2015 Book Reviews

It’s that time of year again when I give my book reviews for the year. I substantially increased the number of books I read this year compared to 2014. I read about 40 books and countless short stories. I’ll mostly be reviewing books but you can see the full list of what I read here. Here we go!

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1. The Bone Clocks (2014) – David Mitchell.

Rating: 10/10.

My third David Mitchell novel, you can see my full review here. Thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It follows the life of Holly Sykes through 6 different time eras. I loved the fantasy elements of this novel, it was so intricately woven throughout. It’s kept interesting by the introduction of many characters who weave in and out of Holly’s story with their own tales to tell. I particularly liked Ed Brubeck’s war stories. Highly recommended, another of Mitchell’s great works!

2. Wuthering Heights (1847) – Emily Brontë.

Rating: 3/10.

I’m sorry to all the Brontë fans out there. I just didn’t like this novel. I read this for my Victorian Literature class. The characters were just horrible to one another and they complained about everything. They’re such “woe is me” characters, I just couldn’t stand it. I remember one bit where Heathcliff growled and gnashed like a dog while frothing at the mouth and I was like “I can’t read this. This is awful.”  I gave 2 stars for Ellen who had to put up with these annoying characters & another star for the momentary kindness the kids give each other during childhood.

3. Kim (1901) – Rudyard Kipling. 

Rating: 7/10.

I read this for my Colonial/ Postcolonial Literature class. I enjoyed this. It gave a great insight into the various sects in India and the colonial past of India. I thought Kim’s character was hilarious and he was so sneaky. The story involves Kim, a young boy who goes on a journey with a monk in search of enlightenment (I think!) The espionage is exciting. Kim’s a wee bit racist at times to different ethnic groups & the story does go off point at bit, but a good read all the same.

4. Heart of Darkness (1899) – Joseph Conrad.

Rating: 7/10.

Another book I had to read for Colonial/ Postcolonial. Oddly enough, after I read this I kept hearing people referring to it- in books, tv shows, movies. I mean it’s good, but I didn’t think it was that prominent. The book tells the story of a group of explorers in Africa. It describes the natives as cannibals and there is a great discussion on the western perspective and what one considers to be civilised. Great read, and short as well I think.

5. The Lonely Londoners (1956) – Sam Selvon.

Rating: 6/10.

Another C/PC book. It tells the story of west Indians who immigrate to London in search of a better life. The language here is colloquial. It’s written who west Indians speak so very interesting! It is a bit hard to read but you get used to it. It gives a good insight into immigrant experience. It is a bit lacking in plot and it’s a bit random.

6. The Moonstone (1868) – Wilkie Collins.

Rating: 8/10.

I read this for Victorian. I really enjoyed this. A great detective novel. We’re presented with a lot of perspectives and evidence and it’s like we’ve to figure out who stole the diamond. Great twists throughout!

7. The Pit & the Pendulum (1842) – Edgar Allen Poe.

Rating: 8/10.

I just read this because I wanted a little break from college books and it was a pretty quick read. Basically, a man is stuck in a pit and it shows his agony and torture there. Harrowing as usual, but its Poe!

8. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) – Oscar Wilde.

Rating: 8/10.

Finally read Wilde, which every Irish person should! Read this for Victorian. This was a great satire on Victorian society and on homosociability. It follows Dorian Gray as he doesn’t age while his painting becomes more decrepit. A lot of social commentary in this novel. A good read for everyone.

9. Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (2012) – Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Rating: 7/10.

A good LGBT novel, and even more because it follows two Mexican boys, so it’s really good for the marginalised out there. It’s a coming of age story of two boys and there lives as the go through there teenage years. Poignant at times, it’ll make you smile. It was slightly repetitive at times & I would’ve like more romance (but that’s just me). A great read all the same.

10. To the Lighthouse (1927) – Virginia Woolf.

Rating: 8/10.

One of my friends LOVES Virginia Woolf, so I was looking forward to reading this. I did like this book. I enjoyed the depiction of family life, especially all the tension that was between certain family members. The perception of male/ female was also really interesting.

11. Season of Migration to the North (1966) – Tayeb Salih.

Rating: 6/10.

Another C/PC novel. It discuss the idea of hybrid identities. The main character comes home after studying in England. It compares ideas of the West with Africa.

12. The Hobbit (1937) – J.R.R. Tolkien. 

Rating: 9/10.

