Friday, June 3, 2016

May Reads 2016 Part 2

Hello! I did part 1 of what I read in May in this post, containing the short stories and graphic novels I read. This post is for the other books I read as well as my monthly stats.

May Reads

The Idiot Brain by Dean Burnett

the idiot brain

If you've ever wondered why the brain acts like it does under certain circumstances, then this is the book for you! You can tell reading this book that Burnett knows his stuff but it's his way of writing that makes this book readable and enjoyable. He has a humorous tone which helps counteract the scientific terms. While this type of topic is usually right up my alley, I found that it took me a long to read this. It wasn't down to how it was written though, I'm not sure what it was that made me so hesitant to pick it up. I think it's just my mindset at the moment. It might have been because I've read a lot of pop science books on neuroscience and was already aware of some of the content in here. I ended up starting this as an ebook from NetGalley but getting it out from library to finish. Having the physical copy helped me finish it (I wonder what that says about my brain?!). It is a solid book though, one I'd recommend for anyone interested in exploring this content more. [NetGalley]


Euphoria by Lily King

euphoria lily king

Euphoria is based on some events in the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead. Nell and Fen are on their way home from a rocky honeymoon in New Guinea studying indigineous tribes, their most recent study being of the Mumbanyo, a barbaric violent tribe and left adruptly at Nell’s request. Fen, already jealous of his wife’s successful book about natives on Solomon Island, resents having to leave as he had just found out about a totemic flute and wants to learn more about it. Before leaving the area the couple meets Bankson, a British anthropologist studying another tribe in the area. Bankson is isolated and lonely, having recently tried to drown himself in the river. He jumps at the chance to spend time with Fen and Nell and encourages them to find another local tribe (the Tams) to study. He’s intrigued by this couple and goes to visit them from time to time, falling in love with Nell as time goes on. The book was a slow burner, it’s narrated by Bankson and I found it a chore to pick up at the beginning (it’s a book club book and I wasn’t that interested in it before I started), but then diary entries from Nell at scattered throughout, giving a different perspective, got me sucked in and made me want to read it. I felt sorry for Nell, I hated Fen and thought how he treated Nell was horrible. I liked the setting with the different tribes and their nuances, it was something different for me. What surprised me most is how close to Margaret Mead’s story this book was! It sent me in a Wikipedia clicking frenzy. If I had known how close to the story it was, I might have preferred to read a biography and then read this fictionalised account. Also, everytime I picked up this book I had Euphoria by Loreen, who won the Eurovision with this song, stuck in my head on a loop! It’s still a fun song.


Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders

gut guilia enders

Gut is about our digestive system, the every day workings of it and how changes can affect our entire body. It’s very informative but if you’re scared of scientific jargon and terminology, then fear not! This book is perfect, as it’s very easy to read. Or rather should I say listen to as I listened to the book after getting it cheap as an Audible Daily Deal. The narrator brought out the humour in the writing perfectly. Having read Gulp by Mary Roach, a very similar book, there was some overlap but there was new to me information in this book, such as how the gut might be linked to mental health and weight problems. I did prefer Roach’s book but that’s because I prefer her writing style but this is still a good book. Especially as Enders has a medical background and you can tell she really has a passion when it comes to learning about the human body.


Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

vinegar girl

Before I say anything, can I just say how much I LOVE this cover! I know I mentioned it in my Book Covers post but I just have to say it again.

Vingear Girl is a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. While I have yet to read the original Shakespeare text, I am familiar with it in other forms. Kate is a 29 year old blunt, tactless preschool assistant who lives with her autoimmune research scientist father and 15 year old airhead sister Bunny. Kate runs the house for her father and sister after dropping out of college and her only real pleasure in life is gardening. So when her father cooks up this scheme that Kate should marry his research assistant Pyotr so he can get a green card Kate is livid.

While I did like the novel, there was bits I wished were different. I think it's a bit difficult to translate the idea that a shrewish woman can be tamed and domesticated by marriage into modern times. It think instead the book is more 'The Softening of the Shrew' than taming. I wanted Kate to be a bit more acidic, especially when she gave her big speech near the end. I felt the pairing of Kate and Pyotr lacked a bit of chemistry, there was some there but I felt more banter or wit should have been shown as they're both clearly smart people. I think if their relationship showed a bit more passion, a hate-can-be-close-to-love kind of fire then I'd believe the ending a bit more. I did like the family dynamic Tyler created, I especially liked the way she wrote Bunny, who comes across as a big airhead with her sentences ending, like, in questions marks? But who actually is smarter beneath it all. Overall it wasn't a bad take on the story, though it's possibly more enjoyable if you don't know the source text. I am looking forward to reading more Hogarth Shakespeare as I love the idea of the series! [NetGalley]


The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers


I don't really read sci-fi, Well, I guess I do as I read dystopian and that falls under the sci-fi umbrella. I don't read a lot of books set in space, in the past few years I can only think of Ready Player One and Armada by Ernest Cline, Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer and Saga (which I only read in April).

