Sunday, 24 December 2017

Review of 'The Buried Giant' by Kazuo Ishiguro

Review of 'The Buried Giant' by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is a book that I SO wanted to like. It's the first book I read as part of the book club at my new job and I was keen to make a good impression, as quite a few of the others really enjoyed it, but I just could not fully get into it. I appreciate that it's an allegorical story with a meaning behind it, but the meaning was so obscured at times that I found it really hard to get on board with.

The Buried Giant is set in Roman Britain. A mist covers the land, breathed out by Querig, a dragon that lives in the mountains. Axl and Beatrice can't remember much of their life at all, but they know that they love each other. As they journey to their son's village, they encounter a series of dramatic situations, and they become convinced that they want to help slay Querig so that the mist lifts from the land.

I kept waiting and waiting for the volta in this novel, but there was just no dramatic peak. Even the killing of Querig was completely underwhelming, and the skirmishes that went on throughout the novel fell a little flat. The fantasy level of the novel worked well, blending in with reality. However, when the author introduced Sir Gawain to the story, I really hoped that it would connect up with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, an original Medieval story that I read a few years ago. It didn't, and I was a little disappointed. 

All in all, I'm not sure why there was so much hype surrounding this book. It was well written and the story was fine, but it's not something I would read again, or really recommend to anyone else.

Have you read it? What did you think? 

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Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Review of 'The Hate U Give' by Angie Thomas

Review of 'The Hate U Give' by Angie Thomas

I've been thinking about this for a while and I'm just struggling to put into words how absolutely incredible this book is, and how much you all need to read it. It's the most important book that I've read in 2017 and everyone absolutely needs to get their hands on it. It really gets to the nitty gritty about race issues in the States, and exposes them in a way that I've not really come across anywhere else.

Starr Carter, the book's protagonist, is a 16-year-old African American schoolgirl who witnessed the shooting of her best friend when she was 8. When she gets a lift home from her childhood best friend Khalil, she doesn't think that this is the second day she's going to see someone get shot. Khalil and Starr get pulled over by a cop and when Khalil moves towards the passenger side of the car to see if Starr is okay, the cop shoots him repeatedly. 

In the following days and weeks, Starr is totally bowled over by the fact that this cop isn't straight up arrested for murdering her friend in front of her. Soon she starts to question everything. She goes to a private school where the majority of students are white, and doesn't want to speak up there. At school Starr is a different person, one who doesn't talk in the same way as she does with her family and friends from her neighborhood. She starts to wonder whether she's betraying her own identity by dating a white boy from the school. 

As riots break out over the town for Khalil's murder, Starr is forced to question her own identity and the justice system of the country she lives in.

It's an absolutely astounding book, and I'll honestly be buying any future novels Angie Thomas brings out because this was beyond insightful and powerful and heartbreaking.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Re-reading 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' by J. K. Rowling

Re-reading 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' by J. K. Rowling

I couldn't not pick this quote out really, could I? Every time I read it I have a little chuckle because book Dumbledore and film Dumbledore definitely do not say this in the same way. I can't believe I've re-read the first four Harry Potter books now, and I'm almost ready to start the fifth. I have to admit, I've been putting off number 5 for a little bit because the Goblet of Fire is just one of the best, and the Order of the Phoenix has always been my least favourite. And it's so goddamn long. BUT. I've found that reading these as an adult I'm loving different things, so I'm hoping that I'll find the Order of the Phoenix a lot better than I did as a kid.

Anywho, this is the last book of the whole series that I've read quite a few times now. It's the first time that I've cried at Cedric's death because that was just not fair and I'm still raging about it. I loved the fact that all four contestants really came together to help each other out (in a roundabout way), and the kindness that Cedric and Harry showed each other was just heart breaking in the end. The other bit that my feelings totally couldn't handle was when everyone that Voldemort had killed emerged from his wand to help Harry. I. Just. Can't *weeps*. 

The one thing that's really been bothering me whilst I've been rereading the whole series, and especially this one, is that J.K. pairs Ron and Hermione up in the end. And I'm sorry but he's an absolute prick to her. He constantly mocks her for anything that she feels passionate about, he doesn't think she's attractive enough to find a date and he only finally starts to respect her at the end because Krum has a massive crush on her. I mean??? Hermione could do SO much better, and end up with someone that treats her with an iota of respect and cares about what she cares about? Ron's a pretty nice character aside from this but I just can't get over it. 

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Saturday, 11 November 2017

Review of 'Too Damn Nice'* by Kathryn Freeman

Review of 'Too Damn Nice' by Kathryn Freeman

I always find that as Winter draws near I'm wanting to read more and more chick lit books. There's just something so cosy and joyful about them, you know? This is my favourite that I've read in a few months. I like my chick lit to take on some darker themes, and challenge some serious issues in society. I feel as though it's important to tackle taboo areas, and make sure that chick lit is a little educational, as well as comforting. 

