The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

I’ve been putting off reviewing The Ministry of Utmost Happiness for ages – as despite my very best efforts to like this book, it just wasn’t for me!

Arundhati Roy is known for her political activism, and her views and opinions are made abundantly clear in her writing. Through the eyes of her characters, she paints a stark and vivid picture of India after the partition, the conflict in Kashmir and the rigid caste system against a backdrop of politics and religion.

Having a better  knowledge of key events in India’s history as well as important recent political figures would have been so helpful here, as I spent a LOT of the time looking references and background up on the internet.

This was the side of things I did somewhat enjoy, as I like  learning more about different cultures and histories. However, without some existing knowledge (internet based or otherwise!) of recent Indian politics, history and the key players, this book would have been impossible to make sense of.

The parts of this book that have stuck with me are the stories about the ordinary people, caught up in the atrocities and injustices that surround them with no hope of breaking free. From the villagers in the Kashmir to the people living on the street in Delhi, this is a recurring theme. There is a stark contrast between the haves and the have-nots. On the one hand, people are moving forward into the future, with technology and tourism and everything that goes with it, while for others this is hopelessly out of reach.

However, the book is long and meandering. It skips from place to place and time to time, sometimes narrating events from a distance and sometimes homing right in on the details of a particular character. Often the story veers off into a long and extended anecdote or political discussion. I personally found that it really difficult to follow the main thread of the story.

I also found it hard to relate to the characters. We’re told details about their lives but they didn’t come alive to me and it all felt quite detached. There are also so many characters, some of which seem to have nothing to do with the main story. I understand that all of this is intended to build a rich picture of India and the different people that live there, but I would have preferred to have more of a personal connection to the people around who the plot revolves.

Clearly Roy was trying to raise awareness of some really important issues, but for me the writing style felt heavy and dense. It felt like this was a book that was written to make a point, rather than to be enjoyable for readers. Each page felt like a bit of a slog to read and I had to force myself to keep picking it back up. I finished it with a sense of achievement and relief, but I couldn’t say that I enjoyed it.

February wrap up

Compared to January, which was a really good reading month for me, February was definitely a bad month! I managed to read just three new books.

One of these was the latest book in the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch. I was really looking forward to reading this one as I loved the first few in the series, but even though I did enjoy this one, I feel like after six books the series is getting a little repetitive and might need a bit of something different to give it life again.

I’m blaming this on the fact that February was a shorter month, and the days just seemed to fly by. I had a lot on at weekends in February as well, so my reading time was eaten into. I’m also struggling at the moment to find a really good book to get into. I’m finding myself reading the news or browsing social media instead of picking up a book on my commute – which is usually prime reading time for me – so that might have something to do with my lack of productivity!

As well as the new books that I managed to read though, I did re-read the first five books in the Throne of Glass series, as I’d completely forgotten what happened and wanted to catch up before reading the latest one. If you count these into my stats, February actually wasn’t that bad. But in general, I don’t include re-reads in my Goodreads totals.

I feel like other people might have different views on this though – does anyone else include rereads? I don’t reread books that often and when I do, I tend to read them faster and skim read sections that don’t interest me, so they don’t feel like ‘proper’ reads.

Books read:

  • Nameless, T. C. Edge
  • The Witchfinder’s Sister, Beth Underdown
  • The Hanging Tree, Ben Aaronovitch


Blog posts published:

Goodreads Challenge 2018 progress: 15/80


I hope everyone else had a great February! What were some of your favourite reads last month? Any plans for March?

A God in Ruins – Kate Atkinson

a god in ruinsThe story…

A God in Ruins tells the story of Teddy Todd – a World War II bomber pilot but also a husband, father and grandfather. Having come through the war alive despite all expectations, Teddy faces a new challenge – to live the normal life he never imagined he would have.

My thoughts…

A God In Ruins was maybe my favourite book that I read last year. It is a companion book to Life After Life, which I also loved, and focuses on one of the other members of the Todd family – Ursula’s younger brother Teddy and the life he goes on to lead.

