Book Review: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

The blurb

Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies . . .

Six interlocking lives – one amazing adventure. In a narrative that circles the globe and reaches from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future, Cloud Atlas erases the boundaries of time, genre and language to offer an enthralling vision of humanity’s will to power, and where it will lead us.

My thoughts

This book had been on my TBR for years, not quite sure how many, but more than 4! I’d been chatting about it with my brother so I thought I should just pick it up and give it a go.  I’d heard that it was a challenging read so I must admit I was intimidated it which is probably why I’d put it off for so long.

Well it took me just under 2 weeks to read.  This was due to the time I had available and not the book, but I really don’t why I felt so intimidated.  It wasn’t what I expected and I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought it would.  I’ve summarised the stories included below and my thoughts on them:

The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing – I found this story to be the most challenging which wasn’t due to the subject matter because that was very good but because of its language, which as it’s the first story in the book, can seem rather off-putting.

Letters from Zedelghem – bit of a 1930s humourous romp told as a series of letters.  I love letter-writing in books!

Half-Lives – The First Luisa Rey Mystery – my favourite of all the stories.  This I estimated to be set mid-late 1970s and was a tense murder mystery conspiracy thriller.  Would have loved a whole book based on this short story.

The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish – reads like a Monty Python sketch, really rather amusing and laugh-out-loud!

An Orison of Somni-451 – futuristic, sci-fi.  I pictured i-Robot on trial.

Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin After – vicious and tribal but hopeful.  Also has some odd language which needs deciphering!

These stories then develop in the next round as we make our way back to Adam Ewing.  Now, as I said, I enjoyed this book very much and thought it has great entertainment value but I can appreciate how other readers might think well what’s the point of it, yes each of the 6 have a link to the others/previous in some way but what else are we to take from this book – empathy, acceptance, what it is to be human or just a great piece of writing with an incredible amount of sticky notes to keep track! 😉

With these short stories, it really is a cross-genre book and one therefore sparks various emotions for the characters within.  If you haven’t read it and have been put off by what you’ve heard, give it a try, it really is worth the read!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Twitter | Website

Small print for info
Source: Purchased
No of pages: 529
Publisher: Sceptre

Example of language in Sloosha!

Book Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

What’s it about?

They share a cup of coffee, a smile, an evening meal.  They try not to hear the sound of bombs getting closer every night, the radio announcing new laws, the public executions.

Meanwhile, rumours are spreading of strange black doors in secret places across the city, doors that lead to London or San Francisco, Greece or Dubai.  Someday soon, the time will come for this young couple to seek out one such door: joining the multitudes fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world.

 

 

 

My thoughts….which do contain a spoiler

My reviews don’t usually contain spoilers, but this book made me feel so frustrated, that I needed to vent.  So if you’re planning on reading this book – skip to the end!  Although what I’m going to rant about is alluded to in the blurb so not a huge spoiler to be fair.

This was our latest book club read and one which I was looking forward too.  The blurb I’d read in our meeting was a little different to the one above so I believed I would be getting a serious hard-hitting portrayal of what it’s like to be a refugee/migrant/immigrant told through a love story.

For the first third of the book, this is was I got.  Saeed and Nadia’s budding relationship against the backdrop of a war-torn unnamed city – could have been Iraq, Syria, Beirut any of these middle-eastern countries.  You begin to appreciate the difficulties they faced in order to see each other; dodging bombs and gunfire, drones, rebel soldiers and curfews.  At this point I was really feeling this book and empathising with the characters.

And then, do you know what!?

The author chucked in the most ridiculous fantastical plot thread which ruined it for me!  Doors!

Even up to the point where these doors were introduced and the couple were paying a ‘trafficker‘ I was with them, hoping they’d find refuge and sanctuary.  I was so frustrated with this that I wanted to throw the book out of the window.  Look at the cover of this book, do you think you’re getting a book with fantastical elements?  Why?  Just why?  I would have loved to have read about their journey, the same real journey that hundreds of refugees are taking on a regular basis.  But no, they were pushed through a door and out they popped in Greece, just like Mr Benn or Sully and Mike in Monsters Inc……. laughable!

Joking aside, I get that these doors were a way of providing passage without the need for description but I was so disappointed!

That said, I did like the way in which the book was written though.  The short sentences, often written in comparison, it’s like the author had a word limit and so there were no over-used words.

“Saeed watched them with his parents from their balcony.  Nadia watched them from her rooftop, alone.”

In our book club meeting the others who’d read it felt the same, and between us our average rating was 2*.  It just didn’t work for us.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Facebook | Website

Small print for info
Source: Library
No of pages: 229
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (Penguin)

Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

What’s it about?

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels.

But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate – the Hazel Wood – Alice learns how bad her luck can really get.

Her mother is stolen, by a figure who claims to come from the cruel supernatural world from her grandmother’s stories.

Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD.
To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began . . .

My thoughts

This was very out of my comfort zone but I’d seen lots of positive reviews so requested an ARC and was delighted to be approved.  I was looking forward to trying something different but also somewhat wary that I might not like it as I do struggle with magical realism.

