Sunday, June 28, 2009

Thought-Provoking for Teenagers... and adults

I've recently read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, given to me as a proof by Mary and had to put up a post about it...

I found it quite shocking really but raced through it and couldn't take my eyes off the page, it's a must read for enlightened teenagers and adults.

The book is told from the perspective of Clay, a teenage boy in an ordinary American town. Everything about life for Clay is quite ordinary, even despite the tragic and shocking suicide of one his schoolmates, until he receives a box of tapes in the mail. As he begins to listen to them he realise the tapes were made by Hannah Baker, now dead, the girl who had committed suicide the precious week.

In the tapes she catalogues the thirteen reasons why she committed suicide and instructions for the tapes to be passed on to the thirteen people who, she claims, were part of her momentous and irreversible decision. As Clay listens to her words he finds he is one of those people and he also discovers the names of the other 12.

I won't tell too much more about the story, I would urge you to read it. It is a powerful tale and completely engrossing. Kids in America seem to be responding very positively to this book and from reading it learning to recognise the power of their actions on others and maybe it can have a really positive effect on young people reading this book and make them understand that their actions can have very serious consequences.

However, what troubled me about the whole thing is the idea proposed by the book, that other people can be responsible for someone's decision to take their own life. I feel that this is the wrong message to send out. Suicide, whether in teenagers or adults, is a very personal and tragic decision and the proposition of this book - that the suicide of one person can be attributed to the actions of another - is a dangerous one. Suicide is such a complicated and serious issue and to espouse a theory that a person's decision to end their life can lie at the door of other people's actions demeans everything involved in this terrible issue and has heart-breaking connotations for those left behind.

It is a very strong, shocking and unique book and teenagers who have read it are raving about it so I would highly recommend you do read it, see what you think and post a comment here and let us know your thoughts...
There's a website devoted to the book worth checking out:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sweeping Up Glass-Carolyn Wall

Olivia Harker grew up in brutally segregated Depression-era Kentucky, the proud and willful child of an adored father and a disturbed and vindictive mother. Left to her own devices, her black neighbours became her friends and playmates; their parents her guardian angels. Now running a ramshackle grocery store with her beloved grandson and her difficult widowed mother, Olivia has no idea of the long shadow cast by events of her childhood.

When she finally becomes party to a decades-old mystery, she must get to grips with past betrayals before fighting to save her family, her community and her life. Carolyn D Wall has a strong, fresh narrative voice that doesn't let go - this is a deeply involving story that demands to be read in one sitting

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao -
Really enjoyed the book but found the footnotes extremely distracting from the gripping nature of the narrative.

Book Club - Our Choice

So out of the two books I reviewed in my previous blog, the book club decided to begin with reading 'The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao' by Junot Diaz. As it is this year's winner of the Pultizer we thought why not give it a go!
I am only a few chapters in so far but I'm already captured by the story and the style of writing, which I am finding quite unique. We've only really encountered Oscar so far and are being told of his plight, having been a handsome young boy popular with the ladies and full of domincan 'machismo' Oscar has grown steadily in to a totally charmless, overweight nerd who has about as much charsima with the girls as a slug. And poor Oscar is a hopeless romantic to boot, falling in love at every hands turn. Its bad enough being a gormless unattractive teenager at the best of times but to be a dominican male, supposed to exude mojo and swat off the ladies, and be failing, is unbareable! I can't wait to see what happens to Oscar next. Alongside the narrative is a series of very interesting if somewhat distracting footnotes. These give the reader an outline of the history and folklore of the Dominican Republic. I am finding these asides very interesting but I'm still unsure if I will be happy to leave the story to read them in the coming chapters......... I wonder how the others in the bookclub are finding it so far???

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sweeping up Glass by Carolyn Wall

"Sweeping Up Glass" is set the American South during the depression. It is about segregation and how a lonely girl becomes friends with her black friends.

IMPAC Winner

Michael Thomas won the IMPAC Award with his novel "Man gone down". Personally I didnt think much of the book, the main charachter is quite engaging but the story meandered like James Joyce. Other titles on the list were much better for example "The Burnt Out Town of Miracles" by Roy Jacobsen. Here is the link

Monday, June 8, 2009

Orange Prize:"Home" by Marilynne Robinson

"Home" by Marilynne Robinson won the Orange prize for fiction this week. The Orange Prize is really prestigious and is the most prominant prize for female writers of fiction.

Now comes HOME, a deeply affecting novel that takes place in the same period and same Iowa town of Gilead. This is Jack's story. Jack - prodigal son of the Boughton family, godson and namesake of John Ames, gone twenty years - has come home looking for refuge and to try to make peace with a past littered with trouble and pain. A bad boy from childhood, an alcoholic who cannot hold down a job, Jack is perpetually at odds with his surroundings and with his traditionalist father, though he remains Boughton's most beloved child. His sister Glory has also returned to Gilead, fleeing her own mistakes, to care for their dying father.

Check out this link:

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Book Club begins.....

Following the way of thousands of other avid readers out there, my friends and I have decided to set up a book club of our own! Still in its formative stages as yet we are struggling to choose our first title. So far it's a toss up between 'Home' by Marilynne Robinson(winner of the Pulitzer Prize for 'Gilead') and 'The Brief Wonderous life of Oscar Wao' by Junot Diaz.
'Home' is the story of Jack Boughton, a prodigal son returning home. A man who is an alcoholic, can't hold down a job and has a love hate relationship with his father. His father is a staunch traditionalist who both strongly disapproves of and fiercely loves his son at the same time. Throw in to the mix the homecoming of Jack's sister, Glory who has equally made a shambles of her life and the fact that their father is dying and you've got a very moving book all about family life, death, love and faith.....I can't wait to get reading!
'The Brief Wonderous life of Oscar Wao' ,which won this years Puliter Prize for Fiction, is a very different kettle of fish. It tells the story of a boy called Oscar, described as a 'ghetto nerd', Oscar lives in New Jersey with his Dominican-American family. He is grossly over weight, keeps falling head over heels in love and dreams of being the next Tolkien. Now picture Oscar's sister Lola, a punk who wants to run away and his over bearing mother Beli, who has her own stories to tell and we have a family truely worth reading about! The book brings us through generations of the family and accross continents telling us of his mother Beli's past in the Dominican Republic and Oscar's present day dreams and struggles to fit in in suburban america.The book promises to be undoubtedly funny, full of energy and unforgettable...we shall see..
I'm off to present both my choices to the others in the group and will continue my blog with details of our choice, why we made it and of course our impressions of the book we read.