Anne of green gables #1 by L.M. Montgomery

Why I have it: Part of a classics boxset that a friend of my mom got me.
Main review:
This is a beautiful book, in the purest sincerest possible way. You cannot help but fall in love with Anne and the band of characters which Montgomery illustrates with ease, as if they were real tangible people waiting to be brought to life on the page. They are us in so many ways. Anne, the child who dreamed of a wonderful life and was given it. Marila, the mature woman who has learned the hard way that life is not easy but still holds the ability to humour Anne, while still shaping her into a sensible, respectable woman. Mathew, the shy, sensitive man with a heart of gold, knowing when to stand up for what he believes in but also when to let things be. I laughed, cried and felt for each and every character supporting or otherwise, an achievement rarely won by an author.

The imagery alone leaves one daydreaming of life in Avonlea, when reality proves too much. It evokes the most vivid images that I have ever been fortunate enough to read. I can be a lazy reader on occasion and have been guilty of glossing over descriptive paragraphs when it delays the real story, but I did not get the urge to commit that crime once during this book. I remember my mom reading this to me when I was younger, or at least I imagine she did, as I had vivid memories of certain aspects of it. I could not resist refreshing my memory by picking up again. It did not disappoint and though deemed a childrens book, like many classic novels relegated to the childrens genre it transcends this typecast and rewards anyone willing to take a chance on it.

Grade: A

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Click image for link to goodreads

Date started: 19th July

Date finished: 21st July

Why do I have it: I raided a friends bookshelf and found this πŸ™‚

Review:

I was optimistic beginning this book, as it has won both the ‘Whitbread book of the year’ and the ‘booktrust teenage fiction’ awards. I don’t usually read book just because they win awards but it never hurts. Haddon’s book is the fictitious autobiography of one Christopher Boone, a 15 year old boy with autism. It is told from his unique perspective, chronicling how he sees the world and processes the life changing events which occur.

For a reader it is certainly a unique experience. Because the writing style is so different, it takes a couple of chapters to get used to the fashion in which Haddon has chosen to write. He uses very precise detail and clear language to describe the events which unfold. At times it felt as if I was reading a witness statement. While one would think that this would make the story all the more enjoyable, because everything was clearly laid out, it had the opposite effect for me. There was no flourish to the writing, instead it felt rigid and stiff. I like a challenging read and a little descriptive language never hurt anyone. But I do understand the reasoning behind the lack of it.

The real saving grace of this book was the understanding it gives you. The subject matter is delicate as it affects so many people world-wide and for that reason it’s not always spoken about openly. In his book Mark Haddon shows us how he believes those with autism (at least Christopher’s type) think and process information. It’s eye-opening to read christopher’s point of view. It is just shy of charming at times but can then turn completely emotionless and rigid in a second.

The mathematical motif employed by Haddon was used cleverly to give structure to the story and to mirror Christopher’s logical mind. Immediately as you notice the strangely numbered chapters (they’re numbered in increasing prime numbers) you gain an appreciation for how exact and rigid our protagonist is in his thinking.

Seeing the world from Christopher’s point of view was eye-opening as he reduced everything from body language to familiar metaphorical sayings to their most simple meanings. It is mentioned in great detail that his hero is Sherlock Holmes (an aspect I loved!) and as I read, I had to admit that his fashion of thinking is akin to how I would imagine the character of Sherlock thinking. But he was missing the most vital component to most holmesian deductions, Holmes’ instinctive understanding of why people act as they do. Christopher was completely unable to understand other people because as he explains it, they keep changing.

