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Ellie's (elliepotten) first time ROOTing around

2018 ROOT (READ OUR OWN TOMES)

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1elliepotten
Edited: Dec 16, 10:36am Top

Hello there! I'm Ellie, from England - and welcome to my first ever attempt at tackling some of those pesky ROOTs that just keeeeeep on appearing around here, the stubborn little devils. Happily, as we all know, sometimes ROOTs flourish and lead to beautiful flowers, which is what I'm hoping will happen with a good number of the ones I dig up this year...



I've barely read a thing in 2017 - not since March or so, anyway - but 2018 should be a whole different story, hooray! Nevertheless, I'm going to aim for a modest 30 books. I have a tendency to go a bit mad in bookshops and the library, let's be honest - and I wouldn't want to tarnish this group's excellent record of achieving its goals! Besides, it would be nice to actually complete one of my own challenges, for a change. :)

My personal ROOT-y rules will be as follows:

1) Any book that has been on my shelves since before Christmas 2017 is fair game, whether it's been catalogued yet or not (I'll know!). If I got it for or around Christmas, that feels a bit too new for me, so those books won't count; nor will anything I buy in 2018.

2) Rereads will be allowed, if I previously read the book over a year ago. Those books are still on my shelf precisely because I want to reread them sometime, so why the heck not?

3) Books will be counted as ROOT successes if I have read them, whether I decide to keep them, or they go off to Ziffit or the charity shop afterwards. If I've read a decent chunk of a book but end up not wanting to finish it (and it goes straight into the charity bag), that will count. If I just clear a book off my shelf completely unread, as occasionally happens, that will not count. The key word here being read, right?!




I'm also taking part in the 75-Book Challenge again this year (I introduced myself properly on that thread!) and attempting to maaaaaybe topple half of the PopSugar 2018 reading challenge, so do drop by and say hi if you're skipping around over there any time!

In the meantime - let the 2018 ROOT-ing begin!

ROOTs currently on the go:
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
Shakespeare Wrote for Money by Nick Hornby
Columbine by Dave Cullen
It's Not Me, It's You! by Jon Richardson
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

2elliepotten
Edited: Dec 16, 10:37am Top



ELLIE'S ROOTs FOR 2018

1. Night - Elie Wiesel (message 27)
2. A Good Year - Peter Mayle (message 53)
3. A Voice in the Distance - Tabitha Suzuma (message 60)
4. A Boy's Own Story - Edmund White (message 70) DNF-ed
5. Everything, Everything - Nicola Yoon (message 74)
6. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov (message 77)
7. Three Men on the Bummel - Jerome K. Jerome (message 80)
8. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan (message 84)
9. Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters - Rick Riordan (message 85)
10. Bohemian Manifesto: A Field Guide to Living on the Edge - Laren Stover (message 86)
11. A Passion for Books - edited by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan DNF-ed (message 87)
12. Lost in Translation - Ella Frances Saunders (message 92)
13. Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami (message 99)
14. Doctor Sleep - Stephen King (message 102)
15. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey (message 105)
16. The Hit - Melvin Burgess (message 108)
17. Jason and Medea - Apollonius of Rhodes (message 109)
18. Gods Behaving Badly - Marie Phillips (message 114)
19. Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen (message 115)
20. The Children Act - Ian McEwan (message 118)
21. The Pleasure's All Mine: A History of Perverse Sex - Julie Peakman (message 119)
22. Berserk - Ally Kennen (message 120)
23. The Martian - Andy Weir (message 123)
24. The Wolf of Wall Street - Jordan Belfort DNF-ed (message 124)
25. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson (message 125)
26. The Woman in Black - Susan Hill (message 128)
27. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling (message 129)
28. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling
29. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling

3floremolla
Dec 31, 2017, 5:10pm Top

Welcome! Just had a look at your 75-Book challenge thread - I think you're going to noise us ROOTers up a little ;) Good luck with your reading goals!

4elliepotten
Dec 31, 2017, 5:11pm Top

>3 floremolla: Haha, maybe not. I'll try to behave better around here, I promise. ;)

5connie53
Dec 31, 2017, 7:25pm Top

>4 elliepotten: Welcome to the ROOTers, Ellie! Please don't behave to much!

6elliepotten
Dec 31, 2017, 8:07pm Top

>5 connie53: Well, in THAT CASE! *hops up onto the table* Nah, just kidding, I'm totally in my PJs right now drinking hot chocolate... :P

7tess_schoolmarm
Dec 31, 2017, 8:40pm Top

Welcome and good luck with your rooting in 2018!

8rabbitprincess
Dec 31, 2017, 10:17pm Top

Welcome aboard and have fun with your challenge! PJs and hot chocolate sound like a great plan for New Year's!

9cyderry
Dec 31, 2017, 10:32pm Top

Ellie, really glad that you've joined us!
Hope you find great books that have been just waiting for you to read them!

10connie53
Jan 1, 3:10am Top



Happy New Year, Ellie. Have lots of hot chocolate!

11LauraBrook
Jan 1, 1:26pm Top

Hi Ellie, and welcome to this wonderful group! Looks like both of us have our work cut out this year!

12FAMeulstee
Jan 1, 3:22pm Top

One more happy reading in 2018, Ellie!

13Familyhistorian
Jan 2, 1:06am Top

Good luck with your ROOTs this year, Ellie!

14elliepotten
Jan 3, 4:00am Top

Hello everyone! Thank you for such a warm welcome to the group! I'm still sort of working in the Old Year here - I have a big project I need to finish before I can really have my 'New Year' and start reading again - but I'm almost there! Hopefully I'll be able to kick off the booking around by Friday or Saturday; I have a pile of books to read, a pile of movies to watch, and some delicious food to enjoy right along with them. Wish me luck! :)

15detailmuse
Jan 3, 11:18am Top

>1 elliepotten: If I've read a decent chunk of a book but end up not wanting to finish it (and it goes straight into the charity bag), that will count. If I just clear a book off my shelf completely unread, as occasionally happens, that will not count.
Me too for both, and I want to clear some unreads this year. Glad you're here!

16MissWatson
Jan 4, 10:29am Top

Welcome and have fun!

17rainpebble
Jan 4, 1:46pm Top


glitter-graphics.com

Hi Miss Ellie. It was such a pleasure to see you among those who have already posted to the January Progress Thread. I am really looking forward to your reads & comments.

18elliepotten
Jan 5, 4:48pm Top

>15 detailmuse: - Hello and welcome! I still haven't actually started reading this year, I'm putting it off until I'm done working and then I'm having a 'New Year 2' involving pains au chocolat, pizza and a pile of books and movies. Just a couple more days, hopefully, and I'll be out of the starting gates at last!

>16 MissWatson: - I'll drink to that! It's only hot milk, but still... *holds mug aloft*

>17 rainpebble: - BELVA! I was wondering if you were floating around somewhere, how I've missed you over these last few years! I've been a terrible forum-er of late, but I'll do better this year I promise! :)

19MissWatson
Jan 7, 8:12am Top

>18 elliepotten: Yay! *holds hot chocolate mug aloft*

20elliepotten
Jan 9, 3:33pm Top

NEW YEAR 2 IS ON ITS WAY! I finished my editing project today, finally, so I'm overdue a reading break (by about eight months, haha). Tomorrow, I buy reading snacks and start something new. AT LAAAAAST!

21floremolla
Jan 9, 5:18pm Top

Delayed gratification is sometimes the best sort - enjoy!

22rabbitprincess
Jan 9, 6:53pm Top

>20 elliepotten: Woo hoo! Enjoy your well-earned reading break!

23elliepotten
Jan 10, 2:14am Top

BUT WHERE DO I START?! I've got that supermarket trip this morning (in which treats and possibly even a celebratory book will be bought), but before that I think I'm going to spend an hour just rearranging my DVD shelves and browsing my bookshelves, picking out what I want to enjoy first now I've got my time back. I feel like I've got to pick really well; it's my first book of 2018 AND my first read in months full stop. Gotta make it a good one! :D

24connie53
Jan 10, 3:12am Top

Happy browsing, Ellie!

25MissWatson
Jan 10, 3:56am Top

Oh, the pleasures of anticipation!

26elliepotten
Jan 11, 10:13am Top

So I'm starting off my 2018, and my ROOT challenge (finally!), with Night by Elie Wiesel.

I rearranged my shelves a year or two ago, separating off my read books (shelved by genre/topic then alphabetically) then organising the rest chronologically by when I bought them. More or less, anyway. The last few are a muddle, and the earliest ones all run together because I added everything in my collection to LT at once when I first joined!

Aaaaaanyway, Night was shelved riiiiiight near the very beginning of my unread books, so it's probably been on my shelves ten years or more. Between that and its incredibly respected status in the literary and historical world, I thought it would be an excellent start. Brutal, but excellent. I'll report back when I'm done!

27elliepotten
Edited: Feb 7, 9:12am Top



1. Night, by Elie Wiesel (4*) - non-fiction
In LibraryThing catalogue since May 2014, and I think I had an older edition before that too.

Well, this was a horrifying choice for my first read of the year. I knew it would be, of course, but it really got under my skin. Wiesel's writing is beautiful and visual and profound, and I wasn't prepared for just how much disbelief, anger and very personal soul-searching I was going to be hit with in the space of so few pages. I had to keep stopping to close the book, take some deep breaths, wipe my tears away and carry on. I wished I didn't have to carry on. Then I felt guilty and disrespectful, because he DID have to carry on, so who the hell was I to want to walk away from his book when he'd survived, and been brave enough to share those terrible memories, and to dedicate his life to making sure we never forget how easily the darkest side of humanity can rise up and try to make terrible things 'acceptable'?

Three things that particularly stuck with me:

- The way Wiesel repeatedly became so used to the daily life of the concentration camps, so set in their routines, that he started to become almost complacent, and therefore the reader gets lulled into a false sense of security too. "We get soup, we get sleep, the work isn't so bad..." And then, each time, something HAPPENS. Something that is so terrible, so devoid of humanity, that it shakes both prisoner and reader to their core all over again.

- The very modern sensibility of the prisoners. We tend to think of the Holocaust as historical, as a long time ago, in a different age, with different sensibilities - but Wiesel's thoughts were exactly what ours would be. It WASN'T a long time ago. How, in a modern era, could someone get so close to actually wiping an entire minority off the face of the planet? There are photographs, and news reports, and global superpowers fighting - how can no one know? And if they do know, how can they be okay with the atrocities taking place behind that barbed wire? Or even ignore it?

