BookTube-A-Thon Progress

Challenge one ticked off: read a book with a person on the cover.

The challenge has gone off to a really good start as I’ve already been able to check off one of the challenges by reading an ARC of Through the Sad Wood Our Corpses Will Hang (285 pages). I really enjoyed the story and it’s one of my favourites of the year, and I hope it does well when it is released fully on 1st October 2017.

As you can see, there is an abstract image of a woman on the cover to complete the first challenge.


My review of this book, also found here:

Verdict: 5 stars

Without a doubt, this book is one of the best reads of the year.

“Those were the days… when hairs were not pulled for being beautiful, and dreams were not nipped for being dreams, and wings were not clipped for wanting to fly.”

THROUGH THE SAD WOOD OUR CORPSES WILL HANG is the unusual tale of a twenty-year-old woman named Sheyda who is disassociated with reality, set in a city in Iran. The unusual narrator reminiscences about her life in first-person, and discusses in length her upbringing; her personal rejections of culture and religion; the torn dynamics between herself and her family; and her struggle to find love in the broken world. Told in flashbacks that ultimately lead to Sheyda’s execution, it is suggested that she is responsible for the death of her mother, and the story eventually shifts to focus on the real events of what happened on the day of her mother’s death.

The prose in this book is undeniably beautiful, emancipated by the unhinged mental state of the narrator. Sheyda’s logical mental leaps disassociate her with reality and portray her dissatisfaction with life, and a yearning to find another like her. In her lonely existence, she finds comfort in broken dreams and in imagining returned love. Between moments of disturbed joy in Sheyda’s imagination and her dark sense of humour, she is subjected to abuse in the conditions of a notorious prison. The use of physical symbols is also really interesting as it is ambiguous as to what Sheyda sees is actually there, such as the black cat and the birds. Her character is so fully fleshed out that the reader can fully imagine meeting Sheyda as a friend, and imagine how she might think and react.

I really love the way that the author blends in a cultural shadow over the story, it isn’t overbearing and really highlights Sheyda’s contrast to the world around her. She lacks the capacity to understand the conformity of those around her, and instead would rather live forever in her illusions. Essentially, she would make a brilliant romantic poet. It’s also interesting that Sheyda’s mental disassociation is eventually dismissed by her doctor, who believes that she is faking her behaviour, and that her dark humoured comments are in fact honest thoughts. Entirely alone, her isolation might very well be the reason for her increasing spiral into madness.

Overall, this novel is not for the fainthearted and really encourages the reader to think deeply and question every passing scene from the unreliable narrator’s point of view. The abrupt ending drops the reader with a sense of ambiguity, where it is doubtful as to whether or not Sheyda achieves the freedom she has been craving for, and delivers a cold reminder of the character’s strained relationship with reality. If you’re looking for something bizarre to read set in a theocratic country, with some brilliant and evocative writing and dark themes, then this is definitely the book for you. I would definitely love to read more from this author.

Note: This book was kindly provided for free by Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the publisher for this incredible opportunity.

  • Total books read: 1
  • Total pages read: 285



Challenge two ticked off: read a hyped-up book.

For this challenge, I chose to read a short read by Neil Gaiman called The Sleeper and the Spindle. It’s a retelling of the classic fairy tale Sleeping Beauty with a brilliant twist as to who the villain turns out to be. The story is accompanied with some beautiful, detailed art which really encompass the overall story.

I would agree that this is a hyped book largely due to the fame of the author, and I’ve seen the book around BookTube a lot as well. I loved Coraline and The Graveyard Book so I was excited to get my hands on this!

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My review of this book, also found here:

Verdict: 4 stars

I really enjoyed this quick read. Having fallen in love with CORALINE and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK I was excited to give this one ago. The story is a dark (or darker) retelling of Sleeping Beauty with some elements that blend with Snow White as well, all set in a fantasy universe. After a terrible sleeping sickness seems to be spreading like an army, a Queen must trek across half the world with some dwarf companions to confront the witch believed to be behind this: the same witch believed to have put a spell condemning a princess to an eternal, youthful sleep.