Too Damn Nice really seems to have hit the nail on the head in terms of the context of the time I read it. It's all about a woman in the entertainment industry who's molested by a man she trusts, and she's outed by the media as being a slut. At the moment, with the 'MeToo' campaign, and the discovery that Harvey Weinstein is a sexual predator, more and more women in the industry are coming forward to talk about the harassment they've faced on their way up the ladder.

In the book, Lizzy Donavue makes news across America as her (ex)partner releases a video of her having a threesome with him and another man. As she's about to become the face of a perfume called 'Innocence', she's terrified that her career is in tatters. What makes it worse? She doesn't even remember the incident taking place. Lizzy's ex threatened her with the video, but she never believed that he would release it if she didn't pay him ... sadly she was wrong.

After locking herself away in her apartment, her brother's best friend Nick Templeton is the only person who steps in to help her. The worst thing about this? He's a painful reminder of the fact that she's lost her parents, and her brother is in a coma; something she still blames herself for. Bookish and shy, Nick's the opposite of model Lizzie, but he's always had a soft spot for her. 

Whisking her away from a toxic environment and back to England, Nick's intent on saving Lizzie. But there are some painful memories for both of them back in the UK. Can they make something work between them in the face of their history?

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Sunday, 29 October 2017

Review of 'The Secret' by Katerina Diamond

Review of 'The Secret' by Katerina Diamond

I'm a wimp when it comes to scary things, but thrillers I can *just* about cope with. The Secret totally pushed me out of my thriller comfort zone, but in a good way. It was shocking and gory and kinda reminded me of the thrill of watching CSI as a kid.

The Secret is set in Devon - somewhere that I'd always thought of as safe, but now will be looking at through a slightly different lens. DS Imogen Grey is determined to put her traumatic past behind her, but a new case threatens to make it resurface. Her old work partner Sam Brown is back to help out on a case. The one problem with this? Two years ago he spilled the beans about her pregnancy to some guys who attacked her, cutting her stomach up so that she loses the baby. 

With this incident fresh in her mind, Imogen finds herself becoming more suspicious of Sam. His girlfriend is an undercover cop who's gone missing, and as Imogen searched for the truth, she uncovers more secrets that Sam's left behind.

This was an absolute page turner that had me almost peeking out from behind my fingers as things got more and more gruesome throughout the book. There were some real twists and turns that I didn't see coming, and as soon as I finished the book I went out to buy Katerina's earlier book 'The Teacher'. It's SO rare that I like a book enough to do this, but I was totally wowed by 'The Secret'.

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Sunday, 15 October 2017

Re-reading 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban'

Re-reading 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban'

This has always been one of my favourites of the Harry Potter series, so when it came to rereading I was terrified that I'd hyped it up so much in my mind that it could only be a disappointment. It wasn't. I completely devoured this book and I don't think there's any other way to really read it. I mean, it's Harry Potter after all.

It did break my heart a little I won't lie. The last 100 pages or so had me going through a hurricane of emotions and I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn't okay to cry on a public bus over Harry Potter, even if the feels were getting to me. 

This book is where the whole series really takes off. You meet Sirius and get to finally learn the real story behind what happened on *that* night when Harry got his scar. and you get to feel ALL THE RAGE against Wormtail aka Scabbers aka a total scumbag. I'd forgotten almost all of Lupin's backstory and that crops up too. And then there's the utter RAGE when Snape cocks everything up at the end. Also, did I mention Buckbeak?

If you're going to (re)read just one of the HP books, make it this one. It's the last in the series before the books get real long, and it's the most intense of the first three. I love it so much and honestly would read it over and over and over again.

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Sunday, 8 October 2017

Review of 'Silent Child' by Sarah A. Denzil

Review of 'Silent Child' by Sarah A. Denzil

Is it me or are crime thrillers getting hella dark at the moment? Maybe I just haven't read enough in the past, but each one I come across feels a little traumatic at the moment. This book has had me feeling pretty fucked up for weeks now. The content was so twisted and thrilling and I had a couple of 'oh no NO NO NO' gut wrenching moments when I had to put the book down because it was just too tense.

I won't lie, it took me a little while to get into this one. I found it so hard to relate to the main character, but once I was in I was hooked. There were so many WTF moments and the plot was so good that overlooking her character was something I'm glad I did.

Silent Child is all about a child who comes back from the dead. When Sarah's village floods, her son Aiden is swept away in the water: the only thing he leaves behind is his little red coat. Fast forward ten years and Sarah and Rob, Aiden's father, are no longer together. She's created a new life with her new husband Jake, and has a new child on the way.

