February Reads | Do Audio Books Count As Reading?

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For a short month, February was a good’un in the reading department. But before I jump on into the books I’ve read, I want to talk about audio books! Before this month, the last time I had listened to an audio book was when I was about 6 years old; a Cinderella cassette tape by Disney complete with Bibbidi-Bobiddi-Boo and other musical numbers! It’s not that I was adverse to audio books over the next 20 years, but I didn’t believe that a book read in someone else’s voice other than the one in my head would appeal to me, for three main reasons.

1) Books are subjective.

While an author intends to convey a certain meaning or tone, there are always people out there who interpret scenes differently. While bringing the story to life, the narrator may add emotions that may have not been included in your own internal dialogue. This is neither a pro or a con, but a personal observation that I like to experience a book through my own eyes before I read or listen to other interpretations.

2) It feels like cheating!

I’m not saying audio books are cheating, just that it feels like that. I was the kid who read her parents bedtime stories.

3) I like to read.

With my eyes.

While preferably holding a physical book, but a Kindle will do too. I like knowing that I can highlight phrases I enjoyed, and bookmark pages for reference at a later date. Like my Dad & Grandfather, I will read with a dictionary near me incase I come across a new word. When I was younger I would write these new words down, and on my own accord would write sentences incorporating them with varied success & fluidity. I loved extending my vocabulary and throwing fancy words around the place. Yes, I was that kid too!

That being said, I listened to my first audio book this month and it was a real eye-opener. I listened to the majority of it while I was painting my nails, washing my make-up brushes and organising my bedroom. Never before have I been able to read while getting things done. I then got a second audio book that I listened to on my commute to and from work. Reading while driving has never been so safe!!! Audio books have given me a false sense of productivity – and I love them for it. Reading with my eyes is still my preferred choice, but listening to someone else narrate a book for me is great when I am doing mundane tasks that don’t allow me to hold or turn the pages of a book. I’m a bit late in realising this but Audible.com (or Audible.co.uk for us on this side of the Atlantic) is a complete game changer. I have a feeling there will be a couple of audio books snuck into my monthly reads from here on in.

Now that you are enlightened about my new love of audio book, let’s get onto my February reads 🙂

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The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

They say never judge a book by it’s over, but that’s primarily why I picked up The Miniaturist in the first place. I was drawn to the blues and browns of the doll’s house and the weird 17th century dressed paper dolls.  Set in 17th Century Amsterdam, Petronella Oortman is an 18 year old girl who is thrust into an arranged marriage with Johannes Brandt, a much older man and respected merchant. Although gentle, courteous and kind, Johannes shows an inexplicable lack of interest in Nella. This lack of interest frustrates Nella as it contradicts all of her ideas of marriage. Instead of consummating the marriage, he presents her with an exquisite replica of their home. With ittle else to occupy her mind, Nella decides to furnish the house and seeks the services of a miniaturist. However as time passes, each piece sent by the anonymous miniaturist  seems to uncannily echo the secrets of this bizarre household. In a desperate bid to try and get her husband’s attention, Nella visits his office unannounced and discovers a truth so shocking that it threatens the entire household’s very existence.

This Miniaturist is not for everyone. I recommended it to a few people and only 1 of the 3 could get passed the first few chapters. That being said, Jessie Burton is an exquisite writer, often too exquisite at times. The Miniaturist is that book that teenagers complain about having to read in English class but secretly fall in love with. Maybe my adoration of this book comes from my love of historical fiction, my affinity with the Netherlands, or my secret aspiration to write like a 19th century novelist! Either way, if Waterstones named it their Book of the Year for 2014, you know there’s got to be more to it than that.

*Rating 5/5

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Traveling to Infinity by Jane Hawking

My Dad & I went to see The Theory of Everything in January. We both walked into the cinema not expecting too much, and left feeling inspired at the struggles and obstacles one of the greatest minds of our time managed to overcome despite his degenerative disease. The movie wasn’t just about Stephen Hawking, but it documented the story of his wife, Jane. But the movie wasn’t enough. I needed more!

