Sunday, July 1, 2018

June Final Wrap-up

Hello! It is the first day of July, which means it's time to wrap up another month. I managed to finish a couple more books this week, bringing my total for June to 12 books. I did however read more pages than in May, due to the fact that I read a book of almost 900 pages and 4 books of over 400 pages. What I realized is that I often shy away from bigger books because I'm afraid that they are going to take a longer time, lowering my monthly total. But now that I have surpassed my original goal of 50 books (I already finished 65 books this year), I decided to read more of what I want and less of what I feel like I "should" read. I also want to favour bigger books instead of shorter ones that might look like quick reads but then end up being bad. Judging by this month's ratings, my 2 star and 3 star reads have been these short books that I picked up as quick reads. So I'm going to try to get away from the pressure of finishing over 10 books next month. Meanwhile, here's what I read in the second half of June.

Awakenings by Oliver Sacks

Awakenings--which inspired the major motion picture--is the remarkable story of a group of patients who contracted sleeping-sickness during the great epidemic just after World War I. Frozen for decades in a trance-like state, these men and women were given up as hopeless until 1969, when Dr. Oliver Sacks gave them the then-new drug L-DOPA, which had an astonishing, explosive, "awakening" effect. Dr. Sacks recounts the moving case histories of his patients, their lives, and the extraordinary transformations which went with their reintroduction to a changed world.*

Oh, nonfiction! The bane of my existence. I have always been fascinated by neurology, and even though I didn't end up choosing it as a specialty, I continue to be fascinated by this subject. I loved Oliver Sacks'  The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat short story collection and I wanted more from him. That being said, I started this book almost 3 years ago and only now managed to finish it. I struggle with nonfiction, as I mentioned before. In this one I got stuck in the case report part. Basically, it was a brief account of each patient's life story and then their history before and after the L-DOPA treatment. I found this part quite repetitive, which made it hard for me to pick it up and read more than 2 pages. Finally, what saved me was the audiobook. I was only about 30% into the book when I switched to the audiobook and managed to listen to it through the end. Although I didn't remember much from the first part of the book because it's been ages since I read it, I quite enjoyed listening to the rest of it. I'm not sure I learned much information from this book, but I'm happy I read it. Now I'm curious to watch the movie as well as the documentary that goes with this book, if I can find it. I gave this book 4 stars.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he's been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history--performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.*

First off, let me just say that this book was a big disappointment for me. I love books about time traveling and immortality, so I was very excited to pick this one up. The premise of the book is great and there are some great ideas in it, but there was so much I didn't like about it. The writing was really strange, with the story being told in a really simple way, but then with lots of motivational and uplifting quotes. Another problem I had was with the historical parts which were really poorly described. I just couldn't feel like I was there at all, which is sad because that's the main reason I like historical fiction. Then there was the issue of the characters, most of them so underdeveloped. Finally, some of the events in the book felt a bit forced and illogical, but I won't get into that because I don't want to give any spoilers here. All in all, this book was average at best, so I gave it 2.5 stars, which is exactly half of the maximum rating.

As usual, multiple books have been ebooks or audiobooks, so no picture. Here they are:

Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen's most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne's family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?*

This month I continued my Jane Austen series with her last novel, which is also considered her best one by many people. To me it was the least favorite from what I read from her. The story was uninteresting, the characters were uninteresting, this book just felt boring and less than average. I considered dnf-ing it a few times but decided to power through it at 1.2x speed, since it is pretty short and the audiobook was quite nice. That being said, I think I'm done with Jane Austen, at least for this year. I will accept that this is an author I'm not a fan of and move on. I've read 4 of her books and only enjoyed one (Pride and Prejudice), her most famous book and I must admit that there is a reason for it to be so famous. But all her other books have not been for me. I gave Persuasion 2 unimpressed stars.

This is the sixth book in The Witcher series, an adult fantasy series that is famous for inspiring the PC games with the same name. I didn't include the synopsis for this book because I think it would spoil too much of the first books, but I will say that this series should be better known in the book world. It is beautifully inspired by Polish folklore and is something different from what I've read before. This book was a bit slower paced than the previous ones and felt more like a bridge between the first books and the next ones, where I feel like a lot is gonna be revealed. I quite enjoyed the read and was happy to be back with these characters cause it's been a while since I read the previous book. I will definitely not be waiting so long before picking up the next book. I read this as an ebook because my physical copy was borrowed by some friends and gave it 4 stars.

The Humans by Matt Haig

Our hero, Professor Andrew Martin, is dead before the book even begins. As it turns out, though, he wasn’t a very nice man--as the alien imposter who now occupies his body discovers. Sent to Earth to destroy evidence that Andrew had solved a major mathematical problem, the alien soon finds himself learning more about the professor, his family, and “the humans” than he ever expected. When he begins to fall for his own wife and son--who have no idea he’s not the real Andrew--the alien must choose between completing his mission and returning home or finding a new home right here on Earth. *

Another Matt Haig book that wasn't quite what I expected. Granted that after reading How to Stop Time, I wasn't that excited anymore. I still wanted to give it a chance, since a lot of people found it extremely funny. For me, it was moderately funny at best. Most of the jokes were cliches, and so were the characters. The first couple of hours of the audiobook made me roll my eyes many times. After that, it was acceptable. In the end it was ok, I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads, but I guess it was more of a 2.5*, like the other Matt Haig book. In conclusion, his books seem average to me and I probably won't pick up any of his other books. I only had these two on my tbr anyway, so no hard feelings.

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…. 
As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. *

This was another quick read that I squeezed in on the very last days of the month. One of those "books about books" that seemed cute and fluffy. And that's what it was. The story isn't particularly believable and the letters didn't seem like they were written by British people in the 40's, but if you take this book for what it is you won't be disappointed. That's what I did and I enjoyed it. It's historical fiction bordering on romance. It did teach me about the German occupation of the Channel Islands during WW2, a subject I had no idea about. And that's why I read historical fiction, to go to places and find out about events I didn't know much about. Pick this up if you are in the mood for something light and enjoyable, with a touch of history. I read it as an ebook and gave it 3 stars.

That's it for June. Hope July will be a great month! 

*Source: Goodreads

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