Guest Review: Slaughterhouse 5

Hi everyone!

So you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been … scarce … of late. Well, let’s be honest, for a few months now. So the excuses include craziness at work, overwhelmingness of study, fatigue related to both of these, and, well, life. I am planning on getting back into the swing of things soon, but I also have an exciting treat for you – a guest review from a great friend of mine who also loves to read, and is awesome at putting her thoughts on books into words. So, here it is!

Goodreads link

Goodreads link

SLAUGHTERHOUSE 5 by Kurt Vonnegut

First Published 1969

Stars: 5/5

A masterpiece.  This book will take you a step closer to the meaning of life.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 follows the journey of hapless American Optometrist Billy Pilgrim as he becomes entangled in the events of WW2 as a chaplain’s assistant.

However, this is a war story unlike you have ever encountered before.  The absurdity of war and the horrors that Billy witnesses result in him becoming at least partially unhinged- and his life thereafter is punctuated by episodes of time-travel and alien encounters.  The story concludes with the Dresden bombings as WW2 draws to a close.

Only a brilliant novelist could weave these elements into a work that is simultaneously so deep yet so consistently amusing and easy to read.  Vonnegut brings hilarity to the gruesome theatre of war in Europe.  Not something that would work in the hands of one less skilled.

Apart from being an enjoyable satire and a rather unconventional science fiction, make no mistake, this novel pulls some big political punches, especially when you consider it was first published in 1969 North America:

“I have told my sons that they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that the news of massacres of enemies is not to fill them with satisfaction or glee.  I have also told them not to work for companies which make massacre machinery, and to express contempt for people who think we need machinery like that” p24.

This paragraph would undoubtedly be as screamingly relevant right now in November 2014 as it was when it was first written, given the current global conflicts we are faced with, and the gun control debate that rages in the United States.

Overall, this novel is well worth the small effort involved in reading it.

Justine

Rebecca

Goodreads

Goodreads

Title: Rebecca

Author: Daphne du Maurier

Published: Virago Press, 2003 (first published 1938)

 

 

 

 

Back Cover

 

 

 

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…

Working as a lady’s companion, the heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Her future looks bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Max de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. She accepts, but whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to the ominous and brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding housekeeper, Mrs Danvers…

In Brief

 

 

A haunting tale of love, and living in someone’s shadow.

My Thoughts

 

 

Our heroine first meets Max de Winter when she is working as a companion to a social-climbing busy body. She is wowed by him, and, it appears, he by her. They get married, and the difficulties in her life begin. Mrs Danvers… Oh lord. Everyone at Manderley seems to want to make life difficult for her, and to slowly chip away at her self-worth, and confidence that Max loves her. The house – and everyone in it – is filled with secrets. Everyone has their own agenda, and aren’t afraid of stepping on Mrs de Winter. And the whole book… totally creepy. I felt haunted by Rebecca myself! Didn’t help that everyone other than Max seemed to be doing their best to keep her alive.

This is a dark and heavy book, and I’m totally not sure I completely absorbed it. I feel like this one is best savoured, and read over and over to really experience it. When reading, I could feel there were twists coming. Though I’m not sure I’d even say twists, it felt more like secrets slowly being unearthed. You feel the depth of the characters and the plot. There is so much beneath the surface of this book. The house is a character all of its own, and the writing – I felt like I was there. The chill drafts of a huge old mansion (not that I have ANY experience in ancient mansions, but you know. I was transported and all that.) The sea. The fear of being overshadowed by your predecessor. The fear you’ll be found lacking. Or worse, found out as an imposter. du Maurier had me there, experiencing it all, totally absorbed.

The ending, well more the resolution of questions rather than the actual end of the book, I have to say I didn’t expect. I anticipated it going in a very different direction. Though possibly that’s more me being a product of the times, and obviously, being written in the 1930s, the times were very different.

