The Da Vinci Code

Author: Dan Brown DaVinciCode

Pages: 481

Genre: fiction, mystery, thriller, historical

An ingenious code hidden in the works of Leonardo da Vinci. A desperate race through the cathedrals and castles of Europe. An astonishing truth concealed for centuries . . . unveiled at last.

While in Paris, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is awakened by a phone call in the dead of the night. The elderly curator of the Louvre has been murdered inside the museum, his body covered in baffling symbols. As Langdon and gifted French cryptologist Sophie Neveu sort through the bizarre riddles, they are stunned to discover a trail of clues hidden in the works of Leonardo da Vinci—clues visible for all to see and yet ingeniously disguised by the painter.

Thoughts: Finally read another of the Robert Langdon series, which I’ve been meaning to for a while now. I enjoy these books, contrary to a lot of other beliefs, mostly because of the frequent references to symbols and mythology. (Surprise, surprise) I definitely wouldn’t say they were my favourite, (although Da Vinci Code was better than Inferno, in my opinion), but they’re good enough for a quick weekend, or holiday read.

“Everyone loves a conspiracy.”
― Dan BrownThe Da Vinci Code

Dan Brown’s books are known for their ability to hook readers in, and both books of his that I’ve read, definitely lived up to that. In Inferno, it felt a bit forced, while Da Vinci Code seemed more natural in its cliff-hangers which is good. It wasn’t as if each chapter ended in the middle of a sentence, but like it was actually as perplexing as he made it seem. Sure, it made me want to keep reading, but the complications and cliffhangers were a lot more reasonable and believable. (most of the time)

“Telling someone about what a symbol means is like telling someone how music should make them feel.”
― Dan BrownThe Da Vinci Code

So this book is mostly set in Paris, with a little in England, and Landon rushes around to a lot of the museums and statues. Having been to Paris and England myself, and loved all of the artworks displayed in the Louvre, I really enjoyed all the references. I’m sure a few of you know I’m a bit of a mythology and history fanatic (My name’s Isis, the blog’s name is Book Goddess), and it was good to be able to know what all the characters were talking about. I even deciphered one of the codes before Langdon did!!!

“History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?”
― Dan BrownThe Da Vinci Code

Again, as I’ve said before, Dan Brown’s writing style isn’t the greatest. I found this book was pretty good with its language uses, (better than Inferno, once again), it wasn’t too painful for most of the book. At times, it had some pretty complex descriptions of things. But, at other times, it did sound downright average. (e.g. quote below) Again, it’s not like it was impossible to read, and it doesn’t impact my view of the book very much, but the writing could be improved greatly. I will also say that the ending seemed a little weak for me. It was great most of the time, with multiple twists and turns, but then after the climax, it had a really boring finish.

“Her eyes were olive green―incisive and clear.”
― Dan BrownThe Da Vinci Code

This review’s pretty short compared to most of my others. I guess there isn’t much to say about it really. I’d say it would be a good read for most people, because it moves quickly and almost includes the reader on the adventure. Because it explains so many of the ideas and theories, you feel like you’re on the run with the characters, figuring out codes and following clues along the way. A good book for when you’re on a plane actually. It didn’t leave a large impact on me, like other literary masterpieces do, but it was fun while I was reading it. If I had the book open, it was fine, and I was hooked most of the time, so it was hard to put it down. And then when I did manage to put it down, I didn’t really feel the urge to pick it back up, just because it didn’t seem that important.

Rating: star_rating_3_of_5


The Martian

Author: Andy Weir

Pages: 369The_Martian_2014

Genre: Sci-fi, fiction, comedy

I’m stranded on Mars.

I have no way to communicate with Earth. If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Habitat breaches, I’ll just kind of explode.

If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

I’m screwed.

Thoughts: This review’s been a little time in the coming, but it’s finally here. I saw The Martian as a movie first, and really enjoyed it. I then learned there was a book, and needed to read it. And, I think the movie did a very good job of portraying the characters, and the storyline. Basically, for anyone who hasn’t read or seen it, the Ares 3 crew landed on Mars, but had to abort their mission early, due to an unexpected storm. On their way over to the MAV (their ride home), Mark Watney is hit by flying debris and whisked away by the wind. The rest of the crew, thinking him dead, and under strict orders to leave, have no choice but to leave him there. But Mark did not die, and is now stranded on Mars. It was a really fun read, that made me laugh out loud many, many times, while also conveying enough worry for me to be on the edge of my seat.

