Eleven and a Half Books: Summer Reviews

I read eleven and a half books in December. I read fast and I relax well. Very well. I’m really very good at it.

1. Watching You by Michael Robotham (6/10)

Eh. That basically sums up my review. Eh. A year after Marnie Logan’s husband goes missing, she finds a book that he was putting together for her. It is filled with interviews of people she once knew, teachers and friends etc, who all express their fear of her and ask her husband not to reveal their whereabouts to Marnie. She is very confused, as she has no memory of ever fighting with any of them.

The writing is okay, not bad. It’s quite drawn out, which wasn’t really necessary. I like my crime novels to be fast-paced and exciting. And the story? I wasn’t convinced.

2. The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb (9/10)

Beautiful and I loved it. But this is my genre. The story is set in Hanoi, Vietnam and tells the tale of an elderly Pho seller. Old Man Hung makes the most famous Pho in the city. These days he sells it from a cart but before the war he had a cafe, which was frequented by the famous artists and poets of the area. Maggie is a Vietnamese-American woman who left the country as a child to escape the war, but who has returned now to try and find some information about her father who had been an artist.

The story flows beautifully, over the hills of the nearby villages and through the streets of old and new Hanoi. Old Man Hung is alive in the pages and the story tells a history mostly unknown to our western ears. Really worth a read, it was a moving story.

3. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (10/10)

I love John Green. I read a lot of his this December. Although he writes Young Adult stories about teenagers, the writing is utterly fantastic and for his words alone you should read his work. He puts together sentences like you would never have imagined it and they are perfect. His writing is the equivalent of a perfectly tailored piece of clothing, compared to a t-shirt from Mr Price.

The Fault in Our Stars is about Hazel, a kid with terminal cancer. One day she meets Augustus Waters, who has come along to a Cancer Kid support group to support his friend. To put it in her words, “”I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once.”

Just read it. And then read everything else he has ever written.

4. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (9/10)

In a similar vein as John Green, the love tale of two misfit teenagers. Eleanor is the new kid in school and she is weird. As weird as they come. Park has lived in the neighbourhood forever and sat in the same seat on the bus forever. When Eleanor has nowhere to sit, Park reluctantly allows her to sit next to him.

It is the start (the slow start) of a relationship between two people, different in every way. It is wonderful, refreshing and the kind of story you never want to finish reading.

5. The Giver by Lois Lowry (9/10)

I read this book years ago. And I mean, yeeeears ago. And while I have never forgotten the story line for thew life of me I couldn’t recall the author or the title of the book. Until one day in November I was reading a Buzzfeed article about books everyone should read, and there it was. It caught me by such surprise that I read over the article three times to make sure. And then I ran home to my kindle.

It’s a YA SciFi novel. Another of my favourite genres. In a world where everything is controlled to the nth degree, where memory has been destroyed and the inhabitants know nothing of colour or pain or freedom, Jonas is coming of age. In his 12th year, he will be told what his occupation will be for the rest of his life. But during the ceremony, the unthinkable happens. They skip him. His name is not called.

What happens next will change not only his own life, but the very essence of his people. It is a fascinating book.  A look at life in a totalitarian state, beyond anything we have experienced. A really great, albeit quick, read.

6. Water Music by Margie Orford (5/10)

Awful. I’m sorry to say it, seeing as how she’s the only local author on my list but this one was awful. I would have given her a four but I added a point to balance out my bias. I have read all of her books and have always been aware that her geography is not exactly accurate, but have been able to move past it. Not this time.

This book is set in Hout Bay, my childhood home, but not a Hout Bay that I recognise. It is the story of a young woman who goes missing around the same time that a young, starving child is found strapped to a tree in the forest. The two incidents seems unrelated at first (or they should have, but the ‘mystery’ was weak) until eventually Orford’s heroine Clare Hart starts to piece together the puzzle.

I finished it but grew increasingly frustrated (angry, even) with how inaccurately she wrote about Hout Bay. As a long time resident, none of it made sense to me and it pissed me off sufficiently to really not enjoy the book.

7. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry (7/10)

The follow up to The Giver, the second in the trilogy, follows an entirely different community and heroine. Which disappointed me a little because I was really looking forward to seeing where Jonas and Gabriel ended up.

In another totalitarian state, though one much rougher than the first, Kira has just lost her mother. Her last remaining parent. She has a disabled leg and as she makes her way home from her vigil at her mother’s grave, she is afraid of what will face her in her village. She already knows that her home has been burnt down and that other women in the area want to claim her land.

