Buddy Read – 11/22/63 by Stephen King

August/September 2017 – Mel’s choice

11/22/63

by Stephen King

Published 2011

Genres: Historical Fiction/Thriller

 

“You’re healthy and in the prime of life. You can go back, and you can stop it.’
He leaned forward, his eyes not just bright; they were blazing.
‘You can change history, Jake. Do you understand that? John Kennedy can live.”

Maine high school teacher, Jake Epping is about to have his life turned upside down. The owner of the local diner reveals to Jake that he’s discovered a portal to travel back to the 1950’s, and wants to enlist Jake to carry out his plan to stop the Kennedy assassination. What will life be like for Jake in a different era to the one he knows? And could he really stop Lee Harvey Oswald?

 

Mel says…

Wowsers, what a ride!

11/22/63 took me 2 months to read from cover to cover. It was a damn big commitment when it comes to books, at 1080 pages, but I kept chipping away at it and boy am I glad I did.

This is my second attempt at completing this book. The first attempt was a ‘did not finish’ (DNF) due to lack of dedication and the sheer volume of pages to devour. BUT, I picked this as our August (come September) Buddy Read so Janelle and I could keep each other motivated enough to stick it out to the end.

Aside from the sizing of literature, this was an excellent addition to the Stephen King collection. It is only the second King novel that I have read, but it won’t be the last! The amount of research and thought that were put into these pages is astounding and evident. If I was naive enough, you could tell me this was a Non-Fictional recount of a time travellers journey and I would whole-heartedly believe you.

I felt that 1080 pages was too long for this story however, as it was edging to the finale, I was sad to think it would soon be over. As the day of the assassination neared, I myself felt the nervousness and eagerness that I could believe of George Amberson/Jake Epping and felt that King took his readers to those emotions with such cleverness, from a master of the written word.

I rate 11/22/63 4.5 stars. I recommend this book to anyone who has ever been fascinated by the JFK assassination and has ever asked themselves, ‘was Oswald a lone gunman?’

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

 

Janelle says…

I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with this book. However, I am glad that Mel chose it as our Buddy Read, as I think the sheer size of the thing would have forever turned me off it had I not been forced to read it.

I agree with Mel that it did not have to be quite so lengthy. The middle of the book did get taken up with the details of George Amberson’s/Jake Epping’s new life in the past, and while some of that was necessary to the plot, I got bored with the story at this point. It was difficult to motivate myself to read on to the end, and I did consider DNF’ing the book.

BUT I wouldn’t let it defeat me! It started out so strong, and having had previous success with reading King, I persevered. The story raced towards a thrilling finish and I ended up breezing through the last third of the book. I’m not sure I was entirely satisfied with the ending, only because a possible (and much more exciting, in my opinion) ending was hinted at and then didn’t eventuate, so I had been expecting and hoping for a different conclusion. In general, I was expecting and hoping for more time travel back and forth, and was somewhat disappointed when the protagonist got stuck in the late 50’s/early 60’s for the majority of the book.

Overall, not my favourite King so far but well worth the read if you can handle the commitment.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

 

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Conflicted – The Scent of You by Maggie Alderson

The Scent of You

by Maggie Alderson

Book

Published 2017

Genres: Fiction / Chic Lit

“Your glass might be half-empty or half-full, whatever – I’m wearing mine on my head, juggling it, making it into a percussion instrument. It’s not what you’re doing, or where you go, or who you’re with, but what you make it into.”

Polly’s life is great. Her children are away at uni, her glamorous mother – still modelling at eighty-five – is happily settled in a  retirement village, and her perfume blog is taking off. Then her husband announces he needs some space and promptly vanishes.
As Polly grapples with her bewildering situation, she clings to a few new friends to keep her going – Shirlee, the loudmouthed yoga student; Guy, the mysterious, infuriating and hugely talented perfumer; and Edward, an old flame from university.
And while she distracts herself with the heady world of luxury perfume, Polly knows she can’t keep reality at bay forever. Eventually she is forced to confront some difficult truths; about her husband, herself and who she really wants to be.

Mel says…

I really, REALLY wanted to like this book. I fell in love with Maggie Alderson years ago and have collected her novels ever since, but I must sadly say, I am glad I borrowed this one from the library…

The Scent of You is about self love, self worth and discovery, and I was eager to go on this whimsical journey with the protagonist, Polly.  In the beginning, the plot developed well and kept me eager to discover what would happen next. The mystery surrounding Polly’s husbands disappearance was at the forefront of my eagerness to keep turning pages.

