Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: Book Review

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I’m not really sure where to start with Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Not because it was terrible, don’t get me wrong. Because it certainly wasn’t terrible or bad or anything like that. I’m just not sure how well I can explain how good it is in a way that makes any sense whatsoever.

The thing is, Never Let Me Go is a fascinating text in the most subtle way that as I was reading it I didn’t even realise, at first, how fascinating it really is. This is the kind of book that makes it seem as though not much of importance is really happening for the majority of the pages, but in actual fact everything that is happening is extremely important. Not just for understanding the characters and the plot, but also for understanding some very complex and insightful things about humanity.

Ishiguro keeps you in the dark, or at least in the grey area, throughout most of the text. It’s kind of frustrating at first, to have a vague understanding of what’s going on, but not really knowing the full story. Like the characters of Kathy, Tommy and Ruth, we get glimpses of detail, but aren’t told everything until the end. When everything comes together in a way that was enthralling and actually gave me goosebumps. And I won’t hide this from you: it’s sad. The whole story is sad. Not in the same way as the film, which I watched years ago, but in a different way. A way I can’t even explain. It’s kind of a detached sadness. Because Kathy is quite simple in a way and she doesn’t really go into things on a complex level. I don’t know. There’s just this quiet acceptance of things that just haunted me in the end.

The novel is told from Kathy’s point of view as she goes back and forth in her memories of her life at Hailsham. The majority of the novel is full of her observations of her friends, particularly Tommy and Ruth, and the activities they got up to, such as creating art for the Gallery or eavesdropping on their guardians. It’s hard to explain it without giving away the “secrets” (which have a better impact if you don’t fully know everything until the end of the book), but all of Kathy’s memories brings up really interesting things about how humans act, how they love each other, how they manipulate and trick each other, how they think. The behaviour of the students like Kathy, Tommy and Ruth is immature most of the time – there’s deep naivety in their hearts, which is all a part of the bigger picture. Sure, there were times I had to put down the book because a particular memory Kathy was  referring to seemed dull. But, I’d keep coming back for more and eventually realised the significance of all these moments, of Kathy and her friend’s entirely un-ordinary lives.

I think this is an important book. I’ve probably said the same of many others books before, but I really believe it with this one (which is also probably me just repeating myself). Whatever the case, this is definitely worth the read if you’re up to reading a tale that leaves you asking yourself many questions about such things as souls, humanness and how far humans will go to make a cure.

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Harry Potter Moment of the Week

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Hosted by Uncorked Thoughts, the wonderful Harry Potter weekly post!

29/01/2015 – Best joke from the series

Like so many weeks, this week’s question is a hard one to answer! I mean, my favourite jokers in Harry Potter are definitely the Weasley Twins and Ron, but I have no idea how to pick which joke/prank is the best. One of Ron’s best is that one where he mimics Goyle doing lines (‘I-must-not-look-like-a-baboon’s-backside’) – gets me every time.

But the Weasley twins are the master jokers, so I guess I’ll go with the time they totally screwed over Professor Umbridge with their amazing fireworks. I mean, they make many hilarious (and stupid) jokes throughout the series, but nothing really beats them standing up to that toad!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I’d Like To Read With My Book Club (If I had one)

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Okay, I’ve seen the Top Ten Tuesday meme (hosted by the wonderful Broke and the Bookish) around ever since I first set up my blog and finally I have decided to join in. I must say, this week’s top 10 did definitely convince me to join in on the fun, especially as I love making lists about my favourite books (or books that I assume would be my favourite if I read them). Without further ado:

Ten Books I’d Like To Read With My Book Club (If I Had One)

1. Watership Down by Richard Adams

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Anyone who knows me well would know that Watership Down is my favourite novel, so it’s kind of an obvious choice to me.I really enjoy sharing my most beloved books with others and so to partake in reading this particular novel with a group of other avid readers would be truly wonderful and rewarding. I could spend ages talking about this novel and would certainly be delighted to have someone to talk to about it! (It’s a shame, no one I’m close to has even read it!)

2. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

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I’m not very patriotic, but when I do come across a wonderful Australian novel like this, I can’t help but be proud to be born in this country. Or at least to be proud that one day, if I can ever discipline myself to write lots every day, I could possibly join such wonderful Australian writers as Craig Silvey. Jasper Jones would be a great novel to read in a book club because it is such a fascinating portrayal of humanity. I adored this novel. It really opened me up to so many things, both harsh and wonderful, about the world and Australia. It’s an important novel and I think it’s one that everyone should read.

3. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

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This a wonderful and brutal memoir told be Ishmael Beah as he looks back on his years spent as a boy soilder. It’s a remarkable and frightening novel. It would be difficult novel to read in a group, but I think it would definitely be worth it to discuss the injustice of human cruelties, war, life, family and much more. An amazing book that is definitely due for a re-read in my case.

4. Tomorrow When The War Began (and sequels) by John Marsden 

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John Marsden is another of my favourite Australian author and The Tomorrow Series is a wonderful set of books about bravery and friendship. I’ll probably get repetitive here, but this is definitely a book everyone should read. Everything Ellie and her friends have to go through is astounding, captivating, terrifying… It’s a must read and I’d simply like to read it with my book club (oh, the more I think about it the more I want one) for brilliant discussions and just because I’d like to introduce this series of books to people who haven’t had the chance of reading them.

5. Paper Towns by John Green

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For many reasons, Paper Towns is my favourite John Green novel. I don’t know if it’s been overlooked because of the popularity of his other novels, which I also love, but I really believe people should read this one if they haven’t. Of course, it might not be to everyone’s tastes, but I think it has it all: humour, sorrow, friendship, love, the inevitable reality… I could go on. Point is I would love to read this with a group just to see what they think this novel is trying to say about life. Because I think this is a novel saying some really important things. I sure hope that comes across in the film!

6. How To Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran

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Okay, so I wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to put this book on the list, but I decided to because I loved this book. It’s definitely not for everyone. Some people will probably find it quite offensive. But it’s important to read books that are a bit crude and vulgar etc, etc. I’d just really love to hear what others thought about this one. I reckon it would definitely start up some lively discussions!

7. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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I’ve chosen this book because I should probably chose a couple books I haven’t actually read yet and this one looks amazing. Fingers crossed it will be as good as it looks. Even if it might not be (I will find out when I read it soon) I think it’s important to read translated novels and to branch out into areas you might not read all the time. Hopefully my invisible book club and I would have a lot of fun with this one!

8. Life of Pi by Yann Martel 

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This has been on my reading list for a very, very long time. I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet, I really don’t. Anyway, so it would be a great excuse to read it if I was reading it with my imaginary book club. It’s meant to be a beautiful and fascinating book to read,  or so I’ve heard.

9. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

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I only just recently found out the Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle was a novel first! So awesome! So I’m very, very interested in reading this one and seeing how it differs to the film. Plus, it’s a fantasy! So, you know, different genres and stuff. I think it would be a really fun and entertaining read. Looking forwards to it myself.

10. Harry Potter (all seven books) by J. K Rowling

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Obviously. I’m sorry, but if I was part of a book club and we didn’t read Harry Potter, I’d be incredibly disappointed. To pass up the opportunity to have endless discussions about the wizarding world would be such a waste. Like many of us, I have loved Harry Potter since childhood, but to be honest I don’t have enough people around me who share the same passion for the books as I do (my siblings come the closest to be my Potter pals). Back in primary school it was different, but now… Well. Provided that there were at least a few diehard fans in the club (and not too many that might make fun for whatever silly reason), I’d be incredibly happy to share the experience of reading Harry Potter with others. For sure. Oh. I bloody want my own reading club. Even an online one would do.

Well. That’s it for me. Hope you like my first Top Ten Tuesday and I’m very keen on reading all your lists when I get the chance. Happy book clubbing and reading everyone!

Teaser Tuesdays

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Hosted by Should Be Reading. Grab your current read and share two teaser sentences!

The book:

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Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

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As a child, Kathy – now thirty-one years old – lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.

And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed – even comforted – by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham’s nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood–and about their lives now.

