Part One

My Blogging Journey

This is my blogging journey: the many ups and many, many more downs. At first I though I’d just write about difficulties with posting enough and balancing reading and blogging with school, but I soon realised that my ‘journey’ – which I’ve been chronicling ever since I started blogging – deserved to be shared. The jury’s still out on whether it’ll be worth it in the end, but even if my blog never becomes super-successful, I hope it’ll be a testament to my effort and my grit.


One summer, I didn’t have much to do, after desperately yet unsuccessfully hunting for a job in one of the three supermarkets near where we live. I had read a record number of books that summer, partly because of my boredom, but also because I’d joined the local library. I decided to start my own book blog – I’d read a few online and really enjoyed them, and I thought it would be something fun to do to fill my time. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved books, but until I started Alia’s A-List, I was always a ‘passive’ reader – I never did anything with my passion for books. This felt like an opportunity to give back to books.

I wrote a few reviews in quick succession – of books that I had read recently as well as books I’d read a while ago. Writing about books seemed like the easiest, most natural thing in the world. I was simply writing down my thoughts on books, which I often discussed anyway, so it wasn’t so different. I created my ‘structure’, which I’ve used ever since – including the rating by ‘As’ system.

I was so excited about starting this new project. That feeling when you know you’re at the start of something special and important, something that could become really successful, must be the best feeling in the world. I looked towards my future and all I could see were opportunities. I didn’t get bogged down with the details – like how I would be able to read enough to keep the reviews coming at such a rate, or how I would find the time to blog during school-time. It all seemed so exciting, so fresh, so full of possibility, that I couldn’t imagine how it could possibly not work out. I didn’t know what it would be like trying to review during term time, but I vowed I would find a way to blog as much as possible when I got back.

Soon, the novelty wore off and the summer vacation came to an end. I was faced with reality: how was I going to fit reading and blogging around my busy school schedule? I underestimated how busy I would be: that fall, I moved up to the senior part of my school (like high school) – getting more homework plus joining various clubs – and started a Saturday job. I struggled to post even one review a month – not just because I was busy, so I had less time, but also because I found it hard to find the time to read enough.

Slowly but surely, my involvement with my blog, and even my reading, dwindled. When the new year came, though, I made it my mission to blog and read more. I got back into reading, making it my priority even over hanging out with my friends sometimes. But despite reading more, I still struggled to blog much more than I had been before. I was often unable to review the book that I had read straight after finishing it because I was at school, and so had homework that night. This meant that I had to wait for the weekend, by which time I had forgotten some of my thoughts about the book, especially as I had probably started a new book in the meantime. So when I wrote reviews, my opinions were often vague and inaccurate to how I had really felt.

Throughout the year, time-consuming things always seemed to pop up, like tests and schoolwork. I couldn’t prioritise my blog, and this reflected on the quality and frequency of my posts.

When summer came, it wasn’t much better – it certainly wasn’t as easy as I’d thought it would be. I started my job at the local supermarket (this time round I called in the winter/spring to secure my place). Aside from being pressed for time and tired from my job, I wasn’t feeling inspired or motivated to read. I read a pretty hefty book for quite a while, repeatedly coming close to putting it down but never quite able to bring myself to abandon it. After I finally finished it, the last thing I wanted to do was explore my thoughts in depth on it. But I forced myself to review it. I constantly procrastinated – the prospect of being on the beach relaxing, especially after a hard day’s work at the market, seemed far more appealing than staying cooped up inside, desperately trying to ‘explore’ and develop my limited opinions on the book. I eventually managed to write a review which I had to force out, reading other reviews online for inspiration. I was left disinterested and uninspired with reading and reviewing.

One of my parent’s friends was talking to me about my blog, and I described how I was feeling towards reading and blogging. She told me to blog or at least write notes as often as possible, so that I keep track of my views and feelings whilst reading the book. This was great advice, and I try to follow as much as I can will myself to. But the most important thing she told me was to make sure I enjoy reading and blogging; that when I write a review, I should be doing it for MY enjoyment, rather than to gain followers or likes. Every time I feel the pressure to read and write, I try to remember what she said: to enjoy it. Sometimes it’s a lot of hard work with no payback, but I’d like to believe that no matter how many views I get, my blog will remain special, relevant and valid.

After I started following her advice, writing notes and keywords whilst reading books, I found writing reviews much easier and more natural. They seemed to flow out of me, like they used to when I first started my blog. I began to enjoy reading and writing again – although this might have had a lot to do with the books themselves.