A really great fantasy novel. I loved this. I felt it was so fast- paced even though some said it was slow. It was filled with action, drama and laughs. It was a bit tame, but in fairness it was aimed at children. I thought it was superb and had a great flow throughout. Some bits were creepy, like the cave scene with Gollum. By far the best scene in the novel. Can’t wait to tear into LOTR.

13. Good Morning, Midnight (1939) – Jean Rhys.

Rating: 6/10.

This period novel gives a depiction of Paris during the 30’s. It involves a woman who seems to be drifting in society. She’s very depressed and lonely and drinks quite a lot (even for me)! It’s mostly just her thoughts and there’s not much plot to it.

14. Guardian (2014) – Alex London.

Rating: 7/10.

I adored the prequel to this novel: Proxy. That’s why I was seriously disappointed by this book. I just didn’t have the umph of it’s predecessor. Even the characters seemed to have lost their pizazz. The characters in this book have to fix a problem with society and they spend the whole novel either talking about it or trying to get somewhere. There was nothing really in this, if you get me. The society is also problematic and the disease thing made no sense. It’s also slow to get into.

15. Dubliners (1914) – James Joyce.

Rating: 9/10.

My first time reading another of Ireland’s greatest writers – Joyce. I loved this novel. It has a number of short stories following the lives of a number of people living in Dublin. They all have their own stories. It is a great depiction of Dublin’s culture and the city life. It has its laughs, drama, tragedy, etc. My favourites were “After the Race” & “Counterparts” which both involve drinking!. :L I really enjoyed it, a must read!

16. Atonement (2001) – Ian McEwan.

Rating: 9/10.

I adore the film, one of my all time favourite films, so I had to read the novel. It’s a brilliant depiction of Pre-WWII & WWII itself. It’s just a beautifully written novel which a great romance. Great characters and settings, there are real harrowing circumstances for each of the characters. Brilliant period drama.

17. Murder on the Orient Express (1934) – Agatha Christie.

Rating: 8/10.

My second Christie novel. Another good detective story, not quite as good as Death on the Nile. This didn’t have quite as much drama or build up to it. The murder occurred relatively early in the novel, so most of the novel is just investigation. I would’ve liked more exploration of Istanbul but I suppose it was more about the train. The twist is quite mind blowing though!

18. Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone (1997) – J.K. Rowling.

Rating: 9/10.

Ok I’ll be honest, up until now, I’d only read Harry Potter 4-7, I’d never read the first three. I started on 4 and never got around to reading the first 3. But it was an enjoyable and poignant read! Really funny, loved seeing the characters when they were young.

19. The Knife of Never Letting Go (2008) – Patrick Ness.

Rating: 7/10.

This was a pretty good dystopian novel, which also had fantasy elements to it. It had a lot of action in it. Todd went through a lot in this novel! It was a really interesting read though because everyone can hear the men’s thoughts so when you read it, there’s the narration and also people’s thoughts. So weird but it really stuck with me! I enjoyed the accents, they were enjoyable. The cliffhangers and travel were good. Looking forward to the next one.

20. The Girl on the Train (2015) – Paula Hawkins.

Rating: 4/10.

I rarely pay attention to Best Seller lists, but this sounded similar to Gone Girl and I really wanted another mad twist story but this was just terrible. The characters were pitiful, they were either drunks or having affairs or just plain dim witted. The story really dragged and I felt myself not really caring about any of the characters. I only gets good towards the very end but to be honest, I was pissed off way before that. Not great, to be honest, I wouldn’t pick it up.

21. Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets (1998) – J.K. Rowling.

Rating: 8/10.

Enjoyed the 2nd in the HP series. A really enjoyable read, it was a good detective book. It gave a lot of background that would’ve been otherwise missed. I recommend you pick it up!

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22. The Wind Up Bird Chronicle (1994) – Haruki Murakami. 

Rating: 7/10. 

I had mixed feelings about this book. It hasn’t really got any plot. I mean it does but nothing really happens in this novel. It’s more about the interactions of the main character. I must say though, the language used is beautiful, and some of the scenes are powerful. It’s a very philosophical novel. A bit too subtle for my tastes but written well. I might be tempted to read another Murakami novel. 

23. Giovanni’s Room (1956) – James Baldwin. 

Rating: 8/10.

Giovanni’s Room explores the themes of homosexuality & bisexuality in 1950’s Paris. It follows Daivd who is seeing a woman named Hella while at the same time being intimate with a bartender named Giovanni. The novel explores the social scenes where homosexuals frequent thus throwing a light on the lgbt communities of 1950’s Paris.

It’s a really good period drama and the setting is well presented. The novel, although being negative at times, shows the pressures which gay men faced at the time. 