“Actually, I was the very lowest ranked member of the crew. I would only be “in command” if I were the only remaining person.”
What do you know? I’m in command”
― Andy WeirThe Martian

From the opening line, I got Mark Watney’s character down pat. He has a very recognisable way of speaking… Like this! All the time!! With heaps of funny lines that will definitely be quoted! And he narrates most of the book. It does sound like it would get a bit tiresome after a while, but not for me. I really enjoyed reading it. The other parts of the book were either around NASA (on Earth), or the rest of the Ares 3 crew, (who are still on their way back to Earth). I really liked their parts, because all the characters were so developed, and had certain ways of acting. They seemed like real people, who I really would’ve liked to meet. There was just something satisfying about their conversations and the way they interacted with another, made smooth through Weir’s way with words. These chunks of the book broke up Watney’s, which is possibly why I didn’t get too tired of it. The only thing that could’ve made it better, is more of these parts, because I really, really enjoyed them.

“He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?” He turned back to Venkat. “I wonder what he’s thinking right now.”

LOG ENTRY: SOL 61 How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.”
― Andy WeirThe Martian

An aspect of The Martian that really amazes me, is the amount of research that went into it. There are crazy amounts of maths formulas involved, as Watney’s trying to figure out how to survive. On top of that, just general NASA knowledge, and terminology, like the Hab, the MAV, and EVA, and as well as that, the solutions to his major issues, for example growing food, repairing the oxygenator, or communicating with Earth. So yes, there was a lot of research that went into the book, so it would seem more realistic and plausible. And apparently, most of what he wrote was largely correct. (Not that I went through and checked everything. That would have taken forever) Which leads me to my next point: There was a lot of it. A lot of rambling on about ‘how this would mean that this thing has to be changed, which would affect that, and that cannot be changed, so scrap that idea, and form a new one.’ It’s written as if an astronaut had written it, which is essentially what it was meant to be, but I’m not going to lie. After the first few chapters, once it got to these parts, I would just skim over it, and then start reading properly when it finished. It wasn’t like it was badly written, it would just jumble everything up, and I couldn’t keep up. I appreciate the sheer amount of research that went into it, and feel like it wouldn’t have been the same book without all the realistic factors, but it just got a bit too much.

“Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.”
― Andy WeirThe Martian

It is not the amazingly-written book I’ve read, but the genre and style of story it is didn’t need it to be. It’s meant to be a collection on Watney’s thoughts as he logs his survival on Mars. This means it isn’t perfect English, there are jokes everywhere, he makes up names for people and things (kilowatt-hour per sol later becomes known as a ‘pirate-ninja’), and there are lots of short and jumbled sentences. It helps if you read it as if he was actually speaking it, which much easier if you’ve seen the movie.

“If ruining the only religious icon I have leaves me vulnerable to Martian vampires, I’ll have to risk it.”
― Andy WeirThe Martian

Sorry if all these quotes are annoying, I really love them all!! I had to narrow it down just for the review. Essentially, the best part was the continuous humour. Slightly unrealistic at times, but still, enough things went wrong that it still seemed plausible. It was a good, fun, easy read that I think everyone would enjoy. (although: language warning) To sum up, there were developed characters, who were all fun to read about, a thrilling story that had lots of ups and downs, it was very well researched, and the writing was light and easy. Also, did I mention, hilarious!!

“If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally hum
an that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.”
― Andy WeirThe Martian

Rating: star_rating_4_of_5

The Girl on the Train

Author: Paula Hawkinsthe-girl-on-the-train

Pages: 325

Genre: Thriller, contemporary, mystery, crime, fiction

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

So, I did intend to write this review a while ago, but time has really gotten away from me. Drowning in study and assignments at the moment, and writing this now, I’m sort of procrastinating. But anyway, I’ve got quite a few thoughts on The Girl on the Train. Let’s see, where to start…

I thought this sounded like an interesting idea when I got the gist of the storyline, and if were done well, I think it would have been really cool. But the writing was just really boring and clumsy that it took away from the story. It started off a little depressing and slow, and by the time the ‘exciting’ bit had begun, I was already turned away.

