21st century girl

reviews – my way.

Category: Books

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, to put it briefly, follows the story of a former law student named Raskolnikov, who commits an act of murdering two women with an axe. Only a prostitute named Sonya can offer him redemption.

Although I had heard of a few icons in classic Russian literature, such as Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov and of course, Dostoyevsky, I had never read any Russian literature in its intirity until I read Crime and Punishment. In fact, my older sister (who loves books) recommended the book to me, and I ended up reading it before lectures and in my own time. Though it was partly ruined by the fact that the famous Moors murderers read it and was a key motivation towards one of their murders, Crime and Punishment seemed like a good book all the same. I am aware that the book has been made into several film adaptations, though I have tried my best to avoid watching the adaptations for fear of ruining my perception of the novel, though interestingly, I realised that the late, great John Hurt played Porfiry in the 2002 version.

The novel, as a whole, teaches that all actions have consequences, and that there was no way that he could ever get away with murder. To be honest, he got what he deserved. I simply love the author’s flowing, overly detailed descriptions. Although some of the novel dragged just a tiny bit in places (i.e pages and pages of dialogue), my favourite part of the entire book was when he told Sonya (perhaps one of the main female characters in the entire book) that he killed the women, who turned out to be connected to her in some way or another. I also think that the novel is a critical reflection of Russian society at the time of when Dostoyevsky was writing it. You had your peasants, members of the police force, and the prostitutes.This book has definitely launched my recently found small interest in Russian literature.

If you have several days to spare, then go ahead and read Crime and Punishment. People always seem to assume that old books are long and dreary, but depending on the book, it is rather interesting, even though the names of the characters in this book were rather long and at times, I was confused with who was who.

Overall, a great, classic novel that has broadened my horizons while exploring new things to read and enjoy.

4.5/5

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The art of racing in the rain by Garth Stein

‘The car goes where the eyes go’ 

It is a well known fact that apparently a dog is a man’s best friend. Gareth’s Stein’s ‘The art of racing in the rain’ proves that. The book follows the story of a family, a man named Denny, his wife Eve and their daughter Zoe, but it is told from the point of view of their loyal dog Enzo.

My sister recommended it to me as there was a period of time where I didn’t have anything interesting to read. As I have a interest in dogs (though I haven’t owned one since I was thirteen), I reluctantly gave this book a read. I rarely ever put the book down, and ended up finishing it in a day. The author links the relationship between a human compassion towards a dog and a dog’s loyalty towards its owner. Never before has a book made me laugh and cry at the same time as much as this book did. In the last twenty pages of the book, I was in floods. You could just imagine the dog getting older, and it only hit me emotionally as we have a different kind of connection with dogs than we do with humans. In some ways, this book is like a more grown up and better version of Marley and Me. I would definitely reread The art of racing in the rain.

I like how the author connects racing and dogs and humans together, as Enzo the dog had an interest in watching the racing. I especially like how it’s from the dog’s perspective, as we often think that dogs don’t understand, when really, they do. They just don’t know how to speak. Luckily, the author gives the loveable dog a voice and a family, and towards the end of the dog’s life, he sees the limitations of being a dog and wishes to be a human. I think that was rather sweet.

I would highly recommend this book if you love dogs and want something different and interesting to read.

4.5/5

The book of Ebenezer Le Page by G.B Edwards

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The Book of Ebenezer Le Page is a semi autobiographical novel about a man called Ebenezer Le Page who lived his whole life in Guernsey, the Channel Islands, an island between England and France that isn’t necessarily anything like any of its surrounding countries. Ebenezer goes through everything on the island, from losing his friends in both world wars to seeing the rise of tourism on the island.