- The attitudes of other people who came into contact with the prisoners. They made me feel sick. The giggling girls flirting with the officers and ignoring the starving men marching alongside them. The curious people throwing scraps through the train bars and watching desperate people kill each other over a crust of bread. All of those people who laughed, watched, exploited and ignored... IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.

I couldn't give this book five stars, because I hated every minute of it, and also some of the more religious themes were a bit lost on me (I'm not familiar enough with Jewish culture) - but as a piece of literature it was almost perfect, and I will forever be glad that I read it. I will never forget that I read it, and those moments of almost inconceivable cruelty will be etched into my brain for a lifetime.

Quotes:

- (Towards the end of their seemingly-endless run through the snow between Buna and Buchenwald) "We were the masters of nature, the masters of the world. We had transcended everything - death, fatigue, our natural needs. We were stronger than cold and hunger, stronger than the guns and the desire to die, doomed and rootless, nothing but numbers, we were the only men on earth."

- (From Wiesel's Nobel acceptance speech) "I explain to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the centre of the universe." Still as relevant today as ever...

This book also counts for:
- 75-Book Challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 8 (a book with a time of day in the title)

28floremolla
Jan 13, 4:53am Top

>27 elliepotten: great visceral review, Ellie. Having read Primo Levi's If This Is a Man I can relate to all of your reactions - scenes, descriptions and the feelings they prompt can stay with you for the rest of your life. You have to be in the right frame of mind to tackle something like that - and it can take a while to move on to something lighter. Well done on completing a challenging first ROOT.

29elliepotten
Jan 13, 5:40am Top

>28 floremolla: YES! This. All of this. I think its time was 'right' - you know, when you look at a book on your shelf and get that feeling - but I'll be delighted to move on to something less brutal while my feelings about it start to settle!

30Jackie_K
Jan 13, 7:03am Top

>27 elliepotten: Great review. That's a book I've never dared pick up, yet. Coward that I am. I will at some point, but really need to brace myself first.

31tess_schoolmarm
Jan 13, 8:57am Top

>27 elliepotten: probably one of my top 5 books. I teach a course on the Holocaust and this is required reading. I have also met the now deceased Elie Wiesel and he was a very humble man. My favorite quote from this book is something to the effect: "as I saw the children burning in the ditch, my faith (God) went up in flames."

32elliepotten
Jan 13, 11:56am Top

>30 Jackie_K: - Yes, it's definitely one where you need to choose your timing carefully. For your own sake.

>31 tess_schoolmarm: - What an honour! And yes, that was one of the 'branded in my brain' moments. Along with the horribly slow demise of the pipel, the first realisation of what the chimney and the smoke actually mean, and the moment in the Appelplatz where Wiesel just RAGES at God instead of praying to him with everyone else. And several other parts that I'm sure will spring to mind and humble me all over again at the most inopportune moments over the next few months. A life-changing read for sure.

33tess_schoolmarm
Jan 13, 1:44pm Top

>32 elliepotten: Actually, Ellie, I was privileged to spend a week with over one dozen Holocaust survivors in Washington DC in 2013. The Holocaust Museum closed for 1/2 a day and a survivor personally escorted me through the museum (as well as 11 other teachers). It was a very emotional week as we heard story after story of loss and depravity. It changed my life as I went home and wrote a curriculum for a Holocaust course and submitted it to my local university and I teach it now at 3 different universities. The sad thing is that most students come to me not really knowing anything about the Holocaust; it is losing a place in history because it does not fit the political correct agenda.

34elliepotten
Jan 13, 3:04pm Top

>33 tess_schoolmarm: What an incredible opportunity - and great that you're using it in such a powerful way to 'pass it on' and teach others in turn. :)

35detailmuse
Edited: Jan 14, 3:43pm Top

>27 elliepotten: Beautiful review. Truly: the inhumanity. My husband was sleeping upstairs when I read this some years ago, and I was surprised to see him coming down the stairs ... my sobbing had woken him.

>33 tess_schoolmarm: That is a beautiful and meaningful response.

36LauraBrook
Jan 24, 12:32pm Top

Wow, what a review, Ellie! It's still unread on my shelves too (it's my Grandmother's copy, so it's been around probably for my whole life), and I'm sort of saving it for that just right feeling you mentioned. I think it'll be this year, somehow.

I hope you're on to a lighter book, m'dear!

37elliepotten
Jan 27, 5:31am Top

>36 LauraBrook: Hey sweetpea! I am, yes. Two ROOTs on the go - a book of essays about reading (A Passion for Books), and one slightly tongue-in-cheek one about bohemian living (Bohemian Manifesto) - and a non-ROOT scientific autobiography by one of the biospherians who took part in the original 'mission' in Arizona (The Human Experiment: Two Years and Twenty Minutes Inside Biosphere 2). Slower going, reading three at once, but I'm loving every page! And it's my 10-year Thingaversary tomorrow, so I'm planning to spend the whooooole of Sunday reading and snacking and generally having a bookish wonderful day. :D

38rabbitprincess
Jan 27, 11:56am Top

>37 elliepotten: Happy early Thingaversary! That sounds like a wonderful celebration.

39elliepotten
Jan 27, 1:28pm Top

>38 rabbitprincess: Thank you! Turns out You've Got Mail's on telly tomorrow, so that MIGHT be slotted in there as well. Or Matilda, possibly. I feel like a bookish lovely movie would be a good addition to the day. :D

40connie53
Jan 27, 2:33pm Top

Happy Thingaversary! Enjoy your bookish day!

41rabbitprincess
Jan 27, 2:39pm Top

>39 elliepotten: Either of those would be great! Enjoy!

42tess_schoolmarm
Jan 27, 7:34pm Top

Both great movies! Sounds like a great day!

43elliepotten
Edited: Jan 28, 8:25am Top

Happy Thingaversary to meeeeeee! I started off my day with coffee and an essay from A Passion for Books (appropriate), then I started reading A Good Year by Peter Mayle (my first fiction book of the year and a long-time ROOT), and then later I think it's going to be chicken goujons and ketchup, tinned pears and chocolate, and Matilda. Possibly a few BookTube videos as reading breaks, I love watching readathon vlogs for bookish inspiration and I found a couple of new channels recently so I have lots to explore. POSSIBLY I may have a little look through my bookish wishlist and order a book (or adaptation) or two. Ooooooooh, this is going to be such a nice Sunday! :)



Thank you so much to everyone who's been around here with me for the last ten years, sharing books and cake pictures and good times and rubbish times and everything else that makes LT life so rich; this is the only 'social media' type place where I've actually felt safe and happy enough to stick around and keep contributing and making friends, and I love it. Here's to another few years yet! :D

44connie53
Jan 28, 9:37am Top

Sounds like a lovely day, Ellie!

45Jackie_K
Jan 28, 10:03am Top

Happy Thingaversary!

46floremolla
Jan 28, 12:09pm Top

Happy Thingaversary, Ellie, your plans sound perfect :)

47This-n-That
Jan 28, 1:12pm Top

Happy Thingaversary, Happy Reading and Best of Luck with all your reading goals this year. Oh, and a Peter Mayle book for your celebratory reading! (I loved A Year in Provence.)

48Jackie_K
Jan 28, 1:38pm Top

A Year in Provence is on offer via bookbub today - 99p in the kobo store, and presumably similar in kindle. I've decided that I'm going to leave it till February and get it if it's still on offer then (so it goes in my February rather than January stats). If it's back to full price I'll look for it in the library.

49majkia
Jan 28, 1:41pm Top

Happy Thingaversary! Sounds like a lovely day you have planned!

50detailmuse
Jan 28, 1:51pm Top

Happy Thingaversary! TODAY, you can see who shares a Thingaversary with you -- go to your Home page, along the left column click on Folly, then scroll down to the Selected Thingaversaries module.

51MissWatson
Jan 29, 3:33am Top

Happy thingaversary! Sounds like you had a fun day

52elliepotten
Jan 29, 4:53am Top

>45 Jackie_K: >46 floremolla: Thank youuuu! :)

>47 This-n-That: Y'know, I had A Year in Provence for the longest time - I wonder where it went? Maybe I lost it when we moved house. I'm enjoying this one so far, anyway, and I've already seen the movie a bunch of times so that'll be ripe for a rewatch when I'm done!

>49 majkia: >51 MissWatson: It was lovely! I read a bunch, watched my movie, and added so many books and movie adaptations to my Amazon basket as 'potential Thingaversary treats' that I now need to reduce it by a good £220 before I can check out, oops. I'll probably end up getting overwhelmed and just buying nothing for now, haha, that's usually how it goes!

>50 detailmuse: Awwwww, I missed it! I've never spotted that Folly page before, I'll have to check out the LT roulette feature and remember the Thingaversary thing for NEXT year! Thanks for that, I love finding new little corners of LT I didn't even know about! :D

53elliepotten
Feb 7, 10:49am Top



2. A Good Year, by Peter Mayle (3.5*) - fiction
On shelf probably since the late Noughties, a couple of years after the film came out?

Awwww, this was a nice way to kick off my fiction reading for the year. I'd actually been considering watching the movie again, for the first time in years, then suddenly remembered that I used to have a copy of the book lying around. Lo and behold, I found it, sitting forlornly in the office, consigned to my 'to sell off' box. I rescued it, read it, and here we are!

It's about Max Skinner, a young Englishman who loses his job in London and inherits his uncle's shabby-chic old house in France, all in the same week. He sets out to see the place, somewhere he adored and spent a lot of time as a child, and ends up falling in love all over again - with the house, the vineyard, the lifestyle, and a voluptuous local restaurant owner. Throw in a whopping dollop of good humour, an unexpected visitor (a storyline I liked), a little casual wine fraud (a storyline I could have done without), and a whole cast of wonderful characters (I especially loved Madame Passepartout, Max's housekeeper), and this was a really charming little read.

After all, what better way to spend a week of our English winter than dreaming of a Provençal summer? Mayle's book (as you might expect) perfectly evokes the feeling of sunshine on skin, the golden light warming the vines, the murmur of a village cafe, and the simple delights of good food, good wine and good company. I had to go out today and buy a crusty loaf of fresh bread, slices of ham, vine tomatoes and a bag of choc chip madeleines, just to get me through tonight (when I'll hopefully watch the movie over dinner). *sighs happily* I'm really glad I took a chance and read this one instead of sending it straight off to Ziffit for a few measly pennies!

