I'm attempting to read 100 books this year, and so far I'm on track. It's intense. It occupies a lot of my time - both the actual reading and the planning to read, the working out when I'll have time, when I need to finish each book to stay on course, what I'll read next. I'm enjoying it so far, and have read some really great books. I have over 200 on my to-read list, but I'm always looking for recommendations, so fire them my way!
Catching Fire & Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
I have a lot of feelings about The Hunger Games series, most of which are probably as a result of reading all three books in just four days which basically gave me nightmares because it was so intense. As you can probably tell, I was pretty hooked from the beginning and I can't believe it's taken me this long to read these books - they're unusual, riveting and surprisingly dark. I quite liked that they had a bit of an edge, and I really liked Katniss' character throughout; I felt that she was really relatable and realistic - apart from the whole archery & survival badass thing. I didn't even mind the love triangle, which I know people have critiqued as unnecessary. I did, however, feel that the storyline span a bit out of control towards the end and was so fast-paced it was hard to keep up. I think this is my failings as a reader though; I always want a happy ending, or at least a satisfying one, and I don't really feel like I got that. Katniss was so out of it for most of the third book due to injury or illness that things felt distorted, and there were a couple of plot points that I didn't agree with but which I won't share due to the *massive* spoilers it would give. I just wish that things had turned out better for all the characters, really. I'm sentimental like that.
Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen
I'm sure most of you have read Pride & Prejudice, whether through choice or because of a school assignment. I originally read it due to the latter, and I'll admit that I didn't really like or appreciate it. I was never an Austen fan, finding her trivial and sentimental - which just shows how mature I was when I was making those criticisms. Now, I couldn't be further from that - whilst I'm not an Austen super-fan and some of her novels don't really do it for me, Pride & Prejudice is on another level. It's witty, it's charming, it's gripping. It's everything I want in a novel and more. Whilst the love between Darcy and Elizabeth has been idolised in popular culture, for me it is the relationship between the sisters, and between Bingley and Jane that hold the real sway. Elizabeth is one of the best heroines in English literature, in my humble opinion, and I wish that there had been a sequel so I could keep reading.
How to Build a Girl, Caitlin Moran
Caitlin Moran is one of my favourite writers - heck, one of my favourite people - and I was very excited for her new novel. I devoured this in mere hours and wasn't disappointed. Like her first book, How to Be a Woman, it's laugh-out-loud funny and tears-in-your-eyes poignant all at the same time. It's about class, sex, career, life, being a woman and trying to build yourself from the ground up - which is basically everything I like to read about. The cast of characters is a rag tag bunch, mostly well-meaning, and Johanna, the protagonist, is adorable, flawed, wild and wonderful. I'd really like to see something from Moran that isn't a variation on this theme - working glass girl turned music journalist - because I love her ideas and her way of expressing them, her open-hearted honesty and whip-smart wit, and I sometimes felt like I was re-reading How to Be a Woman. I want more!
Julie & Julia, Julie Powell
A book about being a food blogger. How apt, you might think. I actually wasn't blown away by this book, despite the subject matter, which tells the story of Julie, a New York secretary who embarks on a year-long challenge to cook everything from Julia Child's 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking vol. 1' in an effort to kickstart her life. Or at least, that's what I assume her motive is - it's not very well explained and there are times when I just thought 'But why?'. There was no rhyme or reason explained - but maybe there was no rhyme or reason in reality either; this is a true story after all. There were some touching moments and I enjoyed learning more about Julia Child - and about French cooking - but I just wasn't charmed (maybe because she kept insulting her husband - if I'd been him, I would have had some serious issues with this book) and it's not one I'll go back to. I'm also a bit put off mastering the art of French cooking myself, especially if it involves so much offal...
Dare Me, Megan Abbott
I think this is my favourite book of the bunch, a story of cheerleaders with a dark edge, a mystery to solve and a friendship gone awry. It starts out innocently enough as a tale of teenage jealousy and competition, but the tension ramps up throughout the novel until it's almost unbearable. Told my 16-year-old Addy, the book starts as a new cheerleading coach arrives, toppling Addy's best friend and Queen Bee Beth from her captaincy - who immediately looks for revenge. Addy and the new coach become closer as Addy's relationship with Beth becomes more strained, until events spiral out of control. The whole book feels slightly menacing, in the best way, and there's an excellent twist. The language is brutal and visceral. I already want to read it again.