By halfway, the story had veered its focus away from the husband’s disappearance and started focusing in on Polly’s relationships with other men and her children. This is when I started to get confused and bored. The anticipation of finding out why the husband had disappeared was losing all appeal and I began to struggle with my reading.

Polly became infuriating to read and I struggled to care about how her life would pan out, purely due to the drawn out conclusion. By the time the big reveal took place, I was disappointed and glad it was almost over.

It is hard to put my finger on exactly what this book was lacking, but one thing is for certain, it required more soul.

I struggled through the second half of this book and the only reason I stuck with it to the end was out of love for Maggie Alderson. This was a miss for me and it breaks my heart to say it, but don’t waste your time.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Buddy Read – Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

May 2017 – Janelle’s choice

 

Big Magic

by Elizabeth Gilbert

Published 2015

Genres: Non-Fiction / Self-help

 

“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.”

Elizabeth Gilbert is a champion of creative living, and in this book she shares tips on pushing past fear, giving yourself permission, and committing, to live out your most creative dreams.

 

Janelle says…

This is my second time reading this book, and while I can see why others have taken fault with it, I still love it. This is Liz Gilbert’s call to creativity, a kick-up-the-bum that we all sometimes need. Applicable to whatever your form of creative outlet is, this book quashes the usual excuses for not starting that project, or making time to do something you love, or taking that chance. Fear/time/embarrassment/lack of confidence….she covers it all. This book is your permission slip to allow yourself to do whatever it is that you truly yearn to do. In fact she says so herself in the book, she personally gives you permission!

Admittedly, at times this book does get a bit woo-woo. But while I don’t necessarily believe in Gilbert’s way of viewing how ideas are born and realised, I do think it’s a fun and motivating way of thinking about it. Meditating on the thought that if you don’t pick up a floating idea and do something about it, it will move on to someone else, does make me feel more inclined to take my ideas seriously lest I lose them.

I don’t really get why Gilbert cops such a lashing from critics and readers, I think she deserves to be cut some slack. I loved Eat Pray Love, and I love Big Magic. The first time I experienced Big Magic was on audio, and I felt so inspired I wanted to shout from the mountaintop about all the amazing things it made me want to do with my life. In the time between reading this the first time and reading it the second time, I have taken a big step in making one of my creative dreams come to fruition, and reading this again while knowing that I AM already allowing myself my creative freedom made me so happy and proud. And honestly, Big Magic did play a part in giving me the nudge that I needed to get going.

If you have ideas or hobbies or passions, or even if you don’t but you’d like to, let Elizabeth Gilbert inspire you to make your life full of beautiful creativity!

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

 

Mel says…

I’m going to start by stating that I am not a creative person, in that I don’t write (aside from this blog), paint, build, dance or play music. I wish I had a creative bone in my body, but sadly I have attempted all of the above and I just don’t have the talent or patience for such things.

With that said, I found it hard to connect with Big Magic. I would read several pages and get bored, put the book down and not touch it for days.

There was the occasional passage that I found intriguing, such as Liz Gilbert’s theory on Multiple Discovery. I like to think that ideas are out in the Universe, just waiting for their creator to grab them with both hands and mould them into something brilliant. That makes me feel warm and fuzzy, for some strange reason.

Aside from this, I have to admit I did a lot of skimming and then decided to give up after 3/4 of the way through. I apologise to my sister, who I know loves this book, but I just could not relate and so will forever more be a huge fan of creativity, but I was not created to be the creator…

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

 

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Consuming – Shelter by Jung Yun

Shelter

by Jung Yun

Published 2016

Genres: Fiction / Literary / Thriller

“He shakes his head and glances at Gertie, who hasn’t said a word since she turned toward the window. Her eyebrows are angled sharply into a frown, and her mouth is open as if she means to speak, but can’t.

“Is something wrong with the yard?” he asks.

Slowly, she lifts her finger and taps on the glass. “I think that woman out there – I think she might be naked.

 

Kyung is the son of Korean parents, and lives with his American wife and son. His upbringing, while lavish, was lacking in affection and warmth, and his connection with his parents as an adult is shaky. But when an act of unspeakable violence suddenly impacts the family, they find themselves thrown together and having to confront their issues from the past and deal with their internal demons.

 

Janelle says…

This book was such a pleasant surprise. I’m still thinking about the story and how much I loved it.