This book also counts for:
- 75-Book Challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 1 (a book made into a movie I've already seen)

54Jackie_K
Feb 7, 11:02am Top

>53 elliepotten: That does sound charming! I relented and bought the bargain A Year in Provence, and now kobo is recommending every single Peter Mayle book in existence!

55MissWatson
Feb 8, 3:48am Top

>53 elliepotten: Reading about summer in Provence when it's freezing outside seems like a very good idea. I picked up A year in Provence at the charity shop a few days after his death. Maybe it's a sign...

56Jackie_K
Feb 8, 4:34am Top

>55 MissWatson: I think it is a sign, I picked it up for 99p last week as it was on offer in the kobo store after he died. I'm feeling an LT Provence meet up coming on (oh I wish!!!).

57floremolla
Feb 8, 4:51am Top

>53 elliepotten: BB (must include the baguette, ham etc)

>56 Jackie_K: count me in! :)

58lilisin
Feb 9, 12:44am Top

>43 elliepotten:

Which BookTubers do you like to watch?

59elliepotten
Edited: Feb 9, 12:04pm Top

Oops, sorry about the book bullet pinging off the walls in here!

>58 lilisin: I've been subscribed to Roya at RGsDevilship for a while, and Katie at Chapterstackss, and SuddenlyLorna. Then recently (since I've come back to reading after nine months of NOT reading) I've subbed to Helene Jeppesen, AnaisReads, Drinking By My Shelf and I think Book Roast? I'm trying out a bunch of new channels, anyway, skipping around my recommended videos over breakfast each day, seeing which ones I might like enough to stick around!

60elliepotten
Edited: Feb 16, 8:36am Top



3. A Voice in the Distance, by Tabitha Suzuma (3.5*) - fiction
On shelf since August 2011

Hoo, boy, this was an emotive one. It's the second and last book in the Flynn Laukonen series, the sequel to A Note of Madness (my review of that one's on the book's page if anyone's interested). Flynn is a student at the Royal College of Music in London, a near-genius-level pianist and composer - and he is also bipolar. A Note of Madness has him living with his best friend Harry, veering between manic productivity and crippling depression until he is finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder and gets the help he needs.

This book picks up a couple of years later. Flynn now lives with his long-term girlfriend (and even longer-term friend) Jennah, and his carefully monitored daily dose of lithium seems to be keeping his life stable and happy... until it stops working. The cycle of mania and depression begins again, both reaching terrifying new proportions as Flynn veers wildly up and down, taking everyone around him along for the ride. It touches on several massive elements of the 'mental health experience', including suicidal intent, hospitalisation, blindness to one's own mental state, and medication non-compliance (a huge issue amongst people with manic depression who want to hold on to their hypomanic motivation, inspiration and general good feeling). And good grief, it was hard to read. For several reasons.

A bit of background here - I was previously diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. Now, around seventeen years down the line, as an adult, that diagnosis has been reconsidered and replaced with Asperger's, severe recurring depression and anxiety. My 'happy' hypomania, as it turns out, was actually just a propensity for unusual exuberance during good times, and extreme motivation and joy when it comes to the things I love and am most interested in. My 'mixed' hypomanic episodes can be attributed to meltdowns and anxiety, culminating in shame spirals and subsequent crashes into dangerous levels of depression. In short, my symptoms and signs were - and in many ways continue to be - remarkably similar to a bipolar patient; we were just looking at them through the wrong lens.

Because of that, reading this book felt very personal, often painful and even deeply shameful. I felt horribly vulnerable as I turned the pages. Unlike the first book, this one is written from two perspectives - Flynn's and Jennah's - which meant I was having to read both sides of some very familiar situations. Suzuma writes depression so perfectly that I couldn't help reliving some of my own experiences through Flynn's. When it came to Jennah's thought processes, I was seeing how things out of my control impacted the people around me in horrible and hurtful ways. When Jennah's mother found out about Flynn's illness and started asking difficult questions (can Jennah cope, is he dangerous, what sacrifices will be involved in being with a mentally ill person), I couldn't help reflecting that back against my life now - because people say the exact same things about autistic people. When her mother asked "Is it worth it?" all I could think was, "Someday someone's mum/dad/friend might be asking them the exact same thing about me." And that made me so very sad.

Sooooo, this isn't really a review in the end, more an explosion of personal vulnerability and neuroses and thoughts about what is, was and might one day be. The book was really well done, once again - particularly the mental health elements - but where A Note of Madness had hope (boy in bad situation, gets help), this one veered the other way (boy in good situation, devolves into an absolute living nightmare, everything falls apart), and that felt so draining and emotional to read that I couldn't give it the maybe four stars it objectively deserves. It lost a star anyway for occasional 'was that the right word?' moments (eg. a 'slither' of something, rather than 'sliver'), calling St Pancras station 'St Pancreas', and for the absolutely impenetrable music jargon early on that lost me completely. Needless to say, it just veered a little too close to the bone for me, so I definitely wouldn't ever choose to read it again!

Quotes:

- "I hate myself more than they could ever hate me. I am so, so sick of it. This is the overriding feeling. They say depression is an incredible sadness, an unbearable mental pain. No, it doesn't have to be so dramatic. Sometimes it is nothing more than feeling tired. Tired of life." - Flynn

- "The words 'mental illness' suddenly take on a whole new dimension. What kind of illness makes life want to bring about its end? It goes against every natural instinct!" - Jennah

- "... when you feel that bad, that low, you stop caring. About everything and everyone. You can only think of yourself... The pain is so... big, it takes up all the space in your body, in your mind, and there isn't room for anything else. All you can think about is your own suffering, and how to stop it - you'd do anything to stop it. Anything. I really mean anything... Often it's your body too, and every part of you hurts. But you don't really care about your body, it's your mind. Every thought hurts like hell. Everything you see is awful, twisted, pointless. And the worst - the worst of it is yourself. You realize you are the most ghastly person in the world, the most hideous, inside and out. And you just want to escape, you just want to get rid of yourself, of your suffering, of the pain inside your head... A-and death is the only option left because you've been through this time and time again, thought and thought about trying to change yourself, the way you think, the way you behave, the way you live. Yet it always comes back to this - the fact that you just d-don't want to be alive-" - Flynn, trying to explain his depression to Jennah

This book also counts for:
- 75-Book Challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 16 (a book about mental health)

61floremolla
Feb 15, 2:29pm Top

gosh, having read your post I feel as if I know nothing about mental health and autism conditions! It's great that you have the insight - helped by a more appropriate diagnosis - to view yourself so clearly and communicate about it so frankly. We need more of that. I think I'll give that particular book a miss though ;)

62elliepotten
Edited: Feb 15, 4:42pm Top

>61 floremolla: To be fair, I didn't know much about mental health conditions until I got hit with my first one - then I kind of made it my mission to learn as much as I could. The same with the autism spectrum all these years down the line. It's how I claw back some semblance of control over things and learn how to help myself when 'official' resources are scarce: I read, watch and generally devour anything I can get my hands on!

And thank you, sincerely. I've had a good seventeen or eighteen years to get comfortable with things, develop a kind of mental health/emotional self-awareness, and it does come in handy sometimes! I've been really helped over the years by other people talking honestly about their experiences - especially the things you don't find in official criteria lists and textbooks - so I try to do the same if I can. You never know if it'll strike a chord with someone or give them a helpful idea they'd never considered before. These days I always try to be upfront, answer questions, chat, whatever - sometimes people think they're intruding but I don't mind in the slightest! :D

63detailmuse
Feb 15, 5:06pm Top

>60 elliepotten: An excellent review and very moving comments. I just read Laura James's memoir, Odd Girl Out -- her coming to terms with anxiety and a midlife diagnosis of autism is quite optimistic.

64elliepotten
Edited: Feb 15, 6:45pm Top

>63 detailmuse: I literally have that one right next to me here! I bought it for myself as a Christmas present - it sounded like some of her experiences might be quite close to mine, and I love the fact that it's by a woman, it's British, AND it's bang up to date. I'm hoping to read it sometime in the next few weeks! :)

65connie53
Feb 16, 6:45am Top

I really think you are doing a wonderful thing in sharing your story, Ellie. Respect!

66elliepotten
Feb 16, 8:24am Top

>65 connie53: Thank you! Not gonna lie, I was a tiny bit nervous about posting that review, but it was one of those books where my personal history/situation coloured my reaction to the novel so very much that I couldn't really not talk about the two side by side, if that makes sense? Not that I'm bothered about sharing and all that, just that there's always a tiny element of risk that someone's going to take it badly in some way - even in a usually safe space like LT. So far so good, haha. :D

67rabbitprincess
Feb 16, 8:53am Top

>60 elliepotten: Ellie, thank you for your thoughtful and open review. ❤️

68detailmuse
Feb 16, 9:27am Top

>64 elliepotten: oh very cool!! I've recommended it to a good friend who's had lifelong anxiety and (in her 50s) came to realize there's also likely Asperger. Hope it's a good read for you, and looking forward to your comments!

69elliepotten
Feb 16, 9:32am Top

>67 rabbitprincess: ❤️ :)

>68 detailmuse: It won't be a ROOT - I bought it too late in the year - but I'll definitely review it over on my 75-ers thread once I've read it. I'll give you a heads up when the time comes!

70elliepotten
Feb 17, 10:38am Top



4. A Boy's Own Story, by Edmund White (DNF) - fiction
On shelf since maybe late 2012 or early 2013?

I ended up DNF-ing this one at around the 60-page mark. I know it's kind of a seminal work of early gay fiction, and it's very stylistically written - lots of attention to detail and the gentle ebb and flow of life - but around fifty pages in, I'd just had enough. Nothing was really happening, the slightly odd flights of description were starting to feel a bit much, and I was getting a tad creeped out by White's apparent insistence (both in character and in his author introduction) that men should all want to sleep with their father and that he was desperate to seduce his own. I flicked ahead, to see if I was missing anything, and... nope. Not really.

There's definitely a lot to enjoy and appreciate here, for the right reader - but it just wasn't for me, and I couldn't bring myself to plough through another 150 pages of it. Oh well. My first DNF-ed ROOT (as per my rule #3)!

Quote:

- "My father regarded guests as nuisances who had to be entertained over and over again." Saaaaame!

71Jackie_K
Feb 17, 12:58pm Top

>70 elliepotten: I'm embracing the DNF this year - it hasn't come naturally at all, but I have two already this year. I think I'm finally old enough to fully appreciate that life's too short if you're not enjoying a book! 60 pages is entirely fair enough, I think - I would totally count it!

