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Suswati

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Educated cover art

Harrowing and inspiring

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-04-18

It seems almost impossible that Tara Westover is an academician from both Harvard and Cambridge given that she had never been to school. Her story is important, revealing how women are treated and subjugated in fundamentalist societies.

Brought up in a survivalist, Mormon family, Westover speaks about a poverty-stricken, difficult childhood where education is seen as secondary and violence is rife. Her relationship with her abusive brother is horrifying, And moreso is her family's acceptance of his behaviour. So gaining scholarships to top universities in the world despite having had no clue about the Holocaust, the civil rights movement, and Napoleon, is no mean feat.

While parts are repetitive, it is engaging and harrowing to hear her inspiring story.

Tangerine cover art

Plain cruel

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-04-18

Call me a wimp, but I don't tend to enjoy books where terrible things happen to the protagonist without any proper resolution.

Alice Shipley, a rather meek woman, lives with her cocky husband in Tangiers, when one day a face from the past comes back to haunt her. Lucy Mason, her former roommate turns up at her doorstep with hidden motives.

This book has been described as similar to The Talented Mr Ripley, and in some ways, we can see how they converge. It is a psychological thriller including aspects of whether Alice can trust her mind, and if Lucy is just a bunny boiler - bringing together all the usual plots. I personally didn't relish this, because the conclusion fizzled out.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle cover art

Convoluted

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 28-03-18

I would love to watch this as a TV series because as a book it seems rather all over the place. Following Aiden Bishop, who seems to be appear in a new host body every day in order to solve a Gosford Park-style murder, he's also stacked against competitors desperate to flee this entrapment.

The premise is fantastic - it's Inception mixed with Agatha Christie- but I feel the author Stuart Turton may have overstretched himself because by the end it's a tangle of a mess, and finishes rather abruptly, trying to tackle loose ends. I may be in the minority, but I found myself drifting away quite a bit, actually forgetting characters. There's far too many murders and body swapping, and I don't think it reached its potential.

18 of 20 people found this review helpful

Lost Connections cover art
  • Lost Connections
  • Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression - and the Unexpected Solutions
  • By: Johann Hari
  • Narrated by: Johann Hari

Sentiment is worthy but not cohesive

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 19-03-18

Johann Hari has delved into the world of depression and psychiatry, revealing his own battles with the condition and attempting to debunk approaches towards mental health. His intentions are worthy as it is a dense topic of discussion, and absolutely essential, but unfortunately Hari only focuses on one side.

His views on overprescription are completely accurate as many mental health professionals have a tendency to equate behaviour as a science, therefore looking towards traditional methods of treatment. However, his views that depression is totally reactive to environment is incorrect as many with other serious conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar, would have "endogenous" depression ie. where something goes wrong in the brain.

Much of this book concentrates on the disconnection from vital human requirements such as neighbourliness, professional fulfillment, acknowledgement of trauma and so on. His approach suggests that reconnecting may help the malaise. While I agree with half of his argument, others may find it oversimplified. But no doubt we do need a more compassionate attitude towards mental health.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

Force of Nature cover art

Slow burner, slightly disappointing

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 17-03-18

As a fan of Jane Harper's debut novel The Dry, this definitely felt like a sub-par sequel. Detective Aaron Falks returns with another case in the Australian wilderness, this time following the disappearance of a woman who went on a work retreat in the outback but never came back.

Four of the women who went with her all have motives to want to see her gone, so Falks attempts to understand what secrets she may have had about them.

The story, as described, felt underwhelming even though I appreciate the straightforward simplicity of Harper's writing. There is no massive conspiracy similar to the first but it may have lacked too much in this instance.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Then She Was Gone cover art

A little far-fetched but still exciting

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 13-03-18

While this thriller seems highly unlikely, it is pretty exciting with twist after twist. More than a decade after the disappearance and death of Ellie Mack, mother Laurel begins a new relationship with a family with a sinister connection. 

Some aspects seem hugely unrealistic, i.e. relying on face value to make judgements, and the interconnections appear a little tenuous but this book should be enjoyed as an exhilarating read, rather than a psychological drama. There is very little character development, and sparse  information regarding the wider characters such as Hannah and Paul. However, it's interesting nonetheless.

Anatomy of a Scandal cover art

A well-timed book about abuse of power

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-03-18

An Anatomy of a Scandal is a book about privilege and power, a timely novel given the recent spate of high profile sexual harassment cases. In this instance, James is a privileged, charismatic, successful member of Parliment and is accused of raping his mistress in a lift on the grounds of Westminster, while his doting wife Sophie, is torn between believing him and staying with him.

A trial then ensues, in which the accuser, Olivia is forced to face her worst nightmares, all the while fighting against a system in which he is king. Her lawyer Kate on the other hand, knows he is guilty, and we watch her back story unfold.

The book is told from alternating viewpoints with alternating timelines. As more of the past is revealed it is even more clear, that James is hiding more than expected.

An Anatomy of A Scandal exposes sexual assault for being more than just a moment in isolation. It is a culmination of behaviours and attitudes leading up to that moment and involves more than just the victim and the assaulter. An interesting read, and worth a trigger warning.

Brit(ish) cover art

An important and necessary conversation

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-03-18

There is a wealth of insight crammed into this book about race and identity in Britain, describing how important it is to have a cohesive self by accepting that you may have other identities alongside being a UK citizen.

What hinders this process is the apparent racism that plagues British society, from being 'colour-blind' and thus ignoring the issue, to the awkward and troubled relationship with Britain's history and its origins. The author, Afua Hirsch, also discovers her own Ghanaian roots throughout her journey of self-awareness, making this book both a memoir and social commentary. Hirsch checks her privilege immediately, which makes a refreshing change.

While I can completely relate to her opinions on the racist structures in place and the microagressions that have become normalised, the historical and anthropological elements were the most fascinating parts for me. Learning about the racist views upheld by leading western thinkers such as Immanuel Kant and David Huhne, as well as how the 1919 race riots ensued over the perception of 'white cleansing' was deeply concerning.

Hirsch's call for change on Britain's selective amnesia is not new but it has a contemporary angle following the country's move to leave the EU. Incredibly engaging.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Unravelling Oliver cover art

An incredibly creepy look at sociopaths

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-03-18

This psychological thriller is unlike most others because there isn't a big reveal as such but it is based on the behaviour of the criminal mind.

In this case, we look at Oliver, who is a sociopath, and feels very little remorse for the terrible crimes he has committed but instead feels aggrieved at his lack of entitlement.

While half of the book is written from his perspective looking back at his past, the rest is written by people around him who believe they could sense his immoral behaviour. Hence it is a case of whether it is nature of nurture that has forced him to behave in such way, and if society truly did think that he was a monster. Interesting concept, but as expected, you'll hate the main character.

Never Let Me Go cover art

Grim reading, completely unexpected

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-03-18

For readers of Kazuo Ishiguro's other books, this will come as another surprise. While Remains of the Day is a period drama, and the Buried Giant is folklore, this novel reads as a dystopian fiction. What this shows is the author's incredible versatility at writing different themes, each as good as the other.

The story follows Kathy H., a carer to dying patients, and her mysterious upbringing alongside her charges at a secluded boarding school. From the beginning, we are introduced to the concept of 'donors', and it only becomes apparent after some time what it truly means. As a child, her and her fellow classmates were urged to be overly health-concious with a special focus on artwork, which is said to be taken away to a gallery if exceptional. But when the students begin to question about its necessity, they understand that not all is what it seems.

From cloning to transplants, this book is both daring and alarming - and perhaps one of my favourite Ishiguro novels so far.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful