June – Flowers for Algernon

The sun is shining and I can’t wait to get some serious Summer reading done. This month’s meeting was the smallest ever, with only three of us, but we had plenty to talk about, and a cool G&T so all is good. The two books that we read this month both pose a ‘What if….’ question FFA asks ‘What if we could make people more intelligent?’ and TFPCFH asks ‘What if we could talk to our dead loved ones?’ both very thought provoking.

In other news, I launched a Facebook version of our book club. With 30+ members already signed up on the first day, it looks like a winner! Members will read the same book as we do and discuss these in a virtual event at the same time as we have our meeting, I am really excited to be able to allow friends who don’t live close by to join Turn the page, and hope that it will keep growing.

Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes

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Flowers for Algernon is a modern classic, it appears on a couple of the 50 books to read before you die lists, yet so many people (Bookish included) that I  know have never read it. The first thing I need to say about this book is “GO AND READ IT!” and I mean that wholeheartedly, it is an absolutely astounding book. Algernon is a mouse, the subject of a test operation to see if scientists could improve intelligence with breakthrough surgery.

Algernon becomes really intelligent after the operation, so Dr Neymur chooses Charlie to be the first human to undergo the same surgery. Charlie has a very low IQ and does not really understand the world around him, but he does know that he wants to be smart. This book is beautifully written from Charlie’s perspective, so we see first hand the results of the operation, and we see when all is not well.

Flowers for Algernon is a book that everyone should read, immediately after our meeting I passed it to my daughter, who is 17 and now absolutely captured by it. It is not an easy read, as it is very deep, a little dark and more than a little sad, but for me it is every bit as much a must read as ‘Of mice and men’, ‘One flew over the cuckoo’s nest’ or ‘To kill a mocking bird’. At the meeting, the three of us gave the book 4.5* & 5*.

Basically, if you do not read this book, you are really missing something wonderful.

The first phone call from heaven – Mitch Albom

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From the author of ‘the five people you meet in heaven’, our second book this month was promising. I loved ‘the five people..’, so much so that I recommended it to everyone I knew, and I have to say, it doesn’t compare, the writing is inferior, as is the plot, so I am going to complete this review without comparing the two again. I was intrigued by the idea of the dead calling the living, it was an interesting concept, but it played out pretty slowly.

People in a small town in America start receiving phone calls from their dead loved ones.  The whole town is thrown into chaos, and we watch as some fully accept and believe this phenomenon, some blame the network provider and others remain sceptical. It is an interesting concept, but really not particularly well written and a little predictable. We gave the book 3* which was probably generous, it wasn’t awful, but I wouldn’t recommend it to a friend.

Happy Reading

Mel x

Almost 5* – Our favourite books so far

Hey! Did you know that Turn the page book club is 2 years old? I feel like we should have a party with Jelly and Ice cream and party games, but I can’t be bothered to make Jelly and my freezer is shite, so I have decided to celebrate by sharing a list of our favourite books. Here are the book that scored a collective 4.5* out of 5.

Holes – Louis Sachar

I gorgeous wee book, intended for kids, but written so beautifully that adults are charmed by it too! I gave this my first 5* rating.

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Elizabeth is missing – Emma Healey

Fast forward to August 2015, and this was our 2nd book for the month, it was and unexpectedly beautiful wee book, and all who read it loved it.

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Room – Emma Donoghue

A tough read, with a lot of heartbreaking moments, we fell in love with this book as we fell in love with 5 year old Jack, and wanted nothing more than for him to experience the world outside his room.

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Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel

The book with the beautiful cover, this post apocalyptic story was a big hit with the group. It isn’t what I’d call gritty, but it does make you ponder the future.

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A man called Ove

Wonderful with a capital W, my second 5* book came in December 2015 in the shape of Ove. I loved that cantankerous old git, and cared very much about his life and the fact that he was ready to end it. It was funny, it was sad, it was pretty damn near perfect!

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The boy in the striped pyjamas – John Boyne

It will come as no surprise that we rated this highly, it’s always rated highly, and there is a reason for that, it is so utterly heartbreaking real that you cannot fail to be moved.

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The language of flowers – Vanessa Diffenbaugh

It wasn’t heartbreaking, but had a lot of heart. It also had a lot of flowers, and we found ourselves hoplessly intrigued by the meanings of these flowers. It is not perfect, but I think that the best word for this book is spellbinding.

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Stoner – John Edward Williams

It’s the book where ‘nothing happens’, well nothing significant anyway. Stoner simply lives his life, and we watch him do it. In theory this book sounds dull, but it really pulls you in. This is a remarkable book because it is is beautifully written that it doesn’t matter that there is no plot, we loved it anyway.

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The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project is a joy, it’s funny, it’s full of heart, and it kind of succeeds in explaining to some extent what Asperger’s Syndrome is like from the perspective of someone with it. Think Sheldon from TBBT and you’re part of the way there, it’s just lush.

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The Universe vs Alex woods – Gavin Extence

You’re 17 years old and you have just been stopped coming back into the country with a dead man in your passenger seat and a glove box full of dope, that’s how the book starts, enjoy!

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The Kite runner – Khaled Hosseini

A gorgeous, beautifully descriptive book. The Kite Runner paints a thousand pictures, some are beautiful, exotic and romatic, others are dark and violent, but all evoke emotions. This is a roller coaster ride, and you will be glad that you got on it.

