Posted in Literature

Read: Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are a lot of things that can be said about this book and given it’s almost 70 years old at this point I’m sure most of what I have to say has been said before. Nevertheless, in trying to keep up the habit of reviewing what I read, here we are.

The first thing that struck me about Fahrenheit 451 was how lyrical it is; I was not expecting a dystopia about burning books and controlling knowledge to be so beautifully written. Bradbury did an excellent job in composing some brilliant prose that still managed to feel light and easy despite the dark topics it explored.

In addition to this, Bradbury has woven in quite a few literary references in the telling of this tale that it feels exciting to pick up on when you spot something not in quotation marks. It doesn’t feel like he was trying to be too ‘high brow’ about it either, moreover it seems like an extra dimension to a story about how and if literature is worth saving from destruction. It was also interesting to wonder why exactly Bradbury picked the references he did, how they are related to the story of Montag and what extra depth can be eluded to.

The second thing that I’m sure everyone notices is how prescient the content of the book is: personality politics, war, inundation of information, control of information, valuing the sciences over the arts, TV, social media, even down to the little ‘green bullet’ that sounds awfully similar to Bluetooth earpieces! There is a lot to unpack in such a short book and you will end up thinking about it long after you finish. While we now have greater access to books than ever before that isn’t to say that Bradbury was wrong about other aspects of Fahrenheit 451.

Lastly, though I could talk for quite some time on this book, if you haven’t read it let me highlight that this is not just a story about burning books vs saving books. It explores censorship, yes, but not simply in the forbidding of the printed word. Who controls the information you are fed? Who controls the ideas that are allowed out into the open? How do we censor ourselves within a society even without a government to do it for us?

Fahrenheit 451 will certainly make you think, if nothing else.

This was book 54 of 2020.


This was also the first choice of a Book Club I started at work and below are the discussion questions I went through with our participants:

  1. Have you read the book before? What are your impressions, whether you are reading it for the first time or re-reading it?  
  • Were there any parts of the book you found disagreeable? 
  1. Is the book’s title a good one? 
  1. On the 50th anniversary edition there is a quote from Barack Obama on the front cover: “Ray Bradbury’s gift for storytelling reshaped our culture and expanded our world.” Would you agree? 
  1. Montag comes to learn that “firemen are rarely necessary” because “the public itself stopped reading of its own accord.” Bradbury wrote his novel in 1953; to what extent has his prophecy come true today? 
  • What other prescient elements did you notice in the book? 
  1. Aside from directly quoted passages, did you spot any literary ‘Easter eggs’ woven into the story by Bradbury? 
  1. As Montag is on his way to see Faber, he is trying to memorise Matthew 6:28: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin.” Do you think this was a significant choice? 
  1. How can Beatty’s knowledge of and hatred for books be reconciled? 
  • Do you think Montag’s assessment was correct, and that Beatty wanted to die? Why might he have wanted to die? 
  1. If Bradbury had written Fahrenheit 451 today, what do you think would be different about the novel? 
  1. Are there any circumstances under which the banning of a book might be a reasonable or beneficial action? 
  1. If you had to memorise one book (or risk it’s complete loss), what would you pick and why? 

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Posted in Literature

Read: The Obelisk Gate & We Are All the Same in the Dark

The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth, #2)The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*chef’s kiss* Muah!

Mm. Yes. Please. More. Thank you.

Loved this, – perhaps not as much as The Fifth Season but – it was everything I wanted from the series so far and more.

The writing is excellent; character building is balanced and the sections with 2nd person PoV are well done and didn’t effect my immersion whatsoever.

The story covers a shorter overall period of time than the first book; in this entry a little over a year passes during the course of the story in which both Essun and her daughter Nassun are improving and honing their skills, albeit they seem to be on a collision course with each other for the third instalment.

Besides this I don’t think I can say much more without spoilers so sufficed to say this is a worthy follow-on and deeply enjoyable ‘next step’ in the trilogy. If you read and enjoyed The Fifth Season, definitely keep going.

This was book 52 of 2020.


We Are All the Same in the Dark: A NovelWe Are All the Same in the Dark: A Novel by Julia Heaberlin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an Advanced Reader Copy via NetGalley & the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

We Are All the Same in the Dark is a mystery/thriller set in small town Texas where the stories of two missing girls ten years apart weave and wind together as local cops try to solve these cases.

The PoV switches quite dramatically midway through so we primarily see things through the eyes of two different women. This keeps the story fresh and sets it apart from some the usual police-hunt-badguys thriller staples out there.

