Tag Archives: books

Review The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini by Sian Thomas

 

5 Stars5 / 5

 

I  recently read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and I don’t know if I have the words to describe my reaction to it.

Five stars, first of all, let’s start there. I don’t think I want anyone I’m close to missing out on such an outstanding and completely mesmerising book like this one. I’ve read so many books lately, and all of them have been good, but I think they have been good in their own right. However, none of them (at least, none of the recent ones I’ve read) have been quite as enthralling as this.

I don’t want to go too far into the plot (I don’t think, for one, I could do it justice as it was incredibly intertwined and intricate), however I do want to say that it’s probably the saddest and most bittersweet plots I’ve ever had the utmost pleasure to experience. Two boys in Afghanistan, their lives and endeavours and trials and tribulations to come – everything life throws at them. It was truly tragic, with sprinkling happiness and and overall wonderful redemption.
Sad stories are the best ones, I think. But I never expected this tale to be so true of that statement and also, somehow, change it. Sad stories are the best stories. I’ve learnt about the concept of catharsis at school and I think I really, truly, felt it. So maybe sad stories are the best ones, but maybe the sadness should be in moderation for me (it was really, honest and truly, the most heart wrenching and devastating yet amazing books I’ve ever read).

One of the things I’ve noticed after reading this was how sure I usually am that, as a reader, I am going to receive my happy ending. This book changed that. Situation after situation that tugged my heartstrings and made me tearful made me less and less sure of myself. I’ve felt the normal, almost-rush of fear when you notice a book has a lot to complete yet so little pages to do it in. And I had that with this book. Yet, with every other book I’ve read I haven’t truly felt afraid that things wouldn’t work out. I always knew they would, because they always do. I didn’t have this with this book.
I was unsure. A good kind of unsure. An exciting and all-encompassing unsure that left me not knowing if there could possibly be a happy ending coming my way after the turmoil the main character (Amir) had gone through, as well as the turmoil all the other characters had gone through, as well. There was one, single chapter left, and I did not know whether, within about the forty minutes it would take me to read it, I would be grinning or crying. Eventually, it was both, and I’m quite happy with that.

As I said, it was an extremely bittersweet book, with the excellent kind of plot execution that always draws you in for the entire time (and then some – I’ve only just finished it and it’s still the only thing on my mind). It had the kind of writing that was honestly beautiful, full of lovely description and meaningful dialogue and fantastic general, actual, real storytelling which struck a cord somewhere within me and really made my heart feel for it(/the characters).

I bought it to expand my horizons, to diversify my bookshelf. And I’m so glad I did. I went in borderline completely blind, and I came out the other side a little different to how I went in. I’ve been given a history lesson, a gratitude lesson, and probably also a lesson on writing (which I hope to carry into the future).

I feel as if, through reading this book, the kind of problems I have faced or am expecting to face have been minimised and put a little into place. Which doesn’t erase them, but does make me feel a lot more at ease with my life tonight than it did when I woke up in the morning. And I like that. I’m happy I got that. It was unexpected and nice, almost like an extra gift from the author as well as a phenomenal experience.

Review The Girl From Venice, Martin Cruz Smith by Sian Thomas

3 Stars3 / 5

In the past, I’ve always been quite wary of wartime fiction, or general historical fiction. It was never something I particularly enjoyed, as I wasn’t big on history, or war, or reading about either.

Since then, however, I have slowly brought myself away from this view. This is where The Girl From Venice comes in. Though not my first experience of historical or war fiction, it was still one I wholeheartedly enjoyed. Set towards the end of World War Two, the main character, Innocenzo (Cenzo) Vianello works as a fisherman in Pellestrina where he finds (what he thinks is) the drowned corpse of a lady. Wanting to do the right thing, he tries to take her where she can be identified. On the way he is intercepted, and by the time he is allowed back on his own boat, she’s hiding on the boat eating his food.

The story follows their interactions, eventual separation and search to find one another again. Also exploring other factors in between, such as familial complications, political endeavours, the conclusion of the war, its impact, and love.

I’ve only read one other book set in Italy, and that’s The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke. That book stood as my all-time favourite for a very long time, and remains as such. The writing and scenery helped it gain this title. So, setting in Italy has always appealed to me. I love that the writing style in The Girl In Venice goes perfectly with it. Especially with this story. What with being a fisherman, Cenzo spends a lot of time in the water. The description of it (among the other places the story was set, as the characters did travel) saw that I got my fair share of gorgeous writing that made me feel so involved in a scene and so hooked into the story. If anything, it was probably my favourite aspect. It was an inspirational style, and one that drew me in until the very end.

The book was very good. My interest in historical fiction and war time fiction seems to be developing nicely, and I’m glad I read this book and it helped me to see as such.

 

Review How They Met And Other Stories, David Levithan by Sian Thomas

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3 Stars3 / 5

 

This book was a collection of short stories about love. Plain and simple.

I like reading about love which is why this book caught my eye a good while back, and gained itself a solid slot on my Christmas list.