Everything's going pretty well, until Aiden reappears. Staggering out of the local woods, Aiden is traumatised and cannot speak. Emma is forced to face the fact that her child is back, but she doesn't know who he is anymore.

Trying to find out what has happened over the last ten years leads Emma to some very disturbing findings. What did happen to Aiden? Who took him? And who exactly can she trust? 

This book is definitely not for the faint-hearted. It's so graphic and dark that it really is not suitable for younger readers either. But, if you're a fan of dark thrillers, then this is something that you should give a go!

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Saturday, 7 October 2017

Review of 'Little Men' by Louisa May Alcott

Review of 'Little Men' by Louisa May Alcott

Confession time: I've never read Little Women. I owned a truly ugly version of it up until about a year ago and it totally put me off the book. BUT, I have a hella cute vintage copy of Little Men that I just couldn't resist.

Louisa May Alcott's writing has a traditional storytelling vibe (shocking, I know), that reminds me of Robinson Crusoe, Little House on the Prairie or any of Enid Blyton's fiction. It was cute and childish and comforting. There were a whole load of skewed 'this is what girls do vs this is what boys do' outdated sexist chat, but for its time, it wasn't an overly restrictive view at all.

Little Men is all about a couple who run a boarding school for 12 boys. They open up their home to both orphaned children and those whose parents want them to get a good education. Each boy (and a coupe of girls too) are treated as a member of the family. Through a variety of lessons, both practical and theoretical, the mother and father help the children to improve in all aspects of their lives.

Each chapter contains a story about one of the children's mischievous adventures, and offers a resolve to what happens that makes the child a better parent. I loved reading what the boys got up to, and I think this book would make a fab read for a child before bedtime.  

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Saturday, 9 September 2017

Re-reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Re-reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Re-reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

I've always rated Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as one of my least favourite books in the series. But, re-reading it recently has made me realise that I've been totally wrong all this time. HOW CAN I NOT LOVE THIS?! This summer (well Autumn now, let's face it), I decided to reread the whole HP series - you can see my comments on The Philosopher's Stone here. So, in this second installment, let's talk about how/why I'm convinced I totally underrated this.

Dobby. This is the first book in which you get to meet Dobby. AND he gets freed at the end. It's the beginning of a great love affair between you and Dobby. He adds a lot of humour to the book, and genuinely made me laugh out loud at one point. Plus, his presence proves even more than normal how shitty the Malfoys are.

Tom Marvolo Riddle. This totally blows your mind the first time you read it. I love that we get to see the human side of Voldemort (soz but if you haven't read the series, then there's going to be tonnes of spoilers. Also, if you haven't read it, you need to sort that out). It all ties in with the last book and it's making me so happy to see how Rowling was creating little strands of the horcrux plot early on in the series.

Harry's 'dark' side. You get to see that Harry isn't a perfect Gryffindor. He can speak parseltongue. But, he uses it for good, showing that not all Slytherins, or descendants of that house founder, are rotten to the core. It puts him on an even keel with Voldemort in terms of skill too. For the first time, we see that Harry Potter is special for reasons other than his famous past.

Hagrid's back story. This totally makes my heart bleed. Loveable, clumsy Hagrid being blamed for something that he'd never do. They totally should have let him back as a mature student and reinstated his wand after this. My bby. 

Mr Weasley. I love this man. He's so pure and his interest in Muggles is so endearing. I'm not prepared for the darkness that comes into his life in the next few books. His character also gives me a reason to hate the Malfoy's even more.

There were so many perfect little stories in The Chamber of Secrets, and I can't believe I used to rate it as one of my least favourites. From Aragog to the puzzles surrounding the injured students, to the Whomping Willow and more, this book is a work of art.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Review of 'Alice and the Fly' by James Rice

Review of 'Alice and the Fly' by James Rice

I haven't read a good thriller in a long time, so when Aimee from Aimee Raindrop Writes offered to lend me this I jumped at the chance. Alice and the Fly is told from the perspective of an individual with an intense case of schizophrenia, or at least that's what psychiatrists have deemed it. I've never read a novel with such a good insight into what it's like to live with a debilitating mental illness. Not having struggled with schizophrenia myself, I feel as though I now understand more about it, and just how life-consuming it can be.

Greg is a bit of an oddball at school. Everyone calls him 'Psycho' because of what happened in the past, and he doesn't have any friends. His English teacher, Miss Hayes, attempts to tap into Greg, to see what is troubling him so that she can help him. She asks him to start a journal, and jot his thoughts down into it. This is what we get to read. Interspersed with diary entries are transcripts from police reports about an incident Greg is involved in. 

