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Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky

“So this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

I have been wanting to read this book for a really long time, I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to it! I think most book lovers have heard of this book, and probably have a good idea what it’s about. It is about Charlie, a wallflower, who is naturally inclined to observe rather than participate. Throughout the book Charlie makes attempts to get more involved, encouraged by his new group of friends.

This book covers various themes associated with adolescence. In tone and style it reminded me quite a bit of the Catcher in the Rye. It had very simple sentence structure, and the way that feelings and events were explained was very straightforward. I think this may have been a way to show some of Charlie’s naivety.

The book is written in letter format, each addressed ‘Dear Friend’. We never find out who the letters are written to, but I did wonder about this throughout. I don’t always like it when books are written in letters, but sometimes it can work well, such as in We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Colour Purple. I think it works well in this case also.

I found the character of Charlie very endearing. I thought it was unusual how his response to upsetting things was to burst out crying, irregardless of if he was in a group of people. I don’t know how realistic this is, but it was interesting. We follow Charlie throughout a school year, as he goes through the trials and tribulations of being a teenager in an American high school.

I really enjoyed this book, and having finished it, I’m happy that I can finally watch the film!

Favourite quote? “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.” That is the kind of quote that if I used Pinterest more often I’d want to find a little picture with this quote on. I think I may go and do that actually. IMG_1372

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Top Ten Covers I Wish I Could Redesign. Top Ten Tuesdays!

I’ve been reading Top Ten Tuesdays on other people’s blogs for awhile now, and thought it would be fun to do my own. This week’s theme is about the covers that I would most like to re-design. This is quite tricky for me. I had a wander over to my bookcase thinking I would easily pick out a few books that I would like to redesign, however, I must choose books with nice covers, as I could barely find any bad ones! I’ve done my best, most of these are books that I’ve enjoyed but feel that they could do with more exciting covers.

1. Nicholas Sparks novels. All of them. I really like Nicholas Sparks as an author, I think he writes about relationships and emotions really well. His writing has brought me to tears, and made me rejoice with happiness. However, I think his book covers let him down. They are predictable, and could just do with more spark ;).

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2. The Revenge of the Demon Headmaster, by Gillian Cross. I was obsessed with the demon headmaster books, and the tv series, but this cover is just horrible!

3. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I don’t have my own copy of this as I got it from the library, but I remember the cover being a bit dull.

4. The Go-Between, by L.P. Hartley.

5. Strange Meeting, Susan Hill.
Slightly unremarkable picture on the front.

6. The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling. Considering the amount of resources that were probably put into this book design, I think it could have been much much better!

7. A Woman of No Importance, Oscar Wilde.
This is a brilliant play, but I just don’t see the relevance of the cover at all. Its quite garish.

8. Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens. Definitely not the most exciting cover.

9/10. As the picture includes more than one book this can count as 9 and 10 (maybe I’m slightly cheating but this is hard!). Generally, I don’t like having books that are TV or movie tie-in editions.

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Which book would you like to redesign?

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Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn

After being so impressed with ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn, I recently downloaded one of her other novels, ‘Dark Places’, to my Kindle. I generally don’t use my Kindle very often, but it’s been practically glued to my hand while I’ve been reading this novel. It was that good.

‘Dark Places’ begins with Libby Day, the anti-heroine. Libby’s two sisters and their mother, Patty, were brutally murdered at the family home in Kansas 25 years previously – the subject matter and setting show a definite nod to ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote. The killer was suspected to be Libby’s brother, Ben. At the time, seven-year old Libby testified in court that Ben had committed the crime. As a result, combined with rumours in the town that Ben was practising satanic rituals, among other accusations, Ben is imprisoned. But years on Libby begins to doubt her own memories of the murder. Ben Day has built up quite a fan club of people who believe him to be innocent, and they encourage her to trace down people who may shed light on what really happened that night.

Libby was a really interesting character, she believes herself to be a bad person – the opening line of the book reads ‘I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ’. Libby steals things, uses people, and pushes away those who have tried to help. I enjoy the way that Flynn creates characters that aren’t particularly likeable, but are really intriguing. We learn so much about them that we begin to understand why they behave the way that they do. I’ve watched a video of Gillian Flynn talking about the book on YouTube, and found it interesting that she initially wrote most of the first draft with Libby as a ‘nice normal girl’. She then significantly rewrote the character as it is unlikely that Libby would be completely unaffected after the murders. I am glad that she did this as I think it added more layers to the character.

