Book Review: Hiroshima by John Hersey

Hiroshima

So i’ve made it to book 20 (only 30 left to go!) in my Goodreads Reading Challenge.  My latest review is of Hiroshima by John Hersey.

‘The room was filled with a blinding light. She was paralysed by fear, fixed still in her chair for a long moment. Everything fell.’

2015 is the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima, when, on 6 August at 8.15am, an atomic bomb was dropped over the Japanese city, killing one hundred thousand men, women and children in its white fury. John Hersey’s spare, devastating report on the attack was first published in the New Yorker in 1946. Written in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, it chronicles what happened through the eyes of six civilians who survived against the odds. It is a classic piece of journalism, and a defining moment of the nuclear age.’ (Thanks Amazon)

So for the first time this year, i’ve chosen a non-fiction book to read as part of my reading challenge, and what a hard hitting, amazing piece of writing I chose.  This should be vital reading for all, not just lovers of History (we all know I love a bit of WWII history, whether it be fact or fiction).  In fact I truly believe all budding scientists should be made to read this important piece of journalism.  Our advances in technology are mind boggling, particularly, if like me, you are not scientific in nature.  This essay really highlights what effect these technological advances can have.  The atomic bomb was hailed as one of the most important advances in science and warfare in the 20th century, however the aftermath for those innocent civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is horrifying.  John Hersey sought to bring clarity to the Allied countries as they celebrated their victory in bringing WWII to an end.  In an age where the news was only really accessible in newspapers, John Hersey wrote one of the most important articles of that time.  The New Yorker dedicated its entire issue on 31st August 1946 to his article, which follows six survivors in the aftermath of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.

Instead of celebrating the Allies victory, he showed the world the cost of that victory.  Innocent men, women and children killed or severely injured, whole families wiped out, homes and businesses lost with no warning of what was coming.  He showed the world that the war was not won by wiping out an army, but by wiping out two cities filled with innocent people.

‘in general, survivors that day assisted only their relatives or immediate neighbours, for they could not comprehend or tolerate a wider circle of misery.’ (Hiroshima)

Thankfully the world has not had to witness the use of atomic warfare since that fateful day in 1945.  However, given that 70 years has passed and technology has moved on considerably, this article could not be more important right now.  As tensions rise across the world, I think it is vital that people have an awareness of the consequences of any action they may take.  The world lives in fear of a war breaking out that includes atomic warfare; this article shows that the world is right to be fearful.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖 📖

Book Review: A Vintage Wedding by Katie Fforde

A Vintage Wedding

Book 18 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is A Vintage Wedding by Katie Fforde.

‘In a small Cotswold country town, Beth, Lindy and Rachel are looking for new beginnings.

So they set up in business, organising stylish and perfectly affordable vintage weddings.

Soon they are busy arranging other people’s Big Days.

What none of them know is that their own romances lie waiting, just around the corner…’ (Thanks Amazon!)

Beth, Lindy and Rachel are three very different women who are thrown together in the small village of Chippingford.

Beth has recently finished university, and finds herself in the village of Chippingford with the mammoth task of arranging her sisters wedding on a very small budget, whilst seeking some form of employment to enable her live more comfortably (and to stop accepting money from her Dad).

Lindy is a divorced mother of two, and a whizz on the sewing machine.  However, with a three and six year old, she has struggled making time to see friends and as a result has become quite lonely.

Rachel is a little older than Beth and Lindy, and definitely more cynical when it comes to matters of the heart.  She is efficient and organised in every way (useful, given that she is an accountant), with a touch of OCD thrown in for good measure.

Together the three of them form both a friendship and a business, as they create Vintage Weddings, not only to organise Beth’s sister Helena’s wedding but others too.  Like any good chick lit, we have some romance thrown in for good measure, as the girls get to know Angus, Raff and Finn.

As chick lits go, A Vintage Wedding has the right mix of love, friendship and drama.  It’s a great, easy read – perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon with a cheeky glass of wine!  Give it a go!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📗

Book Review: Lies by Michael Grant

Lies

We’ve made it to book 17 in my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge: Lies by Michael Grant.

‘It’s been seven months since all the adults disappeared. Gone. It happens in one night: a girl who died now walks among the living; Zil and the Human Crew set fire to Perdido Beach; and amid the flames and smoke, Sam sees the figure of the boy he fears the most: Drake. But Drake is dead—or so they thought.

Perdido Beach burns and battles rage: Astrid against the Town Council; the Human Crew versus the mutants; and Sam against Drake, who is back from the dead and ready to finish where he and Sam left off. They say that death is a way to escape the FAYZ, but are the kids of Perdido Beach desperate enough to believe that death will set them free?’ (Thanks Amazon!)

