Book Review: ‘YOU’ and ‘Hidden Bodies’

‘YOU’ 

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Ok, I actually read these books last year but realised I didn’t post a review on my blog. I wanted to add it now, after finishing Season 2 of YOU on Netflix. So let’s start with the book ‘YOU’…

I just want to say: Pick it up, pick it up, pick it up! (Reference to the man singing at the train station.) I cannot believe how fast I devoured this psychological, mind-blowing, twisted thriller that was soooooo bad yet soooooo good! I could not put it down!

I’ll admit that I started reading it after watching the Netflix series YOU Season 1. There were some characters that were changed or added in the show that made it even better than the book, in some ways (the neighbour’s kid Paco, especially, because he made Joe seem like a caring human being despite his sick, twisted mind). But the book also just flows and takes a hold of you and doesn’t let you go and you just find yourself turning the pages (not realising how much time has passed, ignoring your full bladder, bowel movements, and feelings of hunger).

I was so confused about my feelings for Joe. I found myself falling for him and rooting for him and wanting him, and then I realised how f-d up that was because he is f-d up and crazy and a stalker and, oh, so much is wrong with him. And now, I’m even thinking and writing like him with long sentences filled with ‘and’s and not needing to take a breath in my thoughts.

I am in awe of Caroline Kepnes and how she came up with this twisted tale, his character, his voice, his mind and even making readers sympathise with this psychopathic stalker / killer! I love the many literary, music and film references in this book and it makes me want to read those books (Desperate Characters, Dr Sleep, On the Road) and watch those films (Pitch Perfect). These elements were weaved into the storyline and helps you to understand the character and personality of Joe, his observations, perceptions and opinions. They made his character come alive and feel like a real relatable person, despite his dark twisted mind.

I love how Joe bags on Dan Brown and then gets Beck to read The Da Vinci Code together and go a journey together. (I don’t know why so many people hate on Dan Brown; I love The Da Vinci Code!) And he ends up loving it (I was disappointed to know she didn’t really read the whole thing)! The way how she incorporated Stephen King’s release of Doctor Sleep into the story was so clever, too. Then to find out that Mr. King himself recommended the book on Twitter, saying that YOU was ‘Hypnotic and scary’, made me feel excited for Ms. Kepnes. Imagine writing about an author in your book and then having that author read and give you a positive review on it – that is like the biggest compliment ever! What would have made it even cooler is if Dan Brown had also read it and given his take on it!

The book reads like a diary but also like a letter and it’s all written in second person, literally, using ‘You’. I feel like I learned a lot about storytelling and story writing, the use of voice, narrative, sentence construction, obscure references and vocabulary, and even the use of punctuation! This book is such a well-crafted piece of work! I read it on Kindle and eventually bought a hardcopy paperback because I felt like I needed a physical copy of this masterpiece to line my bookshelf. Caroline Kepnes is such a talented writer and to see that YOU is actually her first novel just makes me love her even more!

‘Hidden Bodies’

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After reading ‘You’, I found myself rooting for Joe and hoping he could just find a nice girl to settle down with. He certainly managed to find that girl in this sequel, but not without difficulty or assholes getting in the way of his happiness. He continues to justify his killing by describing everyone’s faults, how the world would be a better place without them. And Joe always manages to convince you that he is doing the right thing! I wanted him to pay for what he did and I wanted him to be happy and find love at the same time. This is what is so frustrating about this whole thing! The mind of a serial killer is not to be trusted yet I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him and sympathising with him. This is totally f-d up, right?

That is how brilliant Caroline Kepnes is! She makes you question everything about our lives, the society we live in today, our over-dependency on social media to share every detail of our lives, how vulnerable we are and how quickly we begin to trust people we barely know.
But I do have some issues with the #mugofurine that managed to go unnoticed for months in Peach Salinger’s house. I mean, wouldn’t it start to smell after a few days? Surely, flies or bugs would just start swarming toward that mug. Seriously, how?!

Some parts were predictable for me though. When Forty managed to survive the whole ordeal, he blackmailed Joe into writing his future scripts for him. I saw that coming, given what an asshole Forty is and how ungrateful he is to everyone in his family. The way he ended up dying in the end was more amusing than shocking. And I just loathed that name – Forty, with a twin called Love.
What I liked about ‘You’ was that a lot of the characters and events seemed more relatable and even quite plausible. But ‘Hidden Bodies’ was too far-fetched and extreme.