72Familyhistorian
Feb 17, 8:01pm Top

>60 elliepotten: A Voice in the Distance sounds interesting. It was very courageous of you to share your own diagnosis and reaction to the book from that point of view. While it sounds like the novel was good in that the author knew the realities of depression and how to explain them through her prose, sometimes being that true to life is uncomfortable for the reader. It doesn't sound like a book that I would be comfortable with so I guess I will have to find something else for the PopSugar challenge.

73elliepotten
Feb 19, 2:01pm Top

>71 Jackie_K: It IS liberating! I like to give a book a fair trial, but if I'm starting to feel like doing anything but reading, I know it's time to move on...

>72 Familyhistorian: Plenty of 'em out there! It wasn't going to be my first choice either, to be honest - I just happened to lay eyes on it as I passed my bookshelf last week, realised that I was at risk of entirely forgetting the characters from A Note of Madness if I didn't read the sequel soon, and that was that. :P

74elliepotten
Mar 7, 12:13pm Top



5. Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon (4*) - fiction
On shelf since September 2016

Well, this was a nice surprise. It's a YA novel about Madeline, an eighteen year-old girl with SCID: she is essentially allergic to almost everything. She lives in a sterile, lonely home where air filters and disinfectant rule, and the only people allowed inside are her mother and Carla, her nurse. She's content enough with her books, her mum-and-daughter evenings and her internet life... until a new family moves in next door and she strikes up a friendship with the teenage son, Olly. Suddenly the glass between her and the world starts to feel more like a prison than a haven - she begins to discern the difference between existing and living - and everything starts to change, twist and fall apart.

I really enjoyed this. I flew through it during the readathon, helped enormously by the collage-y feel of the novel. There are 'normal' prose sections, yes, but there are also one-line book reviews, drawings, emails, IM conversations, lists and other little bits and pieces, which slotted in nicely and made it a breeze to read. I guessed the surprise change of direction of the novel literally from the very first clues near the beginning - the mention of the accident, and that her mother was her only doctor; I immediately guessed that all this was about her grief and need to keep Maddy safe - which probably lessened the impact of that a bit, but at the same time, because I'd spotted it so early, it was fun to watch it play out (and Yoon still managed to chuck in a red herring or two to make me doubt myself!).

What really got to me, personally, was the similarity between some of Madeline's experiences, thoughts and regrets (being stuck in her house with SCID) and some of my own (being stuck in her house with agoraphobia). Her longing for certain things, her frustrations, her loneliness, the way she tried not to dream or think too hard about what 'could' be because it would only make her miserable - all of that was very familiar. I marked so many pages with little comments and quotes that made me pause for thought, and I didn't expect that to happen! I ended the book smiling and inspired, and I have a feeling I'll be rereading it in the future.

Quotes:

- "You can find the meaning of life in a book."

- "I shift my body again for no reason, pulling my legs into my chest and wrapping my arms around them. Our bodies are having their own conversation separate and apart from us. Is this the difference between friendship and something else? This awareness that I have of him?"

- "Life is a gift. Don't forget to live it."

- "I almost wish I hadn't met him. How am I supposed to go back to my old life, my days stretching out before me with unending and brutal sameness? How am I supposed to go back to being The Girl Who Reads? Not that I begrudge my life in books. All I know about the world I've learned from them. But a description of a tree is not a tree, and a thousand paper kisses will never equal the feel of Olly's lips against mine."


This book also counts for:
- 75-book challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 14 (a book an author of a different ethnicity to you - Nicola Yoon is Jamaican American)

75floremolla
Mar 9, 3:54am Top

>74 elliepotten: Good work with the ROOTing Ellie and great review as usual - nice to find a book you can connect with in a positive way. I don't expect I'll read it so I sneaked a look at the spoiler - clever little twist! ;)

76elliepotten
Mar 12, 4:00pm Top

>75 floremolla: Ooooh, look at you, sneakin' a peek! It WAS quite smart - and quite sad. The movie was good too! :)

77elliepotten
Mar 12, 4:50pm Top



6. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov (4*) - fiction
On shelf since August 2011

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul... Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita."

Lordy, where do I start?! Maybe with the fact that the 'quality literature' buzz around this novel turned out to be absolutely correct; it's one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read, I think. It was incredibly dense, yes, and occasionally difficult - but it was worth the persistence and the effort of reading it. Likewise, it occasionally slowed almost to a standstill, or veered off into an odd flight of literary allusion that I didn't always understand - but each time it kick-started itself, its flow returned and I was glad I'd pushed through the tough patch. As a study of character, of a broken person breaking someone else in turn, and how the ripples of that breaking spread outwards to the people around them and inwards into their own beings, it was almost flawless. As a study of place, it worked almost as well - all motels, trees, lakes, suburban neighbourhoods, shabby towns, and the relentless rising dust behind an old car. And yet, despite its brilliant execution, I can't say I loved the book. Respected, yes. Enjoyed, yes. Loved, no.

There was more humour in the book than I expected, which was a pleasant surprise - exactly the kind of dark, sardonic and dry humour I find amusing. There was also an almost overwhelming amount of sadness, tragedy and obsession. It was definitely a novel of contrasts: humour and despair, innocence and corruption, honesty and deception, love and hate, old and young, past and future. I'm still not sure what to make of Humbert Humbert (beyond the obvious 'child molester' stamp). He demonstrates such startling self-awareness at times, and such confusion at others. I also still don't know quite where the balance of worldly and innocent was in Lo herself: which encounters (if any) were perhaps precipitated by a young girl in the first flush of sexuality getting in way over her head, which were out-and-out assaults merely framed that way by Humbert's rose-tinted memories, and at what point the prematurely-jaded Lo began to exploit Humbert's pathetic attraction for money and favours. He's an unreliable narrator, sure, but HOW unreliable?

In short, this is one of those rare books that might take months to process and actually work out my feelings about it, about the story and the characters and exactly what happened on that rollercoaster ride of a read. In the meantime, I highly recommend Adrian and Dalton at Stripped Cover Lit's discussion about it. They get a couple of things wrong where they just missed little details along the way - Dolores's fate, for example, which requires returning to the very beginning of the book with fresh eyes - but they also have some interesting insights to share. I really enjoyed their video!

Quotes:

- "I knew I had fallen in love with Lolita forever; but I also knew she would not be forever Lolita."

- "This, to use an American term, in which discovery, retribution, torture, death, eternity appear in the shape of a singularly repulsive nutshell, was
it."

- "I have often noticed that we are inclined to endow our friends with the stability of type that literary characters acquire in the reader's mind... Whatever evolution this or that popular character has gone through between the book covers, his fate is fixed in our minds, and, similarly, we expect our friends to follow this or that logical and conventional pattern we have fixed for them. Thus X will never compose the immortal music that would clash with the second-rate symphonies he has accustomed us to. Y will never commit murder. Under no circumstances can Z ever betray us. We have it all arranged in our minds, and the less often we see a particular person the more satisfying it is to check how obediently he conforms to our notion of him every time we hear of him. Any deviation in the fates we have ordained would strike us as not only anomalous but unethical. We would prefer not to have know at all our neighbor, the retired hot-dog stand operator, if it turns out he has just produced the greatest book of poetry his age has ever seen."


This book also counts for:
- 75-Book Challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 9 (a book about a villain or antihero)

78detailmuse
Mar 13, 10:08am Top

>77 elliepotten: A beautiful review that practically puts this book in my hands. It's clear I'm interested in some Nabokov but maybe Pale Fire or Speak, Memory from my wishlist first.

79elliepotten
Edited: Mar 18, 11:08am Top

>78 detailmuse: Always start with your wishlist first, haha... And thank you so much! I was so wary of talking about this one because it's such a Marmite book (and the subject matter is so tricky to navigate in a review!) but... you just made it worth it. :)

80elliepotten
Mar 20, 7:38pm Top



7. Three Men on the Bummel, by Jerome K. Jerome (3*) - fiction
On shelf since Nov 2004 - one of my five longest-standing TBR books!

This was one of those books that started off wonderfully and then slowly descended into a sort of forgettable plod; at the beginning I was laughing so hard that tears were rolling down my face, absolutely delighted by the wit of it all - but by the end I just wanted it to be over. I had the same experience with Decline and Fall, another highly regarded comic novel about a very English hapless hero. In case you weren't aware, in this book Jerome's original Three Men in a Boat protagonists (minus the dog) go off on a jaunt around Germany, getting into all kinds of Pickwickian scrapes along the way. Bizarrely, this jaunt doesn't actually start until something like 70 pages in (it's a 200-page book), and there are a whole lot of random digressions about nothing, which are quite amusing and charming one at a time, but thrown together in one small package just got a bit much. I seem to remember having a similar feeling at the end of Three Men in a Boat, only I happen to like picturesque English waterways and boats more than picturesque German towns and bicycles, so... I dunno. Bit of a disappointment, but given that it's literally one of the five longest-standing TBR books I have on my shelves, I'm glad I finally read it!

Bonus points:
For the really quite spectacularly prescient and completely out-of-place diatribe near the end of the book (which was published in 1900, I think?) about how the German people are so in thrall to authority figures that they will unthinkingly obey the orders of anyone in uniform, without question. It's meant to be sort of amusing, an extended riff on how Germans love policemen and following orders on signs, that kind of thing - but the tone feels a little different to other similar observations elsewhere in the book, and honestly, my jaw kinda dropped. *cue Twilight Zone music*

Quotes:

- "...it was always foolish to go half-way to meet trouble that might never come..." - I NEED THIS TATTOOED ON MY FOREHEAD OR SOMETHING.

- "He was one of those men that begin quietly and grow more angry as they proceed, their wrongs apparently working within them like yeast."

- "English spelling would seem to have been designed chiefly as a disguise to pronunciation. It is a clever idea, calculated to check presumption on the part of the foreigner; but for that he would learn it in a year."

- "We did not succeed in carrying out our programme in its entirety, for the reason that human performance lags ever behind human intention. It is easy to say and believe at three o'clock in the afternoon that: 'We will rise at five, breakfast lightly at half past, and start away at six.'"

- "We prate about our civilization and humanity, but those who do not carry hypocrisy to the length of self-deception know that underneath our starched shirts there lurks the savage, with all his savage instincts untouched."


This book also counts for:
- 75-Book challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 38 (a book with an ugly cover!)