I was expecting a story roughly centred around Asian immigrants trying to make a life in America. I don’t know where I got that expectation from, but I was wrong. This is an exploration of family dynamics and secrets, particularly within non-Western cultures. It looks at both gender and race. It deals with grief and trauma, and it packs quite a few tough scenes. It’s certainly not an easy read, but it’s so thoughtful and moving, and leaves a lot to ponder.

What struck me most about this book was just how much it packed in, and how appealing it would be to a wide range of readers. You’ll notice I’ve categorised it as both literary fiction and thriller, and it’s true – I can’t completely dump it within either category. The plot kept me keen the whole way through, every time I had to put the book down I couldn’t wait to get back to it to find out what else it had in store. It had a few unexpected turns, and I questioned my views on various characters time and again. It kept moving at a steady pace which is something that’s important to me to keep my attention.

Shelter was both shattering and entertaining. It was just a solid, enjoyable read. It would be perfect for book clubs, I think you could discuss this with other people for hours. One of my favourite reads so far this year. Highly recommended!

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Buddy Read – The Girls by Emma Cline

March 2017 – Mel’s choice

The Girls

by Emma Cline

Published 2016

Genres: Fiction / Literary

“I didn’t tell him that I wished I’d never met Suzanne. That I wished I’d stayed safely in my bedroom in the dry hills near Petaluma, the bookshelves packed tight with the gold-foil spines of my childhood favourites. And I did wish that. But some nights, unable to sleep, I peeled an apple slowly at the sink, letting the curl lengthen under the glint of the knife. The house dark around me. Sometimes it didn’t feel like regret. It felt like a missing.”

1969. California. Fourteen-year-old Evie Boyd is living a standard suburban teenage life- trying to make sense of her split family situation, learning about herself, noticing boys. And noticing the group of scruffy, devil-may-care girls who keep crossing her path. Something about them is alluring to her. One of them in particular sticks in her mind, and through some coincidental events, Evie manages to weave her way into their group and become entwined in their lives. Living off the grid, she experiences drugs and sex, and very quickly leaves her old life behind. However the influence of the group’s “leader”, Russell, is about to become something more than she could have ever foreseen.

 

Mel says…

I chose this book for our March Buddy Read as I had heard such amazing reviews. Celebrities were posting about it and it made me want to find out what all the fuss was about.

At the start, I enjoyed the writing style of Emma Cline. The back and forth from past to present was intriguing, for about half the book. I found the present day Evie to become irrelevant. There seemed no real logical explanation for bothering with present day Evie. She added zero value to the storyline, in my opinion and I began getting irritated when I would turn the page and there she would be, for the next 10-20 pages.

From start to finish, I was expecting something….more. I felt like I was constantly on the brink of some huge revelation in Evie’s life, that never came. She was the kind of protagonist that you wish would be killed off in the dying pages. She was infuriating and I just couldn’t get on board with her way of thinking, even when I tried stepping back into teenage-Mel’s shoes.

I think the saving grace for me was the plot itself. I have always been intrigued with real life crime stories and this was very closely related to the Charles Manson story. The cult following, the era and the murders. This is what kept me reading and I have to admit, by the end, I was somewhat relieved it was over and was severely disappointed!

It took me weeks to write this review after finishing The Girls. Partly because of my poor time management, but mainly due to the fact that as the days wore on, I forgot what actually occurred. If I could sum this book up in one word it would be; Forgettable!

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Janelle says…

Well, it started out ok.

It’s no secret that this story is meant to be reminiscent of the evolution of the Manson family. But if you’re going into it expecting a lot of gruesome details and a focus on the murders, you’ll be disappointed. This is a story about puberty, love, friendships, and learning about oneself – your limitations, your image, your self-restraint.

As far as a book that studies the above topics goes, it doesn’t do a bad job. If I was reading this about 15 years ago, I probably would have felt very connected to the internal challenges that the main character Evie faces. I could definitely identify with her at certain times, particularly in her defiant moments.

But…..that’s it. In all honesty I just found this to be, well, boring. I had the scene all figured out within the first 100 pages or so, I didn’t need it to go on with the same stuff for the next 250. It probably didn’t help that I had already read reviews and opinions on this book when it first came out, but still, that didn’t stop me wanting to read it. Now that I have read it though, I found it lacking in substance, and basically just forgettable.

Teens and other people into YA would probably really enjoy this, but personally I think I just can’t be interested in teenage girl problems. I wasn’t interested in them when I was a teenage girl myself. Sorry not sorry.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Surreal – Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

 

 Fever Dream

by Samanta Schweblin

IMG_20170317_104915_828

Published 2017

Genres: Fiction / Literary / Horror

“You’re confused, and that’s not good for this story. I’m a normal boy.”