I was recommended this book by my best guy friend, who, like the character in the book, and like myself lives with the cons of living on a small island. Considering that I usually read books to escape, there was no escapism value to the book. It felt too close to comfort to even be comfortable considering that I live on the island that it is set in. Likewise, I like the narrative, and there are so many places that I recognise that he describes in a lot of detail. The author himself only just finished the book before he died, and it ended up being published after his death. Despite that, in recent years a few notable people have come from the Channel Islands, a main example being the tennis player Heather Watson.

Overall, it is a relatively good book, though I cannot offer an outsiders perspective as I reside where the book is set.

3/5

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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Miss Peregrine’s home for Peculiar Children is about a sixteen year old boy called Jacob Portman who goes to a remote island after the death of his grandfather and discovers a crumbling orphanage run by Miss Peregrine, but a few mysteries involving the children begin to unfold and it turns out that they are all stuck in a one day time loop from 1940.

This book is the first of the Miss Peregrine book series and I only read this book because there is an upcoming film adaptation directed by Tim Burton and starring Asa Butterfield as the lead character. Regardless of the film, I started to read it knowing that it was part of a series, having seen them regularly on the shelves in WHSmith or in my friend’s book shop, and it was also part of the magical realism and fantasy genre, which is one of my favourite genres. It’s marketed like a children’s book, but it’s definitely for adults, and it is a dark book full of fantastic photographs. I love the narrative flow and when I’ve finished this book and maybe watched the film, I will read the rest of the series. It also combines photography and narrative as well. It’s as if the book has its own quirky personality that makes it different from all the other books, that are generally only typed words on a basic white page. The patterns on the start of every chapter are lovely and as an art student, I could incorporate similar patterns into my own work (without copying it).

I got so stuck into the book that I finished it in just under a day. I think the pictures helped, but the writer lets you use your own imagination, even though I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a continuous one day time loop due to the deja vu. It was a relief when they left the time loop, yet the book had an open ending so that it could move swiftly onto the next book in the series. I just wonder how it will adapt from page to screen.

Overall, a dark but quirky book with brilliant photographs, fantastic characters and a great narrative. It’s quite easy to follow too. You put down the book and it leaves you asking questions, not necessarily about whether or not it’s entertaining but of the fate of the characters. Are they dead? Is it his imagination? Or is he living off a thing that his grandpa told him about?

4.5/5

 

Time and Time again by Ben Elton

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‘No matter how many times everyone uses each other’s first names, the rich still get richer and the poor still get poorer and nobody gives a damn about anyone,’ 

Time and Time again is a book set in three different time periods over 300 years and it is about an ex soldier and adventurer called Hugh Stanton who knows that the Great War is coming but he must change that history and prevent it, therefore preventing a butterfly effect of events over the course of the next century.

I read it thinking that it was going to be another same old time travel story. I have a small interest in time travel from watching films and TV shows such as Back to the Future and Goodnight Sweetheart. Time and Time again, however, is not any old boring story. It doesn’t just tell a story, it makes a statement on culture and society from the past and even now, although the present events are actually set in the future, and it tests the involvement of Newton’s law of gravity with time travel. I connect with the characters, and I feel sorry for Stanton for losing his wife and kids, and yet I knew that he also loved Bernie, an Irish suffragette. The narrative and pacing is rather smooth so that I could pick up the book where I left off, and I could still find out so many things about how a war and a crazy scientist’s theory and the butterfly effect shaped how we are today. What exactly would have happened if Franz Ferdinand didn’t get shot?

His plan is simple- to kill the Kaiser and keep Franz Ferdinand alive, but one gunshot will change history. Yes, he stopped World War I, but that led to another event and poems and books that will make no sense to altered history because he stopped World War I. It’s also a reoccurring thing in the book that there’s a loop of time of about a hundred and ten years with three different worlds. The book is so hectic yet every event crushes the previous event and you go on such a journey with the character that you don’t bother looking back. The character of Hugh Stanton is quick and he knows his stuff yet he’s lonely in a metaphorical way to the point where he’s probably considered strange by other people. It’s also up to your own interpretation into how the book ends. That’s what so good about it. The narrative is strong and it has a good flow to make your own decision.

