Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Published by Faber and Faber
Paperback
Published 2 March 2006
282 pages
Owned

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I read this for 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. The category is ‘a book buy an author from a country you’ve never visited’.  

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Day comes a devastating new novel of innocence, knowledge, and loss. As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were.

Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have re-entered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special–and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together. Suspenseful, moving, beautifully atmospheric, Never Let Me Go is another classic by the author of The Remains of the Day.

EXTRACT 

My name is Kathy H.

WHAT I THOUGHT

My confession: I saw the movie a few years ago and loved it so I knew how things turned out. A book is always a richer experience than a movie though. I absolutely adored this book. It’s one of the most unsettling books I’ve read in a while. Kathy H is a brilliant, unreliable narrator. She’s unreliable because she reveals so little about her society and Hailsham and being a carer or a donor while seeing to be sharing a lot of information. Kathy H is quite a detached person and she reveals what should be horrifying details about her world in a sort of detached, nonchalant kind of way, not bothering to get emotional or upset because this is just the way things are. What fascinated me the most and chilled me to the bone is how little information is given about what being a carer or a donor in Kathy H’s world really means. Nothing is clearly stated until about three chapters from the end and information is just drip fed along the way. Never Let Me Go is chilling and unsettling and horrifying plausible. I loved it and would highly recommend it.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

The Enchanted Wood

The Enchanted Wood

The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton
Published by Hodder Children’s Books
Ebook
Published 2 July 2015 (first published 1939)
207 pages
Owned

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I read this for 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. The category is ‘a book you loved as a child’.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

The first magical story in the Faraway Tree series.

Joe, Beth and Frannie find the Enchanted Wood on the doorstep of their new home, and when they discover the Faraway Tree they fall into all sorts of adventures!

Join them and their friends Moonface, Saucepan Man and Silky the fairy as they discover which new land is at the top of the Faraway Tree. Will it be the Land of Spells, the Land of Treats, or the Land of Do-As-You-Please? Come on an amazing adventure!

EXTRACT 

There were once three children, called Joe, Beth and Frannie. All their lives they had lived in a town, but now their father had a job in the country, so they were all to move as soon as they possibly could.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I believe this was the first, or one of the first books I ever read. I was a rabid fan of Enid Blyton when I was a child. I was surprised to discover some odd changes in the book such as changing the characters names (Fanny has now become Frannie) for some bizarre reason. PC weirdness aside this is still a fun, enchanting read. I had a great time revising some of my favourite childhood memories even though they’ve been given an unnecessary makeover. The Enchanted Wood is fun and delightful. I enjoyed reading about the children’s adventures in the wood, up the Faraway Tree and the strange lands that appeared at the top. The Enchanted Wood is perfect children’s literature. I loved it when I was a child and still do.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

The Ascent

The Ascent

The Ascent by Ronald Malfi
Published by Medallion Press
Ebook
Published 1 September 2010
320 pages
Library book

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I read this for 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. The category is ‘a book set in the wilderness’.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

After the death of his ex-wife, successful sculptor Tim Overleigh trades in his lucrative career for the world of extreme sports, but when a caving accident nearly ends his life, Tim falls into a self-destructive depression. On the cusp of madness, an old friend convinces him to join a team of men climbing the Godesh ridge in Nepal. When this journey of mythical and spiritual discovery rapidly turns deadly as the climbers fall victim to a murderer within their group, the remaining survivors begin to wonder if any of them will escape the mountains alive.

EXTRACT

I WASN’T THERE WHEN IT HAPPENED. BUT I CAN SEE it nonetheless: the Italian countryside cool in the stirrings of an early summer that promises not to be too overbearing.

