Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks review

As tomorrow is the 75th anniversary of VE Day, I decided to reread a favourite novel of mine set during the Second World War: Sebastian Faulks’ Charlotte Gray which, given the popularity of the novel and 2001 film adaptation starring Cate Blanchett, most readers probably know of. Charlotte works as a receptionist in London when she meets and falls in love with Peter Gregory, a pilot. Their romance is short-lived however as Peter goes missing over France, believed to have been shot down. As Charlotte had spent a lot of her childhood in France and can speak the language fluently, she joins the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Now an agent, she is parachuted into France, where she must aid the French Resistance and find her missing lover.

Despite the plot sounding quite adventurous and action-driven, the novel is more of a character study. It bears some similarities in this regard to Faulks’ other famous work Birdsong though that book is partially set during World War One; despite the horror of these events Faulks ultimately focuses on the characters, making the warfare almost secondary. Certainly here the onus is on Charlotte: it is her name in the title, she whom we follow through the narrative. And Faulks does a brilliant job of bringing her to life. He spends a lot of time developing her personality, her strengths and weaknesses, and watching her change throughout the course of the narrative was a joy. You become invested in her as a character and are rooting for her at the end. That’s not to say the secondary characters are underdeveloped; the reader is given snippets of their lives and motivations for their behaviour. But the core of the novel is Charlotte and because she is a fully-fleshed character that the reader can believe in, the book works.

Faulks’ love of research, and the sheer amount of time he spends on it, is well-known, and is also apparent in Charlotte Gray. It means the novel is not just an entertaining story, but a fascinating glimpse into this period of time. In particular, the training course that potential SOE agents undertake was interesting to me: it wasn’t something I knew much about beforehand but it really captured my attention. But even small details like clothing, leisure pursuits, even day to day activities like bathing all felt very in-keeping with the time period. It is these small details that help create the atmosphere and feel of the world which help to draw the reader in. Certainly in Charlotte Gray you become a part of this landscape; there’s no misplaced detail jarring the reading experience.

As mentioned before, if you’re looking for a war based thrill ride this isn’t the book for you. Whilst there are scenes of violence, they are few and far between; Faulks seems to focus on smaller events than big, bombastic ones. This lets the characters come to the fore and the novel excels in their development, especially the eponymous Charlotte.  It is them that ultimately make the book engaging, and impossible to put down. As this is my second time reading it, it was also fun picking up on the small allusions of what was about to come, making the reread even more satisfying. Combining drama and humour, Faulks has created a fascinating historical novel – also a well-developed female lead who highlights the part women played during the war, a part that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Charlotte Gray is published by Vintage and you can find more information here.

Sasha and his Red Leash by Yossi Lapid review

Sasha is a lucky little pup! He takes a long walk each morning, he gets a healthy treat when he comes back and Big Boss Bob, his loving owner, plays ball with him.
Sasha also keeps a personal diary which was a secret until now!
But Sasha’s life is not perfect! In this diary entry, Sasha reveals just how much he dislikes his red leash! Big Bob insists, however, that the leash is needed to keep everybody safe.
Will Bob and Sasha find a good solution to Sasha’s troubled relationship with his leash?

Sasha and the Red Leash is a great children’s picture book that helps to teach younger readers how to take care of their pets. Lapid’s story is simple but sweet, and the rhyming scheme is highly effective. Not only does the rhymes make it more entertaining for small children, but it also injects some humour into the narrative. There are some interactive elements in the story as well, which really help to engage children and let them be a part of the plot. Overall, the structure and writing style used clearly articulates the book’s main theme, as well as helping to make the storyline fun.

Sasha is also such a lovable character it is hard not to get drawn into the story, and younger readers will definitely enjoy reading about his escapades. This is the first book in a series, so it will be interesting to see the adventures Sasha goes on in later stories. Sasha’s relationship with his owner, Big Boss Bob is also endearing to read about, and hopefully explored more in the future books.

Yet, the main highlight was the illustrations by Joanna Pasek. They are stunning, some of the best picture book images in recent years. Pasek has created these beautiful watercolour paintings, filled with tiny details that truly make the story come to life. Her illustrations really complement Lapid’s writing, making the book come together as a whole.

Sasha and the Red Leash is an excellent picture book for children. It has a great theme and storyline, as well as brilliant writing and gorgeous illustrations. This is a wonderful book to teach children how to look after a dog and the responsibilities that come with having a pet, and a must read for animal lovers everywhere.