The graphics in the short read are simply breath-taking, full of intricate design. They really add to the dark fantasy tone of the book. The spin on the story, while it starts in a familiar way, ends up with a brilliant twist to add a turn to the original story we all know and love. However, I lacked giving a full five stars to the novelette because I felt that due to the short length, something was missing in terms of character development. I wanted to understand the motivations of the villain more, and I wanted slightly more world-building.

Overall, this was a really good short read and well recommended for the incredible artwork and an intriguing twist.

  • Total books read: 2
  • Total pages read: 357

Challenge three ticked off: read a book in a day

For this challenge, I chose to reread one of my all-time favourite reads, Animal Farm. Many are familar with his more popular dystopian 1984, but I personally prefer Animal Farm because while it stands alone as a simple story about animals, it is also a brilliant extended allegory for the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, and perhaps other dictatorships too. The first time I read this book I didn’t think much of it, but the more I think about it, the more the book seems as intriguing as ever in light of the political complexities of the world.

At 122 pages, the book was quite short and I was easily able to read it in a day.

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My review of this book, also found here:

Verdict: 5 stars

Reread this brilliant book.

Many of us are familar with the story of ANIMAL FARM: a group of animals finally decide that enough is enough, and overthrow the farmer who rules over them, rejecting the capitalist way of life. They decide to work collectively for the good of all animals, as opposed to the few that benefited from their labour before.

I adore the satirical angle this story bears on the tumultuous nature of twenty-first century politics, and subsequently the difficulty of living in any society at all. The bleak nature of the communist (or animalist) society the animals reside in eventually returns to be no better or less exploitative than the capitalist way before. As the old saying goes: all power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. What started off as a triumphant shift to the animals’ way of living soon turned into a descent of personal freedoms, liberties, and madness.

I love the way that everything is simplified in the story, and yet can be seen in a parallel form in reality: today as well as in recent history. Many dictatorships also rely on keeping people in line like Napolean did, having dogs growling at their sides the moment the leader felt their power threatened (not literally dogs, but you get the idea).

My favourite part of the book is the extended references to the rules which they created when they initially overran the farm. One by one, these rules are slowly eroded, taken away. And since the animals are not taught to read, the rules slowly become redundant, to the point that nobody cares to remember what they were at the beginning, or perhaps they are too scared to believe that they were mistaken in remembering the rules differently.

The final line of the book continues to haunt me and effectively satirises everything about the story and perhaps most revolutionary political shifts:

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

  • Total books read: 3
  • Total pages read: 479

 

Unfortuntely, I didn’t completely get around to finishing the fourth challenge (about a character completely different to you, but I am halfway through You by Caroline Kepnes (422 pages). The protagonist is completely different to be because he is a routine stalker and murderer, obsessed with a young woman. The story is really intriguing so far and I can’t wait to finish it!

  • Total books read: 3.5
  • Total pages read: 690

Challenge five ticked off: read a book completely outdoors.

For this book, I chose to read IF I STAY by Gayle Forman. This read also goes for being a hyped book too, due to its popularity as a book that will make you weep as well as due to a popular film adaptation starring Chloe Grace Moretz. After work and dinner, I sat outside in the garden and read the whole book in one sitting (with a hot water bottle and chamomile tea to fight the chilly weather). It was dark outside when I was finished but I’m glad that I got around to reading this!

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My review of this book, also found here:

Verdict: 3 stars

I really, really, really wanted to love this book. I loved the concept and was in the mood for something teary to read. Unfortunately, the read turned out to be average and I wasn’t as emotionally affected as I wanted to be. Perhaps I would have liked it more if I read it when I was younger.

The story is focused about a teenage girl called Mia who ends up getting into a horrific road accident, killing her parents, placing her and her brother in grave condition. In a comatose state, Mia has an out-of-body experience, and from there her life is told in flashbacks. She sees her friends and family fight to see her and beg her to come back, but she is torn: should she stay and continue her life without her family and risk a lifetime of medical complications, or should she go with her family and stop fighting? Some of the moments were very touching: her visits from her friends and family, the hopes and dreams she might have to give up forever, her anxiety about the condition of her brother. This concept alone is really intriguing and heartbreaking, especially considering this situation happens on a daily basis.