So I have once again returned to Michael Grants Gone series, for his third instalment, Lies.  This series follows a group of children after the disappearance of any over the age of 15 from their town.  As the realisation sets in that the adults will not be returning, these children have to fight to live as they battle hunger and then, each other.  Lies join these children seven months after the disappearance of the adults.  Hunger is rife as all the food is gone and they are forced to forage, hunt and grow their own in order to survive.  Children are dying, and ‘lies’ start to circulate this young community as the number of children with mutations grows, which scares many.  A rumour starts to spread that death will set these children free, returning them to their parents and the inaccessible outside world.  Death also creates fear however, as no one knows for sure what happens as those left behind are forced to bury the dead.

I am really enjoying this dystopian series, which is based around the really interesting concept of children being forced to care for themselves when they find themselves trapped inside the FAYZ.  It brings out both the best and the worst in the older children, as they fight for power, food, order and an understanding of what is happening to them as mutant powers emerge.  It also very clearly highlights how vulnerable younger children really are when they are left with no one to care for them, which to me just shows how vulnerable we are as a human race.  Children are forced to make grown up decisions without any life experience or knowledge of what the consequences of those decisions may be.  I would advise that this is read as part of the series rather than as a stand alone book, but do give the series a go.  The characterisation is great and the plot is gripping.  The stage has been set for Plague, book four in the series and I look forward to reading it!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📗

Guest Book Review: Heroes of Olympus: Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

So following the resounding success of his brothers blog, which culminated in Cressida Cowell reading it and sending him a little tweet, Ed has now decided that he too would like to contribute to my blog.  His latest read was Blood of Olympus from the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan.  Firstly, I cannot emphasise enough just how much Ed is enjoying Rick Riordans work.  He devoured the Percy Jackson series, loves the Heroes of Olympus and is planning on reading Magnus Chase.  He spends many a dinnertime teaching the entire family about mythology and Gods – I love how enthusiastic he is.  So, please enjoy his review.

Characters

The characters are Leo, Piper, Annabeth, Percy, Jason, Hazel and Frank.  I liked them all because they were dramatic, funny and crazy.  They all made the book good in their own way.

Plot

The plot is that Gaia plans to destroy the world.  She is the oldest Goddess and has been asleep for too many years.  Her children, the giants, plan to wake her but seven famous demigods stand in their way.

Your opinion

There wasn’t many scary bits but a lot of laughter.  I loved this book.  My favourite part was where Leo arrived at Ogygia for the second time when he face planted into the sand trying to make a heroic landing.

Recommend?

I would recommend this book to people who like small romance and huge comedy!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖 📖

Book Review: The Kicking The Bucket List by Cathy Hopkins

Book number 16 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is The Kicking The Bucket List by Cathy Hopkins.

‘Meet the daughters of Iris Parker. Dee; sensitive and big-hearted; Rose uptight and controlled and Fleur the reckless free spirit.
At the reading of their mother’s will, the three estranged women are aghast to discover that their inheritance comes with strings attached. If they are to inherit her wealth, they must spend a series of weekends together over the course of a year and carry out their mother’s ‘bucket list’.

But one year doesn’t seem like nearly enough time for them to move past the decades-old layers of squabbles and misunderstandings. Can they grow up for once and see that Iris’ bucket list was about so much more than money…’ (Thanks Amazon!)

So I have a list – a bucket list – as I assume most people do.  A list of things we’d like to do, see and achieve within our lifetime.  What I enjoyed about The Kicking The Bucket List was the unusual twist on this concept.  Iris Parker had created her list, but rather than creating it for herself she had created it for her estranged daughters in the event of her death.  In order to receive their inheritance they have to spend the months following her death completing the tasks that she sets for them.

Iris’ list comprises of activities designed to bring her daughters together following her death, something she had sadly failed to do in life.  This fact comes across as both tragic and endearing: the fact that even her death wouldn’t stop her trying to bring them back together.

I really enjoyed reading about Dee, Fleur and Rose.  They were far more complex characters than I had expected when I first started reading this novel, and their back stories made me realise just why they were the way that they were.  As you move through the novel you can see why they have drifted apart, but also why they need to come back together.

This really is a lovely story that explores both life and death without any morbidity.  It’s a story of family relationships, both past and present, and shows us why we really do need the love of those closest to us.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Guest Book Review: How To Train Your Dragon: How To Steal a Dragons Sword by Cressida Cowell

So today is a special day…my 10 year old son has agreed (ok he was bribed!) to write a book review!  He is currently working his way through Cressida Cowell’s series, How To Train A Dragon.  It has taken me to book 9 to convince him to do this, so here goes!

‘The story continues in the ninth volume of Hiccup’s How to Train Your Dragon memoirs.