Written by Jane Hawking, Travelling to Infinity delves into the full story of their 25 years of marriage, and it’s definitely not as romantic as the movie makes it out to be. Their courtship for instance is much more on and off than the movie implies as Jane spends quite a bit of time abroad for her Spanish studies. She doesn’t really talk about the feelings or experiences of falling in love with Stephen, and it appeared to me as if the proposal of marriage just happened out of convenience. While certainly charming and witty, a lot of Stephen’s intellectual humour comes across as exceedingly rude and arrogant. It is very easy to empathise with Jane as he completely disregards her feelings and religious beliefs because science says differently.

This is the first and probably only time I will ever say this so listen carefully: watch the movie before you read this book and you won’t be disappointed. If you do it this way, you will fill in the gaps and still be left with that heartwarming feeling that Jane and Stephen were once truly in love. If you read the book first, their relationship as portrayed on screen might be very difficult to believe. Travelling to Infinity is a memoir of Jane’s life with Stephen. While painful to read in some parts, it is hard not to admire Jane’s remarkable strength and selflessness as she goes through some extremely demanding and trying situations. And did you know that she also has a PhD? You know what they say, behind every great man is a greater woman!

*Rating 4/5

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

So far this year I’ve really been loving me some Young Adult fiction, which is strange as it’s never been my go to genre. Having said that I’m in a weird transitioning phase in my life right now; living at home for the firs time since I was 18, pretty much earning within the same salary bracket as I was at that age too (#graduateproblems) and as I try to ‘find myself’ at 26, I have discovered a deep affinity with time travel through reading. Rainbow Rowell has done it again and tapped into my inner 18 year old with this book.

Cath is an introverted 18 year old with a flare for English and an obsession with ‘Simon Snow’, a series that closely resembles Harry Potter; so much so that she is anonymously prolific in the Snow fandom, writing fanfic that is read by thousands of people daily. Her identical twin sister is her polar opposite; outgoing, daring, and very much aware of how dependent Cath is on her. Fangirl follows Cath’s journey & transition into adulthood through her first year at university; dealing with a bi-polar father, a twin sister who is distancing herself from her, an absent mother, a strong, blunt but hilarious roommate who forces Cath to face her social anxieties with a humour so dry you could sand a table with it….

“I feel sorry for you, and I’m going to be your friend.”
“I don’t want to be your friend,” Cath said as sternly as she could. “I like that we’re not friends.”
“Me, too. I’m sorry you ruined it by being so pathetic.” 

…. and let’s not forget a theme in every Young Adult novel, the trials and tribulations of romance and first loves!!

I quickly became emotionally invested in ALL the characters. I deeply related to Cath and her social anxieties from the get-go. While she is very quick-witted and a likeable character, her passiveness was sometimes frustrating and I felt like screaming JUST GO TO THE PARTY after Reagan & Levi tried to get her to socialise for the millionth time!

The only thing I didn’t really enjoy were the fanfic entries. Having never read fan fiction before, I don’t really ‘get’ how you can be so obsessed with a storyline or character that you feel like you have to rewrite it. But that’s just me. I ended up skipping most of the excerpts as they don’t add or take anything to the story. Other than that, I loved Fangirl. It’s a very character orientated novel with a simple and melancholy storyline that both teens and adults alike can relate to.

*Rating 4/5

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Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Last month I read the first 3 books in The Lunar Chronicles, and wrote how a prequel had just been realised. Imagine my despair when I couldn’t find it in any bookshop in Ireland in January. When I still could’t get a physical copy by the end of the first week of February, I ended up getting the audio version; my very first introduction to audio books and it certainly won’t be my last.

