Monday, 31 August 2015

Wonder by R.J. Palacio


August 'Auggie' Pullman is a ten year old boy entering the education system for the first time, having been home schooled for the first few years of his life. It's tough starting any new school but August has other reasons to be anxious about starting school; Auggie looks different to the majority of society, having been born with complications resulting in a deformed face.

Prior to reading Wonder I wasn't aware that the book isn't just told from Auggie's perspective, as I had assumed. In fact, the story is told by a number of different characters over the course of a school year, as well as Auggie himself. Making an appearance as narrator is August's sister, Via, two of August's friends, Jack and Summer, Via's boyfriend, Justin, and also a friend of Via's but more of the Pullman family, Miranda - I hope I didn't miss anyone there. When I discovered this is how the story was to unfold, flipping between narrators, I did wonder how seamless and how easy it would be to keep up with the plot, but the chosen method worked really well with the story and each character picked up where the other left off, even slightly before in some instances, meaning you get to see some situations from multiple eyes.

Wonder is driven by both plot and character. I've outlined the plot in my opening paragraph and I'm trying to not go in to it much more than that as I think reading this book without knowing a timeline of sorts makes for a better reading experience, but I love the message behind Wonder - kindness. I think Wonder should be a book assigned to school reading because of the message it successfully portrays to an audience of both young and old.

In the way of characters, I dare anyone to come away from Wonder without having wanted to envelope August in a hug at least once during the book. Honestly, he is the sweetest boy, but so clued up and full of humour. The multiple narration means we get a good look at Auggie, from his own view point as well as from those around him, and you can see why they love him and want to protect him in the way that they do.

Coming from a family with a sibling who has been disabled from birth and who has also always looked different from society's norms, you could say Wonder tugged at me a little more than some, but Wonder is a heart wrenching story that could easily reduce anyone to tears. I've never really been one to cry at books, but I was pretty darn close by time I finished Wonder.

R.J. Palacio tackles a topic that could be hard to write about with both compassion and lightness. If you're looking for a book that will take you on a rollercoaster of emotion but with an uplifting ending, Wonder is the book for you.

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Friday, 28 August 2015

Currently Reading #4

Recently Read
 
This past week I finished reading The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am by Kjersti A. Skomsvold. You may or may not be able to tell from the author's name, but The Fast I Walk, The Smaller I Am is translated fiction, originally being published in Norwegian. I recently saw this book recommended on Jen Campbell's booktube channel and I loved the idea behind the book as well it being translated fiction - something I'm trying to read more of. I will have a full review up in the coming weeks, but what I will say for now is that it is an interesting read, but not in the traditional sense.
 
Currently Reading
 
I'm real close to finishing up The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, which I actually started reading before The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am, but I kind of needed a break whilst reading. Despite it being a relatively short book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the kind of book that is hard to wrap your head around, and so I needed a little breather. I will have The Ocean at the End of Lane finished by the end of today for sure.
 
Up Next
 
Much the same as last week The Maze Runner trilogy is my intended next read - I do hope to plough through the entire series at the one time, I find that to be the easiest way in which to read a series because if I read other books in between I can forget centre aspects from the overall plot.
 
What are you currently reading?
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Monday, 24 August 2015

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I don't know where to begin with this... I loved this book - five stars love. And that's coming from someone who tends to shy away from dystopian/fantasy books. Now because these kinds of books aren't regular reads of mine, I think that is why I didn't find Red Queen to be generic or even similar to other books of its kind, as I know some other readers of the book have.

Told from a first person perspective, we follow Mare, a citizen of Norta, who finds herself transported from a mere Red commoner to Silver royalty after a rare incident in which she reveals herself to be far more than just a lowly Red street thief.

What follows is a tale weaved from love, friendship, morals, deception and a whole lot more, resulting in a twisted betrayal that I really and truly didn't see coming!

The Kingdom of Norta is only a miniscule portion of the world created by Victoria Aveyard. Complex and ruled by a hierarchy; the Silvers reigning over the Reds, ruling the way in which they live, leaving the Reds serving the Silvers. With this kind of system in place it's only a matter of time before a rebellion is on the cards... And that time is now.

Running alongside the uprising is Mare attempting to fit in to the Silver palace and play the role of soon to be Silver princess. Betrothed to the second son of the King, Mare is trying to understand and come to terms with who she is whilst keeping her identity under wraps, follow a strict daily schedule set by the royals, resist feelings of love for someone other than her soon to be husband, Maven, and avoid the Queen's deadly wrath - it's no easy feat.

As a narrator Mare is easy to read and engaging, really pulling you in to the story with description, emotion and words that keep you page turning. The author has a powerful way with words and ends chapters in just the right place, leaving you wanting to know more, needing to know where this all leads to.