It soon becomes clear that Greg is struggling. He has so many thoughts inside him that he wants to express, but can't seem to get the words out. Instead he remains silent, and is mistaken for being cold and distant. 

The one thing which really drives Greg out of this stupor of quietude is his fear of spiders. It is a full on phobia. Greg has every possible gap in his room taped down so that no spiders can get in. His room is his safe space; there's no chance of Them getting in. But everywhere else is a mine field.

Alice and the Fly was a real page turner for me. I needed to find out why this troubled boy's family and associates were being investigated by the police. I wanted to see how Greg's psychiatric issues came about, how they were handled, and how they progressed as he became more and more obsessed by the idea of Them coming near him.

If you're into thrillers, then this is one that is so easy to whip through, and it definitely had some moments in which I was on the edge of my seat!

Friday, 25 August 2017

Re-reading Harry Potter and the Philsopher's Stone

Re-reading Harry Potter and the Philsopher's Stone

Re-reading Harry Potter and the Philsopher's Stone

Every summer I decide to reread the Harry Potter series. I think the last time I followed through with it I hadn't sat my GCSE's yet, so it's been a long time. It's always a goal that seems a little unachievable, but I'm feeling determined this time round, and with one now under my belt, and the second one started, I'm hoping that I can actually see this through. 

It's been SO long since I read HP and the Philosopher's Stone, that I can now see everything in my mind in the way it is in the film. That aspect of imagination has been totally lost on me. It kind of sucks, but I'm glad that as a child I got to read the book before the film came out. I also found it interesting to see how closely the film stuck to the book. I honestly think this is why the film franchise has done as well as it has. Bar a few mishaps with how things are staged, and the debacle that is Ginny on screen, everything kept really close to the OG novel, and it meant that the movie didn't disappoint.

I found that I could have whizzed through the book: I'd completely forgotten how short it was. But I really didn't want to. I wanted to savour every moment. I really wanted to go slow, and enjoy meeting all the characters for the first time, and gradually descend into the world of magic.

Reading back now, I'm still bowled over by the fact that J K thought of everything. There were no parts where I realised that the later books had contradicted what was said. It really feels as though she had the whole saga planned out from the beginning. For example, Snape has a dear place in my heart, and going back to this book has made me see how Snape could completely hate Harry. Here he comes, being celebrated, getting special treatment, and looking exactly like the man who made Snape's life a misery. Snape hates Harry, but could never harm him, and it just makes my heart bleed to think about his love for Lily. 

The book made me fall in love with so many characters all over again. I'd forgotten how innocently obsessed Mr Weasley is by all things Muggle, and how much I loved him asking questions about how things like plugs work. I'd forgotten how defensive I felt of Hagrid, and how sensitive he is. I'd forgotten how funny the Weasley twins are, and how great Ron's one-liners could be.

I'm so glad I actually did pick this up to re-read and I can't wait to get onto the rest!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Review of 'Our Chemical Hearts' by Krystal Sutherland

Review of 'Our Chemical Hearts' by Krystal Sutherland

I'm still obsessing over YA fiction at the moment, and Our Chemical Hearts is truly a beauty of the genre. I've heard so much about this and honestly it shows mental health in a truer perspective than I've seen it shown in a long time. Usually when I read a book about someone who's struggling with their mental health I get a niggling 'this isn't what it's really like' feeling welling up inside me, until I'm not comfortable with the contents of the book at all. But Our Chemical Hearts brought this idyllism that people create around mental illness up, analysed it and made me fall in love.

Henry Page is an average teenage boy. He's not lost 'the big V' yet, and his last kiss ended up helping his best friend discover that she's just not into men. Not a brilliant track record for keeping on the cool side of the tracks at school. He has cast aside attempts at romance for the time being, instead focusing on becoming the editor of his school newspaper, which he's been working on for the past two years. 

Henry's life is all going to plan, until Grace Town transfers from her old school to his. Her literary reputation at the previous school means that the head of the newspaper wants to make them co-editors for the year. She refuses. Henry reluctantly chases after her, requesting that she works on the paper with him. Despite her boyish clothes, limp and cane, there's something about Grace that lures him in.

Before he knows it, Henry's in love with Grace. But she has good days and bad. On the bad days, they barely speak a word to one another (Grace's choice, not his). On the good days, she might just brush up against Henry whilst they chuckle over a joke, making him blush. 

However, Henry's bothered by the fact that he knows nothing about her past. So, he checks out her Facebook page. At first he thinks he's got the wrong Grace Town. The girl in this profile picture is stunning. She has long hair, the biggest grin and is absolutely beautiful decked out in makeup and girl's clothing. Henry falls more and more in love with her.