Heaberlin builds up two solid, well built main characters who we can sympathise with and understand their motivations. Some of the supplementary characters are a little more obtuse but that’s necessity of the mystery genre.

Overall it’s a well-structured, -paced and -finished novel that delivers a good storyline with believable characters.

3.5/5

I dropped it a half star in my mind because I guessed who the killer was in the first half.

This was book 53 of 2020.


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Posted in Literature

Read: Reality is Not What it Seems & Artificial Condition

Reality is Not What it Seems: The Journey to Quantum GravityReality is Not What it Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity by Carlo Rovelli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An inspirational read despite some rather dense science involved.

Carlo Rovelli does a good job and explaining complex scientific ideas to non-experts. His prose is well-written and quite beautiful. It isn’t all hard science as there is a certain element of story-telling as he recounts the journey of knowledge that has brought us to where we stand today with quantum gravity and loop theory.

That being said, you almost definitely need to have an interest in theoretical physics in order to persist through the more obtuse and complicated sections. I feel like I absorbed maybe 70% of the science explained in this book and the remaining 30% I suspect I may never fully grasp, although, as Rovelli argues science is all about butting up against those things we don’t know or don’t fully understand. I’m happy with what I did take away from the book.

Aside from the formulae and theories and equations, this is an enlightening and inspirational read that will provoke some philosophical questions in its reader. How much more might we know now if the science of antiquity had not been destroyed? What might we be able to do if 1400 years hadn’t been lost to the dominion of religion over science? It’s an interesting question to think on, when reading Rovelli’s accounts of how much science has advanced since 1900, when it was free to do so.

This was my 51st book of 2020.


Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries, #2)Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Did Murderbot just make a… friend? In as much as it can, wants or cares to.

Our anxious misanthrope of a free bot seeks out answers as to what happened to make it become Murderbot in this 2nd instalment of the series. Everything you loved about Mb in the first novella is still there now with added… hair? Thrown into the mix this time around is ART, the Asshole Research Transport Mb meets on the way to finding answers.

Once again this is a brilliantly witty and well-written story by Wells, told in a diarised style (hence the series name) from the point of view of the eponymous Murderbot. The experiences with social anxiety are cleverly done and accurate. There’s not too much ‘hard science’ involved in these books so if you’re not a fan of that in your sci-fi then these books are definitely worth a gander. They’re short, quick reads that are immense fun.

This was my 50th book of 2020.

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Posted in Literature

Read: The Gravity of Us & Jonathan Livingston Seagull

The Gravity of UsThe Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An easy, light read that is good fun with a m/m romance that is very sweet.

I am not typically either a YA or Romance reader so if you’re in the same boat; I found this definitely worth the read. It’s easy to read, first-person story told by Cal, an internet-famous 17 year old whose life is uprooted when is dad is (unexpectedly) accepted into a space program to Mars. The family moves from New York to Texas to take up residence in Houston for the father’s astronaut training.

It is written in the lexicon of a teenager in 2020 and I feel that lends to a more authentic feel as a personal coming-of-age story under exceptional circumstances. The romance is key to the story but not 100% central so you can’t get sick of too much soppy stuff. Not that there’s much anyway as Cal and Leon are more the kind of sweet young love than the drippy overly saccharine sort.

Besides the queer romance, the book deals with themes of mental health, loss, fame and integrity and does so very well. All of these aspects come together to build the story up and to ensure it has the strength to stand on it’s own and is not just a romance novel. It is clever, funny and moving.


Jonathan Livingston SeagullJonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a short philosophical book that explores the cycles of community beliefs and how a single pebble can cause ripples that change far more than could have been predicted. This version is one reprinted with the fourth section (previously languishing in a desk drawer) and I definitely think the addition of that final section makes the whole story feel more finished. The cycle is completed by that last section; a full turn of the wheel.

“…the forces of rulers and ritual slowly, slowly will kill our freedom to live as we choose.”

Yes there is an obvious spiritual aspect to the tale but don’t be put off if you are not religious; it seems equal parts positive and critical of organised religion or organised belief systems. It is worth reading regardless.


These were my 45th and 46th books of 2020.

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Posted in Literature

Read: Black Sunday

Black SundayBlack Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Black Sunday follows the children of a fractured family who end up abandoned by both parents to live with their Grandmother in a poor Lagos neighbourhood. Twin older sisters Bibike and Ariyike are more in focus than their two younger brothers Andrew and Peter. The story is told mostly in first person segments from the points of view of each of the four children with one exception in a segment of Peter’s where it was written in second person, which seemed like an odd choice to go against the trend of the rest of the book.

