Saturday, 2 November 2019

SHELF LOVE: August Book Challenge



Okay, so, I admit I haven't stayed as up to date with this as I hoped (blog wise). However, I have been actively reading so I've been able to put together the last few month's blogs still - they're just a bit backdated!

I hope that you all enjoyed my first edition of 'Shelf Love', with June's Book Challenge. If you haven't read it and are interested, click here.

As promised, I have read another three books which are all very different. I probably wouldn't have read any of the three if it wasn't for this challenge (or my online Book Club) but I am really glad to be broadening my horizons with reading and trying different genres! I've been really pleasantly surprised with all three books. Here are my thoughts...



The Green Mile - Stephen King, 548 pages

Genre: Horror, Dark Fantasy, Gothic Fiction, Magical Realism

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Blurb:


The Green Mile: those who walk it do not return, because at the end of that walk is the room in which sits Cold Mountain penitentiary's electric chair. In 1932 the newest resident on death row is John Coffey, a giant black man convicted of the brutal murder of two little girls. But nothing is as it seems with John Coffey, and around him unfolds a bizarre and horrifying story.
Evil murderer or holy innocent - whichever he is - Coffey has strange powers which may yet offer salvation to others, even if they can do nothing to save him.

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A classic book by a classic author but surprisingly one I had never read, until recently. I've heard a lot about The Green Mile due to the award winning Tom Hanks film but it is something that, for some reason, just hasn't appealed to me. However, when I was searching for a relevant book for this month's book challenge, I thought that The Green Mile was the perfect choice.

I actually really enjoyed this book. It was gripping throughout and, at times, extremely sad. Note: do not read the final few chapters in public. Make sure you are at home, cosy and surrounded by chocolate or comfort foods - you're going to need them.

I found the characters fascinating. Paul Edgecombe, main prison guard of Block E, was portrayed as an ordinary but hard working man. He lived a normal life with his wife, save for the fact that he worked on Death Row. However, King cleverly shows his kind but fair nature and he is someone I can imagine existing in real life.

Coffey, "like the drink but spelt differently", a man thrown into a situation he didn't fully understand and wasn't responsible for but was unable to explain his way out of. His character was complex but the detailed descriptions from King made the reader able to connect with Coffey and feel real sympathy for him. He builds a lasting impression on the prison guards, for more reasons than his strangely endearing personality, and is a truly remarkable character.

Mr Jingles the mouse was definitely one of my favourite characters. I loved that this little creature made such an impact on this prison and I guess it puts it into perspective just how long and tiresome the wait can be in prison. However, King made him to be a key character and a bundle of fun!

Finally, Percy. I didn't think it was possible to feel hatred towards a fictional character but King definitely enabled this to happen. Percy Wetmore's character is just downright evil; a man that gets his kicks out of hurting others. The sad thing is that I can imagine some prison guards having this mentality towards the prisoners and treating them with complete disrespect. His true nature was shown just before, and during, the execution of Delacroix - with the other prison guards sickened by his behaviour. A truly strong character and an amazing depiction by King.

The only part of this book that I struggled with was the supernatural aspect in terms of the healing powers. I found it to take away from the realistic nature of the book but I do understand that this is in true King style. I would highly recommend this book and, if possible, watch the film after reading the book!

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Rating: 

****



Only Child - Rhiannon Navin, 304 pages

Genre: Coming of Age Fiction, Psychological Fiction, Domestic Fiction

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Blurb:


We all went to school that Tuesday like normal. Not all of us came home.
When the unthinkable happens, six-year-old Zach is at school. Huddled in a cloakroom with his classmates and teacher, he is too young to understand that life will never be the same again.
Afterwards, the once close-knit community is left reeling. Zach's dad retreats. His mum sets out to seek revenge. Zach, scared, lost and confused, disappears into his super-secret hideout to try to make sense of things. Nothing feels right – until he listens to his heart . . .
But can he remind the grown-ups how to love again?
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Wow. Just wow. This book is everything and more.

When Zach's brother is tragically murdered by a school shooter in America, he struggles to understand what has happened. When he finds out that the shooter is actually the son of a close family friend, everything changes for the worst.

The topic is such a poignant one and one that has sadly affected so many American lives to date so it was always going to be a difficult read. However, I personally think that the choice of a child narrator was genius as it portrays the situation in a much more subtle way whilst also getting the desired message across. The shooting itself was a great example of this as it was very obvious to the reader what was happening but Zach's character focused on the sensory elements of the situation, in particular the 'popping' sounds. This made it a much easier read but it was very cleverly written.

This book is a true story of love and forgiveness that shows that even in the hardest situations, forgiving others can bring inner peace.


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Rating: 

****




The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah, 465 pages

Genre: War Fiction, Historical, Romance

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Blurb:


Bravery, courage, fear and love in a time of war.
Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.
As the war progresses, the sisters' relationship and strength is tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.

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Hands down, one of the best books I have ever read. When I first began to read this book, I really didn't think I was going to enjoy it. Firstly, it isn't my favourite genre and I struggled to get into it. I'll be honest - it was quite slow to start but the beginning is crucial to set the scene and make the reader aware of certain situations before the war begins and the story truly starts. It is also filled with detail which, at first, was something that put me off as there wasn't too much of a plot. STICK WITH IT! I promise - it gets so much better and the detailed writing adds to this further.

Set (in the most part) in France between 1938 and 1945, this story of war, love and loss focuses on the female experience of a Nazi occupied France and provides a closer, more personal insight into the tragedies faced by the Jewish women and children as well as the guilt and sadness felt by the Christian people, in their helplessness to change many of the outcomes faced by their friends.

The characters began as stark opposites, with contrasting views, thoughts and opinions about both life in general and the war against the Nazis. It is interesting as the book, and the war, unfolds to see how certain characters' ideals and beliefs become more apparent and how this changes them over time, resulting in some truly remarkable actions. 

The author cleverly also inserts short extracts from the present tense, with no insight until the very last chapter of the book who the narrator is. A great twist.

I do think I am becoming an emotional wreck but this book broke me. I've always been fascinated by this period of history and I welcomed the greater insight and understanding it gave me into the struggles faced by the women during the second world war. This is a real tear jerker but I'd highly recommend this book.

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Rating: 

*****

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