Grace knows what's going on with Henry, but she's all too aware of why it can't be. You see, Grace was in an accident with her boyfriend, the love of her life. That's where she got the limp, and where she lost Dom. She's living in his room, and the boys' clothes she wears are his. She's not, nor will she ever completely get over losing Dom. He was her soulmate, and they'd been close since they were five. 

Grace knows what Henry doesn't want to admit, even to himself: he's not in love with Grace Town, he's in love with an idyllic version of her. He craves the 'good Grace' days, and can't handle her on the bad ones. He wants to fix her; he doesn't really want to be with the Grace in front of him.

The rest of the story is about a struggle for love that's based on an illusion. This is exactly what I meant when I said that the book doesn't shy away from the realities of mental illness. I was completely 100% suckered into Henry's love for Grace, and how noble it was, until Grace pointed out that it wasn't. Then I saw what was happening: he was in love with the girl without the mental illness. I realised that I'd overlooked the depression coming out of her grief, and I was waiting for Grace to miraculously get better, and become the girl that Henry was lusting after. But mental illness doesn't work like that. Loving someone can't cure them. 

If you're interested in YA fiction about mental health and love, then I'd really recommend this!

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Review of 'Eat Pray Love' by Elizabeth Gilbert

Review of 'Eat Pray Love' by Elizabeth Gilbert

I don't use the word 'life changing' often, but this novel has totally made me put my life into a new perspective. I've heard Eat Pray Love hailed as an incredible read for years, but hadn't delved into it. It's now something that I want every woman ever to read. I want to lend it to all my friends and family so that they can embark on a journey to learning more about themselves and about life in general as they travel with Liz.

Eat Pray Love is a semi-autobiographical novel, based on the author's own travels to Italy, India and Indonesia. Liz, aka Elizabeth Gilbert, ended her marriage in a bitter divorce. After a passionate, if a little fiery and messy affair with a man called David and subsequent break-up, she found herself in a pit of despair. 

Depression had come knocking on her door, and she was tired of living the same life, just without a man. So, she started doing things for her. First she travelled to Italy, where she practised speaking a language she loves, and put back on the weight that she lost from stress through the divorce. Then she went to India. There she stayed in an ashram, spent time cleaning temple floors, meditating, and getting close to her spiritual core. Finally, she ended up in Indonesia to help an ancient medicine man learn English, and find a balance in her life that would keep her content.

The section dedicated to Liz's time in India was definitely my favourite, and resonated with me SO MUCH. Her time in the ashram helped her learn more about herself, about how to let go of the past and to accept change. It's something that I'd like to do too. 

Have you read it? What did you think?

Friday, 28 July 2017

Review of 'Where Rainbows End'* by Anne Marie Brear

Review of 'Where Rainbows End'* by Anne Marie Brear

I love a good comforting chic-flick read. I recently read The Savage Detectives (review here), and whilst it was a very interesting book, it was also a very heavy one. Where Rainbows End* provided the perfect respite. I was actually lucky enough to read another one of Brear's novels before publication, and loved it, so I was excited for this one.

Where Rainbows End* is set in 1850. The Noble family have travelled to Australia to rid themselves of the black mark against their name in England. Despite being a loving father, Gerald Noble has a gambling problem. Time and time again, the family has had to be bailed out by their wealthy relatives. Gerald has taken one last loan to get them to Australia and create a new life.  

Pippa, Gerald's eldest daughter, is more than happy to leave England. Not only is she ashamed of how her family has fallen down in the ranks, but she also declared her love to Gil Ashford, only for him to throw it back in her face. 

The family are to move into a valley and breed valuable horses there. Pippa is determined to make this venture a success. When her father falls ill, Pippa breaks tradition and becomes the head of proceedings. She orders the work men building their home in the valley about, processes invoices and manages the family's finances scrupulously. But is it enough? And will people accept this woman as their boss?

I'm all about the girl power, and I LOVED seeing this 1800s lady stake her place in the world of business. Things aren't idealised in the novel either; she faces real challenges due to her femininity.

Have you read this?

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Review of 'If I Was Your Girl' by Meredith Russo

Review of 'If I Was Your Girl' by Meredith Russo

I *think* this is the first book that I've ever read with a trans* main character. And it sucks that it's taken me so long, but quite frankly there just aren't enough in mainstream literature. I'm so glad that If I Was Your Girl was chosen to be part of last year's Zoella book club as it gave so many young people an incentive to read a book about a trans* character.

As the novel progressed, I began to get a little (very) concerned that it actually wasn't very progressive at all. Although our main character Amanda was bullied because of transitioning to become a girl, she did have things a little easier than most trans people. For starters, Amanda knew she wanted to be a girl from a young age. She's overtly feminine. She also gets hormone treatment and surgery to fully transition to a girl that honestly would not be available to the majority of trans* youth. I felt disillusioned by how idyllic the whole setup was. 