Like I mentioned above, Victoria Aveyard has created quite the world within Red Queen, but even better than the world building (which I still want to know more of, and I hope to see development come next book) is the character progression. Journey is a cheesy word, but there are a number of characters within Red Queen who are on individual journeys, and it's easy to forget that these people with such power and responsibility are just teenagers - that's Mare, Maven and Cal, next in line to the throne of Norta.

Mare's journey is obviously the most prominent as we directly follow her, but the two princes are just as important, with Maven being the one you need to keep a close eye on. The loyalty which they both possess is admirable as well as the care they show for their loved ones; although brothers Cal and Maven appear to be very different from one another, with their blood and their power being the glaring similarity.

How I've got through this review without mentioning the powers I do not know. What sets the Silvers apart from the Reds is powers of varying kinds; they are able to manipulate certain things such as fire, water, metal, and even minds. And that's how Mare falls in to the world of the Silver's - by possessing a power. Mare is a Red with the power of a Silver, Mare is rare and wrong all at the same time. The powers are portrayed in various ways, but when in the arena the powers are put to the test and those circumstances were my favourite to read as the author writes the characters and their power amazingly, you see them thrive and flourish.

Wrapping up this review, the ending of Red Queen was quite something, and I'm devastated that I have goodness knows how many months left until the second book in the series is released. What did cheer me up though is that I learnt on Goodreads, confirmed by the author, that the rights to Red Queen have been sold for film adaptation - I'm excited by this as the book is very visual when reading and I thought to myself on multiple occasions how amazing the book would be in film format.

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Friday, 21 August 2015

Currently Reading #3

Recently Read

In last week's post I mentioned taking Harry Potter on my travels with me in order to have a book to read but not a plot that needed in depth attention... Well, it turns out that I didn't do as much reading as I anticipated whilst away. I'm not fussed about that though, and my HP reread continues, but the books are taking a back seat once again.

Despite not reading much on our break, I have read a book since being back - Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider. I'll be sharing my full thoughts on this book in the near future, but in short, I'd recommend to fans of YA.

Currently Reading

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.


I don't have a picture to share of my current read as the weather has been pretty gloomy and so didn't exactly make for good lighting... I have literally just started this book though so I haven't really formed any opinions as of yet.


Up Next

If I'm not fed up with fantasy/dystopian novels after my current read then I'll be moving on to The Maze Runner series next. I only own the trilogy, as I don't tend to enjoy prequels but I'll see how I feel about that by the end of the trilogy.

What are you currently reading?
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Monday, 17 August 2015

Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas


BLURB
All is not well with the Hurst family. There is gentle teenage daughter Violet, whose experiments with fasting and drugs land her in a psychiatric ward; eight-year-old Will who is smart, funny and caring but has already been labelled autistic and is being home-schooled; and mother Josephine, whose subtly controlling and seemingly innocent manoeuvres may just be the source of everyone else's despair. And then there's Rose, the sister who got away. Tired of Josephine's interferences, Rose ran away from home years earlier and hasn't been heard from since. But as her mother's intentions become more terrifyingly clear, Violet begins to wonder whether something far, far worse happened to her older sister.

MY THOUGHTS
There is so much that goes in to the story of Mother, Mother, it is a truly layered plot, but at the centre of it is the Hurst family; I have not read of a family quite as dysfunctional as the Hurst's.

Mother, Josephine, can only be described as a narcissist; Father, Douglas, is a recovering alcoholic and very much distant from his family; eldest daughter, Rose, seemingly upped and left the first chance she got; youngest daughter, Violet, is rebelling from her home life in some harmful ways; and son, Will, is pretty much brainwashed by his mother. There is a lot going on within the Hurst household, not a lot of communication happening between members of the family, and secrets in abundance.

The story unfolds with alternating chapters from Violet and Will. Although the chapters aren't written in first person we get a good sense of the family and the current goings on. I think the fact that the children are our eyes is a well thought out story telling method as you truly feel the hold and damage that mother, Josephine, is having on her children and family as a whole.

Upon starting out reading, we learn that Violet has been sent to a psychiatric hospital after attacking her brother Will. From there the overall family situation is developed, allowing us to learn a little background knowledge of the Hurst's, before the mystery element of the story picks up. Did Violet truly hurt her brother and why has eldest daughter Rose decided to show her face again now?

I mentioned in my July Reading Wrap Up that Mother, Mother took me a while to get through - at one point I even contemplated abandoning the book all together. The reason for my lack of interest initially was the pace, I found the first 100 or so pages to be very slow, and it didn't entirely hold my attention. At about the 130 page mark my attention peeked a little, and then it was a good 100 pages more before I was fully interested. Just to note, my edition of Mother, Mother is 362 pages long.