However, I wish more of the story was focused on this aspect, and why she should go, as from the flashbacks there is more of a balance on why she should stay and a lot less than why she should go (not that she should go, of course, simply I wanted more of a dilemma on her side). Perhaps I didn’t really get in the story because I couldn’t really relate to Mia as a character, she seems to be too perfect of a person for me, as does her boyfriend. I didn’t really feel like they were real people I could meet.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book because of the heart-breaking situation it sets up. Regardless of my thoughts about the characters, the book does really make you think hard about how quickly everything can change in your life. In a moment, Mia’s family was torn apart, and what started out as a snowy day turned into a decision to confront grief and mourning, or stop fighting and let the pain go.

  • Total books read: 4.5
  • Total pages read: 962



Challenge six ticked off: read a book you got because of the cover.

For this one, I just had a glance around at covers that looked different to what I usually read. After I saw this one, I was automatically intrigued, and since I hadn’t read a horror book in quite a long time, I immediately wanted to read this one. I knew nothing about the story but based on the cover, you can already guess that there is some element of ghostliness and entrapment about the story. It also reminded me of the urban legend Bloody Mary, which always creeped me out as a kid.

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My review of this book, also found here:

Verdict: 4 stars

I picked this book because of the cover: it looked very intriguing and it’s been a long time since I read a horror story. The girl behind the mirror also reminded me a lot of the Bloody Mary urban legend which always used to creep me out as a kid. It also didn’t help that in primary school, some of the girls used to switch off the toilet lights as a prank when the other cubicles were in use.

Honestly, I really liked this story. Although it stuck to a lot of cliches and I did find it predictable, it was a very enjoyable read and still managed to add a freshness to the genre, as well as leave the story on an ambiguous note. A few moments genuinely did creep me out, and with a mirror opposite my reading space, I will admit that I glanced up a few times to make sure I was alone.

The plot follows a young girl in a ladies boarding school and her friends on Halloween, dared to say Bloody Mary into a dark mirror. The protagonist is very likeable, somewhat of an outcast, but smart and quick to seek out answers (thankfully cutting out the stage of denial). When her friend goes missing and strange things start to happen around the group, they realise something is wrong and seek to find out how they might stop themselves also disappearing. The book really does get more creepy and intense the further into the story, and I found myself dreading what would come next, but also excited.

I really like the fact that the group actually try to figure out what the ghost is, and what it wants: there is an essence of mystery although the ghost’s intentions are never fully clarified. Even though I predicted what they would find, it was pleasant to read about characters actively trying to change their fates. It was also interesting as to what happened when the characters disappeared, rather than an instant death, something more horrifying and fulfilling happens instead.

There are multiple layers in the story: romance, mystery, horror, and the time limit of five days also adds to the overall suspense. Although not a short read, the pace was very fast and picked up quickly, leading to a very intense climax. Overall, I would definitely recommend this because it only gets better and better!

  • Total books read: 5.5
  • Total pages read: 1249

The final challenge was to read seven books, and although I didn’t quite reach this challenge, I did make the mistake of starting many and not finishing them.

Other books I read this week but didn’t finish vs pages read:

  • Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella — 50/286
  • Slated by Teri Terry — 130/439
  • The Book of Bera by Suzie Wilde — 74/320

(+ 254 pages)


Ultimately, I am really pleased about the progress I’ve made this week. Altogether, I’ve read 1503 pages, which is more than I’ve read in a week for a long time. I had a lot of fun during this reading challenge, and I liked the challenges that were set. I can’t wait to keep reading and discover more amazing books!

 

BookTube-A-Thon 2017 Challenge

This year’s BookTube-A-Thon is this following week, July 24th-30th, and is a perfect opportunity to get ahead with your reading goals! Kindly hosted by Ariel Bissett, this is an exciting challenge to encourage everybody to read as much as they can during the week. There are also some official reading challenges within the more general read, which I also hope to complete, listed below.

  1. Read a book with a person on the cover 
  2. Read a hyped-up book
  3. Finish a book in one day
  4. Read a book with a character that is very different from you.
  5. Read a book completely outdoors.
  6. Read a book you got because of the cover.
  7. Read seven books.

I plan to be overly ambitious and complete every challenge, best of luck to everybody participating this year! It’s going to be very difficult, but also very fun!