When I got to the end of the novel, however, there was a note from the author, Meredith Russo, who is trans* herself, to the reader. In it, she explains that this idyll of transitioning was purposeful; she isn't naive about how things really work. She wanted to show what being trans could be like if things were easy. It also makes it easier for cis readers to accept Amanda as a girl. In my opinion, this makes the novel a good step in to trans* literature, I just wish this note was at the beginning of the novel! Although dark subjects are discussed, it shows the positive sides to the practicalities of being trans*, like how easy it was for Amanda to get treatment. I would love to see Russo write a YA novel about an individual who couldn't get treatment, and how they struggled. 

In the novel, Amanda has just moved to a new school. She's come to live with her dad after a violent attack on her in her hometown. The attack came about because Amanda used to be Andrew, and some of her classmates couldn't accept the change. Amanda is keen to make a fresh start. She wants to keep her head down to make it through high school alive, get good grades and go to college. All goes well until she realises that she's falling in love with a boy at her school. Can Amanda really keep the past behind her?

Have you read it? What did you think?

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Review of 'The Savage Detectives' by Roberto Bolaño

Review of 'The Savage Detectives' by Roberto Bolaño

I was doing really well at keeping up to date on posting on this blog last month, and then I read this massive tome. So, sorry for my absence, but this novel took a while to work through. I was meant to read it two and a half years ago as part of my lit course, but it was big and heavy with small font so I avoided it at all costs and Wiki'd it for the seminar. I've read quite a few nice, speedy novels recently so I thought it was time to tackle it.

The Savage Detectives is one of Bolaño's longest works. Initially a poet, he turned to, in his opinion, an inferior form of literature: fiction. Bolaño was a traveller, and spent most of his life poor, finally turning to fiction as a way to secure income. 

Usually I wouldn't do a little author bio for you, but as one of the main characters, Arturo Belano is a loosely autobiographical figure, I felt as though it was important.

The novel is very much a South American novel. Not all of the text, or possibly not even the majority of the text, takes place in South America, and yet it remains an intangible zone throughout the entirety of the novel. It's there in the conversation between narrators, and there in the discussion of literature, which features heavily in the book. 

The Savage Detectives is written in three parts. The first is a story from the viewpoint of a 17 year old poet named Garcia Madero. He becomes entangled with a group of poets who name themselves the visceral realists. Even if you search this term, all you get are mentions of Bolaño and this novel. It's a form of poetry that is discussed at length in the text, but as with any avant-garde form of art, it's true form is never pinpointed. It's un-pinpoint-ability is part of what it is.

The second part features over 40 narrators. It's confusing, and at some times mindless. Some narrators only feature once, and some come in waves of repetition. It took me a while to link this mass of scenes, but the one thing they all have in common is that these people have met Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, the founders of visceral realism. These people tell stories that span twenty years as well as multiple continents. Movement between chapters and narratives is harsh and abrupt. It constantly keeps you questioning and leads you off into different realms of thought. Again, I feel as though this is part of the idea of visceral realism.

If you define 'visceral' you come across the idea of something relating to ones feelings rather than to ones intellect. This features throughout The Savage Detectives. We're met with  crude sexual scenes, scenes of abject poverty, alcoholism and the desire to learn. Belano and Lima do not do what they need to do in life, they do what they feel like doing. 

The final section picks up exactly where the first section leaves off. Belano, Lima and Garcia Madero are travelling across the desert with a prostitute they saved from her pimp. The pimp is hot on their tails, but they're also in search of a visceral realist poetess, who has only ever published one piece of work. This final section follows them in their journey to the heart of visceral realism. 

Have you read this? What did you think?

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Review of 'The Sorrows of Young Werther' by Johann W Goethe

Review of 'The Sorrows of Young Werther' by Johann W Goethe

The Sorrows of Young Werther has been heralded to me as a great work of European literature forever, and it's something that a lot of Romantic authors have alluded to in their novels. I was expecting a tome of intense language and powerful scenes, and I have to admit that I was left feeling a little underwhelmed whilst reading the first two-thirds of the novel. But, as the novel started to reach its end I finally saw why this has its own pedestal in the literary world.

Goethe actually wrote The Sorrows of Werther within six weeks, and it's a vaguely autobiographical account. The majority of the novel is formed through letters from Werther to his friend Wilhelm, whilst the last section is more of a narrative. 

Werther moves to the countryside at the beginning of the novel, and falls in love with a peasant girl named Charlotte. There's one problem: she's already engaged. But, Werther continues to befriend this motherless girl who is rearing her younger siblings. 