All in all a much recommended novel for anyone interested in lgbt novels (especially historical ones). It’s also a good period drama.

24. 1984 (1949) – George Orwell. 

Rating: 10/10.

A classic novel. The best dystopian novel I’ve ever read, probably the best ever written. It follows a worker named Winston who lives in this communist style society where there is high levels of surveillance, corruption and altering of history. It’s a must read for anyone as it has a lot of reflections on modern society or any society for that matter. The torture scene was one of the best I’ve ever read. Reall mind-blowing and eye-opening. 

25. The Inferior (2007) – Peader Ó Guilín. 

Rating: 5/10. 

The first book in The Bone World Trilogy, I went in thinking The Inferior was going to be a dystopian but it was more of an alternate universe. It has fantasy & sci-fi aspects to it. It’s about Stopmouth, a man who stutters living in this primitive society where they hunt for food and have very basic living conditions. The tribe has to fight other tribes in order to stay alive. This novel is repressed from my brain.

I really wanted to love this novel. Not only because the author is a fellow Irishman but also because the premise sounded really interesting. I got bored and annoyed reading it. I wasn’t a fan of it, and I wouldn’t recommend it. Good idea but awful execution, I’m sorry to say.

26. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (2010) – David Mitchell. 

Rating: 8/10. 

If you enjoy politics and international relations or 19th century settings or cultural tensions (Japanese/ Dutch) then this is the book for you. I applaud Mitchell for writing this. It just shows his range of writing and his ability to switch between genres. It is a wonderful book and well written. If you enjoy the genre of the novel then you’ll adore it.

27. Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban (1999) – JK Rowling. 

Rating: 9/10. 

This was a really fun novel. It follows Harry, Ron & Hermione in their third year at Hogwarts. This novel had a lot to do with the past in terms of the Marauders and their time at Hogwarts. The events during this novel have big consequences on the future especially pertaining to Wormtail and the second rise of Voldemort in future novels. Well written with a lot of drama, humour and adventure. I found it an interesting read as well as being fun and light-hearted.

28. The Folk Tales of Thailand (1995) – Roy Chaudbury. 

Rating: 6/10. 

A collection of folklore about Thailand. An easy read, some of the stories are more engaging than others. 

29. The Sea (2005) – John Banville. 

Rating: 7/10. 

Winner of the 2005 Man Booker Prize, The Sea tells the story of Max, a man who goes back to the place where he summered as a boy. The story switches between the past and the present. The past passages follow the events that lead up to an unforgettable event while the present passages show Max’s struggles with putting the past behind him.

The language is beautiful when describing the setting and Irish seaside landscape. The plot is rather thin and somewhat depressing. It’s not wonderfully compelling but the struggles between past and present are well thought out. It may be too subtle for some, it is a long read even though it’s fairly short.

30. The Fellowship of the Ring (1954) – J.R.R. Tolkien. 

Rating: 9/10. 

The first in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I finally got around to reading this. I loved it. After reading The Hobbit I was hooked into the Middle-Earth universe. This is a great start to Frodo Baggins’s journey to destroy the ring.

It’s a wonderful fantasy novel. First off, it’s beautifully written. The prose throughout the novel is so enjoyable to read. The depiction of the landscape as the fellowship journeys throughout middle-earth is supreme. Along with that the songs and poems that the characters recite are beautiful and musical. A masterpiece of a novel. I can’t wait to read the next two books.

31. A Monster Calls (2011) – Patrick Ness. 

Rating: 9/10.

A Monster Calls is a touching story about a young boy dealing with his mother’s illness. Conor is visited by a monster who tries to help him by telling him different narratives. It’s written by one of my favourite authors: Patrick Ness. The concept was originally conceived by Siobhan Dowd who herself passed away from cancer before she was able to write the book.

Although this is a children’s book, it can be read by anyone of all ages. It is wonderfully written and has a powerful message about acceptance and bravery. Along with Ness’ writing, the book is beautifully illustrated by Jim Kay. The story has good blend of drama and fantasy. A highly recommended read.

32. Helping Hand (2015) – Jay Northcote. 

Rating: 8/10. 

Going into this, I was expecting a hot, raunchy erotica. In many ways it was, but the short novel did surprise me. It tells the story of two “straight” college guys who begin to be sexually intimate. It begins with them jerking off together and eventually leads to sex.

