Weekly Preview 21/2/21

Last Sunday, I set out my intentions for the following week, as usual, and then promptly failed to fulfill them. They were absolutely my plan initially, but as the week drew on, I realized just how much I needed a break, before the coming months of intense study. So I spent the week spending time with my family and friends, as well as playing xcom 2, an extremely cerebral game, and discovering new and diverse music.

However, half term is over now, and so I’ll be resuming my usual amount of content, at least for a few weeks. I got accepted for the census job that I mentioned a few weeks back, and I start in mid-March. So I’m likely to reduce output again then, at least until I adapt to the new circumstances.

The government should also be announcing what’ll happen with the replacement for exams tomorrow, which will be nice. I’ll finally know what’s happening and how to prepare effectively, which will be another weight off my shoulders.

In terms of books, I’ll probably just write the posts I was going to write last week. namely, a review of The Devil And The Dark Water, something about what I learnt from Homo Deus, the next part in my analysis of The Grapes Of Wrath. Not that any of that is new to you probably.

Weekly Preview 14/2/21

I know I’ve been MIA for the last few days. I already was at the usual low point that I often get before a school break, but then I had an old family problem rear its ugly head again, which just threw me off completely. But I made it, and it’s half term, and I’m just going to take it easy (so there might be reduced number of posts again this coming week).

In other news, my application to be a discovery reviewer was accepted, so I’ll be spending some time figuring out exactly what I’m doing with that. I also reviewed both Homo Deus and Instant Karma last week.

This coming week, I’ll have a review for The Devil And The Dark Water, which I thought was an decent blending of murder mystery with fantasy elements. It did have a few issues. but was overall very enjoyable. I’ll also have my second post for Homo Deus, talking about what I learnt, which I promised last week. My breakdown of The Grapes Of Wrath will be resuming as well.

I’m definitely going to be reading Tokyo Mayday over half term, but as I’m off school, I’m hoping to get through some other books too. I’m thinking I might read A Court Of Mist And Fury, but I haven’t fully decided.

Weekly Preview 27/12/20

Hello everyone. Hope you’ve all had a good Christmas. I’ve received 22 ebooks as presents, so I’ll be working my way through this year. I’m also learning how to make cocktails, which is really fun.

Last weeks reviews were His And Hers and Hollow City. The former was the better book by far. I’ve got a review of The Bone season lined up for Tuesday, and I might talk about Set Fire To The Gods on Thursday. I don’t like writing about books that I DNFed, so I might not.

I have so much choice as to what to read next, so I’m not committing to anything. Although I think Pompeii will have to keep waiting. I do know I’ll be reading more of The Catcher In The Rye though. I must say, I’m surprised by how much I’ve been enjoying it, despite the teenage angst. Look for part three of my breakdown on Friday/Saturday.

I know this has been a pretty quick one, but I’m finally seeing some family for the first time in forever. (And by some I mean one new family member. COVID sucks.) Let me know how you’ve been. Have you got any plans for the new year?

Slow Reads: The Catcher In The Rye Week 2

The idea for this recurring posts is to read a book over the course of 4-6 weeks, and each week to delve deeply into what has been read the previous week. This will allow for a more interesting analysis of the meaning of the book, and allow me to make predictions, in a way that isn’t possible with book reviews. Reading over a number of weeks also lets you read along at home at the same time, which will hopefully enrich the discussion.

Spoiler warning obviously

Instead of commenting on themes from throughout the passage I read this week, I’m going to chronologically breakdown the scenes that I found interesting in some way. There is still a self-pitying that annoys me a bit when he has so much to be thankful for though.

Holden goes to bother Ackley first. I think part of this is he wants to avoid Stadlater, who he’s just had a fight with, and part is he doesn’t want to be lonely. This loneliness seems to be a key theme, as Holden will do anything to avoid it, even things he hates. I imagine it reminds him of his dead brother, as well as how much he doesn’t fit in. I think the reason he bothers Ackley though, is because he pushes people to see who is a true friend. This is a common phenomenon in my experience, with people who have suffered great loss, and don’t want it repeated. If you keep everyone at arms length, you can’t be hurt again.

‘Almost every time someone gives me a present, it ends up making me sad.’

– Holden

This quote really struck a chord with me when I read it. I think it proves that Holden has low self-esteem, and believes himself undeserving of love and happiness. My suspicion is that he think it should have been him who died and not his brother, as he feels he is the least valuable member of his family.

Holden next encounters the mother of one of his most horrible class mates. There is a comment about class here, where his mother doesn’t really know her child, because she has sent him to a boarding school and doesn’t take the time to understand what he is truly like. I think the same is true of Holden’s parents. There is something more here though. I see a mother who will love her son no matter how monstrous he is, but Holden kindly doesn’t burden her with the knowledge. He once again proves he is a very principled person. However, if we extrapolate to Holden’s own family, we can see that his family still love him despite all his failures, and I think Holden resents that. He wants to be judged harshly and cast out, and isn’t.

There is also a recurring comment about where the ducks on the lake in Central Park (New York) go when it freezes over. I’m still very unsure why this is reflected upon. It certainly displays Holden’s inquisitive nature that he tries to hide, but I feel like it might be a metaphor for something. Hopefully it’ll become more clear as I read more.

Holden often has sex and drinking on his mind. I think the reason is two-fold. Firstly, it demonstrates his age and maturity to the reader, and helps other teenagers relate. Yet, I believe a deeper reason is that he want to be grown-up already. In this way, he succumbs to the phoniness he is so critical of

Holden is clearly still smitten with Jane. Something must have happened to separate them, since they spent so much time together, and I’m expecting to hear more about their story. My guess is that Holden pushed her away because of his allergy to any sort of real intimacy.

