Category Archives: Reading

RTY: Exit West – Mohsin Hamid

Hey Lovelies!

Hope you’re all enjoying the August weather. Whilst it’s pouring down outside (I can’t believe it myself!) I thought I would take the time to review my August book for the Penguin Read The Year Challenge. The focus for this month was: Choose a book which tells a migration story. This is not something that I would usually pick so I relished the chance to branch out once again. I did a bit of research and found Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. I knew nothing about the author or the novel, so I read this with completely fresh eyes. I wasn’t disappointed!

What’s it all about?

The novel centres around Nadia and Saeed. They meet when they are working students in an unnamed city. The two are different, Saeed is much more conservative and still lives at home, as custom requires. Whereas, Nadia is much more independent, choosing to live alone and has been disowned by her parents for doing so. As war breaks out and militants start attacking their beautiful city, the two fall in love.

“To love is to enter into the inevitability of one day not being able to protect what is most valuable to you.”

The two are struck with devastation as a stray bullet kills Saeed’s mother whilst she’s searching for a stray earring in her car. The sense of loss, particularly for Saeed’s father is huge. Nadia moves in with Saeed and his father but she doesn’t want to marry Saeed, as propriety requires.

The militants successfully gain control of the city from the government and violence becomes a normal part of every day life. Nadia and Saeed hear rumours of doors in the city that serve as a means to get to safer places. However, these are only rumours at this stage and the doors that do exist are heavily guarded by militants. Nevertheless, they take a risk and bribe someone to let them through. Saeed’s father chooses to stay. He cannot possibly conceive of a life where he is not near his wife’s grave. He doesn’t want to be a burden to them or bring them down. He asks Nadia to promise him to never leave Saeed until they are safe and settled.

“We are all migrants through time.”

It was a risk that paid off as the couple end up in Mykonos amongst other refugees and settle in a tent city. Over time, they become friendly, Nadia in particular, with a Greek girl who feels really compassionate towards them. She helps them to further their journey, this time to a luxury home in London.

“When we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.”

When they arrive in this luxury home, they settle and make it their own, not really believing their eyes or their luck. The owners are no where to be seen thus granting themselves ownership of the property.

More and more migrants arrive in London which results in increased tension and hostility between migrants and native born individuals. There are cases of threatening behaviour and mob rule. After time the migrants are sectioned off into a ghetto type place with minimal food and electricity. This is named ‘Dark London’.

“It might seem odd that in cities teetering at the edge of the abyss young people still go to class—in this case an evening class on corporate identity and product branding—but that is the way of things, with cities as with life, for one moment we are pottering about our errands as usual and the next we are dying, and our eternally impending ending does not put a stop to our transient beginnings and middles until the instant when it does.”

Tensions come to a head when a raid goes horribly wrong. The natives decide to try and work together with the new migrants to clear the land for Halo London. The promise with this is that they will all receive 49 metres of space and a pipe, resulting in access to utilities. Nadia and Saeed are well aware of the distance growing between them to throw themselves into working.

Nadia and Saeed are one of the first on the list which means they will be one of the first to obtain a secure home. Despite this promise, Nadia has hopes for something more. They chance their luck through another portal, arriving in Marin County, California.

Both are welcomed there and seem to be quite happy. Nadia soon finds work at the food co-op whereas Saeed becomes even more religious. The pair realise that they have lost the spark between them, they no longer have feelings for one another. Nadia leaves Saeed and moves into a room at work, forming a new and vibrant relationship with the cook there. Meanwhile, Saeed married the native born daughter of a preacher.

“And so their memories took on potential, which is of course how our greatest nostalgias are born.”

Fast forward fifty years and Nadia returns to the country of her birth. She meets up again with Saeed who offers to take her to see the stars in Chile one day.

