REVIEW: Wonder by R J Palacio

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Auggie has been through more in his first few years on the planet than most people do in an entire lifetime. Born with a facial difference, he has had to endure endless surgeries and hospital stays. Up until now he has been home-schooled by his mother but things are about to change. Auggie is going to Beacher Prep and starting the 5th Grade. He’s wary of meeting his new classmates but Wonder shows that while children can be cruel they can also be encouragingly compassionate when adults aren’t. Continue reading “REVIEW: Wonder by R J Palacio”

REVIEW: Sal by Mick Kitson

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Sal is like a Wes Anderson film but with more grit. It has all of the quirkiness and off beat humour, but it also has a serious edge and emotional depth. Sal takes her younger sister Peppa out into the Scottish wilderness not for an adventure but to escape. There is a novelty to their life among the trees – no school, no teachers, no rules – but there’s a gravity to it as well. For Sal, survival is her top priority and she achieves it will a practicality and focus that most adults lack. Continue reading “REVIEW: Sal by Mick Kitson”

REVIEW: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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Ancient history has always fascinated me, particularly relationships to the Gods. In Greek mythology the Gods were definitely the interfering type, not satisfied with watching the mortal world they often chose sides in wars and tried to swing things in their favour, or had brief romances with warriors or beautiful women that caught their eye. If you spurned them then things went south for you pretty quickly. It didn’t matter who you were. Continue reading “REVIEW: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller”

REVIEW: Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

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There’s something about teenage infatuation. The sweaty palms, the racing heart, the constant mantra ‘do they really like me’? When you have a crush as a teenager your imagination runs wild and the possibilities seem endless. You project your feelings onto the actions of the person you like, imagine that a look or touch or conversation are significant, signs that they feel the same. Some of that excitement carries through into your adult life, but it’s not as all encompassing. Andre Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name is a tender and evocative exploration of one boy’s infatuation and the tentative relationship that grows from it. Continue reading “REVIEW: Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman”

REVIEW: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

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Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is a novel, but it could just as easily be described as an interlinked short story collection, following the very different fates of two sisters and their subsequent decendants. Effia and Esi share a mother but spend their lives apart, living in separate villages. The distance between them stretches wider when Effia is married off to an English soldier and Esi is captured and sold into slavery. Neither have a choice in their futures. Continue reading “REVIEW: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi”

REVIEWS: I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

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Never has the past been more present that in Maggie O’Farrell’s captivating memoir I Am, I Am, I Am. Time can erase the sense of immediacy, but from the opening I was engrossed, more than that. I felt a jolt of fear, I was apprehensive, and for a brief second I forgot that I was reading a memoir. Surely that first encounter with death was more at home in a thriller, or the opening of a dark crime novel, surely that sort of thing didn’t happen in real life. It’s not a spoiler to say that O’Farrell survives the ordeal, and the next and the next, but for that fraction of a second I wondered whether she would. Continue reading “REVIEWS: I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell”

REVIEW: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

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A few days ago I read a quote from an author somewhere that there’s nothing wrong with writing to a formula, that it’s what you bring to the formula that makes a great story. I’m annoyed that I didn’t pay more attention to the source, the university student in me is appalled at my lack of referencing but what they said struck me as interesting. There’s often a sense that formulaic writing is somehow lazy or unimaginative, but all stories have a formula. Each has a beginning, a middle and an end. There is a point of conflict, sometimes a resolution. Some of my favourite novels have followed formulas. Life often follows the same pattern, so why shouldn’t novels? When a story surprises us it’s because it goes against the conventions of the genre and the novel. A writer can follow a formula and bring something new to it at the same time.

That’s not to say it always works out, and while I was reading Red Queen there were elements of the story that felt fresh and interesting, but I felt as if it was something I’d read before.  Continue reading “REVIEW: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard”

REVIEWS: For Esme with Love and Squalor by J D Salinger

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My relationship with J D Salinger hasn’t necessarily been an easy one. I tried to read The Catcher in the Rye when I was fourteen years old, after seeing it on a blog I was following and decided to buy it along with some other books that were in the same post. I fell in love with Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and was fascinated by the dark world of Chuck Palanuik’s Invisible Monsters, but The Catcher in the Rye for me fell short. Holden wasn’t a character I wanted to spend more than a few pages with and I couldn’t understand why it was a classic. I tried to read the book twice and stumble around the forty page mark. Eventually I donated my copy to a charity shop and decided J D Salinger wasn’t for me. Continue reading “REVIEWS: For Esme with Love and Squalor by J D Salinger”

REVIEW: Cartes Postales from Greece by Victoria Hislop

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Before Cartes Postales from Greece I had only read one Victoria Hislop novel. Crete has always been a special place for me. As someone who has always felt out of place easily, it’s one of the few places I have felt at home. Reading The Island brought to life a part of it’s history, something more recent than the Minoan temple of Knossos or the Venetian fortifications still evident at Spinalonga. It was vivid, immersive and I hoped Cartes Postales from Greece would hold me in the same way that The Island had, and was disappointed when it didn’t.

Continue reading “REVIEW: Cartes Postales from Greece by Victoria Hislop”

REVIEW: The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

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This isn’t a book about the heroes who save the world. Mike, his sister Mel and their friends Henna and Jared aren’t trying to save the universe, they just want to graduate before the next supernatural apocalypse destroys their school. They’re on the periphery of the action, and yet their lives are far from normal; Jared is a quarter-god, Henna’s missionary parent’s are taking her away straight after graduation and Mike and Mel’s mother is running in an election race. Continue reading “REVIEW: The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness”