My 2015 Reading Wrap-Up

Over the past couple of years, I have documented every film that I have watched and reviewed them all using Letterboxd. As a way to motivate myself to read more, I thought I would do the same for what books I have been reading, using Goodreads as a way to set myself a reading challenge.

So, this year I set myself a challenge of reading 15 books. Here’s how my 2015 challenge went, with a short review and rating for each of the books:

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Review to come.

Review to come.

Review to come.

Review to come.

Review to come.

2. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Reading Wild, I wanted to pack my bags up and go for a long walk to somewhere unknown. I’d been travelling myself the year before picking up this book, so I knew what it felt like to trek around unfamiliar places with no responsibilities to worry about or people to put you down, without any plans and an infinite amount of time ahead of you to do whatever you felt right. But I wasn’t particularly inspired by the story at the time of reading it because it isn’t the motivational journey as promised.

Sure, Wild gives you that wanderlust feeling. But any book about travelling will do that. Cheryl’s details of the trial itself are excellently documented and as an advertisement to the Pacific Crest Trail, I’m sure thousands of people will be partaking in it after reading her story.

You can read my full review here

3. The Divergent Series: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Divergent did well to set the story up, especially with the huge competition that the franchise and their adaptations have had. But it excelled on most levels: it had great characters, a well-crafted future world, a bit of romance, a lot of intrigue and even more action. Yet Insurgent falls flat on most of these levels.

Throughout the story, we only want the answer to one question: what is the information that Jeanine is trying to hide? But it’s not until the very end that we find out, and until then there’s a lot of build-up to, well, nothing. There are a lot more shooting and fighting scenes in this instalment, and more focus on the fear simulations that give the story its dark edge, so you would think that Insurgent would be a gripping read. But what stands out more than these impacting scenes is the amount of times that Tris cries, and her constant worry about Four.

You can read my full review here

4. Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Review to come.

Review to come.

Review to come.

Review to come.

Review to come.

5. The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

Set in Australia in the 1920s, The Light Between Oceans is a beautifully written book exploring a heart-wrenching moral dilemma between a husband and wife.

With alluring descriptions of the Australian coast as the story’s backdrop, the artistic setting of The Light Between Oceans is contrasted with the loneliness of Janus island and its lighthouse, as well as the two characters who reside there. Tom is used to being alone and battling his own demons, whilst Isabel moves away from her busy life on the mainland with the intent to fill her life on Janus with a family of her own. But after having two miscarriages and a stillborn, Tom and Isabel soon begin to feel the confinements of living so far away from the rest of the world.

You can read my full review here

6. The Maze Runner Series: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

Just like the first book, The Scorch Trials is full of adventure, action and anticipation. The books are incredibly fun to read, with a new twist springing up in every chapter to keep you excited and engaged. There are new technologically advanced monsters, personal tests of humanity, and struggles against a world which is controlled by others, which all keep the pace up, the scares coming, and the readers on edge.

But The Scorch Trials does become quite repetitive at times. Thomas passes out at the end of almost every chapter, and we are somewhat undermined as intelligent readers as the book constantly questions whether his visions are memories or just dreams. We knew that Thomas’ visions were memories from the first book, but as more and more is revealed with the amount of times that Thomas is left unconscious, it becomes a little tedious at times.

You can read my full review here

7. Paper Towns by John Green

The story explores a set of characters who are at a point in their lives where everything is changing; a time when a teenager is at their most emotional. The end of high school is the end of an era, everything matters a great deal at this point, but with unwanted ends come new beginnings, and in a few months they will all be starting new lives with new friends as they leave for different colleges anyway.

It’s a story about growing up and the different kind of relationships that you have – with your parents, with your friends, and sooner or later with the opposite sex – but this isn’t the kind of book that would be taught about at school, either. It’s too real – these characters drink, they smoke, they have sex, they get STD’s, they steal, and they sneak out of the house in the middle of the night: all of the things that your parents are glad you weren’t doing when you were younger.

You can read my full review here

8. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

It’s no wonder that To Kill a Mockingbird has been deemed a classic because that’s exactly what it is. Scout is such a brilliant character, and I didn’t want to stop reading because of her alone.

I had no idea where the story was going most of the time, so I found it difficult to put down in the last few chapters.

