Book Review – All The Light We Cannot See; Anthony Doerr

“Radio: it ties a million ears to a single mouth.”
“Her fingers walk the tightrope of sentences…”

All The Light We Cannot See was this month’s book club choice, and as this has been on my TBR pile for a while it makes this read feel like a double accomplishment.
First off, the writing in this book is beautiful. As beautiful as the cover imaging.
The story is set primarily between France and Germany, with the lion share of the story unfolding between 1934 and 1944. The narrative tracks primarily Werner and Marie-Laure; Werner is a very gifted orphan whos father passed away in a mining accident who finds a way to escape working in the mines himself, Marie-Laure is a gifted, charming blind girl who’s life changes completely when her and her father have to escape occupied Paris for Saint-Malo.
I finished this book in about six days, a combination of how addictive this book is and the fact I had a couple days off spent primarily at Whitsand Bay. Anthony Doerr created a world I wanted to dive into at every spare moment, I was desperate to find how Werner and Marie-Laure’s stories would entwine.
I found the first two thirds of the novel more enjoyable than the final third. As much as I enjoyed this novel, I will be donating it to charity. I’m glad this came into my life, but I will not be recommending it at the same level of overexcitement which I did Pet Sematary of The Five People You Meet in Heaven.

That said, as much as I don’t expect to re-read this book, I can appreciate how beautiful it is. Part of me wants to pass this onto my dad, who though he isn’t a big reader loves radio.

There is a short video on YouTube from the author explaining how the story composed itself.

3/5

For Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home. The microscopic layers within the invaluable diamond that her father guards in the Museum of Natural History. The walled city by the sea, where father and daughter take refuge when the Nazis invade Paris. And a future which draws her ever closer to Werner, a German orphan, destined to labour in the mines until a broken radio fills his life with possibility and brings him to the notice of the Hitler Youth.

In this magnificent, deeply moving novel, the stories of Marie-Laure and Werner illuminate the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

Similar books to try;
The Book Thief; Markus Zusak

The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom; A Review

The book begins on the day of Eddie’s death.
It’s a day much the same as any other in Eddie’s life, with the little routines and interactions he repeats day after day. The day however, is made unique by an unpredictable event, and a choice Eddie makes beginning him on his journey through heaven where he meets five people who his life has intersetected with in some way.
I picked this one from my TBR pile as I fancied a quick un-taxing read. Just below two hundred pages, it feels more like six short stories with the clearly separated parts (last day on earth, the first person…).

The fourth and fifth people he met were the ones that hit me hardest, and had me crying. Its reminiscent of The Green Mile, and how the story reflects on a moment of a man’s life, (though with less mice and magic).

It pulls at your heart strings, plays with your expectations and is a very satisfying read. Eddie’s story is simple, and relatable.
Its currently with my mum who spotted this on the side, and requested it immediately.
4/5
Eddie is a wounded war veteran, an old man who has lived, in his mind, an uninspired life.
His job is fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, a tragic accident kills him as he tries to save a little girl from a falling cart.
He awakes in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a destination. It’s a place where your life is explained to you by five people, some of whom you knew, others who may have been strangers…”
Similar books to try;

Veronika Decides to Die; Paulo Coelho

The Lovely Bones; Alice Sebold

A Man Called Ove; Fredrik Backman

I Broke My Book Buying Ban With These Four Books

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I have had the fullest, most lovely weekend which started off with a catch up over coffee, with Ellie, who I havent seen since this YSL event a year ago. After updating each other on the milestones which had passed and plans we had for the immediate future, it was time for a trawl through the Plymouth charity shops.

Few things make me happier, than browsing though the organised mis mash that is a charity shop.

Plymouth City Centre has around ten charity shops on one street, within a short walk from the Mall. Theres a nice mix of the curated YMCA, to the more random and it can be such a treasure trove. Mutley is also worth a browse, with a similar amount of charity shops which always seem to have a good clothing selection.

Obviously, the clothes in charity shops are a big pull, but everytime we realised we’d lost each other, Ellie was by the vinyls and I was trawling the book shelves.

The point of this post, is i broke the book buying ban I gave myself when i realised I had over a hundred books i hadn’t yet read, in my possesion… I bought four new books, all of which are; new to me, second hand, and cost a pound or less.