Soon, the sadness Werther feels at the fact that he cannot have a relationship with Charlotte begins to overwhelm him and he moves away. Eventually he realises that he cannot be away from Charlotte, and sinks into a deeper depression.

Werther returns to the countryside, and finds Charlotte married to her beau. The pain he feels is getting worse and worse, but he just can't keep away. Eventually, Charlotte is forced to ask him to leave her, and things go rapidly downhill from there ...

Have you read it? What did you think?

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Review of 'Room' by Emma Donoghue

Review of 'Room' by Emma Donoghue

People have been recommending Room to me for years. As in, I remember people telling me to read it when I was still in school, which is over five years ago now! But, I put it off and put it off and now I finally realise what I've been missing out on. Room is so well written, terrifying, thoughtful and endearing. I honestly could not put it down. It's also the first book I've read from the perspective of a child that actually nails what it's like to be a child. We see everything from Jacks perspective, and there are often times when he's confused or scared, and adult conversations go completely over the top of his head. But, he knows what he wants and what he needs. He isn't a perfect kid: he throws tantrums and annoys people, but that makes him seem even more real.

Room begins with five-year-old Jack and his Ma living in a room. Jack believes they have everything they need there: they've got Bed, Rug, Plant, Bath, Wardrobe and all his homemade toys. But, what Jack doesn't realise is that there's a whole world outside of Room ...

Jack's convinced that this is all there is to life, him and his Ma in room. And Old Nick, a man who enters in the night, makes the bed creak and brings them something they ask for as a Sunday Treat. Jack always wants to ask for something fun, but Ma says they need things like vitamins. Jack's Ma makes him keep fit by doing exercises each day and not just sitting in front of the TV.

Now that Jack's five, his Ma begins to backtrack on all the lies she's told him to make things easier. She tells him that there's life outside of Room, and that people on the TV are real, not just make believe. Jack struggles to get his head around it, and thinks she might be losing her mind ... hospitals and skyscrapers and helicopters and the sea can't be real, can they?

Soon Ma begins to hatch a plan to get them out of Room, but Jack's not sure he wants to go anywhere. He's happy to stay with his Ma in Room forever. 

This was such an incredible read, and I would highly recommend it if you enjoy thrillers!

Monday, 19 June 2017

Review of 'The Great Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Review of 'The Great Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I'm a BIG fan of BBC1's Sherlock series. I'm always gutted that each series is only three episodes long, but they are incredible. And yet, I've put off reading any Sherlock Holmes novels for years. I've always wondered how an entire show with multiple series' could be based around a couple of books, but now I see: each chapter of the novels (I assume it's the same for all of Conan Doyle's works as well as The Great Adventures) encompasses a new mystery. 

Sherlock Holmes has become a household name because he is the first detective in the English literary crime canon who used intuition to solve crimes rather than clues. This strikes a massive difference to what would then have been more traditional mysteries. I am a big fan of the intuitive detective: TV crime shows are my thing, and The Mentalist (a show all about a man using his intuition to solve crimes) is one of my favourites. I can't imagine this genre not existing. 

Also, now that I've read one of the books, I can see how Benedict Cumberbatch is the PERFECT fit for playing Sherlock Holmes. The detective is quirky, tall, and likes to brood. I honestly couldn't imagine anyone else playing him so well. Anyhow, let's actually get on to reviewing the book shall we?

The novel is written from the perspective of Dr Watson, who is Sherlock Holmes' second-hand man. Watson is always a few steps behind Sherlock, but he documents their adventures together. The pair come up against an array of mysteries in the novel, including kidnapping, bank robbery and murder. Sherlock always has a great many cases that he is being asked to work on, often by Scotland Yard, as his opinion is so highly revered.

Once on the scene of a crime, Sherlock sets to work examining every last detail visible to the naked eye. From here, and from interviewing witnesses, or the victims of the crimes, he begins to form an image of who may be responsible, or what exactly is going on. Then he is able to make a focused inquiry into the crime and ultimately arrive at his conclusion far before anyone else can.

If you're interested in crime novels, especially how they've developed in the last few centuries, then I would definitely recommend giving this a go!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Review of 'Highly Illogical Behaviour' by John Corey Whaley

Review of 'Highly Illogical Behaviour' by John Corey Whaley

I really haven't read a good number of mental health related fiction novels, despite being very interested in the genre. Highly Illogical Fiction is a young adult book which deals with acute agoraphobia and the anxiety that comes with it. In my opinion, the author tackles the subject excellently: there are no sudden cures to the protagonist's mental illness,  but there is gradual improvement, and that's what recovery is all about. 