81rabbitprincess
Mar 20, 7:54pm Top

Excellent work reading such a long-standing TBR! I have Three Men in a Boat on my TBR and am hoping that the audio narration by Hugh Laurie will be fun :)

82elliepotten
Mar 21, 8:11am Top

>81 rabbitprincess: Oh, I bet it's absolutely wonderful! I definitely think both these books would work brilliantly as audiobooks, especially with someone as very English as Hugh Laurie behind the microphone! :D

83Jackie_K
Mar 21, 8:19am Top

>80 elliepotten: >81 rabbitprincess: I think Hugh Laurie would be perfect! I read Three Men in a Boat last year and was quite underwhelmed, to be honest - as you mention above, Ellie, the random diversions about nothing were really tiresome, and I reckon only about a third of the book was about the actual boat trip. I found myself wondering what all the fuss was about. But someone like Hugh Laurie could really elevate it, I suspect.

84elliepotten
Edited: Apr 25, 12:46pm Top



8. Percy and the Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan (5*) - fiction
Haven't read since 2011

Life is about to get very interesting for Percy Jackson. Slightly unusual things have been happening to him his whole life, but when he accidentally vaporises his maths teacher during a school trip, it becomes apparent that something much bigger is afoot. Within a matter of days he has arrived at Camp Half-Blood, met a god, discovered that his best friend is a satyr and his father is Poseidon, and been accused of stealing Zeus's master lightning bolt. Can he find the bolt and return it to Olympus before the gods turn on each other and ignite a cataclysmic world war?

It's really a very clever premise - if it had been around back when I was a young teenager, I'd have been in the library poring over books on the Ancient Greek gods before you could say Apollo. The story roars along at a cracking pace, with lots of exciting action and adventure and some hilarious little touches - like Cerberus, the three-headed canine guardian of Hell, playing catch with a red rubber ball, which made me smile. Riordan mixes the modern world with the mythology of the Greek gods beautifully, bringing them right up to date while maintaining their dignity and all-powerful other-worldliness. I loved it all over again - in fact, I think I rated it higher this second time!

Bonus points: for the Capture the Flag 'claiming' scene, which is one of the most satisfying moments I can remember ever reading. I don't why, it just got right under my skin and I got all goosebump-y, it was great!



This book also counts for:
- 75-Book challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 24 (a book with a weather element in the title)

85elliepotten
Apr 25, 12:45pm Top



9. Percy and the Sea of Monsters, by Rick Riordan (4*) - fiction
On shelf since December 2011

After I finished Lightning Thief, my head was so thoroughly stuck in Camp Half-Blood that I plunged straight into the next book. Quite unusual for me! I didn't find Sea of Monsters quite as compelling as its predecessor, probably because the elements of self-discovery and wonder were obviously lessened a year down the line - but I still very much enjoyed it. This one builds and develops on what came before, with Percy and Annabeth heading off on a rescue mission that brings new characters into the series and once again ropes in a whole cast of Ancient Greek mythological figures, creatures and monsters, from Hermes to hippocampi and Cyclopes to Circe. My main gripe was with Percy's powers, oddly enough; I felt like he suddenly had a phenomenal grip on them, and a real self-assurance about what he could do. It seemed quite at odds with his lack of confidence in the first book, and those scenes felt a bit clunky as a result.

Thanks to the seventy-five books I still have on the go (or so it feels, anyway!), I haven't continued on to The Titan's Curse yet - but I aim to finish all five by the time summer really sets in, so that I maybe have chance to tackle another series of some description before the end of the year. :)

This book also counts for:
- 75-Book challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 3 (the next book in a series you started)

86elliepotten
May 2, 3:29am Top



10. Bohemian Manifesto: A Field Guide to Living on the Edge, by Laren Stover (2.5*) - non-fiction
On shelf since something like Christmas 2008!

I feel like I've been reading this forever! This rather jumbled book seeks to explore contemporary bohemianism in a tongue-in-cheek way, starting with dividing people into groups with shared characteristics: Beats, Dandies, Zens, Nouveaus and Gypsies. Through these groupings Stover wanders through everything from fashion to music, decor to literature, with a few broader bonus sections thrown in for good measure.

She is definitely at her best when it comes to real-life details and examples - drawing from the lives of artists, writers and muses, amongst others - and the fictional portraits at the end are quite fun and pleasantly whimsical. The design of the book itself is glorious, with heavy glossy paper, patterned endpapers and gorgeous watercolour illustrations by Izak Zenou.

Sadly, at times all of that was eclipsed by the deafening sound of the barrel being thoroughly scraped. Some of Stover's endless pages on 'what bohemians do' were so ridiculously specific (and specifically ridiculous) that I wondered whether to DNF it once or twice. It also feels quite dated now, with some elements screaming 'insufferable hipster' rather than 'eccentric spirit', and there are a few jarring moments of cultural appropriation, poor language choices and making fun of mental illness.

It's been on my shelves for a good ten years, so I'm glad I finally read it - but I'm not sure yet whether I'll be keeping it for the 'better bits' and design elements, or letting it go off to a new home. I suspect probably the latter. Disappointing.

This book also counts for:
- 75-Book challenge

87elliepotten
Edited: May 23, 1:44pm Top



11. A Passion for Books, edited by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan (DNF) - non-fiction
On shelf since Christmas 2007!

An even bigger disappointment. I so wanted to love this one - I'm usually a big fan of 'books about books' - but this really wasn't in my wheelhouse at all. I made it a little over halfway through (so about 175 pages?) before I finally decided that enough was enough, skim read a couple more pieces and called it a day.

It's a collection of essays, excerpts, lists and cartoons about... well, a passion for books... but unlike others that I've enjoyed, this one skews heavily towards the rare, obscure, expensive, historical and/or antiquarian side of buying, reading and collecting. There were a couple of more 'everyman' pieces, including one by editor Rob Kaplan that I really enjoyed, and an excerpt from Anna Quindlen's How Reading Changed My Life, which I've already read in its entirety, but many of the other pieces really dragged for me, requiring some quite specialised knowledge (or at least interest) to fully appreciate.

A lot of people LOVE this book, and I'd definitely recommend it if everything I've just said sounds great to you, haha - you'd probably get a lot more out of it than I did - but sadly I just got bored. So, SO bored. If you're looking for relatable bookishness of a more modern persuasion there are definitely better options out there!

88floremolla
May 2, 12:07pm Top

Two disappointing reads, even though they both sounded quite promising - good for you for rooting them out :)

89rabbitprincess
May 2, 7:00pm Top

Oh no, two mediocre books in a row! Hoping your next ones are better -- and that you can fill the vacated shelf space with better ones too ;)

90detailmuse
Edited: May 3, 10:37am Top

Well done for rooting them out, and well done for writing reviews of disappointing books!!

91elliepotten
Edited: May 4, 4:14am Top

>88 floremolla: >89 rabbitprincess: >90 detailmuse: Haha, I didn't think of it like that! Definitely good to be rid of them. I feel like I haven't had a truly BRILLIANT book at all this year yet - a non-ROOT, Vox by Nicholson Baker - probably came closest yet. So frustrating! Just one 'meh' book after another at the moment.

92elliepotten
Edited: May 23, 1:45pm Top



12. Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World, by Ella Frances Sanders (3.5*) - non-fiction
On shelf since January 2016

If I had to describe this book in three words, I'd say it was 'pretty but flimsy'. There are some wonderful words and concepts to explore, and some lovely illustrations that really stood out - but likewise, some of the illustrations were underwhelming and seemed uninspired, and several of the captions on each opposing page felt like they were trying way too hard to be cute. I also had real trouble with the font choice on the illustrated pages: it was so hard to read!

Don't get me wrong, it's a nice idea and it would make a lovely gift. I'll probably hold on to it for a while to flip through again. BUT I definitely won't be rushing to shell out a tenner on the next one for myself. :(

A couple of my favourite words/concepts

- Komorebi (Japanese) - The sunlight that filters through the leaves of the trees

- Tsundoku (Japanese) - Leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other unread books. - I think we can aaaaall relate to this one!

This book also counts for:
- 75-Book challenge

93Jackie_K
May 24, 2:04pm Top

>92 elliepotten: I read this book last month and really liked it (funnily enough I highlighted Tsundoku in my review too, I wonder why!). I thought it would be an ideal gift too (I kept thinking of different people I could buy it for as I was reading it). My main problem with the font wasn't with the illustrations but with the text opposite - white text on pale blue/pale grey/etc - what was all that about?

94connie53
Jun 6, 5:57am Top

>92 elliepotten: Love those words. Perhaps I should find a Dutch copy of this book.

95Familyhistorian
Jun 14, 10:08pm Top

>92 elliepotten: I think that Tsundoku would strike a chord with most of us, I know it does with me!

96elliepotten
Jun 22, 6:58am Top

>93 Jackie_K: Haha, yes, it's a mystery... ;) The font choices generally were hard to read, to be honest. Very artistic and all, but at the point where it becomes uncomfortable for someone with decent eyesight to read, I'd have been thinking twice.

>94 connie53: A translated copy of a Lost in Translation book of translated words. *brain explodes* :D

>95 Familyhistorian: Haha, I think the entire book community let out a collective 'AHA!' at that one... >:)

97Familyhistorian
Jun 30, 3:31pm Top

>96 elliepotten: I like the idea of komorebi too. I hope that you are seeing some where you are. It looks like it will be at least a week before we have a chance of seeing any here.

98elliepotten
Jul 4, 2:46am Top

>97 Familyhistorian: Oh, we are definitely getting some here! I've been walking around the village for the first time in years - well over an hour, several times a week - and I've settled on a hot-weather route than involves lots of paths under the trees in the dappled sunlight, get me some shade in between the sunny parts!

99elliepotten
Edited: Aug 31, 7:09am Top



13. Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami (3.5*) - fiction
On shelf since March 2010

Okay, I'm going to hold my hands up here and say that a couple of weeks after I finished it, I still don't know how I feel about this one. I expected to love it, and there WAS a lot to enjoy in its pages - humour, description, musings on mental health and recovery - but something was just missing for me.

It has some beautifully written moments and perfectly worded sentiments that had me reaching for a pencil to underline and star and heart and annotate, but likewise it had clunky or oddly worded ones that made me wonder if the translation had gone slightly awry. I had mixed feelings about every character - was Naoko a beautifully tragic figure or a personality vacuum? Was Midori feisty and vital or an emotionally abusive manic pixie dream girl? Was Toru a sympathetic narrator or a bit of a dick? I STILL DON'T KNOW. I actually thought I was going to DNF it for the first hundred pages or so, but I'm glad I carried on. It was worth reading, and perhaps it will be one of those book that grows on me with time and reflection, but I don't think I'll be installing it on my favourites shelf anytime soon. Shame.

