Book Review: Wonder by R J Palacio

11387515This is a Young Adult/Children’s novel with a message which is just as valid for adults as it is for children and teenagers.

The story isĀ about August, a ten year old boy with a facial abnormality, and his journey into mainstream school. It is a book about bullying, acceptance, empathy and friendship. It is a book that emphasises the understanding of people as people and not just faces. It is a book that confronts the way in which people react to those who are different. It confronts the ignorance, the fear and the stupidity of selfish, self righteous fools. One example of this confrontation is with Julian and his parents, who epitomise this ignorance, and are the focus of all of my bad thoughts whilst reading this book.

It is well written, from the perspectives of different characters within the novel, each getting to express their opinions and allowing us an insight into their minds. I understand that there are some critics who may feel like having all of these voices throws the novel, or doesn’t allow us to get deep enough into the characters’ feelings. I, however, think that this change of narrator is essential with the subject of the book. The fact that it is all about how we deal with people who are different from us makes it necessary to understand not only the feelings of August, as being different, but also the feelings of those around him, with how the deal with all his differentness. I understand that the most important perspective is indeed August’s. However, in order to learn about empathy, children (who I am sure that this book is aimed at) need to understand how others react, and what the correct way is to react to those who are different from themselves.

Palacio manages to capture the voices of these characters well, so that it is entirely believable that I am reading the words of children. I am hoping that this, along with the short, easy to read chapters, will allow me to read this book with my students. In fact, I can imagine this book becoming part of the English syllabus in the near future. I certainly think it would be a good lesson for students today to learn a little about empathy.



Book Review: May We Be Forgiven by A M Homes

May-We-Be-ForgivenPB-649x999This book instantly captures you with the seriously high paced beginning. There is a Thanksgiving meal, Harold’s niece and nephew are glued to their phones, nobody is helping Jane, Harold’s sister-in-law, clean up, and Harold and Jane have a moment in the kitchen. Shortly after that, when George (Harold’s brother) and Jane’s kids are back at their boarding schools, George crashes his car causing a young boy to become orphaned. George goes mad and is locked up. Harold keeps Jane company while his own wife, Claire, is away on a business trip. Things then heat up between Harold and Jane, who end up getting it together. George somehow escapes, and comes home, finding his wife in bed with his brother. He goes even crazier and kills his wife with a lamp.

That synopsis may seem like a spoiler, but it seriously isn’t, this all happens within the first few pages. After reading this I was left thinking, what can happen now? What is there left that can really happen? But then, the story takes a complete turn. It turns into a novel about humanity, about human emotion and about treasuring life beyond the materials.

Harold becomes the guardian of his niece and nephew, Ashley and Nate, who teach him about being a real person. Throughout the novel a once lonely Harold picks up friendships, and soon his family grows wildly. I did like how during the beginning, when Harold was this kind of unfeeling statue of a person, there were aspects of the way it was written that were reminiscent in Bret Easton Ellis’ work – the whole sociopathic monologues anyway. There are so many elements of this novel to put into a single review, murder, paedophilia, sex addiction, prescription drug addiction, affairs and way way more.

In all honesty, though, this book hasn’t changed my life. It has kept me occupied, it has entertained me, but it hasn’t changed me like I would have expected. One thing I felt both enhanced the book and let it down was Nate’s young age. He is such an insightful, genuine and intelligent character, that it is just not realistic that he is only 12 years old.

Nonetheless, it is a good book, and you would have to read it yourself to truly understand it.


Book Review: Oh Dear Silvia by Dawn French

Firstly, I have to say that I love Dawn French. I grew up watching comedies on the old Beeb starring Dawn, and I have very fond memories of those times.

This is the first book I have encountered of hers, but thanks to some googling and wikipedia, I discovered that she has written more.

So, on to the book review, and I am afraid that it will be short. I read this book because I wanted something light to read. I think it was in a half term holiday or something so I had time off from work and didn’t want to delve into anything deep. Well, it was definitely a light read, and I do remember laughing.

The trouble is, that is all I can remember. I remember finding the book funny at some points, but I remember practically nothing about the story. I have tried reading the blurb to try and jog my memory – but still nothing.

So to conclude, it is a light read, and is occasionally funny, it’s just not memorable. I would only recommend this if you were looking for something seriously light, it’s a book to pass time with but not much more than that.


Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

gone-girlSpoiler Alert: You’ve probably already read this, but just in case you haven’t, there will be spoilers in this review. Gone Girl was one of those books that was so hyped up last year that you kind of had to read it just to be involved in the ‘book hype’ of 2013.

Firstly, I have Gone Girl and Gillian Flynn to thank for me exploring the genre of contemporary thriller, and since reading Gone Girl I have read two more of Flynn’s novels: Sharp Objects and Dark Places, both of which I thought were really good.

Gone Girl is the story of Nick and Amy, a pair of really unpredictable and unreliable narrators. Nick is quite pathetic as a person, and lies to the reader on several occasions, including hiding his affair with Andie from us. And Amy, well she’s as manipulative as they come, she manipulates us and she manipulated many of the other characters in the novel.

