November -The Art of Being Normal

It’s one of those ‘If I don’t do it now, it won’t happen’ kind of weeks, so straight after book club tonight, here is the November blog post!!

Lisa Williamson – The Art of Being Normal

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The Art of being Normal is book with a really interesting premise. If you have never wondered what it would be like for a child who was born one sex, but identified as the other, you will do while reading this book. The main character David is a 14 year old girl who was born male, she knows that she is a girl, and has done since she was young, but is living as a boy, and trying to fit in. There are some really sad moments in this book, such as the times when David is able to dress in women’s clothing, when nobody else is at home, but then has to put it all away (the wig, the make up etc) when the family is there.

David meets Leo at school, Leo is a new kid at the school and stands up for David when ‘he’ is bullied in the lunch hall. We know that Leo left his last school for reasons which are kept quiet, so at this point in the book we wonder, and are lead to believe that he is fiery/violent, but we do not know his story. The rest of the book revolves around David & Leo’s friendship, David’s relationship with his family, and Leo’s relationships (or lack of) with his Mum, her boyfriend and his sister, his Dad and the girl that he has fallen for at school.

I loved parts of the book, but it fell down for me in other parts, one of the group described it as a bit ‘John Hughes’ at the end, for me it really didn’t satisfy at all and I LOVE John Hughes movies! I love that there is a teen book about this subject out there, and hope that more teens will educate themselves about what it is to be transgender, but I wish it wasn’t so safe. It was a little ‘life can be tough, but only a little bit, don’t worry, nothing too bad will happen’ at times, luckily the story behind why Leo left his last school was at least a more realistic, if heavy going.

There are 353 pages in this book, and until page 352 I was giving the book, even with it’s shortcomings a 3.5* rating, and then the last two pages happened, and I’m sorry but my rating dropped significantly at that point and I gave it a 3*. A worthwhile topic, and some reasonably likeable characters, but a bit far fetched and seriously why would you end it like that???? Anyway the group gave it a 3.5* rating, read it if you aren’t busy, it’s alright I guess!

Jean-Paul Didierlaurent – The Reader on the 6.27 

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The reader on the 6.27 is an odd wee book, when I first started to read it, I didn’t think I wanted to continue, it was only because it was so easy to read and relatively short that I continued. The first 40+ pages were ok, but seemed to labour on descriptions of the ‘monster’ at Guylain’s work place, and it did not intrigue me. Then I read chapter 9, the end of which was so beautifully written that I thought ‘now here is a book that I can read’. The fact that Guylain reads out loud on the train is interesting, and incredibly brave, but the story behind what he reads and how he reads it is very sweet.

I loved , later in the book when Guylain visited Magnolia Court, the chapter revolving round this visit made me laugh out loud and I truly got hooked at this point. Guylain’s search for an entire print run of a specific book,  his search for the owner of a diary that he finds, and the characters, all unique and, for the most part likeable, make this book a real page turner. A feel good book, which is not overly romantic, has many funny moments  and leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling, I would happily recommend this book. The average rating for the group was 4*, this is also my rating.

Happy Reading!
Mel x

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October – The versions of us

Ohhh October already? I am not sure where most of 2016 went if I’m honest, but what I do know is that the colder it gets, as the dark nights set in, the book club meetings get a little bit busier. We all like to snuggle up in our pyjamas on a winter’s night with a good book, it’s just a shame that in October we certainly didn’t have a good book to read.

The versions of us – Laura Barnett

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I opened this book, knowing nothing about it at all, my mind was open and I was hoping for a book that would blow me away, because after last month I needed that. Unfortunately, this book was not destined to restore my faith in literature, in fact, it was only marginally more readable than ‘Never let me go’. As the title suggests, there are different versions of a relationship in the book, three versions to be precise, and the book jumps from version 1, to 2 to 3, and sometimes from 2 to 3 and then back to 2 and 3, missing out version 1 altogether, then 1 to 3, then back to 1 etc, so it was important to pay attention. The major problem for me was that I didn’t want to have to pay that much attention, because none of the three versions of the story had caught my attention particularly. Here I was with this fluffy, chick lit book that was just way too much effort to read.

The most important piece of advice I can give you if you want to this book is ‘read it quickly’, there is no way I could have remembered which story was which if I’d read this book over a month, and would doubtless have put it down for good halfway through. The book starts when Eva and Jim are nineteen year old students at Cambridge, Eva has a boyfriend (David) and Jim is single. Their paths will cross (or not) one day in October, and from there this book explores three different directions that their lives might take from that day. There were a couple of really good characters in the book, but unfortunately they weren’t Eva or Jim, who I just didn’t really care about enough. The writing was dull, not much really happens in any of the 3 versions that is particularly interesting, and I just didn’t think it was worth the effort.

On the night of the meeting I was cautious, as I am not usually a fan of chick lit, so I had assumed that the others would love it. I thought I would be the grumpy old git in the corner ranting about how many hours I’d wasted, and I was never getting back after having read this drivel, but it turned out I was wrong. The very well attended meeting was full of members ranting about how unnecessarily complicated, and yet dull this book was, and we were all in agreement. There were 8 people there and nobody loved it, so as a group we gave the book 2*, but there were a few (including mine) that were under, I gave it 1.5 because I didn’t give up on it. I am certain that there are better books that cover the ‘what if’ scenario in a way that would make reading them a pleasure, if you find one, do let me know!

The Rosie Effect – Graeme Simsion

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I wanted to love this, I really did, I loved ‘The Rosie Project’, it was fresh, and fun, and Simsion covered Autism (Asperger’s Syndrome) so well in Don’s character, but this book was just too much. It was over the top, too extreme, and Don was Don x 10, the subtlety of the first book all gone, and I got bored. I read 100+ pages, and to be honest, I was a little annoyed at the way that Don had become a characature of himself, and by the end of the book I actually didn’t care whether or not he and Rosie stayed together.

If I’m honest, I wish this book hadn’t been written, it really isn’t written very well, and it really adds little to the Don/Rosie story. The one saving grace was the other storyline, the Don helps his friends to sort out their lives story, this was touching and made me smile. I would give the book a 2*, which does not come close to equaling ‘The Rosie Project’ at all (I gave it 4.5*). The group gave the book a 3* which is ok, I suppose, but only if you have some spare time on your hands, and need a book that you don’t need to think about too much.

Happy Reading!

Mel X