I love Ben Elton’s writing style, what with his use of rhetorical questions that aren’t too overbearing. Sometimes the line about the gunshot was short, maybe to suggest that the shot was quick. I hadn’t  hadn’t heard of Ben Elton before reading this book but I might need to read some more of his work. This novel is definetly within my ‘Top five Favourite books’ list, but I might need to buy it (I borrowed it from a local library) and re read it to pick up the smaller details that I didn’t pick up last time. Sadly, in he real world, there was still World War I and Hugh Stanton is not there to stop it.

A thrilling read and I would highly recommend it, though the pacing slows down at times.

4.5/5

Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher

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Billy and Me is a sweet bestselling novel by the author Giovanna Fletcher, and it follows the story of a everyday woman called Sophie May who is thrust into the spotlight after she meets and falls in love with an actor called Billy Buskin who has ambitions to make it to the top of the acting world.

I have read nearly every Giovanna Fletcher book. This book was part of Zoella’s book club. I don’t really watch Zoella’s videos but I wanted to give this book a read. Giovanna Fletcher’s books are good if you just want to unwind pretty much anywhere. I am forever grateful for her type of books, where there are no confusing plot lines and she doesn’t have a dodgy narrative structure. She brings life to every character, even the secondary ones in her books. You could be anywhere and you could be absorbed in her quirky stories. She isn’t just a popstar’s wife, she genuinely lives off another career away from her husband’s life.

I can’t imagine having to date someone who is in the spotlight, although I know a few young local male actors where I live who are nothing more than friends to me. It makes you realize how judgemental the media/ press are towards an actor’s private life, something that they should know nothing about, and how tough the acting world is if you want to break free from the clean cut teenybopper movies. An example of a real life Billy Buskin would be either Robert Pattinson- who had to prove himself as a serious actor post Twilight by appearing in mature movies such as Map To the Stars and small indie movies such as The Rover. The characters in Billy and Me felt real, not like cardboard cutouts, and I thought that the ending was so emotional. I also thought that Billy Buskin was a real person because Giovanna Fletcher makes him seem real. I think there are a few spin offs and sequels to this book, but I haven’t read them yet. I intend to in the future.

Overall, a poignant bestseller with fantastic characters. I personally liked the character of Sophie because she’s constantly trodden on and bullied and overlooked by the press just because she’s not a supermodel or famous, she’s a down to earth woman who just happens to date a high profile actor. The love story that wasn’t formulaic,even though there have probably been many books about ‘ordinary girl meets a superstar man’. Considering that it looks as if it was her first book, it was a brilliant debut, even though there’s quite a lot of pressure for authors to write a great debut novel.

4.5/5

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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‘I’m stuck on three, I can’t get any further,’ 

The Girl on the Train is a book about an alcoholic called Rachel who catches the same train everyday but the train overlooks a row of back gardens, one of which is her ex husband’s house. She imagines that she knows the people until she becomes a part of the people’s lives-including harassing her ex husband and his new family and being wrapped up in the murder of a woman that she never knew that well.

Firstly, I thought that the book was way too mature for me. I’m nearly seventeen but I think the target market was for the over twenties. The premise of the story is interesting and, like she people watches on trains, I like to people watch in waiting rooms but I would never want to be involved in their lives.

This book will never be in my ‘Top 10’ books list, and as a reader I felt like yelling ‘leave your ex husband Tom alone!’, but sometimes, as a reader I was made to feel sorry for her. I think that’s what the writer wanted us to think. I didn’t give that much thought into it because I was reading it while I was on holiday and I had never read it before. I also found it unnecessary that Rachel and Scott had a one night stand after he found out that his wife had died. Is that really necessary?

The final line in the entire book was ‘and I’ll have to get up early to catch the train’. It therefore leaves us with an open ending, and it suggests that her life carries on. The train could also be a metaphor for the passing of time but I won’t look too deeply into that.

