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Lissa (Chester, Cheshire)

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We Need To Talk About Kevin (Serpent's Tail Classics)
We Need To Talk About Kevin (Serpent's Tail Classics)
by Lionel Shriver
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

3.0 out of 5 stars A Literary Contraceptive, 13 Oct. 2012
I first heard about this book when my Mum read it as part of her book club. When the film came out a while later I couldn't decide if I should read the book before seeing it. I ended up seeing the film first and loved it. The tension was unbearable in a really uncomfortable way but it was gripping. This just made me want to read the book even more. If a two hour film could be crammed with so many awkward moments that made you squirm in your seat then imagine what the book could contain?

While I wouldn't exactly describe the film as "enjoyable" it was definitely an experience, and I found the same with the book. It started off quite slowly, drawing you into the characters. You get given a lot of time to get used to the writing style and the emotions of the mother writing the letters before anything serious happens. The actual "shooting" doesn't happen until the penultimate chapter and while you can see it coming all along, I had thought it would have been a bigger part of the story.

The depression and desperation of the mother as she tries to make her husband see just exactly what their son is becoming, is painful to read. You see it happening in front of your own eyes as her life slips away from her and she loses herself. Looking back on it, the effort it took to get into the book in the beginning just mirrors her effort to bond with her loveless son. It could be described as a masterpiece of narrative skill, passing her emotions onto yourself, actually putting yourself in her situation, but it could also just be, well, boring. Not one of the characters are likeable. You don't particularly empathise with the mother and you definitely don't feel sorry for her. Her son is a monster, the daughter a soppy mess, and the father refuses to see what is right in front of his eyes.

But still. The final chapter is harrowing. It almost left me in tears. It is the love that she has for her husband which shines through. She moved home for him, left her job so he could continue working; she sacrificed her entire life to try and make a family.

The constant feeling while reading this book though is that it isn't fun. In no way did I enjoy reading Kevin. If anything, it just made me want to never have children and forces you to think about the way that everything can go so drastically wrong. There is still a small, tiny, candle sized light at the end of a massive never-ending tunnel in the form of a happy ending. Kevin finally expresses some emotion and thought and maybe even a tinge of regret and remorse, but he does this in an incredibly creepy way.

While I don't want to spoil the ending, I do urge you to try to make it through to the end. It isn't rewarding, but it will make you appreciate the pain the mother has experienced.


Then We Came to the End: A Novel
Then We Came to the End: A Novel
by Joshua Ferris
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars And then I finally came to the end..., 24 Sept. 2012
Unfortunately, I agree with most other reviews on this book. I was recommended it by a friend but found it increasingly difficult to keep going. The characters blurred together, not enough history was given to each individual, and it generally left a confused narrative behind. As much as I wanted to enjoy it I didn't care about the characters. And since it had been marketed as a funny book I was always looking for something to laugh at, which I didn't find.

But, yes, the middle of the book shows a drastic turning point. Lynn Mason's tale of spending a night alone the night before breast cancer surgery was fantastic. Especially as you later discover that it was written by another character in the novel. This finally starts to link everyone together. Mix this with the hospital visits between them all and you start to see them as a family unit working together. It does take the entire length of the book for this connection to materialise however and it makes the first half of the book appear pointless.

I would advise you to stick with it; the main points of interest don't happen until towards the end. The breast cancer story and the school-room shoot out do show what Ferris can do, I just wish he'd done it the whole way through!


Sweetmeat
Sweetmeat
by Luke Sutherland
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Grown-up Fairytale of Escape., 18 Aug. 2012
This review is from: Sweetmeat (Paperback)
I first read this book years and years ago. I couldn't remember it's name, or who wrote it, just an image of Bohemond and his angel. There were parts of the fairytale that had stayed with me and wouldn't let me go. I ended up re-reading it recently when I found it, completely by chance, in an Oxfam book shop. Maybe it's just because of the fairytale way that I found it again, but there is something magical about this story.

Yes, the narrative may drag you down a bit, Bohemond is generally miserable, and he complains a lot, and you want him to shut up and get on with it, but it's the imagery that amazes me. For snap shots of the book to stay with me for that long, I can't say that there isn't something special going on here.

If you've lived your life believing in fairy tales and wanting your own to happen, you need this book. It turns the mundane into fantastical creations using all of your senses, not just your taste through the menus.

If it's just a good read for the time being that you're looking for, then you may not fully appreciate it. To me, this is a fairytale for grown ups living the working life. It's a wonderful piece of escapism.