When I went back to school, blogging was harder, but I remained mostly on track, posting on average two reviews a month. I was pretty happy with how it was going. But that didn’t last long…

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Not just a book about marriage: Pride and Prejudice – By Jane Austen

Classic Literature, Romance

Pride and Prejudice is one of those books I always felt I should have read. I didn’t even know what it was about, just that is was written by Jane Austen and considered a classic. But although I felt guilty for not reading it, I would never have gotten around to it if it hadn’t been for the film.

I came across the film on Amazon Prime, spotting Keira Knightley and some attractive man (Matthew MacFadyen) on the cover. Although apprehensive, I was intrigued, so decided to watch it.

I loved it; everything about it: the voices, the clothes and, most of all, the entertaining yet authentic characters. After watching the film, I knew that I had to read the book, and that I might even enjoy it (and what’s more, understand what’s going on, which is more than I can say about every Dickens I’ve attempted).

That night, I picked it up. It was slow-going at first, but the zingy one-liners kept me going. Even that too oft-quoted first sentence possesses a magical quality:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

This book does have a plot, too, of course, but I must stress: its beauty isn’t borne from any complicated plot intricacies or exotic location descriptions. It’s in the characters and their small yet significant interactions. Strictly speaking, Pride and Prejudice is about a group of sisters looking for men to marry. Most if not all of them make a fool of themselves in the process. There are rich, attractive men, and less rich, certainly less attractive men. There are old ladies in fancy gowns, horse-drawn carriages, piano fortes, card games. If these details aren’t handsome enough to tempt you, then fear not: the book is more than its constituent parts. Yes, it’s an enduring, addictive love story – and you won’t help but root for our leading couple – but it’s also about class differences (even within the same class), character virtues and how overrated first impressions are.

If you’re still not convinced, read it for Elizabeth. The only Bennet sister who isn’t silly and ignorant, she’s headstrong, funny, opinionated. To everyone around her, and especially to Mr Darcy, she’s enchanting, bewitching. She’s a role model, not because of her looks or her charm on men, but for her character. For her kindness, wit, smart, and also for her faults. Perhaps she wasn’t a feminist (if they had existed at the time), but she was one of the first female characters for readers to look up to; that’s pretty special.

Finally, Pride and Prejudice is a period piece, offering an insight into Georgian life. If, like me, you’re fascinated by this era and its idiosyncrasies, read this book for a front-row seat onto the everyday ups and downs of an (upper) middle-class lifestyle. It’s an understanding that you simply can’t gain from a history textbook.

This book draws you in with its irresistible love story, but keeps you wanting more with its vivid characters, amusing interactions and fascinating details of regency life. I can’t say how glad I am for having clicked that Watch Now button – thanks to that movie, I have gained another favourite book to forever return to.

I strongly recommend that you give it a try, too. I would even go so far as to (I admit, blasphemously) suggest watching the movie first like me – it’s captivating, and less of an investment. You won’t regret it.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAAA (7)

Writing: AAAAAAAAAA (10)

Pace: Medium/Slow

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For the love of books: Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Classic Literature, Dystopian, Sci-Fi

Fahrenheit 451 foresees a world in which books are outlawed and TV rules over all. In the midst of all this emerges an unlikely hero: Guy Montag. A ‘fireman’, whose job is in fact to start fires rather than put them out, Montag meets a young girl who plants a seed in his mind that changes his life; a seed of questioning. Inspired by her curiosity about everything around her, the fireman begins to question his life, too, until he slowly – and then quite suddenly – realises that the society he lives in is deluded and utterly ignorant. From this epiphany, he resolves to change things, with drastic results.

I’m not a huge fan of science fiction novels, and I’m always somewhat apprehensive about reading a book that’s considered a classic. But I found 451‘s storyline intriguing, and although I sometimes struggled to visualise aspects of the world that Bradbury creates, the future he portrays is convincing. The book is perfectly readable and compelling, and its short length – only 211 pages – prevent it from being at all intimidating. The characters are vivid and credible, if not always likeable, and the narrative moves quickly. Above all, this book is thought-provoking, posing questions about authoritarianism and submission, the importance of culture, and the reliability and value of books. 451 reflects the future for our society if we continue as we do. The story is eery because, after 50 years, it’s still relevant – we still have the same questions, the same concerns about our lifestyles and our future.

