A God in Ruins – Kate Atkinson

A God in Ruins is the companion book to Life After Life, a read I thoroughly enjoyed last year. Life After Life follows Ursula and her family as she lives out her many lives over and over again. A God in Ruins follows Teddy, Ursula’s brother in one of these lines, one that Atkinson points out was not written in Life After Life. We follow Teddy throughout his life, back and forth, from when he was a child living at the beloved Fox Corner, through his time during the war as a pilot running missions to Germany and his life after the war where we meet his daughter and his grandchildren.


Unfortunately for me, A God in Ruins had none of the magic that I loved in Life After Life. I found this book tedious to read and as such it took me a week to get through it. I found it picked up in the middle and I didn’t struggle as much from there onwards but I still found this book a chore. I think what made this novel so difficult to enjoy was my lack of connection with the characters. Teddy in Life After Life was a fascinating character and I could not wait to read a story from his perspective. What I found myself with was not who I was expecting. His character didn’t seem to have any of the spark that drew me in initially. I understand some of this is tied into how war can affect those who experienced it long after it is over, however, I just could not reconcile who Teddy ended up as. From there things only got worse. I could not stand the character who was his daughter. She was a reprehensible, selfish character and I did not enjoy reading about her at all, part of what made the book so difficult to get through for me.


Personally I would not recommend this novel. Do pick up Life After Life, it is a beautiful story wrapped in a fascinating concept. Just be aware this is a very different novel. I was prepared for this from the beginning and still could not enjoy this one. There are some great reviews for this one on Goodreads, so some people definitely connected with this novel, however, I was not one of them. I give A God in Ruins two of Teddy’s hares.


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Hidden Bodies – Caroline Kepnes

Hidden Bodies is the second instalment of Joe Goldberg’s story. We met Joe first in You and we watch as his relationship with Beck blossoms and then breaks to disastrous consequences . In Hidden Bodies we see Joe leave New York and his cage behind to greener pastures in Los Angeles to start again, meet someone new. In LA he finds Love, everything he has been hoping for. The question is, can he keep what his heart desires most? Will the bodies of his past stay hidden?


Sadly for me Hidden Bodies just didn’t hold the same allure as You. In particular I found the first half of Hidden Bodies repetitive and boring. In You, Joe’s inner monologue was an absolute highlight, a view into his twisted mind. In Hidden Bodies, it just feels annoying because we have heard this all before. The second half of this novel yes pick up and become more interesting. In doing so, however, it loses it’s believability. You was particularly creepy because every though it was out there, it was still very plausible and the stalking and the way Joe gained his information was realistic. Too realistic that it may make you reconsider how you use social media. Hidden Bodies, for me, became way too far fetched, not at all believable. In doing that it lost a certain amount of it’s appeal for me.


In saying all of this, I still read this book in a day but overallI am not a huge fan. I prefer to think of You as a standalone, although you will see if you read Hidden Bodies that the door is left open for another and lets be honest if there is I will still read it. I cannot recommend You enough but go into this one prepared that it isn’t quite the same. It is of no fault to the author in the sense that her writing is still spot on, I think this is just a story for me that only really works once, anything after than feels a little repetitive. f you loved You and still want to try Hidden Bodies, by all means do so. I can see how others will enjoy the continuation of Joe’s story. I give Hidden Bodies two and a half Hollywood films.


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The Sellout – Paul Beatty

The Sellout by Paul Beatty look out 2016’s Man Booker Prize. The Sellout is a satire that starts with our protagonist in the nation’s Supreme Court for bringing back slavery. A negro in present day society who has chosen to bring back racial segregation in his home town. What follows is a biting and hilarious story of how he came to be a black man with a slave sitting in front of the nation’s highest court.


The Sellout was very well written and laugh out loud funny. I found myself giggling along to this novel more than once. Unfortunately for me a lot of the cultural references went over my head, perhaps due to the fact that it is set in America and I’m not quite as familiar with all of their culture (have it set in Australia and I certainly wouldn’t miss a beat). I do have to say after studying psychology at university I did appreciate all the psychological references from his childhood. I do think though I have discovered that satire may not be my genre – I tried and did better than I have in the past, however, I just don’t enjoy them like I should. Personally I also found the author’s side anecdotes, the probably hilarious jokes that others found funny, distracting from the plot and it really disrupted the flow of the book for me.


My favourite part of the book was the character Hominy. He was crazy, unpredictable and put a smile on my face the most by far. I definitely have not come across a character like him and will likely not again. In fact, a real highlight of The Sellout is in the character of the book. They were each very unique, rich characters that you are unlikely to forget anytime soon. This is the part I look back on with fondness and is what I will remember further down the track.