Life Of Pi
Life Of Pi
by Yann Martel
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.83

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To believe or not to believe?, 18 Aug. 2012
This review is from: Life Of Pi (Paperback)
I finished this books a few weeks ago and felt it needed some digesting before I came to an opinion on it. Yes, it deals with religion and seems to take it upon itself to try and advertise that as the main point saying in the author's note that it "will make you believe in God"; but, to me, this isn't the most influential part of the story. I don't follow any religions, but not for a lack of belief. What Life of Pi does is it draws on the things inside you that make you have faith.

The book ends with you questioning which of the stories involved is true and I think it reveals a lot about yourself when you realise which story it is that you want to have happened. The general plot, boy stuck on boat with killer animal, isn't the point. The setting could be anything, it is the hope that Pi carries with him which is the emphasis of the novel. He believes in his religions, but he also believes in his own existence. He makes a decision to survive and this fills you with a sort of, Godly sense that you control his destiny. The more you want him to be right and to survive, the more you feel you can help him and pull him through the water back to civilization.

I had never expected such an ending to this novel, at first I questioned why Martel would try and make you believe that the tiger was all in Pi's mind? Why would he have spent all this time engaging you in his miseries and triumphs to then bring it all crashing down with the revelation that it may have all happened in Pi's mind? And it was during a rant about this that I realised exactly why, I believed in the tiger, I believed he had survived living off turtles and algae, I believed in his hope.

Martel may not make you believe in God, but he'll damn well make you choose between an expected reality or the abilities of your own beliefs.


Hard-Boiled Wonderland And The End Of The World
Hard-Boiled Wonderland And The End Of The World
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Straight from a Murakami lover., 18 July 2012
Having read almost all of Murakami's other novels I didn't think anything by him could take me by surprise anymore! When I finished the first chapter of Hard Boiled Wonderland my first reaction was "what the f***?" The second chapter didn't help much.

As always, you're plunged head first into a world similar to ours, but on a slightly different tangent. The main difference between this and his other novels is the science. In one story line the science is plotted out and explained to you, occasionally in quite a complicated way. In the other story line, there is hardly any resemblance whatsoever to our normal world. You still find many of the Murakami tropes, single men, meaningless sex, philosophical women, travelling in well type structures, and moving from one world to the other, but this novel takes on a whole new "supernatural" edge.

If you are a fan of Murakami, I fully recommend it, but it isn't what I expected from him, hence the slightly lower rating.


Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (International Writers)
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (International Writers)
by Patrick Suskind
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars A Monster Recipe, 21 Jun. 2012
The book is set out in four different parts and the main character, Grenouille, changes dramatically between the sections. Considering it has been given the tag line "The Story of a Murderer" you would assume there would be some development within Grenouille; he would learn skills and experiment more with techniques. The story however throws you very quickly and suddenly into mass murder. While this isn't necessarily a bad point, I had expected a bit more of a build up, and despite Grenouille being the main focus throughout the novel you're left at the end with a feeling of not knowing anything about him. The meandering beginning changes very suddenly to an unexpected ending.

This novel is a cross between Frankenstein and a recipe. You are given an empty character who is trying to find the ingredients to fill himself with. Grenouille is creating his own monster and using himself as the vessel for it. What he does as a murderer isn't explained to the other characters and his victims. They are left confused and unaware of his intentions so they don't know how to act towards him. This passes onto the reader in a way leaving you a bit in the dark as to his true motives, especially in the final section where we discover that all of his attempts to create a filling for himself have been in vain. Grenouille achieves nothing. This makes all of the murders, the grief of the victims' families and their attempts for revenge pointless. The story ends almost as it began, with an empty main character.

Perfume as a whole is easy to read and is enjoyable. It does kind of pass you by though. Describing smells is a very difficult things to do and the descriptions tend to become lists of other fragrances which are almost impossible to form together in your mind. Add this to the unlikeable and uninteresting Grenouille and you are left with a book that I personally, will not be reading again. Once you know how it all ends there isn't anything else to gain from the reading.


The God of Small Things
The God of Small Things
by Arundhati Roy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Child-like Prose and Incredibly Emotional, 13 Jun. 2012
This book fills your head with pictures and smells. It's like you're sitting around in their Indian home being told their family story. It's written in a kind of, child-like way. The child is told to "stoppit" so she "stoppited". There's a bar nowl, they go on adventures in a small boat and you get swept away with them. It's one of those books that you glide through. I had expected it to be very similar to One Hundred Years of Solitude but fortunately, it was much better than that. You don't lose track of the characters, they all have their own believable personalities and histories which are equally measured out.

I was quite sad to finish the book because I didn't want to leave them all behind. You're left wanting to know what happens next and where these friends of yours that you now know inside and out end up in life. The final chapter is possibly the best. You can feel what they feel, you're there with them. There's just enough detail and description for you to fill in any blanks in your mind perfectly. It's like the book is saying its final goodbyes to you in a really soft and gentle way, letting you know that at some point, you'll want to go back and visit these people again.


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