Joining me for this month's edition of Blogging Good Read are Lucy from Books & Brooches and Jen from Gingerella. What did we read?
Lucy's book choice was Yes Pleaseby Amy Poehler:
I was really excited about reading this as I think Amy Poehler is very funny and articulate, you may know her from Mean Girls, Parks and Recreation or Saturday Night Live (she does a killer Hilary Clinton) amongst others. She is also best friends and often writing partner/award show host with Tina Fey, so I was looking forward to being blown away by her book. Except I wasn't. The book was OK, there were funny parts and interesting parts as well as insights in to the world of showbiz and comedy. She covers diverse topics from her time on Saturday Night Live, divorce and heartbreak, taking drugs to motherhood. It just wasn't as great as I was expecting. I think this is because Amy's comedy is all in the delivery, she is charming and quickwitted and I think this may have been better as an audiobook than a paperback.
Did Jen enjoy it?
With this one, I am really torn; I really enjoyed parts and disliked others. The parts I disliked were the constant name-dropping, and not because it was name-dropping - she's a famous person, she knows other famous people - but more because I didn't know the names! Maybe that's my fault and I can't hold that against Amy but it got to the point where I would be reading and these names I didn't know would be replaced by 'Famous Person X', 'Famous Person Y'. Yes, that might be my fault but I wasn't about to go and Google every single name. Also, the intro was too long, and yes it is difficult to write a book but you've written one now so please, let us continue. The parts I really enjoyed were the stories of her childhood, youth and current life, and especially her viewpoints on life and people. Some would consider it preaching or self-help but I think it's more about her sharing her experiences and perhaps, even her recognising herself as a role model. I found myself able to relate to her and would read several parts and internally shout 'YES! Totally! That's me'. There were also several laugh-out-loud moments. I wouldn't say this was a quick read as I did have to keep taking breaks from it but it was a book I enjoyed. Another three out of five stars.
I know I should technically write my reviews in isolation but hey, if you've read my last post you'll know I'm quite the champ at procrastination so you're probably not surprised that I do occasionally end up penning my thoughts on the BGR post as the very last part of putting the whole thing together. In this instance, it's not a bad thing because I've been wholeheartedly nodding along with Lucy and Jen's thoughts on Yes Please and I basically want to write "Yup, what they said."
Parts of it were brilliant, parts were a bit meh. It seemed quite uneven and although that is kind of part of the charm of it - it's like Amy is sitting down and chattering on with you - it does also make it a bit hit and miss overall. I definitely agree with Lucy on the audiobook thing - I've since listened to autobiographies by Mindy Kaling and Neil Patrick Harris and there's something about hearing an actor or comedian's words in their own voice that does really enhance things.
I chose Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George:
Prior to my Orkney trip I ran my Amazon wishlist through Scribd to see if anything was on there - might as well make use of my subscription! Now I have no idea why this particular book was on my wishlist in the first place but I'm delighted that Jessica Day George's entire back catalogue turned out to be available on Scribd because I promptly glommed them. As with all of her books, this is quite a gentle, sweet, satisfying read. It's a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairytale, which I must admit I was only vaguely familiar with beforehand.
The twelve princesses of Westfalin disappear every third night and return exhausted in the morning. The curse that ties them to having to dance all night at the Midnight Ball also means that they can't tell anyone about where they're going and so no-one can help them break the curse. That is until an enterprising young soldier returns from the wars, gets a job in the palace gardens and sets about solving the mystery. I am very fond of Galen - a hero who knits! Although I'd never describe this sort of book as realistic, there's enough of an edge to the world-building to set it apart from sugary sweet kids fairytales.
What did Lucy think?
This was an enjoyable read, sometimes you need to know the heroes win the day and the bad guys will fall. I really like old fairy tales, and remember reading the story Twelve Dancing Princesses that this is based upon, years ago. I enjoy a bit of magic and whimsy, which this has in spades, mix that in with a mystery, magical objects and forbidden love and you have a gentle, pleasant, easy read.
How about Jen?
Fantasy isn't typically a genre I would read and as such, I wasn't sure I was going to like it. However, the ending of the first chapter had me wanting to read on. When there are a lot of characters in a book, sometimes with unusual names, I can struggle to follow, remember or connect with who they are. But in this case, having the thoughts and feelings of the two main characters being the principal focus worked well to prevent that. Having said that, I might've liked more development of some of the characters. The fate of the princesses and her saviour held my intrigue and the love story was sweet although them being 'madly in love' never quite shone through for me. I did very much enjoy the descriptions and imagery in the book and it was definitely enchanting; it reminded me of Beauty and the Beast, or similar, in its depictions (not the storyline). Again, this was a quick read and I enjoyed it. Three out of five stars I'd say.
Jen picked The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins:
Rachel catches the train to London every morning and each day, as the train stops at the same signal, she watches the couple living at number 15. She becomes obsessed with their seemingly perfect life. One day, she sees something at number 15 that shocks her. Rachel begins to get caught up in what she saw, and the life of this young couple. It raises questions about herself and her own life. I chose the book as I'd seen it praised in the media and the plot sounded intriguing.
From the start, my impression of Rachel was one of unhappiness, depression and self-loathing. Despite this, I still warmed to her character and I was intrigued to see what would transpire; would she pick herself up, and what was she going to witness at number 15? The 'something shocking' that Rachel sees, I found a little disappointing and was expecting something a little more sinister. As the story progresses, no-one takes Rachel seriously about what she sees or knows, the people in her life seem to despise her and she continues to fall apart at the seams rather than pull herself together. The twist at the end was not a surprise to me as the build up definitely points in this direction and if I'm completely honest, I wasn't so captured by the characters that I felt all that bothered by it. Finally, at the end, Rachel gets her life together. This was a quick read and had enough of a plot to keep my interest but, given all the hype, I thought it was mostly just OK, somewhere between two and a half and three stars out of five.
The Girl on the Train is a book that's quite hard to review without giving anything away so I'll steer clear of too much description, but I think the comparisons it's had in the press to Gone Girl are fair. Both books feature a whole host of deeply unpleasant characters, have quite an unsettling atmosphere and are so full of twists and turns that you carry on reading just to see how it all ends up. As with Gone Girl, I loathed all the characters. Rachel is a very unreliable narrator and it's a bold choice by the author to make her protagonist quite so unpleasant. You don't finish this book because you're anxious to find out that she's ok - frankly I didn't care about her enough for that. You finish it because the plot and pacing are interesting enough to hook you in. Overall it's not a wonderful book and I don't quite understand why it's being raved about so much, but it's an entertaining enough read.
Did Lucy enjoy it?
I couldn't get hold of this book for love nor (a reasonable amount of) money, so I downloaded the audiobook (thank goodness for free trials!), this only added to the eerie atmosphere of the book. Before BGR I had no desire to read this book, as it had often been likened to Gone Girl, which I had really not enjoyed. I'm so glad BGR made me read this, so I could finally see what the fuss was all about. Paula Hawkins is an excellent writer, you quickly become entangled with Rachel and the other characters as you delve deeper in to their disturbing lives. The mystery (which I won't spoil here) was also good, although you may find yourself sensing the 'twist' sooner than the write thinks. The only reason I didn't enjoy this book is I need at least one character that I like (however slightly) in a book, and in The Girl on the Train, there was no-one.
Huge thanks to Lucy and Jen for joining us with BGR this month. Next month the books will be S. by J.J Abrams & Doug Dorst, The Awakening by Kate Chopin and The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton.
I'm on the hunt for more people to take part in BGR for the rest of the year so if you like reading and want to join in, please give me a shout!