Bad times have come to the Archipelago. Ever since the woods of Berserk burned down, it is almost as if the world is cursed. Dragons are starting to revolt against their Masters. The waters have risen, flooding fields and washing whole villages away. But worse still, the wicked witch Excellinor has returned. Can Hiccup find the King’s Things and win the sword-fighting contest to stop Alvin the Treacherous from becoming King of the Wilderwest?’ (Thanks Amazon!)

Firstly I should say that of my two sons, it has taken me a really long time to convince Bill that reading is great.  He’s still very picky about what he reads, but Cressida Cowell has really captured his imagination for which I am very grateful.  Enjoy his review, all his own words!

Characters

The main characters in this book are Hiccup, Camacazi and Fishlegs.  They are all quite skinny and thought of as nerds.  The villains are Alvin the Treacherous and the Witch Excellinor.

Plot

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third is about to become King of the Wilderwest, but his unpleasant cousin Snotlout threw a stone at his helmet revealing Hiccups biggest secret: the slave mark.  This causes everyone to turn their back on Hiccup, leaving him to fight for his place as King of the Wilderwest!

Your Opinion

I enjoyed the book as I thought it was quite extreme!

Recommend?

I would recommend this as I enjoyed it so other people might.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖 📗

Book Review: Six Months in Montana by Pamela Kelley

So book number 15 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is Six Months in Montana by Pamela Kelley.

‘Molly Bishop loves living in Manhattan and managing a boutique luxury hotel. She’s about to be promoted to her dream job of General Manager, the role she’s been striving for her entire career.

There’s only one thing standing in her way.

The will of her childhood friend, Christian Ford’s grandfather. She hasn’t even seen Christian in over ten years, but a recent run-in with his grandfather during a rare visit home, resulted in a new condition to the will. Christian will only inherit the ranch he’s been running and the real estate development business that he has expanded, if he marries Molly and stays married for at least six months.’ (Thanks Amazon!)

So this is a story about meddling family members if ever I saw one! Christian Ford’s grandfather seeks to push Christian into a more settled way of life as he creates a condition within his will, pushing Christian into an arranged marriage in order to inherit the ranch and business that he has worked so hard for.  Whilst his grandfather does not expect him to remain married, he does expect him to live as a married man for six months.  In addition to this stipulation within his will, Christian’s grandfather is very specific about who his grandson should marry: Molly Bishop.  Molly is a young woman with career aspirations in the hotel business.  In addition to this, she no longer lives in Beauville, Montana, her hometown.  Instead she lives in New York City, which she loves.

Christian and Molly, whom haven’t seen each other in over a decade, must work to find a way to coexist within a marriage that they find themselves part of.  This novel follows them as they navigate their way through the situation they find themselves in as they get to know each other all over again and they begin to assess what it is they are both looking for in life.

This is a really enjoyable, light read.  As previously mentioned, i’m really enjoying small town American novels at the moment and this is no exception – give it a try!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖

The Boy Who Lived. 20 Years On.

Harry Potter.  The Boy Who Lived.

In the last 20 years the literary world, particularly the world inhabited by avid children and teenager readers, has changed dramatically.  Whilst I don’t want to downplay amazing authors such as Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl (I honestly don’t think I can downplay them – they are awesome), J.K. Rowling opened up a new world of possibilities when she introduced Harry James Potter to the masses.

My 13 year old self was introduced to Harry Potter by my lovely English teacher, who was encouraging us to read all the books shortlisted for the Carnegie Award that year.  As an already enthusiastic reader, this was not a problem for me but i’m sure you can imagine some of the groans that were rumbling around that classroom.  That year however, those groans quickly disappeared as people argued over the copy of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone that was circulating the class.  At that age I was quick to devour any books that I could get my hands on (often having to be vetted by my parents as they weren’t always age appropriate!), and Harry Potter was no different.  Actually no, Harry Potter was different.  Harry, Ron and Hermione opened up a world like no other – one that I don’t think anyone expected.  From that point onwards I, like the many millions across the world, was hooked.  My (now) husband faithfully queued with me at midnight in 2005 and again in 2007 as I eagerly awaited the release of Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince and then Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, knowing full well that I would not be sleeping until I’d finished them (secretly he was glad, because he knew he’d get his hands on them the next day without having to admit that he wanted to read them too).

I’ve spent many years being a little uncool because I love to read (the year I read Dracula whilst on a girly holiday to Magaluf sticks in my mind), however J.K. Rowling introduced a world that everyone wants to be a part of.  I love books, and I love the fact that you can disappear into a different world, if only for a short time.  Very few books however remain with you for quite as long as these seven books have.  For me, Harry Potter was part of my teenage years and early twenties.  What amazes me however, is that their longevity has meant that they continue to mean something, even now, 20 years on.  My 10 year old son has his copy of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone ready to read (once he’s finished the Percy Jackson series, obviously), and he’s excited to read it.  A new generation of fans is emerging with the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – my other 10 year old son is less of a reader than his brother but he is enthralled with the wizarding world that he has discovered on the big screen, even buying himself Newt Scamanders wand at our recent trip the Warners Bros Studio Tour.  Not only has J.K. Rowling opened up this amazing wizarding world to us all, but she also created a whole generation of readers who can’t get enough of these fantastical universes in which they can immerse themselves.  Authors have found themselves with young readers who can’t get enough of their creations – Veronica Roth, Stephanie Meyer and Rick Riordan to name but a few.