While Life After Life played with the concept of how the smallest things can cause a ripple effect through the future, A God in Ruins plays with the concept of time itself. We’re catapulted backwards and forwards through Teddy’s life, from his childhood to his days in a nursing home. We live with him through his relationships with his wife, Nancy, his daughter, Viola, and his two grandchildren. We swing from past to present – hopping from memory to memory, from the day-to-day tasks and conversations to the major turning points that define his existence. All of this adds up to a picture of who he is, what he wants and how he changes. Continue reading

8 books I’m definitely going to read in 2018

A few months ago I did a post where I looked at the books that I’ve collected over the years but haven’t yet got around to reading. Inspired by this, this year I really want to start making a dent in my backlist rather than constantly being seduced by shiny new books!

Last year I had the same goal, and so decided to take part in the Beat the Backlist challenge – where I aimed to read at least one book a month that I had owned since pre-2017 (it’s running again in 2018 if you’re interested). I didn’t do too well on this one, so this year I feel like I need to be more specific!

I’ve picked 8 specific books from my own backlist that I’m going to prioritise in 2018. I’m planning to review this after six months and see where I’m at with this list. Hopefully I’ll have made some good progress and will be able to add some more titles!

The books I’ve chosen are from all different genres, and there’s a good mix of page counts too – as I was conscious not to choose too many huge books that might feel intimidating! They’re all ones that I originally bought or acquired, in one form or another, because I really wanted to read them, so I’m really looking forward to starting to work through the list.

So, in 2018 I’m definitely going to read… Continue reading

Discussion post: Books that I’ll (probably) never read

Books I'll never read
This post is a tough one for me to write, as the fact that I own a large number of books that I’ll probably never get around to reading is never something I would usually admit to.

Looking at the stats…

It’s time to face facts. There are currently 184 physical unread books currently on my bookshelf, along with 109 unread books on my kindle and 11 in my audiobook library. That’s a total of 304 unread books (and yes, counting up all of these was slightly horrifying and took forever!).

Despite the fact that I already own almost enough books to open my own private library, only a paltry 5 of the 50 books that I’ve read so far in 2017 are books that I owned prior to the beginning of 2017. This means that the vast majority of the books that I’m reading are either new releases, review copies or books that have been otherwise bought or borrowed by me in the last six months.

What does this all mean??

These statistics really doesn’t bode well for the piles of books that have accompanied me from house to house for years but haven’t yet got around to reading – some of which I don’t even remember buying! Continue reading

GIVEAWAY: A Court of Wings and Ruin

Giveaway

UPDATE: Thanks so much to all that entered this giveaway! I really appreciate all of your suggestions for new authors to check out. The winner has now been picked – and congratulations go to Bethany (lonelybookwOrm)! I hope you enjoy the book. Also if anyone wants to chat about ACOWAR when it’s released please do get in touch!
Continue reading

Top 5: 2017 releases I’m most looking forward to

American War
Author: Omar El Akkad
Publication date: 6 April 2017

Goodreads summary: Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be.

Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike.

Why I’m excited: It’s a dystopian world that’s been described as frighteningly realistic, given the political developments of 2016. I haven’t read a good dystopian book since Justin Cronin’s The Passage series, so hoping this is as good as the critics have made it sound.


City of Circles

Author: Jess Richards
Publication date: 10 August 2017

Amazon summary: Danu is a tightrope walker who is mourning her parents after a disease has ravaged the circus where she grew up. Her mother has entrusted her with a locket that hides a secret.

She begins a high-wire act with Morrie, a charismatic hunchback who wants to marry her. When the circus returns to Danu’s birthplace, the magical city of Matryoshka, she discovers the name of a stranger who may hold the answer to her past. When the circus leaves she stays behind.

Will she and Morrie ever be reunited, or will something unexpected be waiting for her in the mysterious heart of the city of circles?

Why I’m excited: I loved Snake Ropes, Jess Richards’ first novel. Her writing is beautiful and dream-like. This has also been billed as one for fans of the Night Circus, which I also loved. Continue reading

I’m Travelling Alone – Samuel Bjork

I'm travelling aloneThe story: The body of a young girl is found, with the number 1 etched into her fingernail and a sign around her neck that reads ‘I’m travelling alone’. Baffled, the police turn to detective duo Holger Munch and Mia Kruger to stop the killer before any more girls are murdered. As the case progresses, things turn more personal, and with no solid leads, it soon becomes clear that more people will suffer before the perpetrator can be stopped.