Quotes:

- "If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking." - Shame the character who says this - one of Murakami's most famous quotes - is so utterly snobby and revolting.

- "That's the kind of death that frightens me. The shadow of death slowly, slowly eats away at the region of life, and before you know it everything's dark and you can't see, and the people around you think of you as more dead than alive. I hate that. I couldn't stand it."

- "The most important thing is not to let yourself get impatient... Even if things are so tangled up you can't do anything, don't get desperate or blow a fuse and start yanking on one particular thread before it's ready to come undone. You have to realize it's going to be a long process and that you'll work on things slowly, one at a time."

- "I'm much better at bringing out the best in others than in myself. That's just the kind of person I am. I'm the scratchy stuff on the side of the matchbox. But that's fine with me. I don't mind at all. Better to be a first-class matchbox than a second-class match."

- "... no truth can cure the sadness we feel from losing a loved one. No truth, no sincerity, no strength, no kindness, can cure that sorrow. All we can do is see that sadness through to the end and learn something from it, but what we learn will be no help in facing the next sadness that comes to us without warning."


This book also counts for:
- 75-Book challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 28 (a book with song lyrics in the title)

100detailmuse
Jul 4, 12:14pm Top

>99 elliepotten: Those are some fine quotes. Makes me want to read Murakami.

101elliepotten
Jul 8, 6:32am Top

>100 detailmuse: There were some GREAT quotes in there. Some really beautifully profound bits of writing that had me reaching for a pencil, like YES! YES, THIS! :)

102elliepotten
Edited: Jul 9, 4:43am Top



14. Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King (4*) - fiction
In LibraryThing catalogue since October 2013

I can't believe it's been going on five years since this book came out! I bought it almost the same day, all excited - and then finally started reading it for an Insta-readalong in April. THIS year. I suck. To my surprise, it actually took me a fair while to get into this one, and like Norwegian Wood, I even contemplated (temporarily) DNF-ing it a couple of times. Given how many times that's happened recently perhaps it was my mood rather than the book.

In the end, however, I really enjoyed it - though it had a very different feel to The Shining, spanning states and years. I LOVED getting to know grown-up Danny, struggling with the trauma of his past and the legacy of his father, and trying to use the remnants of his shining for good. His journey back towards the light was the best part of the book. I also loved new character Abra, a little girl with an incredibly powerful shine trying to make sense of it and - again - use it for good.

The antagonists of this particular novel - a band of vampiric travellers called the True Knot - did less for me. The fact that they featured so heavily near the beginning of the book might have contributed to my difficulties with it early on. Their needs were cloudy, their provenance vague and their abilities a little too convenient for me. Aside from their leader - the colossally overdone Rose the Hat - none of them were really fleshed out, made particularly monstrous OR sympathetic.

Still, I liked it. It was satisfying and exciting, as complex as you could expect from a King novel, it had its moments of genuine creepiness and shocking horror, and enough throwbacks to The Shining to keep me on my toes - including one that took me by surprise and made me sob violently into my dinner. Apparently there's an adaptation on the way featuring Ewan McGregor as Dan - and honestly, that is great casting right there. Recommended.

This book also counts for:
- 75-Book challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 35 (a past Goodreads Choice Awards winner - Best Horror, 2013)

103rabbitprincess
Jul 9, 5:53pm Top

I can't believe it's been going on five years since this book came out! I bought it almost the same day, all excited - and then finally started reading it for an Insta-readalong in April. THIS year.

Oh man, I can relate to this SO MUCH. I will probably do the very same thing with Linwood Barclay's new book (A Noise Downstairs).

104elliepotten
Jul 10, 3:33am Top

>103 rabbitprincess: As with every time I buy a hardback new off the shelf, I honestly thought I'd read it, like, a week later. Picking it up recently, I thought maaaaaybe it had been on my TBR for a year or two. But FIVE YEARS WHAT WHERE HAS THE TIME EVEN GONE?!

105elliepotten
Edited: Aug 31, 7:09am Top



15. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey (4*) - fiction
In LibraryThing catalogue since February 2008!

Another one of the longest-standing books on my TBR shelves toppled! I'm doing quite well at reaching back into the depths of my book acquiring history this year! I'm still sorting through my feelings about this one; like Lolita, it was objectively accomplished and memorable, but it also had moments that dragged or got jumbled which slowed my reading down a bit and meant I didn't always want to pick it up again at the end of a long day.

Now. I've never seen the film, so all I knew was that it was about a man who may or may not be sane, entering a mental ward and taking on the evil Nurse Ratched. It's actually written from the point of view of 'Chief' Bromden, a giant Native American man who has always been taken to be deaf and dumb but who actually sees, hears and understands everything despite his occasional forays into psychosis. When Randall McMurphy arrives on the ward, all genial humour and effortless machismo, he turns their cowed and frightened lives upside down, raising hell, questioning everything and shattering the fine line between sanity and insanity.

I took to McMurphy immediately - wow, Jack Nicholson is great casting, haha - and once I got Chief Bromden's narrative voice straight in my head and started to understand him better, I grew very fond of him too. I loved the escalating shenanigans between McMurphy and the Big Nurse, and the sudden little insights into how people OUTSIDE the ward perceived what went on in there. The last few pages I had to read at a crawl because every one ripped my heart out and trampled on it, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. I'm looking forward to the movie now - but I really need to be emotionally ready for that. A brilliant, perceptive and unforgettable book, despite the occasionally bewildering moments that threatened to take over near the beginning. Highly recommended!

Quotes:

- "He tells me once about how tired he is, and just his saying it makes me see his whole life on the railroad, see him working to figure out how to read a watch, breaking a sweat while he tries to get the right button in the right hole of his railroad overalls, doing his absolute damnedest to keep up with a job that comes so easily to others they can sit back in a chair padded with cardboard and read mystery stories and girlie books. Not that he ever really figured to keep up - he knew from the start he couldn't do that - but he had to try to keep up, just to keep them in sight. So for forty years he was able to live, if not right in the world of men, at least on the edge of it."

- "While Harding's telling the story he gets enthusiastic and forgets about his hands, and they weave the air in front of him into a picture clear enough to see, dancing the story to the tune of his voice like two beautiful ballet women in white."

- "The sun was prying up the clouds and lighting the brick front of the hospital rose red. A thin breeze worked at sawing what leaves were left from the oak trees, stacking them neatly against the wire cyclone fence. There were little brown birds occasionally on the fence; when a puff of leaves would hit the fence the birds would fly off with the wind. It looked at first like the leaves were hitting the fence and turning into birds and flying away."

- "... McMurphy laughs. Rocking farther and farther backward against the cabin top, spreading his laugh out across the water... Because he knows you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, to keep the world from running you plumb crazy. He knows there's a painful side... but he won't let the pain blot out the humour no more'n he'll let the humour blot out the pain."

- "Guilt. Shame. Fear. Self-belittlement. I discovered at an early age that I was - shall we be kind and say different?... And I got sick... it was the feeling that the great, deadly, pointing forefinger of society was pointing at me - and the great voice of millions chanting, "Shame. Shame. Shame." It's society's way of dealing with someone different."


This book also counts for:
- 75-Book challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 26 (a book with an animal in the title) - I may change this to the stage play prompt at some point though, mix the books around to fit!

106detailmuse
Jul 12, 11:42am Top

>105 elliepotten: It's a superb film and I look forward if you post about the book vs film. You make me want to read the book and get so much more of the Chief's perspective.

107elliepotten
Jul 13, 3:24pm Top

>106 detailmuse: I'm definitely looking forward to it... I just want to be READY. The book packed a punch but I have a feeling that seeing it on screen might be even more gut churning. :(

108elliepotten
Edited: Jul 30, 8:28am Top



16. The Hit, by Melvin Burgess (2*) - fiction
On my shelf since March 2014

Well, this was a colossal disappointment. Coming from the man who wrote such cult YA novels as Junk, Doing It and Lady: My Life as a Bitch, I was expecting an interesting and well-executed read – what I actually got was a shambolic and poorly-written novel, riddled with typos, that barely resembled its own blurb.

Marketed as a not-quite-dystopian story about a new drug that gives people the ultimate week of life before it kills them, I’d expected a sort of meditation on what it means to live and die, and how a person’s choices might change when their future is taken away. That doesn’t really happen, because tacked onto this is a whole other mess of a story involving some kind of revolutionary uprising, gangsters and drug manufacture. The main antagonist of the novel isn’t death, it’s a 90s-dressing ‘raving psycho off his meds’, the son of a drug baron, who’s really into kidnap, torture and attempted rape. Fantastic mental health representation right there. At one point he has a conversation with himself that is almost play for play Gollum’s “They stole it from us! Sneaky little hobbitses…” monologue from the end of The Two Towers movie.

It was ridiculous. The whole thing was bad. I mean, I finished it, because I wanted to see what happened, but I didn’t really care about any of the characters, the storylines were jumbled, the motivations and personalities of the characters careened wildly all over the place in a melodramatic and completely unrealistic way… Hot mess. It was a hot mess. Would not recommend.

This book also counts for:
- 75-Book Challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 4 (a book involving a heist) - two of the characters hold up a liquor store

109elliepotten
Edited: Aug 31, 7:10am Top



17. Jason and Medea, by Apollonius of Rhodes (3*) - fiction
On my shelf since March 2015

I don't have a whole lot to say about this one to be honest! It's one of the tiny Penguin Little Black Classics, and is an extract from The Voyage of Argo (or The Argonautica), as translated by E.V. Rieu. This little section of the Ancient Greek epic covers Jason's attempt to win the Golden Fleece from King Aeëtes, with a little help from the princess Medea. Lots of heartache, romance, heroism and godly meddling, of course, and I DID enjoy stumbling across the 'originals' of some of the mythology woven into Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, which I read earlier this year - in particular, the Colchis bulls, forged for Aeëtes by the god Hephaestus, which play an important role in this extract.

It wasn't mind-blowing. It wasn't the most dull thing I've ever read. It probably makes more sense as a part of the whole - though Penguin did a good job of picking a fairly self-contained vignette here - and it HAS reassured me that I could probably get on with The Voyage of Argo, even if it took me a while to plough through!