This review first appeared on Reedsy Discovery. 

Random Book Quiz Round 3: Film Adaptations

Pretty much everyone who reads my blog will know: I love films. Probably just as much as books. I love discussing film theory, film criticism, current movie news; pretty much everything. So I thought for this round, why not bring my two biggest interests together? Below are 10 stills from movies, all of which are book adaptations. Can you name the film/book? As always answers will be posted next Saturday!

The answers for Round 2 are at the bottom of this page, so if you want to tackle those questions beforehand then here they are.

Have fun!

1. Brooklyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. 101 dalmatians

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.   Dr Zhivago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Harry Potter Philosopher's Stone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Transit 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. the guernsey literary and potato peel society

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Call Me By your Name

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. The Third Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. The Birds

 

 

Good luck!

 

Answers for Round 2

 

  1.  The Great Gatsby
  2.  Middlemarch
  3. Wuthering Heights
  4.  Gone with the Wind
  5.  The War of the Worlds
  6.  Matilda
  7.  The Stand
  8.  Les Miserables
  9.  The Da Vinci Code
  10.  And Then There Were None

Monthly Round-Up: April 2020

April has been a weird time for everyone. It’s strange looking back over the month and how much I have read in comparison to this time last year; April 2019 I was out and about getting a tan (read: getting burnt) whilst now I’m chilling inside with my books. I shall link all my reviews for this month below:

Looking back, I have quite a nice mixture of fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, as well as different genres. I hope to keep that going in the future, though admittedly I might have more time for this after completing the Women’s Prize longlist.

Speaking of the Women’s Prize, this month I managed to tick three off the longlist, including the dreaded Mantel tome. Which I did enjoy despite my reservations going in. It’s not surprising that The Mirror & the Light made the shortlist, though I was disappointed both Red at the Bone and How We Disappeared didn’t make the cut: those two have perhaps been my favourites on the longlist so far. The Lombardo novel, whilst ambitious, I did have a few issues with so its omission didn’t move me either way. At the moment I’m still currently reading Girl, Woman, Other and enjoying it so far. Hopefully this month I can get it finished and tick another nominee off. Out of the remaining four shortlisted books I’m most interested in A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes, as I’m curious how it compares to not just Girl and How We Disappeared, but also Circe and The Silence of the Girls from last year. Then perhaps Weather by Jenny Offill and Domincana by Angie Cruz. As for Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet…I keep forgetting about that book. I just had to check the Women’s Prize website to see who the sixth nominee was. So yeah. That’s my thoughts on Hamnet currently.  But who knows, I might end up loving that one!

Films in April 2020

At this point I normally discuss the films I’ve seen at the cinema. Obviously I can’t do that this month, so instead I thought I would pick three films I’m excited to see this year. They still have 2020 release dates, but some may get pushed back depending on the different studios and their schedules. But it gives me something to look forward to once I can go back to the cinema again. So without further ado, here are three films:

Blonde (dir. Andrew Dominik)

Blonde 1This is Dominik’s adaptation of the Joyce Carol Oates novel, chronicling the life of Marilyn Monroe. Admittedly, I have only seen a couple of Dominik’s films but I read Blonde last year (my review) and absolutely loved it, it was one of my best books of 2019. I am also a fan of Monroe herself, so I’m curious to see how the production tackles her life, and how well they handle the more sensitive aspects of the book. Ana de Armas was also excellent in Knives Out last year, so I’m excited to see her play Monroe. At the moment it is scheduled to be released in autumn by Netflix, so fingers crossed we can stream it soon.

 

The French Dispatch (dir. Wes Anderson)

The French DispatchAnderson’s latest film focuses on an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional French city. The journalists decide to publish an edition highlighting their favourite stories from the paper, the eponymous The French Dispatch.  This film pretty much ticks all the boxes for me. I’m a fan of Anderson’s previous work, I like films centred on journalists, the French setting appeals to me, and the cast is exceptional (Saoirse Ronan, Frances McDormand, Willem Dafoe, and Timothee Chalamet to name a few). Plus, the music is by Alexandre Desplat. What more could you want?