I really enjoyed the first half of this book when we’re introduced to Alice and Ella’s lifestyles and when Finch comes onto the scene, I liked his and Alice’s unusual relationship, although I don’t quite understand why she was so horrid to him a lot of the time, however, I particularly liked their hunt for the rare book Tales of the Hinterland (would have liked more of this) and their road trip scenes.  I also enjoyed the short stories of Tales of the Hinterland that were incorporated into the main story – these little bites were probably enough of a fairy tale for me to be honest.  I started to struggle when Alice found The Hazel Wood, the Hinterland and the events that followed.  That whole magical realism, I think I try too hard to rationalise it all rather than take it for what is: I didn’t get it, got confused and lost interest.

My problem with books like this is the constant trying to work out the logistics of how this stuff works; what can’t we all see the doors, where is The Hazel Wood, why can’t it be seen by others, where do people left behind in our normal world think people like Alice are, are they just missing? These are the things that are going through my head which you just can’t do in a book of this nature!

As I don’t regularly read this type of book I don’t really have much to compare it too or am able to say read it if you like so and so but it did very much remind me of the movies Inkheart and The Spiderwick Chronicles (which I have since discovered are based on books).  I really enjoyed these movies so I’m thinking I enjoy magical realism more on the screen.  This isn’t my usual go to read but if you love fantasy, magic and fairy tales with a darker side and a hint of mystery then you’ll probably enjoy it and therein lies the moral of this blog post to myself: less fantasy books, you enjoy the movies more!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

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Small print for info
Source: ARC – many thanks!
No of pages: 368
Publisher: Flatiron Books

Book Review: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

the-snow-childWhat’s it about?

Alaska, the 1920s. Jack and Mabel have staked everything on a fresh start in a remote homestead, but the wilderness is a stark place, and Mabel is haunted by the baby she lost many years before. When a little girl appears mysteriously on their land, each is filled with wonder, but also foreboding: is she what she seems, and can they find room in their hearts for her?

Written with the clarity and vividness of the Russian fairy tale from which it takes its inspiration, The Snow Child is an instant classic.

 

My thoughts

This was our book club read for December (yeah I know, I’m way behind on my reviews),  and in all honesty it wouldn’t be a book I’d choose for myself, but that’s the whole point of book club reads.  Being set mostly in Winter itself, it was a perfectly timed read.

All in all, it’s a bit of a strange one this, there’s no contest that it’s beautifully written which sets and explores the haunting and stark landscape but it’s the whole is it a fairytale or isn’t it? Is it real or isn’t it, and is Faina real or just imagined?  Regular readers will know I don’t really do magical realism, in the sense I like books that are cut and dried, so this one was never really going to appeal, nevertheless for the most part I enjoyed it.

I particularly liked the scenes involving Esther (Jack and Mabel’s neighbour) who was such a lively, extrovert character that she really woke the book up because the scenes involving Jack and Mabel tended to be slow and quite repetitive, in fact, a lot of the book is repetitive with Faina’s comings and goings and the daily slog in trying to survive in such a wilderness.

I’m taking from this book that essentially Faina saves Jack and Mabel; before she came into their lives they were just existing but by the end they were living again.  Perfect for fans of the magical realism genre but just not my preferred type of read so I had to persevere to finish.

Book Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Author Links: Website | Twitter

Small print for info
Source:  Borrowed from library
No of pages: 432
Publisher: Tinder Press


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Book Review: The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

The Rabbit Back Literature Society What’s it about?

Ella Milana is a literature teacher, and the possessor of beautifully curving lips.

But when she starts trying to unearth the truth behind the Society, Ella finds a lot more than she bargained for. What is ‘The Game’? Why are the words inside books rearranging themselves? And what explains the strange disappearance of an author, in a whirlwind of snow?

 

My thoughts

Ok, so I’ll admit I was drawn to this book for its stunning cover; and therein ends my love affair with this book. It was just plain wierd, often slow and I’m not entirely sure what the point was!

It reads like a Finnish folk story, goblins and elves and fairies and a there’s whole load of unexplained things happening.  The Finnish names don’t help either, trying to prounounce them in my head just added to the frustration.

In part one we learn more about Laura’s life and relationship with her parents and school which all seems relatively normal if a little boring.

But then we move into part two and the strange disappearance of author Laura White and the effects on the townfolk and the Society members – this is where the strange stuff starts happening and I totally lost the plot…yes, exactly that, I really had no idea what was supposed to be going and I found it a slog to read this section.

In part three there’s these truth games with the purpose to get its members to ‘spill’ their deepest most innermost secrets but why?? And they were taking this ‘yellow’ truth drug, I mean why would you do that?.  This Literature Society was so revered that its members were doing all this weird out of character stuff just to be included, they were successful published authors, surely they no longer needed this ‘notoriety’.

There’s nothing wrong with the actual structure of the book and the writing is perfectly acceptable, if somewhat simplistic, I just didn’t get it.

If you liked The Night Circus or even The Invisible Library or any kind of magical realism I suspect you’d like this, unfortunately not for me.

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Connect with the author Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

Website | Goodreads

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