I don’t even like the film adaptation, which is a very rare thing for me to say. I just don’t think that it gives this incredible story the justice that it deserves.

9. The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian is a refreshing and intelligent science fiction book, telling a personal story of optimism and bravery that is filled to the brim with immersive adventure. Balancing on the border of realism and science fiction, it tells a gripping tale of survival. The technical terms and mathematics may occasionally get a little thick but, at the same time, it’s so nice to read a book where the author has obviously put a lot of research into the matter.

Too often I find myself reading something thinking how little thought or description has been put into it, but with Weir’s story, he leaves no doubt in your mind or question unanswered.

You can read my full review here

10. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Dark Places is a brilliantly intense mystery and a fast-paced thriller. I read the book in one sitting, proving yet again that Flynn knows how to completely immerse you into the story and its characters. The book felt like a real thriller with its complex story. With the case revolving around satanic rituals, as well, it felt very close to the real-life Memphis Three trial, which was made into the 2013 film Devil’s Knot, making it even more interesting to follow.

With these themes of satanic rituals, Dark Places is incredibly dark at times, especially when you don’t know where to place your trust. As you find with most of Flynn’s books, you don’t know who you’re supposed to be rooting for, or even who to like, and this uncertainty is what grips you. The characters are so well-developed, even if all of them have their fair share of disturbing natures, and even though you don’t know who the enemy is, you find yourself relating to each of them.

You can read my full review here

11. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

We all think we know Kipling’s story thanks to Disney, but The Jungle Book is actually a collection of fables, and only three out of seven of them relate to Mowgli.

Much of these stories about Mowgli and his friends sound familiar but, in fact, a lot happens differently in the book compared to two popular film adaptations, which I go into more here, but there’s a lot more to appreciate in terms of imagination and adventure.

You can read my full review here

12. Animal Farm by George Orwell

George Orwell is certainly one of the best.

His work is so relevant, and it’s astonishing just how well he understands the progression of society and the government, enough to keep his writing thought-provoking decades later.

In the context of animals on a farm, Orwell’s exploration of socialism, communism and democracy is perfect. Those three words are all subjects I never thought I would find interesting topics in a book, but Orwell knows how to entice an audience while exploring quite mundane but hard-hitting subjects, whilst also making the story entertaining and engaging.

13. Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Colm Tóibín’s book is a literary delight. Incredibly well written, Tóibín uses plain prose and a simple linear structure, but his writing reads like poetry as he adds detached detail to almost every sentence. It’s easy to see why the book is so well praised, telling a simple story about a young girl transforming into a woman, finding her own way in life as an immigrant in a big city.

But although I enjoyed reading the book, it was pretty uneventful for the most part and it was only until the final few chapters where we meet Jim that I was eager to read through until the end and find out what happens.

You can read my full review here

14. Lord of The Flies by William Golding

This book wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I had some general ideas about it, but I thought that there was going to be a lot more order among the group. However, things were quite hectic from the beginning so there’s no surprise that it doesn’t end well.

It is really well written, but I found the stereotypes too dated to find it relatable, although it is an excellent exploration of character.

It is quite scary by the end, too, and it certainly leaves you with a lot to think about.

15. Room by Emma Donoghue

Told from the perspective of a five-year-old, this narrative style is a bold step from author Emma Donoghue, and it’s not always one that pays off. The last child narrated book that I read was John Boyne’s The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, and I couldn’t get into the story because of how repetitive it was. Having such a young mind defining the writing style can often mean that the language and sentence structure suffer, just like with the first half of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. This another one of my favourite books, but it is one that is again difficult to get into because of how simple the language is written at the beginning, as Chbosky allows time for the language to improve as the narrating character grows.

But Donoghue captures what it is to be so young perfectly, and by mimicking the voice of a five-year-old so well, Room remains an incredibly well-written book throughout. Jack knows nothing but the 11×11 square room that he has grown up in, which is hard enough to describe on the page as it is. But as Jack says hello to his friends – Rug, Plant, Wardrobe, Lamp – and struggles to come to terms with the thought of even one other person or a single blade of grass existing outside of the walls he is imprisoned in, we experience this traumatic experience through the eyes of an intelligent, cheerful, good-natured, and brave little boy.

You can read my full review here

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