Fairest tells us Queen Levana’s story – the evil queen of Lunar and villain of the Lunar Chronicles. It isn’t the usual how good-turned-evil kind of story; it is more how evil turned even more evil! Despite Levana’s corrupted & twisted ways, her story is simply a sad one and throughout the book I find myself sympathising with her. Between her absentee-then-murdered parents, her beautiful and incredibly cruel sister-turned-Queen Channary and her tough, affection-less upbringing, she has grown up with a seriously twisted view of love. She is drowning deeper & deeper in her own disillusions as the book progresses and is lost in the vicious circle of her own paranoid, psychotic behaviour. Fairest sets the scene for The Lunar Chronicles itself, explains the reasons behind Levana’s evil, power hungry ways, and also gives us a glimpse into Winter’s backstory (the namesake of the final book!).

Just like the physical book, the audio version gives us a sneak peak of the first 3 chapters of Winter – which isn’t out until November 2015!! I resisted temptation and didn’t indulge as I don’t want to know anything about it until I can read it in it’s entirety. My advice is to only read Fairest if you have read the other three books in The Lunar Chronicles. I liked it as a bridge between Cress & Winter, but by treating it as a stand alone book you are going to be very confused.

*Rating 3/5

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K Rowling

The rereading of Harry Potter continues! Book three. I really don’t think that this needs a mini-review as who hasn’t read this book, or at least seen the movie. I enjoyed it SO MUCH MORE than the Chamber of Secrets (my least favourite HP books!). It introduces us to Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and we believe for a split second that Snape may have had a heart once upon a time. Oh and how can I forget the Dementors. Book three is where J.K Rowling starts to make things a little darker, and a little bit more interesting. I remember reading this first time around with my granny, who got me into Harry Potter in the first place.

*Rating 4/5

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Coeur de Cristal by Frédéric Lenoir

Another audio book, this one is en francais for all my Francophones out there. I spend about two hours a day commuting. Morning radio I like, evening radio I hate, so I listened to this on the way home. This is a short philosophical story about the human heart – how much it can give, and ultimately how much it can take. If i get the chance, I will pick up the physical book and have a second read. The problem with audio books is that it’s not easy to go back and ‘reread’ a certain paragraph if you are driving!

*Rating 3/5

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Attachment by Rainbow Rowell

Throwback to 1999. Lincoln, a perpetual student, has just finished his latest graduate degree and is stuck in a rut in practically every area of his life. He starts work as Internet Security Officer in the IT department of a newspaper. What does his job entail? Well, he monitors employee’s emails for inappropriate usage. It’s a pretty boring job, until accidentally becomes engrossed in the correspondence of film critic Beth and copyeditor Jennifer. Both girls seem to treat their work email accounts as a personal socialising service as they discuss every aspect of the lives in extreme detail. As the weeks go on, Lincoln realises that it’s too late to send the girls a warning about their multiple flagged emails, and instead begins to look forward to reading their witty conversations. There’s just a couple of issues though; it’s not really that ethical and he is fast falling for Beth, even though he has never even met her…

Remember how I said I loved Rainbow Rowell? Well, I should have stopped reading at Fangirl. I didn’t hate Attachment, but I didn’t love it either. There was nothing wrong with the book, but I don’t felt like I connected with the characters on the same level as I have with Rowell’s other books, even though they were all very likeable. I wanted to love Attachments, I really did, but it didn’t happen on this occasion. There were aspects that I did enjoy though – Rowell mixes it up between Lincoln’s third person point of view and the funny, heart-rending on-going emails back and forth between Beth and Jennifer. There were moments of loveliness and cuteness, but over-all it lacked something. I just wish I could pinpoint what that something was..

*Rating 2/5

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Even though I read 7 books in February, I feel like I should have read more. The reason for this being that I read all of these books in the first two weeks and did not pick up a book again until March started…! Even bookworms have their off days I suppose 🙂

Charlene

xoxo

Currently Reading: A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal
Books Read in February: 7
Year of the Bookworm Total: 15

Year of the Bookworm:
January Reads

Questions:
What was your favourite read this month?
What are your thoughts on audio books? Yay or nay?


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