Overview

Despite this not being the type of book I would normally choose, I did really enjoy it. It opened my eyes to a time and a place where people had to fight for survival, where people took massive risks. It’s a short and powerful novel which does leave you grateful for what you have. It did me anyway. It’s a shame Nadia and Saeed’s relationship initially broke down. However, there was a sense of inevitability there. The ending gives me hope for the future, for their future. I’ve walked away from this novel thinking I need to take every chance I get. It’s not so easy for others in the world and it’s easy for us to forget that. Onto my next read!

Big love all xxx

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RTY: The Shadow Of The Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafron

Hi guys!

Amazingly, I have a spare couple of hours now whilst I’m sitting on a train, so I thought I would post my review of my choice of book for June for the Read The Year Challenge. I wholeheartedly promise that I did read it in June, I just didn’t quite get around to posting it in time. But it’s here now!

This month proved slightly challenging as the topic was ‘Pick up a book that delves into the experience of fatherhood’. Now I have some clear limitations here, obviously, but I think I found a book that fits. The Shadow of the Wind. Whilst not explicitly being centred around fatherhood, there are a number of fathers and/or father figures in it. The beauty of this reading challenge means that I have read something I’ve never even heard of. The bigger present – I enjoyed it!

What’s it all about?

Set in Barcelona, the novel centres around a young boy, Daniel Sempere. Just after the Spanish Civil War, Daniel’s father takes him to the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books. This is a place where old, forgotten books are loving preserved by a select few people. According to tradition, everyone initiated into this secret place is allowed to take one book and must protect it for life. The book Daniel chooses: The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax.

He takes the book home and reads it cover to cover. This sparks the need in Daniel to try and find other books by this unknown author but can’t find any. What he does discover are strange narratives of a man calling himself Laín Coubert. What is extraordinary about this is that name is the name of one of the characters in the book – the Devil, who has been finding Carax’s books for decades, buying and burning them.

“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.”

Structured as a story within a story, Daniel starts a quest to find Julian’s other works. In turn, he becomes involved in tracing the entire history of Carax. One of the father figures in the novel is Fermin Romero de Torres. He was imprisoned and tortured in Montjuic Castle for his involvement in an espionage against the Anarchists during the war. His background in government intelligent helps Daniel in numerous days. However, their probing into he past of people who are long dead or forgotten takes him to the path of Inspector Fumero, whom he had dealings with previously.

“Fools talk, cowards are silent, wise men listen.”

This narrative has long since been buried. However Daniel starts unravelling it, clue by clue. Daniel and Fermin find a love story, the beautiful yet tragic story of Julián and Penélope, both of whom have been missing since 1919, thirty years earlier. Julián, the son of a hatter, Antoni Fortuny and his wife Sophie Carax and Penélope Aldaya, the only daughter of the extremely weather Don Ricardo Aldaya and his narcissistic American wife developed an instant love for each other and lived a clandestine relationship, only through faint smiles and few glances for around four years. After this time they decided to elope to Paris. They were completely unaware that the shadows of misfortune had been creeping their way upon them ever since they met.

“Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.”

Miquel Moliner, also the son of a wealthy father, was Julián’s best friend. He helped meticulously plan their elopement. It is eventually revealed that the loved Julián more than any brother and finally sacrificed his life for him. Julián eventually got to Paris. Penélope did not.

“Destiny is usually just around the corner. Like a thief, a hooker, or a lottery vendor: its three most common personifications. But what destiny does not do is home visits. You have to go for it.”

The memory of Penélope burns inside Julian’s heart and eventually this forces him to return to Barcelona in the mid 1930s. What greets him is nothing less than heartbreaking. She was nothing more than a memory. She had never been seen or heard of again by anyone after 1919. Daniel discovers from the note left for him by Nuria Monfort, that Julián and Penélope were actually half brother and sister. Her father had had an affair win his mother and Julián was the result. Tragically, after he had left Barcelona, it is revealed that Penélope’s parents imprisoned her because they were full of shame about her commuting incest with him. She was also pregnant with his child. The child, named David Aldaya, was stillborn. Penélope died during childbirth because her parents ignored her screams. Her body was placed in a family crypt along with her child’s.

“Memories are worse than bullets.”