Quote:

- "Speech, by smoothing the way, often succeeds where forceful measures might have failed."

This book also counts for:
- 75-Book Challenge

110rabbitprincess
Aug 4, 9:01pm Top

and I DID enjoy stumbling across the 'originals' of some of the mythology woven into Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, which I read earlier this year

I love when different books one reads reinforce or echo each other like that. :)

111elliepotten
Aug 9, 4:06pm Top

Me too! I've just read Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips as well, which took the Greek Gods and dumped them in modern day London with a whole new twist on their history and survival, which was fun. Review coming soon!

112connie53
Aug 11, 2:21am Top

Hi Ellie, just reading your thread and catching up. I was away from LT due to RL things. But I'm back.

113elliepotten
Aug 12, 11:28am Top

>112 connie53: Hello! I haven't been around that much either, never fear. Life and Instagram getting in the way - and plenty of reading, for which I'm quite grateful! :)

114elliepotten
Aug 27, 1:37pm Top



18. Gods Behaving Badly, by Marie Phillips (3.5*) - fiction
On my shelf since February 2009

Another of the longest-standing TBR books on my shelves (woohoo!), this was kinda fun! Its basic premise is that the Ancient Greek Gods are now living in a decrepit house in London, trying to blend in with their surroundings and slowly but surely draining what little power they have left. They still have all their old instincts though. Apollo and Aphrodite have bored quickies in the bathroom while Athena comes up with survival strategies, Artemis walks dogs in the park and runs a lot, Dionysus makes wine and DJs at his own club... Aaaand then two mortals fall into their lives, shaking everything up in a 'make or break' kind of way.

I definitely enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek updating of the Greek mythology - like Percy Jackson for grown-ups - and Phillips has a really fresh take on certain elements of the stories. The Underworld, in particular, is completely reinvented in a clever and compelling way, and the dynamic between overgrown hard-man Hades and the petulant little Persephone is a joy. The opening of the novel was funny and smart - establishing the gods' depleted lives in modern London - but there was a dragging chunk in the middle where the initial humour was getting tired and the real drive of the plot hadn't taken off yet. The characters are sometimes cliched and unrealistic, almost ridiculously so - yes, even the human ones - and there is a particularly jarring section which attempts to make Apollo's predilection for rape vaguely amusing. It didn't work, especially read now, a decade after publication, against a backdrop of the #MeToo movement.

I'm glad I finally read it, and the final third of the book definitely had a lot more imagination, a better pace and a suitably rewarding pay-off, but it wasn't quite as sparkling and satisfying as I'd hoped, perhaps. Ah well.

This book also counts for:
- 75-Book challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 30 (a book with characters who are twins) - Apollo and Artemis are twins in Greek mythology

115elliepotten
Edited: Aug 31, 12:19pm Top



19. Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen (4*) - fiction
On my shelf since October 2014

Another Austen down, one more to go! (Emma, in case you were wondering...) I actually liked this one more than I thought I would. I'd got it in mind that there would be a lot more gothic pastiche and a lot less Austen-y shenanigans, whereas in fact most of the novel is pure witty Regency goodness: ridiculous ladies of a certain age, young cads, scheming social climbers, pure sweet girls, lots of gallivanting around Bath and attending balls and gossiping while taking turns about the room...

It still fondly pokes fun at gothic novels as it goes, but in a far more 'breaking the fourth wall' way. Indeed, Austen spends quite a lot of time exploring the value and nature of fiction, occasionally so forcefully that it was as if she'd given up on storytelling for a moment, slammed down her pen, grabbed you by the wrist and cried "AND ANOTHER THING..." I kinda loved that!

The more out and out parodying - in which Catherine Morland becomes convinced that foul things are afoot at Northanger Abbey - is, as I anticipated, the part that let the rest down for me. It's like she loses all common sense the moment she sets foot inside that door and becomes an almost offensively idiotic little girl, a different character altogether. Happily, that section was a miniscule part of the whole, not the predominant focus as I had expected. On a brighter note, one thing - or person - I DIDN'T expect to like so much? Henry Tilney. Officially my new favourite Austen hero. Hilarious, kind, smart and thoughtful. And JJ Feild. ;)

One last note on my PEL edition, which for some reason contains a surprisingly negative afterword by Susannah Carson that baaaaasically trashes the book and everything in it. Why an edition that's all about showcasing the best of English-language classic literature would include a mini essay about how Northanger isn't a patch on Austen's other novels and how Catherine is too stupid for Tilney and their marriage would be dreadful etc etc, is beyond me. I stopped reading before it completely killed my buzz. >:(

Quotes:

- "The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." - Henry Tilney

- "...it is well to have as many holds upon happiness as possible. - ALSO Henry Tilney

This book also counts for:
- 75-Book challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 37 (a book you meant to read in 2017 but didn't get to)

116Jackie_K
Aug 31, 3:28pm Top

>114 elliepotten: I've recommended this book to somebody else on here this week, but it fits well here too - Andre Alexis' Fifteen Dogs takes as its starting point Hermes and Apollo in a Toronto bar making a bet about whether animals could live happily or not if they have the gift of human cognitive/communicative ability.

117elliepotten
Sep 3, 4:31am Top

>116 Jackie_K: Oooooh! That's an intriguing opening right there. Duly noted, thank you! :D

118elliepotten
Sep 3, 4:32am Top



20. The Children Act, by Ian McEwan (3*) - fiction
On shelf since April 2015

See, the problem with getting behind on your reviews so that you're writing these things weeks after you finished the book, is that the kind of 'meh' okay ones in the middle rating range get a bit... forgotten. Which is good in one way because when you say "I think it's going to turn out to be kind of forgettable" you're speaking from experience. On the other hand, it's not so great for review purposes because... FORGOTTEN. :)

This was definitely a beautifully written book. Like Atonement, it was elegantly done, filled with beautiful descriptions and thoughtful musings, and I think I could find a future favourite novel amongst McEwan's works yet (Atonement got enough stars to fit this description, it just hit me too deeply and shockingly to be a favourite, y'know?). The story of a High Court judge ruling on the case of a teenage Jehovah's Witness who has refused life-saving treatment, it tackled big themes - medicine vs. religion, marriage, the value of human life, ethics and law - but did so concisely and with a surprisingly light touch.

Perhaps it was those very virtues, in the end, that made it disappear from my mind so quickly. That conciseness meant I read the book quickly and didn't get bogged down in jargon and sadness - but also meant that it didn't really feel as if it ever went below the surface. The light touch meant I wasn't as invested in the plot as I might have expected given the serious and deeply emotive subject matter, and the characters never really became fully three-dimensional.

Perhaps the upcoming film will do a better job of bringing them and their story to life. The casting seems almost perfect and the trailers I've seen have been a close fit in terms of their tone and style, so... fingers crossed?

Quotes:

- "Blind luck, to arrive in the world with your properly formed parts in the right place, to be born to parents who were loving, not cruel, or to escape, by geographical or social accident, war or poverty."

- "The blasphemous notion came to her that it didn't much matter either way whether the boy lived or died. Everything would be much the same. Profound sorrow, bitter regret perhaps, fond memories, then life would plunge on and all three would mean less and less as those who loved him aged and died, until they meant nothing at all. Religions, moral systems, her own included, were like peaks in a dense mountain range, seen from a great distance, none obviously higher, more important, truer than another."

- "Worth remembering the world was never how she anxiously dreamed it."


This book also counts for:
- 75-Book challenge

119elliepotten
Sep 13, 6:57am Top



21. The Pleasure's All Mine: A History of Perverse Sex, by Julie Peakman (4.5*) - non-fiction
On shelf since October 2014

"One person's perversion is another's normality. If we strip sex back to basics, we will find that most sexual acts have been deemed abnormal by someone at one time or another, while conversely, at different times those same sexual behaviours have been deemed acceptable by other groups of people."

Well, this was an interesting one - and a really pleasant surprise! I expected something more heavy going and academic, but actually this was an incredibly lively, lavishly illustrated, often dryly humorous romp (no pun intended) through the sexual history of humanity. The focus is on "perverse" sex, as the title suggests, but Peakman almost exclusively uses that term in quotation marks, as the definition of perversity and its application to individual acts and fetishes has varied so wildly across time and geography. The book covers more extreme paraphilias - necrophilia, coprophilia and bestiality, for example - but also discusses topics that these days might not warrant the batting of an eyelid, including the LGBTQIA+ community, masturbation and body piercing.

In each chapter Peakman traces a particular sexual proclivity or preference back to its earliest recorded roots and then works her way forwards, through law, art, literature, mythology, medicine, psychology and religion, to the modern day. What I particularly liked about her approach was how utterly fair and non-judgmental she is and how she detaches herself enough to show how arbitrary some of our modern attitudes really are, how rooted those attitudes often are in hugely outdated psychological and social lore, and how there are infinite shades of grey (again, no pun intended) between 'this is fine' and 'this is wrong' in even the most controversial sexual preferences if we would only cut our knee-jerk response, stop squicking out and THINK about it. She calls for tolerance, while acknowledging the difficulties of defining how and where those lines might be redrawn, particularly in legal terms.

Absolutely fascinating for anyone interested in social and sexual history, and a cracking good read besides.

This book also counts for:
- 75-Book challenge
- PopSugar challenge, advanced prompt 9 (a book about a problem facing society today - includes topics like feminism and repression, the medicalisation and criminalisation of consensual sex, and internet pornography)

120elliepotten
Sep 17, 3:49pm Top



22. Berserk, by Ally Kennen (2.5*) - fiction
On my shelf since sometime in our bookshop days - maybe 2014?

The blurb for this one reminded me a lot of Blacklands by Belinda Bauer, in which a boy writes to a murderer and ends up in trouble. Alas, the execution of it reminded me more of The Hit by Melvin Burgess, which I found so disappointing earlier this year. Because it's nothing like the blurb. At all.

In actual fact, the 'brassy teenage boy writes to a murderer on Death Row' aspect plays a very minor role in the novel until nearer the end. Most of it is concerned with the aforementioned brassy teenager getting into various amounts of trouble with his equally brassy best mate, culminating in consequences ranging from bodily injury to time behind bars. I'm sure it had something important that it wanted to say about the cycle of poverty, difficult home lives and criminal youth, but unfortunately I was expecting an entirely different story and nearly DNF-ed it pretty early on when it turned out to be predominantly about a ballsy teenager getting his rocks off putting other people in danger and generally being a dick.