This is the only book by Daphne du Maurier that I’ve read, and to be honest I loved it so much that I’m not sure I want to read any more of hers. Total fear of being let down! Have you experienced that? A book you found so brilliant that the thought of reading another of the authors’ books just might shatter you?

Rating

 

 

A+

Recommend

 

 

Absolutely. I can’t believe I waited so long to read this one. Sad, dark, haunting, brilliant.

Review: The Fault In Our Stars

Goodreads

Goodreads

Title: The Fault in our Stars

Author: John Green

Published: Penguin Books, 2012

*Spoilers included in this review*

 

 

Back Cover

 

 

Despite the tumour-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

In Brief

 

 

A touching story of living life to the fullest when all is uncertain.

My Thoughts

 

 

Hazel is dying. She has thyroid cancer with lung mets. And she’s living as though it’s over already. Then one day she meets Augustus at her support group, and suddenly life is worth living. They are the kids at school that you want to have been friends with. The alternative-type, honest, just livin-their-own-life-with-no-concern-for-anyone-else type. As they get to know each other and we get to know them, I just grew to love them. And it sucks. Cancer sucks. Full stop. But this is a book that doesn’t focus on the whole cancer-teenager-dying thing, while still focusing on it. The focus is on living with cancer, not necessarily just dying of it.

I really liked this book. Really really liked. John Green’s writing is simple, clean, humorous and insightful. He writes with innocence, while showing us the depth behind the characters.

**SPOILER ALERT**

But what would a cancer book be without a relapse? So of course there it is. And time is short. So Hazel and Augustus try to make as much of the time they have as they can. And it’s sweet. I also think it was necessary to the story. This is a story about cancer, living with, dying of, grieving and moving past.

Rating

 

 

A+ – This book is AMAZING. It totally blew me away!

Recommend

 

 

DEFINITELY! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll question your own life choices. Maybe don’t read it on the train… and keep the tissues close.

Left Neglected

Left Neglected

Goodreads

Title: Left Neglected

Author: Lisa Genova

Published: Simon & Schuster, 2011

Back Cover

 

 

Sarah Nickerson has it all: the high-flying career, the loving family, the second home. But between excelling at work; shuttling the kids to football, day care, and piano lessons; convincing her son’s teacher that he may not, in fact, have ADD; and making it home in time for dinner, it’s a wonder this over-scheduled over-achiever has time to breathe.

Sarah manages every minute of her life like an air traffic controller, until one fateful day, while driving to work, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In the blink of an eye, her chaotic life comes to a screeching halt. A traumatic brain injury completely erases the left side of her world. For once, Sarah must relinquish control to those around her, including her formerly absent mother. As she wills herself to heal, Sarah must learn that a happiness greater than all the success in the world is close within reach, if only she slows down long enough to notice.

In Brief

 

 

An insightful and sometimes frustrating look into the effects of a brain injury on both patient and family.

My Thoughts

 

 

Sarah Nickerson is a high powered wife and mother. Every minute is scheduled. Double booked even. No rest for the wicked and all that. Make all the monies. You know. Long days, minimal sleep, the last time she had an afternoon of rest and relaxation was…. never. Firstly, let me just say – not my kinda life. I could maybe uphold that for… 3 weeks? A month? That aside, after Sarah has a car accident, she winds up with left neglect. Which effectively means that she forgets her whole left side exists.

We follow Sarah as she struggles to come to terms with her new normal, and at the same time her son is struggling with how to manage his ADD. Her life has changed dramatically, and as much as she works and pushes her rehab, there comes a point where she just isn’t going to get any better. Then comes the mental struggle. Chuck her mother in the mix and you’ve found Sarah’s hell.

I really enjoyed Left Neglected, seeing Sarah improve, and deal with her mental struggles – like if she keeps forgetting she has a left leg, how is she ever going to ski again?

Lisa Genova has a PhD in Neuroscience, and as a nurse who has worked in neurology I find her books fascinating. Still Alice explores Alzheimers, and her newest book Love Anthony looks into autism. All of these are written about in a fascinating, tactful, engaging manner. Her writing is easy to read, and for me un-put-down-able. She explores difficult and complicated topics in an easy to read and easy to understand manner.