When returning to Aldaya Mansion, Julián is bitter and angry by the news of his love’s death along with their child. He hates everyone and everything. Every second feels wasted; his books pointless. So he sets upon burning them all. Thus, the adventure of then and now is joined. Along the way. Fermin and Daniel know they’re in trouble with Inspector Fumero. They’re followed, they’re beaten up. Yet still their quest continues.

“A story is a letter that the author writes to himself, to tell himself things that he would be unable to discover otherwise.”

After Daniel finishes reading the book, he marries Beatriz ‘Bea’ Aguilar. He’s loved her for a long time, since 1956. Shortly after Bea gives birth to a son. They name him Julián Sempere, in honour of Julián Carax. 10 years later, Daniel takes his son to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books where the copy of The Shadow of the Wind is kept.

“Once, in my father’s bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later—no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget—we will return.”

Overview

The role of fathers or father figures in this book is paramount. Daniel’s father is a strong and quiet character. He doesn’t push Daniel to discuss what is going on. He’s quietly there for him.

Fermin takes a natural role of a father figure, becoming that partner in crime person for Daniel. He even sacrifices his life to help find out what he wants to know about Carax. Daniel and his father took him in and saved him from his past. He sees fatherhood as part of his future with his blossoming love and romance.

Julián’s loss of fatherhood is all the more tragic. You can tell he’s been grief stricken ever since Penélope failed to arrive. When he learns the truth he is a broken man.

Daniel too is a father at the end of the novel and how these role models have shaped him, lead us to know that he will be an excellent father to his own child.

This book was a complete surprise for me. I’d never heard of it before and I didn’t know anything about the author. However, I’ve really enjoyed it. Sometimes stories within a story can be quite confusing but this was weaved together seamlessly. I’m so glad I found it.

Enjoy the sunshine all!!

 

Big love xx

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Meet Me At The Museum – Anne Youngson

Hi Lovelies!!

The English exams are finally over so now I’ve got time to breathe again. It’s always a ridiculously busy time of year. I feel like I’ve blinked and missed May. I cannot believe it’s June. However, it’s so sunny and lovely that I just don’t mind. I spent the weekend with my family at Nostell Priory which was lovely (see photo above) and I also managed to read quite a beautiful book that I want to share with you all today.

This short little surprise took me little time to read because it was just that good. I think the cover is really lovely too.

What’s it all about?

The novel opens with a letter from Tina Hopgood to Professor Glob. Over fifty years ago, Professor Glob dedicated a book to Tina and thirteen other school friends, as well as his daughter, on The Bog People of Denmark. She is writing because she still hasn’t made it to see the Tollund Man homed by the Silkeborg Museum despite it being a plan for many years. Tina doesn’t expect any further replies to her letters. However, she uses her first two letters to try and get her head around her life, the choices she’s made and the events that have happened to shape her.

“…I am forced to consider what might be the real reasons, because you’re answer to an unasked question has made me want to be honest with myself. Please be aware, I am writing to you to make sense of myself.”

We learn about the character of Bella and the impact she had on Tina’s life. From being friends since school, the girls had big plans, all of which are shared with the stranger Curator of the museum in which she is writing to. This dialogue is not one sided. Anders Larsen, the Curator also gains a great deal from the letters shared between them. He claims it makes him think about history and the world. Yet, as time progresses, their dialogue does change to be more personal.

“I end, as always, with an apology. This is not why you started this correspondence, to read my views on ideas too grand for me to express them as I would like to do, even if my English, like yours, was perfect.”

The tone changes as the letters become more personal, more entwined in the sharing of their own personal lives. Tina tells of her life on the farm, the daily routine, how her husband embodies the farm; he is at one with it. However, Tina feels like she sacrificed her life and what she wanted, even though she is happy. In Anders’s response, he discloses the story of how his wife, Birgitt, died. His hopes and dreams died that day too. He’s merely been breathing not living since then. He shares her last words, arguably quite a bold step to share this with a complete stranger. There is a feeling, quite early on that these letters will come to have significant meaning for the both of them.

