Friday, October 7, 2016

Read in September

Monthly book recaps have to be one of my favourite kind of posts to write. I really love nothing more than recommending books that I have enjoyed, discussing ideas and reading other opinions. September was a truly incredible month for reading - as you may know, I currently find myself in the difficult post-graduate job hunting period. As a result, books have been my saving grace for when the 'real world' gets a little too overwhelming and I just need to escape the chaos of my inner thoughts and worries for a while. The books I read in September did just that and while the majority made for easy reading, they also surprised me in a number of ways. If you have these titles on your TBR list/pile, hopefully these mini insights are helpful, and if you have read them already, I'd be interested to know what you think!

When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi
“You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.”  
I don't know how anyone couldn't be floored by this novel. It is absolutely awe inspiring and is a prime contender for the best book I've read so far this year. It is an autobiography by Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon, whose life was cut tragically short. An all-round amazing man, he contributed so much to medical research. What struck me was how humble and how dedicated he was, to not only his demanding field, but to his personal endeavors and love of literature. In his quest to create a virtuous and meaningful life, he never stopped finding ways to improve himself and aid those around him. This is an absolute must read. 5/5

The Portable Veblen -Elizabeth Mckenzie
“A life could be spent like an apology—to prove you had been worth it.”
If you're after a quirky read, this right here is a good pick. The main protagonist, Veblen, couldn't be any quirkier. Her main quirk? She befriends a squirrel who reappears throughout various points in the novel. Specifically, the squirrel seems to be her main confidant as she prepares to marry neurologist Paul, who develops a machine to treat injured and traumatized war veterans. Veblen and Paul both lead crazy lives and have to deal with the frivolities of their equally crazy families. While I can't decide whether I actually enjoyed this novel, I never tired of reading it, as there were little surprises throughout. I could never guess what was going to happen next making for an interesting read. 3/5

The Comet Seekers - Helen Sedgwick
‘Things shifted while he wasn’t looking at the ground and now the world is different; everything is beautiful, and wild, and precarious, because now he knows how the sky can change.” 
I've got to be honest and admit that it was the cover of this book that had me sold, even before knowing what it was even about. Thankfully, my trust in the book (yes, based on its cover) didn't let me down. The Comet Seekers is just as whimsical as its gorgeous jacket. It sees the lives of two main protagonists, that of Francois and Roisin, interweave and then collide. Their stories share a common factor, and that is, the impact of passing comets in the night sky, which eventuates in their final meeting. If you have read and loved books such as The Night Circus and The Grace Keepers, I think you'll find this book just as enchanting. Much like the other two titles, The Comet Seekers also deals with darker themes, making for quite a spellbinding read overall. 3.5/5

The Girls - Emma Cline
“They didn't have very far to fall--I knew just being a girl in the world handicapped your ability to believe yourself."
There was a lot of hype surrounding this book, so I was practically itching to read it, and it didn't disappoint. Set in Northern California in the 1960s, The Girls centers around lonely, validation seeking teenager Evie Boyd who ends up running with the wrong crowd; a group of girls who are a part of a cult run by a seemingly charismatic leader. What I enjoyed most about this book is that Emma Cline's prose captures so accurately what it's like to be a teenage girl. I also read on with morbid fascination as the girls came to their ultimate demise; it was only after finishing that I learned the book is based off the Manson murders. Had I known this before, I think my reading experience would have been heightened as I'm somewhat of a sucker for books that take inspiration from/are about notorious crimes. All in all, this is an exciting read and a very impressive debut by Cline. 3.5/5

The Hours - Michael Cunningham
“But there are still the hours, aren't there? One and then another, and you get through that one and then, my god, there's another.”
Author Michael Cunningham doesn't make his admiration for Virginia Woolf a secret. His Pulitzer winning novel is both a tribute to the authoress and an effortless example of his own remarkable talent. The Hours tells the story of three women from three different time periods: Virginia Woolf, Clarissa Vaughan and Laura Brown. Over the course of one day, their stories manage to transcend time and intertwine to reveal their shared feelings of hopelessness and realisation that they must make a change to their lives in order to escape it. I'm not going to lie; this wasn't the most uplifting read and it was oftentimes painful to realise that I identified with the three women. Cunningham so cleverly and accurately captures the excruciating feeling that life is escaping you, but at the same time, never ending, all the while you struggle with what it is you want to do or achieve and how to set about doing it. I would recommend reading this for the exquisite writing alone, but if you're a Virginia Woolf enthusiast, then this is definitely worth a read. 4/5

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes
“You only get one life. It's actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.” 
 Of all the books I read last month, this one surprised me the most. I'm sure you're well aware of this title, especially with the recent release of the film adaption. It follows a woman, Lou Clark, who takes on a job as a carer for Will Traynor, a high achieving career man whose life fell apart after a motorbike accident left him paralyzed. What I appreciated about this book is that it delivered beyond expectations. Settling down with it one afternoon, I was prepared for a light hearted, if not somewhat heartbreaking, romance narrative. What I wasn't prepared for was how 'real' this novel truly is. I don't think it's a love story; more so, a story about life, how fragile and unfair it can be, and the fact that we are the only ones in charge of our lives and how we shape it. It deals with some very serious topics, such as disability and the right to end one's life. I admit, there were tears by the end of the novel, but what I admire about Me Before You is it's clear that Jojo Moyes didn't write it to forcibly provoke such a reaction. Everything about this novel is understated; it is respectful, it is funny, it is touching and it is true. Indeed, I was not prepared to be so moved by this book, so much so, that it continues to stay on my mind days after I read the final page. 4/5

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