Rating

A: Almost Flawless!

 

RecommendAbsolutely. Not too heavy on the medical, but just enough so you understand what’s going on. If you enjoy ‘journey’ books, this one’s for you!

 

Have you read Left Neglected? Have you read any of Lisa Genova’s other books? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Review: Forgotten

Goodreads

Goodreads

Title: Forgotten

Author: Cat Patrick

Published: Little, Brown and Company; Hachette Book Group, 2011

 

Back Cover

 

 

I remember forwards.

I remember forwards and forget backwards.

My memories, bad, boring, or good, haven’t happened yet.

So I will remember standing in the fresh-cut grass with the black-clad figures surrounded by stone until I do it for real. I will remember the funeral until it happens – until someone dies.

And after that, it will be forgotten.

Here’s the thing about me; I can see my future, but my past is blank.

I see the future in flashes, like memories. I remember what I’ll wear tomorrow, and a car crash that won’t happen til this afternoon. But yesterday has evaporated from my mind – just like the boy I love, I can’t see him in my future. I can’t remember him from my past. But today, I love him. And I never want to forget how much.

 

My Thoughts

 

 

I totally wasn’t expecting to like this one as much as I did. I didn’t want it to end! I’m relatively new to young adult fiction (other than when I was in my early teens), and I’m pretty selective about what I read. This was a total winner!

I loved the ‘remember the future, forget the past’ idea, but was concerned that it wouldn’t be well written. Cat Patrick did an amazing job. I didn’t want the book to end – and to add insult to injury, I opened the second Cat Patrick book I had (Revived) and realised it wasn’t a sequel! Yeah, I didn’t research that one too well.

London Lane remembers days and years to come, but doesn’t know what happened yesterday. She writes things down, but things are starting to happen that she doesn’t remember. Like Luke. For some reason he’s completely new to her every day. So she writes herself more and more notes so she can remember him. Then she remembers a funeral… and starts to piece things together. Is this why she doesn’t remember him?

I haven’t described this very well – this is why Cat Patrick is the author of this amazing book and I’m not! I found this book really easy to read, very difficult to put down, and really well written. My only complaint was that it wasn’t long enough.

 

An original plot brilliantly executed with likable, relatable, believable characters.

 

Recommend

 

 

Absolutely! A fun light read, a great way to pass a lazy afternoon or train trip.

 

Have you read Forgotten? Do you think you will? 

Chels

 

 

 

Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects

Goodreads

Title: Sharp Objects

Author: Gillian Flynn

Published: Phoenix, 2006

BACK COVER

It’s been a while… but Camille Preaker has finally gone home.

Sent to investigate the disappearance of two little girls Camille finds herself reluctantly installed in the family mansion, reacquainting herself with her distant mother and a precocious thirteen-year-old half-sister she barely knows. Haunted by a family tragedy, troubled by the disquieting grip her young sister has on the town, Camille struggles with a familiar need to be accepted.

But as clues turn into dead ends Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims and releases: she will have to unravel the puzzle of her own past if she’s to survive this homecoming.

MY THOUGHTS

This one was written pre-Gone Girl, and I have to say, Flynn does not disappoint. Camille has returned to Wind Gap as a journalist, to write about the disappearance and murder of a little girl – reminiscent of what happened to her sister. This brings up many bad memories, that Camille has worked years to get over. She is covered in scars from self harm, that begin to burn and itch more the longer she is home.

Now, I have to say if you have history with self harm or family related issues, this may not be the book for you. It’s quite dark and touches on issues that are not altogether healthy.

I, however, found it hard to put down, intriguing and kinda like a car crash – just too hard to look away. I had to know what happens next. As with Gone Girl, there’s a few red herrings thrown in there, and I didn’t pick the outcome definitively. For me it was one of numerous possibilities, but still threw me at the end. Flynn’s mind is just bananas. I have no idea where she comes up with this stuff. But still. Very well written, inescapable, Maybe I’m disturbed, but I enjoyed it!