“I never saw her again. Her body has never been found. She left my side as if all her life she had been dreaming and now she wanted to wake a new day.”

As they continue to share their lives: stories of their children, their work and their pleasures, we come to realise that there is a sense of ease between the two. You can feel the excitement that each letter brings them both. There’s also a sense of urgency as Anders suggest they email and attach their letters to share their thoughts immediately. What is quite endearing is the process they go through, the printing of each letter, keeping them all together. As a reader, you get the feeling that each are waiting for the others name to appear in their inbox. The biggest need for both though is for Tina to visit the museum to see the Tollund Man. The narration centres around this and isn’t forgotten.

“I am looking forward to standing beside you when you meet the Tollund Man for the first time. I hope it is soon, but I trust you to know when the time has come.”

As each divulge and share more about their own children, Anders shares the new of his daughter’s pregnancy. He wants Tina’s opinion on Karin’s decision to keep the baby but not tell the father. Anders wants to share his thoughts but something is holding him back. He needs advice and reassurance from Tina: the bond between the two ever strengthening. Likewise, Tina wanted to share her discussion of this topic with her daughter, Mary and her partner, Vassily. The split narrative of Tina and Anders means we learn more about their children as we hear their voices through their parents. Each personality is strong and shines through the letter form. Their children shape how they think; the attitudes they have.

“We should look inside ourselves for fulfilment. It is not fair to burden children or grandchildren with the obligation to make us whole. Our obligation is them is to make them safe and provide them with an education.”

Tina shares the news that life is changing on the farm too as Mary and Vassily are moving to their own place, meaning they are leaving and need replacing. To deal with this change, each focus on a room and describe it to one another. They each teach the other to look hard and see what’s really there. Anders’s job is to look at objects and catalogue. However, it appears difficult when people are involved; the objects mean more. Ander’s talks about the objects his wife collected, no knowing the context to most. However, they’ve been sat for the time his wife has been gone bringing him no joy. He shares with his children the want to getting rid of them. It’s a sign of moving on.

“Lastly Erik laid the nest of twigs on the water of the lake and we watched as the waves and the breeze played games with it, tossing it away from us then towards us as if inviting us to decide we did not really want to let it go.”

There’s further sense of life progressing and moving on towards the end as Tina wants to end their correspondence because she doesn’t want to spread her unhappiness to Anders, who finally seems more content within his own circumstances. However, he persuades her to continue to share and reveal what is deeply troubling her. She discovers her husband’s affair. Life as she knows it is now completely different again. She leaves to live in Bella’s old flat. The letters slow down but do not diminish. She also starts to feel guilty because of her involvement with Anders.

“When I first found out I reacted with outrage. I felt like an innocent woman, grossly deceived by those she had trusted, those she had served. But once I calmed down, I began to challenge my own innocent. Because of you.”

Like a true friend and confidant, Anders offers solutions in his reply. This letter is one of the largest in the novel and you can tell that there has been serious thought and consideration in the words chosen. Underneath all of the advice, he just wants her to be happy. The novel goes full circle as we return to Tina reading The Bog People. The big question: will she go and see the Tollund Man? The final letter is from Anders, repeating the words echoed through the collection of letters.

“I am waiting for you. I will wait, every day, between twelve o’clock and two o’clock in the cafe in the museum. I will be watching the door, waiting for you to arrive.”

Overview

This novel is beautiful in its purest sense. The letters change from formal, to friendly to compassionate. As you are reading you can feel the walls of each character gradually tumble. They each learn from one another, their families change because of the friendship also.

This book taught me a valuable lesson, or reminded me that everyone needs to feel love regardless of age. I’m desperate to know if Tina went to the museum. Yet, I fear the magic would be lost if we ever did find out. This ending means we can create our own ending for these characters. In my heart, I just want happiness for them both but maybe I’m just being optimistic. Maybe they never meet and the letters are all they have. Who knows. Regardless, it’s a really beautiful read.

Big love to all!

