Non-Human Stories

In Book Reviews on February 25, 2015 at 6:00 am

Animal Stories

I’ve had a break from my blog for a few months, but during that time I definitely didn’t stop reading. As a result, I have a rather large backlog of books to tell you about. The two books that I’ve chosen for today have one thing in common: the main characters aren’t humans.

These books intrigued me because of their perspective. One is from a bee’s point of view and the other is from a cow’s viewpoint. Even though these stories are from a non-human perspective, they aren’t children’s books and I loved both of them, although for completely different reasons.

The Bees by Laline Paull

Laline Paull The Bees

Photo by Adrian Peacock/Ecco Press


This story was told from the perspective of Flora 717, a bee who was born into her hive as a sanitation worker. We join her at her birth as she kicks her way out of her birthing cell and meets her sisters for the first time.

Flora 717 is different than other bees; she’s somewhat larger than the others, but not so much so that she would be killed for it. She’s also not very attractive for a bee.

What appealed to me about this book is the dystopian feel it had to it. Everyone was locked into their roles from birth and they willingly performed the tasks they were born to do. The difference between this story and other dystopian stories I’ve read, however, is that this is nature. There is no over-throwing and revamping the system which made it significantly more interesting.

One thing I didn’t really understand was why Flora 717 was different and why she was allowed to move from job to job like a student doing work experience. Especially when everyone else was so committed to their roles.

Even thought I didn’t understand this aspect of the story, I found it gripping.

One of the things I enjoy doing once I’ve finished reading a book is to read the negative reviews on Goodreads. Sometimes I’ll read the positive ones, but usually I’ll only do that if I didn’t like the book. I like to know why someone has a different opinion to mine and to see if there’s something I missed or interpreted differently.

I only tend to read a few, but the ones I read regarding this book had a problem with the anthropomorphisation of animals. Apparently, these bees were too ‘human-like’ for some readers, which made me chuckle considering that this is a fictionalised account of life within a beehive. It’s strange to me that someone would read this book if they weren’t up for that kind of thing.

You might like this book if you enjoyed Watership Down. I saw a marketing blurb comparing it to the Hunger Games (as many dystopian books are these days) however, I feel that I must tell you that you will be very disappointed if you go into this with that expectation.

It’s a strange and wonderful tale about bees in a beehive and their relationship with each other as well as the ‘Myriad’ which are wasps, spiders, flies and pretty much all other creatures that aren’t bees.

Holy Cow

David Duchovny Holy Cow

Image from Duchovny Central

My husband posted an article to my Facebook page about this book. He knew that I would want to read this book because we are both X-Files fans and we both have a love of silliness and whimsy.

Naturally, I went to the book store and bought it immediately. I read this book in a day and I wasn’t disappointed.

I’d like to start out by saying that David Duchovny is completely bonkers. (Although delightfully so!) This book had me in fits of giggles.

This is the story of Elsie the cow who wants to escape from her farm and travel to India because cows are sacred there and she won’t get eaten. She is joined by a pig who has renamed himself Shalom and wants to travel to Israel because people there don’t eat pork. And then there’s Tom the Turkey who’s trying to slim down because Thanksgiving is getting close and he thinks that his best bet is to move to Turkey. For obvious reasons.

Okay, you reeeeeeeally have to suspend your disbelief for this story. I mean A LOT. These animals know how to buy plane tickets using an iPhone and they can get through airport security disguised as humans (a point with which a few Goodreads reviewers were not pleased). And they say things like ‘OMG’.

I loved this story. It doesn’t take itself seriously at all and I loved that about it. It doesn’t have any pretensions of being high literature or even about making a statement about animals being killed for food. It is what it is and I thought it was wonderful.

Apparently, he reads it on the audio version and while I’m not a huge fan of audio books, I would totally be down with listening to that.

If you need an injection of awesome into your day, check this book out.

Reading Habits

In Currently Reading... on February 8, 2015 at 11:02 am

Hello there! It’s been a long time. I know. But now, after an extended break, I feel like I’m ready to rejoin the world of blogging.

This year, I’ve done some analysis on the books I read last year. I follow a lot of bookish pages on Facebook and one of the pages had a really interesting article on it written by a woman who wanted to read more diversely and what she did about it. Here’s the link if you’re interested:

When I first saw this, I thought that it would be pointless for me because I keep track of all of my reading on Goodreads. But as I read on I realised why she was doing it and it made me want to do it too. Goodreads doesn’t give stats. I’ve been wanting to diversify my reading experience for a while but until I created my own spreadsheet, I didn’t realise how much I really needed to do it.

Unsurprisingly, I read A LOT of books written by white males from the UK or the US. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve read some amazing books and I’m certainly not going to NOT read a book based on someone’s ethnicity, gender or country of origin. But looking at my reading habits this way made me realise how many different points of view I’m missing out on.