I can understand why The Sellout won the Man Booker Prize last year. This novel is so culturally relevant to American culture and is presented in an eloquent and hilarious manner. It makes some interesting points and is well worth a read if you have an interest in and an understanding of American culture and if you do enjoy a good satire. If you do not, I would perhaps not recommend this one. Unfortunately this book was not the right fit for me and I give The Sellout two of Hominy’s precious Little Rascals tapes.


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All Fall Down -Cassandra Austin

All Fall Down is a gothic novel set in the small Australian town of Mululuk.  Barren, dusty and out in the middle of nowhere the bridge connecting both sides of town mysteriously collapses, injuring resident Janice in the process. Drifter Charlie returns to town with his own theory of what happened and a macabre idea of how to fix the problem once and for all. This novel has everything you encounter in a small, country town: wilful teenagers, love triangles, do-gooder priests and nosey neighbours. All these interactions build to a dramatic climax.


Unfortunately this novel wasn’t quite right for me. I was unable to connect with the characters leading to an emotional disconnect from the story. Upon finishing the novel I read that this was initially going to be a short story and then developed into a novel. I think the characters would have worked perfectly for a short story – they are all unique and fascinating characters with so much range and for a short story would have kept me guessing wanting to know more. For a novel, however, I feel that perhaps these characters needed a little more meat on their bones and I would have loved to understand more of their backgrounds. The way they were written I found it difficult to understand their motivations and their connections to each other which kept me from truly immersing myself within the story.


That being said, I think the concept of the book was great. I feel it did have so much range and the gothic feel of this novel in the setting of a small country town in the middle of the desert was perfect. It captured the essence of what can be a  bleak, predictable and often tedious life in a place that never changes. I’m sure this book is perfect for some people and my critique is coming from someone who will pick a character heavy book over plot every single time. I don’t think it was ever for me but don’t let it stop you if it sounds like your kind of thing. As I received All Fall Down as part of Books on the Rail‘s subscription I plan to send this one out on public transport to find someone who will appreciate it as it deserves. I give All Falls Down two dingoes, living in the dusty town.


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The Sudden Appearance of Hope – Claire North

After enjoying The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August last year I became intrigued when I saw The Sudden Appearance of Hope on a recent trip to Dymocks. After picking it up and reading the synopsis I knew it was coming home with me. This novel is about Hope (big surprise!) your typical young woman out in the world, travelling and living her life. Except for one thing: people can’t remember her. It started when she was sixteen, her parents slowly forgetting to set her a place at dinner or pick her up form school, her friends forgetting her name and it escalates from there until she is virtually no one.


This book starts off with a bang – Hope is a thief pulling off spectacular heists, thanks to her anonymity, in exotic places like Dubai. One of her targets is attending a part held by an entrepreneur who has developed an app called Perfection. An app that monitors your movements and spending habits and provides you with advice to be your best self. An app directly linked with the suicide death of a young woman that Hope encounters. You follow Hope across the globe as she try to punish those responsible for pushing this girl to the brink and for creating an army of perfection clones.


This book has all the elements for a great novel and it certainly kept me going, attempting to find out how Hope succeeds in her mission. Unfortunately somewhere along the way the story lost something for me. The plot seemed to get a little to intricate, the storyline a little too long and I found myself a little underwhelmed at the end of the novel. Don’t get me wrong, I can see how others may love this book. The characters are fascinating and mysterious, the plot is complex, layered and intriguing. For me it just left me wanting a little more from it. Perhaps a little more depth to the characters and a little less plot? However, that is a preference of mine and many others will find this the perfect fit for them.


One thing North does really well in this novel is get the reader thinking. The Perfection app tracks your movements, your phonically and messages, your spending habits. Then takes this information and gives you hints of how you can be your best self – gyms near by, foods that are good for you, hairdressers that will make you look perfect. This idea really taps into the underlying issue of social media and how we let it shape and affect us. This may sometime be a positive thing but more often than not it can be a negative thing. This theme is explored throughout the book and left me pondering the idea of perfection in the media and how it may lead to conformity and unhappiness if you cannot fit the standard. An interesting concept that is more and more relevant in today’s society.


Pick up this book if you like a novel that is a little different, certainly a story you haven’t read before. A little scientific, a little spy action thriller, a little psychological. This is a fast-paced book that will suck you in and leave you unable to rest until you have solved the mystery. Unfortunately this wasn’t quite for me but I have slapped a Books on the Rail sticker on it and soon it should be out there on the public transport of Adelaide looking for it’s perfect match. I give The Sudden Appearance of Hope two jewels, stolen by Hope.


