Sunday, 27 August 2017

#45 All the light we cannot see

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I read somewhere that it took the author 10 years to finish this story so my expectations were pretty high, this did not disappoint. I loved it. The writing style is so beautiful. The way the stories weave into each other is so masterfully done. The author manages to make you care about every single character.

The story is set in both Germany and France during the midst of world war ll. In Germany we follow the story of a young boy, Werner is a gifted child who is enlisted into the Hitler youth and sent to fight a war that he does not believe in. As a child he was an orphan who lived in a childrens home with his younger sister, Jutta. He spends his days fixing radios and building technology with spare parts until at the age of 13 he is sent away.

Marie-Laure lives in France and is a young blind girl. She lives with her father whom she is dependant on. Her father builds her mini models of the streets so she can learn to navigate unaided through the streets. When the Germans invade Paris Marie-Laure and her father are forced to flee to Saint Malo where they seek the shelter of her great uncle Etienne. Etienne is a 60 year old agoraphobic who is affected really badly from PTSD. When Marie-Laures father is arrested and moved to Germany she is left in the care of her great uncle and his house keeper, Madame Manec. Etienne owns one of the last remaining radios in France and broadcasts secret messages for the resistance.

When Werner hears Etienne and Marie-Laure's broadcasts he makes the decision to abadon his post and try to rescue them.

The story follows the lives of several characters throughout time, the plot ranges from when Marie-Laure and Werner are six until present day. There is a lot of sadness in this story and at times it can be a difficult read.

Monday, 5 June 2017

#44 Behind Closed Doors

Behind Closed Doors by B A Paris

Behind Closed Doors is a psychological thriller that follows the story of married couple Jack and Grace Angel. They appear to be the perfect couple to all their friends but they dont know what is happening behind closed doors.

Jack and Grace meet in the park by chance one Sunday afternoon. Grace is on a day out with her seventeen year old sister Millie who has Downs Syndrome. No man has ever accepted Millie as a big part of Graces life which has always stopped her from having long term and serious relationships. Graces and Millies parents did not want to carry on with the pregnancy when they found out that Millie would have Downs Syndrome so Grace became her primary carer when she refused to let her mother abort the pregnancy. Millie attends a boarding school but will be released into Graces care on her eighteenth birthday.

When Jack is completely accepting of Millie, Grace believes she has found the perfect man. After introducing him to her parents they find themselves engaged and planning a wedding. On their wedding night everything changes as Jack disappears and ignores all of Graces calls and texts. The next day as they are due to travel to Thailand for their honeymoon Jack shows a different side of his character. He steals Graces passport and purse and informs her that she will basically be living as his prisoner. He informs the staff at the hotel that she is mentally ill and suffers from paranoia and anxiety so any time she tries to escape the staff believe it to be down to her illnesses.

When they return from Thailand she is confined to the house that has bars on the windows and every door is locked. Grace is kept in a small room with an en suite. She has no tv, books or anything to entertain her. Jack dictates what she wears, says and does. They hold dinner parties in which Grace must act like the perfect wife and play into their facade of being the perfect couple.

Grace complies to Jacks wishes as he blackmails Grace with her sister Millie. Firstly by not allowing her to visit her at boarding school and also by threatening to scare Millie and lock her in the basement when she comes to live with them when she is eighteen. As Grace is so attached to Millie she will bow down to Jacks wishes in order to protect Millie.

The most compelling thing about this story is that it is so realistic! As you are reading you cant help but think that this could happen in real life and it is almost sickening. Parts of this story actually scared me and Jack as an antagonist is so believable. Grace is a slightly annoying character but she is also very believable.

I have often heard this compared to Gone Girl but they arent similar at all and i found this story to more realistic than Gone Girl although i ended up rating both 4 stars. This is a must read if you enjoy thrillers.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

#43 Lion

Lion by Saroo Brierley

Lion is the true story of how 5 year old Saroo gets lost in India and is ultimately adopted by an Australian couple and moved across the world, the book follows his journey as he tries to get back to his family 25 years later. 

Im a sucker for a true story, especially one that can make me weep like a little girl. This made me happy in parts and sad in others, it really was a roller coaster of emotions! I felt so immersed in the story and that doesnt happen to me very often. 