I must say I really enjoyed it. The sex scenes were so hot and sensual. In addition to that, there was a good amount of drama and comedy. I don’t think I’ve laughed or said “oh my God” out loud as much while reading a book. It was just a lot of fun! Eventually the two guys fall for each other and it’s really sweet. If you’re looking for a male/male romance or erotica, definitely pick this up. And at less than 100 pages, it’s a quick read!

33. The Double (1846) – Fyodor Dostoyevsky. 

Rating: 4/10.

This was my first Russian novel and I really wanted to love it. The premise of the doppelgänger is really interesting and I so wanted to enjoy it, but alas ’twas not to be.

The story tells the tale of a man who meets a man who has the same name and appearance as him and soon his counterpart takes his life over. It’s a interesting premiss but the execution was really poor. I didn’t enjoy the dialogue or prose or the main character. It was just very confusing. The main character kept babbling and the dialogue was clunky. Golyadkin, the protagonist, kept throwing in the names of people he was talking to which was arduous. So probably just a poor execution unfortunately. 

34. Animal Farm (1945) – George Orwell. 

Rating: 9/10.

This book is an absolutely brilliant and classic novel. It tells the story of a group of farm animals who rise up against their owner. Eventually the pigs become the “top dogs” whereby which they’re at the top of the hierarchy. The whole farm becomes dictated by Napoleon, the head pig. What ensues is just utterly sickening and twisted.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so angry while reading a novel before. Not because it was bad but because the story was so realistic and the absolute corruption was sickening. I’ve never hated pigs as much as I did while reading this.

35. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2011) – Ransom Riggs. 

Rating: 7/10.

This follows Jacob whose Grandfather’s strange past compels Jacob to go to Wales to where his Grandfather grew up as a refugee. The location is creeping along with the photos in which his grandfather entrusted him. The novel begins as a horror/ fantasy but eventually turns out to be a typical low fantasy/ action YA novel.

The writing is good, settings are good especially the WW2 setting. It kind of takes a while to understand why their in the house and in that eternal loop but you eventually get it.

36. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) – Lewis Carroll.

Rating: 7/10.

The classic tale of Alice in Wonderland. This was a really quirky and fun read. What I found most interesting was Lewis Carroll’s wordplay. The prose is literally like linguistic gymnastic. He’s very playful with his writing. A good read! 

37. Through the Looking Glass; and What Alice Found There (1871) – Lewis Carroll. 

Rating: 7/10. 

Another terrific Alice tale. She returns to wonderland to new adventures. Again, I really enjoyed the fantasy elements and the quirky wordplay. This also includes the famous Jabberwocky poem. 

38. Howards End (1910) – EM Forster. 

Rating: 6/10.

I had to read this for my Literary Modernism module. It was a bit of a struggle to finish (like many University novels 😛 ). I liked the themes of gender roles and polarity. It’s set in 1910’s England and follows the story of two families, one richer than the other. Commentary on class, gender and urbanisation are spread throughout. Good novel. 

39. Women In Love (1920) – DH Lawrence. 

Rating: 7/10. 

Another novel I had to read for Lit. Mod. I actually enjoyed this one. It follows two sisters, Ursula and Gudrun, as they form relationships with Birkin and Gerald respectively. Again, the gender commentary was enjoyable. What I loved most was the homoeroticism between Gerald and Birkin. They clearly loved each other, and the intimate scenes were wonderfully written (esp. the wrestling scene 😉 ). Great read!

40. Katherine Mansfield’s Selected Short Stories (1983) – Katherine Mansfield. 

Rating: 8/10.

The last book on this list, which is also a Uni book. I read 4 short stories from this collection: “Bliss,” “The Garden Party,” “The Daughters of the Late Colonel” and “Prelude.” I really like her writing style. My outright favourite was “The Garden Party” because the main character, Laura, was such a strong person and she had a great sense of human empathy. There’s a great commentary on social class and childhood intuition. The other stories were really clever too. Much recommended. 


 

Books by the author’s gender:

Male: 30.

Female: 10.

The ratio this year of 3:1 is a bit shaming since last year I had a 50/50 split of male and female authors. Still 25% is alright, I’ll do better next year. 😛


 

Books by country:

UK: 24 (England: 21. Scotland: 3).

USA: 5.

Ireland: 4.

Dominica: 1.

Japan: 1.

New Zealand: 1.

Poland: 1.

Russia: 1.

Sudan: 1.

Trinidad: 1.

Nice to see the list is more diverse this year!


 

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One comment on “2015 Book Reviews

  1. […] is the 2nd annual Wolf Awards where I recognise the best books I read in 2015 seen here. I have increased the number of awards from 20 to 33 due to the broader range of genres I read […]

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