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On The Road – Jack Kerouac

Another road trip home, another audiobook required. Honestly, is there any other book more perfect to accompany you on a four hour trip? On The Road seemed a natural choice. This title I’ve heard all over the place over the years and despite not really knowing what it was about I decided to cross this popular piece of fiction off my list. On The Road follows Sal Paradise and his journeys on the road is post-war America in the late forties. Often along with his mate, Dean Moriarty, they travel all over America causing mayhem wherever they go.


My first impression of this audiobook was that Matt Dillon was a superb choice to read it. I think I speak for all people who listen to audiobooks when I say you need to appreciate the sound of the person reading the book. Dillon’s voice was the perfectly smooth, deep sounds coupled with a pleasing American twang. The auditory aspects of the book were my favourite part of the experience. I was told before commencing my listening that the book was written in such a way that it is mean to be read in a rhythm. I have no idea if this is true or not but I have to admit that this novel was incredibly pleasing on the ear. I derived so much satisfaction from the way this book was written. The crisp sentences. The language used by Kerouac. It did have a beautiful rhythm and I definitely don’t regret my medium for reading this book.


The first half of the book I loved. I enjoyed meeting Sal, the introduction to the characters and his first attempt to go East. I flew through the first of my four hour trip excited to see where the road would lead Sal and who he night meet along the way. When I resumed the second part of my trip I have to admit the magic was then lost of me. I felt that the story was quite drawn out and perhaps might have enjoyed it more if the story was a little shorter? By this point I also found myself disliking a few characters, namely Dean. Lets be honest, Dean is an ass who only looks out for himself and his best interests. I dislike the way Sal defends his actions. Just because he is entertaining doesn’t mean that it is okay to treat people that way. For this reason and Dean’s prominence in the second half of the novel, I was left with a less positive opinion of the story.


Nonetheless I was intrigued to find out after finishing the book that this novel is not so much a work of fiction but actually autobiographical about Kerouac and his group of literary friends that started the “beat” movement in post-war America. The history behind the characters and learning about their real life parallels added an extra something to the story for me, lending me a continued interest post finishing the pages. Regardless, unfortunately this classic will never be a favourite of mine.


While I immensely enjoyed the some aspects of this novel, particularly due to listening to it as an audiobook, overall I just couldn’t love the story as an entirety. I am glad I picked this ground-breaking novel, discovering life on the road for myself, however, I feel I am unlikely to pick this particular one up again. A little regretfully I give On The Road two cars, helping the mischievous characters work their way across America.


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After You – Jojo Moyes

A quiet Friday night in, I decided it was finally time to face After You. I absolutely loved both the book and the movie Me Before You so I was curious to see how Lou was coping in life post-Will. After You follows Louisa eighteen months after Will died. She is working in an airport bar and pretty angry with life. Until one night someone  comes along and changes it all. The books follows on watching Louisa heal and start to rebuild her life.


This book was an extremely easy read, in fact I read it in one sitting. Personally I wasn’t overly impressed with it. I didn’t really feel that the book had a distinct plot. Yes, I was curious to see how Lou was faring and anxious to see her end up in a good place but upon completing the book I didn’t really feels as though I gained much in the end. In fact, I would prefer the book Me After You having just been a stand alone as I feel it tells a complete and powerful story on it’s own. Yes, After You gives you a picture of how grief really is, that it just doesn’t go away but I feel there are a multitude of other books out there that will give you the safe feeling.


I think my main issue with the novel was that I found it hard to connect all the characters to their former selves from Me Before You. It almost felt like an entirely new set of characters. Of course it is expected that grief and loss will change people but I found it difficult to imagine this new Lou to be the same person as the old Lou. Even the dynamics of her family was completely different and hard to imagine. Her relationship with her family was once again strained but in a completely different way and I found it difficult to marry the two completely different dynamics.


The new characters were loveable and unique and I have no complaints about the writing style or the twist in the story. Moyes once again manages to write a touching story with loveable characters. However, the magic that I encountered in Me Before You was lost for me in After You and I know I will not read this particular story again. I do feel a sense of guilt to the author and characters but I feel I must give this book two of Lily’s plants as I was just unable to connect with it. That is not to say that many of you out there will not love the continuation of Lou’s story so if you are really curious to see where it goes, I do still recommend reading it yourself and making up your own mind.


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