Saroo comes from an extremley poor family in India, his father left him and his siblings for another woman meaning his mother worked long hours 6 days a week. His two older brothers also went out doing odd jobs and scavaging for food so that Saroo and his little sister could eat. One night Saroo's older brother is going out to clean at the train station to earn a little money and Saroo decides that he wants to go too. As his older brother goes off to work leaving Saroo sleeping on a bench, when he doesnt return Saroo is left stranded with no way of getting home. Saroo doesnt know his last name or the town that he lives he is lost with no way of getting back. He boards the nearest train and gets stuck  in the carriage, he then travels half way across India.

This story isnt for the faint hearted, Saroo lives on the streets for several months before he ends up in the childrens home that leads to his adoption. He faces many issues whilst living on the streets, he is constantly hungry and scared whilst searching for a safe place to sleep. I often found myself welling up whilst reading. 

When Saroo is finally adopted his new parents move him to their home in Australia where he must learn English and adapt to a western way of life. He slowly begins to tell his new parents his story and they encourage him to draw maps of his hometown and write down all his memories so he is unable to forget. Saroo adapts well to his new Australian life and doesnt begin his search for his family and hometown until he is in his twenties with the help of Google  Earth he spends months trawling through the remote countryside of India searching for the train station that he once boarded a train which took him far away from home.

When he finally after months of searching finds what he believes to be his home he makes the decision to travel there to be sure and to also find his mother and siblings. Upon arriving in India he realises that he was correct and he had found his hometown. His mother had moved home but through a chance encounter with a man that spoke good English he was soon reunited with his mother. He was later reunited with his older brother and younger sister. He had many unanswered questions regarding why his brother hadnt come back for him the night he got lost but sadly his brother was involved in an accident that same night and had died. This made me cry more than any other part of the story. 

As Saroo reconnects with his family he also tells them many stories of his new family and soon he introduces the two families.

This is such a heart warming page turning story. It reads as fiction as you cannot fathom that such a story is true and that it actually happened to a 5 year old who managed to survive. The happy ending is extremely

uplifting and you are left feeling euphoric by the end of the story.


Wednesday, 10 May 2017

#42 Snot Girl

Snot Girl by Bryan Lee O'Malley

The newest graphic novel from the epic artist that brought up Scott Pilgrim and Seconds. If you like his art style you will love this as it follows the same aesthetic. I was a but worried as 'Snot Girl' looked a bit strange as a concept and something i probably would have dismissed from seeing it on the shelf. Alas i received this as a birthday gift so obviously gave it a go.

Snot Girl follows Lottie Price a fashion blogger who suffers from allergies hence the name Snot Girl. The plot follows her online life and how this differs to who she is in real life away from her online presence. Lottie is highly insecure which doesnt align with her confident image that she portrays on her blog. Her insecurities are made worse by her constant allergies which cause excessive snot.

The highlights of this graphic novel for me is that its very funny, well written and a unique art style. I enjoyed the story line as it was different from any other Image graphic novel i have read. Lottie is a strange protagonist but theres something very vulnerable and likeable about her. Shes quite quirky with her style and bright green hair. I enjoyed the cliff hanger ending which made me want to pick up the next volume asap. It has a similar feel to Scott Pilgrim which was the first graphic novel i ever read and will always have a place in my heart, the similar feel made me love it immediately.

The main downfalls are the lack of character development, the only real character in this is Lottie. She has a few 'friends' but they are bland and whilst reading you dont even pay much attention to them, i would probably struggle to even name any of them and i only finished this 1 hour ago, they are completely forgettable.

All in all this was really good and i would recommend to anyone who enjoys image comics.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

#41 Six Of Crows

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

This is the first part of a duology which takes place in Bardugo's Grisha universe. It is told in 6 points of view chapter by chapter. It is following their journey as they embark on an impossible quest. It is a fantasy book with criminal aspects, each character is very bad with few redeeming qualities. Basically they are all thugs and thieves. There will be a few minor spoilers in this review so read on with caution.

First off let me start by saying i really struggle with fantasy books! I just cant seem to get on with them with a few exceptions of books i read when i was younger its pretty safe to say that fantasy is my least read genre in more recent years.Having said that ive heard so many good things about this book and thought id check it out.

The main characters this book follows are Kaz, Nina, Inej, Matthias, Jesper and Wylan. All the characters are introduced with a past and are all very complex with many many issues. Kaz is the leader and possibly the most flawed character, he was very smart and orchestrated the heist very well. Nina is very sassy and is a very loyal Grisha, she was an amazing character and possibly my favourite. Matthias is also very complex, he had the most development, he changed his view point from the beginning to the end. Jesper who i love is from a race that was never mentioned before, he is a gambler and a loose cannon, hes multi talented and has so much more to come in the next book. He is also a gay character and you dont see that an awful lot in fantasy books. Wylan is always in the back ground, you dont get much of his back story or his point of view. I cant wait to see what happens in the next book in terms of growth for his character.