I don't know how much of my dislike of it was the book, and how much was the misleading cover leading to a 'what the hell is this?' kind of approach to the plot, but... well, I finished it. Kinda wish I hadn't bothered since I was pursuing a story that didn't exist, but I finished it.

This book also counts for:
- 75-Book challenge

121Jackie_K
Sep 17, 4:31pm Top

>120 elliepotten: Looks like you took a hit for the rest of us there - don't think I'll be adding it to the wishlist, somehow!

122elliepotten
Sep 21, 9:18am Top

>121 Jackie_K: That's my second one of those in a couple of months too - and a lot of the reviews are similar to mine, a kind of 'not what I was expecting at all' warning. Makes you wonder how the publishers thought that would go down, y'know?!

123elliepotten
Edited: Sep 21, 10:17am Top



23. The Martian, by Andy Weir (4.5*) - fiction
On my shelf since September 2014

"I'm pretty much f**ked.
That's my considered opinion.
F**ked."


I mean, when the premise is 'a dude stuck on Mars trying to survive', and then the opening line makes you simultaneously snort and think 'ooooooooh!', you know it's probably going to be a good one. And it was. It REALLY was. I love it when a book that's had all the hype and been made into a movie and that I've had sitting on my shelves since it first came out actually turns out to have been worth the wait! :)

This is not a book to coast through. Not unless you have a science background anyway. There was nothing incomprehensible, not at all, but you do have to be paying attention, as our 'Martian' Mark Watney explains the complex elements of his life, habitat and plans for survival. That, to me, was one of the biggest strengths of the book; the research that went into it must have been colossal. I have no idea how accurate this stuff is, obviously, but everyone's favourite Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield seemed to be impressed, if the 'praise for...' page is anything to go by.

I did dock it half a star, just as a personal preference, for the sheer number of 'everything's going to be okay OH NO ANOTHER CRISIS' moments, which was to be expected and all, but it did start to feel a bit like one of those neverending nightmares - and also a tad redundant, since nothing was really going to be resolved one way or the other until the end anyway. Happily, this sort of crisis exhaustion did serve to make me stumble out the other end of the book feeling like I'd been in it with Watney from beginning to end, so heavily invested that I was right there with every other citizen on Earth, willing him on. The nightmarish quality was also somewhat alleviated by the dry and irreverent humour throughout Mark's logs. This is a really funny book - I laughed out loud a few times - and as in real life, it served to lighten what could have been a very dark story indeed.

Overall I loved it. It's almost definitely going to be one of my top books of the year, and I can't wait to watch the film now and see how on earth (lol) they managed to transfer this epic, detail-oriented and cerebral story to the big screen. Highly recommended, if you're one of the handful of people left who haven't picked it up yet!

Quotes:

- "The worst moments in life are heralded by small observations. The tiny lump on your side that wasn't there before. Coming home to your wife and seeing two wineglasses in the sink. Anytime you hear "We interrupt this program...""

- "... every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out. It might not seem that way sometimes, but it's true. If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it's found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don't care, but they're massively outnumbered by the people who do."


This book also counts for:
- 75-Book challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 27 (a book set on a different planet)

124elliepotten
Edited: Oct 18, 11:26am Top



24. The Wolf of Wall Street, by Jordan Belfort (DNF) - non-fiction
On shelf since sometime in 2014?

Well. I gave it a go. I was actually enjoying it early on - despite having its 'nope' moments (plenty of casual racism and truly jaw-dropping misogyny) and being a bit heavy on the ego and the financial jargon - but then I made the mistake of stopping in the middle of it to read something else. It had taken me a full week to get through 250 pages and I was getting impatient, okay?!

When I came back to it, all momentum had gone. Then my first few pages yielded a truly extraordinary paragraph in which Belfort gleefully describes his Chinese friend, one body part at a time, as 'succulent'. I flipped through a few more pages, realised that the FBI takedown that I was quite interested in wasn't really going to play a massive part in it after all, and watched the movie instead. It was the right decision. The pacing was better, the grandstanding was smoothed out, and Leo almost made Belfort likeable. Still a colossal dick, of course... but a likeable one. Eh. You win some, you lose some.

Quote:

- "Without action, the best intentions in the world are nothing more than that: intentions."

125elliepotten
Oct 18, 11:23am Top



25. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson (4*) - fiction
On shelf since June 2010

Another one of the oldest books on my shelves, and ALSO one of those books that has permeated popular culture so thoroughly that it was almost a relief to have finally tackled the source material, haha. Out of the three stories in this volume - the titular novella, plus The Body Snatcher and Olalla - I read the first two. I have Olalla in a separate little Penguin Mini Black Classic edition so I'm saving that one. :)

Jekyll and Hyde (which is the one I'm rating with those four stars) was far and away the better of the two, I thought. The mystery was nicely paced, the gothic atmosphere was delicious, and the big contemporary literary themes of unnatural science (see: Frankenstein) and the duality of man (see: The Picture of Dorian Gray) were both done well. The Body Snatcher started quite promisingly - a familiar face from one man's troubled past arrives at his local inn, prompting the telling of a dark story by the fire - but it didn't have the same compelling interest for me, and ended on a note that might have been a zinger back then but left me cold.

Really glad I finally read this one though - and it also contributes a third book AND a short story towards this year's R.I.P. challenge!

This book also counts for:
- 75-Book challenge
- Readers in Peril (RIP) XIII, the annual Halloween reading/watching challenge

126detailmuse
Oct 19, 5:01pm Top

>125 elliepotten: I think a ROOTers comments prompted me to finally acquire this last year. Glad to see 4*, looking forward to it!

127elliepotten
Edited: Oct 24, 8:29am Top

>126 detailmuse: Hope you enjoy it! Sometimes it just feels really good to 'get to the bottom' of books that have become so enmeshed in popular culture, haha. :)

128elliepotten
Oct 26, 11:39am Top



26. The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill (4.5*) - fiction
On shelf since August 2010

Well. For such a short book, this one BROKE ME. It reads like a du Maurier novel - faintly lyrical and beautifully written - but with the deep thematic undertones of grief that so struck me in Pet Sematary, and I was HERE. FOR. IT.

I actually saw the old television adaptation of this as a child, when we were forced to watch it as part of an English lesson on ghost stories. Nearly twenty years on, I still remembered the rumbling of ghostly wheels on the fog-heavy causeway, and the chills that ran down my spine, sitting there in that classroom. On the page that scene had the same effect, with the addition of a few bitter tears. If only I'd remembered a little more, I might have been prepared for the deftly entwined horror and misery ahead.

The novella opens with Arthur Kipps recalling how, as a junior solicitor, he was dispatched up north, to an old house out on the marshes, to deal with the papers left there by its late owner. At her pitifully under-attended funeral, he is surprised to see a young woman in black standing quietly in the pews, and again in the churchyard - and even more surprised by the violent reactions of the locals to his questions about her identity. Over the course of the book, understanding dawns and the house's tragic secrets are uncovered, one by one.

And tragic they are. This is a gothic, frightening haunted house story, yes, but it is also a heartbreaking tale of grief and loss that really got under my skin; by the end I had done my fair share of shivering and sobbing, one following the other several times over until the last page was finally turned. For such a short book, I really couldn't have asked for more than that.

I also watched the newer movie afterwards - with Daniel Radcliffe - and although I was prepared for the onslaught of emotion, I wasn't prepared enough. There are a lot of jump-scares in the film, and it was twisted to be more graphic than gothic, which I wasn't too keen on - but goodness me, it chilled me to the bone and I cried so hard I thought I was going to give myself a migraine. I'm torn between wanting to re-watch it now I know how they played it, and never wanting to see it again! I think I'll leave it on my shelf for a little while and see how I feel later...

Quotes:

- "I have always liked to take a breath of the evening, to smell the air, whether it is sweetly scented and balmy with the flowers of midsummer, pungent with the bonfires and leaf-mould of autumn, or crackling cold from frost and snow."

- "It is remarkable how powerful a force simple curiosity can be."

- "... gradually I discovered for myself the truth of the axiom that a man cannot remain indefinitely in a state of active terror. Either the emotion will increase until, at the prompting of more and more dreadful events and apprehensions, he is so overcome by it that he runs away or goes mad; or he will become by slow degrees less agitated and more in possession of himself."


This book also counts for:
- 75-Book challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 10 (a book about grief)
- Readers in Peril (RIP) XIII, the annual Halloween reading/watching challenge

129elliepotten
Dec 6, 5:13am Top



27. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, by J.K. Rowling (4.5*) - fiction
Haven't read since 2013

I don't need to review this one, right...??? Also SPOILERS AHEAD, just in case. :)

I WILL say that it's actually not quite as well written as I remember. Understandably, perhaps, since it was her first. I read The Cuckoo's Calling recently and was struck by the writing in that, so I was a bit surprised to be honest. HOWEVER, the magic, the playfulness, the ability to make me laugh one minute and cry the next, the sheer creative mind and scope behind it - those things haven't dimmed one bit.

I was impressed to find upon rereading that much of the dialogue translates across to the film almost word-for-word, but interested to note that many of my favourite moments are missing on-screen. Peeves's antics, for a start, and Harry seeing all of his family in the Mirror of Erised, such a powerful and heartbreaking scene - but also several moments involving the Weasley twins (their Voldie-bopping enchanted snowballs, them circling underneath Harry during the cursed Quidditch match trying to save his life) and Dumbledore (his taste for sherbert lemons, and teary-eyed appreciation for the school song!). Maybe I just know the earlier films so well at this point that it was the divergent details that struck me most while I was reading...

Anyway. I loved it. Of course I did. Just what the doctor ordered for a cold, soggy, generally rubbish week when I'm still recovering from that assessment and have now gone down with my first 'proper' cough-cold-headache-sore-everything combo in years. (No idea where I caught it, it's usually one of the few perks of being agoraphobic, haha. Very limited exposure to winter nasties!) I've rewatched the film in chunks over the past few days too, and when I found myself wide awake in the wee hours of this morning I settled into The Chamber of Secrets over tea and cough syrup. They've just de-gnomed the garden at The Burrow and are about to go off to Diagonally Diagon Alley and Lockhart's book signing. No sign of a giant snek yet. :D

This book also counts for:
- 75-Book challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 29 (a book about or set on Halloween - the "TROLL! IN THE DUNGEON!" scene is at the Halloween feast!)

130connie53
Dec 12, 7:37am Top

Hello Ellie, Just skimming through some of your reviews with interest. I hope you are doing okay.

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