I managed to finish the whole book in just a few short hours. I was utterly lost in numerous glances into numerous worlds of act, love, consequence, and situation, each of them varying and bringing me new stories, new characters, new plots that I loved.

I was expecting your usual love stories, in total honesty. And I enjoy those, and I definitely did get some (people who meet on an plane, for example. Or the classic high school era of classes or prom). I didn’t, however, expect that the majority of the stories would be LGBT-centric stories. And I was pleasantly surprised! I said once or twice or five hundred thousand times in my life that LGBT representation (among various other types of representation) is important and still stand firmly by this view. So to be so swept up by such a surprise was such a lovely way to spend Christmas Day, for me.

I also didn’t expect the drawing of my own inspiration for writing. I’ve heard or read or seen enough couples meet on a plane or one partner chase through the airport for the next five of my lifetimes, and I thought at least I take the inspiration from the idea of travel as an act of meeting which changed lives or an act of leaving which also changed lives. Maybe change the method of transportation. I’ve seen one separation by travel be done by boat, and I am fond of description, so I don’t doubt I could do my own but set in the docks. Or a train station. Who knows. But I’m glad I read the book through and through and found something to guide me to this idea.

It was something fun to read. Before this I’ve lately been having to read far more serious books (e.g. The Colour Purple) so it was a nice breath of fresh air to step back into my comfort zone of cushy love and cheesy YA. I can’t lie, I like those kinds of stories. So to read them, and so many of them in one single book, I was delighted.

This is a book, one of very few, where I’ve stuck little post-it notes at the start of the stories I liked the best. These three were, “Starbucks Boy”,  “Princes”, and, “Breaking And Entering”. Starbucks Boy because I love a good coffee shop story. There are certain plot points or story clichés I think everyone quietly adores. This is one of mine.
Princes because it was the sweetest story, I think, out of them all. A younger brother approaching his Bar Mitzvah fights against their parents in order for them to let his older brother, our main character, bring along his boyfriend. Which was, like I said, sweet. And funny – granted the context of the story. Finally, Breaking And Entering because I absolutely love a spot of angst amongst all the blossoming love stories.

It was undoubtedly a good read, and one I’m glad has reintroduced me to books after so long a break because of school and the like.

About

REVIEW AGATHA CHRISTIE’s ‘THE MOUSETRAP’ BY JAMES BRIGGS

4 Stars4 / 5

When looking at Murder Mystery stories it is extremely rare to find someone as talented and well-loved as Agatha Christie. On the 25th November 1952 Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’, opened in the West End and has been running ever since, meaning the play is celebrating its 60th Anniversary. To celebrate this momentous  occasion the production company have taken the show on tour around the UK allowing a whole new audience to watch and enjoy.

Being an avid fan of Dame Agatha Christie I was very keen to watch this play as I wanted to see how similar the play would be to some of her most well-known work such as Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. I must say that the play certainly does not disappoint and holds all of the key Agatha Christie characteristics to make it recognisable and familiar. Everything about ‘The Mousetrap’ seems very familiar as though we’ve read the story before. The play is set in a country house with oak-panelled walls with hidden back stairs and linking passages. It is the sort of house someone can leave the room by one door and reappear through another so you can never be too sure of where every character is. A snow blizzard takes hold and all of the roads soon become blocked to add to their problems the telephone is not working and on the radio there is a story about a murderer on the loose.  The house is full of the usual range of Cluedo style characters that have never met each other before. Is there a chance that one of these people could be the murder? All of the characters have their own secrets and as you would expect from an Agatha Christie mystery, the story is full of twists and red herrings.

Some of the cast of 'The Mousetrap'

Three of the play’s characters Sgt Trotter, Mr Paravicini and Miss Casewell. 

The characters are extremely well-defined and all very different and eccentric in their own ways. The cast of the play work really well together. Anna Andresen and Nick Barclay create a fitting partnership for Mollie and Giles Ralston showing well their nerves about their first attempt at running a Guest House. Sarah Whitlock portrays brilliantly the straight-talking, no-nonsense Mrs Boyle. Whom I thought had similar characteristics to that of Miss Marple as portrayed by Dame Margaret Rutherford. Amy Downham gives us a very secretive and mysterious Miss Casewell leaving the audience with many questions as to whom she could be. Gregory Cox is wonderful as Mr Paravicini and somehow seems to have created the character similar to that of Hercule Poirot. Oliver Gully is fantastically mad as Christopher Wren positively bursting with energy. Tony Boncza is ever so the retired Army type as Major Metcalf and Alan Magor played the part of Police Sergeant Trotter, a very good portrayal of a typical Agatha Christie detective putting all of the clues together and drawing all the attention of the audience.

Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple two characters created by Agatha Christie.  

I simply must mention the divine set that was created for the play which was made in such a way that it felt homely and inviting for the audience. The use of lamps on stage bought a sense of comfort for the audience and also an element of reality. The large wooden panels with the period furniture  gave the audience a wonderful setting for the story to play out.

The UK tour trailer for ‘The Mousetrap’.