Ketterdam as a city is actually pretty well described and i imagined it really well in my head. I love when an author can set the scene perfectly and credit where credits due it is one of Bardugo's strengths. 

The ending is very very VERY open ended, the next book is highly anticipated. They left a few stories on a cliff hanger especially Inej. I wasnt overly fussed on the story until the last 60 pages, they really made me want to find out what will happen next. 

I did like this but i thought The Grisha Trilogy was better (sorry). If anthing this just made me want to re-read Shadow and Bone. 3 out of 5 stars. 

Monday, 26 September 2016

#40 In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

This is a non fiction book published in 1966 that follows the murders of The Clutter family in a small town in Kansas. This tells the story of true events but is written in the style of a novel. The murders were researched heavily by Capote but the use of dialogue to tell the story is mostly fictional. Although this is written as a novel it is packed with information that you would expect from a non fiction book. I struggled somewhat with it as i believe that non fiction should be written as true accounts and at times when reading this i had to remind myself that it was based on true events. This gives point of views from the victims, the suspects, the investigators and the people living in the town, which in turn gives a very holistic view of the story.

Capote takes his time with telling this story and its written very precisely, parts of it read as unnecessary filler to me. The lead detective is written rather unrealistically and his part in the investigation and the trial is often romantisised and exaggerated, it made for some cringe worthy reading.

Mr Clutter and his family are written as an all American, normal and happy family. Its easy for the reader to like them and sympathize with them in the fictional style they are written as you gain a sense of who they are as people. This makes the trial so much more hard hitting as you will as if you know the Clutter family and not like you are just going through the motions like you would with a non fiction book or a documentary.

I love true crime novels and documentaries but what made me most uncomfortable with this was the humanizing of the murderers. Just because they are written as sensitive people that couldnt make sense of what they had done doesnt mean they are less worthy of serving time for committing a horrible crime. Its easy to see that Capote spent a lot of time with these people and had a lot of bias towards them but for me he should of just wrote it like it was, a heinous crime.

There are many book to movie adaptations of this book that i think would be worth checking out and also a movie starring Philip Seymour Hoffman entitled 'Capote' which follows the writing of this book. This may offer a different interpretation of this story and may change my mind on a few things, either way i think ill check both out as this was most enjoyable and really quite gripping especially the final 100 pages.

Recommended for anyone who loved the podcast Serial or the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer.

Monday, 4 July 2016

#39 Dark Places

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

This book follows the story of the Day family. The mum Patty, her daughters Michelle, Debby and Libby and her eldest child and only son Ben. They live on a farm in the small town of Kansas City, Missouri. When half of the family (Patty, Michelle and Debby) are murdered Ben is immediately arrested and charged with their murders. 25 years later Libby the only surviving daughter embarks on trying to find the truth if her big brother did indeed kill her family.

The story is told in character chapters, mainly Libby, Ben and Patty and flits between past and present day. What i really enjoy is that you are given a clear image of each character and they all have individual personalities and quirks. Ben is a typical emo angsty teen that has 3 annoying little sisters, a dead beat dad and an overbearing yet clueless mother. Michelle and Debby are whiney and annoying,  stereo typical little girls really. Libby, our protagonist has lived as a surviving victim of this tragedy her entire life, she was shipped between relatives until she finally ended up in care. She has never worked a day in her life as after the murders the local people of Kansas City and further afield set up a fund for her and she lives off that right up until the beginning of the story.

When the fund runs out and Libby has very little money to pay rent and survive on she goes to speak at 'The Kill Club' a group of like minded people that are obsessed with serial killers and the cases. She is offered some money to look into the case and speak to the other people involved such as Runner Day, Diondra who was Bens girlfriend and Diane who was Pattys sister and Libbys aunt. She is paid to speak to them and to try and prove that Ben is innocent. With help from The Kill Clubs founder Lyle, Libby embarks on a journey to find out what really happened on the night of the murders.

In true Gillian Flynn style the story is full of suspense and you really have no clue what happens until the last few chapters, its almost fed to you in drips and drabs but not fully summarized until the last chapter. 

I really enjoyed this book, not more than Gone Girl but on a par with Sharp Objects. This writing style is flawless and you are sucked in from the first page. I worked out the ending of Gone Girl but this book had me stumped as to who really did it. I had a clear idea of who i thought did it but i was miles off! 

4 out of 5 stars from me.