Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

My Heart and Other Black Holes - Jasmine Warga



Synopsis

Aysel and Roman are practically strangers, but they've been drawn into an unthinkable partnership. In a month's time, they plan to commit suicide - together.

Aysel knows why she wants to die: being the daughter of a murderer doesn't equal normal, well-adjusted teenager. But she can't figure out why handsome, popular Roman wants to end it all....and why he's even more determined than she is.

With the deadline getting closer, something starts to grow between Aysel and Roman - a feeling she never thought she would experience. It seems there might be something to live for, after all - but is Aysel in so deep she can't turn back?
 

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'Maybe we all have darkness inside of us and some of us are better at dealing with it than others.'

I was keen to read My Heart and Other Black Holes when I found out about it, as the storyline and themes really interest me personally. I read it quickly and found the story gripping and compelling, and I felt compassion for Aysel and Roman, two young people, total strangers, who plan to take their own lives, together. 

For the most part I thought this was an excellent book; I was so glad to see something written in young adult fiction exploring difficult, complex feelings of guilt, and dealing with deep depression, and in this case focussing on teenagers. This is an impressive, moving and honest debut novel with a frank and well portrayed depiction of depression, sadness and self-blame. 

There are some excellent scenes and a real understanding and compassion of depression is demonstrated in the writing, as well as the difficulty some people can have with interactions with others, retreating into themselves so far that their outlook on the world becomes very bleak indeed, believing they are everything their illness tells them they are. The author convincingly depicts problems within different relationships, whether between siblings, mother-daughter, mother-son - so as well as depression and the individual, the novel looks at different family structures and friendships too and how they are affected. 

My main quibble was that I personally was not a hundred percent sure about the ending and whether it felt right to me, but I would definitely recommend others read this novel and decide for themselves. This story affected me in the way I think I thought the book The Fault in Our Stars would but didn't. 

I read a proof copy a while ago now and I hope when the finished book appears here in the UK that there will be appropriate help and support links at the back for the UK for anyone who might need them (as the novel is set in the USA). I do think it is important that topics like this are covered, sensitively. 

I did find parts of this story upsetting and notice my mood drop, so if you doubt your strength do think about whether it is the right time for you to read this, and whether it will help you. 

Review copy received via amazon vine 

Monday, 13 April 2015

You can find me...

...over on Josie's blog JaffaReadsToo today; it was lovely to be asked to take part in her Bloggers on the Blog feature, and this week it is the turn of The Little Reader Library.


Thank you very much to Josie and Jaffa for having me as a guest. I enjoyed answering your questions and I love your blog. 

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Wednesday, 1 April 2015

My March 2015 reading round-up

I took part in the Take Control of your TBR Pile challenge in March, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.


I managed to read these books from my TBR pile in March:

How Green Was My Valley - Richard Llewellyn
The Auschwitz Violin - Maria Angels Anglada




I started these TBR pile books in March too, but am still reading them so will hopefully finish them in April:

The Silkworm - Robert Galbraith
Poirot Investigates - Agatha Christie
Forbidden - Tabitha Suzuma


I also read two non-fiction books in March, Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig and Making Friends with Anxiety by Sarah Rayner.

I read two graphic novels from the library, The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman and Marbles by Ellen Forney. 

And I listened to an unabridged audio book, also from my tbr, The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry, which was brilliant.

I plan to carry on reading mainly from my tbr pile this year, it wasn't just a goal for March. I want to read more of those lovely books that have been waiting too long. 



Books reviewed in March on the blog: 


The Leipzig Affair by Fiona Rintoul




Also featured:







Book(s) of the month for March...

I loved several this month, and I will have to pick two again...





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What was your favourite read in March 2015?

I hope you had a good March, and that April brings lots of good books for us all too!

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Monday, 30 March 2015

Station Eleven - Emily St John Mandel


Synopsis



DAY ONE
The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb.
News reports put the mortality rate at over 99%.

WEEK TWO
Civilization has crumbled.

YEAR TWENTY
A band of actors and musicians called the Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe.
But now a new danger looms, and he threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild.

Moving backwards and forwards in time, from the glittering years just before the collapse to the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after, Station Eleven charts the unexpected twists of fate that connect six people: famous actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan - warned about the flu just in time; Arthur's first wife Miranda; Arthur's oldest friend Clark; Kirsten, a young actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed 'prophet'.
Thrilling, unique and deeply moving, this is a beautiful novel that asks questions about art and fame and about the relationships that sustain us through anything - even the end of the world. 





Review

'We bemoaned the impersonality of the modern world, but that was a lie, it seemed to him; it had never been impersonal at all.'


What an amazing read. 

I absolutely loved this novel, it is incredibly thought-provoking, shocking, sad, yet also strangely uplifting at times. It's clever, inventive, impressive, at times chilling and haunting, at times heartwarming, and quite unlike anything I think I have ever read before really. I think I was unsure whether it would be a book for me, and I'm so glad I started reading it because I would have missed out on such a captivating, important book if I hadn't. 

The narrative is so beautifully knitted together over the course of the book. I was absorbed by this story, it deserves all the praise and plaudits it has received. 

I loved each of the characters - I think my favourites were Jeevan, Kirsten and Clark though - and I just loved how the author brought their stories together. Her evident storytelling skills and marvellous imagination bring us a frighteningly vivid and conceivable scenario for our planet's future, her understanding of the best and worst of human behaviour gives us an insight into a strange, unfamiliar version of our world, yet with common bonds of friendship and love, appreciation of music and theatre - most of all Shakespeare, cleverly woven into the story - , families and beauty, living on. 