What makes this novel so special is that it reminds you why books are so great; why books are important, vital even, to society. Despite making a strong case for how books can destroy, deceive, disorient, this only makes the overall effect stronger. I love this book for providing me with an escape, without pushing it on me, and for gently reminding me why I love books. After finishing 451, I couldn’t wait to devour another novel.

However, I was left a little unsatisfied by the end. Although the book ends powerfully, there was no mention of the girl Montag meets at the beginning, and I felt that a mention of her was important the bring the book full circle – especially as she doesn’t feature much in book, despite having huge impact on Montag.

Overall, 451 is enjoyable, though-provoking, and well-written; I would definitely recommend it.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAAAAA (9)

Writing: AAAAAAAAA (9)

Pace: Quick

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Memoirs of a Geisha – By Arthur Golden

Fictional Memoir, Historical Fiction, Romance

You may have watched the film, as I had, but forget your judgements – the book is so much more powerful: sad, beautiful, persisting. As I sometimes feel after I’ve finished a treasured book, my life seems altered in a small way forever. This is the story of a young girl’s struggle through life, the goals that she strives for, and her unfaltering – yet unglorified – kindness to the people around her.

Memoirs of a Geisha holds the life-story of Chiyo (who later becomes Sayuri), from her birthplace in the fishing village of Yoroido to her new existence in the Geisha district of Gion. The girl, with her pale blue-grey eyes, is said to have a water-based personality, impotent as she flows towards her destiny. It is true that she holds a strong, unwavering destiny, but she is nonetheless stubborn and utterly determined, staying true to her vows and desires until she eventually achieves them. The protagonist is likeable, thoughtful, kindhearted, but some feel jealousy and resentment towards her, and impede her. When a man, the Chairman, shows her unexpected and unprescribed kindness, she vows to give her life to him in the hopes of one day winning his favour as a renowned geisha. Despite eventually becoming a distinguished geisha, however, her mission proves far more difficult than she imagined. For women, and especially geisha, do not chase after their own destinies or desires; they are expected to accept and appreciate the favour of whomever. It would be forbidden, unheard of, for Chiyo, now Sayuri, to seek out the Chairman’s favour. She continues with her life as a geisha, experiencing great hardships many turns of fate, but never forgetting her love for the Chairman.

I couldn’t stop talking about this book while I was reading it, enthralled as I was by the fascinating Japanese culture, vibrant characters and, most of all, the heart-wrenching love story. Golden writes beautifully and yet not overly elaborately. I can’t recommend this book enough, especially to people who are interested in learning about Japanese culture and modern history, or simply enjoy life-stories of interesting people.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAAAA (8)

Writing: AAAAAAAA (8)

Pace: Slow

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A break from the stresses of life: Not Working – by Lisa Owens

Fictional Memoir, Romance

It’s three weeks into the term and I’m itching to read something other than a textbook or assigned reading. Usually it’s the tv show de jour that gets in the way of my reading, but for the first time ever, it’s sleep – or rather, school work – that’s stopping me. I need to escape, to be whisked away to another world, another life. But every time I pick up a book, my eyes glaze over as I struggle to stay focused. Even when reading, I can’t escape. I know these are just the tell-tale signs of a book rut, but I don’t see a way out!

That is, until I spot the cheery, bright blue cover in the library practically screaming out for me to pick it up. The title, too, draws me in: ‘Not Working’. Sounds perfect for me – almost eerily so. I turn to the blurb and find that, whilst it seems targeted to a slightly older demographic, I’m nonetheless intrigued and eager to at least give it a go – what do I have to lose, right? The other book I picked up was Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, and I wasn’t about to start on that any time soon (or at least not during term time).

I soon discovered Not Working was the kind of book I could pick up, enjoy, put down and not feel especially drawn to pick it up later. It was, as I’d hoped for, an easy read, a welcome escape, but I didn’t feel invested in the story. As suggested by the blurb, I struggled to relate to the protagonist: Claire, a woman in her late twenties, early thirties who’s just left her job to search for her true calling – whatever that may be. It turns out she really has no idea, and considers careers as offbeat as authoring blue plaques and screenwriting – despite having never previously shown an interest in either. Meanwhile, her neurosurgeon boyfriend continues to work hard; although he supports her completely in her ‘journey’, she nonetheless resents being in his shadow – always ‘Luke’s girlfriend’, she longs to be a person in her own right, someone making a real difference in the world.