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In cold blood – Truman Capote

This book is really chilling, it’s the story of real life story of Perry & Bobby, who killed a family in Kansas in 1956. The book is written as though it is a work of fiction, but it is not, it is a true life crime and the story was written after Capote spent many hours interviewing the two boys.

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The vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – Maggie O’Farrell

One of my favourite books EVER! I read this years ago and loved it, then it went on the book club list and I worried that on reading it again I would feel differently, I didn’t. For me this is an easy 5*, I adore the characters and the plot is fantastic, the rest of the group loved it too luckily.

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I let you go – Clare MacKintosh

A thriller that thrilled at long last! We were all absolutely thrown by the plot twist and just thought that it was so well written that we all gave it really high scores. There was one part of the plot which I didn’t love so I gave it 4* but it was a definite hit.

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After 2 years and 50+ books we have fourteen 4.5* rated books, I’d say that was fairly successful. Of course we have read some utter crap, but I have only given up on 2 books and to be fair Karen even finished Lolita, so we are a hardcore group of bibliophiles. So, as long as people keep writing them, we’ll keep reading them, and who knows maybe one day we’ll find that illusive 5* book.

Happy Reading!
Mel x

April – Atonement

We read three books this month because we had the Easter holidays, and one of the books was very short. The meeting was small, with only 6 present, but it was good fun, and most people had read at least 2 of the books.

Atonement – Ian McEwan

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Having watched and hated this film years ago, I was far from keen to read the book. In fact, it had been on our book club list for 18 months and I had done a damn good job of navigating my way around it. I finally picked the book up to read it a week before the meeting, and I didn’t put it down. There is something mesmerising about this story, and even though I knew what was coming, still I couldn’t stop reading.

Most of the book club girls disliked the beginning of the book, they found it slow, or disliked the main character Briony so much that they were getting annoyed whilst reading. I did not have this issue, I think possibly because I read it in a day and therefore moved quite quickly to the second part. I can absolutely see why this self absorbed, drama queen teenage girl would irritate the reader, but I wasn’t that bothered by her (perhaps because I live with teenage girls).

Briony’s misinterpretation of the relationship between her sister Cecilia and Robbie (the cleaner’s son) causes her to act with malice towards Robbie. As readers, we are not entirely sure if that is out of a desire to protect her sister, or out of jealousy, but that does not matter. She behaves very much like a 13 year old would, but in this instance the results are catastrophic for the young couple.

Briony’s immaturity is evident right from the beginning of the book. The belief that she is capable of anything, and that she can control everyone around her, is naive. McEwan writes of lust, loathing, revenge and guilt, his prose is beautiful, and enables the reader to empathise with the characters, whether they like them or not. I did not like Briony in the first part of the book, but as a nurse during the war I loved her. This is a very emotional read, the basis of which is that saying/doing something is much easier than unsaying/undoing it, a tough lesson to learn at 13.

I would recommend this book, and surpisingly, given my hatred of the film, I rated it 4*. The whole group rated the book 4-4.5*, so we were in agreement on this one. PLEASE don’t just watch the film, sit down and enjoy the story as it was written by the wonderful McEwan, you wont be sorry.

The Catcher in the Rye – J D Salinger

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‘The Catcher in the Rye’ is a book that appears on many of the top books lists, it is famously the book that Mark David Chapman was reading when he shot and killed John Lennon, and as such, it is one that I thought I ought to read. The best I can say for the book is thank goodness it was short, nothing of any real interest happens, the main character Holden Caulfield is neither particularly likeable nor villainous, but he does say ‘goddamn’ far too often. The author’s use of ‘goddamn’ ‘sonofabitch’ and ‘chrissakes’ in every paragraph became tired very quickly, they did not offend me, the problem was they bored me, and the over use of these started to grate when I had only read about 40 pages. As Aimée observed “it’s like a parody of a teenager”.

The writing isn’t great, the main character is a bit of a dick with a chip on his shoulder and the other characters aren’t interesting enough to pull the reader back in. I do wonder if Salinger drew inspiration for Holden from the character of Pinky in Greene’s ‘Brighton Rock’ (Published 13 years earlier and released on film 4 years earlier than TCITR), but Pinky is really well written, and shocking, Holden is neither. I did not hate the book enough to give up on it, but it left me cold, I don’t even think I can be bothered to have much of an opinion on it at all, which is a really odd feeling. I believe I chuckled once, but I really cannot remember at what, all in all it was just meh. I gave the book 2* and the group almost all agreed, with only one person enjoying the book and giving it a 4* rating.

The Guest Cat – Takashi Hiraide

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I cannot think of a single good thing to say about this book, oh wait… It’s really short. It really is utter nonsense, firstly there’s a cat, that belongs to somebody else, it visits a young couple. Then there’s no cat, there’s a tree that the couple want to be near. There’s a peaceful garden and a big house that also belong to somebody else. That is about all there is to it. The writing (or translation) is bad, it is dull, and there are long descriptions (sometimes pages) that end up being irrelevant. Seriously, do yourself a favour and don’t bother! I gave the book 1* and that was probably generous, Karen gave it 1.5* and Alex (who liked it enough to read it twice) gave it 3*, nobody else read this one, and I envy them that.

Happy reading!

Mel x