Xx

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RTY: The Course of Love – Alain de Botton

Hey Everyone!

Happy February. Today’s post is part two of Penguin’s Read The Year Challenge. The focus for February is: Get stuck into a story of obsessive love. Whilst researching different love stories, I stumbled across this. I’d never heard of the author before or the novel. Yet, I was intrigued by the fact that Botton’s work is regarded as ‘philosophy of everyday life.’ This clearly was going to be quite a real story; one that would evoke many emotions in me. I wasn’t wrong.

 

What’s it all about?

The novel follows the relationship of Rabih and Kirsten during their every day lives. The book is structured into 5 sections, each representing a stage in their relationship. Our eyes are opened to the philosophical teachings in italic, blurring emotion and rational thought. It appears to offer explanations to the behaviours displayed. As the novel starts we meet Rabih. He sees Kirsten and knows that she is the one.

“He has never felt anything remotely like this before. The sensation overwhelms him from the first. It isn’t dependent on words – which they will never exchange. It is as if he has in some way always known her, as if she holds out an answer to his very existence…”

However, this novel isn’t meant to be a fairy tale. They meet, fall in love and then real life begins. As a reader, we are with them every step of the way. Real life defines and shapes their relationship. Part one: Romanticism. This first stage of the novel shows their dates and the proposal of marriage. This initial stage of the relationship brings great excitement and wonder.

“He asks her to marry him because it feels like an extremely dangerous thing to do: if the marriage should fail, it would ruin both their lives.”

The second stage of the novel is Ever After. It is here where we would be likely to assume the end. We are all used to that cliche ‘and they all lived happily ever after’. But what happens after that? Well, we see an argument about glasses in IKEA, the proper way of how to tell a story and the matter of punctuality. Little strifes from every day life. Rabih and Kirsten have them all which means we all do.

“We should add that it is a privilege to be the recipient of a sulk: it means the other person respects and trusts us enough to think we should understand their unspoken hurt.”

Along with squabbles, the novel explores the unpredictability of the world of work and the impact this has on relationships. Rabih experiences stresses at work with pay freezes and job changes. Also, anniversary trips abroad don’t go quite right with a misplaced phone. Each draw to the same conclusion: placing blame at one another and criticism. It is what they learn that matters.

“He isn’t angry with her; he is panicked and battered by events. To be a better husband, he recognizes, he will have to learn to place a little less of the wrong, destructive sort of hope in the woman who loves him.”

Children comes next and this in itself brings massive changes to the relationship between Rabih and Kirsten. The time they have together is diminishing, priorities change and the focus becomes the child/ren (Esther and William in the case of Rabih and Kirsten.) They teach their children to be kind, always. Yet, this too causes conflict. How far is too far?

“The relationship nevertheless makes Kirsten worry a little for her daughter’s future. She wonders how other men will be able to measure up to such standards of tenderness and focused attention…”

The next part was a slightly uncomfortable part: adultery. It’s not the cheating that bothers me so much, it’s the fact that Rabih never tells her. To me this feels like a betrayal. I appreciate that he wanted to keep the peace, to not cause massive upset, which he knew it would. He appreciated the sense of closeness and needing to be wanted. Personally, I wasn’t completely convinced by this section. Possibly too much theory and not enough reality?

“Marriage: a deeply peculiar and ultimately unkind thing to inflict on anyone one claims to care for.”

The final part of the novel was Beyond Romanticism. It is here we see ‘real life’ as it were. With the help of a therapist, they’ve learnt the lessons of previous mistakes and can see the errors of their ways. The relationship seems healthier and more realistic. 16 years into their relationship they seem ready for marriage. This may seem like a bizarre concept but it is my interpretation that it is part of the learning process.

“We are ready for marriage when we accept that in a number of significant areas our partner will be wiser, more reasonable and more mature than we are. We should want to learn from them.”

 

Overview

This book is well written and filled with real life experiences that we can all relate to at some point or another. Whether it is my age or the fact that I’m not married or have children, there’s some parts that just feel like theory.