When Joe was invited to the Quinn property, it felt a bit like Rachel Chu entering the Crazy Rich Asians mansion. How Joe met Love and how quickly their romance just blossomed after a couple weeks did not seem realistic at all. Just because she is 35 and had two unsuccessful marriages doesn’t mean she must settle down with the next guy she dates but that is precisely what she says! So even after learning about Joe’s past, after he literally confesses to being a murderer, she still decides to be with him and protect him and even goes to retrieve his #mugofurine. Oh, come on!

The ending – the last few chapters – just seemed rushed, trying to tie up every loose end. And it didn’t really end end. It’s not a real ending and I hate that I want to know what happens – if the cops will be able to pin him for the murders; if he will get away with everything and become a father and marry Love and live happily ever after. I hate that I need to know these things!

Season 2 of YOU on Netflix was so different from the book, which really frustrated me. The most annoying thing is Candace being not dead and trying to sabotage everything and even dating Forty. Then when she finally caught Joe red-handed and told Love everything, Love kills Candace – WTF! Oh, yeah, the guy in the cage (not in the book) whom Joe had locked up was actually killed by Love, not Joe. This plot is so far off from the book and made Love into a crazy bitch and not the perfect girl for Joe at all. They’re two completely different stories. The show again completely failed to resolve the #mugofurine situation and it wasn’t even brought up throughout the entire season. Dr. Nicky was brought back and he has become this weak man, not caring about clearing his name or trying to get revenge on Joe. He basically declares to Forty that he deserves to be in jail for his other sins (namely, cheating on his wife) even though he didn’t kill Beck. It was frustrating to watch, yet I want to rewatch it.

I also want to reread the book after watching the show. I saw from Kepnes’ Instagram that she will be writing two more books in the YOU series and I will definitely be buying them. I just hope they will be as good as the first book and not disappointing, as many sequels tend to be.

Book Review: the curious incident of the dog in the night-time

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This is such an amazing book by Mark Haddon! It’s been kind of a slow reading month for me but I still really enjoyed this and definitely recommend it. I actually bought this book several years ago and it just sat on my bookshelf, untouched until last month, when I browsed my bookshelf looking for something to read, while guiltily staring at a stack of books I had just purchased on Book Depository (free shipping worldwide!).

I read a few chapters every few days before going to bed, and it was hard to figure out which chapter I was really reading because the chapters are numbered using prime numbers, which was not explained until chapter 19 or cardinal chapter 8. I thought it was strange to start with chapter 2 and even thought maybe the chapters are out of order or something!

The story is told from Christopher’s perspective. He is autistic and lives on rules, patterns, routines and cannot easily adapt to changes in the environment or surroundings. The way he describes the situations and interactions that happen around him are so matter-of-fact that they sometimes feel comedic and amusing to the reader, even though to Christopher, he has no emotional reaction at all to them. The way his brain works is truly fascinating and he often thinks about difficult mathematical problems to calm himself down when he feels distressed or uncomfortable.

I love the diagrams throughout the book showing how he sees signs, symbols, words, patterns, puzzles etc. It really gives you a deeper understanding of what it is like for an autistic person to live and function in our world.

The most exciting part of the story is when Christopher leaves his home in Swindon, where he lives with his father, and tries to go to London on his own to find his mother. He repeatedly asks the same questions as he does not understand common expressions or sarcasm and makes you feel frustrated at times. I can totally understand why his parents or other passersby react the way they do to him. It isn’t easy communicating with an autistic person. This book really helps readers to gain a better understanding of their world and how their brains work.

I completely failed to understand the whole math problem he solved in the Appendix; but I just loved how he said that Siobhan had told him to put it in the Appendix because it wasn’t very interesting and not many people would want to read that! Well, she was right!

My favourite problem has to be The Monty Hall Problem, though. I read that part several times and his illustration really helps!

The Monty Hall Problem illustration
The Monty Hall Problem illustration

(The book is similar to The Rosie Project series, where the protagonist Don suffers from Asperger’s but doesn’t seem to be aware of it. I have also bought The Rosie Result on Kindle so will probably start reading that soon too.)

See my Goodreads review

Book Review: Eats, Shoots & Leaves

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Here is my book review of ‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves’ by Lynne Truss:

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Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

Sticklers unite! I never thought I’d enjoy a book about punctuation as much as I did. I could have easily read it in one sitting but I took a break after the introduction because it felt like it would never end! I mean, it was over thirty pages long! The chapters that followed were much more interesting and entertaining, and deeply informative. I never imagined that I would get excited reading a book about punctuation!