Whilst I found it hard to empathise with Claire’s problems, I loved reading about her nonetheless. I increasingly found her voice soothing, like chatting with an old friend: she’s honest, funny, self-deprecating. Unlike so many ‘finding yourself’ books, Not Working features absolutely no meditation, yoga or travel to exotic lands. Claire doesn’t take herself too seriously and it makes for an easy, enjoyable read. She’s an average person – average looks, average intelligence, average character. But whilst that may sound unappealing, that’s exactly what makes her so endearing – she represents so many women who’ve felt inadequate or lacking in purpose. Suffering a quarter-life crisis she searches hopelessly for a job that may not exist: the perfect job for her, tailor-fitted for her talents and desires.

Although incredibly easy to read, especially as the chapters themselves are split up into short sections, Not Working is long and slow up until the last quarter. The writing can be monotonous and uninteresting which, although perhaps accurately depicts Claire’s life, is not especially entertaining to read. And whilst the end is riveting, it leaves much frustratingly unresolved! I have so many questions that I won’t delineate for fear of spoiling, but I can confidently say I was left unsatisfied by this book.

Still, I enjoyed this book immensely; it was exactly what I needed. If you’re looking for the next literary canon book, perhaps this isn’t for you. However, if you love books like Bridget Jones’ Diary you’ll definitely enjoy Not Working.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAA (6)

Writing: AAAAA (5)

Pace: Medium/Slow

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Not-too-distant Dystopia: The Handmaid’s Tale – by Margaret Atwood

Classic Literature, Dystopian, Fictional Memoir, Romance

Security and liberty. One is often sacrificed for the other. What measures, what infringements on our liberty would we accept to ensure our security – from terrorist attacks, poverty, unemployment, ideas that we disagree with – is sustained?

The Handmaid’s Tale is an answer. Gilead, the envisaged future of America, initially seems alien from our society; as the book progresses, however, disturbing similarities emerge.

Women are property, kept in the home as either elite wives, ‘Martha’s’ who do the household chores, or handmaids who must produce offspring. Offred is the handmaid in the book’s title, and the book is her story. She vividly describes her life before, during and after becoming a handmaid: her daughter and husband whom she loves and misses painfully; her traumatic yet nostalgic time in the ‘Red Center’ where the ‘Aunts’ (pious women who uphold the regime) labored to inculcate her with the virtues of being a handmaid; her hyper-controlled, mundane life serving her assigned family.

I developed a morbid fascination with Offred’s miserable life (Atwood’s writing is captivating and vivid). Often as Offred speaks to the reader, her narrative devolves into random trains of thought, revealing her mental instability and loneliness. Initially, for the cause of safety from terrorism, people sacrificed their liberties; in time, the authorities expropriated them and became a greater threat than the official fear of terrorism. The repression took two forms: against society as a whole, and much more so against women in society. Atwood unfolds the profound links between Gilead and our world gradually, until the Tale’s glaring warning can no longer be ignored.

Better? I say, in a small voice. How can he think this is better?

Better never means better for everyone, he says. It always means worse, for some.

In fact, the similarity is more poignant than even Atwood suggests, as Egyptian-American activist and author Mona Eltahawy describes in her NYT Op-Ed (here). In it she comments on the similarity between Saudi women’s lives and the lives of women in Gilead. The Handmaid’s Tale remains ever-relevant, thanks not only to its presence in modern-day patriarchal societies like Saudi Arabia’s but also to the popular Hulu series based off the book.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAAAA (8)

Writing: AAAAAAAAA (9)

Pace: Slow

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Unfiltered Coming of Age: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – by Betty Smith

Classic Literature, Fictional Memoir, Historical Fiction, Romance

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn follows Francie Rommely as she grows up, living in an immigrant community in Brooklyn at the turn of the century. Her family are poor, eating a limited diet and keeping to a frugal lifestyle. Like so many in their neighbourhood, Francie’s father takes his Sunday suit to the pawnbroker’s every week, and Francie dreams of someday buying a book for herself rather than borrowing one from the library. A Tree, however, does not urge you to pity the poor or feel guilty about your affluence, nor does it romanticise poverty. Francie’s mother, Katie, exemplifies that dignity and hard work are far more precious to many than free hand-outs or sympathy; the strong woman is driven by the desire to better herself and her family, and would never accept charity. This book is about growing up, facing challenges and hardships, and coming to your own conclusions about life and the world. Francie, in all of her flawed, human self, is intelligent, honest and thoughtful; I dream to be half the person she is and becomes.