Thanks to Harry, Ron and Hermione we now have a whole range of strong characters across a number of genres who show our children just what they can achieve if they really try.  I am proud to be part of the Harry Potter generation, and I am proud that my children are becoming fans of the wizarding world.

I will however always be a little disappointed when another birthday passes me by without the arrival of my Hogwarts acceptance letter.

Book Review: We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman

Book number 11 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman.

‘Stella Carey exists in a world of night. Married to an ex-soldier, she leaves the house every evening as Vincent locks himself away, along with the scars and the secrets he carries. 

During her nursing shifts, Stella writes letters for her patients to their loved ones – some full of humour, love and practical advice, others steeped in regret or pain – and promises to post these messages after their deaths.

Until one night Stella writes the letter that could give her patient one last chance at redemption, if she delivers it in time…’ (Thanks Amazon!)

Death and trauma.  These are the underlying themes of this novel, and it details how different people cope with different life events.  Stella Carey is a nurse who works in a Hospice.  She is surrounded by loss and death as many of her patients are there for their final moments in life, and as a way of making their passage on a little easier, she writes letters for their loved ones to be read when they are gone.  These letters are scattered amongst the chapters, and some make truly heartbreaking reading – even the hardest of heart (i.e. me!) will find it difficult to not shed a tear or two.  The story however follows Stella and her broken relationship with her husband Vincent, an ex-soldier who has returned home from war but is struggling to find himself again after what he’s seen and experienced.  In addition, we follow Hope, a teenage girl who lives with Cystic Fibrosis, something she knows could kill her at any moment and how she copes with her own mortality at such a young age.  We also follow Hugh, a young men who’s mother died when he was young, and he is now alone following the death of his father.  He’s an awkward man, slightly anti-social with a cat called Jake who he never really wanted but has anyway.  He doesn’t like people and is more than happy with his own company.  I could completely relate to him on this point;

‘most of what people say makes me want to dig a bunker in the middle of a remote forest, hoard tinned food and wait for the apocalypse’

The links between these characters are subtle, and it was a pleasure to read about 3 characters who are so wildly different but are all dealing with some life changing events. Rowan Coleman has provided us with a beautiful novel which explores some topics, particularly death, which are often taboo subjects.  She explores them in a heartfelt and sensitive way.  Whilst reading about death can be difficult, so can reading about life.  How we deal with death should not define us, but it does give us an idea of the kind of person we are, or want to be.  Coleman deals with this concept beautifully.  I really cannot recommend this book enough – it has been nice to read a novel that really makes you think about what you want from life, and what you would do in the situations these characters find themselves in.  Any book that can really make you think is a winner in my eyes.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Book Review: The Little Shop of Happy Ever After by Jenny Colgan

Book number 10 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is The Little Shop of Happy Ever After by Jenny Colgan.

‘Nina is a librarian who spends her days happily matchmaking books and people – she always knows what someone should read next. But when her beloved library closes and she’s suddenly out of a job, Nina has no idea what to do next. Then an advert catches her eye: she could be the owner of a tiny little bookshop bus, driving around the Scottish highlands.

Using up all her courage, and her savings, Nina makes a new start in the beautiful Scottish highlands. But real life is a bit trickier than the stories she loves – especially when she keeps having to be rescued by the grumpy-but-gorgeous farmer next door…’ (Thanks Amazon!)

Yet another book about books.  Lovely!

As someone who has a job that has nothing to do with books, reading about Nina was basically like being in a dream.  Firstly with her lovely job as a librarian (although I could appreciate the difficulties faced by libraries today), followed by her going it alone!  No overly convinced that I’d be great driving that enormous van, but the rest of it worked me.  Beautiful Scottish countryside, books and a close knit village full of locals who know everything about you – i’m part way there living in a fab village but that’s as far I have got.

In all honesty, the draw to this was entirely Nina following her dreams.  Don’t get me wrong, she was incredibly hesitant to do this, as a very introvert character who was adverse to taking risks.  Thankfully this didn’t stop her, as she left her home to start afresh.  Of course, there was a romance thrown in for good measure (one she didn’t see coming, naturally) as well as the romance that she thought she wanted, but was all wrong for her.  I love a novel full of amazing scenery and I love a novel full of books so this ticked a few boxes.  It is a light and enjoyable read, exactly what I was looking for at that moment in time.  An excellent piece of bookish chick lit!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📗