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      March Supporter Giveaway   03/02/2019

      So March has crept up on us and I'm thrilled to finally show you the GREAT (he he...) March giveaway!     This time we have a gorgeous print of The Great Gatsby's most famous line from thestorygift.co.uk AND a Great Gatsby tea from the Literary Tea Company! This particular tea is Peach Blossom (which sounds delicious and I kind of wish I could keep it myself...) and the tin features another Gatsby quote.  If you'd like to see the other literary teas available (there are lots, I spent ages looking) you can find them both at the Literary Tea Company's etsy store (https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/LiteraryTeaCompany) or at their own website, theliteraryteacompany.co.uk .   As always, supporters are automatically entered into the giveaway and if you're not a supporter but want to be included in this months giveaway you can become a supporter on patreon here... https://www.patreon.com/bookclubforum .   A winner will be chosen at random on the last day of the month. Good luck!  
karen.d

Karen.d's Reading List 2019

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'White Teeth' by Zadie Smith

 

This novel has had quite a lot of attention in the past few years, particularly on BookTube. So when I saw it in my local charity shop, I decided to give it a go. I have to admit that upon starting it, I had very high expectations of it, so I was quite disappointed by the end.

 

First, the positives. This is had  some very good writing within it.. The way in which Zadie Smith writes, is funny and the characters were very believable.

 

But the plot itself, was the main problem I had with this book. At the beginning, certain characters had a lot of attention and their stories seemed to be developing nicely and some of what happened to them, was really intense. But then suddenly, all of the focus of this story was completely shifted, onto another character and those who initially seemed important, became secondary characters, who were hardly mentioned in the rest of the book. Then more and more characters were added, without fully focusing on any one person. This meant that, by the end of the book,  even though they believeable, I really didn't feel like I knew any of them 

 

Partly due to this, and the fact that every chapter felt like an individual short story, this made the flow of the plot stop and start all of the time, and, although some chapters were really enjoyable, for me they didn't link together well. Randomly also, there were almost essay-like chapters, which talked about the ideas of identity and race within a multicultural society and, even though these were really interesting and thought provoking, they didn't seem to belong within the story itself.  So for me, the organization of the plot was really weak.

 

The most disappointing thing for me, was the end. The different strands of story did kind of come together towards the end. It was all building up to something that I thought, would make a powerful ending. However, it felt like Zadie Smith had run out of energy by the end and couldn't be bothered to gives us reader a plausible and realistic conclusion. For some characters, they didn't really have any resolution at all. This made me feel frustrated about investing time on this book.

 

I think this had some interesting ideas and the style of writing was really good, but the plot was terrible. This is shame, because this could have been brilliant..

 

My Rating ***

Edited by karen.d

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Shame White Teeth wasn't so great for you :(. I enjoyed reading your review, though! You explained your reasoning very well :).

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3 hours ago, Athena said:

Shame White Teeth wasn't so great for you :(. I enjoyed reading your review, though! You explained your reasoning very well :).

Yes it is a shame, I was expecting a lot from this book. I think it would have been better if this was separated into two books,as I think it would develop the ideas & characters better.

 

Thanks for reading my review!:)

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I tried reading White Teeth some time ago, but gave up part way through. I can't remember my objection exactly, but I think I felt a disconnect with the characters, possibly for the reasons you describe. I remember thinking that the writing was very good, but it just didn't hook me in somehow. Well done for sticking it out :)

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2 hours ago, ~Andrea~ said:

I tried reading White Teeth some time ago, but gave up part way through. I can't remember my objection exactly, but I think I felt a disconnect with the characters, possibly for the reasons you describe. I remember thinking that the writing was very good, but it just didn't hook me in somehow. Well done for sticking it out :)

Thanks! It was so frustrating, because the writing itself was so good. The plot structure really let it down for me.

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I'm catching up on some reviews!

 

'Testimony' by Anita Shreve

 

This novel is set in a prestigious private school in America, where a sex tape involving some of the pupils is found by the principal. What follows, is the after effects of such a scandal.

 

It actually took me over 100 pages to get into the story, mostly because of the way it was written. This shifts from different character perspectives and has very different writing styles too, so I really found it difficult to  settle into this book. 

 

I almost DNF'ed this book actually, because for quite a lot of the novel, there seemed to be a lot of negativity towards the female participant of the sex tape and the men weren't seen to be as responsible as the woman involved.. 

Spoiler

Whilst the female 'victim' isn't a nice character and she is just as much to blame as the others, I was surprised that, because the writer of this book is female, that she chose to focus the blame more on her, than the men. I think that it could have been more balanced.

 

However, I admit that this did level out as the plot unfolded. 

 

This book wasn't plot driven, but I think it is a good examination of the problems of teen sex and alcohol abuse. This was an interesting read.

 

My Rating ***

 

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'The Knife of Never Letting Go' by Patrick Ness

 

I saw this being talked about on YouTube a few months ago and it seemed really interesting.

 

This is about a place called Prentisstown, where there are no women and all of the men living there, can hear each other's thoughts. 

 

The story of told by Todd Hewitt, the main central character and, because we are hearing his thoughts and he is illiterate, a lot of the words in this book are incorrectly spelled. This actually annoyed me to begin with, but as the book went on, I actually think that this was a good idea, because I really bought into Todd's character and I got into the story quicker. I loved the experimental style of the writing and different fonts, to describe different people's thoughts. You could tell a lot about each speaking, by the font of their thoughts. I really liked this technique and thought it was very effective. As the book went on, I thought some of the writing was very poetic and approached the target audience in a non patronizing way.

