The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

No. of pages: 216
Rating: 4/10

Synopsis: Michael Berg is 15 when he begins a long, obsessive affair with Hanna, an enigmatic older woman. He never learns very much about her and when she disappears one day, he expects never to see her again. But, to his horror, he does. Hanna is a defendant in a trial related to Germany's Nazi past and it soon becomes clear that she is guilty of an unspeakable crime. As Michael follows the trial, he struggles with an overwhelming question: what should his generation do with its knowledge of the Holocaust?

Review: 15 year old Michael starts a love affair with Hanna, a woman in her 30's, although she always holds herself back from him and he never knows why. Years later when he's a law student, he sees her in a court room being accused of awful things. Michael struggles to come to terms with having loved someone so terrible...

This is a weird book for me as I didn't like it at all, but it's a very thought provoking book. It raises the question of 'how far would you go to hide something?', and the answer in the book is 'too far'. I personally cannot ever imagine doing the things Hanna did, right from sleeping with a child to what she did during the war. I found Hanna to be quite a hateful character, and I thought she was insanely selfish but yet I felt forced to feel sympathy for her when she quite clearly didn't deserve it. I thought that part one was the best section of the book, and my interest slowly waned through parts two and three. It's a book I'm glad I've read, but one I'd not bother to pick up again.

Frostbitten by Kelley Armstrong

No. of pages: 339
Rating: 10/10
Series: Women Of The Otherworld (Book 10)

Synopsis: The Alaskan wilderness is a harsh landscape in the best of conditions, but with a pack of rogue werewolves on the loose, it's downright deadly. Elena Michaels, the American Werewolf Pack's chief enforcer, knows all too well the havoc "mutts" can wreak. When the Pack learns of a series of gruesome maulings and murders outside of Anchorage, Elena and her partner Clay travel to Alaska in the dead of winter, expecting to hunt down a pack of dangerous werewolves. But, trapped in a savage, frozen realm, it is their own untamed nature - and their werewolf heritage - they have to confront...

Review: When several bodies are mauled in what looks like wolf attacks in Alaska, Elena and Clay are sent to investigate. But what they discover when they get there, isn't going to be as easy to stop as they thought...

I absolutely love this series, and the wolves are my favourite, so I had no doubt that I would love this book. Armstrong is on top form with a book full of action that keeps you gripped right up to the last page. I just couldn't put it down once I'd started, and read the whole thing through in one sitting. If you haven't read this series, then I'd heartily recommend it! And for fans of the series who haven't read this yet, you should definitely make it a priority. A fantastic addition to the series, which as you can see I thoroughly enjoyed. I can't wait for the next book now, shame it's so far away!

The Confessions Of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer

No. of pages: 267
Rating: 8/10

Synopsis: Out of the womb in 1871, Max Tivoli looked to all the world like a tiny 70-year-old man. But inside the aged body was an infant. Victim of a rare disease, Max grows physically younger as his mind matures. In Andrew Sean Greer's finely crafted novel, The Confessions of Max Tivoli, Max narrates his life story from the vantage point of his late fifties, though his body is that of a 12-year-old boy. He has known since a young age that he is destined to die at 70, and he wears a golden "1941" as a constant reminder of the year he will finally perish in an infant form. His mother, a Carolina belle concerned over her son's troubling appearance, curses Max with "The Rule": "Be what they think you are". Max fails to keep this Rule only a handful of times in his life, but it is the burden of living by it that wounds him and slowly alienates him from the people he loves.

Review: Max is born with the body of a 70 year old, and ages backwards over his life, so when he's 17, he actually looks in his 50's and this is very tough for Max. But his Mother told him to live by only one rule, and that's to be what they expect him to be. So when he looks 50, he has to act 50, even though he's only a young man inside. This makes simple things such as friendship and love very tough for Max, and so he writes the memoir of his backwards life.

