Behind the Beautiful Forevers – Katherine Boo

This is a book I’ve had on my To-Read list for ages, since I first found out about it from John Green’s book recommendations video. I randomly spotted it in the college library and thought I’d give it a go (so begins many of my reading stories).

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This was such an interesting book. I was slightly put off by the title, which I thought sounded quite soppy and sentimental, but this was absolutely not the case. The book was written by an American journalist, who decided to spend 3 years living in a slum in Mumbai. The title actually arises from some adverts for tiles that is on the wall between the slum and the airport. The adverts promise that the tiles will be “Beautiful Forever”, and so the slum itself is “Behind the Beautiful Forevers”.

Anyway, the book follows various inhabitants of the slum, what they do in their day-to-day lives, their aspirations, successes, and failures. Katherine Boo herself is not a character, and it is just told in the third person as if life were going on as normal.

I thought this book offered amazing insight into the lives of people in slums. It was very interesting, and taught me a lot I didn’t know about their struggles, and especially the extraordinary amounts of corruption that they face from all authorities. It raised quite a lot of issues for me about the effectiveness of charities, and how difficult it is to help people in need when they are surrounded by a cage of corrupt authorities.

I thought the topic was dealt with a great deal of humanity, but without being sentimental, or patronising to the characters. I would recommend this to everyone really – I think it’s one of those books that’s “important” to read, in order to understand the problems that other people face.

Incidentally, anyone who’s read this book and worries (as I did) about how helpful the money they donate to charity actually is, I’d recommend you check out Giving What We Can. It’s an organisation that investigates charities, and comes up with a list of the most “effective” ones – i.e. the ones that allow your money to have the most impact. Many of the charitable organisations mentioned in this book are having their money siphoned off by corrupt authorities at a higher level, and it never actually reaches the people it was intended for. I believe GWWC investigates charities very carefully, to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️5/5 stars

XooxoXXOO

Summer Reading – Mini Reviews

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Hello, it’s been a while as I’ve been enjoying the summer and haven’t had any university work to procrastinate from. But of course that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading, so I thought I’d kick off again with a wrap up of all the books I read while on holiday with my parents. (Sorry, there are loads).

image1. 13 Minutes – Sarah Pinborough

So the first book I read on holiday was 13 Minutes, by Sarah Pinborough, which was an ARC from NetGalley. It’s a gripping thriller about a teenager who has an accident, resulting in her being dead for 13 minutes, but can’t remember what happened. With some fairly sickening twists and turns, I thought this was fantastic, and you can read my full review here.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️4/5

2. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Dìaz

This one was slightly strange. I can’t remember where I heard about this – probably just2629628booktube videos over the years. I didn’t really know anything about it, but spotted it at the college library and decided to give it a go. It’s about a boy called Oscar, who has moved to the USA from the Dominican Republic. The story follows him and his family growing up and the things that happen to them. It also had a lot of interesting bits about the political history of the Dominican Republic. It was quite good, but not amazing in my opinion. I think this was partly due to all the Spanish words that I had to look up, which made it quite a clunky reading experience.

⭐️⭐️⭐️3/5


3. City of Ashes and City of Glass – Cassandra Clare

1582996.jpgI am quite late to jump on this whole Cassandra Clare bandwagon, but since the ebooks are free on my local library’s reading app, I thought I’d give them a go. I’d read the last one the previous summer, and all the other books I wanted to read were on loan. So why not. I’m reviewing these together because I can’t really remember which things happened in which. This series is quite silly, but a fun and light read. There’s an interesting magic system, entwined with the occult, angels, demons, and various other mythological creatures, all with a ridiculous angsty teenage twist. I can see where a lot of the criticism comes from, as some of the main characters are incredibly immature and annoying, but I think you just have to accept that this is not ever going to be a fantastic piece of literature and enjoy it for what it is.

⭐️⭐️⭐️3/5

4. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler 22817474.jpg

This is one of those books that’s slightly tricky to review without spoilers, but I highly highly recommend it. The narrator is a girl called Rosemary, who is looking back at her childhood, in particular her sister Fern, who went missing under suspicious circumstances. I found this book quite upsetting, but in a good, thought-provoking way. It asks some important questions about the way our society works.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️5/5


5. One Hundred Years of Marriage – Louise Farmer Smith

29524815.jpgThis is another one from NetGalley. The book is split up into sections, each following a different marriage in an American family, going right back to the pioneers. It was an interesting idea, but I’d say the execution was fairly ‘meh’. It did make me want to find out more about my family history though, and there was some interesting demonstrations about how quickly stories are forgotten and changed, as they are misrepresented by continuous tellings.