Penguin’s theme was obsessive love and I do believe this is shown. We obsess about being the best possible partner, we want the same in return. We love deeply and passionately. Every single one of us makes mistakes and causes hurt without meaning to.

I’m pleased I’ve read this book. I’ve never really read anything like this before so it was an eye opener. I know that one day the teachings will help me in any relationships I’m in. Basically, love really is an amazing, terrifying thing.

Big love all. Xx

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RTY: Safe Haven – Nicholas Sparks

Hey Everyone!

Day four of January 2018 and I’ve read two books. I’m quite pleased with this progress but I am well aware my holiday is nearly over. However, I’m reading as much as I can before reality hits!

You may have seen a previous post about the Read The Year Challenge. The focus for January was: start the year with a book about new beginnings. Thanks so much to the lovely Kim at By Hook Or By Book for suggesting this book to me!

 

What’s it all about?

Safe Haven centres around the protagonist, Katie. At the start of the novel she is Erin, a wife who is fleeing in a violent marriage. Kevin is an alcoholic and usually ends up beating her. Erin decided enough was enough and ran away.

“Everyone has a past, but that’s just it–it’s in the past. You can learn from it, but you can’t change it.”

When she arrived in a small North Carolina town, Southport, she appears to be twitchy, afraid and constantly looking over her shoulder. She absolutely does not wish to form any ties or relationships with people. Despite this, she becomes friends with her next door neighbour, Jo and Alex, the owner of the local store. Alex is widowed with two young children and over time goes out of his way to be kind to Katie, stocking up with produce she likes and discussing literature together. Katie was instantly attracted to him. I have to agree, he sounds like a true gent!

“She wasnt exactly sure when it happened. Or even when it started. All she knew for sure was that right here and now, she was falling hard and she could only pray that he was feeling the same way.”

Slowly, Katie begins to let down her guard, helped by an unfortunate fishing incident with Alex’s little boy, Josh. Katie begins to feel closer and closer to Alex and his family. But Katie is trapped by a secret. As time goes by, and Katie and Alex get closer, she reveals her past: the abuse, beatings and fear. Katie firmly believes that if Kevin ever finds her, he will kill her. So to protect herself she created a new identity, or borrowed one based on a dead daughter of her neighbour. After all, they did look fairly similar.

“I’ve come to believe that in everyone’s life, there’s one undeniable moment of change, a set of circumstances that suddenly alters everything.”

Whilst Katie tries to rebuild a new life, the one she’s left behind is raging. Kevin is angry and is drinking more and more. He’s obsessed with Erin and by a stroke of (arguable) luck, works out that she’s got a new identity and searched for her. Eventually he traces her back to Southport via a new drivers licence Katie had recently obtained. He tracks her down and sees that she is with Alex and his two children at the carnival. Katie has a sense of something being wrong, but can’t quite put her finger on it.

“…nothing wonderful lasted forever. Joy was as fleeting as a shooting star that crossed the evening sky, ready to blink out at any moment.”

Kevin decides he is going to kill his wife and her new lover by setting the house on fire. Katie gets the children, Josh and Kristin out safely. Her natural motherly instincts kick in. Kevin attacks Katie, kicking and punching her. For the first time, she fights back whilst the children run for help.

Alex finds his children and takes them to Katie’s house. He goes back to his home and finds Kevin attacking Katie. Kevin pulls his gun but Alex drives his car at him, breaking every bone in his hand. The gun falls to the ground.

Katie is terrified that Kevin is going to hurt the children. They race to her house to find Kevin trying to break in. However, he is unstable: alcohol and blood loss isn’t helping! Yet, he is able to hit Alex with a crowbar, pulling a gun on Katie. As Kevin and Alex fight, the gun fires. Kevin is dead.

“…because the past was always around her and might return at any time. It prowled the world searching for her, and she knew it was growing angrier at every passing day.”

As time passes injuries heal and relationships start to recover. Amazingly, a safe is recovered from the fire. Inside it held personal documents and memories from Alex’s late wife, Carly, one of which is an unopened letter. He gives it to Katie asking her to read it.