The story spans two decades of their lives growing up and trying to survive poor and parent-less in Lagos and how they each find different ways to carve out their own futures. The girls start working to put their brothers through school and University; Ariyike becoming a famous Christian radio presenter and later moving to Christian TV with the very same church who conned her father out of their family home and destroyed their lives.

Some sections seem a little stilted in the prose, however it’s important to remember these are being told from the point of view of children. As the four grow up the prose becomes more smooth as the characters are maturing. The story can be difficult to digest as it demonstrates the personal suffering of this family and even moreso the suffering of the twin sisters as girls and women growing up in a deeply misogynistic, male-dominated society.

Within the blurb for the book it mentions: “the twins’ paths diverge once the household shatters: one embracing modernity as the years pass, the other consumed by religion.” I had this in mind as I read through the book and I was expecting one sister to stay with their Yoruba grandmother (one does) and for that to be the one ‘consumed by religion’. However, to me it seemed the sister consumed by religion was also the one who embraced modernity – embracing modern technology and the movement of power into the use of those technologies. Each sister seems to embrace modernity in a different way and both have religion in their lives to a greater or lesser extent. It is not quite as clear-cut as the blurb might imply.

The ending of the book initially seemed a little flat to me but after thinking about it for a while I feel it does provide what I was after, only much more subtly than I was expecting. That is a common theme with the book, there is a lot happening that is big, bold and obvious, smacking you in the face but underneath there is a lot working subtly in the background that might take you a little longer to recognise and appreciate.

This was my 47th book of 2020.

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Posted in Literature

Read: The Archived

The Archived (The Archived, #1)The Archived by Victoria Schwab
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this as part of the #SchwabReadalong organised over Twitter/Booktube (twitter.com/schwabreadalong) and this was the first book of the schedule. I haven’t read Schwab before but have seen her pop up with both her YA and adult fantasy books as a recommended author for me quite a few times so I decided now’s as good a time as any!

The Archived was a good story exploring ideas of death, grieving, family, friendships and desire from the perspective of a 16 year old. The overall concept of a supernatural style library that catalogues the dead who in turn have a tendency to get up and wander off is one I’ve seen done elsewhere, nevertheless this book does a good job at exploring the idea.

It is well written for the target audience (YA) however I found some of it frustratingly simple at times; I also found myself getting annoyed at some of the decisions the characters were making and some of the martial expertise of the 16 year old protagonist seemed a little far-fetched. It was a good story but I am happy with leaving it at just The Archived personally, as opposed to reading the 2nd book.

This was my 43rd book of 2020.

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Posted in Literature

Read: Final Cut

Final CutFinal Cut by S.J. Watson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Note: this was an e-ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

To me, one of the key features of a thriller or mystery book is that I can’t guess the ending. Unfortunately for Final Cut, I guessed the ‘big twist’ within the first 20% of the book and spent the rest of the time waiting to be proved right as the author threw things at me to try and convince me otherwise. By the final 10%, where said twist is revealed and everything I had guessed was confirmed I felt more like I had been reading as a chore and that the majority of the story had been inconsequential.

The MC at times behaves contrary to all the information she has available to her; pursuing a man she’s accusing of murdering girls that in a previous or next chapter she’s adamant are both alive despite everyone she ‘trusts’ in the village telling her said man wouldn’t have done such a thing, that he’s harmless and he’s only ever tried to help. Her complete belligerence at blaming him for events seems completely at odds with her relatively logical approach to everything else. It felt too much like the author was trying to force a distraction on the reader to disguise the truth. The MC trusts some complete strangers that no-one has vouched for but then doesn’t trust this other stranger who everyone has vouched for.

The story itself had potential and is almost certainly, and depressingly, based on the terrible abuses real people have suffered and it is a shame it has been executed so poorly here in Final Cut. While the MC is struggling with her memory, I still don’t think that forgives the confused signals we get from her and her motivations.

Finally, I am unsure whether the e-ARC I received had chapters out of order as there were two occasions were the MC references other characters by name who we have not been introduced to yet and in a subsequent chapter we’re then introduced to them. As I say, I’m not sure if this was a mistake and edits will be done before publication or whether it was intentional as an attempt to make the reader doubt their own memory, much as our MC does throughout the book. In either event, I found it frustrating and it felt like a mistake so made me wonder about the editing process. There was one other instance that I spotted which seemed to have been missed in editing – whether that’s picked up on between now and retail, maybe, so I let it slide.

Overall, there was a bit too much that didn’t make sense in the book on top of the poor characterisation, weird editing decisions and the endless buffeting of distractions away from an otherwise predictable ending.

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