I Let You Go; Claire Mackintosh

I have read this alreay, I borrowed this off the lovely Alice, roughly eighteen months ago. The only drawback of borrowing a book (beyond the anxiety of damaging it in some way) is having to return it afterwards.

This book focuses on a hit and run accident, which kills a small child. its told from multiple perspectives and is an engaging and addictive crime story. Its told in part from a female protaganist, the police investigating the accident and another narrator.

If you would like a review on the book, Alice wrote one which intrigued me enough to read this in the first place here.

Elizabeth; J. Randy Tarborrelli

I know very little about Elizabeth Taylor. From popular culture, i know the film star married several times, had voilet eyes, and an incredible jewelery collection.

Generally speaking, i opt for fictional reads. I think this will be the first biography I will have read, and i’m excited to learn more about a woman who still faciniates a generation now.

The cracked spine on this book also tells me, that the previous owner really enjoyed it. Or thats what i’m telling myself.

A Man Called Ove; Fredrik Backman

I already own a copy of this book (initial thoughts here), but there is a thing about Hardbacks which makes me very happy.

I’m going to donate my paperback, and keep this in its place. It will be one I read whilst at home rather than carrying around, but its worth it for such a beautiful hardback.

The Girl Before; JP Delaney

This cover has popped up a few on my Instagram feed, and after Lucy Wood discussed the story in a book video, it made its way onto my wish list. I am in need of a crime novel to become obsessed with.

The book tracks the stories of two women; the current occupant, and the woman who lived in the house before her. Its been likened to both Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train, with a movie adaption scheduled.

This is the book I’m most excited to read, after I finish Doctor Sleep, The Dark Half and We Need To Talk About Kevin.

Emily

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Some of My Favourite Reads.

Reading is an absolute pleasure that I never have enough time to do. When I was younger and had a seemingly un ending amount of free time, I loved nothing more than getting lost in a world of words. The feeling of belonging I always longed to find with my peers, I found between the pages of books that introduced me to worlds I would have never normally come into contact with. And as I took on university and went into the world of full time retail work whenever I was feeling lost I would find my solace in great books. Books have never let me down, books have never hurt me and books will always be there for me. As is said in one of my favourite plays and films The History Boys:

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something — a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things — which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.’

A good book can change your life. So here are some that have truly touched me in some way.

 

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1). To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee.

I first read this book when I was 14 years old. That first time I didn’t quite understand the magnitude of the court case storyline and found myself focusing on how much of myself I saw in Scout. I have since read and re-read it at least half a dozen times at differing times of my life and I’d like to think I now understand the varying nuances of this fantastic story, but still I can never read it without Scout’s character resonating with me. In Scout I found a like minded soul whose voice always feels like its echoing a version of myself that still lives in the child in me. From the themes of racial injustice to childhood innocence to gender roles and many more there is something in this epic piece of literature that will excite and inspire anyone. If you haven’t yet you must read this book, it will touch your heart in a way you can not even begin to imagine.

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2). Regeneration – Pat Barker.

This is one of the few books I have been required to study, that was not ruined by the analysis process. Set in Craiglockhart War Hospital in World War 1, it tells the story of soldiers with shell shock (what we would call post-traumatic stress disorder) and the radical therapeutic treatment they received. In it we hear stories of fictional characters such as Billy Prior and we also get fictionalised accounts of War Poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. The novel deals primarily with the idea of the effect that war has on the psychology of the soldiers, specifically the hugely damaging effects of the trench warfare of World War 1. Told with harrowing beauty this book really makes you think about what we have put our soldiers through.

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3). Wild: A Journey fro Lost to Found – Cheryl Strayed.

I powered through this book on a holiday in Ibiza. I opened it up and was riveted. Telling the story of a woman who drops her life to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and through the trial and tribulations finds her way back to herself. If you’ve ever felt like you’re floundering, or that you don’t know what you’re doing with your life or that you are just completely lost this book will undoubtedly kick start you on your way back to path. It did for me.

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4). Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer.

An expansion of an article about Christopher McCandless, the book tells the story of how this young man ended up dead in a bus on the Stampede Trail in Alaska.

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Chris McCandless’ life long quest for truth is documented alongside tales of other liked minded maverick truth seekers. It will make you reevaluate everything you believe and how you view society and the way it works. It will make you want to find your own truth.

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But listen to his lesson, no matter how disillusioned you feel with the world ‘happiness only real when shared.’