I highly urge everyone to see ‘The Mousetrap’ whether you are an Agatha Christie fan or not. It is a wonderful ‘who done it’ mystery that is guaranteed to get you trying to solve the case. With endless twists and turns the audience are kept on the edge of their seats. But you must remember that EVERYONE is a suspect!

The Mousetrap is currently on a nationwide tour and tickets are available via this link –http://mousetrapontour.com/

 

Review Wolfsong TJ Klune by Sian Thomas

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5 Stars5 / 5

I recently read Wolfsong by TJ Klune. Even now, as I begin writing, I can only hope I have the best words to convey my astonishment and amazement at how spectacular this book truly was. I don’t even know where to begin.

Maybe I do. After a little thinking. I’ve read a handful of books that have touched my heart so deeply. I love reading because I love stories. Even if I find them not the most enjoyable, even if they had a lacklustre ending, even if I did enjoy them, but probably only once, the few books I’ve read that have whisked my heart away are something else entirely. They are always so full of emotion and immeasurable intensity. This book was that. This book was that, and more. So, so much more.

I’ve read a handful of books that touched my heart deeply, yes. But there’s only one other book I’ve read that I’ve had to resist reading all at once. Or resist reading it because there was unimaginable emotion flowing straight from the words straight into my mind and heart and soul. Even this book succeeded that. While I read both with enforced breaks (maybe for my own good, I fear my heart may have pounded out of my chest) when I wasn’t reading this one, it was just quietly (sometimes loudly) on my mind. I wondered where the next chapter could possibly take me, I wondered how it could possibly end, and I was more than happy – ecstatic – to get my answers.

Every time I let myself crack open this book and carry on, I felt like I was somewhere else entirely. Everything about it just felt so real, all the relationships and emotions and turmoil and actions, they all felt so real. And while I like fantasy-esque novels a whole lot (they seem to have the best stories for me), and this was one, and it was way out there because it was about werewolves (which I did realise by the title and the cover but for some reason it seemed to float away from me, though I caught it when there was talk of family nights and smells and a lot of talk about the moon. Oh boy, did it hit me then. I waited for the main character, Ox, to get hit with that twist with eager anticipation) it was new and enticing and everything inside just felt so predominant and so real.

I think it’s something I find in a lot of books that are shelved and never really reread – that they never felt quite real. Usually, they are all story. Which is nice, too, but in a different way, I think. But with this book, with Wolfsong, there was the story and then feelings were also the story. I loved that. I loved that so much it made my heart ache because I want to write and that’s what I wish I can someday have the ability to write. Something like this, where the feelings are such a gigantic part of everything – because, isn’t that how things are? In day to day life? You do things depending on how you feel, right? It’s why the kind of books that I don’t reread, that are all story, stay that way – they’re usually dutiful. Having to do something because it’s them, they are the main character, it’s their duty. They didn’t have a choice.

Wolfsong reiterates that you do. You have a choice. The main character, Ox, he has a choice. He picks what he does because of how he feels. I loved that so much. So much. This was a book that I was raring to read to know what happens next, who will do what next, what’s coming over the page, but this was also a book that I wanted to stop and slow down and cherish every second and just – revel in it.

And what makes it better – it had leagues of LGBT representation. Love, just anywhere. Everywhere. No fear, no worries. Ox openly stated he was bisexual. In other pieces of entertainment I’ve experienced with bisexual characters, they never seem to say it. Maybe I’m looking at the wrong pieces of entertainment, or maybe writers just don’t want to do it, but to finally see it done was so refreshing – it was like I hadn’t stepped outside for years and suddenly I was racing around the streets or the woods or just anywhere. Air, everywhere. Like I could breathe easy by just keeping on reading. Green relief, like it says in the story. I think it was that. Green relief in the fact that neither of the characters in the main LGBT relationship died, either! I was a little worried, I do admit. I know that with the life-or-death situations all throughout the book it could have happened, and I really did believe one of the two were going to be killed off, and that it would have fallen into the Bury Your Gays trope (where one person who is LGBT dies, usually needlessly, usually after finding a partner) and I have never felt astounding relief and been so glad when it didn’t happen. I was invested. In the story, in the main relationship, and I was afraid that it was going to happen. And then, it didn’t. It didn’t happen, and I felt such amazing relief and thankfulness. Again, like it was all a breath of fresh air.

The writing itself was extraordinary. It was dialogue and emotion and plot, and it seemed to be more, somehow. I suppose I could describe it as being written jaggedly? Either way, it fit perfectly. With the character, Ox, and the others. It fit with the story and how it unfolded. It fit with me, how it was jagged. I understood. I understand.

There were scenes that amazingly hilarious, too. Jokes, or just how they seemed to play out. Things that were funny because of who said or did what and the reaction. I loved it. While it seemed serious and like important things were always happening, there was always room reserved for humour.

There were so many characters. There were so many people to give your love to in the story, there were so many people to root for and fear for, to hope for and to just plain admire. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

I don’t want to give anything away, I really don’t. I went in wholeheartedly blind and I came out the other side in awe. I think that’s how it should be for anyone else.

I give it five stars. It is probably the best thing I’ve read all year.