 

Undine (dir. Christian Petzold)

UndineUndine is a myth retelling set in modern day Berlin. Our titular character (played by Paula Beer) is a tour guide in the city who is dumped by her boyfriend near the start of the film. Mythology states that Undine must kill her ex and return to the sea, but this is complicated when she meets and falls for industrial diver Christoph (Franz Rogowski). I am a massive fan of Petzold’s last film Transit, also starring Beer and Rogowski, so naturally I was excited to see those three collaborate again. Undine premiered at the Berlinale Film Festival in February this year, and whilst it did seem to split opinion among viewers, the response it received there also piqued my interest.

 

Random Book Quiz

Here I normally select the book as part of my ‘Stealing Off Other People’s Shelves’ game, but because I can’t access the books at the moment, this is being put on pause. I will get around to reading The Lottery and Other Stories and Another Country this year, and also resume the game.

So instead, I thought I’d mention the Random Book Quiz which I started nearly three weeks ago. I’ve had a lot of fun coming up with the questions and the themes for each round, so I’m hoping to make this a regular segment on the blog.  But in case you missed the first two rounds and fancy giving them a go, I’ve linked them below:

Round 1

Round 2 

 

And that is it for the April round-up! Let me know in the comments below what you’re reading and watching this month, or even what new releases are you looking forward to.

Juggling the Issues: Living with Asperger’s Syndrome by Matthew Kenslow review

The author Matthew Kenslow was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when he was six years old. In his book Juggling the Issues Kenslow recalls events from his life and how his condition has affected his life. Whilst candid about the struggles he has gone through, he also highlights the positive advantages of having Asperger’s.

The book is made up of vignettes; essentially it is a collection of short stories from Kenslow’s life, and he even mentions near the beginning that the chapters can be read in any order. This makes the book a less traditional autobiography and much more little snippets of someone’s life. The structure was very effective, as each chapter contained a new event or situation that Kenslow is faced with, the reader is never bored. The different chapters never bled into each other or became indistinct; they were different enough that they kept you entertained. Admittedly, there were a couple of passages that I felt could have been longer – perhaps because I was enjoying myself too much and didn’t want the chapter to end – but certainly the layout helped make this an entertaining read.

Yet, ultimately the biggest positive of the book is Matthew himself. As mentioned beforehand, he is incredibly candid throughout the narrative, and never shies away from discussing the negative aspects of Asperger’s Syndrome. But his honesty and self-reflection is what drives the book, and I see as the main highlight. The book is an honest look at life with the condition, and Kenslow never sugar-coats anything. Despite this, I found Juggling the Issues quite an up-lifting read. Watching Kenslow work on the problems he has and excelling in different fields, but always maintaining a sense of positivity and self-confidence, was both entertaining and inspiring.

Overall, Juggling the Issues: Living with Asperger’s Syndrome does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a frank, revealing account of living with the condition, highlighting both the positive and negative aspects of it. The book’s main strength comes from its writer; Matthew is an entertaining narrator and successfully captures the different moments of his life. If you would like to know about Asperger’s Syndrome then Juggling the Issues is the book for you.

Juggling the Issues: Living with Asperger’s Syndrome is published independently and you can find more information here.

This book was kindly given by the author and Booktasters to review.

Random Book Quiz Round 2: Anagrams

Hi everyone! I am back with the second round in the Random Book Quiz, and this week is slightly different. Despite being absolutely terrible at them, I really enjoy anagrams.  So I have rounded up 10 of my favourite ones, and all you have to do is unscramble them and find the famous novel. I have also included the year the book was first published and the author’s initials to help you out.

The answers to Round One are at the end of the post. Scroll down and see how well you did, or if you want to give that one a go first, you can find the questions here.

But without any further rambling I will dive into the anagrams:

1. Betrays That Egg  (1925, F.S.F)

2. Charmed Mild (1871 – 1872, G.E)

3. Win Thuggish Three (1847, E.B)

4. Hedge Within Town (1936, M.M)

5.  Throw Death Flowers (1898, H.G.W)

6. Mad Tail (1988, R.D)

7. Hand Test (1978, S.K)

8. As Rebel Smiles (1862, V.H)

9. Catch Divine One (2003, D.B)

10. Enter Renowned Heathen (1939, A.C)

Good luck!

 

Answers for Round 1:

 

1. James Joyce

2. Mark Twain

3. Barbara Newhall Follett

4. Dav Pilkey

5. George Sand

6. Toni Morrison

7. Enid Blyton

8. Ernest Hemingway

9. E.L James

10. Christopher Marlowe

 

How many did you get? Let me know!

