Monday, 30 November 2015

Miss Charity par Marie-Aude Murail

« Je suis dans ma vingt-troisième année. Mais je me sens plus âgée. Et pourtant, je n’ai presque rien vécu. Les années immobiles comptent peut-être doubles. » (p. 425)

Miss Charity par Marie-Aude Murail. L’histoire se déroule dans la fin du 19ème siècle. Miss Charity Tiddler est une petite fille solitaire. Depuis l'enfance, elle s'intéressé par la nature, spécialement les animaux. Elle passe son temps dans le troisième étage de sa maison en compagnie de Tabitha, sa bonne, et ses animaux de compagnie. Charity est très intelligente et apprend par cœur les pièces de Shakespeare. Sa plus grande passion c'est le dessin. De chapitre en chapitre, Charity grandit. Elle est perdue dans les rigueur de la bonne société anglaise. Au 25, la société pense qu’elle est trop vieille pour trouver un mari.  Mais Tiddler n'est pas trop inquiet parce qu'elle veut être indépendante, et écrire de livre jeunesse.

J’ai compris peut-être 50 pour cent de ce livre. Je pense que c’est bon parce que c’est un livre très long (563 pages !). Mais, donc, je ne suis pas la meilleure personne pour écrire une critique sur le livre. Je vais écrire basé sur que j’ai compris. Parce que c’est un bon exercice pour mon français. Je m’excuse pour les erreurs.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

The Absolutist by John Boyne

“In that direction only pain lies.” 

I think this quote pretty much sums up the book. I can't actually remember in which part of the book this quote is from, but it can be interpreted as the physical pain that war brings, the emotional pain because of the many losses it causes, or pain because of a heartbreak.

Just in case you are unaware, an absolutist is someone that completely opposes the war- they refuse to fight in it, or help out in any other way. Nowadays, I think the majority of people are against war, but during WWI, they were considered cowards or 'feather men'. There were also conscientious objectors, who were those who refused to fight in the War, but helped out in other ways, e.g. by being a stretcher bearer. I actually learnt many things by reading this book. It's not very educational, but I was just ignorant about WWI before.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

“To sell your soul is the easiest thing in the world. That's what everybody does every hour of his life. If I asked you to keep your soul - would you understand why that's much harder?” 

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand is about architect, Howard Roark, working against the tides of society. He knows what he wants, and has a need to design. However, his designs are his own and are not accepted by a society of ‘second-handers’. His genius and independence are threats to the way society is functioning. His rivals, those who seek power, control and self-sacrifice from the common people, will stop at nothing to bring him down. There are only a few people who are Roark’s equal. But even Dominique Francon has much to learn about Roark’s philosophy.

It is strange that Rand’s novels have a way of making me like them at the end, no matter how much I hated it in the middle. I found The Fountainhead, much easier to read than Atlas Shrugged. But despite this, there were moments that I thought the story was heading down hill. I struggled to understand some of her ideas, especially that of love. I thought that the scene were Roark goes into Dominique’s bedroom and ‘claims’ her, was completely unnecessary (well, actually, maybe not unnecessary but in my point of view it went a bit too far.) The reason I liked this book was combination of factors – I liked it because of a sense of accomplishment when I got to the end of such a heavy and long book, because I agreed with the ideals she presented (even if some of them appeared as caricatures) and most of all, I like Rand’s books because she somehow manages to leave a sense of hope and resolution even though there is never exactly a ‘happy ending’.

I know that many people regard Rand’s writing as a ‘cult’. I don’t. I like reading her novels, and I don’t every think I have to hide them. I like her ideas; I like the idea of independent thinking. The problem is that I know that no matter how much I try, whatever I think will just be a copy of what someone else had thought before, and I can assume that much. What I do try to achieve, is to read, watch and listen to as many opinions and thoughts as possible, I can then try to decide which mix of ideas makes the most sense to me. By then saying ‘yes’ to these ideas, they can become ‘mine’, independent of who created the thoughts/values.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Portraits of Celina by Sue Whiting

“… but it seemed that the troubles of the past had strangely brought us a little closer together…”

Portraits of Celina by Sue Whiting tells the story of a broken family who move into an abandoned haunted house. The house had belonged to past members of their family, and had been the site where Celina, Bayley’s second cousin, had died. Bayley shares a striking resemblance to Celina. When Bayley starts to have visions of Celina’s old life, she thinks she is going crazy. Celina seeks revenge and Bayley must be the one to avenge her.

I am absolutely mesmerized by this book. It was so interesting and it had both cute teen romance and brooding mysteries. Full of plot twists, I could not put the book down. The result? Two hours later, and a finished book to write about. It is listed as part of the Premier’s Reading Challenge for years 7-9. But I think it may be interesting to even older grades.