When she returns home she is shocked to find that Jo’s house looked abandoned. Katie reads the letter and notices it is signed by Carly Jo. It dawns on Katie that her friend Jo was actually the spirit of Carly, watching over Alex, making sure he found happiness.

The letter is possibly the most emotional part of the novel. She asks Katie to look after Alex and their children, to love them and be the mother she cannot be. Once she’s finished the letter, Katie notices lights in Jo’s house and sees her waving from the window. Yet when she looks again, she’s gone. It looks abandoned once again. The novel ends with Katie and Alex ready to start their news lives together.

“Deep in her heart, she wasn’t sure she deserved to be happy, nor did she believe that she was worthy of someone who seemed…normal.”

 

Overview

This novel kept me absolutely hooked. I felt happiness, sadness, worry, fear and relief. It came over me in waves. The description of the beatings were horribly realistic, almost harrowing. I automatically fell in love with Alex, he’s the perfect guy. I wanted Katie to have a good life. I actively wanted them both to be happy. The sensitive writing and portrayal of Jo was really beautiful. It was the best way to end this novel.

Time to turn my attention to next month. February – Get stuck into a story of obsessive love. I’m looking forward to this. After all, February is the month of love! I’m surprised I’ve got January’s read – 11 months to go!

Big love all xx

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Read The Year With Penguin

Hello lovely people!!

As the end of December is fast approaching, I have turned my attention and thoughts to reading resolutions for next year. Whilst having a mooch about the sales online, I stumbled across Read The Year With Penguin Books. Naturally, I was curious. It looks awesome!

The aim of this reading challenge is to try something new, to experience new writers and genres. I try to branch out but I think this will really help me to continue the mission of finding more. I’m hoping you can all help me too!

The topics for each month are as follows:

January: Start the year with a book about new beginnings.

February: Get stuck into a story of obsessive love.

March: Read a book about a women you hadn’t previously heard of.

April: Grab a book that will help you explore your creativity.

May: Use a book to get closure to nature.

June: Pick up a book that delves into the experience of fatherhood.

July: Travel anywhere in (or out of) the world with a book.

August: Choose a book which tells a migration story.

September: Dive into a coming of age story you haven’t read before.

October: ‘Tis the season for spooky stories: take your pick.

November: Pick a book about the country you live in.

December: Finish the year with a book that embodies the festive spirit.

As you can see, this looks quite exciting. There’s areas here I haven’t considered before so I’m thinking I need to get planning what I’m going to read. Penguin do offer some suggestions here.

This is where I need you, my fellow lovely bloggers. Do you have suggestions for any of the months? Let me know. My plan is to review the book I’ve read each month for the challenge. I’ll try anyway! Maybe you could take part in this with me? That would be awesome too!

Big love xxx

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Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer


Hey guys! 

Hope you’re all well this beautiful August day. I’m back into the swing of things reading wise so I thought I would post a review of a book I’ve finished reading: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. This was quite a quick read as I managed to finish it in three days. I’ve surprised myself with that one. I was thinking that my brain wouldn’t let me read much! 


What’s it all about? 

The novel is narrated by nine year old protagonist, Oskar Schell. He is grieving the loss of his father, Thomas, who was killed in the World Trade Center on September 11th 2001. The consequence of this for Oskar is that he feels angry and depressed as well as being distant with his mother. Essentially, Oskar is afraid of everything. 

“Why didn’t I learn to treat everything like it was the last time. My greatest regret was how much I believed in the future.” 

However, Oskar has a terrible secret that he shares with the reader. When he returned home from school on September 11th, he listened to the voicemails left by his father whilst he was inside the burning World Trade Center. On the final call, Oskar fails to pick up the phone as he was too afraid. The line goes dead. Oskar feels so guilty that he hid the answering machine and hasn’t told anyone about the messages. 

“My life story is the story of everyone I’ve ever met.” 