“I have lost control over everything, even the places in my head.”
― Paula HawkinsThe Girl on the Train

One thing I absolutely hated was the characters. There was literally nothing to like about them. Three women narrate this story, Rachel, Anna, and Megan, and it starts off with Rachel. Let’s just say she’s a very bad alcoholic. In some parts, I got the feeling that I might be able to feel sorry for her, as she did seem to have pretty rotten luck, but she was also the weakest person in the entire world at some points as well. It got very tiresome very quickly, when she just went back to drinking every time a problem arose. If she’d just stayed sober, maybe she would have figured it out a lot quicker… Just a slight feeling I’m getting….

Then there is Anna, who is just mean and generally un-likeable throughout the entire story. Not much else that is interesting about her. And then Megan. I thought she was okay at the start of the book, and she seemed like the only likeable character, but then as the book progressed, more things were brought up about her past, and what she did, and she ended up being just as bad as the other two. So, all the women are pretty lousy in my perspective, and I’m not sure the author wanted it this way or not. Maybe she planned for them all to be weak and unpleasant, but I would have appreciated it if there was at least one strong female.

“When did you become so weak?” I don’t know. I don’t know where that strength went, I don’t remember losing it. I think that over time it got chipped away, bit by bit, by life, by the living of it.”
― Paula HawkinsThe Girl on the Train

Despite all this ranting, I still think the storyline had a good idea and theme to it, and I wanted to know how it was going to end. Being a murder mystery, there are heaps of people saying they figured it out in the first 3 chapters and all that, but I’m actually terrible at that sort of thing. So, I can’t really say it was predictable. But, it wasn’t as much of a shock as I thought it might be, which led to it being quite weak in my opinion. And then everything after that was also a bit short and lacking as well. I feel like it needed more, because the answer was just revealed, and then it basically finished. No resolutions were made. The characters were all still boring. There was just no real development over the entire book. The characters were just going round and round in circles for most of it.

“I want to drag knives over my skin, just to feel something other than shame, but I’m not even brave enough for that”
― Paula HawkinsThe Girl on the Train

Alright, I’m done. I guess you got the picture that I didn’t really like this book. The only reason it would be OK is because the ending kept me guessing, although in the end, it wasn’t that much of a shock anyway. It’s sort of like the cheap reality TV shows, that have bad acting and the storyline is so boring because nothing ever happens. Yeah, I’m going to liken it to that. It’s watchable, but after a while, it does get tiresome.

Rating: star_rating_2_of_5

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

elegance of a hedgehog.jpgAuthor: Muriel Barbery (Translated into English by Alison Anderson)

Pages: 325

Genre: Realism, fiction, contemporary, french

We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Renée, the concierge, is witness to the lavish but vacuous lives of her numerous employers. Outwardly she conforms to every stereotype of the concierge: fat, cantankerous, addicted to television. Yet, unbeknownst to her employers, Renée is a cultured autodidact who adores art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With humor and intelligence she scrutinizes the lives of the building’s tenants, who for their part are barely aware of her existence.

Then there’s Paloma, a twelve-year-old genius. She is the daughter of a tedious parliamentarian, a talented and startlingly lucid child who has decided to end her life on the sixteenth of June, her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue behaving as everyone expects her to behave: a mediocre pre-teen high on adolescent subculture, a good but not an outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.

Paloma and Renée hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma’s trust and to see through Renée’s timeworn disguise to the secret that haunts her. This is a moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.

Thoughts: I’m pretty sure that was one of the only blurbs that almost exactly describes this book as it is. And I’m just going to start by saying, if you are put off by it, and think that it sounds a little too philosophical to your liking, then you are correct. It is very wordy, and complex, but that’s sort of why I liked it.

First off we are introduced to Renée Michel, who turns out to be lovely, if a bit on the shy side, 54 year old concierge. She is more than she seems, and is very good at hiding all her emotions behind the stereotypical, old, concierge mask that she’s had years of mastering.

“Personally I think that grammar is a way to attain beauty.”
― Muriel BarberyThe Elegance of the Hedgehog

Our other main character is Paloma Josse, a 12-year old, super-intelligent girl, who hides her intelligence to fit in. She lives on the 5th floor of the apartment Renée is the concierge of, and thinks the rest of her family are snobs. Paloma, on her thirteenth birthday, unless she can find something worth living for, beyond the “vacuousness of bourgeois existence” is going to set fire to the apartment, and in the process, commit suicide.