Friday, 6 November 2015

iBoy by Kevin Brooks

“we’re all … animals - none of us know any better”

iBoy by Kevin Brooks is the story of a teenage boy who acquires ‘superpowers’. When someone throws an iPhone from the top of a 30 story building, Harvey’s head is cracked and the iPhone pieces get stuck inside his brain. Harvey is able to everything that a phone can do and much more. He seeks revenge on the gang members who hurt his childhood friend, Lucy. He becomes known as iBoy, a superhero protecting the violent local area. But in all of that, Harvey loses himself to iBoy as the line between good and bad starts to blur.

After reading How to be Invisible, I simply assumed that this would be another book for pre-teens. However, this book contains some heavy themes and should be read by younger adolescents. (Maybe 15 and up? It really just depends on maturity…)

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

How to be Invisible by Tim Lott

“Trust is invisible too, but it turns out that that it’s the invisible things that matter most of all”

How to be Invisible by Tim Lott is the story of a 13 year old science genius who, as per the title, learns how to turn invisible. Strato Nyman, just moved schools and was having a hard time fitting in. When he discovers how to be invisible, he finds out that no one is ever really ‘visible’. He learns a lot about his family, his friends, his bullies and even his teacher.  

I think I may be too old for this book. I kind of worked that out from the age of the protagonist. However, the title seemed so interesting, I decided to read it anyway. So, of course since I’m not the target audience, this review might be a bit harsh.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Goat who Sailed the World by Jackie French

'Eeegh' said the Goat.

That's right. This book is about a goat. A goat who is on a journey on the Endeavour (a picture of the ship is below). She makes friends with a young boy on the ship- he is a master's servant and one of his jobs is to milk the goat. They discover new lands, including Australia.

The story is fictional but based on a real story. The Endeavour really did search for new lands in the 18th century, and the boy, Isaac Manley, really did exist. And there most likely was a goat on board. However, the dialogue between the characters and Isaac's thoughts were made up.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

"You were like a piece of magic. You held the fixed stars in place for me and you stopped them from falling" 

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty follows the story of a girl from the World and a boy from the Kingdom of Cello. They live in different worlds, but are connected through a small crack- just wide enough to fit letters. They write to one another, and help each other with their problems. 

The funny thing is that I actually borrowed this book a few months ago, read a few pages, got tired of it, and returned it again. But I had forgotten I had already started reading this book, and just a few weeks ago, I borrowed it again. And I'm glad I gave the book a second chance. 

The beginning is quite slow (that's why I didn't finish reading it the first time), but the story gets increasingly better. Since part of the book is set in a magical Kingdom, I found it hard to understand everything that was going on. I think that Moriarty should've explained this Kingdom in more detail, and what the 'Colours' are. 

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Velvet by Mary Hooper

“All at once it struck her that there were many degrees of evil in the world.”

Velvet by Mary Hooper is a historical fiction novel exploring the world of clairvoyants. The main character, Velvet is a young lady and an orphan. She works at the laundry in order to make ends meet. When something goes wrong and she thinks she is going to lose her job, the famous psychic, Madame Savoya, employs Velvet. Velvet becomes a sort of assistant and gets an inside look into how the world of mediums works. At first, she is completely mesmerized. However, as she learns more, she begins to realize that nothing and no one are really what they seem.

This is going to be another short review. This is because I find that with easier to read books I get so entranced by the story that it becomes hard for me to go back and analyse what I just read. What I can remember is that I loved the book. I read it in a few hours and wanted more!

Saturday, 12 September 2015

David by Mary Hoffman

“How can you tell when a piece is finished?'I asked.

'You can't,' he said flatly. 'All you can tell is when you can't do any more to it. And then you need to stop because if you don't, you will spoil it.” 

David by Mary Hoffman tells the (fictional) story of the men behind Michelangelo’s David. This historical fiction novel explores the political tensions existent in Italy during the time period. Gabriele, the model, is a simple man from the countryside. He moves to Florence in search for more exciting work. The city offers many temptations; he is drawn into a world of spies and political treachery. This story explores 16th Century Florence, the meaning of art and what it means to grow up.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Almost Dead by Kaz Delaney

“…Well, you can’t have it both ways. You wanted a father, so you’ve got one.”

Almost Dead by Kaz Delaney follows the story of a Gold Coast elite high school girl, Macey Pentecost.  She is being visited by ghosts who need help to ‘move on’.  Although she doesn’t understand anything of the supernatural, she thinks she has it under control. That is, until she is visited by the ghost of ‘Nick’, who stubbornly refuses to admit he is dead.  He tries to warn Macey of danger, but even he doesn’t know what the danger is.  It all becomes more complicated as her father comes home with a surprise, Macey gets threats messages from a stalker and she starts developing feelings for Nick’s cousin.