“This isn’t normal, David. There’s only darkness, and you’re talking into my ear. I don’t even know if this is really happening.”

“It’s happening, Amanda. I’m kneeling at the edge of your bed, in one of the rooms at the emergency clinic. We don’t have much time, and before time runs out we have to find the exact moment.”

 

Amanda lies in a clinic, talking to the young David. What transpires between them is confounding, eerie, and unsettling. As they, and you, try to put the pieces together, they speak of grief, the family bond, and secrets. And they relive their mutual experience in an effort to find the key to it all – where they are, what they’re doing there, who David is, and what has happened to Amanda.

 

Janelle says…

 

I heard a couple of early reviews of this book, which seemed to be unable to go into specifics about the plot but emphasised just how strange the book was. I had to check it out for myself.

Strange doesn’t quite do it justice. This is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. At 183 pages long, I read it in one sitting, and if you’re going to read it too I suggest you do the same. It’s at its most powerful that way. Don’t look up from the page or you’ll break the spell.

Just like other reviewers before me, I don’t feel like I can talk about specifics either, and I still don’t quite know what it was about or exactly what happened. The only way I can describe it is by saying that our two main characters are searching for answers about the things that have happened to them, but their conversation doesn’t really make any sense. Certain details do seem to connect to each other and this connection becomes apparent as you go along, however their meaning is unclear.

But I enjoyed the experience. And that’s exactly what this book feels like, it’s not just a book, not just a story….it’s an experience. By the end I felt like I’d been on some kind of time-travelling acid trip, following the stream of consciousness recollections of the protagonist, Amanda, whose discussion with creepy David almost seemed like as if she were under hypnosis. I don’t recall a book ever making me feel the way this one did. It was so weird, and unsettling, and confounding.

I know how I’m describing it probably makes it sound awful, but I loved it. I just couldn’t put it down, from the first page I wanted to know what was coming next and where it was leading. I don’t how Samanta Schweblin (and translator Megan McDowell) has done what she’s done here, I can’t help but feel like maybe she knows some great secret that we don’t.

If you’re not into totally bizarre books that make you think “WTF?”, then steer clear because you’ll probably end up throwing it at the wall. But if, like me, that’s your bag, then you need to pick this one up because it will rock your world.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Intricate – The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

The Summer that Melted Everything

by Tiffany McDaniel

Published 2016

Genres: Fiction / Literary

“The lukewarm past had been overtaken by the scalding now. Gone was the perfect temperature. The breeze. All replaced by an almost violent heat that turned your bones into volcanoes, your blood into the lava that yelled their eruptions. Folks would later talk about that sudden onset of heat. It was their best evidence of the devil’s arrival.

The Bliss family live in the small, humble town of Breathed, Ohio. In the summer of 1984, local prosecutor Autopsy Bliss publishes in the town newspaper an invitation to the devil to come visit the town. Soon after, thirteen-year old Sal appears, alone and grubby on the courthouse steps, where he is met by Autopsy’s son, Fielding. The Bliss family take in Sal like he is one of their own, but there are others in town who are less than thrilled to hear that the devil has arrived. As a freak heatwave sends frustrations and patience simmering, a number of shocking incidents befall the residents of Breathed. But where will the blame be laid?

 

Janelle says…

This started out kind of comical, slowly building your rapport with the main protagonists, the Bliss family, so that you felt protective towards them as the story progressively got darker.

For me this book threw many questions out there – like what is good and what is evil, to what extent do they need each other and where does the line get blurry. And then we have the issue of labels, and group mentality. Young Sal, as the devil, is the scapegoat for every bad thing that befalls the town, the label applied to him enough to condemn him despite people not taking the time to get to know him. Is he really evil? Is it all really his fault? You’ll have to read it to find out.

Fear is a running theme. The fear of Stella Bliss, who refuses to leave her house because of a phobia of the rain. The fear of Grand Bliss, who has a secret in a time and place of hatred when he is likely to be misunderstood. The fear of Sal, who doesn’t want to own the label that is pinned to him and despite fearing the townfolk, tries to show love and compassion. The fear the town has of Sal, believing he has brought the heatwave and the spate of terrible events to them. Some of these characters will overcome their fears, some will succumb to them, some will not be able to live with them.