“We think we can make honey without sharing in the fate of bees, but we are in truth nothing but poor bees, destined to accomplish our task and then die.”
― Muriel BarberyThe Elegance of the Hedgehog

Now, it sounds a bit morbid, but right from the start, you get the typical French novel feel, with all of its little quirky aspects. The version I read was translated into English, from French, so there were a couple of things that seemed a little confusing, as you get when reading translated copies. But the language used in almost every sentence, was amazing. It reminded me of the way Markus Zusak writes, in both The Book Thief, and The Messenger, almost like every sentence has a double meaning. Literally every sentence seemed like it had taken a week to be crafted into a beautiful quote, and while this did get a bit tiring after a while, it absolutely matched the feel of the rest of the story.

Just as teardrops, when they are large and round and compassionate, can leave a long strand washed clean of discord, the summer rain as it washes away the motionless dust can bring to a person’s soul something like endless breathing.”
― Muriel BarberyThe Elegance of the Hedgehog

My favourite part of the book is when the third main character is introduced, which isn’t until about a third of the way through. Up until then, it was actually a bit hard to read the book in large chunks because nothing was really happening. We were gaining insights into the background of Renée and Paloma, and it wasn’t too exciting. The arrival of Kakuro Ozu really set the motion going. Ozu is a wealthy Japanese businessman, who moves into 7 Rue de Grenelle, the apartment both Paloma and Renée live in. He is the only person to connect with Paloma, and see through Renée’s clever mask, and in this way brings all three characters together.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog also discusses some really major themes and messages. For starters there’s the philosophy mentioned pretty regularly, and then all the other cultural aspects that both Renée and Paloma share an interest in. The author, Muriel Barbery, crafted and added these characters because they like, enjoy and represent the things that she liked and enjoyed. She expressed herself in this book, through her characters. The novel also mentions and involves social class, especially between the rich families that live in the apartment, and the not-so privileged concierge, Madame Michel (Renée). This also appears again regarding Manuela, who is a Portuguese cleaner. She is also Renée’s only real friend for a lot of the book.

“Madame Michel has the elegance of the hedgehog: on the outside she is covered in quills, a real fortress, but my gut feeling is that on the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary–and terrible elegant. ”
― Muriel BarberyThe Elegance of the Hedgehog

So, as you can see, even if it isn’t the typical intro-climax-resolution style book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog still incorporates important issues and themes which I think is what makes the story special. It could be about a normal French concierge, and how her life revolves around all the rich families who live above her in the apartment, but there’s nothing special about that. Nothing that makes me want to read it.

I’m not going to comment on the ending, only going to warn you that it is a sad book, but at the same time beautiful (isn’t it always the way?). The addition of Ozu makes everything better in the story, and makes it more enjoyable to read. I think, because of the language used, it feels like a very powerful book, right up until the last page.

“For the first time in my life I understood the meaning of the word ‘never’. And it’s really awful. You say the word a hundred times a day but you don’t really know what you’re saying until you’re faced with a real ‘never again’.”
― Muriel BarberyThe Elegance of the Hedgehog

Why you should read it: Because it is a fantastically well written story, that features great themes. If you like literature, philosophy, or anything French, then I reckon you’ll like this book. I think it fits perfectly into the same category of the movie Amelié for whoever has seen that.

Rating: star_rating_4-5_of_5

I am the Messenger – Markus Zusak

Author: Markus Zusakthe-messenger.jpg

Pages: 360

Genre: Young Adult, fiction, mystery, contemporary

 protect the diamonds
survive the clubs
dig deep through the spades
feel the hearts

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He’s pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.
That’s when the first ace arrives in the mail.
That’s when Ed becomes the messenger.
Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?

Thoughts: I loved this book so much!! The blurb does not do it justice! (also, can I just say that I love the cover!!! It’s awesome and makes so much sense once you read it) I cannot explain how much I love Markus Zusak’s writing, and after reading both The Book Thief and now The Messenger I have fallen in love with both of them. The Messenger or I am the Messenger is a beautiful novel following Ed Kennedy, as he brings messages to people who need them, whether they be positive or negative. He watches people’s lives and basically narrates this book, telling us about their problems, and how he relates to them. He then thinks of creative ways to be able to improve their lives.

