terms and understand the enigma that is Margo Roth Spiegelman.

Rainbow Rowell can really do no wrong for me at the moment, I was hugely impressed with Eleanor & Park and thankfully Fangirl was as good if not better! As a geek and wannabe writer myself I found the character of Cath fantastically easy to relate to and I loved how her story slowly unfolded across the book, I also really loved how the plot stayed focused on her as a person, with the side stories adding realistic strands, making Cathy wonderful, interesting and rounded. Also on a side note the Harry Potteresq Simon Snow series that Cath is obsessed with in the books is being turned into a real series by Rowell, so if magic is up your street keep an eye out for the release later this year.

Still in the realm of YA and Gayle Forman's look at life, death and love in If I Stay and Where She Went. The main premise of the story is what would happen if, given the choice, what you would do if you were the soul survivor of a car crash that has killed the rest of your family. That is the choice given to 18 year old Mia, on the cusp of leaving home to go to college and with the possibility of a successful career as a classical musician in her midst, add to that a deep but complicated relationship with fellow musician boyfriend Adam. Yes the story is incredibly sad but it is written so beautifully and with such elegance and isn't afraid to discuss the bigger issues that death brings with it. The follow up, which is told from the point of view from Adam is also really, really good and let's readers see exactly what happened the the terrible events of the first book, both these books are guaranteed to make you cry, laugh and think about the beauty and absurdity of life.

A glut of book reading for me wouldn't be complete without some type of autobiography and over the past months I have read two amazingly funny books by two wildly funny people.

Mindy Kaling is the kind of girl you would love to be friends with, she has a great sense of humour, doesn't take herself too seriously and isn't afraid to talk about the things that all girls worry about. She guides you though her life so far, telling funny antidotes from her childhood though to working on The Office (an achievement which Kaling downplays - she is a true woman of comedy, knocking down all kinds of doors) and her own successful show, The Mindy Project.

Across the pond from Ms. Kaling and another well loved TV Star, Graham Norton follows up his 2004 autobiography with The Life and Loves of a He-Devil, which is a beautiful opus to the things that he truly loves. From Diva's to Booze, to his native Ireland to his irreplaceable pooches, Norton will make you laugh out loud more than once with his view of the world he inhabits and that things that really make him tick. It is an interesting and funny read which confirms why Norton is just so loved on these shores.

I love film so I find myself reading a lot of books about it, I also adore New York so I found a perfect match in The Film Lover's Guide to New York which takes you on a tour of locations used in the city for a variety of films. The mostly pictorial guide is a lovely keepsake and I definitely will be visiting a couple of locations on my next trip to the City!

Richard Ayoade is a comedy genius - his book is an embodiment of that and I liked it so much I wrote about it for Den of Geek here 

Two books I found myself disappointed with recently were Charlaine Harris' After Dead, which charted the lives of all the character's that had appeared in her series of Sookie Stackhouse books.It felt like a super lazy cobbled together book, which left the majority of characters facing unhappy futures and the positive note the series ended on felt tainted and worse off for it. If a book every felt like it was published just to make a few extra pounds it is this one.

Then there was Slimed which took a look back at Nickelodeon in the 80's and 90's. The book itself is an oral history and this is what I found extremely difficulty to follow - the conversational tone makes for difficult reading and it is also near impossible to remember who is who without constantly referring back to the 'cast of characters' which makes the flow more than disjointed - however the book did get me reminiscing about the shows I loved as a kid which were on the network and lead me to writing this for Den of Geek.

Til next time folks!