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SPECIAL MENTION: The Wild Truth – Carnie McCandless.

Written by Chris McCandless’ sister it informs Into The Wild as it fills in the gaps she asked Jon Krakauer to leave. It also details her own inspiring story of overcoming struggle with no one to help her but herself.

 

So, what books should I read next? I’d love to hear about the books that have touched you.

 

Thanks for reading. Speak soon – Sally 🙂

A Book Review: Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

I first discovered Rainbow Rowell around eighteen months ago. After reading a snappy review of Eleanor and Park in a magazine, the title jumped out at me when it was a kindle deal. I picked the novel up a couple months later when I needed a distraction, and quickly lost a lot of sleep to a story I couldn’t put down.m I have since read a fiar bit of Rowell’s back catalogue.

So in September when I suddenly found myself with a lot of time on my hands, my mum and I went on a trip around Truro charity shops (I love charity shopping), and I found Fangirl. For a pound.

The book focuses on Cath and her experiences when she first goes to university college with her twin sister. It touches on themes of first love, discovering yourself, familial relationships, friendships and most importantly and very importantly: fanfiction.

Cath(er) has a twin sister Wren, and university is the first time the two of them have existed as separate entities, a choice that was not Cath’s. The story is very much about Cath managing her anxiety, developing herself as a new writer whilst continuing her well established fan fiction, and standing up for what is important to her.

The characters are well rounded and believable, and very loveable. Reagan is a definite favorite. One thing I love about Rowell is when she writes less convetionaly beautiful characters, such as Reagan, rather than making her characteristically bubbly and happy she is herself. All imperfections accepted, confident in her own skin and a force to be reckoned with. If you enjoy Young Adult stories which have strong female leads, witty writing and a bit of love story its one to pick up.

A good book to pick up after this would be Carry On, the fan fiction that Cath writes throughout the novel is focused on the Carry On series a magical fantasy story which is more than inspired by Harry Potter

If you’ve yet to read Fangirl the wonderful Goodreads have a sample of the first thirty of so pages which you can find here.

In case you needed convincing that she was an absolute babe, Rainbow has a board on Pinterest entirely curated of Fangirl fan art. It is a thing of beauty, and was the perfect thing to help with the comedown after finishing such an awesome book.

– Emily

I will actually be dropping this off at my local charity shop soon, unless someone would like to take it off my hands?

Horns: Joe Hill, A Review

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I have a tendency to forget about a book if the first few chapters don’t grab me, this is a terrible habit as so often the books I give up turn out to be ones I get addicted to. Horns is a perfect example of this, I started this novel last February and abandoned it until a month or so ago.

I saw this trailer to this a couple years ago and was hooked, after a bit of research I found the film was based on a book by Joe Hill, Stephen King’s son! As soon a single could get to Waterstones I bought myself a copy of the novel. And it isn’t a film cover, one of my pet peeves when it comes to books is being stuck with a film cover. Often a cover tells such a story in itself.

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After a very public drunken fight with his girlfriend, Ig walks away from her to sleep his hangover off in his car. The next morning she turns up raped and murdered, and the town as a collective can only think of a be person who could have committed the crime. A year after Merrins murder Ig wakes up feeling guilty and hungover unable to remember the night before, with a splitting headache that turns out to be a pair of horns growing from his head. Horns which make people tell the truth, and can influence people’s actions.

This is a book I was so sad to finish. The story is original, but with nods to the detailed storymanship that made me fall in love with his father’s writing.

I have a tendency to second guess situations and endings, and a prolific horror and crime fan I’m pretty good at it. Not with this story, at multiple points I thought the story had ended (even with hundreds of pages left), and each time I was on tenterhooks.

The story is incredibly multilayered, it is not only concerned with Ig’s quest for the truth, but also human motivations and the stories behind thier choices. You see the underbelly of Ig’s relationships, and hear the thoughts that people would not share under any circumstance other than these Horns.

Horns is one of my favourite books of this year, and one I feel I’ll love for an age.This story has stayed with me, and I can’t bring myself to watch the film just yet incase I hate the interpretation. I am about to lend the book to a colleague though, abd hopefully I’ll have another person I can wax lyrical with.

Have you read Horns, what did you think? What would you recommend reading next?

– Emily

Ps: the film is currently on Netflix if your intrigued but unlikely to pick this up anytime soon. And make sure your tweet me if you read/have read this! @MayToOctober_