How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee review

Jing-Jing Lee’s debut How We Disappeared opens with one of the main characters Wang Di reflecting on the different stories about her birth. This opening segment highlights one of the main themes of the book; this notion of storytelling, and the stories we tell ourselves and each other. That events may be viewed differently depending on who is telling the narrative. This is also seen through the other main character, twelve year old Kevin who has set out on a mission to discover the secret his grandmother has hid for decades.

Lee tackles the idea of storytelling with aplomb, not only inscribing it to individuals but societies as a whole. We witness how Wang Di is treated after the Second World War has ended and how she is treated in a complex designed for the elderly later in life; both timelines serve to show societal attitudes towards women like Wang Di, how a narrative is written against them. Yet as a reader we also see the horror Wang Di suffered during wartime and her experiences afterwards. This makes the novel tragic; seeing how individuals are misunderstood by their community. Lee handles this topic with great care, and it is woven into the plot so well that the reader never feels the author is condescending.

Lee also handles the isolation and loneliness associated with this excellently; her treatment of mental health is sensitive and delicately handled yet equally doesn’t shy away from darker moments. The chapters regarding Wang Di’s suffering during the war is similar to this. There are passages which are beautifully written, and use some fascinating imagery, yet Lee evocatively recreates wartime Singapore, without hiding all the horrors that happened. It is a difficult balance to find; trying not to sensationalise warfare whilst not downplaying it, and Lee succeeds in this.

The characters themselves are also well-developed. Wang Di is such a tragic yet stoic figure that you can really sympathise with her. Watching how she copes through traumatic events, and how her character changes was saddening to read but also compulsive. You wanted to keep reading on; you wanted to see her happy. Kevin as well had a great character arc, and seeing him grow up was a delight. Comparisons can be made between his childhood and Wang Di’s – not only due to different timeframes but their gender  – and Lee flits between them effortlessly, letting the reader make those comparisons. Throughout the whole novel, she never overexplains and simply lets the reader come to their own conclusions

I was sad to hear How We Disappeared didn’t make the shortlist yet not surprised. It isn’t a particularly experimental novel and despite the time-jumping between the 1940s and 2000s, it is a fairly straight-forward story. Yet this never bothered me; I was swept up by the characters and the language and the sheer effective of the structure. Singapore in the 1940s isn’t a topic I’m familiar with and this novel has spurred me to discover more. Fans of historical fiction will enjoy How We Disappeared; it is also a timely reminder why we shouldn’t let voices and stories from the past simply fade away.

How We Disappeared is published by Oneworld and you can find more information here.

The Mountain and the Goat by Siamak Taghaddos review

Here’s some water. Here’s some bread.
Do as you wish, but plan ahead!
When you arrive at a mountain and a singing goat gives you some water and bread, how do you make the most of it? Find out how small, everyday actions can lead to bigger and better results in this modern-day fable that will inspire resourcefulness and take-action mentality.
Written by a US Small Business Association’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year, this short journey of bartering and progression will plant the seed of entrepreneurship in children.

Taghaddos wrote this picture book, inspired by a Persian poem, to encourage children to be resourceful and to spark an entrepreneurial spirit. He certainly gets this message across; in less than 20 pages the narrator has bartered for all kinds of things. He wastes no time diving into the story and the main themes shine through. Zachary Cain’s illustrations are nicely done and compliment the storyline. They don’t take over the page or overwhelm the reader; they are actually very sweet drawings.

The writing is fairly straight-forward, as one can expect for a children’s book. However, the actual style confused me. At the beginning the story is told through rhyme, yet this is quickly dropped. It is unclear if this was an intentional choice to switch between styles, but it was a bit jarring. If the narration had been told entirely in the same style it would have felt a lot more cohesive. Also, the ending was quite sudden. The plot never built towards it; there was no sense of why the narrator was swapping goods. The narration just stops and that’s it. That also threw me as I was expecting the narrator to reflect on what they’ve learned, or even wrap up the storyline. The ending was fairly abrupt.

Overall, The Mountain and the Goat was an OK children’s book. Taghaddos’ theme really hits home, and Cain’s illustrations are a nice addition. The writing style could be changed slightly to make the narration stronger, and the plot as a whole could be expanded. At under 20 pages it is a short read, and one is left thinking the book could be longer. Also the ending just didn’t work for me.