WHAT I THOUGHT

This is my first time reading the author. I have a copy of his book Little Girls on my Kindle and look forward to reading it. The Ascent blew me away. It turned out to be a different book than the one I was expecting. In a good way. I thought it would be a run-of the-mill sinister novel about bad shit happening in the middle of nowhere. It was but it sort of wasn’t. The Ascent is brilliantly paced, building up tension until it becomes unbearable to read. I felt like I was right there with Tim and the rest of the group during the ill-fated trip. I was unsettled from page one until I reached the end. The Ascent throws the characters into an awful situation where things just get worse and worse. I loved it. I was riveted. I really don’t understand people who undertake tasks like Tim and his friends. This aspect of the novel was real and all the more terrifying. The killer is not who I expected at all and I was pleasantly surprised. I thought The Ascent was fantastic and would highly recommend it.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

Elizabeth Is Missing

Elizabeth Is Missing

Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey
Published by Penguin
Paperback
Published 1 January 2015
275 pages
Owned

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I read this for 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. The category is ‘a book with a red spine’.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

‘Elizabeth is missing.’ Maud keeps finding notes in her pockets with this message scrawled on it, but she can’t remember writing it. That said, she can’t remember much these days: the time of day, whether she’s eaten lunch, if her daughter’s come to visit, how much toast she’s eaten. Still, the notes about Elizabeth nag at her. When was the last time she spoke with her best friend? It feels like ages ago…

Frustratingly, no one seems willing to help Maud find her: not the police nor Elizabeth’s son – not even Maud’s own daughter or granddaughter. It’s like they’re hiding something.

Maud resolves to take matters into her own hands, and begins digging for the truth. There are many clues, but unhelpfully, they all seem to point to another unsolved disappearance: that of Maud’s sister Sukey just after the war.

Could the mystery of Sukey’s disappearance lead Maud to the truth about Elizabeth? As Maud’s mind retreats into the past at a frightening pace, alienating her from her family and carers, vivid memories of what happened over fifty years ago come flooding back to give her quest new momentum. 

EXTRACT 

‘You know there was an old woman mugged around here?’ Carla says, letting her long, black ponytail snake over one shoulder.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I’m not completely sure how I feel about Elizabeth Is Missing. I was wavering between giving it a three or star but went with four stars in the end because it made me cry a little. This book isn’t what I was expecting and I didn’t like some of it. One issue I had is the way the book handles dementia. Maud’s dementia is quite far advanced. I felt she was at the stage when she couldn’t be left on her own. She was wandering out of the house and could easily have come to harm because she was so confused. I felt her family were neglectful of her at first. I thought Maud, however, was a great character, very realistic of someone with dementia. My gran, who’s been dead for sixteen years, had dementia. She came to live with my family when neighbours told my mum she was wandering the streets in her night-dress, looking for her dog that had died ten years before. Maud reminds me a lot of her. She’s a well written character. I found the narrative confusing at times. I didn’t mind that it moved back and forth in time. I like this structure in novels. It just wasn’t always clear what time we were in. I suppose this helped to convey Maud’s confusion but it could have been handed a bit better. The title is a misnomer – Elizabeth is not missing, it’s just Maud’s memories of her are missing and confused in her head with her sister’s disappearance thirty years before. I felt a little bit cheated. Never mind, Elizabeth Is Missing does involve a mystery, just now what I was expecting. There is a lot of misdirection, caused by Maud’s memory and I suppose it’s good the author went in an unexpected direction. I ended up really liking Elizabeth Is Missing and would recommend it.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

The Girl In The Steel Corset

The Girl In The Steel Corset

The Girl In The Steel Corset by Kady Cross
Published by MIRA Ink
Ebook
Published 1 January 2011
477 pages
Library book

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I read this for 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. The category is ‘a steampunk novel’.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

In 1897 London, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one…except the thing inside her. When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch. . . . Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she’s special, says she’s one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret. Griffins investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help and finally be a part of something, finally fit in. But The Machinist wants to tear Griff’s little company of strays apart, and it isn’t long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she’s on even if it seems no one believes her.

EXTRACT

 London, The Age of Invention, late April 1897

‘You’re the very spawn of Satan and I’ll not have you darken this door ever again’.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I was going to say this was my first steampunk novel but that’s not true, I love The Lunar Chronicles. I thought The Girl in the Steel Corset was great. I was surprised that it was set in Victorian London and would have expected this kind of novel to be set in the future. But what do I know, eh? This novel has clearly been influenced by Frankenstein and I really enjoyed this take on it. It’s not the deepest and most profound novel I’ve ever read but it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it and there’s nothing wrong with that. I plan to read the series and would recommend this book.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

The Tale Of Despereaux

The Tale Of Despereaux

The Tale Of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
Published by Candlewick Press
Ebook
Published 1 September 2009
148 pages
Library book

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I read this for 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. The category is ‘a book from a nonhuman perspective’.   