When I started A Tree, I was distracted, and was not hooked; I forced myself to read it when I had nothing else to do. The book became more engaging once Francie began to experience difficulties – her mother’s evident favouritism for Francie’s brother, Neeley; the death of her beloved father; the teacher who told her to write about beauty rather than her complex life in poverty. (These mentions do not spoil the book, either, as it’s no thriller – A Tree moves at the natural pace of life and memories, and there are few plot surprises.) I found myself moved by Francie’s realisations about how life is passed on and enriched through inheritance of traits and looks, and was inspired by her experience with her teacher and consequent discarding of all things deemed ‘beautiful’ and quaint. These, coupled with her profound and honest insights about life, make Francie wise, insightful and rounded.

For the most part, she lives an ordinary life. But her experiences are richly depicted so they seem real yet fascinating, reminding me of Francie’s comments on story-writing and ’embellishing’ the truth (although I don’t believe that this is what the author did, especially as the story is semi-autobiographical). Some ideas are naive and idealistic, but they’re also heart-warming, hearkening to the nostalgia and familiarity of the American Dream; I don’t believe there is any real harm in believing in the unlikely, especially as Francie herself (and the author) grows up to be successful.

In the old country, a man is given to the past. Here he belongs to the future. In this land, he may be what he will, if he has the good heart and the way of working honestly at the right things.

If you’re looking for a captivating book, do not read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; the power of this book is in its authentic characters and the universal experiences they share. This book is equally suitable for a child as for an adult – enjoy!

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAAAA (8)

Writing: AAAAAAAAA (8)

Pace: Medium/Slow

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Story of Survival: I am David – By Anne Holm

Historical Fiction

Set in the Second World War, I am David follows the escape of a young boy, David, from a concentration camp. He has lived there for as long as he can remember; suddenly, a suspicious guard makes plans for his escape, directing him towards the free country of Denmark. Although confused, David figures that it’s his only chance to escape; even if he fails, he’s has nothing to lose. To his disbelief, he makes it over the fence and he’s finally free. Resilient and determined, survival is his only occupation – until, gradually, he grows curious about ‘normal’ people. In a small, picturesque town, he learns more about the world, even aptly teaching himself the local language. A local baker generously gives him bread and David starts to believe in the kindness of others. On his journey, he experiences both goodwill and yet more misfortune, all along keeping his faith in a ‘God of green pastures’.

I am David was written as a children’s book, but it certainly isn’t too simple or naive. In fact, David shares thoughts so profound and serious that, if he hadn’t grown up in a concentration camp, would seem fantastical, unrealistic. But it’s that philosophical, insightful perspective that makes the book so unique – not just another haunting account of events or a naive child’s story, but in fact somewhere in between. The book also offers a nuanced view of the people living under Nazi occupation – the kindness that existed alongside unspeakable horrors.

Overall, although a little farfetched at times, I am David offers a different take on a topic which has been depicted and discussed so many times before. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a tale of survival set against a historic backdrop.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAAA (7)

Writing: AAAAAAAA (7)

Pace: Medium

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Top Five Books from Around the World

Top Five books

I thought I would share some of my favourite books from around the world. I have reviewed some of them already, so if you’d like to check out the full reviews, click the links below.

Uganda: Crossroads – By Christopher Conte

Crossroads is a collection of autobiographical essays writte5185Z3FSyqL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_n by Ugandan women. They describe their lives and the difficulties they have encountered, discussing a broad selection of topics relating to both ‘Ugandan’ issues and universal ones – from sex, sexuality and gender roles to NGOs, torture and corporal punishment. The women, living in modern Uganda, insightfully describe Western influences versus traditional customs, exploring their benefits and drawbacks. A largely unknown book, Crossroads is perfect if you are interested in Ugandan life and stories about women’s coming-of-age.

Pakistan: Malala, The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Changed the World – By Malala Yousafzai

It’s likely that you already know her story – the girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for going to school. Malala’s memoir offers valuable context to her experience: her father ran the local girls’ school, so growing u51ttkd0i1xlp, she had always been an eager student. As the Taliban gained influence in the Swat Valley and Pakistan as a whole, she increasingly became an international spokeswoman for girls’ rights to learn. Unlike many men in Pakistan, her father encouraged her wholeheartedly, despite fearing her safety all the time. This book is inspiring; I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in Malala’s story and what’s happening with the Taliban in Pakistan now.