“Sometimes people are beautiful.
Not in looks.
Not in what they say.
Just in what they are.”
― Markus ZusakI Am the Messenger

While doing these things, Ed also has his own problems, and the way he narrates his story, and what happens to him both physically and mentally is amazing. The characters, the way they interact and what Ed sees, is all brought together by his first-person, sometimes-broken script, which makes it even more dramatic and exciting.

“Maybe I truly am shedding the old Ed Kennedy for this new person who’s full of purpose rather than incompetence.

Maybe one morning I’ll wake up and step outside of myself to look back at the old me lying dead among the sheets.”― Markus Zusak, I Am the Messenger

This is a book of riddles for Ed to figure out, and with each instruction, he feels better about himself, as if he is becoming more of a participant in life. And through him, we know what it feels like, because of the brilliant way in which Zusak creates his story. Ed meets a lot of people during his adventures, but somehow they don’t overpower and ruin the touching story. Then to finish it all off, it rounds back to the main four characters, which reinforces their importance.

“We both smack the sudden silence with laughter. When it returns, we hit it again.

The laughter spins in front of us and we keep hitting it.”
― Markus ZusakI Am the Messenger

I can’t really explain anything else. Mainly, I love it because of how its written, but I also love the characters and the idea of the story and how it connects with me and… I think you get the picture. It’s the sort of book you can enjoy while reading, but also makes you think and can change your life, which is what I also found when I read The Book Thief.

The Messenger made me laugh out loud, but also cry, which I why I believe it is a book with raw emotions coming from it. I don’t know whether I would read it again, but it is still deserving of 5 stars, and is definitely a favourite of mine.

“Why can’t the world hear? I ask myself. Within a few moments I ask it many times. Because it doesn’t care, I finally answer, and I know I’m right. ― Markus ZusakI Am the Messenger

Why should you read it: First, if you love The Book Thief, then of course I recommend. It’s a very touching book that really got to me, and I hope it does for other people too. Comment your thoughts, and we can see what other people think of what, I believe, is an amazing novel.

Rating: 5-start



Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

Title: Me before You

Author: Jojo MoyesMe-Before-You

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, realistic

Thoughts: Me Before You sales have rocketed since the release of the very first trailer of the movie. Evidently, the well thought through story line of the book was there, but the fame wasn’t. Once everyone actually knew what it was, and what it was about, people suddenly needed to read it. Having seen the movie first definitely made a difference in reading it. And this is one of those few books that is actually better as a movie I think. Now this does not mean that the book is terrible and should not be read – I love it, and think it was an amazing book – but on the screen, the emotions can come through a lot easier and you get a better sense of what is actually happening – which for me, meant more crying.

But, this is not a movie review, so let’s get back to the book. One of the things that makes this particular book interesting is how well it describes all the character’s lives. Not everyone – fortunately – has to live with a disability, especially one as major as a quadriplegic, and the mental capability that everyone has to have is impressive. And Moyes displays this feeling very well. Not perfectly, but very, very well. For example, Will’s (one of the two main character’s) Mother. As you can expect, Mrs Traynor is under a lot of stress, and really doesn’t know what to do with her life anymore. She is coping, but just barely. Other books/authors might have made her seem like some superwoman, steaming on ahead, but I don’t think that’s very realistic. I believe that Mrs Traynor is still her own type of superwoman, through moving on with her life after this tragedy struck her family.

“You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.”
― Jojo MoyesMe Before You

Another thing that I enjoyed while reading was how personalised all the characters were. Louisa Clarke, the main character, has a very outgoing personality, and is always positive. This makes it a huge shock, and makes it seem even more important when she hears bad news, and is suddenly very, very pessimistic… Will Traynor, the quadriplegic Lou has to care for, is sarcastic and witty all the time. I enjoyed his comments immensely throughout the book. Moyes has contrasted his entertaining humor with a specific part in the book where it is impossible to be witty. This makes it obvious that he is in trouble, and is a long way from being okay. The nurse, Nathan, that looks after Will in the more scientific ways, also acts very much like a nurse, and I enjoyed one part where he has to explain something that’s going on, and struggles to talk in not-scientific language.

Another point that I really, really liked was Lou’s sense of fashion. I love that Moyes put the detail of describing her outfits, and that people in the book comment on them.

“Push yourself. Don’t Settle. Just live well. Just LIVE.”
― Jojo MoyesMe Before You

This is also one of the books that does multiple points of view. Most of the book is from Louisa’s, but a few times it is from Mrs Traynor, Mr Traynor (Will’s mother and father) and Nathan’s. Although, I do think that these parts were important, and it was probably a good thing to hear other people’s perspective on what was happening, but while reading these parts, I really just wanted the chapter to end so I could get back to Louisa’s.

