Book Reviews: Into The Water and The Impossible Fortress

Into The Water

Paula Hawkins

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Genre: Thriller

Setting: Beckford, England

My rating: **

Story: In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help.

Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind.

But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped.

And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool . . .

 

Having read The Girl On The Train, I eagerly awaited Paula Hawkins’ next release. And… this book was thoroughly disappointing. I didn’t expect it to be like The Girl On The Train but I did expect it to contain an interesting plotline and layered and realistic characters. Nel, herself, was fairly interesting, however, there was not much to go on and her research into the previous murders, its victims and the controversial and murky circumstances that resulted in their deaths. This was something the book did not explore as much as I wanted it to. Even when we discovered that Nel’s part in Jules’ rape was nil, it still didn’t necessarily make her a very likeable person because of her condescending treatment of her sister. The book plays on an individual’s access to their memories and how our interpretations are modified into a perspective we believe is more accurate. This was quite an intriguing theory: that our preconceived notions can potentially play our part in tweaking memories to the point of pointing fingers at those whom we dislike. How much do I think this is true? I think it can and it depends on the maturity of the user, if they come free with bias and possess a genuine interest in truth-seeking.

One thing I could not come to terms with was Lena’s warped outlook on right and wrong and culpability. Surely, there is no universe in which a teacher having an affair with a student (Katie) is the right thing to do? Lena grappled with this throughout the book and by the end, she had decided that regardless of right and wrong, that in an alternate universe they would hopefully get their happy ending. This was disturbing, and I don’t know if her youth is to blame for that and you know what, I’m not going to credit her ignorance to her youth when it’s basic common sense.

The main issue that I had with this book was that there were far too many characters and POV’s! We do not get a full exploration of the characters that will allow us to decide for ourselves who killed Nel and this just serves to confuse and restrict our ability to interpret what happened. Perhaps this was what Paula Hawkins intended as one of the major themes is Jules’ poor ability to interpret correctly and to remind us we don’t truly know what’s going on in others’ lives. But considering this IS a book where one would usually be able to considerably delve into people’s minds and thought processes, I, as a reader, would have liked to be able to speculate and it ruined my enjoyment of the book.

 Memorable quotes:

“Yes, it is. It’s, like, when someone has an affair, why does the wife always hate the other woman? Why doesn’t she hate her husband? He’s the one who’s betrayed her, he’s the one who swore to love her and keep her and whatever forever and ever. Why isn’t he the one who gets shoved off a fucking cliff?”

This book is available to purchase here.



 

The Impossible Fortress

Jason Rekulak

9780571330638

Genre: Young Adult (YAy more like!)

Setting: New Jersey, 1987

My rating: *****

Story: A dazzling debut novel—at once a charming romance and a moving coming-of-age story—about what happens when a fourteen-year old boy pretends to seduce a girl to steal a copy of Playboy but then discovers she is his computer-loving soulmate.

Billy Marvin’s first love was a computer. Then he met Mary Zelinsky.

 

Yes, I gave it 5*’s. I LOVE THIS BOOK, I LOVE THIS BOOK, I LOVE THIS BOOK! And so did everyone else at book club!!! The first book in a long while since All The Bright Places and A Little Life that I have given 5*’s to.

This book is an easy read until it’s not at the very end, you even take the intended heist to steal the Playboys quite lightly as well. You think you’re in for a smooth, light and fun ride until it smacks you in the face. A lot of people picked up that there would be a twist coming at the ending and I, for one, was absolutely clueless and I’m kind of glad for that.

What makes a book enjoyable to me is the characters. If you like and/or are intrigued by the characters, then you will care about the plot. Billy is a computer geek who is performing poorly at school, Alf is your insane, daring and crackpot plan-hatcher and Clark is your regular and singularly wonderful boy-next-door (and the friend you’ve always wanted) with a physical deformity that plagues him. Together these ragtag group of misfits make for a wonderfully refreshing group of friends. What really surprised me is how understanding and accepting of each other they are, they come without prejudice and genuinely support the other’s interests. I WANT TO BE PART OF THIS FRIENDSHIP GROUP! Mary Zelinsky is now one of my favourite female YA characters and I would be surprised if you didn’t like her too. Mary is intelligent, excellent at problem-solving, warm, friendly and supportive but does come with her fair share of problems. She is mocked for her weight but she is still confident and bold. If you add Mary to the equation, the characters sort of remind you of the four main characters of Stand By Me with Alf being a more successful version of Teddy Duchamp.

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You would expect the plan for the heist to be completely impossible but surprisingly, Alf is far more ingenious than I reckoned and accounted for any potential issues that might arise with his painstakingly detailed model creation of the neighbourhood. It really blew me away and I instantly regretted my initial assumptions of him being as mad as a hatter.    

One thing I learnt from this book was due to the Computer Age being in its early stages, the US education curriculum catered to a specific set of students and thus excluded a fair number of students. This was a huge waste of talent and potential. What I do like about their current education system is its extended timescales which at least allows young adults the much-needed time to discover, self-reflect and experience their fields of interest whereas I feel the British system is much more hurried. Billy’s mother understands that the school doesn’t provide the education he needs and instead of revoking computer privileges, she allows and encourages her son to develop his talent so he doesn’t waste it in a job he may not be good at or want or end up in a situation where he might not even get a job. The message it serves to carry is to encourage youth to pursue their dreams and make the most of their resources that will allow them to do that.

And… in terms of the love angle, I LOVED IT! YA love stories always deliver, except for the Fault in Our Stars which was cringe and loaded with cheese (who knew you could make the word ‘okay’ sound cheesy?). Mary and Billy were a fresh pair and I guess, this largely accounts to the fact that it’s a first love scenario. There’s an aura of innocence and sweetness that translates into effortless charm. Mary is far bolder than Billy. Another romance I enjoyed in this book despite one of the pair being absent was Mary’s parents.  Late Mrs Zelinsky’s noble intentions, acts and generosity of spirit compared to the grouchiness of Mr Zelinsky who is a big softie on the inside and how he carries on by standing by what she stood for will really melt your heart.

Overall, this book is EVERYTHING. It’s refreshing, innocent, charming, full of crazy sketched-out plans and is, in essence, a simple coming-of-age story. I, also, loved the way it was written, it was both direct and witty. I really hope to read another book that is similar to this and I now cannot wait to read whatever Jason Rekulak plans to publish next. If you are into programming, obsessed with the 80’s, want to read something different and/or want a light read with good messages this book is for you.

Memorable Quotes:

“Girls practically invented programming,” she said. “Jean Bartik, Marlyn Wescoff, Fran Bilas—they all programmed ENIAC.” I had no idea what she was talking about. “And don’t forget Margaret Hamilton. She wrote the software that let Apollo 11 land on the moon.” “I meant programming video games,” I said. “Dona Bailey, Centipede. Brenda Romero, Wizardry. Roberta Williams, King’s Quest. She designed her first computer game at the kitchen table. I interviewed her for school last year.”

“There are plenty of things that a teenage boy doesn’t tell his mother. As we get older, there are more and more things we hold back, things too hard to say or too embarrassing to explain. We do this to protect our mothers as much as ourselves, because let’s face it—most of our thoughts are truly unthinkable.”

This book is available for purchase here.


 

Sophia Ismaa

 

 

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