But what Kira doesn’t expect, is that the elders of her village have recognized her skills as a threader and they take her in in exchange for her skills. Her world changes completely and she begins to uncover the dark secrets of her village.

It’s another great book, but perhaps more childish than the first and I sped through it with less satisfaction than I had hoped for.

8. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (9/10)

This is a classic, one which I had tried to start before but never paid enough attention to. It is the timeless story of a young girl, documenting her life in a journal. Cassandra lives in a tumbledown old castle with her eccentric, reclusive, once-famous father; her stepmother, brother, sister and the son of their long-deceased maid.  In a quiet town in the English countryside, just as the family has reached the end of their financial means, the arrival of a new American neighbor causes quite a stir in the lives of the Mortmain family.

It’s Little Women, but funnier and with less intensity. A really enjoyable bedtime read.

9. Paper Towns by John Green (9/10)

John Green. Oh, Mr Green. My least favourite of his books is still one of the best reads of my summer. Quentin has lived next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman his whole life and has loved her just as long, but when she climbs through his window one night it is the first time he has spoken to her in years. Since the day they found a dead man under a tree. On this night, Margo takes Quentin on an all-night adventure of revenge.

The next day, Margo doesn’t come to school. A week later she is still missing. Quentin is convinced she has left him clues, as to where he will eventually find her and he undertakes to follow these clues as far as they will take him, all the way to Margo.

It is the story of an unhappy girl and a boy who loves her. And it is heartbreaking, heartwarming and wonderful.

10. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (10/10)

My second favourite of John Green’s books (after The Fault in Our Stars and before Looking for Alaska). Mainly, I think, because I relate so well to Colin Singleton. We are the same, him and I. We are dumpees. We have only ever been dumped. But in his case, it is by Katherines. He has been dumped by nineteen Katherines. In addition to his bad luck with Katherines, he is also a failed child prodigy. A genius who has never reached his potential. These two things send him into a deep depression, which motivates his best friend to bundle him into a car for a road trip. A road trip to distract him and cheer him up.

Along the way, they find themselves in a small, backwater town where they decide to stay. And where both boys discover themselves, their friendship and a lot more about life they didn’t know, they didn’t know.

This book is amazing and I flipping loved it. Go read it, now.

11. (An eleventh book was read. I don’t remember the name. I don’t remember the author. I barely remember the storyline. Basically, a young woman lives with her nerdy, male best friend and is a disastrous dater. Said nerdy best friend asks her and other female friends to make him over and send him out into the world of dating. And then, obvs, she falls in love with him. It was super cheesy and cliched. I read it in a day, on the beach in India and nearly drowned in the fluffiness.)

11 1/2. The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken by Tarquin Hall (7/10)

Picked this baby up in Dubai airport eight hours into a fifteen hour layover, after my tablet ran out of juice thereby rendering my Kindle app irrelevant. I’m only half way through because the second I landed in Cape Town, I never picked it up again, But I will, because it’s one of those funny crime novels which can only be funny because it’s set in India and the Indian nuances are so unique to that culture.

Vish Puri is a private detective who is called to investigate the robbery of the world’s longest moustache, right off the face of it’s proud owner. At the same time, he attends a dinner for the India Premier league Cricket where the father of a celebrated, young Pakistani cricketer drops dead into his butter chicken. And unfortunately for Vish Puri, this case requires him to work with his beloved but tiresome Mummy-ji.

It’s funny and entertaining, but hasn’t managed to keep my attention for very long. Enjoyable read nonetheless!

4 thoughts on “Eleven and a Half Books: Summer Reviews

  1. Kirst, you should review books more. You read a lot, and a lot of good books. Also like how you sum them up succinctly. Adding some of these to my reading list (even though, I’ve bought so many books recently, I’m totally not allowed to buy any more).

    • Lee, I would LOVE to review books. Must do it more often and send it to various publishers. And I can’t buy anymore books either :( I downloaded free samples of all the books I want to read so that when I can afford to buy books again I won’t forget them!

      • Ah, the joys of kindle. I wanted to get one for Greg but if he can’t use it on Shabbos he says there’s no point. So smart to read samples. I bought so many books at Exclusives Warehouse sale that just haven’t been good. Pity. Also (btw), read A Thousand Splendid Suns. Am hopelessly in love. Please review more, I trust your taste in books :)

  2. This is wonderful. Agree with Lee, you should do more reviews (although perhaps you would like to be paid for doing so? ;) Definitely reading #2 as I’m going to Vietnam in a few months. A place is always meaningful if you’ve read a book about it right?

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