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Book the Fourth: A Book with a Red Spine.

Title: What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

Author: Raymond Carver

Published: 1981

Thoughts

“I admit it’s not much of a story.”

“I was interested.”

– Raymond Carver, Everything Stuck to Him.

I (unlike the lady in the above story) was not interested.

My opinion of this book can best be summarised in this text based exchange between me and a friend when I was at the halfway point:

________________________________________________________

Me: It’s so BORING. Nothing happens and everyone’s an alcoholic.

Friend: It’s Realism.

M: Oh FFS this book is stupid.

F: I’m wondering if Realism as a genre isn’t your thing.

M: It’s like reading Katherine Mansfield all over again.

F: Not going to try Proust any time soon then? Three books of Realism with little plot.

M: Then Proust can do one.

________________________________________________________

And there in a nutshell is my relationship with Realism in general, Raymond Carver specifically.

For a genre that apparently replicates the way real people interact I have never read such stilted conversation. If this is how Americans talk when they are alone then I have to assume all Americans are boring and emotionally constipated.

Finishing this book was a real struggle and I am thanking God that it was a book of short stories as I think anything longer would have actually finished me off. I can’t pinpoint the exact reason that Realism and I don’t gel, but it’s something that has never worked for me – back through my degree, even all the way to 14 year old me “reading” Catcher in the Rye because Ruby Wax told me I’d enjoy it.

One of the stories (which featured a protagonist with enough mysoginy to make Donald Trump go ‘Bit much there.’) did catch my interest and I, dare I say it, actually enjoyed reading it.

I think that was mostly because the protagonist made me angry. It was genuinely the only story that made me feel anything at all, hence why I latched on to it. But the purpose of completing the POPSugar reading challenge was to broaden my reading horizons with books I haven’t tried before, so there is that.

Upon finishing I immediately gave my book to the friend I mentioned above. I have no doubt he will enjoy it more than I did. Which is not hard. I enjoyed Norovirus more.

Rating: 1/5

Read This Book if You Like: Punishing yourself.

‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’ by Raymond Carver is published by Random House and is available for £7.99.

Book the Third: A Book with a Title That’s a Character’s Name.

Title: An Abundance of Katherines

Author:John Green

Published: 2006

Thoughts

The name featured in the title of this novel is not just the name of one character, but nineteen.

Protagonist Colin has dated nineteen girls – each of them called Katherine – and this novel mainly revolves around his quest to make a mathematical formula to predict the outcome of a relationship before it has even begun. A quest spawned from the fact that all nineteen Katherines have dumped him.

My issues with this novel lie in the characters – I haven’t come across a protagonist I found so un-engaging since my sixth attempt at reading Catcher in the Rye. Colin Singleton is morose, whiny, ridiculous and far too preoccupied with ‘mattering’ at the expense of actually doing anything.

Hey Colin, maybe that’s why nineteen Katherines dumped you? Just a thought…

Even the supporting characters were forgettable. Hassan (The comedy sidekick) Lindsay (The girl next door) and The Other Colin (The antagonist) all felt really two dimensional and I didn’t engage with them any more than I did with Colin. Strong supporting characters can sometimes save a flagging novel – it’s a pity it didn’t happen here.

The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns are two of my favourite examples of YA literature – but it pains me to say that AAoK just lacks something that I can’t quite put my finger on.

Perhaps it’s because it’s one of Green’s earlier novels (actually his second after Looking For Alaska) but it just fell flat with me and it was a genuine struggle to finish because unfortunately I just really didn’t care about Colin, his algorithm, the tampon string factory or the grave of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Rating: 2/5

Read This Book if You Like: David Levithan, Rainbow Rowell, Jennifer Niven

‘An Abundance of Katherines’ by John Green is published by Penguin and is available for £7.99.

Book the Second: A Book That’s Becoming a Movie in 2017.

Title: Everything, Everything

Author: Nicola Yoon

Published: 2015

Thoughts

I read this book fully aware that it was becoming a film released later this year, and I am incredibly pleased I managed to finish it before the film is released.

This is Nicola Yoon’s debut novel, but unlike many YA authors it is an incredibly strong debut – the characters are well written and the plot was compelling enough to keep me reading even though I was certain I knew how it was going to end.

To give a bit of background to the story, teenager Maddy has an immune condition (SCID) that means she can’t leave the house; in the words of the blurb she is ‘allergic to the world.

I feel like this story could have gone two ways, the ‘Fault in Our Stars’ way, or the ‘other’ way. Spoiler alert: It goes the other way. (Thankfully!)

As well as being a typical YA love story – boy meets girl, boy kisses girl, girl goes into cardiac arrest etc. etc. I found this book really made me appreciate life a bit more after reading it.

Maddy’s longing to experience everything made me reconsider how lucky I am that I have as much freedom as I do – I read this book at the start of the year where I was being a bit of a moody bitch to everyone and if Everything, Everything did anything for me it was that it pulled me out of my bitch fit and made me determined to do more things on my ‘to do’ list. Like get another tattoo and learn to ride a bike.

If I’m being completely honest I could have done without Olly’s ‘tragic backstory’ subplot – it felt a bit like a YA hackneyed cliché and didn’t really serve the plot in my eyes.

I also correctly predicted the ending about midway through – but instead of making me stop reading it made me read faster to get to the end to make sure I was right. The moment of confirmation was INCREDIBLY satisfying.

Props should also be given to David Yoon for the beautiful illustrations featured throughout the book that help to tell the story.

This was quite a quick but overall satisfying read and I will definitely be watching the film when it is released in August.

 

Rating: 5/5

Read This Book if You Like: John Green

‘Everything, Everything’ by Nicola Yoon is published by Corgi Books and is available for £7.99.

Book the First: A Book With Pictures.

 

Title: It’s Not Me, It’s You

Author: Mhairi McFarlane

Published: 2015

Thoughts

Okay full disclosure, I chose this book on my last trip to the library for two reasons:

  1. The fact that the protagonist is from Newcastle.
  2. The cover is so luminous it borders on offensive.

I based my first reading choice by literally judging a book by its cover, not the most auspicious of beginnings. A profitable choice however when it comes to INMIY.

The main character, Delia Moss, has many of the hallmarks of a manic pixie dream girl: a unique fashion sense, a talent for drawing comic books, a personality sharply contrasting with everyone around her (although as everyone around her works for the city council, this can only be a good thing.)

The book started well, with Delia proposing to her long term boyfriend only to discover he has been cheating on her with someone a third of her age.

What I loved about this book is that the cheating partner is very much playing second fiddle – McFarlane manages to make the story entirely about Delia and as a reader I didn’t waste my time hating Paul (the boyfriend) but focusing on Delia and her feelings.

Paul was such an unforgettable character in fact I actually just had to flick through the first two chapters to include his name in this review…

The other love interest – Adam -is infinitely more memorable, though perhaps for the wrong reasons. In true ‘rom-com’ style they both make appalling first impressions on each other. Adam redeemed himself in my eyes pretty quickly however, and part of the enjoyment I took from reading this was knowing Delia was being a moron and becoming increasingly frustrated with her poor decision making. (What can I say, I enjoy reading about characters I’d like to punch.)

The novel featured a good, well rounded cast of supporting characters (Paul excluded) and although the overall story arc was easy to predict the journey there did include some unexpected moments, and the overall ending was satisfying.

Rating: 4/5

Read This Book if You Like: Sophie Kinsella, Jill Mansell, Lindsay Kelk

‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’ by Mhairi McFarlane is published by Harper Collins and is available for £7.99.