In the not too distant future, Oskar finds a key inside a vase within his father’s closet. Along with the key, there is a little envelope with the word ‘Black’ on it. Oskar deduces that this must be a name and he makes the decision to track down every person in New York with that last name, Black. 

It is whilst Oskar takes this mission that he meets a range of different characters e.g. Abby that I found quite relatable. Yet non of them know anything about the key. A Mr. Black, first name unknown, has not left his apartment for 24 years, agrees to help Oskar on his search. Over the course of eight months, he visits all of the Blacks in all the boroughs. 

Oskar visits his Grandma’s apartment and talks to her allusive renter, who unknown to Oskar, is his grandfather. We are told how years earlier, Oskar’s grandfather had abandoned his grandmother when she became pregnant with Oskar’s father. Following the events of WW2, where he consequently lost everyone he loved, he decided he couldn’t bear loving anyone again. He did write letters to his son throughout his life, yet never posted them. Sadly, he returned to America before September 11th to reunite with his family, but it was too late to meet his son, Oskar’s dad. As a result, he moves back in with his grandma; a relationship that appears as rather strange to Oskar. 

“I missed you even when I was with you. That’s been my problem. I miss what I already have, and I surround myself with things that are missing.” 

Oskar discloses his story about his dad and the search to the renter. Whilst this is ongoing, Oskar checks his phone and sees that he has a message from Abby Black, the second Black he spoke to. Abby knows who or what the key belongs to: her husband’s father’s safe deposit box. This is anticlimactic for Oskar and he is disappointed that the key had very little to do with his own dad. He decides to return the key to William. 

“So many people enter and leave your life! Hundreds of thousands of people! You have to keep the door open so they can come in! But it also means you have to let them go!” 

Whilst this is happening and Oskar’s search is ongoing, his mother never asks where he is going. It is finally revealed at the end of the novel that she has known the whole time. Once she gained this knowledge, she called every person and explained what Oskar was up to, before he got there. 

When his search ended in bitter disappointment, Oskar decides to dig up his father’s empty coffin and asks the renter for help. Together, they go to the cemetery. The renter brings two suitcases with him filled with all the unsent letters he wrote to his son. The renter decides to fill the empty coffin with these letters. This seems to be a turning point for Oskar, who is now able to move forward from his grief and loss. Importantly, he reconnects with his mother. 

To conclude, in a long letter from Grandma to Oskar, we discover that Grandpa and Grandma grew up in Dresden, Germany and both survived the firebombing of the city. However, neither of their families did. Grandma knew deep down that Grandpa was in love with her sister, Anna, but she married him anyway. She accepts that fact when he comes back to her on September 11th because she doesn’t want to be alone. When he tries to leaves her again, they decide to live at the airport together. 

“There were things I wanted to tell him. But I knew they would hurt him. So I buried them, and let them hurt me.” 

Oskar is back to square one. He’s failed to find any conclusions about his Dad. The novel ends with a series of pictures of a man falling to his death from the World Trade Center. Oskar decides to flip them so the man falls up the building. Therefore, imagining his Dad is safe. 

“I like to see people reunited, I like to see people run to each other, I like the kissing and the crying, I like the impatience, the stories that the mouth can’t tell fast enough, the ears that aren’t big enough, the eyes that can’t take in all of the change, I like the hugging, the bringing together, the end of missing someone.” 

Overview:

I really enjoyed this book and I was surprised how quickly I managed to get through it. I had a tear at the end because I was incredibly moved by the content and plot. I tried to put myself in Oskar’s shoes; to feel what he felt throughout this novel. I am a firm believer that all novels have the ability to teach us something. This taught me that we can always feel pain and sometimes we are desperate for answers that just are not there. It’s really easy for us to look into things and make assumptions, like Oskar and the key. I’m not ashamed to say that this book broke my heart a little bit, possibly because of Oska’s narration and because I can remember 9/11 like it was yesterday. I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing at the time. This gave me some form of personal response or relationship with this book. 
Keep reading guys! Enjoy August. 

Big love xx

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