The teaser:

They weren’t unhappy exactly – I’ve got plenty of happy memories I treasure from them – but they were more serious, and in some ways darker. Maybe I’ve exaggerated it in my mind, but I’ve got an impression of things changing rapidly around then, like day moving into night.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: Book Review

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Books can get hyped up a lot, but that doesn’t mean they’re for everyone. This is the case with me and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. It just wasn’t for me.

Before I get into the reasons (vague so as not to give away anything) why I didn’t love this book, I will start with a few reasons why I liked it. The book started well as it moved from Nick’s chapters to Amy’s diary entries. Flynn is very good at sarcasm and I laughed a fair bit in the first few chapters. Nick’s character is interesting throughout the novel, flaws and all. Amy’s character was interesting, too… but in a much different way. (I hated her).  I don’t read mystery thrillers often, but I enjoyed reading this book just for the fun of reading something I wouldn’t usually (even if it wasn’t what I’d hoped it’d be). The fact that it’s had such hype recently helped me chose it, and I can say that it’s worth reading as a sinister portrayal of human relationships, mental state and relationships. Interesting, interesting, blah blah blah.

I can’t really say much about why I didn’t like it because it would obviously spoil the reading experience for others. I will say that I didn’t find the novel quite as surprising, “ingenious” and original as the critics have proclaimed. To be honest, as soon as I read a review that said ‘nothing is as it seems’ (or something along those lines) I guessed what must be the twist, and well, I was pretty spot on. So, you know,  kind of sucks to not be that surprised/shocked when reading this genre. A bummer, really. Also, I hated the ending. I really…I just…oh man. If I could be spoilery right now, I’d definitely have a big rant.

I watched the film as well and the book is better, definitely. The film was horrible, a mess, in my opinion. Particularly the actress who played Amy. I didn’t like Amy to start with, but that actresses portrayal made me dislike her even more. But, moving on..

To sum up, not my kind of book. But read it if you’re interested in reading a depressing and morbid depiction of murder and marriage. There are some good points, but to me they don’t outweigh the bad.

The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan: Book Review

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I’ve always loved verse novels since being introduced to Steven Herrick’s Love, Ghosts and Nose Hair in high school and my love of verse novels continues in Sarah Crossan’s The Weight of Water.  It was an poignant little book of verses that follow Kasienka and her mother from Poland to England as they follow Tata, Kasienka’s dad, who had abandoned them a long time ago.

The book deals with lots of themes, but in particular it focuses on alienation. Kasienka’s experience at her new school where no one can pronounce her name and she’s bullied because she’s foreign is great and difficult to read. Her struggle with her family and the conflict of her family is heavy, but it also provides some interesting insights into culture and class differences.

Th blurb (if you look it up) alludes to Kasienka meeting somebody, and while that particular sub-plot is only a small part of the book, it is very affecting. I really enjoyed seeing Kasienka find herself in her swimming and learn to grow in her new environment.

Crossan’s writing is simple and elegant. The book is thoughtful and poetic. It was an easy read, but at the same time it really opened me up to Kasienka’s life in a complex and beautiful way. This isn’t just any book, and I really think you should read it if you’re looking for something a little different.

Harry Potter Moment of the Week

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Hosted by Uncorked Thoughts

22/01/2015 – Best spot to chill at Hogwarts

I can already tell this weeks question is going to make me feel incredibly jealous NOT to be a student at Hogwarts *tears cascading down face*. Alas, I will just have to, like the rest of us, imagine chilling out at Hogwarts instead.

There are so many cool places in Hogwarts I’d like to hang out. I am a bit of an Hermione so yes, the library would be pretty awesome I think. I love hanging out in libraries and to spend time reading or studying in one as grand as the one at Hogwarts would be great!

I also love the idea of hanging out at the Great Hall, Hagrid’s Hut, in the Room of Requirement….

And of course we can’t forget about the common rooms, Hufflepuff for me. Looks nice and homey 🙂 And the Hogwarts grounds and does Hogsmeade count?

Once again I am able to give a straight answer. There are just too many choices so I am concluding with this:

Hogwarts would be the best spot to chill.