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BOOK REVIEWS &
RECOMMENDATIONS
 
with Abby Kernya @abbykernya

JUNE/JULY

THE SONG OF ACHILLES

By Madeline Miller (2011)

Genre: Novel, Romance Novel, Historical Fiction, War Story 

Recommended Age: 15+ readers

Rating Scale

Educational value: ​​ 5/5

Positive message: ​4/5

Positive role models: 5/5

Violence:5/5

Sex: 5/5

Language:​1/5

Drinking, drugs, smoking:​2/5

Consumerism:​ 0/5

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"We were like gods dawning of the world, and our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other".

Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles


When I finished reading "The Song of Achilles", I was left speechless. And still days later, no combination of words can describe the emotions I felt upon these pages. In the most simple words I can muster: I have never read a book like "The Song of Achilles". A fable of love, sacrifice, prophecies and pride. A tale that has broken my heart and stitched it back together with every turn of the page.

"The Song of Achilles" is a legend of Greek mythology reimagined. It is told through the eyes of an awkward young prince sent to live with King Peleus’ exiled boys. It is in this kingdom, where Patroclus meets the son of a terrifying goddess, and a powerful King. A boy who is destined for greatness: a boy whose veins run rich with the golden blood of the Gods. Here, in the land of Phthia, the most epic love story is born.

Achilles and Patroclus are completely opposite in every way possible. The son of a goddess and a banished prince would normally never speak - but this is not a normal story. Patroclus and Achilles are instead, inseparable from the moment they first meet. Together they share a bond strong enough to break fate itself. Patroclus watches Achilles from the sidelines, he observes a living prophecy take flight - a prophecy that threatens to tear his most beloved companion from his arms. When the Trojan War breaks out, the two boys - now young adults, are called upon to fight. Achilles, who has been foreseen to be the greatest warrior of his generation, must now prove his birthright of fame and immortal legacy - even if it means endangering the person he loves most in the world. 

On every line, Madeline Miller beautifully writes a mosaic of emotions. She tells a story of devotion and divinity in a perspective I have never read before. "The Song of Achilles" is a legend reborn: one that proves how love is the most powerful weapon in all the heavens. If you are looking for a read that challenges every perception of fate, honour, and the purest form of love, then be ready to be left breathless with "The Song of Achilles".

THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE

By Haruki Murakami (1997), translated by Jay Rubin

Genre: Novel, Science Fiction, Psychological Fiction, Fantastique

Recommended Age:  16+ readers

Rating Scale

Educational value: ​​ 3/5

Positive message: ​2/5

Positive role models: ​2/5

Violence: ​4/5

Sex: 4/5

Language:​5/5

Drinking, drugs, smoking:​3/5

Consumerism:​ 1/5

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"You’re such a supernormal guy,

but you do such unnormal things.” 
 

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami takes place in a lonely Tokyo suburb where the life of Toru Okada begins to mold into a never ending mystery. One full of half finished stories, a doomed marriage, and the long lost history of Japan's buried campaign during World War II. Toru Okada is an exceedingly average man, who lives a superficial borrowed life he was never meant to have. The tale of a man looking for his cat - and then his wife, uncovers secrets hidden at the bottom of a dried up well, and the cry of a wind-up bird. 

After the disappearance of his cat Noboru Wataya, Toru descends down a ruthless path of unconventional women, and a well where time does not exist. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle tells a story of love and indifference that will capture the minds of readers from start to finish. Between the shocking mind of the brazen May Kashahara, the unfinished story of the Kano sisters, and the unusual help from a mother and son whose first names are a mystery, Haruki Murakami delivers a masterpiece in which the fine line between reality and fantasy is blurred.

Toru finds himself torn between seeking the truth, and understanding the past. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is an unexpected detective story like no other. A story where a pair of physic sisters have the best chance at finding Toru’s missing wife, while simultaneously raising more questions than answers. Haruki Murakami never fails to deliver mind captivating stories that feel more alive than the reality around you. If you are looking for an adventure that tests the boundaries of love and self discovery, then I highly recommend The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN

by John Green (2017)

Genre: Novel, Young Adult Fiction

Recommended Age:  13+ readers

Rating Scale

Educational value: ​​ 5/5

Positive message: ​5/5

Positive role models: ​3/5

Violence: ​2/5

Sex: 1/5

Language:​3/5

Drinking, drugs, smoking:​1/5

Consumerism:​ 0/5

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In the unprecedented year that is 2020, the world is

full of one big question: “why is this happening?”

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green answers this question beautifully, by not answering it at all. Sometimes there are no answers to life's biggest questions, certainly not in the exceptional life of Aza Holmes. This coming of age novel takes readers deep inside sixteen year old Aza Holmes’ brain, as she struggles to cope with the loss of her father, obsessive compulsive disorder, a missing person, and her first love.

In more ways than one, the life of Aza Holmes will resonate with you. Whether it be learning to cope with mental illness, the butterflies of your first love, or the anxieties of growing up. John Green perfectly captures how it feels to be lost in your own world. Each chapter will have readers captivated and moved by the unknowingness that is Aza Holmes, as she  learns to accept everything in life she cannot change. 

Turtles All The Way Down paints a new definition of “normal.” If you are looking for a read that does not just touch on the struggle of mental illness, but a universal human struggle, then Turtles All The Way Down is a must read!