Yesterday, my laptop stopped working and I took it as a ‘sign’ that I shouldn’t be doing homework :P I must say I am happy that my computer is crazy because I then found Almost Dead. The same day I finished it. It’s light, it’s cute and it’s romantic. Definitely different to the recent books I had been reading, and I was very glad to just relax for a bit. While it is very easy to read, it still has a very interesting plot. I was just a bit disappointed when I found out who the stalker was. Maybe it was just me, but I didn’t think we had enough mentions of the stalker. I had to quickly read back to remind myself who this person was. At least it was a surprise.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Everyday by David Levithan

“Every day I am someone else. I am myself-I know I am myself-but I am also someone else. It has always been like this.” 

Imagine waking up in a different body every day. A different room, a different family, a different life. Sounds crazy, right? This is the life of A (not from Pretty Little Liars!).  

Just from reading the blurb, I had high expectations. It's an interesting idea, and I was curious to see where the author took it. There are so many possibilities, and it had me asking so many questions. What is the reason for A waking up in a different body every day? What happens if A stays up past midnight? Can he/she stay in a body for more than a day? What happens to the person whose body he/she's in? 

Friday, 7 August 2015

Sister by Rosamund Lupton

“Grief is love turned into an eternal missing”  - Lupton

Do I even know how to access my blog anymore…? It’s definitely been way to long since the last time I read a book. I think that life can be explained just by looking at this blog – as time passed the less book reviews, not because I’ve grown lazy, but because I feel like I’ve lost the time to read. But with some of my tests over, I gave myself a quick break before I have to get back to my studies. Needless to say, I devoured two books in two days and will hopefully read another one today. Enough about me.

Rosamund Lupton’s Sister, is a thriller (well at least for my standards, as I am not really used to scary things) and almost detective fiction. It follows Beatrice’s journey as she looks for her missing sister. When the police end the case, Beatrice is unsatisfied with the verdict. It becomes all up to Beatrice to uncover the truth. She doesn’t just uncover the mystery but also learns about herself and her relationships.

Maybe it’s the fact that I hadn’t read a book for a long time, or that someone left this book on their fence for someone to take it for free or just simply because I always get to attached to novels, but I absolutely loved it! The language was simple and it was quite easy to read. The only hard part was figuring out when the settings switched - when Beatrice was talking to the detective or talking to her sister through the letter. But this form is perfect for the novel when you get to the end and learn the truth about this ‘letter’. I didn’t start reading expecting much but by the end I was screaming out loud at the plot twists.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

“...[A]nything worth dying for ... is certainly worth living for.” 

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller is set during WWII on island of Pianosa (though the setting is of little importance). It follows the story of a common soldier, Yossarian, and his friends. Yossarian has lost many of his colleagues and friends to the war. His problems are further perpetuated by Colonel Cathcar, who keeps raising the number of missions the men had to fly to complete their service. No matter, how much Yossarian longs to be sent home, he is trapped by a ‘Catch-22’. The term, coined by Heller, refers to the paradoxical set of circumstances that the characters are often faced with; especially, the idea that any soldier who is willing to fly is insane and could be sent home if he asked for it, however, as soon as he asks to be sent home he shows concern for his safety and is therefore of a rational mind.

Heller’s satirical book is, despite initial controversy, a defining novel of the 20th Century. Despite it being set during WWII, the book concerns postmodernist ideas. The book is still taught in schools and contains important critiques that can still be applied to modern society. Any reader has to be prepared to face the absurdity of Heller’s work. Personally, I did not enjoy the book. However, this is because I prefer the structure and predictability of Victorian literature. But I am glad that I read this book. I thought Heller presented very important ideas and I agreed with many of his values; some of these ideas will be explored later in this review.

The novel has become representative of postmodernist literature by its subversion of form to represent the zeitgeist of the time. The book uses an ‘anti-novel’ structure and an ‘anti-hero’. The book rejects many of the traditional novel formats. The book is not written in chronological order and does not follow the structure of introduction, climax and conclusion. Instead the reader is introduced to Yossarian in a hospital talking about events that will only occur at the end of the book. Yossarian talks about the death of Snowden during a mission that isn’t described until the second last chapter of the book. The novel also has an ambiguous ending, living questions unanswered. Yossarian, the protagonist, is not a ‘hero’. Yossarian has many faults and is quite insane – or at actually he is quite sane in an insane world. Yossarian does not have the courage and intengrity that heroes often display. The whole plot follows Yossarian’s plan to escape, including the lies he creates to stay in a hospital where he can escape his duties. These are two of the main ways that Heller changes the format of books in order to represent the new values of the postmodern world.


Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Stasiland by Anna Funder

“Though it is the hardest thing, to work out one's weight and heft in the world, to whittle down all that I am and give it a value.” - Anna Funder
Stasiland is Australian Anna Funder’s literary journalism of Germany’s dark past.  In 1996, seven years after the reunification of Germany, Funder is working in television in West Berlin and grows interested in the occupants of the former German Democratic Republic. She explores the stories of the victims and perpetrators of the Stasi in East Germany. Anecdotes are drawn from people who answer to Funder’s newspaper advertisements and Funder’s own acquaintances. Miriam is the ‘tragic hero’ of the text. Funder sympathises with the 16-year-old who came to be considered an enemy of the state. Miriam tells the story of Charlie, her husband that was killed in custody. Miriam’s story is interwoven with the stories of Julia and Frau Paul. Julia is Funder’s land lady, although reluctant about telling her story, shares the details of how her family went through “internal emigration”. Julia was ostracized because of her Italian boyfriend even though she had no intentions to go against the state. Frau Paul shares her story of how her sick baby was taken to West Berlin for treatment and because of her attempts to visit her son she becomes embroiled with a group helping people leave East Berlin. These sad stories are mixed with the stories of the perpetrators, the people who worked with or helped the Nazi, including Herr Winz, Hagen Koch, Karl E. Schnitzler and Herr Bock. Many of these men think back to the GDR with nostalgia and little to none remorse. Funder’s story is a personal and passionate exploration of Germany’s Stasi epoch.

I really enjoyed Stasiland, and I don’t often read non-fiction. Funder’s literary journalism style may not be conventional or the most factual but I found that it is creates a very interesting way to read non-fiction. I could empathise with these real life characters and it added a breath of fresh air into a topic that is now often seen only through the details of school textbooks.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Hiroshima by John Hersey

"What has kept the world safe from the bomb since 1945 has not been deterrence, in the sense of fear of specific weapons, so much as it's been memory. The memory of what happened at Hiroshima." - John Hersey

Hiroshima by John Hersey is simply summarized as the story of the atomic bomb survivors. Hiroshima follows the story of six of the survivors and the impact of the bomb on their lives. Hersey uses a style of New Journalism - using fiction writing techniques to recount true stories. This allows for readers to really understand the horrific consequences of war and of the nuclear bomb; while the book is non-fiction it focuses on the stories of ordinary people instead of data and statistic.

There is not much to add to this review, it is simply a truly poignant account of ordinary people affected by the decisions of power hungry governments. The book is a fantastic way to gather information on the context and impacts of the bomb. Hiroshima is sad and it's tragic, but it's real life. I (hopefully) will never understand the full effect of the bomb, but this book was able to open my previously ignorant eyes. I had always thought of the atomic bomb as being a completely horrible and unnecessary weapon, but it wasn't until I connected with the characters Hiroshima and saw their struggles that I realized the meaning that horrible and tragic can really take. I knew the facts on what the bomb is capable of, of the number of casualties, their mutations, the amount of town and buildings ruined, but no teacher had been able to pass on the impact of the bomb as clearly and as moving.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro

“A man who aspires to rise above the mediocre, to be something more than the ordinary, surely deserves admiration, even if he fails and loses a fortune on account of his ambitions . . . if one has failed only where others have not had the courage or will to try . . .  to be gained from his observation when looking back over one's life."

Kazuo Ishiguro's An Artist of the Floating World, follows the story of Masuji Ono, a propagandist artist for Japan Imperialism during the war. Following Japan’s defeat in the war, Ono becomes a discredited figure; his daughter, evermore influenced by her husband, criticizes her father for his past. To make it worst, Ono’s wife and son were killed and his youngest daughter was in her mid 20s and having trouble finding a husband. Ishiguro manages to provide a peek into post-war Japan and how the paradigms were shifting. The old tradition and ideas had to adapt to the new way of life, one that closely followed the USA. Ono is caught between worlds; he is ‘an artist of the floating world’.

This story is short, flowing and presents an interesting view, there is no reason why anybody shouldn't take a few hours (or less) to read Ishiguro’s, ‘An Artist of the Floating World’. The whole story is told in Ono’s point of view, I found this quite different as many novels don’t place an old retired man as the protagonist of the book. However, I found this technique captured perfectly the hypocritical state and the imbalanced state that Japan was left during the war. Ono had been considered a very patriotic Japanese. Now, he still had pride, he did what he believed was right and he was a well-known artists, however, he being forced to change his views and his whole history in order to be a ‘loyal’ Japanese. Ono’s mind quite often strayed and spoke about different ideas, but I think that he was, inherent to Japanese culture, very structured and the novel never became a stream of consciousness. At times, I did get lost as there were so many names and so many really similar names – I found it more confusing when Ono’s story would stray for five pages and he would suddenly remind himself to get back to the story. However, this way we are taken into the mind of the retired man, he has a lot of time to reminisce and he lives in a very tranquil state of mind even with everything going around him.