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Gillian Flynn's short story, The Grownup, drew me in from the very first lines: "I didn't stop giving hand jobs because I wasn't good at it. I stopped giving hand jobs because I was the best at it." But don't be turned off by this, because I can assure you that the story does not revolve around handjobs! The narrator does not go into lurid detail about her profession; this is just the hook that draws you in. Right from the very beginning, I was taken on a whirlwind journey filled with so many twists and turns - something that I have come to expect from Flynn's works.
Without giving away any spoilers, the storyline centres on a narrator who finds herself on a new career path as, what I would call, a quasi-prostitute/aura reader. It's not long into this job before she meets Susan, a rich housewife and mother who is in utter distress, convinced that both her house and her 15-year-old stepson, Miles, are evil.
While reading The Grownup, which lasted for well under an hour, I had to constantly ask myself whether the events were supernatural or merely psychological. And, because the story is so short, it seemed to me that the tension was twice more profound.
My only real criticism of the story is that the ending was very ambiguous, and I was left hanging with way more questions than answers. Needless to say, if Flynn ever writes a (much longer!) sequel to The Grownup I would race out to buy a copy of it. Flynn is the absolute queen of suspense who never fails to have me on the edge of my seat.
I am always wary when it comes to Pulitzer Prize-winning books as I have hated quite a few of them in my time. But that is certainly not the case with this one. All the Light We Cannot See is BRILLIANT in every sense of the word.
Anthony Doerr tells the remarkable story of two protagonists living parallel lives during World War II: a blind French girl, Marie-Laure LeBlanc, and an orphaned Germany boy, Werner Pfennig. Doerr not only alternates between the individual lives of both children from one chapter to the next, but also time-hops through a 10-year period from 1934 to 1944. However, by a sheer twist of fate, Marie-Laure and Werner’s lives are brought together for a short moment in which they establish an incredible bond.
All the Light We Cannot See is not only an account of the Nazi invasion of France, but a powerful, beautifully envisioned and heartfelt tale which shines light on the human element during that horrific era.
It is very rare for me to give a book a 5-star rating, and I certainly don’t do it frivolously. But I cannot see a fault with this book. It is definitely the best Historical Fiction novel I have ever read, hands down.
With exponential advances in smartphones, tablets and e-readers, e-books are now a popular reading standard in this digital age. However, there is still something about the feel of an old-fashioned paper book that excites people and makes for the perfect gift for a loved one. Books can be a very personal gift: they show that you care, and that you have put in special thought for someone’s birthday, anniversary, and so on.
However, picking the perfect book for someone is a tricky business. So tricky that a common solution is to avoid it altogether and just slip a Dymocks gift voucher into a card. So, should you choose to brave the bookstore shelves in search of something to get the bookworm in your life, here are some tips to remember:
1. Know Your Genres
If you’re thinking about buying a book for someone, it’s more likely than not that you know what they like to read. Whether it is science fiction, fantasy, crime, autobiographies, or all of the above, you should at least know what genre is best. In other words, it would be silly to buy the latest John Green release for your wife if she’s obsessed with good old-fashioned Vintage Classics. Just stick with what they like, and you’ll even find that it helps with narrowing down with sections of the bookstore you’ll need to peruse before finding the perfect book.
2. Booksellers Are Your Friends
Walking into a bookstore can be a daunting experience for some. Trying to pinpoint the one title out of thousands that would be just right can seem almost impossible. But never fear! It’s important to stay clear-headed and patient at all times. And don’t forget that you can actually seek help from your friendly bookstore employee... who would have thought! Whether you’re shopping at Dymocks or the local bookstore, the employees are *surprise surprise* there to help you pick the perfect book. They are surrounded by books all day every day, and they know what’s out there better than you probably ever will. For example, if you tell them you’re shopping for your boyfriend who loves historical fiction, they’ll know the right questions to ask, and can take your knowledge of what he’s read lately and turn it into recommendations for what he’ll want to read next. So don’t be shy; speak to the experts!
3. Don’t Use This As A Chance To Give Recommendations
Sometimes it’s hard to accept that your best friend loves Edward Cullen and is obsessed with stories involving moody vampires. So you decide, out of the kindness of your heart, to intervene and correct their taste. We all think our own taste is best (it’s our taste, after all), but people like what they like. No use trying to change that! Sometimes you love a book so much you just want everyone to read it. But that is not an excuse to buy 20 copies and give one to every person on your list. Don’t be that pushy person trying to impose your tastes on everyone else.
Now that you have read the above list, you should feel safe to go forth and buy your loved one a book that says “This really made me think of you”. Happy shopping!
I love Tina Fey. I loved her in Mean Girls, on 30 Rock and, of course, Saturday Night Live. On my recent trip to New York City I picked up a copy of Bossypants at the SNL Exhibition. And, surprise surprise, this brilliant autobiography did nothing but cement my love for her even more.
