Combined book review #5

Remember that reading kick that I have been on these past few weeks? Well, it’s still going strong. So strong that this post won’t even include all that I read. What is astonishing to me though, is the fact that I read a grand total of 30 books in 2014. Half of these I read between the end of October and the end of the year. In other words: I read 15 books in 2 months. Today’s selection has a bit of everything. There’s non-fiction, as well as some guilty pleasure reads, and some more serious novels.

Courtney E Smith – Record Collecting for Girls

Starting off with the most random of books: I picked this up a few years ago when I was in New York. This is a fun book if you like music. I could do without the odd and sometimes awkward personal facts about someone I don’t know or care about. But the book in general focuses on some good elements of the feminine music experience. The world of music is one dominated by men and so I found the insights from a female music insider interesting, but not consistently so.

The book discusses (among other topics) the female voice in music, the influence of music on movies, the usefulness of music blogs, and the digital music revolution. It portrays some interesting facts to ponder, but I feel it plays up the gender card a bit too much. Also, in the end I felt this book was written so the author can feel better about herself, as it is a very egocentric book. On the whole, I think that music is not only gender related, but in fact much more age related. Someone born in a certain decade will have a different take on and experience with music to begin with and I think it’s a much more important factor than gender.

Ben Aaronovitch – Moon over Soho

No 2 in a series about a young PC in London named Peter Grant. In the first book, Grant discovers he can do magic and is hence inducted in a special branch of the London Metropolitan police. The books are a great blend of detective, mystery and fantasy, with a bit of sci-fi thrown in the mix and it’s all set in London. These are my guilty pleasure reads. I own all the series now and I love this as it makes for a quick read that is very entertaining.

The second book in the series deals with chimeras and the London crime scene of the 60s and 70s in, you guessed it from the title, Soho. It all starts with jazz musicians that seem to fall dead for no apparent reason. And to top things off, a mysterious Pale Lady, seems to be giving men a run for their money by either liquidating them through magic or through the tasteless act of bleeding to death through genital removal. All in a day’s work for Peter Grant. Who is caught in between both cases while courting the mysterious Simone while his boss, Thomas Nightingale and magician in charge is still recovering from the events in the first book.

David Nicholls – One Day

Dexter & Emma. Two opposites. Best friends. Lovers that never happened or did? You know they’ll end up together, but once they finally do, it’s quite sudden and unexpected. The book starts on their graduation day in the late eighties. You follow their lives for the next 20 years. But not consistently: you only get to read about that one day but every time a year has past. There are more lapses in time, through flashbacks, especially near the end. There are unexpected elements, the tables turn on their good fortune several times and in the end: life happens and all that is left are the memories.

Where this might cause you to think this is a confusing read: it isn’t. It’s a very cleverly written book, that just works.  In the course of the book Dex & Em become your best friends, just as they get to know each other better too. And I had never read a book that does that for me. Needless to say, I nearly cried. It’s a romance novel, but more grown up and it’s interesting to see how lives change through time and reflection.

Ransom Riggs – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Yacob is a teen living in Florida. He grew up listening to his granddad’s stories about this home he used to be in during WWII. It was filled with ‘peculiar children’. One could levitate, one was strong and another was invisible. Over time Yakob stopped believing in granddad’s stories. Until the night he gets a phone call from his grandfather: they’re coming for me, they’re here to kill me. Yakob rushes over to his granddad’s place where he dies in Yakob’s arms. And that’s when Yakob sees it: the monster his granddad had been warning him about…

This is the onset for Yakob’s need to explore his granddad’s past and see if the stories are true. He finds himself amidst a web of intrigue, a different world that seems as fantastical as it sound. The story plays out nicely at times, but the story world isn’t very well worked out after Yakob finds the home for peculiar children. To the point, where I thought the premise of the story to be a bit ridiculous at times. But perhaps that’s exactly what the author wanted? The at times strange and freaky old pictures which are used to illustrate the story definitely help to set the mood, but sometimes they also distract from the storyline as a whole. Interesting concept, though not very thoroughly worked out.

Dr. Robert Lustig – Fat Chance

This non-fiction book tells the story of how sugar is the main reason why everyone gets fat. Compared to 30 – 50 years ago every human being has put on weight. Some have hit the extreme and have become obese. Obesity rates are up across the planet and Dr. Robert Lustig blames our diet. We eat too much of everything and everything we eat contains sugar. This leads to spikes in your insulin levels which then tell your brain to store your fat rather than lose it.

The premise sounds easy enough and I like how this book doesn’t just tackle the science but also the politics and what you can do to make a change. If Big Food doesn’t change your food for you, then you will have to change what you pick up in stores. It got a little bit preachy in the end. Mainly, because the entire time the book states that what the food industry and dieticians tell you: it’s your fault you’re fat, is wrong. However, by the end it becomes obvious that it’s still you as an individual that have to make the better choices in life to somehow leverage Big Food into believing they need to change their production process.

Stephen Chbosky – Perks of Being a Wallflower

Charlie is not your average teenager. He’s a wallflower: one who notices everyone, but never ‘participates’. When he enters highschool, he meets Sam and Patrick. His new friends with and through whom he experiences many firsts. He gets his driver’s license, takes his sister to an abortion clinic and falls in love. With Sam. Charlie seems to be a very sensitive guy and slowly but surely you find out that Charlie truly is no ordinary guy.

Written as letters to ‘a friend’ (as a reader you don’t know who this friend is) by Charlie, the book is easy to read and packed with highschool memories. Charlie notices everything, about everyone and often sits on the sidelines, which gives him a different perspective on everyone’s lives except his own. Because once his new friends start to move on to college, Charlie finds himself alone which has him battle some old demons. Enjoyable read with an ending that leaves you hanging on the details, but at least you’ll know that Charlie is okay.

What is the last book you read?

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