There has been so much to sink my teeth into so far, so I’m excited to read more. I’m going to read chapters 13 through 18 and break them down for next Friday. Let me know your thoughts so far. Do you agree with my interpretation of Holden’s deeper driving factors? Why did Jane leave? And what on earth is going on with those ducks?

Book Review: The Silent Bluebird

The Silent Bluebird was a decent novel. Was it a masterpiece? No. Was it fun-filled, fast-paced and free-flowing? Absolutely. It balances tension and humour well, and has lots of vivid descriptions that help facilitate the creation of mental images. I didn’t think it was perfect, but that it showed the potential of Elle M. Holmes, given it’s her debut novel.

The premise of the novel is that two secret agencies, the Zeta Defence Agency and Domino, are locked in a secret, perpetual conflict. One wants to use their influence to mold the world to their satisfaction, the other to guard against such maleficence. The advent of a device that can read a person’s thoughts, however, dramatically changes how they go about their missions.

I really like the main protagonist, Sadie. She has a tragic upbringing, and Holmes uses this to bring depth to her character, without it overshadowing her inquisitive personality. She is very thoughtful and considerate, as well as knowledgeable, and i found it very easy to empathise with her (although that might just be that I see part of myself in her). I felt that the author did a good job of making each supporting character unique and noteworthy, with my personal favourites being Piper and Allyn. However, the villains did feel quite flat, and it would have been nice if their motivations had been explained further, so that they might have been more compelling.

On the whole, I thought the pacing of the story was good, and the plot twists were well-utilized, and some were definitely unexpected. This all created the feeling of a more traditional thriller, with a speculative fiction slant, than a more typical speculative fiction novel. My key reasoning for saying this is that I feel some of its more thought-provoking themes were not explored fully, like the moral ramifications of technology that could invade thoughts. However, I thought that the quandaries plaguing some of the characters lent depth to the novel overall, specifically when they related to family.

The ending was satisfying, both nicely setting up the sequel, while still neatly tying off the book in a way that makes it enjoyable as a stand alone read. I really appreciated how Holmes peppered in small references throughout the book that make callbacks to earlier events, most of which are easy to miss if close attention wasn’t paid. I felt this added to the general spy feel of the novel. Nevertheless, some of the plot points felt a little too convenient, which didn’t particularly bother me, but I am aware this is something that many readers don’t like.

My largest issue with the book was that the dialogue was a little lackluster. I felt it often felt forced or unnatural, which could have been (counterintuitive as it sounds) because it tried to reflect real speech too much. This led to some dull moments, because reading how we actually speak is not hugely exciting. However, I did feel this was less of a problem as I got further into the book.

Overall, I found the novel to be a very digestible read. I thought the raw potential was there, even if it felt a little unpolished, and am excited to see what Holmes’ next novel brings. Therefore, I give it 4.5 out of 7.

Thank you to both Elle M. Holmes and Rosie for arranging a free copy of this book for me.

#RRABC Book Review: Wasteland

Today’s book review is special, as it’s part of Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge. I’d like to thank Rosie for the free copy of Wasteland I got for the challenge, and I think there is still time to participate if you’re interested. Without further ado, onto the review!

Wasteland just got better and better as I was reading. It might start off slowly, since it’s worldbuilding is monumentally ambitious, but once it gets going it never slows down. The book has plenty to say about family, poverty, activism and democracy, social media, liberty… the list just goes on. I could spend all day dissecting its multifaceted themes. For me, it felt very reminiscent of the Children of Men film.

The novel is set in a dystopian version of the UK far in the future. Most of the population has moved or been moved into megacities – vast urban centres that can meet all needs, so that their residents never have to leave. The government controls almost every aspect of its citizens’ lives, and they are taught not to question. Outside the megacities is the wasteland, home to those who have escaped the government’s iron fist. 

The story centres on Rae, a young woman who has grown up in the orphanage system within a megacity. Upon learning that her family might still be alive, she starts to question what it is that she wants. Along her journey, there is a constant flow of diverse characters – it’s a real strength of the book. We can see the effects of the harsh world upon a whole host of characters, which gives small insights into a whole host of differing viewpoints and allows for interesting discussions of the various themes.

While Rae’s story was great, and she evolved seamlessly throughout the book, it was Dylan’s journey that was a highlight. His part was relatively small, since he was a secondary character, but I believe it to be crucial to understand the human aspect of the government’s policies. He encapsulates the idea that luck has a lot to do with your position in the world, and I found it impossible not to feel for him.

I found that the themes of the book mesh together to act as a study of humanity. It painted a poor picture of us, often being very cynical. Yet, despite all the flaws it exposed, it manages to maintain a spark of hope throughout – the idea that no matter what, humanity will find a way. I also don’t feel that Terry Tyler’s exploration of themes in any way impeded the overall flow of the story, something I’m always wary of when books have a strong message. However, the ambitious nature of the novel did mean that some themes are only touched on at a shallow level. I didn’t find this an issue personally though, since there is more than enough food for thought.

In my opinion, the book really comes into its own in the last 3rd. There was a twist that I didn’t see coming at all, which was great, and then the pace is relentless from there on out. It’s one of those that I just couldn’t put down, since the tension and stakes are so high and I was hugely invested in the characters.

Overall, this book has made me really excited to read more of Terry Tyler’s work. It was really easy to read as a standalone book, despite kind of being a sequel (it’s set in the same world as another book, but many years later). My only small criticism is that the writing occasionally was a bit awkward, so I had to reread bits which I misunderstood because I’d missed a word that was in an unexpected place. However, it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment, and would suggest that you don’t let it put you off in any way. Therefore, I give the book 6 out of 7, and would easily recommend it to lovers of sci-fi and dystopia. I’d also recommend it more widely, but warn that it can be quite bleak in places, so don’t go for it if that’s not your thing.