Despite the fact that the book was too mature for me, I like how the author makes her characters flawed and realistic. The main character is a creepy stalkerish alcoholic who cannot get over her ex husband, even if he had an affair while they were still married, the ex husband Tom is a sex obsessed and manipulative man who wasn’t very supportive of his ex wife and he honestly sounds like a bit of a twat, and his new wife Anna just wants his past to get out of their family life while taking care of their daughter, and she’s a bit of a home wrecker. The character of Megan, who Rachel thought to have had a happy life, ends up dead. The book is basically Fatal Attraction meets Closer. Now all you need is a rabbit and a strip club. The story also teaches you that people might look happy on the outside, and they might not be happy together in private. After all, you only get a glimpse of someone’s life if you see them in public.

Apparently there is a film of it coming out starring Emily Blunt as Rachel, but I don’t have any desire to see it, and even if I did, it would be interesting how they transitioned from page to screen.

Overall, an imaginative, relatively decent and a very chilling book.

3/5

The First and Only by Dan Abnett

This book is the first of something like the 15 part Gaunts Ghost series, and it is a science fiction series set in a Warhammer universe.

I was asked to read the series by one of my best guy friends at college. Although the entire series is more suited towards men and boys than girls, it looked interesting and certainly avoided the cliches of science fiction. Certainly, the narrative is interesting. The entire book is pretty much war, and when they distract it slightly, there’s still war.

There’s about fifteen books in total for the entire Gaunts Ghosts series. I haven’t read them all yet but I am slowly getting through them. I like how the characters are flawed and three dimensional. Gaunt could be a scheming commissar on one hand and a secret softie with feelings on the other.

4.5/5

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

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The Road is a novel set in a dystopian and post-apocalyptic world where a father and his young son walk through a deserted America after civilization had been destroyed with nothing but a pistol, each other and little food to defend themselves and survive. It has been made into a film starring Viggo Morteson and Kodi Smit-McPhee but I haven’t actually seen the movie so I cannot compare the novel to any other material.

I actually liked this book. I liked the way that it was laid out- I think it was laid out as a indirect speech structure, although it took some time to get use to it. The scary thing is, all of this could happen tomorrow so a father and son would have to fight for survival. Not much is explained, so it is up to the readers interpretation to where they are and why they fighting for their lives in a bleak post apocolyptic world.

I wanted to read this book because I am a big fan of dystopian stories and I am actually writing dystopian at the moment so I needed more source material than Orwell’s 1984, The Matrix and the movie V For Vendetta so The Road would give me some idea of my own post-apocalyptic world. Most of the Road is taken up with simple sentences revolving around food and caring for the boy, because children and food are probably the most important thing, and what else is there to do when you’re trying to fight to live with little resources?.

Good layout and structure, bleak and simply written without the distraction of too many charecters.

4/5

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

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Still Alice is a novel (and film adaptation starring Julianne Moore and Kristen Stewart) about a university lecturer and mother of three Alice who is diagnosed with Alziemers at fifty years old.

I haven’t seen the film yet, but I hope that they are as faithful to the book as possible. Genova writes a powerful story as Alice’s world starts to crumble when she starts off as being rather forgetful like the next person until it spirals into worse circumstances, to the point where she can’t remember the names of her children. It might not be the sort of book to appeal to everyone, but it makes you realize that Alziemers is serious and considerably more than just ‘forgetting’ stuff. It’s probably more serious on a younger person because an older person has more long term memories. It took me about four days to read this book, and I found it sadder that a middle aged woman with a good and long lasting career as a linguistics professor and mother of three has to go through Alziemers disease or dementia rather than an elderly person who has fond memories of the distant past. Either way, it has to be taken very seriously.

Still, it was a thought provoking read and completely different from what I normally read, more mature as well. I haven’t read any of Genova’s other books, but she writes well and puts the message across without patronizing the readers.

4.5/5