The narration of the book switches between Libby in the present day, and Ben and Patty 25 years ago. This gives the book momentum and there certainly isn’t a dull moment. The reader is constantly discovering new clues, and I kept changing my mind about who I thought was the killer. It wasn’t who I initially suspected, but I’ll say no more as I don’t want to spoil the plot.

I found the ending of the book very satisfying, as all the fragments came together. It was definitely a good book to be reading around Halloween time. I have also downloaded ‘Sharp Objects’ which I’m looking forward to starting on soon – I think I may read something else in the mean time so I don’t compare it too much to this novel. IMG_1278

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Helen Fielding at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester Literature Festival

Last weekend I was lucky enough to get to go to the Helen Fielding event at the Royal Exchange to do a review for the Manchester Literature Festival website. This was pretty much for the first ‘real’ review I have ever written, and I was definitely a bit daunted about it beforehand! I enjoyed writing it though and the slight thrill of having to get it written quickly. I would like to do something similar again in the future. The Helen Fielding event was really fabulous, and very entertaining. You can read my review by clicking here.

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Instructions for a Heatwave, by Maggie O’Farrell

I received ‘Instructions for a Heatwave’ as a birthday present, however, had I not, I probably would have bought it anyway as I had picked it up a few times in bookshops. It seems everywhere at the moment. The blurb on the back drew me in. The premise is that husband, Robert, went out for the morning paper and then did not return. A day which started so ordinarily was then turned on its head.

However, this book was not particularly a mystery focused upon where Robert had gone. That was of course an importance feature, but his disappearance was mainly a plot device to bring together a rifted family which had been dispersed across different places.

Instructions for a Heatwave is a book about relationships, about families. Robert’s wife, Gretta and their grown up children. Their eldest, Michael Francis, is also experiencing a crisis with his own family. While Monica, is unhappy with a new husband and step children who hate her, living in a house which doesn’t feel like her own. Aoife is the youngest, labelled a problem child, who fled to New York after a disagreement with Monica. None of the characters were perfect, they all made mistakes and at sometimes each of them was a bit annoying, but they seemed real. The family was slightly dysfunctional, but above all they seemed rather normal, which made them easy to relate them.

The setting is quite interesting, the heat wave accounts for the peculiar behaviour of some of the characters. It allowed the very ordinary Robert to disappear without letting anyone know. It lead to family truths being revealed and forced the siblings to address their problems.

It was a good read, and I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys books about psychology and relationships.

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Penelope by Rebecca Harrington

On a rainy day recently, I took shelter in Waterstones. Something about ‘Penelope’ caught my attention. Penelope is one of those ‘coming of age’ novels. It follows the awkward, but mostly likeable, Penelope throughout her first year at Harvard University.  Penelope is a quirky character who taught herself Morse code, plays Tetris on her phone during uncomfortable situations and once attempted to read a book at a party. She is a bit clueless about her classes, homework and exams (so much so that you do wonder how she got to Harvard in the first place!). Penelope often seems out of place among her intensely ambitious peers, as it seems that most of the time she is unsure what is happening around her.  She is highly agreeable and ends up saying yes to things she doesn’t really want to do, such as acting the part of a silent guard in a school play to please her not-so-friendly room-mate.

Penelope made for an excellent main character, and I enjoyed reading about her interactions with fellow students. I also enjoyed the setting of the book. There were so many little details throughout that I could relate to my own university experience, and that made me reminisce and smile. I like this quote which is definitely relatable!

-‘Each class sounded sort of interesting until you went to it. Then you realize that you would rather be watching a light show’

Penelope was a lovely novel, but if I had any criticisms or slight irritations, it would be that some of the characters were a tad one-dimensional and annoying, such as Lan and Gustav. It was often hard to understand their appeal to Penelope. Gustav, for instance, was supposed to be the ‘love interest’ for much of the book, but it was almost impossible to understand why. To me, his character and the dialogue he was given seemed really forced.

Despite issues with some of the characters, I found ‘Penelope’ an enjoyable book and devoured it in two sittings.

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