Jen reads... all the Patrick Ness

Okay, so not quite all of the Patrick Ness, but two books.

First up, More Than This

I knew that I wanted to read more Patrick Ness after reading the whole Chaos Walking trilogy early last year (in fact, I believe they were the first books that I posted about on here), and I finally got around to it.

I really liked the book The story focuses on Seth, who dies in the first chapter and then wakes up to find himself in some kind of afterlife. Or is it?! Dun dun dunnnn!

The book opens with a fairly horrific description of the main character, Seth, drowning. You can read it here if you want to... that description alone has pretty much embedded itself in my brain, urgh. In a good way though!

To be honest, I think that the main story should be read without knowing much about what is going to happen at all. I went in knowing pretty much nothing apart from Patrick Ness takes on the afterlife, and I'm really glad that I did. So I'm going to stop writing about it now. If anybody has read it and wants to discuss it with me I would be quite happy to!!

Next, The Crane Wife

The title for this is based on a Japanese fairy tale, but the story differs somewhat. It is the story of an American divorcee called George living in London, who one day wakes up to find a crane that has been shot with an arrow in his garden. After helping the crane, he happens to meet a mysterious woman called Kumiko, who seems like the answer to a lot of his problems.

Again, I really liked this. It seems from the description that Kumiko could be a typical manic pixie dream girl, but although she is to some extent, the whole magical aspect to the book makes that more acceptable and less annoying, somehow. Plus, to be honest, that trope has never really bothered me, as long as its done well, and in this instance it is!

It not only follows George, but also focuses on his adult daughter from a previous marriage, Amanda. Amanda is definitely too mouthy for her own good, and seems to end up with her foot in her mouth a lot of the time, but I really liked her for it.

I don't think that the story is likely to blow you away, but for me it had just the right mixture of realism (George and Amanda's father/daughter relationship is really believable) and magic thrown together, and I really enjoyed it. The story is definitely aimed at adults, unlike the other Patrick Ness books that I've read, but it still has a sort of nice air of innocence to it. In fact, I think it was probably much less grim than his other books, hehe. It was a really nice way to spend a train journey that took 3 hours longer than it should have done (curse you, normally extremely reliable Japanese transport system!).  If you've already read Patrick Ness and liked him, I don't think that you will be disappointed by this!


Jen reads... Persepolis and Maus

Since realizing that there was an online community of book lovers (no, I do not know why this had never occurred to me until a couple of years ago, I’m an idiot, apparently), I have been hearing really good things about Persepolis and Maus, so I decided it was probably about time to jump into the world of graphic novels again. The last time that I read any was when I was still at university and read Johnny the Homicidal Maniac (sick and twisted, but I like it!), Squee (um, same again) and Bear (same again (although not quite as bad)… my best friend named her kitten after Looshkin and it also grew up to be crazy, hehe).

So although I’m not new to graphic novels in any way, I had never really read anything serious. I really enjoyed both though, if enjoyed is the right word!

First a disclaimer... I read both of these around October last year, so I'm not going to go into specifics for either of them. Suffice to say that I found both of them memorable enough that I could write this much about them several months after I read them.

First, Maus by Art Spiegelman.

I’m sure that you all know what this book is about, but it basically follows the true story of the author’s father, who is a holocaust survivor. The book doesn't only tell the story of what happened to the father during the holocaust, but also the story of how the author actually put the book together in the first place, which is also fascinating. It is split into two books, but I read them pretty close together so I’m going to talk about them at the same time.

Although I had heard a lot about this, it sort of defied my expectations, as I was expecting that the main character would be extremely sympathetic, and he really wasn't. Of course, all of the terrible things that happened to him, his family and everyone else he knew make you feel sorry for him, but he just isn't all that likeable, which is a really interesting way to go for this kind of book, and made me like it all the more.

I also liked the way that the different nationalities/races were depicted. In the book, the Jews are depicted as mice (hence the name of the book), the Nazis (and other Germans, if I remember correctly) as cats, Poles as pigs and Americans as dogs. This makes it easy to get across how shocking it is that some of the Jewish people helped the Nazis, without having to explain it in words. It’s a nice simple idea and it works really well. Not all of the cats are evil, and not all of the mice are good, and it really gets this point across without having to over explain it in dialogue.

I don’t really have a huge amount otherwise to say about it, but it is really truly excellent, it made me cry (always a good sign), and it really brought home to me how awful the whole experience must have been. Not that I didn't already know that, but the fact that whole communities of people were completely destroyed for no reason at all is really heartbreaking, and I had never really thought about it in that way before. Even if you do survive something like that, what do you really have left at the end of it if everyone you knew and your whole way of life is gone?

Next, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

Persepolis tells the story of a girl growing up in Iran during the war between Iraq and Iran, and then her life in Vienna during her high school years. It is split into two books, the first one focusing on her childhood in Iran, and the second one focusing on what happened to her after leaving.

I REALLY liked it. I honestly knew next to nothing about Iran before reading it (apart from that my husband went there a few years ago and really liked it), so I enjoyed getting to know more about history and a culture that I had no idea about. As the first one is written from a child’s perspective, it is very easy to like Marjane. It’s very obvious that the author can remember exactly what it is like to be a child, and I can imagine myself reacting to things in the same way. So it’s easy to identify with Marjane, and she seems to be a likeable child in general. Things get slightly more problematic in the second book, when she is older and probably old enough to know better and not do some of the things that she does. Nevertheless, having lived away from all of my family and support, and tried to fit in in a culture that I don’t fully understand, I found it quite easy to relate to, and definitely did not dislike the second book as much as some other people online seem to.  

All in all I would definitely recommend it, although I think that it might be best to read both books together, and not separately like I did. I ended up with some time in between reading the first and second books, so built up the second one to be like the first book but much better, when of course it is unlikely that it ever would have been.  I would definitely recommend it though, it made me think about how lucky I am to have a lot of the freedom that I take for granted. 


Long time no blog

Yet again I have failed at updating this anywhere near regularly. To be fair though, I have had an eventful 2014 so far (not in a good way at all), and have good excuses for the lack of updates, which I will not go into here, but let's just say that so far, 2014 isn't that great. I have been getting a fair amount of reading done though, yayy!

To catch up, I’m going to do some mini review posts and some proper reviews*, so look forward to opinions about the following books:

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Dark Places
Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Eleanor and Park
Fahrenheit 451
More Than This
Siege and Storm
Smoke and Mirrors
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
The Crane Wife
The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder
The Sense of an Ending
Tiny Beautiful Things
World War Z

Note: The inclusion of a book on the list above is not a guarantee that I will write anything about it. So is the list pointless? Yes. But hopefully writing it will motivate me to actually write some posts!

*As proper as anything gets on here, anyway.