It’s already February! January is always a really long month, which I’ve definitely been feeling a lot more this year than previously, now I don’t get any student time off.
I made a fairly decent start to the month, reading four books. Well, kind of. It’s been a bit of a mix of novels, and some of them I actually liked enough to give out five star ratings.
I thought since I’ve been a bit MIA I’d catch you up on the books I’ve read in the past month and what I thought of them.
*This is a long post, so you might want to grab a cup of tea!*
The Nix by Nathan Hill
This is my “kind of” book. For a start, I listened to it as an audiobook rather than physically reading it, but I actually started it last year, but finished the bulk of it this year. We’re talking about 65% of it- so I’m alright with counting it as a book I did actually read this year.
I really liked this one, which was a great start to my reading for the year! It’s a mixture of the present and the past- influenced by a single action. The novel follows Samuel, who is a university professor with a love for playing an online RPG computer game. He wrote a book, which was well received, and he is asked by his publisher to pay back thousands of dollars after he didn’t produce any more work- which he was contracted to do. To get round this, he agrees to write a book on his estranged mother, who has recently made the headlines as the “Packer attacker” after she throws rocks at a politician. In order to write the book, he has to meet with her again, many years after she abandoned him and his dad, to hear her side of the story- which it turns out, doesn’t quite match up with the wild rebellious protestor that the media have painted her out to be.
It’s got a lot of different elements to it, and it’s quite a long book. It spends quite a fair amount of time going through different parts of Samuel’s life- such as his childhood relationships, his first love, his relationship with his mother, before going back in time and giving the actual account of what happened when his mother was at college. You might have to persevere a little, but I ended up giving The Nix five stars, and would definitely recommend it!
The Burning Girl by Claire Messud
I’d also started this one just before the new year, so it was also a bit of a catch up book, left over from the tail end of 2017.
I’d picked this up on a whim at the library, where it was sitting on one of the feature shelves. There wasn’t anything specific about this book that I hated, but I ended up giving it a two star rating, because it was just ‘meh.’
It follows the relationship between two girls- Julia and Cassie. Best friends, they start to steadily grow apart as they get older, but they still have a connection.
Cassie is obsessed with the thought of finding her dad, and ‘disappears’ to confront someone who she thinks might be her dad. Returning dejected to an unhappy living situation with her mum and overbearing boyfriend, she ends up disappearing again.
Childhood best friend Julia thinks she knows her the most out of everyone, and uses a tie to their past days to find Cassie when she goes missing- which was a little predictable.
It’s quite a short book, and it doesn’t actually describe any of what Cassie’s living situation is actually like. I understand that the book is told from Julia’s point of view, but as a reader, it’s frustrating being told that she’s really unhappy, without being given any indication what is going on. The entire book alludes to her mum’s boyfriend being a shady character, but you never find out if he’s done anything.
I didn’t hate the book, but I just found it a bit underwhelming. If it was longer, or told from the point of view of Cassie as well as Julia, it might have been easier to work more of Cassie’s home circumstances and understand what pushed her to want to run away.
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
This was another audiobook, which I’m actually really getting into now. I do watch book videos on Youtube, and I’d heard this book hyped up by so many people. I’m not normally a fan of YA fiction, but I thought it sounded like an interesting enough concept that I should really give it a go.
Like I said, it’s YA, so it’s an easy read (even though I technically listened to it). I surprised myself by how much I ended up really liking this book, because normally I don’t love the YA that I do occasionally read. They Both Die at the End got a five star rating though, after a lot of debate whether it should be a four star or a five star.
Yes, the title is a spoiler. There’s not a happy ending to this book, but you don’t go into it expecting one. It follows two teenage boys- Mateo and Rufus, on their “end days.” The way that society works, is that after midnight, people receive a phonecall which tells them that they are going to die today. It doesn’t allude to when, or how, but they know that over the course of the day, they will die. An app exists for people to contact other people in the same position as them, giving them the option of making a new friend and hanging out with someone that will also be dying that day.
Mateo and Rufus end up deciding to spend their end day together, and throughout the course of the day, they undertake a range of different activities, which lets each other learn a lot about the other person.
The entire book focuses on the building of a relationship between Mateo and Rufus, who are quite different people, with different life experience. It’s a sweet book- you end up rooting for them as they open up to each other, and develop a strong relationship. Which makes knowing what ultimately happens to them from the get go more heartbreaking.
It’s not some wild plot point, or some massive adventure-driven end day novel. But I would honestly highly recommend this- by the end it’s quite emotionally powerful (especially for a YA novel), and I didn’t feel like I was reading something that was a bit too young for me.
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
*This one is a bit spoilery, so if you don’t want to find out what happens, either don’t read, or read the first three paragraphs only!*
I picked this up at the library after seeing it multiple times and never getting round to reading it. There’s several references to Gone Girl on the back, which I enjoyed when I read it years ago, so I was kind of expecting a thriller/mystery aspect to it.
To start off with- this book is absolutely nothing like Gone Girl, so don’t go into it expecting something like that. It’s actually about a woman called Ani FaNelli, who is engaged to be shortly married to a guy called Luke, who is rich. There’s a LOT of discussion in this book about how great it is to be rich, and her entire life has basically been striving for people to look at her with awe over her lifestyle, and her job, which I found a bit tiresome. Especially since most of the book is about it. Image is incredibly important to her, but she ends up feeling a bit uncomfortable in her situation, and that what she’s doing isn’t really who is she is.
Ani goes back to her old school, called Bradley, to film a documentary, and confront her past. Here’s the thing- this book deals with two very distressing incidents- rape and a school shooting. If those are going to be a trigger for you, I suggest you don’t pick this up. The way that Ani deals with the rape seems to be pushing it under the rug, because she wants to be in with the popular crew, which is distressing enough to read on its own, and I ended up thinking that this is what the documentary was about.
*SPOILERS HERE* Then about three-quarters of the way into the book, when she sits down to film, she tells the story about what happened at Bradley, which turns out to be a school shooting, where Ani almost died and ended up having to stab one of the shooters, who was one of her close friends, to death. Where she is then vilified by her classmates, after they think she was in on the act, as she reached out to take the gun when offered it. It follows her life since the decision, and what she decides to do after the documentary.
I ended up giving Luckiest Girl Alive three stars, because I did enjoy it, but I definitely found all the talk about image and lifestyle, with the strive to appear rich just really tedious. I think it featured some really interesting plot points, but if it was less “PEOPLE MUST LOOK UP TO ME AND I MUST BE REALLY IMPRESSIVE” then I definitely would have given it a higher rating.
Anyway, that was all the books that I got round to reading in January- quite a good start to the year I reckon!
As like every past year, I’m doing a Goodreads reading challenge again, where I aim (and fail) to read 50 books. If you’d like to keep up with what I’m reading, you can do that here. I’m determined that 2018 will be the year that I actually meet my goal. Maybe. We’ll see.