RECOMMEND?

If you enjoy a touch of the creepy? This goes beyond a touch. Way beyond.

The Night Circus

The Night Circus

Goodreads

Title: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Random House; Vintage Books, 2011

 

BACK COVER

The circus arrives without warning

No announcements precede it…

It is simply there, when yesterday it was not

 

MY THOUGHTS

This circus is amazing, surprising, magical, and a giant show developed as a competition between two magicians. Well, two magicians who aren’t aware they’re in competition. It’s brilliant. Erin Morgenstern has come up with an original idea that draws you into the atmosphere, trickery and amazement of Le Cirque Des Reves. I love the black and white with a touch of red theme of the circus, and the Reveurs who follow the circus around the globe. I felt it gave the circus a sense of the unexplained, the untouchable, the… inclusive to those only who come across it and join in.

I loved the magical element to this book, along with the mystery of the competition smouldering along in the background – IE it’s not mentioned or referred to often, but comes into play only when necessary. I felt included into the inner circle, and privy to the inner workings of this both exclusive and elusive adventure.

Now, I’ve never spent a lot of time reading fantasy, though I have been reading more of it of late. I love how seamlessly Morgenstern weaves the magical into the everyday. The Night Circus is well written, and I found myself lost within the circus. I didn’t want to stop reading! In fact, I think this is a book I’ll probably reread again soon. Loved it.

RECOMMEND?

If you like to indulge in a sense of the magical, with a hint of drama? Totally!

So Much For That

Goodreads

Goodreads

Title: So Much For That

Author: Lionel Shriver

Published: Harper Collins, 2010

 

BACK COVER

Shep Knacker has long saved for ‘the Afterlife’, an idyllic retreat in the Third World where his next egg can last forever. Exasperated that his wife, Glynis, has concocted endless excuses why it’s never the right time to go, Shep finally announces he’s leaving for a Tanzanian island, with or without her. Yet Glynis has some news of her own: she’s deathly ill. Shep numbly puts his dream aside, while his nest egg is steadily devastated by staggering bills that their health insurance only partially covers. Astonishingly, illness not only strains their marriage but saves it.

From acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Lionel Shriver comes a searing, ruthlessly honest novel. Brimming with unexpected tenderness and dry humour, it presses the question: How much is one life worth?

 

MY THOUGHTS

You know that moment when you want something so bad, and you’ve put it off and put it off for ages because it doesn’t fit with the rest of the people in your life? Then you decide – screw it. Screw what everyone else wants, this is mine. I want this. So you decide that you’re going to do it. For you. It’s right within your reach. You can taste it. Then when you tell your wife that’s it – I’m going – she replies with “I’m dying”. It’s like a giant cosmic “Ha! You lose!”

This is the position Shep finds himself in. He’s been saving and living the minimalist life for his entire life, in preparation for a quiet retirement in a Tanzanian island, and as soon as he decides to bite the bullet and just go, life kicks him in the knackers. (See what I did there?? Yep.)

This book is an interesting look at the American health system from a couple of perspectives. Glynis has lung cancer. Shep used to own his own business, but sold it to a moron who changed the health benefits to a company that provides for nothing. So his savings dwindle, scan by drug by hospital stay. For what? Will she live? Will this work? Add to this his overly entitled sister Beryl – who feels like life (and Shep) owes her a living.

Then there’s Jackson and Carol, and their daughter Flicka. Flicka has familial dysautonomia, and so they’ve been contending with the American health system for her entire life. Then Jackson goes and gets surgery, unnecessary elective surgery, and… well, lets just say provides some comic relief. In a not very funny way – more sad. Now, I live in Australia, and we’ve got a pretty good health system, comparatively. Room for improvement, sure. But on the surface, functional and accessible for everyone. Equal. Reading this book makes me very glad for that. Having to shell out money for each and every blood test, scan, night in hospital, and health insurance companies looking for reasons to not pay out? Please, someone tell me the American health system isn’t as bad as I hear!