It was strange, almost uncomfortable at times, to read a point of view that appeared so logical in certain circumstances but who could just as easily rationalise hitting someone or smashing a window when emotions were introduced to the equation. It was shocking to realise that it was easier for Christopher to strike out than to try to process this unfamiliar emotive data. He carried around a swish army knife and was capable of being incredibly violent because he could rationalise any situation into simple terms, in a ‘this is a threat and I am justified in neutralising it because it is self defence’ kind of way. I had a bad feeling the book would end bloodily throughout just because of the frightening ease with which he could strike out if one wrong move was made. While it was informative I don’t relish being uncomfortable while reading and this is the effect this book had on me. But maybe that’s just me, perhaps that is the point of the novel, to make us uncomfortable for a time because people like Christopher are never truly allowed to be comfortable.There is a chapter where Christopher talks us through a recurring dream he has where all the people in the world that are what we would consider normal die out whilst the ‘special ones’ as he calls those like himself live on. Its saddening because all he wants is to be left alone but it’s also disturbing because in his explanation he shows that in order to be alone he wouldn’t mind if people had to die, doesn’t show any remorse.

It’s not possible to understand completely how people with autism think, but this book gives us a hint of an idea. While aspects of Haddon’s portrayal of autism are frightening from our prospective it is (or can be viewed as) normal, even logical, to those who have it. From reading ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’, we gain an understanding of difficult life can be on both the parents and the children and through this understanding gain a deeper acceptance of this affliction.

Grade: C

Amber

Lone venture

I regret to inform our readers that from now on this blog shall be a lone venture (hence the name change). Kate has decided that she would prefer not to post but has urged me to continue. I was disappointed that we couldn’t do this together but at least I’ll have someone behind the scenes making sure I post regularly. I decided to change the name because it didn’t feel right still posting under the joint name (thought it was a pain in the neck to change). I’m going to continue the blog because I’m really enjoying the challenge it has presented. I love being able to talk about what I read and my views on different aspects of literature. I will be posting reviews regularly on Monday’s (hopefully I’ll venture into the classics soon) and I want to write a couple of discussion posts in the coming weeks which are basically already written in my head. πŸ™‚

I feel I should tell you more about myself as it’s now just little aul me. I just graduated from secondary school(high school). My two great passions in life are History and English and I hope to start a degree in both in September (fingers crossed). It’s a love which my mom instilled in me from an early age. I still remember her telling me that if I had a book I’d never be alone. As I grew up I saw just how true this could be and how much reading can enrich our lives. I doubt she ever dreamed of what that seed of interest would grow into.

As I write this I don’t actually have a favourite genre, nor do I really have a favourite author (though Ian McEwan comes close) I just enjoy what I read and find it hard to categorise it or limit it. I’m trying to widen my horizons by branching out into contemporary, post modern and classic literature. But it was the fantasy genre which grabbed my young imagination all those years ago. I fell in love with the adventure and pure escapism that the genre presented.( I also had/have an insatiable obsession with Dragons which needed to be fed.)

In regards to what I define as a good book, it really comes down to the characterisations. I love relationship driven works and by that I don’t necessarily mean romance novels. I love to read about friendships and if a book has that to fall back on I’m instantly engaged. Other than that I can forgive a book a lot though the ending is the clincher. If an author can’t tie up all the loose ends then they can wax lyrical all they like because I’m not going to enjoy the book half as much as I would have.

I hope you stick with me πŸ™‚

Happy reading!

Amber

The Rye Man by David Park

Click for goodreads link

Started: 11th July
Finished: 14th July
Why I have it: The library is currently feeding my book addiction!

Review:

“The Rye Man” by David Park is an obscure book published in 1994. Frankly it’s obscure for a reason. It tells the story of John Cameron, a primary school teacher who has just been given the position of headmaster in his old primary school. As he takes up this position he is haunted by memories of an event which made him the local hero, while his wife is battling a depression brought on by their collapsing marriage and lack of a child. The reader is drawn in with a promising synopsis, which includes lines such as “The Rye Man is a compelling and powerful novel about the links between past and present…” Having reviewed “When God was a Rabbit” last week I was immediately intrigued by a book which was written with a similar premise. However from the first line, Park let’s you down. He begins with a frankly clichΓ©d opening line, “I still had time to change my mind.” Maybe I’ve turned cynical over the years but that had me rolling my eyes and wanting to point him in the direction of a creative writing class. But not one to give up on a book I persevered.

