One of my goals this year was to encourage myself to read at least one book a month all year long. It seems small, and it is. I am the type of person who tends to hold onto a book for as long as possible; I enjoy taking my time with stories. And when done, I prefer to give myself a few days of refresh to mull things over and think back on the book as a whole before I move onto something else. I've certainly been reading this year, and more than one book a month. With all the other things I have going on (both here and IRL), somewhere along the way I forgot to update my progress. I thought I would really enjoy sharing my thoughts on the books I've been reading — having a concrete place to organize my ideas and feelings concerning a story before discarding it for the next seems appealing. I want a space to remember my favorites and share a bit of review, too. I shared my thoughts on A Dance with Dragons upon completing it, and really enjoyed doing so. So, let's try this again and play a little catch-up, shall we?
I'm sharing three of my favorite selections (from many I've read) from the past three months, today.
1. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
3. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
I picked up this Sci-Fi book after hearing so many good things about it listening to Sword and Laser; it was one of their book club selections last year. Even after hearing so many little things about this book, as well as a bit of review (and didn't hear any spoilers though, don't worry), it was still very different than what I was imagining.
Starting out, Ancillary Justice was a bit hard for me to get into because it was difficult to digest. The story is narrated by Breq, who is the fragment or what is left of a hive mind (called an ancillary) that use to control a starship. This perspective is disorienting at first, especially when she reflects on past experiences, as her memories are remembered as being a plural being (hive mind). Breq also refers to everyone as "she," but that's a little easier to get used to. Let's just say, though, that when I started this book I was terribly afraid I wasn't going to like it. But Leckie quickly makes you want more and more, as she slowly introduces more about Breq's unique perspective and capabilities. You learn that Breq is very angry and out for vengeance.
The magnificent alien world, the Radch Empire and the completely different alienness of Breq, are brilliantly imagined and written. But despite it's alien setting, Ancillary Justice deals with very human problems; like human rights crimes (that are being covered up), oppression, colonial occupation, political issues. There is also a lot of mystery that will keep you reading. Simply, this is a mandatory read if you're into Sci-Fi (and if you're not, try it anyway). I can't wait for the sequel! I might just read it again while I patiently wait.
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
I know, I know, I am the last person in the entire world to read this book. But I did finally read it! Honestly, it has been a book that was recommended to me several times but that I kept dismissing for a variety of reasons. For one, I had gotten the impression that John Green was a huge pretentious asshole. Two, I already kind of knew the storyline, thanks to the internet, and didn't think that it would still be an enjoyable read when I new the fate of some characters. Third, it's a young-adult book and it had been so long since I had read a YA book — and there is sort of a stigma around them, isn't there? Well, I'm happy to say I was pleasantly surprised. Green may be a bit pretentious, but hey, he is a pretty great writer. The book was still vastly enjoyable despite me knowing bits and pieces of the storyline (and being predictable); it was presented far different than I could have imagined and much better than I would have given it credit for before. And as for the last bit I mentioned being reserved about, isn't that some bullshit? Like suddenly I am an adult and can now longer relate to any teenager ever? Whatever, I like YA fiction, and I don't care who knows it! And this story definitely makes that list.
What was most enjoyable to me about this novel was the main character/narrator, Hazel (which is what I'm sure most people would say). She has so much depth, wit, intelligence, realness. But all of the characters are top notch to me; you fall just as in love with Augustus as Hazel does. Isaac was one of my favorite characters — unapologetic, funny, and caring. Hazel's parents are adorable, emotional, supportive, real (just as confused/scared as Hazel), and sweet. Even smaller characters like Lidewij and Kaitlyn add importance.
I don't know. I read this book a month ago and I still have so much to say about it, that I could say about it, so I won't bore you. Just know it sticks with you. I read The Fault in Our Stars in it's entirety in one morning. I laughed a lot but cried more and felt touched by all the lives that existed in this story. If you've been hesitating about it, like I did, just pick it up; it is an easy read and well worth it. Maybe I'll even try some more John Green, who knows.
THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE
Ah, Neil Gaiman, what a storyteller. If I could just get a peak into that brain, holy cow. I'm a huge fan of Gaiman, so naturally I'd been wanting to read The Ocean at the End of the Lane for quite some time; everyone just kept saying how great it was. I just about jumped up and down when I saw my sister reading this and asked to immediately borrow it (when she finished, of course).
This is another book I powered through, which is uncommon for me. I take my time with tales, but this one I couldn't help not pacing. So, I read it again :) I felt completely consumed by this book, if that makes sense. Something about it felt so familiar to me. I loved the juxtaposition of darkness and comfort in this story. It felt like a myth of old, I suppose, but it also felt like it could have been a story from my own childhood. I think that the premise of an unremembered past (granted, in the narrator's case it was taken from him) that suddenly comes flooding back, is extremely familiar and relatable — like memories associated with smells.
Lettie, her mother, and grandmother are the standouts in this book. All the women are brilliant. I love the entire separate universe that exists within this one, in the story. This story reflects on what it is exactly that makes us human and reminded me of the power that stories have over darkness. It is short and sweet, without a moment of downtime and a rather enjoyable read.
What have you been reading lately? Have you read any of the above? If so, what did you think?