It's been a while since one of my book reviews posts, in fact the last one was in December, so I decided that since today is World Book Day and I don't have anything else to post, I'd get on with some book reviews! There are of course quite a few books here, so I'll try to keep them short! I've set my Goodreads 2014 challenge at 65 books for this year, and I'm a little behind on it right now, but I'm hoping that I'll be able to read a bit more when I go to Disneyland Paris (aeroplanes and airport!) and a lot more when I go to Florida, particularly the second week where all I plan to do is lay on the beach! For my Goodreads Challenge last year, I first set myself 25 books - when I'd reached like 8 books by the end of January (because of my operation, all I did was read!), I decided to up it to 30, then 40, then went all the way for 52, one book per week. But I actually read 62! So, I had to up my challenge this year and the next logical number for me was 65 - not sure how I'll do, but I'm giving it a go!
So let's get started on these books then!
St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell - 8.5/10
This is a collection of short stories written with a really strange twist, as many short stories are. With titles such as 'Haunting Olivia', the tale of two boys who explore a ship graveyard in search of their sister who died in the shell of a crab, and 'Ava Wrestles the Alligator', in which two sisters are left alone in their cabin at the forgotten theme park of Swamplandia to look after the alligators and fend for themselves, you can tell that they're going to be absurd yet captivating. It's difficult to describe the collection without telling you about each story separately, so I won't! But I really loved reading this - you're thrown into the middle of stories, grasping to find out who is who and what on earth is happening, then you immediately find yourself captivated by the intriguing characters, before you're left alone again without a proper explanation of what has just happened aside from your imagination. I'd definitely recommend this!
The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder - 7/10
This was a sort of 'additional reading' book for my book club which Charley suggested - it's the lovely tale of a boy who finds a magic advent calendar which leads him on the journey to Jesus' birth and understanding the meaning of Christmas. It does sound a bit like a children's book because really it is! But it's a lovely story, nice and easy to read on each day of advent (with each chapter being a separate day leading up to Christmas).
Entry Island by Peter May - 7/10
Back to my murder mystery detective-y novels again! I got this book from Net Galley, and picked it because I loved the sound of the mystery in it, and the fact that it's not just a straightforward mystery, but also touches on history too. A man is murdered in his own home on a secluded island where there is, supposedly, no crime. The only person who is witness to the murder is the man's wife, and the evidence all seems to point to her, but Sime, the detective, is convinced it's not her. The story is also punctuated by his insomnia and dreams (or flashbacks?) of his relatives in a distant Scottish past. While these sound a bit disjointed, the two stories work together well, and of course come together perfectly too. I really enjoyed the story, but occasionally felt there were elements that were a little unnecessary or dragged on a bit too much. I did like it though and think it would make a really good film!
Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes - 6.5/10
(If you're not used to my apparent obsession with dystopian futures, you'd better get used to it quickly, because here come some more!). In this version of the dystopian near future, a virus has claimed the lives of much of the population of America, and citizens are kept walled into the main cities in order to keep them safe from the threat of the outside and the virus. They have to take injections everyday in order to protect them from the virus which still lives within many of them. The main character is Clover, an autistic sixteen year old girl, who is chosen to join the Time Mariners, people who use a portal to travel in future to gather news - hence there is little crime as the future can tell them who will commit this crime and they can be stopped before they do it. It soon becomes apparent from Clover's travelling forward in time that her brother is in danger, and they need to do all they can to stop it. This was an good read and kept me interested all the time, but nothing spectacular. I did find Clover's character particularly fascinating as she struggles with autism in every day life. It is the first in a series and I'd be pretty likely to get the second, so must be pretty good!