For unknown reasons Park spends the first 50 pages of the story describing in detail his first day as headmaster. This doesn’t add anything to the plot and there are so many characters introduced that I found myself going back to double-check who exactly people were. For a time I enjoyed the interactions of the characters, but after having sat through pages of him describing an interminable staff meeting, reading it changed from escapism to work. There were hints to the wider plot scattered throughout the book but it was as if they were stuck in as an afterthought. It made the text clunky and unnatural. At times it was reduced to a level of bad novice writing, where everything must be explained in precise detail. If the protagonist (and I use that term loosely) opens the door then I found myself reading about how he went through it, closed it, locked it and then continued on his journey. At other times in the novel Park’s writing was so obscure that I was left completely lost, not knowing if I was reading about the past, present or the future. At times like this only references to his ‘mammy’ killing him over ruining his shoes hinted that I was reading about his childhood or at least had me hoping I was.

Something which I found extremely strange is the fact that David Park is actually a teacher himself. This in and of itself was a normal piece of trivia only for the fact that I only looked it up because he was so bad at writing teacher interactions with both pupils and other staff members. The word to describe it would be downright inappropriate. In the case of the teachers he appeared to talk about their personal lives in full view of the class, while in the case of the students the following line had me fleeing to the ‘About Author’ section in horror, “He playfully and gently pulled at one of her locks.”

50 pages into a book (especially a 200 page book) I expect to be completely lost in the narrative but in this instance I found I was still no wiser as to what the actual plot was. It was still introducing the story, which is acceptable in a large book, but in a book the size of “The Rye Man” I expect some sort of complication to have presented itself past simple references to a ‘loss’. A loss which when revealed does not add anything to the overall plot. It actually serves to alienate the reader as this had appeared to be the big mystery of the novel but instead the answer is thrown at the reader. From that moment on Park makes a habit of throwing revelations in the fashion of a young student throwing an answer out to his teacher. Relief that he’s managed it is evident but the answer is left shapeless, leaving the hard work to the observer, in this instance the reader. While my experience of contemporary literature is limited (for the moment) I doubt I’ll come across a book which appeared to promised so much and delivered so little. Though I would have hated for it to be longer it feels as though Park spent the entirety of the book setting up the story and rushed the ending which made the whole book seem pointless. There are so many unanswered questions but unlike other books I feel they were left unanswered because Park either forgot about them or just simply could not explain what he had produced. How this was ever published is beyond me!

Grade: F

Amber

P.S Kate gives her apologies for the lack of a review last week. (Don’t worry I’ll make her do two!)

Introduction

Hello!

We’re Kamberlit, better known as Kate and Amber. We thought a proper introduction was in order before bombarding the cosmos with posts. We’re a couple of girls from Ireland who love book covers. This blog is dedicated to those special occasions when we get past the pretty picture on the front and read the actual words inside. Besides both being YA fanatics, Kate loves graphic novels and anything set in the future, while Amber holds a fascination for fantasy, as well as relationship driven works and is currently battling her way through a list of classics. While it’s a rarity for us to disagree it does happen and our taste in books, while similar, does differ, so there will be a variety of genres and topics covered in the blog.

As for what you can expect from our blog…the plan is loads of reviews, discussions and maybe even fancy pants literary analysis when we’re feeling smart enough. We talk about books constantly and this blog is going to be used as an outlet to channel all our opinions, thoughts and questions regarding the stuff we’re reading.

We’ve decided that we’re going to do individual book reviews weekly. So Amber will post Mondays and Kate will post Fridays. When we get into the swing of things (so to speak) we’re also going to try doing a discussion post on Wednesdays. We’ll hopefully be documenting our struggle through Nanowrimo in November. Maybe we’ll even read Ulysses someday. Or maybe we’ll start Ulysses, throw it at a wall, and pick up 50 Shades of Grey instead.

Besides books, Amber likes dragons, sleeping and historical debate.

Kate likes animals, matching socks and speaking in the third person.

We both consume way too much coffee and Sherlock fanfiction. Everyone has their faults.

Now we’re going to review stuff. Well, we’ll try.

-Kamber