Thursday, 16 April 2015

Recently Read #2

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh, The Bees by Laline Paull, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

I thought it was about time for another set of mini book reviews, since I've finished quite a few books since last time. I'm getting along really well with my Goodreads 2015 Challenge of reading 50 books this year. I'm currently reading Station Eleven, which is my sixteenth book of the year. Anyhow, here are four of the books I've read recently. I've included the blurb from the back of the book in italics.

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

Choose us. Choose life. Choose mortgage payments; choose washing machines; choose cars; choose sitting oan a couch watching mind-numbing and spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fuckin junk food intae yir mooth. Choose rotting away, pishing and shiteing yersel in a home, a total fuckin embarrassment tae the selfish, fucked-up brats ye've produced. Choose life.

Trainspotting was the very last novel I read for my uni courses this semester. It's not a book that I'd normally go for, so I'm glad I got to read it. It follows a group of friends, most of them junkies, through all their ups and downs, focusing mainly on Mark Renton (played by Ewan McGregor in the perhaps more well-known movie adaption). It's told in both standard English and Scots, so it can be a bit difficult to read, but the Scots really adds to the feeling of the book and I swear you get into it rather quickly. It's heavy with sarcasm, full of graphic descriptions of all sorts of human icky-ness, and there are plenty of uncomfortable scenes. On one hand, it's a depressing read that leaves you feeling a bit downhearted, but at the same time it's weirdly full of life and humour.

The Bees by Laline Paull

Flora 717 is a survivor. Born into the lowest class of the totalitarian hive society she is prepared to sacrifice everything for the Queen, surviving internal massacres, religious purges and terrifying invasions by vicious wasps. With each act of bravery her status grows, revealing both the enemies within and the sinister secrets that rule the hive. But when her instinct to serve is overwhelmed by a fierce and deeply forbidden maternal love, she breaks the most sacred law of all...

First things first - yes, it really is about bees. I wasn't entirely sure about this before I started reading it, but every single character in the book is a bee (well, apart from the wasps and spiders). It's a really intriguing idea, and seeing how a bee hive works is truly fascinating, but in all honesty I found the plot itself rather dull. It felt a bit all over the place, as if Paull just wanted to write about bees and then had to come up with some sort of plot. Moreover, the fact that the bees were sometimes very human and sometimes so obviously bees made the story difficult to get into, and I didn't feel like I ever got to know the main character (or should I say bee), Flora. Still, I admire the imagination of Paull and I did find it fascinating, so it wasn't all bad. It was alright, simply put.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one option: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like all dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs. 

I've been meaning to read this one for ages, and I'm so glad I finally did. I'm not sure if it's what I expected, but nevertheless I loved it. The novel is set in a dystopian society; the U.S in the 20th century that has evolved into a totalitarian theocracy. It's a subtle yet compelling comment on the dangers of extremism and the society is very elegantly depicted. The most frightening thing about this extremist society is that it doesn't feel that far-fetched. The novel not action-filled in any way, but I loved how everything was revealed gradually, in fragments. It really put me on edge, wanting to read more. It's an incredibly well-written, interesting and thought-provoking book.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives at a grand house in Amsterdam to begin her new life as the wife of wealthy merchant Johannes Brandt. Though curiously distant, he presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations ring eerily true. As Nella uncovers the secrets of her new household she realizes the escalating dangers they face. The miniaturist seems to hold their fate in her hands - but does she plan to save or destroy them?

This book has been seen all over the place lately, and has been getting very mixed reviews. I was initially attracted by the beautiful cover, and then intrigued by the blurb on the back of the book. While this wasn't entirely what I expected (I thought it'd be even more of a creepy mystery thing), I did enjoy it. I love anything that is set in earlier centuries, and reading about 17th century Amsterdam was really interesting. Although I had hoped the mystery would be bigger and better, I still found it hard to stop reading as I wanted to know what would happen. While I don't think it's an amazing book, I do think it's a well-written, original and enjoyable book with some very interesting characters - including strong females, which is always a plus in my book.

What books have you read recently? Have you read any of these books, and in that case what did you think of them?

Love, Mimmi.