Book Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

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This novel was quite tough. I chose to read To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee from my Summer Reading List as my next literary journey. As you can see, this book was well-loved by it’s previous owners, and I bought it from a charity book fair earlier this year. This was my first time reading it though, for some reason my school’s syllabus didn’t include this as prescribed reading. I’m stalling. I know. There’s just so much to say about this Pulitzer winning novel – I don’t really know exactly what to say.

It’s a story of love, family and friendship set in the South of the US in the 1930’s. It’s about the relationship between siblings, and how that friendship changes as one sibling seemingly grows up faster than the other. And about how even though the nature of the sibling friendship changes, the bond remains. It’s about the childlike exploration of the imagination by storytelling. Conjuring up fantasies and demons alike in the mind, all in the name of playing pretend. It’s a beautiful story of the love of a father for his children – and how raising them unconventionally would affect them for years to come. How neighbours help to love and raise these children. It’s about how a young girl can be a rough and tumble little tomboy – but be so adored by the people around her – even capturing the heart of a boy who (I think), would love her until the day she died.

More than that though, it is a story that shows the reader how cruel human nature is. Unflinchingly, the author takes us through the injustices of the automatic judgment passed onto people who are different than ourselves, and the consequences of these judgments. It deals with class. The automatic banding together when others are different than our own class. It also, very humblingly, shows the reader how absurd this bigotry is. The distinction between race, class, occupation or even heritage are redundant when one chooses to look at the person behind these labels, and reveal their true nature and humanity – good or bad.

As always – I am trying not to reveal too much… I can tell you that through the narration of Scout Finch, she tells us the tale of her life. The good, the bad, the heartbreaking and the moments of pure joy. I understood how they were raised by her mannerisms, her attitudes and her actions during what was arguably the toughest, most trying time in their family’s lives. All throughout the novel, I had this complete feeling of foreshadowing – pressing on my heart. And when I couldn’t hold it anymore, I found out. And I wept. The author so very cunningly made me a part of Scout’s story that I couldn’t understand the feelings I was feeling until the very end.

It is an excellent read – but really not a lighthearted novel. I feel enriched as a human being for reading it.

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Book Review: Invisible Monsters

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Continuing on my Summer Reading List, I read Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk. I actually finished it two weeks ago, but I’ve been having the hardest time formulating my thoughts to review this novel. Which, I guess, is a reflection of the novel itself. It is an intensely disturbing yet captivating story. I read in in two days or so, yet I found myself speechless by the end of it. I tried to explain the story to my beau, but it left me (and him) even more confused and dazed.

The novel is based around self-loathing models and secretive, boisterous drag queens, on a cross-country road trip trying to find themselves while scamming innocent random bystanders to fuel their addictions. It is a sad, violent, disgusting, profound story, and it surely will make you think. It is a bit hard to read, like a Schizophrenic with ADD trying to tell you story. It jumps around quite a bit, and interrupts itself many times, playing off like a film of the mind.

The themes of the novel however, are relevant to every reader. Attention – the desperation to get it, the anguish of not wanting it; self-loathing; jealousy; hatred mixed with love and the blurry lines in between; addiction; self-mutilation; struggling with identity; the sham that very often is veiled as family values and the constant search for meaning and acceptance.

It is a rollercoaster ride of anguish, disgust, sadness and absurdity so intense – it becomes funny. If you can stick to it, you’ll find an amazing plot twist, and you’ll be sucker punched by the culmination of the novel. It assaults your mind like few novels can.

There was a profound quote in the book that has stuck with me: “When we don’t know who to hate, we hate ourselves.” I find it very accurate, completely true and utterly crushing.

Next up on the list is To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Now go, get your geek on and read a book!

Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars

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As promised, I am working through a reading list, and will be reviewing them as I read them. I’m starting this little project with all the can-do attitude I have, and I hope (very sincerely and earnestly), that I’ll finish this project. I don’t want to let too much time lapse between each book on the list, because I’m afraid I might get demotivated. However, sometimes after a good book, you suffer from a Book Hangover. That’s when you need some time to recover from the literary world you have just left.

I am not ashamed to admit that even though I am in my late twenties, I have read quite a few Young Adult books. They often deal with the same themes as “serious” books, but they are easy to read. And sometimes, all you want is a book that doesn’t give you a headache. And that’s okay. The first book that I read, was The Fault In Our Stars by John Greene. Even though The Fault In Our Stars is technically a Young Adult novel, I really do feel like any person could enjoy it, and all of us could learn something from it.

What an emotional rollercoaster. Gosh, I was crying throughout the book, in various levels of intensity of the “ugly cry”. This is not a book to read if you’re looking for a lighthearted and fun read. It’s a serious read, even though it’s not long.

The two main characters in the book are Hazel and Augustus. They both are living through the tragedy that is adolescent cancer. Both are teenagers, trying to get by in a world where they kind of feel like outsiders. She is an amazingly geeky and intelligent girl, but is very insecure about her role in her family and social circle, wary of being a burden. She shuts herself out from the act of “living life”. Augustus is the typical American jock boy. He’s fun, energetic, dreamy and positive. Regardless of the struggles he has had to endure, he keeps himself strong. Their paths cross, and that’s where the story really begins.

I am weary to give away too much, which is what I normally do when I tell my beau about whatever book I’m reading. I end up giving him a complete recount of the book, cliffhangers and dramatic revelations and all.

I will say this about the book though. The pair fall in love. They get to travel. And as far as I am concerned, the author got the imagery of their travels spot on. I have been where they go (again, I don’t want to say too much, as it is an integral part of the story) and I can tell you, if you read it, that is EXACTLY what it looks like, sounds like, smells like. A tip of my pen to the author.

There are many themes in this book, all of which everyone can relate to, whether you have had to experience cancer on some level or not. There is love. New, uncertain, clumsy, messy first love. Familial love and the blurred lines of duty and guilt and love in family life. There is heartache and heartbreak. Isolation plays a big role in Hazel’s life, of her own doing as well as the nature of society. It’s interesting to see how she deals with that. There’s also obviously a running theme of mortality and religion, how they’re intertwined, and how the characters deal with each of these issues.

It is a heart wrenching story, from which I have learnt a very valuable lesson that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. We’re taught by society that showing pain and dealing with it where people can see is unacceptable. There’s a reason “Get over it” is so popular. Because people don’t like to deal with uncomfortable situations. What I’ve learnt is this: You can take the time you need to deal with whatever life throws at you in your own time. It is your life. You deserve to have a happy soul. And if that means that you’re “still” crying over that thing, so be it. That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.

So feel it.