It's very hard to talk about Mother, Mother as I did come away with mixed feelings. The one thing I cannot fault in this book is the characters. The characters, their personalities, and the way in which they hold themselves in life is very strong. The characters feel on point and act as if one might in real life. Yes, Violet actively sought a dangerous path in life, and yes, Douglas basically abandoned his family for a good while and decided to take action too late, and yes, Will is a good boy turned bad, but you can see why the characters have gone down the routes they have given the head of the family, mother, Josephine. Having said all of that, I would've liked to know more about Josephine herself; why is she the way she is? What is her back story?

There are elements within Mother, Mother that you see coming, and parts where you want to roll your eyes at the actions, and even passages that you skim read to an extent because things are being repeated but reworded, however there are some really well written extracts and you can't deny that the author has done her research in to certain illnesses and disorders. If you own Mother, Mother or see it at the library, I'd recommend reading however in hindsight I wouldn't purposefully seek out this book.

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Friday, 14 August 2015

Currently Reading #2

Friday means time for another 'Currently Reading'.

Recently Read

Since last week's post I've completed two books, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard and Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Both of these books I'd highly recommend, with reviews to come soon.

Currently Reading
 
When the Quidditch World Cup is disrupted by Voldemort’s rampaging supporters and the terrifying Dark Mark appears against the night sky, it is obvious to Harry Potter that, far from weakening, Voldemort is getting stronger. Back at Hogwarts for the fourth year Harry is astonished to be chosen to represent the school in the Triwizard Tournament. The competition is dangerous, the tasks terrifying, and true courage is no guarantee of survival – especially with the Dark Lord’s forces on the rise…
 
I've been rereading Harry Potter for a couple of months now, taking the slowly but surely approach and reading intermittently between other reads. The reason I'm now dedicating time rereading is because we're going on a longish car journey and I was looking for an easy read that I wouldn't have to immerse myself in fully to get the full impact of the story as I do also need to keep my almost two year old entertained on this journey. Being familiar with Harry Potter means it'll be easier than going in to a book I need to absorb the full plot of. I hope that makes sense...

Up Next
 
I'm not too sure what I'll be reading next - I've quite the TBR at the moment with roughly 20 books on my unread shelf. I was thinking of maybe delving in to a collection of short stories perhaps. I have Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales as well as The Complete Collected Short Stories by Roald Dahl; I'm part way through both of these (Volume One in Roald Dahl's short stories) and it would be good to finish them up.

What are you currently reading?
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Monday, 10 August 2015

One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf


BLURB
In the midst of a sudden spring snowstorm, an unknown man armed with a gun walks into an elementary school classroom. Outside the school, the town of Broken Branch watches and waits.

Officer Meg Barrett holds the responsibility for the town's children in her hands. Will Thwaite, reluctantly entrusted with the care of his two grandchildren by the daughter who left home years earlier, stands by helplessly and wonders if he has failed his child again. Trapped in her classroom, Evelyn Oliver watches for an opportunity to rescue the children in her care. And thirteen-year-old Augie Baker, already struggling with the aftermath of a terrible accident that has brought her to Broken Branch, will risk her own safety to protect her little brother.

As tension mounts with each passing minute, the hidden fears and grudges of the small town are revealed as the people of Broken Branch race to uncover the identity of the stranger who holds their children hostage.


MY THOUGHTS
One Breath Away is a contemporary fiction novel set in small town Iowa where a lockdown is underway at the local school. A run of the mill day has taken a sinister turn for the community of Broken Branch with a gunman in the school and his motives unclear.

The story is told through five different characters, with alternating chapters. The choice of characters is varied with both people inside and outside the school. Inside we have Augie, a thirteen year old student, and Mrs. Oliver, a teacher whose classroom is being held hostage by the gunman. Outside of the school is Meg, a police officer on the scene; Will, grandfather of Augie as well as her younger brother who is inside the school; and then Holly, mother of Augie, who is holed up in hospital hundreds of miles away after a freak accident.

Often times multiple perspectives can make for a jumbled reading experience, but in One Breath Away the number of focal characters lends to the story. Although we're experiencing the lockdown from a number of view points, there is still a lot of mystery in the narrative and that really keeps you page turning - at least it did me!

At the heart of One Breath Away is the people; not only the main characters who you form an attachment to but also the community of Broken Branch that rallies together at this traumatic time. Small town settings are some of my favourites because you really get a sense of the town, the people and the lives they lead; you become a part of the community almost, and this rings true with One Breath Away.