I liked the pace of this book, the action and the lulls where we get to see more about the characters and their personalities. Elizabeth from Books and Pieces put it well when she said she liked the small intricacies of life in space, that we get to find out about food and fuel and brushing teeth,small things likes that, that it wasn't all about war and fighting. I loved the aliens and the other planets they land on, all their differences. What I'd change is a better explanation of the world and the different aliens etc. I found it hard to distinguish who were of human descent and who wasn't. I would have liked a cheat sheet or glossary somewhere that explained these things better. I felt at the beginning these terms were all mentioned but without any proper explanation or back story as to how the universe got like that. I think a reread might help clear everything up in my head though!


Soulless by Gail Carriger


I’ve read Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series, about a floating girls school that teaches you to be a lady and a spy. The Parasol Protectorate series is set in the same world and stars Alexia Tarabotti, spinster, half Italian and has no soul. When rove vampires and loner werewolves start disappering, and strange new vampires are being created without the hives’ acknowledgement. Alexia is attacked by one of these vampires and soon the Bureau of Unnatural Registration (and Lord Maccon) are involved. I loved this book, I love the Victorian steampunk supernatural vibe. I definitely clicked with this series more than the Finishing School one, probably because this is for adults (and there is some adult content in here, despite being set in prim Victorian times!). I’ve wanted to read this for a while and after seeing Elizabeth from Books and Pieces say how much she loved it, I downloaded it on Audible which was lots of fun! Looking forward to reading the rest of the series.


When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

when breath becomes air

This book is split into four parts. A foreword by Abraham Verghese, Paul Kalanithi writing about his life from childhood and all through education and residency until he discovers his diagnosis, then writing about how his life changed after and all staged of treatment and then a epilogue written by Paul's wife Lucy as he died before he finished the book.

As well as writing about his life, Paul reflects on his relationship with death, while being a doctor and then while being the patient. I enjoy reading books about about death and people's attitudes towards death, the more we talk about it the less of a taboo it'll be. Paul writes beautifully but I connected a lot more with Lucy's writing, I preferred her tone. The book is poetic and poignant and I cried during the epilogue, but I felt it lacked a bit for me. I liked it but I didn't love it. It’s possible it was just too hyped and I expected more. Still a solid read and an important addition to death positive literature.


One by Sarah Crossan

one sarah crossan

One is the story of 16 year old conjoined twins Tippi and Grace, as told by Grace. With their family going through a rough patch (their father was let go from his job and has started drinking a lot), they no longer can be home schooled and must go to a school for the first time. How will they fit in and will they make friends? I enjoyed this book, it's written in free verse which took me some time to get into but I started to enjoy it as I read on. I read this as an ebook but looked at the physical copy in a shop after reading this and I think I would have got into the free verse a lot faster with a physical copy.

The book deals with a lot of issues like family troubles, identity (how people see Grace and Tippi as a unit, as individuals, how their younger sister Dragon even has her identity tied to them), usual teenage angst of fitting in, finding friends and having crushes on boys. I did guess how it was going to end early on in the book and as I read on I knew I was right, but I enjoyed the book regardless. I felt like I didn't entirely gel with Grace at times, I think I would have liked to have some Tippi chapters too. Because the book is about their own self identity, I felt like we didn't get to know Tippi as herself, just through the eyes of Grace. Nonetheless this is an interesting sweet read, I can definitely see why it's been nominated for so many prizes. In fact, while writing this review I just found out that it won The Bookseller’s YA Book Prize 2016. [NetGalley]


May Stats

Number of Books Read- 15

Ratio fiction to non-fiction- 12:3

Number of eBooks- 6 (Summer Days and Summer Nights, The Idiot Brain, Vinegar Girl, A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, When Breath Becomes Air, One)

Number of Books Borrowed from Library- 8 (Trouble, The Idiot Brain, Chicken With Plums, Euphoria, Skim, Blankets, The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil, Fun Home)

Audiobooks- 2 (Gut, Soulless)


Book Riot Challenge Completed

Read a Book That Is Set in the Middle East- Chicken With Plums

And that was May! I’m now at 17/24 books for the Book Riot Read Harder challenge, the ones left are the hardest. My total read books this year is 70, which sounds impressive (and I guess it is) but a good chunk of those are graphic novels and short stories. Still, not bad considering I set my goal to be 90 this year!

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