Wednesday, 11 December 2019

A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers #2) by Becky Chambers

"Sidra knew dancing wouldn't feel the same to her as it did to others. But maybe...maybe she could at least look good."

When I finished the first novel in the series, I was super keen to start the sequel. What I didn't expect was such a shift in style and narration. I didn't find this as immediately engaging and easy to read as The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and yet I've had a few weeks to reflect on the second novel and my feelings have shifted.

While the duelling chapters can feel a little heavy at times, there are moments of pure brilliance, asking universal questions. What does it mean to be sentient? When does artificial intelligence cease to be artificial? what kind of imposter syndrome would an A.I. feel within a body?

All really interesting questions aren't they? Perhaps I was a little distracted by busy times at work and that nullified my enjoyment to some degree. Nevertheless, I'm keen to get started on the next one and drift on into outer space - beats dealing with this horrific air quality.

4 out of 5 bodies are strange pieces of kit.

The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient #2) by Helen Hoang

"Lonely was for people who had feelings, which he didn't."

I completely enjoyed Hoang's The Kiss Quotient  and immediately ordered the next in the series once I heard there was one coming out. This perhaps isn't as sweet as the first outing but it is the perfect antidote to a grumpy world.
Maybe romance is dead, perhaps it never existed or perhaps we are just all terrible at communicating. That inability to express one's feelings becomes even more troublesome, it seems, when you throw autism into the mix.

I devoured this like a chocolate brownie. You know that tasty morsel that is gone in the blink of an eye and makes you feel guilty for the short-lived pleasure. Also I had this terrible moment of realisation that I was reading a romance novel at work and that sent out into the world all those unhappy relationship vibes that aren't really appropriate for the office. Not to mention, this gets a little steamy at times. Poor Khai really struggles with ever tightening pants when the delightful Esmerelda is around.

In any case, this novel would make such a great Netflix flick and should be snapped up pronto! It is the perfect relaxing summer read - enjoy by the pool with a nice cold margarita!

5 out of 5 - because a girl can dream.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

"Having no friends, I must make do with enemies."

So I was super reticent to launch into this one after the torture porn that is the tv adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale. Yet She persisted, dear reader and she was damn glad that she did.
Atwood is at her genius best and the words fairly drip off the page. I devoured them eagerly and can only confirm that it was totally worth it. I loved the different narratives, it made for a really interesting reading experience.

Next stop for me is reading the shared winner of the Booker prize and comparing and contrasting. Nevertheless this is a really interesting addition to the original canonical text. I was worried that it might detract and yet it is its own beast. 

So, grab a copy and get back to me to share your thoughts - I'm eager to compare notes. Right now  I don't wish to pollute your experience.

5 out of 5 borders were made for crossing.

Monday, 18 November 2019

The Devil in the Flesh by Raymond Radiguet

“The flavour of that first kiss disappointed me, like fruit you taste for the first time. It's not in new things that we experience the greatest pleasure, but in habit.”

This is a tale of around 200 pages that took me a year to finish. Why? Well may you ask. 
Having studied French at University many years ago, I thought it might be interesting to read this in its native language. My first mistake was trying to do so on my mobile phone. While I began reading in January and had only slightly progressed, it seemed sensible in November to abort my original idea and just read the story in English.

Interesting things that I noticed were the original language seemed so much more dense, funnier and interesting. Somethings got lost in translation. Admittedly my translation skills were somewhat below par so I had quite a few questions that the English version ironed out for me, and yet I really noticed how the colour dissipated somewhat in switching from French to English. Like watching a colour movie on a black and white television.

A teenager falls for this older girl who is engaged to someone else. Her fiancee goes off to war and he moves on in. Their passion is all consuming and while they initially try to keep things hidden, a pregnancy is just one reason to up the stakes. I love this guardian review that describes the narrator as “a very self -aware little shit”, his behaviour was so irritating. He claimed to be all consumed with love for a women he continually puts at risk. The humour can be found in his florid protestations of passion and moral dilemmas which don’t really ring true based upon his actions.

In any case, this had some entertaining moments but I’m not sure that justified almost a year’s worth of angst in trying to read it in the original language.

 4 out of 5 

Friday, 8 November 2019

Heartburn by Nora Ephron

"We should have known my mother was crazy years before we did just because of the maniacal passion she brought to her lox and onions and eggs, but we didn't."

Sometimes a book just seems so personal that it just touches you. Here is a novel that encapsulates the hurt and disbelief that marital infidelity brings and yet, just like real life, it is mixed with humour, food and all the other minutiae of life.
Of course the writer behind hits like Sleepless in Seattle  and When Harry Met Sally is going to deliver. I guess the thing that I found so interesting about this was how timeless it seemed. This was originally published in 1983 and sadly Ephron prematurely departed this world in 2012. Yet her voice seems so young and fresh and relatable.

At the same time it completely transported me back to similar circumstances and reminded me how all consuming the break up of a marriage can be. The true horror of awakening to the fact that your ideal of coupledom is a lie. I really related to the way we're conditioned to portray the ideal of a couple, whether or not we truly feel that's where we are at. When we turn that interior voice of dissent off and give in to expectations, it makes the betrayal seem so gut wrenching and what better way to deal with it than multiple recipes for potatoes.
Despite the subject matter, I absolutely loved this and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys great writing.

 5 out of 5 - roast potatoes are life.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

The Body Artist by Don Delillo

"It was who he was in the dark, cigarettes and mumbled sleep and a hundred other things nameable and not."

For a particularly slim novel there is a denseness in the text that required me to re-read this immediately after I had finished it. There are beautiful sentences, like the one that I've quoted above, which are almost poetic in how much they convey. You get a real sense of intimacy and the void created when a partner is no longer there.

My enjoyment of the novel was hampered a little by the fact that I had to read it twice, it isn't a quick, easy read as you might suspect should you see it on a shelf. Who is the mystery figure that appears - is he a ghost, is he imagined?  or is he a performance piece? I have so many questions.I could read it any of those ways and yet it still works.

4 out of 5 misery loves mysterious company.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby, Jeremy Leggatt (Translator)

“I would like to be a part of all this hilarity, but as soon as I direct my one eye towards them, the young man, the grandmother and the homeless man turn away, feeling the sudden need to study the ceiling smoke-detector”

Quite possibly the best novel to read when feeling sorry for yourself. I guarantee after reading it you will feel better about your circumstances and possibly have nightmares about being shut-in. The lengths that this man went to in order to write this are nothing short of miraculous and yet it is the beautiful, evocative prose that really resonates.

This is one of those rare occasions where I had watched the movie adaption previously and I think that possibly impaired my appreciation of the source novel. Not really sure how to say much more on this one to be honest.
5 out of 5