Flash Reviews (1st October 2013)

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green ****
(Kindly sent to me by April – thank you!)
I always look forward to a new John Green novel, and whilst this is one of his earlier works, it is one which I’ve strangely never been able to locate in bookshops.  The more I learnt about Colin, this book’s protagonist, the more baffled I was that he was able to have one girlfriend, let alone nineteen of them.  That sounds very mean, I know, but he was very self-important and wallowed in self-pity for the majority of the novel.  His antithesis for me came in the guise of his best friend, Hassan, with whom Colin sets off on a roadtrip with no destination in mind.  Hassan reminded me of one of my friends with regard to his speech and mannerisms, and so I liked him immediately.  I enjoyed the structure, which included scenes involving many of Colin’s past girlfriends – all Katherines – at the end of every chapter.  There were perhaps a few too many graphs and instances of ‘fugging’ in An Abundance of Katherines, but the novel is well written and rather amusing.  It is not incredibly sweet and sad like Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, nor as heartwarming as Paper Towns, but I still very much enjoyed it.

The Lovers by Vendela Vida ****
I so enjoyed Vida’s Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name, and have been wanting to read more of her fiction ever since.  Turkey’s landscape was set out beautifully throughout The Lovers, and I found that Vida built up the sense of uneasiness in rather a marvellous way.  She is one of the few authors I can think of whose use of the third person perspective does not detract at all from the story which she writes.  Throughout, she captured the protagonist Yvonne’s loneliness perfectly.  I liked the way in which she describes Yvonne being both married and widowed, weaving the memories together in order to create a full picture.  The characters were all believable and felt real, as did the relationships which Vida built up between them.  The Lovers is a great novel, and one which I struggled to put down.

Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare ****
Troilus and Cressida followed on marvellously from my reading of The Iliad.  I found it most interesting that critics find it difficult to place this play into only one genre, as elements of it cross over somewhat.  I very much liked Shakespeare’s inclusion of a prologue, which set the scene marvellously.  I am often blown away by the conversations Shakespeare crafts between his characters, and this play was no exception.  The insults particularly are rather marvellous; Ajax and Thersites call one another ‘You whoreson cur’, ‘thou sodden-witted Lord’ and ‘thou scurry-valiant ass’, amongst other things.  The plot in Troilus and Cressida moves along marvellously, and whilst it is most enjoyable, it does pale rather against the stunning epic poem that is The Iliad.


Flash Reviews (6th September 2013)

Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan ****
Summer days warrant these witty, fun reads for me.  The books which Cohn and Levithan write are not your usual teen fare.  Rather than being fluffy, simply written and overly predictable (sorry, Sara Dessen, but I’m looking at you), their tales are smart, well constructed, intelligent in their prose and rather unique in terms of the cast of characters they create.  Yes, I suppose that there was an element of predictability here with regard to the ending, but the entire story was so well wrought that it really didn’t matter.  The characters are all marvellous, with perhaps the exclusion of Naomi, whom I found to be an incredibly difficult protagonist to get along with.  I loved the way in which Cohn and Levithan tackled serious issues – the rocky road of teen friendships, homosexuality, trying desperately to conform with peers, and so on.  Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List is a great book, and one which I struggled to put down.

The View From Castle Rock by Alice Munro ***
The View From Castle Rock is ultimately disappointing, particularly in comparison to Munro’s other short stories, which are tiny masterpieces in themselves.  I liked the way in which she wove in her family history, but I simultaneously felt as though it bogged down the tales somewhat, making them rather stolid and plodding in consequence.  The strongest tales here were certainly those written using the first person perspective.  The others I felt incredibly detached from.

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories, Volume 1 by Joseph Gordon-Levitt *****
I found this gorgeous little book in the Book and Comic Exchange in Notting Hill last year, and read it on the train on the way home in one delicious gulp.  It has been my ‘go to’ book for when I feel unwell or just need a breather from more serious literature.  I was feeling a little under the weather near to the end of August, and my boyfriend read this book to me in its entirety in the hope that it would make me feel better.  It did.  It is stunning, both in terms of the words and lovely illustrations.  I’ve upgraded my rating from my previous four to five stars, because this book is a real treasure.

A Midsummer Tights Dream by Louise Rennison ***
I only purchased this because I so enjoyed the Georgia Nicolson series.  I’m fully aware that I’m far too old for such a book.  Also, let’s face it – the title is rather good as far as puns go.  It is silly frivolous teen fiction, just as I expected it would be.  Tallulah, the protagonist of this volume, does not have the same charisma or silliness which her ‘cousin’ Georgia has, and some of the language which the teens use throughout feels rather outdated.  A Midsummer Tights Dream is rather a fun, quick read, but it would have made far more sense had I read the prequel beforehand.