All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

All The Light We Cannot See, Pulitzer Prize Winner, raving reviews, I’m not sure what I can add. Everything that can be said about this book, had probably been said. BUT I’m going to add my two cents worth anyway.

I bought this book as a Christmas gift for a travelling friend (seriously, what do you get people who move about?) but wanted to read it badly myself. The solution was simple and killed two birds with one stone: buy a copy each, one for me and one for her. We would read it together, a book club for two. No matter where we are, we have something to connect us. Once finished we can discuss our thoughts. Then start all over again with a new book. An extra thoughtful gift and bam! I have a great excuse to purchase the book I coveted.

I half-heartedly attempted to start reading this book a few times and failed miserably. I found the short chapters at the beginning difficult to follow and hard to get into. I understand the authors intention was to build the connecting base of the story and set the scene but perhaps due to not really paying full attention at the beginning or even the guilt of starting it to early (I was meant to be waiting for my friend) I found it difficult to get into at first. That was until I had a whole day to sit down and get absorbed into the plot and boy, did I get sucked in.

I loved the unusual characters of the book. Marie-Laure, her father and Etienne and their relationships were a highlight. I’ve not read a book with perspective from a blind character and I found it interesting reading the story from Marie-Laure’s point of view. I never get tired of reading stories that are thought provoking and in particular with regards to morality. Werner was a great character for this. I can’t imagine what it would have been like in Germany during World War II. Knowing that your country was following a terrible path and upheld such horrific ideals and being expected to conform and carry them out. All the while having your reservations but to speak out, to refuse would have terrible consequences for you and your family. That moral struggle is fascinating and I enjoyed Werner’s evolving realisation that what was going on was not good or right.

The short chapters and switches in perspective flowed beautifully and Doerr wrote a truly captivating story that I look forward to re-reading in the future. Truly deserving of the high praise and Pulitzer Prize I give All The Light We Cannot See five keys to the sea.

 

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An Ode to the Book Depository

Just a quick note to say: How good are Book Depository bookmarks??

 

As an absent-minded reader I often put bookmarks back in to books or in really safe places (so safe that I can never remember exactly where later on when I need them again). I’ve learnt not to get myself nice, fancy bookmarks because try as I might I just can’t keep hold of them!

 

Enter the Book Depository and their awesome and free bookmarks that accompany their little packages of book love! I have about four currently sitting next to my bed. I especially love that they are designed by actual readers and on the back show you where they come from and their favourite books (another great place to find book recommendations). As someone who does like to support their local (non-chain) book store and second-hand books stores, I also have a special place for the Book Depository. Where else can you get cheap books delivered without cost and with a book habit like mine, reasonably prices books are a god send! Also, who doesn’t love receiving packages in the mail??

 

Thank you Book Depository, for all that you do and keep up the free bookmarks!

 

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Red Queen – Victoria Aveyard

My copy of Red Queen finally arrived this week. This book I decided to read following a book club, a great way to find books to read and try different genres that you wouldn’t usually. I was drawn to this book after reading a few reviews and seeing it here and there. As a teenager I loved reading young adult fantasy novels! I find these books promote self confidence and worth, self growth and are packed full of adventure and loveable characters. I was excited at the prospect of going back to this familiar setting with an all new world full of characters to get to know and fall in love with ( I am a massive one for building a relationship with the characters in a book, it helps me connect with the story).

Red Queen was a great read that I devoured in two nights (and only because I had to work in between). I found the main character, Mare, someone I could connect with and empathise with. She certainly isn’t perfect and I have read some criticisms of the decisions made by her character in the book. However, I thought that her actions through the book were completely relatable and her actions were fueled by her good intentions. Aveyard has also left room for growth and development for the character over the rest of the series. I was delighted by the range of supporting characters and can’t wait to see what is in store for them in the future books.

Before going into the books I was aware there were a few twists ahead. One, was completely predictable (and not in a negative way) and the other I never saw coming but also know I should have. I loved the twists and turns of the plot and certainly did not expect the book to finish in the way it did. I was expecting more of a slow build, however, there was so much action I almost want to read it again to get my head around everything. The ending leaves you wanting more and I’m glad that the second part is due out in a little over 2 weeks (Yay!).

Red Queen was a great beginning to an epic saga and I give it four crowns and am off to pre-order Glass Sword.

 

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The Ever Growing TBR Pile

Anyone have the problem of the ever growing To Be Read pile? I sure do, especially at the moment. Slowly, slowly I’m working my way through but every time one book bites the dust another makes it’s way to the pile. There could something much worse than the ever growing TBR pile…

 

…an empty TBR pile. Shock, horror! Thankfully there is a never ending supply of great book recommendations to be found.

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Currently my TBR pile is a mixture of brand new books, second hand books, the odd re-read and borrowed books.

The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy was lent to me by my boss, of all people. We got into a discussion recently after I had just finished reading The Road, also by McCarthy. I found the book quite confronting at times but found myself racing to finish it. I’m not sure I can say I liked it, but I certainly didn’t dislike it. I more appreciated the story McCarthy was telling and the manner in which it was told. Hence, I was given this trilogy to try. I am quite excited to get into this very soon as I quite enjoyed the writing style of McCarthy and look forward to trying it on a (hopefully) less brutal storyline.

The Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier was a pick up from a second hand bookstore in my area. They were having a moving sale and I managed to pick up 7 books for the price of two from a bookstore, safe to say I was pleased with myself. All I know about this one is that it was made into a movie (which I have not seen). I usually find if they have taken the time to make a book into a movie a great read is often guaranteed. In fact many books that I have a great love for I have discovered in this manner, including Memoirs of a Geisha and This Is Where I Leave You. Given that I don’t know anything else about it I’m excited to see what this novel brings.

For One More Day by Mitch Albom is a beloved re-read. Mitch Albom is one of my favourite authors and I just love the stories he weaves that leave you contemplating life itself. In fact I have read most of his book catalogue with a goal to own all of his novels. I highly recommend anything he has written but my special love goes out to The Five People You Meet In Heaven. If you have not read this book, please do so immediately, you will not be disappointed. This particular story I have not read in a long time, in fact I can barely remember the plot so plan to pick this one up in a quiet moment, as it is quite a short story and will likely only take a day or two.

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas was another in my second hand bookstore haul. Again, I do not know a lot about this book, only that it was made into a TV mini series. I heard a little about the mini series and thought the concept sounded interesting and the topic of slapping children is so controversial that it would be a thought provoking read. The best part about secondhand book stores is that the price is so great why not try different styles of books that you may not normally read, you never know when you will surprise yourself!

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen was a brand new purchase of mine. I loved her first novel Water For Elephants (another discovery due to making it into a film) and am excited to see what she has written in her new book. A love story with disgraced socialites trying to hunt the Loch Ness monster, I can’t wait to see how this story develops!

Solar by ian McEwan is the last of the pile and also came in my pre-loved book haul. I was a big fan of Atonement (wow, now I realise how many books I’ve read purely from hearing about them from a film adaptation) and saw this book for a great price and thought why not give it a go? The content is quite different to that of Atonement so I will be interested to see how I enjoy it.

Not pictured because they hadn’t been received at the time (but now, thankfully, they are in my hot little hands) are Red Queen and After The Crash. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard is a young adult, fantasy novel that I plan to read following Book Squad, a book club I came across. I haven’t read anything in this genre for such a long time and am excited to return to something so familiar (this was my favourite genre as a teenager). This one heads to the top as my list to keep up with the book discussion. After The Crash by Michel Bussi is a thriller that I read a review of and was hooked by the concept. A lone baby survives a plane crash, but two babies of the same age were on the flight manifest. To which family does this baby belong? The private detective assigned to the case finally discovers the truth just prior to the (then) babies 18th birthday and is murdered before he could breathe a word. Such an exciting plot! Going to be hard to stop myself from starting this one as soon as possible.

The only question is now, what to read next? Then after that, which one next? And so it will continue.

Smokey Joe’s Cafe – Bryce Courtenay

As The Power of One is one of my all time favourite books it has been my goal to read more of Bryce Courtenay’s novels. Smokey Joe’s Cafe is in an entirely different vein to my original favourite.

 

This story is set in Australia post the Vietnam War and centres around Thommo, a survivor of the Battle of Long Tan. Thommo has tried to settle back into civilian life with his wife and daughter running Smokey Joe’s, his wife’s family business. Unfortunately settling back into his previous life proves difficult with PTSD, health problems and finally his daughter being diagnosed with leukaemia. The plot follows Thommo’s struggle for recognition and justice for him, his daughter and all those affected by the outcome of the Vietnam War, in particular the residual effects of Agent Orange.

 

Any preconceptions of where the storyline was headed were quickly dashed. This book was not what I was expecting and I certainly wasn’t disappointed! Thommo and his mates, “the Dirty Dozen” come up with their own gung ho plans to get even with the system and save Anna, Thommo’s daughter. These plans were well beyond what I was ever expecting and I enjoyed the  twists in the plot line immensely. Coupled with that was that the story written by Courtenay in an incredibly ocker accent. It’s not often you come across prose written in such a way and it made me laugh seeing words such as boofhead and drongo crop up during the story.

 

There are many novels around currently that are set during World War II, many of which are remarkable stories (such as The Book Thief and All The Light We Cannot See) so I  found it refreshing reading a novel focused on the Vietnam War. This is a large part of our recent history and I appreciated reading about the war that everyone wanted to forget. This is a story that all young Australians could benefit from reading to gain a little more understanding of our short history.

 

Smokey Joe’s was an enjoyable read, with great insight to the Vietnam War. I give it three and a half of Thommo’s famous burgers.

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Blueback – Tim Winton

My first read for the year was a short and undeniably sweet novella written by Tim Winton. Blueback is a beautiful story, more like a fable than anything else, with themes of love, persistence and the importance of protecting the environment. The story centres around a boy, Abel, living with his mother by the sea and his relationship with Blueback, a gigantic groper living in the bay around which they live.

Barely cracking 150 pages, the novella took me an afternoon to finish and I was in love by the end. Tim Winton has a gift for story telling and his characters have so much substance despite the short time you have to get to know them. Even if you are a person who thrives off vivid, descriptive characters (I know my love for books are greatly influenced by my relationship with the characters) I recommend giving this a go as it is beautifully constructed.

Definitely pick this story up if you have an affinity for the sea or a passion for the environment as the book evokes a feeling of nostalgia that is only satisfied with a trip to the beach. This book could be a great fable for the children of this generation to learn the importance of preserving what we have before it is too late and many people could benefit from the message imbibed.

I give this book four blue gropers, may they ever grace our oceans.

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