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - 7/10
This novel is written in five different voices: that of a wife and her four daughters as they travel to the Belgian Congo on a mission with their father on an evangelical mission to convert the people in 1959. We read this book for book club, and it was definitely an interesting one, although it was very slow to read - only one of us had finished by the end of the month! The family travels over from America where they live fairly typical lives, bringing with them all sorts of unnecessary items strapped to their bodies as they aren't allowed that much in their cases. This is only the first example of how unsuited they are to the culture they are about to enter. It may seem like it would be annoying, being written in 5 voices, but I enjoyed that aspect of getting to know each character individually, although as we discussed at book club, they were all very stereotypical characters - the oppressed mother wanting to break away; the oldest daughter a typical American young lady obsessed with her looks and boys; the Daddy's girl goody goody; the mute disabled twin; and the younger daughter who looks more objectively on the people she meets. Each character is influenced by the racism of the day which you see slowly drop away during the first half of the book, and the second half changes them entirely. I did feel that the book should have ended a while before it did; the second half I ended up skimming parts as I didn't feel they did much for the story or the characters. But ultimately I enjoyed reading it - it was educational as well as an interesting read. I would recommend though that you read it when you're not particularly busy! It needs a few sessions of sitting down and really reading it, it's not the sort of book you can dip in and out of.
Windwalker by Natasha Mostert - 8.5/10
I wanted something easy to read after trawling through the Poisonwood Bible, and this seemed right up my street with mentions of mystery, magic and soul mates. One reviewer on Goodreads gave it 1 star and said: "If you believe in soul mates and lovers who are reincarnated and fated to search for the partner with whom they have had disastrous relationships in the past, Windwalker will please you." And that ridiculous description made me decide to read it - oops! The story itself follows Justine who has recently lost her brother and has taken a job to caretake a deserted mansion to escape the pain of it all and Adam Buchanan, who is from the family that previously owned the house, and who murdered his brother there. Justine, a photographer, takes pictures around the house that develop very strangely with hidden images, while Adam is living a fugitive's life in Namibia in amongst the dunes and doing underwater cave diving. Of course, I'm sure you know the story now! A nice easy read that kept me interested throughout, and some scenes in particular had me enthralled, including the cave diving, as every reviewer says! One scene in particular literally had me holding my breath until Ben warned me what I was doing!! There was another story running through it of Justine feeling and being stalked which I felt was a bit disjointed from the rest but was still good. Got to say, not too sure of the ending though!
The Midnight Side by Natasha Mostert - 7.5/10
If you want to know whether I enjoyed the book above, you should look here because I went straight onto reading another by the same author, so I must have done! I still wanted something easy, and I'd got into her writing style, and since I already had this downloaded (also from Net Galley), I thought I might as well. This is another almost supernatural style book, in which we see telephone calls from the dead and lucid dreaming (again, right up my street!). Isa, living in South Africa, receives a phone call from her friend and cousin, Alette, who lives in London in the middle of the night. It's a bad line and she can barely understand her, then finds out the next morning that Alette had died before she could have made that phonecall. Confused, she travels to London and takes up residence in her house while carrying out the instructions given to her in Alette's will by her solicitor, for Isa to do her bidding and manipulate the London Stock Exchange - but why? Again, I enjoyed it, but not as much as the last book. The characters were a little less defined in my mind and occasionally weren't quite there for me, but there was a nice bit of a twist which I enjoyed.
Pawn by Aimee Carter - 7.5/10
And another easy read - I like these at the moment, okay?! This is probably more of a YA book, but I like those too! In (yes, another) dystopian future, the world order has been changed - people are assigned a number I to VII based on a test they take at 17, VII being the highest and only assigned to members of the ruling family. Kitty Doe is assigned a III and decides to take her life 'underground' at the clubs until her boyfriend can take the test, hopefully get a good number, and they can decide on something better to do with their lives, since a III is disappointing. But she is snatched up straight away and offered the chance as a VII, not knowing that she will be 'masked' as the Prime Minister's daughter, Lila, who died only weeks before, and used to help fight the rebellion she was building. Again, I'm sure you can see where this story is going, but I liked reading it. There were some tense moments, and a little bit of confusion (everyone wants to kill each other at one point, and I honestly couldn't figure out who was on what side!), but it's the first in a series, and I think I want to read the next too.