 

One thing I might add, would be that throughout the book, Todd kept asking people what was going on. He was repeatedly told 'I'll explain later'. Now I know this was to keep you reading on, but I felt like some of the important information that was given, could have been more frequently placed through out the novel, instead of having quite a lengthy explanation near the end of the book.

 

The majority of the characters were realistic and I liked the relationship between Todd and the other main central characters. However, I thought the character Aaron, was a little cartoonish. 

Spoiler

I found it impossible that Aaron had been shot, had half of his face bitten off by a dog and an alligator and was also, stabbed and yet, he still was alive!

 

This is a very fast paced story and I found it difficult to put this down.The plot itself wasn't predictable and I was eager to know what was going to happen.

 

The ending of this book for some reason, left me a little underwhelmed. I was expected more of an impact. However, I'm still really eager to know what happens in the next book.

 

My Rating ****

Edited by karen.d

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'The Diving- Bell and the Butterfly' -by Jean-Dominique Buby

 

Being only 139 pages, this book may be short, but the impact it had, was enormous. This is an extraordinary memoir of a man who had a stroke and was left unable to move or talk. He dictated this novel to someone, using eye movements to indicate letters on an alphabetic board. 

 

Whilst this book doesn't have a linear story as such, this is a beautifully written novel about the writer's day to day experiences in the hospital he is being treated in and, in the most mundane or saddest moments, there is humour and insight. This is a very interesting and poetic novel.

 

My Rating ****

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'Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine' by Gail Honeyman.

 

Last year, this book got a lot of hype everywhere and won a lot of awards. I deliberately waited before reading this, because I didn't want the hype to influence my opinion of this book.

 

This is the first book I DNF'ed this year. Why? Well only after 44 pages, I felt that this had an ugly, spiteful tone to it. Eleanor, who is socially awkward, was sneered at by her mother and her colleagues and I didn't like it.. 

 

Whilst Eleanor had back story was incredibly sad, it felt like the author herself, was using Eleanor for laughs, that were at her, not with her.

 

Spoiler

I felt that some of the situations Eleanor found herself in, as an attempt at humour, both patronizing and not very funny. I mean, what 30 year old hasn't ordered a takeaway pizza before? This is demeaning of the character, to put her in that sort of situation. And also, the waxing at the beauty parlour, was just silly.

 

I can't really say much more about this novel. It's quite possible that, if I had continued on with it, it might have got better. However, just in this few pages I read, I was left feeling very uncomfortable, with the way in which socially awkward people was being portrayed by the author. I didn't feel that it was right to support this kind of attitude because, after all, we are not all the same and that's not a bad thing. Clearly, this writer doesn't agree.

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Karen, I agree with you about your comments (in the spoiler bit), however the situation with her mother is gradually explained, although I must admit I didn't find it that convincing. 

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Great reviews!! :)

 

I'll have to try Eleanor Oliphant... for myself some time, seeing as I already own the book, but I feel I could well DNF it too based on what you said.

I hope your next read will be nicer :).

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Great reviews Karen!

 

Very interesting to hear your thoughts on Eleanor Oliphant. I haven't read it myself but have wanted to for some time. I will do some more research before I commit myself to it based on your review.

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On 3/7/2019 at 11:02 AM, Madeleine said:

Karen, I agree with you about your comments (in the spoiler bit), however the situation with her mother is gradually explained, although I must admit I didn't find it that convincing. 

I may have changed my mind, if I had continued reading on, but I this book just made me feel uncomfortable reading it.

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On 3/7/2019 at 1:21 PM, Athena said:

Great reviews!! :)

 

I'll have to try Eleanor Oliphant... for myself some time, seeing as I already own the book, but I feel I could well DNF it too based on what you said.

I hope your next read will be nicer :).

I-d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this book, maybe i'm missing something.

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On 3/8/2019 at 1:00 PM, ~Andrea~ said:

Great reviews Karen!

 

Very interesting to hear your thoughts on Eleanor Oliphant. I haven't read it myself but have wanted to for some time. I will do some more research before I commit myself to it based on your review.

 

A lot of people have read this loved this book, but I can't seen the appeal myself. However, that doesn't mean that you won't enjoy it if you read it. I look forward to hearing what you think of it

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Great reviews! I was looking at The Knife of Never Letting Go myself and thought the intentional spelling mistakes might be annoying to read, so it's good to hear that you ended up liking that element!

 

Interesting thoughts on Eleanor Oliphant too. I haven't read it but I was actually thinking the other day about how some books seem to get far more attention (even before release, so not necessarily because readers love it) than others and I think that was one of those books. I can actually picture the cover of Eleanor Oliphant instantly because I've seen it so much, even though I've never actually picked it up. 

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6 hours ago, Hayley said:

Great reviews! I was looking at The Knife of Never Letting Go myself and thought the intentional spelling mistakes might be annoying to read, so it's good to hear that you ended up liking that element!

 

Interesting thoughts on Eleanor Oliphant too. I haven't read it but I was actually thinking the other day about how some books seem to get far more attention (even before release, so not necessarily because readers love it) than others and I think that was one of those books. I can actually picture the cover of Eleanor Oliphant instantly because I've seen it so much, even though I've never actually picked it up. 

I try to leave a little bit of time before reading a hyped book, simply because I don't want to be influenced by a book's popularity. I don't tend to read that many recent books anyway, as I get a lot from my local charity shop!

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