NORTHANGER ABBEY

by Jane Austen (written in 1799, published in 1818)

Genre: Gothic Fiction, Satire, Romance

Recommended Age:  16+ readers

Rating Scale

Educational value: ​​ 5/5

Positive message: ​2/5

Positive role models: ​2/5

Violence: ​1/5

Sex: 1/5

Language:​0/5

Drinking, drugs, smoking:​0/5

Consumerism:​ 0/5

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"No one would have suspected her to be a heroine”.

Northanger Abbey is a journey to the past full of gothic adventures and ballroom dances. Written over 200 years ago by the esteemed Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey follows the courageous tale of a young woman from the country, off to find her destiny in a peculiar town called Bath. Catherine lives her life with her head stuck in a book, seemingly unaware of the rules and reality to the world around her. Catherine is the least qualified in all walks of life. No one would have suspected her to be a heroine in a great story of romance, and daunting castles. However, they say adventure always comes to those who least expect it.  

This historic coming-of-age novel displays the complexities of a young woman seeking mysteries, and a young man trying to run from them. Through noble balls and rainy countryside walks, Northanger Abbey offers a glimpse into the past of the retired notions of engagements and traditions in the eighteenth century. Catherine finds herself torn between true love, and harsh customs. Mr. Tilney and Catherine embark on a daring adventure to battle obnoxious coachmen, cheating friends, and the never ending imagination of Catherine Morland. 

Jane Austen once again delivered a mind blowing, heart wrenching novel about self discovery, the growing pains of adulthood, and choosing to make your own destiny. Northanger Abbey truly shows how honest and kind hearts will always prevail in the end. From start to finish, the diversity and complexity of the characters will captivate and torture your heartstrings. Northanger Abbey is littered with vulnerability and emotion on every page. If you are looking for a read that ponders the difference between love and fairytales, I definitely recommend Northanger Abbey. 

HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE

by Diana Wynne Jones (1986)

Genre: Novel, Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy Fiction

Recommended Age:  12+ readers

Followed by: Castle in the Air

Rating Scale

Educational value: ​​4/5

Positive message:​ 5/5

Positive role models:​ 4/5

Violence:​ 3/5

Sex:  0/5

Language:​ 1/5

Drinking, drugs, smoking:​ 3/5

Consumerism:​ 0/5

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Have you ever felt as if you were born into a life you never wanted?

 

Like you were put onto a path you were never meant to follow? If so, then Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones is for you. Howl’s Moving Castle is a classic novel that tells a different story from the Studio Ghibli movie adaptation. Every time you read this book, it will feel as if you’re discovering it for the first time. Howl’s Moving Castle follows the peculiar life of Sophie Hatter, the eldest of three sisters off to seek her own destiny. Along the way, she finds herself under a foul curse from the Witch of The Waste. With no other option, Sophie takes a leap of faith in the hands of the notorious Wizard Howl in hopes of breaking free from her curse. 

Sometimes, being the oldest in your family comes with certain expectations. Sometimes it seems as if you are bound to fail. Yet despite being the eldest of three, failing is not an option for Sophie. This novel navigates the complicated relationship of a young girl trying to find her place in the world, and a young wizard trying to run from it. Wizard Howl and his fire demon Calcifer are running out of time to break free from their own curse. That is, until Sophie shows up at the foot of their moving castle. Diana Wynne Jones perfectly captures how it feels to be stuck in an impossible situation with impossible people, and how the best adventures are the ones you least expected. 

Howl’s Moving Castle will have you feeling enchanted with every turn of the page. Each chapter pulling you deeper and deeper into this magical and bewitched world. By the end of this novel, you will truly understand how sometimes, the most seemingly wicked people have the biggest hearts. If you are looking for a read full of adventure, fire demons, and a whole lot of magic, then I highly recommend Howl’s Moving Castle. 

NORWEGIAN WOOD

by Haruki Murakami Translator Alfred Birnbaum (1989) Jay Rubin (2000)

Genre: Coming of age novel,  Romance novel  

Recommended Age:  16+ readers

Rating Scale: 0-5

Educational value: 4/5  

Positive message: 4/5​ 

Positive role models: 2/5​

Violence: 3/5

Sex: 5/5 ​

Language: 3/5​ 

Drinking, drugs, smoking: 5/5 ​

Consumerism: 0/5

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As soon as I picked up Norwegian Wood by

Haruki Murakami, it was a hard one to put down.

I kept finding myself wanting more, and being sucked in with every turn of the page. Norwegian Wood follows the life of Toru Watanabe as he reminisces his life as a Japanese college student in the late 1960’s. The life of Watanabe seems ordinary from the outside, he is a drama major who works in a record shop and likes to read. However, underneath his hard exterior is a closet full of skeletons. 

This novel navigates the complexities of Toru’s life. From loosing his best friend to suicide, coping with grief and loss, to the rollercoaster of his first love and heartbreak. Throughout the novel Toru battles with his love for two very different women. His first love is Naoko, a young girl from his childhood, who struggles to cope with her own demons after the death of her sister and best friend. He also loves Midori, an outgoing realist from his class who opens his eyes to a new reality, one full of fresh ideas and dying relatives.

Haruki Murakami truly delivers a coming of age novel like no other; a story full of unanswered questions, the painful reality of mental illness, and choosing to walk your own path in life. 

Norwegian Wood beautifully captures how it feels to be stuck in the past, while everyone around you moves forward. From beginning to end, this book will have you completely captivated and engaged with every character. If you are looking for a read that truly makes you understand the difference between living and surviving, I highly recommend Norwegian Wood.

 
 
 
 
 
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