I’d like to share the results with you. Below is a portion of what my spreadsheet looks like. I’ve altered mine from the one in the article referenced above. A few things on my reporting: Where there were two authors, I chose one to make it easier. If one of them is an ethnicity other than white, I chose that person to show that there is a bit of diversity in what I’m reading. I’m not sure if that’s cheating or not, but since this isn’t an official report and it’s pretty much for my own edification I’m just going to go with it. I’ve also grouped anyone from the UK together, so the books in that category are written by people from England, Northern Ireland and Scotland. (I haven’t forgotten about you, Wales! I just didn’t read anything by a Welsh author last year.)

Also, the spreadsheet from the article I linked had a column designated as PoC to designate whether or not the book was written by a person of colour. I decided to record everyone’s ethnicity instead because I don’t really like that terminology for people who aren’t white and I’m a bit unsure of its acceptability. I wince when I hear people say it because it’s a little too close to calling someone ‘coloured’. There’s also the implication that white is ‘normal’ and anyone else is ‘other’.

(Please note that I’m not suggesting in any way that the woman who wrote the original article is racist. These thoughts about terminology are mine and not meant as a judgement.)

I kind of love spreadsheets. I'm not ashamed.

I kind of love spreadsheets. I’m not ashamed.

So, here’s what the results were. (All stats have to do with author and not characters or setting in the books.)

Last year I read 52 books with a total of 15,077 pages.

Here is a lovely pie chart which is split by gender. So, yes. I need to read more books by women.

2014 Gender Split


Books I’ve read by country:

2014  by Country


And by ethnicity:

2014  by Ethnicity


In the country and ethnicity charts above, there are two entries you might question. USA/Canada denotes an author who has dual citenzenship. White/Japanese denotes an author who has a white parent and a Japanese parent. (Although, now I’m realising that I should have put ‘White/Asian’ instead.) Anyway, I didn’t want to take away from anyone’s identity as I was doing this, so I put both.

So that’s my 2014. I think that 2015 will look a lot different. I’ll be interested to see what it will look like.

I would interested to know if anyone else is doing something similar, so if you are please let me know. Happy Reading!


In Book Reviews on November 9, 2014 at 4:25 pm
Doubleday 2011

Doubleday 2011

‘Loki,’ said Frey with conviction. ‘He’s the child of demons, and everybody hates him. Plus, he was the one who opened the gate to Netherworld in the first place. Who else could it possibly be?’

‘I’m not sure I like the term demons,’ said Angie, interrupting. ‘Some people might find it offensive.’

‘So what would you rather?’ Heimdall said.

‘Persons of chaotic origin?’

Gods!‘ exploded Heimdall. ‘Maddy’s lost, Loki’s escaped, the End of the bloody Worlds is at hand, and you’re lecturing me about political correctness?’

Nutshell blurb: The old regime is gone, but there is nothing in its place. The old gods are trying to rebuild the sky citadel and reclaim their place, but an old enemy and a new one will thwart their attempts.

This is the second book in this series. If you would like to read my thoughts on the first one you should go ahead and do that first.

Like the first one, I really enjoyed this book. I probably enjoyed it even more. I’ve found that sometimes the first book in a series will serve to set up the characters and world whilst being short on story and plot. I didn’t think that too much of of Runemarks, however I felt much closer to the characters in the second book and by this time knew a bit more about how the world in these stories works. I think that the characters were much more interesting in this book. (They are the same characters, by they way.) I really liked the characters in the first one, but I guess it’s that thing where you finally get to know who they are and what they’re all about and then the book ends. Then you pick up the second book and they are much more like old friends. I suppose it’s the nature of the beast rather than anything to do with Ms. Harris’s writing.

It’s given me a lot to think about in terms of my own writing. I’m world-building as well so I’ve been trying to figure out how to go about making it a place that a reader can understand without too much exposition whilst seamlessly merging it with the story.

One thing that was confusing for me was that there are two girls in this book and the view point shifts between them. One is Maggie and the other is Maddy. (Maddy is from the first book.) I didn’t really realise this because, again, I didn’t read the back of the book. So the prologue starts in Maggie’s PoV which didn’t make sense to me because I was thinking that it was in Maddy’s point of view. I read the whole thing and was like ‘wat?’. And then I realised my mistake and had to reread it with the correct person in mind. It absolutely makes sense the more you read the story and realise their origins, but it was confusing from time to time.

This was also helpful to me for my writing purposes. You see, I have sisters in my story and they have very similar names. I’ve now decided to change them as I’m thinking about having the story told from both PoVs. I don’t want to confuse people. Please don’t think that I’m criticising Joanne Harris for this, however. She’s written a few more novels than I have. (And by ‘a few’ I mean ‘oh so many’!) Once I twigged what she was doing, I was ok with keeping the two straight throughout the rest of the book.

I consider it a good thing any time a book leaves me thinking about it long after I’ve finished it. She’s given me a lot to think about with regards to my own writing, which can only be a good thing. She’s also given me a charming and delightful story that I may decide to read again one day.

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