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

A brave mouse, a covetous rat, a wishful serving girl, and a princess named Pea come together in Kate DiCamillo’s Newbery Medal–winning tale.

Welcome to the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who is in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in the darkness and covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl who harbours a simple, impossible wish. These three characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and, ultimately, into each other’s lives. What happens then? As Kate DiCamillo would say: Reader, it is your destiny to find out.

EXTRACT

THIS STORY BEGINS within the walls of a castle, with the birth of a mouse. A small mouse. The last mouse born to his parents and the only one of his litter to be born alive.

WHAT I THOUGHT

The Tale of Despereaux didn’t work for me. I read a lot of children’s fiction so this wasn’t an issue for me. The characters are one dimensional – the goodies so perfect and wonderful it made me want to throw up and the baddies were a caricature of evil. I’m sure I’ve seen the film and really enjoyed it so expected more from the book. Despite the title, Despereaux only appears in about half the book so this was also a bit of a let-down. I found it annoying that the book is littered with asides to the ‘reader’ which kept pulling me out of the story. I also felt there was some content not suitable for young children; namely how one-dimensional and evil the rates were and the cruel way Miggery Sow is treated. The Tale of Despereaux was disappointing and did nothing for me.

RATING

2 STAR RATING

Soul at the White Heat: Inspiration, Obsession, and the Writing Life

Soul at the White Heat: Inspiration, Obsession, and the Writing Life

Soul at the White Heat: Inspiration, Obsession, and the Writing Life by Joyce Carol Oates
Published by Ecco Press
Ebook
Published 20 September 2016
320 pages
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I read this for 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. The category is ‘a book with career advice’.  

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

A new collection of critical and personal essays on writing, obsession, and inspiration from National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Joyce Carol Oates.

“Why do we write?”

With this question, Joyce Carol Oates begins an imaginative exploration of the writing life, and all its attendant anxieties, joys, and futilities, in this new collection of seminal essays and criticism. Leading her quest is a desire to understand the source of the writer’s inspiration—do subjects haunt those that might bring them back to life until the writer submits? Or does something “happen” to us, a sudden ignition of a burning flame? Can the appearance of a muse-like other bring about a writer’s best work?

In Soul at the White Heat, Oates deploys her keenest critical faculties, conjuring contemporary and past voices whose work she deftly and creatively dissects for clues to these elusive questions. Virginia Woolf, John Updike, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, J.M. Coetzee, Margaret Atwood, Joan Didion, Zadie Smith and many others appear as predecessors and peers—material through which Oates sifts in acting as literary detective, philosopher, and student. The book is at its most thrilling when watching the writer herself at work, and Oates provides rare insight into her own process, in candid, self-aware dispatches from the author’s own writing room. The New York Times Book Review has raved, “Who better than Joyce Carol Oates . . . to explicate the craft of writing?” Longtime admirers of Joyce Carol Oates’s novels as well as her prose will discover much to be inspired by and obsess upon themselves in this inventive collection from an American master.

EXTRACT 

This is not a traditional lecture so much as the quest for a lecture in the singular – a quest constructed around a series of questions.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I thought Soul at the White Heat was great. This is the third Joyce Carol Oates book of non-fiction I’ve read and I loved it as much as the other two. I definitely need to read more of her non-fiction. As a writer myself, I loved Soul at the White Heat. As I reader, I love knowing where writer’s get their ideas and inspiration from. As a writer, I love seeing echoes of my own methods. I enjoyed every section in this book. I enjoyed the essays about classical writers and especially enjoyed the essays about contemporary writers, some I’ve heard of and read and some I haven’t. Oates is one of my favourite writers and Soul at the White Heat had made me a rabid ‘fan’ of her non-fiction as well. I’d highly recommend this collection of essays.

RATING

4 STAR RATING