Truss writes with humour, conviction, authority, and shamelessly shames those who don’t know the difference between a comma and an apostrophe (yes, they exist!), and misplace apostrophes in contractions, plurals (unnecessarily adding them, i.e. banana’s – banana’s what?) and possessives. She explains, in great detail, when and how to use various punctuation marks with numerous literary examples. She even provides a historical background for each of them! I was surprised to learn that George Bernard Shaw once campaigned to reform the spelling of the English language (most notably ‘bomb’ into ‘bom’, because, well, it just saves time!) and even to abolish the use of inverted commas and italics font for titles.

I’d thought I knew the difference between a colon and a semicolon, but after reading the twenty-nine-page chapter titled ‘Airs and Graces’, I learned that there was more to their story than I had originally thought. I did try teaching the colon and semicolon to my students once and immediately thought better of it, then swiftly removed the items from the syllabus. It’s one thing to say you understand the difference, it’s quite another to teach it. Well, I never tried again. One of the reasons Truss says people use for not mastering the colon and semicolon is that “The difference between them is too negligible to be grasped by the brain of man”, which literally made me laugh out loud and choke on my own saliva! And I definitely will be rereading that chapter again, more than once if I have to!

Punctuation has always fascinated me; I even campaigned to include punctuation worksheets and exercises for students during my time as an English panel-chairperson (though a somewhat short-lived role). It deeply frustrated and irritated me when students (and even my fellow colleagues, who were native speakers, mind you!) consistently misused you’re/ your, it’s/ its, they’re/ their and the like. I highly recommend this book to them!

Well, I tremendously enjoyed reading all about punctuation – the history, function and usage – and how important they are to language and communication. I will surely be paying close attention to punctuation from now on (not that I hadn’t already before). I did, at times, find Truss rather obnoxious and snobbish, arrogantly sitting on her high-horse while silently mocking or yelling at greengrocers, editors and a poor old pen-pal named Kerry-Anne. It can come off as either incredibly pretentious or utterly hilarious.

Have you read this book? What did you think about it? Let me know in the comments.

Get the book here!

Can you become addicted to reading?

I hate that I’m going to start this blog with a cliche – I can’t believe how quickly this year just flew by! I am somewhat conflicted by some of the choices I have made last year, mostly starting a new part-time job, staying there for eight months, then resigning from that job. I was excited to start it but I later realised it wasn’t for me and it became unsatisfying, isolating, frustrating, never-ending. I felt relieved when I no longer needed to set my alarm clock for 5:00 a.m. every morning or panicking when I accidentally snoozed and failed to set a second alarm. However, I quickly fell into a slump and woke up five hours later, sometimes even at noon, losing half the day to sleep and intermittent naps. It was not a good sign. I needed to get back into a routine.

I wanted to spend time developing my own projects and passions and enjoying what I used to love. I thought about doing many things – reading, writing, travelling, drawing, photography, animation, research, the list goes on. Well, there is one thing I can not stop doing – reading. I read all kinds of books – memoirs, biographies, chick lit, thrillers, self-help, guide books… I am a reading machine! I can’t stop buying books either – paperbacks from bookstores or ordering online, as well as eBooks on Kindle! I read 15 books in four months – September to December! However, I realised that while I was at my last job, I started getting into audio-books because it was just too quiet working in that room by myself with nothing but my own thoughts. I finished seven audio-books within a few months. I guess from then on, I just couldn’t stop. For the last three months, I found myself thinking about reading constantly; if I wasn’t reading, I was browsing and searching for the next book to read. Whenever I got on the train or the bus, I would just start reading. I mean, why waste that commuting time? I purchased a Kindle, which I still can’t believe I didn’t get until last month!

I have set myself a reading challenge for 2019 on Goodreads to read 35 books. Today, I finished my 4th book since starting on 1st January. At this pace, I may surpass my goal. I wish I could just do this for the rest of my life and not worry about anything else. Something just happens to me when I am immersed in a book. Nothing else in the world matters. My thoughts rest and I think only about the characters, the setting, the hidden meanings. My mind opens and absorbs the words on the page. I have learned more from reading books than I have from all my years of schooling. But then…

There are times when I’d forget what time it is, forget to eat or shower or sleep. It is like I can’t live a day without reading. Can you become addicted to reading? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Am I just escaping reality?

Follow me on Goodreads and check out my reads and reviews! Let me know what you think!