“The thing about being catapulted into a whole new life–or at least, shoved up so hard against someone else’s life that you might as well have your face pressed against their window–is that it forces you to rethink your idea of who you are. Or how you might seem to other people.”
― Jojo MoyesMe Before You

But let’s not end on a negative. There’s no doubt about it, this book was great. I really enjoyed reading it, although it was sad. When I finished reading it, I thought it was the end, but I’ve now discovered there is a sequel, After You. I liked the ending of Me before You, even though it was sad and I didn’t want it to end like that, because I thought it finalised everything and brought everything to a point, so I’m not sure whether I will read the next one. But definitely read Me before you, even if you have seen the movie. They are both awesome.

Why should you read it: Again, this was a sad book, that ended with me crying, but I like books like that. It also has a nice storyline, that builds up the stress levels the entire way, right until the end. And of course, I love Lou’s sense of fashion, and really enjoyed reading and imagining her clothes. (the movie helped with this)

Book in a word: Heartbreaking (not in a bad way)

Rating: 8½/10

My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult

Title: My Sister’s Keepermy sisters keeper

Author: Jodi Picoult

Genre: Young adult, realistic fiction, contemporary

Thoughts: I was first introduced to this book by one of my friends, who had read it and loved it. I decided I would like to read it, but first, I actually watched the movie. It was really good, talking about, and explaining ethics and morals. It had a very deep meaning. And I think watching the movie helped me understand parts of the book better as well, as I kind of knew what was going on already. If I had just read it first, I think I would have been a bit confused, not because I didn’t understand what was happening, just because of the complicated plot-line and characters. So many thoughts going on in everyone’s heads and each chapter changes point-of-view, so it would have been a bit hard to keep up.

If anyone has seen the My Sister’s Keeper Movie, and think that you don’t need to read the book now, you’ve made a mistake. The movie is very good, and does an amazing job of conveying the emotions and thoughts, but the book is actually completely different. I won’t spoil the ending, but the movie has done a whole new take on it. You should definitely take the time to read the book, and hear the different ending. I also think that books convey a lot more that movies.

Basically the plot-line of My Sister’s Keeper is about one family. There’s Sara (Mum), who stays home, and Brian (Dad), who’s a firefighter, then oldest child, Jesse, and his two sisters Kate and Anna. Kate was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia when she was two, and the only way for her to survive was for Sara and Brian to conceive another child, genetically engineered to be an organ match for Kate. This way, whenever Kate needed blood, or a Kidney, Anna (the genetically matched child) had a matching one. For 13 years, Anna donates blood, bone marrow, tissue, and organs to her sister, so that Kate can live, until she makes her decision. She is tired of being used, even if it is the only way her sister can survive. So she files a lawsuit against her parents, to stop being Kate’s donor. She wants to own her own body. Also throughout the story, Jesse tells his point of view of being part of this family, always being left out, and forgotten. All the characters in this book seem so real. They do what, I think, any family would do if they were in that situation.

“If you have a sister and she dies, do you stop saying you have one? Or are you always a sister, even when the other half of the equation is gone?”
― Jodi PicoultMy Sister’s Keeper

So told from multiple points of view, this book looks at what it means to be a good sister, a good brother, a good mother, a good family. Is it morally and ethically correct to do whatever it takes to save one child’s life, even if it means taking from another?Is it morally correct for a five year old to be held down so that doctors can draw blood, so that her sister can live? These are the types of questions, that don’t really get answered, but are examined and investigated. It is heartbreaking to read about this family going through all of this stress ad trouble, and you know that they can never really escape it either. Every decision they make, means good for one person, but bad for another.

“Sometimes to get what you want the most, you have to do what you want the least.”
― Jodi PicoultMy Sister’s Keeper

The writing style in My Sister’s Keeper is also interesting. It was almost as if the characters are talking to you, the reader. I don’t think there is anything I dislike about this book, except maybe the ending. I’m not sure if I like it or not. It was very surprising, and I think Picoult added it in, to show that even though this family has been though so much, even though, one child is dying from cancer, the other taking her parent to court and the other starting fires in warehouses, that it doesn’t matter to the rest of the world. The Earth keeps turning, people keep moving. (I’m trying very hard to not spoil the ending, but once you read it, you’ll understand.) Even though bad things happen to some families, more bad things can keep happening to them. They don’t spread out across the world.