⭐️⭐️2/5

6. Surviving the Angel of Death – Eva Mosez Kor18898968.jpg

This is another NetGalley one (last one I promise!). I’m not really sure why this one was on there, as it seems to have been published in 2009, but anyway, it is certainly well worth a read. The book is a true story, written by a person who not only survived Auschwitz, but also was one of the twins experimented on by the Nazi ‘doctor’/evil scientist Joseph Mengele. This is one of those stories that is just too horrible to believe, and how awful humans can be.  It’s also a story of resilience, and the end was strangely uplifting, especially since Eva Mosez Kor has gone on to do lots of amazing things for other people after her escape. It’s impossible to say this kind of book is an ‘enjoyable’ read, but I think books like this are very important. If you are interested in this kind of thing, I would also recommend “A Detail of History” by Arek Hersch, who came to do a talk at my school.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️4/5

7. A Storm of Swords – George R. R. Martin

62291.jpgAnother instalment in the fantastic Song of Ice and Fire series, and definitely the best book so far. I’m currently watching the TV series with a friend, and desperately trying to stay ahead with the books (as far as possible). These books are so long that it’s often daunting to start them, but I always end up absolutely glued to them. The chapter structure (which alternates POV chapters from several characters) can get frustrating, because some characters are way more interesting than others, and lots of chapters end on cliff hangers, but ultimately this is quite an effective way of spurring you on through the book. Lots of shocking deaths (obviously) and dastardly schemes and plotting (obviously). I’m told the next one is quite boring though 😞

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️5/5

8. Behind the Beautiful Forevers – Katherine Boo11869272

This is an amazing book about the lives of some people who live in a slum next to Mumbai airport. I tried to write a brief review for this post, but it ended up getting ridiculously long, but I still wanted to say all the things, so I’ve decided to make it into a separate post!

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Right, that’s about it I reckon! I hope you all read some interesting books on your holidays too. Has anyone read any of these?

XoXOOXO

June Book Haul – 2016

Here’s a look at the books that made their way into my possession during the month of June! Most of these ones come from libraries this month, because I bought quite a lot of books in May

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  1. Heffer’s

This is the Cambridge branch of Blackwell’s books, est. 1876. It has a really cool multi-layer layout, with multiple concentric balconies going all the way round. I went their with my friend last week, and picked up…

The Lies We Tell OurselvesRobin Talley22710376.jpg

I definitely heard about this on Booktube, although I can’t remember whose video it was. It’s set in 1959 Virginia, in a school that has just started allowing black students to attend. Both a civil rights and LGBT book, and it’s had fab reviews.

  1. City Library

Went and picked up a couple more books from here. I’m loving using this library, although unlike my college library it charges for fines for late books, so I’d better be careful…

23592235Am I Normal yet? – Holly Bourne

I’ve already read and reviewed this, and absolutely loved it. It follows a teenager with OCD, through her life and relationships, and includes some awesome feminist stuff too.

We were liars – E. Lockhart16143347.jpg

This is an old booktube fave that I’m sure pretty much everyone has read. I’ve heard it’s best to go into it blind, so I don’t really know much about it.

  1. College Library

My college library has mostly academic books, but there’s this wonderful magical room called the light reading section, where you can just borrow as many books as you like. It’s based on trust, so there’s no official deadline/stress for giving them back. I picked up 4 books from here.

884424.jpgThe Almost Moon Alice Sebold

I’ve read 2 books by Alice Sebold in the past, The Lovely Bones, which was absolutely amazing, and Lucky, which was OK. I saw this one, which I hadn’t head of, and thought I’d give it a try, in the hope it lives up to The Lovely Bones. Not really sure what it’s about, but it had something about a girl killing her mother on the back…

Behind the Beautiful Forevers – Katherine Boo11869272.jpg

I heard about this one from one of John Green’s book recommendation videos, where it was recommended for people interested in decreasing “world-suck” (bad things like poverty/suffering/disease/inequality). I believe it is set in a slum in India.

2629628.jpgThe Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Díaz

Again, not completely sure what this is about, other than a person called Oscar Wao, set somewhere in America. Has had great reviews though.

I Was Told There’d Be Cake ­– Sloane Crosley2195289.jpg

Probably the most random choice on this list, this is a set of essays by someone I’d never heard of. I was drawn to it by the interesting title, nice spine, and held onto it for its funny blurb. I hope this will be entertaining. We’ll see.

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So that’s it for the books I’ve got in June! I’ve also started reading some things on NetGalley, one of which I’ve got rather stuck on, but feel the need to soldier on so I can review it… Oh well. I hope you have all had marvellous Junes.

XoxoxxOX