Shriver also explores love – between siblings, spouses, kids, friends. Shep learns a lot over the course of the book, about what means the most to him, how to deal with family, and in life, what is important, and how to stand up for himself. I really liked this book, for me another win from Shriver. She writes well, and is easy to read.

I totally recommend if you enjoy reading about heavier topics – family issues, health, money troubles.

Just One Day

Goodreads

Goodreads

 

Title: Just One Day

Author: Gayle Forman

Published: Definitions; Random House, 2013

 

BACK COVER

A whirlwind day in Paris…

A chance at true love…

Heartbreak is waiting just around the corner

 

MY THOUGHTS

Allyson is the good girl. On a “Teen Tours! Cultural Extravaganza” she sees all of what she is supposed to see, and very little of what she wants to see. So, on a whim, encouraged by Willem – cute boy she meets at the train station who calls her Lulu, they take off to Paris. What follows is the experience of a lifetime, followed by heartbreak. Going off to college on her return, she effectively wastes her entire first year pining for Willem. That said, she makes an awesome friend in the unique and hilarious Dee. If nothing else, read this book for him!

So after a crap year, she decides to go back to Paris, and therein lies a slightly corny, partly unrealistic, but touching coming of age romance story. Forman’s writing is excellent, as I’ve said before in my review of If I Stay & Where She Went. This is easy to read, a real page turner. I totally recommend if you don’t mind a bit of sap, a little exaggerated emotion (although, I suppose that’s what the teen years are about!), and some slightly unbelievable coincidences.

I had one frustration – if I knew Allyson, I’d either be slapping her about the head to get over it – or sending her to a psychiatrist. A good dark wallow is fine post break up, even recommended, but this was basically a one night stand, and she is deeply depressed for months. Admittedly, there is more to the picture, and I suppose the exaggeration works well in fiction.

 

However, I am looking forward to reading Willem’s half of the story in Just One Year.

The Street Sweeper

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Goodreads

Title: The Street Sweeper

Author: Elliot Perlman

Published: Random House; Vintage Books, 2011

BACK COVER

The 21st century struggles of an African American probationary janitor in a Manhattan hospital and an untenured Australian historian at Columbia University lead to one greater story encompassing the civil rights struggle in the United States and the Nazi crimes against humanity in Europe.

The Street Sweeper deals with memory, love, guilt, heroism, the extremes of racism and unexpected kindness, crossing continents and time in an epic tale of unforgettable force.

MY THOUGHTS

Seamlessly intertwined, this book tells the stories of hospital janitor Lamont Williams, and university professor Adam Zignelik. The stories of these men are woven together over 554 pages, and the threads get stronger and stronger along the way, via mutual connections and historical research that Adam is doing.

Now, I’m usually not much one for historical fiction (as my friends in my book club will attest to), but Elliot Perlman knows just how to hook me in. I adored his “Seven Types of Ambiguity”, and knew I had to check this one out. Perlman manages to weave together the historical, the personal, and the professional. Lamont is released from prison and is working as a janitor in a Manhattan hospital. He befriends an elderly patient who was in Auschwitz. Adam works as a professor awaiting tenure at Columbia University. Secondary to work related issues, his relationship falls down around him. As the stories of these two men develop, their paths cross in ways I didn’t expect, through Adam’s research and Lamont’s learning about Auschwitz. This gives both men’s lives more meaning, and though seemingly becoming more lost, helps them to find their way in life.

I love Perlman’s writing. I find it so easy to read, and though the book is over 500 pages, I read it quickly. It was one of those books I just got lost in, and time flew past when I was reading – I had to shake myself back to reality. To me, this is a sign of an excellent book!

Have you read any of Elliot Perlman’s books? Have you read this one? What did you think?