It took my longer than usual to read, because of the complicated characters, thoughts and emotions. Then there’s also me trying to make up my mind, whether Anna should or shouldn’t own the rights to her own body as well. But if this book didn’t have all of this, it wouldn’t have held the same meaning.

“See, as much as you want to hold on to the bitter sore memory that someone has left this world, you are still in it”
― Jodi PicoultMy Sister’s Keeper

Why should you read this book: Definitely read this book if you enjoy thinking about morals and ethics. This book’s all about them. It made me cry, so if you like reading sad books, then this is also for you. Even if you have seen the movie, don’t think it spoiled the ending of the book. They are two completely different endings, with nothing to do with each other. I don’t think anyone will guess how the book ends; it surprised me greatly!!

Book in a word: powerful

Rating: 9/10

Bird – Crystal Chan

Title: BirdBird

Author: Crystal Chan

Genre: Young adult, realistic fiction, fiction


“Grandpa stopped speaking the day he killed my brother, John.”
— Crystal Chan (Bird)

From the first line of this book, I was intrigued. I wanted to know more, for example how John, whose nickname is Bird, came in; how Grandpa stopped talking. And most of all, how the family was now coping with the death of their son and brother.
When I was recommended this book by a couple of my friends, I was warned it was sad. But oh, how the tears streamed down my face. Bird turned out to be a short novel from the perspective of Jewel, a 12-year-old girl, whose brother died the day she was born. Her whole life, she has grown up in Bird’s shadow. He mum never smiles anymore, not really. Her Grandpa doesn’t speak at all. She tries to impress and please her family, but she feels that she will never escape Bird’s shadow. Jewel even begins to hate her own birthday, because the rest of her family begins to mourn Bird again (her birthday is the anniversary of his death). She is sure that his shadow will haunt them forever, when she meets a boy in a tree who is also named John. Over the course of this book, secrets come out, and Jewel and her new friend discover her identity, and try to escape Bird’s shadow.

“Who were these people? Where was all this joy, and where does joy go when it leaves your family? Does it go into someone else’s family, soak into the earth, or does it dissolve away like your breath in the winter? And if it doesn’t leave like this, then why isn’t there any left for me?”
— Crystal Chan (Bird)

I absolutely adored this book! The characters were great, the storyline was interesting, and the style of writing was amazing. Crystal Chan uses a different style of writing than some authors, but I definitely loved it. I thought it was similar to The Book Thief’s style.

“It’s almost as if we’re afraid of words. They hang in the air, unspoken, and then seeing that they’re not going to be used, they shrivel and die.”
— Crystal Chan (Bird)

I read Bird in a day, and I believe that may be the reason that I cried so much. I devoured it so quickly that the story didn’t have time to completely sink in, I just kept reading and reading, and absorbing the story. Other people I know who have read this book said that it was amazing and definitely sad, but it seemed to me that every new page I read, more tears streamed down my face. But it wasn’t a depressing type of tear. Quite a bit of the book was happy, and I literally had happy tears, but there was a bit of sad tears involved as well

“I don’t like crying in front of people because it shows them the holes that you have on the inside. I guess with all the crying I’d been doing lately, I had more holes than I thought.”
— Crystal Chan (Bird)

I recommend this book to teens and older, and definitely to lovers of sad books. If you like John Green books, it has the same contemporary writing style, and if you like John Boyne books (The boy in the striped Pyjamas, Stay where you are and then leave) then you should like this book as well.

Looking back now, I realise that I probably would have understood and absorbed this book better, if I read it a little slower, but at the time, I couldn’t stop reading it. I am very thankful to the friends who recommended it to me, for if they didn’t, I never would have found or read it.

The only thing that lets Bird down is the slow pace. I usually can’t stand slow books, and I just get bored and put them away. But this book had so many mysteries, and I connected with the characters that I couldn’t leave them. I think that if it was quicker, then I wouldn’t have connected and understood it as much, and it would have lost a bit of meaning. Again, this is kind of like The Book Thief.

Why should you read it: Like I said earlier, if you like books that make you cry, then you should like this one. Also for readers of the contemporary, realism style like John Green novels.

Book in a word: Moving

Rating: 9½/10