Overall, I’m still trying to gather my thoughts about this book and decide exactly what impression it’s left on me. But while reading it, there were a number of times I read over a sentence more than once because its composition was so clever. The writing was beautiful and intricate, many times I paused to admire how the author had put together the message, especially when in the mind of the main character Fielding and the dialogue of Sal. And a book that I still think about long after finishing it is always worthy of credit in my opinion.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Buddy read – Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

February 2017 – Janelle’s choice

Our Souls at Night

by Kent Haruf

aviary-image-1486786632758

Published 2015

Genres: Fiction / Literary

We’ve been by ourselves for too long. For years. I’m lonely. I think you might be too. I wonder if you would come and sleep in the night with me. And talk.”

And that’s how the story starts. One night in Holt County, Ohio, Addie Moore visits her neighbour Louis Waters, with this simple proposition. From there, an innocent and honest friendship blossoms, but some of the bystanders surrounding this couple aren’t too pleased.

 

Janelle says…

I chose this book because it was mentioned on an old episode of the ABC’s The Book Club and all the panellists doted over it, a rare occurence! And it sounded sweet. And it was sweet!

This is a quick, 180-page read but for such a little thing, it really does manage to cover a bit of ground. It explores growing old, how society sees people of a certain age bracket and expects them to behave, and whether we can claim any ownership over the actions of our loved ones, our elderly and frail loved ones especially. This exploration is made all the more poignant and beautiful by the fact that this novel was published posthumously, written by the author as he was dying. This post/review by The Guardian really does a good, honest job of paying homage to both the author and the book if you want to know more.

I fell in total love with the two protagonists, Addie and Louis. I was in their corner from the very first page, and I couldn’t understand why anyone would try to deny them the friendship they were creating with one another. But over and over again their meetings are judged as shameful by those around them, and I just wanted to jump inside the book and shake everybody by the shoulders!

I really found the dialogue to be written in an interesting way. There was no “she whispered”, “he moaned”, “I gasped” etc., it was purely just the actual words spoken between characters. It was just a different style of approaching dialogue, and I noticed that difference straight away. I liked it, it kept the story flowing in a very realistic way, without the need for drama.

I think more than anything, this is a book about hope, and the message that it’s never too late to chase happiness. And I think it’s one I’ll come back to again, when I feel the need to hear that message.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Mel says…

This book was 180-pages of pure sweetness. I fell in love with Addie, Louis and their companionship. Their little adventures were adorable and all I wanted to do was pack my bags and join them on their picnics, lunches and camping trips. At one point I sighed and asked my husband if we can please go camping, it sounded so pleasant.

The picture that Kent Haruf paints of this world is written in such an unusual way, that at first I struggled with the dialogue, but once I was roughly 20-pages in, it became quite easy to read and was a definite page turner.

Over the course of the book, I grew very attached to Addie and Louis and became very defensive about their companionship. So much so in fact, that when the towns folk began questioning the relationship in the beginning, all I wanted to do was tell them to mind their own business.

If you are looking for a short and relaxing read, then this is the book for you. It is light and a breath of fresh air. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Chilling – The Dry by Jane Harper

The Dry

by Jane Harper

img_4669

Published 2016

Genres: Fiction / Crime Fiction

“The body in the clearing was the freshest. It took the flies slightly longer to discover the two in the farmhouse, despite the front door swinging open like an invitation. Those that ventured beyond the initial offering in the hallway were rewarded with another, this time in the bedroom. This one was smaller, but less engulfed by competition.

First on the scene, the flies swarmed contentedly in the heat as the blood pooled black over tiles and carpet. Outside, washing hung still on the rotary line, bone dry and stiff from the sun. A child’s scooter lay abandoned on the stepping stone path. Just one human heart beat within a kilometre radius of the farm.
So nothing reacted when deep inside the house, the baby started crying. “

Australia is in the grip of its worst drought in a century, and it hasn’t rained in the small country town of Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to his hometown for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past bubble to the surface as he investigates the truth of his friend’s crime.

Mel says…

This is the debut novel for Jane Harper and what a debut it is! Jane Harper has arrived on the scene people and I for one, will be divulging all of her material, if the standard remains this good!

Just reading the synopsis had me intrigued and eager to get my hands on a copy and rather than patiently waiting, (or not so patiently as it would seem), for the 20-odd eager readers in line for library copies to divulge ahead of me, I bought my own copy and swiftly began to explore this twisted world that Harper so cleverly lays out.

The small Aussie town is one that any Australian could have passed through, at some point in their lives. A handful of shops scattered up the “main street” and mass farm land laid out, as far as the eye can see. The landscape is so relatable and easy to picture, so as the story moves through the small town of Kiewarra, it is easy to imagine exactly what it looks like.