This was my first time reading Heather Gudenkauf's writing and it was pretty positive, but I did have one gripe with the book and that was the ending. Without giving too much away, I think the outcome of the lockdown could have been a little stronger, with the end kind of tumbling together.

If you're interested in realistic fiction, think along the lines of Jodi Picoult and Diane Chamberlain, then I'd highly recommend One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf.

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Friday, 7 August 2015

Currently Reading #1

Each Friday I'll be sharing a 'Currently Reading' post here on the blog, sharing my last read, the book I'm currently reading and what I've got lined up upon completion. I think these kinds of posts are interesting to read on other blogs as you discover new titles, but also a good way to keep tracking of your reading and see how plans alter come the end of the month. So, let's get on to the books...

Recently Read

Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas
All is not well with the Hurst family. There is gentle teenage daughter Violet, whose experiments with fasting and drugs land her in a psychiatric ward; eight-year-old Will who is smart, funny and caring but has already been labelled autistic and is being home-schooled; and mother Josephine, whose subtly controlling and seemingly innocent manoeuvres may just be the source of everyone else's despair. And then there's Rose, the sister who got away. Tired of Josephine's interferences, Rose ran away from home years earlier and hasn't been heard from since. But as her mother's intentions become more terrifyingly clear, Violet begins to wonder whether something far, far worse happened to her older sister.

I finished up Mother, Mother with some mixed feelings, but I'll be sharing my thoughts in a little more depth in a couple of weeks time.

Currently Reading

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of
those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?


I'm over half way through Red Queen, as of writing this, and am really enjoying it so far. I find dystopian fantasies to be a little hit or miss for me but Red Queen is definitely hitting the mark. I think the world building as well as ease of narration makes the Red Queen a book you can easily fall in to.

Up Next
I don't always have a book set in stone as I tend to read with my mood and just go with the flow, but I have my eye on either The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman or Wonder by R.J. Palacio.

What are you currently reading?
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Monday, 3 August 2015

July Reading Wrap Up

July was a somewhat slow reading month for me, with a total of three books read. In all honesty, I tend to only read one or two more books than that in a good month but my last read took me a while to get through.

One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf
In the midst of a sudden spring snowstorm, an unknown man armed with a gun walks into an elementary school classroom. Outside the school, the town of Broken Branch watches and waits.

Officer Meg Barrett holds the responsibility for the town's children in her hands. Will Thwaite, reluctantly entrusted with the care of his two grandchildren by the daughter who left home years earlier, stands by helplessly and wonders if he has failed his child again. Trapped in her classroom, Evelyn Oliver watches for an opportunity to rescue the children in her care. And thirteen-year-old Augie Baker, already struggling with the aftermath of a terrible accident that has brought her to Broken Branch, will risk her own safety to protect her little brother.

As tension mounts with each passing minute, the hidden fears and grudges of the small town are revealed as the people of Broken Branch race to uncover the identity of the stranger who holds their children hostage.


I hadn't read any of Heather Gudenkauf's work until this month, but am glad that I still have two of her books unread on my shelf. I will have a full review of One Breath Away coming up next week.
*** 
Philip Marlowe's on a case: his client, a dried-up husk of a woman, wants him to recover a rare gold coin called a Brasher Doubloon, missing from her late husband's collection.

That's the simple part. It becomes more complicated when Marlowe finds that everyone who handles the coin suffers a run of very bad luck: they always end up dead. That's also unlucky for a private investigator, because leaving a trail of corpses around LA gets cops' noses out of joint.

If Marlowe doesn't wrap this one up fast, he's going to end up in jail - or worse, in a box in the ground....
  
 
The Philip Marlowe mysteries are some of my favourite crime novels and the third book in the series does not disappoint. Whilst the books do lead on from one another they can also be read as standalones. If you like crime fiction, a good mystery that keeps you on your toes and an assortment of characters then I'd recommend The High Window... Or any of the first three Philip Marlowe mysteries - I can't attest for the rest as I have yet to read them.
***
All is not well with the Hurst family. There is gentle teenage daughter Violet, whose experiments with fasting and drugs land her in a psychiatric ward; eight-year-old Will who is smart, funny and caring but has already been labelled autistic and is being home-schooled; and mother Josephine, whose subtly controlling and seemingly innocent manoeuvres may just be the source of everyone else's despair. And then there's Rose, the sister who got away. Tired of Josephine's interferences, Rose ran away from home years earlier and hasn't been heard from since. But as her mother's intentions become more terrifyingly clear, Violet begins to wonder whether something far, far worse happened to her older sister.
 
Let's just say that things are not at all what they seem in the Hurst household. I'll have a review of Mother, Mother up in the coming weeks.
 
What books did you read in the month of July? 
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