Solomon hasn't left the house in three years. Not even just to enter his back yard. Three years ago, things came to a head with Solomon's mental health, and he had a breakdown at school, stripping down, jumping into a fountain and staying there until he was removed. After that, he realised he couldn't bear leaving the house again. His panic attacks had become so frequent and so severe that they were no longer something he could handle.

Three years on and Solomon is doing a little better. Yes, he doesn't leave his home, but he keeps up with schoolwork and the panic attacks are less frequent, albeit they still occur. Everything is going fairly smoothly, and nothing is changing: just as Solomon wants. That is, until Liza comes around.

Liza Praytor wants nothing more than to leave her hometown by getting a scholarship to a good university to study psychology. But she needs to write a paper on her experience with mental illness. Not suffering from a mental illness herself, Liza hardly believes her luck when she goes to a new dentist and it turns out to be Solomon's (aka the crazy fountain kid's) mum. After a little snooping, Liza finds out that he's still stuck at home, and decides to befriend him and write her paper on how she's going to help to make him better.

Solomon reluctantly agrees to meet with this girl who sent him a letter via his mother, asking for them to be friends. Their friendship blossoms, and she begins to help him with his panic attacks. There's just one problem: Solomon has no idea that this is all going on record; an experiment aimed to get Liza the place at university that she wants ...

Have you read it? What did you think?

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Review of 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' by Truman Capote

Review of 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' by Truman Capote

And I said, what about, Breakfast at Tiffany's, she said she thinks she remembers that film.

I've had these lyrics stuck in my head for as long as I've been reading this novel, and I'm pretty sure everyone's sick of me constantly singing it. It goes to show how much this novel has affected modern culture: we have songs about it, a film about it. Speaking of the film, it features one of Audrey Hepburn's most iconic acting and looks. I had to see what all the fuss was about.

I was honestly surprised with the sexual liberation that emerged in Breakfast at Tiffany's. It actually challenges some conservative ideas that people still hold today. Holly Golightly, our protagonist, is essentially an escort. She earns her way through life by attaching herself to rich men, and doing (mostly) what they wish. Despite being accused of whoring herself out by several characters, Holly has only slept with seven men. 

Sadly for our narrator, he was not one of the seven, and at some points I'm sure he would have loved to have been. Through him, we realise that Holly is a woman who will never be boxed into a corner. All her possessions are eternally ready to move at any point. She can flit from one lover to another. She's almost an ethereal being in this respect: things and people don't impact Holly, Holly impacts things and people. 

I was truly surprised, and honestly happy to see that Holly was not straight. This is probably the oldest book that I've read in which a bisexual main character exists, and is free with the information about it. There are points at which Holly calls herself a 'dyke' in pretense; she uses the word to get out of sexual encounters with men. However, she does mention having sex with a woman at one point. This unfortunately fits into the homophobic rhetoric of bisexual women being promiscuous and sleeping around, but we do find out that Holly does not have as much sex as she seems to be having. 

I think this is such an important book to read, and to compare to American novels written a couple of decades beforehand. I haven't read many North American books written in the early 1960s, so it really felt like a massive shift was had when I came across this.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Review of 'The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes' by Anna McPartlin

Review of 'The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes' by Anna McPartlin

I knew this novel would be a tear-jerker from the start, but I wasn't prepared for just how attached I'd get to all of the characters. Reading this book made me feel like I was part of the Hayes family, and to ultimately lose one of them was devastating. Also, I haven't put a spoiler alert on this because the title makes it fairly clear that we're going to lose somebody during the course of the story.

Mia Hayes has been coined Rabbit ever since Johnny, a member of her older brother Davey's band coined the name for her due to her high long pigtails, and habit of scrunching her nose up to push her glasses up. Rabbit is obsessed with Johnny, and despite being four years younger than him, she never loves another boy. She spends all her spare time listening to Kitchen Sink, the band, playing in her parents' garage, and even ends up becoming their sound engineer when they start doing actual gigs.

This isn't how the reader first meets Rabbit though. We meet her as she's moved into a hospice to ease the pain she's suffering from with her stage four cancer. Rabbit thought the cancer was gone after it took her first breast, and then her second, but now it's so deep-rooted that it's made its way into her bones, and she's suffering from a serious break. 

What's worse is that no one can quite stomach the idea of telling Rabbit's 12-year-old daughter Juliet. Neither Rabbit nor Juliet know who Juliet's father is, and so it's always just been the pair of them, sticking together. The rest of the family: Rabbit's parents and her siblings, have rallied round. No one wants to believe that sweet Rabbit is quite literally on her death bed, and we go through a journey with each family member and how they begin to accept that they might lose their Rabbit.

This was such a beautiful novel. I would definitely recommend it!