Monday, 18 July 2016

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

Book Title: The Last One
Author: Alexandra Oliva
Genres: Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥
Goodreads, Amazon UK
Goodreads Summary: Survival is the name of the game as the line blurs between reality TV and reality itself in Alexandra Oliva’s fast-paced novel of suspense.
She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far. It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of their endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it man-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game.
Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes.
What did I think? No. Nope. No. Mostly. I have such beef with dense main characters and Zoo is exactly that. She manages to stumble through a good part of the plot thinking every dead person she sees is in fact a puppet, a prop so to speak. Even when she meets a boy who tells her about the destruction that's happened in the world she believes he's part of the show. I get it. She's in denial. But come on...

This is Oliva's debut novel and as a debut it's not bad, I must admit. Her writing is promising, the premise is interesting and if I could have connected with the characters I might have even liked it. But it's hard to connect with someone when all you want to do is shake them and yell at them to open their eyes and face reality. Besides Zoo there's the other contestants, each has been given a name that fits either their profession or some defining character trait and while that is exactly the point of reality television it also makes it harder for the reader to emphasize with the characters and connect with them.

Personally I hate reality TV, I'm sure that didn't help.

Despite the fact I neither liked the plot nor the main character very much I finished the book. It's a gripping and fast read with a tight plot, so if the premise sounds interesting to you, don't hesitate to pick it up.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Book Title: Brideshead Revisited
Author: Evelyn Waugh
Genres: Classics, 1001 Books
My Rating: ♥ ♥
Goodreads, Amazon UK
Goodreads Summary: The most nostalgic and reflective of Evelyn Waugh's novels, Brideshead Revisited looks back to the golden age before the Second World War. It tells the story of Charles Ryder's infatuation with the Marchmains and the rapidly-disappearing world of privilege they inhabit. Enchanted first by Sebastian at Oxford, then by his doomed Catholic family, in particular his remote sister, Julia, Charles comes finally to recognize only his spiritual and social distance from them.
What did I think? I like to read a lot of different books. I enjoy YA, but I also enjoy reading the classics. As a child I was encourage by my mother to read a lot of classics and I'm thankful for that. In my possession, and always nearby, is Peter Boxall's 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and I try and read at least a few of the books each year. Every now and then I make the mistake and let my girlfriend pick one of the books and usually I end up with something I would have never read on my own.

Brideshead Revisited is such a book. She brought it home one evening and I immediately started to read the Prologue and got lost in the words. I realised I needed to have a clear and fresh mind for this one. Today I had time to sit down with two cups of coffee and my dogs and I ended up tackling the 326 pages in one go. Mostly because I didn't think I'd pick it back up if I put it away.

First of all: I was blown away by the prose. Quite spectacularly. I have rarely read a book with prose as gorgeous as this. But that was it.

The prose was it.

The rest of the book... I don't even really know what it's supposed to be about. A bunch of characters meet. Charles and Sebastian form a friendship, maybe even become lovers. It's not entirely clear whether they're actually lovers or just deeply care for one another. The characters aren't that memorable and neither are their actions. The pages are laced with Catholicism. The author seems to paint a world where the characters yearn to be free but can never be, because of wealth, class and religion. It's a depressing read and not one I particularly enjoyed, if it weren't for the prose.