Sunday, December 29, 2013

"The Housekeeper & the Professor" by Yoko Ogawa

This book was recommended to me by the same friend who also recommended "The Rosie Project", "The Book Thief" and "The Boy with the Striped Pyjamas" - all of which I have loved! So I had fingers crossed this would be another wonderful book.

According to wikipedia "The story centers around a mathematician, "the Professor," who suffered brain damage in a traffic accident in 1975 and since then can produce only 80 minutes' worth of memories, and his interactions with a housekeeper (the narrator) and her son "Root" as the Professor shares the beauty of equations with them."

This book was recommended to me by Shelley, who also recommended the Book Thief, the Rosie Project, and the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - all of which I have loved.

I'm not quite sure why I loved this book so much. It is not action packed, no big dramas take place, nothing much actually "happens" in it. If I try to describe it, I'm sure it will sound dull. But it's not. It's very different to many other books I've read. It is written by a Japanese author and translated into English..I think it's the first book by a Japanese author I have consciously read. It's also quite short, so if you are unsure whether to read it or not, you might as well take a chance.
Anyone who knows me knows I struggle with maths (despite being a scientist), it is not one of my strong points and it doesn't interest me...I prefer to give the maths issues to people who have talent in that area. Sometimes I am forced to use maths as a tool, but it is not beautiful. However, reading this book ignited a tiny spark about how cool and beautiful maths can be. I was fascinated by the excitement and beauty of some of the maths puzzles brought up in the book, and the way the beauty of maths and human love evolved and existed between the Professor, the housekeeper and her son and that it has no pretentiousness and is simply wonderful. It is sad and uplifting. It's not exciting, but I think if you read it you will have a new perception of another aspect of life which you might not have otherwise. At least that's what I felt.

Started reading on my kindle: 30th December 2013
Finished: 5th January 2013
My score: 8.5/10

Friday, December 27, 2013

"The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" by John Boyne

A very sad and very powerful story of the Nazi concentration camps, told with a simplicity and innocence that reminded me of "the little prince". Unforgettable. It's hard to know what else to say about this book, but it's definitely now in the list of "must read" books when people ask me for recommendations. I think the book could be described as a fable and although it is written as a children's story and from the point of view of a 9-year old boy, it definitely covers some very challenging/disturbing/important moral issues at it's heart. I guess that's what reminds me of "the little prince" or perhaps even "the Alchemist". It tells the (possibly implausible) tale of two 9-year old boys on opposite sides of the fence at 'Out With' (alternative name for Auschwitz concentration camp) who become friends, despite one being the privileged German son of the Commandant of the camp, and the other being a Jewish boy from Poland who is imprisoned in the camp. I thoroughly recommend this book, although be warned it is not a happy book to read (obviously due to the topic) and you will probably need a box of tissues handy.

Started reading on my kindle: 27 Dec 2013
Finished: 30th December 2013.
My score 9.5/10.

"The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This book is an historical novel that was highly recommended to me by more than one person lately. It was written by an American author, Mary Ann Shaffer, but finished off by her niece Annie Barrows and published after Mary Ann's death. The title is quite long and curious, but don't let that put you off reading it. It is set during and in the aftermath of WW2, mainly in the Guernsey Channel island which is a small rural island that is part of the UK and was occupied by the Germans during the last World War. It is narrated mainly through a series of letters which is quite unusual, but very effective. You see the story through several characters eyes, and as they are told through personal letters you really form an attachment to the various characters as if they were people you actually know and care about. Many of the characters in the book share a love of books and the arts in various forms, and if you are a book-lover it is lovely to read and connect with characters with the same love. The details of what the war was like on the Channel islands was fascinating to me as I knew little of the history before reading this book. 

A lot of people recommended this book to me. I found that it reminded me a lot of another book I read this year - "War Brides" by Helen Bryan. So if you have read "the Guernsey Literary and potato peel pie society' and enjoyed it but haven't yet read "war brides" I think you might like it. I read "War Brides" earlier this year and my review can be found here.

Started reading "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" on my kindle: 24th December 2013 Finished: 27th December 2013
My score: 8.5/10

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Aussie Author Challenge 2014 Accepted!

I had so much fun and discovered so many great Australian authors and books this year through participating in the Aussie Author Challenge advertised on the Booklovers book review blog, so I have decided to sign up for the Challenge again in 2014!! :-)
I have chosen to attempt the hardest level of the Challenge - "Kangaroo" which involves:
 - Read and review 12 titles written by Australian Authors of which at least 4 of those authors are female, at least 4 of those authors are male, and at least 4 of those authors are new to you;
- At least 6 fiction and at least 2 non-fiction, and at least 3 titles first published in 2013 or 2014.

I can't wait to see what new Australian authors and books I will discover in 2014!!! :-)

"Mockingjay" by Suzanne Collins

"Mockingjay" is the final book of the Hunger Games trilogy. Overall I found the trilogy to be gripping and easy to read, and found them hard to put down. Some aspects of the books I found to be really novel and exciting, other aspects I found a bit disturbing as they don't seem so far fetched in light of some of the obsession with reality TV shows or the technology that is already here, and definitely the greedy, manipulative, corruption that is seen in politics around the world. However I was disappointed with the ending, and also found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with the main character Katniss as the trilogy unfolded. While this sounds like a bit of a negative review, I actually really recommend this trilogy, although the underlying vibe of the book is one of distopia for me. These books would be great to read on a series of long plane flights where you can get absorbed into the story and read them quickly one after the other.

Started reading on my kindle: 7th December 2013

Finished reading: 23rd December 2013 
My score: 8.5/10

"Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins

"Catching Fire" is the second book in the popular Hunger Games trilogy.
I started reading it on my kindle: 1st Dec 2013 and finished it: 7th Dec 2013
My score: 8/10 (not as good as the first book in the series as it was very slow to get into it, and then ended mid-story). Still very addictive though and I will be going on to read book 3 next! Once I finished reading "Catching Fire" I went to see the film version of it which is currently screening in cinemas in Adelaide at the moment. I must say that the film of "Catching Fire" is one of those rare movies where the film is equal to or even better than the book! Definitely recommend seeing it on a big screen if possible :-)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

"The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games is a very popular trilogy, and I am quite late in getting on the bandwagon. Lots of people have recommended these books to me as gripping, fast paced, easy/quick read. I must agree, I certainly found this first book in the series to be a great story, easy and fast to read, a mix of fantasy and dystopia and reality-tv-like scenarios...very addictive reading! I started reading it on my kindle: 27th Nov 2013 and finished: 1st December 2013. it's one of those books where you stay up way too late at night reading despite having work the next day as it's a page-turner. I'm going straight on to read the rest of the trilogy.
My score: 8.5/10