Germany: The Book Thief – By Markus Zusak

The Book Thief is a book (and celebrated film) about Liesel Meminger, a young girl living in WW2 Germany. After her brother’s death, she goes to live with foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Whilst Hans becomes a father-figure, teaching her to read and encouraging her passion for writi51a99tea6il-_sy344_bo1204203200_ng, Rosa takes a sterner approach, but is nonetheless caring and protective over her foster daughter. Liesel becomes great friends with a local boy, Rudy, who falls in love with her. The girl gradually learns more about the war, realizing that the Nazis persecuted her parents for being Communists. Her devastating and sometimes extraordinary experiences shape her as a strong-minded, somewhat rebellious young woman. Like many people I know, I loved reading this book, and would recommend it for people looking for readable, relatable historical fiction.

United States: The Help – By Kathryn Stockett

The Help, set in the early 1960’s in Jackson, Mississippi, recounts the lives of three women: Skeeter Phelan, an aspiring writer, Aibileen, a caring, loving maid w220px-thehelpbookcoverho is raising her 17th white child, and Minny, an angry, outspoken maid who is fired for giving her employer a piece of her mind. Skeeter decides to write a highly controversial book that accounts the lives of maids in Jackson, describing their female bosses, for better or for worse. Aibileen is the first of the maids to agree to tell her story to Skeeter, and helps her in the making of the book; she is the driving force in encouraging the other maids to write about their lives. Read The Help if you are interested in segregation in the South, but want to learn about it in an easy and accessible way.

China: Snow Flower and The Secret Fan – By Lisa See

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is set in a remote area in Hunan province in nineteenth-century China. At seven years of age, a “so-so” girl named Lily is paired with a well-educated girl as a laotong, or “old same”, to be emotionally matched and friends for life. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a token of her hopes snow_flower_and_the_secret_fanfor their relationship in the future in the form of a silk fan. On the fan she writes a poetic greeting in nu shu, an exclusive, ancient language that Chinese women created to communicate in secret, away from the domination of men. Most girls at her age are part of sworn sisterhoods until marriage, but Lily and Snow Flower maintain a relationship for many years, sharing their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments through sending messages on the fan and composing stories on handkerchiefs. Both heart-warming and educational, this book is a must for people who like coming-of-age novels or historical fiction.

What are your favourite books from around the world?

Diary in a dark world: Never Let Me Go – By Kazuo Ishiguro

Dystopian, Fictional Memoir, Romance, Sci-Fi

I was around two-thirds of the way through Frankenstein when I realised I had barely read in a week. I’d enjoyed the book up until halfway, at which point I often found myself re-reading the same paragraphs, forcing myself to go on. I was in a rut. Whether this was due to the book or my state of mind I’m not sure, but I wanted to get out of it. Looking up at my stack of books for inspiration, I realised almost immediately what I should read. I’d bought Never Let Me Go a while ago after hearing about the book and the even more popular film. It’d been sitting on my shelf for a while, and for no particular reason, I had never got around to reading it.


Never Let Me Go is set in a darkly distorted version of our present – too familiar to be dystopian, but not quite true-to-life enough to be realistic fiction. The book centres on three students’ childhood in a picturesque boarding school and their lives after leaving, following their friendships and romances. Written from the near future, the narrative meanders spontaneously as Kathy H, the narrator, recalls memories from her past. It reminds me of a diary – descriptive, but not boring; somewhat digressive, with one anecdote leading on to the next, but not difficult to follow. Although it’s hard to put my finger on how, the book is definitely well written whilst also remaining highly readable – a rare feat.

Before starting the book, I read the cover’s review excerpts; one described the novel’s subject as ‘ourselves, seen through a glass, darkly.’ (Margaret Atwood, Slate.com) When I began reading, however, I was confused – I struggled to recognise any of our society reflected in the book’s skewed world. It was only as more details were revealed, near the end of the book, that the setting stopped being a distant horrific fantasy, but became conceivable, something that I could imagine happening. I was left with a scary thought, a dismal vision for the world’s future.

Overall, Never Let Me Go is a fantastic book – readable, well-written, and a familiar narrative with thought-provoking themes running beneath the surface. I would recommend the book to those who enjoy books largely about relationships; it is also great for people who like dark, somewhat dystopian stories.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAAAA (8)

Writing: AAAAAAAA (7)

Pace: Slow/Medium

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