This review was originally published on Reedsy Discovery.

Random Book Quiz Round 1: Authors

Happy Saturday! Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend. Lately I have been doing a lot of quizzes. Sometimes on my own, sometimes competing with friends and family; it has become a bit of a Friday night tradition in my household since quarantining to organise a pub quiz amongst ourselves. No matter what the topic is, I’ll probably give it a go. But I’ve never actually hosted a quiz before. So I thought for a bit of fun, every Saturday I will post 10 book related trivia questions, and I will also post the previous week’s answers alongside the new questions. Feel free to play individually or in a group, and let me know how you get on in the comments below!

The first round is 10 ‘Who Am I?’ questions – all you need to do is guess the writer!

1. I was born in Dublin in February 1882, before emigrating to mainland Europe in my twenties. I was fluent in French, Italian, Latin, and German, and even learned basic Norwegian so that I could send Henrik Ibsen a fan letter. Even though I never set foot in Ireland again after 1912, my most famous novels and short story collections are set there.

2. I was born Samuel Clemens in November 1835 in the town of Florida, Missouri. Whilst living in Hartford, Connecticut my next-door neighbour was Harriet Beecher Stowe. I had many pen names, including Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass and W. Epaminodas Adrastus Blab before I settled on the name I’m known by.

3. I was born on 4th March 1914 in Hanover, New Hampshire. My first novel, The House Without Windows, was published when I was 12 and my second, The Voyage of the Norman D.w, when I was 14. In December 1939, I left my apartment and disappeared without a trace, at the age of 25.

4. A children’s author, I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and now reside in Bainbridge Island, Washington. I came up with the idea for my famous book series in second grade. The main characters Harold and George are named after two characters from other children’s books: Harold and the Purple Crayon and Curious George. In the 2017 movie adaptation, Ed Helms voiced the titular superhero.

5. Best known as an novelist and memoirist, I was born in Paris in 1804. One of my many lovers was the composer Frederic Chopin. I would collaborate with another of my partners, Jules Sandeau, on articles and signed them collectively. Perhaps this was the inspiration for my pen name, first used in my debut novel Indiana (1832).

6.  Born in Lorain, Ohio in 1931, I grew up during the Great Depression. I studied English at Howard University in Washington D.C and after graduating worked as a teacher, and then later as an editor for Random House. In 1993, I won the Nobel Prize for Literature, becoming the first African-American woman to do so.

7. As a children’s author my books have been among the world’s bestsellers since the 1930s, selling more than 600 million copies. Yet I hated kids and was furious whenever they made a racket in my neighbourhood. My daughter described me as, ‘arrogant, insecure, pretentious, and without a trace of maternal instinct’. My famous series include Mallory Towers and the Secret Seven.

8. I was born in 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois. I survived through malaria, pneumonia, skin cancer, a fractured skull, hepatitis, both World Wars, the Spanish Civil War, as well as two plane crashes which occurred over consecutive days. A Lookalike Contest is held to celebrate my work every year at Sloppy Joe’s bar in Key West, where I had once lived.

9. I was born in London in 1963 but was raised in Buckinghamshire. I studied History at the University of Kent and later worked at the National Film and Television School as a manager’s assistant. My highly popular series of books was later turned into films starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan in the lead roles.

10. A playwright I was born in Canterbury in 1564. It is believed my play Tamburlaine the Great was the first to use blank verse, and I was a massive influence on William Shakespeare. I was accused of both spying and heresy, and I was stabbed with a fork during the middle of an argument over payment of a bill, killing me instantly.

 

Like I mentioned, let me know how you get on, and I shall post the answers next Saturday!

The Top 5 Highest Rated Books on my Goodreads

I’ve noticed a lot of people on blogs and Booktube have been doing their highest and lowest ranked books on Goodreads, so I thought I would jump on the bandwagon! So I went onto my rated books on Goodreads, and sorted them by highest average rating. And my top 5 was interesting; if I had to guess beforehand what would have made it, none of these books would have. For one thing, no classics made the list. Whilst novels like To Kill a Mockingbird, Gone with the Wind, and Half of a Yellow Sun made the top 20, they never got to the final five.  Also, three of those five books are non-fiction. I would say the majority of my reading is fiction, so it is surprising that my reading tastes do not necessarily align with my tops reads.