So, what is there to love about Bossypants, besides everything? For starters, I love how Tina just tells it (and by "it," I mean everything from impersonating Sarah Palin to her struggles with breastfeeding) like it is. I also love that Tina's voice can be heard throughout the entire thing. That's not an easy thing for an author to do, but you feel as though Tina is reading these stories to you (I’m keen to get my hands on the audio version of this book too!).
Except for the fact that she is a talented, wealthy television writer and performer, Tina basically stole my life! Our early years were so similar, I found myself wincing instead of laughing as Tina recounted her childhood and awkward adolescence.
I honestly cannot remember the last time I laughed this hard while reading anything. One of my favourite lines is: "Do I think Photoshop is being used excessively? Yes. I saw Madonna's Louis Vuitton ad and honestly, at first glance, I thought it was Gwen Stefani's baby." If you haven't read this already, please do. Or better yet, have Tina read it to you.
A Cure for Suicide is a peculiar, yet strangely enticing, dystopian tale filled with Orwellian undertones that will keep you hooked right until the very last page.
How do you build a person from scratch? How do you reconstruct a memory in place of a painful one forgotten? If you surrender your identity to stay alive, have you really survived? Jesse Ball explores these questions and more in a plot filled with elements of memory, time, relationships, control, and what it means to be human.
The book explores the nature of self and identity, and our place in the flow of life. It’s also about memory: “We think of memory as a redeeming thing. We built monuments that appear to be monuments to this person or that person or this struggle or that, but really, do you know what they are? They are monuments to memory itself.” Who are we, indeed, without memory or a known past?
A Cure for Suicide is thoughtfully written and downright haunting. If you're a fan of The Handmaid's Tale and Never Let Me Go, you will love this one. Highly recommended!
If you were to judge Fangirl by its cover and blurb alone, you may think that it is nothing but a quirky, fun read about an interesting girl addicted to writing fan fiction. But I would strongly encourage you to take a peek inside, because it's really so much more...
What is there not to love about Fangirl? Rainbow Rowell has written an absolutely brilliant coming-of-age tale about fan fiction, family and first love. Cath, Fangirl’s protagonist, is a Simon Snow fanatic. When she isn’t writing fanfiction, she’s thinking about it, and she is perfectly happy that way; until, of course, her world starts changing around her.
This story thrives in its delicate simplicity, and offers power through its unique characters. But let's not forget Rowell's genius writing: clever and unique, fluid and natural, and allowing every situation to become relatable. The dialogue is witty, funny, and effortless.
Fangirl has at least one massive fan: ME! A must-read for all Young Adult book lovers.
"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." It is with these words that the reader is introduced to the ludicrousness of this highly visionary novel in which George Orwell creates a disturbing picture of the future. Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece serves to provide a warning to the generation of his time about the dangers of totalitarian government.
The premise of the novel is simple: by the year 1984, which may or may not literally be 1984, the world has been divided up into three major nations known as Eurasia, Eastasia and Oceania. The novel spends the whole of its time in Oceania, a society in which the Party rules and Big Brother reigns. The world of 1984 is a police state full of video screens watching all actions, manipulation of historical data to brainwash the masses, hate speeches to incite anger against Party enemies, and total elimination of anyone who commits the hated “thoughtcrime”.
However, under the idyllic peaceful life most people live, one man in particular knows something is wrong. Winston Smith is the unforgettable protagonist who sets out to expose the Party for the cynically fraudulent organisation it is. Winston is a character that readers can identify with; a kind of innocent in a world gone wrong. It is through him that readers are able to understand and feel the suffering that exists in the totalitarian society of Oceania.
I get chills every single time I read this. It is terrifying to think of a world in which your own children are spies for the government and can turn you in, where cameras are watching you 24/7, a world in which you live nervously worrying about whether the sensitive machinery that is watching you will pick up an increase in heartbeat that may incriminate you.
House of Cards commences with the latest general election, as cabinet posts are being mulled over. Cue the beginning of the end for those holding the reins of power. The protagonist is Francis Urquhart, the Chief Whip with an addiction to power who is willing to betray every secret in politics to become Prime Minister. The reader will also see the lengths to which a young political correspondent will go to obtain the scoop of her lifetime. Mattie stumbles across a web of deceit and financial corruption, risking her life to reveal the truth. In what can
only be described as a true ascent to power of both characters, Dobbs sets the scene for some explosive action that had me on the edge of my seat.
Like many people, I read this novel after developing an addiction to the Americanised television adaptation and, as such, it suffers a little by comparison. However it is full of the same intrigue and humour that made the TV show a huge success. It was impossible for me to absorb Dobbs’s well-written dialogue without imagining Urquhart being played by an iconic actor, and I could hear Kevin Spacey’s evil, manipulative voice throughout the book.
Anyone with a passion for politics (and especially a love of the parliamentary system) will thoroughly enjoy this drama. You will be kept on your toes right until the very last page.