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Saturday, 27 July 2019

Book Review: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A father and his son walk alone through burned America.

“You have my whole heart. You always did.”
Some books are an experience. This is one of them. Exhausting, bleak, brutal, heartbreaking... certain parts will just stay with me forever.

This was my first encounter with Cormac McCarthy and the beautifully poetic prose prompted me to buy yet another one of his books (I already have Blood Meridian on my shelf). His writing is GORGEOUS. The short, blunt sentences and the minimal use of dialogue would normally frustrate me, but McCarthy just makes it work. It perfectly reflects the stark, cold world that this man and his son find themselves living in. It’s stunning.

I love the relationship between the father and son. You can really feel how much they need each other, in a world where they have nothing else. My main overriding thought during a lot of this was that I just could NOT survive this. I don’t think I would have the same hope or perseverance that these characters did! And my heart was simply breaking by the end...

It doesn’t get the full five stars from me because the repetitiveness got a little tiring at times... and I honestly am just greedy and want to know more about what actually happened etc.

By far the most bleak and depressing post-apocalyptic book I’ve ever read, yet it will remain one of my favourites. 4.5 stars.

Johann
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Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Book Review: Wizard and Glass by Stephen King

The fourth book in the Dark Tower series finds Roland telling his ka-tet the story of the first time he encountered a thinny, and also his first love, Susan Delgado.

“If it’s ka it’ll come like a wind, and your plans will stand before it no more than a barn before a cyclone.”
Sadie and Jake of 11/22/63 have been my favourite King love story since forever, but I’ve got a new favourite - Roland and Susan. “If you love me, then love me.” Okay, yes. They’re teenagers and it might get a bit icky if you think about it for too long. But I think King perfectly portrays the intensity and naivety of first love. I love Susan as a character, I find her incredibly relatable, and I’ve cried with her as she mourns the loss of her father.

It honestly crushes my heart to see Roland laugh and smile with such carefree abandon. I feel like this book is CRUCIAL to understanding Roland’s past and his obsession with the tower - we finally get to see the more human side of Roland, and appreciate why he is so haunted.

Outside of the love story, I absolutely adore Alain and Cuthbert. I love the bond between the three of them, it gives me warm fuzzy feelings... and SHEEMIE. What an unsung hero. Even the villains are fucking badass. Jonas and the Big Coffin Hunters are a formidable force and that scene in the bar is just epic. And the showdown in Eyebolt Canon!! I LOVE IT. Rhea the Coös is another character that I should hate, but she steals the show anytime she pops up - although she makes my skin crawl *shudders*

I just noticed I haven’t even acknowledged the parts that bookend Roland’s tale. They’re great too, and the tie-ins to The Stand will have any Constant Reader flailing!! And the writing. My god. Some of King’s best work in here. So many parts I just reread over and over. I truly feel like this is one of King’s best pieces of work.

My fangirling is over. For the time being. 5 stars.

Johann
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Sunday, 21 July 2019

Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert. A chance meeting between the two in New York in 1899 leads to an unlikely friendship.

“All of us are lonely at some point or another, no matter how many people surround us. And then, we meet someone who seems to understand. She smiles, and for a moment the loneliness disappears.”

The Golem and the Jinni is a dazzling blend of magical realism and historical fiction - it also beautifully incorporates two different cultures as a means to explore the immigrant experience in a really effective and unique way. Both of our main characters face the struggles of coming to a new country, having to learn this new way of life and trying to fit in. As well as the additional difficulty of trying to act human! And it’s all set in a beautifully vibrant time and place.

I was truly fascinated by the golem, Chava. For me, she was a much stronger and more interesting character than the jinni. She exists to serve a master and please others, whereas the jinni is slightly more self-absorbed. To make things even better, the supporting cast is also wonderfully rich with well-drawn out backstories - special shout-out to Saleh, who I loved most of all!

It’s a bit of a slow-burner, which I personally don’t mind, as the pay-off is more than worth it, and who can complain when you’re reading such beautifully descriptive prose? It’s incredibly well-written and I’m so impressed that this is Wecker’s debut novel, as she effortlessly weaves together all the strands that make up this novel. Perfection.

I’d recommend this to those who enjoy descriptive and atmospheric books such as The Night Circus!

Thank you so much to Tes @paperbackbones for gifting me this book, and to Brendan @brendanslibrary for the buddy read! It was a delight! 5 stars.

Johann
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Saturday, 6 July 2019

Book Review: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Set during World War II, Catch-22 details the experiences of Captain Yossarian and the other airmen in his camp as they try to maintain their sanity while fulfilling their service requirements so that they can return home.

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”

I did it! I conquered the book I was dreading most and I made it all the way to the end..... and it actually surprised me? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not head over heels for it, but I took a lot from this one and I’m very much glad I read it.

Catch-22 is often hilarious at times, but beneath all the satire and humour, there is a very bleak and harrowing depiction of war. And towards the end I actually found that I was emotionally attached to some of the characters?! Completely unexpected!

I really appreciated some of the techniques that Heller used, one of which was using the current number of missions the military personnel needed to complete in order to go home, as a way of marking exactly where we are in the timeline of events. Another was the use of each chapter to introduce a new character (or a place), but inevitably the story always veered back towards Yossarian and the other core characters.

This book is just so CLEVER. All the little contradictions at play and the commentary on how nonsensical war can really be. I really am in awe of how well-constructed and impactful it is.

Now why didn’t I give it 5 stars? The repetition, whilst effective at times, also became irritating. Some of the characters were hard to distinguish from others. And some parts just plain bored the life outta me...

BUT for me, it was more good than bad and I wouldn’t put anyone off reading it. It might just surprise you too! 3 stars.

Johann
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