Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Girl with Green Eyes - Edna O'Brien


The 'Girl with Green Eyes' follows the story of childhood friends Kate and Baba, now both twenty-one, as they navigate the rocky, sometimes treacherous pathways of urban life. With hearts as big as Dublin, and hopes as bright as new pennies, they move bravely and eagerly toward the future. Yet the two couldn't be more different. Kate toils in a grocery shop and lives out her romantic fantasies in books. Baba entertains more earthbound dreams. Their principles - and friendship - are tested when Kate meets a dashing married man, and discovers the exhilaration of passion...and the consequences of falling in love.


When this book was first released in Ireland way back in the fifties, it caused quite a scandal. It ended up getting banned by the Catholic Church , so when I began to read it I expected a lot more shenanigans than it actually contained. Caithleen and Baba escaped form the country and scrape a living in Dublin. But when Caithleen meets the older, sophisticated and already married Eugene, she looses a lot of her country innocence.
The main characters of Caithleen, Baba and Eugene all kind of got under my skin. Baba, overtly confident
but quietly insecure party-girl, really got on my nerves, but maybe that's just me. To me she embodied all the false, frivolous and careless people I know, but on the other hand, maybe she was just a girl trying to enjoy her youth. Caithleen came across as a bit of a wimp, but really she was just an unconfident young girl who is way out of her depth and gets swept off her feet by an older experienced man. Caithleen is innocent and malleable, she can't really stand up for herself around Eugene and Baba, and though she tries her best to defy her father, sometimes she fails. But by then end of the novel Caithleen proved that she was not the chicken I had once believed her to be and actually grew quite a bit throughout the novel. Eugene on the other hand failed to impress me. He transformed from this trustworthy, loving, prince charming style character to a sleazy, self-centred cad.
 The plot of  the novel is quiet good, with nothing major happening though. While the events were probably a lot more shocking back when the novel was first released, I couldn't help but feel the plot was a bit dull. While nothing much happens we witness Caithleen wrestle with her feelings, whether or not to do what is expected of her or what her heart tells her to do.
I'm not sure if I'd recommend this book but it's good if you want an easy chick-lit style read.
Two Stars**

Monday, 26 August 2013

The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling



When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.
Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war.
Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils ... Pagford is not what it first seems.
And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?


I will try not to do what everyone else reviewing this book has done and continuously reference Harry Potter, but seriously,  just because HP changed your life and defined your childhood ( like it did mine), does NOT mean you will like this book. It seemed fitting for me that, having grown up with HP, Rowling would publish her first adult fiction novel the year I turned eighteen.  But I've been reading adult fiction for a while now , so when I started reading 'The Casual Vacancy' I wasn't blown away by the drastic change in genre. This book is definitely not for younger readers, and I stress that point whole heartedly.
The book begins with about a two hundred page introduction into characters and setting, which a lot of people seem to have a problem with, but I fortunately didn't. Don't be discouraged if you don't like this sort of character driven fiction, the plot picks up before the half way mark and really pulls the reader in.
This book has received a lot of criticism for it's 'bad' language, violence,  sexually explicitness and downright unpleasantness. Not that I can claim to live in the society that some of the characters in this book do, but I know for a fact that some real people act, speak and think like the way the characters in the book do, and if Rowling wanted to capture real life, she was very accurate in her portrayal of some people in our society. 
The book has also been criticised for it's lack of likeable characters, but I can't remember the last time I read a book with characters more realistic than this one. Sure most of them are basically messed up wrecks of flaws and weaknesses, but that's quite an accurate description of a lot of people in real life. It's the characters pettiness, selfishness and cruelty that drives the plot, so without these deeply flawed characters the book wouldn't have worked. The characters never really earned my sympathy, despite the truly heart wrenching ending, but that didn't stop me for calling out for the sequel that so many others are asking for aswell.
Nothing amazing happened in this book, which is the polar opposite to HP, (crap, a comparison) but that's nearly what's great about it. The mundane-ness (is that a word??) of this book is striking, how nothing remarkable happens and yet I was captivated by it. It's a fantastic book about how we can make others lives better or worse by the little things we do and the way we behave.
I don't give out five stars lightly, and 'The Casual Vacancy' definitely deserves all the stars I can give it. I wouldn't change a thing, except perhaps the ending, but I won't spoil it for you guys.

Five Stars *****


Sunday, 11 August 2013

Butter - Erin Lange


A lonely obese boy everyone calls "Butter" is about to make history. He is going to eat himself to death-live on the Internet-and everyone is invited to watch. When he first makes the announcement online to his classmates, Butter expects pity, insults, and possibly sheer indifference. What he gets are morbid cheerleaders rallying around his deadly plan. Yet as their dark encouragement grows, it begins to feel a lot like popularity. And that feels good. But what happens when Butter reaches his suicide deadline? Can he live with the fallout if he doesn't go through with his plans? 


So it's been a while since I read this book, so I'll do my best to try and remember it accurately. Leaving the issue of obesity aside,this book is probably the most accurate description of bullying I've ever read. Butter is a thoroughly unhappy person, and the treatment he suffers from his classmates is truly horrific.  But after Butter decides to eat himself to death live online, he starts to receive a morbid following from the other kids at school. Despite his new found popularity, Butter knows that if he doesn't go through with his plan his new friends will abandon and hate him for being a "fraud". 
The surprising thing about 'Butter' is that most of the characters are unlikeable and some are down right horrible. But these realistic characters, in my opinion, make the story a lot more interesting than a troupe of perfect people. While Butter is portrayed as a victim, he like every other character is painted in various shades of grey. In other books I've read, Butter-like characters remain innocent and pure, Lang shows how someone can be changed by bullying, for the worse, and for the better. While Butter's new 'cool-kid' friends treat him badly , they're not all bad.
While this book is kind of preachy, I think it works. It talks about how online, or any type of bullying is bad, and how suicide is never the only answer, no matter how much it looks like it could be.

Four Stars ****

Friday, 9 August 2013

Flipped - Wendelin Van Draanen

Published: 2003
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Pages: 211


Flipped is a romance told in two voices. The first time Juli Baker saw Bryce Loski, she flipped. The first time Bryce saw Juli, he ran. That’s pretty much the pattern for these two neighbors until the eighth grade, when, just as Juli is realizing Bryce isn’t as wonderful as she thought, Bryce is starting to see that Juli is pretty amazing. How these two teens manage to see beyond the surface of things and come together makes for a comic and poignant romance.


Flipped is a charming story about infactuation told by two voices , Juli and Bryce. I feel as if I'm a bit old for this book, thought that has never stopped me from reading kid's books before, but I would have loved this book when I was fourteen or so.
Bryce is a fairly boring, shallow, two faced character to begin with, but i suppose it is forgivable considering he just wants to fit in and not embarrass himself in his new school. Juli on the other hand is smart ambitious and kind, and for some reason is completely in love with Bryce.
While the storyline does have some depth to it, the whole thing is very naive and innocent, probably because it's a preteen book. Van Draanen is an excellent writer, very easy to read, the book deals with the issue  of discrimination against people with mental disabilities extremely well and the characters undergo some very interesting development.

Three Stars ***  recommended for 12 to 14 year olds