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Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Book Review: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

A modern retelling of the story of Cain and Abel, East of Eden brings to life the intricate details of two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons.

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”

No review I could ever write would do this book justice. I was almost tempted to just have my review as this simple statement: “if you haven’t read this, just do it.” But.... incase you haven’t noticed, I often have a lot to say.

Where to begin? I’ll start with Steinbeck’s writing. This was some of the most gorgeous writing I’ve ever read - it’s readable yet breathtaking. Especially when he is describing the Salinas Valley, or when he is providing commentary on human nature. It simply blew me away.

And the characters!! This is an epic, multi-generational tale that focuses on two families and they are all so exquisitely developed and BELIEVABLE. My favourite was Samuel (of course I’m going to go for the Irishman!), but they were all so incredible. Even Cathy, who was so dark and twisted!

I’ve been thinking about this one ever since I finished, pondering the concept of good and evil, and free will. My brain just cannot deal with how fucking amazing this book was. 700+ pages and yet perfectly paced and wonderfully crafted. Please do not let the length put you off, it is worth every goddamn page.

East of Eden has firmly cemented its place in my top 5 books of ALL TIME.

Johann
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Friday, 12 April 2019

Book Review: The Waste Lands by Stephen King

The third book in the Dark Tower series finds Roland and his ka-tet following the Path of the Beam towards the tower. Along the way they’ll pick up two new members...

“Ka was like a wheel, its one purpose to turn, and in the end it always came back to the place where it had started.”
I was contemplating writing this review as an Ode to Oy, but words can’t even express how much I love that little billy-bumbler; he is the CUTEST. A particular highlight for me is when he calls Gasher “asshole” - SASSY OY!

I also have a revelation that may shake you all to your cores... having previously ranted and raved about how Blaine did my head in, I actually LIKED Blaine the Mono this time around. Now, the riddles I can still do without... but I found Blaine to be highly entertaining. Memory is a funny thing, isn’t it?! He was completely different in my head!

The house on Dutch Hill - how STRESSFUL is that part, the bleakness of Lud, the people in River Crossing, that huge freakin’ bear, MEETING OY..... this book has so much fucking awesomeness packed into it that I don’t know where to begin and I can’t fit it all in here in detail, so I’ll just say it was INCREDIBLE.

This reread is completely challenging all my prior thoughts and feelings on certain books in the series. Now, I would rank The Waste Lands as the best in the series so far - whereas before, it was down near the bottom for me (but still excellent, I do love all the books!) This one has gained an entire star following my reread!

I honestly hate reviewing these books because it’s just word vomit. I JUST LOVE THIS SERIES SO MUCH. 5 glittering shiny stars!!

Johann
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Monday, 8 April 2019

Book Review: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Eleven-year-old Owen Meany, playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire, hits a foul ball and kills his best friend’s mother. Owen doesn’t believe in accidents; he believes he is God’s instrument.

"If you care about something, you have to protect it - if you’re lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it."

If you had told me, “Johann... you’re going to read this book that focuses on topics like the Vietnam War, American/Canadian politics and religion, and is centred around a young boy who believes he is God’s instrument... AND you’re going to REALLY enjoy it” I’ve have said “get the fuck outta here”- I’m not much of a politics person, nor do I enjoy reading about history, but luckily the Vietnam war is one period of history that I know a lot about (thank you, GCSE History!) so at least I could follow along!

A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of those awkward books that you had a good time with, but you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to everyone. Not everyone is gonna like those themes and not everyone enjoys a book that moves quite slowly at times. But this gal did!

Irving’s writing is beautiful. The one downside is that he reeeeally likes to hammer things home, hence this 700 page chunker. This could easily have been a couple of 100 pages shorter and still carried the same weight and resonance. One thing that surprised me though was how absolutely hilarious it was at times. Some of Owen Meany’s actions and opinions legit cracked me up! The nativity scene in particular was a highlight, it really tickled me!

Oh, and I had mentioned it in one of my stories, but every word that leaves Owen’s mouth is in capitals. Which is fine. Perfectly fine. Especially when he goes on for a few pages... *eye twitches*

Once again, I was left in tears by the end. This book is intelligent, complex and multi-layered and I was incredibly fucking impressed at how Irving stitched it all together.

Probably not for everyone, but then again, I didn’t think it would be for me and I really dug it!! 4 stars.

Johann
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Saturday, 6 April 2019

Book Review: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

A story of a young boy and his two dogs who become the finest hunting team in the valley.

“You can read every day where a dog saved the life of a drowning child, or lay down his life for his master. Some people call this loyalty. I don’t. I may be wrong, but I call it love - the deepest kind of love.”
And the crying continues..... As I made my way through this one, I felt like I wasn’t THAT attached to the characters and that everyone who told me I’d bawl my eyes out was wrong... but y’all were right. I was crying my goddamn heart out by the end!

I’ve never had a dog. I love Barney like he is mine, but boy do I want my own dog... and so when the book opens with our protagonist Billy yearning for some puppers, I felt that on a deep level. He works his butt off and saves up every cent he gets to be able to buy his own dogs, the specific breed of dog he wants, and the moment when he first meets them... my heart!!

And the dogs themselves are so sweet! Old Dan and Little Ann, with their own personalities and traits. Gah, so cute. However, this is the point in the book where I kinda lost interest every now and again - there’s only so much I can read about hunting for raccoons. Descriptions of landscapes and running through the woods just becomes tedious after a while. Sorry! However, there are some parts interspersed throughout that are quite tense and one event in particular really took me by surprise! So it was a mixed bag I guess.

But it all culminates in one of the most heartbreaking endings I’ve ever read. I had sent Matthew a photo of my red, blotchy, tear-streaked face when I finished, and the next day when I was filling him in on what happened, I could feel myself choking on my words, as the tears brimmed in my eyes again. So yeah. This book rips your heart out!

Oh, and the story about the red fern and how it ties into the story is fucking BEAUTIFUL. Some of the most stunning imagery I’ve read in a book.

Teachers who teach this to school-age children - you are goddamn masochists!!

3.5 stars.

Johann
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Friday, 5 April 2019

Book Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A grumpy yet lovable old man finds his world thrown on its side when a boisterous young family move in next door.

"People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had."
Who knew I could have so much in common with a grumpy old man? That is my lasting impression from A Man Called Ove! I found myself nodding along with a lot of the things he got annoyed about. Rules are there for a reason, people!! If rules aren’t adhered to, anarchy will surely follow!!

The chapters mostly alternate between current day and giving us some insight into Ove’s past, a past which is full of heartache, but there’s also some happy times. The parts where it discusses Ove and his wife, Sonja, were my favourites - some of those passages are simply perfection! I was reading over some before writing my review and I was almost tearing up again.

The best books are those that can make you laugh and cry in equal measure, and this one really delivered on both fronts. I was constantly sending little excerpts to Matthew being like “omg this is so me!” (whilst also poking fun at him since Matthew owns a BMW and if you know Ove, you’ll understand) and when I wasn’t laughing I could feel Ove slowly making his way into my heart. By the end, I was sitting in a coffee shop trying to hold it together so as not to ruin my makeup.

A Man Called Ove is a really heartwarming and touching story about community and finding your purpose, whilst touching on themes like grief and moving on. I truly loved it and cannot wait to get more Backman books! 5 stars!

Johann
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