It took me 4 days to complete this book and I would have read it quicker, but you know, life…!  Right from the prologue, I had shivers down my spine. The detail that Harper uses to describe such a horrific scene sends chills down my spine. More than once, I had to put the book down and take a breather. There is so much intensity and emotion that was brought out in various chapters, I found that I was wincing and at one point, gasping. It was a true roller coaster of a novel.

From page 1 through to 339, I was hooked. The characters were relatable and people you would typically meet in any rural town and I think that is why it was so brilliant and shocking. If you enjoy books with more than one twist and smack in the face, raw writing that brings you crashing down to Earth with emotion, then I can’t recommend The Dry highly enough. I am calling this one very early, but I am going out on a limb and stating that The Dry is my 2017 Book of the Year!

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Buddy read – Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

January 2017 – Mel’s choice

Life After Life

by Kate Atkinson

img_4694

Published 2013

Genres: Fiction / Historical / Literary

As the story begins, Ursula Todd is born with the cord wrapped around her neck and does not survive. The next chapter, the same incident occurs, but this time, the doctor is present and is able to remove the cord from Ursula’s neck, so she lives through this ordeal, only to die in a differing way a few years later. As the plot progresses, so does Ursula’s life through the differing scenarios that play out and as she surpasses these various events from her previous lives, she begins to suffer from deja vu. 

“All those names,” Teddy said, gazing at the Cenotaph. “All those lives. And now again. I think there is something wrong with the human race. It undermines everything one would like to believe in, don’t you think?”

“No point in thinking,” she said briskly, “you just have to get on with life.” (She really was turning into Miss Woolf.) “We only have one after all, we should try and do our best. We can never get it right, but we must try.” (The transformation was complete.)

“What if we had a chance to do it again and again,”Teddy said, “until we finally did get it right? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” 

Mel says…

I was super enthusiastic to read this book, as the premise of the story is doing life over when you don’t get it right the first time. What put me off reading this book for so long after I purchased it, was the 600+ pages, but in the end, I was intrigued enough to make this my first read of 2017.

I must admit, the plot sounds slightly confusing and it was at times. I found after roughly 200 pages, I was constantly wondering who certain characters were, as well as getting irritated with the use of various languages for a sentence here and there, with minimal translation applied. These were minor irks, but ones I carried until the very last page.

The positives were the way in which Kate Atkinson writes. It is so descriptive and she builds the characters personalities in such a way, that I felt I had built rapport’s with the main characters, by the end of the first hundred pages. The uniqueness of this book was a standout and one that I enjoyed exploring.

Specifically, I was intrigued to read about Atkinson’s interpretation of the raw brutality that was World War II and I actually felt like she got her descriptive details so perfect, that I could just imagine the colourless and depressive nature that was London during this significant part of history. The “version” I guess we will call it, of Ursula’s life as a warden during World War II, was my personal favourite. I found it so confronting and interesting at the same time, but it also felt so appropriate to the time period that she was living in.

Overall, I felt this book didn’t require 600+ pages to complete the story. I began waning with my enthusiasm by page 400, but pushed on with minimal reward. There are several unanswered questions, which is always irritating, but I enjoyed it enough to grant it 3.5 stars.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Janelle says…

I was similarly intrigued by the premise of this story, but the size of this book meant I was put off again and again from starting it. The new year does feel like a great time to sink in to a massive tome, though! And I’m glad I did.

The story explores how a life can be irrevocably changed through one small movement or decision, which unbeknownst to you, could end up defining your future. Something which is terrifying, yet accurate and fascinating.

I, like Mel, also thought that the book was longer than it needed to be. There were some chapters in the middle of the book that were soooooo long that I started to struggle with them. But it was the uniqueness of this book, my curiosity over where it would go next, and my love for the well-developed characters that kept me going.

This is not a book about only one character, we become deeply familiar with all the members of the Todd family and others around them. Because deja vu is a theme that runs throughout this book, there are links between chapters – sometimes the links are strong and obvious, sometimes so small they’re almost overlooked. I loved this clever trick, it felt like going on a treasure hunt.

I did lag with this book at times but nonetheless I was still keen to sink in to this world again and again to revisit the characters I had grown to love. I was expecting to get a different resolution out of it, but found that at the end I wasn’t completely satisfied that it had been tied up neatly enough. However, ultimately it was the unique format Kate Atkinson employed to pull off this premise that was enough to warrant a four star rating.

 

 Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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