By sharing these catastrophic times with the reader through poignant details of several individuals' lives, we can identify with them, and the momentous changes are almost given more impact through the small yet devastating details we learn (I hope that makes sense). So when I read 'Jeevan was standing by the window when the lights went out. There was a stupid moment or two when he stood near the front door, flipping the light switches. On/off, on/off', I knew that this small thing, an action we all do so many times per day, was actually huge, life-changing, now, because that was the last time, because the power was gone, full stop. 

It’s an extremely memorable book. The characters and some of the circumstances are still vividly in my mind now and it feels like they'll be there for some time to come. For me it was a page-turner yet I did actually sometimes put it down because I wanted to savour it, and to save some of it a bit longer; I didn't want the experience of reading it to be over too quickly.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the book even when I wasn't reading it though; I was either thinking about the situations one or the other of the characters were in, or thinking about how I might feel if I actually was one of them. I don't want to say much about what happens or how things change because you need to discover that as you read, but I was particularly fascinated by the airport and life there after the pandemic, as well as life on the road for the Travelling Symphony, and for Jeevan. 

It's beyond hard to comprehend the level of devastation that has occurred in the world of this story, to image a life continuing without so very many of the people and things that we treasure. 

It really made me think about our lives and our world, it made me appreciate a lot of things in the world anew - definitely a good thing - and it beautifully highlights what is most important to humanity. 

I don't think I can get anywhere near doing it justice, please do try it though and don't be put off by the 'dystopian' tag - I am not a reader of post-apocalyptic fiction, or anything particularly futuristic, but I thought this was amazingly good. If this review comes off as overly enthusiastic it's because that's how I feel about this book. 

I love the cover design too. It was really hard to know what to read next after this book because it was superlative in so many ways, everything else seemed not quite right for a while afterwards.

Just a superb, brilliant book and one of my absolute favourite reads this year so far. 

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Wednesday, 25 March 2015

My 4th Blogiversary & Giveaway

The blog has been going for four years now which seems amazing to me. Thank you to everyone who has visited and been part of it over that time. 

I'm holding a giveaway to celebrate!




The prize is a brand new copy of Love Virtually by Daniel Glattauer, bought by myself. 
(You can read my review of this book here.)The giveaway is open until Thursday 2nd April 2015. 
The giveaway is open internationally.
Please enter using the rafflecopter form below.
The winner will be chosen at random and contacted - if I don't hear from them within 48 hours another winner may be chosen at random. 
Good luck and thanks very much for visiting.

~

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 23 March 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?




It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. 

I finished reading Station Eleven  and I have to say I thought it was utterly brilliant and incredibly thought provoking. I really have been thinking about it a lot of the time when I was out walking the dog etc. It's definitely one of my favourite books of the year so far, and it surprised me because I wouldn't have expected to necessarily enjoy 'this kind of book' if that makes sense!  


I'm just started reading The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, another one from my tbr pile. I enjoyed The Cuckoo's Calling a lot, and this second book in the series feature private investigator Cormoran Strike has gotten off to an intriguing start too. 


I'm also currently dipping in and out of reading Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie on my kindle; this one is the third in the series I believe and it is short stories rather than a whole novel.


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What are you reading this week? 

As always, I hope you have a great week of wonderful reading, and thank you for visiting.

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Friday, 20 March 2015

Disclaimer - Renee Knight


Synopsis

Finding a mysterious novel at her bedside plunges documentary filmmaker Catherine Ravenscroft into a living nightmare. Though ostensibly fiction, The Perfect Stranger recreates in vivid, unmistakable detail the terrible day she became hostage to a dark secret, a secret that only one other person knew—and that person is dead.

Now that the past is catching up with her, Catherine’s world is falling apart. Her only hope is to confront what really happened on that awful day . . . even if the shocking truth might destroy her.


Review

‘Catherine had unwittingly stumbled across herself tucked into the pages of the book.’

Disclaimer is a really compelling debut novel from Renee Knight. The narrative has a clever structure and the premise of the story is a real cracker – starting to read a novel and discovering the story is about you, hence the title ‘disclaimer’ – in the novel Catherine Ravenscroft picks up, The Perfect Stranger, there is a line crossing the usual disclaimer out, because although it appears to be fiction, in fact it very much does resemble ‘actual persons’ and events. Not only is the story all about an episode in Catherine’s past, with accurate details, but it also reveals a deep, dark and painful secret that she believed she had successfully buried long ago, kept from everyone including her husband and son, never to be uncovered. The other main character we are introduced to is widower and former teacher Stephen Brigstocke, and chapters alternate between his story in the first-person, and Catherine’s in the third. I was intrigued to see how their lives, and initially seemingly unconnected worlds, would intersect as the novel progressed.

With a page-turning, tense plot, boasting twists and revelations as secrets and lies come to light bit by bit, the past comes back to haunt Catherine and as a reader it was a book I kept wanting to get back to, wondering where the story would take me next. The author does a great job of keeping the reader guessing and wondering about the true nature of what occurred in the past, challenging our assumptions and maintaining suspense, depicting her characters in such a way as to make us unsure as to where our true sympathies should lie. 

The story is thought-provoking, questioning the wisdom of the secrets people keep, and the novel deals with loneliness, love, intimidation, obsession and revenge, violence and trust – I won’t say more because the story must be discovered without spoilers. I would have liked perhaps a bit more detail about Robert, Catherine’s husband, to flesh him out a little more clearly. Overall though I thought this was a gripping story. Sometimes psychological thrillers such as this are very strong plot-wise for part of the book but then waver or tail off; for me, in this one the storyline stayed strong until the end. 

Review copy received via amazon vine
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