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review 2018-04-30 07:37
The Sham
The Sham - Ellen Allen

The Sham starts immediately gruesome with some of the worst bullying I've encountered in books. However, what exactly it added to the story, I'm not quite sure. Emily meets Jack, a mysterious guy who might not be who he claims to be. At the same time, girls start to go missing. What is Jack's role in this? And worse, is Emily next?

This was such a strange novel. There were a lot of situations that felt off, and I couldn't get why she was so protective of Jack, even though she didn't know him and all these strange things were going on. I had a hard time caring for any of the characters really. Also, the ending was a surprise to me, but it didn't make much sense.

It was not for me, I'm afraid.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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review 2016-12-29 13:48
The Girls; superb teen angst with a splash of murder
The Girls: A Novel - Emma Cline

I first came across author Emma Cline in the Paris Review of Books in summer 2013 when I found her story Marion. The opening had me hooked;


"Cars the color of melons and tangerines sizzled in cul-de-sac driveways. Dogs lay belly-up and heaving in the shade. It was cooler in the hills, where Marion’s family lived. Everyone who stayed at their ranch was some relative, Marion said, blood or otherwise, and she called everyone brother or sister."


I presume this is the short story that got her the writing contract for The Girls, because it's based on the same premise - at the end of the 60s, teenager Evie Boyd becomes drawn into a gang of girls and towards their cult leader in LA. It obviously has the backdrop of the Manson murders in mind, highly fashionable at the moment (anyone seen The Invitation? It was a quiet, unsettling movie from 2015 that also has sinister LA cult behaviour as a backdrop).


The Girls is really wonderfully written. It didn't feel like it had quite the same artistic punch as the short story, but it was pretty spectacularly done all the same. Highly recommended, if you want to be taken back to how agonisingly awful if was to be a teenager (Cline really nails it) amidst some very chilling characters indeed.

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review 2016-01-22 11:36
The Interestings; vivid, evocative and really bloody good
The Interestings: A Novel - Meg Wolitzer

I hadn’t heard of Meg Wolitzer but when I read some of the reviews in The New York Times and The Telegraph, I discovered she is much-loved and regarded, in some circles, as highly as Jonathan Franzen and Hilary Mantel. So her story about six friends over the course of their lives  – The Interestings – seemed too good to resist. And by the time my Scribd trial had ended, half way through the book, these characters had so pervaded my head that I simply had to hunt down the book in any form possible, just to find out what they were up to.


The NY Times review described it as a book about ideas and that’s true. But each of the characters are so well drawn – gay, straight, male, female – that it really does what all great books do; it nails the daily feelings about love, envy and lust and makes you analyse your own feelings in relation to the characters and your own experiences. Just wonderful. What’s more, because it follows the characters from their teens to middle age, it’s a great book to read in January when most people are assessing their New Year’s resolutions and where they are in the world in relation to where they want to be. It made me laugh and made me cry; something that books rarely do at the same time. A brilliant book to start the year.


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Source: ellenallen.co/2016/01/22/the-interestings-vivid-evocative-and-really-bloody-good
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review 2015-12-31 21:51
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared; a long-winded unfunny dose of Forrest Gump
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson

So I get that The Hundred-Year-Old Man by Jonas Jonasson is meant to be a satire on politics and politicians throughout the 20th century and I get that some people find it hilarious but I thought it was boring, long-winded and not very funny. The premise is brilliant; a guy celebrating his hundredth birthday climbs out of the window of his old people’s home and boards a bus, stealing a suitcase from a local thug on a whim. He gets chased, lots of people die elaborately in a way that ensures he doesn’t get framed and he meets many of the major players from the twentieth century (Stalin, Truman, Mao etc.). Only read it if you want another dose of a very long-winded Forrest Gump.

Like this? I occasionally send out newsletters full of useful writing advice and reading titbits. If you want to receive them, click HERE to subscribe.

Source: ellenallen.co/2015/12/31/the-hundred-year-old-man-who-climbed-out-of-the-window-and-disappeared-a-long-winded-unfunny-dose-of-forrest-gump
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review 2015-10-08 08:40
Enduring Love; a huge letdown
Enduring Love - Ian McEwan

I’m a tremendous fan of Ian McEwan’s books (particularly On Chesil Beach and The Comfort of Strangers) but this was a huge letdown. It has a wonderful plot; a couple are on a picnic on a very windy day when they see a hot air balloon that is in trouble. A young boy is stuck inside the basket, his grandfather has fallen out and everyone in the vicinity desperately tries to grab hold before the balloon blows away…


I’m rather partial to literary books but this one felt like it was trying too hard. It came across as a bit pompous in tone, which I couldn’t remember or hadn’t noticed in his other books. It was distracting. The book was strongest when discussing the breakdown of the couple’s relationship (McEwan is really wonderful at nailing human emotions and antagonism between people) but it didn’t deliver on the fear factor that he has really conveyed in his other work.


I very rarely say this but watch the film instead. It’s much better.

Like this? I occasionally send out newsletters full of useful writing advice and reading titbits. If you want to receive them, click HERE to subscribe.

Source: ellenallen.co/2015/10/06/enduring-love-a-huge-letdown
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