A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

For the first 4 days after finishing this book I was still and remain unable to fully articulate and summarise my feelings towards this book; so forgive me whilst I make a good attempt at it. For those of you who haven’t yet read this book this review will not contain any spoilers. It would completely take away from the reader’s experience if you knew any detail about the book. I want you to feel all the endless bounds of emotions that came flowing through me whilst reading this book and being taken on the character’s journeys. Here is the blurb taken directly from the book to give you an outline:

“When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition, there is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor: JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel painter pursuing fame in the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their centre of gravity.

Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realise, is Jude himself; by midlife a terrifyingly talented lawyer yet increasingly a broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by a degree of trauma that he fears he will not only be unable to overcome – but that will define his life forever.

In a novel of extraordinary intelligence and heart, Yanagihara has fashioned a masterful depiction of heartbreak; and a dark and haunting examination of the tyranny of experience and memory”.

I don’t give ratings on my reviews I just share with you my thoughts and feelings on the book that I’ve read; as someone who has only recently started to read contemporary fiction, this is one of the best books in this genre I have ever read. Its 720 pages of a beautifully crafted story of the transition from college life to making it in the adult world, following four characters and how they change; and their relationships change with one another as they start to make their way in the world and as they navigate through life being the person they want to be and be known for.

Yanagihara’s way of writing takes you into the mind of each of the four characters and you start to understand how their family background and upbringing has shaped them and influenced their decisions and how they come to be as adults. Yangihara has an exceptional way of making the characters feel relatable and you start to become very emotionally invested in this small friendship circle that I did start to feel that they were real people in this world; and I wanted to be part of this circle.  This is done spectacularly with Jude, his character is lifted off the pages and I felt that I really knew Jude as a whole person.

As the blurb alludes to Jude’s past, Yanagihara only reveals Jude’s past through small revelations throughout the book as Jude starts to share his past with others. However there are some parts of Jude’s past that only you as the reader know of and that made the heartbreak in that you experience for Jude and for his friends so much more affecting, distressing and painful. There were a number of times when I felt my eyes well up, towards the last third of the book I found it so intense that I was only able to read small snippets of the book at a time. No book has ever had this effect on me and is a credit to Yanagihara’s writing.

If you’re looking for a book to get you out of a reading slump or struggling to choose what to read next, please pick up this book: you will not be disappointed. The only disappointment is that I wish this book were longer so that I could continue to live in their world.

 

I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

*PLEASE NOTE CONTAINS A SPOILER AHEAD*

“…the sorrow of ten thousand oceans finally breaking inside of me”.

I can’t remember the last time a book made me almost cry not only once, but several times. The last time this happened to me was when Dumbledore died and I cried for the rest of that book when I was a teenager.

I wasn’t sure what to think of this book as I heard it was for teenagers. Now that I’ve finished it I can stop recommending it to anyone who has been thrusted into adulthood and is in their early twenties, this will still get to you and you will be able to relate to the characters.

The book is centred on the relationship of twins Noah and Jude, the book is written from dual perspectives. From Noah’s point of view aged 13/14 and Jude 16, it follows them as they navigate their way through the awkwardness that is going through puberty, but they have to navigate their way through this with not only intense emotions that you feel as a teenager: but coping with a loss of a parent.

It took me a while at the very start to get used to the writing. Especially as Noah uses a lot of made up words and his language is so colourful, but then once I got into it I found it very endearing as that is how Noah’s character is. He’s this artist who sees the world in a very different way, the way the world presents to Noah is very bright and bold. I particularly liked that it featured a love story between Noah and Brian, I thought it was fantastic to have Brian as this ‘cool guy next door’ character, with his fascination and love for meteorites.

Then there’s Jude who used to be a bit of a daredevil, she would surf and jump off cliffs. A change occurs and she’s now quieter, she speaks to the ghosts of her Grandma and Mum in her head, she becomes obsessed with her Grandma’s “bible” full of superstitions.

The story is not only following Noah and Jude as they deal with this big change in their lives independently and how they transition into young adults, but how their relationship is affected and how they change with / without each other.  I think what this book does so well is that it makes you feel so many different emotions and the intensity is just bursting through the pages. Jandy Nelson does a brilliant job of also making you as the reader feel her character’s emotions so intently.  This has been a beautifully crafted story of how painful growing up can be whilst trying to deal with some very adult experiences. That is what has been such an incredible experience about reading this book, it’s made me feel so many all-consuming emotions that I thought my heart was going to burst.  

A life-affirming and humbling read, a must for anyone as you get to fully experience how beautiful words can be.
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Special Post in honour of Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, 16th-22nd May 2016.

Hello book lovers,

This is a slightly different post in honour of Mental Health Awareness Week here in the UK which runs from the 16th – 22nd May 2016.

This isn’t supposed to be an attention seeking post in any kind of way but it is a subject that is truly important and close to me. I still think we have a long way to go in understanding mental health issues, so that we can start to break down some of the barriers that lead to stigmatising and further isolating those individuals in the community who suffer with any form of mental illness.

As I write this, I know I am lucky in the fact that although I was diagnosed with a mild anxiety disorder towards the end of last year; I am still able to hold on to a full time job and live my life pretty unaffected.

However when I have a ‘bad’ day, or days, the dark, negative voice comes back and tells me how awful I am, that I’m not good at my job, that I’m not clever, that I’m not good at anything. It’s not even my voice I hear in my head, it’s a negative and dark voice that tries to beat me down.

For those people that say ‘its all in your head’ is the worst thing to ever say to someone who battles on each day fighting the invisible demons in their head. I think we need to start to understand that self – care and making sure you feel good within yourself is not out of some narcissistic notion or idea that you’re just self absorbed. A healthy mind makes for a healthy outlook on life.

You wouldn’t deprive a diabetic from taking their insulin to make them better. So if you’re on medication, going through counseling, if you journal, get lost in music and use more holistic and thereupeutic treatments, whatever your groove is, if it’s making you feel better, do it. Just because you cant see it like a physical ailment like a broken leg, doesn’t mean it’s any less a significant issue we should be talking about. Mental health issues like depression and anxiety dont discriminate between class and gender, it can affect us all.

It doesn’t make you any less of a person and it’s not something that should define your whole character.  Whilst I was going through a hard time last year, to make myself feel better, I was reading ‘The Martian’ by Andy Weir. Afterwards I learnt that he started it out as a blog that got a very small following. He once said in an interview that he wrote the protagonist, Mark Watney, as the type of person he’d like to be without all the anxieties he suffers from…now his book has been turned into a Hollywood film starring Matt Damon. This comforted me a lot during my time last year as I realised that mental illness probably affected more people than I’d realised before.

So, check in regularly on your friends and family and make sure they’re okay. 1 in 4 of us will be affected by some kind of mental health illness in our lifetime.

If you know someone who is going through a hard time, send them a nice message, give them a hug and let them know you’re there. 😍

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Are there any books that helped you through a difficult time?

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The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

Hello book lovers!

I’m a bit late on this one but I’ve heard so many great things about this book for the past year but have only just gotten round to reading it! I only purchased it a fortnight ago and once I picked it up I finished it in just over a week. A testament to such a gripping, tense and thrilling plot. I honestly have not found myself staying up way past my bedtime for a very long time, as I was eager to carry on reading this book as I wanted to find out what happened next….definitely received some comments at work about how tired I looked!

It was a thoroughly enjoyable read as it was so intriguing, the thrill is escalated a notch by the way the book has multiple perspectives of the same time line of events. I thought that was an excellent way to tell a story. It was absolutely gripping to have three different women’s perspectives on a time-line of events of one critical evening that drives the whole story. I thought it was fantastic the way it was written as I was not expecting the way it ended at all. It made me question my own thoughts and feelings of how I perceived the character of Rachel Watson. She was such a cleverly written character as she lives quite a chaotic life style, she’s a thirty something alcoholic whose recently lost her job, she suffers blackouts as a result,  that you don’t think of her as a credible witness, at least I didn’t!

I found myself gasping and squirming in some parts when you realise that Tom Watson, the more stable character in the book who has his life together, steady job, wife and baby, who would suspect him?..Turns out to be the one who murdered Megan and has been emotionally abusive to both Rachel Watson (his ex-wife) and Anna Watson (his second wife). He was such a frightening and unpredictable character that he made my skin crawl as I reading!

It was definitely a whirl wind of emotions and I’ve not been able to stop recommending this book to my family and friends, and anyone who’s after a good read. Go out and purchase the book or download it on your kindle, e-books, ipads, whatever your groove is and read this book. You will not regret it.

What book have you read recently which you can’t stop raving about?

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Favourite Author’s Feature: Jane Austen

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good fortune must be in want of a Wife…”

I first read Pride and Prejudice when I was 13/14 years old and I can still quote the first line of the book. I fell in love with Elizabeth Bennett almost immediately and as a result, my girl crush on Jane Austen began at a very tender age.

I admired Elizabeth Bennett’s quiet confidence, her love for reading and books (so obvious I don’t need to mention it, right?), her defiance against the status quo: and most significantly her ability to keep up with any man,  considering that men were thought the superior sex,  based on nothing more than their gender at birth!

It was mind boggling to read as a very young teenager that you couldn’t marry for love, it was only for convenience and only if the arrangement that was negotiated was mutually beneficial for both the bride and groom’s family.  You were effectively sold off, as your inherent worth as a female was based on what monetary value you held.

Elizabeth Bennett experiences a happy ending as she finally has an awakening and concludes after all that Mr Darcy is the one!

However Austen never married and it has been speculated that she wrote that happy ending for Elizabeth as it wasn’t possible for her in her lifetime. Once I read the novel and watched the film, I just became even more fascinated by that era.

I think this was also the same time that I started to develop an interest in strong female characters. Significantly I think it sparked an interest on the issue of feminism and encouraged me to learn more about women’s struggle for equal rights. Did you know that the reason women weren’t allowed to pursue higher education, was because they genuinely believed it made women infertile. The general consensus was that if you were concentrating on studying hard, all the blood would rush to the brain and not concentrate on your sole purpose for being alive, bearing a man’s child!

I think what I love about reading is that you can just absorb and learn so much. My sister got me all of Jane Austen’s collection in the Penguin’s Cloth Bound series, they are just so beautiful…

Who is your favourite author that you’ve felt shaped you in some way?

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Chapter One

I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember and have always loved the escapism and comfort that books can bring. There is nothing that I enjoy more than spending my time in a comfortable arm chair or deck chair in the garden, with a beverage on hand fitting for the weather and getting lost in a really great book.

I’ve read all sorts of novels from an early age and truly believe that they have shaped the adult I have become. Some of the most important life lessons I have learnt have been through reading and books remain an integral part of my life.

I’ve been following a few blogs over recent years and have always wanted to participate or join in the online community in some way. I enjoy reading and being quite a reflective person tend to have a few thoughts floating in my head straight after finishing. I finally gave in and thought I’d give this a go and share my musings and ramblings with the online book loving community.

I’ll be sharing with you my favourite books and authors, my current reads and my reviews of the books that I have read.

I’m currently reading Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake  so a review to include my thoughts and feelings will be up on the blog in due course.

What are you all currently reading?

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