It should be noted that I have only ranked books that have had over 1,000 ratings on Goodreads, just so I had a variety of opinions reflecting on these books. I’ve left links if I have reviewed them on my blog, along with the Goodreads synopsis and my thoughts reflecting back. But I shall stop rambling and dive straight in:

5. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (avg. rating: 4.37)

the book thiefPlot: It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still. By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.

Thoughts: I know a lot of people dislike The Book Thief or believe it is overrated, but I really enjoyed this one. This could purely be because I read it at the right time for me. I was not in a good place and wasn’t reading an awful lot (if anything), and this novel really helped rekindle my love of books. Is it the best written book, or the best one I’ve ever read? No; I’ll admit there are some flaws in the plot. But, for pure nostalgia factor alone, I have a major soft spot for The Book Thief  so I can’t really dislike it.

4. Born a Crime – Trevor Noah (avg. rating: 4.46)

Born a CrimePlot: Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Thoughts: I reread this recently, and I really enjoyed it both times. Noah weaves both comedy and drama throughout the narrative, and the snippets he gives of his childhood are by turns hilarious and horrific. It is a great introduction for someone who knows little about apartheid in South Africa and wants to learn more, because it is very informative but also entertaining. Yet, the highlight for me is Trevor’s relationship with his mother. He never shies away from the uglier side of it but there is still this incredible love between them. Would recommend if you’re a fan of his comedy.

3. In Order to Live – Yeonmi Park (avg. rating: 4.48)

In Order to LivePlot: Park’s family was loving and close-knit, but life in North Korea was brutal, practically medieval. Park would regularly go without food and was made to believe that, Kim Jong Il, the country’s dictator, could read her mind. After her father was imprisoned and tortured by the regime for trading on the black-market, a risk he took in order to provide for his wife and two young daughters, Yeonmi and her family were branded as criminals and forced to the cruel margins of North Korean society. With thirteen-year-old Park suffering from a botched appendectomy and weighing a mere sixty pounds, she and her mother were smuggled across the border into China.

Thoughts: This book destroyed me when I read it. It was harrowing and just deeply disturbing; I wanted to stop reading but I couldn’t put the book down. In a similar way to Noah’s memoir, whilst Park’s is also dealing with incredibly dark subject matter, there always felt like a glimmer of hope. I think it was this that made me continue reading; this idea things can and will be better. Again, similar to Born a Crime, the importance of family also shines through, and the writers’ ties to their mothers in particular. It was also a fascinating glimpse into life in North Korea; a country I’ve never visited and only know some things about. A disturbing, but worthwhile read.

2. The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas (avg. rating 4.51)

The Hate U GivePlot: Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

Thoughts:  Out of all the books on this list, this is the least surprising. YA tends to be popular, and thus rated highly, on Goodreads so I was expecting at least one YA book. Looking back on The Hate U Give, it was fine. I enjoyed it while reading it; I gave it a good review on the blog once I’d finished. But reflecting on it now, I don’t remember many details from the book. I remember the vague plot and the characters but nothing specific. Admittedly I don’t read a lot of YA, and I am not a part of its intended audience, so that could factor into why I’ve forgotten a lot of it. Teenage me would probably enjoyed it a lot more if it had been released in her time, but my tastes have changed since then so that probably accounts for my thoughts now.

1. Letter from Birmingham Jail – Martin Luther King Jr (avg. rating: 4.54) 

Letter from Birmingham JailPlot:  This landmark missive from one of the greatest activists in history calls for direct, non-violent resistance in the fight against racism, and reflects on the healing power of love. This edition also contains the sermon ‘The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life’.

Thoughts: What else is there to say about Martin Luther King Jr? Letter from Birmingham Jail, despite being a slim volume containing only two of his speeches, managed to make my top books of 2018. It is an incredibly powerful, moving piece of work, highlighting Dr King’s passion for civil rights as well as his incredible skills as a writer and orator. He gets his points across in a clear, articulate manner whilst never losing the anger at the injustices he witnesses. A book everyone should read at least once.

And that’s my top 5 highest rated books on Goodreads! This was interesting looking into what others liked vs what I did. Tempted to do the lowest rated and see if I agree with the Goodreads community too! I will be back to reviewing on Monday, and might even have a fun wee post up on Saturday too, so look out for that! Until then, let me know what you think about any of the books mentioned.