My thoughts: Holger Munch and Mia Kruger are the archetypal troubled detectives, a version of which you can find in many other books in the genre, and they each come with their own set of personal issues and past mistakes to overcome over the course of the case.

Despite being slightly cliched, I thought Mia in particular was a really interesting character. We first meet her as a suicidal drug addict, and when she’s pulled into the case she struggles to cope. She’s clearly gone through a major trauma and is finding it difficult to reconnect to the person she once was. This not only affects her relationships with her team and superiors, it also affects the way that she works and her natural ability to read people and situations.

Mia’s personal story and recovery is interwoven with the main case, but in my opinion takes up too much page space. The same goes with the other key characters that we meet. I’d have preferred more of an emphasis on plot and less on backstory, especially as this is clearly intended to be the first in a series, so we have plenty of time to get to know the characters.

While the story was a little bit long winded in points and could have done with more focus, there were plenty of twists and turns and it kept me interested. The plot was complex and there are a few big red herrings. This helps to give a rich picture of events and police procedure, although some of the storylines did feel a little far-fetched.

Overall, I think there’s better Scandinavian crime fiction out there (Lars Kelper’s Joona Linna series is great). However, I did enjoy it and will be continuing with the series.

Red Rising – Pierce Brown

Red RisingThe story:
Set in the distant future, where the human race is divided by a rigid class system of colours, colonies of Red miners toil under the surface of Mars, harvesting natural elements that will terraform its surface and make it an inhabitable environment in the future. Sixteen year old Darrow is one of these Reds, born underground and raised to risk his life on a daily basis. Food is scarce and life expectancy is short. The rules are enforced by a strict hierarchical class system that’s preceded over by the Gold’s – supposedly superior to all other colours both physically and mentally. When Darrow discovers that his life is built on a lie, he’s given a dangerous mission to integrate himself into the very heart of Gold society.

My thoughts:
Darrow is sent to the Institute, where young Gold’s play deadly games to win power. It’s a trial by fire that is designed to push them to the limits and teach them how to wage war and become the leaders of tomorrow. Weakness isn’t tolerated and not everyone will make it through. Parallels could be drawn to the Hunger Games, but it’s a very different type of competition. The aim here is for power and ultimate victory – achieved through intellect and strategy and the ability to command their peers.

Darrow is a great character. He’s definitely not perfect – he’s reckless, angry and overly bold. He’s smart but he also shows that he can be ruthless and brutal. This means that he’s not always a particularly likeable character, but you still end up rooting for him all the same. Throughout the book he goes through some intense challenges, questioning his own identity, who to trust and what actions can be justified for the greater good. Continue reading

Reading Resolutions for 2015

As it’s a new year, I thought I’d kick off 2015 with a few of my reading resolutions for the next twelve months…

1. Read more non-fiction books. I very rarely read non-fiction books, but I’d really like to try and change this. Currently sitting on my bookshelf are The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and The Kraus Project, but I’d love any more recommendations.

2. Read more classics. Again, my bookshelf and kindle library are groaning under the weight of all the books I’ve bought with good intentions and never read. Top of the list for 2015 are Anna Karenina, The Grapes of Wrath and Heart of Darkness.

3. Review more of the books I read. I’ve been a bit slow on the reviewing front recently. I’ve been reading tons of books on my kindle at the moment going to and from work on the train, but haven’t had the time to properly sit down and write down all my thoughts.

4. Try and read the books I already own. I have an entire bookcase filled with books that I’ve not read. Some of them have been sat there for years. But still I keep finding myself buying new books, both in hard copy and on my kindle. I’m rapidly running out of space – so something’s got to give!

5. Lots of people seem to be setting reading targets for 2015, aiming to read more than they’ve managed to get through in 2014. Mine is actually the opposite. My final resolution is to stop reading so many quick reads in my favourite genres, and try and focus on some more challenging, and probably more time consuming reads.