Amy attempts at first to frame Nick for her murder, and is almost getting away with it until she starts to think she’ll be recognised. Then she decides to frame Desi for her kidnapping and murders him. Her story is ultimately believed by all but her less than adoring husband. If only he was sensible enough to see that she had psychopathic issues before marrying her…

One aspect of Gone Girl that I found interesting, and troubling, was the fact that you can never really know a person completely. I’m sure that myself and my other half know each other very well, at least, we know a lot of things about each other – lots of facts that add up to make our impression of a person – but can we ever really know what goes on in another person’s mind? Gone Girl says no, and underlines that ‘no’ many times.

It’s definitely a captivating read, and will keep you going. However, I thought the ending let it down. It just didn’t satisfy me. I couldn’t bring myself to imagine that anyone would stay in that kind of situation, which is what makes me think that Nick is pathetic. Also, Amy’s last words highlight that she is delusional and makes me think of a young manipulative pre teen trying to play grown up. She seems to delude herself into thinking that all will be forgiven because she is pregnant – that just screams immaturity to me.

Oh and at the end of this year the film adaptation will be released, apparently with Ben Affleck and Neil Patrick Harris. Im intrigued to see how it will be adapted for screen.

Admittedly I liked Gillian Flynn’s other work much more than I liked this, but still, not bad.


Book Review: Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson

beforeigotosleepThis is another one that I read a few months ago. A few months ago I had a lot more time for reading, as my Uni course had not yet started. So most of my reviews now have come from that indescribable period of a few months ago.

I read this book following a few recommendations from people who I generally associate with varying genres. This made me think, if so many varied readers like this book, I should really give it a go.

I have to say that I was not disappointed. In my most humble of opinions, Before I Go To Sleep is a well written suspense novel. It manages to get the cogs of one’s brain whirring without placing too much stress in the analysis of reading. It is a nice easy read, with a captivating storyline.

I found that the premise enticed me. I liked the idea of having the story told from the perspective of a really unreliable narrator. This unreliable narrator was our only gateway into the story, and therefore everything that she believed, the reader is led to believe. This makes the narrative even more interesting, and somewhat personal.

I love that this book highlights the importance of memory and of perception. It manages to give a little bit of an insight into how memory plays such a big role in our lives. If you know anyone who suffers from any memory loss (i.e. Alzheimer’s), it will really help you to imagine what they are going through.

In terms of the story, I loved the twists and turns. I was certainly not expecting the ending to turn out the way it did, but I’m glad that it did. This is one of the best debut novels that I have read in a while.

I would recommend this book to most readers.


Book Review: And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

51PBblV4b4LI awaited this book in anticipation, and actually read it months ago when it first came out. I am definitely a fan of Khaled Hosseini’s writing, having previously loved The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. As you can imagine, thanks to my eagerness to acquire this book, I ended up reading it within two days.

Essentially, it is the story of two siblings, a brother and sister, who were unwittingly torn apart, and their journeys into adulthood, the families that they create and the coming together of those families.

Like Hosseini’s other work, the basis of the story is a tale of the horrors that Afghanis have had to endure in recent history – the drastic measures that had to be taken in order to survive.

Without giving too much away, it is another beautiful piece of work by Hosseini. I do have to say, though, that this novel did not have quite the emotional effect on me as his previous work did (whilst reading both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns I was almost constantly in tears). However, I find it impossible to pinpoint the reason for that. It could be that this book did not give quite as big of an emotional punch in the stomach, or that my emotional state has solidified since first discovering his work 10 years ago.

Nonetheless, this is an amazing read, and I would definitely recommend it.


Book Review: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

17465450First thing’s first…The author’s name is Liane Moriarty. MORIARTY. You may have seen through previous posts that I enjoy Sherlock Holmes – the books, the TV programmes, etc… So the fact that the author’s name is so uniquely linked to our dear Sherlock is pretty cool. However, I am too lazy to google her and find out if that is in fact her actual birth name.

Anyway, about the book. I think that this is the first book I have read that is set in Australia, certainly modern Australia, and I found this an interesting aspect of the book. It helped me visualise what life is like there, and is a nice break from the traditional stories of the Western world, being dominated by America and the UK.

The book itself was an easy read, not at all demanding, which makes it a nice break from the strenuous material I have been reading for Uni. I liked the parallel stories of the lives of people linked to each other, and being able to see the characters from different views – both personally and the front that they put on for others. I found it interesting that the stories are told from the perspectives of the female characters – although I felt they did rely on the male characters quite heavily.

One thing that I just did not get was the emphasis on the Berlin Wall. I just can’t see why that much detail was included when the story didn’t need it. I have to admit, it seemed like pointless page fodder.

The Husband’s Secret is a modern tragicomedy and the perfect book if you are looking for a quick light read. I would recommend this book mainly to commuters.


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