This is very like the film of The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, which I saw a few weeks ago and really enjoyed, but I wasn't expecting them to be so alike in storyline. However, if you enjoyed that film, or even that short story, you are sure to be a fan of Max. I really found the book enjoyable, and thought the characters were really well written and easy to empathise with. The ending came as a bit of a surprise, not in a bad way, it just was just unexpected and I never would have guessed it. I would say this a good book for fans of books set around 1900, as it really is full of life from that time, which is great to read about.

Falling Leaves Return To Their Roots by Adeline Yen Mah

No. of pages: 274
Rating: 8/10

Synopsis: Adeline Yen Mah's childhood in China during the civil war was a time of fear, isolation and humiliation. The cause of this was not political upheaval but systematic emotional and physical abuse by her step-mother and siblings, and rejection by her father. Falling Leaves is the story of a 'Fifth Younger Daughter' and her determination to survive the pain of a lonely childhood.

Review: Adeline is the fifth child born into a rich chinese family, but when her mother dies a few days after her birth, she's considered bad luck. When her father remarries things go from bad to horrendous for Adeline. Her step-mother relishes in driving wedges between the siblings and telling Adeline that she is worth nothing. This is Adeline's story of how she tries to please her family, even though she's abused everyday, and how she overcomes her past to make a new life for herself.

This is such a sad book, you can feel Adeline's yearning for love and acceptance the whole way through, even though her family treat her so poorly. You almost cannot believe that her step-mother could be so cruel to a child, as the tales she recounts are terrible. The fact her father just sat there and let it all happen is even worse. But as much as you end up feeling sorry for Adeline, you can't help but admire her for overcoming it all and becoming successful in her own right. I enjoyed reading about China through young Adeline's eyes, and what it was like during the many years of upheaval and war. It's a really easy book to read, and I loved the chinese proverbs peppered throughout the story.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

No. of pages: 386
Rating: 6/10

Synopsis: Julia and Valentina Poole are normal American teenagers - normal, at least, for identical 'mirror' twins who have no interest in college or jobs or possibly anything outside their cozy suburban home. But everything changes when they receive notice that an aunt whom they didn't know existed has died and left them her flat in an apartment block overlooking Highgate Cemetery in London. They feel that at last their own lives can begin ...but have no idea that they've been summoned into a tangle of fraying lives, from the obsessive-compulsive crossword setter who lives above them to their aunt's mysterious and elusive lover who lives below them, and even to their aunt herself, who never got over her estrangement from the twins' mother - and who can't even seem to quite leave her flat. With Highgate Cemetery itself a character and echoes of Henry James and Charles Dickens, "Her Fearful Symmetry" is a delicious and deadly twenty-first-century ghost story about Niffenegger's familiar themes of love, loss and identity.

Review: When Elspeth dies, she leaves all her belongings to her identical twin nieces, who she saw only once when they were 4 months old. The twins don't even know that their mother is an identical twin herself, so it comes as a big surprise when they get the letter to tell them they now own a flat in London. When they move into the flat, they meet Martin, the middle aged guy who lives upstairs who's crippled with severe OCD and can't leave his flat. They also meet Robert, the guy who lives below them, who was their aunt's lover. As they settle into life in their flat, they realise Elspeth isn't as gone as they thought...

I really was expecting a lot from this book, maybe too much and that's why I felt so disappointed when I had finished. But I think more than that, there was just that something that made The Time Traveler's Wife so great, that was missing from Her Fearful Symmetry. The story itself was okay, there were some great characters, but I sometimes felt there was no explanation for some of the characters actions, when it didn't seem to fit with what we knew of their personalities.

I guessed one of the big plot surprises about 40 pages in, it seemed incredibly obvious and I'm curious to see if it's as obvious for other people too. I absolutely hated the last quarter of the book, it just got more and more ridiculous and I felt it ruined the whole tone of the story with such a poor ending. On the plus side though, the writing is incredibly easy to read, and so it feels like the story is progressing very quickly rather than being long and drawn out.
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